Wednesday, June 20, 2012

У меня есть жена

Four years - the first full term, if you will.  You run on a platform of all the things you're going to do; care for everyone, keep a budget, trim the fat, uphold the common good, educate your young, honor your elders, defend what is yours, and promote the values that bind you together.  You compromise on all of them here and there, not because you lose your way or falter in your commitments, but because you have to compromise sometimes in order to achieve most of those goals.  At the very least, you have to prioritize a bit, and in the end you always have to cut some programs that really mattered to someone.

But if you keep every promise you possibly can (even those that were ill-advised or over-stated), and always act within everyone's best interests, hopefully you'll be asked to stick around for another term.

I don't know anything about politics, but marriage sure as hell works that way.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

The Truth Hurts

A schism due to indecision;
regret and then recidivism
beget a past split through a prism
scattered by abrupt division,
tinged with it's revisionism.
What fool would such a path envision?
Truth is a bludgeon in love's fission,
but disregard is an incision.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

The Medium Moderate / Insincere Filth

Forty years ago, I can imagine Bourbon St. in New Orleans was a wholly different experience; the locals who are old enough to remember and the tourists here on business who once came in their youth lament the change, but you'd hardly notice them anymore.  The whole of the French Quarter and much of the surrounding area revolves around the service industry, as does the neighboring business district across Canal St. that is home to the less historic but ultimately swankier hotels, the Morial Convention Center, and the Sugar Bowl; in a post-Katrina town many of those service people are imports, with only a passing sense of the history of the town and the people, and even those born and raised in the Big Easy are too young to remember it as it was.

Much like the Las Vegas Strip, Bourbon St. is a relatively safe parody of what was once a genuine reputation for sin, indulgence, and vice.  Bachelor parties, organized tours, conventioneers, and retirees are slowly chasing down and overtaking drunken students and dedicated hedonists as the primary clientele, and once you get past the ready availability of liquor and strippers, you realize that the food sucks now, everything is overpriced, and worse than being filthy, it's insincerely so.  The public order laws, police presence, and company policies have been engineered to provide what is ultimately a sort of pervert's Disney experience.

All of this competes of course with the priorities of a much larger, richer city that wants to recapture or protect their history and help their own people; if you stray from Bourbon St. into the rest of the Quarter and on into the Marigny, you can still see some semblance of the old New Orleans of legend...but even that may not be there for much longer.  The one adult themed store that caters to the traditional leather and S&M community is being drowned out by a trio of whitewashed chain stores that sell bland "intimacy enhancers" designed for vanilla couples, and for every storefront steeped in local culture and indigenous practices, there are five convenience store that sell cheap copies imported from China, from voodoo dolls to plastic versions of the sculptures, glass works, taxidermy, and other oddities.  There are a few very good restaurants remaining, but many of them are sadly attached to a celebrity chef who is never actually present, or to someone that has insisted that New Orleans somehow needed fusion foods based only loosely on what was already one of the richest and most diverse culinary traditions in the world.

But the heart of it is still there in the people who remain true to the experience; brass bands wandering in front of Pirate's Alley, the smell of roux and bread, and a pervasive idea that even the most desperate of souls can revel alongside the local gentry and the tourists.  The merchandise and services may be overpriced in places, but the soul of being in New Orleans is still entirely free of charge.

Other than the toll it takes on your sleep and sobriety, of course.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

She is a Diamond

Untameable adámas is oft a condradiction:
the hardness of her surface and the softness of her glow,
her value in adornment and inherent rarity,
the way she flashes brilliant when she's held and turned just so.

What makes such a thing beautiful is her imperfections,
a blueprint of her forming that observant eyes might see;
inclusions give character, and her color hues the light,
as if each and every flaw has been tailored thus to be.

She hides it in the rough, but when purposely directed
her nature is to radiate what she herself demands.
To care for her is labor, and to know her is an art.
She shines the most when polished, by patient and caring hands.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

She Who Dances In The Glade

A girl might dream of dancing light,
that in the forest flits and twirls madly;
a random, airy thing of faerie fire
and silken wing, this daring sprite
who sheds robes and concerns gladly
to revel there in unrestrained desire.

A man might wander through that wood,
discarding care, forsaking human toil
of plow, and trowel, and stone-sharpened blade
to run and howl where two legs stood
before, and search the sky and soil
for scent of she who dances in the glade.

And should their revelries conspire
to bring them to the perfect place and time,
each might know the other’s nature on sight
and curse their human skin a liar.
A beast may out of man thus climb,
and a girl dream she is a dancing light.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Thursday, March 22, 2012


You know that dream...the one where you find yourself wandering the halls of a high school, nodding your head at guys and winking at cute girls?  You're not sure how you got there.  You don't really remember the layout and even some of the people; you think to yourself maybe it's more of an amalgam of lots of places and times than a strict remembrance, but it feels perfectly normal until you realize people are staring and pointing.  And then you notice what's wrong:

Son of a bitch; I'm naked, aren't I?

As I get older, two things occur to me.  First, that dream isn't as intimidating or awkward as it used to be.  Body image concerns and general embarrassment are a little like stage fright; some people have to get loosened up a bit and afterwards they're totally fine, and some people just need practice.  Some people can't get past it, and some just never give a shit in the first place.  The older I get, the less I am concerned about what people think of me in general.

Second, when it happens in real life the judge isn't nearly as tolerant as one would hope.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

문제 없어 / "Bai-bai"

The phrase 문제 없어 (munje eobs-eo) means "no problem"; useful when responding to any number of inquiries, but perhaps most importantly it signals that you are having a good time while getting hammered on 폭탄주 (pogtan-ju) or "bomb drinks".  If your host asks "it's okay?", knowing this little snippet of Korean will make them laugh, display that you are sober enough to continue drinking, and having fun.

If at some point a co-worker mangles this phrase, and then begins speaking in Spanish, your Korean host may simply waive to them like a child and say "Bai-bai" to indicate that Elvis has left the building.  P.J. O'Rourke said it best: the Irish of Asia.  I'm a big man and I held my own last night, but it's daunting to see a man half my size keeping pace with the soju bombs; in the States it would be expected that someone my size could pound a few shots strategically hidden in a similar number of beers, but here they seemed genuinely surprised.  If they tell you it isn't a competition, it's because they are assuming it probably isn't much of one, and they're likely correct; these guys do this once or twice a week all year long.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Taipei / Big Spicy

This is the most polite culture I've ever witnessed in my entire life; the most insulting thing I've heard anyone call anyone else is the equivalent of "dumb head", and people appeared shocked by the epithet.  They drive like maniacs, weaving in and out of one another using yellow double lines, parking spaces, and sidewalks as suggestions rather than requirements...but it works for them because they pay attention and give way without fail.  Most foreigners I think misunderstand when they see people wearing face masks that the person wearing the mask is afraid of getting sick, when in reality the person wearing the mask is already sick, and is being decent enough to make sure they don't fuck anyone else up.  Respectful to one another, kind to foreigners with an infant's vocabulary and only passable pronunciation in their language (like yours truly, for instance), and genuinely pleased at even the most meager of effort to acclimate and participate, Taiwanese people may be the nicest in the entire world for all I can tell.

I will acknowledge that they also may have also found it somewhat endearing that prior to learning anything more useful, I practiced the phrase "非常大辣" (fēicháng dà là), which means "very big spicy".  Perhaps watching me turn crimson and give them a thumbs up while voluntarily eating what I can only describe as lava and noodles is simply entertaining.

Regardless, I fucking love this town.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Agnosco vos patiamini at Manus Meum

To all of those that I failed in my youth,
the ones to whom I spoke an awkward truth
or careless lie, in malice or in love,
touched with iron hand cloaked with velvet glove
to frame a moment still suspended here,
in time, in words, and in memory clear:

Forgive me for the ills I did bring you
as you cherish joys that I did sing to
calm your heart, or stay your troubled dreamings;
the saint, the sinner, they were mere seemings
formed of fantasies that belied a plan,
draped upon the shoulders of but a man.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

The Sweetness of Success & The Bitterness of Defeat

Some time ago I embarked on two journeys almost simultaneously: I inherited responsibility for a critical but somewhat neglected function at work (whereupon the immediate professional advice included "ease into it, and try not to stress out"), and within 30 days I was diagnosed with Type II diabetes (whereupon the immediate medical advice included "set realistic goals, and try not to stress out").

To frame both of these endeavors, gentle reader, I will confess to those that do not know me well personally that I am mildly famous in certain circles for my complete unwillingness to take anything easy.  The new job was 180° out from the one that preceded it, and I was woefully, embarrassingly under-qualified academically; I'm not a hack, but I simply never had the benefit of formal education on any of the topics that required my I spent 90 days cramming.  I read dozens of books, called in some favors from friends, and -- unfuckingthinkably -- asked for help figuring some things out.  It was maddening, but it was also invigorating.  And then a third through that process, somebody told me my pancreas was staging a goddamned mutiny.

So, I did what any reasonable person would do: I doubled down.  I stopped smoking immediately, dropped most caffeine and all sugar out of my diet, and settled on a monastic 75 grams of carbohydrates per day when the nutritionist told me only a complete asshole would try to send diabetes into remission instantly with an Atkins diet.  Partial asshole, I noted, was still on the table.  My initial endocrinologist referred me to a partner who was, if I may be so bold, a total dick.  My A1C was low enough that he took me off of one of the two medications I was initially prescribed at my first checkup.  Confidently, I told him I would be ready to come off the second the next time we spoke; patronizingly, he smiled and said "let's not get ahead of ourselves".  Mother fucker, I thought.  You do not know with whom you are dealing.  Having matured in my thirties and being humbled by the recent betrayal of my own body, I refrained from telling him to kiss my ass.

Over the next few months I realized that checking my blood sugar three times a day was freaking me out and distracting me from work.  In complete and utter disregard for the rules, I stopped doing it.  It was always within a few points of where it was supposed to be, and being just slightly high made me stressed out...which made the next check even higher, as stress directly influences blood sugar, my endocrinologist (asshat) had warned.  I managed to have two very painful, protracted arguments over my new professional space, and eventually was vindicated in both.  After the second "uh...I guess you were right" moment from my detractors, the bullshit at work stopped and people began to take me as seriously as they had in my previous role.  I returned to the doctor, who due to scheduling conflicts referred me to another partner, who checked my A1C and told me I could suspend the second medication if I wanted to, right on schedule.  I couldn't help it; I told him to tell his little buddy (my second endocrinologist) to go fuck himself.  Since it was optional, I did the smart thing and stayed on the second med anyway; basically, it was the difference between continuing to avoid carbs like they were kryptonite, and being able to have desert once in a while like a normal goddamned person, and in the end the prospect of an occasional taste of desert won.

I finally felt back in control, and I was even caught up at work.  Like an ass, I immediately rectified that by taking on another responsibility...and that's been my life for the last year or so: I devour work when I'm on the clock, I play hard and spend time with my wife when I'm not, and I revel in the fact that even as a diabetic, I feel like I can eat whatever the hell I want because I've stopped wanting to eat the shit that caused this problem.  I can't stand the taste of high-fructose corn syrup now, and if I eat more than a very small portion of rice, bread, pasta, or even potatoes I feel like I'm going to have to digest and excrete concrete because of it, so I simply don't do that.  I get almost all of my sugar from things like fruit and honey in moderate portions, and most of my carbs from vegetables.  My cholesterol isn't perfect, but my blood sugar is controlled, my weight is down significantly, and I feel better than I did in my twenties.

And just as all of that shit was beginning to make sense, this last week both of these journeys took an unexpected turn.  I saw a fourth endocrinologist (the first is still overbooked, the second was busy, and the third no longer works there...I saw his replacement), and she flat told me to stop taking the second med I was on for diabetes.  No need, not even as a precaution.  I am essentially in remission; I'm still a diabetic somewhere deep inside, but not functionally.  For the time being my pancreas has decided we can be friends again provided I'm not an idiot.  Immediately after getting this news, I get the announcement at work that the functional area in which I've been mercilessly beating my head against the wall for eighteen months is now stable enough that I should pass it along to a couple of people to keep the lights on and the rudder straight.  It isn't that it's not important anymore, or that I didn't do's just...over.  My job was to stabilize it, and my boss feels that now that it's stable the business is going to stop focusing on it, so he wants me to pick up something else that's more visible.  I'm flattered, but I'm also irritated; this last adventure was my third in the department in less than three years when I started, and it was supposed to be somewhat permanent.  Just like the endocrinologist had insinuated that I couldn't get off of the medication in that short of a time, everyone at work had framed my new role as something that would always require attention.  I'd eventually want to do something else, perhaps, but that function would need someone like me forever, and that simply isn't the case.  Now that the specifications have been written and the major arguments have concluded, my superiors feel there is no more room to push the envelope in that space that is useful to the greater effort.  I don't know that I particularly agree with that...but I am, as I may have mentioned before, the kind of lunatic who thrives on charging into the mouth of hell.

I don't just love a challenge, I fucking need a challenge.  I don't know who the hell I am anymore unless I'm doing something somebody told me isn't practical or, even better, possible.  And that weirds me the hell out.  When did an iconoclastic streak in my adolescence turn into a fucking pathological need?  Everybody enjoys thumbing their nose at convention once in a while, or feeling like they've accomplished something that was improbable or simply difficult...but what manner of malcontent has an identity crisis when his boss tells him he can relax because his job just got easier, and his doctor tells him he's successfully mitigated an illness that kills people who aren't that fortunate.  I don't exactly miss working 70 hours a week, and I sure as hell don't resent the notion that I'm probably not going to have to deal with neuropathy, renal trouble, go blind, or have to take insulin in my forties and fifties...but as completely absurd as it sounds, with those monsters slain I'm just sort of sitting here polishing my armor, sharpening my sword, and thinking wistfully about the next time somebody says those three magical words to me:  You Will Fail.

Bring it.