Saturday, November 23, 2013

Make Your Bed

You brush your teeth every day.
You bathe (or at least wash your face) every day.
You change your underwear every day.  Hopefully.

But why does making the bed seem like an arduous chore? Along with the dishes, laundry, cleaning the dog poop, mowing the lawn or dusting, bed-making is often relegated to a secondary class of hygienic maintenance.  But it shouldn’t be, for a number of reasons.

First of all: Health.  Your body is a factory that performs billions of chemical reactions all day, every day—and all night.  Chemicals come in, churn around, combine with other chemicals, split up from other compounds, zig, zag, zoom and find their way back into the world.  In the few seconds it took you to read this, another million micro-reactions occurred that allow you to think, move, feel and emote.  It’s pretty remarkable.

Now think about the last time you went shopping and you walked down the detergent aisle or the coffee aisle or stood by the fish section.  The smells can be powerful.  The molecules from the soaps and beans and fish have somehow magically separated from their “hosts” and gone up your nose and into your body—all at a microscopic level. 

You spend at least seven hours a night in your bed in the same physical location, just like those grocery department products, and your body processes and releases molecules as well, through your skin, your nose, your mouth, your...  Just like a snake, you shed small portions of yourself every night as you regenerate skin from the inside out (that’s how wounds heal and zits disappear and other marvelous things occur).  And just like all other mammals, you inhale oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide.  Did you eat today?  Beans, perhaps?  The gasses your body can’t contain also manage to escape and it all goes into your bed sheets where you roll and toss and dream… 

Take the comforter or blanket and top sheet off the bed, slip your fingers under the fitted sheet at a corner and billow it vigorously to allow the air to flow beneath and on top of the sheet.  This clears the toxins (to some degree) just like opening your car window clears away lingering Taco Bell odors.  Now run your hands over the fitted sheet and you may be surprised how many little foreign objects you’ll find… I know this is gross, and I apologize for the detailing, but things fall off your body all the time.  Hair, earwax, boogers, scabs, flakes of skin, stuff from between your toes and even itty-bitty-bits of micro-toilet paper fragments can remain on your sheets.  I know this is nasty to think about, but it's part of being human, no matter how squeaky you think you are.   Sweep your hands across your fitted sheet and just toss that scruff to the floor (I’ll have you vacuuming in another post).  You may not see or feel a thing, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t there.  Then put your top sheet back on after fluffing it as well.  Then beat the crap out of your pillows to really let the air move around them.  That's my favorite part.  Then put the blanket or comforter back on and smooth out all the edges so it’s nice and clean and flat—like a hotel.  There, you’ve made your bed.  Fantastic.  Don't forget to wash your hands.

Let’s move on to the next important reason you should do this every day:

Psychology.  In my experience, when I’m making a bed I’ve managed to carve out four to six minutes for myself.  Certainly I’m entitled to four-to-six-minutes, right?  And no one can fault you when you’re performing a perceived chore, right?  In our incredibly over-programmed lives, this fraction of time can become a respite for introspection.  Making a bed is a mundane task that doesn’t require much skill or thought, which is partly why it’s so enjoyable.  When you’re cooking you have to watch what you’re doing or you could ruin it — or slice a finger.  When you’re driving you have to concentrate or risk a collision or a ticket.  But when you make the bed there is no risk, no attention is required, and you cannot do it wrong. 

Making the bed daily can establish a continued mindset of completion and success.  The moment you finish making the bed you can look at it and feel a sense of joy and accomplishment.  I know it’s nothing like graduating college or reaching a top level on Nintendo, but it’s an accomplishment nonetheless because you set out to do a task and you completed it successfully.  You are a creature of emotions and feeling satisfaction, joy and success are your fuel.  It doesn’t matter that anyone can make the bed, YOU made the bed, and now it’s lovely.

I organize my day when I’m making the bed.  I think about what I want to accomplish in other arenas.  Sometimes I think about what I’m going to eat so when I get to the kitchen I already have a plan.  Sometimes I organize a shopping list in my head.  Sometimes I remind myself I have a meeting later in the day.  Sometimes I try to figure out the solution to a problem, find meaning in a dream, or remind myself to write to an old friend or call my brother. Making the bed gives me the five minutes I need to recalibrate myself in preparation for the rest of the day.

What’s the best thing about staying in a hotel?  The bed is made!  Imagine if it wasn’t…. a visual confirmation that someone else was sleeping there is disturbing, but if the bed is made your mind believes the room was sterilized just for you.  It’s a fresh, clean slate.  Now imagine enjoying that feeling every time you walk into your own bedroom. Fresh, clean slate.  Fresh, clean slate.  Repeat it over and over, and then give it to yourself!

The final reason you need to make your bed is because Sleep is Damned Important.  It has been proven that establishing a routine before bedtime can facilitate quality rest. You probably already have a routine for yourself, even if you’re not conscious of it.  Maybe you brush your teeth and check the lights and let out the dog one last time, make sure your slippers are in place, check your alarm settings, read a few pages of a book, kiss someone (or something) and then turn off the light.  I’m a little insane—I also have to open the closet door five inches.  Anyway, the feeling of crawling into a fresh bed strengthens the routine.  If you crawl into a messy bed you have to adjust the sheets and blanket and pillow to get them where you want them—in essence making the bed with yourself already in it.  But when you walk into your bedroom at night and pull back the covers from your fresh, clean-slate bed your mind is as prepared as the place where you’re about to rest, making it that much easier to slip off to your happy REM.

Making the bed also makes you move.  You stretch, you flex, and you go back and forth from side to side, pulling and tucking and fluffing.  Always keep your blood flowing and those calories burning!

So make your bed every day, launder and change your sheets every 7-14 days, launder your blankets monthly and your comforters seasonally (or more frequently if your pet sleeps with you) and flip your mattress every six months.  I know you’ve got a million other important things to think about, and I know it's just your bed, but try to remember that you spend—and expend—nearly 1/3rd of your life in it.


PS  I didn't write this seeking my Mother's approval, but I do hope she enjoys it!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Obama 2012

Today you can buy another cup of coffee—or give support for the only President to acknowledge that all Americans should have affordable health care, women should earn the same as men and have the right to make choices about their bodies, my "partner" and I can be in a legal union after eighteen years, etc etc etc...  It's only $3, but it's a karmic message that proclaims we do not tie our dogs to our roofs, we do not beat up people with long hair, we do not hide our millions to avoid paying taxes, we do not believe 47% of us are helpless users and we do not deregulate the systems that sustain our welfare as a populace to keep $20 in our pockets at the end of the year.

$3 is nothing, but it's also EVERYTHING.

Click here to donate $3 to the Obama campaign unless you truly believe this country should only exist for white wealthy heterosexual employed native non-disabled healthy English-speaking Christian men.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Forty is the New Forty

Michael Grant bathes in the Ganges in Rishikesh back in the past when he was only 39.
The stages of death—anger, denial, bargaining, depression and acceptance—may also be used to chronicle the way I am experiencing the departure of my beloved thirties.  As I enter into an unknown decade, one that appears to be populated by greying rogue hairs, andropause, lowered metabolisms, higher cholesterols and the stirrings of future creaks and nasty tennis injuries,  I wonder:  Will my forties be marked by a rapid anatomical decline, or am I, perhaps, on the verge of my most empowered decade?  Will I, like Don Draper, master my craft and rule my dominion?  Will I value myself?  Will I make more money?  Will I make keener choices?  Do I still have more to learn?  Will I eat better?

The difference between ten and twenty was tremendous, but the difference between twenty and thirty seemed marginal. So why does thirty-to-forty feel like a larger leap than the other two combined? What is it about turning forty that instigates the mid-life crises where men dump their wives and buy sports cars and women dump their friends and start new careers?  Why all the madness and misery?  Why when we admit we actually feel okay about turning forty do our peers remark that we're 'handling it well'?  Out of a possible 300,000 words in the English language, the only one that accurate describes turning forty is FUCK.  Why?

Anger.  I don't want to turn forty, except that the alternative of not turning forty seems worse.  I feel like throwing shoes and throwing up.  When I make the bed today I'll undoubtedly smash my pillows a little more than is necessary for their plumping fluff.  Doors beware, you may be slammed.  I'm pissed that the illusion of time is so readily palpable and defining.  I'm vexed that there's no attractive alternative.  When I was growing up I had a friend with a tattoo on his foot that read 4/12/2012.  He claimed it was his expiration date and if he wasn't "something" by then he would throw a big party and kill himself.  I told him if he wasn't "something" then no one would know about his party and it would be a flop. I have to find him.  I have a compulsion to slap him today because of my anger because of this turning-forty thing.  I'm generally not like this.

Denial.  I FEEL nineteen.  Well, maybe twenty-three.  Okay, twenty-seven.  Certainly no more than thirty-one.   Or thirty-five.  I remember everything I experienced as a child, which was just a few clicks back on my mental calendar, so how can I possibly be forty?  My DAD is forty.  Well, he was.  Once.  A long time ago, yeah, yeah...  So turning forty may have happened to all of my friends and most of my family and even strangers at the supermarket, but that doesn't mean it has to happen to me.  People tell me forty is still young, but it was easier to believe when they were jealous I was thirty.  Now I'm harder to convince.  Who are these people, anyway?  Forty?  I deny this.  I was asked for my ID at the liquor store just last week.   I have the jawline of a teenager and the wonder of a toddler.  I can beat this.   Clearly they made that cake with all of those candles for someone else...

Bargaining.  If I can get to Hawaii before midnight I may be able to salvage just a few more hours in my thirties...

Depression.  This is how it goes.  One day you're practicing backflips in your backyard and thinking that people in college are really old and really smart, and then you're looking at your friends' kids who are about to enter college and you're wondering when the higher institutions started admitting children.  The student becomes the master, except I don't feel like I've mastered anything yet.  When I turned thirty I had rental properties and a store and a successful film festival and a nifty house and a reliable social community.  I had a savings account.  I had all of my grandparents. Now I'm turning forty and the house needs a lot of work, the social community has slimmed, and the rest is gone for good.  The yard is bare, the rains come, the grass grows and the flowers bloom, the bees hum and the butterfies frolic.  Then the grass gets cut, the tomatoes are picked, the sun sets early and the yard yields to the first crunchy frost.  Forty is an August mowing.  The cut.  The line.  (Sigh).

Acceptance. Okay, my life is good.  Really good.  Great, actually.  Follow this logic: if I didn't turn forty I wouldn't be able to celebrate eighteen beautiful years with my husband.  I've learned about loss, both in business and personally, and I've survived with new skills and instincts.  I've learned how to say NO to the things I don't want to do, or be (okay,  maybe I'm still working on that).   And I have new abilities: I can wake up earlier without being so bothered.  I can take time to read or play piano or walk the dog  without fretting about my other pressing responsibilities.  I can go into a grocery store and know how my food choices are going to affect me long-term.  I can spend money with some responsibility and I can make money doing jobs that don't compromise my values.  I pick better movies to watch.  I have gained the luxury of (a modicum of) hindsight.

And I still have goals.

If I'm forty then I'm closer to realizing my dreams than I was when I was twenty or thirty.
If I'm forty then I'm closer to gaining the wisdom of my grandparents.
If I'm forty then I'm closer to relating to my parents and their own experiences of life.
If I'm forty then my adventures will take on a new immediacy which will empower their enactment.
If I'm forty then my teachers were right and one day I did grow up.  Or at least on the surface.

I'm forty.  It's impossible, but it's true.  It's ridiculous, but it's fact.  It's astonishing and it's accurate.
Some might say it's an accomplishment.  Others say it's not a big deal and they are correct, too.
I'm forty and it's good to be forty.
People take you seriously when you're forty.
They may even believe what you write on your blog.


Wednesday, July 11, 2012


A speech from the joint unveiling memorial service for
Edith Prostkoff (Grandma) & Myron Reis (Uncle Mike)
Sunday, July 8th, 2012

I'm going to talk for a few minutes about Uncle Mike & Grandma not as individuals, but as siblings, and the significance of that particular relationship as it pertained to their lives, and ours.

One of the requisite characteristics to being a quality human being is knowing how to share.
It's one of the first lessons we're taught in school, and it is an instruction that it reiterated throughout our personal and professional lives.  Sharing.  And no relationship prepares us better or teaches us more about sharing than being a sibling.

Genetics aside, as siblings we share the resources in the house, the food on the table, bedrooms and bathrooms and even the remote control on the TV.  As we get older, if we're close enough in age, we start to share experiences beyond the home.  We may have the same teachers and maybe even the same friends.  What we learn from being a sibling, and all of this sharing, is that sometimes we're going to be expected to put another person in front of ourselves.  We're forced to recognize that we're not the only person who has a need.  There are other people in this world, and your sibling serves as a constant reminder of this.

We should take this responsibility not as a task, but as a gift.  If we're lucky, our sibling can be our confidant, our cohort and our example.  We can learn from our sibling's failures and successes as much as from our own.  Our brother or sister can be our friend because he or she is sharing our life, our situations, our parents' displeasures or respect…   With your sibling you can view your parents together as those taller, older alien beings who seem to have an entirely different sense of the world.  As you grow up, you and your siblings will form your own new realities together.

Even when siblings move away from each other the sharing need not end.  When our identities are more-or-less formed and we see ourselves as individuals, that's when we start to share the bigger things: ideas, perspectives, events and philosophies.  We share the pleasures and sorrows of life.  It can be tricky to stay connected when we're no longer playing the same games with the same rules.  Maybe we don't share geography, or even some of the same values.  This can create a dynamic situation, but it's still good because the sibling that knows you helps you to further define yourself.   In architecture and photography the negative space can be just as defining as the subject itself.

So… Grandma and Uncle Mike.  I honestly don't know much about what their life was like when they were children, but they always maintained their connection to each other, even when they realized they were their own people and they were leading very different lives.  At some point it didn't matter if they had kids or if they were observant in the same ways, or who had a house where because they always stayed connected through their common history and they held their mutual interest in family and each other. Their relationship was forged in steel and gold.

When Mike died a  year ago Grandma said "I lost my Baby Brother." The baby brother who wasn't a baby for over eighty years was perpetually her baby brother.  That was very telling to me.  I'm sure their relationship had its set of bumps, as all relationships do, but they were always able to go back and reapply that most important lesson from their childhood:  To Share.

Mike & Edith were citizens of the world in large part because of their connection to each other.  They both taught, they both gave back, and they were social.  They had friends and they made an impact on their communities.  They had the capacity to see beyond themselves and they recognized that we don't  have to be trapped inside our own egos all of the time.  And that's because they were siblings and the sibling relationship is unique in that way.  It always brings you back and for this reason it is special.  Sacred.  Like anything else it requires care and nurturing, but so long as we remember to share, even when we don't agree,  we're going to recognize that these differences actually help us too, just as they always have.

I think it's fitting that we're honoring Grandma and Mike in this memorial service together.  After everything they went through together from practically the same starting point to practically the same end, it's amazing to think that now they're their in their final resting place together. They're lives were a beautiful poem of intersecting stanzas, connected and disparate ideas, but with common imagery, memory and a base.  As we plot our own courses we'll continue to read the versus of their poem -- and share them with each other until we arrive at our own ending verse.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Interstate Highways: India vs. USA

As a country, India appears to be in a constant state of construction and destruction.  Shells of buildings litter the landscape, seemingly tossed aside before completion to rot with the millions of plastic bottles, foil potato-chip wrappers and moldy coconut husks that even the wild pigs won't eat.  Today, however, we bore witness to a new initiative that actually seems to be not only a work in progress, but also a work of art:  The SuperHighway.

Stretching (in a way) from various other roads that connect Mumbai to Bangalore, SuperHighway #13, at present, is still mostly two and a half lanes (one and a quarter for each direction), criss-crossing over itself as various sections are completed.  The half-lane is very important, as it allows a little breathing room for the cars, motorcycles and higher-speed rickshaws that want to pass not only each other but a never-ending stream of massive construction vehicles, mega-trucks, tractors, busses and, on occasion, a cow or two.   

Today we had the privilege of traversing nearly 200 miles of this special road round-trip between Hospet and Badami.  I couldn't help but notice a few of the differences between how highways work in the USA and here in India, beyond the obvious of driving on the left side of the road.

1) In India there are no lanes.  Lanes would require paint, and paint is expensive. 
2) In India there are no shoulders.  Sometimes there's dirt; sometimes fields. Or a river.
3) In India there are no exits or on-ramps.  You get on and off wherever you want, whether there's a road there or not.  
4) In India there are no street signs, directions or mile markers.
5) In India there are no speed limits.
6) In India there are no troopers to enforce any infractions and there are no set traffic rules to enforce.
7) In India, our driver tells us, there are very, very few accidents. 
8) In India the service stations do not have snacks or bathrooms--just petrol and oil.
9) In India there are no rest stops.  Stop and do your business in a field, if you gotta.  It's okay to park your vehicle on the road if there's no shoulder.  Just be quick.  
10) In India the SuperHighway has occasional speed bumps.  These are not marked, but everyone seems to know where they are and they slow down accordingly.  Sometimes the speed bumps are actually three speed bumps in a row and take some special skill and a little time to traverse successfully if one wants to keep one's muffler. 
11) In India the one-kilometer of visual-site rule before passing another vehicle does not apply.  You need only the space of the truck you're trying to pass, times three (if even).  If you cannot pass fully, you simply slow down and go back into your lane and hope the car behind you or the truck next to you slows down or speeds up to let you in before you're bacon.  If he doesn't let you in then you stop and hope the oncoming car does as well until the issue is resolved.  This all happens in the space of two-to-four seconds. 
12) In India we didn't see a single woman driver on the SuperHighway.
13) In India they don't mow the grass on the side of the road.  They wait until it's dry and then they burn it. 
14) In India there are no reflectors or street lamps for night-time driving. 
15) In India the road can end spontaneously due to construction, without warning signs, and sometimes without barriers.  Move to the other side by following the car in front of you.  If you are passing the car in front of you, which is likely, try not to drive off the newly nonexistent road.
16) In India you honk your horn when you are passing, and when you are not passing, when you want to pass, and when you have completed your pass.  There is not a single moment when you should not be honking your horn.  If you require extra special attention because there isn't time to pass and you're staring at the grill of an oncoming 20-ton Tata Truck you may flick your lights fanatically and ask the God Of Your Choice for some help.  We used Ganesh.  Frequently.
17) In India everyone respects each other's driving.  No one gets angry or frustrated if someone passes, and everyone lets everyone in when necessary (which means always).  In India no one flips anyone else off.
18) There are no vehicles moving on the SuperHighway in India with less than a full-load of product or people.  There are no single-person vehicles.  Even the motorcycles have at least three people on them, and sometimes up to five. 
19) On India's SuperHighway there is no road kill, which is astonishing considering the vast number of cows, dogs, goats, pigs and monkeys that run amok on the regular streets.  It is possible that the road kill may be removed instantly and cremated (or eaten).  It's impossible to know for sure, but we saw no carnage and our driver didn't know what we were talking about when we asked.  
20) In India, traveling a total of 200 miles on the SuperHighway took 7.5 hours. 

It remains to be seen if the Indian Highway construction project we witnessed will be completed.  The goal, we were told, is 3-10 years, or so.  The one area where the USA and India seem to correlate is in the building process:  we saw no less than 50 people at each work-site, but only a handful were doing any actual work.  The rest were standing around.

Monday, December 5, 2011

I'm in India

First thought: Oh My God I'm in India. 

Second thought:  Hey, this airport is nice!  Apparently it has been rated as fourth best in the entire world, though I always wonder who's doing the ratings.  Still, there are posters everywhere stating "We are fourth best!" and who would say that if it wasn't true?

We landed in New Delhi after a few days in London wondering if we could survive the expense of merely breathing.  Did you know a single ride on the London Underground is US$7.50?  Even with special day-passes that allowed us full access to the subways and busses it cost US$100 for two of us to get around for four days.  Compare that with today's lunch in the Tibetan district of Delhi: six of us shared soups, 32 large and varied dumplings, one of the best crispy honey-chicken dishes I've ever met, copious veggie fried rice, and ten beverages.  The total including the tip: $3 a head.   Of course, familiar Western items are not quite as easy to find and cost considerably more: our gracious American hosts paid $80 for their Thanksgiving turkey.  Fortunately it was "pre-killed"--something that needs to be specified.

New Delhi is a complex maze of fabulous wealth, unconscionable poverty, gargantuan pristine buildings alongside sprawling condemnable slums.  There's air, water, noise and nerve pollution that redefines the scales. Our residence at the US Embassy runs four air-purifiers and six fans 24-7 and still the maids have to dust twice a day to keep the grime from accumulating on the dining room table.  Yes, it is really THAT BAD.  An estimated 18 million people are burning coal, dung and plastic bottles to keep warm this time of year, though the temperature is comparable with Jacksonville.

In Delhi, whatever your mind conjures when considering a task, event or destination, the reality contrasts.  For example, we took a private tour through the city's central spice market, the main distribution center for the myriad cooking spices that make Indian food so distinctive.  We were told it was set inside an old, ornate palace dating back a few hundred years, and we would bear witness to hundreds of merchants moving shipments of the special delicacies.  Close your eyes and picture it based on that description: the mind imagines a mini-Taj Mahal-type structure filled with stalls holding crates of fresh chili peppers, vanilla beans, assorted elements for curries, and trucks moving in and out to send the parcels to the restaurant purveyors throughout the region.

Now click to my other blog ( to see the reality of the Indian Spice Market:

Hundreds of people living and working in filthy squalor, maneuvering between rickety wiring, multifarious levels and steps that would send Escher's pen spinning, stray dogs amass, feces or all sorts, soapy morning bathing waters running down the walls, people squatting to eat plates of fresh-cooked food heated on smelly kerosene burners, frightening piles of rotting garbage (sometimes smoldering) and yesterday's clothes hanging in the murky air to dry in the morning sun.   Loads are pushed and carried on carts and bicycles.  There are no trucks.  There are no computers.  There is no plumbing.  There are few lights.  Orders are tracked in notebooks with single sheets of overused carbon paper.  This is not a Wal-Mart Distribution Center, and yet, somehow, perhaps miraculously, the spices come in and the spices go out--and this is epicenter of the industry.

On to Rishikesh....

Monday, August 29, 2011

Hurricane Irene = One Nice Weekend

My dear friend Josh, his young dog Loki, his wonderful parents Tim & Lucia and their sage-like dog Chris were in Lavallette on the Jersey Shore this week.  They came up here to Saratoga Springs during a mandatory evacuation and arrived late on Friday night, looking a little exhausted and bewildered.  Josh had been relaxing at the beach and we went down there to join him for a visit last weekend.  I got tan and sandy.  His parents arrived in Lavallette shortly before the evacuation order following a 30+ hour drive from Denver.  Josh's sister Kate was scheduled to arrive that night in Newark on a flight that was cancelled, so she stayed in Denver and swam in a pool instead. 

We were all together and Saturday we slept in.  Later we had a nice long dog walk and Jon did an extraordinary amount of yard work while we all watched.  Breakfast was a delicious pile of local apple cider doughnuts and lunch was a far less creative reheating of random foods.  In the afternoon we went to the horse races for the last three events, including the Travers -- the biggest race of the year with tens of thousands of people and a $1M purse.  I lost $4.  That night we escaped the crowds of Saratoga and headed to nearby Glens Falls to eat in our favorite restaurant, Bistro Tallulah, owned and operated by New Orleans transplant culinary geniuses.  One more dog walk and then the misty rain started to fall, somewhere around 10pm...

Sunday was rougher.  We were out of doughnuts.  Then, around 10am the power disappeared, too.  The wind whipped around and we lamented that we'd forgotten to bring the lawn furniture pillows inside, and we watched helplessly as our patio shade-sails bellowed violently in wind.  They're tethered with steel wires to 4x4's planted in three feet of cement, but we thought a cable might snap, which could have decapitated a rose bush or the strawberry plants.  It was touch-and-go.  The rain was heavy at times, but not terribly abnormal.  If we didn't know it was a hurricane we would have thought it was a windy, rainy day in June that oddly had no lightning or thunderclaps to scare the dogs.  We walked our pets in the storm to the local CVS to buy candy and pretzels and returned 10# heavier with our newfound water-weight, despite wearing slickers and waterproof coats.  The dogs were also 10# heavier, but they were able to shake it off rather quickly, which also helped wash the front windows of the house.  

Without power or a racetrack to keep us occupied, we returned to the mid 1800's and read books.  I typically read before I sleep and I fell asleep after half a chapter.  I also played piano, but nothing recognizable. Jon ventured to the stores who kept their power by making deals with the government, no doubt.  His windshield wipers were adequate and he marveled at the number of expensive homes on the east side of town enjoying their working traffic lights and illuminated televisions, forcing a remonstrative call to the utilities indicating that the west side was clearly the target of blatant discrimination.  At some point during the day I won a round of Hearts, but only through my competitors' negligence.  

The rain misted and then stopped somewhere around 6:30pm.  We took the dogs to a local trail and were alarmed to find one downed tree branch, naked, alone, and now bait for three cooped-up dogs.  While we surveyed the damage,  Jon stayed home and labored over a glorious dinner, cooked in the twilight on gas burners.  He wore a spelunker's headlamp to see, which we all found amusing--except when he turned his head and blinded us.  I found and lit no less than two dozens candles around the house, starting with the important bathrooms.  I set the table with a black tablecloth (I think it was black) and white dishes.  I lit the final candle for an elegant evening when lo! Power was restored with the squeal of ten smoke alarms, three dogs and five people who visually assessed by our wild hair that no one had showered that day.

By 7pm the sky was nearly clear with a delicious, cool, arid breeze.  Another friend joined us and we dined on Chicken Fly Creek with Saratoga salt potatoes and collared greens followed by apple pie and ice cream.  Somehow we managed to consume six bottles of wine as well.  I'm pretty sure the dogs didn't contribute to our consumption, though I can't testify due to my incapacitation.

This morning our friends returned to Lavallette.  The little town near Seaside Heights was in the direct path of Hurricane Irene and it's just a six-block-wide strip of land between the ocean and an inland waterway.  Tim explained that if you dug a small hole in the yard, maybe one foot deep, you could see water in it rise and fall with the tides.  Their dining room is no more than two feet above normal sea levels.  After thoughtful consideration it was decided that either no damage or total ruination would be welcomed--the latter would provide a chance to fully and properly rebuild--but some damage would be the most damaging, because no one likes to walk around on wet carpets.  Not even wet dogs.

You can leave comments here wishing The Correll's your best wishes, but please do not send bottles of wine.


Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Happy Birthday to Me

Once a year I’m plagued by the creeping persistence of Time.  I do my best to combat him.  I once tried to put him in a tiny box buried deep in the yard covered in dung, but he escaped and now I smell him coming...  Still, I do what I can.  I sleep regularly and often, attempt to eat properly, exercise persistently and I refrain from the obvious things that make people look prematurely old, like smoking, sunbathing and working in Alaskan canneries.  I moisturize.  While this is further proof I’m gay, it’s also a conduit to wondrous remarks like, “Really?  You’re 38? I would have thought 29!”  This puts a smile on my face until I realize that one day they might just as easily state, “Really?  You’re 68?  I would have thought 59!”  Still, it beats being 98 and looking 89.   Side note: Not having kids seems to help with all the aforementioned skills. If you have kids, feel free to keep them but know that they are the ones who make 39 look like 39.  Or 44. (gasp!) 

I love when other people have birthdays, not because of the inherent schadenfreude or the chance to eat cake, but because it gives me a moment to honor and celebrate the birth of the great beings I call my friends and loved ones.  It’s a good excuse for sending a Facie (facebook friend) a note letting her know I care, I’m excited she continues to exist and thrive, and with each passing year there’s hope we can one day reunite and drink a box of wine or spray paint a rival school’s pump house like the old days.  Birthdays are the spillway to reminiscences and introspection and in moderation, perhaps 1/365th of the time, this can be glorious. 

But, unfortunately, birthdays mark time and the marked time corresponds to my ever-increasing age.  This appears to be the evil lurking purpose.  I fully enjoy the beneficial attention that surrounds my birthday, but just like Ambien or Percocet I have great difficulty with the nefarious side effects.  Each birthday brings even more candles to delicious cakes I now fear may trigger adult-onset diabetes.  A higher age number means I have a lowered necessary heart rate to achieve “cardio level” on my treadmill,  and now I get higher BMI readings on my scale.  I have more frequent thoughts about the continued viability of my prostate and colon.  I have weaker ankles, greyer hairs (and in weirder places) and the inability to remember plot lines from last season’s television shows.  It's humbling.  Why can’t I keep the abs I had when I was 28?  Why can’t I keep the vision I had when I was 24?  Why can’t I keep the credit score I had when I was 20? 

Everyone wants birthdays but no one wants to consider the brutality of the aging process.   While I’ve truly loved every age I’ve ever been (except eleven—that was a rocky year) it’s still tough to consider that I’m on the cusp of the cusp of 40 which is practically 50 which is nearly 60 which is practically 110.  When my grandmother turned 80 we had a conversation and she confided that she still isn’t sure what she wants to be when she grows up.  She’s more-or-less ruled out ballerina.  That sucks.

While I would likely loathe a return to any prior age, I harbor an equal aversion to attaining the numeric constructs of my future ages.  Of course, sometimes I get scared I might not reach those ages, so I tacitly repeat to myself, on my birthday meditation at 12:36am every August 2nd, my ninth and tenth mantras:   मैं खुला रहा हूँ. मैं यहाँ हूँ  (I Am Open, I am Here).  Every year brings new possibilities, opportunities, vistas, vision and treasures.   And yes, every year also takes me closer to my driver’s license expiration date, but I’m prepared to overlook the petty negatives—on the first day. 

Today I am 39.  There, I said it.  I’m not sure I feel better for saying it, but considering the alternative, I shall remain quietly jubilant and thankful.  Now where's my fucking cake?

PS: A decided advantage to aging is more scratch-off lottery tickets in the envelope from thoughtful friends [hint, hint].  

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Life and Death and Life

My Great Uncle Myron Reis died this morning at about 3am.  He was both Great in the technical terminology of our relationship, being my maternal grandmother’s brother (accordingly I am termed a Grand Nephew), and he was Great as in fantastic, wondrous and eminent in my life.   My maternal grandfather died when I was three and Uncle Mike didn’t just fill the void, he more than overstuffed it with an unwavering positivity, intelligence, warmth and guidance, generosity and care. It has always been easy to start a statement with, “My Great Uncle Mike” and let the description straddle both purposes.

He nearly died six years ago and we all held our breath, but in the ensuing years he reminded us, by example, that life isn’t just to be treasured, it actually makes us richer the more we share it.  As he physically weakened and his world compressed he continued to expand himself by quietly sustaining the details: holding my Great Aunt Jane’s hand or stealing a kiss, watching deer prance through their upstate backyard, explaining the history of a restaurant, a play, a writer, an actor, a singer, a building, a town, a religion, all of New York City or even the world to come according to the New York Times’ Tuesday’s technology reviews…  He tired physically, but his unquenchable thirst for knowledge and happiness never abated.   Even at his most fatigued, he was always capable of a vibrant hug.  In short, he beamed life.

His last few weeks were rough and it’s easy to hold focus on what happened in the hospital, what didn’t happen in his recovery, what decisions would, should, or could have been made if the outcome was apparent from the forefront.  But in reality, as I learned it from Uncle Mike, none of that matters. 

All books have their last page.  All movies have a final credit.  All songs a last beat.  Even the brightest stars expire with a final burning ember.  Mike knew this, and he would be remiss if we concentrated on his final moments and forgot all the lessons learned in the preceding chapters of his life.  Lessons about craft and quality, personal fulfillment, the purpose of determination, and the meaning of success.  Piano lessons.  Writing lessons.  Art lessons.  Lessons about love.

Jane and the rest of us will ultimately move forward—Mike would insist upon this—but our current pause is assuredly accepted and appreciated.  It is entirely fair for us to fully miss this Great man and we will grieve for the loss of his future advice, the future enjoyment of meals, hospitality and rich conversation.  And, for certain, future stolen kisses.

I love you, my Great Uncle Mike.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

A Few More Thoughts About Gay Marriage

Dear New York Senators,

Imagine if you were committed for 17 years but your government considered your spouse a roommate.
Imagine if you had to pay double for an adoption so you could both legally parent your child.
Imagine if you weren't allowed to even have that adoption.
Imagine if you were sick and your spouse was denied access to hold your hand in the hospital.
Imagine if you died and your possessions suddenly belonged to your parents instead of your spouse.
Imagine if you had to pay your accountant double to file your household taxes separately.
Imagine being with someone for 17 years but still checking the single box on forms.
Imagine risking your life for your country and being terminated for your sexual preference.
Imagine hiding your personal life from your coworkers or risking termination.
Imagine your coworkers utilizing corporate health insurance for their spouses while yours remains uninsured.
Imagine your parents being deprived of the wedding they dreamt for you all their lives.
Imagine being unaccepted.
Imagine being untolerated.
Imagine being bullied for something you cannot change.
Imagine if someone's religious beliefs trumped your civil rights.

No need to imagine. This is our reality.

Please fix it.

Michael Grant

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Wednesday, June 15, 2011

A Letter about Gay Marriage

Dear Senators,

I'm gay.  Does this scare you?  Probably not, because you don't know me.  And, when you think about it, why should it?   I'm anonymous to you.   However, you are not anonymous to me--you represent me.

I'm gay.  I'm also monogamous.  And spiritual.  Some say I'm also affable and even a little talented.  You represent me, but I represent a thousand others like me who struggle with the repression you have the power to change. 

I'm gay.  I'm 39.  I've been with my partner for 17 years.  We bought a home together, we've opened businesses together, we pay taxes and tolls like everyone else.  We are married in Massachusetts, but we are not married in New York.  We're not married federally.  How can this be?  How can I have a partner here and husband there?  How can rights only be right if you're on one side of a line?

I'm gay and I am not a threat to you;  I am a constituent.  I follow the laws and the rules.  I have heterosexual friends who do not have any children.  They can marry.  I have homosexual friends who DO have children--they cannot.   WHY?

I'm gay and the biggest question I ask you is Who Does It Hurt if our life together is recognized as a union by our government?  It's not as though there are a limited number of marriages being given out and our marriage would take away from someone else.  And even if that were the absurd case how can it be determined that the life we've built together is less-valuable to a government that benefits from our stability than, say, a quick hookup gone awry resulting in marriage?  Or a greencard marriage?  Or a forced or rushed marriage due to a pregnancy?

Any man and any woman can get married.  An 80-year-old can marry a 20-year-old.  Terminally ill people can marry.  Felons can marry.  Mentally unstable people can marry.  People can marry, divorce and then remarry.  If the only current requisite to issuing a marriage certificate is that Party A is XX and Party B is XY then there appears to be a misfire in the institutional synapses...

I understand your pressures.  You are a politician and you speak for a lot of people.  In order to continue speaking for people you need to tell the people what you think the people want to hear you say.  But you were also elected by the people because they trust that when it comes down to it you will make decisions that will be based on a clarity of truth, even if some of the people you speak for cannot see it.  

I saw a family walking out of a train station the other day.  They were gawking at a couple that got off the same train--holding hands.  The kids looked to their parents and said, "What's going on?"  The mother said, "They're holding hands."  One kid shouted, "but they're both boys!"  The mother and father looked at each other, not sure how to approach the subject or explain what they were all seeing to their children.  But then the older child said, "It's okay.  They're probably married."

And we all went on with our lives.

Michael Grant
Saratoga Springs

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Mike's Tips for a Happy Life

When you have teeth, floss them.

Never eat before going on a roller coaster, even if it's a metaphorical one.

Do what your parents say until they're wrong, then just love and respect them.

Follow your heart.


Don't run up to strange dogs, whether they be canine or human. 

When in doubt, check Wikipedia or Amazon.

If you find yourself at the beach and you get sand in your ears, never use a q-tip to get it out.  Put your head to the side and use a baby-bulb to squirt warm water gently.  Let is swish around a bit and then tilt your head to drain it.  Repeat as necessary, and use a cotton ball (not a swab) to gently pick up any excess.  You can also add a little hydrogen peroxide in case the sand scratched the delicate flesh inside your ear, to avoid infections.  Don't worry, it won't sting, though the little bubbles may tickle.  It's okay, and possibly even expected, for you to curse at least once during this process.  Just remember the goal is to avoid damaging the drum at all costs.  This is good advice not just for sand in your ear, but for a broken heart as well.  Just use care, patience, diligence, and a little antiseptic.

Eat the most delicious food, which may or may not be the most expensive.

Listen to someone smart (Suze Orman, Robert Herjavec) when it comes to investing.  
I don't know anything about investing.

Seek out the good movies, not just the popular ones. 

Seek out the good people, not just the popular ones.

Wear gloves when cutting roses. 

It's okay to kill a mosquito.

Don't hoard.  

When given the chance, always choose at least two flavors of ice cream.

Write to your grandparents.  

Sing.  Dance.  Jump. 

If you want to win the Olympics be prepared to give up some free time. 

If you are making a film don't cast your mom unless your mom is Meryl Streep. 

Post lists like this on your blog, but don't expect a book deal.

And, finally, always remember that the reason you came here in the first place is to learn, to grow, to love, to master, to perceive, to contribute and share, to experience and explore, and to enjoy your connection with this amazing force we call life.  And if you happen to drive a nice car at some point, consider that a bonus. 

Tuesday, May 24, 2011


Why the hell has it taken me so long to write this?

Procrastination is an intransitive verb that simply means to delay something, to postpone it, or to put an action off until later.  Somehow the spoken word itself has an auditory connotation that feels vaguely sexual to me, but that could just be my dirty mind.  Or it could be because procrastination is akin to self-abuse.  When we sheepishly utter those shameful words, "I procrastinate," we are admitting to ourselves (and to others) that we have somehow lost control of our ability to enact a plan or fulfill a vision--or to pay a bill on time, buy a birthday card or make a lunch date with someone we don't really like very much.  Procrastination is bad and ugly, but we all do it.


The simple answer is if you are procrastinating a task then you don't really want to do that task at all.  You're not just putting it off, you're putting it as far away as you possibly can until you absolutely have to face it with no two ways around it.  This is obvious, but what isn't so obvious is why you have to do the task in the first place.  This requires some observation and introspection.

Some chores are mandatory.  If you don't do the dishes on a regular basis then the dishes pile up, there's nothing to eat on after a few meals, and twelve months later you're being featured on "Hoarders: Buried Alive" as that freak who never did the dishes and now has a family of rats living in her sink.  Carpooling is another mandatory chore.  You can't procrastinate carpooling or your kids and your neighbor's kids won't get to school (or back) and then suddenly you'll find yourself living in a neighborhood infested with stupid, immature criminals and you're their Mama.

Other chores aren't mandatory, but they are desirable if you want to maintain your health and sanity. Like putting your clothes back in the closet when you finish laundering them.  Or picking up all those scraps of junk mail and receipts you seem to leave all over the house.  Or stocking up on toilet paper before you run out.   You don't HAVE to do these things, ever, but you probably should.  Procrastinate if you want, but know that you'll most likely end up doing this category of chores eventually or people you know and like will stop coming over for tea.

But then there are the things we take upon ourselves to do that we then find ourselves putting off.  Like volunteering to write an article for that church newsletter.   Or knitting a scarf for a second-tier friend.  Or cleaning the basement.  Or organizing your CDs (do people still have CDs?).  Or responding to a bevy of humorous but unimportant emails.  Or scrubbing the floor of the shower.  Or getting the dog's teeth cleaned.  Or writing the next Great American Novel.  These are the tasks that  feel good upon completion, but summoning the energy to do them is harder than licking lint.  They move from #10 to #4 on our To-Do lists and then, when they reach that coveted #3 spot, the spot where they might actually have to happen, one new email or phone call breezes in and suddenly, Chutes & Ladders,  they're pushed back down to the bottom of the list.  For another year.

You will procrastinate all tasks you don't enjoy that you don't really need to do in the first place.

My advice to stop procrastinating is to stop committing to doing things you don't want to do. That seems simple enough--AND IT IS.  Just don't do it.  Consider your consequences. Are they really so terrible?  Let's see:

The church newsletter doesn't get your article so someone else steps in and you get a reputation as being unreliable.  So what?  You're off the hook forever for that insidious job!  Your good-hearted religious friends will have to understand because religion teaches us infinite tolerance and acceptance, hiyah, hiyah.

Your distant friend doesn't get the scarf you promised to make him.  Will he freeze to death come Winter?  And would that really be on you if he did?  You can always buy him a scarf if you feel that guilty about it, and then just blame your carpal tunnel.

You didn't clean the basement (or attic or garage) so now your children will clean it when you die and they'll find your moldy treasures and get rich off them, or throw them in the trash.  Who cares?  You're dead!  If you haven't looked at or used the stuff down there for at least three years, chances are you never needed it in the first place.  So is there really a loss?  If you have The Most Precious Thing In The World down there you would have put it on your mantle in a glass dome instead of storing it next to those paisley cummerbunds (and porn) you found at that weird garage sale.

You didn't organize the CD's.  Big deal.  It's not like you can't find the song you want to listen to when you want to hear it anyway, right?  CD collections are like your VHS movie collection or your cousin's coin collection or your Grandma's crystal animals collection.  Rethink it:  the fun is that they remain random and useless.

The funny emails go unanswered and unforwarded.  Do you think the idiots who sent them will stop sending them because they didn't get a reply?  Chances are Not.

So you don't clean the floor of the shower.  Twice a year hire someone to do it for you.  You'll miss the $50 but you'll save yourself some gross afternoons.

So the dog's teeth didn't get cleaned, and he spent his last three years toothless.  Yeah, that's pretty shitty.  You should take care of your dog, asshole.

As for writing the next Great American Novel, if you procrastinate on that then it wasn't inspired and worth writing and no one would have wanted to read it anyway.  If it WAS worth writing, you'd be writing it.  All of the excuses in your life would fall away because you would channel your passion and summon your creative forces and the book would take precedence.  Art is unprocrastinateable.  Instead of dreaming about writing it, you would shut the door, disconnect the modem, turn off the phone, staple your spouse's mouth shut and you would write it.  You Just Would.

No one procrastinates playing golf.  No one procrastinates flying to Europe for free.  No one procrastinates going to an amusement park.  No one procrastinates eating cookies.  No one procrastinates visiting a dying, beloved relative.   We all procrastinate paying our taxes, but think of the relief you'd feel if you just hunkered down and put your figures together and sent in your package on January 2nd (or the day you get your W-2).  When everyone else if freaking out in April you'll be kicking up your heels and drinking a martini.  Try it in 2012 and you'll see what I mean.

If you don't want to do something, just admit you don't want to do it and then don't do it.  And if you have to do it, if you have to pull the weeds from the garden yourself, rip off that band-aid and do it as quickly as possible and be glad it's done and pat yourself on the back for being responsible.  Then see if you can rethink your choices and avoid getting yourself into that position where you may have to do it again.  This may require more money, but that's for another post.

Think about your choices.  Do it.  Go think.  Now.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011


Don't be confused by the title--it's not a play about Zionism. 

Tony and Olivier Award-winning star Mark Rylance portrays Johnny 'Rooster' Byron in the brilliant new play Jerusalem.  In the backwoods of Flintock, England (near Stonehenge) a former daredevil motorcyclist and modern-day Pied Piper, drug-dealing, super-friend/antihero is served an eviction notice on his airstream as a new housing development is slated for construction.  With his gypsy-esque lifestyle, thousand-year lineage, and motley assortment of alcohol and drug-addled friends he lives on a nebulous boundary of insanity and utterly-clear logic while negotiating a relationship with his son, ex-wife, the city council and the world at large.  Throw in a missing girl with an abusive stepfather, mythic themes and a flawless set and you'll find yourself lost for three crispy hours in an unwavering world of brutal and radiant humanity.   Ian Rickson's direction feels natural and clean, but fully embedded with details and layers that made me want to see the show a second time and right away.  The cheeky dialogue is cunning, hilarious and wrenching.  Each moment of this play pulls at you, forcing you to question your own judgmental nature and moral compass while profound ideological battles rage.  On the surface it's a simplistic play about a misplaced man, but playwright Jez Butterworth scratches until a remarkable and haunting profundity is unearthed.  And then he scratches even deeper, forcing our blood to rise.

Mark Rylance attacks and embodies Byron with an astonishing ferociousness and sensitivity that will undoubtedly garner him further deserved awards.  Jerusalem already won the 2009 Evening Standard and London Critics' Circle Awards, the 2010 Writers' Guild of Great Britain Award for Best Play, and Mark Rylance won the Olivier Award (Britain's Tony).  We saw a preview last night--the play opens tomorrow.  If the ten-minute standing ovation was any indication, this show will win a spate of more deserved Tony's on June 12th and it will undoubtedly join the canons of unparalleled and memorable Broadway theater.   Don't miss it.

Music Box Theatre
239 W 45th St, NYC 10036

Running Time:
2 hours and 55 minutes, including two 10 minute intermissions

Cast Members:
Mark Rylance, Mackenzie Crook, John Gallagher, Jr., Max Baker, Geraldine Hughes, Molly Ranson, Alan David, Aimeé-Ffion Edwards, Danny Kirrane, Charlotte Mills, Sarah Moyle, Harvey Robinson, Barry Sloane, Aiden Eyrick, Mark Page

Tuesday, April 19, 2011


I’m sitting in the car, waiting.  A gentle Spring rain pitter-patters down the windshield, fueling the early-bursting flowers—and my rage.  Our happy orange Mazda has become a Chinese Water Torture Chamber from a 1980’s Elvira movie.  Soon my eyes will start a bout of uncontrolled spasms and before long I’ll be blathering and blubbering and seething.  Our friend is having a dinner party that starts at 6:30, and she specifically asked that we arrive early so it can start on time.  It’s 6:28 and she lives six minutes away.  We haven’t left yet, and we’re late.

When I was in drama class it was put to me like this:  “Take every minute you’re late for a rehearsal, miss a cue or show up after you’re expected and multiply it by the number of people waiting for you.”   By that calculation, if you’re only 12 seconds late for your cue in a play and there are 450 people in the audience then you’ve squandered an hour and a half.  An hour and a half from just 12 seconds!!  Now I’m sitting in the car, wondering when Jon is going to come out of the house, and I’m already calculating that we’ve lost nearly an hour by making 13 people wait for four minutes.  Yikes.

I’m being dramatic for effect.  It’s not like this dinner party was lost-productivity for a Fortune 500 company or a space shuttle launch or the opening number at the Academy Awards.  We ended up being just a few minutes late—no big deal.  We arrived at 6:36 and were actually surprised to find everyone was, in fact, waiting for us.  We were rushered (rushed and ushered) to our seats and I felt a tinge of humiliation from the raised eyebrows.  We were late.  We were guilty.  We had killed everyone’s time and we were judged. 

In 2004 we traveled through Japan.  On the last day we gave ourselves seven hours to get from a moutain-top resort in Hakone to the Narita airport, an adventure that required the use of a small toy train, a larger bullet train, a subway around Tokyo, and yet another shuttle train to the outskirts-international airport.  We arrived two hours before our flight and learned we’d missed it because there wasn’t enough time to process our luggage.  Who knew you had to go through an extensive customs procedure to leave Japan?  The next flight was the next day and in the end we were quite happy to have another chance to explore Tokyo.  Still, our error cost us hundreds of dollars as we had to find another hotel and transportation and food in the capital wasn’t cheap.   But that wasn’t about punctuality.  That was about bad timing and misinformation—and there’s a difference.

Punctuality is the art of being on time, neither early nor late.  My grandmother used to sit in an airport for up to three hours before a flight.  That’s not punctual—that’s just freaky. 
There are general rules-of-thumb regarding being on time.  If it’s a meeting or an interview, arriving ten minutes early IS being on time because arriving on time forces the engagement to begin after you’re ‘settled in’.  In high school you had to arrive in your classroom before the bell, not during the bell and not after the bell, so being punctual meant arriving 1-2 minutes before class started.  Theater always starts eight minutes after the time printed at the ticket, but arriving seven minutes after the ticket-time means you’re late because the aisles are tiny and no one wants to deal with you putting away your cell phone and coat.  That’s just gauche.

I grew up Jewish and we always joked about JST—Jewish Standard Time, which was a general excuse for everyone to be late.  Services started at 9:15 but I don’t know anyone, save a few older men, who were ever there before 9:45.  My mother and sister were known for being chronically late.  I haven’t lived with them for twenty years, so maybe they’ve improved, but I do remember that we were always the last kids picked up after school.  I’m sure there was a valid excuse.  There’s always a valid excuse.

Sometimes it’s incredibly uncomfortable to arrive on time, like, say, at a club or a hip party.  But since I rarely go to cool things like that, I can’t write about it.

Now I’m an adult and in charge of my own time.  Our bedroom clock is set twenty minutes fast so if the appointment is at one and the clock reads one then we know we’d better get moving.  The kitchen clock is 10 minutes fast (our house is so big it takes ten minutes to get from the bedroom to the kitchen, I guess).  The bathroom clock resets every time the power dips and we’re too lazy to change it so we just ignore it instead of unplugging it.  The bathroom has its own time zone.  Yes, that’s weird.

In our general mode, I’m always a little early and Jon is always a little late.  Both alternate modes are uncomfortable for both of us.  I think he’s selfish and he thinks I’m a manic people-pleaser.  We’re both right.  Our friends know we’re going to be late no matter what time they say to arrive.  The smart ones set the time early for us.  Of course, we’re smart, too, and we know who tries to manipulate our schedule to suit their selfish needs to eat at a particular moment… so nothing really works.

Late people will always be late and punctual people cannot change them.

I wish I didn’t miss the beginning of The Lion King on Broadway.  I wish I could watch trailers before movies.  I wish I could go to a dinner party without spending ten minutes waiting in the car first.  But these are bourgeois wishes and I’m not going to waste important wishes on trivialities.

As Bono said, “I cannot change the world, but I can change the world in me.”  I’m sitting in my Mazda watching the rain drip and the clock tick past 6:30 with no sign of Jon, so I decide to change my perception.  We were going to be late, but I was in the car at 6:15, so it wasn’t my fault.  I would lower those raised eyebrows with a forthright pronouncement that I did the right thing and I didn’t cause you this time-injury and I am perfect, I am perfect, I am perfect!!

Of course, no one cares if you’re perfect when you’re late.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Problems, Problems

My mother recently informed me she had to replace her refrigerator after 24 years.  They did a full kitchen remodel about two years ago but kept their old fridge. It was working fine and they were assured the space they were creating in the new kitchen would fit any newer standard refrigerator when it came time to replace the old one.  I personally thought the decision to keep that loud dinosaur was strange.  Why contaminate a new and expensive kitchen with an old almond appliance that still had magnets and postcards from my youth plastered to the façade?  Going home and seeing the old fridge was like reuniting with a childhood friend who somehow remained a child.  It gave me… chills (pun intended).  Still, I’ve learned when it comes to my parents and their decisions, Do Not Intervene.

So my Mom informed me that, as it turns out, new refrigerators do NOT fit in the space they had created for the old one.  After 24 years, refrigerator designs, like most people, have changed their shape a bit.  To get the same width they needed two more inches in height and that meant a major retooling of the upper cabinets.  Instead they chose a slightly narrower refrigerator and now their interior space is compromised.  And right before the holidays.  Oy.  They also have to deal with leveling problems and they had to wait for a part… according to my Mom it has been a small and exhausting nightmare.

So I sent her this cartoon and wrote:

 Dear Mom, 

You can substitute the word Monday with the word Life.

There are always issues, problems, trials, downturns, surprises, misfortunes, mishaps and quandaries around the corner.  ALWAYS.  The trick is to turn those corners first and confront them before they run into you on their own.  Kick them down the street before they kick you.  Or mail them to another zip code.  That's really all you can do.  Love, Mike”

Allow me to elaborate:

We had a cat problem.  On the other side of our next-door neighbor there used to be a condemned building with dozens of stray cats livin’ da life.  When the city tore down the building to prepare for new condos many of the cats relocated to other hovels in the neighborhood.  However, our dear neighbor cherished these cats, missed their wailing, and decided to feed them.  Daily.  So instead of having dozens of cats two doors down we now had dozens of cats on the other side of our fence.  They quickly dug under and started using our yard as their litter box.  It became a problem.

There are always problems.

In the case of the cats we chose to turn the corner first.  Before the cats had a chance to breed and move into our window wells and start decorating we called Animal Control and we got traps.  One by one they fell in love with the divine food we set for them and one by one the 50+ cats made their way to the local shelters where they were treated for their health issues and malnutrition.  The cats were neutered or spayed and most were adopted out.  Yes, some suffering feral cats were euthanized, but I still affirm it was a kinder fate than starving to death in a Saratoga winter. 

We also caught some possum.  We knew they would be instantly killed, as no one takes in a possum for a pet because they’re viscous, smell bad, bite, scratch and use the f-word.  So we took our problem into another zip code and released them into the wild woods 45 minutes away. 

Had my mother asked me for my opinion during her kitchen renovation I would have suggested that a 22-year old refrigerator was not only inefficient, but it would have to be replaced within a few years anyway.  I would have prodded her into a new purchase because, really, when you’re spending tens of thousands of dollars what’s another $1500 for a fridge at that point?  Also, it’s strange to show off a new kitchen with an old refrigerator.  It’s like having a wedding at The Ritz and then wheeling out leftover cake from the bridal shower.  But my mother didn’t ask, and now she’s got her small nightmare because there are always problems, and this problem turned the corner first.

Some problems cannot be foreseen.  Air conditioners fall out of apartment buildings all the time and of course we cannot avoid walking down the street.  We can, however, avoid a lot of problems by using our forward-thinking brains.  Don’t drink and drive.  Don’t drive on ice.  Don’t drive if you’re seven or ninety-seven.  Put down that second piece of cake.  Don't build a city below sea level in a hurricane-zone.   Don't build nuclear reactors on fault lines.  Smoking is like inviting future problems into your living room and asking them to get naked with you. 

Hey, we all make bad decisions.  That's part of life and that's how we learn.  Just yesterday I thought I could throw a forty-pound fireplace andiron into a six-foot high metal scrap bin without help.  The gash and bruise on my arm testify I was, in fact, somewhat incapable.  Oh well.  At least I didn't lose any money.  The point is if I took three seconds, a deep breath, and assessed my situation more accurately I would have seen that my machismo stunt was exactly the kind of idiocy that ends up on Tosh.O.  It could have landed on my head instead of my arm.  It would have seriously affected this blog.  Instead of leaving trouble bubbling in a distant wasteland, I called it over and we shook hands.  Ouch.

There are always problems, so let yourself off the hook when the random ones occur.  At the same time, do your best not to manifest new ones.  And always spring for a new refrigerator when you redo your kitchen.


Saturday, April 2, 2011

C. Eating Tips

1.  Eat a small portion and then wait 20 minutes before eating more.   Last night we ate two portions of chicken and then ran into the kitchen to get two more.  That was a big mistake.  We should have waited 20 minutes and then decided if we were still hungry.  It takes 20 minutes for the hunger triggers to reset, so if you eat too fast you eat more than you need to.  If we'd waited I would have realized that I wasn't actually hungry anymore, or that maybe one more chicken instead of two would have been sufficient.

2.  Eat the biggest meal in the morning.  This is tried and true because it ties in with how our metabolisms move from sleeping to waking and our energies from morning to night.  It’s difficult for me to do because I don't particularly enjoy breakfast foods.  My trick?  Eat backwards.  I’ll have the biggest meal (protein and veggies) in the morning around 10am and eat a salad in the afternoon, around 2 or 3pm.  Dinner at 7pm is oatmeal or eggs or cereal (not a sugar cereal!) and some a piece of fruit for dessert to clean the palate.  Surprise, I’m never hungry and I’ve burned my fuel efficiently throughout the day!  Note: waffles and pancakes are never allowed, whether you eat forwards or backwards.  Sorry. 

3.  Eat less.  Yes, that’s the simple stupid truth.  Duh, how easy!  Ugh.  It’s not easy.  Last week one night I ate two full fish fillets and half a bag of broccoli AND a salad.  That was WAY too much.  While I was making the food it felt appropriate—fish isn’t very filling, after all, but I could have had the two fish fillets and half the portion of broccoli and no salad and been just as satisfied without the additional 400 calories.  Again, look at rule #1: wait 20 minutes to digest before going back for more. And remember that the protein should only be the size of your palm. One fish fillet.  Every time you eat is an opportunity to work on eating right.
4. The level of your hunger does not determine how much food you need.  It seems like when we're REALLY hungry we eat LOTS more to fill ourselves back up.  The body doesn't work like this, though.  Hunger is just a trigger, and the trigger goes away when the food strikes it and the chemicals are secreted.  You can't re-dunk the clown once he's in the water.  If you're REALLY hungry, eat a little first—even if it's just two crackers.  Yes, crackers.  Consuming those 70 calories should make the trigger go away long enough that you can prepare a sensible-sized meal.  Also, as my friend Wendy pointed out, when you think you’re hungry you might actually be THIRSTY.  The thirst trigger feels and acts just like the hunger trigger, except it occurs more often.  If you feel hungry, try drinking an 8oz glass of water over 2-3 minutes (don’t chug—sip).  Chances are you won’t remain hungry when the trigger abates.  Test this theory on yourself.  It’s actually quite surprising.  Keep this in mind when you grocery shop.  NEVER shop hungry.  Always drink some water before you go into the store.  Trust me.  

5.   Wine is a food.  Wine has 100-150 calories per pour, and a pour is 5oz.  Each bottle of wine has FIVE glasses in it, NOT FOUR.  When Jon and I share a bottle of wine we're consuming as much as 375 calories each.  It's like eating that carrot cake all over again.  Plus, it slows the metabolism, which is the opposite of what we're trying to do.

6.  Ice Cream is Pure Weight.  A pint of Ben & Jerry's is easy to eat in one sitting because it's so small, but its actual serving size is set for four per container and each serving is 250-300 calories.  If you want to eat Ben & Jerry's for dessert, that's fine (I suppose) (not really), but instead of sharing a pint as one dessert for two you need to learn to stretch it to at least two days, maybe even three.  Think of it as "continuing the joy."  A single delicious sundae with the whipped cream and the hot fudge will set you back 1000 calories of progress, or two full days.  Even if you discard the cherry.  If you have to have the sundae, learn to enjoy the kiddie-size.  It's cheaper and it WILL make you just as happy.  Your tongue is what you're satisfying with these foods and nothing else.  The tongue only has two 'emotions' happy or unhappy.  There is no mid-range; there is no ambivalence with the tongue.  It will be happy with ten coatings of sugary cream.  It doesn't need twenty to be any happier. 

7.  Portions are Proportions.  The bigger the portion the higher you're making the mountain you're trying to climb and the more difficult it will become to reach the summit.  If you want the ice cream, eat half and put salt on the rest.  If you want the wine, drink 1/2 a glass.  Eat on smaller plates.  Eat in smaller bowls.  Eat with smaller utensils to it takes more time to eat, hitting that hunger trigger sooner.

8.  Plan your snacks.  Snacking is the most difficult thing to avoid, but planned snacking reduces guilt and calories.  KNOW that you WILL snack, but make your choices accordingly.  Purchase berries and have them at the ready.  Atkin's bars ARE candy bars.  See the soda ingredients in my other posting, and triple them for Atkin’s bars.  It's scary, weird, crazy stuff.  It's better to eat a smaller piece of genuine dark chocolate now and then to get over a sweet craving.  Trader Joe's 73% dark chocolate bars are 40 calories for a quarter of a bar, but you can train yourself to be satisfied eating that, since it's truly about the wonderful taste of things anyway.  Andy Warhol's spit-out-the-chocolate-after-you’ve-tasted-it is a good trick, albeit a little gross...

9. Fat has double the calories of carbs or proteins.  DOUBLE.  Like burgers?  Make turkey burgers.  Like fries?  Bake them, don't fry them.  Beware low-fat substitutes, though.  They only add other creepy chemicals to make up for the fat.  Instead find real foods that don't contain the same fat content.  Like turkey or soy instead of beef.

10. Don't Freak Out About Labels.  We used to look at the carb count on everything.  Then we looked at the sugar count on everything.  Then we looked at the fat count on everything.  What's the protein count?  Fiber?  Cholesterol?  It's all important but it's also all confusing because we make ourselves see what we want to see.  We can compare two foods and pick the "better" one, but does that mean it's still good for us?  We have to train ourselves to finding our new favorite better foods, sticking to the outside margins of the market and avoiding the interior preservative-laden shelves as best we can.  In the end, look at the CALORIES and look at the INGREDIENTS.  Carbs and fats can vary depending on whatever scary chemicals are being used to get those numbers where the manufacturer thinks the consumer wants it to be.  Seek out WHOLE ingredients, not chemical substitutes, and use to look up how much fuel you're really putting into your tank.