Thursday, April 30, 2015

Ode to the Flash

Last night I came home. I ate dinner and didn't clean up afterward. I moved from the kitchen table to the couch and binge-watched five episodes of “The Flash”.

This was my evening.

I did have plans and things that I needed to do. I should have put some shrubs in the ground before we leave for the weekend. I should have gone over Julia’s summer school options. There are bills to pay and some exercise after a day of disease-encouraging sitting might have been beneficial. Instead I watched Barry Allen save Central City while he pined over his crush, Iris (she’s really annoying, by the way).

I got to bed around midnight and woke up a little later. I was dreaming about “The Flash”. Now I’m tired and cranky because, clearly, I’m a waste of skin.

I have a lot of evenings like this. I have entire weekends like this. Often people will ask me, “What did you do over the weekend?” and I won't have an answer. I can’t recall a single thing I did.

The poet, Keats knew he was going to die young. That’s why he worked so furiously to cement his legacy. Unlike him, I made it well past 25 and I still don’t have a single ode to anything. But I do have ten more episodes of “Daredevil” to watch on Netflix. I’d better get busy. . .

Did you know lions usually sleep 20 hours a day?

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Then a Bluebird Perched on My Shoulder

Most mornings I expect
to be struck by lightning.

  • Deb bought new toothpaste that doesn't taste like salt.
  • Delores waved and smiled at me.
  • A truck driver flashed a peace sign for me when I let him in my lane.
  • I found a parking spot near my entrance.
  • I didn’t get a static shock when I hung up my jacket.
  • My 11:30 a.m. meeting was canceled.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Big Buckets of Seething

Allie, Julia. . . somebody out there hates you.

I’m sorry. It’s just the way things are. No matter how nice you try to be or how low beneath the radar you think you fly – someone thinks you’re an asshole. The funny thing is, it’s usually not who you think it is.

I realize this seems to contradict the, “People aren't thinking about you as much as you think they are thinking about you because you think about you all the time,” conversation that we've had in the past. Of course people consider you and then some of them decide to hate you.

Hate may be too strong a word. But these people do cringe inside when they see you coming toward them. They discretely roll their eyes when you think you've said something useful. And when they’re getting ready to go out they ask, “Is Greg going to be there?” For the most part, you’ll never know this because they are polite, genuinely nice, worthwhile people who just happen to think you suck.

Who knows how it happens. Maybe you didn't hold the elevator for them. Maybe you said something about how ugly hairless cats are and they grew up breeding them. It could be they think your teeth are too big and they had a cousin with huge teeth who used to poke them with sticks. Or you maybe you actually did do something awful to them and you think they've forgiven you – but they haven’t and they probably never will.

I’ll level with you. I’m not really talking about you. I’m talking about me. There are people out there who hate me for reasons I don’t understand and then there are those who have really good causes to become a little nauseous when I’m around. When I do find out about someone who has a bad day just because they remember I’m still breathing, I try to fix it. But I don’t devote all my energy to improving things. Especially when I’m too busy thinking of ways to make that guy from Human Resources life miserable. If he tells that banjo story one more time I’m going to lose it.

Friday, April 24, 2015

The Crossing Guard

I have a relationship with the crossing guard on Main Street. I grin wildly at her to express my  appreciation for what she does. She gets up each morning, sometimes in horrible, winter weather to make sure some of the children in our fair city don’t get squished by cars. In turn, she lets me know I’m her favorite driver. She does this by warming her stern face with a slight smile when I stop well before others who try to skirt the authority of her handheld stop sign.

Delores (I call her that because she reminds me of Delores Landingham from The West Wing) and I have grown close over the years. I can tell when she’s not feeling on top of her game. She handles her stop sign with a little less gusto and she doesn't scoot her charges as quickly across the street. And it’s easy to see when Delores views the steady stream of cars she commands as the enemy. However, I am the exception. I am the one who stops. I am her partner in traffic safety. I provide the buffer between her and the deadly caravan of commuters who are out to flatten all the babies.

There are times when I think she’ll motion for me to pull over to a side street. I’ll find a group of her kids gathered to greet me and give me a huge trophy they made themselves. The trophy will read:


So far that hasn't happened. In fact, now I’m wondering if it will happen at all.

This morning Delores was toting her big orange cone to the center of crosswalk. She was about three feet away from the edge of the sidewalk and I made the decision that it was far enough for me to get by and still get a friendly nod. Instead Delores narrowed her eyes and shook her head. . . AT ME. I'm her partner. I'm the only driver who has her back. Even if she was closer to the curb than I thought I believed our relationship was strong enough to allow for a little wiggle room. But there is no wiggle room. It's obvious all Delores is about is, "What have you done for me lately." This morning she took what we had together and threw it away.

I've calmed down since the incident. I've looked at the situation and while I'm not willing to forgive, I am willing to live and let live. As in, I'm willing to literally allow her to live and not to hit the accelerator and launch Delores into one of the oak trees that lines Main Street.

Stay vigilant, Delores. You broke my heart and that little stop sign doesn't mean crap to me anymore. 

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Yeah, I Need It

I don’t need either of these guitars.

These are actual images of two guitars I’m thinking about buying (you should click on them for a closer look). They’re being sold by a friend of mine who’s not only a gifted musician but he’s also an incredible photographer. That’s why the guitars look like they’re being auctioned by Sotheby’s and not sold to a mook like me.

If I buy one of these guitars it would be a fantastic deal and they look and sound far better than any of my other guitars. But there's the rub - I already have two electrics, a six string acoustic, a twelve string acoustic, a concert ukulele and a guitalele. What's more, I'm a crappy guitarist.

I could understand the size of my collection if I had some modicum of talent or even if I played on a regular basis. But for the most part my guitars wait for months until I pull them out and force them to make noises no creature with ears should be forced to endure.

I started playing in high school. I took some money I earned and ordered a $250 Ovation acoustic from Sam Ash in New York. I still remember the day it arrived. It was pure excitement, until the pain came. Playing guitar is an exercise in forcing your fingers to do things they don't want you to do. I remember the sore hands, the inflamed fingertips and aching forearms. Barre chords? Yeah, right. . .  I sat in my room with my Mel Bay chord book and tried to push past the discomfort so I could figure out how Steve Howe and Pete Townshend made music.

I never really figured it out. I just learned chords and strung them together in progressions that sounded interesting to me. I have never built a catalog of popular songs that I could rely on if there was a campfire or some gorgeous babe who required serenading. Although, when I decided that Mark Knopfler was going to become my spirit guide I abandoned my pick and developed some decent finger picking tricks. But that's all they are, tricks. To this day I only know one blues scale that I can pull out if I want to seem proficient. Unfortunately after about five minutes it's clear my repertoire is limited.

These days I keep a cute little guitalele next to the nightstand. I pick it up and play for the cat before I go to sleep and sometimes Allie will listen to me noodle as we have a chat. My might-as-well-be-my-brother-in-law, Jeff gave me a copy of Rocksmith for the PS3 at Christmas. I plug in one of the electrics and have an enormous amount of fun with the game every now and again. But that's about as much time as I spend with fingers on strings.

Fun. There's the word. For years I've had fun playing guitar. When I play I shut down the business part of my brain and relax. I occasionally accomplish a run or two that provides the delusion that, with some practice, I could at least become a YouTube sensation.  I make crappy (but fun) music. Just me and my cheap guitars.

As much as I love the orange Paul Reed Smith Custom SE and as generous as he is, I'll let Randy know I already have what I need.

Oh yeah, there's this:

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

A Clear Devotion to BBQ Potato Chips

It’s difficult to get myself off the couch to go play squash. My body tells me that squash is going to hurt me. Then my brain chimes in and says I ate too much food and that I’m too sluggish to be competitive. It tells me, “You’d just be wasting someone else’s time if you tried to get a match.”

I often ignore my brain and body and go play. Every time I play I feel good when I've finished. My head is clearer, my body feels energized and maybe a little more agile. I take a shower and splash a little Pinaud Lime Sec on my face. It's one of the best things I do for myself.

I’m not a bad squash player. Tennis helped hone my strokes and I have decent court sense. I win more than I lose, however it’s the goo that keeps me from being truly competitive. Recently I had a locker room conversation with a man who told me that he wished someone had made him understand how important it was that he lose weight while he was younger. He said his extra 20 pounds was keeping him from winning matches and now he finds it extremely difficult to drop weight.

I’ve been thinking about this conversation a lot lately. So much so, that I might be ready to drop the 86 pounds my Fitbit app says I need to shed. But then I remember that I've felt motivated before. I've even lost weight before but it never stays lost. I always find it again. So here I am typing and I’m wondering – what’s it going to take?

I know there will come a time when my body tells me squash is going to hurt me and it will be right. It's apparent that I'm okay with that. Otherwise I'd avoid the post-match binge I always indulge in as reward for playing squash or taking my usual 5K lap around the neighborhood. I'm sure I'll be okay with it until it actually happens. I'll be stuck on the couch and I'll remember the locker room conversation. 

Then I'll wish I could beat the living shit out of myself for not doing something about it. 

Monday, April 20, 2015

One of Probably Four Posts in the Year 2015

“You used to say the cutest crap when you were a baby.”

“Aww. I remember when you were that small. You were so cute.”

I wonder if I've convinced Allie and Julia that I don’t like them now that they've grown up a little. As much as I remind them of how adorable they once were there’s no way they couldn't feel like they've evolved into something less than desirable. I've probably made it clear they lost their new car smell long ago and it’s time to sell them before the transmission fails.

I suppose I should write something about how I love watching them grow and that they've become fascinating and fun. After all, there are actually times when I believe that’s the case. The thing is, I’m in the middle of the worry and bother. There’s no room for nostalgia as I’m confronted by their peccadillos and they’re old enough to recognize mine. I've blocked all the anxiety of days past. The weight of wondering if they’re developing properly or the burden of feeding, bathing, scheduling and whatever the hell else they needed (constantly). 

I’m guessing the day they move on to the next stage (and I’m not sure what that is), I’m going to forget about the violent mood swings, the sloth, the bickering, the badgering. All I’m going to do is yearn to have a conversation about nothing or affectionately annoy them just by being me. 

I don’t really feel that way yet. All I really want is for them to scoop the shit out of the litter boxes, empty the dishwasher and stop treating each other so inhumanely. And clean the bathroom. Oh my god, please, clean the freakin' bathroom. How you leave that room without taking a little piece of pestilence with you each time is a miracle. And stop with the hard looks. What do you think it’s going to get you other than parents who become even more unyielding and then downright vengeful. And. . . 

And I will stop now. 

I was just trying to say that toddlers are cute but they can’t provide me with new perspectives on old issues or even point out the subtleties of Full Metal Alchemist. When you get down to it, they’re kind of useless. At least now my daughters can clean the bathroom. 

They don’t. 

But I'm pretty sure they can.