You go to the eye-doctor, and they dilate the hell out of your eyes, so you can't see . . . and then they expect you to pick out a pair of fashionable frames that fit your face?
Next week my son's U-9 travel team will be playing in the Piscataway 33rd Annual Fall Classic Soccer Tournament, and they will be seasoned veterans, as they played their very first travel team games last year, in the 32nd Annual Fall Classic as wee little six and seven year olds; my favorite memory of last year's tournament happened during a wild rainstorm, and not a warm summer thunder shower, this was a cold pelting downpour, but we were playing our damndest, my son Ian pouncing on balls like a wildcat in goal and the rest of the team slogging through the mud, but one boy -- ironically the tallest on the team -- ran over to me on the sidelines and said, "Coach, I'm cold!" and so I told him all I could think of (remember, it was my first time coaching very young children) . . . I said, "Be a man, Danny, it's only rain," but he put me in my place with his reply: "But Coach, I'm not a man, I'm just a little boy."
When I taught in Damascus, the high school history teacher had her students personally prioritize the concepts in the Bill of Rights; the American kids invariably had "freedom of speech" at the top of their list and the kids from the Middle East had freedom to practice religion at the top of theirs . . . and when the Arab kids were asked how much they valued freedom to criticize their government, most didn't give this right a lot of significance -- "What do I know about that?" one student said -- and this may explain some of what is going on in Egypt and the Middle East right now -- Walter Russell Mead explains it far better than I could (in two recent essays) -- but in America, though liberals and conservatives have no lack of antipathy for one another, we assume that both parties love America more than they hate each other . . . and thus, democracy works (grudgingly) but in the Middle East, when the "wrong" party won (The Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt) then the tribes aligned and the bloodshed began . . . and so it may be a long time, or never, that the dream of both conservative and liberal Americans happens in the Middle East, when these countries adopt middle-of-the-road freedoms and values, and decide that free speech, individual liberties, the right to vote, and checks and balances of a democratic system are worth more than tribal grabs for power and oppression . . . until then, it's going to be very difficult to decide who to back and who to fight, but the cost of screwing this up is very high in terms of human cost . . . if you want to get really depressed, read "City of the Lost," in the New Yorker, a description of the Za'atari refugee camp in Jordan, which is the second largest in the world and growing every day, hosting the enormous flood of Syrians fleeing the bloody civil war that has ravaged their country.
I was absolutely appalled by the behavior of a man in a construction pick-up vehicle last Friday evening; Catherine, the boys, and I were on our way to my brother-in-law's wedding in Hazlet, cruising down Route 516, when we came to a line of stopped vehicles -- and at the front was this white pick-up with an orange light on top of the cab . . . and in front of the pick-up was a small flock of Canada geese, taking their time crossing the road . . . and I should have mentioned earlier that the pick-up had New York plates, so I beeped at him, to indicate that he was now in New Jersey, and here in New Jersey we hate our plague of constantly defecating Canuck fowl, and we certainly don't stop traffic to let them wander in the road (and this guy stopped a good fifty yards from the geese, really giving them a wide berth, like they were some kind of endangered hummingbirds) and after I beeped, I tried to sneak past him in the shoulder, because I am familiar with the behavior of the Canada goose, and know that if you drive your car (or bike) straight at them, they get out of the way, but this guy in the pick-up -- this friend of all creatures great and small, turned and blocked the shoulder as well, so that I couldn't get by, and then, before things got really ugly, the geese vamoosed, and I'm thankful that they did because I was working myself into a righteous indignant rage that may have ended in fisticuffs, and I'm not sure my defense would have held water, that the reason I assaulted this guy was because he wouldn't run over some geese, and then he had the audacity to stop me from running over the aforementioned geese.
I have already pointed out here that while I love to read Chuck Klosterman, he annoys me a bit, because he is such a clear, engaging and relatable writer (for folks of my generation) that his thoughts immediately become my own -- and then I wonder why I didn't think of these things first and clearly articulate them in writing before Klosterman did . . . but, of course, he is a professional and has time to read The Starr Report and books on Hitler, and he has time to rewatch Airplane! and meditate on Kareem Abdul Jabbar and he puts this thinking to good use (along with his comprehensive musical knowledge) in order to write about villains, in his new book I Wear the Black Hat: Grappling With Villians (Real and Imagined) which only took me a day and a half to read (same as his last book) and is the perfect book to read after struggling for two months on Infinite Jest (though I feel like David Foster Wallace and Chuck Klosterman would have got along smashingly), and not only is the book very clever, but it's also very funny . . . after much thoughtful discourse on Bill Clinton, Monica Lewinsky, Kenneth Starr, and Sharon Stone . . . Klosterman then describes Slick Willie like this: "He's the kind of man you could trust to lead the world, but not to drive your wife to the airport."
A Sentence Wherein I Give Chase to a Small Pod of Dolphins on my Paddle-board and Actually Catch Up With Them
I often see dolphins from a distance while riding on my stand-up paddleboard, but I've never been able to close in on them, because dolphins swim fast (and I paddle slow) . . . but last Wednesday morning I gave chase to three cetaceans -- who I am assuming are lazy or crippled -- because I actually caught up to them; they circled my board for a few minutes, curious and close enough to whack with my paddle (not that I go around whacking dolphins with a paddle) and so I have this to report: despite the whole "intelligent and friendly" archetype, dolphins are big and scary in the wild, and also prone to surface behind you and creepily expel air from their blowhole.
I recently wrote a post over at Gheorghe: The Blog about how I don't drink enough liquor and how this is rather unmanly of me, but I rectified this situation last Thursday night (with the help of my friend Mickey, who hosted the event) at an informal Scotch tasting seminar . . . or it turned out to be informal, although Mickey joked in the e-mail that the attire was to be semi-formal, and some people didn't realize this was a joke and dressed themselves to the nines . . . anyway, I learned a few things about Scotch (I like peat! I am also a patriot, and like Pine Barrens American Single Malt Whiskey better than I like the real stuff) and I also learned a few things about Highland Park football . . . Mickey had friends in town for their 45th high school reunion, and -- which is a true testament to high school sports -- they could talk about their days on the gridiron like they happened yesterday (I also learned that Highland Park may be the only school in the football universe that calls the odd holes to the right and the even holes to the left).
I finally did it . . . on my third try, I finished David Foster Wallace's epic post-modern masterpiece, Infinite Jest . . . but I'm not sure that I actually understood it . . . from my perspective, the book takes a rather clinical look at addiction in it's myriad and nefarious forms . . . but it is also a wicked satire on popular culture and entertainment, AND -- I've done some reading (so not only do you have to wade through the 1000 plus pages of text and footnotes, but you also have to read a bunch of on-line essays once you're through, to make sense of the rather inconclusive ending . . . which becomes more conclusive when you re-read the first chapter again, because the first chapter takes place after the action in the novel) there is an obtuse plot about Quebecois separatists and a terroristically addictive piece of entertainment created by Hal Incandenza's auteur father that has fallen into the wrong hands; anyway, I am glad (Year of Glad) I read it, and I am also glad that I finished it before My Year of the Adult Depends Undergarment, and I also highly recommend reading it on a Kindle, because it is easier to navigate the endnotes (and you can look up some of the recondite terminology, although much of it isn't in a normal dictionary and requires the OED or a medical dictionary).
Summer break is winding down here in New Jersey, and so it's time to check-in on my Summer To-do List . . . I did not brush-up on my Spanish while walking the dog, but I did listen to a bunch of Richard Pryor albums and learn how to download podcasts from iTunes, so I'm calling that one a wash . . . I've made some progress recording my album, and decided to tone down the effects and the reverb, so that's a victory . . . I moved the arbor vitae and Leyland cypress from the back property line to the side of the house, and gave the extras to my friend Dom, and the trees are doing well so I'm quite proud of that . . . I did not instal a fence on the back property line, but my wife got a bunch of estimates and got a really good price from one company, so that's a major success for me, because I avoided all the work on that project and it's going to get done, and in a professional fashion . . . I got some shelving units and organized the sporting goods in the study, attended the twentieth annual Outer Banks Fishing Trip, and I have nearly finished Infinite Jest, but I certainly haven't gotten my body fat percentage down to 12% -- in fact, I was nearly two hundred pounds when I got back from the Outer Banks Fishing Trip, so I need to do some serious exercise -- and I did not get new lenses for my glasses or restring my tennis racket . . . and while there is still time to complete these tasks, there's part of me that doesn't want to, because, as David Foster Wallace points out in Infinite Jest, "anhedonia's often associated with the crises that afflict extremely goal-oriented people who reach a certain age having achieved all or more than they'd hoped for," and David Foster Wallace achieved quite a bit on his To-Do list at a very young age and then went and committed suicide, so they guy has some credibility in this department, so perhaps I'll save a few things on my list for next summer (even though not getting new lenses for my glasses is getting rather dangerous).
The venerable and renowned Mamoun's Falafel opened a location in New Brunswick, and, while I must admit that their falafel sandwich is incredibly delicious and without compare, you should still be warned . . . when I asked for hot sauce, the Middle Eastern dude behind the counter said, "Let me give it to you on the side" but he did not say: "The sauce is really f*cking hot and I'm going to give you a very generous portion of it in a little styrofoam container, so that you think to yourself this sauce probably isn't very hot . . . if it was that hot, then they wouldn't give you so much of it, because you'd only need a little bit to spice your falafel" and so, following this erroneous logic, I liberally applied the sauce to my sandwich and by the time I finished, my eyes were full of tears and my nose was running profusely (but, of course, I did finish the sandwich, as it was very delicious, despite all the weeping).
I recently pointed out that all of my clothing is disintegrating -- like a giant tub of old yogurt, it's all expiring at once -- and in this batch is one of my favorite t-shirts, and I'm fairly sure there's never going to be a t-shirt quite like this one (it was silk-screened long before Columbine and Sandy Hook) and so I want to memorialize it here for digital eternity: the front of the t-shirt says "SPOTSWOOD CHARGERS SOCCER" and the back has a telescopic circle and cross-hairs and sighted within the cross-hairs are a zebra, a ram, a bulldog, a tiger, and a stallion . . . which are the mascots of the teams that were in our division, which we were obviously in the process of shooting to kill.
Most of you probably know this, but you can download a multitude of podcasts for free on iTunes (it's especially easy if you "subscribe" to them) and one of my favorites is an episode of RadioLab called "The Bad Show," which takes a look at the dark side of human nature -- and, among other things, includes bits on Stanley Milgram's experiment (a new take!), serial killers, the inventor of mustard gas, and some notably evil Shakespeare characters . . . I especially like the comparison between Iago's explanation for why he manipulated Othello into strangling his lovely and faithful wife Desdemona (demand me nothing, what you know . . . you know) and the explanation of the serial killer Gary Leon Ridgeway -- a.k.a. the Green River River Killer -- who may have killed over ninety women, when his interrogator finally asks him "Why?" Ridgeway tells him: "I needed to kill because of that . . ."
My wife found a CrossFit routine on-line, and while I know very little about the program, I have learned this: if you repeat this innocuous little list of exercises three times over in a short period of time (it takes me twenty minutes to complete) you will get very sweaty, pray to a higher power at least once, and be tired for the rest of the day . . . here is the list . . .
1) 10 jump lunges;
2) 10 burpees (a squat thrust with an included push-up);
3) 10 jump squats;
4) 20 sit ups;
5) 20 mountain climbers;
6) 20 calf raises;
7) 30 Russian twists;
8) 30 jumping jacks;
9) 30 high knees;
10) 1 minute plank.
1) 10 jump lunges;
2) 10 burpees (a squat thrust with an included push-up);
3) 10 jump squats;
4) 20 sit ups;
5) 20 mountain climbers;
6) 20 calf raises;
7) 30 Russian twists;
8) 30 jumping jacks;
9) 30 high knees;
10) 1 minute plank.
The last TV show I watched in real time was Seinfeld . . . I remember frenetic discussions of the previous night's episode at cafeteria duty . . . and I also remember when Catherine and I taped "The Betrayal," otherwise know as "the backwards episode" because of the reverse chronology (you could mark the passage of time by looking at Kramer's giant lollipop) but when we tried to play the episode back, we started in the middle, and got confused by the reverse chronology (and the lame nature of VHS technology) and ended up skipping around on the tape and watching the episode forwards in tiny fragments . . . but we just got cable TV this summer -- it was cheaper to get it bundled with our FIOS than to not have it at all -- and I watched the season premier of Breaking Bad on Sunday night . . . and because it's been so many years, I forgot how annoying it is to watch something in real time: you have to endure commercials and previews, you can't put on subtitles, there's no pausing so you can ask your wife pertinent questions or look up tangentially related details on the internet, and, worst of all, you have to wait until 9 PM to get started . . . I will try to make it through the final season because I love the show so much, and also so I can actually talk to people at work about the current plot twists, instead of running out of the room screaming, "DON'T SAY ANYTHING!" when anyone mentions Walter White, but after this one exception, then I am going back to my Netflix rabbit hole.
You'll have to head on over to Gheorghe: The Blog today to get your daily fix of Dave; I brandish my vast and sagacious sporting knowledge in a piece titled "Put Me in Coach, I'm Ready to . . . Coach? Coach? Coach?"
I love the FX show Justified -- U.S. Marshall Raylin Givens has returned to his old stomping grounds, Harlan County (where they know the difference between dynamite and road flares) and his predilection to shoot first and ask questions later makes for some excellent TV . . . but as I watch, there is always an undercurrent running through my mind, and it is this: are there really that many good-looking people in Kentucky?
I am attending a "scotch tasting" event next week, and I'm a little nervous because I'm not a big liquor drinker . . . in fact, all I know about scotch is that it invariably makes me think of the George Thorogood cover of the old drinking song "One Bourbon, One Scotch, and One Beer" . . . though Thorogood's lesser known sequel is more appropriate for my unrefined palate: "One Mojito, One Bay Breeze, and One Zima."
I am moonlighting (or daylighting, as David Foster Wallace calls it) a bit on Infinite Jest . . . and I know the last time I did this I ended up quitting the novel -- but it's four years later and I have learned my lesson, this time I am committed, but I just need a little break to read Brett Martin's new book with this double-coloned mouthful of a title: Difficult Men: Behind the Scenes of a Creative Revolution: From The Sopranos and The Wire to Mad Men and Breaking Bad . . . his thesis is that TV has entered a "third Golden Age" and that these new high quality cable shows are like nothing before -- they are neither episodic nor mini-series -- instead they resemble Victorian serialized fiction, like Dickens, and because of this format, they are much more beholden to the writers and creators -- rather than the actors and producers -- than any TV before, and these writer/creator folks happen to be moody, flawed, ambitious and brilliant men, and this personality type reflected in the "heroes" of these shows . . . characters such as Vic Mackey and Walter White and Don Draper and Tony Soprano and Jimmy McNulty.
If you lie on the floor with your head scrunched against a little seat (in order to be in the room with the most A/C) and read for an extended period of time, then the back of your head and your neck can lose circulation and "fall asleep" -- I've had my arms, legs, and butt fall asleep, of course, but I never had this region fall asleep until yesterday, and it felt mildly psychedelic when the rear portion of my skull suffered the dreaded "pins and needles."
In an attempt to shed some of the pounds I have put on during summer vacation, I have started doing a CrossFit work-out my wife found on-line . . . and I have learned that Russian Twists, though they sound fun and sexy, are neither.
My parents find nothing funnier than my annual Outer Banks Fishing Trip -- because I travel all the way to North Carolina and some of the best fishing grounds on the East Coast . . . but my fraternity brothers and I never fish -- instead we eat fish and drink beer and gamble and generally laze around on the beach, and I suppose actually fishing would otherwise interrupt this excellent break from all routine (aside from going to Tortuga's at 11:15 AM sharp every morning to get in line to storm the bar) . . . and before I left I promised my kids that I would do something fun with them when I got home, and -- of course -- they requested to go fishing.
Another successful OBFT -- this was number twenty . . . and I am twenty for twenty (as are Whitney and Rob) although I was a bit nervous about making it down there -- train tickets doubled in price and airline tickets are through the roof -- so I drove . . . which turned out to be a good move, because quite a few flights were cancelled, leading to some travel adventures for Johnny, Marls, and Zman and a record number of cars in the Martha Wood Driveway . . . some things I remember: 1) some scatological humor at Whitney's place Wednesday night 2) a new frisbee beach game named KanJam, which caused me a minor injury (bruised thumb) and Chris a major injury (deep cut on the bridge of his nose) 3) several marathon corn-hole streaks 4) a major corn-hole partner defection 5) Whitney sabotaged my blog 6) Rob's new anti-strategic poker move -- named "the betfold" -- you simultaneously bet and throw in your hand 6) good food and drink at The Old Nag's head Cafe . . . and when one member of the group (who will go unnamed) forgot to pay his bar tab, we found out what a small town Kill Devil Hills really is . . . and not to mess with the locals, who might know Bruce 7) Johnny played Cliffy in a fabulous one on one football game 8) the old guys beat the "young" guys two to one in a very short touch football game . . . and we employed the zone 9) a typical game of Pig . . . Whitney hit the trifecta -- three sets of snake-eyes, doubles 3x in a row, and landed on one hundred points exactly - and so got to reante five times in two games 10) Marls and Whitney brought back fifteen rubber sharks from Tortuga's 11) Bruce told another joke too tasteless for the internet . . . and probably a bunch of stuff I'm forgetting because I'm still tired from the trip: thanks again Whitney, and it was great to see everyone.
I learned from a Freakonomics Radio Podcast (Women are Not Men) that while women are catching up and even surpassing men educationally and economically, there are some things at which men still significantly outperform women . . . things such as drowning and getting struck by lightning (men overestimate their ability to swim and they are outside more than women and don't come in during storms) and barely twenty-four hours after I listened to these sobering statistics, I found myself swimming -- alone -- off the shore of Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina as a storm rolled in . . . but I didn't come out of the water until it started raining so hard that it hurt my face, and once I got back into the Marth Wood Cottage, where I was spending the weekend with twenty other brilliant W&M men, we discussed what my cause of death would be if I was struck by lightning and drowned, and if we could pad the stats and attribute my death to both causes, but the important thing is that either way, it would have been a victory for Team Male.
In Orange is the New Black (Jenji Kohan's new Netflix show) educated white girl Piper Chapman goes to federal prison for a year, and she makes her fiance promise not to watch Madmen while she is doing her time, so that they can watch it together when she is released, but he can't resist . . . and, ironically, the show is so good that my wife couldn't resist watching two episodes without me (but I wasn't in jail, I was at a Red Bulls game, so I guess it's not exactly the same thing).
The Red Bulls stoppage time 4-3 victory over Real Salt Lake was even more stunning than the Portuguese bartenders at the Madrid y Lisbon . . . four goals in the last fifteen minutes, two of them spectacular; if soccer games were always this exciting, Americans might start to watch.
I'm always in fear that I will run out of sentences to write, and that day may be looming close -- I was driving on Route 18 on Monday and I saw a truck with giant spike lug nuts and thought: are those really necessary? and then my next thought was: I should write a sentence about how trucks are already intimidating enough and don't need any extra-intimidating accessories, but you can see where this is going . . . I already wrote that sentence, two years ago, and while I'm proud of the fact that I had the perspicacity to check and see if I wrote that sentence previously, I'm worried that the day will come when I won't think to do this (and what's even worse, is that most likely, no one will notice).