Wednesday, July 27, 2011

10 pieces of advice life doesn’t tell you ‘til you live it.

Waiting to learn life lessons is a headache-grade waste of time.

Forget personal growth and “learning from mistakes.” It’s all rubbish. Poppycock. Why learn things the hard way when I can tell you my way? I’m taking out the guess work and telling you how to make the right choices for your life, right now.

10 pieces of advice life doesn’t tell you ‘til you live it.

#10 Take a hockey stick with you on big trips to the grocery store.

People suck at grocery shopping. They think they’re the only person in the store – they couldn’t be more wrong. They leave their carts in the middle of the aisle, don’t move when you reach for that ever important jar of kalamata olives, and insist on showing up to the express lane party with a basket overflowing with groceries fit for a pre-Biggest Loser contestant.

Solution: Bring hockey stick. Hold hockey stick firmly with two hands. Raise to eye level. Hit grocery-store-shopper firmly on the back. Foolproof.

#9 Cheaper isn’t always better.

True for toilet paper and hookers. In both circumstances you are at risk of exposing your hand to something you don’t want it to touch.

#8 Less it not necessarily more.

True for cheesecake and rainbow suspenders. YOU CAN NEVER HAVE TOO MANY RAINBOW SUSPENDERS.

#7 Stereotypes exist for a reason.

Don’t be fooled by people telling you not to stereotype. They will warn you it’s “wrong” to put people in categories and deduce their existence to a single character trait.

This is wrong. Stereotypes makes things EASIER. You don’t have to guess what someone is “all about” or really even get to know them. It makes meeting new people simpler, faster, and a lot less complicated.

#6 You’re looking in the wrong place for moral lessons.

Do not be hoodwinked by false teachings of the Bible, Koran, Torah, the Vedas, Dead Sea Scrolls…. There is no better place to learn moral lessons than 1980’s family-sitcoms.

I beg of you, instead of spending every Sunday morning in a church or five times a day trying to figure out each way is East – watch an episode of Who’s the Boss? There’s nothing that kooky Tony, darling Angela, the blond boy, the sexually inappropriate grandmother, and the I-Knew-Alyssa-Milano-Was-Going-To-Be-Hot-And-I-Was-Destined-To-Be-Gay Samantha can’t teach you about the ways of the world and how to take the high road.

#5 Mistakes are like milkshakes.

You have to have a few to feel like you’re living, but if you have too many no one wants to hang out with you because they think you’re a freak of nature for having so many milkshakes.

#4 Send thank you cards.

Don’t be an asshole. Don’t wait to send them. Don’t forget to send them. Don’t choose not to send them. True for everything from graduation gifts to attending a dinner party. Don’t send electronic “thank you”s – no texts, no facebook comments, no emails. Use paper, ink, stamps – if you can remember what those things are.

#3 Never underestimate a booger.

We all fight urges to stick a finger in our nose. Maybe you have an itch, or maybe you think you have a legitimate bat in the cave. Don’t trust that innocent bat to be a cooperating, crumbly product of your nasal glands. No one wants to be in the middle of an office meeting to see someone pull a booger of epic proportions out of their nose and wonder where they are going to wipe it. Don’t be that person. Don’t underestimate the magnitude of your booger.

#2 The phrase “just kidding” does not mean “just kidding.”

It means TRUTH TIME! When someone tells you something that’s stingingly honest then shouts, “Just kidding!”…it’s because they were trying to be real with you, got scared, then tried to cover it up.


Me: “Way to not answer your phone and then text me right back.”

Friend: “Huh?”

Me: “I called you. You didn’t answer. Then texted me ‘did u call?’ You have your phone in your hand 24/7, you could have just answered.”

Friend: ***look of confusion and rage***

Me: “Hahaha! I’m just kidding! No big deal…”

Mhmm. I ain’t kidding. You are not a cool person.

#1 If you’re reading this…

It means you have a pulse, can read, and have access to the internet.

You’re alive. If that’s not something to think about, I don’t know what is.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Shut the eff up.

WARNING: This post has a lot of “bad” words (actually just one bad word repeated over and over). So put on your earmuffs and try not to cry on yourself.

We throw the word “fuck” around to cover a variety of sins. If we’re angry, frustrated, excited, happy, or insulting someone, we just slap an eff word in there.

Eff you! I will eff you up! I effing hate wheelbarrows! I effing love sparkly unicorns! I don’t give a flying eff!

Saying fuck apparently adds a superior amount of emphasis on whatever it is you’re saying and shows you’re being serious about it. You’re telling people you’re not going to mess around.

It really shows the depth of the postmodern vocabulary when we say “fuck” over and over to convey a host of emotions.

The world wasn’t always this way, right?

Can you imagine Abe Lincoln yelling, “Fuck these doorways! I hit my fucking head every time!!” Yeah...probably not.

I’m sure President Lincoln would get pretty fed up just like anyone else. He was trying to get rid of slaves and everything – that had to be rough. He is one of the most profound people in American History, but in certain respects Abey and I are the same. We both feel frustration, anger, and happiness. The context of our lives is worldly different but we share common emotions – just like I do with any member of the human race throughout the course of history.

Our emotions haven’t changed - our way of describing them has.

People used to say things like “fuck you” without saying “fuck you.”

People used to have class. People used to have style. People used to take pride in their words.

Over the course of the last century our affinity to the eff word has exponentially grown. And this transition could not be more apparent than within the last thirty year realm that is the music industry.

Music is powerful because of its presence. Every single one of us has the opportunity to engage with music on a 24/7 basis. Just turn on the radio or hit up Pandora - it’s free, people.

Listen to the latest releases. Songs talk about fucking in unusual places, hating the fuck out of someone, and how we’re going to fucking party.

Rewind 50 years ago. There were still songs talking about having sex in fun places, hating people, and yes, they knew how to party.

But they didn’t have to say “fuck” in order for you to get the message. They didn’t have to shove their point in your face.

Songs used to have a poetic element, charm, and a sense of mystery, just like conversations used to. You used to have to think about what they were trying to say. You weren’t blatantly being told what to think or feel.

The artist used to have a message and songs were an expression of that character, and YOU had to figure it out. Ya know, think for yourself – and I’ll leave that debate for another post.

Case Point: Bill Withers’s “Use Me” takes on Cee Lo Green’s “Fuck You”

Lyrics excerpt from Bill Wither’s “Use Me”

“My friends feel it's their appointed duty
They keep trying to tell me all you want to do is use me
But my answer yeah to all that use me stuff
Is I wanna spread the news that if it feels this good getting used
Oh you just keep on using me until you use me up
Until you use me up”

Lyrics excerpt from Cee Lo Green’s “Fuck You”

“I see you driving 'round town
With the girl I love and I'm like,
Fuck you!
Oo, oo, ooo
I guess the change in my pocket
Wasn't enough I'm like,
Fuck you!
And fuck her too!”

Two songs, one similar message. They both feel used and cheated. One song makes you think about it, another song tells you what to think. Where’s the finesse? Where’s the tact?

We could argue about censorship. We could argue about self expression. We could argue about the evolution of communication and lowered vernacular inhibitions.

People used to respect words and respect language. People used to care about what they were saying and embellished in the art of conversation. There was a refinement to communication that was free for everyone to use.

But oh, the ever present eff word. The fuck this and fuck that. I’m talking about taking pride in what you say and how you say it. Is “fuck” really the best you can do?

Lower the fuck count and take a shot at using fucking better descriptive words. THAT’S ALL I FUCKING ASK.

Hello Pot, have you met Kettle?

Monday, July 18, 2011

The next thing you know I'll be a hoarder.

I have witnessed a lot of change in my life over the last year. I now wash my hands after going to the bathroom and am fluent in pig Latin. It’s-ay oke-jay, get it? –ay?

One geographical change I made was a move to the West Coast.

Before moving I was consumed with the thought, “My life is going to change.” My friends, my family, were also obsessed with telling me how different my life would be. Some went as for to refer to my sister (who moved with me) and I as “pioneers.” We had left the safety of the down-home Kentucky comfort zone and drove into the sunset.

Three time zones later the only changes that were apparently to me were: I could no longer feel my legs after a 35 hour drive, I suffered a minor stroke due to the disparity in gas prices, and the smog – I thought it was just an overcast day – but no, the air is just that gross. Oh! And you do have to chop off your own arm or leg when going to pay for car registration – they will not cut off your arm for you.

Bottom line – nothing seemed to have really changed. There was no earth shattering realization that I was a different person.

But change was there, and it was going on right under my nose. I just hadn’t recognized it yet.

When was the moment I realized my life changed by living on the West Coast, you ask? I can only tell you now because my moment of realization happened just last week.

The moment struck me as I was visiting a friend (not on the West Coast). I opened a beer, drank the beer, and then asked where she kept her recycling.

Friend: “Psh, I don’t recycle. The trashcan is under the sink.”

At that moment I felt the weight of angel tears falling on my face. But before you grab your torches and lynching ropes and scream “Hippie!” in the town square, let me explain myself.

For five years I lived in a medium sized college town in the South while I was going to school and transitioning into the What-The-Hell-Do-I-Do-With-My-Life period. In order to recycle in this town you had to drive all of your recyclables out to the recycle center, and sort them between 12 or so chutes. There was a chute for glossy paper, newspaper, clear plastic, colored plastic – it was an effin hassle. I got a big trashcan and had every intention of recycling. Apparently that makes me a good person, or something.

The trashcan sat filled with recyclable materials for the better part of six months – I never made it to the recycle plant. The road to Hell is paved with good intentions, right? Right. During that time my extra beer bottles and egg cartons were being thrown into the trash with the rest of the landfill.

So I get it, in some parts of our country it takes a bit more effort to recycle. (Which is actually really sad. Get your shit together, America.) Before the move I used to toss everything away without any emotional turmoil. Aluminum cans, glass bottles, cardboard, paper – you name it, it’s going to sit in a hole in the ground for the next 1,000 years thanks to me and all without a second thought.

Fast forward five years and a move West later….I am actually mad at my friend for not recycling.

By mad I mean I gave a huff, lifted the trashcan lid, and watched my glass bottle slide in with the rest of the Earth destroying garbage. Wah wah wah.

Then it really hit me. When did this happen? How did this happen? Who am I becoming? What else has changed that I don’t know about?

The funny thing about change is that you never realize when it’s happening, or what is actually happening.

You only recognize change after you’ve reached the Point of No Return. You know it is actual change when you can say, “Who I was before is different than who I am now - and I have no clue how I got here or when it happened.”

Watch one episode of Hoarders and you’ll see exactly what I’m talking about. These people go from having a clutter-free, “normal” home, to saving rotten fruit and defecating in grocery bags. They don’t know how they went from A to B, they can only comment on how things used to be compared to how things are now.

Everyone is subject to change. It is inevitable. We make changes to adjust in an evolving social world. We make life changes to pursue our own happiness. Sometimes we make changes based on someone else’s happiness, or someone’s vision of what our happiness should be.

Sometimes change happens to us whether we want it to or not. For better or worse. How do we cope with change?

My recycling revolution is pretty harmless. So what, I’ll judge you for throwing away glass bottles. If that’s the worse thing I think about you consider it a good day. (And we all know everyone in my life finds validation in what I think of them. Cough cough.)

What about the big changes? What about the changes that have the power to define you?

There’s nothing to do but saddle up, and submit yourself to the process of change. No words, no money, no success, no substance abuse, no amount of recycling can free you from the power of change. There’s no way around it. No place to hide. It’s like a tax audit and it’s happening to you.

The next thing you know I’ll be taking my laundry to the river and beating my clothes with sticks.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

I saw a cat playing the bagpipes.

Yesterday I watched an all-white cat play the bagpipes. You wish I was kidding.

I was going to an outdoor showing of Some Play Shakespeare Wrote. Prior to the show people were spreading out blankets and booze and snacks and having a lil’ picnic. Pretty neat.

Suddenly, music started to fill the sweat inducing summer evening. It was the sound of a soothing bagpipe lullaby. My friends and I jerked our heads over our shoulders to find the commander of such a sweet melody.

What did we behold? The bagpipe player was none other than a man in a giant cat suit – which makes perfect sense…? The costume was complete with gloves, a mask, and a long white tail. The white of his fur was offset by the tastefulness of his black leather vest. On a scale from one to Freddy Mercury – the vest was a bonafide Freddy. This guy was tall, too. Imagine Gene Simmons in a cat suit. Yeah, Gene Simmons.

Blankets were scattered on the grassy lawn like lily pads. Everyone was enjoying their canned beer and hummus spreads – as the giant bagpipe playing cat crafted a song fit for a funeral was weaving between them. Sometimes he would stop in front of a particular blanket and play just for one group – whether they wanted it or not.

Is there a school one can attend to learn such talents? Would one consider being a bagpipe playing kitty cat a “calling?” One thing’s for sure, he definitely sat in the front of the school bus.

I couldn’t get over it. This man decided to dress in a cat suit. Get his bagpipe. And play for people who were in the middle of their picnics. This was all very strange. Weird. Bizarre. My friends and I were laughing at this guy. We were laughing at how uncomfortable he was making everyone feel. We were laughing at the awkwardness of it all.

Between the laughter, the eye rolls, and the bagpipe music, I realized…the world needs weirdos.

Ok, maybe “weirdos” is the wrong word. We need the strange ones. The intriguing ones. We need the people that blankly stare at you. People who wear different colored shoes and have an affinity for sequence. Lady Gagas. The people with rainbow colored Mohawks and facial piercings that should only be seen by National Geographic journalists. We need men in cat suits to play the bagpipes.

We need people who don’t care what anyone thinks.

If we didn’t have people who were “outside the box” we wouldn’t be able to realize the box we have trapped ourselves in. These people introduce color to our shades of gray. They also make us evaluate what we perceive as normal behavior.

Imagine your own life, your own world, and your own circle of influence. Imagine not caring what other people were thinking. Think about all the things we don’t do because of what other people might think.

Why don’t we wear sweatpants to work?
Why don’t we order the new Trenta size from Starbucks?
Why don’t we sing aloud while grocery shopping?
Why don’t we walk around naked at night with all the windows open and the lights on?
Why don’t we chug margaritas like water?
Why don’t we dance on the sidewalk?

We restrict ourselves from impulses and urges because we’re worried about what someone might think. We don’t want to embarrass ourselves in front of complete strangers who we will never see again. That would be absurd.

I was recently on a plane home and I was fortunate enough to sit next to one of those people who wants to become your best friend for a 2 hour flight. They want your life story, and believe me, you’re going to hear theirs, too. The woman was blabbing on about how she accidentally put her personal bag with her ipod and book in the overhead compartment – so she decided she was just going to sleep for the flight. Lucky her (I can’t sleep in cars or airplanes even if it would mean World Peace). This was our conversation:

Plane companion: Ugh, my ipod! My book! I wasn’t thinking.

Me (staring into my book): Oh. Okkk…

Plane companion: Oh well, I’m just going to sleep.

Me: Oh. Okkk…

Plane companion: If I start snoring, hit me, will you?

Me: Oh. Okkk…

Plane companion: I snore really loud.

Me (snapping my book shut): I will definitely wake you up because everyone will be looking at the crazy person who snores so loud.

Plane companion: Let them stare! I don’t care! All these people I’ll never see again in my life?

Me: Still…

Plane companion: I’m just worried about annoying you!

Me: (evil thoughts – too late – duck my head in my book)

Plane companion: Don’t want to bother you while you read.

She didn’t care what anyone thought of her ear curdling snores. What did it matter? In the scheme of life, what does it matter that a dozen strangers heard you snoring on the plane? What does it matter that some people having a picnic thought you looked ridiculous in a cat suit?

I call these people the Reminders. They remind us to not be so uptight. They remind us to not be content with our shades of gray. They remind us it doesn’t matter what other people think. They remind us the world has capacity for Unique and Different, and if it didn't, I wouldn’t have anything to write about.