Friday, December 31, 2004

2004's Swan Song

As I sat down at the PC to galvanize my thoughts into this post, my final entry for 2004, I killed the lights, filled a glass with some port (Fonseca, Bin 27), lit a cigar (a Padron 1964 Anniversario Diplomatico Maduro), fired up Eric Johnson's "Venus Isle" and let the music and the Padron take me elsewhere. It's been quite some time -- specifically, November 8th -- since I felt it was appropriate to have a cigar. I've gone out with friends and "celebrated," but the Padrons are akin to going to the garage and taking an annual drive with the Bentley Mulsanne Turbo R coupe, the Mercedes 300SL Gullwing or the Aston Vantage Volante. I've got cuban cigars in both humidors but nothing seems to touch the Padrons or where they bring me, so one quick hit with the Xikar and the Dupont and the Padron was glowing and fershtoonken up my apartment.

The whirlwind that has been 2004 is winding down -- now merely a consecutive run of hours, really -- and all that this year is so too is fading. The fear, anger, sadness and pain that I've experienced this year has slowly but surely trickled into the past, and like a phoenix rising from the proverbial ashes, who has emerged is someone very much like me, but stronger, happier, more confident and more assured of my place and purpose in life. Lofty and self-important, perhaps, but never have I been this certain that everything will be okay. My family's bonds, which were shaken mightily this year, have not only remained intact but become stronger. I found someone with whom I want to spend my life making happy and from whom I can derive happiness, without the need for schedules, ultimatums or insecurities. And I realized that things, no matter how awful, shitty or repulsive, really do happen for a reason.

Work-wise, the shit hit the fan with a vengeance. When the world is turned on its ear, everything follows suit, for better or worse. It must be some sort of cosmic attempt to keep the ship righted, so with the upheaval of August came work-related chaos as well. Luckily we've got a wonderful client base that was understanding and caring and patient and a positive, rather than a negative, factor. Couple that with the fact that we as a unit do good work and enjoy a great reputation and we landed on our feet and hit the ground running. And as one piece fell into place, others filled in as if by magic. It's like, I realized recently, a skyscraper: the foundation strong, the structure remains in place even if a part of it is damaged. Once the injured section is repaired the building remains, and perhaps grows stronger and more solid.

Personally, I learned a lot about those closest to me, from down the hall to down the block to across the country to across the world and, as a result, a lot about myself. A friend recently shared with me a quote from Oscar Wilde, which is as follows: "A true friend stabs you in the front." The quote signifies that those who truly care about you will give you the truth, despite your disinterest in hearing it. And I was 'stabbed' many a time by friends, most of whom, upon hearing of August's news, responded with "What were you thinking?" It's somewhat of a relief that everyone who had prior knowledge of my situation had very similar reactions, but very disconcerting that I was the only one who didn't see it coming. Ironically, both my parents saw the coming storm on the horizon and tried to alert me, but part of adulthood is learning who to trust and who not to, and to see dysfunction and disingenuous people for what they are. I'm glad my personal learning experience didn't similarly conclude as did David Keith's character in An Officer and A Gentleman, who commits suicide as a result of a woman's deceit; unfortunately, no one expected it would be my father, rather than me, who wound up in the hospital as a result of their behavior. With the passing of 2004, all of the anger, sadness and pain that they caused will be buried, and all that remains now is the lesson. And, as Bo Bennet wrote: "It is not our mistakes that define who we are; it is how we recover from those mistakes."

So where does that leave us at so critical and significant a juncture in time? 2005 will be a momentous, important, wonderful year; I'm looking forward to each of its 365 days as opportunities to be happy, to be thankful, to smile and to appreciate what I have. My father, back from a place I cannot fathom; my family, humming and purring along the highway of life like a 1970 Ferrari 365 GTB/4 Daytona; my conscience, clean and content; and my Kitten, bringing me to a place with just a smile or a glimmer in her eye. Thinking about her, I am instantly and constantly reminded of lyrics from a Steely Dan song, Almost Gothic: "She's pure science with a splash of black cat."

I am looking to 2005 and the future as a sort of reprieve for the mistakes of the past few years and the return to normalcy that escaped me during the second half of 2004. As quickly as things became as horrible as they did, my amazement and wonder in life has indeed been reborn, and I am thankful. I wish those of you who have been there for my family and I over the past year and before have a safe, happy, healthy, wonderful 2005 and beyond. Of course, I wish those things for my family as well, but to be where we are, especially considering where we've been, makes wishing for anything seem greedy. I will, however, make one final wish, and that is for my other half: I hope that our life together knows no bounds, no limits and no delays to its journey. Above that, I hope we never spend another day or night apart. You've taught me that burying the past is worthwhile but embracing the future is crucial. And I'm looking forward to validating the optimism and the happiness you've rekindled in me, not just in 2005 but forever.



Wishing you all a happy new year seems so inadequate, so I will thank you again for being you and for being there and wish to you and your families and friends nothing but good things for 2005 and the future.





for kaia


When The Sun Meets The Sky
Eric Johnson

This Sunday, you were blowin' through my mind,
Like Tuesday, you were burnin' in my eyes.
I hoped today could be just kind of my way
'Cause it so much matters that you're there;
And I'd hoped today could lead me into your way,
But I fell down in some disrepair.

The sparks here, they can lead me up the town,
But it's dark here, if I don't have you around.
So I hoped today would lead me kind of your way,
And the sun would be shining on my face;
And I'd hoped the road would lead me to your doorway,
But I fell down in some disrepair.

So when the sun, meets the sky
I'm gonna take a ride,
And get to where I do;
When your love is gonna call me home I will run to you,
the way you want me to;
Oh we'll sing.

I hoped today would lead me kind of your way,
With a love, and treasures we'd find there;
And through all the fog, the cracks, the cogs, a gateway,
There I'd find someone to repair me.

So when the sun, meets that sky,
I'm gonna take a ride,
and get to where I do.
And with your love is gonna call me home,
I will run to you, the way you want me to.

So when the sun starts to shine,
I'm gonna take a ride, and
get to where I do,
When your love is gonna call me home.
I return to you,
the way you want me to.

Oh, we'll sing.

Thursday, December 30, 2004

Tsunami, Revisited

Since I last addressed the horrific tragedy that unfolded in Asia this week, I've been watching and absorbing the sheer number of human lives that were lost, incredulous. Last night my other half and I were reading the news -- the number of fatalities skyrocketed from a 'mere' 25,000 or so to 80,000, and the final estimation is hovering in the neighborhood of over 110,000 people lost. The numbers are staggering -- and what seemingly pours fuel on this fire is the notion that each one person lost has a family, friends and acquaintances that are eternally tied into the loss. For those trying to put perspective on this tragedy, Madison Square Garden holds 18,000 people, Giants Stadium holds 50,000 + and The Big House in Ann Arbor holds about 80,000. That means -- in the space of 90 minutes, in a roar of panic, upheaval (literally and figuratively) and horror, an entire stadium -- spread over several nations -- was wiped away. Gone. What's left is an unfathomable collection of corpses -- in schools, churches, stores, houses -- and the smell of decay, sewage and disease. Many of the tourists that were even marginally affected by this disaster are being very well treated by the host governments of Thailand, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, etc., and will eventually be able to return to their own countries. What of the peoples who have lost their entire lives as a result of this destruction? Forget the loss of human life, if possible, for a moment -- without livelihood, housing or medical attention, how many more will wish they never survived the actual incident? Troubling, sad, macabre and awful -- on so many, many levels. Seeing a child being carried and buried by his or her family is upsetting; seeing this episode repeated a hundred times over, well, I don't think they have a word which adequately describes the appropriate sentiment.

Beyond my sadness over this, my girlfriend and I have been reading firsthand accounts from survivors describing the swift, powerful and all-encompassing destruction that transpired, and neither of us have been able to stomach much of it simply because it is painful to read. What did occur to me, however, is how the Internet and its ubiquity has changed the face of this, both the on-site assistance angle and the ability for us to peek inside this situation, for better or worse. Between the dehumanizing nature of Internet dating and communication and the isolation and disassociation in many lonely, pathetic people that is exacerbated by the world wide web, I've long wondered what the long-term social ramifications of the Internet will be on us as a culture or on this planet. However, it's nice to see that many people have established blogs and other points of contact to facilitate people finding their relatives and loved ones within the confines of this chaotic environment. Between that and reading about peoples' experiences surviving this, it's put an unabashedly human spin on the whole thing, which has remarkably brought into focus just how destructive, awful and horrific this has been. I remember, on 9/11, looking south on 3rd Avenue and seeing smoke and dust rising where downtown should have been, and I remember the chaos, the tears and the smells of being on Fulton Street and Broadway the day after the attacks. Reading about the tragedy that occurred this week reminds me that words and perspective are 2/3's of experience, and absorbing all that's happened via the Internet allowed me entry and experience that a three-column, above-the-fold in the New York Times simply wouldn't.

I hope that this tragedy, and all that have been affected by it, recedes and people reclaim their lives and their happiness. And I know all too well that it will be a very long time before the affects of this terrible incident even remotely begin to fade in our collective consciousness. In my own, personal way, I hope and pray for all the people who have felt loss, and despite being halfway around the world and not witnessing it firsthand, I know I will feel this pall for some time to come.

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Jerry Orbach, 1935-2004

Was there ever an actor who made the supporting role more prevalent, memorable or endearing than Jerry Orbach? J.T. Walsh, who passed away several years ago, routinely played hard, despised characters, whether in "Sling Blade," "Breakdown" or even "Executive Decision." He made a career out of being memorably unmemorable.

But Jerry Orbach was different. He spent so many years dispensing "Law & Order" that my long-term memory of him will be him walking the streets of New York in a tan trenchcoat and with that Dick Wolf theme music in the background.

My personal favorite of his many roles was as mobster Nicholas DiFranco in the movie F/X, with Bryan Brown, Brian Dennehy and Mason Adams (aka the voice of Smuckers). Essentially, Orbach's character is a sitting duck, protected in a chateau while the good guy, Bryan Brown, is coming to kill him. Once Brown manages to get into the house and dispose of a few bodyguards, Orbach offers up the killer line: "He's inside your fucking house!" It might not have been Shakespeare, but it was good enough for me ;-)

Speaking of the theater, it amazed me to know he originated roles in The Fantasticks, 42nd Street and Chicago (the original version, from the 70's) on Broadway. So not only did he master the movies and television but he was an innovative, respected actor on the stage as well.

It's obviously a shame that he's gone, and even when it was announced, less than a month ago, that he was undergoing treatment for prostate cancer, I never imagined he'd lose the battle. It's unfortunate and really a shame for those of us who feel we knew him; it's bittersweet in that he excelled at his craft to the point where anyone who watched him perform felt as if they knew him.

As Dick Wolf, executive producer of Law & Order opined this morning, Jerry Orbach is irreplaceable.

Agreed.

Signs of a New Tomorrow

They say the true test of a culture is how it treats its imprisoned. In an effort to stick up for modern America, I must admit I believe that assertion to be bullshit. If, in a thousand years from now, people were to read stories about Riker's Island (or simply watch an episode or three of Law & Order), we wouldn't be very highly judged. Rather, I suggest a culture should be judged on the signs by which is goes about advertising and marketing itself within the confines of the culture itself.

Imagine, billboards being the harbinger of our destiny. These giant roadside advertisements hawking everything from the WonderBra to Jesus's Church of Automotive Needs to a new film's release starring Burt Reynolds, Chevy Chase, Loni Anderson and Herve Villechaize could be earmarked for their "cultural significance." We could dispense with common decency laws, ie public displays of nudity and obscenity, in favor of a more pertinent standard: what does this advertisement say about us culturally?

Well, if magazine stands in New York are to be part of the discussion, then we as a society are indeed a High Society that enjoys Black Tail, Bigg Juggs, Inches, People and Sports Illustrated. Obscenity and/or decency laws in places like Buster Brown, Mississippi, are very different from those in midtown Manhattan, which is perfectly understandable: remember that people in Buster Brown don't realize exactly how much practice, skill and patience it takes to use a banana as anything other than as a food item for oral consumption, whereas New Yorkers, for a small fee, can get lessons in how the banana can be used as a sort-of homemade projectile. And for a nominally additional fee, said New Yorkers can observe a demonstration of said skill.

What I find most interesting, however, in my walking travels around New York, is the variation and creativity which advertisements atop taxis have shown. In the past, the triangular, lit boxes that festooned cabs in and around the City merely advertised a taxi company itself; these days, however, said ads are sophisticated, selling everything from ESPN scores and updates (with scrolling LED displays) to bathroom tissue ("Try Charmin, it's the squeeziest") to entire states. Yesterday I actually spied the most unique ad I'd ever seen: "Come to Texas, enjoy the weather" (with the sub-slogan below: "Voted Best Business Climate"). Another ad proclaimed "Montana. Because you deserve it." Deserve what? What did I do to deserve that? I think I would have remembered, or at least been admonished by a police officer, if not locked up overnight, for doing whatever it is that got me into this deserving state relating to Montana. And is it for life, like herpes, or is it a 3-5 situation with the option for early parole?

If we endeavored to use advertising to tell it like it is, rather than how it "should" be, ads could really spice up the every-day. We could see highly entertaining concepts immortalized in brightly-lit colors selling everything from "Cock-fighting...all the cool chicks are doing it," to "Hair Regrowth Solution No. 7 -- unless you never want to get laid again without paying for it," to a special kind of topless bar called "Santa's North Pole Hideaway -- don't tell Mrs. Claus." Now, we merely get a hint of things to come when we see taxi-top ads for topless bars like Flashdancers, Private Eyes and Scores which depict comely women from the shoulders up, which, to me, seems sort of nonsensical, as this part of a woman's anatomy is the least significant portion thereof to the average strip club customer. Frankly, I believe an educated consumer should be something for which society should strive, so I think a full-motion monitor displaying these various establishments' employees near the entrance to said establishment should be implemented. This way, we could cut out the middle-man and decide whether or not we should enter the establishment in the first place. It would save all of us a lot of time, aggravation and wasteful spending. And that is something we, as a society, should strive.

Some of these suggestions might be a bit too advanced for modern America to fully accept, I understand that. But I think that these could be valuable, notable improvements to our cultural landscape. As it stands now, the only real excitement one can anticipate in New York in public is watching a homeless guy urinate on the sidewalk (or defecate, if it's a slow 'spare change' collection day). So if we were able and willing to redefine our roles as keepers of the culture, and were able to serve up some new, fresh, creative concepts, our time spent on this planet -- and as New Yorkers, at the very least -- could and would be more valuably served. And, if nothing else, we could insure our legacy to those who will follow in our footsteps will not be laden with violence, war, tears and strife, but large breasts, lapdances and dwarf-tossing. I think, in the grand scheme of things, it's at least worth consideration.

It's either that -- or it's "Montana. Because you deserve it."

You be the judge.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

The Final Ride of the Halcyon

Tethered to the powder-blue and the angel-white, soaring
through lanes of air, a ballet of winter and summer, turning
on edge-creased parchment and wisps of fennel and silk thread.

Her wings expand and soothe the turmoil in my soul, weaving
through the waves and the expanse while I surge through boundaries
and golden hours that melt like dust through my fingers.

Her flight terminates in a flourish of schedules, organized chaos,
reaching its peak and mine with a crescendo of the solstice I didn't
expect.

Tranquility and prosperity are her promise, as are mine to her,
calming and empowering and doting on the uncertainties of reality's truth,
shining and beckoning partnered contentedness for time and the
open-ended end of time.

Tsunami, Pt. II

This week has brought some tragic, unfortunate news, but none moreso than the earthquake and subsequent tsunami that rocked Asia and Africa. We as humans have witnessed many large-scale natural disasters both on US soil and abroad, but the numbers of fatalities in connection with today's tsunami are staggering: 22,000 people and counting lost their lives as a result of today's extreme weather.



What I find upsetting beyond the number of dead is the fact that this occurred within 90 minutes; according to eyewitnesses, around 7AM Sunday there was an earthquake in Sri Lanka, roughly 9.0 on the richter scale, which was off the coast. Within 90 minutes, a succession of huge waves (tsunamis) spread across Asia and Africa and left 10,000 dead in Sri Lanka alone.

The notion of a giant wave (or a series of gigantic waves) pounding the earth so mightily as to swallow thousands of people is beyond comprehension, even for those of us that saw The Day After Tomorrow, the disaster flick starring Dennis Quaid which was released in theaters this past summer and strikingly depicted the statue of liberty's torch partially covered by snow. Natural disasters like earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes and tidal waves are all part of our reality as humans on this earth; we might possess the power to destroy the planet 500 times over with nuclear weapons and we certainly control the technology which permits us to fly to other planets, but things like today's tsunami put our place on this planet (and perhaps in the galaxy) into very sharp focus.

The last time I saw, vividly, anything remotely resembling a giant wave was at the concluding scene of the movie Point Break, which, as a movie, was a complete disaster (no pun intended). The tail sequence of the film involves the "50-Year Storm" which is said to strike the coast of Australia, pounding the beach with 100-foot waves for which every balls-to-the-wall surfer waits decades. Today's waves, however, enveloped communities: along with humanity, the waves siezed cars and vehicles and yanked them as if they were made of paper. Frightening to read about, perhaps, but even moreso to experience.

The first time I became familiar with the term Tsunami was in the late 80's after I'd seen a print by the Japanese artist Katsushika Hokusai, whose work "The Great Wave off Kanagawa" (1823) was originally implemented as a wood carving of several boats caught in the throes of a tsunami (see below). The work captivated me and I studied the print and the artist.



But never did I expect to hear that the real-world manifestation of the elegance of the print, of its sophistication and its simplicity, could result in the deaths of 20,000 or more people.

I suppose its our modern naivete which makes today's news as shocking as it is; many of us who have seen any of the Jaws movies still ponder how an 18-foot shark could rip a man in half off the coast of Australia (only last week), and still others among us lived through a succession of deadly hurricanes this summer in Florida.

Below, a picture of San Francisco City Hall after the 1906 earthquake which leveled much of the city.




Below, Sacramento Street on fire, 1906:



A picture after the 1980 eruption of Mt. Saint Helens:



Finally, a depiction of Kaika Bay near Haleiwa in Russia, 1952:



All of these images, presumably, captivate and mystify us, shocking and frightening us as they remind us how insignificant and impotent we are, as humans, in comparison to the power of the planet and its weather systems. Many of us, within a few days, if not a few weeks, will forget the news we read today; hopefully, the elegance of these images will serve in the coming days to remind us that, perhaps, we as a species are merely spending time on this planet, and if we don't respect our surroundings, they have the power to chew us up and spit us out.

Sobering, pessimistic and overly dramatic, perhaps; but in the span of 90 minutes, 22,000 people were convinced. Frightening, dramatic and, if nothing else, something to ponder next time one is caught in especially heavy rain.

Monday, December 27, 2004

An Albatross No More

Being stuck in my apartment with little else to do but clean and watch ineffectual daytime/weekend television, I was organizing my CD collection that, as of this writing, numbers about 4,000 and counting. I came across the eponymous Genesis album, which has as its cover a selection of "Perfection" pieces. The album, like many late-model Genesis offerings, was more a Phil Collins vehicle over his many failed relationships and divorces than a collection of quality offerings. Still, "Home By The Sea" and "Second Home By The Sea" and even "Silver Rainbow" are downright solid tracks. And "Mama" is a great tune, even if it recalls for me, in a weird way, some very freaky, disturbed people. "You taunt, you tease, me Mama, but I just can't keep away." Freaky.

In the process of ripping the CD while continuing to clean, I processed some of the album's lyrics, specifically those from the tune "That's All." "Tell me it's black when I know that it's white" took on different significance to me this time around, and I sort of knowingly smiled, realizing I was happy once again. It occurred to me that some people will always be in a cocoon of unhappiness, misery and dissatisfaction in life: the most familiar of the analogies is the "glass is half empty" mentality. A more real-world example, for me, is a recent Valentine's Day episode where I produced lavender roses for my then-girlfriend and she spent the better part of two hours in an all-encompassing funk because they weren't red. She attempted to salvage the holiday, and, in a microcosmic attempt to salvage the relationship, by recycling the holiday. In this case it didn't quite work, and, thankfully, I realized it never really does.

Overall, the past couple years has produced some very vivid, unfortunate memories of holidays, weekends and evenings that I have happily buried. They're still somewhere there in the subconscious, but they are -- and will always be -- reminders that mistakes are mistakes that can be rectified, discarded and stuffed into a closet.

So as New Year's Eve approaches, I once again am excited and looking forward to actually celebrating rather than surviving it as I had the past couple years. Being in a perpetually unhappy place, I discovered, is like wearing a yoke of 150 pounds of concrete on your back, but instead of it merely weighing you down physically, it does so emotionally. And I didn't quite realize this until August, when I finally shed the yoke, both literally and figuratively, for good. After a lot of pain, strife and difficulty, I was able to stow those Perfection pieces once and for all and face the future -- whether it's this morning, this weekend or New Year's Eve -- with optimism, happiness and a smile. Let someone else deal with the albatross -- I'll perpetually keep a half-full glass of water and a bouquet of freshly-bloomed lavender roses to remind me, without uncertainty, that I will never again let myself get shoe-horned, nagged, guilted, scolded, or brought into an unhappy, miserable world of disenchantment and disappointment. I'm back to perpetually smiling, and it feels good. 2005 is coming, and once I walk through that door, I'll leave behind the albatross, close the door, and never look back.

Sunday, December 26, 2004

Timing is Everything/Sweet Spot

Teacups and saucers, neatly arranged, checkerboarded and obtuse
in their random displays of chaotic order.
Bitter cold, frosting life's color, sinking warmth, hues and tints,
cueing and tweaking blues, browns and yellows
in preparation of the new midnight sun.

Early morning glory, glaring in its brilliant subtlety, pounding
through windows closed and sealed from the outside.
Eyelids fluttered in closing distances, counting tiles and minutes
like toothpicks scattered on a parquet floor.

Elbows skewed to reveal weakness,
predisposed to fear and power as its own deterrent.
Cracks in the sidewalk, warm hands and dying wind
through the sodium light, the ordinary world,
envelopes and cascades over me like a blanket
of mercury.

Her red lips burn through me and count my blessings,
toothpicks and minutes snap into oblivion and the feeble fading
as we return to a cocoon and to our extraordinary, silent
contented ease.

Friday, December 24, 2004

Winding Down 2004 and Looking To The Future

So as my sickness is (barely) fading along with the calendar year, I am "celebrating" Erev Christmas and Christmas Day by either going home with my sister to hang with the parental unit, especially my father, or by staying away from him so I don't get him sick. I'm not quite sure whether I'll wind up in NJ or NY, but I am hoping I can see and spend time with him, and if not for Christmas Day, then at least for his birthday, which is the day after Christmas.

I did some errands today, starting with picking up a couple french baguettes (for garlic bread), a ciabatta loaf (an herbed portuguese bread) and a few other delectable treats from Eli's at 91st and York, just a few blocks from my apartment. There are other places in the city where one can procure excellent produce, fish and meat, and there are cheaper places to do so as well, but I love Eli's and always will. The last time I'd visited Eli's was in November with my girlfriend and we did some "snack" shopping, so today, while I perused what I needed, I also had, tucked away in my subconscious, our plans for a small summertime party we're going to throw for a few friends. As I made my way from Eli's back to my place it dawned on me, happily, that the pain of the past is as distant and fading in my mind as the warmth and the happiness of both the present and the future is omnipresent in my heart. Yet another sign that when things are right, things really are right.

So I got in and dropped everything from Eli's, as well as a few odds and ends for my dad's birthday (the new Crichton book from Barnes and Noble, a daily Yankee desk calendar and a four-CD collection of classical music), and got to work on prepping the garlic bread. Since I won't be finishing it until tomorrow, I just whipped together a bunch of garlic butter -- a bunch of fresh garlic, mashed into a paste, and mixed with unsalted whipped butter, some flat-leaf parsley (chopped into oblivion) and a small chiffonade of basil. We're also doing a huge baked ziti and, if I have a say, either garlic spinach or brocolli rabbe. One way or the other we'll all do something and finish with a great dinner.

Yet again, despite our not "celebrating" Christmas, this is another strange day among the last four months of many strange days. But as this strangeness is coming to an end, and things are slowly returning to normalcy, there's still a measure of everything not being quite right. Whether it's not spending time with my family like we've done in the past, or just largely being a prisoner in my apartment since I got sick, everything feels a little 'off.' I'm looking forward to recharging this weekend, kicking back, hanging with the family and relaxing. And pulling that atomic garlic bread out from under the broiler, too ;-)

In other news, I spoke to a friend who told me he's planning on relocating to Miami for work; he's a planning consultant for a PR firm so he's going to be in a hot location, both literally and figuratively. He'd been begging me to take him racing on Long Island before my friend who owned a racetrack there decided to up and move to Delray Beach. So now it looks more and more likely I'll be heading out to Miami once my friend gets settled in his new apartment and his new job, and then he and I will make our way to Delray and see what my friend's got in the hangar to borrow for a few forays toward 165MPH. I know he's got two examples of Carrol Shelby's Series I (see pic below) that is more monster than machine, despite being featured in a recent Dr. Pepper commercial with Leeann Rimes and Reba McEntire. So that's something to which I'm looking forward. And since my soon-to-be-a-Miamiian friend owns a Ducate racing bike, he'll probably get a chance to open it up and hit its top speed without worrying about grandma's Cadillac pulling out of a 4PM blue-plate dinner special parking lot, broadsiding him and ending his ride really quickly, permanently. And even if my love of racing has waned with age and the weather, it would be great, for at least a weekend, to enjoy some warm sunshine.





For the most part, between the end-of-year work crunch and the weather and my semi-separation from my family, I am feeling a bit detached but am looking forward to the future. And I'm counting the days when I next get to spend time with my girlfriend in my place with some monkfish and swordfish, a good bottle of cab and some Van Morrison. 2004 is fading, thankfully, and 2005 is no longer "next year" but next week. I'm already starting to smile, and I know she is too. Which reminds me of the "traditional" New Year's Eve song, "Auld Lang Syne."

Should auld acquaintance be forgot
and never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot
and days of Auld Lang Syne.

It's, essentially, a song which reminds us to recall those old friends and relationships which have fallen by the wayside. However, with all due respect to Father Time, I don't want to recall the past; in fact, I'm excited knowing that each new day brings me one day further from the past and closer to where I want to be, both in terms of my family and my girlfriend. So, for the first time in many years, I say: Father Time can kiss my ass :-)

Thursday, December 23, 2004

The Worst Stuff of 2004

So you think you could escape your readership here and avoid those cheesy lists like you find in Parade Magazine or in the little Reader's Digest? Speaking of Reader's Digest, that periodical should be re-christened "The Toilet Journal" because no one in their right mind would ever read it unless they were chained to a commode by boredom or a severe lack of gastrointestinal fortitude.

Starting us off, the worst software we've seen this year is, without a doubt, WeatherBug. It's intrusive, makes freaky noises, and adds so little value to the PC experience that one wonders why they even masquerade it as anything but spyware with blatant advertising. For all but the most socially-inept cube-geeks and other windowless impresarios, looking out the window or going to weather.com is more than satisfactory. But we who installed this shitty application are doomed to hear chirping noises every thirty seconds until we acknowledge that there might be some precipitation in Topeka, Kansas sometime in the next 15 minutes, whether or not we deactivate the "warning/advisory" settings. Faboo!

Do yourself a favor, and save your sanity -- run, don't walk. And uninstall if you've already made the mistake.

Another regrettable thing from this past year was the rising incidence of spam. Granted, it's become so ubiquitous (and a buzz-word of "bloggian" proportions) that no one needs the clarification of spam being junk e-mail as opposed to junk luncheon meat. In either case, spam is so universal that a variety of sites and applications designed to stop, slow or report spam have cropped up. Problem is some are good, most are bad. So the problem is out of control, despite (snicker) governmental involvement in trying to curb it (if they can't stop spam, can they really stop steroids in baseball? Please).


The music industry and the movie industry came to a joint decision this year: thanks to file-sharing, they've been getting robbed blind by "online pirates" looking to download their 'wares without paying for doing so. It's an ironic twist, considering the music industry has been trying to sell copies of Britney Spears albums for US currency and the movie industry has been trying to peddle crap on celluloid like "Space Camp" and "Daredevil" and calling it entertainment. Granted, mass downloading has taken a big bite out of profitability for these entities, but finally they're being treated like they've treated us for quite some time. Personally, I've adopted a sort-of shareware mentality to anything I download: if I find an album online that I like and listen to more than three times, I go out and buy it -- Amazon, Tower, whatever -- and if it's crap, I delete it and move on. What I find interesting, and what I expect more of in the future, is copy-protected media. To wit, the eponymous release from Velvet Revolver, the Guns N' Roses/Stone Temple Pilots amalgam, came with a special extra feature: when you pop it into a CD-Rom drive attached to a Windows-based computer, the disc is unrippable.

Ripping, for those unknowing folk, is when you digitally copy the musical information on a music CD onto a hard drive. The Velvet Revolver cd's copied media sounds garbled and is more akin to listening to the aforementioned Britney Spears. However, hitting the "shift" key prior to and whilst inserting the CD into the PC's drive defeats the copy protection scheme. This is useful for those of us who bought the damn CD and just want to enjoy it on an iPod or be able to listen to it without digging the CD out of a box somewhere on the other side of the house. So it's more of the same bullshit we encountered when we were teens copying software to try out. Honor among thieves, perhaps. But honor indeed.

Speaking of Britney Spears, do we really need to see her any more than we already have? Last year's Jennifer Lopez, the human wedding invite pranced around TV's and magazine covers and looked like an inflated porno star.


The deer-in-the-headlights look on her face, below, says "Why
am I wearing this little clothing? I'm only 14. Where's my mommy?"

I propose we stage a skank-fest -- collect all the great female media whores of the past decade in one lab and see who has the most disease flowing through them. I'd put my money on Madonna, but let's sign up a bunch for shits n' giggles: Jennifer Lopez, Britney, Christina Aguilera, Carmen Electra, Jenna Jameson and Traci Lords (yep, sticking by the Madonna pick). The line between "musician," "celebrity" and "porno star" is certainly blurring faster by the minute; at least it's not as bad as Italy, where they elected a former porno star (Ciccolina) to their parliament. It's not quite that bad in this country -- yet. Considering Jesse "The Body" Ventura was able to get elected on a platform of free wrestling tickets to every Minnesotan, what would it take for Jenna Jameson to be voted into office in California? I'll refrain from offering my opinion here, but it would certainly take a while and a lot of videotape...and she'd definitely capture 100% of the heterosexual male vote ;-)

Speaking of politics, another thing that we need to address is the election in November. I know lots of people who voted for John Kerry, but what disturbs me is the number of people -- sane, rational, seemingly semi-intelligent people -- who suggested the election was "fixed." The government can't come together to do anything, so to suggest that George Bush's administration was actually able to fix the election is sort of laughable, almost as much as hearing him pronounce the word "nuclear."

Infomercials played a very significant role in our irritation as a culture this year. The Great Wok of China (made in Newark), Oxy-Clean, the Magic Bullet and any products invented by Ron Popeil was responsible for 24.3% of the diarrhea we experienced as a culture in the last 12 months, and the problem seems to be growing.



There's no doubt that we as a culture watch far too much television. The fact that commercials have become a form of entertainment on their own is sad, however. It suggests we have willingly and happily assimilated advertising into our lives and are now TV cows absorbing it like grass in a field. So the next time you see a beer commercial, just remember: just because you drink lots and lots of beer, you don't have the right to play beach volleyball with supermodels and be cool. You do have the right to belch, urinate frequently, and emanate noises and odors that are generally not heard in beer commercials but are marginally more offensive than beer itself.



Finally, the newest item, chronologically, on this particular collection of irritants is the pop-up ad. Within the past hour of surfing, I've encountered a half-dozen or so ads that are so involved, complicated and garish, that I can't seem to locate the "X CLOSE AD X" buttons that are about the only universal characteristic of the pop-up ad. So I've decided to sign up for one of each of what they're selling. Now I've got a free $100 BestBuy gift card, a subscription to Ladies Home Journal, a free bouquet of fake, scented roses, a free consultation for hair loss, a Suzanne Somers Ab-Domizer and $25,000 for college after I complete my three-year military stint.

So I'm off to boot camp with flowers, some hair cream, $100 worth of BestBuy crap, a metal hula-hoop thing and my LHJ mags. Semper Fi. Wish me luck.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Thinking Approaching New Year's

Hedley Lamarr said "Be still, Taggart, my mind is aglow with transient nodes of thought."

Taggart responded, "Gee Mr. Lamarr...you use your tongue purtier than a twenty dollar whore."

Blazing Saddles has a way of clarifying things in a most unique manner.

As we approach the end of 2004, a very tumultuous, awful, unhappy, busy, crazy, bizarre, insane, difficult, arduous year, I can look back and see a variety of things for which I'm glad I've experienced, completed, dismissed, added, addressed or witnessed. And while most people use the impending new year to offer resolutions, I've reached several conclusions of my own with which to proceed in the coming year and years.

I've experienced some major heartache and anxiety over my father's condition; he's on his way back to being himself, sounding like himself, and smiling (and making those around him smile) like he has in the past. So I'm thankful, relieved, elated, giddy, happy and humbled that he's where he is, with us, and almost at 100%. Losing someone who means so much to you is scary; nearly losing someone who means so much to you is a different barrage of feelings, because on top of the fear and the sadness, you have to mix in relief, happiness and the concept that one day there will be no reprieve. Thank god there was a reprieve this time.

The "disengagement" was a difficult but eye-opening experience. Aside from the fact that my actions allowed my ex's disturbed family to adversely affect my father's health and my family's as well, I must admit that I learned first-hand that I am lucky I come from a healthy, happy, loving family that treats its members with unconditional love, respect, caring and trust. And while those 24 or so months were as miserable as it gets (and hopefully will ever get) for me, going through that misery and unhappiness very ably showed me what I want in a partner and what I want in life and, more importantly, what I don't want. I also realized I grew up a lot this past year, especially because what could -- and should -- have been anger towards that collection of freaks became and will always remain pity. The only anger, if at all, that remains is mine at myself over how I let them spread their cancer to my family and me. As Billy Joel once wrote, "Your mistakes are the only things you can truly call your own." And I'm determined, and relieved, that I won't make the same mistake twice.

In addition to the low points of the past year, I found out, on many levels, by who was there and who wasn't, who really cared about me. In some ways, I was disappointed, but in my disappointment I realized I'd made the right decision regarding the disengagement. And I was pleasantly surprised by just how many people care about me and my family. It's beyond my capability to put into words how my friends and family were there for me and for us, and how that affected me then and how it continues to affect me to this day. It certainly does put things into perspective, on a number of levels, but most importantly it reminds me that life is precious and shouldn't be wasted on worthless, angry, dysfunctional people.

I am a strong proponent of the concept that everything happens for a reason. If nothing else, through this past year and its multiple difficulties and ordeals, I found my other half, someone who fits me and makes me happy and who I fit and who I make happy. The distinction of note is between wanting to be with someone and not being able to be without someone; and looking towards the future, it's clear to me that where I once thought I had found the "right" person, I am ashamed to admit that I was as so thoroughly mistaken as I was. And as ridiculous as it sounds, I might not have realized just how lucky I am to be where I am and with whom if not for the past. So to Kaia, for understanding without explanation, listening without words, and sharing without taking, mere thanks in words and action aren't sufficient to express my gratitude. I might one day be able to express my thanks, but it will likely take me many years to do so, so please continue to be patient and in my life. And I hope this coming year, as all those that follow, will find us happy, smiling and sharing life in a way that makes our friends blush :-)

To my friends who have lived this ordeal with me, from around the corner to across the country to across the world, I truly wish for you and your families a coming year of happiness, health, prosperity, growth, smiles and only good things. I hope to spend time with each of you over the coming year and to let you know that your caring, thoughtfulness and compassion over the past months has been appreciated in ways you can't imagine. It's a debt I doubt I will ever be fully able to repay, and for that I am truly grateful.

Though I've been reticent to celebrate much of anything these days, I mostly celebrate the end of 2004, the coming of another year, and the love and support I've received and hope to share. I'll be taking the next week to reflect about things herein and will continue to do so through 2005, hopefully a bit happier, a bit more relieved, and looking forward to smiling again. In either case, I thank you again and wish you, your families and friends nothing but good things today and from this day forth.

Thank you.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Zithromax, Robitussin and Altoids

So I made my way around NYC today, through the cutting wind and the rock-salt below my feet, feeling the wind slice into me, noting that my eyes are drying up like Ronald Reagan in his last year in office.

A bottle of Robitussin DM, some Reeeeeecola cough drops, Zithromax, Colgate toothpaste and some Simply Orange OJ (man does not live by Diet Coke alone) and I was back on my way. Once I got in I put everything away and caught the whiff of these bitchin' Pottery Barn cranberry spice candles my girlfriend bought while we were downtown. Either I'm going full-on metrosexual or I really like these candles (or who they remind me of) because my apartment felt nice to come into, despite her not being there. And as I popped the Z-Pak open to suck down the first day's dose, I noticed the Licorice Altoids sitting there on the kitchen table and I had to laugh.




Sometimes people collide on a grand scale, and sometimes things are just that simple. Sometimes you meet in the middle. And sometimes it just seems like there is no start, no finish and no middle, but just the two of you, the world, and nothing else.

I didn't know I liked Licorice Altoids this much, but I think I'm hooked.

Monday, December 20, 2004

Happiness, Sadness, Frostbite, Tears, Sushi

So we made our way, incidentally, to Planet Sushi on Saturday night with friends and were (sort of) fashionably late, but only two of our party was there, seated and pre-emptive with drinks and appetites. We waited for the remainder, less one, to arrive and began with gyoza (shrimp dumplings -- ROCKIN'!), edamame, tempura and seaweed salad and drinks (sake, martinis, grey goose and tonic, etc.). By the time the sushi/sashimi arrived later on, we were all laughing, loose and relaxed. So our nine o'clock din-din wound up keeping us until about one AM, much to the chagrin of the staff of Planet Sushi. Frankly, we all enjoyed it a lot, so if you have a hankerin' for some sushi (and some time to hit a nice spot for a large group on the upper west side), swing by their site and enjoy...I think the URL is www.psushi.com, and I highly recommend their dragon rolls and the gyoza. The spicy salmon roll, not so much...but the rest, ROCKIN! :-)

Need I say it -- the food and the location was great but the company was greater ;-) It's always nice to spend good times with good friends, especially when it's cold outside :-)

Sunday we parted so I could crash and get some rest and she could do some major-league shopping, and we hooked up a little later. When she returned with bags upon bags of new stuff, I couldn't help but smile. We were going to do a museum visit (the Whitney or the Guggenheim) but instead wound up napping for a bit and then braved the snow and the cold to meet for a yummy dinner with a friend of ours at a nearby chinese restaurant (Chef Ho's, another recommendation). Next time, we will do Peking Duck, minus the snow :-)

Monday was a mellow, meandering affair. Frigid NYC temps, frostbitten haze, candles, smiles and laundry, packing and reality set in, but we wound up sitting in bed and doing work from our respective PC's. As the darkness approached, she ended up getting her stuff together and leaving, but despite my notable sadness, I smell her perfume on my sheets and see her lips on my mirror and the adult in me knows she and I will be in each others' arms soon.

"Parting is such sweet sorrow." So doth wrote Shakespeare in Romeo and Juliet. I don't think I ever really, truly, understood the meaning behind it until this day. There we were, the two of us, fighting through bronchitis, sniffles, tears, frostbite, traffic, and a hint of wistful heaviness, and we were smiling. The sun was out but was far enough away that we didn't feel much warmth except that which was emanating between us, and we said our goodbyes, knowing that it will be soon, though not nearly soon enough, that we will be together again.

Saturday, December 18, 2004

NYC Travels, #12696

Take a walk around Soho these days, and there are a variety of ways and means with which you and your money will likely part, despite your foolish ways. There are about 358 different tables from which you can choose your ultimate scarf, all scattered around Soho's cobble streets; brooches, pendants, necklaces and other miscellaneous chazerai litter countless more tables in and around the same lush, commercially ungepatched area.

My girlfriend and I braved the weather, the tourists and the dearth of licensed cabs to travel to this very area and we met the challenge with remarkable aplomb. Visits to Pottery Barn, Kenneth Cole, Scoop, Prada, Banana Republic and Kate Spade produced remarkably little shopping fare (aside from excellent replacements for the currant candles which adorn our night tables these days, from Pottery Barn); we found lots of baubles, trinkets and the aforementioned chazerai -- and a few scarves, too. This being our second visit to Soho, I was yet again impressed by her ability to deftly carve through the throngs of anxious consumers and find the particular object she required, be it a brooch, a purse, a pashmina or pair of sunglasses.

Our sole relaxation this day came at Bar 89, a quietly tucked-away gem of a bar/eatery at 89 Mercer. The lines and the design of this bar are ultra Soho -- thoroughly ├╝ber-cool, with muted neon blues and reds lining the angles and angular metal sculpture finding its way toward the vaulted, auditorium-like ceiling. The bathroom is among the most memorable facets of Bar 89; you ascend a winding staircase to the second floor to find a row of eight consecutive stalls, replete with sinks and toilets, each with its own transparent glass door, mildly reminiscent of the movie "Fortress" with Christopher Lambert. You enter a stall expecting to give the other occupants of the establishment a show, but as soon as the lock latch is implemented, the door's glass becomes opaque and your privacy to perform your duties is safeguarded. High quality design.

Yet the fun doesn't stop at the lavatories and their unique design. The food is creative, she of the grilled cheese club-minus bacon and me of the truck driver salad, with chicken -- and the two of us sipping cabernet, diet coke and each other, really punctuated the afternoon nicely. Each time we visit Soho we lunch here, and though the bar gets fun and populated after five, it never fails to get us smiling.

On our brief walk back to Pottery Barn and Crate and Barrel, we stopped for a peek at H&M (lord help us) and shared a few laughs whilst people-watching (red pleather boots and red tights do not an outfit make). And we routinely jaunt past Dean and Deluca as I regale her with the same stories about Steely Dan's familiarity with that particular market, as opposed to Gourmet Garage, FreshDirect or a variety of other specialty eateries, including Eli's, Zabar's and Gristedes.

I highly recommend visiting Bar 89 if you can survive the cool factor; but moreover, spending time in Soho in cold weather is a feat I'll gladly endure with her again, I am sure, so long as there is gin and grey goose behind the bar and we have a few hours to kill outside of these four walls, wherever said walls may be.

We're venturing forth to conquer Planet Sushi with friends tonight, and we'll make our way to Canal Street tomorrow. Edamame, sake and warmth.

More to follow.

Friday, December 17, 2004

The Hotel, Revisited, On The Night

A noisy lobby, a junket of humanity
exposing the truth about superficiality;
darkness and light, red and black, parquet mica tile,
elevators, strides without hesitation.

Warmth, arms, silly refrains,
superstitions, perfume, lips and hair.
Our night beginning, our life in play,
purple mountains majesties in china, ecru and taupe.

A basketball court, a party of ten,
white gloves and candles burning,
eyes and laughs and hands and velvet
the burning embers of a flame unextinguished.

These days and nights I won't forget,
my captain's mate through the ebullient sea
the rough the placid the lit the muted
the hours which find me pacing, pensive,
soaking in the warmth through the freezing outer chill.

Arrival and departure, the trip has no end
and its mile markers are smiles, friends, and silent promises
which are kept and shared between glances, touches and kisses
a natural give and take and give and share of a map
that no longer needs study nor review.

The elevator door is open.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Feel You

The darkness arrives, surreptitious and stealth,
winding through panes of light and painful strands of life.
It leaves me to face the night and the morning,
unaware of my subconscious awareness.

The silently ticking LEDs remind of the oncoming reality,
but dreams take long to brew, not to savor.
Hours elapse but a minute of realization
You give me something I can feel.

In dreams we can survive and feel
what can't be had but what will. And
dreams are not just for the sleeping.

Looking Far Forward

(For Virginia)

Content anxiety, the hours peel away like the skins of an onion
Sticky, infinity, tempering emotions like ingredients melded
and rolling and creating something new.

The past has its relevance to those who don't see
and the future's open promise incurs penalties for those without
certiorari of what is real and what is impaired, imparted.

I smile, content in my footsteps, and knowing that half the battle
is the other half of truth, and the two sides to every story
do soon diverge when the soothsayer and the storyteller
learns she alone is fooled, save for the other hopeless fools.

Virginia Justice counts herself among them, despite her blindness
the scales are no longer applied here, her voice is silent.
A sad day for someone realizing her impending, obvious irrelevance.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Tomorrow, Pt. II

Nervous energy, recycling memories, feelings,
anxious excitement bounded by skin and sanity.
Seconds ticking by like hours, pensive minutes,
the rush of slow-motion counted in breaths.

Electricity racing through me,
the hurried atmospheric barometry of love
concurrent pressure and pleasantries
propelling me towards the door in
mock anticipation of my smile.

As the moment approaches I dream
when none of this will be requirement
but a daily ritual to which I'll be
accustomed and anticipating
and waking to a smile and a kiss
and the comfortable squeak of
happiness, relaxation and security.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Music for Rent...Sort Of

Do you remember the song playing in the background when you had your first kiss? Presumably it was something sweet, eg "Summer Breeze" by Seals and Croft, or "Oops I Did It Again" by Britney Spears, and not something awful like "Baby Got Back" by Sir Mix-A-Lot or "F*ck Like A Beast" by everyone's favorite, WASP. Memories of our youth, whether our first kiss, the first time we had sexual relations (with someone else present, natch) or the first time we drove (without someone else present), are littered with the by-products of musical creativity.

These days, post Live-Aid, Woodstock (1967), Woodstock II and "We Are The World," music has evolved into something far different than what it once was. When Willie Nelson sang "Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be cowboys," what he really should have been singing was "Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be recording artists." Willie built an amazing career, wrote great songs, and his legacy will be that he pissed it all away and owes the IRS the clothes in which he'll be buried.

The spirit of freedom and social responsibility that spawned countless numbers of socially aware bands, like Buffalo Springfield, Crosby, Stills and Nash, The Grateful Dead and The Byrds -- not to mention those groups/performers that began commenting and indulging within the drug culture that grew from LSD and other psychedelic fare -- was a mirror for the late 1960's both here and across the pond in the UK. The Sex Pistols' "God Save The Queen" was a sarcastic but relevant look at established ruling class(es) and didn't as much crave anarchy as much as change. And bands like The Who and The Rolling Stones did plenty to flip the established classes (ie parents) the proverbial bird. There are few albums which more flawlessly portray self-aware youth than The Who's Quadrophenia and Pink Floyd's The Wall, and the struggles with adolescence, adulthood, parents, drugs, fitting in and belonging to something.

The 70's further entrenched both The Who and The Rolling Stones as socially aware; the biggest rock band of the 70's, Led Zeppelin, concentrated more on love, sex and freedom than anything in particular. The Who, however, looked at social change and society, and the Stones focused on sex, drugs and rock and roll. The 70's whirred by in a blur and landed square in the 80's.

MTV was like, I later opined, a bunch of kids buying their own candy store and putting the model on its ear; a bunch of young adult music fans created the network and thought "Wouldn't it be great if we could SEE the music?" It made sense; TV and cable was in every house, and selling advertising would make radio obsolete (or so The Buggles thought in their hit "Video Killed The Radio Star"), and to a large degree, MTV did. Seeing the music revolutionized the music industry, changed who could and who couldn't be a star, and realigned the priorities of musicians throughout the world.

To wit: would Madonna, Britney Spears or Christina Aguilera be household names if not for music videos and MTV's constant barrage of skin and celebrity? Not likely. How a performer looks is more important than their level of talent (Ashlee Simpson, anyone?) and this isn't even disputable anymore. The use of lip-syncing as an industry tool was once as guarded a secret as the "scripted" nature of professional wrestling. But in our post-2000 world of jaded cynicism, the secret is out -- and the real news is that nobody even gives a shit. Whether it's Ashlee Simpson or Milli Vanilli, performers without talent is as much a shock and a disappointment as seeing Madonna french kiss Britney Spears is tittilating.

So where is this all headed, beside the toilet? Music videos have been rated R (Madonna's Justify My Love and Duran Duran's Girls on Film), music itself requires parental warning labels because the more prurient among recording artists describe what they'd like to do behind closed doors. And previous pioneers in music like the Stones and The Who, bands that interspersed vulgarity as an accent as opposed to the focal point of their music, are these days considered tame. Whether these newer bands are going for "street cred" or are simply too limited in their vocabulary to be bothered, the envelope is being pushed -- for better or worse. If nothing else, this part of the discussion is best exemplified by the movie Old School, in which the wedding band sings an Air Supply song and makes sure to infuse a few extra eye-opening lyrics...what this taught me was that if Air Supply covers can be vulgarified, anything can.

The modern incantation of the music industry is file-sharing and the sale of music. These two items are not opposites; the first, ie the advent of Napster, Gnutella, Limeshare and digital duplication of CD's, means that until the music industry provides either copy-protected media (not likely) or product that demands purchase (possible), this phenomenon will continue. The recently-released U2 album, How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb, was released on November 23rd, but it was "leaked" all over the Internet up to a month prior to the official date. The band was so irked by this that they contemplated changing the release date. The internet has taken music from its owner and its master, namely, large record companies, and put it in the hands of whoever has a large hard drive, a speedy internet connection and some free time. Apple Computer established the "iTunes Store," a web-based download service which, for a dollar or so a song, you can purchase whatever you can download; play it back on your PC, your iPod, or burn it onto a CD if you so choose. Essentially, you pay a dollar for the right to listen to a song whenever you want: this, of course, is an improvement over spending $17 for a CD with only one listenable track. Music "rental" has its pros and cons: everything fits on a hard drive as opposed to in a closet or a shelf. But if that hard drive crashes -- and it will, it's just a question of when -- it's gone.

The "sale" of music, in my definition, isn't akin to spending a dollar to buy Milkshake or some other two-and-a-half-minute celebration of ineptitude, but instead the phenomenon that, every time you turn on the television, you're more apt to hear your favorite music than you are some random jingle about curing your hemorrhoids in the key of C. Next time you see a Cadillac commercial, lament, as do I, the fact that Led Zeppelin's Rock and Roll seems to be that company's new mantra. Or how about Aerosmith's Dream On selling (or at least trying to sell) the Buick Lacrosse? About the only decent meshing of brand and music was Nike's use of The Beatles' Revolution. And that was as sacrilegious, if not moreso, than Led Zeppelin uniting with Cadillac or Aerosmith teaming up with Buick. Considering Led Zeppelin's Robert Plant and Jimmy Page are nearly (if not past) 60 years old, the Cadillac move isn't that far off; but Aerosmith and Buick? I could see Aerosmith hawking Lamborghini or Ferrari; but once Buick moves on, perhaps Steven Tyler and Joe Perry might want to offer "Same Old Song and Dance" to the makers of Fixodent. It's a long while since either Led Zeppelin or Aerosmith were "young" -- but seeing artists who could (and who STILL could) fill an arena after less than an hour of ticket sales, it's pathetic to see (and hear) these artists selling their creative souls. And knowing Pete Townshend's "Let My Love Open The Door" is the theme for the Christmas season at one of Target, K-Mart or JC Penney (as if there are differences among said retailers) is, for me, the sour cherry on the past-expiration cake.

The tag-line for The Rolling Stones, prior to being self-hailed as "The World's Greatest Rock and Roll Band," was "Would you let your daughter date a Rolling Stone?" These days, they should ask their fans "Would you let your grandmother date a Rolling Stone?"

Lamenting the death of the past and the bleakness of the future isn't my intent herein; however, it does disappoint me that the future of American music is a smattering of performers like N'Sync, Britney Spears, Robbie Williams, Jennifer Lopez and a roulette wheel of one-hit wonders. How many of today's artists will be viable performers in five years? How many will we even remember? How many will we want to remember? Musicians age, and our tastes change; ten years ago, Pearl Jam joined with Nirvana to voice the angst of youth. In another ten years, there will be another act to share that angst. What worries me the most is that teen angst will be sponsored by K-Mart, sold to the masses in the aisles at Wal-Mart, and divied out on a per-minute basis by Nike. And as technology improves, perhaps telepathic sharing of music will replace radio, and merely thinking of a favorite song -- say, Led Zeppelin's Rock and Roll -- will incur a dollar fee. Unless, of course, it's in a Cadillac dealership and you're buying.

Saturday, December 11, 2004

Up To Speed

In an effort to thank everyone and to clarify what's been going on within my much-improved life as of late, it's almost easier to spell it out here than it is to go down the list, one by one, in order to bring everyone up to date...

My father's doing very well -- he's been in NJ so I haven't seen him nearly as much as when he was recuperating in Lenox Hill's ICU, and not seeing him has left me feeling a bit detached. We speak at least once a day on the phone, and usually our conversations are more frequent, somewhere in the 2-3 a day neighborhood, but even then it's still not quite the same. Healthwise he's making good strides and we're hoping he's back to work sometime, at this point, in February. His mind is as sharp as it ever was, if not moreso, so once his body catches up -- which should be soon -- we'll all breathe a final sigh of relief and move forward.

In other "trifecta" fronts, the "family unit" has been on a much more even keel as of late; we're accepting and handling the numerous challenges life has thrown at us in a much more relaxed way, and we're thankful, both individually and as a group, that we haven't been polarized by all that's transpired. Much like a layer cake, if the ingredients are lousy, the cake doesn't have much chance. And while we don't discuss much of the "dark days" that preceded all this, all of us -- myself included -- are beyond relieved that we're past that and that we'll be back to smiling with regularity.

As for the final third of the trifecta, I am amazed at how much I smile these days. Well before all of this happened, and even during the months leading up to it, I would consider myself a person who, for the most part, was happy with his life; and despite trying to fit a square peg into a round hole, I resisted the urge to employ common sense and just continued at it. But as the months passed I realized that, rather than missing where and with whom I'd been, what occurred to me was that I missed being happy, content and in the right place. I probably would have come to this conclusion slowly and eventually, but that realization came quickly and effortlessly, largely because I found someone that makes me laugh, understands me and understands life. Something that occurred to me is that if things need to be spelled out, scheduled, shoe-horned and constantly bargained over, I'm in the wrong place. Unfortunately, being in the wrong place didn't provide this epiphany; being in the right place did. So in hindsight, my relief over being free of that agony, misery and aggravation is almost as great as my father's continuing progress.

The one thing I've noticed over the past months is the notion of family, security and serenity. Without getting too philosophical, I've realized how close I am to my family and how that's actually a good thing. We've "celebrated" holidays, but until my father is 100% and smiling and we're all looking at these past months as being fully in the past, "celebrating" is a daily occurrence, only in much more minimal terms. I still maintain that whether it's Chanukkah, Thanksgiving or even New Year's Eve, the blow-out celebrations are muted until further notice. For now, I'm content with celebrating the knowledge that my father and my family are well, my life is back in the right direction and waking up smiling and looking forward to the coming day, rather than regretting yesterday. It's a strange phenomenon, optimism; I lost it for awhile, and now that it's back in my life I can't understand or imagine how I lasted as long as I did without it. I suppose I'm just thankful that I've reached this point and, for the first time in longer than I care to admit, I'm content with life and where mine is going, with whom, and why. That, and my dad's impending recovery, makes me happier than I could ever hope to express, with words or otherwise. So when my friends and remote family members check in with me to ask how my Thanksgiving was, these days I am apt to tell them, without hesitation, sarcasm or forethought, that I'm living it every day.

The More Things Change...

The more things change, the more they stay the same. In the last 24 hours, I read two very interesting but unrelated news items: the first is the rising number of gay divorces as reported by CNN (http://www.cnn.com/2004/LAW/12/10/gay.divorces.ap/index.html). I wrote an article on this topic only 24 hours ago – check out http://houseofboogie.blogspot.com/2004/12/dubya-gay-marriage-and-amazing.html if you are so inclined). The second news items of merit is Bernard Kerik’s withdrawal of his name for consideration to lead the Department of Homeland Security (http://www.cnn.com/2004/ALLPOLITICS/12/10/kerik.withdraws/index.html).

The former story noted the increasing number of gay divorces and contrasted two differing opinions: the first held that gay divorces were a typical offshoot of marriage and no different than heterosexual divorces. Essentially, the first opinion suggested that people are people and marriage (and the failures thereof) are part of the human, not homosexual, condition. The second opinion pointed to the promiscuity of homosexuals as a causal root for the gay divorce rate.

It might just be me, but I’m not sure how anyone, in 2004, can state, with a straight face, that homosexuals are more promiscuous than heterosexuals, and that said promiscuity is the reason why homosexual couples are divorcing. There are a great many homosexuals, I am certain, who behave promiscuously. I am sure there are a great many heterosexuals who behave equally promiscuously (I wish I had dated more thereof). To blindly and broadly label a group of people as behaving in a certain manner, while pounding a Bible and calling upon the Lord for guidance, is akin to these same minds suggesting that all Jews are cheap, all African-Americans are tall and all people of Irish heritage are alcoholics. If this example seems a bit extreme, consider then that the fastest-rising group in new AIDS cases are heterosexual women, at least as of the time of this writing. Except in rare cases, AIDS cannot be transferred by kissing; sexual contact without a condom is generally the most typical way the AIDS virus is contracted from one person to another. So why are heterosexual women contracting the virus so quickly? Because people are promiscuous: some more than others, some less than others. To suggest that one group is moreso than another is antiquated, offensive and foolish. I am far from a Pride Parade marcher; I am, however, repulsed by blind, ridiculous statements being passed around like fact from people who are uneducated, obsolete imbeciles.

The second article reports that Bernard Kerik, the former New York City Police Commissioner who was appointed by Rudy Giuliani in 2000, withdrew his name for consideration of Head of Homeland Security. Why? Because he once employed in his home a nanny whose immigration status is “unclear.” What this means, of course, is he hired an illegal alien to look after his children.

There are crimes without victims that are, nonetheless, crimes; if Mr. Kerik knew the individual in question was indeed an illegal alien and hired said alien knowingly to avoid paying taxes, then he technically defrauded the Federal Government from tax revenues to which it is entitled. But whether he knew or didn’t know his nanny was of questionable immigration status, does this – and more importantly, should this – prevent him from serving as Head of Homeland Security if he is the best person for the job?

According to Abraham Lincoln, the government of this nation is of the people, by the people and for the people; we, as people, are human beings, and human beings cannot and should not be held to such a ridiculously high standard so as to prevent those best suited for a job to be barred from said job. I’m not advocating using gang members to lead our nation's army, nor am I suggesting that incompetent individuals be permitted to slide into positions as a reward for their vote or contribution to, respectively, a measure or campaign. But it seems to me that we scour the past of our elected and appointed officials in order to prove they’re human, and upon doing so, ignore the fact that they are not much different, in most cases, than you or I. It’s staggering to me that our government holds itself to such a high standard that many of our elected officials, if subjected to the same scrutiny that nominees undergo, would fail to win their places in Congress or elsewhere. It’s simply and utterly staggering.

In order to be brief and to conclude this diatribe with as little fanfare as possible, I submit to you, the reader, these two quotes which I am confident more effectively convey my reactions than I have above.

"God, please save me from your followers!"
Bumper Sticker, circa 2001

"A people that values its privileges above its principles soon loses both."
Dwight D. Eisenhower (1890-1969)
Inaugural Address, January 20, 1953


I hope we as people someday change. I am also aware, unfortunately, of this final quote which, I believe, clarifies my thoughts hereon.

The optimist proclaims that we live in the best of all possible worlds; the pessimist fears this is true.
James Branch Cabell (1879 - 1958), The Silver Stallion, 1926

Friday, December 10, 2004

Eachother

Inside jokes and muffled silence
taking place, shape and precedence over
proper English, posture and appearance.

Laughing madly, spinning off smiles and looks
the secret world that's in plain view and hidden
From naysayers, suspicious minds and experienced fools.

Closer than close, fighting the fight with laughter,
from there or here, together, balancing on pin-heads
knowing which way to go, despite not knowing the way
but knowing it will be together.

Dubya, Gay Marriage and the Amazing Technicolor Hypocrisy

There exists a great chasm in modern American society, those who think and those who repeat. It's always been this way, but the chasm has spread widely like the Red Sea at Moses's grand gesture in Egypt. And while many accuse George W. Bush of excaberating that divide (the societal one, not the one relating to the Red Sea) that's largely a myth, though the result is equally troubling.

After Bush's "victory" over Al Gore in 2000, there were a good number of Americans who observed that, despite Bush's obvious stupidity (especially in comparison to Gore's intelligence), his cabinet and his advisors were more than competent and, aside from John Ashcroft, relatively common-sense-oriented people who knew how things worked among the Beltway Boys and could handle (and manhandle) lots at once. When 9/11 occurred, a leftover from the Clinton Administration's focus on domestic policies, fiscal responsibility and Monica Lewinsky's willingness to administer fellatio, this country was steered and guided in the ultra-right-wing direction of National Security.

Unfortunately, George Bush's legacy may be as one of the most devout, religiously hypocritical presidents this nation has had since Jimmy Carter. Except Jimmy Carter's obvious flaw was that he did too much fantasizing and too little acting. While Jimmy Carter's intelligence was obvious, his abilities to implement and carry out intelligent policy failed miserably, whereas his modern counterpart seemingly has no obvious intellect. The main problem with our President isn't his lack of intellect, however; it's his willingness to pursue ridiculous, disposable issues at a time when the nation needs to focus (and solve) serious crises, both abroad and domestically. For my money, there is no better example of this than Bush's crusade against gay marriage.

Personally, I'm not really "opposed" to gay marriage; I think it's somewhat sacrilegious and a bit odd to conduct a ceremony between two people of the same sex when the legal definition of marriage is a union betwen a man and a woman. However, if two people love each other and want to make a life together, they should be entitled and should certainly be able to publicly celebrate and call attention to that intention. And why should homosexual couples not receive the same legal rights and protections as heterosexual couples? In other words, while I'm not really in favor of it, I'm certainly not opposed to it. As Bobcat Goldthwaite once opined on The Howard Stern Show, why should I care where Elton John is parking his genitalia? It seems to me that, while this topic, as do the topics of capital punishment and abortion, merit a reaction, I don't feel the debate on gay weddings deserves an enduring national spotlight.

Hiding behind the Bible seems to work for a great many presidents, but none more than this one. Yet the last time the Bible had any day to day significance, at least in my opinion, was when people sacrificed animals to improve the upcoming crop. These days, farmers use Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, the Internet and solar power, not an altar or an almanac, to improve their crop. So why should Cain and Abel advise us on domestic and international policy? We might as well study Aesop's Fables if all we need are some catchy metaphors to guide us through difficult times.

I feel the problem is it's easier to address softball issues like gay marriage and prayer in schools over hot potatoes like the proliferation of nuclear weapons in the Middle East and Asia and the burgeoning national deficit.

Addressing Fred and David's upcoming nuptials is simpler in form and function than is Iran's and North Korea's interest in upping the ante. And that makes sense -- except what the cabinet is doing is essentially sticking their heads in the sand. And the last time that happened, we witnessed the attack on the USS Cole and the aforementioned atrocities that occurred on 9/11. Ignoring it and hoping it will go away isn't good policy, unless your interest is seeing the United States forfeit much, if not all, of its international presence and respect.

What also concerns me is the increasing distance America's leaders have forged between themselves and their goals. Our presence in Iraq, based on everything we've heard from Bush, Cheney (who?), Powell and Rumsfeld has been to help the Iraqi people. So why, when insurgents mount victorious mini-campaigns against American soldiers, does the Iraqi populace cheer its arab brethren? Because the Arab world would rather see a cancerous cult leader like Osama bin Laden unify and stand up to American imperialism than watch America provide help and assistance to a down-but-not-out nation. Germany's pride extinguished itself after World War I and was reborn prior to and subsequently castrated after World War II. Arab nations would rather be eradicated and buried in the sand than accept emasculation and assistance.

The mujahadeen of Afghanistan and Northern Africa, similarly, resist any interference in their nations, despite the goal of those who provide it, simply because having foreigners on their soil is more repulsive to them than losing their lives to a stronger, but ethnically similar, enemy. Whether the problem is the origin and ability of the Shah of Iran in the 1970's or the support and subsequent embarassment over said support of bin Laden against the Soviets in the 1980's, the problem is clear -- our involvement, good or bad, is going to be resisted and challenged.

The problem as I see it has been in existence for a great number of years: we'd rather have a car salesman sell us bullshit (can I get the underbody coating included in the sticker price, Mr. Clinton?) than a genuine, honest man who will tell us what we don't want to hear but will offer up some possible roads to solutions of our nation's problems. It's the infomercial syndrome we, as Americans, embrace -- no one believes we will be svelte, lithe and attractive by merely swallowing 30 days' worth of dietary supplements from a company located in a basement in Newark, NJ, yet the company that sells us hopes and dreams in a white plastic bottle stays in business for years. We'll buy snake oil if the model on the stage turntable gives us that come hither look, and we'll gladly buy now, pay later for mistakes that will cost us for generations, even though we know deep down the model isn't interested, the white plastic bottle houses common vitamins and, ultimately, we're going wrong.

And while I am an unabashed supporter of this country and will always consider myself a proud American, I'd much rather discuss why we're focusing on Fred and David getting hitched (and who will be the "bride" and who will be the "groom") than discussing whether they have a right to do so in the first place. Whether it's Marbury v. Madison, Roe v. Wade or Smith/Smith v. the Federal Government, I'd like to know that the policies we need to consider are being considered, not merely pushed to the far end of the desk to curl up, fade to yellow and fall into the Presidential Wastebasket.

Along with Fred and David's wedding invite.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

In God's Image

For as long as I can remember, people were supposed to be "good" -- they were supposed to do right by one another, they were supposed to be courteous, and they were supposed to behave, at each turn, as if they were created in God's image.

Well, with the hindsight of 34+ years on this Earth, either that "in God's image" stuff is a load of bullshit, or God's image isn't exactly something for which we should strive to be made. Old ladies getting mugged for their social security checks, priests abusing young boys, war atrocities that make even seasoned veterans embarassed by the association, and Michael Jackson -- well, just incurring Michael Jackson's name is sufficient to conclude the point.

So, with that in mind, I set out to CNN.com, the website from which I get about a quarter of the news I absorb daily, hoping to find some good news or at least something about which I could glean a new perspective, idea or thought for the day. I don't have lofty expectations: at this point, truly, I'd settle for a news item proclaiming Paris Hilton and Dennis Rodman are having a love-child and that they will name the resultant offspring "Vidalia." In its stead, what does my browser encounter? A story about how a landlord in Elmhurst, a section of Queens, paid a hitman a pittance to go after two brothers who shared an apartment in his building. His goal? To "unofficially" evict the brothers, who occupied a $400-monthly rent-controlled building, in order to raise the rent for the next tenant(s) to $1,500 a month.

It's all right here in black, white and lots of pretty colors for your perusal if you're so inclined: http://www.cnn.com/2004/LAW/12/08/landlord.convicted.ap/index.html.

Now I can honestly say that, for the most part, the sole reason why I read this particular article was I am in the real estate tax business, so anything pertaining to rent, landlord-tenant relations and rent control/stabilization is my "field" -- so I tend to click first and ask questions later. In this case, however, the landlord in question -- 50-year-old Juan Basagoitia -- exemplifies something far beyond the typical "slumlord" moniker. He embodies the term "scumbag," and that is to say he gets a big thumbs-down from the great movie reviewer in the sky. According to his lawyer, Mr. Basagoitia simply wanted to scare the brothers in order to get them to leave, and "the plan spiraled out of control."

Isn't that always the way? You want to make more money in rent collection, and you know these two brothers are paying less than $5,000 annually -- for a lavish, three-bedroom pleasure palace, no less -- and you decide, over your meat loaf surprise and green-bean casserole one night, to raise their rent to $1,500 a month. So you hire another scumbag to give them a little scare, but the steadfast siblings stand their ground, and the next thing you know, you're indicted and facing life in prison when said scumbag whips out a knife and disfigures one of the tenants. I guess, next time, you'll consider just how much your tenants love living in your building prior to you bumping them off in the streets rather than legally evicting them.

And I think it's pretty clear that many among us are going to hell in a handbasket, toot sweet.

Our prison system is bursting at the seams with car thieves, rapists, muggers, murderers, bank robbers, jaywalkers, Martha Stewart and every othe low-end type of vermin known to man; yet it simply staggers my mind when I come across a story in a paper, online or by overhearing something on a crowded bus or train that begs the question -- if the prisons are so full of trash, why do we never seem to get a reprieve of this on the "outside" while so many are sequestered on the "inside?" Why is it that there are so many imprisoned for crimes but there never seems to be an abatement of same outside prison? And why is it, if we are truly created in God's image, that we seem to be able to endlessly and creatively find new ways to demonstrate man's inhumanity to man?

And if we really are created in God's image, what does that say about the Big Man? I think what it suggests is that we either need to rethink what our goals are as human beings, or we need to rethink why we were put on this planet in the first place.

At the very least, something to consider the next time the rent is due.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Training Wheels

Warm red velvet, the cooling asphalt,
the sun recedes, her eyes sparkling with mysterious and stateful agenda.
The whitened walls, beams aimed askew,
Noise we don't hear deflecting a conversation we share, silently.

Whispers on cool white sheets, soft and crisp
flattened against figures, still and moving,
sudden, deliberate, a choreographed dance
that will always and never be completed.

Leaving the driveway, without witness,
the silence and calm, a newfound confidence
and the first and last that will ever be.

It comes back to you, that day, that dusk,
the memories of ages gone by, whisked at once
to the present day, to the present night,
to cool, crisp sheets that beckon and ache
arch beneath us as we learn the freedom
and learn each other.

They come off, to never return,
and the concurrent wisdom and fear
wondering if they'll need return
and at once, knowing they'll not
be needed again.

Monday, December 06, 2004


By request...for those of you who haven't met my other half, here's a pic...I'll post one of us together in the next week or two, whenever they get "developed" :-) Posted by Hello

Sunday, December 05, 2004

Wakeup

Morning fog, the fading mist of a night of smiles and sparkles,
the warmth and silence a sealing cocoon of comfort and security.
Tan, gold, wine and heather, arms, legs, lips and skin.

The forging grins and currant exchanges, the turns and touches
pulling pushing sliding down, whispers laughter moans and smiles.
Things to do, calls to make, people to see, await their priority
beneath eyes opening, elbows, thighs and muted giggles.

The body's clock instills its will as do the mind and heart,
counting down and up, hours and minutes,
a commercial's setting in a populated square
of we, us and you and I.

'Roid Rage

When the Nixon/Watergate scandal broke, many Americans were outraged and became angry, upset, dejected and dismayed over how the President misused and abused his office to perpetrate what, essentially, was a petty crime, ie burglary. As a collective society, our pessimism and dissatisfaction and distrust of politicians since has not only deepened, but it has colored all elections since and has changed how we as a country regard our leaders, from the lowest town mayor to those men ascending to the Presidency.

This past week, it was revealed that both Jason Giambi, first baseman for the New York Yankees, and Barry Bonds, an outfielder with the San Francisco Giants, admitted, under oath in testimony before a grand jury (under limited protection from prosecution), that they each had indeed taken steroids in varying forms, both noting the "cream" and the "clear" -- the former being a lotion that gets rubbed onto the body, and the latter being a colorless liquid that is ingested by drops administered under the tongue.

Where it gets messy is that Barry Bonds, specifically, has been suspected of taking steroids and has repeatedly denied same publicly for the past year or two; he has set numerous records, including the single-season home run record, and, until this admission, was largely regarded as the best hitter in baseball. Now, however, with this new revelation, fans of the game of baseball have yet another reason to roll their eyes, close the newspaper and go take a walk.

The key to steroids and this whole issue isn't just that it taints the game of baseball (or football) -- it does. It's not that steroid use will obviously do long-term damage to the players who use these drugs -- it will (Lyle Alzado, anyone?). It's not that performance-enhancing drugs of any type are an unfortunate aspect of the commerciality of modern sports -- they are. What really bothers most fans is the "unfair advantage" -- why should certain players who want to endanger their own lives and taint the game (of baseball, or football, etc.) be entitled to an unfair advantage over their peers simply because they are willing to do steroids?

The modern athlete, replete with endorsements, long-term contracts, appearance fees, interviews and other PR opportunities, is someone (whether in baseball, football or even hockey) trained to "play through the pain" and to do whatever it takes in his or her respective sport to get the job done. Vince Lombardi, the NFL's first great coach (and perhaps its greatest coach of all-time), took the notion of fair play and turned it on its ear: "Some of us will do our jobs well and some will not, but we will be judged by only one thing-the result." Red Sanders opined similarly: "Winning is not everything; it's the only thing." Sounds to me like generals taking troops to war, not coaches preparing his team for a game. Thus, the following: "In war there is no substitute for victory." That last quote's owner: Douglas MacArthur.

What will the long-term ramifications be for the whole steroid controversy? Well, any and all records set by Barry Bonds will be similarly viewed by most fans of baseball, most certainly, in that no one will have the same respect for Bonds's accomplishments now that he admitted his abilities were chemically enhanced. More than ever, Babe Ruth's accomplishments seem more incredible, since one can be certain The Babe wasn't shooting performance-enhancers into HIS buttocks way back when. And the long-term ramifications for the athletes who have taken drugs? Some will be bounced from baseball -- Jason Giambi very well might have his current contract with the Yankees voided, although the pessimist in me observes that if Giambi's last couple seasons were impressive, there wouldn't be "void" talk at all. And is there any way Barry Bonds will be banned or suspended for his use of steroids? One look at ESPN's coverage of his at-bats suggests that, even with his tainting the game, there is no way baseball will ban or suspend him, because he simply pulls in too much revenue for the game, no matter where he goes. Barry Bonds has always been aloof, disinterested and reserved when it came to being "fan-friendly" -- he never hid his distaste for the entire publicity end of baseball. Now, however, fans will have yet another thing to shout at him when he comes to bat or heads to the outfield. And that's a shame.

So whether it's Jason Giambi, Lyle Alzado (RIP), Marion Jones or the aforementioned Barry Bonds, it seems to me that the fact that so many modern athletes have elected to attempt to cheat in their respective sports by using performance-enhancers not only taints the sport and the competition, but chips away at each of our love of the game, whether it be football, baseball, track and field, weightlifting, or cycling. And much like the Nixon/Watergate scandal did, it all comes out in the wash -- it always does -- and when it does, it takes a little more of our naivete and our innocence and dilutes it to jaded distrust and disappointment. Whether or not these athletes achieve greatness within their sports, the arena of public opinion will never be the same, and despite the commentary from Vince Lombardi that implores his team to win at any and all costs, there are some costs that simply are too great. Winning may be the only thing, but doing so by cheating -- which is really what we're talking about here -- nullifies and cheapens the game, makes it irrelevant, and corrupts and degenerates it into a less-predictable version of pro wrestling. Except where that "sport" is designed to tittilate and to entertain its "fans," the problem here is that, as children grow into adults, the revelation that these athletes are using drugs to cheat will be akin to the story of Santa Claus -- they will believe up to a certain age, then they will lose faith in their heroes and the sports in which they compete. And once people lose faith in sport, that's when they find something else with which to occupy their time. So the greatness these athletes hoped to achieve by cheating ultimately will destroy the sport and make it -- and their place therein -- irrelevant.

Vince Lombardi once said: ""I firmly believe that any man's finest hour, the greatest fulfillment of all that he holds dear, is the moment when he has worked his heart out in a good cause and lies exhausted on the field of battle -- victorious."

Thankfully, Mr. Lombardi is no longer around; else he might wonder if there is a "good cause" left in modern, chemically-enhanced sports. It's my belief that if he were a modern coach, to this question he would give a resounding "No."