Sunday, November 24, 2013

How do I love thee? No really, how?

Recently, I saw the newest installment of the Hunger Games series. I'll try not to spoil anything during this discussion, but if you don't already know that the main character, Claptrap Evergreen remains hungry, then you aren't going to want to watch this movie anyway. So, during the movie, the chief bad guy, known as President Snow (this is symbolic because he is played by Donald Sutherland and he represents snow and college professors who sleep with Karen Allen...heady stuff, symbolism) is watching the dystopian version of television (known as "television") with his granddaughter. This humanizes him and reminds us that even the most vicious, hardened career politician can lose the remote. So his granddaughter, lovingly played by, well, I don't know, but I'm sure she will be in rehab and People magazine soon enough, looks at the screen even though she should be outside playing and getting some fresh air and we asked you to watch her while we ran errands and all you did was stick her in front of the television? We are not voting for you next time Grampa President. She sees two characters taking a break from the monotony of escaping certain death to share an embrace and probably, fleas and she says "someday, I want to love someone like that." I hope she doesn't refer to the fleas.

So, pop-pop Snow (I can't imaging she calls him President) says "You will." It is said with that knowing look which indicates that he wasn't really listening and if she would just shut up, he could remember where he put the remote so he can put CNBC back on or at least the History channel. Anything but this reality crap. How do these kids watch this stuff? Damn kids...errands my eye. They just want to dump this rugrat on me so that they can drink coffee and plan how they are going to spend my money. MY money.

I thought about that level of love and how you know that it is there. Then I took a walk (by then, I mean a day later) with my younger daughter. The child is 14. This isn't really a "baby" by most conventional standards but we both let the other operate under than illusion. She lets me hug her and I let her let me hug her. While we were walking, and we held hands (which is OK because no one was around to see), she stumbled a bit. Now I don't know if you have kids, but something I realized from way back when is that when I am holding my kids' hands, or at least one of them, and she stumbles, my hand tightens reflexively and I pull up. When they were little, this was useful because it saved them from falling on their faces. This would, in turn, cause crying and such and I would have to pick up my child and carry her, and this would hurt my back. This seems to me to be a profound expression of love which exists on a level beyond what we try for. By the way, a hurting back is no laughing matter unless it happens to someone else Can you imagine if I had to carry a grown child now because she won't stop crying about some stupid lollipop or whatever? My back hurts just thinking about. And so do my teeth. I hate lollipops. Now that she is older, you would figure that if she stumbles, I can be reassured that she will be able to right herself, or else, she will fall and get back up. I imagine that were I to walk with someone else to whom I am not related, and still, felt the need to holds hands with, were that person to stumble, I would act in a perfectly appropriate fashion and let go, thus saving myself, and giving us both something to laugh about. Or at least me something to laugh about and someone to laugh about So the net sum is still 2 laughs. That's gotta count for something.

And yet, for this 14 year old, I held on for dear life. And I have noticed the same thing when I hold hands with my wife or my older daughter. Imagine that kind of deep seated love that I must have on an instinctual level, that, without thinking, I tense up and move to protect that thing which means so much. So, to you, young Snow grad daughter, here is my blessing for you -- when you grow up, and when you have gotten over the trauma of learning how much of a jerk your grandfather is (and what's with that beard?), that you find someone you want to share your life with. And, as you age, you never forget that there is a deep mutual reliance and therefore urge to protect that thing that makes you stand tall and feel a sense of pride and happiness -- so when you are walking with your grown child and you hold her hand and she stumbles, your love bubbles up without any effort and you do what ever it takes to protect the well being of your back.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Seven simple rules for being a grown up

Dear the young people,

I am speaking to you know from the future. Actually, the present, but your future. I am here to tell you about what we in the real world like to call "the real world." This is life, the one you live, so go and suck it up (with apologies to you, Ms. Romano). So many books exist which tell you about the rules of life and being an adult and they, well, they sugar coat it so being an adult seems like a reasonable and fun thing to do. Sure, I can set my own bedtime. And yet I keep falling asleep at 8:30, often while driving. Sure, I can eat whatever I want. But also have to pay for it (monetarily and digestively). I can watch R rated movies. But I have to pay for the tickets so I start to evaluate if the movie is worth the hours of my day and I usually decide that it isn't.

So in the pursuit of full disclosure (which I can do because I'm an adult) I present some real rules about life as a big person. Start taking notes because this is the good stuff, bucky.

1. Doing your best isn't good enough. I know, we have been telling you that all that matters is that you try your hardest and we'll be proud of you. Lies. Insidious, damned lies. Mostly because this allows you to do less than your best and claim that you couldn't do any better. But we watch you play with your phone or load up a movie and say "I'm done" and we know that it isn't really your best so we don't need to be proud of you. And let's say that you really did work really hard on something and still came up short. Should we pat you on the back and say "well, you tried and that's what matters"? Will that heal me? Will I feel comfy driving my car as long as the mechanic tried his best. Sorry to be mean about it but the world expects you to get things right, not right-esque. There is no A for effort. There is an E and it is perilously close to F.

2. The world doesn't care. That doesn't mean that no one in the world cares but that the world will keep on spinning even if you have a splinter. Whatever your excuse about not having stuff done, the world will keep on moving. If your boss needs work done and you don't get it done, he will find someone else who can do it. As a wise man once told me, "the cemetery is full of irreplaceable people." Get it right, get it done and move on. Stories don't get you out of what is the only commodity that matters: results.

3. Everything has to be top priority. Don't tell me that's illogical sport-o. That's the way life is. Everything is on the front burner all the time. This is why we call it stress and not "that relaxed feeling of knowing that you can take care of things on a comfy set of rolling deadlines." We want it all and we want it now. No apologies to Queen. So you have to work more hours than exist? Welcome to the world.

4. Life isn't here to be easy or amuse you. The world isn't going to cater to what you want and what you expect. You are here to cater to it. So what if that other guy didn't do his part. More work for you? Deal with it. You say your job is no fun? Can you pay your bills? Not being able to pay your bills is 'not fun.' Being able to afford to keep living in your house is a fricking laugh riot. You can't have steak every night, or every week, or sometimes, every year. The exception? If you win the lottery (literally or metaphorically) and trust me, that isn't happening. Why? Because I know you and I don't know anyone that lucky that I can sponge off him. So sorry sad sack. Set that alarm, pack your brief case and get back to the grind of the rest of your life.

5. You don't get a trophy just for participating. You get a social security number and a set of bills. Someone else has a trophy and you are going to have to pummel him with a shovel and pry it our of his cold, dead fingers, and then be on the constant lookout for the next guy hiding a shovel behind his back.

6. It doesn't get better, you just, in some way and to some degree get used to it. More starts to hurt. Less works the way it used to. Things stop being the kind of simple fun that you remember from the sanitized memory of what was, in reality, a pretty crappy youth. You begin to realize that things never were particularly good. People were always mean and flying was never really safe. You just want to lock the doors to your house, curl up in a ball and never move again. Guess what? The guy at he bank doesn't care. He dragged his sorry self in to work that day so when he comes to repossess your dentures and he sees you hiding from the world, he's going to be doubly annoyed.

7. Life IS work. Nice guys finish first or last depending on so many things that they can't always control. Be nice simply because you think it is the right thing to do regardless of life. Don't think that you get rewarded for being a good person. If you are a good person then you act that way because you don't know any other way to live. And then you work your butt off to go above and beyond what anything thinks is required or even a bit impressive. You spend every waking moment wondering how you can do whatever it is better than anyone else, and you worry constantly that you haven't pushed hard enough.

Old Man Rosen

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Snicker snicker

Tonight I post from the heart of NYC. I am the chauffeur for a gaggle of screaming teenies who just HAVE to see their idol in concert in Times Square. But instead of sending them on their own, or driving, dropping them off and then coming back in, I have decided to stay in TS and relax while I wait for them to come out. This experience should be enough to inspire an angry post. About the traffic, the car accident right in front of me which made turning from 46th onto Broadway difficult, or the pedestrian traffic which made turning back onto 45th almost impossible. I saw 2 naked cowboys, an Elmo, a Minnie Mouse, a Spider Man, a Statue of Liberty and also some people dressed up as characters. There were tourists galore taking pictures of each other standing in traffic because when you get back to wherever it is you have come from, you want to show your friends how you stood in traffic and didn't get killed. Unless you got killed. Then that's gotta be embarrassing. The parking lot I was looking for simply does not exist. There are 2 others on the same block but not the one the internet promised me. But I have my coffee and am on the 8th floor of the Marriott in the lobby on my computer being very much the cool guy writing on his blog about how he is above being impressed by Times Square and the real NY is a bunch of blocks away where no one really goes because it is too cool. Yeah. I'm that guy.

But that's not what I wanted to write about. I needed to discuss a serious issue which arose this afternoon as I read the circulars. Admit it -- you read the circulars also, sometimes to check prices and other times just to get a sense of all the cool stuff that the world has to offer. So anyhoo, I was working my way through the Target circular (I am not getting paid for mentioning them. I wish I was, but apparently, they don't work like that. Jerks.) and I see this candy bar. Take a look.

Now, let's review, shall we? Snickers bar. Got it. And, no, they aren't paying me either. What is up with this world? Here I am, dropping brand names left and right and delivering a consistent 20 sets of eyes and I get nothing for my trouble. This is dumb, and quite possibly, not fair. I'll have to check. So, Snickers. I love Snickers bars. If you see me, give me one and watch my face light up. And then break out in acne, but whatever. They're really good.

Size? One pound. Think about that -- a ONE POUND Snickers bar. Your standard bar is 2.07 ounces. This is bigger than that, I checked. A pound, according to my sources, is 16 ounces. So that's almost 8 bars in one. Those miniatures bother me but this is perfect over compensation. One pound. Snickers. I am right there.

Then I see it: "Slice and Share."

What? Let's review THAT, shall we?

First off, who in the world slices candy bars. It just isn't done. I once saw a television show about a finishing school where the hoity toity people learn to use all sorts of cutlery. Salad fork, soup spoon, custard tongs. Whatever. THERE WAS NO CANDY KNIFE. No candy knife, indeed. One simply does not slice a Snickers bar. I'm sorry but that's a real truth. The accepted ways of divvying up a candy bar are-

What? That sounds wrong. Oh year, the other problem besides "slice" is "share." Who the hell are you to tell me that I have to share this thing. I bought it and I'm gonna eat it. Share a candy bar? Maybe a Twix which has 2 distinct pieces. Maybe maybe a Kit Kat that can be snapped apart. I always thought that that was just a convenience for the one person who was going to eat the whole thing so he could save a discrete piece for later but, hey, I am willing to accept that once, somewhere, someone thought that after eating 12 Kit Kats he could celebrate his anniversary by breaking one piece off for his significant other. It might have happened. I don't approve but I can concede the hypothetical.

But a Snickers bar? There is no scoring in it to allow disassembly. There is no other piece (a la the 100 Grand bar so that while you are spending half an hour working on the first piece, you can bribe a security guard with the other piece). The Snickers bar is a singular unit. I buy it, I eat it. I will not be bullied into sharing my candy with anyone. You want some, go buy some.

Anyway, I'm going to finish my coffee and go to the M+M's store and have a couple of pounds of M+M's. If you see me, don't even ask.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Help, not just anybody

I know that a few years ago, I wrestled with a question of the "offer to help." At that point, I was trying to offer it and realized how little I had to provide, were my offer accepted. Today, the tables were turned. I will speak to you now of inverted tables.

This morning, I was walking down the hallway, holding 18 copies of the Merchant of Venice (the Folger edition) and a Spanish textbook. Actually, the textbook was printed in Evanston, IL I think, but it is a textbook for a Spanish class, which I guess would be a 'clase'. As I made my way to the room in which I intended to drop the books, a 10th grade student said "Do you need any help?" I paused for a moment, precariously balancing the books in my arms while I struck a pose.

[INTERRUPTION -- please, please, oh please, do not take what I write as anything demeaning the seemingly altruistic offer to help. I truly appreciate that people, on their own, ask if they can help. What I am about to write should not be taken as any sort of condemnation or mockery of the innate good in people as they attempt to ease the burden of others.]

What a stupid thing to ask, I thought.

I collected myself and looked the student in the eye and asked "And what exactly do you think that you would do to help? You have to go to class. Your class is here and I am headed somewhere else. I was doing fine carrying these until you stepped in my way to ask me to help. You don't know where I am going with these or what resources (if any) I lack -- what are you bringing to the table with your offer. Do I look like I am struggling because I feel fine, but thanks for the vote of no confidence. Seriously, really, what were you thinking when you made that offer?"

The student looked at me, smiled, and said "Huh?" That seemed about right, so I kept walking.

I do really like when people ask if they can help, but offering a favor only buys you credit when it is a reasonable offer that makes sense. You don't get the brownie points if you volunteer to eat my lunch, even though you are volunteering for something. A student asking if I need help carrying some books, unless that student has a cart or knows which door I need opened and can anticipate the need, is offering me nothing.

[INTERRUPTION -- remember...for the love of God, remember, I was deeply touched by the unsolicited offer of help from a student who, wrapped in that student's own life, could have ignored me and not stepped forward to try and make my life easier. I honestly and sincerely am proud of that student and, though I didn't need help at that moment, admire that student more because of the attempt.]

Dumb kid.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Read all about it

This, I have come to realize, is a blog. I had a sneaking suspicion that it was a blog, but I could never be really sure. Now wait, you say, how could you not know that it was a blog. You NAMED it a blog. Well, that's true, but you are missing the point. I knew it was a "blog" but not a blog. The difference you ask? (ask it, dammit) The difference was provided by an old friend, Judah Holstein, who commented on Facebook that he was going to ask me what I have been up to, but he doesn't feel the need because he has been following this blog.

Side note -- someone reads this? Holy cow! OK, we're back.

The "blog," an exercise in personal expression is actually a log of my development as a sociopath and is used by others to keep track of who I am and how I repeatedly fail to think. This is, it seems, a personal newspaper. Well, monthly newsmagazine maybe. This is how people can read about me in long-form (smarmy Facebook quotes are the Readers' Digest version I guess) and this eliminates the need for me to interact with anyone on a personal basis. I can publish these updates and people will say "he is just too unbalanced to speak with. I'll read this and be comforted that I don't have to have him over for a meal."

So, anyway, this is the most recent issue of The New Dan Times. The comics are dark, the sports section is sparse but the op eds are flowing. Subscriptions are worth the paper this is printed on.