I'm Actually Black And I'm Proud

Hustle and Flow is the ghetto version of The Commitments.

Cow or Cat?


As we were walking home from The Dish Cafe, my son Ian spied a strange creature posing on a stoop-- and so he asked, "Is that a cow or a cat?"-- though the thing was most certainly a cat, but his question was reasonable because it was a hairless cat-- and spotted like a cow-- and not only was it hairless but it was also very saggy (much saggier than this hairless Sphinx cat in the picture) and apparently (this is news to me!) there are a number of hairless house cats, each one uglier than the next.

OBFT XIX

The 19th Annual Outer Banks Fishing Trip went off without a hitch, and a big thanks to Whitney for putting us up and putting up with us for this many years . . . here are a few things that I vaguely remember from OBFT XIX: 1) driving with a hangover while Whitney participated in a 90 minute conference call for work . . . very boring and oppressive, especially when Whitney had a bout of flatulence, and would not allow me to roll down the windows because he needed to hear 2) an innovative and scary ride home from Tortuga's for Jerry and me, thanks to Cliff 3) Whitney and I reigning for five hours in a row at corn-hole 4) waiting too long at Tortuga's and never getting to order lunch 5) cornbread and beef brisket at Taylor's Barbeque , which is just outside fo Salisbury Maryland 6) back to back pork bbq sandwiches at Southland and Pigman's, within a two hour window 7) napping on the ferry to Cape May 8) getting "shushed" at the bar 9) the best water in a long time (but no waves, I had to wait until I got up to Sea Isle City for that) 10) Bruce's fantastic joke, which cannot be repeated, even on the internet.

A Man With A Beard Is More Of A Man Than Me (But That's Not Saying Much)

I don't know how men with beards got over the IT ITCHES! hump.

Alfred Hitchcock Was Right!

A presumptuous seagull swooped down and yanked a Blueberry Belvita Breakfast Biscuit right out of Lynn's hand while she was chatting with Dom on the beach, and this is a frightening development in avian intelligence, because once all the other birds learn that humans wandering around with food in their hands are fair game, we are going to starve to death (or I guess we could just eat indoors, but you can't make a horror movie about being forced to bring your kids off the beach and eat lunch inside . . . even though that is a horrible process).

LeCompt Plays Best Set Ever!

Every trip to Sea Isle City includes a night listening to LeCompt-- the hardest working bar band in the world-- and they outdid themselves last Sunday evening: they played an entire set of Who songs, from the obscure to the epic . . . these are the ones I remember: The Real Me, Cut My Hair, 5:15, Love Reign O'er Me, Doctor Jimmy, Baba O'Riley, Getting in Tune, However Much I Booze . . . but I am sure there were others . . . the band has inspired me to go back and listen to The Who By Numbers.

We Don't Need No Stinking Bags

As I was walking off the beach, my wife yelled to me to bring back her "bag from the house" and the only bag I could find back at the house was a cute little pink and purple striped hand bag-- rectangular in shape, with a thin handle that stretched across the top of the bag-- so I grabbed that and then made my way to the 7-11 to get some coffee, and a guy spotted my Spotswood soccer shirt and asked if I went there and I so I gave him a brief history of my coaching career-- forgetting that I was flinging this little bag around every time I made a hand motion-- and then when I brought the bag up to the counter at the 7-11, the young dude at the counter said, "Cute purse" and I laughed and then he said, "You've got to be confident in your manhood to carry around a bag like that," and I said, "That's me, all man" and then when I left the place, I said to my friend Connell: "What  if that really was my bag? That guy was making a pretty big assumption?" but I guess I didn't look fabulous enough to be carrying that thing around . . . and then we went back to the crew at the beach and I told my funny story and my wife said, "I didn't say 'bag,' I said 'badge' . . . my beach badge."

Some Decisions Make Themselves


So when the dim sum cart comes to your table at the new China Bowl, and your choices are fried chicken feet, tripe buns, or shrimp dumplings, which do you choose?



An Evil Mountain by Any Other Name


One of the excellent things about having children is that you have an excuse to revisit great movies . . . our family has just started the Lord of the Rings saga, and one of the things that makes me chuckle is that amid all the high fantasy diction-- the Elvish and Old English and Germanic derivatives-- Aragorn and Mordor and Bara-dur and Balrog and The Council of Elrond-- amidst all this gibberish is the much more pragmatic sounding "Mount Doom" . . . it's possibly the only place name in the series that doesn't require a doctorate in language studies to decipher (of course, Tolkien did give it several other names, including Amar Amarth and Orodruin, which makes me believe he was not very successful with the fairer sex).

Ask Not What You Can Do For Your Country, Ask When You Can Take A Nap

I guess it's okay for a President to be a tee-totaller-- although I know I would need a beer or seven after a long day of diplomacy at the G8 Summit-- but the fact that Mitt Romney doesn't drink coffee precludes him from the top spot in The White House, in my book, because how do you make it through something like the Cuban Missile Crisis without a little caffeine?

Pros and Cons of My New Minivan

The pro: you can carpool with another family that has a minivan and all the kids can travel in one vehicle; the con: you can carpool with another family that has a minivan and all the kids can travel in one vehicle . . . a vehicle that you might possibly be driving.

Does It Suck For Louie If He Doesn't Know It Sucks?

The end of season two of Louis CK's brilliant and eponymous show Louie is the most painful illustration of dramatic irony (Wave to me! . . . I'll wait for you!) since Oedipus Rex.

You'll Sleep When You're Dead (Or After You Put Your Dog Down)

On the mornings that our children sleep until eight, our dog wakes us up at six.

Can Anyone Recommend Some Light Reading?


I finished Ioan Grillo's book El Narco, a portrait of the Mexican drug cartels and the damage they have wrought in both that country and our own, and it works like this: the United States provides many of the guns for the war . . . and of course we provide the insatiable need for illegal drugs (especially New York City) and the Mexicans-- who used to be middlemen smugglers for Columbian cocaine, when the Miami Vice squad made it too tough to come through Florida-- have taken over as the main producers, shippers, smugglers, and distributors . . . and moved into many other organized crime rackets such as shakedowns, protection money, and kidnapping . . . and because the stakes are so high and there is so much money involved and there are so many poor folk willing to risk it all, things have gotten incredibly brutal, both as the drug gangs fight each other, and as they fight the often corrupt police for a slice of the pie . . . the violence is heinous and terroristic and the trade is global and difficult to trace-- as the drug lords rely on lots of freelance help for assassinations and transport and smuggling and raw materials-- and while good intelligence can help to bring down big players, there is always someone else ready to step in and make the big money, if only for a limited time (the days of Pablo Escobar are over) and Grillo makes the typical case for legalization of drugs-- at least marijuana, but also perhaps cocaine, heroin, crystal meth, and whatever else is coming across the border-- because that is the only way to limit the power of these very organized paramilitary economic insurrectionists who are essentially psychotic . . . there was a time in the '70's when it looked like legalization would happen, but then we "just said no," but perhaps this time, with the mounting death and some violence creeping across the border (but not much because the Mexicans know what is good for business) legalization will once again be a viable debate . . . anyway, the book is a good read if you want to know the ins and outs of this atrocious situation just South of us: nine Zetas out of ten.

There Was A Kangaroo In My Living Room




Much of what we think about global warming is anecdotal-- it's been hotter than ever this summer . . . it never snows anymore . . . we never had this many jellyfish when I was a kid-- and I have another story for this file: my son Ian found a baby lizard in our living room . . . a Northern Fence lizard, to be precise, and technically this lizard's range does extend up to Central New Jersey, but I've only seen these down in South Jersey, in the Pine Barrens-- until last week, of course, and so now I am waiting for the armadillos to arrive.

The American Dream Is Just That

It turns out that Arthur Miller and F. Scott Fitzgerald were right, there is no "American Dream" . . . if you want your children to have a better chance at climbing the ladder of success, the best thing you can do for them is to pack up and move to Norway . . . the Organization for Economic C-Operation and Development found that the U.S. is well below "Denmark, Australia, Norway, Finland, Canada, Sweden, Germany, and Spain in terms of how freely citizens move up and down the social ladder" and, the developed world, only in Italy and Great Britain is the correlation between what your parents earn and what you earn greater . . . this could be true in America because of the differences in education or because the rungs on our economic ladder are so far apart (and getting farther apart) but the real point is that Elizabeth Warren and Obama's sentiment "that you didn't build that," is true . . . but it's not true because our country's infrastructure helped you to get where you are, it's because your mommy and daddy did.

Dog Days Of Dopiness

I'm into the stage of summer where I probably need to go back to work again; I've lost focus and become a bit lazy . . . I had trouble peeling myself off a lounge chair at the pool the other day, though I was really hot, and barely found the strength to slip into the pool . . . and my reading habits are reflecting this-- I keep switching between three books, one called Lego: A Love Story, a totally frivolous account of how Jonathan Bender gets back into building Lego creations as an adult; another called El Narco, which details the drug war in Mexico and seems like something I should be informed about (but also seems very distant from my life) and a third called It's Even Worse Than It Looks: How The American Constitutional System Collided With the New Politics of Extremism, which also seems like something I should be informed about, and should be able to relate to my students as the election season heats up, but it's really complicated . . . and my students still seem pretty abstract at this point, so I'll probably end up ditching all these books and completing The Ripliad.

Porkocrite

For a guy that claims he doesn't eat pork, I eat a lot of pork (in fact, I may eat a fair amount of pork as compared to a person who actually eats pork).

Barely A Splurge

One of the many horrible things I've learned from Ioan Grillo's book El Narco: Inside Mexico's Criminal Insurgency is that the going rate for an assassination in Juarez is 1000 pesos; Grillo was so flabbergasted by this figure that he checked it with several sources . . . and that's the deal, all it costs to hire a teenage sicario is eighty-five US dollars; this makes sense when you look at the statistics: "120,000 of Juarez youngsters aged thirteen to twenty-four-- or forty five percent of the total-- were not enrolled in any education nor had any formal employment," and so snuffing out someone who crossed you doesn't even warrant a second thought, when life is so cheap that you can hire a hitman and still get change back from a C note.

What Would You Think Of This Guy?

I stepped into my time machine on Tuesday and found my old roller-blades . . . and luckily I've got still got it (it being '90's style) and not only that, but while I was sashaying through the park on my new-old blades, I was singing the lyrics to Madonna's "Borderline," which I just learned on the guitar . . . and while I'm not a terribly judgmental person, I know what I would have thought if I saw this version of me glide by.

You Are What You Run

I went out and did some sprints instead of taking a jog, because Olympic sprinters look much more bad-ass than Olympic distance runners (the distance runners have big alien-like heads and their bodies look fetal).

The Weird Stuff

My son Ian asked me: "What is the weirdest thing you've ever seen?" and I should have said "you" but, alas . . . esprit d'escalier . . . instead I answered, "Recently?" and reminded him of this incident, and then my wife and I got to talking about the all time weirdest thing we ever saw, and we decided it was the whole "oryx in the bathroom in the middle of the Syrian desert practical joke," which I explain near the end of this speech and won't retell here because I think most of you have heard the story.

The Song List

As a mental challenge, I am trying to memorize the chords and lyrics to 100 songs on the guitar, and, for easy reference I am going to keep the running count here on the blog; here is the list so far . . .

1)  Space Oddity (David Bowie)
2)  You Don't Know How It Feels (Tom Petty)
3)  Carmelita (Warren Zevon)
4)  Time After Time (Cyndi Lauper)
5)  Loving Cup  (The Rolling Stones)
6)  King Of Carrot Flowers (Neutral Milk Hotel)
7)  Ramblin' Man (The Allman Brothers)
8)  Dead Flowers (The Rolling Stones)
9)  The Cave (Mumford & Sons)
10) Heavy Metal Drummer (Wilco)
11) Hang Fire (The Rolling Stones)
12) Rich Girl (Hall and Oates)
13) Life During Wartime (The Talking Heads)
14) Eye of Fatima (Camper Van Beethoven)
15) Cripple Creek (The Band)
16) Lodi (Creedence Clearwater Revival)
17) Five Years (David Bowie)
18) Every Rose Has Its Thorn (Poison)
19) Borderline (Madonna)
20) Delia's Gone (Johnny Cash)
21) Holland 1945 (Neutral Milk Hotel)
22) Bad Things (Jace Everett)
23) Bananas and Blow (Ween)
24) Thunder Road (Bruce Springsteen)

Netflix Loves The Olympics

Using only anecdotal evidence (my Netflix viewing habits) I am guessing that Netflix is saving a boatload of money on postage right now, as people are watching the Olympics and not churning through mail order blu-ray discs, and I am wondering if there is some way to take advantage of this in the market and if some clever investor capitalized on the world's love of Olympic Sport (and people really do love Olympic Sport, you can even cajole people into watching synchronized diving, as long as there's the Olympic stamp of approval).

Pros of a Hangover

I'm not sure if this applies to everyone, but nothing inspires me to tackle mundane tasks more than a hangover-- last Friday, after a late night at the pub, I knocked off an entire "honey-do" list-- including dismantling a bomb-proof wheelchair ramp, hanging four framed pictures that had to be clustered together, making some phone calls, unloading the dishwasher, procuring some items at Home Depot, fixing a sink spigot, and cleaning out some crates-- and I still had time to bike with the dog and give my kids a tennis lesson . . . and that was all before noon; I attribute this paradox to several causes:

1) when I have a hangover, my brain functions just well enough to do the tedious tasks that otherwise drive me crazy;

2) when I have a hangover, I'm not particularly inclined to write sentences, play the guitar, start working on my novel, film a Lego movie, animate a cartoon, or any of the other myriad artistic pursuits and hobbies that generally occupy my mind;

3) atonement . . . I feel better about my debauchery if I get some stuff done;

4) my wife: I have trained to her to understand that a late night of drinking will actually increase my production around the house, and so she encourages me to go out and drink.

Water Polo is Boring

There's a good reason the summer Olympics only come round every four years . . . it takes that long to forget how tedious a water polo match is (and yes, I understand that they are tremendously fit and yes I understand that it takes great skill to do anything while treading water, but it's a horrible game-- they swim down the pool with the ball, toss it around the perimeter a bit to show that they can, and then someone whips it at the goal . . . rinse, lather, repeat ad nauseam . . . I humbly suggest adding jet-skis and hungry sharks to the mix).

My Son Ian Should Go Into Politics

Unlike my son Alex-- who has an opinion about everything-- my son Ian holds his cards close to his chest, and so it was a rare moment last week when he revealed his position without any prompting: we were riding in the car, listening to the radio, and he said to me, "Dad, I don't like static."

You Look Sorta Famous


We had an excellent trip to the city on Tuesday . . . we found some stuff in the Met that I've never seen before (mainly in the aboriginal art exhibits-- big scary head-dresses and ritual boats) but if you bring your kids to climb inside Tomas Saraceno's interactive sci-fi fun house sculpture "Cloud City," which is installed on the roof, then be forewarned-- to participate, kids have to be ten years old and 48 inches tall-- and though my kids gamely lied about their age, my son Ian (who just turned seven and is definitely forty-eight inches, on the nose) was just shy of the counter-top, which the museum staff claimed was forty-eight inches tall . . . but they were definitely skeptical about his age; I find this ridiculous, that a kid who has gone on every roller-coaster at Knoebels and conquered Disney's The Tower of Terror without a whimper wasn't allowed to wander around in a mirrored steel sculpture, but-- on the other hand-- there were a lot of old people inside "Cloud City," murmuring things like "it's disorienting, but not terribly organic, like the city itself," and so maybe it isn't the place for my children, who got into a dust up on the rooftop pavilion over an apple . . . anyway, from the Met we hiked down to the Central Park Zoo, which was quite impressive for a small zoo-- especially the sea lion show-- and then, as we trekked diagonally across the park, on our way to Columbus Circle, stopping at playgrounds as we went, we had a celebrity sighting . . . but it took a while to identify the celebrity . . . at first I thought it was Ellen Barkin, but my wife disagreed, and then I remembered it was the woman from the David Lynch movies who also had a small role in Jurassic Park III and a famous dad, but it took another fifteen minutes to remember her name: Laura Dern!


This Book Will Give You A Stomach Ache (But In A Good Way)

Chad Harbach's novel The Art of Fielding begins as an inspirational under-dog baseball story-- I was especially entertained by the aphoristic writing of the fictitious (but suspiciously resembling Ozzie Smith) short-stop Luis Aparicio in his meditative and eponymous tome The Art of Fielding . . . Aparacio writes like a mix between Gabriella Garcia Marquez and Confucius, and though he is highly abstract, he has supreme influence over the books most enigmatic character-- literal, monosyllabic, and taciturn phenom short-stop Henry Skrimshander . . . but the book takes a dark turn, and I think it will seem even darker for sporting fanatics, as the super-talented, super-dedicated, super-underdog Henry develops a case of the baseball "yips," the strange tic that afflicted Mackey Sasser and Chuck Knoblauch . . . and so other characters in the book make terrible choices-- which I could deal with, we all do it-- but I had a very hard time reading about Henry's disintegration . . . it literally hurt to read about the errors he commits . . . we all dream to have the kind of talent Henry possesses and it's brutally hard to watch it implode: ten PowerBoost shakes out of ten.

A Musical Mid-Year Resolution

In order to stave off early onset Alzheimers, I have decided to memorize one hundred songs on the guitar-- more on this over at Gheorghe: The Blog-- and to kick off the challenge, I played three songs at the local open mike in Highland Park; I was very nervous-- playing in front of strangers is totally different than playing songs to high school students in class (high school students are very encouraging when I pull out my guitar, as they know that if I'm playing a song, then they won't be writing an essay) but I made it through all the chord changes of Bowie's "Space Oddity"-- though I didn't sing very loud-- and then a fast version of Cyndi Lauper's "Time After Time" and finally a louder and more confident rendition of Tom Petty's "You Don't Know How It Feels" . . . and while at times I felt out of my league-- there were some very accomplished musicians there (including a guy who played Radiohead on a cello and some very good jazz players and some folks who could really sing) but getting to follow a flamboyant dude with a mustache who sang show-tunes helped my confidence a bit . . . and since the purpose of playing music is to attract chicks, I definitely accomplished my mission, as I acquired some cute back-up singers (none of whom is my wife!) who have promised to sway and harmonize along to Cyndi Lauper at next month's show . . . and I have also started to learn Madonna's "Borderline" so I can use them on that song too . . . as I want a shitload of people to go up there with me, it's far better that way (and thanks to my buddy Connell, who came and tapped on the skins while I played . . . though he's not a drummer . . . he went up there with me just to gave me some accompaniment).

Knoebels vs. Disney Revisited

Another nice thing about Knoebels Amusement Resort is that, unlike Disneyworld, the folks that run the place don't try to teach you anything . . . aside from: getting dizzy and wet is fun!
A New Sentence Every Day, Hand Crafted from the Finest Corinthian Leather.