Latest 3 Things

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

37 Things

I should start this off by saying that last year’s birthday column is one my favorite pieces, and so when I thought about how I could possibly top that particular collection of aged wisdom, I was daunted to say the least. But, I’ve also come to realize that, despite all of the schooling (both formal and informal) that I’ve received, I still learn something almost every day. This realization is particularly profound as I continue to suffer through what I can only call as the American Age of the Idiot - where no one seems to be learning much of anything (despite having the whole of the world’s knowledge literally at our fingertips). And so in the interests of marking the passing of yet another year in this extraordinarily strange trip I call life - here we go with a brand new slate of lessons learned, for those who have yet to travel this far down the road to perhaps avoid a similar set of stumbles - or for those who have traveled farther, to reminisce about simpler times, here are 37 things I’ve learned:
  1. The worst thing about reality television used to be how unlike real life it was, now it’s how much like real life it is that makes it horrible.
  2. Driving is like air hockey, most people think they’re pretty good at it, but ninety percent of them just end up flailing around and causing most of their own damage.
  3. The primary difference in parenting between this generation and the last appears to be the amount of noise that will be tolerated prior to any beating.
  4. Peace of mind is never overpriced.
  5. Anything being sold to you by someone you’d otherwise pay to see naked is always overpriced.
  6. Justin Bieber is karma’s way of getting back at us for scaring our parents with Ozzy, Motley Crue and Iron Maiden.
  7. Of all the things that have come “back” into style, none is more baffling than the giant ass (e.g. J-Lo, Kim Kardashian, Niki Minaj) - the 19th Century called, and they want their healthy body image back.
  8. You’re more likely to be taken seriously with a clown nose on than with sunglasses parked on top of your head.
  9. No matter how the other gender inequities stack up, they are all outweighed by profoundly how much less it sucks to get older as a man.
  10. There is only one man over the age of 30 who is allowed to wear skateboard sneakers, and since you’re not Tony Hawk, get yourself to the store and buy some grown up shoes.
  11. No one wants to see your feet.
  12. How do I deal with the heat in Vegas? Well, not having to worry about earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, flooding, blizzards, ice storms, hail, humidity or even severe thunderstorms helps quite a bit.
  13. The one thing Facebook has done better than e-mail, phone calls or even real life, is just how easy and effective it has made it to completely erase someone from your universe.
  14. Twitter is the new MySpace.
  15. Rental car companies know something that we don’t: no one under the age of 25 should be driving - and they’re right.
  16. Stupidity is bad. Willful stupidity is worse. Petulant and indignant willful stupidity is the worst - and this is why I both fear and hate the Tea Party.
  17. Despite all the idealogy I’ve been exposed to (willingly or otherwise), researched, or even heard about, the only comprehensive social theory that seems to hold up under any scrutiny is economics. If you want to understand the world around you, put down the Bible and pick up a macroeconomics textbook.
  18. Everyone who really gives a damn about you will give you more than one chance.
  19. When it comes down to choosing between incompetence and crazy - smart people choose incompetence, because at least you can plan for that.
  20. Three things you should never lie about (because the truth is way too easy to find out): your age, your weight and whether or not you can dance.
  21. Becoming a lawyer didn’t make it harder to understand why people hate us, it made it a whole lot easier.
  22. The only great American thing that will never be duplicated overseas is college sports.
  23. That being said, the only things I love more than Navy Football are the people I knew when I was seven.
  24. A bad mother is neither uncommon, excuse-worthy, or an indicator of how I feel about women. It’s just a bad mother - look around, they’re everywhere - and most of us turn out just fine.
  25. The three most reliable indicators I’ve found for when it’s time to completely disregard everything someone says (and just start nodding): reading/defending the Twilight series, believing Sarah Palin is a viable Presidential candidate, and regularly watching Fox News.
  26. The primary objective of my thirties has been to avoid, at all costs, my life resembling a Dockers commercial in any way.
  27. I’m sure I know why we’ve invested young women with the idea that they’re all beautiful, but not so sure why we’ve imbued them with the idea that they should all get paid for it.
  28. A solid rule for plastic surgery: keep the knife away from your face.
  29. In the end, you will get what you deserve - good or bad.
  30. Being older is fantastic, acting older sucks.
  31. No matter how far I go, no matter what I achieve, unless you’re a female, honking your horn at me for any other reason besides my failing to notice the light change is an invitation for me to kick your ass.
  32. Even if you’re part of the world‘s most popular religion, you must believe that over two thirds of the people on the planet are completely fucked. I think it’s much more likely that it’s all of us.
  33. The two least attractive words you can say to a woman at 37: “my roommate.”
  34. Being good at math never got me laid. It did, however, help me figure out just about anything - including why I wasn’t getting laid.
  35. Obese people don’t have a “medical condition” they have a “motivation condition” that we used to call “being lazy.”
  36. Getting older isn’t about wanting sex less, it‘s about sometimes wanting sex less than a really good back rub.
  37. The beginning of any great thing often requires the end of some other really good thing - so here’s to a great 38th year.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

3 Great Gifts

Despite my best efforts wishing to the contrary, my birthday is rapidly approaching, and my trek into the “middle-aged” demographic is progressing past its infancy. To be honest, though, if you’ve got to grow old (and I have it on good authority that you do), it’s really best to do it as a man. After all, the guy from The Most Interesting Man in the World commercials looks like he’s somewhere north of 60, Sean Connery is north of 70, and Hugh Hefner is north of 80, and all three of them will see more supermodels naked this week than I’ll see during the rest of my life. Being an old guy is cool, where as being an old lady means support hose, comfortable shoes and feeding pigeons in the park. But of the few downsides to aging with a y-chromosome, perhaps the most stark is the dearth of great birthday presents after you’ve turned 21. Like most men, my taste in toys runs on the pricey side, and the number of people in my life who like me enough to buy any of them for me runs on the very, very low side. And so, as most birthdays pass, I’m left to buy myself something great. There have, however, been a few presents that have defied this trend; gifts so unexpectedly wonderful that they still give me pause - and make me immeasurably grateful for my friends (and even for my birthdays), and so in the interests of optimism for my many birthdays to come, here are the three best birthday presents I’ve ever gotten:

1. Surprise, Surprise. For as easy as I am to disappoint, I’m really quite difficult to surprise. After two adult careers in leadership and professional advising, I’ve learned to pick up on little hints to put together the big picture - long before it’s obvious. While this type of skill has it’s advantages - it also has it’s downside, in that no one was ever able to successfully throw me a surprise party before the age of 34. It’s not as though I expect or even enjoy a giant to-do being made out of an otherwise nondescript day - after all, once you’re out of your twenties, you’re really only obligated to celebrate the passing of decades rather than years, and there’s a waning joy with each one (until you’re making Willard Scott’s list). But having spent nearly a decade of my own on the left side of the country - where good friends are in vastly shorter supply that good networking opportunities, I found myself wanting for the type of fun that everyone was pretending to have with their “friends”. And so it happened that a very good girlfriend planned a very good surprise party directly under my nose. The ruse was so convincing that I nearly came unglued after passing through the door of the party room at my then-favorite indoor go-kart track. There were a few people there - some true and honest friends, some well-intended absences and a lot of smiles to go around. There will be more birthdays, and more parties, but I suspect I’ll never be surprised like that again, and that will have been my best birthday party ever.

2. Tequila Sunrise. I wish I could say that I turned 21 someplace cool: Cabo, Vegas, New York City, or even someplace with a beach. I wish I could say there was a famous bar, a luxurious downtown setting, or some cool band playing. I wish I could say that there were dozens of my friends helping me ring it in, and some Hangover-style epic story of shenanigans hazily recalled the next day. But I can’t. I turned 21 on the Kings Bay Naval Submarine Base in Kings Bay, Georgia - at the crappy base bar, with all of about twenty people total in attendance, and only one there for me. Sammy T. Wray, USMC, the craziest jarheaded son-of-a-bitch I ever met, and a classmate of mine at the Naval Academy just happened to have the extraordinary misfortune of being stuck in Kings Bay for the only day he’d ever willingly spend on a submarine. Years later I would return to this base as my first and only duty station as a commissioned officer - and come to discover that Kings Bay is affectionately known as the armpit of Georgia, which is a generous explanation. And if you think that drinking in the base bar on a rural submarine base on a Sunday night in mid-June sounds horribly lonely and depressing, you’d be right. But backed by a DJ with a bad mic and a music collection ripped straight from Top 40 radio, the courage that only your first 4 shots of tequila can provide and the support of one very loud shipmate, I had a night that I only barely remember, and a morning that involved my first “strange ceiling” wake up. I’m sure I never thanked him appropriately - so, wherever you are, thanks, Sammy.

3. Up-Chucks. Every once in a while you have a friend who knows you so well that rather than getting you what you want for your birthday they get you something you need. Now, I don’t mean they’re wrapping up household necessities, vitamin supplements or a long-overdue gym membership. No, I mean, they give you something that you never would have found on your own, and that becomes something you can’t possible live without. I usually try to achieve this Zen by giving loved ones their first Apple products - but as I have a house full of those, no one can replicate that particular method. But in 2007, my best friend (and a better friend than I deserve or could imagine) David gave me just such a gift - in a small cardboard box that didn’t have any batteries, wires or screens in it. After having spent eight years living there, and finally making my escape, it could easily be argued that there still isn’t much California about me - but aside from some great friends, the only other thing I took away from the Golden State was a rockin’ pair of Chucks. For the uninitiated, I’m talking the iconic Converse Chuck Taylor All-Star shoe - and my first pair (and the best birthday gift ever) was a black & white pair of low-rise lace ups. Since that day, I’ve bought almost ten more pairs, worn them to everything from weddings to country bars and they’ve become a seminal part of my adult wardrobe. But, I don’t like any of them as much as my first pair - which I’ll again be wearing this year to celebrate.

* * *

Whoever said that birthdays aren’t about presents has never really gotten any good ones. In fact, the best thing about birthdays are the presents. There’s nothing particularly awesome about turning another year older - especially after turning 21; so unless it’s about the cake - it has to be about the presents. But it’s just as important to note that presents don’t always come wrapped. In a world this busy, just the gift of people’s time is precious - and good times and good memories are some of the most enduring gifts you’ll ever receive. Birthdays are milestones in our lives, but if all you have to mark the passage of another year is a higher number to put next to your name - you’re doing it wrong. So, this year, I’m hoping for some great presents - inasmuch as I’m hoping for great times with great friends, because while every poor bastard has to get older once a year, not everyone has all of you to make each year better than the last.