An Award-Winning Disclaimer

A charming little Magpie whispered this disclaimer into my ear, and I'm happy to regurgitate it into your sweet little mouth:

"Disclaimer: This blog is not responsible for those of you who start to laugh and piss your pants a little. Although this blogger understands the role he has played (in that, if you had not been laughing you may not have pissed yourself), he assumes no liability for damages caused and will not pay your dry cleaning bill.

These views represent the thoughts and opinions of a blogger clearly superior to yourself in every way. If you're in any way offended by any of the content on this blog, it is clearly not the blog for you. Kindly exit the page by clicking on the small 'x' you see at the top right of the screen, and go fuck yourself."

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Contrary-wise

Tweedle-Dee and Tweedle-Dumb must have been onto something.

I also think they were probably doing each other, but that's another post entirely.

One of those numbskulls-- I forget (and don't care) which-- frequently says, "Contrary-wise" to the other.

I am contrary, though far from wise. I am what I suppose some might call a contrarian. It's not easy being a contrarian, because, more often than not, your contrary services are required in the course of normal, every day conversation, and you will be expected, if not required, to take up a contrary position to that of another, or to that of the mainstream.

Because contrarians aren't very much into the mainstream. Or others. Even other contrarians tend to get on our nerves. Because they're even contrary to us.

The nerve.

I was thinking about how being a contrarian both gives me pleasure and, at the same time, removes what is most likely a fair amount of pleasure from my very existence. Take yesterday's little English event. Contrarians are, by law, not permitted to take even the smallest amount of enjoyment out of a happening like a royal wedding. An avowed contrarian cannot, for instance, awake at 4:15am, tie a little Union Jack ascot, wear a funny hat and enjoy tea and biscuits with clotted creme whilst being glued to the televison screen and spelling the word "color" with a "u" between the second "o" and the "r".

It just isn't done.

Contrarians don't do that.

We're just not allowed, see?

Si.

We're not allowed to see movies like "Titanic" and "Avatar," (or any film by James Cameron, actually), you know-- movies that the remainder of the population is allowed to see. If, by accident, we do see these films, we are not allowed to enjoy them. If I, for example, saw "Titanic" (which I haven't-- because I'm not allowed) I would not be permitted to like it.

And I certainly wouldn't be permitted to "Like" it, you know, on Facebook.

Speaking of Facebook, I'm not allowed to like (or "Like") that, either. Though it's been a while since I've looked at the Contrarian Constitution (ratified in 1788 by a bunch of assholes and naysayers in stockings and periwigs) but I'm pretty sure there's an amendment in there somewhere called "The Zuckerberg Clause" that states that a contrarian may engage in Facebook-related activities, as long as s/he "periodically and sincerely mocks and/or otherwise disparages the idea or practical application of Facebook and/or its affiliated entities."

There are quotes there, but, really, I'm paraphrasing. As a contrarian, I can't very well pander to your impish need for accuracy right at this very moment, because, to do so would interrupt the flow of this blog post and would, you see, be decidedly inconvenient to me. You understand.

And, if you don't, I don't care.

The thing is: there are times, not very many times, mind you, but there are times in which I would like to engage in mainstream, dunderheaded activities and not feel a pang of guilt that flares up when I ponder betraying my Contrarianist roots.

Sometimes, I just want to go to the beach instead of a museum or a play.

Sometimes, I just want to have breakfast at a greasy diner instead of at an upscale café.

Sometimes, I want to listen to mindless music instead of Robin Lustig on BBC Newshour.

Sometimes, I want to regard my smartphone as a technological gadget that I enjoy rather than an overpriced, overrated techno-pretension that identifies me as an insipid, self-absorbed jerkoff.

Sometimes, I just want to order Chinese food.

But not General fucking Tso's. I mean, come on already with that bullshit.

Friday, April 29, 2011

As Must Be Done

Before I go to sleep at night, I do things to make sure that I go to sleep at night.

* I take my Advair, I brush my teeth. You cannot brush your teeth first and take the Advair second, or you run the risk of developing thrush-- which is, essentially, Athlete's Tongue.

* I close all the closet doors and shut off the closet lights. My wife and I joke that it's to keep the monsters away but, really, it's to keep the monsters away.

* I turn on the air purifier (dubbed "The Noisemaker") so that its comforting thrum provides the appropriate level of white noise, and so that it can hopefully clear the air of the seventeen thousand tons of pet dander that emanate from our dogs.

* I pick out my clothes for the following day, laying them out on my dresser. Not only do I pick out the clothes for the next day but, on the occasions where I change my trousers, I place my wallet in the back right pocket, my Burt's Bees chapstick in the left front pocket, and I loop my belt all the way through all the loops. This enables me to not wear my brain's battery out from over-exertion first thing in the morning.

* I make the coffee and set the coffee maker to go off at either 6:11am (when I have to be at work at 8:00am) or 5:11am (when I have to be at work at 7:00am).

* I set the breakfast table for Mrs. Apron so that there is a bowl, a glass, a spoon (with her pill resting in it) and a personalized napkin note waiting for her.

There are probably other routines in which I engage every night, but I might not be sufficiently aware of them to elucidate what they are.

If it seems like this is rather an inordinate amount of tasks to complete before resting one's head, think to yourself for a moment about your own pre-dreamie routines. I'll bet you have some. Sure, they might not be as ritualistic or militaristically-defined as mine, or they might even be more so. Come on, give that comment section a little exercise-- I want to hear about your bedtime rituals. Especially if they're likely to turn me on.

Here's the thing about my routines: I love them.

I love my routines.

(Love.)

My routines may just be not that into me, but I am pretty into them. I would cheat on my wife with my routines. I would have sex with my routines. I would make love to my routines, if they wanted me to be gentle-- or I would meth-fuck them if they wanted it all cray-cray like.

I'm accomodating.

My routines bring me immense pleasure, and I would be happy to reciprocate, to let my routines know, in no uncertain terms, how beneficial they are to maintaining my sense of order, to bringing me peaceful nights, to making me feel less anxious and less chaotic. My routines are better than meds, they're better than drugs, they're better than sex (not, though, better than sex with my routines) and they're better than skydiving or being shot out of a cannon or watching Heidi Klum and Megan Fox mayonnaise-wrastle.

I wonder sometimes, how long can I sustain these routines. But, the real question is: how long can my routines sustain me? I'm willing to bet: for a fucking long goddamned time. They've kept me satisfied and satiated this long. I am not hungry for others. I am not wanting. I am not on the prowl for new routines. My eyes may very well wander to other cars or other watches or other pairs of eyeglasses, but may a sweaty albatross pluck out my big browns should they ever start looking for new routines to incorporate into my life.

I love you, Order.

I cherish you, Predictability.

I want to mouth-fuck you, Sameness.

Thank you for being here for me, Routine.

Routine, as you might have guessed, is a derivative of the French word "route." It started popping up in literature somewhere between 1670 and 1680.

A customary or regular course of procedure.

Nice.

Commonplace tasks, chores, or duties as must be done regularly or at specified intervals.

Hot.

Regular, unvarying, habitual, unimaginative or rote procedure.

I'd write more, but I'm getting kind of excited. Besides, it's almost time to set this post to publish at 7:18am.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Getting Shorter

I wonder when I'm going to start shrinking.

I'm six foot tall, and that seems rather excessive. I mean-- there's no real practical need for me to be six foot tall. Granted, height is useful in our house because Mrs. Apron is a full foot shorter than I, so I can be useful by fetching objects off shelves for her in the kitchen, and I can murder those flies that think they're safe by hanging out at the top of the windows. But, really, I don't need to be six foot for that.

5'10" would, honestly, be plenty.

Being 6 foot tall at 136 pounds is not anything to gloat about. It makes me look gangly and awkward, and nobody really likes looking gangly and awkward. If I were a girl, though-- I'd be a motherfucking knockout with a build like that. Just slap on a pair of 34-Bs and we'd be good to go for a roll in the hay, yo. But, as a man, it's just south of disconcerting.

When I am naked and I suck in my gut, I look like a Holocaust survivor. And barely a survivor, at that.

So, where lots of folks dread getting shorter, I'm not too terribly concerned about it. Shrinking a little bit will probably benefit my outward aesthetic, as will, most likely, developing a bit of that middle-aged paunch. A tad more weight would certainly not kill me. Yes, I realize that the skin on my arms will start to sag, and I might even develop minor-class bitch-tits, but I think it'll end up evening out, and I'll look okay as a middle-aged, or even elderly guy.

Let me get thick. Shave off an inch or too.

Whoa-- that didn't come out right. Not at all.

Things are getting short around here all the time. With gas prices going up, we're getting shorter on money, and our activities list is also getting shorter. I thought we might take a day-trip to NYC this weekend, but who can afford that right now?

As the weather gets hotter, I feel my patience threshold getting markedly shorter, too. Walking the dogs in blazing heat and soup-like humidity decreases my ability or interest in tolerating the slightest disruption to our little walkies routine. If Molly engages herself in placing her head through a bush, or if Finley dawdles too much in his elderly dog way, I tense up and I can feel myself about to lose it.

Over nothing. Because my patience is getting shorter. It's the heat. I don't do so well in the heat.

The grass and the hedges at our place got shorter on Tuesday. Because I had the day off, and because I was feeling guilty, I trimmed the hedges and cut the grass. Note: I didn't say, "I mowed the grass," although I did do that. But not before I cut it. See, the grass in our back-yard was so high that I had to cut it before I could mow it.

I had to cut the grass with the hedge clippers, like I was giving it a fucking pixie-cut. I'd say the grass was approximately a foot-and-a-half high in some places. Maybe two. I cut it, put the enormous clippings into a lawn bag that must have weighed sixty pounds when I was all done with it, and then I mowed the lawn.

And now, the grass is shorter.

Something else that's gotten noticeably shorter around here are my blog posts.

Have you noticed?

I have. It's not something I'm consciously doing, it's kind of just... happening. I don't know if I'm running out of steam, or if it's my subconscious telling me that it's time to throw in the gym sock, or if I'm realizing that the average modern attention span ought to be catered to more closely by those engaged in the act of writing, if I'm writing to be read, which I ostensibly am. I don't know what the reason is, but My Masonic Apron posts are getting shorter.

Sure, I haven't measured it empirically, and I certainly haven't done word-count analysis, but I know. I just don't know why. I suppose, though, that it's not really important, after all. My mission is to say what I've got to say and then get out, no?

Short and sweet and, if not short: shorter.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Gmail Bop-Bop

My phone bop-bopped yesterday. It was the G-mail bop-bop.

That’s different than the text message do-ding, and it’s not the same as the Yahoo! Mail blong, and it definitely wasn’t a voicemail, which is the first 22 seconds of the theme from “The Adventures of Baron Munchausen” followed by a ga-ling.

I lazily pulled out the phone from my trouser pocket and noticed the insistent red light flashing at the top right-hand corner, letting me know that someone was urgently trying to tell me something. In emergency circles, flashing red lights indicate matters of grave import. In the black-and-white, bygone days, at White House, they had red desk phones with no buttons, and no rotary dial, just a flashing red light that would go off when Premier Kissoff urgently needed to speak to President Muffley.

Nowadays, we are all our own Merkin Muffleys. We can all be reached at any time of the night or day, and every email, text message, or voicemail carries its own little red light, indicating that it must be responded to immediately.

Of course.

Because my Spam and Junk folders have ironclad testicles, I am rarely disappointed to see that a message or an email is for scams trying to sell me discounted psychotropic medications or enlarge my PEN!S. Because my online work scheduling software is synched with my phone, I am, however, disappointed by receiving frequent emails alerting me to shifts that need to be filled that I will not be filling.

“You don’t ever work extra, do you?” a colleague asked me last week.

“Nope. But I’m very grateful that there are those that do, so I don’t have to.” And I thought that was a diplomatic way of stating my belief that I wouldn’t want to stay in that place one millisecond longer than I had to.

(No offense.)

The email that I received yesterday following this particular bop-bop was from my old boss. She had read somewhere that there was a local playwriting contest going on, so she forwarded the email to me. Not trying to be an asshole, though probably sounding like one, I wrote back a brief note thanking her for thinking of me and adding, “You still think of me as a playwright. That’s very sweet. I like that.”

Really, though—do I? Or was this email just another reminder of who I was, or barely was. I mean, I was a student who wrote plays. Then, I graduated, and I wrote a couple other plays. I’m not really sure that qualifies me as… much of anything, really. But I guess you are whatever people think you are. At least, to them.

Perception is so funny, and so tenuous. If you inflate your opinion of yourself just enough, you’re maybe looking at delusions of grandeur. If you minimize and undercut and justify, then you’re on your way to Poor Self Esteemsville. I wonder sometimes if it is even possible to have a completely untarnished, unbiased view of oneself, and if what we think we are is any more or less accurate than what others think we are.

I read that email and I knew I wasn’t going to write anything for this playwriting contest, but I lied and told my former boss that “maybe I’ll whip something up for this thing,” like it’s no different than preparing a bowl of mashed potatoes or a batch of brownies. Obviously, if I had any intention at all of taking this contest seriously, I would be sketching out ideas and creating well-dressed, middle-aged male characters who do silly things, in the spirit of my old friend Gilbert, and my not-as-old friends the Pythons.

But I’m not doing that. I’m writing to you. For you. For… me?

Well, probably not. But maybe I’ll write for me some day.

She thinks I'm still (or was ever) a playwright, so she sent me an email. It shouldn't have sent me through a loop, but it did. It shouldn't be taken as a guilt-trip, but it was. It shouldn't have made me feel bad, but it did. I don't know where that part of me went-- that desire to make up people and situations and move them about a tape-marked flat, black floor as if they were chess pieces and I Kasparov. I don't know where that went. Maybe it will come back some day. Maybe it won't. Who knows? I'm reasonably certain I'm never going to be mentioned in the same breath as Edward Albee or Tom Stoppard or Sam Shepard. But I've got my little red flashing light on my phone, which means I'm important. And I'll get back to you at once.

*** POSTSCRPIT ***

And, after all that horseshit: I wrote the fucking play.

Moo.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Keep Away


I still haven't gotten my car door fixed from the infamous Booberella (love it, Rosalie) accident of over a week ago. Boobs's insurance company hasn't been able to get in touch with her-- funny, huh?-- and, although she has been determined to be at fault, and although my insurance company issued me a check for $780.92, there's still that pesky $1,000 deductible that her insurance company might cover.

Might.

So, I'm doing the whole wait-n-see thing right now. And, while I'm waiting, what I'm seeing is a car with a smashed up rear door that greatly displeases me. Looking at my car used to bring me even just a small surge of joy. Sure, there is still that pang of undeserving guilt that I feel when I tell people I drive a Volvo. Yeah, I'm still ashamed of it. Hey-- it's a process, people. But, there is actually a part of me that really likes the car. I like to look at it, because, for a nine-year-old car: it looks pretty impressive. At least, to me it does. Not even a penny-sized spot of rust anywhere, shimmering, beautiful paint, a can-do exterior and an upscale interior.

Now, though, when I look at the car, at least on the side that dumb bitchface hit, I don't feel proud anymore. I feel annoyed, angry, dejected, impotent, and maybe even a little vengeful.

I also, all of a sudden, feel like like that guy.

You know who I'm talking about. That guy.

All of a sudden, through no fault of my own, I am that guy. That guy who drives around with a fucked up, smashed in, beat up car. And, like it or not, that says something-- principally to other motorists on the road around me. What it says is:

Whoa.

Damn!

Stay away.

This guy's trouble.

He's already fucked up once.

He's likely to do it again, and you might be the one involved this time.

I feel like the automotive equivalent of a leper. No one wants to shake hands with me anymore, because they might inadvertently pull my arm off. And nobody wants to meet someone for the first time and Venus D'Milo them.

When you drive around in your car the next time you've got to buy three-cheese loaf at Panera or pick up some long, black caulk at Home Depot, take a look at the cars zipping by in the lanes around you. Try to be as attuned as you can to your reaction to these cars. Do you get a little leery when you see a dented, dinged, and damaged car get near yours?

Of course you do. You can't help it. You're human. It's okay. But, it hurts.

See, some of us who drive around in fucked up hoopty Hupmobiles do so because we have been victimized-- we are not necessarily the careless drivers. And yet, we are judged by an unknowing populous as if we are the ones to blame. After all, we've got the battle scars to suggest that we are the ones to watch out for-- we have seen brawls and brouhahas before.

We are not to be trusted near your fenders and your bumpers.

But, oh, you judge too harshly! You know us not! We are innocent!

Well, some of us are. If, however, you see an ample-bosomed, black-haired chick with no bra driving a severely bashed-in white Toyota Corolla, you can go ahead and judge her. Hate judge her. Bent over the couch.

Nice.

Monday, April 25, 2011

C Minus

My wife went away to Providence to visit her family this weekend, and I walked through our house as one who wanders vacantly and purposeless.

That's not completely true -- it's partially true -- and, besides, it sounded poetic as fuck.

I was, I'll admit, a little lost. Not lost in the way that you'd expect a traditional, stereotypical American husband to be "lost" without his wife, in that I didn't shrink all the laundry, I didn't blow up the microwave, and I didn't forget to shower, eat, or go to work. Yeah-- this was my weekend to work, and I think that's probably for the best. Had she gone away and left me alone with no scheduled activities or responsibilities, I might have fallen apart. But we'll never know.

Fortunately.

I don't know about you, but I engage in rather a lot of self-critique -- of my writing, of my habits, of the random shit I say to people throughout the day, of my so-called "performance." I guess it's natural for a recovering theatre-major to evaluate his/her performance. And it's not so much, "Was that thing I said to that person at 2:35pm funny, or was it misconstrued?" (although I definitely do that kind of micro bullshit analysis, too) but it's much more of a self check-in -- like, "How'd I do today?"

Was I effective as an employee and a coworker?

Was I a good husband, son, brother, friend today?

Did I utilize my time in a manner that brings shame and embarrassment to me, or was my time utilized efficiently, appropriately, and rationally?

Really-- I'm not German. I swear.

On a grading scale, using the Bell Curve and points for extra-credit, I'd give myself the Weekend Without my Wife grade of C-.

First of all, I broke Passover -- on Friday night. It felt salacious and inappropriate and almost like an act of infidelity. And, what's even worse: I broke Passover at my parents' house. When I walked into the dining room, there was matzah on the table. I was relieved. Then they brought out toasted bread.

"But..." I mumbled. Then, the main course came out.

Shrimp. And pasta.

Then there were Snickerdoodle cookies for dessert. It was the unholiest, unkosherist, fuck God up his asshole till it bleeds bloody yeast dinner.

Ever.

And I ate it lustily, and even had leftover shrimpies for lunch the next day.

So that... wasn't good.

I was very good at the working part of the weekend. I did my usual thing, was very effective and compassionate and funny and it was a successful weekend at work -- so that bumped my score up significantly.

Then, the night came. As Mark Twain once wrote, we are "never quite sane in the night." Well, that's me. Without my buddy here, without the activities in which we engage when the sun goes down (oh, shut up, you pervy child), I was most definitely lost. Saturday night was an utter befuddlement. It was as if my face was attached to the computer monitor. I blogged. I watched porn. I flitted time away on Facebook. I ate dinner at the computer, which struck me as incredibly pathetic, even though it was normalized behavior back in college.

Then, I tried to watch "The Wire," which I had never seen before. I made that my status on FB and was inundated with inane comments from people I haven't heard from in ten years, leading me to come to the conclusion that I ought never to mention anything popular on Facebook ever again. Three minutes into Episode 2, Season 1, the DVD crapped out. Twice. Utterly frustrated, I stared at the floor for twenty minutes before deciding to fold the two bag's worth of laundry that I'd done earlier in the evening.

Oh, and I vacuumed, too.

In John Irving's "The Cider House Rules," the character Candy says that she is "just no good at being alone." I suppose I'm not either. Not quite co-dependent-- just not so good at being alone. I get out-of-order, unfamiliar, unpleasant. I also get ashamed. Why wasn't I picking up the phone calling people I know and haven't seen for a while to get together? Was I afraid they'd brush me off?

Was I afraid they wouldn't?

I actually did search for concerts or plays to go to Saturday night -- but nothing piqued my interest. I feel like I actually would have gone to hear a singer-songwriter or see a show by myself, but I can't imagine I would have enjoyed it very much. Besides, who would I have made fun of people with on the way home?

So, all things considered, I gave myself a C-. I've done worse, of course, and I'm not particularly ashamed of that grade, to be honest. In many ways, I think I kind of expected it. Fortunately, my buddy's back. And I feel some grade inflation coming on.

(Perv.)

Sunday, April 24, 2011

General Order

In the interest of full disclosure, as I write this post, I am eating Chinese food. And I am fully clothed. I do, however, think I need a shower. This post, however, is going to relate more to the Chinese food and less about my state of dress/cleanliness.

Being an American Jew, I am hardwired to love Chinese food. I didn't ask to be born this way, and it isn't necessarily fair, but it's the truth of the matter. I like all kinds of Chinese food. I like Cantonese and Havanese and Szechuan and Youbetchuan. I'm just as happy getting take-out from some shitty hole-in-the-wall with actual holes-in-the-wall as I am sitting at some fancyballs Asian fusion joint with orange cloth napkins and sleek, raven-haired waitresses sprinting around the place dressed in black from their headbands to their toenails. I'll try pretty much anything, and I'm just as likely to order mussels and pork in Hong Kong garlic sauce as I am to order Lo Mein.

Last night was a Lo Mein night (and eight fried, fan-tail shrimp dumplings). My wife is away visiting her family and I needed Asian comfort food. That's Lo Mein, baby. House Lo Mein, to be precise: chicken, pork, beef, shrimp, all kinda mixed together, having a fucking crazy surf-and-turf orgy amongst the bed of noodles.

Oh, yeah. I broke Passover. D'oh.

Anyway, just to humor me-- take out the takeout menu from you favorite Chinese restaurant. If it's a traditional menu, with the red, green, and black colored type, there's probably dozens and dozens and dozens of things to choose from. Variety is, after all, the spice of life-- especially when lovingly doused with Kikkoman.

When I went to pick up my dinner last night, there were four people ahead of me in line. And, do you know what?

("What?")

All four of these motherfuckers were picking up General Tso's Chicken. How do I know that? Because the Asian schoolgirl behind the counter did everyone the kindness of reciting their order to them off the receipt, so the one douchebag in the orange sneakers could whine, "What about my General Tso's Chicken?" when that was not amongst the list of items she rattled off.

"Oh, sollie!" she said (I'm not making fun, that's actually what she said. I don't know who "Sollie" is-- "Solly" is my mechanic, though.) She darted into the kitchen and instantly reappeared holding a container that she shoved unceremoniously into his bag, probably crushing all of those oily little fried noodles that real Chinese people have probably only ever seen in movies. I was amazed at how fast she entered and came out of the kitchen with this schlock-o's General Tso's. It leads me to believe that Chinese food restaurants probably keep at least a hundred tubs of that shit in the kitchen at the ready every night starting at around 5:30pm.

Why?

Because everyfuckingbody in this stupid country orders that shit. I mean, really? Four out of four fuckers in front of me in line at the restaurant last night? That's all the statistical significance this amateur researcher needs.

Now-- this is America-- land of the free, home of the brave, alleged birthplace of General Tso's Chicken (which is kind of funny, if you think about it, and even if you don't think about it) and I acknowledge that people can eat whatever the hell they want as long as it isn't, like, someone else's pet or a cop's nose or something, but I just wish people would branch the hell out a little bit, you know. However, since American's cannot be trusted to venture out of their comfort zones, we need stricter action:

Here, on My Masonic Apron, I am calling for a NATIONAL MORATORIUM ON AND ABSTENTION FROM GENERAL TSO'S CHICKEN FOR ONE YEAR.

Fuckin' Mao would be proud. Especially since no one named fried chicken McNuggets after his dead ass.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Holy Marketing, Batman

I used to market my blog.

(Sort of.)

I was a member of 20 Something Bloggers, back when I somehow found the time and strength to be both a twenty-something and, simultaneously, a blogger. However did I do it all, and still find time to look this awful?

Well, those days are over now-- at least, the twenty-something days are-- and I no longer market my blog. I no longer mingle (and I certainly don't co-mingle) with other bloggers out there in Akron or Auckland and I don't receive any funny little "Blogging Awards" from well-meaning twenty-three-year-olds who are probably too attractive to ever associate with me in person, and I don't get mentioned in other blogs very much anymore, and I don't cross-promote either.

Not that I ever really did that very much to begin with, but I admit, there was a little span of time there where I was convinced that some light-to-moderate cyber-whoring was good for a lad.

My wife sometimes chides me for having almost an antisocial antipathy for any opportunity this blog could possibly have to make me (us) money. And why is that? Am I too good to charge for a peek under the apron? Or do I lack the self-confidence to try to make this any bigger than it is (which isn't very big, yeah, she said that. Hilarious.) because I have basically no spine?

I don't know. Maybe I'll ask my PsyD guy what he thinks. I know it's supposed to be the other way 'round, but a lot of things are supposed to be.

I believe in marketing, of course, I'm just not sure I believe in marketing... me, which is, basically, what this blog is. I mean, it's not really me-- it's pieces of me, just like the film "Pieces of April" wasn't April-- it was pieces of April.

Kaite Holmes was in that. She's hot. Oliver Platt was in that, too. He's funny. He was even funny in "Frost/Nixon." I want to be in movies. And in Katie Holmes. Truthfully, though, were I given the choice to be in either, I'd choose to be in movies.

But... back to marketing.

I would never want to be in marketing. I was in retail for a little while, and that was bad enough, and I was pretty bad at being in retail. Retail involves, I believe, trust on two levels. One, the customer has to implicitly trust you, the retailer. I had no problem with this area, people implicitly trust me all the time. I don't know why-- I think it's the way I furrow my brow and turn the corners of my mouth down. The other piece of the trust-burger is that you have to trust yourself that you can sell shit you don't believe in, and not just sell it, but sell it for an unbelievable mark-up. That was where I often faltered. When I presented a pair of glasses to a customer and told them that their bill was something like a thousand dollars, I would wither and wilt like a month-old tulip.

Pathetic.

I've been thinking a lot about marketing recently. I listen to news on the radio a lot, and it seems like the Catholic Church could use some marketing assistance, from someone a lot more capable than I. Parishes are dwindling and drying up left and right, once-faithful parents all-of-a-sudden don't want priests molesting their male children anymore, and every school year it seems that more and more Catholic schools are closing their doors.

I mean, as far as the schools closing, it's obvious why. Who the fuck gets all excited about enrolling at Pope Octavius Nostradamus Pius XVII? Who wants to tell their normal friends that they attend school at the Holy Blessed Mother of the Virginal Catechism or the Lamb of God's Assumption Narthex Preschool?

I mean-- Jesus. That fucking blows.

I think, if we had some marketing experts with some actual creativity and balls that we'd come up with a plan to save our nation's Catholic schools. I mean, look around you. Look at the success of "Spiderman" on Broadway. Why the hell not capitalize on that? Can you positively imagine what enrollment would be like at "Holy Spiderman School"? You'd have kids thinking that they're going to walk on walls and ceiling and shit. Just drop a nun or a priest from the third floor every couple months, and that'll keep 'em coming back.

How about "Sister Laura Croft Middle School" as a boy's 6-8th grade school? Every class would be 100% filled, every year, without question.

Marketing isn't hard, it just takes people who aren't too lazy and complacent and proud to do it. Come on, Catholic Church. You can do this. Use your Spidey-Sense. Channel the energy in Laura Croft's fantastic tits.

Sell. Sell. Sell.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Worst Vice

I used to think I knew a lot. That should have been the first sign that I was stupid.

But it wasn’t. I didn’t realize that until I was much smarter.

Neither, apparently, did anybody else.

Friends have come to me for advice for as long as I can remember—and I can remember back a ways, to dispensing quasisophical advice to my friend Jared as I sat on the arm of his parents’ 2nd tier couch in their basement. I can remember having long, deep phone conversations with emotionally tortured friends as I sat behind my 1970s-era metal office desk, chatting on my black, oversized office telephone that I insisted on having because I liked how important it looked. I would have these important phone conversations with friends while sitting in a tufted leather office manager’s chair, up in my old bedroom.

It would have been a strange sight—were anybody watching. It’s a good thing they weren’t.

No, nobody was watching, but everybody, it seemed, was listening. People my age, and older, instinctively came to me with their problems, their troubles, their struggles, and their questions. For real—people asked ME questions. Me, not “Dear Apron.” The me boy person man thing. People told me things they may never have told anybody else, and, honestly, I don’t know why. Did I engender trust or confidence? If so, I don’t know how I do it.

Today, I get paid to listen to people tell me about their problems. They tell me they’re suicidal, or were. They tell me their paranoid delusions or their homicidal fantasies, and I write it all down in my reports, I pass some of it along to the nurses, and I swipe my badge and I go home, locking the door securely behind me.

They pay me to listen.

Today, in my capacity at work, I do much more listening and much less advising. My job isn’t to give advice, and I frequently tell patients that—usually after they blatantly come out and ask me for it. Would I advise them to do something moderate and judicious and appropriate? Sure I would, because I know what’s rational and what’s not*.

*Most of the time.

But that’s not important. That doesn’t matter. I am not a prophet on the mount. I am not Moses or Yaweh or some other mustachioed gray-head with a cane he refers to as a “staff.” Maybe they come to me because I wear glasses and tuck in my shirts and have reasonably well-kept hair. I don’t know why they trust me—my friends and my patients. Maybe it’s because I would never violate a trust. But they don’t know that. You never know if someone’s violated your trust until you find out about it, right?

By and large, the friends who so earnestly sought my counsel when I was young have gone away. They weren’t dramatic exits—most of them—they were more like melting snow or flaking paint just sort of… going away slowly and gradually until there was nothing left.

I hope it wasn’t something I said.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Well, Pull Out the Couch and Let Me Grouch; It's... DEAR APRON!

To be honest with you, I'm really not in the mood to write a Dear Apron column today. It's rainy out-- I'm in a dark, brooding, pensive mood, and I was just informed that the repairs to my smashed-into car are going to cost $1,782.90, and I have a $1,000 deductible. I'd much rather sit here and write a venting, smokestack of a post where I pop my top and then descend into some self-indulgent mastur-piece where I lick my own wounds and you playing the part of the befuddled disaffected voyeur.

But, since my therapist helped me realize this morning that I don't blog for my own pleasure anyway, I thought-- well, fuck, why not just keep 'em smiling with another titty-twisting edition of...

DEAR APRON:

My elderly father has been a widower for many years. His neighbor, also his age, recently lost her husband, and they have been spending a lot of time together. He takes her shopping, she cooks for him, etc. My concern is twofold: One, this woman is not in good health, and I can't bear to see Dad heartbroken again when she dies. My second concern is the woman and her husband never even invited Dad over for a cup of coffee after Mom died, but now that she's a widow, she all of a sudden wants to be "neighborly." I'd like to ask her why. Would I be out of line? -- LOOKING OUT FOR MY DAD

DEAR LOOKING OUT:

No, you're not out-of-line. Dredging up old pain and hurt for no reason other than to stick an intrusive finger inside a rotten, stinking, putrid wound that has just begun to heal is, and always has been, the cornerstone of appropriate, adult behavior.

I find it humorous that you automatically assume that this crinkly old biddie is going to die before your father is. "I can't bear to see Dad heartbroken again when she dies."

When? What have you got up your sleeve there, Nurse Ratched? A nice, tidy, chemically-undetectable present for your leathery little Oedipal challenger? A little potassium chloride mayhaps?

Mm-HMM!

Fess up: you're totally going to ice this moth-ball bitch, aren't you? You're a terrible person-- though I would have had appreciably more respect for you had you just admitted it in your letter, rather than have me exhaust my energy exposing you as the thoroughly jealous and twisted psychotic that you clearly are.

Let that be a lesson to the rest of you fuckers: out with it. I only have very limited emotional resources for dealing with you Tootsie Rolls.

DEAR APRON:

A member of my gym brings her newborn in with her every morning. She sets the carrier down next to her treadmill, puts in her earplugs and runs. The baby usually cries on and off, but today he cried nonstop during my entire 20-minute workout. It drove me crazy.

I'm a mom, too. A crying baby, especially a newborn, is heartbreaking. This woman never stops to see why her little one is crying or to console him. This situation doesn't seem to bother the other gym members. Should I talk to her and risk a hostile response, or speak to the gym manager? -- HEAVY-HEARTED GYM BUNNY IN RIVERVIEW, FLA.

DEAR HEAVY-HEARTED GYM BUNNY:

I'm sorry-- what the fuck is a "gym bunny"?

I've heard of a "gym buddy" (i.e., someone with whom you go to the gym with frequently, and sporadically have sex with in the bathroom afterwards) but I have yet to hear of a "gym bunny."

Allow me, please, a moment to consult the Googs.

Hmm. Interesting. Thank you, Urban Dictionary.

GYM BUNNY

1.) A gay man who spends an obsessive amount of time in the gym working on sculpting his body -- not for health reasons -- only to show it off in a club or on the beach.

Now, you say that you're "a mom, too" so that one probably doesn't apply to you. Let's see... how about this one:

2.) A female with more tits than knowledge about exercise, who wears the most expensive gear out there, and only goes to the gym to "do abs" and cardio.

Is that you, G.B.? Do you have "more tits than knowledge about exercise"? If so, then what's your problem? You're only at the gym to show off your $48.00 "I LOVE PINK" ass-pants anyway. If the goddamn noise of some other teat-suckler crying bothers you so much, tell your cheating husband to buy you a goddamn treadmill and stay the hell home with your own whiny baby.

DEAR APRON:

My husband and I were taught differently regarding how to serve ourselves a meal. Typically, we each "plate up" a desired amount of food in the kitchen, where it is prepared, rather than bring serving dishes to the table. Then we carry our plates to the table to eat.

Should my husband serve himself first (as I was taught the cook/hostess is served last), or should I go first (as he was taught women precede men)? -- DINERS' DILEMMA

DEAR DINERS' DILEMMA:

Frankly, I'm thinking murder-suicide here. But who will shoot whom first? Maybe you should let him kill you, as your husband was taught that women precede men.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

It's New New. Nu?


Don't be fooled by what they tell you-- this isn't The New Beetle.

THIS is the New Beetle:


Or, rather, it was.

That's the ding-darn trouble with calling things "New." Invariably, they aren't. At least, they aren't just about a second after you've called them "New." Especially today, when "new" is just a word you throw around unwittingly and carelessly until the next "Newer" thing comes out to replace the formerly new thing. This BlackBerry sitting on the desk in front of me: already out-moded when I purchased it.

New? Please. That's why I buy most of my clothes at thrift shops.

I strongly dislike the New (New) Beetle, unveiled Tuesday in America on "The Today Show," and in Shanghai and Belgium on whatever their versions of "The Today Show" are.

Can you, for a moment, imagine a black, Belgian Al Roker? Or a Shanghainian one?

(W. h. o. a.)

Anyway, yeah. I don't like it. They're, apparently, marketing the 2012 New Beetle at men, and they've succeeded in making it more masculine-looking. Lower. Wider. Flatter. More aggressive. Less bubble-shaped and less, well, bubbly. But, is that what the Beetle is supposed to be?

Aggressive? Manly? Even a little bit... mean?

I mean-- let's look at the original:


Look at that kisser. Don't you just wanna pinch that little punim? That baby is about as aggressive as a little girl's tea party. As mean as a sleeping Havanese. As aggressive as Joe Besser. In short: it's a well-loved velveteen rabbit: ripe for the hugging.

I suppose it's possible that the 2012 New (New) Beetle will grow on me. I can remember reading about the (first) New Beetle when it came out in 1998, and I loathed it. Capable of speeds exceeding 60mph? Engine in the front? Leather seats?

Safety?!

This, my friends, is no Beetle, I declared, new or otherwise.

But I grew to like, even love the New Beetle. In fact, in 2002, I bought myself one. And it was one of the best decisions I ever made in my life.

Even if, though, I do end up liking the 2012 New Beetle when I see one in the "flesh" at a dealership in the fall (???) I'm still not crazy about the name.

New Beetle.

We did that, Ferdinand Piech.

If VW is so obsessed, as they apparently are, with marketing this car at men, why don't they call it the "Testebeetle?"

You like that? I've got more where that came from (and, yeah, that's what she said):

Scrotengnugen

Balltle

Beertle

The Roid-Beetle (you know, 'cuz guys like steroids)

The Masturwagon (you know, 'cuz guys like to beat off)

I mean, really? Anything's better than The New Beetle. Because, let's face it, kids: it was only "new" once, and, when it was new, it looked like this:


And maybe that's why them VW folks are so image conscious.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Passed Over

I was on my way home from work yesterday when the phone rang. As soon as I saw that it was my parents, indicated by the little pic that appeared on my phone depicting my mother holding my nephew on our living room floor, I knew that seder had been cancelled.

Why else would she be calling me at 4:12pm on Passover?

She reported, in depth, about the frequency of my eldest sister's diarrhea (at least she left out details concerning viscocity and peak flow) and stated that she had been caring for my other delinquent sister's child for over 24 hours straight, and that she and my father weren't feeling well and, well, seder just wasn't going to happen.

This is not the first time that a holiday has been spoiled-- not for us, and not for you-- but, nevertheless, it stung. It's funny, because I can't imagine that anybody was especially sexed up about the idea of spending three hours sitting around my parents' dinner table pretending we were all having a great time in the midst of a thousand things unsaid.

Well, I wasn't especially sexed up about it, at any rate. Nevertheless, the disappointment of the cancellation of the affair was felt keenly. Mostly, if I'm honest, I was dreading coming home and having to tell my wife. I like being the bearer of bad news about as much as I like being the reason for it.

A retired policeman once said that "The New York City Police Departments is the king of disappointing people." My family must be lower lordlings or something in the disappointing people department. I'm not so sure why I'm still continually surprised or even bothered by these cockups and blunders and coincidences that seem so continually and regularly to spoil things around our house, but I am. I suppose it's some infantile, naive hope that "things'll be different this year." And they're always different the next year, and yet it's more of the same.

I certainly don't doubt that my sister is shitting like a faucet, that's not the point. The point is that it's all the missed opportunities and, sorry-how-bout-next-times that have come before this holiday that make this latest insult just one on the heap. On top of everything else. On top of Old Smokey.

All covered with matzah.

Holidays are beginning to give me a bad taste in my mouth, by and large, and I suppose that's part of what getting older is all about. I have this romanticized picture in my mind about what seder used to be like when I was a boy, and I clutch onto that with all the fervor of a night-terrorized child gripping onto his binkie or his bunny. My father commanding the house, making faces at my sister across the table. Reading from the Maxwell House Haggaddah in different accents at the egging on of my family. It was a great time.

At least, I think it was.

Truthfully, I don't know what the fuck my family seder was like in 1987. Or 1989. Or 1992. I don't really remember remember-- I just think I do. And it's that hazy non-recollection that taints whatever comes in its wake-- or, in this case, doesn't.

It's easy to have the present pale in comparison to the past when you're probably making up most of your memories of the past anyway.

This year, it's different. My wife and I, blindsided at the last possible moment, did Passover on our own. We made our own haroset out of apples, chopped up nuts, and pom-whatever juice because we had no sickly-sweet Manichewitz wine in the house. There was matzah-ball soup that we'd made the week before, a hastily-prepared kugel, and dry chicken that I picked up from my parents' house as a consolation prize.

"Just put it in a pan and fry it, Mummy, it'll be great," my father said, handing it to me.

"No, it won't," I said, taking it from him.

See, the thing is, though-- it will. In the end, it will. Because, while I'm not having some big to-do seder with my family like I might have done when I was a boy, I'm having a Jewish-looking/tasting dinner at home with my beautiful, sad wife and, in the end, we're family enough for each other, and forever, too.

Happy Passover.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Bowling for Pleasure

Yesterday, my sister, her husband, and their son moved into their new digs. Four houses away from mine.

My wife and I hid.

When you're a little kid, you ardently believe that, if you hide under the covers and close your eyes, the monsters/kidnappers/murderers/IRA terrorists can't find you. When you're an adult, you realize that you actually have to haul ass and get the fuck out of the area in order to avoid being seen.

As they say in "Monty Python's Flying Circus," the first lesson in not being seen is not to stand up.

As her brother, I probably should have helped her move in. On its face, that sounds correct. However, if you take into account the fact that, since college, I moved five times and she helped (marginally) one of those times, and that I have participated in every single one of her post-collegiate moves, I didn't really feel compelled to assist yesterday. And I told my father that weeks ago.

"I'm not helping, just so you know. And you're old now, so you shouldn't either."

He laughed. It's not funny, of course, but that's never stopped him before.

I don't want my sister living four doors away from me, and I realize that I can't close my eyes and hide under the covers and make it all go away-- but I want to. The best I could do was go antiquing with my wife, then hit Anthropologie so she could pick up a sherbet-hued sweater and a fricking cute stuffed bunny rabbit, and finish up the little Sunday adventure with two games at the bowling alley.

She totally skinned my hide: 109 - 76 on the second game. I was mortified, but I hid it well.

There are many times in my life where I think I am a very bad person. As I completely ignored my sister on her move-in day, I couldn't decide if I felt like I was a very bad person. I think maybe I thought I was at different points in the day, but there were other times where I just didn't care, and I was really enjoying myself.

"It sounds to me," my therapist said last week, "that you don't really take pleasure in very many things. There are definitely things that you're good at, and things that you like-- but I'm not sure that you necessarily take pleasure in any of them."

He's right. It's scary how someone who has only known you for fifty-four minutes can be right about something like that.

So, I thought I would try to take pleasure in something yesterday and, for the most part, it worked. I knew that I would take absolutely no pleasure in helping my sister move into the house that I don't feel she deserves. Is it for me to say what she deserves? No, it's not. Am I still able to feel how I feel? Yes, absolutely.

Is it "right"? God-- what is "right"? I just don't know.

All I know is that, when I bowl, the ball inherently drifts over to the right.

I don't like the way I feel. I don't like the whole situation. As my mother said, "I wish that house were anywhere else other than where it is," and that makes me feel a little bit better, but it doesn't really help me. I don't know what is really going to help me-- if anything will. I never thought that I would feel jealous of my sister, or indignant, or anything like what I feel as I write these words, but I do. And it scares me, and it disappoints me, and it confuses and enrages me.

My therapist asked me last week why I do everything in my power to eschew my own expressions of anger.

"Well," I said, "anger isn't nice."

And it isn't. Neither is ditching your family to go antiquing, Anthro-ing, and bowling, but I'm far too old to just shut my eyes and dive under the blankets anymore, but I'm not quite mature enough to face the music 100% of the time, either.

And I doubt I ever will be.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Chick Magnet

I don't know what it is-- maybe it's the knobby knees or the jumped up teeth, or perhaps it's the way my narrow ass looks in corduroys, but, whatever it is, hot chicks just throw themselves at me.

Well, they crash into me.

Rather, they crash into my car.


In short, my nine-year-old entry-level Volvo sedan is a chick magnet.

Yesterday, I had the distinct misfortune to be working the 7a-3p shift at work. It was for the best, really, as the weather was awful. I left work full of optimism and enthusiasm for the evening I was going to spend with my buddy. We had big plans. I was going to drive her to a small, indie fabric store 70 miles away so she could purchase... um.... robot fabric. To make a dress.

We're nucking futs. And a little bit in love.

Of course, before this insanity could begin, I had to make it home. Usually, this is not such a complicated task. However, I knew my ride home was going to take longer than usual when I found myself behind a newish white Toyota Corolla being piloted by someone who was, shall we say, less-than-attentive? The driver of the Corolla was driving approximately 18-miles-per-hour in a 25 zone, and then maybe kicked it up to just above 25 when the speed limit changed on another road to 35. That was annoying. Then, it got alarming as she continually drifted left, driving on top of the double yellow line, and twice crossing it with the left half of her car.

Now, being a do-gooder (read: narc) at heart, after about two or so miles of this happy horseshit, I made up my mind to call the police on her. Then, she put on her left turn signal and drifted her way into the left lane.

"Good," I thought, "she's turning. Fuck her, I just want to go home," I thought, slipping the phone back into my pocket. I stayed in my lane on the right and went straight, happy to be passing her and letting her fuck up someone else's day.

Silly me.

Without warning nor rhyme nor reason, she quickly veered right and slammed into the driver's side rear passenger door of my car.

Owies.


I let some choice words fly. Then I pulled over, put on my hazard lights, and called the police-- something that, clearly, I should have done earlier. Of course, had I done that, I most likely would have missed out on the opportunity to lay my eyes on a pair of truly outstanding breasts.

See, the operator of the Corolla came bounding out of her car. She had dyed black hair, too much make up, and not enough clothing. Her jeans appeared to have been painted on, and her top was, I believe, made out of paiper mâché. She was in her late thirties, maybe 38, which was probably her bust measurement, if you put DD after it. I opened my passenger side window when she approached and bent over to stick her head into my car. She had evidently forgotten her brain and her bra before she set out on her little drive.

"Oh my God, are you okay? I'm so! sorry! I just didn't see you!"

I was very angry, and admittedly a bit aroused.

"Yeah, I'm fine," I snapped, "but I don't know what the hell you were doing there for, like, two miles. You were really driving like an idiot,"

"Oh! I was just trying to get onto the highway!"

They jiggled because she was all upset and shit. It was kind of funny.

"Yeah, well, I was just about to call the police on you before you hit me, and they're on their way now. And I don't really have anything else to say to you, so I think you'd better just get back in your car and wait."

"The police are coming?" she cried.

"Yes. Goodbye," I said, rolling up my window as she removed her head.

Damn, I thought as I sat waiting for the first responding radio car, this cop had better be gay or a chick, because if some young horndog gets a look at those things, he's going to find me at fault and leave this accident scene with her phone number.

Fortunately, two officers responded and, after the information that both of us gave, I was released and she was not only found at-fault, but was "further investigated to determine her safety to be operating a motor vehicle."

Boo. Yah.

The only other time I was involved in a traffic collision was two years ago. I was turning out of a Dunkin' Donuts drive-thru when I was rammed by a fuck-me-red Nissan 350Z. It was also pouring rain then, just like it was yesterday. And, just like yesterday, the driver of the other vehicle was, um....

Tasty?

A twenty-ish, long-haired, blonde, leggy, Russian professional aesthetician and masseuse on her way to, um...

Work?

And, back then, I wasn't even driving the sex-symbol, femme-fatale-attracting Volvo. I was tooling around in my wife's 2001 Chrysler PT Cruiser.

Which, of course, had "chick magnet" written all the fuck over it.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Outtakes

Sometimes, I'm a bit perseverative.

I listen to the same few songs over and over again until I know every lyric, every intonation and nuance by heart. I like the same restaurants, and frequently order the same thing (though I'll always branch out for an opportunity to consume, and then expel, a new animal). I like my same favorite movies and old television shows, and I watch them.

A lot.

I can recite most of "Dr. Strangelove", "The Pink Panther" films, "Monty Python" major motion pictures (and most of the more obscure television sketches) and the dialogue from all "Fawlty Towers" episodes, with proper character imitations-- male & female alike.

I'm the same way, apparently, with clips on YouTube.

A friend of mine from work, who has found a kindred spirit in me as someone who appreciates acts of a truly depraved nature, frequently sends me YouTube Poop clips, via email and text. Most of these clips are re-mixes of old Billy Mays sales pitches with... just... horrible things done to them.

Believe me, once you climb up on the Suicide Ladder, your life just won't be the same again.

I enjoy the clips my friend sends me, and I'll watch them a few times, just to relish in the choicest moments, and to encode them into my mind to be able to reference them in casual conversation with him at work the next day.

(Because that's how you make friends.)

As I said, I do enjoy these clips, these memes, these fast-and-funny, poorly-constructed though outrageous outbreaks of comedy at someone else's (a dead person's, no less) expense, but they're not my favorite thing to enjoy on YouTube. No, what I turn to most frequently when I'm trolling around the internet looking for a way to pass a few pleasurable moments with my trousers on, are old clips from "The Carol Burnett Show."

Not just clips: outtakes.

The show was rehearsed for a few hours and then was taped in mid-afternoon before a live audience. Inevitably, there were line-flubs and prop cock-ups and mis-cues and dropped lines, so the show was always taped again, in the evening, again, before a live audience. There were imperfections in each recording of each sketch, because it's basically live theatre-- no re-shooting, editing, or touch-ups. After taping, the producer and director would take whichever version of the sketch came out best, and put that in the final show to be aired.

Frequently, Tim Conway would do the first taping straight, or at least as straight as he could. After the taping, he would confer with the cameramen and tell them that something would be up during the second evening taping with a certain sketch. Tim loved nothing more than breaking up his co-star, Harvey Korman, who could scarcely keep a straight face when simply paired up with Conway, as he often was. Typically during the second taping, Tim would let something fly-- some goof or an unrehearsed gag or funny voice-- and Harvey would be in absolute hysterics, as would the audience.

Many of these "outtakes" exist because they aren't actually outtakes at all-- Tim would sometimes fuck around (in different ways) during both recordings of a given show, so that whichever version aired, it would feature some bust-up between Tim and Harvey. Their effect on each other was priceless.

Was it unprofessional? Oh, I don't know. Probably. Sure, as a trained actor and as someone who strives to be competent and impenetrable on stage at all times, yes, it smacks of amateur theatrics, but to watch these clips, to watch those two men look into each other's eyes, you see something else besides the devil-may-care attitude-- you see love. They loved each other. They loved to see and hear each other laugh, to behave like children together-- to have fun.

And I love watching Tim and Harvey have fun.

Life's so serious sometimes, I often think we make it more so than it really needs to be sometimes. I reproach myself sometimes for spending time sifting through old "Carol Burnett Show" outtakes and clips when I could be writing something important, and learning more about the world in which I live, or researching smarter ways to invest money that I don't really even have, but I guess it's important to have fun, too.

Tim and Harvey knew that. And we could learn a thing or two from them.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Is Alfa Romeo Still Coming to America in 2012...?

...and 101 other things that no other reasonable person my age gives a fucking tot about.

But, out of the approximately two-hundred-eighty-four headlines contained in Tuesday's e-dition of the New York Times, that was the headline on which I chose to rest my mouse pointer, the story I just had to know more about.

The answers I so hungrily seek.

And, the answer? Because I know how you're all horny to know the truth about Alfa Romeo's intention to come to America...

Not sure.

Thanks, Magic 8-Ball.

By the way, if you broke your Magic 8-Ball when you were eleven because it said, "Outlook not so good" when you asked it if you were going to hit puberty that year, you can go to this website to view and ask questions of a virtual Magic 8-Ball.

Careful, though-- the e-version of the M8-B is just as devastatingly honest as its plastic and water predecessor. For instance, when I asked it if I was going to die tomorrow, it answered, "Maybe." Determined to probe for greater certainty, I inquired if I was going to eat gravel at any point in the next three weeks.

"Outlook not so good."

Damn. Good thing I got my teeth cleaned on Tuesday.

The Virtual Magic 8-Ball is pretty sure, though, that Alfa Romeo is coming to this country in 2012.

"Absolutely!"

I don't remember the regular old Magic 8-Ball ever producing replies with such certainty when I was a child. Maybe it did, I don't know. I was more fond of Lite-Brite anyway. It never gave you any lip or pretended to be Nostrafuckingdamus.

When I read this story, though, in the New York Times about Alfa Romeo and its possible arrival on American shores, I couldn't help but notice something funny about Alfa Romeo's logo.



It's funny because, unless I'm sorely mistaken, the goddamn monster is eating the little red guy.

What?

Even as a long-avowed car nut, someone who has made it his business to memorize and engage himself in the devout study of automotive trivia, I never noticed this before. Even when my sister, in the early nineties, obsessed over, lusted after, and seriously considered purchasing an Alfa Romeo 164, I even accompanied her to the dealership, and I didn't notice.

Apparently, the Alfa Romeo badge depicts a portion of the Visconti family crest. In the 5th century, there was this serpent that, evidently, went around devouring little red people, and this Visconti guy (who obviously was neither little nor red) killed this man-eating motherfucker, and shielded himself from attack with a white shield emblazoned with a red cross.

Now, why you would choose to put that shit on the hood or grille of a car, I'm not quite sure. It's not like you're going to show up to vanquish the goddamned Loch Ness Monster in a 1970 GTV 1750. I mean, there's not even any room to pack a roll of Lifesavers in that car-- let alone a fucking shield.

I've got to say, though: even though I think it's kind of weird that there are people motoring around the world in vehicles depicting a green monster (wearing a crown?!) eating the legs, dick & balls off of some poor red mini bastard, I sure do admire the guts of a company that has the nerve to slap that shit on its cars. I wish my Volvo depicted some crazy Swedish monster ripping the hell out of some dude. Though, I'm not sure there are such things as Swedish monsters-- so I asked the Virtual Magic 8-Ball.

"Absolutely!"

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Homesick

There are dogs here that I am neglecting, at present.

There is a veritable trove of slightly off-beat films that I haven't watched in years, beckoning to be rediscovered.

There is ceaseless universe of reverse-cowgirl streaming internet pornography.

There is a gigantic, floor-to-ceiling bookshelf positively littered with all manner of literary offerings.

There is a smart phone and a computer and music on radios in the living room and in the kitchen.

There is dusty banjo that could be tuned at a moment's notice, resigned, though, to its fate, leaning helplessly against the window air-conditioning unit in the office.

There is tomato soup in the refrigerator. In all fairness, I'll probably get to that later.

I have to say that I'm more than a bit overwhelmed when I think of all the things I could be doing while at home, sick. If I'm honest with you, I may have been neglecting the books on the shelf, but I did manage to get another sixty-seven pages into Mark Twain's Autobiography, Volume 1. Still, it barely seems like I've made a dent, and his language and his wit are challenging to fathom when your brain feels like it is encased inside some sort of ghoulish Jell-O mold-- which it pretty much is, if you think about it.

I had to put the book down, though, because I am at the part where he is speaking of his daughter, Susy, who died of spinal meningitis when she was 24 years and five months old. And I just can't an elderly father's reminiscenses of his long-lost daughter when I'm not feeling well. It is too much.

On Tuesday, I had every intention of going into work Wednesday, even though I had been feeling ill all afternoon. I laid out my clothes for the next day, I made my lunch, I even put old clothes of ours in a paper bag marked "Donations" for the patients, and set it by the front door so I wouldn't forget it. But, after several hours of thrashing around in bed, simultaneously overheating and freezing to death, my sore throat making swallowing a very undesirable task, I leaned over, at 2:12am, and tapped Mrs. Apron on the shoulder. She jerked her head up, and hit me below the right eye-socket with her head.

"Ow!" I exclaimed.

"What is it?" She demanded.

"I have to call out for tomorrow," I replied hazily.

"Ok," she said, shmushing her head back down into her pillow. I got out of bed and turned on my BlackBerry. It made a ding that indicated some idiot had commented on a Facebook thread that I had commented on, about the movie "In Bruges," which seemed wholly irrelevant and annoying to me at 2:12am. I told the night nurse I was not coming in, and, for good measure, I texted my supervisor, and went back to bed.

Note: I went back to bed, not back to sleep.

There was no sleeping-- not for me, and not for Mrs. Apron. There was thrashing and tossing and the burying of heads beneath pillows and there was dog in between my legs, behind me, resting on my bladder. There was one point in the night where Molly had positioned herself so that she was dead center on my side of the bed, forcing my legs to dangle off the side of the bed, and I stayed like that for probably forty-five minutes, until my bare feet couldn't take the cold anymore. It was one of the worst nights I've passed in a while.

The day hasn't been much better. As a child, I can remember relishing being home sick from school. I stayed in bed all day and I loved it. As a thirty-year-old, I cannot stay in bed. Or in the office chair. Or on the sofa. Or anywhere, for any length of time. There is nothing to do, or at least there is the perception that there is nothing to do, which is powerful enough, and there is nothing in particular that I want to do. Sure, I'm blogging, but that is perfunctory and obligatory-- I'm not getting very much enjoyment out of it right now, sorry to say. The present experience certainly pales in comparison to the times when I stayed home from school as a little boy and took my meals in bed while watching "The Price is Right" on the little white TV brought into my room from the kitchen by my mother.

Just fifteen minutes ago, I actually threw a load of laundry into the wash, because I couldn't think of anything else to do. We'll see if I remember to put it into the dryer, and then if I forget it in the dryer entirely.

The most frustrating thing, perhaps, about being home sick is that I am not enjoying not being at work. I had the day off on Tuesday, and I didn't enjoy that either. Therapy, the dentist, the rain, and then I got sick. I am wracked with guilt over calling out sick, I know my department is going to be short-staffed, I know people were counting on me to do things that I'm not there doing, and I am obsessing over whether I could have slogged myself in, whether I was really sick enough to warrant calling out-- after all, what exactly is the threshold, what are the benchmarks for determining if one is sick enough to call out? I felt much worse, at 2:12am when I called out than, frankly, I do now. But could I have known that when I made the decision to call out?

Life was much simpler when I was a child and my mother made the final determination of I was sick enough to stay home from school. Although I sometimes disagreed with her decision, I at least liked that it wasn't me who was making the call. Because I don't always trust myself. And I rarely enjoy myself.

Even when I'm home sick.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

I Wish (More Than Anything)

There's a beautiful play called "Mother Hicks." You should read it-- or see it. Or both.

In the play, one of the characters says, "You can wish in one hand and spit in the other and see which one gets full first."

A co-worker's husband, apparently, advises her to "wish in one hand and shit in the other," to see which one fills up before the other. Fortunately, I don't ever shake her hand.

I'm not big on wishing myself, probably because I've found that it just leaves one hand empty and the other one not fit to present itself in social settings. On my birthday, when I find myself seated behind some magical, sugary confection with its top ablaze in my honor and I close my eyes, truth be told, I typically fake it.

At least my orgasms are real.

Mrs. Apron taught me that, when you find a fallen eyelash on your lover's cheek, that you are supposed to gather it up on your fingertip, present it to your chosen one, ask them to make a wish, and blow the eyelash away. We have been doing this for years, but, usually, when it's time for me to make my wish, nothing comes. I typically close my eyes, furrow my brow, gently if I'm feeling content, forcefully if I'm not, and I'll blow the lash away. More often than not, if a cogent thought pops into my head, I'll think, "Please... please..... please....."

But, most of the time, I don't know what I'm "please"ing for.

When I was a little boy, seated at my birthday cake, I would usually wish for my parents to not die this year. Someone with OCD might say, "Well, I wished for it every year, and it didn't happen, therefore, what I did made that possible." But I haven't wished that for years and it hasn't happened. I'm not quite sure if, at the confections of my youth, I was wishing, or praying. Or both.

It's easy to confuse prayer with wishing, especially when you're not particularly well-versed at doing either. When I used to go to synagogue, one of the things that frustrated me the most about the experience is that I spent so much time phonetically sounding out Hebrew words and trying to keep pace with the rabbi and the cantor and reading some seriously irrelevant shit about Abraham and Sarah and somebody's fucking ram or some old biblical biddy's dried up tits that, when the service was over and I'd be walking out the door, I would frequently find myself thinking, "Wait a minute-- wasn't I supposed to have... prayed... for something in there?" I mean, it's great to go in there saying, "Blessed is the Lord Our God, Ruler of the Universe," forty-seven times, but where was the part where I was supposed to look deep into my own soul and heart to communicate one-on-one with God?

Communicate-- not kiss the guy's holy ass.

I assumed, as a child, that I had somehow missed that part but, as I grew older I realized that this was not, perhaps, what synagogue was about. If I figure out what it is about, I'll tweet you or something.

This is not to say that there aren't things about life that I wish were... I don't know-- different, but I'm not sure that I actively wish for them. I mean, yeah, I wish I wasn't the kind of guy who fancies buffalo chicken and bacon pizza-- but I am the kind of guy who fancies buffalo chicken and bacon pizza. I just... am. And I could stop eating it, because it's not good for me, and, frankly, it's nasty, but it's just delicious. So I'm not sure that I wish that part of me were different.

I'd like it if celebrities were going to insist on running for President, that they were celebrities that I liked and respected, and not people like Donald Trump. Truthfully, I'd vote for Sam Shepard. But he's too smart to run for President, so, there you go.

There is just something about the idea of wishing, of casting the net out there blindly and blithely that doesn't appeal to me. Maybe I'm just too damned rational, or curmudgeonly. Or maybe, like I've been told many times before, I just think too much.

Maybe I need to wish in one hand and think in the other.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Where I Left Off

"Well, I'd kind of like to pick up where I left off," I told the therapist on the phone during our initial chat last week.

"Oh, okay," he said, "when were you last in therapy?"

"I stopped going when college ended," I replied, "in 2002."

There was a brief silence on the other end of the line. Well, on both ends of the line, to be accurate. I guess you can't really have silence on only one end of a conversation, can you?

This is the type of horseshit that my new therapist is going to have to contend with every Tuesday morning, at 8:30am. I'm going to go out on a limb and suggest that I'm more than likely this cat's first Tuesday appointment-- I can't imagine anybody loonier in their tuning to get up for a 7:00, 7:15, or even a 7:30am session of mind-bending bollocks. But me? I'm ready at crow of cock. If this sonofabitch wanted to see me at 6:30, I'd be there, ready to throw up all over him.

Symbolically speaking, of course.

That's really what therapy is, though, in my mind, at least: vomiting. Vomiting out the contents of your mind and, to take the analogy a bit too far, sifting through the viscous detritus to find the choice chunks to... study.

I hope you're not reading this whilst shoveling in your Sugar Smacks. Do they still make those things?

In any event, today is my first day back in therapy in nine years. As I bang out this blog, I would say that I'm somewhere on the spectrum between ambivalence and elevated anxiety. Part of me knows what to expect, part of me has no idea what to expect. Maybe the techniques will be similar and familiar, but the office and the man behind the clipboard will be different.

Oh, and I suppose I'm a little different, too. A little grayer up top, but still just as immature as I was as a college junior, in many ways. The fact that I can boast a marriage, a car, a mortgage, two dogs and a job aren't really relevant. I'm still struggling with how to deal with my family, still racing frenetically from one obligation to another like my ass-crack is on fire, still battling that depression and anxiety. Still resisting medication. Still... dying to talk about myself.

Don't look so surprised, dear.

I wonder, though, in the end, what good it will do. Because we're doing CBT, there will inevitably be homework assignments that I will have to do-- well, not HAVE to, but that will be in my best interests to do. There will be some that must be written, and no doubt there will be some that will have to be... performed, as it were-- interactions between myself and others that will probably make me uncomfortable, irritated, annoyed, and wanting desperately to stick my head into a sandbox, or a bag of sugar, or Megan Fox's nether regions.

I would be lying if I said I was 100% up for the challenge. I'm not 100% up for anything these days. Oh, go ahead-- make a penis joke. If you don't, I will.

I told this individual, (I feel uncomfortable calling him "MY therapist" just yet, seeing as we haven't even shaken hands as of this moment) that I wanted to pick up where I left off, but I know there's really no way to do that-- not when you "left off" with someone else, and not when you did it nine years ago. Truthfully, I don't really know what I want, or how I intend to achieve it. And I know he's going to ask me, and I don't know what I'm going to say.

I suppose most of what I want is to feel better. Isn't that why people go to people called "doctors" in the first place? I'm pretty sure it is. In the plainest language: I don't feel well. Sounds childish, doesn't it? But some of the most childish-sounding things are the truest of all.

My head/belly hurts.

I'm sad.

You hurt me.

I'm sorry.

I love you.

That's not fair.

All as true as true can be. And though it was often my way during therapy in college to talk the psychological talk, to be elevated and insightful and sometimes even a little poetic, perhaps I ought to just stick to those innocent little basics, and maybe I'll feel better a little bit quicker.

I hope it goes well. No doubt I'll have more fun there than at my dentist appointment at 2 today.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Bonny Blue

Tomorrow is the sesquicentennial of the American Civil War. Confederate guns blasting the bejesus out of Fort Sumter. Hurrah, boys.

Hurrah.

My favorite Civil War tune is the "Bonnie Blue Flag."

I used to whistle this song as I made my gimpy way down the halls of my prestigious, public high school in between classes, blissfully unaware of, or indifferent to, the fact that openly expressing a fervor for Civil War marches and ballads was a way to remain utterly sexless.

Of course, I tell myself now that high schoolers back in the late nineties were, as a general rule, having far less sex than high schoolers are today. I'm not aware of any empirical data that either proves this statement right or wrong. I could probably Google it, but we all know I'm far too lazy for that. Besides, I only employ stats when I'm sure they're going to prove my point, and when they're relatively easy to understand.

It's a Southern song, one of the most popular during the course of the war, and after, perhaps only superceded in Southern-fried love by "The Battle Hymn of the Republic." I used to whistle that one a lot in high school, too. It is perhaps old folklore I am repeating that there is still a law on the books in our nation's capital that you can be arrested for whistling "Dixie" on Federal grounds. Fortunately, such a brazen act was permitted at my Pennsylvania high school, and I faced no grievous repercussions for my mini-treason.

Civil War songs beg to be sung, hummed, and whistled. If they were good enough to keep thousands of young men from going absolutely insane on thirty mile a day marches in 100+ degree heat, you can pretty much rest assured they can be of service anywhere, at any time. To my ear, the Southern songs pack more of a punch, but "The Battle Cry of Freedom" is as stirring a song as I've ever heard.

"For although he may be poor,
No man shall be a slave,
That is the battle cry of freedom."

Can I get an "A-men?"

The earliest memory I have of falling for Civil War ballads was when I was ten years old. In a thrift shop somewhere, I randomly purchased, for the weighty cost of $0.50, a tape of Civil War marches and folksongs. I played it for my father one Saturday morning in his Pontiac Bonneville as he drove me to his factory. He and I spent lots of Saturdays together when I was a boy. He would go for 1/2-a-day on Saturdays and take me with him. I would play on the conveyor belt (not a good idea, in hindsight), take the messages from his answering machine, screw around with the time-clock and the tape-dispensing machine, basically touch anything that had buttons, and, on the long commute, I'd play my Civil War music for him.

"Where the hell did you get to like this music?" my father asked me one morning.

"I don't know," I said.

And, really, I didn't. I still don't. Sometimes I wonder if I've been somehow genetically programmed to store an affection for the Victorian era and its trappings:

pocketwatches
eccentric facial hair
bowler hats
three-piece suits
antique eyeglasses
antique typewriters
The Civil War
Gilbert & Sullivan
Mark Twain

I mean, I could go on. Really.

Sometimes, in the mornings, when I go into work early, the first assignment I have is "Personal Care." All it consists of is unlocking the cabinets in the day room for the ladies, putting out the mirrors, hair styling gel, curling irons and hair dryers and supervising their use, while I sit back in a wicker chair and drink my coffee and make sure no one's strangling themselves (or anyone else) with a hair dryer).

It's one of my favorite assignments, and not just because it's basically me getting paid to sit on my keister, it's because I get to play my Victorian music, because, let's face it: that shit's pretty therapeutic. The two CDs I favor are the Gilbert & Sullivan overtures, and a CD called "Mark Twain's America."

The latter CD is all piano music played by Jacqueline Schwab (if you've ever seen a Ken Burns documentary, you've heard her) performing songs that either Sam Clemens professed in a journal or book that he personally liked, or just songs that were popular while he was alive.

"I love this version of 'Beautiful Dreamer'," a patient will inevitably say to me, at least once a week. Without fail, somebody (always a female) recognizes "Beautiful Dreamer." It always surprises me when some 50-year-old woman with schizophrenia, wearing a bathrobe, pieces of tissue stuck inside her ears, and three pair of pants picks out "Beautiful Dreamer" amongst the Civil War-era ballads and melodies.

Every once in a while, a patient will ask me to write down the title of the CD for them. I don't harbor delusions that they're racing each other to Amazon to purchase it, but it's nice to be asked. It's nice to see them sitting in their wicker chairs, with their eyes closed, and a contented smile crossing their lips-- even if it's just for a moment.

They're my beautiful dreamers. They're bonny blue.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Mine

When "Finding Nemo" was released in Spain, audience members back in 2003 or whenever it was most likely howled in delight as the manic seagulls shouted a dubbed, "Mio! Mio! Mio! Mio!"

You know, 'cuz that means "Mine!" in Spanish.

I can remember being highly amused while watching the scenes involving those emotionally battered birds in "Finding Nemo." Maybe it's the attitude-hardening years that have passed since that date, but I was significantly less amused as I sat on the sofa with my wife watching a commercial for MiO Liquid Water Enhancer for the first time a couple weeks ago.

"Oh, my God," I said, watching in deadpan horror, "what the fuck is this shit?"

"Clearly," Mrs. Apron said, popping a Cadbury mini egg into her mouth, "you have to blog about this."

I squinted my eyes like a leathery cowboy preparing for a high-noon duel.

"Clearly."

But, for weeks, it didn't come (yeah, yeah, I know: that's what she said) and I had to see the commercial a few more times in order for the proper combination of vitriol, disappointment, sadness, incredulity, and despair to really set in. Because, really, those are the elements that make for great blogs. Just ask that snarky little bitch everybody reads or whatever.

So, for those of you who may be unfamiliar, as yet, with the concept of MiO, allow me to explain, as far as I am able. But, before I do, please permit a brief statement of disclosure:

(Brief) Statement of Disclosure:

I haven't tried this shit personally. Why? Because, if I were stupid enough to spend actual money on it, then I should have no business blogging about it in the manner in which I am about to do.

Of course, the other way I could have acquired this product would be by its producing company sending me a sample for review. Now, this may happen to you-- people may send you free shit all the time to review-- but, as of yet, this hasn't happened to me. I guess it's not a mystery why that doesn't happen to me. Some literary agent emailed me asking me to review their client's interior design book on my blog.

"You've obviously never read my blog," I wrote back, "so I'm obviously not going to read or review your client's book which, I'm sure, is gay."

Anyway, getting back to MiO (definitely won't be getting any free samples now), MiO is marketed as a "Liquid Water Enhancer." The mere existence of this product implies that water is boring and, therefore, necessitates enhancement.

I take exception with this, and yet, I probably have little right to do so.

I drink very little water, probably significantly less than any human should. Each morning, I prepare sixteen ounces of coffee with enough sugar in it to turn Mr. Ed's head into a raisinette. I nurse this coffee all day. With lunch, I have one can of Caffeine Free Diet Coke (which, as we all know, is going to make me mimic the symptoms of M.S. some day, in which case I'll have to get Dragon Speak so I can keep blogging). With dinner, oftentimes there will be another CFDC or a spritzer, made with fruit juice and seltzer water.

But wait, you'll say-- the pom/blueberry juice that you add to your half-glass of seltzer water is no different than MiO!

The hell it is, I'll say. You have to add fruit juice to seltzer water because seltzer water by itself tastes like champagane mixed with week-old kitty litter. Water by itself, especially if served ice cold, is delicious. Water isn't boring-- I'm not bored by it, I'm just addicted to other stuff.

Water is like, I don't know... breasts. Breasts get enhanced every day in this country, but do they really need enhancement? Even those precocious little 32-A's? No. They do not. Even the smallest boob is a joy unto the Lord. They do not need to be sliced open, with nipples cut out and put on ice, stuffed with silicone or chicken fat or saline or brillo pads. They don't need spears or studs shoved through their nippies. Breasts are wonderous just the way they are. You know, until they get old and resemble two heavily-packed plastic shopping bags.

Anyway, getting back to this MiO bullshit-- it comes in some fucking flavors like Mango Peach, Peach Tea, Sweet Tea, Sweet Pea, Pea Soup, Pomegranate Vichyssoise or whatever. It comes in a small plastic container that you're supposed to carry around with you, along with your pocket comb, your toothbrush, your Clementine Tea-flavor-enhanced condoms and your spare vampire fangs and Groucho Marx glasses. It's really important that you carry your MiO around with you wherever you go in case some dreadfully uncouth dinner party host has the unmitigated temerity to offer you a glass of boredom-inducing water. That way, you can quickly make youself look like an eight-year-old swilling Kool-Aid and instantly become the life of the party.

Liquid excitement is never far away, and boredom in a glass is but a distant memory as long as you're packin' MiO. Which, by the way, contains:

Water, Malic Acid, Propylene Glycol, Citrict Acid, Contains less than 2% of natural flavor, Sucralose and Acesulfame potassium (Sweeteners), Potassium citrate, Yellow 5, Blue 1, Red 40, Potassium Sorbate (Perservative).

Hey! Artifical food dyes! Everyone loves those! Acesulfame and Propylene Glycol! They sound like additives used in jet fuel!

And, dude: gotta love that first ingredient.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Where the Truth is Always Told

I like to think of this blog as a place where the truth is always told, but that's not what this post is about.

Besides, it probably isn't true anyhow.

------------

A long time ago, before my wife was my wife, we were driving in her old PT Cruiser up to Plattsburgh, New York, where she had done a bit of her growing up, once upon a time. Back in the dark ages of 2004 or thereabouts, there were no Sirius Satellite Radios or iPods (at least, not for us there weren't) and so we did what people have been doing for decades when their cars meander into unfamiliar interstates-- we fiddled with the radio dial until something agreeable came on. We were hoping for the local NPR affiliate, because we're Jewish and educated and white and all, and we might have found it, I'm not exactly sure. It was 90 point somethingorother, but it was the lovely, friendly baritone voice that stopped my finger on the dial. He was singing a charming tune, a sweet song, a song about what it is to love someone unwaveringly, through the years. The song was called "The Thing that Makes You Beautiful," and the warm, rich voice that sang it through the plain-Jane speakers of that PT Cruiser was Michael Cooney.

It asks a simple, sweet, honest question of a love:

"Won't you let me be your mirror,
Where the truth is always told?"

And, really, isn't that what we all want from the one we love?

I made sure to remember Cooney's name when it was announced by the probably plaid-shirt-wearing DJ, or maybe the future Mrs. Apron wrote it down on a scratch piece of paper. I don't remember but, either way, it stuck. When we got home from our trip to the NY Hinterlands, I went to Cooney's website and ordered the CD, "Together Again" which featured the song that swept us up in schmoopiness. Because Cooney's website was as quaint as he is, you had to send in your orders via mail and pay by check. I included a note about how my wife and I found his song by accident, and how we basically found each other by accident, too.

Cooney sent me the CD, and a very sweet, handwritten note that I probably still have in a tin cigar box where I keep all very sweet, handwritten notes that people send me, for whatever probably misguided reason. As October, 2006 approached, Mrs. Apron and I planned for our first dance to be "The Thing that Makes You Beautiful."

"The Irish trio can take a break for our first dance-- it'll be awkward for them, but I don't care," I said to her. She agreed.

Of course, because I'm a tremendous ballcock, I had lost the CD, and, with the wedding date fast approaching, we were without our first song.

So, I sent another note, and another check, to Cooney. This time the note was a longer one, full of self-deprecating remarks about my ballcockness, and I also briefly shared with him the story about my wife's brain surgery, as I learned in the liner notes of the CD I'd lost that Cooney was in a head-on car crash at the hands of a drunk driver and had himself undergone two craniotomies. Thus, the title of his CD, "Together Again" finally made sense. He was, at last, put back together again.

Cooney, very quickly, mailed back another copy of "Together Again," another nice note wishing Mrs. Apron and I all the best. He also mailed my check back.

Since we married, I have done my best to be Mrs. Apron's mirror, where the truth is always told. It isn't easy, because sometimes you don't want to hear the truth, even from your mirror. Especially from your mirror. And sometimes even a mirror shrinks from its responsibilities in favor of a quiet, taciturn night, or even out-and-out cowardice. But a mirror tries to discharge its duties, its sworn, avowed duties, in fact, as any promise made on a wedding day is sacrosanct.

Sometimes, being a mirror to Mrs. Apron is as hard as dissecting a particularly painful therapy session with her, after the dust settles, and the tears come. Sometimes it is as hard as sorting through the mess and detritus that is her family, and mine. Sometimes it is as easy as telling her she has a huge smudge of chocolate on the left side of her face, left numb after her own brush with neurosurgery.

Of course, that's not really that easy either.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Little Seal

His name was Ronan.

It's Gaelic. It would be quite poetic if it meant "Lion," but that's Leo, or if it meant "Prince," but that's Brendan, or maybe even "noble," but Alain means "noble" if you're going by Gaelic. Perhaps it would be more appropriate if his name had been "Killian," for that means "strife," which is what we are left with today.

But, his mother Nuala ("exceptionally lovely"), deemed that this boy of hers be named Ronan, and it doesn't mean "strong protector" or "gallant hero" or even "fallen warrior." The name Ronan means "Little Seal," which, frankly, is what lots of babies resemble when they're fresh plucked from the womb, if we're to be honest with each other.

Yesterday, a little seal, barely a pup, was laid to rest in Northern Ireland. At twenty-five years old, he was the victim of a cowardice, hatred, and malice that has suddenly found itself quite out-of-fashion in a place where where such simmering, malevolent passions once flourished.

Ronan Kerr was a policeman with the PSNI, the Police Service of Northern Ireland. Once a totally Protestant police force known in the past for its lack of impartiality and acts of brutality, it is a changed police force, integrating Catholic and Protestant, English and Irish officers together in a sometimes rocky but forward-thinking and well-meaning partnership. Ronan Kerr had barely graduated from his training academy when he was killed, for being a Catholic, and being a cop. As he got into his personal vehicle, a bomb exploded, ripping him to pieces, and threatening equally to blow to bits the struggle create a more harmonious Ireland. Ronan Kerr was killed for doing his small part to try to prevent his country from descending into madness once again.

And, from the moment I heard the news on the radio, I held my breath-- for a repeat attack, for another sickening death, for more shrapnel and more flames-- more destruction. But nothing came.

And, as a brave baby seal was laid to rest yesterday, men stood together in mourning at the church, men who swore they'd never enter a Catholic church, much less to mourn the passing of a Catholic police officer. Protestants and Catholics united at a rally to show support for Ronan Kerr and for his family. First Minister Peter Robinson, the first Democratic Unionist Party official to ever attend a Catholic Mass was there. Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness and Gerry Adams were there.

Who would have believed it, twenty years ago? Or two?

The Cardinal presiding over the funeral made a passionate plea:

"Choose life, I say, choose goodness, choose peace. That is what God is asking of you. That is what the people of all traditions have been saying to all of us, loud and clear, since the moment of Ronan's tragic death on Saturday last - 'We do not want this. You do not act in our name.' In God's name stop - and stop now!"

Father John Skinnader told the mourners of seeing Ronan drive towards him in his patrol car just a week ago and it made him think, "there is the symbol of the new Northern Ireland."

There it was.

But perhaps even more than Ronan Kerr, looking smart in his uniform behind the wheel of his PSNI radio car, the symbol of the new Northern Ireland was the respect and dignity shown to Ronan Kerr's family and colleagues in the week following his murder. Perhaps this is the new future for us all.

And as Northern Ireland and indeed the world struggles to make sense of this tragedy, it is my hope that Ronan Kerr's family is comforted by the fact that this act was not treated as an act of patriotism by society at large, but as an act of barbarism. And that may seem like common sense to some, but for a country that has struggled so passionately for so long, that has had wound after wound reopened time and time again, for a people who have been hurt so many times, it is an act of grace that this terrible crime has been greeted by mostly respectful silence.