Thursday, August 14, 2014

From a City of Ghosts to a City of Zombies

Chicago has always seemed the opposite of romantic. There's a reason they used it to shoot the newest Batman trilogy. Even in daytime, it seems to carry this perpetual gloom, as if the sun cannot penetrate the shadows of buildings and that's only when a constant cloud cover allows the sun to shine it's best. I walked and walked this weekend. Probably over forty miles of downtown Chicago. You see many of the flaws apparent. One observes an overly African American homeless population, and they're really homeless not the hustlers that parade the CWE every night that live a few doors down from me. Or sees a Jersey Shore knockoff being filmed outside Harpo Studios and assumes the world deserves to burn (perhaps that's harsh).

Yet Chicago has a heartbeat, and due in part to locals or tourists, it feels alive. The last time I went it was fifty degrees and raining, and it felt much like St. Louis. The streets were empty if more modern. The trains were empty, and the people were not to be found. I couldn't even find a decent bar, and ended up at the weirdest bar in the world hitting on Polish women. This time you could feel it. The pulse that should be in any crowd of people. The heat of amorous love, the kids tugging on their parents to give money to homeless people, people of all races, from many places coming together and doing so as one group.

To be fair, this is a modern city, and the problems have been pushed outwards so the poverty is less glaring. It is no different than St. Louis in that, as you can see when young black kids post signs on their park for white people to use it so it will get more funding. Yet the undercurrent is not as prominent, perhaps because a poor working class of white people still call the city home, whereas in Missouri they gravitate towards rural or exurban areas, specifically St. Charles county. But this isn't a treatise on the differences between the two cities, this was a personal journey.

I'm a lost soul, a man without a home in many senses, perhaps I'm trapped in the city I live in. Maybe no longer trapped by love, though I wish I were, but certainly trapped in the grips of a great job in an industry that does not pay higher wages in more expensive locales. Life is perhaps too mundane for me, too scheduled out, and I'm predictable in my comfort zone. I needed to get away and recharge my batteries, find my soul.  So I didn't do expensive touristy things in Chicago, I walked and I sat and thought.

What I found about myself was intriguing. I thought for hours on how I have failed everyone, whether it be romantically or in the simple act of friendship. My weird conundrum has always been that I am extremely giving in nature, and this in turn becomes a selfish gesture. I can go into examples but if you wish to hear a list of my shortcomings you will find them in no short supply in my past posts. However, I spent the rest of the time worrying about everyone else, for obvious reasons that will be rehashed in due time.

I like the ghostlike way the city drew me in. Everyone looks like someone I knew, sometimes like people I wish were there with me. There aren't exactly smiles; like a beautiful woman with and happy and lovely child who just wouldn't stop gazing at me with such a look of intrigue. Maybe because the smile which is ironed into my face is a contagion worth setting loose into this world, when so many people have no idea what happiness truly is. Yet there is a beat, there is life and there is hope.

Then, there is St. Louis. There is no beating heart when I get back, no higher brain function. There is an ever present bloodthirst and an indifference to the great inequity that leads to problems such as the Michael Brown shooting. This is not an indictment of the cop, nor the kid. This is not a Ferguson problem; though there are many problems that have been brewing there for years. This is an indictment of all of St. Louis. There is a failure of parents to educate, then a failure of schools to educate, and a failure of the area to find jobs and economic opportunity for young men and women. The young people then turn and vandalize the city, but only the poor parts of the city still perpetuating the cycle of black on black violence that is ingrained in the story of impoverished St. Louis.

There are my friends who are all lovely and smart people. They say their town in different, while reminiscing about a town that used to exist. They take pictures of good black people doing good things when they are black, or white people doing good things when they are white. They argue for the cops in a society that is further militarizing the police force, because the society is further militarized than any time before. I've met many cops and most are not racist, but I can tell you that they all are human and human beings are fallible. No, their job is not easy, but they aren't given mulligans either. No one has once said the word mistake here, as if the intent to kill makes it better. No one deserves an execution. Not the young man nor the cop who executed him. Innocent or not, he does not deserve to be thrown to a lynch mob, which none of these protesters realize is what they are.

All I ask of St. Louis is to take a deep breath and really look at their city. Where is the place where people of different races and backgrounds can coexist? There isn't one. I could argue as an entertainment district for the Loop, but on the north side sits impoverished crime ridden minority inhabited suburbs and to the south the loveliest of houses sparsely filled with white families. The newest construction there was not something to help the whole community but rather luxury apartments for rich kids attending Washington University, a school with only 6.8% African Americans in a county/city with 23.7% African American population.

This is not an argument for the despicable violence and nonsensical attitude the African American community has taken towards a very serious issue. Nor is it a condemnation of the white people trying to pretend that their city does not have a problem. It is just a plea. Be honest with yourselves, and instead of asking why such horrible events occur, let's look for ways to fix it. That's what brings me back here; it's a raw piece of clay ready to be molded into pottery, but it's not yin and yang. The clay needs to be molded together and stick together. I could move to Chicago, live in an area of my choice, and never care about what is happening to the city. Or I can be a white man living in a predominantly black neighborhood asking you why that is something for you to fear and showing how it's not.

That is the story for St. Louis. The stupidity will march on in this example and national news will paint both the police and the citizens in poor light, besmirching those few bright spots that do exist. People will cry for their city when it deserves no pity, cry for a young man they wrongly think is in a better place, cry for soldiers fighting their own citizens, but none will cry for change. They cry for justice, which is just as bad as murder, a Hammurabian myth that hurting another man will kill the pain. If only they would use their brains and hearts, perhaps the city would find it's heartbeat again and not amble blindly towards racial dissonance's inevitable failures.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Brothers

So I decided that I cannot handle sickness or death. I'm that asshole who thinks it's fine until the vitals stop kicking in, and decide after that point that we can save someone beyond medical hep. Yeah, that's me the guy that dreamed one day that his brother could live a normal life, which obviously will never be the case. Not that the doctors are to blame, but rather society as a whole give no fucks about my brother's plight. To me that's unacceptable, but I'm a worthless peon in the grand scheme of things.

I've thought about suicide. Not an easy thought or else I would obviously be dead. But a casual thought because my life isn't worth shit in the grand scheme of things, It always devolves into the idea that no one loves me, which is just pretentious and wrong. It probably is not helpful that i don't believe in God or at least believe in the Jewish God that hates every human being alive. Ryan probably never has.

Yet my brother lives on, he's not terrified of life as I am. In fact, he's a giant asshole about having to be in a hospital for two weeks. I love that about him, that oblivious notion that comes freely, as he hasn't spent the past years caring deeply for human beings who only regarded him with contempt. From that perspective, regarding your friends as your enemies must be fresh. I always imagined the people I treated well were happy with me, but in retrospect, I neglected them on the highest level. People love being disregarded, because people are idiots.

So here's a story of a bad brother, and a story that promulgated the sadness that is me today. I've learned that I am quite still the asshole , but I believe it's best for you to read why.

Friday, May 23, 2014

The Top 23: A Look Back on Predictions and a Talk On Form

I did some depth charts back in 2012 for The Daily Wiz (now The Blue Testament, a fantastic site by the way that you should check out as the following myriad of links should imply.) It's always nice to see where our predictions in life lead. For instance, I am not a professional football player, engineer, husband, or dead. All of those predictions were duds. I am however much better at predicting football results and players career paths, because they are mostly predictable. There were however some injuries, new arrivals and hilarious reaches on my behalf for you all to laugh at while I admire my foresight.

Goalkeeper

http://www.thebluetestament.com/2012/5/3/2995866/us-depth-chart-goalkeeper

Nothing to see here. I actually got this spot on, because none of the young goalkeepers made any sort of moves in the past two years. Some regressed and Nick Rimando is still the most steady if sometimes unspectacular goalkeeper in MLS.

Right Back

http://www.thebluetestament.com/2012/5/10/3011260/us-depth-chart-right-back
If he an Lichaj are equal on form, expect Chandler to play due to familiarity at this point with Klinsmann.
This is a two-year old statement. I would still argue that Lichaj is our right back, but he exists in the Sacha Kljestanworld where he found a perfect place for him professionally, but not on the national team's radar. As for the other options, I obviously missed on Deandre Yedlin, but given his age and recent ascendence I'll skip the mea culpa. The other guys I talked about were nowhere near the 30 man roster. The exclusion of Brad Evans indicates that Klinsmann acknowledged that the premise of him facing Cristiano Ronaldo was harrowing. Though Evans found him to be lucky.


Center Back

http://www.thebluetestament.com/2012/5/30/3051638/us-depth-chart-center-back

There is no reason why he should be number one here except his skills haven't diminished as much as we expected and no one has emerged.
One man emerged, but the top two became irrelevant and As a Sporting KC fan, I could have never predicted how well this would have played out for Matt Besler, and how crucial he'd be to the entire team at this point. In fact, here is a huge mea culpa, I never even considered Besler because our depth seemed strong and I figured there would be leaps by the younger players listed. He is by far our number one center back, maybe not the overall footballer Geoff Cameron is but steadier and reliable. Omar Gonzalez is a ghost of his 2012 self, and Tim Ream is a forgotten man despite being Bolton's player of the year. The only positive is the improvement of Geoff Cameron, and I'll concede that I was a bit harsh on the team as a whole and his defensive ability.

Left Back

http://www.thebluetestament.com/2012/6/2/3058654/us-depth-chart-left-back

1. Fabian Johnson, 24, Hoffenheim (Germany), 26

If we have learned anything the past two games, this is the most important knowledge. Fabian Johnson is our left back for now and given his age probably through at least two World Cups and perhaps a third.. It's not just two games. He has been this good in every game he has played for us, whether in the midfield or at left back. In the modern game, fullbacks are very much two way players and Johnson gives us that. Not only did he make the run and service to get the US it's lone goal against Brazil, he was solid in defense and made up ground even when beaten. Also, don't worry about Timmy Chandler 2.0, he made his one time switch so he is a US player for life.
Holy, Damarcus Beasley!!! I got this one spot on after two matches, because of all the players on the team, Fabian Johnson has actually followed a traditional career trajectory. I'm a staunch Edgar Castillo as a left midfielder supporter, but Liga MX screwed all of the Mexican-American players over by constantly refusing to release them for national team duties. Never thought Beasley would be the old man on this roster, but it goes to show what fitness and reliability can do for you as an athlete.

Center Defensive Midfield

http://www.thebluetestament.com/2012/6/6/3066324/us-depth-chart-central-defensive-midfield

The commenters got this one right, and Maurice Edu's career stalled due to the demolishment of Rangers and his own poor decisions and Jones just chugged along. I just remembered Stuart Holden's knees and wept a little. That 2010-11 Holden alongside 2014 Bradley would be sick, but the fates didn't have that option. Many props are due to Kyle Beckerman, who still isn't sexy but I would call him Option 1(a) at the moment when we want a more disciplined midfielder to allow Bradley some room to roam.

Attacking Midfield

http://www.thebluetestament.com/2012/6/19/3097670/us-depth-chart-attacking-midfield

2. Graham Zusi, 25, Sporting Kansas City, 27

The success of Bradley and the implementation of essentially Sporting KC's system inverted has helped Graham Zusi more than any other player. The relentless pressure and set piece delivery make him an ideal Landon Donovan replacement, even if he's not ever at Donovan's peak level. The problem is he needs to learn to be a right winger/midfielder, because the midfield is congested.
I predicted Zusi taking Donovan's place, but I figured Donovan would play a role in the team. While their career arcs are strange, Michael Bradley and Clint Dempsey are predictably the core of this squad. Benny Feilhaber is in the form of his life, but luckily for Sporting KC that wasn't noticed. I'll pat myself on the back for lauding on Mix Diskeruud while scolding my Freddy Adu love (which still exists in some way).

The Wings

http://www.thebluetestament.com/2012/8/1/3212924/us-depth-chart-left-and-right-midfield

3. DaMarcus Beasley, 30, Puebla (MEX), 32

He's undergoing a career revival in Mexico, and picking him would not be a mistake. However, he is the oldest man on this list, and has been always downgraded for his small stature. Nevertheless at this moment, it would be wise to pick him over our next phenom who right now might be at the nadir of his young career.
Brek Shea seems to be in a year on, year off mode. This was not the time for a year off. Josh Gatt is still young and an exciting prospect for 2018. The grand omission here was Alejandro Bedoya, whose move to Nantes has put him in the best position to occupy a wing across from Zusi in a 4-3-3, 4-2-3-1 or a traditional 4-4-2 look . Joe Corona just missed out, and I feel the Liga MX problem may have contributed to this as well.

Forwards

So, I went dark and didn't write for a while (like these past seven months) and didn't post the forwards depth chart. Suffice to say the only one I would have got right was Jozy Altidore. I probably would have mentioned Juan Agudelo and Teal Bunbury, who were up and coming talents but both are out of the picture for 2014.

The Tough Choice is Usually the Right One

This is not a John Harkes/Captain America omission. That is where we should start. If the United States fails to advance out of their group, it is not going to be due to a lack of Landon Donovan. If we could have 2006 Landon Donovan or 2010 Landon Donovan, that would be nice, but the ravages of time and the demands of the modern game don't allow for such luxuries. Here we sit on the precipice of a World Cup with the most talented 23 man roster ever assembled. In four years, it will be more talented and it's probable that Clint Dempsey and Tim Howard will join Donovan in ceding to the next generation. There are two complaints I hear, that Klinsmann took young players that won't play over players that can contribute now and that he took players that are worse than Landon Donovan. Let's address these:

1) John Anthony Brooks, Deandre Yedlin, Julian Green

These are the players that beat Donovan out that would be considered too green and too young. Each plays a position that the United States has been notoriously bad at times, and solid at other times. None are needed for this tournament, but each will be a big part of the next two World Cups. While I don't think they are playing for 2018 (see the next group), the idea of getting players used to the experience isn't a poor choice. It just happens that the United States talent pool is larger, so these players won't be on the field as a young Landon Donovan and Damarcus Beasley were 12 years ago.

2) Brad Davis and Chris Wondolowski

The United States has five players over 30 going to their first World Cup. These two were the ones who booted Landon from the 23 man roster. Brad Davis has three positives over Donovan. He's left footed and a left winger by nature. Chris Wondolowski brings Donovan's clutch scoring and one more positive he shares with Davis. They are both on form and at peak fitness. The odd accusation of the team's lack of fitness by Klinsmann struck a strange note as that had never been a criticism of the USMNT. However, if he were being more specific as to the fitness requirements he set forth, you may have seen this exclusion coming, due to Donovan's own admissions about his aging body.

I probably won't get any time off to see any of these games, but the World Cup draw set up some fantastic soccer and this group should be one of the best. Don't expect the United States to advance to the knockout stages, but don't be too surprised either.

Monday, October 7, 2013

America's Seven Deadly Sins

I am proud of the United States, but not proud to be American. At some point, our past must become our past and we must take a long look into the mirror. We were a nation built on greatness; our revolution will never be matched in terms of significance nor meaning. We began the great rise of democracy, revived it from the sands of time to a stage not seen since Julius Caesar took the people's power away.

Sure, we had our flaws. We almost lost the war after our bold declaration. It took us two tries to form our republic, and we still left a large moral question unanswered. Our pride almost cost us our fledgling nation, and we watched as our capital burned. Our greed earned us more land, but gave us more deep wounds as we forced the Native Americans out, to their deaths or worse to languish in poverty and stagnation for the duration of their lives. We split in two, and only decided that African-Americans were equals when coerced. The Gilded Age in essence is represented by our rise to world power, and the greed of our businessmen. We fought two World Wars, and suffered one depression, but to what means? We brought with it an age of fear, and no global stability.

Now, we sit on the precipice, at a period that will define our nation. We took a few steps forward, and equal steps backwards. The Earth is dying at our hands, an indefensible victim of our material needs. While our bigotry dissipates slightly on one hand, it springs anew elsewhere. We launch wars and install regimes, as if that is how we formed our democracy. Or perhaps, we believe all nations will respond just as well as the Japanese did after the Second World War. Yet at this moment, we are flawed but not yet without hope of redemption.

Lust

As we redefined the idea of Democracy, we too have redefined the idea of Lust. In the religious sense and in Dante, it is defined as excessive sexuality or love of others. Americans are not inherently lustful, and relatively still puritanical in their sexuality. Yet we define lust as something else, as intense desire. And what do we lust for more than anything? Power and wealth. Lust for an American can be their undoing. I always consider it the gateway sin, for it will always lead to other sins. Lust for money will precede envy. Lust for power will instigate wrath.

What have we done with our lust? Lust for oil led us to war, and led us to drive our SUVs to the pumps without regret. Lust for power gave us a puppet President with unscrupulous puppeteers. Fear of the traditional lust has led us to put our heads in the sand, while our other lustful thoughts bombard us inside. Nevertheless, we can learn to control ourselves, perhaps even learn to lust for better things. What was so wrong with our lust for love and for life? Why must we fill the void with power and wealth? If you can tell me that, we won't just fix America, we'll fix the world.

Gluttony

If you cannot see America as a land of gluttons, you must open your eyes. We are in the midst of an obesity epidemic. In a sense, we are suffering an epidemic of a disease of the mind, as we keep eating our fill despite the consequences being obvious. Yet personal gluttony is only part of the problem, we also are gluttons as a whole. It can be argued that no nation has done more to destroy the Earth than we have, though China and India will try their best to catch up. We eat our double cheeseburgers with extra bacon and french fries, as a symbol of our lives. We built grand houses, and keep them constantly temperature controlled for the two people who rarely live in them. A presidential candidate's wife had eight houses, and for what, maybe a sin I'll touch on later.

Why can't we scale back? Why do you buy an SUV when you have no passengers to seat? Why do we eat nothing healthy, then get a diet soda? In a sense, we love our gluttony. And why shouldn't we? We're on top, and it just feels better to let it show. It amazes me how I can amaze a man from China just with my cooking. The degree of arrogance in how I eat is a uniquely Anglo trait, which we carried on from the powerful nation which preceded us. What happens when the rest rise up to our level? Can we stop our own gluttony form truly becoming an epidemic? 300 million gluttons is far less dangerous than one billion.

A study was released that by 2050, we will all be obese. While this is overly dramatic and neglects that genetics and energetic people will never allow this, it shows me two things: we are hopelessly doomed to succumb to this sin and that no one acknowledges that while we stuff our face with Big Macs and Super Sizes, people in our own cities are starving. Perhaps, our gluttony is a simple act of denial and the first step on the road to recovery...or not.

Greed

Greed and America are seemingly meshing into one term these days. Even the most philanthropic of Americans are consumed with greed at times. Bill Gates is a great philanthropist, but did it by crushing competition beneath a monopoly in the fastest rising sector of our economy. Same could be said for Carnegie, Rockefeller, Ford, and the other men who built the economic giant that is America. It is an essential requirement that all Americans that have everything should want more. A constant need to upgrade ourselves in a material sense leads us to take more than we've earned, or to risk that which is not our. We risk the money and lives of others for personal gain, as the current economic crisis can attest. Now, even our government risks in this way, risking our money on the men who destroyed our economy and risking our blood in wars for personal gain.

The Iraq Wars were the first instance of us using greed as a justification for full-scale warfare. (I say full-scale because I acknowledge our military and non-military interventions in Latin America for financial gains.) Others have done this before: the British for Queen and country, Hitler for land, Napolean for glory, Japan for material wealth, and now the United States for cheaper gasoline. Greed seems like the one that we can quell with ease, but will always linger in our hearts. It's much like Tolkien: the power of the ring evoked lust and greed in the weak hearts of men, but did not create such feelings. They were just brought to the forefront, and only the extremely content, the hobbits, could resist the temptation of wealth and power. Sorry for the slight intrusion of nerd-speak, but I find it an apt vision of our hearts.

Sloth

My sin is perhaps the one least obvious. From a biophysical standpoint, it partners well with gluttony, but I feel that metaphorically is the more apt choice. We are not a slothful nation. We place a premium upon work and the pitiful adjectives that accompany it. That man is a hard-worker, a team player. She gives herself to her job; he lives for his job. We hate to work, but we all strive to be employed and perhaps successful to satiate our other sins.

No, it is not work ethic that America lacks, but rather a cankerous apathy that rots away inside our politics and our morals. The famous quote goes the only thing necessary for evil to thrive is for good men to do nothing. The status-quo is inherently evil, as it stands in the way of progress. Yet our whole lives are based upon it. We elect the same morons over and over again, because we have no interest in the future of the United States (and to be arrogant, the world). We go to work day in day out and forget to strive for a greater world, because we need bread on the table. That is why sloth is such an insidious beast; it conquers you from within filling your soul with apathy and malaise.

We are a 20th Century nation in a 21st Century world. As advancements in technology occur, we should be improving. Technology makes almost everything easier, cheaper, and universal as the days pass. Yet obstinance has taken its place as the American sloth, as fools continue to do nothing to improve our lot while maintaining their own largess.

Pride

An apt sin for the current crisis. We watch congressmen bicker while the average man suffers, because they need to save face. It would be fair to blame the current governmental crisis on Republicans, as Pride is currently all that is stopping the government from resuming its normal inefficient, half-assed efforts to represent the American people. (Though one could argue this is a perfect representation of the American people.) That wouldn't be fair to the ineffectual asses opposing them, who are taking a certain glee in watching them destroy their own credibility and America's at the same time.

Pride is the subject of my first sentence, an odd juxtaposition of the American usage and our country's supposed devotion to Christian ideals. Pride is a dangerous beast. We have spent twelve years now mending our pride in Afghanistan, as our enemy resided across the border from there. The most dangerous predators are wounded ones, and America's pride is much like that. We fight day in and day out to save face in every manner of life. For what? What is wrong with shame, regret, losing, embarrassment? They are parts of life. Sure, ones you wish to go without, but parts of a whole. Pride just makes one foolish. No one is as proud of America as it is of itself.

Envy

Envy is a personal beast. We aren't jealous of non-Americans, or countries taken as entire entities. Our superiority complex forbids this sin from being dictated in policy. It is instead a root evil. Envy makes us hate our fellow man. We don't wish to see those poorer than us succeed, and those richer than us are obviously evil. Envy is the spirit of competition, but without the camaraderie or the progression. Envy is why the poor people in this country kill each other. Envy is why the rich people in this country hate the poor. Everyone has something that someone else wants. Everyone wants something that someone else has.

The crux of the American problem is money, but it's an oversimplification. Communism does not work simply because greed already exists and cannot be eliminated from the human spirit. Capitalism doesn't work, because envy naturally breeds paranoia. Mostly those of us set in our ways are terrified of those who wish to move upwards, envious of possibility. The upwardly mobile are envious of their prestige thinking wealth brings with it happiness that the purer soul seeks or power that the tarnished prefers. Most will find neither and their envy will continue to seek that at whatever costs are required.

Wrath

Had I tried writing this years ago as I did the first few, it probably would have been a long discourse on the military-industrial complex of the Bush administration. It would have been short-sighted and lacking in personal struggles with wrath. Wrath is tied naturally with warfare, but is given too physical a premise. Wrath may lead to murders, but actually wrath seems like a decent reason for killing someone rather than greed, pride, lust, or envy.

Wrath in itself is not a problem, but Americans seems to misdirect their wrath. We celebrate many men who have beaten or raped women, both results of internal failures of the psyche to control one's anger. The crazy ones shoot indiscriminately into crowds, while the sadistic ones plan to inflict their wrath on innocents in the most horrendous of ways. We love to pursue vendettas, love our revenge. Our punishments are capital, our watch is never ending. Wrath is an American's way of playing God, because God obviously failed. Wrath is a subtext of fear and fear is ever dominant in the minds of sheep.

Writer's Extremely Long Note:

This is an old draft. Perhaps as old as this blog. Hence the 2008-09 feel of the first half. It probably if finished promptly fit better as an essay as opposed to a blog post, but I'm not much for deadlines. I even miss the self-imposed ones.

This is a common theme, not only in my political writing, but in my day to day life. There is no such thing as perfection. Flaws can be beautiful and perhaps the sole benefit of aging is that many flaws take this liking over time. America, and humanity, is not on a parabola; this is not the beginning of the end. One could say that it is changing, but there is no real desire in other nations to usurp the American global position. For one thing, it's really fucking hard to be a world power. It's much easier to be China and send your middle class overseas, perhaps never to see them again. It easier to remain an insular and regional power. There are problems with the idea of America as it was after the Soviet Union's collapse, the lone sheriff to be dramatic, the world's apex nation to be precise.

The problems with American society do not rest with an ineffectual government nor are they resolved by implementing the strategies of either ends of the political spectrum. There is not a lack of compromise because of the positions, there is a lack of compromise because of the humans involved. There are components to human nature which are inherently worse in Americans because of their sense of entitlement. Moreso, because the dregs of society beleive in their entitlement. Whereas the sheeplike nature of other nations has led to them committing actual atrocities, the American people are fighting a proxy war on life.

Life isn't broken down into red and blue states. There are people who care about the human race, and there are people who care about themselves (which can be extended to nuclear families if necessary). Problem is people are really good at taking care of themselves. They are really poor not only at helping others, but doing so in an effective manner. There are many topics that people don't care about.* Getting health care to everyone is not about giving freebies out, it's about lessening the burden of the uninsured on the health care industry therefore making health care cheaper for everyone. When you improve the world, your lot is simultaneously improved.

*I, for instance, am very keen on environmentalism  but think global warming/climate change is a boulder that we should frankly be disinterested in. However, by creating an incentive for recycling or emphasizing the human factor of pollution (The same crazies that think shots are giving their kids autism, sure as hell will back you up when they find out pollution causes asthma rates to increase in children.), you can get people behind ideas that help solve the problem without them actually caring about the problem. 

I'm not good at many things. I procrastinate, I lose focus, and sometimes I have trouble articulating what I really should be saying, because my honesty sounds like bullshit to a cynic like me. However, I live by one rule, leave life in a better state than you found it. Money means nothing, pride means nothing, the after-life is nothing. 

The funny thing about these basic sins is how useful they can be. 

Lust is just unbridled passion, which in the context of requited love is delightful. 

Gluttony is just a yearning for excess; one can be a glutton for charity, or hugs or shelter animals. Or happiness, though many regard this as unseemly especially those who enjoy a "good cry" whatever the fuck that may be. 

Greed has led many to be philanthropic, once the greed was no longer their province. Greed is the bedrock of many innovation and many stolen innovations (looking at you Edison). 

Sloth is just necessary on some days. Relaxation is necessary, but only for body and mind. Never relax your morals or soul. (Unless...) 

Pride has become the go-to word for courage in the face of bigotry. Be proud of your every flaw and those things which aren't flaws that people's morals can't adjust to. Just don't let pride make you unmalleable, every human needs to adjust to the world or watch it leave you behind.

Envy has no use. Jealousy is the harsher version of the word. Don't wish the worst on your enemies or the best for your friends, and don't wish to trade places with anyone. Life gives everyone their burdens. My thought is: If you get the wrong luggage, you still end up with underwear. 

Wrath is inevitable. Just pick the right fights. Fight for justice or honor. Fight for your country, protect and serve. Run towards fights to stop them, run towards danger to save others. The flight instinct is just nature telling your wrath to calm down. Until I die, inevitably like the kid in Stand By Me, use wrath as a shield not a sword.

I apologize for the length, but this is me and unless by some degree I am famous, some things need context. 

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

An Odd Thing Happened On My Way Out of Town

Note: There are seven eight f-bombs in this post. I'll write something happy soon to make up for it.*
I really should sue Dos Equis. To be fair, they created a likeness that obviously depicts an older gentleman than me, but in essence let's be fair: he is not the most interesting man in the world. Sure, he has a pet owl, a problem I will one day alleviate for myself, but in all reality the shit he does is rather boring.

Now me, I am incredibly interesting. The mundane things I do turn into conflagrations that cannot be extinguished. I kiss a girl, a lynch mob forms The abnormal things become commonplace almost to the point where they no longer shock people. I walk into a bar, every time I get a drink bought for me.

My life has always been about me taking easy paths. This may involve me failing a class just so I can sleep in.  Or perhaps not applying for jobs or asking women on dates. In 27 years, I didn't ruffle any feathers (outside of debt collectors). My life was dull, constant, and involved a repetition of drinking and listening to the world's troubles until the melancholy overcame me. I used to really give a damn, used to have close friends supposedly. Then, I fucked up.

No, not a small fuck-up. I've been evicted, broken up relationships, forgot to pay bills, wrecked vehicles; these are minor things. No, I tried to help, and after so much booze you can only help so much. The result was the severance of essentially every adult relationship I had at the time. I apologized, perhaps never in the right tone, but that wasn't something to be fixed anyways.

At the time, it was devastating. I became a hermit, in fact I didn't talk to anyone I knew save my parents for a good 45 days. The first person I did talk to incidentally picked me up on the side of the road, and I remember I could hardly speak for I hadn't done so in so long. I couldn't find another solid job. In December, I went home for Christmas, with the thought in the back of my head that I may stay for good. I had no intention of returning and my parents needed me far more than any of my friends ever did. Yet as I left St. Louis, I applied for more jobs that I thought would better suit me.

Only one responded, and I thought at the time that it was a positive move. A new Italian restaurant down in the city. I could learn another style of cuisine and get some money in my pockets, and stop have my parents float me through life. To be fair, I was completely wrong in my initial choice. I found it was a fast food concept and I would be making $5 less an hour than I had before. Then, I was down the depth chart of cooks, and was only getting 10-12 hours a week. I didn't quit because I don't quit unless extreme circumstances present themselves, but I was miserable.

If you've worked with me, you know what happens next. I moved up the depth chart. I was either the number one or two guy by February and even went out and got another job to supplement my income. Not that I made any money as I had to cab home more often than not due to working late and being lazy. When I didn't take cabs, I was walking one to five miles a night to my apartment, since my bus quit far too early in the night. In March, I was casually offered a promotion to management.

Now, this obviously did not work out. I am too young and inexperienced to do such things I suppose, but then again I am me. I'm always the best candidate because I'm smart, flexible, and inherently even keeled. As they worked me into management, I always contemplated leaving as I wasn't too responsible in the first place and certainly more flighty than before. I even considered going home again and writing even as home as I knew it ceased to be. I still dreamed of other things that no one ever believed I could do, and so one day while working on said dreams I walked into my old work in Ferguson.

Let's start by stating that I have no intentions. There is nothing in my life that is planned or plotted, nor do I care much anymore how anything I do affects the world. I don't facilitate criminal actions or moral turpitude, but I don't care much if my actions grant anyone pleasure or pain. At this point in the story, there were people who cared for me, and they all share my blood or name. This is important, because I have been accused of hurting a friend and in this case I must insist that while many people are my friends I can think of two people who have called or texted me first in the last six months: Lacey Ahlmeyer and Josh Blair, you are the winners.

I walked out of the bar empty handed, a little drunk and a little further along in my dreamworks and into the next bar. There is an indifference to Marley's that I love, the ways the people greet you like an old friend despite your flaws. It's one of the few places where nothing's changed in a world where everything is different. I find things there I don't look for: a fight sometimes, a woman on occasion, a good conversation with a stranger. Hell, the other night I was there in the candlelight during a blackout taking pictures with some girl from Overland Park, KS because I knew where that was. Sometimes I sober drive strangers to there next destination. What happened next isn't exactly clear, though I'm sure it has been accrued to my malice by this point. I left with a girl, and it wasn't a sexual thing as anyone who has ever met me would know. I'm notoriously slow with women, because I'm extremely cautious about the repercussions of my actions...irony notwithstanding here.

My life to this point has been about bad luck. It's not been a bad life, but it's always seemed that good things happen to people around me and I don't necessarily get the same shots. That is due in part to my own shortcomings as a man and a member of society. I didn't do anything in regards to this for a while, because like I said it was complicated, but then I went home one night tired from overworking and fell asleep as she read a story of mine. I had the worst dream, that she had gone and left me there all lonely in my typical state. I woke up and realized it wasn't a dream; I passed out, she left. It was the first bad dream I'd had in years, and I knew I was so fucked now. I don't have many rules regarding women, because I'm not the most handsome man who could make such demands. There were red flags here, but that fucking dream killed them quicker than I imagined. I went to settle the matter for better or worse, and found a cold shoulder from a "friend", so instead of smooth sailing, I tipped the boat.

Since then nothing has gone against me, the worst days have been beautiful. When I quit my second job to work more, they never gave me those hours. That was fine. My lease was up and I had nowhere to go. That was fine. I lived in a hotel for a week, that lost its roof in a tornado/high winds. That was hilarious. Every person I knew either hates me or is scheming against me to make people hate me. Again, hilarious. A girl who apparently forgot that I was the only motherfucker from that hellhole to celebrate her birthday yelled at me. I could care less. My new house is on a block where there were multiple shootings last week. Easy to understand.

No, in the last month, I have gotten a promotion to a salaried job, even getting paid more than I thought I deserved/merited. I moved to a beautiful home in a rough neighborhood on the outskirts of a beautiful neighborhood where I pay a ridiculously low rent for the city. I have ridiculously oddball landlords/roommates that cannot be any cooler. I've been to baseball games, museums, restaurants, and bars I've never been to before. I've got a lovely (or acceptable, as I like to say) woman who actually knows how fucked up I am, and is perfectly fine with that. I still get free drinks from strangers for being awesome. Hell, I walk so much that I eat pizza and pasta all the time and lose weight. (Might be a sign that I'm dying.)

People want apologies from me, some want answers, and others just want to see it all burn. Here's my fucking apology: I am sorry that I finally decided to take my happiness into my own hands. I'm sorry I don't care anymore for the complaints of the distant. I'm sorry that lives intersect. I'm sorry that I'm so awesome at the moment. I'm sorry that I had to explain this.

*By f-bombs, I mean fuck.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Memories of a Magpie

Note: This entirely too long post reminds me of a NewsRadio episode where Jimmy James takes a kid to court over a box of junk.
Judge: Mr. James, all you have proven to this court is that you have a box full of junk. Never since The People vs. Junkyard Jones has a box of junk been so thoroughly documented. If I were this young man, I'd countersue you for defamation of character, and generally wasting everyone's time. What do you have to say in your defense?

Jimmy James: Tubal Cain.
Judge: The court rules in favor of Mr. James and sentences the defendant to a month in a juvenile ward for psychiatric evaluation. Case dismissed.

I remember clearly the tedium of clearing out a house. I didn't help much with my maternal grandmother's house. My youth and the presence of my cousins, my best friends as relations went, probably made that impossible. When my paternal grandmother moved out of her house, I was of a proper age to help. The difference between the two families was stark. At the time, my mother was far more sentimental towards the remainder of the possessions. My Dad and I after a day were kind of in a fuck it mood, and just started tossing shit. Then again, the Lays kept stuff like I'm about to show you and the Landises bought stuff off the home shopping network. I loved them equally; they were just different. I have no basis for genuine comparison as they were all gone before I could have eloquent adult feelings that I could put in words here.

The problem with every year of life is that clutter begins to appear, and I never really understood that. Hell, I don't even have unnecessary furniture such as a living room set. I will never have that problem. I accumulate two things, DVDs and books. when I go it will just be a free for all or quick sale for all that. If I buy something and it begins to gather dust, it finds itself on Craigslist or in the trash. The latest purge of documents and crap resulted in me going through my valuables. Being valuables of mine, you realize now that they have little or no worth at all.

The weird thing is how organized everything is for me. All of this crap fits in one Hammermill paper box, one of two containing old stuff that has no use anymore (the second has tshirts from all kinds of stuff, high school to now). My Dad always tells me to buy a document safe for my important papers (I don't have any), and I would probably just shove this stuff in it. The weird thing is I can tell you the story of my life, most of it good stuff.






 This is what is left of high school for me. It's a reminder that I was once called Joey, which is frankly a foolish name for a grown man (though it is debatable if I am one now.) Now, everyone calls me Jojo which is simultaneously emasculating and the homophobic may say gay. To be fair, (as far as stereotypes go), I am probably the gayest heterosexual alive.

The first picture is of two newspaper clippings that Joe Dunn saved for me. Another advantage of dating is if you do it well, you get another family to dote on you a bit. It is a reminder as well that I was once athletic, but I would say thin. The muscles are actually bigger now; I'm just cuddly as well. Also of note, my backhand was so fucked up by the time I was a Senior that I prayed no one hit to it, then hit them back slices just for the sake of it. The card in the background is just my Mom writing me back when she used to regularly; it's the only non-Christmas, non-birthday card I have, though she sent me far more before I became nostalgic.

The second is a bit more complicated. The picture frame is from my friend Meggi, who used to do my locker signs and give me junk food when I was a Senior football player. It is a practical and long lasting gift, but about that time, pictures starting being printed larger (then digitally) and so I don't own a single picture that fits the frame. The picture inside is my Senior picture with the remainder of the Senior pictures that were given to me. Most have interesting writing on the back that I could tell stories galore about, but my memoirs are waiting on me to become famous. Almost all are of girls, which probably should have said to my high school girlfriend that I wasn't a keeper or I was at least this man.

That watch was her birthday present to me at 17, and I didn't feel good throwing out a good watch in need of a battery. Then cell phones and work eliminated its practicality. The keychain lasted me ten years and aided me numerous times in finding them. In fact, I made it in eight grade and it stayed on my keys until I was 26, so it lived a good life. The class ring never fit, the key was made of lustrium, and the key chain broke. It symbolizes the sudden change of those years. Friendships you spent years cultivating are gone, and everything fades. You don't forget, but it isn't really a defining part of you. Unless you decide to go back, which I haven't done yet for clear economic and social reasons.* The patches are simply a reminder that I'm a huge nerd. They were sent with my replacement disc to Buried in Time, which the guys at Presto Studios signed for me. I miss those games.

*There are far more women, jobs, concerts, and women in big cities.
**(You said women twice.)
 ***I like women.
Never been to Mardi Gras, even the shitty St. Louis one.
Yet still beads all over the place. Hint: They're all green.
Then, I went to college. In hindsight, I didn't go to college to graduate it appears. In fact, I may not have even gone to college to make friends, as I've done a pretty fine job of burning as many of those bridges as possible. What did I go for then? Well, it wasn't women. I went to Rolla. It wasn't booze; there was booze in Carrollton or any other town. I went to become who I am now if that makes sense. I figured that would involve engineering, but it didn't. In fact, every plan of mine in life has an underlying current of delusions of grandeur. There is no grandeur in engineering, as there is none in a kitchen, but there is a theatricality to it that appeals to me. In hindsight, I probably should have focused on fine arts a bit more. I have some great ideas now that are a basic understanding of piano and music writing away from being within my grasp.
You can't say Kathy didn't try to help when I asked.
Pins, carnations and pledge quizzes. I have weird collection
habits. I think I have an afghan somewhere.
I did four things in Rolla that were memorable. Of course, I fucked all of them up, but that isn't necessarily the worst sin. I joined a fraternity, which was a brilliant decision, if many of my decisions within the fraternity were not. I hate the stigma that fraternities have in popular culture, but I understand it as well. All the stereotypes exist for a reason, and all of them are untrue for the same reason all stereotypes are. Simply, life is not black and white; there are douche-bags and good guys, and sometimes you're both. I have friends that straddle the line to this day. I didn't take it seriously enough and others took it too serious, which is just a microcosm of life itself.

The Chi fell off a boob and is a memento of both
follies success and boobs. The rest is schwag.
St. Pats was a personal choice that was also forced upon me. I was preordained for the Board. However, I didn't stand out there, mostly because I found out how much I could do from the shadows. I preferred helping others do their work, taking shortcuts on my own work, and then riling up as many people as possible. A campus employee once told me I lacked integrity for deceiving her, which was far from the truth. I felt I was above her contempt and didn't care to be subject to her purview. Basically, I got to spend three years working a part-time job, which rewarded you with booze and small college fame as opposed to money. As my academic exploits would have been poor either way, it was a decent time, but a part time job would have been more practical. It was the first time in my life where I was allowed to be creative, even to put on a show, which I did. I was "The Legend" as my jacket said, but legends die faster than regular folk. It's a chapter of my life that will probably never be opened again.

The worst thing about college is that when I tried I was really good at it. Not in the hard work, which is required to both graduate and succeed in any reasonable matter of life. I was capable of ridiculous acts of both oration, creativity, and recollection. I have numerous tests that I keep just in case somebody someday needs an example of how to write an essay test without citing a damn thing and without writing complete nonsense. One of my teachers made me stand up and take a bow, then proclaimed I was going places. That was the last class I took up to this point before the government decided I wasn't progressing at a speed sufficient to garner student loans. This is not a statement made out of anger, as this was completely true and regrettable now. If I ever get the money and time, I'll finish if only to make my parents happy, solely out of guilt.




Melissa, remind me to give you that ticket. It's signed to
you. I wasn't the Toad the Wet Sprocket fan there.
Then, I drank a bit and fell in love. Not with a woman, although I have fell in love with quite a few of those, but with music. Not in playing it, as I clearly do not have the dedication for such tasks. I love a concert. In fact, I love musicals, plays, movies, or any kind of performance art. I would have a bit more pocket-change if I had learned earlier to curb the bottle and didn't fall in love with ingenues. On the other hand, every cent spent on a concert has been worth it. Even CrueFest, which I went to for free.
Completing the circle of tickets
and booze, tickets to beerfest.

My favorite is that Joe Camel one that belonged to my
brother Bryan. It serves no practical purpose as it only
fits Coors products, so perfect for Bryan really.

I keep sports tickets and movie tickets as well, although I don't know why. Back in the day I had every one from when I was a junior high schooler to college, but I assume they were lost in the many purges of my childhood room. As they become more digital, I expect less and less to keep them. Also, drinking tends to lead to them getting lost along the way. I used to keep train tickets, but my iPhone does those now as well. Nostalgia is harmful to trees I've found.


Why save four of these?
Look at that taste. Harry Potter on
Christmas night.

I also possess an assortment of Halloween costumes. I have never made it through an entire night with an entire costume. Usually, I lose a shirt or any accessories. So now, I have a parka, which succeeded in getting me a ride to the Creve Couer police station, as I appeared to be a hitchhiking immigrant. I was not, so I didn't get charged for anything.I have Hammer pants, which I hope Lacey has the the top for because I loaned it to her for some sorority picture. I also have an Elvis jumpsuit. None of these are useful unless I meet a girl that is into role-playing, and that is even a bit weird for me.

There is some that has no deep significance and is simply oddities that I like.
License plates from my first two cars
who now share a junkyard.
A flower from Chi Omega's semi-formal,
 a bookmark that says I'm productive which shows how
well I match with the biblical Josephs, some sort of medallion
 for serving in Korea in support, a 50
centavo piece from Brazil (where I've never been)

Assorted gifts from Chinese roommates
I helped with English verb tenses.
Expensive green tea, chopsticks, and
an opera mask bookmark.
A Christmas teddy of both sorts.
One for being Mrs. Claus (see what I mean
about the vaguely gay thing  being acceptable.), the other
inexplicable.

Then, there is the stuff I've always saved. I don't have many friends (and I have a lot of friends). I'm rather inaccessible, emotionally and occasionally physically. I come when called, but most people wouldn't think to make that call as I tend to be aloof. So, I have these reminders that people do knwo where I am from time to time. I save all Christmas cards, wedding stationary (announcements, invitations, programs, placeholders, sometimes flatware ;), and birthday cards.



The birthday cards are mostly from my parents. They have slowly evolved from the humorous ones of my youth that better reflect my parents spirit to the emotional ones that my Mom prefers to send nowadays. She said that she was afraid the last thing she would ever say to me was a joke as opposed to "I love you", but I would say that making someone laugh is a great display of love in itself, even cheesy laughter. There are a few from Ozzie's which I forgot about. One of the upsides and downsides of restaurant jobs is the familial relationships that develop over time. The upside being a kid far from his actual brothers and sisters having some surrogate ones nearby to take some of the emotional load. The downside being the awkward incestual relationships that spring out of it and the bad holidays which can only be solved with booze. Except in a restaurant, every day is a bad family holiday.

 You could probably learn everything about me from this box of crap. Then again, you could learn nothing. That's the thing about magpies, we keep plenty of small mementos and trinkets on hand, but we hoard many other things of greater treasures. Lucky for those that know me that I write about them on here. Memories that cannot be forgotten need no trinkets, no ticket stubs, no cards. They just linger there in your mind waiting for you to recollect them, and that is the greatest hiding spot for things. What am I hiding there? Mostly social security numbers and bank account numbers in the Caymans, which are two unrelated topics.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Guide to the Hard Knocks Culinary Route


It both the beer and the thought that my sexy fingers made
that sexy crust that make it more delicious. Oh
and pecans are like ten bucks a pound on the street. 
It was weird that I had never heard this phrase in reference to my career path until a recent interview. The phrase is particularly telling in the culinary trade, because there really aren't many shortcuts. The shortcuts that exist are purely a matter of luck, which someone with better luck could describe to you. The downside of such shortcuts is that perhaps you had no intention of becoming a chef, and now you got a taste for it and cannot give it up. This may sound like a good problem, but then you haven't ever seen the paycheck comparisons between someone who carries their food to you and those who had to make it enjoyable.* While your part in a restaurant (especially a great one) is perhaps the most important piece in the puzzle, one finds themselves as at best the median** on the pay scale.

*This cannot be understated: this is not a knock on servers, as in most cases customer service is the hardest job in the world. On the other hand, anyone without personality or stress disorders is capable of doing it. It's why people cannot con you into paying to learn to serve.
**The middle number not the average. Sorry, but a mathematician pet peeve.

This isn't going to be a woe is me tale, trust me on this. I have worked for four restaurants in my life and each one has been a pleasant experience on the vocational side (except compensation wise but that's not a fixable issue so why worry about it). My immediately bosses have been likable, at times flexible, and mostly competent. Before you accuse me of damning them with faint praise, I don't worry too much about my bosses because I don't fuck up too much and my personality in a kitchen is harsh on the language front but otherwise incredibly laid-back. I don't throw shit and yell at people, and generally because of that my bosses don't respond in kind. My first boss was sort of like that, but I think my brother took most of the flak for my incompetence and really supervised me, for the most part.

This is more of a commentary on the pointlessness of culinary school. People think sometimes that I've been to one or desire to. I have always been befuddled by two statements from people who don't cook.