shaken, not slurred

The meaning of fight

Boston StrongThe Boston Marathon, aside from being the oldest marathon in the world, is also one of the most celebrated. It begins on Grove Street in Hopkinton and slinks across Ashley, Framingham, Natick, Wellesley, Newton and finally Brookline, before finishing up on Boylston Street. The twenty six miles and three hundred and eighty five yards is a living testimony to the spirit of a town whose muscular resume was indisputable long before a slogan rallied an entire nation.

The finish line is a ten minute cab ride from Logan; the airport out of which American Airlines flight 11 departed with Mohamed Atta and eighty seven innocent souls aboard on September 11th.

A couple hard scrabble towns separated by 218 miles and whose rivalries run the gamut- from political families to baseball allegiances- became united under the banner of a flag that will always matter more than the differences. Two proud cities, two hateful wicked punches, same resolute response. Hey, we’re still here.

On April 15th of 2013, Boylston Street became something other than a finish line. It became the North Tower, and the South. It became the Pentagon and a Pennsylvania field. It became the latest example that when Americans are pushed, we tend to push back. Hard and mightily and for as long as it takes.

Martin RichardWe have experienced our fair share of savage consequences since 2001. All the way from 8:46 am on September 11th to 2:49 pm last April 15th. Our most impossible losses have necessarily become our most important inspirations. Namely, Christine Lee Hanson and Martin Richard.

Christine Lee Hanson was two years old when she was stolen from the world back in 2001. She was a passenger on Flight 175. Eight year old Martin Richard of Dorchester succumbed to injuries sustained during one of the twin explosions near the finish line in Boston. The fight matters because the loss of innocents will never be an acceptable conclusion. It’s not about winning or losing since you can’t win a September 11th or an April 15th. The fight is about staying the course in the face of unimaginable loss. The fight we show is in living a day that Christine Lee Hanson and Martin Richard never get to wake up to. When you can’t settle a score, the only thing left to prove is everything else.

Monday morning will mark the 118th running of the Boston marathon. It will bring together mothers and fathers, firefighters and athletes, young and old, gay and straight, conservatives and liberals, Yankees and Red Sox. And for twenty six miles and three hundred and eighty five yards, the differences will unite in a common cause. For a few hours time, Americans will respond to the worst humanity has to offer the same way they always have; by getting to work on doing some good. They will move with purpose and grace and dignity and faith because they understand the fight isn’t about showing the bad guys what we have. It’s about showing ourselves.

They will run to Boylston Street.

 

 

If I was President, every American would have a parking space.

One. A single space would be as much as I could promise thanks to the derisive catcalls from Beltway veterans who would attempt to mitigate my charity if only because it kept them newsworthy. Of course, the logistical cataclysms experienced in densely populated areas from New York to Los Angeles would guarantee impeachment proceedings, which is okay with me. Impeached Presidents are always the most fun.

Parking spaces are like public restrooms: You never think about them until the need arises, after which you would donate important parts of your body just to find one.

The idea of going all Herbert Hoover with a Presidential parking space promise occurred to me whilst looking for a -you guessed it- parking space. I thought to myself “Hey self! This might be a post . . .” as I was snuggling between the bumpers of a Nissan Altima whose street cred was no doubt more impressive than its owner’s bank account and a Cadillac SUV whose family tree was bumper stickered to its huge ass.

My city parking talents were placed in dry dock when I moved to the country and parallel parking became something I used to do- like skiing, two toned leather jackets and long distance relationships with female assassins. City driving ain’t the same thing. That’s all adrenaline and muscle memory, so it’s easy for me to slip back into that. Parallel parking? Not so much.

It took Mt Rushmore less time to get facial reconstruction than it took for me to figure out the math of that parking space. During which I stopped sipping my slushie . . turned the radio down so I could concentrate . . opened the windows so I could hear an unwitting victim’s screams for help as I crushed them . . and ignored my chiming cell phone.

The parallel park job holds the same funky math as a trapezoid; difficult to perfect and damned proud of the fact. In two shakes of a lamb’s big, fat clumsy tail, I was in. And then I checked my look in the side mirror and discovered I was still an appreciable distance from the curb. By appreciable, I mean you could have constructed a Buffalo Wild Wings in the space between my tires and the curb.

In lieu of a zoning permit, I jigsawed my way a little closer. I stood curbside and examined the job with the same expression Vito Corleone possessed when he was introducing the funeral director to dead Sonny. To think, it took me longer to park a car (badly) than it used to take me to have sex inside of it.

The phone chimed again. It was my boy. He refuses to leave voice-mails when I don’t answer, so he’ll just call incessantly until something happens. He is gonna come in handy when I’m dead.

“What’s this about Ted Cruz?” He asks.

My son was looking to pick a fight and this wasn’t the best time since I wasn’t feeling much like fighting. Murder? Sure, I was up for that, but no fighting. I summoned my last remaining bit of civility for a response.

“Fuck Ted Cruz.” I replied. My civility was out of order.

“Oh, nice. Seriously, what’s your problem with him?” My son asked.

“You were talking to the old man . . .”

“What don’t you like about Cruz?”

“I don’t have time to list ‘em all. Okay . . . the way he reads Dr. Seuss for one thing. That book is ALL about enunciation and he ain’t bringing it. Says something about him. Not sure what. But it says something.” I reasoned.

“That’s ridiculous.”

“Hey Chachi, I gotta go. I’ll call you later and we can pick up on this. Do me one favor?” I asked.

“What’s that?”

“Read Dr. Seuss again and tell me I’m wrong.”

I hung up with the boy and contemplated going back for another round with my trapezoidal nemesis before thinking better of it. Going back in the ring one too many times didn’t work out so well for Ali, and I ain’t Ali . . so there’s that.

Later that afternoon on my ride home, my phone chimed. I just knew the boy was calling for a rematch. He couldn’t have digested the Zen of Dr. Seuss in that short a time, I thought to myself. The pugnacious little bastard.

“What the hell. Get the Gestapo on me for trashing Ted Cruz, why don’t you?” I shouted as I reached for my phone.

Turns out, it was my daughter. Just what I needed. She is a lovely little reminder of the one thing I dig even more than talking about politics. Not talking about politics.

“Would you like meringue this weekend?”  She asked.

Fuck Ted Cruz.

Cayman Thorn:

No one aspires to ordinary dreams.

You have a dream, it’s a deep and boundless possession that doesn’t have room for doubt, or concern for limitations. The gift of dreams is their ability to understand your soul. Dreams translate the foreign concept into a familiar ideal. They deliver you a patch of grass to rest your head on as you navigate a blueprint that is very well tendered out of stardust and might.

Dreams give us wings, no matter the place we inhabit or the challenge we face. Dreams do not suffer excuses. They do not consider failure to be an ending, just the next beginning. In the goodbye of one missed opportunity comes the hello of your next shot.

Dreams only concern themselves with the most important thing- that you believe in them wholly and that you follow them regardless of the signs that tell you to stop, throw up your hands, surrender.

I am re-blogging this post I read over at Khamillion’s place the other night. It took my breath away and it brought a tear to my eye, after which that tear invited friends and well, yanno . . .

K has a way with words and a knack for brilliant finds. Check out this photo shoot with 12 year old Luka and photographer Matej Peljhan, who brought Luka’s dreams to life.

Beautiful child.

Originally posted on khamillion:

Twelve-year-old Luka suffers from muscular dystrophy – a cruel degenerative disease which confines him to a wheelchair and will make him weaker and weaker over time. But with these beautiful pictures, entitled ‘The Little Prince’, friend and photographer Matej Peljhan has allowed him to explore an imaginary world where he can shoot a basketball, climb stairs and even perform a handstand.

Amazingly, the images did not require any digital trickery, Matej simply used colored sheets and carefully placed objects and took the pictures from above.

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Brad Pitt SmokingIn the event of a Zombiegeddon, I’m going with three musts haves for the ‘ole backpack- A Smith and Wesson .44 Magnum, a bottle of Knob Creek and a carton of Marlboro Reds. The first two are negotiable, the smokes ain’t. Not at the end of the world.

Okay, please indulge me as I throw down my take on the Walking Dead season finale. It’s been a while . . .

Walking Dead Season Finale Review

Who DIDN’T think Terminus was gonna be a bad idea? I liken season 4 to blue cheese crumbles; fragments of intense flavor but really more tease than please. That’s why I liked how the finale sets up next season. Now that we’re done with the personal vignettes which helped to ease our separation anxiety from the group dynamic, the band is (mostly) back together, with a few interesting additions.  

Now things go darker. No more sixteen candles, no more gardening, no more playing around. 

The almost rape/murder scene was a sobering reminder that these peeps are far removed from the age of PTO and Dairy Queen. Rick acted quite reasonably when he went all Jack Bauer on ring leader Joe and then gutted his henchman. This is the Rick I want to see, this is the Rick the group needs. Hell, this is the Rick the show needs.

Absent the Governor,- who received short shrift as far as I’m concerned- I’m hopeful Gareth ups the ante as the group’s arch-nemesis. I’m thankful the writers created this unique character, free of any shackles created by the comic book story. What madness will he mete (or meat?) out? I’m thinking that it’s time to advance from the bad ass with a cause- Shane to the Governor (two of my favorite characters)- and unleash true evil on the group. If only to see whether Rick will cook his black heart or eat it raw. Okay, enough cannibal references.

All I know for certain is that Rick was right. They screwed with the wrong group. I hope the prize fight goes fifteen rounds this time.

Okay, back to the smoking post . . .

As a former smoker, I can tell you that you’re only as good as your last smoke. Smoking will always have a part of me- the part of me that is less simple . . . that stands on the ledge and spits . . . that curses the fates and its threatening wreck of siblings . . the part of me that is adrift in the muck of human weakness and is not looking for a life preserver.

Yanno, the fun part.

One of the negatives of smoking is that it takes time away from other activities- like eating, drinking and having sex. So you should learn to multi-task. 

This isn’t to say that my battle with nicotine is an effort in futility. To the contrary. It’s a worthwhile lesson in perseverance, assembled across the unraveling and the tight of my waking hours. It’s my daily allowance of contrition. While getting better at something requires effort, getting stronger at something requires an intimate knowledge of abject failure. I appreciate the Zen of missed targets.

Quitting isn’t hard, In fact, it’s one of the easiest things about smoking. Staying quit? That there’s the unabridged, uncensored version of what I’m trying to say.

congrats

I’ve quit the habit for days, weeks, months and years. In my late teens I smoked frequently. In my twenties, barely at all. When thirty happened, I became contemplative and stressed. Smoking helped repair the moments with vicious intimacy. My forties have proven a mixed bag.

Smoking is like organized crime; once you’re in, it’s really difficult to extricate yourself from the involvement. Separation brings pain, denial, anger, hopelessness, depression and lots of shit you shouldn’t be eating. That’s a pretty good day, actually. The bad days are radioactive enchiladas served up by the Manson clan.

My latest sabbatical might have been going on two years but for a momentary lapse back in August when I bought a pack. The special occasion which brought me back into the fold was neither special nor an occasion. It was just a late summer day when the need went stupid and the idea of matchmaking my Sam Adams with a smoke seemed like the best idea in the history of best ideas. Inside this moment of weakness, I literally torched over a year’s worth of equity. And to make matters worse, it was fan-fucking-tastic.

One cigarette can get you hooked. So don’t stop there. 

With smoking, sometimes it’s stress that calls you back. Sometimes it’s a celebratory mood. And sometimes it’s just a late summer afternoon when a harmless thought becomes your habit again. So on April 22nd, I’ll celebrate two years of mostly smoke-free living. Except for the August thing . . . and the smoke I had at a birthday party back in February . . and last Friday night I had one that I really didn’t enjoy . . . and you know what? That’s okay, because it keeps me humble and when it comes to breaking habits, humility is a resourceful guide.

In the event of a zombie apocalypse, forget everything I said and stay out of my way. Unless you’re hauling Twinkies.

President BracketThere’s a good reason I’m not a college basketball fan. I don’t understand the sport. There are too many teams with funny names in too many conferences with funnier ones. The coaches all behave like used car salesmen and the players don’t stay with their programs long enough to catch a cold. And those mascots? Yikes.

For all the critics who bashed President Obama for spending his time on brackets instead of more important business? Lay off the man. Hey, if he wins? He can use that billion dollars for his healthcare website. Big picture, kids, big picture.

 

Anyways, I pay attention to college basketball once a year. At tournament time. And this year I was actually excited about the prospect of filling out my bracket thanks to Big Daddy Buffett and his billion dollar promise. Buffett promised to dole out a billion bucks for a perfect bracket. Easy peesy mac and cheesy.

The odds were stacked against me, but I knew that when I got married and that didn’t stop me. Okay, bad example.

Hours into the tournament . . .Easier said . . met done. I’m not gonna be a billionaire, thanks to Pitt and Dayton, Stephen F. Austin, Gonzaga, Baylor, UCLA and last but not least, Mercer. The reason I won’t be joining Michael Moore’s Most Wanted List is because I went with the other guys. Here were my reasons for going with the vanquished.

-I figured Colorado was a slam dunk since Susie Lindau lives there.
-Ohio State has a marijuana leaf for a logo. How timely is that?
-VCU is located in Richmond, Virginia (A hop, skip and fist bump from Richmond U.- My son’s school.)
-The Oklahoma State Cowboys have a billionaire alum in T. Boone Pickens! I mean, what ref in his right mind isn’t contemplating a European vacation when he’s calling that game?
-I went with Nebraska because I admire a school that has the balls to take a name like Cornhuskers into the 21st century.
-Tulsa’s club is known as the Golden Hurricanes. I had a couple of those in New Orleans and from what I was told, I had a lot of fun on that trip.
-I chose Duke because, well . . they’re Duke.

As you can see, I went all scientific with my choices and I got screwed. Thanks science!

ray mercer

If you’re wondering where in the hell Mercer U is located, so was I. Mercer is a Georgia school with three locations, the most physically gifted of which beat the vaunted Dukies. I had to Google that information, seeing as how I was curious as to how a retired boxer had taken out a college basketball behemoth all by his bad self. I mean, Ray Mercer was a hell of a boxer in his time, but five on one hasn’t been a fair contest since that renowned lady killer, Wilt Chamberlain, skipped town and took his voluminous black book with him.

ESPN’s Joe Lunardi is known as the Father of Bracketology. He even teaches a class on the subject at St. Joe’s University. This joins UCLA’s Tupac 101 and Richmond University’s course on The Wire as the biggest reasons why parents should take that college money and move to Cabo.

Alas, money doesn’t buy happiness. It just buys everything else. And really, what was I gonna do with a billion dollars anyway? Okay, a top five list.

1-A fully functioning, solid gold Aston Martin. That runs on gold
2-Pay off my hacked Target card
3-Buy partial season tickets to the Yankees
4-Sign Mr. Vera Farmiga up for the Mars Mission
5-Buy the Guinness Brewery, and move in immediately

I was living the dream, until tip-off happened on Thursday night. After which I had to go back to work, and apologize to my boss for the “Cheap imitation of Joan of Arc” reference. He was really pissed about that.

My Final Four picks- Louisville, Michigan State, Oregon and Florida- have been rendered mooter than John McCain’s take. On anything. But I shouldn’t complain since my abrupt removal from college basketball business allows me to focus on baseball. The only brackets those guys concern themselves with are related to taxes.

Play ball.

Irish GirlMy first Irish post came about the same way most people do, as a result of great passion and very much by accident. After which I kinda sorta knew I had a favorite place to run my writing legs, thanks to the patron Saint of those rolling green hills and the songs it birthed.

The feast of St. Patrick is about way more than drinking yourself silly. The holiday is an obligation to the cross, a pleading weep of consecrated vows handed down from the age of chieftains and nobles. It is a ceremony of songs and books and theatrical productions, the most memorable of which get played out on the smallest stages. It is a ritual whose maintenance is repaired annually and remembered fondly on the other three hundred and sixty four.

It is love. Peaceful, honest and truly that. Love.

And so this Irish post shows up a few days late, which makes it right on time seeing as how my very first Irish post showed up the same way. Coloring outside the lines is why I love this holiday so much. Well, it’s one of the reasons. Another one is curls. The red, flowing ones whose danger is implicit and whose rhyme is sweet.

Vera Irish

(Yep, I had to tuck the lovely Vera Farmiga in here, seeing as how I’ve been remiss in doing so recently. She’s the unofficial Drinks Well with Others poster girl. And okay, so maybe she doesn’t care whether I mention her or not, but my man John is okay with me doing just that. And while I’m busy with shout outs, a big thank you to the So Cal contingent of my Irish posse for thinking of me. That Wish Factor chica is good peeps.)

This year, my St. Patrick’s Day became a casualty to Monday. Tell ya what, there should be a law that prohibits the holiday from falling on a week day. Sooooo, my tradition of spending the holy day with an Irish girl was moved to Tuesday. Delayed by a day, but no less a celebration because of it.

Yesterday went green with the first toast. Me and Irish talked about the past and we laughed about the present and we drank to the future, and the 18th became the best idea since the 17th.

“Write an Irish post.” She commanded.

It doesn’t take St. Patrick for me to listen when she throws a request like this out there. She’s got hell fire inside her commands, in the loveliest of ways. We have shared the last five St. Patrick’s Days in various stages of assemblage. Not always together in the same place, but always together.

One of my favorite stories of us comes from the time after we broke up several years back. It’s a favorite story on account of the fact she’s Irish and I’m Latin, and as such we share the propensity for attaching punch lines to trying times.

I had told her I needed some time, after which she introduced me to a nuanced universe of Fuck You whenever I tried contacting her. It was a couple weeks before I could convince her to meet me for a drink; a tenuous detente, to be sure. The calamity of a pissed off Irish girl with a few drinks in her might have been something to avoid if I hadn’t experienced such a thing many times before. The curse of Yeats is my witness, but I’m addicted to that kind of romantic entanglement where a kiss or an uppercut is an even money bet. 

The conversation began sporadically as our words desperately searched for an anchor to which we could burn away the awkwardness. And then a memory found its way in, and this memory fostered a joke and before long we were regaling in the history we had accomplished. And then we were chasing away the silence with tawdry jokes and wicked glances, and we were smiling away the self imposed punishment we had created. The stubbornness of a Catholic upbringing became the common thread we could hold to and curse at. And then, as happens when the fates feel like smiling, there came an opening. 

“How’s Mr Speaker?” She asked. 

“Kicking ass and taking names, as usual. Hey, you want to see him?” I replied.

Her smile let me know what the night was going to look like.  

“Sure.” 

He won’t chase snakes and he’s a lousy mouser, but that black cat of mine proved to be the best damn wing man in the world, and the whole of Ireland.

And then a nowhere night felt like St. Patrick’s Day, with an Irish girl behaving in accordance whilst getting plenty of help from a scoundrel whose affections were rewarded in kind. And just like the Holy Day, the world got busy making all kinds of sense inside the smallest stage.

Tradition is borne in darkness but raised in light, and so it is with St. Patrick’s Day. So, as the Gaelic blessing goes . . may the road rise up to meet you and may the wind be always at your back. Just remember that the road is yours to take.

Enjoy the walk.

HemingwayI was never much of a Hemingway fan, despite my lineage.

My father was born in Havana during the second World War. He grew up believing everyone had a mango tree and that Hemingway was the greatest storyteller who ever lived. I envied the former and dismissed the latter as little more than nationalistic fervor tinged with melancholy. That’s how the natives pay their respect to the place Castro took from them, by romanticizing the debauchery that would eventually cost them a homeland.

Hemingway never moved me. Excepting for his quotes on the world we live in. These were the places where I could agree with the old man about what Papa brought to the literary table. Hemingway’s take on the whole wide world? It possessed realism, chops, a horrible beauty to which there was no denying.

One of my very favorite selections is from A Farewell to Arms. A book I first read when I was in junior high. I studied Hemingway’s tortured genius as if a kid practicing jump shots for some later date.

The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong at the broken places. But those that will not break it kills. It kills the very good and the very gentle and the very brave impartially. If you are none of these you can be sure it will kill you too but there will be no special hurry.

That’s some kind of writing right there. It’s brutal and pervasive and true. The book and its passage was introduced into the public venue back in 1929, right before the Great Depression. From there to here, the sentiment has held onto every last lick of its truth.

The ‘world’ to which Hemingway spoke joined personal and collective experiences together. We were hurtling into a forgettable chapter, with a worldwide depression closing in just as the world’s people were starting to figure some things out. Still, I think about the craziness of what we wake up to in present day and in many ways, it seems way more daunting a proposition. We have old Soviet holdovers attempting to remand a fractured empire while we shake our empty handed fists. There’s the Middle East, where even the best intentions go to hell on a daily basis and take too many lives with them. Not to mention the ever present threat of school shootings, the specter of online bullies, spiraling economies and politicians whose best work comes in sound bites. And all the while, there’s a 777 whose final resting place may lay anywhere or nowhere, who’s to say?

We get it. The world is a scary place to call home. It can be unrelenting in its tragedy, unforgiving in its conclusions, and to fight that reality is a thankless proposition.

But here’s the thing . . so fucking what?

I mean, if there is anything that matters more than the horrible beauty of Hemingway’s timeless quote, it is the human capacity to fight like hell. Maybe the world didn’t get the memo, but we are an ignorant lot. The ignorance that comes with having better ideas, more hopeful thoughts. Dreams.

Maybe that’s why I never got Hemingway. Because I never understood mortality to be as frightening as the idea of giving in to it. I won’t jump off just because the world tells me it’s the best idea it can come up with.

My best ideas have always come out of lost causes, so yanno, there’s that.

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