Friday, December 31, 2010

My first ever advice column

I never thought this would be something I’d be doing, but then my friend told me I should and so I’ll give it a shot. It’s a relationship/sex advice column for women.

E-mailed questions were sent to me by females, and I’m going to try my best to give them an answer.

What qualifies me to do this? Nothing tangible. I haven’t been good with relationships or sex really, and I’m sure you could find many women who would readily attest to one, the other or both. One girl I know told me the idea of me writing a relationship advice column was probably the funniest thing she’d ever heard, and she told me I should provide a disclaimer “to be fair to women.”

I can do that.

My advice might not work for you. If it seems like it might not be the best idea to follow my advice, then don’t. You don’t always have to take it when it’s offered, kind of like a hand job. If it seems like I told some kind of joke at some point in my answer, then it’s probably a joke and you shouldn’t really do it. If you can’t figure it out one way or another, just e-mail me again and I’ll shoot you straight.

Anyway, my friends who are girls have always seemed comfortable talking to me and asking me for advice. I’m not sure why at all, but that’s the way it’s been since high school, and I’m completely fine with it. I like listening to these girls’ problems and questions, and I like spending time thinking of advice they might benefit from. If I can help a platonic friend on her journey toward happiness, then that’s great. That way, I’ll have to listen to less bitching from them in the future.

I’ve been in love before, but I’m not now. Every time I’ve fallen in love, I have messed it up. I’ve messed up relationships when they haven’t even been very serious. I’ve messed up relationships when they weren’t even really defined as relationships. But, come on. 

Do you really want your relationship advice from somebody who met their significant other in high school and then got married before they were legally allowed to drink? I sure as Hell don’t. (Case in point: I just came across a friend’s Facebook status. She got married earlier this year, at 22: “My awesome husband is taking me to get paint so we can paint our living room and hallway!!!!!!! Made my entire month!! :)” ) Do you want advice on romantic bliss from a person whose month has been made because her husband bought her some fucking paint?

*NOTE: I've caught some flack for this one, and now I feel bad. There is nothing wrong with being happy about paint, or with being married. I was joking, and I apologize if I was offensive.

A lack of romance in my life -- and some misguided desire to acquire it -- has allowed me to evaluate it in others, whether it be for real, in a Nicholas Sparks book (I’ve read a few, so what?) or by way of a television show or rom-com. If you spend the majority of your life in a successful relationship, you don’t have to think about the problems that plague people who haven’t come across what you have just yet. If you spend the majority of your life not in one, then you spend a lot of time thinking about why this might be.

I’ve learned from a combination of observation, discussion, research and personal experience through the years. The amount of time I’ve spent thinking about what I could’ve done differently to make various relationships (and even one-night-stands) work out has been substantial, even if I haven’t benefited too much from it so far. I’ve always told people I’m better at giving advice than following it.

These are real e-mails from real women. I’m only using the first initial of their first name, because I said anonymity was allowed, and none of them signed their letters “Lonely in Pittsburgh,” or “Sleepless in Seattle,” or “Horny in Flint,” so this seemed like a logical way to do things.

If you like what you read and want to ask me a question, e-mail me at 


I have been dating my boyfriend for over six months, and lately something
 has really come to bother me. He never takes me out. However, when we do on
 a rare occasion I end up having to pay for myself. In addition, when he 
"spots" me money, he continuously reminds me that I have to pay him back 
for it. I understand having a guy pay for everything for his girlfriend
is greedy and selfish, but I do believe in chivalry somewhat and think
that paying every so often wouldn't be such a sin. He has a steady job
 and works, so not having money is not the issue here. I want to bring it
 up to him, however I really don't know a nice way to mention it. Do you
 think I should bring this problem up or just let it go? And if so, what 
do I say to not come off as stuck up?


At the very least, your boyfriend should be taking you out occasionally, and paying for the date. Every guy who deserves to have lost his virginity before age 25 knows this is the way it’s supposed to be, and most of us will take girls out and pay whether we agree with it or not. I know we’re not living in the Victorian era, but chivalry’s not dead. It’s understandable if sometimes you guys split a check or something, but it should kind of be a matter of pride for a guy not to allow his girlfriend to pay for dates, especially if cash flow isn’t a problem. This is borderline unacceptable, unless he surprises you this Christmas with something big, like a Lexus, hundreds of shares of stock in Apple or a gift certificate that allows you to touch Ryan Reynolds's abs for an hour.

And when he spots you money, he nags you about it? That’s ridiculous. I’ve never done this, but I think it’d probably make it a bit harder for me to get laid if, as I was entering my girlfriend’s bedroom, I said, “Hey, S, just remember you owe me those $3 from when I paid your cover at the bar tonight,” or “I bought you that slice of pizza, so you’re gonna have to pick up the condoms next time. And don’t get Magnums again, either, because that’s wasteful and not funny. You don’t put a garbage bag on a broomstick, do you? We can't even use those until we blow them up and hit 'em around at the Dave Matthews concert next summer.”

You could bring it up point blank, but that’d be a weird conversation to have. I'd recommend getting passive aggressive instead. That’s how the general public addresses their relationship problems anyway. Make him realize on his own, by taking certain indirect actions. The first I'd recommend -- and probably the one that will be most effective -- is simple: Quit putting out. I guess many people would hate to admit it, but everybody knows deep down that dating is, at its core, a legal method of prostitution. In the back of every guy's mind when he's on a date is the thought that maybe, just maybe, he'll get laid; and if not, he'll be setting himself up for a time in the future when he might get laid. I once took a girl out on Valentine's Day, and we went to the wrong damn restaurant. I had to pay $140 for a two-person dinner. It was unbelievable, but my mood was lightened because I knew there was no way I wasn't getting laid after dropping that much on a meal (and also my girlfriend liked to have a lot of sex). Maybe once he locked you down in a relationship, he started to take it for granted and decided he didn't have to pay for it anymore. It's kind of like that old saying, "Don't give the milk away without selling the cow," or something like that, about not having sex before marriage. But I guess that's way outdated.

I understand not getting any might suck a little bit for you, too, (I know it all too well) but how bad can it really be? I have a hard time believing that a guy who can't find a check on a restaurant table is able to find a clitoris in any condition, especially in the dark. 

To encourage him making a payment, leave the table to go to the bathroom as soon as the server sets down the check, then come back 10 minutes later. He'll start to feel awkward when the waitress circles by for the fourth time and the bill still isn't ready. Who cares if he thinks you're taking a shit or blowing rails in the john? You ladies gotta do what you gotta do.

You could also play the TLC song “No Scrubs” at every opportunity. Play it in the car, make it your ringtone, insert it into your favorite sexual slow jams playlist, etc. If he doesn’t get the message when a song about T-Boz, Left Eye and Chilli refusing to date a deadbeat is sandwiched between Kci & JoJo and Keith Sweat, then all is lost.
I guess you’re going to have to ask yourself whether you want to spend another half a year (and even more, potentially) with a guy who's going to be a douche bag when it comes to finances for the entirety of your relationship. If he’s not going to buy you an entree, do you think he’ll be very great about putting a down payment on a home? You'll have to decide, I guess, if his unwillingness to be chivalrous outweighs whatever other reasons you might have for dating him.

I dated this guy 6 months ago...We only dated for a month and then I broke
things off just because it wasn't working. Since then I recently met a 
new guy. Unfortunately....the new guy happens to be my ex-boyfriend's best
friend. We've already hooked up and gone on numerous dates....but the ex 
found out and completely forbid it. His friend is a bit conflicted, but
 clearly not conflicted enough to quit hanging out with me. Basically my
 question it ever okay to date your ex-boyfriends friend?


The answer to your core question: Yes, sometimes it is.

This has more to do with the guys’ relationship and what your new dude decides to do than it does with anything you might do, though. If new guy (we’ll call him Clyde), ignores other guy’s (Reggie) embargo on dating you, then you’re vindicated and can feel free to date him harder than Ross dated Rachael (ladies can always get down with a Friends reference).

Let me explain something, though: If you’ve hooked up with both guys, then they are now Eskimo Brothers. If you’re unfamiliar with the term, you become another’s Eskimo Brother when you have both had sex with the same girl. (I’m assuming by “hooked up” you mean had sex, and my apologies if I’m incorrect. I understand the term means different things to different people, just like the terms “dating” and “mature” and “biscuit”. Usually my friends and I just walk around yelling that we fucked someone, so there’s very little ambiguity.)

Once a guy knows this, it cannot be erased from his mind unless he has some sort of accident that induces amnesia. Eskimo Brothers are such for life, and you need to realize that Clyde will never look at you and not know that Reggie also has carnal knowledge of you. Since Reggie wasn’t all like “Bro go ahead and date her because I’m not going to be a jealous prick who’s holding onto the past,” he’s probably going to make sure Clyde knows it on the regular, or at least when he gets wasted.

I know my duty here isn’t really to make you worry about something you probably weren’t even considering before, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t. Hopefully, he’s like me and most other people, and can look past the fact that you’ve been with his friend. Not everybody is this way, though. I once had a girlfriend who would wig out frequently anytime we were in the presence of a girl I’d had sex with before I’d even met or begun talking to her. It was uncomfortable.

What you need to do is tell Clyde you have absolutely zero feelings for Reggie, and that you’ve totally and completely moved on. Then, have him talk to Reggie and set him straight.

In lieu of the upcoming holidays [I got this e-mail a while back, but procrastinated], how about something about gifts for significant others for Christmas, etc. Like, worst gifts you've ever heard of/best ideas you have. Also, I'm curious to your thoughts about whether these gifts should change as you get older/ as your relationship grows/ as you get hitched and babied [letter writer and her husband just celebrated their first Christmas with their brand new baby boy] and all that adult stuff. I.E. - I bought my husband a pair of slippers, a fancy, funky toiletry bag b/c he packs more than I do when we travel and a bag to haul firewood so that I can enjoy our fireplace. SO LAME, I know. Two years ago, pre-wedding and definitely pre-baby, I bought us a weekend away in an awesome hotel with a fancy romantic package that included a king-sized bed, an in-room jacuzzi tub and two giant flat-screen tv's for New Year's. I was pretty much Super Girlfriend that year.


Well, since the holidays are already over I guess I blew it on gift ideas, but for next year: Most guys will like most things, as long as it’s something that will benefit them more than it will benefit you. If you’re having a tough time with ideas, just go through an issue of GQ or Esquire, find something you think he’d dig, and then buy a version of the same thing that’s less expensive.

As far as worst holiday gifts, I can tell you that one time I took a girl to Ponderosa on Valentine’s Day. In my defense, I was young and it was kind of spur of the moment, so I hadn’t been able to make reservations. Also, my hometown is kind of short on fine dining, and those buttered rolls they have there are fucking awesome. Anyway, shortly thereafter the girl got back with her ex-boyfriend and didn’t talk to me or tell me about it for like a month, when I finally heard the news from her friend. So, yeah, that one was pretty bad. And best I’ve heard of? One time, a girl got me a basketball that was autographed by Steve Nash and all the other Phoenix Suns. Guys like that stuff. I miss that girl. Another time, I took a girl to a concert and afterward she took me to the bar she worked at, gave me free Johnnie Walker all night and then took me to a swanky hotel room she’d booked. That was great. Your Jacuzzi tub room with two TVs? That’s top of the line, too. You can never underestimate a man’s adoration of a nice television.

But yeah, I’d say those gifts should change throughout the years, because once you get married and start having children, I imagine the practical things become more and more important. Your husband probably values slippers more now after he’s been at work all day and caring for a child after than he probably would have when he was fresh out of college and his biggest worry was when the box of wine was going to run out (though I’ve always enjoyed a nice pair of slippers). These things aren’t lame, they’re just different. That doesn’t mean he won’t like them just as much as something you got him a few years ago. Once you get kind of “settled in” to your life, I’ve found you kind of want gifts with longevity. Sure, the romantic weekend getaways provide memories that last forever, but a man can rock the same pair of slippers and get stoked on always having warm feet for years and years. The romantic getaways can start up again whenever your children are a bit older. This is how my parents did it; they had their 25th wedding anniversary and went on a little weekend trip. Now they go away for a weekend like at least once a month. They go up to Erie, Pa., get hammered on wine and never, ever, have sex.

Why and how do men cheat when they are "in love"


Why are men even in relationships when they cheat on their girlfriends?
This happens ALOT, and I've been on both sides of the situation. Being
cheated on sucks. And being the "girl on the side" - led on, lied to, and
snuck around - also sucks. Men don't genuinely seem to care about either
one of the girls, and I just wonder, whats the point? Is it some type of
power/control mind game that guys just enjoy playing?

I’m going to take these two together.

E, the how has never ever been the question for me, if we’re talking physically. I’ve woken up every single day for as long as I can remember with a full-on erection, and until you reach a certain age or level of intoxication, it’s pretty easy to get a boner, and with it certain feelings that are almost uncontrollable. I spend an inordinate amount of time talking about my distaste for Lady Gaga and Drew Barrymore, and about my subsequent non-attraction to them, but if you were to put me alone in a room with one of them, I’d probably have no problems physically having sex with them. It’s disgusting, really, but that’s the way it is.

So how is easy to explain, but why is not. Oftentimes, guys use the how (the hormones and such) as the why, but that should never, ever be an excuse. Nor should being drunk. If you’re not too drunk to get an erection, then you’re not too drunk to lose all inhibition and get on someone who isn’t your girlfriend.

Cheating is a terrible thing that people shouldn’t do unless their significant other is a big cockbag, in which case they should just break up with them then go rail other people. S and E, I can’t tell you really why a guy would even bother being in a relationship if the girl he’s in one with isn’t the only one he’s going to have sex with. I think a lot of it might have to do with the fact that society makes being in a relationship seem like a pretty sweet deal, so people may actively try to get into them when the circumstances aren’t ideal; then, they go and do something fucked up like cheating.

I could get on my high horse and talk about how I’ve never (officially) cheated (though some girls might beg to differ, different stories for a different day), but I can’t really talk about that. I’ve spent like seven months in the last five years in an official relationship, but the reason I haven’t been in one is because I haven’t had a sustained connection with somebody I want to be with all the time and have sex with exclusively where all the circumstances have come together to make it work out. More guys and girls should take this route, I think. Less heart damage in the long run, and more appreciation for that person you finally find who most closely resembles what your imagination calls “the one.” Instead of worrying about why somebody may have cheated on you, or cheated on someone else with you, put your energies into finding somebody who won’t cheat period. I think if you find somebody you’re completely happy with, and vice versa, cheating will never be a problem. And, if you’re not going to be completely happy with someone, why enter and stay in a relationship with them?

I have been the “guy on the side,” so I can empathize, S. If this is happening to you and you’re somehow bothered by it, just don’t do it anymore. Don’t let yourself be put in that position; tell the guy if he likes you, then he should break up with his girlfriend. If he doesn’t, then just move on with your life. I understand this may be difficult to do if you care deeply about somebody, but if after a while they don’t ditch the girl and give you a monogamous shot, then they don’t care about you as much as you care about them. Find someone who does.

My Year: A Review and Recap

2010 was a pretty big year for me. Lots of stuff happened. Normally, on the last day of the year, I like to sit around thinking about the momentous occasions that have taken place throughout the past 365 days and nights while I listen to songs like “A Long December” by Counting Crows (because who doesn’t?) and “February 15th” by Bright Eyes.

This year, though, I’ve decided to recap some of the significant events of my year, while not listening to Counting Crows. It’s not that I don’t dig the song, it’s just that if you listen to the same song at the end of every single year that pounds it into your head that maybe the coming year will be better than the last, it kind of gives you a pessimistic view of the year that’s ending.

Fuck that. I had a pretty decent year, in some ways. And, since I’m a huge narcissist who likes to write things about himself in the first person, and since I think people want to read it if it’s put into a public forum, I decided to write about it.

-I made my Mom cry. Twice. But in a good way. The first was because I graduated college. I don’t remember much about the actual graduation ceremony, because I spent most of it Tweeting nonsense because I was still drunk and didn’t want to really walk in the first place (@scottmuska). I do remember afterward, though, when my parents took me to lunch and I drank my first ever shot with them. That was kind of a momentous occasion for somebody who ranks drinking in his Top 3 favorite activities alongside masturbation and eating -- after much thought, actual sex was booted from the Top 3, due to infrequency. Later on, my Mom cried a little bit. She doesn’t cry too often, so it meant a lot.

A week later, I was leaving my childhood home two days before I started my first job. I was about to get into my car, and my Mom started crying, again because she was proud of me, she said. That might’ve been the proudest of myself I’ve ever been, in that moment. Well, it’s up there anyway.

-We had this thing called senior week at the end of our final college semester. It was between finals and graduation day, and I hung out with my college friends for most of it. It was an amazing time, and kind of our swan song. We’d spent four years doing a lot of dumb shit, always together, and this was the end of it. One day during this week, we had Beer Olympics, and we won. The teamwork was the best part.

-I was pretty broke around spring break time, so I forewent a trip to Florida in favor of a week in majestic Tidioute, Pennsylvania. Basically, it’s the middle of nowhere. A bunch of us went to camp, and bonded the entire week. While we were there, I helped actually brand one of my friends with a fire poker. I also ate a lot of red meat and shot a gun for the first time in my life. This place was the closest to being in Woody Creek living like Hunter S. I might ever get.

-As I mentioned, I got a job. It’s at a newspaper in central Pennsylvania; I had to start somewhere. I dig it, though. I get to write all day and stuff, and one of the days somebody actually called me a journalist. I’m actually doing professionally what I’ve wanted to do for as long as I can recall. Or at least since I figured out I wouldn’t make it to the NBA. This helps me sleep a little bit at night, but not much.

-The day I found out about this job was probably one of the most memorable of the year. I’d pretty much figured I wasn’t going to get it, for one reason or another, but then my editor called me one morning.

I was sleeping at the time of the call, so I rolled out of bed and answered my phone. I sat down on the little chair in my bedroom and braced myself for rejection. Instead, I got a job offer, and immediately began freaking out.

Yep. I accepted my first job as a professional staff writer while I was wearing only boxer briefs.

-In June, I moved into my first real apartment, where I live alone. It’s amazing having your own space. Girls have been there, but not romantically. Actually, it has been the exact opposite: Something resembling a romance that had taken place over a period of years came to a conclusion in that apartment. I’m hoping to change that pattern this year. Ladies?

-In July, my family’s dog, who I had grown up with, died. She lived a long time, though. Long enough in people years to have her driving learner’s permit. I wrote an essay about it that got me probably the most recognition I’ve gotten for anything I’ve written so far. So, yeah, I guess in some way I ended up profiting from my dog’s death, which is weird, but I don’t think she would’ve minded. She probably would’ve given me a pound. Yes, Tori did know how to give pounds. I taught her that once.

-I saw Ben Folds play “The Luckiest” for his wife the night before Valentine’s Day. It made me re-evaluate my attitude concerning living and dying alone. That was a good night.

-I had several encounters and interactions that proved to me that people are not always who they seem to be, and a person must be very careful when they’re trying to imagine a certain person into existence. A person with these traits you’re imagining may be out there, but they might not be that person you’re trying to attach these traits to.

-I grew out my hair, and then I cut it all off. I’ve finally made peace with the fact that I can’t do much more than rock a buzz cut, but I’ll probably still keep trying. Maybe someday I’ll end up with a fucking awesome haircut, and I’ll be very excited about it. Because there is no better feeling in the world than doing something even you thought -- even fleetingly -- that you couldn’t do.

-Fifteen minutes ago, my Mom came into the room and we started talking about something very unserious that quickly became serious. Eventually it came to her telling me that, in life, you can’t spend time doing things that aren’t fulfilling to you or that contribute to the quality of life of others. I could die when I’m 40 from something I have no control over. If I do, I’m probably going to be pissed that I spent so many hours running on a fucking treadmill. You’ve got to do things that make you happy. Hunter S. Thompson had this quote that goes like this: “Kick ass, die young.” I don’t completely agree with that, but you may as well do the ass kicking part, and you may as well get started with it now. Years from now, you’re not going to want to be thinking or saying the words “too late” too often. Because that will make you bitter.

Have a really happy New Year’s celebration. Enjoy yourselves.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Sports are sports

***I wrote this the day before Penn State lost to Ohio State. I was going to post it on my work blog, but didn't feel like reading it over. I figured since I'm so conceited that I think everything I write should somehow see the light of day (i.e. Internet), I'd post it on here.

Do I want Penn State to win tomorrow? Absolutely. I want them to win every time they play, and especially when they’re playing a Big 10 rival like Ohio State who has a quarterback with something akin to a God Complex.

I like football, and I like Penn State more than I like any other team. Whether I deserved to or not, I graduated from there and have a diploma (more on that later). It’d be an awesome story for walk on quarterback Matt McGloin to lead the team to victory over semi-Heisman candidate Terrelle Pryor. It’d be lots of fun to watch, and probably even more fun to call my friends who graduated from Ohio State and let them have it, like I was somehow responsible for the victory and didn’t just sit there yelling at a television.

Again, just so we’re clear: I want Penn State to win tomorrow, and I really hope they do.

Do I think they will, though? No. Not really.

The reason it’d be such a great story is because a Penn State victory is so unlikely. They’re unranked and starting a guy who was their third string quarterback a month ago, while Ohio State is ranked No. 8 in the AP poll and is starting Pryor, who some seem to think is the bee’s knees.

Does my prediction show some kind of flaw in my support for Penn State? I don’t think so. I make my prediction based on realism. If I was betting $100 on the game, I’d bet on Ohio State, because that’s the logical pick and I could use an extra c-note.

There is a difference between what I want and what I think is going to happen. I want to marry Blake Lively, but I really don’t think that’s going to happen. (I hope I am wrong.) I’m a realist, at least when it comes to sports, and I don’t think there’s too much wrong with that.

I know at least one person who does, though.


I woke up this morning to a text message from a friend of mine. It said (completely unprompted) “I despise Ohio people.” (Ohioans?) It then went on to say something unsavory about how they’re all born a certain way. It rhymes with Max Soles, a homicide detective with an eye patch and pistachio addiction who I just made up. She’s currently in Ohio, and is going to the game tomorrow. She graduated from Penn State, too, and as you’ll see in a moment, she’s pretty passionate about it.

She followed this statement with an “LOL,” so I didn’t know if she was being serious. I responded with the text, “Haha don’t stereotype” because I don’t like stereotypes, am a very self-righteous person and also for some reason love initiating conflict when it’s really not necessary at all.

She then told me she has every right to stereotype Ohioans and say they’re, uh, not very nice people, because she hasn’t been proven wrong once, and she’s lived in a surrounding state/city her entire life. She went on to say that she doesn’t even consider it a state. “It’s the united 49 states and one mistake, ” she said. (Google reaffirmed for me that it is indeed a state, and that i has a population of about 11.5 million. There has to be at least one good person out of all them, right?)

I don’t want to name any examples, but this kind of thinking hasn’t really done much good. Ever.

I don’t know why this made me mad, really, because obviously some girl spouting off complete absurdities and judgements of people based on the state in which they were born isn’t something really even worth acknowledging, but I had to egg her on. It irked me that she was complaining about the entirety of a state when she had gone there of her own free will. On a trip for pleasure, too.

“So you went to a state you hate to see one of their college football teams beat the [excrement] out of the college you went to?” I typed and sent.

“No,” she replied. Then she said this, which I promise you I am not making up. I could not make this up if I tried. “I’m here to see them cry as we regain honor. A true fan believes in their team, doesn’t leave them in dust, supports them in their weakest hour to victory.”

Who is this girl? General Patton? William Wallace?

Then she told me I don’t deserve to be a Penn State alum. Because I predicted the football team would lose. She told me I “should be pummeled,” too.

I told her that was some of the dumbest stuff I’d heard in a while. “Honor? It’s a sport,” I said. “Weakest hour to victory? They aren’t soldiers.”

I think that’s what had made me upset, kind of like when I got upset when former Miami tight end Kellen Winslow told reporters that he was a soldier. I absolutely hate it when people compare sports to war, for reasons any sensible person should be able to discern.

Sports are sports. She told me that it unites thousands upon thousands of people at Penn State (which it does), and because of this it’s something more than a sport.

So, yeah, I guess it is. It’s a bunch of people getting together to watch a sport and hope for a favorable outcome. I had always just assumed the fan part fell into the customary realm of sports. Without fans and spectators, sports like football would just be a fun workout, really.

Sports are great, and watching them is too. It gives you something to get excited about, and helps you escape other worries for a little while. They can be serious (I take them seriously) but they aren’t that important. I bet any player on the team would acknowledge that there are more important things in the world than sports.

I was told that I didn’t deserve to go to the school that groomed me for my first job, taught me some stuff and provided some of the greatest times I’ve ever had. Because of something football-related, from a girl who I guarantee could not name three starting offensive linemen on this year’s team.

People like this are completely irrational, and their ignorance doesn’t give a good name to the people they’re cheering for.

After we were done talking, I polled a few of my friends who also graduated from Penn State. Every single one of them (I spoke to about 20 people) predicted a loss, except for my friend Dave, who is apparently very optimistic. He said Penn State would win by a score of one million to zero.

“Whoever that [person] is needs a reality check,” one of my friends said, and I agree. She needs at least a couple.

(Here’s one. I looked up some people from Ohio and have found that six former presidents, including my man Ulysses S. Grant, who was instrumental in winning the Civil War. Ohio has also produced Steven Spielberg and R.L. Stine. I realize it sounds like I love Ohio or something, and that’s not the case. I’m just trying to prove a point.)

Even my friend Lenny, who is probably the biggest fan I know of Penn State football and the university in general said he thought it’d be a fun game to watch, but that he wasn’t too optimistic about the ultimate outcome.

“Realistically, I don’t think they’re going to win,” he said.

At some point after our conversation turned to football, Coach Paterno came up. This happens all the time, because he’s obviously the first person you think of (and one of the few people on the team who she can put a name to) when you think of Penn State football. She called him a legend, which he is.

I wonder which person he’d be more ashamed of being a Penn State alum: the guy who made a prediction that his team would lose, or the girl who seems to believe millions of people are inferior because of the state they live in.

Think before you speak is all I’m trying to say. And if you have any strange biases toward other states, just keep them to yourself, or you will sound like a fucking idiot.

UPDATE: Penn State got fucking spanked. I have yet to be beaten or stripped of my degree.

Friday, August 6, 2010

A Rumination on Shark Week

I like the idea of Shark Week, but I don’t really like Shark Week. I feel this way about a lot of things, like the girl I thought I loved throughout most of high school or a healthy, vice free lifestyle. (Also fitting into this category: The band Animal Collective, Smucker’s Uncrustables peanut butter and jelly sandwiches/pastries and Crocs.

If you think about everything surrounding Shark Week, it seems like it’d be absolutely great. It’s become symbolic of something, but I’m not sure what, exactly. This year, Shark Week has been marketed by the Discovery Channel in a way I haven’t seen in previous years. The station has made it seem like Shark Week is a kind of holiday, calling it the “biggest week of summer” and have even gone as far as to dub it the “greatest week of the year” in some commercials.

This is obviously not true, because the greatest week of the year is either the week of Christmas, the first or last week of school (depending on whether you’re in college or primary/secondary school), one of the weeks you get off of work and get to go on vacation (if you’re an adult), or the first week of March Madness. But I digress.

One in about five (and that’s a conservative estimate) Facebook statuses has had the words “Shark Week” in it this week, and people have been buzzing about it all summer. I’m not sure when or how this started, but maybe it was when Tracy Morgan said people should “live every week like it’s shark week” on 30 Rock. Maybe it was when Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly got really pissed off because they weren’t allowed to watch TV during Shark Week. Maybe it’s a combination of all those things, and the other references to Shark Week that have been made in Pop Culture. I even went on a bar tour last year during the first week of school (or "syllabus week," christened so because all you do in class the first week of college semesters is go over the syllabus) called the "Syllabus Week/Shark Week" bar tour. This was because one of my friends had said, "syllabus week? May as well be Shark Week," and we all just thought that was fucking hilarious. People have Shark Week parties, and there’s a website where you can change a picture of yourself so it looks like you’re a shark. It has, somehow and at one point or another that I don’t think anybody can really pinpoint, become a popular culture phenomenon.

I think it’s cool that so many people get pumped up for something like this (or at least they seem to, it’s difficult to tell how genuine people are about the adoration they have for Shark Week and sharks in general), a week-long television event, because I like hype, especially when it doesn’t have to do with either Tiger Woods or Brett Favre.

Basically, everything about Shark Week is fucking awesome, except for one thing: It’s about sharks. What is so great about sharks? Nothing. There is nothing you can tell me that’s going to convince me that these fish warrant an entire week of programming on a channel with so much other great programming to offer. I would sit here and watch Ice Road Truckers and Deadliest Catch all week before I’d want to watch seven days of documentaries and shows about sharks. I’d even throw in that new show, The Colony, even though I’ve never seen it beyond commercials. (A guy making fuel out of animal fat seem intriguing, and maybe something I could use someday if I’m in dire straits.) I’m sure a lot of people would argue that Shark Week is intriguing because sharks are so “mysterious.” Lots of animals and fish are mysterious, especially ocean-dwelling ones. I think sharks are mysterious because there’s really not all that much to figure out about them. They attack things, eat them, and occasionally mate. The wildest thing I’ve seen them do is jump out of the water to catch prey on a program I’m watching now, called Air Jaws 2. This would make sharks more frightening than they already are, if they weren’t jumping out of the water and merking seals on some remote island I’ll never, ever even be near. The dudes on this show are saying that this is the only known place in the world that great whites jump out of the water, so it’s fun to watch for about five minutes before the complete irrelevance of it starts to bore me. It’s one of those things that’s pretty cool to see once, but after that they all look the same. Like anything Michael Cera is in.

Now, the programming has switched to some Australian man who I assume has dedicated his life to learning about sharks (for whatever reason), and he is in a yellow kayak, paddling through the water. Sharks are bumping his boat. There's a chance he could be tipped over and then eaten by a fucking great white shark. I'm not exactly sure what he intends to learn by doing this absolutely stupid thing, but I think he said something about wanting to see sharks mate. (This seems to be a focus of Shark Week, which is something I would've found cool in the fourth grade. Apparently, people don't see sharks mate often, but those that have describe it as a violent ritual that includes -- and holy shit this is a fucking shocker -- them biting one another!)

Aside from sharks being mysterious, people also seem to really dig talking about how watching Shark Week is so educational. I won't argue that it is. I've watched a bit of it this week and have learned some things I didn't previously know about sharks, like the fact that they're so fucking stupid that at a point every year they go through a phase where they just (yes, this is wild) bit one another for no reason. This isn't even when they're banging, either. They just bite one another, and scientists do not know why. I might know why: Because sharks are fucking stupid. They're primitive, and, as I stated before, they don't do anything that's really worthwhile beyond scaring humans into thinking they're going to be attacked by a shark if they go into the ocean. And honestly, they don't really even have much to do with that. It's human beings that make other human beings so frightened of sharks. According to the International Shark Attack File, 118 people were attacked world wide by sharks in 2008. Of those 118 incidents, 59 of them were considered "unprovoked," which would be the kind that might happen when we're taking a swim. Compare that with, say, lightning. On average, 2,000 people are injured because of lightning every year, and pretty much every one of them I would venture to say is unprovoked. Actually, most lightning strikes in history, with the exclusion of the one that zapped Ben Franklin, have probably been unprovoked. This information is according to Wikipedia. (Oh shut up. This obviously isn't a place to come for Cronkite-esque journalistic accuracy, and I seriously doubt somebody got on the Wikipedia page to put erroneous information on about the volume of lightning strikes per year. Get off my dick; this isn't a research paper. It should also be noted how cool and helpful Wikipedia is. At the top of the lightning page, it says "For the Snow Patrol song, see The Lightning Strike.)

Have you ever even looked at a shark? They just look fucking stupid. Apparently they have heightened senses, like an awesome sense of smell for blood, but not a lot as far as brains go (unless it's the fictional shark, Jaws, who was pretty much the Carl Sagan of sharks). So, realistically, you're watching educational programming, but it's about an unintelligent fish that lives in the sea that you'll probably never encounter unless you're eating one. Why do you need to learn about something that you'll never really use? If someone came up to me and told me sharks bite each other during sex, I'd probably take it the wrong way. (I'd think they wanted to have rough sex with me, and let's be honest. Who doesn't like a little mid-coital soft biting every now and then, right?) The information you get from Shark Week is utterly useless in pretty much any scenario. They actually have a show on this week where a guy shows you how to not get killed in a shark attack. That's like me watching a show on how to get laid by Liz Hurley. I'm never going to have the opportunity, so what's the fucking point?

I honestly learned more that I'll actually use from watching one hour of Jersey Shore than I did from the hours of Shark Week I watched. Some examples: Heavy-set ugly women are referred to as Grenade Launchers, and skinny ugly women are referred to as land mine. Also, fat girls that think they are hot are the worst fucking thing in the world; and they eat pickles.

You know, pertinent stuff.

I'm all for education, but you have to think about how plausible the education you're getting is. I would get pissed in college whenever I had to learn about astronomy, because I don't care about astronomy and will never use that knowledge. If you sit in front of the television for a week watching shit about sharks, you're learning stuff that you'll probably never ever use. Why not use that brain power to try and figure out how to plug up that oil spill, or to read a book about decision making (I suggest Blink by Malcolm Gladwell).

I think Discovery Channel should replace Shark Week with Lightning Week. Lightning can kill people too, and does so much more frequently, but it also serves a purpose. Without lightning striking Ben Franklin's kite, I might not be sitting here typing on this computer right now, or possess the Pabst Blue Ribbon Light I hope to hang directly over my bed (admittedly a stretch, because I'm sure somebody like Steve Jobs or Chuck Norris would've discovered electricity by now). If there was a show about how to avoid being struck by lightning, it'd help many more people.

So, I like the idea of everyone getting excited about an annual week-long educational programming TV block, but I don't like learning unnecessary shit about sharks.

I started to change my opinion a little bit when I heard so many Australian voices coming from the TV, and saw so many Foster's oil can commercials.

But then they showed a shark killing a baby penguin.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Endorsements: July

Author's Note: I actually went back and read a little bit of this one, and thought it'd behoove me to let you know I was pretty hammered during the entirety of writing this. More so than usual. This could be a waste of time for you.

Every month I used to do an entry where I would express and comment on the random thoughts that plague my head for nearly 24 hours a day, including the hours during which I try to sleep. But then I got a Twitter, so I could just type up these random thoughts concisely and the same amount of people would read them as will probably read this (about three). I’m not saying I won’t do more random thoughts entries in the future, because I probably will. You can’t restrict all randomness to less than 160 characters. In the meantime, though, I’ve been kicking around some ideas I could do at least monthly that would be fun, and figured I’d concentrate on what I like. So, I’m going to endorse some things, and tell you why I endorse them. Maybe you’ll agree with me, and maybe you won’t. I’ll warn you right now: I’m not going to endorse Lady Gaga now or probably ever, unless she somehow finds a way to murder Chad Kroeger with a whale harpoon. (I’m contractually obligated to make fun of either Nickelback or something in reference to Lady Gaga every time I write something.)

Ties: I wear a tie pretty much every day for my job. I’m not saying this because I want you to think I’m sweet and have a very professional and high-paying job (because I don’t, and if I did, I wouldn’t tell you because I like to pretend like I’m poor, so you can add “Being Bohemian” to my list of endorsements for the month), but because I’ve found a certain amount of power in wearing a tie that I never knew existed. You see, from grades seven to 12, I dressed not unlike Allen Iverson prior to the NBA instituting a dress code: baggy clothes that were much too large for me and were almost exclusively t-shirts and basketball shorts or sweatpants. I see pictures from that era and am reminded how much things and people change over time. Instead of me increasing my clothing size as I get larger, I’ve gone the opposite route. (I used to wear XXL t-shirts, and now I usually wear large. I’m not sure about my underwear size, because I don’t wear underwear.)

Anyway, I’m trying to say I became conscious of what modern fashion entails, and how to make myself look somewhat presentable, at least in a sartorial way. I’m pretty sure I could get by on most days without wearing a tie to work, based solely on the fact that a lot of the people I work with only wear them on days it would be rational to, when they know they’ll be going out of the office to conduct an interview or check out a court hearing and because nobody ever says anything to me when I don’t shave for like six consecutive days and look like a homeless person (the only thing separating me from one is the tie, actually). The reason I wear a tie is because it adds a certain level of “pinache” I wouldn’t normally have, especially because I enjoy wearing paisley ones and other ridiculous types. It makes you look a little better than you would have otherwise, no matter what.

I guess what I’m trying to say is, it takes roughly 30 seconds, give or take, to put on a tie in the morning. Do it. That’s like 1/87th how long it takes those kids from Jersey Shore to do all that stupid shit to their hair that only makes them look like a tanner version of me in my fourth grade school yearbook picture (minus the turquoise turtleneck, which could actually be considered more fashionably acceptable now than a fucking Affliction t-shirt). You might get some compliments from the girl who works at Sheetz who sometimes will hook you up with extra croutons and grilled chicken on your salad, especially if you’re rocking that white, navy and baby blue paisley Michael Korrs number she complimented you on that one day.

Also, I have it on good authority that, if you take a woman out and you’re wearing a tie it will increase your chances of her wanting to make an amateur sex tape with both parties naked except for the tie by a pretty significant percentage.

Sperry Top Siders and Nike Free Runs: The former is a boat shoe, the latter is a running shoe. Both are unfathomably comfortable once broken in, kind of like a baseball glove or a middle school dance once Aerosmith’s “I Don’t Wanna Miss a Thing” from the seminal film “Armageddon” is played and kids start making out. The reason I love both of them is because they’re actually more comfy without socks. Since May, I’ve worn only these two selections of footwear for the majority of the time, with sandals making brief appearances when I’m really trying to let loose. I literally have not had a pair of socks on my feet since May, and that’s reason enough for me to endorse these products, because I, for some reason, despise wearing socks. Aside from that, though, I can’t really say much about the Nike’s, except that my pair has neon green on them, which I feel is pretty rad. The Sperrys, though, those are good for other reasons, paramount among them being that they make you look richer and more sophisticated than you really are. It’s key to not overdo it, though. Leave the pink Polo at home, and if you do decide to wear it, leave the collar down. Unless you want to look like someone whose Dad paid his way into that financial internship and uses primitive words like “Brah” when attempting to have a conversation about torn clothing with people who work at Abercrombie & Fitch. (Side note: I see this on a lot of people’s Facebook profiles who work for A&F under employment information: Employer: Abercrombie & Fitch. Job Description: Model. What the hell is that? The first time I saw that on someone’s profile I was like “No way is that dude a model for Abercrombie. I’ve seen those guys on bags and oversized posters, and there is no way he fits the mold. This guy doesn’t make me feel like I should never eat a French fry again. “ I’ve since learned that’s what they call the people who work there. I think a more accurate description would be something like “salesman,” or “clothing folder.” That’s like me putting Employer: Newspaper. Job Description: Pulitzer Prize Winning, Eight-Time New York Times Best-Selling Author instead of Reporter.)

Workout clothes on women: Since I’m apparently blogging exclusively about fashion right now (I watched The Devil Wears Prada recently), I felt like I should endorse this. I don’t know why, but I love a girl in a sports bra and some running shorts. I’ve got no real reason for this. I just like it. This falls into what I like to call the “Apple Jacks Paradox,” which means you like something for no real explainable reason, other than “you just do.”

The Anti-Hero: The anti-hero has been around for a very long time. It’s someone who is likable for unconventional reasons that don’t really mesh with them being a good person. I came to the conclusion that I liked the anti-hero when I was watching a Showtime marketing clip from Comic-Con the other day, where they interviewed David Duchovny and Michael C. Hall from the shows Californication and Dexter, respectively. Duchovny plays Hank Moody, an alcoholic and promiscuous writer, and Hall plays Dexter, a serial killer who only kills bad dudes. They have characteristics that make you like them, even though they aren’t good people like Superman or Mother Theresa. It’s more realistic for a person to relate to an anti-hero than a true protagonist, because most of us aren’t real heroes in any sense. Anti-heroes have room to make mistakes that you’ll almost immediately forgive them for If Clark Kent committed adultery, I think a lot of us would be a lot more let down than if we found out some dude was a murderer that was only offing people who had also killed numerous innocents while robbing a bank. An anti-hero doesn’t have to be good all the time, and that makes it so much more significant when they actually do something admireable.

Lady Gaga could turn, in my eyes, from a complete disappointment (except for the song “Alejandro,” which I do enjoy) to at least an anti-hero if she assassinated Chad Kroeger.

Also, I just opened my refrigerator to get another lemonade for grown-ups (I’m making my own Mike’s Hard Lemonade except with more booze, which means I can’t endorse drinking like somebody who has chest hair this month). While in there, I found some uneaten Chicken McNuggets left over from a late night trip I made to McDonald’s last night to combat my currently healthy cholesterol levels. I immediately chuckled a little bit to myself (pretend I’m Carlos Mencia and always laugh at the shit I do) and said out loud in my empty apartment, “Those aren’t going to make it through the night.” As a person who is trying to be healthy and drop some weight, I guess that makes me an anti-hero. Without the promiscuity or sociopathic tendencies. This may not have even made any sense. I just wanted to convey that I have McNuggets in my fridge, which should probably make you immediately jealous, because they’re (arguably) better cold. I think maybe it cancels out some of the grease, or something.

Using “Haha” in text messages although you’re not really LOL’ing: This has become commonly acceptable technological vernacular, and I definitely embrace it to a (probably) astounding level. I’d say about 74 percent of my text messages are either precluded or ended with “Haha.” Sometimes both. I don’t know how this ever came to be, but I can definitely say that it conveys a non-serious vibe in a type of communication where true meaning and emotion is difficult to trace. I can honestly say I’ve gotten text messages where people haven’t put “Haha” in there and I’ve been nervous about how serious they were trying to be. If you throw the “Haha” in there, it immediately relieves a certain amount of tension that’s inherently found when you’re a bit nervous about the way a person might respond to a not-so-thought-out or potentially controversial text message

Parenthesis: Because I use them way too much.

Staying up for 24+ hours straight: I did this earlier this week. I had an excellent night that ended much later than I’d expected going into it (one of the best nights I’ve had in quite some time). The end came when I returned to my apartment in the college town where I used to live (I have an apartment there until mid-August) at just after six in the morning, except I decided that wasn’t the end. I opted, since I was sobered up by that point, to drive myself to my new home about 45 minutes away. The sun was coming up while I was driving, and it’s just a cool feeling to know you’re still awake 24 hours after you woke up the day before. It feels like you beat some kind of system, and when you do finally pass out it’s extraordinary.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

They Took My Dog

I woke up this morning to a call from my Mom. This isn’t a rare occurrence, since I often sleep past the hour when most people deem it appropriate to make a phone call, and my Mom loves making phone calls. When she makes them, she likes to talk about a lot of things, many of them slightly trivial. So, I wasn’t all that worried about it, I didn’t panic and immediately assume something was wrong.

But then she told me that she and the other four members of my family not including me were all going to the vet early that afternoon to put our dog, Tori, to sleep. I met this with a surprising amount of stoicism, since she was my first real pet and I’d pretty much grown up with her. She’d just turned 14 1/2 the day before. I told my Mom I thought it was the right thing to do, because she’d been sick with an aggressive cancer that had started in her right hind leg sometime during the winter and had been spreading ever since. Also because my Mom immediately revealed to me that Tori was bleeding rectally. This combined with the fact that she could only barely use three of her legs, had lost more weight than Jared Fogle and would spend a pretty good chunk of her day (when she wasn’t sleeping, which was rarely) either laying in her little bed or barking at things that weren’t there convinced me that what I was telling my Mom I meant with all my heart. I’d already come to this conclusion when I went home last weekend, and had found her in a terrible condition. I had to pick her frail, bony body up -- she was sickly, supermodel skinny, with more hair -- and take her outside to do her business, and she struggled greatly even popping a squat, because of her useless leg and low energy levels. I was further convinced that it was time for her long and, I like to think, good life to end when my Dad, who was the closest to Tori of any of us (as soon as he came home from work, she followed him like, well, a puppy), said he thought it was about time to put her to sleep.

All of this confirmed for me what I’d always really known, that my first pet was going to die really soon, but I still had a glimmer of hope that maybe she wasn’t that bad and would continue to stick it out. This changed when my best friend Evan, who has known Tori for almost as long as I have, came over. In the 11 or so years they’ve been acquainted, and in the hundreds of times Evan has walked into my house, Tori has never not given him an unbelievable amount of shit. She fucking hated Evan, with every fiber of her tiny being, and she would bark and bark and bark incessantly at him anytime he was in her domain. She could sense his arrival, and she would find him. This time, though, she acted like she didn’t even know he was around, and I suppose she probably didn’t. When he was near her, she didn’t even bark, except when she would growl or let out a little yelp at the wall, which definitely wasn’t Evan. She was at that point where she didn’t know her best friend from the people she hated the most. If she didn’t want to hassle Evan, I knew she didn’t really want to live anymore. Since she was a small, indoor dog, he was her equivalent of the postal worker or paper boy. She’d lost the ability to fight her own fights, realized it, and unlike many bitches the world over she decided she didn’t want other people to fight them for her. She’d become dependent and docile, and that wasn’t my dog’s personality (dogonality?).

When I said goodbye to her that Monday before I headed out of town to go back to my job and, I guess, my new life, I knew it was probably the last time I would ever see her. I told her a bunch of shit about dog heaven that I’m not even sure if I believe or not. Firstly, I don’t know if there is a heaven, and I’m alright with not knowing for many, many years. Secondly, I don’t know if, when a dog does go to heaven, they get to eat as many Milk Bones as they want. (Who can really be sure if canine obesity exists in heaven? If it does, there’s got to be a ration on treats and Beggin’ Strips.) But I told her both of these things, and I told her I’d miss her. I gave her a kiss and she returned it. I’d like to think she knew whose nose she was licking at that point, and I do. (If Evan had come that close to her face, she would’ve bit his off, no matter how low her energy level might be or how shitty she was feeling.)

A little while after I got off the phone with my Mom, she sent me a picture of Tori (the same one as above). She was in the bed she frequented, and she was wrapped in a towel. She looked so skinny, skinnier than I could ever remember her being before. Even on the night we brought her home, when she was pretty close to being a newborn and tiny puppy. I remember it vividly. We played with this little puppy we were so happy to have, that we thought we’d never have, and we watched “The Haunted Mask” episode of the short-lived Goosebumps television series. When I saw this picture my Mom had sent me, I cried a little bit. I’m not ashamed of that, because I think that’s an appropriate action. Also, it takes absolutely nothing for me to start crying, unlike most self-respecting men, but there’s not a thing I can do about it, so hey. I cried mostly because I would miss my dog, but also because she was going to die while everyone in the family was around except for me. I dwelled on this for a bit, then went for a run, showered and went to work. I wanted to act status quo, and I wanted to try and not think about the fact that, in a way, I was glad I didn’t have to be there to see the family dog put down.

Most of the day went reasonably well. I knew what was going to happen, and knew it was the right thing. I waited for the text message to come from someone in my family to tell me that the deed had been done. My big brother texted me, told me she was dead and that she hadn’t seemed very opposed to a lethal injection. He said she went quietly, and my family took that to mean she was ready. I have no doubts that she was.

Later in the night, I had to go to the conclusion of a little league baseball game for something I was doing at work. When I got there, it was pouring down rain, and the game was delayed. I decided to wait it out in my car. When I was sitting there in the rain, I started thinking a lot about Tori. At first, I was thinking about the times when she was sick, and I got kind of upset. Then, I decided I’d think about all the good things I remembered about her. I got out a notebook and sat in my car writing down some of my fondest memories of her. I thought about how intelligent she was. She could shake with both paws and do all the normal dog tricks like sitting and playing dead and rolling over. I especially remember how, when she wanted something, she would “dance.” She would get up on her hind legs, and drape her front paws out; she looked vaguely like someone dancing without a partner, like she was learning the steps in an introductory ballroom dancing class. She would look at you and continue to dance until she got what she wanted. She wasn’t unlike many people in that respect. I thought about the times we’d taken naps on my bed or on the couch, and the time I taught her to modify her normal handshake skills into a “pound” or “daps” fist-to-paw bump. I thought about a lot of things.

Then, I got back to thinking about how I hadn’t been there for her death. I realized after a while that this was a stupid thing to get caught up on, because her death had taught me more about life than maybe her entire life put together had. For years now, I’ve been a pseudo-emo kid who kind of adopted the idea that when every living thing in the world dies, he, she or it dies alone. (I attribute this to way too many sad songs, books and viewings of Donnie Darko.) The important thing about Tori dying was that she was surrounded by almost everyone she’d spent significant amounts of time with. To dwell on the fact that all of my immediate family had been there at the time of her dignified death when I was unable to be was the wrong way to look at it. I needed to look at it as a lesson. Everyone doesn’t die alone, and it’s important to keep a group of people close to you who you might want to have around when you do die, regardless of whether there’s a heaven, hell, that place the people from LOST were hanging out or anything else.

She taught me that, among other things, and so I guess her work here was done.

It just kind of sucks that Evan can come into my house now and not suffer any hysterics or hassles, but so it goes.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Suntan Lotion

Suntan lotion, for me, is one of the most distinct smells in the world, although I'm not even sure exactly what it smells like. There's definitely some coconut in there, which is nice, but it's not just that; it's got so much more in there. So much that adds to its uniqueness that I don't think anyone has ever said "Something smells like suntan lotion" and been surprised when the something they were smelling was something other than suntan lotion. It's like the scent of coffee, marijuana, cucumber melon lotion from Bath and Body Works, or patriotism. You don't confuse it with anything else.

I value the smell of suntan lotion. So much so that I'll call it my smell. I'm not saying I smell like suntan lotion (because I've been told I smell like the inside of a Panera Bread, no joke, and this person didn't mean it as an insult, which means they must really dig freshly baked bread equipped with a smaller-than-average penis). I'm saying that when I smell suntan lotion, I immediately have these flashbacks of some of the great times I've had earlier in my life. It's like when I smell it, I can no longer concentrate on whatever it was I was doing before it wafted into my nostrils. These flashbacks are to things I seldom think about anymore and, in some cases, even actively try to forget, but suntan lotion shows no mercy. It's kind of like I'm an amnesiac getting little bits of my memory back in a more vivid way than I was really prepared for. I'd compare it to the final episode of "Lost," when the characters were living in one life (purgatory or some shit, who knows?), but are somehow connected to their other life/dimension/whatever, but they don't remember it. The only way they begin to remember is they have these epiphanies that happen when they touch someone else that was special to them on the island, or if they see something that reminds them of it. When it happens, they completely forget everything else except some extremely happy moment (which were few and far between, during both an adolescence trying to figure out girls as well as being stranded and defenseless on a tropical island), when it seemed to them it couldn't get any better. From what I could tell by watching the show, these people could feel that same happiness just by looking back on these moments, like they were experiencing them again.

That's what my flashbacks are like. I smell this lotion, and I'm totally useless to speak to the people around me for the next, like 10-15 minutes. I get swept back to a certain moment and feel just like I felt during it, and then I spend the subsequent minutes trying to send myself back there. It's like when you have one of those dreams where you're banging Giselle Bundchen and when you wake up you try and fall immediately back to sleep so she can finish you off. (Let's be honest, that's why dreams are sweet. Because you wake up having not finished and can pat yourself on the back for going at it without exploding with Giselle for the entire dream, which lasted much longer than the 8.3 seconds it would take you to shoot one off in real life.) I completely forget that the woman --and yes, it's almost always women, because suntan lotion doesn't remind me of the great times I've had with dudes-- and I didn't work out because of either my own stupidity, or her own stupid whorishness, borishness or, well, irrationality. Sometimes because of all four. I forget all these things and think about how, in that moment, she seemed perfect, and us being there doing whatever it was we were doing (usually making out) resulted in an extreme happiness I haven't really felt in the past few years.

I think about a time right after I finished high school when I was with a girl at the beach. I think about a time when I was with a girl at a swimming pool the next summer. I think about a time when I was only 13 years old at that same pool, kissing a girl by a basketball court there. I think about the time I went on a cruise with my family and hooked up with the #2 ranked high school swimmer in the state of Connecticut. (Or so she said. I don't really care one way or another. She was good looking. Also, I realize this one doesn't really fit into my whole sappy talk about "perfection," but it was still elating.) I think about the time when I was eight years old, and I would spend the day at a different pool watching the first love of my young life leap off the diving board. How do I know I was eight? Because she was always wearing a USA Olympics one piece, and I was eight the summer of 1996, when the Olympics were held in Atlanta and some dude tried to blow some shit up. I remember these things. (This girl is now married, for what it's worth.)

When I remember these things, I get all giddy, like a little schoolgirl, and I've been thinking about it a lot lately. This is most likely because I no longer get that giddy feeling. I get nervous about dates, sure, but the amount of fist pumping I throw out after a first kiss has drastically declined in the past few years. I worry that, as I get older, this excitement will disappear completely, and that I'll never be able to find it. Other things have taken the excitement's place (mainly booze and the viewing of chick flicks), and maybe there's not so much room for it in the world I live in now, which is the world of the adult. I'm nostalgic, to say the least, for a simpler and more fun time. I now have a full time job in a place where I know next to nobody. At this job, I have a desk that is cluttered with all kinds of things. A dictionary, like seven phone books, papers with phone numbers, yellow legal pads and a couple of coffee cups. There are no pictures of a significant other, someone who makes me really excited and makes me feel like I can come even close to an emotional state of perfection. I guess I don't feel that excitement because I have to take other things seriously now. There was a time when the pursuit of this excitement was the thing I took most seriously. Somehow, that has been replaced by a self-centered desire for my own success.

The last time I smelled sunscreen, the time that made me think so much about all of this, I was at an assignment for this job of mine (that I happen to really like, by the way...I don't want to give the wrong impression). I smelled it out of nowhere, and was immediately thrown into a flashback to that time at the pool (you can guess as to which one it was), and I felt the excitement. Then, for the next ten minutes, I was completely out of it. I didn't know what was going on around me at all.

And I realized that there was nothign wrong with that.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Life in the fast lane is more frustrating than one might assume

It was a little white Nissan Versa being driven by someone who attends, or knows somebody who attends, the Eastman School of Music at the University of Rochester. They also bought their car at BlueKnob Auto Sales. I know these things because I got close enough to this person's rear end to read the decal stuck to the back hatchback window and the license plate holder that read the name of the dealership. I could also tell that it was either a woman, SideShow Bob or Anderson Varejao because of the curly mop on the person's head. And SideShow Bob is (allegedly) a fictional charater, and Varejao is a 7 foot tall basketball player that could never fit in a Versa, so it was a woman (not saying whether that's a relavent factor or not, you decide).

Now, this wouldn't be a big deal at all if I were at a redlight stuck behind this person, but we were moving. On an interstate. I was braking, coming down from slightly over the posted speed limit of 65 miles per hour, which, let's be honest, nobody even makes an attempt to follow unless there's a police officer in the vicinity, to something like five to 10 mph less than the posted speed limit.

This person was traveling in what they like to call "the fast lane." It's the lane on the left side of the two lanes of a highway that are going in the same direction. And, for those of you who aren't in the know (and I've found that an astounding number of people in the areas of the eastern United States I've driven around in since I acquired my license don't) it is the lane of the highway that's reserved for people who are passing traffic traveling in the right lane of the highway.

So, if you're not passing somebody, get the fuck out of the left lane. Especially if there are other cars directly behind you. I thought this was a rule that everyone was taught when they were learning to drive, just like how you're supposed to use a turn signal when you're turning or stop at a stop sign. In fact, it's a law to stay right in most states, including Pennsylvania (where I've lived pretty much all my life). In Pennsylvania, you're supposed to stay right unless passing or making room for cars to merge into traffic from on-ramps.

I've dealt with people "hanging out in the fast lane," as my parents call it, more times than I can count in the six years of my driving career, and it's always gotten me frustrated, but I never did anything drastic. I would just get up on the person's tail and pretty much "body" them into the left lane. Nobody likes being tailgated, myself included, and I've found that this is usually an adequate way to get the person to move over when they have some room. It causes a momentary spike in my stress levels, especially when it disrupts my fucking cruise control settings, but I get over it and move on with my life.

This time was different, though. This lady in the left hand lane would not move over, and I, along with about six other cars directly behind me, was becoming livid. I first attributed this to the fact that I'm a very impatient and aggressive driver. I wasn't always this way, but somewhere along the way it changed, and I became a pissy and easily agitated traveler when people wouldn't acquiesce to my haste to get wherever it was I was going. I've found this strange, because I am, by nature, a kind of slow moving person. My family likes to refer to me as Uncle Jack, after my Grandma's brother who was always so late for things that they'd say he was going to be late to his funeral. (Funny story, he actually was. The hearse got a flat tire and the whole procession had to come to a halt in the middle of the road.) I have an inordinate tendency to always fuck up my timing, on everything. It always takes me longer to get ready for something than I thought it should, and because of this I'm always running late. So, I have to compensate for this by driving a little too fast and aggressively at times. Today, I was on my way to meet the woman I was hoping would become my new landlord, so that I could see an apartment in her building. I was, of course, running late, and this fucking lady in the Versa wasn't helping me at all.

I was also impatient, because for some reason I'd picked the night before to come to the realization that you can't really do anything useful while you're driving a car. (This can be attributed to the fact that I've been driving 40-45 minutes to and from work everyday, one trip after 10 p.m. at night when all I want to be doing is having some wine, which you can't do while driving if you didn't know.) This happened when I decided to listen to game one of the NBA Finals as I drove, and realized when I got home that I was pretty much just bored by listening to it and that I could've just turned the game on upon my arrival. The score wouldn't have been much different, and anything I heard on the radio that seemed phenomenal could be seen on the postgame Sports Center recap that I pretty much always watch anyway. You can listen to music, sure. That's one of my favorite things to do in the world. You can also listen to the news, which I should be doing. But it just doesn't seem practical to me. You can get where you're going, sit down and listen to music while you read the entire world news briefs on The Daily Beast's Cheat Sheet in about five minutes. Then you can listen to music while you do other shit that doesn't involve looking through a windshield, like cooking, shooting hoops or singing in the shower. To state it plainly: There's nothing useful you can do inside a car--while it's moving--that you can't do outside of a car that's really that interesting, beyond the simple act of driving.

So, since I was at my wits' end, I decided to do something drastic; something I'd never done (seriously) in my entire driving career, unless it was in jest toward one of my family members or friends. I was going to wait until I had an opportunity to get up next to this lady, and while parallel to her, I was going to beep and flip her off. I don't know why I'd never done this before, but it was kind of a point of pride for me to have not done it. I enjoyed telling people I'd never done it, because it doesn't really mesh with the way I normally express myself in a verbal way.

I got my opportunity when, what felt like about three hours later, there was enough daylight in the slow lane for me to swerve over and pull up next to her. I was about to do the beep to get her attention, but I looked to my left first, to see what I was dealing with.

It was a woman, a girl even, depending on your definiton. She couldn't have been older than 25. I immediately decided not to blow my horn and flip this person off, and decided instead to simply drive past her as quickly as possible and continue on with my life as far away from her as possible. This was difficult to do, because I was burning with frustration and yearned to give her the international symbol for "fuck you." I was looking forward to it.

But, when I turned and saw this woman, I realized this bitch was sending a fucking text message. She had both hands on the phone and was more or less steering with her elbows, giving the interstate cursory glances every few seconds, kind of like I do when I'm looking at and attractive girl in a public place, except I'm not endangering the lives of myself and everyone around me. I'm not Cyclops from the X-Men without his red glasses. (That statement there really illustrates why I spend my time glancing at attractive women instead of being in their company.) Since she was going so fucking slow and hadn't noticed the line of cars trailing behind her for the last three miles, I figured she was re-writing "The Great Gatsby" and was in a very deep concentration. So, I decided not to beep at her, because that certainly would've disturbed her and made her an even bigger hazard.

So, that's just one more reason why less time should be spent in the car. It only gets more and more dangerous.

I can't think of a time in my life where I've wanted a DeLorean so badly, so that I can drive back in time, before texts were invented. Maybe back then people were sensible enough to stay out of the fucking fast lane.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The KFC Double Down: A Review

I didn't utilize the drive-thru at KFC, even though I only had a half hour's break from work. Instead, I got out of my car and walked straight into the store, where I waited in line to order the infamous--despite it's only being around for about a month and a half--Double Down pseudo sandwich.

I didn't get out of my car because I thought I'd get an extra few steps of exercise or something (although I should take anything I can get since I sit at a desk all day). I did it because I wanted to look the cashier in the face and laugh at her when she asked me if I wanted the original or grilled version of the Double Down, because that's a stupid question and I'm sad she had to ask me it, because of course I'm going to go with original. If I'm going to indulge in what the majority of the press (and people who are freakishly obsessed with healthy eating, like Jaime Oliver) deem to be one of the worst fast food inventions of all time, then I'm going to go all out.

I got my sandwich to go, and went back to the office to enjoy it, because I initially wanted to take some notes while I ate. I figured I'd be in such a fit of ecstacy that I'd have to keep writing my observations about the sandwich while I masticated, because I was likely to completely forget everything about it except the severe enjoyment that would undoubtedly come when a person gets to eat two breaded chicken breasts with bacon, two types of cheese and a special sauce between them.

***AUTHORS NOTE: How did I know I might lose all my wits while eating? Well, I guess now would be a good time to reveal that this was my second go around with the Double Down. I got one a while back, but felt it would be appropriate to eat it again for a few reasons. 1) It's delicious and I just wanted to eat one again, 2) I'm a firm believer that many things need to be tried twice to really get the full impression, because 3) Last time I ate one it was like two days after I'd gotten news from my doctor that my cholesterol--which had measured pretty high due to my formerly terrible diet and poor genetics back in the end of December--was back to normal. I celebrated by going to try the Double Down with a few of my friends, and I remember it being pretty good, but I couldn't remember just HOW GOOD it had been, because when a person has been on a low fat diet and they jump back into the fast food world exuberantly with a moderate-to-heavy dose of KFC, the aftermath of having done so is bound to affect a person's opinion on the way the food treated them while they were actually eating it. It's kind of like how people will say bad things about how they hate tequila when they were ready to make Jose Cuervo a saint the night before. You actually get a sort of chicken hangover if your digestive and circulatory systems aren't adequately prepared. But this time, I was ready. I ate a burger at Five Guys along with a large order of fries on Saturday, and a Big Mac value meal on Sunday. I'd like to say this was because I was getting ready for the Colonel, but that's not true at all. I just at like shit all weekend.)

This idea went quickly out the window, though, because as soon as I opened the box to lay my eyes on it for only the second time in my life, I realized the slight phobia I have of getting my personal belongings greasy was going to prohibit me from even thinking about grabbing a pen and writing things down as I ate.

So, I abandoned that aspiration and, as my trend with my entire meal was, I went all out and discarded the piece of greasy tissue paper you're apparently supposed to hold the sandwich in while you eat it. I held it in both hands and proceeded to down it in a time frame that couldn't have been more than five minutes (which translates to about a dollar per minute, if you're wondering); this was partially because I'm a fast eater by most accounts and was pretty starving when I ate it, and partially because it's not really as large as one would assume.

After that, I immediately went to the bathroom, washed my hands and came back out to do a memory dump of what I'd just experienced.

What did I think? Well, I thought it was really good. Not the best fast food item I've ever eaten, probably, but it was definitely good. It was really just a large chicken sandwich without the bread, to be honest. I would definitely eat it again if I didn't have to worry about my cholesterol (or if I was married and no longer worried about being in good physical condition), but don't think I would've made as big a deal--or been as affected by it--if it hadn't been for all the publicity this sandwich has gotten as of late. I mean, I've never felt it appropriate to Tweet about something I was eating, or to write an entire review of something edible for no good reason either.

I think it's intriguing to eat a Double Down, and they've probably sold a lot of them for the specific reason that the Double Down is currently the villain of fast food--and food in general. If something is heavily advertised and a person is told enough times that it's bad for them and they shouldn't try it, they become curious and then have an urge to try it when they wouldn't have given this product a second thought before. Sometimes, people like to rebel in whatever way they can, even--or maybe especially--if it's a little rebellion that's pretty much insignificant. I never thought that eating a chicken-based sandwich from a fast food restaurant that was founded by some white-bearded dude who wore a fucking bow tie, but I kind of did (which means I should probably look for more excitement in my life).

And you know what? It was completely unjustified. Believe it or not, this sandwich isn't even that bad. It's not great for you, but not bad either.

I found out in an article written by Joel Stein that the Double Down doesn't have as many calories or as much fat as a Burger Kind Tendercrisp sandwich or five chicken strips from McDonalds. It's not even the worst thing you can get at KFC (which would be the beloved Famous Bowl). It only has 540 calories, which is like drinking five light beers, and its 32 grams of fat are, although not healthy, not really at the top of the fattening end of the fast food spectrum. It doesn't make Time's list of the top 10 worst fast food meals: , a list that actually includes a drink from Starbucks.

The most disappointing thing for me? It doesn't even come close in caloric content to the other--in my opinion--most revolutionary cheap fast food item that has been made available to the general public in the last year or so: The Domino's Bread Bowl. I was, until my cholesterol mishap, eating chicken carbonara bread bowls on a pretty regular basis (it was a "devil may care" stage as far as my health went for a while), and I never thought to even tell anyone about it, let alone Tweet it to the three people that may have read it.

So, the Double Down was like most slightly rebellious things I've attempted to do in my life. It made me feel bad ass for a little bit, until I realized I was following a trend that wasn't really that crazy to begin with, established by an entity that only mirroed it's creativity: it tried too hard (and this time the entity was the descendants of a man who will forever be remembered for chicken and a bow tie).

In the end, I didn't get anything out of it besides a few moments of pleasure and a new kind of hangover.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Two Days without a Cell Phone and the Thoughts that Ensued

After graduating from college last Saturday, I packed up some things and decided to head to my hometown the next day for a ladder week between the end of my college career and the beginning of my professional one. I had some plans for this week, like hanging out with my family and catching up with some people I might not get to see quite as often now that we’re getting jobs and spreading out all over the place. I was looking forward to it.

Then I got home on Sunday, tried to restart my Blackberry, and it broke. (I found out when i went to get it fixed--which took about three hours for some reason--that the software had crashed. I have a cell phone that has software. I feel like it can’t be long until I can take a vacation to that planet the Ewoks live on.) This was immediately following dinner with my parents, when I was ready to make plans that would allow me to leave my childhood home and spend some time with some friends. I didn’t know what the fuck to do, because I had no idea how to get ahold of anybody without my cell phone. I was completely lost.

Now, I know I could have called some people on my family’s landline at our house, but this would’ve only been possible if I wasn’t a complete slave to cell phones. I know probably four or five people’s numbers off the top of my head, and those people either weren’t home or I no longer speak to them (it’s funny, the shit you remember, until it’s not). When I want to call somebody, I just look them up in my cell phone’s contacts. When the phone is broke, you’re fucked. And, even if I did have access to the phone number of every person I know in my mind, there’s a good chance I wouldn’t call a lot of them anyway, because it’s much easier to make plans via text message. You have more time to think of what to do; they have more time to decide if that’s something they’d really like to do; they have more time to gather other options before responding. Basically, text messaging completely eliminates all the awkward pauses we were doomed to plod through when we were young and trying to make conversation with people of the opposite sex despite not knowing a fucking thing about what they cared about or were even interested in beyond cheerleading, the color pink and wearing thongs much earlier than any daughter of mine ever will goddamnit.

So, my night consisted of drinking with my Mom and starting the third season of Mad Men, which is a perfectly fine night for me on most occasions. I just didn’t want to do it that night in particular, because I’m working a job in a place where I know pretty much nobody, will be living by myself for as far as I can tell and have visited the bar closest to my prospective apartment and have been very frightened by it. So, this means I will probably be drinking and watching seasons of television shows pretty much every night (minus my Mom) after work as my main source of recreation. I wanted to save Mad Men for my time of self-imposed solitude and go out and have a whole different kind of fun instead. Among other people.

The one thing I kept thinking while I sat there with my mom was, How did my parents do it? How did they have prosperous social lives? How did my Dad ever even create me without using text and/or instant messaging to initially woo my Mom? Did this crazy mustached-wearing-motorcycle-riding-hairy-chested-man actually walk up to her in a public place and start talking to her WITHOUT EVEN KNOWING HER? What a fucking man! No wonder he had four of us in less than five years. His shooting percentage must be as high as Steve Nash’s free throw percentage!

So, I consulted my Mom. She told me about her and my Dad’s courtship. It wasn’t unlike how you see it transpire in the movies. He didn’t meet her on Facebook or anything creepy like that...He just talked to her and asked her out to her face, without the aid of (at least my Mom says) alcohol or drugs to inspire social lubrication. The first thing she pointed out was that guys used to keep every girl’s phone number they ever got in the mythological “Black Book.” I immediately regretted not having one of these. It seems so much cooler than storing phone numbers in a cell phone, kind of like how driving a Mercedes Benz Coupe is cooler than driving a Caravan, except in this case the cooler thing is actually more practical. If I’d had a black book, the software never would’ve crashed. I could’ve just pulled it out of the pocket of my acid wash jeans and started to ring up anybody I wanted to. (Guys included, because my black book would be a social rolodex, or I would’ve memorized the guys numbers. Because let’s be honest, there weren’t that many girls that I could’ve been calling anyway.) I wouldn’t have been as prone to lose all of my numbers, because I wouldn’t drop my black book into the toilet while drunk at a party because I was trying to multi-task and type a message into it while my other hand was trying desperately to find my tiny member. I could drop my black book on the ground every single day of the year and it wouldn’t break. Also, I’d never have to recharge my black book, because black books do not die. (I still haven’t found a solution to the “my friend threw me in the pool while I had my black book in my pocket” problem, but feel as though I wouldn’t need to have my black book around me while I was near a swimming pool, because I’d like to think I’d already called every female I was acquainted with and told them to show up at said pool.

Then I started to think more about text messaging and the other advances made in technology in the past few years. I was thinking about these things because I didn’t have a cell phone to fuck around with to keep my mind from wandering to thoughts that could actually be meaningful and important. I’ve become convinced that if I’d never had a cell phone, I would’ve probably discovered a new element like Tony Stark in Iron Man 2.

The aspect of text messaging I found myself considering with the most depth (or as much depth as my mind would allow after three episodes of Mad Men, which equals about four or five glasses of bourbon...if you’ve seen the show you’ll understand. It’s like how you want to start playing basketball when you watch March Madness.) was how it affects romantic relationships. Text messaging has changed the way they start, progress and even--sometimes--end. I know this to be true generally because of my own experience.

Since I got my first cell phone that could send and receive text messages (I used to dominate that snake game), the way I talk to women has changed drastically. I pretty much completely halted speaking verbally with girls on the phone, unless I was dating someone and I “had” to. Once text messaging came into play, talking on the phone seemed pretty fucking stupid. (Keep in mind that I’m a journalist, and probably about 1/3 of my job consists of talking to people on the telephone. It’s not like I’m not capable of doing it.) I mean, why would you spend an hour of your day talking to a significant other on the phone? If you thought it was hard to come up with enough stuff to talk about when you were younger, try doing it whenever you’re in constant contact via text message with that person for the entire day. When you’re doing that, you don’t need to talk to the person on the phone at the end of the day.

Now, I know what some of you are probably thinking, and that’s that you just want to hear your loved one’s voice. That’s fine. Go ahead and make the call if you really want to hear them. I’m all about that, and I’ve gone through times when I’ve wanted the exact same thing. I endorse it. Some people have pretty voices that are enjoyable to listen to. Ask them to sing you a song. In fact, there are a few people I’d like to call just to hear their voice right now. But since text messaging, there’s really not such an obligation to be on the phone with the person you’re dating on a daily basis. What I have a hard time figuring out is whether or not this is good or bad for a relationship. With a steady stream of text messaging, you’re in constant contact throughout the day with your better half. You know everything that’s going on with them, and you can be completely plugged into their life all while you’re doing other things and going on with your life. In today’s society where efficiency is so highly valued, I think many people would argue that this is great.

But what if it isn’t?

You have to consider the fact that while you’re talking to this person through text you’re concentrating on other things and not completely dedicating yourself to what they have to say. This could start a horrible trend, where people aren’t as dedicated to the ones they love (or whatever) as they should be to have a healthy and long-lasting relationship.

And maybe text messaging has made it too easy. It’s very possible it has nothing to do with it, but maybe text messaging has contributed to the fact that I’m much better at talking to someone in the initial stages through text than in person. Maybe my addiction to text messaging has had something to do with me never in my life walking into a bar and trying to talk to a woman out of the blue. Maybe my unwillingness--or at least my inability to see the necessity in it--to talk at length on the phone on a daily basis with someone I’m romantically involved with might have a little bit to do with me never having come even remotely close to having a successful long term relationship.

But who am I to say anything? If I know it’s so bad and think it’s damaging my social skills--especially with women--why haven’t I stopped?

I’ll tell you why. I haven’t stopped because it’s easy, and because most of the girls I’ve talked to are content to text message all day and forego the long and drawn-out phone call. I guess because of this I’ve never been able to gauge which ones I can hold a real and enjoyable conversation with everyday. The written word is killing my game (something I never imagined I would say), and I’m not going to do anything to change it, until I begin to date again. I’m not going to get a black book, either, because if I walked into a bar and talked to a girl and asked for her number and she agreed to give it to me, I sure as fuck would get a weird look if I pulled out a notebook and began to write it in a book. Being practical doesn’t get you laid, you know.

But I will try to concentrate more on what I’m doing, whether it’s reading a book, talking to a girl or watching whiskey while I drink Mad Men. Especially if I’m talking to a girl. They like attention, I’m told. But who can be sure? Certainly not me. Like I said, I’ve never had much success as far as relationships go.