Teach Your Children Well…

… Their father’s hell did slowly go by,
And feed them on your dreams
The one they picked, the one you’ll know by.

-Crosby Stills Nash and Young

Last week my mom was honored with an award for being teacher of the year in her school district! Alas, distance and baby care made witnessing this event unfeasible, which was sad, because my mom said that the people who preside over this event wear hats that look  like upside down ice cream cartons. So not only did I miss my mom’s big day, but I missed seeing people in ridiculous hats.

While I was not physically present at the banquet, I’d like to think that I was there in spirit. On the day leading up to the event, and during the evening of, I thought about my mom and what a truly great teacher she is.

While in middle school, I tagged along with my mom to work when my vaccation days didn’t quite line up with my mom’s. Mostly, I think I just played with legos in the corner. However, I do remember the kids seemed to get their work done when it was asked of them, and they seemed to be happy and entertained in between assignments.

Not a stellar review? Well, seeing my mom teach on two random days isn’t really a fair way to evaluate her teaching. Moreover, the smiles and engagement were just subtle indicators of that which I already knew–my mom loved teaching, she approached teaching creatively in order to best figure out how to help students learn, and students reflected her passion and effort in their own love of learning.

How did I know my mom loved teaching? How did I know she approached teaching with out-of-the-box thinking? It could be that I developed this knowledge over time as I would be part of my mother’s captive dinner time audience. Every night my mom would talk about what she was doing in class–what one particular student said, the upcoming project she was looking forward to–as she literally could not keep her excitement to herself.

"Cheese, Gromit! Cheeeeeeese!"

One night she would talk about one of the boys dressing up as Coco Chanel for the class report and assignment during Women’s History Month. Another night she might talk about the puppets they were making for a show as they learned about storytelling. Some nights she would talk about how she got the entire class to imitate Wallace’s reaction to cheese from the claymation series Wallace and Gromit. Other nights she would talk about how epicly inept she was at math, yet she was finding ways to teach them nonetheless. On occasion, my mom would talk about story time–I believe she called it “Stupid Story Time”–which she would use as a reward when the entire class behaved well. Stupid Story Time consisted and continues to consist of less than five minutes of my mother improvising a story with almost no point whatsoever. There was no end to her sharing.

Still, my mother’s utilization of oral tradition during dinner time to chronicle her adventures in the classroom does not fully inform my knowledge of her excellence as a teacher. I know she is a great teacher because, along with my dad and brother, she has always been one of my best teachers.

Story time was a staple in our home before it became a regular element in her classroom. My mom would read us stories, changing her voice, and infusing emotion and excitement into the dialogue. My brother and I had nearly every Roald Dahl book read to us. I think we asked her to read The Phantom Tollbooth to us about eight times over. Had the Harry Potter series come out during our childhood, I don’t think there would have been any way that my brother and I would have not become writers, as I am sure my mother’s readings would have become mesmerizing events.

It was my mom, not my elementary school teachers, that truly taught me how to write. She always told me, “Make it easy. Write the way you talk.” And in order to assist me in in writing “the way I talk,” she would explain how a comma was “a short pause,” and a period was “a breath.” So while I may not be the most creative, competent, or grammatically excellent writer, I definitely have her to thank for being able to string words together in any sort of semi-coherent form.

It was my mother that was my primary teacher of empathy. Whenever my brother or I wronged another person (and usually it was the two of us wronging each other), it was my mother who asked us to reflect upon how we might feel if the wrong had been done unto us.

She might have actually been too good at teaching us empathy. My brother, during his toddler years, actually took to repeating my mother’s rhetorical questioning when he found himself being scolded. With his fists pinned to his waist, he would ask, “How would you like it if I yelled at you for not putting away your toys? How would you like it? Would you feel good?” I, on the other hand, now often internalize the hurt of others so deeply that I am paralyzed with guilt for causing others even the slightest bit of discomfort. Yet, I probably wouldn’t change a thing. As one of my mentors once said, “Your weaknesses are often your greatest strengths gone awry.”

Yes. It was my mom who taught me my multiplication tables in the car, as we would drive from place to place. It was my mom who taught me mnemonic devices in order to attach dates to important events in history, and to remember the correct spelling of fundamental words (“You wouldn’t want to fri the end of your friend–friend.”). It was my mom who taught me my sense of humor (for better or for worse).

So congratulations, mom. The award you have just received is long overdue. A committee of people wearing ice cream cartons as hats has finally validated that which hundreds of children and parents already knew: you are a truly extraordinary teacher.

Just remember, before the ice cream carton hat people, two decades worth of students, and their accompanying parents had any clue that you might be the most excellent teacher of all time, your children were already well aware of your greatness.

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You Spin Me Right Round, Baby…

Right round like a record, baby
Right round, round, round

-Dead or Alive

Last Monday, my partner and I transitioned from being a couple, to being a family of three. Despite our best efforts to educate ourselves on the birthing process, and general care for tiny sleeping infant, the last week and a half have been a bit of a whirlwind filled with joy and discovery.

Personally, I do not think I am an adequate enough writer to convey the range of emotions tied to labor, birth, and the first week of taking care of an infant. I can, however, share some moments and my accompanying thoughts regarding things that may only interest me. So here they are:

  • There are some examinations and anatomy-related processes that go on leading up to birth, which can simultaneously be TMI and take the intimacy of a relationship to a whole other level. I will leave that statement as it is.
  • After a complicated and semi-traumatic birth, to me, the most beautiful and relief-triggering sound on Earth was the sound of our son crying.
  • Being thoroughly uneducated on the details of cesarian birthing, I placed myself in the position to be completely shocked by its realities. Thus, as I sat behind a curtain, which separated me from the gory surgery, the statement, “Okay, now let’s put the uterus back in,” caught me a bit off guard. [Two statements that could have been worse: 1. “Wait! Where’s my sandwich? It was sitting right by the scalpel a minute ago…” 2. “Why do we have extra pieces here? This never happened in the video game.”]

    "Jeez... picking bit of lettuce and onion out of here is going to be a pain in the ass."

  • Apparently epidurals are no joke. My partner had  one, which definitely helped with the contractions. During her C-section, they numbed her from the neck down. During recovery, she could move, but couldn’t feel anything, which lead her to punching herself in the face in an effort to move hair away from her eyes. This traumatized her so much that she refused to hold the baby for a few hours afterwards.
  • It is scary holding an infant’s neck while it is so weak and floppy. I thought its head was going  to roll off.
  • I was grateful for the chair that turns into a bed at Kaiser Redwood City, but it gave me the worst back spasms.
  • Speaking of Kaiser Redwood City, their staff–from the nurses, to the, anesthesiologist, to the doctors–were all awesome. I had my concerns with Kaiser, and still have some regarding the organization as a whole,  but their Ob Gyn and pediatric care professionals were amazing.
  • Our son came looking like a miniature version of my partner. He also came out with peach fuzz that extends over his entire forehead–eyebrows to the “hairline” as well as on his back and arms,  and a cone-head, thus making him look like a harry alien wingless bat. A friend pointed out that when I pair these two observations together, I seem to be suggesting that my partner looks like a large harry alien wingless bat. Just to set the record straight, this is not the case.
  • I try to avoid cafeteria food at all costs, so when my partner’s sister asked what she could bring for me as I was being contained within the walls of Kaiser, I would answer, “a burrito!” every single time. Over the course of forty-eight hours, I ate five burritos. I have decided that they are the perfect self-contained meal, and there is little that anyone can say to convince me otherwise right now.
  • Six pounds, three ounce–we knew our baby was small. With the exception of his freakishly long fingers and toes, everything about him was miniature… including his tiny little cry. Nothing solidified these observations in our mind more than when a second mother moved into my partner’s recovery room. Her baby seemed to be a giant next to ours, and his deep throaty cry was like a tuba in comparison to our infant’s kazoo-like yelping.
  • Being super excited about all the free stuff we were being given by the hospital, I haphazardly packed anything up that was still in its wrapping. My partner almost split her C-section stitches with laughter when she discovered, not only did I pack the hideous pink floral hospital gown that leaves one’s entire back side exposed, but I also packed three bed pads meant to absorb anything that leaks out due to one’s water breaking.
  • Our newborn’s nails were sharp little razors. I think they could have cut through class.
  • Wow! Not all bottle nipples are alike! Some can actually cause an infant to get really painful cry-inducing gas. Good to know.
  • I have found that a bottle de-sterilizer can actually act as a semi-functional crucible. I can now see all of the brown murky impurities that come from tap water despite the usage of a Brita filter.
  • On day two I was changing the baby’s diapers, and I turned away to get a fresh diaper ready. When I looked back at the little one, I found a wet splotch on the couch seat. “Wow!” I exclaimed, “You managed to spray all the way over there. Amazing!” As I continued to adjust his clothing for changing I noticed the legs of his outfit were soaked. The following stream of consciousness observation ensued: “Incredible! The legs of this outfit are soaked through… and… how did you pee on your own chest? Wait a minute… your cap is soaked… did you pee on your own head? How did you pee on your own face?” Needless to say, he required a washing that day.
  • Friends and family know me well. We were gifted four separate copies of Goodnight Moon (which I love). I was going to to take it off of our registry, but I wanted to see how many copies we might receive if we didn’t say anything. Furthermore, my brother explained to me that you can never have too many copies of a book. Children tend to slobber, chew, rip and do any number of destructive things to books.
  • The little one pretty much just sleeps, eats, poops, and cries. Trying to facilitate or clean up after such functions can be exhausting… but it is amazing, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

We’ve Got Stars Directing Our Fate…

… and we’re praying its not too late
cause we know we’re falling from grace
Millennium

-Robbie Williams

I once went to a presentation that outlined research on the behavior of males of the millennial generation. Two of the findings that stuck out to me most touched on motivation. According to this research millennial males are best motivated when:

  1. They can be gratified by their work instantaneously.
  2. They can see how the work is tangibly beneficial to them.

In other words, the questions that might often be floating through a male millennial’s subconscious when considering the merits of a situation before him might be: I just put in work, where is my reward? and, Why should I do this? What do I get out of this?

Therefore, planting tulip bulbs in the ground might not be a satisfying activity for a millennial male, as he would not get to see the flowers, or benefit of such work for months. Moreover, suggesting that a male millennial take a volunteer course in conflict resolution might not be very appealing. That is until you explain to him that such an experience would look very good on a resume when they graduate, which might ultimately lead to a job.

Now, how might one identify one of these self-serving millennial males? There is a debate as to which date marks the the birth of the the millennials. Some say children of the eighties, others stretch the boundaries back into the seventies. I have always cautiously considered myself an out-group member with a secret concerns regarding my millennialishness (apparently that is a new word that I just invented).

A seemingly insignificant addition of a new household appliance has shifted my perception of self. As a result of our recent vacuum cleaner purchase, I have strong evidence that leads me to believe that I may be of the millennial generation.

I am obsessed with our new Dyson vacuum cleaner.

All of my loved ones can attest to the fact that I have always had an aversion to household chores. It used to be that getting me to vacuum was a chore unto its self. Our Dyson vacuum cleaner, however, has changed everything. The reason being: it is speaks to my male millenialishness.

This particular vacuum cleaner has a large clear canister into which all of the dirt, hair, dust, lint, and who knows what else gets sucked; I can see everything I have vacuumed up in a nice, clear, cylinder container.

The millennial part of me says, “I just pushed a moderately heavy yellow contraption around the house. Where is my reward?”

The Dyson vacuum cleaner responds, Right here! You get a cleaner carpet; this large fuzzy dust-ball you have accumulated in my canister here is evidence of your hard work!

To which I ask, “Why should I do this again? What do I get of this?”

In an exasperated tone, the Dyson vacuum cleaner responds, Pay attention here! I just told you: A cleaner carpet, a giant dust-ball, and ummm… you also get to dispose of the dust ball, using this snazzy red button on top of the canister and a trap door on the bottom.

“…….”

What do you think?

“I accept the terms of this deal. Now, please excuse me as I must now go update my resume.”



I Can’t Get No Satisfaction…

I can’t get no satisfaction
‘Cause I try and I try and I try and I try.
I can’t get no, I can’t get no.
-The Rolling Stones

There is the cliché saying, Money can’t buy you happiness.

Then there is the counter to that saying, Those who claim money can’t buy you happiness clearly have never been without money.

Philosophically, I find that I fall somewhere in the middle. I have never really been without money, so I cannot speak to the level of happiness I could achieve with a complete void of funds. And, I have had some great times in my life that required no entrance fees, nor purchase of any type of merchandise. Yet, I would be lying if I were to say that I have not experienced a great deal of happiness where money was involved.

Maybe I feel this is so due to my less than solid connection with the earth. It is possible that I could improve my relationships with other human beings to facilitate greater happiness. It could be, that in a society where everything has become commodified, money is required to purchase things that had always been priceless facilitators of happiness.

Admission must be paid to enjoy certain aspects of nature. Many relationships are facilitated or maintained through costly digital means and services connected to such technology. Furthermore, if we are to get technical, money is required to purchase fundamental needs–water, food, shelter, clothing–all of which could be perceived as prerequisites for many potentially happy experiences. But I digress (I am working on my brevity, and such a topic could go on for paragraphs, if not posts).

It was actually an evening spent with my family on the day of Christmas that got me thinking about the correlation between money and happiness. In retrospect, the entire night could have been a case study exploring the dynamics between money and happiness.

This year, my parents, my partner, and I went to go visit my brother in New York for the holiday break this year. He has been living in Brooklyn going on three years now, he wasn’t planning to come home for the break, and I had yet to go visit him. Thus, a visit back east was long overdue.

On the day of Christmas, we found ourselves trying to pick out a restaurant at the last minute for a “nice dinner.” Well, we definitely over-shot the mark and ended up with reservations at Morimoto’s restaurant (of Iron Chef fame).

After going with my dad, the landscape architect, to visit some reclaimed elevated train tracks that have been turned into a park, and wandering through the over-priced, yet culinarily extravagant, Chelsea Market, our family ended up at Morimoto.

The restaurant was beautiful. Long clean lines of brushed steel, polished concrete, and lightly (if not completely) unstained wood make up much of the interior of this multi-tiered space. Soft, yet dramatic lighting, sand-colored upholstery, a wall of clear, blue, and teal-colored glass bottles sections off part of the space, and the rippled curve of the ceiling whimsically references the lips of scallop shell–all elements that that contribute to a feeling of being inside of some sort of fantastic sea cave. (Special note to anyone thinking of visiting Morimoto in New York: check out the bathroom stalls. Best bathroom stalls ever.)

The meal, of course, was amazing. The food Masaharu Morimoto creates is brilliant. Simple reinterpretations of soul food such as bi bim bop, or beef curry and bread highlight the ways in which a little bit of outside the box thinking, and high quality ingredients can enhance dishes that have been around for a long time. (I actually went home to try to create his “Buri Bop” with some hamachi I purchased from the Japanese market the day we got back. The dish was decent, but the hamachi Morimoto used was on a whole other level, and that made all the difference.)

Some dishes required a certain level of playfulness to consume. The nigiri sushi was without flaws. My mom had the most perfectly prepared sea bass I have ever tasted. Once the food arrived, almost all of our conversation focused on the food and the wonder it facilitated. The meal was just… fun.

I think everyone had a good time. My mom said it was one of the best dining experiences of her life. My brother enjoyed it nearly as much as an individual who lives off of microwavable green chili burritos and Cheerios could possibly enjoy a plate of steak and raw fish. My dad said it was one of the better meals he has had outside of Japan. My partner and I definitely enjoyed our meals.

The ambiance was  memorable, the food was spectacular, and the service was seamless. What could make this experience better? How about meeting the legend himself! We met Masaharu Morimoto! This was actually a huge deal for me, as it was the Iron Chef television show that shifted my interest in food from passing curiosity to legitimate obsession. Moreover, my visit to Morimoto in Philadelphia marked my greatest food epiphany–I came to understand what food could be. Up until that point, I understood that creativity and plating could make a dish seem interesting on television, and I could imagine the flavors. However, on that day I learned that an interpretation of a dish could be revolutionary, and with precise execution, the consumption of such a creation could actually be sublime.

Now that I think about it, Masaharu Morimoto actually had a huge influence on my life, and up until this evening, I had never met the man in my life! The ponytailed man came to our table gave us all warm fleshy hand shakes, posed for some pictures, and had a brief conversation in Japanese with my dad. I was too awestruck to say anything more than, “nice to meet you.” Nevertheless, I will be hard pressed to forget that moment.

At the end of the evening, while I was taking a look at the bathroom (it is a weird habit, but I do this at every interesting restaurant or hotel I visit), my mom walked up to Chef Morimoto as he was observing the restaurant from the entry way.

“All of this must make you really happy.” She stated with a smile.

To her surprise, his response was, “Not really.” He went on to explain, only my mother couldn’t really understand what he was saying. A bit embarrassed, she thanked him for the meal and we all left the restaurant.

My mom felt bad because she thought he didn’t understand that which she was trying to say. However, I think he understood exactly what my mom said. As hard as it is to imagine, he probably just wasn’t happy with the scene before him.

From our prospective, we see a beautiful restaurant, and dozens of people following Morimoto’s lead as they create a enjoyable experience for hundreds of people each night. We see the Iron Chef, a television personality, with multiple restaurants around the world. He must be incredibly wealthy! How could he not be happy?

Maybe he was responding to the display in front of him. He could have been been upset that his beautiful restaurant was not completely full. The tremendous cost of his ultra-fancy restaurant, bearing his name, attached to Chelsea Market (not a cheap piece of real estate), probably weighs heavily upon him, as it is unlikely that the profit margin anywhere close to comfortable.

Morimoto may have been saying something even more profound to my mother. With sweeping gestures of his hand, he could have been saying, “None of this makes me happy. It is rare that I do that which I love most, and actually cook anymore these days. I am caught in an endless cycle of risking my empire to expand my empire. All of my money is tied up in these business ventures, and it stresses me out. Alas, now that I have many of the things I always wanted, I have no time to enjoy them with the people I love.”

In my mind, money and happiness seem to have a precarious relationship with one another. I imagine that that in the United States (if not all over the world)  if one has too little money, life becomes difficult to enjoy. So much effort must be put into its pursuit, as its absence, in many cases, can be life-threatening. If one is focused, one may find one’s self successful in the game of money chasing. Yet, the spoils of victory may be seductive, and enough may never seem like enough. The pursuit of money risks becoming the only game in town, rather the means to a well-meant end.

I don’t necessarily know how to work through the money/happiness conundrum. It is far more complex than I can articulate, and far more insidious than my rambling mind  can fathom.

I do however appreciate the experience that led to my wonderings.

On a freezing evening in New York, I was able to have an incredible dinner with the people I love most in this world. Money set the stage for our memorable evening (thanks, Mom and Dad), but it was sharing the experience with my family that made me really happy.

Maybe I should have pulled up along side of both of my parents as we were finishing dessert and said, “All this must really make you happy.”

You Think I’d Crumble…

… you think I’d lay down and die
oh no, not I
I will survive
-Gloria Gaynor

The other day, I unintentionally participated in a values clarification exercise. You know, those  would you rather-scenarios that can help one prioritize their values. They are usually hypothetical and fairly mundane; something along the lines of, “Would you rather work outdoors or indoors?” Maybe, “Would you rather work on a project on your own, or in a group?”

I have seen these exercises turned into a party game with extreme would your rather-scenarios: “Would you rather your upper lip smelled like crap all the time, but nobody else could smell it, or would your rather have terrible halitosis that you never notice?” I saw one online that asked, “Would you rather immerse your naked body in a bathtub of cockroaches, or dive head-first into a pool of tobacco spit?”

I imagine the mundane ones can be useful in sets so as to prioritize one’s preferences, needs, or values. Some of the creative ones, when answered, can actually provide some incite into an individual. And more still can be just gross.

In this particular situation, I was put in a position where I had to choose between avoiding something I loath, and potentially experiencing something I love.

I had to ask myself, “Would I rather avoid the company’s Christmas party, where I will be subjected to large crowds of people I barely know, forcing me into situations that require nauseatingly plastic small talk, or would I rather go to the Christmas party, which is catered, might have some good free food, and there might be a chocolate fountain?”

The aforementioned “would you rather” is a bit long. The essential question is, “What level of discomfort am I willing to go through for the possibility of food that may lead to some fleeting joy?”

Both elements in this equation require further exploration, so allow me to provide some perspective.

How deep is my obsession for good food? Please review Exhibit A–select food-related behavior:

  • I would rather eat a great meal than see a great show. For my partner’s birthday, we went to see the musical, Wicked, and to a nice restaurant, Jardiniere. While Wicked was an amazing production, the dinner afterwards was the highlight of the evening for me.
  • One of my top ten goals in life is to eat at all of the San Francisco Chronicle’s Top 100 Restaurants despite the fact that this is an ever-changing list, and I could possibly go broke trying.
  • I almost always plan trips and vacations around visiting a great restaurant if one is in the area. When we went to Las Vegas, my partner looked into seeing a show, finding a fun dance club, getting a massage. I, on the other hand, was trying to figure out if we could eat at both Mario Batali and Bobby Flay’s restaurants during a trip spanning roughly thirty-six hours. On a trip to Napa, during which my

    Three down, two to go!

    partner was looking to relax, do some shopping and go to a spa, I schemed and planned our way into dining at two restaurants on the top 100 list.

  • I will decrease my quality of life for a period of time if it means I will have one delicious meal. In graduate school my partner and I attended a professional conference in Philadelphia. At the time, I was obsessed with the Iron Chef (who am I kidding, I am still obsessed with the Iron Chef). I actually convinced my partner that we should go all out at Morimoto’s restaurant despite the fact that we barely scrounged up enough money to attend the conference, let alone splurge. We ordered Morimoto’s Omakase menu–a seven-course meal, and the most expensive option on the menu. The two of us ended up eating cereal, macaroni and cheese, and anything still lingering in the freezer for the next month. In my defense however, it was, and still holds up as the best meal I have ever had in my life.
  • I will inconvenience others for the possibility of having a good meal. The aforementioned example proves my point. A more egregious example of my blatant lack of consideration would be from this past sumer. I dragged my pregnant partner, with swollen blistered feet, around three quarters of Rome, on foot, in search of hand-made pasta that ended up being literally five blocks from our starting point. Again, in my defense, we later agreed that it was one of the best meals of our summer.
  • Moreover, I have trouble making rational decisions when food is involved. Earlier today, I seriously debated whether or not to interrupt my supervisor’s one-on-one meeting with her supervisor to find out if she wanted me to order her take-out for lunch. This was a serious dilemma for me, as the folks going to pick up the food were leaving at noon, right when her meeting was supposed to end. In my mind, I was thinking: If it were me, I would definitely like to have sushi rather than being subjected to whatever the cafeteria has to offer. I would want to be interrupted, and I would be really upset if I missed the opportunity. It turned out that, yes, she wanted sushi, and no, she would prefer not to be interrupted should a similar situation arise.

Yes, I know this is a bit of a problem. I know there are more important things in the world than the food I deem to be delectable. Maybe food is my vice. I would certainly be a financially more stable and considerably slimmer individual if I had little regard for the work of talented chefs. To put a more positive spin on it, I’ll just say, I love delicious food.

Conversely, I am a socially awkward creature that tends to avoid uncomfortable situations. On the spectrum of discomfort–on the low end, mild annoyance, and the high end, actual physical pain, both small talk with people I don’t know very well, and large crowds actually rank  fairly high as you can see on my personal discomfort scale below:

"Come on! Come on!

MILDLY ANOYED
itchy tags on tee-shirts
sticky condiment bottles
Mark Wahlburg acting (with the exception of Departed)
SOMEWHAT IRRITATED
face talkers
playing defense against sweaty hairy shirtless guys who like to initiate contact
VH1 reality television
NOT SO COMFORTABLE
men resting scrotums on communal locker room benches without towel as buffer
throat swabbing
large crowds
SERIOUSLY UNCOMFORTABLE
raisins
wedgies
getting vaccinated
FAIRLY PAINFUL
phony small-talk
(tie) a minor kitchen accident involving some sort of blade & public speaking
trip to the dentist involving drilling
OUCH CHARLIE, THAT REALLY HURT! (click to understand reference)

I think the fact that I would rather get vaccinated than engage in fairly painful small-talk speaks volumes. Compound that with large crowds, which I dislike far more than when men rest their manhood sacks on communal seating without a buffer, and you have yourself a situation I would really like to avoid.

So what happened when my most powerful vice engaged in an epic battle with my personal titan of discomfort? The vice won! Intellectually, I cannot believe that the possibility of a decent morsel of food was strong enough motivation to brave an almost unbearable social situation.

I ended up going to the Christmas party. How was  the food, you ask? Eh, it was so-so. There was some succulent roast turkey with cranberry sauce and horseradish aoli, but other than that, not much to write home about, and alas, the chocolate fountain did not make an appearance.  I gambled and lost.

I was able mitigate the impact of the crowds and small-talk, sort of. I dragged a friend of mine to the event, for she had not yet to experience its fabulousness. After braving the food lines, I set myself up against the wall between two trash cans and subtly maneuvered four friends into position to act as a buffer between myself and the crowd.

The experience was till slightly agonizing. Vaguely familiar people would pass stop and talk about the weather. Individuals, who’s faces I remembered, but names escaped me, would smile and talk about how they can’t wait for Christmas break. I found myself daydreaming about what rehab for my food addiction might be like.

I did experience an entertaining moment during which I accidently paid the awkwardness forward. The president, complete with festive Christmas hat, walked by. I have only met the man once, and he has probably met thousands upon thousands of people. But in that moment I decided to smile and wave.

About eight feet away, he stopped, smiled, and waved back. Then the president paused just for a split-second, and through his made-for-shmoozing smile, and glazed eyes, I am pretty sure I could read his thoughts: “Wait… I don’t have the slightest clue as to who this guy is. Just keep smiling and waving. The awkwardness will be over soon.”

Domo Arigato…

… Mr. Roboto”
-Styx

Ask and you shall receive. A few friends asked me to find pictures of my infamous childhood Halloween costumes, so when I next saw my dad, I asked if he had any documentation of our awesomeness (him for the creations, me for actually wearing the costumes). It turns out he does!

In case you do not get the reference, please check this previous post. It helps these pictures make a bit more sense.

http://wp.me/pFQA4-1x

With that said… Behold! The most awesomely dysfunctional Halloween costumes of all time:

Behold! The ten-minute costume: My brother as a the dapper ghost (subtle floral print not visible)

I forgot about this one. Wow! Not to get picky, but wasn't Superman's "S" red with a yellow outline? I'm pretty sure he didn't have powder blue underwear... and black tights? Another great example of working with what you got.

Question: "What are you going to be for Halloween?" Answer: "Oh, you know, a demonic robot bodybuilder."

"Call me."

First, let's state the semi-obvious: my brother is an escaped convict. Second, it should be noted that I am rocking the old school Jordans. Next, we must ask ourselves, why is my head on backwards? But the real question we must ask here is, why am I dressed up like a clansman from outer-space?

Yup, those were my costumes.

It’s the Eye of The Tiger…

… it’s the cream of the fight
Risin’ up the challenge of our rival
And the last known survivor stalks his prey in the night
He’s watchin’ us all in the eye of the tiger…

-Survivor

Basketball Treck, Part III:

[In a note that is completely unrelated to this post, what does “the cream of the fight” mean anyway? I never stopped to really listen to the lyrics to this fantastic song, and now that I am reading its lyrics, I can’t help but think, much of this song doesn’t make sense! If there is a “last known survivor,” how can there be any “prey” left to stalk? Anyway… back to the post…]

In seventh grade, I worked up the nerve to try out for the middle school basketball team. This would mark the first time trying out for anything; the Asian league participation required no official evaluation of talent. I was nervous.

I had no idea what to expect. But, if tryouts were held like a job interview, and each applicant had to submit a resume that included one’s experience and honest assesment of their skills, mine would have read as follows:

Height: 4’10”

Weight: 115 lbs

Summary of Relevant Experience:

  • Watched countless games of pick-up three on three basketball at, the city-famous, Live Oak Park between the year I was potty trained and the year I learned how to cook Top Ramen noodles all by myself
  • Tied for third leading scorer over the course of three years on the worst Asian league basketball team to ever grace the Bay Area nine to eleven year-old division
  • Played sporadically during lunch-time for the past year and a half.

Summary of Relevant Skills/Talent:

  • In a gym without spectators, and nobody in way, with feet and elbow lined up perfectly, on a day when stomach does not hurt from, (then) undiagnosed, lactose intolerance-related reaction to multiple slices of pizza, without P.E.-induced fatigue from earlier in the day, and a little luck, might make 50% of shots within ten feet of the basket.
  • Can run as fast as one’s seventy-five year-old arthritic grandmother can walk (without her walker)
  • Can jump over a six-pack of Sprite without tripping (most of the time)
  • Competence dribbling with right hand–through legs, around the back, spin move, etc. (on occasion with head up and looking at surroundings)
  • Near-complete incompetence dribbling with left hand
  • Can pretend to play defense (Legitimate defense is actually a mirage, and cannot be counted upon).

Lucky for me, try-outs did not require a resume submission.

Now while I do not think my talent and size gave me too much of an edge, it turned out I actually had a few things going for me. First, my Asian league basketball experience actually gave me a small advantage. I had already bumbled through three years of elementary basketball drills. I knew the correct footwork to the defensive slide zigzags, how to pass and “screen away,” make a chest pass, complete a bounce pass, shoot a lay-up off of the correct foot, come to a complete jump-stop, etc. Demonstration of these skills was part of tryouts! Secondly, I was good a following directions; I could run plays correctly, which was more than that which could be said for seventy percent of the kids at try-outs. I was relatively “fundamentally sound,” which is often times code for unathletic as well.

Well, being untalented, yet relatively “fundamentally sound,” didn’t earn me placed on the A-team that year, however, it must have saved me from getting cut. I made the C-team, which had a height restriction (I think you had to be 5’8 or below). The seventh grade C-team was short on height (obviously due to the height restrictions), but we were a team of players that followed directions really well.

Where as the seventh grade A and B teams were stacked with far more talent, they would often times have problems running the plays. Many of the players liked to freelance and try to create shots on their own like they did at lunch time. Sometimes this worked, but often times, it did not. Our team had few, if any, delusions of greatness. We would run the plays until we got a decent shot, or until we lost the ball due to being a collection of semi-inept ball handlers. I guess you would call us a group of “coachable” players with underwealming talent.

Despite our considerable lack of talent, we actually won more games than we lost. This would be the first team I was ever a part of with a winning record. Our team beat every team with equal or lesser talent because we out executed them. And we lost to nearly every team that had a greater abundance of talent, since our execution could not overcome teams that were considerable stronger and faster than us.

Did this mean our team had a fighting spirit and maturity that exceeded our years? Alas, the answer to that question would be, no. We showed no signs of cowardice throughout the season, and we were fairly poised all the way up to the league tourneyment. Then we fell behind a bit in the second round game.

Our coach, Ray, called a time out with us down by five points in the third quarter, and layed into us.

“What are you all doing! You are-not… EXECUTING!” He yelled. “You’re better than this! Look, they are packing in their two-one-two zone. Run ‘Cobra,” or ‘X.’ It’s simple. run these plays and you should have Bruce open in the corner, or Darma in the post.”

Then, in attempt to accentuate his point and inspire us, he asked us all, what he thought was, a rhetorical question, “Do you want to WIN, or do you just want to goof around and have FUN?”

To his surprise, we all yelled in unison, “HAVE FUN!”

Ray paused for a moment in shock, sighed, pulled out his whipe board, and then said, “Okay,” drawing up a set with five circles to represent the players in the game, “Dharma (our center, who wasn’t the best ball handler), you’re going to the throw a back door alley-oop on this play to… who’s our smallest player? Jamie. You’re going to throw the alley-oop to Jamie…”

From that point forward, the game completely deteriorated to some of the ugliest basketball I have ever been a part of. Our somewhat beautiful team-oriented basketball morphed into the antithesis of our team–a conglomerate of individuals out to get theirs. We lost by who knows how much, and we were knocked out of the tourneyment.

Yup… we “demonstrated of a complete lack of discipline and competativeness during the most meaningful game of the season.” What a great addition to my basketball resume.