Midweek Rant #18: Telling Old People They’re Going to Die

June 18, 2009

It’s safe to say we’ve reached that point where it’s socially acceptable to tell people they’re going to die from smoking cigarettes.

I myself fall into the very large category of “only when I’m drinking” smokers.  This, the largest group of twenty-somethings, would be willing to name their first-born children after you if you were to bum them a cigarette at a party or outside a bar.  Fortunately there exists this arena in which smokers can not only avoid vilification, but also achieve ‘hero’ status by providing a fag to someone that’s totally jonesin’.

Outside of this arena, however, the “only when I’m drinking” smokers will keep quiet and be of no assistance as the “never would I ever” smokers sling rocks of Truth at poor, defenseless, and helplessly addicted smokers.  Clearly not having enough will power to beat their addiction, they are no match for the self righteous do gooders on a quest to rid the world of this awful plant…tobacco.

I have known “never would I ever” folk that would do hard drugs – mushrooms, cocaine – and yet they would go out of their way to scold someone for smoking.  Lots of people smoke pot, which contains as many if not more carcinogens than tobacco, and for some reason they just don’t “get” how people could smoke cigarettes.  Someone might be an absolutely perfect citizen and do nothing wrong at all, and yet still they will be an asshole and a hypocrite if they choose to berate someone for exercising a God-given freedom in a legal manner, when done in a courteous and respectful way.  Yes, cigarettes are terrible.  But two wrongs don’t make a right.  

People are people, and we like to put each other down when possible.  It’s a bummer, but it happens.  But regardless of how much veracity there is in the attack, I find it completely unacceptable when this is done to old people.

Here’s the thing.

Old people have lived much longer than you, and no matter how smart you think you are, they are smarter…because they lived longer than you.  Sure, they don’t even know how to turn on a computer, let alone send an email.  They don’t know how to do that crazy hard Calculus problem you got right on your last exam.  They may have only been educated through the 8th grade, but trust me – they’re smarter than you.

They understand that smoking is bad for them.  If you were as smart as they were, you’d understand that telling them they’re going to die from smoking is not going to help them quit.  Please stop talking down to them and let them enjoy the rest of their lives.

 

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Chapter 27: War Stories, Part 2

June 15, 2009

On to Chris’s story…

Freshman year of college in Boston.  Dorm renovations had taken longer than expected, so students were put up at a Double Tree Inn in Chinatown for a few weeks until they were ready.  Walking back from a night of cavorting, Connecticut Chris and his buddy Glenn were just a block away from their hotel when Glenn decided to sprint full speed to their destination. 

“Huh” thought Connecticut Chris.

Now I can attest to the odd bursts of behavior that college kids are susceptible to after a night at the bar.  Most memorable for me was the subway ride home during my summer at NYU when the entire group I was with simultaneously decided to take on monkey personae, using the overhead bars as tree branch substitutes.  At no point did anyone suggest we act like monkeys; we just all happened to be on the same page about it being the right thing to do.

Unfortunately for Chris, this random Carl Lewis impression was no monkey business.  He was sprinting for a reason.

“Yo, where’s your friend going?” Chris heard just behind him.  By the time he registered what was going, he had a guy on each side of him.

“I don’t know” Chris said, keeping his cool.

“Call him back” the other guy sternly suggested.

“No” Chris succinctly replied.

“Yo, give me your wallet” said the first guy, his imperative imbued with an ominous ‘or else’ undertone.

“No” Chris once again said.  At this point he realized that there was no easy way he was going to get out of this situation without losing his wallet.  If you remember my story from last week, it was at this juncture when my mind got to working.  After briefly considering getting all Irish on the guy that had snuck up behind me, I came to the conclusion that it was not worth the risk and complied with his demand that I give up everything I had. 

This where my story differs from that of Connecticut Chris.

A block away from safety, he opted instead for a preemptive strike.  As one of the guys started a reiteration of the “give me your wallet” demand, Chris quickly jabbed him in the sternum.  Knowing that the other guy would be quick to act, he immediately went in for a hook, only to find himself a fraction of a second too late.

The quick spin required to optimize the surprise factor of his attack gave him just enough of a look to see what it was that would foil his 1-2 combination: a pair of brass knuckles.

Seeing stars, Chris made a valiant effort to take on both guys, holding his own for a good forty-five seconds, his only counter to their brass being the handfuls of gravel available to him from the run-down parking lot they were in.  After almost a minute of throwing haymakers he reached the point where it was clear that he was being overpowered.  There was nothing to do now but do his best to protect himself, so he took a fetal position as they went to town. 

After ten of the longest seconds in the history of the planet, Glenn finally came to the rescue back from the hotel.  Not realizing that he had left Chris behind until he got inside, he unsuccessfully tried to find security until it became apparent he’d have to take things into his own hands.

Rocks being thrown at them from the returning college kid, the two muggers finally decided to call it a day.  What should have been a simple mugging turned into a nightmare.  Little did they know that Connecticut Chris, no hood up at this point, would put up such a fight.

“Yo, let’s go” one said to the other after getting pelted with a stone.

Glenn continued to fire away as he ran to Chris’s aid.  Before he could reach him, Chris was already up and back in action with a handful of rocks.  Seeing a giant one, about the size of a football, Chris’s adrenaline rush prompted him into perfect shot put technique.

“I’d normally only be able to throw that thing like ten feet” he told me as he recounted the story on our drive back from Hollywood.  “But I must’ve thrown it like fifty ‘cuz of all the adrenaline pumping through me.”

Doing their own Carl Lewis impression, the two muggers must’ve been wondering how this could’ve gone any worse as they sprinted across the parking lot.  For one of them, however, all thoughts came to a sudden halt as a football-sized rock hit him in the head.

Yep.

With the kind of accuracy you’ll only see in an over the top Action Movie and/or Comedy, Connecticut Chris managed to hit his moving target with a mini-crater.  He couldn’t help but celebrate as the muggers body became limp and he fell to the ground. 

“Yeah!  That’s right mother fucker!”

The other mugger stopped and looked down at his friend.  Amidst all this chaos there was the moment when all three of the standing participants quieted down in recognition of what might have just happened.

“Holy Shit, I hope I didn’t kill him” Chris thought to himself.  This is the part that the Action and/or Comedy movies don’t bother to deal with.  Killing people is a big deal.  Even if you’re exonerated in a court of law you’d better bet there are going to be people out there that are going to want to take the law into their own hands.  This could possibly be a life changing event, and all three of the standing were realizing this.

After five seconds of lifelessness, the fallen began to move.  The chaos immediately began again as the standing mugger turned his attention back to Chris, about fifty feet away.

“Yo!  That was fucked up!” scolded the mugger.  Helping up his friend.

“That was fucked up?!  You’re fucked up asshole, you just fucking jumped me” Chris yelled as he started towards them.  Glenn grabbed Chris as the two muggers retreated, a little less like Carl Lewis and a little more like Jesse Gavin in junior high gym class.

“Dude, we gotta get you to a hospital” said Glenn.  Having witnessed what Chris only got to feel while in the fetal position, Glenn had a better grasp on what should be prioritized in this situation.  Chris obeyed Glenn’s demand, despite the opportunity to exact a little justice (granted his shot put had at the very least evened things out).  It was to both of their surprise that the doctor released Chris with no broken bones or notable damage done.  All that remained of the muggers’ dirty work was two black eyes.

Chris and I were just arriving back to North Hollywood when I asked him how the experience changed his life.  On top of wearing the hood up, he started taking boxing lessons.  He wanted to make sure he was never viewed as an easy target again.  The sixth sense he developed was what had saved us that night in Hollywood, as could tell we were being tailed without actually having to turn around.  As for that crucial decision that made all the difference in our comparative stories:

“If that were to happen again I would maybe – maybe consider thinking about possibly just giving them my wallet.  Maybe.”

Viewing Chris in a different light, I couldn’t help but think of something that had a happened a few weeks earlier.  The possums that lived on our roof seemed to be brawling with either each other or perhaps an invading creature.  Chris and I were in the kitchen as we heard the shrieking of the battling beasts on the roof.  It started to sound as if they were in the house, which was certainly a possibility given its shoddy construction.  We both held our breath as we listened through the wall, each of us having the kind of schoolgirl hissy fit that would have been far more appropriate on the night we got tailed.

Space Cadet Sharon entered the kitchen from her room.

“Sharon.  Sharon!  Be careful, there’s a battle going on on the roof – they might have gotten inside” warned Chris.

Sharon paused for a second, giving Chris a cold, blank stare.

“My village got bombed once a week when I was a kid” she informed us, continuing on to the fridge to get her yogurt cup.

Space Cadet Sharon: the story has just begun…


Midweek Rant #17: T-Shirts With Geographical References

June 11, 2009

Of all the big cities I’ve ever lived in, of which there are two, Los Angeles has by far the least pride-ridden of the respective natives.  They also have by far the cooler of the natives.  That’s right, those that are from New York City have such a chip on their shoulder about being “born and bred” that it gets in the way of them being likeable in any way.  It’s such a coveted claim that you’ll find people manipulating it with an emphasis on the birth factor to imply that they grew up there. 

 

 

John McCain was born in the Panama Canal.  I often wonder if when he goes on ambassador trips to Central America, he brings it up in order to get respect at the local watering hole.

Because native Los Angelenos place very little value on the born-and-bred status, there is very little hesitation on the part of transplants to tout where it is they’re from.  Go to a sports bar on a Sunday afternoon during football season and you’ll see pretty much the entire NFL represented, with no pesky interference of an actual home team.

Which brings me to my rant.

I never thought that this would bother me.  In fact I used to wear my Kelly’s Saloon T-Shirt in New York City all the time in the hopes that I’d run into a SUNY Geneseo alum on the street.  But in the city of Angels, the frequency with which people start conversations with me based solely on the geographical reference on my t-shirt drives me friggin’ crazy.

I have a Maple Leafs t-shirt I got when I was fourteen years old.  I wear it mainly for nostalgic reasons after I found it in my mom’s attic on my last trip to South Dakota. “I used to wear this to ninth grade geometry” I think as I put it on.

“Go Leafs!  I’m from Toronto!” says the over enthused lady behind me at Trader Joe’s.  I’m not wild about the conversation I’m about to have, but hey – I brought it upon myself wearing the logo of such a passionately followed club.  One of the original six for crying out loud.

Note to self: If I wear my Leafs shirt I’ll probably have to talk to people from Toronto about how they’re from Toronto.

Next time it happens is at the gym.  Wearing a t-shirt made for my high school hockey team, I am duped into several minutes of chit-chat by the following statement: “Hey – you’re from Saratoga?  I’m from Guilderland!”  It’s 192 seconds of my life I will never get back.  Nothing is gained, nothing is learned.  Despite our best efforts to reduce our degrees of separation, we don’t know any of each other’s friends.

If I had been wearing this shirt in Clifton Park, this would have never happened.

At this point I’m starting to pick up on the trend.  The logo on my t-shirt is merely, to use a term coined by that nametag guy, a “front porch”.  Some dude in Portland actually started wearing a nametag every day because he noticed it was easier to start conversations that way.  He calls it a “front porch” because people that sit on front porches are easier to talk to than people that sit in their living room.  I’m a big fan of the simplicity of it.  It’s just a nametag, but it makes you far more approachable.

In a town where many people are looking to start conversations with strangers in the name of networking, this approachability I was creating for myself wasn’t quite as simple.  I wasn’t wearing a nametag, but rather a geographical reference.  People were using said reference to start a conversation with me.

How dare they use geographical references for their own agendas?

Where I come from, towns and cities aren’t pawns in some sort of hustling and networking scheme.  They’re the chess board.  That’s right, I’m going with the analogy.  It’s the base, whether it be a cardboard foldaway or a weathered granite surface in Washington Square Park.

OK, I’m done with the analogy.

If you think I’m being ridiculous about this geographical reference issue, either in my paranoia or in my unapologetic overuse of the cumbersome phrase “geographical reference,” please consider this last example:

IMG_0540

 

The countless conversations I’ve had with people from New Jersey, none of which bothered to take the time to notice that not only is it just a mass produced Old Navy design, but that the shirt is making fun of their home state…


Chapter 26: War Stories, Part 1

June 8, 2009

When we last left off, Connecticut Chris and I were about to exchange the stories that led each of us to an affinity for wearing the hood up.  I went first.

February of 2008.  My brother had come into town for three days.  The night before he left we got absolutely trashed at the Alligator Lounge in Brooklyn.  The next morning I was faced with a nasty hangover and an ambition to get something accomplished before working the dinner shift at 5pm.  Just several weeks earlier, I had been in the same exact situation, and ended up getting a start on the Mary-Louise Parker video I had been planning on making for some time.  What was the trick?  A little something I learned along the way called “walk it off”.

Basic idea: go outside, preferably in the bitter cold, and walk non-stop for about an hour.  Your body’s regulatory system will boost it’s metabolism at the 60 minute mark, and in the meantime you breathe out all that hangover nastiness that would otherwise just fester.  Walking has a great meditative quality, and also tends to get the creative juices flowing, leaving you itching to get back to that blank piece of paper that was torturing you just an hour earlier.

On this particular walk, I played my favorite game – “let the walk sign decide where you walk next”.  Not the most clever name for a game, but at least people unfamiliar with it don’t have to feel alienated as they ask how it goes.  Living in Jersey City at the time, I found myself walking in an area I normally only run in.  Although it was wonderfully cold, the sky was clear and the sun was working wonders on my psyche.  I was a few blocks away from the giant park, and figured I’d mosey on down that way for some top-rate wandering.  Due to the rules of “let the walk sign decide where you walk next” I ended up walking down the hill towards the park on a back residential street, as opposed to the wide tree-lined street with the giant statue of Abe Lincoln.  Sorry Lincoln, rules are rules, and the game is called “let the walk sign decide where you walk next.”

To my pleasant surprise, I ended up walking down the most amazing little street in all of Jersey City.  I couldn’t help but think of the beautiful Center Street in Geneseo, New York, the town of my old alma mater.  Every time I walked down it I would look at each unique house with its character and its big front porch, and I’d think to myself: what I wouldn’t give to live in a house like that. 

The thing is, I never really think that.  I usually dislike houses.  Some people see front yards perfect for barbecues; I see a lawn I’ll have to mow every week.  Some people get excited about the spacious living room with high ceilings; I see astronomical heating and cooling costs.  Some people admire the beautiful windows; I see yet another reason to be wary of the neighborhood kids playing baseball.  I’m not one to ogle at houses.

So it was a very rare thing for me to be so jazzed about the houses on this backstreet leading to the big park in Jersey City.  The blue skies and my rising rate of metabolism helped to create a sort of wonderland that I may as well have been skipping down.  Birds were even chirping, in February for crying out loud.

I was just starting to make a pact with myself that I would one day live on this street.  It’s very rare that I get excited about things that would involve any sort of adult-like responsibility, so needless to say I was really caught up in the excitement of it all.  I wasn’t expecting to find myself yearning for a future residence, nor was I expecting someone to grab my shoulder and jam something in my back.

Que?

“Don’t move” the ominously gruff voice said.  My mind still wrapped up in the magical street I was on that reminded me of my college town, I for some reason thought it was my buddy Alex Sovronsky.  Such a random assumption, I know.  When I was in college, Alex was the guy that would smear himself against the window of the Pizza Parlor you were eating at, as much for a laugh as for a “what the heck”.  Always brimming with energy, I for some reason had it in my head that the fellow that snuck up behind me on a gorgeous backstreet on a beautiful day must be him.  Who else would pull such a joke? 

I later conferred with Alex and he assured me that he would never do something like that.  I guess in small towns it’s fun to pull pranks like that, but Alex was from Long Island and it’s safe to say has always known better.

My first clue that it wasn’t Alex was when I started to turn around, grin on my face, the word “Alex!” on the tip of my tongue.  The clue came in the form of a violent thrust forward, hand firmly gripping the sleeve of my jacket. 

Alex wouldn’t do that.

Wait a second.  I’m not in Geneseo!  I’m in Jersey City, and Alex doesn’t live in Jersey City.  Come to think of it, I don’t know anyone that actually lives in Jersey City, and even if I did, they certainly wouldn’t sneak up behind me on this random backstreet.

“Don’t move!” the voice reiterated, jamming the extremely hard thing that felt like a gun even further into my back.

What.  Is going.  On.

It was at this moment that I realized that this was no prank.  I had a guy sneak up behind me and now I was at his mercy.

I had no idea what to do.  What could I do?  I was pretty sure you were supposed to do something in this sitauation, but then again this wasn’t supposed to be happening at noon on a Tuesday in February.  I’m pretty sure this was supposed to happen in the dark alley I always walked through on my way home from the PATH Train.  Perhaps if that were the setting it would have been easier for me to figure it all out.  I certainly wouldn’t have wasted time thinking it was Alex Sovronsky playing a joke on me.

It had been ten of the longest seconds of my life when I was instructed a third time “don’t move”.  Finally I had something to work with.  He didn’t want me to move.  I quickly thought about it, and came to the conclusion that I shouldn’t move. 

But wait.

I’m walking.  Should I stop walking?  Ah, crap!  I’d been walking the whole time and it didn’t seem to be an issue.  Based on the force with which he yanked me forward when I tried to turn around and look at him, it was safe to say he could’ve stopped me from walking if he wanted to.  So I figured it safe to assume he was fine with me walking, so long as I didn’t make any sudden movements or try to break free.

Or look at him.  That’s it!  That made sense.  He quietly crept up on me and obviously didn’t want me to see who he was.  I felt like I had an advantage in knowing one of the things was he wanted, an important and useful bit of information when it comes to negotiating.  This was going to be a hell of a negotiation, considering one of the cards on the table was that thing that felt very much like a gun in my back.

“Alright, turn this corner.  Do what I say or I’ll fucking kill you, alright?  Don’t fuck with me.”

Advantage, the other guy.

I could practically hear my heart pounding against my ribs as I noticed a narrow driveway just twenty feet ahead, practically hidden by a low hanging tree on one side, brick wall on the other.  If this was the corner that this guy was talking about then I was royally fucked.  The thought occurred to me that this fellow may live in this house, and was leading his unsuspecting prey to some sort of secret lair fully equipped with chains, shackles, and an array of instruments of torture.  This was how the story always went on the news.  If I turn this corner, I may have a new place of residence for the next eight years until he slips up one day and I escape.

Actor/Waiter Jesse Gavin reappears half naked and speaking gibberish at the VIP Diner in Jersey City after mysteriously disappearing almost a decade ago.

I wasn’t wild about this option.

The other option was the upcoming street, which was about sixty feet away.  Man oh man did I hope it was the street he meant.  For the six seconds it took before we reached the driveway, I felt all my senses kick it up into high gear, as I was fully aware of the sensation of simply being alive; something that you just kind of take for granted.  It’s the kind of feeling yoga tries to bring out in people.  I felt eerily zen as I was about to find out which corner this guy meant.  I just had to wait…

We passed the driveway and I felt my mind jerk out of it’s ridiculous state of zen.  What’s wrong with you, mind?  Getting all zen on me at a time like this?  As I realized that this guy was going to turn me onto the next street, I started to take inventory of what it was I knew of what was going on.  This guy had come up behind me out of nowhere and jammed something in my back.  He didn’t want me to look at him.  He wasn’t Alex Sovronsky.  He wasn’t bringing me to some secret lair.  He was looking for an opportune place to, in all likelihood, mug me.  My mind shifted into Irish mode.

Fuck this guy.  This couldn’t be happening at a worse time.  I had just had my bag stolen from me while on the train, just before I got sick and missed two days of work.  I was broke as a mo’fo, and the last thing I could deal with was losing my wallet, which I was realizing had about ninety bucks in it, on top of my unregistered MTA and PATH cards, adding up to about 130 dollars in transport currency.  Why hadn’t I registered my transport cards?!  I could hear that slogan about how quick and easy the registration process was mocking me.  I decided that I was not going to let this fly as I realized that this guy was stalling with an occasional “don’t move” or “don’t fuck with me”.

I got the sense that he was shorter than me.  I’ve had a few bursts of Irish rage in my life, and truly believed I was capable of successfully flipping out on this guy.  People have always joked that I was going to snap someday, and perhaps I could let this be the day.  This dumb jerk had no idea the amount of pent up rage in the fellow he decided to tail.

My plan was this: quickly turn around and knock the gun aside, grab his wrist and get the gun away from him, then pummel him until he is no longer moving, then call the cops.  The beauty of this plan was its simplicity.  When things get too complicated everything can go wrong.  Just ask Walter Sobchak

I was just about to burst into action when a tiny thought creeped into my head.  I wouldn’t call it a doubt, because I truly do put trust in my Irish temper, rather it was a realization that if something goes slightly wrong in my plan, I may be shot.  Given the fact that my plan was not a particularly well thought out one, there was a significantly higher probability that this might happen.

Damn you, brain!  Always making me puss out.

I made the decision right then and there that the money wasn’t worth the risk.  Even the opportunity to look like a tough guy, which, let’s face it, is something I’m usually in need of, didn’t seem worth the possible consequence.  Although I had just walked down a picturesque street with beautiful houses, the fact of the matter is that I normally don’t walk in this part of the city for a reason: a whole lot of halfway houses.  There’s a lot of people in this particular area that are in need of a fix and may not be rational about what they’re willing to do to get it.  Jogging isn’t as much of an issue.  Who jogs with a wallet on them?  

This guy was smart enough to go about it so I wouldn’t know what he looked like.  He’s clearly done this before.  He at no point told me he had a gun, rather he let the thing he was pushing into my back do the explaining.  It may or may not be real, and there’s only one way to find out.  That way may possibly result in getting shot.

Hmm.

I took a breath and finally spoke.

“I’ll give you whatever you want, just tell me what to do.”  I said.

“Alright, turn into this corner” he said, referring to a brick alcove to our right.  “Drop everything and run.  Don’t turn around, alright?!  Don’t fuck with me, I’m serious, I’ll fucking kill you!”

Emphasizing his seriousness with a little jerk, I took him at his word.  All I had with me was my wallet, which was fortunate.  As I was playing the old carefree game of “let the walk sign decide where you walk next,” I hadn’t taken along my iPhone, which I definitely would not have been able to replace at this juncture of my life.  I turned into the brick enclosure and reached for my wallet.

“Everything!” he reminded me.  Thanks for the heads up, my man…I damn near forgot.

I dropped my wallet and slowly started to jog.  After a few cautious strides I gradually accelerated to a sprint.  I was in the clear, and for the first time in over forty-five seconds I did not have a guy jamming something in my back.  It’s hard to think of it as forty-five seconds, because it felt like at least an hour.  I didn’t bother to turn around.  I had made the decision to put my life above trying to be a tough guy or a hero, and I wanted to get as far away as I could.  Time had slowed down so much that it felt like everything was in slow motion…

I remember the exact moment that time went back to it’s usual tick tock of the clock.  After fifteen seconds my path merged with that of a skinny man in spandex pants running with his dog on a leash.  He had one of those Winter Headbands.  You know, the kind that keeps the ears warm without putting your hair styling in jeopardy.  We ran for about eight seconds along side each other, when I came to the realization that this guy had more reason to think me ridiculous than vice versa.  Here I was in jeans and converse sneakers with a scarf draped over my wool coat, trotting along at a pace sufficient for an 8 minute mile.

“What an odd fellow” he must have thought, his spandex-aided stride unimpeded by air resistance.

Walking home, I was surprised to find myself in the best of moods.  Replacing the stuff in my wallet was going to be a pain in the ass, but at least it wasn’t a bullet in the back.  I found change in my couch cushions for PATH fare to work.  Waltzing in the door, my coworkers were quick to acknowledge my cheery disposition.  I told them the story of the pleasant back street and the unpleasant thing jammed in my back, and was greeted with wide eyes and big hugs.  Feeling the love, I winced as I heard a voice behind me.

“What happened?”

I realized I’d now have to tell the story to my previously blogged about manager, Jeff from New Jersey.  Unrelenting from his “no big deal” listening pose, he took in the entire tale before telling me what he thought about it.

“Dude,” Jeff started with a giant condescending grin, “that guy was holding a screwdriver”. 

As Jeff continued on, I slightly regretted not going Irish on the guy behind me…

Slightly…

My new version of the ready stance was to always have a hood up.  Not quite as effective as Jeff from New Jersey’s…

Tune in next week for the long awaited story of Connecticut Chris!

Lastly, apologies to all my dedicated readers for the lack of a Chapter last Monday!  I hope this ridiculously long one made up for it…


Midweek Rant #16: The Man-Bathroom

June 4, 2009

Nothing makes my skin crawl more than when I hear a member of the female sex refer to a negative quality that all men possess.  It comes in many different forms.

“Guys are jerks”

“Men are pigs”

Or the equally immature phrasing, generally used by those under the age of seventeen:

“Boys are stupid”

The basic idea of these phrases can be applied to more specific circumstances.  “Kyle didn’t call you back because men have commitment issues”.  This is when it bugs me the most.  Let’s chalk everything up to that 23rd Pair of Chromosomes!  It’s not that a lot of men don’t have commitment issues, but rather that there’s a lot of factors that go into an individuals unique set of said issues.  It’s disrespectful to commitment issues to treat them as homogeneous, and people who disrespect commitment issues need some schooling.

I don’t think that last sentence came out right.

At this point I fear that I have alientated my female readers, or “readerettes” as they ought to be called.  Now before you go thinking that I’m some sort of misogynist…why don’t you stop crying and start being reasonable, huh lady?  Is it that time of the month?

Whoa – that definitely came out wrong.

Having spent my impressionable adolescent years living with a single working mom, I inevitably acquired some feminist patterns of thought.  My mom is, for lack of a more articulate adjective, badass.  If you’re thinking that I should’ve chosen a more lady-like description, then you must not have had a single working mom.  Single moms don’t need your arbitrarily fluffy admiration.  They’ve got shit to get done.  Throughout the years I’ve encountered a slew Y-Deficient people of all ages that have only reinforced my feminist outlook on life.  It’s kind of weird to call myself a feminist since I’m a dude, but the only other classification that the general populace understands is “tool”.

You can imagine why I avoid Poker Nights.

 

 

Fortunately I quit gambling when I was 12, because I really have no idea what to do in these situations.  What makes this kind of banter worse is that it actually gains validity every time I hear a female chalk up a characteristic of an individual as being a function of his Y-Chromosome.  It’s the same thing, just the other way around, and consequently it reinforces everything that’s said on the other side.

Screw that.  Women and Men are definitely different, and that 23rd Pair of  Chromosomes plays a role.  But it’s child’s play in the grand scheme of gender creation.

Now I’ve taken the time to say all this, because for one time and one time only I’d like to let the Y-Chromosome take the heat in the case I’m about to make, with a lone Exhibit.  Perhaps I’ll let it happen once more to even the playing field between the sexes.

Argument: Men like to piss all over everything.

Exhibit A: The Man Bathroom.

By definition, a Man Bathroom must have the following specifications:

–       Single Occupancy

–       Lock on Door

–       1 Urinal

–       1 Toilet

–       Sink (soap optional)

The idea: If you only have a toilet, that means that guys are going to be urinating into the bowl and inevitably, if not unavoidably, onto the seat.  Solution?  Add a urinal.  That way you keep the toilet seat clean.

I can imagine the guys down at the MB Think Tank making fun of Ricky, the new hire fresh out of Skidmore College.  After suggesting that they make the bathroom a double occupancy by simply adding a stall around the toilet, Ricky was condescendingly asked if he liked to take a dump while sitting in piss. 

Adapting his vocabulary for the group that was sure to be playing poker later on, Ricky retorted.

“Well if someone wants to take a piss, they can just use the urinal.”

“What about the second guy in, Ricky Rocket?” chimed the typically taciturn Roger, nine years on the job, seventeen years with the company, eliciting a chorus of chuckles that had been suppressed since Ricky had walked in with his Eco-Friendly Shoes made from Bamboo.

“Well, he can use the toilet, and just lift the seat” responded Ricky, a tad bit apprehensive given the obviousness of the answer.  A seven second pause followed as the group waited for Roger to bring it home with his wry delivery and witty nicknames.  You could practically hear everyone thinking to themselves, Roger’s gonna knock this one out of the park.

Meanwhile, Fidgety Brett, growing concerned that the length of silence was adding credibility to Ricky’s logic, recklessly blurted out what had been on everyone’s mind since Rocky walked in.

“Ricky the Rocket is a tool!”.

And so the Man-Bathroom remained a single-occupancy, and still does to this day.


Midweek Rant #15: The Maverick Yogi

May 28, 2009

As you may remember from an earlier chapter, I got myself a membership to LA Fitness within the first few weeks of moving to the West Coast.  Although I hit up the weight room once or twice per week, I usually go for the classes they offer.

Yep, the classes.  I know.  I know!  In fact, I already addressed how ridiculous that is.

On top of what I said in my previous explanation, I think the best part of taking the classes is that I don’t have to do any thinking at all.  In the weight room, I have to think how much weight I’m going to lift on the next set, or how many repetitions.  God forbid I hop on a cardio machine and hit the “Quick Start” button.  It’s all up to me at this point.  And do you know what I decide when it’s up to me?  I decide: “Screw this, I’m going to go get some tacos.”

Humans only have a limited supply of will power and self control, and I gotta be honest with you, I don’t feel like wasting my precious reserves at the gym.  Enter the teacher.  The teacher of these classes tells you what to do and when to do it.  That’s right, you can turn off your brain and just exercise.  I also find it’s also easy to push yourself harder when someone is yelling at you.  Especially when that person is a bit off their rocker:

 

 

If there’s one class that kind of irks me, however, it’s yoga.  It’s probably my favorite of all the actual activities, but my issue lies with the other people in the class.  The problem is that yoga puts by far the most emphasis on doing things to your own ability, in contrast to the importance that other classes place on pushing harder and toughing it out in order to make gains.

“What does your body need today?” is the type of phrase you’ll hear a yoga instructor say.

While I applaud the teacher’s effort to make the students feel empowered, it drives me nuts to see how much some students abuse it.  Much like an attention deficit disordered twelve year old on the day the cool substitute teacher is in, some people decide they will just make up their own routine.

“My body really needs to do the tree pose right now” thinks the Maverick Yogi, while everyone else is resting in child’s pose.

I had a yoga teacher say that the physical practice of yoga was created as a “warm-up” for meditation of the mind.  The more you release and let go, the more your mind can focus on the present, free from the clutter that usually dominates it.  Sometimes, during a successful session, my mind really gets in the present tense, to the point that I’m present enough to think to myself – “why the hell is that lady never doing the same pose as everyone else?”

Drives me nuts.  And to make matters worse, it’s easy to guess who this person will be before we begin.  It will be one of the ones stretching before class even starts.

Why are you stretching?!!

To quote one of the funniest blogs of all time, Stuff White People Like:

“Yoga is basically the practice of stretching for one hour.  Stretching should only take five minutes, other peoples would rather spend the extra fifty-five minutes playing in an actual sport or spending time with their families and friends”

There it is.

If someone is stretching before they’re about to stretch for an hour, I usually do my best to not look in their direction.  It drives me bananas.  I’m usually pretty good at blocking these people out of my awareness for sanity’s sake, that is until my mind starts to be in the “present tense”.  That’s right!  Success in the yoga studio only serves to free your mind, thus being able to take in how infuriating the Maverick Yogi is.

Thanks a lot, yoga, for helping me get pissed off.

 

A PostScript for John McCain: I won’t let you ruin the word “Maverick” for me.


Chapter 25: Taking a New Route Home

May 25, 2009

When we last left off, Connecticut Chris and I were being followed by a car with tinted windows and no headlights on, after it had slowly tailed us on the sidewalk of a dimly lit backstreet in Hollywood.

Just another day in paradise.

A tad bit terrified, I finally decided to ask myself what it was that the person(s) in this car was planning to do.  Unable to answer the question, I decided to ask it out loud, so that Chris might take a shot at it.

“They can’t do shit” Chris said, following it up by suggesting “just drive normal, if they follow us all the way back to North Hollywood, we’ll figure it out.”

The car finally had to turn its headlights on when we got to one of the main streets, and I felt myself take a breath for the first time since Chris had calmly but cautiously whispered, “we’re being tailed”.  Taking a quick peek at my gas gauge, I was further comforted by the fact that I had just filled up.  My phone was fully charged, so it’d be no problem to not only call the cops, but actually just pull up to a cop station if necessary.  If this sucker thought he was going to just follow Chris and me home without us knowing, he had a another thing coming.

Pshh – what a sucker.  Nice tinted windows, sucka!

Within two and a half minutes, still a bit unnerving despite my newfound arrogance, the car finally stopped following us.  Victory!  We didn’t even make it out of Hollywood before the punk gave up.  A bit too busy patting myself on the back, I managed to miss a turn onto Hollywood Blvd.  No big deal, I think to myself.  I’ll just turn left here, then turn left again.  Come on – I maneuvered us out of a potentially life threatening situation with the tinted-window car, I don’t think getting back to Hollywood Blvd is going to be all that hard.

 

 

My newfound conceit quickly gave way to the state of trembling terror that I had only snapped out of just moments before.  We were no longer being followed, but the narrow backstreet that became a dead end was hands down the worst place we could be should the car with tinted windows manage to find us again.  The lights on the few houses on this dead end street could barely even be seen through the thick shrubbery.  Frantically making a U-Turn, I tried to explain to Chris that I had accidentally missed the turn onto Hollywood Blvd and figured I could just take the next street up.

“Dude.  This is not the time to be taking new routes” Chris informed me rather matter-of-factly, the tiniest of trembles in his voice indicating that this wasn’t a let’s-make-fun-of-Jesse’s-absent-mindedness comment, but rather a please-don’t-put-my-life-in-any-more-jeopardy-than-it-already-has-been-in comment.

Sorry about that, Connecticut Chris.

We made it out of the narrow dead end street and back onto Hollywood Blvd unscathed.  Rather than return to our arrogant banter about how the tinted window car couldn’t do nothin’, we just kind of sat saying nothing.  Perhaps we were taking a moment to let what happened sink in; perhaps we were just enjoying our existence, it having been threatened.  Having successfully merged onto the 101, a daily feat that is arguably as terrifying as our incident with the tinted-window car was, Chris finally broke the silence.

“You ever been jumped?” he asked with a certain meekness.

Hmm.

All this time enjoying the company of Connecticut Chris, I had failed to ask myself the critical questions that I usually try to get to the bottom of upon getting to know people.  The moniker “Connecticut Chris” is delightfully misleading.  He has a northeast quality, there’s no doubt.  But Connecticut is a state that has, for lack of a better description, a foofy quality about it.  You think of the country clubs.  You think of the sweaters draped over the shoulders and tied in front.  You think of, well, foofy people.

This was not Connecticut Chris.  I think that’s why I like calling him that so much.  His arms hung down from his shoulders in a way that made you think he was ready to burst into the boxing ring at any moment.  He sported a goatee, made all the more effective by the kind of stone face you used to see in Soviet Russia.  But what I think stuck out more than anything was his constant use of the hoodie, something I’m also in the habit of.  If there’s a reason why we were followed by a tinted-window car, it’s probably because they thought we were someone else, which would not be too difficult of a mistake given the fact that we were both wearing hoods.  I never put any thought into why Chris was always wearing his hood, or even remembered why it is that I reflexively put mine up.

It was when he asked me if I’d ever been jumped that I made the connection.  I fortunately had never been jumped.  Mugged, however?

The rest of the ride home was an exchange of war stories, Connecticut Chris being the winner…

 

 

Tune in Next Week for what is possibly the craziest story I’ve ever heard courtesy of Connecticut Chris!

In the meantime, check out incredible music from the actress playing Debbie, my new roomie Jes Hudak:

http://www.myspace.com/jeshudak