Home Gone

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Regret washed over me as I ventured through the front door of my old fraternity.  It was recently rebuilt due to a multiple million-dollar, tax-deductible, alumni fundraiser.  The result of the largest donation of my life was a complete disaster.  A maze of rooms with names like ‘Stank’, ‘Pig’s Nest’, and ‘Icebox’ were replaced with long, sterile hallways and numbered doors.  My brothers of the new generation sat in their rooms playing with their phones instead of congregating in the common areas and destroying each with verbal jabs.  The few brothers who attempted a conversation with me were not impressed of my stories of throwing a couch engulfed in flames off the roof, three-story beer bongs, or firing road-killed squirrels from a balloon launcher at a rival fraternity on Mom’s weekend. 

The new members were sensitive guys.  They spoke of submission to the Greek governing body which sought banishment for drinking on the front porch.  So much for doing a one arm keg stand on the lawn for nostalgia less I risk shutting down the pathetic shell of what was once a venerable landmark.  They told me there was talk of the campus going dry next year, and the brothers were accepting of this hypocrisy.  A college without booze is like high school, and everyone knows high school is as much fun as getting run over by a car.  I couldn’t take the pain any longer.  I drifted down the street lost in my thoughts of yesteryear.

As I wandered, I was almost run over by an Aston Martin DB11.  I knew he was a student because when my head was within inches of his car, I could read his license plate holder “STUDENT AT UNIVERISTY OF…”  As he sped off, he swore at me in a tongue I didn’t understand 

Lusting after the timeless classics of O and O’s, $1 U-Call-It’s, and Strong Island’s, I went to my other sanctuary in college: 

The Bar

“You’re really carding me?” I asked the backward hat wearing frat guy as my grey, thinning hair identified me as relic from the past.  As much as I used to despise cocky, get-laid-all-the-time, guys in way cooler houses than mine, I was overjoyed to find bouncers were of a timeless design.

“$5,” he demanded.  Instinctively, I dropped the name ‘Steel’.  He was the old general manager of this place in my glory days.  Throwing cold water on sleeping bros, taping pledges to flagpoles, and placing cars in perilous situations on top of high porches were things Steel did in grade school.  Steel was a college legend.  Steel dominated college the way Wilt Chamberlain played basketball-by bagging ass.

The Legend

Random hook ups for him were like maintaining a regular heart beat for the rest of us.  One semester in the fraternity house we were short on beds.  Rather than hot bunking or forcing a new member to sleep on the foyer couch, Steel jumped on the grenade- “I’ll just take a closet for some clothes.  Forget the bed,” he announced.  His plan was to test his mettle by hooking up with a random female every night, and in doing so, find a series of warm and adventurous beds to sleep in for the semester.  Only once did I have to step over the kid on the front porch on a morning during finals week.  I’m sure he earned some extra credit during his dalliances securing him an ‘A+’ in the toughest course in college. 

I figured his name still had some pull given his legendary status as the unofficial ambassador to College (note this is a capital ‘C’, like Church).

The drone at the door splayed his fingers in my face.  I relented.  I paid the cover and then full price for a beer.  Gen Zer’s are worse than millennials.  Who can’t respect a solid name drop and a willingness to sell reduced priced alcohol in exchange for an outsized tip?

‘Salt-N-Peppa’ blasted through the speakers, there was an inch of piss and stale beer pooled on the floor, and an overserved kid puked in a garbage can.  The walls still had the same paint.  The only missing element was a fog of cigarette smoking rendering the air unbreathable and requiring all clothes be laundered the following day.  By all measures, I was back.

I looked for the ghosts of college past.  Horse talking to any girl who would talk to him.  Chubby, at the bar, controlling his piss shooter with his left hand while ordering test tube shots with his right hand.  His reasoning was sound, “the bathroom was too far away and there was booze to drink.”  Absent was Shotzy and his crew of pledges holding up placards ranking women with an “8”, “9” or “10” as they walked past their table.  I recognized no one.

I attempted a lap.  When I reached the back of the bar, I was blockaded by wall which was new since the last time I was there.  The main bar had been transformed from an island into a peninsula.  I couldn’t complete the full circle.  I was trapped.  I stood and observed as I forced down my Bud Light.

Tight fitting black bar pants were extinct as were jeans cresting low enough to expose the top inch of a female’s butt crack.  Instead, girls wore jeans with the belt line near their navels insulating them from eye-groping dudes.  Guys dressed no better.  Most of them appeared to wear some type of uniform for the entire semester; class, bar, dinner with the parents.  It was a part of the “college guy outfit in a bag”-get it when you buy your books for the semester, one size fits all.  No returns.

A fear for the future of humanity swept over me as I stared into a sea of asexual coeds.  Guys talked to guys.  Girls talked to girls.  There was no intermingling of the sexes.  How were these young adults going to bang and carry on the human race if they don’t converse?  I was witnessing youth in its purist form-perfect health, excess free time, and a financial stipend from dad.  They were doing more than abusing the gift.  They were blowing it.

I left the bar.  I was more disassociated with the modern collegiate experience than I had been at my most difficult times when I attended the university.  The walk back to my hotel was filled with questions but lacking resolution.  Had my time passed?  Maybe the college was having an off weekend?  Was I too sober?  It couldn’t be me.  When I went here, I was a manifestation of College in the human form.  Constantly drunk, brotherhood, and chasing tail.  Today’s students failed to excel at these life skills.  My legacy was left in the past.

I had my first beer here when it was a bar. Now it is going to be a Costco, Waffle House, or some other corporate giant.

The Return

I picked up the toothpaste my wife requested prior to my campus journey.  The store clerk laughed and called me a “dotard”.  It was nearly midnight when I snuck back into the hotel room and resumed my life as a middle-aged dude.  Early morning soccer, never ending messes around the house, and learning no one is stretched for time until they have kids. 

The realization I couldn’t go back finally took hold sending me into a sleepless night.  My time had passed.  I live for today which, in time, becomes a better yesterday.  Steel will never be reminiscent.  Steel went back, but he also never really left.  He opened a conglomerate of bars in the southwest corner of the USA after graduating.  There he pours ‘O and O’s‘ and canoes porn stars as you read this on your couch while half paying attention to Netflix, in your car on the way to work, or sitting on the toilet ignoring the screams of your kids fighting in the playroom.

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Generational Icon: Dylan McKay

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I’m not one to heed reflection for celebrity deaths, but Luke Perry sort of got to me.  I didn’t get carried away with mailing roses to his house or dropping a “R.I.P Dylan McKay” on People magazine’s Facebook page, but I did craft this blog post which took way more time than any of the aforementioned acts of eulogy.

If you went through adolescence in a middle to upper class family in the 1990’s, you wanted to be Dylan McKay.  The guy was a stud.

Luke Perry was Synonymous with Dylan McKay  

 

Playing the rich vagabond, who drove a 356 Porsche Speedster, Luke Perry made the show and took cool to height unseen in almost two generations.  Girls wanted to bed him and guys wanted to be like him to pick up his rejects and sloppy seconds.  His icy defiance on screen led to comparisons of James Dean, but you could also see glimpses of other loaners in fiction such as Jay Gastby, Dean Moriarity, and most Hunter S. Thompson characters.  He didn’t have any memorable lines but his presence, and sideburns, dominated the show.

The man.
The man

Until this week, I have not thought much of Dylan McKay since my wife had me binge watch the final season in 2010 (show ran from 1990-2000).  She missed the original airing while studying aboard.  I wish I could say the show withstood the test of time.   Even though 90210 will live on in syndication, box sets, reboots, you can’t replace the impact the show had on teenagers of our era in its first run.  We will remember tuning into the new Fox station Thursdays, and later on Wednesdays, to watch eight kids navigate high school in one of the wealthiest zip codes in America.  The show captured youth in the 1990’s before social media, instant communication and hypersensitivity overtook society.

The Show Should Have Been Named: Dylan McKay and Some Other Kids Living in 90210

 

It was like Saved By The Bell (1987-1994 including Miss Bliss and College Years) but with more night scenes, audacious subject matter, and no laugh track.  The writers started to stretch for story lines by season two or three after covering topics of the new kid in school, suicide, drinking, virginity, wealth disparity, and drug abuse.  Shortly thereafter it lost its mass appeal and the ratings slipped, but the show had already cemented its place in pop culture.

When you dig into it, Dylan McKay made the show.  Steve was a whiny, failed child actor, the Walsh kids didn’t belong in the same state, let alone the same zip code, as the rest of the characters, the news girl annoyed everyone, the nerd turned DJ should have been written out after season one, Kelly and Donna had more issues than they needed, but Dylan was why you watched.

The man emitted cool with his pompadour hairstyle and cold stares.  He also had a vulnerable, yet relatable, side.  He had a tumultuous relationship with a parent, a fear of not being accepted by his friends, a lack of self-esteem masked with grandiose actions, and he had a need to fit in while carving his own slice in the world.

You watched because there was a little bit of Dylan McKay in all of us.

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The Birthday Purity Challenge

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“You’re half done,” my father noted to me on my 39th birthday.  It was not presented as a philosophical talking point like a glass half full/empty conundrum, but as an observation.

Now, as I approach 40, will my childlike inquisitiveness transition to old man irascibility?  If this is to be the case, I want to go into the back half of my life with a renewed body and mind so I can become obsessed with over manicured lawns and warehousing newspapers in case the library needs a replacement of a lost edition.  For one month, I will be giving up the following items so I can start the next decade anew:

  • Added Sugar
  • Alcohol

Glucose and socially acceptable levels of drinking are my biggest vises in four decades of living?  Mundanity and caution are more appropriate items to be deleted.  To retrospectively make myself seem cooler, I will be eliminating the following, albeit non-existent, actions/items from my life:

  • Using hard Drugs
  • Womanizing
  • Gambling
  • Smoking
  • McDonald’s
  • Speeding
  • Easy drugs
  • Caffeine
  • Medical physicals
  • Not wearing a seatbelt
  • Playing video games

Now it feels like I’m creating a Facebook worthy vomit post to show everyone how I’ve seen the light as well as providing inspiration for others.

With all my ills and negative influences removed, it is time to do some good in the world.  I will become a self-appointed member of the following groups:

  • PETA (no dog fighting or buying a pet goldfish)
  • Greenpeace (no recreational whale hunting)
  • Diamond Development Initiative (no purchasing or using blood diamonds)

In times of introspection, one often arises to the conclusion he should plan for the future.  Here is a canned list of bucket list items procured from a series of Google searches:

  • Read a book from start to finish (Done-I read 1-2 books a month already)
  • Restore a bicycle (Done)
  • Run a marathon (Done-Did this in my 20’s)
  • Learn to blow glass (sorry, I refuse to learn a useless skill)
  • Go to Europe (Done-Don’t eighth graders do this for their spring break trip instead of DC?)
  • Build a coffee table from raw wood (Done)
  • Dominate spring break in Mexico (Done)
  • Create a blog with zero to few dedicated readers (Done)
  • Drive a 50-year-old car (Done)
  • Watch the running of the bulls—on TV (Done)
  • Own land (Done)
  • Beat a man in fisticuffs (Done—it was sanctioned match with a referee)
  • Shop at Walmart without feeling superior to the other customers in the store (Impossible)

The bucket list was a fairly useless exercise, but I do get a sense of accomplishment knowing I can die tomorrow having done all there is do in life.

Untitled

This month of purity has really started to take shape, but to further inspire others, I will add on a series of motivational quotes which sound great, but provide no value in becoming a better person.

  • “Money can’t buy happiness”—No, but it helps.
  • “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, and try again” —Two words: Restraining order.
  • “Live everyday likes it’s your last”—What do you do when you wake up the next day?
  • “Never let the fear of striking out keep you from playing the game.” —Russian Roulette doesn’t have long term positive expected outcome
  • “Hold my beer”/”You gotta get drunk”
  • “Expect nothing and you will never be disappointed” —Is this motivation or a fact?

This life reorientation exercise provided no value to me and showed that periodically hitting the “Reset” button on life yields nothing more than hindsight depression while breeding anxiety of the future.

Thank you for reading and I apologize for wasting your time.

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The Real Problem with Today’s Youth: Travel Sports

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In every town, there is a high school quarterback doinking the head cheerleader underneath the bleachers exchanging a cornucopia of STDs and breeding deep-seated insecurities.  Shortly after graduation, our anti-hero will get a job laying brick while paying child support and falling behind on his retirement planning before succumbing to the effects of CTE.  She will end up in a greasy spoon diner with a two-pack-a-day smoking habit dodging the IRS for not reporting her tips and dealing with a lifetime of daddy issues.  It sucks to peak at 18.  As you log roll down the last three-quarters of your life, consider yourself lucky if you hit a tree and terminate early.

This terrible scenario can all be avoided if kids didn’t dedicate their formative years to travel sports.

Some Moronic Parents Believe Their Child Will Get Paid to Play

It is excellent parenting to want your child to excel at some activity other than iPad watching and telling their parents, “I’m bored.”  Unfortunately, many dads decide their kid is going to play a professional sport.

  • “Just give my son five years of pitching in the majors. Then he can go be an agent”,
  • “I’m not saying he’s going to leave college early to play in the NFL, but I’m not too concerned he failed his multiplication test yesterday.”
  • “I’ve got him playing b-ball up a couple of grades–get him use to playing against bigger players, because in the NBA…”

Your kid just wants play sports as a hobby when he is not hanging out with his buddies.  You, your child’s life advisor, should focus on what really matters:  producing a well-rounded adult who will not be living in your basement until he is thirty-five because Little Tommy’s pro sport career didn’t pan out as father predicted.

Do the Math:  Your Kid Ain’t Going Pro

Here’s a chart I put together.  If you don’t believe in probability, I’ll sum up the chart for you:  It is not going to happen for your kid.

League/Job               Players                     Median Salary     Avg. tenure      Lifetime earnings

Little League Players12,600,000 Players$0N/A$0
Minor League Players2,2.57,700 Players$1,000/month*4 years4$48,000
Major League Players3750$1,500,000/year5.6 years5$8,400,000
Dentist10195,722$190,840**30 years$5,725,200
High School Teacher63,200,000$58,030**30 years$1,740,900 plus pension
Elevator Repairman720,700$80,870**30 years$2,426,100 plus pension

*4 years is the recommended time to see if you are pro material or a minor league lifer.

**Approximation

To further complicate matters, 27% of all MLB baseball players are foreign born, so that kid working on his curve in Chisholm, Minnesota has a world to beat out if he is going pro9.

Kevin Costner and James Earl Jones are not going to pick your boy up in a VW van on the way to a mystical field of dreams where ghosts shag fly balls and talk of banishment from baseball.  Shortly after your son arrives at this imaginary park, he will see a choking victim in the stands.  Your all-star transforms into a doctor and saves the little girl.  The perfect son.  A great movie, but it is only a movie.

Instead, expect to pay $5,000-$15,000 a year on travel baseball8.  You’re going to cough up league payments, staff a fieldhouse of personal coaches, buy home and away uniforms, pull your kid out of school on a semi-regular basis, hemorrhage tournament entry fees (plus buying tickets so you can watch your kid play), acquire a couple of $400 composite bats, spend nights in hotel rooms, and alternate your meals between Chili’s and Ponderosa.

You’re doing all this to give junior the best training to have an opportunity to earn below minimum wage in the minors.  Ten years of travel ball at 10 g’s a year is the same cost as a four year public college at the out-of-state rate or about half of the tuition of medical school12, 13.  A father entrenched in the travel programs will say, “It is worth it”.  Everyone on the outside sees travel sports as the Scientology of organized religion.

We are not raising Spartan soldiers, who by age seven were stripped from their mothers to train as elite warriors11.  Focusing on the nuances of throwing a breaking ball or learning effective bat control when laying down a bunt are hardly the skills needed to protect country, property and freedom from foreign aggressors in order to preserve our way of life.

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As a more reasonable option, house league ball will set you back about $100 a year while using team bats, letting your kid ride his bike to practices, allow dads to coach while concurrently investing in father/son time, maximize the child’s schooling, and eating home cooked meals coupled with sleeping in your own bed.

If your house league child decides to hang up the second-hand purchased cleats and pursue something more sensible than baseball like B.A.S.E. jumping or running an underground scorpion fighting ring, the reverberation of “but we’ve invested so much in your career” will never sound within the walls of your house.

No One Likes a Helicptoer Dad Seasoned With a Heaping Side of Affluenza.

Your spouse will want a divorce.  Team parents don’t like hearing you ramble on about how your son is superior to their kid.  Your co-workers would rather get trapped an elevator while two people discuss fantasy soccer than hang out with you at the coffee machine.  Worst of all, you are setting your child up to follow a path of chasing life situations with negative expected value.

Who Am I to Throw Shade On Your Dreams that Your Son Plays Pro Ball?

After getting on the varsity team my senior year, I realized that I was never going to play as much as I wanted, so I asked the coach to move me down to JV.  The coach agreed to move me, but not the three other varsity players who subsequently asked for the same transition.  My senior year of hockey was awesome.  We didn’t have any ego maniacal parents with inadequacy issues morphed into a tyrant-like hockey parenting making Vlad the Impaler look like Mr. Rogers.  The kids on the team were realistic, because they realized what was at stake:  Nothing.  No one was going to make a career out of a game.  The act of winning was fourth to having fun, staying off the streets, and saying “No to drugs”.

I chose to focus on my education and used sports as recreation.  As for how it turned out, well, I’m glad I didn’t end up in some farm system outside of Mobile, Alabama praying for a scout to notice my ability to be a pull hitter or my time in the 40 yard dash.  Meanwhile my pregnant wife is sucked into the downward spiral that the next phone call might be the invite to the “Big Show”.

I enjoy playing in the beer softball leagues.  I am a sub-average player but it’s OK, because by the time you’re in middle age, hopefully you realize team sports are more about the team and not the sport.

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Throw Pillows Are The Worst

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I hate throw pillows.  What is the purpose of a pillow that costs an exorbitant amount of money and time, you can’t sleep on them, they house dust mites, and no one, outside of the inhabitants of the bedroom, ever sees them?

Bigger Time Suck Than Facebook 

In the ten years I’ve dealt with decorative pillows, I have wasted approximately five hours of my life throwing them on the floor prior to going to sleep1.  My wife has wasted even more time.  Every morning she carefully puts each one on the bed as she rebuilds our sleep shrine.  When you add in time spent procuring the pillows from department stores, surfing online, as well as consulting others getting second opinions to ensure that they complement the bedding, curtains, and bath towels, the time lost becomes immeasurable.  When Jack Kevorkian’s apprentice pulls the plug on me in some nondescript hospice center, I’m sure I’ll say, “You know, I really wished I spent more time enjoying the beauty of decorative pillows.  Commence the flat-lining.”

The Pillow You Can’t Sleep On 

After flinging the pillow art off the bed, I uncover my trusty, run-of-the-mill K-Mart pillow and sleep.  In the morning my pillow is covered in drool and the dead soldiers from my receding hairline.  Apparently, decorative pillows are meant to be seen and serve no functional purpose.  Any attempt to sleep on the decorative pillow results in a lecture so painful I wish I could have just slept on the hardwood floor without any pillow.  The one-way conversation revolves around themes that I will douse the thing in saliva and snot while sleeping and ruin the pillow.  This confuses my pragmatic approach to life that things are meant to be used for what they were designed for.  Score another point for throw pillows in the “these things are beyond worthless” category.

Truly Is An Art Piece

Even if I were allowed to fall asleep on these pillows, how would I rest comfortably on one with an infinite number of large ruffles, oversized plastic buttons, and a fabric so rough that it makes 80-grit sandpaper seem like a bag of goose down?

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You can pick up this gem at Ethan Allen for only $139.  When I think of a medieval torture device, I think of this.

Michael Breus Ph.D recommends “If you have a plain-old, inexpensive polyester pillow, you should be replacing it every six months” 2.  Somehow throw pillows are exempt from this rule because we have had the same decorative pillows around our house since nearly the turn of the century.  They spend half their life lying in the corner of a room collecting dust mites and other allergens.  During the day, they are transferred to the bed where they deposit all their floor collections to the bedding.  Real pillows become a harbinger for asthma and upper-respiratory infections.  Might as well pack a little ebola and meningitis in the kids’ lunches and send them off to school too just ensure that everyone gets full exposure to all forms of communicable diseases.

These Things Had To Be Invented By Swingers

Who goes into your bedroom anyway?  Unless you’re swinging with the pink flamingo in your front yard, no respectable human walks into your house and says “let’s see the throw pillows”.  Instead, you give them the ho-hum tour of the professional grade Viking Stone, the wet bar in the basement with some super dark, microbrew ale on tap, and the lithograph Picasso near the butler pantry.  No host exclaims, “you must check out my fifteen-year old decorative pillows.”  Throw pillows as decoration make about as much sense as painting a mural on the airducts in the walls for your HVAC system.

I’m sure there is a greater purpose for these pillows and I’m missing it, but until I figure it out, I’ll keep on dealing with the annoyance.

If you have 2 mins, watch me go through my nightly pillow ritual,

If you are a millennial with ADHD, just watch this GIF.

Image result for along came polly pillow gif

15 seconds x 365 days x 10 years = 5 hours

2 https://greatist.com/grow/when-buy-new-pillow

3https://www.ethanallen.com/en_US/shop-decor-pillows-throws-pillows/wildflower-pillow/065562.html?utm_source=google&utm_medium=cpc&utm_campaign=pla|us|nb|cmp|0_500&utm_content=shopping_nb&gclid=CjwKCAjw7MDPBRAFEiwAppdF9MrkIKwDlHjzXK2-SJJ2lOfwWVMpvawtTHmPubbNqGG0tFQkXcYgHBoC3GoQAvD_BwE

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