No Place Like Home

Some folks never leave home. Literally…and figuratively. They work among similar people. They play among similar people. They vacation with similar people. They drink at bars with similar people. They watch television and listen to radio that exalts the experiences, analysis, and opinions of similar people. They fill their heads and lives with “sameness,” which is most assuredly comfortable, reassuring, and affirming. And it’s not some. Really, it’s most folks. And if I don’t box people in but rather view them as complex individuals who behave differently across different contexts…well, then sometimes all of us never leave home. There are things I need to remain the same. (The song? Does anybody remember laughter?) Morning routine: wake, ice water, smoothie, coffee…precisely in that order. Every day.

Let me here state, firmly, that I am not passing judgment. (Oh, I have passed judgment, and I will again. However, the journey of Driven 2 Drink is to figure out what drives me to drink and then stare in the mirror until I see the real problem.) Who doesn’t love to have a grilled cheese sandwich, or homemade chicken noodle soup, or a thick savory meatloaf, oatmeal with cream and brown sugar on a cold, cold morning?! Comfort food. It’s all comfort food, right? The ways we find to relax, to kick-back, to release our worries of the world, let our guts hang out over our belts, embrace the double chin that’s now growing a third member, and know it’ll all be okay as long as shit remains predictable and familiar.

What I’m saying is…I understand those who “never leave home.” (Shit. I’m currently sitting in my house on a Saturday morning engaged in the same routine I created, nay, inadvertently yet inevitably rutted into, years ago.)

Here’s the problem. For so many people, even when they do literally leave home, they don’t really leave home. You see those vacationers who travel to exotic locales just to find a McDonalds, a Starbucks, an ex-patriot bar, clusters of sameness. They deplane, hop into a car, get transported to the hotel, and then move forward in all ways necessary to avoid discomfort, or novelty, or a challenge to their concept of the way things should be. Hell, there are people who never venture much beyond the back yard. And these behaviors are what lead directly to all of the commonly launched phobias and isms…those of the xeno, homo, race, sex, disability, and class varieties.

What I’m saying is…I understand but quite dislike these particular people. The world rarely exists on a toggle switch, either ON or OFF. Rather, we function along various dimmer switches, or spectrums. The people described above behave as if the world and all relationships are, indeed, absolute and two-toned. They are just more completely that which I, which you, which all of us can be across different contexts. They are ALL that way. They NEVER leave home. To be entirely frank, I don’t fucking get it.

Here’s what I see, anytime Homer (…picture the quintessential sports fan of your locale. The guy local radio lampoons because he’s so identifiable and predictable…) becomes even mildly uncomfortable, encounters someone who doesn’t make complete sense, experiences something that involves novelty and unpredictability and thought…Homer gets angry, often passive-aggressively. If you don’t experience the world, you are cursed to become anxious, worried, fearful, and angry in the world. If you avoid novelty, any change seems monumental and often unethical. And in a world where people are increasingly accepting of the entirety of human diversity, Homer becomes an anachronistic majority. And in a world where people are open and socially-adept and bright…passive-aggressiveness is like sunlight to a vampire (…not a Twilight “vampire,” fuck those guys and their sparkly skin…), water to a Mogwai, or, to really personalize the simile and perhaps get myself in hot water…those sandals that wrap around the ankle and then have a long single strap leading to some big-toe cuff to my eyes. (God, I hate the look of those things. Like a chain diner waitress costume, they make anyone look worse. I think even Romans were like, “Why the fuck can’t someone improve upon this design. Christ, these things make me look like a dipshit.”)

[Digression: I just used an English to Latin translator which, when I typed in that phrase, gave me this: “Quod si non emendavit consilio irrumabo . Christus haec mihi videri dipshit.” Now, when I reversed the translation, the English it gave me back might be the best thing ever said: “But if not made amends for the advice of fuck you. Christ be with me, dipshit.” Go ahead, look around and make sure nobody is nearby. K? Now, say that out loud and try not to laugh.]

[Trigression: If you then reverse THAT English to Latin and then the updated Latin back to English, things become quite clearer, “But if you have not made amends the counsel of the fuck you. Christ be with me, dipshit.”]

[Quadgression: If you continue the reverse translating, you eventually come to a point where the English remains the same. Let’s call this the Omega Translation. And it, indeed, is quite illuminating: “If the council does not suck. Christ be with me, dipshit.”]

The council on those stupid-looking sandals sucked.

Christ be with me, dipshit.

Do you remember where we were? Me either.

Perhaps I should spend less time being angry and judging and more time being grateful and happy that I’ve been exposed to enough of the world to be comfortable just about anywhere I plant my ass and open my mouth. Not perhaps. Definitely. I can be an example of acceptance and inclusion for my step-daughter, my family, my friends, colleagues, clients, and anyone who cares to engage in dialogue with me. On a recent “This American Life,” (555: The Incredible Rarity of Changing Your Mind), research was illuminated indicating people absolutely will change their minds…even on sacred, seemingly infallible topics including marriage equality and abortion, but only if the person pitching the change has the experience being discussed. So, the most effective, and it’s quite significant and practical (e.g. enough to change election results), purveyors of marriage-equality-change are gay individuals who are being denied marriage rights. The most effective method of shifting a “pro-life” mind frame toward “pro-choice” (0=Fully Pro-Life or Anti-Abortion, 10=Fully Pro-Choice or Pro-Abortion) occurs when a woman who has had an abortion and is willing to talk about it makes the pitch. Furthermore, change was most significant and lasting when the person did not launch into heady, value-laden, abstract ethical or political or economic constructs. Rather, the best way to change minds was just to talk about experiences and feelings. Honestly and without judgement.

This has rolled around in my brain for a week now. I’ve had a variety of experiences, and instead of running around judging people, I should just walk the earth open and honestly. And here’s the thing, this impact would likely work in multiple directions…so I might have my inflexible mind changed by another open and honest person. (I do wonder, though, does this impact occur in any direction? Would a woman who’s had an abortion and deeply regrets that choice have a powerful impact, as a mind-changer, on a person self-identified as, “Pro-Choice?” I imagine it would work, particularly if the mind-changee has never experienced an abortion. I can’t see a similar thing regarding marriage equality, though. What? A jaded divorced gay man? Shit, the only argument he’d have might be against marriage…but not gay marriage. Right?)

I digress, again. Sorry. Let’s drive this unwieldy car home.

I can move about and just be myself, share my experiences when asked or invited, behave in an open, kind, inclusive, understanding manner…and then I don’t need to suffer the karmic and biological consequences of all of the anger, anxiety, and judgement. And perhaps an otherwise naive acquaintance will open, even if just a crack, to the possibility of epiphany.

And the acceptance, the embracing, the love of human diversity, interdependency, and experience reveals a truth that brings us full circle. Yes, Toto, there really is no place like (a more broadly defined) home.

-G

No Place Like Home

Game of Defreitas

To start, Greg is obsessed with the Game of Thrones theme and opening sequence. It makes him want to quit everything and travel the country as a permanent fixture on the Renaissance Festival circuit. Perhaps as one of the dudes who viciously roasts passersby from high atop a wooden wall whilst they attempt to throw rotten tomatoes at him.

Here Greg copies a “Pumpkin Snap,” from House of 1000 Beers. It’s a beer cocktail consisting of: Southern Tier Pumking, Crabbies alcoholic ginger beer, spiced rum, and bitters with a rimmed beer goblet. (Coarse brown sugar, cinnamon, and ginger, if you please.)

Here Greg creates a “Kentucky Pumpkin Pie” using Kentucky Pumpkin Barrel Ale, Wild Turkey Spiced, Crabbies, and spiced’n’boozy not-so-simple syrup. (If you want the specific recipe, just ask. As a general note, these are all very similar to recent beer cocktails I posted on the Cocktails, etc. page.)

Here we meet two new gym characters. 1. Oxygen deprived Cro Magnon Sub Zero/Scorpion/Bane Heavyweight Champion of the Psych Ward. (Don’t look this motherfucker in the eyes…as they are void but for the apparent visions of murder and dismemberment.) 2. The pig-tailed age-ambiguous selfie-obsessed look-at-me stripper-in-training. (You really don’t want to look this one in the eyes either. But watch out for flying fitness bands. Oy.)

Here we meet Jenny Defreitas, who is not real. Well, there might be a Jenny Defreitas out there in the world. Likely hundreds. However, the Jenny Defreitas who has popped up on many a Facebook page of Shaler-graduate and Shaler-graduate-adjacent people, who inspired a memorial wall after having allegedly died in a factory fire in her knock-off cologne and sunglasses business, and who now is a real life person (…it’s my wife, people…); THAT Jenny Defretas is a fun little internal joke that somehow catfished more people than I could have imagined.

It is now clear how Ponzi schemes, rich Nigerian princes in need of your social security and bank account numbers, and actual catishing work. First, people (…for the most part. Yes, MOST part…) don’t actually read beyond headlines. Second, we are all, or at least a vast majority of us are, likely to accept anything from a person or people or outlet that we like or trust…regardless of their history of smartassery, asshattery, or other shenanigans and shades of bullshit.

One more time…Jenny Defreitas is not real. However, you should find her her on Facebook and also her memorial site. For a good laugh. Or not. Comedy and wit are a personal, subjective thing. It’s our cup of tea…it might not be yours. Give ‘er a shot though.

We end this whole thing with a lovely piece from the Decemberists from their release, “The Hazards of Love.”

Oh, and please use the floaty Amazon thing over there to the right and above. Yep, there in the corner. If you shop on Amazon and use THAT link, you’ll also support D2D and our endeavor to be more polished, professional, and purposeful. (Bug off, I like alliteration.)

-G

iron-throne

Internet Fairy – Curbside Coffee

Yesterday, I buried an Internet Fairy blurb for a cafe that deserves a positive missive all to itself.

So…once again…

I’d like to take a moment to give a shout-out to Curbside Coffee on Freeport Road in Blawnox. Here’s the low-down…honest to goodness some of Pittsburgh’s best sandwiches, soups, salads, and baked goods. You go, and if you don’t agree I’ll personally reimburse you the cost. Or not. But probably I will, because I can’t imagine anyone disagreeing. This place is an absolute hidden gem. Add to what I mentioned above a diverse tea selection, great coffee, espresso drinks, whole beans from some of Pittsburgh’s finest roasters, and smoothies that’ll likely leave you in disbelief that such nutrient-rich, whole-food, healthy beverages could possible taste so good.

The owner, Kylee Clements, as well as every last employee are sweeter than double-strength simple syrup and more positive than the nubby ends of 100 batteries, at least. Truly people, if you are in or near Blawnox, go. Also, the atmosphere is positive, bright and welcoming (precisely like the people)…so it can double as an itinerant man’s office away from the office.

It’s like “Cheers,” but with caffeine instead of beer. I walk in, assured that someone will greet me with a, “Hey Greg!” and a lovely follow-up question. If you don’t like places that exude professionalism, positivity, pride, personality, and purpose…this place is certainly not for you. If you are not a fan of creative and exceptional food at a super fair price, venture elsewhere. If, however, you’re looking for a community-embedded, neighborly vibe and stellar quality, quantity, and diversity…do yourself a favor and visit Curbside coffee.

It’s that good.

-G

P.S. I’ll also take this opportunity to remind you that if you shop for anything through Amazon, be it coffee related, gourmet chocolate, or even something obscure like a Chuck Woolery trading card, you should use these links. If you do, Amazon sends us a little thank you tip. So thank you!

chuck woolery
(We’ll be back in two and two)

What Happened to Whoopi Goldberg?

I’m sitting in a coffee shop, finishing up some business as well as a smoothie that tasted like Fruity Pebbles (…like, really accurately…) but, quite ironically, was full of greek yogurt, almond milk, greens, almond butter, and berry puree. Think about that…tastes like Fruity Pebbles but is a whole, healthy food with just five absolutely powerhouse, nutrient and probiotic rich ingredients. Yes Virginia, there are things in this world that are too good and entirely true.

Having written that, I’d like to take just a moment out of this post to give an internet fairy shout-out to Curbside Coffee on Freeport Road in Blawnox. Here’s the low-down…honest to goodness some of Pittsburgh’s best sandwiches, soups, salads, and baked goods. You go, and if you don’t agree I’ll personally reimburse you the cost. Or not. But probably I will, because I can’t imagine anyone disagreeing. This place is an absolute hidden gem. Add to what I mentioned above a diverse tea selection, great coffee, espresso drinks, and whole beans from some of Pittsburgh’s finest roasters. And the owner (Kylee) as well as the employees are sweeter than double-strength simple syrup and more positive than the nubby ends of 100 batteries, at least. Truly people, if you are in or near Blawnox, go. Also, the atmosphere is positive, bright and welcoming (precisely like the people)…so it can double as an itinerant man’s office away from the office.

Having written THAT, I’ll also remind you that you can use THIS LINK to shop on Amazon. If you use THIS LINK, Driven to Drink receives a small thank you from Amazon for sending you. So please use THIS LINK! Thanks.

Anyway, I’m getting my fall schedule together here…a television is just above and to the left of my head…and here is “The View.”

I have just one question, and I’m kind of serious about it.

What happened to Whoopi Goldberg?!

I remember her from my youth as a brilliant actress, a strong stand-up on all of the Comic Relief specials, and an effective advocate for all manner of diversity, equality, and justice.

What I’m hearing and looking at here is a blowhard bully with a dictator complex. It’s like Oprah Winfrey, Steve Harvey, Simon Cowell, Donald Trump, and half the casts of every reality show had a love (…more like hate…) child hell-bent on wreaking havoc on my brain. Everything about her is blustery and bombastic, alpha female at any cost. Yikes. I used to love her.

Really, what happened to Whoopi Goldberg?!!

And as if to place a confusing, high-energy, non sequitur exclamation point on this unfortunate realization, the freaking Kool Aid man just popped out of the wall. The audience went bonkers. Whoopi shouted, “It’s the Kool Aid man!!!” Raven-Symone cheered as if the actual Santa Clause just burst through the set with a bag full of expensive goodies just for her. The white lady looks apprehensive…keeps jerking her head around like an abused pet, unsure what to make of the shenanigans around her or if she’s going to get a kook aid bath.

One final time, what in thee sam-hell happened to Whoopi Goldberg?!!!

Here’s what I’m going to do:

1. Never watch “The View” again.

2. Avoid any interviews with Whoopi Goldberg.

3. Chant: “Comic Relief, Jumpin’ Jack Flash (…don’t judge me, it’s a fun movie…), Ghost, The Color Purple, Sister Act, Moms Mabley” for about an hour, and

4. Concuss myself to wash my brain of this unfortunate thing that I fear might not otherwise be able to be unexperienced.

But go to Curbside.

If “The View” is on, and if you have positive memories of Whoopi and/or Raven, ask them kindly but quickly to turn it off. Otherwise you will be scarred for the rest of your life or, like me, forced to bang your head against a hard surface until you forget.

-G

KoolAid_V2preview_display
(Oh Yeah!)

Of Cowards and Kings

I’ve alluded to my life-long animal anxiety and the self-created cognitive behavioral endeavor which has, in the current chapter of my life, delivered to me a menagerie of special needs pets including one anxious, crotchety, socially-schizophrenic cat with Autism and another skittish ball of what-the-fuck with a clear feline intellectual disability; one velcrowy Springer Spaniel with the frenetic energy and attention span of a bunch of toddlers with ADD and OCD after a pixie stick binge; a Russian tortoise, who reportedly carries around salmonella because…why-not; hermit crabs, which are like some horror-show debauchery between a naked crustacean and an arachnid; and a rodent. (You can say “gerbil” or “hamster,” but it’s a rodent…beady eyes, buck teeth, and, in the case of our particular four-legged furry friend, huge disconcerting balls. Can gerbil balls be disconcerting? Yes, my friends, yes they can.)

It all began with Kaylin, a beautiful Siberian Husky; Jaws, the mean-as-hell junkyard dog several houses down from us; and me, a clueless dumbass who made the stupid decision to whap Kaylin on the haunch as she and Jaws argued across the back yards. In a moment of pure canine reaction, she jumped on me and took out all of her frustration with the unattainable shit head across the way. As her deeper nature instructed, she found my neck and she locked. I don’t have distinct memories. I have sequential flashes: I’m screaming, kind-of hugging the dog. Richard is kicking her to get her off of me. Now I’m in a car with my Aunt and Uncle explaining how I felt her hot, searing (“seawing”) breath (“bweath”) upon my neck, like a “dwagon.” (It was sewious. I had a flair for dramatics from the start.) Multiple people are holding me down on a table in a bright room (hospital) so that I could get a shot. Notably, I remember the needle looking like a medieval long sword and the pain being tortuously excruciating. Here I am arriving home, asking, “Where’s Kaylin?” “She had to go away.” “Where?” “We brought her to a farm.” (I actually still don’t know what they did with her.) And that’s it. End of story.

And then there was King. My best friend, Jeff, and his family lived just down the street. They had a large German Shepherd. He was a total dick to me. Most of the time, he’d just chill. Most of the time, he’d let me pet him. But every once in a while, and at least once per visit, he’d nip me good. I never knew when the bite was coming. He seemed to enjoy this. He’d growl, I’d cower, he’d walk away, I’d relax, he’d mosey over…and…OUCH! I honestly think he chuckled under his foul breath each time I cowered in pain. For years, I walked around Jeff’s house with the vigilance of a crippled antelope on an African plain.

I carried that unhealthy, (sym)pathetic, flinching-abused-child demeanor with me like an imbalanced, overstuffed backpack.

Kaylin plus King equaled a young Greg absolutely terrified of any uncaged animal. If it moved and I couldn’t control or predict the situation, I was a stoic, terrified mess. Unless the animal moved toward me, then the stoicism turned to boy-shriek. Boy-shrieks seem to communicate to animals, “I am to be dominated and bitten. Go at it, then. Shut this little bastard up.”

In high school, I made a decision to not be afraid of animals. The journey required many years. I was still a fragile mess well into my 30’s. But dammit, I’d made my way almost to the promised land…though I hadn’t overcome the most menacing memory of my youth, King. (Somehow it’s King and not Kaylin. I never blamed the neck incident and the hot seawing dwagon bweath on Kaylin, but I’ve always believed King was a self-aware, intentional bully. And I discriminated the whole breed out of raw fear.) Until yesterday.

Yes, people…I have arrived.

Being a runner, and a neighborhood runner at that, I’ve met my share of excited off-leash dogs and I’ve contended with all of them calmly and with full confidence. Several kind people even helped me with my Husky aversion a few years back. (Help = having a well-trained and emotionally-stable Husky with whom they allowed me to interact.)

But the Shepherd.

Smart. Cunning. Alert. Loyal. Powerful.

And…

They seem to smell the fear and disdain on me.

Until yesterday.

I ran my typical route on Freeport Road. Four lanes…two north and two south, with two expansive shoulders. I hit my stride, had Marc Maron in my head, and out of a garage from across the road shot a large, muscular, really fucking quick Shepherd.

I could see in his movements and face and hear in his bark that he was not out-of-control nor was he communicating aggression. And instead of my panic-brain taking over, I settled. In fact, I stopped. (There is great emotional depth and insight here. This was the critical moment, and I recognized it even as it happened.)

I turned to him. I calmly smiled.

I stopped the traffic on my side with a hand and by stepping into traffic so he wouldn’t be hit, and his owner did the same on the other side.

I stood calm and still until the owner gained his attention and then got him back in the garage.

We exchanged a brief sorry/’salright, and I ran back…a smile pasted on my face the entire time.

Finally…a Shepherd was not a monster, but just a dog.

And so I’ll raise my glass to Kaylin. And German Shepherds everywhere.

But not King, he was an asshole.

-G

German-Shepherd-Dog-305x400
(King Loves Bitches)

Today We Learn Facts

Greetings Earthlings.

(At least, the dozen or so who read this and several who’ll listen. Greetings and salutations, indeed.)

Today we learn facts. Facts that we may not have wanted to learn but, upon further review, remain entirely unimportant and likely counterproductive to civilized society.

Nonetheless, today we learn facts.

1. There are Mormon porn sites, for boys and girls, and the storylines are like comedy erotica. “Comederotica”

2. Lenny Kravitz’s average-sized dick fell out in Stockholm.

3. There is a Body Modification Ezine, and one guy used poultry scissors to pierce his above-average-sized penis.

4. The motto of Pure Romance, which is a sex party company, is: Empower. Educate. Entertain.

5. Greg has a tenuous relationship with politically right-leaning libertarians and tea party die-hards.

6. Greg can harsh the fuck out of a good mellow.

7. Apparently, the “apparently kid” can still give us great joy and “prrnt-lee” save the day.

Today’s musical entertainment brought to you by: Lenny Kravitz, with “Fly Away.” Erykah Badu, with “Woo.” And again, R.J. Heid with, “I Can Read Your Mind.”

We present to you, “Today We Learn Facts.”

-G

facts-of-life-cast

For the Birds

I live in an area (Harrison Township) and near an Allegheny County park (Harrison Hills) which are like a United Colors of Benetton ad for birds…or perhaps the Breezewood of avian-turnpike travel routes. Or maybe it’s like Kennywood for these little fuckers. I don’t know, and these days I really don’t care. Point is, there is massive diversity and massive population within that diversity. We’ve seen and heard Pileated woodpeckers (huh-huh-huh-HUH-huh, huh-huh-huh-HUH-huh, it’s the Woody Woodpecker show),

woody
(I’m gonna keep you up all night with my incessant pecking!)

…bald eagles seem to have built their version of a Holiday Inn Express nearby,

eagle68cd834
(Lord, Jesus…look at the size of that thing! Yikes.)

…we just sheltered a mourning dove couple through their family-making ritual in our back porch fern,

Mourningdove1
(Pearl. Jen named her. It’s a zoo around here.)

Mourningdove2
(I don’t trust those beady eyes…and they likely didn’t trust my hipster hairdo and bird misavianthropy.)

Mourningdove3
(After all of the shit bestowed upon me, we’re now given two soon-to-be Camry kamakaze commandos.)

…and once a large, menacing, sharp-beaked, strong-taloned hawk of some sort sat puzzling the best way to transport Henry, our Russian Tortoise, from his outdoor pen as my wife attempted to shoo the creature away. Reportedly it looked at her, flipped her the dude (…that’s what birds call the middle finger. I think. The bird-of-prey abides…), and continued to case the joint. Birds. Lots and lots and lots of fucking birds.

The Dude
(Fuck off, dude.)

They have to shit somewhere, and they seem to have chosen my car.

Wait. Before you roll your eyes and call me an idiot, a hyperbolic drama-king too lazy to regularly wash his car who is inflating anecdote to the level of avian conspiracy…hear me out.
First, you’d be right about all of that. Usually. But not this time.

See, over the past year I’ve conducted a series of mini-studies. I’ll admit that my methods are not terribly scientific. A peer review process would last approximately 10 seconds before I was laughed out of the room. However, I’m not chasing sasquatch here. I have real evidence that these birds seem to prefer my car over any other car on my street.

Birdshit2
(Exhibit A, from today…it doesn’t seem like a lot, but it’s all black, and the black stuff is the truly nefarious product)

After a rough stretch last year which left the roof, hood, and trunk of my car approximately 50% shit-stained, I began to think. (Yeah, it took me a while. I never claimed to the be the sharpest tack in the bunch.) Immediately in front of my house are two trees, and under those trees are two wonderfully shaded spots. So my solution seemed easy, right? Don’t park under the trees, dumbass. Right. But riddle me this, smart guy/gal. When any other car parks in those two spots, at least when I observe them in the morning (…and believe me, I’ve been keeping close track, like a baseball-stat obsessed individual with an Autism Spectrum Disorder, for the past 12+ months…) these cars NEVER have the amount of shit that my car acquires over night.

Okay. So there are two immediately adjacent spots to park, my neighbors above and below. In the spot below, there are no trees, no wires, no things on which a feathered friend can perch and reign liquid paint-thinner upon all unsuspecting idiots below. (What the fuck are these birds eating, by the way? And how are their GI systems not dissolving while transporting the biological equivalent of that shit Walter White used to dissolve bodies? I do believe that if we could find a way to recreate and then weaponize bird shit, it might be a game changer. Everyone would wave a white flag…at which point we’d drop one more load of guano to both ruin the flag and any lingering thoughts of war in the brain of the waver.) The parking spot above has several crisscrossing wires and telephone pole sticky-outy thingies. When I park in that above spot, or when I park under the trees, Madea’s flappy family reuinion unloads upon my vehicle. Furthermore, they seem to NOT shit upon other cars in those three spots. When I park below, however, all is well for everyone. (So park there, dickhead.) I know, I know…but I can’t always get that spot. (So park further away.) Right, but why should I have to change my routine to accommodate the mercurial poo assault of asshole Bluejays. And Bluejays are assholes. Any of you who’ve encountered them know this. They’re not evil, uber-intelligent, plotting little shits like crows. But they’re assholes. I digress.

bluejay
(Beautiful. But a total dick.)

(But Greg) you say (We have encroached upon their land and thus must accept the undesired consequences of our unending need to consume, to take, and to covet.) Yeah, well fuck them. Just last week I stood on a stool, for leverage, used all the elbow grease I could muster, and I STILL couldn’t remove all of the little blackish shit-chunks now permanently atop my car like some avant garde fowl art installation.

Birdshit1
(Exhibit B. I’m parked “above” my home. A perfectly clean car under the trees and in front of my house is can be viewed through the shit-stain on my windshield)

Birdshit3
(Exhibit C. A white Civic, my “control” vehicle, parked under the front tree as I’m parked under the rear tree. The Civic is nearly spotless. The Camry? Not so much.)

I’ve worked myself into a lather about this. It’s getting on my wife’s nerves. “Here’s a solution. Go out, clear out the garage and park there.” Yep. I have a garage. Nope. There’s no room for a car right now. And nope, I did not take that sage advice. What did I do? I got the coveted shitless parking spot and I came up to my office to write. (Lazy fuck.) Yep. But if you’ve laughed here even once, then I feel accomplished enough to continue with my life, my dirty car, my cluttered garage, and my ever increasing disdain of all flying creatures.

Because physical labor on a Sunday, temperature at 91 degrees and humidity at 50%…

…is for the birds.

-G

Red Up My Fed Up

(My intention here is to illuminate perspective and encourage understanding and forgiveness for both “the teacher” and “the student,” particularly when both groups are grown-ass people with other jobs, families, interests, endeavors, and grown-ass-people responsibilities. Too often, we approach the world with an “us versus them” or an even more self-isolating “me against the world” attitude. We manufacture enemies and others and then lavish them with our righteousness and judgement. We = me…and perhaps we = you. Be sure, no matter, that we are all us…and we are all them…and we are the world, we are the children…whoa, what the fuck just happened there. You get my drift. I wrote this post the day after sitting through a guest lecture in a class I teach as an adjunct instructor.)

I sat, last night, as a student. At the end of a long, long day. I’d woken at 5, done a guest lecture at Pitt, completed several speech/language sessions, then had a guest speaker for my class at Duquesne. That class started at 5. Ended at 7:40. When I arrived home in the vicinity of 8:30 and recorded my mileage for the day, I needed three digits. I think Rodney Dangerfield said it best, “It was a rough one, I’ll tell ya.”

But for a brief time I was a student, and I gained an insight that I’ll not soon forget.

The guest speaker in my class was quite good. Dynamic. She lectured with passion, with prescriptive anecdotes, and she connected with the eleven twenty-somethings (…and one forty-year-old…) seated before her. She also brought hands-on materials, completed interactive demonstrations, and engaged us in several games that illuminated her points regarding augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) and assistive technology (AT) in school settings. I could not have asked for a more engaging, skilled, warm, informative, and creative leader.

But still, I was crawling out of my fucking skin. I couldn’t sit still. I couldn’t concentrate. I could barely keep my eyes open. You know when you’re driving in the middle of winter and you’re so exhausted that you need to open all the windows and allow the freezing temperatures with 60+ mph wind chill smack you in the face just to make it home? That’s where I was. I was simply done. I mustered every bit of my cognitive energy to just appear alert and remain still. (And what do you imagine my brain, in that state, was actually learning and processing?)

The night before I was super anxious. I’m always anxious when my gig is out of my control and/or when my schedule is dramatically different than usual. But that bifecta can drive me to the precipice of a panic attack. When one has a guest speaker, one has no control. And when one is a worrier, one worries. I worried that my students would not give the proper respect and attention to the speaker. I worried the speaker would not find parking. I worried that the class would run long. Or short. I worried that I was dressed too casually. Fuck you, Bobby McFerrin, I worry…even when I’m happy.

When I teach, I often sweat…moving around, gesturing like the emotional Italian Virgo American Sign Language user that I am, often doing stand-up comedy to engage as many students as I can at the same time. Some nod off. Some maintain a flat affect throughout. Some never look up. All of them have computers, tablets, and/or smart phones…and there is no doubt in my mind that all of them are not always taking notes or checking facts or following along when the keys are clacking. But with a guest speaker…I would just be sitting there worried about her, about them, overcompensating for any dips in energy or attention.

That anxiety dissipated as the speaker in my class began, because I was actually engaged.
And within an hour, at about 6 p.m., I started to fade. “Fade” is really not the perfect word.

Plummet. That’s more like it.

As I plummeted, a crowbar of empathy and insight pried open my brain a little more and punched me in the limbic region. Here I was, experiencing just one “long unpredictable day,” and I could barely hold on with an excellent lecturer. All of the people around me do this all the damn time. They get up early, they teach, they drive to town, struggle with parking, then go to class, and struggle through Penguins’ traffic and all manner of yinzer rabble rouser. Rinse, Santize, Wash, Repeat. Day in. Day out. I then thought about my wife. Jen obtained her Master’s degree while pregnant, working three jobs, and with a non-supportive husband. (Not me, smartasses.)

And fairly suddenly, I loved and appreciated these students around more than I had just 10 minutes previously. (And this is a quite good class. They tend to communicate, participate, and share reflections with me that are thorough, honest, insightful, and well-composed. They laugh at my jokes and they call me on my bullshit. I like them.) How do you, those of you who are going to school, working, and then tending to family and the day-to-day obstacles that are plentiful and inevitable, do it? How do you keep a smile on your face? How do you find words of kindness, moments of patience, and optimism for humanity? How do you not throat punch every passive aggressive jagoff and forehead-blast every unprofessional, dispassionate administrator with their monogrammed stapler? (Right…Swingline to the cranium. I know you’ve dreamed it. You’re not human if you haven’t.) But really…How the fuck do you stay awake?!

And what about our children, who may or may not have slept well the evening before and may or may not have eaten a sufficient breakfast? We force them to sit for hours, for fucking hours at a time receiving ear beating after ear beating. We take away their music, their recess, their physical fitness time, their flex or break periods, and we force them to repeat 5 days per week. I’ve clearly not yet explored the depth of the insight I received last night, and I’m not sure that I want to dig any deeper lest I stoke the fires of my systemic frustrations and societal pessimism.

But I can say this. I feel you. I understand. I’m sorry each time I judged you, laid my misanthropy on you, flew off the handle, or assumed anything beyond your present reality and attempts to maintain happiness and sanity.

Empathy is a dish best served unwittingly; most effectively experienced in situ. An unexpected and relentless blast of “Holy shit, NOW I get it,” because it’s happening to me and I can’t avoid it.

Take care, now. Be well.

-G

angry kid
(Why, I oughta…!)

mmm…Beer Cocktails

I’ve always felt quite suspect of beer cocktails. If I want a cocktail, I’ll have a cocktail…and if I want a beer, I’ll have a beer. No use mixing the two, right?

Survey Says?!

(EHHHHHHHHHH!!)

Wrong.

Just a few days back, inspired by a beer cocktail from the House of 1000 Beers in New Kensington, I made the following:

Picksburgh Punkin Pie
[Be careful, friends, this is delicious in a very dangerous way. Like remember the first amazing Long Island Iced Tea you ever had? And then after two you would be seeing not double, but quadruple? That. And yes, it’s Picksburgh. With an H. Don’t bug me, ya jagoffs.]

>> 1 bottle Blockhouse Brewing Pumpkin Ale, straight outta Latrobe (“LAY-trobe,” yinz guys.) (This beer is delicious and has a sweetness that no other Pumpkin Ale I’ve ever tried has achieved. Additionally, it’s 7% ABV, so big, but not huge.)
>> 1 ounce/shot Maggie’s Farm spiced rum or Wigle landlocked spiced…or really whatever your “go to” spiced rum happens to be. (I like to keep it in the ‘burgh, yinz know what I’m sayin’?!)
>> 1-2 dashes citrus or chocolate bitters (Pittsburgh = Wigle pomander orange or Wigle mole)
>> A splash, or more, of ginger beer (“Jamaica’s Finest” is a go-to. Made by? The Natrona [“NAY-trona” for locals] Bottling Company.)
>> Enough ice cubes to fill the vessel (I used a pint glass for this. Just go big. Or go home. Or if you’re already home, then the phrase kind-of falls apart. Go big or go somewhere that you’re not. Fuck it, use a big glass, will ya?!)

Then today, with only one beer remaining in my refrigerator and a hankering for another beer cocktail, I made another:

Maple J. Fox
[In my house it’s often like “Chopped,” but perhaps we’d call this competition, “Mixed.” I had what I had, and knowing that Alex P. Keaton is an Irish Canadian…well…there you have it. Note, this is a two-drink recipe. Or one big-ass mug, ya hosers. If you can’t handle the temperature, perhaps you might get oot of the kitchen, eh? Not to be rude or nothin’, I’m just sayin’, ya know?]

>> 1 can of Wexford Irish Cream Ale (Distribute this equally into two pint glasses. Let the head settle. That’s what she said.)
>> 1 ounce/shot Crown Royal Maple (This is a really affordable and lovely flavored whiskey. It has a mild sweetness and a fairly accurate maple flavor. Now, if you don’t have this, here’s an alternate option. 1 shot of whatever whiskey you have and a half shot of maple syrup. If you don’t have whiskey, what the hell are you doing? But really, you could use vodka with maple syrup too. I guess. Vodka…fire water…a flavorless hangover waiting to happen. But hey…you do you, boo.)
>> 1 dash chocolate bitters (If you don’t have chocolate bitters, you can use any bitters, but then also squeeze in like a teaspoon of chocolate syrup. Why? Because…chocolate syrup!)
>> A few good ice cubes (You can’t handle the truth.)
>> Fill to the top with premium ginger beer (I used “Barritt’s” for this one. Barritt’s, for those interested, when mixed with Gosling’s Black Seal Rum, bitters and lime, makes a “Dark and Stormy,” which is the national drink of Bermuda. It’s all kinds of delicious.)

So…there you have it. Two amazing beer cocktails. People, I mean it, a beer cocktail is an epiphany. Make them.

-G

HomerSimpson22

Truth?

Neurologically processed perception necessitates fiction.
(Anything you see, hear, feel, smell, or taste runs through your brain and thus becomes some version of reality. That is, fiction. A story based on actual events.)

All perception is relative.
(I can’t perceive through your brain, and neither can you through mine.)

All brains are biased.
(Each of us has unique exposures, experiences, interpretations, reactions, and emotional overlay.)

All observation is incomplete.
(None of us has ever processed and understood all of anything.)

What is real? What is me?

I perceive through several sensory channels, and my brain interprets, filters, consolidates, and makes understandable to me (a construct also created by the brain) that which is real.

You perceive through several sensory channels, and your brain interprets, filters, consolidates, and makes understandable to…you…that which is real.

Your perception is different than my perception.

If all that is real is me, how can all that is real be you?

If all that is me is real, how can all that is you be real?

Either all things are relative and we each have full access to reality…or we all have partial understanding of “Truth” or Reality at any given point. That is, there is one, unequivocal, actual Truth…but each of us has access to only bits and pieces of the ultimate picture.

Lower case truth…or upper case Truth?

Regardless of the nature of all things in actuality, it remains true that all perception is relative, all brains are biased, and all observation is incomplete.

So…is my brain compatible with understanding Truth? Or even truth? Is the human brain able to conceive, perceive, process, and understand…everything? Do we even have access?

If I have only this brain, in this body, for this life…then it seems imperative that I work through my anxieties, worries, judgements, and biases so that I can contemplate thoroughly, or meditate, upon the nature of reality. Not only that, but it seems equally important to explore the nuggets of Truth gleaned and recorded by brain’s past. To read, listen, and to experience art and science. And more and more, it seems imperative that I explore the possibilities of ‘entheogenic’ or ’empathogenic’ medicines. The combination of meditation, maturity (…which brings with it experience and knowledge…), and medicine seems to be the most powerful path toward opening one’s brain to more consistent glimpses and understanding of…Truth.

Seeking Truth…or perhaps sought by Truth and opening myself to being found.

Shall we?

-G

Thinker
(Thinker…or stinker?)