Saturday, November 27, 2010

Gravity Sucks

“Ought to” are heavy words. No, not “Hey man, that’s heavy!” (Kids, ask your grandparents why that’s supposed to be funny.) I mean those words have a metaphoric weight that can’t be dismissed just because it’s symbolic.

Here’s the metaphoric irony: Doing what you “ought to” do doesn’t lighten the weight of responsibility. Sure, the “ought to” is discharged, but you’re just as tired as if you lifted real iron. Trust me, I do both regularly. It’s the same.

Lucky for me, it’s time to lighten the load and put on some weight. Enough facetious repetition, I’m done now. We’re going to eat for a few days. You know the rule; behave yourselves in the meanwhile, my darlings.

Postscript for my tweeties: I’m going off the grid this round. I’m not ignoring you. I’m just not taking Twitter with me. We’ll catch up when I get back. Ciao, bello(s)!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Merry Thanksgiving

Since the Christmas decorations went up a few weeks ago, the thought occurred to me that we’re now spending a sixth of our lives decked in tinsel.
Now, I like Christmas. The people I love best come to my table and I get to feed them. I like sparkly things, and I like nutmeg. Most folks pretend to be nice for the month of December, and that’s a pleasant change.

Still, the decoration thing pisses me off. Thanksgiving gets cheated. Oh sure, a house up the street has a huge inflated turkey wearing a top hat. There’s a cornucopia flag or two. Whoopee.

Thanksgiving is a good holiday in theory, despite its murky history. Especially in difficult times, we should take a day to focus on what’s good about our lives. But we don’t. We deal with having to get to where we’re going and then stuff our faces with a predetermined menu. Come on, how often do you eat cranberries the rest of the year? Thanksgiving has devolved into a dry run for Christmas.

Never mind. I’ll be with my loved ones for a nice meal, and I hope you can say the same.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Reversal Of Fortune

We don’t often notice when an annoyance goes away. Nobody ever woke up thinking, “Hooray! The paper-cut is healed!”

Still, when a car alarm up the street stops making noise, it’s a relief. When the kid behind me in line at Starbucks turned down his iPod so I couldn’t hear it anymore, I was ready to clap for joy. Moving along that spectrum, what does one do when a decades-long whine suddenly stops?

Those of you who know me in real life know my family situation. I’ve been pretty much estranged from my extended family since my father died in 1993. My mother was too, but not as dramatically. Yes, I tried to start dialogues over the years, but now I just send cards in December and gifts for occasions if I find out about them. All that changed last night.

My cousin (my father’s sister’s oldest son)’s wife called to invite me, Robert and Melva to Thanksgiving dinner. We can’t go, but that’s beside the point. We were asked, and in a sincerely welcoming way. This is huge. For seventeen years I felt that none of them liked me, which they’re perfectly entitled not to do. It still rankled. That rankling has gone. Like with the car alarm up the street, where there was a problem, now there is calm.

I’ll stop before I start to sound like a Hallmark card, or before I look it in the mouth and wonder why, and why now. But I really am thankful for this.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

That's Not Nice

I’ve said it before. I believe that if you can help someone then you are morally obligated to try. This doesn't mean you should do something that makes you seem nice -- whether they want you to or not. It's only help if it improves the situation. Besides, if a gesture is unwelcome, how nice can it be?

“You look really good today.” Judging someone, even favorably, is not nice. That’s ego. For the record, a genuine compliment is not a judgment; it’s an expression of appreciation. You'll have to decide which is which based on your situation. If your boss said that, it’s different than if a friend said it. I'll give you a hint: niceness is about social comfort. If you feel uncomfortable, you were probably hit by a favorable judgment. Or maybe just hit on.

A woman at my gym introduces herself by saying, “I’m a nice person,” and then she talks about herself until you chew through your leg and escape. One poor guy was stuck for half an hour. Every time I walked by, he was darting desperate glances right and left, though he kept nodding and saying “uh huh.” Maybe he was nice.

Thursday, November 11, 2010


Once upon a time, about seven or eight years ago, I was at a tres chi-chi opera gala, sitting at a table filled with beautiful (and beautifully augmented) socialites and trophy wives. I was the nondescript plus-one, happily invisible until the bread basket came around and I helped myself to a roll. All conversation stopped. Every sparklingly spackled eye was upon me as I compounded my sin by smearing butter on a bit I’d broken off. One or two jaws dropped as I ate it with my best Sunday manners. I even ate a second one since no one else wanted any. From the reaction, you’d think I had just spat in the centerpiece. All hail Saint Atkins, and boo hiss evil carbs. To this day I don’t know if their reaction stemmed from their fear of gaining weight, or disgust at my lack thereof.

I was reminded of that incident this morning. A particularly svelte and muscular trainer came into the gym holding a small bag. Another trainer (same adjectives apply) asked what was in the bag. “A croissant,” answered the first trainer. I hadn’t really been paying attention until I heard the second trainer gasp. Her voice shook as she exclaimed, “You’re not going to EAT that, are you?!” For the record, he was and he did. Bully for him.

I have my own food phobias, most of which center on laboratory-developed ingredients, protein powder notwithstanding. I don’t eat animals. Although I can cook a decent steak and roast a chicken like nobody’s business, I admit to a bit of revulsion when I think about consuming either. I’m trying to translate that to the examples above and come up with a point.

It took @rmangaha, a guy who deliberately ate in a sushi bar with a C rating, to help me figure it out: People sure are funny about food.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

A Moment, Observed

Picture three youngish men, say early 30s. Each one had a different pattern tattooed up their arms. Their hairstyles were unique. I couldn’t read the shirts from a distance, but they were different from each other. These guys obviously put a lot of effort (and pain) into personalizing their appearance.

Here’s the funny: All three wore black t-shirts with the sleeves cut off to show their tats. All three had dyed black hair. All three wore jeans. It might as well have been a uniform. They looked like a macho version of every single girl band from Josie & the Pussycats to Destiny’s Child.

It reminded me of the scene in “Life of Brian” where a crowd roars in perfect unison: “We are all individuals!”

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Name Calling, Part 2

It started when I went to the bank this morning. The smarmy post-pubescent teller called me by my first name. Okay, I can accept that. But when he referred to my withdrawal as money he was “giving” me, I wanted to smack him twice. Good thing they have that bullet-proof (ergo smack-proof) glass.

Next, I went to the gym. A guy I don’t know, although we nod in passing because we’re both there a lot, called me by name. We’ve never been introduced. I don’t know his name. I don’t want to. I don’t even want to nod, but courtesy is necessary in that environment because you see the same people over and over again. Obviously he asked a friend of mine what my name is, but can you scream “Creepy!”? I should have done that at the time, but I didn’t.

Fine, we’re a first-name society. I would blame hi-my-name-is-Kevin-and-I'll-be-your-waiter from the 80s, but he’s probably gone to the Great Audition In The Sky by now. Can we please just agree to wait until someone gives us their name before we start using it? Pretty please with low-carb sweetener on top? Besides, this way there’s no pressure to remember it the next time you see them.

That’s the “Name Calling” post from May 2, 2009. Two posts make it an official peeve.