Reason # 1 Why I'll Never Be Cooler Than You

My feet are slanty.

I didn’t know this until the 4th grade. I always just assumed I had normal feet. In fact that’s pretty much how it goes for most of us isn’t it? We think everything fine until somebody else tells us it isn’t.

I had never really had any significant pains in my body before. Up until that point the worst thing to happen to me had been a fractured finger in the summer before the third grade.

Technically it was my sister’s fault. You see we were in the Poconos sitting upstairs on the fold out futons and watching Police Academy (it’s amazing what you remember) and she said something to anger little Richard.

So instead of hashing it out with words I ran at her with my arms extended like I was an athletic Frankenstein. All she had to do was put her foot out and then my perfectly straight ring finger turned into a janky swollen mess.

My mother splinted it up with the top of a band aid box. She was less than thrilled with my conflict resolution abilities.

It wasn’t too difficult to live with and it didn’t really affect my life much except it did delay the development of my cursive handwriting.

In fact I’ll just go ahead and blame my poor handwriting today on that.

But aside from that I had never had any major pain in my body. But then I started playing CYO basketball. And it wasn’t long after I started that I would feel this excruciating pain up and down my legs hours after I got home from practice.

My parents were baffled they didn’t know what to do. They would give me Tylenol and tell me to lay down on my bed. There I would lay while the numbing pain in my legs would just continue to throb.

This happened a few times before my mom finally took me to the foot doctor. I didn’t even know there was a foot specific doctor.  Imagine my surprise when my mother brought me to a house in the neighborhood next to ours.

Wait, so this “foot doctor” can just work out of his house? We’re sure he’s legit?

We didn’t go in his front door but a door next to the garage that led into his office. Immediately I was confronted with a smell of must and stagnation. It smelled liked what I might have imagined the 70s smelled like.

The décor was that of a turn of the century explorer. Animal heads and African art displayed amongst the 24 different kinds of brown that adorned the office.

The doctor himself was a nice man, nearly a relic himself with big soft hands that he used to gingerly touch my extremely ticklish feet.

The examination room was unlike any doctor’s office I had ever been. I distinctly remembering thinking there were many tools I had never seen and certainly did not understand.

But luckily I didn’t need to. The good doctor said my feet slanted in and I would need orthotics. He took molds of my feet and a couple weeks later I had new blue plastic inserts red padding and a blue leather cover that was glued to the top.

My instructions were to wear them in every pair of shoes I wore.

Forever.

That was one of my first inclinings that I was never going to be cool. I had never heard any of my cool friends talk about having orthotics. I had never heard ANYbody talk about orthotics.

As far as I knew I was the only person on the planet who had to wear orthotics.

I sought to alleviate my insecurities by sharing this latest development with some of my elementary school “friends.”

I explained in earnest that I now had these plastic inserts I had to wear in my shoes all the time because I was getting really bad leg pains due to the slanted in nature of my feet.

And do you know what my “friends” said in response?

RICH HAS RETARDED FEET!

Damn it.

I even remember the part of the hallway on the second floor just before the staircase we were walking past the first and last time I told anybody I wear orthotics.

I eventually grew used to them and became comfortable putting them in all of my shoes. They became second nature; I just switched them from shoe to shoe whenever I change shoes. I realize right away if I’ve accidentally put on shoes that don’t have them.

It also makes trying on shoes considerably more embarrassing. Like when the shoe clerk brings out a pair and instead of just putting them on, I pull out my orthotics and slide them into the shoes as the clerk looks on with complete bafflement.

It’s like I pulled my own salad dressing out of my pocket at a restaurant.

Trust me shoe clerk, this has nothing to do with you or your shoes. It’s my feet.

Most shoes don’t account for custom plastic inserts to be added later. So a lot of shoes I really like end up being way too uncomfortable to purchase.

And I suppose it’s for the best. Maybe it’s god’s way of telling me (Through my slanty feet) that I should focus on being comfortable instead of cool.

I’m 28 years old now and have been wearing my orthotics for 18 years without interruption. However my mother will still ask me from time to time:

Are you wearing your orthotics?

Trust me mom. Between the excruciating leg pain or the inability to purchase cool shoes, I’ll stick with my uncool shoes.

Play Time

I was 25. I had been living on my own for about a year. And my social life was anything but bustling. “Going out” typically meant drinking beers and eating fancy pizza with my friend Andrea whom I had done theater with in high school.

Andrea mentioned to me that our high school theater teacher who was a huge mentor for me, was putting on a play in Manhattan and she was going to get tickets. She asked if I wanted to go. I readily agreed.

As we took the elevator the 4th floor of a sliver of a building just off Broadway, and walked down a narrow hallway past a meeting of some very large, bearded, individuals meeting for a support group, I wondered if this was indeed the best use of our time.

The play went well and afterwards my mentor told me had a small part in a play for me.

Seeing as I was not an actor and hadn’t been in a play since I was 17 and was now an “adult” with a full time job and my own apartment, I was a bit surprised and not really sure I should be in a play. But on second thought I really had nothing else going on in my life, so why the hell not?

As it turns out there was a part for Andrea as well

It wasn’t really difficult acting that I was required to do. I had a handful of lines and basically my role was to run around the stage and portray the life of an 8 year old who was up to mischief in the woods.

A tony deserving performance it was not.

The show only went up for two nights and it was sparsely attended. And it made me realize a couple of things.

The first was that I find acting to be extremely boring! The performing part of it is fun and something I enjoy, but the sitting still in rehearsals, not talking, having to stay in one place while things get set up around you, oh man was that boring. It was about the worst thing in the world for my ADD.

But after the show was over I realized something else. I too could write a short play that not many people come to see!

So that’s what I did. While waiting for my turn to speak at a job function I was attending, I wrote 3 pages of dialogue in red pen on the back of my notes. Those pages became the foundation of dialogue of my first play; Disengaged.

I convinced Andrea this was something we should do and she agreed, or maybe I just hung up on her before she could disagree.

Either way she was in.

I wrote a companion piece, we booked a theater, and put on our first show. It was one of the most incredible experiences watching the words I wrote come out of other people’s mouths and see an audience react to them.

I was immediately hooked.

I took a couple of weeks off after the show but I started writing again, and nine months later we mounted our second show Safety and Desire.

It was different than anything I had ever done before in that it was more grounded in real life conversations and there was poetry in it, my own.

We actually oversold the show and by all accounts it was a great success. But afterwards I felt like something was missing.

And the more I thought about it, I realized it was because it went so quickly. I had spent months working on the script. And then more months planning, looking for theaters, casting, marketing and countless hours with Andrea discussing every minute aspect of the show.

And then for six weeks we rehearsed. Nearly every single day we spent several hours with the actors running lines, blocking scenes, and getting ready to put this thing on. I was still bartending at the time too.

So I would work from 9 to 5, then go to rehearsal from 6 to 10, and then rehearse all weekend and then bartend on Sundays from 4 to 10.

And for as crazy bone tired as that made me, I never didn’t want to do it. I was in love with it the whole time. Sure I had no time to do anything else and kept running out of clean underwear and cutlery, but it was worth it.

So when both performances of the show were over it felt kind of like… that’s it? I wanted more. I didn’t feel purged of the show. I felt like I wanted it to go on longer, to share it with more people, and prolong its life.

And I think a part of me was also hoping for the show to save me. I don’t know how that would have happened or what it would have meant.  But I think I just was expecting some kind of reaction or response or something more significant.

So I made a promise to myself, the next time I did a show it would be for longer.

Well guess what… that time is here!

My next play is coming December 7th – 10th in Manhattan! So if you are going to be even close to the area I’d love to see you there. It’s called Ripped at the Seems and you can buy tickets at www.ripped.eventbrite.com.



It’s a show about a lot of things, but more than anything it’s about the things we think but never say. It’s about the conversations that Andrea and I have after rehearsals or when we’ve had too much wine (which isn’t an infrequent occurrence).

I am so excited to put this show on for twice as many nights as any show I’ve done but I’m also excited because I’ve made another promise to myself.

And that promise is that this show won’t save me. Whatever hopes and dreams I have for after the show, I’ve let go of.

Well, almost let go of. I’m close. Really close.

But the goal is just to enjoy the process, because it’s all process. We all spend too much time on this for it to be just about what happens during 4 days in December. I have made a commitment to just love every minute of this.

And hopefully it shows.

Until then, enjoy the trailer!

Sounds Like Home

The house I grew up in made a variety of sounds. They were the natural creaks, and groans, expansions and contractions, flexes and bends that a house makes. I got pretty good at knowing which step would make a squeak, or how far I could open a door before it would make a noise.

Living in a house with three other people you also get used to the noises they make. Which sneeze belongs to whom, who lumbers up the stairs versus who runs, and tons of other inconsequential other sounds that you never really pay attention to.

All of that stuff pretty much left the forefront of my mind as soon as I moved into my own place. My new apartment was a host of new sounds. I had a really squeaky floor before I got any furniture. My heating hissed at me like a disapproving audience. And every door had its own signature alert when opened or closed.

But shortly after moving in I was lying in bed not yet asleep when somebody in the apartment next to me or below me coughed loud enough that I could hear it.

My first thought was:

Oh Dad must still be awake.

But then I realized that wasn’t my dad coughing, it was just… a stranger. It threw me for a second. It was a surreal moment. I didn't know any of the people who would be making sounds around me.

I quickly learned the people to the right of me really like explosiony action movies. The woman to the left of me really liked vacuuming… a lot. She also liked Barry White. And sometimes she liked vacuuming TO Barry White.

Not too long ago I came home and noticed my neighbor had the “Ab Rocket” delivered to her.

For those of you who may not know, the Ab Rocket is NOT a piece of combustible military weaponry. The Ab Rocket actually combines what you love about rocking chairs with what you hate about crunches to create the ultimate ab toning experience.

I didn’t think too much of it, merely happiness that my neighbor was making a commitment to fitness. I myself had just purchased the Iron Gym, which is a combination pushup/pull-up bar that you can secure into your door frame without any hardware. You can then do as many pull-ups as you’d like until the 24-dollar thing falls apart and you fall and break your ass.

But that hasn’t happened yet (I also haven’t used it in 6 months) so I won’t worry about it.

One day I was in the bathroom… well, ya know, being there, when I heard a very rapid squeaking sound.


SqueakSqueakSqueakSqueak

It didn’t stop, it just repeated itself over and over again. I strained my ears to see if I could tell what it was. Was my building moving? Was somebody doing construction? Was somebody slowly cutting a hole into my apartment through the bathroom wall? I chalked it up to one or all.

But then I heard it the next day, and the next. Every day at the same time. Always first thing in the morning. And it sounded like it was coming from just the other side of my bathroom wall.

And then it hit me; it must be the Ab Rocket. My neighbor was Ab Rocketing first thing in the morning every morning. I was relieved at my revelation. At least nobody was burrowing into my apartment.

Discovering new activities from my neighbors around me was part of the experience. The new sounds kind of plateaued after a while as I settled in as a permanent resident of my building.

Until one specific night.

I was lying in bed reading when I heard it from the apartment below me:

YeOOOOOOOO

It sounded like a howl, or somebody celebrating. It happened several times and the look on my face was that of “What the…”

I sat up straight in my bed with my brow furrowed as I tried to figure out the sound. But I could do no such thing.

A couple of weeks later I heard it again. It was definitely a man. Was he celebrating a sports team? Couldn’t be, it was too late in the evening. It happened, several times. It still sounded like a shout of joy like maybe he was celebrating… something else…

The beginning of it almost sounded like a slap… like somebody was slapping him and he was screaming. Was he being hazed? Did I live above a private fraternity? Was I just making shit up now?

Quite possibly.

Every so often I would hear it again. The shouts coming in twos, fives, and more. Over and over again I would hear this sound for a short while. Every time I would stop what I was doing and try to use my crap powers of deduction to understand what was going on.

A couple of weeks ago I heard it again. This time there were more shouts than ever. There had to be at least 15 of them. If I wasn’t so terrified of life I might have gone downstairs to knock on his door and ask him if he was OK. But I didn’t because

A.    I rarely speak to people in my building
B.    I was not really sure I wanted an answer.

But I heard it again last week. And I was sick of it! What the hell was going on? Was it spanking? Because really that’s what I thought it was, and I couldn’t think of anything that made more sense. I lived above a guy who was getting spanked in rapid succession at random times throughout the year almost always before bedtime.

I jumped out of my bed and squatted closer to the floor. The sound was closer and seemed more familiar.

I then sprawled out completely flat and put my ear on the floor. I was shocked at how clear the sound became. It was almost like I was in the apartment with the stranger below me.

And that’s how I figured out:

He was sneezing.

Frigging SNEEZING! All this time and all my conspiracy theories and all it turns out to be is a sneeze. I actually was relieved, if only for the fact that I no longer had to expend brainpower to figure this out. The knowledge was mine.

However, it was also at that point when lying flat on the floor with my ear pressed up against the wooden panels that I realized:


I need to dust under my bed.

This Is Not a Blog

I remember growing up and hearing my parents complain about bills. Whenever the mail came I would ask what had come and my mom would say;

Ohhhh bills, more bills.

I didn’t understand why we got so many bills. As a child, you don’t get bills. You don’t really get anything. But even by the time I was old enough to get bills of my own (hooray) I could pay some of them online so the arrival of a bill wasn’t really climactic.

Today as an adult I pay nearly all of my bills online so I get hardly any in the mail but there are still some things still come in the mail. They are mostly bills for things that are not recurring, a service rendered or a doctor’s visit. And it is these bills that confuse me.

I was doing my yearly checkups not too long ago; Doctor tests, Dermatologist tests, etc. I’m not a really good patient. I don’t mean I scream and kick and bite, I mean I don’t ask a lot of questions.

Some of my friends question their doctor, asking him or her why they are doing what they are doing, referencing research and studies etc.

I’m not that… bright?

When the doctor tells me he has to do a test, remove something, or stab me with a sharp stick, I pretty much just go along with it because he’s a doctor and I, well… I’m a writer.

Plus doctors don’t really tend to ask you what you want them to do, they just tell you what they want to do. They also don’t tell you the price of things.

Rich I’d like to run this echo cardiogram… and it’s going to cost you 900 dollars.

No. They just do it, bill your insurance, and you don’t find out it actually had a cost until 4 weeks later when you play Russian Insurance Roulette to find out whether or not you’re covered for the life saving preventive test you didn’t even know you needed.

But sometimes you don’t even get a bill, you just get, well… something else.

A couple of weeks after my appointments I got a letter from my insurance referencing some diagnostic lab that apparently processed or did my tests. I didn’t understand the piece of paper except for the bold line at the top that said:

THIS IS NOT A BILL

Now that might not have bothered me if it weren’t for the lines underneath it that said:

Amount Billed:
Discount:
What Insurance Paid:
What I Owe:
You Saved:

OK so let me just get this clear. This is NOT a bill, but you are telling me how much my bill would be if this were a bill (which it’s not) as well as how much my insurance would pay on this hypothetical bill and how much I owe on this non-bill and how much I saved on the non-bill that I don’t have to pay yet.

Oh yea that’s really clear.

Why the hell am I getting a discount? I don’t recall walking into the doctor with a coupon for half off a blood pressure reading. I really resent my insurance company trying to make it seem like they are giving me a deal.

So I just put the piece of paper down (it was 3 pages of non-billdom) and just waited for the actual bill to come.

But it never came.

Instead I got another letter from my insurance that all said in bold letters at the top:

THIS IS NOT A BILL.

Damn it!

What is so hard about sending me a bill? When I go to dinner and it comes time to pay, the waiter doesn’t drop a piece of paper on my table that says "This is not a bill, but if it was, your dinner would cost." No, they just give me a bill and I pay it, and that’s it. End of transaction.

It’s like insurance is a clingy ex girlfriend that refuses to let you move on with your life. She is going to carry on this relationship until you are both so miserable with each other that the mere mention of her makes me scream like a karaoke banshee.

So I continued to wait for the bill. And of course it never came.

I got another non bill. And another. And another. Until I had received 7 different pieces of paper from my insurance, all 3 pages long. That’s 21 pages of non bills all for different things, all for different amounts owed to doctors I had never heard of!

How do I know this Doctor? Why cant I pay the doctor I know? At least he has seen me in my underwear. How can I trust a doctor who hasn’t seen me in my underwear?

And how come the insurance doesn’t know how much they will cover? It’s not like I have fancy blood or magic urine. It’s the same tests you are running on all of your other clients. Come up with a number, and stick to it.

I can appreciate the insurance companies’ desire to communicate what might happen, but at a certain point it just becomes confusing. Just send me a check, tell me how much I owe, and I will pay that amount.

Or maybe I won’t.

Maybe the next time my insurance company sends me something with “NOT A BILL” written on it, I will take out a small rectangular piece of paper and write in the amount I owe. Then, before I put it in the envelope to mail it, I will write at the top in big block letters.

THIS IS NOT A CHECK

The 27 Club

It’s called the 27 Club or the Curse of 27.

It's made up of famous musicians who died at the age of 27. The “Club” is quite large but there is a core group that trumps the others in terms of talent and fame. They died for the following reasons:

Poisoned
Drowning
Asphyxiation
Heroine
Heart Failure
Suicide
Alcohol

All in all, it is a pretty terrifying list of words.

I am not a musician unless you count the one song I taught myself on guitar or the 8 years I blew at the trumpet (pun intended). But after some considerable internal debate I have started to consider myself an artist as of late. And whether it be film, music, or some other art form, the link between intense creatives and flaming out in a terrifyingly public manner at early ages is irrefutable.

It has crossed that point where I have begun to wonder if some people embrace the 27 Club as a self fulfilling prophecy, a right of passage, or just inevitability.

Now I don't consider people like Joplin or Cobain my peers. Indeed the only peers they have are those in the same Club or the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. I do however believe I have a certain understanding of the creative mind, and what it feels like to be overwhelmed by your ideas.

It can sometimes seem like trying to push 500 pounds of putty through a pinhole. And what that can do to your mind, heart and soul can be overwhelming.

It also depends how you view creativity. If you believe that there is no muse and that those of us lucky enough to create are merely catching the tail of a passing idea and pinning it down, then the idea of the flame out might seem a bit narcissistic or attention seeking.

If you believe that ideas, art, and music come from deep inside individuals, and that those individuals are responsible for creating these sometimes wonderful things that we then all digest, then you might see how that kind of pressure could drive someone mad.

But regardless of what you believe, that is just the process of creating. It doesn't account for things that can happen afterward if you are lucky enough to be successful. Things like fame and success and wealth. Those factors alone can turn a normally solid mind and body into mush.

I turned 28 this weekend. Part of it is frightening and part of it is a relief. The latter is because I have every intention of becoming a wildly successful creative type, and I have made it over one of the key hurtles… living past the age of 27.

My buddy at work who sits next to me never misses an opportunity to remind me about the 27 Club. At last I can relax about that and concentrate on all the terrible awful things that can behold a 28 year old.

But the part that scares me most is actually just being a 28 year old. I am not one to condescend to people younger than me because I think they don't know as much or have seen as much as me.

Quite the opposite. So many of my friends who are younger than me I find so much more impressive than myself. People so intelligent or talented that they have been able to achieve incredible things at an age earlier than I.

I constantly find myself looking up the online profiles of actors, writers and directors to see how much time left I have to achieve success at the age that they did, or, if they achieved it before me.

But 28 is three years past 25 which is the age I had originally targeted for myself to be and feel brilliantly successful. Now mind you I had really no idea what I was going to be or do or how I would achieve that brilliant success… I just knew 25 was the year to make it happen.

I know it had something to with my camp counselor in 7th grade telling me he was 25 and in his prime. He was a guy I really looked up to. He told me stories of girls, of partying and living this awesome life. All things I wanted for myself one day.

But having a goal without a plan is fools’ work.

I actually didn't even start the thing that I was passionate about and in love with enough to follow to success until the month before my 25th birthday. So looking at it now, it was probably unfair to put that pressure on myself to succeed when I had no idea how I was going to do it. It's like saying you want to be a millionaire but never leaving your couch.

Well I am now off the couch of my early 20s and am on my feet up and moving around in my 28 year old skin. And while it's nice to feel like I am making strides toward my goals, I have so many goals that sometimes it feels like I am just striding in circles.

And of course I worry about flaming out, about losing inspiration, or losing my creative abilities. I worry about it a lot. And the more I think about how much I worry about, the more neurotic it makes me about the whole thing.

And I haven’t even done anything yet.

But whatever the club, whatever the age, I am gradually moving my creative pieces into place, almost like playing Risk.

And it is quite an apt metaphor as it is a risk to expose yourself like that, to take chances, and to put yourself out there with your art, words, or music. But I am moving these pieces into place, slowly but hopefully surely. And I will continue to.

Because I would rather be a part of the club that tries and fails, than the one that never tried at all.

My Bazooka of Peace - Part 1

Based on recent events (and by “recent events” I mean unbearable back pain and my doctor telling me my neck muscles look like that of an “old man”) I have started doing yoga.

Some of you may remember I tried yoga on the beach in Miami with what might be called no success. Unless you define success by sweating profusely, tipping over and falling into the sand so that I looked like a gangly sugared pastry, in which case I was the most successful person in Miami.

I made a commitment to do yoga back in January. So naturally, I bought my own yoga mat in April.

I bought my own mat because the idea of lying on the floor.... on a thin piece of foam.... that hundreds of other people have done whatever on, really, really grosses me out.
Plus I have a friend who got ringworm on her arm from the equipment at her gym and she showed it to me and it was gross. And once you’ve had/seen ringworm it’s reason enough to never ever touch anything ever again.

Plus I figured if I bought a mat, I would be more committed to doing yoga instead of always saying “ohh I don’t have a mat.”

So I got a mat, unwrapped it (It’s blue!) and placed it in the fancy yoga mat holder I purchased for it.


I then moved it out of the way and put it in the corner of my living room. And that is where it has been sitting for the last two months.

It’s not that I don’t want to go to yoga. I really, really do! I am extremely worried that my body will continue to atrophy until I walk around town at a 90-degree angle and start talking to dogs because they are the only things I can make eye contact with.

The main challenge is I don't have very much time in my schedule (what the hell takes up all my time I couldn't tell you) to go and do yoga. And also it’s expensive. I know there are super duper cheap places, but the places in my neighborhood are between 10 and 20 dollars a class.

Weekends are usually pretty full with projects I have invented for myself or I am too lazy or too busy eating two bagels at a time to get my life together enough to go sit in a room with a hunch of strangers and bend my body into a bunch of positions that could instantly snap my bones like a pile of stale churros.

And weeknights are tough because I try to use those nights to write, podcast or if I am lucky enough... see my friends.

Mornings are out of the questions because... well... because its early dude! And while I have a lot of energy early in the day, having the energy for a physical activity is different.

Sometimes I will see somebody at work with a yoga mat and say to them:

Hey are you doing yoga after work?
No, I went before work.

And then I instantly feel the need to put down the box of munchkins I am holding to tell them every healthy aspect of my life that is healthy and natural and good.

But the pain from sitting at a desk is really starting to get to me. I slouch like I’m melting into the floor. I try sitting up straight, but that is usually if I have a wedgie I can’t discreetly get rid of. I don’t try to slouch, it’s just I end up sliding down into my chair which is just more comfortable for me, but then I end up in more pain because the comfortable chair position is killing me slowly.

I tried getting one of those ergonomic chair attachment thingies that slide over the chair and give your back a natural arch. But I think it’s too severe and I can’t help but feel like it is trying to force me to try and type with my pelvis.

I tried different iterations of it, moving it up, moving it down, and turning it upside down. I can’t get the damn thing to feel good.

Since that thing is not really working, and since my doctor made me realize my body is turning into something decrepit I realized it was time to make time to get into shape.

It just so happened that my doctor visit coincided with availability of a Groupon for a month of unlimited yoga at a third of the normal prize. Before I even bought the frigging thing I was telling everybody I was going to do it. After I had told about 7 people I realized I hadn’t actually done anything yet, so I quickly bought the Groupon.

Really it was perfect timing, serendipitous even. The gods of discounts knew that I was both thrifty and out of shape. All I had to do was buy this Groupon and I could quickly become one of those people who swears by yoga, and tells everybody how amazing it is and what it does for them.

I wanted to be one of those people.

So on the day of yoga, I grabbed my mat, slung across my back and walked out the door. Immediately I felt different. I felt like I was important or something. I felt like people must be looking at me thinking, oh yea, he's bendy, he does yoga.

When in reality nobody probably gave a crap about me. I did feel kind of strangely powerful, like a was carrying a cannon on my back. Except, a cannon that made people feel better and more at ease. My bazooka of peace.

And my bazooka of peace and I went to our first class where I would quickly feel better about myself.

But as I would quickly find out, it was not going to be that easy.

Age Before Beauty

Let me be clear about something. This is not a rant about how I am so old and I know so much and my life is so full of experience etc. No. I am pretty comfortable with my position in life. I’d like to be smarter, I’d like to be more successful, but other wise, I am pretty comfortable.

My body on the other hand, seems to have different ideas about things. My body seems to be aging rapidly in some discreet (and not so discreet) ways that I don't notice on a regular basis.

The first is my gray hair. Now I have been going gray for a while, pretty much once you get your first gray hair you are "going gray." I was like 18 or 19 when I saw my first. I didn't think about it much.

But seeing as I am only 27, there is a very bit of the gray music playing its way around the sides of my hair. And people feel the need to point this out to me on a regular basis. But they always do it in a way that actually leaves no response.

Ohh going a little gray there are we?
Um... no. No we are not. This is not a joint venture. I am doing this by myself. In fact I am not doing it myself because I'm not doing anything. It's just happening.

It's like when people ask me if I am growing a beard. Well, technically by nature of being alive I am always growing a beard. But even still, it is not something I do intentionally. I just trim it once in a while so the question should be are you trimming your beard.

And did you ever stop to think that maybe I’m not going gray, maybe you are just going colorblind?

I don't notice my gray hairs as much as when I get my hair cut and notice a fair amount of the ones falling into my lap are of the silver variety.

Which brings up another point. People always say you are going gray. They never say you are going silver. No the adjective silver is reserved for the highest complement you can give an aging man which is to call him a Silver Fox.

This is something I have been called several times recently.
 
Oh Richard, you're going to be a Silver Fox.

Here is what I know of a Silver Fox. They are somebody who has gone prematurely gray and is thereby more handsome because of this seemingly bemusing appearance.

So when people say I am going to be a silver fox, what they are essentially saying is that I am going to be attractive one day, which means I am not yet attractive, which means...

Well, let's just leave it at not yet attractive shall we?

Everybody is so concerned with what they are going to be. I don't want to be a Silver Fox, I want to be a Rich Boehmcke. In fact, I AM a Rich Boehmcke. Here I am. Look at me, unfox-like as I am.

What is the opposite of a fox? What is the opposite of something compact, gray, and sleek? Maybe a... Giraffe? I guess that's what I am,  a brown giraffe. Yeah, now that's a compliment. Actually Brown giraffe makes me sound like my skin has the capacity to tan. OK, Pale Giraffe. Now we're talking.

But one way in which I am not like a fox or a giraffe is that fact that I am incredibly out of shape. I don't appear to be out of shape upon first glance. My pants fit and I don't eat Doritos for breakfast, but it’s a more covert out of shape.

When my life has gotten busy, as it is currently, I only work out like once a week or once every other week due to what is scientifically known as "laziness."

But when I go to do something extremely physical I might be able to perform at the level of competition, be it playing basketball or going for a jog. But for days afterward my body feels like an old erector set that was left out in the rain for a month. I can actually hear my joints oxidizing.

This past week my company started its softball league. We had a lot of fun but I didn't see that much action in the field and I only got up 3 times. Granted I ran like hell each time. The first two times I got up, I singled. The third time I fouled off a pitch and ran hard to first base. It wasn't until I got there that I realized it was a foul ball. So i jogged back to the batter's box, picked up my bat and immediately thought to myself:

Oh my god I’m going to pass out. There’s no way I can remain standing. Dear god give me the strength to swing this bat.

My legs were trembling. My arms were trembling. I think my ears were even trembling from the exhaustion of having to flap in the breeze as I ran like a speeding... sheep.

So I swung and hit a long fly ball into the outfield and luckily adrenaline took over I was able to make it to first base, second base, all the way to third. I was able to stop only because I no longer had the capacity to run.

We ended up losing the game, which was fine. We went out for drinks and had a good time. However, when I woke up the next morning I felt like I had been beaten by a gang in a dark alley.

In fact I was so sore I could barely walk without moaning. When I sat at my desk I couldn’t cross my legs without a winch and pulley system. This is a pain that has yet to go away.

So while I may not complain of being an old man, my body is apparently trying to beat me to the punch. So instead of striving to be Rich Boehmcke, an attractive man, I’ll just have to settle for my newest aspiration:

Rich Boehmcke: The Gray Giraffe.

The Cutting Edge

You look sharp.

That was my Dad’s favorite compliment to give me when I would get dressed up as a child. I’d be all snazzed up for a school function or a nice dinner and I’d say "How do I look?"


You look sharp.

It was the greatest compliment. I sounded razor edged, dangerous, chiseled to a fine point. I think I appreciate it even more now that I am in my late 20s and frequently feel like my life, and I myself, are out of focus.


You look handsome.

That was my mom’s favorite thing to tell me. It’s a very mom type of compliment. The kind of thing you almost expect to hear from a mom but should be so lucky (as I have been) to hear it from your own. While it was usually my mother who dressed me, it was my father I sought to emulate.

I don’t know if other fathers compliment their sons the way my dad did. Maybe they tell them they look good? I really don’t know. But not only did my dad’s compliment to me feel unique, but also vintage, like a stylish bespoke blazer from another time dusted off and thrown over my shoulders.

My dad always looked sharp, at least when he was going to work. Now that he is semi-retired, his standards have relaxed slightly. But when he was going into the office every day, his tie would be perfect, his shoes would be shined, and his hair was always parted perfectly on the side.

You look sharp.

It’s an underrated compliment. One that I don’t think anybody else has ever given me.  First my mother replicated his sharpness for me, and then when I was old enough to handle a comb, I did it myself. Hair parted on the side and secured with a heavy dose of hairspray. A four-in-hand knot pulled taught that fell just at the belt, even if it took me a half dozen tries.

He taught me to tuck my undershirt into my underwear to prevent it from shifting around. At the time and up until after college I thought this was the greatest idea ever. I do admit though, at a certain point I stopped tucking my undershirt into my underwear. I believe it was after catching myself in the mirror and realizing what minimal sex appeal I had was instantaneously negated by that move.

While my father has always looked good in professional scenarios or at social gatherings, his weekend attire has always been something else entirely. If his work wardrobe was his starting lineup, his weekend attire was like the collection of retired and handicapped players no longer capable of making it through a whole game.

Like the assortment of clothes he kept in the trunk of every car he ever had. It was a collection that we made fun of for being vaguely “vagabondesque” but which came in handy on more than a handful of occasions, specifically on chilly nights at the beach or outdoor concerts.

And then when I got my own car, I replicated his behavior with the clothes that I kept there myself.

As with most things in my life, anything I made fun of I eventually became.

Those clothes from his trunk were well loved. Soft flannel shirts from 20 years ago. A peach Pierre Cardin sweater that eventually made its way back into the house and then my closet, and then my number one choice to wear while lounging around the house in my boxers. The clothes in his trunk had seen some action. They all had a deconstructed feel that made you realize they couldn’t be worn anywhere you weren’t enjoying yourself. There softness told their story.

It’s funny that I almost have a greater affection for the things that came out of the trunk of his car. Those things had a badge of honor; they had been retired, honorably discharged.

But the clothes in his trunk didn’t see much action anymore. The clothes he wore to do chores around the house or run errands were the ones that received more use and much more ridiculing. We all made fun of him; my mother, my sister, and me.

Some things warranted it like the “Older, Wiser, Sexier” t-shirt he would wear to my little league games at a time in my life when I couldn’t even fathom the reason for the existence of such a shirt.

There were the cutoff shorts made from old jeans, the faded shorts, and the shorts with holes in comprising places that never seemed to bother him.

But he never cared, he was raking leaves, or mowing the lawn, or on the roof (always on the roof, what the hell does he do up there?) and just doing what he needed to do. His wardrobe was utilitarian in that regard. He was unflappable in that regard. He always has been.

But as I said, anything I made fun of I eventually became.

I caught my own reflection in the window of the bagel store on a Saturday morning not too long ago. Flip-flops, plaid shorts and a maroon sweatshirt with the hood pulled up. I had come full circle, or as my mother likes to say, “The turd doesn’t fall far from the bird.”

But even now that my father is in his 60s (a fact my mind can hardly comprehend) he still puts himself together, combs his hair, and tucks in his shirt (and maybe his undershirt, I have no idea). And he shaves nearly every day. Something else I have a hard time believing considering I only shave when it is absolutely necessary or a woman I keep company with threatens to leave me.

The former happens more than the latter.

I maintain that compliments are the hardest things in the world to accept. We chase them, we seek them, we prod for them, and yet when given to or heaped upon us, we dismiss them as though they are offensive. Oh no, oh stop; get out of here and the like.

The hardest thing in the world is to listen to somebody compliment you, look him or her in the eye, and then without a trace of dismissal or irony in your voice, maintain that eye contact and say thank you.

When my father would compliment me as a child I loved it. As a child you haven’t become self aware or insecure enough yet to engage in such foolishness as dismissing kind words somebody gives to you. When you look up to somebody as much as I have always looked up to my father, those words mean the world.



And that is why those words have stuck with me as long as they have. I’m well aware at this point in my life, the only reason my father was able to give me that compliment, the only reason anybody has ever been able to give me a compliment is because my father took what could have been a large pale mass of confusion and sharpened it.


He sharpened me.

What Not To Do

#1 Do not try and take a camping knife through airport security.

The TSA will not support you in your decision.

It wasn’t a gigantic knife like one of those bowie knives you can buy off the TV at 2 am for six easy payments of 19.95. This was a collapsible Buck knife; something I use exclusively for cutting tags off newly purchased items and removing stray threads from clothing.

I didn't even know I had it in my backpack.

So I go through security. They put my bag through the scanner. They stare at the television screen for a minute. Then they say they are going to scan it again. Then they call somebody else over to stare at the screen, and then somebody else. So now there are 3 different people looking at the contents of my tiny backpack on a small television.

Finally they tell me they are going to check my bag by hand. I readily agree having no idea what is so confounding to these experts in safety. After 4 seconds the agent finds what she’s looking for, excuses herself and walks back over to her team with her hand still in the bag like she had to keep it a secret.

Then an old bald TSA agent with a look on his face I can only describe as "assholeish" sauntered, and I mean that, sauntered over to me holding the knife. He then repeatedly tried to open the knife like he was a Jet or a Shark.

I suppose it didn't help that after watching him try this multiple times I said:

That’s not how it works.

I don't think he liked that. After measuring the length of the blade with his fingers, which is apparently the international way for determining danger, he just looked up and stared me in the eyes. As if to say;

Where is the criminal in there?

This guy, this safety “expert”, who just 5 minutes before I heard telling his coworker he couldn't figure out how to use his Blackberry didn't like the cut of my jib, or maybe he didn't like my jib at all.

And then he said:


Alright friend, it's a lost item.

Not, “you can go back and check it”, or “we have to confiscate this because you can't bring a KNIFE on a PLANE”.

I pretty much knew it was gone as soon as he pulled it out of my bag. I was done owning it.

And then I walked away scot-free and was allowed to board my plane. Though as soon as I landed in London and went through customs I was afraid they were going to take one look at me and scream, "KNIFE!" and then tackle me like I was in a rugby match.

But then I got angry because I realized that twice in the last 4 days I had brought that same backpack through security with that knife in my bag. That means I twice traversed airport security without them once noticing that knife.

Scary.

#2 Do not pack one light colored suit for several days of meetings and do not eat really drippy dark colored fruit for breakfast.

I mean it’s pretty simple. I am apparently a man-child and I can’t have nice things because I can’t eat my food without also simultaneously wearing it.

So there I am eating my proper British breakfast, pot of tea, eggs, bacon, mixed berries. I’m exercising care to make sure that everything I do makes me look like an official businessman in London doing important business man things.

Until I look down and see the red splotch on my thigh.

Now I have no options here so I wet my napkin and start furiously blotting my pant leg using so much water that by the time I stand up 20 minutes later to head to my first meeting, it looks like I was hit by a water balloon. But the good news is the stain came out.

Kind of.

#3 Do not lay underneath a train

As I mentioned recently, in New York, there are a bunch of cryptic messages that come across on the loudspeaker while you are commuting. But in London they are a bit more direct.

While walking through a tube station on my way to the exit, I heard an announcement from a beautiful British female voice that said:

Due to a person underneath a train, there are delays on the Jubilee line.

Wait, what?

UNDERNEATH A TRAIN? Are you kidding me? So seeing as trains sit on tracks, if somebody is underneath a train, they are also probably not alive. But of course, in that proper British lilt, it really makes it sound like not something that bad at all.

In New York, that just would have been:

Due to an earlier incident, trains are running at slower speeds.

The Brits don’t mince words.

#4 Do not drink all the tea they give you

I like to immerse myself in the local culture. In England, that means having a cup of tea whenever one is presented to you. Now when you stay in a hotel in the U.S. you have tea in your hotel room, but I never drink it. Maybe I will if I’m feeling zippy.

But in England it’s like a siren call. I feel the need to have a cup whenever I can. If somebody asks me if I want tea I am always saying yes. And they don't give you a cup, they give you an entire pot.

Which explains why I was running to the loo every 90 minutes.

#5 Do not sleep on a single bed

I have to be honest, even though in college I slept in a double bed (which was too small for me having had a queen bed my whole life, yes I know, spoiled) I had no knowledge that there was such a thing as a single bed.

It wasn’t until I walked into my room and sat down on my single bed (which was on wheels by the way) just how tiny such a thing is.

I couldn’t sit up in bed without the bed rolling away from the wall like I was at the starting line of a box car derby.

And lying in bed felt like I was trying to sleep on top of a Twinkie. If my legs had any distance between them, they would immediately start sliding off the edges of the bed so that I was straddling it like I was doing a horse trick.

So I spent my nights with all my appendages pressed together like I was about to be shot into space, which consequently I will probably never be allowed to visit because I would be the only idiot inadvertently trying to bring a knife on the spaceship.

Which is for the best, I’d probably just end up getting space fruit on my uniform anyway.

Twentease - The Pilot Webisode!

Here’s the timeline of how it happened:


First, I didn’t like my job. And desperate to find a way out, my mother emailed me a link to a video contest to win an amazing job. Make a 60 second video and submit it.

I had never done anything like before, but we learned on the fly and I became a finalist. I didn’t get that job, but I started doing video contests so that was cool.

Next, I was doing a favor for a friend of mine acting (which is to say pretending to be a 12 year old in a pit stained white tee) in a one-act play about the 60s. And while running around the stage firing an imaginary toy gun at another actor who was taking this way too seriously I thought two things.

1.    I am the worst actor in the world and don’t want to ever act again.
2.    I could write something better than this!

And so I got to writing my first plays and put them on later that fall. I didn’t become wildly famous from them, or wealthy, but I still got to put them on and I found something new that I loved, so that was cool.

And most recently I was sitting around in my apartment with a friend of mine after some very cheap wine and a dinner that had roughly the same amount of garlic as a vampire defense kit, and we were talking about some ideas I had for future projects.

And as we chatted without directly facing each other to avoid what is known as an “exhalation assassination” I spoke of the idea I had for a future play about people in their twenties not really making it in Manhattan. It would be like a cross between Sex and the City and Ferris Beuller’s Day Off.

We both agreed we liked the idea, and then retired to our respective abodes to sleep off what I refer to as an Italian hangover (wine and garlic).

So the idea was ruminating in my head while I was getting ready to start making for short videos to enter into contests so that I could continue financing my vacations with free trips to exotic beach locales.

But then something happened.

I saw a contest for a web series pilot. The contest was based around decisions and the winning pilot would win 25 thousand dollars and the ability to make 6 more episodes. And I had one of those moments where your heart starts beating really fast. When that happens my first instinct is usually oh shit, I screwed something up.

But when I realized I hadn’t done anything wrong in days, I realized I was excited. This contest was perfect for that play idea my friend and I had talked about. So I put all of my other important obligations (laundry, dishes, dusting) aside and got cranking on a script.

I wrote it in one very neurotically and obsessive-compulsive weekend. And my friend and I spent the next 3 weeks editing it and trying to gather a crew.

We had to hustle because the deadline was only a couple of months away and Thanksgiving was fast approaching which meant people would be pretty much booked straight through to the end of the year.

And we didn’t just need a couple of actors, we needed:

5 Actors
A director of photography
A cameraman
A producer
An editor
A musician
Five locations

And the only thing I had… was an actor.

And while we were able to fill almost all of those needs in several weeks, I decided, against the better judgment of the universe, that since I knew I needed something specific for the lead role. I would just play it myself.

Is it considered nepotism if you give the role to yourself?

Oh wait, I forgot, that’s just called narcissism.

I hadn’t had a critically acclaimed (Read: Teacher Supported) performance since my turn as the Cary Grant role in the play Arsenic and Old Lace. And that role, which I played in 8th grade, was not uncomfortable at all seeing as I had to make out with a girl 5 years older than me on stage in front of my parents.

Noooo, not uncomfortable at all!

My theatrical roles in high school consisted of people who were either careless, emotionally exposed, or completely out of control. So I thought I was pretty well poised to play somebody in their twenties.

That and the fact that I am in my twenties. So… ya know… I could just be myself.

So that was it. We found a location that was willing to let us shoot before they were even open. And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that fabulous place here.

Wine Bar
65 Second Ave
Between 3rd and 4th Street.

A great place for wine, laughter and friends.

That’s not their motto, but I think it should be.

So we had a location, we had actors, a crew, and a date. And we went and we made it happen!

Oh yea, and then I spent a million hours editing it using software I didn’t know how to use, bought DVDs to burn copies so I could submit it, then went to submit it in person but accidentally went to the wrong building and spent 20 minutes there before I realized I was an idiot, went to the correct location, dropped it off, then got an email saying none of the DVD copies worked so I went and bought new DVDs, re-burnt the series, snail mailed it, emailed twice to make sure they got it and found out they did.

Ta-Da! Easy enough. Now all I had to do was wait until May so I could get that 25 grand and make an amazing web series and become wildly successful.

Naturally we found out last week that we didn’t win.

::Deep melodramatic sigh::

But it’s cool, because in the mean time I wrote the rest of the episodes, which we can start shooting. And now I can finally show the pilot to my friends instead of fearing that I was breaking contest rules and hording it like some kind of troll.

So without further ado I present to you a show about people not quite making it in their twenties. All I ask is that you share it with your friends, post it on Facebook, tweet it out and whatever else. Let’s make this the most significant event in my life since that time I made out in front of my parents.

More Words of Less Wisdom

Recently when I was having a stressful day somebody suggested a very ridiculous solution to me, and instead of saying no thank you, I almost said this:

I need that like I need a hole in my head.

Luckily I caught myself, because the person I was talking to would have had no idea what I was trying to say.

What was I trying to say? I’m not really sure. But I blame my childhood.

The reason I even know that statement is because it was said to me frequently as a child when I proposed less than good ideas. And that was a frequent occurrence. But even when I was at my dumbest, it still seems like it might have been bit too severe of a comparison no?

I mean I suppose that’s the point but to a child, that seems like a ridiculous thing to say. I can just see myself wondering why my mother would need a hole in her head, or who would ever want a hole in their head, or how anybody would actually go about getting a hole in their head. It seemed like the least wanted thing in the universe.

I started thinking about other takes on this sentence that I could start building into my daily repertoire. Here is what I came up with.

I need that like I need:

a snake in my ear.
a harpoon in my foot.
a grenade in my throat.


But honestly thought I could do better and up the ante.

I need that like I need:

a dragon full of dynamite.
a balloon full of asbestos.
a panda in a dress.


Actually I might take the panda. But I figure as long as you’re going to confuse somebody you might as well really go for it. And speaking of confusing, I had a high school teacher say the following thing to me once:

Charles Dickens must be rolling in his grave.

Why? I understand that you are trying to tell me Charles Dickens would be upset, but why is he rolling in his grave?

Rolling in your grave presupposes 2 things.

The first is that anybody expresses anger by rolling back and forth. Not stomping, or screaming, or kicking. Rolling. What about this activity says anger? If I saw somebody rolling back and forth in one place I might think ‘drug use’ or perhaps ‘they were just on fire.’

But anger? I think not. Can you imagine the conversation that would lead to that? I mean in a normal circumstance if somebody were pissed off it would be like:

Bill: Are you OK man?
Steve: No! I’m so pissed I’m going to go home and punch a hole through my wall.


Ok wow yea that seems to make sense. But let’s say:



Bill: Are you OK man?
Steve: No! I’m pissed. I’m going to lay down on the ground right here, pull my arms to my chest and roll from side to side until this anger that exists deep within my heart has subsided. I will roll my anger away!
Bill: Oh… I don’t think we can be friends any more.


Actually you know who rolls around on the ground when they are angry? Children. Toddlers. Babies. Me… 25 years ago.

OK maybe 15 years ago.

The second thing that ‘rolling in your grave’ presupposes is the idea that pissing off a dead person would reanimate them only enough in that they would be able to roll around in their coffin, when everybody knows that if somebody came back from the dead they would fly into your bedroom at night and haunt the shit out of you. Not just roll around in a box underground.

I suppose it’s good we can’t know when we have pissed off dead people, or when they are unhappy. I on the other hand, always knew when I seemed unhappy because I would be told to:

Get that puss off your face.
Now, even though I had never heard the word puss before, as soon as my mother said that, I KNEW what a puss was. And I had one on my face. And I had better get it off or else.

Can I describe to you now what it looks like? Nope, I just happen to know it when I see it.

And I suppose it makes sense for a parent to say something to their child using the least amount of words necessary. It seems like being a parent consists of a lot of telling your kids what not to do. I can’t imagine I would have been as good at following instructions if my parents had said something like:
The current physical expression you are making on your face is neither conducive to improving the situation nor is it appealing to view. Please alter it immediately and bring about a more pleasant and kindly demeanor.

Of course not. Get that puss of your face works a whole lot better. The word puss could have been interchanged for snush, glerf, bloaf. It all works. Which just goes it’s not what you say after all, it’s how you say it.

So the next time you think you might have a puss on your face, you’d better get rid of it. Unless of course you’ve got a harpoon in your foot, in which case, I think you’re allowed to have a puss on your face.

Official Papers

My passport expired recently. I had nothing to do with its expiration and there was nothing I could do to prevent it. Ten years have passed and now it is no longer valid. But I did feel a certain accomplishment of having 10 years of travel marked down in paper, printed words of all the places I had been.

It feels weird not having a passport. I have had one since shortly after I got my license, and oddly enough, they get about the same amount of use these days.

For the last decade I have been able to go wherever I wanted, whenever I pleased. Not that the opportunity to do so arose that frequently. But still if I wanted to leave the country on a whim I could. It was possibility and capability. It meant that there was nowhere in the world that wasn't open to me. It wasn't a feeling I consciously pursued or even realized until after it was gone.

I actually probably spent more time concentrating on my passport as a marker of where I had been. I prided myself in that, in those things that I had seen. In those sites I had seen and who I’d been when I’d seen them.

Visas and stamps, customs and midnight border crossings. All seasoned with the sweat that came from keeping it strapped so closely to my body in the fear that I would lose it. I would turn those pages remembering when and where I got certain stamps, and trying to decipher those I couldn’t remember.

But as soon as that expiration date came it me quite quickly: I was land locked. Trapped. A flightless bird.

To get a new passport I had to get my original birth certificate from my parents. It was a routine exercise. I told my mother I needed it. I thought she’d send it, I’d bring it to the post office and that would be that.

It arrived in an envelope along with a couple of other documents my mother thought I had should have. I sat on my couch, opened the envelope, put down the other documents and unfolded the 27-year-old piece of weathered paper I had requested. And immediately I was overwhelmed.

The rush of emotion surprised me. As usual I seem to be completely oblivious to the things that will make me cry until the tears are actually in my eyes.

It was like a movie I had been waiting forever to see. I saw a movie of my past.

I saw images of my parents I had never seen. I saw my mother holding me in her arms. I saw my father leaning over her in the hospital bed, looking at their baby boy. I saw grainy images of the final piece of a family coming into place. Never before had a piece of paper made me feel so, well, loved.

It was not the first time I had seen it. I know I had seen this years ago but I guess the context wasn’t the same for me. And to be honest I’m not sure why it was so heavy for me now, after all these years. I didn’t quite understand why I felt these things.

But whereas holding my passport makes me think of all the things I want, holding my own birth certificate I felt a surge of emotion for all the things I should be grateful for. I see all the people I love and all the people I have been lucky enough to be surrounded by. I see what I have unbelievably been able to do.

And while I know my parents wanted the best for me but I can't imagine that they would have imagined all of the incredible things our family would experience and all the amazing opportunities I would have.

It was the complete opposite of holding my passport. While this simple piece of paper with my parents’ names and mine embossed with a seal showed where I was from, my passport symbolizes all the possibilities that lay before me and all the places I can go.

My birth certificate was my passport into this life, a grant to be able travel anywhere any do anything that my rapidly growing heart would soon learn to pursue.

It was my founding, the announcement of me. The very first official documentation would ever have. It is the one piece of identification that will always work. It is always me.

There is no picture on my birth certificate. It is strictly memory there. Whereas my passport will have a new image every 10 years.

The picture in my last passport was one I took around the corner from my house at the drugstore when I was 17 and about to go to Jamaica. I wore an orange t-shirt under a black leather jacket I only just recently donated to charity. That boy had an eight-dollar haircut and barely half a clue.  But he had a license and a passport so he was worldly.

I had a new passport picture taken at a drugstore around the corner from my job. This new boy in the passport is different. Older. His face more defined, not harder mind you, maybe just less soft. No longer a peach canvas of innocence and naïveté. This new boy wears a tie and a vest and has stubble that rarely leaves his face. His hair is a style. He looks serious but not as clueless, friendly but not as afraid. There is much about him that has changed in ten years, but in some ways he has come full circle.

Because he will always be somewhere between what he’s grateful for and what he desires. Just a boy between two symbolic pieces of paper that will never be able to tell half the story of what he is, merely hint at it.

How to Become Your Mother in 5 Easy Steps

I do many things that I am not aware of.  And many of these things aren’t normal things to do. They aren’t big things, in fact they are small things, almost inconsequential. And they are things that probably would otherwise go unnoticed were it not for the fact that people regularly point them out to me.

And when I try to consider why I do them, all I know is they have something to do with my mother.

I will be doing something that I do regularly when somebody will say, hey Rich, why are you doing that? And then I will freeze… because I don’t have an answer.

The answer is of course that my mom did this thing, and hence, now I do it. And god willing, one day my children will absorb the same thing through osmosis.

I now present you 5 ways in which I have become my mother. (And you can too if you’d like.)

5. Candles in my apartment.

Perhaps it had something to do with the fact that my mother had a smelly teenage boy in the house, or maybe it was just her affinity for the combination of wax and flame, but our home always had many candles. And we often burned several of those candles in our house at the same time.

It was kind of well known amongst friends that our house smelled so good. In fact I had one friend who used to ring my doorbell just so that she could stick her face in the door and smell my house when I answered.

Naturally I now posses candles. I have a candle for my living room, 2 for my bedroom, 1 for my bathroom, and a whole bag of votives. If you didn’t know any better you might think I was well set for a séance or an exorcism.

But usually I only light them all when I have people over for a party, which is kind of like an exorcism… of sobriety.

4. Wiping down the shower walls.

I am fortunate enough that I have many friends who let me stay at their apartment either because I am visiting them or I am too lazy to go home. But in all of those apartments that I have stayed, and all of their showers that I have used, I have never in my life, seen a shower squeegee.


The shower squeegee was a staple in my bathroom growing up. When you are done showering, you wipe down the walls. Its just what  you do. I have had people staying at my apartment hear me wiping down the walls and wonder aloud:

What are you doing in there?
I’m wiping down the walls.
Why?
Um, well, because my mom told me to when I was 7 and, and I just haven’t stopped.

I believe the appropriate answer is to prevent shower mold but this apparently was not of a concern to any of my friends’ families growing up. Was shower mold something that only affected the Boehmcke household? Can’t be… right?

3. The toilet paper roll.

Now this is the most trivial of items. This is so trivial that I feel almost embarrassed to mention it. Apparently when you replace an empty roll of toilet paper (and you do replace empty rolls when its your turn don’t you? You better… you shlub you.) with a new one. It is imperative that you replace it in a manner that makes the toilet paper come over the top of the roll, and not under it.

Why, you ask? Well the easy answer is:

I have no god damn idea.

But that is the way it was done in my house, and that is what my mother told me was right. So naturally, when somebody visits my apartment and replaces the toilet paper upside down, I am compelled to replace it correctly.

It is not because I am anal about the way my apartment is, or I am OCD. I am neither of those things. But something about an upside down roll of toilet paper just screams transgression to me and I cannot find peace (which is an important thing for me to be able to find in the bathroom of my own home) until that toilet paper violation has been rectified.

2. Jellies in the Fridge

So generally my fridge is pretty empty. Not because I don’t eat – I do, and quite regularly – but because I have no idea how to keep food in that fridge. As I have chronicled here, I have had issues grocery shopping and choosing food items to possess.

Growing up my mother always had no less than 3 different kinds of jellies in the fridge, often including the crazy party cousin of jellies, the marmalade.

Surely one jelly would have been enough, and would be enough for most people. Well not for my family. And it was something I regularly made fun of my mother for.

Well jump to today and my fridge will often be empty except for several different varieties of jelly hanging out on the door.

It’s not even that I am so in love with jelly, I mean I liked it growing up. But the amount of time I spend in the jelly aisle of the grocery store rivals the time most people spend purchasing their first home.

I have opened my fridge and felt disappointment, ACTUAL disappointment that I have only one jelly. I don’t know why I do it, all I can say is it just feels right.

1. Cleaning and then dimming the lights

It constantly confused me growing up, that when my parents were getting ready to entertain and have people over, we would have to spend the whole day cleaning the house, only to have them close the doors to our rooms and then dim the lights to the rest of the house before the guests arrived.

Well hell, if we were going to close the doors and dim the lights, why the hell did I spend 4 hours cleaning my room in the first place? I mean we could have just left things as they were and lit a couple candles and nobody would have known the difference.

And yet, when I had people over recently, I spent a day and a half cleaning my apartment only to dim the lights, replace the toilet paper roll, and light candles before my guests arrived.

But I have a feeling I am too deep into these routines to cease them. So it looks like I am bound to keep buying jellies 3 at a time and wiping down my shower walls. And even if I find out that does not prevent shower mold at all… good luck trying to stop me.

The Social Network

There has been tremendous buzz lately about the new movie The Social Network that was just released. The movie is of course about the founding and early days of Facebook. Mark Zuckerberg and others who were a part of the company in the beginning have said that the movie is a fictionalized account of how the website and company were actually started – that the beginning of Facebook was Zuckerberg and his cofounders sitting in a room coding, programming, and geeking out.



But whether or not that is the case is of no consequence. And even though the movie pulls a lot of its information from actual depositions of the ensuing lawsuits that followed, it wouldn’t even matter if the beginning of Facebook was Zuckerberg sitting in Sunday school writing letters to Jesus. It doesn’t matter if Facebook was just a dorm room project started to meet girls in a really auspicious beginning. What the movie captures and showcases is our new reality, the way we view our world. In essence, The Social Network is the movie we as a culture need it to be.

While the movie may have set out to capture the before, what it has actually captured is the after, our now, our present reality. The zeitgeist of the Facebook moment. If Facebook, Twitter, Blogger, Foursquare, and others are on the left side of the equation, what lies on the other side of the = sign might as well be infinity. This movie is far greater than the sum of its parts.

When Facebook started, it seemed we had all gotten over the hype of a website changing everything… again. Few would have imagined that the creation of another new website would have the effect that it did, and those that did, well, they have a lot of money now.

What Facebook has done is speed up the process. It has taken the rate at which we consume information and increased it a million fold. It has created the possibility for connection with every person we meet in our lives. It has turned strangers into “friends” and friends into voyeurs. It has taken our (previously unknown to ourselves) siloed lives and turned them into a web of connectivity that is nearly inescapable.

What is most interesting is that for as Facebook as evolved, in 6 years, as large as it has grown, as fast as it has expanded, it is still grounded in a collegiate mentality. Whether you are 16 or 60 you are doing the exact same thing - you are cultivating your personality, adding friends, keeping your eyes on what everybody else is doing, all from the comfort of your own home, all without moving more than your index finger, all without even opening your mouth.

Facebook quickly became the pacesetter in an industry that is all about connectivity. How many different aspects of our lives can we share with each other and how fast we can do it? We understand the benefits. We are reuniting with people we had otherwise forgotten about, and staying connected to people we might not otherwise have a chance to. The drawbacks? Well, they are different for everybody.

It’s all very Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless mind. Don’t want to know what’s going on with your ex boyfriend? Defriend him. Don’t particularly like how you looked at that holiday party? Untag yourself, it’s like you were never there. More than any time in the history of the planet we have the ability to cultivate the kind of life we appear to have, and the life we choose to remember.
I know this is nothing new, and I’m not saying anything earth shattering, but I think that’s just the point. The arrival of Facebook didn’t instantly change the way we live our lives the way 9/11 did, it has done it almost surreptitiously, working its way into every corner of your behavior. Kind of like the difference between making a sharp left turn and veering just slightly off course can both take you way off your path.

This is our new reality. Not just dramatically different, epically so. Whereas every mistake, mishap, missed connection, and messed up relationship became reassigned to the bowels of our memories, fleeing from our present with a tremendous ephemerality, now our history is incredibly tied to our present. We define ourselves by it.

It is unlike any other innovation of media we have seen. It is unignorable. Trust me, I tried. Whether or not you choose to be you are a part of it, you are. In the background of a picture you didn’t now you were in, acknowledged as a relative, or otherwise.

Even though Facebook may not have had a cutthroat beginning with back stabbings, parties with coke and booze, that kind of a lifestyle could exist for it now. Social media isn’t just a thing or a trend, it is an industry, a cash crop capable of being grown in the most unlikely of locations.

Silicon valley isn’t so much a location anymore as it is a mentality, a spirit, and an energy that has spread across the country creating a tech industry in New York that was previously nonexistent. There is a line in the social network where Justin Timberlake’s character says to Jesse Eisenberg’s

This is our time.

And he couldn’t be more right. This is our time, to create, to share, to ignore and to cultivate as we see fit.

Facebook may indeed have been just a couple of guys from Harvard coding through the night in the same clothes they wore yesterday, but the film conveys the significance and gravitas that we as a culture, hell, we as a species, have attached to it. It is the single most significant change to the way we as human beings interact with each other and ourselves.

It is not unfair to say that the future of Facebook and the future of our lives are now inextricably linked. And just like the Social Network may not necessarily be a perfect representation of what actually happened, neither are our lives.

Not anymore.

Passing the Bar - Part 2


So I sailed my car over to Grimaldi’s around 3 pm. I walked in the front door and asked to see the manager. I had grown accustomed to sitting and waiting while filling out a job application that asked me where I went to high school and what my course of study there was. As if where I learned how a bill became a law was really relevant for making a martini.

But this place was different, I went up to the bar where I immediately shook hands with the bartender and was handed an application by the owner. I sat down to fill it out when the manager walked by carrying plates to the back said, “Don’t worry about it.”

I didn’t really know what that meant, considering I wasn’t sure I would have been worrying about in the first place. So I just smiled and went back to filling out the application.  I was barely 10 percent into the application before he walked past again and said it again, “Hey boss, don’t worry about it. Just come next Sunday dressed in black and George will train you.”

Was that really it? After countless Arizona applications, convoluted interview processes, and a job at a country club that required 3 different phone calls, was this all they really asked from me? I wasn’t complaining but it almost seemed too easy. Did I really look that competent? What was it about me that finally did the trick for this restaurant?

Whatever it was I didn’t ask questions, I said thank you and left. This was it. I finally had become a bartender at not one but TWO different places.

I went home and told my parents. My father was particularly elated. “I have a bartender AND a bus driver for a son, wait until I tell my friends.” We both laughed. I have to smile looking back now after 5 years of working professionally, and 4 different office jobs, it's kind of hilarious that the pinnacle of working career at one point was pouring beers and driving around 7 year olds while singing songs. It seems my career aspirations have shifted.

All of that aside, this was it; this was the beginning of my life of rolling around in cash and beautiful women writing their phone numbers in lipstick on napkins.

But in a lot of ways bartending wasn’t what I expected it to be, and it was a lot of things I didn’t expect too.

The women? They never really came. I never got a single phone number from a woman coming into my bar. There was never some cute chippy sitting at the end of my bar waiting until my shift was over to come talk to me. If there was a cute woman at the end of the bar, I probably brought her in and put her there so people I worked with believe that women liked me.

I did however make more money than I probably ever could have imagined. The first night at that crappy country club I made over 100 dollars. Cash. In my pocket. I immediately went home spread it out on my bed and took pictures of it.

Smile money! Oh you look so cute! Smile!

But the country club quickly wore on me, poor management, and archaic payment structure ended in a confrontation where I quit, 3 weeks after I started.

And from then on I was a Grimaldi’s guy. I made more money that summer than I had my entire life. It quickly became the easiest and greatest job I ever had. The summer passed with many free drinks and a lot of laughs, a boss who pretty much let me do anything I wanted. That goes for the Christmas party too!

The owner’s brother owned a bar in Arizona near my school and he got me a job out there. And when I graduated and came home looking for a full time job, they let me work day shifts until I got hired full time. And when that happened they asked me if I wanted to keep Sunday nights, an easy shift just to make some money on the side.

Considering I made a dollar at my first job, it seemed like a great idea. And it was. Because even though it was only one night a week, it was enough pocket change that I didn't have to dip into my checking account during the week. And even though I eventually I got tired of bartending, having had no intention of doing it past the age of 25, I can't look back on it with anything but fondness.

Bartending allowed me to save up enough money to get my apartment. It allowed me to see Greece, Croatia, Turkey, Chile, Argentina, and Uruguay without bankrupting myself. It allowed me to furnish my apartment with furniture that doesn't suck, go out to dinner with my friends, go to concerts, shows, and revel in the glory of my early to mid 20s.

But eventually I grew tired. And then I moved out of my parents house and stopped driving to the bar and started taking the train. And then my parents moved away. And the longer I did it, the harder it was to drag myself out of my apartment and pour drinks for people who screamed, "GIVE ME A COORS LIGHT" like I was serving drinks on a helicopter pad in Vietnam.

Something about being a bartender in college was incredibly cool. And then after college it was still pretty cool. But the older I got, the more I lost interest in doing it. That feeling grew until that bar was the only thing tying me to the town I grew up in.

And then after my most recent job change I realized it was time. I would save up enough money for one more vacation and then hand in my… umm.. wine opener. While the cash would be hard to give up, it would be great to watch football in my underwear and just work on the projects I have become so fond of filling my life with.

And being done feels wonderful. I don’t miss it, which is the way it should be. I had a lot of fun, made a lot of money, and really only because a certain manager saw fit to hire me because he thought I was a good person.

I am very aware that the only reason I am allowed to have grown tired of bartending is the intersection of chance, good fortune, and timing.

And now, 5 years, 7,500 tap beers, 2,500 bottled, 1,200 bottles of wine, and god only knows how many mixed drinks later, I am done. I no longer have my trademark pens in my ears. I am a bartender no longer. So if you ever see me behind a bar again, well, please put me in a cab home because I’m drunk and shouldn’t be back there.


The Year in Rearview

I have reached a wonderful milestone. Today is my 2 year Blogaversary.

Let’s go ahead and pretend that actually is a word.

On this date 2 years ago I started Boehmcke’s Human Condition. And over the course of that time I have written over 100 posts that have been seen over 12,000 times in 82 different countries. And I think that’s pretty cool.

So a big thank you is owed to everybody that has been reading and providing the great feedback. I love to hear what you have to say and I love to write so hopefully we can keep that nice little relationship going.

I also hit another interesting milestone recently. I have now officially been out of college longer than I was in college. (And for those of you doing the math, yes that does mean I did 4.5 years at college thank you very much. And just so you know, it was a CHOICE to stay an extra semester.)

But it is now over 4.5 years since I was a full time student with all of the trappings that went along with that title.

It is a surreal thing to realize that being in college is a rapidly receding memory in my head. I think perhaps because college was a time of clearly defined achievements and landmarks. College had smaller indicators of where you were and how you were doing. There were individual denotations of success or failure. Grades, tests, homework, rankings, etc.

The most clearly defined time markers in college were those built into the calender. Your life is broken up into semesters, and breaks, and levels, and years. Whereas once you get out into the non-university world, there is no more structure. We are all operating in our own structures, in our own timelines, in our own little sphere of influence.

Being a student means a year full of quick starts and hard stops, abrupt course corrections that let everyone know exactly where they are at all times.

I used to be able to quickly and easily say; “Oh that happened junior year,” or “This happened during Spring break.” But no longer. Now it’s, “I think that was last Fall” or “Was that really 3 Christmases ago?”

Since I have graduated from college I have worked at 4 different jobs, for 4 different employers, in 4 very different industries, in 4 different parts of Manhattan. Those jobs essentially have become my freshman, sophomore, junior, and senior years.

So for me keeping track of time has been a very physical and spatial relationship. I have been able to recall memories by the office I was sitting in, and the people I had around me, or where we went after work for drinks. I’m not sure how my friends who have worked the same job for so long keep track of time. I wonder if it just blends together for them

I think that is why time after college seems to slip by so seamlessly. We ask ourselves where did the time go because we really have no idea what we have done. We have no grades, projects, or tests to show for it.

We remember our marriages, births, and deaths - actual huge physical changes that relocate you or detach someone from you. But those become the only signifiers on our road of life from college on.

I think that is what has frustrated or scared me about living in the adult world. That unless you create them for yourself, your road will be devoid of landmarks minus the ones that other people put there.

When I was in college people used to love to tell my friends and I about “the real world.” Those older than us would tell us things are really different in the “real world.” And it’s not all sunshine and roses in “the real world.”

I never understood that.

For so many of my friends who worked full time and went to school, or supported themselves, or had a spouse, or a child, all while in school, how much more real could it get?

I think what I’ve come to realize is that leaving college doesn’t put you in the “real” world, it just puts you in the “adult” world. I know plenty of people who graduated college and quickly slipped into a very unreal world of irresponsibility, pure dumb luck, and blatant stupidity.

So this real world? Well, I’m not even sure what you are talking about. But this adult world. It’s different. I realize that having no homework has been the greatest burden off my life ever. But I also realize that nobody is going to remind me to pay my insurance, seek me out to offer tutoring, or check in with me to make sure I’m on the right career path.

This adulthood thing, it seems to be about self actualization. Nobody pushes you or pulls you along. If you are lucky, you have friends and mentors who will be there for you. But the only person who is going to be extremely invested in your success is you. And I think that’s an easy thing to forget as we slip into our relationships, jobs, and never-ending routines.

The time I spent in college was filled with tremendous growth but probably not as much exploration as I would have liked. It was probably because I was scared or still getting used to operating in a new environment as my own capable being.

But this time since, this batch of years afterwards, has become a time of rapid exploration. I feel like  I am truly taking the reigns of my own life, truly trying to plot a course, whereas in the past I kind of just felt like I was always along for someone else’s ride.

Does this make me full of advice? No. This makes me full of learnings. All I keep learning is how little I know. If I really think about how much more there is to know, it’s quite depressing. So I try not to think about how much thinking I have ahead of me.

Who knows, maybe I will be full of advice eventually. Maybe the future will see me do things I never even considered. And maybe then I will have insight to share. But just to be sure, maybe check back in another 4.5 years from now.

The Smell of Manhood



I am young. My toothbrush isn’t yet a full sized one, and my head is barely taller than the bathroom sink. I am standing next to my father as he gets ready. His face is covered in foam. He drags a yellow tipped Bic razor through it, pausing after every swipe to dip it into the plugged sink of water to clean it off.

He finishes shaving, rinses off his face, and opens the cabinet for a green bottle of Afta After Shave. He empties some into his hands and rubs them together before spreading the green stuff over his face and neck. It is the finishing touch on his newly smooth face. It is the last step in the first stage of my father’s day.

Now, over 20 years later, I keep a bottle of green Afta After shave in my medicine cabinet. I don’t smell it often, and my father hasn’t worn it in over a decade. But the scent of it is inextricably tied to manhood and masculinity, two things my father has always embodied. Two things that I have become obsessed with.

My father is tall. At his tallest he was a half inch taller than I will ever be, with big soft hands that are great for a head scratch or chasing an itch around your back. He has thin red hair, freckles, fair skin and has never weighed more than a shade over 200 pounds.

He is also a man of simple tastes. He wore a watch for years but stopped when he started carrying a cell phone. He used to wear his wedding ring but stopped after it got smashed onto his finger in an accident.

He has no wallet. He wraps his cash around his credit cards and slips it in his pocket. He has the minimum amount of keys necessary on his key ring.
The things that define him most are his love of golf, the side part in his hair which has existed, unchanged, since before my birth, and his face, which has been clean shaven nearly every single day of my life.

But for all these simplicities he has always been the most competent of men. He does everything like he has done it a million times before. There is never any trepidation, or worry. He contemplates, examines the pros and cons of a situation, and then acts.

Maybe this is strictly for the benefit of his family, as in taking on the mantle of strength for strength’s sake. But I am not as interested in the why. What amazed me, and continues to amaze me to this very day, was the way he always operated at the height of confidence.

When I think about the impression I want to give, the way I want others to see me, the kind of man I want to be, I think about the way I looked at my father when I was a child.

I am not so sure how manhood became the aspiration in my life that I have placed above all others. I have been thinking about it for a while now, 10 years at least. But I don’t know how this made it to the top of the list. I am not sure what happened that made being a man so fascinating to me.

I can’t be sure if this goal or my ruminations on my father would be as impressive to others. Maybe it has to do with my own insecurities from childhood, the ones that I shrink wrapped in a shiny plastic of loud extroversion for so many years. Those insecurities that resulted from those punks on the playground calling me stupid names that shouldn’t have mattered. Those kids who never gave a second thought to their own existence but somehow made me question every particle of mine.

Maybe it is those feelings, those half remembered emotions held up in comparison to my view of my father that make his masculinity even more impressive.

Maybe I am self aggrandizing my own supposed torment. Freud might find it to be fascinating while Dr. Phil might call it bullshit. At this point in time I am still not sure what is the actual seed of truth that grew into this tree of significance.

What I do know is that I have always placed too much value on the things other people say or do. And it seems despite my best efforts, part of me is still seeking vengeance for the person I once was afraid to be.

At this point in my life surely I have accomplished enough professionally, seen enough of the world, and functioned successfully on my own to affirm that yes, I am in fact, a man.

But somehow those things have not done for my masculinity what I thought they would. My father has never, ever, talked about a single woman except for my mother. He has never bragged about the money he makes, the car he drives, or the house that he owns.

I am starting to worry that I will never stop thinking about whether or not I have become a man.

Maybe for me it is really something else. Material things interest me yes, but even I know that those are fleeting. A nice house and car are great but I know if I wasn’t confident in myself when I had them, those things would feel fake to me, just another pseudo-man behind a different, newer curtain.

Situations never changed my father. Possessions and promotions, none of it alters who he is at his core. The man who, even after our eyes met at the same level, always seemed to be just a little bit bigger than me.

Maybe it is the confidence I have in him that I so seek for myself. The confidence my father always seems to have. The confidence he had walking down the center aisle of church looking for a pew. The confidence he had while driving. Anywhere.
It is that confidence that I smell when I sniff Afta. It is competence.

It is that smell that trivializes all these things I fill my life with, all the trappings of supposed manhood: The Dangerous Book for Boys, a bottle of Johnny Walker Black, a Viking Helmet.

And perhaps that is what worries me most. That my son, if the gods of family and reproductive fortitude see fit to bless me with one, will not have a similar scent that will remind him of my masculinity. That he won’t come across a sent that reminds him of me, but also that if such a sent does exist, it won’t call to mind the same things as when I smell Afta.

I have latched on so tightly with my heart to the idea of becoming a great man that I worry I will never feel like it is something I can accomplish. I worry that I will never look to anybody like my father looks to me.

I am terrified I will go through the rest of my life keeping my hair neatly groomed, my ties tightly tied, and my etiquette flawless, all without a single person taking notice, or a single person thinking, wow, now that is a man.

And that is why I keep that bottle, a bottle I had forgotten existed until my freshman year of college when I saw it in the grocery store, but have not been able to let go of since.

I am small again, waiting for my dad to come home, waiting for the sound of keys in the door. I hear it, and I run and jump into his arms, wrapping myself around him, burying my face in his neck, in the scent that will forever guide me toward the way I want to feel.



Old Enough To...




Raise your hand if you’re a grown up.

I am serious. If you feel like you’re a grown up, put your hand in the air. Ok, now when did you start feeling like that? Was it when you got engaged? Married? After the birth of your first child? What made you feel like a grown up and can you please tell me how I can feel like one too?

Growing up is taking a toll on my brain. Never mind the fact that I can barely function like a normal human (whatever that is), trying to figure out to behave while constantly adjusting that for the age that I am is becoming more and more difficult.

I always hear people talking about how they feel older than they are. And sometimes I get close to feeling that way. Really close… and then I have a night like I did this past Saturday where I eat 7 Entemann’s Chocolate Frosted Mini Donuts, and 3 Full sized crumb donuts. And I realize once again… I am not yet a man.

In the mental evolution spectrum I think I have JUST figured out how to act like a semi -confident 21 year-old. And that is great. But the catch is, of course, that this is coming about 5 years too late.

Plus I have absolutely no idea how old anybody else is.

I remember the first time I noticed this. I was at camp when I was 11, back when I looked like this:


Unfortunate I know.

Anyway. We went to beautiful Mount Airy Lodge in Pennsylvania for an overnight trip and had a dance party in their “club” with another camp that was there. For the first time in my life I actually walked across the dance floor to ask another 11 year old to dance. And do you know what she said?

She said, “You know I’m the counselor right? I’m 17.”

Pssha, of course.

Long awkward pause.

So um… you don’t want to dance?”

And that was the beginning of me pretending to know what the hell I was talking about when interacting with females. The trend has continued to this day.

If you are between the ages of 18 and 40, chances are I don’t know your age. If you are a woman that spectrum included all those between 16 and 45. I constantly wonder the ages of the people I talk to. I am shocked to find out people I think might be younger than me are in their late 30s with 2 kids. Or somebody who might be a great career mentor for me is really struggling with their sophomore year.

Of high school.

I think it’s genetic. When I was little and my dad would tell us a story about a kid in a store or something and I asked him how old the kid was my dad would say, “Oh you know, 7,8,9,10.”

I mean that’s a 40 percent fluctuation in possible age!

How old was she?
Oh you know, late 20s, early 40s.

Everybody looks the same age to me. Which makes me wonder, how old do I look?

I know I have a baby face, and I shave as infrequently as possible. I do this for several reasons. The main reason being that I am lazy. (This informs most of the decisions in my life) The second reason is that I don’t like scraping blades on myself, but also because I think having a few days scruff makes me look a little older.

When I am cleanly shaven like here I can’t even buy expired grape juice never mind a glass of wine.


Perhaps the intense stare is to confuse people into making them think I am older?

I’m sure I will get to a certain age where I will shave everyday to maintain my youthful exuberance. But how old do I look? At the bar I work at people regularly ask me if I am still in school.

But on the flip side, I have been noticing a strange trend recently. People have been calling me sir. Like, more than one person. Multiple people calling me sir, and one person called me mister.

MISTER!

Like I was buying a newspaper from him on the corner for a nickel.

Does this idiot look like a mister to you?

 

What do you mean what am I doing? I'm changing my socks obviously.

ANYWAY... 

When I didn’t know a woman’s name I used to say, “Excuse me ma’am” until I kept getting yelled at. On more than one occasion I heard;

Do I look old to you?

At which point I froze because I know this is a trick question, and saying yes will probably get me slapped. The only logical response is to immediately fake your own death.

Or even worse they say something like, “How old do you think I am?”

At which point I say, “Old enough to vote?”

I really have no idea how old people are. I bartend, and have for 5 years. I might get into trouble on this but I never check I.D.s. Now I’m probably going to have busloads of 8th graders coming into the bar next week but I just take it for granted that anybody who orders a drink is of age.

I just don’t want to offend somebody when I ask to see their I.D. I have been to bars where sometimes I get carded and sometimes I don’t, by the same bouncer. I mean it’s not like I’m walking in there with a balloon and a box of animal crackers in my hand. I look pretty much the same most days. At least I think so.

I think going forward my best bet is to avoid all discussions about age. And I think I will stick to my regular regimen of not shaving.

And when it comes to the dance floor, as long as I avoid accidentally asking the campers to dance… I think I should be fine.

Second Puberty

As I continue on this meandering path into manhood, I am learning many things. One of those things is the fact that I can't spend my whole life walking around looking like I just woke up. I need to get my life in order so that as I venture deeper into my late 20s I look like a semi-competent individual instead of just, well, an idiot.

It seems that no matter how old I am, my body is always entering a new form and a new stage of puberty. And the puberty of my late 20s has brought some changes I did not expect.

The first time I hit puberty, though repugnant to girls, and with a voice like a broken cello, life was relatively easy. My personal grooming consisted of brushing my teeth and showering. There might have been some deodorant involved as well. But basically that was it.

And in terms of self-beautification, well, that was just using large quantities of hair gel and/or hairspray to shape my hair into a perfect quaff. It was not uncommon for me to spend 10 minutes coaxing individual hairs into place. They night have been stubborn but I knew that my will could outlast that of any of my hairs on any day.

Apparently that will only applies to the hairs that grow on the top of my head.

Recently I noticed a rogue nose hair. For the last quarter century of my life, these little guys stayed neatly tucked away and were of no concern to me. This fella, due to unknown circumstances, had started a slow, creeping escape from the nasal cave. I'm not sure what his thought process was. Perhaps it was something like;

I have spent my entire life in this windy darkness... I SEEK THE LIGHT!

The day I noticed my friend was going AWOL, I panicked. Wasn't this something that was supposed to happen in my late 50s? Didn't I have time until such a point in which my teenage daughter bought me an electric nose hair clipper for Father's Day?

I'm sure it was probably one of those things that I noticed but nobody else did. But what if somebody did notice? It is not like having spinach in your teeth or an eyelash on your face. There is no quick fix. There is no smooth way to hide this nose hair. I can't exactly comb him back into place.

Having no nose hair clippers and seeing the immediate peril in tying to shove a scissor into my shnoz, I opted for the tweezers.

Yea, I know. It was a bad decision.

Let me tell you, there are few sensations more disturbing than the feeling of pulling a hair out of your nose. I am not sure how to describe it other than it feel like you are sneezing pain.

The mission was successful but I was left with a predicament. Was I supposed to just admit defeat and by the nose hair trimmer now? Was I going to be that guy? The guy in his 20s with a nose hair clipper. Or should I just yank the bastard out the next time he made a break for the border?

I still have not made the decision. And I don't like either option. But let me tell you, the anxiety is killing me.

The nose hair debacle, though unexpected, came with a pretty obvious solution. Things that happen on the outside of my epidermis are easy to react to and I can usually form my own opinions about a solution. The things that happen inside my body, well, I just take other people's advice.

The more I read about what I should be doing to stay healthy, the more trusting (or gullible) I become.

For a long time I never took vitamins. Once I had consumed my last grape Fred Flintstone, I pretty much retired vitamin taking. Now that has changed. I take my multi-vitamin, a Vitamin C, and because doctors everywhere tell me to, a fish oil capsule.

FISH OIL.

Have you ever in your life heard of a more disgusting thing to eat for breakfast? If my mother told me when I was a child that I had to eat fish oil every morning before I left the house... I probably would have run away from home.

Granted the fish oil is sealed in a tasteless, easy to swallow capsule, but it is still fish oil. And every once in a while, a couple hours after I've had one, I will catch one of those burps that lets you know exactly what is in your stomach.

And let me tell you, a fish Eggo combo is not an awesome taste.

During my first puberty I don't really recall spending much time on foot maintenance either. In fact, I recall spending exactly zero time on foot maintenance.

Perhaps you are aware of my recent experience with the PedEgg. After that very unrewarding interaction I figured I needed professional help. I decided it was time to let a strange Asian woman I'd never me before, take care of my feet.

I got a pedicure.

I know, I know. I am doing the opposite of manly things. But stay with me on this.

My feet had deteriorated to the point of needing professional assistance. It's a strange thing to take a part of your body that most people find completely repulsive and shove it in someones face for them to make it better.

Here you go strange tiny Asian woman, fix them. FIX THEM NOW!

I didn't know exactly what to expect from the experience. I couldn't tell if the woman scrubbing my feet hated me or just wasn't paying attention to me because the 3 times I tried to start a conversation with her, she just didn't respond. I took this as a sign that we were not destined to become friends and that this was strictly a business relationship.

I was pleased with the results. But maybe not enough to make it a regular activity like eating fish oil daily or yanking hairs out of my nose. But the smoothness of my feet was noticeable and appreciated. Maybe this puberty wouldn't be so bad after all.

Until of course I hit my 30s. God only knows where the hair will start to grown then.

May I Touch You?

I imagine living in a puritanical society was pretty simple. Societal rules were pretty clear.
1. Wear black all the time
2. Don’t touch anybody ever
3. Avoid red lettering
Boom, done. No questions asked.

But the society we live in today is full of personal space and public affection, hidden boundaries and broken rules. It can be quite difficult to negotiate the social atmosphere. Especially for a guy like myself who grew up in a particularly affectionate generation.

By the time I got to the 8th grade I was hugging and kissing my female friends on the cheek whenever we would say hello or goodbye. I don’t know if it was us feigning adulthood or just a natural progression in trying to get closer to touching the opposite sex, but either way it became quite common within my social circles.

But that was in New York. When it came time to move to Arizona for college I didn’t even think twice that these social customs might be a little bit foreign to the people of the Cactus State.

One of my first nights in Arizona I got a ride home from a class member, a nice girl whom I had just met. When she dropped me off at my dorm, I moved to engage in an act I had performed hundreds of times with all of my platonic friends; I leaned over from my passenger seat to give her a kiss on the cheek to say goodbye. This would have been made infinitely easier had she met me halfway like I was used to.

But she sat there paralyzed. Like Super Mario in a Tanooki suit, she didn’t move. By the time my lips finally made it to her cheek I felt like I had spent 2 months on the Oregon trail. It was a completely G rated kiss on the cheek, but when I pulled away the look of shock on her face made me think I had accidentally tried to get to third base with her… which had NOT been the case!

Obviously my social customs were a little different than those of some of my new friends in Arizona.

Flash forward to current day. I am a working professional (whatever the hell that means). And I spend my days in business environments with people my age that I get along with pretty well.

Now business custom dictates that I shake their hand, but that feels cold and informal with female peers of my age that, in any other scenario, would involve a hug or kiss. However neither of those is appropriate in an office environment unless of course;

  1. They have retired, quit, or been fired
  2. They are receiving an award
So what I often do is just walk up to said females and stand there with my arms akimbo and uncomfortably lean slowly toward them hoping for some sort of last minute intervention that will make my course of action obvious.

I end up looking like more of a creep than had I just agreed to shake their hand in the first place.

The worst part is if they are leaning slightly in which implies a hug but I’m thinking I’m supposed to give them a polite kiss on the cheek and then next thing you know I have some female in a suit pressed awkwardly up against me and I’m gasping for a breath through a mouth full of hair.

I feel like an awkward award presenter. Like I’m about to give Taylor Swift her next Grammy award and a handshake is too formal, and a high five too juvenile, but a hug makes me seem like I’m one mistaken touch away from hearing those dreaded words…

“I’m Chris Hansen from Dateline NBC.”

I don’t know the rules. I just don’t.

When I first started working after college I was terrified of a sexual harassment suit. I don’t behave inappropriately around women (well…not that much) but I was so aware of having to behave like an adult (whatever that means) that I ended up embracing my German roots and showing no emotion at all.

Companies make such a big deal about explaining their rules and regulations and policies when they hire you that it’s a great way to become paranoid. Based on my last 3 jobs, if those rules had been in place while I was in college… I would be probably serving a life sentence in solitary confinement.

We as a society need to embrace hard and fast rules on this. A name tag system could be used.

“Hello I’m a hugger”

or

“Keep your hands where I can see them”

We just need something clear and concise. But I have an idea. I submit that we all (except for the smelly people) hug all the time. Hear me out on this one.

As long as you are wearing a shirt (which, unless you are Ricky Martin, you probably should be) there would be no skin on skin contact. Just 2 humans embracing in a cottony wonderland and it is done. No weak, dead fish, weird touch, germ filled, hand shakes. No my face touching your face, my lips on your cheek, your ear in my eye etc.

Granted I get excited to see pretty much everybody. And I’m kind of like a koala. If you’re willing to hold me, I’m probably just going to hang on as long as you do.

So the next time you see me, whomever you are, just give me a hug. Don’t even let me go for anything else. Just wrap me up, and hold me, and maybe you could whisper in my ear that I am loved. That would make me feel good to.

Unless of course you’re from Arizona, in which case, please just wave.