Don't get too comfortable

Death is comfortable. I didn't say dying is comfortable. I imagine that actually perishing is the epitome of un-comfortable. But death, being dead, yeah, that's the ultimate luxury. Not another care in the world to be had. No stress over money, or legacy, or whether you're balancing priorities in your life the right way, and what your kids are up to and what their future will be. That's all over and you can just relax. Comfortably.

Except of course that then it's over. The sum of your life's accomplishments are complete once you're dead. Setting aside for a minute the possibility of being rich and having your money work for humanity after you're gone, setting that aside, once you're dead what you personally can do for anyone else is finished.

I don't know about you, but the thought of never creating anything else for anyone makes me very un-comfortable. Pushing past 40 years old, knowing that half my life is probably gone already gives me a particular kind of anxiety, a sort of gnawing pain deep inside my chest. I'm grieving all the time that I've already wasted being comfortable. Too comfortable. Too dead.

Which brings me to my number one grievance today. Facebook is too fucking comfortable. And I fucking hate it, because it's fucking killing me.

Don't get me wrong, the book of faces is profoundly useful for keeping up with friends and family, and what parties I should be attending. No doubt about that. But nowadays every morning it seems like, I wake up in bed next to my beautiful wife and what do we do? Do we plan world domination? Or even what we have to look forward to today?

Do we fuck? 


Well, not most days, anyway.

What we fucking do is we fucking fire up our fucking iPhones and catch up on our fucking Facebook feeds. Sometimes for a good half hour to an hour. Cause it's comfortable. Having the time to see what inane bullshit our friends and celebrity causes are serving up instead of rushing off to work or whatever else needs to be accomplished is a fucking luxury.

Picture a poor Syrian couple fleeing the mayhem and destruction of the ISIS scourge. He and she and the kids, camping out as refugees in god-forsaken desert along with a hundred thousand of their best friends and family, all shitting and pissing and begging for mercy.

I bet our lovely couple would love to have the luxury of checking Facebook feeds in the morning when they wake up, but no, they have to drag themselves awake to face inevitable suffering and chaos. On a certain level I envy them, not because I want to be them, but because I suspect they're more alive than I am.

Our poor Syrian fuckers, they are present.

They're up to their necks in shit. Everything that they knew and held dear has gone to complete fucking hell, but despite it all they keep going because it's all they know how to do. To stay alive and to stay alive you have to be present.

I used to see all the crazy fucked up shit going on in the world, and all these poor people popping out babies they can't feed, fodder for catastrophe, and I'd get all pissed off and righteous and be like Jesus-fucking-christ, why don't those stupid cunts stops having sex??? Do they really have to rut and have babies in those conditions? Seriously, what the fuck is wrong with those idiots!

I'm the idiot and I hope the universe forgives me for being such a judgmental clueless jackass. Of course they're not going to stop fucking and popping out babies. Cause when you're in the present that's just what happens. You're not comfortable, but so what. The sun's going down, your eight kids finally passed out from heat exhaustion and hunger, your tent smells like shit and smoke, but hey now... there's a blanket and you look into the eyes of your haggard wreck of a wife and goddammit you love her more than you ever did before because she's your rock, and you give each other that come hither look and then she reaches down and grabs you in the way you like it, and there you go, a hit of the sweet sweet drug, the only one that can relieve their pain. And of course nine months later there's even more mouths crying out for a too-dry tit. And now we have even more death and more of everything that is terrible and beautiful and disgusting about humanity, but man! least that shit is living, am I right?

What we do over here. Correction, what most of us do over here, where it's nice and we hire landscapers and maids and get that little ball of fat in our arm removed cause it's ugly, all that stuff that comes with the luxury of being born in the right place and time... all that shit that we do, all that time we consume being consumers, capitalist egotists. All that time.


For what exactly? Why do we get so much time, and do so little with it?

You and I have so much potential. For whatever fucked up chance and circumstance, I'm over here in my beautiful house, with my expensive computers, fretting about my diet stripped of refined sugar, cause I want to live a few extra years and be able to look in the mirror and have my ego be happy with what it sees.

And I'm comfortable.

And I'm dying.

Sure, kind of like everyone else is dying, except maybe worse. Because maybe you don't bear the same psychic burden, but let me tell you that somehow, the same fucked up chance and circumstance that got me here to where I am now? Not only am I failing to live up to my potential for greatness, but every fucking waking minute that I try to be present there is something that manages to remind me, to make me acutely aware of the fact that I'm failing to live up to my potential.

And face it, as much as I want to blame Mark Fucking Zuckerberg and the endless streaming carnival of human folly that is my Facebook feed, as much as you might want to say fuck those silicon valley fuckers and their disruptions! As much as you might want to shift the blame, nah man, you can't honestly do that.

Trying to pawn off that responsibility would be like a junky blaming his drug dealer cause the drugs are too good, too pure.

Being upset cause the drugs got us too high and now we don't want to do something else.

Cause we're too comfortable in this place.

In this bed. In this dirt.

Dying. Ultimately, dead and gone and forgotten.

So the questions remain: How do we change? How do we live more than we are living?

How do we shake out the comfort without destroying everything that gives our lives meaning? Without hurting the relationships that keep us going? The wife. The kids. The close friends. Seriously, despite it all, what about their comfort? Does it count for anything? Do I really want to impose my definition of what makes life worth living on them against their will? It would be fine if they figured it out themselves, but what if they don't?

Middle Seat

The cushion directly in front of my face has a bottom border that meets up with the plastic top part of the tray mechanism. Mostly because I’m searching for any excuse to ignore the wailing toddler about 5 feet behind my eardrums, I notice that strangely enough, in what is an otherwise well-put-together plane, the border of the top of the seat with the middle section of the seat is unfinished, by which I mean that there is no seam preventing the material from fraying and sprouting threads along where it was sheared into the correct shape. Most of the imperfections are rather small and innocuous, of little concern.

About 3/5ths of the distance from the left edge of the seam, a blueish-silver thread hangs down about an inch, overlapping the word WHILE in the the FASTEN SEAT BELT WHILE SEATED notice. The thread quivers in the airstream from the nozzle above my seat, tempting me. I pull on it, adding about a quarter inch to its length and moving it from the center of the WHILE to the W. I wonder how the thread got there. Was it an artifact of careless work by the laborers undertaking the recent interior renovation of this aging Airbus A320, when Delta added more comfortable ECONOMY COMFORT seating? Or did a bored passenger notice a small thread and pull on it? Did that passenger, in exercising his or her destructive indulgence, realize their contribution to the entropy of this plane?

I reach out and pull on one of the smaller threads along the right third of the border, the act a remorseless acceptance of nihilist urges that have been demonizing me lately. My activity catches the attention of the passenger to my right, who looks up absently from his perusal of the airline magazine. He’s an older black man who has been sleeping for most of the flight, except for those 15 minutes or so when he paced back and forth in the aisle, nursing what appeared to be a pain in his lower back, or perhaps his leg. He’s turning the pages of the magazine too fast to permit any actual reading or studying of the contents within.  I notice that he is watching me pulling the thread, and turn my head to meet his look. But he quickly goes back to his magazine, aware that his mere observation of this subversive little activity could result in unwanted conversation or confrontation.

Meanwhile, the passenger to my left continues his inexplicable and incongruent obsession with solitaire on his phone. Seriously man, you’ve spent almost 2 hours playing solitaire. Is there not a better use of your time?

I pull some more on the new fraying until I am satisfied that the rough seam of the cushion in front of my face has achieved something of an aesthetic balance. There are now two long threads hanging below the beige plastic, one on either side. My contribution has resulted in the partial obscuring of the O in the word BOTTOM in the phrase USE BOTTOM CUSHION FOR FLOTATION.

How many times has this cushion been farted on? Is it wiped down by the cleaning crew on any sort of regular schedule, or does the airline rely on the automatic wiping inherent in regular contact of clothes with a shiny vinylesque surface?

I shudder at the thought of how many germs must breed on these seats, and the subsequent thought that tragic circumstances could  plunge us all into the sea, turning that floating seat into my closest friend and savior.


I fart silently on my seat and adjust my noise-cancellation headphones. The damn toddler is now laughing. Spoiled brat.

War & Peace

We live in the most peaceful age in human history. One of the great ironies of this progress is that our deepest worry is no longer death of our body, but death of our soul. We don't live in fear of bullets, starvation or disease. We do fear having lived an inconsequential life: dying without having ever really lived.

I preach the relentless pursuit of excellence and warn against traveling well-sterilized paths. I didn't spend my childhood on a carefully monitored playground, and albeit for reasons out of my control, the Ivy League education, comfortable job, and sensible marriage were never an option. Still, in less than 40 years, I have managed to figure out enough to carve out my little mark in human history. Not only that, but I reproduced too. And despite the post-divorce challenges inherent in being a part-time parent, I have constantly tried to provide my offspring with experiences of true intensity and meaning.

Still, when I look into their eyes, content that they are healthy and relatively happy, I wonder: Will they fall victim to that particular kind of  depression and despair that persecutes those with peaceful, affluent lives? My own childhood was clouded by the specter of global nuclear annihilation. My impatience to get out there and see the world was existential. If I didn't rush, there might not be anything left to see.

My kids don't have the same urgency. Maybe things have been too peaceful for them.

What I Want


❏ knowing my meaningful purpose in life
❏ working towards that purpose instead of ignoring it
❏ positive spiritual beliefs that are uplifting to myself and others
❏ opportunities to help others and make the world better
❏ a thriving career and solid professional reputation
❏ enough money to take care of basic needs and savings
❏ a partner who is stable and loves me unconditionally
❏ plenty of great sex and loving intimacy
❏ a happy, beautiful and peaceful home
❏ kids who are loving, kind and grateful
❏ a large circle of diverse friends that appreciate me for who I am
❏ neighbors that like talking to me and happy to do favors
❏ gratitude from those that I directly take care of on daily basis
❏ freedom to travel to exotic locations
❏ delicious food and lots of good music and dancing
❏ stimulating intellectual conversations and debates
❏ a dog that doesn't roll around in shit
❏ a little bit of spare time to indulge my hobbies
❏ occasional quiet time to enjoy a good book or two

and I guess...

❏ sympathy from my best friends when I don't in fact have it all

I actually have almost all of these things, most of the time. But sometimes the most important ones seem very out of reach. And there's nothing I can do about it except thank the universe for blessing me with the others. Still hurts...

Engine Failure

Finding the grey darkness of the restroom comforting, I neglected to latch the door. The need to pee had overcome my desire to stay and comfort Tamara. Now I had an unexpected moment of solitude. A moment during which my mind went blank. My face stared back at me in the mirror, without really looking. Behind it my mind reeled, a status check winding away, a mental inventory. Was I prepared for what might come next?

My pockets bulged with supplies culled moments ago from my daypack: a purple anodized aluminum LED flashlight, a red bandanna, a packet of almond butter, a pill bottle with many types of medicine, my wallet, our passports, iPhone, earbuds.

What about my feelings? What was I feeling? Regret? No, no regret. Don't do that to me brain. Must not feel regret right now. But I thought of the kids and winced. Sadness filled me up as I realized I would not see the kids graduate and get older and do the stuff that kids do when they grow up. Their own sadness to lose me. Look at the bright side. They would be provided for (materially) in abundance and that thought caused a wave of gratitude washed over my nerves. Life insurance, yes. I hoped that Taylor would be smart enough to use our resources wisely and felt confident that she would. Shades of her developing maturity already show through where teenage angst and humor are flaking off the surface. She'd be fine without me, wouldn't she? 

What about Liam? Round and round we go, every other weekend, mostly, where I pick him up and we get to exist in each other's presence for a while during which he doesn't seem to care that much about me, or anything really, and I can't seem to do anything about him not caring. Is it just because he's 14 and caught in the middle of a difficult custody battle? Would it hurt him less if I was gone forever? Or would he carry regrets about our relationship for the rest of his life? With a measure of shame I admitted to myself that even though those difficult issues might be over soon, new ones would take their place.

Out the door and back up the aisle. My fellow passengers are in their own worlds, many in varying states of distress and low-grade panic. An attendant pushed past, clutching her prayer beads. Only a few people in their seats going about their normal flight routine. The man across the aisle from me continued to read his book. Could he be that calm? Or resigned. There was no sense in standing in the aisle, so I sat down and put my arms around Tamara, one of the great, if not greatest loves of my life. She trembled a little bit, I assume holding on to hope things would be okay, but having trouble with the thought of not seeing her five year-old son Tenzin again. I would be her rock right now.


The rest of the time until we landed was filled with repetitive speculations about what would happen and admonitions from the flight crew to leave our belongings behind when evacuating and how to assume the crash landing position, arms above head, holding on to the seat in front of you, awaiting impact.

I turned to Tamara and told her that if a fireball was coming, she should face down and not inhale. I said this in all seriousness because I read it once, or maybe I imagined it, but it seemed wise and good advice. She nodded her agreement. If we survived the impact, neither of us would let the fireball take us.

I looked out the window and a plume of liquid was streaming out of one of those little cones that protrude from the rear of the wing. We were dumping a lot of jet fuel. To minimize the fire I suppose? Perhaps they were lightening the load to make the emergency landing easier.

As the wheels touched down my eyes welled up with gratitude for a lifetime of good fortune. Luck had not abandoned me after all. I will die someday, but not today! Elation gave way to feelings of pragmatic opportunism. What a great story to share! People will love it. I'm a survivor! Wait a minute, have I really accomplished so much in my life already that contemplating an early demise provoked only shrugs of resignation? Was it a defense mechanism?

I guess the only thing you can control in that situation is how you react, and for me it meant forcing myself to stay composed and calm. To help Tamara and others to cope. To make assurances. To look at the bright side.

Hey, think about it, at least the engine didn't explode, right? At least we weren't in the ocean, right? That's a good thing, isn't it?

And hoping that a smile hides your worry.




the little rituals

How unique could my little rituals be? They can't be that unique, after all, they feel instinctual, like they have been handed down to me across countless generations.

The thought popped into my head as I was finishing up my morning shower. Standing there, by myself, naked, the warm water soothing my nerves, I ran my hands up and down my torso and around my neck. I tilted and stretched my tendons and muscles, grimacing as I massaged the little aches and pains that plague my shoulders. The discomfort that tells me that I'm out of shape and getting older is somehow never enough to merit any serious attention or change in lifestyle. My morning shower stretch is a little ritual, in that I do it every day in a similar fashion, but never significant enough that I give it any conscious thought nor do I bother to call it a habit. It just is.

What else do we do in such a way? What little rituals fill in the hours and minutes of our day? If our life is like a glass jar, and big momentous events and occurrences are like rocks that we purposely or accidentally place into that jar, and furthermore, if the smaller events that we take for granted, such as commuting to work or conversations with friends are the pebbles that drop into that jar on a daily basis, then surely the little thoughtless routines, those little rituals of our existence are like the sand and dust that completely fill the jar.

What are your little rituals?

God Google

Will humans of the future worship Google and Facebook as God? Those companies take intense interest in all of our activities online. Increasingly they are expanding their reach towards detecting all manner of offline activities as well, not to mention what can be reasoned based on our online profiles. It is natural to feel good about someone or something out there caring about our interests, which brings to mind the conversation with the AI Morpheus in Deus Ex:

Morpheus: Human beings feel pleasure when they are watched. I have recorded their smiles as I tell them who they are.
JC Denton: Some people just don't understand the dangers of indiscriminate surveillance.
Morpheus: The need to be observed and understood was once satisfied by God. Now we can implement the same functionality with data-mining algorithms.
JC Denton: Electronic surveillance hardly inspires reverence. Perhaps fear and obedience, but not reverence.
Morpheus: God and the gods were apparitions of observation, judgment and punishment. Other sentiments towards them were secondary.
JC Denton: No one will ever worship a software entity peering at them through a camera.
Morpheus: The human organism always worships. First, it was the gods, then it was fame (the observation and judgment of others), next it will be self-aware systems you have built to realize truly omnipresent observation and judgment.
JC Denton: You underestimate humankind's love of freedom.

Morpheus: The individual desires judgment. Without that desire, the cohesion of groups is impossible, and so is civilization."

Deus Ex came out in 2000.

To Hell With the Cold

My relationship with cold weather has grown strained over the years. I don't think the weather has changed much, if anything it's gotten a little warmer right? So the fault must lie with me, as I get older. Winter is just not as fun for me as a grown up as when I was a kid. The advent of cold weather as a kid was exciting; it meant the possibility of snow days off from school, of snowball fights and sledding, and in my teenage years, of extra income from shoveling driveways and sidewalks.

Now? I just shuffled over to the thermostat and checked the temperature. Sixty-two freaking degrees in here. With a tiny grumble, I pressed the button to turn the heat on for the first time this season. You see, my hands are freezing and I've been huddled up in bed for the last few hours not wanting to do anything, despite having plenty to do. I'm starting to wonder if this season gets me depressed. It's almost 11 a.m. and I still have my heavy pajama pants on and double socks, including my extra padded red ones. If I could bear the thought of getting back into bed and curling up in my heavy comforter I totally would do it, but I know that the listlessness would just feed back on itself and make me feel more down about things than is truly justified.

I grew up in New Jersey, so I'm no stranger to long, cold winters. And I live in Georgia now, where the winters are relatively mild but still cold enough to depress my enthusiasm for life. In that light, my stint in Florida was quite a positive experience. Where I resided in Jacksonville Beach, the latitude and proximity to the ocean kept average winter temperatures far away from freezing. At worst, my hands would get very cold from being outside in a stiff breeze while the ambient temperature is in the 40s or 50s. But you could almost always count on the sun heating things up during the day.

I wonder how my kids will react to the cold. Will the relatively mild winters of their youth drive them to seek out cold adventures when they're old enough to decide what to do for fun? Will they eagerly embrace skiing and other winter sports that make me shiver just thinking about them? Taylor already expresses a preference for cold weather and a desire to move "back north" where she was born. I wonder how much they take the warm climes of the South for granted.

I think the worst effect of being cold is how it dampens my creativity. I feel sleepy when I'm cold. I'm not motivated to action. Overcast conditions are prevalent in winter; the gray skies coupled with cold, somewhat humid conditions, are a sure recipe for not wanting to do anything other than laying in bed and wasting time on the Internet. As if to underscore my line of reasoning, I just drifted off into a thought of walking to the kitchen and putting a pot of water to boil for some hot tea. Yea, perhaps that would warm me up and get me going, but the thought involved closing my eyes and then a yawn attacked my consciousness and before I knew it I was dozing off, right here where I sit, not even in a particularly comfortable chair or posture.

I lean over to the right and glance over at the liquid crystal display of my thermostat. The temperature is now 66 degrees, it's getting warmer and my hands are thawing out, perhaps from the warmer room and exercise on the keyboard. My brain is a bit clearer and I'm thinking warmer thoughts. I'm thinking of laying by an open fire and letting its warmth radiate into my face and skin. I'm thinking of the hot sweaty heat that comes along with making love under too many layers of blankets and comforters. I'm thinking, make that dreaming, of the heat that you feel when you've been laying in the tropical sun for more than a few minutes and the last of the water from your dip in the pool evaporates and now the sun's rays are really drilling into your skin and raising your core temperature and making you get a good sweat on. And you press your eyes closed and the color is red because the sun is drilling through your eyelids and illuminating your blood vessels and you start to feel really, really hot.

Yep, I'm warmer now. To hell with the cold, I've got work to do.

The Way I Work (November 2009)

At precisely 7:30 am, the alarm on my iPhone fires. Lately I've been waking to the start of Still D.R.E. by Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg, picked for the great background riff more than for any particular appeal of rap music. I reach over and turn off the alarm and also switch off the white-noise generator that helps me sleep. Too many years of loud music has stricken me with moderate to severe tinnitus. It doesn't bother me too much during the day, since ambient noise masks the high-pitched tone in my ears, but in the silence of the night it can be deafening. Read More

Early Memories

My bedroom, between my parent's room and the bathroom. Their blue shag carpet and dark brown fake wood plastic bedroom furniture. The bassinet in their room. The baby. There was always a baby. The toy box made out of thin wood, perhaps plywood or strong cardboard, with a patterned underside. The bookshelf full of colorful books and a clown. The raggedy ann and andy dolls with thick woven fabric skin and eyes that had fallen off so my mom sewed little pieces of patterned fabric on instead.

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On Pets

As I write this I'm having a conversation with Kitty, a neighborhood stray that has decided to come visit me every morning. The first time I paid her some attention a week or two ago, she eagerly followed me around as I took care of chores outside and in the garage, eventually darting into the house behind me. Amused, I decided to be a friendly host. She's kind of skinny and pathetic so I rummaged through my kitchen looking for something suitable, eventually settling on some half-and-half and tuna fish. She devoured it. (Perhaps I made a new friend for life?)

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