Saturday, May 25, 2019

May 25

I really cannot express how frustrated I got this morning when my *new car* with less than 900 miles on it, flashed the dreaded low tire pressure signal. I went into a full-throated rage monster mode, like how the fuck could this happen when I just bought this car a month ago ... it is a holiday weekend ... why does this bullshit keep happening to me ...  blah blah blah blah blah. 

Even after putting air in the tires, the light stayed on. When I got home and googled how to handle the light on a Subaru, I found out basically you just drive it around (which I had done). So, I took it to the local tire shop (who had helped with my Jetta back in February) and they checked it out. They reinflated all the tires to the manufacturer specs and the light went out. On the bright side, they did not charge me and I ran into a co-worker who I had a nice chat with and calmed me down. Ultimately, much ado about nothing, but in the moment, I was furious. 

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Friday, May 24, 2019

May 24

My vacation week is drawing to a close. I had big plans for it but ended up watching TV and going to the gym. It feels like a waste. The weather has been good, I like being outside when it is warm, but yet, I spend hour after hour mindlessly surfing the couch (and cable). Oh well.

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Wednesday, May 22, 2019

May 22

I was going to do a bunch of day trips this week and take nature photos, but instead, I have spent most of it napping and watching The Office re-runs. Win?

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Tuesday, May 21, 2019

May 21

Having read ALL THE TAKES on the series finale of Game of Thrones I have just a few thoughts. First and foremost is the question of whether the broad strokes comport with Martin's final vision for his own work. If they do, then what people are complaining about is a failure of TV to capture the fine details. 

Of course, *had* Martin finished his series we would know the answer, but to some degree, that he has not may end up ginning up more interest in his final two books. Readers (and some show viewers who became readers after the show started) are now even more incentivized to buy those books so all the unanswered questions (and those specific, point of view details) can be filled in. 

My second thought is that a show that came into the home stretch teasing us that its main character would break the wheel ended up being ground down by it. In an alternate universe, if the show ended with the season six finale The Winds of Winter (for all the criticism of seasons 7 and 8, this episode also exists after the end of Martin's book runway, so give Benioff and Weiss some credit) leaving to viewers (and Martin) the opportunity to wrap up the story some time in the future. I would have been fine with that ambiguity. 

Instead, the wheel breaker adopted the tactics of the wheel spinners and ended up being snuffed out because of it. Dany ended up ignoring the advice of some ("be a dragon" said Lady Oleanna) and continually stepped on the rakes laid out by others (most notably, her closest advisor Tyrion). When she rebelled against all of it because two of her dragons and two of her closest friends both died, and nuked the world she wished to inherit, she gets a blade in the chest for it. Ultimately, the wheel simply continues to spin, with some old people and some new people filling the seats deciding how to build sewers, replenish fleets, and all the rest. 

Finally, it is important to remember that this is all fleeting. Even writing less than 48 hours after the series finale feels dated. By next week, it will be forgotten. For as intense as all of the publicity seems in the moment, its half-life is vanishingly short once the story ends.

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Monday, May 20, 2019

May 20

Today is the kind of day I envision my retirement being. Getting up. Taking care of the cats. Eating breakfast. Going to the gym. Coming home. Showering. Eating lunch. Taking a nap. Lather, rinse, repeat, until I die. I really do just want a simple life without any responsibility, I just hope I live long enough to have one.

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Sunday, May 19, 2019

May 19

In a lengthy (and largely unrelated) post, the writer Drew Magary said the following: 

I am a 42-year-old father of three. My entire goal in life is to be left the fuck alone.
I don't wanna do anything. I don't wanna go anywhere. And I sure as shit do not
wanna talk to anyone. All I wanna do is sit in my chair. 

Fam, that is me, for real (without the kids). I am at the point where I have restricted the time I spend away from my home to the bare minimum. Work. The gym. Errands. The energy it takes nowadays just to do those things is substantial, forget doing anything above and beyond that. 

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Friday, May 17, 2019

May 17

I am off for the next eleven days and it is glorious. Not because I will go on some fancy trip, but simply because I will not have to go to work. That I will be able to run dumb errands I never seem to get around to and nap, and hang with my cats, and just relax. 

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Thursday, May 16, 2019

May 16

The Wedding Singer was on TV this weekend. Aside from the spot on 80s homage and Jon Lovitz's absolutely classic scene-stealing version of Ladies Night, there was a scene toward the end hit a wee bit too close to home. Robbie (Adam Sandler) is at the bar drowning his sorrow at losing Julia (Drew Barrymore) and has the following conversation with his friend Sammy (Allen Covert):

  • Robbie That's it, man, starting right now, me and you are going to be free and happy the rest of our lives! 
    Sammy I'm not happy. I'm miserable. 
    Robbie Wha - what? 
    Sammy See... I grew up idolizing guys like Fonzie and Vinnie Barbarino because they got a lot of chicks. You know what happened to Fonzie and Vinnie Barbarino? 
    Robbie Yeah, I read that Fonzie wants to be a director and Barbarino, I think... the mechanical bull movie? I didn't see it yet. 
    Sammy Their shows got canceled. Because no one wants to see a fifty-year-old guy hitting on chicks. 
    Robbie So what are you saying? 
    Sammy What I'm saying is all I really want is someone to hold me and tell me that everything is going to be all right. 
    Old man in bar [Comes up behind him and hugs him]  Everything is going to be all right.

I will be 50 next year and I really do just want someone to hold me and tell me it will be ok. Dating is exhausting. Trying to find someone feels like a quest that will never end (much less in success). It is pathetic and lame, but when it is laid out in such basic terms, it feels like a slap in the face and a cold reality. 

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Tuesday, May 14, 2019

May 14

I watched the Veep series finale last night. It was fine, a little surprising that Selina threw Gary under the bus in service of being elected, but it was fine. The show was fine. In truth, it was at its most interesting about 4 seasons ago, and became a dueling-banjo insult show that lost any sense of internal consistency a few seasons back, but it was funny anyway.

Regardless, the thing about series finales is how most are anti-climactic. I have watched shows obsessively only to basically forget about them 48 hours after they stop airing. TV show universes expand early and then start contracting as they near the end. It is why fans end up getting frustrated. They want characters to have arcs that differ from those they see on the screen or they start picking on how they arrive at their climactic finish. Relationships rarely end well and because a series finale puts a period on the story being told and there is no way to reach closure other than what you see, you are left to ponder what was done right and what was done wrong, or, you just forget about things and move on with your life.

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Monday, May 13, 2019

May 13

Whew. Four days until vacation. Just going to keep my head down, get through my days, and then walk out the door for 11 days.

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Sunday, May 12, 2019

May 12

It was six years ago to the day (and date) that I got ready for my first trip to New York City in many years. I was meeting Special Lady Friend and her family for Mother's Day. I still remember the day vividly and it makes me sad. There was an air of possibility that is hard to describe. I had met this amazing woman and she wanted to introduce me - me! - to her family, an unmistakable sign that this was something meaningful, something serious. 

The day itself was lovely. She, her mom, brother, and sister-in-law met me at Penn Station, we took the subway to the Village, where we met her dad, her sister, brother-in-law (and three kids) for brunch. I felt like I belonged, that I was accepted. 

I won't get into how things went to shit, but today is going to be cold and rainy, so I am laying low at home, under a blanket, with my own haunted memories to keep me company and wondering if she thinks about that day too.

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Saturday, May 11, 2019

May 11

Days like today are why I started using the blog more as a diary than anything else. I moved around a bunch of stuff during the week so I could make my first trip to van der Goot garden, which is an about 45-minute-drive from my house. So, I got up super early today, had a diner breakfast, and then, as I was leaving the grocery store came <this close> to running right into my ex-girlfriend or, someone who looks exactly like her. I was still shaking when I got home and then, after shlepping all the way out to Somerset, found gardens that were not yet in bloom. A whole morning wasted. I was super annoyed. 

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Friday, May 10, 2019

May 10

Today is Friday. I have a week left of work and then I am taking a vacation. I am LIMPING into that week off, just trying to keep my head above water until I can peace out for 10 days. Last night, I was in bed at 8:30 and asleep by 9. I need time off just to recharge my batteries, to get the energy necessary to get through life for a few more months. I am very much looking forward to this time off.

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Wednesday, May 8, 2019

May 8

As I sit here typing this, it is just past 8 p.m. I have basically been going non-stop for the past 15 hours. I woke up at a few minutes before 5 a.m. got the cats fed, their boxes cleaned, fed myself and was out the door by 6:30 a.m. to the grocery store. I got home about 7:15 a.m. put the groceries away, showered, shaved and was out the door and on my way to work by 8:15 a.m. I was at my desk by 8:30 a.m. and worked all day, with about 30 minutes for lunch. I went directly to the gym after work, got the tar beat out of me in a boot camp class and got home at 6:45 p.m. I fed the cats, cleaned their boxes, showered, and had dinner. And now this. I will maybe squeeze 30 minutes of down time before heading to bed and starting the whole thing all over again tomorrow. It is exhausting.

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Tuesday, May 7, 2019

May 7

The older I get, the more irritable I have become. Today, I was sitting through a continuing legal education class (these are mandatory in New Jersey) and the man sitting next to me was clearing his throat and coughing CONSTANTLY through the entire presentation. I kept inching my chair a little further away from him each time he let loose (in fairness, he pretty much covered his mouth). Thankfully, I was sitting at the end of the aisle, so I could sort of lean away from him even more, but I swear to God I sprang up as soon as the presentation ended like my chair had an eject button on it. 

So annoying.

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Monday, May 6, 2019

May 6

"People tell us who they are, but we ignore it because we want them to be who we want them to be." It is a foundational line from Mad Men (uttered by Don Draper in the fourth season episode The Summer Man) but there was no better example of it than last night's Game of Thrones. Arya is an assassin, not a lady. Cersei is a monster, not a compassionate mother-to-be. Jaime is addicted to his sister's love, not a knight and a hero. Sansa is a clear-eyed leader, not a little bird.

These lessons are learned by those who tried to turn them. Naive Gendry, thinking a castle and lands will matter to a woman whose body count now includes Littlefinger, Walder Frey (and all his male heirs), and, of course, the Night King. Tyrion, perhaps the worst hand in history, continuing to give the <period> worst <period> advice ever, and yet, still alive somehow? And Brienne, noble and now knighted, the one person to whom Jaime let his guard down, experiencing heartbreak in a crushing scene. 

For all the machinations that define the show, the human elements revealed last night were the toughest. 

A few random notes: 

  • The show runners have moved a lot of pieces around the board, knee capping a putative queen who had a large army, ships, and three grown dragons into an underdog who has lost two dragons, most of her army, and her ships (not to mention several of her closest allies) and turning a weak queen besieged by her enemies standing atop the capital's gate ready to inflict a final blow. 
  • I really like the Arya/Hound cop-buddy decision. Some of the best parts of Seasons 3 and 4 were the scenes between these two and how that relationship morphed over time. The Hound, dishing out unemotional lessons about the horrors of the kingdom and Arya absorbing those lessons, perhaps a bit too much and the two now at peace with their own destinies.
  • For all the complaints about a not-impressive body count last week, the out-of-nowhere killing of a second dragon and the savage beheading of Missandei should shut people up ... for at least an hour or two. 
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Saturday, May 4, 2019

Diamonds in the Rough - The Grateful Dead in 1986

Ask a deadhead what they think is the band’s best year of performances and the answers you get will vary greatly. Some will point to a primal year like 1968; others love the jazz-era of 1973 or 1974; 1977 and its mind-bending level of proficiency will always rank near the top, and other years, like 1979 (after Brent joined the band), 1981, and 1990 are likely to garner some votes too. 

On the other hand, ask a deadhead what they think is the band’s worst year of performances and the answer you get will almost uniformly be the same - 1986. [1] It was a year of low points. Shows that lasted less than two hours were played with little vigor or life. Jerry, having cleaned up for much of 1985, relapsed and, combined with his ballooning weight and poor health, was barely a presence on stage most nights. He missed lyrics left and right, his playing was subpar at best and downright awful at worst. He and Weir were rarely on the same page and many nights sounded like the band was simply going through the motions (and quickly!). 

1986 also saw the final Lost Sailor (3/24/86), a less-than-six-minute Terrapin (4/13/86), and one of the worst-rated shows in the band’s 30-year history (6/26/86). The capper was Jerry collapsing three days after the end of the band’s summer tour and lapsing into a diabetic coma that nearly killed him.

But even in the worst of times, the Dead were able to produce moments of sheer brilliance. Having combed through this fallow part of the band’s musical canon, I found a few performances worth a spin or two (in ascending date order, click on the song name for a link to the show at archive.org):

1. Visions of Johanna (Hampton Coliseum, March 19, 1986): The band’s first crack at this Dylan classic is letter perfect. Garcia has it all going on, from the lyrical phrasing to his guitar leads. It is apparent the band put the time in the studio to get this song “just exactly perfect.”

2. Uncle John’s Band (Hampton Coliseum, March 21, 1986): Closing out a strong three-night run in Hampton, the Dead opened the second set with this neat little version of UJB. Sure, Jerry flubs some lyrics, but the musical phrasing, particularly the outro-jam that starts at around five minutes, is well articulated, with Weir pushing a Supplication Jam line hoping Jerry will bite (he does not). The Terrapin>Playin’ that follows is not shabby either. 

3. Playing in the Band (Cal Expo, May 4, 1986): At this just-over-two-hour show, the band coughed out only two songs before the drums/space segment in the second set, but one of them was this super spacey 15-minute version of PITB. Garcia is not just present throughout but leading the band into dark corners of the musical universe. Lesh bops along, matching Jerry note-for-note while Brent embellishes the jam with his twinkling keys and Weir tosses out his own unique rhythmic phrasing. 

4. Fire on the Mountain (Greek Theater, June 22, 1986): This is probably my favorite version of Fire other than Cornell. It is a stand alone version that opened the second set with a slinky groove, that signature Dead anachronism (Weir coming in early on the chorus, a wildfire burning in the distance) and hypnotizing Mydland keyboard work. 

5. (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction (RFK Stadium, July 7, 1986): Had Jerry not made it, this would have been the final song the band ever performed, and a fitting ending it would have been because this is a deeply weird version of the Rolling Stones classic. The song is played at a frenetic pace with Phil dropping bombs left and right. Toward the end, Weir ad-libs band introductions, referring to Brent as a man of “much action but very few words,” referring to Jerry as “old Jer,” (who throws out a  few chords in appreciation) and Jerry returning the favor in his reedy voice by describing Bobby as “one of my favorite people in the whole world.” It is just SO Grateful Dead.

If there is a silver lining, once Jerry came out of his coma, relearned the guitar, and started taking care of himself, the come back shows at the Oakland Coliseum in mid-December 1986 heralded a new era in the band’s history. I do not consider the handful of post-coma shows as even part of the same year as the pre-coma shows, because it really is like listening to two different bands. 

If you want a sense of the euphoria fans felt that Jerry had survived his brush with death, I suggest you listen to Candyman (Oakland Coliseum, December 15, 1986). When Jerry hits the “hand me my old guitar” line, the eruption from the crowd will send chills up and down your spine. 

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END NOTE


1. I know, I know. Some of you are going to argue for 1984, others for 1994 and/or 1995. A few points. While Jerry’s appearance in 1984 was appalling, his playing was still at a high level, and indeed, as I wrote here, the year in toto is highly underrated. By 1986, not only did he look terrible, his playing had fallen off as well. On the other hand, while Jerry was flagging in those last two years, the rest of the band consistently elevated their collective game to make up for his shortcomings. Not so in 1986, where the whole band was limping along. 

Friday, May 3, 2019

May 3

I feel like I am constantly scrambling to find extra time. It seems ridiculous considering I do not have a wife or children, a stable job with (relatively) consistent hours, and yet, I struggle to carve out even an hour to just "veg" out. It is part of the reason I value my weekends so much and why I also am so wary of dating - the calculus of exchanging a precious commodity (limited free time) for the low likelihood that a random stranger I am meeting will turn out to have been worth that expenditure is rarely a winner. And yet, I spend so much time bemoaning the fact I can't "find someone." It's quite the Catch-22.

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Thursday, May 2, 2019

May 2

When I got home from work yesterday, the lawn was mowed. I chuckled. For more than a decade, my ego did not allow for the idea that I would pay someone else to do something I was perfectly capable of doing myself. And yet, my first thought upon seeing that this annoying chore had been taken care of by someone I had decided to pay money to was "why did I wait this long?" One less thing I am responsible for.

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Wednesday, May 1, 2019

May 1

What people do not understand about depression is how crippling it can be. How it just saps all of your energy and leaves you barely able to function. Yesterday, I just could not with work. I shut the door and sat at my desk and did the bare minimum to keep things moving. That was all I could muster. I got home, took care of the cats, and then collapsed on the couch until it was time for bed. Some days, that is all I can do. 

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Tuesday, April 30, 2019

April 30

Yesterday, one of my friends at work was promoted. We had a little breakfast celebration for her. Nice words were said and she was quite pleased, in an almost innocent, wholesome way. At the same time, I felt nothing, like, in all that energy of happiness, I just felt ... nothing. It was weird. I am not jealous or envious of her, she earned the promotion, I just could not experience happiness in that moment. 

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Monday, April 29, 2019

April 29

Criticism is an interesting profession. I like critics, I think they are among the best writers in public life. But after watching last night's episode of Game of Thrones, which was an 82-minute tour-de-force that was sui generis in the annals of television, I was surprised to read The Ringer recap shitting on it as a lengthy piece of fan servicing that had a preordained ending that the writers wrapped the rest of the episode around. 

No one has ever attempted (much less pulled off) what was essentially a full-length movie that was one extended battle scene. It was a feat of cinematography unparalleled in the medium and yet, Alison Herman (and, I suspect others, I just haven't read them) argued that since not enough main characters died in the episode, it was a cheat. I do not buy it. I was shaking watching things unfold, ready to jump out of my skin with anticipation and fear. How do you not credit a TV show that can do that simply because the body count was not to your liking?

I am not sure I can even watch The Long Night again. It was exhausting and stressful in a way that made me toss and turn when I tried going to bed - too much adrenaline was still pumping through my body and even the following morning, I am still processing the episode. It is in a critic's DNA to find fault (it is part of what I love about their writing) but criticizing this episode was missing the forest for the trees.

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Sunday, April 28, 2019

April 28

I went on two dates this weekend; neither was particularly memorable. Both women were perfectly fine. They were nice (I guess?) but the first one did not have a lot to say and the second said too much. I have been on SO MANY freaking first dates since I got divorced I have lost track. How many random coffee shops and restaurants have I been in since my ex-wife left? How much time have I wasted? 

I guess it is to be expected. You are essentially striking up a conversation with a total stranger. Some will not have the social grace to know how to let you into conversation (today's date), others will not have much to share (yesterday's date). The rule is not having that elusive spark, the exception is actually finding someone who you have some chemistry with. I guess that is why so many people say that is what they are seeking.

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Saturday, April 27, 2019

April 27

I drove out to Holland Ridge Farm this morning for their annual tulip festival. The weather was TERRIBLE - really windy and cloudless - basically, the worst combination of elements for outdoor photography (short of rain, of course). It would have been a challenging shoot regardless, but added to that is that the farm is perfect for social media, so there are adults, teens, and children running around taking selfies, posed shots, and asking others to take photos of them. It is super annoying when you are trying to create ~art~ and ultimately, the combination got the best of me. I was not thrilled with the session, but I tried to use the sun as a backdrop and got a few decent shots.

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Thursday, April 25, 2019

April 25

In pro wrestling argot, there are "heels" (bad guys) and "faces" (good guys). Before the internet, the suspension of disbelief about this foundational concept was much easier. You went to the arena and booed for the Russian or Iranian bad guy and cheered for the American hero. "Kayfabe" kept that illusion alive. You had to believe that these people were not only enemies in the ring but outside the ring too. It was only on those rare occasions when something weird would happen, like the good guy and the bad guy were pulled over while driving in the same car to the next show, that you realized it was all for show. 

Wrestling long ago broke down that fourth wall, with no adverse effect on its ratings or popularity. Which is fine - IT'S WRESTLING, but when it comes to politics, the breaking of the fourth wall is much more consequential and best illustrated at the White House Correspondent's Dinner, which is being held this weekend. There, the whole fraud of politics is shamelessly exposed. The pundits who viciously attack each other schmooze over hors d'oeuvres, the politicians who deride the "liberal media" hobnob with their supposed foes, and everyone gets a big laugh out the issues of the day. Like, literally, jokes have been made about, to take the most glaring example, George W. Bush's lie about Iraq's production of weapons of mass destruction. HILARIOUS.

The WHCD exposes the fraud of politics, a collective group of Neros fiddling while our country burns. Self-satisfied elites having a good laugh over canap├ęs, walking a red carpet, literally going to something that the journalist Ana Marie Cox long-ago dubbed "Nerd Prom." Trump has snubbed the event twice, and is now directing his appointees to blow it off too. Reporters are having a sad, literally begging these people to show up in order to maintain relationships with the reporters they cover. It neatly exposes how much politics is like pro wrestling. Everyone relies on the facade that there is an adversarial relationship while they secretly work behind the scenes to help each other. And we, the public, are the dupes.

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Wednesday, April 24, 2019

April 24

I was watching All in with Chris Hayes last night with Joy Reid as guest host. She was doing a segment on some Trump scandal and made a really important (but depressing) point. She asked one of her guests why we should believe in the Constitution when a President can attempt to obstruct justice but pay no penalty because Congressional Republicans will not impeach him and there are five conservatives on the Supreme Court (not to mention dozens of newly minted lower court judges). 

Her guest (Chris Lu) went for a canned response that the Constitution has survived 230 years and it will survive this too. I am less sanguine. 

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Monday, April 22, 2019

April 22

Every now and again, there will be a story about an athlete who injures him (or her) self in some freak way. A guy trips over his kid's toy or slices his finger open on a can of something or other. This happened to me on Saturday. As I was lifting a bag of cat litter, my entire lower back froze up on me. Like, immobilized me. This happens every few months or so and usually lasts a week or so, but right now, I can barely bend over to tie my shoes or get in the car. I hate getting old.

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Sunday, April 21, 2019

April 21

Easter Sunday or just "Sunday" as we Jews call today. Anyway, it was a nice relaxing day with not much to do. I took some photos, went to the grocery story, and then napped for a LOOOOONG time this afternoon. Afterwards, I toggled between various playoff games in hockey and basketball, quietly dreading going back to work tomorrow.

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Saturday, April 20, 2019

April 20

I was supposed to meet a woman for coffee this morning. She bailed 45 minutes before we were planning to meet. Weird how many illnesses appear out of nowhere. Anyway, I took the opportunity to give myself a day off from everything. I did some light household chores (swapping out the sheets for the season), napped, and hung out with the cats. 

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Friday, April 19, 2019

April 19

When my ex-wife and I moved into our house (which I still live in), I was, like many middle class suburbanites, all about ~ yard work ~ It mattered to me that the lawn was mowed. I would admire my handiwork on a hot summer's day, willing myself to believe this life was the one I wanted. My ex-wife bought shrubs and trees that I dutifully planted at her direction. I pulled weeds. I fertilized. I seeded. The whole Home Depot wet dream. 

Now that my ex-wife is gone and I am nearing 50, I am SO NOT ABOUT YARD WORK anymore. Spring has arrived quickly here in New Jersey and there I was, pushing a mower in a backyard I no longer enjoy spending any time in. The grass is patchier, there are more muddy areas (there has been A TON of rain in the past year or so and my backyard does not drain well), and I no longer care if it looks perfect. If I was not so stubborn, I would pay someone to do the mowing for me, but I am stubborn, so there are probably a few more years of sweaty labor ahead of me before I finally give in.

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Wednesday, April 17, 2019

April 17

I did not get the job I interviewed for last month. The people I work for did not even have the courtesy to send a rejection letter or give me a heads up before they sent the firm-wide memo announcing the promotion of someone who did not deserve the job. 

To be honest, I am more furious over the tackiness than the fact I did not get the job. Some people have ZERO class. 

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Tuesday, April 16, 2019

April 16

Well, I am going to buy a new car. It is not the smartest financial decision, but not the dumbest one either. I am going to treat myself to something I do not need but want - I am not borrowing money to buy it and so, I do not feel *that* guilty. 

I do not like being in debt - I do not ask for favors or money from friends or family. I pay my credit card bill in full every month. I have never been late on a utility, phone, or cable bill. I do this because long ago (like my early 20s), I was in debt - student loans, credit cards - the whole nine for what you expect from someone young, unwise in the ways of the world and trying to get by. It was not a good feeling and it is one that lingers with me more than two decades later. 

The only debt I have is my home mortgage, which I am chiseling away at in chunks with the "found" money I received from my unexpected inheritance. Doing this does not afford me the ability to live a life of luxury, but it does allow me to go to bed at night not worrying about bill collectors. For me, that is a very fair tradeoff.

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Monday, April 15, 2019

April 15

I have been dreading this week for a while. Within the span of three days are two very emotional anniversaries for me that, if I am being honest (and why shouldn't I be, no one is reading this!), I still have not fully processed. The first comes on Wednesday, the third anniversary of the day Pumpkin almost died. I replay that day in my head a lot when a bite I did not even know she must have received days before got infected, abscessed and almost killed her. I replay her running away from the house, my frantic attempts to find her, her coming back to the house and my chasing her around to get her in the cat carrier even as she was dripping blood on the floor, her clawing my arm so deeply the scar took ten months to heal, and finally getting her to CARES, where the saints .. yes SAINTS who work there saved her. I think about getting home past 1 a.m. and not knowing if I was going to be able to treat her, the cone around her neck (that would stay on for three weeks). The second surgery she had to have the following Saturday because the stitches that ran the entire length of her right hind leg were splitting open because I didn't get her situated on the floor in the bedroom she was in. The constant pain I know she endured, the emotional toll it took on me. It was awful. Psychically scarring. It brought into stark relief how much I loved her and it still haunts me.

The other anniversary is Friday, the sixth anniversary of meeting Special Lady Friend. This year is particularly painful because it is not just the anniversary of the date, but the day of the week. I can replay that entire day - that entire weekend - in my head, the first words she ever said to me after I introduced myself ("someone from your office could have told us what this fucking meeting was about" <swoon>), the phone call I made late in the afternoon after we met, the five hours we spent at a bar talking that night, the email I sent when I got home telling her what a great time I had, the Saturday we spent emailing back and forth, the date we went on Sunday night (Winberie's) what she ordered there (salmon on a cedar plank), and at the Bent Spoon (pistachio ice cream), and how we kissed in the front seat of her car, and my being stunned I had met this incredible person. I have replayed those 72 hours (give or take), over and over, hundreds of times since it happened. As it slips further into the past and my inability to find someone since, it just solidifies in my head that she was the last person I will love. It is not great. 

Follow me on Twitter - @scarylawyerguy 

Sunday, April 14, 2019

April 14

I blew off the gym this morning to take my first trip of the season to Prospect Garden on the Princeton University campus. I was not disappointed. The tulips are out and in a variety of colors and blooms. Although the weather was iffy (a little foggy, a little misty), I was able to get some nice photos.

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Saturday, April 13, 2019

April 13

I had it planned perfectly. I had two dealers competing for my business over the same car (just in different colors). I was in line to negotiate myself a good deal right up until the moment I got an email from one of the dealers 20 minutes before I was going to test drive their car to tell me they had sold it. Bye bye negotiating leverage. I am now left with taking the other dealer's offer (which was good, but not great) or waiting a few months but I WANT A NEW CAR NOWWWWWW

Ugh. So frustrating.

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Friday, April 12, 2019

April 12

I am doing something very atypical. I am thinking about treating myself to something nice. I live a pretty frugal lifestyle -- I think I spend more on my cats than myself -- but after I was in my car accident last summer, I had to get a new car quickly. The one I bought is fine, in that it gets me from "a" to "b," but I bought it used, with about 32,000 miles on it and after eight or so months, the things I do not like about it are showing. And I know it is ridiculous to complain about a less-than-four-year-old car when a lot of people drive cars that are ten or more years old, but here we are.

So I am looking at buying a new car, the first new (like right off the factory line) car I have purchased since I was just out of college and bought a Honda that lasted until damn near my 40th birthday. I have the money to do it, I won't borrow money, I will pay for it out of pocket, but I am so unaccustomed to splurging on myself, it feels "wrong" in some way. I have a price in mind for what I want to spend and a little wiggle room if it is close, I just wonder whether, when push comes to shove, I will go through with it.

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Thursday, April 11, 2019

April 11

The start of The Masters inevitably reminds me of the absolute nadir of my career. In 2003, I had been unemployed for nearly seven months when that year's tournament started. On that Thursday, I got a call from one of the legal temp agencies I had registered with and was told there was a short assignment - three days - starting the following day and going through the weekend. I jumped at it. Over the course of those 72 hours, I worked 36 of them. The pressure to get a paycheck was enormous. My wife at the time flat refused to work since she was laid off more than a year before that, and did not even bother to collect unemployment (yes, you are reading that right).

As it turned out, that weekend was a turning point. About a week after that assignment ended, I got a long-term assignment that lasted until we moved to New Jersey in early 2004 and I started a new career with a firm here, but I always remember that Masters weekend and what bottom looks like.

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Tuesday, April 9, 2019

April 9

Today is my half-birthday. I feel like my life has passed me by, that my best days are behind me, that I squandered the most precious thing you are given in life - time. Maybe it is because aches and pains are now a daily thing, that I rarely sleep through the night without having to get up and take a piss, that I cannot push myself as hard at the gym as I once did, that my life force, for lack of a better term, is flagging. I fear that I will never have sex ... ever ... again (and I did not have a ton to begin with). I wonder about what will happen when I am elderly, with no wife or kids, who will take care of me? Will I be one of those old people who dies alone and no one notices for three days until the smell fills the hallway? It is a miserable way to live, filled with regret for the things you did not do, the places you never visited, the people you never loved.

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Monday, April 8, 2019

April 8

I have a dentist's appointment today. I *hate* the dentist. It is not because things go badly - in fact, they usually go uneventfully, that is, I get my teeth cleaned, they hand me the little bag with the mini-toothpaste and the cheap toothbrush I use to scrub the toilet (I rock an electric toothbrush, it is *amazing*) and tell me they will see me in six months. It is the process - the sharp scraping of teeth, the sound of a drill in the next room, the saliva that accumulates and leaks out before the hygienist can swirl it up in that little vacuum. 

I should not complain, I am lucky enough to have health insurance that includes a dental plan but I would sooner get 10 prostate exams than spend 30 minutes in a dentist's chair.

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Sunday, April 7, 2019

April 7

I had a lunch date scheduled for today and the woman I was supposed to meet "ghosted" me. I was more annoyed because I was STARVING (went to the gym this morning and did not eat anything after I got home) than the ghosting.

Ghosting is just part of the price of admission for dating in the internet age. I will not lie and say I have not done it a time or two myself, but the number of times I have *been* ghosted far outweighs (10:1? 15:1?) the number of time I have ghosted. It is impossible to get into the head of someone you have never met (or maybe only met once) and why they would not extend you the minor courtesy of making up an excuse to cancel but I do not really dwell on it anymore. I got a fried chicken sandwich and onion rings from "The Habit" and moved on with my day.

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Saturday, April 6, 2019

April 6

I went out for my photography session of the season this morning. It was C-O-L-D and a little dreary (it had rained yesterday and was in the 40s). I am making a resolution to both take my photography more seriously this season (in terms of going out and doing more of it and in more places) while also taking my photography much *less* seriously (in terms of not feeling like I need to be the next Ansel Adams or Robert Mapplethorpe). Like, it's a hobby, not a career, so just have fun with it. Here are a few snaps I took ... 




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Friday, April 5, 2019

April 5

One of the many reasons I am single is because I am such a slave to my routine and when I get out of it, it is like the universe has been thrown off kilter. Last night is a perfect example. I went out to dinner (it was fine) and even though I got home around 9 p.m., I ate late and had dessert so even though I would ordinarily be heading to bed, I needed to decompress but was tired. Plus, the cats were all up in my shit because they usually shame me into some extra food after dinner (their own dessert) and I just was not having it. So I got a shitty night's sleep and woke up at like 4:30 a.m. and had to do stuff I ordinarily do the night before work (cutting up vegetables for lunch) and had extra treats to clean out of the litter box (because I was too tired to do one last pass before going to bed). Of course, I ran out of gas at work by like 3 p.m. 

All because I went on a dinner date on a Thursday night.

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Thursday, April 4, 2019

April 4

It is roughly 7:30 in the morning and I have already (1) cleaned the litter boxes and fed the cats; (2) had breakfast; (3) spent 5 minutes photographing the next door neighbor's magnolia tree; (4) folded one load of laundry and ran a second; (5) changed the sheets on my bed; and (6) been to the grocery store. 

It is a lot, and I have not even been to work yet. After a full day at work, I am supposed to have dinner with a woman I met on Tinder. Yes, I'm that asshole who is actually trying to find someone to date, not just fuck, on Tinder. 

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Wednesday, April 3, 2019

April 3

When I was in college, I took a class on criminal law. The professor observed that people who had more to lose by committing crime are less likely to do so - that is, if you have a spouse, a mortgage, a good job, or kids, the risk of losing any/all of those things acts as a disincentive for you to break the law. The converse being that the less you perceive you have to lose, the more likely you are to commit a crime. 

I do not know if that is entirely true. I think rich people think they can get away with things other people cannot get away with and if they get caught, they can afford good lawyers to either plead them out or get them off. 

I am not a law breaker. I do value the things I have accumulated, but I do color a bit outside the lines of what is socially acceptable. Perhaps it is because I feel restricted - that the good job I have affords me the things I value but in exchange obligates me to basically live a lobotomized life where authority is not challenged, things are simply accepted as they are presented - that I need an outlet, be it here on the blog, on Twitter, or elsewhere in my private life. 

I also live with the risk of being discovered. I wonder a lot about what would happen if the world's collided - if IRL me and "Scary Lawyer Guy" me crashed. It seems reckless to risk all that middle class stability just because you don't like the people you work for or cannot share your unconventional dating habits, but here we are. 

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Tuesday, April 2, 2019

April 2

Most nights, I wake up at least once. This morning, I rolled over and saw the alarm clock (yes, I'm one of ~those people~ who still owns an alarm clock) flashing 1:06 (a.m.). I realized what had awoken me was the snoring of my cats, who were nestled on one side of the bed. My next thought was that having a lady friend would probably be pointless because there is just not enough room in the bed for me, Pumpkin, Ghost, and one other person. I am *not* telling Pumpkin or Ghost to leave.

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Monday, April 1, 2019

April 1

The feels-like-20-degrees outside (ON THE FIRST DAY OF APRIL!) chill is tempered by the fact that Duke lost last night. I know, sports as a general proposition are stupid (those 2 hours I spent watching the Nats scratch out their first win of the season is just *yesterday's* example - also, fuck Davey Martinez) but there was something truly gratifying in watching Coach K's perpetually pinched expression, like someone is waving a particularly noxious turd under his nose, transmogrify into his phony, after-the-game-gracious-face, which usually occurs after his team has won, be directed at a coach who bested him. 

Granted, Michigan State is not ~the best~ avatar for amateur sports (their athletic program has had, shall we say, some "issues" lately) but watching the last 10 minutes of that back-and-forth struggle fully expecting Duke to win (as they almost always do) and see them lose instead tasted pretty damn good.

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Sunday, March 31, 2019

March 31

I went on a date yesterday. I "met" this woman via a dating website. Dates like this go in one of two ways - either you do a bunch of pre-date texting/emailing to establish the basics about one another's lives (what you do, where you live, broad biographical sketching) or very limited pre-date communication - you've established via the mutual "liking" of each other's profiles that there is some initial interest, so let's save all that conversational lubricant for the meeting. 

This date was the latter. It was fine, which is to say I spent an hour or so of pleasant conversation with a complete stranger who, when the meal was over, I parted with amicably with no expectation of ever seeing again.

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Saturday, March 30, 2019

March 30

I am reading a funny-as-all-get-out collection of essays in a book titled We Are Never Meeting In Real Life. I am definitely not the demographic for this book but I am thoroughly enjoying it.

Anyway, in one of the essays, the author, Samantha Irby, is talking about when she applied to colleges and although she had a very high SAT score (1520 on the old 1600 system) her grades were mediocre. She writes: "This is the problem with neither applying oneself nor working up to one's potential, these moments when you are reduced to a bunch of abstract letters and numbers whose unflattering reflection cannot be charmed or joked aside."

Damn. It was a sentiment expressed slightly differently many years ago by @annadrozzy who, while I was lamenting my work-related frustrations (yes, they go back a LONG time) said "it's your talent, you can choose to squander it if you want to." 

For a long time, I did focus on why I did not reach my full potential or lamented that people who I did not think were as talented as me seemed to get ahead while I was spinning in place. It has not always been true, I have had a few moments of glory in the sun, but what I have come to accept is that I got to where I am in spite of the myriad of shortcomings I have - the awful interpersonal skills,  inability to filter myself when I think someone has said (or done) something idiotic, and my total lack of respect for authority, among others - and that I should feel good about overcoming these huge, honking roadblocks instead of crying over the fact I did not become a judge.

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Friday, March 29, 2019

March 29

A few solid days at work were foiled by the news that one of the people I absolutely loathe is not only coming to work in my practice group, but may have been given the job I interviewed for recently. I am fuming. This is someone who had a nice perch in another part of the office, so her transfer seems curious to say the least. Upper management is being very tight-lipped about things, but I will know more on Monday. It seems like a never-ending series of kicks to the balls, especially because this person's reputation as a rat-fucker and back-stabber is well-known. How is that some people continue getting promoted into positions they do not deserve and the rest of us sit there, idling away the time, trying to get ahead and never succeeding?

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Thursday, March 28, 2019

March 28

I have a unique skill of attracting women who show some initial interest in me, only to disappear (or "ghost" in the parlance of our times), and then, once I've moved on emotionally, slide back into my life looking for attention.

Take today for example. A woman, we'll call her "A," texted me for the first time in several weeks asking if I wanted to do something this weekend. A and I had been out four or five times late last year and I thought things were going somewhere (they were not) and had exchanged sporadic texts (invariably initiated by me) in January and February. 

So did I tell her to buzz off? Of course not. I am a sucker. I take the bait every time, I never stand up for myself, and I let people walk all over me. And then I wonder why I am so unhappy.

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Wednesday, March 27, 2019

March 27

When I grew up, I wanted to be Bruce Lindsey. That name probably does not mean anything to you. Bruce is not a famous rock star like another guy named Bruce. He is not a star athlete or a famous movie star. He did not cure a disease or win a Nobel Prize. No, Bruce was a fixer before that term was polluted by Michael Cohen. 

Bruce stood a step behind (and invariably with his down) Bill Clinton. Bruce was Clinton's aide-de-camp, his consigliere, the guy with a portfolio of work that was as broad as it was vague. He disappeared into the background and made things go away or happen, as was needed. He was the guy behind the guy, never quoted, seen but not heard, and trusted implicitly to deal with the stuff that was some combination of fucked up, complicated, and political. 

Today, we might call that being a fixer. Some attorneys have rebranded that into "crisis communications," but I only tangentially got to experience it. I have honed many of the skills - I have made problems go away, distilled complex information to its essence in order to get a resolution, and my counsel has been relied on by the people who are not choosing between good and bad options but between bad and worse options. You would be hard pressed to find me quoted on the internet and my fingerprints are usually not found in the final decision, which is as I like it. 

But the thing is, and the thing I did not appreciate when I was in my 20s and watched Bruce operate, is that to do that job you have sublimate your ego and accept that you will never receive credit - publicly - for what you do. Part of living in the shadows is understanding that people either will not or cannot see your hand in the final product. 

Follow me on Twitter - @scarylawyerguy 

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

March 26

As I watched the Duke men's basketball team somehow pull out a victory over the University of Central Florida Sunday night it dawned on me. I have hated Duke's basketball team for more than half my life. As a teenager, Duke was like the the rich WASPs from a John Hughes movie. They were very easy to root against and when the UNLV Runnin' Rebels crushed them in the 1990 NCAA title game, it was glorious. But that was the high water mark for Duke haters. The following year, and with the Rebels just two games away from the first perfect season since 1976, Duke beat them in the national semi-finals. The year after that, Christian Laettner pulled down a three-quarter-court inbound pass from Grant Hill in the East regional finals to beat the University of Kentucky on their way to a second straight title. 

Four more national championships have followed and, as the cult of Coach K has expanded, the students at Cameroon Indoor have become that much more obnoxious, and the reverence for the program has grown. It is so annoying. It is like rooting for Goliath. They already attract the best talent, do they need to get all the calls and all the luck too? 

It is one of the cruelties of sports that so much hinges on so little - a rotation of a golf ball, a toe dragged across the sideline, a spin of the basketball on the rim; and so it was that Duke, losing to UCF by three with just a few seconds to play, somehow ended up winning by one. Because even when they miss a foul shot, they get the rebound and score. Even when they allow the other team to get off a good, potentially game winning shot, it just spins out. Because the player who tries for the put back, who happens to be the son of one of Duke's all-time best players, taps the ball a bit too hard and it rims out. Because it is Duke.

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Sunday, March 24, 2019

March 24

There is a guy in my boxing class who weirds me out. He looks to be in his early 20s and I am pretty sure he has a mental illness. I think he is autistic. His dad drops him off at the studio and the instructor takes time to help on with his gloves etc. He does not follow the combinations, he just sort of swings at the bag. He does not do the calisthenic exercises. He wanders around the studio between sets mumbling to himself with his head down. It is super annoying. 

What he does do is leer at the women in the class. He also leers at the women in the studio next to ours. It is really creepy. I have thought about saying something to the instructor, but I don't know, is it my problem? Is it his fault? I don't know, I just know it's creepy and weird and it messes with my flow.

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Saturday, March 23, 2019

March 23

Mueller wrapped up his investigation yesterday. I am despondent. So many threads are dangling and yet, it looks like Trump and all his cronies are going to get away with it. And the "it" looks like a laundry list of shady behavior on multiple levels. I do not know if I am more bothered because as an attorney I care about the rule of law or as a Democrat who cares about our country's future. Either way, it is amazing to me that the whole investigation is ending with this whimper and no bang. 

I know there are active investigations going on elsewhere, but after all this build-up, I know what is coming. Lots of Goebbels-level "no collusion" messaging, a call for everyone to move on, and probably a few "lock her up" chants for good measure. It sickens me.

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Friday, March 22, 2019

March 22

I finished reading Courtenay Hameister's book Okay Fine Whatever. The title is about how I felt about the book. Ostensibly, it was about Hameister (who has generalized anxiety disorder) spending a year doing things outside her comfort zone. And she does do some of that, but it is really a book about her dating escapades, and in an entirely predictable ending, she meets and falls in love with a guy. Good for her. It is the problem I have with books like this, especially ones masquerading as one thing when they are really another - if it worked for me, it can work for you. Hameister went out with 27 men over the course of a year, got laid a few times, and then, #28 was the one who stuck. I've been divorced for almost nine years, am still single, and go out on like three dates a year. 

It is not to criticize her, but the reality is that books like that do not end up getting written unless there is a happy ending because to do otherwise would reinforce for the people who read it that life does not always have a happy ending. But hey, you too could be in your mid-40s, still trying to decide what you want to do with your life (her description) and somehow scratch out a living teaching writing to adults (?) and picking up some freelance work, and making a go of it. Sure Jan.

Follow me on Twitter - @scarylawyerguy.  

Thursday, March 21, 2019

March 21

Can I just pause for a moment to tell you how much I love my cats? It is funny, when they started spending nights indoors, and then ultimately became "indoor only" cats, I set up my basement as a separate bedroom for me so they could have the other two floors of the house at night - it seemed like a win/win. They could get into whatever shenanigans they got into nocturnally, and I could get an uninterrupted night's sleep. 

Things worked well, but for whatever reason, and I'm not sure why it was, but I started letting Ghost sleep on the bed. At first, it did not go so well. Any time I shifted my body, he would claw at my legs, as cats are wont to do. Then, Pumpkin would start trying to muscle in on his turf and they would get into fights that would wake me up. Eventually though, the kinks got worked out and we can spend a (mostly) unremarkable night all curled up together. Now, if one (or both) don't come to bed with me, I feel off. Sometimes, I wake up in the middle of the night and hear one of them snoring contentedly, and my heart breaks a little bit at the adorableness. Pumpkin has to be the first one to say "hi" in the morning by curling around my legs when I get out of bed, demanding a back scratch. Ghost is a little more demonstrative, meowing to get my attention or tearing ass downstairs to be the first one at the food dish. We are a happy little family.

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Wednesday, March 20, 2019

March 20

I feel like I have been moving through quicksand lately. I am not sleeping well and have very little motivation at my job. If I do a few hours of productive work, it is an accomplishment, but some days, I just close the door to my office and surf the web or talk on the phone. I am sure it is not winning me any points with the powers that be, but it is all I can do right now.

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Tuesday, March 19, 2019

March 19

I am about halfway through a book called Okay, Fine, Whatever. I picked it up because the author, Courtenay Hameister, has generalized anxiety disorder and the book is purportedly about a year in which she went outside her comfort zone and tried new things. I thought I might find some inspiration, but the results thus far have been wanting. The book is kind of about trying new things - I mean, she uses a sensory deprivation tank, smokes pot, and goes to a strip club - but it is mostly a diary of her dating life. Hameister is in her mid-40s and has been overweight most of her adult life. She was a virgin until age 34 (props for coughing up that nugget publicly) and had a lone serious relationship, which she deconstructs in painful detail. 

Of course, she does things that were she a man, we might frown upon. She makes a spreadsheet of her dates, rates them in various categories, comes up with dopey names like "the Ethical Slut," and picks apart their shortcomings (and some of her own). It makes for passable toilet reading, and I am all for catching up on lost time (which seems to be the main thrust of the book), but really, it is less about overcoming anxiety and more about hooking up, which is fine too, just a bit of false advertising.

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Monday, March 18, 2019

March 18

Something clarifying happened this weekend. A woman I had spent time with late last year and I had a text exchange (I know, a very adult way of handling things). Without saying it in so many words, she said while she liked me, she didn't like me. It was all very sophomoric and stupid, but there it was and I needed to hear it. I needed to hear that I had invested emotional energy in someone who was not interested in doing the same for me. Rejection never feels good, but at least you know where you stand.

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Sunday, March 17, 2019

March 17

A small bit of good news. The first half of money from my rich aunt whose trust I somehow ended up in came through. It merely passed through my checking account before being sent to my mortgage company, but now my mortgage is meaningfully smaller than it was two weeks ago. Sometime later this year, I will get the other half and do the same thing. I was hoping I would feel better after getting confirmation that the money cleared, but honestly, it did not hit with the impact I was hoping it would. 

I was telling my ex-girlfriend about the whole experience and observed that the hardest thing for me to adjust to is that I had planned out the next 10 to 15 years of my life based on a certain set of facts with regard to money and now I have to rethink it entirely. I know, it is a good problem to have and I am not at all complaining, it is just an unusual position for me to be in. The idea of having **some** financial freedom is one I am not accustomed to, and now I have to figure it out.

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Saturday, March 16, 2019

March 16

Time plays funny tricks on your mind. If I had the power to transport back in time, March 16, 1990 would be high on the list of days I would want to relive. It was the third of three stellar Grateful Dead shows in Landover, Maryland, the weather was unseasonably warm all week - highs in the 80s, I was a sophomore in college without a care in the world. I had no idea how good I had it. I am sure I took it for granted, all of it, but now I look back on those days with something more than just a "twinge in my heart far more powerful than memory alone" (thank you, Don Draper). 

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Friday, March 15, 2019

March 15

There is a saying in recovery that when you focus on what you want, you are focusing on what you do not have. It is used as a reminder to be thankful for the things you have, not the things you do not. I spend a lot of time thinking about what I want and do not have - a partner, a lady friend, a girlfriend, a significant other - whatever you want to label it, and how empty I feel without a person in my life. 

It has been almost six years since I last had a meaningful relationship and it has really worn on me. So much of my day-to-day life, my decision making, my thought process, is informed by this simple, but crippling fact. It feeds into my low self-esteem like a blinking red light flashing WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU? It makes me feel like shit about myself and also deepens the loneliness I feel. And any time someone enters (and then exits) my life, it makes me even more discouraged that I will ever find happiness. It is really awful.

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Thursday, March 14, 2019

March 14

I was irritated most of the day yesterday. Some information at work irritated me. Some people at work irritated me. My right shoulder irritated me. A woman I was exchanging messages with online irritated me. It was the equivalent of emotional diaper rash. I toughed it out at the gym, doing a boot camp class even as I was favoring my right shoulder and then got home and slept like shit. I went to bed before 9 p.m. but woke up around midnight (too hot) and then tossed and turned most of the rest of the night, never falling fully back to sleep. Today should be fun. 

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Wednesday, March 13, 2019

March 13

The last few days have not been great. I am not sleeping well (side effect of daylight savings time?) and am struggling to make it through a full day at work. Plus, I think I did something to my right shoulder, it does not feel right. I also rejoined a dating website which, UGH, is not great. How is that possible? You try to find someone who you want to spend time with, get to know, to open your world to, but by doing so, you end up feeling worse about yourself. 

Follow me on Twitter - @scarylawyerguy 

Monday, March 11, 2019

Ken Dilanian Blocked Me On Twitter

Ken Dilanian blocked me on Twitter today. For what you may ask? Well, as you might remember, a while back Dilanian wrote a story stating that the Mueller Report would be done by mid-February. The time came and went without the report being issued. I lightly tweaked Ken a time or two because I otherwise think he is a decent reporter.

Today. he retweeted something posted by Mike Barbaro (who blocked me for calling him out for claiming to have popularized the "daily" podcast format - typical New York Times!) that puts the date for Mueller's report at mid- to late-April. So, I retweeted Ken's tweet (can you believe this is how we spend our lives?) and asked why his reporting was so wrong. His response? BLOCK. 

Now look, I block people. I blocked like 10 people today for snarky comments to one of my tweets. My general rule is polite disagreement is fine, but if you attack me personally, I will block you. But I am not a public figure. I am not a reporter who shapes the news every day. I asked what I thought was a fair question. "You reported 'x,' which turned out to be wildly off-base, what happened?" For a profession that takes getting the "record" right so seriously, you would think this was a reasonable question. I did not curse. I did not attack Dilanian personally. I just asked a simple question. You got something wrong. Why did that happen? I suspect that is the kind of question Dilanian's editor has asked him a time or two about this story as well. A lot of us would like an answer. 

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My Howard Stern Show Reunion

In 2013, I went through a painful break-up. No, I’m not talking about divorcing my ex-wife or having my heart broken by Special Lady Friend. This separation was with someone who had been in my ear for the better part of 25 years. When I traded in my Sirius-equipped Honda for a not-Sirius-equipped Toyota, for the first time since I was 18, Howard Stern was no longer a part of my everyday life. 

I started listening to Howard on WYSP in 1988 when I was a college student in the Philadelphia-area, continued on WJFK when I returned to D.C. after graduation, and back to YSP when I moved to New Jersey in the early 2000s. He, Robin, Fred, Gary, Jackie, Artie, Stuttering John, and the rest of the crew were as much family as my own flesh and blood.

Like a lot of long-term relationships, this one had plenty of good times, especially when Howard moved to Sirius in 2006. I would listen before work then leave for lunch just as the West Coast feed picked up where the live feed ended. I would listen on the weekends, on road trips, and when I was out running errands. I posted regularly on the Stern Fan Network and rose and fell with every shenanigan and antic the gang got into. 

But as the years wore on, I became disaffected. Some of it had to do with Artie’s decline and departure, some of it with the direction the show took after he left, and some of it was with what I perceived to be Howard’s own boredom. As I noted in a 2012 blog post, the show was losing its way, relying on canned fights, constant rehashing of topics, too few guests, and Howard’s endless shilling for America’s Got Talent. So, when it came time to get a new car, I was ready to move on. 

Like losing any close friend (or family member), it took a while to adjust. I pretty much quit cold turkey, no longer posted on SFN, stopped reading MarksFriggin.com, and unfollowed show members on Twitter. I found other outlets, be it public radio, podcasts, or my iTunes library. Eventually, I moved on. But last summer, I was in a bad car accident. My Toyota was totaled and while I was shopping for a new car, I had a loaner equipped with Sirius. I decided to check in with my old pal Howard. I am glad I did. To be sure, there have been some cosmetic changes, but the show itself, and Howard in particular, sounded great. Catching up on the show felt easy and comfortable. I so enjoyed the experience, I decided to buy a car that had Sirius, and I am very happy I did. While the show is not at the level it was in any of its heydays, it is focused, compelling, and enormously entertaining. 

The first thing I noticed was a lightness in Howard’s voice. While he can still go off on a righteous rant, it seems as if Howard has made peace with much of once made him a tortured man. He no longer feels the need to defend his truncated schedule, lengthy vacations or his marriage (although he did blow a fuse over a recent story claiming it was on the rocks based on an off-hand remark he made on air). He has outlasted many of the villains who long-animated his anger - Imus and Leno have retired; Les Moonves resigned in shame (a fact Howard took particular glee in mocking); and SiriusXM survived its near-death bankruptcy to become an established player in the media world. In short, Howard won. He outlasted his enemies and proved them all wrong. He now sits on a mountain of money, professional acclaim, and contentment that he fought his entire career to obtain. 

And perhaps it is because of this that where once Howard fancied himself a circus ringleader, he now operates more like a pater familias, presiding over a sometimes unruly clan without the need to constantly be the center of attention. Jason Kaplan reigns as the master of tossing people under the bus. JD fumbles for words even as he has evolved from a mush mouth to a married man and wine connoiser. Ronnie has refined his Dirty Grandpa shtick to the point I laugh more than cringe, and while Gary remains an obvious target for ridicule and Howard’s “boff” impression remains laugh-out-loud funny, much of the sting is gone, replaced with affection. Gary has been with Howard for more than 30 years and the material he has helped produce now fuels a new generation of inside jokes like the hashtag “top noine” moments from the week’s shows.  

And Howard has not shied away from extending the family outward. Callers like Bobo and Marianne From Brooklyn are more deeply woven into the show’s tapestry; one wonders whether they are on salary. And nowhere is Howard’s openness toward using talent wherever he can find it on display more than the greater use of the savant Sour Shoes, whose impressions, deep show knowledge, and unique sense of comedic timing has left me crying with laughter many times. 

But beyond the incorporation of new staff members (Brent, Memet) and the deepening of the audience’s bond with others (once 20somethings like Will are now parents, as is Richard Christie), Howard continues to flex his muscles as an unparalleled interviewer. For as much as Howard loves to talk, one of his under appreciated skills is how much he listens. A recent interview with Peter Frampton contained an extended discussion of Frampton’s relationship with David Bowie and his experience playing with titans of the music industry on George Harrison’s seminal work This Too Shall Pass. The satellite format provides ample time for conversational space, so a recent interview with Hugh Jackman revealed the fact that he and Howard had spent time hanging out socially, opening a whole different window into the lives of each, while Sarah Silverman gave a raw interview that made headlines because of her comments about the disgraced comedian Louis C.K.

It may be that I left Howard in a transitional phase. Like Neil Young (one of Howard’s favorite musicians), the Stern Show is ever-evolving. Given time, he figured out what the next chapter in the show’s history would be. The one thing Howard’s critics always missed was his intuitive understanding for radio as a medium—as “theater of the mind”—Howard perfected a talent that was aptly captured in his movie Private Parts. People who like him listen for a long time, but people who do not like him listen even longer, the reason being the same—they want to hear what he will say next. Howard is a dexterous talker who can stretch, vamp, be controversial, or conversational depending on what the situation requires and his sharing of personal aspects of his life leaven him just enough that you forget it is a fictionalized, or at least, shaded version of the truth. With less to prove, there is more for Howard to share, be it his passion for art (initially photography, now painting) or his later-in-life conversation to animal rescue (thanks to his wife Beth). 

To be sure, the show retains some of its familiar parts. The phony phone calls, the staff fights, the Wack Pack, and the gimmicky segments that feel like nothing more than product development for the Sirius App (one thing that has not changed is the grab for more of your money - first it was Howard TV, now it’s the Sirius App). Even so, some things are different. Certain words like faggot and retard have rightly been excised from the show’s lexicon, the programming has been streamlined (Bubba and Ferrell are long gone, the side projects like Geek Time have been largely jettisoned (sadly, Ralph is still around), Howard 101 basically exists as a channel for the show’s more than four decades of archived material), and the show now starts at 7 a.m. (and thankfully, without Benjy in the studio).  

One thing that has not changed is the beating heart of the show - the interplay between Howard, Fred, and Robin. The trio has broadcast together for nearly 40 years (Stern and Norris go back even further) and the effortlessness of their conversation is truly comfort food for the soul. Whether it is Howard doing an Elvis meets Nixon riff or offhandedly mentioning he once knew a guy who left a good job to go “punch up scripts in Hollywood” (a deep cut reference to long-departed Jackie “the Joke Man” Martling’s alleged reason for leaving the show) listening to Howard and Robin just talk to each other is radio gold, whether it is during her news segments or when Howard brings up a topic to discuss, she is the first among equals - the one person who will immediately call him on his bullshit and also defend herself when old scabs like her ordering of an $800 bottle of wine get picked. Fred remains the steady bass line, his on-air voice spoken through the drops he slips into Robin’s news stories or Howard’s riffs, showing his own touch-feel for the comedic vibe Howard is going for at any given time. It is like listening to a band so tight and so in sync, they know the notes each will play beforehand. It is a marvel to behold. 

As for me, because I am not listening with the same level of obsessive attention I once did, I can enjoy the show without being as hyper-critical of it as I once was. To extend the relationship metaphor a bit further, I know the flaws, but they are far outweighed by the pleasure I get from hearing Howard and the crew do their thing.  

How long this will continue is an open question. Howard’s contract runs through the end of 2020 and he openly muses about retirement. If he does, no one can begrudge him that right. He has created a body of work that is unparalleled in the industry, his influence now reaching a generation of broadcasters that were not even alive when he first rose to prominence. His legacy will live on through the hundreds of thousands of hours of content he has produced. My own sense is he will sign a final contract, perhaps of a shorter duration, take his well-earned victory lap, and then ride off into the sunset. I will be with him every step of the way.


Follow me on Twitter - @scarylawyerguy