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May 19th, 2009 - 7-11 is no longer offering the X-Men Origins: Wolverine Slurpee. Now they've got the Terminator: Salvation Slurpee. Somehow it's just a little less appetizing.
I have been absent again. I disappeared back down the work hole. I didn't see Alice or that fucking rabbit down there. I just saw a bunch of ass pain and hassle. Fortunately, I kicked a lot of ass and have gone some way toward burnishing my reputation with both employer and clients. Apparently, sometimes, when my back is to the wall, I don't act like a total ass hat.
I have been writing fairly consistently here. You know, just in case you missed my way with words.
Was thinking a bit about words last night. Was thinking I'd like to wield them like a hammer. I'd like to hit you with my words, right between the eyes. Leave a little round indentation there, maybe a little rust colored stain, from when I left the hammer out in the rain. Not sure what this is about as I actually mean you no harm and bear you no malice.
Just to show you I'm harmless, I'll share some ideas I had for new careers:
1) Emoticon-oclast - Comes up with innovative/nonsensical character combinations to represent complex emotions such as: shamefully pleased, guiltily triumphant and self-satisfyingly self-deprecating.
May 1st, 2009 - Why is it that people who go on killing sprees almost always kill themselves at the end? I mean, if you weren't going to derive enough satisfaction from killing all those people, what was the point? The way I see it, you either kill a bunch of folks and then stick around to bask in the afterglow of indulging your homicidal rage, OR you kill yourself. I don't understand how the two go together.
Do you get to the end of your rampage and suddenly get rampager's remorse? miaa-carbonneutral.com
I suppose there's the whole "I'm going out, but I'm taking you fuckers with me," approach, but I don't really buy that either. I wouldn't want to take the chance that I'd meet all those same people in hell, and then what really was the point of killing them. To me, the point of killing someone is removing them from my immediate environment in a permanent sort of way. I don't take the people I don't like with me anywhere, never mind the ethereal beyond.
And let me just say, for anyone even mildly concerned by my blase discussion of this topic, don't worry about me. I may abhor some of my fellow humans, but I also abhor violence, except in its fetishized Hollywood form.
April 27th, 2009 - This is Medford, where I live: trash blowing down the road with the sand stirred up by the street sweeper, idle teens sucking back Richie's Italian Slush in its neon pink cups then depositing said cups in the road with the plastic bags and cetera accumulating there, lazy, end-of-year college students sauntering around in ill-fitting sweats and flip flops, the monster trucks of carpenters and painters and plumbers and tile guys piling up by the hardware store on the corner and then pushing on up the block to the Dunkin Donuts, and then the commuters in their Dockers and tentative open-toed shoes waiting at the bus stop with those tell-tale white headphones and all manner of backpack and briefcase and tote bag.
This morning the bright orange Asplundh truck pulled up next to the house, presumably to eliminate all the trees that currently shield us from the commuter rail line across the road. They're relaying the rail bed, and I can only assume they want the trees down to make things easier.
We're not much for appearances in Medford. People pave their yards. The pot holes swallow children and mail carriers. Everybody scratches their scratch tickets and deposits the losers in the road. Everybody smokes 100s.
Oh, that's not right. I'm waxing hyperbolic. I'm talking shit. It's not all anything. It's a shit storm of urban living, a clusterfuck of collaborative survival. The Brazilian lady next door blasts salsa music while she does yardwork, so she can hear the horns over the lawn mower.
This is Medford, where I live.
April 17th, 2009 - Was at 7-11 last week procuring myself a cola Slurpee, one of the fundaments of my warm weather diet, when I noticed that I could transport the aforementioned frozen delicacy in a cup emblazoned with an X-Men: Wolverine hologram, which of course settled my mind to do so, rationalizing that not only did I think the cup was awesome in its use of '70s era turn-it-this-way-and-it-looks-one-way-turn-it-the-other-way-it-looks-like-that technology, but also my kids would think it was super cool.
So I Slurped-up and headed for the counter.
On my way, I cantered past the coffee island, where I noticed that the Wolverine promotion extended beyond the Slurpee machine. Someone, apparently, thought it was a good idea to make available the Wolverine: X-Treme Cappucino as well. This is a crappy, machine-gurgled concoction in a cup with a picture of a mutant with an adamantium skeleton and bad sideburns. What seemed so awesome leaping off my Slurpee suddenly seemed wholly stupid and gratuitous peaking out from beneath the rim of a badly-made Italian coffee. I realize, however, that the difference is entirely superficial.
What is not superficial is my appreciation of the Arizona Tea Company's Arnold Palmer Half-and-Half beverage. This is an iced tea/lemonade hybrid, for those of you living on some arid, lifeless planet devoid of super-endorsing ex-golfers. First of all, the combination of iced tea and lemonade is sublime. Second, to associate said mixture with a geriatric golfer is completely silly. Third, I like silly an awful lot. And fourth, it comes in a 23oz can, which is even sillier.
I suppose, if you don't like the drink, you could use it to fill a bird bath. That's a lot of liquid, but then, I'm a thirsty guy.
That is all.
April 15th, 2009 - I will let this speak for itself:
April 9th, 2009 - I got searched this morning. Not spread eagle and patted down. Not even a riffling through my bag. A woman asked me to submit myself for search, a TSA agent. I went to a table where another woman took what looked like a band-aid and wiped it on the front of my bag, before handing to a guy who fed it into a machine. Three seconds passed, and then he looked up and said, "Thank you. You can go."
Was this search legal?
On the one hand, you could argue that it's no different than the search you submit yourself to before boarding a commercial airplane. On the other hand, the commercial airplane is owned by a private company that is entitled to impose whatever conditions it thinks I'll tolerate in order to gain access to its aircraft.
But the train is public transit, owned and operated by the government. The government has, in essence, searched me without probably cause, unless you call my sloppy way of dressing and generally poor attitude probable cause.
Well, you could argue that they have a right to check me for explosives before boarding a train, because I don't have a guaranteed right to transit. That's an interesting argument, but it's a troublesome one, because really, I'm not allowed to have explosives anywhere. Not on the train. Not on the street. Not at my house. Not in the back shed.
So, if you take the attitude that the government has the right to search me before explosives before getting on the train, doesn't it make sense to allow them to search me for explosives at my house? Of course, I've never touched explosives (unless you count roman candles and bottle rockets, both of which will put your eye out if aimed the wrong way), so what would you base a home search on?
And then, we might allow the government to search us before boarding a subway train if there was a demonstrable threat of someone blowing up trains in our city, but to my knowledge there has NEVER been a bomb on a train in Boston. I've lived here twenty years. Never might be a stretch, but certainly there have been no bombs in recent memory.
So what's with the search?
I was awfully tempted to refuse, but I really needed to get to work, and without a working knowledge of the specifics or a pocket-sized lawyer well-versed on the topic, I thought better just to comply and move on. I remain very curious though. Is this legal? Can I refuse? What would happen if I did?
I don't doubt the good intentions of the people performing this work. That's another reason I didn't raise a ruckus. But it didn't feel right. Not at all. It's hard for me to see the difference before random bag searching on mass transit and the warrantless wiretapping of people's phones. These are both incursions into our lives based on nothing more than someone's gratuitous need to feel safe.
Frankly, I'm more afraid of asphyxiating in a train tunnel due to the general delapidation of our system, than I am of being blown up by a disgruntled Bostonian. I mean, we survived all those Yankee World Series wins without blowing shit up, what further stress can be applied to the system?
April 8th, 2009 - On Wednesday's I leave the house early, and it helps B if I wake the kids and get them dressed before I go, so that she has time to get herself ready.
Owen's door opened at 6:30. His blinds went up. His humidifier turned off. He moaned an unhappy moan and pulled the blanket over his head. For a four-year-old he has a very teen attitude toward getting up involuntarily.
I went in, knelt down and laid my head next to his. He rolled over to face the other way. I put my head on his back, using him as a pillow. He farted. I said, "Hey! You farted on my head!" Fart humor is a sure fire way to turn a four-year-old away from tears and toward giggles. He giggled. I said, "Great! I'm a fart head now! Thanks!" He giggled.
I tickled him. He said, "Daddy, you're a fart head!" He repeated himself. He repeated himself again. He giggled more. I tickled more.
I laid myself down next to him and nuzzled his soft head. I gave him a haircut recently, a buzz cut, like I cut my own hair. It carries the scent of his shampoo perfectly. He began to squirm and giggle, so I tickled some more and then covered his face with kisses. He called me fart face a few more times.
And then he got up and came downstairs in his pajamas and ate some cereal.
April 7th, 2009 - A minor back spasm, a bolt of lightning across the region, a twinge and an ache. That was Friday morning. I got up from a chair. Never get up from a chair. Who could possibly have the temerity to rise from a seated position. It fairly violates the first Law of Motion. If you're at rest, have the decency to remain at rest. Any effort to arise (as Phoenix from ash, or lady from lake) threatens to exhume Newton, spin him down in a centrifuge and then rebury with head where feet once were. A bare insult, administered with back of hand.
And so, heating pad and menthol-y balms (YOU DA BALM!), laying on floors, laying on of hands, immersion in whirling pools of warmed water. The raising of legs. The stretching of limbs and gentle twisting of spine. All to relatively little avail.
I wonder how long one would need to remain prone and unmoving before a spasming muscle would release its claw-like grip on one's pain center. What would it take to carve that time out of one's schedule? How would one pass that time? Is there some deep meditative state by which to span the duration of a minor injury like this one? Yeah. Prolly not.
And so, isolational muscular therapy at $85 per hour, before tip. Strapped to a table and forcibly stretched. In the absence of interrogational probing, there is nothing to do but wince and hope that groins remain intact, that hamstrings retain their hold, that backs are improved rather than disproved.
Complaining helps. As does melodrama. And ibuprofen in the sorts of doses intended for injured cattle.
Glibness. "Yeah, I tweaked my back." Tweaked? So cute. Like a mouse. Mice tweak, right? They certainly don't drag themselves around town on an old man's legs, wincing with the blowing of each breeze. A pained smile that says, "No. Not better yet."
Better soon, surely. No one deserves this much fun.
March 31st, 2009 - Oh, Hostess Cupcakes, you readily available amalgamation of wanton calories. I pop your plastic wrapper. Oh yeah, it's on. You're still. Calm. Cradled in your purpose built and finely measured cups, micron tight, cake-ily embossed.
I know that the two of you are slightly different, but I don't take the time to observe. To me, you are uniformly delicious. Your frosting is just hard enough to resist denting, but it yields, oh, how it yields, to the gentle pressure of my incisors.
And then I'm awash, all out at sea. I'm drowning in your cake. There is frosting. FROSTING!!!!!
I pause to sip my coffee, if only to hold off, to delay, to increase the tantric gratification. And then I'm lost again. A frenzy. A brief, consensual struggle, and then you're gone. Bits of you cling to my teeth. The rest of you ether.
Presumably you are digestible, but I don't really care. You're gone now, leaving only the memory, the shame, the lingering thrill of our encounter.
March 30th, 2009 - The 100 Addicts project is an effort to help people who are not addicts to understand people who are. Each of the 100 Addicts profiled is a good person who suffers from an often deadly disease. There is not one among them who I would not call my friend.
#13 - Tony G. - Mouthwash Tony, he was sober 14 years before a capful of mouthwash sent him out on a tear. He struggled getting back. Then he did it again.
A long life of crazy. Overdosing in his kitchen...struggling to answer the knock at the door...his friend John..."Hey, what's up?" Then a collapse. Back from the dead later in the day.
Tony is the most honest, most straightforward, most dependable. He's a rock. A kind smile. Bulging muscles. He's gotten his one year medallion twice in the last three years.
March 24th, 2009 - The 100 Addicts project is an effort to help people who are not addicts to understand people who are. Each of the 100 Addicts profiled is a good person who suffers from an often deadly disease. There is not one among them who I would not call my friend.
#12 -Jay - Nineteen years sober. Local guy. Quiet. Humble. Remembers a youth full of arrests for "stupid stuff," drunk and disorderly. In parks and bars and on corners. "$62.50s" he calls them, $50 for the fine and $12.50 for the court fee.
Jay smiles and says, "hello." Always. Cold Sunday morning. Rainy Tuesday night. Steady. Reliable.
March 23rd, 2009 - The great paradox of parenting, for me anyway, is that I can love my kids so intensely one minute, and then want to kill them the next. They have this amazing capacity for sweetness and an equal ability to unhinge.
I cut Owen's hair Friday night and turned him into the cutest four-year-old on the planet. Seriously, there was a contest. And he won. I shit you not.
Meanwhile, his brother is walking around the house spouting new words like one of those mall fountains that were so popular in the '80s. He likes crackers a lot too, which he calls, "fuckers," much to the amusement of his mother and me. We're extremely mature at my house.
March 20th, 2009 - This may just end up being another navel-gazing wankfest, so feel free to click away now, BUT...
I've been thinking a lot about morality lately. It's the whole finance industry clusterfuck and the end of (most) of the Bush war crimes and the continued erosion of the environment that's taking me there. I mean, what should I do? How might I live my life so as NOT to participate in a bunch of unprincipled bullshit.
Here are some of my answers, or the efforts I've been making:
1) I shut off the lights when I leave a room. I've come to see that as a moral obligation, not to waste energy simply because you can. It's not about the pennies we save. It's about recognizing that burning coal produces my electricity, and that burning coal is bad for my planet. Two dots. A straight line. A small thing, but, and this is the core of most of the ways I'm trying to act, if I behave as I want everyone else to behave (the golden rule (and isn't gold a good thing to be in right now?)), then it's not just me shutting off my lights. It's hundreds of millions of others too.
2) I cut my 401k contribution in half, and may go the rest of the way. Look, most of us have 401k accounts, but I'd venture to guess that less than 1% of us know what those 401ks are really invested in. The mess unfolding now convinces me that I ought not put money into investments I don't understand. I've been using that money to pay down my mortgage instead. I understand home equity, as it turns out.
3) I've been reading foreign news. The Bush (and Clinton) years taught me that the US media doesn't even properly tell ONE side of the story. The reasons are many and various. Power and money and bias and delusion and incompetence and plain-old-human-frailty all play in.
4) I've cut back on the meat I eat. I don't want to get into reasons on this. There are a lot them. I love meat. I will go on eating it, but for my health, for the environment, for the economy, it's better if I eat less.
5) I ride a bike, when sometimes I'd rather drive a car. I'm healthier for it. The air is better for it. The traffic is lighter for it. Etc. etc. ad nauseum.
There's more. I'm trying to reduce the amount of shit I use and throw away. I'm thinking of moving my mortgage to a local bank. It's a process as much as a plan. This isn't a set of suggestions. It's not a call to arms or a critique of the way other people live. I've just smelled bullshit, and I want to try to keep from stepping in it.
March 19th, 2009 - Yesterday's post is a prime example of what happens when you turn your head inside out and show everyone what's knocking around in there. It's a bit like panning for gold and keeping all the mud, cause really, when is there ever gold?
Like the rest of the people on the planet, I've been following the soap opera of financial meltdown that has befallen us all. I've been reading about all the greedy, bad people who put us in this mess. It makes you feel angry. And helpless.
It reminds me of this one time when I was teenager. Our lawnmower had died. I believe the gas tank had cracked. It wouldn't hold gas anymore. So we put it out with the garbage.
About an hour later a scraggly looking guy pulls up in an old pick up truck, has a look at the mower and strides up to our front door. He rings the bell. I open the door. He says, "I'd like to give you five dollars for that old mower out there." And I say, "Well, we put it out in the garbage, so you might as well just take it." And he says, "I won't take anything I haven't earned without paying for it," hands me a bill and says, "Thank you."
It's not so hard is it, being honest? I mean, that guy wasn't rich. He could have just thrown the mower in his truck and moved on, and no one would have said a word or had a bad thought towards him. But he played it straight, because it feels better to play it straight.
It feels better to play it straight...
March 18th, 2009 - Am I stumbling towards Buddhism?
I've never properly participated in religion. Sure, I spent ten years at an Episcopalian private school, wearing the blazer and tie, sit, kneel, stand, sing, pray, and all that. I read the Bible in fits and starts. But I always thought it was crap. I never believed.
I wasn't just irreligious. I was arelegious. I despised what I perceived as the sanctimony of religious people, the judgmentalness, the hypocrisy. And, of course, I rejected utterly that anyone had anything to tell me about life.
And now I see that I was wrong, at least about that last bit. Some of it comes from my recovery from addiction, the notion that I don't control the universe, and that I can't live a happy life in a tiny solipsistic bubble. The rest comes from parenthood. Suddenly, I'm obligated to present a successful example of how to be in the world. I don't need to teach my kids how to sail a sailboat, but if I can present some useful information about how to live happily, then I'll have succeeded beyond my wildest.
So then, how to be happy? Fuck. I never thought I'd really have to answer that question. I kinda thought it was a bullshit question to be honest with you.
First of all, I'd like to point out that, at least for me, being good and being happy are entirely separate goals. What other people deem good seems like a wild goose chase, a million tiny moral hurdles to leap. A guy could drive himself crazy trying to be what other people want him to be. I know, I've been crazy.
Being happy, or at least maximally happy - no one is fireworks and birthday cake all the time - is a function of living the life YOU want to live. Satisfying yourself, which to some might include bingeing on Hostess cup cakes, is a tricky proposition. After you've eaten all those cup cakes, you feel awful, and your hands are all sticky.
What I've come to learn is that I'm happiest when I can do a few basic things: be honest with everyone and myself, be humble enough to keep my ego from getting me into pointless conflicts with other people and finally, to stop seeing the solutions to my problems in other people needing to change. The world is as the world is and no tiny puff of organic excrescence like me is going to change it. Better that I accept that, adapt, move on.
I'm not so sure I need a religion to be happy. The thing religion seems to be good at is ritualizing the basic teachings you need to absorb in order to stay on an even keel. It's one thing to say you want to be humble. It's another thing to actively humble yourself. A daily ritual might help there.
Anyway, a lot of Westerners who reject Christianity go running for Buddhism. Not sure why. In my case, it has this charming way of not making me acknowledge supernatural "miracles," the stuff that always chafes when I'm sitting in a Christian church. Buddhism can be very secular and naturalistic, which jibes pretty well with my sense of things.
The truth is, I don't even really know what it means to be a Buddhist. Do I need to cultivate a far away look in my eyes and an imbecilic smile? Do I need to read essays about the "Compassion of Loving Kindness?" I hope not.
But there's got to be a way to get a bit more peace and quiet in your roiling mess of a brain, doesn't there?
This morning I was at an AA meeting, and I had on a Minor Threat t-shirt. One of the guys commented on it. He said his roommate was a punk, and that the roommate thought he was a hippy. And it struck me then that most of the punk kids I knew growing up are turning into hippies as they get older. It's not fun to be angry all the time. It doesn't work as a long term strategy. That doesn't mean I want to listen to Phish and go vegetarian. It just means I want to be happy.
Is that so much to ask? Yeah. It probably is.
March 17th, 2009 - Help me understand Saint Patrick's Day. I'm not Irish. Why do people think I ought to be wearing green today. Incidentally, I'm not Catholic either. And I've never had a problem with Irish snakes. I don't much care for boiled cabbage. I just don't see what's in this "holiday" for me.
Nor do I understand how we've had it foisted on us. Maybe it's cause I don't drink anymore, though really, are humans really in need of more reasons to drink. I know that I drank when the sun shone and also when it was dark. I drank when I was happy. I drank when I was sad. I drank to celebrate and to forget. A weird, dead Catholic dude driving the snakes out of Ireland (where I've never been)? Um, ok.
I've written about holidays here before. I've even proposed an entirely revised holiday calendar. I don't remember when I did that, and I'm not going to go looking, so I wouldn't expect you to, but suffice it to say we ended up with more days off from work with my plan. We also ate more good food.
If I had my way I'd wipe MLK Day, Presidents' Day, Valentine's Day, St. Patrick's Day, Columbus Day and about a half dozen other "half-holidays" right off the docket. Not to denigrate the contributions of MLK or the dead presidents, but I'm just not that into hero worship. We've all got clay feet. As for the others, I don't really need to celebrate other people's cultural heritage or the arrival on this continent of Europeans, who promptly got their genocide on.
At this stage, I see most holidays as little more than marketing vehicles aimed at separating me from my hard-earned pocket lining. There are few of them set up to help me spend time with my family or to help my fellow man with his many and multivariate problems.
And who the fuck wants to drink green beer?
March 16th, 2009 - I just renewed my domain name here. I think I extended for two years. And I have to say that I really seriously considered just shutting it down, just being done. Jumping in the hole and pulling it in after me. But I renewed instead.
Will I have ANYTHING to say over the next two years? I have no idea. I seem to have less and less that I feel compelled to share. I post more and more infrequently.
To be sure, I miss my blog friends. I feel as though I've left a job I enjoyed but didn't pay enough.
I started The Emlyn Project as a vehicle for forging a new-ish identity for myself. In 2003, I had a lot more time on my hands, and I was making a conscious effort to remake my adulthood into something I liked better. I'd recently left a job that nearly took my soul, and I was expanding into a universe that wasn't governed by work and money, or at least not completely.
This blog helped me think through what was important to me. It helped me come to terms with the changes that came along with parenthood. It was a tool for catharsis and a platform for spouting opinions. I've received a lot of good advice through this funny little box in the internet. And made some friends.
I don't know what more there is. Maybe there's nothing, though I sort of doubt that. My limited experience with these sorts of things is that, rather than quitting when you think you're at the end, the thing to do is just keep going. It's the doing that matters.
So I've got two more years. I wonder what comes next.
March 6th, 2009 - Who am I? Where have I been? Am I still a blogger? Is blogging passŽ? Is this Peter Tosh covering "Hear Comes the Sun" playing in my headphones?
Yes. Yes, it is.
So fuck it. My brain's been all over the map. Everyday I'm steeping it in news about the economy. I've learned nothing. And I think, actually, there might be nothing to learn. I feel neither anxious nor overawed by this recession. So far my experience of it has been entirely positive. It has me focussed on what's important, rather than on what I'm earning or spending. It has me motivated to change. Change is good.
Am thinking also about the interconnectedness of things, the way chickens always come home to roost, the way bad action leads to a bad life.
Heavy. But not metal.
Also listening to a lot more music over the last months, playing music at home, for the kids. Headphones on at work. Peter Tosh wants equal rights and justice, or so he says. He's actually dead. Killed in a robbery on his house. Poor bastard.
How does it feel to have killed Peter Tosh? Does the guy who did it sit around thinking, "Crap! I killed the voice of reggae for a fucking toaster oven and a big bag of weed! I'm such an asshole." Yeah. Probably.
February 17th, 2009 - Christ, is it the 17th already? Time flies when you've been on your death bed, I suppose.
Was painfully, groaningly, awfully sick over the weekend. Am only just now recovering to a point of limited usefulness. It's odd to me, after having felt so strong all winter, to suddenly feel so absolutely weak. Our immune systems are such sensitive machines. Mine won't take bills and won't dispense change. On Sunday it was totally out of order. I kicked it repeatedly, but it gave no quarter (pun, shamefully, intended).
So, here I sit at my desk at work, feebly working. Mainly, I am consuming musical medicine. A large dose of punk rock, followed now by some more sensitive compositions. It is having a surprisingly palliative effect. I'm not ready for the marathon by any stretch, but I am, once again, up to sarcastic and pithy responses to the earnest questions of my colleagues. I'm sure they're all relieved.
There is a lesson in illness, I suppose. Humility. The naked realization that you are little more than a fleeting fart from nature's ass. The slightest wind can scatter you to the four corners. You must appreciate your hale and hearty times. You must revel in your ruddy complexity. Live while the living is good, because death lurks at every corner, or at most of them anyway.
February 11th, 2009 - Florida, Florida, Florida. South Florida. Sprawling mess of strip malls and giant, giant automobiles. If the denizens of my Northeastern home have shifted rapidly toward a more fuel-efficient lifestyle, the Floridians have gone right on piloting their monster trucks at freeway speed. This is less a judgement than an observation. Culture shifts slowly and stubbornly.
What was worth seeing in Florida was the birds. Egrets, herons, ibises, grackles, osprey, gallinules, muscovy ducks. I could go on and on. Here again an observation: South Florida is more or less exactly like Southern California. All the same stores. All the same attitudes. A sun-drenched splattering of humanity in minutely planned communities. Fraternal twins, separated by 3000 miles of hinterland (itself equipped with plenty of Chilis, TGIFridays, Barnes and Noble, etc. ad nauseum just without the palm trees). Speaking of which, lots of nice trees, much more diverse species than we have here in New England.
Nature is particularly nice because, despite the homogenization of everything humans consume, environments retain their regionality unstintingly. Anymore, in this country anyway, it's only the birds and the trees that give you any hints as to where you are. The rest is some flavor of Epcot.
So back to Boston, where it's unseasonably warm, thanks. All the sand and salt and garbage is melting out of the snow banks. The city is a mess. All the evidence of our profligacy as a species is turning up today.
I was actually thinking about this while I was in Florida. There are some species of plant and animal we deem "invasive." One good example of this, here in Boston is the European Starling, a mid-sized blackbird with a voracious appetite who crowds native birds out of food supplies and generally acts like an asshole. So many times I've seen a Starling and thought, "What a jerk? We should get rid of them." On the other hand, humans crowd out all other species. We pave things. We drain lakes and dam rivers. We destroy food supplies entirely and we ruin the air and water.
We suck. On a fundamental leve. And our priveleged position atop the food chain really doesn't justify what we do, as, eventually, we will also be made to account for our choices. I'm as big as part of it as you are. This is no judgement. Just observation. I suspect short-sighted destructiveness is written into our DNA.
It reminds me of an excellent editorial in the last issue of Esquire by Tom Junod. In it, Junod talks a bit about the tech bubble, the housing bubble and what he terms the "morality bubble," i.e. the inflated lifestyles we live while taking zero moral responsibility for the consequences. This, he thinks, will be the next bubble to burst.
February 2nd, 2009 - Have been BURIED in work. Going on vacation tomorrow. Fort Lauderdale for a week. Sun on my ass. Vitamin D in my soul. Shorts. T-Shirts.
It seems as though I've had to work the forty hours I'll be gone in advance of leaving. There not actually going to be a vacation in the final accounting, just a shifting of hours, an accounting trick.
I've been sick. I've lost my voice. I'm just holding my breath now until I can walk off the jet way in Florida. Rest my wheezing lungs. Breathe in the humid air and buy a grapefruit.
Finally, I lost a good man over the weekend. My friend Thomas drank himself to death in his small apartment in East Somerville. Poor bastard. May he rest easy. He certainly didn't live that way.
January 22nd, 2009 - A cold start. 20 degrees as I pedaled away from home. Had to walk the bike up to the corner. Our street is permafrosted. But you know, cold schmold. What bothers is the sand and salt embedded in the slush at the edge of the road. What makes it worse is that all the cars are 3 feet off the curb, because the plows couldn't clear all the way to the edge. There's no road left.
There's also no river. It's a wide, snowy, white field, unmoving, almost sinister really. I picture careless skaters pounding at its underside, before turning blue and vacant. A flash of doom. I dunno why.
I've also seen souls more hardy than I fording the river at the Longfellow Bridge. Just yesterday I sat there reading Cycle Sport on the Red Line, only to glance over and see that someone thought it was warm enough and clear enough to ride. I was flooded with envy and a touch of shame. I resolved to ride today, which I did. Carefully.
Nothing comes without effort I'm told.
January 21st, 2009 - If I remember anything of the end of the Bush years (my memory is going quickly), it will be the loss of faith in the general goodness of my country. How we could have gone so far wrong in such a short time, I may never understand. How we could see the first four years as anything but a portent of failure in the second term, I may never understand.
I arrive at the first day of the Obama presidency tired and wary. I hold out hope for Obama, but Bush taught me to distrust promises. I'm sick of mega-watt smiles and good intentions. I'm fed up with the credulous press, and I have empathy with those who feel apathy.
I had been waiting for the other shoe to drop with our economy, but I think perhaps it dropped without my noticing. The first shoe was the 5% pay cut I took to keep my job. The second one seems to have been the 20% increase in actual work that went along with it. This is not the stress of having less money. This is the stress of having less time, which, in my world, is more valuable than money.
I don't know what the future holds. It is entirely possible that we are in for a real shoe storm. Apart from the shiny, happy new President and all the hopes pinned to his broad shoulders, I have the same problems today that I had last week. I am no longer interested in what gets said in speeches. I am only interested in what policy gets made, what bills get signed and what troops come home.
It worries me when what should be the beginning of a new age of pragmatism, begins with all the spectacle of a Roman orgy.
I suppose the lesson here is not to seek comfort in the words of people you don't know, but rather in the comfort of your own kitchen, and in the company of your own family and friends.
January 8th, 2009 - Change is hard. Like algebra. Or diamonds.
Loathe as I am to make New Year's resolutions, I seem to have embarked on a program of sweeping change aimed at self-improvement and monetary savings. I am four days sugar free. I have, for the third time this week, prepared a lunch and brought it to work. It includes fruit and vegetables. I am going to do yoga at lunchtime. And here I am, blogging again, second time this week. I am so over-brimming with good intention that the mile markers on the road to hell are flying by with blurry abandon.
It should not be such a chore to take care of myself in the most basic ways, but it is.
I want to smoke cigarettes. Camel Turkish Gold. Of late, I have taken up second-hand smoking. Instead of shuddering with disgust when I inadvertently walk through a cloud of tobacco smoke, I've been inhaling deeply, pondering the toasty undertones, wishing to once again be able to take cigarette breaks. Of course, I have no intention, having rid myself of the nicotine addiction a decade ago, of buying a pack and resuming that most noxious of habits, but...
Sugar is screaming at me. How can I walk by 7-11 without getting a Slurpee? How can I go to the kitchen for a cup of coffee and walk past the pile of chocolates that one or another co-worker has brought in to share? I eat lunch. It's good. I'm full. I want SUGAR!
The exercise is great, though winter cycling here is always muddy and wet and cold. Maybe I can develop one of those exercise addictions.
I recall reading John Barth's The Floating Opera when I was in college. In it, the main character makes a practice of forming and breaking habits. There was a point, though I forget what it was. Anyway, I sort of feel like that guy. Maybe there's some value in just practicing picking things up and putting them down again. I can be awfully routine-oriented, even when that routine ceases to serve my basic needs. See above.
So I've turned over some new leaves. The funny thing about leaves though, is that they rarely stay still. The wind blows them across the yard, out into the street. The street sweeper comes by (seldom) and sucks them up and hauls them to the city yard, where they get composted, turned to shit and spread across the ground in a mulchy smear. New leaves shoot up out of the ground and fall, and the process begins again.
What the hell am I talking about? I have no idea.
January 6th, 2009 - Just looking back at the archive. Five years of blog. And who was that guy who started this ambling, shambling mess of a project? Emlyn. A cipher for my better self, an imagined self, a fictional character created in text. He bares some significant similarities to the flesh and blood Emlyn who gets up and goes to work and sits at his desk until his bladders strains to contain the coffee.
Of late, the quality of transmission here has deteriorated badly. The real Emlyn is clearly tap dancing on the best intentions of the other with golf shoes and a heavy cane.
I am trying.
It takes some effort to push back at the edges of encroaching responsibility, to shove aside the world as it is and free your best ideas. At the New Year I purchased some new pencils and a sketch book. I cleaned the basement. I restocked the pile of books at the bedside. I built a new bicycle. I was a father. I was a husband. This is where ideas come from.
How to extract them from reality and portray them here is the challenge.
December 18th, 2008 - The longer we go on, the less sense things make to me. The two terms of George W. Bush made no sense at all. Up became down. Right became left (literally). Common sense became wholly uncommon, and lies became acceptable currency, seemingly legal tender for all sorts of unholy purchases.
The economic "bailout" continues that same trend. Give money we don't have to the people who squandered all the money to begin with. Don't require them to account for anything. Completely ignore those who actually need money, and pay even less attention to those who saved their money wisely and lived within their means. In fact, build this whole house of cards on their backs, and then tell them not to move.
The American automakers are incompetent. Allow them to complain about their high wage "problems" while they go on making crappy cars that no one wants. Give them a pile of cash, too.
I'm no Republican, but seriously, who's fucking money is this anyway?
My industry, educational publishing, is suffering terribly as well. When do we get our billions? What about the newspapers? There's another group that's suffered disproportionately from the sagging economy. Give 'em a check.
The only folks I know who aren't suffering are the plumbers. We've all still got to crap, don't we?
Sorry for the negative tone. I'm actually less angry than I am befuddled. It's all so beyond me. All I can do is write. So I do.
December 16th, 2008 - It's a habit, writing. And I seem to have kicked it. I'm making modest contribution to The Bottom Bracket
I've been spilling my literary seed, a sin in some religions. I've reserved my best writing time for money-making ventures, soul sucking though they may be.
I was invited to take a 5% pay cut by my employer last week. It occurs to me that this might be the other shoe dropping, or perhaps just the first shoe in a veritable downpour. The president and I are both hoping we've seen the last shoe fly, though I'd like to huck one at him.
The holidays are upon us. Time for thought and reflection ought to be implicit in such hallowed days, but more often as not, we rush through with ears pinned back and thank the heavens when they're over. Ah yes! A fresh year of work yawning before us, a virgin calendar.
In an effort to bring some focus back into my day I have attended a lunchtime yoga class and now sit here sipping at a cup of green tea. So far, I just have to pee though.
More soon, I hope.
November 18th, 2008 - The sky has still not fallen, even though Chicken Little seems to be writing for every paper and web site in America, not to mention numerous appearances on television. I take it that we're all going to have less money in coming months, if not years. Some of us will, apparently, have a lot less, and less houses we can't afford anyway.
No doubt this state of affairs will lead some to conclude they will be less happy in the near future.
I have not yet reached that conclusion. I am thus far refusing to equate the amount of money I have or the value of my home with my daily happiness. It seems to me that as long as I'm grateful for what I've got, or possibly what I'm left with, then I'll be just fine.
The other night I put on an Op Ivy album recorded in 1989. It's a record I love very dearly. And my son, my boy, my reason for being, Owen, almost-but-not-quite four-years-old said to me, "Daddy, can you turn that up? I can't hear it." And I thought, "Oh Jesus Christ, life is sweet!"
And apparently the house we own is going to be worth 30% less next year, and I couldn't give half-a-shit less.
November 14th, 2008 - I have finally created The Ianto Project. Sorry for the 20 month delay.
November 10th, 2008 - A new day has dawned in America. A bright light shines from the East, emanating from betwixt the buttocks of the bi-racial superman, Barack Obama. We've all pinned our hopes on a comet. I hope it doesn't burn out in a cloud of space dust.
Between the mayhem of election and the chaos of work, I've not been cogent for well-on two weeks. I'm not even really sure what happened. It's as though I passed out on Halloween and just woke up over the weekend. Of course, nothing like that has actually happened to me since fall of '92. Touch wood. Say a prayer. One day at a time, and all that happy horse shit.
The kids were twinkly paragons of cute on Halloween. Owen bellowed, "HAPPY HALLOWEEN, JELLYBEAN!" at all our neighbors. They plied him with sugars, both waxy and sweet. Commerce may have slowed, but the core transactions are still taking place. Ian got in his licks too, climbing up porch steps on hands and knees, then proffering this pumpkin bucket, demanding tribute. He very nearly killed several of our older female neighbors with the sheer force of his adorableness. The kid is a weapon. We sometimes use him for good and sometimes for ill. Sorry.
Then, of course, the election. I fell asleep on the couch at 10. When Brittney came to bed at 1, we had a shiny new president. Hooray!
Now if we could just get on with it. "George, Laura, get the fuck out! Barack, Michelle, you can put your stuff there. Sasha, Malia, your room is down the hall. Now, let the Age of Obama commence, for better or worse. My friend Brendan says we all get hybrid cars that run on unicorn farts now. Where's the line?
And then, life carries on. I keep getting up and coming to work. Etc. Etc. Etc.
Our car blew a head gasket. Total system meltdown. Smoke pouring out from under the hood. Other drivers turning to stare. Foul smells. A tow truck. A week without wheels. Kids to deliver to daycare. A job to go to. $2000 to fix it.
And so, I was mostly off the bike last week, except when using it to get to my parents' or sister-in-law's houses to pick up their cars to shuttle my family around.
If I previously loathed the hulking masses of glass and steel that clutter our roadways, I am now wholly convinced of their obsolescence. Not only are they ugly, obese and smog-belching, but they also cost too much and take too long to fix. Completely impractical.
Not only has our familial automotive catastrophe cost me valuable cycling time, but the large wad of liquid asset necessary to bring us back from the vehicular dead will seriously impinge on my ability to build up the pristine Surly Cross-Check I'm working on in the basement, thus deferring still more cycling-derived joy.
Obama is president, but there's still no god. The more things change...
October 29th, 2008 - I was listening to the Tavis Smiley show on NPR the other night, and I had a small revelation about how I perceive our racial problems in this country. For those who aren't familiar, Smiley hosts a show that deals primarily with culture and politics, often focussing on challenges to the African-American community and giving voice to prominent black, American artists and leaders.
Smiley was talking about the modern conversation about race in this country, and how Barack Obama might move that conversation forward, etc. etc. And it occurred to me all of a sudden that race might actually be a red herring for the underlying issue. I've been thinking a lot, given the chaos of this election season, about the things that divide us, liberals and conservative, Democrats and Republicans, Southerners and Northerners, border states and interior states, etc. And I think we just naturally fear, distrust and possibly loathe those who are different than we are. We mock what we do not understand.
So the mechanism of racism may not be simple hatred of those with a different skin color, but rather a natural, if completely unfounded and unhelpful, aversion to those who are different than we are.
To be sure, race is a marker that helps people inclined to certain views know when to express those views, and there are obvious events in our past that pit certain "races," as easily as they can be identified, against one another.
This aversion to difference is, I think, akin to the aversion to change. You read about small town (and big city) people who are resistant to the changing complexions of their towns and neighborhoods. The problem is not so much with the change agents (whether those people are black, white, gay, yuppie or whatever), as with the simple fact of the change, which is why, after change has been underway for some time, tensions almost always ease. Resistance turns to acceptance.
So my point is, rather than talking about the races' antipathies to one another, perhaps the way to move the conversation forward is to start a national conversation about differences, changes and social evolution. I think most biological models suggest that diversity leads to strength in a species, while homogeneity almost always leads to odd-looking, Appalachian folks playing banjoes on ramshackle porches and Ned Beatty getting ass raped.
We owe it to ourselves to avoid that, don't we?
October 28th, 2008 - It is a mistake to read the New York Times in the morning. Political opera. Economic collapse. Culture war. These things set me on the wrong path.
I gave Paul Krugman five minutes of my time. The guy won a Nobel for economics, so, for some reason, I'm listening to what he's saying. He started by citing a beautiful, if sad, piece of Yeats: "Turning and turning in the widening gyre / The falcon cannot hear the falconer; / Things fall apart; the center cannot hold.Ó
This was his take on the economy, the government (Henry Paulson in particular) as the falconer, and the economy spiraling away out of control. There was more, about emerging markets and hedge funds and a bunch of other shit that might as well have been written in a cyrillic alphabet, but what I took away was this:
The falcon can be me. All the shit, the money, the election, the red and blue, white collar and blue collar, the poor and corrupt, can be the falconer, summoning me down into its swirling mess. But I can fly away. I can close the window on the New York Times, turn to the window, smile and sip my coffee.
Fucking Yeats. Good stuff.
October 17th, 2008 - OK. So I've got a solution to the national financial crisis, a sweeping and dramatic measure akin to something you might do with your personal finances, if you were the cavalier financier that yours truly fancies himself.
First, let me present the microeconomic scenario. You're in debt. You bought a bunch of jewelry for an ex-girlfriend on a credit card that you've been paying the minimum on for five years. OK, you also paid for her boob job with the card, but because she was a stripper, that seemed like a good investment at the time. You had no way of knowing that she would run off with a woman who called herself Madam Yvette. Who would have guessed that she was a better cuddler than you are?
Regardless, you owe $36K on credit cards, and you owe $12K on a used Trans Am, that's only worth $4K. Your income, before gambling revenues (losses), comes to $32K, which is what you earn from delivering pizza and helping out at your buddy's auto body shop. Clearly, you're in a deep, deep hole. You need to do something BIG to get out of it.
You look around at your assets, a leaky water bed, an XBOX 360, and you see that the only thing you can do is sell a kidney. You go down to the laundromat on the corner and chat with Mr. Lim. He knows a guy. Three weeks later, you're convalescing at home. You've paid off your debts. You're playing Grand Theft Auto IV, and telling your buddy you should be back at the body shop on Tuesday.
Sure, it's an extreme measure, but it worked, and it's real.
Now let's look at another example. I have a friend I'll call "United States of America," though seriously, that's not his real name. I'll call him US for short, again, not really what I call him, but you get the point. My buddy US owes China $10 trillion. Sure, he's got a sweet ass cellphone, a huge television and a satellite dish that brings him porn from the four corners of the globe, but man, does he owe. He can't stop shopping (or watching porn), so he's drowning in debt.
So he looks around. He's got a little bit of oil, but China gets his oil from Iran for cheap. He's got wicked nice appliances, but he bought them all from China in the first place. He doesn't have anything that China doesn't already have, except for real estate. He swallows hard and decides to hock Alaska. Alaska is full of natural resources that China can turn into still more toasters and TVs and cell phones, and the US isn't really using it. Hell, lots of folks who live in Alaska already don't want to be part of the US, so the US would be doing them a favor to cut them loose.
The US swaps Alaska for $8 trillion in debt. A cashless transaction that frees up enough US credit to start another war or bailout another failed domestic industry. My buddy US is sharp. He always gets the ladies. How many times have I been his wing man? I remember that time we hooked with Grenada and Nicaragua. At least that's what they said their names were. Man, we were SOOOO drunk.
Right, so my solution for the current national financial crisis is a mix of cash injections to the credit markets and low interest Federal loans against future tax payments made directly to middle and lower class families, specifically targeted at the servicing of short term debt. By allowing families to lighten and consolidate their debt burdens, we can liquidate sufficient consumer debt to get larger corporations moving again on capital improvements and expansion, which will put folks to work, stave off inflation and restart the ailing housing market.
October 16th, 2008 - The aforementioned brother, in Afghanistan, in full regalia, with a buddy from the ASG (Afghan Security Guards):
October 14th, 2008 - I have not written about this yet, because I haven't really been sure how to do it. It's so complicated for reasons that I won't fully be able to explain in a single post (or single year of posting), that I've been hesitant even to bring it up, but fuck it. It's on my mind.
My brother is in Afghanistan. Wearing body armor. Carrying a gun. Sleeping in a glorified shipping container surrounded by sand bags higher than your head. Shooting at people. Being shot at. My sister-in-law said she could hear explosions on their last satellite phone call.
He is on the Pakistani - Afghanistani border. The place on this planet you might like least to be. He put himself there. He raised his hand and said, "Send me." The reasons are many and complex, and I'm not sure any of them are any good. He went to make more money. He went to escape unhappiness, some he felt and some he wrought. He went to have gone, for ego and advancement and who-fucking-knows-why-else.
And so, while I'm sad that he's there, and I spend some fraction of time every day hoping I don't read about his death in the news or get that horrible call from my mother, I can't somehow feel sorry for him.
Let me just say that this is a stupid fucking war, a fool's errand with terminal effects, a mistake predicated upon false assumptions. My brother's decision to put himself there is the same thing in microcosm, a shit decision erected on a plinth of other bad decisions, a bad consequence for bad actions. There's a certain self-flagellating aspect to it. I'm angry with him for going, but I'm simultaneously glad he's not here. He acted badly. He acts badly. And having him out of my life, if only temporarily (hopefully only temporarily) makes things easier, except the parts that are harder. Like I said, it's complicated. It's so fucking complicated.
But then war is like that, isn't it? I wish the people who thought we should go to war had some handle on that, some clue. But they don't.
October 10th, 2008 - Stressful times. I've resolved to stop seeking news of almost any sort, other than necessary forays into sports reporting for just that information which is really crucial to my day-to-day functioning. Otherwise, I'm mostly watching crazy ass bike videos on YouTube.
There is a panic on the land. We're all going to hell in a hand basket. We just don't know how. The other shoe is about to drop all the time. A giant, crushing, other shoe, the size of that fabled meteor that will one day end life here on our big, blue marble.
Everyone's terrified, but no one knows why. Sure, some will say, "the economy," but what does that mean? Are we afraid of $8 milk? $10 gas? Are we afraid of losing our homes or our jobs? Those seem like reasonable answers, I guess, but does any of us really know what is going to happen and what that will mean for our lives when it does?
No. We don't.
So we obsess (I have been) over the news, which is about as effective as trying to read tea leaves. The news either reports things that have already happened or predicts what might happen, neither of which is overly useful.
It's the worrying about things beyond our control. It's the panic for the sake of panic. I'm as guilty as anyone. But today I'm not participating. Today, I'm sipping a cup of coffee, trying to finish up some work and heading home. What else can I do?
September 29th, 2008 - I will not write about the imploding economy or the failure of the congressional bailout plan. I will not. I will not. I will not. Instead I will say that I spent the weekend with my two lovely children, while my wife drank wine and brunched with her friends up in Vermont. I am clinging to the idea that my children, and spending time with them, are far more important than anything that is going to come out of our current economic cluster fuck.
My children don't care much about money. I mean, sure, Owen told me this morning that he wants a surfboard, but he also spent much of our two days together batting a balloon around the house, pretending it was a soccer ball. His little brother was even more balloon crazy. The three of us fairly killed the entire weekend with a couple of $0.25 balloons, $5 gas and $8 bread be damned.
Am I, by not talking about the imploding economy, actually still talking about the imploding economy? Shit.
September 22nd, 2008 - I know it's late, but I just want to say something about the passing of the writer, David Foster Wallace, whose books I have read and enjoyed immensely. Leaving aside the literary merit of his output, I recognized myself in Wallace and his peculiar brand of neurosis, a very modern, self-conscious neurosis born of growing in the '70s, when idealism seemed to give way to reality/greed/cynicism.
Like me, he struggled with depression and addiction. Like me, he felt saturated with and overwhelmed by and skeptical of the culture he was living in.
And so, while the literary world mourns the loss of a great talent, I am mourning the loss of a fellow traveler, a guy who did his level best to make it in this world and fell short, the poor fucker.
I'll think of him often.
September 19th, 2008 - It seems as though virtually everyone I know is anxious about the election. My wife is obsessed with the news, the back and forth of it. She wants to see the polls moving in the right way. I do too.
Ultimately though, beyond the paltry sum we've contributed to our chosen candidate, there's not much we can do. We can vote. We will vote.
Adding to the stress of the current day is the state of the economy. I can't help but the other shoe is yet to drop in this thing. Yes, the investment banks and big money lenders are going down the shitter, but when will it get all over us properly? Inflation is coming, right? Are our jobs secure? Hard to say.
All of that takes me back to something Barrack Obama got beaten up for saying a few months back, something about how when middle-Americans start to suffer economically they turn to guns and religion. I forget the exact quote, and I'm not going to look it up. It doesn't matter.
The point I'm trying to make is just that all of this shit, the election, the economy, is beyond my control. And I do need to take some comfort from somewhere, and where is that going to be? I'm not really interested in getting a gun, if only because I'd probably shoot myself cleaning it. The religion option is there, by I'm not much of a joiner, especially of clubs that don't offer free donuts and coffee (see Anonymous, Alcoholics).
What I'm seeing though, is an opportunity to look inward a little bit, to look at my priorities and see how I can go on living a charmed life, regardless of what happens to my mortgage or my befuddled government. All of this money talk has me thinking about my materialism. All of this political crap has me wondering if I've ever felt represented by my government. I mean, who are these people? Does it even matter? I suppose it does, but...
I am going to go on balancing my budget at home. I am going to go on acting as though the government and the country are two separate things. I am just going to go on.
September 12th, 2008 - (This is a cross post. I'm not telling you where the other version is.)
Well, it finally happened. I got hit.
Fortunately, it was a side swipe and not a head on, and I saw it coming, so I was able to mitigate the damage. What happened is that I was riding fast up one of Cambridge's central thoroughfares (one of the ones I wrote about avoiding the other day) in the bike lane, when a woman in a Volvo passed me on the left. She then put on her right turn signal and cut straight across my lane, trying to get into the grocery store parking lot.
I yelled. Loud. She pulled her head out of her ass just in time to keep from cleaning me out completely, but I skidded into her front quarter panel, trying not to go over the hood. In the process I seem to have acquired a little road rash on the back of my right hand and a slight sprain of my left wrist.
When I got up off the pavement, I said something like, "Did you not fucking see me? Did you not fucking look? Let me answer for you. No. You didn't fucking look."
She mouthed the words, "Are you ok?" through the windshield (she didn't get out), and I said, "I'm ok." and rode off, cause I was pissed. Apparently I was also completely jacked on adrenaline. I flew the rest of the way home, oblivious to the pain in my wrist.
When I got home finally, I was talking a mile a minute and sweating like a fiend. It took a little while to settle down.
I can see that I was enormously lucky not to be hurt worse. Not to be killed. I mean, Volvos are heavy. They don't have to hit you that hard to do serious, even fatal, damage. The whole experience reinforces that old idea that it doesn't matter how careful you are. You can never tell what other people are going to do.
This woman should have seen me. She passed me. I was right there in front of her, and then next to her, and then bouncing off her front end. I was doing everything correctly. I was in my lane. And then bang!
Fortunately I had a day off the bike Wednesday (home with the baby), and a leftover left-handed wrist brace, from a previous injury. So, I'm braced up, and now waiting for my wrist to firm up enough to ride without it.
September 9th, 2008 - I have for some time been bidding on bike frames on eBay, trolling for a cheap, old Italian steel road frame. These things are very hot right now. It's like a feeding frenzy. So, I must have bid on twenty or thirty different frames, looking for the right old bike to make into a shiny, new bike, a pavement-thrashing vessel of speed and style.
Last night I was five dollars away from finally capturing one of these elusive beasts, a disappointment I've gotten used to, telling my wife that one day, somehow, one of these old frames would find its way into my possession.
Then, this morning, I received a note from the seller of this last steel machine saying that the winning bidder lived in Taiwan and had balked at paying $275 to ship it across the ocean. Was I, he wanted to know, still interested in buying it.
This will be a late winter project, aimed at being road worthy by the spring. In the parlance of today's younger set, I'm "fucking psyched."
To read more about my bicycling life, check here.
September 8th, 2008 - Bizarroworld. That's where I live. It must be. Otherwise, how could the party that brought us the Iraq War, tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, the Patriot Act, warrantless wiretapping, fraud, theft, murder and war crimes be ahead in the latest polls. I'll not bore you with a rant or a rave (yay! glow sticks!), but seriously what strange earth is this?
It stands to reason then that my short term memory is shot. I seldom know, upon opening my eyes in the morning, what day it is. Things I planned on doing last week, fall off this week's list before it's written. And I continue to get tattoos, despite not being an inmate, a yakuza gangster, a biker or a circus freak.
There is a constant inconstancy to life now, and though I know I sound grouchy, I'm not at all unhappy.
Someone, somewhere, once said that the unexamined life is not worth living. I could look it up, but who can be bothered? The thing is, I think that might be bullshit. I'm not doing a lot of examining lately, but my life still seems entirely worthwhile. So much for the $80K college degree I've got (I know. I know. It seems cheap now, doesn't it?).
Exhaustion is threatening to shut the metal grates of this whole stupid business and send me home for the day anyway. A hot cup of black tea and cold Mountain Dew aren't even scratching the surface. I just feel slightly nauseous. And bored.
I'd like to go home and take my shirt and shoes off and spend the rest of the evening in the yard pitching wiffle balls to Owen, scurrying out into the street to fetch the ball when he clears the fence. He's got to be the best three-year-old hitter in the 'hood."
Anyway, to commemorate this dead day, I give you my new Day of the Dead tattoo:
August 26th, 2008 - Yet again I feel compelled to explain that I am NOT dead. See, here's a picture:
What happened is that my hard drive perished. One moment I was computing, the next I was staring at a blinking folder icon with a question mark on it. It was as if my machine was saying, "What the fuck? What the fuck? What the fuck?" Or maybe I'm just anthropomorphizing. I know that I was saying, "What the fuck? What the fuck? What the fuck?"
That flashing question mark spoke volumes to me. I said, "A bad thing has happened. This is going to cost you time, money, anguish, and quite possibly the entire archive of photos of your young children." I swore some more. Then I went to the Apple store.
The fella at the Apple store took one look at my machine and grimaced, confirming all my worst fears. He was then kind enough to go through the motions of trying three or four completely useless things to restore the memory part of my computer. Having failed, he imparted still further bad news: "We don't do data recovery here."
I'll spare you the rest of the blow-by-blow. Suffice it to say I went somewhere else, spend a bunch of money, got some, but not all of my data. I resolved to back my shit up, so this doesn't happen again. I haven't done that yet. Cause I'm lazy.
Getting back here then required going through all the rigamarole with my hosting provider, because of course I lost all my passwords and things. Yes, I'm a dumb ass. You had doubts?
But now I'm back. Again.
August 4th, 2008 - I've come to see my compulsions as one of those Whack-a-Mole games they have at Chuck E. Cheeses. If I make an effort to drink less coffee, then I start pounding sugar, whoopee pies, ice cream, chocolate, cookies, pie, etc. etc. When I try to get my sugar in check, I start spending money on shit I don't need. I whack one mole, and another pops up.
There is some underlying idea here, that whenever I have any sort of discomfort, anything, I can fix it by adding: coffee, sugar, a hat, a new bike, etc. etc.
The good news is that I no longer whack the mole called alcohol. But even my innocuous compulsions make me uncomfortable, out of control.
That is all.
July 22nd, 2008 - Just that moment at the very end of the day, when Ianto rests his fuzzy head on my shoulder, sighs deeply and hugs my neck. Just that moment is worth getting up in the morning. I sing (badly) to him. I cradle him, kiss him and then lay him in his crib.
This is a very special thing.
Ianto has graduated from walking to careening, that middle place between his first fumbling steps and the full on sprinting his big brother does. Ianto careens into me, throws his arms up and yells, "UP!" I scoop him up, and he promptly points to the kitchen. In the kitchen, he gestures toward his high chair, slowly mastering the fine points of non-verbal communication.
Today, I was trying to watch some coverage of the Tour de France. Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen were prattling away about the lead group's distance from the peloton, when all of a sudden, Ianto points at the TV and lets out a low, plaintive whine. I say, "Do you want me to change the channel?" He grunts. I switch. I say, "Is that better?" He knods.
His older brother is no less charming. Tonight on the way home from daycare, I looked up into the rear view mirror. I said, "You know what, Owen?" And he said, "What?" And I said, "I love you." And he said, "I love you too, Daddy." And then half a second later, "I farted. You didn't hear it. It was quiet."
On a side note: You would think, given the paucity of posts here lately, that I might reasonably consider a hiatus, or even a full suspension of blogging activities. Instead, I've begun a bicycle blog with my friend Marc. You can find it here,if you find yourself so inclined. I'm posting as "Da Robot," because, well, I am.
Read it and/or weep.
July 14th, 2008 - I'm not dead, and I didn't quit. I've just been busy with other shit.
Hey! I rhymed!
A partial list of what I've been up to: 1) finishing my tattoo 2)crashing my bike again 3) going to a wake 4) taking a week off in Vermont 5) chasing a very active, very destructive little man around the house trying to prevent injuries to both little man and house 6) lots of work on the house 7) lots of work at work 8) lots of time on-line plotting my next seven bike purchases 9) reading about (but not practicing any) Buddhism 10) taking my wife out on a date 11) deskunking the dog 12) drinking coffee as though I was an anteater and coffee was ants.
Here's the tattoo:
The crash came in the pitch dark, in the driving rain, as I was riding home from the tattoo shop. Coming around a corner I stuck my front wheel in a deep (but invisible) pot hole and flew over the bars, ripping the living shit out of my knee (and my rain pants). The pot hole was full of water, and even when I went back to see what angry monster had reached up from the pavement to arrest my progress, I couldn't see it until I stepped in it, up to the ankle.
Jonathan B. died. I didn't see it coming. More on that below.
Our week in Vermont was something more than a vacation. It was a proof of concept. See, kids are a pain in the ass. They keep you from doing things you want to do like, hike, kayak, sexual intercourse, etc. And the last time we went to the Green Mountain State with them they worked us like a pair of under-the-table immigrants. This trip, however, was fun. The boys had a blast swimming and playing in the yard and generally raising hell, and we had time, because we got to go swimming and kayaking and other things, and it just proved to us that we will be able to go on vacation with the little terrorists without losing our minds completely.
Ian has moved on from walking to sprinting and climbing and setting wild fires in California.
I've been painting my house and revamping the dog-dug lawn and rebuilding the back stairs (crooked and crappy but solid). I've been mowing and chopping wood. I got a new hot water heater and plants for the front porch, etc. etc. into eternity without cease.
We've arranged at this strange place at my office where we're all jammed with multiple projects, but we don't seem to be making any money. I don't know how it happens, but it does. I haven't been this busy in years, but we had layoffs a few weeks back. I'm making every kind of book you can imagine and worried about my job. I wish work were called fun and it paid twice as much.
I've gone completely around the bend with my bicycle obsession. Oddly, I have gotten rid of two bikes recently without replacing either one. But, I seem to spend inordinate amounts of time comparing handlebars and searching eBay for arcane Italian steel parts. What is wrong with me? I generally hold to the belief that the best thing about bikes is that they can be ridden. Of late, I've been doing as much shopping as riding. In fact, I just bid $350 on an old Italian road frame, that I have no idea how to turn into an actual functioning bike. Gosh, it's pretty though. I hope I don't win the auction.
Buddhism is neat. It reminds me of Alcoholics Anonymous. And Epictetus. The literature was all written by horrible hippies though, so I'm not sure how much longer I'll carry on reading it.
We went out on a date. A real date. We held hands and kissed on the Mass Ave Bridge. And we didn't run out of things to talk about. After 16 years together. Can you imagine?
Of course, after the date, just before we were headed upstairs to see what came next, I let the dog out for one last pee, and instead watched him get skunked. So instead of canoodling with my beautiful best girl, I dragged my ass out into the yard and scrubbed the dog down with baking soda and peroxide. That was fun. Fucking dog.
And all of it coffee-driven.
The 100 Addicts project is an effort to help people who are not addicts to understand people who are. Each of the 100 Addicts profiled is a good person who suffers from an often deadly disease. There is not one among them who I would not call my friend.
#11 - David S.
David is paranoid schizophrenic, not that you would ever know. He comes across as even-keeled, mature and thoughtful. But, he tells people about his mental illness and that's part of why everyone respects him. He is deeply and unswervingly honest in a way that most of struggle to fathom. He is warm and welcoming to the newly sober, respectful and humble with the old-timers.
David has also had leukemia, during which time he allowed himself to drink without limit and also to smoke crack. He was going to die, so he figured he had it coming. Then he didn't die, and he decided that even if he was, he didn't want to spend his final days on a rocket ride to oblivion.
Did I mention that David owns and operates his own business. He has employees. He makes good money. Even during his psychotic episodes he goes to work and functions in a way that people with far fewer health issues seldom manage.
David was two years sober last week.
#10 - Jonathan B. - They found him dead at the base of a brick wall, the throttle on his motorcycle all the way out. No skid marks. Draw what conclusions you will.
I met Jonathan in my Friday morning group. Like me, he was an atheist, and so he resisted the call of AA. Not for him, he thought. He did end up at some AA meetings, sitting next to me, and spilling his sins in between sips of coffee.
He'd gone down to Daytona Bike Week and stayed a month. Had an affair. Run out on his family. Was trying to get sober in order to get back in the house. Seemed to be doing some of the right things. And then suddenly he was off again. Detroit to meet the woman he'd run off with the first time. Left her when she proved to be a heroine addict. Back to Florida, for something. What? A brick wall.
Kevin and I went to the wake and saw his two beautiful daughters sitting on the funeral home couch. There were pictures of Jonathan everywhere. He was a good looking guy, a fun-loving soul, rye and funny. In the good times, he'd been a joy to be around. In the bad times, he could hurt the people he loved with impunity.
We'll miss him.
Drop me a line.
June 17th, 2008 - A meme: "List seven songs you are into right now. No matter what the genre, whether they have words, or even if theyÕre not any good, but they must be songs youÕre really enjoying now, shaping your spring. Post these instructions in your blog along with your 7 songs. Then tag 7 other people to see what theyÕre listening to."
Song 1 : Baiting the Public - Fucked Up - Fucked Up is a band that have put a hard limit on their commercial success by choosing that name. That's too bad, because they rock. This is musically dynamic punk rock. Angry. Melodic. And rockin'.
Song 2 : New England is Sinking - Deathkiller - The first time I heard Deathkiller I thought, "Why is that guy screaming so much? I wish he'd stop screaming so much." Now, I can't get enough Deathkiller. There is a brutal brilliance to this record. It reminds me a lot of Helmet's "Meantime" album, in as much as they both struck me as one thing, but turned out to be another much better thing. I can't wait for the next Deathkiller disc, which is supposed to be out this summer.
Song 3 : Matrons of the Canals - Western Addiction - OK. So there's a theme developing here. Over the last six months I've been in a huge hardcore phase. Western Addiction is a side project band for some guys who have another more popular (but in my opinion less good) band. This is straight ahead hardcore, except it's new(ish), and you haven't heard it, and it's really, really good.
Song 4: Ex-Lion Tamer - Wire - Here's a complete classic. When I listen to old Wire, I always think, "This could come out now and sound completely fresh." This is my favorite track off Pink Flag. You should get Pink Flag, even if you don't like punk rock. It's just a good rock record.
Song 5: Skin and Bones - Joe Lally - Lally is the base player from Fugazi. I love Fugazi. My friend George took me to see Lally live a couple weeks ago. His solo stuff is this weird, avant-punk jazz. Kinda noisy. His voice is thin and reedy. But it works. It helps that he plays with great musicians and that his bass sound is totally unique and compelling. Skin and Bones is the sort of song you don't realize has completely wormed its way into your subconscious until you're at the grocery store singing it under your breath.
Song 6: Sound of Bombshell - The Aggrolites - This is an early summer song. Old school, dance hall reggae, except Aggrolites are a bunch of white guys from Los Angeles. Drums and keyboards. Drums and keyboards. Put this record on. Cook some food. Dance in the kitchen.
Song 7: Judas and the Morning After Pill - Good Riddance - Another classic punk band. Another great song that slips the constraints of hammering, stupid punk drone. Get it. Love it. Try not to think too hard.
I'm supposed to tag 7 other people, and there are definitely people I'd like to get answers from, but I'm not going to. What I suggest is, if you're reading this, and you're interested, pick up the challenge and then email me, so I can see what you're listening to.
June 11th, 2008 - I have no time to write, and yet, I realize, I have no time not to write. For the important things there is no later. And I am fortunate to have so many good and important things in my life.
One of them pushed his way out the front door this morning as I was trying to leave. He slipped out on the other side of my bicycle, so I couldn't just sweep him back in the house. He used that window of opportunity to hurl the television remote across the porch.
It was comedy. One small escapee. One large and bumbling parent. Like a Chevy Chase pratfall and a Three Stooges bit in one neat, domestic scene.
His brother kept yelling "Come inside, Ianto! Come inside!"
It was YouTube funny, but no one was taping. Such is life.
June 2nd, 2008 - First, the forensics:
Now the story. What you see here is a collection of bicycle parts, a seat post, a seat bracket (the two pieces that clamp the rails on the underside of the seat), the thing that guides the bolt into the clamp, and the bolt (in two pieces).
When I left for work this morning I had this feeling that my seat was loose. I thought I felt my butt shift slightly to one side, but I ignored it. Then, as I passed through Davis Square, I felt another shift, and I knew. So I pulled over, adjusted the seat and then tightened the bolt. It felt good. Solid.
Until I was half way down Beacon Street in Somerville. Then it lurched again. So I stopped, readjusted and tightened it down extra hard. I remounted. It felt good. I thought I was all set.
Next I made a pair of fortuitous decisions. First, at the end of the Longfellow Bridge I decided to wheel up and over the foot bridge onto the Esplanade, that bit of grass that makes a very narrow park next to the River, rather than continuing onto Charles Street and across Back Bay, which is my normal route. Then, as I was rolling gently down the bike path, just above the Hatch Shell where the Boston Pops play every July 4th, I took both hands off my handlebars to readjust my helmet.
Just as I sat upright, my arms behind my head, I heard a loud pop, and then, before I knew what was going on, I was skidding on my ass on the asphalt, my bike shooting out from under me and continuing on down the path, as if it might just go on to work without me. The bolt had sheered off right beneath the saddle, which, along with all it's attendant hardware, was scattered around me on the path.
I hate to think what might have happened if I had been in traffic when the bolt let go. And I hate to think what might have happened to my humble manhood had the bolt left its mooring when I was stretched forward over the bike. The kind gentleman at the bike shop, who gave me a new seat post set up at luncthime, said that had happened to a friend of his, and that his friend had had to have his "taint" stitched back together.
So, yeah. I've fallen off my bike for the second time in less than two weeks, but I remain deeply grateful for the small mercies afforded me.
Oh, and I had the third sitting for my half-sleeve tattoo yesterday. Here is what it looks like now, with one sitting to go:
May 29th, 2008 - When I was a teenager, there was a period when, every day after school, I would ride my brother's old ten speed around the back patio in tight figure-eight patterns, sometimes for an hour or more. I would see how tight I could ride them. I would see how slowly I could ride them. I would pay close attention to the smooth arc of every turn.
To be sure, this was an odd hobby for a hormone-crazed, drug-addled teen, but there was a pleasing focus the bike brought me, the control of this gyroscopic machine beneath me drawing all my mental energy to a single purpose. It was meditative. Relaxing.
Of course, I had no real concept of that at the time. I felt vaguely silly doing it, but at that age you feel vaguely silly breathing.
I think of that time often now when I'm riding around town or when I'm down in the basement working on my bikes. Sometimes I daydream about spending days in the park weaving slowly around on a bicycle. In my head it's so peaceful.
On Wednesday mornings, when I go to an early AA meeting in Harvard Square, I ride to work afterward via the narrow paved path that hugs the contours of the Charles River. I ride slowly. Sometimes I slalom the dashed white lines that bisect the path at its busiest stretches. Sometimes I ride down to the water's edge where there are a series of public docks, and I steer myself out onto these floating bits of wood and spin my tight circles and then I continue on to work.
It is possible that I have some mild attention-deficit. I have recently tried to do these simple, breathing meditations where you focus all your attention on the breath coming in and out. Usually I last through one breath before I'm thinking of a grilled cheese sandwich or a future dominated by sentient robots. I know it takes practice to develop meditational skills, but stillness is not a natural state for me. I am kinetic. I vibrate at a frequency only visible to birds and small rodents.
Motion helps me to focus, helps me to think. But like the stillness of seated meditation, the motion has to have a form, a classical shape, to get me into a state of calm. Bicycle as thinking tool, as valuable as this keyboard under my fingertips.
I don't know why I'm saying all this. I guess I was thinking about what bicycles have taught me and instead realized that bicycles are more of a how than a what.
Mary 27th, 2008 - In a city of squares (Harvard, Central, Kendall, Copley, Kenmore, Dudley, Ball, Powderhouse, Teal, Davis, etc. etc), the squat gray building that houses the methadone clinic is no where. There are no windows at the front, only a tinted glass door in a deep set portico.
It's on my way to work. The pavement is good there, so I'm always rolling by fast, but I make a point to notice who's coming and going. Most mornings, there's an older black man lounging out front drinking a coffee. I see mothers pushing strollers in and out. And that makes me sad.
It's a good kind of sadness though, the kind that fills you with gratitude for the fact that there is a clinic there and that you don't need to stop and go in.
On a completely different topic:
The Bush Administration sees meaningful action on global warming (including efforts to reduce our national oil consumption) as a sort of economic zero sum game, which is to say, if we make driving more expensive we will lose money, because people and businesses will find it harder and harder to compete in the global marketplace.
But, as car sales drop, bicycle sales rise. It's all over the papers. As people drive less, they walk more. Maybe they even ride a bicycle. They become healthier, get sick less. Their health costs shrink. Businesses are forced to find efficiencies they didn't previously have to consider.
Yes. It's true that growth in some sectors is stifled, but the dollars hemorhaging from some businesses (e.g. I can't imagine UPS is loving high gas prices) are simply migrating to others. It's probably a good time to be selling solar power.
The bottom line is: We still need to eat. We still need to get to work. We still need to buy things. We might just have to find other ways to do those things. In that sense, the dollars are fungible, and it becomes hard to see the economic fall out of this oil "crisis" as anything other than a redistribution of wealth.
Perhaps then, the administration simply dislikes the way the redistribution is going. Maybe I just misunderstand.
But I don't think so.
The 100 Addicts project is an effort to help people who are not addicts to understand people who are. Each of the 100 Addicts profiled is a good person who suffers from an often deadly disease. There is not one among them who I would not call my friend.
#9 - Ron R.
Ron worked for the two of the biggest creators of drug addicts in the world, the US Army and the US Postal Service. That was his joke, not mine.
Ron sorted mail for a living and spent his non-working hours in the old Boston Combat Zone, drinking with the worst the city had to offer. He dated strippers and whores. They trusted him because he was a nice guy.
Ron was drunk every day and every night. He never had DTs, never had a hangover, because he never let the alcohol leave his system.
He was homeless on and off for a number of years and ended up living the Veterans' Shelter downtown. Who knows why he got sober, but he just celebrated a year, clean and alcohol-free.
#10 - Spanky - They found him dead in his room at the Vet's shelter last week. I had only seen him a handful of times. I was there when he volunteered to be the group's coffee maker. I heard him speak about his experiences a little, how he'd gone off to Vietnam and come back a mess, how he'd been abusing his mind and body for nearly 40 years.
He was a squat guy with a long, curly black beard. He wore suspenders over a sweatshirt. He drank Mountain Dew in big, dramatic gulps. I think maybe he'd lost all his teeth. He seemed pretty far out but spoke normally.
We almost got to know him.
May 23rd, 2008 - I am soft and the world is hard. I was about to warn you not to interpret that sexually, but, given the world's tendency to have its way with me, the euphemism probably fits.
In this specific instance what I mean is that my physical self is soft and brittle, compared with asphalt, which tends to be somewhat less pliable. Thus, cut off by a pedestrian stepping out from behind a stationary bus and launched headways over my handlebars, it was with loss of skin and bruise of flesh that I came to rest at the feet of a contrite Puerto Rican man.
There is a lesson in this. Many lessons. But I will take the simplest, which is that I am small and the world is big and I receive my time here solely at the discretion of powers beyond myself.
So I will try to be more grateful for what I get. And I'll try to enjoy the soreness in my wrists and the palms of my hands, the stinging in my knees. It's the pain of being alive after all, and what's better than that?
May 19th, 2008 - I am beginning to dislike the 21st century. Here are four things I don't like about it.
Blue-Tooth - I know that this was the future that we were promised, with phones hanging off our ears. Ear phones go along with jet packs and rocket ships. BUT...blue tooth phones are perhaps the most obnoxious and stupid looking technology of the 21st century. You look stupid with that thing on your head. Especially when you're not talking to someone, but also when you are.
Plastic - So useful for frisbees and sex toys, plastic is terrible for most everything else. I don't even care that it's poisonous now. Sleep is poisonous. Everyone knows that. But plastic sucks. And it never goes away. Shit stinks, but at least it has the decency to break down and act as fertilizer. Plastic has no redeeming qualities that I can see. And it's also inescapable.
Airplanes - I know. I know. Airplanes make the world a small more accessible place, but maybe we'd all be better off if the world was a bit bigger and less accessible. Whatever happened to the tramp steamer for chrissakes? Or even the underutilized and long forgotten whore ferry? What was wrong with them.
Facebook - Facebook will steal your face, obscuring it in an aggregation of fairly homogenous interests and unremarkable humor. Facebookhas ceased to be an application interface that helps me stay connected with distant friends. I have now become a Facebook application myself, one that can be accessed with relative ease from anywhere a tramp steamer will take you. Soon Facebook will begin regulating my behavior, ferreting out my bugs, normalizing my volume. It will remove my face. You watch.
May 6th, 2008 - First, the real answer to the dilemma I posed in my last post: I need to pull my head out of my ass.
And now, pictures of my children, which is what everyone really wants anyway.
April 28th, 2008 - I've stopped seeing. My eyes are open, but I don't see. I keep waiting for sight to return, keep thinking that I just need to concentrate a bit harder, but so far, nothing.
I don't know what happened. Is it the lack of time? Is it the fatigue? Is it the disappearance of that camera that I knew how to operate?
There was a period, probably two-and-a-half years, when I could look out of these eyes and see beautiful things. I carried a camera everywhere and took a million pictures, and every 10,000th one looked good. The end product wasn't the point. The seeing was the point. The camera just gave me a reason to see.
Now I look at my friends' photos on-line and I page through the fotoblogs, and I miss that sight I used to have. They say the second child always has a more sparsely recorded childhood than the first, and we're certainly bearing that bit of wisdom out.
I can sift through dozens of shots of Owen, documenting every little progress in his first two years of life, and yet, of Ian there is fairly little.
Do I owe him better? Will he hold this against me later?
What can I do to get back to where I was? How can I hurry less through this compacted life? How can I slow down enough to see again?
April 23rd, 2008 - Oh, the ongoing comedy of fatherhood.
The baby shat himself. It was his 5th bowel movement of the day, not that I was counting, but it's hard not to, you know, when you're so intimately involved with each one.
So yeah. He crapped his pants. He filled his diaper, and then blasted feces down his leg, ass to ankle. This is what we, at our house, refer to as a "breach." I would say this was a top five breach, too. One of the worst ever.
It's hard to convey how difficult it is to remove feces from a squirming child. It is impossible to do, I think, without getting a whole bunch of yuck on your hands. I got yuck on my hands. It was all I could do, in fact, to keep the yuck off the wall and out of the kid's mouth.
Yeah. It was gross.
So finally I got him cleaned up and tossed his besmirched clothes on the floor by the stairs to be laundered and wrestled him into the bathroom for immediate bathing. This was meant to be the calm AFTER the (shit) storm.
I planted my naked son on the floor next to me while I ran the bath. He rewarded my by pissing all over the bath mat.
I put him in the tub, and then ran out of the room to grab his towel. He used that opportunity to get up and ratchet the water temperature down from pleasantly warm to ice freaking cold. I returned to him screaming at the top of his lungs, saw what he'd done and cursed (not at all) softly under my breath.
At this point it occurred to me that I would find the evening's events funny at some point in the indistinct future. That did little to quell my frustration in the moment.
So at this point, I had a decision to make, to wash him quickly in the frigid bath or drain the water and start over. Annoyed and still smelling of shit myself, I opted for the former. I mean, fuck him, he's the one that messed with the water in the first place.
Yeah. Father-of-the-Year candidate here.
I soaped and rinsed the little terrorist as fast as I could, and swaddled him, still screaming, in a towel to return to his room and a nice warm pair of PJs. As we exited the bathroom and started down the hall, I was greeted by the sight of the dog greedily nosing around in the shit-filled clothes I'd left by the stairs. I mean, what makes a better appetizer to a kibble dinner than a cup-and-a-half of baby crap?
Fortunately the dog is very sensitive to my moods and tone of voice, so he went scurrying before I could do the thing that I swore I'd never do, which is kick my dog.
From there on it was all pretty uneventful, except the part where I rinsed the clothes out in the sink, which pretty much ruined the sink, mine of course, and forced me to brush my teeth elsewhere. Next time I'll do that in the basement sink, the one I clean paint brushes in.
My parting apologies to those who abhor parental nattering concerning all things poop-related. You know who you are. I will not make a habit of this.
April 16th, 2008 - Things I'm liking lately:
Breasts - Maybe it's just the spring that has me particularly occupied and pleased by the breasts of the female inhabitants of this green Earth. Generally, I think of myself as an ass man. Other people think of me that way too, but in a different way. But, anyway. Breasts bring good words to mind: fulsome, bursting, melon-like, pillowy, etc. They're inspiring. They make me want to be a better man.
Robots - I can't let go of the idea, hatched when I was just a young 'un, that robots will eventually take over most of our day-to-day work. In fact, if you think about it, computers are really memory robots that augment our naturally poor storage capabilities. In this respect, you can understand the fear that one day robots will take over the planet. I'm not even sure that they'll need to be sentient to make this happen. As we gain greater dependence on robot technology, we become weaker as a species. It's exciting, isn't it?
Not procrastinating as much - I've embarked on a new productivity strategy that's paying some good, immediate dividends. It's a simple strategy really. I just don't look at the interweb while I'm at the office. Subsequently, I have roughly 4-6 hours of time in which I'm forced to perform the tasks for which I'm paid as well as to catch up on various writing projects. You can see for yourself, that this is my second post this week, a bumper crop relative to recent output. If, like me, you're an interweb junkie, I suggest you try it. Tomorrow maybe.
Just to provide some balance...things I'm disliking:
The way I smell - OK. So it was 10:30pm. We had just finished watching that Will Ferrell movie Stranger than Fiction just because it was on, such is the gravity of televised "entertainment." I needed to shower. I hadn't showered since the night before, and I spent the day with a snotty, pukey, food-crusted baby. I was too tired. I skipped it. So, smelly from the get go, I climbed aboard my two-wheeled steed this morning and pedaled my ass to work. And though I applied my Old Spice Solid deodorant extra-liberally, I still smell kinda bad. I was going to say "funky," but that's a horribly overused word, and my aroma is less Bootsy Collins and more Tarzand the Apeman. I wish I was a robot.
John McCain's gas tax proposal - Have you heard about this? McCain has proposed that we suspend the Federal Gas Tax (something like $0.18 per gallon) from Labor Day to Memorial Day to give the American tax payer some relief from high transportation costs. I could be wrong. I only took high school economics, but I'm pretty sure lowering the price of gas will drive up the demand. And when you drive up the demand, you lower the supply, which, in turn, drives up the price. So really, what we're talking about is giving more money to the oil companies instead of keeping that money to pay for the ridiculous war that McCain wants to keep on fighting ad absurdum. I can only assume that the oil companies will turn around and take their extra profits and plow them into political campaigns supporting people like McCain who want to fight even more wars. Christ! Seriously! When are the robots coming to put us out of our misery?
Litter - I nearly started a fist fight last week with a group of college kids after one of them came out of the convenience store on the corner, walked past the garbage can that sits there and carelessly flung a losing lottery ticket onto the ground. I won't recount what I said, but suffice it to say I was glad, in retrospect, they chose to drive away rather than beat me to dust. I HATE LITTER!!!! Who teaches kids that it's ok to throw garbage on the ground? Can we deport them? Woodsy the Owl says, "Clean up after yourself or get the F out!" Of course, robots could clean up after us. Robots can do anything.
April 14th, 2008 - I'm a little bit afraid that Ian will never grow up, that we'll be stuck in baby days forever, never knowing whether we'll get to sleep through the night, slightly suspicious that he's sick again, having to carry him from place to place because he refuses to walk, having to do the laundry over and over and over again, having to wrench myself from the warm bed every morning to pluck him from his crib before he goes apoplectic. The crying. The unrelenting anxiety.
And I know he'll grow and change and that things will get easier. But when I have my head down, and I'm just trying to keep things moving I lose perspective pretty quickly. I act as though how things are is how things will be. And I'm awfully tired.
Simultaneously, what a complete, head-screwing joy it is to watch my little boys grow and change. Ian is walking now, if a little unsteadily. Owen is absolutely exploding into life. He never stops talking or singing. He is jumping, kicking, thrashing. He wants to play baseball and soccer. He wants to throw the football. He is eating life. I admire him.
March 31st, 2008 - There is a season for everything, according to the Byrds, and this does NOT seem to be the season for blogging. Turn. Turn. Turn.
It does seem to be the season for painting hallways and rocking babies to sleep and getting up in the night to change wet sheets, trying not to drop the kids as they squirm and wiggle and flail, eating life, wrecking the house, falling down, crying and getting up again. My beautiful boys. They are runny noses and head-splitting smiles and fission-level energy contained in wispy, soft bodies.
We're on a rocket sled to nowhere. Their mother and I land on the couch about 8:30, tossed there like a pair of bean bags to blink at the TV until one or both of us drift off. The dog will wake us with his scratching and licking.
Despite all that, I've been surprisingly happy and even-keeled. In fact, I've been so happy I feel like an idiot, that guy no one likes cause he's always so achingly cheerful. Like a Hare Krishna. Or a kids' show actor.
If you were to ask me why I feel so good, I'd have to say it's down to some combination of Celexa, Wellbutrin and Alcoholics Anonymous. That's the truth.
A little over a year ago I wrote at length about my depression and at that time I promised to say more about my progress. And of course, I didn't do that.
So, the update is I feel great, as happy as I've ever been in my whole life. Whether it's the meds or the meetings, I have no idea. The answer is likely, yes.
A year and a half ago, I began taking Celexa, which did what it promised to do. My negativity and depression evaporated. It didn't make me happy. I just stopped feeling sad.
But, since Celexa also caused me to TMI TMI TMI TMI TMI TMI, I spoke to my doctor and she suggested I lower the dose and incorporate some Wellbutrin, which doesn't make you TMI TMI TMI TMI or TMI TMI TMI. Now I can TMI TMI TMI TMI without having to TMI TMI TMI.
As for the AA meetings, I have to say I used to think AA was a bunch of bullshit and not for me. I was wrong and it is for me. I've learned a lot about how to handle my addictive, compulsive, self-centered personality in ways that are more conducive to happiness and tranquility. And I've made a bunch of friends, many of whom are felons.
So things are great. If you're struggling, I recommend you take some funny pills and make friends with criminals.
March 19th, 2008 - This is New England, it's mid-March and we're all dreaming of spring time, but sleet is falling, making little tick, tick sounds against the storm windows.
On the train, I'm surrounded by young blonde women. Where are all these blonde women coming from? It's like Scandinavia in here. All of them are dour and wearing clogs, the way liberal women often do. It de-sexes them, which is nice. That way I can pay attention to what I'm reading. A little white haired woman slumps against my shoulder, barely able to stay awake, a giant coffee cradled in her lap. I try not to wake her.
There is a funeral for a fire fighter at the Cathedral, just up from the office. I see a black guy wearing a kilt and carrying a bass drum. It's a bit like the first time I saw a pileated woodpecker, thrilling and odd.
Forget the spring, I'm dreaming of summertime, of stepping onto the porch into the sun's bright warmth. I am walking up the street, can smell the blossoms in the trees, and I have a t-shirt stretched across my back. In my daydreams I'm always more muscley than in real life, so the shirt looks good. Oh, and there is just the slightest hint of sweat between my shoulder blades. It's warm.
And that's it. Today the daydream worked, and though the city was completely dreary and socked in with fog and rain, I felt good. Massive doses of coffee and the shrill misery of others helped.
March 12th, 2008 - The house smells of primer and vomit. The kids have been sick, and I've been re-doing the front hall after they go to bed at night, painting in narrow windows of time between bedtime stories and exhaustion.
We seem to be in our quarterly collapse, that period during which the kids get sick, work spirals out of control and the house is best cleaned with a rake and a leaf-blower. These are enormously frustrating times. You start to think it's never going to end.
But that's because you tend toward cynicism and negativity. You're like that. If you're like me, that is.
Saw a cardinal in a tree the other morning. He was singing at the top of his lungs, and I wanted to hold him in my two hands while he did it, feel his tiny heart racing along, hear that song from inches away rather than 30 yards. Don't know why. Just did.
March 3rd, 2008 - I love birds. I love their feathery multiplicity and their skittish mistrust of humans. I love pigeons. I love raptors. I love winter birds and sea birds and water fowl.
But they're such assholes.
So last weekend, or maybe it was the weekend before, the birds returned to my neighborhood. Cardinals and juncos and mourning doves. All twittering and hopping about and darting from bush to tree and back again.
It was exciting. Spring, I thought, is here early.
Well, it wasn't, and it isn't. Those little winged liars. Here in New England we seem to get at least one and sometimes two Indian Summers a year. Now, we seem also to be getting Indian Winters. It gets warm. The sun shines, and then we get half-a-foot of snow.
March 2nd, 2008 - Our Ianto has been alive for one year today, and we love him.
Happy birthday, little boy.
February 28th, 2008 - I was thinking just now that my bedside table is a perfect representation of what's going on in my life.
First of all it's overloaded. There's a lamp. There is a seldom-used baby monitor. There is a glass elephant filled with change. There is a leather valet meant to hold keys, wallet and watch. There is a cell phone charger. There are books, books and more books. Along the wall, there is a vertical arrangement, book-ended between the glass elephant and the base of the lamp. Then there is a further horizontal stack in front of it. Finally, there is a layer of dust that grows alarmingly thick between visits by the cleaning ladies.
Of course, the lamp remains dusty. How do you dust a lampshade? You don't really. It just grows more and more opaque. In the metaphor I'm working here, the burgeoning opacity of the lamp represents my inability to see very far into the future. Clever, huh?
The glass elephant represents my finances. I have lots of change, but very little in the way of folding money. We gave the day care people more than $20k last year. You can buy a pretty decent car for $20k. We could use a pretty decent car.
The seldom-used baby monitor signifies the irrepressible growth of our youngest child, Ian, the way he wakes us in the night without the amplification of the monitor, and my persistent wish not to be disturbed.
The cell-phone charger is my connection to the world. It's a bad connection. Sometimes the signal gets dropped altogether, but mostly I just have trouble making out exactly what the world is trying to tell me.
The valet, as I said, is meant to hold a wallet, keys and watch. I don't wear a watch. It sometimes takes me several minutes, upon waking, to determine what day of the week it is and where I ought to be. My wallet and keys are there, faithfully, but they share the valet with about a dozen business cards, scraps of lists, a pen, receipts, reminder notes, paper clips, etc. Everything there is important to one degree or another. Actually, most of it should just get trashed, but I can't find the time to do it, though the trash can is only half a foot away.
Finally, the books. Normally, you can discern something fairly obvious about the train of my thought from the stack of books next to the bed. Tell me what this collection implies: the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, a Batman graphic novel, Exploring Stonewalls, Moby Dick , Alan Bennett's Untold Stories , Joseph Ellis' American Creation, Feeling Good , a collection of Hiroshigae prints, the Victoria's Secret catalogue, A Child's Christmas in Wales, The Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, Lake Wobegone Days, John Keegan's The Face of Battle and Emerson 365 a collection of Emerson aphorisms.
Please, send me a note if you have some clue what I'm thinking about. I will certainly never complete that entire midden of material.
These are scattershot times for me. I would like to settle my brain and draw some conclusions, or at least document some observations, about my current life. We'll see if that's possible.
February 26th, 2008 - I need to play less Scrabble. I'm not blogging cause I'm busy playing Scrabble. I need to play less Scrabble.
To be clear, I'm talking about Scrabulous, the Scrabble knock-off that is the most popular application on Facebook. I know that Scrabulous is supposed to go the way of all things, that Hasbro and Mattell are going to sue the Scrabulous folks right out of their pants, assuming they're wearing pants, but it hasn't happened yet.
And as much as I enjoy, if by enjoy you mean "waste massive amounts of time doing," playing this game, I really wish it would go ahead and go away.
Now I gotta go. It's my turn.
February 21st, 2008 - D's father died. So did S's. P's unexpected baby had an unexpected complication. J's mother bounced in and out of the hospital with runaway Alzheimer's. We took T to the hospital for an alcoholic detox.
Last week was thick with tragedy and heavy conversations about heavier topics. It was short of sleep and grindingly slow. I am only grateful that none of the woe and tribulation got on me directly.
I was saying to S that this is actual adulthood. What we were doing in our 20s was only a rehearsal, a post-adolescence more than anything. Now that we're in our 30s, the math starts to work harder. It's time for those who want to have babies to go ahead and have them. It's time for those of us whose parents will leave early to go ahead and check out.
B said that in the last year he'd been in the room during both a birth and a death, and that now he's different.
I'm different too. Having kids has clued me into some basic shit about the human condition. Being older has opened my tiny mind to ideas I previously dubbed bullshit. Death has become a more regular feature in the program, and it scares me less than it used to. I think I'm beginning to be able to make out the vague shape of what's important in life.
I'm probably fooling myself.
February 8th, 2008 - Heath Ledger killed himself. Say what you will, "it was accidental," but the fact remains that the man killed himself.
"Mr. Heath Ledger died as the result of acute intoxication by the combined effects of oxycodone, hydrocodone, diazepam, temazepam, alprazolam and doxylamine," a representative for the New York City medical examiner said.
It's odd to me that this is somehow deemed an accidental overdose, but that heroin addicts who misjudge their fix never get that benefit of the doubt. Famous people have accidents with their illicit drugs (prescribed or not). The poor and anonymous just OD because they're weak. We're better off without them.
Ledger's father, grasping to cope with his son's death, said, "While no medications were taken in excess, we learned today the combination of doctor-prescribed drugs proved lethal for our boy. Heath's accidental death serves as a caution to the hidden dangers of combining prescription medication, even at low dosage."
I am sorry, Mr. Ledger. Truly I am. But your son was an addict. You don't mix up the cocktail they found in his blood unless you're abusing drugs. Abusing them. Like people who have both bullets and guns sometimes abuse firearms.
The questions shoot across my addicted brain: Who prescribed all this stuff for him? Was it one doctor? If so, ought he not go to jail? If it was multiple doctors, did Ledger lie about all the prescriptions he was taking? That's something addicts do. What combination of anxiety and injury could possibly justify all those prescriptions? And what state of mind would you have to be in to think it was a good idea to take all of them at once?
I take no glee in pointing out that Heath Ledger was a drug abuser. None. But there is a moment here where the celebrity-obsessed can learn something about addicts and abuse, and it's being swept away by the need to believe this was an "accident." Underlying the sanitization of what happened, is the misconception that good, admirable and talented people can't be drug addicts. Instead they are overworked, overly anxious, too sensitive. They fall prey to their own work ethic, to their artistic sensibilities.
The truth is there is no difference between Heath Ledger lying dead in an expensive hotel room and a junkie dead behind a dumpster with a needle in his arm.
My aim is not to deposit a great actor behind a dumpster, but rather to draw the junkie out into the light of day and point out that he or she is a good, if broken, person too. No one chooses to kill themselves with drugs. The drugs choose it.
Something led Heath Ledger astray. You can be suicidal without writing a note about it. You can put yourself in harms way unconsciously, and I think that's what Ledger's family and friends want us to think here. This wasn't a suicide. It was an accident.
But no. It wasn't. When the bus hits you, that's an accident. When you take a handful of prescription drugs and die, that's suicide by drug abuse.
When Kim Ledger says, "Heath's accidental death serves as a caution to the hidden dangers of combining prescription medication, even at low dosage," he's wrong. It's not as though his son died after combining skim milk with 2%. No. His son's death serves as a caution that addiction and it's consequences don't care how much money you've got or how famous you are, or even how good a person you are.
I'm sorry. I really, really am. This is one tragedy among many.
February 7th, 2008 - It's the Lunar New Year. Now commencing: the Year of the Rat. And while that's pretty great, you know, celebrating a disease carrying rodent, I propose a slight change to: The Year of Ratt.
I remember Ratt was on tour with Billy Squier in nineteen eighty something, and I really wanted to go, but my parents wouldn't let me. I guess they didn't want my young mind to get blown by all that testosterone-infused awesomeness. Little did they know that it was too late. My consciousness had already been forged in the foundry of glam metal.
When later I turned to punk rock, and then, through the influence of marijuana cigarettes, to the Grateful Dead and their anaesthetizing, jam band ilk, the strains of Squier's "The Stroke," echoed in my beleaguered ears, eventually saving me from a lifetime of hempen lameness.
The first rock show I saw ended up being the Replacements, which, at first blush, sounds very cool, but in truth, was awful. The band, and especially Paul Westerberg, were blowzy drunk. Songs were sung without microphonal amplification, Westerberg laid out on the stage half asleep. They began to play some covers, and then realized they didn't really know them, and so stopped. In my naive enthusiasm, I swore it was awesome, but in reality it was horribly disappointing.
This Lunar New Year business is a bit beyond me. I know the Chinese eat moon cakes, with sweetened red bean filling, and set off fireworks, but that's all I know. Perhaps I'll walk to Chinatown for lunch.
The effect of the moon can be exaggerated and dramatized. I confess that this morning, while walking past the South End Firehouse on Harrison Ave, there was a truck parked out front and still running, and I was tempted to jump in and drive away. Can you imagine? Driving around in a stolen fire truck? It's so crazy, I almost did it.
February 6th, 2008 - The smell of vomit and feces. The incessant screaming. I live in fear. One of my captors does nothing but scream incomprehensibly in my face. The other barks orders, but I have no idea what he really wants. They wake me at all hours, subject me to new indignities.
What gains me a reward one day, earns me a beating the next. I am constantly off balance.
I am forced to prepare all their meals. Sometimes they just throw the food back in my face. Equally I launder their clothes, only to have them knowingly soil themselves.
I am told I will be here for twenty years, though some sentences run longer.
Parenthood. So rewarding.
I keed. I keed.
Here are my beautiful boys:
February 5th, 2008 - The 100 Addicts project is an effort to help people who are not addicts to understand people who are. Each of the 100 Addicts profiled is a good person who suffers from an often deadly disease. There is not one among them who I would not call my friend.
#8 - Susan R. - In 1971 Susan RÕs family moved from the US to Sydney, Australia. At first, she adapted well, and for many years just Òwent with the flow,Ó never causing any ripples. At 16 she started to experiment with drugs, nothing too heavy at first just some pot, hash and alcohol. But then she discovered heroin. It gave her the courage to lie, steal and deceive those who cared for her. If it meant betraying a loved one to get a fix, the fix won every time. She did two stints in rehab and spent time in jail, but none of those experiences helped her kick the habit.
Then, a three month Òdesperate tripÓ to a remote Papuan New Guinea island called Bougainville, to live with her father, proved a remarkable success. There were neither drugs nor drug dealers on Bougainville. Initially it was a painful struggle but she overcame the physical illness and went cold turkey to rid her body of the addiction.
During those three months she gained some weight, began looking and feeling better, a real sense of personal triumph. She began looking to the future. She wasnÕt na•ve. She knew it would be an ongoing struggle, but she was just so happy to be drug free for the first time in 4 years. Returning to Sydney and her family home she lived drug free for more than five months.
On 6th September, 1986 she had a nice dinner with her mother, brother and sister-in-law and then headed out to visit a friend. By now Susan had been drug free just over 8 months and was starting to enjoy life. No one really knows what happened that night, but the next morning her body was found in a well known drug dealerÕs apartment. It was FatherÕs day in Australia, 7th September, 1986 when her father received a phone call asking him to attend the police station. Once there he was taken to the morgue to identify his daughterÕs body. A few days later an autopsy revealed she had died from a massive heroin overdose. The coroner left an open finding into her death Ð death by a Òhotshot - administered by an unknown personÓ. Susan wasnÕt a bad person. She was someoneÕs daughter, sister, aunt, cousin and best friend.
And she is missed.
January 26th, 2008 - This is the hoodie Brittney got me for Christmas. It is awesome.
Robot comes from the Czech word 'rabota,' which means, literally, 'serf labor,' but further back comes from the Slavic root meaning 'work.'
My brother and I joke, especially at work, that robots don't feel stress, anger, pain, cold, etc. And that we are robots.
And people give me funny looks when I wear my hoodie, so I have those now.
January 21st, 2008 - Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. It's a new tattoo, an ambigram of emlyn. Stand on your head and it reads the same.
January 15th, 2008 - No words.
January 11th, 2008 - First, some minor business. Many people want to see more pictures of my children. To them I say, "PAY ME!" I mean, come on! Who gives away good content for free? No one, that's who. Maybe I can get my kids sponsored by some national tire retailer or top brand of disposable refrigerator.
Second, Owen said to me tonight, "Daddy, let's play my favorite game, the slap in the face game." And I said, "What?" And he said, "First I slap you in the face. Then you slap me in the face. It's fun." And I said, "Are you serious?" And he said, "Yeah. It's my favorite."
Finally, I've seen this done elsewhere and liked it, so now I'm going to inflict on you my personal top-five musical heresies:
1) The Rolling Stones are not the second best band of all time (assuming that we accept the Beatles as number one, which many of my friends don't, but...). Both the Clash and the Who were far better than the Stones. Who's Next and Super Black Market Clash could both come out this year and sound fresh. The Stones always sound like a '60s band. In fact, the best music in the Stones' discography came in the early '80s, Tattoo You and Emotional Rescue, which is funny because I understand that the band wasn't even properly together when they made those two albums.
2) Nirvana was not a great band. I'm sorry. Bleach was an ok album. Nevermind was a great album, and In Utero was a pretty bad album. One great album does not make a great band, and even now Nevermind sounds somewhat dated. I would rate Kurt Cobain an idiot savant at best. Sadly, his rocket ride into legend seems to have cost him his life.
3) Brian Wilson's Smile was really, really disappointing. I've never been a member of the cult of the Beach Boys, but I appreciate what they did with overlapping harmonies and brilliantly engineered recordings. But, come on! Songs about surfing? And Wilson's "comeback" album was a mediocre rehash of what he used to be. It wasn't bad, but it was a long, long way from brilliant.
4) Eminem is not a genius. He's a clever kid, but not a smart one. For all the records he's sold, he's taught the youth of America nothing that a kajillion previous pop stars hadn't already taught, that being famous and wealthy is not a ticket to happiness, that hating your parents remains profitable and that it's really unbearably cold and unpleasant in Detroit.
5) Video did not kill the radio star. Bad programming and too much advertising did. And eventually, bad programming and too much advertising will kill the video star too. And not a moment too soon.
January 10th, 2008 - My two, beautiful, murderous, voluble, heart-crushing boys in their school picture:
January 6th, 2008 - The 100 Addicts project is an effort to help people who are not addicts to understand people who are. Each of the 100 Addicts profiled is a good person who suffers from an often deadly disease. There is not one among them who I would not call my friend.
#6 - Richie C. - In AA they tell you that alcoholism will leave you incarcerated, institutionalized or dead. Richie has been all three at one time or another. Paramedics have brought him back from the dead twice. He has been in prison. "Nothing," he says, "prepares you for prison." He is sober two years now, "at the courtesy of the Commonwealth," which is what guys say when they've arrived at AA by court order.
Richie always drank a lot, but his drug of choice was crack. They called it freebase when he was first smoking it though.
When he was released from prison, he had nothing but the clothes on his back. Today he has more than that.
#7 - Jay - Jay walked a half-mile through Somerville buck naked for $160. On the way, he sprawled across the hood of a state trooper, who declined to get out of the car to see exactly what Jay was up to. As he walked up the street to his house to a waiting crowd and an incredulous landlord standing on the front porch, he looked up, "holding my prick in my hand," and said, "I got it under control." He went up to his apartment, attached a live electrical wire to the front door knob, doused the welcome mat with water and retreated into a closet with half an ounce of cocaine, a gallon of cheap wine, thirty beers and a quart of Jack Daniels. He sat there for three days. When his friend Brian called, he answered the phone. Brian said, "What are you doing?" Jay said, "Partying. I'll call you later."
Jay says he's glad to be an addict. AA has given him friends and structure, and he claims insanity still rules his days. He says he has a lot of fun.
January 3rd, 2008 - Owen, my son, turned three today. WTF? He is an amazing, loud, obstinate, little man.
He once said to me, "Daddy, I have something to tell you." And I said, "What's that?" And he said, "Dreams come from the dark." And I said, "Whoa, Buddy! That's pretty profound." And he said, "Yes, Daddy. Yes, it is."
They made cupcakes for him at day care today. He fucking loves cupcakes.
Brittney taught him to say, "Put 'er there, el Guapo!" And so he said it to me a dozen times last night, while he brushed his teeth.
Also, it was 8 degrees when I left home this morning. On my bike. I am either very tough or very stupid. Or. Possibly. It is tough to be as stupid as me.
But I have a beautiful three-year-old son. So suck it.
January 2nd, 2008 - The 100 Addicts project is an effort to help people who are not addicts to understand people who are. Each of the 100 Addicts profiled is a good person who suffers from an often deadly disease. There is not one among them who I would not call my friend.
#3 - Jim B. - Jim drank vodka, straight, all day, everyday. At home, Jim sat in the shed in the backyard and drank alone, sometimes all night. He did coke, too. Once or twice, he drove get-away cars to get money for coke.
He celebrated his first year sober yesterday, along with all the other New Year's wrecks. His last drunk included telling his nephew, the priest, to fuck himself. And his aunt, too. And his brother. And his in-laws. Then his wife threw him out, and his brother cut him out of the family business and he lived in his truck for two days before giving up and calling AA Central Service.
Jim never graduated high school, but he's one of the smarter guys you'll meet. He's made millions, knocking down and rebuilding. Lives in a giant house in a wealthy suburb.
#4 - George K. - George ate pills by the handful. Literally. Vicodins. Percocets. Xanax. Oxycontin. He spent whole days chasing pills around the city. That's when heroin wasn't available. Eventually he OD'd and spent nine days in a coma. He suffered some low level brain damage. His personality changed. He lost a finger to an infection and was out of work for four years, fighting for workman's compensation and disability benefits.
Now he's in job training, and he takes care of his three kids. I see him every Friday like clockwork. He doesn't talk much, but I like to hear it.
#5 - Bill D. - Good time, Billy with the mile wide smile. He plays the keys, and always has, and never really gave up on being a rock star. Even came close once or twice. Bill married well, but introduced his wife to heroin, and she fell apart. They divorced. Then he married again. Another nice girl.
Billy is such a good guy that friends and family kept giving him opportunities to right his listing ship, but in the end he had taken on too much water. He did a stint in rehab. He's out now.
January 1st, 2008 - I've not been here much lately. Just five posts in the month of December. The truth is I was too depressed to write. Not the tragic sort of lying in bed kind of depression, just the sort where the minimum and the maximum become the same thing. I sat in front of the television trying to empty myself out. And mostly it worked.
I don't want to say too much more about this depressive episode because I find that most of what I say is inaccurate. It's only in distant retrospect that I'm able to draw any conclusions about what was happening and why. In fact, mostly there is no why. I have a life second to few. That's the thing about depression, at least in my case. Very seldom are there discernible environmental causes or solutions. Mainly what happens, I believe, is chemical.
But today is a new day and a new year. I turned 36 yesterday (yes, thanks, happy birthday to me). I had planned to get tattooed, but my tattoo guy called in sick. I was pretty disappointed about it, but perhaps some days don't really need commemoration.
I'm looking forward to getting back into my blogging groove. It's funny how when you're depressed, all of your ideas seem hopelessly horrible, not even worth the time to tap out and hurl into cyberspace. At any rate, I'm brimming with new thoughts, not to mention needing to get back on the 100 Addicts Project. There are just all those addicts out there with the best stories you can imagine hearing. Or reading. Very inspiring stuff. One way or another.
The holiday hullabaloo is behind us at last. I hate to cheer its passing, but somehow the stress and busy-ness of it always manages to snuff out whatever relaxation I was supposed to derive from having four of my ten annual days off in the space of two snowy weeks. I am, in all sad seriousness, looking forward to returning to work tomorrow, if only to drink coffee quietly at my desk and perhaps hatch another blog between braying encounters with disgruntled editors.
My new year is full of resolutions, none of them related to quitting any substances or losing any weight. There are books I want to read (for the first time in a few months). I've
just put new strings on my old telecaster, the one that's been stuck in the back of the storage closet in the basement for the last couple of years. I have some ideas for magazine pieces
I'm going to pitch. There are home improvements to undertake. Land to scape. Lots and lots of shit. And while I will never achieve them all, I do feel as though I can do better than the
minimum given my current mood and general trajectory.
I've just seen the new Joe Strummer documentary this afternoon, the one called The Future is Unwritten, and found it pretty inspiring. The truth is, I don't really think the future is unwritten, but I do believe, down in the very bottom of my self, that we have to behave as if it is.
And that is my most important resolution for the year.
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