To Rise Again At a Decent Hour . . .

I have read hundreds and hundreds of books over the years but I'm most happy in one of four genres: narrative non-fiction (taking historic events and interlacing them with background on the characters, events, etc. to have them read like a novel (Erik Larson is the master of this genre), non-fiction (I've been pushing through Kenneth S. Davis' four part bio on FDR since right around the time of Davis' death in 1999), Judaica (I love anything Rabbi Lawrence Kushner or Rabbi Joseph Telushkin) and, last but least least, is the genre of the middle-class white guy writing about being a middle-class white guy in often humorous, occasionally heartbreaking ways.  

Look at the authors, all still working today, that have so influenced me that I would consider tattooing on my body (not really): Augusten Burroughs, Jasper Fforde, Mike Magnuson, Jonathan Franzen, Jeffrey Eugenides, Michael Chabon, Jonathan Tropper, and the newest addition to this collection . . . Joshua Ferris.

With "just" (he says - having never written more than blog posts, press releases, bios, a masters thesis, and hundreds of glorified book reports and verbal vomit academic papers) three novels to his credit, Ferris is quickly becoming my favorite-favorite author writing today and his "To Rise Again at a Decent Hour" is my favorite of his books ("The Unnamed" is still on my to-read list). I am not alone in this enthusiasm. This book made Ferris the first American man EVER nominated for the prestigious Man Booker Prize (yeah, yeah, 2014 was the first time they were eligible anyway but, still . . . ).

"To Rise Again at a Decent Hour" tells the story of Dr. Paul O'Rourke, a dentist working on the island of Manhattan and living in Brooklyn who, we learn early and often in the book, has always been seeking a way/place/community to just "belong" to. He's a Red Sox fan (tapes every game and watches them with insane pomp around the tradition). He's in love with his employee/former girlfriend but is maybe more in love with her Jewish family and tradition (much like he was Catholicism when involved with a Catholic earlier in life). Surprisingly O'Rourke eschews social media (where we all belong, right?) and other ways to make connections with people in ways that make his sorta anti-social behavior less an obstacle.

But someone out there has a plan for O'Rourke and, before long, "he" is on Facebook and Twitter. "He" has a website for his practice (and, really, why would you not want that in an age of SEO-friendly business mandates), and he is getting e-mails from, well, himself. This quickly moves in to searching and discovery in ways that boggle the mind yet capture your attention. It turns out O'Rourke is likely an Ulm. What's an Ulm? Read the book. By the end of the book O'Rourke is a changed man. His obsessions have shifted, his staff has changed, his priorities have evolved, he is equally alone.

The journey, for readers, is truly wonderful. Much like in Fitzgerald's "The Great Gatsby", Ferris deftly slows the pace of the book as fun, frivolity, and obsession give way to hard work, challenges, and exploration. The very words chosen for dialogue between characters change. The paragraphs become longer. The jokes lessen. The comedy up front turns to a different comedy later on. Less funny, to be clear.

I would highly suggest checking this book out if you want a fairly quick, easy read that will entertain and challenge you (religion, meaning of life, concepts of being alone, etc. are all explored in ways that want you to debate them internally as you turn pages). This one is on my short list for favorite books of the year. I think it would make your list, too.


Asking For Help . . .

There are six times/instances when I'll ask another person (note I'm setting aside the innumerable instances where I will ask G-d, Jobu, and the Internet) for help:

  1. When I'm the wrong size for something (too tall, too short, too big, too small, too ham-handed, too whatever).
  2. When I am without the proper resources or skills to fix something in a timely way (I can learn how to reroute electrical wiring and risk burning down our house or I can hire someone who's been doing it for years. I can also ask the wait staff what they would suggest at a restaurant when my mind can't make itself up).
  3. When I'm incapacitated (go back to my drinking days or immediately following a surgical procedure, trying to lift something too heavy for just me, etc.).
  4. When I'm trying to make a point (expertise, and/or to showcase someone else in positive (or negative) ways).
  5. When I'm feeling lazy (will you please bring me another glass of diet soda?)
  6. When I am truly desperate (when I was unemployed is a great example).
Did you see "while running" as a time when I need and/or would ask for help? Nope. I didn't either. And yet - there it is - almost every time I hit the asphalt (during daylight . . . pro tip - if you run as early as I typically do (5:15 AM-ish start time) you see far fewer runners and the ones you do see are equally disinterested in the communal aspects of being winded and dripping sweat in public). And it comes and goes in weird ways. 

It is typically the "Good job." or the "Keep it up." (as they whiz by you like there is an actual building actually on fire) or the "You can do it." I get that. Sorta. I feel like they give the same toss aways to all runners no matter the pace they are moving. That is fine.

Here is what is not "fine" . . . offering me actual HELP! What do I mean? Some ACTUAL quotes:
  • "Hey, man. Do you want me to slow down and run with you for a while?
  • "You're doing great. Just think about the finish line as a motivator."
  • "We all have to start but it gets better and easier - if you stick with it."
And don't even get me started with the offers of high fives and the hands on my shoulders and the big smiles. You friggin' runners are the WORST!

Now I know what you are asking . . . "Why do you pay to join a running group? Why participate?" Simple: They send me a running schedule and they are available when/if I need something (see above scenarios, although none of them are coming to help me move a couch). That is IT. The ONLY reasons I'm in ANY way associated with group running. 

Yet there are dozens of other "perks" available . . . like an actual coach - assigned to me based on running speed. Oh and she is a coach for the ages. Inspirational posts on the Facebook page? Daily. All-spandex and runner-gear everything? Wouldn't dress in more. T-shirts that (allegedly) inspire? Totes McGoats. And she's out there . . . every Saturday. Just lurking in ways that, if she were a middle aged man near a playground would get her locked up. I swear to Jobu that she was literally leaning against a telephone pole last Saturday . . . barking out inspiration to all who didn't have their iPods turned up loud enough to drown her out.

I get it, I get it. She means well. Yeah, yeah . . . they ALL do. 

But here's what she and the rest don't understand. I've got three 5Ks, a 10k, a quarter marathon and LIKELY two half marathons on the calendar between today and January 1, 2016. And I've got six 5Ks, two half marathons, and nearly 900 miles between my first run two years(ish) ago and today (including three SOLID miles this morning). 

I've never asked ANY one to help me - mid-run (full disclosure, I'm considering hiring a coach (who gets "me" and who I think can help without chafing my every cell) to help me with a few issues I'm having). Never. I'm not out there to become an elite athlete. I'm not looking to "win" or even impress anyone along the way. I don't want to be part of the pack in the middle. I don't want to be part of a group. I don't want to belong to a training team with a crafty name (the group I am assigned to is going by "WTF" - as in "Where's the Finish?" Ha! Get it? That is hilarious, right? No? Are you sure?). I just want to be left the f*ck alone for the 22 - 210 minutes I run at any given time. I want my music, my watch, my feet hitting the ground and the environmental cues of traffic, birds, et al to be the only noise I hear. I want sweat, a gentle breeze, and maybe some light rain to be the only things that touch me. I want that next light post or intersection or mile marker to be my motivators.

My "coach" will have you believe I need her. She told me as much - I declined her support once last weekend so she persisted that she was an official coach so I should welcome her official advice and support. I declined again. Far more angrily. 

But here is what she won't know because she's too busy offering me support to ask any questions that might be relevant. I am getting stronger as a runner. I'm focused on pace (after an unacceptable finish time at the spring half marathon) and I'm on target to meet my pace goals in the October Prairie Fire Marathon. I finished my five miles on Saturday faster than planned (and I set an aggressive goal) and I am improving day by day.

I have a goal for October. I'm going to make it. On my own. In every sense of the word. I would tell my "coach" this but I'm truly terrified that she'd be happy for me and wish to help me make it real. 


Sunday Funday . . .

We were riding in the car yesterday and KMUW was playing one of their three programs I do NOT like so -  I decided to introduce my daughter to one of the BEST albums of the early 90s (it actually came out late in 1989) . . . Janet Jackson's "Rhythm Nation 1814" which then evolved in to discussion of my two favorite Janet Jackson songs - that came out a few years later (1993):

"That's the Way Love Goes"

and "Again"

The kid is DOWN with Janet Jackson. What other songs should she know?


Hazel . . .

SLF and I had a little date night last evening. We saw went to the movies as part of a date/'"our AC is still broken so WHY be at home?" night.

Our original plan was a romantic, five star dinner in the Dillons Marketplace food court (that's a real thing, people, and it is where 54% of all Wichita-born babies are made) followed by Pitch Perfect 2 (don't judge us . . . don't. you. judge. us.).

We were having such a good time laughing over our cafeteria-style food that we, instead, opted to see the later-in-life romantic comedy/drama "I'll See You In My Dreams".

I'm really glad we had to "plan b" the movie component of the evening. I am not even embarrassed to admit that I found a dromedy about an older woman's struggle with being "alone" held my attention and my emotions for its entirety. Seriously, go see it - the trailer doesn't do it justice.

And - here's the thing - Blythe Danner (who, I'd like to point out is MORE than that pretentious, no-talent, ass clown Gwyneth Paltrow's mother AND, based on lineage, GP looks like HER vs. her looking like GP) is wonderful and all that but here is why I LOVED "I'll See You In My Dreams": HAZEL!

This isn't even a spoiler (so there is no need for a spoiler "alert") but in the third scene of the movie, Blythe Danner's character (Carol Peterson) has to euthanize her dog, Hazel. No, no. I'm not happy the dog is dead. Not at all. If I'm being honest, you could tell - even in the first few minutes of the film - that Carol only filled her day with three things . . . Hazel, white wine, and silk scarves. No one wants the only animate part of their day taken away.

BUT there was something about Hazel's death that had me pleased. as. punch.

As the dog lay on the stainless steel table and the veterinarian is explaining mercy killing to the already-morose Carol this woman behind us starts WEEPING. Audibly, sniffly, gaspily WEEPING. For a dog we have only just "met" in a fictional movie about fictional people and their dogs. In her heart, this woman KNEW that the director said "cut" and the dog got up and went home with his trainer. But she wept anyway. Just cried and cried and cried. She could not stop. Truly. She was beside herself and I was crouched down low in my chair laughing. Not at her pain but at her and the randomness of it all.  AND at her complete inability to manage and maintain her shit.

I'll cry at a movie. I'll cry at many movies. I have movies I watch ONLY when I want to cry (Big Fish, The Hours, Police Academy 3, etc.) and I appreciate that people have different emotional cues than me.

But here is why I loved the moment so much . . . SLF turned to me and - without a drop of empathy in her voice said - "What's her problem? This isn't Marley at the end of Marley & Me." In that moment, I felt like I'd never really be alone again.


Father's Day . . .

By default - once a holiday has cards FROM the dogs, it has gone TO the dogs.
Sooooo, Sunday was Father's Day (if I am telling you this for the first time . . . come ON). I hate Father's Day. NOT because I hate my father (quite the opposite) or because I have a horrible relationship with my daughter (quite the opposite) nor because I am a curmudgeon in general (which I am).

I hate Father's Day for much more of-the-world reasons than my own selfish brain. I hate it because it is a fake holiday, invented by those who would seek to profit from it,. There is NO reason to set ONE day aside (annually) for a father, a mother, a grandparent, a Valentine, or any other person you (w/c/sh)ould love every day of the year to get a card, gift, or phone call from you expressing love. They should get dozens if not hundreds of reminders every year - free of a day on the calendar that dictates it. And yet, here we are, with aisles of stores set aside and gift cards purchased, etc.

I guess part of me hates the holiday because it is "exclusive" in a way. What if you don't have children. What if you don't know or like your father? What if you're unable to have children or to like your father? What if you are a person that doesn't know their father and can't have children? What if you're . . . you see what I'm saying. The previous, I'd like to point out, also goes for Mother's Day/mothers/children.

I am fine with holidays and celebrations. I'm pro telling your parents and children you all love each other. I'm pro, in a "perspective is important" way, being awkward about these days because they stir things in  you. I'm pro all of that but we shouldn't have to put on day on the calendar each year to force us. We should want to do these things. Daily.


Spring 2015 Playlist . . .

Now that it is summer (and has been for nearly 24 hours) I have started a new seasonal playlist.

Please to enjoy the 90-ish songs I listened to during the Spring of 2015.

If you don't have Google Play Music All Access . . . I can't help you any more.


Sunday Funday . . .

After much hemming and hawing and hours and hours of research and trying on shoes, I'm pleased to announce I bought a pair of sneakers the other day (at GoRun/Fleet Feet Sports here in Wichita). What did I buy? The New Balance 1340v2 (and not in EITHER color combination I was considering).

Yeah. How do you like THEM apples? Made in America, people.


Sense of "Self" . . .

So there is all this talk lately about "belonging" and "self". You've got your Caitlyn Jenner circus and your Rachel Dolezal sideshows. It seems, for the 1%-ish (or so) of Americans with racial or sexual identity "disorders" (forgive my casual use of the term - probably not the right one to use), your moment has arrived.

Heck, Google is even making ads about your journey to having people externally perceive you the same way you see yourself and then wrapping that inside digital marketing strategies for gyms to keep it "interesting" (you'll have to watch to believe):

But here's the thing. This "moment" is (in typical American pop culture/tide turning/opening our collective social conscience fashion) not without its critics and without our own foot-in-mouth disease.

I have said that to label Caitlyn Jenner as "brave" is absurd. She lived in silence for four decades, three marriages, two waves of mass pop culture awareness, and millions and millions of dollars. "BRAVE" would have been to declare herself a woman on the gold medal stand then vs. nearly four decades later with multiple homes in the greater Los Angeles area, a new TV deal in place, and the most obnoxious family in the history of media whores at her back. I digress . . .

Here's the point of this post - my decision to criticize Caitlyn Jenner is half-assed (at best). I can't really tell how much fortitude it took for her to make this transition and/or declaration. I don't know if she will empower others. I don't know if that will matter. I don't know why I care. I'm not a woman. I'm not a woman who lived as a man for 65 years. I'm not battling to protect the identity of a "woman" or a "man". I truly don't friggin' care (other than being irked every time I hear the adjective "brave" lobbed about (see above - before I get back on my soapbox)).

Which brings me to a thing I, as a white man, care even less about . . . how Rachel Dolezal identifies racially and how she declares herself. I am not looking to protect a "black" (or "white") identity and I have no idea where interest and advocacy become obsession and exploitation. I don't care.

But here's what I care about . . . all these people (including me) on soap boxes with their petty opinions and two cents worth of insights as to how either of these people - or the millions of others out there with similar internal conflicts to resolve - would/could/should feel and deal.

Why do they care? How far from their glass houses do they have to go to pick up and hurl the first stone from their sinless hand?

How many women in this country dye their hair blonde to feel more sexy/ditzy/light hearted/light haired? How many women color their hair to try to convince the world they have not earned every grey hair growing out of their head? How many men do the same? With hair dye, sports cars, or younger lovers? Is these things less obnoxious? More relevant to us as bystanders? Nope and nope.

How many people are straight one day, meet a wonderful person (of the same gender), fall in love (or lust) with, and become "homosexual" long enough for a tryst - or longer - and then, just as "easily", fall back to heterosexuality? Do I care? Only if it is inside my own family or social circle and even then - only enough to ensure everyone is happy and healthy.

How many people, like me, openly sing the praises of their wife until the marriage falls apart and then we just shut up for a while until interest passes and we/they/everyone moves on and/or we have someone else in our lives to sign the praises of? (Which is why I keep my adoration of my special lady friend relatively on the "down low" here and in general.)

I have colleagues who have made up food allergies (peanuts and gluten and strawberries and soy - allllll the popular allergies) and who claim they love to read French poetry (yet can't speak a word the language of "love" and ate a peanut butter cookie in front of me). I have friends who are committed to physical fitness one day and who claim exercise is for fools the next. I know people who truly watch fashion trends and reboot their wardrobes with each new hem line or lapel style. Are they all nuts? No. They are people - trying to figure themselves out - trying to get to a sense of "self" that feels sustainable and that is internal and external. These are little things and big things . . . let's talk about G-d.

I, myself, was raised a Catholic but decided, after decades of searching, considering, yearning, and believing myself to be . . . converted to Judaism a little over a year ago. Yes. I chose to become a Jew. One of the most hated and feared "people" in the history of the world. A group that is as much about heritage and lineage, genetics, and tradition as they are G-d or religion. A group that, at times in history, had members that denounced belonging and renounced their faith to protect family, possessions, and self because - otherwise - they could/would be put to death. More impressive? Jews looked at their oppressors and said (paraphrasing) "F*ck you, I'm a Jew. Do with that what you will."). That was their self. Their id and super-ego and ego flexing as a threesome. Yet - let's stick with Jews - conversely, we are a faith that even within our own ranks fight over who "is" and "is not" a Jew. I, for the record, would not be considered a real Jew nor would my daughter - should she decide to convert - be accepted in some definitions of a Jew (no heritage, no lineage, etc.).

Yet you can find me every Friday evening (and my daughter every other) in a temple, wearing the funny hat, and trying our damndest to belong and feel included (which my congregation has encouraged and welcomed us with open arms and group hugs).

I have a point . . . I think.

Let's just stop with the notion of who "is" and is "not" something. We are so muddled in our current day society that right and wrong are blurred, second chances are something we speed through the first chance to get, our classes, cultures, religions, and ethnicities have all become clouded (in a good way - lest you think I'm chasing racial purity), and the institutions that once served to build fences have become so weakened by in-fighting that they no longer serve as barriers to anyone who wants to come inside (thankfully, in most cases). We are just people trying to figure it all out.

We don't ever really "know" anyone. We don't ever really even know ourselves - because "we" are always changing and evolving and, if we are lucky improving. To try to decide - as an outsider - on who can and cannot be someone or something is absurd, presumptuous, and hypocritical.

To the best of my knowledge neither Ms. Jenner nor Ms. Dolezal have ever really hurt anyone and it doesn't seem either plans to hurt anyone any time soon. They seem to have declared themselves woman and black woman in a loving, good-intentioned way. They, like MOST people in this world (from what I've read, seen, experienced), feel different inside than they might appear outside. They (as so many more of us do) want to love and be loved, to be happy and content, to be at peace with and accepted in their sense of "self".

That should be our bar . . . is this person hurting anyone with their sense of self? No? Is the person happier in this version of themselves that seems a change/choice but, to them, is just an extension of the internal on to the world? Yes? Then f*ck it - nonnamybidniz.

That goes for man or woman, black or white, Jew or goy, blonde or . . . whatever.


The Flint Hills . . .

10,000 of my fellow Kansans (including a few Missourians, some Okies, some Texans, and even some Europeans, etc. - we're all Kansans at heart) and I crowded (that is sarcasm) on to the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve on Saturday for what started out a cloudy, grey, misty day and turned into nothing short of a view of hundreds (if not thousands) of square miles of heaven overhead and to our left, right, North and South.

We didn't just show up by coincidence . . . we were there for THE SHOW - The 10th Annual Symphony in the Flint Hills. For those who are unaware the event is exactly what it sounds like a, um, Symphony in the, um, Flint Hills.

I have always heard great things about the event (full disclosure it is not perfect - but the things that are less-than great are outshined by those that are) but I would be a crazy fool if I didn't admit here that the day exceeded my expectations in every way.

I love the symphony. I love Lyle Lovett. I love the people (SLF and her parents) I went with. All that is fine and dandy but NOT why the day was so much better than expected. Nope. The day was better than I could have expected because of the FLINT HILLS.

The Flint Hills, for the unfamiliar, the Flint Hills are 9,936ish square miles that stretch pretty much all the way through eastern Kansas in to Oklahoma. They are named for their exposed flint cliffs. I kid. They are actually limestone but, the dude who first described them over 200 years ago called them "flint" hills and that stuck. And I'm glad it did.

If you've never been in the middle of nearly 10,000 square miles of pristine environment with (just about) nothing as far as the eye can see in every direction from horizon to horizon there are only a few other places you can do it . . . and they are called OCEANS.

I've never done any more than drove through the Flint Hills (stops at the Cattle Pens to pee don't count as doing "more") but I'll tell you the first time I really "beheld" the Flint Hills - Halloween, 2007. It was the day I became a Kansan. I was driving from Connecticut to Wichita and I found myself in these frozen waves if grass and rock with the golden sun dropping to the horizon in front of me. I'd never seen anything more beautiful in my entire life. I am pretty sure I am still waiting for something more beautiful to bless my eyes.


C'bawnnnnn, Lady . . .

Sit down. Please. Just have a seat. This will only take a minute. I have something to tell you. You ready? I'm an obese person.

I know, I know. It is stunning. Truth be told - since I was eight-years-old (31 years ago) I classified as obese. I've also been morbidly obese almost the entire time of that and "super" morbid obese for a long part. It is what it is.

I'm aware of why I'm fat (food is DELICIOUS and goes with every mood) and I'm aware of my being fat.

What does that mean? It means I don't wear tube tops, I don't buy artificial fabrics, I don't run without some lotion or powder (depending on the relative humidity), and I don't board an airplane without my belt extender (truth be told I don't always need it - and when I do I need like an INCH of it) and I never, ever, ever eat or drink ANYTHING on an airplane (when you're the fat guy - you don't give people ammunition by stuffing your "fat face" in front of them).

Yet, a week or so ago, there it was . . . me (belt extender in hand and nothing else in tow) walking down the long, boring aisle of the plane watching row after row deeply exhale in sighs of relief as I continued past them like so many deathmate inmates getting stays at the 11th hour and I made it allllll the way back to row 31 (the last row on the plane) where something befuddling happened.

There, in 31 D (I was 31 E (I know, I know - my flight was cancelled so I got stuck in the middle seat), was a woman who seriously weighed as much as I do (NO judgement - big is beautiful (or whatever) and I'm certainly no sizist) looking at me with sheer horror in her eyes at the very thought that she was, as the fat lady, would be stuck next to the fat man.

I get it. I really do - there is a certain assumption we (the obese) make that no one will be next to us on the plane and, if they do, it will be a toddler who takes up way-less-than their otherwise "fair" space on the row. I'm not naive to that. I'm not an idiot. I'm not even mildly obtuse.

But, c'bawn lady. When you're the fat lady on the plane . . . you can't always presume a toddler is coming down that aisle.


Things We Should Stop . . .

Okay so I know I JUST made a list of rageyness a few weeks ago and I know I actually humble bragged about how long it had been since I last did such a post and you were all super proud of me and I'm sure cookies were baked (but never sent because, well, you should eat those while they are still warm) and all that. Yep. Sure. GOOD ON ME!

Well, relax party people because I came up with about twenty MORE things we should stop - IMMEDIATELY - in the last week or so. Here, in no particular order (because item 21 on the list should be feeling COMPELLED to itemize, prioritize, and rank all-things-our-thoughts).

  1. Letting domestic abusers play (semi)-professional sports or enjoy fame and fortune from games in ways that somehow eclipse their personal shenanigans. No, NFL, I'm not looking at you (for ONCE) I'm looking at the (W)NBA and US Women's Soccer
  2. The spread of that tennis ball yellow/green color from just workout gear to ALL clothing. It is really, truly not okay. 
  3. Buying/using/being quiet about people buying or using "selfie sticks" and/or sharing photos on social media with the hashtag "No Filter". Because, frankly, NONE of us gives a singular second of regard to if the sunset is really "that" beautiful or if you manipulated it.
  4. Trying to make "fetch" happen.
  5. Dyeing our hair. Grow old, ladies. It is okay. Between us - we know you're doing it anyway. And men . . . you look more distinguished with salt and pepper anyway.
  6. Having children. It is exhausting, right?
  7. Shaming people for simply handling their business in public. Consenting adults, yo. Consenting. Adults.
  8. Getting one last refill in a "to-go" cup at the restaurant. ALL that plastic in the planet so you can enjoy one, last 18oz. blast of soda? Come on, folks. 
  9. Being homophobes. And deciding two women learning sign language to better communicate with their deaf, to-be-adopted daughter is somehow part of moral decay. Know what is moral decay? Letting a child stay otherwise orphaned because two loving, engaged, able parents happen to have the same plumbing.
  10. Not paying attention to our elected officials. Do you even KNOW what is (not) happening in Topeka right now?
  11. Small batch Oreos. S'mores? All these others . . . Stop it, fellow fatties.
  12. Basing opinions of ourselves or others on nothing more than appearances . . . if you're on Tinder (single or otherwise) you are an actual assh*le. Grindr is fine. That's a whole other "thing". I know, I know - but I sorta really feel that way.
  13. Having summer. It is exhausting, right?
  14. Making people look handsome/beautiful, kempt, and otherwise desirable in period pieces. Do you know how dirty, stinky, gross people were "back then"? NOTHING like Downton Abbey - I'll tell you that much. 
  15. Asking "Are you sure?". Example - I went to dinner Saturday and the bartender asked "Can I get you anything to drink while you wait for your table?" "No," I monosyllabically replied. "Water, soda, tea?" he continued? (Rolled eyes.) "Beer, wine?" "NO!" I shouted. Let's put more trust in people to know what they do and don't want.
  16. Making and wearing these. I mean . . . what ARE those?
  17. Letting this guy just resign . . . and try to calmly explain himself and his actions. 
  18. Killing people. The bad ones or the wonderful ones. I barely knew Tanya Tandoc but her soup warmed my soul and her work with KMUW made me smile.
  19. Using yearbook quotes for advocacy. Stick with the "Peace out, bitches" rhetoric that has served us so well for all of time.  
  20. Idolizing pirates. Seriously. They were jerks. The LOT of them.


The Trip East . . .

I spent 10 days "back east" . . . here is my trip in twelve photos (each is worth 1,000 words so this is really my second-longest blog post ever):

Got to the hotel at 1 AM on Saturday, STILL got up early enough to see the sunrise over our National Mall. While RUNNING.

Spent the bulk of the day with my older brother, his wife, and my niece. I was thrilled to be part of her first DC adventure. This is THE photo that ALL tourists should take. El. Oh. El.

Spent the rest of the weekend with my parents, my younger brother, his wife, and their twin sons (a.k.a my nephews).

Drove to Rockville, Maryland and saw this on the car next to me in the hotel parking garage. Sent the picture to SLF. She was equally thrilled at the Kansas presence in the Muhhhrlin-burbs.

Worked for the week from my company's Rockville office. Took ONE picture - of a shelf selling CASSETTES, VHS TAPES and (to the right) disposable cameras. I say again . . . ell, o, ell.
I took two friends to services Friday night in a beautiful sanctuary full of JOYFUL Jews (they danced, sang, laughed, etc.).
Spent the weekend with two of my best friends from college (and the nearly two decades since). 

I stayed up until almost 4 AM and still go up early enough to take a picture of the sunrise over Times Square. While RUNNING.

I spent Saturday afternoon with my college priest (remember - I was Catholic for 22 years) and one of the few things I loved about the Catholic Church. Note the pictures in the background - at 86 his home is still full of memories of the students and soldiers he knew in his "Chaplain" days.

We went for a stroll along the Hudson River. The city looks almost nice from this shot. You almost want to stay.

I spent a lazy Sunday in the park and then spent Sunday night in O'Hare. We'll always miss and love you, B.I.G.

I landed at the NEW Dwight D. Eisenhower Mid-Continent Airport at ICT at Wichita at Longest Name for an Airport Pretty Much Ever and actually got WEEPY when I saw this sign. I will pretend it was exhaustion from a long trip but, between us, I f*cking love Wichita THAT much. 


Sunday Funday . . .

My beloved was at the New Kids on the Block concert a few weeks ago (yes, weeks (vs. decades)) and I, bored out of my gourd and having just read an article about how The Avengers (and all these miserable, unneeded adaptations of comic books/graphic novels) are not that bad and how we should all give them a shot, impulsively grabbed the remote and rented The Avengers (for $4).

I made it six minutes. SIX MINUTES. Sure, sure, that is way longer than I can last on some things in life but . . . oy vey. It was horrible. Some under-ground lair with an alien portal and a glowing cube and Samuel L. Jackson dropping zingers. Oy vey. I turned it off. I had to turn it off IMMEDIATELY.

I, instead, watched and REALLY enjoyed THIS!


Sophie's Choice . . .

In 1982 Meryl Streep won her first Best Actress Oscar for playing Sophie in the film "Sophie's Choice".

If you've not seen Sophie's Choice, you should. It is not a happy movie - pretty much the polar opposite - but it is a very well told story of a woman who is constantly trying to make decisions between bad and worse and, among other tragic debates in her life, was once forced to choose which of her two children will live, and which will die.

It is with great torment that she chose to let her son live and her daughter die.

Were you surprised by that? Was anyone surprised by that? I hate to say it but I can't think of a single time when someone (man or woman) - in fact or fiction - chooses a girl (daughter or otherwise) over a boy (son or otherwise) to get the opportunity to survive or thrive. I'm sure there are hundreds (thousands? millions?) of examples of it but I can't think of a good example. And I don't know why that is.

Certainly there are gender biases and cultural norms at play but I also think there is just something about a choice of men vs. women where we're predisposed to choose men (in favorable ways - we men rarely get the short end of the stick).

What am I rambling about? Those horrible, empty, hypocritical, detached-from-reality Duggars.

Let's just get a few things straight (now that the media has done their digging and they, themselves, did their first interview since news of their incestuous, pedophile son came to light). The Duggars knew their son had molested more than one of their daughters and a non-family member. They chose to do nothing more than send him off to help a friend with home renovations (full disclosure - I've given these people the bare minimum of my energy since they first burst on to the reality TV "scene" so long ago) and to tell their daughters to let it ride. "ONLY touched them over the clothes," they insisted.

WHY? Why in the world would parents do this? Forget their absurd, overly-conservative Christian stance and how the Bible tells them so. In their actual wiring - WHY? My parents wouldn't even let two of us gang up on the third brother in an argument and they certainly would not let us molest each other with only silence and manual labor waiting for us.

I get that, as a friend (who is a lawyer) pointed out, the court systems can be brutal and the punishment for this sort of crime can be severe and damning and damaging to the whole family for the rest of forever. I get that you want to believe your kids are okay and that they are going to be okay and that they are resilient and can improve.

I get all that but you can't, if you want to teach your daughters any sense of self and self worth, allow their brother to sexually assault them and then hang around like it was no big thing. You can't let one child harm a sibling anywhere near that level and not allow a third- and neutral-party (shrink, cop, judge, neighbor, fireman, etc. (I'll remove clergy here . . . all clergy)) help decide what to do and how to do it.

You CANNOT chose between your kids. You can't be Sophie. At least not if you want to raise women who ready to overcome the odds already so stacked against them.


Pineapple . . .

I'm not going to lie to you, people. As "favorite foods" go - hummus, canned fruit cocktail, gnocchi, and challah have a recent and aggressive challenger in their midst - PINEAPPLE!

Now I know, I know . . . "Sean, you don't look like a guy who would make fruit a 'favorite' food!" and you would be correct. For many, many years of my life you could not convince me to eat fruit or vegetables. I've matured. I've seen the light. I've learned to love the produce. And I LOVE pineapple best among all the produce but it not just because it is sooooo friggin' delicious (which is part of it, to be clear) but it is the trivia of pineapple. The quirks. The MAGIC.

Here are some of my favorite things about pineapple . . .

  1. You can carve pineapples, like pumpkins, to make jack-o-lanterns.
  2. It takes up to three years for a pineapple to fully mature.
  3. A single pineapple is actually as many as 200 fruitlets that have merged inside the shell.
  4. Once picked a pineapple stops ripening and has only a few days (room temp.) to a week (chilled) before skunking out.
  5. Some of the sweetest "meat" of a pineapple is just inside the shell so be careful how aggressive you are when coring the fruit.
  6. A pineapple has almost 5g of protein. That's in the whole thing. Not a lot but few fruits have proteins so . . . 
  7. There was a pineapple "hidden" in every episode of one of my all-time favorite TV shows, Psych.
  8. Bromelain, an enzyme that is prominent in pineapple, breaks down proteins. That makes it a great digestive (try it for dessert) and meat tenderizer (as in pineapple-baked-ham). That same chemical is why your mouth and lips can hurt/be tender after you eat too much fresh pineapple. 
  9. It (allegedly) makes men's junk juice taste sweeter. 
  10. Pineapple, packed with Vitamin C, is great for fighting coughs and colds and - because they store/travel well and are durable - were leaders in the fight against scurvy.
  11. You can soak pineapple in vodka to make Stoli-Dole-ies or you can use pineapple juice to make wine.
  12. Americans named pineapples "pineapples" because they looked like pine cones to early European settlers. Pina, as in pina colada, is Spanish for pine cone. 
  13. Pineapples can help with swelling (it is a diuretic) and can induce labor.
  14. If you chop off the top/crown of a pineapple and plant it - you can grow another pineapple (in about three years).
  15. Pineapples are the universal symbol of hospitality.
  16. It. Is. Delicious. 


This Used to be My Playground . . .

I am back in (near - full disclosure I'm allllll the way up in Rockville, MD as I type this) my beloved DC. While I'm from Upstate and I'm now a proud Kansas there were eight years of my life that I called this area home and loved, loved, loved it.

One of my FAVORITE parts of the city was the Metro. I didn't own a car. I didn't need a car. I could take underground (and occasionally above-ground) trains just about everywhere and was fortunate enough to have a few friends with cars to help me cover the rest.

Sober, drunk, tired, rested, hungry, thirsty, bored, excited, alone, with friends, with family, with both. No matter where I was going, Metro was going my way (it is like Moon River only less swoony).

I used to know every stop of every line and the cross streets and the nearest attractions and even how many minutes (approximately) it would take to get from stop to stop or origin to destination - including transfer time.

Fast forward to Saturday morning when I was caught in the following:

  1. What in the actual f*ck is the silver line? And WHY are people still going to DULLES anyway?
  2. Purple line? C'bawwwn, suhn. If it doesn't go through downtown - it's not real.
  3. Fares for downtown - downtown trips are like $2.75 now . . . they used to be $1.10.
  4. They close some entrances/exits to stops on the weekend. This must be new, right?
  5. I didn't even remember where Farragut West was . . . and then I went to a closed entrance.
  6. I had to get verification on which stop was closest to the National Portrait Gallery. Which is IN Chinatown. Which apparently is now just called Gallery Place . . . as in PORTRAIT GALLERY.
  7. I could not remember which Smithsonian exit was on to the mall vs. The USDA.
  8. I called Union Station "the train station" when a tourist asked me for help finding a place.
  9. I let my niece stand on the left side of an escalator for like fifteen seconds. Everyone knows you walk on the left, stand on the right. 

I have not lived here in almost a decade. I have only been on the Metro four times in that decade. But . . . still.


That's Racism, Ma'am . . .

I went to JC Penney the other night (insert my older brother asking "Why? Were Montgomery Ward and Woolworth's closed?) to pick up some socks for a business trip. While in line, the woman next to me turned - in clear disgust - and said "Those people always slow down the rest of us".

Who were "those people"? A customer who was interested in buying a few sets of towels but was not sure which brand was covered by a coupon/special price and a woman behind the register being accommodating and helping scan the towels. Why were they "those people"? I'm presuming it is because both people were black (they were also both under 5'3" and women but I don't think those were the issue).

Fast forward about 24 hours and I'm on a jet waiting in the center aisle of a flight that was as empty as Oceanic 815 yet the foot traffic was at a stand still as an elderly couple took their sweet, sweet time putting their three suitcases, two carry on bags, purse, and radio-controlled jet in the overhead bin. The woman in front of me turns and says "They must be used to bus travel where you can take all your goats and belongings to the village." I don't think she knew these people - nope. I think she presumed the were from southern Asia (India or Pakistan, maybe?) and didn't understand the rules of ONE item per person in the overhead bin and ONE other carry-on item per person.

I reacted to both these middle-aged white women the same way . . . a look of disgust and a snide remark (the JC Penny shopper got a "Yeah. Great, patient customer service does take time." and the lady on the jet got a pat "Yeah. The Chicago suburbs have their own rules.") followed by a long, dead stare that implied I was duly aware of their racist intent.

Here's the thing . . . I know that I say this all too often but, as a middle aged, middle class white male I'm supposed to be the enemy of all the other people on this planet so WHY am I the one witnessing all this crap in disgust? How in the world do two white women, in just 24 hours, expose themselves as judgmental racists (one while carrying a purse with a bedazzled cross on it, the other wearing Christopher Banks from head to mid-calf including elastic waist, denim, cargo capris)?

I'm not a good person. I dislike pretty much all people but it is based on the way they act or talk or how they carry themselves and I certainly judge people (like the purses and clothing pointed out above) but I can honestly say that I never make it about gender, race, color, or creed. The world is too round and diverse for that. We should really be past small mindedness by the half way point of 2015.


2015 Objectives (Update 5) . . .

"They" say that if you want to reach your goals - you should share them and your progress. Soooooo . . .

  1. Read 24 (or more) books (for ME - reading with my daughter doesn't count). 9 finished. I'm behind on pace but confident.
  2. Run 10 miles/week (on average). Yes. That is 520 miles (or more) in 2015. 19.1 miles/week (406 total miles - I ran very little in May an that is okay . . . sorta (I needed to rest my body after the training for my first half))
  3. Finish a half marathon in under three hours (as many tries at it takes). Next chance at this will likely be October 11th. I may get another one on the calendar for later in October, too. Just in case.
  4. Lose 100 Pounds. That's right. Get. Less. Fat. 39 pounds down (Lost six more pounds in May despite not really running as much. Diet changes coming this month.).
  5. Reduce wasteful spending by 10% (this is actually more about not growing my spending - I'm pretty friggin' frugal now). Reduced overall spending by 28% year-to-date. I'm calling this one a victory. 
  6. Increase savings contributions by 12.5% (I've been pretty minimal on this one lately - time to grow my future). Updated 401K, IRA, 529, Investments, and Insurance products by 113%.
  7. Earn college credits (I'm going back to school, one way or another, in 2015). I have an application in at WSU. We'll see if they accept me. Still working on this one.
  8. Reduce social media time by 25% (10 minutes/day or less). Logging an average of just over 8 minutes/day (not including blogging, or efforts for work and/or my congregation). I am going to make this one work.