Sunday, March 27, 2011

More Words of Less Wisdom

Recently when I was having a stressful day somebody suggested a very ridiculous solution to me, and instead of saying no thank you, I almost said this:

I need that like I need a hole in my head.

Luckily I caught myself, because the person I was talking to would have had no idea what I was trying to say.

What was I trying to say? I’m not really sure. But I blame my childhood.

The reason I even know that statement is because it was said to me frequently as a child when I proposed less than good ideas. And that was a frequent occurrence. But even when I was at my dumbest, it still seems like it might have been bit too severe of a comparison no?

I mean I suppose that’s the point but to a child, that seems like a ridiculous thing to say. I can just see myself wondering why my mother would need a hole in her head, or who would ever want a hole in their head, or how anybody would actually go about getting a hole in their head. It seemed like the least wanted thing in the universe.

I started thinking about other takes on this sentence that I could start building into my daily repertoire. Here is what I came up with.

I need that like I need:

a snake in my ear.
a harpoon in my foot.
a grenade in my throat.

But honestly thought I could do better and up the ante.

I need that like I need:

a dragon full of dynamite.
a balloon full of asbestos.
a panda in a dress.

Actually I might take the panda. But I figure as long as you’re going to confuse somebody you might as well really go for it. And speaking of confusing, I had a high school teacher say the following thing to me once:

Charles Dickens must be rolling in his grave.

Why? I understand that you are trying to tell me Charles Dickens would be upset, but why is he rolling in his grave?

Rolling in your grave presupposes 2 things.

The first is that anybody expresses anger by rolling back and forth. Not stomping, or screaming, or kicking. Rolling. What about this activity says anger? If I saw somebody rolling back and forth in one place I might think ‘drug use’ or perhaps ‘they were just on fire.’

But anger? I think not. Can you imagine the conversation that would lead to that? I mean in a normal circumstance if somebody were pissed off it would be like:

Bill: Are you OK man?
Steve: No! I’m so pissed I’m going to go home and punch a hole through my wall.

Ok wow yea that seems to make sense. But let’s say:

Bill: Are you OK man?
Steve: No! I’m pissed. I’m going to lay down on the ground right here, pull my arms to my chest and roll from side to side until this anger that exists deep within my heart has subsided. I will roll my anger away!
Bill: Oh… I don’t think we can be friends any more.

Actually you know who rolls around on the ground when they are angry? Children. Toddlers. Babies. Me… 25 years ago.

OK maybe 15 years ago.

The second thing that ‘rolling in your grave’ presupposes is the idea that pissing off a dead person would reanimate them only enough in that they would be able to roll around in their coffin, when everybody knows that if somebody came back from the dead they would fly into your bedroom at night and haunt the shit out of you. Not just roll around in a box underground.

I suppose it’s good we can’t know when we have pissed off dead people, or when they are unhappy. I on the other hand, always knew when I seemed unhappy because I would be told to:

Get that puss off your face.
Now, even though I had never heard the word puss before, as soon as my mother said that, I KNEW what a puss was. And I had one on my face. And I had better get it off or else.

Can I describe to you now what it looks like? Nope, I just happen to know it when I see it.

And I suppose it makes sense for a parent to say something to their child using the least amount of words necessary. It seems like being a parent consists of a lot of telling your kids what not to do. I can’t imagine I would have been as good at following instructions if my parents had said something like:
The current physical expression you are making on your face is neither conducive to improving the situation nor is it appealing to view. Please alter it immediately and bring about a more pleasant and kindly demeanor.

Of course not. Get that puss of your face works a whole lot better. The word puss could have been interchanged for snush, glerf, bloaf. It all works. Which just goes it’s not what you say after all, it’s how you say it.

So the next time you think you might have a puss on your face, you’d better get rid of it. Unless of course you’ve got a harpoon in your foot, in which case, I think you’re allowed to have a puss on your face.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

The Most Signs of the Most Times

Let’s get right down to it shall we?

It continues to happen. I continue to stumble across signs, labels, and symbols meant to convey a message that do more to confuse than anything else.

I would suggest some sort of common sense police but I know that would get shot down before I could… you’ve already shot it down haven’t you?

Damn it.

Well regardless, I was up in Boston visiting my sister recently when I realized I had no money. Since I stopped bartending this happens frequently. My pocket is physically much emptier since I stopped giving alcohol to strangers.

So I decided to visit an ATM to get some cash, which is the reason I visit ATMs in the first place. And I saw this sign.

Ohhh OK. Cash only. So wait… you mean this ATM doesn’t make pancakes? Here I am, walking around Boston thinking that I can stop at an ATM and get some cash and pancakes, and I come across this frigging thing that does not make OR sell pancakes. How am I supposed to deal with this?

What has this city come to?

Does anybody use the ATM for anything else aside from taking out cash? I do know that that there are far too many options in the ATM screen. As soon as you put in your pin, it is suddenly asking you if you would like to:

Make a withdrawal
Make a deposit
Check your balance
Transfer funds
Call your mother in law
Share a milkshake

I mean ENOUGH already ATM machine. Just be yourself. Nobody expects anything else from you.

Something else I don’t expect a lot from is my conditioner. But apparently my conditioner expects a lot from me, like loyalty.

Official supplier to men? What men? I don't recall signing a contract. I know I don't represent all men or even some men but shouldn't I get a say? Have I been breaking some code up until now?

I don’t know if I’m going to get in trouble here but I have definitely used other conditioners, and those conditioners were not all specifically for men. Actually, some of them were made specifically for women. I’m not sure if they were the official supplier to women, but they definitely had a contract.

Does that make me a woman?

Don’t answer that.

There should be a law about putting statements on products that can’t possibly be proved true or false. Anything in the realm of:

Official Cola of Extra Terrestrials
#1 Choice of People Who Are Picky
Official Supplier to People Who Buy Stuff

And even if it WAS the official supplier to men, who made that decision? I want to make sure I get to vote for our representative. I would vote for somebody with a name like… Burly Von Steeleater.

And speaking of manly things, I own a paper shredder. It’s pretty much the closest thing to a power tool that I own.

I have been using for about a year before I actually looked at the instructions on the top. I noticed there were some symbols there to caution silly people. One symbol said don’t put paper clips in. One symbol says do not try to shred your own hand. But there was one I didn’t understand.

Do you know which one I am talking about?

Yep you guessed it. Second from the left, no shredding of gingerbread men.

Does this apply to all cookies or specifically to gingerbread men? Is there something specific about gingerbread men that makes them a bad idea to shred? What about ginger snaps? Or snicker doodles? I mean shredding an Oreo (in addition to being a sin) also just seems impractical.

But why cookies? Is this a call the company regularly gets?

Hi is this shredder support?
Yes it is, how can I help you?
Well, I had a box of chocolate chip cookies that I meant to put in the cupboard but I accidentally jammed them into the shredder. Can you help me with that?

And it’s only cookies. No vegetables, meats, or dairy symbols.

But at least the shredder company was putting forth the effort to prevent any issues in the future. They were expending effort, whereas one of the tenants in my building proved just how lazy and inefficient that person is.

Upon leaving my building last week I saw what appeared to be a note taped to my super’s office door. Apparently somebody in my building had something to say to him before he reported for duty.

Let’s just skip over the passive aggression, because that is obvious enough. Because obviously the super of my building is controlling the individual heat going to every single apartment in the building and directing rage at him is a good choice. We all know that.

I was more confused about the whole package of the note, specifically the order of sentences.

I actually think “I can’t breathe” would have made a better lead. Because heck, by the time you get to the end of the paragraph this person just sounds whiny. But if you as the writer kick it off with your inability to process oxygen, wow! I mean if I were a super I would be like,

Hrmm should I fix that leaky pipe in 2D or the woman in 5F who won’t make it to sunup. 5F it is!

It seems like it makes the process easier.

And I’m not sure you can see this, but that note was actually written on an envelope. A blank envelope.

Which makes me think this is a person who has envelopes but no paper and they would rather waste an envelope than an actual slice of paper. I mean if you are going to write a threat, or a complaint, at least write it on an actual paper. An envelope looks like it was a mailman complaining.

Not that a mailman’s complaints are any less important than a regular person’s. Unless of course that person is Burly Von Steeleater.

That guy always comes first.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Official Papers

My passport expired recently. I had nothing to do with its expiration and there was nothing I could do to prevent it. Ten years have passed and now it is no longer valid. But I did feel a certain accomplishment of having 10 years of travel marked down in paper, printed words of all the places I had been.

It feels weird not having a passport. I have had one since shortly after I got my license, and oddly enough, they get about the same amount of use these days.

For the last decade I have been able to go wherever I wanted, whenever I pleased. Not that the opportunity to do so arose that frequently. But still if I wanted to leave the country on a whim I could. It was possibility and capability. It meant that there was nowhere in the world that wasn't open to me. It wasn't a feeling I consciously pursued or even realized until after it was gone.

I actually probably spent more time concentrating on my passport as a marker of where I had been. I prided myself in that, in those things that I had seen. In those sites I had seen and who I’d been when I’d seen them.

Visas and stamps, customs and midnight border crossings. All seasoned with the sweat that came from keeping it strapped so closely to my body in the fear that I would lose it. I would turn those pages remembering when and where I got certain stamps, and trying to decipher those I couldn’t remember.

But as soon as that expiration date came it me quite quickly: I was land locked. Trapped. A flightless bird.

To get a new passport I had to get my original birth certificate from my parents. It was a routine exercise. I told my mother I needed it. I thought she’d send it, I’d bring it to the post office and that would be that.

It arrived in an envelope along with a couple of other documents my mother thought I had should have. I sat on my couch, opened the envelope, put down the other documents and unfolded the 27-year-old piece of weathered paper I had requested. And immediately I was overwhelmed.

The rush of emotion surprised me. As usual I seem to be completely oblivious to the things that will make me cry until the tears are actually in my eyes.

It was like a movie I had been waiting forever to see. I saw a movie of my past.

I saw images of my parents I had never seen. I saw my mother holding me in her arms. I saw my father leaning over her in the hospital bed, looking at their baby boy. I saw grainy images of the final piece of a family coming into place. Never before had a piece of paper made me feel so, well, loved.

It was not the first time I had seen it. I know I had seen this years ago but I guess the context wasn’t the same for me. And to be honest I’m not sure why it was so heavy for me now, after all these years. I didn’t quite understand why I felt these things.

But whereas holding my passport makes me think of all the things I want, holding my own birth certificate I felt a surge of emotion for all the things I should be grateful for. I see all the people I love and all the people I have been lucky enough to be surrounded by. I see what I have unbelievably been able to do.

And while I know my parents wanted the best for me but I can't imagine that they would have imagined all of the incredible things our family would experience and all the amazing opportunities I would have.

It was the complete opposite of holding my passport. While this simple piece of paper with my parents’ names and mine embossed with a seal showed where I was from, my passport symbolizes all the possibilities that lay before me and all the places I can go.

My birth certificate was my passport into this life, a grant to be able travel anywhere any do anything that my rapidly growing heart would soon learn to pursue.

It was my founding, the announcement of me. The very first official documentation would ever have. It is the one piece of identification that will always work. It is always me.

There is no picture on my birth certificate. It is strictly memory there. Whereas my passport will have a new image every 10 years.

The picture in my last passport was one I took around the corner from my house at the drugstore when I was 17 and about to go to Jamaica. I wore an orange t-shirt under a black leather jacket I only just recently donated to charity. That boy had an eight-dollar haircut and barely half a clue.  But he had a license and a passport so he was worldly.

I had a new passport picture taken at a drugstore around the corner from my job. This new boy in the passport is different. Older. His face more defined, not harder mind you, maybe just less soft. No longer a peach canvas of innocence and naïveté. This new boy wears a tie and a vest and has stubble that rarely leaves his face. His hair is a style. He looks serious but not as clueless, friendly but not as afraid. There is much about him that has changed in ten years, but in some ways he has come full circle.

Because he will always be somewhere between what he’s grateful for and what he desires. Just a boy between two symbolic pieces of paper that will never be able to tell half the story of what he is, merely hint at it.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Flog Blog

Undress to your comfort level.

That’s what she said to me. And you’d think that would be an easy enough instruction to follow. If I were, say, waiting for the train to come. And somebody said to me “undress to your comfort level” I would probably not move a muscle and continue to enjoy my fully clothed existence.

Whereas, if I happened to be in dressing room of the Victoria’s Secret fashion show and one of the models said to me “undress to your comfort level” I would shed my clothes like they were made of bees.

But the person who told me to undress to my comfort level was actually a masseuse, and I was about to get a massage from her. She had just brought me into the room when she said it.

Undress to your comfort level. Take your time. Then get under the blanket face down. I will be right back.

I typically don’t do well with instantaneous options that involve me selecting the best course of action.

Had she said “Keep all of your clothes on, put on this winter coat, and then lay under this down comforter with your arms straight out like you are superman,” I would have readily complied because she is the expert and she told me what to do.

Just like if she had told me to strip naked and get under the covers and hum the star spangled banner until she came back, I would have also been OK with that because once again, professional giving me instructions I can handle.

But she had given me an option and I had no idea how to react because I wasn’t sure the correct protocol. I didn’t want to immediately strip naked and have her start massaging me and think I was some kind of a pervert.

But just recently I had received a massage in Fiji where I had showed up in my bathing suit and the woman just told me to get under the blanket and that was that.

Not wanting to go too far I left my boxers on, got under the blanket, and waited for her to come back to the room and judge me.

But somehow getting under this blanket without being completely naked seemed just a little bit off.

And immediately after she started massaging me, I felt like a prude, a nerd, a completely clueless buffoon. Like that kid at the public pool that wore his underwear under his bathing suit or somebody who wears a helmet while riding a bicycle built for two.

Actually just riding the bicycle built for two is enough on its own.

But it was too late. Because the only thing you really can’t do during a massage is stop your masseuse halfway through and say:

Actually, you know what? I think I want to take my underwear off for this.

That’s a great way to end up in jail.

But I had other things to worry about, mainly the fact that the Malaysian food I had consumed the night before that had given me heart burn might make an unwelcome appearance if I was massaged in just right (or wrong, for that matter) way.

It was at that point that I also realized I was glad I stuck with the basic Swedish massage as opposed to any of the upgrade options the nice woman at the front desk provided me with. I was certainly glad I didn’t indulge in any of the ones that involved a “flogging.”

And there were several.

There are certain things in my life I rarely volunteer to have done to me. Being flogged is one of them.

Even though several of the massages involved being “lightly flogged” and some included being feathered. Apparently that meant having a feather dragged light across your body to relax the central nervous system… or just confuse the hell out of you.

Somehow I knew that a feathering just wasn’t for me.

There was also one I could have chosen that would have involved 9 essential oils, coating me in sliced ginger and topped off by having my entire body “sugared.” When hearing this I almost wondered aloud if after it was finished I would also be popped into a 350 degree oven for 45 minutes until golden brown and tender?

But those worries were behind me and I was able to just concentrate on the massage itself, which was not too light or too painful. I had doubted myself when before the massage started my masseuse asked me “What kind of pressure” I liked.

Again, if she said I am rough, I would have said, oh OK, I get it, I’m ready, bring it on.

Or had she said I have the hands of a lily, again, I could have handled that. But the fact that she asked me what I wanted, made me panic.

I didn’t want to say go easy on me.

Yes please, take it easy on the pale kid who is afraid to exit his underwear.

I also didn’t want to say, please, abuse me. Make me pay for my sins. Because in my limited experience with massages I have found it better to say, “ow” as opposed to, “COME ON YOU SISSY. PUT YOUR BACK INTO IT!”

In my opinion, challenging somebody who spends 8 hours a day everyday pushing their thumbs deep into other people’s flesh to step it up is a whole bag of not good.

But all in all it went well. I didn’t cry. I didn’t break wind. And I managed not to drool on her feet. All things that might have happened had I agreed to a flogging.