Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Some truly random thoughts

Whoever coined the phrase "his eyes were bigger than his stomach" must have had enormous eyes.

ATM's are not new. Why the hell do people seem to always get confused when I am waiting to use one?

It takes someone who makes $50,000-a-year twenty years to make a million dollars. Tiger Woods makes a million dollars every three days. People work all their life to play golf once a week. He makes more money not playing golf.

I just had onion rings from a fast food restaurant and it didn't have the single fry in it. WTF?

Countries with socialized medicine have an average life span that is four years more than those that don't. Obviously it doesn't work.

Is Reality TV an oxymoron?

Is there anyone creepier than the guy on the Dos Equis commercials?

Speaking of creepy. Does anyone else have a feeling that Michael Jackson is going to make a comeback next year?

The Internet truly amazes me sometimes. It is so chock full of information. Think of all the things we assumed before the Internet.
1. Female Celebrities wore underwear.
2. Sex tapes were only done by professionals.
3. Some Asian girls didn't wear school uniforms (I believe this is my third reference to this)
4. Girls didn't love making out with other girls.
5. A free t-shirt wouldn't get a girl to lift her top on camera
Now we have the Internet and we know all of these are actually not true

The song "love the one your with" is really messed up when you think about it.

They say absence makes the heart grow fonder. I think they meant abstinence.

Whatever happened to Laura San Giacoma.

She says the scars are healing nicely, but it is true what they say about beauty only being skin deep. Sorry!

The worst actor ever

Chris Klein has not been in enough movies as of yet to qualify, so we'll give him a pass.

OK, I'm going to get heat for this one, but my vote is for Robin Williams. And of course, because this is a blog and not a facebook status update, I'll explain. Let's start at the beginning. He appeared as the martian Mork from Ork on Happy Days back in the 70's. Somehow this was spun off into it's own show. At the same time he starred in his first movie as Popeye. A live action cartoon which was so horrible, it turned me off to spinach until a young adult. This was followed by The World According to Garp. Despite it being filmed partly in good old Eastchester and a cameo by our beloved AD Dom Cecere, the movie is absolutely awful. Moscow on the Hudson was actually pretty decent when I first watched it, but I later realized it wasn't because of RW, it was because as a youngin I was infatuated with Maria Conchita Alonso. Then came Club Paradise, and despite having one of my favorite movie lines, it is so bad, it's almost unwatchable.

Here's where people will either stop reading or hate me. These next two movies are two of my least favorite, because he is praised for his acting, when in actuality it's four hours of a filmed coke binge. Good Morning Vietnam & Dead Poets Society are two of my least favorite popular movies. Honestly, I don't understand the draw. Both are painfully boring, self-righteous drech. Every time someone stands on a desk and says Oh Captain, My Captain, an angel gets put to death. At least I hope.

Then came the trifecta of a lifetime. Cadillac Man, Awakenings, and Shakes the Clown. Each are bad in their own way, but Shakes the Clown might possibly be one of the ten worst movies of all time. A little side note: Even as a catatonic person Robert Deniro still acted like a mob guy. What's with that? Then the Fisher King and Hook. Seriously, who has seen this many movies of his and didn't want to kill themelf? The worst part is there are more. Toys? Take out LL Cool J (yes, LL Cool J) from this movie and it's up there with Shakes.

Dustin Hoffman nailed the cross dressing character in Tootsie. Plus, it had Jessica Lange, so kudos to them. Mrs. Doubtfire was so silly it made me actually wanna rewatch Big Momma's House. Jumanji. No words. The Birdcage took a wonderful movie called Les Cage Aux Folles and ruined it. I could start about Nathan Lane, but what's the use.

And then Ben and Matt came along. Good Will Hunting is not a bad movie. It really isn't, but every scene with RW makes me twitch with pain. Here were two kids who had this great role they had written. His character is the voice of reason in a chaotic situation. The whole while he looks so uncomfortable in his own skin. I've always thought that if they had gotten a real actor this movie would have been so much better. Instead it's awkward. I don't even know the line he utters about "going to see about a girl." But it's flat out nauseating and contrived and coming from him, it's not even real.

What Dreams May Come, Bicentennial Man, Patch Adams. Somebody shoot me. Why have I actually seen these? Death to Smoochy, for Christ's sake, kill me now. Then his challenging roles came. One Hour Photo. Good god. I wish this movie was an hour shorter. RW as a villain is as believable as me being a personal trainer. But they weren't done miscasting him. Insomnia, which is actually a remake of a fine Norwegian film with Stellan Skaarsgard. Unfortunately, someone forgot to tell RW and Pacino that some acting would be involved. I have insomnia, but this film put me to sleep. This was the final straw. I am done.

So from this day forward, unless some practical joke is played on me, where I am incapacitated, I will not watch another film with him. Sure Night at the Museum is Oscar worthy. RV is a riot. Whatever his next film out will be brilliant. I'll have to take every one's word for it. I refuse to waste any more of my life watching this idiot. Honestly, I can't even stomach him in interviews. How the hell can a grown man not have the ability to be serious, even for a moment. Sadly, when he tries to be, it is so forced, it doesn't translate. It saddens me to realize the numerous hours I've wasted watching his films. Not one really good on in the whole batch.

I'll end this tirade now. Maybe one day I'll write about one of my least favorite movies. Maybe it'll be about Shawshank. Maybe It's a Wonderful Life. Maybe Citizen Kane. Who knows? I'm sure it will be something that will piss someone off, but at least it won't have Robin Williams in it. NANU NANU - Good grief!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

A Painful Anniversary

Aujourd'hui maman est morte. Ou peut-ĂȘtre hier, je ne sais pas. (Mother died today. Or maybe yesterday; I can't be sure.)  Opening Line from Albert Camus' The Stranger. Unlike Mersault, I know exactly what day my mother passed away.

On July 23rd , 2004 at roughly 2AM. My mother passed away. A long battle with cancer took her from us. For the most part, she was with us til the very end. Two days before she died, she apologized for an incident which was altogether forgotten in conscious memory, but obviously, not in either of our subconsciousness. Maybe this was the last of the numerous gifts she gave me. She died a frail old women; mere skin and bones. Her ability to function almost gone. A far cry from even a week before. She was only 62.

My mother was a slender woman, who at 5'9, carried herself with the elegance of a movie star and had the character of a saint. She sometimes combined this with the mouth of a truck driver, but this made her all the more real. She worked hard and was a proud person. Cancer can make people lose these qualities, but up until the day she died, she controlled our family and of all her cousin's families. Like her parents before her, she was many people's rock. Constantly on the phone helping this one and that one, even up until the week she died. She was the one administering the love and the help, not the other way around, despite what many might have thought. On this day, it wasn't just our family who was affected.  It was everyone who knew her.

When I was very young, my mother came to pick me up at nursery school and when she arrived, she noticed an odd thing. I was on the wrong side of the gates, standing in the street with some of my young cohorts. The school was oblivious. She made mild complaint and then explained to me that the next year would be different. I was about four years old and within the next year, I was reading and writing. My mother spent every day teaching me these things. My father and mother put me in a position, where in 2nd grade, I took an exam to enter the prestigious Saint Ann's school in Brooklyn. A brief while later they were told that not only was I accepted, but they would suggest that I skip third grade, as it was pointless for me to waste a year doing what they had already taught me.

My adolescent years were not much fun. Nor were my teenage years. I was a rebel and I didn't care about school. I received decent grades, but the same tag always followed me. Could Do Better. In all honesty, it still follows me. So if my parents failed in one aspect, maybe it was their motivational talks. The problem was that she taught me to look for more, at all times. So when I would go to the library to write some lame essay on the Electoral Collage in High school. I spent most of the afternoon reading poetry or thumbing through old National Geographics, learning about the Ivory Coast or Pompei. My mother wasn't a college graduate, although she did attend. She, like I later, was more into the event of learning. She was into the culture of things. A grade of A or B didn't matter. She took what she wanted from every one of life's lessons and made it hers. Thankfully, in many ways, my father was a little more rigid, or I'd be wandering the hills of Switzerland trying to find myself. I might still.

When I was younger our class made necklaces for mothers day. We molded clay into shapes, painted them and then fired them in the Kiln. I, unlike both my parents had no artistic ability. Mine looked like someone painted a pile of poop. We all gave our mother's their gifts.  I presented hers, almost embarrassed at it's mediocrity. Two days later, when all my friends mothers had put their away in a box and couldn't wait for the next useless item, my mother wore mine everywhere. She even wore it to a fancy dinner party.  Telling me the following morning of all the praise I had received. You don't realize at the time how much those moments mean. As an adult, you grab hold of those memories and hold them forever. No matter what I did, my mother was proud of me. I think what she was most proud of was my maturity. Dinner parties were a time for adults to chatter about topics well above that of a child's ability to comprehend. I sat, sometimes deep into the night listening to tales of drunken fights, journeys to foreign lands and sometimes even into sexual exploration. I was like this enormous sponge, soaking up every last drop of info and reveling in it. Waiting eagerly for my chance to experience even half of these wonderful times. Thanks to my parents, we traveled, albeit primarily the east coast, to many locales and I was able to experience different things and appreciate different cultures. Hell, our block in Brooklyn was like a miniature version of the United Nations. My parents made sure I learned a little from everyone.

The rumor has it when my parents married, my mother could not cook. My recollections refuse to allow this memory to hold any merit. Quite simply, the food my mother made was the best I've had inside or outside of any fine restaurant I have ever had. Over the years, I have had friends of many different nationalities, I can't think of any, whose food even comes close in comparison.  Even when she was cooking their native countries dishes. I don't even like going to Italian restaurants any more, because the best restaurant can't make what my mother made on a pedestrian Thursday night. Sure, all mom's are put on that pedestal when it comes to cooking, but there was a difference.  My friends and their parents always asked my mom how she did it.  I remember a family member from Hungary shaking his head in disbelief when my mother explained it was her first time making something.  He said, "better than any time I've had it....in Hungary."  My mother might have missed her calling. I'm glad, for selfish reasons, she did. I can only hope to channel some of her ability as I attempt meals. If I believed that it was possible, I'd think it was her hand stirring the pot every time I produced something even slightly edible.

Her life wasn't always easy. This might have attributed to her constant desire for my brother and I to have more. She was worn down many evenings, but she'd walk in the door, change her clothes and in an hour we were called to the table. The talks we had almost every night were enlightening. We usually got past "how was your day" within the first two minutes. I learned more at those meals than anything in a book. As the years went by, my mother's disease started to slow her down. She wasn't the fresh and chipper person she used to be. She had become easily agitated. I guess dying can do that to a person. The passing of her mother and father took a great toll on her and when she battled for her own life, she gave it a fight they would have been proud of. I know, I am not that strong. I know I could not survive as long as she did. I would like to think, if I fought that battle I'd make her proud, but in the end, I'd let her down. She was much stronger than I will ever be.

There's so much I have thought about over the last few days, trying to remember the good times, but when this day comes up, I think of that final day. A week or two before, we had basically had a living wake. Family and friends came by and told stories of her past. Laughter could be heard all day. My eyes welled from start to finish, as everyone took a turn telling their tales, each one standing, voice cracking until they got the glare from my mother. You could almost hear her eyes murmur "Don't you dare." The day ended, a few of the old reliables piling dishes and kissing her constantly. The day was what she needed and it took it's toll on her, but everyone was there. Closure? On that day five years ago, her hospice care worker who had been with us for a few weeks, rose to leave around 3pm. Normally, I would drive her down to the train station. On this day, she didn't accept. She held our hands and thanked us and told us she was glad to have met us. She said goodbye for the last time. She knew before we did. That night around midnight, my father called us in and my mother was breathing very quickly. She looked at peace, but the breathing was so rapid, we worried. It slowed slightly and we returned to our beds. A few hours later, my father walked in and told me she was gone. We all spent a few moments with her, in a group and then alone. We're not a religious family, so this was goodbye. I remember sitting beside her and leaning in to give her that last kiss on her forehead.  The same way she had to make me feel at ease. There would be no wake, no funeral, it would be a family affair. My father would honor some wishes as to the scattering of her ashes. None of which were all legal. My mother would have been proud of that.

It's been five years and in some ways it seems like yesterday.  In some ways it seems like an eternity. The suffering is over. For that I can only be thankful. Her fight and her courage are unrivalled by anything I've ever seen. What amazed me even more, was here was a woman, always dressed very well, slender, (yes mom, you were thin dammit), elegant and who always carried herself with such dignity. Here she was older, grayed, she had tubes and bags hanging from her 85lb body. Yet she still held her chin up, refused help when she could, and told people to mind their mush, just like she had ten years before. In the end, I guess you could say cancer won, yet if it was a street fight, cancer wouldn't have come back.

There have been thousands of silly quotes about living and dying, but the one that sticks out to me is a long one. It was delivered when Jim Valvano, a famous college basketball coach was standing on the stage at an awards show, accepting an award for courage and starting his V foundation and he was dying of cancer. He made everyone laugh and cry, but the words I took away were these: “To me, there are three things we all should do every day. We should do this every day of our lives. Number one is laugh. You should laugh every day. Number two is think. You should spend some time in thought. And number three is, you should have your emotions moved to tears, could be happiness or joy. But think about it. If you laugh, you think, and you cry, that's a full day. That's a heck of a day. You do that seven days a week, you're going to have something special.” I feel I spend a good part pf each day doing all three of these things. I know I laugh quite a bit and I try to bring laughter to everyone. I know I think, sometimes too much. I don't know if I bring myself to tears every day, but most people would be surprised how often I do. Today and tomorrow will be a run of emotions, like they were the previous four years. Today isn't really any different. They don't make fifth year anniversary cards for these types of things. This year just seems especially tough. Maybe it's because my little brother is getting married in two months and she won't be there. I don't know the reasons, but today I listened to Jimmy V and all three were achieved and I feel like I have something special and always will.

Mom, you know I don't believe that if I say anything you'll hear it, so I will refrain from that hypocrisy. I will say this. Today is the fifth anniversary of my best friend dying. Nobody will ever replace her. Nobody ever could. In ten lifetimes, nobody could offer me more than what she gave me. For this I thank her and celebrate her life!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Eating Alone

I live alone. On most nights I sleep alone. I work alone on many days. I drive places alone on most occasions. I do almost every day to day function alone and I am fine with it. One thing I hate to do alone is eat. The odd juxtaposition is that I love to eat. Usually my love of food outweighs, literally and figuratively my pet peeve, but at times, it causes me to skip meals. When I was a child, I'd have breakfast with my family, if not all sitting, at least frantically gathering papers and briefcases, while all in the same room. Lunch was enjoyed with friends, sometimes even sharing our meals, and dinner was spent sharing stories of everyone's day.

Sometime in the mid 80's all of this started to change. The family dynamic had changed. With so many marriages ending in divorce, so many people working two jobs, and so many people having child after child, not thinking these things through, the way of life everyone had known had changed. Meals were seen as almost a bother. People started hitting drive-thrus at an alarming rate and many meals were had alone at a desk, cubicle, or had while driving. Seriously, think back to when you were a kid. Aside from long trips, do you remember your parents eating or drinking in the car? No, because there were no console trays and cup holders. This not only lead to an obesity epidemic that is rampant in our country, but lead to the disintegration of meal time.

On most days, I either run to the deli and grab a bagel or egg sandwich and eat it at my desk. Weekends are usually spent alone by my computer, chowing down on an omelet or a muffin. Lunch is a sandwich or pizza, the occasional splurging for a hot dish at the local deli which makes a mean meatloaf. I rarely eat lunch on the weekends unless I'm out with friends. I used to cook dinner all the time for myself, but recently I have felt that it's too much work and I under appreciate my own doings. It's so much easier to grab something on the way home or call for pizza or Chinese. it's so easy, that I've grown overly accustomed to doing this even when I'm not dining solo. The food isn't the topic here, so I'll try and stay on point.

Dining alone has so many drawbacks. I find I tend to eat much faster when dining alone. Especially during lunch. The other day I walked to the deli and finished my lunch within 10 minutes. I barely tasted it. I definitely wouldn't say I enjoyed it. I also find that the inability to pause, enjoy the food, and converse, takes so much away from meals. I think other countries do meal times so much better than us. Eating a meal is an event. The food isn't the centerpiece, it's the company. Even when you go on vacation in the U.S., you pass by tiny outdoor tables of people smiling and huddled close together, enjoying a small meal and a large chat. This is the way it's supposed to be. I feel for some when I see people out, reading a paper, feverishly working on a tiny sandwich, looking like the last bite will sound an alarm and gain them access to great prizes. I'm guilty of all of these things. It doesn't make them right.

I'm not a small person, so the desire to eat, to consume would be a better term, overrides my dislike of eating alone. A huge heavily peppered steak, a baked potato slathered with sour cream, haricot verts dripping with butter, and a ice cold glass of water. Delicious and one of my favorite meals, but as I sit alone, flipping through channels, surfing the web (do people even say that anymore), possibly doing none. Staring at the plate, watching the steam rise, wishing some food genie would pop out and tell me about her day, I get a little sad. Maybe I'll chat with someone via facebook, maybe a phone call. It's not the same. Why does being able to say "please pass the salad dressing matter so much?" Maybe it was my upbringing, my love of constant chatter, from me or another, maybe it's being able to glance at someone you like, love, or don't even really know and learn something about them by the way they eat, they chew, the breath.

I don't know why I feel this way, but I know that when it comes to meals, I like to spend that Sunday morning brunch, that midday snack, or that home cooked meal sitting across or next to someone. I like to listen to them tell me of their day, their hopes, their woes. I like to digest what they're saying while I take another bite. I like to tell them of how I feel, what I want, how I dream. Somehow conversations during meals, good and bad, mean more to me. I like like to lean back, rest for a moment. Take in the aromas. Sometimes the good conversation can enhance a poor meal. Sometimes the reverse is true. When both are special, those are the moments we cherish and tell others about.

It's 9pm on a Tuesday. I haven't eaten since noon. I wouldn't say I'm starving, but maybe I have a craving. I don't need a porterhouse steak or some fabulous paella. I don't need a white linen tablecloth. Tonight, I'd revel in a happy meal, if only I could share that meal with someone else. There will be plenty of other nights and even more meals. I'll forget this blog in a week, as will anyone else who reads it. There are just some nights, when it's not about the food. It's about the company. Tonight the food isn't important. I'll grab something quick, maybe even the last orange in my fridge. Maybe tomorrow, I'll look across the table and get glance back. I think that next bite will taste so much better than my last.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Why my coffee (pot) is better than a girlfriend

I am probably in a large majority of people who love their coffee. I find that most people like coffee, good or bad, but a few of us care. I used to go out and spend $8 a lb on the stuff, but living alone, despite the large quantities I consume, I have settled on Bustelo as my house blend. It's strong, a little bitter, but not like DD. I like it because it has flavor. Coffee flavor. Then I started to think about just how much I like it.

For a week I didn't have a coffee pot and times were very tough. I couldn't sleep, I couldn't concentrate, I basically couldn't function. I once went two years without a girlfriend and realized then that coffee was very important to me. This morning I awoke and thought about the pros and cons of each, so I made a mental list. To my surprise there was only one item on the cons list for coffee. Coffee Breath. That's why there is toothpaste and mints. There is no mint that can get the taste of a bad relationship out of your mouth. No that was not a sexual comment, it was a commentary on bad relationships.

As I like to do; let's break it down.

When you first wake up the aroma of fresh coffee brings a smile to your face and immediately starts your day off right. Then you roll over and the beauty that laid down next to last night now looks like Marilyn Manson on a three day bender. Good heavens if she's a mouth breather, because that coffee aroma will be drowned out by the meth lab smelling foghorn you were spooning all night. Advantage coffee.

Say you don't have a timer. So you rise from your bed hit the button once and within a few minutes your face is diving into a hot cup of Joe. Say your little lady is a morning person, it's gonna take a lot more hits to her button before your done and if you don't suffer from carpal tunnel by the end, chances are you'll be told you're doing it wrong or not there. With the coffee pot, you always hit the right spot. Coffee always reciprocates. Advantage coffee.

You can drive with your coffee and enjoy it just as much as if you were at home in bed. Enough said. Advantage coffee.

You get to work and you grab another cup. My job has the Keurig machine. Pop in the K-cup and within about 30 seconds you're on your second cup. That's the great thing about coffee. You can get it from any pot. Try having a relationship with more than one person and it's called cheating. Only coffee doesn't mind that you like variety. You want it white, black, tan, flavored, it's all good. Try explaining that one to a lady. Advantage coffee.

You wanna have coffee multiple times a day, go for it. Try getting that same attention and satisfaction from your little lady. Coffee never has a headache, never has to go out with the girls, never isn't in the mood. Coffee also works every day of the month. NO excuses! Advantage coffee.

Alcohol. You can put whiskey, rum, sambuca, Bailey's, flavored liquors, Brandy, basically anything into a cup of coffee and it makes it even better. Put any of these into the company you have and it's a crap shoot. You may get lucky or you may be cleaning up vomit for four hours. Coffee will take you home safely.

Coffee always ends a meal well. It's usually all I want for dessert. Big deal, what's another $2-3. But not your date. NO, she didn't take more than two bites of her salad, because the dressing isn't fat free. She barely touched her $40 entree, because it's just too much food. NO, but when it's time for the check, she all of the sudden wants the seven layer chocolate cake with ganache, truffles, and shaved chocolate from some unknown country in Argentina. Then she offers you a bite, no bigger than the size of a dime. And you know if you want some coffee when you get home, your getting it, but Jenny Craig over there doesn't feel like it because she's bloated. Two hours later she's watching Grey's Anatomy repeats with a tub of rocky road, explaining that she always eats when she's upset and McCrappy has three weeks to live. You sit down to hopefully check out Katherine Heigl's cleavage and are warned against criticizing the show. Coffee doesn't judge you and let's you voice your opinions freely. Advantage coffee.

Of course coffee can't scratch your back or rub your shoulders. Coffee can't tell you how nice you look or ask you how your day was. Coffee can't cook you dinner. Coffee can't make you laugh. Coffee can't put on some sexy lingerie and fulfill your sexual desires (seriously, three days in the ER proved this to me). Coffee can't be the mother of your child. No coffee has it's limitations. Coffee doesn't stress you out that you need a back rub. Coffee can't cook you dinner, but it also doesn't remind you it cooked you dinner and doesn't say "you don't like it" after every jaw-breaking bite. Coffee can't make you cry or bang your head against the wall either. Coffee won't put on that lingerie, but also won't ask you if it looks fat. Coffee also doesn't care if you noticed it changed a little. Coffee can't give you a kid, but at 6am, coffee is a lot more soothing than a screaming child. Coffee won't pee on you. Advantage coffee.

It isn't even close. We can all live without a significant other, but we can't live without coffee. God bless quiet mornings and something that will always be there for you.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The Ultimate Wingman

When people think of the wingman, they immediately think of Top Gun. Maverick & Goose, Iceman & Slider, or Sigfried & Roy. OK the last one wasn't in Top Gun, but you get the idea. The wingman is an important part in any single man's arsenal. He's basically the friend who will take the bullet so his buddy can hook up with a girl. In most cases, we hear tales of the wingman hooking up with the ugly friend just so his buddy can score with the girl that is out of his league. In the end, the guy doesn't really care, because he's wasted his entire evening for his friend's benefit and he's getting a little payback. Even though the collateral damage that is caused to his psyche might not be worth it.

Funny thing about being a wingman is that, the person himself is probably not realizing that the girls are playing the same game. I mean, seriously, guys thinking they are taking one of the team, but if one guy is hooking up with a really hot girl and the other guy isn't, chances are he isn't that good looking or charming in the first place. Either way, I love to watch the dynamic of the wingman unfold. I love watching when the young lad sees his Friday evening turning from a date with destiny to a walk on the wild side, eventually into the walk of shame. The alcohol intake increases as he realizes that to help his friend he may very well be pulling a coyote ugly in the AM. But like I said, usually he still ends up getting lucky, so let's not feel bad for the wingman. Or so I thought. Last night, I met, the ultimate wingman. He earned his stripes...and a shot of Jager.

It was a Monday night, the home run derby had ended and the jukebox played the soulful sounds of Akon. The two young ladies at the bar were chatting it up with two guys. One guy did all the talking. He bought shots. He was like a mason pouring the foundation. I wouldn't say he was a good-looking chap. He looked like the lead singer of Fall Out Boy with a Michael Strahan gap. It was clear he had a mission. He delivered his piece de resistance, "I'm moving back to North Carolina tomorrow." Had he sealed the deal? The girls giggled but it didn't seem like he was doing all that well. His uninterested friend appeared restless. The girls giggled some more. Then he got up to go to the bathroom and one of the girls followed. Her friend gave her a stern look and said she needed to talk to her. She returned and confirmed she was not going to hook up, she just had to use the facilities. We chatted with the other girl who we knew and The Wingman still hadn't returned. The girl came back walked past us and within two minutes was locked in a passionate embrace with the quiet unassuming guy. I pointed out the amazing scene and with great difficulty we tried to figure out what the hell had just happened. Al Green's Let's Stay Together gently played in the background, only adding to the sensuality of the moment. During this lustful foray, we had barely noticed as the dejected wingman returned to his seat. His shoulders slumped, his hopes crushed, and his libido left severed, he slugged back his drink. I offered the condolence drink and he glumly accepted.

We still are not quite sure what happened last night. It would take Gil Grissom, Scully and Mulder to truly figure this out. I don't know how and why what happened did. I won't try to understand, because it was more confusing than Sarah Palin's resignation speech. I do know one thing. Goose, Slider, & Roy can not hold a candle to the world's greatest wingman. The next time you find yourself in the wingman scenario, take heed, you don't want to fall prey to the situation that this poor guy did. I hope he's doing fine in North Carolina. Away from the pain and suffering. The next time I'm out at 4am on a Monday night/Tuesday morning and I'm drinking Jager, I will raise my glass and toast this poor disheveled soul. For he is the greatest wingman I have ever known.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Birthdays

I sometimes wonder what makes a birthday great? What is an important birthday when you are over 21? Is it 25? 40? 50? $75? 100? Seriously, other people make a big deal about it, but does the receiver of such reception feel anything?

I said over 21, because that's the legal drinking age and maybe it's more of a reflection of the company I keep than the importance of the age that makes this so important. Ten was a big birthday for me. I was double digits. Thirteen was big, but only because I would be a teenager and entering high school. I later found out that wasn't all it was cracked up to be. Eighteen was exciting, because I could vote. Oh wait, no it wasn't. I don't remember my 21st birthday and not because I was drunk, it was just not that memorable. Twenty-two through thirty-nine have been a blur. I can't remember most of them and the majority have been spent with friends over dinner or drinks. Some were with family, some were not. I guess if I had to pick the best birthday ever. The one that reverberates in the back of my brain would be my 30th.

My 30th birthday was not spent at home with family. Not with my longest known friends. It wasn't even spent in NY, where I've lived my entire life. It was spent in Wolfeboro, New Hampshire, in what would be my final summer at Pierce Camp Birchmont. Was it my best summer? Who knows, the happiness that this place brought me was too hard to narrow down to best and worst. I mean seriously, if there is a heaven above, it looks, smells, and feels like Birchmont.

It was my fourth summer at PCB and I was running the Explorers. A group of rambunctious ten-year-olds who were out of their minds. It's funny to think, many of them are now 19 and working at the camp. It was a beautiful Thursday morning. As I woke up the kids who tried to muster a few extra minutes, I received a few birthday wishes. My fellow counselors also wished me well and we headed out to the dining hall. A few birthday wishes were given by other counselors from different groups and we entered the dining hall. The thought of the day ahead was no different than any other day, soccer in the morning, followed by WAG (weights, arts & crafts, and gymnastics), down to the lake for swim, up for lunch, tennis, more swimming, baseball before dinner and then a night off. The latter is what I was looking forward to.

As was tradition, my group stood on their chairs and sang me happy birthday. This was a common occurrence for children and counselors throughout the summer. Nothing special, although very appreciated. As we ate our breakfast the girl explorers came by and they surrounded the table. They sang and good wishes were given by my female counterpart from girl's camp. Another somewhat normal exchange. Then something started to happen that wasn't the norm. My group from last year came by, then the girls. The younger kids took their turn and then the older kids. By the end of the meal, all 300+ kids had sung me happy birthday. I was overwhelmed almost to the point of tears. As I walked out, the directors called me over and gave me their wishes. Not even 9:00 and already a a glorious day.

The day continued as would any other day. As the sun began to lower, those of us who had the day off began to run back for showers and to dress for the evening out. The smile that had been on my face all day was still there. A quick phone call from my parents would complete the wishes. I made the trek up to the yellow school bus that would drop us in town. As I started to get on the bus, I was signaled over to the directors cottage which was right across from my chariot into the debaucherous evening. The director subtly acknowledged the morning gesture and said "that says a lot about what we all think of you." He added "many counselors are loved here for different reasons, but you are for all the right reasons." Greg was always supportive and complimentary, but those are words that always stuck in my head. I was not only proud of them, but I was touched, because it capped off the perfect day. I honestly don't remember the rest of the night. I'm sure we enjoyed ourselves at one of many great locations, but the day, the gesture, and the comments will always stick with me.

Nine birthdays later, I've yet to come close to anything as meaningful as that day. I've since been back to Birchmont only once. I see my friends less and less and some are gone forever I think. I keep up with as many as I can through Facebook and e-mail, but with people living all over the world, it's sometimes tough to find the time and energy for all of them. As the summer ended the thoughts of that birthday stayed clear in my mind.

When the next summer approached and I was offered a much more lucrative job. I reluctantly cut ties with PCB. I will not lie, I cried over the decision. I knew some of my best friends would be sharing a summer that would definitely top mine. Every year when school lets out and buses packed with children set off to wooded locales. I think back to that summer. I think at that instant that this will be another summer where my birthday is just a day in July. I sometimes hear the off tune little kids in the back of my head and smile. I wish I could thank them, Greg and Laura for the best birthday I ever had. The best summers I ever had. Maybe I will be back one day, maybe I won't. A sign in front states "there are no strangers here, only friends waiting to be met." No truer statement exists. I have some I haven't spoken to in years, but in an instant there is no doubt we'd carry on as if we were sharing a bunk.

My 30th. The best birthday I ever had.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Why I Hate Fireworks

The Fourth of July just passed us by and as I sat on a rooftop, many of my friends stood in appreciation of the rockets red glare and the bombs bursting in air. I sat, sipped my drink and let out a sigh. Fireworks do nothing for me.

Every year, around this time, grown men and women get giddy as schoolchildren awaiting the next Harry Potter movie to see these extravaganzas. They pack up picnic baskets and coolers and sit in the grass, or on a hill, maybe even on the hood of their cars and gaze up with anticipation for the spectacle of lights cascading across the night sky. Then inevitably sit in traffic cursing everyone for their stupidity. It's as American as apple pie.

I've always felt that the only reason anyone really likes fireworks is because they have always been connected to sexual situations. The phallic rocket pointing upward higher and deeper into the dark sky until it explodes. The explosions getting bigger and brighter until the climactic finale. That feeling afterward that you've seen something or felt something magical. Sure, I get it, but fireworks don't come with spooning or a cigarette. Although in some cases they do compare with that awkward "is it time for me to get up leave yet" feeling. Seriously, if you take the sexual connotation away, fireworks aren't that exciting. Sure for kids, whose sensory organs go into overdrive, it is amazing, but for adults, come on, we're thinking about one thing. Sex!

I guess I can trace my dislike of fireworks back to May 24th, 1983. This day was the centennial celebration for the Brooklyn Bridge. That night I saw the most amazing display of fireworks I had ever seen. The date also coincided with my soon to be 13th birthday and a heightened awareness of sexuality. That night was the first time I understood the connection between what was happening in the sky and in my pants. It would be a few years before my personal fireworks occurred with another person, but I had enough practice to know that it sure beat the hell out of watching an overgrown bottle rocket. So the ultimate fireworks show basically dampened all further fireworks shows. After that night they were all just lights in the sky. Maybe in some way, for a teenager, their first experience is like that Brooklyn Bridge night. I mean I remember everything about that moment too...right down to what song was playing. Maybe I remember because it was on when I started and on when I ended, nevertheless, I remember it vividly.

So there you have it. It's not a very complex tale, but it's my take on the whole situation. Hopefully, I haven't ruined fireworks for anyone reading this. Hopefully, the next time you see a beautiful explosion of color in the sky, your thoughts aren't directed to a fumbling teenage boy trying to do his best to prolong his first show. I hope that you can enjoy them for what they are. To me they will always be a surrogate sexual experience being shared by a few hundred, sometimes thousand people and that is just a little awkward if you ask me.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Sunday Morning, July 5th, 2009

Yesterday morning I awoke after a night of heavy drinking and heavier eating and stared at the ceiling. I wondered why my sleep had been so short. I waited about an hour and headed out. It was the day after July 4th, random firework casings littered the streets and I had visions of a delicious breakfast ahead of me. Little did I know, I was in store for fireworks of a different variety. I returned home to a fresh pot of coffee, a bag full of steaming hot bagels, some cream cheese and lox. I guess this is the Jewish equivalent of the Sunday dinner...I call it brunch, no matter what time I eat it.

9:00am. I turn on the TV, coffee in hand and half listen to the broadcasters go on and on about the historic event. I'm having thoughts in my head of how the day will go after the 90-100 minute slaughter I'm about to watch. Four and a half hours later, I'm worn out. Literally sweating from the action I've just witnessed. Powerless and fatigued by the effort that entertained me. Thankful, I remembered to watch.

So now it's 1:30pm. My television has been shut off. I have just witnessed an incredible tennis match between Roger Federer, who ended any speculation as to who is the greatest tennis player ever and Andy Roddick. The prodigy who despite not living up to his billing, has managed to stay a very consistent and formidable opponent.

The point of this blog wasn't to tell of my morning, but to tell of the feelings that followed it. Roger Federer is my favorite current tennis player and has been for quite a few years. I've enjoyed his domination the way, I am sure, Yankees fans enjoyed the latter end of the 1990's. Last year, he played and lost in what very well may have been the greatest match of all time. This year, with Rafael Nadal injured, a rematch was not going to happen and Federer's winning his 15th and record breaking grand slam was inevitable. Everyone got the memo. Everyone, but Andy Roddick. Roddick had surpised everyone just getting there. Of course he would be steamrolled and the morning grass would still have the morning dew by match's end. Or so I thought.

Andy Roddick put on the single greatest serving display I have ever witnessed. It should be noted that Roger Federer had fifty aces, but Roddick's serving was the story. He did not have his serve broken until the final game. The 30th of the fifth set. The match had ended and I, as a Federer fan, found it disturbingly difficult to smile. I had just watched my favorite player win. He had won Wimbledon. He had won a record breaking 15th slam. He was the greatest. All I could think of was Roddick. As he sat slumped over in his chair. Tears welled in his eyes. I felt a lump in the back of my throat. But why? I never feel for any team that loses to the Red Sox or the Broncos. I don't feel this way when an Olympic athlete loses to Russia, or China, or any other country for that matter. So why was I so upset for Roddick? Maybe it's because for me, sports has always been about the competition and that's probably why I never really went out for team sports in high school. Winning and losing in the end never meant anything to me. I'd rather lose a 5-4 game of baseball any day, rather than beating someone 20-0. I'd rather get the game winning shot hit against me than beating another team by 40 points. To me it's the game, the sportsmanship, and the show that matters, not the result. It dawned on me early in the fifth set that this match was special. As it continued, I did not want it to end. The end, either way, meant that the enjoyment was over. As Roddick composed himself for the post match interview, the pain was evident. This wasn't about beating Federer or winning Wimbledon. It was about Roddick.

The term "leaving everything on the field" is the most overused cliche in sports. Athletes rarely do this, even in championship games. On Sunday, I truly believe Roddick left a part of himself on that grass court. I do not think he will ever be the same. He played arguably the greatest five set of tennis that anyone has ever played (including Federer) and he lost. Mortals don't come back from that. If he does, I will be impressed. If he does, I will give him a standing ovation wherever I may be. If he does, it may be greater than anything anyone ever does in any sport. Sunday, Roddick played as well as anyone has ever played in any sport and lost. I watched every point and I saw a man leave his heart and soul on that court. His glassy eyes were all but empty. A man can not live without a heart, and I believe that this man, truly, may have left it all on the court.

I thank him!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Just some random thoughts - hope?

My blog has become a weekly venture instead of it's intended daily venture. I try and bring some thought, some heart, and some intelligence into it, but not all three want to participate on a daily basis.

The other day, driving to the bank and driving home from work, I noticed many things. Some of these things are evident every day, if one just opens their eyes. Some are harder to see. None of these are revelations, so if you thought you'd be knocked off your feet, you'll have to wait for the 40 bus and stand a little to close to the sidewalk.

I feel I do more for others than others do for me. I'm not talking about people I know. I mean strangers. I hold doors, say thank you, offer to help people with bags, etc. I wave people ahead when two cars approach an intersection at the same time. I let people know when traffic is bad if I overhear or let them know the updated forecast if I hear people discussing some weather related activity. It's not a big deal, but I'd like to think this was the norm. Unfortunately, today's society does not favor manners and etiquette. It favors "the one with the most toys wins."

On my way to the bank, I saw what looked like two young teens in sweats and t-shirts in the distance walking their dog. As I approached, I soon realized both of the women were about forty. Both were very attractive, but tiny. At the time it was a pleasant surprise, but then it dawned on me about how nice it must be that the toughest part of your day is walking your dog. I mean, it was 2 in the afternoon, and yes, maybe their kids were at camp, but it's not like these two had put any effort into their wardrobes or makeup. They had the life. I was envious.

This leads me to my next topic and somewhat relates to the last subject. On the way home from work, I saw a similar scene. This time it was two girls wearing identical clothing. Black tight stretch pants and blue tops. The same blouse. As I drew closer they appeared to be mother and daughter. Listen, Mrs. Robinson, trying to look young is fine, but dressing like your sixteen year old daughter verges on creepy. Plus, if you have a better body than said daughter, you're just cruel.

I turned the corner and saw a great sight. A grandfather walking with his very young grandson. The little guy was walking on the inside, towards the curb and grandpa, who wasn't that old was laboring to walk. The whole time I could see that he was talking to the child. Pointing to a bird in a tree or maybe a squirrel. Reminded me of how precious that bond is. The whole time the little boy walked and listened and never let go of his grandfather's hand.

Of course we can't end my day on a that note. I pulled near my house and saw a parking spot. Well, let's call it one-third of a spot. A work truck had taken up three spots, by parking right in the middle of the middle spot. I glared at the truck and drove on. Finally parking a little further down the road. I walked the few extra feet, which wasn't the problem. As is usually what bothers me, it's the principal of things. Finally I entered my humble abode. I flipped on the light and then pulled the switch in the bathroom to find that I had reached the six week mark, or is it seven, since my super said he'd fix my bathroom light. Accountability? A free home for keeping my building habitable. It passes barely.

Finally I sat down, threw on my computer and decided to take a look at the world outside of my little bubble. Apparently, the war is over, the election worked out, the Honduran president has been put back into power, education is working and literacy is at 100%, there are no homeless or hungry people in America or in the World. The world is safe and all is good. How else could every news program, every TV station and every radio station be talking about Michael Jackson still. I hope Nelson Mandela, Desmond Tutu, Jerry Lewis, Bono, and others who actually made a change, get this notoriety when they pass.

Finally I went to sleep that night. Forgot my problems for a few brief hours, forgot the atrocities that surround us, forgot the woman who didn't say thank you after I held the door, forgot the mom trying to be labeled a MILF, forgot the parking spots that were taken, and forgot about the Michael Jackson coverage. All those images and thoughts faded away like the morning fog and all that was left was the image of the little boy, his tiny hand enveloped by his grandfather's. The pride displayed by the elder as he shared the beauty of something as simple as a tiny animal with the youngster. I closed my eyes and the vision carried me off to somewhere else; somewhere calm and peaceful. A place where you see something beautiful and just maybe, not to anyone in particular, but just because you feel it, you say "thank you."