Have I grown up or given up?

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And sometimes when you’re expecting something and it does happen.

Disappointment is a fact of life.  I had that drilled into me from an early age, much as I imagine most people have.  There are tons of quotes and cliches about it, but I found this one ironically funny given the subject of this post:

“Maturity is a bitter disappointment for which no remedy exists, unless laughter could be said to remedy anything.”  – Kurt Vonnegut

What prompted today’s entry is that I started noticing a pattern developing in how I deal with disappointment.  The old way would have been to get all fired up and trying to figure out whose fault it was and ten different ways to pay them back that I would never follow through on.  Well for about the past six months or so I’ve noticed something completely different.  After a string of disappointments, rather than drive myself into a panic attack I’m finding myself just sort of sighing and shrugging.  It’s what I like to call The Charlie Brown Response.

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I suppose the question is, which is it?  Have I gone full Charlie Brown or have I finally at the age of 36 (don’t judge, some of us take longer to get there than others) grown up?  I suppose only time will tell.

On a completely different subject, Monday is Memorial Day, so thanks to all that have served and drink a beer (or something stronger) at your picnic for me.

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I’m a punk

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I have three major passions in my life:  music, food, and politics.  This post is about music.

I’ve been called a punk many times.  I still remember sitting at the dinner table as a little boy and my dad telling me that I’m such a little punk.  It wasn’t meant as a compliment, but I wear it as a badge of honor now.  I don’t look like the traditional “punk” though.  Sure, I have a few tattoos, but in general I look sort of preppy…sort of like Jason Segal’s character in SLC Punk (I didn’t realize that it was Jason Segal until I looked it up).

But the truth is that I’m a punk.  It started back in high school with some friends who turned me on to the music.  It spoke to my adolescent angst and sense of justice and fairness.  But as I grew older, rather than grow out of it I actually grew into it.

The more I learned about the early punk scene and researched its evolution the more I began to identify with it.  It basically started with a bunch of kids who were just trying to do their own thing, but I didn’t know that it was so much more than that.  It was an artistic movement centered on pure feeling, which is what drew me in the most.  The earliest seeds of the punk movement weren’t The Sex Pistols and The Clash.  Instead it began with Andy Warhol, the Velvet Underground, The New York Dolls and the New York art scene.  It seemed, and still does, to be the natural progression of decades of built up frustration, repression, and disillusionment with the status quo.  

The pure emotional expression of punk is what I’ve always loved and drawn me to it.  This may seem odd to some people because I’m pretty withdrawn when it comes to emotions but the music expresses what I’ve not been able to do on my own.  Sure, I’m still drawn to the more guttural aspects of punk – the anti-establishment, angry, pain fueled songs, but for anyone willing to listen it’s a much more complicated genre than that.  From NOFX and the Descendents to Black Flag and Off With Their Heads, it’s a genre that is very diverse, but shares a common thread:  honesty.

And with that I leave you with a great song by a great band.  The movie lovers have got to love the Raging Bull clip at the end:

 

The Saga of Sockman

There are those stories of people in your life that make an incredible difference.  This one isn’t one of them, but it’s funny and it doesn’t just involve me, but a lot of my good friends.  Using the word saga is a bit much, because Sockman was not heroic, and certainly neither were we.  Were just a bunch of moron college kids who wanted some easy money, but then it got weird (well weirder than it already was).

A side note:  I talked to my Aunt tonight and we started swapping weird stories.  I see now where the gravitation towards the bizarre comes from.  Apparently it’s genetic.

So anyway, here we go…the Saga of Sockman:

I had to do some digging because I’m starting to get old and forgetting little details, but I believe the story started before I entered my freshman year of college.  First off, yes I was in a fraternity.  There really wasn’t much else to do at my school if you were a guy and they were a great group of guys, so go to hell.  Anyway, our fraternity house had a pay phone in it (remember those???) and the phone number was listed in the phone book.  So one day the phone rings and Grandfather Bitch (it’s a fraternity thing) answered the phone.  The man on the other end of the line was asking if they could provide him with a sweaty pear of socks, “like someone had just gotten done playing basketball in them,” and he would pay $50.

Being a college kid, 50 bucks for something so stupid sounded like an easy and awesome deal, so he said ok.  The deal was to leave them in a bag on the wall outside the house.  Grandfather left the bag and when he came back there was a soda can there with $50 in it.  There was really no rhyme nor reason to when Sockman would call with his request, but it became semi-regular.  Everyone had their own ideas about what he was doing with the socks, but no one really cared.  He got his socks, they got their money, everyone was happy.

Fast forward to what I think was my junior year (I’m a bit fuzzy on the timing) and Sockman apparently felt the need for a little more.  So one day he calls and he asks if someone would fart in his face for even more money.  There was some internal debate of course.  First off, what a freak.  Second, if this dude was this strange he could be some psycho.  But being the young, strapping, testosterone fed idiots we were, we figured there’s how many of us and only one of him.  If he wants to try something then he’s going to regret it.

So we agreed and the night came for the rendezvous.  Until this point there’d never been any face to face contact with Sockman.  People had seen him because obviously curiosity was going to lead someone at some point to stake out the socks to see him.  He was just a regular middle-aged guy it turned out, with some seriously odd interests.

When the time came he showed up and there were a few brave guys who decided they would be the guinea pigs.  The rest of us hid up on the roof to watch what went on.  One of the guys in his own words “got stage fright” and couldn’t do it.  The other delivered.  Now the wrinkle here beyond how bizarre the whole scenario is, is that Weiner was wearing a Redskins Riggins jersey.  So every time Sockman called the phone after that he specifically asked, “Is Riggins there?”  Understandably this freaked Weiner out, but I of course thought it was completely hilarious.

Anyway, fast forward to what I think was senior year.  Sockman called again and had another unusual request:  he wanted someone to paddle him with a fraternity paddle.  We had the same discussions about how weird it was and the risks, but ultimately said what the hell, why not?

The appointed night came and the set up was the same.  Us on the roof, a few down with Sockman on the ground.  When it came time to do the deed Party Pants was the man for the job.  He basically took a running start and smacked the shit out of Sockman.  Needless to say we never heard from Sockman while I was still in school.

However…I did some checking with some of the younger guys and Sockman did come back again after we were gone…this time sticking to just socks.

I really don’t think there’s a moral to the story other than how weird people are, but I will say this:  Thank you Sockman, you provided a lot of money short college kids with a lot of beer and pizza!

That Terrifying Moment When You Realize Most of What Your Parents Said Was Right

I’ve given my parents plenty of credit in this blog and they deserve it.  But there was one thing that my parents instilled upon me that I hated at the time that a certain conversation with a close friend recently confirmed.  You see, my dad was totally old school – no nonsense, no bullshit.  But before we get to that we’ll get to what prompted this post.

A few weeks ago I was talking to a friend about a life situation he and his family are going through and I’m not going to get this exactly right, but he more or less said, “What happened to everything we thought our lives would be?”  I had an epiphany of sorts.  Mostly because I felt like I was the only one who felt that way and here I was hearing it from a trusted friend who basically has everything I thought I’d have:  A loving wife, two great kids, a house, etc.

Now, back to my parents.  Like I said, my dad was a bit of a hard ass…okay, a big hard ass.  But he basically told me that life is hard.  It’s not supposed to be easy.  But somehow along the way between my own hubris, youthful optimism, and perhaps a little bit of the Mr. Rogers/Everybody Wins philosophy that has pervaded our culture I somehow felt it could never happen to me.  I was going to rock this shit.  Then life happened, and I realized how wrong I was…and how right he was.

To quote one of Chris Rock’s best stand-ups:

“You know, some people say life is short and that you could get hit by a bus at any moment and that you have to live each day like it’s your last. Bullshit. Life is long. You’re probably not gonna get hit by a bus. And you’re gonna have to live with the choices you make for the next fifty years.”

Certainly not all of my friends have had the same experiences I have (thank god), but enough have…to the ones that haven’t:  more power to you, I love you guys and hope it stays that way.  To the ones that have, I’ve always got your back and know how you feel.

And to Mom and Dad:  you’re not going to hear this often, but you were right.  If you ever try and bring this up I will vehemently deny it.

Blessings and Curses

My writing has slowed quite a bit because I think I might just be starting to get used to the weird stuff that I see.  For instance, rather than write a detailed post about the woman who stopped mid conversation on her cell phone to loudly hock up a loogie and then spit it out only to go right back to the conversation without skipping a beat, I just posted a short thing about it on Facebook.

This isn’t one of those kinds of posts.  This one actually took a few weeks to come together because it started out with various conversations that I had with different people and comments that they made to me or about me.  I started to notice a pattern emerging and wanted to roll it over in my head a bit before I wrote about it.

For a long time I’ve been fascinated by the notion of duality, which leads to the title of this post.

Say hello to my friend Janus

Say hello to my friend Janus

I was relaying a conversation I had with someone to my friend Sriracha, and basically the comment I was relaying was the person said the reason she thinks people like me is because I’m real.  My response was well yeah, I’m real, what else would I be?  And being “real” is a blessing, it means that I don’t have to try and be something else to please other people.  If you don’t like it, well then tough titty, that’s your problem, not mine.  But at the same time I mentioned to Sriracha that it causes problems at which point she said, “It’s a blessing and a curse!”  And the pattern started to come into focus.

So I started going down the list of some of my “blessings” as told to me by others or as I perceive them to see if I can find a corresponding curse:

  • Intelligence – The benefits of this are pretty obvious.  I have a good job, a house, a car, am respected in my field, etc.  The curse?  I think too damn much and people sometimes have a hard time understanding what I’m talking about.  I think so much that sometimes I overthink things and the exact opposite result of what I intended takes place.  And things to me that seem so obvious and simple aren’t to others and I get super frustrated.  I’ve been told on more than one occasion when I express my frustration that I have to remember that not everyone is as smart as me.  I’ve posted some of my dad’s greatest one-liners in the past, but I didn’t post the, “You’re too damn smart for your own good,” gem.
  • Musicality – I live for music.  I started performing at a young age and kept up with it all through college.  At times it serves as my refuge and at others serves as a second language for me.  The curse?  I get so involved in the music that it often gets attached to memories or people and sometimes becomes a form of torture rather than therapy.
  • Sensitivity – I’m sure there’s a blessing in here somewhere, but I’ve yet to figure it out.  It’s true, I’m sensitive.  I may seem like a dick sometimes, but so can just about everyone else.  This one was a hard blessing to come to grips with, but I’ve done it.  The curse?  I’m a huge sucker when it comes to relationships.  I fall easy and I fall hard.  And if the relationship ends badly I have a tendency to become a walking disaster.
  • Confidence/Inner Strength – I think the blessings that go with this are obvious, though I’m not sure I necessarily agree with the assertion.  You see, this isn’t one that I chose, they come from two separate conversations with my friend Wiener.  At one point when I was on the verge of an emotional collapse last year, he said to me, “You’re the toughest motherfucker I know.  You’ll get through this.”  And then the second conversation which was very recently went something like, “You do it right, you have confidence and people see that.”  The curse?  I think the curse is more people having the perception that you have those things when in truth you’re just as fragile as everyone else.
  • Youthful looks – I’m 35 as I write this.  Honestly.  About a month ago I was at a dinner for work and my boss introduced me to some woman and said I worked for her.  The woman asked me if I just graduated college in the spring.  The curse?  I can’t find a curse on this one, I’ll take it!  I suppose you could say that some may not take me seriously because of the way I look, but I haven’t really had that experience 🙂

Well that’s all for now, folks.  Keep your noses clean out there.  And I’d be remiss after talking about music if I didn’t post an appropriate song:

And Here It Is

I know that some have been eagerly awaiting my dating post.  Well, I think it’s about time.  But I warn you…don’t get too excited.  There will be no gory details.  This is to both protect the innocent and also to not further incriminate myself.  I’m going to skip straight to the takeaway – I’m terrible at dating.  This is sort of an honest, but still laughing at myself sort of post.

I have two theories about why this is the case, it’s probably some sort of a combination of both:

  1. Over the past 15 out of 16 years I’ve had two consecutive long term relationships, so I have no damn clue what I’m doing.
  2. Well, I’m me and can’t not be me.  And if you’re not used to me, I can understand that I might be a little…challenging shall we say.

That doesn’t mean over the past 10 months I haven’t dated women…I have.  I’m just really good at finding ways to self-implode (It’s a “gift”).

Here’s my problem:  I’m just too damn old not to be myself, nor should I feel compelled to be.  The whole point of a relationship is for people to “love the crust of a muthafucka,” like Chris Rock said.

I know that the grass is always greener as they say, but for those of you with long term relationships and families – cherish that shit (with a winking nod to my big, big brother…sorry, stupid fraternity joke).  While some of you may envy my freedom, I also envy what you have, no matter how difficult it may seem sometimes.

So that’s it.  I know this wasn’t a very revealing post, but the moral of the story is:  dating BLOWS.

Home Sweet Home

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I know I haven’t posted in pretty much forever.  It’s not because somehow my life became normal.  There’s no way that could happen.  I’ve just been super busy and whenever I get a spare minute I end up crashing rather than sitting at my laptop.

After spending two months living in a hotel with two psychotic dogs (something I would not recommend, by the way), I finally got to start moving back into my house about two weeks ago.  Oh, sidebar, Erie Insurance are massive ballbusters on paying out a claim, FYI.  Literally the moment I pulled up and got out of the car, something weird happened.

I was going back and forth between the car and my house unloading and there were kids over at the playground at noon.  My first thought was, “What the hell are these kids doing at the playground?  Shouldn’t they be in school?”  Then I realized that two of them weren’t kids.  One was the daughter of The Predator, who I’m pretty sure is an adult.  It’s hard to tell, she looks a lot better now, but the first time I saw her she looked like a recovering meth addict.  The other one was some scuzzy dude that was with her.  The two other people were her young daughter and some 12 or 13 year old girl.  So aside from them being there at an odd time, there was nothing remarkable about it.  And then it started.

The 13 year old starts talking and the first thing I hear is, “So and so said that his dick was so small that he didn’t even need a condom.