MeUndies Jingle, Take 5

Hey…look and listen here, another bonus D2D post…and the first D2D-produced song.

Those of you who are fans of “The Monday Morning Podcast” and Bill Burr will be entirely familiar with his hilarious, crass, impromptu jingle for one of his sponsors, MeUndies.com. I called upon a few of my most musical and hilarious friends (…notably, my two most musically talented friends also happen to be two of the funniest people I know…), filled them with food and booze, and we went about using Billy Double Bass Drum’s lyrics along with some of our own (…the Lennon/McCartney of the C-word, are we…) to make the ditty a bit more official.

Keep in mind…if you are easily offended, or even if you’re not easily offended, this song may not be for you. Just imagine an off-the-cuff parody, prompted by an R-rated stand-up comic, embellished by several inebriated potty-mouths, about underwear. And said underwear’s ability to keep the twigs ‘n’ berries and dinner rolls dry.

If you have two minutes, dig a classic jazz melody, like parody, want to hear an exceptional whistling solo, and don’t mind occasionally mentioning unmentionables…this is for you.

Also, we’d love to get this to Billy Sizzle Tits and the MeUndies folks. FWIW, the underwear are quite comfortable. (It’s not easy reaching them directly via email, understandably.) If you know how to do that, and you do that, well we’d surely appreciate you.

Here, we present to you a second bonus D2D in as many days, “MeUndies Jingle, Take 5.”

(This, I think, is the most raucous, fun, loose, but still together take. Not the best…but my favorite nonetheless.)

Burr Flair

(Woooooooo! Hoisted from Billy Freckle Face’s “twittuh” account.)

BONUS: Open Letters to People at the Coffee Shop

Immediately to the right of what you’re reading right now (…unless you’re reading on a phone, in which case it’ll be immediately below what you’re reading right now if you scroll down…) is a PayPal donate button. If you’re a public radio listener or a public television watcher you’re used to having folks ask you for money once or twice per year. Independently created content of any form costs time and money. Those of us who create such content and who want to remain authentic to our visions and voices cannot easily obtain funding. We also want you to have access to us without you needing to spend excessive amounts of money.

It’s important to me to deliver honest, insightful, and humorous content and it’s become important to you to receive this content. I appreciate that and I appreciate you.

I leave that donate button for you to decide if you would like to contribute to this endeavor or not.

My goal is to produce essays and anecdotes that amuse you and, ideally, promote thought, dialogue, debate, insight, and joy. I would also like to spend more time writing longer-form memoir and perhaps satire and fiction. On the podcast side, I would like to produce and deliver a more polished, professional product. That means better equipment. Finally, I would love to reconnect with musicians and friends to create music…acoustic and a cappella, original and traditional. Again, this requires upgraded equipment.

If you decide to donate once, per read/listen, monthly, semi-regularly, or never…I remain grateful that you’ve lent me your ears (and eyes) and allowed me to create and develop this forum.

Now…a few open letters to people at the coffee shop!

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Dear person having an extended phone conversation,

Your behavior really is infuriating. You know, the cacophony of background chatter that occurs in the shop is generally fine. However, listening to a one-sided conversation is grating. There’s research concluding that it’s nearly impossible to tune half of a conversation out. Also, you’re talking much louder to compensate for the music, espresso machine hissing and banging, and commensurate conversation levels around you. If a one-sided conversation is empirically distracting, a loud & over-articulated one-sided conversation is sanity stealing. It’s enough to cause me violent thoughts involving snatching your phone and throwing it indiscriminately toward the nearest wall. You, reader who might also be a coffee shop phone talker, are perhaps thinking, “Why not just put on headphones?” Because fuck you. This is the equivalent of a smoker trying to convince me that my desire to breathe clean air is a greater inconvenience and hindrance to personal liberties than said smoker needing to take the fucking cancer stick outside and away from the non-smoking masses. Answer a quick call, but please…if conversation is necessary, go outside or to your car.

Yours,

Everyone who is not you

P.S. Hang up the phone when you’re ordering. That’s polite…to both the employee and whoever is suffering an ear beating on the other end of your call.

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Dear person who pours liquid in the trash can,

Have you ever needed to deal with ounces of liquid at the bottom of your trash can after it’s filtered through a day’s worth of snot rags and food debris? I bet you have. Or maybe you haven’t. In either case, it’s foul and it’s entirely unnecessary. If you need to pour out coffee, use a sink or use the bussing bin or use your fucking gullet. Drink a little then have at it with the cream and sugar. You might think that the employees at the shop should need to deal with everything you do just because you paid for a cup of coffee. You’re wrong. They are busting their asses and getting paid close to nothing to actually do something. Something for you that brings you joy and perhaps morning sanity. They need to take out the trash, sure…but they shouldn’t need to deal with puddles of cold putrid coffee dripping all over the goddam place. So don’t do that.

Yours,

A non-scientist who understands enough about liquids and gravity to avoid what you just did

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Dear person who never tips the barista,

Who are you, Steve Buscemi in Reservoir Dogs? (Why do I have to be Mr. Pink?) Do you have some principal or ethic that causes you great psychic pain by sharing extra money with the person doing work for you? Have you ever done a job for which tips matter and help you to pay rent and buy food? No. I thought not. Throw some change in the jar. You’ll feel better, they’ll really appreciate it, and you won’t miss it.

Yours,

Joe Cabot

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Dear person who recycles incorrectly,

Look shithead, either recycle correctly or throw everything in the trash can. Okay? If you can’t figure out the difference between glass/plastic and paper, then just use the general trash bag. It’s simple, really. Nobody is judging you…except when you fuck up the recycling situation so badly that recycling can’t actually happen.

Yours,

Person also seeking a non-complex life

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Dear person who takes up 2 to 4 spaces with all your shit,

Really?! Even at a super hipster shop, you’ve spent what? 5 bucks. Let’s even say you tipped a dollar, recycled correctly, and kept your coffee out of the trash can. You think that 6 bucks entitles you to sit at a table built for 4 like a homeless squatter with an Apple computer, iPhone, iPad, iPad mini, 3 textbooks, headphones, 2 messenger bags, and a bike helmet? It doesn’t. If the place is empty, take some extra room. However, when people start to come in, make yourself small. In essence you’re forcing other people to have to approach you to move your shit and then you can roll your eyes as if it’s an inconvenience to you thus making THEM the asshole as opposed to the real asshole. Which is you.

Yours,

Unseated customer

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Dear guy who pissed on the toilet seat and floor and didn’t clean up after yourself,

You’re a fucking animal. You can clean up after yourself easily…with water, paper towels, and/or toilet paper. Then you can wash your hands really well and walk out of the bathroom knowing that the next patron will not have to contend with your waste. Refreshing, right?

Yours,

Guy who cleaned up your piss

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Dear person who uses Starbucks nomenclature no matter where you go,

Never should the words “grande” and “venti” escape your mouth, particularly not when speaking English to a person making you coffee. Additionally, it makes no sense that “tall” should refer to the shortest cup among a choice of three. “No whip” should only be uttered to your dominatrix. Also, if you need to use more than 5 words to order a drink…it’s not coffee, it’s a fucking oral logic exam.

Yours,

Why the fuck do you need my name?! It’s creepy when someone I don’t know refers to me like an old
friend. And look, you spelled it wrong anyway.

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Dear person who orders “expresso,”

It’s espresso.

Yours,

Espresso

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Dear person who leaves their table looking like a diorama of the end of the movie Scarface,

Clean your fucking mess, will ya? This is not a full service restaurant. Like with the floor pisser, you’re leaving your table for the next patron to clean. That’s me, and you didn’t leave me a tip either. Remember, there are other people in the world. Really, we’re here.

Yours,

Other people in the world

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(Please share your open letter to a person at a coffee shop in the comment section!)

Happy-coffee-007

(That’s a latte work!)

Play Misty For Me (Norris, Part 1)

On today’s episode of the D2D Pod, the wonderful and exciting Tricia ascends to the Mt. Rushmore of awesomeness (…heck, she’s been there all along…), Greg gets an Ommegang 8-pack at Giant Eagle for $16 (…FYI, that’s cheap…), and both Greg and Tricia discuss their status as regulars at the local Wine and Spirits store. The crew discusses pet peeves, Pittsburgh drivers, road rage (Jubes?), and the special spot in hell that is reserved for people (Jason?) who change lanes in tunnels just to avoid the long line of traffic before the tunnel. Finally, we discuss Volvo-driving vampires and (not) Mexicans before closing down shop. We present to you, “Play Misty For Me (Norris, Part 1).”

Misty

(The first time…ever I saw your face.)

A Moment of Reflection

Facebook presented me with a fascinating and heartbreaking experience recently. I read chronologically through a friend of a friend’s wall which had become a de facto memorial after said friend’s friend committed suicide. The events were so recent that I landed upon the deceased person’s final post and the seemingly mundane life events leading up to that final post. Having read backwards from messages of remembrance, confusion, sadness, anger, and incredulity…those otherwise unremarkable posts became phenomenally meaningful, even precious. My eyes mist just thinking about it. What was he thinking in those days preceding his ultimate decision and the actual follow through? There were several days of silence between what would be his final post and the first remembrance. How painful, how isolated, how desperate were those days? My stomach is clenched as I write this, and long-buried memories flood back into my consciousness.

In high school, I lost one friend to suicide and one to murder. Both experiences rocked my carefree existence and drove me deeply inward. I have always been a person prone to worry, anxiety, and depression. Death became a real possibility early in my life, through these two experiences and also when I lost both of my maternal Grandparents within one year of each other. All four of these deaths occurred across my Freshman and Sophomore years. I joined a death-and-dying group led by a wonderful counselor and processed these tragedies through dialogue, tears, hugs, written words, and only mild success with tamping down the darkness lurking just below the surface of my consciousness.

When a young person dies, impromptu remembrance walls inevitably emerge. Like the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington, D.C., these walls become places of reflection, emotional expression, and communal healing. Also like the Vietnam memorial, these walls (…and also the roadside memorials placed after traffic deaths…) cause me deep, reflective quietude. I need to be alone. Not want. Need. What swirls through my brain is a combination of aching empathy, deep human sadness, and also an acute anxiety pertaining to the fragility of my life. Death, if I really meditate upon it, scares me to my core. Nobody close to me has died since the late 80’s. That also scares me. Occasionally it incapacitates me. As I mentioned above, Facebook presented me with a beautiful, tragic, terrifying reminder of the precariousness pervading everything.

Matt. Matt is my friend who committed suicide in ninth grade. He was what? 14? Matt is also the friend’s friend who committed suicide several weeks back. He was, I think, 30. So young. And reading through his wall it became clear that Matt influenced, quite positively, many people. In all of his pictures his face was beautiful and bright. His smile seemed quite authentic, arising in his eyes and spreading to his lower face. He was in a relationship, it seemed, with another amazing, vivacious, beautiful person. Everything seemed perfectly wonderful up through that final post.

Then…a several day lull.

Then…the memorial.

Once, not so many years ago, I stood in front of a mirror, having dragged myself out of a bed in which I’d lain for more than 24 hours, and I considered the world without me. I felt like such a human failure, had experienced no joy in weeks, was emotionally numb, and I asked the question, out loud, to myself, “Why are you here?” Honestly, I felt like a further failure that I couldn’t really envision or imagine taking that final step. I couldn’t follow through. I felt like a bigger shithead walking solemnly back to my bed than I had standing in front of that mirror having a one-man-pity-party. One person saved my life, or at least illuminated and exemplified the joy and preciousness of human existence. J.D. He came to my apartment, he took me to Target when he shopped, he brought me food, he joked with me, he took no shit from me. “C’mon Del Dukis, get yo’ ass out of that damn bed. We got some shee-it to get at Target.” He called me Del Dukis, and that made me smile. Said, “shee-it” for “shit,” and that made me chuckle. So I walked like a zombie behind him. At times he literally dragged me, held me up. He took me to a Baptist church, a classic southern Black Baptist church. That church also saved me. Although I remain agnostic to this day, those people gave me faith in humans and helped me feel joy. I rocked with the music, I hung on the pastors every word…his sermons building from a quiet rumble and hitting crescendos that caused congregation members to sing, shout “Amen,” and swoon with faith. Pastor Lindsay brought it. Every Sunday he left it all up on that pulpit. I just rode that wave for hours every Sunday. I spent less than a year in Atlanta, and I hit rock bottom, but I survived…landed back on my feet…and I learned valuable lessons about myself. I was able to take measures…emotional, cognitive, spiritual, medical and pharmaceutical…to ensure homeostasis.

But Matt was not.

What’s the fucking difference? It can be anything, or any number of things, I know. Matt had all of elements seemingly necessary to help pull out of the emotional tailspin. Friends, family, love, support, an active life, a seemingly meaningful profession. But that wasn’t enough. So what was on the inside? I know how painful my self-doubt, self-loathing, and self-awareness can be. I can’t imagine it being much worse than it was that day in Atlanta, but obviously it can be worse. It was worse for Matt.

And in his wake he’s left tsunamic ripples of anger, sadness, confusion, pain, and a series of lingering, haunting questions. “What could I have done?” “What did I do?” “What didn’t I do?” “Why didn’t he tell me?” “Did I fail him?” It’s just utterly fucking tragic all around. Hell, the ripples have reached me, a person who had never met Matt…a person who stumbled upon his obituary and Facebook wall.

Folks, suicide is a fact of communal human existence. I can tell you only this: be kind, be aware, be yourself. You really never know when you’re going to bring an otherwise desperate and depressed individual a modicum of joy or self-worth. You never know the impact you have on others until it becomes starkly, tragically real. Believe me, it’s not your fault and there was nothing you could have done differently to bring a person back from resolve and follow-through. But…if you travel the earth with genuine love and kindness for others, for people going through whatever shit they’re going through that is just as real and important as the shit you’re going through in your head, you will make a positive difference.

My faith? It’s in people, communities, and the interconnectedness of our species.

We’re all we’ve got.

-G

That Rug Really Tied the Room Together

Ladies and gentlemen, boy and girls of all ages…on this episode, nay, on these episodes of the D2D Pod, Jen watches The Big Lebowski for the first time.

In the first mini-episode, “Pre-Lebowski,” Greg makes modified caucasians for the lactose intolerant fancy-asses and discusses the pre-apocalyptic shopping frenzy at Giant Eagle. Jen makes paleo-friendly raspberry linzers with Wigle sassafras-enhanced whiskey (…and holy shit were they good…) and discusses movies that scare and disturb her. We end with the baby, the lawyer, and The Mist. We present to you, “Pre-Lebowski.”

In the second mini-episode, “Post-Lebowski,” Jen finds herself not entirely impressed with the movie (…though entirely impressed with the performances, John Goodman’s in particular…) but completely inebriated after four-to-six White (Del Duca) Russians. Now with beer, Greg struggles to make any fucking sense…but that’s not surprising, particularly given the fact that he’s rolling with booze, beer, and night-time Theraflu. Yikes. (Jen, as usual, fucks with Greg relentlessly yet lovingly.) We present to you, “Post-Lebowski.”

Half&Half

[A Half-and-Half. Greg poured it. Using a measuring spoon. Like a Leprechaun pimp. Happy St. Paddy’s Day em effers.]

Two Is the Loneliest Number

Having already written my “way too much information” essay with, “Middle School Erections,” I thought I’d have another go at an embarrassing secret. I’ve found, with each post, an emotional weight lifted from my consciousness. Additionally, I feel such satisfaction and joy that these memoirs are bringing you laughter, insight, and/or entertainment. My goal here is full transparency. Each week I wipe my sleeves on the muddy windows of my life and clear a new space for others to see in and for me to see out. I haven’t figured out if there’s a level of exposure that is too much. For you. But really, for me. I haven’t encountered that point yet, so I’ll continue to clean these windows and improve the clarity of my vision. And if you end up seeing my ugly bits and shameful parts, so be it. You’ll keep coming back (I hope). Or you won’t. In either case, I’ll keep writing.

Okay, here goes…

[Deep Breath]

(Many of you will understand this…perhaps personally and intimately.)

I’ve shit (shat? shitted?) myself three times as an adult.

Kind of in public.

I almost got…nay, should have been caught each time.

But…I responded quickly and surprisingly calmly and ultimately emerged undetected each time.

NOTE: Moving through this document for the fourth or fifth time in the revision process, the thought *just* struck me that perhaps I didn’t emerge undetected. At all. Perhaps my mishaps have been the foundation for tales of cringe-worthy hilarity among the kind-hearted people near whom I shat. (Apparently, it’s the U.S. convention to make the verb shit shat in the past tense.) How would you indicate to a friend or colleague, “Dude. I know you just shat your pants,” without negatively impacting the relationship? Perhaps I should thank the people about whom you’re about to read for neither directly chastising me nor removing me from their lives in silent incredulity.

The first two times I shitted myself (…I’ve always been partial to Britishisms, and apparently blokes across the pond use shitted…) occurred during one fateful and formative vacation over two consecutive days. I was in graduate school, and had very recently been plunged into a seemingly unending depression and self-reflection after the first woman I ever truly loved, Carolyn, broke up with me. I drove to Atlantic City with two classmates, one of whom was a married woman and the other the only other male in our class. I knew neither of them beyond professor gripes, happy hours, and abbreviated conversations during class breaks. His family, a lovely conservative Jewish couple, owned a little property near the boardwalk and were there when we arrived. So we begin this tale with a big, “What the fuck?” As a 40-year-old grown-ass man, I would never put myself in such an unpredictable situation. But who turns down an essentially free vacation to the beach in their early 20’s? Even if the social context is ripe for any number of uncomfortable scenarios? I’ll tell you who, NOT this guy.

After Carolyn unequivocally broke up with me just before my plunge into graduate school, exposing my flair for drama, immaturity, and emotional instability (…oh boy, that’s a story for a different post…), I shrunk myself and entered a lonely but essential period of hibernation. I became a vegan, a Buddhist, a journal-keeper, a meditator, and an insufferable bore. I was in my head fully and nothing could get me out of there. As I began graduate school, I was full-on “Emo Greg.” Not surprisingly, I found The Cure and Morrissey and Depeche Mode during this period. I chanted, “Om.” I did yoga. I read religious and self-help books. I was phenomenally interesting, but only to myself. It’s possible that my two classmates nudged me into the Atlantic City vacation, but at that point I could have been strong armed by an osteoporotic little person. I was waifish with my minimalist vegan diet and my emotions were as sturdy as wet chalk.

So off to the New Jersey coast we go. Upon arrival, R’s (…this is the male classmate…) family indicates that they realize I’m a vegetarian (…I didn’t correct them…) and will be making modifications to the menus for the weekend. (How lovely, right?! I didn’t have the guts or the wherewithal to be honest with them. Who the fuck was I?! They were really trying, and I didn’t aim to offend.) The menus, it turned out, consisted primarily of pizza. I hadn’t eaten cheese in months and my body had grown accustomed to this fact. Over the next two days, I would consume enough melted cheese to perhaps make up for those months without.

“Oh, thank you so much. You’re incredibly kind.”

The Buddhist in me overpowered my better judgment, and besides…I was stuck in a small house with people I didn’t know well. So it was pizza or nothing. (Hell, I hadn’t even driven. And there was nothing to drink. I was completely stuck.)

I ate the pizza, and the pizza was good.

The next morning, while the rest of the vacationers went to the beach, I had a jog on the boardwalk. About a mile in, my stomach foreshadowed what was to come with a lurch.

(Uh-oh)

I turned immediately, one mile closer to the casinos yet still entirely too far from a bathroom. I couldn’t run, so I walked. And soon afterward I found myself with my running shorts full and my dignity empty. I walked awkwardly back to the house, attempting to keep in that which was cradled by the inner elasticized portion while trying to look as normal as possible. I made it to the house, used the key I’d been given, and I carefully shuffled to the bathroom. As I took care of business, I heard talking and laughter, at first distant. Gradually, the voices amplified. It was them. I hurried with multiple plastic bags, cans of Lysol, wipes, and paper towels. The bathroom was perfectly, I felt miraculously stocked for the job at hand. By the time they were in the house and aware of my presence, I’d completely cleaned myself and any traces of the horror. The running shorts had to go…for practical and emotional reasons. But I had another pair that looked similar enough to not attract unwanted attention. Furthermore, I made it out the back door and threw the multiple-bagged mess into a nearby dumpster. Crisis averted.

One can’t imagine what a body will do with a food group it hasn’t experienced in months until one has walked a mile, shamefully yet determinedly, in a man’s garment full of barely-solid shit. That night I was offered more pizza, and I ate it.

The next morning I decided to go to the beach with the crew. We walked approximately ½ mile to the beach and as we approached the water my stomach again lurched. “Hey guys, I need to get back to the house. I forgot my Walkman. I’ll be right back.” Walkman was apparently my euphemism for “ability to control my gastro-intestinal system,” but how could they have known that?! (…but maybe they did. Holy shit, maybe they did…) On my way back up the steps to the boardwalk I dropped load number 2 of number 2. It really is the loneliest number. Also, it’s amazing what I learned from that first experience. I walked back to the house much more confidently, unworried about how to dispose of my accident. I took care of business this time with no panic, nor really any personal embarrassment. Like Russian nesting dolls, my tighty whiteys, now frowny brownies, were encased in Clorox-soaked paper towels and 10 or more multiple-tied plastic bags. Into the dumpster, and I was back to the beach. I had become, in just one day, a veteran of shorts-shitting.

The rest of the vacation moved forward without further incident, and I quickly returned to my vegan ways back in Pittsburgh. I never told a soul about this, until a drunken evening at Primanti Brothers in the Strip District of Pittsburgh with a close friend known for his ability to tell hilarious stories of gross and unbelievable proportions. After I finished my story, Damon claimed, “Dude, you’re my hero.” It was high praise from a man who consistently reduced groups of people to breathless and painful laughter with his tales, particularly “Runny Hulk.” (Perhaps I’ll get him to guest write for D2D and share that story. Better yet, maybe he’d tell it on a D2D Pod.)

Well…such are the trappings of young men. And surely this tale is over.

(It is not.)

Fast forward approximately 20 years.

Now a successful and self-employed speech/language pathologist. Now for real a grown-ass man, with a wife, step-child, and a mortgage. Now large and in charge. In complete control.

Except…not.

When push comes to shove, our gastro-intestinal system is really the boss.

One ass to rule them all.

It was Summer. High Summer. I was at Mark Maloney’s (…not his real name. I’m transparent, but I’m not going to be transparent and break confidentiality…) house, outside…hanging with the neighbor’s cats. We were having a lovely session, relaxed and communicative. For his entire life, Mark had been prone to significant worry and anxiety. Also, he carried an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) diagnosis. The cats really helped. It was exceptional to see how gentle, how calm, how connected he became…and they flocked to him. He really was a cat whisperer of sorts. Also, he was able to communicate directly with me, using appropriate perspective and pronouns and visual regard, in guiding me through my introductions and interactions with the initially hesitant cats. They seemed to support him as much as he them. On this occasion, Mark was 11 years old, and I had never experienced him this socially and pragmatically calm and successful.

Alright, I’ve set you up with that lovely, heart-warming anecdote…because the shart is coming.

I felt it. I moved to the left so that I could release the stink away from Mark and with the direction the wind was blowing. (I’m sure this fact saved me the embarrassment of Mark, a bluntly honest chap as children with ASD are prone to be, pointing out the stench.) I was sure it was a run-of-the-mill fart.

So I pushed.

…and I dropped a deuce in my shorts.

(FUUUUUUCK! Okay, think quickly.)

“Hey Mark, I need to use the bathroom, I’ll be right back.”

“Okay Greg”

Fortunately, the cats mattered way more than me, so that transition was easy.

I entered the house, and encountered my next problem. Mrs. Molly Maloney.

“Hey Molly. I just need to use the bathroom!”

She was upstairs at the time. There was a nice-sized powder-room/half-bath downstairs.

“Go ahead!”

Thanks be to the gods of good fortune.

(Okay, work quickly.)

I was able to get everything I needed to get into the toilet…into the toilet, clean myself, wash out the skivvies in the sink and wring them dry(ish), sanitize the entire situation with the disinfectant and paper towels that the Maloney’s so graciously and presciently left for me under the sink, flush, redress, spray Febreze, and get back out to Mark in approximately 2 minutes. I fucking swear to you. My underwear were damp, but my shirt was long, and I smelled so fresh, so clean.

Nobody knew a thing.

Well, except me.

And I handled it. (Boy did I handle it.)

We’re all going to shit ourselves at some point in our adult lives. That’s a cold, hard fact, Jack. Just like we’re all going to have a doctor probe our colons with a gelled-up, gloved finger. I’ve had both of these experiences, several times each, much younger than one might expect…and I came out of these adventures with most of my dignity intact, a stronger sense of self and humor, and a deeper understanding that we’re all just humans roaming around the planet with a deep-seeded misconception that we are in control. We’re not. And it’s not some lofty concept like God that is. No. It’s the plumbing. The pooper. The shitpipes. Our incredibly complex digestive system and gastrointestinal tract. As I mentioned before…when push comes to shove, the ass always wins.

Folks, be kind to your guts.

(And when you’re not, be near your home toilet.)

-G

hulk

(Please don’t feed me cheese. You wouldn’t like me when you feed me cheese.)

Crotch Crisis

On today’s D2D Pod, Greg’s right out of the gate with a jeans’ crisis. With three troops down in one month, and the knees about to blow-out in a fourth, there is a might bit of anxiety.

Jen, on the other hand, is right out of the gate fucking with Greg and his tendencies toward repetition, perseveration, and melodrama. Additionally, the topic of Greg’s thick, “rock hard” thighs becomes further fodder for Jen’s self-amusement and light-hearted Greg-bashing.

Talk also turns to Emmy, the cat, her tendencies toward assholery and the history behind her personality and behavior.

And the booze. It’s all about that booze. Check this out:

Wigle Whiskey is one the most awarded craft distilleries in the U.S., with 6 medals at the American Craft Spirits Association (ASCA) conference in Austin, TX…including gold medals for their malted rye and organic deep-cut rye whiskey. The latter spirit is in Jen’s glass tonight!

Maggie’s Farm takes Best In Class Rum at the ASCA plus a gold medal for the delicious Queen’s Share double-barrel. This spirit is in Greg’s glass tonight!

Both of these distilleries are on Smallman Street in the Strip District of Pittsburgh. If you are near, if you might be near, if you haven’t been, or even if you have been, do yourself a favor and go (or go again) because the people, the cocktails, and the spirits are exceptional.

Today, with wonderful rum and whiskey, we present to you, “Crotch Crisis.”

Wigle Rye Char

(Wigle Rye Char Comparison & Tasting Glass)

All You Need Is Love

The last time I vomited was 20 years ago…

…before 20 hours ago.

I have a massive aversion to throwing up, will lay quietly, for hours, and suffer the cramps and tingles and all manner of sensory bullshit just to avoid wretching. Last night, my record crumbled, or rather erupted, abruptly and violently. This morning I found myself blowing remainders (reminders) of that personal apocalypse out of my nose. My nose!

The 24 hours I spent in bed allowed me one luxury that I rarely afford myself, to lay in bed and watch a movie. I can’t remember the last time I left a movie with such joy and amazement, even given my state of health. I watched “Chef,” John Favreau’s first smaller-scale, character-driven, feel-great movie since…maybe “Elf?” (“Swingers,” even?) Regardless, the movie was outstanding. Set upon the foundation of a celebrity chef and the balance between his passions and ambition, Favreau really captured the challenges that smack many of us in the face. What do you love to do? What makes you smile, hop on the back of your shopping cart to take a 20 foot ride, leap two (…or three…) steps at a time, stay up late and not realize it’s 3 a.m. until your spouse stumbles upon you, rubbing her eyes, to ask, “What the hell are you doing up this late?” And once you find that, how long does it take until a drive towards fame, power, money, and/or general ambition turns that love into a J-O-B? How many years (…or god forbid, months…) until you’re dragging your ass to the car, forcing smiles, catching the elevator, and the only thing left is the money, or the prestige, or whatever it was NOT initially?

Favreau figured this shit out, and instead of painting a personal picture, making the lead character a writer or producer or director, he created this stellar landscape of Southern California, Miami and Cuba, New Orleans, and Texas…and he painted the canvas with food and music, and holy shit was it marvelous. The chef, Carl Casper, or “El Jefe,” (…Favreau is so good in this part…) finds himself both unemployed and unemployable after having lost his job as an executive chef at an upscale Los Angeles restaurant. The scene during which he loses his shit on a food critic, played wonderfully by Oliver Platt, and his boss (a caricatured but believable douche played by Dustin Hoffman), is fucking priceless. (Here) Favreau ends up in Miami with an old food truck, his son and best friend/sous chef (…I was so happy to see John Leguizamo working and exuding such joy in his part…) traveling from Miami to Los Angeles via New Orleans and Austin. Cubano sandwiches in Miami with Perico Hernandez covering, “Oye Como Va,” beignets at Cafe du Monde with The Hot 8 Brass Band covering “Sexual Healing,” Aaron Frankin’s brisket in Austin with Gary Clark, Jr. playing live…as…hell. I mean, holy shit. Does it get any better?! When you can meld family, friends, travel, culture, food, and music…and set these things within your passion while spreading pure, unadulterated joy AND making money?! What the fuck else could be the attainment of human self-actualization?

I couldn’t have guessed that my run-in with whatever liquified my insides yesterday would also provide another stunning message aligning with recent insights. What is at the core of my professional endeavor? My life’s purpose? I’ve come to realize this, it is NOT what I learned in graduate school nor what I’ve experienced across most of the post graduate school professional development I’ve pursued. All of the professional knowledge is, to me, icing that sits upon the cake that DOES represent my core. I have, for as long as I’ve been able to approach the world predominantly selflessly (…late teens/early 20’s…), wanted to spread love, bring joy to people, build them up instead of tearing them down, facilitate inclusion and understanding, open the door to self-esteem and confidence, communicate enthusiasm and connection, and impart values of basic human kindness and brother/sisterhood. Perhaps that sounds a bit like hippy-dippy bullshit, or like I’m re-writing my truer darker history to fit some current reality I pray for myself, but really it’s what I’ve sought for a very long time. Furthermore, it is what I do best in this world. Not the “speech therapy,” but rather the human connection and shared revelation. Any time I find myself drifting from this core, and this is the novel insight today, I begin to get fidgety, uncomfortable, bored, and moody. I just don’t feel right within my skin. I have always realized, even if I didn’t know the mechanism or message exactly, when it was time to move on, or move forward, or even move back.

Although I remain quite happy and content with where I am, the more I write and the more I podcast and the more I open myself up to whatever messages are trying to reveal themselves…the more I realize that I must follow these intuitions and insights. And last night, curled up in the fetal position watching “Chef,” I received another. Be as true to yourself as you possibly can be. Seek love. Find love. Follow love.

Love is all you need.

(and this)

(and maybe a Cuban sandwich)

-G

laughing-buddha-oiyee-at-oystudio

(Laughing Buddha by Oiyee At Oystudio)

Insights of a Douchebag

On today’s episode of the D2D Pod, we drink Rogue Voodoo Doughnut and Troeg’s Perpetual IPA. These two breweries seem to never miss. Beer is good, and these are great. Drink them, you shall. (So says Yoda.) Jen calls Greg a “douchebag,” because Greg is being a douchebag, which reminds Greg of the best Maddy story ever. Jen tells it wonderfully. Greg then pisses Jen off by taking a poorly conceived joke approximately 5 steps too far, and Jen tries to shut the podcast down. (Watch out, it gets loud. The smacking of the microphone, when heard through headphones on the treadmill, or perhaps blasting out of your speakers while hurtling down the highway, can be dangerous.) Things settle, and Greg reveals two insights. This is a roller coaster of an episode which we’re sure you’ll enjoy. We present to you, “Insights of a douchebag.”

double dribble

(“Douche well!” which is what I honestly believe one of the electronic voices said on Double Dribble. Does anyone else remember this?!)

How May I Serve You?

I recently listened to an outstanding “This American Life” podcast (#544: Batman) which illuminated the power of expectations, beliefs, and policies…in this case related to the population of blind people. I’m convinced that the final battleground of the civil rights movement in the United States is disability rights. This is not to say that we’ve arrived at resolution or even that we’re making continual progress regarding our already existing civil rights struggles. However, I think the door is just cracking open in the world of disability rights, with increasingly successful self-advocacy and publishing in populations with Autism, Down syndrome, Cerebral Palsy, deafness, and blindness, among other groups. And not just self-advocacy, journalism, and other publishing…but also the fact that others are paying attention, people with real societal influence. Politicians and policy-makers. Business owners. Mainstream and non-traditional media. You and me. The inclusion movement continues to challenge our not-distantly-past tendencies to hide-away, ignore, demean, and otherwise limit individuals in society who appear, behave, think, and/or feel differently than the majority. The ultimately message is very clear…we are here, we belong here, and we’re going to live, shop, work, worship, eat, communicate, and relate here.

Google search any of the following terms: Expectation Effects, Inclusion, Self Advocacy, Disability Rights…or, for specificity’s and diversity’s sake, any condition or descriptor with the term “rights” (e.g. “Autism Rights,” “Cerebral Palsy Rights”); and you will understand. There’s something happening here. (And what it is…is fairly clear, actually.)

Anyway, back to This American Life. Several quotes from the “Batman” episode stand out for me:

1. Blind people can’t do that
2. Running into a pole is a drag, but never being permitted to run into a pole is a disaster
3. We are creating slaves to others’ expectations

These quotes are clearly related to the individuals highlighted within the podcast, all of whom are contending with issues related to blindness. However, these quotes stuck with me (obviously), and I started to think about the populations with whom I work…children and teens with Autism Spectrum Disorders and with Down syndrome, in particular. And then my thoughts generalized outward…thinking about the impact of expectations on African Americans, on Native Americans, on any “minority” and/or historically underprivileged population, anywhere in the world. And I began substituting other terms in those quotes. For example:

“Blind people can’t do that.”

How many times have I heard, “Autistic people can’t do that,” and not only cringed at the people-second language but also the message? And how many more people harbor but are not comfortable uttering these thoughts out loud for fear of being called out? So then the question becomes, how many times have I seen people, both professional and non-professional alike, interact with people with Autism in a way that unequivocally communicates, “You can’t do this,” or, “You shouldn’t be here,” or “You are less-than…”? The answer is “lots.” Most of the time? I don’t know. Half of the time? Perhaps. A significant amount, particularly among people who have actual influence and power? Most certainly.
If I am the expert and you are the novice (…and this is inherent in any professional relationship…) and I expect less of you, there is ample evidence that my expectation will cause you to do less. Whatever the expert expects, from an epidemiological perspective (…thinking about trends across whole groups…), is what the expert will get. Does this mean that if I expect every child with whom I work to achieve precise things occurring far in the future, it will happen? Of course not. However, if we move forward, day to day and month to month, and if I interact with children and families in skillful ways with a spirit of expected progress…I will generally see progress. If I expect you to pass a test, and if I teach and interact with you in the full spirit of, “You WILL pass this test,” odds really are that you will pass the test.

Certainly, we all have power and control over our own behaviors, our preparation, our decisions. However, none of us are fully in control. Furthermore, the experts around us who we seek, or who seek us, or with whom we need to interact given social or professional or academic contexts, have control over us. And we have control over the novices around us in areas where we have expertise. But it transcends even the expert/novice relationship. We can infuse love, joy, acceptance, inclusion, confidence, and success…we can reduce anxiety, worry, self-doubt, and failure; and we can do this in every interaction we have. We can impact the world one relationship at a time in whatever ways we decide, practice, and then implement. Think about that!

If we just shift our brains from, “X can’t do that” to “X can do that,” and then maybe even take the extra step of, “X will do that,” imagine how much countless Xs will achieve. Which brings me to:

“Running into a pole is a drag, but never being permitted to run into a pole is a disaster.”

Trial and error.

How many times have I seen parents, professionals, and friends intervene extensively with a child contending with a disability? How many times have I seen children forced into interactions, fed lines to echo, stopped short of a socially awkward situation, removed from a likely confrontation? The answer here is absolutely clear, and it’s, “most of the time” and “by most people.” And isn’t this really communicating the message, “X can’t do that?” It’s not even necessarily a conscious decision we make. We just help. We lift up, we guide, we stop, we model, we nudge, we just do the damn thing because we don’t have time. And by doing all of this helping, we end up with individuals who…can’t independently function. There is a book by Ram Dass called, “How Can I Help?: Emotional Support and Spiritual Inspiration for Those Who Care for Others.” What an amazing book. In it, Ram Dass explores the difference between one-way, expert-novice “helping” versus actually serving and caring for others. Interacting “in service” is a very different endeavor than simply “helping.” Service requires that we look in the mirror instead of just looking out of the window. We need to acknowledge and contend with our challenges, our baggage, our differences, our disabilities…while we care for another. It’s a challenge, but it’s worth the effort. If we only give help, and don’t consider a bidirectional & mutually-beneficial service relationship, we run the ultimate risk:

“We are creating slaves to others’ expectations.”

It’s a tough one to swallow. If I accept that my interactions can and do impact the people around me, in real, significant, and measurable ways, and particularly those individuals who are in my care, who I am serving, with whom I have some expert status or power. And if I accept that my decisions and actions, born of my expectations and attitudes, communicate, “You can’t do this,” more powerfully than actually saying it. If I accept those things (…and I do…), then that third assertion, that I am creating slaves to my expectations, is a simple truism.

My wife often contends that there are more people and systems and leaders out there not engaging in these ways than I choose to see; that I often become caught in the wheels of negative thinking and anxiety related to my experiences, genes, and personality; that the bigger picture is not as depressing and discouraging as my jaded brain perceives.

I hope.

No, fuck that…I’m sure of it.

Right?

I must approach the world and my interactions with the very attitudes and expectations with which I approach my clients and students. I must acknowledge the three fingers pointing back at me each time I point my index finger at another. If I don’t…if I walk around expecting people NOT to be kind, inclusive, positive, loving, understanding, empowering and empowered…then likely they won’t be. And the opposite must also be true. I can and should serve all of the people in my sphere of influence, including those who frustrate or disappoint me. We are all carrying our histories, our influences, our experiences, and our biases. Perhaps I frustrate and disappoint you. Each of us can support the other, all others, ensuring that we all are permitted to become self-actualized.

So, how may I serve you?

-G

Baba Ram Dass First Unitarian Church SF	Jan. 2, 1970   sheet 522	frame 35

(Baba Ram Dass)