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personal

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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Of all the weird things

You’re my favourite

The Firecracker got me a Christmas ornament without realizing how much I value them.

And that’s kinda is why we get along so well – we see the world the same way.

Her: What do you think?
Me: I love it.
Her: Really? It’s true, you know. You are my favourite weird thing I’ve found online.
Me: (laughing) Same.

Location: at a bar with a deadly past – with her and the kids
Mood: so full
Music: I was making jokes and you politely laughed. I appreciated that (Spotify)
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Both the light and the dark always come

Building roller-coasters

Just finished Pax, by Tom Holland – the book that the NFL Player gave us all for his bday party.

Man, if you thought Game of Thrones/Wheel of Time was messed up, fiction’s got nuthin on what the Romans were all about.

Life in Rome was dark, oftentimes. Very dark.

On a much cheerier side of dark, however, Halloween’s happening soon.

While I love seeing the kid dress up, it’s also a reminder that holiday season is right around the corner, which has its own darkness for me.

But I’m trying to be positive this year.

It doesn’t hurt that the Firecracker’s around and offers her own positivity around here.

Her: I made a flourless chocolate cake. Do you want some?
Me: Yes, please!
Her: You can come by and pick it up when you’re ready.

And the kid’s always doing something that brings me joy.

This past weekend, the Firecracker, her kid, me, and my kid spent a lazy Saturday sitting out in a playground for a kid’s party, drinking sodas and eating carbs.

Gotta say, I think that I engage with the world a lot just because I have to with the kid.

And sometimes, he gives me joy in the most unexpected but simple ways.

Him: Papa?
Me: Yeah, kid?
Him: I made something. Can I show it to you?
Me: I dunno, I’ve got a ton of…
Him: (disappointed) It’s ok…
Me: Wait. I’ll finish up and you can show me in five minutes. Is that ok?
Him: (happily) Yes! Oooooh, I can’t wait to show you! I built a roller-coaster!
Me: (laughing) I can’t wait to see it.

Location: Earlier tonight, a ferry from Greenpoint to Manhattan
Mood: so beat
Music: If you’re not ready yet, I’ll wait – cause when it’s good it’s great (Spotify)

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personal

Dear Alison…you would have been 44 today

You’re the girl I’ve always loved, that’s all I know.

Him: Was mommy sad?
Me: (long pause, sigh) She was sad she had to leave me, but heartbroken that she had to leave you. She cried for an entire day.
Him: How did…
Me: (interrupting) I’m sorry, kiddo. I…I can’t talk about it for so long just yet. Is that OK?
Him: (nodding) That’s ok, papa. It’s ok. (gives me a hug)

Hi, Pretty Lady!

You would be 44 this year. That blows my mind.

Instead, you’re forever young.

I’m getting older – with a LOT more grey in my hair.

Only you would have noticed, though. I’ve been shaving a lot more because that salt-and-pepper beard of mine you used to love is essentially mostly salt these days.

I’m ever so vain. You’d probably say, “That’s my old man!”

And I would pretend to be offended but secretly amused because I knew you loved me.

The boy’s just amazing. He’s everything we ever dreamed of and so much more.

Can’t tell you how many times a day I wish you were here to hear him say something hilarious or sing something beautifully. Or see his perfect handwriting (obviously, he got that from you and not me).

He’s been asking questions about you. I’m always at a loss as to what to say. For years, I’ve told him I’d tell him about you, “someday.”

But, that’s not fair. So, I suck it up and try my best to tell him about you for as long as I can bear.

I’m able to last a bit longer each year.

Each year, it gets a little better. Not because I love you any less, but because I accept this bullshit that is my life and our situation all that much more.

For now, I often just tell him that, She’s the girl I’ve always loved, that’s all I know.

It’s Mother’s Day on Sunday.

The boy made you a gift but says he’ll give it to your mom instead because you loved her so much. He does too.

But it a special kinda painful that your birthday, Mother’s Day, and the day you died are all within two weeks of each other.

It’s a special kinda fucked-up but, then again, this whole situation is a special kinda fucked-up, which is on-brand for us.

I was going to write so much more but, like when I talk about you to the boy, I just don’t have the stamina for it yet.

I’m so grateful for the gift you gave me of the boy, honey. He’s just perfect and I am humbled every day to have your treasure to love.

I’ll be better next year, promise.

Always,

The Hubs

Location: buying him a slice of pizza at 4:58PM on Amsterdam
Mood: crushed
Music: Feels like a million miles away, I still see signs of home (Spotify)
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Kintsugi: The tenacity of the broken

Nothing gold seems to stay

Read yesterday that scientists discovered that a humpback whale named Moon that they’ve been tracking for a decade had broken her spine.

For 10 years, they followed her from Canada to Hawaii – 3,000 miles – something she had to do for food and to teach her calf how to do the same.

Sometime recently, a ship hit her and broke her spine, dooming her.

There’s no question she’ll die, it’s just how long she’ll survive in excruciating pain.

But she longs to live. So, she swam the same path she always swam – except upside down and in pain and a broken tail.

She swam 3,000 miles doing the breaststroke.

Look how broken she is, yet I find her beautiful, nonetheless. I’ve always found people and things that struggle and scuffle against their fate, beautiful.

She’s going to die and I wonder if she knows.

I’ve long said that females seem stronger than males in many regards.

The stories I’ve read about Moon aren’t clear if she made this last trip with her calf or not but I wouldn’t be surprised.

As I said before – and quoting Agatha Christie – A mother’s love for her child is like nothing else in the world. It knows no law, no pity. It dares all things, and crushes down, remorselessly, all that stands in its path.

It dares all things.

Including swimming upside-down for 3,000 miles with a broken back and tail.

Have you ever heard of kintsugi?

It the Japanese art of repairing broken things with melted gold.

Essentially things like pottery bowls are put back together with melted gold and the result is something beautiful despite its scars.

I always thought Alison was so beautiful, despite all she’d gone through.

There’s something beautiful about tenacity, especially when it’s driven by love.


Me: They thought I was 35.
Him: Were they white? It doesn’t count unless they were Asian.
Me: (laughing) All three were Asian.

I feel myself retreating into my head again. But, I’m remembering things, so I’m not alone.

For better or worse.

My therapist thinks I’ve been making great strides in putting this mess that is my head back together again but I’m not sure.

The rage is better – all the hours at the gym seem to help with that – but I look at my face and don’t recognize myself a lot. And I’m tired.

Three different people from my gym thought I was 35 when I’m really pushing 50. Actually, one guy thought a woman there was the oldest person in the room when I was actually 17 years older than her.

But I wonder what I’d look like without all the trauma from 2014 to, well, today.

I feel those years aged me more than pretty much anything.

This is one of the few good pics I have of me from 2014, with PerfectCircles, at my fave dive bar.

I’m 41 in it but I usually got that I was in my 20s.

And this one is when I actually turned 41.

Me with Abe

This is me with my buddy a few weeks later:
Logan Lo and a buddy on the Staten Island ferry

I’m flattered that people think I look so young but that vain, shallow part of me – which, granted, is pretty sizable – wonders how much younger I woulda looked like without all that fucking shit we went through.

Which, of course, is hopelessly stupid and banal considering all that I’ve lost.

But it’s just bonus pain to my grief.

I feel that if Alison were still alive, she’d think that I look great, despite the grey and the scars, both visible and invisible.

Love is blind, after all.

I wonder if I’ll ever meet anyone that thinks I’m great the way she did.

Or am I just so obviously and irreparably broken inside and out, without her or anything else gold to mend me?

It’s an old saying but it weighs at me, that nothing gold seems to stay.

And we’re all on our doomed journeys, some shorter and more tragic than others.

I suppose that, like Moon, there’s not much to do but keep going until the end.

Her: What’s going on?
Me: Well, pour me a drink, darling, and I’ll tell you. But you won’t enjoy the story.
Her: How does it end?
Me: (shrugging) Like most true stories, love: In tears.

Location: earlier today, watching the boy sing Jingle Bells and wishing everything was different
Mood: complex
Music: I’m broken but, I’m ready to feel better. Glue me back together? (Spotify)
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As popular as I was not

Whose kid?

Been baking a ton lately.

The major reason is that the kid – like all kids – loves things like cake, cookies, and pies.

But I don’t want him to have alla the junk and empty carbs that that stuff entails.

So, the only soultion is for me to bake everything. So far, in the last couple of months, I’ve baked:

        • Four pumpkin pies
        • Two chocolate cheesecakes
        • A batch of 60 double-chocolate oatmeal chip cookies
        • A batch of 60 oatmeal chocolate chip cookies
        • Four chocolate cakes
        • Two banana breads (which are just cakes)

Alison was always the baker while I was always the cook but she’s not here so I gotta do this.

It’s a different skillset than cooking but it’s still enjoyable.

It’s always been the cleanup that I hated; that’s what made Alison and me such a great couple – she loved to clean, I loved to cook. It was a good yin-yang.

Now, I do it all, for better or worse. But he’s happy and eating well, and that’s all that matters.

Everything’s made with high-fiber, high-protein flours like carbquick or almond flour, monk-fruit sweetened chocolate chips, oatmeal or nuts, and erythritol or coconut sugar for sweeteners so everything’s actually not-bad for him and some are actually good for him.

But he doesn’t know that, he just knows he likes them.

And I try to play the role I need to play to make sure he keeps wanting more.

Me: How is it?
Him: Sooooo, good. Can I have another?
Me: Well…
Him: Please?!
Me: (mock sighing) Fiiiine, I suppose you can have ONE more.
Him: YAY!

The kid’s ability to be innately social is something I find endlessly fascinating – only because it’s such a foreign thing to me. I’m very social but by design.

He’s just naturally social in a way that Alison and I were not. Not sure where it comes from but, like I said, it’s so interesting to me.

For example, the kid went to a birthday party last week where he met another boy that invited him to another birthday party, which was this past Sunday.

And then he had another birthday party on Friday – in a building that I sued once that went all the way to trial and decision, which is a whole ‘nother story – where yet another boy invited him to a birthday party on Saturday.

One party was at Medieval Times, someplace that Alison always wanted him to go to so I’m grateful for the experience.

Him: I’m hungry.
Me: How is that possible? You just came back from a birthday party at Medieval Times.
Him: (shrugging) I didn’t like the food. I just had the cake.
Me: (stopping everything I was doing) You didn’t like the food?! Whose kid are you?!
Him: YOURS!


Honestly, this kid is as popular and social as I was not at his age.

Not sure how I feel about this but I’m hopeful we can manage it so that he doesn’t make it into a burden nor burn out with it early.

Me: You had THREE birthday parties this weekend. I think that’s as many I’ve gone to my entire childhood.
Him: I know, I’m tired.
Me: (laughing) Awww, poor popular you.


Put up the tree. Finally.

I remembered where every single ornament came from.

I’d forgotten so much and it’s too much to remember all at once. Way too much.

Him: Why are you looking…? (makes a face and stares off into the distance)
Me: I’m just…papa’s in his head again.
Him: Oh. It’s ok, papa.
Me: Thanks, kid.

Location: tonight, covered in flour but happy to see the kid happy
Mood: so. full. of. cake.
Music: got too many friends (Spotify)
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My second colonoscopy

So much different from my first

Got a message from Chad the other night.

Him: [I’ve got the flu.] Would it be possible for you to teach class tomorrow night?
Me: Sorry to hear that. OK.

I’ve actually covered class a couple of times in the past, so that part was fine – kinda fun, I gotta say, because I got to focus on some things that I both really like and need to work on.

What I messed up in, though, was that I scheduled my second colonoscopy for the very next day and had to be up at 5AM doing god-awful stuff to myself.

So, I went in, taught the class, rolled around, and bolted as soon as I could get off the mats and shower.

Her: You did a good job.
Me: You think?
Her: (nodding) That’s one of my favourite moves and you explained it well.
Me: Thanks! That means a lot to me. I appreciate the vote of confidence.

If you’re a long-time reader, you know that I got a colonoscopy almost exactly eight years ago.

Alison made me orange jello.

Don’t remember much about the first time except that she came to pick me up. See, when you have a procedure under anesthesia, you’re required to have someone pick you up.

I remember that Alison took a half-day off from work and came to get me. Didn’t tell you any of that part because it was a such small thing about our day-to-day life.

Had no idea that day that she would be dying less than a year later.

Who the fuck would ever think such a thing?

I didn’t tell you that when she opened the door, she had the widest smile when she saw me.

With the exception of my son, don’t think anyone was ever that happy to see me ever in life.

She thought I was greatest thing and I thought she must have self-esteem issues to think that she couldn’t do better than a fella like me.

Don’t remember what she said when she saw me. I’m sure it was something like, Are you ok, honey?

But I remember that smile. I loved it so.

I remember I was still dazed from the anesthesia and when she came in –  despite our being together for years by that point – thought I was the luckiest guy on the planet that such an important, smart, and pretty girl would take time outta her busy day to pick a nobody like me and make sure I got home ok.

Ah, fuck.

I’ll finish this tomorrow.

I hate the goddamn holidays…

 

Location: home, putting up a Christmas tree and trying to forget things
Mood: sober for now
Music: don’t wanna see what I’ve seen (Spotify)
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A birthday party at the gym

I’ll sing it to you

I texted/emailed the parents of the kids that I knew were coming from the UWS and told them that there were no trains running then took the only train down to Columbus Circle, the stop before the last stop, which was W. 50th.

So did pretty much everyone else on that train.

Columbus Circle was a madhouse.

A complete madhouse.

Could barely make it down the stairs and ended up not being able to get on the first two trains down and caught the third train, the D train.

What I didn’t realize – cause I never take the D train – was that it didn’t stop at 14th Street, instead, I ended up going to W 4th Street, 14 blocks and one avenue from where I needed to be.

Mind you, I’m lugging three enormous bags of toys, food, and miscellany this whole time.

Tried hailing a cab for a few minutes but there were literally none to be found. Not much traffic anywhere at all.

I’m guessing that (a) it being Sunday and (b) the water main break, meant that most people on the west side were stuck wherever they were.

So, with his party scheduled to start in about 30 minutes, I started hustling.

Ran just two blocks when I realized that I was along a bus line and turned around to see if I could see it.

In the first bit of good luck, I saw a bus headed my way so I flagged it down.

Me: (breathlessly) Do you go up to West 18th?
Him: Yeah, way past that.

Sitting down, I looked at the time and saw I only had 25 minutes to set everything up. Like…everything. In fact, I thought the kid and my friend might be there.

It took less than 10 minutes to get to 18th but I leapt off the bus anywho and ran to my gym. I was the first one there – which was good since I had the keys – and quickly started putting everything together – the table, the gift bags, the toys and games, etc.

My buddy that brought his kid and my kid came at 11:50, 10 minutes before the party was to start.

Him: I’m sorry, mate. We ended up hopping a cab and…
Me: No worries. I just got here a few minutes before you.

Since he and his wife brought the food and I set up the table, they set up all the food, while I did the drinks and gift bags.

It was a hurried affair – I later realized that I never set up the piñata nor handed out all these other toys that my MIL set up.

And I was so rushed for the next hours running the party and trying to keep everything running that I didn’t end up taking any pics.

Zero.

Luckily, my friends did, including RE Mike, who showed up with his kid.

Me: Man, I didn’t take any pics…
Him: I took a ton. I’ll send you them.

The kids had a grand time. Essentially, we played two out of the 10 games I planned to play.

Me: I’m think of just letting them run wild around the gym while I day-drink.
Him: I think that’s a better idea than trying to stop them from playing their own games.
Me: Thank god, I’m having a beer…or three.

The guys I ordered the pizzas from were so professional; they were train on time, the pizzas were hot and delicious, and the cupcakes I got the kids were a hit.

Him: You did a really good job, man.
Me: Did I?
Him: (shrugging) No one got hurt, there’s food left over, and the kids are disappointed it’s over. That’s a success.
Me: Sweeeeet.

My buddies took my kid back so I could focus on cleaning up the place.

Seven hours after everything started, I was done.

Me: Did you have a fun time, kid?
Him: Yes! (thinking, sadly) I have to wait a whole ‘nother year before I get another birthday party.
Me: (laughing) Thank goodness for that. (gently) It’ll be here before you know it, kid.
Him: I wish mommy was here. She could sing me “Happy Birthday.”
Me: (sighing) You and me both, kid. You and me both. But, I’ll sing it to you.

Like I said, the hours drag but the years keep sprinting away.


Here’s to the good days, to the bad days
To the breakups and the birthdays
Here’s to the best days, to the worst days
‘Cause I know that [we]’ll be okay

Location: home, heading straight to bed now that I’ve been poked and prodded all day
Mood: fulla food so, fat and happy
Music: You can’t feel the sun without the rain (Spotify)
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Oh wait…I’m me

Well, of course

Speaking of childhood nostalgia, when I was kid, the closest I got to a birthday party was my mom would pick up some Entenmann’s cake, tell me to invite three kids over and we’d have a party for an hour.

They do things differently in 2022 Manhattan.

Here, I go to kids’ birthday parties that are significantly better than anything I have now as an adult. In fact, last year I essentially spent it alone and will most likely do that again this year.

But the kid’s lost enough, I think.

So, I wanted him to have a nice party and planned to have a big thing at my gym with the help of Pez, his regular sitter, my sister-in-law, and my mother-in-law.

Plus…45 kids.

I waaaaaaay over-booked. But I was in it. So, I ordered seven pizzas, a cake, a ton of toys, a ton of games, etc…you get the picture.

Was totally stressed out over it when I got a call from my MIL the night before, who had him that weekend and was gonna bring him over on Sunday.

Her: Well, of course, he has a fever.
Me: What?!
Her: Yeah. 103.
Me: (sighing) Well, of course.

Should mention this pic is my brother taking the temp.

Scrambled to tell all the other parents that bought gifts and were planning the day around this party. Everyone was a sweetheart about the whole thing.

My SIL took care of a lot of it and I felt terrible but she simply said, “Kids get sick, what are you gonna do?”

Of course, the boy was super upset. So, I promised him that I’d throw him some sort of replacement party. There was only one weekend that could possibly work – Sunday, November 20th – and out of 45 kids, eight could make it.

Him: Just eight?!
Me: Kid, I didn’t have eight friends in my life until I was college.

Had way more stuff than necessary but, having said that, what could go wrong?

Oh wait…I’m me.

Wake up that day and bring the kid over to some friends that agreed to bring him and some food down for me so I could haul THREE ginormous bags of stuff to the gym and I hop onto the subway.

Dashing downstairs, I miss a train and wait six minutes for the next train. I hop on and wait.

And wait.

12 minutes later – which, in subway time, might as well be a day – the conductor says, “Because of a burst pipe on Canal Street, there is no downtown service on [this train line].”

Well…of course.

While I decide what to do, the conductor comes on again and says that they’ll go as far as West 50th Street but no further.

And that makes sense because there musta been a billion trains behind us and they had to start getting these trains into stations and people outta the system.

And that’s when a whole new adventure started for me.


Writing this, I realized I have a medical procedure happening this week and I’m also doing stuff in the gym.

I got a lot going on these days…


I should not have opened the Entenmann’s Wiki page.

Man, they discontinued the Apple Strudel, Pineapple Cheese Strudel and fruitcake? Those were amongst my faves.

God, I’m so hungry.

Location: home, just now remembering that I can’t eat for the next 36-48 hours. Shoulda had that pizza.
Mood: so hungry
Music: I ain’t the way you found me, and I’ll never be the same (Spotify)
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Donuts and bruises

Family of two

The pastor wrote me recently about a concert in November but it’s hard for me to plan out my schedule that far in advance.

On that note, I’m reminded that he stopped by with some high-class donuts the other day for some coffee and conversation.

I’m wearing the glove because I had some cuts on my hands for reasons we don’t need to get into.

Gotta say, there was a world of difference between my usual whole wheat donut and these bad boys.

Think I’m gonna have to hit the gym hard again.

Although I did have it with my portable peanut butter because I like to ruin things.

Still, I might have a problem going the gym as much as I want. I’ve had some health issues pop up recently, on top of tearing my meniscus.

The first is that Pac dropped me on my head in a recent Scenic Fights shoot. He was injured and tired and so was I so that wasn’t a good combo as I essentially got pile-driven into the mat.

Thank goodness that we recently just got gifted a crash pad because it woulda been seriously bad without it.

The doc said he didn’t see anything major to be concerned about but did ask me to take it easy.

But then some routine tests came back…weird. Need to run a few more tests to figure it all out.

Of course, there’s always something.

Finally, I’m not the only person in my two-person family with unexpected health issues; the kid was running in an afterschool program in the second week of class and then went face-first into a pipe.

1/2 an inch lower and he coulda lost an eye.

Alison once said that, the night before you become a parent is the last night you get a good night of sleep.

Man, that’s so true.

Him: It hurts!
Me: I know, kid. I’m sorry.
Him: Don’t touch it!
Me: I gotta. I’m sorry.
Him: Noooo!
Me: I need you trust me, ok? Do you trust me?
Him: Yes?
Me: Good enough. Deep breath.

Location: last night ~11PM on 8th St, telling him about sheep, wolves, and lions
Mood: concerned
Music: wish that I could build a world for two (Spotify)
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