Thursday, October 30, 2014

Middle Age: A Love Story

So it's precisely 2:09 am on an early Thursday morning as I start writing this. I have to be up in just over four hours for work, my head feels like there's 17,249 tiny balloons being slowly inflated inside by a microscopic army of Sinus cavity hating clowns and my dog has taken permanent residency in my already warm spot in bed. He's no dummy, that little bastard, as he's learned that sometimes amongst my 19 trips to pee between late evening and morning wake up, I tend to linger on the toilet (yes, I sit to pee a great deal of the time. Oh like you don't) so he seizes these opportunities and slips into my spot in bed, stealing my pre-heated goodness. He fake snores so I won't try to wake and move him, knowing I have a soft spot for disturbing the REM sleep of canines. So here I am on the couch, intermittently blowing my nose, feeling like I have to pee again and listening to a 40 pound, 4 legged asshole snore in dreamy bliss in a toasty blanketed Utopia next to my girlfriend. This entire nightmare scenario I blame on one thing and one thing only: Being "middle aged".

I listened to a bunch of my coworkers tell me yesterday, as I've heard before, "Dude, there's no way you look (almost) 45. No way!", and while I really appreciate that the Oil of Olay, smoke-free, drug-free and easy on the booze lifestyle, coupled with good genes, has helped me retain a slightly boyish look, my inner workings are starting to figure out damn quick that I'm not a youngen' any longer. I never had allergies that bad as a child or teenager or even into my 30s. These days, if I even look out the window I'm stuffed up, sneezing and headachey for a week. Someone at work gets sick and I can wear an Asian Bird Flu mask as I sit in a vat of Purell and I'm still going to get that shit. And it's not going to go away until it violates every cell of my lungs and head for days on end. Again, this wasn't the deal ten years ago.

In years past I have had my moments of being a little overweight, centered mainly in the belly area like most dudes, but a slight modification to the diet and some light exercise and those pounds fell off quicker than Courtney Love from a wagon. Now? I gain LBs when I SAY "donut" and I could carry my car on my back as I climb Mt. Tom and even after sweating like a Triathalete with a gland problem I'll still be the same number on the scale the next day. Plus, as an added bonus I am seeing fat in places I didn't know allowed for such things. I'm pretty sure even my teeth are getting chubby. 

A year ago I was trying to read a message on my phone when I felt a pain in my elbow. I had started to develop a number of new and fun aches all over my pasty and rolly polly body so this was nothing new except that I realized in this instance it was because I had in fact hyper extended my arm in order to get my phone far enough away from my face so I could read it without it looking like it was smeared in fucking Vaseline. My eyes? Seriously? They had always been so good to me and all of a sudden they were shitting the bed, as I was sure was next on my list, literally.

Let's talk about memory for a second...where is it? What kind of cruel cosmic joke is it that in mid sentence, as a still mildly handsome, pudgy yet sorta fit-ish, halfway intelligent man I can forget what the hell I was even talking about? Not just the basic premise but I mean total wipeout. An intricate recounting of a sight witnessed on a nice drive that afternoon and then wham! I'm looking at my girlfriend, a co worker, the bed stealing 4 legged dickhead, whatever, and I got nothing. Sure, it generally comes back to me in a few moments but this is brand new territory for me. I'm used to having a clear and concise mental picture of the boring and pointless garbage that I talk about with my peeps. Now it's sometimes fuzzy...if only I could stretch my arm out with my brain at the end and see THAT more clearly.

I am gassier, harrier, slower, lumpier and lazier than I can recall being in all my life and I am just on the cusp of 45. Yet inside I feel like I am a 14 year old punk that just wants to say "I like your boobies" whenever my girlfriend is talking. OK, so I still actually do say that but it's usually as Im staring at her with glasses on from the toilet in mid wizz. Getting up from that position I then feel, and hear things in my body that just weren't there years ago. In so many ways I am happier, more secure, more grounded and fulfilled than I have ever been but in others I feel like an elderly man with Rickets borrowing a brain sourced from a hybrid of Beavis and Holden Caulfield. It's very confusing, and there's no Users manual, and I couldn't read the fucking thing clearly if there was.

I suppose if the dog hadn't stolen my cozy spot and if I didn't now have to get up in just about 3 hours I wouldnt be so whiney about my Middle Aged-ness, cause honestly life is pretty awesome right now. I am relatively healthy, as is my family, my girlfriend kicks ass, I love my job, I have some wonderful friends and I think by years end, after endless tweaking, I may have an actual novel that could be ready to send to publishers. Yeah, so my feet ache every time I walk from here to the fridge to get a Fage yogurt and I haven't really smelled anything in 2 years due to allergies and constant colds and I have the font on my iPad set so big that they can read this shit from the Space Station, but all in all my being Middle Aged hasn't been that bad at all. In fact, I've been very optimistic about a lot of the things coming up on the horizon, a whole bunch of great stuff to look forward to! And if I remember what they are, you'll be the first to know about them. 



Thursday, October 9, 2014

The Chick Pic

A good friend of mine, an odd sort of fella who may or may not be a Dentist but very likely could be a Survivalist/Sasquatch Hunter/Herb farmer in Utah recently made a comment on some friend’s photo where they had all gone away on a “Girls Weekend.” He said he thought it was great that they all still hung around together and it’s the exact same thought that popped into my head when I saw the picture. Sure, it’s quite possible they were all women who said friend was actually having some sort of fantasy that involved them all but felt the innocuous comment was better suited for the Facebook universe, but whatever the intent it was a great observation and got me thinking nostalgically and how these relationships tie in with social media.

Facebook and social media have always been an easy target, often attacked for their role in “disconnecting” us all from real relationships, intimacy and communication. I have written about it in the past but something about seeing my friends’ comment and the picture of the girls got me thinking about it in more detail and from a different perspective. The argument has been for quite some time: Sites like Facebook and Twitter and the texting generation have caused us to become more reclusive, detached and isolated from others. That we “communicate” in quick little blurbs, often abstract and irrelevant and selfish in nature. While there is no doubt that much of what’s posted on these sites has its origins in our own desire and/or need to talk about ourselves and our accomplishments, I don’t think all of Social Media can be summarized and defined by this. Sure, Twitter is a 164 character announcement to the world about what we care about, think, desire, worship, laugh at or possess but it also serves as a way to connect to others all over the globe, and like any tool, it’s what you do with it that defines its purpose rather than its mere existence.

Looking at the picture, I immediately thought about how cool it was that these friends still spent time together as women in their forties, all with lives, many with children and busy schedules and very demanding jobs. Much of it can be credited to small town life and the personalities of those pictured, though a very small part of it may just be attributable to places like Facebook and technologies such as texting. Why? Our lives are busier these days, for a variety of reasons, and staying in touch with everyone we know and like, especially via long phone conversations would be difficult if not impossible. A place like Facebook allows us to stay connected, via pictures, short commentary and discussion and do it on a schedule that works for us. The same can be said for texting, because although it’s not as personal as hearing someone’s voice, it also shields us from screaming kids, amplifies low talkers, dampens loud talkers and allows us to share and receive more succinct information than the average phone call. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy talking to those I care for, hearing the nuances of their personality that can’t be absorbed and enjoyed through digital images, but sometimes the mental energy just isn’t available for such endeavors, and I fully expect that many who are fond of me feel the same way; I can be a bit if a handful in a conversation sometimes. (#RealTalk)

So, back to the girls and the photo…I understand it’s entirely possible that, had Facebook never been created and were texting never an option, that these ladies may still be friendly with one another, but what about those not in the picture? When I see a picture like that-which is something were it not for Facebook I likely never would-it makes me think about those people. The relationships I have had with them, their distinct personalities, our adolescent past and memories and the possibility of new memories as future gatherings and parties are planned. Those of us who see a picture like that and find it “cool that you guys still hang out” have the choice to either let it be a passing feel good moment or to let it inspire us to make connections with those people, and others. Sometimes that connection may start in the virtual world, and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that, especially if somewhere down the road it leads to real life interactions.

I love the small town where I grew up, and I am very thankful to my mother for helping us stay rooted there through High School and beyond, and many of the people I met there were incredibly gracious to me as a Newbie back in the mid-eighties. When a strange, lanky Ronald McDonald looking thing with parachute pants and an Iron Maiden shirt comes to town, it’s totally understandable that he may be not only be ignored but possibly tortured even,  yet in my case I was slowly and cautiously accepted. In the beginning, by a pseudo-professional bowler named Mike and a senior named Lance who knew more about Heavy Metal than me and took me under his wing as an acne-faced Ginger with no friends. As my confidence grew (for reasons unknown, especially considering my evolving red mullet and shabby Freshman year attire) I eventually started tormenting (stalking) my friends Nicole, Kelly and Debbie and by Sophomore year, at a football game behind Suffield Academy, I was beginning to build a great group of friends that have continued to be annoyed by me to this day! Chris Roberts alone has given me the “Dude, seriously what the fuck is wrong with you?” look at least seventeen hundred times since the mid -eighties.

I am not always the greatest at making time for everyone I care for in my life, and it continues to be something I strive to improve upon. What I love about Facebook and the like is that I can still stay connected on some level and see what’s happening with those who are important to me even if I am not physically able to hang with them in person, which in some cases means, yes, that I am sitting on the couch in my boxers listening to some fucking band you never heard of and eating Dove Dark chocolate squares. I have never been an “isolator” though, and with the amazing girlfriend I have now I wouldn’t want to be-I love experience real life and social interaction and so does she-as there is so much pleasure to be had by being with the ones you love and can laugh with. Whatever our reasons for using Facebook or choosing to text someone versus making that phone call or posting “I really love Pancakes” on Twitter are our own, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Many of those I know are also more introverted and they enjoy the kind of interaction and connectivity these social media platforms allow them to have, without the discomfort of their socially awkward nature making itself known to the masses. Human beings are social by nature, but we aren’t all wired to interact socially the same way, so whatever methodology we choose to employ to keep us in touch is fine as long as we are being honest with ourselves.

I realize that places like Facebook also highlight some of the uglier aspects of human nature as well, and it’s very easy to bloviate and rage and complain, but one could argue it’s a lot easier to ignore these things within the virtual realm than were this to be happening in person with someone. We have all experienced those moments (most likely those of you reading this with me as the offender. Oops) where a group of us are together and one or more of us is annoying the piss out of the rest and there’s that awkward way we try to change the subject or leave the room or just tell them to shut the hell up. At least with Social media we can quickly click our way free or log out for good. Imagine the pleasure in having the ability to shut up your drunken friend telling you that we never really landed on the moon or that Ron Paul is really the only good politician? Beautiful.

I think there’s a great balance being struck by most of us out there. A harmonious relationship between real and virtual worlds that feed our need to be interactive with one another while also allowing us to have the requisite space we crave to feel comfortable and in control. I can be a bit of a loner, much like my father, and I love that part of myself but I also enjoy the company of others greatly so social media has actually been a technology that’s served me well. Like the girls in the photo, I relish those times with my friends in the real world though so I try to remind myself daily that life is finite and that friends and family are what make our lives rich and complex and meaningful and in order to nurture these relationships we have to feed them in person and not just in bytes.

Like so many aspects of my life, I’m working on it 


Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Lost in the Dream

Lost in the Dream. Completely.

I can't claim this pieces' title as my own, but it describes my feeling perfectly as I listen to the album of the same name all the way through once again today. The atmospheric, captivating, lush and nearly perfect album by The War on Drugs is all I have been listening to for almost 24 hours, and this follows weeks of listening to the album all the way through already, maybe 20 times or more in that span. Although I don't write a lot of album reviews anymore-as most music fans don't have the intense and obsessive love for it that I do-especially of so many bands outside the realm of radio, but in this case I felt compelled because I haven't been this blown away by a recording for as long as I can remember.

The War on Drugs have been compared to Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, Dire Straits, Tom Petty and others in the "classic rock" footprint, and they certainly paint with brushes dipped in all of them, but for me it's Dylan I hear most on this record. There's no question that Singer/Guitarist Adam Granduciel has a similar vocal style and tone to Dylan, but it's more than the way his words fill your ears sonically but also subtleties woven into every track on Lost in the Dream that echo the iconic folk rocker. Much of the guitar tonality and noodling/building of solos is reminiscent of Knopfler from Dire Straits as well but this album is in no way derivative; it's original and Iconic, even in its infancy.

There's a great article about frontman Granduciel in Pitchfork that I linked on my Facebook page describing his ongoing battle with Anxiety and Depression and the fact that this album came amidst such pain and torment is both unfathomable and obvious. "Great art comes from pain", as I've heard so many times and believe undoubtedly, but this record doesn't overtly reflect pain. It's not depressive, but rather uplifting in its sound and often in message. There are dark moments, like the aptly titled "Suffering", but as a whole this brilliant Album serves as an elixir to the melancholy spirit. It's often hushed and dreamy mood is not always uplifting but it's hopeful, pure and inspired. Considering where it's origin was, how the words and music were formulated and brought to life in the shadows, it's even more amazing it became the brilliant and radiant piece of music that it is.

It's hard to isolate specific songs and speak of them on Lost in the Dream because like so many other great albums, this one is meant to be absorbed completely as one entity. There are gorgeous individual pieces on this record, sweeping, expansive musical breaks, subtle and almost hidden undertones of a variety of instruments and a number of guitar parts that mesmerize and impress. On each track there's something memorable and textured but listening to the Album wall to wall is really the only way to appreciate it and have it fully resonate. If I was to choose a couple standouts Id likely choose "An Ocean Between the Waves", "Under the Pressure", "Red Eyes" and my likely favorite "In Reverse", but for me there's really no low point on this record. It's a ten song lesson in the power of rock and roll when left to the souls interpretation of what emotions should sound like. Anyone with a love of alternative, indie, classic, folk or mainstream rock should be listening to this incredible record. Hell, if you have ears, have at least shed a tear in your lifetime and think guitars are cool you should be listening to this Album. It's that good, without question.

History will determine if The War on Drugs and Lost in the Dream will be remembered as many of the legends before them, and it will be a difficult task because the musical landscape is not what it once was. Radio is dying, albums don't sell-the song is King-and bands are struggling getting their voice heard by the masses. In the past, those artists/bands who found little success over the airwaves built their following with incessant touring and the majesty of the live show, but there's data suggesting concert attendance is down for the medium and smaller sized venues, so where do bands not playing the Today Show stage and iHeartRadio events find their audience? 

Word of Mouth. 

If you like this album, this amazing band or any band you don't hear incessantly in the car or blaring from your kids room then tell someone. Tell everyone. Give life to what you love by making sure everyone knows about it. Lost in the Dream is worth a long and healthy life, as are many other great records and bands. Listen, share, and most importantly, sustain. :)


Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Middle *!$#*@^!*& Aged

I am middle aged.

When I say that out loud or look at the words in print I sort of feel this lightning-esque jolt of fear surge through me. However it slowly dissipates when my brain reminds me that I still find farts funny, I laugh when someone says “boobies” and I can run pretty fast for a lumpy “middle aged” man. On the inside I feel very much like the adolescent boy that enjoyed diving into muddy swamps after Snapping Turtles and affixed a bath towel to the back of my shirt after seeing the first Superman with Christopher Reeve and then dove off our barn in Stafford Springs. Oh, like you didn’t try it.

Despite the fact that my heart, mind and soul feel like a child there’s no doubt my body is starting to age and doesn’t look like the svelte specimen of red-mulleted awesomeness that I was so many years ago. My father used to always joke about the “random pains” that would show up as he hit his forties and I recall having discussions with my grandmother Noni about the changes that began to happen as the dreaded “middle age” set in. One of her favorites was the look of her feet, which always terrified me because the only thing worse than discussing feet is discussing old people feet. When I look at my feet, or more specifically the big toe on my left foot, I see something that resembles a dirty broken windshield on the nail, with a variation in color and shape that’s nothing like the beautiful big toe I once had. Plus there’s freaking hair on the toes. Not a crazy bushel of it, but hair nonetheless, and it wasn’t there when I was trying to fly off my barn for fuck’s sake.

You’re only as old as you feel.I have heard that a million times and I really believe it too. Why should the number of years you’ve existed have any impact on what you love, wish to enjoy, how you love, play or speak? Other than those rules set by the state and federal government and could result in being locked away, where is it written that an old person can’t go balls out in anything they choose to do? Nowhere, that’s where it’s written I tell ya! However, I have noticed (in addition to my big toe) there are a few things that have been affected by being Middle Aged, and/or things that I have observed. Some of the most pronounced are:

-          Farting is always funny, as I mntioned, and a distinct and vital part of my Manliness. However, in the last few years the methane production has been amped up at a level that could make Yankee Gas send out a recruiter. It doesn’t matter if I eat Bananas, Toast, Cake, Water, Beer, Berries, Fish Tacos or Rice Cakes, or what-the-fuck-ever, if I swallow them it’s inevitable that the Abarian Pipeline is going to be busy all day. And forget about Beano or Gas-X  because all that does is add a new and worse taint to an already horrific odor. I don’t need to spend money to make farts smell even worse, thanks.


-          Let’s talk about ear hair, shall we? I know as we age the hair production in strange places begins to increase but nobody ever explained that as I hit my late thirties I should expect to have tumbleweeds violently pushing their way through my ear canal and trying to get out. Because the hair in that area is so light-colored on me, sometimes I don’t notice until it’s too late and I recall a date I was on a few years back where the woman had remarked on my earrings several times and that she thought they were “cool”…so when I went into the bathroom at one point I naturally scoped them out on myself and almost went into full cardiac arrest when I saw The Joshua Tree growing out of that ear! Try ripping ear hair out in a pinch, versus using clippers, etc. and you’ll experience pain like you only see in the movies. Your eyes tear up, your ears start ringing and you begin to lose consciousness. The only saving grace is that if you do pass out and fall and land on your side, the branches growing out of your ears will likely break your fall. Incredibly, when I rejoined the date-teary eyed and a broken shell of a man-she was still at the table and wanted to keep going. If I was wearing sandals and she saw that toe there’s no doubt she would have been re-activating her profile at the table as we sat there.


-          To the current generation of younger chicks, pretty much EVERYTHING is “creepy”. It’s one of the most overused words in that demographic, in my opinion, and many times a cop out because they can’t think of anything more accurate or eloquent to say. That being said, if you’re ever called “creepy” by one of these young ladies I can assure you that your scrotum will tear itself off of your body and find the first hole it can climb into in complete shame and retreat. Yes, that hole. Anyway, I think because I look a little young for my age (genetics, excessive masturbation and Dove with ¼ moisturizing Cream) and that I am pretty well versed in modern culture, music, etc., that I have only been called “creepy” in public once. It was someone I saw regularly at a Subway restaurant and there was  bit of a playful relationship but that didn’t dull the pain of hearing her say, “Eww you’re creepy dude” when I commented that I thought a particular younger celebrity was attractive, as part of a larger discussion. Now, had I been 21 or maybe way hotter I am sure that comment doesn’t come, but at just over 40 it apparently warranted the dig. I can only imagine if she had seen my Selena Gomez tramp stamp.


-          There’s a running joke among men that “any more than 3 shakes is playing with yourself” in regards to how many times you shake your little Abare (or huge Abare in certain cases. I think my Middle Aged-ness has caused that to shrink as well, or at least that’s what I have been blaming it on since 1985). Here’s the problem though: As I get older, and for whatever cruel cosmic joke, no matter how many times I shake the damn thing there’s always a little mini river of pee waiting to jet out into my Boxers when I put the Lil guy away. I have heard Howard Stern complain about this endlessly and it’s a real problem. There are few feelings worse than walking around in wet nappies, as I am sure my twin nephews can attest to when they’re with me and I “forget” to change them. I have had some plumbing issues over the years, yes, but I have had my Prostate Moon-Rivered just recently and it’s doing fine so what the hell is going on here? This shit never happened when I was 17. Of course I was pretty much a walking boner in those days but I’d rather find creative ways to tuck in Little Abare and avoid embarrassment than to have to wring him out like a sponge and still have pissy pants for the whole world to see.


-          I could probably look sexy dressed as a Minion (Hey, wait…I DO!!) in all reality but I was hoping I might live my life without ever having to wear glasses. About a year ago when I looked at my phone and I thought my brother had texted me “Yuma Stood Stop Bob Theodore” and was having a mild stroke, I realized my close up vision was starting to fail ("You should stop by the store", it was in fact). It lasted a long time and I should be pretty happy about it but the fact I have to wear glasses to read, etc., has officially confirmed that the Middle Ages are here to stay. I could hold a kitten a foot from my face and it would look like a fucking Kiwi fruit without those things. I almost ate a rolled up candy wrapper because I thought it was a raisin. I was at the mall and thought my girlfriend snuck up behind me to hug me from behind so I turned around and kissed her…it was an Asian man offering free massages. He still calls me.

Middle age is full of new and exciting adventures, primarily of the bodily variety. On one hand it’s fun to discover some of the changes that come my way and on the other it’s terrifying that tomorrow I might be riding a “Rascal” and sending back soup 5 times because 170 degrees suddenly feels lukewarm. The truth is I really feel like since I hit 40 my life has been pretty good, except for a few bumps that I encountered totally of my own stupidity. I have a great job, an even greater girlfriend and my family all seem to be doing well and living happily. So what if there are a few odd looking skin tags growing in places I don’t even let Hodge visit? Who cares if my neck feels like it’s filled with sand, pebbles and nails some mornings. No worries if a 50 foot sprint feels like I just boxed Tyson in his prime. I have my (relative) good health, I can still get sweet looks from Elderly women in Dunkin Donuts (rarely) and I still have my wit and my charm (just ask me). If I lose my edge in some other areas, so be it. It’s just the dues we pay for living a fun, free, adventurous life I guess…and honestly some days I don’t think of these things as negatives anyway, or think of them at all. Or maybe I do and then I just forget.

Must be my early Alzheimers.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Top Tips For A Safe Summer

Top Tips For a Safe Summer

So it’s officially summertime and it got me thinking a little bit about the hidden dangers of the season and how all of us can be safer and avoid a variety of perils that are more likely to surface during the warmer months. As my buddy Ward Hamilton mentioned the other day, I am sort of a wise man so why shouldn’t it be me that passes on these important safety tips. Now, Ward drives a motorcycle and has ingested a variety of bugs and critters at high speed, along with suffering mild concussions from Pigeon strikes to the head on said vehicle so his credibility as it relates to my wisdom is slightly in question, but for the sake of this list I will choose to ignore that fact.

Don’t Get Bitten By Mosquitos. Not Even Once.

The humid summer months bring an influx of skeeters that love to suck your blood. Their sole purpose in life is to drill that little pipe of theirs ,Exxon style, right into your skin and drain you of vital hemoglobin. Now, Google searches  along with Web MD and a nurse I used to date suggest that you should try to keep as much blood as you can inside yourself. Having it exit your body can cause headaches, fatigue, rapid heart rate, dehydration, weak erection and in severe cases, not being alive. This is all the evidence I need to do what I can to keep my blood on the inside. So, in order to do this as it relates to mosquitos I suggest the following:

Don’t ever go outside. Mosquitos enjoy the humid outdoors, along with the multitude of creatures they can suck on, so going outside where they prefer to be is a bad idea cause they will very likely find you, especially if you’re wearing Axe body spray or had Indian food the previous night. Sure, the little bastards can get inside and bite you but they become so disoriented inside the home from the odd smells that they often end up trying to suck the wall, or if you’re lucky your cat, which are known to enjoy being bitten and having their bellies rubbed.

If you absolutely must go outside during the summer months, wear a wool sweater over farmer overalls and cover it with a beekeepers outfit. This will not only be very stylish and possibly attract new mates (use caution if already married or attached) but it’s proven to reduce Mosquito bites by 19%, which is really the most any of us can hope for. Mosquito bites can cause horrific reactions like itching, small bumps and annoyance, and because to them your ears smell like the equivalent of a Bacon Scented Yankee Candle, they will often seek out your ears intentionally and the high pitched whine of their wings has been known to cause Leprosy and Diarrhea so be very careful if you start to hear that sound.

Don’t Blow Yourself Up.

I recently left a slow leaking but small propane tank in my car on an 80 degree day with the windows closed following a BBQ we had at work. When I opened the car door, the wave of gaseous fumes hit me like a Hooligan playing the “knockout” game. I was instantly dizzy and sick to my stomach and for a moment I imagined that the 19 cents jingling in my pocket might be enough to ignite a spark and send me soaring, charred and on fire, right over the Arby’s that was in the parking lot next door. Luckily I was able to air out the car and make the cabin safe to exist in again and I imagine that sometime in 2029 it will no longer have the faint smell of gas still clinging to the fibers inside.

The dangers of being blown up increase severely in the summer months because most of us tend to be outside more often (and although blowing up while inside still happens, outside is far more likely) and because the warmth of the air actually increases are desire for combustion and fire (Source: AOL chat Room “expert”, Screen Name: PyroDude69XXX). There are also a couple of sources to cause us to blow up in the summer, and both must be taken very seriously:

Gas grills. Just like my earlier story mentioned, the danger of blowing yourself up with a propane based gas grill is very high. Because blowing up can cause things like severe burns, fingers and limbs ending up in the pool or neighbor’s yard, hair loss, melting and ceasing to exist, we must all be vigilant in avoiding the perils of the gas grill. First and foremost, do NOT attempt to light the grill by placing the Propane tank on the metal grates of the grill after covering with lighter fluid. Also, do not bang the cylinder holding the gas with a hammer if you’re having difficulty lighting the pilot. Finally, avoid leaving the gas valve open and running for 12 or more minutes and then deciding it’s a good moment to be “420 friendly” as then you risk being blown up AND having to have your friend in CO send you more Medical Marijuana inside a My Little Pony box via USPS.

Fireworks. We all love Fireworks. Watching things explode is fun, unless they are yourself. When using Fireworks in these summer months it’s important to remember the 3 L’s of proper Firework use: Light, Leave and Look. Light refers to lighting the firework, which is always advisable to have done by a bratty neighborhood kid, a homeless person or an In-Law. If these aren’t available you can do it yourself with a 43 foot long stick with a gas soaked rag tied to the end (follow earlier rules for having that part lit by others). Once lit, LEAVE. Meaning, run like a squirrel that you just discovered in your cupboard eating your Cat Food. It’s best to be wearing good sneakers or wrestling shoes and avoid flip flops or Ski boots. Finally…Look. Look at what you just did, as you’re about to witness one of the coolest things ever, an explosion! Now, as long as you are several miles away and have on safety goggles and a football helmet you’ll be very safe during the explosion and avoid the chance that a bottle rocket pierces your scrotum or your lady parts. When the explosion is done, check the area for dismembered friends, pets or neighbors and then get back to kicking back with a 40 pack of Natural Light!!

Avoid Getting Partially or Fully Eaten by Shark.

There are several scientists and people with the last name Cousteau that will try to tell you differently, but in the summer months your greatest chance of serious hazard or being dead is from a Shark Attack. Sharks like the taste of people, as proven by the 1997 study done by Red Lobster, Inc. The study was conducted to assist their fisherman in avoiding being eaten while fishing for Crabs, Tilapia and Catfish, which was happening daily. Sharks swim in waters as shallow as 1 inch and can disguise themselves as other fish and have been known to leap out of the water and pluck children from even the inside of boats. As humans that love the summer and want to be at the beach or on the open water, we have to be watching for sharks at all times, and here are some tips:

Don’t Go in the Water, Or Even near It. “You’re going to need a bigger boat” is not just a cool line in an old movie about a giant fish, it’s real life advice. Sharks can eat most boats up to 50 feet and they are also incredibly adept at wiggling as far up the sand as a quarter mile from the water and have been known to gobble up as many as 12 sun bathers at a time before returning to the water to digest the heads and torsos of their victims.  If you’re actually IN the water then you’ve essentially signed your own death certificate because sharks will pick off summer swimmers like the Guppies in your tank at home pull down those flakes of Tetra food. A better course of action is watching movies at home about the beach like, “The Beach” (beware: Shark attack plotline), “Cast Away” or “Blue Lagoon” and drink Coconut Water.

Don’t wear meat flavored cologne or attire made from animals. Sharks prefer to always be eating and they are able to smell potential food items from as far as 13,000 miles away through their fins. If you smell like food to them you have a 6000% higher chance of being bitten or eaten then you normally do while at the beach (which is already a very high 98.65%). If the shark happens to taste you first then the bite will very likely end up being a swallow and you’ll spend your last few minutes on Earth being disemboweled by a creature with like 40,000 teeth WHILE you are drowning. The ONLY thing proven to be a worse death, scientifically, is listening to Josh Groban while driving in a car with your mother in law.

When In Water, Stay Absolutely Still. Sharks essentially know only how to kill and eat, and they are attracted to noisy people, especially fat ones. If you decide to go in the water it’s imperative you remain totally motionless otherwise you will likely get to watch your own arm be snapped off like a twig and be surrounded by a pool of your own blood before you get swallowed whole. Sharks can sense a twitch in your toe underwater from as far away as 4000 nautical miles so if you choose to go in the ocean and enjoy the lukewarm water as you bask in summer’s glow, don’t fucking move a muscle if you prefer life vs. agonizing death.

Summertime is a wonderful season for all of us. Family BBQ’s, camping, travel, amusement parks, outdoor masturbation and Ice Cream; it’s meant to be enjoyed. However, by following these important safety tips you increase your chances of spending the summer still existing in your living form AND not creating situations where you suffer needlessly or end up losing pieces of yourself. Fall has its share of perils as well, and sometime around Labor Day I’ll post those crucial safety tips as well. Until then…Happy Summer everyone!!!

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Being Reborn (Sort of)

In some ways I feel like I was born again when I first discovered music as a young child. Although I don’t recall my actual birth, I am quite certain that when I popped out into the world from between my mother’s legs, kicking, screaming and fighting to inhale my new best friend oxygen, that I was pretty damn excited, even amidst the cries and being covered in a bloody mess.

When I was about seven years old I remember my mother exposing me to a variety of bands and artists, with one of the first being Barry Manilow. There was something about the richness of the voice, the melodies of some of the songs like “Looks Like We Made It” and  “Mandy” that made me feel almost intoxicated and alive in ways I hadn’t previously. Around that same time I became obsessed with songs like “Hey, Deanie” by Sean Cassidy , “Baby Come Back” by Player, and “Lido Shuffle” by Boz Scaggs. I had no idea who these bands were, if they were cool, uncool, awful or genius but I was so enthralled by the wizardry happening in and around my ears it didn’t matter. Not long after I discovered Kiss, Pink Floyd, CSNY and the Rolling Stones and my obsession grew much deeper, however it wasn’t until I heard AC/DC for the first time that “Rock and Roll” pretty much became my religion as a reborn child, complete with a fiery red afro.

When I made my way through the “Back in Black” album by AC/DC I was so deeply engaged in electric guitars, bass and drums and howling vocals that it was only natural to make my way through the Foreigners, Styx, Led Zeppelins, Black Sabbaths and Aerosmith…but it was a couple brothers from The Netherlands that had the biggest impact in the early to mid-eighties. Van Halen, the hard rock quartet based in LA, essentially turned me (and my younger brother) into full blown rock addicts that weren’t happy unless every square inch of our bedroom walls was covered in posters, pictures, tapestries and album covers of them and the myriad of other Hard Rock bands we adored. Hard rock lead to Heavy Metal, and Metallica, Slayer, Anthrax, Megadeth and a hundred bands only about three people per state have ever heard of became the Gods I began to worship and for awhile I looked like a Denim jacketed, spaghetti headed devil worshipper straight out of Children of the Corn. Those were good times for the music obsession, not so much for the one I had with females.

Somewhere along the line as I began listening to all those metal bands I realized that, at least with some of them like Iron Maiden and Judas Priest, there was actually a lot of great music happening underneath the distortion, speed and shrieking vocals. I was also intrigued that so many of these bands in interviews mentioned that they were fans of very non-metal bands like The Clash, The Cure, Velvet Underground and U2 so, very carefully at first, I started opening my mind and ears to some of these others bands and sounds and I was totally blown away at what I discovered.

Melody. Harmony. Lyrics that didn’t contain “blood”, “death”, “Satan” or “kill”. It was somewhat disorienting but extremely inviting.

Of course there are a multitude of Metal bands that have great melodies and harmony in their music, but much of what I was listening to in the mid-eighties was absent of that, and these new bands I discovered had soul, style, a passionate yet hushed quality to them that wasn’t really even tangible and most of all, fancying myself a wannabe writer, they wrote words and stories I could identify with on a deeper level. It was almost yet again a rebirth of sorts.

As I grew into my twenties and beyond I discovered so many new bands that became my love, my muse and my obsession, all the while never forgetting or abandoning the hard rock and metal bands I first fell in love with. Although I appreciated the talent and impact for its time, however, Barry Manilow and Sean Cassidy never seemed to find their way back into my playlists. :( What did were amazing talents like Radiohead, Jackson Browne, The Beatles, Bon Iver, The National, Wilco, My Morning Jacket, Iron & Wine, Tedeschi/Trucks, Volcano Choir, Ray LaMontagne, Gregory Alan Isakov, Porcupine Tree, Marillion, Younger Brother, The Strokes, Alabama Shakes, Kings of Leon,  The Boxer Rebellion, Interpol and so many others. I have written extensively about the notion that “there are no good bands anymore”, and while I understand there isn’t a steady stream of Led Zeppelin or Aerosmith-esque hard rock bands coming down the pike, there is certainly no shortage of amazing musicians and bands out there right now, even within a climate that’s not very conducive to success. For many people it’s just very hard to break free from their comfort zones musically and while I can respect that it’s also very hard to understand. I love pizza, and I love pizza with a variety of toppings on it…but sometimes you just can’t beat Sushi. Try it all…and enjoy it all.

Music is my religion, my God is the guitar and my bible is the pages that so many of the chords, notes and beats are written on. I worship in my private temple, which is often my car or the corner of my couch wearing headphones, and my church is most definitely the live stage that some of the great musicians I adore play on. I was reborn as a child into the world of music, and I am certain when I die and pass on into another it will be with a song or melody in my head. Music has never been a part of my life, it’s been the very fabric and that binds me to feeling what it means to be alive and the place where my soul rests when it’s weary or thrashes when its elated. Music is often the only thing that makes sense in a world with so many senseless things. That same world has more beauty than many people will give it credit for, but at it’s epicenter, at least for me, it’s most perfect, flawless and benevolent force, other than love, will always be music.

It’s never too late to be born again J


Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Recipe For A New Year

have seen these kinds of blog posts and lists for years now around this time; "5 Ways To Improve Your Life This Year!", etc., and many of them have some great ideas and inspirational messages but for whatever reason-mainly laziness and excuses-I have never taken much of the advice. This year I figured if I made my own list then maybe there would be a chance I would actually get off my ass and make things happen. That's the plan anyway...but I reserve the right to do absolutely nothing and just be my own as-is version of awesome if I choose to of course.

So here are 10 ways, in my very humble opinion, that I think we can all have a better year than we did last year and hopefully find a clear and unfettered path to the happiness we seek. It's not scientific, I'm no doctor and I certainly am no authority on self-improvement but I'm very confident if you use this list as a basic guidebook for living your life this year you will feel better. If it doesn't work I'll send you an E Card with lots of clouds and deep thoughts about inner peace and happiness and I'm sure that will fix you up ;)

1. Stop Being Angry

"You can't control your feelings but you can control your behavior." One of my favorite "Poppyisms" that my dad told me often and something I try to employ daily. Your job, your spouse, your kids, your friends, your lover, your life and just about anything can make you feel badly, upset, uneasy, angry, sad or annoyed and you have no control over how your mind and the chemicals that move through you will effect you, but how you REACT to that feeling is totally in your hands. Often times we are disappointed by something someone says or a gesture made, etc., and we craft that initial feeling we have into an angry response because of our upset. But why? Is it really going to change what happened or give us any level of peace after we share that anger? Even when we hold our tongue and let the anger fester and shape our behavior in that suppression and eventual stress we aren't doing ourselves any favors, as "Holding on to anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to get sick." Exactly. 

We can choose to express our disappointment or upset in ways other than anger that are far more conducive to healing and will allow the recipient of our expressions to really hear the message and learn from it. It's always a choice, and in most every situation I can think of, the best one.

2. Forgive Them

It's unlikely any of us have someone connected to our lives that we aren't holding some type of grudge against, and just like holding on to anger, living with that grudge and not choosing to forgive is often more painful to us than the person we were hurt by. Now, let me just say that what I'm referring to is NOT akin to allowing yourself to be taken for granted, walked all over or mistreated and just accepting it; I'm not 100% in the "love your enemy" camp. However, I do understand the power of forgiveness and that it can be juxtaposed with commanding respect and still be tremendously effective.

When someone intentionally hurts us they generally know they're in the wrong and will suffer on some level for that. It becomes our choice to either allow them a place in our life going forward or to set ground rules for how they talk to or treat us-as I believe one should always do in those instances-but the act of forgiveness has no bearing on that. Forgiving is an act of kindness that speaks more to your own character and strength than it does to the acceptance of someone's disrespectful treatment of you. Forgiveness is also empowering and has the benefit of illuminating the offenders actions in a way that anger and resentment will only serve to mask. 

Forgive more, and chances are your days will be brighter and your heart less heavy.

3. Stop Being Offended

Over the years I have heard numerous people argue "only certain people can be offended", and although I don't agree with the segregated way those folks are referring to (only certain races, religious groups, etc) I DO agree with the "only certain people" point; those who CHOOSE to be.

You'll see the idea of "choice" a lot in what I write about and it's a concept I stand firmly behind. There are very few things in our daily lives that aren't directly related to the choices we make and that includes our reactions and behaviors. A friend of mine told me years ago that when a co-worker called him the "N word", that he simply smirked at the guy and walked away, feeling empowered because "his choice of that word showed more about who he was than anything negative about me." So simple yet so profound.

There are close to 6 billion people on this planet and not any two are EXACTLY alike. We have different beliefs, religions, sexual orientations, hairstyles, fashion choices, parental styles, etc., etc and there's no way that everyone is going to like any one person, it's mathematically impossible! So why would we ever allow someone's words or beliefs that differ from ours offend us? Let others think and feel as they do, and if those feelings spill into action and it needs to be dealt with so be it, but when it's only words and misguided understanding, let the "offenders" live in the sad and shallow world they exist in and don't feed their disease with your disdain as it will only serve to fuel their hatred. 

4. Smile at Strangers

Whenever someone I don't know smiles at me it's totally and completely impossible for me to not smile back or say "hey" or something to that effect; smiles are infectious and contagious. When it happens you just feel like you're in some pseudo-family and it has a way of improving your mood and increasing motivation. So why not be the instigator more and not just the receiver?

OK, not to be sexist but, I understand that if every woman out there starts to be overly friendly and full of smiles to complete strangers she might attract a lot of unwanted attention, just like if a man does it he may secretly start being labeled as "creepy", but I'm not talking about enthusiastic, over the top hellos and big hugs here, just a warm, genuine and honest smile. None of us know what might be going on in the person on the receiving end of that smile's life and it very well could be the catalyst for turning their day around. So smile more. And mean it.

5. Listen To More and Different Music

It's always difficult to discuss music with the masses because music can be very personal to people and some don't like to move outside their comfort zone much, and that's OK. However, being the music junkie I am it's hard for me not to share and spread the magic and power of music I love with others, especially when so much of it has the power to heal and inspire and evoke emotions we long to feel, etc.

There are plenty of decent pop songs out there, and there's great words and music to be heard and reheard in the classics from Aerosmith to Zeppelin, but I will promise you that if you make a commitment to seek out some new music, in a genre or format you might have even previously ignored, you will likely be pleasantly surprised at what you discover. There are bands out there like Local Natives, The Boxer Rebellion, The National, Volcano Choir and Beach House that are writing/performing masterpieces with the same colors and canvas so many bands use, they're just doing it with their own unique brush. There are some hard rock and metal bands like Iron Maiden and Rush that have put of exceptional new records very late in their careers while many other legendary acts have packed it in and continue to tour on nostalgia alone. There are soulful newer bands like Fitz & The Tantrums and Vintage Trouble and Alabama Shakes that are blending RnB, Motown and Rock that melds the best of the 60s with the sounds of today...and chances are you aren't listening to any of it.

Go discover someone new, hear a song that inspires you, makes you cry, feel something you haven't in a while or makes you want to dance like an idiot. The music is out there and it's just waiting for you to open your ears. Go find it.

6. Do A Searching and Fearless Moral Inventory

This is straight out of the AA play book, and even though I have never been in AA I have had many close to me who have been and there's no doubt it's the most successful self help group for a reason, very likely tied to reasons like #6 here.

Each one of us, whether we struggle with addiction, over eating, anger, money issues or none of the above, could benefit greatly by taking this step. To truly and honestly look at ourselves and our failures, our successes, our good habits and bad, our "baggage" and our fears is one of the most difficult yet cleansing acts we can attempt as people. "To heal a wound you first have to dig inside and clean it out" I have heard and this is what this idea is all about. If we want to be a better person and live a happier life we first have to start by digging deep within ourselves and honestly assessing who and what we are before we can "heal" the wounds in our life and grow stronger. It's a terrifying process for some, but the rewards of actually going on this journey and completing it will totally change your life, and in the process set you free.

7. Be Nicer To Everyone

OK so this totally sounds like hippie, tree-hugger recycled crap but whether it is or not there's no doubt it will make you a happier person.

Between bosses, co-workers, customers, strangers, exes, kids and just about anyone, there are plenty of people that likely deserve our crankiness and our wrath, but just like avoiding anger, what does being unpleasant really do for us? Have you ever noticed how disconcerting it is to someone who's yelling at you when you respond with a smile and warmth? If they're mentally unbalanced, sure, the results can be a little sketchy but for the average grumpy individual it's often hard to stay angry when they are continually met with kindness. If you make a concerted effort to be friendly, engaging and decent to those around you it may not change the world but I can promise it will at least change your world. 

8. Practice Empathy

Ahhh Empathy, that staple of Buddhists and hippies and peace lovers everywhere. It really is a great concept though when you think about, because as much as it's about feeling for others it's actually rooted in selfish needs. Meaning, so often we say to others or to ourselves "if only they understood how I feel" or "I wish they could understand my perspective", and that's truly at the heart of empathy, the act of feeling someone's pain or even sharing it even though the affliction is not your own.

If we so often long for others to "feel our pain" then why is it so hard to do the same for them? I believe it's because most of the time we just don't try. We are often too focused on our own concerns or needs that we don't put in the requisite effort to be empathetic, but then when it's not returned we are bothered. The universe and it's karmic connection feeds off of what we put into it, I truly believe that, so if you seek understanding and compassion in your life make sure to give it boundlessly to others.

9. Find A Healthy Activity and Stick With It

New Years Resolutions are so often about losing weight and getting in shape but rarely are they set up in a way that's guaranteed to avoid failure. If you're not someone that's ever gone to a gym or worked out, if you never participated in any sports growing up or if you're very overweight, the chances are a gym membership or spinning classes might not be right for you. Why set yourself up to fail? Instead, find a physical activity you enjoy and just start building the foundation for a healthier life slowly.

There are no rules that say you have to run to lose weight or kick box to improve cardio fitness or use a stair master to lower cholesterol; but if you try a little bit of everything maybe you'll find something you truly enjoy and WANT to stick with. Or, maybe you create your own healthy activity, the point is that you just do something to get you moving and feel better about yourself and not let the disappointment of not being able to do what everyone else does dissuade you from achieving a healthier life.

10. Write Something

I have heard many people tell me over the years that "I can't write, I'm terrible at it," and you know they might be right. However, that's often a by product of lack of effort and not a failure of creativity or talent.

Writers often have a "gift", I do believe that, but even the most gifted will tell you they have to hone their craft. The longer I go without writing the crappier my words sound to me (and likely others) and some days I honestly feel like I couldn't fill out a greeting card, but that's all tied back into the concept of choice. If I choose to watch Netflix for a month and I'm not writing I only have myself to blame for the resulting drivel that I put forth. 

I have been in numerous writing workshops and classes where people who never wrote anything decided to give it a shot, and simply by sticking with the exercises and continually writing for the 6 weeks or 6 months have turned out some beautiful work. We ALL have stories to tell and things to say and it doesn't require a gift to say them, it simply requires work. Writing is also very healing and cathartic and has the power to cleanse and often inspire and I will guarantee you that if you start keeping a journal or begin blogging or writing stories that you'll feel better a year from now. Unless all you write about are zombies, the apocalypse or nuclear war of course.

Start writing, and don't stop. 

Have a healthy and Happy New Year.


Writing: The Most Rewarding Form of Self Torture

One of the best books I've read in the last few years is "The Courage to Write" by Ralph Keyes. Without doing a full review, i...