Saturday, December 31, 2011

New Year's Resolutions- Final Blog Of 2011

With the end of 2011 only hours away, I've decided to come up with some resolutions.  These aren't things I want to try and accomplish, these are things I need to accomplish.  All of these resolutions will be achieved. Period.

In the past year and a half, I'd lost about 55 lbs. I've probably gained about 10 of it back since October.  My goal is to get down to the weight I was when I first hurt my knee by the end of the year.  That's roughly another 20 lbs. 

I will become a little more active in finding a job (career) that suits me. I have been a little lax as of late and I need to find something soon.

I will address my sleeping problems and try and curtail my late night activities that add to the problems.

I will be a better listener.  I'm a great talker, but recently, I haven't always been the best listener.

I will treat myself, at least once a month to something I enjoy, such as a fine meal or something I might want.

I will try my hardest to see the good in every situation.  Something that has truly been a test the last few years.

Finally, I will look before I leap. Something I've never been very good at doing.

Au revoir 2011.

Best Songs Of 2011 - Bring The Abuse

Everyone knows my knack of getting up to the jukebox and playing Spice Girls and Hanson, but these are not those songs.  Are they better?  You be the judge.  Here are my top 21 songs of 2011.  I may have missed a few or maybe i just think your taste in music sucks.  Well here they are.   Some songs may be from 2010, but were released during this year.

21. Raise Your Glass - Pink
20. Good Man - Raphael Saadiq
19. Give Me Everything - Pitbull w/ Ne-Yo, Afroman and Nayer
18. Honey Bee - Blake Shelton
17. Price Tag - Jessie J f/ B.o.B
16. Stereo Hearts - Gym Class Heroes w/Adam Levine
15. Yonkers - Tyler, The Creator
14. Save The World - Swedish House Mafia
13. Sick Of You - Cake
12. A Thousand Years - Cristina Perri
11. Mean - Taylor Swift
10. Firework - Katie Perry
9. Stone Rollin - Raphael Saadiq
8. Lonely Boy - The Black Keys
7. Edge Of Glory - Lady Gaga
6. Knock Knock - Mac Miller
5. Video Games - Lana Del Rey
4. Rolling In The Deep - Adele
3. Nasty - Nas
2. Jar Of Hearts - Cristina Perri
1. Someone Like You - Adele

Don't roll your eyes at Adele being number one. The song might be on every other song on the radio, but it's still an incredible vocal display.  And yes, I think she is worthy of two in the top five.  Christina Perri's Jar of Hearts is a popular song to bash, but it's one of my faves, as is her song from one of the Twilight movies.  Nasty blows away any other rap song out there.  The lyrics are just sick.  Lana Del Rey has just come to my attention, but her voice is one of a kind.  Don't sleep on the new white rapper.  Everyone knows Donald Trump, but this song, which I heard last year is incredibly fun.  Had to get Gaga in here and Edge of Glory might have been played to death, but it's still a great song.  Lonely Boy isn't as good as last years Tighten Up, but it's still a great song.  Stone Rollin is one of two Raphael Saadiq songs.  Saadiq is one cool cat and his songs show it.  I love Katie Perry, because she's fun, but this song has a positive message and just speaks to me in a strange way.  Plus, it's fun to dance to.  If I had a daughter, I'd be proud if she looked up to Taylor Swift. Beautiful and talented, she is a force that will be around for a long time.  Cake is one of the best bands few people know about.  They arguably have more great songs in the last few years and they rarely get airplay.  Swedish House .  Mafia would have flown under my radar if it wasn't for the great video for this song.  Tyler, the Creator is sick!  This song has lyrics and a style that is like no other rapper ever.  I look forward to what's to come. Stereo Hearts made the cut, because of the mix of Adam Levine's great voice and the mix of the rap.  Jessie J brings a new style to the female rap game. She sounds like a combination of Rihanna and Natasha Bedingfield, which is a good thing.  Blake Shelton's Honey Bee is just a fun song. I think me seeing the video helped me like this song more, because the girl in it is drop dead gorgeous.  Give Me Everything is one of those songs that will be rocking the clubs for years to come.  I love Pink and she always brings it with a positive message.  Raise Your Glass is the perfect song to start the list, end this blog and later tonight....we'll all raise a glass to new beginnings!

Friday, December 30, 2011

2011: My Year In Review

2011, as have the last three years, has been a tumultuous ride, that for the most part has not been very enjoyable.  The parallels to 2009, arguably my worst year since my mother died, have been uncanny.  I have tried to see the light at the end of the tunnel, but it, as it always is, happens to be a train.  For the coming year, I go into it with a bright outlook, but I also know how these things lay out.  Just because the Calendar on the wall changes, doesn't mean the wall changes.  It's just a shinier, newer version of the same old shit.  What I need is to paint that wall.  To make it at least appear different.  We'll see.  You never know, maybe this is my year.

January came in with some harsh weather and caused my car to die. Not bad, for a $1000 investment, in which I put exactly $400 into it in two years.  $700 a year for a solid, reliable car?  Not bad.  January was going on like all others.  Playoff football combined with drunken debauchery and an awful New York Jets run that actually frightened me.  God forbid they ever win a Super Bowl, we'll never hear the end of it.  Things at work also started to get testy and in retrospect a lot of it had to do with my inability to stay home at night during this month.  While I don't think my work suffered, my life was starting to spin out of control and by the end of the month, things were not good.

February brought on the Super Bowl and my final day at my regular job.  I needed a change and while I couldn't afford it, my stress levels were at a high, as were my boss and good friends.  We made a clean split and while their was some awkwardness for quite a while, the true friendship came around and things are back to normal. In some ways, I think it was good and bad for both of us, but in the end necessary for our friendship to continue.  That will always champion a paycheck to me.

By mid-March I was nearly broke.  March Madness took it's toll as I was out, racking up credit card debt day by day.  The games, as always were incredible and I wouldn't miss it for the world (thank you Ronnie Milsap).  March was a quiet month in other senses.  My after school program was pretty much my only other outlet.  March was the month I started to cut back and withdraw quite a bit.

April brought baseball and saw me at home most nights.  I'd make my weekend appearance, but the times were tough and I actually started to get a little worried about the future.  The paychecks from the school kept me going.  I also got a job working with an old friend I hadn't seen in twenty years.  The work was a little ore physical than I was able to do, but I pushed forward.  I only worked a few days a week and the hours were crazy.  My hours are crazy, but this was nuts, because I didn't know if I was working five hours or nine.  That for me was rough, because the pay, for the most part was the same.

May was an odd month. I stopped working at the job for physical reasons.  I could barely walk when I got home and I developed a severe case of tendinitis, which caused me to almost cancel my tennis classes.  Luckily it was my left elbow.  May also saw me walk home one day over four miles,  The most I'd walked at one time since I walked seven, during a drunken stupor with a bunch of friends, nearly 15 years ago.  May also saw me go through an odd period.  I was nearly broke, but I donated tons of money (tons in relation to what I had). I just felt like I was lucky, despite not really having anything.  Towards the end of the month, I realized I may have made a mistake being generous at that time. Nobody looked down from above and smiled.  They never do.

June, I bit the bullet and went on unemployment.  I didn't want to, because I didn't think it was necessary, but I was behind on my bills and needed to take action.  Things had gotten really bad and it had to be done.  I also got a call from my father explaining he had to go to California for a funeral and to visit two sick friends.  He said his sister was to come up and watch my grandmother, but she backed out so he looked into a care worker coming in a taking care of her.  He suggested that I come up and he would pay me part of what she was to be paid for my assistance.  I immediately agreed and was off for a week in Ithaca.  The week turned into eighteen days and they were the best eighteen of the year up until that point.  I learned things about her I never knew and I bonded greatly with her and my father.  Not that we weren't close, but it changed things. It was a special time.  I also got to write blogs again and this was very important to me.  Five months of nothing was torture.  I needed this outlet.  During my stay, I read on Facebook about one of my friends running a lemonade stand and donating all the money to Alex's Lemonade Stand Fund. I couldn't be there, so I went online and donated.  The story of my friend's daughter's generosity of the time and money, was beautiful.  It's things like that which give me hope in the future.

July came in with a pocketful of some money and my birthday.  I partied it up, with baseball games and late nights.  I ended up in restaurants at 6am and was living life like there was not tomorrow,  Problem was I had no job and the money started to go quickly.  Towards the end of the month, i really had to pick and choose when I went out. Things got a little crazy in July. 

August came and started out with my brother offering to buy me a computer.  I said I'd pay him back and I will, but he was more concerned with me having one and paid for it up front.  I've done a lot in the past for my brother when it comes to little monetary things, but this was a very generous offer.  I was craving a computer and it was great to have one of my own.  I had gone an astonishing 20 months without one at home.  Early in the month I ran into someone and we started a bit of a relationship.  Out of respect to her, I'll leave all the details out, but lets just say, it was brief, but very real and very special.  I hope regardless of what happens we'll remain good friends.  I'll leave it at that. 

In September my life was completely out of control.  My drinking got to the point where I did things and said things I'd never do sober or even drunk in the past. I became a complete asshole, for lack of a better word, and things that normally would never have bothered me. I became jealous, obsessive and angry.  My mood affective relationships, friendships and everything about me.  It was an ugly time and I decided to stop drinking.  The halt lasted fully only five weeks and then down to once a week for two weeks and twice ended week 8.  I then got back into a somewhat unfortunate routine which wasn't too bad, but sleeping problems combined with a lack of appetite turned some nights into a shit show.  September also saw the collapse of my Boston Red Sox at a time when I needed some silly goodness in my life.  The night they lost was especially tough due to extenuating circumstances.  September also saw me walk away from a few friendships. For this, in many ways I'm happy.  I see and hear that the downward spiral has continued and I don't want to go back to that.  I'm content where I am.  Once again, I'll leave it at that.

In October a friend who was close to me lost her best friend.  I tried to be there for her and I think I was at times, but I failed in others.  I can only do what I know how to and sometimes that's not what the person needs.  I think for the most part I was, but who knows.  I felt for her then and I feel for her now.  Anyone who has lost that special person in your, knows how much more difficult it is this time of year.  Personally, I was back to feeling good about myself.  I had my after school program start up and I was thrilled.  Those kids are my lifeline.  They are the ones that bring me happiness and I think for the most part I return the favor.  There is something about a smiling child that makes you warm up, no matter how down you may be.  October started poorly, but ended pretty well.

November was incredibly warm.  Shorts and tee shirts didn't even get odd looks this year.  I had a wonderful Facebook conversation with an old friend who put friendship, true friendship into perspective and it gave me a sense, I was on the right track and my decision to let the riff raff fall by the wayside was the right thing to do.  November also brought on the epic emergence of Tim Tebow.  This Bible-thumping rebel rouser brought hope back to my Denver Broncos.  A hope that was lost the last five seasons.  He has made going out on Sundays fun again. Hope he has one more win in him to make it to the playoffs.  November also brought on a special Thanksgiving.  I won't go into details, because I do keep some things secret, believe it or not.  Let's just say the people surrounding the table were together again and it was special.  Very Special!

December started off so pleasant and then the news that a friend had died.  The wonderful and beautiful mother of my old boss and his two great kids had lost her battle with cancer.  Whenever another close to me dies of cancer, or someone who is close to the ones I love, it hits home.  With emotions I can't explain other to say it's like partly going through the pain of my mother's death again.  I took this one especially hard, because she was a great mom (and I don't say that often).  She was a special person and she was way too young.  She was the rock of the family, as all great mothers are.  I didn't see her often, but she will be greatly missed.  I also had one of the better conversations I've had all year with two people.  One was a great friend who I spent the day with and found out things about him I never knew.  It gave me a new perspective on his life and my feeling about him and his youth.  We'll always be friends, no matter what, but this changed things and for the better.  The other was a phone conversation where someone challenged me.  I was given nearly forty days to accomplish something and to be completely honest, I've only started and barely.  Sure I can blame being busy and away, but I now have twenty days and times a ticking.

The new year is upon us and I'm going in with an open mind.  I'd love to share this year with someone.  I miss that.  I would love to get a cat, but I have to really think about if it's fair to the animal.  My apartment is so small for me, I can't imagine a little kitten not being able to run freely. 

As I wrote in another blog, 2011 was the year of the woman and three women played a huge part in my life this year.  My new friend, who if only briefly, brought on much happiness.  My old friend who passed away and reminded me of how much I miss my mother.  Last but, definitely not least was my grandmother, who reminded me to enjoy life.  To enjoy the shade of a tree or a the crash of a wave.  She reminded me that life is too short (coming from a 98 year old) to waste time worrying about little things.  Today, she and my father dropped me off at the Ithaca bus terminal at 9:20.  In 55 minutes she was going to be prepped for a small operation.  She came through it fine and was back home this afternoon, but one thing she said stuck out to me.  At about 8:55, she said "I'm very upset I have to do this thing today."  She hadn't said one negative thing about it in the week I was there, so I was concerned.  She looked up and said, "I'm upset, because I don't understand why it matters if I can't have a cup of coffee before it."  When the biggest concern on you mind is not being able to have that first cup...that is the way we can only hope to live our lives!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Another Week In Ithaca

Last Friday I mentioned on Facebook how little I enjoyed the bus ride up here. I left 50 degree weather to enter into a 26 degree night. The cold doesn't bother me, it's the frigid dankness.  The air always has that feel to it. The surrounding lakes give that vibe that it's always two seconds away from rain or snow.  The air at times feels even heavy.  That being said, this place is usually a time for me to relax and recharge the batteries. This time around, it was not to be.

My stay was affected by a serious lack of sleep.  Between night time sleep and naps, I was able to muster about 20 hours while her, plus whatever I get tonight.  I have my alarm set for 5 hours from now, but I'm not even tired.  It's taken it's toll and I do feel a little run down.

Thanfully, I was able to recharge my good eating battery.  The trip started out with a thid, as my father had leftovers of the pot roast he made. Not that he made it poorly, but pot roast is one of my least favorite foods.  This however was followed by ravioli puttanesca, roasted duck, quiche, spiral ham, butter sauteed scallops, shrimp and pasta and a variety of gourmet cheese, not to mention some delicious sides.  The food was one of the highlights of the trip, as it always is.

Seeing my grandmother was the best.  She wasn't feeling too well for a part of the trip and she's actually having surgery in a few hours.  Minor they say, but at 98, we can only hope for the best.  I was going to offer to stay, but to offer might give her the impression it was more serious than it is and she is in a solid frame of mind.  She told funny stories, as usual, and some multiple times.  She made me realize that I definitely take life too seriously, as she always does, but it's hard when there is nobody around to enforce it.  She can't figure out why I don't have a girlfriend, but then again, she only has to deal with me a few hours a day.  She makes me feel special and tonight, as I was taking off her nail polish, she said "if that's the last thing I remember, at least I'll remember I was with you."  Don't think you can have a better compliment.  She's doesn't have much time left, I don't think, but I'm gonna make sure to talk to her whenever I can.  She's 99 on Groundhog's Day and in some ways, you have to imagine, her life resembles the movie.

I connected briefly with old friends, important friends and new friends while I was away.  I spoke with my brother about his two years later honeymoon and things are going well. I saw my cousin and her daughters. Somewhat sad that they don't really know me, because they really seem like great kids, but that's the life I've chosen. I'm glad my father and grandmother have them and their family.  Family has always been important to me, but immediate family only.  It's the way I live.  I can't be caught up in the politics of cousins, aunts and uncles.  I hear the horror stories of other families and I've seen it in my own.  I'll pass.

I'm getting on a bis in five and a half hours and I'm looking forward to the future.  I want to try and connect with a new friend, connect with an old friend and keep those important to me close in 2012.  I'm making my inner circle much smaller in this coming year and it's to protect me.  I've been hurt a lot over the last two plus years and I don't intend on letting it happen again.  I want to find someone who I can have fun with and care for.  I want the same in return.  I'm not looking for anything else, no delusions of grandeur, not white picket fence and 2.2 kids.  I just want to be happy.  It's always been the little things that do that for me and I don't think that will change.

On Christmas morning, I was messaging back and forth with a woman I think is absolutely wonderful.  She's sexy, hilarious and smart.  She's sincere and she's caring. She was going through her own things, but seemed more concerned with saying hi.  I couldn't have appreciated it more and it meant a lot.  I sent a lot of messages out to long time friends that weren't returned.  I won't lie it hurt.  I did forget some people, some even important peope myself and i feel terrible. They know i care, but I still feel bad.

I'm getting on a bus in a few hours and i'm thinking about new beginnings.  I'm thinking about making new friends, solidifying the friendships I have and keeping those who I can't feel comfortable with at bay.  At least on an emotional level.  I'm going to make resolutions this year and I'm going to do my best to achieve them.  I'm going to try and be a better person and I hope in doing so, I earn enough respect that others will treat me better.  I can try and I can hope.  I have to remember, I can only control my own actions and feelings.  This is something I need to always keep in mind.  My inability to understand this hgs always been my downfall.  Not this year.  At least for now.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Ten Things I'm Thinking About Right Now: Holiday Version

I am already going to hell. 

1. I haven't heard one Kwanzaa song yet.

2.  Hanging out with a 98-year-old telling past Christmas stories must be like hanging out with me on a Saturday night. You're guaranteed to hear the same story multiple times and with different outcomes.  Plus, I like to doze off mid thought.

3.  Can you imagine any Jewish person during the high holy days going into a store and saying "How much does the CHALLAH COST?"  I apologize to my mother for that one.

4.  How did Jesus become Santa, his disciples become Reindeer and Pontius Pilate become the Grinch?

5.  I have never seen a menorah tied to the roof of a car.

6.  Whenever I see girls dressed really slutty right after Christmas, it always makes me think what their father's were thinking while they were opening presents.

7.  You ever notice how much joy drunk adults get by tackling a snowman?  Kinda fucked up being they know kids made it.

8.  I think the most epic moment of anyone's life would be to wake up from a one night stand and realize you're at some strangers house and it's Christmas morning and their whole family is there.

9.  Christmas morning when you're in a relationship is great, because you know if you got the right gift, you're getting great sex.  Then you spend the entire day eating and drinking and fall asleep.  And the hundreds of dollars you spent went to waste, because your girlfriend or boyfriend is mad at you.

10.  If Jesus really hated Jews, wouldn't he blow out the candles for his birthday (and laugh).

Things I Miss

I've had a serious problem sleeping this holiday season. Normally when I come to my father's house I sleep much better than at home. Not this trip. I've been here since 8pm Friday.  At the moment, I've been here for 81 hours.  I've slept for a total of nine hours.  I am feeling the stress of no sleep and I'm not happy. It's affecting my mood.  My mood has affected others.  Some of have turned that mood around at times, some haven't been there for me. It's the holidays, they might have been busy. 

Coming up Ithaca it made me think of little things I miss dearly.  Some of the things, I miss because I'm not here, some I miss because I am and some, well, I've been missing for some time now.  Living along has it's perks, but the number one thing I miss is having breakfast with someone.  More than anything, I miss waking up earlier than whoever I'm with and making them breakfast in bed.  What can be better, than waking up, putting on a pot of coffee, waiting for that call from the bedroom and telling that special someone to relax.  Coming up a few minutes later with breakfast and some coffee.  It doesn't have to be fancy.  I love eating with someone else, but I love sitting while someone else enjoys the simple start to their day. 

I miss the feeling of a house.  My apartment is so small, there isn't the luxury of going into another room.  Of having breakfast in the kitchen and dinner in the dining room. Of watching TV in the living room or in the bedroom. I miss sitting on a porch, a terrace or a deck, sipping a nice cocktail while the sun sets.  I miss watching the snowfall on the cars.  I miss being able to have people over.  Being alone sucks in that way.

I miss playing sports.  My knees are so weak these days, I can barely stand for more than two hours at a time. Earlier this year, my knees and tendinitis in my elbow cost me a job.  The job I still have takes it's toll, even though it's low impact.   I have lost weight and I walk much more than I used to, but it the pain is brutal.  I long for the days after school, playing basketball til the sun went down, playing softball or football every Sunday.  People who have only known me in the last 15 years don't realize that I was actually a pretty good athlete. It kills me that I've lost that part of my life.  I'd give up pretty much anything good in my life to have that ability back. 

I miss spending the holidays with someone who matters to me romantically.  Ironically, I talked, texted or e-mailed almost every person I've ever spent a holiday with.   I did talk, talk and e-mail others, some of who I could see myself with, but it is different.  Laying down next that person Christmas Eve or waking up Christmas morning next to that person.   That's what I miss.  I miss being a part of their family and they of mine.  I miss that feeling so much. 

Obviously, I miss my mom.  I miss the people I've lost through death, locales or just lost touch with.  I miss so many things.  I miss waking up every morning happy.  I miss feeling comfortable about where I am. I miss the feeling of security, of calm.  Some of the situation I'm in is my fault, some of it is chance and much of it is bad luck or bad timing.  I have confidence that eventually things will turn around. Like a cat, I'll land on my feet.  I just hope I have a few of my nine lives left.

Monday, December 26, 2011

My Top Ten Meals Of 2011

Anyone that knows me, knows I love to eat and I am very critical of most places.  I grew up eating things like moussaka or paella every couple of weeks.  It was more likely we'd have lamb burgers with tzastiki sauce than a regular hamburger.  I can count the times a year we had pizza for dinner on one hand.  Chinese every other Friday, maybe.  Sushi once a week.  When I was younger, I had escargot at least once a week. Then we moved to Westchester and the level of food dropped significantly when dining out, but it only enhanced dining in.  My mother would make things like duck, rabbit or squab.  Sure we had boring things like breaded cutlets, spaghetti and roasts, but those seemed like oddities.  We always ate well and it changed me. 

One thing that has always been instilled in me, regardless if I'm dining in a top notch restaurant or grabbing pub grub.  The care it's made with an the company you dine with makes all the difference.  I've eaten a perfectly cooked porterhouse with someone who complained about the service (which was perfect) so much it completely ruined the meal.  I've also eaten a meal with friends were nearly everything had to be taken back, but loved it, because in the end, it was done right and I enjoyed the extended time to enjoy myself.  Most times, service means absolutely nothing to me, as long as my food isn't brought to me cold.  To me it's the experience.  To be honest, 2011 was a pretty boring year for me as far as meals are concerned, but here are my top ten.

10. An Irish Breakfast from the Irish Coffee Shop after a night of boozing.  Black and white pudding with anything makes my day.  The company was also drunk and it was a funny night.  Thankfully I wasn't driving that night.  That meal takes the drunk away...fast!

9.  My bacon bleu cheese burger at Piper's Kilt.  There is no burger better.  You can argue til you're blue in the face. I have this maybe once a week now.  I alternate with the nearly as good Eastchester burger, but usually stick with this.  Honestly, doesn't matter who I'm with.

8. Chorizo Burrito from Burrito Poblano.  I love their chili relleno, their chicken mole, their nachos and some of their other traditional Mexican dishes, but the simple chorizo burrito is my favorite.  I used to get this every Monday until my car broke down.  Now it's maybe once a month, but it's one I look forward to.

7. Chinese Wednesdays.  Hanging out with a friend we started a little tradition of having Chinese food on Wednesdays. Of course the company was the key, but how do you go wrong with boneless ribs w/ extra sauce, dumplings, fried wontons and mu shu pork?  I don't have the meal with my friend anymore, but we both still enjoy the meal and discuss it and the wonders of Chinese Wednesday.

6.  Cooking class meal with the same friend that number one was spent with.  A meat class.  That's right, meat.  Stuffed rice balls, delicate but huge meatballs, lamb chops, a pork dish and the best was the finale, a smoked sea salted strip steak with fingerling potato hash.  Ended with a peanut butter panna cotta.  We learned something and ate well.

5. This is an odd one, but this became a go-to meal for me on nights I wanted something big, but didn't want to cook or order out.  I'd take a half a loaf of bastone bread, put on a little mayo.  Then top with sliced avocado, tomatoes, red onion, shredded lettuce, a splash of balsamic vinaigrette and presto, somewhat healthy sandwich.

4.  Sushi/first date that went very well.  I let her order everything and we started off with a yellowfin dish with jalapenos that was so nice.  Then we did an assortment where we had literally tons of it, but finished off with the best for last.  My first time having uni.  Perfect night.  Special night too.

3. Thanksgiving - OK so the deep fried turkey wasn't perfect, but the sides and everything else were spot on.  MY brother did all the cooking with his wife and they, myself and my dad and grandma were all together for the first time in two years.  Perfect holiday.

2. Dinner with my father at a Thai restaurant in Ithaca.  I started off with a seafood soup and finished it off with a delicious duck dish.  Obviously the company was key, but it was a quiet night after a hectic few weeks.  A delicious wine also did the trick.

1. A lunch at a restaurant called Frankie's 457 in Brooklyn.  I went with a friend and we drank beers, had a charcuterie plate to start and then had one very good and one absolutely incredible meal.  He had the pork braciole with marinara sauce and I had a braised lamb with tarragon, crushed tomatoes and olive oil over papardelle pasta that was so silky it melted in your mouth.

As you can see, it's not always the quality of the meal.  A basic salad sandwich is my number 5 over a meat class.  A thanksgiving dinner over sushi.  I hope next year I can have some more adventurous wining and dining, but I also hope it's with people I care about.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas Morning

Once again, my good friend Insomnia has grabbed hold.  I was texting a friend and I explained my intentions of going to sleep.  I wished her a Merry Christmas and tried to sleep.  After about twenty minutes, I dozed off, only to wake up two hours later. I am now wide awake, a second night of less than three hours of sleep.  I started thinking about my childhood and the anticipation of Christmas morning. 

I was never one of those kids who couldn't sleep or went right to bed, fearing Santa wouldn't stop by.  Usually the presents were under the tree before hand and my curious self would run over a light inventory of the packages marked for me.  Of course, Mom and Dad would inevitably have hidden on or two of the better items.  I remember as a young boy always spotting the Nerf football that was a Christmas staple.  This gift was usually one needed out of necessity, as the previous years looked like a pit bulls chew toy.  The funny thing is I can't remember any gifts I've received that well, but remember many that I gave.

I remember certain gifts that past girlfriends gave me, but I think I usually remembered the thanks I received from them the evening after, more than the gifts themselves.  I remember getting video games as a teenager, but remember the look on my brother's face, knowing the gift was basically his too.  I also remember buying him a certain game, which at the time was ridiculously expensive (even by today's standards).  I remember getting my parents a surround sound stereo, which my father still has.  I always remember getting clothes and as a child rolling my eyes, but then appreciating them more and more as I got older.  I seem to remember receiving a lumberjack jacket and being thrilled.  Back then, it was the style.

I remember the silly guido years of high school, when I (not a guido) gave someone a diamond and ruby tennis bracelet.  What an atrocious gift looking back on it.  I remember giving someone a diamond ring, with a stone so small, I'm still not sure it was there.  I remember giving my mother a ring, that she absolutely adored.  Nobody else would have thought twice about this ring, but my mother's taste was always very eclectic.  I remember shopping for "sexy" panties for a girlfriend when I was about 22.  Talk about awkward for a kid that age, but apparently I done right.  I remember buying someone a DVD of a Chuck Norris movie and them loving it as much as anything else I got them. 

Christmas morning was always a little bit of a chore.  Waking early, crust in my eyes.  In my late 20's; usually consisting of a hangover.  Hot coffee, bathrobe and slippers, sitting waiting for my yearly page a day calendar.  Christmas always had it's routine, but there were of course surprises.   Usually something my parents said they wouldn't get me or my brother, but of course had already purchased.

When I think back, the thing I liked the most about Christmas was getting my my family or the love of my life at the time, that one gift, that one special gift, that regardless of cost, was thoughtful.  Sometimes it was the most expensive gift, but many times, normally in fact, it wasn't.  It was never about me.  Most would laugh at the gift that stands out to me the most over the last forty one years.  It was given to me by my brother and he bought it with his own money.  I don't know how old he was, or I, but I remember unwrapping a frame.  I turned it over and it was a picture from a scene in The Little Mermaid. Most would think a guy in his twenties would  laugh and think it was a joke.  I treasured it and I still have it today. 

Christmas has always been about doing for others.  Before I started this blog, I made a donation to a charity that supplies food to those in need.  My favorite part of Christmas was always after the presents were open.  We'd sit around the table, coffee, juice, bagels and omelets with slices of crisp bacon.  It was just a precursor to what was to come.  I can't imagine Christmas without all the wonderful meals attached to the holiday.  I don't want to imagine those who can not share in that.  Christmas has always been about what you can do for others.  My father, brother and I agree not to waste money on "stuff" anymore.  Sure if there is something special, we will get it, but we aren't into materialistic things (anyone who has ever seen my wardrobe knows this).  I want others to have the necessities this time of year.  I want another family's child, to experience a little of what I received.  That to me is what Christmas is all about. 

Note:  I've chosen City Harvest for my donation.  They have suggested amounts to donate and describe what they can do with that money, but I donate throughout the year, with smaller donations.  Of all the charities  I've researched this one seems to be the most effective and efficient. Give it a thought.  Someone else will be fed a meal because of you.  How wonderful is that?

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Can't Sleep - A Christmas Carol

14 hours ago I got on a bus to come see my father and grandmother. The trip was long and tedious.  I dozed very briefly, but for the most part I entertained myself by texting and looking over the seat in front of me as a guy watched Mad Men on his laptop.  I've never seen Mad Men before but from what I gather, the entire show is about smoking, drinking and extramarital affairs.  Definitely not for me.

I finally arrived at my father's and settled in with some dinner.   Ironically, my father had made pot roast.  I know I am the only American alive that feels this way, but I can't stand pot roast.  Never have and never will.  Cooking a shitty piece of meat for a long time does make it tender, but it still makes it shitty.  Sorry Dad.  Looking forward to some seafood tonight and duck for Christmas dinner.

I'm a little stressed, because Christmas just isn't what it used to be.  We don't even exchange gifts anymore.  I thought, or should I say I had hoped to share some Christmas cheer with someone, but that wasn't to be.  I also had hoped to get together with a friend, but that too failed, but we'll connect after the new year.  I also had some traditions snapped, much to my dismay.

I guess it could be worse.  One Christmas a few years ago I stayed home.  I was sick as a dog and spent the entire day in bed.  My Christmas dinner consisted of a bagel with cream cheese.  Not one of the finer holidays.

It's tough emotionally this time of year.  I know I miss my mother more and more during these times.  I have good friends who have lost people close to them this year and I feel their pain during these days of supposed joy.  I will raise a glass to them and the one's they lost.  I will be saddened for those I can't be with,but I will enjoy those who I can.  For you never know when you'll be without them.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Christmas Vacation To-Do List

I was going to write a blog about the best movies made in the past two years, but being that I only watch movies on DVD (hate going to the theater), my list is too short.  I do have four movies at home which I was told are good, but haven't had the patience to watch them.'  That coupled with the fact that I only rated four movies with five stars in the past year, makes it more difficult.  Hands down the best movie I've seen made in the last two years was Winter's Bone.  We'll see if it holds up when I get around to this. 

So instead, I am going to write a to-do list for the next 14 days.  Many of the things are simple and some are almost guaranteed without me trying, but after a discussion with someone a week ago, I think a list is an important thing to make.  So here it goes, in no particular order.

1. Enjoy my holiday without the stress that has been bothering me.  I hope not, but this may be my grandmother's last Christmas.  At 98, you have to "start" thinking about these things.  I want to savor the moments of this holiday with her and my father.

2. Truly reflect on this year and how it's affected me in every way.  I need to do some serious soul searching before the new year.

3.  Find the time to speak to an old friend.  We've chatted online, but it's not the same.  Been almost two years since we've spoken.  There is no excuse on my part.

4.  Start working on my project.  I have until January 20th and it's not going to fix itself.

5.  Decide what is important to me.  I spend a lot of time and energy arguing, debating and thinking about things that in the long run aren't important.  I have to really prioritize and decide what is truly important.

6.  Treat myself to a nice meal.

7.  Try to forgive some and forget others.  Move forward and don't look back.  Make amends with some and cut some loose.  Try and figure out where people belong in my life and where I belong in theirs.

8.  Get focused on the future, but don't think too far ahead.

9.  Start writing something substantial.  Maybe a little project a friend and I are thinking of doing.  Maybe something on my own.  I've been talking about this for years.  I write every day.  Let's get some thoughts together and go.

10.  Think. Breath. Smile.

The Best Days of 2011

Let me start off by saying that the last two, maybe three years have not been my finest.  I've had some good times and I've had some bad, but for the most part my life has been in disarray.  I've made mistakes and I've made some good choices.  I've been hurt and I've hurt others.  I have trusted those I shouldn't have and forgot about some I should have paid more attention to.  I've lost people and have friends who have lost loved ones.  I've been angry and I've been thrilled.  I've run the gamut of emotions almost on a daily basis and most of you have read all about it.  I have been an open book since "finding" Facebook and part of my thinks that must change.  There are some who love being a topic or a mention in my blog, but there are others who wish to remain anonymous.  I really need to find an outlet for a lot of my frustration and boredom.  I also need to find a source for more happiness.  All that being said, I've had some good times.  Obviously, I'm not going to speak of some things that are too personal, but I will mention some days that truly stood out for me.

In mid February, I rented a car and drove to my father's house.  I had a lot on my mind at the time and really needed a break from home.  It was while driving, listening to music and just taking in the scenery that I really felt like I need to make changes in my life.  Some have been made and I feel better about.  Some I've fallen a little short on.  It's a tough rode, but that day was smooth sailing.

One of the most personally productive days happened back in August, when I woke up and grabbed a pen and a pad of paper and hand wrote a story, which later became my longest blog ever.  It was called God's Test.  I wrote it literally seconds after I woke up and it took over two hours and was well over twenty pages.  It was one of the most cathartic things I've ever done.  It didn't matter that at the time, nobody would read it, because I wrote it, as many are, for me.  I just looked back at my life and thought about the fact that maybe all of this is a test.  I never really considered the possibility of a higher power, but posed the question as if there was.   I don't know why, but at the time, it was like a weight off my shoulders.  Maybe I should go back and read it myself and see if any of it makes sense eight months later.

In June, my father asked me if I would be able to come up to Ithaca and care for my grandmother.  I wasn't working, so of course I obliged.  I would have anyway, but this wasn't even an inconvenience.  I got there and as the days went on, I learned things about my grandmother I had never known.  We connected in a way we never had in 41 years.  It was a special time.  One afternoon we sat in the kitchen and talked and she gave me some advice, told me some anecdotes and we laughed.  She went in for a nap and I grabbed a cold beer and sat on the porch.  The somewhat sunny day turned dark and the wind started to blow.  It then began to rain in sheets I have only seen a few times in my life.  There was no thunder, no lightning, just the sound of the rain.  It was one of the most perfect days I've had in a while.  It was as if her sage words shielded me from the storm.

A recent wonderful day was spent with a friend in the city.  A start in Brooklyn, with some delicious food that was, correction, is the best meal I've had this year.  Then off to a cooking class where we had more delicious dishes.  It was a great day, sans the weather, but I felt like I was making up for lost time.  Seeing Brooklyn, eating great food and being with great company. I greatly appreciated being invited.

The best day was a simple day.  A day spent watching TV, laughing and eating pizza.  On this day the company was made all the difference.  It was a lazy Sunday afternoon in August.  It wasn't too hot and the door was open.  It was just one of those days.  Started with lounging in bed.  Some breakfast and then we plopped down on the couch.  We spoke about serious things, we spoke about the senseless.  We watched silly television shows and we played games on our phones.  It was an odd day for many reasons, which I will keep to myself, but let's just say, there was something important.  Something in me changed that day.  I can't say it's been all for the better, but it reminded me of how to feel.  I hadn't felt the way I did that day in quite some time and it just meant a lot.  Recently I had a chat on the phone that reminded me of that day.  It made my mood change instantly.  It's hard to hold on to those moments and sometimes I try to hold on too tight.

The best days of the last ten years have been a day off in Portsmouth, NH when I took a break from the crowd and stood in the drizzle and spoke with my parents on a pay phone for almost an hour.  My mom was sick and while it pained me to leave that summer, I knew I had to.  Another was a day where me and a few others just sat on a dock and watched the sunset.  Or the night I laid under the stars talking to a friend.  Of course there was the day before my mother died.  We talked and she apologized for something that had happened maybe 25 years before.  She remembered every detail.  Or the evening my father and I sat and listened to Ewan MacColl and Buddy Guy, sipping Johnny Walker Blue and eating cheese.  It's days like these that matter and that I store away for times like this.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

A Thought About Hannukah

Since my mom passed away, I haven't really celebrated Hannukah.  When she was alive, we lit the menorah, spun the dreidel and we definitely had latkes with our meal.  Hannukah isn't known for it's meals, but my mother would always make a brisket at some point.  We always had matzo in the house, but then again, we did most of the year.  When I was little I would receive presents every night, but as I got older, I'd usually just get one big present.  I must say, getting little presents eight nights in a row was pretty awesome as a kid.  While I've never been religious, I do miss the festival of lights. 

One thing dawned on me recently while discussing the holiday time of year.  All the years I was alive, Christmas trees and wreaths adorned many homes and businesses, but menorah's and dreidels were few and far between.  Do you know what?  Nobody commented.  There wasn't a bunch of people protesting or complaining about their absence.  I don't know if it's because Jews keep their religion where it is supposed to be (internal) or some other reason, but there was never any hoopla regarding it.  The whole keep Christ in Christmas thing is monotonous.  Every year people get their panties in a bunch over this.  The ironic thing is it's Christians who have taken Christ out of Christmas by making it a mockery of it's true meaning.  I honestly don't know any Jews who get offended by someone wishing them a Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays.  Yet, you say Happy Holidays to some and they look at you with a scowl and make a point to let you know they celebrate Christmas.  It's become almost a knee jerk reaction to complain for some when someone wishes them well. 

We are in the midst of Hannukah and when people wish me a Happy Hannukah, it's almost always in jest.  I'd like to think it's because they know my lack of religious belief and not because they find the tradition comical.  I would like to believe that everyone respects all religions, but I know that isn't the case.  I won't be lighting a menorah tonight.  I won't spin a dreidel.  I won't eat latkes or rugelach  (I hope I do, but I doubt it).  I will however think about my childhood and my mother.  The pride she took in the holiday and the fun we had. I will probably run into twenty people who will wish me a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays.  I probably won't run into more than one or two who will wish me a Happy Hannukah. I'm OK with that.  I know they mean well and it's not worth my energy to be offended by someones kind words.  It shouldn't for anyone this time of year.  Happy Holidays works for me.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Quickie Blog: Why I Do It

Last Friday I was giving two kids tennis lessons.  It was about halfway through the class and the little girl in the class was acting up.  She was being silly and wasn't paying attention and I was getting a little frustrated.  She's an adorable little girl, but she loves to act out.  At one point we were picking up tennis balls and she walked over to me and asked me if I had seen her dog tags.  I said, I saw them around her neck, but didn't know what they said.  They explained that she has diabetes, what kind of diabetes she has and lists her parents phone numbers.  She read all the information with such pride.  The class was coming to an end and I wished her happy holidays and she wished me back.  I told her I'd see her in three weeks and all of the sudden she got this sad look on her face.  She asked me why three weeks and I explained that there is no school for the next two Fridays and that we wouldn't meet again until January 6, 2012.  She said that made her sad, because she likes tennis.  She bundled up and walked to the door.  As she was leaving she turned and waved and then told her babysitter "I really like Jon, he's the best teacher I have."  That is why I do it and can't stop working with kids.  For all the headaches, all the parents I put up with, it's those moments that make all of it worth it.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

The Five Greatest Christmas Songs

Christmas songs are generally awful.  They are filled with Hallmark sentiment and are as sincere as me telling you God Bless.  Aside from a small few, they are generally geared towards the pagan aspects of Christmas and not the religious.  Every year a new cover of an old classic comes out and everyone hoots and hollers about it and within a few years it disappears from our memories.  Normally I'd have a top ten list, but I'm hard pressed to think of ten songs off the top of my head where one or two wont nauseate me.  So here it goes. 

5. Christmas in Hollis - Run DMC - When this came out during the opening scenes in Die Hard, everyone went nuts.  It wasn't the first Christmas rap, but it was and still is the best.  It's funny and hits on all the traditional aspects of Christmas in a completely new way. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OR07r0ZMFb8&ob=av3e

4. Wizards in Winter - Trans Siberian Orchestra - Technically not a song, because their are no vocals.  It may not be great, but there's nothing else like it.  I've always liked it. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pWBjl-jPcVM&ob=av2e

3.  Happy Christmas (War Is Over) - John Lennon - A beautiful song by one of the gereatest songwriters of all-time.  I don't know who does the chorus, but it sounds like a children's choir, which makes it even stronger. The song is also about equality and how everyone deserves happiness during the season.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yN4Uu0OlmTg

2. Fairytale of New York - The Pogues (feat) Kirsty MacColl - As I get older, I appreciate Shane McGowan more and more.  The thing I love about this song is that despite it's Christmas theme, it's great any time of year.  For that alone, it should probably be number one.           http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NrAwK9juhhY

1. Little Drummer Boy/Peace on Earth - Bing Crosby/David Bowie - There are many things that make Christmas special, but this song is a must for me.  I remember getting a CD with the video attached one Christmas years ago.  We put it in the computer and watched and listened.  I looked at my parents and saw a look I'd never seen before. It some ways, this silly litte video, with two incomparable voices was just the perfect touch to a wonderful morning.  It will always stand in my heart as one of the best Christmases ever http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DiXjbI3kRus

Christopher Hitchens on God

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7nIRJVmZ4K8&feature=related

I know people have more important things in their life than to listen to me rant and rave about religion, because I have my feelings and you have yours.  I would do nothing ever to criticize anyone's beliefs unless they tried to push those beliefs on to me.  I've had it done and crushed people's attempts.  Not with contempt and nastiness, but with intelligence and common sense. The link I attached above is the genius Christopher Hitchens questioning the existence of a higher power.  It is one of the many videos in which he does so and with an eloquence that is unmatched.

During this time of year, we get a lot of religious arguments.  Christ in Christmas has already been attacked in this blog, so I'll desist.  I was raised to question everything.  In doing so, it's become evident that in my world, there is no God.  I stated on Facebook this afternoon, that I always doubted God, but after reading the Bible, it was confirmed.  Anyone who reads this fictional piece of literature, has to see how ridiculous it is to believe.  I have read the Koran cover to cover also and books on African and Native American religions as well. The problem is that most devoted followers either have never read it or don't understand it.  Any woman who believes in what the bible says is insane, because the Bible sees women as lower than slaves, which by the way, it endorses.  I appreciate people's faith as long as it isn't blind.  This is what Hitchens repeatedly preaches.

Hitchens passed yesterday.  The world lost a brilliant man, who asked nothing more than that people look at the facts and then reevaluate their beliefs based on scientific and historical facts.  He debunks many myths and misunderstood beliefs.  He crushes some of them in fact.  I've always prided myself as being understanding of everything others believe and respecting it.  Lately it seems, between politics and religion, people feel like it's their duty to convert you.  The sad fact is that the average person is not mentally equipped to do this, to anyone, let alone me.  That might sound egotistical, but I'd say ninety percent of the arguments I have on these matters end up with the person walking away or "agreeing to disagree," which is a nice way of saying, i have not more ammunition and I know you do. 

Regardless of your position on faith, I applaud you for sticking to your beliefs.  I just ask that you not cram them down my throat.  You don't post on Facebook how everyone who doesn't say Merry Christmas or believe in God is a sinner.  I ask that you read up on the science of the earth, the history of the earth, before spouting off about it's creator.  I read a lot and listened to a lot of Hitchens over the last few months, but must admit, I've never fully read any of this books.  I came across a quote today in which Hitchens explains that the only proof we have of what God looks like is man made.  He goes on to say, many believe that God made us in his image, when in fact we made him in ours. 

The man said many brilliant things, but to me, what makes him so incredibly brilliant, whether he be talking religion or politics is that his statements are so pure.  By pure, I mean, to refute them, one must give up fact and base their entire argument on opinion and sentiment and that means, for lack of a better phrase, he has already won.  I consider myself a very intelligent person and in fact at times, overly intelligent and too much of a thinker.  It is not to say I find myself to be more intelligent than everyone else, but I know I have a deeper, more thorough understanding of things than others.  What amazes me about Hitchens is the fact that I listen to him and try to think of a retort, should I disagree, but I can not.  To leave me at a loss for words, as anyone who knows me, is a difficult task.

R.I.P. Christopher Hitchens

Thursday, December 15, 2011

11 Rules of Life - Bill Gates?

I read this on Facebook this morning.  A friend had posted it and said that every child should have to receive this. I of course read it and started to think.  I immediately wondered who really wrote this, as I rarely see things like this attributed to the proper person.  I immediately found it was written by Conservative Charles J. Sykes when he wrote a book about how America is dumbing down our youth.  I read it twice and started to wonder how true it was.  Below is a link to the actual picture I saw.





So let's look at each of the rules and analyze them.

Rule 1: Life is not fair — get used to it! - Life is not fair in that we are not all afforded the same opportunities based on race, creed, color, socio-economic background, but in general, those who are afforded the same opportunities to succeed are very often rewarded for their individual efforts.  Sure there may be underlying circumstances, but hard work is proven to pay more often than not and those who strive for success, might not achieve it in financial rewards, but may very well receive other rewards.  This is not for the 1%.  This is what Occupy Wall Street was all about.  That those, similar to Bill Gates, have lost their value system and to us, life is unfair.

Rule 2: The world won’t care about your self-esteem. The world will expect you to accomplish something BEFORE you feel good about yourself. - This is completely false.  Self worth comes across in everything we do. When you sit down on your first job interview, it's your view of yourself that the interviewer is seeing.  I have personally never sat down for an interview thinking someone else in that waiting room is better than me.  I always walk in saying the job is mine.  More times than not, if I want the job, I get it.  Sure, if I don't have credentials required I don't, but on an even playing field, those with a higher regard for themselves get the job.  

Rule 3: You will NOT make $60,000 a year right out of high school. You won’t be a vice-president with a car phone until you earn both. - This is true, but then again the number of high schoolers who are making money from self employment now is probably growing at a rapid rate.  That being said, there are some pipe dreams better left at the door.

Rule 4: If you think your teacher is tough, wait till you get a boss. - There was a time, when this simply wasn't true.  Kids today are coddled in school.  The level of intelligence, patience and simple desire in today's educational world is pathetic.  When I was in grade school, there were rules and when disobeyed, the price was paid.  As a youth we test those rules.  As an adult, we are supposed to know them and adhere by them.  If your boss is too tough, it's either because he expects more from you or is a prick.  Either way, you know this by now, so how tough is it?

Rule 5: Flipping burgers is not beneath your dignity. Your Grandparents had a different word for burger flipping — they called it opportunity. - The level of your job will be associated with many varying aspects of your life.  Sure if you are right out of high school a job is a job.  If you've been in corporate America or you have a PhD, then burger flipping might be beneath your qualifications.  If flipping a burger is something you excel at and can make a decent living at, then maybe it's your path, but don't settle for doing it at McDonald's.  Most chefs start out peeling potatoes and making salads, see rule 3!

Rule 6: If you mess up, it’s not your parents’ fault, so don’t whine about your mistakes, learn from them. - Most people who are stupid, arrogant, narcissistic, racist, ignorant are this way because their parents were.  People who cry every time the chips are down, learned that response. We are born with two innate fears, that of falling and loud noises.  All our other fears are learned, usually from our parents.  If we are taught that we never win or never lose, it's our parent's fault.  Learning from our mistakes is taught to us by our parents.  Those that whine, weren't taught well enough or have abandon what we were taught.  At times, we're all guilty, but in today's world, the lack of proper parenting is enormous.  So yes, many times, it is our parent's fault.

Rule 7: Before you were born, your parents weren’t as boring as they are now. They got that way from paying your bills, cleaning your clothes and listening to you talk about how cool you thought you are. So before you save the rain forest from the parasites of your parent’s generation, try delousing the closet in your own room. - I never thought my parents were boring.  I learned half of what I know from sitting in on dinner parties and family conversations. Listening to friends tell tales of travel and of different cultures.  My parents were the most exciting people I knew and they still are.  Parents who have given up on that, do so because they have given in to societies, stereotypes.  I knew more about wine at 11 living with them struggling to get buy than I do living on my own.  I would argue it's our generation that became complacent and boring.  We now see Facebook and twitter and think we are living, while our boring parents are going to the museum and the opera.  We need to forget about delousing our closets and try cleaning our mirrors.

Rule 8: Your school may have done away with winners and losers, but life HAS NOT. In some schools they have abolished failing grades and they’ll give you as MANY TIMES as you want to get the right answer. This doesn’t bear the slightest resemblance to ANYTHING in real life. - I agree with this wholeheartedly.  Winning and losing taught us lessons that made us stronger.  I think where it went wrong from my generation was the winners were always put together and the losers put together and because of that we formed into separate groups.  I think the reverse has happened and instead of  a slight few feeling entitled, we are harvesting a entire society that feels entitled.  Sadly, I disagree with it not resembling real life.  We have accepted mediocrity in everything.  Food isn't as good, people aren't doing their jobs, things aren't built to last.   Why are the things that were great a hundred years ago still great, but nobody can make a pizza, deliver a service and houses can't outlast storms?

Rule 9: Life is not divided into semesters. You don’t get summers off and very few employers are interested in helping you FIND YOURSELF. Do that on your own time. - Life's path takes many of us on a roller coaster ride.  Whether it's a semester or more is your choice, but at times, it can easily be sectioned.  I'm forty.  My youth was until I was 13.  My rebellious years were until I was 22.  My settling down and getting serious years were until I was 27.  My caring for others because it was my duty and I owed it to them was until I was 33.  My finding myself is going on right now.  So this is true, and while an employer doesn't care about helping me find myself, I need to and maybe I will through my next job.  Life is divided into much more than semesters and you'd be surprised how many adults my age have summers off.
  
Rule 10: Television is NOT real life. In real life people actually have to leave the coffee shop and go to jobs. - Walk into a Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts or local coffee shop on your next day off and tell me that this isn't exactly what real life has become. When the average person sounds more like Snooki than Bill Gates, television has become real life.

Rule 11: Be nice to nerds. Chances are you’ll end up working for one. - Go to most conglomerates, most chain's master offices or to a local small business.  The VP might be a nerd.  The head of HR might be a nerd.  The person who hires you might be a nerd.  Chances are though, that the person who started the company.  The person who truly runs the company.  The person who will be the name on your paycheck is an alpha male or female.  I can't think of one job I've ever had where the owner, not the manager, the owner, wasn't an alpha male or female.  Their is a reason they call them power suits and nerds don't pull off power suits.

Now don't get me wrong.  The message this man was sending is a positive one.  It's one to tell kids to grab the bull by the horns and don't make excuses for failure.  The reality is that many times it is our parents, our education or society that has failed us.  It is this false sense that being aggressive is a negative.  That losing is a negative.   The entire statement is somewhat ironic, because it puts so many labels on us and that is the true ruining of America. Parents and educators warned against putting their kids on drugs to help with disorders, because they would be labeled.  Then put their kids on drugs because they found out they got more time to take tests.  It's an awful world out there and the more honest we are with everyone the better we become.  We live in a world where out leaders and CEOs lie every day.  I'm sure Bill Gates is a wonderful person. I remember when he donated millions of dollars to schools and told kids they were all winners.  He didn't include the software, which the schools then went out and bought.  He made tens of millions and maybe the kids got to use the computers, maybe they didn't.  Some won, some didn't.  Bill Gates might look like a nerd, but he's an alpha, because he has power and money.  He's also a lot smarter than most.  Don't be fooled by appearances.  Remember, David beat Goliath.  Thus becoming the alpha.

Frontier(s)

Today I watched a movie recommended by a friend who knew that I liked (appreciated might be a better word) Martyrs.  Frontiers is a movie about a group of Paris thieves who try to escape to the suburbs and make the common movie mistake of stopping at a hostel.  Hostel was made first and there were some definite torture similarities, but where Hostel makes it a game, Frontiers features the family that kills together, stays together.  It has aspects of Hostel, Texas Chainsaw Massacre and many of the common films today featuring an almost identical plot.  Group of people go to the wrong place.  Girl is last to be hunted.  It's become all too familiar.

The difference with Frontiers is that the bad guys are inherently bad.  They aren't vacationers playing out a sick fantasy.  This, as we see, is their life.  The way people are tortured and killed is truly hard to watch.  Much harder than Hostel.  While the mental anguish isn't as obvious, it's the main character you need to watch.  The movie is roughly 110 minutes, with about 90 of it containing blood.  The single most disturbing scene has none.  It is a simple scene of one girl cutting another girls hair.  I don't think I could ever sit through the movie again, because the reality is, as a whole, it's just as good as Hostel, which isn't saying much, but this one scene, is absolutely riveting. It is so out of character with the tempo of the movie, but in the same fashion is exactly what the movie is about.  The most briliiant part of it is the fact the dialogue is almost entirely one character.

From from as bizarre or tantalizing as Martyrs, it's worth a look.  If not for this one scene alone.  Plus, if you actually liked Hostel, you'll love this.  One warning, I assume you can switch it to dubbed, but it is in French with subtitles.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

2011 - Year of the Woman

I can't remember a year in my lifetime where women so commanded every facet of media than in 2011.  From music to movies, politics to news stories or just every day life.  Women stepped to the forefront in 2011 like never before.  Many men made news because they couldn't get out of their own ways, but women seemed very content in taking over this year. 

Nowhere was this more evident than in the music industry.  Lady Gaga, Beyonce and Rihanna continued to shine. We lost a wonderful talent in Amy Winehouse.  There is always Taylor Swift, but I'm going to remember this year for the newcomers.  Florence & the Machine and Katy Perry made a splash, but nobody commanded our attention like the incomparable Adele.  At 23 years old, her soulful and powerful voice drew us in.  While overplayed by now, Rolling in the Deep and Someone Like You are instant classics.  Let's just hope the pipes don't rust, because we'd all be losers if that should happen.

Nobody drew more attention than alleged and probably baby killer Casey Anthony.  America was mesmerized by this petite, somewhat attractive monster in a way that is seldom seen.  I personally was sickened by the amount of time people spent following this case.  She is only a celebrity, because dim witted society made her one.  So when she's making millions telling her tale, it will be because of society, not the media.

Our political saw the rise and quick fall of wild eyed Michelle Bachmann.  The republican presidential hopeful started off with a bang announcing her candidacy in, where she stated was, the birth place of John Wayne.  She was later embarrassed to find it was actually the birthplace of infamous serial killer John Wayne Gacy.  Bachmann's odd run and even odder reasons for running seemed to gran our attention, but then she did what so many politicians do to kill their hopes.  She spoke.  While I personally can't stand the woman, she does represent a wonderful thing.  We didn't all shake our heads and say "oh no, not another female candidate."  The only unfortunate thing is that the last two who have tried were embarrassments their gender.  I hope the third is a charm.  Plus, we always have Hillary Clinton.  Another who I personally dislike, but have to respect how far she has come.

Continuing in politics, there is the triumphant rehab of Gabrielle Giffords. An Arizona Congesswoman who was shot in the head.  Her story is inspiring and sad.  She has become a symbol of courage and fortitude.  She also showed us, that despite our political beliefs, they all dissipate when acknowledging the will to survive.

There were the huge celebrity weddings of Kate Middleton & Kim Kardashian.  Although their sisters tried just as hard to steal headlines.  These weddings reminded us of other famous weddings with similar parallels...Princess Diana and Dennis Rodman.

There was also a few relative unknowns who deserve recognition.  Elizabeth Warren, who should be running the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.  A task force to regulate banks interaction with the public.  One of Obama's biggest mistakes to date.  There is also Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel, who has kept Germany's economy one of the strongest as the rest of Europe is in rapid decline.
Tennessee Volunteers women's basketball coach Pat Summit is one of the greatest coaches in the history of sports. She found she has the early symptoms of dementia and decided to keep going.  She told her team there will be times where she is not herself, but she's not quitting because of it. 

So with all the women who have dominated the news and the cultural landscape.  Is it possible to have a woman of the year in the year of the woman?  I think there are two.  You won't know there names right away, but they are historic.  Their story isn't only about their gender.  It is about everything that is important to us in this country.  They are New Yorkers and that is why I chose them.  Their names are Phyllis Siegel and Connie Kopelov.  They were the first homosexual couple to be legally married in New York state.  They have been together for 23 years and Siegel is in her late seventies.  Kopelev is in her mid 80's.  This isn't about sex.  It's not about tax fraud.  It's not about anything other than freedom to live one's life the way they would like to.  It's about freedom.  We have hundreds of thousands of men and women dying in other countries to protect these freedoms, let's not disrespect what they are doing by telling people in our own country what is right and wrong based on our opinions and religious beliefs.  Isn't that half the battle we're fighting in foreign lands?

I for one am happy that so many women are making an impact.  As a boy, I know my father taught me how to throw and hit.  He taught me much about history and spelling.  He taught me right and wrong, but it was my mom who taught me  how to feel.  About compassion and caring.  How to love and how to hurt.  We deny women certain things in this world.  We tell them they are too emotional and think with their hearts and not with their heads.   This year, maybe more than ever, I've thought with my heart and not with my head.  I may not be better off, but maybe I am.  I know this.  When I think about the people I love.  When I smell something that takes me to a special moment. When I listen to Adele's Someone Like You, I hear it with my mind, but I feel it with my heart and that was taught to me by a woman.  Seems fitting this year.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Quickie Blog: Things That Are Becoming Obsessions

I actually do not like the word obsession, because it almost always takes on a negative connotation, but for this blog and for lack of a better word, I will leave it as is.  Here they are.

Words with Friends - between my phone and computer, I have about 45 games going right now.

Chinese Food - I have ordered Chinese food every week for at least the last two months.

Tim Tebow - yes, the mania has completely engulfed me.

New Girl - the best comedy on television in years.

Twitter - yes, I know, I'm on Facebook all the time, but I love twitter for the links to interesting stuff.

Tap Zoo - a silly game that takes up about twenty seconds to play, which I check incessantly.

It's a pretty sad list, when you look at it as a whole.  Nothing exciting like playing racquetball or skydiving.  Nothing exotic like collecting praying mantises or eating blow fish.  Nothing intellectual like reading Stephen Hawkins or watching BBC news.  It's just stuff that, for right now, brings a little light into my life.  Even if for a few moments.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Thinking

I don't think anyone spends as much time just thinking about stuff as I do.  At times, it's dwelling on something.  It could be seen as obsessing.  It's just something I've grown accustomed to doing.  In many instances there are negative effects due to this.  I think way too much about people I'm not with and wish I was.  Not always people I'm romantically involved with, but people I care about.  I think about the past and when times were better.  I think about my mother incessantly.  Not a day that goes by I don't miss her and wish I could speak to her.  Last night, I admitted to someone that a lot of my problems, such as insomnia, all started when she passed.  I used to be oblivious to stress and would let pretty much everything role off my back.  Now I can't stop thinking about things. 

My friend gave me a goal and told me to accomplish this within the next 38 days.  It's funny, because it's a small goal, but one with multiple benefits.  I'm going to accomplish this goal and hopefully in doing so I can do it in a way that not only helps me in one aspect of life, but shows me how to stop dwelling on things and to achieve them.  To be happy about them and in turn reward myself with that feeling.  I've spent a lot of time in a sort of limbo and have spent too much time worrying about it, without doing anything to get myself out of it.  This is a small step, but in many ways a giant step.  Hopefully, I just get it done and don't let this be another thing I put off and worry about.  I need this to happen.  For my health, my sanity and because it needs to be done. 

At A Loss

I'm at a loss for words.  This, as you all know, is very rare for me.  I stayed home today and laid in bed watching football all day.  I have things bothering me that can be fixed and then some that can't.  I've been a little lax in working on those I can and spent way too much time on those I can't.  It's caused me a lot of stress recently and it's taking it's toll on me mentally. 

This week, I've had some good times and some bad.  I've laughed with people and yelled at others.  I've had some great conversations and some that weren't.  I've also spent a lot of time with people who have wanted me to be part of their holidays.  They have no idea how much that means to me.  I am torn, because it's the holidays and I feel like I should be with my family.  I'm not sure what I'm going to do.  I also want to spend part of the holiday with some people, who for various reasons, I can't.  This to has caused some unnecessary stress. I need to recognize that what I can not control should be taken with a grain of salt.  I need to get over these problems. I know it, but I can't forget about it.

Christmas, despite my lack of cheer, is important to me.  It was always a special time.  It was always spent with family and friends and will always be special.  It reminds me of my mother.  That always brings me down, but also makes me happy, because I remember the great times.  I have friends who have lost people dear to them this year and I will also think about them during the holidays.  It's those we love that makes this time of year special and difficult.  I'm sure no matter where I end up, it will be with special people.  That is important to me, because right now I'm at a loss.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Keeping Christ In Christmas

For the last few years, just after Thanksgiving, the social networks and overheard conversations inevitably get to the topic of how Christmas has lost its religiousness.  People are up in arms with the notion that it's politically incorrect to say Merry Christmas to someone, because it might offend them.  Sadly, the only people that thing this are Christians.  I don't know one Jew, one Muslim or one Buddhist who has a problem with people saying Merry Christmas.  I actually know many people who are non-Christians who find it nice, because they feel like someone of a different faith is including them in their celebrations.

I grew up in a relatively non-religious household, but we celebrated everything.  We did Hanukkah and Christmas.  Every year, we had a menorah and lit the candles.  Every year, we had a Christmas tree.  My mother would make a brisket for one night during Hanukkah and every year we'd have a huge Christmas dinner.  My parents would invite whoever didn't have anything to do over and it was very festive.  We opened presents Christmas morning and did all the traditional things.  I had friends who were Jewish who didn't celebrate Christmas and Christian friends who didn't celebrate Hanukkah.  Either way, we always wished each other happy holidays.

Somewhere along the line, probably after 9-11, it became very important to Christians, especially Catholics to say "Merry Christmas."  "Happy Holidays" was always sufficient, but after the tragedies, people became very bitter towards other religions.  They say we came together as a nation, but the reality is, that 9-11 tore us apart more than ever before.  A mosque that lay by Ground Zero for years without anyone's knowledge or dispute became an issue.  It was never like this.  More importantly the little things in life, like someone using two words to express their well wishes took on a religious slant.  Christmas stopped being about celebrating the birth of Jesus a long time ago.  It has become a Hallmark holiday and for most people, it has become the one day of the year they actually go to church, which is ironic, because the holiest day of their own faith is Easter.  Most Christians, don't even know that (and please don't contest this, because I've even discussed this with people of the cloth).

The truth is the holiday season is special.  To spend time worrying about whether Christ is in Christmas is silly.  There is no mention of Santa, elves or reindeer in the Bible, but we accept those images plastered all over every place we go.  If you choose to recognize Christmas for what it really stands for, more power to you.  If you choose to see it for what it has become, that is OK too.  If you choose to wish me a Merry Christmas, a Happy Hanukkah or a Happy Holidays, I will return the gesture and be happy I'm your friend.  I just ask that you not tell me that how I decide to relay my well wishes is wrong, because there is no right or wrong.  It's a time of sharing and celebrating.  Not fighting and telling people they are wrong.  I'm not a Christian, but I do know from what I've read that Jesus wouldn't tell people what to believe and how to say things as long as they had good in their heart, so if he's your savior, maybe you should honor him and do the same.

Random Thoughts at 3:15

I think every sports fan I know who is not a Jets fan can agree on one thing.  Jets fans are the most annoying and obnoxious sports fans. 

I hate Dunkin Donuts coffee and I don't necessarily love the taste of chocolate, but their mint hot chocolate is off the hook.

Words with Friends makes me forget I ever played Angry Birds.

I only have eight more hours of work for the rest of the year.  This is a good and bad thing.

I haven't been this excited about pro football in many years.   Tebow!

A friend of mine has twice been there for me after saying they couldn't be there for me.  Special!

I honestly don't think people who have it good know how good they have it.  I hear more complaints from people with it good than I do from people who have it bad.

I think New Girl is my favorite comedy on TV in many years.  I know Prime Suspect is my favorite show, but they already announced its cancellation.

I think this year I'm going to make out a thought out and practical resolution list.  I say this every year, but never do it.

I am so jealous of a friends fireplace, I think I smelled it while we were talking on the phone.

I'm pretty sure the Lexus "December to remember" commercial has caused more suicides than any other cause.

Sometimes when people talk about gays and gay marriage there is unintentional comedy affixed.  Like someone the other day said "I am tired of having it shoved down my throat."

Should I be worried I hear fire engines and I smell smoke?  And they are getting louder!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Quickie Blog: Jerk

Last night I was a jerk.  I said something to someone with the sole purpose of hurting them.  I did not mean it and to be quite frank, I don't remember saying it.  I was angry, frustrated and basically being an asshole.  The irony is that I've tried my hardest to make sure that my words are never misconstrued or taken out of context.   Last night I said some that I'm ashamed of.  I don't think this person is going to forgive me any time soon and to be honest, they shouldn't.  Hopefully I can learn from my mistake and one day they will forgive me.  I don't deserve it, but I can hope they can see past my anger and know that I do truly care.  It was a mistake, but a big one. 

The Last Kiss

You ever think about how many times you've been with someone and you think it will last forever.  You never think that the kiss of the moment could be the last kiss.  It's not only the people you're intimate with.  I will never forget the last kiss my mother gave me or the last one I gave her, moments after she took her last breath.  That kiss will always be burned into my memory, because I knew that was the last time.  Some we can't know.  Some we're destined to remember and not always in a good way.

I remember a girl I had a crush on when I was younger.  I was in eighth grade and it was the last day of school.  I knew I wasn't going back to that school for high school and as I was saying my goodbyes, she leaned over and kissed me on the cheek.   I think I saw her once or twice after that, but I will never forget that one and only kiss. 

I remember I was dating a girl back when I was about nineteen.  She was younger and still in high school.  We were at her house and we were playing cards on her bed and she leaned over and kissed me.  Soon after I had to leave and she walked me to the door and I drove off.  I don't remember how or why, but we broke up the next day.  The funny thing is I saw her after and we acted like great friends, but to this day, I have no memory of why we broke up, but I distinctly remember everything about that kiss.

One of the cutest kisses ever was from a kid who was in a basketball class I was teaching.  It was the final day and as I always did, I walked the kids to the room where they were picked up.  I dropped them off with the chaperone and the the mother of the little girl approached me and introduced herself.   I told her what a wonderful little girl she had and showed her the picture she and her friend had painted for me in school that day.  The mom smiled and said "this may sounds weird, but my daughter wants to give you a kiss goodbye."  I blushed and agreed and the little girl came over and gave me a big hug and kissed me on the cheek."  I told her I might be back the following year, but it ended up I wasn't.  The funniest part of the whole story, was that I was working at a camp years later and she was at the camp.  I asked her if she remembered me and she was so embarrassed.  I never told anyone, because I didn't want her to get teased, but she came up to me the final day and said she remembered me and I was her favorite teacher.

There was a friend of mine who I had a previous relationship with and I went to visit her.  We hung out and watched a movie.  I had just gotten out of a long relationship and had somewhat screwed her over before I entered the relationship, but we stayed friends.  We had always had somewhat of a secretive relationship for various reasons and when I went to visit her, I didn't know what to expect.  We laid on the couch and fooled around, but she made it clear to me that we would not be having sex.  She said that the next time we could, but she wanted me to know that I had to earn her trust again.  As I left her house, we kissed and I told her I'd see her soon.  I ended up going away that summer and things our lives never did reconnect.  We're still friends, but I haven't seen her since that night and that kiss.

One kiss was somewhat inadvertent in that it wasn't something I'd normally do.  I was working at a camp and we were out drinking on our night off.  Someone who was up for a visit was at the bar and we talked the whole night.  The odd thing was while we knew each other from previous summers, we never really talked.  Partly because she was a lot younger (yes she was legal) and was a camper my first summer.  At the end of the night, I was going back to camp and she was driving back to NY.  I said goodnight to the guys and girls she was with and then said goodnight to her.  She leaned in and kissed me on the lips.  We both felt awkward and I said thank you.  She smiled and leaned in and said that she really wanted to stay.  I smiled and told her she needed to get back.  We saw each other again, but there was never any mention of it and I think we both thought it best to chalk it up to a night of drinking. 

The final kiss I'll talk about was a good friend of mine I met at the same camp.  She and I became  good friends and after every summer she spent time at my house.  My parents adored her and she loved them.  Every year she'd leave and she and I would give each other huge hugs and she'd be on her way.  One summer she stayed for about a week after camp and she and I stayed up her final night talking.  She knew she wasn't coming back and as she was leaving, she gave me a kiss and a hug and started to cry.  We knew that chances were she wasn't going to be back in the states and that we'd only see each other if i came to visit.  We kept up through e-mails for a while, but after a while that dwindled.  My mother always said, she was the one who got away.  I never did quite understand why I never attempted anything.  She was adorable, funny, great to be with and truly loved me.  I believe she's married or engaged now and I've pretty much lost contact with her, but she's always going to be one of those special people and our last kiss will always be in my heart.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Another Wonderful Person Gone

This morning I awoke to a text message saying "Jody passed."  Jody was a friend I've known for over twenty years.  She was married to an old boss of mine and is the mother of two great kids.  For the years I worked for Jim, I always felt like part of the family.  Even later in life we could always pick up right where we left off if I ran into them. 

Over the summer I ran into her and she looked great.  She was always full of life and always sweet.  She said she was doing fine and she went on her way.  I will always remember that picture of her.  The loving mother, smiling and happy.  When I read the text this morning, I immediately put my head down and cried.  Here was a woman who didn't drink or smoke.  Someone who always took care of themselves and someone who looked healthy as can be.  Part of my emotion comes from the inevitable thoughts of my mother, but I started thinking about the family.  I started thinking about her husband and how many years ago when we talked, she was his life.  I thought about the kids.  Two of the nicest, most polite kids I know (and pretty damn good looking -they get that from their mom!).  I also thought about her sister, Denise, who I also worked with and who was her best friend.  Then I thought about all the people whose lives she touched.  Her loss will be felt by many.

In the past years I saw her less than usual, but it doesn't change anything.   She was a great person.  She made a difference in people's lives.  She was a friend.  She will not be the last person who I lose because of cancer.  This will always trouble me.  I've kept this somewhat thought going, but in the last fourteen weeks, I have not had one pass where someone I know didn't get diagnosed, have their status worsen or die from it.  The two weeks I didn't personally, I had a friend find out her friend was diagnosed and then a few weeks later he passed.  It's awful. 

There are so many bad people in this world.  So many people who do awful things to their bodies.  So many people who neglect their health despite being warned.  There are people who might even deserve to die a slow painful death, but those aren't the people who get this disease.  It's my mother, it's my friends best friend John McLaughlin, it's Jody Salomone.  And there are survivors and people that move on, but it always haunts me.  My father, my friend Pete and even my 98 year old grandmother now has breast cancer.  This disease plagues me.  I can't escape it.

Today I spent a lot of time thinking of my friends.  I thought about what a void her loss will leave.  I thought about how much I miss and think about my mother every day.  I know they will too.  It will be hard.  Impossible at times.  They will survive and live on, because they will always have her in their hearts.  She instilled great things in them and no disease can take that away.  From any of us.  Jody, you will be missed!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

My Christmas & Hannukah Wish List

What do you get the man who has nothing?  I am pretty simple. I don't need material items to make me happy, but there are some things I've been putting off getting, so if anyone feels so inclined, please see my list and feel free to indulge me.  I'll keep my list to the traditional list....ten items.

1.  Coffee Mugs - my last one has finally become so chipped it's dangerous to drink from.
2.  A cleaning service to clean my apartment (and not judge me).
3.  A gift card to East Bamboo.   I get takeout at least once a week.
4.  A gift card to Piper's Kilt - I don't need to explain this.
5.  Microsoft Office - I have a temp version, because my brother installed it and he maxed out uses.
6.  A pea coat - I bought one years ago and it was actually too big.  Never replaced.
7.  A trip to Boston or Key West.  A trip to my favorite city or my friend's restaurant and sun!
8.  Season 6 of Dexter.  I know it's not out yet, but keep it in mind if ya know someone.
9.  Free Netflix for a year. 
10. A cure for cancer.  Now I know this is a silly request, but I'd give up all the others.  I'd give up years of my own life to end this disease.  I know too many people in the last few years who have died, been diagnosed or who have fought this disease.  Obviously I want a cure to all diseases, but this is one that has affected us all.  The rest of my list is silly and actually attainable.  I could probably pay for all of these myself for less than most of you spend this season. 

All that being said, I just want all my friends and family to enjoy a happy and healthy holiday season.