Halloween Fail

Usually around here on Halloween I start weaving some innocuous story that turns out to be slightly creepy and suddenly takes a weird turn at which you realize that it’s a Halloween stunt.  Not this year.  It is 7:45 in the evening on Halloween.  Owen refused to go trick-or-treating.  He is upstairs, in his bedroom wearing his Captain America Winter Soldier costume with a glow-stick around his neck enjoying a Bugs Bunny movie on the iPad.

Owen is the most empathetic, sensitive person I know.  Things impact him on a deeper level than most of us.  And those things stay with him for a vast amount of time, partially because he has never forgotten a thing.  A few years ago, we went trick-or-treating with some friends and a high school kid in a costume fundamentally freaked him out. And despite the fact that the guy immediately saw what was going on, pulled off his mask and talked Owen out of his initial fright, that experience stuck with him.

At Owen’s elementary school, it was costume day today.  Last year, one of the costumes freaked him out to no end.  He was terrified to his very core.  This year I stayed home from work and let Owen stay home with me to avoid the first grade costume day.  I realize that there will be differing opinions of this move but Owen quite literally worried about this since the first day of school.  We did lots of cool stuff today instead.  We worked on writing, reading and math.  We found an app on the iPad that allowed us to take pictures of ourselves and transform ourselves into ninjas.  We went to the grocery store and found glowsticks and candy corn and had a nice lunch.  But the day was laced with questions about zombies, vampires, mummies and fake blood.  It was clear he was concerned.

Halloween scares the bejesus out of Owen.  Some will say that shielding him isn’t the right answer but exposing him to something that, no matter how benign, will be fundamentally terrifying isn’t the answer either.  As a parent, you pick your battles.  In my world, empathy and sensitivity are rare commodities.  I’m going to do my damnedest to keep my sweet little boy just as empathetic and sensitive as he was born to be.

The Skinny

[A preface:  There's a certain population of folks out there in the great wide interwebosphere who will read this and wonder why I'm bitching about being relatively healthy and in decent shape even at my worst.  Fair enough.  But this is about me and my perspective, not theirs.]

As I mentioned on sticker-pushing shark-jumping Facebook the other day, one of the fairly awesome side-effects of getting my ass (and the rest of me) off steroids is the fact that I dropped around ten pounds inside two weeks.  I still live in fear that whatever caused me to go on the steroids will come back with a vengeance and I’m still in the process of learning to walk correctly again because of the damage they wrought.  But, hey, a little decrease in the waistline is something, right?

When you take steroids for a long time, your body changes.  First, your face becomes fat and round.  Then all the parts of your body that you don’t want to retain water do.  And all the parts that you’d like to keep hydrated dry out.  Which is how I came to be a moon-faced, limping mess with a fat neck and a distinct lack of muscles in my legs.  It’s frustrating when something that’s supposed to help starts working against you.

Most of my adult life, I wore pants with a 30 inch waist and dress shirts with a 15 inch collar.  When I hit my late 30s, both took a small hit.  (Frankly, if you look at our wedding pictures, you’ll notice that I was always way too thin in my 20s.  That or my head was fucking gigantic.)  But six months ago when I found myself buying pants with a 34 inch waist and shirts with 16 inch collars because nothing in my closet fit anymore, it really bothered me and, in a very superficial way, screwed with my self-confidence and image.

I can fit into my old pants and shirts again.  It sure would be nice to walk normally but that’ll come in time with some work.  All things considered, I’d prefer to know that I’m over whatever I was under.  Maybe that’ll come in time too.  At least I can ditch the fat pants.

New York State Of Mind

My favorite city on the face of this earth is New York City.  I decided that this weekend.

Why not Houston, where I grew up?  Houston is a swamp.  It has it’s nice parts but I’d never move back.  Don’t get me wrong – I loved my childhood, I loved growing up there and wouldn’t change a thing.  But Houston is not my favorite city.

Why not DC, where I live now?  I drive into the District every day.  And every day I look at the monuments, the Federal buildings and all the history behind it and it never fails to amaze me that I live here, in the heart of everything.  But DC has no identity.  People rarely come from DC.  They, like me, move here.

So what convinced me that I’m a New Yorker at heart?

Billy Joel.  Fucking fantastic.  Back in 1989, Beth and I were at the same Billy Joel concert.  Of course, we didn’t know each other at the time.  This time, we decided to go together.  Sure, the tickets were pricey but it was the best damn singalong I’ve ever gone to.  Billy – at 65 – put on an incredible show that saw him singing all his hits while covering Elton John, Simon & Garfunkel, Led Zeppelin and AC/DC.  And Madison Square Garden was an awesome venue.

If/Then.  Yes, we made Mia jealous by seeing Idina Menzel on Broadway.  The show was fantastic though it tried too hard at times. The cast was brilliant and I’m pretty sure that 90% of the audience – yes, including me – ended up with more than a few tears in their eyes by the end.  And most of that was due to Idina Menzel’s performance.  I’ve seen a lot of shows and a lot of concerts, but I have never before seen a vocal performance so incredible.  I’m not succumbing to the hype.  Idina Menzel gave the best performance I have ever seen.

Adam Levine.  Yeah, we almost literally ran into Adam Levine on 8th Avenue in front of Bryant Park (my favorite place in the city).  He looked exactly what you’d expect him to look like and sounded (because he was talking loudly into a cell phone) exactly what you’d expect him to sound like.

Marshall Karp.  We had a chance to catch up with our friend – and best-selling author – Marshall Karp.  The lunch on a roof-top in Bryant Park (still my favorite place in the city) can only be described as epic.  It lasted approximately three hours and we covered every conceivable topic.  It might have been the best lunch of my life…for the company, not the food (although the food was really good).

Restaurants.  We hit one of our favorite restaurants (Becco), a new favorite that fell out of favor (Buddokan) and a restaurant that produced the best meals we’ve ever had in the city (Morimoto).  Between that and the beer, it’s amazing that I only gained three pounds.

Legs.  We walked all around the city.  Because of my legs, it was touch-and-go here and there but I’m pretty sure we did at least six or seven miles a day.  Because that’s what we do in NYC.  We explored parts of Central Park we’d never seen, walked from Times Square to Chelsea and back, and perused the fancy stores on Fifth Avenue.  Sure, I had to find a bench sometimes but who cares?

My wife.  It’s my wife’s errrrrhhhth birthday and our fifteenth anniversary.  This was our way of celebrating.  I didn’t really need to be reminded of this but I was, well, reminded of the fact that this hot chick is the love of my life.  We had fun.  We talked.  We laughed.  And she wore more than one outfit that made me say damn repeatedly.  I felt slightly guilty for being a bearded, chubby schlub.

So, yeah.  I’m in a New York State Of Mind.  Pretty much always.

At What Point?

Our area has been dealing with a local story gone national.  It’s the story of Hannah Graham, the University of Virginia who disappeared on September 13.  It’s difficult for two reasons.  First, it hits close to home.  This was a kid who played in her high school marching band just behind my house.  Second, it’s all too common.

As a parent, I can’t fathom what Heather Graham’s parents are feeling.  And, also as a parent, I can’t help but wonder when we have to prepare our children for the big bad world out there.

At what point do we break it to Mia – my beautiful, sweet, insanely smart daughter – that this world is a scary place?  A place in which people – mostly men – might want to take her and hurt her for terrible reasons.  A world in which she needs to learn how to fight back, to hit, to punch and to scream.

I understand that she needs to know these things but I can’t help but feeling that we’re taking a piece of her childhood by telling her.  I don’t like the fact that we have to pull back the curtain and show her that the wizard isn’t all she thought him to be, that the world isn’t always in technicolor, that it’s sometimes black and white, that the tornado is sometimes headed directly toward you, and sometimes this just isn’t Kansas anymore.

New World Order

After watching a story on the Daily Show about the relative incompetence of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, I had a bizarre idea.  And as a result of that bizarre idea, I did a little digging.  If you didn’t see it, the premise of Jon Stewart’s diatribe was the fact that the Committee on Science, Space and Technology was ineffectually debating the concept of climate change in spite of the fact that it actually exists.  I wanted to see exactly who this committee was.  I took a look at the bios of the top ten Republicans and Democrats on the committee to get a sense of their backgrounds.  It’s no wonder they couldn’t have an intelligent debate on science, space or technology…or climate change.  Take a look at their pre-House occupations:

  • Lamar Smith (R) – Lawyer
  • Dana Rohrabacher (R) – American studies, speechwriter
  • Ralph Hall (R) – Lawyer
  • James Sensenbrenner (R) – Lawyer
  • Frank Lucas (R) – Agricultural Economics
  • Randy Neugebauer (R) – Banking
  • Michael T. McCaul (R) – Lawyer
  • Paul C. Broun (R) – Doctor
  • Steven M. Palazzo (R) – Slightly unclear but nothing scientific
  • Mo Brooks (R) – Lawyer
  • Eddie Bernice Johnson (D) – Nurse
  • Zoe Lofgren (D) – Lawyer
  • Dan Lipinski (D) – Engineer
  • Donna Edwards (D) – Lawyer
  • Frederica Wilson (D) – Elementary School Principal
  • Suzanne Bonamici (D) – Lawyer
  • Eric Swalwell (D) – Lawyer
  • Dan Maffei (D) – Reporter, Investment Banker
  • Alan Grayson (D) – Lawyer
  • Joseph P. Kennedy III (D) – Engineer

These are not the droids you’re looking for.  Why are a bunch of lawyers debating climate change?

Congress represents the people but it’s chopped up into committees and subcommittees whose job it is to address very specific issues.  Yet those committees are populated by lawyers, speech writers and former actors.  So let’s do away with the general elections.

The Senate has 100 members, the House 435.  Let’s get a list of the topics we want Congress to address – science, oversight, finance, poverty, technology, gun control, the environment, armed services, health, veterans’ affairs – and allocate a specific number of those 535 to each.  Then let the voters decide.  Let doctors run against doctors to earn a place on a health committee, let environmentalist run against environmentalists to represent you when it comes to global warming, and let bankers run against bankers to monitor the country’s financial markets.

Let’s not elect lawyers to decide on environmental issues or reporters to guide this country into national debates on abortion. Let’s let professional credentials decide who should facilitate intelligent conversations on subjects that we care about, not the white guy with the whitest teeth and shiniest smile.