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."

Sunday, September 11, 2011


Well. That got your attention, didn't it?


I've gotten your attention for some time on this blog, and that's been nice, to varying degrees, but I'm done doing that now.

Looking back on many of the posts I've written, I've noticed that I have a habit of starting out many a paragraph with the phrase, "Life's funny", and I do that because it is-- life is funny-- and because I'm stalling while thinking of something to say. Thinking on my feet. Something you're not really supposed to have to want to need to do while you're writing. That's more of a talking thing to have to do. But I think on my feet when I write, because I don't plan out what I have to say, because that would bore me.

Well, thinking on my feet while writing has started to bore me. It's probably started boring you, too. I can feel it.

It's easy to know when something's over, but it's harder to admit it. This blog was over a while ago, but I kept it going, like people do in relationships, because the sex is good, or because your toothbrush is at her place, or because he has a car and you don't or because she makes a mean bolognese.

I was comfortable here, not happy. There's a difference. You can be both and survive just fine, like I do in my marriage: comfortable and happy. On my blog, however, I was just comfortable, and that just doesn't last.

"My Masonic Apron" was a challenging exercise for me. Be interesting, engaging, funny, topical, witty, passionate, silly, obtuse, frustrating, apathetic, empathetic, ridiculous, superfluous, just be... something.

And I did that. For a while, I did that.

And I'm done doing that.

Last August, I threw in the towel on this shit for a brief time while searching for a job, because this blog was an unnecessary distraction from seeking gainful employment. And I found gainful employment, and I came back. But now I'm facing new challenges. Twins are around the corner, and I need to figure out a way to take an essentially desperately unmarketable person and turn an hourly wage into a salary, a job into a career, a boy into a man. I need to re-Bar Mitzvah, and gifts are graciously accepted.

(Fuck yea.)

I won't pretend that I'm not going to miss this. But I'll also confess that it's less about the blog, and less about the blogging, and less about you, than it is about missing the comfort of something that has become so routine.

I love routines, you know. You know that. You know everything.

Well. Not everything.


You know what I tell you, but I know so very little that you can't know more than a very little.

I won't be deleting the blog-- that would be kind of stupid, and it would rob future generations of trouser-free Googlers the joy of stumbling upon this site upon entering search terms like, "sheep fuck apron" and "alastair atchison" and "mumia abu-jamal" and "totes mcgoats".

Such a colorful array of topics. Such a charmed life I lead.

I'll bet I'll be tempted to come back here and spew bile about the Fort Knox-like protections on our orange juice bottle, or memorialize Finley when he dies, or to brag about the twins when they're born, but I don't think that will be happening. When I say goodbye, it's usually not "so long."

I wanted to get to 1,000 posts. Really I did. But, really, what's the fucking difference? A thousand, nine hundred-and-whatever-- who cares? I'm also tempted to delude myself into thinking, if I'd put more energy into creative writing since 2009, I'd be a published author again by now, but that's probably nonsense. I peaked at 21-- ask anybody I went to college with. Just not the girls I fucked. They definitely wouldn't agree.

I kept my identity a secret on this blog because I have/had aspirations of being a teacher-- and I am a teacher in a lot of ways, and I work with psych patients, and I don't want to get fired because I have a potty mouth. I'm always afraid of getting fired, of being found out, and my therapist opined last week that maybe I was most afraid of finding myself out.

I think he's right.

I'm writing this on Sunday night-- September the 11th-- and I was going to have it auto-post at 7:18am, the usual time, but I kind of can't wait, so I'm going to let it go now. I'm kind of excited to start my new life, free from, well, this. I think it's going to make me sad, like any loss does, but I think it's going to feel better in time.

I think I'm going to be better, in time.

I can't tell you how proud I am of this thing-- this thing that eventually made me sick-- but I'm far prouder of the fact that it was my writing that brought you into my life. You know, back in 2003, it was the bizarre, sardonic, clever J-Date profile that successfully seduced the girl who would eventually become my wife and the mother of our twins. And it worked on you, too.


I love you.

Anger and Love

I've got to tell you, I really worked myself up about whether or not to write a September 11th post-- like what I do or don't do, on this space, and in life, matters a damn.

That's the thing about me: I vacillate so between the two extremes of taking myself way too seriously on the one hand, and thinking that I'm probably one of the most insignificant and ridiculous beings on the face of the earth. It's kind of annoying to have both an inflated sense of self-importance, coupled with self-confidence the size of a whitehead.

I thought about writing about something totally unrelated to September 11th, because I often do that when there is media saturation about something-- I tend to go the other way. But then I thought, "you're just doing that to be an asshole, and you're asshole enough without doing that."

Once I had decided (seven minutes ago) that I would write a September 11th post, my thoughts turned to how I ought to approach it. Would it be the acerbic, sardonic "Dear Apron" voice that is crass and crude and obscene, mocking the vaunted solemnity and vacant pageantry granted to the 10th anniversary recognition of that terrible day, or would the tone be more philosophical, introspective, careful and considerate, weighing the colossal tragedy of the actual terrorist act against the unhinged and seemingly intractable military operations that have occurred in its wake?

And... after at least six-and-a-half minutes of scattered, distracted deliberation: I can't decide.

What's a fella to do?

I thought I might tell you where I was when the first plane hit-- but nobody really gives a shit about that except me and, actually, I don't really give that much of a shit about that either. I don't know why this culture is so fixated on that where-I-was business. I mean, in the grand scheme of things, is where you were when such-and-such a thing happened really that relevant to not only the event, but to your memory of the event? I never understood that.

But, anyway.

I'm writing this post, as I do with all my posts, a day ahead-- on September 10th. So, I don't really know how I'm going to feel on the actual 11th. Maybe much different than I do right now, which is ambivalent and disinterested, by the way, but I don't know. Maybe I won't. I'll be working at my psych hospital on September 11th, hanging with a bunch of folks who, for a time anyway, aren't among the general population. On Saturday morning, one of the ladies asked what the date was.

"It's the 10th," I said.

"Oh," she answered flatly, "and tomorrow's September 11th."

"Tomorrow's September 11th," I repeated, somewhat mechanically. You learn in this business to keep your voice as even as possible, lest any untoward inflection betray how you really feel about things.

"September 11th made me angry," the patient stated, simply, tersely, plainly.

I paused for a second.

"That makes sense," I said, because, in a world where people do and say things that make no sense whatsoever, you've got to acknowledge when things do make sense.

I'm glad I'm going to be in a psychiatric hospital for eight hours on September 11th. For a lot of reasons, mostly though to be in a place where not making sense is as okay as making sense. Because September 11th, even after 10 years, doesn't make sense, nor does anything that came after it.

Or before.

I have vague memories of floating through a surreal, faded version of my college campus on that day, and I can remember watching endless hours of CNN-- not really watching it, acknowledging it maybe. What I remember most was my creative writing professor arriving half-an-hour late to class, breaking down into barely controlled sobs, and sending us away.

And I think, for that one quick, fleeting moment, I fell in love with her. Well, maybe not with her, really-- but her humanity, her dignity, her frailty, and her deep beauty. She ascended, I think, in that moment, as she delivered her news and her tears and her love, in a way that was not quite human anymore. Like the Pieta she was, Mary cradling us all, limp and wounded, in her arms.

It was the single most arresting moment of my college career.

I'd thought about writing about the horror of terror, the anxiety faced by millions in the wake of the attacks, about my forever amplified fear of flying, about life in the city, about recovery and rebirth, but I suppose, in the end, September 11th for me is best summed up with two words:

Anger, and love.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Well, It's Finally Happened...

... I want to un-friend just about everybody I'm friends with on Facebook.

Pretty much all 343 of them. They're annoying. Attention-seeking. Clever. Phony. Obnoxious. Self-aggrandizing. Vacuous. Disingenuous.

Come to think of it, make it 344, because I kind of want to un-friend myself.

Note: I didn't say I want to delete my Facebook account. I just kind of what to un-friend everybody.

I'm not going to, though, because that takes energy and motivation. It's purposeful and there are steps involved that one must take, and repercussions, possibly. And I'm not into repercussions. Or step-taking, for that matter. I'm not really into much of anything, frankly. Too many thoughts of diapers and strollers and vomit and shit that looks like watered-down peanut butter.

I'm feeling crabby, I think. I'm in a But-I-Don't-Wanna mood. You ever get like that?

I don't wanna take pictures of the twins and Blackberry them up onto Facebook from the delivery room so people I went to middle school can "Like" them. I don't want thirty-seven "Likes" for the fact that my wife just squeezed out our children. I don't want to read, "Awwww! So cute!" ten times and see all those fucking thumbs-ups.

I don't want it.

It's so cheap. So cloying. So clickably satisfying.

I know, I'm being an asshole. I can't help it. It's how I feel, right now. Maybe I won't feel this way on Sunday, or Thursday. But it's how I feel right now. And, like I said, I don't want to cancel my account, mostly because all my goddamned pictures are up there-- I just kind of want to have a Facebook account, because basically everyone else does, but I kind of want to have one in a vacuum, just sort of by myself. I want to put stuff up there and say witty or crabby things, but I don't necessarily want to hear anything from anyone else. It would be the equivalent, I guess, of the cork bulletin board we keep upstairs in our office. There's a bunch of random crap on it-- pictures and cards and quotes and whatnot, but people don't say anything about it, because nobody else comes up into our office.

Nobody "Likes" the picture of my wife, my sister-in-law, and I standing in the market in our hipster formalwear, each of us clutching a squash like a baby, though, I expect that, if I scanned said picture and put it up on Facebook, that would earn at least 6 Likes and a "LOL!" for good measure.

I was scrolling through Ye Olde Walle yesterday and I was getting so... blargh. I don't even know what I was getting-- enervated? Irritated? Exasperated? I suppose Facebook and all the self-glorifying inanity thereon reaches a point of saturation after a while. There comes a point where you just can't look at Facebook anymore without wanting to give yourself a tonsillectomy with a broken paperclip.

I just wanted to make it all go away. And you can Log Out, but it never really goes away, unless you make it go away. For real. And then you become the antidisestablishmentarianistic hermit-like bowl of ass-sweat that everybody thought you were in college.

And I don't know if I'm really that.

Maybe, though. Maybe.

Friday, September 9, 2011

LOOK OUT: Your Nurse Navigator Is Here, Motherfucker

When I worked in the non-profit sector, I marveled at the seemingly endless amounts of nondescript, nebulous, official-sounding job titles were out there, and all of them essentially amounted to the same thing: file jockey. Data entry schmendrick. They were job titles (all pulled directly from, btw) like this:

Program Coordinator
Program Assistant
Programs Manager
Project Manager
Project Coordinator
Programs Assistant
Assistant Program Officer
Foundation Assistant
Strategic Director
Senior Program Manager
Team Support Administrator
Coordinating Manager
Project Liaison
Program Intake Specialist
Program Associate
Program Operations Manager
Program Specialist
Communications Specialist
Programs Generalist

I mean, are you kidding me? Come on. What the fuck is that shit?

In my time, I held a couple of those fictitious titles myself. And that is really what they are: made up. They're as made up as all of those well-intentioned bullshit names people are giving their kids these days:



The jobs are made up, too. The non-profit world is brilliant at making up jobs and job titles to go with them. You wouldn't think they'd have so much money to throw at the random-ass people who end up filling these utterly non-essential, meaningless, clerical, stress-inducing jobs but, when you're only paying them $21,000 and no health insurance, it's not that big a deal for most non-profits to handle.

And, after a year, most of them quit or get fired anyway.

The for-profit world doesn't really get into the habit of making up jobs or job titles. The CEO of a company is the handsomely-graying white guy in the $2,000 Italian suit getting hummed by his secretary behind his black lacquer desk. There's no mistaking what that's all about. Likewise, and down a peg or two, a machinist is a fucking machinist. There are no Senior Programs Machinists or Machinist Liaisons. There aren't Intake Machinist Specialists. There are just fucking machinists. And they work on fucking machines. Because they're machinists.

A car salesman, in all his balding, pot-bellied, yolk-on-his-tie, sweat-on-his-upper-lip glory is a car salesman. Period.

You wouldn't think that the healthcare industry would be one for inventing job titles and positions (a doctor's a doctor, a paramedic's a paramedic, an oncologist head-butts cancer, and so on) but you'd be wrong. The medical sector has, in what I think is probably only the last couple years, worked to contrive and confabulate an entirely new subset of the nursing profession called:




As if tacitly acknowledging that healthcare, health insurance, and the entire experience of going into the hospital even for a "routine" procedure has become utterly indecipherable and unknowable for the average schmuck-stain, the position of Nurse Navigator was created, ostensibly to navigate you, the loser on the gurney, through the vast and heretofore un-navigable (I guess) intricacies of the hospital system.

It isn't because hospitals were faced with the increasing burden of nurses that have been in their positions for too long, have become long in the tooth and fat in the ass, short on patience and long on exasperated tirades, nurses who haven't kept up with advances in technology or medicine or culture or all of the aforementioned, nurses who have ingrained themselves into the very fabric of the hospital and cannot be fired, but are utterly useless with patients because they shat out their bedside manner decades ago, and nurses whom doctors secretly fantasize about strangling, (and not in the sexual way either) and so, instead of gracefully putting them out to pasture, they created this odd, undefined position to give them a job that doesn't mean anything, but pretty much gets them out of everybody's hair.

I mean, call me a cynic, but...

If you don't believe me that the job is undefined, don't take it squarely on the chin from me-- here's one newly minted Nurse Navigator on an RN chatboard:

"I have recently been promoted to a nurse navigator type role. I wanted to know are there any nurse navigators here that could help me develope [sic] this new position at our hospital. I am the first one here HELP!"

And then she put a little crying emoticon, just to underscore her complete and utter helplessness.

So, here's a Nurse Navigator, asking other Nurse Navigators to help her (say it with me now) navigate her job.

Folks: don't get sick (or pregnant) in America. We're basically fucked.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

A Strange Man

Remember the part in "Crimes and Misdemeanors" when Woody Allen shuffles, dazed, into his bedroom, and Joanna Gleason is in bed, and Woody sits on the bed, a bit slumped, sort of staring off vacantly and says,

"A strange man... defecated on my sister."

If you don't remember that part, of (worse) if you've never seen "Crimes and Misdemeanors", then don't come back here until you have.

I think every creatively-inclined Jewish guy in this life and time experiences a very complicated relationship with Woody Allen. It's not something we decide to experience, like pot or upside-down sex-- or cake-- it's just something that... I don't know... is.

We can't help it, and I wonder if he can't either. I wonder if he knows the power he wields over us. I wonder if he cares.

See? ARRGH! Look at me-- wondering if Woody Allen cares about something. This is exactly what I'm talking about!


There's a piece of us, and by us I mean "Jewish American boy-and-then-manhood" that fervently wants to separate ourselves from him, to distinguish ourselves from his typification of THE NEBBISH-- the schnuffling, neurotic, befuddled, myopic, pseudo-intellectual in the big glasses obscuring the mawkish punim. There's that piece of us that can't wait to say, "Well, at least I'm not like HIM," and this is juxtaposed, of course, with our insidious, troubled, and very real desire to be not just like him, but him precisely.

And I don't mean necessarily that we want to adopt an Asian girl and then fall in love with her and then fuck her and then marry her, or whatever order in which he did those steps, I don't really know, but we want to taste the life he's led up to this point. Woody Allen's life, and his characters' lives. We want to struggle with philosophical and ethical dilemmas, and we always want a clever, annihilating quip to slide effortlessly out of our back pockets like a wallet. And, truth be told, we wouldn't mind hooking up with 1996 Julia Roberts along the Italian riviera while wearing baggy corduroys.

Woody Allen is the ultimate Hollywood paradox. The anti-Semites of the world will happily gnaw your ear off (especially if your ear is Jewish) telling you all about how Jews control the media and the entertainment industry but, when they talk about those Jews, they're not talking about Woody Allen, they're talking about Jeff Zucker and Michael Eisner but, really, I don't think there is a Jew alive today who has more influence over mass media than Woody Allen. If you mention his name in Europe, especially Italy or France, the country swoons. Here, a wide cross-section of the country can remember laughing its ass off at "Bananas" and "Sleeper" and I remember, even as a young child, finding that bespectacled ginger trying to play cello in his high school marching band in "Take the Money and Run" pretty priceless.

The importance and relevance of influence of his wit and his style on cinema today may be disputed, but it cannot be denied. And, yet, how did this little stereotype do it?

I can remember being critiqued in Acting I in college by the professor.

"I love your face," she said to me, "it'll never be the face of a leading man, but, if you want it, you'll find a profitable and stable career getting character roles-- Woody Allen type stuff."

And while I could have been stung by that comment, I was buoyed by it-- for a time anyway. The paradox, though, about Woody Allen is that, except for when he's doing cameos in other people's films, like in the one-scene scene-stealer in "The Impostors", he is the leading man. The unlikeliest leading man ever. The leading man whose sister gets shat on. The leading man who chases after lobsters in the kitchen. The leading man whose attempts at intercourse are comic and painful. The leading man we can't stand, but would have over for coffee above any other.

Sometimes I wonder if Christian kids have complicated relationships with Ryan Gosling or Ralph Fiennes. Maybe, but I kind of doubt it.

I never gave myself the chance to see if my Acting I professor's prediction about me was right-- I never put myself out there to see if I could score that steady stream of character work, the awkward co-star, the unfortunate best friend, the bewildered accountant or the wry uncle, and maybe that's just as well.


Wednesday, September 7, 2011


Mrs. Apron and I went to the King of Prussia mall together on Saturday. It was the first time I had been back at the mall in years. When I was a child, when my family was bereft of things to do, we all inevitably piled into my family's Oldsmobile, or Buick, or Toyota, or Pontiac or, finally, Saab, and went to the mall. It was the Saab that my father was driving when he ran my foot over in the parking lot in front of Bloomingdales when I was fifteen. That traumatic event marked our last family trip to the mall.

Those treks were getting a bit long in the tooth by 1995 anyway.

As Mrs. Apron and I parked the car at Bloomingdales, I stared at the facade of the immense retail space and said, "That's where he ran my foot over with the car," pointing to the curb cut by the entrance, "right there." I shook my head and laughed to myself because, really, it's funny. And I instinctively reached for my wife's hand, and she took it.

When my family would go to the mall together, my sisters, my mother and father and I, we would invariably split up. My sisters would shop for girl things with my mother, and my father and I would pal around together. I would drag him all over the place, to the K. B. Toys, where my dilated pupils would hungrily gaze at all the enormous die-cast cars in 1/18th scale. It was at K. B. Toys where my father first noticed me, as a nine-year-old, standing in the aisle, bent over, rubbing my hand against the small of my back like an octogenarian with spinal stenosis.

"Mummy," he asked, his brow furrowed, "what is the matter with your back?"

"It hurts," I said simply, my brow furrowed, too.

Scoliosis. Thanks, gene pool.

I would also take my father to the Electronics Boutique, where I would show him the backs of all the computer games I wanted. I invariably chose ones that our computer did not have sufficient memory of graphics capability, (remember VGA vs SVGA, 256 color requirements?) to run correctly, or at all. And these wastes of money that would not perform on our home P.C. were invariably not returnable because, in my excitement to use them, I had torn the box to shreds till it resembled hamster bedding.

That man wasted a lot of money on me.

Looking back on our time at the mall, I can't remember one time-- not one single time that he and I were together that he made me go to Macy's with him to look at sweaters for him, or... anything for him. Those trips were all about me, to fuel my interests and my desires and my wants and my perceived needs, and I had no idea.

On Saturday, I accompanied my wife to the mall for no other reason than for her to purchase new bras at Bloomingdales, because our impending twinnage has caused her to appreciably outgrow her current bustenhalters. Okay, we also got Auntie Ann's pretzels, too, but the bra shopping was the main event. And it took an hour. And all the while I stood out among all that lacy and frill and cups and straps looking like part husband and part pervert-- which I am both-- and I texted a friend to ameliorate my feelings of awkwardness by giving voice to them in those text messages.

And it helped.

I suppose I could have gone somewhere in the mall for myself that Saturday, but I had no desire to do so, and it wasn't just my counterculture distaste for the mall.

As we exited, we passed through the men's department (or "menswear" as they used to call it on "Are You Being Served?") and I saw a handsome cardigan, stylish and conservative at the same time. Ralph Lauren. My wife and I both went to it at the same time and investigated it. I didn't look at the price tag, but I didn't have to.

"I can't have anything for myself anymore," I said, half-jokingly, "because we're having twins and my life is over."

Mrs. Apron smiled at me.

"Or, you could say that it's important for you to still have things that you like so that you don't lose your me-ness," she said.

"Right," I said, "the me-ness of penis."

I don't know what that means, I just said it because it rhymed and it's sophomoric.

My me-ness.

Antique typewriters
Old telephones
Short-sleeve dress shirts
Skinny ties
Wing-tip shoes
Monty Python
Gilbert & Sullivan
Thrift shopping
Amateur theatre
Brash humor
Crappy TV
Cuddle time

I don't know what parts of my me-ness I'm going to lose once these twins come-- I suppose every parent loses some, as my parents did. Some of it is willing, some of it gets lost with a fight, and I guess what ends up after being funneled and distilled and wrung out by time and diapers and sleep deprivation and sacrifice will be the essence of my me-ness.

Whether I like it, or whether I don't.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Hey, Oprah: Where's My Fucking Endorsement?

Dear Oprah,

So, it's Monday night. I'm sitting here at the old desktop (btw, do you have a desktop, sweets? Probably not. You've probably got one of those tab jauns. Do people say "jaun" anymore? I'm horny.) knockin' back a little CFDC and I just happened to glance at this book on the desk in front of my monitor.

It's called "Baby Bargains", and, while it's penned by Denise & Alan Fields (who, I'm guessing, are more than just co-authors, n'yah mean?) their names aren't the most important names on the cover of this book.

Guess who's is, though?


Your. Name.


The first words, in fact, that appear on the cover of this book are:


Well, howdeyalikethemgranniesmithsnicencrispy,huh?

Oprah, I've gotta tell you, you're lookin' fine these days. And I don't mean you yourself, curvy lady, I mean you as in "your brand."

Show me that O-face, kid!

Mmmmmmm! You know what daddy likie.

Oprah, when I Google your name, do you know how many hits come up?



That's 1,260,000 more hits than materialize when I Google "Ozzy Osbourne" (or, when he Googles himself, though I doubt by now he can actually spell his own name, much less type it out on a keyboard and then press "Enter".) and you've gotta believe that, if you're rockin' our a million more hits than Ozzy, then you're pretty much hot shit.

Oprah: you, baby, aren't just hot shit. You're a steaming pile of it. Sizzling on a Chicago sidewalk. Getting crisp. Fresh. Ripe. Hot shit doesn't even begin to describe it.

People think Moses slid out of your birth canal. Just slid right out of there-- GLORP!-- just like that.

Here's what: I want you to endorse my blog.

Now, I know, I know-- you have standards or whatever, but we all know that broken up little pieces guy kind of put a fly in that particular jar of ointment, so let's not kid ourselves, baby-- it's all about money.

How much do you want? I've got, like, $12 in my wallet at this current juncture. Give me 20 minutes to hit the ATM and I could probably come up with $400, plus the $12 I already got. Well, actually, I'm going to need gas this week, so I'd kind of like $45 or $50 to fill up the old Volvs, if you know what I mean. Oh, and it's going to be my wife's birthday next month...

Okay, forget about money. What you really want is someone else to kiss your ass and extol your virtues to the world so you don't have to do it yourself all the time because, let's face it, that shit can get tiring after a while. I mean, look at you-- you already had to retire from that exhausting show you did or whatever. I mean, GIRL! Take a rest already! You've earned it!

All I want, and really, it's not that much to ask, is for some Harpo skinny-assed intern to look over one or two posts on here, declare them worthy of your name and let me slap your image all over this bitch so we can make some fucking benjamins, because, really? That Volvo is one thirsty cuntsucka!


Oprah, I'm being serious. I would cut off my left nipple and send it to the C.E.O. of Domino's Pizza as the modeling inspiration for their new pepperoni slices if you would just endorse the cum out of my blogdick.

Please. Make me squeel like a pig, O.

Mr. Apron

Monday, September 5, 2011

A Holiday or Something

Happy Labor Day or whatever.

I feel like the average American knows more about Tu B'Shevat than they do about Labor Day. I can't tell you how many people I've talked to recently have mentioned something about soldiers in reference to this holiday. In fact, I'm pretty sure that the poster in the cafeteria where I work featuring the Labor Day menu has a picture of a soldier on it. As far as I know, it doesn't have anything to do with soldiers. That's Memorial Day.

I think.

Most people who work normal jobs are off today, enjoying a three-day weekend some place nice and sunny and warm. Maybe I'm just jealous because I'm putting in another eight hours at the funny farm, but isn't it kind of counterintuitive to give people the day off from work on a day that is designed to celebrate industriousness and, you know, work?

Shouldn't you be slogging away at your spreadsheets today? Shouldn't you be grinding those... gears a little harder today? Shouldn't you be swilling coffee at a meeting or drilling your secretary behind your firmly closed office door while your executive desk toys spin or twirl or smack their little silver balls against one another while you're slamming your balls against the back of her inner thighs?

Since my wife became pregnant, the idea of Labor Day sort of takes on a new meaning for me. Wouldn't it be fun if we celebrated the whole notion of procreation? Not Mother's Day-- that shit's different-- but a day devoted to going through actual, painful, vag-ripping labor?

The Russians do that shit-- sort of-- or, at least, they used to.

This is, in fact, a vintage Russian "Medal of Motherhood", Second Degree, that was ceremoniously awarded to, well, chicks who squeezed out some puppies. I don't know specifically what you had to do to earn the Second Degree designation for you and your womb-- maybe bust out a set of twins?-- but there it is. Wouldn't this be some kind of crazy country if we did that-- if that was our labor day?

I think it's kind of funny that the Soviet nation, where people ate potatoes and stockings for breakfast and thought that three-speed manual transmissions on the column was advanced automotive technology was awarding women for bringing more mouths into the world it could not afford to feed. You'd think they'd give women medals for not going into labor.

But, you'd be wrong.

As my brain turned to thoughts of some mustachioed man in a fur hat pinning a medal on my wife's coat for bearing twins, I then thought about "Days" devoted to other life events that people go through that might not yet be readily recognized by the calendar or the government:

* Tuberculosis Survival Day

* Motorcar vs Pedestrian Accident Avoidance Day

* Albino Chinchilla Adoption Day

* Correctional Officer Beating Day

* Getting Up from Chair Without Groaning Day

* Scissor Position Intercourse Day

* Gingivitis Awareness Day

* Awkward Silence Awareness Day

* Physical Comedy Day

* Protracted Conversation with Insufferable Neighbor About the Weather Day

* Offenbach Overtures CD Listening Session Day

* Jugular Vein Twitch Day

* Apathetic Sigh Day

* Frequent Urination/Overactive Bladder Day

* Belated Adult Circumcision Day

* Throw Up Because You Saw/Heard/Smelled Someone Else Throw Up Day

* Make Fun of Other Cultures Out of Ignorance &/or Fear Day

* Put Syrup on Absofuckinglutely Everything Day

Happy Labor Day or whatever. Enjoy your barbecue, I guess.

I just don't know anymore.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Ah, Live Garden

I've learned precious few lessons in this loopy little life of mine, but, if there's one thing I have learned, it's that when you're bumming around on a Saturday with a twice-pregnant lady, and it's 3:40pm and you haven't had lunch yet, there's a very high probability that you're going to end up at Olive Garden.

I haven't been to an Olive Garden for probably nine years-- maybe more. I don't know. The mind plays tricks on one, like a cheap whore or a street mime. I can remember being at an Olive Garden-- the same Olive Garden, in fact, at which my wife, unborn twins and I dined yesterday at 3:40pm, and I can vaguely remember where I sat, but I have no recollection of with whom I dined, and/or under what circumstances. I'm reasonably sure it wasn't another pregnant lady.

Whatever the reason-- call it refinement or snobbery or circumstance or a typically logical and appropriate scheduling of breakfast and lunch, or a generalized ambivalence towards heaping portions of cheese-infused cheese, Mrs. Apron and I don't tend to end up at Olive Garden.

Yesterday, though, meals got screwed up-- way too much time had elapsed since breakfast, and there we sat, in chairs with casters, staring at a menu that was essentially coated in cheese, looking at meal options that were...


I mean, maybe to us they seemed expensive, and, to you, paying $16.50 for a lunch entree would be no big thing, and that's okay, because that's what makes America great-- that we all look at things differently, but I was kind of blown away. And not in the good way, where you're blown away by a cheap whore, or a street mime.

Anyway, not including the tip, our meal came to $31.47. Now, sure, I got a wildly overpriced Diet Coke, but we don't drink alcohol (neither do the twins), and we don't get appetizers, and so, frankly, to me, that's a large price to pay for an impulse-driven lunch.

At Olive Garden.

Sure, I get that they're building the cost of their unlimited salad and breadsticks into the cost of their entrees but still. Come on. This is basically dog food. And I say that with all due respect to the nation's Olive Gardens, their loyal patrons, and this country's pet food manufacturers, purveyors, distributors, and consumers.

(Disclaimer: This is where the post gets racist.)

So, Mrs. Apron and I couldn't help noticing that we were practically the only white people dining at the Olive Garden. I didn't really know what to make of that, except for the fact that this particular Olive Garden is located on the sort of dividing line between the suburbs of Philadelphia and the Philadelphia of Philadelphia. It's also right on the major SEPTA bus line, and I don't think it's terribly offensive to make the contention that minorities are heavy consumers of SEPTA mass transit services in the Philadelphia area. So, maybe it's just this and similarly-situated Olive Gardens, or maybe it's a blacknomenon. I don't know. And I don't care, it was just interesting.

You know, in that racist way.

The meal itself was fine-- unremarkable, I guess, if only for the fact that the waitress asked if we wanted grated cheese on top of our already superfluously cheesy meals, which I thought was uncheeselievable. While we were eating our salads, she came over with our entrees, looked at us, paused briefly, furrowed her brow and asked,

"Is something wrong?"

I wanted to say, "Yeah, there isn't enough cheese on this salad," but I didn't. When we declined her offer to further inflate our already-outlandish bill with dessert, she curled her lip down like a child pouting in a toy store. It was bizarre. I wanted to punch her in the face. Instead, I gave her a 20% tip because, sometimes, logic just doesn't enter into it.

I guess food at the Olive Garden is to Italian cuisine what No. 1 China takeout is to traditional Chinese fare. The one has absolutely nothing to do with the other. But we eat it anyway, because we like cheese and unlimited salad and breadsticks and cheese and it's 3:40pm when the waitress says, "Good evening, my name is Miika."

Saturday, September 3, 2011

The Long, Slow End

Right now, there is a dog upstairs with me in the office as I type out these words. Her name is Molly. We call her Molly McButter, because, really, she basically looks like a stick of butter. When we adopted her from the Morris Animal Refuge, she was called "Miley", but we weren't going to have that happy horseshit. So we changed it. She didn't get it for a little while, but then, she did.

Right now, there is another dog in this house, but Finley isn't upstairs with me in the office. He's downstairs, in the living room. Incessant panting and sporadic yelps that echo up the staircase indicate that Finley wants to be up here in the office with me and Molly (well, okay, probably just with me) but it seems that Finley's upstairs days are over. On Thursday night, for the first time since he came bounding stupidly into my life in March of 2003, he and passed an evening on different floors of the same home.

If you could affix a lighted taxi sign to his hind quarters, it would flash "Out-of-Service". His back legs just aren't functioning anymore. They are atrophied, quivering shadows of their former selves. In the morning, he cannot rise up of his own strength. I have to scoop my hands underneath his big old gray butt and force him to stand up, while he tries to brace himself on his two front legs, which are going, too. I won't pretend that, once, I didn't accidentally shove my finger into his cornhole. I washed my hands five times that morning, but that finger smelled for hours.

Recently, the situation has crept perilously towards untenable, especially considering the impossible-to-blink fact that we've got twins on the way, and they are going to require scads of our time and attention, and having an ailing, failing dog on our hands, who is miserable, unpredictable, frequently unmovable, is, well, troubling.

On Friday, I thought Mrs. Apron and I were taking him to the vet for the last time, and that all we would return with was a leash. But that didn't happen, partly because Mrs. Apron declared herself unready to part with our big, gray friend. Partly because the vet encouraged us to try a last-ditch effort of Tramadol, anti-inflammatories, a new diet, and glucosamine supplements.

Is this going to reverse the damage that 13 (or is it 14, or is it 15?) years have done to deteriorate this dog's muscle tone, will it reverse or at least stabilize the probably severe joint pain he is enduring at every moment? I don't know. I have lots of doubts but, really, I don't know.

And maybe I'm a coward for not insisting that Finley be put to sleep in our arms as we sat on the floor of the vet's office and cried ourselves blind, like so many other dedicated and foolish and lovestruck pet owners have done before us, and will continue to do after-- but I don't know about that either.

I suppose that every pet owner ends up writing something like this, sooner or later, or, at least, they think about it. They feel it. They go through it. This is something you must go through as someone who loves an animal. I've owned a dog since 2003, but I've never gone through this-- the end.

The long, slow end.

I don't know what this is supposed to look like, all I know is what it's supposed to feel like. I don't know what I'm supposed to be doing, to protect my dog, to protect my wife, to protect myself. I don't know if I am to follow doctor's advice, or defy it.

In her post about this, my wife went back in her memory and shared on her blog memories of Finley, from when he was young and spry and fun.

I can't do that. I won't let myself go there. It's rather the same way that I won't take out old pictures of my wife and I, when we were new to each other-- not because we were happy then and we aren't now, but because I'm too afraid of looking back. When I was a boy, I would bring my baby album to my mother, climb up on the couch with her and say, "Mommy, let's reminisce." I had a vague notion, I suppose, of what the word meant, but I didn't realize that you can't really reminisce until you've grown old enough to experience memories in a more tremulous, fragile and, oftentimes, painful way. When you get older, I guess, there is that knowledge that what's passed cannot be repeated-- not the expression or the sentiment or the emotion or the circumstance. You can look at wedding pictures and you can even go back to the place where you got married, and it can feel good, and it can feel sweet, but it will never feel the same way it did on October 22nd, 2006-- it just won't.

And you can go back to the dog park, too. But Finley has to stay in the living room.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Eating Out (With) Celebrities

I don't think I'd do real well at a celebrity lunch.

This, of course, is just mere speculation.  I really can't say for sure, because I've never dined with a celebrity.  Once, I ate dinner at a small, swish restaurant in Westchester County and Stanley Tucci was eating with a stunningly attractive woman two tables over.  I was with my ex-girlfriend, her parents, and two elderly Italian men.  I had no idea who they were, all Catherine said was that they were "friends of the family" which I took to mean "mobsters."  They were a Laurel and Hardy team from the old country-- one was rail thin and easily eighty years old, the other one looked like a water buffalo shoved into a pair of shimmery slacks and a dress shirt with the first four buttons undone, to show off his broccoli-like chest hair plumes and several gold-hued medallions.  They drank grappa and ate ossobuco all night and spoke Italian to each other.  With Stanley Tucci at what was basically an arm's length the entire time, it was hard to fathom that I was not unwittingly cast in a movie.

In fact, to this day, I'll occasionally IMDB myself, just to make sure I wasn't.  Of course, I could be listed as "Uncredited," so maybe we'll just never know.

Anyway, I got to thinking about celebrity lunches recently because 88.5-XPN, the University of Pennsylvania radio station is holding some contest and one of the main prizes is a meal with indie musician Amos Lee.  Now, I kind of like Amos Lee.  While I think his voice sounds like Ben Harper and David Gray and Dave Matthews and Jack Johnson and all those other assholes, I still like his music.

Kind of.

Now, I don't like him nearly enough to want to enter some gay-ass (sorry, gays) contest for the sole, express purpose of having an awkward lunch with him.  I don't need a contest for that-- I can have an awkward lunch with anybody, any day, any time I want.  In fact, I can have an awkward lunch, even when I don't want one.  Whether I'm with somebody or whether I'm by myself, lunch is awkward.  As Charlie Brown says in that fucking monologue I can't stand: "I think lunchtime is the worst time of all."

No shit, you bald, hydrocephalic motherfucker.

I was joking with a friend of mine once a long time ago when he moved into a new apartment.  I asked him if he'd installed the mirrors on his bedroom ceiling yet and he, ever the self-deprecator, said, "I can't think of a bigger turn-off than watching myself have sex."

That's kind of how I feel about the idea of having lunch with a celebrity.  Let's just forget, for a moment, the exceeding likelihood of me vomiting on him or her-- because the anxiety that these thoughts provoke simply go without saying.  Let's just address the mere fact that I would have to eat in front of this person.  Now, it takes me weeks, sometimes months, to get comfortable enough around another person to ingest food in front of them.  This is what is known in professional circles as "fuckedupedness."  I have anxiety about every part of eating in front of someone.

They're going to judge...

What table I choose to sit at

That I'll make a fuss if it's not a booth, or if it's too close to other patrons

How I sit at the table

Where I put my napkin

How much meat is in what I order

How expensive my meal is

How I use my utensils

How I chew

Whether stuff comes out of my mouth while I talk and eat

If I choke

If I get stuff on my shirt or trousers

If I get stuff in my teeth

If I show my teeth too much

How I cross my utensils like a British prep-school student from the 1950s to indicate that I'm done

The sort of tip I leave

Whether I pay with cash or debit

How many times I get up to use the bathroom because I can't stand the awkwardness

The awkwardness of my conversation/my behavior

And, of course, even if I could get past all that, I don't think I would be able to get past the ridiculousness over the artifice of the situation: here I am with a celebrity who is being paid to eat with me, someone he/she doesn't know or care about, someone with whom there will be superficial, stilted, worse-than-first-date-with-a-nun-or-a-platypus conversation, and no contact ever thereafter, a celebrity who probably wants nothing more than to insert the fork into his/her own eye for ever agreeing to participate in this dumbfuck misadventure in the first place.

See?  I'd be way too consumed with guilt and empathy for the celebrity's position to enjoy my basted chicken or bison-tits or ossobuco or whatever I'd get.  I know someone who entered to win a lunch with Tim Gunn.  If I won that, I'd probably shoot myself.

I certainly wouldn't make it work.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Something Was Definitely Missing...

As it turned out, it was squirrels.

When you go away to a different land, there are things that you notice right off the bat that are different from the place where you were raised, and then there are things that are less obvious, that maybe you don't notice at first, that you have to really think about. Or, not think about and they just come to you at some moment when you're thinking about something else. Like perhaps the way ponytails bob and whip around when college-aged girls are out jogging.

For... example.

When Mrs. Apron and I were honeymooning in Bali, one thing we noticed straight away were all the dogs. There were goddamned dogs all over the fucking place-- stray dogs, feral dogs. Dogs eating garbage, dogs sniffing incense and rice and banana peel offerings left out on the sidewalk for this god or that god. Dogs masterfully avoiding getting run over by speeding mopeds containing entire families.

The Bali dogs.

The guidebooks we read mentioned this phenomenon, but we would have noticed anyway, because they were everywhere, and you'd have to have your head stuffed pretty far up your own ass to not notice it. I'm talking, like, smelling-your-own-spleen territory here.

One of the things that was less obvious to notice about Bali was that everybody spoke English. I didn't pick up on it for a couple days but, I can remember energetically bargaining with a street art vendor on a painting I really wanted and thinking to myself, "Holy shit-- here I am, all these thousands of miles away from... anything remotely English or American, and every goddamn person I've run into here speaks at least some English."

Even if it's, "Jut loo-keen, okay!" from a shopkeeper or a somewhat bewildering "un, too, see, por, pibe, six, seben, ten" count-off from a Balinese traditional dance instructor.

Something that was even less obvious than that was the observation that nobody seemed particularly anxious about, well, anything. And maybe that's a stupid thing to say-- anxiety is universal.... I suppose, and I admittedly wasn't sitting at the kitchen table of a Balinese couple trying to make ends meet, but you know how you can walk along the streets of Boston or Philly or D.C. or New York and see some anxious-looking motherfuckers? Brows furrowed, hands thrust deep into pockets, eyelids absolutely creased in worry? I don't know, maybe I'm just a dumb tourist, but I didn't see... that. And it led me to think that maybe anxiety isn't as universal as we may be tempted to think it is. Maybe it's more of a Western construct. Maybe it's manufactured by Woody Allen and Pfizer to keep us all in check and in analysis and in the pharmacy lines.

In Ireland, the thing I noticed immediately was that the cars were different.

Renault Clio

Skoda Octavia

Peugeot 308

Nissan Micra

Volkswagen Caddy

Toyota Avensis

Ford Mondeo

Opel Vectra

Renault Laguna

(And those are the ones I remember, just off the top of my head. Which is... desperately sad.)

It wasn't until two days into our trip when I remarked to my wife, while strolling through the National Botanic Gardens in Glasnevin, Dublin, that, as far as I could tell, there weren't any squirrels in Ireland.

Which, for a native of the Philadelphia area, is disconcerting. And wonderful.