Thanksgiving

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, my High Holy Day. Lisa’s family will come over and we’ll once again blend our traditions, each person carrying a ghost from their own childhood in the form of a platter of food. It may be the stuffing their grandma made or the pie their favorite aunt used to make. Some new traditions may start tomorrow, and some old ones may vanish forever. This is only the most recent incarnation of my favorite holiday.

I’m not someone who likes to spend a lot of time dwelling on the past. I am very good at compartmentalising my life, and tmy parentshat includes keeping the past in the past, where it belongs. But at this time of year, it seems like the veil separating the past from the present is so thin I may fall through. I feel like I could be driving home from work, sitting alone in my car, and suddenly find myself sitting down for Thanksgiving dinner at my Mema’s house thirty years ago. It may be seventy degrees out, but I can feel the chill of the last Thanksgiving before my mom passed away. It was 1993, and it snowed and iced on Thanksgiving. I almost skipped it because I was scared to drive on the ice. Only a handful of people were able to make it that year. I’m glad I was one of them.

I’ve shared the Thanksgiving feast with representatives of every generation of my family who lived in my life span, from my great grandparents, who were born in the 1890’s, to my son, who was born over a century later. Some day I’ll eat the feast with my grandchildren, and maybe someday with my great grandchildren. Those future feasts will be as different from tomorrow’s as tomorrow’s will be from the ones in my memory. But each will carry with it the joyful memories of all that came before.

Tomorrow, the memory of my parents, grandparents and great grandparents will share a table with us, as though they were still here. And hopefully, years after I have moved through the veil, the memory of me will live on to share Thanksgiving with the generations I will never meet.

Low T

On the way to work I pass a clinic with a huge sign that says “Low T”. This new-age disorder has replaced “Restless Leg Syndrome” as the new made up thing that people think the suffer from. They call it Andropause (this is “male menopause”) or Low T. The “T” is for testosterone. Here’s a complete list of symptoms:
      “Your T is low, Fool.”
    • Fatigue
    • Memory Loss
    • Muscle Loss
    • Weight Gain
    • Low Sex Drive
    • Erectile Dysfunction
    • Depression
    • Irritable Male Syndrome
    • Hot Flashes
    • Night Sweats
    • Hair Loss
    • Sleep Apnea
    • Prostate Problems
    • Osteoporosis

Oh God! Where do I start? One of the symptoms is “Irritable Male Syndrome“. I cut this definition right off a website called renewman.com, “Getting irritated by things that never used to bother you? Have you lost your temper suddenly or for no apparent reason? Never quite know when you’re going to fly off the handle again?” I’ve been an irritable male since puberty. I thought flying off the handle was a sign of testosterone rage. Are they saying if I take their drugs, I will have more testosterone, but I’ll be mellow? OH THAT MAKES ME SO MAD!

Fatigue, memory loss, muscle loss, weight gain, hair loss. Find me one man over forty who doesn’t suffer from four of those five things and I’ll buy him a wig. Hair loss? Really? They are claiming that hereditary male pattern baldness is actually a symptom of this disease. Whah?
 
Low sex drive, erectile dysfunction, and depression. If you spend enough years being emasculated by women, subjugated by the boss, treated like an idiot by your children, and beat down by life you will exhibit all of these symptoms. Hormones have nothing to do with it. 
 
Sleep apnea, prostate problems and osteoporosis. These are all serious problems, the cause of which is not low testosterone. They are each actual health problems. Diseases in their own right. If you suffer from one of these, go to an actual doctor and get help.
 
Wait a minute. Is this all some B.S. reason to legally get steroid injections? Why didn’t you they so? Every man wants to be a pumped up action hero. They’re going about this all wrong. The ad shouldn’t say “Remember when you had the energy to [do a bunch of wussy stuff like be romantic and go to concerts]” It should feature Mr. T saying, “Wanna get ripped? Wanna bust some heads? Tired of takin’ shit off everybody all the time? Then get your T back, Sucka!”

Hell yeah! Sign me up.

Thirty Nine

On the occassion of the 18th anniversary of my 21st birthday, I’d like to take a 3.25 minutes to review the stats for my life so far:

  • I’ve been with Lisa and Jacob for 9.12054794505479452054795 years.
    • I can honestly say that 9.081532158016554 years of it has been pretty awesome.
    • We’ve been married for 6.795205479452054794520547945205 years
  • I’ve had the same cat for 17 years.
  • I’ve been legally elligible to drink for 6,570 nights. I don’t remember how many of those nights I actually drank, but I can say I puked probably less than 20 times.
    • This is only since I turned 21. Underage drinking gets expunged from your record.
    • It can be assumed that I’ve consumed 462.6 gallons of booze. (This stat is based on normal American per capita consumption, That’s 2.14 gallons per month. Jesus, America, slow down. It’s not a race. Is this why Rick Perry is so popular? You bunch of drunks!)
  • I’ve owned 11 cars
    • 3 were bought new
    • 10 were American
    • 1 was German
  • I’ve eaten 14,235 breakfasts, but I’ve only had 1,768 bisuits
  • I’ve lived 9 places (4 apartments and 5 houses) in 4 different cities, all within 60 miles of my place of birth.
  • I’ve voted in 5 Presidential elections. 3 times, my candidate won.
  • I’ve been to 19 states
  • I’ve had 7 jobs, with an average tenure of 3.4 years.
    • I better get back to work now or this stat may be in danger

Cruising Poetic

So we’ll go no more a-roving
So late into the night,
Though the heart still be as loving,
And the moon still be as bright.
                                 -Lord Byron
Those lines makes me think of all those teenage nights spent driving around with my two best friends, Matt Petty and Lee Walsh. We never seemed to have a destination, but we were always going somewhere. It was freedom like I had not known before. We were the Lewis and Clark Expedition of the streets of Fort Worth.
There’s an episode of the Wonder Years right after Kevin gets his license. He and his friends go out wandering. At the end the narrator says, “We didn’t really accomplish anything that night. Nothing of any real importance, anyway. But through the high school years that lay ahead… there would be a thousand other nights, just like that one. Stupid, ridiculous… and glorious.” I love that line. It says it all.
It’s a rite of passage for young American men after getting a driver’s license. As long as there have been cars and roads to drive them on and cities to drive them through, boys have sought their freedom behind the wheel. Its more about the journey than the destination. Its about constant discovery and endless change and the element of chance. You can control the vehicle, but not always the conditions. Ahead lies risk and danger, joy and exhaltation. You can’t easily turn around so you only move forward, pushing forever away from the place of your birth and constantly toward the grave. If you’re fortunate you have close friends to share the wonder with you along the way.

Bananas Foster or: How I Almost Married a Chubby Girl Because Her Hot Cousin Dumped Me

Thanks to Facebook, I have reconnected with a bunch of people with whom I have been out of touch for many years. When I look back at the past 20 years, I find there is not a single person I’ve been in touch with consistently. I suppose this is normal in the years after high school. So I will quickly fill in the gaps for all my new friends and reconnected friends and family:

1990 – 1993 Hot Tub Time Machine
In Hasbro’s “The Game of Life” you get to choose the path for college or career. Both paths lead to the same place, and ultimately come out pretty even, but the career path requires crap work and low pay at first. In my life I tried college briefly, but chose the career path. I worked lame jobs and hard jobs during those years and many of the years that followed.
Most of that period was spent hanging out with Matt and Lee, my two best friends from High School. Those were wasted years, but fun times.
1994 – 1998 The Empire Strikes Back
I was orphaned in my twenties. I lost my mom in ’94 and my dad in ’98, both to cancer. I lost both of my grandmothers in the same week in February of ’99. I lost my faith somewhere along that road. Then I found it, then I lost it again. That’s probably a story for another blog.
I’ve been married twice and almost married a few times more. I married my first wife a month before my mom died. I almost bolted from the church that day, but I looked out of the groom’s room and saw my dad rolling in my mom in a wheelchair. She had literally left her death bed to see my wedding. So I went through with it. Four years later, a month after my dad died, I threw out the first wife. If my first marriage was a book, it would be children’s book, the kind with big innocent cardboard pages, simple words, and almost no sex, like “Goodnight Moon”.
1999 – 2001 Doctor Strange Love or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb
I highly recommend first marriages. It’s a great learning experience. For example, I learned you shouldn’t marry your prom date. I also learned that I love sampling wedding cake, but I hate weddings. So after my first marriage ended, I got engaged a few times, but always avoided setting a date. Between 1998 and 2002, I sampled a lot of cakes.
2002 – present Field of Dreams
I met my second wife, Lisa in 2002. Our marriage is a dream. Lisa is my best friend, and my one true love. I could write pages about Lisa, and I will, but not yet. We have a terrific son. He’s a smart and talented kid with a well developed sense of humor. It sometimes really pisses me off to see myself reflected so perfectly in another person.
I learned the value of hard work early on, and those lessons have served me well. I now have great job that I enjoy going to every day. What I do is also fodder for another blog post.
As I approach my middle years, I am satisfied with my life. I am married to a woman I love. I have a job I would do for free. We’re mostly healthy and mostly happy most of the time. My life is full of laughter, and when I see the bald guy with the grey chin whiskers in the mirror, I generally like him.
Now… we’re all caught up. I’d ask how you’ve been for the last twenty years, but I’d rather read it in your blog. So get to work everyone, and start sending me those links.

Couple Friends

I’m certain most married men can relate to this. My wife, Lisa, is frequently trying to find us couple friends to hang out with. This involves starting with a woman she is already friends with, usually someone from work or from high school, then introducing the husbands into the mix. In order for this to be successful, the husbands (me and the other guy) must become friends. Ideally we would become the kind of friends who would hang out without our wives around, thus creating a sub-group within the couple friend dynamic. The statistical probability of this formula working is approximately 285:1 against. The obstacles to success are abundant, but I’ll pick off a few obvious ones.
Social Science. Men don’t quickly bond with other men. The bonds among men take years to form and are often shaped by shared tragedy or at least shared adversity. I’m pretty sure this is true of most male mammals. If you need examples, check out monkeys, lions or elephants. The herds, or whatever, are made up of females and babies. The males are either off somewhere alone or with males with whom they grew up. If a new male is introduced into the pack of males, it is summarily humiliated, beaten and assigned a lesser position in the chain of command or it takes control of the pack by ousting the current leader (this might happen in human groups if The Rock showed up).

Social Disorders. I used to think I was introverted, but now I’m certain that I’m antisocial. I’m comfortable in crowds, and I’m okay being openly antisocial. There is a quote in the new BBC “Sherlock Holmes” series where Sherlock says, “I’m not a psychopath. I’m a high functioning sociopath. Do your research.” I get that. As Lisa has tried to bring her friends’ husbands around, I have picked them off, one by one, as unworthy. I am willing to admit that if I had a problem with one man or two or even three, it could be them. But if my problem is with every man (or, let’s face it, every man, woman and child), it may be me. I remember when I was much younger, choosing not to ask a girl out because she had a bunch of friends, and I really didn’t like them. It seemed easier to just not try, than to start a relationship that would end with me telling her that everyone she knows is an asshole.

Offspring. We have a twelve year old son. If the other couple has a child of similar age, then they must also get along. If the other couple has a baby or toddler, then it’s just never going to work. I am past the point in my life where I want to make social arrangements around a little child. I don’t want to double date to a Pixar film or have to work around naps or listen to tantrums. Sometimes Lisa, who is a Labor and Delivery Nurse, will meet people at work who are having a baby and who seem like a perfect match to us socially. All I can think when I hear this is, “do I really want to spend a lot of time around a baby?”

Alcohol. We like to drink. I like it a lot. I drink in crowds. I drink alone. It’s one of the only ways I am able to function socially. That Lisa also likes to drink, and is okay with my constant drinking is one of the magic bonds that hold us together. Trying to be couple friends with people who don’t drink is a deal breaker. If their reason for not drinking is religious, all the more so.

Humor, politics, and religion. I have a very dry sense of humor, and a caustic wit that is fully engaged 95% of the time. If you look up caustic wit, you will probably find sarcasm as a synonym. If the other couple is not of a similar demeanor, this could be a problem. Lisa and I are both quite liberal in our social politics and in our religion. Of the two of us, she is the one you would describe as having a religion. Any one of these factors if discussed openly can make or break a friendship.

So if you’ve been friends with my wife for years, and your husband and I are on an equal socio-economic plane, and we have shared a trauma together, probably brought on by being drunk, funny and antisocial in a public place, then this could work. If it’s not a perfect fit, but you’d generally describe yourself as a secular humanist and you’re willing to let your husband narrowly avoid being arrested or beaten up in a bar fight then it may be worth a try. Provided you don’t have small children.

Thanksgiving

If I had a religion, Thanksgiving would be my high holy day. It’s got everything a holiday should have and nothing it shouldn’t.

Thanksgiving is the 4th of July with Turkey. It has history. Think Pilgrims and Indians sharing a feast after a bad harvest and fear of the Winter that was afoot. It’s the ultimate American holiday.

Thanksgiving is Christmas with all the joy and none of the stress. There’s no need to decorate, or spend months stressing about what gifts to buy. It’s a chance for friends and family to come together, enjoy a meal and enjoy each others company. It’s a chance to be thankful for whatever you’ve got, whether it’s a feast and fifty people to share it with or just a hot plate of food and shelter from the cold.

Thanksgiving is New Years Day without the lame-ass plans for the future. It’s a day off work. It’s got a parade, football, and booze if you plan it right.

Thanksgiving is Saint Patrick’s Day without the Irish. Again, parade (show tunes… you know what I’m talking about), football and booze. This might actually apply to few holidays, so you should assume any holiday that has parades, sports, food or alcohol is just a Thanksgiving knock-off.

So, happy Thanksgiving. Enjoy the feast.