Thursday, February 26, 2009

Fly Right

I’m no orator. I’m certainly not qualified, officially, to teach anything. I do, though, have some useful “real-world” knowledge, and I don’t mean I know where Puck is now or what the Las Vegas cast did on their summer vacation. I mean I’ve learned stuff. Stuff that I think could help some of the kids I go to community college with. Kids that aren’t old enough to do tequila shots legally, have to keep the TV in their room turned down after 10 because their parents are sleeping, and think My Chemical Romance has something intellectual and important to say.

Typical, dumb-ass, American kids.

I could save them years of heartache and embarrassment with what I’ve picked up in 20 plus years of slacking off. I could be the calamine lotion on the pox that is youthful ignorance.

What I want to tell them is this: Knockithefuckoff.

Trying to get by in life by being a smart-ass, acting coolly disinterested in things you don’t understand, or hoping your tits deflect the fact that you’re a melon-head will only work for so long. About 2 to 3 years at a time, in my experience (though I’ve never tried the tits route).

If you don’t get the work done walk right up to the front of the class when it’s time to present your project and say “I did not complete what was required for this assignment”. Don’t go all A Rod and start making lame excuses about the loosey-goosey nature of the class, the vague directions in the handout, or the pressure you’re under from your part time job at a kiosk in the mall. Certainly don’t make asinine commentary about the other student’s stuff. We’re taking it seriously and you’re wasting our time. Your jokes are only funny to you, as evidenced by the fact that you’re the only one laughing at them. Admit your lack of conviction and sit the fuck down. Wiggling around, pushing your breasts together and standing in front of your incomplete project with a “but aren’t I cute” expression on your face isn’t doing anything for you either. Except maybe proving that your ex-boyfriend was right when he said you had a hell of a future in the adult entertainment industry.

The only thing all that bullshit will get you if you try to get thru life with it is a seat right back in the same classroom TWENTY YEARS LATER. That’s if you’re lucky enough to straighten out one day. If not - I hope you’ll enjoy cashing in your 401k prematurely every two years when you quit / get fired from your menial job, wondering why no one wants to date you for more than three months and watching daytime television religiously.

Community college used to be a punch line for me. The “coolly disinterested, smart-ass” me. Thank God, with the help of an incredible woman and an amazingly supportive family, I’m beginning to straighten out.

I don’t think I could watch “LIVE! With Regis and Kelly” for very much longer.

Monday, February 16, 2009

It's not easy being Green

I don’t care about the environment. There. I said it.

I mean it too.

I don’t go around looking for ways to pollute it, but I certainly don’t go out of my way to protect it, either. Oh hell, if there’s a garbage can and a recycling bin RIGHT NEXT to each other and I have a plastic bottle to discard, nine times out of ten I’ll chuck it in the bin. Unless the bin has the lid with hole cut into it and I have to carefully place said empty bottle thru the hole. That requires effort. One must only take a cursory look at my life to see that it’s not filled with the rewards of effort.

I’m certainly not going to purchase a vehicle based on it’s environmental impact. I want a car that looks cool and is relatively inexpensive. If it comes down to a hybrid vs. a non-hybrid with a six disc changer and fancy wheels - I’ll be mucking up the ozone while listening to 7 straight hours of Motley Crue. If they make a Prius someday that doesn’t look like an isosceles triangle and costs less than twenty four grand - I’m in. Until then I’ll drive my Ford Mustang all over hell and back. If you’re a tree-hugging, edible shoe wearing freak, be glad I’ve lost my hair. The aqua-net I’d use, by itself, could disintegrate Venus. Plastic is better for carrying groceries. Styrofoam soaks up the grease from my Chinese food better than paper. Convenience is a more paramount concern for me than the rainforests of the Amazon. It is for most people, they just won’t admit it.

I will.

People will sometimes ask me how I can be so cavalier about the future of the world.

“Don’t you care about your children’s future?” they’ll say, all indignant.

Of course I do. I love my kids. The environment will be fine for at least their lifetime.

“What about your children’s children?”

Fuck them.

I say that with no malice. I don’t even KNOW my children’s children. They might be dicks. Genuine assholes who don’t deserve forests and grass and clean air. It’s very genetically possible that my grandkids will be jerks. I’d hate to think I spent years riding pubic transportation for people who turn out to be mean little shits.

When I’m done with the environment in say 30 or 40 years, I’m done. Think of it like an ex-girlfriend. When you break up with her, are you hoping that you’ve left a positive impact and everyone after you will get to enjoy her too?

Of course not. You want her ruined. Every last bit of her used up. You want the guys that come after you to say “Sweet Mother of Jesus, you are a wreck.”

That’s how I feel about the environment. I may be one of the few people who’ll admit it. I may be one of the few people who’ll admit the ex-girlfriend thing too. Possibly the only one who’s not in 4 times a week therapy.

I can only afford to go twice.

OH 9

It's that time of year when I start thinking about making some changes. New year - new Dave. I usually start thinking about what I want to do differently in the coming year during the Heat Miser / Snow Miser number in "Year Without a Santa Claus". This season was no different. While Heat Miser was decrying the cold weather associated with Christmas (he NEVER wants to see a day under 60 degrees…) I was considering how I'd improve myself and my lifestyle in '09. I realized the things I came up with fit into four categories. They are:

A) I aint fuckin' doing that.

B) I can't do that.

C) I might actually do that.


D) I will absolutely do that.

So, in the interest of egocentric self-indulgence here are my resolutions followed by the category and a brief explanation for their classification:

1. Start smoking again. B
My wife would be pissed, I'd have to smoke at least two packs before I got over the nausea, and cancer. In that order.

2. Have a baby. B
Of course I can't literally conceive and carry a child, so I guess I mean knock somebody up. I love kids and every time I see a baby I remember how good it feels to have a person love you unconditionally and absolutely need you. That ends when they're about 8. Sure I still love my current kids, but I liked 'em better when they were less aware that I was a moron. I'm gonna shoot for a puppy instead. From the pound of course, not through insemination.

3. Find a good paying, fun job. C
Stranger things have happened. Though the facts remain that I posses no marketable skill, don't relate well to authority, and more people than ever are looking for jobs, I still hold on to the hope that my wit, charm and ability to make a decent first impression will help here. If not, I'm trying to get comfortable with selling off my collection of snack foods shaped like Jesus.

4. Be more diligent about staying in touch with friends and family. A
Mark Twain said "a leopard can't change his spots". I'm not exactly sure what that means or if Mark Twain really said it - but let's be honest, this is not happening. When I don't call or return your calls, emails, or text messages it's not because I don't like and care about you. It's because I'm busy playing Tiger Woods 07, watching Magnum P.I. on DVR, sleeping or just flat out being lazy. Don't take it personally. My mother doesn't. My sister doesn't. My therapist doesn't. You shouldn't either. You, (insert your name here)____________are very important to me!

5. Learn to play an instrument. A
Pure, unadulterated lack of patience prevents this from being a realistic possibility. Along with a just as pure, unadulterated lack of even a sliver of natural talent.

6. Be less judgmental. D
I couldn't possibly be any MORE judgmental. I'm a rotten prick more than I'd like to admit. Who do I think I am? I don't know. Probably the proverbial pot, not only calling the kettle black but also calling it ignorant, insensitive and condescending. If you think you're a funny comic, an interesting conversationalist, a fantastic driver or talented radio personality - who am I to say you aren't?

7. Get something I wrote published. C
I don't care if it's the joke I sent to Reader's Digest for "All In A Day's Work", a short story or a letter to the editor - just getting something I wrote in print where others will read and enjoy it will be as rewarding as getting laughs on stage. Worst case scenario I write an exhilarating classified ad for my Jesus shaped frosted flake. Two birds, one stone.

8. Have a positive effect on the world EVERY DAY. D
Whether it's picking up a sandwich wrapper on the sidewalk, letting someone merge on the freeway, donating time or money to a homeless shelter or setting fire to a stack of James Blunt CD's, I'm going to do something everyday that makes the world a better place. No altruistic act is insignificant. I'm blessed with a fantastic family, great friends and the most fabulous wife a man could want - the least I can do is give a little back.

So wish me luck. Check in from time to time to see how I'm doing. Don't expect me to answer the phone or return your email, but it'll be nice to know you care.

Ignurants is bliss.

I often find myself wishing I wasn't so smart. Not that I'm Rhodes Scholar material or anything. No. Not even close. Truth be known, I only recently found out that it wasn't "Road Scholar". Point is - I'm no Alan Einstein. But I think if I were just a little dumber (more dumb?) I'd be a lot happier (more happy?). I bet there's a bunch more depressed folks at a museum than there are at a NASCAR race. I'd bet if you asked 20 people in the infield of the Talladega 500 what their most pressing issue was you'd hear stuff like "My black lab keeps getting his nuts stuck in the doggie door" or "Where am I supposed to take Katiebell for our anniversary now that the goddamn Dairy Queen is closed down?"

I don't wanna be vote republican, drive a Prius, Raider fan stupid. Of course not. Just being functionally unintelligent would be great, and so much easier. I can't seem to find a profession I can stick with. The pleasantly stupid can stay in unsatisfying jobs for their entire lives. It's easy for them, not being equipped with enough brain power to question the office politics at the filling station AND keep up with the latest in duck hunting technology (a decoy with SOUND?!?) they're able to go to work everyday with nary a thought about the poor treatment or lack of respect they get from customers and bosses.

They can also say anything that pops into their head without a hint of concern for how it'll be perceived. Phrases like these:

"Ol' Marv is a big jew cocksucker…",

"Well fuck me with a barb wire fence…", and

"I'm hornier 'n' a three peckered billy goat durin' a full moon…"

elicit chuckles and snorts of approval rather than shock or disgust among the happily dim-witted.

I envy their lack of self awareness. Self awareness leads to introspection. Which leads to deep, black, crushing despair. Which leads to a new pair of Steve Maddens that I don't need and can't afford.

I guess that's what I'm most envious of. That complete lack of self awareness which allows someone to proudly own all of Pantera's albums, laugh out loud at Larry the Cable Guy, and discuss the novels of Nicholas Sparks ad nauseam.

I'm going to train myself in the ways of the oblivious. People study Zen Buddhism, the principles of Tae Kwon Do, and the voodoo art of Chiropractics, so why not teach yourself to be a little less enlightened? I'm putting on my "I'm with stupid" shirt that has an arrow pointing down, going out to pick up a carton of Camels, flavored of course, a six pack of Old Milwaukee and then back home to watch Season One of "The Hills" on DVD.

Maybe by the end of Season Three I'll be so advanced that I can fart at work and not blame it on the girl in the next cubicle wearing the Jeff Gordon leather jacket.

Who cares? Some folks.

Concern for a stranger's well being is something that mostly escapes me. Sure, I get misty when I see a kid with a cancer on "20/20". I choke up over a guy who's lost his wife and is left alone to raise their small children. And I certainly pity anyone with a "McCain/Palin 2008" bumper sticker plastered on their Hummer. I'm not without sympathy for the tired, the hungry, the poor or anyone who paid to see "The Notebook" in the theater. I donate to the St. Jude foundation, which, I'm told is NOT named after the Beatles song. I give money to the guy that approaches me in the parking lot, spinning a fairy tale about "car trouble" and his "wife's doctor's appointment". I figure if I can afford two and sometimes as many as three bags of beef jerky at a time, it won't kill me to shell out five bucks so a guy can have a 40 of Old English and a People Magazine. Even the destitute should be able to stay abreast of Tom and Katie's latest adventures. This is America for chrissakes.

But those things don't make me a real humanitarian. Not in relation to the lady I spoke to on the phone today. Compared to her, I'm downright misogynistic. Whereas I took no more than a casual regard in the jewelry order she was giving me on the phone, she took an intimate interest in me and my health. As I was pretending to care what channel she was watching our auction on, she cut to the chase.

"Honey, I'm in the medical field…" she interrupted "…and I want you to make sure you get your prostate checked." I wasn't sure if she was offering to do it herself. I hoped not. She didn't sound like my type.

"Uh. Alright, June. I'll do that." I stammered. My phone voice clearly wasn't as hip as I thought. Obviously I sounded old enough that my internal organs required routine maintenance.

She sensed my discomfort.

"I've been in the medical field for 50 years, sweetheart, I can say things like that. My husband didn't listen, and BANG - prostate cancer, overnight."

It's disconcerting when someone uses the word BANG in relation to a prostate exam.

I wasn't sure what she wanted me to say. Should I promise to send her a note from my doctor after it was done? Did she want notary confirmation? Photos?

"I promise I will get that done, June." I told her, with as much conviction as I could muster. I thought about imploring her to check her breasts for lumps ASAP, but I blanched.

"Ok darling. You have a real nice Thanksgiving." she said.

"You too, June. And thanks." It sounded hollow.

When the initial shock wore off and I was able to force the imagery of the procedure from my mind, I realized that this woman had REAL compassion. Sure, I might toss some loose change to the lady at the bottom of the off ramp, but far be it from me to ask about the time since her last pap smear. I just don't care that much about someone who's not a close friend or immediate family. Hell, I've got cousins who's names I've never bothered to learn, always being able to get by at Christmas dinner with "Hey reindeer sweater, pass the yams."

I didn't ask if June's husband's overnight prostate cancer had been fatal. I didn't want to prolong the conversation lest she find out about my diabetes and demand to know my blood sugar level RIGHT NOW. She'd been in the medical field for 50 years, she could say things like that, right? I promised myself I would take her advice and call my doctor at my earliest convenience. No later than the next Summer Olympics or presidential election, whichever comes first.

I don't think I'll ever be the kind of person June is. One that talks so freely about prostate cancer, is concerned for total strangers and orders gaudy jewelry off the TV. I think I'll just keep doing the little things like giving the guy in the Wal Mart parking lot money. Maybe he will actually use it for gas to get his wife to her doctor's appointment. If he does, hopefully they'll have a copy of People in the waiting room.

I hear baby Suri is walking now.

Might as well face it.

I never had any sympathy for addicts. I didn't care what you were addicted to, I thought you were just weak. You could quit smoking if you really wanted to. It's not meth's fault, you're the one without the resolve to stop. Your last three girlfriends left because you're a drunk? Just quit drinking, for Christ's sake. Three year old kids have to be told that a hot stove will burn them - they don't know any better. I figured if you were a grown up you knew full well what was good for you. God, was I wrong.

I found out how wrong when I stumbled on to my own addiction. I was in the middle of one of the worst times of my life. I was lonely and confused and my addiction threw it's arm around me, slapped me on the back and said "I'm here for you…" I accepted it's companionship like a man stranded in the desert for days would accept a cup of water. I embraced it like a long lost love. I made it my entire focus. When I was happy I'd celebrate with it. When I was sad, it would commiserate with me. It never told me I was stupid or not good enough. When I was bored, it rousted me off the couch. When I was lonely, it begged me to venture out, it's voice so loud in my head I couldn't ignore it. It was easily justifiable since it was not illegal, nor was it a threat to my physical health, and it was easy to keep a secret. Too easy.

Gambling is not a physiological addiction. There's nothing I ingested that made my brain say "YOU NEED THIS". Nothing got in my bloodstream or altered my chemistry. But it's still an addiction. It still spoke to me. It said things like "If you wanna have any money left after the rent, YOU NEED THIS" or "If you want that new pair of shoes, YOU NEED THIS". There was a smaller voice imploring me to be smart and be patient and be responsible, but it was a whisper. It didn't speak with the power and authority of the addiction. The addiction doesn't shut up, either. Not when things are good and not when things are bad. Not at night when you're trying to sleep, or in the middle of the day when you're at work. It doesn't know how to tell time. But it knows you need it and it knows just what to say.

Then I hit rock bottom. The first time. Yeah, one rock bottom wasn't enough to straighten me out. See, you can climb out of that hole, do all the right things, and sincerely want to get better but the addiction doesn't go away. With the help of your friends, family and a good group of other people who suffer, you can learn to quiet the screaming of the addiction and listen to the whisper instead. But the addiction doesn't go away. It hides in some dark recess waiting for it's opportunity to be your pal again. I'll never forget that now, but I didn't know it then. Not when I hit rock bottom that first time.

I'd stayed up all night, gambling until I was down to my last $6. I knew I needed diapers since I was picking up my daughter in a few hours and would have her for a few days. Even knowing that, I struggled to leave the Sands. "That machine was just about pay BIG and you could buy diapers and have gambling money too!" my addiction was saying as I left. It was all I could do to ignore it. I was angry enough already since I'd lost $165 of my own money and I'd actually been way up at one point. All in all I'd blown close to $400. I had barely enough to buy the diapers. I picked up my daughter after sleeping in my car for about two hours. I didn't want to drive home since my tank was, as was the norm during this time, only about a quarter full and I couldn't afford to put any gas in it. I was raw and irritable at the store and the mixture of self-loathing, fear and lack of sleep had me feeling very on edge. After I'd grabbed the diapers, which I calculated would come to about $5.25, my daughter tugged at my sleeve.

"Daddy, can I have some Lucky Charms?" she asked.

"No, you can't have Lucky Charms!" I snapped. "We've got corn flakes at home!"

"I don't like corn flakes, daddy…"

"Well you better learn to like 'em, because I don't have a bunch of money to piss away on cereal!"

My anger was thick and palpable. I wasn't mad at my daughter, but she didn't know that, and I couldn't explain it to her. I'd yelled at her for no reason other than she asked for something, something reasonable no less. I paid for the diapers and we rode home in silence. I'd told her I didn't have a bunch of money to piss away on cereal and she was none the wiser. She cried, as toddlers will do when their feelings are hurt and they don't know why you're mad at them. Of course I had no money for cereal. I'd blown it all on Wheel Of Fortune instead. It wasn't so much that I wouldn't get her the Lucky Charms that had her upset, it was that I'd barked at her for asking.

That got me into Gambler's Anonymous. I called my mother later that same day and told her I needed help, and fast. I was too embarrassed to tell her what the final impetus was. To her credit, she didn't ask a lot of questions and she didn't lecture. She called a friend who was in the program and that friend called me. She told me her story, listened to mine and had me at a GA meeting the next afternoon.

The stories I heard ranged from WAY worse than mine to not quite as bad. It would be maudlin to repeat them. Suffice it to say, that was the day I started to have compassion for addicts. That was the day I realized sometimes something is just bigger than you and though you may really want to stop, you can't. Not alone anyway. I went to GA once a week or more as needed for awhile.

Then I thought I was better. I stopped going to meetings. I hadn't gambled in 6 months. I was doing great! But slowly, the addiction crept back into my life. It seeped in slowly at first but it wasn't long before I was begging my parents for the rent money. It wasn't a matter of cereal now, it was a roof over our heads. I promised my mom and dad that if they bailed me out, I'd go back to GA. They did and I did.

That was about four years ago. Since that day, I've been a lot more tolerant than I ever was. I sympathize with people who suffer from any addiction and I have compassion for those who've owned up to them and sought help. I never judge or cajole anyone who asks me about GA. I just tell them my story and let know them know we're not worthless or weak. We're sick. And though there is no cure there is a treatment. And it can be scary as hell. The first step for me was asking for help and I had to take that step by myself.

But I've never walked alone since then and I never will.