Lessons learned

Well, here we are. We made it past the end of the word. No, I am not talking about that Mayan world’s gonna blow up crap. Everybody knows that the Mayans didn’t know diddly about predicting the future, or else they would have seen that inviting the Spanish invaders in for some tea and crumpets would have been a really bad idea. However, if the Aztecs would have predicted the world was going to end, sh#@ would have got real. I am talking about making it through the year 2012, which at several points this year seemed like a never ending big bowl o’ crap. It was like eating at Hell‘s Olive Garden. It had moments of moderate improvement and then got unbelievably worse. I just need to face the facts, 2012 was basically like all 3 of the Transformers movies. No, I am  not talking about the cool animated Transformer movie that came out when I was in Junior High( oh thank you Duval County Public Schools for adding one more feeling of inferiority to my 8-9 grade years by forever making me refer to it as ‘junior”) and had Dinobots in it and when Optimus Prime died you actually cried, or maybe that was just me. No, 2012 was just like the Michael Bay “let’s CG everything” Transformer movies. It started slow, got o.k. in the middle and then just devolved into nothing but noise and failure that you end up hoping that someone would just end the damn thing. Well as the the final credits roll for this year, and no, I am not going to wait around to see if there is one more foreshadowing- laden scene midway through the closing credits, I think it is time to reflect on the things that happened this year and what lessons that can be obtained from them.

 

 

 

So with no further ado, here are The Things that I have Learned, 2012:

 

 

 

  • Don’t underestimate the value of a quality tour guide, as a result of a certain unnamed,( not to protect his identity, it’s just that he wasn’t interesting enough to commit his name to memory) guide’s lack of zeal for his job, the civilized world has been exposed to six months of me typing out my cray cray.
  • Grown men should not use words like “cray cray”.
  • With regards to bosses, the devil you know is better than the devil you don’t.
  • If when explaining your boss you have to resort to an analogy involving the word “devil”, then you probably have made some unwise career choices.
  • My most rock and roll moment: In the pit and at the front of the crowd at the Van’s Warped Tour.
  • My least rock and roll moment: Standing at an Asking Alexandria concert and thinking that that kid in front of me with the stale smelling t-shirt should really switch to Tide with Febreze.
  • Rotate your tires and check your brakes.
  • That guy at Pep Boys is a jerk.
  • Being unemployed is great, until the bills come in.
  • Having a job  is great, until you have to leave the house.
  • I could remember a lot more important things if my brain wasn’t full of t.v. theme songs and my locker combinations  from seventh grade.
  • Kim Kardasian and Kanye West make a perfect couple. She has a huge ass and he acts like one.
  • It’s pretty clear that the guy that makes Adventure Time does drugs.
  • When deciding whether or not to work for a company, just visit their breakroom and see if they have powdered creamer for the coffee. If a company won’t pony up for half and half,   you can probably forget about any future raises.
  • If you ask someone on the telephone more than once how to pronounce their name,  you are legally obligated to use that name at least 5 times during the conversation. Otherwise, just call me “sir” and get on with your business.
  • Watching the local news in HD is a great way to find out that you live in a town full of ugly people.
  • Beer and pizza>beer>water
  • Beer and pizza with friends> just about everything else
  • I think it’s a compliment when people you just met say they want you to hang around because they find you entertaining. At least I hope it is.
  • If you are in front of me in line at a store, I hate you. Nothing personal it’s just I got places to go.
  • I want to see snow and go to Disney World,  just not at the same time.
  • The list of people that I actually like seems to be getting shorter on a daily,  but those still on the list I seem to like more.
  • The levels of intoxication are: Sober, Relaxed, Happy Drunk, Sloppy Drunk, Wasted,  and “No I didn’t realize that guy was being a jerk to me”.
  • I can drive a golf cart like a sumbitch.
  • Just because I am going into the kitchen does not mean you are about to get fed, cat………..or kids.
  • I am still genetically incapable of keeping my darn ideas to myself.
  • Home runs  are a lot more fun when it’s your team that hits them.
  • If the “get fit ideas” on the internet were half  as appealling as the “get fat” recipes on Pinterest then I wouldn’t have to keep buying new pants.
  • Attention Facebook members( like its a club or something): Please stop posting every whimsical picture and/or ecard that you find on the interwebs. Facebook is for posting pictures of your children, sending birthday wishes to people you really don’t care about, complaining about your job and posting  political opinions that I don’t agree with.
  • George Takei is exempt from the previous rule.
  • Do not let your kids name the new kitten unless you don’t mind saying the words “Pootie Pie” in a crowded vet’s office.
  • Haircuts are overrated.
  • People should be be classified not by race nor by sex but by whether they keep putting the twist tie back on the bag  of the bread or just twist the bag and tuck it underneath. Twist tiers unite, the revolution is coming.
  • After twelve years of bathing, my son still doesn’t remember he will need a towel until after he gets in the shower.
  • As part of Disney’s purchase of Star Wars, I hope they add Jar Jar to the shooting gallery at Frontierland.
  • If you like two different football teams, there should be a rule that they both can’t suck in the same year.
  • According to my marriage license, I got married on Febraury 28, 1992. According to my Facebook timeline, I got married on March 1,2009.  Does that mean I have 17 years worth of saying something stupid that I have to do all over again?
  • Parents celebrate their kids’  birthdays because we went 365 days without killing our children……..yet.
  • AA batteries make great although noisy cat toys.
  • This year is going to be great…….because it has to be.

 

 

Cave Paintings

It was not the lunch break that I intended to  have. I work in  a secure and controlled office. We have to swipe our i.d. badge to enter the room, the use of mobile devices from Kindles to Cell Phones are prohibited and the internet is locked down on all our computers. No, I do not deal with national security issues nor do I perform any specialized scientific experiments. It’s just that we deal with the human resources files for employees of a certain state and that state has been stung enough by the theft of its employees identities in the past that it now takes the protection of those assets very seriously. The result is that we  work in something akin to a bubble and our only knowledge of the outside world is via our intranet connection which only informs us of  deadlines for enrolling in benefits and which manager from our corporate headquarters across the pond just got promoted. This does make our lunch periods as a time when we get reconnected to the world outside our cubicles. I had just sat down to a lovely plate of pasta salad and chicken salad sandwich at a small neighborhood cafe, when the outside world caught up with me. I was not prepared to deal with what the  had been happening  since 9:40 a.m. Nobody was.

It has been nearly 10 hours since that horrific event in Newtown, Connecticut and I am no more prepared to deal with it now than I was the moment the event came into my consciousness. The past day has been an uncontrollable torrent of thoughts, emotions and opinions and every new bit of information that I am exposed to seems only to confuse and baffle me more. I feel the need to some how make some sense of what I am thinking, not out of some sense of egotism that I have some bit of wisdom that I can bestow upon the world but rather I feel the need to try to wrap my brain around this event for the sole protection of my own sanity. We are all like those ancient cave dwellers who, when faced with a hostile world that contained danger in every shadow and death waiting at their threshold, put pigment to cave well in an attempt to explain how they survived. I stand before my empty space of wall with by finger dipped in color and find myself ill equipped to communicate. After all, how do you depict an unfathomable sense of loss.

Newtown, Connecticut lies 1,012 miles from where I now sit at my dining room table and yet it feels like it is right next door. Is it just me or does, when one of these horrible events take place, the distance from your location to the scene of the tragedy seem to in no way insulate you from the feeling that it is in your back yard? I have never been to Connecticut but as the events of the day were relayed to me by various news outlets, I saw in my minds eye every overturned desk and the look of terror in every child’s face. Slowly, I began to realize that the school I was seeing was not the Sandy Hook Elementary of Newtown, CT but rather I was seeing the elementary school that my children once attended and the campuses that they now inhabit. The look of terror was not of some faceless stranger but rather it belonged to  the kids who are part of my life. I think that is why the distance is of no consolation because every parent, every teacher, every older brother and every interested adult knows that despite their insistence in our kids safety when they leave us, we are always on the precipice of danger from some unfeeling and unstoppable mad man. I say this not to strike fear in my own heart although that emotion is one that I have been constantly dealing with since this event took place. Instead, it makes me feel that we all have to find a way to deal with this, to try to understand “the why” and “the how” and to vow for the” never again”.

There is a certain fraternity among those of us who have been blessed to have children. We realize that it is not by  our own merits that we were able to be called mom and dad. There are far more honorable people than myself that, although desperate to have kids of their own, are prevented from having kids through the conspiracies of biology. This feeling among parents that to a small extent we have won a sort of procreation lottery leads us to spend every waking hour trying to keep our kids safe and feeling loved. We skip sleep, give up our last dollar, invite their friends including the ones we don’t like to parties and we change our whole schedules to accommodate their every need in the hope that they will one day understand how much they mean to us. I personally am as committed to my kids as I can humanly be and know that most parents are as well and it is this mutual appreciation of our role in our kids and their friends’ lives that gives us something in common with all other parents. It also makes the loss that other parents experience to be so hard to take. Whether it was due to a tragic auto accident or the slipping away after a long illness, there is no way that a parent can hear of the passing of a child and not feel that gut wrenching, paralyzing fear that someday I may have to feel the same. This feeling was visited twenty-fold upon us yesterday. I heard some parents of very small children hypothesize that younger parents would hurt more at hearing of the Newtown event because their kids are the same age as the victims and they hold a common feeling of the loss of the possible future these kids could have had. I  feel that the sense of loss is just as profound among those of us who have kids that have passed the age of the victims for we know in concrete terms the joy of every day since that age that our kids have given us. I will suggest that all parents feel loss today and we all have deepest sympathies for the nightmare that those parents a thousand miles away are experiencing. For all the events that those parents will never get to share again, I feel saddest about one that seems so trivial, picking up the kids from school.

Every parent has had to perform this feat at least once in their lives. The traffic is hellacious, disorganized and generally it involves sitting in a steaming car for what seems like an eternity waiting for some school official to walkie talkie your kid’s release to your car. When the kids finally finishes saying good bye to every classmate in the school district and opens your car door, it happens. In that moment between the whump of a backpack hitting the back seat and your first question about how their day was, you feel it. In that moment of silence, you know on a subconscious level that they are safe. Those last 8 hours since they left your presence has passed without harm, you relax just a little bit in knowing that once again you can be with them and talk to them and tell them that you love them. The greatest tragedy about that Friday morning at Sandy Hook School is that for twenty sets of parents, that moment is gone forever.

As hard as dealing with my own thoughts about this tragedy have been, the act of trying to understand why it happened and how to make sure this is the last time we have to mourn innocent victims of a senseless crime is nearly impossible. Clearly, we need to address the culture we live in. The pandemic of mental illness and its striking at the heart of our youth has to be addressed. We need to remove the stigma of talking about mental illness like it is some family secret and deal with the reality of what it is, a diagnosable, treatable medical condition that deserves the same attention as any other medical condition. Where are the colored ribbons? Where are the charity walks? They don’t exist because we continue to believe that it is weakness to talk about how we feel and we spend everyday saying things like ,” I am fine” and “Oh he’s o.k.He just has the blues today”. The common thread among too many of these shooters is that they have had conditions that were not diagnosed and/or undertreated. I know we can’t bring back those who have suffered at the hands of the mentally ill but perhaps if we can start as a society dealing with mental illness in a mature and scientific way then who knows how many lives we can save?

I have to admit that I not exactly feeling calm and pensive this morning. No, the emotions that we all have been feeling lead us to probably think most logically when dealing with this any other tragedy. This is definitely true of myself because the emotion I feel more than sadness is that of anger. This has pissed me off to no end. I am mad at the shooter for taking young lives. I am mad at my politicians who claim that we can’t talk about the root causes of these issues because the timing is inopportune. Most of all I am angry at the American culture that bemoans this tragedy but refuses to honestly address it and in just a few days will add it to the  laundry list of historical events that we should have learned a lesson from but didn’t. This is not about guns.

This is about boys and guns. I am a hypocrite. I have spent my life teaching my son that violence is not the answer, the lives of others really matter and to turn the other cheek. I have also allowed him to play video games that  feature firearms and the use of those to kill digital representations of human beings. He has a Nerf arsenal of guns and other spongy weapons. I even got him a b.b. gun last Christmas. Now, my son is a peace loving boy. He would never hurt anyone and even when faced with a bully at school, took the intimidation as opposed to striking out in anger. But I am only fooling myself if I don’t realize that the prevalence of guns as entertainment in his life doesn’t cause him at least some sense of moral confusion. Now I have to do my job as a parent and find a way to temper those confusions with guidance. I am not going to make some empty promise of him never playing anything violent  again because I do believe some of it serves as an outlet for the aggression that otherwise would be internalized to himself or unleashed on others. What I am going to do is explain to him the difference between the fantasy and reality of violence. I am going to stay  in the room  with him when he plays and if I determine that it has become too much, I am going to turn it off. Basically I am going to do the job that parents are supposed to do. Most of all I am going to talk to him about how he should treat other people and the value of all life.

The common thread that runs through every mass shooting is the same, some male and a gun. The preponderance of young males with firearms has reached epidemic proportions and its not just a mass shooting at a school that should make us realize it. Just in my medium sized city this week we have had at least one gun incident every day and whether this is a shooting over a drug deal gone bad or at the hands of a madman in CT, the fact is that this has got to stop.  We have got to stop wringing our hands at the mall shooting at  Clackamas Town center and then forget about the gun violence that goes on every other day in the shadows. How many women must be killed at the hands of their abusive husbands?  How many kids must be shot playing with their parents guns? How many teenagers must be shot at gas stations because their music was too loud before we start to honestly address the problem? This is about more than guns. Its about guns in American. Switzerland trails only the U.S. in gun ownership but has a gun crime rate that is so low that its is statistically untraceable. So it has to be about more than guns but that doesn’t mean its about less.

This is not about the Second Amendment. It is also not about the government kicking in doors and confiscating hunting rifles. We need to get to a stage in our politics where we can actually talk about guns in our society in a way that is measured and reasonable. Why must it be all or nothing? Can’t we address the reality of the world we live in, even if it doesn’t jive with whatever catchy little slogan our political allies like to hide behind? I am sorry but guns do kill people. There are bad people in the world and they are going to use whatever means is at their disposal to harm other human beings. We should require that they have to extend a little more effort than walking up to the sporting goods counter at Wal-mart. I understand there is a role for guns in society but we have to realize that the proliferation of guns has less to do with constitutional rights and more to do with the profitability of gun companies. Glock’s profit margins are 68% per firearm, not a bad margin. I am not saying that gun companies should be run out of town on a rail, but that we have to be honest about some of the factors that encourage gun ownership by many who frankly are not the most responsible. We also have to eliminate both sides of the extremes. A gunless culture would not guarantee a world without violence and neither would a society where every citizen is packing heat. We have to find some reasonable middle ground between Nazi Germany’s example and that of Dodge City.

The ultimate solution would be a society that values all human life and would pass those values along to its children. Since we seem to be far from accomplishing that perhaps we should limit, not outlaw, some of the weapons that make the taking of that life so efficient. This is the point where usually the N.R.A point of view will be expressed that it is only the armed general population that keeps our country from being run by tyrants. I find it odd that an organization that puts such stock in the Second Amendment simultaneously puts such little belief in the remainder of our Constitution and its provisions that are in place to prevent such tyranny. There are two problems with this view of guns as the only way to keep the oligarchs from marching down Pennsylvania Avenue. The first is that even if this argument had merit it is vacated by the fact that the majority of its advocates seem to be more obsessed with whether two homosexuals can get married and the religion of our current president than they do with making our nation a better place. The second is just basic military theory. Do you really think that a military that possesses nuclear submarines and F-22 fighters is really deterred by a collection of hunting rifles? The true fact is that true, reasonable and consistently applied gun laws may not cure all ills but it may just help save a few lives and isn’t that the ultimate goal?

Well, it appears my space on the cave wall is nearly full and although the thoughts I express are only my own, they have allowed me to start to get a handle on the events of a Friday I am not soon to forget.  My hope is for healing to those affected by this event…. and those affected are all of us.

De-voted

I have been curiously quiet throughout this entire election season because the way I see it, I have given people enough response to hate me that I don’t think that getting into a peeing match with the general public over their political beliefs would be good for my Karma. So, I have bitten my tongue and smiled through the pain. Now that the election is over and I am growing nauseous from the taste of blood in my mouth, I feel the need to share my opinions about this freakshow that comes to town every four years.  So come on in, but on that gown over there and hop up on the tissue covered table because Dr. Truth is about to drop some knowledge on ya.
First of all and I know if your candidate lost last night that you don’t want want to hear this but, the system worked. There were two choices and one side won and the other lost. The proof that the system works is not what happened on election day but rather what happened on the day after, namely nothing. There are no tanks in the streets. No member of the losing party is being executed in the public square. The winning party is not launching a genocide against the losing party’s tribe. People cast their votes, watched the results, and then got on with their lives. So this morning be thankful that the most this election disrupted your life was in having to scroll through a few histrionic facebook posts.
Now comes the part where I start making enemies. I have a lot of great hearted well meaning conservative friends and I give you dearly but until your party starts acknowledging and fixing the mistakes they make, you are not going to be able to get a dog catcher elected. First of all can you please stop with the crazy? I understand that the Dems have plenty of nutjobs in their party but they are supposed to, they are Democrats. You guys are supposed to be the adults in the room. Yet you continue to let the septegenarian amateur gynecologist running for the state senate in Bugwhump Utah make comments like “legitimate rape”. Then in some blind reliance to these hicks you defend them publicly. I understand your need to support the same values as some of your more fringe candidates but they are an anchor around your neck that is drowning your national candidates in a sea of unelectability. I have a crazy uncle that shows up every Thanksgiving buck naked and covered in Crisco. I still love him, I just dont let him in the house. So when during the next election cycle some Moral warrior from the sticks says something stupid about abortion or gay marriage that is utterly indefensible, and trust me they will, the national party needs to chunk them into the fires of Mount Doom like they were the Ring of Power.
Speaking of candidates, you have got to find some presidential ones that aren’t so dang unlikable. I am sure both McCain and Romney are fine gentlemen and upstanding citizens but they are both lacking that personal touch that wins elections. Cause lets face it, its not intelligence nor ability that gets your guy in the Whitehouse, it’s the ability for Joe Citizen to feel like your candidate is a swell guy. Lets look at recent history. Clinton was a philandering redneck from the backwoods of Arkansas, that’s right the same state that didn’t outlaw feuding until the 1970s. George W. Bush was a reformed alcoholic who had more difficulty with the English language that the Guatemalan dishwasher at P.F.Chang’s. And good ole Barack Obama may be better at delivering the hits of Al Green than at delivering sustainable economic growth. However, all three of these men were elected to two terms as the President of the most powerful country in the world. Why? Because they all had a personal charisma that their opponent just couldn’t match.
For Pete’s sake, when 10% of the country is out of work, there is a fairly good chance that they won’t vote for the guy that resembles the type of dude that gave them their pinkslip. Nice job G.O.P., you nominated the only politician in the country that was more wooden than George Washington’s teeth. So quit talking about how deep the Republican bench is and get them into the game. Find a guy who can kiss babies and shake hands that looks more natural than the stiffs you have been running lately and you might actually get your guy into the big chair.
And Dems, I love your us against the world philosophy but can we please stop pretending that the movie director with the private island is just an average American worker. Just because your standard bearers have become economically successful doesn’t mean they should be ashamed of their success. Steal the line from the Neo-cons and applaud their success as the epitome of the American dream not some family secret that you should be ashamed of. By the way, don’t feel the need to out crazy the republicans. If you respond to every xenophobic or homophobic comment from your opponents with something equally stupid and hateful, it makes it real hard to determine which position is actually the lesser of the two evils.
I guess what I am really asking for is for people to be morally consistent. If your guy says something stupid, call him out. If the other guy says something smart, give him props. Lets get back to actually trying to find solutions to our problems and end this Kindergarten turf war over political positions.
Let’s play fair. The electoral college is not a great invention when your guy wins via it and a totally unfair device when the guy from the other party uses it to gain the presidency. Hypocrite, party of four, your table is ready. It is an equally archaic notion regardless of who has the advantage. It is also something that is a complete mystery to most Americans because it involves the two things that Americans have no knowledge about, math and how the government works. So how about we stop trying to legislate people’s sexual tastes and start working on this abomination. While we are talking about the rubiks cube that is our system of government, there is one more piece of misinformation that spreads like meningitis every election season and I am sick of hearing it. WE ARE NOT A DEMOCRACY. We are a representational republic. If we were a democracy, farting in an elevator would be a capital offense and the State of the Union would be delivered by President Beiber. Instead we have chosen the more rational and reasonable form of government but often our elected representatives seem to forget that.
Speaking of rationality, and it’s recent scarceness, can all sides stop with the fearmongering and demigoding every issue. Republicans, the liberals do not want to tax you at 100% and use the money to fund bestiality. Democrats, the conservatives do not want to execute you just because you make less than $200000 per year. So can we stop this irrationality and respect the healthy difference of opinion that an open society demands and maybe even once in a while come to a compromise about the issues facing our nation. I know it’s a novel idea but how about honoring the moderate position and not just when you need their votes to win an election.
I realize I am getting a little preachy but here are my rules to civil governance.
1. Do not use the term, “Take back our country” unless we have been invaded by aliens.
2. Do not make authoritative comments about a woman’s reproductive organs unless you have a medical degree …or a vajayjay.
3. Do not promise future governmental handouts in return for promised votes. That is not democracy, it’s prostitution.
4. Avoid unsubstantiated blanket accusations about your opponents. Reserve these fabrications for explaining to your boss why you can’t come to work on Monday.
5. The other guy winning is not the end of the American way of life. Our country has survived 4 depressions, numerous recessions, 4 presidential assassinations, 2 world wars, 2 worldwide influenza outbreaks, a civil war and death of Elvis. So trust me, we will be o.k.
I hope everyone can respect my opinions and see politics for what they truly are, just personal tastes. So save your hate for the important things, like your allegiance to your favorite college football team.
But if you are going to add me to your enemies list, do me a favor………
And spell my name right.

BOO!

Double, double toil and trouble; fire burn and cauldron bubble.”- Macbeth Act 4 Scene 1

 

I believe it was the 19th century Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard who said,” Hol-i-day, Cel-e-brate.” It was either him or Madonna. I so frequently get the two confused, although I know that she is the one with the leathery skin and the freakishly over developed upper arms. I on principle love the holidays and not just the big present giving ones but also the slightly over looked and often maligned lesser bank holidays. So whether it is the celebration of the birth of the Jesus, a national day of Thanksgiving, or even Arbor Day, I love to commemorate them all with raucous celebration. I do however find that as I, and more importantly my kids get older, I find some of the holidays are more of a struggle to enjoy than they used to be. Now, I am not talking about my issues with the over commercialization of Christmas nor the dirty look the guy at Home Depot gives me when ask him for directions to the “Leif Erikson Day” lights. I am speaking of that particular holiday that I am finding myself more perplexed by than others, All Hallow’s Eve. By the way for those of us that attended public school that means Halloween.

 

 

I know that I am not the only one that has issues with this beloved holiday. It seems that unlike Christmas or New Year’s which have a rather simple and easy to define emotional connection for most of us, Halloween seems to mean so many different things to different people and I am really struggling to make sense of what it means to me. It’s not just my emotional connection to the holiday that is confusing it seems to be that most people seem to have a strange relationship with the holidays as well. The question may arise on why I am thinking so deeply about Halloween on November 3. It is just that I have developed a new system of decision making where I wait at least 24 hours after an event to make any sound judgments about it. So if you want me to call 9-1-1 when you have a heart attack near me, you better call ahead. The reason for this is that I believe that if I start making less spur of the moment decisions then I could stop making some of the mistakes that happen when I just trust my instincts and this should avoid the mistakes of things such as my last haircut and that Friday night at R.V. City.

 

As has been well documented previously, I love living in Northeast Florida. In addition to the awesome weather, kind people and not having the pressure of having to worry about our local NFL team making the playoffs, we also have a diverse religious community. How diverse? We have Southern Baptist, missionary Baptist, united Baptist, separate Baptist and independent Baptist churches all within walking distance of each other. And despite their differences, all these communities of faith agree on two things, fidelity to the Holy Bible and an absolute abhorrence for Halloween. They detest this holiday on strictly spiritual grounds and I can respect that. And after spending an hour in line at the local party store to pay 50 bucks for basically a cowboy hat and a fake mustache, they just may be on to something. These religious persons and their fellow men of faith all reject Halloween on the grounds that the holiday is the basic repackaging of an ancient pagan holiday. My single rebuttal to that argument is that yes it is a pagan holiday, but it is a pagan holiday……..with CANDY

 

Candy, oh how I love thee. To this day nothing quite warms the heart like your sweet sugary goodness. At this stage in my life, I have outgrown many things, and I am not just talking about those size 30 skinny jeans. I no longer put a lost tooth under my pillow and expect a quarter in the morning and I don’t need to look in my closet before bedtime to know that it is 97% monster-free. However, I do now and always will love candy. There are some weeks that I actually believe I wish my paycheck would consist of a box of Mike and Ikes and a king sized 3 Musketeer bar. Unfortunately, until the local utility provider accepts this same form of currency, I guess I should just stick with American Dollars. Candy, that sweet elixir that gives you the jittery feel of Meth without the need to sell your body on the street corner to get more. However, if Reese’s Cups are ever declared a controlled substance I might consider it. To this day, nothing gives me more joy that a really high quality candy. I am talking about Brach’s or a Whitman’s sampler, I love any candy that requires the inclusion of a map in the box’s lid. I am not, however, talking about Toblerone or any of the euro trash candies that the gourmet stores try to pass off on us hard working citizens. I am an American; I like my beer cold, my soup hot and my chocolate made by Hershey’s.

 

In apology to the religious of you that I may have offended, I understand that it is with noblest intentions that you schedule your Fall Festivals to give your kids an alternative to Halloween but understand the limitations you are operating under. Whenever some kid has said, “I am going to the Fall Festival”, please understand that the question they were responding to was, “What are you doing for Halloween?” It probably best if could focus your energies into the other grand mysteries of October 31. Mysteries like why the house down the street with the swimming pool and the Lexus in the driveway is giving out candy that I know came from the Dollar Store.

 

Just a few more thoughts about the cultural rituals of Halloween. I love taking the kids trick or treating. Nothing quite as fun as trying to keep a mixed group of young boys and girls hopped up on candy from crashing through the neighbors tulip garden in the quest for more candy. I am going to have to get a job hearding cats just to put the skills I developed on Halloween to good use. I also wish to apologize if I may offended the neighbors by complimenting them on the great ogre costume they put on their child, only to discover that they had just returned from the grocery store and the child had not yet put on their costume. That’s the other part of Halloween that I hate. It’s too hard to tell the costumed kids from the ones that are just plain fugly. While I am apologizing, I need to say one more thing. If your kid is a former classmate or teammate on his baseball team and we pass by each other while trick or treating, please don’t expect me to recognize them. I am tired, it’s late, it is pitch black on this street and your kid is in costume. So just wave and keep on walking.

 

Before we wrap up there are just a few rules of Halloween I feel compelled to share:

 

No matter how young your kid is, do not start trick or treating until it is dark. It is just sad.

You should not put younger children in costumes containing more than one piece or you will find yourself carry each discarded costume piece street after street

You must say “Trick or Treat” AND “Thank you”. If you don’t I get to keep your bag.

You must live within a 3 mile radius of the street you are trick or treating on. If I see an out of town license plate on your car…let’s just say you better like eggs

Kids who are trick or treating need to learn how to network. If you get a good haul from a house, tell your friends.

If there is no porch lite on, it means the house is out of candy or a pedophile lives there. Both are equally good reasons to stay away

There is no need to go as a scary clown. Facts are facts. ALL clowns are scary.

Parents, I should not be able to smell liquor on you as we pass, especially if I am on the opposite side of the street.

If you are female and under the age of 18, the word “sexy” should not have appeared on the package your costume came in.

If you are over 14 AND not in costume, you are not trick or treating. You are just a bum begging for candy and if you come to my house …let’s just say you better like eggs.

If your lazy butt decides to just leave a bowl of candy on the porch and a sign that says, “Please share”, my kid gets to keep the bowl.

You must remove all live carved pumpkins from your yard by 1201 a.m. on November 2. There is nothing sadder that watching a Halloween decoration slowly devolve into a failed science experiment.

I don’t care how cute you think it is, it’s a “pumpkin” not a “punkin”

Finally a word about safety, take a count of number of children and types of costume before beginning trick or treating and again at the end of the night. That means if you leave with one ninja, two witches and a zombie then you must return with one ninja two witches and a zombie. Identity is of no importance to me.

Well, I have to go now.  I need to go find out where that zombie kid I brought home actually lives.

Once more…with feeling

They are good that are away.”- Scottish proverb

A habit is defined as an action  that is repeated until it becomes routine. We all have habits good or bad. These actions are intentional or reflexive but they become simply the way we get things done. Life is full of the habits that we have developed and whether we call them schedules or patterns or customs, or as my therapists refers to them as “manifestations of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder“, they are with us always. For two months I had developed a habit of writing in this blog on an almost daily basis. It had become a habit. As my schedule became fuller due to the return of the kids to school I found myself writing less and less often. This also tended to be at the same time that I had seriously decreased the frequency in my drinking alcohol. Now, I am not sure if my writing enabled my drinking or my drinking enabled my writing. Due to this, I have decided to return to doing both. Furthermore since my current lack of health insurance means that I have no way of entering a recovery program to cure either of this unhealthy habits, I foresee myself staying of this path of dual destruction for quite a while.

I used to motivate myself to write on a daily basis by the belief that I was actually entertaining the masses. After a bit of time had passed I revisited some of my old writings and realized that frankly they just weren’t that entertaining. This caused me to reflect on why I actually wrote at all. The ugly truth is that I write because I enjoy it and i have to stop lying to myself about having any other altruistic reason for doing so. So, if by chance you happen to suppress your gag reflex long enough get at least a bit of enjoyment from this pile o’ crap, then that is a fortunate bonus for me. At least you can have a moment of gratitude that I don’t live next door to you.

Well enough with the self-serving explanation of why I have been away, let’s get back to the insignificant minutia with which I am endlessly obsessed.

Speaking  of habits, I spent the entire summer playing a sort of poor man’s Mrs. Doubtfire except without the copious amount of body hair and without the awkward sexual confusing undertones. As the summer closed and the school year began, I came to realize several things. First of all, my children’s favorite fruit is bacon. Secondly, I came to learn that both babysitters and bus drivers are critically overpaid. I also learned that daytime drinking isn’t as much fun when you have to traverse the hostile environment that is the unbridled chaos that is a Middle school student pick-up area.
However, I continued to thoroughly enjoy the cooking of dinners and pretending to do laundry. I believe that at some point I am going to just burn all of the dressers in my home and replace them with plastic hampers as it seems that is the only way our family is able to store their clothes, besides that will mean far less dusting. I was cruising through my new relaxed schedule when I started to learn that apparently in our modern age money is actually necessary to buy those little luxuries in life. you know, those extravagant things like …food and shelter. I swear I sure do regret spoiling  my kids by raising them to expect things like food to eat and actually sleeping inside. I sure won’t that mistake again.
Therefore, I was forced to face the ugly truth, I had to go (gasp) back to work. Sorry Maury Povitch, you are going to have to wade in the shallow end of the gene pool all by yourself. (Sniff) “You are not the father“(sniff). I knew this wasn’t going to be easy, but I gots to go get paid.Luckily, I was able to find a position doing what I do best, namely sitting on my tuckus and running my mouth. It’s nice to have a calling in life.
Speaking of habits, when you have worked at one place for a substantial amount of time you grow accustomed to the specific culture that the company has and when you go someplace new it takes some adjustment to get used to that new culture. I came from the blue-collar world dominated by males and into  the white-collar world where the majority of workers are young women. At my new job, the people in charge manage their business whereas at my old job the people in charge tended to manage to do stupid things that just ticked me off.
The other major cultural difference is the basis difference that occurs between men and women. At my old job, Monday morning became a live version of sports radio, without the ads for drugs promising “Enhancement”(creepy). The guys would gather around and dissect the football games of the previous weekend and congratulate themselves on their vast knowledge of sports.At my new job there is stories of how great dinner with the boyfriends were and how great their new outfit makes them feel. Unfortunately, this feminizing influence also affects some of the men that work here. Yesterday while exiting the restroom I passed a man wearing a University of Arkansas polo. I, being a football fan, struck up a conversation about what he thought of the Razorbacks’ quest for a new coach. He responded that the shirt was just a gift and was indignant that I would misconstrue his garment choice as an indication of his interest in collegiate sports. Well, excuse the bleep out of me. I have a crazy aunt  that used to send me maidenform bras every Christmas but that doesn’t mean I am going to wear them to work. And if I do decide to wear them on “really casual Fridays” you can bet your sweet butt that I will expect you to make certain judgement about me based on what I am wearing.
Speaking of fashion, there are some certain other cultural differences between my current job and the ones in the past. The predominance of young women has the most profound effect in what one wears to work. My old workplace insisted on us wearing uniforms in Satan‘s favorite color, drab green. At my new job casual days meant the wearing of a pair of comfortable jeans and a polo shirt. At this new job, it seems to mean one comes to work in a micro-mini skirt and a pair of “F-me” high heels. I don’t mind so much as everyone likes looking at people dressed well but the problem is that the air conditioning in the building is really cold and my knees are starting to chafe.
So although it may take some adjustment on my part, I look forward to this job becoming the old job that I complain about when I get a new job. I would love to keep on this writing kick but I have to go now.
Its Florida/Georgia Weekend………
 And there is another habit of mine that I am about to indulge.

What’s the matter?

This was not supposed to happen,

but that doesn’t matter.

We were just going to the movies

but that doesn’t matter.

She was only supposed to be be my friend

but that doesn’t matter.

It was only a couple of dates

but that doesn’t matter.

It wasn’t going to continue once I went back to school

but that doesn’t matter

She was just coming out to see a concert

but that doesn’t matter.

I was sure that she wouldn’t be that interested in me

but that doesn’t matter.

She would find somebody better

but that doesn’t matter.

I was going to come back to town those weekends anyway

but that doesn’t matter.

I wasn’t really sure we were dating

but that doesn’t matter.

I was  going to move back to Jacksonville anyway

but that doesn’t matter.

It was just going to last through the summer

but that doesn’t matter.

So we decided to get slightly more serious

but that doesn’t matter.

Getting married wasn’t that big of a deal

but that doesn’t matter.

Tallahassee was just an adventure

but that doesn’t matter.

It was just a baby

but that doesn’t matter.

Well since we have a girl we should at least have a boy

but that doesn’t matter.

We are going to move back to Jacksonville

but that doesn’t matter.

We will get our own place eventually

but that doesn’t matter.

It’s only a house

but that doesn’t matter.

She thinks I give too much

but that doesn’t matter.

I think she doesn’t compromise enough

but that doesn’t matter.

I love sports and she doesn’t

but that doesn’t matter.

I am a social creature and she likes time alone

but that doesn’t matter.

I have to get dressed regardless but she likes to wear pajamas

but that doesn’t matter.

She likes Dr. Who and Duran Duran

but that doesn’t matter.

She doesn’t like to drive

but that doesn’t matter.

I don’t give her the personal space she needs

but that doesn’t matter.

We don’t have lots of money

but that doesn’t matter.

The house sometimes gets messy

but that doesn’t matter.

Today is her birthday

but that doesn’t matter.

She is the greatest thing in the world to me and I love her more than i could ever say

AND THAT IS All MATTERS.

More than Movies

“I’m your huckleberry”

I love this movie. It’s called Tombstone and unlike that Kevin Costner Wyatt Earp movie that came out at the same time, it is very entertaining. It is well documented that I love movies. I love the magic of spending two hours completely enthralled my characters and events that are pure fantasy, even when that fantasy is loosely based on historical figures. Of all the films that I have enjoyed during my life, there is a small family of films, recently included was Tombstone, that hold a special allure to me. They have earned a place of honor in my life such that even if I have the movie on VHS and DVD and the movie happens to come on t.v., I can’t help but watch it. Most of these movies are from my childhood. They are the old war movies I used to watch as a kid on Saturday afternoons like The Dirty Dozen and The Great Escape. They include the Disney movies like Jungle Book and Peter Pan. They include the vast collection of Batman films from the original relaunch featuring Michael Keaton and Jack Nicholson to the entire Christopher Nolan reinvention , however this does not include that George Clooney slop fest Batman and Robin because it was just awful.  And of course they include the Original Star Wars saga and to a slightly lesser degree the prequels that followed, proof that this is about the films I loved even when I recognized that they weren’t as good as they could have been. This may seem like an eclectic mix of films to hold in such high regards and I had never really been able to connect them before. But as I am in an introspective mood this morning, I think I have found their common thread and that which connects them to me. It’s about heroes.

I am not sure if it was because of the era that I grew up in or if the truth is that everybody regardless of age feels the same. Personally I have always sought out heroes and like  most people the search for them took me into the world of entertainment.I remember spending Sundays as a child watching old reruns of shows like The Lone Ranger and Tarzan. These heroes were without flaw. They were brave. They were noble. Their reputations were without reproach. I held them in the highest of regard and then I started to outgrow them.

The ones that I chose to replace them as I grew older were never as brave, as noble, nor as pure as the ones I had as a small child. This is probably due to the fact that the world that I was growing older in was showing itself to not be as pure I believed it was when I was young. But luckily for me, I lived in a time when there were some real life heroes that I encountered in my life and this did a finer job at giving me hope than any fictional character ever did.

My mom was always looking in on elderly people that she knew and helped take care of. To a small child this was, at first sight, was a random collection of strange old men and women who dressed well even when they weren’t going anywhere, used to grandest of manners ever to strangers and spoke often about vague concepts like honor and appreciation. As we lived in a world where kids were never left home alone, I accompanied my mother on these visitations. And as Mom performed simple household duties, I would sit there and talk to the elderly citizens which we visited. They enjoyed having someone young to talk to and they told me these great fantastic tales. It was not until I grew older and recalled these tales that I learned who these people were. They were heroes.

There were the pair of brothers who survived the sinking of the Titanic, by being given the spot on the lifeboat that their mother let them have instead of her. There was the century old woman who told me tales of her father’s time as a Civil War soldier. Even the least senior of those we visited, barely in their sixties, told me of battles in places like Iwo Jima and Bataan. These stories served to do more than just entertain me, they formed a new set of criteria as to what qualified as a hero. It was from that point on that I searched for my heroes, not on the television nor in the theater but rather in everyday life.

Still, occasionally there would be a hero from the larger realm of celebrity that would fit all my requirements and unfortunately one of the greatest on of these passed away yesterday. His name was Neil Armstrong and he was everything a hero was supposed to be and more. I was born 3 years after Neil became the first man to step on the moon, but had the good fortune to live in a time and in a state where astronauts were not relics of a history book but rather where the most popular answer to “what do you want to be when you grow up”. I even attended a high school named after an astronaut who had perished during the Space Race. Armstrong was brave and noble and the embodiment of the power that science had over our dreams as children. He was the hero we never outgrew, not because of what he did but because of what he didn’t do. He never cheapened his image by showing up on a game show or some ill-advised sitcom role. Most importantly, he never tried to cash in on his fame by trying to sell a veggie steamer or indoor grill. When he retired from NASA, he continued to be a hero. He became a teacher, and when that career was finished he quietly drifted off into his own quiet world of solitude. His passing is truly sad in that it was preceded by the death of that which made him famous, the American quest for manned space exploration.

Although my need for heroes is something that I thought I would have grown too old for, the truth is that we need heroes now more than ever. I still have them, and I still need them. However, the ones I now choose are far more terrestrial and far less famous. They are the teacher that promises to challenge the kids and open their world. They are the extended day worker that treats your kids like they were your own. They are the state trooper who despite not getting a pay raise in three years, still does his job with professionalism and valor. They are the friends that treat you like family and the family that acts like your friends. They are the mom that is devoted to finding a way to let her allergic son have a normal life and the mom who despite the pains she has had in her life greets each day with hope and a smile. And they are my kids, not because of the heroic deeds that they have already done…

But the heroic deeds they are yet to do.

Ain’t skeered

Not bad for a guy with a monocle.

No, I am not talking about the Monopoly guy, although he has always been a much overlooked American hero. I mean consider his attributes. This is a man who has four railroads, two utility companies and one hell of a free parking lot but that always made me wonder. How much parking do you need for a horse, an iron and a thimble? I know he has a place on Park Avenue but consider the bright green houses and bright red hotel and it’s pretty obvious that he has spent some time in the hood. He is the American dream, and the whole “get out of jail free” card is absolute brilliance. However, that card is not nearly as effective with modern-day law enforcement as one might think.

But, he is not who I am talking about. I am talking about a president. He was a man who was elected in the midst of an economic crisis. He had been left a nation divided by years of political squabbling and a financial system that had been rocked by graft and accusations of corrupt practices left by the previous republican administration.He expanded government in ways never seen before. He involved the government into the economic system in ways that horrified parts of the society. He was accused of being everything from a womanizer to a secret communist. No, not Obama. I am talking about Franklin Delano Roosevelt. I know what you are thinking. You don’t remember ever seeing a picture of FDR in a monocle. Well the truth is that he didn’t wear one. However, if he could serve four terms as President and pretend he wasn’t in a wheelchair, which he was, then I can say he wore a monocle. It’s only fair.

I don’t want to get into an argument about his policies as president and maybe the country would have pulled itself out of the Depression and won World War 2 even if Wendell Wilkie would have won the presidency. However, I imagine that the Wendell Wilkie memorial would have been really lame. What is not debatable is the effect that FDR had on the psyche of a wounded nation. He single handedly instilled confidence into a nation that was shaken after years of economic turmoil. While his ability as a politician and president may be debatable, his skill as an orator is unquestioned. From his first inaugural address through all of the weekly Fireside chats, he spoke to a nation in a way that reassured the people of how they could save their country from the edge of collapse. Of all his many, well-known lines, there were two examples of his talent with the American language that truly impacted the country. The first was,”So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.” and the second was,”You have to keep your pimp hand strong”. I am sure the second was some sort of veiled threat aimed at Hilter and Mussolini but we will leave that for the scholars to sort out. However, the first quote is the one that makes me think. Not about war or the Depression of an era long since passed. But rather, it makes you think that most basic of emotions. That which has been dominating the human soul since we first climbed out of the primordial ooze. It’s about fear.

First, it is necessary to establish as to what are we referring to when we speak of fear. This would be a great time for me to cite something about the historical origin of the word fear or at the very least give a definition that I culled from the Oxford Dictionary. However, since my daughter is using our “good” computer, I am forced to type this on a computer that has been in the family since Friends was on the air and if I have to open one more tab in this browser the computer will freeze like an ice cube in the Arctic, leaving me to stare at the locked up computer screen like a dog trying to decipher algebra. Since I have established the rule that there is no crying on Fridays, I will just skip the well researched and properly documented evidence and just tell you what I think about fear. After all, this blog is called “the things I have learned” not “stuff I just looked up so I could copy and paste”.

Despite what anthropologists may tell you, and yes you can’t swing a dead cat without hitting an anthropologist, fear is a relatively new concept. Oh, by the way, if you swing a dead cat and hit a veterinarian, they get really mad. Imagine yourself in the ancient prehistoric world, and despite what that song says,  you will not have a yabba dabba doo time,
a dabba doo time, nor a gay old-time. The truth is that it is a world without medicine and limited food and not a single Redbox in the whole damn town. So when cousin Ogg leaves the communal cave to go “drain the velociraptor” , if you know what I mean, and ends up being the hors d’oeuvres at the dinosaur version of Olive Garden you don’t feel fear. Since danger is part of the world you live in, it is accepted as just part of life and fearing things that you cannot avoid is pointless. So when something like that happens, you just shrug your rather hairy shoulders and realize that it means every body get an extra Mammoth meatball at dinner.

As society grew  more and  more safe and advanced, the knowledge that the world was filled with things that could and probably would eat you began to be replaced with the belief that the world is a safe place and that allowed the brain to develop unreasonable concerns about things that were very remote dangers. That distance from peril was just enough room for the common human psyche to create, all too often, our greatest predators. These predators are our own fears. If you want to see this in action, travel to the deepest remotest jungles of the world. Go to a place that has 86 words for grass and dirt but not a single one for the “over the shoulder boulder holder“. These people eat what nature provides and wear nothing more than a smile. Take one of the fine people who are completely in harmony with nature and have no fear of the world in which they live  and put them on a plane for America. You know what they will say? “AH! Big silver sky bird!” After that, and after you teach them English, they will tell you that in their own world they feared nothing. So you take them to any random city,and for God sakes put some clothes on them, and as you begin to indoctrinate them into our civilized culture they begin to let fear creep into their lives. Before you know it, that same fearless jungle man who used to keep a jaguar as a house pet and used a green mamba as a jump rope is now crying like he lost a limb because the sushi place doesn’t have free wi-fi. By distancing ourselves from real dangers, we have allowed artificial fear to enter our  lives.

Look at our entertainment choices. Horror movies, documentaries about shark attacks, The Kardasians. We have inundated our culture with things that frighten us. Just last night when watching the Ravens stop the life out of my Jaguars, talk about scary, got to be too much I flipped over to see that the alien movie Signs was on. There is absolutely nothing realistic about an alien invasion but watching the scene where the alien is first seen still gave me the shivers. I shouldn’t fear aliens and I don’t, but for just that moment, my brain served me up a piping hot bowl of scared soup. And you know the most unrealistic thing about the whole movie? If the Mel Gibson character had acted in the movie the way the real Mel Gibson acted on those taped phone calls with his girlfriend that TMZ was playing a couple of years ago, the aliens would have never gotten off the ships.

It is these unrealistic fears that so debilitate us that we can’t do the things necessary to make this world a better place. Take this for example. If you have ever seen the movie Silence of the Lambs, let me ask you a question,”If today, you saw a guy with a cast on his arm trying to load a couch into the back of a van, would you help him?” HELL NO! You would be running the other way faster than Usain Bolt. Because, although the guy may be completely innocent, in your mind you are convinced that 10 minutes after walking up to that van you would be in a basement being told “to rub the lotion on its skin”. I am a completely reasonable, o.k. an occasionally reasonable human being, but I know that if I was standing in a field with Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman  that there is no way on God’s green earth that I am going to sign for any U.P.S. package. It’s not just recent cultural entertainment that causes us fear, it is things from the far past that give us all the collective willies. For example, has any one ever seen a single painting of a clown that wasn’t absolutely creepy? And we all know that creepy is just fear with training wheels.

We don’t even have the luxury about being nostalgic  about the entertainment that we saw as children. Recently I rewatched the worst of the Jaws films, Jaws 3. To my modern-day brain, it looks like the visual effects were made by  pre-schoolers with scissors and construction paper. However, you know that you are going to double check the strength of the glass before you go into that tubey walkway thing through the shark tank at Sea World. I know that sharks are real and always a concern when going swimming in Florida but I shouldn’t have to take a Valium to relax enough to enjoy swimming…..especially when I am in the pool at the gym. But that is what fear does to us, it robs us of our quality of life by making us irrationally concerned with things we can’t control. It even controls how we create our values system. I believe in medicine. I know that there are great men now in labs working to improve the quality and quantity of our years by finding new and unique ways to combat disease. I am all in favor of these innovations. However, I am fanatically opposed to any kind of genetic engineering. No, I don’t fear clones. No, I have no religious objections. My only greatest fear is that somewhere, some genetic engineer will find a way to alter the basic genetic code of primates. And the one thing more scary than a poo flinging Planet of the Apes would be that he could create flying monkeys. Sorry, I just got the shakes.

My fears also follow me into the real world. Recently, I have had to deal with a drug bust in my neighborhood and the Hazmat teams coming out to clean up a large diesel engine oil spill in our storm drains. But, does that scare me? Not at all. What scares me is that when he was moving in, I swear that the new neighbor looks a heck of a lot like Micheal J. Fox. Oh what, that doesn’t scare you? It frightens me to death. Here is a guy that could both travel back in time and turn into a werewolf, and  I am pretty sure that the Parkinson’s is just an act to lure us into a false sense of security. Even scarier is the idea is that I could run into the guy who played “Skippy” on Family Ties. I am sorry, it is just too much for me to deal with.

Luckily, any scientist that is reading this, and if you are a scientist reading this then I have to ask what the hell is wrong with you, will tell you that luckily our brains have a technique for dealing with this emotional state of fear. It is called the Fight or Flight response. What this means is that our brains have wired us in one of two ways to deal with scary situations. Either we will fight, stand up and face our fears, or we will take flight, and run away from them. I have always said that ,”I am a lover not a fighter” but I think it’s time to change than tune. I have to stand up and face my fears and defeat them where they live. Besides, I can’t take flight. With my luck it will be like every other flight I have ever taken….

And there will be a kid behind me, kicking my seat the whole way.

Hey Kids: Time to get yer learn on

It must be the holiday.

I have noticed something very peculiar about today. There is a almost reverent silence enveloping the neighborhood. Every adult , and especially parents, seem to have a smile on their faces and a skip to their step. The traffic is far worse than it was last Monday and yet I don’t hear anyone complaining. It can’t be the weather, it’s a humid rainy day. There was hardly a line at the Starbucks this morning and I have yet to run into a single insolent teenager all day. The incompetent employees at the local grocery store that I have seen since June, are no longer there. Maybe it’s because it’s National Lemonade Day. That must be it. That would explain the sour faces on all the kids I saw hanging out on the corner this morning. Yes that’s definitely it……..unless………It just might have something to do with today being the first day of school. I am going to go out on a limb here and say that it is probably not the lemonade.

I used to love the first day of school and now even though I haven’t been to school in over a decade and a half, I am not counting Driving School and that Anger Management class, I still love the first day of school. The first day of school used to mean that I had on new school clothes and some kicking shoes. I usually had a brand new haircut and a feeling of superiority that came from the piles of clean notebook paper as of yet unchewed pencils. But I have to admit that now that I have kids, I love the first day of school even more. For those kids out there: #1 why aren’t you in school and #2 I must inform you something that your parents probably never told you.

Your parents don’t like you during the summer. Yes they love you year round and they provide for you in the month of July as well as they do in October but the truth of the matter is that you are very unlikeable creatures during the Summer months. When a parent has to leave for work at 6 am and sees you in your room snoring away, they don’t like you. When you tell them how you spent all day playing video games and texting your friends while they were busting their butts working for some a*hole boss so they could pay for the electricity that you are sucking up at an alarming rate, they don’t like you. When you tell them how bored you are, they don’t like you. When you are still wearing your pajamas at 4 in the afternoon, they don’t like you. Most of all, when the living room is a wasteland of opened video game disk containers, crumpled chip bags and half-drunken soda cans, they really don’t like you. And when they come home and they first words out of your mouth are, “I am glad you are home because I am hungry”, they are dangerously close to telling you how much they don’t  like you. But they suddenly it happens, they look at the calendar and realize it is time for school to start and the parents know that all is going to be o.k.

I know that some kids don’t believe that their parents like them more when they are at school than during the summer. However, consider the following:

  • When do you get new shoes, when school lets out or when it starts?
  • When during the Summer did your parents insist on taking you to buy you new clothes? Just a guess, it wasn’t July 4th.
  • Do your parents buy you new backpacks, lunchboxes and calculators in June or in August?
  • If your birthday is at the end of summer, why do your parents have a party? Because they have gone the entire Summer without killing you.

Kids need to understand the complex sociological reasoning behind why they send you to school. Yes, they do want you to learn and be active participators in our democracy. They also want you to use your bedroom at some point in their lives and if your illiterate ass is still living there at age 42, that makes this highly unlikely. But, it’s much more than that. You see, having kids is not that different than having a dog. You are both are helpless when little, make a mess everywhere you go, and are far too noisy for our liking. The principle difference is that if the raising of a dog goes awry, almost anyone will step in to take them off your hands and take care of them whereas with a child it is basically a “no refund or exchanges” situation. So knowing this you have to understand that school is basically a sort of Westminster Dog Show for human beings. We take the kids. Give them the best bloodline we can. Get them clean and presentable. Teach them a trick or two and just hope to God that they don’t humiliate themselves or us. Saying your kid is an honor student and well-liked by his peers is pretty much saying he won “Best in Show”.

So we send the kids off to be with other people. We have taught them to close their mouths when they eat, to say “please” and “thank you” and just hope that they have listened at least once out of the thousand of times that we have told them that we love them and hope they make good decisions. The hardest part of kids growing older is that we are forced to abdicate so much of the control we had on the first day of school when they were younger. We used to be able to walk them to their class on that first day, scope out which of the paste eating nose pickers we wanted our child to avoid and care fully introduce our kid to their teacher as we silently gave the teacher a look that says,”This little human being is the most important thing in my world. Because of him, I went through 28 hours of labor, have cleaned up vomit and other assorted messes at 2 in the morning and have not had a good night’s sleep since George W. Bush’s first term. If you make him cry, I will kill you.” But as the kids get older, you are basically a money dispensing taxi driver. You role is to deliver the child to school and avoid being seen by any one under the age of 18.

So, the first day comes and it always brings such excitement. That afternoon the kids are a bubbling fountain of how great the teachers are and how weird all the other kids are. They tell you how this year is going to be the greatest ever and how they can’t wait to go back tomorrow. Quietly you chuckle to yourself how this story will change once actual schoolwork begins but for now you let them enjoy your day. Their first day is happy and so is yours but then……somewhere in the back of your mind you feel it. That ominous sense that this won’t last forever. The time will come when there will be no more first days of school for you. A time when they will drive themselves to school or the morning when that breakfast on the first day will be in a dorm in some faraway city. Today was my twelfth first day of school as a parent and I know that I don’t have too many more left. But, I will keep enjoying them while they last. And even when there are no more first days of school with my kids……..

I am going to buy them new pencils anyway.

Spellcheck is good enough for me

I have been thinking a lot lately about my passions.

I could  never be one of those people that just goes through life in a general malaise. To just go through the hum drum style of life that some people choose seems like a true hell on earth. I don’t want to just survive life, and this is obvious by some of the decisions I make, I want to live it. I want to live with passion. I want to test the best this buffet of life has to offer and occasionally go back for seconds. I enjoy the experiences that define who I am, even if nobody else gets it.

That is a great thesis statement but defining that general concept is really rather tricky. To do so, one must clearly identify what our passions are. This is about the things that we love. No, not the whole family, friends, and religion thing. If you actually have to put that part of your passions into words in order to validate it then you are just a pathetic and sad human being. I am talking about those little inconsequential, as  they may seem, details that transform existence into actual life. For me, my loves are simple. I love words.

No, not that crappy Facebook version of scrabble. I am talking about the way that you can paint a picture with nothing more than language. I love the nuance of a really great phrase. I love how you can even draw tears with a cutting remark. Sticks and stones….I don’t need no sticks. I also love the way the English language is such a living language. I know that the ancient Romans are seen as the high point in civilization, but I could never take Latin serious as a language. All those “ium”s and “ius”s just drive me crazy. No, English is my lady and I love here very much.

One of the great things about English is the way it is such a living language. I love the way that English has borrowed parts of all the languages in the world and used those formerly foreign words to create something new and alive. Let’s face it. English is the P. Diddy of the linguistic world.

I guess it is a big egotistical to refer to it as a living language. I believe a more proper way to frame it is as a zombie language. As any one who has had the misfortune to take public transportation recently can attest to, just when you think the language has died, there is always some little glimmer of life that keeps it going. The language is fortunate that it is not a zombie because if any thing in this neighborhood had to feed on brains, it would definitely starve. Additionally, the language has survived decades of its so called “protectors”, English teachers, doing their best to kill it with forced lessons about things like diagramming sentences and rhyme scheme.

Further proof of the uniqueness of the English language is the way that its holy book, The Dictionary, is forced to add new words on a yearly basis. However after reviewing the words added in the last two years, maybe its time to cease  this exercise.  Here is just a few of the words that have been added recently and their definitions that I just made up. Yeah, like I am going to go buy a new dictionary each year. If Wikipedia can’t define it, then neither can I .

  • “f-bomb” – polite way of referring to the word “fuck”. Only used by people on broadcast television and those who have never heard me talk…ever.
  • “aha moment”- that point in time during the trivia game at the local wing place where you remember the name of the Norwegian band that sang “Take on Me
  • “bucket list”- those plumbing items at Home Depot that you send your wife to buy because she said that there is no way in hell she is going to dig through every container in that disgusting garage for one $1.07 piece of PVC
  • “craft beer”-beer. Not to be confused with “crap beer” which is just another word for Miller Lite
  • “earworm”- Eewwwwww! Grosss!
  • “tipping point”- that defined moment it changes from a waiter providing quality customer service to him just basically kissing your ass
  • “game changer”- your wedding night. And by the way the game was Life and you just lost.
  • “boomerang child”- a kid born in Australia. See also bandicoot baby, Tasmanian toddler and  didgeridoo daughter
  • “robocall”- the worst Robocop sequel of the all or any telephone conversation with Kristen Stewart
  • “sexting”- the act of being a perve on the phone as well as in real life. Usually reserved for lone men pretending to be teenagers and for members of Congress
  • “Cyberbullying”- taking your douchbaggery to the internet
  • vuvuzela“- reason number 235,685 that I hate soccer
  • “jeggings”- Funny, they were jeans when you bought them.
  • “cougar”- Sad, older woman that seeks sexual congress with younger men. Male version is referred to as a pedophile
  • “retweet”- Oh goody. Now you can repeat the things that I didn’t care about when other people told me.

And finally, there is “walk-off”- what you should have done when you saw this post.