Thursday, June 26, 2008

Four Acquired Tastes Worth the Time to Acquire

Trust me, folks. If you peruse this list with an open mind your life will be better for it.

1. Tom Waits. It is because of this evil madman genius that Toots and I roadtripped 700+ miles -- again -- to go see him. He sings with a wheezy, raspy, throaty growl that sounds like he took Shemp Howard's advice and gargled with old razor blades. Yet he's provided some of the most beautiful music that has ever graced the world. He will make you laugh, make you think, even make you cry. Run right out today and get a hold of three vital discs: Heart of Saturday Night, Small Change, and Rain Dogs. From there the adventure begins.

2. NHL Hockey. Go to ONE GAME in person where the home team plays well and wins. That's normally all anyone needs. Breathtakingly fast-paced, physical play - lots of fun. It's a mystery to me as to why the US is losing interest in hockey. I do hear from some old-timers that the game has changed radically and while I agree with that statement on its face I think it's a bullshit argument as to why nobody's watching. I've seen lots of old games (I'm from Boston, where the Bruins had glory days in 1970 and 1972) and all I see is a bunch of slow Canadian forwards with no teeth shooting at slow Canadian goalies with no teeth. I'm not saying today's game doesn't have some holes in it (bring back the hitting, please, this ain't the ballet), but these are subtleties that as a newcomer to the game you probably won't observe.

3. Sushi. Yes; you are usually eating raw fish. Get over it. Think about it: when was the last time someone said "I have no problem with raw fish, I just don't like sushi?" The acquired taste in this case is a bit of a misnomer; you have to LOSE something, namely an unfounded revulsion against eating raw fish. When you clear that hurdle and put a slice of tuna in your mouth, and let yourself actually taste it, you'll be hooked. Besides, let's be honest: Sushi is fun to eat. You got yer wasabi, yer soy sauce, lots of little dishes and chopsticks and a dozen different varieties of this-n-that on your plate - it's nothing but a good time.

4. Homestar Runner. A semi-episodic Flash animated world where absurdity is the only constant. Hip but never blue, never takes itself too seriously, lots of running gags, and that rare combination of whip-smart and flat-out stupid that makes me like Family Guy and Scrubs so damn much. It has a tutorial, for Christ's sake. Should be easy to get up to speed.

What are some of YOUR acquired tastes? I'd be interested to hear.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

This isn't the post I was going to publish

The post I was going to publish was going to take someone to task for being a fucking asshole prick, but my brother Ross counseled against it. So instead I'll tell a story about one time when I was a fucking asshole prick.

Up the street from where I grew up lived the Zettlemeyers. They're probably long since dead by now, having moved away to where all the Old Jews go probably 25 years ago, and they were ancient then.

Mr. Zettlemeyer was a kindly old guy who I would talk to from time to time - if he ever got tired of my 7-year-old self he never showed it. He'd sit and wash his car while I chewed his ear off with whatever 7-year-old bullshit was going through my mind and pretend to pay attention. In short, he was a nice enough gentleman who never showed me a drop of ill will and whom I was on fair terms with, as neighborhood coots go.

They had a garden in their side yard, a fairly extensive one, in which the Zetts grew pumpkins, squash, tomatoes, and other standard garden vegetables. Well, one fine day I got it in my head that it would be great fun to smash a few pumpkins on the street, and I knew just the place to get them.

And I proceeded to do just that. My friend Dave P_____ and I absolutely fucking stomped through the Zettlemeyer's garden - destroyed every living thing in it. The street was a glorious mess - it was a veritable gourd abattoir - and Dave and I were breathless and red-cheeked from the pure fun that we were having.

Until we got busted.

We didn't get caught by Mr Zettlemeyer, or Mrs. Zettlemeyer, but from the teenage kid in the house next to theirs. I don't remember his name but his house was green and I think maybe his last name was Laurie or Lowrie. He was a readhead, I remember that.

He didn't yell, he didn't punk out, he didn't dime us out. He spoke to us quietly - and in doing so burned the memory into my brain such that it still glows bright, even today.

"What'd you do that for?" he asked with real bewilderment in his voice. "It's not just a hobby - they grew that garden to eat that food. Now they're going to have to pay for a summer's worth of vegetables that you guys ruined."

In an instant the selfishness and the stupidity of what we did hit me hard, like a rifle recoiling in my chest. My cheeks were still red, not from running around in the crisp of an Autumn afternoon but now from searing-hot embarrassment and shame for what I had done.

They were a couple of old people on a fixed income who grew a garden to offset the cost of feeding themselves, for Christ's sake, and I took it upon myself to ruin a summer's worth of work singlehandedly. And not two strangers either; people whose name I knew, who knew me and who had no problem when I'd meander over and spend time with them.

That kid never did rat us out. Maybe he saw that he didn't have to. I kind of wish he did - that way I'd have apologized to them, which I never did. To their graves they probably went not knowing which neighborhood bastard punk trashed their garden in a horrible, useless, ridiculous spree of vandalism.

If any of you reading this ever had a relation named Zettlemeyer (or any phonically equivalent alternate spelling like Zeddlemeier, for instance) who lived in Peabody, Massachusetts in the mid 70's, I'm so sorry. I'm sorry your parents or grandparents or Aunt and Uncle or cousin had to shamefacedly clean up the street in front of their house from the remains of their garden. I'm sorry they had to spend extra money that they probably didn't have to buy vegetables and tomato sauce that didn't taste nearly as good as the stuff Dave and I so thoughtlessly destroyed.

If it's any cosolation, it's a lesson I've carried with me all this time, one that I'll never forget as long as I live.

Thursday, June 5, 2008


The curious word that serves as the title to this entry (pronounced 'Slow-sheem') is the Hebrew word for "thirty," and in the Jewish death ritual it pertains to the thirty days immediately following the death of a loved one. It marks a period of more or less unrestrained mourning and unbridled outpouring of grief. One is expected to stay somewhat withdrawn from society (for example, among its rules are that one should not cut one's hair, shave, or even bathe (!) for the duration of s'loshim). It's actually a comfort; I have found that being immersed to an extent in grief is, however painful, something that I realize to be necessary.

But today marks the end of s'loshim for the death of my father, and my symbolic re-entry into society at large. Indeed this morning I shaved for the first time in a month - although I have bathed; believe me, you don't want any part of me if I haven't bathed in 30 hours let alone 30 days.

And I find myself ready to make this re-entry; or should I say, as ready as I will ever be. I discuss my father's passing now with a certain reluctance - not because it's painful but just because I grow tired of the subject. And really, after a time nobody wants to hear tales of someone else's pain, no matter how close that person is to you. After a while - 30 days, say - you just have to put certain things away until they're specifically called for, and resume living your life.

I'll never forget my father and the monumental impact he had on my life. I'll never completely get over the pain of his passing, not if I live to be 120. But this entry is very likely the last you'll hear of me discussing my dad in this way, aside from an offhand remark here or there.

For it is time to move on, and ready or not, here I come.

Goodbye, Dad. I love you and will miss you forever.