Sunday, July 3, 2011

July 4th! Where Does It Rank?

July 4th is almost upon us.  It's time to BBQ and listen to idiot light off fireworks in the hopes of wooing the crowd or blowing off their hands.  Either way, a good time will be had by me.  But where does The Fourth of July aka Independence Day rate in the broad spectrum of national holidays?

#1 - Thanksgiving.  Turkey day is great because of what it represents.  It represents family, friends, togetherness and gets rid of that pesky religious aspect.  Seriously, I love this holiday for that reason alone.  I get so annoyed when people want to say grace before Thanksgiving dinner.  I think it's a slap in the face to thank Jesus for something your mom or grandmother slaved over the kitchen for the better part of two days.  Funny thing about Thanksgiving it that despite being my favorite, I don't really love turkey and I never put gravy on my food.  I like stuffing/dressing, mashed potatoes and string beans.  I can do without the Turkey all together.

#2 - New Year's Day.  Don't sleep on New Year's Day.  NYE is fun and all, but New Years day is so much better.  College Football all day long, TV show marathons.  And usually some leftover food or beverages.  It's also a fun bar day, because all the professionals are out and the bartenders are usually hungover and usually coming of a profitable night.  Cheap day and wall to wall sports.

#3 - Passover.  If you've never been to a Passover Seder, you should go.  But don't go if it's a very religious family, because they read the Haggadah til you wanna kill yourself.  It feels longer than a Stephen King novel.  If they were like my family, they did a few pages and bam, we were eating some truly good eats!  I remember laughing more during Passover as a young kid than any other holiday.

#4 - St. Patrick's Day.  Everyone is Irish on St. Paddy's Day.  Which roughly translates to "piss drunk."  Always starts off really slow, with the early afternoon crowd starting the festivities and then usually by about 6pm, all the lightweights are gone and then all the after work crowd comes out.  It's really more of a survival test than a holiday.  I've survived many and still live to talk about it.

#5 - Christmas Eve.  Always trumps Christmas.  Guineas do that five fishes thing which is awesome if they have an ounce of talent in cooking.  I always liked the meal for Christmas Eve better, because if we went somewhere they inevitably had turkey or ham and those excite me as much as seeing a naked Joan Rivers.  On the Eve, my mother always seemed to do something special.  Not that we didn't have a few killer Christmas dinners (Duck, Squab, Goose, Lamb), but for the most part we had a better dinner the night before Jesus' birthday.

#6 - Memorial Day.  It's usually the beginning of the nice weather and the beginning of BBQ season.  People always seem to go overboard with the food and it's always positive.  People get into Memorial Day, because of the timing.  Labor Day is more like a funeral, Memorial Day is more like a birth.

#7 - Columbus Day.  Stupid holiday where Italians praise a social outcast who was basically thrown out of the country on Spain's dime and then "found" a place that was completely inhabited and then killed as many people he could.   He was the Hitler of the 1400's, but thankfully most immigrants to this country don't know American history, so we have parades.  It's also one of the best drinking holidays. Bars are packed and it's just a party.  It's like St. Paddy's Day, with less green and no bagpipers.

#8 - SuperBowl Sunday - OK, it's not a national holiday, but it should be.  Well actually the Monday after should be.  It should be called Kennedy Day.  Not for the idiot president who was a womanizer and almost got all of us killed, before taking one himself, but for the family tradition of football and running moonshine during prohibition.  I'm tired of telling my boss I got stuck taking a girl home from Chappaquiddick anyway.

#9 - Mardi Gras.  Bars in NY have dropped the ball on this one.  Go to New Orleans and it makes complete sense to drink sweet drinks with 151 Bacardi in it and for girls to show their tits for 8 cent beads.  What the hell is wrong with that?

#10 - Halloween.  Now I hate the trick or treating aspect of it.  I hate the candy aspect of it.  I hate kids ringing my doorbell starting at 4pm.  I also hate store bought costumes.  What I do like is when girls say "hey it's Halloween, what's the most wholesome thing you can think of, because I'm going t totally make that slutty."  Hey there is nothing better than an Ariel costume when I can see areolas.  Snow White wearing a garter belt?  Leather Little Bo Peep? Poke-a-hantas? Justin Beiber.....sorry, I started daydreaming.  Seriously, some of the costumes are just ridiculous and in such a good way.  For guys...just be something funny. 

So there you have it.  The 4th doesn't even make the list.  Maybe if Ricky gets me really drunk Monday that'll change, but this is my list and I'm sticking to it.  Sorry, President's Day, Cinco de Mayo, Yom Kippur, Hannukah and Christmas.  If I have to buy presents, fast, honor George W. Bush, or drink Tequila, I'm passing. 

Phish Fans In Ithaca Terminal

I will be completely honest.  I've only heard about 20-30 minutes of Phish.  What I heard was like a record skipping on a bad tune.  It was basically extended versions of the worst Grateful Dead songs.  Let me point out that worst Grateful Dead songs encompasses all Grateful Dead songs.  So here's a brief description of the crew, most of who were together.

1st to arrive - Brand new baseball cap, curly hair, ripped t-shirt, cargo shorts falling off his ass.  He spoke on his cell the entire time he waited for his friends.  He had some luggage which consisted of a Coleman cooler, with a pair of shorts and a tee shirt tied to it with a bungee cord and a backpack.  He looked as though clean water had not met his body in a few days.

2nd to arrive.  Steps off the bus and looks like Prince William if he was born with those fake redneck teeth and hair like Harpo Marx.  He wandered around looking for a bathroom and seemed to check the most illogical places, like between two vending machine that had about 10 inches between them  He was totally disheveled and was wearing jeans and flip pet peeve.

3rd and 4th to arrive.  An attractive young girl who looked like a cross between Squiggy Fromm and Carly Simon, but a little more wasted.  She seemed to ask questions she should have known the answers to, like "this isn't where the concert is, right."  Nope, you paid $200 to watch a concert in a bus depot.  The guy was dressed like it was 50 degrees out. Hooded sweathshirt hiding his white boy dreadlocks.  Just not bathing doesn't make them dreadlocks.

My personal favorite was the woman in her fifties, who was wearing a belly shirt and no shoes. She also had these shorts that were falling down which had a plastic spoon sticking out of the back pocket.  There was also a man, who had absolutely nothing going on.  He was a disaster and didn't stop eating.  First three slices of pizza, he left and got a sandwich and then left and got a bagel.  Then complained about his bus being delayed and asked if there was a place to get a bite to eat.

This guy wasn't a Phish  fan, but he topped my day.  After waiting in the terminal for almost three hours, I went outside and left my bag and drink inside.  I come back two minutes later and someone is sitting where I was. He then proceeded to bend his water bottle to make it make a noise.  I almost killed him.

Another non-Phishionado was the woman sitting across from me that took her shoes off and proceeded to rub lotion on her feet.  Now listen, I did the same thing a few hours earlier, but in a little more secluded place.  The bathroom!

I'm sure they were looking at me and saying, hey look at the chubby 40-year-old with the diet soda, let me know how that's been working.  Or maybe they wondered why have pimples like a 14 year old. Or why I'm wearing constantly checking my phone like a teenager girl texting about a Beiber sighting.

Then of course there was the end of my wait.  Right before I got off the bus.  I take my seat in the back, get comfortable and an absolutely adorable girl in her early 20's sits down right across from me.  Two seconds later another hottie sits in front of her.  So the two best looking people I've seen all day sit in my view and I'm on the wrong fucking bus.  Story of my life.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

18 Days Away From Home

Well, the long trip that lasted much longer than anticipated is over.  In some ways, I'm going to be happy to get back into my own routine and quite possibly be starting a new one this coming week.  In others, I will miss the interaction and living my life under someone else's direction.  The lazy afternoons speant napping, reading, watching some cooking show and having a light cocktail were nice.  There was no rush to my days and no worries.  In many ways it was a vacation although very few sites were seen and to be completely honest, I spent about 98% of the time I was here in the house, on the porch or on the back deck.  I wouldn't have had it any other way.  OK, maybe a few more movies, but the lure of the laptop was too great at times. 

Netflix, bill collectors and my mailman must all think I'm dead.  In some ways I am.  Maybe in a good way.  Eighteen days away from home, from normalcy.  Eighteen days and one person told me they missed me.  I've always made excuses for what holds me where I am and in these eighteen days I've come to realize that this is a facade i've created.  There's a whole world out there waiting to be seen.  Sure money would help, but I can honestly say, that if the right opportunity came about, I could pack up tomorrow, get in a car, bus plane and take off.  I don't think I'd look back.  This is not to say I do not appreciate those in my life, but I see them and I see myself, living this quietly empty existence.  I need more.

Spending days, weeks and months in a cycle of repeated behavior and worse of all, conversations.  When you spend time with a 98 year old woman and you hear less repeated stories than you do with people your own age it makes you wonder.  Is this what it's all about?  I don't have the answers.  I do have the questions.  I'm tired of trying to be the life of the party.  I want to sit back and watch the party.  I want to take it easy.  I would exchange fourteen hour crazy nights of debauchary for six hours with my feet in a lake with a few bottles of cabernet.  Sitting for hours waiting for that sun to set.  Early nights to bed,  maybe by a fire.  Waking at dawn to feel the wet ground and listen to the faint drips of water off the leaves.  It's amazing what you hear when you sit back and take it all in. 

Today I watched a spider toy with an ant.  It would attack and subdue the ant.  The any would then wander and then freeze.  Possibly paralyzed by the spider's venom.  This went on for about 20 minutes.  After a few minutes the ant would start to move again and the spider would pounce, once again subduing his victim.  Toying with him.  Giving him the false sense of freedom.  After about the fifth or sixth time.  The ant had wandered a little further away.  The spider went back to the web and then came back for what I assumed was the finale.  The spider creeped closer and closer and as he was about three inches away, the ant, came alive and sprinted towards a ledge.  In what seemed like a flash, the ant was gone and the spider sat, at the ledge, possibly hoping for the ant's return.  Soon after, i saw the ant on the floor.  The spider retreated into a hole in the wood and waited for another victim.  The ant was free to live another day.  Of onto a new journey.  One that would take it far from the tangled web.  Maybe there is another web in this ant's future, but I'd like to think this was his shot and he made it.  In many ways I feel like that ant.  I feel like I'm trapped in a web, but in my web, there is no spider.  It's a slow painless death.  It's monotony, routine and a lack of the new.  Talk is cheap and change is expensive.  I don't have the ability right now, but one day soon, I'll be that ant.  One day soon.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Sarah Palin: Playboy Centerfold Questionnaire

Someone said on my Facebook page that they wanted Super-Milf and Republican Dimwit Sarah Palin to pose nude in Playboy.  While the pictures of this cougaresque vixen would be appealing, I'd really like to see her answers to the centerfold questionnaire.  It may go something like this.

Turn Ons: People with sub par education, high powered rifles and bridges to nowhere.
Turn Offs: Facts, memorization and Matt Damon
Favorite Food: Whatever is in the boat.
Ambitions: To teach my kids responsibility, so they don't get trapped by the horrors of teen pregnancy.
Favorite Books:  Who has the time?
Favorite Movies: Into the Wild.  Great to see a man live off the land and succeed.
Pets:  Don't have one, but want to get one like the Herculoid's kid.  Dinosaurs are so cute.
People I Admire:  All the writers of the constitution, but Ringo is my favorite.
Favorite Song to Sing:  Amazing Race...because they came to Alaska once.
Good First Date Idea:  I love them wrapped in bacon.  Yummy!

Things That Make Me Happy From A-Z: A Rare Moment Of Complete Positivity

A lot of people think I'm bitter.  So to prove everyone wrong here is a list of all the things in my life that make me happy right now. 

A - Avocados.  I've eaten more in the last two months than in the last 40 years.  Love them!
B - Bachmann, Michelle.  Didn't think someone could give me and Michael Curtis more than Palin gave us.
C - Cooking.  I didn't do a lot of it, but at least I remembered I still kind of get how to do it.
D - Daydreaming.  I did a lot of it over the last two and half weeks and it's incredibly rejuvenating.
E - Everydays.  For seventeen days, there hasn't been Mondays or Fridays or Sundays.  Just Everydays.
F - Front Porch.  A cold drink, a magazine or newspaper and people watching.  I could do this forever.
G - Grandma.  My last grandparent reminded me that life is worth living to the fullest.  FUCK Tomorrow!
H - Ham.  Not that processed deli shit.  Sliced off the bone goodness.  Been a while and I liked it.
I - Ithaca.  One section is a bustling college town, but where I was, watching birds and trees sway is work.
J - Joking.  I miss being able to joke and have everyone around me get it.  Take that for what it's worth.
K - Kalamata (sp?) Olives.  Ate quite a this week.  I see more in my future.
L - Lounging Around.  Anything better than wearing your pajama pants all day long?  I think not.
M - Massadum (sp?).   My delicious curried pork dish with peanuts and other wonderful flavors.
N - Naps.  I can't sleep too well at night, but an afternoon nap is just what the doctor ordered.
O - Olfactory Senses. Something about being in the greenest city in America makes everything smell good.
P - Puns.  Don't get my father and I together for too long.  It gets silly.
Q - Quiet Nights. No neighbors, no police or fire engines.  Just the sound of deer sneaking in for a snack.
R - Restoring The Mind.  I needed a break from the Bubble.  Monotony and routine bread depression.
S - Solitude.  When it's a choice it's blissful.
T - Thoughts.  I did a lot of thinking about the future and my existence.  I need more!
U - Unemployment.  A horrible situation made wonderful, for at least three weeks by my family.
V - Variety.  Different foods, conversation and people.  The littlest things like sitting in the front or the back.
W - Wimbledon. Reminded me just how much I love to watch good tennis.
X - Xenophile.  I'm starting to realize I'm becoming more and more attracted to foreign customs and people.
Y - Youthfulness.  A mindset that my grandmother has that so many give up at half of her age.
Z - Zebras. In a world craving either black or white, it's a symbol of rebellion.  Sometimes a little bit of each makes for a thing of beauty.

Parenting 101: From Someone Who Isn't A Parent

Thankfully about seven people read this, so I'm not going to get too much shit for this.  I've spent almost three weeks at my father's house in Ithaca with he and my grandmother.  It's been a fun time and somewhat reflective time in my life.  Even though my grandmother is much older and my father is the person I've always known him to be, there are those little quirks that they both share that I've picked up on.  I'm sure there are some quirks he has that I have, but I find certain things are the exact opposite, which I doubt is a coincidence.  As the days have rolled by, I've thought about the lessons and the things we did that made me the  person I am today. Now not everything in my life has been positive and not every positive thing was gained by my parents teaching, but many of my inner values are from experiences in my life.  Here are some

I said this before, but when your child is of learning age, especially the mid-grade school years of 4th and 5th grade, I think every parent should buy they child a dictionary.  I know the Internet has everything, but a dictionary not only makes your child look it up, it makes sure they can spell the word on their own and very often gives alternate meaning that aren't online.  Not to mention, despite what you may thing, it takes much less time to look it up in a dictionary.

Probably the most important thing, whether you're a couple or a single parent is to eat dinner with your children and talk.  No TV!  Tell them of your day and listen to theirs.  Listen to their happiness, their sadness, their highs and their lows.  Tell them mostly about the good parts of your day while you eat.  Sure you can relay stories of down times, but keep them to a minimum.  Let them grow up with the hope that they can be happy.  My parents had financial difficulties all through my growing up and sure they argued, but rarely at the dinner table.  This was family time.  Don't rush through these meals either. 

Make sure they eat their dinner and not just the part they like.  Serve them a variety of things, not just what's easy.  Make them eat things like vegetables, but experiment to see what they like.  My parents were brutal about it and now I not only like a wide variety of food, but I appreciate them.  Make sure they understand the meal they have isn't to be taken for granted and that there are many kids who don't have food.  Ask them to imagine going to school without breakfast or having dinner the night before.  Listen to their answers.  And for the love of god, I can bread and cook chicken cutlets faster than any parent can heat those funny ones cut into shapes in the oven.  Oh you're microwaving're going to hell and your kids will be unhealthy.

Please for the love of god, stop buying all those damn DVD's.  They are not a substitute for human interaction and you'd be surprised how detrimental those things can be in the long run for them socially.  Elmo might teach a lesson about counting, but after the second or third time all they are getting is a puppet and rote memory.  They haven't learned anything. This not only hampers their learning, but I believe because of wonderful memory, many parents miss signs of possible learning disabilities, because they think watching The Wiggles eighty times in a month and being able to remember the words is a sign of genius.  Every time a kid says "bottle" parents think their kids are the next coming of Isaac Newton, when in reality, it's them who have been saying bottle 400 times a day for the last week.  Of course they are going to say bottle.  Why do you think in the 60's and 70's every kids first word was Mama?  It's not because they shot them out their vijayjay or because they breast fed them, it's because they hovered over them saying "say mama, mama, maaaamaaa" all day.  You put a kid in a room every day for the first six months of his life listening to Danzig and he's going to say Mother too.  It's not that he's building a rocket in his head.

Stop talking in baby voices after they stop being babies.  It's not only detrimental, but it also makes them feel you're mad at them when you speak in a grown up voice.  This is pretty cut and dry.  Not only is it not helping them, but it makes all the people who already know this factoid a little uncomfortable. Trust me parents, if you do this, when you put your kids to sleep, we all discuss it outside by the campfire.

When I grew up, I was a damn good athlete.  I was good at baseball, basketball, football, tennis and a lot of other sports.  You know how many youth leagues I was part of? NONE!  I was a great swimmer and diver.  You know how I learned?  By jumping in the water.  Sure I had swimming lessons, but that was only because they made us take a stupid test so we could swim in the deep end.  Anyone can teach their kid to swim or throw a ball, they just have to be there.  I gained a lot more from my mother and father saying "good job" than I would have from any coach.  Of course not everyone can teach a sport, but you can lay the groundwork.  Your kids will thank you.

If you're a parent who watches every mindless reality show and game show and you're kids see this, they will follow.  You'd be amazed at what kids learn just from observation.  If you smoke, they will most likely smoke.  If you drink and fall down, they will probably drink and fall down.  Don't try blaming it on genetics.  These are all choices.  Limit TV and computer time and play board games and go on simple trips (the zoo, museums, etc).  I remember when I was younger and we'd be on vacation.  My parents would take me to museums, famous locations or maybe some little town where something interesting happened.  If they didn't know they'd make sure we found out information about what we were seeing.  Everything when you're little is a learning experience.

If your kids are old enough, let them watch the news with you, especially when something historic is happening.  You might not like what's going on with gay marriage, but it's here to stay, so don't shun your children from it.  Some people didn't like the election of a black president, but they are going to learn about it anyway, so open their eyes to it.  There is violence and hostility and awful things in this world.  Not letting them see it will only make adjustments later more difficult.  There are pedophiles and killers in the world and chances are they aren't the gay people down the street or the ethnic couple. Chances are it's the quiet white kid who doesn't seem to like bugs very much.  Open your child's eyes to the good and the bad.

I could go on and on, but I'm going to end with this.  Don't assume your child is getting what they need in school to be intelligent.  They may get what they need to be successful, but is that enough?  I know a lot of people who are "successful" who are dumber than doorknobs.  Is that truly a success?  I have so many friends who are elementary school teacher and almost as many who are high school teachers.  They all tell me how smart their students are, they all tell me how well they did in their tests.  They tell me how their school did this and that on the state exams.  They brag about SAT scores.  It's wonderful to hear.  I also happen to know a few college professors and whether they teach at a community college or an Ivy league school, they all say the same thing.  Students today are less prepared and across the board less intelligent than ever before.  Many of them tell me that if it weren't for the institutions pushing the use of multiple choice exams, none of these kids would pass.  It's a truly sad commentary and honestly, I don't blame the teachers one bit.  They are told to make sure kids pass.  To make sure they pass regents and state exams and that they get a decent score on the SAT.  The one thing they aren't told is to make your kid intelligent.  That is entirely up to you as a parent and your children.  Teach them well and they will succeed.  I learned absolutely nothing in school from 9th-12th grade and almost nothing in college, but I can hold my own on almost any topic there is.  Other than quantum physics, marine biology and women.  I always get those three confused.

I know a parent or teacher will say "there goes Hopper, thinking he knows everything."  I don't know everything, but when I talk to kids today and they don't know anything, I pretty much know what to expect when I meet their parents.  Sadly, I'm always right.  Everything  about our inner workings starts and ends at home.  And let me be very clear.  It's not an easy job.  That's why the plan is for there to be two of you.