Ollie’s, Heisenberg, Mill, and Chock Full o’Nuts

How much change can we take before we’re not us?

Me: You know what our problem is, don’t you?
Bryson: What?
Me: Even though we know we’re 40, inside, we still think we’re 17.
Him: (laughing) That is so true.

Gave my buddy Bryson a ring the other day. Been laid up with my bum leg again; got injured a few weeks back and it’s not getting better. Bit the bullet and called up the doc today. I’m praying it’s not another ACL tear but it looks more and more likely as the days go on.

Disconcerting. Moreover, it’s the main reason behind my insomnia these days.

In one of those hazy nights, remembered when I actually was around 17. Was at Columbia University at the time. There was an Italian diner on the corner of 116th and Broadway called Ollie’s, run by an Italian dude named Ollie, natch. You could go in and get spaghetti and meatballs – which I did often – a burger, and Chinese food. The reason was because it had a Chinese cook.

Down the street was a diner called The Mill. Picture your typical diner with spinning stools and that was The Mill. They had a Mexican cook and a Korean cook so you could go to there and not just get a burger, but also a burrito or a Korean dish.

They’re both still there but The Mill’s been gut renovated and is now a Korean restaurant. And Ollie’s? It’s now a chain of Chinese restaurants in the City.

No one remembers what they used to be. That’s not true; I remember.

Did you know that Chock Full o’Nuts, the coffee brand, is called that because a fella named William Buck used to sell nuts. But then the depression hit so he had to sell coffee for a nickle.

Thought of that Sunday night when the Breaking Bad series finale came on. The Mill, Ollie’s, and Chock Full o’Nuts – they were born one thing but the world changed around them and they became something else entirely.

Like the Ship of Thesus, I wonder how much change we can go through before we’re no longer the person/thing we once were. Sometimes, something changes us so fundamentally the only thing left of us is our name. In Heisenberg’s case, not even that.

Bryson: The wife is telling me I should take up running.
Me: Ha, mine is telling me the same thing. I’d do it if I didn’t find it so boring.
Bryson: It’s hard to explain why we are the way we are, isn’t it?
Me: Don’t really think I understand it myself. (pause) But it wouldn’t be us if we didn’t do what we do.

Location: my pad, with ice on my leg
Mood: concerned and #$@#$ tired
Music: really want to stay inside and sleep the light away

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Someone’s going to have to Rosseta Stone us in a 1,000 years

The way things are going, I worry about us as a species

Been cleaning up my room and I came across a small stack of MiniDV tapes. The problem is that I don’t have a MiniDV player.

Thought of this recently as I read the news.

As I said earlier, it’s depressing. Between the Kenyan mall shooting, the church bombing in Pakistan, and shootings here in the states, I wonder about our future as a species.

Historically speaking, when violent uprisings happen, there’s not just a wiping out of people, there’s a wiping out of that people’s civilization. After the burning(s) of the library of Alexandria, the western world saw 600 years of dark ages where knowledge was lost and only slowly rediscovered over centuries.

In Mali, the Islamists aren’t just killing people, they’re destroying ancient manuscripts, temples, and art in Timbuktu.

And if any one of these people nutjobs get a hold of a nuke, well then all those sci-fi films like Planet of the Apes – where major cities like NYC are little more than ruins – become very real.

Perhaps then these harddrives and computer will just have a wealth of knowledge on them that no one can read. After all, for about 1,400 years, no one could read Egyptian hieroglyphs until the Rosetta Stone was translated in 1822.

All that knowledge gone for 1,400 years.

Of course, I could just go to ebay now and pick up a MiniDV player and a computer with a Firewire in port to record the info on these tapes of mine. I’m geeky that way.

Then again, maybe some information is best lost and left undisturbed.

Case-in-point, this photo below of me right before my MRI in some fetching blue slippers. No one needs that.

I mean, I’m showing it to you, but, really, no one needs to see it.

Location: trying to get to the gym
Mood: concerned
Music: make the change, it’s up to you to break the chain
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Friends and Grey’s Papaya on the UWS

This was a weekend in good and bad food choices

A male buddy, who is white, showed up with a female friend, who is Asian, at my home the other day. I introduced them to my wife and noted that my wife and I were a white female/Asian male couple.

Guests: (to wife) Hello!
Me: It’s like we’re the negative images of each other!

The girl was from Taiwan and had never been to America before so I gave the two of them a quick 45 minute nickle tour of my neighborhood before a phone conference I had scheduled.

Her: How long have you lived here?
Me: About 40 years.

She wanted a hot dog so I brought them to the Grey’s Papaya on 72nd.

Me: …and over there is where Bruce Willis and Samuel L. Jackson had the phone scene in Die Hard III. And this is also the Grey’s Papaya from Fools Rush In and You’ve Got Mail.
Him: Cool.

Forget sometimes that I live in the middle of one of the most visited places on the planet; to me, it’s just home.

When people visit, I become a tourist in my own city again. Even if only for a little bit.

Picture from On The Set of New York.

Everywhere I look, the news is troubling and sad. Was going to write something about it, but I don’t think I’m clear in my head right now – my injuries are preventing me from going to the gym, which in turn has led to the return of my insomnia, which in turn is leaving me fuzzy.

Not a good start to the week but the weather’s cooled down enough for me to make some lasagne.

Life is better with lasagne.

Here’s an Instagram pic I took of it – oh, and find me on Instagram and Twitter.

Location: running out to get more coffee
Mood: fuzzy
Music: how could he resist when her dress let in the autumn sun?
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The Moon Festival 2013, the Walnut family, and the revolving door

Good souls are a comfort in the world

Growing up with my parents, there was a revolving door of house guests. Not really sure why.

I’m guessing it’s partly because my parents were immigrants and probably couch-surfed for a while when they first came here and remembered what that was like. Or maybe because sometimes people are just nice for no reason.

A brother and sister stayed with us a while, apparently. I don’t remember them well – as I said, revolving door. For years afterward, their parents would send us a huge box of walnuts once a year from their backyard. Then they moved, ergo, no more walnut tree, ergo, no more boxes.

But I still called them the Walnut family.

In any case, went home to see the rents yesterday. Was a spur-of-the-moment type of thing because my mom took the day off from work and a project I had finished up early.

When I got there, my mom said it was the Moon Festival this week and showed me a cake she got from the Walnut family.

She hadn’t heard from them in years and immediately rang them to thank them. It was then she heard that the mother had just died. Breast cancer.

F____ breast cancer.

The father said that one of the last things the mother said was, Send the Lo’s a cake this year. They were so nice to the kids.

Then my mother started to cry.

Her: I wish I knew. I would have done something for her.
Me: You were nice to her kids. That’s a lot. After all these years, she remembered it. So I think that’s a comfort, knowing that there are good souls in the world.
Her: She was a nice woman. And now (the husband’s) he’s by himself. It’s so unfair.
Me: (patting her on the shoulder) It really is.

Location: yesterday, the family garden
Mood: somber
Music: you come to me on a summer breeze, keep me warm
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The oldest thing we had was a tree called the Methuselah tree

Can’t deny feeling my age these days

Me: Should I wear my wedding ring or will you keep the women away from me?
Her: (putting on shoes) Yeah Logan, I’ll swat them away like flies.

The weather’s finally turned from summer to fall so the wife and I went out for a walk. Had to stretch my legs.

Pinus longaeva, Methuselah Walk - Methuselah G...
Methuselah Grove (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Work’s been slow because judges are usually away for the summer, as are most of my clients.

But just this week, several of them called me out of the blue so I assume that we’re back to the grind.

I did want to take advantage of the slow week to hit the gym but my old injuries acted up again. The buddy I train with had some useful insight:

Him: I think I know what the problem is.
Me: Really, what?
Him: You’re seriously old, man. I mean, really, really, really…
Me: (interrupting) That’s just mean, man.

It’s funny, I look in the mirror and I don’t think I look all that different. But I had to take most of last week off from the gym because something. went wonky in my knee.

Suppose there’s no two ways around being 40.

For years, the oldest thing on the planet was a tree called the Methuselah tree; records put it at 4,845 years. But they just found an older tree nearby at 5,062 years old.

Me? I’d like to make it to three digits if at all possible.

It doesn’t actually feel that far off for me any more. After all, the last decade seemed to go by in a heartbeat.

I figure I’ll blink and it’ll be 2073. Wonder if I’ll be able to teleport to California by then.

In any case, there’s a line from the song below that goes, I want to be the best I can. For me, for you, for every man, But I can slip, I lose my place.

But then there’s not much to do but get up and get back up and try again.

After my knee stops aching, that is.

Location: the Duane Reade on 72nd Street and the upper west side
Mood: hopeful
Music: I might ignore, just close the door before you have your fun
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It’s September 11th again

Twelve years later and it still seems like yesterday

It’s September 11th.

No real post today, just a picture and some well-wishes for today. See you next week?

Location: in my head, 12 years ago. Waiting to see the doc
Mood: sad
Music: Don’t wanna leave you but I can’t stay anymore.
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business personal

Core belief 4: There’s no such thing as willpower

There’s only varying degrees of what you actually want

Just wrote two large checks to the government. It’s because, those that live in an eat-what-you-kill life here in the US, have to send in what they think are going to be the taxes every three months.

It’s a bit annoying and sometimes stressful because (a) you have to make educated guesses and (b) you have to be ready to write those checks.

Mentioned this to a buddy the other day and he said that I must have a lot of willpower to not spend the money. Likewise, when I mentioned to someone else that I was once super fat, she too remarked that I must have a lot of willpower

So, I figured now was a good time to present another core belief of mine to you: There’s no such thing as willpower.

It doesn’t exist.

What does exist are value judgments as to the relative worth of things.

For example, when I was a fat kid – whether I realized it or not – I was making a choice of choosing the pleasure of chocolate cake over the discomfort of being teased; the pleasure of sitting on a couch watching television versus the discomfort of exercise.

In other words, I was getting something out of being fat that was worth more to me than not being fat.

It was only when I went to junior high school, where there was a pretty girl named Eve, that it flipped. Suddenly, it being fat wasn’t worth the cost to me.

Isn’t it always about a girl?

In any case, had a co-worker of mine, years ago, who just complained about the work he did all the time.

He was offered a promotion and he declined, saying that he was worried no one else could do the job as well as he could. Everyone else thought this was so noble, but I realized that he was getting something out of his current job that was worth more than the higher title, more than the additional income, more than the additional responsibilities.

He liked to complain.

He was getting more out of being able to complain than he would have gotten out of all the other things.

Should note that I never did summon the courage to ask Eve out. Just as well.

There are few people who can actually put up with my idiosyncrasies.

Me: (dropping something) CRASH!
Her: I’m really worried about your ability, as a rational person, to hold onto things.


Core belief 3: You are what you decide to be
Core belief 2: You’re not who you could be because of the lies you tell yourself<
Core belief 1: I’ll judge you for what you do but never for what you are

Location: the start of a new week in an old chair
Mood: sore
Music: like a dream, make me feel crazy
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Everyone believes very easily whatever he fears or desires

There’s a difference between real knowledge and junk food knowledge

I find Facebook and other social media to be a really enlightening look into the lives and workings of people I kinda know.

Not a day goes by when I don’t think about a quote from poet Jean De la Fontaine, who said that Everyone believes very easily whatever he fears or desires.

Every morning, I know that there will be a conspiracy theory from at least a dozen people on my list about how the NSA is trying to read my email to my mom, Monsanto secretly controls the world, or we’re all about to die from ______.

There’s also going to be the conservative rant from someone that says that Obama is ready to take all our guns and force us into hospitals next Thursday and the liberal rant that says that if we ignore the world’s problems, the world’s problems will ignore us.

More interesting to me is how often people mistake junk food intelligence for actual intelligence. They mistake some kernel of data for a self-proving fact, knowledge for intelligence.

The issue for me isn’t the spread of seriously questionable “knowledge.” It isn’t the childish simplification of seriously complex situations. It isn’t even the almost pathological willful ignorance.

It’s the fact that these people are bores.

Good god, stop being such a bore. It’s exhausting.

And it’s akin to walking around with spinach in your teeth and refusing to get rid of it. See the video below.

So why do I bother keeping them on? Because the danger is becoming one of them. To exclude opinions not in line with my own because I find them so ridiculous. It’s ignoring the balanced meal for the Happy Meal. After all, convictions are more dangerous enemies of truth than lies.

Moreover, who am I to say anything?

Me: (putting on shoes) I’m heading up to Harlem.
Her: Why?
Me: It’s the only place with a KFC.
Her: You’re going all the way to Harlem to go to KFC?
Me: (thinking) Yes.

Location: heading to the gym shortly
Mood: enjoying the fall-like temps again
Music: Sometimes I wish I could Calm the storm
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From the Archives: Doing well in school and speaking a foreign language

Two older posts about academia for this holiday weekend

Since it’s the start of a new school year and Labor Day Weekend, I thought I’d take a cue from Jocelyn Eikenburg in Speaking of China and pull out some stuff from the ole archives.

Public Service Announcement
I had a specific way to take notes in college, which I think helped me out greatly. It might help you. This is what I did.


How to learn a foreign language as an adult
Learning a foreign language as an adult is different than how you do it as a child. Here’s how I try to do it – with advice my wrassln coach gave me.

Workmen fixing an escalator in a metro station in Washington DC


Back to the usual nuthin on Wednesday.

Location: my very clean apartment room
Mood: impatient
Music: Du fric en masse que tu caches dans tes gants
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