Isolation Days 1-4: At least Sharon’s living it up

Heading to Chinaworld

Him: What did you get in Chinaworld?

Having been through 9/11, a couple of blackouts, a hurricane here and there, and just random emergencies, gotta say that this pandemic is something entirely new for me.

Spent most of the past weekend with the redheaded babysitter and the boy. She’s an actress so she literally lost all her gigs at once and I just found out today that the boy’s classes are cancelled until the end of April.

With her help, I was able to head back down to Chinatown in order to pick up some more supplies and support the Chinese community at the same time.

So, I hopped a nearly empty train – dressed as I’ve always wanted to dress in the city as a (not-so) closeted germaphobe – and picked up some stuff. One thing I made sure to get was some frozen dumplings from this hole-in-the-wall that I love.

Unfortunately, it was only after I returned home that I found out that the boy’s classes were cancelled. I immediately regretted my decision to only buy a single bag of frozen dumplings and only one bag of groceries.

Sitter: (laughing) I told him you went to Chinatown.
Him: Honestly, I think I prefer the name, Chinaworld.

Everything’s been a whirlwind of activity, mainly because everything’s taking longer and longer to do.

This is my local no frills grocery store, which had a line, the length of which I’ve never seen before.

TBH, there’s never a line of any sort here.

And I had to call both the NYC Dept of Finances and NYC Dept of Buildings for work; that took the entire morning – because you have to go through the 311 number for the city and the hold times were cray – and I eventually gave up.

With the kiddo being as young as he is, evenings are difficult because there’s nothing that we can both watch together.

Him: Why don’t we watch the news?
Me: The world’s a disaster and we’re surrounded by cretins; there, I just saved us 30 minutes.
Him: Cretins!
Me: No, don’t…nevermind…

On that note, I accidentally got an order confirmation for a woman named Sharon in Iowa who seems be living it up by prepping for isolation very differently from me and – gotta say – I’m slightly jelly.

Well, if nuthin else, Sharon’s living it up…

Location: surrounded by cretins and an awesome little boy
Mood: beat
Music: For a second, I thought you loved me
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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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Adding a pail to the buckets

3.5 buckets

Him: I think I had an anxiety attack today.
Me: Over what?
Him: My future.

Been chatting with two people almost daily now for the past few weeks – both are younger than me, wending their way through life.

Remember when I told you how friendships are made? Well, I find that happening to me more often than one might expect for a misanthrope like myself.

Was chatting with this one fella that I met years ago but we never really talked. We recently got thrown in together for a project – which is exploding in the most spectacular way, but that’s another story for another day – and have now been chatting on the reg.

Him: Even though this went to hell, I feel like we connected. Shoot the s__t?
Me: Cool. Lemme know when you wanna try some rum.
Him: Oh, there’re lots of questions I have to ask you.
Me: Clearly, I have no idea WTF I’m doing. You should ask someone else.
Him: LMAO – I meant about you, homie.
Me: What’s there to know? I like rum and gyros. I love my kid and my family. I never lie because I suck at it. I enjoy pickup and building s__t. I’ve never opened my vault. I’m into kind women that are hot. You can’t get more simple than a fella like me.

I said dozens of times that alla your problems can fall into three categories; well, I’ve edited that somewhat. Every action we perform can be categorized into furthering one of 3.5 pursuits – I call them buckets just because I like the imagery:

        • Health
        • Wealth
        • Relationships
          • Pleasure, or avoidance of pain (this is more a pail than a bucket)

The first three are additive. Focusing on them adds, at a minimum, to that bucket and your overall life.

If you focus on health, you’re that much stronger – health-wise – after whatever activity you did to focus on it.  You might also get a bump up in wealth and relationships if you chose the right one.

Ditto for the other two buckets.

Pleasure is simply that, pleasure. Note that the avoidance of pain is a type of pleasure – that’s why it’s so easy to procrastinate.

The last one is a pail versus a bucket because it’s not truly additive and, oftentimes, subtracts from the other two: It gives you momentary happiness at the cost of health, wealth, and relationships.

Which is not to say you shouldn’t do it. But it’s like dessert or a small reward after a hard day. They should be used sparingly.

It’s mental masturbation.

I’m not against masturbation or anything pleasurable done purely for pleasure’s sake. But every minute you spend on pleasure, is a minute you’re not spending pushing the ball forward on the other three.

Moreover, if you spend too much time on personal pleasure, it’s a turnoff for people around you. Because we gravitate to useful people and the more you push the ball forward in each of the three main buckets, the more useful you become to the world.

Anywho, I mentioned this to the first fella, recently.

Me: Anxiety is the fear of the hypothetical. So allay your fears: Run through the list. Are you where you wanna be with the three buckets? And are you overdoing it on the pleasure-pail?

We did it together as an exercise.

        • Health – yes. Dude’s in phenomenal shape and works out, easily, three hours a day.
        • Relationships – yes. Good friends and family support. Is there when you need him and others are there for him when he needs them. As it pertains to the opposite sex…well, he’s killing it.
        • Wealth – could be better, but he’s on the right track and getting better each day.

Him: Thanks, that’s useful.
Me: I’m nuthin if not useful.
Him: I want you know I really appreciate your…
Me: (interrupting) We’re friends. Friendship is symbiotic. Trust me, I’ll need your help one day. Probably soon. And it’s gonna involve a crapton of rum.
..

Location: 11:30AM, talking with a buncha lawyers, doing lawyer stuff
Mood: productive
Music: how do you always seem to know just when to call?

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Scaffolding and seasons

Like the finger pointing to the moon

Me: We should have a chat at some point soon.
Him: That sounds serious
Me: (shrugging) It’s not to me, but it might be to you.

In Enter the Dragon, Bruce Lee said, “It is like the finger pointing to the moon…”

He was paraphrasing the Shurangama Sutra, where the Buddha noted that, if someone points to the moon, don’t just look at the finger, because you’ll either:

      1. Miss the moon, or
      2. Think the finger is the moon

Got into an argument with someone recently and I said something in passing over the length of argument.

Found out from someone else that he mistook the passing remark as the crux of the argument. He mistook the finger for the moon.

Me: Wait, what…?! (rolling eyes) Oh for f___’s sake…THAT was his takeaway?

At some point, it’s meaningless trying to communicate to some people because you’re speaking English and they’re speaking Martian.

 

The boy’s birthday is coming up and I’ve been looking at all the people I’ve collected since he was born and everything went to hell.

Some people I’ve met have changed the path of my life, others have merely come and gone from my Venn Diagram, although I’m grateful for the experience, good or ill.

Boy: (in front of Grey’s Papaya on 72nd) The scaffolding. It’s gone. It looks different.
Me: Yes. Scaffolding is only supposed to be there a little while and then you take it down.
Him: Why?
Me: The building needed help for a while. And now it’s ok again.

Some people in your life are permanent while others are only seasons.

Figuring which ones are which, that’s the difficult part, I guess.

Location: earlier this morning, listening to the boy read to his class
Mood: nostalgic
Music: They say people in your life are seasons

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PSA: How to apologize

So, this is chivalry

It’s no great secret to say that a lotta people hated my old coach.

He knew it as well when he couldn’t figure out who, of his former students, tried to shut down his business.

Him: Was it you?
Me: I’m a lawyer. If I wanted you shut down, you’d be shut down. Plus, I’d want you to know it was me. (pause) You know both these things I’ve just said are true.

Wasn’t me because I was too busy trying not to kill myself and raise my son.

As I write these words, I’m amazed he thought he anything mattered enough to me to even bother. I think I was still sleeping with a bottle of rum next to me those days.

Plus, I never reached hate so much as pity and disappointment.

But I realized recently exactly what it was about him that bothered people on a visceral level while my son was watching Daniel Tiger: I don’t think that he ever learned how to properly apologize.

An apology consists of three steps:

      1. The words: “I’m sorry.”
      2. Some manifestation of contrition: “I feel awful about what I did; there’s no excuse.”
      3. And then some overt act to try make things right again.

Whenever he did anything untoward, he would either blame the other person, not mention it, or – and this was the best we could hope for – perhaps offer to buy us a lunch (step 3).

Don’t recall Steps 1 and 2 ever happening. Spoke to a few other former students and they agreed with me.

The last time we spoke, I asked him how he could be ok with so many people hating him – enough that someone was willing to ruin his life and business. He said he was fine with it.

That blew my mind.

Don’t mind being ignored – I wished for that as a kid. But to be hated so deeply by so many people who have known you for years shows a level of sociopathy that I don’t want anything to do with.

Who wants to be friends with someone that’s so ok with being hated?

Then again, I didn’t leave so much as I was asked to leave. In a very teenage sorta way:

Me: Wait, are you kicking me out?
Him: I’m not kicking you out, I just don’t think this is the gym for you.
Me: So, you’re kicking me out.
Him: No, I just don’t think this is the gym for you.
Me: So, I can come when one of the other instructors are here?
Him: No. It’s not a good fit.

You see, he told the Gymgirl/Mouse that if she dated anyone in the gym, he would kick the male out. If nothing else, he follows through.

This is despite the fact that she was a full-grown 28 year-old adult with brothers and a living father (which I only mention because it seems he thinks a male must be part of a female’s decision-making process). No matter, he knew best and he would make decisions on her personal life for her and she had no say.

It’s a special form of sexism that I, as a womanizer and a feminist, found repulsive. He called it chivalry.

I’ve always believed you don’t treat someone differently because they were or weren’t born with a particular organ.

You certainly don’t make decisions about their personal life if you’re being paid monthly to provide a service.

Mentioned this to my cousin, another former student, the other day.

Her: Wait, he said that? That’s so gross. I hate that.
Me: You and me both.

He never apologized to Mouse, or me, or anyone else for his poor behaviour. I wonder if it bothers him in the least.

Then again, we think he’s a sociopath so probably not.

I’m always surprised how many people have opinions on how two other consenting adults live their lives.

Oh well, not my circus, not my monkeys…

Here’s a picture of us just because I’m being petty. And she looks pretty in it.

Location: earlier today, another gym with three other former students
Mood: annoyed
Music: Burn all them bridges down, to the ground, cos I won’t be coming this way again.

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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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Coffee makers, airplanes, and the people I know

The difference between knowledge and wisdom

Gymgirl: Shoot, I just realized I can’t bring a water bottle on the plane with me.
Me: Why don’t you have the water they give you?
Her: Do you know where that comes from?
Me: Well, at least have the coffee.
Her: It’s the same water.
Me: Actually, I have an interesting story about that…
Her: Can you tell me later? I’ve a ton to do.

Amazingly, the Gymgirl went on another trip recently. This time to Colorado to see her bestie for some skiing.

Did you know that airplane coffee makers are the reason behind a lot of plane delays? Like, a LOT of plane delays.

The reason is more complex than you might think but – for the sake of brevity – it’s like that Brown M&Ms story I told you about years ago:

It’s not so much the coffee maker but what the coffee maker represents.

Why isn’t the coffee maker working?

  • Is it electrical? If so, it’s on the same electrical circuit as the plane and you definitely don’t want a plane in the air with a faulty electrical circuit anywhere.
  • Is it water? That means no water for bathrooms, of course, but water is also linked to the cooling systems, amongst other things. Another major issue if you’re in the air.
  • Did someone forget something important, like the coffee itself? If so, what else did they forget?

It goes on. Like I said, it’s not the coffee maker, it’s what the coffee maker represents.

In some way, I look at life that way. I always wonder what something means. It’s part of why I never get a good night’s sleep.

A girl I dated once brought a book over that didn’t seem like her speed.

When I asked her why she had it, she said it was for a “co-worker,” but she had just left work. Why wouldn’t she just give it to the co-worker at work?

Here, I had a bit of knowledge: The girl had a book that seemed out of place. But knowledge, by itself, is meaningless because there’s a vast difference between knowledge and wisdom.

On Facebook, I’m still friends with a number of Trump supporters for various reasons who are given a set of data on a regular basis. Yet they somehow draw precisely the wrong conclusion each and every time.

Because they see data and think that equates to understanding. But the two are very different.

Anywho, it turns out that that the girl I was seeing was cheating on me  – she actually got that book for her ex and was planning on meeting him, for the third time, it turns out.

As for the current state of politics, I realize that I’m more irritated than anything else.

I’m irritated because, like I said, people tell you what they’re all about if you listen, and what they’re all about isn’t what I thought.

Location: dunno, but it feels like Antarctica here
Mood: freezing
Music: If I take you and your word, then I’m empty handed

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Rolling Stones gather no Confirmation Bias

Everyone believes very easily whatever he fears or desires

Buskers at 50th St Subway Station NYC
While I enjoy Kanye West as an artist, as a human being, he seems like a lout.

So when a posting came up on Facebook that said that he did another douchebag thing, I shared it only to find out later it wasn’t true.

The thing is, I assume he’s a douchebag so when I read something that proves it, I immediately believe it.

What irritated me most about that was that I should’ve known better.

One of the few things I remember from my first year in Prof. Maas‘ Psych 101 Class – waaaaaay back in 1990 – was the idea of confirmation bias, which essentially echoes poet Jean De la Fontaine idea that Everyone believes very easily whatever he fears or desires.

So when the Rolling Stone article about the UVA rape case was found to be completely false over the weekend, I thought of Prof. Maas and De la Fontaine again.

Rolling Stone and the authors wanted to believe that colleges are a hotbed of rape and misbehavior and found evidence to prove their position.

Only they didn’t. Instead, they just made it harder for genuine rape cases to be believed.

I see it every single day on Facebook. People that have evidence that aspartame and tilapia will kill you, Obama is a secret Muslim, and that jet fuel cannot melt steel.

It’s a daily thing – and something I perpetuated myself with Kayne West, because I wanted to believe he’s a douchebag and found evidence to support this, even when I didn’t.

Beliefs are dangerous things and they cloud judgement, even from those that should know better.

Still, it’s better to appreciate this with the smaller, insignificant things, than to realize it with bigger, more meaningful things. Just ask Rolling Stone magazine.

 

Location: in midtown later at midday for some afternoon cognac
Mood: hopeful
Music: People around gotta find something to say now

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Kill what you eat

If you’re willing to eat meat, you should be willing to kill it

Me: The best part of a chicken is the back.
Him: (disgusted) I’m not eating that.
Me: More for me.

My parents grew up in a time and place where they’ve each had to kill something to eat, my mother in particular.

When I was little kid, I went to Taiwan to see her mother, my grandma, who showed me how to properly kill a chicken. I saw this chicken walking around one moment and decapitated the next. She then proceeded to butcher it in the alley behind the house, careful not to nick any of the intestines.

Her: You’ll wreck it, otherwise. Do it wrong and you’ll get poop everywhere.
Me: Poop?
Her: Poop. Everywhere.

She did all this while smoking a cigarette, which is neither here nor there – just comically funny to me.

In any case, I saw the above video a few days ago; a friend put it up. It bothers me. People who have no problem buying sausage and a visceral reaction to seeing a pig being “slaughtered” for that sausage.

That strikes me as wrong.

If you’re gonna eat something, you should be able to accept that you’re about to eat something that was once a living, breathing animal.

It part of the reason why I find just tossing away food of any type, particularly meat, troubling.

That was once a living thing. Living things should be treated with respect.

Halal Gyro food in NYC

Location: last night, 7PM, watching the game at a buddy’s
Mood: sore
Music: Gonna hunt you like an, an, an, an, an, animal

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We were given treasure

People don’t realize what they have

Vases in a Window Display

I have a problem with people’s ingratitude.

That’s probably why I get so irritated with people who’ve never lived in NYC in the 70s-90s and miss the “gritter days.”

It’s easy for them to miss something they romanticize in their heads.

Me? I look at the ability to walk down the street and not be concerned about getting shanked a gift.

Speaking of gifts, after 9/11, people around the world sent their condolences and … stuff. Nations flew their flags at half-mast, dignitaries cried. What one might expect.

But a small tribe of Masai warriors in remote Kenya also heard about 9/11. Most had not even seen a plane before and couldn’t fathom buildings that tall. But they understood the magnitude of what had happened.

And so these incredibly poor people – “poor” in our economic understanding of the word – sent the United States 14 cows.

For the Masai people, cows are everything. They are, in fact, the single symbol of wealth as their entire culture revolves around cattle.

In any case, these 14 cows were accepted by the US but cared for in Africa – along with a reverse donation from the US of scholarships for the children there.

They’re still there, now numbering 35 or so.

I can only assume that the American ambassador that was given these animals realized that he was given treasure. Things that these people had worked for their whole lives.

Wonder what would’ve happened if the Ambassador didn’t realize what he’d been given and instead thought he was just being given a random buncha dirty animals.

It bothers me when people are given treasure and do nothing but complain about how it’s not good enough.

A 30 year-old man here in NYC just allegedly killed his father because he wanted more allowance.

People don’t see what they have – often through sheer dumb luck – they only see what they think the don’t have.

They possess treasure but no understanding that they do.

Exhibit at a Museum in NYC

I wrote this entry before I turned on news today.

Gunmen broke into an office building in Paris and executed a number of people including a wounded police officer.

It’s a scary world we live in today.

Location: in front of a large cuppa joe
Mood: sad
Music: I guess we thought that’s just what humans do

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