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Tuesday, October 29, 2013

WUMF: October 2013 GIRAFFE Edition

I think someone should dress as a giraffe for Halloween and go around trick or treating with their head hung in shame.


Because, while it is not obvious what the inside joke would be, the social scientist in me would love to see how many people would immediately think of that goofy meme upon seeing a giraffe coming up their walk.    There would not even be an acknowledgement of sorts, just "What answer did you give?"  And you would know.  You would flat out know that two complete strangers would have that connection based on social media.

By the way, the answer is "The door."
No matter how many people say eyes, the given circumstance is that you have already woke up because you know your parents are on the front stoop with goodies.  So, the only thing you can open first, with that pretense, is the door.

Frankly, my parents are in their 70s and if they show up on my doorstep with a basket of food at 3AM, I'm calling the cops.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Newton's 3rd Law of Conflicting Advice

Random people will dispense with advice about life, but for every nugget of wisdom there is an equal yet opposite saying.

So, which do you listen to?  Do you follow your heart, your gut, or your brain?

Well, never give up, but know when to quit, because absence makes the heart grow fonder when it’s out of sight and out of mind.     

Fools rush in where angels fear to tread, hastily making waste but throwing caution to the wind.  So, dive right in to the deep end early to get the worm.    

If you really love something, set it free.   If it comes back, it’s meant to be, but hold on tight with both hands because opportunity knocks but once.  Even if birds of a feather flock together, opposites do attract.  So, go out and get that stitch in time because all good things come to those who wait.

While too many cooks spoil the soup, many hands make light work for fools that seldom differ when great minds think alike.

Truth is, no one knows what the hell they’re doing.   They only know their own experiences and even then they could all be bad.  So, go out and take the bull by the horns but if you’re going to live by the sword, be prepared to die by it.   And don’t complain about walking in another man’s shoes because you were told not to judge a book by its cover even if it looks, walks, and quacks like a duck.

Live.  Laugh.  Love.  But if you have nothing nice to say, shut it.

Don’t let someone else dictate your path.  They don’t have to travel it.   Just don’t do it blindly…. Even if love and justice are.

I am a jack of all trades yet master of none and just remember, I told you so.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Rewind Replay Remember

You kids don’t know how easy you have it.  In my day, if we wanted to hear a song we loved, we had two choices: buy the album or record the song off the radio.

Buying the album was the easy way out, but we didn’t have the disposable income to go buy every album under the sun just because we liked one song.    Of course, that changed towards the end of the 80s when the “Cassingle” was introduced.  But had to be the song you wanted.  If it was buried towards the end of the album the chances were you would never get it in that format.  So, that leaves you with option two; record it.

Recording was a bitch, even with one touch recording.  If you had the time and tape, you could set up the radio to just record an hour’s worth of music and then just hope to find the song you liked.  Again, it had to have been released on the radio, but it was doable.  Problem was, most songs had incessant DJ chatter over the beginning or end of songs which usually took up the instrumental opening of most songs.  OR… they’d lower the volume of the song at the end and cut it short.  

Then, came mp3s and iPods and iTunes and YouTube.   Now, you can get to any song, any version, live or acoustic recordings, and even mash-ups all at the click of a mouse.  The precision timing of a record/stop movement on a boom box equipped with a TDK DNR 90 minute cassette is a lost art form.  Go ask your mom and dad and get off my lawn.

But to that point, did you ever have a song that you wore out with repeated replays?  Was there one song that forced you to break out the No. 2 pencil and do reconstructive surgery on the wheels of a Maxell or Memorex, because of continual rewind and replays, over an evening of dark sunglass brooding due to a case of heartbreak or unrequited love?

I remember setting up one tape to record every time I heard Bryan Adams’ “Everything I do”.  That way, I could just run through 30-45 minutes worth of Michael Kamen/Canadian Pop Rock God influenced cheese to fulfill my inner dork.  Eventually, I had one or two versions intact among all the DJ chatter and overlapping of other songs.    After a marathon session of gaming on my Apple IIC on a lonely Friday night, I’d set the boom box to just play that one tape and I’d slowly doze off into dreamland.   Of course, the harsh reality of the world would snap itself with the end of the tape and that distinctive “CLICK” of the end of the tape.

Other times, I’d just turn on the tapes and just relax, trying to focus on the music.   In a teenage state of constantly over analyzing the universe, I’d want to focus on every note and every word of a song.  Ultimately, my mind would drift off and I wouldn’t realize that the song was over and I missed it.  So, I’d reach up from my horizontal state, and with one finger, REWIND, REPLAY, and REMEMBER.

When I graduated high school, I found another song to replace Bryan Adams…  I already had the Robin Hood soundtrack on CD by then and could simply just choose “Repeat One” on my boom box.   So, the need to focus on capturing that one song was no longer an issue.   So, I obsessed on one song that sort of became my anthem of change.  It was an anthem of letting go.  It was the song I used in order to deal with life’s changes.  I was a freshman heading 600 miles to school, trying to find my way to an "Ordinary World".

Yes, roll your eyes, Internet.  Roll your eyes at the concept of an 18 year old male, stuck in love, and 600 miles away from his high school girlfriend, listening to an early 90s Duran Duran song on Cassingle.  The other songs were an acoustic version and Save a Prayer, by the way.  I wore that tape out so much that the cardboard sleeve disintegrated before Sophomore year.  My Walkman hated me for always piping that song through my foam covered earphones again and again as I rode my bike through the quiet campus in Myrtle Beach.   And when we broke up in 1995 and I would find myself wrapped like a cocoon in my dorm at Pitt, single and lonely, I’d reach up and click, with that one finger, rewind, and then replay.  It was so I could remember.

I heard it today on the Lite FM station, coming into work.   I wish I had a rewind button on the radio, but I didn’t.  I just tried to sit there and be absorbed in the,  now, 38 year old’s anthem for coming to grips with the world of change.  Slowly trying to get his life in order and learning to survive with all that has gone down.  I know I haven’t REALLY talked about it and it’s just not time yet.   There are things to consider.   People.   Privacy. 

But for now, I do what I can.   




And remind.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

World Loading... Please Wait

And there, in the quiet, just before waking, everything is fine.  Then the world loads and all that bothered you from when you went to sleep is right back to being in view.
You suddenly remember the stress you’ve been holding onto.  You remember the people that you hurt or how they hurt you.  You remember the sadness and anger of the world you left for a bit as you tried to just get some rest.

What is that phenomena?  Those brief few seconds where you wake up and you don’t remember the pain you had before.   Then, just as you get that smile on your face, it all just seeps back in.  That has to suck.  It’s like that one scene in Ladyhawke where Rutger Hauer and Michelle Pfieffer have that brief interaction at dawn.  Both of them are human at the same time and almost get a glimpse of one another.    When you’re in a funk, every day is like that.  You wake up with the fleeting glimpse of something you love, just out of reach, and as it all comes into focus it disappears and you are left with the knowing that everything was crap like before.

World lag in real life.   I wonder if it’s a chemical in your brain.  Maybe that service hasn’t come online yet.  Maybe it’s a part of your brain that deals with reality and when you wake up, it takes a little longer to kick in.  It’s too bad you can’t disable it.  Maybe kill the process from your internal task manager.   Then, you could crawl out of bed, and function for awhile.   Later on, you could enable it and let it take over for awhile when nothing important is going on.  Kind of like how I deal with weekly virus scans or mandatory system updates.  Push that shit to late at night when you don’t care.   Except, that’s when it’s the worst. 

You’re in the quiet of your brain and that little voice says, “Hey… I know… remember that problem you can’t solve?  Let’s run that at max capacity and overheat your brain.  Come on, it’ll be fun!  Sure you’d rather watch some good shows or play video games or get sleep, but I’d rather run overload your system with over analysis of every little issue you have going on…. And all at the same time.”

When you finally do get to sleep, it all gets quiet and if you’re lucky, you can have a pleasant dream or at least a couple nice thoughts as you recharge.  But then, when you wake up…  BOOM, servers go online and it kicks in and you suddenly remember, “Nothing got resolved at 1:00 AM.”

Yeah, like a computer or a particular application, just walking away from it for awhile doesn’t fix it.   It’ll be there when you come back and will probably have done more damage to your system if you don’t fix it.   But in this analogy, more memory doesn’t always mean increased performance.  So, take care and get help when you have that extra CPU intensive process running in your head.     It’s not good to melt the circuitry. 

It sure as hell doesn’t help World Lag.  It just crashes harder and for longer each time.

Sunday, October 13, 2013


I give about as much credence to organized spirituality as I give to something like serendipity or fate.  It’s just how I am.   That being said, I have a hard time not seeing meaning in certain things.  For instance, the frequency with which a bright and shining object comes back into view, repeatedly, after the same period of years, has to be more than just a coincidence.  There has to be a reason why it happens.

At the age of 21, I didn't understand a lot of things.  I was a little over a year away from a disastrous relationship that challenged what I thought was real about the nature of the universe.  I was complaining that most interactions were flippant and lacked the stimulating nature I was seeking out.  I was not built for that kind of reckless abandon that was customary in that setting.   I wanted something deeper and meaningful.  I wanted something luminescent.  I wanted something not found in everyday life.

So, as I lamented my lack of luck, my coworker told me this story about a comet.   Now, I didn't give much credence to this story because after all, it's a comet.  It's like all the other comets in the universe, but he insisted this one was special.  He said it was probably the brightest, most beautiful, and coolest object that I would ever see my lifetime and that it was making its way back into view.   "Trust me, you'll love it."  Was what he said.  

Eventually, I forgot all about the story, and went on with my life.  I had found, what I thought was, a bright object of my own, but I didn't know it was false light.  As I was once again, in a state of despair, I was sitting in the darkness and something came out of nowhere.   It was the comet.  It was everything my friend said and much, much more.  I wanted to reach out grab a hold of that comet, but, it was an impossible feat, given my place in the universe at that particular time.   But, can you really catch a comet?
Unlikely.  It moves too fast.  It slips away too easily.  And you can't tell a comet to wait until you catch up, because even if you could speak in the awesomeness of the space that it occupies, your words would make no sound.  It doesn’t matter, anyways.  It’s a comet and doesn’t know what it is.  It has no concept of your admiration for it.  It wouldn't understand the words you would use to describe it.  It just tears up the skyline, blinding you from afar, giving you glimpses of what could be.  Even if you could reason with a comet, you're stuck where you're at and it's on its way through the universe.   And try as you might, to slip the surly bonds of Earth, you'd be lucky to see the comet still in view once you finally reach escape velocity.

Every so many years, that comet comes back.  You either spy it, or somehow it just shows up looking to be found.  For a brief moment, you can appreciate it from afar.  You may even think you can get close enough to finally catch it, but again, you're waiting for that rocket to break free and the comet is moving faster than you.   Always moving. 

Is it coincidence, or predestined path that will continually intersect with you?  How much time do you have before the comet disappears forever?  And does the comet care?  After all, it's a comet.  It's not made for this world.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Weddings and Toasts

Weddings are a polarizing subject, depending on who you speak to.   To the involved, it’s a lot of stress and work over a year or more boiled down to one day of joy or frustration.   The problem is you’ll only remember it if it goes wrong.  

To the bridal party, it’s an opportunity to really define the bonds of friendship.  How much of the bride can you take before you are no longer BFFs?   Let’s face it, grooms are easy.  If they’re awake, they’re fine.   

To the families, it becomes a testament to micromanagement and tolerance of one another.   The majority of the costs usually fall to the bride's family, while the groom's parents usually pick up the rehearsal dinner and bar tab at the reception.  Then there's little sniping back and forth about the seating arrangements.  Who is closest to the bar?  Who gets to the buffet first?  Can we put Uncle Wears-bib-overalls-to-a-funeral next to the snobs from their side of the family?  If you're lucky, the fathers won't be involved in fisticuffs before the cake gets cut.

And to the guests, it’s an excuse to get sloppy drunk at an open bar, to ridicule the people at the party to their date, and to possibly do stupid things all for the price of a gift no one will ever use and an afternoon dressed up in uncomfortable clothes which will undoubtedly be disheveled by the bridal dance.

But, you have to look beyond all these things, though, and find the magic.   You have to see the subtext.  You have to see the inner-workings of the process to understand how much hell you have to go through, just to make it to the point where you can give advice to future couples and not be full of shit.

That’s what I did over the weekend. 

It started out innocent enough.  My family travelled towards the middle of Pennsyltuckey for one of my best friend’s wedding.    We arrived on a Thursday night and stayed until Saturday.  We planned for minimal impact as I brought along a suit, a change of clothes and another backup shirt.   I was way ill prepared for the event.

Thursday night, my buddy stayed at the hotel, while his wife to be stayed at the house.  I decided to help him relax by taking him out for a few drinks with my Father-in-law.  We went to a little bar in Lewisburg called The Bull Run.  The night started out rather innocent.  We talked over beers and then it got interesting.   After a Blue Moon and two Smithwicks I decided to take up the karaoke microphone and serenade my brother in harms with Georgia Satellites  “Keep Your Hands To Yourself”.  Not too bad.  Then a bunch of girls from Bucknell came in and it got even more interesting.   By the end of the night, I was completely trashed and singing, badly, “Save a Horse, Ride a Cowboy” to the coeds who turned out to be all together… like romantically.   It also didn’t help I was wearing a shirt that said, “Let’s get drunk and make some bad decisions.”

Friday, feeling not too bad, we went to the wedding in full suits.  It was outdoors and just hot and humid enough to melt.  My daughter was dying of thirst and proclaimed that “I am so thirsty that I hope it rains so I can drink it and cool off.”

It poured from the beginning of the four minute ceremony until the end.  Well played, universe.

Now, the typical person would look at this event and see an unmitigated disaster.  All the planning, all the stress, all the work, all gone in an instant with a deluge of water.  The superstitious person would take this as a good sign.  I took it as a chance for this couple to remember their wedding day forever.  And I told the bride, “You know that thing you worry about happening on your wedding day?  That thing that could ruin it all.   Well, that was it.  That is the worst thing that will happen today, I guarantee it.  And you know what?  It wasn’t that bad.   We got through the wedding in four minutes, you’re married, and no one is hot anymore.”  

I forgot about the fact that none of us were going to be able to wear these clothes to the reception, unfortunately.  There was one guest laundry facility in the hotel and it was being used.  So, I ended up wearing the shirt from the night before and jeans, because it was the cleanest change of clothes I had to wear.

So, there I am in jeans and a t-shirt, seated at a wedding alongside people in suits.  Worse yet,  I was the best man and had to give a toast.  A toast I worked very hard on writing and was typed up,  printed out, folded in quarters, and nestled snuggly in my suit coat pocket.   It was a horrible mess and disintegrated in my hands.   But I used that.  I used that and the fact that I was now dressed in street clothes to get my point across.  I love these people, dearly, and it was probably the easiest speech I ever gave from memory.  

I stood up and immediately acknowledged what happened to my clothes and pulled out the sopping mess of a speech to great laughs.   The audience was mine.   I spoke about how I had known the groom for 17 years and how he never took my advice about anything.  His past relationships came up, playfully mind you, and without malice.  Then I mentioned how the first meeting with his bride, during a vacation, immediately resulted in acceptance and love from complete strangers.  She was, in fact, the perfect person for him.  He had finally taken my advice.  Then, a cell phone went off, saving me at a transitional dead end.  It was the familiar ringtone of the Theme From The Godfather, emanating from a friend who everyone knew and I used that to my advantage to bring back the crowd.   I then proceeded to give the following advice to the couple.
  1. Communicate.  I don't mean talk to each other.  I mean listen.  Tell each other what you want.  Share your hopes, thoughts, fears, everything.  Don't expect each other to guess or automatically know.  That's years down the road.  You guys are still only three years into your relationship.  You have a lot to learn about each other.

  2. Fight.  I don't mean physically, mind you.  There is nothing that could be more detrimental to your longevity than giving up on something just because you don't care.  Whether it's an argument over paint colors or money or the future of your marriage. If you are passionate about it, you need to defend that.  Exhaust all possibilities or you will set up a pattern of abuse that will erode your individuality and integrity and resentment will creep in quickly.

  3. Don't Get Comfortable.  Marriage is not about reinventing the wheel.   After a year or two, you'll get into a rhythm and things will become automatic.  You may not even notice it.  It's gets boring and stagnated and eventually you start to just ignore each other because you think that being married means never being alone.  Always stay on edge and on top of things.

  4. Have Fun.  Don't be afraid to do stupid things every once in awhile.  Get out of your comfort zone and fail.  Be spontaneous. I just had my 20 year reunion last weekend and this couple who graduated in 1951, crashed it.  This 87 year old guy was out dancing with a bunch of 38 year old women and he basically owned the joint.  His date , who he had reconnected with after 60 years, told me "He loves to just have fun.  That's what you gotta do.  You gotta have fun."  They had separate rooms that night, but I think only one got used.

Every word was true.   I spoke from experience.  I spoke from failure.  I spoke from the heart.  I can only hope they remember it as much as they do their wedding.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013


For the first time, out of four missed opportunities, I went back to high school by attending my 20 year reunion.  In fact, this whole year has been a trip back to the days when I was young and stupid.  Now, I’m just older.  There’s a reason for all that, but that is not part of this story.  Let’s just say, I’ve been reborn in a manner of speaking.

But yeah, the past year has been rife with nostalgia and old feelings, some good, some bad.  Friendships rekindled.  Odds renewed.   And, in the end, the universe comes back to remind you of your place in the social cosmos of the high school hierarchy.    20 years later, you still can’t crash the cool kids party and get away without being pounded with the reminder that you are still the same guy you were back then, just older and a little bigger than you were.

Now, I didn’t mind high school.  In fact, it was probably some of the greatest times I had.  Then again, it’s possible I blocked out a lot of the bad stuff.  The awkwardness gets pushed back into the recesses of the mind while the heyday of riding around in cars with no particular place to go, being irresponsible, and being young and giddy over the feelings that inhabit your still fresh heart and mind.  You’ve got the whole world ahead of you and tomorrow is so far off in the distance.

Then, 20 years go by.  Suddenly, the panic sets into your soul.   It’s been two decades and you have not accomplished one goal you set down on paper in that biography from the back of your yearbook.  You’re going to face down the ghosts of your past and they will see the failure in your life and they will suck the last remaining ounces of hope out of you.  

So, I kind of set another goal for this milestone.  Try to get back some of those 20 years, so I can walk tall into that reunion.   I’ve spent the last 10 months working on losing weight, getting back into some shape other than round, and rediscovering that piece of me that I lost a long, long time ago.  And, I did that.  Now, I will be the first to throw myself under the bus when it comes to looks or physical stature.  However, compared to what I looked like this past October, I say, with all seriousness that, “I looked damn good.” 

But, the universe will not let you change your stars and no matter how good I looked, I knew that I was just going to be “That funny guy whose kid is hilarious on Facebook.”  The great guy with a heart of gold.   The one every parent loved but no daughter would ever consider.   I was me.    All that build up.  The prep.  The thinking that, “This time, it’s different” meant nothing, because as soon as I walked in that door, I was back in high school.  Awkward.  Backwards.  I was me.

I ended up leaving early, rather than just hang about in the back, being an observer. And, from what I gathered from the pictures that actually made it onto Facebook, the party only got better after I left.  Not saying because…  Just saying it did.  The whole night was a disaster for me.  My brand new suit was like a heater and even after changing into shorts and a t-shirt to be more comfortable, I could never get comfortable.  I wanted to leave.

Why?  Because, what I failed to remember, from 20 years ago, was that I did everything I could to get away from that place.  Yeah, I hung around a few times, post graduation, because I still had friends there, but that school, that town, that life was not what I wanted.  I left for college and went as far as I could.  I landed in Myrtle Beach, some 600 miles away, and even though I transferred back to Pitt, a mere six months later, I stayed away as much as possible.   After college, I moved closer to Pittsburgh, adding to the distance.  But, after all that time, the draw of certain elements in that town made me think what I wanted was to be back in that world.  I was wrong.

My only fun came from an impromptu dance with one of the older ladies of the wait staff and joking with the bartender.  That’s who I am.  I go to a reunion to see people I graduated with 20 years prior and I have more fun with people I barely know and just met.  

Which reminds me.  Last Saturday was a reunion of another sort.  It was a reunion between two people who haven’t been together in close to 60 years.   Early on, while making various attempts to flee to the parking lot to gain some composure, I noticed this older couple walking through the halls.  I smiled at them holding hands but paid them little mind.   When I came back, the dinner was over and the DJ was trying to ramp up the energy and get people moving.     Out of boredom, I went and moved the car closer to the building in order to hasten my escape.  When I came back this second time, there was a burst of energy coming from the ballroom.   What the hell was going on in there?

When I walked in, I noticed everyone on the dance floor sort of circling around, clapping and whooping it up.  As I got a better look, I recognized that older couple I noticed in the hallway absolutely tearing up the dance floor.   I couldn’t believe it.  We had been crashed by a couple from another party.  It was amazing.   They danced with each other and the guy shamelessly chased around women more than half his age and they ate it up.  One of my classmates was dressed in a leopard print outfit and this older gentleman looked like he was on safari, ready to bag big game.

I was speechless.   This guy.  This beautiful human being, unabashedly and successfully stole all the thunder from everyone.  I loved him for it.  I admired him for it.  He did what I so wanted to do and he was ten times better at it then I ever could have been.  I had to know what was up.

During a marathon dance session I spied his date, having a rest, and I took the opportunity to find out what their story was.   Because, you know, that’s what I do.  I ignore all the people I graduated with and seek out a complete stranger to engage.    Also, I love a good story and this one had to be a good one, right?  Turns out, they were at his class reunion from 1951.  I guess as you get older, you tend to forgo the “every five years” convention.  The gentleman was a retired urologist who, even at his age, still had the mojo.  But that wasn't even the best part of the story.  His date filled me in with the rest.

“We dated our freshman year of college.  Then we stopped.  He went off to war.  I stayed in school.”

“What happened?”  I asked. “Why did you guys split up?”

“I don’t know.  We were young.  Who knows?  The timing wasn’t right.”  

“But you’re together now?”

“Oh, yes, and it’s been wonderful.    But during the years we were apart, I lost two husbands and last year, he  lost his wife.   But somehow, someway, we found each other, again.”

I was in tears at this point.  “That is way beyond awesome.”
Then she asked me, “Why aren’t you out there?”

“Me?  Oh hell, no.”

“You can’t dance?”

“I wouldn’t say that.  It’s a long story.  I just don’t have that spark.  Not like your guy out there.”

“You know he’s 87 years old and he just loves doing stuff like this.  He loves being out there with those young girls.”

“I can tell. ”

“You should get out there, too."

“No.  Thanks.  Just no.”

Then she laid the wisdom on me.  “Do you know how to make it work?   You gotta have fun.  You gotta be able to get out there and just have fun.   And, you gotta whisper sweet nothings in her ear, all the time.  BELIEVE ME, IT WORKS!”

Waterworks in full effect. 

“Thanks.  I will remember that.”

A few more dances and they decided to go.   Even though they were on a date, they had separate rooms at the hotel.   Somehow, I think one was going to go unused.   

I finally got a chance to talk to the man of the hour and he and I had this special connection, somehow.  It was like I was staring into the future and I saw me.    And he kind of reassured me that, at 87, it doesn’t matter.  All the crap I went through to get to this point doesn’t matter.  That’s what tomorrow can be like.   He was my hero.    And then we shared that moment.  That look.  We both knew what his night had in store.  So, I told him,  “Pace yourself.  It’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon.”

He laughed with his entire being and said, “You got that right.   And I’ve finished every lap.”

Then, they were gone.  And so was I.  Bolted for the door before 11:30.  Spent the last two hours of my night watching the events unfold over Facebook.

It was a bittersweet moment.  I gained so much wisdom from those two beautiful souls.  I just hope he survived the night. 

I did.
 Party Crashers Saved My Soul

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