What to do about the boy?

I wish it worked that way

Me: Do you wanna watch it now?
Her: Sure.

A little while ago, Mouse mentioned that she never saw Forrest Gump so I convinced her to watch it. It’s kinda hard to explain why it’s so endearing; you just gotta watch it to understand it.

I’ve always liked it on a personal level because I could relate to one important theme: The things that you think are holding you back as a child are actually the things that push you forward as an adult.

In the movie, young Forrest can’t walk properly so he has to wear these heavy braces. Because of them, his already outsider status is made all the worse. One day, while out with his best girl, he’s attacked by some local bullies. This is where the famous line, “Run, Forrest, Run!” happens.

So he runs. And while he runs, his braces tear off and he finds that he can run faster than anything because the years of carrying all that extra weight on his legs made them strong. It’s his ability to run that set off every good thing in his life. He never stops.

People don’t seem to believe me when I tell them I was a super fat kid. I don’t look like it at all. In  my head, I still carry that weight with me.

Yet, I think that almost every good thing about me came from my being fat. I started on a diet at 14 and, like Forrest, never stopped; I’ve been watching everything I eat for over three decades. I know exactly how much fat, fiber, protein, and carbohydrates I eat and have for 32+ years.

I’ve also been exercising and stretching for that long. I’m more flexible than most people half my age and regularly pass for someone in my early 30s despite almost pushing 50. I also regularly physically fight people – literally – half my age.

It also turns out that it’s not just your body that ages as the years pass but your mind as well. There, the diet has helped me as well, but so has other childhood misfortune.

You see, I had no friends as a kid. And we were poor so that meant every summer, I was home alone with my siblings with no air conditioner and no cable. So I went to the library every single day from the moment it opened – often until the moment it closed.

Remember sitting outside, alone, waiting for the librarian to come to open it. This wasn’t just for one summer, this was for years.

I remember that I decided to read every single book on the east side of this library (the children’s section). Took me three or four summers but I did it.

Every. Single. Goddamn. Book.

And when I did, I had no one to tell. In fact, I think this is the first time I’ve ever told anyone that.

The thing is, that enabled me to know things that other kids didn’t know. Like:

Again, already outsider status is made all the worse.

Yet, once again, the things that made me weird, makes me interesting now.

Alison: (the first time we were on the phone together) I’m doing a crossword puzzle. It’s asking me for Caesar’s first name but Julius doesn’t fit.
Me: That’s because it’s his middle name. His first name was “Gaius.”

She told me that she set me apart that moment.

Which brings me to my current existential crisis: What to do about the boy?

Do you remember when I told you that zebras cannot be tamed and that I’m grateful for my adversaries? Well, I don’t want him to be near lions and I don’t want him to have any adversaries.

And yet, I know he needs them.

I don’t want him to be fat, nor do I want him to be friendless, nor do I want to strap weights onto his ankles. But adversity makes us better – if we survive it.

Just like art only happens with restraint, all I know from personal experience is that excelling comes from limitations. But the boy will grow up in the heart of Manhattan, by Central Park, surrounded by the wealthy and the lucky. And with friends.

How do I make him anti-fragile? Or is that out of the hands of a parent and only left to life and chance?

Then again, perhaps he’s been dealt enough blows already with the loss of Alison. I feel guilty alla time that he only has me, a sleepless and strange old man, to keep him company and raise him.

Perhaps that’s enough adversity for a lifetime and I should give him as comfortable a life as I can.

But I find myself unable to do that.

Him: I wish mommy was here.
Me: Me too, all the time.
Him: (thinking) Can I have ice cream?
Me: No.
Him: Why?
Me: Because. You can’t have anything you want, just because you ask for it. That’s not how life works. I wish it worked that way, but it doesn’t.

Location: alone with the boy and my thoughts
Mood: conflicted again
Music: Tell me, won’t you miss Manhattan?
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Sorry, Wrong Meeting

What wins I can get

Been working for and with startups since I was in my late teens. Some of them became huge entities, others pretty big deals. Most, however, fizzled out with little-to-nothing to show for themselves.

Many of them paid me in stock options or some form of equities. You see, I remember reading about Robert X. Cringley as a kid and was determined not to make the same mistake he did – passing up the opportunity to be on the ground floor of a major world player.

Although, I kinda did that when I turned down being an early employee of Cnet to go to law school. But that’s neither here nor there.

In any case, a legal client of mine just got acquired by a public entity which means that I actually have stock in a company that’s worth something. It’s nothing huge, at all.

Still, it’s something new and a win. I’ll take any weekday wins I can get.

Her: What does this mean?
Me: It means that I can get that monthly Metrocard I’ve been saving up for.

Speaking of lawyers, been talking to a whole slew of them lately, for a variety of reasons.

Him: Nope, he’s still a republican, despite everything. He’s been one for 30 years, he’s not changing now.
Me: Do you know what the definition of “stubborn” is?
Him: I think so?
Me: It’s, “Not changing course despite good arguments or reasons to do so.” That’s the difference between [your client] and us [lawyers]. We don’t waste our time on a losing issue. 
Him: (joking) Unless they pay full-freight, which he kinda does. And all lawyers are grey. That’s why people hate us.
Me: (nodding) I’m nuthin if not the grey man. Speaking of hate, did you ever watch The Jeffersons when you were a kid? 
Him: I know of it, never really watched it, though.
Me: There was an episode called Sorry, Wrong Meeting. George is at a meeting fulla white racists and one of them gets a heart attack. George hates them but decides he can’t let the guy die so he gives the guy CPR and saves his life. When the guy comes to and realizes that it was a black person that saved his life, he tells his son: “You should have let me die.” Whenever I hear the word ‘stubborn,’ I think of that. They’ll die before they just let their petty nonsense go and have a peaceful life. Your client’s no different from the farmers going bankrupt but continuing to vote for Trump.
Him: Thank god for that! We’d starve if not for people like them. (laughing) You know, the animal most closely associated with stubbornness is an ass?
Me: (nodding) Maybe that’s why they sit where they sit and we sit where we sit.

Was planning to surprise Gradgirl this past weekend in Paris when I realized neither of us are the people we once were, which is probably a good thing, all things considered.

Need to listen to that voice in my head more often.

Location: home, asking her how the boy did today
Mood: ambitious
Music: I’m sorry that I couldn’t get to you

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What you’re willing to show them

The things we see and don’t see

Her: I don’t believe you. Prove it.

Been super busy with a few projects that I’ll tell you about in due time.

Actually found out that only one of my legal lectures is still up as they retire them after three years.

Still, on the one remaining one I’ve got, I have over 1,000 4.5 star ratings from other lawyers. So that was nice to see.

Do you remember when I told you that the sun isn’t yellow, it’s white – just like all other stars?

Likewise, the sky is actually purple and blue, we just see it as blue.

Mentioned to someone that I was a lawyer once a while ago and she didn’t believe me at all.

It was strange. Remember being oddly offended by that but now I realize that I’m partly to blame cause people see what they want to see, yes. But they also see what you’re willing to show them.

Lately, I’ve been running into issues with how people – friends, acquaintances, strangers – view me. Partly because of the legal and weapons videos, partly because it’s just come up.

In the past, been pretty good at hiding a lot of my life but I’m at an age where I just don’t give a damn anymore. So that’s been interesting.

Then again, we don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.

I have been spending time with one young lady that seems to see me in a mostly positive light. Mostly.

Her: Okay, boo boo.
Me: Did you just call me “boo boo?”
Her: No, boo boo.

Location: an hour ago, on a motorcycle
Mood: ambivalent
Music: you got to leave and I have to be me

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You’re in luck

I’m someone

CPK: The world is full of lonely people, it seems.
Me: So true; even/especially here in the big city.

Do you know that there are almost no alleys left in NYC?

You wouldn’t get that from TV and movies but it turns out that NYC has so few that production companies keep filming the same one – Cortlandt Alley – over and over again.

Just happened to walk by it the other day while I was getting my clothes tailored – more on that later (thanks, Mike!).

My point is that that’s the thing; rare things don’t really seem that rare until you try to look for them.

The kicker is that I actually live right next door to an alley that was used in another famous movie. But that’s my little secret.

Speaking of secrets, people seem to tell me a lotta secrets. Think it’s because – even before becoming a lawyer – I was known as someone that could keep them.

RN: You can’t tell anyone about this.
Me: I’ll put it in the vault.

And like the alleys, you think that people that can keep secrets are all over the place but this doesn’t seem to be the case. Cause I seem to field rando calls alla time from all sorts of people because they don’t have anyone else to tell them to.

Him: I needed to talk to someone.
Me: You’re in luck. I’m someone.

That kinda bums me out, that I’m all they’ve got.

So people call me to unburden themselves and I usually offer them some unsolicited advice, even though I know I shouldn’t.

Cause what do I know?

But I get it. We all need someone, or something, to tell our secrets to. Cause secrets are lonely things.

Life’s lonely enough as it is.

Me: You’re kinda my best friend. So I tell you things…
Her: Ditto.

On a related matter, my brother spends his free time talking to suicidal people and volunteering in dangerous foreign places.

I worry that he might be drawn into the abyss himself but he wants to help them. I can’t fault him for that. He’s a good soul and I”m proud of him.

Thank goodness for the good souls, yeah?

Location: the vault in my head
Mood: curious
Music: No chemical could recreate our chemistry

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The Superpower

Taking Mice for Granted

This woman named Jo Cameron was born with two genetic mutations:

      1. A different FAAH gene, which reduces her ability to feel pain, both physical and emotional;
      2. A defective FAAH-OUT gene, whose sole purpose is to activate the FAAH gene.

Essentially, she feels no pain, no anxiety. She cannot suffer. She broke her arm when she was eight years old and only went to the doctor three days later because her arm looked funny. When she gave birth, it tickled her.

She’s a mutant with a superpower.

When I was a kid, outta all the superpowers, the one I wanted the most was the ability to become invisible. I think most bullied kids would welcome the ability to disappear and not be noticed.

But, after these past few years – barring time travel and/or the ability to detect and destroy cancer – I think that the superpower I’d like the most is Jo’s power.

Because, man, do I get people being hooked on painkillers.

This week/month has been a rollercoaster of emotional pain. Both from Alison and the Gymgirl. The kind where I’m sitting down on my shower floor hyperventilating.

I actually do have to take painkillers to manage it. That’s how severe it’s been. The insomnia’s back too, because, of course it’s back…

I’d like to tell you more about the Gymgirl but now’s not really the right time.

I will say that she floored me the other night because we hadn’t spoken for a while. And when we did, she said I took her for granted. That’s the last thing I would do.

Then again, I’ve always said that communication is what the other side hears, not what you say.

It’s my fault if she somehow heard that she wasn’t that important.

Her: (dismissively) I’m just a placeholder in your life.
Me:  (shaking head) That’s precisely the opposite of what you are. You’re not even a front-runner; you’re the only game in town.

That placeholder bit kept me up all night because it’s so far left field. I didn’t really fully appreciate the depth of what she was saying until I was alone in bed.

The worst things creep into my head in the middle of the night because it’s when the world and my thoughts quiet down. And I start to understand things.

I’m trying to wrap my head around everything but, FWIW, I was trying to do the right thing by her but it turned out that I did exactly the opposite of what she wanted me to do.

To top it all off, afterward, I behaved in a way that I’m not proud of and I’m disappointed in myself. It was rough all around.

I should remember that this never happens when I drink rum. But that’s neither here nor there.

There’s more, but that’s all I wanted to say for now.

That, and, should she and I exit each other’s Venn Diagram, you can still keep up with her wit and charm by following her blog: Melee Mouse/Mouse in the City.

Me: Hurry up, we’re gonna be late!
Mouse: We? You’re gonna be late. I’m gonna be a pleasant surprise.

She was my pleasant surprise in all this shit. I thought she knew.

On that note, I’m just going to call her Mouse here from this point forward, for however long that is.

Because the only reason I used Gymgirl instead of Mouse, which is what everyone calls her, was because of our inappropriately possessive ex-coach and his insane jealousy, which is a whole ‘nother story for another time.

Location: home
Mood: uncertain
Music: Oh, I guess I should have told her; I thought she knew

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Taking a shower with a Mouse

All Cast of Amontillado-like

It was my anniversary recently.

Gymgirl: I’m sorry, it must be bittersweet.
Me: No, just bitter.

It sucked. That’s all I have to say about it.

There’s a mouse in my house.

The last time there was a mouse here, it was almost a decade ago. At the time, I’d trapped it in my bathroom and told Alison about it afterward. I remember that moment well.

This time, heard something in my utility closet and opened it to find that it chewed through every single thing it could in my pantry. I easily threw out $100 worth of food and there was sugar everywhere because it went through a huge bag of baking supplies.

We didn’t find it so, after spending most of the night looking for it, I decided to just call it and take a shower.

And while taking said shower, looked looked up at my shower curtain (which is made of a dimpled cloth) and there was the mouse looking right at me.

Right. At. Me. Eye level.

Mouse! I yelled and the Gymgirl came running over.

I told her to seal up the door with packaging tape to trap it and myself in the bathroom (they can easily slip under doors).

I then proceeded to chase it around my tiny, tiny bathroom with a rolled-up magazine.

The problem is my damn busted arm; I couldn’t move fast enough to get it and the mouse snuck into the space between my sink cabinet and the wall. So I sealed it up, all Cast of Amontillado-like.

It gets crazier; the Gymgirl noticed its tail sticking out from the side of the cabinet so we taped it there – but after a day, we felt bad and released its tail.

As far as we know, it’s still stuck behind the cabinet.

We set up what we hope is a one way tunnel out through a trap. Fingers crossed it works.

Me: Well, this has been quite a night.
Her: Do you want a drink?
Me: (nodding) Sheyeah.

Location: yesterday and tonight, stuck in my tiny bathroom with mice
Mood: discomforted
Music: take it for what it is. Go on and take it, for what it isn’t
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Genetic Fallacies and the Citibank Building

Listening’s a lot harder when your ego’s on the line

Citibank Building in Manhattan 3

Him: I don’t understand what happened.
Me: Maybe there’s a reason why they went with someone else.

That’s a picture of the Citibank building here in Manhattan. I took it along with the picture below in March of last year for another entry.

About a month after I took it, read this article that said that the building was ridiculously flawed.

How ridiculous? There was a 1-in-16 year chance that the entire building would come tumbling down with a strong wind.

That’s pretty ridiculous.

But the weirdest thing about how this all unfolded was that a female college student from NJ figured out it was flawed, tracked down the lead engineer, and contacted him to tell him that his design was fatally flawed.

And despite haven’t any number of reasons to not listen to her, he did.

Then, as Hurricane Eva was barreling down onto the East Coast in 1978, NYC and these engineers all secretly fixed the problem. All without most of the city finding out. In fact, most people didn’t learn about it until 1995.

Citibank Building in Manhattan 1

I thought of this recently when a colleague of mine was wondering why he lost a major account. I knew why. So I told him.

There’s this illogical argument called a genetic fallacy, where you don’t want to believe something that someone says because of the person saying it.

The engineer could have sneered at any one of the things about the person contacting him: her sex, where she was from, her age, her experience, etc.

But he didn’t. Because he was smart enough to realize she was right. That’s something I still find really amazing.

People wanna have any number of reasons they believe what they believe. Even if it’s not true.

Him: (later, upset) What do you know? You’re a lawyer, not a psychologist.
Me: This is true. But what I said is also true.

Location: midtown east
Mood: tired but super happy
Music: You’ve got the talkin’ down, just not the listening

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A piece of home

Even dirt means something if it comes from home

Harold

When the Revolutionary War was over, George Washington vowed never to set foot again on British soil.

But by 1924, we were allies and a statue was given by us to the UK. To honor George’s request, the City of London put Virginia soil down where the statue stands so that he kept his promise.

Similarly, when Lafayette died in 1834, he was buried in Paris, but under US soil.

And here in New York City, one of the two main highways that encircle the island is built on debris from Bristol, England after the Nazi’s bombed that place.

There’s something about taking a bit of the landscape of some other land that was part of home. Even if it’s only dirt or rubble.

As I said in my last post, I said goodbye to an old friend. It’s a joke. Kinda.

See, I gave my plant Harold to my buddy Brandon that owns Evolution Muay Thai here in the city.

Harold came from a cutting of a plant that my mom brought decades ago from Taiwan to here. I took a cutting of that plant to my first apartment in NYC just off of Times Square.

Everywhere I moved, he came with me. And with every move, he got a little bigger.

But he just got too big for my small apartment. Brandon, who practically has his own nursery of plants, agreed to take him.

So in 9 degree weather, I bundled Harold up for the last time and brought him downtown.

Brandon: Man, the pictures didn’t do him justice.
Me: He’s a big boy.

He’s just a plant, I understand. But he’s a bit of my hometown and my parents’ hometown. I found myself more sentimental than I might’ve imagined I’d be as I took him on his last subway ride.

A short time later, I asked another buddy that works there,

Me: How’s Harold doing?
Cary: What is up with you and Harold!?
Me: He was my roommate for over 20 years.

Like I said, there’s something about having a piece of the place you call home.

But then again, we just need a little piece.

And so I took something from Harold before I sent him out into the world.

Harold Jr. (Jr.)

As a bit of comic relief, here’s the owner showing how to defend the jab – pay special attention to the quip he gives at 1:07, which is simultaneously brilliant, rude, and hilarious.

Location: in front of Harold Jr. (Jr.)
Mood: cold
Music: The earth that is the space between

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Have you ever heard of combat juggling?

Another thing I find oddly interesting

Thought I’d be done by now with my week but I’m not.

Had an unexpected expense of paying for some critical data I needed for a client project – which was astronomical because I didn’t know I’d need it until the 11th hour. Unfortunately, since this was a new client, it had to be done.

So I ended up agreeing to yet another project that will fill my time until the end of the month.

Maybe it’s just as well as it’ll force me to take some time off from the gym, especially since I’ve injured my rotator cuff.

Getting older stinks.

Speaking of the gym, a friend of mine knows that I fence so sent me the above video on something I’ve never heard of, called combat juggling.

It blends athleticism and strategy in a surprisingly interesting way.

One of the simultaneous pro/con things about getting older is that you really have to be thoughtful with how you spend the days you have left. I’m guessing I’ve got about 11,315 left.

There are any number of things I’d like to be able to try out/learn but my reserve of spare time is getting less and less by the day. I think in my 20s, I might have given this a go; it looks like fun.

On that note, it’s back to some decidedly unfun things.

Location: chained to my desk
Mood: still busy working
Music: searching for good times but just wait and see

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Asian-ish

The Story of Sessue Hayakawa Pt. 1

When I was in college back, quite literally before the last turn of the century, I wrote my college thesis on The Hidden Asian in Film.

Did you ever notice that there were no Asians in any of the original Star Wars trilogy?

But the Asian influences were everywhere:

  • The Emperor / The Emperor
  • The Shogun’s helmet / Darth Vader’s shogun helmet
  • Martial arts / Martial arts
  • The force / Qi
  • Yin-Yang / Dark-Light Side of the Force
  • Jedi knights / Shaolin warrior monks

In fact, the story of the original Star Wars “borrowed” heavily from the Japanese film Hidden Fortress but Lucas didn’t think any actual Japanese merited any screen time.

And that’s pretty much how films and television treated Asians for years – Asian-ish. Even characters like Fu Manchu and Charlie Chan were Asian-like – caricatures played by Caucasian actors.

But there was this fella named Sessue Hayakawa, who is not the fella pictured above but was the first sex symbol of Hollywood – ever. He pre-dated Rudolph Valentino by several years.

And his story goes just a little bit in explaining why there’s always been an Asian influence in Hollywood and television but few actual Asians.

For that part of the story, I’m going to head over to my friend Jocelyn’s website: Speaking of China for part 2 of this entry.

Location: yesterday, with a pot of coffee
Mood: ready for the week
Music: My oh my oh my what a wonder, my oh my oh my what a wonder
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