A Non-Linear System

Checking in

One of my oldest and dearest friends called me the other day.

Me: What’s up? How’ve you been?
Him: (laughing) OK. I heard about your uncle and your anniversary and I wanted to check in on you.
Me: Thanks man, it’s been a rough few weeks.
Him: I know, that’s why I’m calling. (later) I should mention that I was in the ER two weeks ago. They’re still not 100% what happened but I was there for five days.
Me: Holy shitballs, what happened?
Him: I was feeling pain in my stomach like crazy so I went to the ER and told the attendant that I was in a tremendous amount of pain. Like a 7 or 8. He said, “You don’t look like you’re in a lot of pain.”
Me: What did you say?
Him: I told him, “That’s cause I’m not a whiney-ass bitch.”
Me: (laughing) Yeah, that sounds like you.

A large dose of antibiotics cleared him out enough that they didn’t have to cut him open. But he’s gotta go back for more tests.

Him: I didn’t wanna tell you because…
Me: Dude, the past two weeks, I was a whiney-ass bitch. It’s good you didn’t tell me. I absolutely wouldn’t have handled it well.
Him: (quietly) Then I’m glad I didn’t tell you.

He’s been through his own stuff. He’s one of the people that I told you lost his mother recently. He understands grief.

Me: The fucked up thing is that, unlike most people, I understand that life is a non-linear system. I get that. Bad things happen and the life you expect isn’t promised you. But…I never expected my life – and Alison’s – to be quite so non-linear.
Him: It is a non-linear system, yeah. But we have some things like our family and good friends.
Me: You know, if there is a god, he fucking hates us. Or maybe he’s just a racist asshole.
Him: (laughing) Maybe, Logan. Maybe.

Location: today, walking with a friend in the sun, looking for Joe
Mood: non-linear
Music: ah shit, am I winner yet? (Spotify)
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My baby brother ran away

Goodnight, JoJo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Actually, it took my family.

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

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

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

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

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

How. Fucked. Up. Is. That?

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

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

It’s not right. It’s not fair.

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

I’m rambling. I’m sorry.

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

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

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

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

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

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Liquid Paper, Trump, and talking fish

How do you tell a fish that it’s wet?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I mentioned this to a buddy the other day.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Which I’m not even sure I can.

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

Location: home, grilling up a cheese sandwich and trying to understand
Mood: unsettled
Music: I couldn’t leave her if I tried (Spotify)
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Too little is better than too much

We know our own

We had a gas scare in the area that meant we were waiting for an all-clear for a while so I brought him with me to the supermarket.

I dunno why I’m unable to talk to him like he’s a kid. I just…can’t. I’ve never been around kids before.

Him: What does it mean that a banana’s not ripe?
Me: An unripe banana has large molecules called oligosaccharides which are too big to digest. When a banana ripens, those oligosaccharides break down into simpler glucose molecules that you can digest, which manifest as the brown dots on the skin, which – as you can see – are not there.
Him: What happens if you eat something that’s not ripe?
Me: Bad things, kiddo. Bad stomach things.
Him: Oh. Ok, papa.

As I write this out, all I can think is, “Hopefully, he’ll have friends.” Then again, I didn’t growing up and I turned out fine.

Fine(ish).

Mostly fine.

Alison thought I was great, albeit with a giant, giant head.

Speaking of friends, I’ve been helping a buddy with a new hobby; something that I used to do years ago but just stopped doing for a variety of reasons. But he loves it. He gave me a buzz today.

Him: I met one of our kind today.
Me: Get outta here. How?
Him: At the gym. I was just making small talk and I mentioned what I do in my spare time.
Me: And what did he say?
Him: (laughing) He said demons know their own.

On that note, my only friend in that life’s been MIA since COVID. Wanna know the crazy thing? I don’t even know his real name after 20 years.

How’s that for a kick in the head?

Finally, a girl I’ll call Curls is going to start teaching the kid to fight. I’ve been chatting with a ton of people – including two of the highest ranking people in kali – about how to train this boy to be safe.

And the grand poo-bah told me: Remember too little training is better than too much at that age.

He’s the main man so I took his word to heart. Plus, I think the kid’ll have more fun with Curls and Chad than me.

Between the friends and family, I wonder if I’m better with people around or not.

After all, men go crazy in congregations,…

Location: home, making steak for my son, who’d rather have a bologna sandwich
Mood: tired
Music: …they only get better one by one. (Spotify)
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For serious, how did you not know?

An old modern fable

About a dozen years ago, I told you a story about a frog that met a snake. I friend told me years later that he heard a similar story but it was about a scorpion and frog and I liked that better so I’ll retell it.

See, this scorpion wants to cross a river and he spies a fat frog. So he asks it to carry him across. The frog goes, Screw you. You’re just gonna sting me.

To which the scorpion goes, Nah, we’ll both drown if I do that. That doesn’t make any sense.

So the frog shrugs his frog shoulders and figures that’s logical, lets the scorpion hop on, and off they go.

Midway through the river, the scorpion suddenly stings the frog, who goes, WTF!? Why’d you do that!? As the poison starts going through the frog’s body, the frog manages, Why? Now we’re both gonna die.

The scorpion nods, and says – just before he goes under, I’m sorry. It’s in my nature. You knew what I was when you picked me up.

In that entry, I talked about the betrayal of SA by Hitler and the betrayal of the Pakistani government by the Taliban.

Tonight, I just heard Trump’s speech condemning the people that are now facing trial and unemployment because of his exhortations and lies.

Of course, the orange one takes no responsibilities for what he’s done and those people are fucked. Or should be.

And I ask myself the same thing I always ask myself: How’d you not know? People tell you what they’re all about if you just listen.

Location: home, rolling with a buddy that just got her blue belt
Mood: better
Music: It’s such a drag to be on your own (Spotify)
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Remember who survives

Dissected and discussed

Him: What’s wrong?
Me: Papa’s seen things like this before, and it’s…it’s never good.
Him: Are you scared?

We were doing his math problems when I stopped and watched the news.

Copyright AP

When 9/11 went down, I remember almost every minute of it. I called my brother and woke him up, much to his annoyance. But that annoyance turned to horror and disgust once he and I slowly realized what was happening.

Together, on the phone, our worlds changed. I was glad to have shared that moment with him.

Copyright AP

I felt that today watching the television with my son. That disgust and horror, knowing that I was watching history unfold with him – something that will be dissected and discussed for years, decades, centuries to come.

And he and I saw it together.

And yet, for all the lessons of history, it’s always the mindless mob that repeats it, again, and again, and again.

Copyright AP

But, I was glad to have shared this with my family. Just as I was glad to share the horrors of 9-11 with my brother.

I feel I owe this boy all the knowledge I’ve accumulated in my otherwise unremarkable life. That’s the debt I owe him as his father, what all good parents owe their children.

It’s sad, the lesson I gave him today was one that I was hoping I wouldn’t have to tell him until years from now. But I suppose he saw the unease on my face.

Me: I’m concerned. There’s a difference. Lions are bigger and stronger then people. So are bears and…giraffes (Editor’s note: I wasn’t ready for this conversation, giraffes were the only big thing I could think of besides whales – I shoulda said whales). But people are always the most dangerous because we can out think alla them. The smarter you are, the safer you are. Remember that. Remember who survives. The intelligent survive.

Copyright AP

Location: home, watching the tube like it was porn. Which I suppose it is.
Mood: horrified
Music:
Do you believe in what you see?
(Spotify)
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Meant to be

You should have picked 7

Me: That’s me in Germany.
Him: You look exactly the same. What are you a vampire?!
Me: (laughing) Here, take this belt, it’s too big for me.
Him: I think I like that (mustard) colour.
Me: Good. Basic black is for basic bitches.

I’ve got a small group of people that I mentor. I remember being young and not knowing a thing about anything, really.

My first seismic shift happened when I met my first real girlfriend. As a poor kid from Queens, she was the daughter of a connected restaurateur. Our first date, she brought me to a restaurant at Rockefeller Center where a burger was $20 (a fortune at the time).

She also gave me a Fendi automatic watch for Xmas when I was 17. She basically taught me how to dress. She was pure evil, but she changed me for the better in many regards.

Then, when I was college, I met Buckley who first me taught me about computer and networks. That was life-altering. I just wished him a happy birthday tonight.

Him: Thanks! It’s the end of my 48th trip around the sun. I’m thankful that we’re still on this ride together
Me: Jesus Christ. I met you when we were teenagers. Welp, the world is definitely better with you in it, homie.

Cappy made sure I had a place to live and helped me make life-long friends that I still consider my safe-harbor. He just called me too.

Him: We’ll stop by on the 26th with clothes for the boy.
Me: I’ll be here.

I also met Joe who let me crash in his pad off Times Square for $300 a month. Yup, you read that right. We were roomies for years after college and he taught me how real New Yorkers lived in Manhattan. A woman I met and chat with regularly last year is best friends with his ex-wife. What a small world.

While in Manhattan, I met Bobby, Johnny, and the Devil, who introduced me to the clubs and the colorful side of NYC life.  They also taught me how to dress and walk into an expensive restaurant and not feel out of place. All three are gone for my life now. I only miss one of them and hope he’s still alive.

I dated the doctor, who got me into this building, and worked with me to buy it – along with her mom. We all actually still talk because we’re part of the same tribe.

I met my old boss at CNET, Kirk, who taught me sales and tech and why a naturally aspirated straight-6 engine is so cool. I also met Jim there, who threw me into the legal tech fire and got me meeting with CEOs and fighting fortune 100 companies (I won).

After everything went down with Alison, he sent me on a trip to Bermuda.

My boss, whom I just chatted with today as well, taught me how to be a better lawyer, far beyond anything I learned in law school. He also sued my biggest frenemy for me ages ago. We won that too.

Paul and Will helped me end up with Alison. I just saw Paul today.

Me: Man, that hair’s still wild.
Him: Yeah, I gotta see a barber somehow.

And, of course, there was Alison herself. All the blog entries from her first appearance to this one was her influencing my life. She still does; she reminds me what I’m worth.

People try to convince me that I’m not worth all that much, but she thought I was just tops.

On that note, a touchstone of my life has always been to leave people better off having met me than not. Those people left me better off; most by coming into it, some by coming in and leaving.

The hope is that I can help some people figure out who they were meant to be.

And then maybe I can take my lessons and help the one I love most in the world become who he’s meant to be.

Him: I picked 11.
Me: You shoulda picked 7. Because that’s the most likely number with two dice.
Him: Can I go now?
Me: (laughs) Sure.

Location: home, dreaming of family
Mood: hopeful
Music: They say through time I’ll find some healing but the clock goes slow (Spotify)
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The Comedian, The Criminal, and The Clown

Any good would come

I met up with the pastor from Vision Church recently for some coffee.

Him: I got you a gift.
Me: Oh, you shouldn’t have, really.
Him: It’ll give us something to talk about the next time we meet up.

It was a recently published comic that’s been getting a lotta press recently, called The Three Jokers.

Essentially, it’s about the three different types of Jokers that Batman’s faced throughout the years:

      1. The Comedian
      2. The Criminal
      3. The Clown

I’ll leave the rest there but it’s interesting in that I do think that we all have our three lives: Public, Private, and Secret.

My three lives have all been keeping me on my toes in their own ways, lately. Just dunno how to explain them to you in a way you might understand.

On that note, and returning to The Pastor, we had an compelling discussion before we left about defriending people and who we choose to have in our lives.

Him: People are complex. For example, there might be horribly racist people that you would trust with your son, but also people that wouldn’t dream of being racist, but you would never leave with alone with your son.
Me: Give me an example.
Him: Well, some Asian grandparents are horrible racists, but you’d trust them with your son in a heartbeat, wouldn’t you?
Me: (laughing) I suppose that’s true.
Him: So, I keep people around that I disagree with. Because they see the world differently than I do – and it’s good to see the world differently.
Me: I agree to some extent. But there are some people with I have no nexus and want none. I don’t want to see the world the way do.
Him: Why not?
Me: (shaking head) Because…I don’t feel any good could come of it.

Location: still home
Mood: still happier
Music: friends with tired eyes (Spotify)
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IOQ: Indicators of Quality

Zippers, Steak, or Chicken?

The rest of the weekend was pretty quiet. Mouse started a new job so, even over the weekend, she was busy with one thing or another. Still, we did have a pretty nice weekend until she had to head back home.

Nice being a relative term.

Her: I was looking through some of our chats and…we sound psychotic.
Me: What do you mean?
Her: Because in between texts, I guess we end up seeing or talking to each other. Like, one set of texts is like, “I hate you, I never want to talk to you ever again!” and the next is like, “Do you want steak or chicken for dinner?”
Me: Did we decide on steak of chicken?

A buddy of mine is looking to upgrade his wardrobe over Black Friday and I told him that, while I do have the occasional name-brand product, I almost never purchase anything based on names.

Instead, I look for (a) clothes that fit me well that are (b) made of quality materials. I told him that I figure out the latter through indicators of quality.

Stupidly simple, just like my three-step life algorithm, but you’d be surprised how many people mess this up too.

For example, whenever I buy clothes that have zippers on them, I look for YKK zippers. This is because YKK makes really, really good zippers that cost more than regular zippers.

So when I see two things that I like equally well, but one has a YKK zipper, I usually end up buying the YKK one.

See, I figure that, if a company cares enough to use higher quality zippers, they probably care about the details like stitching and fabric weave. It’s the little things that matter to me.

Cause it’s the little things that are indicators of quality.

Ditto for shoes. I look for full- or top-grain “leather uppers,” which are essentially real leather shoes, versus “man-made uppers,” which are basically plastic shoes. The brand rarely makes a difference to me.

My sneakers are almost always cloth so I can toss them in the washer on the reg. I can’t remember the last time I spent more than $30 for a pair of sneakers.

Someone just stopped me the other day to ask me where I got my powder blue ones from. I told him, honestly, on eBay.

The most expensive things I wear on the regular – I rarely wear my suits anymore – are my three no-name but bespoke leather jackets.

I picked the lining, the leather, and the color for alla them. Most importantly, for me, is that the sleeves and waist are tailored because I’ve got a pretty slim waist (pro) and short T-Rex arms (con).

And the one I like the most is my red one because it has white pick stitching.

Nobody notices this kinda stuff, but I do.

That’s the thing: As I get older, I find myself caring a lot less about things that other people notice and a lot more about things that I notice.

Man, I’m so bummed I ripped the sleeve on it.

Speaking of noticing things…

Me: Your hair is crazy!
Mouse: Yeah, it’s crazy like the 80s so it must remind you of your childhood.
Me: It kinda does.

Location: home, trying to get my apartment above 30% humidity
Mood: excited to see my son
Music: In her eyes I see the sea (Spotify)
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You get to decide

World Class

For the handful of readers that’ve been reading me since the beginning, I started this blog because I was dating this fairly well-known reporter and we broke up.

I thought I loved her, the way 20-somethings think love is like.

We had moments when I thought we might get back together but it wasn’t really what either of us really wanted. It wasn’t really her fault, I wasn’t a great boyfriend to her.

The ex, back when I was young and had a lotta hair.

I wanted Alison and I spent the next two years looking for her. When I met her, I was a lot nicer to her than the reporter because she was what I actually wanted.

Alison was everything I ever really wanted, actually. But that’s neither here nor there.

I mentioned to a friend that Jeff Bezos went to Princeton to study theoretical physics. The problem was that he was good at it.

Just like I was a good boyfriend to the reporter. I just wasn’t a great boyfriend to her. And Jeff Bezos wasn’t a great theoretical physicist.

The day Jeff Bezos realized that he was only ever going to be a good theoretical physicist was the day he started to become something great.

Asked another friend if he recognized anyone from the that picture you see above.

Him: Not really.
Me: Look at the fella in the middle. In the red sequins. That’s Dr. Dre.
Him: Holy shit!

Dr. Dre was part of a boy band called World Class Wreckin’ Cru (along with DJ Yella) and they sang funk. But WCWC was only ever going to ok – good-enough.

And Dre wanted to be great. He’s almost a billionaire right now. Even if you didn’t like NWA, or The Chronic, you probably like Beats headphones.

I told two people today that their setbacks might be setting them up for what they were really meant to be. Who they were really meant to be.

After all, you can’t shoot an arrow unless you draw it back first.

Alison’s favourite author was F. Scott Fitzgerald who once said: There are no second acts in American lives.

I always loved Alison and always hated Fitzgerald. Onea the reasons is that quote, which is fulla shit.

Him: I’ve been thinking a lot about who I used to be and I don’t want to be that guy anyone. I don’t think I can be.
Me: Good. This is your chance to be the person you know you can be. You get to decide what your life is like.

I only got to live the life I always wanted for five days.

But, I suppose that there are people out there that didn’t even get that.

At least, that’s what I tell myself.

Podcast Version
Location: early this morning, having some rum with my coffee
Mood: not well
Music: On silver stars I wish and wish and wish (Spotify)

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