The Past and the Virginia Tidewater Accent

Why is it the Top 40?

Did you ever wonder why the music countdown was always the Top 40? Why not the top 30, or 50?

The reason is because early jukeboxes could only hold 40 songs. So, decades later, we’re still constrained by figures and things that are no longer relevant.

I think about that a good deal: Why things are the way they are.

As I teach my fencing art and continue to wrassle, I’m ever vigilant to wonder if things are done for a good reason or if that’s just how things have always been done – and if the latter, why.

The core of the fulfilled life is the life that wonders why. And I think we all – in our own way – wonder about our purpose.

On a related note, I found the video above fascinating because you can hear how accents changed over time – how a UK accent can become an American Southern accent over time.

It’s a great commentary on how environment and time affects things to make the so different from what they once were that they’re no longer recognizable as what they once were.

On the flip side, though, I probably lie awake too long at wondering.

Lie Awake

Location: a building with someone that is starkers
Mood: irritated
Music: It’s simple and eternal, the sum of where we’re made
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The story of Tyre, Alexander, and the Elvis Barbershop

The Siege of Tyre and things that matter

Screen Shot of the Elvis Barbershop
Somewhere across the world, there’s a barbershop in Lebanon called the Elvis Barbershop. It’s located at the red marker you see above.

There’s nothing particularly interesting about the Elvis Barbershop except that I like its name – who names a barbershop “Elvis?”

It’s located in the city of Tyre, which is a peninsula off of the mainland.

Siege of Tyre.
Siege of Tyre. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

But it wasn’t always a peninsula. It was an island for probably millions of years when Alexander the Great came by in 332 BC.

Alexander (Al, to his friends) had taken over much of the area and this was the last bit to be conquered. But the inhabitants of Tyre refused to surrender because they were an island fort with 200 ft (60 meter) walls.

And they were so arrogant that they tossed Alexander’s ambassadors over the walls to their deaths.

So Al filled in the land between the mainland and the island, pulled his weapons over, and laid siege to the island – now peninsula – for 70  days.

Afterward, he conquered the city-fortress and destroyed everything.

Fast-forward 2,400 years and there’s a fella in the world – presumably named Elvis – that has a barbershop on the ground that Alexander laid. An act only ancillary to Al’s main goal still affects the world to this day.

I’ve mentioned Alexander the Great in this blog and buncha times, mainly because he had such a profound effect on the world and how I look it.

Thought about all this because someone contacted me and said that something I wrote affected his life.

I think we all hope that the things we do have some lasting good effect far beyond ourselves.

The hope that somewhere in our wicked, wicked childhoods, we must have done something good that means something to someone.

Location: off to wrassle
Mood: thrilled
Music: nothing comes from nothing
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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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It’s the Ides of March again (and again)

Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose

My brother’s in town again so he stayed over the other night.

For over 15 years, he’s been reading Will Durant’s The Story of Civilization – he’s finally on the very last volume of the series (11). The author spent his entire adult life writing the series from 1935 to 1975; he died in 1981.

We both like history because it’s fascinating just how much it repeats itself. You could take the news about the latest scandal on cheating, double-dealing, and influence from the Roman Senate and change it to the DC Senate and no one would notice.

We’re such predictable creatures. There are the occasional surprises, though.

Right about now are the Ides of March so it was 2,058 years ago that Brutus killed Caesar.

Roman historians like Plutarch commonly note that most people – including Brutus himself – thought that Caesar was Brutus’ father.

So Brutus wasn’t just killing a politician, he was killing his father. It makes Caesar’s last words all the more pitiful, “Even you, Brutus?”

Was pretty young when I learned this and found it completely unbelievable that something as mundane as politics would drive someone to kill his own father.

But just recently an article called I lost my dad to Fox News, which talks about how politics split a father and son. It’s not really so unbelievable now.

As for me, I’m reading about the 1683 Battle of Vienna and the struggle between Muslims and the west.

There’s this French saying that goes, Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose – the more things change, the more things stay the same.

There’s something comically  tragic about that.

Me: What are you going to read after you’re finally done with the series?
Brother: I have no idea.

RedditOn a different point entirely, next Thursday, I’m doing a Reddit Ask Me Anything on the first book I wrote about gangs in the 1990s, The Men Made of Stone.

If you’re a Reddit user and/or have read the book, stop on by here and support!

Location: last night, kitchen making more chili
Mood: good
Music: Wheels are turning in the bed you make
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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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There’s a difference between Possible and Probable

Some people I know can’t tell the difference

I’m sick again. Spent the weekend essentially lying around my pad. My buddy Gio and one of my wrassln coaches came by before I hit bottom.

B the time my brother came by from California again, couldn’t get out of the house to hang with him.

Did manage to get some work done and also follow up with some friends via email. What I’m noticing about people as they get older is that they’re having a harder and harder time distinguishing the difference between possible and probable.

I learned it early on with my geeky love of all things Sherlock Holmes in The Sign of the Four when he said, [W]hen you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.

Unfortunately, people I know mix up probability and possibility all the time.

  • A woman whose property I manage is concerned that her microwave is irradiating her.
  • A friend refuses to just explain something via email because … “hackers.”
  • An acquaintance is certain that there is a global conspiracy by America to take over the world.

It goes on. All are possible, but hardly probable.

There was a time when I’d argue for ages for people to see the difference but at some point, these beliefs become so ingrained that they’re impossible to change.

We always think when they’re young, Oh he’ll grow outta that. But that’s rarely true. Young, broken people grow up to be old, broken people.

The thing is, I’ve known these people for years and have seen them go farther and farther off.

At this point, it’s best to let them stay in their world and I stay in mine.

Location: sick in bed
Mood: sick
Music: I can hear the sounds of violins, long before it begins
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Grateful for my adversaries

The Cartoon with Ralph and Sam, the Coyote and Sheepdog

A Great First Date is finally out on Amazon!

It came out Friday and I was going to write a post on it, but work got in the way. In any case, now it’s available on all platforms including Barnes & Noble Nook, and Apple iBooks.

If you like this blog, you’ll probably like the book as it’s essentially one long entry about one narrow topic. More on this later.

Me: You just elbowed me in the head!
Him: You just slapped me.

Was telling someone recently about this Warner Brothers cartoon I used to watch as a kid where there was this sheepdog named Sam and a coyote named Ralph.

Evidently, they’re not just friends and roommates but also co-workers. What makes the cartoon interesting is that between the hours of 9 to 5, they are mortal enemies – each trying to outwit, and even kill the other. But once the bell rings to signal the end of the day, they put their differences aside and go home.

I have a regular training partner when I wrassle and we’re pretty good friends. But the moment we hit the mat, we each expect the other to bring his best, which means a lot of relatively controlled violence.

Then the bell rings and we go home.

I’m grateful for my adversaries in life; the ones I count as friends and the ones that I don’t.

They make me anti-fragile.

And these days, I find that I need that more and more.

Him: Oh man, what have you been eating, you weigh a ton.
Me: Chili, what else?

Location: at the end of several deadlines
Mood: hopeful
Music: be brave with what you want to say
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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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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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People who are willing to sacrifice their rights for safety, deserve neither

Another thing with an air of truth

Spent Sunday actually relaxing cause I finished almost all of my projects for the year – and by “relaxing” I mean fixing stuff around the house.

Also read a lot of Facebook.

Two friends separately, and coincidentally, paraphrased a Benjamin Franklin quote; one while talking about NYC random bag searches, the other about US gun owner rights.

But it’s one of those commonly referred to quotes that have the air of truth but no real truth to them at all – at least depending on how it’s paraphrased.

Both quoted it as saying: People who are willing to sacrifice their rights for safety, deserve neither.

But that’s not what Franklin said. What he actually said in a book called, Memoirs of the life & writings of Benjamin Franklin, was:

They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.

The following words are often and conveniently left out:

  • Essential – are guns essential? I’ve lived 40 years with only firing one less than a handful of times. In other words, does everyone need to own guns like the way everyone needs a voice in government. I doubt it.
  • Little temporary – is the ability to not get blown up in a bus a little temporary safety? I’d hope not.

Franklin was saying quite the opposite of what my two friends and many people use his quote for.

He wasn’t saying that every right was equal, he was saying that essential rights – life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness – were not worth exchanges of small temporary safety.

A bag search is not that. Sane gun laws are not that. They are both the opposite of that.

Sorry, every once in a while I have to be a lawyer and lawyers aren’t allowed to be inexact.

Like that quote that goes, First kill all the lawyers…, what a quote actually means, often means the opposite of what they think it means.

Here are more quotes that have the air of truth to them but either have no real truth to them at all or are misquoted/misunderstood:

Location: desk, being a lawyer
Mood: nerdy
Music: don’t mind the traffic cops or the TSA Long as I’m with you I’m having a good day
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