The Thing About Race

I spent more time on The Facebook last week than I have in a while, mesmerized by a generally comforting stream of white faces — whom I’ve never seen post a picture with black faces — shouting noble truths and cursing our president. Interspersed were the usual close-up pictures of giant Aryan babies, a peculiar juxtaposition when bookended by posts of white outrage and guilt. I didn’t know whether to scold the parents for being oblivious to social context or admire them for the commitment to normalcy when the world seemed to be ending, like the orchestra playing on the Titanic.

So saddened by the events of Charlottesville, my wife said she wasn’t sure whether to bring kids into this world after all. Part of me wanted to seize this opportunity to secure a binding agreement, but I countered honestly. I think it’s as fine a time as any to live.

Watching Nazis and their stupid chants and torches deposited palpable negative emotions in my gut, which seemed to somehow elude a certain president and father of a Jewish daughter.

However, I don’t think America is being torn apart or at an inflection point. I don’t think our president ushered in the rise of a white nationalist era. I cherry-picked some backup from The Wall Street Journal and hate-crime-fighting SPLC indicating no statistically significant change.

This perception feels about right to me. Things appear to be more or less the same. There are bad days, but it’s not like President Obama presided over a golden age of race relations either.

Zooming out to a bigger timeline, I find it encouraging the civil rights demonstrators being swarmed and harassed by racist counter-protestors 50 years ago have essentially swapped positions.

Because we are so maddeningly tribal within our species, race has always been and continues to be this… thing. It’s interesting, frustrating, wonderfully and terribly complex.

Asians earned the distinction of model minority in America, and we thank you magnanimous white folks for the opportunity to serve within your framework in such high esteem. In my biased opinion though, there is no ethnic group people enjoy making fun of more than Asians.

Consider this masterpiece by Steve Harvey, a comedian I actually like and know can do better.

This is racist, too. The tone differs pleasantly from that of a neo-Nazi rally, and no one got run over by a car which is always a nice bonus. But something about the dismissive comfort in this scene, while talking about a man’s ability to attract a partner, which some might say is fundamental to his soul and identity, with a studio audience quietly laughing along, made it a bit sinister.

Maybe if the jokes were more clever coming from a longtime professional, I could write it off to lowbrow comedy. This was absolute garbage. I’m not sure you could pull that off talking about any other race without more backlash than Harvey got.

Listen Steve, I tried to bang as many white girls in my 20s as I could. Maybe I fell short of Wilt Chamberlain, but I filled out a full roster plus injured reserve. Then I flew too close to the sun and married one, and now I can’t keep up the good fight anymore.

For a 33-year-old with a beautiful wife, the Steve Harvey clip doesn’t cut very deep. But I don’t want some 12-year-old Asian boy getting bullied at school stumbling on it, just like I don’t want some 12-year-old black boy playing in a park in the shadow of a Robert E. Lee statue. (Am I being too black and white when I say Confederate monuments are the kind of thing museums were built for?)

I once stayed out past midnight and drove to Hollywood on a weeknight to support my Indian friend doing standup comedy, and one of her jokes was something about how she didn’t like Asian men because they’re scrawny and just “Eww.”

And then she moved on the next joke! Where was the punchline; what was the point? That was just plain mean. Most aspiring comedians wouldn’t dare put the preference so bluntly about blacks or Mexicans. If they said it about white men, a subtle strain of white privilege would be invoked. It’s so easy to take jokes and be self-deprecating from a position of power, just like it’s so easy to be generous when you’re rich.

I don’t want to get into that. I’m being a baby now and will stop. I only bring all this up to reiterate… race is a thing. It is ever-present in so many forms of varying concern, whether we have a black president or one so narcissistic he would rather appear bigoted than apologetic.

Again, I am confident white supremacism in America is not getting worse if you control for the effects of technology. It is easier to organize, disseminate and become visible. But maybe some overexposure is good, too. If Trump makes White Power feel empowered, I kind of don’t mind knowing who feels that way.

This might be another unfortunate case of my underestimating as I did during the election, but I just can’t shake this condescending mindset. If you’re a Nazi in 2017 America, can you possibly be crushing it in life?

I just can’t see the dude with the hot girlfriend or getting the D1 scholarship or starting the company or building a 401K or with more friends than he can count joining the Klan. I can plainly see that not all white supremacists are tattooed skinheads or hillbilly mouth breathers.

But still, succeeding at life offers three checks against extreme bigotry. 1) You don’t have time or energy to waste on it. 2) You have too much to lose. 3) Your experiences and relationships are too diverse for the construction of such flimsy philosophies.

Thus I subscribe to the opinion that white supremacists, dangerous as they can be, are not good enough at life as a whole for me to worry daily. They seem no more or less of a threat than radical Islamists or renegade black militants hunting down cops.

Our previous president strategically avoided using the term “radical Islamic terrorists,” endeavoring to keep the hate separate from the religion. Maybe our current president doesn’t like the term “white supremacists” for the same reason, but he will never get the benefit of the doubt there or anywhere.

Race is a thing. Pragmatically, the surest way to make it less of a thing is interracial relationships and friendships. We gain those over time, but there is probably an upper limit in the march to a universal race and harmony because humans naturally will find a way to unite and divide.

Race will always be a thing. Just because some things are jarring and get more attention doesn’t mean things are getting worse.

 

 

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Product of Slaps and Averages

We are the average of the five people we spend the most time with, according to some version of some saying. What a disconcerting thought for a daydreamer like me, who just turned 33 and only have time for another 20 or so years of conjecture before I need to actually start planning to take action.

I should be doing more with my life, and it’s not my fault. The people around me are deadweight. I have to make some cuts and assemble a superstar starting five. All NBA franchise players are thinking the same thing, minus Kyrie.

My wife gets an unquestioned roster spot, which is great because I love her but also kind of hurts because that’s 20 percent of my lineup right there and what if I meet Elon Musk at a party and he introduces me to his four best friends which would never happen because friend groups generally are in clusters of four but what if I also run into Zac Efron at the gym and purposely do hanging leg raises next to him to strike up a conversation about proper form that leads to more discussion and ultimately friendship? Then what will I do?

Let’s not freak out for no imminent reason and focus instead on filling the other spots. I will not reserve any for children. I already joke about getting a vasectomy while blacked out. If I have to commit to an actual child being one of the five people I spend the most time with out of 7.5 billion, then I will get a vasectomy sober right now.

I seek partners with the ability to challenge me, by example. Sure my bros talk a lot of trash and back up some of it, but the subject matter basically comes down to who can drink faster/more, who can lift more weight/often, and who can be more comfortable with nudity/sexuality.

 

 

This grainy picture from five years ago appears to depict one bro holding down another in a full nelson, while another straddles his chest to orally penetrate him or maybe just organ-slap his face in degrading fashion (there is a respectfully playful way to do it), while another massages the rapist’s shoulders. Also, the mattress is missing the fitted sheet. Typical shenanigans in a Vegas hotel room, but I just get the feeling there is more achievement to be had in the real world.

At an alumni event, I met the man I could have been with a bit more gumption and applied intelligence. He is my mirror image when it comes to numerous mannerisms, interests and lines of thinking. But he’s younger and more dynamic. His Mandarin is sharper and travel experiences more expansive.

He started a successful moving company for students during undergrad. He turned down Harvard Business School and went to Stanford. Meanwhile, I was busy jerking off high school football players. (Just to be clear and avoid a dramatic misinterpretation, I mean that as an expression. I was a preps sportswriter after college.)

Here’s how smart they are at Stanford. In my quasi twin’s annual fantasy football league comprised of buddies from his class, everyone votes on an elaborate punishment for the last-place finisher. The year he lost, he had to officially register and take the SATs again.

So he showed up at the testing location deathly hung over after a big gala the previous night. Nervous Asian kids 10 years younger brought backpacks full of snacks, while all my boy wanted to do was not die. And he got a perfect score on the math section. Little wonder that these days he rocks a glamorous-sounding job in finance.

This is the kind of top-five talent I should be courting. I’m not banking on any kind of osmosis, but there has to be a fair amount of truth in the five-people-closest-to-you theory.

I think most folks have fluid enough identities, and high enough social IQs, to adapt to the people who occupy their time and space. After a while, some manners of speech, habits and thinking inevitably converge.

While reviewing material for a job interview, my wife said something that struck me. One of the things she liked about being a teacher for the past decade was being the expert and understanding the material better than the people around her. Way to shoot for the moon, babe, those second-graders set a high standard with their ability to not piss themselves.

I realized this goes to the root of a lot of our fights. I prefer to be the dumbest in a room, with as big a delta as possible without compromising the quality of interaction. Every person whom I voluntarily spend significant time with, including the bros, is smarter than me in multiple ways.

When confronted with the need to process information that suggests my inferiority or shortcoming — or just outright criticism — I interpret it as help, productivity, stimulation, motivation, opportunity for growth.

My wife, on the other hand, lets criticism touch a different part of her brain, as if another human should own your self-esteem. Thus, when I express very strong perspectives on what she could do better, the discussion easily can slip from constructive analysis to nebulous outcries about not being supportive.

The thing is, I am always cognizant of being able to take it if I’m going to dish it. I don’t mind at all being criticized. I welcome it. It’s actually easier to respond to than praise because false modesty requires so much effort and creativity to appear halfway genuine.

And I don’t criticize just anybody. I’m not close enough to people to say the things I really, really, deep down think about their faults. There are only four people in the world I am willing to nitpick as much as I do to myself: wife, brother, parents. Three of them live too far away to be top-five candidates. So I guess I’m left with Elon, Zac, quasi twin or anyone who can slap me in the face in the right way.

 

 

Writer’s note: If you spend any amount of your finite time reading the absurdities in this blog, we are either friends or highly compatible strangers. Thus I feel close enough to ask for your email address below. The only email you will ever get from me is one blog post per month for the rest of my life, until you click Unsubscribe. Thank you.


Pity the Food

Due to poor planning and execution, I shuttled leftover chicken and broccoli back and forth between home and work refrigerators for a week. By the time I opened the glass container in the office kitchen on the seventh day, the broccoli had turned a hybrid brown-green color and smelled even worse than it normally does when steamed plain.

I distinctly remember getting a 96 in one, if not both semesters, of Coach Smith’s 10th-grade AP Chemistry class. So don’t take me for an idiot. But I don’t really know how microwaves work and what they do to food during the heating process, except that if you stand too close, Asian parents will yell.

The groundless optimist in me — the same bastard part of my generally rational mind that makes me think I’m going to win the lottery every time I buy a ticket — hoped that zapping the suspect broccoli in the microwave would somehow kill the odor. Instead, I did to that little problem what our ad agency might do to your content: creation, amplification, distribution.

Had I thought of this neat parallel more quickly, I could have positioned my blunder to bewildered coworkers as a metaphorical demonstration. People were legitimately confused why, in a communal space designated for handling food, a smell permeated that almost perfectly matched that of garbage.

I don’t get paid to answer such questions, so I took my embattled lunch and retreated to the sanctuary of my desk. With the spots around me thankfully vacated at the time, I figured no one would notice. But almost as soon as I sat down, murmurs floated from three rows back demanding to know who farted.

When I explained the source, a colleague could not comprehend why I was still going to eat this food. It was not only unappetizing from her perspective, but rotten and dangerous to ingest. She exhorted me to throw it away.

First of all, I take an inordinate amount of pride in my immune system, and discounting its vigor is not the way to break my stubborn streak. Second, this conversation branched off into a broader one about a perceived myth.

Don’t get mad at me, but I don’t believe food poisoning really is a thing. This opinion offended some coworkers who readily could evoke painful experiences. But I don’t see how my belief can be more offensive than adults who confidently deny dinosaurs existed. If they can get away with that and still snag a high school or even college diploma, I should have the same courtesy applied to my convictions.

And I back up my mouth with my esophagus. I choked down that broccoli. It tasted disgusting. Earlier this year, I ate two-week-old chicken with a slimy film on it and on a separate occasion, undercooked chicken that was the wrong color and consistency on the inside. Here’s a selfie of me putting down yogurt with mold in it (not the moldy part, I’m not a barbarian):

In foreign countries, I intentionally seek the most adventurous menu items. I found a street cart on a secluded corner in Thailand and ordered pig ear, “sour fish” and something, I kid you not, called “chicken stomach flu.”

I could go on and on stroking my robust immune system, but I don’t want to give myself a boner. As far as I could tell, no food has ever poisoned my body. There was that one time freshman year when I took 12 shots of Skol vodka before our suitemate’s theatre production, collapsed against the wall of the bathroom in the student center under the supervision of a burly ex-high school middle linebacker, and then proceeded to tell the campus police officer who found us that “I think I have food poisoning or something.”

It seems to me, hypothetically of course, that food poisoning is the most convenient of excuses. You don’t have to show any symptoms before or after the alleged episode, and it can happen with as much or little lead time or as severe or mild effects as fit for your narrative.

Now, people very dear to me have suffered food poisoning, and I don’t want to question their integrity or yours. But I just don’t think it’s fair to blame the food all the time. We throw out so much because of arbitrary expiration dates and shelf lives and time left sitting out at room temperature and cooking methods and packaging and looks and smells. Come on now, just eat it.

What will really make you sick is if you research the amount of water and carbon pollution needed to produce all that wasted food. Just eat it. Prime your immune system, and condition that dainty little stomach. Not everything has to taste good or make you feel good. Sustenance and resource efficiency are worthy goals.

Maybe that’s unfair. Don’t eat if you’re just going to throw it back up. That’s a waste, too. I am a proficient machine when it comes to eradicating everyone’s leftovers, but I draw the line at vomit unless it’s a pretty color and I can blend in unsalted almond butter.

All we’re talking about here is a difference in baselines. The same bite of food can be fine to one person and illness-inducing to another. I just want to balance it out a bit and lighten some of the burden of presumed guilt placed on restaurants, cooks, grocery stores, manufacturers.

Instead of lumping everything into the food poisoning category, we can create another one for food sensitivity.

“Sorry I missed your birthday. I had bad Chinese last night.”

“Sorry I missed your birthday. I had food sensitivity last night.”

They definitely don’t have the same connotations or elicit the same pity, but I tend to think they’re the same thing.

 

 

Writer’s note: If you spend any amount of your finite time reading the absurdities in this blog, we are either friends or highly compatible strangers. Thus I feel close enough to ask for your email address below. The only email you will ever get from me is one blog post per month for the rest of my life, until you click Unsubscribe. Thank you.


A Burro and a Thong

I guess you could call it a brief interlude during an otherwise predictably homoerotic bro trip. Our bicurious antics were temporarily quieted by a thong, or more precisely, a butt in a thong, that I imagine belonged to Helen of Troy in another life. I could try to describe the sight but don’t want to turn this into a source of filth and objectifying women. I have plenty of sites for that in my incognito browsing windows.

Thus the only description I will offer is the thong was black, an underwear color that indicates sexual desire according to the classic love story 10 Things I Hate About You (which featured Heath Ledger and JGL as teenagers — How cool is that?) As for the butt, it was fundamentally perfect, no doubt created in the same celestial laboratory as Ray Allen’s jumper.

The four of us encountered this hypnotic asset after sundown at the designated adult pool of a random resort in the desert. This was the last leg of a 700-mile Memorial Day weekend road trip with no itinerary. We had spent the previous night in Lake Havasu City, a land where body mass index and age seemed directly proportional to the raciness of one’s outfit, and the ratio of tattoo ink to skin surface area hovered around even.

I would say the Lake Havasu Bro is a peculiar species resembling an amalgamation of the Huntington Beach Bro, Raider Nation/Inland Empire Bro and Trump Middle America Bro. In a good way, of course.

The ladies there might have been 30-40 percent past their prime and not traditionally invested in fitness anyway, but they also were probably more comfortable in their own skin than the standard-issue L.A. girl. That genuine self-esteem is a really attractive thing if you’re blind.

What I am trying to say, tactfully, is our perceptions likely had been anchored lower after weaving through non-metropolitan pit stops for 48 hours. Then we stumbled upon this thong, an oasis within an oasis.

There were only a handful of people at the pool, so we immediately noticed the thong set up on a lounge chair in an elevated area. We got into the water and promptly moved to a spot conducive to discrete and blatant staring through the soft twilight.

I don’t mean to throw my bros under the bus. We live with significant others ranging from longtime girlfriend to fiancée to wife to mother of child. I promise you though, this thong would have had the same effect on any group of guys. Even the most chivalrous gentlemen valiantly maintaining pretenses and suppressing the urge to be crude would certainly exchange a few oh-my-god-is-this-real glances. It was just too ridiculous to not acknowledge.

We ended up leaving before the thong, so I suppose we weren’t that perverted. We then resumed our flaming activities that included all-male hot tubbing, sneaking onto a golf course to lie in the grass and stargaze, and playing four hours of a board game called Catan while struggling to finish a 12-pack among the four of us washed-up 30-somethings.

Nobody said a word to the owner of the thong or even caught a glimpse of her face. The latter part was due to our relative positions and timing of movements, not because my bros and I were too shallow to look. If anybody was shallow, it was probably her. With a butt like that, she’s had little need to develop personality.

If I sound bitter, this might be a reflection of my conclusion in hindsight that the thong had a net-negative effect on my evening. Consider the opposite situation. On the drive to Lake Havasu, we came upon a roadside sign warning of burros, the Spanish word for donkey.

It was such an unfamiliar concept that I don’t think any of us really expected an actual mother effing donkey to be wandering around in the open. When we spotted the first one lumbering along the shoulder of the road, our SUV shook with pure elation.

We pulled over almost abruptly enough to screech the brakes, backed up right next to the strikingly docile animal, and celebrated wildly in its homely face. A 35-year-old bro who runs nine-figure projects for a defense company shouted “Burro! Burro!” and pointed like an autistic child obsessed with animals visiting the zoo for the first time.

There was a payoff in this scenario. We saw a sign that teased to something, and then we got to experience it.

Contrast that to the thong. We saw something that hijacked our conversation, consciousness, presence of mind. And then what? There was no discernible benefit.

I don’t want to see something so tantalizing that I can’t have. I don’t want to even know something like that is out there. It’s distracting and mildly depressing. Just let me live my life and be gay with my bros. What are you doing out here at a predominantly family resort in Indian Wells, oh incongruous thong?

When I explained my angst to one of my bros, he likened this to the scene in Good Will Hunting when the professor sat defeated on the floor after Matt Damon lit the math solutions on fire. He lamented:

“Most days I wish I never met you because then I could sleep at night, and I wouldn’t have to walk around with the knowledge there was someone like you out there.”

That’s how I felt about the thong, and butt it flaunted, or maybe it was the other way around. The spectacle was haunting and unnecessary and more exploitative of the observer than wearer. I would have been better off staring at the tail of a burro.

 

 

Writer’s note: If you spend any amount of your finite time reading the absurdities in this blog, we are either friends or highly compatible strangers. Thus I feel close enough to ask for your email address below. The only email you will ever get from me is one blog post per month for the rest of my life, until you click Unsubscribe. Thank you.


United We Shoulder

Perfectly inline with United’s burgeoning reputation as the most physical airline experience for those of Asian ethnicity, I had to muster the toughness of Emmitt Smith when he rolled the Giants with a separated shoulder during a 3-hour, 35-minute flight from Tampa to Denver.

It was my right shoulder put to the test after I was deposited in aisle seat 38C, no doubt due to my race. From this spot in the very last passenger row, I could reach the handles of both bathroom doors with my abnormally long arms.

I thought nothing of it and fell asleep as usual during takeoff, only to be pulled into a semi-conscious state with repeated bumping against my shoulder. It was a flight attendant passing in and out of the back area, and in retrospect, the heralding of a continuous, incredible, laughable, baffling amount of contact.

Never in the history of aviation have so many passengers gone to the bathroom on a flight. Either I missed a beer bong tailgate at the airport terminal, or first class was passing back lines of cocaine. No other explanation could suffice.

I still can’t believe it. I had my work laptop and a good book, but all I could do from groggy wakeup until merciful descent was analyze why I kept getting bumped with varying degrees of intensity — and how not to go insane over it.

The first factor I noticed was the mountain of a man in the aisle seat across from me. His entire left leg rested in the walkway, effectively turning the 405 into three lanes.

For a short time, I fumed at his apparent lack of effort to fold into his seat like everybody else. Then I happened to glance at my own shoulder, which protruded into the aisle.

This realization caused a pang of sheepishness, a feeling quickly hijacked by the satisfaction of self-acknowledging my broad shoulders. They were so wide I could not sit squarely in the seat without extending into neutral air space.

Broad shoulders create a tapered, athletic look for the torso. I love it when I manage to cut out refined carbs for 4-5 days, and my stomach has more definition than a dictionary. With full-length mirrors in our bedroom, it really takes intercourse to another level when I can stare at myself in admiration. A bit narcissistic, but this line of thinking distracted me from my bumpy plight for at least 15 minutes.

Once those good feelings subsided, the next thing I thought about was why some people chose not to pivot and sidestep between the Mountain and the Shoulder. This seemed to me an obvious solution that humans intuitively if not automatically try when confronted with narrow space.

Perhaps after navigating 20 rows down an aisle, focus unraveled in the last few steps once the bathrooms came into view. Or maybe all the focus went to avoiding the Mountain. Some folks might optimistically underestimate their own size, have poor spatial perception, or simply approach a cramped plane like a concert, with incidental contact being expected and without need for excusal.

My favorite flight attendant usually did sidestep, but this only meant she mashed her derriere into me. In my younger days I might have channeled my inner Bill O’Reilly and strategically propped my chin on my fist to get a face-full each time.

Instead I sat stoically while getting a taste of what it felt like to be backed down by Shaq in the post. She absolutely abused me. This was not brushing against my shoulder. I’m talking bumper-car collisions. Thank goodness the battering ram had some padding, and the impact was distributed over ample surface area. Had the force been applied by say, a fist, I would be typing this in a sling.

Not only was sidestepping ineffective at times, it only contributed to the comedy of errors in some cases. Each person exiting the bathroom had to pass anyone waiting in the aisle for both to get to their destination. This of course is very normal interaction on airplanes, but highly unscalable.

Several times, people just couldn’t wait for an opening any longer and piled into the aisle. Watching them dry-hump and play Twister to grind past each other provided some more diversion for me in the form of vindictive enjoyment.

One behemoth, who looked like he could have been Emmitt’s right tackle, needed to pass a tiny woman and vice versa. They both just laughed, and she quipped, “How is this going to work?” I half-considered suggesting she crawl through his legs.

But I swallowed my voice, fearful that the airline had planted some undercover Chicago P.D. in the economy cabin. The last time an Asian brother expressed an opinion on a crowded United plane, he was dragged out by the arms, a near-martyr in a misdirected war, kind of like when Forrest Gump pulled Lieutenant Dan through the Vietnamese jungle.

So I kept my mouth shut while my mind continued to churn. I just couldn’t grasp how and why so many people had to go to the bathroom.

In my 12-person block comprising the last two rows, I counted only three, including me, who did not go. I tried to project that 75-percent potty rate over 38 rows of six, but was unsure of the layout in first class and whether any row numbers were skipped. There were certainly more than 100 passengers, and 75 bathroom goers seemed like a decent lower-bound guess.

Whatever the number, it was easily high enough to merit accusations of selfishness. A full-capacity domestic flight is not meant to accommodate everyone going to the bathroom. That would be a logistical nightmare given the limited time, facilities and paths to them.

Essentially, people with normal-functioning bladders need to “subsidize” those who legitimately cannot hold it during the flight. It’s kind of like the right lane on eastbound Rosecrans that accesses the on-ramp for 405 North. Honest drivers line up and wait their turn. Some nonlocal folks might be unaware that the northbound entrance ramp is counterintuitively on the right side. So they should be allowed to cut into the line, but if everyone has to do that, the system becomes unsustainable.

Every airline passenger has the responsibility to make a preemptive bathroom trip before boarding. I chugged a water bottle in the security line, so it did not take very complicated cause-and-effect reasoning to decide to whiz beforehand, even though my seat was one of the two closest to the bathrooms.

I did this rather than crowd around the boarding line before my group was called, which is another selfish prisoner’s dilemma. (The most socially efficient outcome is for all passengers to relax until their group is called. However, regardless of what your opponents/fellow passengers choose to do, lining up early is individually the best strategic move if you care about overhead luggage space.)

Such rudimentary game theory and estimates of bathroom visits made the jarring flight go by faster. I will never understand how three-fourths of the plane had to use the restroom in the same condensed window of time. Pit stops for drunk buses have shorter lines.

The incessant rattling of the right side of my body got to the point where I had to use mental tricks to avoid getting annoyed. All happiness comes down to perception. I tried to convince myself that the bumping felt good, massage-like. That worked for a little while.

I also pictured some of my friends whose laid-back nature I envy, and how they would react in this situation. But then I realized one of them is impossibly obese, the size of a baby elephant really, and had he been in seat 38C, some sort of Lion-King-stampede-meets-sumo-death-match would have ensued.

Overall I think I handled the war of attrition well. Getting bumped every minute while trying to sleep is akin to the Chinese water torture technique in which water is repeatedly dripped on the forehead. This is supposed to cause insanity.

But I kept any thoughts of an outburst in check. As we know from current events, when flying Asian on United, it is probably better to be bumped on a flight rather than from a flight.

 

 

Writer’s note: If you spend any amount of your finite time reading the absurdities in this blog, we are either friends or highly compatible strangers. Thus I feel close enough to ask for your email address below. The only email you will ever get from me is one blog post per month for the rest of my life, until you click Unsubscribe. Thank you.


2007 No Space Odyssey

I know this isn’t right, but I harbor a distrust of, and distaste for, anyone who was born after 2007. Ninety percent of this is wistful envy. These soulless post-millennials will lose their virginity before me, start contributing to a 401(k) earlier, learn to code while their brains are still pliable. F them.

The other 10 percent of my misgivings have to do with the mobile revolution. That’s how I settled on 2007 as an arbitrary cutoff, the year of the original iPhone launch. If you literally do not know life without the modern cell phone, then you cannot possibly develop into a compelling person.

I say this with full awareness that my employer’s revenue stream depends directly on how much we can keep people on their phones. And even when I’m off the clock, virtually every second of my existence is spent within a 1-mile radius of my iPhone 6. In a way, it’s more like a prison cell than cell phone.

But I have more windows and air quality and perspective in my cell. I navigated my formative years without a phone as an appendage, and I am highly suspicious of anyone who can’t draw on the same framework.

This is because iOS and Android eroded three things core to the human condition:

Boredom

 
The decisive difference between humans and the other living creatures we rule on Earth is what we do when we’re bored. Just watch your dog for a few minutes. A health care solution and self-driving car are not coming out of that brain. Neither are genocide and nuclear war, but the point is we operate on a singular level that no other being in our dimension can touch.

We have progressed to this point over the past few thousand years because of what our species chooses to do with its disposable time. Elon Musk likely does not devote much of his day to absentmindedly scrolling through pseudo celebrity Instagram feeds.

I am not suggesting we all can be Elon Musk. Most people I know (including myself) do not convey the impression of noteworthy potential. However, if you can’t go a day without Facebook, if the first thing you do every morning and the last thing you do every night is scroll through memes and baby pictures and vapid content curated by people no smarter than you, if that’s how you choose to wake to the world and retire to the subconscious, day in and day out, then you’re probably the kind of person who leaves a lot on the table in life.

Two articles for you, both shorter than this blog post. You still won’t read them, which is fine. You already know and agree with the ideas anyway. This one b-slaps social media:

“The more you use social media in the way it’s designed to be used — persistently throughout your waking hours — the more your brain learns to crave a quick hit of stimulus at the slightest hint of boredom. Once this Pavlovian connection is solidified, it becomes hard to give difficult tasks the unbroken concentration they require, and your brain simply won’t tolerate such a long period without a fix.”

While that article highlights the ability to focus, this one celebrates the wandering mind. Phones kill the imagination. They take away the need to think, daydream and create our own stimulation. This, in turn, lowers the ceiling on perhaps the greatest part of the human condition: possibility.

How to Say No

 
At some very recent juncture, ignoring an invitation became the same as saying no. They are not the same. But an entire generation of kids is coming of age with the understanding that if someone texts you to hang out, it’s OK not to respond.

The world is a better place with ease of communication, but technology should not compromise a base level of respect for people you know. When I was growing up, if I wanted to see friends, I had to call or knock on a door. If they were busy or tired, they wouldn’t just hang up the phone or close the door without a word. It was acceptable to say no back then, and it still is.

I surely am not the only one who remembers calling up buddies on their family landlines, with numbers known by heart instead of Siri, and making awkward small talk with parents because we had to actually ring a doorbell and wait inside for a bit. There was something sweet about it in retrospect, character-building. Without the benefit of such experiences, these younger generations will turn out to be absolute savages.

Yet I am the one blasted for being a monster, someone with the nerve to decline an invitation in favor of laundry and errands. If we checked the game film, I probably drag myself off the couch-bench and into the social game as much as any friend of mine. The difference is perception because I have the courtesy to say no thank you when invited to something, while many people don’t bother.

On an unrelated note, I also have the courtesy not to ask who else is going. It doesn’t matter. All I need is you. There are only two appropriate followup questions to an invite:

1. Will there be food?
2. Will there be hot chicks?

Any other answer should be precisely that: an answer.

Connection

 
Back to dogs for a second. The nice ones generally like to lounge in proximity to people, even without much interaction and obviously conversation going on. Some humans are like that. They want to be around others all the time, but their idea of hanging out includes reaching for a phone every few minutes.

If kids are growing up like this, we might as well plug them into the The Matrix now. They will have no ability to sustain presence. Stop it. Just go home then. That’s not hanging out. Try putting away the phone for 20 minutes. If it gets boring, that’s a good sign you don’t really want to hang out at all.

When I’m with somebody, I struggle and labor to make conversation and expect help from the other side too. And when we both run out of things to say, we have to figure something out. Usually alcohol. That is human connection. It’s really hard.

I empathize with wanting to stay home most of the time. Even if you’re up for the challenge, the other people undoubtedly will capitulate to that itchy urge to pull out their phones because it’s just so easy.

This is why convincing me to go to a bar might require a PowerPoint pitch, but I seldom turn down sports invites. When playing a sport, you reach an enviable state in which the only other people that matter in the world at that moment are with you in a defined space. All you care about is how your body moves in relation to their bodies.

Mix in some small talk before and after, tons of endorphins, and what we’re talking about is not a whole lot unlike sex. Anyone want to play tennis Thursday?

Sports, erotic interplay, showers, Sharkeez unless you have AT&T and get reception… the gaps between sanctuaries grow every day. Things are becoming extreme. No fewer than four people dear to my heart are so addicted, they play on their phones while taking a dump.

Come on now. That is so unacceptable and you know it. Be better. Give yourself some space to exist. At the very least, be hyper-cognizant of the order of operations when wiping, washing hands, and touching your phone. God knows that same phone will be by your dinner plate more often than not.

Let’s not make 2007 an odyssey into a world with no space for self and imagination, no room for manners and conversation, no effort for bonding and unfettered listening. We’re only 10 years deep and really have no idea whether there might be some long-term harmful effects already set in motion. I refuse to ignore these things; I would rather say no.

 

 

Writer’s note: If you spend any amount of your finite time reading the absurdities in this blog, we are either friends or highly compatible strangers. Thus I feel close enough to ask for your email address below. The only email you will ever get from me is one blog post per month for the rest of my life, until you click Unsubscribe. Thank you.


The Hangover to End All

February is an annoying month for those who hate Valentine’s Day and could use days 29-31 to come up with something to blog about. Up against the shot clock with no ideas, I woke up Saturday thinking maybe I should instigate a disagreement with my wife or drink really hard to aid in some content creation.

I ended up deep in the latter route and blacked out. Bro so hard, which is a risky proposition when you’re not with your bros but with coworkers. Some lines were blurred when I aggressively recruited two new bros across professional boundaries and suggested we get a sweet hotel room in Oxnard one weekend and “just love on each other.”

Thus my day devolved into the familiar progression of hitting on a lot of people, interrupting a friend of a friend’s date at a nice sushi restaurant ad nauseam, dropping noodles into my mouth with my hand like an arcade claw machine at said nice sushi restaurant, and lying in bed at 3 in the morning thinking about suicide.

That last part is worth examination because it’s been happening more often when I come down from the insane high of binge drinking. I suffer from spectacularly intense emotional hangovers. I don’t know if it’s a manifestation of hating myself underneath a lot of false bravado, or life randomly toggling between being really beautiful and really meaningless, or dealing with the uncertainty of an incomplete memory, or what.

My thoughts in the predawn hours today focused on the act of killing myself rather than weighing the merits. Sometimes I sense this imagined pressure between my temples, and putting a bullet through that space seems like it would somehow release it and feel good. I kept thinking about this and visualizing while periodically rolling over to cuddle my wife.

Is that weird? Am I the only one? Am I over-sharing? It makes me feel better. Dave Eggers dropped this extraordinary line in his book when trying to explain why he talks about deeply personal things. I think it was in italics: Sharing dilutes the suffering.

I was getting these acute emotional pangs that would build to a crescendo. At the peak, just when I couldn’t take it anymore, a 1-second urge to cry blitzed my mind, then thoughts of a bullet entering to relieve. Then I would abruptly snap out of it and down to a lower level of angst, as if I actually did take a bullet. Then it would start building up again. This went on until the sun came up, although I later fell back asleep.

My imagination grazed some other suicide methods, namely hanging myself and having my head crushed with a baseball bat. These were not as thought out as the gun, but assumed to produce the same pressure-releasing tranquility. I wasn’t sure what would serve as the noose or who would be swinging the bat. It might just be the byproduct of watching six and a half seasons of The Walking Dead in three months.

I’m intrigued how this would play out if I owned a gun. I couldn’t possibly hold one while in this bizarre state, right? That would be dangerous because everybody gets tired of deliberating sometimes and just impulsively makes the decision, if only to stop having to think about it.

I wonder if this is why people take prescription drugs, which certainly would be overkill in my case. Unsalted chicken, unseasoned broccoli and unrelenting exercise gradually bring me back to equilibrium. Plus this is very avoidable. Just don’t drink too much.

Perhaps the problem is not the absolute level of depression that alcohol might leave me at, but rather the delta between start and finish. When I drink I feel on top of the world, so even a return to normalcy is a steep drop.

Earlier this month at a destination wedding trip in Mexico, I was boozing moderately at a huge packed nightclub called Coco Bongo. Pretty girls were ushered up a staircase behind the stage to dance on an elevated perch, front and center to thousands of partiers.

The stage manager asked if I would go up to dance to “Gangnam Style.” That was probably slightly racist, but if someone rings my bell, I am generally going to answer it. I didn’t know the signature dance except the lasso part, so I just started gyrating sexily and stripping. People were cheering and wanted it, although my wife later told me she was the one voice screaming NO. The last time I did this on a rock at a pool party in Vegas, I was escorted out by security.

This time the brilliant production staff somehow shut off the lights each time I pulled down my underwear. It turned into this beautifully executed sort of choreography, and they even provided me a wardrobe change with a flashy jacket and glasses after I lost my shirt, or rather, decided it would be best used as a pony and sawing front to back underneath my crotch.

I was a rock star. Women wanted to sleep with me, and men wanted to be me, or maybe vice versa because of the manner in which I was dancing. That is how I feel when I drink, as if Leo himself were holding up my arms on the bow of the Titanic. And then I sink to these incredible depths that I never could have touched during sobriety. I literally want to die.

Overall the manic is not worth the depressive, which is why you usually will find me in the midst of an extended period of zero-sip abstinence. Moderation, of course, is always that elusive silver bullet.

 

 

Writer’s note: If you spend any amount of your finite time reading the absurdities in this blog, we are either friends or highly compatible strangers. Thus I feel close enough to ask for your email address below. The only email you will ever get from me is one blog post per month for the rest of my life, until you click Unsubscribe. Thank you.


Love Letter at 32, on a Napkin

I conceived of this blog post last Saturday while wiping the tile floors of our apartment with Mr. Clean antibacterial multi-purpose solution, summer citrus scent. I was on my hands and knees scrubbing like Cinderella, while my wife marched among hundreds of thousands in downtown L.A. for women’s rights. If you think about it, that juxtaposition was a beautiful and pragmatic indication of my support for the cause. Also, I really did not want to go.

I wrote most of it on that day, to post on this day, my wife’s 32nd birthday. She had gently suggested earlier that I try blogging something nice about her for a change, this being her birth month. Revealing such editorial influence takes away some of the romanticism, but none of the sincerity. Besides, transparency is important these days and I refuse to be her puppet, the Trump to her Putin, as some of her fellow marchers might say.

It is true that this blog’s focus on the absurd — most recently in Christmas cards, politics, wedding planning — leaves little room for nice things about the spouse. And the sum of the relatively brief mentions of her probably paints an unfair portrait for those who don’t know her.

Those who do know her, who really know her, understand what I mean when I say she is the best person I know. It’s not even close. She puts money in the tip jar at restaurant counters without anyone looking. When my dad does it, he waves his hand in a full crescent motion aligned with the cashier’s field of vision and makes a stuffing motion in the jar as if it really were such a strenuous effort to let go of paper in air.

But I don’t want to get into my wife’s character. That’s not why we fall in love. I am not attracted to character. Sure, ante up with a baseline level of moral decency. But once that prerequisite is met, I am inclined to trade some generosity and empathy for more sense of humor and junk in the trunk.

Ultimately we fall in love because of how the other person makes us feel. I feel most comfortable hanging out by myself. I never get the urge to be around other people for socializing. I might seem like the life of the party sometimes, but I’m just drunk or purposefully manipulating the inflection in my voice to sound super excited.

My mind is usually elsewhere if my body has to be present. Without a whole lot of genuine connection, I’m left to wallow in my own world, population 1, and an acute form of neurosis. It takes a heroic kind of person to enter and navigate this world, the kind that would choose to work with children for a living.

From the beginning, my wife has considered me on the autism or special-needs spectrum. Rather than get offended… honestly, it makes me feel special indeed. She treats my idiosyncrasies with her own spectrum of responses, ranging from acceptance to support.

I brush my teeth multiple times as long as the average person. I don’t see how it’s possible to cover both sides of the gumline plus all surface area of the enamel with tiny circles in under 3 minutes.

Often I lose focus and take a break with the toothbrush still in my mouth. Recently I forgot about being in this rest state and tried to nuzzle her, instead stabbing her in the face with the stem. She was understandably shocked at first, then collected herself, gave me that look I’ve come to know well and hold dear, and resumed her life.

She didn’t leave me. Better men with a lot more to offer would never make that toothbrush mistake. I doubt Ryan Gosling ever has, and he gets more leeway for obvious reasons. I don’t look like Ryan Gosling, although my abs are pretty close when abstaining from sugar and flour for 3-4 days.

Speaking of which, I live by a simple rule. Run 20 sprints up the 24th Street hill every time I black out from drinking or binge on sweets or processed foods. Intense cardio intervals help combat the self-loathing a lot better than anything a shrink who had a lower G.P.A. in high school could tell me.

Like anything though, ostensible simplicity fails in implementation. The devil is in the details, the adage goes, and I can’t escape those demons in my warped mind. (The word “warped” was borrowed from a Jan. 14 conversation with a middle-aged woman after my sprints, which she watched from the base of the hill. I write down the date of every sprint session and post on the refrigerator, declaring each to be the final of my life, before having to cross out the date for the next one.)

The problem is I get obsessive-compulsive when defining a blackout, binge or sweet. After any drinking night, I interrogate myself and essentially have to reconstruct a comprehensive chronology of everything that happened or else pay the price. I spend inordinate amounts of time staring at nutrition labels in a trance. I researched throughout an entire night to determine whether raisins should be considered a sweet and still have not decided. I did the same thing with maple sap after demolishing a full jar of fig almond butter and feeling guilty.

Last week I examined the ingredients list of LAY’S Salt & Vinegar potato chips and was pleasantly surprised at how short it was. I made a case to my wife that this snack was natural enough for me to finish the last quarter of the bag. But I paused a few times before the first bite, unsure and stressed out. Then I scarfed the chips and threw away the bag, only to dig it out later to reassess. I also googled it each of the following three days when the bag was too buried in trash to retrieve again.

It can be a futile way to live. At some point I started wrestling with these thoughts out loud with my wife. It kind of feels good, to share and dilute the discomfort with someone who loves me unconditionally.

She dutifully listens in the evening while I rattle off the snacks I ate at work like a kid in trouble at fat camp. She asks her mom if her sweet potato dish contains added sugar. She reassures me that not remembering every detail of a night does not equate to an irresponsible blackout.

More than just a sounding board, she will even go as far as to participate:

I don’t understand why the world wastes so many napkins and paper towels. Millions if not billions are discarded every day without the slightest use. Even if partially soiled, there is more surface area. Resources were expended to create this area for consumption. Anyone who likes to talk about climate change should start with not wasting food, gas, water, electricity or just about anything else except calories. Ever.

So before throwing away a napkin, I use any remaining clean portion to wipe a counter, sink or floor. Sometimes I dry my hands with a paper towel and leave it on the counter for reuse. My wife tolerates this, despite hating clutter the way I hate waste. Occasionally, she even leaves her own napkins for me to utilize to completion.

That is a glimpse into our life together, utterly unremarkable and un-bloggable. The fights and rants are more interesting to write and read about. But in between and even during them are nothing but napkins and moments, a never-ending stream of reminders of what a wonderful life it is to be married to her.

 

 

Writer’s note: If you spend any amount of your finite time reading the absurdities in this blog, we are either friends or highly compatible strangers. Thus I feel close enough to ask for your email address below. The only email you will ever get from me is one blog post per month for the rest of my life, until you click Unsubscribe. Thank you.


Return to Sender

Somewhere deep in the intermingling between vanity and carelessness lies the origin of the Christmas card. Any thought about the concept with any level of depth yields the same conclusion. Christmas cards have little to do with making the recipient feel good. They are more about making you feel good.

A cursory attempt at audience segmentation paints the picture quickly:

• Some people have trouble getting pregnant or staying pregnant. I’m sure the first thing they want to see during the holidays is a picture of your big healthy baby — just make sure he’s wearing his bib that says “Keep Trying B*%$#”.

• Some people are single and do not want to be. I don’t doubt the capacity of humans to be happy for others, but I absolutely doubt the utility that your wedding pictures bring to a lonely friend.

• Some people are single and want to be. They refuse to be in a relationship just to be in a relationship. They won’t settle, even though some of their friends clearly did. They see right through your smiling pictures of marital bliss. Anyone that genuinely happy cannot possibly have the urge to choreograph, design and disseminate a piece of propaganda.

• Some people just got dumped or ended a relationship painfully. It’s very magnanimous of you to send vacation pictures with your soul mate to give them hope, but a phone call can be encouraging too.

• Some people just lost their job or are struggling financially. They really appreciate your play-by-play summary of the year’s highlights, especially the ski trip and new house. I heard the kids in Aleppo though missed your Snapchat of your family cozying by the fireplace. I think they might be having Wi-Fi issues over there.

I mean, who really wants to get these cards? Your parents and the couples comprising your double-date rotation? Jesus Christmas, it all makes me want to vomit into a gift box and send that instead.

My stomach had an actual physical reaction when I walked into the apartment and saw seven Christmas cards dangling from a gold ribbon, centered on the living room wall. It was like when Brad Pitt lost his mind in Legends of the Fall and made the necklace of scalps.

What it really amounted to was an overt middle finger from my wife. On the subject of Christmas cards, we had navigated multiple discussions with varying levels of tension. I think about things in terms of function and value, and this is not intuitive to her. Maybe even counterintuitive sometimes.

We backed away from a full-fledged fight with the resolution that she would send out cards on our behalf, and I would have nothing to do with it. One of my arguments was my friends are too good of people to send Christmas cards, and we should return the favor.

Turns out, five of the seven cards on the scalp necklace were from my buddies. Five bros close enough to me to be at my bachelor party and therefore close enough to stab me in the heart. They should dress as Judas for their card next year.

I have no real friends. In their stead, I seek solutions. If Christmas cards must exist, they should do so only in productive forms. I struggled to get to 10:

1. Interracial or gay couple. This sends a strong message at a turbulent time for the world. Unless it’s white guy-Asian girl. That’s about as original as giving a candy cane for a Christmas gift — Sure I can’t really hate on it, but couldn’t you think of something else?

2. Weight loss. If you transformed your body in the past year, that is an accomplishment to share. Include before-and-after-shirtless pics to prove the feat, or it never happened.

3. Marital struggles. List the three biggest fights with your spouse this year and how you overcame them. This is worthwhile because people can commiserate and learn.

4. Famous or accomplished person. If LeBron James sends me a Christmas card with the Finals MVP trophy as the centerpiece, I would find that a bit aggressive but still keep it on the refrigerator forever. If the coolest thing you did this year was visit Grandma, perhaps an email will do just fine.

5. Single and interested. It seems only couples and families send Christmas cards. But no one is excited to hear from this subset of the population. I think it would be constructive if a single person sent out a card with an open invitation to meet up for egg nog, and then who knows, maybe one thing leads to another and the natural kind can be made. Tinder and Sharkeez should not be the only entry points into the market.

6. Custom note. If you really cared to connect with the recipient, you wouldn’t send the same message to everyone. At least have a few different templates. If you express love the same way to your mother as your distant cousin as your drinking buddy, you probably stumble at the CAPTCHA step.

7. Nudity. Remember, this is not a postcard, so an outer envelope will conceal your inner parts from the postal service. This is a great opportunity for some shock humor with people you presumably can trust.

8. Donate. When Mark Cuban gets fined by the NBA, he matches the amount with a donation to charity. You might operate under the delusion a Christmas card shows you care, but really it shows you care about stroking your own private parts. For every dime wasted on Christmas cards, you should match it with a dime actually meant to do good. I don’t know how many my wife sent out, but I would estimate the cost per card in the $4-5 range. That adds up quickly, but hey, only the best for our family. At least the children of Minted employees will be able to go to college.

9. Actionable tip. Phrases like “Merry Christmas” and “Happy Holidays” don’t register after the thousandth time. You can’t keep track of who said them or meant them because it doesn’t matter. It’s like the progression of touring art museums in Europe. The first few make you feel good, and the rest blend together. Why not break through that by offering something immediately useful, such as a recipe, workout or investment tip? If everyone sent one of those, the pile would be somewhat interesting.

10. Magnet. Your out-of-pocket cost would increase, but so would purpose and staying power. Magnets are useful, if only to hold up competing Christmas cards for the polite amount of time before recycling.

Assuming none of these 10 scenarios apply, take a closer look at your Christmas card intentions. If you truly want to spread holiday cheer, then take someone out to dinner, labor through an awkward FaceTime conversation, or send a dick pic with a Santa hat draped over the main event.

I have done or received all three of these this holiday season. They were happy ways to connect. If your way is to send a Christmas card, I reiterate this is not so much about connecting as it is the person on the return address.

 

 

Writer’s note: If you spend any amount of your finite time reading the absurdities in this blog, we are either friends or highly compatible strangers. Thus I feel close enough to ask for your email address below. The only email you will ever get from me is one blog post per month for the rest of my life, until you click Unsubscribe. Thank you.


Reconciling my Vote for Trump

I live in a liberal city, work in a liberal industry, and married a liberal tyrant three months ago. Her highly sophisticated, researched and unprejudiced view is that a Republican is either a rich elitist white person or backwards backwoods white person, and there is some combination of loving God and guns and hating women and minorities. Budget and trade deficits and the spectrum of economic effects of complicated anti-regulatory legislation are too boring to look into. Prancing around the kitchen in her Love Trumps Hate shirt suffices for feeling politically engaged. I like how the tailored fit accentuates her rack and wonder if that takes away from the message.

If she saw me physically cast a ballot for Trump, we might be in therapy in November and divorced by December. What a bizarre outcome that would be, to dissolve a deeply personal connection built on so much time and real experience together — all because of differing perceptions of what we read online and watch on television. It would be a hilarious breakup story to tell, and I would tell it openly to elicit sympathy and score a fiscally conservative rebound chick.

Alas, I escaped the domestic wrath because my Trump support was indirect. I am registered to vote in Texas, live in L.A. and missed the deadline for requesting my mail-in ballot. I was too lazy to scrutinize all the candidates and too skeptical that Texas could vote Democratic and the Cubs win the World Series in the span of a week.

I feel bad about not voting and will try to prioritize this civic duty moving forward. But I’m not in the camp that wants to crucify those who don’t. I just think that if you don’t vote, you forfeit the right to complain about the winner. A non-vote means you’re cool with what other people choose.

So I guess deep down I wasn’t opposed to Trump enough to toss in a nominal vote in a red state. I need to be OK with saying that, which is a scary proposition in L.A. I might as well walk down Compton Boulevard with the sign that the bad guy made Bruce Willis wear in Die Hard with a Vengeance.

These liberals out here act like savages with all their good intentions. It is absolutely imperative to absorb their ideas with an open mind, but do not, under any circumstances, voice anything that might dull the luster on their perfect ideals. President Obama is infallible. Secretary Clinton is deserving. Trump is the subject of every sentence ending in -ist.

There is no grey area acknowledged in this cesspool of groupthink, where like-minded people feast on confirmation bias and jerk each other off to see who has more righteous sperm. I can recognize this because I participated.

From the beginning, I set up a narrative of Trump being a stupid caricature. This was my framework to make sense of infinite information. I scrolled through my social news feed and committed to memory any sensational tidbit reinforcing my image of Trump the jerk, bigot, cheat, egomaniac. I neither found any conflicting stories in my liberal cocoon nor sought them. Because that would create dissonance, and I would rather hear what I want to hear. Nuance is a waste of processing power.

Thus in my mind, Trump appealed only to the uneducated and mean, outliers in the big picture. He could never win the most important job in the world, not with that mouth and baggage. He wouldn’t even win the nomination.

When he steamrolled 16 candidates, I chalked it up to the Republican party being a circus. When he debated Clinton, I thought the whole country saw through his tremendously unbelievably great superlatives. When he said this or tweeted that or this video surfaced or that story broke, each time I thought he had finally gone too far and couldn’t recover.

When my wife texted me to come home election night because the race was frighteningly close, I dismissed her panic with a flippant remark about how Clinton just needed to win one of those states. When I saw the numbers, I figured some of the blue districts hadn’t been counted yet.

I stayed in denial past midnight until Donald Trump walked onto the screen, whipped out his allegedly no-problem penis with his allegedly small hands, and slapped me across the face with it. He will be the President of the United States of America. I know nothing.

I watch a little CNN, read a little New York Times, scan a little Facebook and think I know what’s going on in other people’s lives. But I know nothing. More folks need to admit the same. Humility is helpful in political discussion. For every answer you shout, you should ask two questions and really listen.

Take Obamacare for example. I’m tired of pretending whether I know it’s good or bad. I have no clue. I haven’t been to a doctor since a required physical in 2004, excluding a dermatologist visit for my sensitive but masculine skin and an STD check after a regrettable bar night circa 2009.

I have no idea how to balance the poor family in desperate need of health insurance against the small business drowning in the costs of keeping employees. Politics is hard, and the details are tedious. That’s why we elect representatives to trudge in the weeds for us, while we get to argue about fun stuff like the character and temperament of people on TV.

Trump said things that are flat-out embarrassing for America. He resonated with some bad people, and I would have liked to see him take a break from blasting war heroes and Broadway actors to sound off on the Klan a bit.

But look, I’m doing it again. I can cherry-pick headlines to construct whatever narrative I want. My news feed will do it for me. Trump appoints Stephen Bannon, and before I can even look up what a chief White House strategist actually does, I am told in a frenzy that he is racist, sexist, anti-Semitic. Then it’s a race in my liberal bubble to see who can post the most stories of swastikas being spray-painted across the country.

I had never heard of Stephen Bannon or Breitbart, let alone his actual contributions to it and inner beliefs. I would have guessed alt-right was a keyboard shortcut. I don’t think it’s unfair to reserve immediate judgment without fear of being branded as a white power supporter. I’m not even white. I am willing to die to prevent a Holocaust in this country, but I’m not ready to declare a white nationalist revolution because some idiots who were idiots before Trump continue to be idiots while occasionally screaming his name.

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley is the daughter of immigrants from India. She spearheaded the removal of the Confederate flag from the state capitol and rebuked Trump for not immediately disavowing the Klan, among other things. Trump appointed her to his cabinet as well. That’s at least interesting and worth weaving into the idea of Donald the vindictive bigot.

Again, it’s important to challenge our pre- and post-conceived notions. Rainbow tears of joy washed the world last week when President Obama presented Ellen with the Medal of Freedom. But Uncle Barry did not run on that platform. America did not choose him to be a champion of gay rights: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rJhQBZ1La0w

You can believe that Obama “evolved” on this issue as he said. Here’s what I believe: Our president is one of the smartest people around, and his mind was plenty evolved already. But what do I know, maybe his old buddy David Axelrod knows better:

Axelrod writes that he knew Obama was in favor of same-sex marriages during the first presidential campaign, even as Obama publicly said he only supported civil unions, not full marriages. Axelrod also admits to counseling Obama to conceal that position for political reasons. “Opposition to gay marriage was particularly strong in the black church, and as he ran for higher office, he grudgingly accepted the counsel of more pragmatic folks like me, and modified his position to support civil unions rather than marriage, which he would term a ‘sacred union,’ ” Axelrod writes.

– Zeke Miller, Time Magazine

Hang on, my wires are getting crossed. I want to support black churches as a symbol in the community and bastion of civil rights, but civil rights should include gay rights, yeah? They’re not on the same team? Which march do I join? Does everything not fit into neat little mental buckets for judgment?

Trump grabs women’s genitals. He cannot possibly be trusted with nuclear codes, a hypothetical I brought up in my wedding vows to describe the end of the world.

THROUGHOUT THE MARRIAGE, John always had girls: there were girlfriends and comfort girls; call girls and showgirls; girls on the campaign trail and girls who seemed to materialize out of thin air wherever he was. There was also the occasional wife of a friend, or the aging paramour of his randy pop, for those moments when the fancy ran to mature horseflesh or masculine competition. His penchant for prostitutes demoralized the agents assigned to protect him: “You were on the most elite assignment in the Secret Service,” the former agent Larry Newman told a television interviewer a decade ago, “and you were there watching an elevator door, because the president was inside with two hookers.” Mimi Alford describes a JFK who once asked her to service his friend (and his “baby brother,” Teddy, though she refused), who took her to a sex party and forced drugs on her, and who callously had a functionary line her up with an abortionist when she thought she was pregnant, and yet Janet Maslin can write, accurately, in her New York Times review of Once Upon a Secret, that there’s “not a lot of news” in the book.”

– Caitlin Flanagan, The Atlantic (a publication that has endorsed three presidential candidates in its 159-year history: Abraham Lincoln, Lyndon Johnson and Hillary Clinton)

That’s the same revered Democratic President John F. Kennedy, who took a 19-year-old intern’s virginity on his wife’s private bed, coerced the teenager into blowing his 50-year-old aide while he watched, and navigated the Cuban Missile Crisis.

I’m not trying to crap on J.F.K. or condone Trump’s behavior. I just want to add some angles to my thinking and get smarter because frankly, the election made me feel pretty stupid.

Donald J. Trump turned the system upside down. He pissed off the people candidates generally can’t piss off if they want to win. He beat out card-carrying members of the establishment with more funding, connections, experience, pedigree, polish and certainly knowledge. He broke every rule in an erratic campaign of escalating absurdities.

The fact that Trump won this way is, at a bare minimum, a mandate to challenge assumptions. That is how I reconcile my tacit vote for him. I know nothing, and the price of that ignorance was a president accompanied by perhaps the widest range of uncertainty ever.

 

 

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