Saturday, November 14, 2009

If I had abs like that, I'd never wear a shirt, either. But I would wear those cutoffs I mention... (Sweetie's Hunk of the Week, 38)

Sweetie's 38th Hunk of The Week is...

Marky Mark!

You Don't Know Him Without You Have... been alive for the past twenty years or so. Marky Mark -- who would probably prefer to be called Mark Wahlberg but tough, 'cause he is a rich and famous and good-looking and cool guy whose life is such that the worst thing that happens to him, on a regular basis, is that he's confused with Matt Damon, and if that's the worst thing in your life, how bad is your life? Not very bad, so I'm going to just go ahead and call him Marky Mark and if he doesn't like it, he can just go cry into his amazingly muscular arms and probably the three or four supermodels he's dating at any one time, or he can come and try and beat me up, which would be totally easy because the whole time he was beating me up I'd be saying "Oh, man, I can't (ow!) believe I'm getting to (ouch!) meet Marky Mark! I totally (oh God it hurts!) loved you in The Bourne Identity!
I'm not very good with celebrities, remember.

Anyway, where was I? Marky Mark, along with Rachel's hairdo on Friends, has been probably the premiere cultural force in America over the past 20 years. There has been no male person with a more seismic impact on American culture over the past two decades: Marky Mark, on the boy side, reigns supreme, and I can say that because no matter who you are, your life has been touched by Marky Mark in the past 20 years. Let me prove it, as I prove everything, scientifically:

Are you a person who formerly was a little kid who loved hockey/Emilio Estevez? Then you probably grooved out to "Good Vibrations," from the The Mighty Ducks soundtrack:

I'm jamming a little myself, right now. Go, Briane, It's your birthday...*
(*It's not.)

Are you Ben Stiller? If so, you know him from appearing on your show -- The Ben Stiller Show, remember? -- as himself in 1993.

Are you a guy who one night couldn't sleep, so you watched the movie Three Kings and totally liked it and came away with a new understanding of the first Gulf War, and Marky Mark's acting ability, and also went and woke up your wife and told her You ought to watch this movie I just saw! If so, then you know him from that movie -- and also you and I have a lot in common.

Are you someone who knows who, or what, a Starbuck Holger Meins (2002) is? Then help me, because I have no idea and I don't want to Google it because it looks like it's a weird German thing, and I'm not going to Google weird German things. Not ever again. Ever.


I rest my case, or I will after a moment when I point out that you would even know who Marky Mark is if you are a Central American housewife with access to telenovelas, as he appeared in Corazon de... in 2006, starring as himself.

See what I mean? He's in The Departed, so young guys who like gangsters know him and old guys who like Martin Scorcese but couldn't sit through Gangs of New York know him, too. He's going to be in The Lovely Bones, so people who read that book will know who he is, and the kind of people who read The Lovely Bones are not the kind of people who usually know who people are. The kind of people who read The Lovely Bones are the kind of people who usually sit around in coffee shops with earnest expressions on their faces, and who will buy Hallmark cards for unusual occasions, like pet weddings.

(Not that it was a bad book. I read it. But I'm the second kind of person who read The Lovely Bones, the kind of person whose wife read it and said he would like it, so he read it and did like it, but still doesn't buy cards for any occasion.)

He was in I Heart Huckabees, a totally underrated comedy about something or other (I haven't figured it out yet...) and I could go on and on but it's starting to actually get a little embarrassing, even for me, and I'm not easily embarrassed. Easily freaked out, yes. Easily distracted from babysitting the twins by sending letter after letter offering to ghostwrite Mark Hamill's biography? Yes.

But easily embarrassed? I think my too-short, ripped-in-the-butt, too tight cutoff blue jean shorts that I'd still be wearing if Sweetie hadn't thrown them out speak for themselves in that regard. And yet, I like Marky Mark so much that I'm embarrassed by it. If Sweetie hadn't chosen him for Hunk of the Week, I would have. Or fate would have, as Marky Mark's presence in or intersection with music, movies, television shows, novels and every other aspect of pop culture over 20 years is a cultural force not to be trifled with.

Still doubt me? He even had a workout video...

... with Diana Ross. He owns Motown! Plus, I'm grooving to that song, a little, too. Go Briane... It's your birthday!*
(*see previous footnote)

Thing That Makes You Go Hmmmm About Him:
You probably think I'm going to go after the Funky Bunch thing here, and I could. It'd be easy:

Easier, even, than writing the life of Mark Hamill -- another national treasure, and the offer's still open, Mark -- but doing that, making fun of the way guys in the early 90s thought they looked tough when they actually looked the exact opposite of tough...

...Seriously? These guys thought they were all gangster? They were about as gangster-tough as Hefty Smurf. And similarly dressed...

So I'm not going that route, and besides, there's an even bigger Thing That Makes You Go Hmmm About Him: The fact that he has apparently never been photographed wearing a shirt.

Honestly, if you Google Mark Wahlberg (as I do an alarming number of times in a given week), you'll find picture after picture of him sans shirt.

Just two of the billions of examples of Marky Shirtless Mark.
The second one should probably have certain areas blurred out.

And it gets worse. If you Google Funky Bunch, the same thing: Picture after picture of Marky Mark, shirtless...

Some of them hilarious, sure, but still shirtless... shirtlarious:

In fact, if you were to take all the pictures of Marky Mark in which he's shirtless, and lay them end to end, Sweetie would never stop drooling.

(And, let's be honest, I'd probably be pretty affected myself.)

Would the space program have a chance of getting back on track and getting humans to Mars, if Marky Mark were put in charge of it by President Obama? I'm going to go ahead and say yes, with a proviso.

I'm saying yes because look at Marky Mark's track record: Ability to wear backwards hats and still look cool? Check. Ability to have not ended up the Jonas Brothers of the 1990s? Check. Ability to have distinguished himself from the other Marky Mark, the professional wrestler in the Alberta-based "Stampede Wrestling?" Check.

Above: Marky Mark, but not the one you care about.

Above: The Marky Mark you want to see.

So the only question I have is how don't those add up to "the ability to run a space program that actually does things besides crashing into the moon and calling it an experiment, even though it's no more 'experimental' or 'scientific' than the time I wiped out on my skateboard going down that big hill across from Uncle Joe's old house?"

The proviso, though, is that Marky Mark could only run the space program if they somehow invented a way to be shirtless while wearing a space suit. Because, seriously, there are no pictures of the guy wearing a shirt:

I found this one by searching for
For the Love of God, Are There Any Pictures Of
Marky Mark Wearing Clothes on His Upper Body?"

Reason I Tell Myself Sweetie Likes Him: I was mystified, at first. To begin with, he had a tattoo of what looked like Che Guevara, and Sweetie hates tattoos:

On closer inspction, though, the tattoo turned out to be Rubber Band Man from that office commercial, so that was okay.

Rubber Band Man or not, that tattoo is only the first of a lot of strikes against him: He also had muscles and good looks and fame and money, and Sweetie always told me those things weren't important to her. I'd say "Do you mind that I have a stomach that looks as though I accidentally swallowed a mailbox, and that I make less money than many substitute teachers, and less money even than some substitute teachers who aren't really substitute teachers but are just doing that as a gig until they sell their sitcom pilot?"

And Sweetie would say "None of those things are important to me." So I guess that maybe Sweetie likes Marky Mark for his rapping skills, which is fine since that's something he and I share, if you judge by my ability to rap songs about the Babies!, and also to rap about 1/3 of Parent's Just Don't Understand.

Actual Reason Sweetie Likes Him: I asked her, and she said:

“Oh, come on, really? I even think his wife is hot. I don’t even think that’s a question that needs to be answered.”

Which leads me to:

Point I'd Like To Make About Sweetie's Actual Reason For Liking Him: That gave me free rein to Google Mark Wahlberg wife, just to see how hot she was. I mean, a guy like Mark Wahlberg must have landed a total babe, right? So I did that, typing Mark Wahlberg wife into the box, and got this image:

Shirtless. Again. Seriously, man. What's up with that?

In answer to the question at the end: 2 things: Vacations, and BBQ Fritos.

One of the things I like to do, when life gets boring or when the weather gets cold and gray and blustery (those two things often go hand-in-hand) is daydream about taking a vacation to someplace warm, and sunny, and full of friendly people and interesting things to do.

Ordinarily, it's just that, daydreaming, but I might be able to act on those idle thoughts now that I've found I found this site while looking around for inexpensive, but good, travel sites, and learned that I could get a vacation rental for less than I'd spend just hanging around the mall for a weekend.

So I could go to Laguna Beach, California -- you know, the place that's always on the show your kids are watching that you can't stand? -- and rent a spectacular 4 bedroom, 3 bathroom house on the water for less than I'd spend on hotels on most vacations -- and this house comes with a boat and a gourmet kitchen, and best of all... comes with the ability to make my daydreams come true. And how many things can you say that about?

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Ideas Not Yet Ready For Prime Time (A 1001 Ways & 3 Good Things Mash-up)

My writing schedule calls for Friday's postings to be a 3 Good Things and a 1001 Ways. But I'll be in Green Bay -- not interviewing for the Packers' head coaching job, as you'd suspect, but in a meeting -- on Friday so I wasn't going to post anything.

But then, on Thursday night, I had 3 Good Ideas that, while good, aren't quite good enough to be a 1001 Way, but deserved some limelight. So I'm mashing up the two categories and giving you these Pretty Good Ideas:

1. The TV Show: While coming back from working out, with Mr Bunches and Mr F in tow, I began calling them Gumbo and Jambalaya, respectively, and then decided that Gumbo & Jambalaya deserved their own TV show, so I invented one, on the spot, there in the parking lot: Gumbo & Jambalaya are door-to-door soup salesmen who, each week, solve a mystery in the town where they're currently trying to conquer the soup market. Expect this to replace that Jenna Elfman show next year.

2. The idea that became a better idea: I was getting ready to shower up after working out, and wanted to finish reading an article in the paper, causing me to think: Why don't we have newspapers that can be read in the shower? Think of the time that would save! Then I went it one better. Are you ready? Touch-screen Shower Internet tablets: hangable, wireless-ready touchscreen tablets that are waterproof and can surf the Internet. You could set up your fantasy football team while you let your conditioner sit! Get caught up on those viral videos while you lather-rinse-repeat. The possibilities are... well, not endless, but possible.

3. The idea that might actually lead somewhere: Candy based on a theme of quantum mechanics and subatomic particles. That's all I've got so far. But that just may be all I need...

A Mandolin For Your Thoughts (Thursday's Friday's Sunday's Poem)

I haven't posted a Friday's Sunday's Poem in a while, and I also never finished up A Mandolin For Your Thoughts, my found poetry idea I started a while back. So to rectify both situations, and because I'm not going to be posting tomorrow, I present to you the completed work:

A Mandolin For Your Thoughts: Collected Notes Of The Prior Bookowner

He nitrogenated the herbs in strict rotation, and tomorrow it would be the turn of the oregano.

Fascism is not merely a social and political revolution, it's cultural as well.
Whether they are Italians first or Jews.
Never forget; if the Armed Forces are the balls of Fascism, and I am its brains, you are its imagination.
Select an Albanian patriot for assassination,
Sink a Greek battleship in such a way that he was short of words even in his inner speech.

The self-anointed superior races, drunk on Darwin and nationalist hyperbole,
besotted with eugenics and beguiled by myth, were winding up machines of genocide,

Living up to her reputation as a scold.
Seventeen years old
She was proud and wilful.
Turkish culverin of solid brass
Mandras house
He first set eyes on Pelagia, Homosexual Carlo Piero Guercio,
The Symposium. Aristophanes explaining three sexes:
The men and women who loved
Men who loved men
The women who loved women.

Prime Minister Metaxas,
Lulu, my most beloved daughter:
History is the propaganda of the victors.
Senior officer by merit alone; it was done by browning the tongue.
Companies of Bersaglieri:
British military uniforms and Greek weapons, both proud to have been chosen.
We were deeply afraid.
Foolish jokes to conceal this.
The soldier also always has the fear that the authorities know more than he does
And that he does not know what is really happening, the fact,
And this makes him contemptuous,
Suspicious of authority.
We found that there is a wild excitement when the tension of waiting is done with,
And that sometimes this transforms,
A kind of demented sadism,
Once an action is, catharsis is.

It looks as though some stupid bastard wants to provoke a little war with Greece:
The innumerable smiles of the waves,
An island without streams or rivers,
Blessed with clean water from the ground.
You can't go against the custom, you just can't, even if the custom's stupid.
A Royalist and a Venizelist, between desire and love.
It was the only insurance against an indigent
And terrifying
Old age.
Siora, Metaxas was an honest politician.
You see? He made that click of the tongue that Greeks employ
To signify refusal.


When we were told to train one hundred and fifty Albanians in the art of sabotage,
To create 'Greek' incidents,
Which would give the Duce reasonable excuse to declare war,
Captain Antonio Corelli --

how wonderful it was to be at war, until the weather turned against us,
we were ten thousand men soaked to the bone

Assured that the Duce had decided on a winter campaign in order to avert the risk of malaria.
The Albanian troops,
Sent with us,
Began to vanish,
Into thin air.
It became clear that the Bulgarians were not to fight.

There were no Greeks.
The misprised Greeks
had manouevred us into positions where we could be surrounded.
And cut off.
And yet...
We very rarely saw heroism of the invisible Greeks.
No air support, one thousand men with fifteen machine-guns.
We have lost four thousand men,
Our bodies
From our souls.


Homer: There is nothing so good and lovely as when a man and wife in their home dwell together in unity of mind and disposition.
The war had had the effect of increasing his own importance,
Himself, as a leader of the community.
But had become one by a process of invisible franchise,


for only twenty-one years,
between 1479 and 1500.
Venetian, from 1194 until 1797.
Taken by Napoleon Bonaparte,
In fact, almost entirely Italian people.
Was along western,
Rather than eastern,
Lines: Levying taxes in order to raise money for substantial bribes.
Left us a European, found their rule tolerable,
And occasionally amusing.
And, if we ever hated them, it was with
And even
In our hearts:
Above all,
They had the inestimable merit of not being Turks.


The valiant Greeks fell before eleven hundred German panzers,
The Italians garrisoned Argostoli,
And the Germans garrisoned Lixouri.

Thought of the Italians: As racially inferior.
And: the Italians were perplexed by the Nazi cult of death described these whores.
Like weed at the edge of tide,
And men were the browsing fish that ate them.
And he had grown up,
In the Austrian mountains,
Capable of hating Jews and gypsies only.
Because he had never met one.


Being in love.
Love itself
Is what is left over when
Being in love
has burned away.
And this
Is both
and a
Fortunate Accident.
With love on one side and
Dishonour on the other,
foul diseases,
Everything I say you must be very mindful of
And you must act honourably with respect.
And science is about facts,
And morality is about values,
We are all hospitable to strangers,
We are all nostalgic for something,
Our mothers.
We all hate solitude,
We all use every long word that we know
As often as we possibly can.
We all think we are equal, to...
...Bitter Ghosts.


Would believe, at first, that the Communists in Greece,
Whilst their Italian allies yielded,
Came on July 1st.
We've got to disarm the Germans.
The Italian resistance owed nothing.
The Germans had now had 14 days,
The bemused Italians,
for want of any leadership,
had acted, or not.
Cephallonia was an island of no strategic importance.
Its little children need not be saved.
Its ancient and buckled buildings need not be preserved
For posterity.
Its blood and flesh were not precious
To those
Conducting a war from
Easy and Olympian heights.
Honour and common sense:
in the light of the other,
both of them are ridiculous:
At least four thousand were massacred,
And possibly nine

When loved ones die,
You have to live
On their behalf.
See things as though with their eyes.
Remember how they used to say things
And use those words oneself.
Be thankful that you can do things
That they cannot.
And also feel the sadness of it.
Psipsina, for the crime of being tame,
Was torn from Pelagia's arms
And frivolously clubbed to death.
With the butt of a rifle.
The Germans had killed perhaps four thousand Italian boys
(including one hundred medical orderlies with Red Cross Armbands.)
Another four thousand had survived, exactly as in Corfu:
The British bombed the ships that were taking them away to labour camps.
Why preserve life when all of us must die?
When there is no such thing
As Immortality?
And health is an ephemeral accident of youth?


Catastrophe caused people to recall the war as piffling,
And inconsequential by comparison.
And renewed their sense of life.


What makes a poem a poem? I don't know, yet. But I do like this.

Butterscotch: The Next Generation. (3 Good Things from 11/11/09)

I'm sitting in a seminar as I write this, and the mind-numbing tedium almost drives out any other good thoughts. But I'll soldier on with my 3 Good Things from yesterday:

1. Butterscotch. We took the Babies! grocery shopping last night, and at the very end, Sweetie had two quarters to get some sample candies at the 3-for-25-cents bin. Then, Sweetie didn't want her own three pieces, so I got SIX!, which gave me the leeway to branch out a bit and try some candy I wouldn't ordinarily get, like a butterscotch. That's kind of a forgotten flavor nowadays, but someone should bring it back. I think the world is ready for Butterscotch 2k10.

2. I was on time for a lecture I gave, against all odds. I had to be at a seminar -- to speak, not pretend to listen as I'm doing today -- yesterday at 11:15. I left at 10:45 for the 30-minute drive, but then had to stop for gas (putting in a quick $4.92; there was no time for the rest of the 8 cents) and then missed my exit to get to the seminar location and had to backtrack five miles, and then couldn't remember what building I had to go to and then had to wade through a group of life insurance salespeople -- the horror! -- but I made it there, right on the button at 11:15.

Note to my insurance company, which jumped my rate $600 per year based solely on two speeding tickets I got last year which tickets were entirely unwarranted... I did not speed. I manipulated time.

3. Sweetie made banana bread! No further explanation needed. Delicious!

Admit it: It beats another sweater or tie.

More and more, when it comes to buying gifts for Mom and Dad and in-laws and brothers and sisters who I see only a few times a year, I'm stumped. I know they like to read, and watch movies, and go out to eat and wear clothes -- but what have they already read? What movies have they seen? What restaurants did they swear they'd never go back to after that time the waitress was rude to them?

You can see my dilemma. That's why I opt for gift baskets for most people on my list. With a gift basket, I get to send a present to people without worrying that they already have it, or that they can't use it. The gift baskets from are not only not duplicated, but are always usable.

This year, I'm focusing on breakfast gift baskets. Breakfast is an underrated and overlooked meal. In my own life, my own breakfast is often the Pocket Breakfast eaten while sitting in traffic on the way to work -- but real breakfast is eaten at dinner time, when Sweetie makes pancakes or french toast or egg sandwiches. We've moved breakfast up to dinner so that we can fully savor the experience of those great breakfast foods, and with the breakfast gift baskets, I can teach my family how to do the same.

While any of the breakfast gift baskets they offer seem okay, I'm opting for the California Breakfast Gift Basket: Giftswish picked out stuff that symbolizes California: sun and surf, as shown by fruits and fresh foods: Mrs. Briges Strawberry preserve, Stick Finger Bakery's Apple Cinnamon scone mix, Canterbury Chocolate Pancake Mix and Canterbury Crepe Mix, among others.

If you're on my list -- expect to get that this year. And, Sweetie, I've ordered three for us.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

3 From Mr F (3 Good Things from 11/10/09)

My cell phone hasn't worked since Sunday, and I haven't even tried to replace it yet... nor have I missed it yet. That's too ambiguous to be one of the 3 Good Things, but I thought it worth mentioning...

1. It's kind of hard to explain the first one, but it involved Mr F suddenly paying attention to me. I was reading him How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight? (which is a highly-scientific text book in our house) for Learning Time last night, and Mr F was sort of noodling around and not really following the story, until I got to the part where the dinosaur hugs his Mommy goodnight. "See, he's hugging Mommy," I said, and suddenly Mr F snapped to attention and began studying the page and really looking at the dinosaur hugging his Mommy good night. I found it touching.

2. Mr F loves his bath. To end bathtime, I pull the plug and let the Babies! play until the water's out or they give up. Last night, Mr Bunches gave up when the water was down to about 1/4 inch. So I wrapped him in his frog towel and then sent him on his way while I tried to get Mr F to come out, too. But Mr F wouldn't -- he fought to remain in the bath until the last drop of water was out.

3. Mr F and Astro Boy helped with Advanced Biology review. I had to quiz The Boy for his Advanced Biology test today -- he was woefully unprepared, blowing the very first question I asked him and then complaining that he "didn't need to know the typed parts of the review sheet," a complaint that went nowhere - -but while I did that quizzing, Mr F wanted me to help play with the Astro Boy toy he got from McDonald's last week. We play with the Astro Boy by whoooshing it around in the air, then making it roll across the table top. So studying went like this:

"Explain the Krebs Cycle..."

Whooosh whoosh whoosh

"And draw a diagram of it"

Roll roll roll

"Astro Boy!"

"Showing what order it fits in with respect to glycolosis and electron transport phosphorylation."

I was much better at the "Astro Boy" parts than the rest of it.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Ninety-Four, Part Twenty: Wherein I Say "Screw This" and Jump Ahead To The Part Where I Will Eventually Do Some Really Cool Stuff...

Everyone has one year in their life that has a greater impact on them than any other year. Mine was 1994. Once a week, I'll recap that year. This is part 20; click here for a table of contents.

The title tells you what's going to happen in this installment, right?

I was sitting here, this morning, trying to think what else I could say about my time in Washington, a time that I thought was going to have been so inspiring in my life, so important, so integral, so other-words-that-start-with-i, that I kept a journal (not a diary) of it, writing down all my thoughts and experiences.

A time that, as it turned out, was so unimportant that the journal sat in storage for years before being thrown out, a time that now, when I think about it 15 years later, I am hard-pressed to remember what it was that I remembered in the first place. Twenty installments into this, and I had to spend about 10 minutes searching through my own prior entries to try to remember what it was I haven't yet written about.

And yet, I can't shake the feeling that Washington was important, even if it was not important in the way that I thought it would be. I thought it would be important because I'd go there and get a great internship and meet famous, important, powerful people, and I would impress them with my acumen and gumption and would begin my inevitable rise to power and fame and, yeah, riches, too.

That did not happen.

Also, I'm not sure I have gumption, a word I like to use but which I'm not entirely sure I use correctly.

What happened instead in Washington was that none of that happened, and yet I ascribe an almost mystical significance in my mind to that year (which wasn't even a year but was only about four months), and the fact that I ascribe that significance to my time in Washington serves, in a self-fulfilling prophecy kind of way, as evidence of the significance of that time in Washington. My thinking is something like this: I believe that something significant happened, so something significant must have happened, or else I wouldn't believe that.

That belief, that something significant must have happened to me in Washington or I wouldn't believe that something significant happened to me, is perhaps the only lasting result of my time in D.C., the only thing I carried with me as I got on the train back home at the end of my time there.

Okay, not the only thing I carried with me, because I was not only bringing home all the stuff I'd taken there in the first place, including my stereo (why did I bring that, anyway?) but also some other stuff that I'd bought there, like the t-shirts that you can buy 4 or 5 for $10 at the stands on the streets. They're not very good t-shirts, but they are cheap t-shirts, so I got a bunch of them to bring home to people as souvenirs. Those t-shirts didn't last that long, possibly disintegrating in the wash before I left on the next leg of my journey, a week or so after I got home. The belief that something significant had happened lasted a lot longer, continuing even as I type this; even now, I believe that something happened to me while I lived in D.C? But what? What was it? What significance resulted from my time there?

I did not quit smoking while I lived in D.C. I didn't even, ultimately, seriously try to quit smoking. Instead, I tried to try, and didn't even try very hard, at that.

I didn't keep in touch with anyone I met in D.C., not Rip or Dave or Frank or Carlos or Justice Scalia. Even as I rode the train home with Carlos, the guy from a 'Guay,' I knew I wouldn't be seeing him again. We talked (as much as I was willing to talk instead of listening to my Walkman and reading) a bit, and talked especially about how Carlos and I and Rip would get together in the near future, maybe in New Hampshire where we could see where Rip lived and meet Drago, and maybe even in whatever 'Guay Carlos was from, since I was going to be a world traveler and live an exotic life, and I doubted, in my mind, even then, that I would go through with any of those plans. Not because I didn't want to live an exotic life and see the world, but because I already knew, about myself, that I shed off people very easily, that I could let them go and not look back and didn't carry friends from one walk of life to the next much, if ever. Carlos and Rip and Justice Scalia and Frank and Dave were already part of my past, my legendary past (as it would, I was certain, be referred to some day) but my past nevertheless, and they would remain there the way almost everyone remains in my past.

My life is not a roller-coaster ride, circling around to the station again and letting people hop off and then come back to get on a little later. My life is a one-way trip, and if you get off at a station, you're likely not to get back on in the future -- unless you skip ahead and meet me at a destination as yet unknown to me. I knew that in 1994, and I know it now, and I'm just saying it as a warning to the people who know me now (and to those who will know me in the future, people who will likely not know the people who know me now or knew them then): Stick with me or you're left behind.

I made half-hearted efforts to keep in touch, here and there. I sent a Christmas card, once, to the Pinkerton people, doing so my first year of law school (which would have been about 1 1/2 years after I left them.) I updated them on how I'd been doing and I think I talked to Frank on the phone -- I have a memory of that, but maybe it's one I invented because I can't think of how we would have gotten in touch on the phone. I certainly wouldn't have called him, because that would run contrary to two primal impulses of mine: hatred of the phone, and loathing of getting in touch with people from my past.

I also talked to Rip, off and on, for a couple of years, talks that were entirely prompted by Rip keeping in touch with me. Rip had a knack for getting my new phone numbers and looking me up and otherwise tracking me down, and sometimes I'd accidentally pick up the phone when he called (this was before Caller ID and cell phones made it possible to never take a phone call that was unwanted) and sometimes I'd just feel nostalgic and want to talk a bit, the way sometimes I page through my old comic book collection or pull out a Calvin & Hobbes treasury. Mostly, though, I took his phone calls to stop his phone calls: Rip called and called and called and would only stop when I actually talked to him, so I would break down and talk to him for a while, getting 'caught up' and talking politics and vaguely discussing possible plans for us all to meet at Slippery Rock College where Carlos was still going, and then hanging up and not writing down his number and not remembering even what plans we'd decided to make.

By then, though, I was in law school and was already on to a new phase of my life, a phase that involved fewer ideas of world travel and politics and more ideas like How can I possibly live on a $20 per week grocery budget (my actual budget) and How can I possibly read 300 pages per class per week (my actual assignments) and more plans like "going on to become a prosecutor and working in a district attorney's office" and "running for state assembly."

(Note: I never actually did any of those things, but once I did file papers to run for Assembly, only then I couldn't find a campaign manager and gave up on it.)

Before that, though, I knew I wouldn't keep in touch with people I met in Washington. I didn't know why I wouldn't, then, but I knew that I wouldn't. I think now that I know why, in part, I don't keep in touch with people from different facets of my life.

Part of the reason, one I've mentioned before, is that people who knew you back in the past knew a different version of you, and often times that version is one that you no longer want to be (or didn't then want to be, either.) That version is the version of you that did things that you don't want remembered, the embarrassing things you did as a teen or kid or young adult or 30-year-old who got a little too drunk at a party, and that version of you is the one that people will remember and bring up when they run into you. I guarantee that if I meet someone I knew when I was 24, they will remember not the many cool things I did when I was 24, but will remember something terrible or humiliating I did when I was 24. I have never run into someone from my past who said something like "Hey, remember that time we were in class together and you gave that one answer that was totally brilliant, just blew the teacher out of the water, and proved you were a genius?" No, they always say something like "Remember the time you go so drunk when you were 17 that you ended up passing out in your closet and vomiting for three hours into a shoebox?"

But in a more-encompassing view than that, it's not just that the people from your (or at least, my) past remember embarrassing things about you (or me), it's that they don't fit into your life anymore.

The people you know at any given time, the people you choose to associate with at any given time, are in your life through a somewhat-bizarre mix of your choices and dumb luck, and when those choices, or your luck, changes, those people likely won't fit your life anymore.

Take the people you know at work. You probably, if you work, have some people that you like at work, people you enjoy talking to, people you get along with well. You chat over coffee, you talk about football games, you discuss the business and the news of the world that affects your business. You talk about the kids that are pictured in the photos on your desk, the art on your walls, the fish tanks in someone's office... and that's it.

Those people seem like your friends, your associates, your pals, but take them outside of the business context and it will become only too apparent that they're not. They're work friends who can only really be your friends at work. I've had people from work out to social events, birthday parties for the kids and a housewarming party, and it's always an awkward mix; I never know what to talk to them about and feel a little out-of-sorts at seeing my boss walk through my house, commenting on how nice my TV is (while missing how we could really use some new wallpaper, something I then have to wonder whether I should point out, because I'm worried that at my next review, I'll hear We don't need to give you a raise, not with that nice TV you've got).

Removed from their work context, the Work Friends don't fit in, and I am always ill at ease when I see work friends talking with, say, my dad or my brother.

Add to that the element of time passing, and the dissonance becomes even greater: People I worked with for a while who now exist only in my past, who knew me as an intern at a Risk Assessment Company but who did not know me as a law student, or as a lawyer, have little in common with me as I exist now, and it never seems to work when I get together with them or try to get caught up with them. They know Past Me, and Past Me doesn't exist anymore; and I know Past Them, not Present Them, but it's Present Them who is sitting in my living room or talking to me on the phone.

That's how it was when Rip would call. As interns, and roommates, we'd shared geographical proximity and a love of Washington D.C. and politics, in general. Once we left Washington D.C., though, we lost some of that element: we were no longer interns in a city filled with interns. We were no longer geographically connected. While we still both loved Washington D.C., and politics, we loved the Washington D.C. that for us, now, existed in the past, too, a hazy D.C. filled with cherry blossoms and trips to a bar to watch the Superbowl and a day spent walking around the National Mall, but a D.C. that wasn't around anymore.

It wasn't enough to keep us in touch, and I knew it, and I never really regretted not making a bigger effort to keep in touch with people I met in D.C., because I knew it wouldn't matter. I wasn't interested enough to keep in touch, and my life probably wouldn't let me keep in touch, or would give me an excuse for not keeping in touch, which was the same thing, so far as I was concerned.

By the time Carlos got off the train in Pennsylvania, leaving me the bulk of the ride home to listen to music, sit by myself, write in my journal and read, I'd already let go of all but the most important impressions of Washington D.C. -- those 'most important' impressions being, now, the vaguely-recalled hodgepodge of memories jumbled together in my mind, the barely-remembered Hope Diamond crossing with the way the cherry blossoms looked on the Potomac, the many views of the Washington Monument combined with the almost-known layout of Washington D.C., the impressions of the long escalators lodged firmly in my mind next to the knowledge that the city was laid out by an architect named L'enfant, a piece of knowledge I stored in part because I like the Vangelis song L'Enfant, a song, in fact, that I would listen to over and over on tape in Washington, and a song I would go jogging to more and more in Washington.

It's a song that had seemed, when I left for Washington D.C., when I first listened to it while sitting, cold and alone and nervous and excited, in Chicago's train station, to have embodied adventure and excitement and exotic places. It's rising, driving insistence, the electronica that swooshed and urged, seemed to me to be foreshadowing a thrilling new world, the world I was certain that I'd find in D.C.

The world I hadn't found: Instead, I'd found a world filled with dreary office work that I tried to get out of, with politicians who were smaller and sadder than I'd imagined them to be, with justices who were shorter than I thought they should be and who told me that the most important thing in their lives was the loss of a bailiff. The D.C. I arrived in sent me to an office building in Virginia, so I didn't even work in D.C., and the D.C. I'd imagined would run by me like a vice president out for a jog -- something that was possible because I wasn't really paying attention to it, anyway, as I was too busy going around trying to see sights and meet people and impose my views of what life should be onto what life actually was. While I worked to lose 10 pounds to prove a point, and to quit smoking without actually quitting smoking -- things I worked at while not actually working at the things I was supposed to be doing -- and while I walked and rode around the city trying to see it all (while not actually seeing any of it, really), while I did those things, Washington D.C. had already begun receding in my mind, and I'd already begun pulling back from Washington D.C., letting it go on with its life while I went on with mine, keeping it around only enough to be handy, the way I did with girlfriends and friends and business acquaintances. I treated D.C. like I treated everything else in my life: I built it up in my mind, first, sitting there in the train station listening to L'enfant, and then, when it wasn't exactly what I wanted, I decided to make the best of it while also moving on almost immediately and beginning the next phase of my life.

That's what I did with the apartment I rented after moving out from my parents' house. That's what I did with the two-year college I attended for a while before going to UW-Milwaukee and then law school. That's what I did with each of the girlfriends I met before I met the only woman I ever wanted to marry. And that's what I've done with each and every person I've met (other than Sweetie) and each and every job I've ever had: I've decided Oh well, make the best of this until the next part gets here, and then I've done that.

So when Washington turned out not to be "Washington," I made the best of it: I met the son of the Shah of Iran. I rode the Metro each day and bought my bran muffin and diet cokes and ate them for breakfast while I read the Washington Post. I toured embassies and shook hands with a Supreme Court Justice. I went for beers with my fellow interns and saw where George Washington went to church. I toured the White House and watched carefully as I did so to see if I could spot the president (I didn't). I wrote letters home and called my family and translated some stuff and wrote a couple of papers and smoked cigarettes and went to Gettysburg and ate sushi.

And through it all, I'd put on my headphones, and I'd listen to "L'enfant," and I'd remember, too, that the next step was Morocco, was a different continent, across the ocean, full of strange and fascinating things that I could scarcely contemplate, but I did, anyway.

So after Carlos got off the train, in Pennsylvania, I put on my headphones again, and I put on the song L'Enfant, and I imagined what would come next: Morocco. I listened to the song play, and I imagined Africa: mountains and jungles and rivers and excitement. I imagined a wide-open sky of shooting stars, and me under it, barefoot, lean and tan. I imagined me watching the sky and listening to that song and being further away from home, even, than I'd ever been, and I imagined that the next part of my adventure would be significant, would be exciting, and would have a lasting impact.

I was right, I think, about most of what I imagined, was to come. I was totally wrong about the details, as the details would involve sheeps' eyeballs and a gun pointed at me and a lot more stomach illness than I would like to remember, and also a lot of confusion. But I was right about the overall impact, maybe.

Then again, maybe not, since that's what I'd originally thought about Washington, too.

next: Morocco! (Almost.)

If you look at the picture, and imagine me walking up it tiredly, you'll kind of get the idea. Only my hill is steeper. (3 Good Things from 11/9/0

Back in the office after my day off, a day that included these 3 Good Things and many more...

1. Mr Bunches and I built a castle -- or, actually, several castles, using his giant Lego-blocks. It's fun to see Mr Bunches getting around to building stuff; for a long time, he and Mr F have been only interested in knocking stuff down. We built the castles by me starting the base, and Mr Bunches then adding bricks wherever he felt they were needed -- a process that resulted in some fantastically rickety but fascinating castles.

2. The weather was warm enough for me to walk the Babies! to the health club and work out. To get out of the house for a while, I put the Babies! in the stroller and walked them to the health club, a mile away, then worked out (jogging nearly 3 miles in 30 minutes ... I took it easy) and then walking back. I did that because it wasn't quite warm enough to just work out outside, and I wanted the Babies! to be able to play in the play room at the club, and as I was walking there, I kept thinking to myself "You know, I don't know why I don't do this more often. It seems silly to drive to a health club to work out when I could walk there and get extra exercise on the way."

Then I walked back, after having worked out, and nearly died pushing two Babies! and a stroller up the giant hill we have to go up, and kept thinking to myself "Yeah. Doesn't seem so silly now, driving to the club. Not silly at all."

3. Sweetie can see again. By the end of the day, Sweetie's eyes were more or less back to functioning, so Mr Bunches won't bear a lifetime of guilt. Unfortunately for me, Sweetie's return to the land of the visioned also meant that (a) she could see the mess the house had become while I was in charge, and (b) she could watch Law & Order reruns again. Still, it's nice to have her back seeing stuff again.

Chocolate Gift Baskets

Time to start talking about the perfect gifts to get the perfect people in your perfect life.

You've got a perfect life, right? Of course you do, because you use "intentional chocolate." Remember how I wrote about that a while back, the people who will help you send not only chocolate, but good intentions WITH your chocolate, so that you can improve people's lives through meditation and candy? The Intentional Chocolate people have now created chocolate gift baskets filled with Chocolate Pistols, truffles, chocolate-Goji berries, and more, all pure Hawaiian chocolate infused with great taste AND spiritual energy imparted by experiences meditators who've trained with the Dalai Lama to help pass along good intentions through your gift.

So when you get that perfect life around to ordering gifts, send the perfect person a gift basket of intentional chocolate. You'll make their day, and their lives, better.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Things That Are Better Than Being Poked In The Eye With A Sharp Stick. (3 Good Things From 11/6-11/8)

I'm at home today, getting a day off as a result of Sweetie being poked in the eye by Mr Bunches yesterday and having to go to the ER. It's because of that that I became aware that I am the only person in our household who uses the expression "Better than being poked in the eye by a sharp stick." Is it just me? I thought that was a pretty common expression. But when I told Sweetie that now she could actually tell people which was better, the thing they don't want or being poked in the eye, she just looked blankly at me.

Of course, that may have been the Vicodin, too, come to think of it.

Here's my 3 Good Things from this past weekend...

1. I finally got the hang of my video making software.
In anticipation of Alli Millstein Month on TBOE, and because I've got to organize, somehow, the 32 billion gb of videos and photos we have on our computer or I'll never have enough memory to continue downloading music, I sat down and made an actual video of the Babies!

2. I got through 2 more episodes of Lost... season 3. I'm up to the part where Charlie almost dies, and where they just blew up the sub. Don't spoil it for me! I have to get caught up because it's harder and harder to avoid spoilers in the first place. Stupid pop culture.

3. It hit over seventy degrees both days of the weekend, and, thanks to Sweetie, I even didn't have to go into work yesterday, too, so, bonus!

Also, why does it have to be a sharp stick in the eye? Isn't any stick poking into your eye a bad thing, even if it was, say, dull? I mean, Sweetie got a 3-year-old's finger, and that seemed pretty bad. So maybe the saying should be It beats getting poked in the eye with any kind of stick.

Being a husband does NOT mean that I've got to face down the monsters. Does it? It does? Rats.

I've been thinking, since I watched "Paranormal Activity," about getting a wireless camera or two for our house.

Now, in my case, the wireless camera would be installed mostly to protect me against demons, and also a little bit to protect me from having to be the one who has to, in the middle of the night, go all the way downstairs to see if the garage door is locked. I don't know why it's important that it be locked -- or that it be checked in the middle of the night -- but it's important to Sweetie, at 2 a.m., that I get up and go see if I locked it, which means that I'm wandering around in the dark and checking garage doors, and everyone knows that garages are the number one hangout for monsters. So in my case, a wireless camera would save me the trip/potential kidnapping by demons that's inevitably going to happen.

But in other cases, people might have an
actual use for a wireless security camera, like watching the house while you're away if you travel on business, or protecting your business property from break-ins and vandalism, and if you have an actual (non-demon-related) purpose, you'll be able to get great cameras at great prices online at

They've got the best wireless security cameras, closed-circuit TV systems and other security devices available at prices that make it affordable to protect your business instead of burning it down and cashing in on that sweet, sweet insurance money. And they cater to everyone, from the pros to the do-it-themselves types to people like me, who don't know what they're doing but who do desperately want a wireless camera to protect them from monsters.

Their site is easy to use, too, and best of all, they offer a one-year warranty on every product. I'm going to bookmark the site and tell Sweetie it's either we get a camera or she can go wrangle with the monsters tonight.