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An Untimely Demise: One Squirrel's Story of Deprivation and Self Destruction

Friday, November 13, 2015 | 0 Comment(s)

My title seems like it comes straight out of David Sedaris's Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk.  Perhaps I just wish it to be.  I warn you friends, what come next may not be suitable for young adults with adult sensitivities.

Someone, I'm assuming a janitorial custodian of some sort, cleaned up the weekend rager thrown by the pair of squirrels living the good life in our 3rd floor bathroom.  The fluffy-tailed rats sampled every roll of back up toilet paper and trampled ever surface near a water source.

Someone cleaned it all up.  God bless said person.

When I saw that the bathroom had been repaired back to its original dingy luster, I also assumed that whomever had been tasked with the arduous process of cleaning up that Stage 1 rat den would have taken steps to never let this happen again.  I know I would have.  Not because I am some holier-than-thou workaholic, quite the opposite, I would be too lazy to ever ever ever subject myself to that level of cleaning again.

As I pushed through the door to wash my hands before class, the two grey silhouettes pushing their way into the wall let me know that any news of their death had been greatly exaggerated.  These fuckers were here to stay.

"Always Watch Where You Sit"

Friday, October 16, 2015 | 0 Comment(s)

My office exists in a land time forgot.

I am on the third floor of a building thrown up rapidly as a response to the mass of troops returned from WWII and funneling into the college system.  The necessity of the building, and the rush to bring it into existence, is easy to observe in the uneven oblong rooms and amoeba shaped bathrooms.  Here is how I believe the architect drew this baby up ...

Step one: Build an outer rectangle to fit the full size of the plot of land assigned. 

Step two: Complete the rectangle by raising a three story structure.

Architect: "What's that . . .  Roof shape? You're asking about roof shape?!? What part of 'build a fucking rectangle' don't you understand! Just slap a flat-top on the sucker and add in the floors like you're making horizontal slices in a cake."

Step three: Add floors to 2nd and 3rd stories, "Like horizontal slices in a cake."  Also, add basement level.

Architect: "Now we wait . . . Final student numbers still aren't in . . . "

Architect: "Ok we got the numbers; there are many more than predicted."

Step four: Continuing with Step three's cake analogy, we just found out that this cake needs to feed the whole friggin family, so we have to carve as many pieces as possible into this sonofabitch. Do the dorm rooms the same way. Think Tetris.  Make some long skinny ones and some short and fat ones. These are bedrooms for ex-soldiers, god damn it, they'll be happy just to have a warm bed outside of Europe.

For those doubters . . . this is the actual building. 

Race in the Classroom

Friday, October 9, 2015 | 0 Comment(s)

I asked a question in my lecture class yesterday.

I asked, "Is racial prejudice disappearing?"

Let's be clear, this was an intentionally ambiguous cue. A prompt that could be interpreted as "is it lessening" or "is it going away." Race, of course, being the major filter through which the question was received.

I figured this picture would draw in a larger audience. 
Immediately, and almost as if it were a automatic response, a Black woman in the front of the class began shaking her head, "no, no, no, no, no."

I asked her if she wished to expand on her position.

Her head continued to shake.

And at that moment, when I asked her if she wanted to share her opinion, we sat on the precipice of the reality of discussing race.

This young woman had to decide whether it was worth it to risk being White Man-splaned race by your professor in a large class of her peers.  The short answer: No. Fucking. Way.

She also had decide if I, a White teacher, was asking her to explain race to my class.

And a few questions later, a White male student near the front asked another question about "the place of White people" in the discussion about race, and I decided that a fundamental truth about this subject needed to be said aloud.

"Let's be clear, it is not Black people's responsibility to explain racism to you. It is not the job of the systematically disenfranchised to educate you about the reality of the world we all inhabit together. That is your job as a human being."

The entire class exhaled.

I should have added that it was also my job as their professor, but I hoped that was self-evident.

An Open Letter to Bakeries Around the Globe

Friday, September 25, 2015 | 0 Comment(s)

Dear Bakeries,

Let me begin by buttering you up, it seems apropos. I love your work. Hell, I've loved your work right into a larger waistline.  I appreciate that you have to wake up before all those people who wake up super early in order to provide them warm, often crackling, golden doughy goodness. And the filo dough, I mean, shut the fuck up that is so tasty. And with the layering, and maybe some honey. Shit, this is already turning into an advertisement for bakeries worldwide. But that's not what this is. This is a plea.

Many of you provide a category of baked good that goes by many names: Cinnamon rolls, Coffee rolls, or Sticky buns. This is not the complete list.  Again, let me pause to commend you on your decision to concoct such delectables -- they are all excellent.  I realize that pastry chefs are appalled that I can't tell the difference between each independent sweet in this category, but the truth is I choose to see what makes things alike more than to dwell on their differences, because I'm morally superior.

*drool*
Among these coffee rolls (yup, that's what I'm calling all of em) we find more divisiveness.  The greatest division; Greater than the Crocs debate and perhaps even more enflamed than Uggs' controversy. The line in the sand is, of course, raisins versus no raisins.  While I reluctantly agree that coffee rolls may contain raisins, I'm not at all happy about it.  It is an abomination.  A perverse joke composed of desiccated grapes rubbing elbows with such kings and queens of taste the likes of brown sugar, cinnamon sugar, and melted sugar.  Raisins and cinnamon hardly mix (I'm looking at you cinnamon raisin bagels), but we can all agree that raisins are the odd man out of the coffee roll equation.  They're weird, and not in a positive sense.  At all.

When I look at a cinnamon roll with raisins, this is what I see.
Here comes the plea.  If you make coffee rolls, and you choose, despite my best efforts and your better judgements to add raisins, please please please make those raisins visible to the consumer. I'm specifically talking about putting at least a few raisins sprinkled on top.  As a warning.  Cause raisins are that bad in this situation.

I don't eat a lot of donuts and coffee rolls.  At least I try my best not to. I find these particularly glucose-filled delights are best left as occasional treats or rewards. So when I do purchase a swirl of sugary pastry, I begin salivating much like the streams of liquid that drip from my pitties mouth as he waits for the command to "eat."  It's a special moment.

For this reason, nothing gets me quite as ragefull as biting into the doughy outer arm of my swirl only to have my front teeth pop the wrinkled skin of dead fruit hiding inside the caked on brown sugar and cinnamon.  THERE SHOULD BE A LAW AGAINST THIS!!!!  While I admit to suffering the constant worry over the possibility that their may be fruit in my cinnamon roll, to hide those fuckers within the folds with no clear markings denoting their existence is simply immoral. It's immoral.  I'm saying it makes you a bad person. So knock that shit off.

An Unfillable Hole

Friday, September 11, 2015 | 0 Comment(s)

The first time I went to college I was 17.

Something about the pure joy of teenaged freedom must have disagreed with me, because I immediately fell ill with mononucleosis.  I did not get it the fun way.  It makes total sense that I had trouble digesting the sweet nectar of freedom after my parent's strict and unconditional love.   I had led a drug-free, out on a school night-free, having friends over-free lifestyle. Yes, alcohol is a drug.

If you add these straight-laced policies to the fact that, at the time, I was rolling into school each day wearing a yarmulke and talit katan hanging down the sides of my wide-whale corduroys, you should get the picture that, for me, high school was not "the best time of my life."  I mean, who doesn't imagine their optimal high school experience as escaping the people in their hometown to hang out with their youth group friends an hour's drive away in upstate New York.

I envisioned college as an everyday upstate New York, and I had been desperate to inhabit that space for the past two years.  But, like any drama worth its mustard, this play would have two acts.  The particular strand of mono that infected me clogged my insides for a feverish two months.  My failing body forced me to take a medical deferral and return the next fall.

Artist rendering: But the green color is accurate

Putting the Bow Wow in Bow Chicka Wow Wow

Thursday, August 13, 2015 | 0 Comment(s)

Last year when on vacation in the Caribbean, I bought a pair of 11 dollar sunglasses that I have miraculously not lost.  Oh sure, they're on their last legs, as one of the tiny screws that hold the frame together is 72% popped out. But I still have them in my possession, and that may be a new record.

One special feature of said white plastic framed sunglasses, is that they are designed to guard one's eyes from the equatorial sun.  And that sun is bright as hell.  Back up in the Northeast I still rock these bad boys, but the extra UV protection tends to darken out a significant amount of the details in the world around me.  Granted, I often don't give two poos about those details.  But sometimes I do.  If, let's say, there is a street sign that spells out where & when it is legal to park, I can't make out the small lettering with these nightshades casting dusk upon my all day.  So, like Adam and Chris in the Schmitts Gay commercial, I lower my glasses down the bridge of my nose and read the fine print from above the frame of the cheap sunglasses.  Very sensual, very erotic.  I can park here from 6pm to 9pm on Tuesdays.  Hot.

Matt Fact #23,789: My First Time Every Time

Monday, July 27, 2015 | 0 Comment(s)

I have never reread any book I have already completed, with the caveat that to qualify the book must take longer than a day to read.

This fact is more evident than ever these days as my wife is churning through my all time number one piece of literature: The Power of One.  Ok, it might be tied for number one, but that's another Matt Fact altogether.

I didn't ever make a conscious choice not to reread these tomes, it's just that I have a difficult time forgetting the crucial twists and turns that amazed me the first go around.  Therefore, when the moment comes that I need to reach for a new book, the opportunity for an entirely novel (pun city!) journey wins the day every time.  A new book.  It's right there in the request.


Swim Fan: Where Spandex Rule

Wednesday, July 8, 2015 | 0 Comment(s)

11:20am: I pull into the old gymnasium parking lot. I've made it the 40 minutes to the gym, and now I have to sit there and wait. Don't be that guy knocking on the door right at 11:30am. Don't be that guy. I pull out my iPhone, play a word in Scrabble against my mom and then take a quick browse of Facebook.  Time to go in.

11:30: Still in the car.  My body is so comfortable and the song on the radio is so good. Do I have to get in the pool every Tuesday and Thursday?  I could skip this one. But I'm already here. I've got to go in. Momentum is a powerful force.

I found a compromise!
11:35: Getting inside the locker room is one thing, undressing into a jammer is another intense step forward.  I sit in front of my locker and collect myself.  Slowly, starting with my shoes, I transform into the swimmer with a belly.  I own it.  Truth is, if it weren't for the belly, I wouldn't be here in the first place.  Insecurity is an even more powerful force than momentum.

a Good Farmer and Me

Monday, June 29, 2015 | 0 Comment(s)

a Good Farmer and Me


He's growing corn again in the field by my old house.
Been a few years since it was  planted last.
The green rockets, pulsing upwards, 
Leafy green contrails lolling behind.

All of this regrowth comforts me. 
The crops measure linear time
into large non-confrontational cycles.   
Always rebounding, 
constantly transforming.

A crop rotation is patience.
With only the present picture available 
a Good Farmer must envision the layers yet to come.
Without a bird's eye view from the future,
a Good Farmer must still see the salad, 
and know it's worth the wait. 

There is no nostalgia for a Good Farmer.
no goodbyes,
all season's greetings.
yet increasingly the memory of the Autumn
of My youth, 
is so singular 
and only grows further away. 

Back Inside the Men's Locker Room: The End of the Gross Ass Bathing Suit

Friday, June 19, 2015 | 0 Comment(s)

It is almost embarrassing how many posts I've done over the last five years that all in some way relate to the men's locker room.  There are even multiple story lines going on at this point.  One story line began way back in February of 2010, and it involved a hairy but wonderful man who was in the foul habit of hanging his dirty wet bathing suit on the outside of his assigned locker.  You can read about him here.  Eventually, I got so perturbed by this imposition that I began tying knots in the strings of the suit. At some point, it even felt like I was not the only one in on the game.

SNAFU
As time went on, my misdeeds came back to me in the form of back pain and then later surgery. I'm not usually this hokey about karma, but I had wronged and I was willing to take my punishment. Not only did I take it, I learned from it. That was the last time I even thought about terrorizing fellow locker-goers, and I simultaneously decided to stop writing about specific people in the locker room.  Until now . . .

MoMa'ney, Mo' Problems

Thursday, June 11, 2015 | 0 Comment(s)

When I was in high school, my family and I took a trip to Chicago to visit my paternal grandmother.  As younger kids we often took trips to the Midwest to see my father's relatives, but as my brother and I got older the frequency of these trips fell off.  I was still too young to understand the politics of families of origin, so I just assumed the downtick in travel was random.

It had been a good five years since I had been to the Windy City, and as a 16-year-old, a plethora of new family friendly activities were available.  Having visited the Museum of Science and Industry on our last visit, I cast my vote for the Museum of Contemporary Art.  My choice had less to do with an affinity for modern art and more to do with a firm distaste for old portraits of America's White forefathers.



As you might imagine, my Mom and Dad had a parentgasm at the sound of their child asking after modern art.  During these celebrations they never paused to remember that they had already banned anything "fun" like going to the movies or an arcade.  

"You can do that at home," they'd reply.

"But you don't let me!" I'd snap back defiantly.

To my displeasure, the topic was no longer open for discussion.

My New Library

Wednesday, June 10, 2015 | 0 Comment(s)

My new library is much more grand than the last one.  It exceeds its predecessor in both stories and stories.  The carpeted floors creak like the hallway of your family's house.  The wooden panels giving way in sound rather than in movement to the countless footsteps of history that pitter-patter and click-clack unaware upon the threadbare oriental rug.  

Constructed in 1896, this postcard is dated "Aug 29, 1906"
My new library smells like the cumulative human experience; like a mold problem that was discovered and taken care of.  The wood banisters in the stairwell slide across my fingers as if they came from the past and will carry up up up into the future.  There are books, of course.  But the books are merely wallpaper towards a greater end. A marketplace of realness where you can find free internet and chairs to sit in. We are all equals at the library, all they ask is that you stay within the boundaries of polite etiquette.

Dogku and Various Other Somewhat Silly Poems

Thursday, June 4, 2015 | 0 Comment(s)

Dogku

My dog contemplates
an oak tree in the moonlight.
No leaves, but acorn rich.




Big Shot Librarian

I still look there
in your place.
at your desk post,
a smiling face. 
Your job the distance 
between wait and weight.
No small town bookstore 
held your fate.
For us, the books, 
with musty smell.
We snap our spines stiff, 
to remember you well.  


Back In The Locker Room Again

Many of my long time readers will remember my series of pieces all set in the locker room of the UMass pool gymnasium.  To be clear, I'm not talking about the new multi-million dollar Athletic Center where everyone on campus goes to exercise, but rather the building that now holds only squash courts, physical fitness classrooms, and a state of the art pool that seems totally out of place.  The pool is the last remaining sentinel of the gym that came before. This used to be where students worked out 20 years ago, but now the place is deserted save for the swimmers forced into occupancy because of the lack of an aquatic center in the new building . . . so far.  As it stands, the locker room is an elephant graveyard of grey beaten lockers, and the shower room is straight out of a Revenge of the Nerds script.

Just add the smell of musky dead rabbits
A few weeks ago I signed up for my summer membership at the pool, and was handed a padlock and a locker number.  I loaded my suit, towel, and deodorant into the locker that time forgot. I wrote the combination on the back of my Faculty ID.

Last Thursday was my fourth visit to the pool.  As I flopped down on the bench in front of my locker, my eyes were still fighting against gravity's insistence that they close.  Once I hit the water, gravity's force would no longer apply to me.  My weightlessness in water kept the lids permanently lifted. These were the benefits of weekly exercise and a surge of adrenaline.

I twisted the padlock to zero.  I got lucky in this regard, my combination actually starts with zero -- so centering the dial served a double purpose.  I lazily cranked the dial around to the next two numbers and then yanked downward.  Nothing.  I repeated the sequence again with the same result.  The third attempt I held the lock in my left hand as I carefully entered the combination.  I pulled harder than was necessary.  Still locked.

Taking Pause: Love in a Time of Impatience

Wednesday, May 27, 2015 | 0 Comment(s)

Today is my wife and my 3rd anniversary, which is pretty amazing.  I can feel myself entering that chunk of life that older people constantly tell you flies by. Like college. Or childhood.

"Nowadays, I can hardly remember my 30's," my made up senior citizen says to no one and everyone. "Those days just flew by like the breeze across a meadow."

Poetic old man.

It's a metaphor
In true "us" fashion, my wife and I have a night together both planned and unplanned at the same time.  Wednesday is not a great date night.  We've already learned that often your anniversary doesn't get celebrated on time.  And that's ok. But regardless of tonights festivities, I am taking a chunk of today to just revel in the small but important accomplishment of our anniversary.

Tomorrow, another concept that both arrives to soon and seemingly never arrives, will be here in the morning, and E and I will never have another 3rd anniversary.  So I'm purposefully concentrating on being in the specialness of the moment.

Unsubscribe from Humanity

Friday, May 22, 2015 | 1 Comment(s)

Today I'm honored to offer you my second guest blog.  Rachel Rosenthal is a professional comedian/improviser/instructor living in New York City.  She's also an unbelievably compassionate human who held the chuppah at my wedding. If you want to know more about her (or take one of her classes) go to www.Theraeroshow.com!  Without further ado
_________________________

I’d like to talk a little bit about faith. I’m not talking about religious faith or faith in God. I’m talking about faith in humanity. The kind of faith that I have had since I was a little girl: the faith in the goodness of others. My belief has always been that people are inherently good. Why do I have this faith? Good question. I think I’m going to thank my parents for that - because truth be told, I have had some pretty strong life experiences that should’ve steered my beliefs otherwise. But my faith has remained - and I’ve held strong that at the root of most humans is goodness; that if given the choice, we would choose to treat others well.

Well, people of New York. You have killed that faith. Dating, specifically has killed that faith.

Happy Wife, Happy Life: The Truth Inside the Lie

Thursday, May 14, 2015 | 0 Comment(s)

One of the most common responses I get when someone hears that my graduate research concerned romantic relationships and marriage is, "So, it's like, 'Happy wife, Happy life.' AmIRight?" Most of the time it's a guy who's faux-asking the question whilst simultaneously patting himself on the back prematurely.

Generally speaking, I no longer want to be a part of the conversation at this point so I nod and smile and agree and walk away with a, "Oh totally! You nailed it, man. You've got marriage figured."  It makes em feel good and gets me that hell out of there.  The truth, as always, is a bit more complicated.

It's at this point that I have to jump in quickly to say that there is a heteronormative assumption being made when we talk about marriage as a negotiation between a man and a woman.  I want to say explicitly that homosexual couples, not having well-worn societal gender stereotypes to lazily fall into, generally do better in dividing the labor of housework equitably in a manner that makes both partners happy.  Without stereotypes to rely on, each partner gravitates towards what they enjoy more/have more competency in.  For the rest of this blog post, we'll be dealing with heterosexual couples when talking about marital couples. But, this doesn't mean to devalue all other forms of love because, frankly, heteros ain't all that.

Taken at face value, "Happy Wife, Happy Life" tends to hold up. The truth of the statement, however, isn't half as important as understanding the mechanism of action at work behind the scenes. Women, both historically and still today, doing more than half the domestic work.  This includes cooking, cleaning, laundry, yard work, trash takeout, etc.  Women, even and especially working women, demolish their male counterparts on time spent doing housework.  By how much?  I'm glad you asked.

Driving Schooled: I Make Driving Fun Again . . . AND Make You a Better Driver

Thursday, May 7, 2015 | 0 Comment(s)

When I was 16, the majority of my best friends lived in New York State, with me living a stone's throw over the Massachusetts border.  Six months later when I got my first car, a used, light blue, 1986 Volvo 740 GLE that I called the Matt-Mobile, I was off.  Every weekend that didn't involve a family or sport's committment, I hopped in my freedom ride and took to the relatively open road of Route 20, headed toward Albany.

I loved driving. I didn't need a souped up engine under the hood or a flashy spoiler on my trunk to enjoy the experience of getting behind the wheel.  Rolling down the windows was enough for me.  The act of driving meant that I, for the first time in my life, got to choose my own destination.  I was no longer at the mercy of car pools, ride shares, and asking my parents for a lift to the mall.  The independence my vehicle afforded me helped guide me in the direction of the future I wanted for myself, which I had not found in Pittsfield's Wendy's or Dunkin' Donuts' parking lots.  I know, cause that's where i looked during most lunch hours throughout high school.

My Dream Car: 1970's BMW 2002 -Daytona Orange
Somewhere along the double yellow lined highway of life, I started to enjoy my time behind the wheel less and less. There were a bunch of factors. I drove across the country six times. My back turned on me, making sitting for long periods of time painful. When I lost a great deal of sight in my right eye a few years ago, it was the final nail in the coffin for driving as anything other than a means of getting me from place to place.

But that sucks. With the weather getting nice and with the new tires just put on my present car, a 2004 Volvo S60 with some giddy-up, I miss the relaxation of a long drive to nowhere in particular. So, I decided to make up a driving game to re-engage me with the road.

I Solve Everything: Giving Cosby the Full Santorum Treatment

Wednesday, April 29, 2015 | 0 Comment(s)

The ongoing Bill Cosby "debate," has been temporarily unseated by more pertinent current events, but nonetheless, I believe America is still searching for some kind of reconciliation between the 42 women who have come forward with terrifying stories of being drugged and raped, and Cosby's freedom. Hell, he's still performing on his comedy tour.  Forty two women.  He's telling jokes.


So, let's just assume that the criminal justice system is going to fail us.  May it be due to statutes of limitation or our legal system's history of acquitting famous people with the means to afford the best defense lawyers, the law is a far cry from justice these days (e.g. Michael Brown).

Let's also assume that Cosby is never going to come clean.  Oh, he's a rapist, but this isn't like Lance Armstrong's case where being caught makes the admission of guilt no big deal.  Cosby won't publicly talk about rape unless it is somehow court ordered and keeps him out of jail. Highly unlikely.

With the legal system handcuffed and Cosby lacking any shame (I mean what do you expect from a rapist) -- there needs to be a solution that allows the masses some closure to the cognitive dissonance between the 80's sitcom star continuing thrive off his decades-old fame and the fact that he is a serial rapist.  Forty two people.  Some multiple times.  Thankfully, I have found a solution.

Matt Fact #444: Mr. Bigglesworth I Presume?

Monday, April 20, 2015 | 0 Comment(s)

You can't be lucky in every aspect of life. You can't be good at everything.  Some people can't, gun to their head, pick the fastest toll-booth line off the highway.  Other people seem to always be in the slow lane in traffic jams.  Me, I have an utter inability to choose the fastest security screening line at the airport. 

I try to be smart about it.  I don't just check out the length of each queue, but I also take into consideration children, older people, and people with a virtual Russian nesting doll version of neon pink luggage.  I do a scan of the whole area.  Regardless of my careful selection process, I pick misery each and every time.

I was travelling with my friend Steve on our way home from Colorado this past weekend.  We left ourselves plenty of time and overall, Denver didn't let us down.  While waiting in the pre-security check-in line, the TSA agent checked my photo identification first, and therefore it fell to me to choose our conveyer belt.  I looked left and right as if I were about to cross the street.  The line just in front of me was the second shortest, devoid of children, and only had one older person.  "Ester" was directly in front of me so I could see she was moving with no issues.  There is no room for empathic pleasantries in security line selection.

Fuck The Police VII: Rocky Mountain High

Wednesday, April 15, 2015 | 0 Comment(s)

So this past weekend I flew to Colorado to go to my friend's "bachelor weekend in nature." It was one of those ideas that sound strange at a glance, but in practice it was absolutely wonderful.  Think Rocky Mountain National Park as a backdrop for a college reunion.  Rocky Mountain High . . . errr . . . University.

I didn't realize how lucky I was to board my direct flight from Hartford to Denver until just before take off.  I received two texts back to back.  The first was from my ride in Denver, which said our Maine contingent's flight had been inexorably delayed -- at a minimum his arrival time had been delayed from 7pm, 30 minutes after my arrival, until 10pm.  The second text was another friend flying to Chicago from Manchester, New Hampshire.  His flight had already been all out cancelled, stranding him in the middle of nowhere. I mean, Manchester, New Hampshire -- that's NoWheresville.  There was a twinge of surviver's guilt as I buckled my safety belt.

Rocky Mountain National Park (photo credit: me)

Viral Meningitis: It's Awful, Don't Do It

Tuesday, April 14, 2015 | 0 Comment(s)

Last week I conducted my Consumer Report testing on the experience of contracting viral meningitis,  all so you wouldn't have to.  The short version is, you shouldn't catch this disease.

Diseases do not look or feel like this. 
Let's start at the beginning -- many people believe, at first glance, that this is an infection that eats your brain.  That's not correct.  Those are zombies.  Even bacterial meningitis, the "worst of the meningitis's" doesn't eat your brain.  It inflames it -- or more specifically , it inflames the membrane around the brain (and spinal cord).  In viral meningitis, a virus is the mechanism of action causing the inflammation, meaning that throughout my thorough testing of said disease, I was quite literally "insane in the membrane." Take that House of Pain fans. 

Straight Up Now Tell Me

Friday, March 20, 2015 | 1 Comment(s)

With the fear of sounding too Seinfeld-esc, "What's the dealllllll with music videos these days?"

I mean, I have real questions.  Do music videos exist solely on Youtube now, or are there music video television stations still?  Usually when I start a piece with a question like this, I already know the answer.  But in this case, I sincerely don't know the place of the music video in 2015.  I do know that they no longer exist on MTV, ironic considering the stations name, Music Television Network, implies it should still house these rare creatures.


If music videos are only on YouTube, which is where I find them, where is the revenue stream? These videos often cost large chunks of change to produce.  Is that cost completely offset by advertising on the site? If so, damn.  The world truly is a new frontier.  If the costs aren't covered by ads, is the expense written off as advertising for the CD/mp3 release? Are mp3's still a thing?  Do they sell downloads of the videos? So many questions. I just don't know.

It's unlike me to have fallen so far off the pace of a cultural phenomenon, and the result leaves me feeling ill at ease.

Where, O Where, Has My Pubic Lice Gone, Where O Where Can It Be!

Wednesday, March 18, 2015 | 0 Comment(s)

When I was growing up, everyone had pubic hair.  This is a fact, not a commentary. And here is how I know.


When I was twenty years old I moved back to the kibbutz in Israel where I had spent my gap year between high school and college.  It was great to be back.  I felt deeply connected to the community I had formed at Kibbutz Kfar Hanasi, which lies atop a cliff in northern Israel.  Getting the chance to work hard/play hard in Israel for one more summer was a gift I was unwrapping with great enthusiasm. 

And then there were the pub nights.  The bi-weekly Tuesday and Friday night thrusts into inebriation and depravity.  These nights at the kibbutz bar were where I first learned how to drink, and how not to drink -- I also found out the hard way that tequila is an angry dwarf who stabs your insides with a fiery blade.  It was an educational time. Often these life lessons were taught in pairs.  Lustful, sweaty, desperate pairs -- grasping at each others bodies like water in the desert.

So, How Was Your Morning: Worst Fears Realized

Friday, March 6, 2015 | 0 Comment(s)

My morning was another worst fear realized.  At least it cut down on my coffee intake. In brief:

My first duty in the morning, duty with a "t", is to feed the dogs their breakfast. The responsibility part of this task is often highlighted by 50 pounds of pit bull head being laid gently down atop mine.  Hard to ignore a fuzzy beanbag yawning above you.  Especially when it's licking you. 

In order to effectively feed the dogs, my first activity is to head to the bathroom to wash the sleep out of my eyes and prevent missing a stair on my way down to the kitchen.  With the frigidity of the current winter, this step also involves wrapping myself in my large fluffy bathrobe and slipping on my sensible around-the-house slippers. 

Down the stairs I go, two high-stepping puppies at my heels, picking up the various dog toys and food ingredients used as part of the morning feeding routine.  Once their meal is served, I get a brief 30 minutes to myself.  I sidestep to the kitchen and pour myself a cup of coffee.  Coffee is lifeblood.  Coffee is the mother, the father, the innkeeper, and the holy ghost.  I like coffee even more than I like turtles. 

A Masshole's Guide to Winter Driving

Thursday, March 5, 2015 | 0 Comment(s)

*As the son of parents that hail from New York City and Chicago, and being born in Massachusetts proper myself, "genetically" speaking I am a LA father away from being the worst possible bread of driver*

If you are headed to New England anytime soon, you should know that the residents of this land are contents under severe pressure -- ready to burst.

This winter has been absolutely brutal.  It's been freezing, it's been snowy, it's been icy, and it's been windy.  For months nows. The average resident is so sick and tired of winter weather, that even the occasional 40-degree day seems disastrous, with all its dirt-filled slush splashing up the sides of one's car and pant legs.  For the next few weeks, the weather around here is a no win situation, a Catch-22.  More snow and cold means ice and screaming at the sky.  Warmth means flooding and run-off.

Take deep breathes.  This weekend is the beginning of Daylight Saving Time: The literal light at the end of the tunnel.

I prefer to view early March as one last chance to permanently incorporate the driving lessons that Winter has attempted to impart on its denizens.  What, you haven't taken NE Winter Driver's Ed? Here are the the highlights:

Moby Dicks: Critique vs. Criticism

Saturday, February 28, 2015 | 0 Comment(s)

"We all can't be bloggers for a living."

He wrote that to me publicly on Facebook. I barely knew this guy and here he was posting the very question that kept me awake at night.  He was obviously ribbing me, but there was a tinge to it.  Kinda like that an adolescent male buck tentatively knocking horns with the alpha, just to make sure the ol' guy still had it in him and was willing to put up a fight.

I had to ram my head back into his, that much was clear.  I typed my first response, something flippant and douche-filled that referenced my Ph.D.  Über douche.  As I reread it I hated the person whose voice it came out of.  I'm not self-conscious about my intelligence. Throwing all of my formal learning in his face would only prove him right. When your only defense is letters on a piece of paper, you got nothing. Advanced degrees are just symbols of knowledge, but is the knowledge itself that carries value. That first attempt was quickly highlighted and deleted.

He certainly is a Moby Dick . . . .        (illustration by Michael Hawthrone)

Pine Sap: The Oscars, the Grouches, and Yet Another Award Show

Wednesday, February 25, 2015 | 0 Comment(s)

The Oscars both happened and didn't really matter once again.  Even with the acceptance speeches being less roll call and more message-based, it is hard to deny that we are making a huge fuss about the wrong people. Something about how these stars pay lip service to inequality while reaping the benefits of the greatest inequity of our time: Money.

I have a novel idea, why don't they hold a new televised award show. I know, I know, even the joking idea of adding more of these makes me queasy.  And while this new proceeding will have all the glitz and star power of the Oscars, those famous faces will be there merely to see and be seen.  In other words, Hollywood's so-called elite will serve as the presenters and performers for the event -- as is appropriate.

The recipients of the awards, however, will go to deserving winners who have made accomplishments to better the nation this year.  How about "Greatest Contribution to Renewable Energy," "Best Performance in Eliminating Hunger Worldwide," or "The Making Impossible Possible Award."

Dare I say that I would love to applaud these winners.  Not to mention that the clips they would show of all the nominees' works would be a free public service announcement that humanity is still surging forward as the typhoon of global destruction and discord nips at our heals. Let's make one award show that matters, out of the 47, let's get just one of them right.

And then, there is this guy:

So much sadness

Johnson & Johnson's Baby Onions

Friday, February 13, 2015 | 0 Comment(s)

I have strong opinions regarding onions and most other vegetables as well.  I just do.  While onions may be my favorite vegetable to dice, and delicious to eat, I'm not so into plant matter that defends itself. Except Venus flytraps, cause they obviously rule so fucking hard. But layers of cry-inducing skin? Pass. If I wanted that, I'd just chop a live chicken or something.  At least I'd end up with a main course instead of just one ingredient to compose a side dish. Hell, after onions reduce, they practically disappear altogether. Pussies.

With that established, you would think that this report in The Telegraph left me clicking me heals mid-air.

photo credit: softpedia.com
It did not.

That is way over the line Smokey. Mark it zero.

When you read the report, it doesn't mention the words "genetically modified organisms" anywhere because the very whisper of the GMO acronym sets off a debate that drowns out all other information trying to be conveyed. But these British farmers didn't one day go into their fields and lo and behold, "Hey we've got magic onions!"  No. It wasn't like that at all.

A Poem for Winter

Wednesday, February 4, 2015 | 0 Comment(s)

February

A Pharaoh Ant crawls its way across the brown cracking skin
of a tree it met yesterday.
The surrounding evergreens sway in stoic witness.
Their sticky pine forming lava flows of semi-transparent tributaries.

Not all snow colors are created equal,
The red a scarlet slash of injustice;
of violence and fear and loss.

Our repetitive footsteps grind grit and gravel,
down down down to the blacktop of our font door.
Melted runoff snakes through the waterlogged planks of the porch.
A dripping roof concealing a hidden fortress of reflective pools,
where we can smoke in peace.

Memories form a mirage refracted in the puddles of forgotten snowmen,
and the women who made them great.
Come now, away from this place of haunted backyards,
of unbaptized snow which will never again known the joy of destructive paw prints.


FarmersOnly.com: Growing Crops and Lifelong Relationships

Wednesday, January 28, 2015 | 0 Comment(s)

FarmersOnly.com: Cause City Folks Just Don't Get It

That's a lot of eyebrow plucking for a farmer.
I wish I had thought of both the website and tagline, just so I could have written a satirical tale of farmer on farmer action.  Alas, reality beat me to it and now I get to shit all over someone else's grand idea.  Six of one, half dozen of another.

The basics.  I love farmers. As individuals, as a group, as an idea . . . farmers feed us and make this country better.  More farmers, less GMO's.  Living in the relative country myself, I have the pleasure of knowing a few handful of farmers in and around New England.  I can't recall any of them lamenting about farmer-specific love problems, but I appreciate that there may different issues facing farmers in the more wide open spaces of the Midwest.

What I do know is that farmers, on the whole, are White.  According to a recent PBS special, today there are only 18,000 Black farmers -- representing less than 1% of all farmers.  Personally, I can understand why, as a Black person, one might find it difficult to see working the land as a viable career choice.  At the same time, the love of farming extends beyond the injustice of slavery, and losing a minority voice in American food culture is a net loss for everyone.  But I digress.

To Bee or Not to Bey: The Battle Between Hucka and the Queen

Friday, January 23, 2015 | 0 Comment(s)

I can't in good conscience tell you that I believe Mike Huckabee has a shot at being the next President of the United States.  Let's start there.  He's too far to the right, too über-Christian, and too ol' timey value for a modern presidency.  But even if he did, theoretically, have a chance to win the Republican nomination, he doesn't anymore.

Mike Huckabee quit his Fox News show in order to investigate the possibility of another run at the top job.  As part of his presidential run-up roll-out, he is on the talk show circuit plugging his recently published book (which I choose to not directly plug here).  Here's the best part, in his book he criticizes Beyonce . . . yes, that Beyonce, for choosing to "go sexual" in her art and, to paraphrase, to peddle porn when she's so talented.



No no. Gimme another shot at paraphrasing.  I can do better.  To paraphrase: Mike Huckabee is another White guy telling another Black woman what she should or shouldn't do with her body, sexuality, artistic expression.  Sadly, this is no new platform -- it's as old as the platforms they used to sell people on.  In the majority of cases, cases that happen constantly, everyday, all across the country, the minority opinion would be silenced and the majority point of view given a megaphone.

But that son of a bitch picked on mother fucking Beyonce.  Such a dumb move.

Goodnight Moon, Hello Puppy

Tuesday, January 20, 2015 | 0 Comment(s)

To understand how crazy last Friday morning was for me, first you have to get a general sense for how mornings are supposed to run in our household.

Somewhere between 5-7:30am my wife gets up.  I am blissfully unconscious for this part, so I really have no idea about the fluctuations in her wake up schedule.  At the sound of my wife's alarm, our two pitbulls, Grover and Falcor, reactively begin there morning stretches as they half-heartedly rise from their doggie beds. 

It's winter, so the dogs are weighing the fact that Mom is going to make them go outside into the cold to go to the bathroom with the reward of getting a pre-breakfast snack before going back to bed.  The knowledge of future food is one of the most powerful motivators in our household, though on those subfreezing mornings, even the sound of a bag of treats shaking from downstairs can't budge Grover out from under his cozy blanket. 

Dogs go out, dogs get a snack, and then dogs are put back in their bed(s) so Momma can get ready for school.  They immediately jump up on the human bed and snuggle with me. If all goes to plan, when my alarm goes off, I know all is right in the world if I feel the warm-water bottle sensation of fuzzy companions wedged against some part of my body.  Sometimes the pups get real creative and lie directly against either side of me, and when I go to shut off my alarm, I find myself pinned in like a mummy under the coffin lid of compressed sheets. 

"Dad, just toss a blanket over us and we'll call it a night."

Skeletor, Peyton Manning, and the Role of Baddies in Our Lives

Thursday, January 15, 2015 | 0 Comment(s)

I'm a Patriots fan, let's get that out of the way at the top of this rare sport-related entry.  There is no way to begin a philosophical discussion about Peyton Manning without first making that allegiance known right off the top. As a rule, I hate Peyton Manning, I hate the Colts, and I hate the Denver Broncos.  Not only that, but I hate the whole Manning family.  I hate that baby Eli threatened to not play football for a year so that the Giants would pick him in the draft instead of the Chargers. And I hate their self-righteous father, who always seems to swoop in from the Legends suite to take post-game interviews with his children.

Yes. This is definitely a firm pass for me. 
That's a whole lot of hate, huh? People, please understand, I use such hyperbolic verbiage to drive home the point that this is all purely sports-related vitriol.  I don't cast real emotions at what are essentially glorified T.V. characters -- and I would never mistake a man in spandex with any of the everyday heroes that lend their sweat to helping our very real world flourish.  This disconnect is what allows such free-flowing loosey-goosey hate. 

With all of that out of the way, I would have to be obtuse not to recognize ol' P. Manning as one of the two best quarterbacks of this generation (with our boy Tom Brady).  Yes, Aaron Rodgers and  Drew Brees have been incredible. But they are the 1B's to Peyton & Tommy's 1A.   So when Peyton's Broncos lost convincingly to his old team the Colts in last week's playoff match-up, a whispered ripple was sent across the NFL landscape (and for once it wasn't domestic violence related!)

TBRARUMUD All-Stars: The $38.00 Buffet

Monday, January 12, 2015 | 0 Comment(s)

Originally published on February 2, 2010, what follows is one of the rare wonderful moments that took place during a psychology conference in Las Vegas, NV.  I chose this piece partially because the advise at the end of the piece is as applicable now as it was during its original publication.  Enjoy!  -MZ
_______________________________________

Now, there really are quite a few negatives about Vegas that I feel need to be shared. But, in the spirit of optimism, i'm going to go with one of the positives. And thus begins the story of the $38 buffet.


Saturday night, my final night on the strip, a few friends and I were looking for a relatively inexpensive, tasty (remember what I had eaten the night before) dinner option. Having already eaten at Burger Bar (YUM!--so good I suggested going again), we decided to hit up the Bellagio Buffet.

Now, I'm going to be honest, "buffet," to me, does not have a good connotation. When I think of a buffet I think of a line of food laid out on a table or set of hotplates, that sits, touched or untouched, for a block of time not unlike the block of time you are supposed to reserve for the cable guys arrival ("just be at home anywhere from 10am - 4pm, we'll get to you"). So the chance of getting food that has been sitting out is generally pretty high. I, for reasons I can only think must be tied to my experiences, also think of Chinese food and multiple forms of fried noodles and rice. There have been exceptions to the rule. I once went to a glorious Indian wedding in NYC whose endless Indian delicacies rocked my sari off (figuratively). But this, sadly, was the exception, and most buffet dinners I have had have led to extended visits to Sergeant Porcelain's infirmary. It's conservation of mass folks--what goes in, must come out. 

Fear Regret, Not Failure

Tuesday, January 6, 2015 | 2 Comment(s)

And so ends 2014: The Year of NOT Living in Fear.

Did I learn anything from this annual goal? Is creating a theme for your year dumb, or the dumbest?

I am genuinely glad you asked.  I have answers -- all the answers to these questions. If only you'd asked me something about the meaning of life today as well! Maybe we all could have reaped the benefits of my temporarily bottomless wisdom.

The number one thing that surprised me after repeating my 2014 Mantra, "I'm not going to live in fear," was how often it was applicable. When I came up with it, the idea behind tossing fear into the back seat was to combat the increasing number of worries I could feel myself getting amidst.  I was my own Worst Case Scenario Handbook, except that I just thought up the scenarios, and then spent countless hours perseverating over potential solutions to problems I didn't even have.