Wet Hand Luke

Monday, December 30, 2013 | 0 Comment(s)

As global warming opponents are less and less being argued against, and more and more laughed at, the world is getting greener.  Maybe not in the big picture sense, but at least in the superficial short term, it seems Americans are making a token effort to not destroy the planet at quite as rapid a pace as we have previously established.  Kudos, by the way.

But, the implementation of said green initiatives, to me, feels remarkably capitalist.  Shocker.  I will concede that perhaps more than other sector of big business (outside of perhaps lightbulb manufacturers), the car industry seems to be most genuine in the shift of both its paradigm as well as its fuel sources.  Then again, being bailed out and bought by the federal government can have a motivating effect on one's business plan.  

Outside of the automotive arena, however, green initiatives dot the landscape like a beginner hits the dart board: All over the place.  The difference, of course, being that the environmental scores are decidedly less random.  

For example.  It seems to me that the one wholesale green idea that has been implemented in most of today's malls, movie theaters and airports is the suggestion to no longer have paper towels in public bathrooms.  There is one-ply toilet paper in the stalls and then those hand blowing machines.  I agree in reducing the amount of paper goods we utilize in our day to day.  I do.  I rarely use paper cups and I only take as many napkins as I actually plan to use.  But the pre-mature extinction of the public bathroom paper towel has two fundamental flaws.

brilliant! - read more about this product here
The first issue, is that wind hand drying technology has not vastly improved over the past 20 years.  And yes, I have seen those fancy new 'high-powered air squeegee" car-wash style hand dryers.  After swiping my mitts along the instructed sequence three times, my hands still felt . . . damp.  Decidedly un-dry. You shouldn't feel the need to wipe dry hands on your t-shirt, which is what I've ended up doing after any attempts at wind powered desiccation.  

The second overlooked angle when ridding bathrooms of their outbound absorbent materials is that some crazy human beings actually use sinks to wash their hands and face.  I do this regularly.  Especially after a long plane ride.  Now, however, when I turn with a dripping face and paws to dry myself, I am confronted with the bent metal end of a low-powered hair-dryer, attached to an R2D2-like box, attached to the wall.  First, I must take my wet hand and bend the circular opening so it is facing upward.  Then, with a punch of the comically large button, the medium-hot air sludge comes flowing at me like the creature from the black lagoon.  If I somehow manage to suppress the knowledge that the air spitting at me smells like it was filtered through middle-schoolers' gym clothes, I then must wrestle with the wind-machine-like upstream of air.  More often than not, after only a superficial drying of my face, my hair gets blow clear back to the 80's.  Sometimes feathered, sometimes wavy, my hair always would fit in as an extra from the mean streets of Miami Vice.  I am not amused.

So yay to reducing our reliance on paper products.  But, as we eliminate the high cost of materials that get immediately disposed of, the hope is that we replace those materials with what I believe Obama keeps referring to as "our investment in new technologies." And that's pretty broad.  LOTS of wiggle room there to engender success.  To truly reduce our reliance on paper goods, we have to make their use anachronistic, which entails replacing those products with far superior and more globally responsible ones.

May I suggest we start in the bathroom? 

When did Feminism Become all about Women?

Thursday, December 19, 2013 | 1 Comment(s)

I recently discovered that I am not  a feminist.  Imagine my surprise.   I mean, I know that the last time I  checked, probably some time pre-marriage, that I was one.  Now, a few years later, I keep running into the term "feminist ally."  I'm an ally now, but I'm not sure this change is for the better.
I realize this picture only loosely fits this piece, but I just friggin love it.
Let's start here.  I'm a guy.  And as a guy, my voice in just doesn't matter as much when it comes to defining what women need.  I'm actually great with that -- so much less pressure.  I also understand that having women-only spaces is not only ok, it's super important.  Once you realize that male-onlyness is so built into our society, that guys don't even need intentionality to achieve this type of camaraderie, you see the necessity of its creation.  Until you walk past a bar and say to your friend, "nah, man, that bars just full a ladies," and then walk on by uninterested. Intentionally female spaces are an imperative.

But considering that my underlying belief that each gender, including the trans community, is equal in my eyes,  I have to wonder if the additional buffer space created by pushing men outside the category of feminist and into a new classification of "male ally"does much for the cause itself.

I've mentioned before on this blog how critical men are to equality.  And while it may pain some people to give men any additional power when it comes to women's issues, the length of the fight for gender equality can only be truncated be the addition of male voices as well.  That is the safe answer, and one that rings true for the logical part of my brain, but not for my heart brain.

My heart brain says that pushing men outside of feminism illustrates a fundamental misunderstand the battle.  Leaving aside the irony of equality having some innate gendered element which prevents all people from moving towards it in the same way: "Our idea of equality between women and men is more important than your idea of equality between men and women!"  'Male allies' to me sends the message that feminism is by women for women, and that's just plain untrue.

In one blog post I read, defending the male feminist, the female author decried, "But, in spite of that, male feminists do tend to rub some women the wrong way. Which seems odd, because they’re obviously trying! They are making an effort to be friendly about women’s issues!" 

Feminism, to me, is more than just "women's issues." Everyone stands to gain from gender equality.  Men and women.  And while it may be difficult to convince those with the power advantage now that their long term happiness is intertwined with a more equitable division of power, the research bares it out.

For example, in my own dissertation work, we found that wives' perceptions of fairness (not equality mind you) regarding the completion of household chores not only predicted their own happiness, but also that of their husbands.  In other words, when the wife felt the housework was distributed fairly, both partners were more satisfied in the marriage.  And that really is just the tip of the equality iceberg.
I honestly love this as "a look"
I lied to you at the beginning of this piece.  I'm still a feminist.  And I admit that I do it selfishly.  I don't promote gender equality to make my wife my equal -- she already is.  I don't preach the feminist doctrine to ingratiate myself with the women around me, because they both wouldn't be impressed and it isn't really my point of view.  Feminism is an ideal. One of the few ideals we could actual reach as a country in some not-too-nutso (and sadly not-too-soon) of a utopian future.  I'm still a feminist because I won't let anyone negate my struggle towards an ideal. Ally or not, you can't take away the hope that drives me to work for an even slightly better tomorrow.

Finally a Jesus I can get Behind

Monday, December 16, 2013 | 0 Comment(s)

There has been a spree of love-crimes lately (that's the opposite of a hate-crimes btw), and the generosity just became bi-costal.  I'm talking about Tips for Jesus.  If you haven't heard about the man tipping thousands of dollars for good service, check out some of the news stories here, here, and here.

One of my favorite parts of the Instagram'd photos of servers and bartenders holding up their gargantuan tips, is that the (semi-)mystery man also comments specifically about what aspect of his service experience he enjoyed.  T for J often praises drink recommendations, speedy service, and he ALWAYS knows his server's name.

I'll admit, I have kinda a knee-jerk reaction when I see "for Jesus" attached to stuff.  And not in a good way.  99% of the time my next thought it, "There is no way that Jesus approved of this message."  I mean, I'd wager that Jesus gets name dropped more than anyone else in history (and that includes Genghis and all his hordes of offspring).  One minute it's, "Jesus taught me to love my fellow man."  And the next it's, "Jesus told me to hate fags."  Unless the untold story of Jesus is one about schizophrenia, there is no way that everyone is honestly representing the views of the most favored son in human history.  The Jesus H. Christ brand has become overwhelmingly watered down.

And then along comes Tips for Jesus, and it makes me pause.  Because there are a lot of important messages being conveyed through these outrageous tips.  It is very rare that generosity ever has a solid marketing team behind it, but this is one of those cases.  This is great press for what Fox News would call socialism and what human beings with a heart would call the spirit of giving.  There are very few people bussing tables and slinging drinks simply for the love of the game.  If you look into the surprised and joyful faces of the staff members holding what represents, for most, a sizable amount of assistance towards affording the cost of life, you realize that if you do believe in god -- that this is probably some of her/his/non-gendered work.

When you leave a monster tip for your server, it will make their day.  Every. Single. Time.  No large tip has ever gone unnoticed or unappreciated, I can guarantee it.  If you want the "selfish" pleasure of experiencing a stranger's joy, big tips are the way to go.  You'll get your show every time.

Hopefully this tipping-spree helps empower others to give simply because they can.  Perhaps it will further the internalization of the idea that while some of us were born haves, so many others were born have-nots.  Randomly.  It seems that the  bend toward "paying it forward" (worst marketing campaign for kindness ever btw) may have already begun . . .

I say we keep it going.  This December, if you can afford it, when you get particularly good service . . . overtip.  Just do it.  I assure you it will set in motion a chain of events that include an avalanche of smiles.  And you'll probably even get to see a few of them.  Not all of them.  I mean, unless you follow them home and watch them excitedly retell the story of their own personal holiday mini-miracle to their significant other.  And then watch as that infusion of cash actually does trickle down into the joy of that person's loved ones.

But don't follow them home.  It'd be really creepy and it's quite possibly the only way to sour this otherwise entirely awesomeface-sandwich of a gesture.

But, for the love of god, don't tip for Jesus.  Do it for yourself.

Fast and Furious Kindness

Friday, December 13, 2013 | 0 Comment(s)

I am no Paul Walker aficionado.  Let me start there.  I think I saw two of the Fast and Furious movies, and one took place in Tokyo and I can't even recall if he was even in that one, what with all the drifting.  I guess the fact that I am describing my familiarity with Paul Walker in terms of Vin Diesel movies is really a statement in itself.  But I do have something to say about how he has been remembered after his recent and untimely passing.

Again, I'm not sitting here in judgment of how Paul Walker lived his life.  There has been more than one mention of Paul's 7-year relationship with his girlfriend, regarding the moral fortitude of dating a 16-year-old when you are 33.  That's not me.  That's not this.

In death, Paul Walker has been remembered for one day in a jewelry store 9 years ago.

You can follow that link, or google the incident, but here is what happened.  Mr. Walker goes into a jewelry store, meets an Iraq solider back from deployment shopping for an engagement right with his girlfriend.  They start to talking.  The dimpled actor apparently kept egging the girlfriend on, telling her to go bigger and bigger with her ring choice. As often happens, the vet's girlfriend got particularly taken with one ring that just happened to be big enough to be out of the couple's price range.  Shortly thereafter, the couple left the store to continue their search . . .

. . . only to have the women who worked at the store come running out to give them a box and say, "here's your ring."    Apparently, Mr. Walker had called the store and told them to put the couple's ring on his tab (he has a tab?).  Anonymously.  This story only came out after all those involved heard of Mr. Walker's  passing and wanted his kindness to be known.

Solid stuff. Heartwarming stuff.

But the moral of this story is not that Paul Walker transcended winning the genetic jackpot while still remaining humble.  It isn't even a tale on how the rich and famous can make real change with all the means at their disposal.

Paul Walker had a laundry list of public accomplishments. He was on all the 50 Most Beautiful lists. He appeared in such legendary TV shows as Charles in Charge, Who's the Boss, and Touched by an Angel.  Not to mention his iconic starring roles in Varsity Blues, She's All That, & Into the Blue.   But all people can talk about in the wake of his untimely demise was one moment of genuine compassion.  That is the lesson.

The lesson is that moments of true generosity, financial or otherwise, transcend the normal parameters of accomplishment and success. They are on another level.  What this shows is that regardless of your means, those moments when you consciously reach outside of yourself to lessen another person's load, simply because you both share the same planet. Those moments are unforgettable.  They are the real currency we should be worshiping towards a better tomorrow.

When I was 12 years old, the grumpy mean gym teacher at my middle school paid me a compliment on my volleyball skills. Never forgot it.  While hitchhiking from the Sinai Peninsula to northern Israel as an 18-year-old, a trucker picked my friend and I up, let us relax on the bed in the sleeper car, and gave us fresh croissants.  He brought us the lion's share of the way to our northern destination.  Never forgot it.  In elementary school a kid punched me in the face and subsequently broke his hand (my glasses doing the lion's share of the damage).   Never forgot it.  (ok, that doesn't quite fit, but it is super funny.)

When I got my first bartending gig in the business district of New York City, a distressed father came into the bar post-work, lamenting his inability to connect with his child while simultaneously being the family disciplinarian. I suggested that perhaps he should consider how scary might appear to his son when he is angry -- how a father is already larger than life inside his son's mind -- and that when he screams, it has the potential to not only drive home a life lesson, but to also be terrifying.  And something seemed to click. It was like you could see him realize that he had been inadvertently scar(r)ing his son instead of merely teaching him right from wrong.  He had some sort of moment of clarity.  He tipped me an extra $60 on top of the tip he had left with his bill.  Never forgot it.

The point is this: If you want immortality, if you want to be remembered forever, the path is paved in good deeds and selfless acts.  Cause even if you do manage to make millions of dollar, sleep with endless beautiful people, you'll probably still be remembered by those honest moments when you decided to be the best version of yourself for a stranger.

Dear Clark

Monday, December 9, 2013 | 4 Comment(s)

Dear Clark,

I don't have one specific memory of your father.  This is partially because our time spent over Martin Luther King weekends in DC were awash with such torrents of laughter, picking one guffaw from the bunch doesn't do justice to the magic of those weekends.   Yes, I saw your father dressed up as a French maid.  And yes, it was a very confusing moment for me, because when your father put his mind to it, he could be a gorgeous looking woman.  Stunning really.

What I do remember about Scotty, over and above everything else, was his open-mouthed smile.  When you father laughed, it could not be contained inside his body.  Every little chuckle moved him thoroughly enough to cause his head to fly back, allowing safe passage for the musicality of his forthcoming laughter.  And he laughed.  He laughed so much.  With everyone.

Clark, I want you to know that your father was special.  Not only because he is your father who saw you as his moon and stars (your mother is his sun, btw), but because of how he chose to live.  Your father saw the potential for both greatness and great fun inside everyone he met.  And he went after it.   Instead of poking and prodding in the darkness, looking for the soft and broken pieces inside us all, you father cheered and supported whatever nugget of pride he could pan from his soon to be new friend's emotional river.  Before you knew it, the two of you would be upstairs together, sorting through theatrical presentations of second-hand clothes, dreamscapes of ultimate frisbee on bicycles, and laughter-mobiles hung with hugs and cuddling.  Your father was special because in a world filled with darkness and hate, he needed sunglasses to keep all the positivity he perceived from burning his eyes.

Clark, Scotty cut a path through this life armed only with his openness to joy.  Where others find comfort in the cul-de-sac of what they already know, your father raced forward on the idea that there might be something so unbelievably beautiful and new and previously undiscovered just over in the next town; so we better get a move on cause there isnt time to wait.  It was inspiring to watch. His unmistakable lust for life influenced others, myself included.  Watching the ease with which your father negotiated the commonplace anxieties that I so often allow to ruin my otherwise perfectly good days, made me rethink the immense power of positivity.  I worry less because I knew your dad.  I can't think of a higher compliment.

Clark.  A lot of people are going to tell you your dad was goofy.  And he was.  What I want you to know is that goofy is one of those words we use to describe people who have unburdened themselves of unreasonable expectations.  Someone who is not merely content, but ecstatically enthusiastic at the prospect of having today, no matter what that reality may be.  Clark, your father was thankful every day I knew him, just for the opportunity to be there, with you or me or whomever -- for that moment in time.

Clark.  When I heard your father passed away, it was a profoundly sad moment.  There were, and still are, a good deal of tears to be shed.  I'm sure you're seeing this a lot at the moment.  From me, I want you to know that I am not sad for your father.  I am so endlessly proud of him.  He lived a life electric. He projected every atom of that existence outward, and in doing so gained the love of the universe.

Clark, your dad was a superhero.  No cape, no X-ray vision, but an unparalleled ability to love.  And while my tears attempt to form both the flowing river and the raft on which you could spend endless summers floating serenely with your father, I take some measure of solace knowing that he gave you his greatest gift of all.  Cause when I see you in those pictures, smile so wide your mouth just has to  open, I know that Scotty poured all of that ultra-condensed super-powered love into you big guy.  He gave you the smile he knew the world still needs.

Not that Kind of Push Over

Thursday, December 5, 2013 | 0 Comment(s)

I have written previously about the bumper sticker on my car that reads BE KIND in all blue capital letters.  Specifically, I focused on creating the addictive internet game of figuring out your Carsona (trademarked).

My awareness of the kind message on my car's rear end has led me to the conclusion that people are regularly confusing kindness with being a pushover.  It's as if other drivers believe that being kind implies some sort of emotional retreat at the first sign of conflict.  'Kind' doesn't mean conflict averse.  Kindness is a baseline from which to start your interactions.  If, after that initial moment of introduction (vehicular or otherwise), you realize that you are interacting with someone who is not looking out for your best interests, kindness does not require you allow them to walk all over you.

There are, of course, many instances when projecting kindness at someone who isn't in a place to reciprocate is the most gratifying.  Offhand I can think of many times when allowing a grumpy mother the benefit of the doubt in a grocery line has been a relatively small concession compared to the significant improvement in the mom's attitude.  Hell, behind the bar, killing people with kindness is almost a way of life.  If you can't downshift customers' vitriol into hugs and slush-puppies you are bound to have a few cacophonous dustups before too long.  "How HORRIBLE that a fly would dare make its way into your beverage!," I exclaim whilst simultaneous rolling the eyes I keep hidden under the brim of my hat so hard that, for a second, I worry they may roll all the way around.  It's still kindness even if you're angry inside.  Come to think of it, it's kindness especially when you're angry inside!

About a week ago I was driving home down the main street that runs through the center of our town.  As I was pulling through the large, 4-way intersection, I heard the not so subtle tune of an ambulance siren turning on somewhere behind me.  Checking my rearview, I saw the flashing vehicle approaching, still about a quarter-mile away.  As the siren grew louder, and the lights became more apparent, I began to pull my car over to the right shoulder.  This is Driving 101.  If an emergency vehicle approaches with lights and horns ablazing, you pull the hell over to let them pass.

Apparently Mrs. Thang (40 yrs. old, White, on her cell phone) never took Driver's Ed.  Because Mrs. Thang decided that my obvious concession to the ambulance made for the perfect opportunity for her to pass me in her black Toyota Highlander.  With only one small hesitation she depressed the gas and pulled up beside me.  As the ambulance came up behind her, she had now placed herself directly in the middle of the lane, necessitating an evasive maneuver.  She swerved right, effectively boxing in my car and giving the passing emergency vehicle the very minimum amount of room to pass.

"That brown car came out of NOWHERE!"
I will readily admit that cool calm Mattitiyahu went ballistic. For whatever reason this brazen lack of rule following and selfish driving behavior simultaneously broke too many social norms for my late day brain to reconcile.  When Mrs. Thang finally scooted her ass forward a smidge, it moved her monstrous car more fully onto the right shoulder.  I used this opportunity to immediately pull out and around to the driver side of her vehicle.  Now, ever so briefly, I came face-to-face with this future vehicular man slaughterer.  I looked right into her cold dead eyes and clearly articulate, "WHAT THE FUCK!," while not actually making any noise.

Clearly panicked by this confrontation regarding both her lack of driving skills and ability to survive as a human being, she gunned her engine, propelling her car back in front of mine.  I am not ashamed to say that I rode her tail all the way home.  Cause sometimes even kindness has to take a backseat to some good old fashion road rage.

Don't You Know How BAD For You That Is?

Monday, December 2, 2013 | 1 Comment(s)

 As I slide the fuzzy ball of Q-tip deftly into my ear canal, I hear my old college friend's voice come booming emphatically from the other end of our hotel room.  "Don't do that! Don't you know how bad that is for you?!?"

And I guess I don't really understand.  I mean, I honestly don't believe there is any chance of me dying of an over-abundance of earwax.  Do you?  Is that your night terror?  Perhaps it might temporarily occlude my hearing, but actual danger?  This is akin to the feeling I get when being reprimanded by a dental assistant. "Don't you know how dangerous tarter build up can be?"

"i've got a tarter buildup."
No.  No I don't.  I mean, if the answer to that question is "false teeth," then yes, I know about the terrors of tarter.  But I have never seen an angry zombie horde whose gingivitis made their mouth fall out of their head before the brains did.  And, all of the elderly people I know complain much more about their reduced mobility, aching joints, and lack of vision, than the nuisance of having to soak their teeth.  While jamming projectiles into your aural orifice or brushing off flossing are certainly not personally beneficial, in my mind the ever-growing list of things that are deemed to be some manner of bad for you has become so infinitely ubiquitous as to render the phrase meaningless.

Bad for you used to mean something.  And I'm not sitting here pining away for days gone by where you got to walk uphill both ways in the snow to work.  I'm just saying that when my mom told me not to stick my fingers in the electric socket because it was bad for me, everyone can see the rational.  "Matt, don't eat the gum off the bottom of the Faneuil Hall public tables!"  THAT is bad for you.  Eating carbs . . . not so much. 

Nowadays it seems that "bad for you" and "good for you" are just life modifiers indicating if you should add or subtract minutes, hours, or days from your mental life-span clock.   But the problem is that we have no control group.  Sure the average life span is elongating, but the average isn't a reliable enough indicator for something so intrinsically personal.  Perhaps the workaround for this particular problem lies in more precise indicators of how "bad for you" various corrosive life choices really are.

They could range from the very mild "not eating asparagus is Level 1 bad for you; meaning that you should only subtract a matter of minutes from your estimated lifespan.  Now, if you continue chewing that cafeteria table gum, you are ranging into Level 11 bad for you (base 10 is for suckers).  At Level 11 you start seeing the days roll off your life-clock; probably even a few important ones.   And then there are the chronic killers, cigarettes and the like.  Hard not to make these the end of the scale, but they aren't. What they are is Level 18 bad.  You can expect your life to be a few years shorter if you smoke.  That's really common sense at this point, and I'm not preaching, I'm just calibrating my new scale.  If how bad something is for you becomes synonymous with shortening your overall lifespan, then chronic killers like nicotine have to climb pretty high up the scale for it to remain accurate.  Of course, having a chronic attraction to jumping from great heights or racing your motorcycle on working automobile thoroughfares remain atop the chart at level 24: you could go at any time.

Forewarned if forearmed, and this relatively simple codification of risk, eliminates the excuse of plausible deniability.  "Oh . . . I had no idea that setting fireworks off on the tennis courts could result in the loss of a limb?!?"  

"Well, you should of.  It says "Level 14 Bad" in big bold letter right on the side of the canister."  

So when my friend action-star dives across the hotel room to knock the Q-tip out from my fingers, while simultaneously screaming a slow-motion, "Noooooooooooo…," I could just turn to him and say,  in my favorite sarcastic tone, "Chill out man, it's only like, Level 2 bad for me. I think I'll live."