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personal

I finally understand

Just one day

I was in my local supermarket when I ran into one of the cashiers, Lucy, in the produce section.

Her: (walking up to me holding a cup of coffee and put it down) I understand now. About your wife. My…my husband died.
Me: What?! Good god, I’m so sorry.
Her: (nodding) He was sick for a while. I thought he would be ok but…he didn’t let me know how bad it was.
Me: (putting down groceries and giving her a hug) I’m so sorry. We’re never ready, are we?
Her: (shaking head) No. I didn’t think he would go.

I went home, got a red envelope, stuffed a few bucks into it and went back to give it to her.

Her: No, no, I’m fine, really.
Me: (gently) I’m sure you’re fine. This is just for lunch. Make sure you eat, ok?
Her: (taking it) OK. Thank you.
Me: I wanna tell you that it’ll be ok. It won’t be. But you have to keep telling yourself that it will be. After a while, it’ll be kinda ok.

The rest is her story to tell but I was in my own head for a while after that.

Then, I was walking with the kid and he turned to me said the most profound thing:

Flowers may bloom again, but a person never has the chance to be young again.

Assume he learned it in Chinese class (花有重开日,人无再少年) because he certainly never learned it from me.

But then…

Him: Flowers come back. Why can’t mommy come back?
Me: I dunno. I dunno.
Him: I wish she would come back. Just once. Just for a day, even. (trailing off). She can’t come back, not even for one day? Just one day?
Me: Man, if only, kid. If only…

That was a hard walk.

We have hard walks, sometimes.

My kid’s a lot more mature than other kids his age. Sometimes, I think of him like he’s a little man.

Dunno if this is a good thing or not. I’m thinking not.

Wish he was just a kid without alla this weight on him.

It’s too much weight for a little kid like him to carry.

Don’t want a little man. Not yet.

Just want him to be a little kid for a little bit longer.

Location: On West End Avenue, finding myself at a loss for words
Mood: contemplative
Music: been gone far too long (Spotify)
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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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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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Everyone’s a tough guy

You never know

So, this fella was sitting across from the kid and vaping so I asked him, politely, if he would stop.

He said a few rude things to me at which point I asked the Firecracker if she’d be ok with my fighting him.

After more of the guy mouthing off, the kid started crying.

Me: Stop crying.
Him: What if you get hurt?
Me: I told you before, we don’t ever start fights. But if someone else wants to fight, sometimes we gotta. You can’t just let people hurt you without trying to protect yourself.

As we got off, this older lady took my hand.

Her: Be careful. I know people like that. You could get hurt.
Me: Thanks, ma’am. But I think I’ll be ok.
Her: You never know.
Me: (laughing) Yeah. You never know. One of us will have a bad day. But I don’t think it’ll be me.

Of course, the guy disappeared.

Like I said, everyone’s a tough guy until it’s time to actually be tough.

But the Firecracker and I were out to eat the other night for St. Valentine’s Day and she told me that she and the kid talked after the whole thing.

The kid: I was so mad at him for almost getting in a fight. I already don’t have a mom and he coulda made it so I don’t have a dad.
Her: Do you think your papa would do anything to put himself at risk?
Him: Well, it was stupid. All over some dumb guy. It was all so dumb.
Her: You dad loves you. He’s gonna make sure he’s around a long time.

Felt awful.

Her: (later with just me) You know, it’s not just you anymore. You’ve got to think about him.
Me: I think about him alla time. (thinking) But you’re right.
Her: It’s done. Just remember that he needs you here.
Me: Will do.

The irony of the whole thing is that I so rarely get into these types of situations on my own. I always tell people to walk away from rando confrontations.

Still, when it involves the kid (or the Firecracker) I get overly protective, I suppose.

But he’s right; he’s lost enough in the world.

I’ll try and do better for him.

Location: off to dinner with the Firecracker, Thor, and the NFL Player
Mood: peckish
Music: wherever, doesn’t matter, I follow you anywhere you go (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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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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Music Together

My Son’s First Recital

So many people did so many things for Alison, me, and the kid when she first got sick.

But there’s a story I don’t think I ever told you about which is this small little group called Music Together and this woman named Deanna DeCampos.

My memory is completely fuzzy during this time but she somehow heard about Alison and me and offered for me to take the kid there. I only went a few times because I was busy so with Alison but we had sitters that brought the kid there the whole time that Alison was sick.

It was such a godsend to have some place for him to go and be happy.

And when Alison died, they kept saying the kid should continue to come but, after a while, I felt I was taking advantage of their generosity so I eventually stopped but a huge part of the kid’s insane love of music is because of them.

Now, I’ve only ever shown his face once in this blog, and this is the second time. He’s the munchkin in the front – he was maybe just two years old here.

I honestly think that a major reason why the kid never felt the unbelievable sadness of what was going on with Alison was because of the joy of music that Music Together gave him.

So, if you’re in NYC and want to support a wonderful organization with some amazing instructors and have your kid love music as much as mine does, drop them a line.

I cannot recommend them highly enough.

Speaking of the kid’s love of music, he had his very first recital the other night with his guitar teacher.

He was the only kid that both played an instrument and sang a song at the same time.

I was am super proud.

He def needs to sing louder – but I was still a proud papa.

Afterward, I brought the Firecracker and both kids to that Irish pub because (a) I was in the mood for some good fish and chips and (b) I wanted to thank the bartender for finding my iPad and stuff.

Wrote about the bar a while ago.

He def needs to sing louder – but I was still a proud papa.

Got the kid a burger but the rest of us had some killer fish and chips – beer battered not breaded.

Alison always wanted him to learn the violin and I do my darndest to try to respect her wishes but I couldn’t imagine the thought of years of screeching before he got good.

Then again, he’s been a natural with music thanks to Music Together so maybe it wouldn’tve been that bad.

Him: Did you hear people singing the song when I was singing?!
Me: I did!
Him: That was so cool!
Me: It was. (turning and whispering to the Firecracker) Hopefully, he’ll wanna go to med school or law school, though.
Her: Oh, hush, Lo.

Location: at a swimming pool, writing this and trying not to get splashed.
Mood: proud
Music: Tell me why, ain’t nothin’ but a heartache (Spotify)
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Just wear a hat

That doesn’t make any real sense

The mayor office announced congestion pricing the other day.

There were more cops than protestors but I suppose that’s a good thing.

At least everyone was dressed warmly – it’s been brick around here, lately.

If I told you that I opened up a can of coke and was shocked that no soda came out anywhere but the hole on top, you would think I was just being strange.

Obviously, if I opened a can of soda, the only place any soda would come out of would be the hole I created when I opened the can, yeah?

Conversely, if I didn’t open the can of soda, no soda would come out.

All this seems elementary, no?

But what if I said to you something like, “You should wear a hat because most of your body heat comes from your head?”

To me, it sounds precisely the same as if I said, “Most soda comes outta the can from the hole you made.”

Do you know why most of your body heat comes off your head when your head’s not covered?

Because: Your head’s not covered and the rest of your body is.

Like, if you go out into a wintery day, fully dressed, including gloves and boots – guess where most of your body heat would escape?

That’s right: Your head. Because it’s not covered and the rest of your body is.

So, it’s technically true that, “Most of your body heat comes from your head.”

But that’s super misleading.

It has the air of truth but only a little bit of actual truth to it.

It’s more accurate to say, “Heat’s gonna escape from your head because that’s the part of your body that’s not covered up.”

This has driven me mad for decades.

DECADES!

Thanks for coming to my TED talk.

Location: next door, having my third plate of shrimp and checking out heavy machinery
Mood: warm
Music: Baby, you can steal my sheets (Spotify)
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