Monday, January 31, 2011

Blues and Greys

And on the eighth day, God created the Dallas Cowboys. Years later in a stony communique with a man named Moses, he stopped short of adding an eleventh commandment to love the Cowboys above all other teams. With that being said, I've read the text between the lines in Exodus, and so I do as God says.

Much like the Jews living under the copper fist of slavery in Egypt, I spent four long years of my childhood in Steeler country, just outside of Pittsburgh. I took my share of beatings for the love of God's team. During the 1970s the Cowboys went to the Superbowl five times, losing to the Steelers twice. New England fans could learn a thing or two from my eight year old self. It takes little heart to cheer when those you love are winning, but it takes everything you have to keep cheering when they lose.

I was in the third grade when the Cowboys lost the Superbowl to the Steelers in 1979. I was puny, weighing about as much as the pads that Roger Staubauch donned each week before heading out onto the gridiron. Still, I loved my Cowboys, and so I wore my number 12 jersey to school the next day with courage and pride. I got my ass kicked, and the teachers watched. No bloody nose, no abrasions, but some bruises that my favorite shirt covered up well. Worse than the physical thumping was the verbal abuse. I was threatened, called filthy names, and teased without mercy.

The following year the Steelers once again made it to the Superbowl. This time they were to face the Los Angeles Rams. I had a choice to make. My Cowboys were out of it, and while I didn't love them any less, you can't pull for a team that isn't playing. I agonized over what to do. Steelers fans were the sworn enemy of Cowboys fans, and to become one, no matter the reasoning, seemed a betrayal of the highest degree. On the other hand, the Rams had taken Dallas out of contention, and I loved them not a whit. To pull for the Rams was a fresher betrayal of my 'boys.

Putting all of the above aside, I felt that for once I might belong if I could find it within myself to cheer for the "Black and Gold." I had never fit in at school; it seemed that everything I did served to push me further away from popularity. I longed for complete social invisibility and the comfort I imagined it would bring. To be ignored entirely had to be better than living every day as a walking target.

After a few days of painful deliberation, I decided that the better benefit would be to embrace the enemy of my enemy for a short while. I thought I might find temporary refuge from the storm of social persecution that had rained upon me for years.

It amazed me, how quickly the mindless mouth-breathers accepted me into their black and gold flock. All I had to do was declare my (momentary) loyalty to the Steeler cause. The mad mob rushed to embrace me as if I had arrived at an ill-planned lynching with a rope in one hand and a stack of pizzas in the other. I was soon enjoying the thrill of walking through the lunchroom rather than being chased, and the odd joy of sitting with fellow students as I ate. I felt no shame in opening my lunch box to reveal a homemade lunch, as my peers inhaled hot brown food substitutes from the green plastic trays that were in my mind the lunchtime standard of popularity.

I was soon reminded, however, that my childhood was not destined to be one of fearless security, endless acceptance, and joyful ease. The recollection itself was not so difficult to take as the fact that it came from such an unexpected direction.

I was at home one afternoon, singing the Steeler fight song that my new friends had taught me. I don't remember the words now, I never intended to. I knew that ours was a winter romance, centered around one Sunday night in Pasadena. After the game (win or lose Pittsburgh) I would let the fervor die down for a week before putting on my Cowboys gear again, and wait for another year of ass-kicking and solitary confinement to commence. Nevertheless, I knew the words on that afternoon and my heart was happy, so I gave them voice as I sat on the floor and played with my Star Wars toys.

"Matthew, stop singing that song! It hurts my feelings!" The sudden boom of my mother's voice bouncing off the paneled walls of the family room startled me into silence.

"I grew up in the Los Angeles area, you know that. Didn't you stop and think that I might want the Rams to win? " I stared at the floor rather than face her. An action figure quivered in my hand.

She went on to explain how insensitive and thoughtless I had been in my decision to cheer on a team that stood between her hometown and a championship title. I knew then that I had hurt my mother with my reckless betrayal of the Cowboys. And for what? A short break from the persecution of my classmates, who were sure to go back to hating me the moment I showed up for school dressed in blue and silver. I felt the warm welling of tears, but held them back as best I could. I sat on the floor, quiet, embarrassed, and ashamed. Within a few moments she was gone, and I was left to digest what had occurred. I spent the rest of the afternoon in muted play, unable to fully enjoy myself.

Later that night, as I lay in my bed wondering what I was to do about school the next day, I began to think about mom's blitzkrieg-like descent upon my new found social standing. I searched my memory banks for a single instance of my mother having claimed the Rams as her favorite football team. I could not recall one such moment; in fact everything I had ever heard her say about California led me to believe that she had fled the state like a refugee. I could not understand her intentions, and it angered me that she would accuse me of being insensitive, when she herself had been so thoughtless.

Still, she was my mother, and I feared her. I decided to root for the Steelers in secret at home, and with great vigor at school. All that week, there were pep rallies and posters making parties, and I participated in all of them. I made new friends, stopped fearing the bullies, and even garnered the respect of the teachers that had given me such grief over my love for the Cowboys.

The day came and the Steelers beat the Rams without much trouble. I was happy inside, and ignored my mother as best I could. The following day I shared in the joy at school, squeezing the last bit of happiness out of a strange situation.

Life soon returned to normal. I didn't last the wee, and the blue and silver colors of my apparel betrayed my true loyalties, and I was cast out, forced to live once again on the fringes of schoolyard society. The Cowboys have since had their ups and downs, and but for a few moments of disgust with some of their off the field antics, I have remained loyal. So much so that I was once caught half-naked in a hospital waiting room, watching the Cowboys play the Bills. It was Superbowl XXVII, and I should have been in surgery prep, having my privates shaved for an emergency appendectomy.

All of this loyalty has paid off, for I now have an heir in Solomon, my eight year old son. He loves his Cowboys, and is so fond of the sweatshirt that we bought him for Christmas that we have to sneak it into the wash.

My oldest, Caleb, was born in Seattle. Though he doesn't watch much football, he has expressed a love for the Seattle Seahawks. This year, they surprised everyone by beating the Superbowl champion Saints up and down the field, expelling them from the playoffs.

Gee, isn't he lucky I never lived in New Orleans?

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Will The Gay Giraffes Go To Hell?

Giraffes have always fascinated me. Their long necks and dark tongues, along with the fact that they remain for the most part mute would qualify them as excellent candidates for family members. Their heads up in the clouds, they munch on leaves that few other animals can reach while little birds perch on their backs and search their skin for ticks to eat.

I have recently given giraffes some thought while driving from one appointment to another, and these are some of the things that occurred to me regarding the tallest animal on earth.

I am confident that given the chance, giraffes could really get into yoga. Their long necks and legs would flex and bend with such grace into all of the poses that yoga offers. Happy Baby and Frog would be the ones I'd most like to see a giraffe attempt, as well as the entire Warrior series. My only concern would be the uncontrollable farting. It always seems to befall me whenever I practice yoga, so it stands to reason that it would befall giraffes as well.

I also think that giraffes would make great therapists. As I mentioned earlier, they are for the most part mute, which could make them good listeners. Being so very tall, they are very aware of everything going on around them. Their early warning system might easily be converted to watch for the onset of all sorts of mental and emotional afflictions. They also look down on the rest of the animal kingdom, and I am sure that more than one human therapist does the same with their patients. My last therapist kept calling me by my brother's name. What would Freud say about that?

Regardless of their height advantage, I don't think that giraffes would be very good at basketball. I doubt they could dribble without losing control of the ball due to the cloven shape of their feet. They can also kick the head off a lion, so their passes would be far to dangerous to catch. On a side note, last week I had the great pleasure of going to a Celtic's game. Even from the nosebleed seats, Shaq looked like a giraffe that swallowed a family of hippos. The man is very large.

I do think that giraffes would make great friends. They seem calm and patient, and not all that demanding. Since they can kick the head off a lion and run thirty miles per hour, they would be good to have on your side in a fight. If something was out of reach, they could grasp it for you and bring it down to your level. I once saw a video of tick birds eating the flesh right out of huge open sores on the skin of a living giraffe. It reminded me that relationships can be draining at times, and it is easy to be taken advantage of. I would never eat the flesh of a living giraffe friend. That would be too rude, as well as disgusting.

In documented studies, it has been shown that male giraffes tend to "neck" with each other, and this behavior often leads to them mounting each other to completion. Indeed, 50% of all male giraffes are bisexual in their behavior. Only about 1% of female giraffes participate in similar behavior with those of their same sex, leading me to believe that very few lady giraffes ever lived in a sorority, and that most male giraffes will probably go to hell, if so very many of the world's religions have their say.

What a shame.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Reaction Time

I might have been twelve, I don’t remember. The warm surge of blood, the beating of my heart, and the adrenalin coursing through my system as I felt the release; it all felt so satisfying. I didn’t understand why, but I certainly wasn’t going to ask anyone for answers. It just happened one day. It felt good, so I kept doing it.

My hands have always been fast. I remember the day we measured reaction times in science class. Each lab partnership was given a specially marked ruler. The test was simple; your lab partner held the ruler in the air, while you waited for them to drop it without warning. The line pinched by your thumb and forefinger denoted your reaction time. I had the shortest. My lab partner was a mammoth-sized football player. He was impressed with my speed and spent the bulk of the lab time talking about how fast I was. He shook his head in disbelief as he made me catch the ruler over and over again. I felt special, but in a good way. I had never been the best at anything other than acting like a punching bag. Still, I didn’t share my newfound habit with him. That would have been weird.

That habit has since divided into three separate manifestations. I have never demonstrated any of them in full for anyone. Elizabeth has heard the sounds, caught hints at times, but I am not sure that she has ever witnessed the complete process. It’s not that I am embarrassed to show her, she knows everything about me. I just don’t show anyone. My habits are like cats humping; we all know it happens, but has anyone ever seen it?

Of the three, my bathroom habit is the most vulnerable to detection. Keeping secrets in public bathrooms is tough. I used to wait until I was alone, or go into a stall for privacy. Over time I have devised a subtle way of making it happen without detection. I can stand at a urinal and do it with confidence, even if there is no divider, like in the bathrooms at Fenway Park.

But I did get caught recently. I was alone in the restroom at a client’s office. Those are dangerous moments. When alone I tend to take it up a notch, making the most of the solitude. It’s quite a display. On this particular morning the owner of the company walked in and I couldn’t stop fast enough. He paused, his mouth hanging open. My hands and eyes didn’t have anywhere to hide. An awkward moment passed between us before he farted and walked into the stall to crap. I zipped up and flushed, my face warm with embarrassment. I felt better when he started to laugh. I guess everyone has his or her strange and unexplained habits of comfort. At least mine don’t release clouds of noxious gas.

They release clouds of tension.

Behold! My ticks...

1. When taking a piss, I hold out my hand (or hands, it depends) and twitch my wrists. My fore, third, and pinky fingers are extended. My second finger is curled into my palm. The rapid twitching makes my ring finger slap against my thumb at a high rate of speed. It sounds like a plush machine gun. If I am alone, my arm makes wide circles over my head. The veins in my temples expand and my eyes open wide. A second or two more and it ends. The rush recedes. Flush, wash, and exit, a paper towel in hand for opening the door.

2. In the shower, my hands slide-clap against each other. It starts with my arms straight and low, my wrist pressed together. They slide back and forth against each other, gaining speed.  My fingers slap against my palms until everything is numb. The sensation flows up to my shoulders and into my back, and then recedes back down my arms and out the tips of my fingers. The tension slips down the drain with the soapy water.

3. While pulling on my pants, I shake them. It starts as I slide the first leg in and continues until it is over, typically when my pants are up to my knees. Sometimes I am still shaking them as I button up the fly. It depends. Muscles in my neck flex, and from them bursts a sudden rapture. It flows down my back and into my legs.

I have noticed an increase in the intensity of these moments since Elizabeth and I found my little brother Jared dead from suicide in the woods. I still don’t think that it’s OCD. No one will suffer if I skip it. Harm will not seek me out should I stop mid-cycle.

I don’t have to do it, I just do.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Surfing For Dollars (and pride).

Neil is a friend.
Captain Rob is a friend.
Captain Rob bet Neil that he could get me to go surfing.
Neil tried to pay me double not to go.
Neil owes Rob some money, and I'm going surfing again.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011


Watching this made me very happy this afternoon.
I was at home alone watching a trashy BBC
soap and browsing for some sweet
house beats on youtube.
I came upon a Journey remix with a nice thump
and a smooth blending with the original vocals.
To the right were listed other videos
that youtube thought I might like.
Not sure why this was on there, or why
I clicked it, but I am glad I did.
Everyone should be in a music video
like this one.
Maybe I'll make one with my wife and kids.