F*ck Your Super Bowl . . .

Well, my long nightmare is all but over. Another NFL season is almost behind us.

The Gladiators of the Gridiron are just 48-ish hours away from staging Super Bowl 49 (you can jam the roman numerals all the way out of the sun's light) and I, for one, could not be more thrilled at this brazen demonstration of our short, collective attention spans.

Remember wayyyyyyy back in August and September when people were "mad" at the NFL? When they were "outraged" at a league that told a player to sit down for just two weeks for knocking a woman unconscious in public? We called for the commissioner's head on a platter. We vowed to protest and not watch games. We swore that advertisers would need to pull their money if they still wanted us to buy their crap. We were soooooo upset. For about twelve seconds. By early-October the games were gathering record audiences, Congress had canceled any plans for reviews or hearings, the Commissioner was back to work, the ads and brands were renewing contracts, the Super Bowl spots were sold out, and the tickets were too.

What happened, America? You know what else has happened since mid-August when the NFL started its pre-season action? 22 active players have been arrested. That's almost one per team. 52 have been arrested since the Super Bowl last year. There have been over 20 documented on-field concussions and likely three or four times that many that have gone unreported. Seven players have failed drug tests. Fourteen have been on trial and/or in court.

Now I know, I know . . . there are 70 players per roster and 32 teams in the NFL (2,240 active players) so these numbers are drops in the bucket but if 1% of our teachers were arrested . . . would you still want them in a classroom? If 1% of our cops were abusing their power . . . would you still want them carrying badges? If 1% of your food had hair in it . . . would you still eat at that restaurant?

Nope. We would protest and call for firings and we would abstain and we would riot. All justifiably so, I might add. Yet here we are - as a nation who claims to love and value all people equally - watching a sport that is based on violence and aggression and we cheer for teams that we don't even really care for (even if you are a fan of a team - you have a 1:16 chance of YOUR team being involved in this game). And the worst part? We call these players "bums" and "cheats" and "losers" more than we call them anything positive. We feel entitled to their pain and suffering. We offer them nothing in exchange. The team owners don't really, either. Statistically the only thing players get is union coverage after retirement for insurance (and as we saw this season those coverages are weak at best) and perhaps a role doing some speaking or singing autographs for money. Mind you the average player leaves the league at age 27. Many with no other skills that are directly applicable to the work force.

I'm a downer, right?! You just want to enjoy this Sunday?! Let's talk about that . . .

Sure, sure, sure . . . you "must" see the ads. Ain't you got no Interwebs?! ALL the Super Bowl spots are already available online. Here is one (of many) dumping grounds for them. They are also getting increasingly disconnected from the products they sell and carry less and less value to the brands they push. You can hire someone at $40,000/year and pay them for 100 years (or hire 4 people at $40,000 for 25 years) for the cost of ONE spot at the Super Bowl. And that doesn't include the (perhaps) million or so more spent to write, produce, edit, etc. the spot. Enjoy your chuckle at the cute puppy dog doing human things.

You like the Americana of it all? Excited for Idina Menzel's take on the National Anthem? That's got you pumped for the Sunday fun? Sure, sure. We have not had a chance to see her sing that song on national television since JULY. More over - whatever lip syncing she does will be to something recorded weeks ago (you think she's going to risk getting hammered again like she did when she warbled on New Year's Eve? c'bawnnnnsuhn!). That being said - she does have a beautiful voice - hear it here (and/or buy the Super Bowl version on iTunes (it will be available by the time the game is over):

The other music performance got you interested? Yes! Katy Perry. The super talented Katy Perry. I'll bet that little pixie is planning fun, fun, fun. She said as much. See all the (zzzzzzz) hype here. She's got 12 minutes to share the stage with Lenny Kravitz and Red Hot Chili Peppers (because G-d forbid we don't bring some of the 90s back in to the mix) and to shake her juggs while claiming that sexuality is in no way her calling card. Look up to her, young girls. She's a role model for sure.

What's that? Oh. You enjoy the GAME!?! All five hours of it?! Really?! You do? I wish I could love ANYTHING enough to give five hours of my life to it while not being active in the process and getting literally nothing in return - and having that thing not matter at all anyway. It is a game. The world spins exactly the same after as before.

You're a die-hard Seattle Seahawks and/or New England Patriots fan? Sure. I'll buy that. Why not? But I'll bet that, statistically, you are more interested in the Patriots losing more than either team winning. Apparently the years and years of strength of the team despite their crunchy exterior (and the (alleged) murderer they had on the team and the cheating and video cameras and ball adjustments (giggle)) have lead to some hard feelings among fans of the game. Very mature of you. How is your grudge against VHS for what it did to beta holding up? You wanna talk about it? Want a hug?

Here's the truth - MOST Americans "love" the Super Bowl because we feel like we haven't had a good excuse to get together as a a group, get drunk, and eat too much since December 31st and 33 days is TOO long to not have such a reason for such an experience.

And I would agree. Seriously. We should all spend more time together and enjoy each other and have fun but know what we should NOT do? Do it in such a way that empowers a corrupt organization that makes billions off the efforts of men who are shortening the length and quality of their lives for your entertainment to point and say "See, the people LOVE us. We must offer them this product."

Don't watch the Super Bowl this year. Turn it off. Do ANYTHING else. If enough of us admit we don't actually care about the spectacle or the sport or the pops and buzzes that come along with it . . . if enough of us take back our five hours and put it toward any other pursuit. If ENOUGH of us do it - perhaps the league will feel a little pain and perhaps we can have a real conversation. I doubt it but . . . maybe.


Leadership . . .

I have loved politics since I was a little kid (literally - eight or nine years old) and one of the things I love MOST about politics is the idea that men and women not really much different than you and me can get up and make speeches and say impassioned things and then, if they get support, set to making big visions and plans happen. Also - they get to do all sorts of crazy crap and get away with it. I'm looking at you, my beloved Bill Clinton. I'm kidding. Sorta'.

Another thing I love about politics? They are personal. I know people who will only vote for candidates who are pro choice. That's fine. I think they miss the forest for the trees but that is their choice. I know people who will only vote for a candidate that is pro legalized marijuana. Insert metaphor about smoke here but note that is equally fine with me. They get a vote. They use it.

My politics skew "liberal". I make no apologies for that and don't make excuses about it. It is what it is. I get one vote. DO NOT WORRY! I cast said vote in Kansas. It is like flushing it down the toilet. Yet - still - I vote and I love to learn about issues and candidates and exercise my privilege/right to vote.

I don't ask for a lot from politicians. I want them to be informed. I want them to represent and reflect their constituents. I want them to be honorable men and women. I want them to be honest and open. I want them to work hard. I want them to be leaders that we can all admire. I do NOT care if their politics and mine align so long as they are Jeffersonian (which, we now know is sorta ironic) in their nature. I also, if I am being honest, want them to be eloquent and genuine and inspiring in their speeches and rhetoric and I want them to lead . . . as in "follow me, I have a plan" or "right this way, good people, to something better".

Know who violates just about all of what I want in a politician? "My" Congressman. Congressman Mike Pompeo. Now in his third term I still can't figure out what anyone sees in him (I presume it is a lesser-of-candidate-evils thing and, let's be honest, he hasn't really been challenged by a Democrat because the national committee cares not about a state and district that should love them and a Democrat representing them (I digress)).

Take Rep. Pompeo's latest travesty of an effort to inspire and "lead" - his response to the State of the Union. It is just 7:00 long. Give it a watch (and make a mental note the first time you realize you just cannot take it any more).


Are you inspired, Kansans? Do you feel like we have a real gem doing our work in DC? Anyone from another district or part of the country mumbling about how lucky we are to have him AND all these beautiful miles of farm, sky, and beauty? Anyone? No? NONE of you?! Huh. I'm not surprised.

Let's break it down . . .

00:00 - 00:27 - The ONLY sorta honest stuff he says. He is a "Conservative American". Then he ruins it by saying that Conservative values are the best way to realize dreams (or some crap like that) despite no evidence to support either party's (continually evolving) "values" are better for our hopes and dreams and then he talks about worship. What?! Remember that he implies here that we can all have our own vision of G-d (as long as it is a Christian G-d and/or his son Jesus).

00:28 - 00:33 - This is when you first start to notice his eyes darting back and forth while reading what his comms people (or more likely/tragically the folks from the RNC or some conservative PAC or some other political shadow group) wrote for him. It gets worse. Sadly.

00:38 - 00:41 - This is my favorite dismissal of President Obama (let me restate here - he is not my guy. I think he's a fantastic orator and I think he has a great sense of self and history but I have never cast a vote for him) . . . "It's about people, not programs". What does that even mean?

00:48 - 1:00 - ALL due respect to the 20,000 folks in Wichita that have lost their jobs in the last seven or eight years due to the aviation industry's workings but a) There are millions more Americans working now than January 2009 and one thing President Obama has been clear on is that we need to invest in industries that are growing and the next phase of our economy. Aviation is important and relevant but it is not the future - at least not the sum of it. I would think our Congressman would realize he could/should be doing more to attract businesses here and to help work with national/global companies that have presence here to keep them here. But, nope, this is about 500 people losing their jobs and Obama being personally responsible (not true in any way).

1:01 - 1:14 - If you noticed if the guy is Hispanic or not (in this story) you are either racist or grasping to show that you are down with brown. Either way - pound sand. Also . . . Obamacare was ratified as law by both chambers of Congress and has been upheld by courts and your own party can't get the votes to strike it down. This is not some despot laying out policies for his own ego. This is a systemic law that has changed healthcare in this country. Also - if the hour restrictions on Obamacare bum you out YOU should do something. Congress could offer/pass legislation to change minimum requirements at any time. If they opened the door for more opportunity for insurance . . . I'm sure the President would sign off.

1:38 - 1:41 - Last year the President collected and spent more money than in any previous year in the history of our country. Um. Yep. And THAT is a good thing. He's lowering the deficit and it shows that the money is there and that the programs are being funded. Also - to say "more than ever" is like talking about the price of candy bars today vs. in 1920. At LEAST adjust the dollars collected/spent for normalcy. NO chance the budget now is like it was during The Big Deal. But, you know, facts.

1:56 - I love this (and the other jump cuts) in the video. Can this guy not go eight WHOLE minutes without edits or flubs while reading his speech? He graduated from West Friggin' Point. He's SMART and capable. Maybe he just doesn't have the passion for what he is saying . . .

2:02 - 2;32 - To clarify . . . 18,000 kids waited to try and get in to see President Obama and they went GORILLAS for him (to quote Kanye) and if they go to KU they are just fine with "faculty lounge liberalism". Have you ever BEEN to Lawrence, good sir?! That's some liberal, hippie-dippie greatness going on and on and on. These kids will be poor because there are no jobs waiting for them. They will be poor because the working model is changing. They will be poor because . . . liberal arts. I was there once. I get it. I never blamed Bill Clinton OR George W. Bush.

2;37 - Thef*ckouddaheah that you just said "Koch Industries" in your speech. Are they the only place in Kansas hiring? Oh, oh . . . they are just your string pullers. Got it. Yes. Get them a plug. Did you want to slowly reach for your Pepsi and sip it followed by "Ahhhh. Generation Next indeed"? You're a caricature of yourself, Rep. Pompeo. Those dudes ARE evil. They are. They have the money to and plan to buy and sell our political process. They don't even make apologies for it. Why should you deny it?

3:02 - The country IS better off - on just about every major indicator - today than it was in January, 2009. Where do you get your facts?

3;33 - The smirk and laugh when he talks about his mother? I'll bet he's actually practiced that crap in the mirror. Does it even feel sincere to you? Does he sound like something spontaneous or heartfelt?

3:44 - Tongue twister. I totally get it. NO need to edit that one out like you did the others. Slip-slop-and-POST to YouTube. And to go on to college at West Point IS to go to a government program. You are a product of what you claim to oppose.

3:56 - Another flub. Another eye dart. Another random spin on employment figures. It IS true that fewer Americans are working now than any other time. There are also more children and retired people and the business model of full time people becoming consultants have all played a role in that statistic. Only one of them (the replacement of full time work with pay-for-skills) is unfortunate.

4:09 - That we can't afford to keep up with life and that food stamps are booming is not the fault of a President. That is a failure of our society and our economy and our business. That IS (you're right) an embarrassment. We are of, for, and by the people. We should all feel some share in the blame here and we should all want to be fed and to have our fellow man, woman, and child go to bed less-hungry.

4:42 - 2008? Wait. You are admitting there were problems then? Before him? Okay. I'm putting a point back on the board for you.

4:53 - This notion that insurance changed for dozens of your constituents does not mean that we have an insurance crisis. MOST Americans saw no change in their coverages or options (unless the options and coverages went up or improved) and their fees went down. If they renamed the McDonald's #1 the letter A and took a buck off - it is still a Big Mac meal, right?!

5:03 - Here we go with the terrorism stuff. This was the part that made my head explode. Shutting down Gitmo is not weakness. It is saving us money and getting people held - in some cases for a dozen years or more with no progress from them - off our hands. We are not soft on terrorism for putting these suspects in OTHER prisons in OTHER lands. We are not exactly giving them bus fare and what was on their person when they came in back and wishing them well while sending them off to meet with their probation officers.

5:34 - It is radical and it is extremism but it is NOT Islamic. Not a single act of terrorism (that I am aware of) has ever actually been in line with the faith, traditions, and directions of the faith nor is it in line with the majority that practice the religion. Don't confuse those things. If a fat man kills another person that is not radical, extreme obesity. That is just an asshole who happens to be fat.

5:35 - Whoa, whoa, whoa . . . are you saying there are threats against Kansas and Kansans that you are aware of? Specific ones? No? Just spewing fear and divisiveness. Phew. You had me so worried for a minute.

5:48 - Is it hundreds killed or thousands? You said both. In the span of a minute. Talking points are hard. I get it.

5:54 - PROVE that Gitmo is effective at doing anything other than providing a reason for radicals filled with hate to point the finger at Americans for not respecting their fellow nut jobs. Seriously. One shred of proof is all I ask for. I know - you can't tell me - government secrets. Like those threats to Kansas you mentioned 20 seconds ago.

6:00 - Are you trying to tell me George W. Bush was a leader against terrorism? That we really had stuff under control in his years and ways? HOW do you fight terrorism, good sir? Beside "programs" and government expenses? There is no country to target. No obvious threats. Just dudes and a few women and children in mountains, caves, and other secret places plotting and doing horrible things. I don't envy any President in the 21st century who has to fight an enemy that is not there until it is in action.

6:08 - Our heavy price is men and women who have fought for this country to come back to no jobs, no support, long lines for care and concern, and little support to get them comfortable with that is here all while knowing some of their work was to no success. But, again, it is about people not programs. Hmmmm.

6:40 - We've had 50 years of massive Government growth. And about half of those have been Rep. presidents and half Dem. presidents and more Rep. control of Congress (both houses) than Dem. So - again - what does this stat mean in a relevant context? Just that it is hard to govern and that our government is probably not efficient? Agreed!

7:00 - Merciful fade to black.

You know what was missing from Rep. Pompeo's pre-written speech? Ideas. Solutions. Ownership of his role in any problems or solutions. A promise to do more. A clear-cut, take-away message that he would love a chance to fix whatever is wrong with these United States and whatever is plaguing those of us here in his district. That is leadership. NONE of this was leadership. It was fear and slide and slight of hand and negativity.

Taking cheap shots is easy (I take (and land) dozens a day) but there is nothing great or encouraging or inspiring in that. There is nothing wonderful in it. There is nothing that reminds me of what it was like to be a kid watching Ronald Regan (yes, Ronald Regan) and thinking "Man. That guy has a whole thing going on that I can get behind."

I want more. I wish my fellow Kansans did, too.


Binge is a Four-Letter Word . . .

The third season of House of Cards will be released on us in exactly 30 days. I'll be waiting for the next season of House of Cards (if they make it - speculation is not on the side of another batch) by 31 days from now.


I lack self control. I lack will power. I lack the ability to do things in moderation and to say "enough is enough". I pulled an all-nighter the night the first season of House of Cards was made available. It took me less than 24 hours to get through all of season two. I'll do about as well in season three.

And it is not just House of Cards. It is Murder She Wrote and Psych! and Monk and Poirot. It is The Americans and The Wire and Family Guy and The League. It is the Fast and Furious franchise (so many times) and it is the fact that as long as I have an Internet connection and 22 - 92 free minutes I have all I need to feed my craziness.

I don't think I'm as addicted to Netflix and Amazon Prime as I am food or sleep or spelling errors or poor sentence structure or diet soda but my name is Sean and I am a stream-binge-a-holic.


Baby-Making Music . . .

I mentioned a few weeks ago that D'Angelo was some strong baby-making music. Someone asked me what that meant (I wish I was kidding). Let me elaborate . . . baby-making music is music you might enjoy listening too during carnal acts . . . the sort of carnal acts that might lead to a visit from the stork (that is where babies come from, right?).

So the question than came back . . . what other songs would you consider baby-making music? This is a complicated question. Certainly the question is met with a question . . . what do you like? What makes you feel good about yourself? What makes you feel the tingles? What makes your partner feel all the tingles? Then you have to figure out if you want to make love and make it soft and sweet or if you want to use your (safety) words and really go for it.

The prior? Yeah. Me too. Here are some suggestions . . .

Allison Moorer . . .

If you are a middle-aged woman going through something with a younger man (or if Robert Redford just showed up to tame your wild beasts (not a euphemism)) this is your thing. You've got 3:52. Get at it.

The Weeknd . . .

A more-recent entry to my long list of musicians that have that certain "thing" about them . . . The Weeknd (not a typo) is pretty splendid as sexual tunage goes. Here are two of my favorites. The first is brand new (off the 50 Shades of Literature Porn Turned Movie) soundtrack and the second is the first work from him that made me think he might leave that last "e" off for erotic (disclaimer - the lyrics are a bit ribald).

George Michael . . .

Laugh all you want, this guy has always known how to make sexuality part of his "thing" and this song is a shining example. The live version - with a SYMPHONY - is even tingle-inducing.

Maxwell . . .

I mean seriously . . . You have to have some serious swag to wear your hair THIS crazy and have a voice this tenor and still talk about laying pipe like so many skilled laborers.

Magnet . . .

A remake of Bob Dylan is the ONLY thing that makes Bob Dylan listen-able. Bonus points if you know that this song was on the soundtrack and in the movie Mr. & Mrs. Smith. I wonder if Brad and Angie made one of their beautiful babies to this song? Seriously, though . . . do you think so?

Heart . . .

No. Not really.


Flowers . . .

Know what I hate? Okay - touche - know which one of the 6,398,217 things I hate I want to rant about in this particular post? Flowers.

Yeah. That's right. I'm talkin' to YOU, beautiful things that grow up out of the ground and/or down from potted hangers and/or out from wall vines and/or . . . you get my point. Yeah. You STINK. And by that I mean you literally smell amazing but figuratively are working my last nerve like so many pebbles in so many shoes.

Now sure, sure. Flowers have their places. Gardens, vases, hands of brides, lapels of grooms, necks of Triple Crown winners, etc. Know where they don't belong? As GIFTS. Yeah. Yeah. Let's get in to the real heart of the matter, folks (I'm three paragraphs in, the rage is loosened up - I'm ready to run).

Really? You are telling me something that dies faster than most varieties of flies (not knowing for their longevity, for those not sure why I picked them to round out my analogy) is the best way you can think of to mark an occasion or make someone feel special? You unoriginal bastard.

Let's go through the usual suspects/reasons/excuses . . .

LOVE - If you love someone and want to get them flowers. Do it on a Tuesday. On your way home from work. Have them come from a grocery store and/or the florist in the neighborhood. Pay no attention to cost . . . find ones that are prettiest and go. That is a gesture (not a gift) but if you are marking and anniversary or the first time you went all the way or the time she forgave you for that picture you "accidentally" sent her best friend . . . shame. on. you. Find something real and genuine and special between you. Like the moment you first went all the way.

DEATH - Oh sweet irony. Where this tradition start? When bodies were not "prepared" so oils, and perfumes, and flowers were used to make the whole process slightly easier on the senses. We've come a long way since and yet - traditions being what they are - flowers. Is it the fact that something beautiful can be present in something so painful? Know what would mean more . . . dinner for the grieving, housecleaning or errands for the mournful, or a handwritten note sharing a memory and wishing people well.

BIRTHDAYS - Seriously? We're doing gifts for adults on their birthdays still? Does the Easter Bunny still visit, too?! In two words . . . oy vey.

BUSINESS APPRECIATION - Oh, oh, oh. I get it. Sure. Someone who works with/for you did something great. Know what you can for for them? Pay them. Oh. Wait. You already do. Now I'm a firm believer in managing with kindness and being kind and generous and sincere in rewarding a job well done but give them a little more time off, take them to lunch, give them a gift card to their favorite eating place or shop, arrange for a massage (if they are the type that like strangers rubbing their naked bodies). Make it personal that shows you pay attention to them and value them. Know what isn't great? Having to buckle a gift in to the seat for the ride home. That's not a gift. That is a toddler.

APOLOGIES - You did something wrong? For shame (don't fret, instead tell me alllllll about it - I love the back stories of people falling short). But you're going to send flowers to try and make it right? How? Seriously . . . give me the logic on this one and speak very slowly for I'm clearly not a bright man.

I'm sure there are other reasons equally maddening to me. I get that flowers are big (I never said that they weren't) and I know there are millions of people who claim to love, love, love receiving them. I would argue they love them so much because there are no other options or gifts to compare/contrast against in most instances.

I'll leave you with this passing thought - if flowers are so great and wonderful and from the heart why do websites that sell them make it as click-efficient as possible to buy X for Y occasion and why do most florists, if you call, as you what the occasion is and what your budget is as the first two questions of each call? Know who else organizes their stuff by number for your convenience? McDonald's. And no one, tragically, is giving Chicken McNuggets for their wedding anniversary.


Shoes . . .

I'm thinking about adding some shoes with laces to my life.

I know, I know . . . WHAT?! Well, you see, I'm a penny loafer guy. Pretty much all penny loafers pretty much all the time. I have some sneakers and casual weekend shoes that require manual labor (pro tip - I leave 'em just loose enough that they can slip on and off with ease).

I'm thinking about adding the 19 seconds it takes to tie shoes to my daily routine.

What do you think . . . bucs or oxfords?




The 51% Rule . . .

I was asked yesterday, by a mutual friend of a person I was once very close with but have - in the last almost year - had an almost entire "falling out" with, how I could be so negative and absolute and cynical in my approach to life and relationships and people (particularly that aforementioned mutual friend).

Let's be very clear. I am a grump. I am a curmudgeon. I am emotionally simple. I am glass-half-empty. I have a dark sense of humor. I have a somewhat cynical outlook but only about certain things (granted - the things I am cynical about I am totally, irreversibly cynical about). I am, however, NOT negative.

I'm a fan of Josh Groban, Michael Buble, and Madame Dion (don't you call her Celine - you don't know her like that). My favorite shoes are penny loafers. I buy no-sugar-added Nesquik at QuikTrip and chug the bottle on the walk to the car. I knit. I love (and still miss) Psych. I adore work and rarely say "no" to a new challenge or opportunity and am the head of our employee activity committee. I hug people (especially women). I carry Crayola crayons in my car and carry-on luggage and have them in almost every room of the house and in my office. I have erupted in (happy) tears while watching YouTube clips and sitting in my temple/sanctuary. I cheer for my ex-wife. I have a guinea pig. tell stories to anyone that will listen. I smile - more and more often all the time. None of these are the traits, leanings, or behaviors of a negative person (and, no, I'm not over-compensating).

But the one adjective that I will happily accept as a label is that I am absolute. I don't believe that people can or will or should "change" and I don't believe that people ever say things they don't mean (perhaps they don't mean to say them but they mean what they say). I sleep very well at night knowing that my personality is not for everyone and that I am my very own person and that I don't hide or pretend or camouflage myself for the comfort of others. Most importantly? I don't waste my time with other people.

What does that mean? I adopted this "rule" when I was about twelve-years-old and I still live by it today. I call it the 51% rule. Here is how it plays . . .

  • You have a sound-enough sense of "self" to put people in your life in categories and you know the difference between "friends" and "pals" and those you "love" and those you "enjoy", etc. 
  • You have a relationship with someone that has a label (friend, colleague, acquaintance, employer, clergy, enabler, dealer, etc.). They must be someone that is "classifiable" for this rule to work (you can't include the barista at Starbucks that puts raw sugar in your flat white every time you ask for it with Splenda because they truly don't seem to understand the difference). 
  • You allow a dynamic to play out between you and the other person. It has to be based on the appropriate level of trust, respect, honesty, and lust (in relation to intimate relationships - it is relevant, like it or not) and it has to allow for good days and bad days. We're talking a dynamic based on the law of averages.
  • As long as that person provides you (and you provide THEM) positive thoughts and interactions 51% of the time or more - you keep them in that category and dynamic and presume they will keep you there as well.
  • The minute that dynamic hits 100% of the time (and stays that high for a period of time) you move them UP a level on your hierarchy.
  • The minute that dynamic hits 50% or less and stays there for an appropriate amount of time, you move them DOWN a level on your hierarchy. Your wife becomes your ex-wife, your "besty" becomes your "best friend from X phase of your (past) life", and your mail carrier becomes - well - they stay your mail carrier. You should not have an actual relationship with your mail carrier (unless they fit in to another category and happen to bring you your lingerie catalogs, too)
  • The minute that person drops a few rungs on the ladder - you cut them. You absolutely cut them. You don't burn the bridge. You don't go nuclear. You don't minimize yourself and nurture tension or anger or hatred. You simply . . . walk away.
  • You always keep yourself available to that person (presuming your safety and sanity can allow for it) and you help them when/where you can (if they ever meant anything to you - they should still mean something when/if in true crisis) and you try to allow that they might, in time (if you and they get on the same page - please note that I don't think these things are ever truly one sided) get back in to a category/relationship worth nurturing but you walk away. You acknowledge that person is worse for you than they are good (and, perhaps, you for them) and you walk away
Yes. I know and agree . . . it is overly simple of me to live my relationships by this rule and yet - here I am - 26 years later - with neat and clean buckets of relationships and I can manage them all and I can feel about them and they can all feel good about me. 


Little Things . . .

I read a really great article yesterday about the impact of investing (literally spending money) in pursuit of fitness goals. It is no different, I suppose, than any other pursuit where you need the right equipment (which often means spending money) to really embrace something and really pursue something and really accomplish things.

I could look at you (I've remotely turned on your webcam - you have toothpaste on your collar) and tell you that this is silly . . . that all you REALLY need to pursue fitness is some resolve and some focus but, well, that would not be my real opinion.

I signed up for a $100 training program, I'll pre-register for a race (at a cost of $60) and I just bought a polar fleece for early-morning January running (at a cost of $17 (thank you clearance and free shipping code at check-out)). I am currently in deep, deep emotional trauma over the current color choices of my soon-to-be-purchased Brooks Transcend 2s (FYI - I was actually GLEEFUL to discover that you can still buy the Transcend 1 on Brooks website) but will spend at least $100 on them. I buy friction reducer to go between my massive and horrifying thighs. I will buy dozens of bottles of Powerade Zero and hundreds of bananas. I'll improve my diet and spend more money on food. I'll use my gym membership more regularly. These are all things that cost me money to help me stay focused.

ALL this is an investment. All of it has helped me get up and run these last 10 days (or so - shhhhh, I still have 102 days until the half marathon, I'm not skurred)). ALL of it is sizable financial investment that, frankly, lots of people can not spend. You know what means a lot MORE to me?

Google Play music tracks (at $8/month) to run to. Nuun tablets at $8/tube of twelve. Larabars at about $1 each. The thing making me MOST happy this campaign? The FREE feetures socks we got as part of our "swag bag" at orientation last week.

I guess I'm rambling but the moral of the story is that it is not so much the cost as the notion of investment and it is not so much what you buy but what you amass in pursuit of miles. Sorta like those people who think buying all the "stuff" to fill their lives will make them happy . . . only, you know, while sweating and out of breath.


Anti-Euphemism . . .

Upon finishing my first run for the Start2Finish group run (which I finished, as is my tradition, at the same time that the groups were forming to start their runs (I don't like running with people - forgive me)) I approached about 100 runners.

Many of these runners were old pros and even volunteers leading groups but - for a good percentage of the men and women, they were getting ready for their first group run and, in some cases, their first runs period.

What heady, heady moments those are (I remember, well, my first group run) and I was enthralled by the mix of excitement, fear, and glee that floated around the group. 

I approached a group of three women (I thought I recognized one from my first time participating with the program) and introduced myself. We were making small chat and one asked me if I was nervous to run alone and in the dark (I try to be out on the streets by 5:45 AM so I don't screw up the rest of my morning schedule) and I looked her in the eye and responded, coolly, "I'm a 5'11" morbidly obese man that runs with no wallet, no cell phone, and only a seven-year-old $50 iPod shuffle on me. My shoes, now almost 200 miles of wear and tear on their soles are the most valuable thing I have in tow. I run down the middle of the street, more often than not, and keep a constant eye out for cars. I don't feel the least bit unsafe." 

She looked back at me, almost dubious of my ability to dismiss fear so cavalierly (if I am being totally honest I think the world is only as scary or dangerous as you want it to be . . . acknowledging there are horrible people and horrible events all around us) and said "That's great but, for me, I'm not leaving home to run without a partner and a rape whistle (insert raucous laughter here)."

Rape whistle!?! What a very specific and horrible thing to call an otherwise undramatic piece of plastic or metal. I get why this name has followed the alert-sounder. Much like the wife beater or the sh*t kicker it calls, immediately, to our basest urges and the bleakest of uses for basic possessions.

For some reason this really annoyed me (and it does every time I hear someone refer to a whistle as a "rape whistle") because while rape certainly (and tragically) does happen every day (statistically it is more common) in this country there is not, I don't think, any reason to presume that the first and foremost reason to have a whistle on a run would be to prevent or call for help in the event of a sexual assault. I don't know the statistics on that but I feel like they are very, very low. More over I don't know why a woman would say such a thing in a joking way. It is not funny and if she is fearful of it happening it is even less funny. 

I smiled, casually (I'm working on being less "me" in these moments). I thought about just wishing the women well on their first run (which we had established this one would be) and walking on to greet another group (where a woman I DID know was stretching and chatting) but, instead, my grumpier "self" took over and I felt compelled to point out that the woman - her whistle on a rope wrapped around her wrist several times - was wearing two mismatched socks. 


Into the Woods . . .

We finally went and saw "Into the Woods" the other night. If I am being totally honest I've been excited about this movie since I first heard rumor that they were making and casting Meryl Streep as The Witch. If she was the cornerstone . . . how could they go wrong?!

I probably knew more about Into the Woods than most people (a friend of mine went to see it and didn't realize, until the first words were intoned that the movie was a musical) in that I was not only aware that it was a, um, musical but I had seen the musical on the (proverbial) Great White Way at least a dozen years ago. I enjoyed it then and I loved the idea that fairy tales could overlap and that the notion of happy ever after not always being as simple as the characters had hoped . . . how could they go wrong?!

Well, dear reader, I'm here to tell you - they went wrong. There were a few things I enjoyed about the musical. The casting was almost entirely great - both in the people that I knew (Meryl Streep, Emily Blunt, Christine Baranski, Anna Kendrick (I still hate the "cup" song), Tracy Ullman, Christopher Pine, etc.) and those I was not-yet familiar with (I don't know their names off the top of my head). I hated, hated, hated Johnny Depp as the Big Bad Wolf.

While certainly the lyrics and lines he recited were not his own his version of a pimp/pedophile/sexual deviant character were almost too much for me. I was also not crazy about the casting of Rapunzel. I didn't find her "believable" as a fairy tale creature set away from the world for her entire life.

I thought the sets, in Disney tradition, were great and I enjoyed that they made most of them feel about the right size and scope for scenes that originally played out on a stage. A notable (and probably my favorite part of the WHOLE movie being the river/waterfall set for "Agony".

Generally speaking, that was about it. I thought the director (the experienced Rob Marshall) focused too much on the dark and gloomy parts of the source work (acknowledging here that the show is about people who have their own selfish motives spending three days in dark, dense woods) and not enough on idea that sometimes what we really need is not as obvious as what we want and that - if we can survive the darkness - the light is warm and gentle.

I didn't hate the movie - not by any stretch (I secretly cheer for any movie musical (the kiddo and I have been working through the classics like Fiddler on the Roof, Little Shop of Horror, Evita, and the more-recent Les Miserables)) but I didn't love it and I don't know how much I would push anyone else to see it.


Sunday Funday . . .

I hate cancer more than I hate sports (which is actually saying something). This? THIS I LOVE! The part that really gets me . . . his daughters and how central they are in his thoughts, words, and in this piece.


Meet the Parents and Have Them Meet the Parents . . .

Even as a teenager (ahhhhh, the Wonder Years) I used to enjoy "learning" people. I enjoyed observation and asking questions slightly off the beaten path and listening for accents or other cues/clues to where someone was from or what values they held, etc. I started profiling people and developing horrible presumptions about what someone's favorite musician might be based on the shoes they were wearing and if they called it a "bag" or a "sack" when at the "grocery store" or "market".

There was NO more fertile ground for someone with my quirk than a college campus in Connecticut. SOOOOOO much JURsey, sooooo many Lawnguylindurs, BrOOKlin folk, MassaCHEWsits expats, and us Up-state-ers and a handful of Pennsylvanians. It wasn't just my peers that fascinated me (with their Volkswagon Jettas and Steve Miller Band CDs and Phish t-shirts and crap-loads of money) . . . it was their PARENTS!

Here's the takeaway (two paragraphs in) . . . if you want to KNOW someone, meet their parents. And I stand by that if they have a wonderful, close loving relationship or if their mothers left them, not able to get ahold of their father, on the steps of an orphanage. We are formed by them and we spend our entire lives chasing or running from "being" them.

I met Special Lady Friend's parents late last April. I went to her sister's wedding and was an otherwise unimportant guest (both bride and groom and big, happy, engaged families) yet I was immediately welcomed and embraced as part of the weekend. It, like fat in a good steak, connected what I had been told, what I had presumed, and what was left unsaid. They made sense. The final pieces of the SLF puzzle were found in the deep shag carpet under the card table.

Fast forward to a few weeks ago when SLF met my parents in our driveway at 11 PM on a Tuesday night. I fear that the jigsaw that is me was also completed in those moments or certainly in the weeks that have followed. There is no way she has not had her fill (if not overfill) of the people that made me (for the record I have chased being like them - I adore both of them for a million reasons each (with very little overlap, candidly)).

So all this is going on and then we put a twist on it. We, well in to the process of building a life together, had the parents meet the parents. In Salina, Kansas. On a Tuesday. At a chain steakhouse. Have you ever thought of anything more perfect?

And here's the best part . . . it was delightful. We sat and chatted and laughed and enjoyed each other for three full hours. They just sorta flew by (we had speculated on the way up we might be there 90 minutes or so) and, at the end of the meal in the 12 degree parking light warmed only by the glow of neon signage and promotion banners, we all hugged "good bye" and walked to our respective cars.

It - like the facts that "dog people" are more physically active, men with earrings are more likely to have been divorced (past tense if remarried) or at least unfaithful, and that women who wear flats are usually more fond of science than history - just made sense. People are people. Parents are in their children. Children are their parents.


Don't Drink and _________________ . . .

I try not to text and drive (Sitting at a red light is SITTING AT A RED LIGHT vs DRIVING, Officer Krupke!).

I am not above popping in a mint or choosing a podcast from my Stitcher app (NO more distracting than tuning the radio, etc.).

In general though . . . we should just drive while driving. Keep it simple.

Here - in a vague order - are ten other things you should not do while driving.

10) Work on finding inner peace.
9) Listen to Brett & Tracy Morning Show on the new Q92 FM. (Great organization but . . . really . . . REALLY Wichita?!)
8) Take and/or post a duck-faced-selfie. Seriously. Much like dodging a wrench = dodging a ball . . . driving a car = too old for that crap. ESPECIALLY at the same time.
7) Eat a bowl of cereal (Where my Always Sunny in Philadelphia fans is AT, yo!?)
6) Oral sex. Giving or receiving.
5) Origami.
4) Woodcarving.
3) Hair and make up.
2) Decide that Jay is telling the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the whole truth while catching up on Serial.
1) This. More than all others COMBINED . . . this. Seriously. This. This. This one thing. This.


Family . . .

I have had dinner with my daughter, Special Lady Friend, my ex-wife, and her Special Fella Friend FIVE times in the last six weeks. That is a real thing. Let that soak and wash over you . . . just the five of us (or a combination of (my ex's beau was not present for one meal) sitting, in public, breaking bread and chatting away.

I know this doesn't make me special or wonderful. I deserve no medal nor chest to pin it upon. I don't get any dessert. I get no $200 as I pass "go". I just get to have some peace in my life and I get to have it with three women who are special to me (and a dude that is special to two of them (and a very, very nice guy (I would like to point out)).

I didn't really know how marriage would work with family and families being blurred and people coming and going and trying to juggle and balance the politics of what is your "business" and what is "not". I certainly did not know how divorce was going to work (but it felt super horrible and less functional than a Brownback-lead Kansas (heyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyo) in the early going).

I didn't know how it might go and I would have never imagined a time that the five of us - now one "family" - might be able to come together for an evening every now and again (or eight days, depending on how specific we are being) and juggle the politics of "yours" and "mine", "ours" and "theirs" and what is (and is not) your "business" with such ease and to the (presumed) delight of all involved.

I hope the frequency slows down - I hope the mood and notion of our "family" only improves with time.


Advice . . .

Are you sitting down? Want to hear something MIND blowing? Yes and yes?! Okay. Here we go (remain seated at all times); people come to me for advice. Often.

Personal (be YOU). Professional (be YOU). Relationship (break up, you have enough doubt already). Fashion (all khaki and navy blue, all the time). Sexual (have a safety word). Life-decision (DO IT!). Religious (we won't know until we are dead, either/anyway). Often. Daily. Sometimes several times a day.

I'm not just talking about my daughter (no - red socks with pink flowers do NOT match your day-glo sneakers, kiddo) or my intern (who is a delight who just rolls her eyes when I tell her of my plan to light colleagues on fire (that is a real conversation between us)). I'm talking people who have options. Choices. Brains and positioning. Opportunity.

I'm actually FINE with this "burden" (not the right word for it - it is a true pleasure to have come to a place in life where I've got enough frown lines, grey hair, and battle scars to be seen as "wise" and "experienced"). I actually rather enjoy it. It is fun (that is the right word) to step outside of your life for a few minutes (while taking context) and applying it to the petri dish of someone else's messed up moment/situation/existence.

It is not that different to my all-time favorite "What if?" question where you go back in time and tell the X grade/age/position version of you what you know now (and you/they might want to know). If I am being honest, I would not share anything of consequence - it all happens for a reason. I would really just tell me to wear more orange, trust my gut, and use pentasyllabic words more often. I digress.

Oh, yeah, YOUR life and the advice YOU seek. If you want my opinion (and I will often find there is a per-cursor to why MY advice is sought "You seem like a guy full of ego, hubris, and scrambled eggs" is the most common) it is here for the taking.

My ONLY request? If you are going to ask for counsel. If you are going to take time (which sounds more dramatic than it is). If you are going to ask me to put myself in your shoes (which is gross on several levels). IF all these and more - be open to the advice. Don't come wanting me to simply rubber stamp your mindset. Don't ignore me. Don't dispute what I suggest (unless you are clarifying or refining what I have been told in pursuit of more thorough feedback). Don't have the exercise be fruitless.

You do not have to FOLLOW my advice. You don't have to take it as Gospel or sage direction. You need only let it hang in the air and keep the value and intent with which I present it. Anything less is disrespectful to the scrambled eggs that fill me.


Sunday Funday . . .

As the wonderfully talented and honey-voiced Shane Koyczan (who was raised by his grandparents) )so articulately points out - you can't just do "whatever" . . . and this conversation reminds me of my parents accepting my decision to convert to Judaism as an adult.


Fork & Fennel . . .

This is a Chris Parks logo, right?! Dude is talented. 
I have been excited about Fork & Fennel opening since I heard it was going to open. Wichita has a wonderful food history. MANY restaurants and foods that are household names around the country started here and much of the nation's store-bought protein is at least managed and coordinated from Wichita. We have a farming culture. Yadda, yadda, yadda.

That being said MUCH of the Wichita food "scene" is either chain fare, mom and pop fare, or unfair (see what I did there?).

Fork & Fennel sits in none of these camps. It is unique for this city. The restaurant, where we ate the other night after months of hearing great things, is just warm and inviting. The ceilings are open with cool lightbulbs and drying herbs, spices, and ruffage hanging from wires. The tables are odd/mismatched, benches line the walls and these really cool looking chairs seat additional guests. There is room for probably 40 people (I have no idea the real number) and the night we were there about 20 other diners shared the space. It had a healthy, happy noise level and felt cozy.

The menu, at first, seemed overwhelming. Then I realized most of the pages were dedicated to drinks and libations (I don't partake - special lady friend had a glass of wine). The actual menu was just the right length and had a wide variety of stuff. Focused on French-ish foods that have a small, artisanal feel - nothing didn't look good.

I ruled out the pork and crustaceans right away and decided I would have a dairy meal. After chatting with our adorable, charming, and knowledgable waitress, we got a half "tear and share" baguette with four signature butters/spreads (the fig stuff made me want to call my college roommate Tom Kelly and tell him I love him (Tom's grandparents had a fig tree in the lawn (still might)) and a mozerella in onion relish/oil called "marinated mozz" with toast rounds appetizers. Both were delicious and perfectly sized and presented.

For dinner my beautiful companion enjoyed the seared scallops and pork belly (thumbing her nose at my Jewish diet) and I got the Chef's Chicken sandwich which (thumbing my own nose at my Jewish diet) had this amazing buttery, cheese, pepper, and spice spread on a perfectly grilled chicken breast.

We chatted and laughed and enjoyed each other but - mainly - we enjoyed the food. It was superb. It was maybe the best meal I've had at a restaurant in five or six years (no disrespect, Ziggy's (the best pizza in the Wichi-Wichi)). We want to go back there every day. For all the meals. And we want to rip off the marinated mozz at home.

If you want to have a special evening out with one person, a small group, or a larger one - I highly suggest you check out Fork & Fennel. It will not disappoint. And if it does - bring me what you don't eat.


My Parents Are Here . . .

On Tuesday night, for the first time in four years (to the day) the westward wind blew the two finest people in the history of my life (and I've met all of the living US Presidents (save the current) and Dr. Drew Pinsky as well as Larry the Cable Guy in this lifetime) blew into Kansas.

That's right - THE Amores (of Groton) are in town. Lock your doors, board your windows, and avoid Jason's Deli (Bradley Fair location) because we're going to make these weeks as full and joyous as possible.

Of course, I would be slightly-less-than-fully-honest if I said that it is not a mixed blessing to have my parents here. Certainly to see them is always fantastic and I love, love, love them and they entertain me and challenge me and they seem very comfortable with where I am in my life (after years and years (38ish (I kid)) of worry) and they are wonderful parents who still bring gifts and want to bake things for no apparent reason and who spoil their first and farthest away grandchild (they will have four total in a few months - the other three are all within a six hour drive). They are also very happy that I have Special Lady Friend in my life (she really, truly is one of the most lovable people I've ever known (see Larry the Cable Guy name drop above)).

But (there is always a "but" with me, right?) there is often cause for concern and pause. My parents are, as all do, aging. My mother has hearing aids that she for whatever reason doesn't wear 100% of the time (last night's homework session was interesting - my daughter would massacre and misread words and she would just nod along as though perfect literacy was happening in front of her). My father - already with one transplanted eye (that I lovingly remind him, regularly, probably came from some underserved urban youth taken too young) and surgery coming on the other - has very little voice because of tramped-on vocal cord from a prior surgery that will have to be operated on soon is also a mixed bag of medical curiosities. We laid in bed the other night and listened to them laying out their medicines. I actually joked (awkwardly) that they sounded like an orchestra made only of maraca players.

They have been in town just over 24 hours. They have already broken a towel rod, built into the bathroom wall and fed Charlie human food (the greatest of all the sins - no disrespect, blasphemy). They have asked me to stop using the f-word so much (a fool's errand for sure) and they have made me incredibly happy. Just to have them close by. Just to have time with them. Just to let them have time with their granddaughter. To have them meet and embrace SLF (as all the kids are calling Special Lady Friend when they Snapchat about her (I don't even know what that means)). To have the westward wind blow them here again.


GoodMouth . . .

In 1999-ish (it could have been 1998 or 2000 or even 2001 but I THINK it was 1999) I was a graduate student and full time PR "professional" (quotes used out of respect for those who really did know, unlike me - one year in to my career - what they are/were doing) in Washington, DC. There was this new-fangled thing called The Interwebs that was all the rage and the "dot-com boom" had begun.

There were THOUSANDS of websites popping up all of which promised to do this, that, or the other thing and all of them were sorta stupid. I kid you not . . . we had a client that had a website where you built virtual fish tanks and then cared for the fish. They had hundreds of thousands of dollars in seed money for this venture.

There was ONE website that I hoped, prayed (and gave way more money than I should have to help) would succeed. Kozmo.com (go ahead and click but it is still just a landing page - 15 years later). Here is what Kozmo did: Brought you ANYTHING in like an hour. Warm Krispy Kreme donuts? Yep. Cigarettes? Sure. Condoms? What size. DVDs and video games? Rent or buy? Books? Why not. It was crazy. The crew rode orange scooters and carried oversized messenger bags full of ice cream and turkey sanguhwiches. It. Was. Awesome. And it failed. Miserably. TRULY ahead of its time (Amazon, Google, Walmart, and others now offer same-day and one-hour delivery in large US cities to marginal success).

Here's the thing about Kozmo. It reminds me how every idea and thing has a "time" and a "place". Enter my latest obsession (that I made fun of via social media 96 hours ago and then signed our house up for 72 hours ago) . . . GoodMouth.

GoodMouth is a company that, well, sells toothbrushes, tooth paste, floss, mints, and cigarettes (I kid about the last part - only chewing tobacco (I kid, again)) through a portal and then automatically (based on your preferences) ships you toothbrushes (and whatever else you order) every one, two, or three months. We'll get our first $14.40 in oral goodness (naughty laugh) later this week - good Lord willing and the creek don't rise.

WHY would I sign up for a service that sells the same stuff that I can buy at anyone of 19 (that is a real number) places that are between my office and my home (so I drive by them at least 10x/week thusly)? Simple. They allow me to save a little money and not think about it. It just sorta happens. That they give brushes away to someone else is great, too (but I'm not buying my stuff to save the world).

Why - for serious - would I sign up for this . . . because it is cool and fun and nifty and I love it. That's for serious. That's for real. That's for ever.

It is the same reason I would pay Kozmo to bring me a Diet Coke and a candy bar (when I could get them in the lobby of my office building). It is the same reason I pay for Amazon Prime. It is the same reason I never owned (and never would own) a virtual fish tank.


Jazz and Poetry . . .

I decided, at the ripe old age of 12, that I "hated" poetry. I am not entirely sure what did it for me. I think it was sitting in English class and reading e.e. cummings' poem . . .


and thinking "what a load of crap". If you're not as deep, profound, and pensive as the average poetry lover (and poor you if you're not - they are better than us) the poem reads "A leaf falls. Lonliness." Apparently the layout of the text is meant to imply a leaf fluttering to the group and the "L" one its own between "one" and "iness" is meant to imply that we, as "one" are always alone. Yeah. That's deeeeep, man.

I wrote, I swear, in my notebook "A leaf falls. Get a rake."

Sure, sure, I loved Shel Silverstein and most nursery rhymes, lyrics to Celene Dion songs, etc. THAT is poetry. A nice A-B rhyme scheme, patterns, clear and implied meaning at every turn. Yep. That makes me simple. I'm fine with that.

Know what else I decided I hated not long after? Jazz music. Ugh. JAZZ music, Get you a black turtleneck and a clove cigarette and a goatee (not even an ironic one - and earnest one) and you are made for jazz. You can say things like "lick" and "riff" with ease. The tunes in your ears just sort of meander about. No form. Flow. Improv. Simplicity in complexity.

What do poetry and prose poetry have in common? Just about everything.

I've actually tried to figure out why I disliked these art forms (I am typically a great fan of any art or expression - even when it is not to my tastes or subjective views) and why so many others loved them almost to spite me. Three theories bubbled up . . .

  1. I was, despite my desire to the contrary, a left brain (we want to think that creativity and freedom live in the left side of the brain but that is reserved for order and rules) thinker. 
  2. I was not old/mature/established enough to grasp freeform expression or the emotion in it.
  3. That stuff is just garbage that no one should like.
For 25 or so years I've held tight to the belief that the third is the only possible answer to my disdain for artistic channels so otherwise beloved. I was sure of it. I've been creative (enough) over the decades to hang my hat on the right cornder of the dusty, spiderwebbed corner of my skull). I have continued to age and mature and understand more and more parts of the world that once eluded my grasp. This must be the fault of poems and brass instruments and brushed percussion.

Yet. Here I am. 38 years old and giving things another try and a fresh set of eyes and ears and, by the Jeepers, I'm loving them both. 

Jazz? Fantastic stuff (some of it - a good percentage of that garbage should still be piled and burned). Poetry? Even better (again - I see why books are banned and burned when I read some prose - even that which comes on high regard). 

Both allow so much more opportunity to put your own perspectives and experiences and thinking and longing in to them than I had ever given them credit for. You just need more right brain than left. 


Furniture Shopping . . .

To many (myself, typically, included) there are few things more painful than shopping. Be it for furniture, caskets, groceries, life partners, nail clippers, or clothing.

WHY do we dislike it so much? Choices are, despite our insistence, something we don't really want or like. It is true, I would posit. Consider jeans. There are thousands of options if you factor in dyes, cuts, embroideries and embellishments (you're not living until you've seen a full grown man in public with rhinestone crosses on the butt pockets of his jeans), aging, and makers/manufactures/child laborers that make them. Yet what do MOST people own . . . plain Levi's. The 501s (or whatever cut is their most popular) because they are medium blue and regularly cut and simple and plain.

Same thing about breakfast cereals. I counted while shopping last week and there were 107 different options in the cereal aisle (just "cold" cereals, mind you) and yet the percentage of space given to corn flakes and grain O's was the biggest, by far.

These are just things you are buying for you. They are personal and - in one case (the cereal) - consumable and temporary (encouragingly - distressed denim with sequins on the ass rarely stand the test of time, either).

Now imagine you are shopping for furniture.

Yep. Furniture. Something you will share with the people in the home and any visitors or guests or traveling beacons of "The Lord" (or whatever version of they are pushing when they ring the bell and your child answers and lets them in) that may come by for years and years to come.

I recently endeavored to buy a couch/love seat/sofa/settee with Special Lady Friend. Our houses, now merged to one home, don't nearly fill the place and while we weren't exactly squatting on milk crates, we weren't exactly living high on the quality scale for the last several years. A new couch was in order (where else will we sit while we read, solve the world's problems, binge watch Netflix original programming).

Off we went. We spent 90 total minutes in one. whole. store. We spent MOST of that time sitting on a floor sample talking about what sort of furniture we actually liked . . . what "our" style was (mercifully we agreed that cracked glass table tops with chrome legs are not "our" style good and early) and what "we" wanted vs. needed for the home. Ultimately we decided "our" and "we" talk is completely obnoxious and something we (ugh) were going to try to rise above. Then - we stood up and promptly bought the thing we had been sitting on the whole time.

SO many choices and yet the one that suited us back was the one we randomly settled on while trying to make sense of the chaos.

My phone takes truly horrible photos. This is just one of thousands.


Sunday Funday . . .

"Hold On We're Going Home" is one of my favorite musical-genre-blendy songs of the last year or so. Part rap, part R&B, part ballad, part club song, part club ballad.

Here is the original (by Drake) with its 80s/Miami Vice splendor inspired video . . .

Here is an inspired cover (by Lykke Li (who is wonderfully talented and worth checking out)) . . .


Christmas Eve Fight . . .

The holidays are such a magical time of year in sanctuaries across this great land of ours. Thousands and thousands of people who only drag themselves to church services twice a year put on their (version of) Sunday Best and head off to take up valuable pew space that might otherwise be occupied by people who truly value organized religion year-round.

Well, last week I was one of the brood and I arrived a solid 30 minutes before services began so my schlubby, Jewish butt could get a prime seat to watch Special Lady Friend and her choir-mates sing a lovely Cantata of traditional hymns, secular favorites, and mash-ups to make DJ Todd Terry (not the real spelling) jealous, jealous, jealous.

So I'm there . . . sitting with an LED candle and minding my business and reviewing the rules of a Jew at a Christmas sing-a-long (YES to the secular (Jingle Bells, Frosty the Snowman) and NO to the traditional (Emanuel, Mary's Immaculate Conception, Jesus is My Personal Savior, etc.)) in the exact middle of a pew that had ample room to my right and left. And it stayed that way until about five minutes before the service started.

Then a woman, probably in her late-40s blew in with her Michael Kors purse (I could tell because of the raspberry hue of the leather and the subtle, tasteful four inch wide "MK"-inside-a-golden-circle logos/hood ornaments on both sides of the bag). She sits, oh, two inches off my left hip and starts asking me to move over/down to my right. Apparently she's got three more people coming to join her.

Now, I'm a big man. Wide, child-bearing hips, etc. I know for space in a pew and there was STILL more than enough room for three more people between me and the couple at the far end of the pew but, I moved down. Just a skosh. So in rolls this gentleman. About her age, I would presume. He is, I'm equally presuming, her husband. He sits down, at her request, to leave "enough space between them for the kids". And by enough space I mean nine feet of pew.

So the lights go down in the sanctuary. The proverbial show is about to begin and I'm going to relax and enjoy a lovely Christmas Eve service with a few hundred strangers/Christians. The air is warm. The glow of lights and candles fills the space, etc. The Senior Minister takes the pulpit and we're off.

Fast forward about five minutes. These two "kids" (mid-/late-20s . . . for the record) roll in and just start climbing over people and using their regular speaking voices to express regret for their tardiness and human jungle gym, my ass in your face moves. The sit between the parents and formal introductions are made.

I should clarify here that I'm not sure if this a daughter and her boyfriend or a son and his girlfriend but one of them was wearing the eau du toilette of a whore and the other one smelled worse. They just start chatting with the parents. I mean chatting as in making small talk.

Kid - "Are you hungry? We're hungry."
Mom - "I mean, we ate an hour so ago but I could grab something after this. Honey (leans across couple to chat with husband) are you hungry? I guess these kids are hungry. Should we eat after this?"
Kid - "I am just sorta hungry. Not a huge deal."

So this goes on for several minutes. And I'm getting more and more annoyed but I'm trying to stay focused. This is the birth of Christ we're talking. There is a ginger kid playing Joseph in the live nativity. There is a real donkey taking actual poops in the front of the room. There is so much joy to behold.

The talking continues and then. THEN, to my audible gasp, cell phones make their first appearance. FIRST appearance. These four dullards are going 21st century communication in a House Of G-d! This is NOT okay, right? I mean this is not MY sanctuary or my religion or my house of worship, but I'm not wrong for thinking this should be a phone-free space, right?

And they are texting and Tweeting and Facebook updating and liking and they had those new-fangled iPhones that people love so bad that make the "whoop" sound when a message is sent or received or an update posts, etc. This pew has turned in to a Denny's table full of teenagers.

So they are clearly communicating WITH each other with these phones while STILL using their normal speaking voices to hang out and chit chat and stay in touch. "Did you get that joke, honey?" (the woman asks her amused husband)

I'm seething mad at this point. We're probably twenty minutes in to the service and this is not even slowing down and then. Then. THEN. "It" happens.

The mother decides the only logical thing to do next is to take. A. Group. Selfie.

In a church. During services. While the lights are down. And a friend of mine is doing a solo while sounding exactly like Mark Cohn (yes, the "Walking in Memphis" guy). Oh, oh, oh . . . and she's using FLASH.

So I lose. my. sh*t. Straight up LOST it.

"HEY!," I snapped. "Lower your voices. Or just shut up. Have your conversation about nothing later. Show some respect. And Put. Your. Phone. AWAY!"

All four of them snap to attention like when Darth Vader himself walks in the room.

What followed was fantastic. It was quiet. It was respectful. It was exactly what I wanted the evening to be the entire time. The services end and the lights come up and people start to gather their stuff and this woman, with her horrible purse back in the crook of her elbow, tries to apologize to me.

I didn't even let her start the awkwardness. I cut her off and said (to my great, non-sensical delight) "You have ruined my Christmas!"

We eventually left and went to The Hill and Special Lady Friend bought me one of those pretzels with the beer cheese dip that I love so bad and all was forgiven/forgotten.


15 Publicly-Shared Goals (and Objectives) for 2015 . . .

As anyone who really knows me (and my horrible ticks) can tell you - I am very goal (conceptual and subjective) and objective (tied to a specific number or threshold of success/failure) oriented. I do daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, annual, and decade goals (and objectives) and have some life-long pursuits and benchmarks on paper, too. It is how I do what I do and how I manage my brain. MOST of my goals and objectives are for me and me alone (and eventually being published in my memoirs and/or court records). SOME of them are for the world to know about . . to that end - here is an overview of my 2015 (as far as you suckers need to know):

GOALS . . .
  1. Embrace travel again (MHK, Kansas City, east, otherwise - let's pack a bag and go)
  2. Try to feel "happy" (I have, for 38.5 years insisted that "happy" is a joke that only fools chase . . . I'm wondering if I should be more foolish)
  3. Become a Better Jew (A lifelong pursuit that will continue in my first full year in the tribe)
  4. Sing more (services, in the shower, and maybe something more formal)
  5. Swear less (this one is going to be hard but I'm committed to it)
  6. Make our house feel like a home (this is a mixture of spending a ton of money on crap that we love, crap that we need, and crap that we want as well as time and energy to make it all warm and welcoming)
  7. Continue to Grow Up (I'll turn 39 this year. It is TIME!)
  1. Read 24 (or more) books (for ME - reading with my daughter doesn't count) 
  2. Run 10 miles/week (on average). Yes. That is 520 miles (or more) in 2015.
  3. Finish a half marathon in under three hours (as many tries at it takes)
  4. Lose 100 Pounds. That's right. Get. Less. Fat.
  5. Reduce wasteful spending by 10% (this is actually more about not growing my spending - I'm pretty friggin' frugal now)
  6. Increase savings contributions by 12.5% (I've been pretty minimal on this one lately - time to grow my future)
  7. Earn college credits (I'm going back to school, one way or another, in 2015)
  8. Reduce social media time by 25% (10 minutes/day or less)
How are you going to attack and conquer 2015?