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20 August, 2007

The problem with eating healthy

I almost stabbed a guy in the neck with a fork today at the salad bar. at the very least, i wanted to make sarcastic remarks, or ask him what his goddamn problem was.

it was a fucking nightmare.

this guy, like 5'6" with blondish hair and a beard, looking about 26 years old, is making his salad. i'm right behind him in line. he starts by putting romaine lettuce on his plate. then he gets one of the other artsy types of lettuce, i don't know what it was. and then, he decides to remove the romaine lettuce from his plate and start putting it back in the salad bar again! and i need to wait for him to remove one bite of lettuce, as if this is important enough to hold up the process.

next stop, he's getting some carrots or other nonsense. i want to skip past him but i want cucumbers (behind him) and carrots (where he's standing). so i wait, while he fusses around with the carrots. this part is annoying, but just a precursor to the point at which i almost confronted him. the first major pitstop occurs at the green peppers where he's just rearranging the peppers in the salad bar for like 30 seconds before he even begins putting them on his plate.

finally, blah blah, we turn the corner to the home stretch. i want to pass him but i can't because he's still occupying every stop that i want, and taking way too long. he pitches a tent inside the cheddar cheese, takes 2 pieces of hard boiled egg, then moves on to the seafood salad. the fact that he takes the seafood salad makes me angry because of the mere fact that he eats that shit, but i'm happy because he's moved on past my area. yay.

but no! wait!

he changes his mind, and comes BACK and practically fucking pushes me out of the way so that he can put about 3 grams of tuna on top. the tuna was before the cheddar! and as far as i'm concerned, the window for tuna had long since closed. we exchanged brief eye contact at this point, him detecting my impatience, and me detecting his self-righteousness. i forgot to mention that as meticulous as he seems to be, he keeps dropping items off the plate and then picking them back up and putting them on his plate again, which seems a little unsanitary even to me, though i probably do all sorts of shit worse than that. he dropped the same fucking piece of broccoli like 3 times, and each time lovingly patted it back into its home in a nest of non-romaine lettuce.

after these various rescue missions, he takes chicken, and moves on to start staring at the salad dressings. at this point, if i don't get away from him, i am going to murder him. while he's pondering the options, i quickly grab the balsamic italian whatever dressing spoon and start putting it on my salad. clearly this is what he decided he wanted, because he moves back into my personal space again and then glares at me for "going out of turn" with the dressing.

that fucker. i don't have all day!

anyway, i got my dressing and escaped. i should have taken a spoon full of dressing and flung it at him and said - "here! here! is this what you want! do you want the fucking dressing! let me help you! or wait! maybe you want 5 more milligrams of tuna! i will go sit in that chair over there and pick my nose while you contemplate whether there's anything you missed! would you like me to cut up your salad for you into bite-sized pieces? i would do it for you! you ignorant fuck!"

but then i remembered... it's just salad.

19 August, 2007

PG-13 blog entry: Why do guys pee standing up?

I don't know why I said that this blog entry is PG-13. Oh, I know why. Because I'm talking about peeing! And that's clearly a mature topic. So anyway, I have a question that I will pose to both the men and women reading my blog. I realize that consists of 1 man and 3 women, but let's for a moment pretend it's a whole bunch of people and I'll try to be self-important.

The question: Why do guys need to pee standing up when they visit your house?

So I have a confession to make. If I come to your house, I'm going to sit down when I pee. You may not need to know this. Or you might think I'm really strange for even noting this to you. But there really is a point here that goes WAY beyond me over-sharing. Though I admit freely that there's a usual element of over-share. After all, what the else do you expect to find in my blog.

There are some exceptions to this rule. For instance, if your bathroom and house are extremely nasty and/or I am extremely drunk. In either of those circumstances the rules may be different. But here's the thing. The reason men pee standing up is because they can. And in a public bathroom, makes perfect sense - there is even a special wonderful apparatus that was designed specially to enable men to exercise our god-given ability to pee upright. I was hoping I could tell you something interesting about when the urinal was invented, and I checked Wikipedia but they don't seem to have an invention date. So I guess they've always existed. Before the urinal as we know it, there was something called a tree which worked well for about 30 million years. There's a little more history about bathroom facilities on this completely exciting site. But still no hard data. Somewhere it said something about a Roman guy inventing it during the empire, but I think the site was a joke because they called the inventor "Ureacles". That sounds fishy.

Back to my original subject. If you ask any woman about what she thinks about a guy using her bathroom, I guarantee you she will have some comments about it. These will include reference to things like "bad aim", "spattering", "puddles", and "leaving the seat up". And there's not a woman who won't say this. Because it's true. Guys don't know this because guys don't ever clean their bathrooms :)

Anyway, because this appears to be a universal problem, I think that peeing standing up is a form of disrespect to others, particularly women, who do clean their bathrooms. Just because you can pee standing up does not mean that you must pee standing up. In fact, I would say that this should be an opportunity to relax, sit down, take a load off, and contemplate the meaning of the universe. And this refers purely to the case of visiting someone's home. I'm not telling you to sit in public to pee - because there are urinals there.

So here's an action item. If you're a guy, and you read this... sit down when you pee at people's houses!!

And if you're a woman, and you read this... tell your significant other and your male friends that they should show some respect and sit down!

And tell your woman friends to tell their guys too...

And all across Seattle, and America, and eventually the entire world, there will be clean toilet seats, unspattered tanks, and puddleless tile floors.

This has been a public service announcement.

16 August, 2007

Sorry to keep you waiting

Oh, yes. My faithful audience of 3 awaits my every keystroke. And at last, or alas, I abide. Okay, I am feeling like being morbid, so now you must endure it.

Sorry in advance. For those of you who know me well, don't be alarmed - I am not depressed or on any sort of a downward swing. Just feeling pensive for reasons that I will not explain or broadcast here, but am happy to discuss offline with anyone I know well.

So... without further ado... the topic is death.

Well, I guess everyone dies, yes... and we never know who is going to die next. People even create silly gambling pools in the workplace about which famous people will die in the next year. And of course everyone puts Keith Richards and Dick Cheney on the list, because you know eventually you'll be earning points on those two. But they live on. And there's such a fascination with it. People who are completely uninteresting suddenly become legendary. We all saw it in the media in the past year. Somehow, Anna Nicole Smith became more important to the fabric of our history than Richard Nixon.

But that's not what is on my mind right now. I'm getting around to the serious part by way of the rambling part.

This entire blog is being disrupted by the fact that I am also engaged in Google Talk and I also have to pee really badly.

Back to death...

Setting aside famous people... we all still are going to die. And nobody knows when. I can get myself all paranoid about how thick the irony would be if this were my last entry because of some terrible accident. People would talk about it, and it would be like "Wow... that's so weird how he was just talking about it." It would suck, is what it would be.

I've been very fortunate in this life. I have never lost anyone that is incredibly dear to me, and there are people out there, myself included, who feel a little bit like that's a really jinxy thing to say. But what can I do. Typing words on this page is not going to bring about ill fate. If I resist typing it, then I believe in fate. And I am not sure I do. Not in the figurative sense, anyway. Literally, I sort of believe in fate, because to me it just means that whatever actually occurs was bound to occur, because it did. And once it does occur, it cannot unoccur, thus it was fated to occur. But me typng this paragraph will not make anything occur. Unless, of course, you read this blog, and then you're driving down the highway, and you're so deep in thought about the brilliance of my words that you drive off the road into a lake. But let's set that special case aside, and say that there's no way I can make bad things happen by typing, so let's not worry about it.

Nonetheless... nobody likes to talk about it.

So, a lot of people I know have had people close to them die. In fact, some people I know have had many people close to them die. And I feel terribly sad for them, but cannot empathize, nor do I really ever want to have the opportunity to empathize. But I will. Inevitably. Unless I go first.

Even within my family... my grandparents either died when I was too young, or I wasn't close enough to them to feel it the way I could have felt it. But I know that I'll see members of my family die (again, with the footnote of unless I go first). And it will suck. Living across the country makes me really think about how many more times I will see my parents. Maybe 20. Maybe 2. Maybe 0. And I don't really yet have an appreciation for what it means to "not be able to talk to someone ever again". There are people who are not in my life anymore for other reasons. And I have a hard time letting them go. Even people from 20 years ago. I can think about it and realize again that it would be nice if it were different.

What can you do?

It's scary. Very scary.

15 August, 2007

Some lessons in 3rd grade grammar

I'm really sorry to have to do this, but for some reason, you people out there are really unable to demonstrate the ability to pass a WASL test. And apparently, even having a PhD doesn't seem to make a damn bit of difference. So here are a couple of pointers for you. Take them or leave them. But if you're not going to "take them," then perhaps you should leave me alone!

1. There is no expression "on accident." You cannot say "I did it on accident." You can do things "on purpose" but you do them "by accident." Perhaps you're only saying it by accident, but just in case, I figured I should mention it. And if you think that I am wrong, let's consult the oracle known as the internet:

http://www.wsu.edu/~brians/errors/onaccident.html

http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=on+accident

There. That proves it. Stop doing it please. You're making us all dumber.

2. Improper use of "except for." This is another one that I will simply not tolerate. Let me illustrate proper use by example:

"I would have been to your house earlier, except that I received a gunshot wound to my abdomen and needed to clean up intestines and fecal matter from the wall of my living room."

versus

"Everybody threw stones and unripened fruit at the children, except for Little Suzie, who is in a wheelchair."

That is the proper use of these two phrases. Yet, all too often, I hear people using "for" when they should be using "that."

For example:

"I would have kissed him, except for his herpes had come out of remission."

Do you see the distinction? Yes, I thought you would see it when I politely pointed it out with relevant examples. I have a helping hint for you, if you're incapable of learning these "difficult" rules of grammar. Leave off "that" and "for" and you'll be okay most of the time. "Except" doesn't require the extra word following it. Except for sometimes, when it does.

3. Unless you are from Pennsylvania, you are not allowed to start a sentence with the word "Anymore." I make this exception because there is apparently some dialect, perhaps related to the Amish, that involves starting sentences that way. Let me give you an example, since if you haven't met anyone from Pennsylvania, you might not have heard this.

"Anymore, I think I'm just going to order vanilla."

What the fuck is that all about? Huh? After observing this in countless people, 95% of whom are from Pennsylvania, what I figured out is that for these people "Anymore" = "From now on." And that's just silly. Stop doing it. Or face further ridicule from me.

End of Lesson 1.

14 August, 2007

More bad dreams

I don't even know what the hell these were about and am not sure it's even worth trying to explain them... but I will anyway.

First I am in the car with a friend of mine and we are going to try to visit some friends of ours - a couple. I know who, but I won't say - let's just refer to them as "the singer from my band, and his wife". We get there, and drive up the alley behind the house - and actually the house is my house, but in the dream, it's their house. As we drive up, I notice through the window that they have company, so we drive past into a neighbor's driveway and discuss whether it's appropriate to go in if they have company. We initially decide not. Then we drive around to the other side of the house, and somehow come to the conclusion that they must have finished dinner, so we park and go up to the door. Sure enough, they are not completely finished, and we are both embarrassed to have intruded on their dinner. The guests are all friends of ours - 2 couples. We sort of wonder why we weren't invited but figure that it's just one of those things where they wanted to devote their attention to these people. Who knows. Maybe they didn't want the conversation to sidetrack to music, or maybe they've just seen enough of me. Whatever.
So I'm trying to get some glasses out of the cabinet so that we can have water, or something. Someone else is washing dishes. Then I almost knock over a vase, but I save it at the last second and it doesn't break - and I think that it's a relief because that would be even more embarrassing if we broke something. Didn't feel welcome there at all.

Then the dream fades, and I am in another place.

I am on a beach, in some type of summery place, but it's like a town that is residing on a beach. Not sure if it's Cape Cod or somewhere else. But I'm alone now, though there are other people around whom I don't know. Someone gets in their car to leave and starts driving perpendicularly to the beach. I notice that their car is not going straight - it's sort of weaving back and forth, and I think that the person must either be distracted, or drunk, or sick or something. But they keep weaving as if they cannot control the vehicle. I am in my car too, but not driving yet. Then I see other cars driving down that street meeting the same problem - can't drive straight. I ask someone out of my window what is happening. And they reply "wind storm". Which is strange, since I don't see or feel the wind. Yet.

A minute later, it is not only windy but there is heavy precipitation in the form of hail or ice - in the middle of the summer. And my car is being blown all over the place. I realize that the trunk of my car is open, and I wait for a brief lull to run out and close the trunk. Then back in my car, but the car gets blown down onto the beach and toward the water, and I am worried because I cannot control it. Eventually I abandon the car, though things are starting to subside now. I pick up a strewn motorbike and try to ride that up the beach, until I reach the road, and then I ditch it near some people. After I ditch it, though, the motorbike is now a dog. A big black dog sleeping on the sidewalk. And its owners take note of the dog and say hello to me. I don't know where my car is. Though the car started off being "my car", at some point in the dream, my mental model of the car became a large dark brown station wagon. I can't find it anywhere. I want to leave by some means, and maybe I have a car, I am not sure. But before I can leave, people are all standing and watching as runners from a road race start making the corner onto the main street coming toward the finish of a race they must have been running. This will prevent me from driving out, since the race is using the same road, which surely means the road will be closed.

Then my alarm sounds, and I am awake.

What the hell do those dreams mean?

08 August, 2007

Candlepin bowling for idiots

If you are not from New England, you probably have no clue what candlepin bowling is. And that's a shame. Much like the way French Bread in Paris is just called "bread", candlepin bowling in Massachusetts is just called "bowling". Hard to believe a sport so simple and retrofittable is so localized. But it is.

here is a picture of the pins that are used in candlepin bowling:



Pretty wild, huh? It's the same lanes used for "regular" (or as we used to call it, 10-pin bowling, which is in itself another strange misnomer since both versions of the game use 10 pins).

If you want to know everything about candlepin bowling, you can check out this Wikipedia entry on the topic.

I grew up playing candlepin bowling. Went almost every weekend with my Dad, and it is one of the clearest memories I have of a regular activity we would do together. And it was fun. The major difference in this game is four-fold:

1. The pins (see image above).

2. The ball (smaller balls... see image of menacing looking individual below)



3. You get to bowl 3 balls instead of only 2 per "box", probably because the smaller balls don't take out as much as the big ones do.

4. This is the BIG ONE. After each ball, the pins are NOT reorganized, and the things that have fallen over are NOT cleared from the lane. This means that there can be LOTS of strategy and that every single time you bowl the ball, it is a completely unique and different target, with lots of options for achieving your goal. The pins that are knocked over, which are called "wood" (Beavis and Butthead would love that), remain, and can be used as part of the game (see image below - a crappy image, but gives you the general idea).



It is much harder to bowl a "perfect" game, and in fact, the highest score ever recorded in a "sanctioned" game was 245 out of a possible 300 (whereas plenty of 300's have been bowled in 10-pin bowling). The average scores for professionals in candlepin bowling are only in the 140-170 range, whereas in 10-pin, scores well over 200 are typical among professionals.

Why am I telling you about this? Because it is another little way in which we New Englanders are better than the rest of all y'all!

:)

07 August, 2007

Learning more about more

Well, I can't really remember if I had mentioned here in the blog that I almost freaked out and deleted a bunch of the things that I'd posted up here. I guess I had a momentary lapse of insanity. But happy to say I didn't edit or delete anything.

So, I invited my sister to read the blog... I was interested to hear her opinion about the "Dad Blog". I won't share much of what she said since that was between the two of us. But I learned a bit more about some of the places that my story was incomplete or slightly inaccurate. I wasn't completely inaccurate on any account. But there were some details that I messed up, and also she told me a bit more about my father's family history which helped me understand where he came from. Some of it, I knew already, but there was a bit more color and detail. I'm not really giving you much here, I realize. If you invested the energy in reading that ridiculously long blog, you probably would like to hear what I left out. But... I have that code about not directly sharing those things that are given to me by another person.

So what's the point here?

Well, I guess what I really want to get at is that we are all a product of upbringings that are products of other upbringings, and it's almost like recycling. Every time you rebake the ingredients, the result evolves a little bit from where it was. My parents grew up during the depression. My parents raised their kids in the 1960's and 1970's. And each generation brings to the table not only what their parents instilled in them, but also all of the fucked up shit of the culture and generation of the time.

One thing that has always been interesting to me is that my sister and brother were pretty much a different generation from me - 15 and 18 years older, respectively. They grew up with The Beatles, JFK, Nixon, Vietnam, Watergate. I grew up with... I don't know? What? The Bicentennial? The Ayatollah? Anwar Sadat's assassination? The end of the Cold War? The Reagan era? Disco? New Wave? Hair bands? Talk about different generations! Was there even anything worth reporting or remembering from my generation? Compared to my siblings, it seems kind of pathetic. Not that I would want to have partaken of all that disillusionment. My brother and sister had to see their first cousin (my Dad's sister's son) die in Vietnam. I didn't see it. I wasn't alive until 2 more months or so passed. My brother and sister grew up in a generation where drugs, alcohol, free love (not that I know of this first hand from them) were the way.

I grew up in a different generation.

Reagan became president in 1980. I went to college in 1986. When I went to UMass-Amherst, it was still carrying the name "Zoo-Mass" because of its reputation as a party school. But this was a sad misnomer, wherein the school still had the name, but the environment that earned it that name was being shed year-by-year. Not that I regret this. But it was just ironic. They had really cracked down on dormitory madness during the years I was there. And I guess it was probably that big conservative movement related to Reagan, Bush, family values, etcetera.

Times had changed.

I am jealous in some ways that I didn't grow up with The Beatles. But I was also fortunate, as I suggested, to miss the mass disillusionment from so many great people dying, and so many tragic historical events.

Actually, Lennon was assassinated when I was 12. And the strange thing about this is that it was almost my generation. But still not quite. I vaguely remember the news. But I was not yet a consumer of the news. And it didn't really impact me. If I had been 3 years older it might have impacted me more. On one hand I regret it because that horrible event never really touched me until years later when I began to understand it. But on the other hand, I am glad that I didn't suffer from it at the time. In fact, one thing about our generation - my generation - is sort of an utter lack of suffering related specifically to a culture or the times. We are a lost generation. Nothing earth-shattering happened to fuck us up. No war that we were forced to fight. No disasters of mass scales. And yet there was this whole goth movement of people considering "being depressive" as being "in style", and self-mutilation via piercings, tattoos, etcetera, became more and more commonplace. What is it about kids these days? Huh? I guess some of that happened after my generation. I don't even know when my generation stopped, but I know it isn't now. I'm 38. Soon to be 39. My generation ended a good 15 years ago. When was that? 1992. When Clinton was elected. I guess I sort of feel like that was my generation too. But it was the generation of grunge music, and the backlash against all the conservative style and behavior and attitude that had dominated the 1980's. I'm rambling.
But where I wanted to get with this was that maybe because nothing bad happened to us... to my generation... we have a sort of emptiness. We never really had to bond together over anything. Or feel a pain associated with a bigger issue. It was a time for selfishness. I could go on and on about this. I guess I'll read it over and add more later...

So what's most strange about all of this is that despite the generation-gap, I turned out quite a bit like my brother and sister. We share a lot. I won't go into the details in this context of exactly what we share (other than our parents), but it's a lot. And I am sure I will discuss those very traits in myself at some other point.

So was it genetics? Or was it the common home environment? Who knows. I still wish there were a way to travel in time back to the 60's and see my brother and sister growing up. Or to travel back to the 30's and 40's and see my parents growing up. You can't touch it. No photograph will ever bring to life who these people were when they were young like I remember myself once being.

But never mind not being able to go back in time.

We can't even go across the dinner table and see the world from the perspective of the person with whom we share our meal. We see them. We see the meal. We experience it. But we only get to experience our half. We never get to experience their half. This subject I will continue...

05 August, 2007

wine tasting and hallucinations

Walla Walla is a very nice place. Staying here for the weekend with friends of mine, and from what I see of it, there are a lot of things that resemble some type of American ideal that one could envision. College town. Lots of character. A real altstadt (old part of downtown, as they would say in Germany). Many charming homes. And believe it or not, it's sort of affordable!

My friends just bought an amazing home on a corner, with a beautiful yard, full of vegetables, fruits, trees, shade, white picket fence, and an 1800 square foot beautiful house built in 1904. And what they paid for it is 25% less than what you would pay for a complete piece of trash shack in the worst part of Seattle. True, they live in Walla Walla, and not Seattle. But this is the trade-off that needs to be made now in this country. Unless you have a massive income, you cannot have this in Seattle. In fact, you probably cannot have this in Seattle regardless of income because it's sitting on a half-acre lot. Anyway, it's been a great visit out here, and it's nice to see that people can still find something worth having, in a place that is worth living.

The big "activity" yesterday was wine-tasting. As you probably know, Walla Walla is one of the up-and-coming wine regions in the country. And there are so many wineries, you couldn't possibly visit all of them. I think we visited 5 of them. And there was some good wine. Wine tasting is a bit of a strange physiological experience because you are never drinking more than about an ounce of any one thing, but it is easy to drink like 15-20 of these one-ounce glasses and after 3 hours, you find yourself feeling "not 100% right". It is different than going "drinking". Partly because the dose is so evenly distributed, and perhaps because the varieties of different wine might affect the way you absorb it? I have no idea. I am probably imagining reasons that don't exist. But when you combine 95 degree heat, with wine and not a whole lot of other liquid, it makes for a strange feeling.

Felt sluggish and kind of out of it for the remainder of the day, though we had a really good day. And once again, there was a night of bizarre dreaming. But this time it's even too bizarre to talk about here in this blog! If you can believe that! Not sure why the weird dreams this weekend at Walla Walla... but probably has something to do with sleeping on an air mattress in a new place. Messes with my equilibrium. Or maybe it was the wine...

Today ends the Walla Walla getaway, and it's back to Seattle through 4.75 hours of solo speeding. I'm not a big fan of it, and I don't know if I feel better about the long drive to get back home, or the long drive that takes me away. There's a very different emotional element to the trips that take you toward versus away from home. One direction is anxiety, excitement, anticipation, apprehension, curiosity. The other direction (for me) is usually fatigue, reflection, and maybe a bit of a let-down. I don't know why, but the end of a trip always leaves me feeling a bit empty. Because it always implies going back to something. Work, a house that isn't completely organized, the same situations or worries that we decided to put on hold when we departed. A lot of times, of course, we are going back to something good - something that we miss. So there's an extra few emotions that I forgot... anticipation, excitement, relief, on the way home too. There's just something about the traveling that feels very reflective for me. And I tend to get even further lost in the depths of my own thoughts than usual. We'll see what today's drive brings.

02 August, 2007

Nightmare revisited

I did some more thinking about my interpretation of the dream... I am not sure if it is that I am my father. I think it's that I can't let go of that judging, warning voice that is my father. It was with me for so many years, that it took on a life of its own. And now whenever I do anything remotely risky, or different, or excessive, I hear that voice criticizing and warning, and making helpful suggestions. And sometimes you just can't listen to that voice anymore. So maybe my interpretation is that for some reason or other that voice inside must be very loud right now. But what is it warning me about? I don't even know. I have an idea. But I really can't say. Actually, I am pretty sure I know what it is (there I go again!). Haven't talked much in my blog about my past, and I am not sure if I will do it or not, out of respect for those who are a part of it, who might not want their or my story spread all over the internet. But let's just say that elements of my past might have resulted in my Dad's voice (or my voice, as the case may be) having lots of loud warnings to issue about spiderwebs and dangers and risks and disasters that could lie ahead. But it's really irrational. I am thinking about taking a canoe out on Green Lake, and the voice is giving me the report about 14 foot squalls on the open sea. Maybe you see where I'm going with it. Maybe you don't. But I guess it just sort of makes sense. And maybe my screaming in the dreaming was just having reached a point where I want it to stop because it's stressing me out. But what if I'm supposed to listen? Because remember I said that my Dad (and also I) get most angry when our ideals or actions are being challenged or questioned. So maybe the more wrong I am, the louder I yell? Or maybe the more right I am, the louder I yell? I don't know. Maybe there's no rules.

Recurring nightmare

I've been having this dream since at least when I was a teenager, and maybe even longer. It's the one where I am screaming at my father. I'll tell you about the dream, but before I do, I should tell you about my Dad, so that there's at least a little context.

My Dad is probably the most responsible person to have ever lived. He's prudent, methodical, organized, and reserved. He never believed in excess, and he never made any choice or purchase or decision to fulfill his own urges or whims. He had a remarkable career. He served in the Navy at the very end of WWII (in the middle of his engineering degree at Northeastern). While in the Navy, he learned about electronics, to complement his education in Mechanical Engineering. Then he finished college, got married to my mother (I think that was 1948, but maybe it was 1949). My brother was born in 1950. He worked from around 1948 (plus or minus a year) up to around 1973 as an engineer, at a few different companies. As I understand it, he achieved mid-to-upper management levels, though I don't really understand it well, and it is difficult to get him to discuss it because a combination of modesty and convenient "loss" of memory (i.e. modesty) usually prevents you from gleaning too much about his past. His career as an engineer probably cost him the significant hearing loss that he has suffered from for many years, because the product they made at one of his companies was high-speed printing machines, and I gather that it was very loud.

So, in 1973 (again plus or minus a year), I was 5 years old, and my Dad finds out his company is moving to upstate New York. He doesn't want to uproot the family. The job market is horrible, too, because of the recession at that time. So my Dad makes a rather bold transition. He decides to go to work for Prudential Insurance. And from 1973 until well past his late-60's (he turned 65 in 1990) he worked full-time as an insurance agent, focusing mostly on life insurance and home-owners' insurance, and something called "mortgage-life" where your family will own the house free-and-clear if something happens to the bread winner. My Dad, who did not come from a business or sales background, was one of the most successful agents in his office for a long string of years, and won many sales awards. And when you think about what those products are that he was selling, it really kind of fits his personality - prudence, caution, planning for the future. It was a difficult job. His typical week would involve several processes: 1)reading a trade newspaper called the "Banker & Tradesman", which contained listings of all the houses that have been bought - this is the launch point for making phone calls, because these are the people who need the insurance. I don't know if that method works anymore since I know in some states like Washington you need to have your insurance lined up before you even pass papers - but maybe it's different in Massachusetts, or maybe times have changed. So that would be a chunk of his time. 2) Cold calling massive numbers of potential clients. I remember sitting outside his office (he also had an office at home) and listening to his calls, and it got to the point that I had memorized his entire call monolog... "god forbid something should happen to you or your family...". Of course, I never heard the other side of those calls. I don't know if people hung up, or were rude, or didn't know what he was talking about. It was actually quite remarkable that he had enough successful calls to have a very booked appointment schedule! Actually, about his home office... it wasn't until 1979 (6 or 7 years into the career) that he had a "real" home office. When we lived in Mattapan, his office consisted of the wooden workbench that used to be his toolbench, tucked up on a small concrete "shelf" that extended along one entire wall of the basement of our house, among hundreds of boxes and crap that were stored in the basement and had been there for many years. It wasn't much of an office. But then they had a room made into an office when we moved to Stoughton (I was 10 at the time). I guess I wonder if I was listening to my Dad's calls, and someone hung up on him, would he keep going with his monolog so that it wasn't obvious? I really don't know that about him. 3) After the calls, comes the appointments. On most weeks, he would have 1-3 appointments a day to meet new or existing clients. He would drive all over the place in evening traffic, because you need to visit people when they're home from work - so 4pm to 8pm was a busy time for him. There were a lot of days where I saw little of him.

In spite of his success, he never branched off and started his own office, or a private business. It wasn't the "cautious" thing to do. It wasn't "necessary". For my Dad, "necessary" and "sufficient" and "adequate" were always big terms used when explaining why we weren't doing something, or why I wasn't allowed to do or have something.

He could have had quite the affair with those hours and no one would have been the wiser! But that wouldn't have been necessary or prudent! If it were me, then look out!

My Dad continued to follow-up with his existing customers well into his 70's and I think only now, at 82, he probably doesn't see any clients anymore. Though I bet I'm wrong about that. I bet he goes to see the long-time clients even still. It might only amount to one appointment every 6 months, but he probably does it!

So... where are we...

Throughout my life, from say, junior high-school onward, my Dad's career was a source of shame and embarrassment for me. People always made fun of the profession of insurance sales, and I never wanted to tell anyone that's what he did. It wasn't high-paying, though it could have been if he took the risks. It wasn't glamorous. I always felt the need to give a long explanation to anyone who asked what he did. I would always say "he used to be an engineer, but...". I am now a bit ashamed that I was ashamed. And I guess I am ashamed that I can still feel that same shame if I really think about it.

But you just know when you meet a new girlfriend and she or her parents want to know what your parents did for a living, that "insurance salesman" garners a different intellectual response than "doctor" or even "police officer" or even "chef". He was never embarrassed about what he did - at least outwardly. I actually am not sure if embarrassment is an emotion that my father displays. He is quite stoic. He has a couple of emotions: happiness, nervousness, and anger. And his anger is usually not "rage" or violence or anything like that. My Dad's anger comes about when he feels threatened or challenged, or when someone questions his motives or ideals.

Gee, doesn't that sound familiar?

There were a lot of things I wanted to do, or wanted to have, that we didn't do, and I didn't have. Because of that attitude of no-excess. I don't think we were hurting for money. But we didn't go away on extravagant vacations, probably because neither my mother nor father liked to travel. We didn't dine out, probably because neither my mother nor father really cared to do so. We didn't buy a lot of new stuff, but the house was always decorated and updated appropriately and always looked fresh and clean in a very Jewish uncluttered way. You see some people's houses strewn with shelves of books and photographs and you get a strong sense of the character of the individuals based on these piles of their existence. But our house was more like an air-conditioned museum with wall-to-wall plush carpeting in cadet blue and mauve.

So... there's some background on my Dad. I can say just a little bit more about him though. One of the most striking windows through which I have ever had the opportunity to view his personality were the photo albums from his Navy days that still exist intact. He was young - probably 21-23 years old. And he was very good-looking. Much more so than either of his sons, lucky for him. And in all the pictures, he is happy. And he seems carefree, and life of the party, and it is so obvious that everyone liked him and that he was a lot of fun. There's pictures of him with Filipino women, posing for photographs. There's pictures of him on the boat he served. There are also pieces of artwork that he drew when he was in the Navy. Very entertaining. There are also some photo albums of him at parties back home before he met my Mom, where he's on dates with at least one other girl who came before her. And it's so strange to see him at these parties with his dates. I always have that absurd, and completely biologically irrational thought of "that could have been my mother!". And I wonder if he married her, would his life have been different? Better? Worse? Would he have been less prudent? Less reserved? Who knows. So that's a tidbit.

Another tidbit, final one, is that when my Dad was around 62 or so, he had a very severe illness - appendicitis, that went undiagnosed for so long that he should have probably died from it. The appendix ruptured and when they finally brought him to the hospital, the doctors were iffy on what was wrong and not incredibly optimistic at first as to what the outcome would be. But he survived. And that "near death" episode caused my father to undergo a huge change in lifestyle. He was never an unhealthy person anyway, but I think he realized his mortality at that point and decided he was having none of it. He began eating right (in his opinion... my opinion is that eating frozen "Healthy Choice" meals 3 times a day is not "eating right" but that's another story), and he began exercising like a complete fanatic. Seven days a week. Treadmill for 90 minutes, and some light weights. Occasionally the rowing machine or some other ridiculous piece of equipment he has.

Okay, one more final final thing... as he got older, he became much mellower, and compared with the years I lived there, he and my Mom now do many things together. They shop together. He cleans for her. They go out to eat all the time. She's not that well, though not suffering a particular "disease". Just having a hard time as she gets older. And he is so incredibly supportive and caring of her. And it's strange because it evolved into that closeness. I never saw that growing up, and I am not sure it was there. He was too stressed and busy to be "present". So they got lucky to have it evolve like that.

So... to the dream.

Ever since I was a teen, I would have periodic dreams where I would be having some type of debate with my Dad, and he would probably be telling me I was not allowed to do something, or explaining to me how something was not necessary - and I would lose it in my dream. I would scream at him. And this happened quite often. Every year, at least a couple of times. In waking life, I would say that I have only "screamed" at my Dad a few times, and it was mostly (strangely) in the last 10 years, I think, where I finally couldn't deal with it anymore. Maybe not. I don't remember if I've screamed at him. I know I have screamed at my Mom! But that's a different story. And I never have dreams about screaming at her.

So it has been quite a long time. But last night, in my dream, I was in the garage in Stoughton. And it was night. And the garage door was open. And I was doing something on the computer which was there (though there is no computer in the garage). And I hear a car coming down the street and turning into the driveway. And for whatever reason, I am frantically trying to close the windows on the computer, and it's hard to click on them. And I don't even know what's on them, but I know I don't want him seeing it. And he pulls into the garage and gets out of the car, and I don't remember the exchange we had, but he didn't even say much. It was all me. I completely go off, and I am screaming at him at the top of my lungs, and swearing, and calling him all sorts of things that I have never, and would never call him. I don't remember ever insulting him before in the scream-dreams. I usually yell objectively at him. This time it was direct verbal assault. And it goes on for quite some time. And it ends with me telling him in no uncertain terms, that I am "out of here", and I go storming upstairs past my mother, who didn't say anything to me.

Then I wake up, feeling very agitated. It's 6:47am. And I am immediately trying to understand what it was all about. I thought about writing the blog on the subject right away, but decided to wait until I woke up properly. Now I am making myself a little late for work writing this, but it seems important to me.

So what the hell is this dream about. I am not sure the dream means the same thing every time. But for some reason, I think it does. Just like when you lose all your teeth and it means fear of losing control. So what does it mean? I kind of think that my Dad is me. That's what I kind of think. And I don't like it. And I'm pretty sure I'm right because of the way it makes me feel when I write that. In fact, I know I am right. So why am I screaming at myself? I think it's because I am doing to myself what I always felt my Dad was doing to me? Repressing? Overprotecting? Being too cautious? Too reserved? Only doing what's necessary? I am not my Dad. But part of me is. I used to make fun of him, no ridicule him because he was driving his piece of shit 1969 Chevy Nova in 1983. After 14 years. Hm... so what year is my Corolla? Um... 1994... I am my Dad. I could talk about how I am also my Mom... but I'll save that for another blog.

So the question is why that dream now?

And the answer is, "I don't know".

Being afraid

There's a lot to be afraid of in this world.

We could be sick, or killed by accident, or our loved ones could leave us, or they could be sick or killed by accident. We could fail miserably at everything we try - or maybe even worse - we could be successful for quite some time, such that we expect that life will keep bringing us roses, only to one day be blindsided by a complete and utter trouncing from the elusive powers-that-be. And maybe it's justified, or maybe it's not. For instance, maybe you get escorted out of your building at work one day, after having worked there for years and performed admirably. You don't have the faintest clue why. And then it turns out it is because all these years they have been keeping track of all the time that every employee spends on the internet doing non-work-related activity, and it turned out that you topped the list. And there's some new security regime at the company that decides to make an example out of you. So all this time that you thought "that shit doesn't matter as long as you're getting your job done", you were actually wrong.

So there's a ton of stuff to be afraid of in this world.

What if it turns out that none of your "friends" actually like you, and that they've been gathering in secret, every Wednesday, behind your back, to discuss how they can finally be done dealing with you? If all this time that you thought you were clever and funny, but you were actually the most annoying and obnoxious person to ever walk the earth.

But there's more. Tons of things.

What if Homeland Security has been tapping your phone and when you made that joke about "Wouldn't it be funny if Homeland Security was tapping my phone and I said 'I'm gonna do this, this, and that, on such and such a date, and hurt oh-so-many people'", they were actually recording it all, and they don't think you're so funny. In fact, they know you voted against the administration that created them, so maybe just to teach you a lesson, they will send YOU to Guantanamo Bay for a few years without a lawyer or a trial, or an accusation.

What if a piece of an airplane, or "blue ice", or other random space junk, or a wild goose that just died of a coronary falls on you when you're out for a morning run? Maybe it doesn't injure you real bad. Maybe you just need stitches, or some Advil. But the fact is, now that shit has fallen from the sky and hit you, how confident are you gonna be about going out again? Huh? And of course if you told anyone about it, they're gonna pretend to have empathy for you, and then bring it up at the Wednesday meeting.

I don't know. But there's a lot to be afraid of in this world.

I worry if no one is reading this. I worry if someone is reading this. I worry will you think that I am deranged, or depressive, or dangerous, or pessimistic, or hopeless, or desperate, or boring. I worry if you will tell other people about it whom I don't really want reading it. I worry you won't tell anybody about it, and that it's just writing to myself. Because I'm totally scared of that. This is a blog. Not a fucking diary. And if no one is reading, it's sort of a diary. And honestly, if you were writing in your diary, would you then photocopy the pages and post them on the internet?

If you were me... probably.

I don't know. Maybe I'm not really afraid.

Maybe I don't really care what people think. Maybe I just put it out there because I want to say it for myself and maybe it entertains someone else. Maybe just one person. Maybe only the first half of it, and then the rest got boring and they started skimming it. Maybe I do care what people think, but am more interested in at least giving them the opportunity to think something, rather than know nothing. I don't know which is more intriguing to me. The idea of a stranger reading my thoughts, or a friend, or my sister. I wasn't thrilled when my sister read about my home surgery, I'll tell you that much. I think she told her husband about it too, and she reassured me that he's never gonna bother to look at it. But still. They all think I'm crazy, and this doesn't help any. Ironically, they're all crazy, and it doesn't help any. I think that's ironic, but to an outsider, it probably appears correlated. I don't know... DNA or something like that.

I think I am okay with you reading this.

And I'm not really afraid of all those things. I am not even so much afraid of things that I didn't mention. It's just interesting to note all the shit that we COULD be afraid of, as we walk down the street every day. And the fact that we aren't is kind of interesting. We have a lot of faith in the world functioning as we expect it to function. There are a massive number of unwritten rules by which we abide, or by which we assume the world abides. And the good news is that usually it does.

It would be quite tragic if this is my last blog because I am struck by blue ice tomorrow.