Sunday Mass: Hell on Earth.

At the gentle urging of my wonderful wife, I bring my 5 year-old and 2 year-old to 10am mass.  You know what’s coming–bedlam among the pews.  For those interested I’ve chronicled the debacle below.  Amen.

Bedecked in a proper cardigan, pressed shirt, sensible jeans and plaid Vans, I pack my youths into the Odyssey.  Ten and two on the wheel, a hair under the speed limit, I entertain what’s to come: a reasonable sermon from our Russian-inflected Padre.  He’s hard to understand but he means well.  I wonder if he’s from Chernobyl?

Typical of calamity, things begin harmlessly.  Reese lovingly carries her baby doll into church.  Jack sees some CCD friends, gives them a wave.  A few adults admire my kids.  We get good seats.  Settled.  Usher in the Russian Padre…

This is where I break churchgoer law, a venial sin–I laugh out loud at what Jack’s doing.  My laughter, a singular act, innocuous in any other setting, gives birth to the coming horror.  Jack’s raising Reese’s baby doll above his head in mock adoration, his eyes slitted, his smile Nicholsonian.  Then he offers this plastic Simba an off-key hallelujah!  I’m beside myself.  A few adults snicker.

Suffocating my laughter I glance at Reese.  She smiles knowingly, seeing my guard is down.  All bets are off as she books it to the end of the pew.  She’s quick as hell–I can’t get to her!  She’s loose!  Jack takes it upon himself to chase and ultimately tackle his sister in the House of God.  So, this is how things are going for me right now–my two delinquents are pew escapees, toppling over one another in the nave, prostrate creatures on display.  I pick them up as if they’re loose meat sandwiches and retreat to the vestibule.

I consider leaving, just get in the car and go, but I truly feel like I could benefit from the Eucharist right now, so I ride out this hellish campaign all the way.  In time, we’re given access to the altar when something occurs to me–I’m in the perfect place to ask for forgiveness for my unruly offspring!  On our way out I genuflect in front of St. Joseph’s statue, questioning, “How was Jesus as a kid?  Was he as much of a pain in the ass as my kids?  Probably not, considering his reputation. Ok, anyway, pray for us sinners.”

St JosephAhhhhhhhhhhhh-mhhhhen.

Posted in Gripes | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Our Neighbors as Literary Characters.

Easiest one?

Boo Radley, our next door mystery man.  Wild-eyed, saddled by a quiet physical intensity, our Boo doesn’t leave cool stuff in the open knot of a tree, rather, he drops spent cigs along our property line.  Ok, not a true Boo, but he’ll do.

The Catcher.

Our sarcastic perpetual teen across the street is disturbingly reclusive, a perfect combination of Holden Caulfield and his Cornish, NH counterpart, J.D. Salinger.  Truth be told, our Holden isn’t a teen.  He’s a Veteran, just like Jerry who stormed Normandy.

HC

My people hunting hat.

Our Streetcar.

Driving the Mercedes from her driveway to her NEXT DOOR NEIGHBORS HOUSE, swishing her eyebrows at me–a lowly pedestrian–Blanche DuBois is alive and blissfully unaware, hopelessly neurotic.  She’s pretty annoying.

The Old Man.

Unspeakably beaten, Santiago is the face of perseverance, an inveterate plyer of all things entrepreneurial.  The demise of his landscaping business, the truck-shipping Craigslist fiasco, Hemingway’s protagonist simply does not quit.  Triumph is read clear in his tired eyes.

Low Man.

Terribly insecure, living in the past, our Willy–a Brooklyn native, too–refuses to let me get a word in edgewise.  Bus-stop stalker of all things, he painfully sells fading ideas with a vulnerability that would make Arthur Miller blush.

Those I Wish Were Residents.

Dean Moriarty, Sal Paradise’s counterpart, would be the no brainer go-to-guy for booze-fueled action.  But, if I think about it, Dean would never be around.  He’d always be On the Road.  Not much of a neighbor, I guess.

Garp, John Irving’s aspiring and eventual author, would be the perfect sounding board for all things literary and absurd.  I can’t help but think he’d resemble Robin Williams.

And who doesn’t like an awesome dog?!  The neighborhood would be infinitely cooler with Jack London’s Buck, the mighty alpha canine.  I’d trust that dog with my retirement plan.

Those Who Aren’t Welcome in the Neighborhood.

Patrick Bateman, that American Psycho, with his crazy-intense business card and ridiculous morning routine can stay put on the pages of Brett Easton Ellis’ 1991 novel.  Much too violent for this suburban set.  We got kids, people.

Tyler Durden, while cool, is way too out there with his penchant for brawling and making soap from medical waste.  And all those Fight Club rules you’re not supposed to talk about?  Such an odd dictatorship.

We purposely don’t carry fava beans or decent Chianti, a clear message–persona non grata–for you know who…

Hannibal This has been fun.  I’ve run out of characters, though.  Any fiction or non-fiction folk you’d want as neighbors?

Posted in Potpourri | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Existentialism of Party Mix.

Potato chips?  Mundane.  Pretzels?  Pedestrian.  Cheese doodles?  Lame.  While not the sole ingredients, when in combination, the previous snack foods represent the almighty backbone, an evolutionary taste bud leap from the myopic to the sublime.  Including the above, Party Mix, in its varied forms, boasts corn chips, bagel chips, tortilla chips, Cheez-Its, rice balls, straight-up Doritos, variations on themes that would make Dave Brubeck blush. Pulitzer-worthy manufacturers include Keystone, Utz, Sunshine, Frito-Lay.  Get some.

But why write a Party Mix blog post?  This comestible isn’t for everyone, at best a marginalized sect. And to be sure, Party Mix connotes extraversion, wild-eyed gastronomic fuel.  Again, why write this?  Scratching the surface, introverts enjoy Party Mix with a treasured flick.  Period.

Recommendations:

  • For the calorie conscious: Sunshine’s Party Mix offers the best calories to calories from fat ratio, key to healthful ingestion.
  • For unabashed cheese hooligans: Frito Lay’s Cheese Snack Mix, a sodium-rich bacchanalia, is sure to please.
  • For sport enthusiasts: Utz’s Pub Mix, a cylindrically packaged bar bounty staple, represents superior flavor.

Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard said it best, “Anxiety is the dizziness of freedom.”  Food, in general, raises anxiety.  Am I eating too much, or too little?  Will I like what I’ve ordered?  Am I even balancing the five food groups?   While plebeian, Party Mix represents Kierkegaard’s capricious grasp, each handful rewarded with a singularly tasty fingerprint, a sensory symphony.

party mix

Almost done.

What about chocolate, you ask. While the scientific benefits of Party Mix remain sadly unknown, chocolate trumps, especially dark chocolate.

Enjoy.

Posted in Potpourri | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Hearing My Dad’s Voice Again.

Twenty-seven years have passed since I last heard Dad’s voice.  Although I playback pieces from him in my head, these soundbites never suffice, never satisfy my need to have him know who I’ve become.  But interestingly, now, as a parent, I hear from Dad nearly every day.  He’s come back to me at a time when I need him most.

It’s not just what I say that brings Dad back, but how I say it, that complex interaction of inflection, pitch and rhythm working in concert.  I was startled the first few times I heard from him, a foggy but comforting echo making its way to the surface.  Now I can’t wait to hear from him, nearly desperate, so much so that I just talk to see if he’ll emerge.

Jack and I, foot of the stairwell.  It’s bedtime.

“Ok my man, time for bed.  Go upstairs, get your pajamas on and pick-out two books.  I’ll be up soon.”  Dad, the Command Sergeant Major was often instructive, giving us orders, informing us of his expectations.

Dad rocking the Jeep, 1983.

Dad rocking the Jeep, 1983.

Like Dad, my approach to parenting is mainly no-nonsense, the Law Office of Non-Negotiation.  I realize sometimes this approach is over the top, and I’ve been called tough, but my heart doesn’t take a backseat to my interest in order.  I love my kids like a Dung Beetle loves its poop ball–yes, that much love.

Dung Beetles at play.

Dung Beetles at play.

Apart from his stern side, Dad could be funny as hell.  His sense of humor required no encouragement, and I am no different.  He constantly engineered some kind of ruse, like his Pygmy Habitat Campaign where the denizens, viewable only to Dad, lived on a tiny island hamlet just off Indian Head Road.  We were fascinated as kids, the car ride to Winding River Park electrifying as we were guaranteed a peek at this mysterious island–no guarantee on spotting a pygmy, though.

I’ve got all kinds of ruses going, too, like Let Me Hear If Your Brain Is Working, an excuse just to make absurd electrical noises, faux synapses, while delivering an enormous, unabashed hug.  But my hoaxes sometimes backfire (imagine that).  The most recent is evidenced here.

Yes.  You have to brush your teeth.  If you don’t they’ll fall out like Chiclets and you’ll have to eat Slurpees the rest of your life.”

Yeah! Yeah!”  Jack is overjoyed.  I am not.

I never would have guessed becoming a parent would bring Dad back, but it has.  And it’s memories like this that keep him with me…

Imagine an 11 year-old boy playing soccer, a sanctioned game between two full teams, families and friends in attendance.  A good crowd.  Not hard to imagine, really too commonplace to give it another thought.  Now imagine the boy’s reaction when Dad roars-up sideline in a National Guard Jeep, jamming full camo fatigues.  The engine cools in park while an inescapable dust cloud rushes across the soccer field. Dad arrived and everyone knew it.  Too cool, I thought.  I played the rest of the game like a Right Full Back possessed. After the game we ripped into the surrounding pine barrens, the Jeep’s whip antennae buckling under our speed.  The ride is still fresh in my mind.

Posted in Potpourri | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

The Death of Penmanship.

Have you looked at your handwriting lately?  It stinks!  Why?  Penmanship has become the vestigial tail of communication, and for the most part that’s ok.  We don’t really need penmanship the way we used to.  We’ve come to adopt the mindless physician signature, a whorl of unintelligible ink.  The proliferation of email and texts, spewed by computers, tablets and smartphones, has led not only to the death of penmanship, but the death of paper, too.  Goodbye penmanship and paper, keyboards and voice recognition software hath slain you.

Why am I all amped-up about penmanship’s death knell?  Well, one of my clients recently remarked that they couldn’t understand my handwriting.  Granted, it was a Monday, the weekend having afforded me an exemption from writing manually, but she was right–my penmanship was piss poor, a lawless thicket of hieroglyphs.  A former grade school recipient of multiple Best Penmanship awards, my handwriting now looks as if I’m writing from inside a Category 5 Hurricane.  You know you’re in trouble when you squint at your own scribble, wondering, what the hell is this?!

But what about a special occasion where fancy penmanship is highly desired, say….  a little kid’s name on a birthday cake?  Have you seen how crappy those things come out?!  Monogrammed cakes no longer reflect the recipient’s name, rather, they blind us with a full-blown circulatory system, a garish crisscrossing of frayed nerve endings.  Well, you ask, what about Calligraphy?  Surely there must be a need for pompous lettering somewhere, yes?  Spare me.  Download a cool font from dafont.com, open a Word doc, make a damn stencil and you’re in business.

Truth be told, I do dabble in Calligraphy.  Anyone who’s ever received a card or gift from me will recognize my personal font.  It’s a bloated tangle rooted in the venerable Copperplate Gothic Bold.

Font

Everyone needs one.

While I poke fun at this demise, the greatest death is our loss of novelistic history, books like The Devil in the White City and The Johnstown Flood.  Currently, historians are able to pore over our time-yellowed personal letters, manuscripts, diaries, log books, official missives, all in service of synthesizing our written history.  What will future Larson’s and McCullough’s draw from when writing novelistic history?  String together 140 character tweets?  A series of Facebook posts chronicling that natty Spring Break trip?  Future resources look bleak, save for the medium you’re reading now, a rich source from the everyday journalist: the blog.

Seriously, how’s your penmanship?

Posted in Gripes | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Damaging Linkedin Profile Pics.

Like any good Career Counselor I’m intimately familiar with Linkedin, that social media darling of the professional world.  The networking possibilities alone make Kevin Bacon’s six degrees of separation look like a slice of bread wishing it were a loaf.  I mean it–the possibility of you getting access to potential hiring authorities is nearly overwhelming.  Get on this site if you’re not already.  And it’s free.

With all this exposure you’d think people’s profile pics would drip with professionalism, offer a stunning glimpse of pure employment awesomeness.  Nope.   As we all know, some people cannot get out of their own way.  While not actual, the following profile pics are not far from what I’ve seen on Linkedin.  For real.

Line

Lycanthrope Larry

Skilled disemboweler who thrives under full moon conditions; seeking bloody advancement.

Location: Greater London Area/East Proctor

Education: B.A. in Rick Baker Studies

Line

Spit SealEmily All-Better

Club soda, not seals” is what I always say!  Hire me and you’ll get everything I’ve got… except my trust fund, that is!  ♥♥♥!

Location: The Hamptons, NY

Education: BA Yale, Study Abroad in Paris

Line

Bath Salt Billy

Reputation for bizarre fits of rage and keen eyesight; proven ability to clear a room; results-oriented people person.

Location: Northern NJ

Education:  Your Mom’s House

Line

warriorThe Ultimate Warrior

Lunatic seeks fashion industry internship for academic credit.  I MEAN IT.  I NEED A CREDIT-BEARING INTERNSHIP!!!!

Location: Parts Unknown

Education: B.S. in Steroidal Abuse

Line

Smoking+Gas StationsOllie Optimistic

Aspiring foreign affairs correspondent seeking placement in North Korea; Enola Gay descendant.

Location: Washington, D.C.

Education:  Black Ops Academy

Line

Sure, I’m having fun with the above profiles but some of the real-life pics really do make me shudder.  I just don’t get it.  Why would you upload a picture of yourself that requires red-eye reduction?!  Recruiters ain’t interested in hirin’ no demon.  And then there’s the job seeker who posed in the driveway, dented aluminum garage door as the backdrop, decked out in a cocktail dress that can only be referred to as a cotton slurpee.  I could go on but I just threw-up in my mouth a little.

Let’s take a page from one of the most professional professionals out there, an elite among elites.  I’m talking about Ron Burgundy.  His advice?  Stay classy.

Posted in Humans, a Peculiar Species | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Casualties of the Morning Routine.

Look at this… thing.

Culinary casualty.

Culinary casualty.

This is what happens when you absently force your lunch bag into an overbooked briefcase.  Pliable contents, including my cheese-ass cheese sandwich, must submit themselves, enslaved contortionists of the gastronomic world.  I’ll still eat this friggin’ ’round-the-corner sandwich, though.  I’m not scared.  But how did this happen?  Blame it on that collision between shifting bodies and time, aka, the morning routine.

Getting the kids out of the house and myself to work is a full-contact sport, a Mixed Martial Arts showdown.  My sandwich, submitted in the 1st round, wrapped-up by a can of normally inert V8, is but one of this morning’s losses.  My ego is the second casualty.

Around 7:40am, 5 minutes before scheduled departure, I become mentally castrated by Optimus Prime.  This ages 5+ Intermediate Level 2 Transformer is a real son-of-a-b*tch.  Believe me, I normally stay away from this cataclysm of engineering, but this morning Jack innocently asks that I transform him from robot to truck.  Let’s just say I force some plastic into place.  In the end most of Optimus’ limbs exhibit that white glow associated with bent plastic.  Sorry Autobots.

I wash my hands of the event, literally, by squirting 2 helpings of Eucalyptus Mint soap.  My wife, hovering, admonishes my excess.

“You only need one squirt!

Coolly, “Good to hear.”

Eventually I arrive at work, where coffee and classical music refuel my soul.  Funny thing is, I can’t wait to get back home and re-immerse myself in the chaos.  There’s something addictive about the family melee, the plate tectonics of people that reminds me I’m alive.  Ok, so it’s not that philosophical.  If I could just transform that damn Autobot!

Posted in Potpourri | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments