The Rise of Sriracha

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First birth: The original sauce was invented in 1949 by a nameless, old woman in Si Racha Thailand. The name “Sriracha” is not trademarked (because it’s a place). That’s why there are so many knock-offs (subway, pizza hut, burger king, etc.)

Second birth of the sauce YOU know (“spicy and flavorful in a respectful way”) by Huy Fong Foods (1980): Also known as “Rooster Sauce” or “Cock Sauce.” Created by this dude:

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David Tran. At the age of 30 he saw the fall of Saigon. “When Vietnam changed to Communism they stopped any business.” He was considered ethnic chinese, the unwanted minority, was part of the 30,000 refugees shipped to Hong Kong (A.K.A frozen ducks who were left on boats for months).

Moved to America (Cali) with nothing. Noodle soup was bland. “Everyone like me, we need our hot sauce. So I try to make it.” Personally delivered orders all over China town in his blue Chevy van. People say, ‘You make mild, you sell more.” David thinks, fuck you, but says “No hot sauce must be hot. We need fresh chile.”

He would manually dump chile into a grinder, causing the hot, stinging juice to run down his arms. When he would come home he couldn’t hold his daughter.

There’s a rooster on the bottle because David was born in the year of the Rooster.

The numbers:
In 2012 20 million bottles were sold. David’s factory makes 3,000 bottles an hour, 24 hours a day, 6 days a week (70,000 bottles a day). They just built a new factory that will make 18,000 bottles an hour.
David: “Economics up and down. For me I feel nothing.”
David again: “I make price very, very low.”

Every year Sriracha sales increase 20%
They use 48,000 tons of Chiles a year from ONE supplier. That’s 100 million pounds of peppers. The one supplier has the chiles at David’s doorstep 2 hours after harvest.

Ingredients: chile, garlic, sugar puree

Sriracha DOES NOT ADVERTISE AND DOES ZERO MARKETING. David: “We don’t have time, we can’t make enough.”

The phenomenon: Simply put: “People use it on everything…from eggs…soups…fried rice etc.” There are Sriracha ice cream sandwiches, lollipops, jams….people have sriracha tattoos (one guy spelled out on his knuckles), clothing, stiletto heels, rap songs…”I sneak it into wedding receptions,” said one poor bastard…Harold Dieterle, the first guy who won top chef, is a big fan….EVERY asian kitchen carries it. etc etc etc

Poem by David Tran:
I try to work hard to
make good product.
Until they don’t like
I stop to make

Below: A disturbing, but sadistically entertaining video of a buffoon chugging three bottles of Sriracha. I guess it’s a sign that a product has become a phenomenon when the outliers take it to the extreme. Don’t watch the last minute: vomit alert:

The Gorilla Suit

 

In the fall of my senior year in college I purchased a gorilla suit and it was a steady source of entertainment. But first…here’s a horrifying 7 second video of a real gorilla jumping towards a window:

 

The reason behind dropping a hundred dollars on a high quality primate costume was Halloween. My friend named Mufasa and I were originally going to split the cost, since he was the one who really wanted to wear it, but as the end of October approached Mufasa was short on cash. I decided to take one for the team and purchase the suit myself. Mufasa said I didn’t need to do that, but I told him that a gorilla suit was just a good thing to have, that would maintain most of it’s value long after it’s first use. Like a car or a house.

Here’s one of my top 5 favorite vines (13 seconds) of a Halloween prank gone horribly wrong:

 

The first plan for using the gorilla suit was to set up a chase on the night of Halloween. Two of our friends would be in banana costumes (Sean and Pusedad, both soulless gingers). They would be chased by Mufasa in the gorilla costume, followed by me in a safari hunter outfit, followed by Sylvester in a Captain America outfit. We had checked off all links of the food chain.

Nothing really happened that night as we ran through all the major buildings on campus. We made loud noises, fought each other as drunk lads do, huddled around people hollering like hooligans, etc. Students laughed, pointed, posted “Can’t believe I just saw ___” Facebook statues, security came, we hid. But that night was only the beginning…

Mufasa wore the suit to class once. Nobody knew it was him as he nonchalantly sat down, took out his supplies, and fumbled with a pen. He said the teacher’s little kid, who was visiting that day, was scared,
cried, and huddled in a corner for the entire period. Mufasha took an absence for this prank. Worth it? He said yes.

We would bring the suit out whenever we hosted parties. Girls are always down to grind with a gorilla.

“Umm…who are you?”
“OOO OOO AHHHH AHHHH.”

Sean and I took the suit on a road trip to Wisconsin to watch D3 cross country nationals. We would put the mask (with added sunglasses) on at every toll booth. The people in the toll booth never even flinched. No wonder so many of them commit suicide. They can’t even laugh at a gorilla with sunglasses driving a car!

We also put on the mask to harass other vehicles. That gave us some more reactions…the most common one being thumbs up. “Keep up the good work!”

At the cross country race, Sean wore the suit. There was another gorilla there from NYU. Sean stared at him without moving for five minutes. I proposed Sean beat the shit out of him to show which one was alpha. Sean said that he was already alpha and that was all.

Here’s me wearing the suit at Comic-Con:

G CC

Walking through the streets of NYC in the gorilla suit on my way to Comic Con, I saw that 95% of people barely batted an eyelash. “Oh, someone in a gorilla suit? I just saw a bald, homeless woman doing the Cotton-Eyed Joe in front of a python. And you think you’re special?”

There’s more that happened with the gorilla suit, such as a drinking event in grad school involving a funnel, vomit, and passing out in bushes, and an occurrence a few days before my college graduation ceremony involving water balloons and violence…but this is only my blog…so I’ll just have to leave you hanging…

gorilla hanging

(Garbage pun intended)

gorilla funny

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Marijuana

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Marijuana is fun. Like candy or masturbating. Warning: if you’re part of the rapidly dwindling camp that still believes cannabis should remain illegal, please leave my blog and never come back…loser.

You may be thinking this post is about to promote the glory and joys of the halfling’s leaf. Nay. In the last couple of years I’ve come to a gradual conclusion concerning the chronic and my life: it’s just not my thing. Or at least I use it very, very sparingly, on rare and special occasions, either by myself or with select individuals.

Before I explain my loss of interest let me emphasize: I hold zero judgements concerning people who use weed habitually. I’ve enjoyed it thoroughly in the past, have close friends who use it everyday, have had girlfriends who have used it, family members, etc. But I’ve dropped it from my life for the following reasons:

1.) As a writer, my mind is my workshop and my future means of income. Just as a serious, endurance athlete can’t be crushing candy and fast food consistently and perform at their best, I can’t be submerging my mind in a pleasurable THC bog on a frequent basis. Dope isn’t like it was in the 1970s…today’s strands are 50x to 70x more powerful. When you blaze you go a little insane. Then, after the insanity subsides, my head is in a daze for a week. I can hardly put my thoughts in order. My writing suffers. The vibrancy of my perceptions and emotions are dulled.

2.) Memory loss: everybody knows the space-cadet-forgetful stereotype of the stoner. For me, this is terrifying. I like my memories, the good and the bad. I use them to create art. And perhaps this is a character flaw, but I enjoy (even if it’s an illusion) mental control.

If you feel pain or have a past that haunts you, herb can be a brief release (until it all comes rushing back when you’re sober). If you’re trying to be aware of what’s around you and soak in life to the last, bitter drop…then drifting in a cloud will not be valuable or amusing.

3.) Energy decrease. Again, people know about the stereotypical stoner-couch-lock and loss of motivation. Of course there are exceptions: I’ve met productive, professional, active stoners. But would they be more active without ganja? Who knows? But I’ve observed a subtle, insinuating part of reefer inside of myself…if I’m smoking it more than occasionally, I don’t try. I don’t care. My life blurs. My will sags. I don’t like that.

Let me reiterate: I am not condemning the use of Sticky icky, I’m only, to understand myself, elaborating on my own decision to refrain.

Being a human being is fucking difficult. Someone commits suicide every 20 minutes. We all have to figure out ways to get through the day/our lives. If burning tree fits into your formula for well-being, enjoy it.

People have discussed with me Bobo bush’s positive affect on creativity…sure, it does jostle your mind, but so does reading a book or traveling someplace new. If you want to create music like Willie Nelson or Kid Cudi, smoke away. But if you’re trying to create something in a different vein or learn particular things about yourself and life…I’d suggest you treat bud as an irregular getaway rather than a key to inspiration.

Three, final points:

1.) The clock is ticking. Mercilessly. Perhaps in the future when I’m an established scribbler I’ll let myself indulge more with grass. But right now, while I pay the bills through restaurant labor, sleep 5 hours a night, and am fighting to publish stories, I can’t afford to numb myself with blueberry yum yum.

2.) What if you miss it? My experience in life is severely limited, but already I’ve had the entire course of my life veer in a different direction because of a small and simple (seemingly innocuous at the time) movement, thought, or emotion. Ever been with a group of people when someone decides to go back to their apartment to smoke kush? Or have you ever invited someone to hang out when they decide to stay in and get torched instead? What if THAT night would have changed their lives for the better if they decided to leave the bong? Of course I’m amplifying the significance of everyday experience, but as a writer who realizes that a passing perception can ignite creativity…when the way something sounds or looks might be used 3 years later when you’re sitting at a desk…when a phrase or a glance is fodder for the pen…you can’t let yourself be blindly, blissfully hovering in a haze.

3.) That all being said, I can still roll a mean, fat blunt (see above).

 

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Politics in Sport and Passion in Literature

 

-Beautiful-Oil-painting-nude-young-girl-reading-book-on-sofa-with-spring-flowers

During my junior year in high school I switched from team sports (soccer, basketball, lacrosse) to running. There were many reasons for this change, but one of the main ones was to escape “athletic politics.” I was a prankster who could never sit still with  a natural dislike for unmitigated authority. I also had an adolescent disdain of ingratiation.

I have a fond memory of my first soccer practice freshmen year. We were done for the day and putting the equipment back in he shed. I had the bright idea that I wanted to kick a soccer ball as high up in the air as I could. But my drop-kicks were rarely predictable. When I kicked the ball it when flying back behind my head, into the field, and smacked our coach in the face. His glasses and baseball cap both fell off.

“Who the fuck just did that!?” he shouted.
“Me. I-”
“Ten laps around the field.” Kicking a soccer ball into the face of your new coach isn’t starting off on the right foot.

With team sports it is often difficult to predict “all-around-skill.” Yes there are the seen factors of points/goals scored. But what about hustle? Getting back on defense? Closing the gaps? Staying on your man? Boxing out? Preventing a pass? Getting a ground ball when everyone else was tired?  I was never good at scoring points. I didn’t care that much and usually didn’t have the confidence to take the shot. But I was fast and worked hard.
So I was never a “star player” and didn’t get as much playing time as the guys who scored points. There were a handful of coaches who saw my “hustle merit” and put me in as much as the scorers, but most coaches didn’t care and I often sat on the bench. Of course my teenage mind exaggerated the injustice, but my subsequent success in running and realizations concerning the fallibility and favoritism of high school coaches makes me understand that I often didn’t get as much playing time as I might have “deserved.”

I switched to running because I was tired of sitting on the bench. Here, the game was simple. Run fast: get playing time. Hard work paid off. With basketball, I could practice all summer on my jump shot and have a coach who didn’t like my attitude and never put me in. With running, I could practice all summer and if I was the first one to the finish line, the coach had no choice. I was in.

Now, my competitive running career is (temporarily) over. If I earn enough money from the pen before my youth has withered away, I’d like to take another stab at running sub 1:50 in the 800 meters and sub 4:20 in the mile, but this is unlikely. Literature has taken precedent. Great literature takes years.

Of all occupations, writing is one of the more “just.” You put your work out there and if people like it, they pay for it. It takes a long time to establish a voice and a perspective, but once you have it, nobody can take that away from you. Art keeps many people (including myself) alive. If you can establish a connection with a like-minded audience, then all the circus bullshit of office politics becomes irrelevant.

But again I’m confronted with a similar feeling I had in high school. I’ve written a book and many stories yet I’m still “sitting on the bench.” Perhaps I’m actually a shit writer? Perhaps I should kowtow to the scorers?

Yet, when I go into a Barnes and Noble and read the fiction that’s been recently published, or peruse the NYTimes fiction bestsellers, I think, “Is this really what people are buying and praising? This stuff is boring. This stuff is crap.”

Whether I’m weird, insane, or strange for criticizing these recently lauded books (I think I’m the only person in the world who’s read all of Tolstoy and thoroughly enjoys dub-step music…perhaps my view of the world is too strange/odd to garner empathy) there’s a beautiful consolation for the aspiring writer: the words are out there to judge. Hand me a book that’s sold millions of copies or hand me a book that’s written by a Nobel Prize winner…I’ll know whether the author did something great…whether they closed the gaps, got back on defense, and hustled.

The impetus for this post were two pieces I’ve read in the last 24 hours. The first was as essay published in the New Yorker by George Saunders called: “Who are all these Trump Supporters?” It’s one of the most poorly written essays I’ve read in a long time. The subject matter was interesting, but the writing was boring, stuffy, and incompetently erratic. Yet George Saunders is considered one of America’s leading writers and will likely be praised and published in the New Yorker many more times before he dies.

Another piece I read is by Herman Melville called: “The Piazza.” The writing is also erratic, but with purpose, intelligence, and intensity. Melville was considered by the “literary elite” and the reading public at large as a hack writer for most of his life.

So amongst the glowing or scathing reviews, the prizes or lost obscurity, the publications in revered magazines or little blog posts, the six figure books deals or friendly pats on the back, the hemming and hawing, the noise…the words on the page will always be there…they will always reveal an artist’s soul.

You can run, my friend, but you can’t hide.

Mr. Crumpacker, Chipotle, Cocaine…and an investment banker who committed suicide

crum 1chipotle funny picso much cocaine

In a July 2016 issue of, “AM New York,” I read an article on Chipotle’s Chief Creative and Development Officer, Mark Crumpacker, turning himself in to Manhattan District Attorney’s Office to face seven counts of buying cocaine.

The executive allegedly purchased about $3000 worth of nose candy on at least 7 occasions from January 29 to May 14.

This amounts to an average of $428 worth of cocaine for each purchase. That’s about 2 eight balls or 7 grams worth of cocaine (I’m sure he received some sort of discount…then again…he was compensated $4.28 million the previous year…he didn’t need a discount).

In 3.5 months Mr. Crumpacker likely consumed almost 50 grams of cocaine. That’s averaging 1/2 a gram a day. The dude was nasally packing a lot of white crumbs.

According to Bloomberg.com, Mr. Crumpacker’s buying habits often corresponded with Chipotle’s difficulties:

1st purchase: January 29: Just days before the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released the results of a probe into two E.coli outbreaks that sickened dozens of Chipotle customers.

3nd purchase: March 8th: On this day Chipotle temporarily shut down a restaurant in Massachusetts after four employees got sick.

5rd purchase: April 27: The day after Chipotle posted its first quarterly loss as a public company.

7th purchase: May 11: The day of the company’s annual meeting, where shareholders voted to approve a proxy-access proposal backed by activists in a rebuke to the board.

Reminder: Adversity is often the breeding ground for nascent, consuming-addictions.

The investigation which led to Crumpacker turning himself in began with Thomas Hughes, a 29 year old investment banker, who committed suicide in May 2015. Thomas jumped from his 24th story Ocean Luxury rental apartment. Witnesses at the scene said his body landed on a fence and it cut him in half like a sandwich.

In Hughes apartment there were numerous baggies of cocaine and no suicide note. He had spent all night drinking heavily and doing drugs. His cell phone revealed an interaction with a cocaine delivery service, a ring based on Manhattan’s Lower East Side which allegedly used livery vehicles to deliver cocaine to locations throughout New York City, including apartments, bars, delis, hotels, pharmacies, restaurants and workplaces. Here’s Thomas and his father:

john and thomas

John Hughes portrait son

Quote from a NYtimes article by William D. Cohan:

“Since Thomas did not leave a note, no one can be certain what he was thinking. John [Thomas’ father] refuses to believe that his son committed suicide, despite the police report. He suspects that Thomas’s death was related to the stress he was under at work and that he used cocaine in a misguided effort to re-energize himself for the workday after a night of heavy drinking. And the combination of the alcohol and drugs made him crazy.”

Of course a father wants to believe that his son killed himself because of a drug binge, which made him crazy, rather than other psychological conflicts/traumas/issues. I’m reading between the cocaine lines here, but I wonder if this death fueled some sort of anti-cocaine justice-campaign. “We must find those bastards who put these drugs in my poor son’s hands!”

Here are some other white-collar people who have been arrested in connection with this cocaine-delivery bust:

-Katie Welnhofer: Fox Business producer
-Thomas Michaelsen: Director of marketing at Blackheath Beverage Group
-Christopher Dodson: Client associate at Merrill Lynch
-Roman Yoffe: Tax accountant running his own company: RVY Accounting Services
-George W. Bush: Retired President of the United States
-Kyle Holmes: Senior Associate at Marwood Group (healthcare focusd financial services firm)
-Alexander Mallory: Founder and Educational Director at Competitive Edge Tutoring (hmm, guess he knows how to get that competitive edge)
-Ghost of Sigmund Freud:

freud cocaine

Look, nose candy is not my thing. And we all know that drugs can be harmful. But while it’s easy, as a society, to get caught up in tragedies, we have to recognize that drugs will always be there…that shoving them under the rug when all we wanna do is shove them into our noses “doesn’t work,” and that many productive people who aren’t hurting anyone else use them to navigate their life, spur, cope, energize, think differently, relax, jolt, establish a network of grass-fed-beef supply chains to fast-food Mexican restaurants…

But Jesus Christ Senor Crumpacker, take it down a sniff.

 

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An Outsider Crippled by Regret and Confusion

lonley bench

Time has passed him by
Life continues
with its cycles
with its manifold excitments and exasperations
while he sits
gray, weary, jaded, still.
Babies are born, plants grow, funeral homes, withering leaves
Marriages, graduations, holidays
reminders, schedules, plans
What was he expecting to find?

life as outsider

Tragedies, police shootings, injustices,
Quiet joys, simple gifts, wisdom
Yet the trash is still taken out in the morning
Yet the rocks are still crumbling to dust
Yet the rivers carry dead bodies like floating logs
Lonley in a crowd
He hasn’t enjoyed a conversation in years
Why are they all so excited about these things?
He doesn’t understand the news
How do they all forget so easily?
dishonored
Friends and family died years ago.
He became reconciled to his
constricting dreams and steady routines
Hot and cold. Light and dark. Day and night. Back and forth.
Changing seasons unaccountable treasons unfathomable reasons
stranger wandering
They all kept moving faster and faster
Towards what?
They all captured, clicked, stared
They kept talking and talking and talking
It was as if he had gone off into the woods
and they had followed him there to mock
It was as if he had turned into a deaf, blind monster
and they were playing games with him
Over the years as he lost touch, lost empathy, lost hope
He wondered why he wondered why he wondered why
He never downloaded Pokemon Go
PokemonGO_145530996-4

The explosion and craze of this Pokemon Go App is unprecedented. I’ve never seen anything like it. 

In a week there are have been 7.5 million downloads and Nintendo’s stock increased in market value by $7.5 billion.

On my walk to work yesterday I saw crowds of people looking for Pokemon, one guy muttering under his breath, “I just want a fucking Squirtle.”

Armed robbers in Missouri used the app to lure victims to isolated locations, police said.

A quest to find Pokemon led a teen to discover a dead body in a river in Wyoming.

Attempting to Reconcile Doubt and Adversity with Positive Thinking for a Better Life

I recently read the following “poem:”

Watch your thoughts, they become your words.
Watch your words, they become your actions.
Watch your actions, they become your habits.
Watch your habits, they become your character.
Watch your character, it becomes your destiny.
Watch your thoughts.

For many years I’ve known, at least in the back of my mind, that thoughts are powerful, directional forces in one’s life. I remember in a college philosophy class reading these quotes by Marcus Aurelius:

“The soul becomes dyed with the color of one’s thoughts.”

Marcus-Aurelius

“Very little is needed to make a happy life, it is all within yourself, within your way of thinking.”

Yes, Emperor Aurelius, what we think is important.

But we’ve all had those days where we wake up feeling morose and cranky…and the rest of the day seems to follow suit. Then there are those times we think unstoppable, triumphant, glorious thoughts…and all the circumstances of the day seem to work in our favor.

So the solution is simple, right? Just think more positively and have a better life…in the words of the poet Biggie Smalls:

Uh, damn right I like the life I live
‘Cause I went from negative to positive
And it’s all…
(It’s all good)

But here’s my issue/concern #1:

How much control does one really have over one’s thoughts? How much should we expect ourselves to have the ability to watch over them? How does one simply “switch from negative to positive” despite the intervening chaos of the outside world?

Because the outside world often invades our thinking. We’re not empty islands of consciousness. We’re affected by our past and our surroundings. When you’re tired or you’re in pain, you think negatively. When you listen to a beautiful song, your thinking becomes brighter and more positive. Depending on what you eat, your thinking is altered (just now I crushed an entire box of cinnamon toast crunch and I “see” my thoughts are more sluggish and uncooperative.) If you’re high on drugs, you think you’re on top of the world. When your loved one is treating you cruelly, your thinking plummets. When you overcome an obstacle, do something kind for someone else, or even remember a special moment, the color of your thoughts change. 

Over the years I’ve read hundreds of articles and books on free will and the brain. I desperately want to believe that the brain is more than a complicated muscle. There’s a burning conviction inside of me that I can mold and craft my life within reasonable bounds. But when I mentally step back I can’t get over the knowledge that your sense of self, your mood, your beliefs can be altered by poking, cutting, and tampering with the physical brain. Insert dopamine into the arcuate nucleus of the hypothalamus: happiness.

Unsatisfying Conclusion #1: The “self” is influenced by millions of unfathomable things…we can play games with it (in a bad mood? listen to your favorite song, exercise, remember a beautiful moment…then ride the mental momentum etc.) but this doesn’t take away from the fact that we’re constantly pushed and pulled around and it’s not always easy to press the on-switch of positive thinking.

Issue/Concern #2: Negativing thinking and doubt can be horrifying and tortuous nowbut it may pay off in the future. 

“What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,” -Friedrich Nietzsche

Friedrich-Nietzsches-Wild-Glory

“My mustache is better than yours.” Friedrich Nietzsche

Contained doses of struggle has its merits. Whether it’s your leg muscles or your brain, if you don’t work them, they decline. Because everything is in flux, nothing stays the same (Buddhism 101).

“Difficulties strengthen the mind, as labor does the body.”
-Seneca

“If there is no struggle, there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom, and yet depreciate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground. They want rain without thunder and lightening. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters. This struggle may be a moral one; or it may be a physical one; or it may be both moral and physical, but it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.”
-Friedrich Douglass

“We could never learn to be brave and patient if there were only joy in the world.”
-Helen Keller

This means that negative thinking, mental struggle, and spiritual pain carves out parts of our mind and selves so that we think more clearly, simply, and positively in the future. Mental anguish makes us better on the other side. 

So shouldn’t we, in a sense, say bring it on to negative thoughts? Shouldn’t we submerge ourselves in loathing and confusion? Because if we survive…we not only have learned about ourselves and the world, but we’re left with the residual belief that we can handle anything in the future.

Right now I could drop my writing ambitions and coast on positive thoughts for the rest of my life. Whenever negativity creeps into my consciousness I’ll jump on it and say: “At least I’m not starving, at least I can go to the movies, at least I’m not retarded or paraplegic, at least there’s bacon, at least my dog loves me, I’M THE MAN, LIFE IS GOOD.” But no…I return to my apartment and I’m consumed by doubt and anger. I beat myself up.

Yet how long will this go on? How much progress should we attempt to achieve through ceaseless struggle?

I used to read a lot of self-help books. Many of them have the following message:

What you think about, you bring about. 

This is also the message of “The Secret” or The Law of Attraction: By focusing on positive or negative thoughts a person brings positive or negative experiences into their life.

So if I focus, positively, on being a successful writer, on being a good person, on a healthy, sunny existence…experience will mirror my beliefs?

Perhaps…in my own, narrow way. 

But I think this sort of positive thinking can be dangerous, can be stagnating. How does one improve if they’re always patting themselves on the back? How does someone move to another level in their art, in their thinking, in their confidence, in their strength, if they are busy telling themselves how good they are? Doesn’t calling yourself a wretched, stupid, lazy nobody provoke action to remedy the situation?

Today a regular came to my bar and was pissed off that he had to wait a couple minutes for his drink. Then he was angry that there wasn’t enough vodka in his Moscow Mule. Before he left, he told the new bartender that, “I’m actually a really nice guy. I’m not an asshole.” A quote from a Louis CK comedy sketch came to my mind: “Nobody’s allowed to say that they’re not an asshole. It’s not for them to decide! Other people decide whether or not you’re asshole.”

So can’t positive thinking, in a sense, be delusional? You repeat to yourself: I’m a nice guy, I’m successful, I’m strong, I’m charming, I’m caring…meanwhile, you’re a mean, weak, selfish bastard living in a hovel. Wouldn’t it be better if you had more negative, confusing, depressing thoughts? Wouldn’t that develop more empathy and understanding?

Unsatisfying Conclusion #2: Yes, negative thinking may bring about negative experiences…but it is also your brain searching and coping and digging through the maelstrom of experience.

“To live is to war with trolls.”
-Henrik Ibsen

All that being said, we should still watch our thoughts, positive or negative.

But don’t flee the battlefield.

 

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Graffiti in a Bathroom Stall

bathroom stall dark

Roses are Red
Violets are Blue
Bathroom Graffiti
While Taking a Poo
Asshole is Red
Face is Blue
I’m Constipated
While Taking this Poo
The Stop light was Red
The Ethiopian Food was New
I’m So Sorry About Shitting
All Over This Room
You’ve Already Read
A Poem or Two
Now Wipe Your Ass
You Disgusting Buffoon

The Internet and the Cell Phone…Some Thoughts Looking Forward

cell-phone-babyooooh-internet

Humans are adaptable. This is one of our most defining characteristics. Not only have we adapted over thousands of years to cope with Mother Nature’s brutal indifference, but we adapt each generation to the new technologies and innovations passed on by our forbears.

But despite our ability to adapt to changes on the surface: faster communication, tastier and faster food, driving cars opposed to horses, easier access to healthcare, information, movies, pictures, more wealth etc. etc. etc. etc……some things never change. Love. Dreams. The unanswerable questions (why are we here? where did it all come from? What’s out in space? Debates on God, Free Will, and Justice.)) This explains the durability of art.

But something really really big has happened on the surface in the last twenty years, and I’m curious in what ways and to what extent it will impact our inner lives and what it means to be human.

Cell Phones: To communicate with anyone you know…instantly…whenever you feel like it. How does this affect the nature of relationships? How does this affect attachment? Letting someone go? Re-connecting with someone in your past? Expectations?

Internet: To obtain almost any information instantly…facts, statistics, short stories, articles…youtube videos on learning calculus, organic chemistry, sewing…to be entertained endlessly through more and more movies, music, comedy, interviews…websites exist that find you what you will like based on your interests.

It’s honestly overwhelming. And I think my generation is unique in that we grew up without cell phones or the internet. We were introduced to these technologies in our adolescence/high school. I can remember a world without cell phones or the internet, but I have “become an adult” with these technologies as a part of my life.

So how is the world different? Well, one thing I think the cell phone and the internet has done (and will keep doing) is create more pockets of fulfillment. This is subtle and most people don’t notice it (a negative of the internet and the cell phone is a lack of steady attention). Let me explain:

The internet and the cell phone have severely reduced transaction costs. In economics the term, transaction cost, is what you have to give up in order to make an exchange of some sort, or what you have to give up to participate in a market.

Time is a cost. In the past, your uncle may have a written you a letter saying that he has a $500 gold nugget he’d like to give you for free. (Note: nothing is free.) But if your uncle lives 4000 miles away and you have to spend three months traveling there, you may re-consider this offer. (Even if your uncle offers to pay for the travel expenses, you’re still giving up three months of your time to obtain the gold nugget.)

The cell phone and the internet have drastically reduced the time it takes to communicate and obtain information. I’ve often wondered why this hasn’t caused businesses to explode…but in a sense…it quietly has. There are more people selling, buying, and doing more, different things than anytime in the past…and it’s growing. Before you’d have to call landlines and leave messages. And you’d have to wait while you listened to these messages. Now you can reach Person A instantaneously:
“I need 25 cases of X by tomorrow 3pm.”
“Got it.”
*Click.*

So what do I mean by pockets of fulfillment? Two, random observations I had while riding the ferry boat back to Staten Island tonight:

1.) My co-worker bought a vape today in order to limit her cigarette smoking. She told me about her friend who is a “vape expert,” who is aspiring to join a select group known as the “vape gods.” She told me the story of how she bought the vape today…the salesman describing the parts, the designs, the nicotine liquids, the way to use it, etc. etc. he knew so much about vapes. The internet and cell phones have allowed markets to become more and more specific…not only concerning peoples’ specific needs (more healthy, more environmentally conscious, more “hip,”) but concerning the people who meet those needs (who designed the vape? who built the mouthpiece for the vape? who marketed the vape?)

2.) I read in a NY magazine about a new comedy group composed of 4 guys with Aspergers called Asperger’s Are Us. Could groups like these form and reach someone like me (a documentary was just made about them) without the internet and the cell phone?

But the major drawback of the cell phone and the internet, though…a loss of patience, a loss of attention. And often times people aren’t conscious of this loss of patience (I’ve noticed this especially with people under 22 years old), they just want this thing now…whether it’s a job that’s fulfilling, a relationship that works, an answer to a personal problem, etc. But some things, some truths, some feelings…take time. You just have to wait.

Wait.

 

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A One Night Stand I Don’t Understand

This story is extremely embarrassing and compromises my masculinity, but one must take no self-conscious prisoners in the glorious and noble pursuit of truth.

It was 2am on a Wednesday night. I was going home after a strenuous restaurant shift. While passing the subway shop in the St. George terminal I saw a pretty woman in formal dress walking ten steps ahead of me. Despite the friendly beckoning of the Indian man who works the graveyard shift at the subway (we often joke with each other that neither of us sleep, that all we do is work, give each other high fives, and he gives me free cookies) I merely acknowledged him with a head nod and kept walking. For some reason, in my exhausted, lust-shredded mind I thought, “Walk past that woman, just walk past her.” So I tightened my grip on the straps of my jansport…and increased my gait.

Once outside I passed her on the right and looked at Manhattan across the bay. Mission accomplished. But wait a second…what did I even do? “You’re an idiot,” I thought. “But don’t look back.” I walked faster and admired the lights of the skyscrapers in the distance. Someday, Manhattan, I will return. A feeling of conviction and power rose within me. That’s my city, the greatest city in the world, the city of fleeting chances, intensity, insanity, wretchedness, riches, loneliness, clashing and thrashing, thwarted and realized dreams, desperate hopes. It was a hot summer night.

“Hey, do you have a cigarette I could bum?” a feminine voice behind me asked. I turned around and smiled.
“No, but if I did, I’d give you one.” Yes, she was also pretty from the front…she looked Jewish. She had curly black hair, green eyes, and a nose ring. A quote from a story I read in the morning came to mind:

“It was a touchingly beautiful face, just as always the beauty of Jewesses is of a peculiarly moving kind – a consciousness of the deep misery, the bitter scorn, and the evil chances wherein their kindred and friends live, brings to their lovely features a certain aching tenderness and observant loving apprehension that strangely charms our hearts.”

I read too many books. I slowed my gait and she picked up hers.
“Why the hell are you wearing khakis?” she asked.
“I just got off work.”
“Where do you work?”
“I manage the bar in the Whitehall ferry terminal.” Now we were walking next to one another. I thought this was funny and felt strangely at ease.
“But why are you wearing khakis.” She might have been drunk, but she also seemed like a spark plug of a girl and peculiar. Her strong tone of voice and acerbic mannerisms struck me as flirtatiously inquisitive and feisty.
“I told you this already, I’m walking home from work.”
“Wait, do you live on Staten Island?”
“No, Brooklyn. I’m taking the long way home.”
“Oh my god, you’re hilarious. But really, you live, like, close by?”
“Fifteen minute walk down Richmond Terrace.”
“I’m down Richmond terrace, too.”
“Let’s walk together. I’ll protect you from any strange men you might meet.” She laughed.
“But wait…why do you live on Staten Island?”
“Cheap rent. Short commute. View of the water.”
“I mean…but why do you live here?” She was starting to get on my nerves. But I thought I’d at least get her number.
“I just told you.”
“But who lives here?! It’s such a shit-hole. I hate this place.” For the next five minutes she basically kept repeating how much she hated Staten Island and commenting on the ridiculous fact that I was wearing khakis. Then she stopped in front of some shadow-shrouded stairs.
“Hey, wanna come inside and smoke weed?”
“Sure.” I knew I wasn’t going to smoke weed…I rarely smoke weed with strangers anymore because I get the fear. But yes, I’d gladly follow a pretty woman into her apartment and see what happened.

Let me pause and say this kind of thing never happens to me. I’m not a strikingly handsome guy. Women have never fallen into my lap. I’ve always had to spit incessant, shameless game for a woman to think I’m attractive. The only time something remotely like this ever happened was in Atlantic City five years ago. My friends and I were taking an elevator up to our room and three, drunk girls joined us. One of them pointed at me and said, “You’re really cute. Come to my room in ten minutes: 2678.”
“I will.” Ten minutes later I’m sweating outside 2678 with a throbbing heart and a condom in my back pocket. The door opens to reveal an old man in a bathrobe, “Who the fuck are you?” I walk away.

Inside, the pretty Jewess’ apartment was a mess. Piles of clothes were scattered all over the floor. Weed paraphernalia littered a low table in front of a couch. There was a record player in a corner and abstract art on the walls. The apartment was spacious and looked large enough to accommodate two people. Ah, yes, that’s it…perhaps I’m a rebound. I’ll take it. 

We sat on the couch and chatted about innocuous things. She worked for airbnb and didn’t like it. Her boyfriend moved out months ago. She still kept saying how much she hated Staten Island and asking why I lived here.
“I refuse to answer those questions anymore.” A wave of fatigued washed over me and I almost passed out. I had pulled an all-nighter the night before and was averaging 4-5 hours sleep a night for the past month. Sitting on the couch and not moving made me realize how exhausted I was. Should I go home? No, of course not. There was a lull in the conversation and she said:
“I’m usually more witty than this,” We were sitting very close to one another at this point: now now now. I clumsily kissed her, then she pushed me away. I’ve played this game before. I leaned back, put my hands behind my head, and relaxed. Again, I almost passed out. She smiled and stretched out on my lap. I massaged her breasts. They were large.  She climbed on top of me and took off her shirt. Her body was nice. Better than expected. I was now fully awake. Most girls I’m attracted to don’t have large breasts, so I took this opportunity to play with them: lift, knead, grasp, flick.
“I’m gonna go take a shower,” she said.
“I’m coming with.”
“Alright.” We strip and step into the tub. Her eyes widen when she sees my body. With clothes on I look skinny, but from all the running I’m fairly muscular and girls are usually surprised when they see me naked.

While showering we kiss and play with each other. We also laugh and joke about things I can’t recall. At one point, though, I do remember her saying,
“You’re so weird. You’re like a dad.”
“I know. You’re not the first person to tell me this. I like being weird.” She kept leaning down and rubbing her butt (which was also nice) against my pulsing cock. I was consumed by lust and tempted to take her in the shower, but thankfully the voice of reason shouted: no way are you taking this strange woman who brings a stranger back to her apartment without a condom.

For a moment, while sucking on her nipples (which were on edge of being pancake nipples…but still very nice) in the shower, I thought about the silly absurdity of this situation. While on the ferry boat back to Staten Island I was thinking about working on my novel for an hour then blissfully passing out on my comfortable bed…now here I am, in a bathtub, gently rubbing this stranger’s clitoris while her nipples are in my mouth. How drastically our lives can veer in a different direction.

We dried each other off and walked back to the couch. For a moment, my vision faded while walking through her apartment…my desire for sex was fighting valiantly against fatigue.

We cuddled and kissed some more. I retrieved a crumpled condom from my jansport and put it on. She played “hard to get” again and playfully denied me, but we both knew where this was going.

I flipped her on her back and mounted her. I put it in and began slowly thrusting. She turned on her side and closed her legs more…I think to make herself tighter? Then something extremely embarrassing occurred which had never happened to me before…

I went soft. While inside her.

I pulled out. She climbed on top of me and I became hard again. I slipped it in. But after a couple of thrusts…

I went soft again. While inside her.  The Horror The Horror. 

She sighed and laid across my lap. Her smooth, round butt was inches from my face. My limp penis refused to respond. I ran my hands along the beautiful contours of her ass. I couldn’t understand what was going on. Here was a pretty woman who wanted to fuck…and my penis was letting me down. Like an idiot, I said,
“I’m…I’m really tired. I haven’t slept a lot lately.”
“Excuses.” She wiggled her butt. My mind continued to spiral down in confusion and loathing. What was wrong with me? This woman was hot! I wanted to fuck her, but…but…but…

I passed out. I woke up an hour later with her butt still inches from my face. She was asleep facedown on the couch and snoring. I gently lifted her off my groin, walked over to my jansport, pulled out a business card, and left it on the table.

Outside the sky was gray and the birds were chirping. Believe it not, I felt happy. One of the many reasons why I enjoy New York City so much is the innumerable possibilities for wild things to happen. I arrived at my apartment, slept a few hours, and went to work.

The next day she texted me. We flirted through texts for the next week. One night I was walking home and saw her sitting outside her apartment with a man. He seemed to be pleading with her about something while she looked disinterested. I asked her about it via text message the next day (“Was that your bf?” “He thinks he is. He wants to be.”)

Not long after I lost my phone and almost all of my phone numbers. Our conversation was lost. I’ll most likely never see her again. I do remember, though, the last thing she texted me when I told her she wasn’t that witty:

“Whatever you say, noodle dick.”

Touché…pretty Jewess…touché…

 

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