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Sunday, February 21, 2010

Ash Wednesday Believers, Don't Read This!

February 21, 2010: I knew it wouldn't last. Reporting emotional memories is fine for some people, but a nasty-minded cur like myself can't quell the compulsion to simply observe and criticize.

That said, how ridiculous is Ash Wednesday?! I mean, really. These people are all walking around with soot on their foreheads. It's comical. Belief is one thing, but how do you convince yourself it's in your best interests to put soot on your face and walk around in public. Doesn't that strike anyone as particularly strange?

It got me to thinking that if the Catholic church -- (these people are Catholics, right? I can't keep them straight) -- ordered everyone to rub dog feces on their foreheads, they'd do that too. Given the directive, they'd bow solemnly before the head honcho and offers words of thanks in Latin while a schmeer of foul excrement was rubbed ceremoniously below the hairline. "Go in peace ..."

Of course, to be fair, other religions do ridiculous things too, and believe me, I think they're just as stupid. One group still won't let women show their faces in public -- even the pretty ones! One group makes the children shave their heads and grow long, dangling sideburns. There are many others, but I can't think of them, nor do I possess the energy to find out about them, so you'll just have to trust me on this -- almost all religions are precariously built upon some kind of ridiculous ritual or another, and anyone who adheres to these weird practices has some small degree of moron in their soul. (No offense. You know I love all of you unconditionally.)

Someone once asked my friend Rick M. about religion. "I'll show ya my religion," he barked between pulls on a cigarette. "It's on a mountaintop."

I don't know why I find this funny, but I do. Perhaps if more people took the rituals of religion less seriously and the spirituality of humor more so, the world would be a less weird place.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Westport & Me (Part I)

February 13, 2010: In an effort to be more like Shannon (and perhaps Dan Woog as well), I've decided to focus more frequent entries on the community around me -- Westport, and Fairfield County -- and the many memories I've garnered there -- both pleasant and stomach-curdling -- ones which helped shape this dysfunctional lad and make him the frustrated, under-employed clod you see before you. (Of course, this is only until I become bored with it and decide to write about something else).

Westport, Connecticut, as many of you know (and yet refuse to believe) is my hometown. While I was born at Norwalk Hospital on a salty day in September, my parents quickly saw to it that I was transported back over the border before I developed any kind of small inner-city habits, like a penchant for boccie. Ironically, the Westport News -- I think it was the News, but it may have been the Town Crier, or some now-defunct variation -- actually ran my picture and a cutline announcing that I was the only baby born there that week. This was, of course, largely because it was a slow news week, but at the very least clearly debunks my parents' later claim that there was some kind of mix-up in the maternity ward.

We lived on Easton Road, which even then was a busy thoroughfare. Our home was a 200-year old former tollhouse that still stands today, and remains one of the few dwellings in the area not grotesquely compromised by modern man's fear-driven need to make everything bigger and tackier.

Life was good and simple, at least for me, being only a baby. We had a dog named Pepper, although his full name was Maximillian Pepper Liotta -- an old English sheepdog, the kind that doesn't have any eyes. Some of my earliest memories involve my evil brother locking me in his outdoor pen, where I'd cry and scream until someone -- usually my grandfather -- came and retrieved me. (Since he lived in New York, imagine how long I sometimes had to wait.)

My neighbor across the street was my best friend, Debbie Gilbertie. She was a beautiful, spirited little blonde with a dog of her own named Chipper. How I ever managed to get across Route 136 to visit her at age three I'll never known, although I think my mother may have occasionally brought me. Debbie and I used to take baths together (although I'm sure she'd deny this, despite what a gentleman I always was). I have great memories of us building with these giant orange cardboard box-blocks she had, on her family's kitchen floor, and us running back and forth around my house with my grandfather chasing us with his cane.

One story I often tell my children was of the time Debbie got a cat. I don't remember its name, but when I went over to see it, she explained that cats always land on their feet. She then proceeded to pick it up several times and, standing up on one of those bright-colored beanbag-like footrests so popular in the late '60s, drop it upside down on the floor. "See?!" she proclaimed each time it flipped over. "They always land on their feet!"

I remember her kind father, Mike (who I don't think was any relation to Westport celebrity Mickey Gilbertie), cutting their lawn with his dark-green Locke mower. It seemed like the biggest lawn in the world -- a rolling meadow that disappeared into the distant trees and late-afternoon sun, which set over the rambling little river miles below in that valley just the other side of their lawn ... In the summer there were honeysuckle blossoms and Debbie taught me how to taste the sap from them ... I also remember playing with Debbie's Barbie doll, which had one of those cars, and we'd have her drive to the store naked as a jaybird and shop, and we'd laugh hysterically ... I remember us riding in the back of Mrs. Gilbertie's station wagon, bouncing around in the days before seatbelts, staring out at the quick-passing pavement, "Watching the road go fast," we called it ... I remember her sister, Karen, had those '60s sunflower stickers in her room, and the four portrait pictures of the Beatles from the White Album hung on her ceiling -- a room not far unlike Greg Brady's in the episode when he took over Mike's den ... I remember Debbie and I intended to get married, but somehow it never worked out ...

NEXT TIME: A visit to downtown Westport in 1969 ...

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Class or No Class

February 11, 2010: Many of you (or should I say, the both of you) may have wondered where I've been these past days, and why my blogosity has been so unfulfilling and sporadic. Part of this is my own laziness, of course, but much has to do with my latest time-consuming commitment to a course I'm having to complete (and if you think I'm spelling the word "commitment" wrong, you're wrong, because that's the way it should be spelled, or would be spelled if the world weren't such a backward place and people like Sarah Palin were put in jails or circuses where they belong).

Anyway, I've been blessed with the opportunity to take a class at a nearby university. (I'd explain why in more detail, but it's obviously none of your business, so please stop pestering me, as I'm feeling very overwhelmed.) In fact, the details of this experience are irrelevant, and I merely wanted to take a moment to comment on the state of the upcoming generation as I'm able to encapsulate and blanket-state them given several living samples. (You see, I have that gift of being able to make broad, sweeping judgments based on the most miniscule amount of data. Some would say I'm short-minded, bigoted and perhaps even ignorant, but I like to think of it as a practical efficiency geared toward the computer age.)

Anyway, you'll be summarily depressed to learn that there are a significant number of clods being produced at the Master's level. In fact, I'm dumbfounded to be sitting in a room with more than one "adult" student (and I use the word "adult" in quotes, as you may have noticed) who has their laptop open throughout the three-hour session and their Facebook page up. A few others are more efficient, like a girl who spent the whole last session working on a presentation for some other class on her laptop, only returning her attention to the class discussion momentarily to parrot some crap she'd brought to satisfy the course requirement and make a hearty show of class participation.

It's not all bad, of course, and you'll be happy to hear that the greater number of the students at least seem to be interested, and pay attention. (At the very least, they're much more subtle about their disinterest, and one can only appreciate the class and savoir faire required.) Needless to say, I'm quickly becoming the most vocal, despite my honest pledge in the first week to contain myself. Some of these people really seem to want to get something out of the three hours they're investing there, and have some interest (and perhaps even pride) in what they've chosen to study. The others, they just seem like a bunch of fear-motivated weasels content to worm their way through the world in a vain attempt to fool everyone into thinking they have value. (Needless to say, these are our future Republican candidates.)

Anyway, I just wanted to touch base and catch you up. Maybe now you'll stop harrassing me with your emails and phone calls and fruit baskets. I've got enough psychic pain worrying me right now, trying to sort out what I have to do to get this country (and world) back on course, and the ever-blossoming weasel brigade back into the dark confines of its A hole.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Eight Days a Week

February 3, 2010: I was thinking about how much I used to love Friday, but now I'm starting to see how that's evolved and it's really not Friday anymore. (And all of this, by the way, is merely symptomatic of my inability to stay present in my life.)

For starters, over the past few years I've grown increasingly fond of Thursday mornings, for I've come to see it really marks the beginning of my weekend. I reason that if I can manage to wake up on Thursday morning and get to work, I've pretty much got the week licked, and merely have to float my way through to Friday afternoon.

On the other end, I've long dreaded Sunday evenings as a depressing time of death and sadness. The weekend's over and the party is ending. All things must return to the grey, unimaginative robotronics of corporate life. (You get the idea.) But now, my fear of Monday begins late Saturday night, when the family's gone to sleep and I sit up in front of the TV trying to suck that last bit of sunshine out of the pomegranite fruit fest that is my weekend. The minute that TV turns off, I'm suddenly shipped sadly off into Sunday and all the depressing feelings that it encompasses.

Today, Wednesday, I suddenly realized that I'm starting to find a great exhileration when Wednesday afternoon finally roles around, because it's become my new Friday, or perhaps I should say my new Thursday. And now with Saturday night falling fast from favor, I'm coming to recognize that Mondays are really Tuesdays, more or less, and by the time Saturday morning comes, I may as well get ready to go to work.

I'm hoping that before long I'll come to see Sunday as the new Wednesday and not dread Saturday mornings as much as I do.