Happy Thanksgiving Rant! (2015)

Having recently (a.) spent time on four airplanes, (b.) attended a populous professional conference across two days of “standing room only” presentations, and now (c.) standing at the bar of my local coffee shop committing this rant to digital perpetuity, something has become abundantly clear to me.  Too many adults in public places where space is at a premium occupy the most expansive area conceivable including clearly demarcated boundaries intended for other human bodies.  This happens on public transportation as well; and movie theaters, mall food courts…really anywhere where humanity accumulates.

Even, as I learned on the aforementioned airplanes, when seats are assigned. (“Oh, hi.  We have seats 24a and b.”  She then rolls her eyes, tugs her suitcase-sized carry-on from my seat, and moves quietly…NOT to her assigned seat.  How do I know this?  Because she went through the same song-and-dance two additional times.  That’s three total!!  Each time making the unsuspecting, boarding-pass-wielding, just-trying-to-get-to-their-damn-seat-and-place-their-reasonably-sized-carry-on-in-a-nearby-overhead-bin passenger feel like the asshole.)

Even when it is clearly stated that one should place the largest carry-on in the overhead bin and then place the smallest carry-on under the seat just ahead.  (Nope. It’s like an anti-social reality-show competition to quickly shove every bag, purse, coat, and McDonald’s bag out of the way so that contestants…nay, passengers can immediately decline seat-backs for maximum personal comfort, set up a home office/snack-bar/entertainment center, then remove their shoes…thus forcing us other cattle in coach to inhale cushion farts, germs, stale air, chronic halitosis, odd-smelling food items AND foot funk for 3 hours.)

Even when multiple conference organizers beg attendees to not place bags and coats on seats and to sit physically next to other people near the center to allow the confused masses wandering the halls of village-sized convention centers passage without the need to perform stealthy American Ninja Warrior feats to land in a remote seat stacked with the detritus of defacto bag ladies. (I’m astounded at the not insignificant proportion of people who look surprised, often shocked and inconvenienced, when specifically asked to move their coats, bags, assets, and asses to an interior seat.)

Even when you look me in the eye as I stand at the coffee bar, then glance at your messenger bag and coat on the other seat at the otherwise ample table which is occupied with your computer, coffee, iPad, several books, phone, gloves, and whatever else you’ve decided will properly mark your territory as the alpha douche.

Really, what the fuck people?!  I realize that craft coffee isn’t cheap, that airplane seats are cramped and also over-priced, that an overfilled conference space can be off-putting, particularly after you’ve scraped together the costs of flight, transportation, incidentals, hotel, and registration.  However, I really don’t know how else to put it…what the fuck?!  What absent-minded professor raised you to give precisely zero fucks about any other human except the ones you deem worthy of fuck-giving?

(breathe in)

(pause)

(breathe out)

(repeat)

I generally have faith in humanity.

I specifically have no patience for blatant human-to-human inconsideration.

So hey, look up from your phone, your computer, your tablet, your book, and use the frontal lobe and integrated social-linguistic cortices which have granted us survival even though we’re a soft, slow, and weak species.

Take a breath.  Look around.  Yeah, there are people. Everywhere.  And your behaviors impact them.  You don’t have to give a fuck, but I encourage you to acknowledge and ever so briefly contemplate the fact that your attitudes and behaviors DO impact others.  It becomes exceedingly more challenging to remain aloofly selfish when one considers, even if it be for 5 seconds, the emotions and stories of the people immediately present. Or, look at it this way.  All of that negative shit that seems to pour on you, that bad luck, waking up on the wrong side of the bed every day…all of it.  You can change that.  Just as your individual behavior impacts others, the collective attitudes and decisions of those around you accumulate and impact you!  So…if I put negative out, I get amplified and multiplied negative in.  On the other hand…if I put positive out, I get amplified and multiplied positive in.  Here’s the thing, the outcome for ANY person making lots of consecutive decisions to smile, remain mindful among others, be kind and polite and nice, and take up less space…is a happier, healthier, even luckier person.  Shit will go your way more often.  You’ll get that occasional coffee or drink on the house.  More folks will wave you through that left turn you typically can’t make in traffic.  The parking authority officer might just stand and wait for you to put an extra buck in the meter.  A little windfall here or hitting on the football poll there.  Whether one approaches life selfishly or selflessly, the outcome is the exact same.  I promise.

So really, give a fuck.

Happy Fucksgiving!

-G

Oatmeal Joke
(From The Oatmeal, for whom I am quite thankful.)*

*The comic is his, the “joke” is mine.

Going Clear (Oh Dear!)

Chocolate hoarders unite!

We begin this podcast with a cocoa row, which you must pronounce as, “kuh-COW Rahw,” where “row” rhymes with “cow.”  If you say it with just the right emphasis and amount of drama, you’ll sound like a crow.  (Which doesn’t rhyme with “cow,” for those keeping track.)

We continue with several new, “What the frig were you smoking, Del Duca, when your brain decided to misinterpret those lyrics THIS way?!”

First, “The Chowder Song.”  That’s “Hello,” by Adele for the rest of the world.  If you want to crawl into my noggin for a moment, and you might not want to do that because it’s like a freaking psych ward in there often enough, the fun starts with the chorus.

Chowder from the out side (“theeyout…sighhhh-ee-igh-igh-duh”)
Chowder from the in side (“theeyin…sighhhh-ee-igh-igh-eed”)
And you know your chowder is the best that I’ve had,
And you know your chowder is the best that I’ve ever had.

The other?  I call it “The Activia Song.”  Unfortunately, I can’t even imagine what the actual song is or who sings it as I sit here and type.

Gimme a minute…

(Google searching lyrics that I don’t know.  That’s fun.)

GOT IT!

It’s “Budapest” by George Ezra.

My shit-for-brains-lyric-interpretation comes in at the tag after each of the mini-verses.

I’ve got: Oh-WHOAAAA-Oh…Activia.

Apparently it’s actually variations on “You, You, I’d give it all.”

There’s this Louie C.K. line that I love.  He utters it during a bit in which his 3-year-old child is arguing with him that Fig Newtons are actually called Pig Newtons. Here’s the link.  It’s fucking hilarious, all 10 minutes of the bit, particularly if you’ve ever dealt with toddlers.  It’s also not even remotely safe for work, so put on your headphones, and make sure you’re either alone or in an environment where people won’t give a shit if you guffaw maniacally.  Anyway, at one point he tells her, “Yeah, Pig Newtons. Fine. Go ahead. Good luck to you. Go through life, see what kind of job you can hold down with shit like that clanking around in your head.”

I feel that way about me sometimes.  Sometimes more than sometimes.

Hmm…

Yikes, this introduction to the podcast has entirely gotten away from me, hasn’t it?

Okay then.

The beers:

Jen.  It’s no surprise.  Lagunitas “Hop Stoopid.”
Greg. Lavery “The Devil’s Pumpkin.”

The topic:

The documentary, “Going Clear.”  Do you know it?  Have you seen it?  Read the book?  It’s a documentary about L. Ron Hubbard and Scientology.  It’s fascinating and horrifying and enlightening and ultimately illuminating.  Why?  Well, it’s easy to poke fun at a contemporary science fiction writer named Ron (…RON, for fuck’s sake…) who looks like a ginger-nested hinge-jawed toothy cenobite from the Hellraiser world who, somehow, takes that science fiction (…fact: Hubbard is the most prolific writer in history…) and creates a megolithic, secretive, cultish, scarily powerful church which accumulates wealth like John Travolta accumulates uncomfortable male masseuses, sues the pants off of the IRS, and continues to exist as a tax-free religious entity to this day.  Very easy, indeed. However, shift the entire milieu of Scientology several thousands, or even hundreds, of years in the past…and how bat-shittier is it than ANY religion?

The conclusion:

Greg wouldn’t eat Jesus.  (Really, I wouldn’t.  Just sayin’.)

The music you’ll hear during this episode includes:

  1. B-Boys In the Cut” by The Beastie Boys, because there’s no better energy with which to start a podcast.
  2. The Joy of Creating” By Doug E Fresh, because…well, it’s his song on the Scientology soundtrack.  (I’m not fucking around.  He is a scientologist, which is no secret, and he made this song for the soundtrack of the same name.  Look that shit up.  Hell, buy a copy with our Amazon banner.  Up there to the right of my animated head.  You know who else is on there?  Chick Corea.  Isaac Hays. Edgar Winter.  Carl Anderson.  Yeah, Judas Iscariot himself!!  I shit you not.)

So, without further tangent-taking, we present to you, “Going Clear (Oh Dear)”

Scientology

Driven to Gratitude (2015)

‘tis the season for expressing gratitude… giving thanks, as it were.

‘tis also the season for change…when green leaves put on one final show, blazing the warm colors of the upper spectrum in memoriam of another Summer passed before covering the damp earth in a brown, fragrant blanket for another year’s hibernation.

Reading through recent posts and scanning the D2D transformation over the past 12 months (…that’s right, I’ve been doing this precisely 1 year…), I can see very clear movements.  Seasons, if I might continue the analogy from above.  Those seasons have mirrored my internal barometer and the contexts, quite out of my control, in which my life has occurred.  Thinking about Driven to Drink in particular, my intention has always been to stare directly in the mirror and also constantly seek truth both within and without.  I hoped the journey would be self-improving and gently self-deprecating, illuminating my bullshit and baggage for easier processing…all the while remaining entertaining and, perhaps, helpful to you.  And I wanted the mood, ideally, to remain focused, but not overly intense…light, but not flippant.  I wanted to take the endeavor of writing and recording seriously without taking myself too seriously.  I learned, particularly if I desired to monetize this endeavor (…and I did…), that it was important to find a niche, a specific audience, and speak to them consistently, openly, and respectfully.  It all sounds good, but, as Andre 3000 quipped in Ms. Jackson, “You can plan a pretty picnic but you can’t predict the weather.”

So, as life presented us with consecutive obstacles, and the storm clouds gathered…I conceded that I couldn’t force anything and that I was willing to sacrifice metrics for the power of introspection and authenticity.  I realize that these posts have been fairly heavy recently. You’ve seen very few of those pure comedic rants; more self-improvement and soul-seeking.  But…that’s what it needed to be.  There were also periods of amateur mixology, and I’m quite proud of those recipes, posts, and podcasts.  Of course, the booze always played a role in the podcasts.

A time for absurdity.  A time for release.  A time to rant.  A time to make peace.  A time to reveal, and to introspect.  A time for soul and for intellect.  But always honest.  And often buzzed.

So…this year I’m thankful for valleys, the bullshit, the raining AND the pouring.  I’m thankful for having been humbled and challenged but still loved and strengthened.

I’m thankful that my wife, Jen, left her stable position in our school district to become self-employed.  I’m glad that we focused fairly narrowly on Plan A and didn’t institute a Plan B.  I’m also extremely proud of her.

I’m thankful that she had a seizure while at the dentist’s office, which then set off a series of events causing us to lose money, sleep, and anxiety-driven minutes of life; and causing her to lose her license just as she built her client-base, thus immediately removing approximately half of her earning potential.  I’m further thankful that the Pennsylvania Department of Motor Vehicles makes the process of getting one’s license re-instated like being blindfolded then forced to thread four tiny needles consecutively with frayed twine.  You see, we both tend toward worry, anxiety and clinging proudly to control and righteousness.  This particular journey, which has yet to conclude, relentlessly bombarded us with lessons about health, true happiness, humility, gratitude, and how to proceed confidently in life with neither false control nor acquired helplessness.

I’m thankful that we now have to cover office rent, personal health insurance, and a home mortgage that recently rose 20% because of a local reassessment and the fact that our loan holder made several escrow-related mistakes.  You see, we haven’t faced any serious financial challenge since marrying in 2008.  That’s 7+ years of hard work and a healthy dose of good luck.  In many ways, yes, luck.  You see, we also hadn’t given any consideration to planning for the likelihood of a monetary downturn nor had we made any serious, consistent effort to reduce high-interest debts.  All of this has changed.  Also, we’ve become tighter, more connected, more kind and understanding, more loving as a family.  While crass and cliché, it’s also a fact that when the shit hits the fan, we learn quite a bit about ourselves and our relationships with those nearest and dearest.

I’m thankful that Jen’s seizure turned out to be fairly benign and held no additional warnings.  From the wall, a great fall…though no breakage.  Thankfully, she learned quite a bit about her history, her heart, her brain, her overall health, and the kindness and competency of the disparate medical professionals charged with putting Humpty back together again…and getting her damn license back so mama can bring home the bacon! (I must have breakfast on the brain.)  Thankfully, we are a stronger, more loving and confident couple today.

I’m thankful that one of my oldest friend’s, David, passed of a heart attack at the age of 40.  He would have been 41 in December.  It was a cruel but ultimately effective reminder of the importance of living as fully as possible in the present, extending unconditional love and kindness whenever and wherever possible, and not taking tomorrow…hell, even the next inhalation for granted.

I’m thankful for the two other funerals I attended this year, both also deaths that came too soon for the people left behind.  I hadn’t attended a funeral, hadn’t lost even an acquaintance in approximately 25 years.  I walked the earth in fear, sometimes crippling fear, of my mortality.  (When you strip us all down to our humble, organic cores, who doesn’t?)  This year, I’ve stared mortality in the face and I’ve processed my own.  Thankfully, I’m closer to making peace with death…and the fact that all of us, from the moment of conception, are making our ways toward completion in his human form.  Thankfully, I’m surrounded by all of you.  Thankfully, I’m a few steps closer toward becoming fully that which God, karma, the universe, or simply life desires and permits.

And last but certainly not least, I’m thankful for you, the person reading this and perhaps gaining some personal insight, perhaps chuckling to yourself, perhaps seeing the world through another perspective, but ultimately…just being here with me.

May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face;
the rains fall soft upon your fields and until we meet again,
may God hold you in the palm of His hand.

-G

grateful

David Copperfield’s Secret: (un)Revealed

Today, ladies and gentlemen, is the one-year anniversary of Driven to Drink.

(one-person golf-clap applause-break)

Precisely one year ago, “A Brussels Sprouts’ Stalk is a Cruel, Cruel, Mistress” was released, and fifty-two episodes later we’ve progressively arrived somewhere much closer to where we’d like to be than where we were even last week. With the equipment and software we have, we can bring you a consistently audible, acoustically leveled, and fairly professionally sounding product. We’ve found our voices, our cadence, and a way to be organized and focused but not so structured that the authenticity and conversational-tone we desire is compromised. Boil it all down to the rock-crystal structure…and we’re happy with what we’ve become and are still becoming. Also, we’re happy and deeply grateful that you’ve decided to journey with us. Thank you.

Now, on with the show!

The Beers:

Jen – Lagunitas Hop Stoopid. No surprises here. When we have relatively little money and don’t want to take chances, we bring home our IPA “go to.” Hell, even when we have more than enough money, we often buy lots and lots of Hop Stoopid.

Greg – Southern Tier Mokah (22oz.), then Wigle Walkabout 4-grain whiskey brought to proof with apple cider, then Larceny. You can imagine how slurry Greg becomes, and you might still underestimate.

The topics:

  1. Last night, Jen had her first Noddy Toddy. I used to call it a TheraToddy, but Jen uttered, “Noddy Toddy,” and it was clear that THIS was the true name. It’s easy people: Make a cup of nighttime TheraFlu as you might normally. Add a tablespoon or two of honey, squeeze in a half lemon, add an ounce or two of whiskey. Here’s the deal, D2Dreeps, if you want to sleep and breathe through your nose and fear you’ll have neither given the state of your head and upper respiratory system, this will give you both. I promise.
  2. Last night, we saw the incomparable Bill Burr. Furthermore, the hilarious Jason Lawhead, Paul Virzi, and Joe Bartnick. Holy shit. Greg’s jaw and abs hurt from the minute Burr opened his mouth to the minute the quartet took a bow. Really, Burr is on our Mt. Rushmore of comics…and you should seriously consider him for yours. He’s got specials on Netflix. Watch them. Billy absolutely eviscerated a heckler who simply wouldn’t quite shouting out the phrase, “Swine Flu!” At first he incorporated her brilliantly. The second time, he laid in a bit further with a clear undercurrent of, “Okay lady, leave it be.” But the third time, he riffed on her for like 5 minutes. And she shut up. He also picked up on a man in the front row wearing a Tom Brady Jersey. (Billy Sizzle Tit’s a Boston Boy, what with his cah in Hahvid Squayuh and clam chowduh, fuh feck’s sake.) The crowd booed. “Okay,” I’m paraphrasing, “I’ll let that one go, but if you boo again I can’t promise what’ll happen.” (Booooo!) And he riffed for 5 minutes on Brady, the Pats, cheating in general, the Steelers not-at-all-squeaky-clean past, all the way back to the original 4 championships. Dude was amazing.
  3. Our collective comedy histories. Who have you seen? Who do you wish you had seen? Who would pay extra money to see?
  4. Jen was vanished by David Copperfield in Vegas and absolutely will take the secret of that illusion to her grave. Jen loves him, and will be buried in said grave with the 8×10 signed headshot of Mr. Copperfield that she received after having been vanished. Indeed, it’s currently hanging on our living room wall. The big wall. It’s the only thing on that wall which all entering the house see first.  Squinting a bit, like, “Hey…is that…uh…David Copperfield?”  Yes.  Yes it is.
  5. David Blaine is an actual wizard, at least according to Jen and Maddy. Talk amongst yourselves.

That’s about it D2Dreeps, except for the music.  “Black Magic Woman/Gypsy Queen” by Santana…off of Abraxas, which has that album cover that offered a young Gregory Del Duca his first erection.  (Explained more in this post: Middle School Erections.  It’s a fun read, and not nearly as risqué as the title would suggest.)

We present to you, “David Copperfield’s Secret: (un)Revealed.”

David Copperfield
(Look at that Punim!)

Why does #BlackLivesMatter…matter to me?

Last week, I processed an interaction with a young man and asked myself, “What does #BlackLivesMatter mean to me?”  Immediately on the heels of that, several additional experiences in and around my home caused me to think deeply about this question again.

For those who’ve kept up with this now year-old endeavor, you know that my biological father married a Black woman, Angie, and I spent considerable, overwhelmingly positive time with her, her family (four children and various cousins, aunts, and uncles), and the surrounding Black communities in the subsidized apartment blocks where Angie lived.  (Sure, I got pushed down a hill once by an aspiring doo-wop group.  But those kids were just dicks.  And I wasn’t very good at reading social cues.)

Perhaps you also know that my step-daughter is biracial.  And extremely social.  And her substantial community of friends, who often arrive at my doorstep, hang in my garage, and find my front door always open to them, includes all shades of pigment.

So, why does #BlackLivesMatter matter?  Not only the meme but the larger contexts, histories, and experiences informing the movement, the counter-movements (e.g. #AllLivesMatter, #BlueLivesMatter), and the related media chatter.

Here are a few personal anecdotes that may or may not reflect your experience or the reality surrounding you:

  1. When President Obama was initially elected, multiple members of my immediate community, all white, stocked up on ammunition. Indeed, there was a national ammunition shortage as his inevitable election “loomed” for many.
  2. Around the same time, memes began making the round indicating how the election of Barack Hussein Obama was ushering in Armageddon. That Mr. Obama was, in fact, the anti-Christ.  These memes showed up on the phones, email accounts, and Facebook pages of family and friends.
  3. I’ve heard the word “nigger” uttered more times in the past 10 years than I ever did in my Grandparents’ homes…one with a sassy white woman raised in the early-to-mid 1900’s in rural Georgia and the other a pair of Catholic Italians living in the highest density Italian-American section of Pittsburgh as it made its transition to predominantly Black.

I’m not sure where you live, but I live in a racially and socio-economically diverse “community” that is less a melting pot and more a collection of little homogenous zones, set apart by income and skin color, that happen to feed into one school district.  And while there are multiple areas that are extremely poor and one or two neighborhoods that are extremely rich, relative to the median income and home values, much of my zip code is middle-to-lower class…only because of extended credit and multiple full-time wage earners.  We are the new “middle class,” treading the waters of poverty without savings or security.

My street and the community in which it exists are nearly 100% white.

Through jogging, dog-walking, snow-shoveling, holidays, yard sales, block-parties, and the relationships of our children, I’ve come to know, hear, and experience much of the not-insignificant radius around my home.  And there is no question that I would not want to be Black around here.

There’s a certain young man who lives nearby who I like quite a bit.  Malik.  Malik, as you might have guessed by his name alone, is Black.  Malik is handsome, tall and athletic, quiet with sensitive eyes.  He’s generally understated, though he takes a leadership role among his peers when given the opportunity.  He seems to have a chip on his shoulder already.  He’s 12.  (You’ll recall from part 1 of this series that Nadim, at the age of 4, has a boulder-sized chip on his narrow shoulders.)

Very recently I observed a grown man, another father in our community, a supposed leader as well (i.e. football coach) communicate with Malik.  His tone was condescending, accusatory, and clipped.  Malik gritted through his answers.  I thought, “Is this how Black males are treated by authority figures, by men and women who are supposed to protect and encourage them, all the time…most of the time…hell, even consistently some of the time?”  I realize that my observation, this anecdote, is a sample size of 1.  However, given all that I know, all that I’ve seen, all that I’ve read…the question remains.  And if this is generally how Black boys, Black teens, Black men are treated (and no, I’m not excluding females for any reason other than my focus happens to be where it is), then how is it that they’re supposed to react to authority?  If I knew that I would generally enter a situation mistrusted, disrespected, and/or devalued…if you knew the same, how would your general demeanor shift?  Would you walk with a chip on your shoulder?  Would you respect the authority figures around you?  Would you open yourself to judgement, ridicule, dehumanization?

Really, put yourself in another pair of shoes for just a minute.

Watching that interaction between a grown white man and a young Black boy put a stamp of authenticity on all that I know and believe.

I’ll never know what it’s like to be a Black male.  And I don’t want to.  It’s a constant struggle, an uphill battle, a seemingly impossible endeavor to become an included, equal, respected, understood member of a society that STILL won’t apologize or admit that anything was ever awry in the first place.

Malik is a good person.  But Malik, like all of us, has a breaking point.  And if he continues to receive the kinds of inputs that I observed, he doesn’t have a chance.  Not if he sticks around here.  (Apparently his family moved him into our community to give him a shot.  How about that for a stone-cold kick in the face?!)

So I’ll stand up for Malik whenever I can.  And I’ll communicate with him honestly and like the human he is.  I’ll pour as much love, kindness, and respect into his head as I can manage.  But I have to tell you…right about now it feels like spitting in the ocean.

Seeing my step-daughter and her friends interact with a variety of other, quite diverse, children; communicating with twenty-somethings, and most thirty-somethings, across my life, all gives me hope and allows me to maintain my faith in humanity and our ability to grow towards a species more advanced and connected.  I do think the upcoming generations can, nay…WILL lead us to a point where we can say, “All lives matter,” and mean it because our actions reflect the words rather than betray them.

So yes, all lives matter.  Of course they do.

But we can’t dehumanize another generation of differently-hued humans simply given our collective amnesia and unwillingness to accept responsibility for the behavior of our ancestors, brothers and sisters.

-G

Buddha-Fractal-1
(Click Buddha for source)

Welcome to the Jungle

Welcome back for another post and podcast. We love having you back…or, if this is your first time, welcome to the shit show!

Dip that chocolate generously in the Jif Jar and don’t look back. At least, that’s how Jen sees things.

She also now has such a finicky palate from so many squares of exceptional European hand-crafted chocolates that she had the audacity (“thee au…DA…city”) to compare Lindt milk chocolate to Palmer’s chocolatey-flavored hydrogenated corn-based quick drying candy clay. And Greg has the meatballs to let loose with an improvised Italian-American accent that starts shittily, goes all Kevin Costner as Robin Hood (…what the fuck IS that accent?!…), then leans Steve Carell as Gru in Despicable Me, which is a boorish, unoriginal, albeit consistent (…fuck you very much, Mr. Costner…) Russian accent. But hell, it made Jen laugh, and really that’s all that matters.

Anyway, the beers.

Jen: Lagunitas Hop Stoopid, which has become our absolute “go to” IPA. It’s the most fragrant beer we’ve ever had the pleasure to run our noses by. And it’s generally as fresh, vibrant, bright, citrusy, and crisp on the palate as Richard Simmons at a pride parade. It’s amazing. And…it’s cheap. Like, under $5 for a 22 ounce bomber cheap.

Greg: Sam Smith’s organic chocolate stout. Thick, black, perfectly roasted malt, with a touch of chocolaty sweetness…and absolutely none of the metallic bitterness that creeps into so, so many stouts and porters. Dee-lish. Dee-light. The groove definitely is in the heart.

Which brings us to the topic: Fuck our cats.

I know, I know…pretty harsh language for such seemingly benign creatures.

However, if you are a regular listener and reader, you know a few things:

1. Our cats are assholes, but not just assholes.

2. Emmy is a tortoise shell tabby, which only explains the assholery, with Autism, PTSD, sensory processing challenges, Pica, and inflammatory bowel disease. Yes, all of that.  Really.  And no, I’m not being dramatic or hyperbolic.

3. Lizzy is a poof-ball tuxedo cat with social anxiety, Pica, and an intellectual disability from being born into a bad situation and then removed from her Mother and siblings well before she learned how to be a functioning feline in society.

“What’s Pica?” you ask. Oh, you can look it up, but basically it’s when an animal eats non-food items. In Lizzy’s case, it’s rubber and ribbon and plastic. Ever have to pull an undigested rubber band out of a confused, clueless, and uncomfortable cat’s anus…then have it snap shit out and onto your face when it finally comes loose? Fun times. And Emmy enjoys licking dirty blinds and heating vents. The sound of a cat’s sandpapery tongue on a metallic, hollow, echoic vent grate is…well, grating, to say the least.

I’ll let you listen, but to make the longer story short…we tried to shift the cats to a raw meat diet, for their health and to respect the fact that they are, technically, carnivores. But because these cats are less carnivore and more psych ward, that went about as well you’d expect. So please have a listen, because we’re sure these cats are going live long enough to put us in the actual psych ward.

Given the title of the post and podcast, it’s no great secret what piece of music you’ll be hearing. However, here’s a lovely link to the final song. It’s quite awesome.

We present to you, “Welcome to the Jungle.”

grumpy

What Does #BlackLivesMatter Mean to Me?

I guided a five year old through a monumental emotional breakdown today.  I’m neither patting myself on the back nor am I fishing for compliments.  I’m also not judging this young man, his family, his educators, or the contexts that propelled him to verbal and physical violence, that caused him to shout “I hate you” and throw wooden blocks at my face just before clinging to me like a, well…like a scared and confused child, dampening my left shoulder with hot tears, mucous, and saliva.  What happened…happened, and I needed to remain in the present moment and exude nothing but calm, safety, acknowledgement, understanding, and love to him.  But once everyone was gone and I was left alone in a classroom among blocks and chairs and a strong ray of sunlight peeking through a partially closed blind, I laid on my back and I cried.  The impact came in consecutive emotional tidal waves that I hadn’t expected but couldn’t ignore.

The first wave was immediate and personal.  Simply, it’s impossible to support a human in crisis and not absorb at least some of that psychic energy.  I tend to absorb a lot.

The second wave was more complex and general.  It carried the overwhelming context of the historically oppressed and often discarded offspring of former slaves and my predominantly lighter-skinned brethren who have gained vast wealth and power on the backs of said offspring.

You see, Nadim is black.  And not only that, his skin is dark.  Nadim is quite obviously, undeniably black.  He is strikingly handsome, yet his eyes contain pain, sorrow, and deep anger.  He is smart.  Hyper-aware.  He is intimidating to many professionals.  He desperately needs to control his environment, particularly because he has so little control of everything.  He wants attention, but he doesn’t want unwanted attention, and he’s not quite yet able to communicate the difference between the two.  He’s probably contending with something neuro-chemically and environmentally that will eventually require emotional supports.  His mom is afraid, and sad, and angry.  Quite like Nadim.  She’s lost, yet she doesn’t want her black son to have any additional labels, diagnoses, or societal scarlet letters that will further cast him in a vulnerable spotlight or lower his ceiling any further than his skin color, gender, emotional baggage, and socioeconomic reality already have.

And just what the fuck do I know about all of this?

I know I held Nadim today.  I know I provided a sounding board for his desperation, his terror, his anger, his sadness, his confusion.  I know all of that psychic energy didn’t just bounced off of me.  Whatever love I transferred to him was immediately replaced with his emotional maelstrom.

I know I spoke at length with Nadim’s anxious, worried Mother today.  I remained present with her and I actively listened to her.

I know what I’ve read, what I’ve seen, what I’ve experienced, what I’ve heard, and all to which I’ve opened myself.

I know that I’m a human, and I can find no more authentic, no more soul-affirming and purposeful endeavor than to connect with and love other humans.

I also know that Nadim is more likely to end up in jail, the hospital, or the morgue than me, my children, or most of my friend’s children because of the darkness of his skin.

I.

Know.

That.

I also can sense that fear in his Mother’s eyes.  Through social media, friendships, and professional interactions, I’ve heard those fears from other caregivers with black children.  My Mother never had to deal with that particular fear.

I’m not sure I can contain my sorrow.  But I need to.

I’m not sure I can do anything about Nadim’s fate.  But I want to.

I’m not sure I can shout loud enough.  But I have to.

Black lives matter.

Don’t take that personally.  Don’t tell me that all lives matter.  You’re right, they do.  But, it’s not about you, and it’s not about the larger truth.  Not yet.  But I certainly pray we can get there.

We must focus our energies where the need is greatest.

If your child required some physical or academic supports to participate in school and society, to find independence, self-worth, and happiness…would you accept any person telling you, “No.  All of our children matter.  The system is by and large working for the majority, so there’s really no reason to focus on yours,” or would you fight to ensure that the system focuses its energies where the need is greatest?

We must all “imagine it was our children.”

We must all, at the very least, contemplate that.

Because ultimately, we’re all really the same…all hurtling through space on this human-race-hospitable rock.  All children are my children, your children, our children.  One human race.  Literally…that’s not hippy dippy liberal bullshit.  It’s fucking reality.

There can be no more us and them.

It’s all us…or we’re truly fucked.

-G

Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere

Now That’s What I Call Poop Music!

I live with a super social twelve-year-old.  Our home is conveniently located within biking and walking distance to a vast majority of her friends.  Therefore, I interact with dozens, seemingly hundreds, of middle-schoolers on the reg.  That means “regularly.”  Not only do I hear, and apparently absorb (…totes…) their language, but I also hear, and often abhor, their music.  At times, I’m tempted to let something much like this slip from my mouth, “Music is horrible today.”

Guess what, though?

It’s not true.

What I’d really be saying is, “When I was a kid…our shitty pop music was less shitty than this generation’s shitty pop music.”  But see, shitty pop music is shitty pop music is shitty pop music.  And also, all art is relative, and personal, and wrought with nostalgic, emotional overlay.

I realized this as Jen played, “Hit the Quan” for me.  If you stream the podcast just below this post, you can hear both the song and the insights.

For those of you who’ll just read, and to assure myself that, indeed, every decade’s shitty pop…let’s call it Poop Music, is merely soon-to-be-dated Poop, I did some research.  I use the term “research” quite loosely.  What I really did was look at the “List of Billboard Top 100 chart achievements by decade” on Wikipedia, within which I found the top songs of each decade back to 1958.  That’s right, 1958.  People, Wikipedia is absolutely wonderful for many things.  Not serious academic research, and not as a solitary source.  Don’t dismiss it out of hand just because it’s crowd-sourced.  While it only takes one dick to ruin something, the crowd generally trumps the dick.  However, also realize that the community created a 1958 – 1969 “decade” because, I dunno, the dick won there.

So, for any of you who’ve claimed, in your best crotchety old-man/old-woman demeanor, “Music ain’t like it used to be,” feast your eyes on these lists.  (And hell, link through to the videos to feast your ears as well!)  Keep in mind, there are absolute gems of pop perfection in each decade…and there are heaping mounds of steaming shit as well.  All the way back to the decade that began in, uh…1958.  I won’t try to convince you which songs here are genius, which are formulaic, which are immediately forgetful, unforgettable, and which are vomit-worthy.  I only ask you to keep track of your reactions as you travel back…and be completely honest with yourself.

Because a turd by any other name would smell as putrid.

Here goes:

2010’s – “Songs,” and artists (by total weeks at number one)

Uptown Funk,” Mark Ronson featuring Bruno mars (14)
Blurred Lines,”* Robin Thicke featuring T.I. and Pharrell (12)
*No-boobies version**
**If you like boobies, and who doesn’t like boobies (?!),  just google search: blurred lines unrated

See You Again,” Wiz Khalifa featuring Charlie Puth (12)
We Found Love,” Rihanna featuring Calvin Harris (10)
Happy,” Pharrell Williams (10)
Tik Tok,” Kesha (9)
Call Me Maybe,” Carly Rae Jepson (9)
One More Night,” Maroon 5 (9)
Royals,” Lorde (9)
Somebody That I Used to Know,” Gotye featuring Kimbra (8)
All About That Bass,” Meghan Trainor (8)

2000’s – “Songs,” and artists (by total weeks at number one)

We Belong Together,” Maria Carey (14)
“I Gotta Feeling,” The Black Eyed Peas (14)
Lose Yourself,” Eminem (12)
Yeah!,” Usher featuring Lil John and Ludacris (12)
Boom Boom Pow,” The Black Eyed Peas (12)
Independent Woman,” Destiny’s Child (11)
Irreplaceable,” Beyonce (10)
Low,” Flo Rida featuring T-Pain (10)
Maria Maria,” Santana featuring The Product G&B  (10)
Dilemma,” Nelly featuring Kelly Rowland (10)
Foolish,” Ashanti (10)
Gold Digger,” Kanye West featuring Jamie Fox (10)

1990’s – “Songs,” and artists (by total weeks at number one)

One Sweet Day,” Mariah Carey and Boyz II Men (16)
I Will Always Love You,” Whitney Houston (14)
I’ll Make Love to You,” Boyz II Men (14)
Candle in the Wind ‘97/Something About the Way You Look Tonight,” Elton John (14)
Macarena,” Los Del Rio (14)
End of the Road,” Boyz II Men (13)
The Boy is Mine,” Brandy and Monica (13)
Smooth,” Santana featuring Rob Thomas (12)
Un-Break My Heart,” Toni Braxton (11)
I Swear,” All-4-One (11)
I’ll Be Missing You,” Puff Daddy and Faith Evans featuring 112 (11)

1980’s – “Songs,” and artists (by total weeks at number one)

Physical,” Olivia Newton-John (10)**
**I never realized how gay this video is, literally and in 80’s vernacular.
Bette Davis Eyes,” Kim Carnes (9)
Endless Love,” Diana Ross and Lionel Richie (9)
Every Breath You Take,” The Poice (8)
I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll,”** Joan Jett and the Blackhearts (7)
**I also love Rocky Road
Ebony and Ivory,”** Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder (7)
**this
Billie Jean,” Michael Jackson (7)
Call Me,” Blondie (6)
Lady,” Kenny Rogers (6)
Centerfold,” The J. Geils Band (6)
Eye of the Tiger,” Survivor (6)
Flashdance…What a Feeling,” Irene Cara (6)
Say, Say, Say,” Paul McCartney and Michael Jackson (6)
Like a Virgin,” Madonna (6)

1970’s – “Songs,” and artists (by total weeks at number one)

You Light Up My Life,” Debby Boone (10)
Night Fever,” Bee Gees (8)
Tonight’s the Night (Gonna Be Alright),” Rod Stewart (8)
Shadow Dancing,” Andy Gibb (7)
Bridge over Troubled Water,” Simon & Garfunkle (6)
Joy to the World,” Three Dog Night (6)
The First Time Ever I saw Your Face,” Roberta Flack (6)
Alone Again (Naturally),” Gilbert O’Sullivan (6)
Le Freak,”Chic (6)
My Sharona,” The Knack (6)

(NOTE: For as much shit as the 70’s get, I’m actually quite impressed with these 10 tunes.  Also, I kind of like the unlikely and glorious collision of punk, soul, kink, and the gay community called Disco.)

1958 – 1969 – “Songs,” and artists (by total weeks at number one)

Mack the Knife,” Bobby Darin (9)
Theme from a Summer Place,” Percy Faith (9)
Hey Jude,” The Beatles (9)
Tossin’ and Turnin’,” Bobby Lewis (7)
I want to Hold Your Hand,” The Beatles (7)
I’m a Believer,” The Monkees (7)
I Heard It Through the Grapevine,” Marvin Gaye (7)
It’s All in the Game,” Tommy Edwards (6)
The Battle of New Orleans,” Johnny Horton (6)
Are You Lonesome Tonight?” Elvis Presley (6)
Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In,” The 5th Dimension (6)
In the Year 2525,” Zager and Evans (6)

So…maybe I’ve convinced you, or maybe you’re now doubling down on the assertion that today’s popular music is considerably worse than yesterday’s.  In either case, we present to you, “Now That’s What I Call Poop Music!”

Oh…and at the end?  “Paid In Full (7 Minutes of Madness Remix).”  Pump up the volume, pump up the volume, chkuh-chk-chk-chk Pump that bass!

 

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