Aposematism

Red and Yellow

Me: I think you’re off starting next Monday
Him: I’m off starting this Monday, papa.
Me: Well…that’s suboptimal.

Thought the boy’s Spring break began April 5th. I was incorrect.

Annnnd…shitballs. Here’s Pez watching the kiddo because I was in a pinch.

Her: You have the cutest kid!
Me: Thank you – you’re the best!

Earlier this week, I did some legal work that beat 96% odds.

Him: You did good work, Logan.
Me: No, I didn’t do good work. I won with 4% odds, that’s not good; that’s fucking fantastic. I did fucking fantastic work. They weren’t ready for me.

Because the kid was off, we went up to Connecticut to see a buddy of mine so the boy could have a playdate with his daughter.

While I was there, I took a picture of myself looking very out of place in my usual red leather jacket and the woods.

I always had this bright yellow/orange jacket – that picture below was taken by the Green-Eyed Schoolteacher back in 2007 – but when Alison got first got pregnant in 2011, I had my tailor make me a bright red leather jacket as a celebration.

It took a few months to get to me and, by then, we already lost that child. That was the start of our hell, which only ended six years later when she died. It was complete bullshit.

I never wore it while she was here and only rarely wore the other jacket during that whole time. Instead, I wore my beat up dark red leather jacket – that’s me when I was in Prague twenty-five years ago – and my other rando stuff.

I told a buddy of mine that most of the world lives an unexamined life. If anything, I examine the world around me a little too closely.

Why do I think the way I do?
Why do I dress the way I do?
Why does this matter to me?
What does this mean?

When Alison died, I wore only black for the first six months. I wore only black because I saw only black.

And then I realized that I had to reenter the world, as much as I didn’t want to. But after that, I put on my red leather jacket and wore it out for the first time. It’s pretty much my daily driver now, although I do break out the yellow/orange jacket on occasion.

There’s this thing called “aposematism,” which comes from the Greek ἀπό apo “away” and σῆμα sēma “sign.”

Aposematism, then, is “a sign to stay away.”

Basically, dangerous things are often brightly coloured, with the most dangerous things either red or yellow/orange against black.

      • Black Widow (red against black)
      • Yellowjacket (yellow/orange against black)
      • Murder Hornets (yellow/orange against black)
      • Monarch butterflies (orange against black)
      • Pitohui (red against black)
      • Poison Dart Frogs (blue, red, and/or black)

Just to name a few.

I wear bright red and yellow against black because I’m a lawyer with two decades of experience that teaches knife fighting in his spare time.

There are other reasons but that’s all I wanna share right now.

Most people, subconsciously, get that a guy doesn’t wear a bright yellow/orange or red leather jacket unless he can.

Although not everyone uses the sense god gave them. On the way to one Scenic Fights shoot, I had this conversation:

Him: You want to start some shit?
Me: I think I do, homie.

Subtlety only gets you so far sometimes.

Although, to be fair, I also paid extra to have a paisley print put into the red jacket and artwork to line my yellow/orange one.

I thought it made them look prettier. 

Location: home
Mood: pretty
Music: Ooh-ooh-ooh, that’s my violet (Spotify)

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Adjusting to the world

Oh, and I have gout

Well, I’ve hit a new middle-aged milestone: I have gout.

Essentially, for almost every meal, I have cabbage, avocados, or spinach and beef, lamb, or sardines every single day.

In fact, I just made the ABFF and the kids some corned beef and cabbage for St. Patty’s this AM.

Never really thought much of this until I woke up in ridonk pain at 4PM the other day.

I needed to see a doc but I wasn’t comfortable bringing the kid to the medemerge – which I saw exactly a year earlier and got COVID.

Not knowing what else to do, I gave Chad a ring.

Him: I’m already on my way.

Now that’s a friend.

On that note, here he is breaking down Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

I hobbled to the doctor’s and, after a buncha questions, x-rays, and whatnot, gout was the conclusion.

Oddly, the reason for it may have more to do with my intermittent fasting per a video my buddy Aric sent me.

All in all, it was not a great day.

The few days before that weren’t any great shakes either.

Me: You did what?!
Son: Are you mad?
Me: I don’t think the word “mad” fully captures the range of emotions I’m feeling right now, boy.

Some people think I push the kid too hard; others, not hard enough. I figure that this means I’m probably doing ok. But we do have these types of convos:

Him: I don’t need to know how to do that, you’ll do it for me.
Me: For now. But you need to learn how to do it yourself.
Him: Why?
Me: People are valued for their skills; the more skills you have, the more valuable you are. The less skills you have, the less valuable the world considers you.

If being a parent has taught me anything, it’s a profound respect for my own parents.

I realize now, how difficult it must have been for them as two very young foreigners (20something and 30something) in a foreign land raising three children while being immigrant poor.

I have one kid and live on the Upper West Side of Manhattan and I still feel like I’m struggling.

Yet it’s still some of the most interesting work I’ve ever done. It forces me to question whether or not I truly understand the world as it is.

Him: Why is fire hot?
Me: I never thought about it. Let’s look it up.

On a deeper level, what I see lacking the most in the world is critical thinking, which is analyzing a given set of facts and making sense of them.

The pitfalls are:

    • Poor data
    • Poor analysis
    • Poor conclusions
      • Poor actions based on the conclusion

I see people mess up at least one, sometimes all four, at least once a day.

And the biggest problem with people is that they think that the world adjusts to their level of skill, rather than the adjusting their level of skill to the world.

My parents wanted us to get accolades – A+s and Ivy Leagues – and I get that. But what I want for the boy is much more modest, I want him to have general life skills coupled with an ability to critically think.

The most unsuccessful, lonely people, are those that expect certain things of the world and are angry that the world doesn’t match their expectations.

I get that, more than most.

But, at the end of the day, the world doesn’t care what we want or hope, only how we respond to it.

Him: Why do I have to learn this?
Me: Because the world doesn’t adjust to your level of skill. So you have to do it the other way around. 

Location: earlier today, by the ABFF’s
Mood: discomforted
Music: I’m the same kid – so why’s the mirror say I’m not? (Spotify)
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A Lucky Gold Star

Things change

I met up with my SIL in Hoboken with the kid for dinner. I wanted to go to Benny Tudinos.

Her: Why do you want to go there? There are so many better options!
Me: I thought the kid might like it.

Alison brought me there years ago, after I told her about Koronet Pizza here in the UWS – a place known for having absurdly large pizza slices.

She then told me to meet her in Hoboken where she brought me to Benny’s, which has something similar.

Walking there was the longest time I spent in Alison’s part of Hoboken since she died.

It was surreal and sad, and I’ll leave it at that.

In any case, I told the kid that the pizza was bigger than him and he was (somewhat) impressed when he saw it.

Her: (to him) Is it good?
Me: It’s pizza, of course it’s good to him.
Boy: (nods enthusiastically while eating)

I ordered a pitcher of sangria for us but she could only have a glass because she was driving so I finished the rest.

Ended up crashing early that night because of all the alcohol while the boy stayed over with her.

Just as well; it got me ready for Daylight Savings.

The next night, the buddy that I told you about in this entry was in my nabe and stopped by for dinner.

Me: Do you remember the two of us meeting?
Him: (thinking) I’m sorry, I don’t.
Me: (laughing) That’s fine. Mouse remembered the other guy I was with when we met and not me. That’s kinda how I like it – to blend into the background and not be seen unless I wanna be seen.
Him: Well, you accomplished that with both of us then!

When I was a kid, the thing I wanted the most of all was a ColecoVision. Similarly, my sister wanted their other insanely popular toy, the Cabbage Patch Kid.

We didn’t have much money so we got neither – but that’s neither here nor there.

When I got older, I found out that they were called Coleco because they were once the Connecticut Leather Company.

In a similar vein, when I was working for a Fortune 500 company, my boss gave me two jewels to manage: Samsung and LG. At they time, they were big but not the behemoths they are now.

When I went to the meeting with LG, I called them Lucky Goldstar a few times because that was their original name and what I knew them as, as a kid.

That’s when one of them stopped me in mid-sales pitch to tell me:

Him: We’re just LG. We stopped being Lucky Goldstar years ago. Please stop calling us that.

I was…mortified.

Eventually, everything got smoothed out but that and the ColecoVision story stayed with me all these years decades because it reminds me that things and people are more complex than we think and that reinvention is a lot more common than we think as well.

My buddy lost some friends because he’s changing and they don’t like that but that’s what people and things do.

When I was Hoboken, I wasn’t sure what bothered me more: The things that didn’t change and were exactly like they was when Alison and I were there or the things that had changed so very much.

The boy’s growing up quickly. He’s outgrown most of the clothes that I feel I just got for him.

And while I was writing this entry, Gio hit me up; he’s selling his apartment and moving upstate for more space for his family.

I was his attorney for that purchase, which happened way back in 2013. Seems like yesterday.

Everything keep changing on me but I have to remember that it’s usually good for them that they change, even though I want some things to stay the same.

I wish so many things stayed the same. Then again, I wish for a lotta things.

Him: When will I be a teenager?
Me: I suppose when you’re thirteen. That’s eight years from now.
Him: That’s a long time from now.
Me: Tomorrow always comes a day too soon. For now, just stay my little boy, ok?
Him: Ok, papa. (thinking) Eight years…wow…

Location: freezing on West 70th today
Mood: nostalgic
Music: the winds are always changing, and the clouds are rearranging (Spotify)
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Goldfish are limited to the size of their bowl 2

Be Better

Close to a decade ago, I wrote this entry about how goldfish are only small because of the bowls we put them in. Without being in a small bowl, they can grow up to enormous sizes.

Case in point, just the other day, a nine-pound goldfish was found in a lake. They figured that someone didn’t wanna keep it anymore but also couldn’t just flush it down the toilet so they tossed it into Oak Grove Lake in Greenville, South Carolina. Without any constraints, it just grew to a massive size.

I was talking to a buddy of mine the other night and he told me that cut out a raft of friends. Mainly because they didn’t like the fact that he was changing.

As he was telling me this, I remembered Johnny and alla the other friends that I cut loose throughout the years. That same time that I cut him loose, I cut a mutual friend of ours loose too.

He had accused me of trying to ruin his business but I told him that I was a seasoned lawyer; if I wanted him shut down, he’d be shut down.

Me: I found it insulting that he thought I would try to shut him down and fail versus actually have him shut down.
Him: (laughing) That’s funny. What happened next?
Me: I told him the truth –  that his punishment was that he didn’t get to hang out with me. That’s punishment enough.

They were all holding me back in one way or another and I couldn’t have that. I couldn’t allow that.

Life limits you enough; you don’t need those around you holding you down too.

My friend’s bummed that he had to cut them out but I think we both knew he had to.

After all, we’re the average of the five people that we spend the most time with and these people – all good guys – just didn’t see the world the way he did. It’s as simple and complex as that, because your friends mirror you.

Your friends have to grow with you or you’re left with only two unpleasant options:

      1. Not grow.
      2. Outgrow them.

He picked the latter.

The ending of any relationship is sad, the more meaningful the relationships are, the sadder the ending is. I should know.

Me: You ok?
Him: I think so. I feel free, I don’t want to go back to the way I was.
Me: And you shouldn’t want to. Trying to be better than you were yesterday isn’t something you should ever be ashamed of.

Location: today, being threatened with a linguini
Mood: better
Music: tell myself to be better and I just can’t help but hope (Spotify)
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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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