Thursday, September 26, 2013

On Breaking Bad

A couple years ago Dee and I decided to get in on this whole Breaking Bad television program we'd heard about. We binge-watched the first three seasons and have watched seasons four and five as they have aired. On Sunday, Breaking Bad comes to an end. Below are my thoughts. There will probably be spoilers.

1) Before this week's show Dee turned to me and said, "I'm nervous about Breaking Bad." She's never said this to me about any other show. Not even So You Think You Can Dance. That's how intense this show is.

2) I think Walt will attempt one last heroic act prior to ending his life. He'll try to save his family and possibly Jesse.

3) No matter how badly Jesse wants to die at this point they're not going to let him.

4) New Hampshire is the Granite State. The penultimate episode was called "The Granite State." New Hampshire's state motto is "Live Free or Die." The first episode of this second half of the season was called "Live Free or Die." Which means we probably should have seen the New Hampshire thing coming. We also should expect Walt to either live free or die. I'm betting on die. Living free is not an option for him anymore.

5) A note to those taking care of me when I'm old and dying: Never bring me a case of Ensure. Just say, "You're going to be dead soon. Would you like me to put a gallon of ice cream and a package of Oreos in the blender and give you a straw?"

6) I've watched every episode of The Sopranos and The Wire and I think Breaking Bad is better than both. Not by much, but I've enjoyed Breaking Bad more than any show I can remember watching. And I really loved The Wire.

7) Walt, Jr. (Flynn) will probably get his wish that Walt just dies already. No matter how heroic it might seem, don't think there isn't a little part of Walt that is thinking, "This is what that little shit gets for telling me to die."

8) Walt is definitely going to do his best to stick it to his former partners at Gray Matter. Not sure how, but I'd be surprised if he doesn't at least try.

9) Remember the scene when Walt is buying the gun and he practices pulling it out in front of the mirror? I'd love to see a reprise of that with the huge gun he's got in his trunk.

10) The show would have to go completely off the rails in this final episode in order to ruin this series for me. Even if the ending isn't great or satisfying, I've already enjoyed this show more than any other I've ever watched. Sunday's episode won't change that.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

A Letter To My Daughter #4 -- Laughing at Yourself

I was a pretty serious kid. I understood it was important to get things right. I believed the worst thing that could happen to me was I might look silly or dumb. Or I might possibly reveal I don't know everything. This was what drove me. I never wanted to make a mistake and I never wanted to get ridiculed. I didn't want anyone to laugh at me if I wasn't trying to be funny. This led to a lot of tears.

I want you to avoid these specific tears. Not because I don't want you to cry or feel sadness. Those are necessary parts of living a human life. These tears are pointless and a waste of time. It's almost literally crying over spilled milk. Who would actually do that? Well, I'm pretty sure I did at one point.

You can't avoid ridicule.  People will make fun of you for reasons that often have nothing to do with you (more on this in another letter). You can't control other people and one of the best ways to combat them is by taking away their power. Laughing right along with them tends to take the wind right out of their sails. 

You can't avoid doing stupid things. Even the smartest of us do stupid things from time to time. Most of the time those stupid things don't do any lasting harm, so why not laugh at the absurdity?

Sounds simple, huh? Just laugh it off. Easy as pie. It's not that simple. 

It's hard to laugh at yourself. It's hard to realize that you are not unique in your suffering. It's hard to remember that we're all in on this joke because we're all struggling to figure out how to do this together. It's hard when you feel that sliver of truth in that joke sting you. It's hard not to feel that and think that maybe you are deeply flawed. Guess what? We are all deeply flawed. Every single one of us. It's what makes us human and it's what gives us incentive to get better. Take that sting and make a joke of your own. About yourself. You've just been endowed with knowledge. That little sting? That's self-realization. You're aware of yourself and your flaws. That's the first step to being able to correct them -- if they actually need correcting. 

Look, I'm writing this like I've mastered the art of laughing at myself. Don't be fooled. I'm still learning how to do this. I didn't even start learning how to do this until I was way older than I should have been. My advice would be to watch your mother and talk to your mother. She's a pro at this. She's taught me more about laughing at myself than anyone else. She gets it. She kinda loves it. She always laughs the hardest when I'm playfully making fun of her.

That's my advice. Learn to laugh at yourself by not taking my advice. Take your mother's advice. She's the one who should be writing this letter.

Always keep laughing.


Tuesday, September 24, 2013


215 is probably the most fun number. Right? I mean look at it. It's having a lot of fun. That two at the front is all like, "Here I come everyone! I'm gettin' this thing started! I've got an attractive curve but a solid base on which to stand. I'm ready for fun, and built to last!" Then the five at the end is all, "Check it out, y'all. I'm bringing up the caboose! I'm keeping things locked down and rolling over here. There ain't gonna be no trailing off with this number, there is a definite end to this bad boy. Sure, I may be a little wobbly on my curve, but that's what makes me fun! PARTAY!" The one in the middle is all, "Look, I'm here to make sure these two enjoy themselves and bring some life to the party and I'm going to have some fun myself but I'm also not going to get too wasted because I have to make sure these two get home safely. I mean, I'm not too worried about it. These two manage to have a real good time and still find their way home but someone has to be the level-headed one here." See? It's a pretty freaking fun number. The kind of fun you'll always remember but will never land you in jail. I'd have 215 at my party any day.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Wednesdays On the Train

Wednesdays on the train are weird. Low attendance. I'm not sure why. It doesn't make sense to me but I'm sure there is a reason. 

Wednesdays on the train are weird. Quiet. Like they intentionally make the Quiet Car a little more quiet through some sort of revolutionary new technology that will probably give me cancer.

Wednesdays on the train are weird. It smells different. Cleaner somehow. Like they spend Tuesday nights changing the air filters and cleaning the ductwork. Or maybe they just spray some kind of crisp air freshener.

Wednesdays on the train are weird. People seem sleepy and sluggish. They look drowsy and peaceful. Like they've been drugged. Like they've added an airborne substance to the HVAC system that pacifies everyone.

Wednesdays on the train are weird. The walls glow. They glow green, then yellow, then orange, then red, then purple, then blue, then green again. If you touch the walls you feel a faint pulse as if they are alive. 

Wednesdays on the train are weird. Instead of the regular Conductor, she is replaced by a man without a face. He has no features on his face, just smooth skin like a mannequin. Yet he is able to operate just like our regular Conductor. His stare is bone-chilling.

Wednesdays on the train are weird. The people who sit in the lower level slowly melt. First, their skin begins to melt and slide off until they are just muscle and sinew. Then the muscles slowly begin to fall away until we're left with a skeleton precariously holding in the internal organs. The organs then slide out and melt into a puddle at each person's feet. Suddenly, we hear a sharp crack and the bones turn to dust, fall onto the puddle of melted flesh, muscle and organs and soak it all up until no trace remains of the people on the lower level. When we pull into Union Station everyone suddenly reappears.

Wednesdays on the train are weird. The people who sit in the upper level are suddenly transported into the past where they are tortured by singing women in silken robes. They are subject to all manner of torture. Stretching, removal of fingernails, short bursts of high-pitched sound and blinding light, sleep deprivation, the stench of rotten cheese. When we pull into Union Station everyone suddenly reappears and all mail in their email inboxes has been deleted. 

Wednesdays on the train are weird. Everyone ages at twenty times the normal rate. The young become very old. The very old become even older yet do not die. Everyone shrieks in pain and ecstasy as they experience all of the future pain and pleasure they will experience in their regularly paced life on this accelerated schedule. When we pull into Union Station we are all swallowed by a giant blue squid.

Wednesdays on the train are weird. Maybe that's why the attendance is low. You know, because things are weird on the train on Wednesdays.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

A Letter To My Daughter #3 -- Permission

I was what many considered a "good kid." I always listened to adults. I never wanted to break the rules. I tried my best to please. I always erred on the side of caution. If I wasn't sure if I could do something, I asked permission. In fact, if I wasn't told I could do something I often assumed that I wasn't allowed to do it. For me, this didn't just apply to everyday things like riding my bike over to my buddy's house or going swimming in the nearby lake. It included bigger things -- like what kind of job I could have and what kind of life I could live.

I want you to know that you don't need permission for those bigger things in your life. You don't need some adult to tell you it's okay if you want to be a painter. You can be anything you want. People will say this to you a lot. They'll often follow it with things like lawyer or doctor or rocket scientist. They'll never mention things like inventor or entrepreneur (two very similar things) or dancer or activist or solver of world hunger. You can be those things, too -- and all of the other things I'm not mentioning. In fact, I bet you'll have the option to be about a thousand things that don't even exist right now. Be one of those things. You have permission. No. You don't need permission, you can just do it.

I know this may seem like I'm repeating myself from the "No Script" letter, but I'm not. I want to call out this specific point. You may not need it to be called out, but I did. I already see a lot of me in you, so I want to make sure you know that you don't need permission for those big questions in your life. You'll still need permission for some of the smaller stuff while you still live with your mother and I, but we're reasonable people and we trust you. So just ask.

For those big things, give it a shot. If you don't know how to give it a shot, let me know and I'll do everything I can to help you. Just know that waiting around for the world to tell you that you can be whatever you want is never going to happen. You have to go get it for yourself.


Tuesday, September 17, 2013

He's On To Me

There's a guy sitting across from me on the train right now and he's giving me the eye. No, not the let's-have-hot-sweaty-man-sex eye but the I'm-on-to-you eye. He knows what I'm up to. He can totally tell that I'm the guy doing that thing he suspects me of doing. He's on to me. He's got my number. It doesn't look like he's going to let me get away with it, either. I could be in big trouble here, folks. He looks like the kind of guy who has some experience with holding people accountable. He doesn't quite have that cop stare but he definitely has a security guard stare. I'm gonna get called out here and it's clear that he doesn't care if this is the Quiet Car or not. "Screw the Quiet Car," says his eyes, "I see injustice and I'm going to make it right." Those eyes are awfully talkative. I'm totally busted guys, I can feel it. I'm just not quite sure what he suspects me of doing. Does he know I'm writing about him? Does he know I'm the one who is farting? I'm totally not the one farting, but someone is. Or maybe he knows about some of my more nefarious schemes. No, he can't know about those. No one can know about those. NO ONE MUST KNOW. NOT EVEN ME. It's got to be the farting thing. Seriously, who is farting on this train?

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Dead Baby Rabbits

You know how sometimes when you live in the 'burbs you find dead baby rabbits in your yard? Yeah, you know what I'm talking about. So there was this dead baby rabbit in my yard but I didn't see it. You know, because baby rabbits are tiny and it wasn't hopping around and drawing attention to itself because it was dead. Guess who found it? You know it. My dog, Ruthie. So Ruthie finds this dead baby rabbit and instead of alerting us so that we can clean it up she decides to taste it. You know, because she's obviously hungry because her special non-allergenic, super expensive dog food apparently isn't enough for her. So I run out to see what she's up to and I have to be all, "No, Ruthie. We don't eat dead baby rabbits in this house unless they've been approved by the FDA." Ruthie looks at me like, "BUT THIS COULD BE MY LAST MEAL." Then she pooped. So I had to clean up poop AND a dead baby rabbit. The 'burbs are the tops.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

A Letter To My Daughter #2 -- No Script

There are some things in your life that are definitely going to happen. You are going to get older. You are going to die. That's it. Those are the only two things I can guarantee will happen to you. Otherwise, nothing is guaranteed.

Nothing. Is. Guaranteed.

Don't let this frighten you. In fact, it should make you feel free. "Nothing is guaranteed" is just another way of saying that nothing is scripted. You get to choose what you want to make of your life. It may seem obvious and simple but there are plenty of obstacles to truly choosing your own path. 

You'll discover that everyone has an idea of what you should do with your life. Most frequently it will go something like this: go to college, get a job, get married, have kids, die. (They'll never mention the die part.) They'll figure out how old you are and then ask you the appropriate question. Where are you going to college? Where are you going to work when you graduate? Do you have a boyfriend/girlfriend? When are you getting married? When are you having kids? It may not seem like a big deal, but when you're asked these questions enough you'll feel like this is what you are supposed to do.

You don't have to do that.

You don't have to do any of those things. Those people don't mean any harm. It's just what they think people do. That list of things that we're all "supposed" to do is what some people call an "invisible script." Some people follow this invisible script because it's all they know. Some follow it because they haven't thought about anything else. Some follow it because they are afraid. Some follow it because it's easy. I don't want you to be one of those people. 

I won't let this invisible script be the only thing you know. Don't let yourself do anything thoughtlessly. Don't be afraid. Don't do what's easy. Make your own choices. Think about why you want to go to college. Think about what your passions are and if college is right for you. Think about the kind of job you want to have. Choose one that will fulfill you -- not the one that will make your life comfortable financially. You're going to be doing that job for most of your life, you better make sure you like it. Think about marriage and what it means. Think about the impact on your life and your potential child's life before you have kids. Kids will become your life so make sure you've lived yours before you have any of your own.

I'm not telling you that following the college, job, marriage, kids invisible script is a bad thing. Hell, your mother and I did it and we're both happy with our choices. We've got you and that's more amazing than you know. I just want you to know that there are other options and that you shouldn't shy away from them. Nothing is guaranteed but nothing is preordained. Use this to your advantage and live a life that makes you happy.

If you break the script and live an unconventional life that makes you happy, your mother and I will love you. If you follow the script because that's what makes you happy, your mother and I will love you. Just make sure you've written the script the way you want it written.


P.S. -- If your mother or I ever bug you about getting married or having kids, you have full permission to smack us on the side of the head.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

In Which High School Me Parties It Up

I know that I totally seem like I've always been Mr. Cool Shoes, but I can assure you I have not. In high school I was not cool. Despite the fact that I was the quarterback on the football team, I was far from the coolest guy in the school. First, I wasn't a very good quarterback. Second, I dressed like, well… like you would expect a kid from Middle-of-Nowhere-Indiana-who-doesn't-have-MTV to dress. Third, I got grades like a nerd. Fourth, I was always very careful to never break any rule or get in trouble. Fifth, I never went to the cool parties. In fact, I was never invited to the cool parties. Was it because I was a nerd? Probably. Was it because I was a goody-two-shoes? Definitely. Was it because my dad was the county Prosecutor? Very possibly. Was I upset by this? Absolutely not. Would I have been upset by this had I known these parties were actually going on? Possibly, but probably not. Does it matter? Not really. I was blissfully unaware.

My point is that I was not a cool kid and I did not know how to party. In fact, I thought the coolest part of the party was the cheese ball. Man, I loved me some cheese ball. I'm fairly certain I had never seen another drunk human being until I went to a graduation party and saw some adults who were a little tipsy. You know, because I didn't go to graduation parties where my fellow students were getting drunk. Instead, me and my buddy Scott decided to go to the gas station and pick up some cheap cigars.

We took those cigars and sat on the hood of his car and smoked them. I'm pretty sure that Scott had smoked a cigar (and possibly even cigarettes!) before so I did my best to play it cool. And I did. I was good at playing it cool, fitting in. On the inside I was all, "OH HELL YEAH! WE ARE LIVING IT UP TONIGHT. I BOUGHT A CIGAR AND NOW I'M SMOKING IT AND THERE ISN'T ANYTHING ANYONE CAN DO BECAUSE THIS IS WELL WITHIN THE BOUNDARIES OF THE LAW. HELL, I MIGHT EVEN TELL MY PARENTS." Then I went home and worked up the nerve to tell my parents because I WAS BECOMING A MAN AND IT WAS TIME FOR ME TO LIVE MY OWN LIFE. They said, "Okay. Goodnight." HA HA! I TOLD THEM!

I went to my bedroom and lay in my bed thinking about the evening because I was too wired to go to sleep. I'd graduated from high school and smoked my first cigar. My life had changed. Not because I had graduated from high school. I fully expected to graduate from high school. Even the dumbest dummies can graduate from high school. I had smoked a cigar. I had done something I never expected I would ever do. What else am I capable of? What other strange opportunities might I encounter? How far will I go? Do I even know who I am anymore? Might this finally lead to me being cool? 

The jury is still out.