My Funeral

I attended a funeral recently. Young kid. Leukemia. Absolute tragedy. I don’t do well in settings like this because I empathize with people. Dealing with that massive collection of grief can be absolutely overwhelming for me. But it also inevitably turns my thoughts towards my own impending demise, cause to be determined at a later date.

After sitting through my share of funerals, I’ve made some decisions. First of all, I’ve never understood why funeral is spelled with the word fun preceeding it. But after bawling my eyes out on more than one occasion, I’m making the conscious decision to ensure that my funeral will be fun. In fact, cry on your own time.

Public gatherings of crying will be abolished, unless you can prove, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that you’re crying for other reasons. As such, note cards will be provided for you to scrawl your reasons, bullshit as they may be, for crying at my funeral. They will be preprinted with the words, “I’m crying because…” Acceptable answers include, ‘black licorice sucks’ or ‘Adrian Peterson is a dick’. Think of it as my own version of Cards Against Humanity, but on a totally maccabe scale. I’m thinking that these should be collected at the end and read in front of everyone. The winner gets a free McDonald’s quarter pounder. Or perhaps I should have my funeral sponsored by a local bar that can donate free xeroxed coupons. That would be perfect.

It’s not that I wish to cheapen my life and death, don’t misunderstand me. I just think that collectively mourning should be reserved for much more important events than my simple passing. Just because I may have died, you can’t put your emotions through the spin cycle. Save that for when they cure cancer or perfect the technology of punching people via electronic media.

I passed a booth at the memorial center that had pamphlets on how to prearrange your funeral. Being that I’m the prime age for things to go physically haywire, it’s something I really should put some effort to do. So I guess this post is something of a primer.

People who have known me a while know that Eric Idle’s “Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life” will be played during my funeral. But it was only recently that I realized this only covers about four minutes. I could ask that it be put on repeat, but that would get annoying. I can’t leave a bunch of time for my friends and family try to maudlinize the service, so I realize now I need to map this out like a Super Bowl halftime show. Ideas are abundant, but I need or organize them somehow.

For instance, I will be enlisting a group of individuals to dress us like monks and reenact the procession the can be seen in The Holy Grail — complete with the smacking of their foreheads with a holy book. (Those who render themselves unconscious should get a free appetizer.) I’ll provide the Latin lyric sheets for authenticity’s sake. If I’m in a casket, when I’m moved to the hearse, the song March of the  Swivel Heads by The Beat, a song more familiar to those who’ve seen the end of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, will be played.

The Ex had a wonderful idea of opening services to the theme from The Muppet Show. That said, I need to find a place with two funeral directors who can sing the part of Stadler and Waldorf. But since Kermit sings of the special guest star, which would obviously be yours truly, I need to have a Muppet made in my image. Tell me this isn’t genius.

I’m also hoping to employ motion sensors around my coffin. I don’t like to be touched, so if you get too close a voice recording will trigger of me saying, “No touchie.” I also thought of one that is triggered when the coffin is picked up that says, “Hey, what are you trying to do, kill me?”

This is all silly, I admit. But this will be the last gathering that I can ever host, posthumously as the case may be. I want it to be as memorable as possible and not because of how sad my guests were, but how hard I can make them laugh at how positively ridiculous I can be. My friends and family should leave, wiping tears of laughter from their eyes and say, “Damn, that was awesome.” There after, live your lives being your own flavor of awesome.

Postscript: Since there is always at least one young kid who refuses to stay quiet throughout the services, I highly encourage you to listen to how bored that kid is and find something better to do. After all, that kid is still alive and dying to make some of their own memorable moments. So go make them.

Heartbreak and Afterwards

When you’ve had your heart broken…Well, at first, you look at it and question whether or not it’s really worth all the effort. You examine the remains of all that was you and gaze at the torn edges wondering if you could even begin to find how it all fit together in the first place.

After a while, you look around and see that others have done it. Inexplicably, these people have had their hearts torn apart but have somehow cobbled them back together. How did they do that?

So you gather a few pieces and compare the edges. Tears gather in your eyes as you view the complexity of it all. You knew your heart when it was whole, but somehow its completed shape, which you had taken for granted, escapes you. Even so, if you were somehow able to get it back together somehow, why would you ever put yourself in a place where it could so easily be shattered again?

But eventually, the pieces start to come together. Bit by bit it starts to take shape once more. You show it to others in an effort to see if they can give you a hint of how it’s supposed to look. Sometimes they give you hints and even offer to help. Sometimes they swat it away and now the pieces that once fit together don’t seem to fit anymore. You begin to understand why some artists never share their work until it’s been completed.

At some point, you’ve put together most of the pieces and something resembling a heart has taken shape. You shake your head at it because it’s nothing like what you remember. Somehow the lines are more jagged and the color from one piece to the next doesn’t match quite right. But it fits. At least you think it does. You feel better for the most part. So you start showing your heart again to other people.

Once, in what seems like ages ago, this was a simple thing. But now, as you hold your heart out, you are now acutely aware of the claws, sandpaper and thorns that some people have on their hands. You recoil, wondering how you had missed that before. Everyone has them, it seems. In horror, you hold your reassembled heart tightly to yourself. As you glance at the now sharpened world wondering how you could ever consider sharing it with anyone ever again.

You hear a soft crack and your eyes go wide. You look down and discover that your heart was beginning to break again. You loosen your grip and examine it. Small tears in the seams and cracks in the new exterior appear to you. As you struggle to understand how it happened, you look at your own hands. You see it now and you don’t understand how you didn’t see it before. Your hands have small thorns…patches of sandpaper…and even claws.

That’s when you begin to understand.

How else pieces stay together without the holes for the screws to hold everything together? How else could the rough exterior have been smoothed unless you had the sandpaper to do so? These imperfections are tools that you used to reassemble your heart. They aren’t so horrifying to you anymore as you accept that they are as much a part of you as your heart — indeed, they ensure that you can repair your heart when it needs it.

Now you rise and look upon the others and see that they are just as flawed as you are. They’re also doing the best that they can with their own tools. Many don’t know they exist, but some do. Some do use them to hurt other people, but others use them to comfort and console those that cannot do it for themselves.

I want to be one of those people.

I can be one of those people.

Let me show you.

Too Much

For a long time, I’ve struggled with posting here. I used to think that it was because I’ve had writer’s block. But the truth is that I’ve had far too much to say, and the pipeline that I have is far too narrow to allow me to fully convey all that I want to say. I’ve struggled with it for so long. There is a veritble fire hose of words, a Niagara Falls of my thought process, that is stifled by my ability to convey it into text. Not to mention just a hint of self doubt that you’d even read my words and understand what I mean.

On The Middle East

I know where I stand in the world. It isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but it’s where I stand. Take note.

Hamas is a bunch idiot cowards. I say that because only idiot cowards stockpile their arms in what is usually the refuge of innocents; hospitals and schools that, by and large, house those unable to defend themselves. Only when destruction rains down upon you can you parade those innocents in front of the cameras. Only then can you complain that you are the victims. Shame on you.

Israel is in no better position. Hamas fires rockets upon you, targeting civilians to inflict maximum damage upon innocent people to propel their own missive agenda. So, in return, you seek and destroy targets that you know house the ammunition of your demise, only to kill children. Defending yourself has become a public spectacle of mass murder of the innocent. But when it all boils down, you made that choice. You launched the weapons that ended the lives of children too young to understand that they’re being used a human propaganda to be paraded to cell phone cameras to be tweeted and posted for the world to see. Sick? Yes. But you fired those shots in retaliation. To make a stand.

You should all be ashamed. No god, no matter how twisted or sick, would see this as anything but killing for the wrong reasons. Hamas, Isrealis — you’re all sick. It is long overdue that you recognize that. Stop judging those who support or decry you and instead look long and hard into a mirror. Face that horror that you have become.

I hope you, dear reader, understand the point I’m trying to make. I take no sides. I see only death and destruction for absolutely idiotic reasons. I see those that call out one side or the other as weak-minded, sociopathic fools. You want death to “the other guy”, regardless of the cost. Fuck you entirely. And fuck you for calling out those that would try to make sense of senseless killing as somehow traitors against you.

Fuck you both for targeting innocent children. You’re both a disgrace to humanity. You are both a dark chapter in the greater volume of human history. You will both be judged by history writ large for the murder you commit today. Not by one another — but by those who bear witness and weep for the innocent blood spilled over absolutely meaningless violence with no outcome but generations of sorrow and regret.

You will both bear the shame. Make no fucking mistake about it.

Full-Time, Full-Life Job

I heard a story on MPR that was done by a 17-year-old father. He was recounting how his life had changed since the birth of his daughter a year ago, as well as that of his family. His father took off after three of his own sons became fathers around 16 years old. He had a brief telephone interview with his dad, who said that he was always a phone call away and if they felt he wasn’t around enough that it was their own fault for not contacting him. It also briefly touched upon the young mother’s life, who was 19 at the time of the child’s birth. She cried as she told of how her father was never there as she grew up. She spoke of how jealous she was of friends whose fathers picked them up from places and gave them hugs when they needed them.

Overall, the story was good. This kid, who initially had no clue how to be a father, is making steps towards being a real part of his daughter’s life. Good on him. But the real lesson, I feel, needs to be underscored — and it goes for both sexes.

Your job as a parent never ends; It changes, it evolves, but never truly ends. Even when you’ve successfully allowed your child to live for 18 years and get a diploma, you’re not done. If you end up walking away and leaving your children to effectively fend for themselves, you’re doing them a disservice beyond measure. This world can really suck — everyone knows that. But when you have a family you can turn to, it sucks a lot less.

Being a parent is no easier, nor is it any harder when your kid is 8 months or 18 years or any span between. The challenges are just different and you’ve got to learn how to adapt. You need to find a way to look at the world through those young eyes once more, when you were young, terrified, invincible and stupid. Remember that feeling of being utterly confused yet completely convinced of how right you were? Guess who’s going through that now. They need you to be their conscience, their sounding block, their occasional verbal punching bag and the arms that hold them close in understanding when they feel like the world is against them.

But really, is that much harder than waking up every 45 minutes to change a diaper and rock a baby back to sleep?

Is it any harder than trying to clean crayon scribbles all over your brand new painted walls?

Is it any harder than sending them outside to play and trust they don’t pull up your flowerbed but end up tracking mud all over the house?

Is it any harder than wiping their tears away when they’ve fallen and scraped up their elbows really bad?

Is it any harder than trying to get them to just sit down and do their spelling words for the umpteenth time?

Not really. It’s just different.

Even if your folks weren’t there for you, you can be better than them and be there for these young adults. Yes, they can grow up and be “adults” at different times. But that’s why I call it adapting — there is no manual for this.

If there is, it’s a simple one-line instruction: Be there for them.

Hello Soldier

To fully appreciate the sacrifices you’ve made, I fear that my only chance at understanding would have been if I had donned the fatigues, picked up a weapon and fought alongside you. Had I come to know the horrors of war through your eyes, only then would truly identify with what you feel. I want to understand. A small part of me needs to understand, but it can never be so.

It would be all too easy for me to get on my podium and speak of the injustices that you suffered upon returning home in the tone of pointed shame and anger of a country and a government that seems to forget you the moment you return home. But we’ve all read the stories in the news by now. I feel it would almost be self serving to recount stories of battles with the VA, the feelings of rage, the emotional isolation, and the struggles of finding a way back to normalcy. Or even to sullenly recount the lives ended too quickly on foreign soils.

Just know that the vast majority of the people you fought for are so grateful to you. Wars in all corners of the world, spanning decades of history, and seemingly endless attitudes towards the very meaning of the act itself that covers the broadest of spectrums. Your sacrifice meant something to us. It meant everything to us. Even if we didn’t understand or agree on the premise of why you left us in the first place, it meant something priceless. You fought for those who, for a myriad of reasons, did not or could not fight for themselves.

Thank you, soldier. Thank you for laying down your life.

“Obama’s Deficit”

After Obama was first elected in 2008, I made a vow or sorts to avoid public political commentary. I realized that after several years of doing this, I was about as popular at parties as a leper. And rather than helping people understand the sometimes quizzical nature of American politics, I was only rustling jimmies and upsetting people. Some of them were grotesquely stupid people, but they can’t help that. The point was that I really wasn’t helping much. I was only adding fuel to the fire. I was also at the point where I was ready to take my position in the political middle again. It was my hope that by having a solidly blue track ahead of us for the foreseeable future that the country would pull back from the Right Wing that it had been dancing on for nearly a decade.

So while I was retooling for a less confrontational existence, I let the world go on as it wished. It wasn’t easy, and I have to say that I did manage to become presentable in public gatherings again and even managed to rescue most of my sense of humor from the pits of caustic cynicism. Not that I could ever truly let that go, but I was much funnier before I let it engulf me. But something you cannot shake after delving into the depths of the political cesspool are the facts that you learned on your journey. And unlike many of the commentators out there, I prided myself in allowing all facts take root and letting my conscience guide me.  Continue reading “Obama’s Deficit”

Modern Fame

In case you somehow miraculously avoided the news yesterday, Justin Bieber was arrested. DUI, drag racing, resisting arrest — in general for being a douchebag. And I think that’s why the majority of the civilized world is getting off on it.

I tend to avoid celebrity gossip and such. It’s pretty simple reasoning in that I genuinely don’t give a flying petunia what these people are like. When you stop to consider how much money is spent on public image, it’s a wonder how anyone can take anything they say as being serious. While I don’t like thinking about the personal lives of celebrities, I do tend to get wrapped up in the phenomena of what it must be like to be a celebrity. Quite frankly, I wouldn’t wish the experience upon anyone.

It’s sort of become the standing joke that once some kid gets famous there’s an invisible countdown that’s set off that ticks down to the moment where that kid finally implodes under the weight of their own success. The public at large seems to get reap great joy in making predictions and celebrating when it finally happens. For the record: Bieber hasn’t hit that moment yet. But it’s because of this recent news that I thought it was finally time to say something. Continue reading Modern Fame

New Year

I tend not to make New Year’s resolutions. It’s not that I don’t see the value in wanting to make positive changes to one’s life, I just don’t see the necessity to feel automatically compelled because of an arbitrary change in a number representing a trip around a burning ball of gas. Perhaps that a bit clinical, but it doesn’t change the fact that people have all kinds of reasons to make changes and they shouldn’t save them up to make the commitment at midnight on New Year’s Eve.

If I were to be bluntly honest with you all, I’m perfectly aware of my shortcomings that could easily be changed if I just made the proper choices on a day to day basis. But that would mean actually changing my habits; routines that I’m perfectly comfortable with, thank you very much. Probably the most offered resolution around this time every year is to “lose weight”. Well that would be nice, now wouldn’t it? I could stand to lose a few, myself. But is the period just after a holiday period that encourages eating not only too much, but incredibly rich foods really the best time to reach this conclusion? What,  are you people masochists or something?

Another that tops the list is quitting smoking. To anyone who finds solace in burning tobacco, this is something akin to removing molars with no anesthesia — only less traumatic. And what makes it fun is when you combine this resolution with the aforementioned. It makes for the perfect storm of unpredictable emotional outbursts. Pro tip for my non-smoker friends out there: Quitting an oral fixation (don’t get cute with that) tends to make eating an all-too-perfect alternative. Trying to moderate your nutritional intake while quitting smoking has been a dominant astronomical theory in the collapse of certain galaxies. Ask Neil DeGrasse Tyson. Continue reading New Year

Open Letter to Teenagers

As I’ve raised my kids, I’ve become more and more aware of an activity that frightens me to my core. And no, I’m not talking about my kids coming of age, realizing they don’t have to listen to me anymore, and moving out. (Although that is somewhat scary.)

There is something of a disorder that I’ve come to see in a lot of teenage kids out there — girls, mostly — and that is what is known in the lexicon as “cutting”. Now, to the brazen, jaded souls of the internet, this is a pitiful cry for attention from spoiled teenagers; I’ve seen the comments on various websites. And while other kids and even some adults can easily dismiss this in such a fashion, as a person who has seen this up close and personal, I’m affected a great deal more when I hear about. Especially when it concerns kids that are friends of my kids. Continue reading Open Letter to Teenagers