Monday, January 30, 2006

The Noise From Afar

Back when I opened the House of Boogie for public consumption, my goals were clear: put forth a smattering of everything that floats between my ears in a semi-cognizant, relatively intelligent manner and be frank with myself as well as with whoever happened upon this space.

I've tried achieving that goal with as much exactitude as possible, and since a lot of what occupies my mind and my time is my other half, I try to honestly -- yet carefully -- expound on where my head and my heart are at with regard to her and I and the two of us.

However, for better or worse, a lot of what occupies the spaces not filled in with thoughts of our eventual cohabitation and beyond, is, for the most part, what's happening in the world, whether it's violence breaking out in nocturnal suburban France, anti-American demonstrations in Demascus, a roadside bomb injuring ABC journalists, or the eventual proliferation of portable nuclear arms.

So my silence to this point on the Palestinian elections -- the so-called "Hamas"-led revolution -- is a bit disingenuous on my part. It's been on my mind -- no, it's occupied a significant spot therein -- and while not addressing it has been in some way a lot easier than hitting it head on, I think it's somewhat necessary to address it herein now that it's "fresh." Part of what led me to this conclusion is a moral responsibility to myself to chronicle what's happening between my ears, true; but a large part of it is also a result of reading a friend's take on the situation. That friend, Trouble, contributed a very considered take on the situation (she's linked to the left at the World of Trouble) and I didn't feel right letting this historic, perhaps catastrophic change in my world pass without taking a gander and a swing.

This space, and its readers, would probably not take well to a brief history of the Middle East and its many complicated tenets of war, peace and tension, so suffice to say that the "Palestinians" are a group of devout Muslims who have dedicated themselves to rallying against what they claim is Israel's illegal occupation of Muslim holy land. The "plight" of these people is not as sad and unfortunate as is reported by most media outlets; if it were, their fellow Muslims would surely have absorbed them as a people long ago. Their existence as a people without a nation whose land was unfairly taken from them, incidentally, is what I refer to as complete bullshit. Neither here nor there, however: the bottom line is that they, essentially, believe Israel should not exist and in its stead should exist a Palestinian state.

This past weekend, the Palestinian people voted, largely, to expel the majority (three quarters) of the existing government -- led by the "Fatah" party -- and replace same with members of Hamas, which, depending on your world view, is an organization whose main goal is to eradicate Israel and its non-Muslim citizenry. This, of course, could be challenged by anyone who hasn't bothered to read the Hamas charter, which calls for the destruction of the state of Israel. So, noting that Iran's leader recently called for Israel's destruction, it seems that the pendulum has swung, yet again, to the mid-east governments to target Israel. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

It seems to me, with the election of Hamas, that there are two possible responses: either the Palestinian people were simply fed up and frustrated with the corruption and cronyism of the previously empowered Fatah party, or they were supporting the radical, violent call to arms presented by Hamas. The media, for the most part, has suggested the former is the case; I disagree. I think most Muslims, force-fed anti-Israel rhetoric from birth to grave, are happier knowing their government is actively committed to destroying the supposed occupier of their land and their birth-right. How else could there be legions of suicide bombers without this type of ideological egregiousness? The simple fact is that most Palestinians would rather be led by people pointing the finger at Israel for their squalid, simple lives than a government run by people who seemingly are negotiating with their forsworn enemies, for people that they've been told drink Arab blood, eat Arab babies and kill Muslims for pure glee.

The US, along with the EU and Russia, have indicated they will halt Palestinian aid until Hamas renounces violence and acknowledges the state of Israel. It's the right move, even if the outcome might be Iran and Syria contributing monies to the Palestinian government. It always struck me as hypocritical for the US and other Western nations to give monies to a government which, clearly, turned a blind eye to suicide bombers and attacks on civilians. So for Hamas to renounce violence and acknowledge Israel -- even if they were to do so, which I doubt -- would be more futile, empty lip service. Luckily, Hamas is comprised of people who are so fervent and so foolish, they would never willingly do either. So the lines are and continue to be drawn. There's more conflict on the horizon, and more blood will likely be shed.

At least the masks are off and we know who's on which side.

It doesn't relieve the tension or minimize the casualties; it does, however, give clearer perspective to what is happening and who is responsible. There may never be peace in our time on Israeli soil, but -- in a bizarre twist of events -- we can accept that there will be a state of Israel so long as there exists fervent, radical zealots who would rather die than accept Israel's right to exist, side by side, in the modern world. As we will soon see, the Hamas-led government will return its people to living as they did 3,000 years ago. A lack of sophistication, for sure, but more importantly, a lack of willingness to compromise and to move forward instead of remaining backward.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Sensory Overload

Getting in late and going to bed isn't quite what it used to be.

The last few days have been a juggling act, as per usual. A variety of matters, all up in the air, plus an ancillary deadline (not mine directly, but it's an office-wide deadline so it indirectly affects me) have been swirling in my head. On top of that, my mother and my sister left yesterday to see my grandmother and get her ready to relocate to NY. So aside from the emotional toll that's taking on all of us, the fact is my sister is out of town -- meaning, she's not in the office -- so all of her work and duties are landing, temporarily, on my shoulders. That's not too-too big a deal, since voicemail and e-mail can be checked no matter where she is. But there still remains the new assessments floating around, and that's a whole 'nother issue entirely.

Our long-term deadline is March 1st, so the clock is ticking -- I got screwed timing-wise and ended up having to miss a friend's birthday dinner last night. I'll likely end up being back in the office again tomorrow, but in the mean time, that's what is happening -- or not happening -- here. Kaia and I have a "phone" date later; it's gotten so bad, between her work schedule and mine, that we have to block out time to spend together, even on the phone. At some point, it occurred to me that whether we're three thousand miles away or in different rooms of the same apartment, having to make time for one another is a likely necessity. It's not the stuff of romance novels, but there's nothing more than I'd rather be doing than spending time with her; I'm beginning to understand that even when it's "easy" it takes work to feed and grow a relationship, whether it's next door or on the other coast.

Or as a friend of mine recently advised, "It sounds like you're married."


Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio?

On November 19th, 2004, my girlfriend -- visiting from San Francisco -- and I were at a party at HiLife in NYC when, on the bar's big-screen TV, ESPN showed tape of a brawl in Detroit between several Pistons players and Ron Artest, a member of the Indiana Pacers. Added into the mix a few drunk, mouthy Pistons fans -- one of which, as I mentioned in my original post herein, Artest clocked smack-dab in the nose.

Today is January 25th, 2006, and, to date, Artest -- through a combination of suspension, injury, and a complete lack of intelligence -- has, essentially, done nothing since that night in Detroit. After the suspension, he had some issues with his team and his teammates in Indiana (it was mutual) and as the 2006 NBA season commenced, he announced he wanted to be traded. The announcement, apparently, came after a "private" meeting between Artest and Pacers GM Larry Bird, during which Bird received Artest's assurance that he wanted to stay on the team and committed himself to help build a championship team. So, hearing Artest's public reversal understandably irritated Bird who advised him that Artest would soon get his wish. Within 24 hours, Artest publicly declared that he was -- essentially -- letting off steam but that he didn't actually want a trade.

As they say in porno movies, "too little, too late."

Bird, fed up and tired of catering to Artest's sine-wave personality, managed, as of yesterday morning, to arrange a swap of Artest and Peja Stojakovic with the Sacramento Kings. Except when it was announced that the trade was imminent, Artest -- through his agent -- indicated he wasn't interested in playing for Sacramento. This morning, after the media effectively and unanimously concurred that Artest manages to prove himself an even bigger moron each time his name appears in the news, Mark Stevens, Artest's agent -- hoping to spin this situation into something not akin to a complete PR disaster, tried digging his client out of a hole (quote courtesy
"Ron Artest did not want to be traded to Sacramento weeks ago, and he does not want to be traded to Sacramento now.

"Basketball is Ron Artest's passion. In order for Ron to fully demonstrate his natural skills and abilities, to the best of his abilities, he not only must be in an environment that is conducive to his growth an development as a player, he must also ensure that his family is happy and content as well. Ron does not believe that will be the case if he were in Sacramento. Period. However, as mentioned earlier, Ron is deeply committed to the sport of basketball and desperately misses playing the game he loves. If the trade is made he will play for his new team, regardless of how he may feel about it."
Perhaps it's time to get a new agent, Ron.

Over the last several months, I've expounded -- shamelessly or otherwise -- on a variety of athletes, including Artest, Terrell Owens, Marcus Vick and Barry Bonds. Aside from the fact that these are all black men playing professional sports (aside from Vick, who will be if his criminal record doesn't prevent him from doing so) at extremely high levels. I'm disappointed that each of these individuals, who are among the best in their respective fields, are all, for the most part, villified and criticized. Aside from Barry Bonds, whose suspected steroid use will -- in theory -- remain a question until (or unless) he decides to admit same -- these athletes have exemplified why mixing big money and big sports is an ever-increasing problem. As annual salaries and ticket and advertising sales inflate exponentially, athletes' egos grow and become larger than the team and, in some cases, the sport -- or so they think. But it is interesting that the first three men on my original list -- Artest, Owens and Vick -- all possess immense talent and yet all three have been or will be on the sidelines watching others play.

I'm not commenting on the obvious lack of intelligence demonstrated by these individuals; this problem goes beyond that. It is one of attitude, entitlement and politics. I am simply wondering when -- or if -- this problem will begin to be solved. Not only are athletes no longer role models -- unless Allan Iverson is, somehow, someone others should or could look up to -- but they are increasingly representing everything that is wrong with professional sports in every and any way they seemingly can. Personally, I don't even watch basketball anymore -- despite the fact I love the sport itself, it's become what Kaia's father rightfully described as "Televised Thuggery," and it's become boring. I just hope that more GMs and coaches like Larry Bird and Andy Reid get the opportunity and the authority to let players know that the team and the sport are bigger than the individual. What made athletes like Joe DiMaggio and Wayne Gretzky, among others, so great was that as talented they were at their respective sports, they each recognized their place within their sport and showed the respect for the sport and their teammates (as well as their opponents) that said institution deserved.

Today, we have athletes with their own websites, selling individually-branded merchandise without any team affiliation whatsoever. Until football, baseball and basketball become non-team sports, this problem will rapidly escalate and -- more importantly -- test fans' patience more than lockouts, strikes and ticket price increases ever could.

Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio?

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

High Stupidity in the Real and Virtual World

In a day, I come across plenty of stupidity. I work in New York, one of the largest cities in the world, so that -- fortunately -- increases my chances thereof. The fact that I deal with a variety of people who work for The City of New York doesn't hurt things, either. So all in all, I've managed to concoct a recipe for encountering mental midgets on a regular -- if not daily -- basis.

Now that we've got that cleared up, I have found that stupidity -- and my recognition thereof -- isn't and shouldn't be limited strictly to those dummies in my general vicinity. On the contrary -- I've found that there is a variety from which to choose, and in part, I like to take the time in this space to pay homage to those morons near and far who have managed, despite the odds against them, to catch my attention and who have excelled in their abilities to impress me with their sheer ineptitude, foolishness and/or overall lack of purpose.

The first candidate involves the story a friend sent me via e-mail; apparently a gentleman in San Diego was speeding and was caught speeding on photo-radar, those little cameras mounted on or near traffic lights designed to snap a photo of a car speeding or going through a red light, as an example. Apparently, this individual received a $40 summons for speeding and a photo of his car exceeding the speed limit. In response, said individual returned a copy of the summons with a photograph of $40. About a week later, he received his photograph, a copy of the summons and a photograph of a pair of handcuffs.

Needless to say, he paid the fine.

I actually don't necessarily think this individual is particularly stupid. First and foremost, any state or region that attempts to ticket someone for speeding and penalize them with a moving violation is, in my opinion, violating the law. If I am driving my brother's car and he and I look almost identical, why should he receive a ticket if it's my driving that is violating the law? In other words, why should anyone accept a penalty -- ie a moving violation, which results in violation points against an individual's license -- when they could simply and easily claim that their friend or family member was driving? Since there is reasonable doubt, there is no judge in the country who would be able -- willingly -- to implement that penalty.

Meanwhile, while this argument, I believe, has plenty of merit, I would also advise against taunting the police department, especially when the collection of monies is involved. What I've found is, whether we're talking about the fine for not wearing a seatbelt, a motorcycle helmet or simply going through a red light, is that it's not as much about safety as it is revenue. If the public is safe, that's all well and good; but is my going 62 miles an hour really going to endanger another 6.34 lives instead of following a diet of 55 miles an hour? The bullshit flies fast and furious no matter how fast you're driving.

The next instance of sheer stupidity involves Saturday night's UAB-Houston basketball game. During the game, Houston coach Tom Panders, who has a specific heart condition, became dizzy, fell to his knees and subsequently collapsed. At some point during this episode, the referees for the game assumed that Panders was mocking or complaining about them, so they issued him a technical foul. Subsequently, he was taken off the court -- wearing an oxygen mask -- on a stretcher. I certainly can't fault the refs' initial reaction to what they thought was mockery from a coach -- although Panders' name is far from the incessant, regular finger-pointing and mocking of a guy like Bobby Knight, as an example -- but once they saw the guy was undergoing a legitimate health crisis -- to the point that he might have died as a result of the episode -- it would have made a modicum of sense to, perhaps, rescind the technical foul call and delay the game for five minutes until order -- and, hopefully, Panders' health -- was reinstated.

Alas, no such luck. The referees refused to rescind the technical, despite all the evidence and logic suggesting that should be their course of action. UAB's "Squeaky" Johnson nailed both free throws, and UAB went on to win the game 82-79. If the two T's hadn't been rung up, it would have been a one-point game, thus proving the referees are not only blind, but stupid as well. It's one thing for a referee to claim "I didn't see it" -- it's another for him to be such an idiot that he saw it yet still managed to fuck it up.


Last on today's stupid agenda is that stupidity which is sight unseen. I'm talking about quasi-spam and the idiots who chase it.

About two weeks ago, I made two attempts via e-mail to contact a friend I hadn't spoken to in some time. She moved twice and, as a result, cycled through two new e-mail addresses before settling on the west coast and choosing the cable bohemoth Comcast as her Internet Service Provider. Since she and I last spoke, she had given me her address, which we'll refer to as "" She had sent me something in November so I replied to that e-mail and that particular address. I spent the better part of a half hour researching something on her behalf, so once I was done, I -- despite evidence contradicting same here -- whipped up a well-thought out, organized, intelligent communication.

A few minutes after, I received a Comcast bounce message -- or so I thought. I re-sent the e-mail, taking care that the e-mail address was the same as that which she'd used to send me the e-mail in November. It was.

So I fired it off yet again, not sure what the problem was but, nonetheless, hoping it would not be an ongoing issue. Sure enough, I received the same bounce message.

Since I had already spent almost 45 minutes on this, I moved onto other things and deigned to return to the problem once I had the chance. That chance came, oddly enough, the next day, when said friend logged into AIM and I noticed her. I IM'd her immediately and told her what was going on, and sure enough, the e-mail address I'd used was indeed correct.

Looking back at the two "bounced" messages, I instead realized that they weren't bounce messages but messages indicating my IP had been blacklisted by Comcast. I'm not sure why, as I don't recall the last time I sent something even remotely resembling spam. No virii, no freaky attachments, and no mass e-mails originate from here, so I sent Comcast an e-mail -- as per their advice -- requesting they remove me from their so-called list.

12 hours later, I received a response therefrom in which they told me they'd received my e-mail request but since I didn't include an IP therein they couldn't remove me from their list. Apparently this process would have to occupy another 12-hour delay before it would be solved, if ever.

So I sent them a new e-mail with the IP asking them not only to remove me but also why they decided to include my IP in their list. I haven't received a response, and I don't yet know if I've been removed from their list. However, one thing I do know is that the process has taken at least 24 hours, and since it has not yet been resolved, it seems to be an ongoing morass of masturbatory futility.

So Comcast wins my award for Institutional Stupidity.

Now, lest ye assume I am simply condemning an evil, faceless, brainless, flatulent corporate entity without forethought, I think the fight against spam can and should be fought successfully. Moreover, I am all for companies taking new, novel approaches to fight spam and otherwise inappropriate internet traffic. However -- and this is where it really gets good -- I have a sneaking feeling that my provider contains one or more people who somehow pissed off the powers that be at Comcast, and rather than intelligently going in and blocking the individual(s) responsible, they blocked my ISP, and, subsequently, made it impossible for me to communicate legitimately with their customer.

I haven't yet advised my friend of Comcast's actions, but it seems clear to me that if I was a customer of theirs and was awaiting something important -- a business e-mail, or perhaps a response in connection with a job or an important personal matter -- that was blocked randomly by a company that bills me each month, that would be the last month I'd be a customer of that company. On the one hand, as a Comcast customer, I'm pretty sure it's nice not to have to deal with spam in any way, shape or form; however, it must be pretty difficult and aggravating knowing that at any given time, you might not be getting e-mail that you are expecting or not expecting.

So, encountering stupidity in its many guises, whether in person or in corporate form, is equally, and significantly, disconcerting. There is stupidity everywhere: in our government, our office, our supermarket, and even online. So rather than let it annoy, anger or frustrate you, be sure to let the offending moron -- be it a person, a company, or an entire nation -- know that you're aware they're of lesser intelligence and that their actions, while offensive, are only the by-product of their ineptitude and stupidity.

Or, as Robin Williams once quipped, "Joke 'em if they can't take a fuck."

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Surreality Check

These days the skies are waning, the moon is blue and the soundtrack to my world sounds something like Air Supply dueting with Barry Manilow doing a cover of Metallica's "Enter Sandman."

If that weren't bad enough, there are a lot of extranneous distractions which are not only preoccupying my focus, but are weird in and of themselves. First, there is news that Leif Garret, ie former Tiger Beat cover-boy, was arrested for -- get this combo -- not having a subway ticket and carrying 'narcotics.' How many times do you jump a turnstile whilst carrying some smack and then get nailed by the cops?

Apparently once too often, in Leif's case. Oops.

* * *

Then there's the news that Clarence Ray Allen, who at 76 years and one day old, was finally executed by the State of California for a variety of crimes. Mr. Allen's attorneys tried to stay his conviction citing his advanced age and his failing health, which included diabetes, blindness, partial deafness and his use of a wheelchair. Apparently, Mr. Allen was (sic) in such awful health that he had to be injected a second time with the poison cocktail that eventually made his life a footnote.

The reason why I bring up Mr. Allen's execution -- aside from the fact that I am glad that this shitbird failed to convince The Termischwarzenegger that he was "too old to die," as his lawyers claimed -- is I was reading the commentary by the state on his pre-execution medical status and found same to be memorable (an understatement):
"Having suffered a heart attack back in September, Allen had asked prison authorities to let him die if he went into cardiac arrest before his execution, a request prison officials said they would not honor.

"'At no point are we not going to value the sanctity of life,' said prison spokesman Vernell Crittendon. 'We would resuscitate him, then execute him.'"

Way to value human life, Mr. Crittendon. I'm all warm n' fuzzy now.

* * *

Next up on the "Did They Really Say That?" Blotter: New Orleans mayor Ray Nagin described the rebuilding of the city in curious terms. Specifically, he said that New Orleans, pre-Katrina, was a 'chocolate' city and should remain that way post-rebuilding. He's gotten a lot of abuse over the ill-chosen remark, especially considering the entire text of his chocolate-related dialogue:
"'How do you make chocolate? You take dark chocolate, you mix it with white milk, and it becomes a delicious drink. That is the chocolate I am talking about,' he said. 'New Orleans was a chocolate city before Katrina. It is going to be a chocolate city after. How is that divisive? It is white and black working together, coming together and making something special.'"

It's not a white chocolate city; it's not a dark chocolate city. It's Shine-Olah with a shit cherry on top.

Good luck getting re-elected this year, schmuck.

* * *

Finally, the sign that the apocalypse is nigh, for sure, has to be the news from the Boston Legal set that William Shatner, aka Captain Kirk, will be selling his now-emitted kidney-stone on E-Bay for charity. He described it as the "ultimate piece of Star Trek memorabilia."

Is it me, or does it amaze everyone that William Shatner somehow manages to come off as an even bigger douchebag each time he's in the news?

Thanks, Captain. While he's at it, he should have demonstrated he was serious about raising major coin for charity by creating an E-Bay auction that offers the winning bidder a chance to kick him in the balls and duct-tape his mouth shut. That'd be far more valuable and an auction that would get a LOT of bids.

At least we wouldn't have to watch those irritating Priceline commercials anymore.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Shadows On The Wall

Watching Kaia's cab stutter-step into traffic, yet again, I prepared for another month without her. Around six last night, I walked back into my warm apartment, all the lights lit and everything neat, orderly and fresh. It felt cold and dark.

As I settled onto the couch to have some dinner and ruminate on her impending return to California, I picked up the phone to make sure she didn't forget anything -- which is Boogie-speak for calling her just because I missed her. I hit the memory menu button and thumbed to her mobile phone entry, and as the phone dialed, I heard no dial tone but instead her giggling on the other end. She'd beaten me to it.

We talked for a little while before I opted out to let her call her parents to let them know her flight was delayed by an hour by fog -- which, I opined, was the City's way of honoring their soon-to-be departing guest.

I popped on the television and found an on-demand movie to watch, "Million Dollar Baby." I'd never seen it, despite hearing lots about it; aside from the fact it won the Oscar for Best Picture, I had been meaning to see it because I'm convinced Clint Eastwood is one of the most gifted movie directors ever. However, because its subject matter -- euthanasia -- is dramatic and less than uplifting, I hadn't been eager to spend two-plus hours getting myself depressed. I've been dealing with enough personally that I didn't need any help getting there; but since I was sad to see Kaia leave, I figured I had some free time and wanted to keep my mind occupied, so I fired it up. I fell asleep soon after it started, but I wound up waking back up and restarting it about ten minutes in, so it's all good.

Regarding the film, I won't go into much detail here, because the less one knows about the movie prior to seeing it, the better. But I will say that I am amazed and impressed by Clint Eastwood's ability to present, film after film, such great movies. Since I saw "Unforgiven," and certainly long before that, I've always been a fan of his; but while the Dirty Harry movies were somewhat dumbed-down fare and the "Money" Trilogy ("The Good, The Bad and The Ugly;" "A Fistful of Dollars;" and "For A Few Dollars More") was a bit simplistic, he's been churning out, one by one, memorable, well-crafted movies. "Million Dollar Baby" was no exception. It was heartfelt, honest, poignant and staggering in its perfection and ability to explore the topic and the moment and the relationships between the few characters in the film. Morgan Freeman and Hilary Swank both turned in exceptional performances as well; but the film's message, and its bittersweet overtones, left me exhausted and exhilerated.

As the film wound down, I noticed Kaia's flight had arrived in San Francisco, so I called her before her plane even arrived at the gate. She hadn't slept much on the plane (and it was still, for her, three in the morning), she was just eager to get home and crawl into bed. We talked on and off for the next forty-five minutes between her exiting the plane and getting into bed.

The flaws of long-distance cell-phone communication aside, it was deja vu; just hours before, we could just coexist in the same space and not need to worry about reception, battery life, or geography in our snippets of exchanges, even if we were preoccupied with other things. Knowing we were going back to phone calls, e-mails, instant messages and voicemails suddenly clicked somewhere in my mind; and when I climbed into bed along with her, I caught the scent of her perfume on my pillows and it finally, solemnly hit me that I was in the dark, alone, on a rainy, thundering night knowing I wanted nothing more than to kiss her good night and the next morning we'd be waking up together.

As I've indicated in prior posts, the last two weeks were very mellow; we didn't do much running around in the aim of trying to see what "real life" will be like between us: coming home from work and cooking or ordering in rather than getting together with friends; errands instead of shopping excursions; and taking out the garbage instead of cabbing to Soho to window-shop. While it makes for less-than-enthralling reading, it made me happy to acknowledge, yet again, how effortless and easy it is for us to be together. If I'm repeating myself again I'll apologize, but it's so amazing and so gratifying to spend time with her and find myself smiling and content.

And as I surmised, the only negative was knowing it will be another month before we're in each others' space and doing those same, mundane, boring tasks. What I learned, or more accurately, confirmed, from this past couple weeks is that being with someone can be a good thing, but with the right person, the little things -- everything, actually -- is incredible. And the downside of that is how bad it feels knowing she isn't here with me now.

As I'm writing this, iTunes offered up John Mayer's "Love Song For No One," and I chuckled. I can spend the next month complaining about her not being here, but knowing she's "with" me is, for sure, far more satisfying than being with the wrong person or not having a significant other. So if I sound unappreciative or whiny, I apologize, as neither is my intention. I just like my life with her in it, and hate the spaces in between. I might get used to it, but I'm more hoping that I don't and that doing so will soon be unnecessary.

Or, put another way, time has a way of ebbing and flowing like the tide, and to enjoy the tide is to accept both the ebb and flow.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Maybe It's Me, But...

The last few weeks have flown by.

That's not necessarily a good thing, nor is it a bad thing. It just sort

Since Kaia arrived on the 29th, there's been no shortage of laughs and fun between us; this trip, for us both, has been a lot less flash and a lot more substance. That's not to say that our prior visits haven't been meaningful, or that we haven't spent quality time together. It's just that this visit has been a lot more real.

There have been external pressures, starting with her job/deadline(s) and my job deadline(s); both of which are always present to some degree, yet this time, both amped up the pressure and they collided at high pitch. We each had major projects that required intense focus and follow-up, and it's not easy to perform at that kind of level in a sustained fashion, especially when you're concentrating on your other half and less on your own needs. So each of us trying to get our workstuff finished and simultaneously trying to be there for each other was difficult. Not bad, not unsuccessful; but difficult for sure.

On top of the work situations, there is the medical situation regarding my mom's recuperation from surgery and my grandmother's pending relocation. They're both doing very well and heading in the right direction; however, dealing with that stress of worrying and being there for my family pulled me in that direction as well. I wasn't worried about Kaia feeling neglected or left out; I made sure I didn't neglect her or leave her out. It's just that there was a lot happening, and rather than opt out, she opted in, so she was privy to all the fun I've been handling over the past few months.

As exciting and enthralling as that may sound, it's certainly far from us enjoying the bottle of Clicquot that still resides in my fridge. Basically speaking, rather than doing a lot of dining out, fun and memorable stuff, we did a lot of quiet, together time and spent a lot of time discussing and mapping out our future. Almost all of what we want in life coincides, so it's just a matter of timing, geography and direction. And since we agree on almost everything, it wasn't hard figuring out exactly when, where and how we'll move forward.

I think the most interesting thing about the past few weeks is how we handled -- together -- everything that came our way. Usually our time together feels mostly like vacation. That is not so much a result of life stopping around us, but since we -- both as individuals and as a couple -- handle most everything we face we a large measure of aplomb, we can pretty much juggle everything happening around us without it affecting us too much once we close the door and turn off the lights.

However, this trip saw a lot of oppressive work requirements for both of us, and with everything else we were dealing with, it was not easy. And yet, having her here, made it easier. Rather than me having to worry about keeping her happy amidst the chaos and the pressure I have been facing, she made it easier and not harder. It makes me wonder where I was before she and I met: the last woman I dated was so depressing and so unhappy in general that being around her was mentally exhausting; with Kaia, even the shitty days have been great.

Tomorrow she is returning to Cali, and that, in part, is what fueled this mini-retrospective of her visit here. But as much this trip was a bit different from those in the past, I found this one immensely gratifying and very reassuring. The last few weeks have been, for each of us, very authentic in our lives. And rather than it being difficult to be around one another, I found solace in knowing she was there for me and me for her when the day was long. Instead of us needing to be in opposite ends of my apartment -- or in the City -- while the shit was hitting the fan, we wound up finding in each other the most reliable place to set down and wait for the craziness to pass. And that makes me happier than any night out or dinner with friends ever could.

I think the only negative aspect of the past few weeks and this visit, if at all, is that she's going to be leaving soon. But I think we've both realized it's just a matter of time before this situation reaches some sort of stasis, and we can fight bureaucracy, bills, alternating schedules, laundry and cable repair appointments together. I will happily experience the mundane, random, boring tasks of everyday life with her knowing she'll be there every morning when I wake up. Put another way, waking up this Saturday morning, even if I have amazing, wonderful, great plans, won't quite be the same knowing she's not with me.

If it means being with the right person in the right situation at the right time, however, I'll happily endure the waiting.

Well, maybe not happily.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Nature or Nurture?

While I've been mainly focusing on the shit sammich I've been forced to eat over the last few months, there have been a variety of unique news items which have piqued my interest on more than one occasion. Recently, I've been observing Ariel Sharon's health deteriorate -- and with it, perhaps, Israel's chance at a meaningful, legitimate peace with her neighbors -- and that's been a sad unfolding of events. But while there are real news stories that are sad, significant and/or memorable, there is none more interesting than that of Marcus Vick.

Marcus Vick, the younger brother of Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick, has has a noteworthy, and busy, collegiate career. His brother Michael, known around and beyond the NFL as one of the league's top players, attended Virginia Tech and was so exemplary in his abilities as a player that he was selected number 1 in the NFL Draft in 2001. Since then, he's been respectable -- not stellar -- but has always been a well-known, oft-mentioned player.

There are some notable similarities between the two brothers. Both are approximately six feet tall and weigh about the same -- 213 to 215. Both are talented, able quarterbacks -- and both had great success on the field for Virginia Tech. That is, of course, until Marcus was kicked off the team on January 6th.

Marcus Vick, 21, has had a long and storied career as a football player at Virginia Tech. However, his off-the-field activities have made him equally famous. As far back as September, 2003, he was suspended from the team -- presumably as a freshman -- for undisclosed reasons. Then, in February, 2004, he was arrested for providing alcohol to four underage girls and for having sex with a 15-year-old girl (it's assumed the girl listed in the latter charge was one of the four listed in the former). He was acquitted of the latter charge, but convicted of the former; he was sentenced to 30 days in prison and a fine of $2,500. The then-19-year-old Vick next met up with police at 2:30AM in July of that same year, when he was pulled over for speeding (going 86 in a 65 mph zone). Upon pulling the car over, police also charged him with marijuana possession after a waft of smoke hit the officer; upon learning of the arrest, Virginia Tech suspended him from the team indefinitely -- for "off-field problems."

In August, after he pleaded guilty to speeding and no contest to the possession charge, Tech suspended him for the season. September brought more dalliances with underage girls, and again he was charged with contributing to the delinquency of a minor. In the plea deal, he agreed to a 30-day suspended jail sentence, a $100 fine, and to stay away from the young women.

In January, 2005, he was allowed to return to the team, and until October, he stayed clear of controversy. However, he was caught -- on camera -- making obscene gestures to fans at West Virginia who were taunting him in connection with his checkered past. He apologized a day later and was not reprimanded.

His next appearance in the spotlight was in December, when he was again pulled over -- this time with a suspended license -- for speeding. He was going 38 in a 25, but by driving with a suspended license, he was due back in court. As of this writing, that date has not yet been set. However, he had more important matters on his mind: January 2nd, Virginia Tech faced Louisville in the Gator Bowl; he had a great game and Virginia Tech beat Louisville 35-24. However, during the game, Vick was caught on tape stomping on the left calf of Louisville's All-American defensive end Elvis Dumervil. After the game, Vick claimed it was accidental and he apologized to Dumervil, who denied receiving any apology from Vick.

Four days later, he was permanently kicked off the team.

A day later, he announced he was going pro.

And yesterday, he surrendered to police and charged with threatening three teenagers in a McDonald's with a gun.

Forgive my possible naivete, but when someone demonstrates a degree of stupidity that only is exceeded by their inability to learn from their own mistakes, why should anyone expect anything from them beyond more and more stupidity?

Athletes are and have been traditionally regarded as not intellectually gifted. And, for the most part, a good number of athletes are brought up in less-than-ideal conditions; many are brought up in near-poverty, in small, blue-collar towns, and the majority only pursue education because of and as a result of their athletic ability. So seeing how the younger Vick has managed, in only three years, to demonstrate he is a moronic, selfish, inconsiderate asshole, is surprising, given his older brother's exemplary reputation both on- and off the field.

Some athletes are people with serious problems: Daryl Strawberry's drug addiction, Lawrence Taylor's drug addiction, a number of athletes who have used and abused steroids to achieve success. Then there are the selfish, self-absorbed jerks like Terrell Owens who simply don't get it. And then there are morons like Marcus Vick.

It's fairly likely that some team will take a chance and draft, or at least, sign, Marcus Vick to a professional contract. And that's all well and good. I am hoping, however, that whoever signs him first learns the story of Lawrence Phillips, a talented athlete who played -- briefly -- for both the San Francisco 49'ers and the Rams. Both teams took a chance on him because he had immense talent, but he also had a tremendous inability to coexist with normal, well-adjusted human beings.

So, as I read the story of Marcus Vick, I am -- in my typical, jaded, cynical manner -- counting the days until he is signed by an NFL team to a seven-figure contract, only to piss away that opportunity by doing something stupid -- like driving 120 mph in a leased Mercedes, get pulled over, and arrested for possession or DWI. And I wonder if our entertainment -- sports teams, beer, advertising, sales -- is worth rewarding stupidity, immaturity and behavior that would land most of us in prison to people who prove -- time and time again -- that they not only don't deserve it, but that given the opportunity, they will go out of their way to fail -- miserably.

What amazes me more is the huge disparity between these two Vicks. Maybe it's true that the environment plays a huge role in how people turn out: their upbringing, their friends, their neighborhoods...but knowing these two brothers followed the same path, achieved very similar things, and had the same goals -- at least initially -- makes one wonder how much of a role nurture really plays in this equation. And also, how long before Marcus Vick commits a crime that is not easily-dismissed or resolved by a $300 fine and a month in jail.

Tick tick tick tick tick tick...

Monday, January 09, 2006

On The Upswing (for now)

About 36 hours ago, I was somewhere low; not dark, not bleak, not hopeless, but somewhere not quite where I wanted to be. I was getting ready to watch Kaia take a random taxi to JFK and back to California.

Tonight, about six hours ago, we were talking on the phone and she let slip that she changed her flight from tomorrow to Thursday. She -- intentionally or otherwise -- did so in such a way that the surprise came at me more like a sunrise than a postcard photo. Once I realized she wasn't kidding, that she was, in fact, staying a couple more days, I was elated moreso than I have been than since I first saw her on the 29th.

I don't know how I kept my smile to myself, but as I made my way back to my office with this newly-discovered information, I realized that I've never felt this way about anyone. There's never been anyone in my life whose mere presence lights me up and relieves me, comforts me or makes me happier than does hers. Even now as she's gone off to sleep and I'm wrapping up a few odds and ends on the PC, just the two of us being together puts me at ease in a way few others things or people can.

That's not to say that it's all good -- I'm still dreading watching her taxi pull away, and the accompanying empty, sad walk of less than a dozen steps back to my apartment, feeling like I've just watched my last sunset or smiled for the very last time. There have been times -- and people -- whose departure after a stay has left me nothing short of elated -- but hers universally leave me emotionally empty as I watch her taxi disappear into the horizon. And as hard as it is watching her leave, or for me to leave San Fran, it's a good hurt: knowing how intense and how genuine -- and mutual -- our feelings are is an indescribable, scary feeling. Knowing you're so connected with someone else on this earth, and knowing that connect is at once both precarious and stronger than steel is really something. Having her in my life is not something I take for granted, certainly: it's just that treating her like a princess isn't something I have to think about but that just comes naturally, like breathing or blinking.

The other day, I was running around downtown -- work errands and assignments -- when my iPod randomly kicked up "I Guess That's Why They Call It The Blues" by Elton John. I've always liked his stuff, but it never really captured my soul as did early Zeppelin or some late-model AC/DC (with Bon Scott, natch). But that day, as I contemplated another of her ill-timed returns to the West Coast, I absorbed the lyrics to the aforementioned Elton John song and they haven't left me yet.
Time on my hands
Could be time spent with you
Laughing like children
Living like lovers
Rolling like thunder under the covers
And I guess that's why
They call it the blues.
I'm sure there's someone out there who would castigate me for using song lyrics in a blog; but I doubt there's ever been any song more perfect in describing my feelings -- watching her leave, knowing there's no better place for her than here with me in New York -- and it confirms that, even though I should be happy I've found someone so perfect for me, there's a legitimate and proper sadness knowing that, at least for the time being, it's temporary.

And the one thing that always seems to pull me out of it faster than anything else is the knowledge that one day, that temporary tag will disappear into the horizon instead of her taxi.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

A Monumental Set of Tasks

At some point in life, we each have to come to the realization that this world will, one day, pass us by, and that all the little annoyances and major problems with which we grapple daily will be meaningless. I comprehend that fact rationally in terms of my own life and my own mortality, but I wish it could be part of my entire being rather than just a concept I sort of "get."

At this very moment, Kaia and I are winding down from a crazy-busy whirlwind of a weekend. We did a lot, and yet, not that much. We hung out with friends, kicked back at a few bars, did a few restaurants, walked around, did some shopping, did some people-watching, and, basically, spent the entire weekend together. She's going back to Cali on Tuesday so between the weekend winding down -- the Sunday blues -- and her impending departure, I'm somewhere between sullen and petulant.

To add to the mix, I've got some issues with my landlord that need to be resolved in the next 48 hours. That pressure, coupled with my sister's situation with her landlord -- we both live in buildings owned by the same group -- is weighing on me as there's a business relationship beyond us as tenants in their buildings.

What's also weighing on me is my grandmother's situation; as of this moment, she's in a rehabilitation center upstate, but because she's so geographically removed from us, we're trying to get her into some sort of assisted-living facility near us. It's likely going to be somewhere in New York because of the way Medicare and her insurance function; but inasmuch as it will be sometime soon that she is living closer to us, it's upsetting that she's being uprooted and moved in part against her will. If she had her druthers, I suppose she'd prefer to stay where she is, living where she has been and going about her days without interference or anyone else's involvement. But as I'm learning more intimately these days, the march of time waits for no one. Or as a dear family friend told me recently: "people get older."

My mother, thankfully, has been doing very well with her recovery, and much like thinking about my father's health, her situation has not been first on my mind these days. It's not that I don't worry or care about her well-being; it's more that she's out of danger and that there are lots of other pressing problems weighing on me.

If I were purely selfish, I would guess that a large reason why I'm in the place I'm in is because I am not looking forward to Kaia leaving; I'm actually dreading it, actually. We've spent so much time together since she got here on the 29th that, again, as per usual, she's become a part of my daily routine. We were walking somewhere in Soho this afternoon, and, as per usual, I reached my left hand down a bit and it naturally found hers as if brought together by magnets. It just feels right when we're in one another's presence, and her leaving -- for us both -- upsets that natural symbiosis that works so perfectly and so effortlessly. So in essence, her leaving and returning to address her obligations and a big part of her life are mandatory -- but it doesn't mean I have to happily -- or willingly -- accept it. So until she's been absent for a day or two, I'll be kicking and screaming in my head and my heart until I finally do.

As a good friend used to say, "In a hundred years, no one will really give a shit about any of your problems."

And as I frequently responded, "That doesn't mean that I can't be unhappy about them right this minute."


Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Never Mind The Bullshit

With New York's skies greyed over and the streets blanketed with a steady sheen of crisp, rainy sleet, I returned to my office today in relatively the same state in which I left it this past Thursday -- longing for vacation.

It's not really the rain that covers the entire city in a dreary darkness; it's not the cold that penetrates your entire being, no matter how heavy a coat you're wearing or how many layers are covering the skin; it's not the thought of another winter oncoming like a tractor trailer without brakes skidding towards me on a sheet of ice; it's just the malaise of there not being an end in sight.

I made my way downtown this afternoon, delayed by a couple of semi-significant errands, and as I made my way through the harried throngs of umbrella-carrying obstacles, my iPod was the only thing exuding warmth. Aside from the fact that the iPod is one of four items that I can't head to the office without (the other three being my wallet, my cellphone and the Palm), I find it curious that having an iPod enrolls me in a sort-of worldwide fraternity of people who listen to their music when- and wherever they please; yet, while this in theory should bring us all together, what it really does is enable us to shut the rest of the world out, whether on subways, buses, at the gym or on city streets. Somewhere around 2:30 I finished with one agency and was on my way to another and enjoyed "Going To California" by Led Zeppelin, followed by "40 Mile Town" by Eric Johnson. Normally, trudging through the gloom that is the first day back to work after a holiday weekend/season is a fairly miserable experience. However, those two songs reminded me, wham-bam, of my other half, and it actually brightened up the afternoon, if just a little bit.

Speaking of my other half, Kaia and I spent the last few days enjoying much of nothing beyond spending time with each other. I took Friday off so we could spend some time alone, and we wound up doing exactly that. Saturday, we ended up doing some errands and some little things that needed to be addressed, and then that night we met up with friends in midtown and did dinner and the New Year's celebration in a restaurant downstairs and the lounge upstairs, respectively. In short, it turned out to be fun and relatively mellow -- not too loud, not too crazy, and not too much bullshit, which is exactly what we wanted. We got to the restaurant around 9:30 and wound up leaving around 1:30, closing the place down and being weary, spent and all smiles. We originally had planned to spend the night alone, but opted to spend the night instead with friends, and it turned out to be the right choice. We met some old friends, met some new ones, and, despite this being our first New Year's Eve in the same city, we really had a blast.

The night following was a mini-party; a bunch (about a dozen) of us got together at Bowlmor downtown, a bowling/party space that is more like a club than a bowling alley. Bowlmor comprises several floors so once we found our group -- we arrived a bit late with friends with whom we'd hung out at at my place earlier -- we had a lot of fun. None of us had been bowling in awhile, so everyone pretty much headed out sore, achy and tired, but we all -- again -- had a lot of fun.

Yesterday being the bonus, we wound up spending the entire day lounging around and didn't bother getting dressed. I had a pair of pajama bottoms and Kaia in her nightie; by the time we had any motivation to do anything, it was almost dark. We powered through a few movies and ordered dinner, but overall it was just about catching up on R&R. Mission accomplished.

People talk about the "holiday blues," suggesting that being alone during the holiday season -- Thanksgiving through New Year's Day -- is the toughest time of the year. And while on some level that might be true, what I've realized is that it's not being alone that's the problem, it's being with the wrong person. Whether that turns out to mean by yourself or with a significant other that should be anything but, it occurred to me that with the right person, two can move mountains, span the miles, and be far greater than the mere sum of its parts.

That might not be true for everyone, but it is for me, and if nothing else, that's more than all I ever need.