Bad luck is better than worse luck

You never know what worse luck your bad luck has saved you from

Fire in the UWS
A few days ago, rented a car to go that birthday party and also pick up a buddy from the airport.

Unfortunately, the tiny compact car I’d reserved had a dead battery.

So I called up the car rental company and told them that they needed to get me a replacement.

Customer Care: I’m so sorry about that! The only thing we have is an SUV. Do you want that? No additional charge.
Me: Sure, I’ll take anything. I just gotta go.

After losing about twenty minutes, the wife and I were on our way.

But during this time, the snow began to fall. It was only supposed to be an inch or so but it was clear that it’d be more.

A lot more.

Me: We gotta go.
Her: OK, let’s start saying our goodbyes.

Not long after arriving, we were back on the road. Had to call up my buddy and say we weren’t coming to get him.

Thankfully, we had that larger car so getting back home wasn’t all that bad.

This writer named Cormac McCarthy once said that, You never know what worse luck your bad luck has saved you from.

The thing is, it’s rare to actually realize that this is the case. This was one of those rare times.

But really, you could go through your whole life thinking you had terrible luck while, in reality, you’re far better off than if you had gotten what you wanted in the first place.

Moon in the daytime

Alternatively, you could always try and see the positive, however, small, of everything that’s ever happened to you.

This poet warrior – and I think that it’s telling he was a poet and warrior – named Mizuta Masahide once had a poem that went:

Since my house burned down
I now own a better view
of the rising moon

But there’s an even shorter translation I prefer. I told you about it once. It goes:

Barn’s burnt down —
now
I can see the moon.

Location: last night, shoveling all that damn snow
Mood: thoughtful
Music: She is running to stand still
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Goodbye, Bobby

A man’s dying is more the survivors’ affair than his own.

Clock in Upper West Side, NYC
An old friend of mine passed last week.

He was the first person I ever met in college. Met him outside of the dorms queuing for one thing or another. He was from Virginia.

Never met an Asian kid from Virginia before. At that point, I’d never really been out of the City. Don’t think I’d even been to the Bronx or Staten Island yet.

We became pretty good friends through the years. Bombed my econ class because a group of us were playing cards late into the night.

Ended up going to the same law school, just at different times. We also ended up living in the same neighborhood so we constantly either met up or ran into each other.

But in 2001 we had an argument and stopped talking. It wasn’t a terrible argument, per se. Just the kind where both people’re irritated enough to stop talking for a while.

Your typical super-important argument about nuthin.

We met up a few years later at a wedding where I was a groomsman and he was the best men.

Me: Hey, your tie’s crooked. (fixing it)
Him: Ah, thanks. I was worried it’d be weird between us.

We sat at the same table, and were pleasant. We said we’d reconnect again but never got around to it.

That’s the thing with old ghosts; you always run into them in the big City. Figured I’d just run into him again one day, like I do the rest of the world. And we’d be cool again.

But I never did. Now, I never will.

Every time someone dies, I think of that Thomas Mann quote, A man’s dying is more the survivors’ affair than his own.

Right now, I’m on an email list filled with names I’ve not seen in years.

Some people are heading down to the funeral, some are sending flowers. My friends and I are sending an arrangement.

Can’t really imagine what his parents are going through. Don’t want to. When I heard he died, after the initial shock wore off, I thought of my own parents. I’d never want them to have to go through that.

What a thing to bear.

I wish I did actually give him a call. Or he gave me one. Or we did run into each other like people do here.

Life gets in the way. That is, until it gets out of the way.

I’ll add my not meeting up with him to my list of ten thousand regrets.

Goodbye, man. I’m so sorry to hear that you left us.

Me: Why would it be weird? We had an argument. People have arguments. We should meet up some time.
Him: Sure, that sounds good.

Location: in my head, back in college
Mood: sad
Music: Yesterday I got so old, it made me want to cry
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Survival of the strongest

Most people misunderstand the phrase, Survival of the fittest

Fishes off Bermuda Docks

Been meaning to post this for a while.

My coach just forwarded an article by a Ph.D named Dr. Rhadi Ferguson about who would win in a fight between Superman and Batman. You can hear the author read it in his own words here.

Now I agree with almost everything the doctor says with one major exception. He says:

In battles the strongest guy does not [always] (sic) win, nor (does) the fittest, but the one that has those qualities and is the smartest.

With all due respect to Dr. Ferguson, he gets what everyone gets wrong about the term “Survival of the fittest.”

If I say to you the words, “Survival of the fittest,” what do you hear?

Dr. Ferguson – and most people – invariably people hear, “Survival of the strongest.” They define fittest as being physically fit.

But this is an issue of logical equivocation: The meaning of “fit” in this phrase doesn’t mean physically fit, but appropriate to the situation.

In that sense, then, the actual meaning is the opposite of what most people think.

The phrase: Survival of the fittest, means: Survival of the most appropriate.

If you were locked in a smoke-filled room having a 3-foot window with a small girl, a strongman, and a billionaire, while the girl is the weakest, the poorest, and the most inexperienced, she will most likely survive because she is the most fit – the most appropriate – for survival in that situation.

I think that’s why I have so many interests; I wanna have the broadest skill set possible for any situation that arises. One of my goals for 2015 is to dust off some skills I had that were once pretty good and sharpen then up.

Tank in Staten Island

Speaking of 2015 and having skills, I started the year, as usual, by making a huge pot of chili and by fixing some technology around the house.

We were originally planning on heading out for dinner but the weekend was rainy and my shoulder was killing me.

Her: (canceling a dinner reservation) Open Table will be so mad at me for canceling that reservation.
Me: You know that OpenTable isn’t sentient, right?

 

2015. Maybe this will be our year.

Homemade Chili

One more nerdy pet peeve of mine; people seem to think that Darwin coined the phrase, but he didn’t.

A fella named Herb Spencer, who read Darwin’s work, came up with the term. Darwin used the term himself five years after On Species came out.

OK, now I’m done.

Location: at my desk again
Mood: hopeful
Music: You can get along if you try to be strong
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Orange is the new Jello

It’s a sad day in the city

New Yorker Sign

Some nutcase shot two cops to death this past weekend in my city. There’s not much for me to say on the matter except it’s sad.

The holidays are right around the corner and two families have to prepare for funerals instead of celebrations.

It’s hard to make sense of the senseless.

———-

On another topic entirely, looks like there was a pretty quick outcome to the case I was involved in.

Not allowed to get into specifics but my client asked me to work with him on another case, so that’s good.

It’s like that Alexandre Dumas quote, Nothing succeeds like success.

Oysters at Cafe Espanol, NYC

Had a long night on Friday; went to two events – one for a client and the other for my old friend Johnny.

Went to Johnny’s first, at Cafe Espanol downtown. It was the first time I had Spanish food since I went to Spain and it was just one plate of deliciousness after another coupled with pitchers of mojitos. May have had an entire pitcher myself.

Had some killer seafood and far too much of a 10-person sized portion of paella.

Him: Are you full?
Me: Stuffed.
Him: Do you want more?
Me: Yes.

By the time I arrived at the client event, most people were already fairly snockered so I made my rounds and headed home.

Orange is the new Jello

I have a colonoscopy scheduled for tomorrow. So that means today nuthin but orange jello and clear liquids.

At least I did a lot of eating this past week.

Wife: Sorry you have to do this, I know how much you like to eat.
Me: I love to eat! This is gonna be rough.

Location: desk, hungry
Mood: hangry
Music: you’ve worn me down, worn me down like a road
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I’m falling apart

But getting older is better than the alternative

Edison Lights at an office party

I try never to miss a Monday post but my site completely crashed the other day. Spent days trying to get it to work again.

Which is pretty much what’s going on with myself these days; I have a new injury – tore my rotator cuff in my fencing class and then, stupidly, went to my wrasslin class the next day.

Been icing it going on three weeks now. Actually wrote my coach to ask him to suspend my account because it doesn’t look like I’ll be going for a while.

Also, saw the doc for an annual checkup and now have a colonoscopy scheduled because I’m 41.

Finally, I picked up my first pair of glasses in maybe 20 years last week.

I’m getting older and I don’t like it.

Then again, to quote French actor Maurice Chevalier, Old age isn’t so bad when you consider the alternative.

Friend: Remember, if it happens in an alleyway and the dr gives YOU money afterwards, it’s not a colonoscopy!
Me: Lemme Google that.
Him: Image search is best.

Bicycle hanging on a pole in NYC

On a positive note, wrapped up all my major projects for the year. Have the regular day-to-day client work but nothing major.

So I had time to go to three different holiday parties where I ate my body-weight in various forms of carbohydrates and have at least two more scheduled.

Was going to spend the week going to the gym to balance out those items but it looks like it’s just going to be me and my icepack for the forseeable future.

On some positive notes, I did see a bike strapped to a pole and toilet bowl in the middle of the street, though.

I’m clearly grasping at this point.

Toilet in middle of 8th Avenue, NYC

Location: desk, with ice pack
Mood: deflated
Music: They are the hunters, We are the rabbits

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Your most valuable asset

Folk you, compound interest

Dive 75 in UWS Manhattan

The past few weeks have been a series of 15-hour days. Was supposed to go to see Alton Brown – who was in my neighborhood for a show –  some college buddies, and a few other events but ended up working through them all.

No fun.

There’s this story that Einstein was asked what the most powerful force in the universe was and he quipped, Compound interest.

Regardless of whether or not he really said it, I often tell it in tandem with a Brian Tracy quote: Your most valuable asset is your earning ability. It’s your ability to apply your knowledge and skills in a timely fashion in order to get the results for which others will pay.

I’ve reached a point in my life where people randomly call me and say they say they want to hire me for this or that.

Because I have less time left for compound interest, I invariably say yes.

A few days later, a check arrives in the mail from people I’ve never met. And then I get to work. This happens more often as the year comes to a close.

Now, when it comes to feast or famine, I’d much rather have feast. Just wish it was a little more evenly spaced-out.

At least I have a few minutes each day for thoughtful discourse with the wife:

Me: I’m surprised at how much you like country music.
Her: It’s not country music, it’s folk music! There’s a difference.
Me: Folk you!
Her: (laughing) I can’t even be mad at you for that.

 

Location: my desk
Mood: tired
Music: as long as you are with me, there’s no place I’d rather be
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Die knowing something

Die knowing something. You are not here long.

Walker Evans - Dead End - 1973

There was this photographer named Walker Evans who took some pretty famous pictures – you might recognize some of his work.

All of these pics are his.

Walker Evans - Damaged

He always walked around New York snapping shots but with much worse equipment and much better results.

Walker Evans - Brooklyn Bridge - 1928

He once said, Die knowing something. You are not here long.

Walker Evans - Man with accordion in Subway

Always thought that to be sage advice.

I suppose we all wish we had more time. However much we’re given, never feels like much.

Walker Evans - Girl on Fulton St - 1929

There’s so much I realize I don’t know and I would like to.

Walker Evans - Pelham Bay Park

There just never seems to be enough time.

Location: heading to post office
Mood: worried
Music: i’ll keep waiting and some day, darling you’ll come to me
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What color is the sun?

We don’t see things as they really are

Sun setting over Atlantic Ocean
After the craziness of the past weekend, was hoping to find some time to decompress.

Unfortunately, had a full blown night of insomnia that’s thrown me off kilter for the rest of the week.

In any case, my friend Paolina asked me if what happened over the weekend was a Big City thing or not. Didn’t know how to answer her since I spent my entire life here.

It’s like that thing I told you about years ago where a frog in a well knows nothing of the ocean.

Wonder if the fish in the sea’d be surprised to know that that we’re up here shooting each other to death over parking spaces?

Most of us spend our entire lives unaware that we’re in our own little fishbowl in the universe. Some of us realize the net result’s usually the same.

Me? I read anything I can get my hands on, trying vainly to see the world as it is, rather than what I think it to be.

But every once in a while, someone reminds me that I don’t actually see things as they are, I see things as I am. Who I am. Where I am.

The sun is white.

It’s the atmosphere that makes it seem yellow. But it’s not yellow at all and only a handful of people ever has seen it as it really is.

That bothers me some.

But then I get some sleep, eventually, and forget that I once cared to know.

Drinking at Pier I

Location: in a newish room
Mood: philosophical from lack of sleep
Music: You want me down on earth, but I am up in space
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Bowe Bergdahl, Tiananmen Square, and exchanges

Danger invites rescue

Chinese lantern
One of the most eloquent judges ever was a New Yorker named Benjamin Cardozo.

He had a case called Wagner v. International Railway where a fella and his cousin are tossed from a train. The first guy goes to look for his cousin and is injured himself. He then sues the train company, which says, “We didn’t ask you to search for your cousin!”

To which Cardozo said, “Danger invites rescue. The cry of distress is the summons to relief […] The emergency begets the man. The wrongdoer may not have foreseen the coming of a deliverer. He is accountable as if he had.

Essentially, Cardozo said, “You made the situation happen where a normal guy did the normal thing: tried to help. You can’t create a situation that causes danger and then say, Well, we didn’t ask you to help!

Danger invites rescue. Because, while human beings – by and large – are animals, there are those that aren’t. There are those that point at burning buildings to laugh and those that run in to help. We are in need of all you dormant warriors for justice, the people need you.

That was very first thought three years ago when I first heard about Bowe Bergdahl. It remains my thought now.

While we’re on a rare political bent I note that today is also the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square protest massacre.

Him: But don’t they have freedom now?
Me: When it happened, the government said, “Holy crap, we’re in trouble – give them everything they ask for, except the one thing we really want.”

Property ownership? Done. Capitalism? Done. Private industry? Done.

Everything but what really mattered to the government, which was power. Political freedom was the one thing that mattered to the government and the one thing that should have mattered to the people.

Whenever you trade X for Y – $499 for a toy called iSomething, freedom for basic rights, one man for five, etc – you’re making a conscious choice of what you really want.

Only afterward do you ever find out if it was really worth it.

It’s the lawyer in me that always wonder what’s really for sale.

Location: in a new laundry room
Mood: injured
Music: you’re taking these pills for to fill up your soul
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When you gaze long into an abyss, the abyss also gazes into you

Demons and Darth Vader on the Washington National Cathedral

Been sick so the insomnia’s been pretty bad.

Have you ever heard the saying, When you gaze long into an abyss, the abyss also gazes into you?

It’s from Friedrich Nietzsche’s “Beyond Good and Evil,” and the full quote goes:

Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster. And when you look into the abyss, the abyss also looks into you.

In a nutshell, the idea is that, as you fight demons, you have to be careful not to let the demons affect you so much that you’re consumed by them. And potentially even become one of them.

We see it all the time in literature and movies: Oedipus, Macbeth,  Darth Vader, etc.

It’s an explanation as to why narcotics cops can become dealers and defense lawyers become criminals themselves. It’s why we have to always be on our guard.

But lately, at night when I’m awake, the demons come and sit beside me and tell me that it won’t be ok.

And there’s always a possibility they’re right. So I listen to them.

For now, at least, they seem to be wrong and I hold out hope.

Him: I’ve got some good news!
Me: Man, I could use some. What is it?

A lot of people don’t realize that there is a grotesque of Darth Vader carved into the Washington National Cathedral in Washington DC.

It makes sense, doesn’t it? To have our modern devils beside our historic ones?

Location: an hour ago, still in bed sick
Mood: still sick, but less anxious
Music: I can’t wait, I can’t wait, I can’t wait
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