Sunday, February 21, 2010

We're Moving

Well after almost 4 years of blogging here at Blogger, I've decided to move to a new location.  You can now find me at    Shorter and simpler name, better photo quality uploads, and with more variety when it comes to templates.  Also tumblr has a great platform for mobile blogging - even on an iPhone for goodness sakes.   That should facilitate more entries (hopefully).

I hope you'll all join me over there.   Ciao for now.  : )

Friday, February 12, 2010

FF - Dial "H" for Horny

It goes without saying that we're living in an age of huge leaps in technology.   Multitouch computers, iPhones, GPS guidance systems, satellite television, DVRs, Blackberries, hybrid cars, Google Earth, you name it, we've got it.  It shouldn't be surprising, therefore, that technology is taking us to new places in the sexual realm as well. Who among us hasn't lamented not having a suitable phone sex partner on those horniest of nights when we come home lonely, bored, and yes, drunk?

Well lament no more, dear reader!   For today's Friday Funnies, hear ("hear," get it?) technology's answer to all your phone sex needs:

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

What Happens When Your Girlfriend Doesn't Get Her Required Amount of Sleep

What follows -- because I've been too busy and lazy to write anything in two weeks -- is a guest blog from dear Adrienne, my girlfriend, who, as you will soon see, is in a very bad mood today.

The backstory is that dear Adrienne lives in a fourth floor walkup apartment that is 2000 years old (yes, it was built around the birth of Christ), with creaky floorboards that she shares with her neighbors across the hall. These two miscreants are fresh out of college, married, unemployed, and drug recreationalists.  Because they are unemployed, the aforementioned miscreants are able to have parties on any day of the week, any day that is, that they're not screaming at each other at the top of their lungs because they married too young and are both unemployed, or too exhausted from chasing their yappy rat of a dog around their drug den of an apartment.  I saw the boyfriend last weekend, with the yappy rat of a dog cradled in his arms; he's got a beard, is on the waify side, and looks like he could be singing for Grizzly Bear.

With our cohabitation imminent (!!!), Adrienne has been selling off her belongings on Craigslist like an auctioneer on crack. Last Saturday, I helped her move her bed down the four flights of stairs and into the waiting SUV of a Long Island teacher. (My back and glutes still ache, but that's a story for another day.) Since she now has no bed, her mattress is on the bedroom floor. Last night was her first night sleeping on her new arrangement, and this is where our story begins, stripped from a furiously-typed Blackberry email that is mere hours old.

Subject: Negative nancy here

So I had to get up at 6 to move car (for first time today-have to move again at 9) so afterward I go back to apt and wander around aimlessly remembering how much noise the fucking neighbors - no that word is too friendly- a-holes next door were making. I look at my bed and see the large brown crystal that is usually on my nightstand is on the pillow next to mine. That's right. In a half-sleep stupor I grabbed the crystal intending to slam it against the wall a couple of times but must have dozed off. That's right. I dozed off until the battery in my ipod died and then the barking, stomping and fighting jolted me awake again.

So after wandering around the apt for thirty minutes and re-listing my apartment I decided I couldn't decide what to do so I put on my coat and came over here to Big Daddys for breakfast. I walk in-EMPTY!! I have the place to myself. I place my order for oat bran pancakes with the russian waitress who doesn't write anything down, but hey, how hard is oat bran pancakes and two eggs? No, I don't want the potatoes or bacon, but feel free to throw in an extra oaty. Nope, cannot do that, but how about sausage? For gods sake. Just the two cakes and eggs.

I am just opening my "Wheels of Life" chakra healing book in an effort to bring myself back to neutral when in walks an UES 20 something mom, with a three year old "Chase" and baby "Wade" in a basket. And guess what... Chase gets to pick where they sit! Yes, please, right next to me. Seriously? So then I hear "chasey, baby, how about eggies and french toast!! Mommy loves you!! Your such a big boy!! What should we do today?? Wadey goes for her four month checkup and then we are going to play and nappytime!!! Jesus christ lady, its barely 8:00. What are you on?

Then the food arrives. Two fat white as my plate pancakes. Umm, are these oat bran? No, you said regular! WTF? Ok, I will send them back she says and asks once more if I want some sausage. What the hell-do you have a box of sausage going bad back there? So now I am eating two oat bran pancakes that surely have spit (or worse in them). While Chase refuses to eat his eggies and waffles smothered in whipped cream and strawberries. UES girl has asked him if he is going to eat those eggies 14 times so far. I am counting. Oh yeah, neil young playing in background. 

I couldn't have said it better myself.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Decisive Indecision

It's a common state of the human condition, I have found, that no one is perpetually happy. I don't know anyone whose life is a steady upward curve, who is so pleased with their current state of affairs that they wouldn't change a thing. In my experience, most people have one or two things they'd change about their life if they could. I've also found that the grass is indeed often greener, but that when it comes to effectuating the change we're all considering, the idea often seems easier than putting it into practice.

For myself, I've noticed a disturbing trend in this area. Whenever it comes to making a big decision in my life, to making a change that I can believe in, as Obama would put it, I turn into Hamlet murmuring to a handheld skull: "To be or not to be, that is the question." Should I stay or should I go? Unchartered waters or status quo? I usually realize that something is lacking or I need something different in my life but when it comes to figuring out whether the other side of the black curtain is going to make things better or worse, I just can't decide. And if there's one thing that makes me miserable, it's living in a gray area betwixt two worlds. I absolutely hate it. It's like my mind is split in half and I'm paralyzed by uncertainty. Terrible feeling.

Let me see if I can come up with a few examples. When it was time for me to decide what to do with my life in my early twenties, post-college, I couldn't decide which direction to go. They say it's nice having options, but at the time, it was absolutely maddening. Half of me wanted to volunteer somewhere, maybe join the Peace Corps, and live a simple life, one that was consistent with my values and political beliefs at the time. The other half of me wanted none of that meager living and the certain poverty that would come later. That part of me wanted to travel, wanted financial freedom, wanted a serious career that would justify and reward the hard work I had put into my education for 18 years.

So what did I do? Well, first off, I delayed the decision for a couple of years so I could think it through. I took two years off, backpacked in Europe, and got a little taste of that meager living that I was seriously considering. I talked about my future with my cousins, uncles, and with my grandmother in Italy, who had seen a few things. Some of them hadn't pursued an education and were struggling to make ends meet. It's not pretty, they said. You can't help anyone before you help yourself, they said.

When I got back to the States, I picked up my old summer job in the produce department of a nearby supermarket and another job covering high school sports for a local newspaper. (Journalism was another career I was contemplating.) The supermarket job was for money. The newspaper job, which paid almost nothing, was for love. I got to write. They gave me a sophisticated film camera, which I barely knew how to use, and let me take pictures for the stories I was covering. They even used some of the photos I took. Two of my favorites were one I took of a baseball player for a local semi-pro team who was arguing with an umpire after a called third strike. I caught him mid-rant, with his mouth open. It came out great, though it would have been better with a zoom lens. The second one was a picture I took of a bunch of Special Olympian athletes splashing in a sprinkler during a very hot summer day on the track field at the University of New Hampshire. That one they blew up and used to cover the entire top half of the sports page in the next edition. I remember how much pride I felt when I saw my name underneath the picture. "I took that and I barely knew what I was doing. Holy shit. And they USED it!" I felt the same pride when I wrote about local sporting events and saw my name on the by-line. At first, I wrote them like stories, with way too much descriptive language. The editor made me tone them down. "This is a newspaper," he said, "not a fiction class. You need to simplify things into small, digestible pieces for people to read."

I think back to that time sometimes. It was a transition period, and like I said, I felt miserable a lot of the time because I didn't know what I wanted to do with my life professionally. I felt like the newspaper job was just a placeholder, something to make me not feel like a total loser because I had graduated college and was stocking peppers and cantaloupes in a supermarket. But now I wonder what have happened if I had listened to myself a bit more, had a little bit more confidence in myself, and gave other potential vocations a fighting chance. Because I really enjoyed the writing. I didn't take the photography part seriously because I'd never done it before; in fact, I'd never shown the slightest interest in cameras or taking pictures. The camera was too big and too damn complicated to learn. I'd gotten lucky with a couple of shots they'd decided to use. What I cared about was the articles I wrote. What would have happened if I'd tried to become a permanent employee on the newspaper and worked my way up? Or moved to something bigger later, something digital, once that world took off? I wasn't short of opinions, that's for sure. During this period I wrote a satirical piece to another newspaper when the first Gulf War started in 1991. It was a blog, essentially. I cast myself as a lonely bachelor who opposed the war when everyone in the world was supporting it. I still have it in a plastic folder, along with every newspaper article I wrote, including in college, and every picture I took. I'm glad I saved them.

Life is a one way street. Not too original, but it's one of my favorite sayings, taught to me by my father. (Dad never was too elaborate in his provision of advice, but I've learned that his simple nuggets often were more profound than three hours of heavy counseling by my mother.) Life is a one way street means that there's no looking back; we have to live with the decisions we make. Given the sad state of affairs of the newspaper business, I could just as easily be living in a cardboard box now as have my own nationally-syndicated editorial page. As the Tootsie Roll owl once said, "The world may never know."

I bring this up because lately I have been contemplating some changes por mi vida, in two areas: (i) what I want to do with the second half of my life work-wise, and (ii) where I want to live. For some time, I've had the stirrings of change deep in my colon about my day job. It's not that I don't like being a lawyer -- it's actually fine a lot of the time. It's challenging, I get to do some writing, albeit of the watered down, non-creative variety, and I'm well paid, which allows me to do other things that I enjoy. But damn, I've been in this rut for awhile now. I don't feel inspired at all. I don't feel like where I'm at is where I want to be. And I've never loved being a lawyer so much that I want to go to bar association meetings, jerk off with other lawyers about cutting edge aspects of the practice, schmooze and make contacts, blah, blah, blah. I don't read about Oliver Wendell Holmes in my spare time. I don't even like watching lawyer shows on television. Fuck all of that. When I have free time, I can think of 1000 other things I'd rather be doing than anything law related. Same for getting on the board of some stupid ass company or non-profit so I can put it on the firm website and hassle my friends and colleagues for donations every fucking year. That's what lawyers are supposed to do though. Shake the tree. EMBRACE the law. CLIMB the ladder to the glory of partnership, more money, and beyond (which is what, exactly? A bigger house?). I've got be honest. Time is the only truly limited quantity in this world, and I'll be damned if I'm going to expend any (or very much) of mine on law-related activities outside of work. I like the law, I'm good enough at it to make a living, but I'm not PASSIONATE about it like some people. I don't eat and breathe the shit. It's the last thing I want to think about when I get home. I'd rather be doing this, working on my other hobbies, or watching a good movie.

Not to mention that the profession is stressful as hell, particularly when I'm swamped with work and being reamed by demanding clients. It's also full of conflict, arguing with pricks on a daily basis (sometimes even within my own firm), and basically deciding who is going to get what pile of money at the end of the day. And even when you succeed, they still bitch about the bill. As if it was easy to get them their fucking money. As if I found it ENJOYABLE. The law can be interesting and challenging, but it can also be repetitive and dull. The law doesn't keep me warm at night. And as far as loyalty at my firm goes, well, that only extends as far as the "value" I add to the firm. That's the new catchphrase: "value added." Clients want value, so now we're all forced to dance for our dinner and justify our existence, both within and without the firm. In a lean economy, we're also forced to schmooze within the firm, so we can pry out of the bony hands of nervous partners some of the work they've been hoarding for two years for fear of getting shit-canned themselves. All these rainmakers who make the big bucks, who were supposed to be the business generators, well, they've made a lot less rain in the past 3 years. Now we're all thirsty.

Sound fun to you? I go through phases when I think stacking peppers and cantaloupes wasn't so damn bad after all. By now I could be managing a store for $100,000 a year, have weekends off, and live a more sane life. Or be in upper management and have everyone shit themselves when I come sauntering in to run my finger across the top of the cash register checking for dust.

Daydreams are nice, but reality eventually sets in. The bills come. A trip to Vail is offered. A new camera lens hits the market. And I want, want, want. I like new things, new experiences, seeing new places. Unfortunately, at the age of 41, I have trapped myself in a lifestyle, the very quicksand that those "Why Go to Law School" books I read before I went to law school said I would face sometime down the road, right around my midlife crisis. I'm nothing if not punctual.

There are thousands of unhappy lawyers out there. (Poor poor us.) Many of them, apparently like me, stay in the profession because of the money. It's easy if you never had something to not miss it. It's harder to go backwards to not having when you once had. This mix of want and need and dreaming and malaise has created the same uncertainty and stuckness I experienced twenty years ago. I have a split mind once again, which I can barely tolerate. What to do, what to do? Well, for the past three years or so, I've kind of been doing the same thing I did when this happened before: I'm waiting until an answer becomes more clear in my mind. I'm waiting until the clouds part. My answer the last time was to take the Road More Traveled and go to law school. I can criticize that decision now, but in the grand scheme of things, I probably would do it again. I'm risk averse when it comes to money and financial security and that hasn't changed. It's kind of why I'm stuck now. For all my bitching, I'm fairly certain I won't be eating cat food when I'm 70. But what if I don't make it to 70? I have to acknowledge the thing inside me that is ready for a change, some kind of change in my career, some kind of professional inspiration. We shall see where it leads.

The second big area of indecision for me at the moment is where to live. I have lived in New York City for the past 18 years. I've lived in some decent places, like where I am now. I have also lived in some tiny, run-down apartments that would make you cringe. Apartments that were so old, the paint was crusted over from 2000 landlord slatherings and the shower tiles were buckling from neglect. Apartments where the kitchen could only be called a kitchen because it had a refrigerator and a stove in it. Apartments with impossibly thin walls and ceilings where I could hear my neighbors yelling, fucking, and playing shitty music at all hours of the day. Basically, I have lived in a hotel for nearly half of my life. (More than that if you count my college years.) Why have I done it? Why, to be in New York, of course! Those of you who have never lived here, who have only visited, won't understand this, but outside of Paris, New York is the only city in the world that could make a person want to endure this kind of bullshit -- the cramped quarters, the noise, the stink in the summer -- just to live here. And I have wanted to live here. I have explained why before and won't belabor it now. The energy, the choices in food, the mix of people, the random activities within arm's reach, the feeling I get just by being here, all of these things, just to name a few, make New York special and addictive. Not everyone wants or enjoys the city life, of course, but for those like me who do, it's incredibly hard to think of living anywhere else.

But lately, that's exactly what I've been doing: thinking of living somewhere else. This feeling, too, has been gestating awhile, though not for as long as the one about my job. I'm not sure of its origin. Many of my friends have left New York for the suburbs. Most of them did it for their families, because they have young kids. Some friends have departed because they lost their jobs or they see a better opportunity somewhere else, in another part of the country. For myself, lately I've been getting sicker of the bullshit and craving another experience, some extended peace and quiet. My last three trips, besides to Italy for my grandmother's funeral, have been to Utah, Burlington, and Vail, all distinctly nature-oriented. I got to hike and ski. I got to breathe clean air. I got to hear the sounds of silence. It was beautiful. I have been craving the outdoors for some reason, and I am NOT the outdoorsy type, far from it. But it's like something in me is telling me, okay, you've been eating red meat for awhile, it's time for some vegetables, or you're going to get sick. The problem is, I'm not a vegan either. If I jump to the country and hate it, then what? I'm stuck in a fucking house with nowhere to go unless I plant my ass in a car. That's one thing I've loved about New York, you can walk anywhere at any time and get home easily. You are always minutes from home, no vehicle necessary. Not so in the burbs.

On the other side of it, I confess that I'm tired of city living in many ways. I'm tired of hearing my neighbors in particular. Just once I'd like to go to my own bed with 100% certainty that I'm not going to hear ANYTHING all night until I decide to wake up. That never happens when you live in the city. Some douche might decide to slam his drawer or use his treadmill at 1 a.m. Tough titties, you'd better have some good earplugs or a ton of patience. I am distinctly lacking in the latter. I'd also like some SPACE for my shit for a change. I'd like to buy a ginormous 100-pack of Charmin's, the kind that will last me and my ass until 2012, and not worry about where the fuck I'm going to put it. I'd like a real home office, an entire room devoted to nothing but my computer, printer, and ergonomic chair. I'd like more walls to hang my pictures. I'd like a garage that I don't have to rent. Maybe one that will fit TWO cars. Or a ping-pong table!

I think I'm saying... sigh... that maybe, possibly, implicitly, kind of, perhaps I'd consider the idea of... living. in. a house. Ugh. I've never had one of my own before. I swore I'd never own one. To much work and not my speed. So why now? Well, a big reason for staying in the city -- meeting and having a life with someone -- is now off the table, thanks to Adrienne and where I think we're going. And apartment living with two people -- which we are about to undertake -- is a bit crampy. I could barely stand it here by myself. We'll see how it goes, but I have a feeling we're going to need more room at some point. And truth be told, house living sounds and feels a lot less lousy with her around to share it with. (And Jer too, of course. He can't talk, but I think he'd like a nice yard to shit in every once in awhile, sans leash.) Not a ringing endorsement, I know, but I need to ease into this. We'd be closer to the mountains, so I could ski more. Getting to my parents' house on holidays, etc. would not induce an embolism. I think it would be less stressful in a lot of ways. There's a lot of upside.

I would definitely miss the city though, I love Williamsburg so much. Plus, I think of myself as a city person, not a Dockers-wearing suburbanite. God, even the thought of that makes me want to vomit. I don't know what I'm going to do. If I get a house, it also probably means I won't ever stop being a lawyer either, and any such plans are on hold until retirement. I've done a little surfing to see what you get for your money in the environs of New York City and it ain't pretty. Let's just say it's not inspiring me very much, and I don't have the bank to afford the kinds of places that DO inspire me.

So, to sum up: two things I'm thinking about changing in my life. Both involve contradictory feelings in their own right, and both are in opposition to each other financially. Short of me suddenly acquiring the power to teleport, or winning the lottery, something's got to give.

I should probably think about this some more.

Friday, January 22, 2010

FF - A Haitian Smile

Even in the darkest of circumstances, a saved life and a megawatt smile can light a fire in the hearts of people thousands of miles away.

No crass jokes or snarky comments today, just good vibes.

My favorite part is the cheers when they pull him out of the ground, and he opens his arms.

p.s. I want that photographer's job. Dang.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Shake Shake Shake

Few things put life in perspective like a massive earthquake. They can strike anywhere, at any time, and the average person has no clue when they're coming. Cruelly, it's the poorest countries in the world who are affected the most when an earthquake hits. Poverty means slapdash housing, lax building codes, an absence of political or moral will to fix these problems and construct the kinds of buildings that could withstand a significant earthquake, or at least minimize the ensuing damage. A country can't focus on the luxury of above standard buildings when it can't even feed its own people. Even here in the U.S., the richest country in the world, earthquakes can do massive damage, like they did in San Francisco in the 90s. Even here, housing codes and inspections are not up to par. Just imagine how bad it was in Haiti before this happened.

Watching the footage from Haiti has been heartbreaking and nauseating at the same time. Bodies piled on the streets. Kids with dirty, bleeding faces and limbs. People walking around dazed, in shock, not knowing where to go because their homes have been flattened and the aftershocks are still coming. Thousands of people sitting on garbage, tears, desperation, and hopelessness on their faces. After watching an hour of these images last night, I couldn't take it anymore. So I changed the channel. How nice an option that is for some of us. We get to turn it off and forget about it.

Now, days after the initial devastation, reports say that people are becoming angry. They are hungry, thirsty, bleeding, and maimed. People are dying on the streets. They are desperate for medical attention that has not yet come. Now, the machetes are coming out. Gangs are forming. There's a sense, as would be the case anywhere else, as was the case in New Orleans after Katrina, that a bad moon will be rising if the situation doesn't improve quickly. And then we'll see baser human instincts come to bear. I hope that doesn't happen. I hope that today will be the day things begin to turn around for these poor people.

But it's hard to imagine that happening when I see the massive piles of wires, broken concrete, the metal everywhere, the collapsed houses, schools, hospitals, and office buildings, crushed as if God Himself had dropped them from outerspace. It's hard to imagine how things will improve anytime soon. Before this earthquake, Haiti was the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. Numero uno in the contest no one wants to win. Before this earthquake, Haiti was already on its knees. After this earthquake, Haiti is flat on its back.

No one gave much thought to Haiti before January 13th. It, like many third world countries, was spinning around in ineptitude and intractable poverty. The only time we paid attention to Haiti was when some of its people, desperate for a better life, took to the seas on a flimsy boat, only to be turned away in Florida after having survived the perilous journey. When certain people were decrying the return of Elian Gonzalez to Cuba all those years ago, I thought to myself (and sometimes said out loud) if poor little Elian had been from HAITI, we would have sent him back on a speedboat and wouldn't have had any of this political nonsense. Haiti was an utter mess before this happened. It's in the 9th circle of hell now. Ask Pat Robertson. According to him, Haiti is "cursed" with bad luck due to a deal it made with Satan in order to escape colonialism and attain its independence. Funny how he never speaks of an American deal with The Red and Horny One when we fought our Revolutionary War to escape OUR colonialism. Or when we massacred the American Indians who were here first so we could steal their land and achieve Manifest Destiny. No, we are blessed by God. Haiti is cursed. That's convenient. I wonder where that douchebag gets his stories?

Politics and delusional maniacs aside, the thing that compels me most about earthquakes is that they are the most natural thing in the world. Literally. I ain't no geologist, but what I recall from 11th grade science class is that earthquakes are caused by a shifting in tectonic plates along the earth's crust. Volcanic explosions in the earth's core periodically lead to a shifting in these massive, ginormous plates that form mountains and the land we sit our asses on when we drink our lattes and drive our SUVs. Since they can't be seen, we forget they even exist. We get surprised when they remind us that no, they haven't gone away, in fact, they are still relevant, were here long before us, and will be here long after we're gone.

Earthquakes remind us that the earth is not actually ours. Earthquakes remind us that in reality, we're only renters who are borrowing a small patch of earth for awhile. We build our houses, our apartment buildings, our office skyscrapers on the assumption that it's us who run the show and can do what we want, when we want, and where we want. Earthquakes say "Not so, homo sapiens. You, in fact, are no more important than plants, animals or any other sentient beings who occupy the tiniest surface of this planet. Beneath you, 99.999% of this orbiting ball contains a different, explosive reality, one that is never quiet though you will never see or feel it, save for the occasional volcanic eruption. Beneath you, great changes, changes that would destroy your entire race, happen on a daily basis. And once in a while, you get the wispiest smidgen, a fractional subset of a subset of a fractional lick of the magma and lava and heat living far beneath you: the earth shakes for a few seconds. The earth is not responsible for what happens after that. It's just doing what it does. It's simply reacting to another part of itself. If you are hurt by that, if you think you are special, that you're more important than what is underneath you, a part of this planet that has existed since it was formed, you are in for a rude awakening."

Rude indeed. Hundreds of thousands of people are estimated to have been killed in this earthquake, which measured 7.0 on the Richter scale. The dead include the poor, of which there are many in Haiti, and the wealthy -- tourists who were staying at the nicest hotel in Port au Prince. American diplomats, U.N. heads, children, shantytown dwellers, all dead. No one was immune. No one got special treatment (though, in typical human fashion, the search and rescue teams are definitely according special treatment to certain categories of people). We sit here and worry day after day about Al Qaeda and 9/11, Iraq and Afghanistan, and a natural "Act of God" takes the lives of hundreds of thousands of people in a few seconds of shake, shake, shake.

Earthquakes show us the better side of ourselves too. A forgotten country like Haiti now has unprecedented attention from the world. Many generous people have donated money to organizations like the Red Cross and Doctors Without Borders. The United States has promised $100 million and sent thousands of Marines to keep order. Obama has suspended proceedings for 18 months against Haitian immigrants who are in the United States illegally. People care and want to help. That's the beauty of the human spirit. Unlike earthquakes, our acts are not random. They are purposeful and intentional and when we use them for good, to help rather than to harm, we are elevated to something far greater than ourselves and the meat and bone bodies we occupy. We become spirit. And spirit is something that no earthquake, no matter how powerful, could ever destroy.

Friday, January 15, 2010

FF - Pants on the Ground

Are you like me? Do you think that a certain gangsta demographic looks absolutely fucking stupid with their designer jeans pulled down to their knees? How do they stay up? They're made that way, right? They're not real jeans, are they? There's got to be some kindo of velcro or elastic involved. Anyway, I can't stand them. I just saw some punk wearing a pair on the subway, not an hour ago.

The foolishness of this look was squarely addressed the other night on American Idol, a show that I rarely watch. On a slow work week, I happened to get home early two nights ago, and tuned in to A.I. to see this 62 year-old gentleman, General Larry Platt, wrap up the show with this disturbingly catchy ditty:

Folks, we have a hit on our hands. A meme. Not seconds later, thousands of people, myself included, updated their Facebook status with some form of the words "fool" and "pants on the ground." Yesterday I couldn't get the song out of my head.

Last night, Neil Young, one of my idols, got into the act:

Damn, Neil makes anything sound good. That was powerful.


Friday, January 08, 2010

New Year's Revelations

Well, here we are. 2010. I like the way that number looks on the page. It's clean. It has clarity. I think it's the zeros, they suggest balance, a leveling off. And why not after the year we just had? Michael Jackson dead. Farrah Fawcett dead. Tiger Woods' reputation nearly dead. An economy in the crapper. H1N1 hysteria. The Yankees winning the World Series. And it all ends with a 23 year-old Nigerian jihadi trying to blow up a plane on Christmas day. Could it get any worse? Probs yes, yes it could. But it won't in 2010. How could it with such a symmetrical number driving the train?

I don't do resolutions. Okay, I do do them, but they're a lot of pressure and ultimately disappointing, so I'm going to try something new. Here are my New Year's Revelations for 2010. These are things that recently were revealed to me by intuition or perhaps divine communique. I don't question the source. I am merely a conduit to enlightenment, here for your spiritual evolution. Hear then, what I have learned:

Time keeps on ticking, ticking, ticking into the FU-TURE. Sometimes it's like I can actually feel it ticking by, day after day, hour after hour, feel myself growing older by the second. I'm attending friends' funerals, watching my parents age, become forgetful and wrinkly, looking at myself in the mirror and wondering where the teenage me went. This is the stuff of which midlife angst is made. I read a poll that says that people are happiest at the following ages: 18-24 and 55-65. 35-44? Unhappiest. How can that be, one might ask? I can only figure it this way: 18-24 year olds are in college and graduating shortly thereafter. Or if not college-bound, they be clubbin', they be chillin', they all be too stupid and inexperienced to know what's waiting for them in ten to fifteen years. Optimism reigns. Disillusionment is a microscopic speck on the horizon that is imperceptible. The world is a red carpet and they have the young bodies and minds to run it down. Few mistakes, apart from drug overdoses, can break their reverie. 18-24 year olds are demigods. Broke and dependent demigods, but demigods nonetheless.

55-65 year olds have seen and done most of what they're going to do in life. They've already worked most of the hard hours they're going to work. They've come to terms with their failures and the dreams and ambitions of their youth that never bore fruit. For the men, sex is not the personal driver that it once was. (Fuck if that'll ever be me!) These AARP inductees possess new identities. They are calm. Sedate. They take painting classes. They play golf, chess, and poker. They enjoy their grandkids, who spark their hearts through toothless smiles, innocent questions, and absurd antics. The white hairs appreciate their health because too many of their friends have already passed. So they're happy riding this life thing out until they, too, succumb to a cough or chest pain that never leaves.

What of the 35-44 year olds, then? You'd think we'd be the happiest. We have money, decent jobs, and we pretty much know who we are at this point. Married or single, we get laid with relative regularity, give or take the societal fringe of course. We're independent, we can go and do what we want when we want. No parents to leash us. No osteoporosis to limit us. Why then are we so angst-ridden all the time?

Hell if I know. Ask me when I'm 55.

Sometimes it's not the place, it's the company. I tried Burlington, Vermont again for New Year's this year. Yeah. I did. It's just too nice a place to stay away from and I had some demons to exorcise. Made a few changes this time though. This time I: traveled there in a Volvo with all-weather tires; brought a snow shovel; wore a brand new Gore-tex lined L.L. Bean jacket that the tag said would keep me warm at -20 degrees Fahrenheit; and stayed there three nights instead of one. Most importantly, however, I was accompanied by my girlfriend of one year (today!), rather than someone I barely knew. And that, my friends, made all the difference. Let it never be said that I don't learn from my mistakes.

We are never EVER going to stop every single disgruntled person in the world who wants to kill himself and a bunch of other people. I am dumbfounded by the gnashing of teeth that is going on over this Nigerian dude on the plane. It's stunning how a single potentially deadly act can induce mass hysteria for weeks from here to Des Moines. It was a close call, to be sure. He should never have gotten on the plane. Security needs to be better. Intelligence services need to communicate with each other and learn how to distill, digest, and react to the billions of bits of data that fly by every month. It is a herculean task.

You know who did that remarkably well? Who had incredibly solid control over their country (and several others)? Who knew where everyone was and what they were doing virtually all the time? The Nazis. Stalin ran a pretty tight ship too, as did some generals in Argentina and Chile in the 1970s. You didn't see too many terrorists in those countries back in the day. Pretty high price tag for that "safety" though, eh?

I'm going to make a bold prediction: unfortunately, more Americans are going to be killed by terrorists in the future. It's going to happen on a subway. It's going to happen on an airplane. It's going to happen in buildings, outside of buildings, in the United States and in foreign countries. It's going to happen. I hope I'm not there at the time, but I certainly could be. So could you. Our leaders will and should do their best to protect us and catch the people who want to do us harm, but anyone who thinks that we can stop every single person every single time from killing people when he or she is willing to die him or herself is beyond delusional. We can't even stop disgruntled Americans from killing Americans, in schoolyards, malls, post offices, law firms, brokerage houses, city neighborhoods, and federal buildings. What makes us think we're going to be anymore successful at stopping foreigners from doing it?

And why does everyone shit their pants when it's a foreigner -- an AL QAEDA OPERATIVE -- who does it? Aren't they murderers just like every other murderer? Isn't every homicide victim equal to every other? Maybe it's the mass scale of what the Nigerian tried to do that makes it more frightening. Tell me though, how many people in this country have died at the hands of mass murderers since 9/11? There was Columbine, there was that guy at Virginia Tech, there was that nutjob at the Amish school, there was the BTK Killer, there was Ted Bundy. No - Bundy was way before 9/11. So was BTK. Alright, so we've had mass murderers around for a long time in this country. I'd be willing to bet that more Americans were killed in school shootings during the past 8 years than were killed as a result of foreign terrorism.

Of course we need to try and stop it. I want to clap and dance a jig every time I find out that a drone has offed some human garbage in Pakistan or Afghanistan. But we need to face reality too. We can't stop everybody. There's a risk associated with being alive: you might get killed. We can't invade every country -- we can't afford it and it's bankrupting us. Bin Laden has said from the very beginning that he wants to bankrupt us. Bin Laden has known all along that when we can't afford our tanks, our drones, our military excursions to Iraq, Iran, and North Korea, when Americans are hungry and can't find work or decent health care because we're spending billions upon billions outside the country on war after war after war, when America shreds the Constitution and creates a police state like the Nazis and Soviet Union in an effort to keep out every brainwashed Nigerian or Yemeni or Pakistani who has so devalued his own life that he thinks dying and killing is the only thing that will make him important, well, that's when he knows that he's as close to a complete victory over the United States as he's going to achieve in his lifetime. That's when he and Al Qaeda will have won. He knows it. He's planning for it. And so far, it's working. Because we overreact to every action Al Qaeda takes. Because we fear death so much that we're unwilling to accept a single casualty -- excepting those to our military forces, and even those we find virtually unbearable -- as the cost of doing business in this "War on Terror."

We haven't been asked to do too much in this War since September 2001. The very least we can do is keep our wits, not piss our pants when bad things, terrible things happen -- and unfortunately they will continue to -- and understand that there will be casualties in this War, both civilian and military. It's a War. That's what happens in Wars. People die. When we avoid disaster like we did two weeks ago, we should count our blessings, fix the problems we can fix and accept those that we can't. Because some can't be fixed.

Remember, it wasn't airport security, Predator drones, or the billions of dollars spent in Afghanistan and Iraq that stopped the Nigerian on that Detroit flight. It was two alert, clear-eyed passengers who figured out what was happening and brought the hammer down on that asshole. Same for those passengers over Shanksville, PA on 9/11. They died fighting.

Damn, that was a rant and a half, wasn't it?

Rants can be cathartic.

At some point, I became the parent of my parents. I'm not sure when it happened, but here we are.

I want to ski again. I left this expensive hobby behind when I moved to the city eighteen years ago. It just wasn't easy to keep it up what with law school, no car for more than a decade, and the long hours I worked earlier in my career. Plus it's hard as balls to get out of the city and up to a mountain on a Friday night. Plus no car. Oh, I mentioned that already. Anyhoo, after viewing the whitecapped Alps during my plane ride home last November and driving by the Green Mountains in Vermont over the holiday, I realized that I really miss skiing. I miss being on the mountain, skis underfoot, and trying to figure out how I'm going to survive the black diamond that I mistakenly thought was an intermediate slope. I don't miss kissing tree stumps with my face or bloody lift tickets, though. I'm going to Vail, Colorado in two weeks, so we'll see how strong this rekindled ski bug of mine really is. I heard they wear helmets now, that's probably a good thing for me.

I crave light. I think I have seasonal affective disorder. All I feel like doing this winter, besides skiing of course, is sleeping. I slept so much over Christmas I felt like a hibernating bear. This winter has been cold so far and the darkness is so damn depressing. I'm going to need to wedge in a beach trip before April, methinks.

In another life, I'm an artist. If I wasn't so damn materialistic and attached to my thus far cushy lifestyle, I'd be doing full-time what I enjoy in my spare time: writing and photography. Hell, I might even be a painter! I just know in another life, another version of reality in the multiverse, I'm sitting with an easel somewhere, Mandrake goatee on my face, mixing acrylics and painting the Cathedral of Notre Dame. Or, having graduated from the renown MFA program at the University of Iowa, I'm working on my third novel after publishing two lengthy short story compilations. Or I'm a photojournalist documenting atrocities in Darfur. In this life, I catch fluorescent tans in my Aeron chair, work in front of the computer until 11 p.m., and return home only to collapse on my mango sofa from Design Within Reach and click on my plasma t.v. in a vain effort to forget about the stress of my day. Which sounds better to you? I'm just saying, I was probably destined for more arty things, and I got sidetracked somewheres. I think it was when my Uncle Saverio let me borrow his bottle of Paco Rabanne in the seventh grade before a school dance. (I needed all the ammo I could get, you know, to impress the LAY-DEES.)

It was all downhill from there.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

A Few Christmas Thoughts

It's that time of year. A time for all of us to come together in peace and good will and express our love for each other and all of humanity. In that regard, here are a few Christmas (not "Holiday," CHRISTMAS) thoughts I'd like to share:

Do They Know It's Healthcare After All?
I've been watching this health care debate for months, through the Great Teabagger Debates, through the name-calling across both sides of the aisle, through the political wranglings with the Olympia Snowes, the Joe Liebermans, the Ben Nelsons, through the lying, hyperbolic Party of No's ("PON") talking heads, the Palins, the McCains, the McConnells, decrying the Death Panels, abortion subsidies, and profligate spending in what they have deemed "Obamacare." I've seen that $260 million insurance company lobby money in action, opposing any change to the status quo that is bankrupting this country. I watched it all. And now, here we are, on the cusp of a Senate bill that is something like 2000 pages long, that no Republican deigned to vote for, a bill that still needs to be combined with a House bill that has some fundamental differences, and which won't take effect until 2014 at the earliest.

Where do I come down on this leviathan, this laughably watered down version of what I originally wanted for this country, this bill that was written in substantial part by the insurance companies and their lobbies? I'm for it. I wanted a public option. Nay, I actually wanted a single payer system with a private option. I think health care is a right, not a privilege. I feel that health care is a fundamental benchmark by which any country should be judged. I also don't feel it should be driven by a profit motive. That's just my philosophy. The United States pays more for its health care on average than any country in the world. It is ranked 37th in the world in quality of health care. It also has a shorter life expectancy than many countries who spend far less. It has 40 million people who are not insured. There's something fundamentally wrong with that.

I wanted a lot of things. I wanted caps on what insurance companies could charge to customers. I wanted checks on hospital expenses and unnecessary tests. Yes, I could have gone for some tort reform as well. The Senate health care reform bill, passed only by Democrats, addresses some of these problems, too few, in my opinion. But it's better than nothing. It's better than the status quo. It's better than the Big Zero we got from Republicans who held power for eight years after they obliterated Bill Clinton's attempt to pass health care reform in 1995. They did absolutely nothing on this issue. Zero. And now they're pissing all over the first attempt at major transformative legislation that we've had in this country in decades. The PONs nauseate me, I'm not going to lie. Talk about not putting the country first, they wrote the book. And I'd throw plenty of Democrats in there with them. That's why we got the bill we got instead of the bill we should have had. It's not easy to get the 60 votes that were needed to overcome a Republican filibuster. In fact, it's nearly impossible. That's why they're trying to jam this thing through so fast, before the numbers change and the PONs prevent any change from happening at all.

We're going to hear a lot in the coming months about how Democrats "own" this bill; how it costs too much money; how it contains x or y or z provision, which is going to sound ridiculous to a lot of people. Most of that criticism is going to come from the PONs, who have something like a 17% approval rating, and whose sole ambition is to regain power and prevent Obama from declaring any form of victory on any front, save Afghanistan. My response to them will be a series of questions: "What were you proposing?" "What did you do to help pass a better bill?" "What compromises did you propose to the Democrats?" "What were you willing to accept from the other side?" And when it comes to money, how much this thing is going to cost, I will ask: "How much did the drug bill you passed under Bush cost the country?" "How much did the Iraq War add to the deficit?" "Was that money well spent?"

The fact that we're remotely close to health care reform in this country is a remarkable feat in itself, given our decades of failure on this issue. And I'm a pragmatist at heart. I don't love what will eventually pass, I don't know every single detail of the Senate bill -- no one does -- but one thing is certain: it contains provisions that improve on the status quo, which is untenable by any measure. No more denials for pre-existing conditions. National competition among private insurers, which should lower costs for all of us. Tax breaks for small businesses to make health care more affordable for them to provide. 31 million previously uninsured will now have the chance to have health care. That's something. It's better than what we have now.

Do You Hear What I Hear? Deer Tick: Born on Flag Day. Buy it. A few song recommendations on the album: Friday XIII, Easy, and Houston, TX. If you like gravelly-voiced singers with a little country edge, you'll like these guys. It's good for long drives or subway rides, as the case may be.

Another choice: Edward Sharpe and the Magnificent Zeros. Songs: "Home," "Janglin', and "Come in Please."

Silent Night, Holy Night. If you ever want to feel like you're in your own music video, strap on a pair of sound-free Bose headphones, the kind that go on your ears, not in them, plug them into your musical device of choice, hit play on your favorite song, and start walking the streets of New York City. I'm telling you, it's just like being in your own video. I'm not saying it's completely safe -- it helps to be able to hear things around you when you're walking in New York, particularly in intersections and on subways -- but it's worth trying, even for a few minutes.

Blue Christmas. How bad do you think Christmas is going to be for Tiger Woods this year? Damn, talk about a self-implosion. How do you chase that kind of poon (and a skanky category of poon it is!) for that long, that publicly, and not expect to get caught? Why do people that famous, who have that kind of sexual appetite bother getting married at all? Personally, I hate golf and could never understand the masturbatory fawning over Tiger Woods at all.


Where was I? Oh yes, Christmas spirit. Tiger Woods. As disinterested as I am in his profession and public persona, I'm very interested in the Shakespearean tragedy of his classic fall from grace. It is epic. Watching commercial sponsors like Accenture (a company with its own history of public fuckups, see, e.g., Arthur Andersen, its former incarnation), who previously elevated this talented GOLFER to regal heights, now scurry away from him like cockroaches tasting the first scent of a can of RAID, has been hilarious. Tag Heuer - gone. I think only Nike is standing by him. I like that. Nikes don't fit me very well -- my feet are too wide so I tend to go with New Balance -- but I admire Nike's loyalty. That takes guts. It will be interesting to see where Tiger ends up now. Like Dennis Rodman said on Larry King last night (yes, we've sunk that far -- Dennis Rodman is now the voice of reason on shit like this), Americans like redemption. They like to give second and third chances to people. Hell, this country was FOUNDED on second chances! The Puritans, who were kicked out of England and helped colonize this country, were the embodiment of the Second Chance. We even gave a second chance to the American Indians we massacred and displaced. We stuck them in reservations where they'd have a chance to prosper by building casinos where Americans down on their luck could have, you guessed it, a second chance, by putting it all on red at the Roulette table.

Rodman thinks Tiger will come back stronger than ever. I tend to agree. Probably a few more Blue Christmases for him in the near future though. As for his beautiful wife, Elin? The future for her is so bright, she's got to wear shades. She's going to cash in on a divorce settlement and will be rich for the rest of her life. From what I've read, she's very smart. Her decision to leave this troubled guy (and swing a mean golf club in the process) certainly speaks volumes about her integrity and class. She's gorgeous and will have more than her share of wealthy and eligible suitors. Once the emotional pain and embarrassment of this debacle wear off, she's going to come out in the pole position on all of this. (No pun intended. Okay, actually it was.) Maybe she'll go on Oprah, write a book, et al.

And what of the Skanky Hoors Tiger passed the time with? Who gives a fuck? Those glorified escorts have gotten enough press already. Enjoy the 15 minutes. I'm not going to give them more air time in this obscure blog of mine.

White Christmas. Since I've resigned myself to the fact that the Earth will eventually go the way of Mars climate-wise and the human race is too selfish and shortsighted to do anything about it, I'm not going to spend a lot of time on this. I only want to address a single point. People who STILL claim that there is no global warming going on, in the face of an overwhelming amount of scientific evidence to the contrary, point to every stupid snowstorm or cold snap as irrefutable proof that our climate is operating the same as it ever did. What these idiots fail to understand is that extreme changes in weather, including snow and cold, are a part of the overall change in climate that has become more pronounced in the past fifty years. Overall the planet is warming at an alarming rate. That is measurable and undeniable. In the process, we're having more extreme weather changes than in recent history. As a kid growing up four hours north of New York City, I never remember having to wait until nearly January for the first snowstorm. We just got ours in New York yesterday, December 19th. It was so warm some days in November, it felt like California. I also don't remember the transition seasons being so similar. Spring and fall now are almost the same. The only thing that's different is the color of the leaves on the trees.

So to hear fools like Senator Inhofe exclaim that everything is operating normally is not only wrong, it's unconscionable. The right wing likes to gnash its teeth over how the left is mortgaging our children's future by spending all this money on health care and TARP. Why don't they apply this same mentality to the environment? A huge fucking deficit and a national bankruptcy in 2140 won't matter a damn if we have a desert in Iowa and the East and West Sides of New York City are flooded with water. Speaking of water, if you think the wars we're fighting over oil today are bad, I'd hate to be a soldier fighting the Great Water War of 2180. Water is tomorrow's oil. And unlike oil, human beings need water to survive.

If there is such a thing as reincarnation, I hope I'm reborn on an alien planet with beings who bear a more selfless, intelligent view of the good of ALL of their kind. Human beings? Earth? They've got a short shelf life. I really don't want to come back here, eat sand for dinner, and starve to death before I'm five years old.

Wonderful Christmastime. Let's try to end this on a good note, shall we? As I've gotten older, the more I've come to realize that Christmas is more about family than anything else. It used to be about the prezzies. Not anymore. This year my family made the decision -- and a wise one I think -- to buy Christmas presents for my nephew and nieces rather than each other. As our family has grown, Christmas had become more stressful, unwieldy and expensive. This decision took the pressure off of all of us, at a time when we all have less money to spend. And it's brought us back to the real purpose of Christmas, expressing love for each other and spending time together.

The thing I'm looking most forward to this Christmas is some quality time with my nephew and nieces, my significant other (our first X-mas together :) ), my parents, my sisters, and brothers in law. I'll enjoy seeing the kids open what I got them. And I'll enjoy experiencing another Christmas with my parents. My grandmother's death reminded me that we are all getting older. There are only so many Christmases left for us to enjoy in good health, with all of us here. My father and mother will not live forever, and there will come a time, hopefully in the distant future but who really knows, when my father's Alzheimers progresses to the point where he becomes so changed that the version of him we are experiencing is a pale comparison to the man we always knew. That time has not yet come, but it will, sadly.

One thing I love about photography is that it is one of the only ways we can capture a moment in time in this life. A picture freezes time. It takes us back to a moment in our past, a feeling, a place. By looking at a picture, we're able to taste it again, albeit in a less intense way.

That's all I want this Christmas. To freeze time, if only for a day or two. To share memories of Christmases past and make new ones with my family. To share my love with them and let them know how I feel about all of them. That's enough for me. That's all I need. It's all I want.

So... to all of my readers, who have stuck by this blog in the face of more intermittent entries, where I sometimes go weeks without an entry due to work and other commitments, I want to thank you for your loyalty, for continuing to read and exchange your thoughts with me. My sincere best wishes to all of you and to your families for a safe and Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year in 2010.


Friday, December 04, 2009

FF - Attention Walmart Shoppers a/k/a Why I Shop Online

It's that time of year again: Christmastime!!! A time for gathering with family, nestling next to an open fire (or air conditioner, in these days of global warming) with your loved ones, drinking egg nog and reminiscing about Christmases past. It's also a time for SHOPPING for that special someone on your Christmas list. And no one does shopping, no one does CHRISTMAS shopping better than America. With Christmas ads now bombarding our airwaves as early as Halloween, here in America, we can't effing WAIT for the buying to start! Think the economy is a problem? No. Friggin'. Way.

Check this shit out from Black Friday 2009:

Just look at these animals (enjoy the slo-mo and keep an eye out for the lady whose wig falls off)!

Ah, the holidays, how I love them so.