Dear Nate… 001

Beautiful and terrible things

Me and the kid

Dear Nate;

As I write this, you are almost seven months old. I feel guilty that your Grandma McCarthy has been taking the most care of you because I need to focus on your mama.

But you’re always laughing, so I assume that you’re generally happy and oblivious to the terrible things around us. That’s actually why I’m writing you.

A fellow New Yorker – of which you are a proud member – named Frederick Buechner once said, “Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don’t be afraid.”

(I will quote things to you a lot because I think other people say things far more eloquently than your pop can; you’ll have to learn to deal).

What Buechner said is true, with this caveat: The terrible and beautiful are often intertwined.

By all metrics, your mother should have died on December 10th, when you were just a month old. I say this terrible thing as plainly as I can.

But equally plainly, I tell you: Your mother came back an hour from death – crippled and half-blind – because she couldn’t bear being away from us. From you.

She came back with a titanium mesh where her skull once was. So when I tell you that she is made of titanium, I mean that both figuratively and literally.

She fights every day to see you and hopes to hold you again, like she did when you were born. She wants to see you sit, stand, walk, and run.

She wants to see you become you.

You know, on December 10th, you hadn’t yet learned how to laugh or smile? I think she came back to experience that.

Kid, that is love like I’ve never seen before. If that’s not beautiful, I dunno what is.

This letter is late, sorry. I’d meant to write it months ago but life got in the way. You’ll find that the life’s terrible things get in the way of your plans and dreams.

It’s the nature of the world to whittle you down to nothingness. One day it will win. We accept that in our family. But we fight the world every step of the way because we will not go quietly.

We struggle and scuffle until we’re breathless and weak. Life demands struggle.

Our family motto is a pictograph of a blade in a heart – we survive things that would kill other people. We survive.15207350313_c43e87a6b6_c

Know that the terrible things will come. But so will the beautiful things. They go hand-in-hand.

Your mother is the most beautiful thing that has come into my life and she came with this terrible thing. Neither of us knew. I would not change a thing, except maybe bring her to the hospital the day we met to get rid of this damn cancer. And buy more shares of Facebook. (Always invest your money – that’s another letter for another time).

I will love your mother until the day I die. You as well.

In any case, son: Here is the world. The price you pay to be here is to endure the terrible. So we pay our fare and we take our seat, come what may.

Don’t be afraid, Nate. Because you are our son and there is titanium in your blood.

Love,

Pop

 

Location: home, after almost a month in the hospital again
Mood: tired
Music: it was then that I knew only a full house gonna make it through

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Blogarama - Observations Blogs

Gone Fishing

Thanks

Me in DC

I started this blog all those years ago to just have an outlet for writing and as a place to put all these thoughts I have rattling around my head.

Turning 42 last week means that I have about 12,410 days left here and there are things I want to do and write about before those days run out. Which means less time for this here blog.

There’s just not enough time.

So this is my last regular entry here. There might be others, I’m not sure, right now, though, this is my last one.

But I want to leave you with something silly that you probably never thought about:

You can see you nose, you just choose not to see it.

You see it now, don’t you? And you will for several minutes before it disappears again. And throughout this day, you’ll notice it, forget it once again, notice it, forget it, until you forget it completely.

That is how most things are in our lives.

Things that are so a part of our lives that we don’t see them any more. The people, the experiences. We make them disappear. I walked by a beautiful waterfall every single day for years in college and never noticed it.

I live in the heart of Manhattan but rarely notice it.

Sometimes it’s a good thing. The major impetus for this blog was a bad breakup that has completely disappeared from my mind until I wrote this.

So I leave you with this thought: You see a million things every single day – literally, not figuratively – but you only notice one or two. This is by design.

I realized writing this blog, that it helped me separate signal from noise; to choose what I deemed noteworthy and what was not. Syd helped.

We all get to choose what matters to us, what we allow to affect us.

This blog was about all the things I’ve noticed about my little slice of the world and I wanted you to see them too. Because I thought they were worthy of note. Even thought it was mostly about nuthin.

Anywho, I wanted to say, Thanks for reading – for listening – to alla this nuthin.

There’s a line from You’ve Got Mail that goes, all this nothing has meant more to me than so many somethings.

Likewise.

I’ll still be around on Facebook, Twitter from time-to-time, and Instagram regularly if I can swing it.

Harold’s not with me anymore so it’s just the wife and me.

And we’ve gone fish’n…

 

Location: away, but still here
Mood: nostalgic
Music: heartbroken cause I can’t see further than my own nose at this moment

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Black suit and a white shirt

It’s the right tone for a wrong day

Black suit and watch
I bought another suit a while ago. My tailor isn’t in the US so it takes a few months to reach me.

Got it because my old black suit was looking worn. And the reason I need another solid jet black suit is because I seem to at an age where I’m going to funerals and memorials a lot more than anyone might want.

Not that anyone ever wants to go to them.

Have a memorial coming up next week for my buddy Bobbie and the suit arrived in time for that. Unfortunately, sad events don’t follow anyone’s timeline.

About two years ago, went to a funeral for my buddy’s mom.

Then, unexpectedly, had to go to one for his brother just last week. It seems terribly cruel for such misery to visited upon anyone, let alone someone so young.

In any case, my suit arrived the very next day. I found that odd.

Writer Neil Gaiman said in one of his books:

I wore a black suit and a white shirt, a black tie and black shoes, all polished and shiny: clothes that normally would make me feel uncomfortable, as if I were in a stolen uniform, or pretending to be an adult. Today they gave me comfort of a kind. I was wearing the right clothes for a hard day.

I agree with that.

For me, a black suit is comforting in it’s own way. It strikes the right, somber tone for a very wrong day.

Me: I’m so sorry, man.

Location: last week, upstate
Mood: hopeful
Music: Sometimes it seems like lately I just don’t know

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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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