Monday, May 25, 2009

Memorial Day, 2009


Nevertheless they are heard in the still houses: who has not heard them?
They have a silence that speaks for them at night and when the clock counts.
They say, We were young. We have died. Remember us.
They say, We have done what we could but until it is finished it is not done.
They say, We have given our lives but until it is finished no one can know what our lives gave.
They say, Our deaths are not ours: they are yours: they will mean what you make them.
They say, Whether our lives and our deaths were for peace and a new hope or for nothing we cannot say: it is you who must say this.
They say, We leave you our deaths: give them their meaning: give them an end to the war and a true peace: give them a victory that ends the war and a peace afterwards: give them their meaning.
We were young, they say. We have died. Remember us.

-Archibald MacLeish

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Esquire's "Letter to the Young Drinker"

In June's issue of Esquire, there is an exquisite letter from someone who I would like to imagine is somewhat like myself in 20 years writing to someone a lot like myself 10 years ago. (The real author is Tom Chiarella, the same guy who wrote the amazing "75 Skills Every Man Should Master", aka the reason I subscribed to Esquire in the first place.) Some highlights from the letter:

"When you look back on your world with some booze in you--at your family, at your home, at your troubles--you'll find yourself a little unhinged from expectation, from fear." "For awhile, for a long while maybe, you surprise yourself. You're braver. Sharper." "Understand, from the get-go, these are fun illusions." "Make rules: I don't drink beer from boots. Don't chug. Don't shotgun. Don't hoot. Like that. Draft your own lessons. Learn from your mistakes. Quickly. You get a couple when you start. After that, it's on you."

The issue is worth buying just for the 13-page section on drinking in which this letter appears. There are also some drink recipes and other fine written pieces. For instance, the one in which this sentence appears: "My choice [of drink] is a reflection of what's important to me, so, I'll have what she's having."

BTW, I think Esquire should think about making an iPhone app that has drink recipes and extras (like these articles) for subscribers.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Danielle: Good Versus Evil

I've never met Danielle in person. And I can't remember how I found her blog. But I sure am glad I did. She's thoughtful and hilarious. She's insightful to the point that she seems to question just who she is with the mastery of someone who knows exactly who she is. Take this autobiographical piece that appeared in the Washington Post, for example: LIFE IS SHORT. And I love this post of hers: are your legs tired...?

As a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up? What do you want to be now?
As a child? I wanted to be Michael J. Fox's girlfriend. When I was a teenager - which in hindsight looks like a kid - I wanted to be a voice-over artist for Disney. 


Now, I want to be a successful novelist. And healthy.
When was the last time you were violent?

Three days ago, in a dream. It was pretty brutal.
Were you in the right?

That would be up to the dream jury. I think they would sympathize. 
Describe an instance when you placed a good deal of trust in a complete stranger.
Several years ago I got involved with a man - fell in love with a man whom I would have trusted with my life. Unfortunately he had lied to me about everything from his name to what he ate for breakfast each morning. He emotionally abused me. He faked cancer - for six months. When I became so lost in that chasm that I started praying to just die in my sleep, I ran to Israel (sort of my second home) to look for my sanity. He followed me there and harmed me further. In all, it amounted to psychological rape. It took nine months for me to realize he was a complete stranger; a mirage, and mentally ill. But until then, I trusted him implicitly.
Do you own a vanity book - a book you haven't read but keep on the shelf in the hopes that people will think you've read it? What are the qualities you associate with this book?

Does my collection of The Atlantic Monthly count? I confess haven't read them all. Maybe half. Maybe. Smarties read The Atlantic

Now, ask me about the books I'm ashamed of and an entire library emerges from under my bed. Titles include but are not limited to: Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man (by Steve Harvey - my mother gave it to me and I never read it); The Rules (ditto); Hungry Girl: Recipes and Survival Strategies for Guilt-Free Eating in the Real World (galley copy sent by St. Martin's Press when I interviewed the author); Sex and the City; and a couple Nora Roberts paperbacks. All of these would give one the impression that I am a chick, which I am not. I am a W-O-M-A-N.

Describe the last time you lost something of value.

I'd have to say it was my faith in people's honesty and basic goodness. (See "psychological rape," above.) Like so many things of value, I didn't realize how precious it was until it was gone. I was raised by good people. That's what made me such an easy target - it was unfathomable that one human being could do something so horrible to another. And so... I never fathomed it. And that's how he got me. And when he was finished with me, my innocence was gone. I can honestly say now that while I'm occasionally surprised, nothing shocks me anymore. Which is sorta sad.
Is/was there a place you repeatedly look/looked for this item?
In the eyes of every new man I meet (now that I've started dating again).
Annular rings indicate the age of a tree; they form as a result of their environment. Give your age. Describe an event that aged you and when it occurred.

I am 33 (which always comes as a surprise to me). The abuse definitely aged me. I could see it in my face when all was said and done. Stress does ugly things to the body. 

What piece of advice/wisdom that you were given at one point do you hold on to?
"Try not to be too hard on people; you never know what they're going through." Linda Richman said this to me during a magazine interview. She's my hero - read her book.
What makes the world go 'round?

Good chasing evil, and evil chasing good. 'Round and 'round they go. Who started the chase? Nobody can know.

Friday, May 1, 2009

My Buddy Tino and His Phone

My buddy Tino never answers his phone. At least not when I call. Our friends will be getting together for drinks or arranging a cookout last-minute, and I'll call him. But he never picks up. So I give him hell about it: "You know, Tino, people have mobile phones in order to be reachable more often?"

Recently, Tino bought an iPhone, and when I got his voicemail again, I left the following message: "Tino, you've gone and purchased the world's most advanced phone, just to continue ignoring it. Nice." The next day, I got the email below, which almost sounded genuinely defensive to me:
"Hey Ross - Thanks for the invite on Sunday and sorry for not calling you back but I do have a reason (or excuse depending on your outlook). 

Roy, Nicole and I had gone to Carbondale on Saturday and picked up a fridge for me and a bunch of other appliances from her dad's rental properties and so on Sunday we spent the afternoon and much of the evening dropping them all off at various family members houses around the city.  I'm embarrassed to admit it but I left my phone at Roy and Nicole's because I didn't want it to get broken in some awful refrigerator smashing incident where I would have to sacrifice a limb to save my phone.  I'm still in the infancy stage with my phone and I'm positive I'll grow out of it.

So long story short, I didn't get your message until late and so I didn't call - my bad but I'm sure you aren't shocked."
I wrote this back:
"Fine, I guess that's an acceptable excuse for not answering my call.

I hope you don't really feel like you need to explain your reasons for not answering when I call. I always assume there's plenty of reasons why you wouldn't. For instance 

a) Tino is busy watching TV.
b) Tino is [getting] busy.
c) Tino is napping.
d) Tino was once brutally man-checked by Ross and is still a little bitter about it (totally understandable, and I am still sorry, even after you man-checked me back, although not as brutally).
e) Tino is making an iTunes playlist for his next get together. It's based on a Dave Matthews song. It includes several songs by the Squirrel Nut Zippers. It totally rocks.
f) Tino is taking a bath (I have my reasons for thinking this).
g) Tino is drunk.
h) Tino is trapped under something heavy and can't get to his phone.
i) Tino is trapped under something light (I have other reasons for thinking this).
j) Tino is playing with the dog.
k) Tino is running.
l) Tino is already on the phone, ordering something from IKEA.
m) Tino is cleaning out his car (I have reasons to believe this would never happen. Ever.).
n) Tino is planning for the apocalypse and has run to the store for several more 5-gallon jugs of water and three cases of canned tuna.
o) Tino feels apathetic about the incoming call from Ross. It's nothing against Ross. Tino just doesn't care to answer right now.
p) Tino is busy researching the process of joining the Fred Savage Fan Club online. Tino is having trouble finding the Fan Club, and he is beginning to suspect that he will have to start one on his own. This will make him the president of the club, and that makes Tino VERY happy. Fuck Ross's call. This shit is important.
q) Tino is considering the manliness of bow hunting. Seriously, how primitive and cool is that shit? Guns are for wussies.
r) Tino is painting the kitchen. Again.
s) Tino is playing a game on his new iPhone, and if he stops now to take the call, he might not break his own record.
t) Tino believes that Fred Savage might be calling soon, and he doesn't want to miss it.
u) Tino feels antisocial to the point of being phobic. (Don't worry, it happens to us all sometimes.)
v) Tino is getting busy. Again.
w) Tino's phone is out of batteries.
x) Tino is almost out of minutes. Again.
y) Why? Because we like you.