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Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Chillin' at Children's The Franklin Regional Tragedy Spawns A Selfie

Dear Nate,
   I am the father of school age child.  Not a moment goes by that I don’t worry about her.  Will she behave in class?  Will she do well?  Will she make new friends?  Will she get an A on her spelling test?  Will she grow up to be smarter than me? Will she get into college?  Will she get a great job?  Will she invent something or discover something that will solve world problems?  Will she make it home safely today?

   You see, what you did today was very, very brave.  It was a selfless act.  Something simple.  Something we would usually punish a student for in my day; pulling a fire alarm to get out class.   But you did it to warn others.  You acted in a way that probably saved countless lives, just like my little girl.  I can only imagine what your mindset was when it happened and then, to have been attacked by the person who caused this chain reaction of events that have reached CNN and the world, you are now a hero.   You are a part of the tapestry of parental nightmares that have plagued all of us since Columbine happened fifteen years ago this coming April 20th.   Southwestern PA now joins a host of other schools and communities that have become statistics of classroom violence.  All of us more worried each day that somehow that evil will find its way into our children’s schools. 

   But, you were there and you did what you did and now, by virtue of being born towards the beginning of the Gilded Age of Social Media, you are part of the historical tableaux of memories, like the students dangling out of the window of a Virginia Tech classroom.  Your face and your act will be remembered.  You are a hero.

   You deserve this moment for being the one to “Roll into action”.  You and all the others who helped stop the threat before more could be injured, including yourself, deserve so much praise and thanks.  For that, this is your time to shine.  Your Facebook wall is probably flooded right now with well wishes and bro fists and probably dating offers.  Your profile picture will probably your Children’s Hospital pic for a day or two… There’s already a community page on Facebook, which is probably not related to you in any way.  You’re going to have interviews with local media and probably National Media.  It’s not unfathomable to see you ending up on the couch of Fallon or Letterman… because the media loves a hero so much in the face of tragedy.

   It is also your time to reflect.  A lot of criticism is going to come your way, from myself included, simply because you exist in that “Gilded Age”.   The selfie seen round the Commonwealth already has a Twitter following and a article.  Again, I thank you for what you did, but remember with great power comes greater responsibility… and clichés.  Don’t think for one moment that you aren’t a hero, but also not above reproach in the eyes of those who made you famous for what you did.  You are a hero, but you’re also a teenager, and I get that.  Taking the selfie “Chillin’ at Children’s” is the tip of a proverbial iceberg of contextual misconception.   In one light, it’s a kid being a kid, taking a moment to show the face of a tragedy.  But in another, it’s a kid being dumb and disrespectful while his classmates are in critical condition from their wounds.  The choice of how you choose to identify yourself in that moment is your own.

   Humility is a powerful balance and can never be abused.  Remember this as you take those first steps towards no longer being anonymous outside of Allegheny County.  Remember this when your attackers are armed with a Social Media account and not a knife.   Remember this when it’s time to go back to being anonymous.  Remember this when it’s time to step up as a man in your 20s and 30s and 40s.   Be the man who pulled the fire alarm every day of your adult life.  Be the hero when your own child goes off to school and worry about them every day.  Be the humble American who does things not because of the photo op but because it’s the right thing to do.   You do all that, and you will be fine.

  Thank you and have a speedy recovery.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Coming To Terms With Approaching Middle Age

Hi, remember me?  Yeah, it’s been awhile…  OK, so, it’s been a LONG while.  I took all of February off because I am a slacker.  And by slacker, I mean… I’ve actually been working.   Nothing fun mind you.  WORK work.  You know, that stuff you should be doing every day instead of reading this crap.

So, I think I’ve answered my WUMF question.  It’s dead.  It has ceased to be.  It became a hassle to try and cram small nuggets of content into a post at the end of the month just to hit a date.  I know.  First world blogger problems.

But, now we are into March and, of course, it’s time to remind myself of how much closer to death I really am. 

I AM 39!?!?!?!?


As a little experiment I went back and read my past posts on birthdays.  I was a morose sonofabitch, wasn’t I?  I just read the whole post about turning 33 and Madonna and American Pie and WOW! 

OK…  Enough of that.

Here’s what the last six years have taught me.

First of all, 39 is weird.  I mean really weird.  Much more so than 29.  Except for nine and 19, all the nine years are going to be weird but 29 wasn’t that big of a deal.  I had just bought a house and was about to get married…Excuse me while I laugh about that in my head for a bit.    But really, 29 wasn’t horrible.  I wasn’t that cranky yet.  Somewhere into my 30s, I became a cranky old man.  But, now, I feel like I am 29 again. I don’t know why?  Could it be, that I have dropped down to the weight I was at 29?  Could it be that other situations resemble what my life was like when I was 29?  Maybe.  The point is, that I don’t feel bad about being 39, but it’s just so odd to see, “I am almost 40.”

What the hell?  If you are over 40, think about what 39 felt like.  I sure as hell do not have anything together in terms of my shit.  I know I have not grown up.   But I don’t feel like an immature asshole.  I am a perfectly aged one, if anything.    I don’t know if this is what could be considered a mid life crisis.  If it is, 79 is going to REALLY SUCK.

I guess that I’ve sort of reclaimed a bit of myself and don’t get as angry.  I couldn’t care less about the youth of America because, well, they’ll be in my shoes soon enough and then they will see what I’ve seen.  They will also have to deal with how my child acts because karma is a fickle bitch.  When the 20 year olds of today reach 39, my kid will already have been in their shoes and hopefully she will crush that bitch of a stigma.  If not, dumb youth is basically universal.

Another thing about 39 is that I feel like I’m healthier than I was through most of my 30s.   I wasn’t sickly, but my overall well being was poor.  My outlook was poor.  My intake was poor.   So, there is time to fix all of the internal struggles we have with getting older.  Unfortunately, we will still be hampered by some of the physical ones.    I wouldn’t tell you to be proactive and guard yourself against letting your body deteriorate, but I would say that treating your body like a rental car perched at the top of San Francisco’s Lombard St., revving the engine, knowing full well you took the insurance, is probably a bad idea.

Moderation is more than just a cliché, but it also matters what quality your vices are.  I drank a hell of a lot between 21-23 and I felt like crap, afterwards.  Now, I drink maybe once a week, and even though I have tied a few on in the last year, I have recovered quicker and with less effects during the drinking.   However, my body, in its reclaimed state can handle the alcohol a lot better.  My tolerance has gone up even though my weight has gone down.  I’ve also switched to a better grade of alcohol.  Consider how your body feels when it eats McDonald’s vs. a nice home cooked meal.  It’s still the same type of food, but better quality.  Staying away from crap like “Lite” beers and drinking more wine have had an overall positive effect.  Quality and quantity working together it seems.

SO, when it comes time to roll the odometer into my 40s, I’m probably going to get a rude awakening.  Who knows?  Maybe it’s like dusting off a classic car, one with low mileage, and taking it across country.  Shit starts falling apart rather quickly.   However, I have no desire to be afraid of life.  I am taking it as it comes.  Doing the best thing I can to stay here as long as possible, with flare and responsibility.    This body needs to be in motion and we should exercise it and keep it limber.  Get your ass off the couch and move, people.  If you do that, you can do all the other things you’ve missed out on in the last ten years.

What are you waiting for, 49?

Friday, January 31, 2014

The Year Of the Magnificent Bastard

He’s suave.  He’s sneaky.  He's a cad.  He's a dick.  He’s lovable?

Yes, the magnificent bastard is a character.   He is one that has his own agenda and has every angle covered.  Just when you think you have him cornered, he slips through your grasp.  And you have to admire how he does it.  But there is more to being a Magnificent Bastard than being evil.

He’s lovable.  He’s the antihero.  He’s a swashbuckling, smuggling, whisky swilling sonofabitch that you just have to adore.   By the end of the story, you’ll be rooting for him.  He’ll probably take off with your purse, but come back to help save the hero when he’s most needed.

The Magnificent Bastard has morals and a code.  He’s not there to impress you, he’s there to get the job done.  He’ll be the one that walks into the bar and owns the place.  He’ll notice you, over there with an empty drink, trying to get service, and with a flash, he’ll have the bartender’s attention and will have your drink refilled along with his.   As much as you don’t agree with his stance or his methods, you have to respect the asshole for being true to his craft. 

He’s a lovable jerk with witty repartee that doesn’t mince words.  You better be of quick and rapier like wit if want to engage him.  And don’t think that brute force will be the best way to beat him, because the harder you come at him, the easier he has it evading attack.   And don’t worry, he’ll buy you a drink to celebrate your loss.

Even the staunchest lady in the room can’t help but smile when the Magnificent Bastard comes around.  She thinks he’s crude and inappropriate, but deep down, she’s on his level.  The Magnificent Bastard doesn’t waste his time with those who are so quick to be offended or aren’t on his level.   If he engages you, he knows that you aren’t porcelain.  He sees in your mind that you’re just as twisted and depraved as he is and it’s about time you two get to know each other.    He’s not out to treat you like a gentle lady, but he does abide by customs.  He’s not here to rescue you, he’s here to debate you.  He’s out to get under your skin and ruffle some feathers.  You may want to throttle him, but you’ll still be smiling as he steals your heart.   Will he goad you? Yes.  Will he tease?  Yes.  But that’s because he’s interested.  Debate and argue are part of his charm.  But he never aims to maim, just have a good time.  The thin skinned lass and lad should stay clear, because the Magnificent Bastard doesn’t pull punches or go easy on you.  He’ll push you to your limits just to get a rise out of you.   He’ll steal your cookies but you won’t go hungry.  He'll be inappropriate and will make you blush, but in a good way.

Try as you might to hate him, at the end of the day, when you’re all alone, you’ll find yourself smiling.   But why?  Twenty minutes ago he had you so pissed off about his not agreeing with you on such trivial matters, and now… smiling? Yup… that’s what happens.

Let us embrace the one, the only, Magnificent Bastard.  Friend to all, enemy to those who truly deserve it.

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