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Preview: the reluctant grownup

the reluctant grownup

Updated: 2018-03-15T14:13:56.307-05:00


Parental Guidance Suggested, Often Fallible


Dear Jack, This morning I read the heartfelt note you left for me on the kitchen counter before you headed off to school and, after a long tearful pause, decided it’s time to let you in on a secret that has taken me decades to decipher.  I don’t know when you will be able to read and grasp what follows, but you are such an old soul, I suspect it will be sooner rather than later, and when you digest it, I hope you are not deflated.  On the contrary, I hope you see how level the playing field of life can be and understand that you don’t need to feel dejected over not always measuring up to the standards that so-called grownups have set for you.  I have a feeling you’re already piecing some of this together for yourself, but what kills me is that while you seem to understand that it can all be so riddled with dysfunction and hypocrisy, you feel pressured and compelled to contort your spirit so that you can blend in with it.  On the first day of my freshman year at a Jesuit prep school, my English professor waltzed into the classroom and with no introductory comments read aloud the following poem by Philip Larkin:  This Be The VerseThey fuck you up, your mum and dad.      They may not mean to, but they do.   They fill you with the faults they had    And add some extra, just for you. But they were fucked up in their turn    By fools in old-style hats and coats,   Who half the time were soppy-stern     And half at one another’s throats. Man hands on misery to man.    It deepens like a coastal shelf. Get out as early as you can,    And don’t have any kids yourself.The class of obnoxious teenage boys filled with so much insecurity naturally exploded with laughter upon hearing a teacher utter the word ‘fuck’ not once but twice.  When the roar settled and silence ruled again, he read it a second time to make sure we absorbed it, and the words punched me in the face the way your letter socked me.Yesterday after school you sheepishly brandished a yellow slip from your 2nd grade teacher explaining that you did not complete that day’s class work.  This was not the first yellow slip I’d seen, as it had become a trend the previous few weeks, so the sight of another discouraged me.  Since tickets to that night’s Wizard’s game were already purchased and a lie to divert your little brother’s attention from his being left out already cooked, I refrained from raising any kind of hell because the last thing I wanted was to attend your first NBA game at odds with each other.  Instead we had a stern, relatively emotionless chat that still somehow left us both drained.  When the sitter showed and we both scrambled in a frenzy about the house, getting ready to leave, we collided on the steps and hugged it out.  Then you, mid-embrace, age 7, said: ‘I accept you.’ That's the one of the deepest things anyone has ever said to me and it left me utterly speechless, almost gagging on the sudden knot that developed in my throat.  A phrase like that feels just too nuanced, too heavy, too soulful for a kid your age to express, and I suddenly questioned the world and myself over putting you in a position to feel and say such a thing.  It really dressed me down, and I could not be more thankful for it.It's clear this stuck like a rock in your shoe this morning, which explains the letter you left for me.  It absolutely slayed me with it's endearing misspellings, your cute use of ellipses and the random colon, and I remained preoccupied by it at the office.  I'm in the 9 to 5 business of relationship management, but the matter of our bond eclipsed all of that so much that I bailed early to come home and pour these words out.       At the end of the day, I realize that being a kid often boils down to winning and retaining the approval of your parents.  What y[...]

Unsolved Mystery: Paul Auster


When a close friend turned you on to Paul Auster eight years ago with a copy of Moon Palace, you happened to be in the process of sorting through the broken pieces of a personal crisis, wrestling with obscure matters of the soul.  In other words, you were completely vulnerable to the writer's haunting, literary, tractor beam and remain in its grip to this day.  When you hover near his novels amid the local bookstore shelves and run your fingers across the spines, your breath shortens and your eyes sting, and if you close them, you could just as easily be kneeling in a cemetery before a weathered headstone.  To you his words are the literary equivalent of a séance, his books ouija boards.  Since you fortuitously discovered Auster in a valley, it's almost difficult for you to recommend that anyone pick him up during a shiny happy run of life.  That's not to say that you find his novels to be entirely bleak -- though most do tend to feature a protagonist whose world has crumbled -- because that would be denying the spirit that permeates his entire body of work: When we fall apart, when our support system fizzles, it doesn't have to be failure or the end; it can be a chance to see what we’re made of, to refresh and redefine.  So for you it was empathy in a bottle.  Those wounds are now scars, and when you look back many years later, you are oddly thankful that things went to hell for a stretch because you believe it woke you up from so much sleepwalking.  And though it pissed you off immensely during the darkest days when friends dispensed the trite though well-intended cliché, they turned out to be right about the healing powers of time.  Today, when you pore over the latest Auster novel, which you always seem to anticipate with equal parts fear and excitement, you regularly pause to digest the language of certain passages, lingering, rereading, embracing a character, always wishing you could have a chat with the man behind these pages.  The day Winter Journaldrops, you call Politics & Prose, your favorite of the few remaining locally owned shops in town, to ask if they have the second memoir in stock.  The clerk offers to hold a copy at the front desk and, to your sudden delight, adds that the author will be reading and answering questions in the store a week later.  Your wish is granted, and suddenly you recall the phrase, be careful what you wish for because you just might get it.  When the date arrives, the bookstore posts this tweet: Your knee-jerk giggle yields to a ripple of panic over the scale of the crowd and the question of what time you should plan to beat it to score four seats.  You’ve never been forward or blunt enough to be that guy who saves seats and feigns ignorance over what a rude asshole it portrays him to be. Since your local go-to spot, Buck’s Fishing & Camping, sits doors away from Politics & Prose, it makes perfect sense to linger over a Manhattan while you skim the memoir and glance at your watch.  The owner, who rarely graces the place, typically logging more time at his nearby hipster pizza joint, flutters about the Buck’s dining room fussing over flower arrangement and candles.  The last time you saw him in such OCD lather ahead of a dinner rush, Julian Schnabel was the guest of honor, who incidentally and inexplicably wore pajamas for the occasion.  It doesn’t take much foresight to guess who will be coming to dinner tonight.  You see very few, if any, hipsters in Politics & Prose and no flannel whatsoever.  The audience turns out to be mostly senior citizens.  All the hand wringing over seats and timing was for naught -- yet another lesson about the futility of worrying that you will ignore.  You find space in the back row next to a hunchbacked, little old man clutching a duffel bag stuffed with Auster’s books.  You assume he resides in one of the assisted living quarters on a nearby stretch of Connecticut Avenue that is often [...]

Reflections on Sunday Sauce


The traditional collards, black eyed peas and swine are taking a culinary back seat today. Since this new year kicks off on a Sunday, that means one thing around here: Sunday Sauce. Even with a miserable cold, I can breathe and get high on the lovely aroma that permeates our home as I peck away at the keyboard here. My Sicilian grandmother introduced me to this wonderful tradition when I was very young, then disappeared from the landscape of my life with her son, my estranged father. When my talented wife channeled her cooking skills into reviving the tradition last year, it sparked emotions that are coming into clear focus today as I consider the year ahead.Sunday Sauce (at least my wife's) is richness born of simplicity. It doesn't try to be more than what it is because it doesn't need to. It's a cluster of very basic ingredients that, when pulled together, give you pause, leave you marveling over how something so spartan could punch you in the mouth and make you forget about the fact that you have to dive into another work week tomorrow. In a fast-lane lifestyle in a rat-race town, its slow and low composition is something to emulate. I know, considering spaghetti sauce a role model is as backwards as a soup sandwich, but stranger metaphors have been bought and sold. When I consider that Sunday Sauce is a virtual tractor beam that brings together my wonderful family and friends, I smile and look forward to the next round.Most parents tend to scale back their social lives when kids enter the picture. Oddly enough, ours went pedal to metal in the wake of having kids. It has literally reached a point where we blush and put our heads in our hands upon viewing the Mint pie chart of our monthly expenditures, specifically the food/dining and entertainment categories. Fortunately we're hard working parents who can afford to pull this off, but the principal of this gluttony has been gnawing at me lately. Don't get me wrong - it has been a grand fucking run, as we've owned many nights for many years in this town, but when I watch my 4 year old son with a tomato goatee on his beaming face as he submerges another slice of crusty bread in sauce, I consider that none of my adventures (or misadventures) come close to trumping the spirit of this very basic and rustic moment. To put it another way, despite the title of this often neglected blog, it just might be time to grow up or at least act my age. Yes, it's time to go slow and low.How exactly do I do that? Well, dinner is served, so I'll chew on it, wash it down with a red worthy of New Year's Day and wait for the second half of this epiphany to clobber me. Happy 2012 in the meantime!@rcaggiano's Sunday Sauce: Peel the cloves of an entire head of garlic. Slowly sautee garlic in cup of olive oil until golden brown (approx 15 mins). Add healthy pinch red pepper flakes and healthy pinch salt. Add 4 large cans whole peeled tomatoes (hand crush tomatoes as adding them). Simmer for at least 3 hours, preferably 5 hours. Meatballs, braciole, short ribs, et al an entirely separate topic. [...]

appendix lost, perspective gained



birthday morning


This morning you wake up a year older and take in your surroundings through a blurred sheen of tears. You are on vacation in the Outer Banks, NC, so your wonderful wife lets you sleep in while she manages the family circus that your mornings inevitably become. You are utterly incapable of sleeping in, birthday or not. You're also prone to occasional bouts of reflective weeping on on every milestone day. So your 37th year begins at 7:30am with a steady trickle of salty tears and a series of deep breaths.

It's not that you're sad or even sweating growing old. You imagine it's more common than not for grownups to have wistful moments after running the gamut of another year. You've stated the obvious fact many times that there is one way into this world and infinite ways out. That said, when you make it through another 365, for some reason you don't feel like you should have. The odds are stacked so high against surviving that it's emotionally draining to consider how you ever did. Then there's the prospect of another marathon staring you down in your bed before your feet are even on the ground, before you even stretched.

The wave passes when your firstborn son, now 5, strolls into the room in search of your iPad. He wears a sheepish, half smirk, which you translate to mean he's embarrassed to broach the topic of your birthday. That makes two of you. He finds the iPad on your bedside table, but before he makes off with it, you pull him into bed, hold him close, and kiss his warm brown temples. He giggles and feigns a struggle to escape before breaking the news it's your birthday and asking what you want.

His rhetorical question goes straight to your head like so many champagne bubbles and inspires a smile. This moment is what you want and are so very blessed to have. Soak it up, old man, and live for it.

fear and loathing under a blanket of snow


For three days Washington, DC area residents have literally been under the weather. Close to 30 inches of snow buried the region over the weekend and, in the process, launched the populace into a considerable span of stir craziness. The National Weather Service is predicting another 10-20 inches tomorrow and Wednesday, a concept that makes me want to drink Drano. In any case, aside from sledding, foraging, and shoveling snow, most of us have been relegated to the confines of our homes (well, those of us fortunate enough to have shelter), where eventually our lives have begun to resemble the plot of existentialist Jean-Paul Sartre's fantastic and dark play, No Exit.In No Exit, in case you are not familiar, three characters are confined to a hotel room and, after driving each other up its walls, come to realize, in fact, that they are in Hell and will spend the rest of eternity together. The famous line, Sartre's epiphany, is dispensed at the end by the male resident: Hell is other people.Unfortunately some of us, myself included, are occasionally known to carry that mentality around like a bag of bricks on our back, bristling when forced to interact with other citizens. This is especially true when we're all living in the midst of our own private Siberia, which brings me to today's misadventure.As I've mentioned, we live in Washington, DC's Chevy Chase neighborhood - a part of town sometimes and hysterically referred to as Upper Caucasia. We've been in these parts for three years and, barring any dramatic shifts, will be for a long time. It's a kid friendly prairie, laden with cute families led by young parents who, for the most part, are happy to meander and figure it out as they go, eschewing text book guidance in favor of real experience. In other words, every mom and dad seems comfortable enough in his or her own skin, and if they fuck up somewhere along the line, they acknowledge it and move forward. At the far end of the spectrum is a faction of crusty neighborhood veterans - the goats who might be five days older than dirt and generally affect a suspicious scowl when I offer a smile and a hello. I know, that sounds ageist in flavor, but I will point out that there are some incredibly pleasant and wonderful elderly neighbors around me. Unfortunately, my awkward encounters with the aforementioned crusty neighbors cast a wider shadow. As they say though, it takes a village.My office is in the Chevy Chase Pavilion, a mixed use center in the fold of several retail, dining, and hospitality venues on Wisconsin Avenue, five minutes from home. When the cabin fever vibe in the house reaches a boiling point and the boys are poised to off each other, I decide that my 4 year old Jack and I will roll over to my office for a change of scenery. Even though it's closed because of the weather, I need to bang out a few emails and scope out the work week, assuming there will even be one. Always the eager co-pilot, Jack is glad to join me, especially since I throw a Borders run into the package. He digs the kids section in the back, which makes me smile.After an hour in the office and 27 times being asked if it's time to go to yet, I pack it in. As we stroll down the block hand-in-hand, my mind replays a montage from the night before of Saint's quarterback Drew Brees holding his son in the wake of the Super Bowl victory, kissing his little hands, soaking him in, tears of joy lining his eyes. That will go down as one of the most touching images I've ever witnessed, by the way, because as a father, I can relate to sharing real moments with my children. Walking down the street to a big box book store, allowing yourself to really feel your son's small hand in yours can be everything, and it is.As expected, Borders provides a serene shelter from the elements, a peaceful change of venue. A friendly worker and I exchange opinions on David Benioff's City of Thieves, which I read a week ago. We both marvel a[...]



(image) Through stinging tears I have stared at this image of my father (first row, second from right, embracing a cigarette), surrounded by his platoon mates in Viet Nam, and choked repeatedly on the sad irony that unfolded this week when he died in a hospice room surrounded by not a soul. I also find myself marveling at our uncanny resemblance and cursing the fact that I've lived my entire life to this point unaware that I am his virtual clone. As I blogged before - really the last time I blogged about anything significant - he was estranged to me for nearly 20 years until we recently and awkwardly crossed paths again in a hospital room last March. Now it's clear that what might have been will never be, that so many unanswered questions will be interred with him, that I will still mourn though I expected to be okay when this day arrived. I am not okay...

Open Arms


(image) Welcome Old Man Winter. We've been waiting for you.

back to the future


A week has passed since I said goodbye to my father and left him behind in the hospital. I wrapped the surreal family reunion with a hand-off of my business card and a closing to the effect of "it's in your court, so call and let me know how you're doing." To date I have received no such call. The whole situation still sits in my stomach like some Five Guys burger - I needed the sustenance but regret what I ate. I know, strange analogy. I'm logging this on my lunch break with no fuel in the tank, so food's on the brain. If you've ever devoured one, you know what I mean, but I digress.

When I returned to DC, I intended to reflect and blog and reflect and blog some more. It turns out I'm still digesting the whole experience, addressing my emotions, searching for the words, and coming up with little more than fragments. In any case, deciphering the content on a monitor through the blur of your own water works is next to impossible, so I'm saving the rain check and hoping to get it out sooner than later.

On a concrete level, I can report that police found his car along with the woman who stole it from the hospital parking lot. Apparently she was living in the car at a rest stop 150 miles outside of St. Louis. Justice will be served in that forum, but I couldn't care less about that superficial piece of business. Sure, the old man received closure on that front, so good for him. The emotional can of worms that crime opened is another story completely.

Happy Birthday Blog!


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It just occurred to me that my blog entered the terrible twos today. I've been so consumed with dysfunctional family business here in St. Louis that it almost slipped my mind. A belated birthday greeting would simply be lame. I don't have the gear to record a new "Happy Birthday" clip with me but will get around to it when I return to the District. For now here's Jack's jam from last year.

lost and found


When some despicable grifter of a woman in St. Louis decided to target despondent family members in the waiting area of St. Anthony's Medical Center, she couldn't have possibly known how it would ultimately rattle the cage of yours truly 900 miles away in Washington, DC. My guess is she has never heard of the butterfly effect, but the series of events her flapping criminal wings set in motion left me tossing and turning and crying in bed (later on the couch) last night as I came to grips with the fact that March would not be coming in like a lion but like an entire pride of famished lions this year.The phone call from home that I'd been expecting and dreading my entire adult life kicked it off. I make it a general practice to pick up any time my mother calls. Being so far from home has instilled in me a degree of morbid paranoia: I'm almost certain that I'll miss the chance to say goodbye to a loved one some day. So on a carefree day off work, thanks to 6 inches of snow burying the District, I noted my mother's name on the caller ID and even suggested to my friends, all with snow day beers in hand, that I always take her calls since "you never know." Here's how she opened: "Will, I don't know how to tell you this, and there's never a good time for bad news..."Naturally a preface like that removed the feeling from my legs, so I planted myself on the couch to let the rest wash over me. Unfortunately I'm pressed for time, what with a plate full of work to knock out before catching a flight to St. Louis tomorrow, so my dramatic and sensational proclivities need to be kept at bay for now. Besides, the AP already penned the gist of it like this:Man's car stolen after heart surgery at hospitalThe Associated Press Wednesday, February 25, 2009; 4:28 PM ST. LOUIS -- A St. Louis man is recovering after a heart attack and surgery, and after having his car stolen from the hospital parking lot. William Caggiano had the heart attack on Thursday and had heart bypass surgery. His daughter rushed back to St. Louis County from Arizona to be with him.At St. Anthony's Hospital, she met a woman in the intensive care waiting room. Now, Amanda Caggiano believes that so-called friend stole her father's car.The crime happened early Friday. Amanda Caggiano said she was sleeping. When she woke up several items from her purse were gone, including the keys to her father's PT Cruiser.Police say the description of the suspect sounds like a woman who committed a similar crime at the hospital a month ago.The heart attack patient whose wounds were salted by car theft is my estranged father and namesake. Amanda is my half sister who I last saw when she was 2 years old. I've seen and spoken to my father once in the last 25 years, and that was 15 years ago. This weekend I'll reunite with both of them in a hospital room - a setting which has always turned my stomach. To ice the cake my mother went on to share that my grandmother, Michalena Caggiano, who always lived with my father, died two years ago. By proxy she was also estranged to me. Straight from Sicily, her sauce was the best in the league, and I have every intention of returning to the District with her recipe.How's this for an understatement: I'm a mixed bag of emotions.There’s certainly more to come on this story. Tomorrow I’m flying with my wife and two sons to St. Louis to let this all play out. Apparently he’s not nearly out of the woods yet, as there have been complications in the wake of surgery, so a certain degree of urgency comes with this situation.In a strange sense, I suppose I should thank the degenerate woman who brought us together by stealing his car. If it wasn’t for her crime, my mother wouldn’t know about his health condition or whereabouts, and the lonely old man might die without laying eyes on his o[...]

smokers mount rushmore



For so many years, my favorite author, Paul Auster, has perched atop my list of great minds I'd like to chat with over a pack of cigarettes. Recently I became the last person on earth to learn that President Obama has a cigarette habit. Sorry, Paul - I have to bump you to second chair. Come to think of it, these two comprise my Mount Rushmore of smokers. I need to add a couple more to round it out and am open to suggestions. Who are the coolest smokers out there?

for the birds



News that a flock of birds thrashed the engines of US Airways Flight 1549 continues to resonate with me. When I saw this video via Mashable's Twitter feed I must have played it 20 times. Since Jack thinks every one's business is his business, he peered over my shoulder once and was hooked.

It was sort of awkward explaining that the culprit of the engine exploding and subsequently failing is a bird carcass, but I managed. I'm finding that he's too damn smart these days to accept any glossed over explanations of just about anything in any case. He seems to have mastered the art of interrogation already. To avoid a session of 20 questions, I just came right out and shared that birds have been known to take out airplanes now and then.

Something I failed to consider is that he tells his mother everything, so when she walked in the door from a literal planes-trains-automobiles day trip to and from NYC, he promptly grabbed a big toy airplane and demonstrated such a plane crash for her.

Look, mom...the plane is flying high in the comes a bird...right into the engine...oh's on fire...CRASH!!!!

If I had to describe the look she shot me, I would not say it conveyed pride. No, not a single ounce. So much for candor. Worse yet, when he sees one of us on the Macbook, he demands to see this video again.

Yeah...I might need to take a class or read a book.

miles of smiles


Weakness of attitude becomes weakness of character. - Albert EinsteinI can't get a certain smiley-faced squirrel working the pharmacy counter at my neighborhood CVS out of my head so figured I'd spill my thoughts onto this canvass and sort through them. Over the long holiday break my youngest child, Cole, acquired what seemed like his 27th cold of the season. The math behind this is rather simple and common - his older brother, the Jackal, started preschool in the fall and began bringing home more than just a daily art project. Since Jack's been around the block already, his immune system is stronger while Cole's is still learning to navigate this germ-ridden world. If you're a parent, I don't need to tell you how drastically a sick infant can completely sideswipe your groove. A dull headache becomes a way of life; REM sleep is kicked to the curb; and general angst guides you through the day. Needless to say, when I approached the counter I wasn't exactly wearing joy on my sleeve. On the contrary, I was more like an active member of a pride of so many hungry lions waiting to chew on anyone in my path with bad news, which is exactly what this guy dispensed.Sir, that particular antibiotic needs to be mixed, so it's going to be another 20 minutes.When I dropped off the scrip, they told me to give 30 minutes. I gave them an hour before returning only to hear they'd need another 20 minutes. It's t-minus 2 days until Christmas and I've hardly crossed anyone off my shopping list. I have not slept for shit in over a week. My sweet child is at home with fever, laden with green mucous. So why am I not losing it?A simple, sort of goofy, smile – one that seems to be permanently burned onto my hard drive, one that quite possibly rescued me for the holidays and beyond. Here’s this kid (he seemed early-to-mid-20s, and yes, it scares me that I’m at the stage where someone that age is a kid) who may as well be standing blindfolded before a firing line, post last cigarette, and he’s delivering every word with this warm, encouraging smile. Really, he could have dropped on me that my home just burned to the ground as my entire 401k went to hell in a hand basket (wait, that did happen) and I’d have walked away feeling like I just hit the lottery. In a sense, I think I did.Clearly there’s no shortage of anxiety or plight in the world today. It seems like everyone’s toting a bag of bricks on their back in these trying times. I have so much respect and admiration for those individuals who carry those bags around and still find it in themselves to laugh and smile. At the risk of sounding cliché or like I just saw Dead Poets Society for the first time, I have come to realize, and make it a point to remind myself, that I own this moment right now and how I spend it is completely up to me. In the same vein, I get to make the call on my attitude and how I project. It’s a very simple yet liberating concept.I know there is a time and place for despondence and that happy-go-lucky is just not feasible all the time. Thanks to the pharmacist at CVS, I’m going to take a breath in challenging moments and check myself. Talk about a spoonful of sugar to go with that medicine.[...]

donuts with daddy


Today the weather service actually nailed a prediction and it finally snowed on Washington, DC. I honestly don't recall snow blanketing the ground once last winter. Thankfully DC Public Schools rarely close due to bad weather and held true to form today, which meant the Jackal's preschool would also open its doors. Normally any kid would hope for a snow day under such circumstances, but today was Donuts with Daddy - an event he's been anticipating for over a month.

When I went to his room this morning, I found him gazing at the snow falling outside his window. "Dad, are we still having donuts at school?" he asked.

After donuts, this art project, and mingling with other dads, Jack led me by the hand to the window to take in the snow again. "Do you want to play in the snow with me today?" he asked, not knowing how rhetorical that question would turn out to be.

I was a flash in the pan at the office, knocking out an abbreviated list before bolting out the door to the hardware store to buy salt, shovels and sleds. When I showed up at home, Jack flashed a gigantic smile and shot up the steps to grab his snow pants. On our first run down the hill, I lost my wedding ring by using my hands as brakes. In all the excitement I forgot to put on my gloves. I agonized over it for a few minutes and tried in vain to retrace our path, but it was pointless and in the end a small price to pay for a chance to embrace a day like this with Jack.

As we meandered home in the SUV, occasionally doing nasty donuts at intersections of side streets that road crews had neglected, Jack giggled and iced the cake with this: "Dad, I love you. Thanks for the adventure today."

Naturally this melted my heart, and little did he know, edged me closer to a major life/career decision I've been weighing for a while. There is certainly more to come on that topic in a future post. Hell, most of it's drafted already. For now I'll savor this day and leave it at that.

meet joe pug


My friend Don in Chicago is batting .1000 when it comes to dropping new music on me. We check in with each other every few months, but I stalk his ass on Facebook enough to keep general tabs on him. The cat wears many hats - Chicago Innerview Magazine editor, music blogger, diamond broker, and indie artist manager. One of his artists, Joe Pug, is stirring the pot.

Here's what Jason Killingsworth, Deputy Editor of Paste Magazine, has to say:

"While most singer/songwriters are content to warble out a few semi-clever turns of phrase, Pug's scorching poetry and soulful, 'every phrase could be my last' voice will stop you cold. If you want to read the actual endorsement, touch the braille stretching up my arms. Twenty years from now, lazy journalists will compare every halfway decent songwriter to Joe Pug. Mark my words."

For what it's worth, this is my contribution to the movement. Check it out:

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back on the grift


lately, like many out there, i find time to worry and wring my hands over the dark clouds in life. the times are tough as nails, so who wouldn't sweat it really? at the same time, there's this side of me, something i'm still getting to know, that seems to enjoy the unknown, the giant gray area lurking around the corner. i realize that anyone in his right mind wants to control or have a finger on the pulse of things. of course the counterpoint is that philosophy sucks the unpredictability and chance of adventure from life and lends a contrived vibe to the whole thing. regardless of how i romanticize it in what's becoming a lame opening, we have clearly lost control and better get in rhythm with chaos.sometimes this all takes me back to part of my life where i managed similar circumstances, and suddenly i know i'm going to be just fine. that part of my life was college.each class of every semester began the same way - the teacher, matter-of-fact tone, calling me and few other deadbeats out for having a star next to our names in the class roster. in grammar school a star next to your name meant something swell, worthy of praise. suddenly a star means the bursar wants to see your ass about the unpaid tab and figures humiliating you before your classmates with this implication will get your attention. my parents had shit for money then, so i plunged deep, up to my neck, in loans and grants and had to come up with a few grand per semester to cover what financial aid didn't - no small feat for a college kid. to come up with that kind of coin i suppose i could have taken a job on campus, worked and saved obsessively over the summers, or both. instead i became something of a grifter.i don't say that boastfully or necessarily with a swell of pride. it's not like i wanted to spend my college years with a pit in my stomach pertaining to tuition and rent on top of grades. naturally my preference would have been for my parents to cover me, which seemed to be the standard around me, so i could focus on school. alas, the dealer dealt me a different hand, so i learned to play the game with a chip on my shoulder and a series of bluffs to boot.since i'm out on a virtual limb here and need to protect my name professionally and parentally, i can't go into tremendous detail about how i pulled off college life on the grift. maybe in 20 years when i retire, when the coast is clear, i will dispense the duplicitous tales. to do so now would be career suicide. not to mention, it would draw some real dirty looks from friends and family at imminent holiday parties. i guess can share a few maneuvers. for example, to eliminate the classroom shame factor, i wised up by checking in with my professors before the bell to report that i was "working it out" with the bursar. this generally satisfied them and kept my name from being orally disgraced. and it was true - i was working out a plan with the bursar. looking back i wonder if that bursar considered it strange when each month i'd stand in line and make tuition payments with cash money. i certainly felt shady doing so. in the end, i managed to pay for college, graduate, and grow up. i do feel compelled to acknowledge that i burned some bridges and made some enemies along the way. i am not proud of that either. still, as i've said so many times in my adult life, to change that path is to change who i am right now, so i can't say with any shred of honesty that i wish it all transpired differently. back to the present and what looks to be modernized version of month-to-month existence - this time with kids, careers, and other such heavy commitments at stake. i think i still hav[...]

to whom it may concern


A typed letter found stuffed in my mail slot last night said this:

To whom it may concern:

This is Danny. I am the kid from Friday night. I would like to start off by thanking you for not involving the police and apologizing for what I did. I had been drinking pretty heavily and only remember bits and pieces of what happened. My dad says I took a few things but I cannot even remember what was in my pockets aside from the iPod. I always do stupid things, however usually to smaller scale, when I drink and then have to clean up my mess in the morning. For what it is worth I do believe that when I woke up the next morning I would have seen your things and tried to return them to your car discreetly as possible, but there is no excuse for what I did. I have a habit of doing things without thinking them through all the way just for an adrenaline rush and that night was one of those times. I consider it a good thing that you caught me because I may have wound up making the same mistake on another night of drinking to another person who is less forgiving. I cannot begin to tell you how bad I feel for being so belligerent that night. I wrote this letter because I was not sure if you wanted to hear this from me face to face or not. If you would like to meet with me or if there is anything else I can do to make up for what I did, my number is xxx-xxx-xxxx. Please call me anytime. Again, I cannot tell you how stupid and terrible I feel and I appreciate the way you handled it.


Now, somehow, I feel for this kid, despite the fact that he was trying to rip me off. I think I will call and invite him over for a chat to let him know I certainly made and make my share of mistakes on the road of life and that there are no real hard feelings. I might even burn him the Arcade Fire collection to come off as an even cooler cat. Then I just might float the idea of him raking the leaves that are already starting to take over my yard. After all, my back is killing me (yes, I'm decrepit), so why not? It would beat the hell out of chain gang work. Will post later on how it goes.

play dating other people


It has begun, and my social anxiety disorder can't stop it. Our 3 year old, Jack, with his sass, charm, and wit is building bridges in the neighborhood that we will cross, for better or worse. As it's my nature, I am being dramatic. I don't have social anxiety disorder, at least not a clinical case, and I recognize the bright horizons of getting to know other families in the neighborhood. Still, I can't deny, and hope I'm not the only one, that it stirs butterflies in my stomach now and then. Worlds colliding and all that...

The emails and calls began to trickle in a few weeks ago, once Jack had entrenched himself in the preschool scene and began spending alternate days at a DC Parks day program for kids - mothers suggesting play dates with Jack. It's terribly cute on one hand, sure. On the other, it means meshing and placating to a certain degree. Not to mention, now that we're bound to be crossing paths with other parent/friends, I need to pay a lot more attention to how I carry myself around the neighborhood. After all, there are eyes everywhere now.

Just the other day some guy rolled through a stop sign at an intersection blocks away from us and nearly side swiped me. Of course, I raised my arms to say WTF and moved on. Now suppose I bump into that guy at the preschool pot luck dinner in a few weeks. It's completely possible. So, do you see what I mean?

This reminds me of something that has been nagging me - the concept that everyone has multiple personality disorder. I mean, when you are in your car alone, aren't there certain behaviors you execute that you would likely never do in front of anyone? Once my wife received a voice message at work from a client who failed to end the call from her car after she finished her message. Here's how it went without her knowing she had an audience:



Beeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep! Beeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep!


So that's a racist side of someone, but it's likely her friends and family don't know her to be a racist at all. It makes me wonder, is our true self what we act on when we are alone? I really don't know. But I completely digress.

Like I said, worlds are colliding. I am ready for the unsolicited parenting advice, the pot luck, and, even better, the terrific bonds I will develop with other parents in the same trenches. It's no cake walk, despite the shiny fulfillment, so there has to be strength in numbers. Here's to hoping so.

See you at the tunnel slide.

i went out into the night


There was no question as to the presence of ants in my pants last Friday as I watched the clock tick away the minutes of the afternoon. Guys night does not exactly come every week, or every month for that matter. Usually when it does, it's on a Thursday, which requires a certain degree of clenching the reigns to have some semblance of game for work the next day. In this case, we owned the night. The District would be our oyster. As it happened, for better or worse, our oyster turned out to be the upper Northwest quadrant of the District and consisted of three stops, in descending order of quality: Buck's Fishing & Camping, Chevy Chase Lounge, and my basement. I know, off the chain, right? Allow me to explain - when you're happily married with kids, the concept of grazing sceney clubs, bothering with velvet ropes, and scouting ass is not a paramount objective. "It's not like I'm trying to get laid," was a direct line I dispensed to Rebecca, my friend and amazing bartender at Buck's who was rightfully giving me shit when I told her the next venue would be Chevy Chase Lounge. So after strong drinks and warm conversation at Buck's we headed further uptown to the aforementioned Lounge. Locals might know that the scene at Chevy Chase Lounge is extremely inconsistent with any coolness the name might imply. The typical patron brings to mind that dusty, old, hide-a-bed sofa relegated to a forgotten spare bedroom in your grandparents' home. You've never seen so many sets of crows feet in your life. In fact, the sole reason for going was that one of the guys wanted to see game one of the ALCS. The Lounge was a stone's throw away and has televisions, so it worked out. After the game, for some reason my friend Ethan and I decided it would be a good idea to roll over to my place, mere blocks away from the Lounge, to continue with the drinking and smoking. Extending the night always sounds like a great call in the vacuum. The next morning, of course, regret finds you. However, in this instance, our irresponsible behavior paid off. At 2AM, after a couple of vodkas, we decided to call it a night. I told Ethan I would walk him over to Connecticut Avenue where he could catch a cab. The walk, I figured, would do me some good. When we tiptoed out the front door so as not to alert my wife of our stupidity, I immediately noticed that the driver side door of my car was wide open. A few eye squints confirmed that some large person was in the car rifling through the console. Ethan said something like, "Does that guy think he-" In a blurr, I was at the car door with a grip on this guy's collar, very impolitely asking, "WTF?" As you might imagine, he was completely shocked, and for that I don't blame him. I mean, in my neighborhood, hilariously referred to recently by the Washington City Paper as Upper Caucasia, what grown-up homeowner would be on the street at 2AM? Well, this one apparently. Naturally he flailed his arms in an attempt to break loose, which prompted me to do what I have done less than a handful of times in my life - I fed him a knuckle sandwich. This caused him to stumble out of the car, at which point I realized he dwarfed me in stature. It didn't matter, according to my fueled brain, so I literally high-jumped to get my arms around his neck and we both hit the street hard. Fortunately I ended up in a better position and managed to head-lock him on the ground where he hollered and begged to be released. Immediately, based on his voice, I deduced he was a teenager, which quelled concerns that this could get uglier. No [...]

dear blog


dear blog,

it's been almost two months since my last confession. since then i have committed too many sins to count or catalog, but i've peppered a few good deeds here and there just to balance the seasoning. it's not that i don't enjoy our time together, because i really consider it a luxury, but i have to admit - i have been cheating on you with other social media mistresses, namely
twitter and facebook.

truth be told, these forays have left me feeling hollow, empty, even cynical. sure, i have picked up "friends" and "followers" on this path of darkness, but i'm beginning to see that i need more than 140 words or the occasional wall scribble to peel this onion.

it all seems so fly-by-night, a progression of cheap thrills. it's the social media movement, where it's at, but getting on board sometimes leaves an odd taste in my mouth. suddenly i'm back in the 7th grade rocking parachute pants though i secretly can't stand the "swish" when i walk or the incredibly awkward fit. not to mention, they just don't pair well with my wide-tongued adidas sambas.

maybe i need to knock the chip off my shoulder and get over the internal dilemma as to whether it's perfectly acceptable for someone to glamorize the fact that for breakfast they ate an egg sandwich with havarti cheese purchased from the farmers market. i mean, perhaps it's truly earth shattering when some cat muses into the twittersphere about the wheels of his airplane being up or down. and when some gal is out on the town with tangible friends and manages 10 or more tweets throughout the night, i suppose it's fine that she's carving out time to broadcast each step to her followers instead of really soaking up the experience with her physical cohorts.

let's face it, one premise of social media is that the general public gives a fuck about your web 2.0 reality show. and i know, i know - i am a pig rolling around in the same muck, covered with the same shit, so i am calling myself out here too. i also broadcast
slices of my life and portray myself as a modern fonzie the same way everyone else does.

the thing is, i can't see myself bailing on these avenues. it's almost like a car accident - much as i want to look ahead and drive past, i can't resist that urge to rubberneck. so i guess what i'm saying is, can we give polygamy a shot? i can't quit you, so please don't quit me.

love and rockets


joyeux anniversaire!



another year under my belt - the 35th to be exact. to celebrate, i'm going against the snake plissken grain and escaping to new york to kick it with some of my best friends in the world and to see radiohead at liberty state park at the all points west festival. tomorrow night i'll be scaling their wall of sound, man crushing on thom yorke. it won't be the first time, or the last.

i had all of these reflections stirring in my head last night, big plans for my 35th birthday blog post. alas, my friend rebecca, the world's coolest bartender who runs the scene at buck's fishing and camping, set us up very generously last night. in other words, my head is full of clouds. not to mention, i need to pack and hit the road toute de suite.

here's to another year. each time i hit this benchmark i'm pleased and sort of surprised. nyc, here i come...

we can't all be friends?


my friend adam in brooklyn, who i really hope is there when i'm in nyc for radiohead soon, impresses the hell out of me with the video treats he exhumes every day. on my first watch, i just laughed at the surface of this one. when i watched again, it made me think of the term "friend" as it's used in the social network context. which is less meaningful - friends online or friends made on a reality television show?

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personality disorder


so lately i'm getting lost in the shuffle of my own life. you could call it living. that's how i prefer to look at it. i know one scary day, devices might be fused with our bodies so that reflections, streams of consciousness, fleeting lapses of genius, and general thoughts will be poured into files and edited to become content. instantaneous blogging, twittering, facebooking, and whoring ourselves out! the good thing about now is you can get lost in life and actually consider it a good thing.bullshit, man. i'm trying to justify ignoring this blog again, covering up for my general apathy and a case of writer's block. you might know, my wife is in the web 2.0/social media space. we have terrific conversations, usually over a bottle (maybe 2) of wine and a few sneaky cigarettes after the kids are in bed, about this new frontier and its population, growing at a rate that you might as well strike the "new" label there. i am fascinated by the sociological aspects of all this. what really grabs me at the moment is how it enables split personality disorders across the globe.alert: generalizations dead ahead.when you read a blog (or other media), do you assume the person behind the curtain is consistent with what you glean from the content or the brand? when i got into this, i assumed as much. then i began to know or know about other bloggers, and it occurred to me that so many out there are really nailing it with the smoke and mirrors, promoting their brands that don't seem to match up with the real mccoy. for instance, there's this social media god at my wife's firm who has his virtual feet kissed 24/7 in the world of web 2.0 these days. to everyone out there buying in, he's fantastic, wonderful. in real life he's a prick. then there's a woman who i really like in person when i see her on occasion, but i borderline loathe her social media persona. i can cite several other examples of inconsistency, but you get the point.much of it's in the name of self promotion, which sometimes frightens me. i am so curious about people who devote so much time and energy to putting themselves out there, endlessly in search of new friends or networks. "star fuckers" is what my wife calls them. to me it's exhausting and makes me wonder about whether the real world of flesh and blood has become that much of a drag. can our true selves be so boring that we need virtual alter egos to feel alive? it's possible, really.i have to acknowledge a bit of jealousy on my part. it's like when i drive down rock creek parkway and see joggers or bikers everywhere within eye sight, i sort of assume they are all young, maybe single, getting their workout on before a night on the town, and i have a fleeting "grass is greener" moment. so when i see how active and dialed in star fuckers are in the new media world, you could say i wish i had that much time on my hands to flex my mind and soul.maybe i'm just in the midst of an online identity crisis. or is the crisis in my real life? i guess i should send out an SOS via twitter and see if my "friends" can throw me a lifeline. those venues do seem to be where the answers are coming from lately, yes? [...]




so i finally stepped to the plate and set up a facebook account. i have struggled with the concept for as long as i can remember for a number of reasons. the paramount reason is that there are certain people in this world i wish to hide from. as you see, this blog is anonymous. some of you know who i am; others never will.
almost immediately, a close friend in nyc sent the first message to my facebook inbox that gave me a serious case of cognitive dissonance:

part of me was really hoping that you would never join FB so that i could forever duck the shame one of my true friends seeing that i have more than one self serving profile picture, over 300 FB friends and other shameful social networking acts. welcome to FB prepared for the zombies and ghosts of past that lurk in the shadows waiting to poke, comment on your wall and generally disgust you with who they've become.