leaving the big D

I looked to my left and to my right. The mysterious red-head was nowhere to be seen. I walked across the street, to the parking lot, and did a quick look around but she was not there either. She had disappeared between the time I had met her and the time I had paid my bill inside.

I crossed back over the street and peered into the bar.

peering inside the bar

Stephanie was now huddled up with her friend. For a moment, I thought of walking back in and trying to square things away with her. I already had a script playing in my head for what I might say but I lost the inspiration. Perhaps it was the night or being tired and perhaps it even had something to do with the magical red-head who flitted into and out of my life, but I gave up on chasing Stephanie. I gave up on the entire trajectory of the evening at that point.

It really wasn’t all that late, only midnight. We had begun so early that it felt as if days had passed since we’d started. Now, I found myself alone in Dallas outside a bar. Alex and Ike were somewhere else, nearby, but still somewhere else removed from me. We hadn’t heard from Ike in a while and who the fuck knows where he was at. I glanced one more time into the bar and then turned abruptly to my left and began walking.

I wasn’t entirely certain whether I was walking toward the hotel; I merely began walking.

Do you ever have a moment, like a seismic shift, in which the topography you thought you knew suddenly looks foreign and ominous? It’s as if you swivel your head left and right and nothing quite looks as it did just a few seconds prior. That was my moment as I was walking down the street but it had less to do with sidewalks and landmarks and everything to do with how I was looking at the world. Was it the margaritas or a day fueled by booze -maybe but not really. Something snapped between Stephanie and the red-head. My synapses began firing in different directions and my perception of my immediate world changed. I mentally wrapped up whatever I was doing up to that point and then something new began but it was so new I couldn’t tell what it was.

The ginger was a hard stop in my evening. I was entranced by her and she highlighted everything I was ignoring about what I was doing with Stephanie. It wasn’t love at first sight but it was a well-defined pause, a rest in the music. Somewhere within my chest some unidentifiable something had a moment of respite and took in a deep breath and it altered a course somehow.

  I wandered up the street and found a dive bar playing Rolling Stones songs from speakers mounted on the roof. I went in and found an empty seat at the dimly lit bar and gruff looking young guy with the makings of a ZZ Top beard came over and asked me for my order.

“What do you have that’s good?” I asked.

His gruff countenance went unchanged and he said, “It’s all good.”

I had a brief epiphany. He was right – everything seemed good. Everything felt ok. I smiled and ordered Shiner Bock on tap.

Everything was good. Everything is good.

The bartender returned and looked at me for a moment before saying anything. He still seemed comically unhappy but he muttered through his aggro-beard, “This round is on the red-head at the end of the bar.”

I looked up and there she was.

finish the damn story!

I received  an email from one of my buddies yesterday asking when I was going to finish the Catalina Island story. That’s a good question. I write most of this stuff in the morning, right after I wake up and brew some coffee. You see, as much as I am ashamed to admit it – I am a morning person.

Some people might view it as a blessing but I have always seen it as a curse. My circadian rhythm is designed to wake me up with the sunrise. It makes no sense to be the kind of guy who will go a roving and carousing until 3am, making beer goggled eyes at girls with mustaches, and also be the guy who wakes up at 5am. You might think there are worse curses but your thinking would be wrong. Ok, I am being melodramatic; there are far worse genetic curses – like being a werewolf.

Actually, now that I consider the proposition I’m not so sure. Would I rather be the guy who roughly once a month looks up at a beautiful full moon, grows an extraordinary amount of back hair and then goes on a killing spree or the guy who can’t sleep past 7am no matter what is going on? They say it’s better to go with the devil you know but what if I were something like the Teen Wolf lycanthrope? If it’s Teen Wolf and I get to surf on top of a van then I’m going with that.

If it’s An American Werewolf in London and I will be perpetually haunted by the decaying corpse ghosts of the people I have hunted down and killed then I might have to reconsider the sleeping late exchange.

I will say that American Werewolf is my favorite ‘horror’ movie though, closely followed by Evil Dead, The Hunger, Grindhouse and anything with Mariah Carey.

My own dark curse has haunted me since I was a little kid, when I would be invited to a sleepover at a friend’s house. I generally only got one invite since, after I left, their parents told them not to invite that damn Panic kid over again and to find friends who didn’t wake up at 6am bouncing off the fucking walls. It was a sad little slumber party-less childhood for me. To this day I don’t sleep with an alarm clock because I just wake up. See? Cursed.

So how do I balance the carousing with my natural inclination to be peppy at dawn? It’s a bitch of a challenge some days. To make matters worse, I somehow manage to find and date women who can sleep until noon. It’s as if I can smell it on them and it gets me hot. So even when I don’t want to, I’m leaving a half-naked girl in my bed while I get up and drink coffee and write down whichever depraved story is banging around in my grey matter. This brings me to another point.

Over beers the other day, another friend mentioned to me how unapologetically male my blog is, adding it’s not very ‘chick friendly.’ I’m fairly certain in the world of propriety and gender awareness, the phrase ‘chick friendly’ isn’t completely kosher. However, what he really meant was that his girlfriend doesn’t like my blog. Fair enough, but I am not really writing it for her. I am writing it for me – sitting down in front of the keyboard, not pulling any punches and letting it boldly fly.

To go boldly – there is an entire generation of us who want to split that infinitive and say ‘to boldly go’ just like Captain Kirk did on every episode of Star Trek, but that is technically incorrect. We were taught that splitting your infinitives is wrong. Not wrong like kicking a stranger’s purse across the dance floor, but wrong as in grammatically unacceptable. However, William Shatner did it and it’s quite likely many of us do it as well.

The funny thing is though that language changes. If you write into the New York Times and let the editor know that yesterday’s story had a split infinitive in it, they don’t care any more. They believe that it has become more than acceptable to split infinitives, like splitting aces in Vegas. Language is organic and changing and so the rules of grammar are protean and scale with the times. The English language is about the most democratic thing we have because it accommodates the masses. The words we use most often will change, a bit like a genetic mutation. Words that reflect being, like ‘am-ing’ and ‘is-ing’ become irregular in conjugation because they permeate the vernacular of the people. In other words, the more people use them the more likely they are to get screwed up.

Now, you wouldn’t really write to the New York Times to correct them because you’re not a dork, but somewhere out there in dorkland, dorks do that. Despite those dorks, I have it on the authority of an editor at the New York Times that the split is now acceptable. Did I write a letter into them, pointing out their mistake? Fuck you – maybe I did. The point is, be like Captain Kirk and ‘to boldly go’ wherever your little heart takes you.

Back to going boldly – a few years back I worked this gig, a sort of brain trust of people who think in a particular way. I was definitely at the bottom of the totem pole in terms of the caliber of minds working there but I was okay with it. However, compared to my co-workers, I was a social fucking genius. You get a room of brainy guys together and the one who can talk to a woman without waxing ecstatic about his nebbish hobbies or non-linear equations is going to be a goddamn Casanova.

There was this kid there named Jeremy and he could have been the poster child for everything geeky. He literally had a slightly enlarged head, swollen mostly right around his well-developed frontal lobe that hovered above his wire rimmed glasses. He had a messy crop of untended hair on his head and was as pasty white as my unsunned ass. You couldn’t have scripted this guy any better – from his awkward laugh to the way you could actually hear data being crunched in his head. He was also a fantastic pool player.

Me? I’m a terrible pool player. There are five year-olds who shoot better pool than me. However, I would often find myself sharing pitchers of cheap beer and shooting pool with the guys after work. One day, while playing against Jeremy, in the midst of him kicking my ass, again, he looks up and makes me a proposition. He would teach me to be a better pool player if I could teach him how to talk to women.

Look, I’m not the most handsome guy and not the most charming, although I have my moments, but compared to Jeremy I was Han Solo. Jeremy’s offer was amusing but I had to refuse. You can’t teach a guy how to talk to women. There are no tricks, or gimmicks or proven methodologies and anyone who is selling that shit is a shyster. The only thing you can do is be yourself and have confidence in who you are. Go boldly.

Actually, I did help Jeremy just a tad. You see, Jeremy was sort of a dick. Yeah, I know what you’re thinking. Some of the things I have said indicate I might be a dick as well, and that’s a fair assessment, but I am a different kind of dick. However, I’m not going into detail about my dickness because this is about Jeremy. Jeremy was just a dick, to everyone. He was insecure and annoyed that his natural gifts weren’t the kind over which women swooned. He had a very high self-opinion because he was simply brilliant but was angry that being brilliant wasn’t enough to please everyone.

I pulled Jeremy aside and told him he was kind of a dick. Most people aren’t going to like guys who act petulant, entitled, supercilious and dickish, and beautiful women will only like them if they have a lot of money. So, I told him he had two choices: either stop being a dick or get rich. Over the years I have lost touch with Jeremy but my understanding is that he went with the second option. I like to think I helped him with that.

Annnd…what the hell? Am I stalling? Yes, yes I am. The rest of the Catalina story is really long and I have been really busy and right now I am running low on coffee. Thus, and in conclusion, I hope you enjoyed today’s videos and my personal efforts at procrastination.

Today’s lesson – don’t be a dick but if you are going to be a dick make a lot of money. That’s all I got.

why you will never get married

It’s amazing to me how stubborn an idea can be. In a world in which we’ve created supercomputers that can crunch massive amounts of data as well as understand enough of the subtle nuances and puns of our spoken language to be viable competitors on the game show Jeopardy, we cling to vestiges of superstition, hearsay and antiquated customs and allow them to continue shaping our modern world. Isn’t it time to sever the anachronistic cords tying us to bygone eras and demand to be emancipated? Let’s start with balls and chains.

Before I go any further, I promise this is the most serious thing I will write in 2011. Moving on.

There was a little bit of a stir yesterday around what constitutes marriage material. Maybe there were those editors out there who believed the chocolate hangovers of the unmarried would make us susceptible to suggestions of our own inadequacy? I read piece on the Huffington Post by Tracy McMillan entitled Why You’re Not Married. Sure, it was aimed at the ladies but it was brought to my attention. Tracy boiled it down to a few key points: You’re a bitch, You’re shallow, You’re a slut, You’re a liar and You’re not good enough. If all that’s true, then yeah – you’re probably not married.

The HuffPo piece made me ill at ease with the world. Replace some of the saucy language and obfuscate some of the references to sex and you might as well have been reading a Good Housekeeping article from 1956. It brought to mind a quote about Betty Friedan’s book, The Feminine Mystique, I once found in A People and a Nation, crediting her with the following:

“Friedan, instead of blaming individual women for failing to adapt to women’s proper role, blamed the role itself and the society that created it.”

Friedan’s seminal work was published in 1963. I’ll help you out with the math and say that’s 48 years ago. That is obviously enough time for a generation of women to be born and grow up, exposed to new thoughts and ideas on what it means to be a woman and what that role entails. But just when you thought you were out, there’s a Tracy McMillan waiting to pull you back in. She’s telling you that you’re unmarried because you are flawed and need to change. You’re a bitch. You’re a slut. You are a smelly pirate hooker. (ok, that was Ron Burgundy) Regardless, we’ve obviously come a long way, baby.

Now, despite being a male, I still run into the marriage metric myself.

Let’s circle back to the concept of stubborn ideas. Not to borrow too much from the recent film Inception, but an idea is “resilient…and highly contagious.” It doesn’t matter how unfounded that idea is – the fact that it exists can give it validity. We come across silly ideas all the time but people often accept them: sharks don’t get cancer, swallowed chewing gum takes years to digest, evolution is a ‘theory,’ the Great Wall of China is visible from the moon, unopened mussels aren’t fully cooked, marriage indicates you are mature and stable.

Stop the press! Are you kidding me? Sharks get cancer? Yes, yes they do. More interesting though is how we view marriage. As a young lad in his 30’s, I receive the critical eye at times from others who are already betrothed until they die. Some will even put my emotional maturity into terms directly related to marriage. ‘When will he finally be ready to settle down and become a man?‘ How is this any indication of my emotional maturity? Weren’t Nick Lachey and Jessica Simpson married? Employers will even view it as a sign of stability, despite the fact that statistics indicate a large percentage of marriages aren’t that stable.

Why is being married viewed so favorably? Let’s reverse the question and put it in these terms: Why is being single so undesirable? One might view it from a Big Brother perspective and say that a population with established roots and a vested equity in domestic life is more predictable and easier to control than a nation of free agents. That idea has merit but is a tad too conspiratorial for my taste. One might go the religious route and say that the mandate to ‘be fruitful and multiply’ helps ensure that generations of faithful acolytes take the religious doctrine forward into perpetuity. One might wax philosophical and state that coupling off leads to procreation, which is a means for the self to achieve life past one’s own death.

I would say that there is a modicum of truth in each of these ideas but I think the issue at hand is in fact, far greater. Marriage has transcended all the various perceived virtues that constitute it and become a virtue in itself. It has simply become something to be obtained, like platinum status or Hertz Gold. I’ll share with you a personal anecdote that helps support such a premise.

A female friend of mine, happily married herself, told me a story about one of her friends, also a female. It seems this gal went on a date with a successful, unmarried man who was in his 40’s. Both the woman and the man were attractive, ambitious and healthy so, at a glance, it was at least a favorable pairing. They had a nice evening and the woman looked forward to seeing the man again.

The next day, the woman receives an email from the man saying he had a wonderful time the night before but he was afraid they were in the market for different things. He realized that he was really only looking for someone to party with and have sex and he didn’t think that she would be happy with just that. If she were, he left the door open to meet up again but he didn’t want to mislead her in any way.

This story was passed around the social media outlets, specifically Facebook, and gathered a pretty intense response from other women reading about it. There was immediate vitriol, widespread criticism and disgust in the comments following the post. Most dealt with the man being a loser and not worth her time. Many were making fun of him for his lack of maturity and some of those commenting were in disbelief that a man in his 40’s could want such a lifestyle.

With no intention of being contrarian and reaping a share of venom myself, I didn’t comment. However, what I saw was a man who gave at least some level of reflection as to what he was looking for and came to a fairly concise conclusion. He was honest about it and communicated this as clearly as he could to the woman. He didn’t want to see her again under any false pretenses but if what he suggested appealed to her, then he would like to see her again. He seemed like an okay guy and a hell of a lot more honest than most men. The women commenting on the Facebook post did not see it that way.

So what’s wrong with this guy? Don’t most of us remember a time growing up when a sagacious authority figure told us to go through life doing what makes us happy? There are limitations of course and your happiness should not impose upon or preclude that of others, but for the most part you should be allowed to pursue the things that make you happy. This gentleman wanted to party and have sex. Some people might think that’s fine for a college student or someone in their 20’s but are opposed to that as a way of life for a 40-year old man. Should his age matter? Shouldn’t he be allowed to do it if it makes him happy, especially considering he was being as honest about it as he was?

The reason some people object is simply virtue. Forget the fact that the man in question is a productive member of society. There is virtue in a life filled with a spouse and commitment but there is an abject lack of virtue in a life filled with wine, women and song. It is a woman’s role to prepare herself for marriage by casting aside her bitchy, shallow, slutty self and it is a man’s role to accept as virtuous that which he is told is virtuous and thereby demonstrate his maturity by marrying a woman, preferably not a slut.

When did we decide to put a statute of limitations upon living life to its fullest? Horace, the famous Roman poet born in 65 BC, wrote: Carpe diem, quam minimum credula postero, meaning ‘Seize the Day, putting as little trust as possible in the future.’ Life can be short and by the time we start to realize it, the sands of our glass are already falling away but our wine glasses can be refilled to the brim time and time again.

Sure, I’ll be the first to tell you this is not how I once envisioned my thirties. I didn’t see the nights that went on without end and I didn’t see all this ridiculous adventure coming, but how could I? All I knew of grown-ups was what I saw with my parents and that was pretty sedate, even by parental standards. Should I feel incomplete?

Looking at Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, I am doing pretty well, all the way through to the self-actualization bit. How can I be self-actualized and a bit of a rakehell? My morality might be more flexible or catholic than yours but that should be perfectly acceptable. Moreover, ideas of understanding one’s place in the world are highly subjective to the self. I can be responsible but on my own terms. Isn’t that an American ideal?

It is somewhat a question of being versus becoming. Why must I become something that other people want? I can agree with ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus about change being our only constant and at the same time make the case that although change is constant, the self is in a state of becoming relative only to itself. I am whole and actualized in this very moment and though change exists, it is not necessary for me to assimilate cultural mores for me to continue developing. Wouldn’t a truly liberated man embrace both the more reptilian parts of his brain as well as those thoughts refined in the frontal lobe? On the most primal level, the first components of critical discernment are: Can I eat it? Can I mate with it?

I am a sexual being. I like wine, women and song and yet some will frown upon that. It wasn’t all that long ago that Aldous Huxley wrote Antic Hay, a book dealing with social conventions, elitist ennui and sexuality in which a protagonist, Theodore Gumbril, dons a beard to be what he terms a ‘complete man.’ This complete man is one who feels comfortable in his sexuality and in approaching and dealing with women, but Gumbril feels compelled to hide behind a disguise in order to experience this invigorating part of his life. Yes, it’s a comedy and satirical but it was still banned and burned in countries around the globe and there are vestigial remnants of this kind of parochial thinking still dictating what is proper.

Why should I marry if not for love? Not to get mushy on you this late in the game, but I will marry if and when I find a woman I do not want to live without. Love will be all that compels me to marry. That is a much better post-Valentine’s day message.

So ladies and gentlemen, be slutty, be bitchy, be shallow, be perverse, be sexy and be full of life but most of all be true to yourself. There will always be those who frown upon us and so let them. They can keep their conventions and I can keep my distance. Here’s to a life full of all the things I love!

Back to our regularly scheduled thoughtless tales of scandal tomorrow!

love and botox

For starters, sure – I live in Los Angeles so I may be exposed to more botox and implants than the average guy but I think anyone can see on television and in the movies that there is a trend here. My question is this, as more women opt for cosmetic surgery will the standards of what is attractive change?

Look at the marble statues of ancient Rome or the canvasses of Rubens and Botticelli. Our standards of beauty are relative to the time period. As far as the female body goes, where we once idolized Botticelli’s Venus now we plaster our media with pictures of unattainably svelte women who defy biological physics and only have curves in the most perfectly specific places. It continues to change. Over the last sixty years movies have shifted from casting women like Jane Russell or Marilyn Monroe to more slender options like Angelina Jolie or Kiera Knightley.

So, beauty definitely changes but as we see more artistic license with how women appear, will that also shape our concept of beauty? Will we all start finding these ridiculously plump lips attractive. More importantly, am I attracted to botox and implants?

I bumped a certain aging starlet yesterday. We crossed paths on the Santa Monica Pier. She was walking alone in a light blue sweater and dark skinny jeans. Our eyes met momentarily in that passerby fashion and I recognized her from the films she did in the 90’s. I smiled to myself. She had launched my lusty teenage thoughts after dark-witted brunettes with long wavy hair and all too savvy smiles.

She appeared radiant, glowing and preserved. She had a slightly sterile and puffy look, ethereal but barren. Her upper lip curled with a duckbill taper and the porcelain of her complexion blushed spottily, as if her face had been freshly spanked by a minuscule dominatrix. The caustic glances she once threw at her male co-stars were embalmed somewhere in the irritation and rosacea of whatever the hell she had done to herself. She seemed eerily placid. I wanted to see her raise her brow and give me a sassy smirk in a come hither sort of way but I’m fairly certain she couldn’t even if she had wanted to.

There is an unwritten rule around here that you let celebrities be. Allow them to dine in peace, don’t pester them when they are shopping and definitely don’t approach them as they stroll down the Santa Monica Pier but I am not really a stickler for rules.

She had her back to me as I approached. I quickly practiced what I might say before I settling for a rather pedestrian “Excuse me.”

She turned to me with a frozen surprise face and gave me the semblance of a smile. It was really more of a pursing of softly petrified lips that flayed ever so slightly to expose gleaming teeth curtained below.

Me, with a face lacking in such voguish toxicities , smiled my own plain grin. “I just wanted to say I really love your work.”

Her lips contorted a little more into an actual smile and I returned my own uncrafted smile. Somewhere, within the confines of the artistic work of gifted surgeons and sculptors, was the woman I had once found severely hot. Now she stood in front of me, pickled in the machinations of our obsession with youth and beauty. And me, I didn’t have the Dorian Gray means of doing anything more than age right before her eyes.

She thanked me in a sultry voice emanating from her ever pouty lips. Up close her blank slate face and slippery sloping brow were more appealing than I thought they would be – in a Donatello sort of way. At the same time I wondered whether the fiery passions she played so well in her films would do anything other than roar lifeless visions of carte blanche now.

She then turned and walked off, taking her listless beauty and divine expression of immortal ennui with her.

As I made my way back home, I saw another woman with a similar look of constant surprise and plumped out expression. It seems increasingly common to see women who look like this and I wondered whether this will one day become the standard of beauty? Preferences can be forged and if we’re told repeatedly that this is attractive then one day we will think it is. Will we then look at a beautiful young woman and think ‘If only her lips were more duck-like.’

Beauty is protean and defined by popular culture. Rubenesque has become a polite way of saying healthy which has become a polite way of saying slightly heavy. Will a phrase such as ‘expressive face’ become a euphemism for ‘not so pretty?’ It is curious to think what makes us beautiful today and what might make us beautiful tomorrow. Perhaps we are entering love in the time of botox.