Apr 252013

So, like many NFL fans, I’m getting pretty psyched up for the NFL Draft that starts Thursday night.

Why? I’m glad you asked, because here are

The Top 10 Reasons I Love the NFL Draft

1. J-E-T-S JETS! JETS! JETS! Fans!!!!!

This is a dirty secret of the NFL Draft: That the electricity and buzz that’s been created around the draft largely comes  courtesy of boisterous New York Jets fans who have been regularly packing Radio City Music Hall for years. Sure, fans from other teams are there, but none of them react with the enthusiasm—or derision—of Jets fans.

Although they will never admit it, half of the football fans who tune in do so just to see how Jets fans will react when the team makes its pick. Heck, there’s even an infamous—and admittedly, amusing—video out there (which I will NOT link to) that includes all the worst Jets’ picks and the fans dramatic overreactions, be it booing, crying or threatening to kill themselves.

This year, the Jets hold the #9 and #13 picks in the first round, and I can promise you that in the lead up to those, you won’t even have to be looking at ESPN or the NFL Network—you’ll hear the crowding frothing itself up into a frenzy with its distinctive J-E-T-S JETS! JETS! JETS! cheer as soon as the team is on the clock.

And trust me, you will want to be looking at the TV because there’s no doubt that both networks are thrilled the Jets have two picks this year and will heavily feature Jets fans in all their green-and-white glory to give their broadcasts a little more juice. Which, I promise, they will.

2. Mel Kiper Jr.’s hair

It’s amazing and hasn’t moved since 1984, when the beloved draft guru covered his first NFL draft on ESPN.

3. The NFL Draft is the oasis of the off-season. Falling almost at the midpoint on the calendar between the final gun of the Super Bowl and the opening kickoff of NFL training camp, the draft is perfectly positioned to give fans a magical dose of NFL football that will hopefully carry them through the dark days of the off-season.

4. Everyone wins on draft day. Just like the “contests” of today’s youth, everyone is a winner on draft day, and everyone gets a trophy—actually, multiple trophies that hopefully will become NFL stars of the future.

Some draft “experts” will try and grade the draft in the days following the event, but this means nothing—back in 2008, the Kansas City Chiefs were heralded as “the biggest winners” by every pundit. That year on the field (you know, where the games are actually played) the team finished 2-14 and head coach Herm Edwards was fired. They went 4-12 the next season, too. Great googly moogly!

5. Unbridled optimism. Taking the positive vibe another step, the draft means that all the hardships of last season are over and shiny new pieces have been brought for a shiny new season. Every team in the NFL—even the Jets—is tied at 0-0!

Actually, it’s even better than that: If your team was bad last season, the draft is a redemption of sorts, an opportunity for those who were last to now be first …. to pick! (See, that butt-fumble wasn’t all for naught.)

6. Even the experts get it wrong. So if you’re any sort of football fan, for the past few weeks you’ve probably been looking at various “mock drafts,” worthless exercises that many sportswriters engage in to fill space while waiting for actual news. Every single one of them is based on nothing other than pure speculation, often resulting in less accuracy than even the worst weather forecasters.

In fact, last year only 1 “draft expert” got more than 10 players and teams correct, which is staggering considering there are 32 teams and 7 rounds. Doing the math: 32 x 7 = 224 possible correct guesses, and the best (not Mel Kiper Jr., who literally invented the vocation of “NFL draft expert”) only got 13, which is 5.8%.

Really, if you used a blindfold and a dartboard (or even 100 monkeys and some typewriters), you could probably hit on the same percentage. You’re just not getting paid to guess.

Oh, and within three years, better than half of the athletes who are picked in the next few days will be out of the NFL.

7. The great debate. For the past few weeks, all through the draft and over the next few weeks, there will be seemingly endless debate over who was projected to be picked, who was actually picked and who should’ve been picked. It will consume cable television channels, sports talk radio and the whole of the internet, and none of it will matter even one iota.

Seriously, not even one. It’s all talk that has zero effect on any games.

8. Into the great wide open. Right now, unless you’re the aforementioned Kansas City Chiefs who have the No. 1 pick this year, every NFL team—and all its fans—have absolutely no idea what players they may end up or what their teams will look like come Saturday night after “Mr. Irrelevant” (the last player picked of the draft) is selected.

The same goes for the hundreds of college players who hope to hear their names called in the next few days—their futures are about to be decided and they have almost no control over it. Scary and fun!

9. It’s over the top.

Two networks providing worldwide live coverage, a state-of-the-art staging in Radio City Music Hall, hundreds of live spectators and reporters, millions of TV viewers, a seeming infinite horde of internet acolytes, bloggers and self-proclaimed experts—all for what essentially is picking teams like you used to do in gym class.

Really, the crux of the draft is that when a team’s turn comes, a duly-appointed representative gets up and hands a card to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, who reads whatever name is on the card—I’m not joking when I say that the entire thing could be done in an AOL chat room.

Still, the masses will gather and watch, and it will generate headlines across the country. Amazing.

10. It’s a guy day. With all due respect to the majority of the ladies out there, this seems to be a day primarily enjoyed by men, an opportunity for us to get together and celebrate the NFL with food, beer and a ridiculous amount of interest for such an over-hyped event. I will be at my pal Pisci’s house, a master chef who will be essentially putting together a top-notch tail-gate type extravaganza (I’m bringing brownies—it’s a tradition!) that we will devour, mostly with our hands while we grunt and nod at the TV.

MEN, baby!!!!

In addition to gratuitous amounts of belching and farting (although maybe not in that order), and inappropriate comments aplenty, there will be a healthy amount of male bonding, which I will thoroughly enjoy and hold in my heart …. until the actual games begin in September!

Merry Draftmas everyone!


Apr 212013

If you search for tenderness
It isn’t hard to find.
You can have the love you need to live.
But if you look for truthfulness
You might just as well be blind.
It always seems to be so hard to give.

That’s right, Billy, honesty is such a lonely word … although with good reason—no one really wants to hear the truth.

[By the way: How is it possible that genius Piano Man hasn’t released any new material in 20(!) years, yet talentless, auto-tuned hacks like Taylor Swift are allowed to push out “songs” every 20 minutes? I will never ever understand it.]

But getting back to honesty, I was thinking of myself (as usual), and how many times a day that I bite down on my own thoughts and words so as not to tell what I perceive as the truth because it’ll hurt or offend someone. And not only in obvious moments when I want to blurt out something like, “Everyone knows you’re bald and that’s a freakin’ comb-over!” but when I write—I want to share stories about things like this one horrible troll with whom I used to work and how I made a pact with another co-worker that when this soulless demon is finally called back to hell, we’ll go to its grave and actually dance on it …

See? I held the truth back right there. I didn’t name a name, didn’t identify a gender, didn’t say where I was working, didn’t mention the co-worker or anything that would identify the douchebag—although I really, really want to.

It’s also not just worrying about offending someone or making trouble for myself. Take for example, the simple question: “How’s it going?” It’s pretty much accepted by all of us liars that if someone asks it, the only answer that anyone else (myself included) generally wants to hear is, “Fine,” even if someone’s standing there with one of their arms freshly hacked off and are bleeding out.

Okay, maybe that’s a different thing than actual honesty, but aside from the fact that the majority of us are so self-absorbed that we don’t really want to know, it seems like we’re constantly insulating ourselves and others from the truth, whatever it may be.

I suppose it’s the way we’re raised, in a way. Even though we are initially hardwired to be honest—just ask any toddler what they think of anything, and you’ll get a very straightforward (and often amusing) answer—we are nonetheless lied to right out of the box about everything from Santa Claus and death (“Rover went to a special dog farm”) to our actual abilities. Just once, wouldn’t you love to hear: “Look Mommy, I made a picture of you!” “Wow honey, that really … sucks. I mean, what the hell is this? I don’t have green skin and black smudges for eyes, and my head isn’t shaped like a broken egg. Holy crap! Do you even know what a human being looks like? Even if you’re going for a Picasso look, this is still absolute fail. Wow. I think we need to get your eyes tested because you might just be color blind, too.”

Okay, that *might* just be a bit much, but somewhere along the way we decided that life is just easier and maybe even better when we lie to each other. We do it so much we don’t even realize that we’re doing it—when we’re politically correct (no one has “problems” any more, they have “challenges;” nor are they “stupid” or “fat” but “intellectually challenged” or “gravity impaired”), when we bleep out “curse” words on TV or in music (even though we know exactly what they are), or when we see someone who’s been sick and tell them, “You look great.”

Again, I get that I’m mostly pointing out cases where we don’t want to hurt or offend, but what’s so bad about being hurt or offended on occasion? We used to live by the old “sticks and stones” axiom, but is that long gone now in the name of being more civilized and evolved? Because I’m not sure that’s working out, either. (See Boo Boo, Honey.)

Think about this: How many times do you catch yourself saying something like, “Well, honestly, I thought it was a good idea to set him on fire.” I do it too, and the implication is that when you preface a sentence with “honestly” or “to tell the truth,” you’re conceding that you’re lying the rest of the time you’re mouth is moving. Again, we all do it, either consciously or subconsciously, but it’s indicative of how guarded we’ve become in our speech.

Stephen Colbert famously coined the term “truthiness,” referring to the idea that people now believe what they say should be true even if it isn’t technically true. I know he was mostly mocking politics when he conceived it, but it certainly seems to have expanded to the general public. We don’t tell the truth any more, we sort of hint at it or accept the pieces that we want to be true, and chuck the rest.

As the always-wise “they” say: The truth hurts. And so, rather than deal with any sort of pain or discomfort, we assiduously try to avoid it—bread and circuses, rose-colored glasses, living with blinders on. Ignorance is bliss, and we do so enjoy our bliss.

It would be nice if we could somehow just find more bliss in being honest.


Apr 142013

I want to be a better writer. Every time I start typing—be it for work, for a post or even an email—I want to write something that people will read and say, “Hey, that was really cool.” I want the words and sentences and ideas and images to bubble up and out of my mind like the Trevi Fountain in Rome, as opposed to the way I write now, which seems like getting every word out of my head is like pulling an old tire full of concrete up from the mucky bottom of a swamp. I want it to be effortless. And beautiful. And brilliant …

I don’t need to be a rich and famous bestseller (although it’d be nice), but I’d like to be able to consistently produce content that’s either so thought-provoking or so touching or so amusing that everyone is looking for the “like” or “share” button when they finish reading it, even if there isn’t one.

I wish my writing was so terrific that people wanted to read it because they loved it, not out of some sense of duty, which I know is often the case.

I want to be a better parent. Every morning when I wake up and see my sons, I want to be able to find an extra 12 hours in the day so I can spend it with them where all I do is show them cool things in the world, teach them everything they need to know to succeed and have fun, too.

I want to make sure my kids are not only happy, but well-adjusted, independent and able to take care of themselves. I want to them to be smart, trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and irreverent—not exactly perfect boy scouts (open minds and hearts, please!), but perfect humans because I devoted so much to them and didn’t have to do things like work, go to meetings or try to carve out some “me” time on occasion.

All right, I know they’ll never be perfect—and really, I don’t want them to be—but I’d like them to be perfectly happy and normal humans. Okay, not “normal,” but abby normal in the way where they get that joke because I’ve made sure to expose them to all the fun things I experienced in my childhood, and then some.

They haven’t shot the President … yet. I desperately don’t want to fail them any more than I feel like I may already be doing.

I want to be a better husband. Every day when my wife wakes up and sees my lumpy head on the pillow next to her, I want her to feel like she made the best decision that anyone anywhere ever has made … but I know some (many) days it doesn’t feel like that. Not because we fight or don’t get along any more, but because with kids, jobs and life constantly getting in the way, it’s a challenge to find time to for just the two of us.

I’d love to make her feel even more loved than when we said, “I do,”  because I do love her more than that long ago September day. I want to be more supportive, take more on my back so she can do the things she wants and needs to do. I want always to be a source of comfort and happiness rather than the irritant that I seem to be unable stop myself from being to her (and many others) on a regular basis. Reducing the challenge that it is to live with me is on my mental agenda every day; making it happen is another story that I often seem incapable of writing.

She’s not a girl who wants to be showered with flowers, candy or shiny expensive things, but it’d be nice to give them to her on more occasions than I do now rather than be worried about having enough money for heating oil or toilet paper. I want her to always feel as special as she is.

To put it in legal terms, since she is a lawyer—I need to do a better job of being a full partner in this firm. Every day and in every way.

I want to be a better brother and friend. I have five nephews and a niece, and I’m not sure that all of them could pick me out of a police lineup (hopefully, they’ll never have to). Like with my own kids, I wish there were more hours in the day to spend with them, more occasions to be together so they will have some nice memories of Uncle Ray rather than some vague notion of that guy who came around on Christmas and drank a lot of Coke.

I try to stay in touch with my siblings, my siblings-in-law and my friends, but is that enough? In my head, there’s a list of all of them, and I keep rotating through the list trying to give each of them some sort of attention, be it getting together, giving them a phone call, sending them a text or liking something they post. I know there’s only so much I can do, but what I do know doesn’t even seem like nearly enough.

I have helped friends and family move, driven them to airports and tried to be supportive in whatever ways I can, but ultimately, I spend more time on myself and my needs because I have an incredible selfish streak—I’d like to narrow that one and widen my altruistic one.

I want to be a better person. A *much* more better person, like one that they write songs about or erect statues of. Like, I want to win a Pulitzer Prize, a Nobel Prize, an Academy Award, an Emmy, a Presidential Medal of Freedom, a Bloggie and a Nickelodeon Kid’s Choice Award because of all the cool stuff I do. I’d love to be unanimously made King of the World because of how awesome I am—if that’s not aiming too high.

I want to be better. I know I can do better, and I try to do so every day. But trying and succeeding are two very different things. “Do or do not; there is no try,” right, Yoda? Well, I want to skew closer to Nike ads and “Just do it.”

I know I might be happier with a Stuart Smalley view of the world—”I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone it, people like me.“—but why aim low? I’m sure there’s probably about a bajillion inspirational, clichéd quotations I can throw up here, but in the end, only I can make me better.


Apr 122013

So as I sit here in the waiting room above the local music shop waiting for my son as he takes his drum lessons—and unless I record it, I can’t properly share the mind-aching cacophony of bad notes and good intentions from kids learning to instruments—I’ve observed a few things about a world in which I don’t have a lot experience … the music industry!

Okay, more like the not-so-hidden world of local music teachers. Still, be warned: observational comments ahead!

And I should say that although I’m having some fun here, absolutely every single teacher around here is unquestionably more talented than I am. To put it simply, when it comes to musical virtuosity—I suck. Bad.

That being said—

Music teachers are a gregarious lot. Everyone at the place is incredibly friendly, and pretty much every teacher who passes me—even if they teach guitar, piano, trumpet or glockenspiel—will say hi or engage me in conversation (even if I have my head down and I’m typing!).

In addition to being a musician himself, the co-owner of the music shop is a big Jets fan, and after I wore a Jets hoodie one of the first times I brought my son in, we have a conversation about the team every week, which normally I enjoy, but at the end of last season, when the topics included butt-fumbles, it was just painful.

My son’s drum teacher is an exceptionally nice guy; I wonder if maybe all that constant repetition that comes with drum play hasn’t loosed a little of the gray matter, you know, like Jack Nicholson in The Shining. “All drum play and no work makes Jack a dull boy.” Like, no one normal can be that happy, can they?

Music teachers are a casual bunch. Pretty sure they all are mandated to wear jeans, and unless they are coming from a regular day job that requires it, none of them own a shirt with an actual collar. I also tend to think that none of them own an iron.

Music teachers all play in local bands that will never make the big time. Which is okay because they all absolutely love music and live to play. Or so they will tell you.

Speaking of being in the band …


That’s right—they were all band nerds in high school, and incredibly proud of it. And as we’re finding out, nerds are pretty much now ruling the world, so there’s that.

Music teachers are all about Old School. They know the new music because their students listen to it, but every single one of them would rather play something from before the 21st century or the last time Axl Rose weighed under 230 pounds. The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Rush, Stevie Ray Vaughn and all manner of well-traveled bluesman are among the favorites, as well as dozens of musical geniuses that I’ve never heard of thanks to the hours and hours during my formative years that I wasted listening to Billy Joel, Joan Jett, KISS and Olivia Newton-John—er, I mean, Def Leppard!

[*sniffs, puffs out chest*] I actually saw them at the old New Haven Coliseum back when they were all alive and the drummer had two arms! Now get off my lawn!

Music teachers are incredibly patient. Obviously, I’m not one of those parents who look at their children through rose-colored glasses, and I realize that my son, although enthusiastic, is not exactly what I would call “musically gifted.” How his teacher can sit there week in and week out listening to him miss strokes and fail to hold a steady beat, is beyond me. (Sort of goes back to that borderline insanity thing maybe?) And no matter how frustrated or upset my son gets over his performance, his teacher just stays positive and encouraging, whereas I might’ve been tempted to say, “When it comes to music, you might want to stick with buying it rather than playing it.”

But at least my son has a generally good attitude. I recently witnessed this one young boy (probably about 7 years old) come running in by himself and jump up on a chair until his overweight dad puffed up the stairs, cell phone in one hand and a violin case in the other, and shooed his progeny down. (To be fair, the dad almost even looked up from his phone while doing it.) While the ADD-afflicted youth was being herded the into the room for his lesson, he loudly announced, “When I’m done with the violin, I’m going to play drums!” To which the music teacher—a woman who told me that she’s taught in public school for 2o years—laughed, “It takes a long time to be ‘done’ with the violin.”

A few minutes later, she opened the door and gently called, “Hey dad, can you come in here?” and then proceeded to very kindly suggest that maybe the young man might not quite be “mature enough” for violin or music lesson in general. The father mumbled something about his wife and that the boy would “try harder next time.”

I’ve seen the kid twice more, with pretty much the same scenario playing out each time. The teacher constantly stays positive but very firm, never raises her voice and tries to keep the crazed ferret boy focused on the violin. Sisyphus had an easier task, but she undoubtedly has his patience.

Music teachers are not flush with cash. Apparently, trying to learn snot-nosed kids how to play music is *not* a path to a deluxe apartment in the sky as I overheard one teacher talking about having to keep teaching to help pay his massive debt.

But based by the cars I see them arrive in, the same 3 to 5 concert T-shirts that most of them wear and the general lack of association with anything resembling glitz, I tend to think there’s not making it rain any time soon.

Music teachers may (or may not, although I’m leaning toward *may*) smoke copious amounts of marijuana. Not that there’s anything wrong with it, I’m just saying from what I’ve observed that I wouldn’t be surprised if there was no drug screening to get the job. I mean, this isn’t brain surgery, right?

Play on, dudes!

Apr 082013

Stop me if this sounds too Seinfeldian. (Seinfeldish? Seinfeldesque? Seinfelafel?)

So the other day, I was standing in line at the local lunch place waiting for my sandwich, when I noticed the sign hanging over the counter that proclaimed the establishment to be “A World Class Delicatessen.”

Other than the missing hyphen (“world-class”), it occurred to me that “world-class” is a bit of an empty boast that we hear a lot—”world-class entertainment,” “world-class speed,” “world-class asshole.” But when you think about it, by the mere fact that this deli is in the one and only world we know, it automatically qualifies as being in the class of the world.

I mean, no one brags about being having “Earth-class” food. And expanding the idea a bit, no advertises themselves as being in possession of “underworld-class swimming skills” or “galaxy-class juggs.” Ultimately, calling something “world-class” is about as an empty a claim as you can make.

But that’s key in promoting yourself, isn’t it? Attempting to sound better than you might actually be, even if it means inventing terms or using phrases that ostensibly sound great but in reality, don’t mean a damn thing.

A few examples I’ve come across in my years of working in a world-class publication:

fresh – If I had a dollar for every restaurant out there who claims to make their fare from “only from the freshest ingredients.” Right. Because all those *other* restaurants usually use old, rotting crap that’s been festering for months to serve their customers. Who in their right mind would say “we only use the oldest ingredients” as a selling point? Ridiculous.

brand new – Because you can actually buy “brand old” products somewhere, so it’s important to distinguish.

the latest – Again, because people are usually clamoring for the “older, most outdated” version of something, so it’s important to avoid confusion.

well-appointed – You usually hear this description in regard to hotels or other accommodations, suggesting an air of elegance. It literally means “having a full array of suitable equipment or furnishings,” so really, every hotel room that has a bed to rest the night is technically “well-appointed.”

eclectic – Another that sounds a lot more interesting than it is. Most times it’s used to imply that the style or decor of an establishment is imaginative or creative or even *whimsical*, but eclectic literally means “composed of elements drawn from various sources,” so guess what? Unless you’re talking about Abe Lincoln’s log cabin, a mud-brick hut in Southwestern Mexico or that ice hotel that they build every year in Quebec, pretty much every structure on the planet is “eclectic.” And considering that very rarely does every item used for decor come from the same exact place—the windows, the carpets, the doors, the furniture, the paint on the walls, the light fixtures, the tables, chairs, curtains, phones, etc.—you can essentially call anyplace “eclectic” and not be lying.

sneak peakPssst …. If something is eagerly promoted and available for everyone to see, like a movie clip or trailer, there’s nothing “sneaky” about it.

award-winning – Here’s all you need to know about this one: one of my Connecticut Society of Professional Journalism awards came when I was the only writer nominated in a category. So I am technically “an award-winning journalist” even though all I did to “win” was submit a story. It could’ve been, “All work and no plays makes Ray a dull boy” 80 times in a row (it wasn’t, for the record) and BOOM! I can now claim the title of award-winner.

I should point out that winning places other than “FIRST” technically qualify as “award-winning.” You know, as in, the award-winning Jackass: The Movie … which “won”a Golden Raspberry for “2002’s Most Flatulent Teen-Targeted Movie.” Ditto the award-winning Mike Myers abomination against nature The Cat in the Hat—the only movie my son ever begged we walk out of; it took home the Razzie in 2003 for “Worst Excuse for an Actual Movie.” An affront to civilization and intelligence, but technically an “award-winner.”

By the way, I do bill myself as “award-winning writer,” but that’s because I have had pieces win against actual competition. Oh, and DamnedCT.com actually won a Webster Award that we had no idea we were nominated for until halfway through the voting. Hard to believe but true.

award-nominated – See “award-winning,” but to an even lesser extent. Think about this: With so many “awards” out there, from stinky shoes and dumb lawsuits to most sexist comment and weird-ass pictures, anyone can be nominated for anything.

Heck, right here and now, I nominate myself for the I-just-thought-of-this “best of rayality” award. So now I can  “award-nominated” blogger to my resume. Sweet!


Apr 052013

So on Sunday night as we were making our way home from visiting my parents, my wife found out that her Uncle Omar had died.

Omar had lived by himself in a small house on Long Island, a modest home that he had shared with his parents for many years before they had died. No one had heard from him in a few weeks, so my mother-in-law—Omar’s sister and last living immediate family member—called the police and asked them to check on him. (My in-laws live in Massachusetts.) The police found Omar’s body on his kitchen floor; it appeared that he had died a few days earlier.

“A sad end,” my wife said, adding that although she was dismayed by the news, it wasn’t all that much of a surprise. Omar had long struggled with an assortment of issues, physical and psychological, and recently had increasingly isolated himself from the family.

Truth be told, he was never quite the same after his brother died of ALS back in 1999, and once his parents passed a few years later, followed by a lay off from his longtime job, what was already a fragile psyche was pretty much shattered.

I always found Uncle Omar to be an eccentric and somewhat neurotic character. Although he seemed to be a bit of a grouse at times, and certainly had interpersonal issues, he was a gentle soul, and certainly loved to laugh. If it wasn’t for his height—he was about 6’5—you probably wouldn’t notice him at all, which is how he seemed to prefer it. I’m pretty sure he was never really comfortable in that body. Or in life, in general.

Omar suffered from a bit of agoraphobia, so to get him to show up for family events was always a challenge—he might arrive at the last minute, hang around the edges of the action, and then dash out early “to beat the traffic.” He had emigrated to the United States from Argentina as a teenager, and I always wondered if being thrown into such a radical new culture and having to learn a new language during what probably were already awkward teenage years, had retarded his social development a bit.

Omar was also a confirmed bachelor, and I don’t mean that in any other way than that he was probably not emotionally or psychologically strong enough to survive any sort of long-term romantic relationship. He certainly liked kids—he was always very kind to my sons (from a comfortable distance) when he saw them, and he doted on my wife’s brother, who was his only nephew. But I don’t think he ever wanted any family of his own other than the parents, siblings, nieces and nephew that he already had. That seemed to be just about enough for him. Maybe too much at times.

Of course, being the jerk that I am, I always liked to have some fun at Omar’s expense, nearly perfecting a shallow imitation of the man that involved weakly mimicking his Argentine accent and saying occasionally inappropriate things as he was wont to do. Yeah, it was just as disrespectful as you’re imagining—fortunately, I never did it in front of him, although I think he might’ve got a laugh out of it. Hard to tell which way he might go sometimes; emotionally, he could easily startle and bolt, like a nervous deer drinking at pond.

But as I think about Uncle Omar’s passing, I keep coming back to my wife’s comment about “a sad ending.”

Omar died alone in a house that, although it was his home, was a long way from his beloved Argentina. The coroner said that in addition to other health problems, he also was suffering from lung cancer, so I tend to think his final months were probably somewhat painful.

Yes, it’s sad to us that he passed away alone like that, a very sick and ostensibly broken man. But ultimately, he was an adult, and in his own, arguably weird way, he made his own decisions. He got to choose his own end, even if it was one that many of us wouldn’t pick. Sure, it seems sad to us—but it’s a luxury that many people don’t get.

Sure, if he had reached out, steps could’ve been taken to ease his pain and make him more comfortable. But for someone who never really was going to be comfortable in life under any circumstances, being able to die on his own terms may have been as close as he could get to peace. Which may not be so sad after all.