Told You So, Beeyatches!

To revisit the Casey Serin days, this clip is such a laugh. (My god, it even uses the term "liar loans")

For all of us who wheedled, cajoled and threatened to strangle people who were defying the natural laws of "how things work", this is a great parody.

Now, as realtors walk into restaurants across America and ask for pre-printed applications to become waiters; as former bankers try to sell clothes in commission-based stores;as the Big Three automakers finally choke on their last death rattle gasps of air before passing on--they who kept shoving gas-horking SUV's down our throats as petrol was actually *unavailable* in some parts of the country, I would just like to take a minute to chuckle.

Because as Joe Six-Pack and Corporate America simultaneously bemoan the passing of the guard, I'm a part of society that still believes, strongly, in the truisms of America: innovation, work ethic, and an ability to transform as the times change.

I applaud the businesses who have done so, and have no sympathy for those who think "The Government" (and must I actually say, there's no such thing as "Government" money. It's your money. It's my money. There. Is. No. Such. Thing. As. Government. Money.) should bail them out after quarters, years, and sometimes decades of diminishing bottom lines and a complete unwillingness to accept and adopt more current ways of thinking and practice.

Bottom line, any "bailout" defies the very principles of capitalism.

I could go on and on, but instead I'll post the, perhaps, most interesting piece I've read this year. My greatest takeaway from this article was the call for Americans to once again innovate. Because it's who we are. It's what we do.

I certainly don't know when it became a virtue in this country to sit on one's ass and bemoan the state of affairs. I also don't know when it became a crime to be an intellectual in America. But both of these things seem to have happened over the course of the past decade.

Enough is enough.


For Laura

Sorry we haven't been able to connect lately. I really hate that I haven't been available to hear all about the trials, tribulations and excitement of your new life.

Along the same line of thought, I heard this song a couple of days ago...one that I haven't heard in at least a decade, but one I occasionally hummed in my head before I met you. I always thought it was such a beautiful letter so someone, so heartfelt in its intent. It was a song that I always thought should have been attached to a person, or at least a time, in my life. That was never the case.

When I heard it the other day, I immediately thought of you. I had finally found the connection to this song that would catapult it from Hallmark Greeting Card to heartfelt outpouring of gratitude. I've been pulling up the video to hear the song and am surprised to realize that there's not one word of this I would change to more appropriately express how much I think of you.

So think of this as an e-card of sorts. I suspect you're a bit ass-over-teakettle right now, as we all are after a major move. And so I hope this will be a jolt of comfort and love as you traverse your new world. I hope that whether you need it (or just for a smile), this song might pop into your head, and you'll know that there's someone who really thinks the world of you...not just your best side, not even the side you choose to show to the world, but someone who loves you on your good days and bad, and can never say "Thank You" enough.

(I especially like the Depression-Era circus sideshow element to the video. It seems all too appropriate, in ways that we'll share a jaded chuckle about sometime soon...)

(lyrics follow)

You've been so kind and generous, I don't know how you keep on giving
For your kindness I'm in debt to you
For your selflessness, my admiration
For everything you've done, you know I'm bound, I'm bound to
thank you for it....

You've been so kind and generous, I don't know how you keep on giving
For your kindness I'm in debt to you
And I never could have come this far without you
For everything you've done, you know I'm bound, I'm bound to
thank you for it....

Oh, I want to thank you for so many gifts you gave with love and tenderness,
I wanna thank you
I want to thank you for your generosity, the love and the honesty that you gave me
I want to thank you, show my gratitude, my love and my respect for you,
I wanna thank you

Oh I want to thank you, thank you, thank you,
thank you, thank you, thank you...


Ummm...It's a Snake...

I can only guess that, since this is really the origin of children being creaed, there is an argument that this is somehow appropriate:

But really, who the fuck lets their kids climb out of the head of a giant penis?


Home Invasion or Car Robbery

If any of us were given these two options, knowing that one would be inevitable, the answer is unbelievably simple. Of course, I would prefer that someone damage my property rather than terrorize me personally.

But when the lesser option happens--when you walk out to your car in the morning to find your car glass bashed to fuck by a sledgehammer--you really look for an optimistic viewpoint to make the pain, hassle, and financial ramifications seem not so bad.

All day today, I kept thinking of the face-plate that I never take off of my car stereo. I know I should, but I don't. So when I saw all of the broken glass, that was the first thing I checked out. And, fuck me, the stereo was still there. As was every other piece of my car. No one had tried to jimmy the lock on my glove compartment, no one had broken the steering column of my car to try to steal it...nothing.

I was at peace with this for, um, maybe two minutes. Then I got even more angry. Because if parts were taken off the car, I could understand. I would inevitably default to a much more empathetic humanist mode where I thought, "Yeah, the economy sucks. This guy had kids to feed. My car stereo represents a whole lot more to him than it ever would to me."

But you know what? This was just simple douchbaggery. Last night-slash-this morning there were a dozen cars in my neighborhood that were similarly vandalized. Soft-top convertibles were slashed beyond recognition. Windows and doors slammed to shit.

So this was just *fun* to someone.

Thanks for the Wednesday, asshole. I really didn't fucking need this....



Last night as I lay in bed, somewhere between sleep and reality, I remembered a creepy coincidence.

A year or so ago, I got a call from a friend. He says, in a kind of halting and disturbed, though not scary, voice, "I...just...got...the...STRANGEST...voice mail." I jumped in, as I was cooking dinner, and said with a funny voice, "Was it Samuel L. Jackson telling you there were snakes on a muthafuckin plane?" giggling gleefully as I delighted in my own funny.


Because I was still laughing at my own cleverness, it took me a second. "Wait. What. WHAT? WHAT THE FUCK?!"

And so it turned out that, as a part of the marketing genius for said shitty movie, you could spam a friend with the voicemail recording of Samuel El Jackson bitching about snakes and planes. I swear I didn't know about this, much less send the spam. But I've always understood, even today, that my defense is practically nonexistent. Really...I just thought it was the most bizarre thing I could spout off in the moment. Who the fuck knew it would be true?

A few months later, I was talking to said friend again. I started the conversation with, "You'll never guess who I ran into tonight." I expected him to answer with the name of a long-lost classmate or some such.

Instead he says, "Luke Perry."

I froze, expecting to blurt out "No! Guess again!" and put him through his mentalist paces. But I was completely fucking gobsmacked because I'll be damned if the answer really wasn't Luke fucking Perry!

I talked to him tonight and told him about falling asleep and randomly thinking about how creepy this was. He was nonplussed. In part, I think, because he might still think that I sent the random voicemail marketing to him. He claims that the Luke Perry answer was, in his mind, searching for the lowest-level celebrity he could think of.

I argued, "But I said 'You'll never guess who I ran into!'" His response was that the phrase alone implied celebrity status, and since I wasn't excited, it was lowball. I think he's full of it, thinking that these are truly creepy conversations.

"It was dismissed as a coincidence," he said, sounding bored with my rant.



When it happens, it's often unexpected but always permanent. Loss changes us. Sometimes it occurs in small, maddening forms. I had forgotten my password to this blog, for instance. It was seemingly irretrievable, floating in the ether, and so was a form of communication that had become important to me. It frustrated me to no end. And the more I fought to try to remember the magical passkey that would get me back here, the further it buried itself in the recesses of my mind.

For months as I tried to fall asleep, tossing and turning in the bed, I thought about topics and ideas I'd like to discuss here, if only I could retrieve that crucial information from my grey matter. Only when I relaxed enough to almost forget about it did that magic code reveal itself to me.

This past calendar year has offered plenty of loss. Tonight I touched base with loss again, an entity I'm starting to think of as some sort of personified nemesis. But this was no mere password. Instead, I met up with an incredibly dear friend of mine. This is a person who I don't get to see nearly enough, and even when I do, I feel like the time I spend with him is going to be cut short very soon. Because he's dying of cancer. And each time we meet up, I try my best to savour each moment, committing as many seconds to memory as I can, knowing that this could well be the last.

Pancreatic cancer was new to me when he finally revealed his diagnosis. I was one of hardly a handful of people that he's told. I wasn't the first. I might have been the last. He came to me after he told his only family member and to this day I know the only reason he reached out to me is that, in telling her, the reality of death working its way through his body had become all too real.

I researched the disease immediately and learned that, like cervical cancer, this is something that quietly takes over one's body and is, in effect, a death sentence. I don't claim to understand any of its brutal nuances. I only know that pain management is his only available option and my friend takes a great deal of pride in hiding his pain. But when you know him well, you can see the "bad days" in his eyes. When his eyes don't give him away, his killer is often physically manifest when his calves swell to three times the size of his ever-diminishing thighs.

And so when we met up tonight, we hugged long and hard, as is his wont. It's a little too much physical affection for my usual comfort level. But this is his way. And as I do with close friends, I acquiesce to his native tongue.

The first thing I noticed tonight was that I could feel his spine through his shirt as we wrapped our arms around each other and embraced for a full minute or more. I immediately lapsed into a very seldom used maternal mode, bitching that he was too thin and asking if he was eating. He told me that he's been participating in drug studies, lacking both health insurance and any sort of effective treatment options for pancreatic cancer.

A part of me was thrilled that he was involved with any sort of drug study. Because there are no other options. And so the fact that he's considered the walking dead gives him entry into the world of human lab rats. And for a moment, I thought, this is where being the working poor and half-dead will actually help---he might be one of the few people on the forefront of getting some sort of longevity, beyond the usual 12-24 month prognosis.

Perhaps even more so because he's gay, I have a sense of deja vu, thinking of days before "the cocktail" became an increasingly effective method of keeping older friends alive. Not cured. Not entirely healthy. But alive.

But these studies are often a panacea at best, and at worst, contribute more and/or worse side effects than the disease itself. My friend told me that his last round of experimental drugs resulted in constant vomiting. And for a person who has a really great day when he has the appetite and/or constitution to ingest 800-1,000 calories in 24 hours, this is not at all a side effect that he can afford.

I listened, silently, attentively, in shock and admiration at his courage to fight for his life at such an expense. Also in quiet awe, my brain processing this new information after nearly a year of continuously worrying about his health. While I've had glimpses into how hard this must be for him, I've also known there was so much that he was keeping from me. And this was a piece of that secret life.

As he told me about the next round of drug studies in which he would participate, his body started to heave and convulse as he murmured quiet expletives. It was like watching a woman in labor breathing through a contraction. He had no control of it, was consumed by pain, and yet all too aware of his public display. I've never seen him like this. I was frozen, trying to think of what I could do to alleviate his pain, as I realized that so many of his private moments are spent like this.

I sat by, completely ineffective, as my friend collected himself. Still obviously in pain, he began to profusely apologize to me for having made a scene. I sputtered, trying to say something, anything, that made sense, as he continued to apologize and berate himself for losing control and making me feel uncomfortable.

This--what to call it?--graciousness is characteristic of my friend. Most of us, myself included, would not default to apology in the grips of such inordinate catastrophe. Especially one that alters every aspect of daily life. Yet he was mortified by this display of his own vulnerability, and truly concerned that he had scared me.

Nothing I said would placate him. He continued to babble apologies. Finally, I put a hand on his now very small thigh. I stared into his eyes and told him something that only a handful of my friends know, because it's not something I talk about anymore.

My father died when I was young. He was a tall, handsome, adventurous and highly intelligent guy. One day, he felt...not sick, but "puny," as he called it. The feeling continued for several weeks. Finally, my mother forced him to go to the doctor. The doctor ordered tests. And the hospital staff that read the results called my family, sans only me and my pops, into a room to let them know that he had terminal cancer. Inoperable and untreatable. But they weren't going to tell him, because they feared it would only hasten his demise.

My father quickly morphed, physically, into a mere shell of himself. The only thing I've ever seen to compare his physical stature are photos of Nazi internment camps. He was skeletal. I remember at one point his knees being his most prominent feature.

My father died almost exactly three months to the day from that fateful meeting my family endured at hospital. It was a Tuesday. I've long since forgotten the date, but I somehow know the day. My mother was several hours late in picking me up from school and my private school administrators all stayed well past their working hours to uncharacteristically swoon around me, knowing that when she did arrive she would tell me that my small world had changed forever.

It's difficult to describe how I reacted. I was intelligent enough to know that this was coming, although no one ever told me in preparation. But I was also young enough that I was still learning what "Tuesday" was. Because I was still discovering my world, without preconceived notions, my father's death was probably much easier on me than it was for the adults in my world.

The following years were a different story. I always answered honestly and comfortably when anyone asked about my father. But my answer that "my father died" caused great and obvious discomfort to whomever had asked me a benign or pointed question. The immediate response, one that I grew to hate, was "Oh, I'm so sorry!"

So I found myself comforting people. Constantly. Strangers. Acquaintances. Fiancees of sixth-generation family members at dinners I didn't want to attend in the first place. And what I learned in those years was a greater loss than even losing my father. It was a loss of normalcy that I didn't know I lacked. I mourned my father much more in those years than I ever did during the adjustment period after his death.

For decades I had to comfort people, some well-intentioned and others who weren't so much so, because they didn't know how to deal with my father's death, despite the fact that they never knew him. Growing up, his death ultimately became most significant to me in this way---that I had to constantly apologize to other people. In these settings, my loss was diminished or negated entirely by people who merely who felt uncomfortable.

Tonight, I told my friend this story, with one hand on his leg and another on the side of his face. And his face softened. He no longer felt the need to apologize. I hope he no longer felt embarrassed. What I do know is that he understood the point of my disclosure.

I finished my story and looked deeply into his eyes, saying slowly and clearly, "I grew up having to make up for things that adults around me didn't understand. Their obvious discomfort, shocked looks and prolonged silences meant that I had to comfort them. And it frankly pissed me off. I won't lie to you and say that I know or understand what's going on. But I will never, never, make you feel like you have to comfort me as you go through this."

As I said this, his cab arrived and slowed to a stop behind him. He climbed into the backseat, his normal grin restored. He reached out for a hug and as I leaned in and embraced him he kissed me on my cheek. The cab drove off and I was once again left with the feeling that this might be the last time I see my friend. But I know we both got something we needed tonight--no apologies.



Anyone else think that this looks like a vagina?


2007 Year in Review

I have to admit, I'm a little surprised. (Then again, maybe I shouldn't be, considering the copious quantities of champagne I've consumed tonight....)

I encountered people tonight who actually cried, so thankful were they that this year had come to a close; people who were longing for better days in the new year.

On the other hand, there were others who were so thankful for what the past year had brought them that they showed inordinate amounts of kindness to friends who were suddently stuck in the midst of travel, work, or other obligations---they opened their homes and lives without a second thought and set tableaux that would have brought a tear to Norman Rockwell's eye.

I've been a part of so many of these moments in the past months that I don't quite know where to begin. Of course, it has me thinking about my own 2007 recap. There are many events in the latter part of this year that I've kept mum about, but even still, here's my take on the past year:

It has been an absolutely bizarre year, and that has coloured my take on a lot of things, especially in the past few months. At the same time, I am so thankful for the friendships that have burgeoned and evolved over the past year.

So many new, energetic, and interesting people have come into my life this year....and thank goodness. It's been far too easy in the last few years to just write people off. This year, I remembered how much I really enjoy people--enjoying having them surprise me, enjoying their quirks, having such a good time unearthing who they really are. And these reminders have come from the most unexpected corners of my life.

As I learned to appreciate new people again, the more I appreciated the people who were already in my life. I don't get to really 'touch' the people that I love with any kind of regularity, but I think of them nearly everyday, and I am so thankful for the people I love, and god help them, who love me.

People surprised me this year....

This blog was certainly an element of that. I never could have imagined when, at the beginning of the year on Super Bowl Sunday, I decided to create a blog, that I would meet, chat with, and get to know, such an extraordinary collection of people across the globe.

Yes, I'm still shite at maintaining email contact. And for that I sincerely apologize. But I have so enjoyed our conversations over the past year, and hope that continues.

And while I've taken a decidedly hands-off approach to politics in the past few years, despite some fairly juicy offers to re-enter the arena, I'm cautiously excited that Americans seem to be re-engaged as well.

The most recent example in my mind was when I met with a good friend of the family a few days ago. He's an old-money, old-school, for all intents and purposes, good ol' boy. He told me about sitting in a coffee shop and chatting up the old guy next to him about who they would vote in as President...my friend said that, if he had to vote today, it would be Obama. The other old guy looked at him like he was crazy and said, well, for me it would be Hillary.

As he was relaying this story to me, our family friend was tickled pink, as they say. Here's the quote: "Oh my Gawd, Aspeth! I just couldn't get over how far we'd come in my lifetime!!! Here I was the old southern white man who would punch my ticket for a black President, and the old black man next to me wants to vote in the white woman!!!"

Personally, I've got a different favorite, but I'm not going to discuss that right now, and I'm not opening the floor to political diatribes. I just think it's a really interesting state of what I'm seeing around me.

Art and culture seem to be following suit. There have been some intriguing movies in the past year. Khaled Hosseini's amazing novel The Kite Runner was translated to film. If you haven't read this book, please do. It's a heartbreaking, yet very real look into Afghanistan. Many of us are finally remembering that nation, which was the bridge between 9/11 and Iraq, and this film is evidence of that.

Okay, truth be told, I have the attention span of a gnat. So I rarely sit through movies. I'll read a book for weeks on end, but I can't sit still for two hours to watch something on a screen. So when I do watch a flick, I want something that either moves me to heights I didn't know I had within my soul, or I just want to be fucking entertained.

YouTube is more my style, as I can flit around and find anything that suits me in any given moment. I look for a lot of music....a line gets stuck in my head and YouTube is often the fastest and easiest way to hear a song that's been driving me crazy for days on end, or one that just came to me as I'm sitting in traffic.

So one of my favorite things of 2007 has been this link, which I'm dropping in below. For some reason, this song keeps coming to me as I'm in the shower, and I find myself performing karaoke as I wash my hair. The lines "Broadcast me a joyful noise unto the times, Lord, Count your blessings. Ignore the lower fear, Ugh, this means war. It's been a bad day. Please don't take a picture..." consumes me as I'm scrubbing my head with suds, and I break out into a fairly hearty concert version of the song.

Then I found the YouTube link, and I'm frankly fascinated with the band's accurate re-enactment of shitty Nancy Grace-esque 24-7 news reporting. It's a witty, scary, brow-archingly thoughtful, "Over to you, Ted" take on modern American media. And I like it. And I just have to call it the video of the year.

So what I'm really trying to say here, in my usual verbose manner, is that I hope you enjoyed the past year, are thankful to put it to bed, and optimistic about the events that may unfold in your life in the new year.

The champagne is kicking my ass -- no, more like a mule kicking me in the head -- and I have to go drop into bed now. Happy New Year to you all!

Best wishes,