Gradually, then suddenly

Hemingway summed up the human existence in three words


Went to the doctor’s again this weekend. Not for me but it was just as stressful.

The thing with life is that you expect everything to happen to someone else. Injuries, disease, general misfortune, etc., these are things that happen to other people and not you.

And when it actually does happen to you, you think, What the … ?

Ernest Hemingway had a character in The Sun Also Rises that was asked how he became bankrupt.

“Gradually, then suddenly,” he replied.

And that’s why Hemingway was a brilliant writer. Because in three words, he summed up the totality of human existence.

You live your quiet, banal, little life when suddenly:

Or whatever personal little hell you have to deal with.  And you have to drop everything to deal with it.

And there’s not much else to do but deal with it. Some days you deal with it better than others.

Him: How’re doing?
Me: Well, I broke down crying like a 10-year-old girl on the 7 train the other day; which I don’t recommend. Because of a whole other list of craziness, I haven’t had a drink for 45 days and won’t be able to until next week – when I’m gonna drink the CRAP outta my rum stash. And my insomnia is kicking up so I slept one hour last night. But besides that, not too bad. You?

However, there’s hope.

Because joy also inevitably comes.

And it comes just as unexpectedly and just as suddenly. And so I wait for it.

For the time being, without my rum, but still…

———-

Did get a tiny piece of good news last week, which is that a Facebook Fan site I created for A Great First Date hit over 1,000 likes in less than ten days.

Take a look and maybe hit that LIKE button yourself.


Location: an hour ago, in front of a large needle
Mood: anxious
Music: Someday all this mess will make me laugh, I can’t wait, I can’t wait, I can’t wait
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There’s always room for more down

On my knees again

Doctor: You’re not having a good day?
Me: I’ve had better.
Him: (pause) Well, it’s about to get a lot worse.

So after I wrote the last entry, went on with my day. Later that night, got another phone call for a wholly different reason.

In 40 years, think I’ve honestly been on my knees twice. This is a third time. There are things that one knows but does not truly believe in life.

Like last time, I could handle it all, if it was only one at a time.

Spent the day slogging from offices to offices in the blinding snow, trying to make sense of a litany of things that make no sense; making decisions I’m ill-prepared to make.

Him: Well, you gotta figure that this is rock bottom.
Me: No, there’s always room for more down.

But I went to teach my fencing class last night and for about 90 minutes, I got to put down the things I’d been carrying all day.

It’s a blessing to have things in your life where you can put down the weights you bear.

Student: This wasn’t what I expected.
Me: We’re not here to dance, we’re here to fight. We’re here to struggle. Life’s a struggle we all lose one day. But until then, we struggle.

Never saw that student again.

The thing with leaving things at a doorway is that, ultimately, you have to pick them up again on your way out.

So I do, trudging home in the snow, bearing it.

And I swear that the whole goddamned weight of it all is sinking me deeper into the snow.

———-

If you write or see me, I won’t tell you so please don’t ask. As with last time, I’ll tell you when I’m ready.

 

Location: yesterday, three hours in a frozen car
Mood: heartbroken
Music: It’s true, the suffering shapes you
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Two Scenarios

Hope you had a better weekend than me

It was not a good weekend. Without getting too much into it, there’s something about disappointment that’s particularly hard to bear.

Suppose I give you – totally randomly – $100 but there are two scenarios:

Scenario 1
You don’t know me and I just randomly hand you $100 and tell you that I give out $100 to anyone I like that day and you’re that person. How do you feel?

Scenario 2
You don’t know me and I just randomly hand you $100 and tell you that I just gave out $100,000 to the first guy I met, $10,000 to the second, $1,000 to the third and now $100 to you. How do you feel?

You feel different, don’t you? In Scenario 1, you’re elated. In Scenario 2, it’s a lot less so.

The funny thing is that the baseline transaction – me giving, you getting $100, unearned – is exactly the same.

What we expect of the world shapes our perceptions of what happens to us and those circumstances make things happy or sad.

It was not a good weekend.

————–

On a slightly positive note, just put up my Facebook page for A Great First Date and already have close to 200 likes.

If you’re on Facebook, consider giving me a like?

 

Location: chained to my desk with a broken computer
Mood: deflated
Music: I’ve been thinking about you. How are you doing these days?
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Political Post: What people say and actually do, are two very different things.

If you’re young and conservative you have no heart. If you’re old and you’re liberal, you have no brain.


There’s a quote that’s been floated around for decades, usually attributed to Winston Churchill, that goes something like, If you’re young and conservative you have no heart. If you’re old and you’re liberal, you have no brain.

That’s a bit draconian but as I get older, I’m personally becoming a bit more liberal, mainly because I realize how much dumb luck is really involved in our lives.

But that’s another post for another time.

The other thing I’m realizing is this: It’s always the younger people that are demanding all these social programs because “it’s the right thing to do.”

They march. They protest. They lament what will happen if something is or isn’t done. No fracking, no pink slime, etc.

My theory: They do this because they’re not the ones that have to pay for it. Someone else will.

As you probably know, I’m pro-Obamacare.

Interestingly, for the first time I can remember, the young have a direct ability to – literally and figuratively – put their money where their mouth is.

They have the ability to change the world, and help people, they just have to bear some cost of it.

And the latest news is showing that the exact the opposite is going on. They’re all for Obamacare, but only if someone else pays for it.

It’s like that old “bell the cat” trope where the mice have a genius idea to put a bell on a cat to keep from being killed, but which mouse will do it?

The conservatives are being proven right here.

I’d like Obamacare to succeed. But it looks like it will struggle for exactly the same reason other social programs like Medicaid and Social Security is struggling.

Because what people say and what people actually do, are two very different things.

 

Location: desk, finishing some projects
Mood: cynical
Music: I will change if I must. Slow it down and bring it home, I will adjust
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Loaves. Made of meat.

Caught The Secret Life of Walter Mitty


After over a week of work, finally finished re-grouting and re-caulking the bathroom; this while juggling two important clients, getting the book settled, and my usual fun and games.

In the end, it was worth it as I have a nice sparkling bathroom now equipped with a brand new water softener system. And the wife made me meatloaf from America’s Test Kitchen, which is amazingly good.

Me: Man, my back is killing me. What do I get in return for all this labor?
Her: Loaves. Made of meat.
Me: OK, that’s fair.

Speaking of the book, I just found out it’s available for pre-order on iTunes. You can even download the first 25% of it now. Pretty exciting – at least for me.

We had to pick up supplies for another project so she headed down to Columbus Circle at 7AM on Saturday to pick it up.

When she got back, we realize they gave her the wrong stuff so we both had to go down there to sort it out.

Her: Are you mad (at them)?
Me: Furious. I don’t understand how businesses can survive being so incompetent.

As for my business, because a good chunk of what I earn is project-oriented, four times a year I have to write ginormous checks to the government to pay my taxes. Coupled with the new project, ended up writing a whole bunch of huge checks this weekend.

Me: So, we’re poor again.
Her: But happy!

Did manage to catch The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, which we loved. Definitely worth the ticket price.

All-in-all, happy, indeed.

Location: finishing one thing, starting another
Mood: anxious
Music: The dragonfly it ran away, but it came back with a story to say
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2014’s barely begun

Already back to the grind

Found out that the woman that got injured in the last entry is back from the hospital. Gonna stop by her apartment building to ask the people there how’s she’s doing.

Evidently, she had her skull cracked open (!) so I don’t know if she’s going to need physical therapy or what.

That’s the thing about life, horrible things just suddenly happen while you’re minding your own business. It’s a scary thought that your life can change so quickly and so suddenly.

———–

Her: (pointing to my hand) What is that?
Me: It’s that gross Chai tea. I don’t want it to go to waste so I’m just gonna drink…
Her: (slapping teabag from my hand, lands on the floor)

This was our sixth New Year’s together.

Our first new year’s was a whole production with dinner out and such. This last one, we were in bed by 11 and watching the ball drop on the tube by our lonesome.

I suppose that’s how it is; after a while, just being comfortable with your favourite person beats everything else.

Finally wrapped up a set of client-related work so I decided to spend the new year downtime re-grouting, re-caulking, and re-painting our bathroom, assembling a headboard, and fixing up the blog – you like the new look?

And then those same clients called me back for a slate of new work.

So the past week has been insanely hectic. I’m covered in grout dust and paint while running into the office and/or in front of my laptop working on these huge projects, one of which is in the papers.

In between, I’m wrapping up a book I wrote called A Great First Date, which is all about how to go on a first date in this postmodern social media/texting/Tinder world.

It’s out on Valentine’s Day this year so I’ll let you know more about it when we get closer. Sign up for updates above in “Subscribe for Notifications” for more details

I’d tell you more, but I’m off to wrassle for my New Year’s resolution.

So many projects and so few lunch hours and coffee breaks in which to do them.

Location: at the end of a project, ready for another
Mood: crazy busy, yo
Music: Dying is easy It’s living that scares me to death
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How many times have you called 911?

Last night was something new


How many times have you called 911 in your life?

I’ve done it twice. The first was a when I was in my office in Times Square and I saw sparks and smoke on a construction site where the Ernst & Young building is now. That turned out to be nothing.

The second time was last night. Just after midnight, heard a woman screaming, “Call 911!” and then just general screaming.

Because of how the acoustics work in our apartment, I ran out to my living room thinking it was my wife but it was someone just outside my door on the street.

Went outside and there was a woman whose face was covered – just covered – in bright red blood. I ran back inside and called 911 on my cell phone.

I’d like to pause for a second to note that I was transferred to the local NYC 911 dispatch pretty quickly; good to know that the system works.

With them on the phone, I dashed back out and saw that a small crowd had gathered.

The injured woman was lying on the wet ground and someone had balled up a towel under her head for a pillow. A man, wearing only boxers and a jacket draped around his shoulder, was applying pressure to what looked like her left eye. Two women were leaning over and comforting her, as was a tenant of my building.

She had stopped screaming and instead murmured, “You’re all so nice.”

After I got off the phone with 911, a young lady came up to me and said she called also. We figured out that an icicle from the neighboring building had dropped off and either hit her eye or cut into her scalp while walking the dog.

For years, I’ve been telling people to be careful about the icicles that grow next door. First time I ever saw someone hit by one.

After the ambulance took her away, got into bed to try to get some sleep.

Hope she’s ok. What a way to start off the new year.

On the plus side, it’s nice to know that there are some good souls in the world.

On the street where I live, anyway.

Wife: That was scary.
Me: It was. But it’s nice to know that people want to help.

Location: computer, back at work
Mood: tired
Music: When the storm cut you to the bone, there was always shelter
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