Tuesday, March 30, 2010

It's written in the stars, via the newspaper

Somewhere in Manitoba (I believe,) sometime way in the early part of the last century my grandmother was born, her last name Young. The town, or area was the same as another Young, his name Neil. Somehow, we believe, that we may be related. I tell people he's my cousin but I don't really know that for sure.

Neil Young plans recording sessions and tours around the cycles of the moon. He believes in the creative energy of a full moon, you can see it referenced throughout his music. It makes me think that we are perhaps related because I believe the same thing...in a way.

I always feel different with a full moon, I'll be acting weird, full of energy and excited, when the past week has been down and dumpy, I'll look up at night and sure enough the sky is brightened by a full moon. Or conversely, my mood will be relatively great and I'll suddenly have a somber night, only to realize there is a full moon. It's probably not 100% of the time but I do notice these things happening quiet often.

The sky doesn't really tell us shit, for example I never believe my horoscope unless it reads like I would like my day to read out. Every now and again it seems to fall exactly in line with life and it's these little coincidences that people catch that probably lead them to follow blindly any sort of horoscope, religion, politician, etc.

Tomorrow I have a review with my CEO and my horoscope for tomorrow only talks about work, getting a raise, and things like that. But tonight is a full moon and my horoscope is telling me to be creative...so I'll listen. Maybe if I make tonight's true, tomorrow's will fall in line.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Differences

This weekend Georgia, my girlfriend, and I met up with her family for lunch. It was her mom's birthday. This was my first time meeting her mom, she was great. Her family is really nice and generally fun to be around. I'm not going to write about them but rather, something I noted and now I'm wondering how universal it is.

When we are just hanging out and chatting about our families we both tend to talk about the things that we have in common with our siblings or parents. This past week she was telling me the story of her secret handshake with her brother and how it was borne of a common hatred for a common foe. I told her about how my brother and I share a common hatred for everything.

I've told her that I look like my mom but act like a Hughes. My sister and I, though not of blood relation, share our sense of humor. She looks like her father and cooks like her mother. It goes on.

Yet, for the amount of stories I've been told I found myself pulling out the differences. When her sister said something I thought to myself, "Georgia wouldn't have said that," and then I wondered why I instantly thought that. I guess it was because we don't talk about the differences so much. People like to look at the ways they fit into their families as well as the ways we don't fit it - yet it's easier and lighter to talk about those similarities we have. So why then, as an outsider was I looking only for differences.

It wasn't as if I didn't want to see any similarities, as I said earlier I really do enjoy her family, but I think I always do this. I also think it's pretty natural whenever we meet a friend's family. Those striking physical similarities aside, I always start to notice the differences right away.

Why is this? Is that a negative trait? I'm pretty curious now.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Jay's NHL: The Saratoga Part

Sitting across from me in a new bar, in a new city, was a new kind of girl. One, who I assumed, I should like. You can go to a new city at 23 and reinvent yourself, it's not a gradual evolution over time, it's a moment. It's the last box you unpack. It's the first shit you take in your new city. It's that first girl you kiss. You've remade your world, you've remade yourself. Or, at least, that's what I had figured at the time. So she was my reinvention. A new kind of girl. Tattoo'd arms, back, and legs. Thick, chunky black glasses that matched her thick, chunky black boots. This is where I would remake myself. She would pull me into the counter culture, the indie scene, the punk world...I wasn't sure where she would pull me but I was ready to launch regardless.

Over a few beers things were going just fine, I was funny - she was purposefully quirky. She drank micro-brews for a totally different reason than I did. Up until that point I thought I liked the taste, suddenly though, I liked them for some reason that I don't even remember now. We shared stories and eventually it came time for me to talk about moving. The one person who helped me was my best friend Jay so I talked about him for a minute. At this point in my life the story escapes me, one of triumph? Doubtful because I started it as such, and this part I recall with absolute clarity because of the way she misunderstood my inflected aside; "my best friend is an idiot, he had cancer..."

She chuckled thinking I called him an idiot for having cancer but I'm sure the story was some misadventure where I led him to being an idiot while I escaped being only a silent instigator - as was often the case in my college+ years. Somehow though I've always thought it amazing that somebody would imagine I was calling my best friend an idiot for getting cancer.

"Hey, what are you doing tonight?" Nick asked, calling from Saratoga a quick 20 minutes from my parents house. It was a weird point where I was working a job I hated, just out of school, and living with my parents; I was driving to Saratoga a lot. Maybe to smoke weed, drink a few beers, whatever the case was, I was just anxious to get out.

"Nothing, what's going on?"

"You should come here, Jay's in the hospital, he might have cancer."

From there it's a bit blurry for a while. I know that I ran out the door within a minute of hanging up the phone and got over to Saratoga Hospital. Yes, I know what you're thinking, it is the same hospital where Donnie Wahlberg went after he fell through a trap door at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center. Wahlberg, as you know, was fine, no serious injuries and NKOTB went on to be the bestest band who every lived in the history of the universe.

To say you could hear a pin drop would be underselling what the room was like. We stood around, a bunch of college kids, wondering what the fuck was going on. His aunt broke the mood up a little when she walked in with a box of Dunkin Donuts coffee; "anyone want coffee?" I still remember how the words sounded almost too chipper when they fell out of her mouth. She was a nurse, she was 30 years our elder, she was, in a word, experienced. The five or six of us in the young group milled around the room, not knowing when to speak, when to leave, when it was "family time" and when it wasn't.

Nick and I went outside to smoke a cigarette. Probably not the thing you do when you're trying to find out if your best friend has cancer. Not just my best friend, Nick's as well. We were only friends because of Jay. A lot of people are only friends because of Jay. He has a gentle way about him that instantly gains trust. He's quick witted and even quicker to laugh at a half way decent joke. I've never heard him be mean, it's in him, but somehow he doesn't feel the need to let that out like most people do. Eventually, Jen and Eric joined us. I think the only thing we said, through dry throats and wet eyes, was, "this is so fucked." I mean, we did talk for a while out there, but every sentenced included fuck in one of its glorious forms.

We sat outside of a closed door for what seemed liked several hours, although I'm sure it was more like 10 minutes. Inside the door Jay was sitting with just his parents.

"Dude, you're fucking killing me, what is wrong with you?" I kept asking Jay when he came to visit me my last semester at college. His breathing was so loud that we had to turn up the television several times. I remember watching Friends and laughing...we must have been stoned. I remember it was the kind of laughing that you only enjoy with a great friend. That night we went to the bar and got pretty drunk. Not so drunk that we couldn't walk home - but drunk enough that we had to walk backwards so that Jay wouldn't puke on his shoes as we walked.

"Turns out that breathing thing...you were right, there was something there. I have mono." Case closed right? We all thought it was. He got better. And life went on.

Jay was always skinny. For a tall guy, about 6'5" to weight 165lbs though, is crazy. "I'm still getting over the mono." It wasn't as if he didn't eat but he was always as broke as he was tall so nobody knew if he was eating his own food or only eating our food. That type of thing doesn't matter when its Jay though. You let him have as much food as he wants - it's that trust thing. Also, there is never any doubt that if he bought a pizza you would get half of it, even if you showed up unannounced just as it arrived. Believe me, that scenario would have never happened. In the off chance that it did happen though, he'd have come through.

When the door finally opened we walked in to Jay's teary eyes. His parents, I remember looking at them and seeing their heartbreak, thinly veiled with a tough "everything is going to be alright" exterior. We, his friends, were not so tough. Although, I believe we all waited until we were outside and away from him to actually start crying.

Later we would learn that the tumor, the one pressing on both of his lungs and his heart, was non Hodgkin's lymphoma - it disguises itself as mono. Tricky mother fucking tumor if you ask me.

He was going to be transferred to Albany Med. Albany being the only real city, or at least in the clump of only real cities that was near us. But we aren't in Albany yet. We are still in Saratoga deciding what, as friends, we can do.

There was nothing. There is never anything you can do in that situation. You can be a friend. You learn to look around at the people in your daily life and tell them you love them. You learn that your friends are more important than you had given them credit for and you learn that helplessness is an awful, shitty, horrific feeling. But you learn that it's not as bad as cancer. Especially when you have to watch an amazing friend and an amazing person go through it.

It was right around his 22nd birthday. He'll be 29 in a month and I'm overwhelmingly happy to say that I'll text him when I hit the "publish post" button to tell him that I posted this.

You can't force a moment to change your life and when it does it's often a change you would never want.

He went to Albany Med. but that story is for another day.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Newphew/Nephew

In high school a few of my friends started asking me which "Hughes Time" I was following that day; meaning I was either extremely early or extremely late. I guess it's continued to this day. When I'm excited I tend to clean my apartment and wait until it's an acceptable time to leave. I try my best to be less than 15 minutes early, any more and you run the risk of looking somewhat crazy depending on the situation. My parents always forced us to be late to everything, I try to correct that impulse in my life.

In October of 2008 I was going to go back East to upstate New York and also to Vermont. My brother and his wife were expecting their second boy to be born around the time I planned my trip. It's a crap shoot with these expected birth dates, from the limited information I've gathered. Yes, this is based on two to three kids being born two to three days outside of their expected dates - I'm not big on actual research. My plan though, was to time it up right to meet the new baby and fly back before the crying began.

My flight arrived in NYC where I visited Jay, Kyle and (although she's only become a friend recently, I'll count her) fiancé Emily. We spent a night or two together, getting drunk and talking about fun we used to have - we probably would have added new memories to the bank but we made sure to drink enough so that we wouldn't have to worry about it the next time we met up. My phone was constantly on my hip, ready to hear the news; "baby is coming!" But I made it through the 2 days without any water breaking on my sister-in-law. I'd like to think I had something to do with that.

On Monday I took the bus from NYC to Albany, because, after flying for 6-7 hours my parents still won't take the ~2 hour drive to come get me. I could take a bus much closer to their house but I don't, the 45 minutes each way to Albany is 100% my spite. I spent that and the following night at my parents house and then borrowed a car to head to Vermont.

When I arrived in Vermont my nephew (the one who had already been born) knew I was coming, shockingly he remembered me too, he greeted me at the door. It was amazing. He's such a cool little man. My brother wasn't yet home from work so my sister-in-law and I spoke for a little while, she looked somewhat like she swallowed a watermelon, an angry fucking watermelon who wanted the fuck out!

After a quick hello and a hug my brother said he was taking her to the hospital to induce labor and asked if I could watch the little man. I of course was there to help. Honestly though, I was there to see the three of them, welcome the fourth but I was excited to have some alone time with my little nephew. He was almost 4 at the time and I had never had a chunk of time alone with him.

At first I was really excited. However, I quickly realized that we didn't have a lot to talk about; we don't read any of the same periodicals, we don't watch the same news programs, I thought we might be headed for a quiet 3-4 hours before I put him to sleep. There would be no silence that night.

Kids, I don't know what you've heard but they have a shit ton of energy. You literally can't slow them down...but you can outsmart them into playing lazily. That came just after dinner, when I was tired. 2 hours of babysitting tired. Which for me, at that point in my life, was like a super marathon. Not that I was fat and lazy but I was certainly out of shape and I lived a life that really required little movement other than walking to my car. The travel and the time difference wasn't helping either...but those are all just excuses.

When you need "lazy play time" you build a couch fort. That is the answer. I'm not sure who was more excited. He got to build a fort and pretend we were under attack, and I was too big to sit in it so I got to lay down - legs popping out, protected by a wall of invisibility, of course.

After a while it was time for bed so I told him that, he said okay, reached for my hand so I could tuck him in and read to him. Along the way he turned and said; "Uncle Colin, I have to poop." I told him to go ahead, I'd wait downstairs. It was then he explained that he didn't poop on his own just yet. He needed a hand. A hand stuffed with toilet paper, scraping the left overs out of his mini man crack. My brother didn't tell me about this.

"Okay, buddy," what the fuck else are you supposed to say? Although, holding him up to the sprayer on the sink crossed my mind. I could explain how it's much cleaner than wiping but then again he was a bit too young to understand my perfect rational. So we walked towards the bathroom, we slowed the pace a bit as I braced myself. We hit the door and turned back to say; "oh, I don't have to go."

I quickly ran him up the stairs and put him in bed. I spent at least an hour reading to him, poop was never mentioned again.

That night both sets of grandparents arrived. The next morning I got my nephew ready for preschool. Just after the grandparents left I drove him, he gave me directions - which is adorable when he could hardly see out the window he was so tiny...also he was sitting in car seat that was slightly more bulky than a roller coaster chair. I dropped him off, went directly to the hospital.

As I was walking into the hospital I called my mom and step father's cell phones, but neither answered. I walked in the doors and looked for an elevator, my phone rang. "The baby just came."

By the time I found the room all the bloody shit was over. The new nephew was cleaned and ready to begin his life. My sister-in-law was starting to calm down, the nephew was brought into the room just seconds before I came walking in. I avoided the baby blood, I avoided the nephew-poo. 28 years into my life, I had finally mastered "Hughes Time."

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

My Leg...part 1

Over the past year, since Obama has been elected, we have all been bombarded with talk of health care reform. It seems as though, no matter why you voted the way you voted, the only thing that has mattered over the last 200+ years was a shitty health care system in need of serious overhaul. I happened to vote for Obama and my reasons were varied, while health care was a small part of that I have been anxious to move past that and get on the next issue. Hopefully gay marriage...if my vote counted.

Now that reform is on it's way I am looking back at what was the worst ever year in my life. One of the many varied reasons for the awfulness that was '09 was my leg issue.

Somewhere around mid October I started to have some leg pain. It would prove to be extremely expensive, arduous, and educational. Quiet simply said though it was the biggest fucking pain in the ass (yes, in the leg actually) that I've ever gone through in my life. What I know know, and wish I knew then, was that I was part of the problem, causing myself to owe several extra thousand dollars atop the already inflated and high costs that came outside of my own ignorance.

For a few days it felt like I was sleeping atop a pebble, I would brush it away while laying on my stomach waiting for sleep to win out. Inevitably there was nothing on the bed and brushing away (even the smallest) nothing does no good whatsoever. I began to realize that the section of my leg where I thought was a pebble, living in my bed, was tighter than normal during regular business hours. Originally I thought it was a pulled muscle.

In high school I played a bunch of sports, I'm no stranger to a muscle pull or ache. A simple fact that I overlooked initially was that a pull/strain starts off really bad, very painful, and eventually lessens over time. This little pebble was starting small and sort of growing.

A few days, perhaps a few weeks, went by and the problem persisted but wasn't really effecting my life in any sizable way. As the pain grew I noticed it was worse when the blood rushed towards it; when I would first stand after having sat for a while it would go from annoying little thing that I didn't want to touch or bump to a hugely painful charley horse (note: I tried both 'charlie' and 'charley' there, even charly but none look right at the moment, you get the EY version.)

I work for a doctor who started a company outside of the medical field. He is still a practicing physician who works at a prestigious hospital in NYC and I work for his other company...in Los Angeles. I was calling him to mine for answers over the phone. As is always the case, he was extremely helpful and as luck would have it he was in town the following weekend. We set up a time to meet up so he could have a look. He warned me several times that without the use of diagnostic machines it was likely that he wouldn't be able to help me.

"There is a noticeable bulge, I'm going to get you an appointment at UCLA." Oh, I knew there was a lump. By this point it felt like 1/4 of a chicken breast was sliding around just under the skin, resting above my upper right quad muscle. If you want to know exactly where, to scale on your own body stand up, place your right palm on your hip bone, line your middle finger up with the seem of your pants, spread your fingers out comfortably and press in with your index finger. Now, imagine when your pressing in causes a nice size chunk of chicken to slide around inside of your leg.

By this point, the week waiting for the doctor's appointment, my pain had reached a level that I cannot properly describe. I would wake up at 4am, take 2 ibuprofen and try to go back to sleep - get out of bed at 6am and walk my dogs to the end of the driveway and back inside. All the while I would never stand erect, as that hurt far too much. Every 6 hours, on the dot, I was shoving more ibuprofen in my face. It helped, somewhat. I mean, as much as it could help I suppose. Although, the pain was consistent and I walked around all day like a 105 year old man. Bent slightly at the waist, shuffling my right leg along, often grabbing at it in pain. I would stand slowly and brace myself as I did. On two separate occasions I had to catch myself from falling to the ground because of the pain.

Most people, wherever you are in the world, know who Shaq is. Imagine for a moment he was the world's most famous ballet dancer instead of basketball player. He is hovering over you with his ballet shoes on, all of his weight supported by parallel bars. He touches your leg with his toe. Over the span of 10-15 seconds he allows for all of his weight to press down onto your leg, all of it pinpointed by his awesome (pink and sparkle filled) ballet shoes...that's what it felt like to stand up...every time I stood up.

So off I go to see a specialist, on the suggestion of my company president - who is also a friend, I trust his opinion without question now as I did then. Little did I realize then though that I was feeding into the health care problem. Initially I get a "required" x-ray even though the Dr. tells me it isn't necessary and won't tell us anything ($ for me $$$$ for insurance company.) As he said it told us nothing. He examines me and asks me some basic questions; how does it feel, can you do this, can you do that, nothing too big. Until he asks an important question; "when I poke at it, does it send little electrical shock waves down your leg." I hate these questions because I wasn't really sure. I felt them sometimes, one poke would shoot pain downwards, the next poke would be an isolated pain. So how do I answer? Obviously he wants me to say yes, so I do. Not knowing if it was the right answer. It's the same as when the eye doctor flips the lens and asks; "which is more clear, a or b?" I always feel like I'm getting it wrong.

Based on the shock-wave pain that may or may not have been really there he thinks I have what is called a schwannoma tumor (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Schwannoma) the same thing that my company's president thinks. I'm relieved because this is most likely not cancer. But, to find out I'll need a CT scan. Well, not really, but this will rule out some other things ($$ for me $$$$$ for my insurance company.) Was this needed? Maybe a little more than the x-ray but still, not essential. I go, the same day, same building, for the CT scan. I waited for about 3 hours.

A long 3 hours. I called my mother, my brother, and J, my best friend who had and survived (as evidenced by the fact that I was able to call him) cancer. Everyone was reassuring and I was still playing it very cool with everyone in my life. "I'm sure it's nothing, maybe an operation. I'm more worried about the money it's going to cost," was my standard line. While, at home, in private I was a wreck. My nights were spent crying in pain and in anticipation of the worst. I would soak myself in a warm bath, which was my cure-all growing up. Sweating, I would lay there thinking of the things I wanted to do before chemotherapy started in. Tears would come up more quickly than I could stand. My dogs had no idea what was going on, all they knew was our walks were getting shorter and shorter by the day.

The pain only worsened the next few days/weeks. It was too the point that I felt like ibuprofen was my only friend. One time Nate wanted to go to the bar so I skipped 2 pills so that I could enjoy a beer. We shuffled to the bar - although this was much earlier in the story it was the last time anyone asked me for a social evening throughout this process - it was a horrible experience, I don't fault him for not wanting to hang out with a dying senior citizen.

I called the doctor. I called the doctor. I called the doctor. Over and over and finally I emailed my president, who studied under the doctor he recommended, he began calling the doctor, emailing him, etc. Eventually, late one evening the doctor called me, it was the first day that my leg actually started to feel a little better. At the time I wondered if I had gotten used to the pain or if it was really clearing up. "I'm just waiting to hear the results of your biopsy," he told me. After I explained to him that he never ordered me to have a biopsy he pushed me through for a test that Friday, or three days later. The biopsy was essential. This was going to tell me if I had cancer or not. So, finally an test that was worth paying for.

Whenever a doctor says; "well we want to test all options," I say be weary. Find out what is essential and what isn't. It happens, a schwannoma tumor, while extremely painful isn't cancerous. Cancer was always my worry and it was really the only awful outcome we could get from all of this. The bills I received were pretty horrific, nearly 6 months later I'm still paying them off, but money comes and goes - cancer doesn't go so easily. I just downloaded and listened to the two part "This American Life" that explains far better than I ever could about the health insurance industry, the medical industry, etc. I won't bother even trying but I honestly urge you to download them and listen for yourself. Believe me you are being sold a lot of bull shit from both sides of the aisle when it comes to health care reform. In iTunes they are episodes #391 and #392.

In case you don't want to listen to the 2 hours of "This American Life" listen to this, you don't need all the tests they say you need! Always buy generic drugs. And for fuck's sake, how could you read this blog all the way to this point and claim you don't have an extra 2 hours to listen to the most amazing radio broadcast I've ever heard? This coming from a total talk radio junkie too.

Anyway.

The night before the biopsy was easily the worst. It was the first day where I went ibuprofen free. The pain was finally starting to subside and I couldn't have been happier but that was 100% overshadowed by the remaining fact that I may still have cancer and the biopsy is the only way to find out.

When I say that a biopsy isn't a comfortable experience what I mean to say is that it fucking hurts like shit. My leg was finally feeling better and then this. A thick needle going directly into my chunk of chicken, sucking out some cells to be tested at a later date. It was fucking awful. Although, maybe your first biopsy won't be so bad. See, by this point the chicken chunk was starting to become frozen chicken. It was hardened as opposed to feeling like a slimy raw piece of meat. It was because of this hardening that the needle was having a difficult time in penetrating the bulge.

After about 20 minutes of prodding, poking, and jabbing with a "serious" needle, I'm talking like the Samuel L. Jackson of needles, it was in the bulge. After a few painful clicks, several warnings not to move, it was all over. They told me not to worry, it was "too hard, too solid to be cancer."

I continued to worry. I continued to have tear filled nights. A few days later I was driving along Santa Monica Blvd., approaching Highland. I got a call that I rarely answer, "unknown," only this time I did answer. It was the doctor, it wasn't cancer. It was an old injury that had taken years to calcify...essentially part of my muscle had become bone. Again, I cried...I'm a fucking pussy...only this time I cried with a smile.

It was difficult to call people because I still wasn't letting on that it had effected me the way that it had. I'm in therapy, in large part, because of that situation.

For the record it was about $4,000 out of pocket and about $20,000 for my insurance company. All to tell me that I was healthy. So, we are all fucked, but at least we all don't have leg cancer.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Intro to Hacksmanship

It's so easy to get annoyed with yourself and blame the fucking world. I happen to know, from reading Psychology Today for over a year, that anything that goes wrong in your head is your own god damn fault. Blame is always the first answer and it has to do with the way that we all grew up I think.

While growing up I learned quickly that taking all the blame for any sort of shit I did in school was pointless. Generally you could bury someone else and when that didn't work you could always spread the blame over several parties to lessen the blow. Obviously the older you get the more people catch on to your bull shit. Your friends aren't as happy to accept your excuses of being tricked into telling on them or; "she already knew you were there when it happened, I tried to say you weren't though."

After you're done with school and into the real world you have tasks that are expected to be completed by you and you alone...tough to spread the blame on something that is 100% your own doing. And then there are new interpersonal relationships. When you get annoyed with a friend or a lover it's easy to lay the blame on them because they don't live their lives exactly as you live yours. When, as it turns out, you live your life like a wretched ass hole because you are, in fact, nothing more than a wretched ass hole.

It's a nice option to take a step back and think about why you hate a situation and how you are the blame. When you realize you're to blame you also realize that you're the one who has the remedy. I'm not saying I'm always to blame when shit goes wrong but realizing that I'm usually a majority of it has made my life seem easier.

When you fuck something up, you can hack a solution. You can hack anything.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Powerful Ass Holes

There should be little doubt that the world is filled with ass holes. If, however, you do doubt this please go talk to someone who owns a boat. If upon first speaking with them you are still unconvinced as them how many times they’ve had it on the water, how many times they’ve had to fix it, if they needed to buy a new car to tow it, and if they wish they could get out on the water more often. Much like the Brady Bunch’s bicycles, which were never ridden but always being fixed, boats remain either docked or in the shop for a majority of their life. Yes, they are a great deal of fun but the air of arrogance the swirls around a boat owner (particularly one in Southern California) is fucking filthy.

Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely; this is a saying that is familiar to most people. It has been psychologically tested throughout time and yet again recently in France. Using a well known television game show host (think Tom Bergeron here in the US) and filled an audience. The idea of the show was to pull someone at random to administer a shock of electricity to the contestant each time they got a question wrong. The contestant was acting – not really receiving the juice at all. Both audience and “shocker” were under the impression that the shocks were being received and out of 100 different “shockers” only 18 stopped before putting the contestant to death.

Fucking France!! These are the rational people who always knew that the Iraq war was bull shit. The people who came to our defense in the Revolutionary War, essentially helping us turn away the British troops. Sorry France, we don’t mention that last bit in our high school history classes but we do mention that you gave us the Statue of Liberty…oh, and we serve French Freedom Fries.

As a country we have no idea how many Iraqis we have killed, how many Vietnamese we killed. We have no understanding of why the Germans were persuaded to start killing so many Jews. We are apathetic. Most of us are fat and stupid too, but that’s mostly just for the fun of it. A very small portion of our population can afford to own a boat but we’ve all found room in our budgets, here and world wide, to be ass holes.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Ultimate Thrift Shopping


The past two weeks I've gone to estate sales in Beverly Hills and then in the Hollywood Hills. The rich people who lived in both houses had an affinity for ungodly ugly wallpapers, usually featuring gold foiling of some sort. There has also been an unusual amount of carpeted bathrooms and kitchens which hadn't been updated since the 70's.

At my first house I found only a trivet that has a picture of an obvious Lifesman at a bar. Since I aspire to attain lifesmanship status sometime in the near future I bought it and promptly hung it on my wall. I will later devise a story worthy of, at least, some gamesmanship's approval.

This past Saturday though, as luck would have it, this family kept a nice little bar. Just walking into this room you had an overwhelming sense that this was the very place that sprung many of the late (I assume, I mean I at least like to think they're dead) couple's arguments. The rug was a little older than all other rooms. It still smelled of cigarettes despite the crisp mountain air blowing in off the pool through two large, and very open, doors. The shelves were littered with poker chips, well kept decks of cards, and sets of dice. The bar was in the corner by the door.

Georgia bought a little garbage that was kept in the room, it was not placed there by the organizers of the estate sale, as it smelled exactly like a plastic tomb for hundreds of thousands of cigarette butts stretched over 20 years. Where did people buy such items before Target? Best not to think about it, that's where stress wrinkles come from.

While she was excited by the garbage, she excites easily (see: the fact that she's dating me,) I was drawn to the bar itself. Several bottles of old liquor, I didn't trust those so I looked through glasses, stirrers, napkins, and other small items. Eventually though I stumbled upon an amazing set of 4 glass containers labeled; Scotch, Rum, Vodka, and Bourbon. They had a metal piece atop them with a carb in the middle, when pressed they doll out an even shot.

Of course I now own them.

I almost felt bad the following day when I had some friends over for a BBQ and I made some flity drink using white wine (from a box,) with pureed banana, papaya, and cherimoya. Then again, we all got a little buzz so I think it'd be alright with the previous owner. From here on out though I'm using them as labeled. With an off chance that from time to time they will have some fruity little drink but I'll claim that I've only made that drink for the ladies.

Monday, March 15, 2010

3 Podcasts and a Calendar

Just wanted to write a few notes today, I came home and sat down to do some more work and as I often do while pouring through spreadsheets I opened up my iTunes, waited a few minutes to see what podcasts updated and then started listening through my work.

Here are some suggestions:

1. Everyone I know already listens to This American Life and Radiolab. Good, you should continue to do so because they are simply amazing - I won't even go into why they are great because most of you already know.

2. I've suggested this to a few people and if you're creative at all, in any field, you should be listening to Accidental Creative. I believe it could help you even if you are, like me, a salesman. No matter where your income comes from we live in a world where the creative people win, this is a great tool for all creative people, pretty simple.

3. Upon the suggestion of the Accidental Creative podcast that is currently listening to I'm going to check into Seth Godin the author. For reference, I'm listening to AC #186.

I've also begun, again, to use my calendar on my phone. I've put in some important dates, birthdays and the like but I've also put in an hour on Monday for creative ideation and an hour on Tuesdays for ideation that will benefit the glorious nation of my company. An hours worth of my hard thinking is worth about four seconds of most people's thoughts but perhaps I'll have a break through and invent a flat edible thing that we can use on either side of sandwich meats so that they stop falling all over our pants.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Defining things only you know

When do you get serious with your friends? If your friends are anything like mine the answer to that is simple - rarely and when it does happen it either happens due to tragedy, accident, alcohol, or some combination of the three. Why is that? How can you really know people if you aren't speaking to them about real life issues.

I can understand people's need for privacy on some issues but at the same time I've never sat at a bar with friends to discuss and debate our varied ideas of what 'love' really means. The most in depth issue people touch upon is politics; when among friends that means a lot of repeated ideals and head shaking agreement.

The first reason we steer clear of serious conversation is because, in America, we never learn to argue in a proper way. Debate is not taught to us at a young age; particularly in under-privileged families. I read once where a group of psychiatrists (probably read this in Psychology Today - a fantastic magazine) studied the different behaviors of children going to the doctor's office. The more money the child's family had the more question she would ask the doctor. Also, a few months back, after reading an interesting article online about a man who taught his children to argue, I sent the article to my brother saying; "you need to read this and teach my nephews to argue."

In school you listen to the teachers, they are god and we are not to argue with them. You argue with your friends about stupid things like what to do after school or who has the better looking girlfriend. The idea on how to best debate or argue comes from our parents. If we grow up watching our parents scream at one another we are more likely to believe that is how all arguing is done, at least until a certain age. If however, we grow up watching civil disagreements - that is how we are more likely to react. And lastly, as I grew up, some of us just learn to say "fine" and walk away.

We are doing our youngest generations a huge disservice by not teaching them that disagreements lead to discoveries, new ideas, new ways of thinking, simply they lead us to learn. Or at least, they could. Instead most people I know are conditioned to think that if you don't "win" an argument it wasn't worth having. If you are debating and your idea doesn't have as much back up data to show up whomever you are speaking with you have somehow lost. Maybe it's a problem with the speed and readiness of information but I think it's more than that, I think it's simply that we've never been properly taught how to debate where both sides share information and come out with, perhaps, a new joint view of things where everyone wins.

I had a girlfriend once who would refuse to learn anything. If I so much as said; "Oh did you know that you can..." a fight would break out. As if learning were an evil thing. That, needless to say, lasted a few months, at best. It was really strange and I didn't know how to deal with it but at the same time I have no idea how my best friends describe love.

Of course I'm using the definition of love as an example only. I have no idea why some of my friends believe in a god and some don't - I know, for the most part, which way they go but that is simply surface information, I'm learning the cliff notes of their lives. While I'm not afraid to challenge either side of that, or any, argument it's probably that I feel like I have enough information and we can move along to the next topic. Not tomorrow.

I'm meeting Georgia's mom tomorrow, hanging out with her sister and brother (and his family) and I'm going to try to ask one uncomfortable question. A question that isn't easily answered with a yes or no, a question that will make the family member I pick (most likely her sister or sister-in-law) feel kind of strange for having been asked that question. It's a small goal but it's something. I also hope to not die tomorrow, sometimes I think goals that are really easily attained are good to put on your list. Plus, even if I did die, I probably wouldn't notice, so I'd never think; "shit, my goal was to stay alive and I fucked it up."

How do you define love?

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Come and Sell to me.

Often our instincts are dead on, sometimes we talk ourselves out of listening. Even when we do listen we are likely to give in to the temptation to try other ways, although most of the time we return to our initial action. This weekend was attempt 4 of rearranging my apartment. It's now back to mostly it's original form.

I took apart a desk that was far too big for the space that I have and I bought a cheap coffee table, other than that I've spent no money. My entertainment stand is one that I built before moving in and it used to house the coolest technologies from 1997. There was a 37" tube style television, an eMac from 2004, record player, and several other antiquated items. Honestly I would have been so fucking cool ten years ago.

There is no better way to feel good about yourself than by doing something for someone else. This is especially true when you're benefiting yourself in some way. My huge, waste of space, television was eventually put up for free on craigslist. The woman who came to pick it up was helping her newly divorced friend put together a new apartment. Right now (well, it's late but probably earlier today) two young kids where watching that television. So now, instead of telling people; "it was way too big for my apartment," I can say things about how I gave it to a newly divorced woman who was on her own for the first time in 12 years. The only lie in that statement is that I'm playing the "12 years" portion off as fact - but I have no idea how long it's been.

Now I'm watching movies on the tube television version of an Apple computer. I blame Best Buy. For the past several months I have had the money and the good credit to buy the iMac that I want. There are a few things holding me back.

The first thing is that I know, for what I want, I could just as easily save several hundred dollars by buying a Mac Mini and a monitor. All I really want it for is a place to watch Hulu and Netflix, record songs, and surf around the internet a little. It seems somehow wasteful to go buy a really nice computer for that. But, I think to myself, that an iMac will last a long time and I'll end up using it for so much more.

The main reason, however, comes back to Best Buy and their floor sales team. As a salesman myself I want to be sold. I go in hoping that someone will talk me into their financing program. There is nothing I love more that another monthly bill. Every three to five weeks I stumble into a Best Buy on a Saturday hoping to be sold, only one time has someone approached me and he said; "we're going to be getting the really good ones this Saturday." What the fuck kind of sales approach is that? A shitty one. So I wouldn't buy one then.

Now though, with my new apartment set up I really would like to have that new iMac sitting out here. However, no matter how much I want it, it has become a game. I'll stop by after work sometime this week and see if they'll sell me, if not the game continues. I'm pretty sure I started this around September or October so I see no need to end it now.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Great Gift

On Valentine’s Day I met a girl, I know how ominous that is for a year from now when, if she keeps me around, we’ll celebrate 1 year of meeting each other and Valentine’s Day all at the same time. I tend to go overboard when it comes to gifts so I might better start saving/planning now. Every year, twelve days after Valentine’s, I celebrate 1 more year on Earth and this year was no different.

Birthdays are generally a quiet celebration for me. I tend to go grab food with Nate and another person or two. This year it was just Georgia, my new lady friend, and Nate. The three of us went out for laughs at the expense of everyone we could think of – not people we know, just groups of people. We basically turned the conversation towards awful theme restaurants, ones that nobody would ever invent. Such as KKK’s Fried Foods – where the staff would act as horrifically as you would assume. We all had a great time and it’s always a sure test to bring a new girl around to show your friends, they tend to give you an honest read. The only problem with that test is when your friend doesn’t like the new girl/boy you’re dating because then you just say; “you just need to get to know them better, you’ll love them.” They won’t. But nobody listens to advice they don’t want.

(I don't have a glass, lazy, or otherwise strange looking eye...other than in this picture.)

The real story was the night before my birthday when Georgia did the sweetest thing that any girl has ever done for me…a short 12 days after having first met me. We shoot text message emails to each other throughout the day. I call them that because they are usually really short. We include weird facts about ourselves. She offered her love for McDonald’s soft serve vanilla ice cream to which I responded that I love Thursdays at Dairy Frost in Broadalbin, NY where I would get a soft pistachio cone with cherry dip. It was a throw away comment as few people know what Dairy Frost is, and even if they do it wouldn’t much matter here in Los Angeles. Anyway, those are the silly little things we talk about. Maybe not completely unusual for people getting to know one another but often we get weird on each other too.

“Hey, will you come over and we can grab a drink for your birthday?”

“My birthday is tomorrow. We are going out to dinner; you really don’t have to buy me a drink tonight.”

I said all of that but there was no way I wasn’t going to go over. She could have said; “come over and listen to me play tuba, I just bought it today and I have no idea what I’m doing,” I’d’ve still gone over. When I got there she told me to stay out of her kitchen. She sat me down in her living room and got me a glass of wine, followed by several mixing blades, spatulas, and other kitchen tools filthy with some concoction she was creating to surprise me.

Applebee’s is a shitty theme restaurant, not exactly KKK’s Fried Foods, but nonetheless a chain restaurant, which is to food what Nickleback is to rock and roll music. A crappy chain that I happened to work at for over a year. The tips fly in fast as tables turn and you get to eat crappy food all week long. It was a pretty fun job for the most part and I was a manager once or twice a week, I waited most of the time but when in a pinch I would cook for a shift. With all those wonderful skills at my disposal I wouldn’t settle for menu food when I sat down to eat myself. Often I would take the best ingredients, smash them together until it was edible. I mentioned a little of this on my first date with Georgia, nothing beat an Applebee’s Maple Butter Blondie. Fuck. Good stuff, honestly.

“Do you know what it is?” I had no idea, based on the batter it was uncooked, that’s about all I could surmise.

She came and sat with me as it baked. We laughed because I’m fucking funny (so is she but read her blog for that.) About a half hour or so later a little bell went off (I don’t really know if there was a bell but in my mind it makes this story easier,) and she went in, cut a piece and brought it out for me. I made her sing because she said she’s not a karaoke type so I wanted to put her on the spot. Sweetly she complied. I should have made her sing it several times until she was ready to kill me, humor hindsight is always twenty-twenty.

The other day I had an appointment at a therapist, because my head is broken, and when I got into the elevator a woman followed me; “what floor do you need.”

She shot back with; “can I have 5 please.” I pushed the button and then laughed a little bit. I could tell she thought I was crazy so I had to explain that my humor hindsight really wishes I had turned to give her a high five and not pushed a button. She actually thought it was funny – or at least she figured she should laugh rather than be uncomfortably stuck for 5 floors with a weirdo who was angry that his joke failed.

I didn’t make Georgia sing again. What she brought me was a recipe built of innocuous/throw away comments I had made in just 12 short days; but those comments created an amazing pistachio-cherry blondie. I was really blown away. A little nervous because cooked cherries are questionable in my opinion but my nerves were quickly dispelled as I took my first bite. It was delicious and even better cold over the next several days.

Now the blondie is gone. Georgia is napping on my bed as I write this though, I win.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Quick Fiction.

I do not have, what you would call a “glass-jaw,” in fact, I’m not even sure where you get one. Well, I should tell you, where I’m going with this is that I was recently in a fight. It was hardly a fight actually. It was totally unfair and I was taken off guard. I was out, somewhere I rarely go, I was in public. This guy hit me in my one weak spot, see I’m particularly susceptible in well, my entire body and face. Well anyway this guy walks up to me and says; “were you just staring at my girlfriend?”

“Is that (pointing) your girlfriend right there?” and he told me it was and I told him how terribly sorry I was and that I had no idea.

He became angry and said; “well what did you think, I’m standing right next to her.”

I said “I’m sorry, how was I supposed to know that this creature is a girl? Surely she's been mistaken for less than human before no?”

And he just hauled off and socked me in the nose. As it turns out, there is one place I can take a punch. I’m not actually sure how I figured this out, but I can take, and it should be noted, that it doesn’t matter how big or strong, or how hard the guy can hit, I can always take a hit in the friend. Sadly that day I was alone.

After he hit me I was shocked and didn’t know what to do. I thought about hitting him back, but opted not to because, as it were, I had just recently learned how badly it hurt to be hit. Although, at the moment I couldn’t remember how I had learned that. He started to walk away as I sat dazed on the sidewalk, or grass, I don’t remember, all that’s important is that I was sitting. Not sitting because I was hurt, but rather because I figured it would be harder for him to hit me again if I stayed low to the ground. And as I was sitting there I was awestruck and couldn’t think of anything to say. He began to walk away and I said, mustering up all kinds of courage, piss and vinegar, and I cheerfully said, “have a good one.”

“Have a good one???” I’m not sure why I said that, maybe because I was confused after being struck down or perhaps because I thought that - passive aggressively - it was the only way to win. Sure enough, he continued to walk away and I started to feel good about my choice, knowing that he was already feeling bad for striking me. I saw him later that day, and he came towards me, but this time with a sorry look on his face and his hand extended as a peace offering. As I reached out to take his hand I instead pushed him into traffic. He was hit by a large truck, which, incidentally I found out later, was only his girlfriend. Last I had heard, they are now happily married and have several stone like children who punch other children about the face whenever the opportunity presents itself.

Monday, March 1, 2010

My Father Died. Part I

My father died on Friday, July 6th 2007. This is what I wrote on the second half, the puddle jumper portion, of the flight home.

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Flight 1454; departing ten minutes ahead of schedule with a strong tail wind, should touch down in just under an hour and ten minutes. It's taking off from an airport and landing in another, beyond that the details are only in the faces and polite whispers that whirl around the 7 foot wide steep hallway with rows of seats all facing home, or the future, or the past. No conversation is loud enough for the man sitting alone to hear.

The plane seems empty, although most rows have at least three of four seats filled. It is that man and this man, we are the only two people aboard who have rows to ourselves. He was sitting near me in the lobby. What faces him upon touchdown? He has the face of a blue collared man, but his hands are holding a newspaper and look untouched by hammer or nail. Is he deciding if his father should die today? What is his battle?

When I last heard, my father was still alive. Sunday he went to the hospital, Monday he would be fine, Tuesday I was boarding a red-eye to make the counsel that will decide his life from here. Or as the ominous tones from phones connected 3,000 miles would foreshadow, we are to decide his death.

I should take more pictures. California is a beautiful place. One of only two "Mediterranean" climates in the world. I've driven Angel's Crest and walked into waterfalls; I've come over city mountains and stumbled upon the lakes for which neighborhoods were named.

Takeoff. The woman at 1 o'clock has stopped shifting her tongue against her bottom lip and closed her mouth. The decidedly American couple behind me is now only speaking English to their obviously bilingual children; Air France has better seat belts for infants than any plane in America.

Some Monday, soon, I'll go to Columbos's for Jazz Night. The garlic bread there is pretty good. Dat, I can usually finish my plate now. Although my waist line prefers I leave some pasta for the dishwasher to snack on.

When deciding if a loved one would like to live six more months in a shell of who they perceive themselves to be, what should the counsel debate? And who, exactly, should begin that debate? My brother has always felt second to me in many regards when dealing with my father, although he’s never said so. My uncles I've not seen in some 20 years. That's actually an average, one pushed back to be dramatic, Patrick 23 years, Keith 10.

Maybe connections should leave doubt, but I'm hoping this will recount to me the strange mix someday. I'm newly in a relationship. I’m generally very happy in my life, with work progressing and making me feel like a star. This mix. "He can hear you," they'll tell me. But what do they know? Can he still cry? To hear all these voices in one room again, will it leave any doubt in his mind? He'll probably let go. As we talk about what to do, he might allow himself that final decision.

My Aunt is in Paris. If anyone is able to contact her, at least she'll have fantastic seat belts.

55 minutes. I've never pissed on a plane in my adult life.

What could I possibly add to any conversations? I want Evan to remember me next time. And to take more pictures.

A surprise 60th birthday party. He was supposed to visit in August or September. He was starting to dodge the visit. LA can be scary to some people. Although, I think he knew. What projects had he not finished? Can you begin to realize how much death would get in the way of deadlines? Why, if this plane were to take its cue from Newton's apple tree and I fell to an early death, I highly doubt I'd be able to hit my annual sales goals.

Who writes about their own plane crashing while they are in the air? I don't think I'm unique, there have certainly been people to jot that down before me, although the US Airways magazine probably does not have "Plane Crash" as 10-down in their crossword puzzle.

"A black coffee," does that really require the cream and sugar question? I'm admittedly on edge. 27 still feels like 17 to me, too young for this. I'm now about twice the age of my mother when her father passed away. Fuck that, they die. There is no passing, only dying.

It's not time for me to wake up yet, or maybe it is. I had to turn off my watch because if someone called it the plane would implode. The dogs will be fine. She'll be back to LA only days after me. And the beverage aisles can survive without me for a few days.

I've set out to turn over new leaves several times before. Each time I failed. Now I'm somewhere on the greenest side of the most beautiful leaf in the world. It's from here that I will most likely say, "he wouldn't want to live like that."

-Now I'm crying.

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(Several weeks/months later…Not really sure)


That was it.

There turned out to be very little in the line of decisions. He passed in his sleep. He knew we were all there, I could see it in his eyes. He squeezed my hand. He struggled to talk, but couldn't. I said, with tears filling my eyes, as I stared into a face that was almost unrecognizable "Dat, I know you're proud of me, I know you love me, what else matters?" I said more than that over the few hours. We got him to smile. He knew love.

Pat (his wife) was staring at him through all of it. She watched him labor over each gasp of air. She kept staring hours after he was no longer there. He did "pass away" it is possible. She knew love; he did, after all, know how to give it. They had something that I hope to find, simply put it’s an unwavering feeling that you know exactly where you are supposed to be.

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