1. Listen, here’s my philosophy on life.

    You’ve gotta be tough.
    Mentally tough.
    Not because life is painful or out to get you, but because life is uncertain.
    It never goes the way you planned and that can make it feel like it’s never going your way, but this is simply not true.
    There is no such thing as your way, there is only life.
    And the sooner you accept that the easier it is to move on.
    That’s what it means to be tough - to move on.
    This doesn’t just apply to the huge life-changing moments either.
    Tough shit happens every day.
    Every adversity gets that toughness hard and worn like leather and you learn to move on.
    You learn to be tough.
    And the key to it all?
    It’s not grit or fortitude or confidence.
    Toughness comes from gratitude.
    Tough is grateful in all things.
    Tough has to choose between a rock and a hard place and is grateful for having a choice.
    Tough isn’t sure what’s next, but is damn grateful it’s alive to find out.
    Tough thanks the past and moves on. 
    The moment you stop being grateful is the moment you start being a little bitch. 
    Stay thankful. Stay tough. 

     


  2. Ultimate Warrior

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    All little boys have heroes. Ultimate Warrior was one of mine. He died tonight and I will miss him. 

    Growing up, traditional sports were never a part of my life. I didn’t inherit my dad’s favorite baseball team or hear stories about grandpa’s glory days as an All-American. For all the first generation immigrant moxie my parents handed down, I missed out on the library of life lessons most kids get by watching sports in this country. 

    What I did have, however, was wrestling.

    Saturday afternoons with the WWF. I’d go to my cousins’ house after church every week and wait for my aunt and uncle to take their post-church naps before turning on the TV (a forbidden activity on Sabbath). We had to keep the volume low and restrain ourselves from getting too riled up, but you can imagine how successful three boys ages 6, 9, and 10 would be at such a thing. We stomped around the living room like Bushwhackers and put on sunglasses like Macho Man. We’d wear white trash bags as shirts and rip them off like Hulk Hogan. We each had our heroes and they were almost always babyfaces (good guys) - we were nice little Christian boys after all. But for me, Ultimate Warrior was it. THE guy. 

    Warrior was intense. Intense in a way that felt real. Yes, he had a ridiculous body and an unreal poof of hair and bright neon face paint, but he always felt honest to me. There was something in his brand of crazy that passed my eyeball test: this guy means it. I don’t know what “it” is, but he is 100% it. He was a good guy, but not like the other good guys. He didn’t smile all the time like Hulk Hogan or bleed chivalry like Macho Man. Warrior just sprinted down the platform, restored justice in the ring and sprinted back from whence he came. No speech. No pandering. No “Look at me! Love me!” Everyone thought he was crazy and he didn’t care. He didn’t embrace or run from himself. He was always just the Warrior. And I remember wanting to be that. 

    I know wrestling is fake or pre-determined or fixed or whatever you want to call it. And I get that it’s easy to dismiss as terrible. But just remember: all little boys have heroes. And at six years old, most of us can’t grasp the nuances of “greatness” and “character” exemplified in a person like Peyton Manning or Derek Jeter or whatever “real” athlete Nike is selling on TV. Sometimes the best hero is the guy who looks nothing like anything or anyone you’ve ever seen in real life but uses everything he’s got to sprint towards the ring and do the right thing. That’s what the WWF did for me. It taught me about everyday life with a cast of characters who were bigger than everyday life. In wrestling, the good guy doesn’t always win, but what’s important is that he’s the good guy. And in wrestling, good guys come in all shapes, sizes, colors, and 80’s hairstyles. In wrestling, if you try hard enough, you can body slam Andre the Giant. In wrestling, sometimes your friend will betray you and try to steal your girlfriend, the most beautiful woman in your six year old world, Miss Elizabeth, but then you move on with your head held high and become the “heavyweight champion of the woooorld!” What wrestling taught me, is still real to me dammit. To this day, my first and most lasting image of sportsmanship is Warrior and Hulk Hogan at Wrestlemania VI. Ultimate Warrior, the beast from Parts Unknown, embracing the most known All-American Good Guy ever made. Warrior taught me about tenacity and getting back up even when all your facepaint has rubbed off and you’re dry heaving from exhaustion. “Get up. Please get up,” I’d say. And you know what? He would. Every time. The Warrior was unstoppable and true to himself. I can’t think of a better pair of values to teach a six year old - from a guy in a neon speedo, no less. 

    So, when I found out Ultimate Warrior died tonight, my inner six year old believed he’d get back up again. He’s the Warrior. Ultimate Warrior always gets back up. I believed that then and maybe a part of me still does now. 

     


  3. Sometimes a Man

    Sometimes a man gets everything he wants
    and sometimes he wants to give it back.
    Sometimes a man puts the crazy ideas to bed
    and sometimes his thoughts won’t sleep.

    Sometimes a man believes in himself
    and sometimes he pines for a god.
    Sometimes a man lives in fear of a reckoning
    and sometimes a man lives free. 

    Sometimes a man feels he’s wasted his life
    and sometimes he shrugs it off.
    Sometimes a man cannot suffer injustice
    and sometimes he lets it be.

    Sometimes a man loves the woman he loves
    and sometimes he wishes he hadn’t.
    Sometimes a man wants to lay down strong roots
    and sometimes a man wants to flee. 

    Sometimes a man is at peace with himself
    and sometimes his other half wins.                         
    Sometimes a man feels all of these things
    and sometimes that man is me. 

     


  4. Conversations That Are Way Too Deep for a Four Year Old

    A young boy teeters on the ledge of a loading dock behind Safeway. His father stands at the ready just beneath him at street level.

    "Come closer!"

    "You can do it, Son." 

    "Daddy, come closer. It’s too far." 

    "Come on, Sport. It’ll be alright. I’ll catch you." 

    "No. Closer." 

    "Come on, son. Just jump. You’re a big boy now. Four years old. You can do this." 

    The boy is crying now. 

    "Son, look at me. You can spend this time wondering if you could… or a lifetime knowing that you did. You decide."

    The boy cries more. 

     


  5. Limbo

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    He parked the car and lightly grabbed her wrist as she unbuckled the seatbelt.

    "Hold on," he said, "this is the best part."

    They sat frozen while the last two notes of the song played. He gave her wrist a gentle squeeze then let go.

    "So good," she said.

    "Ok, now we can go. Time to drink," he said.

    They stepped out to fresh snow fluttering about - thick flakes, the ones that lingered in the air and feathered down hanging on to the spaces in-between. They walked silently into the diner and headed for the back corner booth. 

    "How is this table always open for us?" she asked. 

    He leaned in and whispered, “Fate.” 

    "Yeah it is. Three times now," she replied. 

    She widened her eyes with playful excitement. He returned the look and they laughed.

    They settled into opposite sides of the booth as a blonde waitress arrived dressed in white. ”How yall doin? Can I get yall anything to drink? It’s cold out there isn’t it?” she asked. 

    "I’ll have a vodka tonic," she said.

    "A double scotch - neat, for me please. That should warm me up."

    "That it? Anything to eat tonight, darlin?" the waitress asked him. 

    "No, thank you. Just the drinks for now please," he said. 

    The waitress walked away and the two turned back to watch the snow through the window. He caught her reflection in the glass and could see her eyes were tired. He wanted to be needed. She caught him staring. He lowered his head and winked his eyebrows up and down. 

    She laughed. “Stupid…!” 

    She turned to face him and let out a small sigh. 

    "What am I gonna do when you leave?" she asked. 

    "You know I’ll still be around." he said

    She looked square into his eyes. “Not really. It’ll just be me by myself again. Alone again.” 

    "It won’t be that bad. It’s not like we’ll stop talking," he said.

    "I know. I’m just sick of being alone. It’s the worst." She looked away as the waitress returned with their drinks.    

    He sipped his scotch and held it, letting it coat his mouth before speaking.

    "There are worse things than being alone," he said.

    "Like what?" she asked.

    "Like being torn between two," he said.

    She looked away, back out the window, watching the flight of snowflakes on the night’s canvas. 

    He lost her eyes, but continued. “There’s nothing worse than two loves. Neither can know the whole truth. Neither can have all of you. Neither are getting what they deserve. You’re in limbo between them. Alone.”

    She glanced back at him. “Whatever. You still get to go home to someone.”

    "True. But for what?" he asked. "To fantasize about the other? To go half the way with both? It’s beyond loneliness. It’s guilt and regret hanging between two hearts and you face it alone."

    He blinked hard twice and averted his eyes back out the window.   

    "There are worse things than being alone," he said. 

    They sat and watched the snow. He took another drink - bigger this time.

    It was 11:43 and his wife was expecting him home. 

     

  6. What I Saw: James Turrell’s Afrum

    Two beams of light converged to construct an infinite cube inside the corner of a finite wall and I was speechless. Light had ripped a perfect hole in the hulking mass of steel and concrete before me. Light - in its perk and precision, changed everything. Light created depth where there was none. And that same depth, upon closer inspection, would lie flat against my palm as the shadow of my hand touched the wall. The wall that was, indeed, still there. I had stumbled into a new world. And for all the psychedelic babble that might inspire, I say this much with confidence: Today, I saw things I didn’t know were there. 

    There is depth to everything. That’s what I saw today and it confirmed what I thought I always knew. Two beams of light affirmed my search for meaning in all things. Every thing, person, and idea has depth. Sometimes it’s a hidden dimension unseen by the careless, and sometimes what looks like an infinite well of potential and possibility is actually just a mirage on a wall. My aim in life, then, is to explore every person, place, thing, or idea, deeply; because things are pretty much never what they seem. Face value lost all value for me today and I was reminded that being too quick to judge may be the most tragic mistake a man can make in life. There are misunderstood people to be loved, unexpected joys to be had, and hidden meanings to be found if you take a deeper look. 

    Two beams of light transformed a darkness and that’s what I saw today.

     


  7. image

    Hey there, Kid.
    One day you’re gonna grow up to have a head the size of a watermelon. Sure, you’ll have a good three decades with a nice thick head of hair in a variety of faux-hawk designs before it’s all said and done, but make no mistake: your face will be the size of a fucking deep dish pizza after puberty. Blame your dad. You’ll try try to blame him for other things too, like your lack of direction in choosing a meaningful career or your impulsive desire to quit everything at the earliest sign of any adversity or discomfort, but trust me, you have only yourself to blame for that. Revel in these bowl-coiffed times, child; they are some of your best. You can actually jog 30 feet without sucking air like you’ve just been tossed from a wave. You’re still an overachiever. You won’t believe the obnoxious little piss ant clown you become in seventh grade and you’ll kick yourself when you see that SAT score; let’s just say you barely crack four figures. Spoiler alert.

    Yeah, it’s disappointing, I know. Get used to it. That might be the defining word of your adult life. Not because life has let you down. You did. You’ll spend most of your nights wondering what the fuck happened and what might have been had you stuck with it longer, ate fewer carbs, and applied yourself now and again. But hey, tough shit. Oh and did I mention the crippling depression that will come and go? Yeah, brace yourself. Don’t worry, you don’t actually have anything to be depressed about, but you won’t be able to help yourself. And the older you get, the more you’ll think you have a handle on it while being completely confused by it. You’ll call yourself a talentless piece of shit and then stay in bed until the guilt of never having left the bed keeps you there another 12 hours or so. Have fun with that.

    In about 20 years, you’ll fancy yourself a shrugging writer with a beautiful wife and dog. You’ll live a modest life with earnest ambitions, but you’re really quite clueless; a wandering underachiever still searching for something worth trying for. You won’t find it. But man, the weather in California is gorgeous. You’re gonna love the burritos too. Just look in the mirror (but not with your shirt off. Never with your shirt off!). Before you know it, it’ll be time for you to have a smiling little bowl-cut pumpkin of your own. And you’ll realize that all of your big dreams are just that. Dreams. You’ve been a lazy son of a bitch who can’t figure out what he’s supposed to do. You wanna do something meaningful with your life? Right. I’m sure selling advertising is the way to do it, asshole.

    But hey, it’s not all bad. Actually, it’s mostly great. You’ll have had no real personal tragedies in life. And you’ll laugh a lot more than you do anything else. The video games are pretty sweet as time goes on and wait ‘til you try weed for the first time. Jesus. Speaking of which, don’t worry about all that. It goes away in your late 20s and never comes back. Try harder at other things. Your knowledge of the Gospel of John is surprisingly useless. Trust me.

    All bullshit aside, life is good. It’s a weird balance of unspeakably awful tragedy and heart-warming triumphs of humanity, but the scales tend to tip towards the good most of the time. Except on Sundays - the Redskins will ruin your life.

    It’s a good life you’ve got coming, kid. Just keep that smile on your face and take comfort knowing the french fries only taste sweeter and sweeter with each passing year. They double fry them (Belgian style) at a few places and it will blow your mind. Spoiler alert.

     

  8. "Mission Control, this is Mars Rover. Do you copy?"

    "Affirmative, M.R. Welcome to the Red Planet. Over."

    "Uh, roger that, M.C. I was told there would be grass and a pile of organic raw salmon treats waiting for me upon arrival?"

    "Yeah, copy that, M.R. It looks like you got some faulty intel on that one. This is purely an exploratory mission, no treats today. You look great out there though. Make us proud. Over."

    "Thanks. So, there’s quite a bit of sand here, it tastes awful - in case you were wondering, but I think I’ll keep shoving my face in it and dropping mouthfuls into my remaining water supply."

    "Negative, M.R. The sand will be trapped in your wrinkles and line the inside of your mouth and throat for weeks. Stop eating sand. Over."

    [Fills mouth with sand.]

    "I was told there’d be salmon treats in every mouthful of sand. Let me try a few dozen more."

    "Nobody said that. Stop eating sand. Over."

    [Fills mouth with sand.]

    "Still no treats. Could we double check the intel on that Mars Treats and Tennis Balls Report, M.C.? Cause I don’t seem to be finding anything."

    "Stop eating sand, M.R. There is no report and you don’t know how to read. Over."

    "Ok. Now I’m gonna run as fast as I can for 8 seconds."

    "Roger that. We’d like to explore as much of the planet as possible. So, pace yourself."

    [4 seconds later. Panting]

    "Mars - Rover - here… Wow - is the air - thinner up here - or something?"

    "Well, there’s no oxygen there at all. Over."

    "10-4. I’m gonna lay down for a minute. It is HOT."

    [Collapses onto sand. Licks sand on the ground, slowly.]

    "Please. Stop eating sand. Over."

    [Singing] I could stay awake ~ just to hear you breeaathing ~

     


  9. What Really Happens at a HipHop Show

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    "Throw your hands in the air! Wave em like you just don’t care!
    But don’t be careless. Wave them side to side, like this, in time with the music, from left to right, in unison with everyone else around you!
    I know we originally said, ‘wave em like you just don’t care,’ but it turns out this gesture requires a lot more attention and effort than we had previously lead you to believe!
    Now clap! And clap! Extend your arms all the way up over your head and lightly crane your neck in rhythm as you smack your hands together on the 2! and 4! And clap! And clap! You, white girl, stop applauding! This is a highly synchronized motion meant to accentuate the down beats of this song! Why are you moving your head like that?
    While we have your attention, throw up a muthafuckin’ finger! Specifically the muthafuckin’ middle one! And say, ‘Oh Yeah!’ But again, refrain from just doing your own thing; the same rules apply here! Say, ‘Oh Yeah’ only after we say it first and with respect to the time signature!
    Now somebody SCREAM!
    But bear in mind, we actually mean everybody scream! We won’t be satisfied with just a smattering of screams here and there! We need everybody to make some noise up in this bitch!”

    —-
    "Smoke weed every day."

     


  10. Days Like Today

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    There’s a certain and particular searching that comes with every tragedy. A search for answers. Culprits and motives. A search for hope and silver linings. It happens every time, and sadly, more often, as history degrades into nothing but a series of explosions and attacks. We send out prayers and thoughts for the affected. We donate blood and shed tears. We imagine ourselves in the shoes of others and get angry, or sad, or just plain tired. Why do we react this way? With empathy and compassion, no matter how self-centered their origin?

    Maybe it’s the only thing that keeps us going.

    Maybe empathy is our reminder that for every tragedy, there is a legion of good. For every injured, a hundred caregivers. For every death, a nation of mourners. For every threat, an army of defenders. For every act of terror, a thousand calls for justice. For every evil act, a million voices to declare, “No. That’s not okay.”

    And that’s the only thing that gets me by on days like today. We outnumber the rotten. We don’t win every round, but we will always have the numbers. Even on days where answers are few and chaos seems to be holding the reins, the good are still winning. Healing, fighting, sleuthing, guarding, weeping, praying, hugging, and holding each other up. We are living, and for as long as that’s true, we will be winning. And that’s the only thing that gets me by on days like today.

     

  11. Fall 1998. Frederick, MD. 

     


  12. to live

    to live is to pass time.
    to be happy is a state of mind
    that comes with knowing what you want
    and the games played to attain them.
    so put your face on.
    mount up. stretch.
    run yourself ragged ‘til your legs give out and your mind clears
    enough to reveal the fog of lies that surrounds you. 
    a smog filled dew of greed and sleaze 
    in the so-called city of angels.

    to live is to move on
    to be happy is to get along
    friending her, toasting him,
    and singing on key to a song you hate.
    better a clown than a malcontent.
    better a shy chick than a grown ass woman deeply afflicted,
    wounded and lonely.
    carry on
    like the baggage you heel whenever you sleep
    or wince or smirk or grimace or squint
    down a path the leads nowhere and further away.
    to live is to be remembered.
    remember that.
    not to outlive or to love or to pander,
    and especially not to cross a checkered line marked up or down at the gate,
    but to leave a mark before you get there.
    to live is to be remembered.
    remember that.

     

  13. Pasadena, CA. 12.16.12.

    Sunday Night in America

    It had been three days since the shooting. A massacre of twenty. Our most precious twenty. Precious in the way we all understand it - little plots of joy and promise, life beaming from their round little eyes and toothfairy smiles. It had been three days and life had already moved on.

    A buddy and I were sitting behind a platter of chips and salsa, a diet coke and two beers on the table. We were there to watch the Niners play the Patriots and eat wings. This was America. Every table brimming with chicken bones and beer, fat guys in Brady jerseys and plumpy girls slurring between sips. The place was loud and crowded for a regular season game. So too was Foxboro, the field still hazy on TV from the pregame fireworks. I was in my element: propped up on a tall chair surrounded by a sea of tables too small for grown men, each one littered with cardboard coasters and table tents offering Double-Fudge Chocolate Cake to people who’ve clearly never said no to chocolate or cake or double-fudge anything.

    And then the President appeared. First on two screens, then on twenty. The two big screens went to the President last. I slowly bit into a tortilla chip. The place went quiet as he began: “Scripture tells us, ‘do not lose heart…’” There was no movement. There was silence, but one without reverence or reflection. Like the kind a mother receives from a scolded child - a half hearted show of compliance, almost a taunt, really. As the President spoke, I began to feel the twinge of pain in my chest again. The devastation of even one child lost was unimaginable - much less twenty. I welled up and felt a sigh leave my lungs.

    Not more than five minutes into his remarks, one of the big screens switched back to the game. Time’s up, POTUS. A football game on mute on one side, a somber Obama on the other. It was a gradual change in mood and an awkward one. The President’s speech a perverse soundtrack for the first quarter of Niners-Pats. A handful of booths began to murmur. Hot sauce painted hands raised mugs. Waitresses resumed their duties in sync. Eventually, half the place found its legs again. And with game still on mute it let out an unadulterated pigskin-loving, guacamole-sucking roar after every big play - very much to the disapproval of those still tuned in to the memorial service. 

    This was Sunday Night in America. Tragedy and escape. Real world grief and gridiron delight. Had we moved on or just repressed our hurt? Is football a disgrace in the wake of national heartache or a symbol of our best and truest qualities? I didn’t know. I still don’t.

    We live on a tattered spectrum of empathy and impulse. Where hard-earned wisdom goes head-to-head with deliberate ignorance. And the beauty of our country is that a real and honest slice of her lives in every bar, stadium, school, and home on any given night. Our diversity of spirit, values, and culture present in every microcosmic bubble. I wish there was a right or wrong way to spend that Sunday night, but there wasn’t. In hindsight, there still isn’t. It’s gray matter and it damned well might be the definition of freedom - or at least our brand of it. That and every Sunday night in America we’re free to choose who, what, and where we are. We might fight and fiddle over who’s right or wrong, but that’s exactly the point isn’t it? We’re a country that strives to lift up and live out ideals, but find ourselves in limbo more often than not. And though I’m left bewildered that life can run the gamut from unspeakable tragedy to happy hour wings in a matter of hours, it is who we are. Free to deal with life the way we think or feel we should deal with life. So, three days after a national tragedy, when a mourning president and a football game are shown on split screens in front of us we get to lean the way we wish. It’s gray matter. And in no way is that a judgment. If anything, it’s an acceptance.

     

  14. Santa Monica, CA. 10.18.12.
    Contentment is a strange place. I’m sitting on a beach, happy. Healthy. Alive. I used to sit in these spots and yearn. For an old love or a new one. A new job. A new city. New passion. Inspiration. Luck. Change. Anything else to make the present life feel inadequate. Not today. Not now. In this moment, all that self-pity is gone. Happiness is a warm sunset.

    I could still go for some beef jerky though. 

     


  15. The One Thing I Hate More Than Politics: People Screaming About Politics

    Political season is about to be in full swing here and I’d like to offer a polite suggestion to everyone I know: please shut the fuck up.

    No matter which side of the aisle you’re on, please shut the fuck up.

    Let’s get this out of the way first: nothing is going to ‘destroy America.’ Do you know why? Because America is not some dainty porcelain candy bowl that will shatter and explode when some other fuckwad is in office. America is a behemoth of a country that can handle its shit. And while we’re at it, you can’t ‘take the country back’ because that doesn’t really mean anything. And there’s no such things as a ‘Real American’ [besides Hulk Hogan], so stop proclaiming to be one because you read Mitt Romney’s wikipedia page once.

    Politics is a dirty game and a necessary evil. We all accept this, yet still argue in terms of ideals and absolute values. Please stop. Like anything else in life, government is inclined to swings and stumbles and changes over time. Regardless of who takes office next January, you’re probably gonna be just fine. Calm down. We have these traits called human decency and reason that have gotten us through several millennia now; we’ll be ok.

    I’m not saying government is unimportant, I’m just asking you to shut the fuck up about it. Nobody changes their mind because of your facebook post. And unless your name was once stenciled on the door of a government building, you truly have no idea what the fuck you’re talking about. You know as much about running a country as you do about banging a porn star; obsessively jacking off while thinking about it doesn’t make you an expert in either.

    There is a time and a place for debate and it usually happens in October, in Primetime, on national television. It typically involves two candidates running for president and a moderator. You were not invited to participate in this event. Your tweets don’t count. In fact, nothing you say ever counts. Ever.

    The only thing you could possibly do that resembles anything even remotely relevant is to vote. Go check your box. That’s all you get. Before and after that is an invitation to shut the fuck up land. Go there. Make yourself at home. Enjoy the fresh mountain air and cloudless skies. Watch football. Eat wings. Find peace in the fact that nobody gives a shit why you’re a republican or a democrat or even more insufferably, neither. And if you catch a friend or foe spewing worthless political noise in the next 2 months, invite him to shut the fuck up land too. Just be polite about it.