Buzzing

Normal is relative

I brought the kid out to see my sister-in-law the other day, mainly because she didn’t want me to shave his head.

It was the first time he and I ate out together since before the pandemic. We had been to that restaurant before but he didn’t remember it.

Him: I want fries.
Me: Big surprise there.

They had scotch eggs there, and the last time I had a scotch egg was at Johnny’s hotel when he and I were still friends.

He called me recently but I didn’t pick up. Some things in the past should stay in the past.

We went back to her place for a bit and when I got ready to leave, I thought there was something on my boot.

Turns out it was my boot itself; I’ve had them well over a decade and a half.

Her: Yeah, it’s time for a new pair.
Me: Maybe I could repair them…
Her: Get a new pair, Logan.

It’s just my nature. I’m always trying to fix things.

In any case, the boy spent the night there so I gave Mouse a buzz.

Me: Indoor dining’s open again. Do you wanna grab dinner?
Her: Sure.

We ended up going to the same place we always do.

Waitress: What can I get you?
Me: I gotta be honest with you, we just came to get a bottle of wine and drink it all.
Her: I don’t have a problem with that.

It was nice, having a normal night again.

Normal being relative.

Mouse is wearing a Scenic Fights mask above, and we just released another video, this time reviewing the first Jason Bourne movie.

Enjoy!

Location: today, in front of papers
Mood: just okay
Music: baby, tryna fit in them shoes (Spotify)
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The middle place

Clearly, that’s me

I bought my son an instrument because he promised that he’d practice it if I got it for him.

Me: How’s the instrument playing going? Well or not well?
Him: The middle place.

I believe I’ve been tricked.

Still, it’s hard to be too mad at him. He has a way with words – like a 65 year-old Italian man.

Him: What’s for dinner?
Me: Grilled Thai-lime pork and sweet potatoes.
Him: That smells lovely. Thank you for making all the food.

Although he’s probably had his fill with me as well.

Him: I was dreaming…
Me: (interrupting) The past-tense of “to dream” is “dreamt.” Unless you’re speaking about a past-imperfect where…
Him: (rolls eyes, interrupts) In any case…
Me: (shrugging) OK, that’s a valid response.

He’s still a kid, though, which makes me happy.

Case-in-point, I stopped by a friend’s place with the kid for a play date for him, the other day.

Before I knew it, we were watching a play starring the kids and killing 1.5 bottles of wine (the adults).

Her: You brought Moscato? That’s what my mother who’s a 70 retiree drinks.
Me: Clearly, that’s me.

And then everything went down with my uncle. Here’s the governor of NJ saying a few kind words about him specifically…

…as well as a nice article written in the local paper.

Like I always say, thank goodness for the good souls.

MJ: What’re you doing Lo Lo? I’m in Central Park near ya.
Me: I’m with the kiddo but you’re welcome to stop by. You have to wear a mask if you do, just FYI. Although I suppose you had it so that’s probably not even necessary for us here.
Him: I’ll come say hi.

Location: in front of my door with a half-gallon of eggshell white
Mood: distracted
Music: I know I always break your heart(Spotify)

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To know them

Is to love them

Mouse and I’ve been fighting. Hard to say why, exactly.

I tell you that as background to the following conversation.

Me: I need a favour. My uncle died and I need to know if you can watch the boy and lend me your car on Monday so I can say, “goodbye.”
Her: What time?
Me: 9AM to 1PM or so?
Her: OK. I’m sorry about your uncle.
Me: I am too. And thank you.

And that’s Mouse in a nutshell. To know her is to love her.

She came by, right on time, and immediately started chilling with the boy while I dashed off in my black suit and shirt to go someplace that no one ever wants to go.

Didn’t sleep a wink the night before so I got there in a complete haze.

When I arrived, I texted my cousins – the two children of my uncle and a third from my other uncle, his older brother. It was the first time I saw all of them since Alison and I got married.

I sat outside in the cold car trying to steel myself to enter. I called Mouse, ostensibly to check in on the boy.

Her: Are you ok?
Me: Honestly? No.
Her: You got this. We’ll be here when you get back.
Me: OK.

So I went in.

I said hi to my uncle’s son first and wanted to say hi to the daughter and my aunt but I couldn’t. I just stood quietly in the corner.

Funerals should always be about the person that died, not some rando that shows up and makes a scene so I composed myself as best I could.

After a bit, I walked over to the daughter, and then my aunt, who sat with my other cousin, and said hello. I’d still not really walked up to my uncle yet. I was putting that off.

I told my aunt I was sorry and she just nodded. She looked old and she never looks old. Rather, she looked shellshocked and I knew that look. Think I looked that way for most of 2017.

Finally gathered up the courage to go to my uncle and when I saw him, I had to laugh. He wore a suit but under the suit was a red CARVEL tee-shirt.

Of course, that was so perfectly him. He was so proud of his store and his work.

My mom told me to tell him some things from her…

I’m sorry you had to go through this. You didn’t deserve it. But you’re with grandma and grandpa now. And if you see my dad, please tell him we miss him, terribly. And we miss you.

…but I added my own little thing.

You never met Alison but you would have loved her. She always said she couldn’t wait for the three of us to head over to Carvel and eat as much ice cream as we possibly could. If you see her, tell her the boy and I love her so very much. She’ll want some ice cream, but not plain vanilla. Ah, the boy and her woulda both loved you and you, them.

Don’t remember much else. I did see a dozen women show up, crying. These were all the girls he hired across 30+ years. I overheard one woman say that she met her husband at that ice cream shop and that she loved my uncle.

Realized then that that was the reason he was my favourite uncle: To know him was to love him. Just like my mom, my dad, Alison, and all the people I’ve loved in my life.

On the way back, I got lost – even with GPS – at least three times.

And when I tried to gas up Mouse’s whip, my card was declined but then my phone rang asking me if I would authorize the charge.

I clicked yes and bam, it worked.

Wonder what tiny but amazing things the kid’ll see that I’ll never see.

Me: I should be back by 2.
Her: We didn’t eat lunch yet.
Me: Don’t wait for me, there’s some brined pork in the…
Her: We’re waiting for you to come back and make us lunch.
Me: Done. It’s a deal.

Location: earlier this week, Hamilton, NJ, thinking of rocky roads
Mood: heavy
Music: not asking for a miracle(Spotify)

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My baby brother ran away

Goodnight, JoJo

My uncle died from COVID yesterday, just after noon. That’s him with my grandma and how I picture both of them in my head. I loved them both, very much.

My mother said the saddest thing when she told me. What she said in Chinese was, My little brother ran away.

That’s what broke me that day. He was my uncle, but he was her baby brother.

He was actually my favourite uncle because he always seemed thrilled to see us. He owned and operated a Carvel in NJ for decades and none of us ever saw him without coming back with a cooler full of ice cream.

The mayor of that town wrote a nice little something about him.

He was as good and decent a human being as the universe allows, just like my mom and everyone else from her family.

He didn’t deserve to die and certainly not like this. COVID. But I suppose that’s true for the vast majority of the people that die from this stupid virus.

His family – my cousins and aunt – are grieving because this came out of left field for them.

It’s not my story to tell so I’ll stop here.

As for me, I feel a tremendous amount of guilt. Because, while I grieve for my uncle’s death, I really grieve more for Alison’s.

You see, whenever some tragedy happens, you also get some bullshit bonus.

Like if you lose your job, the bullshit bonus might be that you can’t pay rent and also get kicked outta your apartment.

Or if you crash and destroy your car, the bullshit bonus might be that you can’t walk again.

The bullshit bonus that my uncle’s family has to deal with is stuff like who’s gonna manage the store and how are they gonna to set up the funeral?

I know this because I dealt with things like that too. I wasn’t ready. No one ever is.

This fucking cancer took so much from me, from my family.

Actually, it took my family.

I laughed when I wrote that last sentence. Because what else can one do?

That’s why it’s bullshit and why it’s bonus: Cause more just randomly shows up at your doorstep when you least expect it.

The bullshit bonus I hate the most is that I don’t grieve like normal people.

When my dad died, I felt like…20% of what I should have felt for this man I loved and that loved me so. I was his boy and he was my dad.

But all I could think was, “At least he lived longer than Alison.”

How. Fucked. Up. Is. That?

I loved my old man. God, I loved him. Like a fat kid loves cake.

And yet, all I could think about was all that Alison had been cheated out of. The same for Fouad. Nick. Kirk. My Uncle Jay. And now my Uncle Nelson, whom I used to call JoJo.

It’s not right. It’s not fair.

They deserved to be more than mirrors and magnifying glasses to Alison and yet, that’s all I can muster. And the guilt from that is just more bullshit bonus.

I’m rambling. I’m sorry.

Everything’s fucked up and nothing’s right in my head anymore. Nothing’s been right since November 2015.

My uncle took us all fishing once, when I was a kid.

I remember being so deliriously happy that day and I thought he was the coolest guy ever. He deserved so much more than this.

Son: You’re thinking of mommy.
Me: Yes. I’m thinking of family. How did you know?
Him: You went (breathes deeply)
Me: (nodding) You’re a smart boy.
Him: Are you sad?
Me: Now, how sad could I be? I have you.

Location: hell
Mood: guilty
Music: Get back to where you once belonged(Spotify)

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Bright-line rules

Life is easier when decisions are made for you

Him: Regular shipping is free but it’ll take 7-12 days to get to you.
Me: What about 2-day shipping?
Him: That’ll cost as much as the sled.
Me: OK, I’ll take that, please.
Him: Are you sure? You might get it as soon as five days.
Me: I’m sure. Thank you.

Ended up ordering a sled via express mail; it was an astronomical sum to pay for a $10 slab of plastic. But I promised the kid I’d get him one before all the snow melted so I had to keep my promise.

When I was nearly broke after college, my roommate Joe asked me to deliver an envelope to someone and made me promise that I would. I did and ended up losing it.

Him: There was $3,500 in it, Logan!
Me: I’ll get it back to you by tomorrow.
Him: (shakes head) You’re gonna get me $3,500 tomorrow? How?
Me: I’ll find a way.

And I did.

The hows and whys are a wholly different story, but I kept my word.

Handed him an envelope the very next day with $3,500 in it in 1998, when $3,500 meant something.

Ate tuna fish for about a year afterward and I was known as the guy in law school that always had a can of tuna fish in his bag.

Still can’t really eat tuna fish all that much.

I think this is all because of that story about Apollo and his son I told you about a while back. I remember reading that and wanting to be a person of my word, no matter the cost. I would draw the line at my son’s life, but up to that…

Years ago, Rain – who argued with me as much as anyone – got drunk once and told everyone that if he had one call in jail in Panama, he would call me. Because he knew that, if I told him I’d take care of it, it’d be taken care of.

Your reputation is your brand and I try to stay on-brand as much as possible, because it defines me to everyone else, but also because it defines me to me.

Our reputations bring us places.

It also just makes life a lot easier because my rules are bright lines that tell me the choice that I have to make. I have no say in the matter.

After Alison died, I was a shell of the person I once was but my rules helped me operate when I could only operate at fractional capacity.

If that.

Spent the past few days making up for the day I didn’t have the sled. Today, while we were out, I met a young Asian father with two kids sledding down the hill on a pizza box.

Me: Hey, man, do you wanna borrow my sled? I was in your exact situation just a few days ago.
Him: (walking towards me) Oh, that’s really kind of you. (leaning in, lowering voice) Actually, I’m going to decline because…
Me: (interrupting) COVID?
Him: (laughing, whispering) Ah, yeah, no. I just don’t want them to know how good a real sled is because I don’t think I can get one for them.
Me: (nodding) I get it.
Him: Thanks though, you’re the only one that offered.
Me: No problem. Lemme know if you change your mind.

He didn’t. As for the kiddo, after a few rough sled rides, I insisted that he wear a helmet – also courtesy of Cappy.

Eventually, he got the hang of everything.

Me: Do you like your sled?
Son: I love it! Thank you.
Me: You’re welcome. I always keep my promises. Remember that, kid. Be someone that people can trust.
Him: OK, papa!

Location: earlier today, this perfect hill
Mood: much better
Music: Thought I couldn’t live without you(Spotify)

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Not a great 48 hours of parenting

Winter is here

It’s not been a great 48 hours of parenting around these parts.

The snowstorm – and the lack of scaffolding – meant that I was constantly shoveling and adjusting the boiler so that my tenants didn’t freeze or boil. And ensure that the boiler didn’t explode.

But this was the first snow that the boy and I were sharing together, in a meaningful way, so I wanted to go out and enjoy it with him. Luckily, Cappy and his wife dropped off this great snow outfit for him so we could brave the snow. Once we got to the park, however, I realized that we didn’t have a sled and most/all the other kids did.

Him: Do we have a sled?
Me: I’m sorry, kiddo. I totally forgot to get one.
Him: Oh. (sadly) That’s ok. Maybe you can buy one?
Me: I’ll do that as soon as we get home.

Gotta tell you, that ripped me up. He just sat and stared at all the other kids having fun. And I felt like shit.

Tried my best to keep him happy and made him some hot chocolate when we got back, which he enjoyed. Then I called up every store around me trying to get a sled. They were all sold out. So, I bought one via Amazon but the earliest it would arrive was Saturday.

Him: Will the snow be gone by then?
Me: I’m not sure.
Him: Hopefully not.
Me: Yes. Hopefully not.

It was a pretty sleepless night.

The ABFF, though, randomly called me the next day to tell me that she was going out to the park and that she had an innertube.

So my sitter took him so I could catch up on some work and I went to pick him up after dinner.

Him: I was on a sled for the first time today! It’s so much fun!
Me: I bet it was!

While the kids all played, I caught up with the ABFF and her sister.

ABFF: What’s up with you and Mouse?
Me: That’s a whole story right there.
Her: Well, she’s great. You two should figure something out.

It was late when we finally left.

Him: I wish I could stay there. At home, it’s just you and me.
Me: (coughing) I’m sorry it’s just me.
Him: I wish there was someone else.
Me: Someday, maybe?
Him: (sighing) It’s just the two of us. I wish mommy was here.
Me: This is our stop. Let’s go.

Broke my intermittent fasting when I put the kid down and picked up a drink or three.

Like I said, it’s not been a great 48 hours of parenting around these parts.

I don’t want him to be a sad kid. It’s the last thing Alison woulda wanted. Then again, neither of us wanted any of this.

Location: home
Mood: less than ideal
Music: In life, there is lots of grief (Spotify)

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Party of Two

How real it seems

It was a surreal weekend just because my pipes were banging like no tomorrow so I couldn’t get any good sleep.

A random tenant ringing my doorbell in the middle of the night to complain about the laws of thermodynamics didn’t help matters.

Me: It’s a closed system so that that with every rise in temperature, there’s a commensurate rise in pressure. We have to be below X pounds per square inch, which we are right now.
Her: (irritated) What happens if the pressures goes above that level?
Me: The boiler explodes and we all die, either from the explosion itself, or the subsequent collapse of the building. I’m going back inside now.

Saturday morning, met up with a whole raft of buddies for an early morning roll at a friend’s place. Pez and her fella came and I rolled with her. She came to win.

Her: (catches me in an armbar)
Me: Don’t do it – I have a child!
Her: (laughs) Like I care.

The same fella that gave me a lift last time gave me a lift back this time but only to the station, cause I felt bad. I went past Lviv’s joint; she’s actually moving back home permanently so she’s been hitting me up to see how I’m doing.

Her: I just had this weird thought on my walk that every husband has been rejected by some other chick in the past.
Me: I have this similar thing that’s part of a joke I heard: “For every girl you meet, someone out there is thinking, “Man, not my problem any more.”

Mouse missed the kid so she came by on Sunday to spend about an hour with him; it gave me a chance to dash off to the supermarket to prep for the snowstorm that’s coming.

There’s something about being a single parent in the city that I find so anxiety-producing. If something happened to me, the kid would have to find a way to get in touch with someone.

Me: Did you have fun?
Him: Yes! We had silly time and serious time. (thinking) I love her.
Me: I understand that.

Speaking of anxiety-producing, a woman I met the other day who has a kid the same age as mine wrote me to tell me that her sitter got COVID.

Her: It wasn’t good, was it?
Me: You don’t want it, lemme tell ya.

That made me revisit this entry I wrote about my getting COVID last year. Man, I felt so lonely and scared that time. Literally thought I was going to die.

I reread that part where Alison visited me in a fevered dream and it made me cry. Because I remembered how real it seemed.

Did I tell you that I wrote out a goodbye letter to the kid on my phone while I was on the floor? I looked at it recently and it was sad and disjointed. I was thinking of cleaning it up and posting it here. Maybe.

Mouse wrote once that she felt that I came across as lonely in terms of friends but that’s not at all what I feel. I feel lonely in terms of family. It’s hard, being a party of two.

Him: Is anyone coming by for dinner?
Me: No, it’s just me. Is that ok?
Him: Yes! Can I have some ice cream for dessert?
Me: (laughing) So close, kid. So close. Have an orange.
Him: (sadly) OK, if you say so.

Location: home
Mood: exhausted
Music: my heart says, follow through (Spotify)

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Slapstick with the boy

Twice, right in the groin

The above is a pic that Mouse took the other day. She had come by to see us and the boy asked to play tag.

I was beat so I let them run back and forth from the front of the pad to the back. I stood on the sidelines by the kitchen.

On the third or fourth run, he randomly decided to high-five me in the groin on his way to the bedroom.

I staggered to the chair, and Mouse snapped the pic above.

I am rethinking teaching him how to fight.

Me: That pic really captures it all.
Her: It really does.

Which brings me to another story. I went to go pick the kid up from Catholic school last year and when he saw me, he ran at me, full tilt.

I was distracted by something so I didn’t lean down as he came in, and he literally head butted me in right in the family jewels.

I doubled over in pain and yelled out, “JESUS CHRIST!”

That’s not the (now) funny part, though.

Nor was the funny part was him laughing and yelling, “JESUS CHRIST!” while running up and and down the hall.

No, the funny part was ALL the other schoolchildren joining him in running back and forth along the hallway screaming, “JESUS CHRIST!” at the top of their tiny lungs. In a Catholic school.

Good times, good times…

Location: home
Mood: exhausted
Music: It’s been three years (Spotify)

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Deserts, Kathleen, and the Aneyoshi tablet

You’ll most likely drown in the desert

Pac hit me up the other day:

Him: I’m looking to buy a product that has polyurethane as a material, but it’s got a P65 warning on it. how much should I be worried about this product?
Me: Hard to say; lots of people think that Prop65 goes overboard but the rise of cancer throughout the nation means that something is definitely not normal. For me, I tend to err on the side of safety whenever I can.

Pac’s an athlete. He boxes, has a purple belt in BJJ, a black belt in judo, and was a high school wrestler.

I know a lotta athletes – obviously Chad is one, as is Mouse. Alison was one too.

None of them, however, is or was in as good a shape as Kathleen Heddle, who was an Olympic swimmer. She died recently, of cancer.

When I tell people that Alison died of cancer, I wonder what pops into their heads. Someone with a poor diet that was probably overweight and had bad habits, maybe?

That wasn’t her at all. She was absolutely gorgeous with a resting heart rate of 55 and a sleeping heart rate of 35. You read that right: 35.

Whenever we stayed at the ER, I could never get sleep because her alarm would go off at 35 and I would spring awake to press the silence button to give her an other 15 minutes of rest.

I pressed that fucking button at least 20 times a night, every goddamn night.

But I digress.

She used to run from my apartment to the George Washington Bridge more than once – ten miles roundtrip. She ate like an athlete too.

Yet she and Kathleen Heddle died of cancer. It’s madness. Alison was barely 35 when she was diagnosed; Kathleen died at 55.

If you think you can’t cancer, dude, Alison and Kathleen were the last people on the planet you would think would get cancer.

If they could get it and die, you absolutely can. So could I.

People think I’m peculiar because of how I live my life and what I eat. When Chad came by for his birthday, I made him a chocolate cupcake with almond flour.

You see, experience makes us act one way over another. So does the acceptance of information. As does willful ignorance.

When I read about Kathleen dying, I immediately thought of the Aneyoshi tablets. See, they’re these stones, hundreds of years old, that dot Japan’s coastlines. They simply say, “Remember the calamity of the great tsunamis. Do not build any homes below this point.”

Because if you built a house below the stone markers, you would die when the next tsunami hit.

Yet people did just that, despite the warnings that these ancestors laid out for them.

Alison is a warning to you. Kathleen is a warning to you.

This whole blog since December 2015 is a warning to you. If you think you can’t get cancer, think again, because what you think you know about yourself and the world is probably bullshit.

Like the desert. You see all the films and television shows about people dying from heat and thirst; it’s logical yeah?

Of course people die of heat in the desert, Logan.

Are you ready for some crazy? Most people die in the desert by drowning. Legit.

That’s because, people assume the danger is dying of thirst so they prepare for that. They don’t – at all – prepare for the possibility of flash floods, which kill more people in the desert than the heat.

It’s just like the lawyer that told me I was stupid to buy International Paper during the dot-com boom.

The stupider people are, the more sure they are of themselves. But you don’t know what you don’t know, until you know that you don’t know it.

Me? I’m smart enough to know that I don’t understand shit. All I know that I have to do everything I can to try to keep my family safe. Somehow.

Boy: I want candy.
Me: Here’s an oatmeal cookie I baked instead.
Him: OK! (eats it) Yummy!
Me: Good. (sighing) Good.

Location: Riverrun, pushing my son on a swing, wishing everything was different
Mood: pensive
Music: I don’t think you know how I feel (Spotify)
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Liquid Paper, Trump, and talking fish

How do you tell a fish that it’s wet?

Boy: Add that, add that! (points)
Me: Which song?
Him: I’m a Believer. Oh, click the “Remastered” one.

The boy’s been home for a few weeks now and we’ve kinda gotten into a rhythm, although it still leaves a good deal to be desired.

On thing that I realize as a parent is just how different his life will be from mine, growing up.

I had the most random thought today when we were listening to Spotify; he asked me to put on I’m a Believer, which made me think of the Monkees, which made me think of Liquid Paper.

See, Liquid Paper was invented by Bette Nesmith Graham, the mother of Monkee, Michael Nesmith.

Now, for those of you too young to know what I’m talking about, Liquid paper was essentially a small bottle of white paint – legit – that you used to paint over a mistake you made while typing something.

As I write this out, I realize how crazy that must sound to the Twitter generation but there you go.

And that’s kinda the point of this entry: How to even begin to explain things to people that need a ton of background information to even start to understand?

I mentioned this to a buddy the other day.

Me: It’s like trying to explain to a fish that it’s wet.
Him: What do you mean?
Me: Think about what that would be like. You have to first explain the existence of water – because he has no clue such a thing exists, it’s like explaining oxygen to a caveman – then you have to explain dryness, land, the earth, it goes on…

Here, I’d have to explain paint, typewriters, ink, letters, etc – all before I got to Liquid Paper.

Which brings me to a final point. I, stupidly, got into an online argument with a Trump supporter from my old church right when Trump got elected.

He was a nice enough fella but his ignorance was so profound that I found myself defriending him because I couldn’t figure out where to even begin explaining how little he understood about the nature of the world.

And now that Trump’s finally leaving office, I find myself sheepishly relieved that I don’t have to face the jaw-dropping stupidity and malice I had to deal with on a daily basis for the past four years.

I just have to explain to the kid how the world works.

Which I’m not even sure I can.

Him: Why did John Lennon die?
Me: Someone killed him.
Him: Why?
Me: I don’t know.
Him: Why did mommy die?
Me: I don’t know that either. There are some things, we can’t know.
Him: Why not?
Me: Let’s have lunch. Grilled cheese?
Him: Yes!
Me: Done.

Location: home, grilling up a cheese sandwich and trying to understand
Mood: unsettled
Music: I couldn’t leave her if I tried (Spotify)
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