Emotionally is a different matter

Intellectually, I know

My buddy Ricky stopped by my pad the other day because he was in the neighborhood…

Me: The Firecracker baked cookies, you want one?
Him: Sure! (later) Is that real milk [in the coffee]?
Me: Shoot, yes. I shoulda thought about that.

…and Bryson gave me a ring to see how I was doing. I’m guessing they read up on my mom and wanted to make sure we were all ok.

Bryson: Dude, next time, before you rent a car, gimme a call. I’m happy to pick you up and get you to your mom.
Me: Thanks, man. I appreciate that. But, what’s going on with you?
Him: Nah, man, I didn’t call to talk about me, I called to check in on you.

I’m grateful for old friends that check in with me to make sure that I’m ok.

Speaking of being ok, I’ve been seeing a therapist for some time now.

She asked me this past week the details of what happened with Alison.

Me: Oh, I thought I told you.
Her: You only told me that she died and your struggles with everything. You never told me the details.

So, I did.

About halfway through it all, I realized that she was crying. By the time I wasdone, she was pretty emotional – well, as emotional as a professional can get.

Her: (drying her eyes) That’s a lot for you to have dealt with.
Me: She dealt with more.
Her: Well, thank you for sharing with me. And you should be kinder to yourself.

Told her that I felt guilty that I was alive and got to spend alla this time with the kid and she didn’t.

She only got to hold him once.

Just writing that sentence fills me with both sadness, anger, guilt, and a bevy of other emotions I can’t fully express with my limited vocabulary.

Her: There’s useful guilt and useless guilt.
Me: (nodding) I know. Intellectually, I know. Emotionally is a different matter.

Such a different matter.

Location: In my head again for a bit
Mood: worn-down
Music: My mind, it likes replaying my regrets all night. My pain, I hide (Spotify)
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Critical thinking isn’t the most important thing

It’s issue spotting

Me: Hello, hot blonde.
Her: Hello, handsome old Chinese man.
Me: The “old” was really not necessary.
Her: But accurate!

I’ve said repeatedly that my major goal for the boy is teaching him critical thinking.

Unfortunately, the recent (massive) hurricanes and flooding happening here in the US – and abroad – around has made me reassess the contours of that.

I recently decided that critical thinking is secondary to a more basic skill: Issue spotting – which is determining if there’s even a problem in the first place.

Came to this realization seeing how many people I know in life that deny climate change.

As an aside, all self-identify as Republicans and many have a religious bent, which makes me feel all the more foolish for ever voting republican and ever being religious at all.

In any case, back in law school, I remember that everyone is taught two basic skills:

      1. Issue spotting, and then
      2. issue solving.

It’s always in that order because all law school exams – especially the bar exam – essentially tests on both whereby, if you’re unable to spot the issue in the first place, your chance of correctly answering the question is nil.

This is where I’m finding we are as a society; half of the people are concerned about answering the issue, whereas the other half denies that an issue even exists, often pointing to one lone dissenter and ending the argument there for them.

There’s no ability to critically think about a solution because people can’t even see that there’s a problem that needs solving.

This is terrifying, on so many levels.

And it’s happening everywhere and all at once.

Me: You don’t think it’s an issue that you’re 35 years old and have nothing saved for retirement?
Him: (puzzled) Retirement is like 30 years away; I have plenty of time.
Me: JFC…sit down. I need to explain a lotta things to you.

Location: my stoop, chatting with a friend that stopped by to check up on me
Mood: beyond busy
Music: don’t overthink it – like all my problems, I don’t have one (Spotify)
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Coming in threes?

School again

Him: I’m a little worried.
Me: That’s normal. Everything’ll be fine.
Him: You promise?
Me: Yup. Promise.

The kid started school recently. The Firecracker was sweet enough to make that sign for him you see above.

Her: (beaming) AND, I laminated it too.
Me: You’re the best!

He was anxious the day before and I tried my best to reassure him, but I get it.

Still, he left school that first day with nothing but smiles.

Here’s hoping it’s another good year.

Alison would be so proud.

Speaking of Alison, when things went down with her, they also went down with my dad, and my cousin.

Both my dad and she died within 90 days of each other from cancers they never should’ve had: Alison passed from a cancer that generally kills old Caucasian men, my dad from lung cancer despite never smoking nor having any reason to get it.

This past weekend, in the span of 24 hours, my mom fell and took a nasty hit to her head, an uncle got into a terrible car accident (but survived), and another uncle up and died.

All within 24 hours.

People keep saying to me that bad news comes in threes and I do my best to chalk that up to pure superstition.

Still, it’s very odd and sad that it’s bearing out.

So, this past weekend, I dropped everything and rented a car for four hours to see my mom for 20 mins.

Man, NYC is the only place where it takes 90 minutes to drive 14 miles.

My mom’s ok, btw. She’s just very worried about everyone else.

Oh, and I detest people that use other people’s tragedies to garner sympathy for themselves – when Alison and my dad got sick, so many people lamented how concerned they were on social media and did jack shit for us.

The situation with my uncles is very sad but the grief is mainly borne by their immediate families and not me.

I always say that I don’t like to tell other people’s stories, only my own, so I’ll leave the details of everything to them.

Like my mom, I’m sad for them and worried for everyone left.

To end on a lighter note, I’d been on the hunt for purple (fleshed) potatoes for a few weeks now and stopped by a local Asian grocery for literally 6 minutes – because that’s all the time I had before I had to return the car – to see if they had some.

But they didn’t and I didn’t have enough time to go to any other stores.

The kid did make a new friend, though.

Location: shooting Scenic Fights all damn day
Mood: panicked, not about the elbow
Music: our tragedy binds what our ignorance hides – we all wind up here together (Spotify)
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Doing the best we can

All the good and nonea the bad

Just a random story; in the middle of our vacation, it seems a small fire broke out somewhere on the ship.

I was pretty alarmed and went to make sure everything was ok.

Ultimately, I found a buncha crew members taking off their fire protective gear, which made me feel a lot better.

That’s pretty much the end of our summer vacation.

But I just wanna leave you with one word of advice: On a Disney cruise, don’t order the green whiskey drink they have.

It’s so bad, I returned it.

And you know that I never return food and drink.

Her: Return it.
Me: I don’t do that.
Her: Well, then drink it.
Me: (sighing) I’ll return it.

Him: (singing) Dadadadada…chicken butt.
Me: Legit kid, where are you learning alla this stuff?
Him: I just made it up!
Me: Great…

The relaxation of our vacation seems long gone as I get the kid ready for school.

When I was a kid, summer vacation seemed like it lasted forever during most of it but towards the end, I recall that I always felt it was too short.

I’m gonna guess that our summer vacations were very different – yours and mine.

And, certainly, mine were pretty different from my kid’s because this summer he’s been on:

      • Two vacations requiring a plane.
      • One cruise.
      • Two camps.


My summers, for the most part, involved me being the library from sunup to sundown.

That is, if we weren’t going on a family trip to Taiwan to see relatives.

As I got older, like my early teens, we went on more vacations because my parents both started making some money.

But that was much later in my life, I think.

I was mentioning to the Firecracker that I felt my parents did the best they could do but they weren’t perfect – what parent is?

Me: I’d like to take all the good and helpful things my parents did and give them to the kid but not all the stuff that didn’t work for us, [my siblings and me].
Her: Sure, I think that’s what every parent wants.
Me: Yeah. I remember my friend Somena saying to me years ago that it’s tricky, how much of our past to take with us to our future. It’s even trickier as a parent.
Her: That’s for sure, Lo.

Here’s hoping I don’t mess the kid up too much.

Location: NJ, having lamb with the kid
Mood: hungry
Music: Mama, come here. Approach, appear. And Daddy, I’m alone (Spotify)
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Travelogue: Mexico 2023 Pt 4 – Ruined Ruins

We almost got stranded in Mexico

There were a lotta fun activities on the ship for the kids but every so often – besides eating and catching up on some reading – there was something that I really liked.

Like the baby race.

I’m honestly embarrassed how hard I laughed at it all.

And, while the food wasn’t quite as good as I had on the NCL and Celebrity ships I had in the past, did manage to eat my weight in shrimp and snow crab every day for lunch.

Her: You’re not eating anything else?
Me: God, why would I? Maybe a salad, though…

And, while we didn’t get a chance to get onto a glass-bottom boat, we did get to go on one excursion in Mexico in Cozumel…

…to see some Mayan ruins, which was incredibly cool.

For the most part, the trip was fun for everyone; no major fights or anything of the sort.

Honestly, after my past few relationships, it’s kinda shocking to just have a fight/argument-free vacation. It was…refreshing.

Which is not to say it was perfect.

The kid and I got into a tiff because he disobeyed me about something and put himself into a lotta danger AND we almost missed our bus getting back to the ship.

Which, of course, woulda ruined our trip entirely as that meant we might have missed the ships sailing home.

The tour operator was not messing around when he said he’d have to leave us behind if we weren’t back on the bus in time because they actually left a family of four that were sitting in front of us on the bus behind.

So, I read him the riot act once we got back to the ship.

Me: You gotta make better decisions, kid.
Him: OK, papa. I’m really sorry.

Honestly, that unpleasantness aside, I’m really not sure a kid could ask for more when it comes to a nice vacation.

Besides the parties, there were fireworks on the ship – twice!

Room service dessert…

…and a pirate night.

Ultimately, the kid didn’t wanna leave the ship and asked if we could come back again the following year.

Me: Well, if you pay for it, for sure. But we may need to wait a little while before we can come again.
Him: But we can do it again, someday?
Me: Sure. Someday, kid.

Him: Promise?
Me: Promise.

Back to the real world in the next entry, folks.

Location: Alphabet City, having some dumplings in a playground
Mood: fat
Music: I don’t wanna leave but I got places I wanna be (Spotify)
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Travelogue: Mexico 2023 Pt 2 – Oh yeah, baby!

Mexico by way of Miami

The Firecracker’s kid and my kid didn’t know the other was going on the trip and we both managed to keep the surprise for a while.

The Firecracker told her kid before they reached the airport but I waited until the kid was there to tell him what was going on.

Him: I thought you said we were going on a Disney cruise with them next year.
Me: I did…but that doesn’t mean we can’t go this year as well.
Him: Hey…!

The truth is that it’s unlikely we can do something like this every year, what with budgeting and all, but it was nice to surprise him with something where he would have a friend.

Oh, this was the very first cruise where I didn’t leave outta NYC or NJ; we had to get to Miami first, hence, the airport.

The trip there was pretty uneventful, however, I had a bit of panic when I thought I forgot to pack all of his chargers

Turned out that TSA simply moved them to a different compartment of my obscenely large bookbag.

We spent the night in a Miami hotel room, but not before we had a quick dinner at Chili’s.

Me: I don’t want to risk us getting sick before the trip.
Her: Absolutely.

Our server was from Queens, NY, which was a nice touch.

The night was rough because we were right by a canal and people in yachts kept playing their obnoxiously loud dance music until at least 4AM.

I musta gotten no more than three hours of sleep.

We arrived on the ship the next day; the Firecracker and her kid had been on the exact ship before so they told my son everything they could about it.

The kid, being so young, still wasn’t convinced he’d have fun.

Him: There’s a water slide? ON the ship?
Me: Yup!
Him: Oh yeah, baby!

Told him that, if he first ate some fruit and/or vegetables, I’d be somewhat lenient with him on the trip when it came to his food choices.

I can pretty much sum up alla our food conversations like this:

Him: I want a burger and fries.
Me: OK, as long as you have a salad or some fruit first.

Lather, rinse, repeat.

I think he musta had burgers for 9 outta 10 of the meals the whole trip.

I can’t say the same as we ate everything.

Seriously, everything.

But this is getting long so I’ll tell you more in the next entry.

Location: 5AM, cleaning up buckets of vomit because the kid ate something questionable
Mood: grossed-out
Music: Can we still pretend when the summer ends? (Spotify)
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Travelogue: Mexico 2023 Pt 1

First Class and With Children

Robert Benchley once said, “In America, there are two classes of travel: First class, and with children.”

Well, I recently traveled with two kids, and it wasn’t awful.

See, the boy’s seven, soon to be eight.

My MILs taken him across the country to see his cousins, my BIL, at least twice now, maybe three times? And my SIL’s taken him to a few beach vacations, while the ABFF’s taken him away to some upstate pool parties.

Me? Well, with the exception of heading to see my buddies in other states for BBQs, Legoland, and Great Wolf Lodge, I feel that I’ve not really taken him away any place significant in all these years.

When I first met the Firecracker, she mentioned that she and her kid were gonna head to a Disney Cruise.

Her: Have you ever been?
Me: Cruising? Yeah, I love cruising.
Her: What about a Disney cruise?
Me: Never had a kid when I went cruising a lot so, def not.
Her: You should do it. It’s great – the kids go to a private party, and you get some adult alone time.
Me: Sold!

Within a week of our meeting, she told me all the details about her cruise and invited me to maybe go with her.

Me: (laughing) What if we don’t get along and my kid and I book the trip?
Her: It’s big enough for us to completely avoid each other.
Me: These are compelling points.

I actually had a friend of my sister’s hold a cabin for me two doors down from her cabin. Because…well, hope springs eternal. And I had a good feeling about her.

Obvs if it didn’t work out, I woulda just cancelled the hold. But we clearly got along so well that I ended up telling her a few months after we were dating that I did that.

Her: You did? You’re coming?
Me: Looks that way.
Her: Yay! This will be great.
Me: That’s the thing with relationships: The difference between romantic and stalker is just whether or not the person’s into the romantic stalker.
Her: That is so true.

So, the kid and I took a trip to Miami – and some other places – with the Firecracker and her kid the other day.

I’ll tell you all about it.

Location: bed, waiting until noon to leave
Mood: headachy
Music: we talk about life but I wanna live it (Spotify)
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Decisions are processes, not events


Me: Man, this coffee is great…wait, what time is it?
Her: (checking watch) 3:23?
Me: Dammit!

When we were out in Long Island, the Firecracker and I chatted about being parents, which we usually do.

The most important thing for me, as a parent, is to teach the kid how to think critically think.

Again, how to think, not what to think.

The recent Titanic sub disaster made me think a lot about smart people making terrible decisions.

James Cameron, the director of the film Titanic – and an amateur sub enthusiast himself – said that he knew exactly what happened to the sub before alla the details were even out.

It’s easy to call the CEO’s decisions things like stupid and moronic but it’s a lot more complex, and dangerous, than that.

Because people seem to look at decisions like singular events:

      • I decided to go to law school.
      • I decided to have waffles for brekkie.

But they’re not that at all: All decisions are the cumulation of processes in our heads:

      • I decided to go to law school because my dad wanted me to and I didn’t feel I was ready to stop learning yet. And each of those two reasons had many reasons beneath that; my dad felt that lawyers and doctors were the best professions that two children of immigrants could have. Plus, I spent my life alone with books, so I wanted to find a way to continue that.
      • I do occasionally have waffles for breakfast, but only when I haven’t had carbs in a while so I’m in a relative deficit of carbs and can “afford,” to splurge on something like waffles. But if I do that, I then have to be in the gym for two consecutive days.

Sometimes these processes happen in the blink of an eye, sometimes, these decisions take weeks, months, or even years to fully happen.

The CEO most likely made a series of smaller poor decisions based on various cognitive biases that he had – the worst decision being to use carbon fiber for the hull instead of metal – ultimately resulting in the disaster.

What I’m hoping to give this kid are good tools to process each step of any decision as best as he can.

Which is not, at all, to say that it’s or I’m perfect.

I’ve made some terrible decisions in life; decisions that I still ruminate on late in the night when I can’t sleep.

And I try to figure out which tool I ignored, disregarded, or am simply missing.

For example, I have a rule where I never have coffee/caffeine after 3PM.

But I can’t tell you how many times I’ve disregarded that rule for one reason or another – societal pressure, sunk cost bias, confirmation bias, optimism bias, overconfidence, etc – with disastrous results.

My son will make bad decisions in life. That’s what people do and that’s part of how we learn.

I just hope that (a) they’re not decisions that he can’t change later on and (b) he continually makes more good decisions than bad ones, and (c) he gets better at making good decisions as he ages.

I’m still working on alla that myself.

Me: I guess I’ll just toss it. Seems like such a waste.
Her: Do you want to be up all night?
Me: (sigh) Fair. What a shame…

Location: bed, waiting until noon to leave
Mood: headachy
Music: Feel the heat increase and my mind’s racing (Spotify)
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Dinner with my mom’s BFF

My mom’s tribe

After we finished our coffee, we drove by this once-small mall that I used to go to – it expanded quite a bit over the last few years.

Me: When I used to come here, there were only two stores. Now look at it.
Her: Wow, it’s definitely not two stores anymore.

She wanted to get some decorations for her place for the coming holidays.

Her: I always wanted the space and money to have holiday decorations for all the holidays.
Me: That’s tough to do anywhere, let alone Manhattan.
Her: Oooh, look! Halloween decorations!

Afterward, we went to have dinner with my mom’s best friend, her daughter, Mary, and her daughter’s boyfriend.

I met Mary when she was like two years old, and she and my sister were great friends. Her dad, Nick, passed away a few years ago and I told you about him.

Actually, ran into her once years ago not too far from my pad and she got to meet my son, but he was maybe two years old himself at the time.

In any case, my mom’s best friend had been wanting to see my son for a while so we went to have dinner at her house.

We were supposed to order food in, but Mary’s mom had clearly spent all day cooking because there was so much killer food, including appetizers of meatballs that my kid devoured.

Me: Your mom was a major reason why I was fat.
Mary: What?! You can’t blame my mom for that.
Me: I loved everything she ever made, have zero self-control, and can’t take personal responsibility for my actions.

The kid actually ate so many of the meatballs that he didn’t want dinner, which I kinda figured.

The Firecracker and everyone got along just swimmingly, which I knew they would.

Mary said I helped her with her SATs, which I vaguely remember, but it seems like lifetimes ago.

Afterward, we all talked about how we met.

Me: I can’t stand the apps but it’s a part of modern life now.
Mary’s Boyfriend: I didn’t mind the apps that much.
Me: I do have to say that you meet people that you’d never meet otherwise.

I think it’s amazing that my mom and her best friend met and kept in touch all these years.

When my dad died, she was a constant source of comfort and the same was true when Nick died.

Find it pretty adorable that these two immigrant women who speak broken English found each other and have been in each other’s lives for all this time.

Like I said, we spend our lives looking for our tribe.

My mom and Mary’s mom found it in each other, and I think I’ll be forever grateful for that.

Me: Thanks so much for everything! Let’s do this again soon – 30 years is way too long.
Mary’s mom: Yes!
Me: I’ll schedule you in for 2033. Maybe August…

Location: surrounded by kids and water
Mood: excited
Music: bring back the water, let your ships roll in (Spotify)
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A Birthday and then Coffee

Adult Conversation

Because the kid and his cousins on my side have been getting sick constantly, it’s been a while since I’ve been able to see my mom and sis.

But it was my nephew’s birthday the other day so the Firecracker, the kid, and I all took a train ride out to their place the other day and had a kid’s birthday lunch with them.

The birthday boy wanted Burger King so that’s what we did.

Her: You ordered a Triple Whopper AND a chicken sandwich?!
Me: (sheepishly) It’s a small chicken sandwich.

I like to see my family but the Firecracker – because she’s from the south – just likes to be where there’re trees. So, she’s always happy to come with.

After the lunch, the Firecracker and I borrowed my mom’s car to take a drive out to my usual Long Island Barnes and Noble where we just got two cups of coffee and some peace and quiet.

Don’t get me wrong, we both love our kids.

But if you don’t have kids of your own, you can’t fully appreciate the joy of just having a cuppa joe and some adult conversations.

Although, some adult conversations are better than others.

Me: I rode that bus right there for over an hour to go to a date one time. I saw a movie…I think “Scrooged?”
Her: (shocked) Wow! You’re old! (laughs)
Me: (laughing) That has to go in the blog.
Her: I’m sorry! I normally don’t even think about the age difference, but you were on a date, and I was a toddler.

Afterward, we went to some other places and then met with some family friends I’ve known over four decades for dinner.

But this is getting long so I’ll tell you more about it tomorrow.

Location: bed, listening to a radio blast outside, despite being 11 stories up
Mood: wide awake
Music: higher than a kite and I’ve been painting the sky (Spotify)
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