Wednesday, November 11, 2015

The Pumpkin Spiced Creamer. A Story Of Growth...

I've never been a huge risk taker.

When I was younger, I used to think I was doing crazy shit but in reality it didn't qualify as anything close to certifiable.

I was doing what I now like to refer to as, "Long Island Jewish kid crazy" types of things.

Long Island Jewish kids don't bite the heads off of bats, ride Harleys or drink moonshine from a jug. We don't snort bath salts, hang out in  brothels or get tattoos of screaming eagles.

When Long Island Jewish kids rage we do stuff like play tackle football without pads, drink Rumple Minze from shot glasses stenciled with Greek letters and sometimes we would even borrow our older cousin Steven's fake ID.

But even that was a long time ago.

When my oldest daughter was born, I started to dwell on my own mortality and the fragility of life.

I would look at her and thank God for her 10 tiny fingers and her 10 tiny toes. When she would fall asleep on my chest, I would get lost in the absolute miracle of her fluttering heart beat.

After awhile I became hyper aware of my choices and all of the consequences that could possibly rip from me all of these gifts I had been blessed with.

I adopted the motto, "I don't do anything that might kill me."

Whenever a moment of adventure would present itself, I would jokingly offer up my new found philosophy. It became an excuse I used to pass on a lot of cool opportunities.

That meant no more tackle football without pads because I might break my neck, no more roller coasters because I might have a mini-stroke and no more white water rafting because I might hit my head on a rock and drown and so on and so forth.

But this was all bullshit as it turns out.

I wasn't being smart. In reality, I was living in fear.

When you live in fear, you relinquish any shot you have of growing, both mentally and spiritually.

The real tragedy of it all was that by turning my back on growth, I was setting a terrible example for my kids.

I certainly didn't want my kids to think of me as their Dad, aka the big pussy who won't go on rollercoasters with them because he thinks he's going to have a mini-stroke.

So here I am, 44 years old, taking baby steps towards growth for myself and for my kids.

Today I walked into 7-11 for my morning coffee and I noticed the Pumpkin Spiced Creamer sitting there, whispering in its little creamer voice, "growth. growth. growth." I reached for the creamer, tossed my fear aside and poured a healthy dose into my cup.

"Wait a second." you say.  "Where is the risk in that?"

I am lactose intolerant.

Baby steps.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Inspiration Is Like A Laxative...

I recently read somewhere, that you shouldn't wait to be inspired to do but rather do to become inspired.

Translation: Get off your punk ass and make something of yourself bitch!

That's some pretty heavy balls out and go for it type shit. 

But it doesn't always work like that, now does it?

At least not for me anyway.

For the better part of my life I've waited for inspiration to find me

I should really get back into shape but maybe I'll just wait until I split my skinny jeans.

I should really play my keyboard more but I'll never be as good as the guy from Erasure, so what's the use?

I should really call my 87 year old grandma but I'll just wait until the weekend...

It seems so much easier to just sit around and wait. 

But the waiting eventually gets hard and sometimes you wait so long that you don't even remember what you've been waiting for. 

I've been to that waiting place many times.

Inspiration can be elusive. It's not always what you'd expect it to be.

Fuck, you'd think a set of high beams in the dark would inspire a deer but no. 

I try not to beat myself up. 

Hell, I bet even Tony Robbins sits at the breakfast table and cries in his cornflakes once in awhile.

But you know what Tony does?

He finishes that cry and then eats those soggy, tear soaked cornflakes.

You know what he does after that?

He goes to the john and shits out those soggy, tear soaked cornflakes until there's no more shit to be had.

You know what he does after that?

He flushes that soggy, tear soaked cornflake shit right down the toilet.

You know what he does after that?

He washes his hands.

You know what he does after that?

He puts on his Armani suit and his Versace shoes and writes a fucking book about it that inspires a billion lost souls.

Souls like you and me.

But not everyone is like Tony Robbins. 

Sometimes you're gonna cry in those cornflakes but you're gonna be constipated and you're gonna need some help. 

So what I'm trying to say is that inspiration is like a laxative.

OK. I'm gonna stop myself right there. To be totally honest, I was gonna write about Ryan Adams' cover of Taylor Swift's "Bad Blood" and how it inspired me to pick up my guitar again but then I saw a plastic container of black & white cookies and I got distracted and I forgot why I was even going to write so I made up some stupid shit and it sounded really inspiring but then I got that image of Tony Robbins taking a shit stuck in my head and it made me laugh. So, yeah, Ryan Adams is cool.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

For Wyatt...

Today is the day.

Today is the day to say, "fuck you day!"

I'm gonna take you the fuck out, day. I'm gonna slide tackle you, cleats up. 

I'm gonna sucker punch you in the back of the head but first I'm gonna polish those brass knuckles my grandpa gave me.

I'm gonna rip your heart out while it's still beating, all Bruce Lee like and then BBQ it Kansas City style and feed it to a white tiger.

This is what we have to do to the day, almost every day to make it right.

So you say you don't have cleats that fit you anymore and your grandpa wasn't much of a fighter. Maybe white tigers aren't accessible in your neck of the woods and let me guess, you're a vegetarian. 

No excuses.

It doesn't matter how you do it.

It can be subtle. It can be bold. It can be extraordinary or it can be modest.

Just make your mark. 

Any mark at all on this day.

What might seem subtle to you, might make an unimaginable impact on those around you.

Today my mark was a little bit of all of those things.

I pet my dog. I kissed my kids. I told my wife I love her.

I took a road trip with my oldest friend to a shitty little theater in a shitty little town and we saw our favorite band. A band that will never know the measureless impact they've had on our lives.

I went to the beach with my 8 year old daughter. We took the doors off my Jeep,   put the top down and blasted U2 the whole way. 

I went to see my grandma for an hour just to say hello and I let my daughter eat strawberries from her backyard without washing them.

Today I said yes instead of no.

This was my way.

It was subtle and extraordinary and modest and bold all at once.

This was my mark on today.

Days are not like milk. They don't have expiration dates written in invisible ink on the tops of imaginary cartons.

There are only a handful in a lifetime.

Just make it count.


For Wyatt...
Even on the other side, you still inspire those you left behind. 

Please click the link below to leave your mark on Wyatt Neumann's wife and two young children. Wyatt passed away suddenly after having an aneurysm that caused him to lose control of his motorcycle.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Dancing With The Devil, Jackson Browne and Beef Jerky...

While Jackson Browne hums bars of "The Pretender" in the background, I try explaining to my poor wife my inherent need to make Beef Jerky.

She gazes at me with that look I have come to recognize. A look comprised of one part derision and two parts sympathy.

After 22 plus years, she intuitively understands my idiosyncratic logic.

Lately my Sundays have been peppered with Eye Round, Flank Steak and London Broil.

Spicy, leathery, dried meat has come to be my Calgon.

It relaxes me.

Maybe it's the process of it all or perhaps it's just my idea of having purpose.

I find that I do better with structure.

When you make Beef Jerky, you have to commit.

There is a beginning, a middle and an end.

Just because you read the middle of Atlas Shrugged doesn't give you the right to say you finished it.

I like to finish things. It makes me feel good.

Today, Jackson Browne is my jerky muse. He speaks to me.

Hidden somewhere in the middle of the bridge and the chorus to "Lawyers in Love" lies the ancient secrets of aging beef.

Music can be a powerful inspirer of things.

For me, there is no logical way to explain why Jackson Browne moves me.

There is a perfect fusion of Mr. Browne and this batch of Beef Jerky. I can't even begin to attempt to decrypt this chemistry. It's just science and you don't fuck with science.

I'm not the first one to be affected by his music.

Daryl Hannah was spellbound by him right up until he beat the living snot out of her in a jealous rage.

Before that, his first wife committed suicide.

Apparently I'm playing with fire but I've made the commitment.

Jackson Brown has been a part of today's beginning and so he will, for better or for worse, be a part of it's middle and inevitably it's end.

The act of making beef jerky is an improbable, yet fitting metaphor for the circle life.

I just hope that the juxtaposition to that metaphor is not one of death at the hands of Jackson Browne.

So here I stand, my moral compass spinning out of control. But all things worth a damn demand sacrifice.

Today I will dance with the devil.

Either way, in the end, there will be beef jerky.

1 1⁄2 pounds flank steak

13 cup Worcestershire sauce 2 tablespoons Liquid Smoke
1⁄4 cup light soy sauce
2 tablespoons light brown sugar 2 cloves fresh garlic

1⁄4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

Place meat on a plate and freeze for 1 hour. This will make it easier to slice the meat into thin strips. Slice meat into 1⁄4-inch wide strips, cutting against the grain. Combine remaining ingredients. Marinate beef strips for a minimum of 30 minutes in the refrigerator. Place strips on the racks. Do not overcrowd; leave enough space so that pieces are not touching. Cover and dehydrate on medium for 8 hours, or until desired doneness, flipping strips once about halfway through. Depending on the uniformity of the strips, the racks may require rotating throughout the dehydrating process, as bottom racks will dehydrate faster than top racks. Store beef jerky in an airtight container in the refrigerator or freezer. 

Friday, January 30, 2015

The Cross Section of Bar Mitzvahs and Brothels...

Lately I've had a really hard time figuring out exactly what my role is as a father.

When my kids were really young, my job as a parent was fairly straight forward.

Don't let them die.

"Hey honey. I'm taking the girls to the park for awhile."

Don't let them die.

"Hey babe. I'm taking the girls for manicures."

Don't let them die.

"Hey sweet heart. I'm taking the girls for a slice of pizza."

Don't let them die.

You get the picture.

Now that my girls are older, things seem more complex. Particularly with my oldest. She is 12 and this is her first year of middle school.

Middle school is hard. Really hard. I know because I went through it. 

We all did.

There are more kids, which means more personalities. There is more work, which means more pressure to succeed and there are more choices to be made. 

Choices about drugs and alcohol.

Choices about sex.

Choices about good people and bad people.

It has to be scary for her because it sure as hell was scary for me.

The PTA tells us that kids in middle school are putting alcohol soaked tampons in their collective orifices to mask their inebriation.

First of all, that's genius but what happened to screwdrivers in the A&P parking lot? 

They also tell us that bathrooms at Bar and Bat-Mitvahs are like pubescent brothels.

Doesn't anybody play Pepsi Cola - 7up anymore?

And where in God's name does the PTA gather their intelligence from? 

In the end, these are choices that only she can make.

With or without my help.

In middle school, I remember trying to fit in. I remember the unbearable yearning to be liked.

To be accepted.

Am I funny enough? Is my house big enough? Shit, why don't I have cable yet?

I was terrified of girls. I was terrified of rejection. I was terrified of rejection by girls.

I often felt less than.

But kids survive. They are a resilient lot.

As a father, I'd like to think that I have given her the tools to make the right choices.

I can empathize but I can't project into the wreckage of her future.

She is not me.

I am not her.

My choices (some good and some bad) have made me the man that I am today.

Her choices will be the cement that forms the foundation on which her character will be built.

She will navigate the alcohol soaked tampons and the Bar and Bat-Mitzvah brothels and she will survive.

My baby girl is out there.

She is out there with her ball peen hammer and her needle nose pliers.

All I can do is assure her that I'll always be standing by to lend her my allen wrench when and if she needs it...

Sunday, December 28, 2014

The Digital Tomb...

I just said goodbye to my dog.

He didn't die thank God. That would have wrecked me.

He just went to hang out with his grandma for the night.

Those two are old souls. Probably making good on unfinished business from lives past.

The thought of it makes me smile.

Today I've had the day to myself which is rare.

Much needed time to reflect and decompress. Time to reverse engineer the last three hundred and sixty five twenty fours.

Life has been busy and slow and empty and full.

It's been up and down and all of the above.

It's been ad infinitum and whatever else describes the endless flow of days.

They pile up and spill out all over the floor, in a crash, like a fumbled pitcher of sweet iced tea that slipped from the hands of a little kid trying to impress a living room full of adults, gathered around the dining room table, locked in a game of charades.

I'm feeling a little bit vulnerable right now.

My emotions have been waiting patiently. Waiting for the bandages to come off. Tentative emotions. Emotions standing in front of the mirror like the newly constructed face a second before the big reveal.

Maybe it's the leftover ham or the Brandi Carlile streaming on the Sonos. Or maybe it's because I made a trip to the cemetery to visit an old friend.

It could be all of that stuff.

Or maybe it's the pictures.

I've been looking at pictures.

Thousands of pictures.

All day long.

Old pictures of stuff I haven't seen in years.

Looking at old pictures by yourself can be strange.

It's like walking through a museum in your brain and the exhibit is plethoric with art; Art both ugly and beautiful.

Art that makes you feel like Rudy being carried off the field. Art that makes you feel like the Champ won't wake up.

My daughters are growing up in real life. They say things like, "I hate you!" and "you're the worst dad ever!".

Then I look at the pictures and they say things too.

Pictures of game farms, fake sleeping on couches and blowing out birthday candles.

They say things like, "I love you!" and "you're the best dad ever!".

Then I get that stupid Rudy feeling and the Champ not waking up feeling all wrapped up in a tight wonderful knot.

Today I stumbled upon a treasure chest buried in a digital tomb. It was filled with gold and silver and diamonds and rubies.

Treasure in the form of memories.

Memories disguised as pictures.

Treasure buried and found and now buried again.

By me.

Treasure that will wait impassively for the next three hundred and sixty five twenty fours for the bandages to come off.

Friday, August 1, 2014


Happy Birthday my brother.

It's funny. I haven't really thought about it until now but your birthday is one of nine birthdays I have always remembered.

Birthdays are like phone numbers.

We don't need to remember phone numbers anymore. You plug em' into your contacts and you press a button when you need it.

It's bullshit.

To this day I remember exactly seven phone numbers.

Five of them don't exist anymore and one of them is my mom's, which used to be mine. So I'm not sure that even counts.

It's kind of a shame it doesn't work that way anymore.

I think the love a person has for their friends and family can be measured in phone numbers and birthdays.

I'm not taking about Facebook reminders and speed dial.

I'm talking about knowing them by heart.

If you knew someone's phone number by heart back then, it meant you needed them.

It meant you kept them close.

It meant you talked with them.

If you knew someone's birthday by heart it meant they were important to you.

A birthday isn't just another day. No matter how much we play it off. Even if it's an odd number birthday or one that's not round.

Even if it's 44.

Without birthdays there would be no people.

Without birthdays there would be no phone numbers.

Without birthdays I wouldn't have met you.

You're gone now. Like one of those damn phone numbers that don't exist anymore and the irony is that I can't for the life of me remember the date that you died.

Maybe Facebook is rotting my brain or maybe it's the stupid speed dial.

But I promise you that just like those phone numbers, I'll always remember you.

Every day. No matter what.

I love you brother.

Happy Birthday.

August 1st, 1970