This Is Just To Say: Wedding Cake Update

Thursday, May 30, 2013 | 3 Comment(s)

We have eaten
the cake
that was in
the freezer

and which
we were definitely
for our anniversary

Forgive me
it was absolutely disgusting
so stale
and so freezer burned

And I wish I could leave it at that.  But I can't.  You all may remember said marriage-challenging debate surrounding the taking in of a stray wedding cake by my wife.  Ok, so it was our wedding cake, but I contended that eating horrifically bad year-old cake was not worth taking up a quarter of the space in our freezer for 365 days.  My wife said, "it's tradition."  So obviously I lost the day, and the subsequent days as well.

Well we made it folks.  A whole year of marriage.  Time truly does fly.  And upon returning from our anniversary getaway to Boston, which included a come from behind win at Fenway and subsequent gluttonous dinner, wifey took the white whale of a chocolate cake out of our freezer to defrost.

The imbedded popsicle sticks let you know it's fresh!

She did the slicing while I was in the other room.  She says it wasn't that hard to cut.  I wonder what the definition of "that" is.   We each took about a two-square-inch piece of cake, with minimal frosting, and placed it on our tongues.  It tasted like licking a vaguely chocolate flavored cave wall, with a distinct sawdust aftertaste.  But we ate it down.

"It's horrible," says my wife.  "I know," I reply.

My feet are buzzing.  They want to do the 'I told you so' dance so badly.  But we've been married a year now, and I've learned some things.  I've learned that my wife wasn't arguing that the cake would taste delicious come the following May, she was arguing that she could force me to keep a completely pointless space-filler in our freezer for a year simply because she's my wife.  And she was right.  She knew the cake would taste like a chunk of carbonized Han Solo, but it was never about the cake.  So to celebrate my 'rightness' over the pointlessness of the cake, is to have been lulled into a sense of false security regarding my place in our marriage.

So I choose to focus of the positive.

There is a gaping hole of glorious empty space in our freezer.  I could fit the entire box of Pop-Ice Freeze Pop's in there!  I could store a solid half a pig in there (the bacon half of the pig of course).  Sometimes, when I'm all alone with my thoughts, I think that I could crawl into that freezer void and curl up like an eskimo in a papoose in an igloo -- I may even invite my seal friends over to snuggle.

Which is to say that I like my new freezer flexibility, but I am ever vigilant to the potentially hidden pitfalls of mid-marriage traditions. (like friggin 'push presents!' are you KIDDING ME! The 'push present' is, and I can't emphasize this enough, your newborn child!)

My goal is to try to immediately fill the empty space with something mutually agreeable.  The problem is that it has been so long since I last had the opportunity to put something new in the freezer,  I've forgotten all of the icebox possibilities. Like a traveler who didn't keep up with his Spanish,  I've lost the vocabulary necessary to execute my plan.

And then I hear it, the tip-tapping of the 'I told you so' dance, coming from her tiny feet on the ceiling above me.

It's Spring: A Poem for the Season

Monday, May 20, 2013 | 0 Comment(s)

Picnic Time

She lays down her blanket on the manicured grass.

It's spring.
And it's picnic time.

The teensy pink flowers are exploring the air for the first time.
And as she sets down the fabric for her meal,
her companion, four legs and all heart, waddles dutifully to her side.
They discuss their life together.
the sun baking one side of their faces,
illuminating the hills and valleys where her skin has creased. 
The strands of grass are like earthworms between their toes.
How much life has changed since their best friend went away.
So close underfoot, and yet, to them, he seems six feet away from eternity.

But for now.
It's spring.
And it's picnic time.

And they are together again,
the buzzing of the lawn creatures dins as the heart of the world cracks open momentarily.
And everything is simple for a split
Before the rushing tide of Father's clock
washes away the delicate pause of the spider's web,
and all the errands to be run seem to grow anew
inside her mental garden. 

It's spring
And it's picnic time.
And perfect moments do exist
But only for a season.

Until the tablecloths transform back into blankets, 
And the budding flowers begin to rappel back towards the ground.
Their wilting pink petals parachuting down, 
catching the dying light as it weaves through the cracks of his cement.

That's Some Clown Forecasting Bro!

Sunday, May 19, 2013 | 0 Comment(s)

The weather pops onto the TV at 10:55pm, to tease the 11pm news.  The weatherman says the temperature outside is 58 degrees right now.  Pleasant.  He goes on to say that if you were to drive in an hour in any direction from the center of town, you can expect temperatures to be 58 plus or minus 3 degrees.  Of course, he says this by giving the current temperatures of all the surrounding towns.

Then he continues, "and if you're looking out for what to expect tomorrow morning, stay tuned to your local NBC news, coming up next."

I call bullshit.

Look, my expectations for weather people are mole-people low.  I do not expect the words that leave a weather person's mouth to be true.  I use their "forecasts" as if they were a terror-level awareness color chart, popularized by NYC in 2001.  If the weatherperson says hurricane storms, that is terror level red, and I should bring a raincoat.  I still don't expect it to rain, but at that point if I am unprepared for the precipitation, it's mostly my fault.

What I do expect from the TV weather is some prediction about the weather.  No one, NO ONE, turns on the weather to find out the current weather.  THAT IS WHY HOUSES HAVE WINDOWS!!!!

And if my window can do your job with equal efficacy, then I'm not prepared to call you a weatherman.  You are a glorified window.  A window with a mouth and no view. And I understand the need to tease the news, but come ON.  Tease us with the coming morning's forecast (now a mere 8 hours away), and keep us coming back by withholding tomorrow's day and evening weather.  Don't just plop a guy up on screen to tell me what I could learn by defenestrating my arm.

With the fear of getting all "commencement speechy" (though it is the proper time), Webster's Dictionary defines forecast as:

a : to calculate or predict (some future event or condition) usually as a result of study and analysis of available pertinent data; especially : to predict (weather conditions) on the basis of correlated meteorological observations
b : to indicate as likely to occur

So, technically speaking, my gripe is totally warranted, as the information that the window-man delivered was not officially a forecast, as no real calculations or predictions were made.  And I will draw you attention to the most germane aspect of the definition, "to predict weather on the basis of correlated meteorological observations." (my emphasis added)  Unless you consider looking at a thermostat to be a meteorological calculation that helps you predict the present, I believe last night's broadcast was more window-dressing (pun) than "forecast."

In conclusion, that was some clown forecasting, bro.  Perhaps you should have just delayed your "teaser" another hour, because it would have been perfect for Saturday Night Live.

Angelina Jolie's Double Mastectomy Will Save Women's Lives

Friday, May 17, 2013 | 0 Comment(s)

I awoke a few days ago to the news story that Angelina Jolie had decided proactively to undergo a double mastectomy due to the knowledge that she carried the “cancer gene” BRCA1. It is with no hesitancy that I tell you my first reaction to this news was “who cares.”  I am not one for celebrity idolization, and I’ve found that for every Bill Gates trying to eradicate disease, there seems to be a Jenny McCarthy urging the public toward re-infection with campaigns advocating against childhood immunizations for potentially life-threatening diseases.  Obtuse would be a vast understatement. 

So I read Jolie’s piece in the New York Times. Her logic seemed sound.  Her mother died at 56 from cancer, and after taking a blood test, she learned that she too carried this cancer gene.  With her chances of developing breast cancer being evaluated as higher that her chances of avoiding it, Mrs. Jolie made the incredibly difficult decision to go ahead and remove the potentially offensive breast tissue ahead of time. 

In the face of such a rational argument, I was now left thinking, “What Jolie did is either über Hollywood crazy or groundbreakingly brave and courageous.” The truth is, while I may be over-educated, I am not a cancer expert.  I had no way of evaluating this woman’s life decision in a scientific, reasoned manner.  My guess is, you don’t either.  Thankfully, my father just happens to be an oncologist who has been practicing medicine for almost 40 years.  So, I send him a text.

Dad.  Angelina Jolie got a preventative double mastectomy.  My question to you is whether her decision was smart or crazy, in your medical opinion.

His response:  It was very smart, since she apparently tested positive for the breast cancer gene!!! (his emphasis added) Her ovaries need to go next . . .

My father’s response changed everything for me.  Everything.  I believe Jolie is getting her ovaries removed as a next step to her process.  What’s more, now I knew that all of this invasive preventative medicine was based in fact, and seeing as I didn’t know this information until now, I realized that this was important potentially life-saving information that until two days ago lacked any public voice.  If I grew up with an oncologist and I wasn’t informed about the odds for contracting cancer based on the presence of genetic markers, how many thousands, millions, of women were in the same boat as me. 

Which is why Jolie’s decision to publicize her decision will save lives.  Forget the bravery it takes to get any piece of your body removed.  Forget that this woman’s body has been fetishized, glorified, and commodified since she was 14-years-old. Forget that her choice shows a clear and laudable example of Jolie prioritizing her kids, family, and health above her fame and adulation (are you taking notes Kardashians?). And forget that this surgery is absolutely none of the general public’s business. 

Actually, don’t forget that.  Remember that this whole medical scenario that is playing out for Hollywood’s super couple is the very definition of a personal matter.  It is a miracle of science, but for those with enough money, you can now go through this procedure (plus the breast reconstruction) without the general public realizing it at all.  So Jolie had the option to keep this matter private.  It’s easy to see the appeal of keeping this all quiet when you imagine yourself going through all of the doctor consults, the repeated medical procedures, and the physically draining recovery.

Angelina Jolie’s choice to make her personal struggle a public issue is quite possibly the single most important humanitarian action of her fairly illustrious career (no sarcasm).  It is easily her most important contribution domestically.   She has not only taken the reins of her of life path, she has become a new type of model for America: A role model. 

I’m not saying you should start wearing a vile of your hubby’s blood around your neck or to try to find hidden treasure in a tank top, short shorts, and wearing a pair of 9mm pistols.  What I am saying is that Jolie has made the conscious choice to connect her name and fame to the testing and proactive prevention of breast and ovarian cancer in the same way Magic Johnson more unwittingly became the face of HIV back in the early 90’s.   And I realize that it’s not a perfect comparison, but, in terms of raising positive awareness for what can be terrify process, and then additionally illustrating how people can proactively take control of their own healthcare decisions, I think it holds up.  

Because, the fact remains, that getting a piece of your body removed is always scary as hell.  And, the very idea of getting cut open when you don’t even have a disease is too large a psychological barrier for many people to push past.   Even with a 75% chance of contracting the disease (the percentages are different for every individual), many women will still choose to forego the trouble, pain, and life-adjustment that surgery requires.  And I don’t blame them.  I know as well as anyone that surgery can be scary as hell.  (Have I mentioned that surgery scares me?)

But what we are learning now, or at least I am learning now, is that avoiding surgery is not the smart decision if living as long as possible is one of your goals.  (I realize that factors like age and a desire to have children are major mitigating factors here as well.)  That said, these surgeries reduce the chances of developing breast and ovarian cancer down to single-digit percentages.  That’s down from 65 - 80 percent.  And while a 60%-40% chance of developing cancer may feel like a dice roll to some people, a 97% chance of no cancer must feel like an ice-cream scoop full of heaven.

My father doesn’t get what all the fuss is about.  He views Jolie’s decision as simply the “correct” choice given our current medical knowledge.  However, I can’t help shake the presence of her bravery in using her platform as a famous sex symbol to publicly walk through the cloaked tunnel of double mastectomy, and then to spread her knowledge on the process, recovery, and positive outcomes with the general public.  She will undoubtedly come to mind when future women are placed in the same position, or used by doctors to help explain a diagnosis that is part blood test, part genetics, and part statistics.   Because no matter what the numbers say, getting your breasts removed is always a leap of faith. 

Angelia Jolie has simply helped light the ground on the other side. 

Eyemagedon: How I became a Cyclops -- Part I

Tuesday, May 14, 2013 | 2 Comment(s)

I can't, in good conscience, tell you to read this post.  This post, still unwritten, is the ghost pepper of modern literature.  For those of you who don't know what a ghost-pepper is, I will enlighten you.  A ghost-pepper is the hottest mother-f'n hot pepper there is (though I am sure that by now there is a new, even hotter pepper that someone will inform me of in the comments).  When I even look in the general direction of a ghost pepper, I begin sweating.  Furthermore, on my recent trip to Seattle, I voluntarily sampled what I would describe as "one-pixel" worth of a ghost pepper.  I almost, despite my lactose intolerance, chugged straight from a gallon of milk.  Ghost Peppers: One Pixel Packs a Punch.

Why am I telling you all this?  Well, there are two types of people in the world: The sane ones, who can't for the life of them imagine why we would waste the energy to both grow and harvest these death peppers, and the damaged ones, who essentially play taste-bud limbo, eating increasingly hotter foods in an attempt to sear their inner child.  And these people really do seeeeeeeeeem to enjoy it (I don't trust them.  I think anyone who acts like they are enjoying ghost peppers are actually part of an elaborate plan to make me try more of that wildfire).  "Flavorful," they say.  That's like enjoying the taste of "campfire," but whatever.

If you are a sane one, this post may be too much for you.  Everything will be 100% true, and I will obviously attempt to make you laugh at my pain, but nonetheless, some fairly horrid shit went down in the region of my eye these past few Monday's, and I don't want anyone biting down on this ghost pepper without fair warning.

If you are damaged, say like a surgeon or EMT or someone in another potentially life-saving occupation, prepare to enjoy a thoroughly unclinical look into the mind of a thoroughly abused human headlight.
Monday, April 29, 2013

I have an appointment with my optometrist, who specializes in corneas.  My vision in my right eye has been blurry for some time now, but about a week ago a huge sty began growing on my lower inner right lid, so I was fairly certain that a great big eye zit couldn't be helping my vision situation.

I never wait very long in the waiting room.  I'm not sure if this is because I seem to be the only non-octogenerian that goes to this particular office, or because my father is a local oncologist, and no one but no one wants to get on an oncologist's bad side.  You'll have to trust me on this.  There is a good healthy fear in the medical community toward oncologists.  Nobody wants to have to cash in that particular favor, but they all seem acutely aware that they or someone they love might have to some day.  I often wonder if it is only because of my particular vantage point of "oncologist's son," that I see this behavior.  Regardless, it's still not worth the lifelong fear of tumors growing everywhere on your body.

When the doctor's assistant brings me into what I've come to know as the "first room," I am not completely emotionally prepared for the upcoming moment which will change the course of my coming  weeks.   I cover my right eye.  I read the bottom line.  Then I read the line two below the original string of letters.  I'm impressive.  The assistant is a little impressed.  "20-15," she says.  "Nice," I reply.

Now cover your left eye.  I grimace internally.  She moves the lines of letters back to their original position.  In my head, I know what the string of letters I am expected to read are: A J K E M.  But any impulse to recite these letters by memory is thwarted by the fact that I can't even see that there are letters on the board.  There are just a few blurry lines.  She clicks the letters in the opposite direction.  I know, intellectually, that they are now getting bigger.  I squint.  "Still nothing."  She keeps clicking.

You know, back in the old days, they used to have those charts with capital E's facing different directions.  You would tell the doc which direction the E opened.  Was it backwards, on its front like a table, or laying it's back?  On the top of said E chart there sat a big ol' jumbo E.  Almost always, it was huge and bold and sitting in the classical frontward E position.  The medical assistant turned that projectors crank until alone sat one big giant bold jumbo E.

I squinted.  And through my squint I could reasonable enough make out that that was an "E."  I told her so, but she saw me squint.  She saw that this was not a no-brainer of an E, but rather the beginning of my visual field.  She was the opposite of impressed.  "That one's 20-2400."  I wish she hadn't said that. Considering that legally blind is having 20/200 vision in your best seeing eye, telling a person their vision is 20-2400 is stating the obvious that your eye is busted.  While the lights may be on (so, not what I'm come to understand as "blind blind"--which until recently seemed incredibly redundant to me), you'll never be able to tell whose at the door.

She then took me to the second room.  This was the room where you saw the doctor.  That said, the mood had unmistakably changed. The witty tête-à-tête that we had been exchanging right around the words "20-15," had disappeared in the wake of much larger numbers.  The vibe was unmistakably more "bad-newsy."  Like that moment in a TV show when the surgeon comes out to the waiting room and hasn't said anything yet, but the family kinda knows it isn't going to be good news.  It was a stinky fart vibe.  She knew it stunk, and therefore stopped making as much direct eye-contact with me.

The doctor came in and asked how I was doing.  I told him that I had this stye and I had been putting warm compress on it, but that the process of compressing seemed to be further irritating the rest of the eye.  A Catch-22 of eye health.  He nodded and said, "Well, we'll be able to help relieve that stye here today . . . but more importantly it really looks like your vision isn't coming back in that right eye.  I think I'm going to recommend a tarsorrhaphy be performed."

He said tarsorrhaphy the way I say, "I'm going to get FroYo."  I felt the same way I did when my friends in Public Health reference far off cities and then are stunned to find out I don't know that Sikasso is the second largest city in Mali. The difference in my current situation, of course, was that the tarsorrhaphy was going to be happening to my face.  Thus my follow up question to the doc, "Um . . . what is a tarsorrhaphy?"  I would love to tell you that I said something cooler like "what the hell is a tarsorrhaphy?" or "Tarsorrhaphy, I hardly know Ye!"  But that was not the mood in the room.  Fear, actual fear, an emotion I spend very little time with (fear is different from anxiety), was beginning to seep out of my gut, headed northward.

Tarsorrhaphy (n.): Tarsorrhaphy is a rare procedure in which the eyelid is partially sewn together to narrow the opening.

He said, "they're going to sew the outside of your eyelid together."

The fear inside me drank a Red Bull. It got wings.  It took off up my throat.

"But for today (he changes the subject as quickly as possible), let's try to help that stye."

He asks the nurse for a syringe filled with some liquid which forces the stye to pop and expel its grotesquery, relieving the pressure in the eye.  For a moment my attention is redirected, and I begin wondering why he hasn't done this procedure to my previous eye zits.  The nurse with the needle enters the room.

"No no," says the doctor, "I need a needle half that size.  I don't want to put it into his brain."

Ha mother-fucking ha.

Great, I think, another needle headed towards my eye.  (Previous experiences can be read here and here.) A new chapter of "Worst Fear Realized except now we are about to enter the front of the tunnel marked "Worse than Your Worst Fear's Nightmare."  This tunnel, incidentally, is a week long -- and instead of light at the end of it, my eye gets sewn shut.  Foreshadowing.

I'm sitting on the prototypical eye doctor chair.  It has a separate head piece which connects to the body of the chair via a flat metal bar.   The doctor tells me to lay my head back on the headrest and remain very still.  (NO SHIT! There is a needle coming at my face.  The "remain still" command is the picture of redundancy.)

I feel the needle enter my eyelid and the pain is sharp but not extreme.  It is not a searing pain, but like a large pinprick.  He holds it there.

Then, the headrest comes loose and falls back about 3 inches.

I'll write that again so you can soak in the terror of those words.

Then, with the needle still in my eyelid, the headrest comes loose and falls backward 3 inches.

I can't say what my expression looked like, but inside my body went to full-Defcon 1, red-alert, fight-or-flight, kill-or-be-killed panic-mode.  The doctor and nurse's faces, however, seemed incredibly nonplused.


"That wasn't you, that was the headrest," says the doc.  "No shit," I think, adding (to myself) "Might wanna get that thing checked out!"

Unfortunately, he hadn't relieved the stye yet.  The needle has to go back in.  "Here we go again," he says, as I now focus every cell in my body into both remaining absolutely motionless while putting the minimal amount of pressure possible on the head"rest."

While the relief of a stye feels incredible, it is messy.  It is a statement to my mental space at that point, that the resulting money-shot across my eyeball was the least disturbing part of this particular visit to the optometrist.

The stye alleviated, I quickly turned my attention back toward the surgical appointment that seemed to be getting scheduled in the back rooms while all this happening.  The procedure, he tells me is minimally invasive and the necessary next step to trying to get clarity back to my cornea.

"Unfortunately," he continues, "the clarity of the cornea is no longer the only issue we are dealing with. at the moment."

I can't believe he just started another sentence with "unfortunately."  I am currently existing in a state of total misfortune, and the idea that there is more bad news is pushing me towards either comatose or panic attack.

"It seems that your cornea, along with being occluded, is also no longer the correct shape."  He explains to me that the outside walls have thinned (as a mutual result of lasik eye correction years ago and rubbing more recently), and the current shape resembles more of a nipple instead of a crescent.  (The word nipple has never sounded less sexy before).  My next doctor would describe this same corneal issue as the cornea misshaping like in a Dali painting.  I prefer the nipple analogy.

"Well, what do we do about that," I heard myself say.

The reply was not the usual doctoral 'you get this malady, so you do this remedy' reply.  It was more wistful, full of wiggle-room.  He made clear that he won't know exactly what's to be done until he can see what my cornea looks like when its intact, post eyelid closure.  That said, there were a few potential procedures to be done.   One he mentioned, is not yet FDA approved in the United States, but is approved in Europe.  It involves bombarding the damaged cornea with UV rays to cause it to defend itself by regenerating.  Pretty futuristic stuff.  Like all futurist stuff, there is a guy who does the procedure in Connecticut.

The procedure we are trying to avoid, he tells me matter-of-factly, is a corneal transplant.  He does say that on some level, while a worst case scenario, with a new cornea my vision would be immediately better.

This doesn't feel comforting.  In the past 15 minutes I have had a needle in my eyelid twice and was told they will be sewing my eye shut (partially--but still).  The fact that the idea of removing an entire component of my eye and replacing it is on the list of potential solutions makes me more sad than comforted.

As I left the office, all of the questions which I'm sure you must have right now had not yet entered my consciousness.  I was in shock, both from the experience that had just occurred and the news I had been given.  "Could I just wear a patch?" "How long would they sew my eye closed for?" "What are the other potential Step 2's?"

All of those questions did their laps in my mind later that night, while I pretended to sleep.  What was first and foremost in my own mind was that there was no way to get around the fact that I was blind in my right eye.

When you are having vision problems, there is always an optimism that when you wake up the next morning you'll be able to see a bit more, a bit clearer.  And this feeling that it would get better had stretched itself over the course of at least a month at this point, holding myself at arm's length from the disillusionment of my own weakness.  My denial simply could no longer exist in the face (pun) of the upcoming surgery.

Additionally, in admitting my blindness to myself, it also meant that I had to tell my wife and family the extent of visual degeneration.   As asking for help is generally something I need help doing, admitting weakness to those I love was one of the more humbling and rewarding pieces to this whole eyemagedon.

And to think, it had just begun.

The Return of the Creeper

Monday, May 13, 2013 | 0 Comment(s)

Some of you may remember my mini-series on the crazy people of Amherst, MA.  One particular gem (the guy who, unsolicited, told me how ugly my dog is), I call "the Creeper." You can read about him here.
Welcome to Part II of this incredibly inadequate human being.   I should mention some additional information I've learned about this guy since my last post about him.  First, he is not actually a crazy-person.  Moreover, I have been told that he actually is one of those "very smart" guys who just comes off as an ass.  Usually when people says this kind of statement to me, it means that the person has a Ph.D.  Amherst is wonderful at reminding me that just because I got my degree doesn't mean I'm a successful human being.  It really does matter what you do afterwards.

If I'm being even more honest, which I always am, "smart people" (and those are some pretty hefty quotes) who act like idiots piss me off the most; Half because they should know better, and half because I am almost constantly worried that I may be one myself.

Ever since the Creeper went out of his way to my day worse, I have given him an extremely active and unmistakably cold shoulder.  To me, this seems like the most reasonable reaction to his personally offensive action.  As any person who has met me even once can tell you, I am not a subtle fellow.  My cold shoulder is an active deep freeze.  Which makes today's interaction all the more troubling.

As I was outside the coffee shop reading my book, the Creeper comes up to me with a piece of paper in hand.  And then came the worst part of our whole interaction.  He said, "Hey Matt, look at . . ."

Let's stop right there.  How the hell does this piece of human fecal matter know my name!  Or rather, why is it committed to his memory.  I'm sure someone has told me this turdle's name before (pun intended), but i certainly haven't remembered it.  I mean, every single decent shit I've ever taken is more important to my life and memory than this slice of crapple pie (yes, I'm laying it on pretty thick).   Furthermore, how is this supposedly educated douche-nozel doing the mental gymnastics necessary to take him from insulting a stranger to being on a first name basis with him.  Then, I listen to the rest of his statement.

"Hey Matt, look at the sculpture of mine that is being shown in a gallery in Northampton." 

He is motioning to the piece of paper which shows his "sculpture" which looks like a bunch of green bottles stacked atop each other in a checkerboard formation.   And then I realize, he's proud of something!  Duh, I mean, if he has something to show off, of course we can talk.  I definitely have time for him.  Of course I want to put down my reading if he has something to offer.

This enrages me.  This is a slice of the worst part of the privilege embedded in this college town.  The thought that when it suits you, you can pretend to live in a universe where there are no consequences to your previous actions.  Look, I'm not trying to hunt this guy down and make his life miserable, but when you take time out of your day to make my day worse, you lose your "me" privileges.  Forever.  And if I could be so bold as to offer some of my unsolicited advice:  I think this is a good policy for everyone to adopt.  We are all too worthwhile to trouble ourselves with those who lack the basic good sense or human kindness to be respectful. (There are notable exceptions to this rule, as there are important exceptions to every rule--but those are another piece entirely.)

So when he showed me his piece of paper, I was already not paying him any real attention.  He continued, "Yah, it's on display in Northampton, so you can go and see it . . . 

I stare through my sunglasses him, saying nothing.

"Or take a sledgehammer to it, if you want.

I finally respond.  "You never know."   I don't say this with any particular inflection. Flat. Cold. Not inviting a response but somewhat inviting the idea that a sledgehammer would be the only potential mediator in a discussion between myself and his 'art.'

"Well, at least you know where it is," motioning to the address listed on the paper and potentially picking up on my insinuation.  

I am done speaking to him.   After a few more moments of me not responding and him standing there with his piece of paper, he moves on.

As he does I instantly realize how I wished I had responded.  I wish the interaction had gone like this (ps. to understand this part, you need to have read my previous post about the Creeper):

Creep: Hey Matt, look at the sculpture of mine that is being shown in a gallery in Northampton.

Me: Oh, what's your piece called?

Creep: Stupid Pile of Green Bottles  (ok, I made the title up myself, but it seems fitting.)

Me: It's ugly.

Creep: Excuse me?

Me:  It's ugly . . . ugly ugly ugly . . . disgusting actually.   It looks like you. 

In my heart of hearts I would want this interaction to show him how painful it can be when someone shits all over something you care deeply about.  I would hope he would see the connection I was making and have an "Aha! moment."  But I know that the type of person who slings negativity all day and then believes he wakes up every morning with a clean slate is far past this level of self-reflective introspection.  He is not trying to better himself but rather he is attempting to have others make him feel better than he is.  But I am the wrong other for the job.  I am overly consequence driven and worry for days about my word choices from days-old benign interactions.  I will not blow smoke up the Creeper's ass for worry that it might expand his diarrheal volume.

He walked around the coffee shop two more times looking for other people to brag towards, to no avail.

And maybe that's the lesson.  The more people you push away, the lonelier your world becomes.

Zen and the Art of Crappy Car Maintenance: UPDATE

Saturday, May 4, 2013 | 0 Comment(s)

For those of you high in "need for closure" like my wife, myself, and Sheldon Cooper, I feel it is only right to give you all a brief postscript to my mechanic's visit last week.  Enjoy:

This car mechanic that my friend sent me to is in the middle of nowhere.  Not the middle of nowhere like "the boonies" nowhere, but more of a trek through the winding roads of a few suburbs, up a hill to nowhere and then BAM -- there is this quaint little mechanic shop setup all al dente atop this hill, overlooking the western MA suburb (if such a thing can even exist).

The guy who met me at the front desk was personable and knew what I was there for.  I told him, here is the list of things they my dealership said need to be repaired.  Many of the items on said list had to do with leaking this and leaking that.  The dealership had painted me a picture that made it seem as if the innards of my car were like a 5th grader's finger painting project: All wet and everywhere.

He took the car right in and put it on the lift.  Twenty-five minutes later he came back out and told me that he envisioned a much different car.  "Everything looks pretty solid," he said.  "I checked all the hoses, all the pans, all the connections, it's real clean, hardly any leakage anywhere."

"So, what exactly are you telling me?," I asked incredulously, "Nothing needs to be done?"

"Not as far as I can tell," he replied matter-of-factly.

"Just to clarify," I continue, "The dealership said there was $3,000 of repairs that were prudent, and you're saying that that's pretty much complete BS?  In terms of safety, you're saying the car totally checks out."

He isn't offended by this double-check.  It seems he is trying to keep the smile from his lips as he gets some amount of amusement from my bemusement.  "The car looks real good.  Clean.  I was expecting much worse.  You're good to go."

"How much do I owe you?," I ask.

"Don't worry about it," he responds, shaking his open palm at me.

Oh mister mechanic sir.  You can bet your tuchas you'll be seeing me again, though I can't say the same about Steve Smith Subaru.