Sunday, July 25, 2010

The Year in Rearview

I have reached a wonderful milestone. Today is my 2 year Blogaversary.

Let’s go ahead and pretend that actually is a word.

On this date 2 years ago I started Boehmcke’s Human Condition. And over the course of that time I have written over 100 posts that have been seen over 12,000 times in 82 different countries. And I think that’s pretty cool.

So a big thank you is owed to everybody that has been reading and providing the great feedback. I love to hear what you have to say and I love to write so hopefully we can keep that nice little relationship going.

I also hit another interesting milestone recently. I have now officially been out of college longer than I was in college. (And for those of you doing the math, yes that does mean I did 4.5 years at college thank you very much. And just so you know, it was a CHOICE to stay an extra semester.)

But it is now over 4.5 years since I was a full time student with all of the trappings that went along with that title.

It is a surreal thing to realize that being in college is a rapidly receding memory in my head. I think perhaps because college was a time of clearly defined achievements and landmarks. College had smaller indicators of where you were and how you were doing. There were individual denotations of success or failure. Grades, tests, homework, rankings, etc.

The most clearly defined time markers in college were those built into the calender. Your life is broken up into semesters, and breaks, and levels, and years. Whereas once you get out into the non-university world, there is no more structure. We are all operating in our own structures, in our own timelines, in our own little sphere of influence.

Being a student means a year full of quick starts and hard stops, abrupt course corrections that let everyone know exactly where they are at all times.

I used to be able to quickly and easily say; “Oh that happened junior year,” or “This happened during Spring break.” But no longer. Now it’s, “I think that was last Fall” or “Was that really 3 Christmases ago?”

Since I have graduated from college I have worked at 4 different jobs, for 4 different employers, in 4 very different industries, in 4 different parts of Manhattan. Those jobs essentially have become my freshman, sophomore, junior, and senior years.

So for me keeping track of time has been a very physical and spatial relationship. I have been able to recall memories by the office I was sitting in, and the people I had around me, or where we went after work for drinks. I’m not sure how my friends who have worked the same job for so long keep track of time. I wonder if it just blends together for them

I think that is why time after college seems to slip by so seamlessly. We ask ourselves where did the time go because we really have no idea what we have done. We have no grades, projects, or tests to show for it.

We remember our marriages, births, and deaths - actual huge physical changes that relocate you or detach someone from you. But those become the only signifiers on our road of life from college on.

I think that is what has frustrated or scared me about living in the adult world. That unless you create them for yourself, your road will be devoid of landmarks minus the ones that other people put there.

When I was in college people used to love to tell my friends and I about “the real world.” Those older than us would tell us things are really different in the “real world.” And it’s not all sunshine and roses in “the real world.”

I never understood that.

For so many of my friends who worked full time and went to school, or supported themselves, or had a spouse, or a child, all while in school, how much more real could it get?

I think what I’ve come to realize is that leaving college doesn’t put you in the “real” world, it just puts you in the “adult” world. I know plenty of people who graduated college and quickly slipped into a very unreal world of irresponsibility, pure dumb luck, and blatant stupidity.

So this real world? Well, I’m not even sure what you are talking about. But this adult world. It’s different. I realize that having no homework has been the greatest burden off my life ever. But I also realize that nobody is going to remind me to pay my insurance, seek me out to offer tutoring, or check in with me to make sure I’m on the right career path.

This adulthood thing, it seems to be about self actualization. Nobody pushes you or pulls you along. If you are lucky, you have friends and mentors who will be there for you. But the only person who is going to be extremely invested in your success is you. And I think that’s an easy thing to forget as we slip into our relationships, jobs, and never-ending routines.

The time I spent in college was filled with tremendous growth but probably not as much exploration as I would have liked. It was probably because I was scared or still getting used to operating in a new environment as my own capable being.

But this time since, this batch of years afterwards, has become a time of rapid exploration. I feel like  I am truly taking the reigns of my own life, truly trying to plot a course, whereas in the past I kind of just felt like I was always along for someone else’s ride.

Does this make me full of advice? No. This makes me full of learnings. All I keep learning is how little I know. If I really think about how much more there is to know, it’s quite depressing. So I try not to think about how much thinking I have ahead of me.

Who knows, maybe I will be full of advice eventually. Maybe the future will see me do things I never even considered. And maybe then I will have insight to share. But just to be sure, maybe check back in another 4.5 years from now.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Why Bugs Love Me or How Angelina Jolie Saved My Life

Be it my charming personality, my succulent skin, or perhaps my manly scent of awesomeocity, bugs frigging love me. And not just some bugs. All bugs everywhere, all the time, always.

This is a problem for me because I do not love bugs. I do not like them in my face; I do not like them in my place. I know they have an evolutionary purpose and they have a spot in the universe and all that crap. That’s awesome. Good for the bugs. But I don’t want them near me.

If I am in a group of people I seem to be the one that the bugs seek out. Perhaps the reflection of the sun off my pasty white skin makes all bugs think I am some sort of beacon of buggy hope.

Something about me seems to make bugs think it is OK to just stick parts of their ass into my skin. Bees, mosquitoes, whatever. That is not OK. No.

I am also not OK with even the sounds of flies. You know when they buzz so close to your ear and rattle your eardrum so severely it feels like a monkey is shaking your spine.

Maybe you don’t know, because that fly is always hanging out near my ear and nobody else sees it, they just see me slap my own ear like I’m trying to quiet the voices.

The only bug I am OK with landing on me is a lightning bug. They are so unique, and bright. But perhaps all these other bug attacks are payback from those lightning bugs I stepped on so I could see them glow… dead.

Yea, that was probably a poor decision.

But I apparently have “Sweet blood.” Which god help me if Vampires ever really do overwhelm the earth, I am going to be like the amuse-bouche of the undead.

I remember getting bitten by mosquitoes a lot as a child. But there was no time more outrageous than my first trip to Jamaica.

I was there for a convention during high school and I was staying in a house that didn’t have any air conditioning. So they left the windows open and had multiple fans going all night long. However this didn’t stop the mosquitoes from biting.

When I woke up I noticed the dozens of bites I had received on my exposed parts overnight. They weren’t just little bites that rose into a round circle. No, these were Picasso bites. Rising and elevating themselves into impressionist type shapes across my very sweaty epidermis.

Over the course of those 4 days I received over 130 mosquito bites that swelled and spread until I looked like a 3D topographical map of the earth.

I was reminded of all this bug hatred a couple weekends ago when my sister and I went up to Maine for a little R&R.

We were having a perfectly wonderful weekend until it came time for a little lakeside relaxation at night. Instead of hosing myself down in DDT and pesticides like one of our friends did, I thought I would use a little bit of common sense and just wear some long pants and sleeves.

And of course, common sense failed me again.

The mosquitoes BIT ME THROUGH MY CLOTHES. THROUGH MY JEANS. What kind of bugs were these? Thick heavy cotton and long sleeves protecting me and yet they STILL managed to pierce through to me.

Do you know who didn’t get bit? The guy in shorts and a t-shirt who was sitting outside drenched in bug spray - he was OK. The guy wearing pants and sleeves? Not so much.

But the culmination of it all happened back at my apartment. The scene of the worst bug experience of my life.

For the past 2 years, my… situation had been almost nonexistent. After those first 2 isolated incidents, I had lived a pretty much relaxed and uninterrupted experience.

But that all changed this past week.

I was in my bathroom getting ready for bed. Now I’ve mentioned before that since I live alone I rarely close the bathroom door. And I was changing out of my clothes when I saw him out of the corner of my eye.

The ghost of Barry Bonds was back in my apartment. Just as grotesque and awful. This was Larry Bonds.

And Larry Bonds was just outside my bathroom door facing away from me. If I had been in a better mood I might have laughed at the fact that Larry Bonds appeared to be mooning me. But I was too busy obsessing over the idea that either he had to die, or I was going to commit suicide, because I couldn’t live like this.

I think it is also worth pointing out that I was naked at this point in time.

Of course. Of course I am going to see Larry Bonds when I am completely naked and feeling most vulnerable. I panicked. My bathroom light was on but the rest of my apartment was dark. And if he made a break for it, I would never find him, which means I wouldn’t be able to sleep that night, nor any of the nights after it, spinning me into a maze of stress and psychosis that would ultimately see me losing my job, apartment, and friends, and just sitting under a bridge with a can of Raid screaming “LARRY BONDS CAN GO F*** HIMSELF!”

Luckily I realized that was not my best option.

I quickly scanned the bathroom for a weapon. My eyes caught the toilet brush.

Long enough to strike, but not really a killing type of weapon. I have stepped on creatures like this that then popped up and ran away cursing at me in Spanish (I imagine).

Toilet brush was no good.

I then grabbed the toilet brush holder.

But realized it didn’t give me the grip I needed for a killing blow.

I was panicking; he was going to make a break for it at any moment I knew it.

And then I saw her.

She was like a vision, a beacon, and a symbol of hope. Angelina’s scimitar eyes gazing up at me (still naked mind you) from the cover of my Vanity Fair magazine sitting on the floor of my bathroom.

Remembering that Jason Bourne had once used a rolled up magazine to stab a guy in the eye, I figured I could do something similar to kill this beast. I grabbed the magazine and rolled it up tightly.

I took one step out of the bathroom and he made a break for it.


I quickly swatted, clipping him on the side, he jogged away and into the dark. I took another swat, smashing him into my floor. Success!

But because these things are obviously robot aliens from space he was still twitching.


So I grabbed a sneaker, put it on, and stepped on him with all of my weight. Compressing him so hard I fully expected and hoped to see a cucaracha shaped diamond stuck in my sneaker when I was done.

But that did not happen. Only death. And that was success enough for my naked self.

I went to bed relaxed and relieved, realizing it wasn’t clothes that I needed to give me the strength and courageous fortitude to defeat bugs... just Angelina Jolie.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Words of... Wisdom?

This past Friday was my mom’s birthday.


And I was thinking about all the wonderful pieces of advice she has given me over the course of my life. And then I got to thinking about all the things she and my father said to my sister and I that never made any sense to us. Things that were said often, and with enough emphasis that we began to believe them, without really understanding them.

I mean, granted I get confused easily but it wasn’t until later in my life (just recently) that I realized those things STILL don’t make any sense to me. So either I’m an idiot (quite possible) or these things really don’t make sense.

Lets examine shall we?

1. You’re making dust.

This was usually said to me when I was doing one of my chores like making my bed or folding my laundry. I would pull a sheet or shirt out of a pile and shake it out so to get some of the wrinkles. And my mom would say,

Stop shaking that, you’re making dust.


I don’t even know how to make dust. It sounds like magic to me. I am just here shaking this sheet. I might be moving dust, sure. I’ll give you that. I am relocating dust, absolutely. But making dust? I don’t think I have that kind of power. I can barely make a ham sandwich. So to create tiny little particles of floatingness out of the ether, I mean that seems out of my power.

Later on in my life studies I found out that dust is mostly made up of dead skin skills. I really wish that I had been armed with that science when I was a kid, so when my mother said to me “You’re making dust,” I could have responded, “You are too!”

2. You’re sitting there with your finger up your nose…

This statement was never used when I was actually picking my nose. It was usually used when I was being lazy or had forgotten to do something. The statement would go something like,

You’re sitting there, with your finger up your nose, while the trash piles up.

As though having my finger up my nose was the peak of happiness for me.

I am going to admit something here. I have picked my nose before. Shocking yes I know. I probably did it more than I should have as a child. (Though I’m not sure what the recommended… amount… of nose picking is for a child) Let’s go ahead and say I surpassed it. Let’s even say I was some sort of prolific nose picker.

But I would venture to say that any nose picking happened out of necessity. It was never a pleasure seeking activity like running through the sprinkler or playing Nintendo. If I was picking my nose I wasn’t just having a whimsical spelunk up into my nasal cavity, I was on a mission. This was a business transaction, not a leisure activity.

Sitting perfectly motionless with a digit stuck in my nostril? Yea, this sure feels like a party to me.

3. You’ve got a stick up your butt.

Now this doesn’t sound like something to joke about. This sounds like a serious medical emergency!

My mom would say this to me when I was in a bad mood. I suppose the analogy being that people with sticks stuck in their butt are cranky. But I think they have a justified anger.

Just like mine was justified. I mean I have a right to have a stick up my butt if I don’t want to wake up early to go to church. Right?

4. Your room is deplorable.

Deplorable? I will be honest and say that when I was a kid I had NO idea what that word meant. But the disdain with which my mother said it made me realize… it wasn’t a good thing. I didn’t need a dictionary to know that if she could smell my laundry, it was not a good thing.

Deplorable seemed like just about the worst thing you could call a room. Messy, dirty, sure. Those are words that are easy to identify. But heck if something is deplorable? I mean today that calls to mind the murderous tendencies of totalitarian regimes. But not the bedrooms of 9 year olds!

Even today when I look around my room and there are clothes scattered about I hear that sentence like a mantra in my head. It also brings to mind the Christmas gift my parents got me one year.

It was a door hanger that said “This room has been condemned by my mother.”

It seemed funny to everybody. Again, it was several years before I figured out what that word condemned meant.

5. Turn off that idiot box.

The idiot box they spoke of, was of course the television. My sister and I would have forgotten to have done our chores and would be watching cartoons in the basement and we’d hear that voice from above.

Turn of that idiot box and go clean your rooms.

And of course we would do so. Who wants to watch an idiot box? Probably idiots. And we did not want to be idiots. So off it went.

It was only when they got mad that it was called the “idiot box.” When they were in a good mood they called it “The Tube.”

What’s on the tube tonight?

It was never

Hey who wants to watch a little idiot box tonight? You kids want to rent a movie to watch on our idiot box?

And it all kind of makes sense in hindsight because I don’t watch T.V. It just sits in my living room. And I think “idiot box” when I walk by it.

And yes I have referred to some people as having a stick up their butt.

It’s probably genetic. One day I’ll probably tell my kids to “stop stretching the air” or something like that.

Maybe I should come up with some really confusing ones. That’s probably one of the joys of parenting, confusing the hell out of your kids. Yes that is what I will do. But I will have to put some effort into coming up with good ones. So I will sit here and think about it… with my finger up my nose.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Hot Town Summer in the Subway

With the temperature about to top 100 degrees in New York this week, denizens of this fine city, and those visiting are about to get a Howyadoin pimp slap in the face of what it is like to ride the subway in the summer in this town.

And it ain’t gonna be fun.

Throughout the year the train is a place of delays, reroutings, failures, breakdowns, and other such happenings. But in the summer, oh boy, the summer is when people go 7 kinds of bananas on the train. And that is when things are going RIGHT!

For the most part, people try to get out of the city in the summer. People with houses in the Hamptons, or a yacht, or a yacht named “The Hamptons” go do fancy shmancy things.

I do not have such luxuries. So I am subjected to the wall-sized-map-wielding tourists, and sweaty New Yorkers that cram the train for a ride to anywhere but here.

I would say for the most part, the subway in New York is well air-conditioned. It is often way colder than it needs to be. I’m fine with that. I have no complaints. It feels great when you’ve been outside in the ridiculous heat to step into a Dentyne Ice commercial.

Another fantastic thing about the New York subway system is the trains are equipped with windows. It is because of this tremendous value-add that all people on the subway platform can tell whether the train pulling up to the station is a half empty one you want to get on, or one so crammed with people you want to place a hex on it, hoping you never have to ride such a cattle car.

And you would think since its cramped full of squishy, hot, sweaty, smelly humans that people would not want to be a part of that. You would think that people would be so turned off that they would wait until an empty train came along.

You would think that and you would be wrong.

No matter how packed you may think the train is, there is always one person at the next stop who really wants to be a part of your sardine convention.

It never fails, that any time I am the last person to board a packed train I have no choice but to get on, and the doors close behind me nearly amputating my ass… some lunatic with 11 shopping bags, a stroller, and a backpack full of monkeys comes running for the doors as though someone announced that THIS was the train taking everyone to Tahiti for a month of massages and fruity drinks.

I understand that New York City is a place of very busy people on very tight schedules; I even like to pretend I’m one of them, but the trains come every 4 minutes during rush hour. How can every single person in the entire city be late every single morning? Are any of you reading this that excited to get to work that waiting another 4 minutes would absolutely kill you?

Here’s a hot tip for you: Instead of thrusting your now glistening corpus onto the train like its an Olympic event, why don’t you take the next 4 minutes to A. Catch your breath on the train platform, and B. Stop. Dripping. Sweat.

I understand people sweat. I admit it all the time. I am a sweaty human. It happens. I am not cool. I do not have dry armpits in times of great duress. But for the love of Snuggles, can you please turn the faucet off on your leaky face? I know to allow myself some extra time to cool off before I start sharing my salty epidermal rejection with 250 strangers on a shaky cart that makes Disney’s Runaway Train, look like a Radio flyer pulled by a mere cat.

Nobody is happy on the train. And the closer you get to your stop, the crazier you get. Everyone is breathing way too loud for everybody else’s comfort, people continuously touch your butt accidentally, and even though you know it was probably an accident, it still freaks you out and makes you want to scream like you were stabbed with a katana.

Even if you don’t get bumped into or touched, you are still pressed up against other people so you just start hating them. If there is a girl with a ponytail in your face, you start thinking every horrible name to call that ponytail. If she has a purple clip in her hair you start imagining 2012 like scenarios where that purple clip will cause cataclysmic events.

The other reason I have deduced that people love crowded NY subways in the summer, is the fact that even when a train has no air conditioning, that train will be completely packed.

Sure there might be one or two people who step on and then step off, but the rest of the people continue to stand on the train while fanning their faces so intensely you believe it is only a matter of time before there hand snaps off and smacks you in the face.

Nobody would stay in a hot sweaty room with no air conditioning, so why do people stay in a hot sweaty room on wheels with no air conditioning?

But for as bad as standing on that train is, it is far more dangerous actually trying to get off that train. People panic so instead of just an “excuse me kind sir, would you mind relocating your body so I might gingerly slide past you?” I get shoved so hard I am surprised the person behind me doesn’t get a penalty for an illegal block in the back.

It just becomes a big shove fest, and nobody can move fast enough. It makes me crazy I just want to leap off the train and scream at them that I am sorry I did not launch myself off the train like I was shot out of a potato cannon. I am man, not potato.

All insanity considered it is amazing people don’t walk more. But the possibility of a seat and some air conditioning is enough to make people forget rationality.

You would save more energy and stress by walking calmly in a straight line than running up and down stairs to spend time on a fully clothed Turkish bath wagon that will only make you more stressed out. So the next time you find yourself in such a situation, please, I beg of you, just wait for the next train.