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personal

Come with me

The emperor of all maladies

Her: I like room temperature soda.
Me: I only realized now that I’m dating a psychopath.

Not been sleeping well for a while now. It’s a long story.

Been thinking about Alison and my dad a lot lately for a whole buncha reasons we don’t need to get into, but one small reason is Princess Kate.

The fact that she and King Charles both have cancer should be a wake up call to everyone for a simple reason:

If two people that have the best of everything – healthcare, food, trainers, etc. – can get cancer, anyone can.

You definitely can.

In the 1970s, a fella you never heard of named Kotaku Wamura was the mayor of a Japanese town you never heard of, Fudai.

When Warmura was a kid in 1933, he saw a tsunami kill 439 people in Fudai and made a kid’s promise to himself – he would prevent this from ever happening to Fudai ever again.

When he became mayor in 1970, through sheer force of will, he convinced the town to erect a 51-foot-high gate as a public works project.

He, and his supporters were mocked mercilessly as fools.

Fast forward some 40+ years to the Japan earthquake and tsunami of 2011, which I wrote about before, and killed over 19,000 people and destroyed at least 45 towns and cities.

Except Fudai.

Because of one person, almost nothing happened to the town. One unfortunate man died, and their port was nearly destroyed.

But the village and almost all its people were almost completely unscathed.

Not a day goes by without someone saying something chiding about what I eat, how I live, or what I do.

“You eat that much peanut butter?”
“Sardines? Fish, out of a can?! Disgusting!”
“Do you really need to roll around with sweaty men every day?”
“That’s a little extreme, don’t you think?”

Essentially, the argument I hear is always something that starts with, “Everyone…”

“Everyone eats carbs, Logan.”
“Everyone microwaves plastics, Logan.”
“Everyone eats late, Logan.”

Yeah, and everyone is getting cancer – greater than 1 outta 3 these days: If you’re a dude, the chance is 41%, a woman, the chance is 39%.

That is fucking insane.

Something is fucked in our lives and we’re all dying of cancer. I dunno what it is but I’m trying to go where science is telling me to go.

And I still might get it because the odds are shit.

But I’m gonna do everything I can to try to avoid it if possible.

You should too.

Wamura died in 1997 at age 88 and never saw that he was right. But he was right.

And I think I’m right here; just like Wamura didn’t know when the next tsunami would be, he knew it would come eventually just like I know cancer will touch alla us at some point if it hasn’t already.

Cancer doesn’t give a shit if you’re a king, a princess, a new mother, or a nobody.

It’s here to end – or at least massively fuck up – your life, if you don’t do something about it.

I’m not the one that’s living an extreme life, IMHO.

To me, the people living an extreme life are the ones that know that there’s a close to 50/50 chance at getting the emperor of all maladies and doing nuthin meaningful about it.

Location: Winston-Salem, North Carolina, getting sugared-out
Mood: baffled
Music: I had to rock the boat so I could ride the wave (Spotify)
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All lives end; all hearts are broken

Caring is not an advantage

Met up with my friend the other night.

Her: He’s telling me to not fight and he’ll promise to give me the apartment.
Me: He broke the trust covenant where he stood in front of alla your friends and said he’d love you until one of you were dead. You’re both alive, which makes him a liar.
Her: So, what do I do?
Me: When someone breaks the trust covenant, you can never trust anything he or she says. What should you do? Stop trusting him first. Everything else comes second.

That’s pretty much alla her story that I feel comfortable telling you since it’s her story to tell.

So, I’ll end that part here.

When all is said and done, the price of love is heartache.

After all, what is grief if not love with no place to go?

While grief and loss with horror and death is generally worse, loss is still loss and grief is still grief.

Ergo, I do understand that she struggles, even though her loss is very different from mine.

In Sherlock, Mycroft Holmes says something to his younger brother Sherlock who, compared to Mycroft, is the more emotional of the two.

Mycroft said, All lives end; all hearts are broken. Caring is not an advantage.

Often think that Mycroft’s not wrong. There’s no advantage in caring about people, in fact, it’s a disadvantage to care.

And yet, we’re all programmed to do so.

Sometimes I think it’s a glitch in our programming and other times, I don’t.

Just wish that, sometimes, I didn’t feel all the things I do as deeply as I do.

But this is the price to be human so I pay it, hoping that I can afford it for as long as I can.

Her: (wiping her eyes) I’m sorry. I don’t mean to cry.
Me: Don’t apologize for your genuine emotion. I’m always just a bad memory from crying myself.

Location: a playground with the Steeles and the Firecracker, eating 20 cheeseburgers and having a diet coke
Mood: pensive
Music: Is this something I should be letting go? (Spotify)
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Bumping into Teddy in the Big City

Tough leaving

The kid’s electric guitar has been on the fritz lately so I brought it into this mega-music store here in NYC called Sam Ash, which was located at 333 W. 34th Street here in Manhattan.

When I was a little kid, I remember going with my brother to the one in Queens, so I was kinda looking forward to being in one again – I’d not been since I was like 12.

But when I walked in, there were “Going Out of Business” signs everywhere.

Manager: (seeing me holding a guitar) Sorry, man, we don’t do repairs anymore. We’re…
Me: Going outta business, I see. That stinks, sorry.
Him: It’s fine. Head down to 30th Street Guitar.
Me: I assume it’s on 30th Street?
Him: You would think – it’s on 27th.

So, off I went.

It was right by my old gym, which reminded me of my old life but that’s for me, I suppose.

The guys at 30th Street were also super cool and told me to come back later on in the day, so I went to get some work done and then hit the gym.

Walking around the city, I found myself in front of Teddy Roosevelt’s birthplace on 28 E 20th St, New York, NY.

I’ve always admired him but after Alison died, even more so because he and I, unfortunately, shared some awful life experiences.

Then I headed to the gym where I got my ass handed to me as always and then walked out to see some amazing artwork.

Been daydreaming of the other side and elsewhere again.

But there’s something to be said about living in a town where you can just go about your daily business and end up, randomly, running across the birthplace of a US president, maybe an artshow, and maybe an impromptu concert.

Yeah, it’s tough to leave the big city.

Location: giving HR advice over brunch with two children and two blondes
Mood: tired
Music: Destiny is calling me, open up my eager eyes (Spotify)
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Square-jawed

Tough food=tough people?

Still waiting to get my ceiling repaired.

BUT the leaking seems to have stopped so I’ll take that as a win.

The Firecracker accidentally made butter the other day while whipping up heavy cream.

Her: Sorry about that! I thought it was cold enough.
Me: It’s fine – we now have homemade butter!

I’m definitely a fan of homemade stuff, regardless of how it happens.

On that note, a buddy of mine started chewing this jaw strenghtener lately.

Human faces seemed to have been shaped by two major things: (a) violence and (b) the type of food we eat.

The classic angular face for both men and women is innately attractive to us because it’s a sign of vitality and strength so when we meet people with soft faces and jaws, it seems “wrong” to us, but we can’t exactly explain how.

That’s why it’s a compliment is to call a man “square-jawed,” and not “round-jawed.”

(c) Someone else

Unfortunately, as the years go on, more and more people will start having these softer features because we:

    1. avoid violence as a whole, and
    2. eat more-and-more ultra-processed foods and a hallmark of ultra-processed foods are that they’re not gritty – as they take out all the fiber – and not tough.

Think applesauce versus a tough piece of steak or nuts.

Was telling the Firecracker that the danger here is that the baseline level of what is “soft,” should be, say, the level of well-cooked chicken but, because of things like whitebread and applesauce, the floor is much lower.

This, in turn, means that what was once considered “soft” is now considered tough because the curve changed.

I’m always fighting the boy to eat more real food; to wit, minimally processed foods like whole raw nuts and fresh fruit.

No less than four of his friends cannot eat normal – non-ultra processed – foods at all.

I know at least one adult who can’t eat something unless a machine made it.

So far, the boy’s been good about listening to me when it comes to food but I’m worried that his peers will convince him that “normal” means “ultra-processed” while actual real food is strange.

What a world we live in these days.

Parenting means that there’s a never-ending litany of things to be concerned about.

Him: Can I have more cucumbers?
Me: You can have all the cucumbers you want, kid.
Him: But we don’t have that much.
Me: I’ll get more. You can always eat as many vegetables as you want and if we run out, I’ll get more, don’t you worry.

Location: A dive bar with Bryson and the Frenchman, enjoying $5 mixed drinks of questionable quality.
Mood: fatty-fat-fat
Music: I find that old habits don’t die (Spotify)
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Our cancelled check that we existed

A cannonball in Vienna

Me: You know what I realized about that musical we saw, Merrily We Roll Along?
Her: What?
Me: It annoyed me that they told the story backwards but I just realized that’s how I…well, people…look at life as adults. Backwards. I’m at an age where everything in my life I look at in reverse.

A decade ago – man, time flies – I told you the story of Tyre, Alexander the Great, and the Elvis Barbershop.

In a nutshell, I’m always interested in how things from the distant past still affect us to this day.

When I was in Vienna, one thing I really wanted to see was St. Stephen’s Cathedral, which broke ground 887 years ago on 1137.

The Firecracker and I visited it early in our trip to Vienna.

If you’ve never thought of Vienna, or know anything about it, you should know that the city changed the course of history in 1663.

See, that year, the Ottoman Turks laid seige to the city in the Battle of Vienna and came pretty close to conquering the city.

If they did, Europe as we know it would probably have been Muslim instead of Christian, meaning the US would have been Muslim as well.

But the Ottman Turks failed in their conquest so Europe remained, for better or worse, Christian.

The crazy thing is that 341 years after that battle, there are still remnants of the siege lodged in the very wall of the cathedral: A Turkish cannonball remains fixed in time and space on the south wall of the building.

I’m always interested in things from our – distant – past that affect our current lives.

As I try to raise this boy, I think back on my own life and childhood and how I felt and thought about things.

I see life so much more through the eyes of my parents, particularly my dad, and I understand him more.

Don’t fully agree with alla the things he did but I get why he did so much of what he did.

This lady named Mignon McLaughlin once said, The past is strapped to our backs. We do not have to see it; we can always feel it.

That’s true. I always feel my parents and my past around in the things I say and do.

The kid doesn’t really understand how much of me was made by them and how much of what he thinks I’m giving him, actually come from them.

Ms. McLaughlin was right about our pasts always being there, but – sometimes, though – we can see it as well as feel it.

Back in 2008, told you that someone said that our kids are our receipts. The proof that we existed.

So, the kid is our receipt.

He’s the cancelled check that says that Alison and I were here, and that we did something good at least once.

Him: What are you thinking about, papa?
Me: You.
Him: (laughing) But I’m right here.
Me: (nodding) So you are…and I’m so happy you are.

Location: all day today, shooting Scenic Fights with the fellas on 18th Street
Mood: full
Music: I’m just gonna keep on dreaming’ of the way it used to be (Spotify)
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How you do anything…

…is how you do everything

My trip to Austria highlighted the fact that my life is very different now than when I was younger.

For one, the only real luggage I have is not one, but two garment bags – the first being the red one I brought all over the world for close to the past 30 years.

Still works great, btw.

The second is in the form of a shoulder bag.

The reason both are garment bags is because, in my youth, couldn’t imagine a scenario where I wouldn’t need a suit, or at least a nice dress shirt, when I traveled.

This time around, I had nonea those things and the rolling garment bag left a lot to be desired.

The Firecracker’s stuff didn’t fit it all that great and there was a lotta wasted space because of how it’s configured.

So, I started looking for luggage.

Jesus christ, are there a lotta options out there.

To narrow things down, I started only looking at luggage that had “YKK” zippers on them because that’s an indicator of quality to me.

What I noticed was that they were, by-and-large, about 20-30% more than luggage that didn’t have – or didn’t state that they had – YKK zippers.

This just supported my decision to buy one from that group because of another saying I like:

How do you do anything is how you do everything.

In other words, if a company cares enough to spend the extra money to use YKK zippers in their luggage, they probably care enough to do other things right and more thoughtfully.

Obviously, like all sayings, there are exceptions to it but it’s generally true, for the most part.

Been telling the kid things like this now that he’s getting older and can understand such things.

And this particular saying is pretty applicable to him because of his personality.

    • On the positive side, the kid is relentlessly upbeat and excitable.
    • On the negative side, because of his joie de vivre, he tends to rush at things and not really focus when he needs to.

So, I’ve been trying to tell him to slow down, which is hard for a kid like him.

It’s a work in progress.

Him: Done!
Me: That was fast. Lemme see…OK, well, you got every single thing wrong here.
Him: What?! I added up everything and checked my answer.
Me: Yes, I see that. Your math is right, but the instructions said round your answer to the nearest 10. You didn’t do that. So, yes, you got all the *math* right in all eight of them, but you got the *answers* wrong in all eight of them.
Him: That’s not fair!
Me: Listen carefully, kid: Life’s not fair. Accept that and your life will be better than most people. Now, slow down. Notice things. If you do that, you’ll be different from most of the world.
Him: What if I don’t wanna be different?
Me: Look, if you’re different, you can be irreplaceable. And if you’re irreplaceable…your life will be better still. And that’s all I want for you. Slow down.

This is the one I got.

I like red.

Location: 18th Street, getting floored because of my dislocated toe
Mood: ouchie
Music: Yeah, I want that red velvet (Spotify)
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Trying to not be heated

Fiddling

The kid started swimming lessons again.

He seems to be enjoying himself.

While he’s doing great, I’ve been sick lately.

Spent most of the week in bed but one thing I had to do was crack open my computer because it was randomly shutting down.

Figured the CPU was overheating so I slapped on a Noctua heatsink and fan, which seems to have fixed the problem.

Speaking of overheating, evidently, the idea that humans are, on average 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit is a relatively modern conclusion.

The very latest health research seems to indicate that the new average is about a degree cooler at between 97.5 and 97.9 degrees Fahrenheit.

At least since 2019, I’ve been averaging about 97.3 degrees but lately, I’ve been drifting even lower – above is what it was this morning.

There seems to be two major theories for this:

    1. People are larger now, which generally results in lower body temperature, and/or
    2. People are just less chronically inflamed.

Can’t speak for the world-at-large but I gotta think that my lower temps are because I’ve lowered my overall inflammation since I wasn’t super big to begin with.

When Alison first got sick, I did a baseline reading for myself and found that I was consistently around 97.9 degrees but, since her illness, I spent a good amount of time and energy trying to reduce my inflammation overall, resulting in temps I wrote above.

This past week, I’ve been ridonk sick with some weird cold. Mainly fatigue and coughing but my temps maxed out at 99.6 degrees.

Kept wondering if I had a fever.

Technically speaking, a fever is anything above 100.4 degree Fahrenheit.

But the question is is, if I’m a full degree lower than normal, is a fever now something above 99.4 degrees?

In any case, I’m better today; the last four days were spent in bed but today I felt well enough to cook for the kid – the Firecracker spent most of the week cooking for him.

As the years go on, more and more people ask me how I stay so young looking.

Obviously, genetics have a lot to do with it. So does the fact that I’ve been on a diet for 36+ years.

But, in terms of recent changes I’ve made, that’s all been focused on my reducing my systemic inflammation to try and combat cancer.

The unexpected benefit is that I think I’m literally slowing down my aging even more.

In any case, reducing my inflammation means:

Just like my computer shutting down when it overheated, I think that people don’t realize just how damaging being inflamed – thus, over-heated – is for their overall health.

These are the kinda things I think about when I’m sick.

Her: How’s the patient?
Me: Blargh.
Her: Are you resting? No computer fiddling?
Me: There might be some fiddling going on.

Location: home, making a rasher of bacon because I’m cranky and it’s easy
Mood: see above
Music: they always say, “Don’t it always seem to go'” (Spotify)
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A year with the Firecracker

Being in it

Her: Are things like anniversaries important to you?
Me: (thinking) Hmmm, not particularly. You?
Her: Very. But I get it if it’s not to you.
Me: If it matters to you, it matters to me.

The thing with dating in NYC is that there are (a) so many options that it’s easy to think that there’s something better out there for you and (b) that fact also means that you’re always questioning if you’re being too picky.

Close to two years ago, my therapist told me that I wasn’t giving people enough of a chance, mainly because I go on a single date and then bail.

So, I tried dating several people for longer than I normally wouda.

Everyone was quite nice and each had her definite strong points but I couldn’t shake the feeling that they weren’t right for me.

Enter the Firecracker.

From the moment I met her, I felt like I knew her.

Fast forward a year and we went out the other day to celebrate our one-year anniversary of when we met.

It was sweet that it mattered to her, so I took her out to eat the other night at a Thai restaurant that we’ve both wanted to check out for a while now.

For me, one of the signs that a relationship is struggling is when you spend more time discussing the relationship versus just being in the relationship.

It’s been a long time since I was just in a relationship versus arguing about it.

Of course, she and I aren’t perfect, we do bicker at times.

But, more than anything, we see the world very similarly.

Her: Can we stop talking about the relationship and just be in the relationship?
Me: That’d be great, actually.
Her: I’m not perfect. I’m gonna make mistakes.
Me: No, you’re not perfect. (thinking) But you might be perfect for me.
Her: (sighs, smiles)

Location: yesterday, a snowy slope with four boys, three sleds, and one Firecracker
Mood: so full
Music: I was making jokes and you politely laughed (I appreciated that) (Spotify)
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Happy New Year, 2024!

Wrestling with Angels

Was planning on writing this whole entry about my trip to Vienna but I thought I’d take a little sidetrack to wish you all a Happy New Year.

The Firecracker and I went to the Albertina Museum and saw the Michelangelo and Beyond exhibit and saw a whole buncha things that I could tell you about.

But the thing that stuck with me was the sculpture called The Wrestlers, which is actually not by Michelangelo but by an unknown Roman sculptor.

This is actually a copy but still…

The interesting thing about this sculpture is that it’s a pretty common move even today called the “cross-body ride,” and the top wrestler would probably move to a position called a twister or a guillotine.

You can see a ton of modern examples of this on YouTube.

Now, a decade ago, I wrote about Jacob wrestling the angel and, just like that wrestling move, a lotta what I wrote there is still applicable now.

I find wrestling such an interesting activity because – like the dumpling – every nation has its own version.

Because it’s such a human thing to do; it’s a hallmark of our very species.

Not just literally but figuratively as well. I think I’ve spent the last several years wrestling with my demons and still do.

Woulda been a lot more impressed with this sculpture if the artist put in cauliflower ears like the Greek Boxer of the Quirinal.

Still, we all wrestle with our fate and hope to overcome. One day we’ll be overcome ourselves.

I’m 50 now and I’ll be 51 in 2024.

Dunno how much longer I can actually wassle. But I hope that I’ma scuffle and struggle until I’m breathless and weak – both literally and figuratively.

Hope you do as well.

Here’s to the new year, everyone!

Location: yesterday, at a Viennese cafe with the Firecracker
Mood: missing the boy
Music: In the locust wind comes a rattle and hum; Jacob wrestled the angel and the angel was overcome (Spotify)
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NYC’s Holiday Nostalgia Ride

NYC Rocks

The next morning, I was getting the kid ready to go to his guitar lesson when I realized that I didn’t have my iPad…or even my bag.

Me: Shoot, I think I left it at one of the bars last night. I’ve gotta bring the kid to his guitar practice, can you ring up the bars and see if they found it?
Her: Oh no! OK, I’ll call them.

Actually managed to stop by the first bar to see if they had it but they didn’t. And the Firecracker said that the bartender for the second bar wouldn’t be in until after 6PM, so there wasn’t much to do but wait and hope.

So, after I dropped him off, I walked back with another parent when we saw these people queuing for a movie giveaway.

Me: Let’s check that out?
Him: Sure!

With that, I got the Firecracker both a tote and a hot chocolate, courtesy of the film, Poor Things.

Now, the thing about dating the Firecracker is that she’s all-in when it comes to holiday family activities. She has these annual traditions with her and her kid that she invites my kid and me to join.

Her: You should come, Lo. It’ll be like the trains you rode when you were a kid.
Me: (grumble)

Invariably, they’re something that I thought about bringing the kid to myself but never got around to doing.

Like The Holiday Train Show in the Bronx.

Well, turns out that there’s another holiday train thingy – her kid’s really into trains – that they would go on together, and that’s the Holiday Nostalgia Ride, where really archaic trains are taken outta storage and put back into service for a blast from the past.

So, after I picked up the kid from his guitar lesson, we dashed off to 145th Street to board the nostalgia train.

We arrived at the station with less than two minutes to spare and just made the train.

Gotta say, it was pretty cool.

The maps were the original old subway maps…

…as well as the old ads and old signs…

…even the old fans…

…and old wicker seats.

Now, while I found the whole thing pretty cool, one of the kids did not and had a meltdown during the trip.

The thing with dealing with her kid and my kid is that they both trade meltdowns – sometimes it’s my kid melting down, sometimes it’s hers.

Most of the time, it has something to do with the fact that they’ve both grown up as only kids and aren’t used to having to deal with another kid. Her kid is two years older than mine, so he’s had two additional years of not dealing with another kid to boot.

In any case, one of them had a meltdown this day so the rest of the night was less than ideal.

But then the next day, things were pretty much back to normal.

I suppose any relationship – adult or child – has to deal with some growing pains.

Here’s hoping we all work it out ok.

Oh, speaking of working out ok, I found my iPad!

The bartender at one of the bars I went to put it away for me.

Him: I looked inside and figured you’d come back for it.
Me: You figured right, thanks man! NYC rocks.
Him: (laughs)

Location: home, cleaning and avoiding the rain
Mood: year-end busy
Music: I want to get off and go home again (Spotify)
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