Post #148: The Waiting is the…(say it with me!)

New Writing, Parenting, publishing, Shaking My Head, Writing Advice

First off, have you pre-ordered Blowin’ My Mind Like a Summer Breeze yet? Click HERE to pre-order your copy now–thank you! Also remember to add it on Goodreads HERE!

Now, to business.

After years (and years) of trying, my debut novel finally comes out next month, and I’ve been thinking a lot about the nature of time, and how time gets soft and stretchy around moments of great expectation. Why is that? I hate to fly and in the days, hours, and minutes before I board an airplane, time seems to puff up, to press in on me. Minutes fall into quicksand and drag interminably. Similarly, as I await my book coming out, time has gotten labored and unreliable. I’m simultaneously wishing I could wind the clock forward to July 22nd and my moment of jubilation, but also trying with every shred of my being to savor the experience, to soak it up. To look around. Remember how I feel. But time has me in a strange grip as of late, and it won’t seem to let go.

Be in the moment, I tell myself. Be here now, I say. You’ll only publish your first book once, don’t try to race through it. But how exactly do you do that?

I have two sons, and when you’re a parent, you come to realize that parenting is a journey that makes one hyper aware of time. I remember when my first son, Felix, was perched in my lap, only a few days old, barely able to hold up his own head or make conscious facial expressions, totally unable to control his own bladder, and even then I was already thinking: won’t it be wonderful when he can walk? I was thinking: I can’t wait until he’s older and I can teach him to play tennis and take him to hear live music and share with him all of life’s wisdom. And then he’d smile quite by accident, the way babies do, and I’d be hurled back into the moment, feel his warm soft skin against mine and I’d kick myself for drifting, for not being as present as I would like to be. For not being right here, right now.

Does this happen to you? (Please say yes)

The strange thing is that it feels almost impossible to stop this from happening. Even if you gain momentary control over your sense of space and time, if you find yourself in a moment that you’re so deeply in that time ceases to exist, it’s fleeting. At least for me. Before long, I’m thrust back into the weigh station of anticipation. Thrown into a box with high walls and just enough air. Forced back into asking that perpetual question I will forever associate with The West Wing: What’s Next?

But still I try.

My book is currently in the hands of early readers and reviewers, some of whom I know but most of whom I do not. As a professional writer (my day job is as a copywriter), and soon to be published novelist, I dine out on feedback. Everything I write gets picked apart in one way or another. I’m used to it. I like it. My writing being critiqued is literally my life. And yet, awaiting the judgment of strangers on the relative quality of my novel is a uniquely out of body experience, the likes of which I’ve never known before. I’m genuinely proud of my book, and I know I did the best I could. My conscience is clear. I know even bad reviews won’t change that. Nor will good reviews. And yet…the goddamn waiting.

I hope you’re not over there rolling your eyes at me. I hope, at least in part, that you’re nodding your head just a little bit in understanding.

Time makes fools of us all.

Post #135: An Open Letter

Shaking My Head, Uncategorized


An Open Letter to the Hotel Pool Lifeguard in Montreal who Suffered From the Delusion That She was on Baywatch While I was There Swimming With my Kids and Not Doing Anything Wrong and in No Danger of any Kind:

First off, and I’m not just being hyperbolic, I’ve never seen a lifeguard at a hotel pool in my life.

Second off, we were here last night and the lifeguard then was so hands off and on-her-phone-the-whole-time, that I honestly thought she just liked the sweeping view the penthouse floor afforded of the Montreal skyline or was maybe hiding from her annoying family or dealing with a text-based spat with her boyfriend. It wasn’t until my sons and I were toweling off and slipping on our shoes and I was reflecting on how weird it was that this girl had been sitting there playing on her phone for over an hour that it occurred to me: she’s a lifeguard. This small hotel pool has a lifeguard. This small hotel pool has a lifeguard? She was so non-lifeguardish, and rightfully so–hell, it was just me and my two sons in the pool–that I felt bad for her afterward, wondering what they paid her to sit there all day while moms and dads brought their kids up to the pool to swim, and hoping that they threw in the free continental breakfast to make it worth her while.

Third off–this is not Baywatch. Okay, I know you’re a lifeguard, and therefore you are actively being paid to guard lives, which means you should be on your game and ready to intervene if and when a life needs to be saved, but let me break this down for you. Your hotel’s pool is like 20×20. The deep end claims to be 7 feet, though was more like 5 1/2 because I am under six feet and could stand up flat-footed and have my entire head out of the water. Same goes for the shallow end, which claims to be 4 feet, but is not. I am here with my two sons, and am actively swimming with them. I am a visibly capable swimmer. As is my eldest son. There is another family here with three small children, but both parents are present and they are both in the water, and no more than three feet from their children at any given time. And yet, you feel the need to walk the perimeter and glare down at us like you’re huffing the fence line at Guantanamo, ready to shoot the first thing that moves. There were moments when my youngest son Leo climbed onto my back for a “dolphin ride” and I could feel you walking over in your creepy slow-motion footsteps and hovering over us, your arms interlaced behind your back, that I was sure I was doing something horribly wrong. Had I kidnapped these children? Had one of them hit his head and was bleeding out into the chlorine and I hadn’t noticed? Was I a horrible parent? Oh, no. Wait a second. That’s right. We’re in a tiny fucking hotel pool and I’m swimming with my kids.

I have to wonder, which of you–the night before hands-off life guard, or you–was better living up to the job description outlined for you? Because your approaches to the job couldn’t be more different. I picture the lifeguard interview process, candidates being grilled like Jason Bourne before they throw that bag over his head and water board him to test his allegiance in The Bourne Ultimatum. What are you willing to sacrifice to keep these guests safe, even though they are in no apparent danger, nor will they be?

“Do you swear to protect and serve the guests of the Residence Inn Marriott even though they don’t need protecting?”


“Don’t swear unless you mean it soldier!!” (slap across the face)

“I mean it!”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes…wait, what’s the pay again? Seven-fifty an hour?”

“Let’s not mince details soldier!” (slap across the face)

“Wait…how deep is the pool? Under six feet?”

Perhaps I’m being unfair. Perhaps you suffered a mis-hap earlier in life, or a water-based tragedy and you’re committed to making sure that never happens again. If that’s the case, you’re the best, and I take all this back.

Perhaps you’re bored and lonely in your personal life, and so goose-stepping across the wet tile and gesturing with your index finger at the too-large splash my son has just made playing Marco Polo, helps fill in the gaping hole in some way.

Perhaps this is your small contribution to making the world just a tiny bit better.

Either way, lady, you’re freaking me out. I’m here swimming with my kids. If one of them starts to drown, please feel free to jump in and save them. But since that’s not going to happen, fuck protocol and let’s see that cannonball, eh?

**PS…this is my second recent post which would seem to disparage Canada, Canadiens, and Montreal specifically. Let me just say for the record that I love Canada, Canadiens, and Montreal in particular. But c’mon, we bloggers have to use the material life throws as us!

Post #132: Abundance, Etc.

Shaking My Head

remote_control_0306You’re sitting in bed trying to decide what to watch on Netflix. There’s a beer on the nightstand. A spouse beside you. You’re yawning, but it seems silly not to at least start something. After all, you’ve got so many choices at you’re fingertips. So you click on the Apple TV and start searching. And searching. But before long, there’s a restless jitter in your brain, a little thunder storm in your gut. And you know it immutably…you’re going to fail at this. The sheer quantity of choices renders you paranoid. What if you make the wrong choice?

Should you try Bloodline? You’ve heard that Narcos is good. Or perhaps something offbeat like Jane the Virgin. What are you in the mood for? You’re not quite sure, are you? You think back to what your co-worker told you you had to watch. Or what your friend couldn’t believe you hadn’t seen yet. Was it Westworld? Game of Thrones? Something like that, you think. What you know for damn sure is that you can’t watch them all–there’s simply too many–and so you better make it count. Time is life’s most precious non-renewable resource, and you’re sure as shit not going to waste any of yours watching, or even taking a chance on watching, something subpar. Why would you even dare? Not with so many choices.

You scroll the “New Releases.” Then the “Suggestions for You.” You cycle through the “Recently Watched” to see if there’s something you started last week that you forgot you started last week that you may or may not have liked. You remember you like Cosmos, but it’s so out there and brainy. You’ve heard that documentary about Design is pretty good, but are you in the mood for something so heady before bed? You’re tired, after all. You worked a full day, and you’ve got to thread that needle to end it just right.

Perhaps you’ve been going about this all wrong, you think. Maybe you’re not in the mood for a TV Show at all. After all, there’s been some great independent films released in the past couple years, haven’t there? You’re a little behind, so why not catch up right now? What was that one called, the one with what’s her name from Mad Men? Someone said it was pretty good, a little weird, but in a good way. You go to look it up on your phone, but then you remember there’s a basketball game on that you wanted to watch. Except you cancelled your cable subscription. You spend ten minutes clicking on promising links on your phone to find a bootleg stream of the game, but the one that seems like it would work isn’t compatible with your operating system, and the others all want you to download something sketchy, so you figure you better not. You toy with the idea of just buying the NBA League Pass so you can watch a game anytime you feel like it, but it’s expensive and the season’s over half over. You put your phone down. You’re supposed to be watching TV, remember?

You get another beer. Your spouse is nodding off. You go back to Netflix and figure you’ll try to search through Genres. You start with documentaries. You’ve always liked food shows. Are you in the mood for something artsy and brooding like The Mind of a Chef? Or a guilty pleasure like Beat Bobby Flay or Chopped? Except Chopped is kind of stupid, isn’t it? Or do you like it? You honestly can’t remember. But the decision matters. You know it does. This decision matters because you know that it’s one of a thousand tiny mirrors you’ll hold up this year that all ask you what kind of person you are. What kind of person do you want to be? Now, more than ever, you get to decide exactly who you want to be, all through the glorious power of choice, of options.

Maybe you’ll watch John Oliver on HBO. But you read a lot of news anyway, don’t you? What it it feels like a re-hash of what you already know? And what if by the time you realize you wish you hadn’t started it you’re too far in to commit to something else?

You run your fingers through you hair. Your back is a little sore from the way you’re sitting and how tense your shoulders are.

You’re getting tired now. That second beer is about gone. You click off the light and settle into you propped pillows. You finally just click on something, a drama you heard was good. It’s got what’s his name in it. From that show that you sort of liked. You take a deep breath. Good. You’ve decided. But now you’re tired and you don’t last more than a few minutes before you fall asleep. You wake up an hour later mid way through the second episode of the show, or maybe the third, which has automatically started, and you’re annoyed with yourself because you really wanted to watch this show. You heard it was good. Someone told you it was. Maybe tomorrow. You’ll do it right tomorrow.

Post #130: Authority Zero Needs Ya

Shaking My Head

Had he never married my step-sister, I likely never would have met Jason Devore (center, dark tank top), or  become so well acquainted with Authority Zero, the Arizona based band he leads. Authority Zero delivers a blistering brand of punk/ska/ heavy metal (check out this video of them doing “No Other Place”), and I highly encourage you to check out their music, or to see them if they visit your neck of the woods. They tour constantly, so it’s likely you’ll have a chance. They’re bad ass, and some of the nicest guys I’ve ever met.

But though I’m excited to recommend them, I’m writing about them for a different reason. A few days ago, only three dates into their six-week Summer Sickness Tour, Jason and his band mates had their van and trailer stolen in San Antonio, Texas. When the van was eventually recovered, not only were the van and trailer damaged, all their gear had been stolen, an estimated $100,000 in guitars, amps, custom drums, and underwear. That’s right. These assholes even looted the band’s clothing.

Being a touring band trying to sustain a life is grueling work. These guys live in a van for weeks at a time and don’t always know what kind of audience awaits them in the next town. They endure long drives, friend’s couches, shitty hotels, and diner food week after week. Yeah, they could do something else, but they grind it out tour after tour in tough conditions because they love what they do and the uncertainty they battle day after day is a small price to pay for the thrill of bringing their music to the audiences that sustain them. Now I don’t know what kind of soulless fart cloud you have to be to rob a band and deprive them of their livelihood. And maybe it doesn’t matter. But these moments make you wonder what the hell is going on out there.

Authority Zero soldiers on and their Summer Sickness Tour continues. What choice do they have? But to do so, they could use some help. A friend of the band started a GO FUND ME page to support the band to finish their tour and begin to replace the irreplaceable. If you feel so inclined and you have a few extra bucks, consider supporting the arts in this odd, but essential way.

Post #129: The Seeker

Shaking My Head

For the first time I’ve been reading Irving Stone’s biographical novel Lust for Life, about the life and artistic pursuits, and general unwavering obsessions and fanaticism, of the great Dutch painter Vincent Van Gogh, whose work is so known and admired it’s almost a cliché. Van Gogh was an artist who suffered a great deal, more even than I’d ever realized, even though many of his worst wounds were self-inflicted. He eschewed paying work and jobs that would monetarily support his efforts, instead relying solely upon the charity of his brother, Theo, and others, which was barely enough to live on. Better to live in poverty with moth-eaten clothes, a writhing hungry belly, and early wrinkles upon his battered face than to compromise even an inch. In short, Van Gogh was single-minded and epically stubborn, and once he dedicated his life to producing drawings and paintings, he was unshakeable in that pursuit. It should also be said that it’s pretty likely that Van Gogh suffered from some undiagnosed mental illness and that were he alive now, he’d be popping Prozac like Tic Tacs.

Despite some early encouragement, many of those who’d originally supported Vincent’s art, eventually turned against him and tried to talk him out of this pursuit.  This included his cousin by marriage Anton Mauve, who was one of many who disputed Van Gogh’s claim even to be an artist and tried vehemently to dissuade him from pursuing his craft. Now, before we wholly demonize this un-supportive enclave, it should be said that Van Gogh was a bit of a leech. He borrowed money he never paid back. He was socially awkward, frequently inappropriate, and ignorant to the sorts of daily social norms that lubricate the vast majority of our interactions, which are constantly suffused with the suppression of true feelings in exchange for being liked and getting along. Van Gogh possessed no such filter. He showed up at people’s houses. He said weird, creepy things that would have found him the odd man out at every party he attended. It’s likely that he would have been very difficult to be around and remain friends with. So while I found myself angry at Mauve and others, there’s context to their frustration with Vincent and their eventual rejection of him.

I’m only about halfway through the book, but I was struck by the following exchange, in which Van Gogh bumps into Mauve weeks after they’ve had a terrible quarrel that has driven a perhaps irreversible wedge into their relationship. Van Gogh tries to apologize to Mauve and invites him to visit his studio to assess his most recent work, even though Mauve (who regularly loaned Van Gogh money and initially supported his work) has grown frequently, even cruelly, dismissive of Vincent’s efforts. After assuring Vincent he will do no such thing, Mauve asks:

“Do you call yourself an artist?”


“How absurd. You never sold a picture in your life.”

(Here is where my ears perked up and my nervous system began to murmur. I have been writing constantly for nearly twenty years and have made little to no money from my writing in that entire time. I’ve often felt embarrassed over that fact, even though I know the same is true of so many writers, many far more talented than I. It’s Van Gogh’s response to Mauve that has continued to resonate and whisper. He says…)

“Is that what being an artist means–selling? I thought it meant one who was always seeking without absolutely finding. I thought it means the contrary from ‘I know it, I have found it.’ When I say I am an artist, I only mean ‘I am seeking, I am striving, I am in it with all my heart.'”

I’m not personally sure what an artist is, and in spite of being one most of my life, I’ve spent little to no time thinking about what it means, let alone having such a clear understanding in my mind as Van Gogh expresses here and elsewhere. Is that bad? I always feel a little awkward when someone calls me, or I call myself, an artist. The word has never seemed to properly indicate what I do, what I feel, why I sit and write. But this idea of seeking, or striving, even in the absence of monetary, or other brands of external reward? That felt just about right.


Post #124: Dallas Buyer’s Club

Shaking My Head

hr_Dallas_Buyers_Club_10I know I’m not alone when I declare it was a great year for film this past year, and I’ve been seeing more movies than usual, trying to make my way through the Best Picture Nominees . I’ve seen everything but Philomena and American Hustle. I caught The Wolf Of Wall Street the other night and felt an odd confluence of enthrallment and boredom, and then, after seeing Jared Leto and Matthew McConaughey sweep the acting awards at the Oscars the other night, watched Dallas Buyer’s Club last night. I didn’t know much about the latter, only that it was about AIDS and that the performances were supposed to be magnificent.

Now, because I’m a loser I not only watched the Oscars but read the day after critiques of the speeches and hosting, and yes, looked at all the candid and red carpet photos I could find. Like many, in my day after investigation, I stumbled into poignant reactions to both Leto’s speech for Best Supporting Actor and McConaughey’s for Best Actor. One writer declared Leto’s an improvement over his Golden Globes speech, during which, apparently, he came across like a pretentious ass and paid no homage to those afflicted with or victims of AIDS, or to the trans or queer community, to which he is obviously indebted since he plays a trans character in Dallas Buyer’s Club. His Oscar speech was rambling, but really interesting. He gave his mother an extended nod, and also got political, drawing attention to current unrest in the Ukraine. Still–and I’ll admit I didn’t even notice when watching live–I read the next day about the fact that he didn’t mention the queer community at all. Didn’t seem like a major offense, given the intensity of the moment and the time pressure when you’re up there in front of a billion people world wide. But interesting all the same. I wonder here about responsibility. Lupita Nyong’o, in her speech for Best Supporting Actress, spoke movingly about Patsy, the real life slave on which her 12 Years a Slave character was based. I’m paraphrasing, but she said something about how she knew the sad irony of so much joy entering her life because of so much pain having been in someone else’s. It was a lovely sentiment, and very appropriate. And yet, I think it’s a little heavy handed to get in a tizzy about who a big shot actor does or doesn’t thank at the Oscars. Let’s not get too carried away and go pretending that any of these people are humble.

McConaughey’s Best Actor speech I missed because I’d fallen asleep, but I watched it the next morning and was entertained by how scripted and prepared he sounded–not disingenuous, just ready–but this time I did notice his lack of mentioning of either the real man he portrayed in the film, who died of AIDS in 1992, or those who’ve been afflicted by the disease. He talked about God, his family, and himself. He basically said that he was his own hero, which was weird, but I think I knew what he meant. Again, not a major offense, and in some ways, who really gives a shit, right? It’s the Oscars, why are we even having this conversation?

So, anyway, I watched Dallas Buyer’s Club last night. It’s good. It didn’t quite live up to the hype for me, but it’s a really powerful film that tells the story of a straight man’s man in Texas, an avowed homophobe, who’s afflicted with AIDS because of loose sex and drug use and given only thirty days to live. He lives far longer than that. When he realizes that the AZT the hospital is giving him is actually toxic to his system, he seeks unapproved but better drugs elsewhere–Mexico, Israel, Amsterdam–and his short term health improves. What’s more, he start’s a “Buyer’s Club” in which other AIDS patients can buy a membership and obtain the drugs and supplements they need that are better for them than those approved by the FDA and being given to them by real doctors. The trick is that none of the products he’s selling are FDA approved, and that’s where the trouble starts, and why we today know Woodruff’s name and, presumably, why his story was made into a feature film.

And yes, the performances are top shelf. Both actors immerse themselves in the material.

My only trouble with the film was the nagging feeling that I’d seen it before. Shortly after becoming ill, Woodruff befriends Rayon, a gay male ported by Leto, and one can predict that Rayon, who seems to forgive Woodruff his gruff machismo and aggressive homophobia, will be the moral center of the film. One can also predict that this friendship will make Woodruff a different man and that he’ll become more gay friendly in the process and realize how false he’s been living and all that. Now, I don’t know what happened in real life with these human beings. The film has gotten some flack for overdoing it, suggesting that the real life Woodruff was probably bisexual and certainly not the almost comically grand gay hater that the movie makes him out to be in the opening third. One is left wondering if the set up is as such so that his transformation can seem all the more compelling. More, shall we say, Hollywood.

I was reminded of a headline I’d seen on the Huffpos a few weeks ago urging the Academy Awards NOT to give Dallas Buyer’s Club any Oscars. Seemed odd. I didn’t read the article then because I wanted to see the film and wanted to avoid spoilers, but I went back and found it and gave it a glance this morning. You can check it out here. In fact, do that, then come back.

Personally, I find Mirkinson’s tactics a little heavy handed in suggesting that DBC is actually a milquetoast film that plays it safe for straight America and doesn’t properly acknowledge the gay or queer community. He takes the film to task for Rayon’s character being thin and too morally “right,” a prop, he accuses, so that Woodruff, the safer straight character, can achieve the moral victory that audiences need in order to feel good about themselves. Basically, he calls the movie chicken shit, and suggests that it shouldn’t win any Oscars because it tells the tamest possible version of its own story.

I’m not suggesting Mirkinson’s fully correct here, but I do think he makes some powerful points about the filmmaker’s intentions, and one’s that are nearly worthy of the weight of his criticism. One point on which I disagree with him is that Rayon’s character is paper thin. I found the character compelling, and though I saw it coming, when Woodruff grows as a man and their friendship becomes more genuine, and more urgent, I felt something. I also wonder if he’s a tad naive here. The idea that Hollywood waters stories down to make them more palatable to mass, white, straight audiences seems just a tad self-evident to warrant such vitriol. And would Mirkinson rather the film NOT have been made at all? It’s story is still an important one. And yet, it’s hard not to applaud his gusto. And so I do.

Post #121: Ramen Revelation

Shaking My Head

And now we bring you a brief, but necessary tribute to noodle soup.

I’m a life long lover of ramen. That warm, salty seniorita that fills my deep bowls and warms my winter nights. (I really am just talking about soup, y’all, so just stop right there.)

I mean, what’s better than warm flavorful broth swimming with succulent noodles? Nothing, that’s what.

My mom always kept packages of Maruchan Ramen around the house when I was a kid (pictured below). Chicken flavor. Oriental. Shrimp. It was just always there. Peanut butter and jelly. Egg sandwiches. Ramen. It was always a staple. A quick lunch. A late night snack. Two cups of water and three minutes and you’re in heaven, slurping away.


Until recently, I thought, with a naiveté that at the moment seems borderline unforgivable, that my beloved ramen bowls were, well…real ramen. I never weighed them in terms of their authenticity, or their relationship to other versions of ramen that may or may not exist in the world. I pay a little attention to food and food writing, and if you do, you’ve no doubt noticed that ramen is trendy right now. Trendy enough, anyway, for ramen shops to be popping up all over and for McSweeney’s new food mag Lucky Peach to have dedicated their entire first issue solely to the subject of ramen. Long story short, come to find out, instant ramen, which I will still always love no matter what, is pretty much the Kraft Mac and Cheese of its species.

For today, I had a bowl of ramen that changed everything. Take a look.









Here. I’ll put it beside a bowl of instant ramen, the kind to which I feel such old time affection. See if you can spot the difference.securedownload








The broth. Good God the broth.Not to mention rare cooked beef. Fresh sliced red chills. Cilantro. Scallions. Bean sprouts. Slivered red onions. Lime wedge.

It came with a spoon that would better be characterized as a small ladle.

Friends, consider my mind blown.

It was ten degrees today in Cambridge, MA, where I’m holed up for my MFA residency, and the bowl of ramen on the right sent the light through the window in a way I’d never quite seen it before. I saw generations of Japanese people slurping down bowls of this stuff, whole empires relying on it for comfort and sustenance. Battlefields made less bloody. Winters less harsh. Lover’s faces more beautiful and necessary. Stomachs a little happier. Lives a little more fulfilled.

Yeah, yeah, I know, it’s just soup.

Except it’s not. It wasn’t.

Happy eating, world.


Post #105: Mind Your Own Damn…

Shaking My Head

c6cef30a-994e-403d-aad6-076b68c35772So, I’m on an airplane the other day, flying with my two small sons, and the seating arrangement was unfavorable to say the least. My wife ended up in the back of the plane, the kids were together closer to the front, and I ended up directly in front of them, which, if you’ve ever been on a plane, means I couldn’t see them. At all. Unless peering through the half inch declivity between my seat and the one next to me, or craning my body out into the aisle like Inspector Gadget. At first I was unworried. Figured I’d ask the person across the aisle from the boys to trade with me so I could be next to them. No problem. So I asked as politely as humanly possible. It was just short of groveling. She refused.

In her defense, she was older and said it was because of arthritis, which I know sounds tricky and rude to dispute as an excuse, but lest you think I’m heartless, or have it in for the elderly, my seat, I’m convinced, had the exact quantity of leg room as her own. It just happened to be beside someone else, whereas hers, and her entire aisle’s, were singletons. A few minutes later, the lady, perhaps feeling guilty watching me trying to parent from such an awkward and untenable position, offered vaguely to “keep and eye on them.”

So we sat there awhile, waiting to take off. Occasionally I would lean my body around, check on the boys (they’re only 5 and 3 by the way), correct their behavior, ask how they were, get them something to do out of the backpack, or something to eat or whatever. Triage. Flying with kids is all about filling minutes.

I then, feeling a bit desperate, asked the gentleman sitting beside me if he’d trade with me so I could see my kids better. I’d still be in front of them, but at least I’d be able to see them. He too refused, rather curtly I might add, saying simply, “no, I prefer this” and making no eye contact with me. If he hadn’t been reading Steinbeck, for whom I have a blue whale sized soft spot, I might have offered a snide rejoinder. Mostly I was too surprised and pissed to say anything.

I should add here that, even though I didn’t know it at the time, he turned out to be the woman’s husband.

We got out to the runway area and then sat there. And sat there. The pilot said we were grounded for a little while because of weather on the departure route. I started to get worried. The kids were getting more rambunctious, not doing anything bad–in fact they were being amazing–but there’s something deeply unnerving about not being able to see your kids, even if they’re right behind you. And it’s hard for kids to be in a confined space like that. I had no idea how long we were going to sit there and, if it proved to be a long time, the situation was poised to go south. I could hear Leo, my 3 year old, making lip spitting type sounds (motor boat?) at Felix, and turned to see, at which point I noticed the woman frowning in consternation and wagging a finger at the boys and verbally chiding them, or at least mouthing “don’t do that,” or “oh no no” or some such. Either way, she was kind of letting them have it, unafraid to show her disapproval.

Before I could stop myself, I looked at her and said, firmly, though not rudely, “Mam, please don’t do that.”

She looked stunned.

“Umm,” she stammered, “well…I figured you wouldn’t want them spitting on each other.”

Needed Non Sequitor: They were NOT spitting on each other. They were making spitting, lip rippling type sounds. There’s a difference.

“I don’t,” I said, “but I can handle it, thank you.”

She said nothing further. I turned away and did not address her again, making sure to avoid looking at her every time I turned around to check the boys.

Now, the story ends well for me because we took off shortly after and my children behaved so well during the flight that after we landed, it took me an hour to pry the halos off their heads. But the incident lingers. I can’t decide if what I did was justified or not. Who was in the wrong here, if anyone? Should I have responded differently? Was the lady in the right? Was she, God forbid, just trying to be helpful?

I should add here that, in the abstract, I’m mostly in favor of a community based approach to parenting. Meaning, I think that we should all strive to help ourselves and the people around us behave well, including our kids and other people’s kids. This, of course, comes with a long list of caveats and exceptions. Disciplining someone else’s kids, especially a stranger’s kids, is a very tricky matter and one must exercise a great deal of prudence in doing so or one risks looking like an ass or doing it very wrong and really pissing someone off; however, I don’t have a “don’t tell my kids what to do!” type rule in life. If my progeny are behaving like assholes, someone should tell them, hopefully in a constructive way.

So what gives?

I think in this situation, it was the combination of things. First, my kids were not out of control. Nor were they actually spitting on each other. I think it was the woman and her husband denying me the ability, through an unwillingness to be mildly inconvenienced to help another human being, so I could actively parent, and then assuming it was okay to just step in in my stead, that really set me off. That I think would have set many people off. Still, I was, and continue to be surprised about how I reacted, even knowing I stayed calm and didn’t raise my voice. Conflict with another human being, however minor, is just unsettling I guess.

It’s been a few days since it happened and I’ve decided that if placed in the same predicament, I’d probably do it again. Maybe not. Maybe I’d just ignore her.

But for some reason, I’ve been second guessing myself and soul searching.

What would you have done?

Post #102: How Far Can We Really Take This?

Shaking My Head

smanI thought I’d reached the point where I’d finally grown numb to the constant barrage of product placement that saturates and infests my viewing life. From Adam Levine’s Starbuck’s cup to the Dell screens on VEEP to the kick you in the balls with it stuff on shows like Top Chef where not just the products but the actions of the contestants themselves (“The Ziploc Quickfire Challenge,” “The Glad Family of Products Elimination”) are for sale. I mean, it’s a given now, isn’t it, that you will be sold to every minute of every day that you interact with media? And with the advent of DVR and TEVO, which allows viewers to simply fast forward commercials (not to mention the fact that regular TV totally blows and more and more people are getting their television from paid cable services, or just buying the shows or streaming them on Netflix), the traditional route for companies to sell you their wares through your television screen has largely been squashed, and the companies are getting desperate. I read the other day that the NBA is going to start allowing teams to display ads on the court itself, as well as atop the backboard so that when LeBron is going up for a monster dunk and you get that above the rim looking down shot, you can be reminded to drink RedBull while you appreciate his ferocity. And don’t tell me we’re not going to be victim to a whole hell of a lot more slow motion when those logos are on screen.

But where does it end? Does it end? It must end, right?

Call me naive, but even as its grown more egregious, even at it reaches the pitch of pornography, it always seemed like there was some kind of invisible barrier, some unspoken standard that we would bump up against to keep our souls from turning completely to dust. You weren’t sure what that standard was, or where the threshold lived, only that you would know it when it had been obliterated.

And I’m sorry to have to be the one to tell you this, but it appears that the hull has been breached and friends, there is no going back because, mayday mayday, we are going down. Observe.

I just watched that ad three times in a row and I feel so dirty I want to take a shower. And I just took a shower. Maybe it’s that it’s Superman that makes this feel so particularly wrong. When the staffers on The West Wing drink Starbucks it kind of annoys me because I feel placated to, but I can at least rest on the fact that the staffers on the West Wing, though made up, are supposed to be like real people. Not only is Superman a fictional character, he’s not even supposed to be real. And he’s not not supposed to be real in the way that George Costanza isn’t supposed to be real. Superman’s not real in the sense that his existence is not merely fictional, but physically and scientifically impossible, which of course, makes his interaction with everyday household products like razor blades all the more insane and insulting to ponder. We are really blending it up here. How does Superman shave? Are you kidding me with this stuff? I want to find the advertising team that cooked this up and find a way to make them feel as dirty as they made me feel. Wait, that’s impossible.

I know none of this is all that new. Celebrities and even fictional characters have been selling to us for a long time now. I’m sure I see it all the time and barely bat an eye. But it’s Superman! Superman! They’re commodifying  generations of hero worship, trying things up together that should be living apart, I tell you.

What’s amazing, of course, is that it will work like a charm. Gillette will sell a ton more razors. And before you know it we’ll be asking what kind of underwear the Hulk wears (Hanes) and how Wonder Woman keeps her designer mascara (Cover Girl) so perfect all the time. And don’t be surprised to see Jay Gatsby shilling for Tanqueray any day now.

Engine room, we need more power.


Post #93: Molly

Shaking My Head

BreakfastClub16If you’re like me, the words “Molly Ringwald” come accompanied by a set of 1980’s based imagery and cultural association. Swatches, Levis stonewashed jeans, Reagan. You know, the big stuff. But there’s also much more specific imagery from the handful of iconic films Ringwald starred in during her brief stint as America’s girl next door. I’m speaking of The Breakfast Club, Sixteen Candles, Pretty in Pink. And fine, even The Pick Up Artist. I see Molly learning sadly against a locker wondering why she gave her panties to a geek. I see her leaning across the table to kiss dreamboat Jake Ryan. I see her loudly admitting she’s a virgin while Judd Nelson goads her. I see her dancing horribly in a long leather skirt. I see her putting on lipstick with her cleavage. I see her breaking poor Jon Cryer’s tiny little heart so she can galavant with the “richie” Andrew McCarthy.

I like these images. I go to them often. They make me smile and laugh. And I like having Molly there in the frame, right where I need her.

Maybe when you think of Molly, if you think of her at all, you think of other things. But, regardless, you know what you don’t picture when you hear the words “Molly Ringwald?”


Yeah, that just happened.

I feel such a confluence of emotions when I see this that I honestly lack the words. Is she…singing jazz? She is, isn’t she? She’s not…terrible. Is she? I’m so distracted by all the other associations I have with her that I can’t even tell. I have vertigo. I need a place to lie down.

I bumped into Molly Ringwald the jazz singer the other day when looking over the new jazz selection on iTunes. Hence my whiplash. This is all new. I saw her name and image, thought “no fucking way,” and had to click. The samples aren’t half bad. If you didn’t know it was Molly Ringwald, you could almost sit down and listen to it. But…it is Molly Ringwald. I feel for Molly here. Clearly, she’s a more than capable singer and not just whistling dixie up there. And others must think so as well because she’s #4 on the iTunes jazz chart as of right now. Yep, #4. Just ahead of some guy named Miles Davis.

Of course, this isn’t exactly unchartered terrain. I mentioned Reagan above and we all know the journey from Hollywood hunk to the White House is far less likely than that from 80’s film sweetheart to jazz ingenue. Same for the journey from world champion body builder to the governor of California. We all survived that. Hell, maybe jazz is what Molly had her sights set on all along. Maybe she and John Hughes used to sit around and dig on Monk and Prez between takes. Honestly, I stopped paying attention to her around 1988. But I kind of figured she stopped too.

I guess what I’m saying is that Molly’s different somehow. I can’t explain it. She’s ours, isn’t she? All right fine, she’s mine. And these images of her are such a part of my past that they’re burned into my subconscious. I can’t help it. Even more so…I need them there. Need her there.

By the way, I’m well aware of how weird and unfair I’m being. I don’t care. I have needs people. Just please tell me Anthony Michael Hall isn’t running for Congress or I’m going to need medical attention.

As a final thought, if you’re reading this and you find yourself intrigued or wanting to pick up some Molly Ringwald to canoodle you and your lover on some upcoming candlelit journey, go for it. If you can forget who’s singing,  you might even be able to enjoy it. Just pick up some Sarah Vaughan or Billie Holiday first.

I’ll sleep better.