"Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them." - Henry David Thoreau

Friday, December 31, 2010

...MMXIne.

First of all, Happy New Year!  Or, as the Chinese refer to it; 'January 1st.'

A few random thoughts...

New Year's resolutions are a total crock. You are only setting yourself up for failure.  If you must have a resolution, make it easy like, "Next year I plan to drink some liquids and breathe regularly."

Not. Gonna. Happen.
Will people ever stop complaining that we still don't have flying cars and jetpacks?  I mean, really...people have enough trouble navigating in two dimensions.  Are we really ready for American drivers to be strapped to machines that can actually crash on to people's houses?  Not a sound plan. 

Want to complain about something?  Just look to BACK TO THE FUTURE, PART II.  Marty went from 1985 to 2015.  That's only four years away!  Are we any closer to HoverBoards, power-lace Nikes and self-sizing jackets?  Nope.  I really want to go to the Cafe 80's for a Pepsi Perfect.  Make it happen!


Another fine example of how movies lied to me.
My hillbilly neighbors are more than likely preparing a full-scale 'Shock and Awe' display of poor firearm safety when the clock strikes midnight.  I'm pretty sure I saw a truck of M9A1 Bazookas being unloaded on their front lawn.  Wonderful.

I have never liked New Year's Eve. More often than not, I had nowhere to go and no one to go there with.  It's almost as bad as Valentine's Day.  At least on V-Day, you're not expected to drink yourself into a vomit-choking stupor.  Just to eat enough candy to induce Type II Diabetes in a few hundred lab rats.
His day will not end well.



Living in New England, I will once again miss out on a wonderful tradition from my childhood;  The Mummers Parade.  I have many fond memories of sitting in front of the TV, watching the string bands and the fancy brigades strut down Broad Street in Philadelphia.  They have nothing similar in Boston except the annual 'Let's Light the Midget in the Leprechaun Suit on Fire and Watch Him Roll On the Ground' Parade.




No, it's not a Gay Pride parade, jerks!
It's natural to reflect on the past twelve months to try to find some greater meaning or insight.  But like any reflection, there are two sides.  There are highs and lows.  I expect much the same next year.  The best you can hope for is that you come out on the other side a little wiser if not worse for wear.  I've always been the type that hopes for the best, but expects the worst.  I don't know how well that attitude has served me over the years, but it's who I am.

I have always been able to define my life by decade.  I was a sheltered, withdrawn child in the 70's, an awkward, unsure teenager in the 80's, a young daydreamer blinded by false promises in the 90's.  I 'grew up' in the 00's, moved from the shiny and attractive, yet ultimately hollow facades of Las Vegas, got married and started a family. 

I have no earthly idea what changes, challenges and surprises this new decade will bring.  As I said before, I am not an optimist by any definition of the word.  For the sake of my daughter, however (who will be fourteen when 2021 rolls around), I will try to look ahead with my eyes wide open instead of behind a dim veil of cynicism. 

I will try...

Thursday, November 25, 2010

...Tryptophan.

Chances are, if you are reading this on Thanksgiving Day, you are either eagerly awaiting the ritual gorging on domesticated game bird stuffed with glutinous matter or are suffering from a foodstuff-induced loginess.

Either way, welcome to my first-ever Thanksgiving blog post.  Now, many people will use this day to go over a boring litany of things for which they are most thankful.  Usually, that includes things like family friends, health, blah, blah, blah...

Not me.  Nossir.  I will use my virtual podium to lay out that which I am thankful I don't have.  Won't that be fun?

1. Male Pattern Baldness - It may seem a bit vainglorious, but I am so glad that I still have my hair. It may be getting grayer than Gandalf, but it's still on my head.

2. An Annoying Child - See, I don't like kids.  Never have.  Even when I was a kid, I preferred to hang out with adults. Probably a result of being an only child.  Kids were irksome little snot machines, always touching and breaking stuff.  I always thought I could do a better job of raising one.  And now, I have done it!  I have a perfect little treasure and...wait...I'll be right back.  My kid just poured Chinese hot mustard all over the cat.

3. Catholicism - I was baptized and confirmed a Catholic.  None of which, amazingly, was my decision.  I went to Catholic school. My parents were 'Cafeteria Catholics,' and we rarely attend chucrh except for the Big Three; Easter, Christmas and Palm Sunday.  We half-assed our way through Lent and never participated in any church-related activities.  That was fine with Young Tom, because the only thing I found more boring than Mass was going bra shopping with my Mom.

4.  I don't see dead people - Self-explanatory.

5.  A shrill harpy for a wife - I am extremely lucky that I am married to someone who does not yell, scream or otherwise cause the hairs on the back of my neck to stand on end.  (Yes, she is standing right behind me at this moment.)

6. Salmonella - Not yet, anyway.  The day is young.

7. Dermatitis Herpetiformis - A rare, chronic, papulo-vesicular disease characterized by an intensely pruritic eruption consisting of various combinations of symmetrical, erythematous, papular, vesicular, or bullous lesions. Yuck.


8. Sanity - Debatable, yes...but, it's my mind and I can think what I want! So there!



What are YOU not thankful for?



I'd like to know...

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

...Dying of the Light, Part Deux.

Previously, on 'Rage Against The...'

Young Mr. Feeney, buoyed by phony Facebook-induced nostalgia, embarkes on an ill-fated journey back to his old hometown to recapture something he feels he may have lost in the ensuing years. 

Unfortunately, he has about the same chance of finding Bigfoot's baby teeth with a Handy Manny™ flashlight and a coke spoon.

And now, the conclusion...

Hotel room? Booked.

Car?  Oil changed and tank all gassed up.

Clothes, toiletries and assorted personal items?  Packed.

Sense of self-worth?  Grossly over-inflated.

Then, it's off I go!  Six hours and one large Dunkin Donuts iced coconut coffee with milk and two Splenda® later and I am in PA.

The lanes where I learned to bowl so poorly.
I decide to drive around my old stomping grounds to see what has changed and, most importantly, what hasn't.  The streets and houses are very much the same.  However, the terrible economy of the past few years has taken it's toll, as it has most everywhere.  The Clemens Supermarket is closed, the Lans-Bowl bowling lanes were destroyed by a fire.  Downtown has seen a lot of changes, most not for the better. I checked into the hotel...nice place.  It's right down the street from Merck Pharmaceuticals where my Dad worked for 44 years.  More déjà vu.  Must be a glitch in the Matrix. After an excellent pizza steak sandwich at Ray's, (Thanks for the recommendation, Chris!) I settle in for the night, still excited about the reunion.

The next morning is bright and crisp...a gorgeous fall day.  I have a plan for the morning; A visit to the Lansdale Historical Society.  Exciting, I know but if you want to relieve the past, you go where the past still lives and breathes.  I spend the morning poring through microfiche records of the local newspaper, the North Penn Reporter, looking for evidence of now non-existent childhood haunts.  More specifically, the movie theaters where I spent many a weekend.  In a small town in the seventies, no one cared if you left an eight-year-old child by themselves at the movies all afternoon.

A sketch of the old Lansdale Theatre that hangs proudly in my home. 
I remember the first 'grown up' movie I got to see by myself, the 1977 disaster movie Rollercoaster, about a terrorist blowing up amusement park attractions. It featured a cool gimmick called Sensurround, which used low frequency sound waves to cause the seats to rumble every time the coasters were on the screen.  It scared the hell out of me.  Not the movie, mind you. Looming above me was a giant glass chandelier that dangled like the Sword of Damocles threatening to crash down on me at any moment. The chandelier* was part of the dangerous charms of the Lansdale Theatre, a decaying old Art Deco movie house, built in 1928.  The danger was apparently all too real for the theatre would have to be torn down in 1979.

After my acid trip down Memory Lane, I drove around some more, reliving good and simpler times I had spent with my folks.  I passed the house where my sister lives with her husband. We haven't spoken since our Dad passed away.  She doesn't know I'm married.  She doesn't know I'm a Dad.  She doesn't know our brother also passed away earlier this year.  I thought about contacting her, but I'm not sure what I would even say anymore. "Hey, it's me.  You remember...your brother Tom.  Yeah, long time I know.  Guess what?  Mike died earlier this year.  Oh, and while you're processing that, listen to this: before he died, he said he didn't want me to ever tell you. What's new with you?"


Yeah, I don't see that going well at all.

Bones!
Anyway, on to slightly less depressing things.  Like the pseudo-reunion!  Okay, let's set the stage here; I am appropriately manscaped and ready for a fun evening of hellos, how-are-yous, you-look-greats and a few where've-you-beens.  I get to the restaurant/bar promptly at 7:00pm.  It's a lively place called Bones, which makes no sense to me because there isn't one picture of DeForest Kelley to be found in the whole place (and believe me, I looked).  There were already a few people milling about the bar area.  I wasn't sure who they were because they all looked so damn old when I haven't changed one tiny little bit!  This couldn't be right.  I scanned the room like a Terminator looking for Sarah Connor, but instead only found a roiling sea of Male Pattern Baldness, beer bellies, bad perms and Covergirl foundation makeup.

Finally, I spotted a familiar face entering the room.  Mike Rosiak, a jovial fellow I remember from back in the day had arrived.  I am sure he would be the first to admit he is rather hard to miss.  He's a burly dude and stuck out like the Incredible Hulk at an albino midget convention.  He stopped my way for a bone-breaking handshake and then got swarmed by everyone else in the room.  "Okay" I thought. "One down, now let's see who else I remember."  Minutes passed.  Then hours.  Then weeks.  An equinox or two went by.  Not a peep.  I saw my reflection in the mirror behind the bar which confirmed that I had not suddenly turned invisible, so that explanation was out.  Guys were fake-hugging, women were screeching like the brakes of a freight train about to crush a school bus (why can't my metaphors ever be pleasant?) and there I sat, drowning alone in a sea of humanity.

I was pissed, to say the least.  Sure, I may have made matters worse by writing 'Batman' on my name tag, but come on! Speaking of swooping down and saving the day, I was eternally grateful when two of my non-high school friends came to the party specifically to see me.  Chris Badali, whom I have known since first grade and has always been a stand-up guy (even though he's now a blood sucking divorce attorney) and my former La Salle classmate Leo Hesser, who back then was kind of a cross between James Dean and Mick Jones of The Clash.  Too cool for school.  Still is, bless 'im.  So, there we were...a trio of geezers-in-training, reminiscing and talking trash about everyone else in the room. 
L-to-R; Leo Hesser, Tom Feeney, Christian Badali (a.k.a The LensCrafters Trio)

Now, that was more like it.

Oh, there was someone else who recognized me.  Back in my junior year, there was this one girl who sat in the row next to me in French class.  Cute as a button and sweet as a Pixie Stick, she was one of the intense, yet fleeting crushes I had back then.  She looked at me once, then once again.  The light of recognition flashed in her Keane-esque eyes and she approached me.  She didn't remember my name (she probably figured out right away it wasn't Batman), but I remembered hers.  I got a nice hug and she held my face in her hands and smiled.  A minor validation, but it was enough for me.  Then, she introduced me to her 24 -year-old daughter.  Yikes.  A Freaky Friday moment if ever there was one.

My friends and I hung out for a little while longer, then we retired to another, slightly less crowded and noisy bar for a final drink before saying our goodbyes.  All in all, not a terrible evening.  I'm sorry there were a few people I missed seeing, but there's always tomorrow. 

There I go again, proving my legendary pessimism to be a sham worthy of old Professor Marvel himself.

The next morning I checked out of the hotel and made my way back home. The home I made with my wife and daughter.  The place where I really belong.

On my way out of town, I heard WMMR play All You Zombies by The Hooters.  "Couldn't have written a better ending myself," I thought.





*That same chandelier is now hanging in a theatre in Oregon. Nice to know it survived and is now frightening new generations of kids!

Monday, November 8, 2010

...Dying of the Light.

Bless me Father, for I have sinned...It's been over a month since my last blog post. 

It's not that I haven't had anything to say.  No, that's not it.  I suppose I could blame it on not having the time to sit down and collect my thoughts.  That would be untrue.  I may chalk it up to simply not having anything I felt was worthy of a lengthy dissertation.

That all changed this past weekend.  Now, before I begin this emotional autopsy on myself, a brief history lesson is in order;

The tiny townhouse where I grew up.
My family moved to the town of Lansdale, PA in 1973.  Lansdale existed in a kind of buffer zone between the Philly suburbs and rural farmland.  Beautiful area and a great place for a kid to grow up.  I was five years old when we moved and about to start first grade. I skipped Kindergarten, because my parents had me in a Montessori pre-school program.  I later found out that Montessori is really a front organization operated by Rosicrucians to indoctrinate potential acolytes.*

Byrne Hall at GMA, where I attended grade school.


I attended Gwynedd-Mercy Academy from grades 1-8.  A private Catholic school, GMA was best remembered (by me) as being a place where young, knobby-kneed boys were cruelly forced to wear grey short pants in twenty degree weather. It was there I learned about such Catholic traditions as Transubstantiation, a.k.a. Ritualistic Cannibalism.  I peaked academically in fourth grade.  After that, my ADD kicked in and it was all downhill from there.

WWJD?
I did manage to get into a really good high school; La Salle College High School.  I believe the recruitment pamphlet described La Salle as a 'Catholic, All-Boys College Preparatory School and Nazi Larvae Death Camp' or something like that.  It was run by the Christian Brothers.  An odd name, I felt because they never seemed to me to act very Christ-like or very brotherly (I chalked it up to all that brandy they drank).  I hated every waking moment.  It was an hour bus ride into Philadelphia from Lansdale and the bus was too big to climb up the steep hill to get to the school.  Be it rain, sleet or snow, we had to trudge up that goddam hill every morning.  Not the best way to start the day.  I was a short, stocky, unathletic nerd who didn't fit in anywhere. By the end of my sophomore year, I was seriously contemplating suicide. No joke.

During the following summer, we received a letter from La Salle suggesting to my parents that I would be better off attending a different school.  I agreed, but the alternative was even more frightening...North Penn.  A public school.  I thought I would be eaten alive.  My impression of public school could be summed up in one word: Prison.  There had to be a good reason why the school was nicknamed 'North Penetentiary.'  NPHS was a massive, Pentagon-like facility with over a thousand students wandering it's many winding corridors.  It took a while for me to get comfortable there, but once it did, I embraced the diversity I found. Imagine it...there were kids of different backgrounds, poor kids, Jewish kids, kids who climb on rocks (oops, went into Armour Hot Dog mode there).  Oh, and most importantly; Girls! Yes, those mysterious, maddening creatures whose only reason for existing was to confound and frustrate me at every turn. 

Senior Prom. Yikes. I look like the 'Bad Humor Man.'
If they gave out class awards for 'Most Likely to Worship a Girl From Afar,' I would've been a shoo-in.  I realized that my well-developed HDS (Humor Defense System) coupled with being a 'nice guy' inevitably led me to permanent 'friend' status among the girls in my social circle.  It didn't help that I was also deathly afraid of what would happen if any girl did show interest.  What the hell would I do then?  I was clueless. 

Senior year was better.  I had carved out my own little niche with some really great friends and made it out of school with my sanity intact.  The week after I graduated in 1985, my parents and I moved to Wildwood, New Jersey.  Some of my adventures there have been chronicled here.

I left Lansdale behind.  For a while.  I returned briefly in 1988, but I will spare you the sordid details of that rollercoaster of despair.  For now.

Since my sojourn to Las Vegas in 1989, I returned to the inviting confines of Montgomery County only once, for a single day, back in 2000.  A familiar blur, it was like looking at a swiftly shifting home movie through the windshield of a car.  No time for reflection or regret.  Maybe it's better than way.

A few weeks ago, the technological miracle/time-waster/Satan's Screwdriver called Facebook afforded me an opportunity to finally go back to my hometown to ride the wave of nostalgia that's been nagging at me since I've reconnected with so many old friends and acquaintances from those days.  An informal event was being planned where members of the graduating NPHS classes from '80-'90 were to gather.  I hemmed and hawed, not actually making the decision to go until the week of the event.

How bad could it be, right?  Right...?

I had no idea.  Looking back, I should have known.  All the signs were there in bright, screaming neon, but I chose to ignore them.  I rushed headlong, looking directly into the abyss.  It didn't even bother to look back.

TOMORROW: Part Two of "You Can't Go Home Again" or "West Point Blank."







*I can not prove this 'fact,' because all pertinent records were erased by a cadre of Illuminati techno-ninjas working under direct orders from the still-living (though disembodied) brain of Pope Innocent XII.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

...Mujahideen.

On this, the anniversary of the terrorist attacks that destroyed the World Trade Center and damaged the Pentagon, the thoughts of all Americans turn to those who lost their lives during that horrible day.

Everyone has a story about where they were or what they were doing that day.

This is mine;

I was living in Las Vegas and working for a company that assisted elderly patients in obtaining their pharmaceuticals.  I had just started working the early morning shift and arrived at my work at 5:00am PST, less than an hour before the attacks began. Shortly after the first plane hit the North Tower, one of my co-workers, who was listening to a portable radio, was relaying information to the rest of us.  After the second plane hit, everyone just knew there was something horribly wrong happening. 

My wife, Carolyn and I were in a long-distance relationship at the time.  She was in NYC with her mom and sister that day.  They were out in front of the TODAY show studio at NBC when the first reports of the attack came in.  This, of course would have made me a nervous wreck...if I had remembered that she was in New York that day.  I didn't remember (which is something my wife loves to point out, BTW!).  I am almost glad that I didn't remember.  I was worried about another loved one.

Back in 2001, my brother Michael worked for the U.S. Government as a computer security consultant. He had served many years in the Navy and also as a Marine. He had just moved into his new offices...in the Pentagon.  That, I remembered.  At 9:37am EST, American Airlines Flight 77 crashed into the western side of the Pentagon, killing 184 people.  For the entire day, I tried to contact my brother, fearing the worst.  Eventually, I found out that he was in an adjacent building at the time of the crash.  My future wife managed to drive like a bat out of hell (or out of NYC as it were) just before they closed the bridges.  She called me, thinking I'd be worried sick about her.  Um...

It was a harrowing day for everyone.  But, the days that followed were, for me, even worse.  On September 12, my mother suffered a stroke during a routine medical procedure.  I dropped her off at the hospital for a test where they inject dye into your bloodstream to try and detect any blockages.  During the test, a piece of a arterial plaque dislodged and traveled into her brain, causing a stroke.  When I got back to the hospital, I found out my mother had lost the ability to speak.  I remember her writing something on a piece of paper and giving it to me.  It said 'I love you.'

Over the next week, I watched coverage of the aftermath of the attacks from a hospital room while my mother recovered from the stroke.  Her speech began to improve although she had trouble finding the right words to convey her thoughts.  It's a condition called aphasia.  Soon, she came home and all signs pointed to her being okay.  She was put on a blood-thinning medication to prevent any other possible blockages from occurring.  One month later, on October 12, my mother complained she was having a migraine.  It got progressively worse and eventually, she was taken by ambulance, back to the hospital.  Before she got into the ambulance, I remember she wanted me to make sure that I took care of her purse.  It was the last time I would ever speak to my mother.  Less than 24 hours later, I made the toughest decision of my life...I had to have my mom taken off life support.

She suffered a massive brain hemorrhage that could not be controlled due to the blood thinners she had been taking.  There was no chance of recovery.  The doctors told me that there was no chance my mother would regain consciousness.  I said my goodbyes, held her hand and watched as she slowly passed. 

I was so grateful that Carolyn flew out immediately to be by my side during that time.  She was a tremendous source of strength and support for me then and, of course now.  Those weeks are little more than a blur to me now.  I feel oddly detached from the national events of that day and the weeks that followed.  I was dealing with a personal tragedy at the time. 

So, no...I will never forget.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

...Run-D.M.C.

What the ƒµ©√ happened to Rap music?

Like most folks (and by 'folks,' I am referring to white, middle-class 80's teens living in the suburbs), my first real exposure to Rap music was Licensed To Ill (1986) by the Beastie Boys.  Sure, I'd heard Rap before then*, but it was something that was pretty much off my musical radar.  Think about it.  MTV never played music by black artists until Michael Jackson** broke through with Thriller (1984), so many kids back then weren't exposed to anything but the most sanitized of popular music.  This explains the popularity of artists like Duran Duran and Journey.

I dare you to buy this shirt and wear it in public.
It was easy in those days to dismiss Rap as some kind of novelty music fad like 'Disco' or 'Love Songs.'  It wasn't until much later that I began to appreciate the genuine talents of acts like Public Enemy, Cypress Hill, Onyx, Ice-T, Geto Boys, etc.  Sure, Sturgeon's Law dictates that most of it is garbage, *cough-Vanilla Ice-cough* but the good stuff is really, really good.
Above: Urban Carnivorous Mammal


Where was I going with this?  Oh, yeah...earlier, as I was getting my daughter ready for a fun-filled morning of getting sand all over herself at the park, a show came on Discovery Kids called Hip Hop Harry.  For those unfamiliar with this abomination, it's a show featuring someone in a yellow bear suit with baggy pants and a gold chain so big that it could sink both Mr. T and Flavor Flav at the bottom of the Hudson River.  Kinda like Barney's half-brother who lives wit his moms in da hood. Harry and his junior posse sing, dance and learn valuable life lessons.  I tell ya, there's nothing like watching 8 year-olds of indeterminate ethnic origin kickin' it grade skool-style.


Hmmm. I wonder what turned thi$ guy...
Yes, it's as inane as you think.  What's next?  The Notorious A.B.C. Variety Hour? Snoop Dog Pufnstuf?  It saddens me to see yet another authentic American art form marginalized, sanitized, packaged and spoon-fed to our kids just because it's there to be exploited.  What's even worse, even Rap's best of the best have grown up, sold out and cleaned up.  Yes, I am looking at you, Ice Cube!

...into thi$$$ guy?

Now, I realize I have no business faulting anyone for digging themselves out of a terrible situation and becoming successful. Especially when I can't relate in any meaningful way to being a part of that culture.  But to shamelessly exploit a genuinely powerful and endlessly fascinating art form by dressing a glorified teddy bear like a gangsta is the worst kind of cultural pandering.

Of course, my four year-old loved it.  Just wait until I let her listen to my copy of It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back.


Kurtis Blow Presents The History Of Rap











*Most likely Blondie's Rapture (1981) was the first Rap song I ever heard, but even thirty years later I'm still not sure that song actually counts.

**TRIVIA- Interestingly, the Late 'King of Pop' was born African-American, but was later converted to Caucasian!  He accomplished this amazing feat by sleeping in a specially-constructed 'whitening chamber' invented by Pat Boone.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

...Green Bean Amandine.

I hate weddings. Let me just get that out of the way up front. Hate them. Not the institution itself, mind you. Not even the actual matrimonial ceremony. Mostly, it's the wedding reception that irritates me to the point of physical nausea.

Before we begin our nightmarish journey together, Dear Reader, a brief disclaimer: The following blog contains scenes of extreme snarkiness. Any depections of living persons is meant for humorous intent only. In other words, it's all meant in good fun.


Like a snow globe, marriage is beautiful, fragile and requires periodic dusting.

My wife and I went to a wedding over the weekend. I barely know the bride, but my wife is friends/co-workers with the bride's mother. We got invited, so we just had to go.  I was able to convince my wife to skip the church ceremony and just head right to the reception because I have a severe allergic reaction to communion wafers.

This turned out to be a huge mistake because, as we found out later, the priest collapsed during the ceremony and had to be taken from the church in an ambulance. I totally missed my shot at future YouTube notoriety.*
"Look, Mommy! Douchebags!"

We get to the reception early, which is totally awesome because the few people who are already there are total strangers. So, we find a nice quiet spot to sit and make fun of what the other people are wearing. You know, like douchebaggy sunglasses or dresses that are way too tight to be considered appropriate. 

There were some pre-reception snacks available. I recall the store-bought crackers, the Bowl'O'Grapes and the cheese plate (actually a plate of kind of white-ish cheese cubes). I thought at first they might have been some kind of pepper cheese. Then, I noticed the flies that kept landing on the plate. Not pepper. Moving on...

There was a bar. Not an open bar, of course. That would be money better spent on the aforementioned elaborate hors d'oeuvres table. As more guests began to arrive, we entered the Generic Reception Hall.** We each received a smell token of appreciation from the happy couple; a CD of music from the festivities. If I had only known of the sonic horrors to come...

AHHH! Red vest! Kill it before it breeds!
The first clue that there was trouble afoot was when I noticed that the DJ was wearing a red vest. A. Red. Vest. Who wears red vests? As far as I can tell, only riverboat gamblers, Christmas elves and members of barbershop quartets. This guy was no mere DJ, however. He was also an V-O-C-A-L-I-S-T. Aside from his tone deaf versions of such timeless classics as Elton John's Your Song and Billy Joel's Always A Woman, he proceeded to play a litany of trite, cliché wedding songs that should be forever banned from all events, be it wedding-related or not.

These abominations to the human ear canal include:

Celebration - Kool and the Gang (This used to be a good song once. Once.)
We Are Family - Sister Sledge (Really? We are? Had no idea!)
I Will Survive - Gloria Gaynor (Hmmmm...a cheating song at a wedding. How odd.)
Macarena - Los Del Rio (When will this abomination against humanity finally die?)
YMCA - Village People (This is why Prop. 8 got voted down.)
Cha Cha Slide - Mr. C (The best way for people who can't dance to really show it.)

Dude!
The food was standard wedding fare. Choices included a ham-based product or pressed turkey with faux-tatoes and yes, Green Bean Amandine. I choked down as much as my surgically-altered stomach could handle and washed it down with a $6.25 White Russian that was more watered-down than the Punjab province. About the time the bride and groom smashed wedding cake into each others' faces, I was ready to flee from the room like a Triathlete on fire.

Finally, I was able to convince my wife that it was time to leave. I made a good case, I felt, for exiting a little early. We had both been up pretty early that morning, and the following day promised to be quite busy as well. Oh, and I also held a pretty nasty-looking butter knife to my throat and threatened to give myself a Colombian Necktie if my demands were not met.

During the drive home, I found myself thinking about the old chestnut about your wedding day being the happiest day of your life. I hope for them, it was. They are a lovely couple and, as all newlyweds do, they deserve every chance to be happy.

FYI: My own wedding was pretty freakin' awesome. Just talk to anyone who was there. Ask them about the cool boat ride to the private island, the steel drums, the wild animal who ate the bouquet or the plentiful grilled lobsters they ate. Green beans, indeed!
I got married here. Your jaw may remain agape for 10 full seconds.


*As of this writing, I have no idea what happened to the priest in question. I certainly hope that he will be just fine and fully recovered in time for his trial. (just kidding!)

** Not it's real name. ;-)

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

...Raster Screen.

Yeah, I've got a Nintendo Wii. Thought it would be cool to have and, for the most part, it is. But, I am not a hardcore gamer by any stretch of the imagination. Most of the games you see these days seem to require either an advanced degree in physics or a serious meth addiction to just get past the opening animation, much less play the damn things.

No, I am a child of a different age. The age of 'The Square vs. The Circle.'

State-of-the art tech back in 1975 when a pocket calculator weighed 80lbs. and was the size of a Buick Skylark.
One Christmas, back in the mid-70's, we got the Coleco Telstar home video game system. It was a pretty big deal back then. It played four or five different games...all of them Pong. It was a really great gift. Unless you were an only child and your parents had no time to sit with a hyper ADD child who moved the paddles with the accuracy and speed of a rabid mongoose.

Suck it, Atari! The Intellivision kicked you right in the joystick.
Most kids my age upgraded to the Atari 2600 by the end of the decade.  Somehow, I missed that train. Everyone I knew had an Atari, but it just seemed kinda lame to me.  The games sucked and when they tried to emulate an arcade game, the results were really underwhelming.  Now, when the Mattel Intellivision came out in 1979, I was pretty impressed.  The games looked great and I knew this was the game system for me.  So, I contacted my lobbyist inside Santa's Workshop and made a generous donation to the Elven Labor Union Local 119.  Lo and Behold, sitting under my tree that year was a brand new Intellivision.  It was awesome.  It came with a great Blackjack card game and I figured once I mastered that, look out Vegas!*

Pac-Man for the Atari 2600! Fun Not Included!
Having an Intellivision was cool, especially when most of my peers were stuck with their silly Atari units and crappy versions of Pac-Man and Defender.  Alas, it was still a pyrrhic victory, since no one ever came to my house to play games because I smelled bad, was short and bad at sports.**

Still, my thirst for a true arcade experience at home was not yet satiated.  Even the superior ColecoVision which came a few years later could not compare to the thrill of spending countless summer hours at the many arcades on the Boardwalk in Wildwood, NJ. Ah, the constant blaring of disco music perfectly synchronized with seizure-inducing strobe lights!  I must've pumped more quarters into that damn Dragon's Lair game to keep the economy of most third-world nations afloat.

Cry, Havoc!
My true obsession during the 80's arcade boom was an obscure game from Atari called Major Havoc.  I spent many an hour wasting my youth, health and eyesight on that goddam machine.  It was a vector graphics-based game where you control an astronaut through multiple mazes inside a space station, and setting off a reactor to destroy the robot-guarded facility.  Hardest. Game. Ever.  It made Tempest look like frickin' Frogger.

Major Havoc was my first real love/hate relationship.  I needed to play it. I couldn't stop. I got Carpal Tunnel Syndrome before they even had a name for it.  It took me a long time to get over that addiction.  Oh, sure there were other games... Bump'n'Jump, Venture, Mr. Do, BurgerTime, Tapper.  None could drive me as batshit insane as the Major.  However, as with all things, one day the machine was gone from the arcade and eventually, I got better.  The Great Video Game Crash of '83 came and with it, my obsession.  It would be another decade before I would own a home video game system.

As for the arcades themselves?  Well, the games got more complicated and the kids got more militant about playing them.  I found new and more interesting things to obsess over; Girls, comics, girls, movies, girls, music, girls, sci-fi, girls, the Internet...you get the idea.

You never forget that first love, however.  On August 10, I went to the American Classic Arcade Museum.  I felt a wave of nostalgia pass over me like a cool breeze.  For a little while, I was back on the boardwalk, not a care in the world except where my next roll of quarters was coming from.  As I looked around the old machines, a familiar sight caught my eye.  There it was...an original Major Havoc game, still in working order.  I got some tokens and took a little trip back to the 80's.  

F***ing game still pisses me off..





AMERICAN CLASSIC ARCADE MUSEUM - FACEBOOK ALBUM







*Of course, I moved to Las Vegas a decade later and never once sat down at a Blackjack table.  Go figure.

**This information came from an article in my grade school newsletter, ironically titled Tommy Feeney Smells Bad, is Short and is Bad at Sports.

Friday, July 30, 2010

...Katherine.


Okay, I haven't posted in a while and here's why;

1) My mother-in-law had knee replacement surgery last week.
2) I've been with my beloved child pretty much non-stop since then.
3) My wife has been a nervous wreck about juggling her job, dealing with her mom's surgery and home stuff.
4) I missed my weekly session with my psychotherapist (or, as I like to call her, The Xanax® Lady) for reasons stated above.

I am pretty lucky when it comes to my wife's family. I get along with pretty much everybody. My mother-in -law (we'll call her 'Kathy' because...um...that's her name) is a great lady. She's been a huge help with our daughter, even watching her a couple days a week to give Daddy a 'Sanity Break.' But, she's been having a tough time with her right knee and needed to have it replaced sooner rather than later.

Kathy went into the hospital for the surgery last Tuesday. She stayed until the following Monday, then moved to a rehab center which actually feels like a nursing home. You know what I mean...the place smells like a bladder infection mixed with industrial disinfectant. Shortly after being moved, the knee began to turn yellowish and swollen with the surrounding tissue looking taut and waxy. Oops...

Of course, we thought it would be a good idea to get a Doctor to look at it. Right...? A Doctor was called. Again. And again. And again. Finally, the nurses kinda thought it might be a bit urgent to get Kathy transferred back to the hospital before, you know, her knee exploded. And so, a second surgery was performed! Sigh. All seems to be progressing well at the moment. We're not sure when Kathy will be back at rehab, or even IF she will be going back to the same place. Of course, there's no way of telling at this point even when she will be able to go back to her home.

So, basically, this summer is sucking like a hooker with asthma.

No one is having fun here.

Thank goodness I got a tiny respite this week because my daughter has 'camp' for a few hours each morning. My poor wife is a basket case because she has to run from work, to the hospital/rehab center, then back home to bed. No time for vacations or weekend trips. Everyone is on edge, but there's really no one to blame. It's just how things are.

I feel worse for my mother-in-law, though. I mean, she gets this cool new bionic knee and she can't even use it to jump over tall buildings like Jamie Sommers. That totally sucks.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

...Cash Machine.


Well, NOW I've gone and done it. I am, once again, a bum. A tramp. A vagabond. A shiftless deadbeat layabout. The same as famous hobos throughout history like Mr. Wilson Fancypants, Balloonpopper Chillingsworth, Slow Motion Jones and, of course, Gary Busey.

You see, a little over a year ago, I was laid off from my job. Just another victim of the imploding economy. And, like the millions of others who suddenly found themselves without gainful employment, I took advantage of both state and federal unemployment insurance. This is an invaluable lifeline for those who need some kind of income during tough times.

Sure, it was only a fraction of what I was making while employed, but it certainly allowed us some room to spend on dinner and a movie once in a while, or the odd luxury now and again. We certainly were not in the same shape as a lot of Americans who really depend on that income for necessities like rent or utilities.

In my case, the benefit is more psychological than financial. When money is coming in on my account, even if it's a gov't check, I still feel like I am contributing to the household income. In the past year, I have looked around for jobs both full and part time. Not much out there and even less when it comes to anything remotely in my chosen field of Journalism. So, I've been sucking on Lady Liberty's teat all this time. It seems, though, that the milk has dried up.


I believe I have used up my benefits and am now among the many Americans who are S.O.L. My options are these: I can get a job selling used rubber bands to shut-ins or I can remain a jobless loser.

Now, over the past year, I have come to relish my role as a SAHD*. I love spending time with my daughter and I am grateful that I can share so many special moments with her. She's at a wonderful age now. Before you know it, she'll be a moody teen with a Dad who intentionally embarrasses her in front of her friends at the Mall.

To be honest, I kinda want to continue playing this part in her life. So, I am torn. Do I settle for a job that will probably make me miserable just to make a few bucks, or do I stay with my child and feel guilty that I am not contributing more to the household income? Is this how women who choose to stay at home feel? I mean, it's true that all I do is eat Bon-Bons and watch my Soaps all day, but dammit, I throw some pancakes at my kid once in a while too!

No matter what happens, though, I am still very fortunate. My wife has a good job and even without the extra income, we will be just fine. Others, however, aren't so lucky. Hopefully Congress will get off their collective asses and help those who really need the extra benefits just to keep their heads above water. Something needs to happen before more and more Americans are left without any means of support.

In the meantime, I'll be getting my stick and bundle ready and I am giving myself a new 'hobo name.' I'm thinking maybe Grizzly Adama or Sans-A-Belt Sal. Any other ideas?





What you NEED to know about Congressional Dithering On Benefits (Huffington Post)







*Stay-At-Home-Dad

Friday, July 9, 2010

..."Dizzy Dean."


I swear, if I hear another story about LeBron James going to Miami, I am going to slam dunk my skull into the nearest granite kitchen countertop.

I mean, really? The media is treating this like it's some Big Damn Deal. Is it? I have no idea. The only televised sport I despise more than pro basketball is...is...well, COLLEGE basketball! I'd rather be strapped to a metal lawn chair in 100 degree heat while forced to watch 24 straight hours of the Trinity Broadcasting Network than be subjected to 10 minutes of any NBA contest. Honestly, when the outcome of 90% of these games is decided in the last two minutes, what's the point? What does it say about a sport whose only two requirements to play are to be freakishly tall and have a giant attitude problem to match?

As you may have already surmised, I am not the world's biggest sports enthusiast to begin with. This probably stems from the fact that, as a child, I had the athletic ability of a boiled shrimp. I was short, uncoordinated and withdrawn. I was the kid who was always picked last when it was time to choose teams in gym class. I'm sure if there had been a kid in my class in a wheelchair with asthma and an eyepatch, he would've still been picked before me. I dreaded the thought of any balls, be it base, basket, dodge or soccer, coming anywhere near me. This must also explain my irrational fear of soap bubbles and gay nightclubs.

Not exactly the stuff of sports legend in the making here! I was never under any pressure to be good, though. My dad showed little interest in sports when I was a kid, so I was never pushed in that area, thank God. Actually, my mom was the sports fan. She loved her Phillies and Eagles (or 'Iggles,' if you're from the area). She loved to watch the games on tv and, in the case of the Phils, at venerable old Veterans Stadium (which no longer exists, for good or ill, depending on your memories of the place).

Our family had season tickets for Phillies home games on the weekends. My mom would take me and I'd be more interested in the soft pretzles and hot dogs than the game itself. The only real memories I have of those games are A) Squinting at the scoreboard trying to read the scores, which led to my first pair of glasses at the age of ten and B) almost being killed by a foul ball hit by St. Louis Cardinals' outfielder George Hendrick. Despite my sloth-like reflexes, I was able to barely dodge that missile and it broke the kneecap of the poor woman sitting behind me. GO TEAM!

My opinion of sports did change for the better after the Phillies won the World Series back in 1980. Now, that was a great time to be a Philadelphian! Granted, it was pretty much the only great time to be a Philadelphian, but I digress. Now, I live in the Boston area where they eat, drink (especially drink) and sleep sports 24/7. Of course, they also have great teams like the Red Sox, Patriots and Celtics (oh, and it's supposd to be pronounced 'KEL-tix,' you illiterate townies!).

Maybe I'm lucky because I never grew up with dreams of attaining glory as a professional sports player that went bitterly unfulfilled. Nah. I have plenty of other dreams that went bitterly unfulfilled. But, we'll save that for another time.

If you'll excuse me, I gotta go play catch with my daughter. She's got a wicked good slider. For a four year-old.

Friday, July 2, 2010

...Chlorine + Barium Chloride (BaCl2)*


I was never a big fan of the 4th of July as a kid. It's not that I wasn't appropriately patriotic or had no love of barbecued meats. I certainly do on both accounts. No, my lack of enthusiasm for the 4th was primarily due to my dislike of fireworks.

"What? You don't like fireworks? What kind of commie pinko liberty-hating flag-burning traitor are you, Comrade Killjoy?"

The worst kind! When I as a kid, I had all kinds of problems with my ears. I was prone to terrible ear infections and had tubes embedded in my ear canals several times as a child. For some reason, loud sounds really bothered me and fireworks were among the worst. It became a phobia. Growing up, we had season tickets to see the Philadelphia Phillies and I'd dread the thought of Mike Schmidt hitting a home run because that meant they would set off some fireworks and I'd freak out.

So, naturally, when the 4th of July came around, my anxiety level went up to '11.'

This fear continued until an incident that occurred when I was twelve. There's a technique that mental health experts use to help alleviate an individual's phobias. It's called Exposure Therapy.
In a nutshell (get it? phobia=nut? nevermind...), you expose the person to whatever it is they fear in a controlled environment. Sounds reasonable, doesn't it? Of course, that's only when it happens intentionally.

In the Summer of '80, my dad managed to procure some really cool (and definitely illegal) fireworks from a co-worker. Mostly lightweight stuff like firecrackers and bottle rockets. A few M-80s, too just for a bigger bang. My dad would light a fireracker and toss it into the sewer grate on the street next to our house and listen to the boom reverberate through the pipes. Hey, it was the suburbs...we got bored easily! Anyway, one day I got up the courage to light a small firecracker and toss it down myself. I lit the fuse, threw it and listened to the bang. "Cool!" I thought to myself. So, I lit another. And another. And maybe a few more. Finally, there was just one left. But, there was a problem. I couldn't get the darn fuse to light! I tried and tried, but to no avail. After the last try, I gave up and was walking back into the house...

BANG! The firecracker went off in my hand. The series of events that followed are quite literally burned into my brain. I remember my ears ringing. I remember not hearing myself screaming like a little girl. I remember running into the house, refusing to look at my hand for fear that it WOULD NO LONGER BE THERE.

When I finally did look, my hand was charred like a coal miner's. It hurt. Bad. My mom tried to calm me down and ran my hands under the faucet to make sure I wasn't bleeding and, you know, to see if my fingers were dangling from the rest of my hand by loose tendons or something. I was pretty lucky. No serious damage. I didn't even need to go to the hospital. Lesson learned!

I'll tell you what though...after that, I wasn't so scared of the fireworks in the sky. So, I guess Exposure Therapy works. On the other hand (no pun intended), I've never lit a firework myself again.

Happy 4Th of July!

*BaCl2 is a chemical compound used in making fireworks. I know. I'm reaching.

Friday, June 25, 2010

...Philistine.


I am not what most would call a 'People Person.'

If you know me at all (and if you're bothering to read this, you probably do), this does not come as a Big Honking Surprise.

I really don't like people very much. I'm talking about groups of people. Specifically, groups who rally around a particular idea. Doesn't matter if it's politics, religion, sexual preference, eye color or flavor of ice cream (Give Me Kahlua Chip Or Give Me Death!), etc.

People are nasty, brutish, violent, uninformed and dangerous. I always think of the torch and pitchfork-wielding villagers in every Frankenstein movie. The whole 'we hate and fear what we do not understand' thing. It's true. With most persons you can usually have a sit-down conversation without conflict. But, you try to reason with a group of like-minded people who are all worked up over a cause or belief and you could find yourself on the business end of a very short rope.

There's an old saying that goes, 'There's safety in numbers.' Very true, but that can also give people the feeling that they can act out on their darker impulses if they are backed by the crowd. Look at the political landscape today. People used to complain about the difference between the 'haves' and 'have nots.' Now, it's the difference between the 'hates' and 'hate mores.'

I usually keep my politics pretty close to the vest, but it's no secret that I am pretty socially liberal on most issues, but I try to be a pragmatist. For example, I am vehemently anti-Death Penalty. Not on moral grounds, however. If you willingly take the life of an innocent human being, I do believe that your own life should be forfeit. For me, the issue lies within the imperfections of our judicial system. Unless you can be 100% certain of someone's guilt, you can't take the chance that even one person could be wrongly executed.

Now, I enjoy a good, well-reasoned debate on the issues like the one above, but you can't do that today. It's all static and any voice of reason gets drowned out among all the noise. So, people like myself, who fall somewhere in the middle of the pack don't get heard because we either get shouted down or simply realize the futility of trying to speak at all. Which is a shame because, when all you hear are the extremes, then the extremes seem like the norm.

The biggest perpetrator of all this nonsense isn't a person at all. It isn't Glenn Beck or Keith Olbermann. It isn't Bill O'Reilly or Rachel Maddow. It's the Internet.

The anonymity of the Internet* has allowed us all to become those fearful villagers. Instead of torches and pitchforks, they wield their grammatically-challenged vitriolic hate speech against any target without consequence. This, more than anything else, lowers my opinion of the human animal to subterranean levels. Visit any news-oriented website and read the comments and you'll find the written equivalent of a low-budget horror movie; Lots of blood and guts with a generous helping of evisceration, a hint of racism and a touch of misogyny.

I used to believe it was all just theatre. A modern Grand Guignol for the masses. I'm not sure anymore.

In the meantime, I'm having a huge wooden door installed in my castle with one of those giant barricades behind it to keep the villagers at bay. Anyone know where I can get some alligators for my moat?



*

E-Playgrounds Can Get Vicious

Sunday, June 20, 2010

...Pre-teen.


I am a Dad.

How the hell did that happen?

It's my fifth year as an actual living, breathing, card-carrying member of the Father Club. It boggles my mind even now. Becoming a father is expected of most men, I suppose. The whole 'passing along the legacy' thing. I get it. Honestly. It's about leaving a part of yourself behind when you depart this world. You help create an entirely new person. A blank slate. It's an opportunity to pass along whatever meager knowledge and wisdom you've gleaned in your life to the next generation. I understand that.

However, (and if you ever read this Katie, don't take it the wrong way) it's not a job I ever really thought I'd have...or wanted. For most of my adult life, I could barely take care of myself, much less even consider taking care of a child. I'd see those horror stories about people who left their kids in the back seat of a car in the middle of summer to roast and think, 'Yup, that'd be me!"

Making sure that another little human being is fed, clothed, safe, healthy, housed, educated and most importantly, loved seemed like way too much responsibility for me. No thanks! As much as I loathe sports metaphors, life does have a way of throwing you curveballs when you least expect it.

Even after I married my wonderful wife, I didn't really see fatherhood in my future. We didn't talk about it much in the beginning. There seemed to be several obstacles in the way, mostly health-related. I honestly didn't mind the thought of not having a child if that was to be the case. After a couple of years though, my wife's biological clock was ticking like Poe's Telltale Heart.

Enter the Wonderful World of Fertility Science! Did you know that they can make a human baby with only some Scotch® Tape and pine wood shavings? Okay, so it's a bit more complex than that. All right, a LOT more complex. I will spare you the science-y details. Suffice it to say, after a few months of trying, the little + on the pee stick showed up and all of a sudden...

It. Became. Real.

My wife will recall that I promptly went outside, sat on the deck, and had an Orange-Level panic attack. Visions of sleepless nights, poopie diapers, non-stop crying danced like rotted sugarplums through my fevered brain. Fun's over! Th-th-th-th-that's all folks! There were so many things to worry about. Will it be healthy? Will it be ugly? Will it be FUNNY? Will it want to borrow the car keys? AAAAAAHHHHH!

Eventually, I calmed down. I think it may have been last week, actually. Anyway, after all the doctor's visits, the trips to Babies R Us, the vicious fights over names (arriving at 'Katherine' was easy. I wanted Katherine May, my wife wanted Katherine Aileen. Guess who won?), our beautiful baby was born. THEN came the sleepless nights, the poopie diapers and non-stop crying. I'm still waiting for her to ask for the keys.

Bottom line here is, for most of my life I could not imagine being a father to a child. Now, I can't imagine a life without her.

I am a Dad.

Happy Father's Day!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

...Sunscreen.

It was the best job I ever had.

It was the first job I ever had.

It was 1985.

What a great year that was. I graduated from high school that year. It was the year of Back to the Future, Live Aid, the MOVE/Police stand-off in Philadelphia and the debuts of Calvin and Hobbes, Tetris and, of course, New Coke.

It was also the year I started working at the Fun Shop. My parents had bought a house in North Wildwood, NJ back in '81. Wildwood was/is a party town on the South Jersey Shore that served as a place where teenagers from the Philadephia area learned to drink, take drugs and party themselves into a stupor. It was a kind of proving ground/training facility for future Spring Breakers who needed to perfect their drunken survival skills closer to home.

I, of course, was far too square to partake in any of it. After graduation, my folks were bugging me to get a summer job at McDonalds or some such awful place. I would rather douse myself in used french fry oil than ever work in fast food, so I stalled and stalled. Meanwhile, I was a Shore Rat, hanging out on the Boardwalk and playing videogames like Dragon's Lair, Tron, Dig Dug, Major Havoc and BurgerTime. I also hung out at the Fun Shop.

A few of the many pins I saved from my years at the Fun Shop!
I won't go into the long and fascinating history of the Fun Shop. Someone else has done an excellent job of that already. It was a Wildwood institution. As long as I can remember, my family has spent a week each year in Wildwood, staying at the King's Inn Motel. Back then, my days were spent in the motel pool, eating at one of the many Hot Spot restaurants on the boardwalk and drinking Lime Rickey's. But, the Fun Shop was an especially magical place, in more ways than one. They sold t-shirts, posters, buttons and novelties. 'Novelties,' usually meant cheap magic tricks, joy buzzers, fake poop and other assorted 'gag gifts.' There was even an 'adult' section in the back with the more risqué items.

By 1985, I had become a regular presence at the store, chewing the fat with the owner, Larry Graber. I am not sure of the sequence of events, but I guess at some point Larry figured if I was going to be there that often, he might as well put me to work. For me, it was like being selected Associate Pope or something equally exhalted. You have to understand, EVERYONE wanted to work at the Fun Shop. I guess for Larry, that was part of the problem. He wanted someone who didn't lobby for the job just because it was 'cool.' In fact, I was so uncool, that I wouldn't use the job to get stuff for my friends for free or abuse the position in other ways.

There I was...a nobody, a peon, lifted up from the primordial ooze to sit at the Round Table of Wildwood Royalty. It was a heady experience, no lie. I learned a lot. More than I ever expected from a job selling t-shirts to young Punks and Madonna-wanna-bees.

But, that was just the beginning...

Stay tuned for Part Two.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

...Gasoline.




Hate (verb)

-to dislike intensely or passionately; feel extreme aversion for or extreme hostility toward;
detest

(from Dictionary.com)

I hate my neighbors. No, really. HATE them. I say this without exaggeration or hyperbole. Not all of them, of course, just a certain family that lives just around the corner from me. H.A.T.E. My loathing burns like the fire of a thousand dying suns. If I had a time machine, I would go back to when the very first mammal laid it's webbed foot upon the land and squash it under my Crocs™. Yes, that's right...I would prevent the human race from ever coming into existence if I could make sure these horrible people were never brought to being. This is how deeply my loathing runs here.

What could these subhuman reprobates have possibly done to earn such blinding rage? Have they caused irreparable harm to my life, family or property? No. Have they committed some terrible crime for which they can never be forgiven. Not really, I suppose. Has there been any kind of personal altercation between us at any time? Uh-uh. Do I even know their names? Nope.

So what then? Why am I so angry? What cold cause such a sweet, good-natured, easygoing fellow like myself to turn into a white hot, quivering mass of creamy hate-filled goodness?

Three words: Off Road Vehicles.

Yup. That's it right there. ATVs, dirt bikes, scooters, etc. If it makes a shitload of noise and kicks up a lot of dirt, then these inbred redneck townies own them. And ride them up and down my street. You know the type. The 'men' walk around in ripped jeans and no shirt. The 'women' have fake tans, fake hair and fake...you get the picture. They walk their spawn up and down the block in used, ratty strollers while they chain smoke and drink Rolling Rocks. I think their favorite game is called 'Let's See Who Can Swear The Loudest.' They frame their mug shots, because it's the only decent picture they have.

Now, lest you judge me too harshly, let me explain. I do not want to be the party pooper, the turd in the punch bowl, the Negative Nancy here. If these walking genetic throwbacks want to ride their crappy noisemakers without helmets and jump over ravines and such, more power to them. I hope all their future head and neck injuries are painful, yet not fatal. But, please...TAKE IT SOMEPLACE ELSE, YOU WHITE TRASH @$$HOLES!

I can't leave my windows open on a nice spring day because of all the noise of their un-mufflered motor vehicles. They kick up dust and dirt all over my car and home. They care not a whit about anyone else and act like they own the entire freaking neighborhood! Yet, I am powerless to do anything about it. I'd like to move, but thanks to the idiots at the other end of the class spectrum, my house has about two-thirds of the value it what when we bought it (up yours, Zillow.com!).

So I am stuck living in the middle of a glorified BMX track. My only hope is that one day karma will catch up with these defective cousin-humpers.

SIGH.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

...Caffeine.

This morning, after dropping my daughter off for her last day of pre-school, I was in need of something to occupy the next few hours. I couldn't go home because our cleaning lady was there, doing her usual amazing job (don't be too impressed, she only comes once every couple weeks to tackle the stuff my wife and I are too lazy to clean).

I decided to hang out at the coffee shop near the school* to pass the time. So there I sit, sipping a flavored water, having a lovely peach scone and surfing the web on my iPad. There are various types also enjoying their beverages of choice. There's the guy who sets up his small business office in one corner of the place. There's the attractive young college student, with her three books (textbook, MacBook & Facebook) and the Desperate Housewife sitting there because she has nothing better to do, but doesn't want to be stuck alone at home.

There is one coffee shop stereotype that's missing, however. One that I like to call the A.H.D. or Aging Hipster Douchebag. You know the type: Dresses too young too 'hip' for their age. Tries too hard to be cool by carrying around the latest tech. Wants to show off how eco-friendly and ethno-sensitive they are. Totally douchey, right?

Problem is, no one at this particular coffee shop seems to fit the profile. "Oh, well," I say to myself. "Maybe next time." It's at that moment, I catch a glimpse of myself in the window of the shop. Oh. My. God. No wonder I wasn't able to spot the A.H.D. in the place.

It's me...




*No, it wasn't a Starbucks. Those greedy bastards charge for Wi-Fi!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

...Routine.


The other day, my wife asked me if I thought our life was too boring. I believe my reply was something like 'excitement is overrated.' In all honesty, though, I've never led what anyone would consider an exciting life. I'm neither a thrill seeker or a risk taker. I'd much rather read or listen to music or watch a movie to occupy my free time. Sometimes I wonder if I should have been more proactive in my life. Did I waste my youth on missed opportunities by taking the path of least resistance?

I realize now that many of my life's decisions have been based purely on fear. Fear of failure, fear of success, fear of being humiliated and fear of getting hurt, both physically and emotionally. I look back at my twenties and wonder why I let those years slip by without accomplishing much of what I desired. I have no one to blame but myself. Sure, there were victories along the way, but they were small compared with where I wanted to be. I have regrets, to be sure.

The things I do not regret, however, are the people I've met and the friends I've made along the way. I've known some extraordinary people in my life and I am forever grateful for the impact they have made on me.

At the top of that list is my wife. She saved my life in so many ways. It's a rare thing when you find someone who cares about you in spite of all your flaws and faults. It's an ever rarer thing to find someone who does all that and doesn't try to 'fix' you, but instead provides a foundation for you to fix yourself. I'm extremely lucky in that regard.

I've grown a lot in the past several years. Enough to wish I'd done it sooner. Yes, another regret. But, I also look at it as a challenge. I want to be someone worthy of the woman I married and the daughter I care about more than anything in the world.

That is a far more powerful motivator than any fear that I will ever face.