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The Dominican Death Trap

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Last year my ex-girlfriend and I traveled to the Dominican Republic for a destination wedding. One morning we were drinking by the pool when this flying-boat-hang-glider soared by in the sky.
“That thing’s a fucking death trap,” I said.
“I’m going on it,” she replied. “Tomorrow.”
“What?”
“I’m serious. After I finish this beer I’m going to go ask the concierge.”
“God damn it,” I said.

The concierge didn’t have any pertinent information. The next morning while on a run I found the captain of this suicide ship about a mile down the beach. He was a Frenchman and spoke no English. He was not affiliated with any hotel or activity organization. He was just a Frenchman with a flying boat. And faint muttonchops:

êtes-vous prêt à mourir?
êtes-vous prêt à mourir?

I told my ex-girlfriend about it and in the afternoon we walked to the flying boat. We each paid $70 for a 20 minute ride. The flying boat could only carry one passenger at at time. My ex-girlfriend went first. During the entire flight she kept leaning over the side and waving. She was a maniac. When it was my turn I pictured the hundreds of notebooks I’ve filled with scribbles over the last couple of years and wondered if anyone would go through them when I’m gone. Probably not.

Still though…it felt good to pretend. I sat in the flying boat and held on with a vice-like grip.

There have been 3 times in my life when I felt almost certain that I was about to die. This experience is one of them.

Captain Jacques Cousteau increased altitude and began gradually turning the craft so we could fly back the way we came. We were hundreds of feet above dry land and the wind picked up. I knew that this was the trickiest part of the flight. If the wind hit the wings too forcefully as we turned and Jacques didn’t adjust correctly the boat would keep on turning and head downwards.

In the video below it’s difficult to tell the level of turbulence with the camera attached to the wing. But between 7 and 15 seconds the flying boat began to jerk and rock. It was during the time that I thought, “This is it. I’m a goner.” At 13 seconds the boat veered to the left, then back to the right, and while I almost choked on anxiety Captain Jacques muttered something under his breath. I swear it was, “Vive la France.”

 

After the ride I ignored the horde of Dominicans trying to sell me trinkets and smoked a cigar to ease my frazzled nerves. My ex-girlfriend laughed and said I looked all shaken up.
“How come you never waved?” she asked.
“Because I was terrified.” We walked back to the hotel.

Later on at the tiki bar, people asked how it went. My ex said it was so much fun. I said it was the last time I would ever step foot in that Dominican Death Trap.

While my ex elaborated on the details of the flight and a friend showed her pictures he took from the ground, I left and walked back to our lounging chairs. I was happy to return to sipping corona and reading The Brothers Karamasov by the pool.

I’ll never get tired of this…

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She’s been waiting. She turns the hot water on and smiles.
“Ready?”
“Born ready.” She laughs. I throw down my bag and step over to where she’s sitting. “I’ve been thinking about this all day.”
“Oh really?” I settle down, let my muscles relax, and the water envelops me. “You are ready,” she says.
“Yes.”
“Good.” She’s from Russia, most likely fresh off the boat. Her accent is strong. Her eyes are dark.

She hovers over me and I shift into a more comfortable position.  Her hands grip the back of my head. She’s aggressive. She’s done this before. Yes, I’m paying. Yes, she doesn’t know me. But it feels intimate. It feels special. She grabs, scratches, presses, pulls, and massages during the whole experience. I keep my eyes closed because I think it would be inappropriate to look her in the face, especially since she’s on the job and concentrating. Soon, I’m blinded by ecstasy. My eyelids flicker. I don’t want her to stop. But stop she must. I’m not the only one…

I stand up and she hands me a towel.
“Thank you,” I say.
“You’re welcome,” she replies.
“I’ll never get tired of this…I mean…that.” She laughs again.
“Feel good?”
“Yes.”

My hair is washed and clean. I walk away. It’s time for a haircut.

 

The Catcher in the Rye

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Tonight I finished this little book for 10th-15th time…I’ve lost count. As a serious, American writer there’s no way you can ignore Jerome. He has one of the strongest, loudest, most tightly controlled voices in all of literature (at least since Mark Twain). Even authors who hate him can’t help but acknowledge that he mastered his perspective. My favorite, indirect slap (but we all know that a literary insult is a form of tribute):

“In the same school are those modern writers who start with some assignment such as “a mood of adolescence” or “my search for the meaning of life in prep school.” When they write, the standard of selection is the mood of the moment. The result is the kind of story where you do not know why one incident was included rather than another, or what is the purpose of it all. Behind such a hodgepodge is always a writer who starts without a defined plan and then writes as his feelings dictate.”
-Alisa Zinov’yevna Rosenbaum (The Art of Fiction)

Since my mind is whirling with all I could say about this novel, I’ll start with some interesting facts:

1.) Published in 1951 when Jerome was 31. Despite being an established author who had published successful stories in The New Yorker prior to this book, The Catcher in the Rye was denied by Harcourt because the head of the trade division “couldn’t understand it,” and the editors thought the protagonist “wasn’t believable.” (Both valid criticisms.) When Mr. Salinger was told this face-to-face, he broke out into tears, grabbed his manuscript, and ran out of the publishing house. He went to Little, Brown instead. Since 1951, The Catcher in the Rye has sold 65 million copies and continues to sell about 250,000 copies every year. Good job Harcourt.

2.) Salinger was in WWII, stormed the beach at D-Day, was engaged in some of the bloodiest combat (letter home: “I’ve been digging my foxholes to a cowardly depth”), and freed concentration camps (he was half Jewish). Yet he never wrote directly about the war:

“I believe its the moral duty of all the men who have fought and will fight in this war to keep our mouths shut, once it’s over, never again to mention it in any way. It’s time we let the dead die in vain. It’s never worked the other way, God knows.” –J.D. Salinger

He carried around the first 6 chapters of The Catcher in the Rye during the war. No wonder the beginning is so damn good…the guy was writing it when he knew that he could die any day…and when his friends were dying all around him…you don’t mince words, emotions, or ideas if you’re on the edge of death and you’re trudging through horror. In a letter home during the war Salinger said, “All I have left is nostalgia.”

3.) Three men committed murder who either had a copy of Catcher in the Rye in their hotel room, with their few belongings, or on their person at the scene of the crime. The most famous murderer was the guy who killed John Lennon. He sat down and read from Catcher right after he killed Lennon. He read from Catcher in court as his defense. The bastard is still in prison.

4.) J.D. Salinger had one nut. He was also suave and good with women. He dated the beautiful Oona O’Neill (daughter of the famous alcoholic, playwright Eugene O’Neill) before he went to war. Then she married Charlie Chaplin during the war and broke Jerome’s heart. The character in Catcher named Jane Gallagher, who Holden is always trying to call but never speaks to, is Oona O’Neill. Like Oona, Jane’s father was “…supposed to be a playwright or some goddamn thing, but all ever saw him do was booze all the time and listen to every single goddamn mystery program on the radio.” More telling, Jane’s father was named Mr. Cudahy. Patrick Cudahy was the maternal grandfather of Charles F. Spalding, who was a scriptwriter for Charlie Chaplin.

5.) “A man’s got to take a lot of punishment to write a really funny book.” -Ernest Hemingway. During the war Papa Hemingway hung out with Jerome. He said Salinger had “helluva talent.” When Hemingway died one of the few books in his library by living authors was Catcher. Catcher is an extremely funny book…it is also disturbing…those two things in literature frequently go hand in hand. “Comedy is the mistress of sorrow.” -Jonathan Winters

So what is it about Catcher which makes it timelessly affect people so deeply? Every great work of art (especially books) has an element of mystery…but here are two reasons:

1.) “When you come down to brass tacks the value of a work of art depends on the artist’s personality.” -Somerset Maugham.

Salinger has a funny, ridiculous, wild, and enticing personality. And he hits on that extremely difficult balance of intimacy and independence. You want to hang out with the protagonist, Holden Caulfield, because he kindly brings you into his world…yet he doesn’t give a shit if you like his world. Readers enjoy the personality of the novel. Think of the funniest people you have ever met…they touch the deep tissues of empathy which you share with them…yet they are also unique, ridiculous, and rioting in their own sphere.

It’s impossible to analyze adequately…but while reading Catcher you intuitively think, “Yes, this is exactly what Holden would do/think/say in this situation. A high school drop out who’s a self-proclaimed liar and exhibitionist would try to get plastered in a bar and hit on women.

2.) The novel, structurally, is extremely self-contained and balanced. Holden interacts with a concerned teacher near the beginning and at the end of the novel. The teacher in the beginning “gets a big bang out of buying a Navajo blanket” and near the end Holden observes an Indian weaving a blanket in the Museum of Natural History. The teacher in the beginning reads Holden’s crappy final paper on the Egyptians and near the end Holden talks to two boys about how the Egyptians preserved their dead. When Holden interacts with the two nuns he accidentally blows smoke in their faces and near the end when Phoebe is riding the carrousel the song playing is “Smoke gets in your eyes.” In the beginning Holden is standing next to a Revolutionary War cannon and near the end Phoebe talks about playing Benedict Arnold in the school play. When Holden is in a taxi he talks to the driver about whether the fish survive in the ice during the winter and near the end Holden observes an Eskimo ice fishing. The first line of the book mentions David Copperfield by Dickens and in the middle Holden sees a movie where the protagonist is carrying Oliver Twist and near the end the neighbors of his childhood home are the Dicksteins. In the beginning Holden says that the weather is “cold as a witch’s teat,” and later he refers to three women in a bar as witches. In a memory Holden likes when Jane puts her hand on his neck and later Phoebe, when Holden is crying, puts her “old arm” around his neck. In the beginning the first teacher shouts, “Good luck” after Holden and at the end the old woman in the school shouts “Good luck” after Holden. There are numerous references to coats and dancing. All these little connections (there are many, many more) subtle strike out subconscious while we’re reading. They create a world where the parts add up to something greater than the whole.

My experiences with the book…

1.) I first read Catcher when I was 12. I thought it was boring and, for some reason, “sticky.” I remember two images standing out: a guy in a formless bar talking to himself. And a little girl at the end riding a carrousel. So what? I also remember thinking it was crazy and silly that the voice of the book was a teenager…because the book was written by a 31 year old man! (I looked it up)…that’s weird.

2.) I read it again in college. Hmm..there are actually some funny parts in this book. Still…big deal.

3.) After college I read it again…holy shit…there’s a lot going on here.

4.) Now I have to purposely restrict myself from reading it too much…I look forward to the future when I forget parts of the book so I can encounter them again with a fresh, different mind…I’ve had experiences in bars, with women, with lost innocence, with living in NYC, with pain…it feels good hanging out with Holden.

There’s a lot more I wanted to say…but since I have a tendency to talk too much….I’ll end with this….

Mr. Salinger is a friend.

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Oh yeah, right after the war Jerome married a Nazi spy named Sylvia Welter.

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And he had a beloved schnauzer named Benny who lived with him while he wrote his only novel.

 

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Hasidic Jews: A tale and some gedanken

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hasidic jews

For a year I lived in Do-or-die Bed-stuy, Brooklyn on the border of the largest Hasidic Jewish community outside of Israel. There are between 90,000-100,000 Hasidic Jews in North America and 25% of them live in Brooklyn. Of these Brosidic Jews (Brooklyn Hasidic), 90% of them would blush, whisper yiddish curses, and turn away when I’d sprint shirtless through their tightly-knit, amply-covered communities. And 95% of the chaste women would shriek, clutch their wigs, and huddle on the opposite side of the sidewalk when Hank would strut and swagger past their cloistered, crowded homes.

During this time I worked as bartender for a place called Wray’s in the hood (outbreaks of violence were frequent…WHY YOU LOOKIN AT MY GIRL?!) and as a busboy for a restaurant called The Runner. On my walk home from both of these places I’d pass right through the center of the Hasidic community. One time I stopped to buy a loaf of wheat bread for my daily pbj and didn’t have enough money. WHAT TO DO? The Hasid cashier said it was fine and let me go. So much for the stereotype of Jewish stinginess…then again…I’ve had numerous people tell me that I look Jewish (my nose is slightly big and my red hair becomes a curly afro). Whatever the motivation, I still left the kosher grocery store with a warm feeling in my heart. And I returned the next day to pay back the difference.

A week after this friendly exchange I was walking home late on a Saturday night when I was accosted by a Hasidic Jew. He was very short, on the cusp of midget, wore spectacles, and had a long, gray beard.

“Please, please help me!” he yelled.
“I…I’m just walking home. I’m tired. Leave me alone.”
“You’re not Jewish, are you?”
“No, I’m not.”
“Yes! Please! Five minutes of your time. Please.” I thought of the Hasid generosity from the week before. I believe that acts of kindness ricochet in life..so you know what? Fuck it. I’ll help this devoutly Jewish man.

He led me into a building, into an elevator, and we traveled up to the place where I might be murdered. He didn’t tell me why he needed my help. He was emotional and kept talking incoherently (my fatigue and apprehension might have been blurring his words), “We’re here visiting…at a friend’s place…can’t do this…”

We entered his apartment. The place was freezing. Three children squealed and scattered into dark corners. The hairs on the back of my neck stood at attention. I was ready to defend myself against an ambush.

“Follow me,” the man said. He led me into a bedroom which was connected to a kitchen. A butt naked woman was passed out on the bed (just kidding). I saw a women timidly poke her head around a corner. The man opened a closet and pointed at a button. “Please. Turn it off.” I looked at the switch. It was for the air-conditioning. I pressed the button. “Thank you! Thank you!” I learned later that it was The Sabbath and that Hasidic Jews are not allowed “to do work” during The Sabbath (which includes using electricity). The man offered me cookies before I left. “No thank you.” In my mind I though they might be poisoned. Nonetheless, I was tempted. I like cookies.

I’ve always been interested in Jewish culture. My high school was 1/3 jewish and growing up I attended many Bar/Bat mitzvahs. I’ve dated a couple of Jewish girls. So…to temporarily quench my curiosity concerning the Jewish culture, here are the haphazardly-picked fruits of my research-labor on the this extreme sect of Judaism:

hasaid jew 2

Who’s hungry? For dinner we’re eating…white tablecloth!

Hasidic Judaism was started 250 years ago by Baal Shem Tov:

Baal Shem Tov

True dat Baal…true dat. Everybody around me stuntin.

Boys and girls are segregated at an early age and never participate in activities where the sexes are mixed. Dating and falling in love are as foreign to them as it is common to our wider culture. A mate is arranged through the aid of family, friends, and members of the community who act as a shadchan, or a marriage broker. Before the arranged marriage, the prospective pair engage in “sit ins” where they talk to one another for a couple of hours. Then they get married and spend the rest of their lives…

For boys, learning the Torah is the main the objective. They often spend 10-14 hours a day praying.

They average 8 people per family. They are strong proponents of birth control and planned parenthood.

They live each day according to the 613 commandments.

They thrive under and enjoy this framework for living: what to eat (no pork or shellfish), no mixing dairy with meat, what to wear, respect parents, etc. It’s nice, comfortable, and easy following a prescribed framework for living.

Western culture is considered shameless and dangerous.

kim k

 

Modesty is very important. “What secures us and others.”

So what about the women wearing wigs? All Hasidic women must cover their hair…even at home, in case of an unexpected male visitor…hair is the crowning glory of a woman…hair is sensual…she wants to keep her hair for her husband.

So what about the men and those funny, curly sideburns? Those are called payots:

payots

Check out my payots…ladies

They exist because the Torah says, “You shall not round off the pe’at of your head.” (Leviticus 19:27)

What about the funny hats?

had hat

Covering your head is honoring god.

Marriage is about eternity.

“We don’t marry the one we love. But we love the one we marry.” Those two sentences, I think, encompass why some people can become so extremely religious.

During the reception the men and women are segregated.

What about Hanukkah?

Hanuka-Menorah-by-Gil-Dekel-2014

Hanukkah is celebrated because of an ancient, Jewish victory over the Greeks, when the Greeks wanted the Jews to assimilate. Meanwhile, us Christians celebrate a fat man squeezing his way down a chimney in the middle of the night to eat cookies.

The most fundamental theme underlying all Hasidic theory is the immanence of God in the universe.

Hasidic masters exhorted their followers to negate themselves. They want to create a seamless bridge between physicality and spirituality, body and soul, earth and heaven.

A feature common to all Hasidic sects is the view that secular education is a threat to their traditional values.

In Hasidic Jewish schools words are blacked out in textbooks such as dinosaur, universe, and gymnasium…why? Those words would bring up subjects they don’t want to talk about it.

I watched an interview of a man who left his Hasidic community. He said the thing he missed most was a sense of belonging. “Who’s gonna look after me if I’m in danger? No one.” When you’re in the the Hasidic community people are looking after you, caring for you.

In another interview of a couple of people who left the Hasidic community, the question was raised: How do they keep you in? “Well, they say things like, ‘The Gentiles will kill you.” But believe it or not, they don’t usually say it’s forbidden to leave. It’s more that they stress: why would you even want that? The lesson of the Holocaust: stay as insulated and isolated as possible.

But wait…why is the word gymnasium blacked out of textbooks? Because gymnasium means exercise…exercise means body (the rude and callous flesh)…and exercise means secular, western culture.

So if you practice Hasidic Judaism…you’re frowned upon if you run?

To each his own…but not for me.

 

Sober vs. Drunk #1

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sober vs. drunk

Sober:

Tickle your ass with a feather?

What did you just say to me?

It’s particularly nice weather.

Drunk:

Stick a feather in your ass.

What?

It’s fucking raining.

Fred and The Trap House

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The nighttime chef at my restaurant is more hood than a pile of empty 40s and torn blunt wraps in the back of a stolen mini-van. He’s more hood than the Sunday morning ghetto noises of rusty church organs, wailing babies, thug music blaring from busted speakers, and toothless men sitting on stoops cat-calling passing women. He’s more hood than fried chicken doused in hot sauce served with Sunny Delight with a side of yo mama’s got a fat ass.

I’m not talking about the hood you hear about in radio-rap-pop songs, the ones associated with wasted white girls dancing in college…the ones where rich black men squeak their auto-tune nursery rhymes through diamond teeth while wearing tailored clothes and bright bling-bling, those lil johns, lil waynes, lil durks, young bucks, young jeezies, young dolphs…those little-young kids who sing their songs at nice burfday parties.

I’m talking about real hood, half a century of hood, 10 years in prison for manslaughter and nobody to help you or give you a record deal when you’re out…hood, working 2 minimum wage jobs, 6 days a week…16 hours a day in cramped, steamy kitchens…hood, can’t see your five year old son because your baby mama is blowing a guy who works for child’s services…hood, choked out on a subway by a police officer for looking at a white girl…hood, a lifetime of poverty, grinding with no end in sight, and oppression…hood.

That’s my chef. He’s real hood. We’ll call him Fred. Most of the time we get along quite well.

But Fred has his mood swings (10 years in prison for manslaughter mood swings). One moment he’s kind, friendly, and obliging…the next he’s screaming in my face (I don’t know why), convinced I’m racist, blind with rage, on the verge of attacking me, and storming out of the restaurant in his Tims.

I’m convinced he likes me, though. We’ve had many pleasant conversations.

Fred is 47 but looks like he’s 27 (black don’t crack…why? future blog post). I’m a curious person and when we take out the trash each night I like to talk to him about his life.

Fred has a wife who’s 23. One night I asked him, “How did you meet her?”

“At a trap house.”
“What’s a trap house?”
“You don’t know about trap houses?” Fred was appalled at my ignorance.
“No.”

Before I give you Fred’s explanation, let me inform you that a trap house is NOT this:

 

This is that radio-rap-pop song trap house. “My trap house a waffle house.” Sure it is, Young Durk. But this is not real hood.

Even urban dictionary has it all wrong: “Term used to define a crack house, or the surroundings in which a drug dealer or (trap star) would use to make their profit.” Romanticism sometimes bastardizes truth.

When I later told Fred about this definition he laughed, “Yea, that’s the rap song trap house, the south trap house, in NYC it’s a whole different thing.”

In reality, or at least, in NYC, a trap house is a place where an older gentleman with money opens his doors for young people/partying people to come in and enjoy themselves with booze and weed. These young people get intoxicated and hook up until the sun rises. A trap house is a modern-day, ghetto salon. 

When Fred got out of prison he spent a lot of time in trap houses. One night he went to a trap house and saw a young woman who was sitting by herself in a corner. She wasn’t “all up on the other men,” like the other girls. “That’s the one for me,” Fred thought. “I will make her my wife.” They blazed, discussed various topics, discovered shared philosophies, and fell in love.

Their marriage has not been easy. Fred’s wife, let’s call her Martha, is still a 23 year old woman learning about the world. Martha likes to attend rap concerts with her girlfriends. Fred doesn’t go. “Why not?” I asked. “You think I’m gonna waste my time at one of them shows? Give my money I sweat for to Kanye or Jay-Z? Hell no. What has any of those niggas ever done for me? Nothing. You think I’m gonna give my cash to those niggas and stand around while those niggas jump around a stage? Na.”  Despite his mood swings, Fred has his own wisdom.

Fred also doesn’t go to the club with Martha. “I’m done with that shit,” he said. “I’m too old and tired for those games. It’s always the same shit. Females get drunk. Then they start flirtin’ with other guys. Then they men get angry. Then the men fight. Somebody gets hurt. Always the same shit.”

Sometimes Martha threatens to hook up with other men. Fred is 47 and has been around the block. “Look, Martha, if you wanna do that, fine by me, but I’m out. You know I can find my own pussy. I’ll go on backpages tomorrow and have 2 girls all up on me in no time. You think another man will support you like me? Pay your rent? Buy you shit? Na. Those niggas that givin you attention, they don’t care about you like I do. They goan sing you a song, tell you a story, bang you out, and kick you out the door the next day.” Again, Fred has his own wisdom.

What provoked this post was a conversation I had with Fred last night. Lately, after long shifts, I’ve been joking around with Fred and saying,

“After we close this restaurant down, I’m going straight to the trap house.”
“Haha. Crazy white kid like you in a trap house? They’d love you.”

So tonight Fred says:
“My wife and I were actually talkin’ bout the Trap House this morning.”
“Really?”
“Yeah, we was talkin about this video some niggas took of me and posted online. Shit was crazy.”
“What kind of video?”
“So it’s like 4am in the trap house, right? And everybody high as shit. This girl goes into the bathroom and comes out buck naked, “I want a nigga to eat my pussy right now,” she says, and sits on the couch. So I start eatin’ it and these damn niggas start taking a video of me. Then they posted that shit online.”
“Wait, were you married to your wife at this point?”
“Na. We was only talkin’.”
“And what’d she think of it?”
“She thought it was funny. She know I’m a freak.”
(Side note: Fred is a devout muslim who doesn’t drink.)
While helping Fred throw trash into a dumpster I start beat-boxing.
“Damn, that’s pretty good.”
“Practice.” Then I start to spit:

Quiet as a mouse
White kid sneakin’ into the trap house
He starts to beat-box

All the bitches drop (Fred chuckling)

They panties
Martha got a nice fanny
 (Fred: Woah woah woah)
Lookin’ for a pretty slut
Smokin till the sun comes up

While in the elevator Fred says,

“You gotta be careful, though, if you go to a trap house and start makin a scene like that.” (Fred often takes me more seriously than I intend.)
“Why?”
“Cause if all the girls start payin you attention, then the niggas will get jealous and try to fight you.”

Note to self: Do not beat box too enthusiastically when visiting a trap house.

Because this is not a rap video…

This is the hood.

Biggie smalls bedstuy

 

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Who is more courageous?

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Who is more courageous?

The man who quietly and patiently endures
his daily struggles and hardships
or the man who recklessly throws it all away
and explores?

The man who looks for beauty, hope, and truth
in the mundane, dreary routines of his life
or the man who refuses to settle, accept, and obey
and takes risks by journeying into the wild unknown?

The man who steadily waits through temptation and pain
for the opportunity and light to arise
or the man who seizes the day
and with desperate frenzy creates his own path?

Courage is the ability to do
something that frightens one.
It is the ability to fight through
obstacles.

What is more frightening?
Trying something new and leaving it all behind?
Or facing the challenges and difficulties of the day head on?
Do you know the difference between obstacles and signs?

What Will They Say?

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True Love is rare…herpes sucks

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Happy couple outdoor, summertime

 

True love is rare. Life is short. And human beings have incredible powers of self-deception.

There’s a regular at my bar who has herpes simplex and is having difficulty finding love. I like the guy. He has an interesting story. (I believe everybody has 1 great novel inside of them…if they only took the time to put it down.) I’m often his shrink when the bartenders are busy.

Joe Smo wants to find true love again SO MUCH…he’s 31 and has been dating like a fiend. But it’s difficult when your pool is mostly limited to other people who have annual outbreaks on their private parts. Luckily, there’s a website where people with herpes can meet. It’s called OKputrid. (Joke.)

herpes forever

Joe has an ex-wife who has full custody of their two kids. In his early 20s he traveled the world with an Emo band (until they kicked him out for inadequate keyboard skills). When he met his future wife she was in college. They fell head over herpes in love (she was ok with him transferring the venereal disease). Joe was now about to join the military. During basic training his future wife wrote him everyday (41 times). They moved to Hawaii together and life was going to be perfect and wonderful amongst the cool, island breezes.

hawai

Then Mrs. Smo got bored. Perhaps she was a little too excited to begin with? After having two children…things changed.

Obviously, my perspective is biased through the storytelling-lens of (often drunk) heartbroken Joe, but I can read people and situations fairly well despite a lack of details, and it sounded like Mrs. Smo became a cruel, conniving, rapacious cunt.

She lied, cheated, and deceived. She brought men back home who were “just friends,” flirted with them in front of the kids, and stayed late at their apartments. Poor Joe was still desperately in love with Mrs. Smo and didn’t know what to do. He still wanted to spend the rest of his life with her. And think of the children! Joe grew up in a broken home and didn’t want the same for his boy and his girl. But this rapacious cunt was treating him worse and worse. The walls were closing in…the fuse was getting shorter…

short fuse pic

Begin soap opera violent drama. Joe lost his shit. He took to the bottle. There were fights, yelling, the police were called. Joe was almost kicked out of the military, but due to a previous flawless record, he was demoted to a desk job at a gym.

Mr. and Mrs. Smo went to court. Joe lost the kids. Now he struggles to see them once every couple of months. This past Valentine’s Day, he was in the bar by himself muttering under his breath and in tears, texting his ex-wife nasty things.

We all know the justice system favors the mother in these instances. The judge doesn’t care about Joe catching his wife kissing another man at 1am on a street corner when she said she was just taking a dog for a walk. The judge cares about Joe screaming in the middle of the night, waking up the neighbors, and throwing plates against the wall. YOU RUINED OUR MARRIAGE YOU SELFISH WHORE!

Now Joe is trying to find love again. But it’s difficult to meet someone spontaneously and then have to drop the herpes bomb. How soon should he tell a girl? 2nd date? 3rd? As they kiss in the elevator?

Yesterday, he told me about a promising date in which he drove to Delaware (2 hours) to go on (they met on the herpes site). He thought the girl was pretty and nice, but the fire wasn’t there. Joe wondered if he would ever find the kind of love that he had with his first wife again, where they just KNEW it was right and jumped right in.

Hmm, but how they did know it was just right?

First, I told Joe that love is rare. He may have found it in the past, but he has to be prepare to never have it again. Perhaps the first love was a byproduct of the reckless hopefulness of his youth?

It’s a pity that our society says that everyone can/should find love. Marriages that work and deep, true love are the exceptions, not the rules. I think if we all thought this way much suffering would be alleviated and more love would be found.

Then I thought:
Yes, Human beings are masters of self-deception. How easily it is for many people to convince themselves that their significant other is the “one.” I think much of it is biological.

If you read my Death on Wednesday Morning philosophy post, you will remember that I discussed peoples’ mental susceptibility for religion and believing in God. There is also a susceptibility towards lock down love. The first person you consistently fuck and date IS THE ONE NO DOUBTS OR QUESTIONS ASKED. Life is nice and pleasant that way if both people are on the same, simple page.

“You got the blinders on?”
“Yes, you too?”
“Yes. To the grave!”

This lock down love susceptibility goes hand in hand with religion. People who marry their first loves have also fascinated and confused me because I wonder, “How do they know what they like if they haven’t dated other people? How are they not curious? How do they separate the good qualities of the person with the pleasurable, love-blinded show in general? Why do they throw away their life on the first person who comes around who is nice and makes them feel good?

Because not only are people afraid of the dark, most people are afraid to be alone.

But hovering above self-deceptions and the rarity of true love is this: time is short and the clock is ticking. You can’t keep on saying “the grass is always greener on the other side,” and never get to the other side!  The phrase “nobody’s perfect” is often a justification for people to reconcile to themselves their shitty partners. But if you keep searching and discarding rather than compromising and accepting your entire life, pushing and pushing…what’s the point? Maybe Wilma with all her flaws would have made you happy…

I’m not a relationship guru by any means, but the last cliche thing I told Joe was this:

You can’t be desperately pining for love. You’re either gonna scare the great girls away or attract ones that are gonna be bat-shit crazy and hurt you again. You have to get yourself right first before anything will work.

“Yeah…you’re right, the problem is, after a date, I’m always worried if the girl had a good time or not.”
“Nay, Joe Smo, nay. A part of you can think this, but the bigger part has to ask yourself whether YOU had a good time. Whether the girl resonated with YOUR standards…which brings me to my final two points…

1.) Standards/values: Relationships are confusing and complicated. And timing plays a big part. But I think all you can do (or at least I’m gonna do) to navigate this fog is know deep down how you look at the world, what you value, and who you are. Those things take time and effort to understand, but the better you can grasp it, the better chance you have of recognizing someone who is similar/has reached similar conclusions about life. For example, I value curiosity and someone who never stops learning, hard work and striving towards something…kindness, intelligence, reflection, strength, endurance, exploring…these things are personal to me, are unspoken and felt, and don’t pass away with time.

2.) Patience: I may never find what I consider “true love,” but I’m willing to wait. There’s a chance I may die before I find this person…but I’d rather wait and search than settle for someone who doesn’t share the things that make me who I am.

Joe paid the check and left the bar. As he walked away I thought, “We pay for things we do in this life. If someone destroys you like Joe’s ex-wife and you survive it, I really believe you are stronger and better on the other side. When someone/something fucks you over…something inside broadens/opens up. I hope Joe figures out who he is, deep down, and finds someone who can set him on fire…

“But Jesus Christ,” I couldn’t help but mutter under my breath, “I’m glad I don’t have fucking herpes.”

doctor herpes

 

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The Verrazano Bridge…and ball sacks

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There she is…what a beaut…she spans from Staten Island to Brooklyn.

Named after the lesser known Italian explorer, Giovanni da Verrazzano,

Giovanni de V

He was commissioned by King Francis I of France to explore the New World and occasionally rape and pillage. His most known voyage was along the Atlantic Coast from Florida to New Brunswick, where he stopped in the New York Bay in 1524 to eat some overpriced pasta in Little Italy. In 1528 he was killed and eaten by Carib natives. According to long lost texts recently discovered in Guadalupe in 2012, Verrazzano’s ball sack was roasted over an open fire and sprinkled with cloves and nutmeg.

The Name Controversy:

In 1951, the Italian Historical Society took a break from doing each other big favors and murdering snitches and requested the new bridge be named after an Italian. After 9 years of picketing outside of government buildings and yelling, “Hooooo, C’mon, I says whaddu mean?! You fuck my wife?! Get outta here…” in 1960 a bill was passed for the name Verazzano and signed by Governor Nelson Rockefeller:

gov rockafeller
“Hyeh Hyeh Hyeh. Yeah I’ll sign that shit.”

 

But during the last year of construction (1964) JFK was assassinated and a petition to name the bridge after him received thousands of signatures. John N. Lacorte, the president of the Italian Historical society, was enraged and started violently throwing his brother-in-law into garbage cans. (He was also a wealthy man and in 1987 he announced a plan to give $1,000 to teenage girls who remained virgins until the age 19…that’s actually true.) Since his hit men just couldn’t get the job done, John contacted the U.S. Attorney General Robert Kennedy. Bobby didn’t want to sleep with the fishes beneath the bridge, so he promised to make sure the structure wasn’t named after his brother. The compromise was to change the name of NYC’s international airport from Idlewild to JFK. A small group of hippies began protesting against the loss of the name, Idlewild, but nobody paid any attention to them.

And get this…after all that….the explorer’s name on the bridge is misspelled.

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It cost $320 million to build in 1964, which in present dollars is $2.44 billion/annual GDP of Liberia.

At the time of construction it was the largest suspension bridge in the world, surpassing the Golden Gate Bridge by 60 feet (Fuck you west coast. East Coast build bridges fuck bitches till we die.)

About 12,000 men worked on it, 3 men died. After the deaths of the 3 men the workers protested, demanded safety nets, and walked off the job for 4 days. The safety nets were granted and 3 men who subsequently fell were saved. The workers were not invited to the opening. Instead they attended a mass for the 3 victims. Hooray.

cool v pic

It is 14 football fields long and weighs 2.8 billion footballs (inflated)…was the heaviest bridge in the world when it was built.

Today it still has the largest bridge span in the Americas, but it is #11 in the world. C’mon American Government. We’re bigger than that. Round up another 12,000 workers to exploit and let’s get to work!

The diameter of each of the 4 suspension cables is only 36 inches, yet EACH cable is composed of 26,108 wires…which amounts in length to 143,000 miles…5.7 times around the globe.

Due to the height of the towers and their distance apart, the curvature of the earth’s surface had to be taken into account when designing the bridge. The tops of the towers are 1 and 5/8 inches farther apart than at their bases. They are not parallel to each other.

Due to thermal expansion of the steel cables the bridge roadway is 12 feet lower in the summer than in the winter.

170,000 people cross it per day. 5,000 of those people are middle-aged women listening to Adele and tearing up in their car. The toll was 50 cents when it opened ($3.84 today adjusted inflation) now it is $16 per car. When Uncle Sam grabs your balls, he doesn’t let go.

uncle sam money
hair ballsack

When I first wrote this essay, a couple of sources stated that researchers were taking part in a collaborative project on the conception and construction of the bridge.  Supposedly, in-depth interviews were taking place of surviving participants to compile an oral history of the architectural landmark. On November 29, 2016 a commemorative plague, in tribute to all the people associated with the construction of the bridge, was supposed to have been revealed…

But now it’s 2018, and I’ve yet to read, see, or hear of such a plague. WHERE IS IT STATE OF NY?! WHERE IS IT?!

tanuki-pulling-boat

Like the magical Tanuki Yoaki and his expanding scrotum, we cringe and move on.

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