The Rwanda Pinochle

Making dinner in the kitchen with T, who’s playing a bunch of music released this year so she can do her “best of the year” lists (and she hasn’t been keeping up since SXSW, so she’s catching up). I asked who one band was, and she said — I already forget the name— “you know, it’s one of those bands where it’s really one guy but he goes by a band name”.

I said, “I’m really starting to hate that whole thing. If I ever do that, just shoot me”.

“I’m not going to shoot you ever”.

“Okay, but if I ever say ‘hey, here’s my new album, I’m calling myself The Rwanda Pinochle’, just say, ‘no, you’re Ezra Ball’, OK?”

And it occurred to me that “rwanda pinochle” might be a Googlewhack– turns out it isn’t. Is that even possible anymore?

Sorry, Rwandans, if you got here expecting to meet up with other Rwandans for a friendly card game.

Deep-fried tofurkey 2012

In case you were curious, my 2004 post about deep-fried tofurkey is still in the top 20 Google results, though that means that many brave souls have attempted this and lived to write about it.

We will be having conventionally baked tofurkey. Last year I smoked a real turkey on the Big Green Egg, which piqued much curiosity of neighbors and passers by. But it was a lot of work for the only non-vegetarian in the house (me), and this year I’d rather spend that time cooking inside with Terri and the spawn.

Uniqueness

I think that if you have an intention of living for more than 20 years beyond now you have to psychologically prepare yourself for the possibility that you may meet a 100% perfect genetic clone of yourself, implanted with all your memories.

The question is, if you met a perfect copy of yourself, would it shatter your self-perception that you are the only person in the world exactly like you, like Mister Rogers told you what made you special when you were little.

Just for the record, as corny as it may sound, I completely believe in Mister Rogers, and think the world could use about a hundred clones of him right now, because there is nobody talking to kids like he did. These days, even PBS and their corporate sponsors treat kids as nothing more than consumers, or future consumers, or consumer influencers (i.e. brats who yell at their parents in the grocery store to buy stuff).

But the question at hand: is your uniqueness depending on your genetic code and your experiences, or, is it, in the parlance of Mister Rogers, just by your being you?

I’m preparing myself— I listen to “I’m a cliché” by the X-Ray Spex over and over, just as a spiritual practice— but it will certainly be a shock when I meet the Ezra Ball clone. It’s gonna be hard to tell him I just built him for spare parts.

In the meantime, I still figure I’m the only guy in Eastern Massachusetts born in the 15018 who went to Wabash College in Crawfordsville, IN, who knows the difference between ruby lambdas and blocks, who’s currently washing dishes in his kitchen drinking a PBR and listening to Miss Kitten at full blast. And sometimes the uniqueness is comforting, but, mostly, not.

How to stop terrorism one person at a time

On 9/11 we were 4 days away from our wedding. Late morning when we were on the phone with my family, my grandmother asked “well, are you still having the wedding?” And Terri and I both looked at each other like, what kind of question is that— of course we’re having the wedding. We hadn’t really said it out loud until then, but we were both operating on the same assumption: we had no intention of changing our life just because of what a handful of crazy people had done. Giving them that kind of power over you means they win.

So, my advice is, remember how fragile and precious life is, think about how it can all be cut short too quickly, take good care of the people you love, and do it all on some other day that has nothing to do with a mass murder. Attaching meaning to this day gives terrorists past and future more power than they deserve. Terrorism only works if it succeeds in making you afraid. Don’t be afraid.

True tales of the mid-aughts

Back in 2005/2006 I used to check my RSS reader to see if I had written anything on my blog. I was always sad if I hadn’t and excited if I had. Then I would read it in my RSS reader. Then I would click through and re-read it on my actual blog.

Now this narcissism has been democratized and barely-literate celebrities tweet occasionally interesting things in a place where they can be asymmetrically followed, and barely-literate people I slogged it out with from K-12 post occasionally interesting things on Facebook. I’m being mean. They’re not barely literate, it’s just that 20 years ago if you would have told me any of those people would have been writing for fun, I would not have believed it.

I can’t say that on the whole my life hasn’t been enriched by this turn of events. Turns out that people I had written off in my youth have something to say.

But something has been lost. Many things have been lost. The paragraph, for one. The art of the essay, for two. Thoughts that lead to other thoughts that lead to other thoughts and then spiral back and modify the original thought. Also, I increasingly am not getting the same narcissistic buzz from “sharing” using other peoples’ tools. I don’t see anything resembling me in the person I see when I click on my profile in Facebook, I don’t see the whole me when I look at my Twitter feed. And god help me if I want to remember back farther than 2 months in either platform.

When I started blogging, I feared that the platform was too lo-fi, that it was a format someone else had invented, even in those early days codified into conventions set by others, and that if I started pouring myself into it, I would lose sight of the reality that not only was I not the person who was described in the words in the blog, but I was not even really the person writing the blog. I only managed to start blogging after I wrote my first blog post, a long stemwinder— which is still waiting in my drafts folder, maybe I’ll post it someday— which could have been more succinctly summed up by its first sentence: “the tao that can be blogged is not the eternal tao.”

And yes, I’m well aware of the irony that that’s less than 140 characters.

In the days when you were hopelessly poor, I just liked you more (part 2)

[part 1 was here]

This phrase still pops into my mind uninvited all the time.

It’s not that you were a better person. It’s not that you’re a bad person now that you’re comfortable-to-well-off. It’s not that the person you were then didn’t show a hint of the person you became, would fatalistically make the same series of choices that ended up turning you into the person that you became.

It’s that I just liked you more.

Dream of the hollow

I had a dream that I was walking around my parent’s farm in the middle of the night and wandered down to Boyd’s Hollow Road, where my brother and I used to catch the school bus in the mornings. It was November, so all the leaves were off the trees in the hollow making the hills visible. The hills, steep in real life, were a few hundred feet higher and rocky. It was the middle of the night but there was bright moonlight and it was misty and very beautiful. I tried taking pictures of the cliffs / hills in the moonlight on my iPhone and it was working surprisingly well. My brother showed up and he started taking pictures too. And then Mr. Carlson from WKRP in Cincinnati showed up. Apparently he also lived down one of the dirt driveways that hooked up with the road at that point. He was complaining that he wasn’t sure he was going to get tickets to some kind of benefit gala. Simon (my brother) wasn’t saying anything, but I knew he’d be able to get him tickets. Mr Carlson’s butler was there and set up a little portable bar with chilled gin and champagne (somehow it was Mr. Carlson, but he had Arthur’s butler). He offered us drinks as a school bus showed up and parked and turned off the engine. I took a martini and got on the school bus. I could see Simon getting a glass of champagne and looking through the cheese and olive tray that went with the little cocktail setup.

When I woke up, I checked my iPhone to see the pictures and was surprised they weren’t there. And then I remembered it was spring, not November.

Some pitches

It’s like “Riptide” but instead of a houseboat, two dudes live on a tour bus and fight crime.

It’s a re-boot of “Raging Bull”, except Jake LaMotta isn’t a wife-beating boxer, he’s a family man union electrician. A climactic scene shows him at the computer, attempting to referee an unexpectedly heated political argument between two mutual friends who don’t know each other in real life conducted in the facebook comments of a wall post he made linking to pictures of Japanese cats with costumes made out of perfectly cubical watermelons. It’s shot all in black and white and slow motion, the only sounds heard are classical music and amplified typing.

It’s like “Simon and Simon” except they’re not brothers.

It’s like “The Commitments” except it’s set in the suburbs of Minneapolis instead of North Dublin, and the kids play Tejano instead of 60′s R&B.

It’s like Presbyterianism except its adherents believe in salvation by deeds rather than salvation by grace, and Mad Dog 40/40 is used for communion wine and crumbled up taco shells are used for communion wafers. The vestibules of all the churches have paisley wallpaper.

Howlin’ Smurf

howlin smurf

Howlin’ Smurf did actual time.

Howlin’ Smurf knows what it’s like to count the days until you get out.

The other Smurfs didn’t understand Howlin’ Smurf’s pain. Right when he got out and came home, it was the worst. It hurt at first, how the other Smurfs were overly polite and seemed relieved when their forced small talk was over and they made up an excuse to go away. But truth be told, he was relieved, too, because he could go back to his solitary howling. When he howled it hurt less. So howl he did. The older he got, the more he had to howl.

He was only three apples high, and each of those apples was rotten.