Nov 042013
 

So as part of my gig, I find myself thinking a bit about words and expressions—and sometimes more about the ones we don’t use so much.

For example, I was standing outside of the offices of the New Haven Register and I saw a sign pointing the way to “Human Resources,” which made me wonder if that somewhere in the building there’s an office of “Inhuman Resources.” I don’t think anyone would be happy about being called down there for a meeting … especially for a breakfast meeting.

Speaking of journalism—we always hear about “breaking news,” but how come no one is ever “fixing news.” Or is that what they did back in the days of Yellow Journalism?

I was also considering the term “prehistoric,” which is often paired with the word “creatures” and almost always invoked in dinosaur discussions. Other than the obvious point that anything we can look back on is technically “history”—and therefore anything prehistoric can only be something that occurred before the existence of the known universe—I’m intrigued by the idea that by the very definition of it, we will never know what “posthistoric” creatures will look like. Sort of sad, really, because I’m thinking herds of giant zombie tardigrades roaming the abandoned streets of Earth will be kind of cool to see.

"We're the most badass indestructible creatures on the planet ... and we'll be here to play in the dust that once was you poor lesser organisms. So there's that."

In the same vein, I often visit a deli that proclaims it’s food as “world-class“—is there an alternative? I mean, our whole existence is pretty much confined to this world, so everything made here is automatically “world-class,” right? Of course, this deli proclaims to create its fare with “only the freshest” ingredients … you know, to differentiate itself from the scores of eateries that serve up cuisine concocted from the oldest crap that they can find laying around. Chew on that next time you’re watching an ad from The Olive Garden.

Why is it that Autumn is the only season that has a second name—Fall? I suppose that comes from the leaves falling, but then why don’t we also call Spring “Grow” or “Renew” or even “Warmer”? Then we could call Summer “Hot” and Winter “The Death Season of Cold, Ice and Misery That Only The Mentally Ill and Kate and Steve Frank Could Like.”

Let’s talk about how actors and actresses are almost always referred to as “stars”—stars are supposed to be the brightest lights in the night sky, but there are other heavenly bodies up there, too. So if the leads or the most famous actors and actresses are the stars, doesn’t it stand to reason that the supporting or character actors that revolve around them should be referred to as planets? Like, “Curtis W. Armstrong and Clint Howard are two of the finest planets that Hollywood has to offer.”

On a completely different subject: If you’re for something, you are “pro” that issue—pro-life, pro-abortion, pro-capitalism, pro-cannibal … Yet, a “protest” is something staged when you’re against something. Interestingly, a “contest”—which it seems like what you *should* call it’d when you’re staging an event against a particular issue—is a competition staged to bring about a positive resolution. Really, the “con” is sort of superfluous and it could just be called a “test,” which is already a competition of sorts. I suppose a contest then is in the same vein of conjoined twins in that it involves two … but then shouldn’t it be called a “bi-test,” if we’re sticking to proper prefixes?

Speaking of proper language and grammar, I always remember my high school English teacher Mrs. Scinto used to point out that although many people are described as “uncouth,” not many (like myself) are complimented for being imbued with oodles of couth.

I also find it interesting that when we describe something as “awesome,” it’s usually because it’s got more than “some” awe in it, but yet if it was completely full of awe—and thus “awe-full,” or “awful,” well, that’s the opposite end of the spectrum. I mean, when we’re regretful, we’re full of regret, or beautiful, full of beauty, but this just doesn’t follow.

Not hard to understand why so many who immigrate here prefer to keep English as a second language—because it’s been proven to be crazy.

But it’s the only language I know … so I guess I’ll keep using it.

 

Oct 142013
 

So I saw this recent story:

North Korea warns US of ‘horrible disaster’, places military on alert

According to the article, North Korea is suggesting that the U.S. is getting ready to inflict some sort of unprovoked hurt on them, you know, with same wide-eyed, twitchy enthusiasm that English author and conspiracy theorist David Icke has tried to expose the fact that all the world leaders really are reptilian aliens who are awaiting to destroy the fine people of Earth. Except North Korea has nukes and is just spoiling for an opportunity to use them.

Then again, who am I to question the buttondown mind of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, who seems to be a rational, trustworthy fella who is BFF with Dennis Rodman and clearly has nothing but the best interest of his people in mind. If he says there’s a threat of the U.S. unleashing a horrible disaster on the poor and befuddled communist state, then dammit, something wicked that way goes!

So to save everyone the hours pondering just what kind of October surprise we may be preparing to drop on our south Asian brothers, I have come up with

The Top 10 Potential Horrible Disasters That the U.S. Could Inflict Upon North Korea

1. Send Honey Boo Boo and Mama June as nutritional ambassadors to help the Korean people eat more better (with more butter).

2. “The Real Housewives of Pyongyang.”

3. A one-way ticket for Dennis Rodman on his next visit.

"Excuse me, honorable Man of Rod, what exactly do you mean by 'I'm staying for good this time'?"

4. Force North Korea to adopt an exact replica of the highly effective, productive and functional U.S. Congress.

5. Send North Korea fleets of refurbished Ford Pintos. (Google it, kids.)

6. Now that it’s October, make sure that North Korea has nothing to wear but white pants.

7. Introduce the latest version of Candy Crush.

8. Infuse North Korean television with “Who’s the Boss?” reruns.

9. Mandate daily twerking workouts, led by Richard Simmons.

10. Never tell them about Mr. Rogers, the finest human of the 20th century.

 

Oct 062013
 

It started out simple enough….

“Keys.”

When I was a kid and going out somewhere, I’d always mentally check to make sure that I was carrying my house keys when necessary. Usually, someone was always at our house, but hey, you never knew. Better safe than locked out and forced to live behind the rusty aluminum shed in the wilds of our suburban backyard for the rest of my childhood, which of course, was *certainly* a possibility.

[On a side note, I never left the house without clean underwear on—a habit I still have today. I just never have to check to make sure they’re still in place.]

“Keys. Wallet.”

When I got to my teens and had money to spend on a lifestyle that was more involved than playing baseball or exploring abandoned construction sites—i.e., when I was able to drive and go to real places like the mall or video game arcade, or even the video game arcade at the mall—the checklist got longer. Now I needed to carry a wallet, along with all the responsibility that comes with it: driver’s license, cash, my Sears credit card, a library card, that one hopeful condom … you know, grownup stuff.

“Keys. Wallet. Phone.”

Hard to believe that I existed for 14 decades without a cell phone, but yet somehow I managed. Like many of the best modern conveniences (EZ Pass, the intrawebz, sliced bread), now that I have it in my life, I can’t live without it. I mean, when you think about it, cell phones may be the greatest innovation of the 21st century in that they literally can put the entirety of humankind’s knowledge—plus The Bloggess and celebrity flesh—right in the palm of your hand. Oh, and I even actually use my phone to call people on occasion (that’s okay, right?).

 “Keys. Wallet. Phone. Glasses.”

I’ve already described that as I’ve stumbled into my advanced years that my eyesight has deteriorated and that I now need reading glasses. And like with the phone, even though glasses weren’t part of my life a short time ago, they have quickly become indispensable. Gah.

So yeah, it’s funny now when I get to the threshold of the house, I give myself an odd little patdown, touching the various pockets in which I usually carry each of these items. When I was up in Cortland at Jets training camp, my buddy Brian would tease me as I went through my little ritual, repeating it throughout the day to make sure I had my stuff.

I can only assume as I get older, this trend will continue, with me adding more and more items to my repertoire …

“Keys. Wallet. Phone. Glasses. Sweater.”

I’m already close to this—the other night we went to the movies and I made sure to bring my jacket with me … because the theater *might‘ve* had the a/c on in October. That … or my old heart can’t quite pump the blood like it used to and my extremities are always cold.

“Keys. Wallet. Phone. Glasses. Sweater. Batteries.”

You know, for my pacemaker, hearing aid, Life Alert bracelet, iron lung and whatever other necessary electronic medical devices with which I’ll be festooned.

“Keys. Wallet. Phone. Glasses. Sweater. Batteries. Cane.”

That one seems obvious.

“Keys. Wallet. Phone. Glasses. Sweater. Batteries. Cane. Change.”

I assume that because old guys seem to spend a lot of time jingling change in their pocket, there’s something either enjoyable or calming about it. I don’t want to miss out on the fun!

“Keys. Wallet. Phone. Glasses. Sweater. Batteries. Cane. Change. Change of underwear …”

Yeah, I guess that’ll be full circle, although let’s be honest:

“Keys. Wallet. Phone. Glasses. Sweater. Batteries. Cane. Change. Change of Depends.”

Simple, indeed.

Sep 152013
 

So for reasons that I don’t quite understand and can’t completely articulate, I’ve recently been drawn to the time period about 100-150 years ago.

Maybe it started with some of the research for Connecticut Jerks and/or my fascination with Abraham Lincoln, and then has been fueled by the discovery of my strong resemblance to my great-great-grandfather, but I suddenly find that era very compelling—and not for the steampunk potential, either.

Sometimes "cool" is completely lost on me. And then there's ... *this*

In 2001, historian Roger Ekirch of Virginia Tech published a seminal paper, drawn from 16 years of research, revealing a wealth of historical evidence that humans used to sleep in two distinct chunks.

His book At Day’s Close: Night in Times Past, published four years later, unearths more than 500 references to a segmented sleeping pattern – in diaries, court records, medical books and literature, from Homer’s Odyssey to an anthropological account of modern tribes in Nigeria.

Much like the experience of Wehr’s subjects, these references describe a first sleep which began about two hours after dusk, followed by waking period of one or two hours and then a second sleep.

“It’s not just the number of references – it is the way they refer to it, as if it was common knowledge,” Ekirch says.

Anyway, in addition to looking at the earliest photographic images I can find, I also have been increasingly viewing YouTube clips like this.

Yes, that was from a century ago, which is remarkable to me—both in the sense that we have moving images from 100 years ago and that life seemed to be so very different than it was now.

I think it’s safe to say that our world has changed more from 1912 to 2013 than in any other 101-year span that you can pick in all of human history—in that time frame we’ve gone to the moon, split the atom, eradicated smallpox, broke the sound barrier, transplanted hearts and created technology that puts almost everything known to Man in the palm of your hand. And that’s really a fraction of what’s happened.

When I look at these images, it seems that the human race has physically changed, too. Yes, we’re more obese than ever, but we’re also living longer and despite illnesses associated with excess, are in better health. Kids are not dropping dead from polio any more, you know, unless they live in a part of the world where forward-thinking humanitarian warlords have banned immunizations to further their own agenda, or are one of Jenny McCarthy’s immunization-free kids.

Currently, the American life expectancy is 78.7 years; in 1912, it was 53.9 years, so on average we’re living 25 years longer than ever before—a full quarter century, which is astonishing. Again, with all due respect to natural selection and evolution, I doubt there has ever been such a jump in that aspect of homo sapiens in such a short period. I’m surprised that we haven’t gotten whiplash from such an abrupt change …

Then again, looking at the way we live at times and things we choose on which to focus, maybe we have.

Anyway, part of my curiosity has also been stoked by watching classic films on TCM—primarily the oldest pictures that are available. The other night I was watching Ah, Wilderness from 1935, which itself depicts life in 1906.

So many odd little quirks and things that seem to have been forgotten by history … in one scene, one of the characters sits down at the breakfast table, takes his cup of coffee and pours it into his saucer and drinks it out of that—and apparently, that was perfectly acceptable behavior for the time.

I saw The Searchers another night—it was interesting the way the handled horses, how they only rode them for a while, then walked them for a while. You don’t really see that practice in modern westerns, but it was standard operating procedure.

I’ve also watched silent films featuring Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton, and although they play exaggerated characters, I’m reminded at how few possessions people had up until recently—usually one suit, one hat, one pair of shoes (maybe borrowed from someone else). Sure, in films about bygone eras we might see lavish costumes, but the reality was that for the vast majority of humanity, fashion was not a concern.

But other key points of our daily routines have been lost in the shifting sands of time, too. Outside of film, I recently read about how all of humanity used to have two sleep periods per night. In fact, it was such an accepted part of life, that no one even really commented on it at the time. Here’s an excerpt from the article link in the previous sentence:

In 2001, historian Roger Ekirch of Virginia Tech published a seminal paper, drawn from 16 years of research, revealing a wealth of historical evidence that humans used to sleep in two distinct chunks.

His book At Day’s Close: Night in Times Past, published four years later, unearths more than 500 references to a segmented sleeping pattern – in diaries, court records, medical books and literature, from Homer’s Odyssey to an anthropological account of modern tribes in Nigeria.

Much like the experience of Wehr’s subjects, these references describe a first sleep which began about two hours after dusk, followed by waking period of one or two hours and then a second sleep.

“It’s not just the number of references – it is the way they refer to it, as if it was common knowledge,” Ekirch says.

Amazing, right?

I wonder what things we take for granted will be forgotten by future generations … like the keyboard on which I’m typing? Rotary phones? Pogs? If things go as they’re supposed to, I’ll never know … probably.

Sep 082013
 

Through the gauzy mists of sleep, I sense my wife gingerly rolling out of bed … “What time is it?” I ask before she can escape the bedroom.

She says

“7:12 a.m.”

Only six more hours to New York Jets football, I immediately think. (Sad but absolutely true.) I get out of bed and head to the shower. Even though every NFL analyst has predicted that the Jets will be the worst team in the NFL this season, I still am filled with unbridled optimism at the season that might be. Check with back with me in 12 hours.

7:32 a.m. I cut my fingernails so I won’t be tempted to chew them off during the game.

7:56 a.m. I begin one of my most longest-standing game-day rituals—doing my laundry. I’m not quite sure how this started (possibly in quest of having a special “good luck” shirt ready for kickoff), but it’s what I do now. If anything, it provides a distraction, and besides, there’s something very calming about folding clothes still warm from the dryer.

8:17 a.m. I sit down at the computer and start going through the roll call of NFL sites that I feel that I can stomach, which admittedly has been greatly reduced over the past years as the Jets have been in the headlines for all the wrong reasons. Other than my cyber buddies over at TheJetsBlog, there’s not an iota of optimism out there regarding the Jets or their chances for winning today. It may be a long day, and an even longer season. Sigh.

9:46 a.m. Time for a snack. I *really* want Pop Tarts, but for some reason, pouring 30 grams of processed sugar into my already buzzing system doesn’t seem like a particularly smart plan. I opt for a pear. Yawn.

10:02 a.m. I check on my fantasy football team. The real NFL season started on Thursday night with the Baltimore Ravens getting their butts handed to them by Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos 49-27, and although disastrous for the defending Super Bowl champs, it was good for my B.A.L.L.S. …

Yes, at the behest of my son Kade who is starting to get into fantasy football, we named our team the Bendici ALL Stars, or B.A.L.L.S. for short. At least he’s actually 12 . . . I don’t have an excuse.

Anyway, thanks to Thursday’s high-scoring game, we’re already winning 38-5—we’re going to need every point as we’re up against a team that has Tom Brady. Hopefully, rather than seeing the TD-throwing machine that normally is Brady, we’ll see this guy later today—

Oh Tommy, I know it was only a second in time, but it has brought me HOURS of laughs.

Again, check with me later.

10:29 a.m. Screw it, Pop Tart time! I mean, what could possibly go wrong? Besides, I plan on running off my frustration later. How often does the NFL season start anyway?! (Very weak rationalization, I know.) GIVE ME SUGAR NOW!!!!!

11:05 a.m. SUGARRRRRRR!!!! YEAHHHHH!! How can it only still be 11 am? What the hell?!!

11:12 a.m. Another game-day ritual—a pregame phone call with my buddy Bob, a diehard Patriots fan. He invites me over to his house to watch football (the Patriots-Bills contest will be on), but even as he does, he knows that I will decline to watch the Jets. We make plans to get together for the Pats-Jets game on Thursday night, talk a bit of fantasy football and wish each other well, even though we both not-so-secretly hope each other’s team loses. Like on any given Sunday, I’ll be hearing from multiple times later in the day.

11:30 a.m. I put on the TV to try and watch some NFL pre-game stuff, but quickly turn it off. I used to be glued to these shows, but now it’s just a bunch of shouting heads shouting at each other about the most inane stories—mostly insipid off-the-field story lines and very little actual analyses of NFL games, which is what I—and true NFL fans—prefer. These shows are for the casual fans, and they are welcome to them.

Noon One hour to kickoff! Time for some lunch—I’ve never did a bunch tailgate thing as most regular Sundays, I’m watching Jets games by myself or just with my sons. (For other games, I tend to go out with my friends to sports bars and the like.) Today, my feast is salami and provolone on wheat bread, a nectarine and a few chocolate chip cookies. I make pb&J for my sons and try to keep both my anxiety level and lunch down.

12:38 p.m. Start getting myself situated in front of the TV, opening up various windows on my laptop—Twitter feed, Jetsblog feed, fantasy football scoring … football in the 21st century is a multitasking affair!

12:48 p.m. I finally look through some of the pregame shows. I see on NFL Network’s show, a monkey actually has picked the Jets to lose today. I guess that makes it unanimous. We. are. doomed.

12:59 p.m. I am so fired up I may throw up!!! Let’s get this started!

1:00 p.m. J-E-T-S! JETS! JETS! JETS!

1:17 p.m. Jets rookie quarterback Geno Smith completes his first NFL pass for 26 yards. I already like him better than Mark Sanchez!

1:26 p.m. First score of the season—a safety as the Buccaneers snap the ball out of the back of the endzone. NYJ 2 TB 0. Not exactly how they draw ’em up, but we’ll take it!

1:45 p.m. Touchdown!!! …. Bucaneers. Ooops. TB 7 NYJ 2. I curse loudly, which startles Kade, who is playing on his DS and half-watching the game with me. That’s good for moral support, though.

1:57 p.m. Jets answer with a field goal to make it TB 7 NYJ 5. Looks like a baseball score … but that’s okay, the Jets should have a couple more swings before this one is over. Most importantly, no butt fumbles!

2:11 p.m. Jets QB Smith fumbles on his own 5 yard line and Tampa scores a TD on their first play. TB 14 NYJ 5. Ugh. This Jets team is not built to come from behind, so this may be over already. Double ugh.

2:20 p.m. Another Jets turnover, via interception. Did I say ugh yet?

2:23 p.m. Wait, keep your hands inside the rollercoaster as the Jets defense gets an interception of their own! It’d be nice if they can convert some points before halftime.

2:33 p.m. And they do! Geno Smith to Kellen Winslow Jr. for a 7-yard TD pass, Smith’s first in the NFL. TB 14 NYJ 12. It’s a game, people! Kade and I do our “J-E-T-S! JETS! JETS! JETS! fist bump routine because that’s what guys do!

2:34 p.m. Halftime. I’m going to bust out a Coke because that sugar from the Pop Tart is loooooong gone and my nerves aren’t going to fray themselves, you know.

2:55 p.m. Second half under way. A few plays in and center Nick Mangold is down. I know most people don’t know much about offensive linemen, but this is a huge blow to the Jets if he’s out. He’s taken to the lockerroom—never good.

3:14 p.m. Nick Mangold (which would make a great gay porn name—not that there’s anything wrong with it) is back in the game. Every little bit helps with this team.

3:28 p.m. End of the 3rd quarter, the score is still TB 14, NYJ 12. Hope—always dangerous—remains.

3:54 p.m. After going back and forth in the middle of the field, the Jets finally get close enough to kick a field goal and go up 15-14 with 5:04 left. I see how it’s going to be this year and I’m not sure my heart is going to be able to take it!

4:07 p.m. Two-minute warning and the Bucs are moving down the field. Glad I cut those nails this morning because I’d be biting them off right now! I might have to start on Kade’s.

4:16 p.m. Tampa Bay kicks a field goal to go up 17-15 with 38 seconds left. Backbreaker! My heart sinks … but Kade is there to pick me up. “Come on, Dad! Have hope! There can be a miracle!” He’s right—although the Fat Lady is certainly warming up her pipes! Still the Jets will get the ball back for a last-ditch try.

4:21 p.m. Do you believe in miracles?! Somehow the Jets have moved it down to midfield. So close …

4:22 p.m. Penalty?! Against the Bucs!!! Putting the ball at the 31 yard line with only 7 seconds left! The Jets trot out the field goal unit for a 48-yard attempt, snap the ball and it’s …..

GOOOOOOOOOOOODDDDD!!!!!

 JETS WIN! JETS WIN! J-E-T-S! JETS! JETS! JETS!

4:23 p.m. And there was much rejoicing.

4:35 p.m. I get on my running shoes and head out to the track for a victory lap (or 14) to celebrate—and bring my heart rate down. There will be time for watching highlights and basking in the glow of sweet, sweet victory later. What a great turn of events! Glad I started blogging it all this morning … I love a happy ending.

Hey, I don’t know what the rest of the season will bring, but today, it brought a big smile!

 

Sep 022013
 

As everyone heads back to school, it seems like a good time to talk about what I did on my summer vacation …

To sunny Miami!!!

That’s right, I’m now Mr. 305, the King of South Beach, a regular Florida gator … or not.

We flew down to Florida to visit my sister Joni the Whore, who lives in Miami, and spent a great week hanging out with her and checking out south Florida, where I’ve never been before! We also visited with my cousin Paul, his wife Lisa and their sons, which was also great. Good times all around. Good times.

Anyway, like any expedition to a place that I’ve never been before, there’s lots of new sights to see, things to do and places to visit. In fact, here are—

The Top 10 Things I Learned About Miami

1. It’s hot. And humid. Okay, that might be like, “Uh, DUH!!!” but it’s like, really, really hot and humid, especially in August. Oh sure, there’s a breeze by the ocean, but that’s like saying, “Oh, if you jauntily wrap yourself in Osama’s beard, hell is a little cooler.”

2. No bugs? We ate out almost every night—literally, in most cases, in Coconut Grove area (where we stayed), there’s plenty of excellent al fresco dining options. And through almost a dozen meals (including lunches), I think we saw one fly. One. No bees, no wasps, no dragonflies, no ticks, no roaches, not even a cicada.

How does that happen? Miami is a clean city, but is it *that* clean? Florida is mostly swamp, but I guess something about being near the ocean eliminates some of that—the cool breezes? We saw tons of birds, lizards and other critters that feed on bugs, but are they that prevalent that they make such a big difference? Apparently.

Of course, it could be that it’s just too darn hot for them.

3. Terrible drivers. Look, I’m not going to tell you that Connecticut has terrific drivers, because we don’t, but holy guacamole, the “drivers” in Miami are awful in a way that makes my brain a-splode!

Here’s some actual footage from a Miami highway to give you an idea of what I’m talking about.

Seriously though—I’ve never seen anything like it. Speeds change randomly, no one uses signals, cars just stop in the middle lane of the highway for no apparent reason, tractor trailers drive in any lane and at any speed, everyone has a cell phone in hand and is texting, and like The Road Warrior, there truly doesn’t appear to be any rules other than the strong survive … oh, and that the traffic lights are a minimum of five minutes each. Crazy.

I guess I get it to an extent—with so many senior citizens on the road, there’s bound to be some … unpredictability. And when you’re so close to the end, who wants to pay attention to the rules?

4. Speaking of the end, I-95 does. So weird—as we were driving on I-95 from the airport south to our hotel, we saw a sign that says, “I-95 Ends.” And it did. It just went from a highway to a three-lane road with traffic lights, which is also US-1.

It’s just such a major thoroughfare here that I’ve driven thousands of times, plus it always has tons of cars, which has always made it seem sort of this odd, living infinite entity. But all good things—and even crappy ones like highways—come to an end.

5. Habla español? Between having studied it for a semester or two in college and my wife being bilingual, I’ve had to understand a bit of Spanish (especially so I can know when my wife and mother-in-law are talking about me). Thus, Miami wasn’t so jarring to me. But just be warned—it’s not the first language for many down there, and most expect that you understand it.

The good news is that there’s lots of excellent Cuban cuisine to be had, and we definitely partook with gusto. My wife’s favorite part of the entire trip was a 75 cent cup of cafe Cubano that she got while we were in Little Havana.

On a side food note: As good as the Cuban food is, the Italian food is not—again, we’re spoiled by living near New Haven, but calling your restaurant “Real New York Pizza” doesn’t make it even close. Ugh.

6. Not a lot of fatties. Maybe it’s the South Beach diet working for everyone, but like when we went to Denver, I noticed that there were a lot of people in really good shape here. Despite the heat, many people love being outside, and there were plenty of bikers and runners.

One thing I noticed though when it came to exercising—there are those who are genuinely concerned about their health and will jog in the morning before it gets too hot or in the evening, and then there are those who work to be seen—jogging in minimal “exercise” clothes along South Beach at midday, chiseled and tanned bodies glistening in the hot Florida sun.

Did I say "not a lot of fatties"? That's clearly when I'm not in the picture, like here.

I guess if you got it, flaunt it—and that attitude is enthusiastically encouraged in Miami.

7. Apparently things don’t really get going in Miami until well after I’ve had my warm glass of milk and am tucked between the sheets. Not really a shock to anyone that knows me … but then again, we were here to visit with my sister, not shake our booties on the dance floor until the sun comes up. (That is how the kids still say it, right? No?)

8. Did mention that it’s hot? And humid.

9. Everyone is fake. And by that I mean that there is literally a plastic surgery center on every corner. Seriously, like we have Walgreens everywhere, they are lousy with laser skin, body reconstruction and breast implant surgery centers. Apparently, they take that whole “beautiful people” thing quite seriously, which is another reason why I’ll never quite fit in.

10. Miami loves gelato. But I don’t—and I don’t understand the love for it as it’s more expensive, the portions are tiny and it’s just not quite as tasty as the best ice cream here. I appreciate that it’s something different and supposedly more exclusive than what we normally get around here, but it did not wow me at any point to make me go out of my way to have it again.

Aug 132013
 

Unfortunately, I’m not talking about the glorious hair metal band of the 1980s, although I do tacitly admit that I did pay to see them perform live in concert back in the day …

Oh C.C. … no one loves your guitar playing more than you do yourself!

I should also come clean and say that it took me a few years before I really thought about the song “Unskinny Bop,” and realized what the hell is going on … Clearly, I must’ve not understood as it’s so much more subtle than “Big Bottom” and “Fat Bottom Girls.” Or I’m just a dumb ass, which we know is most likely the case.

Anyway, those embarrassments needlessly shared, this summer has been a toxic one for me, literally. First, I documented my failed effort to inadvertently kill myself in one of the most stupid ways possible by mixing bleach and Raid ant spray in a cabinet and then shoving my head in there. I’m still awaiting my Darwin Award Honorable Mention for that effort.

Now, my season of toxins continues with the very bestest of skin irritations—poison ivy.

Yeah, that caladryl-coated, pustule-ridden body part is my right ankle. And there are *plenty* more bumpy and hot and itchy patches like that on my arms and legs. Yay me!

And although I appreciate the dozens of remedies out there, after a lot of research (mostly at 2 a.m. when it felt like my skin was on fire and I couldn’t sleep), I’ve come to realize that there is no real cure other than time—7 to 10 days in most cases. Sure, there are different things you can put on your skin to ease the discomfort, but it’s not going away once it’s gotten hold. No oatmeal baths or bleachings, thanks!

I’m not quite sure how I contracted it, although it most likely happened last week when I was weed-whacking the yard. I didn’t notice any poison ivy, but evidently there was some, and using a device to whip it up with weeds and throw it against my legs like arsenic-coated shrapnel was a great way to ensure it was able to take root in my skin.

The sad part is that I have Tecnu, which I’ve used successfully other times when I’ve come in contact with poison ivy, but it’s only effective if you use it right away. If you’re an idiot and spend the first few days telling yourself, “Well, it looks like poison ivy and feels like poison ivy and sure as hell itches like poison ivy, but it can’t be poison ivy because I don’t know where I possibly could’ve gotten it from,” rather than just being cautious and using it, then it gets too late very fast.

Have I mentioned that I’m a dumb ass?

For the record:

"Leaves of three, let it be. Leaves of four, eat some more!"

Poison ivy makes for a strong argument *against* “Intelligent Design.” Seriously, like swans, cancer and clowns, what Supreme Being in its right mind would come up with such an evil creation? I don’t see how it contributes to the Circle of Life, although I do see how it’s made for circles of medication around both my ankles.

Only one good thing has ever come of poison ivy in the existence of human kind. And this is that story.

Waaay back in the day, when I was in college, I got a bad case of poison ivy after doing some ill-advised springtime landscaping for the office my mother worked for—I encountered a wall covered with it, but as I had never gotten it to that point despite traipsing around in it a bit as a kid, I figured I was not allergic. So I pulled it out by hand—bare hands.

Turns out, I was NOT “not allergic.” So *very* not. Still not sure why I thought I could be, but whatever—we all know that I’m a dumb ass, right?

So anyway, I had it up and down my arms and legs, and was quite miserable. Like I am now, I was constantly caked with Caladryl. The only saving grace was that I was working as a clerk at ShopRite in Milford, and for those two weeks, I was helping out in the frozen food department while someone was on vacation—being able to stick my arms in freezers for six hours a day was bliss! So, so cold …

One Saturday night during this period, my friends decided to have a party to celebrate my birthday! Okay, actually, we had parties pretty much every Friday and Saturday night because we were college students and that’s what we did, but on this particular weekend, we decided to celebrate my birthday while we were at it … and by “we” I mean everyone else but me as you should know by now that I really have no interest in celebrating my birthday.

The only hang up was that I had to work the noon-9 shift on this Saturday, but this was back in the day when we didn’t go out to bars until 10 p.m. at the earliest, so this was not a big deal. The party was starting around 8 p.m., so I just figured I’d work my shift then go over a little late. No biggie, right?

So I worked my hours, and even though I had spent extra time in the freezer, I was still a blotchy pink mess when it was over. Not wanting to show up for my own “party” in such a state, I decided to go home first to take a shower and get cleaned up a bit. I hosed off the day’s grime, and re-applied the least obvious coat of Caladryl I could manage—had to look good in case there were any single ladies there, right? Sure.

Anyway, after my shower and re-application routine, it was about 10:00 or so by the time I arrived on the scene. I could see that the party was in full swing. I parked my car, went into the house and was greeted in decidedly non-birthday fashion by pretty much everyone I passed, be it friend or vague acquaintance.

“RAY! YOU ASSHOLE!”

“HEY, NICE GOING, JERK!”

“WHERE THE HELL WERE YOU, YOU IDIOT?!”

Needless to say (although I’ll say it anyway), I was a bit perplexed by the lack of well wishes. It was only when I found my closest friends that I was told why everyone was mad at me …

Apparently, to “celebrate” my birthday, someone had the bright idea to order me A FREAKIN’ CLOWN!!

Again, if you’re any sort of regular visitor to this site (or anyone with any common sense, really), you know that I absolutely, positively despise—and yes, fear—clowns.

But as it turns out, my late arrival caused me to miss the entire visit of the grease-painted purveyor of evil—it (and I use that pronoun not by accident) couldn’t wait around because it had another soul to claim. Or “party to go to,” whatever you want to believe.

So yeah, if it wasn’t for poison ivy, I probably would’ve been eaten and raped by a clown (maybe even in that order). Other than that one shining moment, however, poison ivy has brought me nothing but misery. (Two more vague Stephen King references?)

Whatever. I can’t wait to stop itching …

 

 

Aug 082013
 

10 Annoying Immutable Laws of the Universe I Try To Make Mutable

1. Whatever line I’m in is the slow line. As someone who appreciates how truly brief life is, I’ll be damned if I’m going to waste my precious time waiting around, be it on the highway, at the grocery store or for admission to hell.

I have an E-Z Pass (still arguably the greatest invention in human kind), I always use the Deli Express at ShopRite (where you punch in your order and go shopping while the meat-slicing minions tend to your order) and I speak ill of the dead, not only in print but also when composing my annual Dead Pool team—this year I’m out in front of my league with the timely demises of Van Cliburn, Hugo Chavez, Bonnie Franklin, Roger Ebert and Annette Funiccello. I thought I was going to score the coup de grace when Randy Travis was recently in the hospital but he went and got better. Bastard.

2. The grass is always greener …. This is true for a good part of the year as my next-door neighbor Ed is a former landscaper and puts a lot of time, effort and fertilizer into his gorgeous lawn. His yard would be perfect except for a few dandelions he gets every spring on the areas of grass closest to our house, which I’m sure is a *complete* coincidence. I mean, it’s not like the dozens of dandelions and patches of crabgrass that grow unchecked in my yard could somehow just spread into his yard, right?

However, when it gets to the hottest and driest parts of summer—sort of like now—his carefully nurtured grass is mostly burned out while the weeds that I attempt to pass off as a lawn are still thriving and green. Oh sure, it’ll only last a few weeks, but for that small window of time … cliché busted!

3. You’ll hit the green lights when you’re not in a rush, and get all the reds when you’re in a hurry. I’m always in a hurry, especially when I drive—again, I’ll be damned if I waste any portion of whatever allotment of animation I get on this giant spinning rock—so the law of averages washes this one out.

If I do hit a string of green lights, it just gets me to my destination just all that much quicker. And if I hit red lights, it’s just speeding up that aneurysm that I’ll eventually have behind the steering wheel of my car. Winner all around!

4. A body at rest stays at rest. With the number of nightmares and twisted dreams that I have, as well as multiple trips to the bathroom (with my well-documented gastrointestinal issues, I drink *a lot* of water on any given day) it’s very rare that I get a full eight—or even seven or six—hours of straight sleep.

5. What goes up must come down. Since the moment I was conceived, all I have ever done is gain weight. Yes, it might waver from time to time, but overall, the line of that graph continues on an upward trajectory. If I didn’t run 3.5 miles every other day, there’s no doubt I’d already look like this …

… and be washing myself with a rag on a stick.

But let’s be honest: That is my eventual future.

6. Actions speak louder than words. My action track record is pretty lame—let’s say that in general I provide all the dynamic action of a poster print of Monet’s “Water Lillies.”

Ahhh, fine ar ......zzzzzzzzzz......

 

However, my words have actually carried me pretty far, including getting me a paying gig. I don’t think I would actually say my words have brought me “fame” or “fortune,” but hey, they help to pay the bills.

7. An idle mind is the devil’s playground. I know it sounds weird, but I can’t tell you how much I wish I could make my mind idle. I really do. It’s never, ever quiet in my skull, especially in the middle of the night when it’s supposed to be quiet. I think what disturbs me most is that people talk about “hearing voices” telling them to do things like commit suicide; in my head, whenever I’ve heard a voice making a suggestion like that, it’s always my own, loud and perfectly clear. That’s chilling.

Thus, I would say that my mind is pretty darn active, and it has *never* even remotely been mistaken for the lord’s sewing circle.

8. Can’t have your cake and eat it, too. I’m pretty sure that in all of the 170 years or so that I can recall, there has never been a piece a cake that’s been placed in front of me that I haven’t eaten … you know, with the possible exception of a slice of carrot cake that was once proffered at work party by a co-worker who was notorious for not washing her hands in the ladies’ room and had been eagerly licking crumbs off her own fingers in between cutting pieces.

9. A coward dies a thousand deaths. I think it’s safe to say that I am not anyone that you would ever confuse with any sort of hero, and I haven’t even died once yet—despite thinking about my eventual death pretty much every single day, as we all know I’m wont to do.

10. Can’t judge a book by its cover. I look in the mirror every day and I see a cranky old man looking back at me. Seems to pretty much dead on.

 

Aug 052013
 

Look, I’m not saying that I’m a great parent—especially after accidentally closing a car window on my son’s arm earlier today—but I do think I’ve learned a few things along the way that might be of help to those just starting down that path. You know, after “Make sure that the kids are 10 feet away from the car before you start to close windows …”

5 Pieces of Reasonable Parental Advice

1. No means no – Whatever the request—be it from “Can I have a juice box?” to “Can I borrow the car?”—if your wife or partner already has said “No,” then you *damn well* better say no, too—even if the reason is nothing more than “Because I said so!” Because once kids realize that they can divide and conquer, and thus, dismantle your parental authority like Spanish conquistadors taking South America, it’s over. Like vastly outgunned Peruvians, the best-case scenario is that you’re enslaved for a few centuries.

If you’re a single parent—or alone with the kids for an extended period, which can feel like it—if you say no and then eventually relent, you’re done. As it turns out, just like all that stuff they learn in school, they will learn at home that their wills are stronger than yours, and that they can impose it on you.

Hey, if you’re not 100 percent sure, there’s always, “We’ll see.” As my son told me, “That’s pretty much means no.” Yes, but there’s a little wiggle room, enough to buy yourself some precious time to make an informed—and hopefully correct—decision.

2. No does NOT mean “I don’t love you” – Too many times we’re more interested in pleasing our kids rather than raising them. Big difference.

Last time I checked, there’s nothing wrong with saying, “Look, just because I said ‘No, you can’t set the house on fire today,’ doesn’t mean that I have stopped loving you or am mad at you. It means that it’s not okay to burn down the house, no matter how many times you ask. It has nothing to do with how I feel about you and everything to do with learning to do the right thing. I still love you.”

That “I still love you” is important to mention on occasion. I found it especially useful when I would get upset with the kids. After yelling at them for whatever transgression had angered me, I would often try to have the presence of mind to add something like, “Just because I’m mad at you right now doesn’t mean I don’t love you any more. Just like you, I get upset sometimes. It’s okay—it’s all part of life. I still love you.”

I’m pretty sure this is something that I’ve culled from my formative years watching Mister Rogers, who might’ve been one of the greatest and finest humans in all of the history of ever. Period.

In short, it’s okay to be friends … but be a parent first. They may not like you today but they’ll love you tomorrow.

3. Find their weakness—and exploit it – When it comes to disciplining children, there are numerous paths that can be taken, but I often found that taking away whatever my sons loved the most (at the time) was an effective tool.

For instance, when he was young, Son #1 loved TV more than life itself, so “Behave or no ‘Teen Titans!'” was a pretty effective tool. However, I found that when I tried a similar approach with Son #2, he just shrugged and walked away. It took a while, but I finally discovered that he loved computer time, so taking that away became the weapon of choice with him.

And it worked because …

4. Kids recognize idle threats, so don’t waste everyone’s time with them – I’m always amused around the holidays by parents who (often in public) will shout things like, “If you keep stabbing your sister, Santa isn’t going to bring you any presents!”

In all my years, I’ve only known one parent—my dear friend Fran—who actually dropped the Santa hammer on her kids and made sure that there was nothing under the tree on Christmas morning. Now that’s hard core!

As I’ve mentioned numerous times, Red Forman is one of my parenting role models, and I like to quote him to my children quite a bit …

Actually, I’ve never touched my angry foot to a child’s posterior, despite being severely tempted at times.

In truth, I’ve always tried to keep my punishment threats to things that I—and my kids—knew I could follow through on. Taking away TV, computer or video game time was easy to do and effective enough to get my point across.

I remember once when Son #2 was being particularly difficult and after an extended time out in the corner didn’t work, I sent him to his room, where I told him that he had to sit on his bed and do nothing. When that didn’t seem to faze him, I threatened to take away everything Power Ranger that he owned—FOR EVER!

I saw a flicker of fear in his eyes as he looked around his room, but he continued to challenge me, so I finally said, “That’s it!” I literally pulled the Power Ranger sheets out from under him, and then took all his ‘zords and other Ranger paraphernalia and bundled it all up in the sheets and put it in my bedroom.

He started crying, which absolutely made me feel awful, but from that point we both knew that when I promised a punishment, it’d absolutely happen.

If it makes you feel better, file this under, “Keeping a promise!”

5. Give time off for good behavior – By the same token, even if I went through with a tough punishment, I always gave my kids a chance to redeem themselves. Life is often about second chances, right?

In the Power Ranger example up above, after letting my son be devastated for an hour or three, I eventually said to him, “Okay, here’s the deal: Be good the rest of today and all of tomorrow, and you can get back your stuff.” And he did, and he did.

I often employed that tactic—”took away” all of TV or computer time, let them be really upset for a while, then went back to them with a deal that if they could behave for X amount of time, then they could recover a diminished portion of what they had lost. It worked better than I thought it could.

Anyway, this all sounds like great advice, you know, until one of my sons shoots the president. Then all bets are off …