Went up to Big Wine Country for Thanksgiving

Went up to Big Wine Country for Thanksgiving. That’s what I call Pioneer, CA, up in the mountains about ninety minutes east of Sacramento. Not that we were there for the wine. My parents live there, and it was high time my toddler got to spend turkey day with his grandparents.

It was a nice and nothing long weekend. We got there on Thursday, and made it early enough to help with some of the preparation. My mother, bless her heart, asked me to peel “six or seven” potatoes for mashing. I tripled that. Anything less than five pounds of mashed potatoes and it’s not Thanksgiving.

On Saturday we drove into Jackson to meet Santa Claus and watch the lighting of the holiday tree. Yep, I’m going to call it that even though I just mentioned Santa Claus and virtually everyone in Amador county is Christian (with most of them leaning right on the political sway). But the big thrill for my two-year-old was, of course, the fire truck. The look on his face was like an early Christmas for me.

The weather treated us nice, with temperatures in the 50s until Monday when it finally snowed. I managed to get a run in- a four mile jaunt that started at 3900 feet, dipped down to 3800, then peaked at 4200 a mile and half later at the turn around. It was the return, that 100 foot climb over half a mile at the end that about killed me. But a cheap Mexican beer and a few shots of cheaper tequila afterwards brought me back to life.

When it did snow it wasn’t all that much, but enough for grandpa to scrape the deck and build a snowman for the kid. Grandpa also helped the wife turn a pen (that’s shop talk for: put a block of wood on a lathe, shape it, insert pen parts, coat in plastic, rejoice). And grandma made me some notebook covers (“fauxdori”) out of a few leather scraps. It was a crafty weekend.

I finally told mom and dad about my depression and anxiety. They took it in stride

It’s a quarter to 7, PM, which is post meridian, which means after noon. It’s an excruciatingly beautiful June day in northern Seattle. Not that Seattle is so vast that I need to differentiate different parts of it to assign the weather appropriately. It’s excruciatingly beautiful all over the god damned place. I’m walking to Starbucks.

Which is not true, but more interesting that what I was actually doing at that time: falling asleep as my wife sang a song to our son, about an alligator eating monkeys out of a tree, one by one. First there were five of the little bastards, teasing Mr. Alligator, so he snuck up and snatched one. Then there were four, but the monkeys didn’t seem to notice, and kept right on hassling the guy. So he snatched another. I was actually fighting sleep because I wanted to know how it ended. Would the last one figure it out, maybe repent his ways?

Nah, he got et too. Idiot.

But that’s boring, so instead, I’m walking to Starbucks. It’s warm outside, all the trees are green, and the sky is that deep blue color you get when you give up using four-letter monosyllabic words for colors and look for something fancy and poetic and crap. Like “azure” or “cobalt.”

We like our coffee here in Seattle, mostly because it’s overcast all the time and we need the caffeine to fight off the drearies. People who don’t drink coffee either take heroin or make music, or if it’s the early 90s, they do both. But today the only heroin a person could think of is heroine, with an e, like Wonder Woman, because the sky is the color of Linda Carter’s eyes. There you go.

Which begs the question: why am I walking to Starbucks at 7 PM on a gorgeous day? I dunno. On the one hand, I’m not; I’m mostly asleep on the floor in my kids room as my wife tries to get him to sit still while she changes his diaper. But there would have to be a reason, even if I’m not really walking to Starbucks. Go ahead, find Wonder Woman, have her throw that lasso around me, make me tell the truth. I’d love to know myself.

I mean, on the one hand, I’ve been dipping my toes into philosophy via books and podcasts and browsing Wikipedia. That can get a man down, whether he’s literally down on the floor in his son’s bedroom listening to his wife fight a sleep sack onto the little rascal, or merely spiritually down due to the hop-skip-jump journey he just took from Plato to Descartes to Camus to The Matrix. So there you go. Again. Even the deep warmth of Linda Carter’s deep blue eyes are nothing against a single toe frozen in the ice-cold waters of existential angst.

But on the other hand, there’s this Mindfulness thing that’s been going around. An antidote to angst. Or, an antidote to Angst’s little brother Anxiety, who is way more annoying if you ask me. And to be sure, if I’m lying on the floor of my son’s bedroom as my wife rocks him in the glider and sings Twinkle Twinkle Little Star (his favorite song) five times in a row, I can hardly consider myself “mindful” if I’m imagining myself walking to Starbucks underneath skies so blue it’s like everything else’s not-blueness just contributes to how blue it is. Maybe, though, I’m so immersed in this imaginary walk I’m mindful of the walk.

Afterall, I’m not feeling any anxiety, thinking about the sky, the press of the cement through my shoes, the traffic tootling by, the siren call of a venti mocha. I am in THAT moment. Sort of. And it’s all in MY head, see. My wife puts our son in his crib with his lovey and a stuffed rhinoceros, and I adjust my face just a bit to move out of my drool spot, and she turns on the white-noisemaker and turns off the light, and there are no shadows on the cave wall in my head, there are no demons messing with my five senses. I am really good at imagining things. I’ve got the Matrix right there inside my noggin.

My son starts to snore. I mean, I get to a crosswalk. I dutifully wait for the light, and when the little white man appears, I get up off the floor. Starbucks is just there, but it’s kind of hard to see in the dark. I am also hard to see in the dark, and a car totally ignore the red light. Probably some jerk on his cell phone. Or maybe the sky is too blue for red to even exist anymore. Camus decided that there’s no purpose to anything, so you might as well just do what you’re good at. I smile at my boy. I’m pretty good at that.

The car is a 1957 Facel Vega, of course, and it plows through me like the fifth dad pun in a string of a dozen. I never make it to Starbucks, but I do make it out of my son’s room. I walk downstairs, find my shoes. There where I took them off. It’s nice when things work out like that.

Donut Day

It’s 6 pm or maybe closer to 7 on a Friday, in the beginning of June, in Seattle, the year 2017, only a day after whatisface announced that he was ready to really destroy the earth. Really destroy it this time. I’m standing in line at Krispy Kreme. Every single teenage girl in Seattle is here. Every. Single. One.

They’re just being people, for the most part. They’re not being geese. They’re not being stereotypes. I wouldn’t even have noticed if I hadn’t noticed. Me, I’m here because I promised someone donuts as a kind of mea culpa. My wife has shanghai’d the gesture to get some donuts for herself and her parents as well. Fair enough. I’d do the same. I really like donuts.

And so does every single teenage girl in Seattle, apparently. No, really, there are a lot of them here. This is how many of them there are: if there were one more, it would be one less than too much. And one less of too much creates anxiety. Almost like, go ahead, squeeze one more in, let’s have that tipping point, let the universe collapse on itself here at the Krispy Kreme on 125th and Aurora under the weight of every single teenage girl.

That’s angst. But we’re still one away from that. The prepunultimate teenage girl is maybe that one by the door, with the blonde hair, blue eyes, braces, shirt, shorts, shoes, cell phone, donut-hungry grin. She represents pre-angst. Let’s call it prangst.

I am, me, hungry for prangst. I have been noticing a lot of things lately that are semi-connected which add up to a kind of frisson. I listened to a podcast today about Camus, and absurdism, which drifted into a discussion of Mindfulness. I have a friend who has been encouraging to me to try mindfulness, by coincidence. I have anxiety. But I value it because it makes me hypervigilant, which I take pride in. If I give up my anxiety entirely, I’ll lose my identity. But it’s making me miserable. I need to be almost anxious. Prangst.

And that’s where the frisson comes in. I am not worried, yet, that the number of teenage girls in here will reach a critical mass, yet. But I am maybe worried that I’ll be worried about it if one more comes in. And, here’s the thing, I’m being very mindful of my worries. I am in the moment. I am surrounded by almost but not quite nearly too many teenage girls.

At no point whatsoever do I wonder, at all, WHY there are so many freakin’ teenage girls here.

Somehow, the lines moves, and I’m in front of the counter. I look back– the line is exactly as long as it was when I came in. For every teenage girl that left, a new one has come. I don’t know you, whoever you are, reading this. I don’t know what teenage girls symbolize for you. And I don’t want to guess, and I refuse to worry about what you think I must mean by saying I don’t want to guess. I’m just saying that these teenage girls are not a mass of individuals, but are collective consciousness, and they are timing their exits and entries with mathematical precision. I’d thank one of them if I thought she could speak for all of them. But of course she can’t.

The guy behind the counter asks me what I’d like to have. He is utterly oblivious to how many teenage girls are in here. That’s either because he’s not hypervigilant like me, or he’s used to it. Probably, this precise number of teenage girls has been here all day. Every day. Teenage girls, it turns out, existentially, are defined by how there are always the exact same number of them in the universe, and this Krispy Kreme on 125th and Aurora is a splinter of the hologram that reflects that entire universe.

I tell the guy I want three of those and two of those and one of those and one of those and two of those. He asks me if I want a free donut.

The question is so straightforward, so simple. “Do you want a free donut?” In any other context I would assume it’s a rhetorical question. I mean, the answer is always yes. Always. Even after I’ve chose nine other donuts that I clearly have every intention of paying for, the answer is yes. And so, despite myself, I say yes. It’s automatic. And he asks me which one I want. He doesn’t mean one of the ones in the box he’s building for me. He means a tenth donut.

I glance around. The line is now one teenage girl longer than it was before. I start to sweat. I need to leave. I tell him I’ll have one of the hot ones. He tries to hand it to me, I point at the box. I glance back at the door. There’s a teenage girl standing outside of it, dark hair, dark eyes, jeans with holes on the knees, baggy sweathshirt. She’s not coming inside yet, she just talking on her cell phone. A baggy sweatshirt in Seattle on absolutely gorgeous day, a warm sunny day. We’re all going to die.

The guy scoots over to the registers and I follow suit. You know those new chip-card readers? If you have a credit card with one of those chips on it, what you do is you try to slide it like you used to do with your older credit cards, and then the machine tells you, no, stupid, insert the chip part and wait. Well, this time I don’t fuck it up. I insert. The machine almost sighs. Like, finally. For myself, I am willfully not using my peripheral vision to see if that final teenage girl has come in yet. Because my peripheral vision has already told me that  none of them have left.

The guy hands me my receipt. I try to grab it but I’ve already got my box of nine donuts plus one free one in my hands. I can’t use a number higher than nine anymore, because that’s one too many and I don’t want the impending teenage girl singularity and the donut singularity to fight over which one will collapse the universe and which one is just going to be along for the ride. I don’t even remember the guy handing me the box in the first place.
It occurs to me that whoever wins, the donuts or the teenage girls, I better call “shotgun” because you don’t want to be in the backseat when the universe ends.

But it doesn’t end, and I make it outside. I get in my car and sit there, looking at the teenage girls swarming in the door, out the door. I could say what it’s like, but I’ve already said I don’t know you, don’t know what you think of when you read the words “teenage girls.” So I can’t say what it’s like.

I start the car. The radio blares. The DJ is blathering about something, and doing an excellent job of it. Earning that daily bread. He says that I shouldn’t forget that today is Free Donut Day. I can here the capital letters in his voice.

Well, shit.

McJudgemental

I don’t know if I know exactly what a McMansion is, but I know the term is disparaging. I heard a podcast about McMansions once, and it wasn’t very nice. The way these houses were described makes me wonder if I’m standing in one right now. Or, outside one. But inside, as I’m on a covered porch, open on three sides, the fourth side connected to the rest of the house with eight-foot doors so wide, I have to look for them to be before I’m assured these people don’t wear bulky coats indoors all winter. Then again, there are directional heaters installed in the roof of this porch. And skylights. There are skylights in this porch roof.

I hesitate to describe why I’m here (lest someone read this and recognize who I’m talking about) because, as I said, I’ve already been disparaging and I shouldn’t be. We’re at a party for a friend, and the people who own this house have very graciously offered up their home to host. I mean, I’ve already had a beer, and will soon have another. To say anything even bordering on judgmental about people who invite you in and give you beer is not just bad manners, it’s downright shitty.

And yet, I can’t help but judge. I’m a judgmental prick. But that’s no excuse- just because I call myself an asshole, doesn’t excuse such behavior. In fact, that makes it worse. So I’ll focus on other things. Other generosities. That table overloaded with homemade food. A house like this, they could have easily afforded caterers replete with black bow-tie servers. But it’s all home-cooked, and although I over indulged with some leftover Chinese for lunch, my wife insists I eat something. I’m holding the baby, so she stabs food with a plastic fork and shoves in my face. It’s fucking delicious.

Some kind of music is trickling out of the overhead speakers. This damned porch ceiling is festooned with speakers, heaters, and skylights. The baby is my arms, let’s be clear, is a 25-pound toddler. He feels good in my arms. His weight anchors me, keeps me from drifting around the party. I don’t know anyone here, not the hosts certainly. I suppose I know the guest of honor and her husband, but I haven’t seen them in, literally, two years. They look great, by the way. They’re beautiful people.

My wife takes my anchor away to go find said guest of honor and talk about women things. I don’t say that disparagingly. I say that as a good excuse to not describe further what they’re going to talk about. It’s utterly alien to me. So now I’m weightless, and I drift around, off the porch, into the sun. On their perfect green grass. I end up chatting with a fellow about his impending child. Another guy joins us, they’re old friends, he also has a child looming. Another guy joins us. A fifth. No, a fourth, because they’re all old friends, and their conversation drifts to memories and such. I manage to get a few jokes in:

“I’m the only one who married a shiksa,” one guys says.
“Well, I married shiksa too,” I say.
They all look at me. A different guy says “Are you Jewish?”
I smile. “No.”

It feels like their laughter is genuine. One guy gives me a high five. Then their conversation returns to old memories, and the sun is in my eyes, and my beer is empty, so I drift away again. Making people laugh, or at least trying too, is another anchor of mine. But I don’t want to try too hard. I go find the beers. They’re on the porch.

It feels like coming home. Not really, but it’s familiar. It’s starting to get crowded at this party. These beautiful people sure do know a lot of fairly beautiful people. Maybe that’s where my wife fits in. She’s a beautiful people too, and so is my son, and the jokes my wife brings back from the guest of honor about her daughter eventually marrying our son. A good old Bollywood wedding. How we’ll go dutch on the dowry. A Jap and shegetz. It’s not disparaging if you belong to one of the ethnic groups being made fun of, right?

Let’s face it: I’m a middle-aged middle-class white guy originally from the Midwest. My very existence is racist.

You know what? Fuck that podcast. Fuck the whole idea of “McMansions.” This place is lovely and I would love to live here. I would love to throw a party here for my kid and his gori fiancee, invite all these people back, drink my own beer, drift around, peer up through the skylight as the night comes on and look at the stars and when some says to me “penny for your thoughts” I’d say, “My son’s a Guju getting married to a Jew, so I’m going to maybe have to bargain with you on that price you’re offering me.”

But that’s years in the future. For now, little man needs to get home and get to bed. We say our goodbyes, get to our Subaru, strap him in his car seat, drive home. He’s feisty because it’s past his bed-time, but once we get him settled he’s out, snoring, in no time. Yeah, my toddler snores. Loud. It’s god damned adorable.

We do chores, my wife and I, in our own house. if I had stepped into our house when I was teenager still living in Wichita, I would have called it a McMansion, easily. Talk about judgmental pricks.

We turn in, and as we’re drifting off to sleep, my wife does this thing she always does. You know how some people have that last, pre-sleep jerk-spasm; my wife sometimes has a last, pre-sleep blurt, something that’s on her mind that needs to be said. “They had two laundry rooms,” she says.

“What?”
“That house. They had two full laundry rooms.”
“Why?”
“I don’t know.”
“What, like, one upstairs, one downstairs?”
“Yeah.”
“Oh. I guess that makes sense.”

Approaching 5 PM on a Beautiful Summer’s Day In Seattle

It’s approaching 5 PM on a beautiful summer’s day in Seattle. No clouds, not a single one, and the sky a deep uniform blue, as if it had always been that color, always would be. Temperatures hover around the mid seventies, warm enough to be warm, but not hot enough to be hot. People like talking about the weather because it’s something they have in common. Even people who dislocated by a thousand miles will talk about their own weather, because it’s something the other person has probably experienced. They can empathize.

I’m pushing my toddler son in one of those jogging strollers. Three enormous wheels, black, festooned with pockets and holders. Snacks and drinks and a garage door opener and my cell phone. I’m dressed in blue jeans, a white t-shirt, sunglasses and a ballcap. I’ve got a bushy beard that needs trimming. I’m one can of beer away from being identifiable as a redneck or as hipster. I don’t think I’m either, but I’ve been accused of being each. And to think there are people who will claim one or the other and wear the description proudly, even defiantly.

We’re passing a church, my son and I, 45 minutes into our walk, 15 left to go. The final stretch. We happen to be on a stretch of sidewalk, one of the few parts of our daily loop that doesn’t require us walking in the street. We tend to stay off the busier avenues, so there isn’t much traffic, and when cars do pass us, they usually swing well onto the other side of the road. I always acknowledge them with a wave. Half of them wave back.

But this sidewalk is narrower than a road, and approaching is a girl on a bike. She looks to be about six or seven years old. Drak blakc skin, still wearnig her baby fat, but wearing it well, and a sturdy bicyclle helmet sat firmly on her head. The chin straps maybe a bit tight. I shouldn’t stereotype, but I do: there;s a Mosque not far from here, and I assume she’s Somalian. I catch myself. Her parents are maybe Somalian, but this girl was probably born here.

She’s about a hundred feet away, weaving inexpertly all over the pavement, in her own world. She looks up, and without hesitation, rides the bike off the sidewalk and into the road. Actually, it’s a bunch of parking spaces, not the street itself. She glides towards us,makes eye contact.

I want to to wave, to acknowledge her, but I can’t. Her mother strapped that helmet to her head, tight, because she knows that’s the right thing to do. And she raised her child to respect her neighbors, because that’s also the right thing to do. If I wave to her, she’s going to wave back, automatically. There’s no stranger danger here- it’s a beautiful, sunny day, I’m a guy puching a baby stroller, complete with toddler. We’re next to a church, for Christ’s sake. She’ll take one hand off the handlebars to wave back, lose control, wreck her bike.

But I have to acknowledge her. She gave us the sidewalk, and I want to say thank you and encourage to continue this courtesous lifestyle instilled in her by her mother. So, as she get’s closer, I reach up and tip my hat. She’s only seven years old, her parents are Somalian, she probably has no idea what I’m doing, if I’m doing anything at all.

And she glides by us, she smirks. Her smirk says it all. She knows exactly what tipping a hat means. It’s something cowboys used to do when they passed genteel ladies on the streets of Loredo. “Ma’am,” they’d say, touching the brim of their stetson, moving it almost imperceptibly. She learned about it in school, saw a film.

A cowboy, a redneck, a throwback, a hipster. I don’t need a beer in my hand to collapse that waveform. She smirks, because her mother raised her to respect her neighbors, but that doesn’t mean she’s a syncophant to every tool wandering around the landscape. The next time she’s on a sidewalk and somebody walks by, she’ll get out of their way too.

Not just because she’s going to be polite. Because she’s the one with the power. It’s her sidewalk, she rides it four or five hundred times a day. No matter what the weather. Yesterday there were four or five clouds in the sky, and she was weaving up and down. They day before that it was overcast, with patches of sky in the clouds, and she was out there. And they day before that it was raining, so she was inside, watching her mother make canjeero, but in her head she was out there on that sidewalk.

She’s got the power, and she’ll cede that bit of pavement because she can, not because she has to.

My son and I get to the end of the block, make a left turn, out of the sunshine and into deep shade. The change in temperature makes me shiver, as all my crevices are filmed in sweat which rapidly cools. My son yells, suddenly, a non-word, his sound for acknowledging a dog on the street coming towards us. My son loves dogs. The dog’s owner looks up at the sound too, smiles, waves. I wave back. It’s no problem, steering the stroller with one hand.

That Tasty Middle-Class Angst

After 72 hours and several calls to technical support, an issue I am having is nearing resolution. All of the human beings I’ve spoken with- some of whom simply could not help me- have been polite, attentive, and expressed what felt like genuine concern.

It’s not the people, but the broken systems and tools they’re forced to work with. And this in a company with a market value of 16 billion dollars.

I’ve been reading, lately, books about Wall Street (which just goes to show you how good the writer of said books is, as it’s not a subject I otherwise have much interest in). Talk about a broken system. Talk about tools that don’t work.

Consider, also, what’s going on in American politics right now. Nominees, duly selected, and utterly reviled at the same time.

My own brain, even. A few days ago I wrote about short-circuiting my own natural tendency to get bogged down in pointless, fruitless thoughts. These damned heuristics.

I see the appeal of shortcuts and tools, obviously, but they take on a life of their own. We go for efficiency, but there’s no escaping entropy. I’m trying to do more writing lately, right? But I end up spending more time playing with novel-organizing software, reading advice from so-called plot-masters, moving my manuscripts from Word to Scrivener to Google-docs. These processes can be emotionally satisfying—but they’re also absolutely unproductive. Maybe I get a burst and do some actually writing, but nothing’s getting finished.

Maybe this is why people tend towards a zen of simplicity. And urge to throw it all away. I’m all for self-reflection, and blog posts like this one are simultaneously the very problem I’m talking about and a kind of impetus to discover a solution. A kind of koan? I don’t know. I’m just trying to say I get why people are so gosh-darned smarmy about finding a way to “just be.”

That’s an excuse I make for myself, anyway, when I’m frustrated by what I said above, about how “nothing’s getting finished.” At least I’m writing. At least I’m being. And yet and yet and yet. All these tools, all these algorithms, all these soul-less artifacts.

When I climb into bed at the end of the day, with a book, I’m not thinking “let’s get lost in another world.” I’m thinking “let’s finish this and write a review and make note in my diary of my writing word-count and get on to the next book.”

Meh.

If You Can’t Beat ‘Em, Ignore ‘Em

I’ve been getting this jones to do some writing lately. Fiction writing. I’ve gotten literally dozens of unfinished pieces in different folders and at different stages. I don’t know that my urge is to finish them; I just want to get lost in the process.

So I’ve dipped my toes when I have time. But a few days ago this happened: I was in the kitchen, mulling some ideas in my head while I put together a bottle for the baby. A newspaper was on the kitchen table, and in it, yet another article about Trump. My brain started doing what it always does: arguing with imaginary people.

I know better than this, and forced myself to stop after a few minutes. I tried to return to those thoughts from before, ideas for the stories I’m working. Gone. Utterly gone. The idea of sitting down and writing felt like a chore, and a Sisyphean one at that.

And I realized: this happens all the time. This has been happening to me for a long time now. No wonder I never write nuthin’.

What I’m getting at here is not supposed to be any kind of political stance or discussion about the looming election (although, you have to admit: it sure does loom, doesn’t it.) Instead, I want to mentioned a different epiphany I had today. Because I was on the internet, on Reddit and Facebook, and the articles about Trump: they were legion.

Somehow, instead I ended up watching some YouTube videos. First I watched The Robert Randolph band play Squeeze and Voodoo Chile. Then I watched a short video on how to play the Black Lion opening in chess. Then I read an article about a guy who paced a 3:55 marathon for a bunch of people.

And it was back! The urge to write. The desire to get in there and pound some keys and make up whacky stuff. It was like an antidote to all the… what do you call it (ha, here I am, an urge to write, and I’m at a loss for words). All the cynicism and bitterness and doom and gloom, all of that weight was just gone.

It seems so obvious, I know. But it’s easy to forget the obvious when your brain is more or less constantly trying to solve the complicated puzzles of saving your soul from the degradations of the world. So call this a reminder Find things that delight you, immerse yourself in the awe of witnessing genius, and use it to erase the malaise of all this dreck that seems to earn so many page hits and generate ad revenue.

And then go write about it!

Do These Pants Make Me Personality Look Fat?

A friend posted some pictures on Facebook and she looked like she had lost some weight.

At first I wanted to make a comment. “Have you lost weight? You look great!”

Then it occurred to me that this friend looked pretty great before, too. Most of my friends look pretty great. Most people look pretty great. Sometimes people get sick, or are going through something, and don’t look so great, but at those times, looks don’t matter.

Then I realized, for the most part, looks never matter. This friend, in a particular, has a heart of gold and is one of my favorite people.

But then I thought, well, all you’re trying to do is make her feel good. You just want to compliment her so she knows you noticed the hard work she (maybe) put into staying healthy.

nice-personality-weight-scaleBecause physical appearance is a socially acceptable topic for comment. Sending someone a comment that says “Hey, just wanted to mention that I saw your swimming-suit pictures and was reminded what a truly wonderful personality you have,” is not only borderline creepy, it has connotations of saying a person is unattractive, ironically!

Then, of course, I decided to say nothing, because who cares if a 44-year-old man thinks someone lost a few pounds?

And after that I got sort of mad that we live in a world where this much thought and anxiety goes into a stupid picture on some stupid social media site.

Then I had a beer and watched you-tube videos of babies playing with puppies, and felt lots better.

What I learned from all of this is that while may I have been socialized to evaluate people by their looks, I still have the choice to articulate that evaluation or not. And that’s where my power lies, that choice. Next time I see that friend, instead of mentioning her weight, I’ll ask her what she’s been up to. I’ll lead the conversation towards exercise or food choices or whatever. I’ll let her say as much or as little as she wants. I’ll tell her I am inspired by her dedication and hard work.

Then we’ll have some beers and I’ll show her those you-tube videos.

Father’s Day—Ok

me-n-the-kid,-footI’ve never been one much for holidays. It’s not like I hate them, as such, I’m just usually not all that enthused about whatever is being celebrated. I know other people get excited, though, and I’ll join in; I’m a cynic, not a curmudgeon. But for me, by myself, holidays are usually a take-em-or-leave-em kinda thing

This is my first Father’s day as a father. It kind of snuck on me, and true to form, all things considered, it’s really no big deal. I mean, I love my son to pieces. He’s almost nine months old, and he’s wonderful. He’s hilarious and demanding and beautiful and exhausting. All those cliché’s about having kids that make you roll your eyes? Yes, apply them to me. I like being a dad. My boy pushes me to my limits, and those limits have even been exceeded at times, but I’m a dad and that’s a permanent part of my identity now, a title I wear with pride.

I don’t think the title is worthy of a whole heck of a lot of celebration, is all. I mean, every day is a celebration, right? Something like that. As I write this, I’m watching the kid, via baby monitor, roll around in his crib as he decides to wake up. When he does we’ll have some breakfast, play for a bit, take a nap. Then we’ll eat again, maybe run to the store for a few errands, sleep one more time. Another feeding, make dinner, give mommy a hug when she comes home from work. Take another nap, etc.

It’s the etc, you see. Being a father, to me, is the etc. I don’t see the point of celebrating et ceteras. I breathe, and when I go for a run a breathe harder, and when I go to sleep I breathe deeper, but do I celebrate the wonder and joy and pleasure of all that breathing? Nah.

For what it’s worth, along with this being my first father’s day as a father, it’s also my 45th father’s day as a son. I love my dad to pieces, too. He’s my best friend, and like my kid, he’s hilarious. More cliché’s: if my son is going to turn out like anyone, and he turns out to be like his grandad—intelligent, thoughtful, creative, hard-working—well then, I’d say I was an exceptionally successful father.

I totally respect everyone else who wants to celebrate fatherhood today. Whether it’s a companion holiday to mother’s day, or because, let’s face it, not all dads are awesome and the ones who are deserve recognition. I get it and I will click like on all of the Facebook posts. But for me, it’s just another holiday. Just another day. I guess I’m saying I’d rather be happy every day, and when I look at ym son, and think about my own dad, I realize that I am.

Staying Sexy Takes Imagination

daily writing exercise, 750words.com

People often say to me, “Jason, how is that you are able to maintain such a fit physique? You hardly ever exercise, you eat like crap, and your genetic background is not exactly conducive to having such a smokin’ hot body, at least not at your age– or, if we’re being frank, any age, really.” Well, I have two secrets, actually, and I’ll tell them both to you right now.

The first secret is how I take off my shirt, if I’m going for a shower, or perhaps a quick change because the baby spit-up all down the back of what I was wearing. You see, most slobs will grab the collar of the shirt, and yank up, pulling it over the back of their head like some kind of Neanderthal. “But Jason, correct us, if we’re wrong, but Neanderthals didn’t wear shirts.” You are right. However, give the right collection of anthropologists the right mix of cocktails, and the truth emerges: if Neanderthals had worn shirts, this is how they would have taken them off. Like pigs. “But Jason, pigs don’t-” oh shut up.

My method, the extra-sexy method, is to cross my arms in front of me, and grab the bottom of the shirt. I then pull up, uncrossing my arms as I go. You’ll realize this is the way male models, attractive actors, and strippers “do the deed” as it were. And in that moment, when the belly is exposed, I am, indeed, a male model, an attractive actor, a sort-of stripper. There’s some kind of magic there, having to do with confidence. For example, even though my head goes through the neck-hole, somehow my face is never obscured during this process. How is this so? Magic, as I said.

It really is that simple, and as a result of this magic I don’t really have to exercise, eat right, or be incarnated as the offspring of air-brushed, photo-shopped parents. I can sit in front of my computer all day, playing video games and surfing the internet, and so long as I’m wearing a shirt that I can later take off, the sexiness remains.

An open robe works too, but that’s more of an advanced technique- one I wouldn’t suggest you try just yet. Stick with the shirt thing for now. Give it a couple of tries. Practice slow, try it fast a few times, and think about the post-off shirt-throw that can, in the right moment, add a real touch of fire.

That’s basically it. My other secret is that I make up people in my head who ask me questions about how I stay so sexy. I then answer those questions in a rather convincing manner, and most of the time, the people believe me. And what’s wonderful about this method is that, since I made those people up, that they believe me means only that I told them the truth. For them, taking off my shirt from the bottom up really does make me a sexy person.

Now, if that’s all of the questions for the time being, I do, in fact, need to go take a shower. I’ve been on the computer all day, playing video games and surfing the internet, and I’m exhausted. “But Jason,” and there is a pause. “Go ahead,” I say. “Um… we didn’t really have a question this time. Unless you want to make one up for us? Since you made us up anyway?” Very well then. The shower can wait.

Why don’t you ask me how I’m able to somehow defy the rules of sexiness by taking off my pants before my socks, and somehow not suffer the consequences of such a violation. “Yes, that,” you say. Go ahead then. “You want us to say what you just said?” Yes I do. I may have made you up, and I may have made up the question, but I’m doing my daily writing exercise, and I need the word count.

“Sigh. Okay. How is that you’re able to somehow defy the rules of sexiness by taking off your pants before your socks, and somehow not suffer the consequences of such a violation?” I’m glad you asked. “Will this have something to do with ancient races of human beings?” No. I mean, not directly.

Because the answer this time is genetics. I have enormous calves. Socks on me look like graffiti on a mighty pillar holding up a gigantic, sexy building. In fact, some, and yes I do mean people I’ve made up, would even say that such calves are at risk of distracting any erstwhile observers from the sexiness thing when I take off my shirt the way I do.

“Really?” Yes, really. And we’ve hit our word-count, so that’s all for this exercise.