Monday, March 31, 2008

You're Nothing To Me Now, Fredo

It's difficult standing out in the rain of reason and righteousness. Providing opportunities for the morally week to step up to the plate and speak their collective piece is something I waste a lot of time on. Usually, it's at the end of a relationship where they are lingering simply to get that last ounce of pus from my soul. Here's one appeal for forthrightness I sent today that I wager will be answered with waffling and pretend hand-wringing:

I'm inclined to assume that you're pretty busy with work and life and general, so I have to apologize for imposing myself on you, or, at least, that's the feeling I'm getting. Please keep in mind that 40 years of propaganda from Dad, and a little from Mom, too, plus the sort of on-again, off-again, near-miss relationship we've had over the course of my life does leave me a little wobbly in knowing how to approach you. Actually, and I think you might consider this silly, I thought that after Mom died, I'd likely never hear from you again but that it would be subtle. Instead of saying outright and honestly that you'd rather not, you simply wouldn't, and that would be that.

On the other hand, that may just be me reading into stuff too much, thinking too much and doing the scenario building I do so well. Perhaps I expect too much or rely too much on the stereotype I carry of you in my head. Regardless, two plus two does indeed equal four and I think it's right for me to ask where we stand. In other words, if you'd prefer not to have the assumed obligation of a relationship, then I'd want you to say so, outright. I'd rather not feel foolish or wronged and that should be, I would think, within your standards to help mitigate.

We'll see. I'll publish the reply, redacted, of course, so that you, my long-suffering reader, can enjoy the proof of my intuition. By the way, believe me when I tell you that this is not at all harsh. This is a result of 25 years of trying and, I'm guessing, not being told the entire truth. Sorry, but I assume that family should behave to protect and nurture the family members. Guess I was wrong on that, too. Stoopid me.

In fact, the answer I expect will be a variant of this:

Fredo, you're nothing to me now. You're not a brother, you're not a friend. I don't want to know you or what you do. I don't want to see you at the hotels, I don't want you near my house. When you see our mother, I want to know a day in advance, so I won't be there. You understand?
- Michael Corleone, The Godfather, Part II (1974)

We'll see.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Fatness, Further

The wonderful thing about writing a blog is that the gratification is instant and complete. If I care to rant like a moron, I can and immediately let it all loose to hang like the saggy underarm of a Midwestern tourist trying in vain to hail a cab in Midtown in the rain on Christmas Eve.

I wrote a column, or rather, a rant, on how I felt about Fat People. I am writing this to retract my view that fat is bad. It's not so. Fat is highly necessary for the healthy functioning of the human body. Fat in high-quality beef makes the difference between Prime and Choice cuts and a huge difference in flavour. Without a certain amount of well-placed fat, we would not ogle Mariah Carey or most of the booty-grinding hip-hop "dancers" on MTV, thus creating a huge cultural deficit. Fat creates opportunity for plastic surgeons all over the world where otherwise they would likely be relegated to servicing the occasional burn victim or third-world cleft palate. And, without fat, how amusing would Jerry Springer's show actually be? I will say here and now - not very.

But I will confirm that I don't have to look at it, now, do I? So, the Fat Fashion Faux Pas section of my piece on the subject stands. Be as fat as you want, just don't force me to see, it, please. And, no, I won't be more accepting of the Round Crowd. I just won't make it my problem if you won't. No more common-sense advice to help you Fatties have better health and more sex-appeal. No more citations of human physiology texts accepted as the basis of that science. No more jeers at the expense of your fat-laden aortae. I'm going to cease and desist. Instead, as a public service, I bring you these links for enlightenment as to the glories of Fattitude:

So, grab a snack, some brewskis and sidle up to the ol' monitor for some interesting reading. You're welcome.

Change, Disturbed

I'm tired of change. I like routine as much as or more so than the next guy. The old Chinese curse is, "May you live in interesting times." Apt as it is to my present circumstances, I know that only with some minor changes, the majority of roadblocks to my imagined happiness could fall away. And those roadblocks are due to my indecision and a lack of foresight. So, what to do?

Since I started writing this column, gas prices have elevated themselves past the magical $3 mark, I've changed jobs three times, lost my control over my household and my daughter, failed to make long-lasting connections with friends, have lost my mother, realized that any kind of future relationship with my brother will not be and, further, realized that prior relations with him were principally a sham, though I suspected it before, took prescribed drugs that were really bad for me, explored CBT and co-dependency therapy, lost parts of two teeth, lost 40 pounds, lost control of my creative skills. I'm not so much lamenting the loss, as I have done previously, ad nauseum, but I do point to the fact that this is more change that one human is likely to endure or enjoy. I want it to stop.

The choices I've had to make are abysmally difficult and only 50% right leading to a tumbling domino tower of disaster. I know from my experience in business that the least amount of change renders the greatest yield and that applies to changes in the smallest processes as much as it does to general strategy and tactics in business acquisition. Repeatability is the friend of productivity. Please don't tell me "change is good" because I can prove that it's not, easily. It's not a matter of how adept one is at adaptation, it's that adaptation requires time and energy which means that one is not prepare to respond to opportunity and has not developed a margin of resources to plunge face-first into the cold river of risk.

My analogical anecdote relates to one of my favorite movies, Doctor Zhivago. I imagine the good doctor at the Moscow rail terminus in the cold depth of the Russian winter. He's late, due to revolutionary mayhem, for the train to Paris, that will take him and Anna to freedom and joy. Upon arrival, he sees two trains on opposite sides of the platform - one bound for Paris and the other headed for the permafrost of Siberia. There is no marking on either train. There is no one to ask. He has to choose one or the other or stay behind to surely be shot by the Revolutionary Militia for his association with the bourgeoisie. Left, or right? La Rive Gauche or Smolensk? Both trains begin to leave the station and he hops on one, only to find that it's the wrong train. Too late to turn back, to undo the decision. He was forced to make the choice and the information he needed came far too late. No point jumping off as the other train is long gone and there won't be another. And in Moscow, the NKVD waits to make him an example of their Revolutionary Righteousness.

So, it doesn't matter that the "mistake" was inadvertent. It happened and now all events in the timeline must change as the circumstances have changed. There is no such thing as a time machine, so, we are universally stuck with the outcome of our choices, whether anticipated or not. If change is absent, so too are the choices limited, thus, the opportunity to make mistakes or to be subject to the creation of "unforeseen circumstances" is limited or eliminated.

I have no personal margin or reserve. I've used up even that "emergency" store of fortune, and I don't mean money. I mean the tossing of the dice and coming back with winnings at least 49% of the time, which is time in of itself. But the process of dice-tossing is there, unchanging, throw after throw.

In the past, I operated within the apparent sphere of minimal harm, thus, my mistakes were not amplified and there was support. Now, I operate in a land of extremely aggressive hostility, where my every move is monitored, not only for actual mistakes, but also for near-misses that can be presented as monumental failures or exploited to my detriment. Again, this is not a woe-is-me moment but instead is meant to come to terms with what's real.

I know the following, or I should say that I believe this:

I can't give up the fight. I would rather die than lose. But, if winning in another ground would supplant this loss, I would be satisfied to bide my time and then strike with viciously cold, maximally brutal force. So I must win and I must have revenge and I won't rest until I have both. No, I'm not a Christian, not in any sense. I can't forgive those who don't accept my forgiveness and my contrite admission of my weakness, my humanity. Because savage indifference should be punished and if done to me, I will be the Punisher. I refuse to present the other cheek.

Cheery, huh? Tough sh*t. You may be next.

And so now I execute my Brilliant Plan. I'm going to reach back in my psyops bag of tricks, use every resource I can to maximum benefit and take no prisoners. To paraphrase Beale, I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore. To further paraphrase Bickel, you talkin' to me? you talkin' to me? You must be talkin' to me cause there ain't nobody else here.

Apologetically and parenthetically I say that I don't ask much because I don't. Forgive me my trespasses and let me move forward. If you want me to keep investing time in you, then make the small changes I ask of you so that I don't have to ask you three times. I'm flexible, but I have to work within my overall plan, as fluid as it may seem to you. I'm taking back my power of choice. The time of compromise is passed. Now I will do, act and say precisely what I mean to get to the ends I need to achieve. This is all bigger than you and me. It's much more than a petty categorization. It's my goddamn life. Dammit.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

What's The Big, Fat Greek Deal?

I was going to write an entry on how the Democrat party can't seem to not shoot itself in the collective foot. Then I thought I would write at the tremendous loss I'm feeling at the desertion en masse of my family and the realization that, because I am passive and weak, I had been played and diminished to the point of invisibility. Then I decided that I would write about the Number One problem plaguing Americans today - fat.

I don't like fat people. I don't like their collective attitudes. I don't care for the fact that they just can't shut their big, fat mouths and get off their asses for a change. No, I don't want to accept them as a sub-culture. They are fat; not Irish, not gay, not Libertarian - fat.

Why are these people fat, anyhow? It's glandular - yeah, okay, certain conditions, especially of the endocrine system, can contribute to excessive weight gain through the improper processing of nutrient intake, but, come on already. It's not like these conditions can pop up overnight. Metabolic issues usually arise in early childhood and can be monitored, treated with medication, diet and exercise and moderated, if not abated.

I was a chunky child. They called my form "husky" in my day, which meant that I ate too many damned Scooter Pies. I like Scooter Pies, okay? I liked Fritos, Coke and Nilla Wafers and milk, too. And my parents were in the food business, so I got my fixes cost-free, baby. For my parents, European immigrant peasants who had made good in the Brave New World, it was all just baby fat. After all, my brother was the same way when he was a kid. And man-boobs, or should I say, boy-boobs, ran in the family, so, I'd grow out of it . . . no?

Yes and no. Lucky for me, I liked girls. After age eleven, I liked them more and more. And the less chunky I became, the more they liked me. Voila! So, I ate much less crap, got more active and got to a proper weight. I have pictures to prove it, too.

When I hear fat people excuse their fatness, I roll my eyes. "I was depressed over my divorce," said one Super Chunker with whom I work. "I used to be into body building, " and I see that she still is, only she seems to be going for quantity instead of quality. She's huge. Lunch? Oh, yeah - don't keep her from Gargulio's Mega MeatWich Wednesday's or you're a dead man. "Hey, these things are six bucks and it's a pound and a half . . . you can't beat that!" Fine. Eat up. But when she starts breathing down my neck at work, OMFG, I just want to scream. Frankly, I'm afraid that she'll fall over and that it will look like it's my fault.

Now, there are many svelte and lean persons working at my company. They are all European - meaning that they're here to work for a time and get some experience and then go home to their various lairs in Europe. Not a roll of fat between them. Not waif-thin, but really, looking fit. I ask - what is it that you do that us Americans don't do. The answer is, almost universally, all things in moderation and we know when to stop. One of these narrow foreigners asked me, in all seriousness, whether the need for those awful chocolate pretzels is because a single taste at a time is too much of a time-waster for us Americans. Another question was this: "Why are you all so fat?" I promised him that there were thinner people in America, just, maybe, not around her, so much.

So, what's the friggin' problem? I watch what people buy for themselves at QuickChek as lunch and snack items. One can tell that this is the intent since the quantities are (laughably) singular - a sixteen ounce soda, a foot-long hero, a bag of chips, not the two ounce, either, a danish, giant-sized coffee with four sugars, oh, yeah, and a soft-baked pretzel for dessert. Fruit? Nope. Protein? Um, does pepperoni count? Fat - check. Carbs - triple check. The problem is that being fat is as easy as being the right weight but it seems that my countrymen where passing notes or winging spitballs during health class in high school instead of paying attention to the frickin' Food Pyramid. And, I might add, they also missed math class, because, my fat friends, it's all very simple and any doctor on the face of the planet will tell you the Great Weight Loss Secret, and you don't have to buy my ebook to find this out.

Eat less. What you do eat, eat the right amount of what your body needs in terms of fulfilling your screaming chemicals, meaning, fruit, vegetables, protein, grains, always in proportion. Be more active. THAT'S IT! That's all there is to it. There's nothing more. You don't need Hoodia. You don't need motivation hypnosis. Shut your trap, eat a salad and get of your ass. The less calories you intake, the less you have to burn and the less unused calories will be turned to fat. Duh. The more active you are - that's right, put down the remote and pay attention - the more calories you burn. If you burn more calories than you intake, your body will use up some of the fat stores to make up the difference. You will lose fat. By actually exercising, you will strengthen your vascular system, but, forgetting that since I could care less about your heart and lungs since I can't see them, you will gain long muscle, too, which, in turn, will help maintain a more level usage of calories. Eventually, you will be your *correct* weight.

The key is that there's nothing to sacrifice or to think about. Don't drink 16 ounces of sugared soda a day and you cut 400 calories out of your diet. Don't eat a danish every morning - I was at two hundred pounds once and simply stopped my favorite cheese morning danish and over the course of eight months, lost twenty pounds. Nothing else changed because it's PLAIN LOGIC! Have a plain roll with a little butter - yes, you see, everything in proportion here - and, yes, have you coffee with a sugar and 2% milk or non-dairy creamer. Skip the sausage and the croissant because you're sitting in an office of call center somewhere and you're not burning calories, so you don't have to eat like a friggin' farmhand. And stop with the snacks. Just stop it, you fat bastard.

I now weigh 155 pounds. My doctor was worried that I was underweight at 150, so I put on some weight. For the last three month, I took in about 300 more calories a day. No, I wasn't counting the calories, I just added one item, balanced protein, carbs and fat, because our bodies need all of those elements, and I gained the weight. Easy. Easy enough to lose it again, too, if I chose to. I know that when the warmer weather is really here, instead of the big tease it is in the NorthEast at the moment, I will have to up my intake again to compensate for the energy I'll use mowing the lawn and so forth. I will listen to my body and give it just what it needs, not more. And my weight will be stable. I will not have to think about it, plan, categorize foods or anything else, because it's a part of daily life.

In short, it's just not that hard to not be fat. I puzzled over how chunky married couples manage to get their jollies as I just could not do it. And, I'm honest about it, too. My first wife was very nice when I met her and then, she bulked up. She had an excuse, too - ulcerative colitis that had her eating steroids like they were going out of style, but, she also was a Friend of Pringles and not just a few. At some point, well, it just wasn't happening for me - sorry, G. I find it very uninspiring. And, listen here, if it hurts your collective feelings, hate me, but do something about it. It's a self-induced disability and I don't forgive you. Get your revenge by living well. God!

There is so much that can be done by so many. We don't need a reality TV show to see how it's done or to hear about the heartbreak of being a Porker. Put that shake down. Diabetes, heart disease, liver, kidney, prostate (for men) problems are all waiting for you at much increased levels and at a higher risk if you are a fatty. And, it's gross. The fatter you are, the fewer clothes you can buy, the less sexy you are and the less sexy you will feel - that's not my opinion but is in fact simple human physiology having to do with mating and reproduction, so, there.

If you decide to remain fat, and it is a decision, so please don't f*cking lie to me because I ain't buying it, please dress properly. No skin-tight synthetic fabrics, please, no, please. Forget about open shoes or sandals because it looks like you're hopping around on two loaves of unbaked bread, okay? No Capris, no waist-huggers, as you have no waist, 'k? Stripes will help, but, c'mon, there's a limit. Don't delude yourself into thinking a tanktini will slim you because that rising moon of a belly is going to pop out at some point and I don't want to see it. And just so you don't think I'm picking on the girls, let me say to the "Big Men" out there that you gotta get real. A paunch was the emblem of merchant aristocracy in the 1800's, but not now. If you're round, you're gonna have to stick to the fat chicks, or worse, the crazy ones. Is that what you want? Don't you want to be able to head over to Marshall's and have your pick of easy-to-find fashions in a 32 waist? Don't you want to feel sleek at the beach so that you actually can wear a Speedo and not look like a fat fool? 

I will repeat this for those not quite sure of what I'm getting at. Eat a balanced diet, no, but really. Cut out the processed sugars - no sugary soda, no bagels as big as your head. Eat what you need, not until you feel "full." Get off your ass, walk around the parking lot for 15 minutes, as you aren't eating so much, you'll have that time to spare. Guys - get off your butts at home and do half the housework. Your wife will be shocked and you'll have a cleaner house and she won't be so tired, leading to more blowjobs, possibly, though I make no guarantees there. Climbs stairs, walk to the store instead of taking the car. Skip the danish. You will not only lose weight, and fat, mind you, but you won't wheeze going up the stairs to your bedroom and you'll have more energy at work, which will make your boss happy and you will glory in this phrase, "Hey, Frank, did you lose some weight? You're looking pretty good." Of, course, most guys would appreciate hearing, "Hey, how about a blowjob?" right after that, but let's start off slowly, shall we?

It's not that hard. It can take some time, maybe a year to see a real difference, if you're doing it right. But once you've made the simple change of skipping that AM doughnut, all you have to do is set it and forget it and it will happen on its own, almost. And, please, look in the mirror before you go out - the Europeans are watching, and they're laughing at us all.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008


I hope I don't wind up turning this blog into a summary of the Seven Deadly Sins and How I Loved Them because that would be too much for even me to take. But I do want to comment on what strikes me as being one of the Big Unchange-ables in life - the fact that one can't undo that which is done. The wages of mistake are failure and regret and I'm feeling a whole bunch of that now.

If I had a magical pony that could grant me any wish, I think it would be to have the forgiveness of those I've wronged, however large or slight. After being granted their grace, I would want to pick up at a new place with them, the place I intended to go in the first place but somehow, due to arrogance, ignorance, pride or foolishness, lost my way and they, being trusting, or hearing what they wanted to hear, depending on how cynical you are, came right along.

There are a lot of people I really miss: Jim, Mark, Glen, C, S, Jane and even Georgia. I miss my kid and the hope of a family and I regret that I couldn't make it work like it should. I regret that although my wife is insane, - and I regret that, too - she was right about quite a few things. I regret that no matter what I would have done with her that she would never care about me because she isn't capable and I regret that she will do the same to my kid. I regret the fact that I can't be like other people and instead have to struggle daily with the basics just to get by or be sentenced to a lifetime of drug therapy that would make me a eunuch. Heck, I'm still suffering from post-SNRI side-effects.

I regret not taking more chances with my self and I regret succumbing to fear. Really - what was the worst that could happen? Sure, some bad things happened and they hurt very much, crippled my lifestyle and such but not taking the risks meant me quelling the possibilities and I regret that the most since those chances are gone.

Mostly, I regret not believing that it'll be alright. Oh, it will probably be somewhat okay but in the end, I've squandered people, opportunities, family, love and life itself. Therefore, I regret that I am what my Uncle Paul would call "that poor Schmuck."

So, I've been given myriad opportunities and basically pitched them into the sea. Must be that ADD or something. And now, the opportunities are gone, all used up. I've put myself past all that will be good because I don't know how to handle it, I guess, and those chances should go to someone who can do something sustaining with them. It would be best for all concerned.

I can ask Glen to forgive me for not listening, for giving in to my ego, but she'd be right in not hearing that. If I had the patience (see the last f$*&#ing blog entry) maybe that would have worked out. I'm sure she could care less if I were living or dead, but I think about her often enough to know that I regret not having sat down that one night seventeen or so years ago and not budged until we decided on a next step and then another and another until we got to a point where we agreed on a direction, until she felt that I was hearing her.

I failed D and my kid my not recognizing that D was insane from the start, that she was a black sheep from a family of black sheep. I regret trusting her, allowing my ego to bloom under the power of a 23-year old, until she manipulated and controlled everything I did and even what I thought to the point of my Inner Mother saying NO as she did to my father thirty years ago. Only now do I realize that my attraction to her was that she is my father and that I very much wanted him to give me the love and validation I could only get from him. He didn't fork it over and neither did she. So, I regret not seeing and not being circumspect as, at 32, I should have been.

I regret not being totally honest with those who trusted me and I regret that I can't ever undo that lack of honesty.

So, what do I do here? Suicide? That doesn't sound like fun, although I am pretty damn sad. Just carry on and do better next time? I don't feel like I deserve another chance just now and besides, the effect is cumulative and I grow more gun shy every minute. Another pony analogy - the gun-shy part.

Well, then, I guess I'll just have to be patient. It doesn't cost anything, so, why not?

In the meantime, I am sorry. Sorry for missing all of you, sorry that I didn't take the other path with you, sorry that you're gone, all of you, cause it could have been fun, all this time, together. And I wouldn't have regretted that, no, not at all.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Not At All Dead - For Those With Patience

I'm a big fan of Sun Tzu. His principles of engagement in the Art of War are so simple yet so sensible, it's no wonder he was the great general two and a half millennia ago. One of his most cogent thoughts is the decision to engage the enemy. For instance:
  • You should not linger in desolate ground.
  • In enclosed ground, resourcefulness is required.
  • In death ground, fight.
This, and so much more he says, is applicable in business and, I've found, in general dealings with people. The concept of a weak force weakening the opposition by scant incursions, biting, biting, drawing back. The idea of obligation to engage when in an elevated position with troops of normal skill being the same as warring with weak troops on superior ground or strong troops when disadvantaged by the field. Ah, Sun Tzu, where are you now?

Though Sun Tzu was talking about war, it's a hard thing to admit that human relations can be microcosmic battle zones, too, and even there, the vanquished can feel the victor.

The other aspect is patience. Patience borne where it seems that no more patience is possible. To wait when it seems impossible to wait any longer, for just a moment later, opportunity breaks. This is my situation currently. So much has happened in the last month along these lines that I must say that where I was once a creature of impulse that I now worship patience and The Wait.

It's hard, I know. But good things come to those who wait. No, but really. Put your pieces in play and wait. No, not yet, not yet - okay, now! See? Works every time. You control time this way and time is a non-renewable resource of great value. Yes, you may have to make choices and take losses but it is YOUR decision.

I lost a good friend this year because of lack of patience. My position in my divorce has broadened and strengthened, because of the practice of patience. My situation at work is improved due to patience. The waiting is balance with knowing the options and knowing when to strike for maximum effect. Timing is everything, indeed.

The aphorisms are out there, not only for our amusement. Time to pay attention to them, I think.