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When you’re finally born in February, will you hear my voice and pounce on my finger with both your fists? Will you squint at me making those silly noises trying to catch your attention? Will you suck on my finger instinctively while I stare at you in awe? Will you wake up every two hours in hunger, but pretend it was because you missed me? Will you make me feel like my life was never complete without you?
Do you know that you don’t have to answer any of these questions – that I still love you more than life itself?
Dear Little One,
“With great power comes great responsibility.” One day, you’ll be able to make a grown man cry with a smile. You’ll be able to rend a man’s heart with a single teardrop. You’ll be able to make a man willingly forego sleep for the opportunity to hold your bottle. You’ll be able to make a man chauffeur you to Toys R Us every weekend just to see the joy in your eyes. One day, you’ll make a man swear his life to doing nothing but making you happy.
Just go easy on me, OK?
The central tenet of Christianity is the sacrificial love Jesus showed by dying on the cross in place of humanity. That resonates with me on many levels. While I am no Christ-figure, when I was younger, I often deflected my parents’ anger toward my siblings by misbehaving even worse whenever they’d misbehaved. If my mom was yelling at my younger brother, for example, I’d disrespect her so that I’d be the object of mom’s wrath. Modern example: whenever my daughter misbehaves, I go ballistic on her, turning my wife’s sympathy to her, and her anger on me. All for love.
On CNN.com yesterday there was an article about a California fisherman who was killed when a whale breached over his boat and landed on it. Admittedly I laughed when I first read it, especially the line “survivors were not able to identify the type of whale, which they described as ‘very large.’” But here’s my follow-up question: would you rather die a spectacular, strange and random death or die more commonly? If you have to go, why not go out with a bang? Personally, I prefer the common death. I don’t want people laughing over my passing. Dignity over notoriety.
I often made things up in speeches I had to give. Where appropriate anecdotes or examples did not exist, I designed one. Like the time I introduced the governor. I flipped through a book of quotations and found the perfect one to use. Education and Vietnamese proverb all in one. Merely reciting it without a personal context wouldn’t have hit the audience in the same manner as it did by claiming the quote was a proverb handed down to me from my ethnic ancestral roots. The governor’s aide liked it. “If only he had half your charisma,” he had complimented.
Charisma wasn’t what I’d call it, unless you define “charisma” as the ability to impress others with full knowledge and volition of that forthcoming impression in the delivery. It wasn’t so much charisma as manipulation. I knew what they wanted to hear. I knew how to say it, and what play it would get. I didn’t design the anecdote to receive any other reaction. Moreover, the case can be made that this type of manipulative, contrived presentation is not merely a snapshot, not just a still of my life, but rather the defining characteristic of it. Am I so shallow?
“Do you love me?”
You look through me with your gypsy eyes and your gypsy fingers speak to me through my hair.
“Do you love me even when I’m being crazy?”
You whisper wordlessly and I see in the whisper card-playing campers beneath the open California stars.
“Do you really, really love me?”
You touch your nun-pure hand to my temple and I smell the Atlantic coast mimicking the Oregon shore and hear the halo of a pink-clad angel in black jeans.
“You know I love you, too?”
You smile your baby duck smile and I taste its downy echo.
I thought it would be harder to completely pretend that baseball didn’t exist. I thought that the ESPN headlines and Sports Illustrated articles would scream at me like an Ichiro double down the third-base line. The news of the averted strike nine days ago obviously depressed me at first, knowing that games would be played and undoubtedly vie for my attention. And I figured it would be hard to avoid them. But College Football and the NFL have made it all the more bearable. Die, baseball. Die the frantic death you so deserve. National pastime, my bloated ego and salary.
Once upon a time there was a baby bear. The baby bear’s name was Angie, and she was the cutest baby of all time. And Angie loved her Poppy to the pieces. One day Angie saw Poppy working at the computer. “What are you doing, Poppy?” asked Angie. Poppy said, “Writing you a story made of 100 words, so that one day when you can read (let’s say when you’re two and a half), you’ll read about how much I love you.” “Thank you, Poppy,” said Angie. So Poppy wrote 100 words for Angie because he loved her. The End.
Tomorrow will struggle to be any other day, while the weight of the world pulls upon it to be special.
Millions of words have already been written about tomorrow, but tomorrow another million heartslivers in chunks of 100 words will be shared.
Tomorrow millions of people directly disconnected from NYC and DC will connect to both through the outpouring of their memories.
How can we pretend to “commemorate” tomorrow since tomorrow is all we’ve talked about all year? Can you memorialize a tomorrow that has always been today?
Tomorrow is already here, but didn’t all this just happen yesterday?
One of the most famous passages in the Bible is John 11:35, “Jesus wept.” The concept of a weeping deity is not unfamiliar to Christianity. It’s not uncommon for parents to tell their young children that rain is really God crying, or that God’s tears over the debauchery of His people caused the great flood. Is there a more endearing image of God than this -- of Him being moved to tears over what we’ve become?
If a tree falls in the woods, yadda yadda. But if God cries over the world and no one on earth listens, then what?
if you stop screaming
for the second it will take
to catch my breath
i’ll bring you hatred on a platter
large enough to share my disconnect
amnesia scratches an itch
only the toe of my soul can reach
and before i swallow a whole oak
i’ll throw up
to make room for the truth
the earth sits on the edge
of a pointed thought
aimed at bringing me from
the wilderness of illusion
to the safety of three trees
at the top of the world
i’ll bring it to you
if only you stop screaming
I’m the opposite of a health nut. There are those that enjoy waking up at 5:00 for a multi-mile run, topped off with a liter of water, a bran muffin, and two containers of yogurt. Then there’s me, who would rather sleep till 10:00, have fried eggs for breakfast, and who dreads the daily walk from the train station to the office. I hate everything about my commute: the sweating, the awkward carrying of a laptop bag whose $40 value is reflected in the no longer usable shoulder strap, the stopping for cars at intersections, and especially the slow walkers.
The term “love/hate” is overused and untrue for most. More accurately, most should use “love/dislike” instead. I truly have a “love/hate” relationship with my sister – but from a historical viewpoint rather than current. I hated my sister when I was younger. Because she had privileges when I didn’t. Because she was a parent in their absence. Because they treated her differently. Now I realize it was because she was asked to do things I was not. Asked to care for children not her own. Asked to make parental sacrifices while still a child. I struggle now with reflecting newfound love.
I miss the X-Files. Admittedly, I got into the series late. In college, a friend used to tell me what was going on, and I’d nod like I knew what was going on, but did I really want to watch a show about aliens and freaks? It wasn’t until one of my best friends invited us over to watch some old episodes that I said “Holy crap this is cool!” and watched all the reruns. Now I spend my Sunday nights wondering as much about the fate of two fictional characters as I do about the real existence of aliens.
On almost every Manhattan street corner, you see these people shoving flyers into people’s hands/faces. I don’t get these people that hand out flyers. Do they get paid based on the number of flyers people take? Wouldn’t you just throw away all the flyers and say people took them? But if they don’t have any incentive to get people to take a flyer, why not sit down and do nothing? Maybe they get base pay, but a commission for every flyer taken or used. Maybe I should go back and take a flyer and then ask how they get paid.
My mom and I were at home waiting for my sister and brothers to return from the video store. It was supposed to be a simple drop-off of watched tapes. Martial Arts flicks. It had been awhile, longer than it usually takes. My mom wasn’t worrying yet. Until the phone rang. And it was my sister. Screaming. Barely coherent. Something about my brother. And a man. And an attack. My mom, hysterical. She dropped the phone and screamed at me. She couldn’t decide what to do. They’d taken the car. Four miles from the store and the sanity of peace.
The man had been drunk. Great place to have a video store, near a bar. I suppose all Orientals look the same to drunks. My brother had. I can understand how easy it is to pick up an Oriental at half a man’s size with one hand, and punch with the other. I can understand how easily a man’s fist splits a boy’s brow at half a man’s size. At half a man’s size, I can understand how lucky my brother is that drunks are lazy and don’t finish violence when given the opportunity. Sober, all men apologize the same.
My brother might be a self-fulfilling prophecy. We always told him he was unlucky, and he began to believe it. The scars attest to it. The monkey bars incident (chin). The basketball incident (elbow). And now this (brow). What are the chances of being mistaken for someone else and assaulted returning videos? Pretty high for self-fulfilling prophecies. My mom doesn’t buy it. Which is why even now she references the incident in arguments as if it were his fault he looked the way he did. Gelled hair and baggy clothes don’t beget violence – slanted eyes and yellow skin do, mom.
Is being a bigot and knowing you’re a bigot better than being a bigot and not knowing it? I suppose there are two views. There’s the view that believes if you’re conscious of your prejudices, you have them for reasons. Nothing is worse than a stupid bigot. Then there’s the viewpoint that if you’re conscious of your prejudices, and make no effort to change those wrongheaded beliefs, you’re worse than someone who’s a bigot because of breeding. Bigotry with volition is worse than bigotry due to ignorance. Actually, there’s probably only the one viewpoint: all forms of bigotry are stupid.
What if I told you I thought you were some kind of wonderful?
No poet I, I’d attempt instead to fashion a scientific proof of your wonderfulness -- one based on logic rather than on the effect your eyes have on me. I’d propose that there are three kinds of wonderful:
- the kind that makes me wonder why I’m so lucky
- the type that makes my eyes sparkle
- the sort that makes my breath catch when looking at you
And I’d expound that you were all of these and more -- some rare, unknown kind of wonderful.
Some quotes to use in everyday conversation:
“Give them a moment, for pity’s sake!" -- Boromir,
Fellowship of the Rings
“I’m just a simple man trying to make my way in the universe.” -- Jango Fett,
Attack of the Clones
“I think you heard me just fine, punchy.” -- Travolta,
“Fool of a Took!” -- Gandalf,
Fellowship of the Rings
“Souls don't die. . . . it's something inside of all good things, and that it goes on forever and ever.” -- Hogarth,
The Iron Giant
But please slug anyone who still says, “You can’t handle the truth!”
“You lied to me.”
Those were the first words he used as I met him and my folks for dinner. We were in D.C. celebrating my accomplishments. They were taking this trip because of me. Not for my sake, but out of my success. I don’t know how long they’d been sitting there waiting, talking, sharing -- about me.
“You said you came here when you were two months.”
“You came here when you were almost one. You spent several months in Thailand and Malaysia.”
I think I changed the subject. Back to me; away from my life.
My daughter likes sweets, and I like giving her sweets. We recently bought a container of sprinkles (or “jimmies” if you’re from State College, PA) to enjoy with our ice cream. She of course had some. My daughter was enjoying her sprinkles, and I asked her how they tasted. She answered, “Blue.” Her sprinkles tasted blue. Now, not really an answer that makes sense on a casual level, her answer was clearly relevant. She’s a genius who thinks out of the box. I’ve decided that once a day I’ll answer a question that someone asks me with something completely surreal.
Everything Tasting Blue
Yesterday I lost my mouth
Upon my visit to you.
And everything that I consumed
Thereafter tasted blue.
I went to see the dentist
And insisted he repair my mouth
Instead he removed my tongue & teeth;
Thereafter things tasted south.
How surreal, I mused aloud
At home consuming fries
By putting them in a blender
And sipping them through my eyes.
Tomorrow I’ll retrace my steps
From home to your house too,
And see if I can find my mouth
And eradicate the taste of blue.
There’s nothing odd about tasting blue
Nothing odd about blue.
Everything Tasting Blue(continued)
First I visited the diner
And reordered milk and toast,
And ladybugs between sliced hams,
And pillbug-stuffed, cold roast.
But as I ate I recalled
I’d left the day before
With my mouth intact,
my tongue blue-free
Having eaten and asking for more.
Next I entered the blood bank
And wandered past sterilized rows
Of platelets, plasma, needles, and gauze,
And bags named A, AB, and O
Here as before I left with no mouth,
But thought to myself with a smile,
Of course it’s not
where they drew my blood;
But down the grocery aisle!
I hurried to the grocery store
And down the produce aisle
For there it was the day before
Next to the cucumber pile,
I’d seen you wearing stockings of pink
A sweater of orange and blue
And a come-hither look I clearly mistook
For happiness at seeing me, too.
I gave you a hug, kissed your lips --
‘Twas then, my mouth, you stole.
I merely meant to exchange a peck,
You swallowed my lips and mouth whole!
There’s nothing odd about tasting blue
Nothing odd about blue.
When things taste south, I merely recall,
There’s something odder about you.
I absolutely detest joggers. How can you enjoy that? All that sweating and tiredness. I should get in their way. That’s right, I’m not moving. Yeah, go around me, freaks. Hey speedy. Remember passing me earlier? I caught up to you, ha. Where’s that other chick? Still way ahead? I’ll pass her before the next corner. Why is that woman sitting on that bench? Homeless or tired? Or are you waiting for someone? You’re someone’s mother, huh? My mom misses Angie. How much makeup should the homeless wear? I wonder if you’re a hooker. Have you ever considered it? Probably.
Imagine a perfect place, a perfect life – perfect contentment. Imagine I have a job I love. I work only three hours a day, nine to twelve. I make gobs of money -- more than I know how to spend. Imagine I only work four days a week and only six months a year. Imagine the perfect house: on a quiet block, great neighbors, near a great school, huge backyard, and plenty of guestrooms. Imagine the perfect pets, the perfect friends, the perfect schedule, the perfect children.
I tried imagining the perfect life, but without imagining you there, it was futile.
Musings of a Superhero-to-be
One day I’ll be a superhero.
I’ll use my powers of invisibility
so you’ll no longer
see who you’re hurting.
I’ll use my powers of enhanced hearing
to listen to not only what you’re saying,
but also what you’re implying
beneath each layered word.
I’ll use my powers of superstrength
to ensure that every barbed remark
the breath of your tolerance
will no longer crumble my spirit.
I’ll use my powers of indestructible skin
to reflect each of your daggered insults
of my self-worth.
One day I’ll be a superhero,
The Tip Jar