Saturday, December 31, 2005

Happy New Year's

Wow--another year ending. I feel like I'm in the same point of my life that I was last year at this time. I'm not one for resolutions but there are a couple I have to make this time:
1. Finish my damn book already. It's become more than just an albatross around my neck.

2. Finish the redesign of my website. I've had a travel website for 5 years. Hundreds and hundreds of photos and travel stories of all my trips. But the Internet has changed so rapidly that my site hasn't had time to catch up. I've been working on a redesign for a year now--retouching all the photos, learning some Flash, adding maps. Hopefully it'll be done in a few months.

3. Despite my goal of making enough off my novel and quitting my job, I need to improve my programming skills to look for a better job. I'd really like to double my salary, and I think I can if I just put my mind to it.

And that's it. Not so bad and actually quite manageable.

So tonight we're headed out to Tom's New Year's party. I originally wanted a nice peaceful day to relax. But in the end I gave in to Tom's many requests for me to come. His parties are usually extremely wild--people thrown in the pool, skinny dipping, sex in the bathroom, etc., and I'm really not in the mood for that today. So Sera and I won't arrive until about 10:30 and I'm hoping to get out by 1.

Well, I guess another reason I gave in to Tom's request is that my birthday arrives at the stroke of midnight. I've had a bit of depression in the past month and there's nothing more depressing than ringing in a new year and your birthday by watching Regis. So I'd like to be surrounded by a large group of friends tonight--even though they'll all be blitzed by the time I arrive.

Oh, by the way--it's New Year's Eve and it's almost 80 degrees here in Orlando!! This is why I love living here. Sera and I are heading out to ride the swan boats at Lake Eola this afternoon.

Here's wishing everyone a safe and Happy New Year!!!!

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Non-Sequiturs

I've seen a few others listing some tidbits about themselves and I thought, "why not?" Here's 51 little bits about me. And who knows, maybe I'll even learn something from this.

1. I hate meeting people I don't know.
2.One of my favorite reasons for travelling is to meet new and interesting people.
3. I changed my major 4 times in college. I returned to college a few years later for a second degree and changed it twice (never finished the second degree).
4. I gave more thought to who I should see for my first rock concert than who I should sleep with to lose my virginity.
5. I've never told anyone who the first girl was(I've always lied about who it was).
6. I've cried during such films as "Elf," "The Sound of Music," "Snoopy Comes Home," and "Big."
7. I hate pretentious people.
8. I had two best friends from the age of 3 until the age of 31. The three of us have not spoken to one another in 3 years and I doubt if we ever will again. After 28 years together we suddenly grew apart.
9. My sister went to high school with Fran Drescher and Ray Romano. I went to the same school many years later but don't know of anyone famous during my time.
10. I once played mind games with John Cusack at a Nirvana concert.
11. I once roadied for The Ramones in order to get in to a sold out concert. My friends and I waited by the side exit until they arrived. We asked if they needed any help and they gave an emphatic "Sure!" Joey and Dee Dee were really cool. Johnny was an asshole. He snapped at me when he learned I was a Mets fan(he loved the Yankees). I played the video game "Dig Dug" with Joey for over an hour. My friends and I drove Dee Dee around Allentown, PA trying to find him cocaine. He told us, "I can't be gone too long because otherwise my manager will think I'm doing smack again. But I don't do that shit no more." He died a few years later of a heroin overdose.
12. I saw the Grateful Dead 23 times ranging from NYC to San Francisco.

13. I didn't say "I love you" to another person and actually mean it until I was 21. I began crying uncontrollably because I had never before felt such an emotion.
14. My mother is Jewish. The Jewish faith therefore decrees that I am Jewish. I have never followed any religion and consider myself agnostic.
15. I once had an addiction that I was positive was going to kill me if I didn't stop. I never told anyone about it and it was a bane to my life for over 10 years.
16. Someone I loved very much became seriously ill. I prayed to whoever might be listening that if they got better I would never again toil with that to which I was addicted. They recovered and I've kept up my end of the bargain.
17. My favorite city is Amsterdam. I've been there 7 times.
18. I was a nerd in high school.
19. The two books that changed my life from nerd to partier were "Go Ask Alice," and the Jim Morrison biography "No One Here Gets Out Alive."
20. I have idolized Jim Morrison since my junior year of high school.
21. My dream since that time was to visit his grave in Paris. I fulfilled this dream 7 years later. I have visited his grave numerous times since then.
22. Though I enjoyed the lively party scene on Jim's grave I found it difficult to believe that anyone was really buried in it.
23. I did a fair amount of drugs in college and the years shortly after. I enjoyed every moment of it.
24. I drank a fair amount during that time as well. I also enjoyed every moment of that.
25. I only do drugs today if I am in Amsterdam, which is quite infrequently. But I'd love to go back soon.
26. I stole a few ruins from the Acropolis in Athens. I'd like to return them some day.
27. The wildest thing I ever did: I flew from New York to New Orleans to find a girl I had met in Chicago a week earlier. I didn't know her last name, where she'd be staying or if she was even going to New Orleans(she hinted she may be down there in a few days). I had never been there before. I found her on my first night there.
28. I once convinced an English girl in Greece that I was a professional gigolo.
29. I once convinced an American guy in Greece that I was English and spent a few hours with him in a bar making up stories about my life in England with a phony accent.
30. I once lied several times on a lie detector test and passed.
31. I always prefer to be abroad.
32. My family never traveled with me when I grew up.
33. Other than a couple of tiny commuter planes, my first real plane flight was when I went to Europe by myself for my first backpacking trip when I was 23. I recall thinking on the flight, "people in Europe don't know it yet, but they're about to meet me."
34. I hope that some day I can permanently live overseas.
35. I almost got married twice to European girls--one in Paris and the other in London.
36. I love Europe but I hate Europhiles. I can't stand people who talk endlessly about how much better it is over there.
37. I have an incredibly good memory.
38. I've always preferred brunettes.
39. I love the smell of skunks.
40. The best kissing of my life came courtesy of my French girlfriend. I wondered if it was a natural ability of the French. She let me test this theory by allowing me to kiss her best friend. Her friend was not nearly as good.
41. I usually find kissing more passionate than sex.
42. I always need to check out my hair in the mirror. Some people think this is vain, but it's actually because I'm extremely self-conscious.
43. I have 2 tattoos--an angel and the Led Zeppelin Zoso symbol.
44. I've only had one broken bone in my life and I didn't find out about this until 5 years later. A girl on a ferry in Greece accidentally crushed my little toe. It turned black the next day and stayed that way for a few days. 5 years later I told this story to a friend and he explained that's what happens when you break a toe.
45. I've always wanted to look like Jesus--very long hair, long beard, white robe and sandals. I tried to do this in New Zealand but I got too self-conscious and shaved and cut my hair. Sera thought I looked "grubby, but cute."
46. I once called Christie Brinkley and hung up when she answered the phone.
47. The wife of Kerry Wood of the Chicago Cubs repeatedly called me on my cell phone one night to yell at me. I finally just kept putting her through to voice mail until she left me alone.
48. I think Goldie Hawn subtlely said some disparaging things about me on "The Tonight Show."
49. My favorite color is purple.
50. During various points of my life I've been told I looked like Gilligan(high school), Prince(college and shortly after), Seinfeld(when his show was big) and Ray Romano(currently). I never thought I looked like any of them and I don't see how they even resemble one another.
51. I love Kate Beckinsale but don't understand why she makes such horrible Goth films.

The Sound of Music

Sera got me the 40th Anniversary edition of The Sound of Music for Xmas. That was the only gift I said I REALLY wanted. Most people don't believe me when I tell them it's one of my favorite films. "The Graduate," "Taxi Driver," "Midnight Cowboy," "The Sound of Music." The first 3 deal with loneliness--the last just doesn't seem to fit.

I was sitting in my apartment in Hoboken many years ago when the movie was on TV for Xmas. I had seen it many times before(it was not yet a fav) but watched it again anyway. The scene where all the kids sing and dance for the dinner guests really moved me. That's what I wanted: a large family of Aryan children that would happily sing and dance for my friends at dinner. Well, the Aryan part would never happen as there's no blonde in my family and it's not a dominant gene. But the rest would be nice.

Perhaps this scene moved me so because I come from a very dysfunctional family. I never spend the holidays with them. Holidays were the worst time of year for me growing up. A large group of relatives telling me I looked like a pretty little girl with my long hair; that I'm wasting my life (I was only 19!); and then ignoring me during the rest of dinner. My mother always forgot to include me when making dinner preparations and I'd get stuck in a tiny folding chair at the corner of the table drinking diet soda("it all tastes the same," she would yell at me, "just drink the damn thing!"). I'd sit quietly and stare at the clock on the wall and think, "I can't wait 'till I'm older and move out. I'll never have to deal with these people again."

It's the closeness of the Von Trapp family in the movie that gets me. All the kids get along with one another. They love their father who eventually warms up. Maria is just the best mom. Of course it's all very unrealistic. I read a book about the real Von Trapps. Half the kids in the film didn't even exist. The father wasn't nearly as cold as depicted. Maria became a dominating matriarch who refused to let the kids grow up and leave the family. The eldest daughter escaped one night and disappeared for a period of time. The last I heard the kids were suing one another over their Vermont ski lodge.

The Sound of Music has become a traditional Xmas movie for me. Sera and I make sure to watch it every year. Sometimes I get a tear in my eye just watching the kids romp all over beautiful Salzburg. I love Salzburg. I was fortunate enough to visit the town on one of my backpacking trips. I rode an all-night train from southern France to Salzburg, arriving on a Saturday afternoon. I met a guy from Florida on the train and we got beds at a hostel.
"Hey," he said, "they have a Sound of Music tour today. We should go."
I wasn't so into the film as yet and just wanted some sleep. It's not a good sleep on those all night trains.
"Not today. I just want to go to sleep."
"They won't have another tour until Monday," he said. We'll be gone by then."
This was true. We both planned on leaving the next day, Sunday. Salzburg is that small.
We went on the tour and had a good time, though I mostly enjoyed sleeping on the tour van.
"Wake up, we're at the church where they got married!"
I'd stumble out half asleep, snap a couple of pics, then get back on the bus and sleep. I am glad I went on the tour, though. I did enjoy it.

But the following morning, Sunday, I got up early and took a stroll around Salzburg. It was a beautiful blue sky summer morning. An outdoor church service was being held in the town square. I sat in a chair in the back and breathed in all the alpine scenery. Salzburg looked exactly as it did when the Sound of Music was filmed in the 1960s, which is how it must have looked during the time period of the story, the late 1930s. When the service ended I meandered along the town's cobblestone alleys imagining life here during the Angschluss, during Mozart's life(he was born here). You can easily do that in Europe--where they usually know enough to not mess with perfection.

And so when I watch The Sound of Music I recognize the square where I sat for the church service; the wall I sat on while I studied the alpine fortress; the church steeples; the many film locations we visited on the tour. And it floods my heart with the desire to return. But really to return to a much simpler time in my life. That time many years ago when I was much younger and more carefree. When I could just aimlessly wander through the ancient streets of a historical city, and then hop on a train to another.

Talkin' Baseball

I'm a baseball fanatic. Have been since I was 10. I'm a die-hard Mets fan. I was there during the lean years in the late '70s and early '80s. My wife gets a good laugh when I pull out my old yearbooks and show her the futile stats of such a woeful team. There were half a dozen players on the 1977 team with 12 or less RBI's for the season. But I was a naive little boy who rooted for them all through the season, despite their obvious inadequacies on the field. Of course things got great in the mid 1980s and the Mets kicked everyone's asses. They kicked sand in their opponents' face. But they deserved to after the way they had been laughed at in previous years. I hated all the people that jumped on their bandwagon in the '80s. Where were they during the last place seasons? Sort of like the Yankees today. I see "fans" everywhere with Yankee emblems. But where were they in the late '80's and early '90s? Who remembers Stump Merrill, Andre Robertson, Bobby Meachem, Ed Whitson, Pags and Kevin Maas? These are questions I ask people who claim to be Yankees fans. If they don't recall these names then they're just hitching on the bandwagon. They'd just as soon be wearing Washington National jerseys if it was popular. I hate the Yankees and always will. But I know more about them than most of their so-called fans today.

Anyway, I just wanted to vent a bit on recent trades and Free Agent moves.
First: it's great the Mets signed Billy Wagner. An ace closer is a big key to winning a pennant.
I'm not so thrilled about trading for Carlos Delgado. He spurned the Mets last winter and I doubt the fans will appreciate him. Also, I've learned the last few years that first base is a key defensive position. I'd rather have a Gold Glove over there than a big bat. I can see Reyes and Wright throwing a few more balls down the line.

Second: the main reason for this entry is my opinion on Johnny Damon going to the Yankees. I'm still stunned by this, but I have to blame Boston more than Damon. Damon was a decent player buried in the anonymity of Kansas City. He had a dismal season with Oakland, though slightly redeemed himself with his post-season performance. But he really took off in Boston. He was made for that team. The lack of foul territory in Boston helps anyone's average. Plus the chemistry of that team and the Boston fans really sparked Damon into life. I'm a Mets fan first and always, but thanks to the Extra Innings baseball package I became a Red Sox fan. I love watching games with Jerry Remy and Don Orso(sp?) announcing. I loved the dramatics of the Red Sox coming from behind in the late innings. I loved watching Damon with his long hair and beard. And I'll never forget the ageless Vin Scully saying, "He looks like Charles Manson out there."

So then Damon joins the arch enemy Yankees. The obvious question with that is, "is there no loyalty in baseball?" I was more than a bit peeved to say the least. But then I heard that the Yankees' offer was only good until midnight. Had Damon turned it down he would have had no bargaining advantage. The Sox and any other team could have made any offer they wanted and Johnny would be screwed. So I have to blame the Red Sox in this. And looking back, it seems the Red Sox will always be doomed for failure because of their ineptitude off the field. They let Roger Clemens go(though he had turned in a few subpar seasons at the time). There was the whole fiasco with Nomar--the man was a great leader on the field, but it all fell apart too soon. And the disaster with the Manny Ramirez-A.Rod trade. I think it's better in the end that they kept Manny, but the Sox really did make fools of themselves by not offering to pay the rest of A.Rod's salary. But not resigning Damon was the worst. He was the catalyst of the team. The heart.

So the Sox won in 2004. They had the team and the chemistry. They just don't have the management. I won't be surprised if it's another 86 years before they win again.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Coincidences

I love coincidences. They make me wonder if there are higher forces playing around with us out there. Of course many coincidences only exist if you're keenly aware.

For example: In a college accounting class many years ago my teacher, Dr. Gum, reached up towards the blackboard with a piece of chalk. The chalk snapped in two, with one piece flying through the air, landing on the chalk rail and sliding towards the end of the rail, stopping just as it reached the end. Dr. Gum turned towards the classroom and said, "I bet if I couldn't do that again in a million years if I tried!"

Now flash forward 2 years. I have another accounting class with Dr. Gum. I'm struggling to stay awake as he casually reaches up towards the blackboard. Suddenly the chalk snaps in half--one half lands on the chalk rail, slides towards the end and stops. He turns to us and says, "I bet if I couldn't do that again in a million years if I tried!" I nearly jump out of my seat to yell, "But you did the exact same thing two years ago!" Instead I sat quietly, realizing I was the only one in the room who knew this. Even Dr. Gum didn't recall this repeat in his life.

Another little coincidence I always liked occurred while I was hiking through the Swiss Alps. I came across an American girl on the path and we got to talking. She told me she was from Reading, PA, the same town as my college roommate. I asked if she knew him. Her eyes lit up with shock as she took a step back. "I dreamed about him last night!" she said.

Last year while visiting friends in London, a woman from work spotted me in front of Big Ben. She was on her honeymoon and saw me across the street. I was gone by the time she could cross the street.

But my favorite has to be this sequence of events: I was working at a temp job in mid-town Manhattan. Sera and I lived in NJ, and I would drive to Hoboken and take the PATH train into the city. When I got to work I realized I didn't have my car keys. I began to panic, and called Sera at work. She was working as a lawyer for a firm in NJ. I was hoping she could ride on over to the garage in Hoboken and check if I left my keys in the car. Her secretary informed me that Sera was at a meeting out of town and couldn't be reached. I didn't know what to do, and just sat at my desk in panic. No more than five minutes passed after I called Sera's office when suddenly Sera walks in the door. In the 6 weeks I had been at this job she had never come to my office. Turns out her out of town meeting was in Manhattan--3 blocks from my job.
"I knew you worked in this area and I thought I'd stop by," she said, not knowing I just called her office.
I explained my situation to her.
"What garage are you parked at?" she asked.
"In Hoboken. The 2nd one on Hudson St."
"Oh, I'm also parked there. What level are you on?"
"The third."
"Me, too!"
Turns out she was parked just across from my car. When she got to the garage she saw my keys lying under a book on the passenger seat, and called to let me know.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

The Great Writer

The power cord on my cable modem at home doesn't seem to be working, and so I have no Internet. I'm currently surfing the net at work--most people are out of the office this week and it's nice and quiet.

I dated a girl named Mary in college. She was the most talented writer I knew. Mary was an 18 year old freshman and I was a 22 year old senior. Despite being an English major I was still a neophyte when it came to good writing(hated The Great Gatsby and On the Road back then). Mary would proudly show me her term papers (professor remarks read like, "You should be at Harvard or Oxford, not here!") and have me read over them. The problem was that I couldn't understand her papers. The writing was well over my head. Mary would get all frustrated because I couldn't comment on her stuff and I usually didn't bother to finish reading. Then she'd cry. I'd futilely try to explain that it was useless for me to read her papers as I couldn't understand what the hell she was writing.

Mary was a psychology major and I had to convince her into changing to English or Journalism. She was a born writer. But as great a writer as Mary was I always felt there might be a problem. She lacked imagination. She took a short story course and the professor felt most of her stories were publishable. I hated her stories. They seemed more geared for children's magazines than great works of art. Of course she was only 18 at the time and had yet to live, but I still wonder. It's been many years since I last heard from Mary. After we split up we briefly wrote and called for a few years until it eventually ceased for good back in 1993. In the last letter I received from her she wrote that she had won a writing contest in Philadelphia and was given a tour of Veterans Stadium.

I always thought while we were dating that we'd make a great writing team. I have a great imagination and she had the great writing skills. Together we could have written some great stuff.

I've always had such a hard time writing what I think is good stuff. It takes many hours and rewrites and I get extremely frustrated. I'd watch Mary write an "A" paper in 20 minutes. Her first drafts were usually the only drafts. But I've never seen her name anywhere in print. Maybe she never did expand her imagination. But I get jealous of someone with the skills that she had. I've always felt that I was meant to be a writer. I do have a great imagination and definitely have some book worthy moments in life. I've tried to live my life to the Jim Morrison quote, "Did you have a good world when you died? Enough to base a movie on?" So if writing is meant to be my calling, then why do I struggle so much with it? It could be because most people struggle until they hone their skills. Including the best writers.

I look back at Mary's life at 18 and think about how she got to be so good. She was ALWAYS reading. If she spent time at my parents' house (she lived in Philly and I was in NY) I'd find her in the mornings curled up in bed reading something from my mom's bookshelf. She was such a nerd in high school that she went to vocabulary parties(she really did) instead of drinking and sex parties. Of course all that changed once she got to college.

I read a lot growing up and was very advanced for my age in reading. Then something happened in my teen years and I stopped. I'm not sure why. I've tried to analyze this to find some sort of answer. My reading skills diminished and my vocabulary stopped growing. Maybe it had something to do with my family becoming extremely dysfunctional. I was very unhappy during my teen years. I don't know if that's why I stopped reading, but it's a thought. My studying English in college had nothing to do with love of literature. It was just a quick, easy way out of having to study too hard. But it did teach me to think and analyze life. I obviously began reading more at this point, but not enough. It wasn't until a few years ago that I consciously decided I needed to improve my vocabulary and my mind. I began reading about 30-40 books a year. My vocabulary has improved tenfold and I just feel so much more intelligent. But I wonder how I might have turned out had I not stopped reading way back when. Would I have been as great a writer as Mary? Can I still be that good if I keep reading and continue working on my writing? I hope so.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Signs of Old

As a kid I used to love playing with bugs. I suppose most kids are like that. My friends and I had a blast playing with insects, worms and other creepy-crawlies. I even got a bug collecting kit for Christmas one year. Today I'm scared to death of bugs. I'm such a wimp that if I see one in the house I yell for Sera to come and kill it. And I have the feeling I'm not the only one who went through this transformation. So when did the moment come in life when bugs went from fun playthings to frighteningly ugly monsters?

I've often pondered this question and am still debating about whether to include this little idea into my book. It's not like one day I just decided to be afraid of bugs. But when did I go from having fun with them to being terrified? I have no idea. Is this the definitive point when your childhood is officially over...the moment when fun becomes fear?

Christmas was obviously my favorite holiday as a child. (If you read my last post you're probably wondering why a Jewish kid was celebrating Christmas--it's just another part of how crazy my whole life is). I'd make a huge list of things I wanted and count the days until the big day arrived. I didn't sleep more than a couple of hours on Christmas Eve. When family ask me today what I'd like I reply, "Nuthin'." And it's the truth. There's really nothing that I want. Is this another sign of getting old? My parents always get frustrated with me at this time of year.
"There must be something you want," they'd say. But why must there be something I want? Maybe what I want can't be bought at the mall. I want to travel. I want to experience other cultures. I want the world to be peaceful and happy. I want those I love to be healthy.

But in the end I acquiesce, if only to appease them, and tell them clothes. Clothes! That was every kid's nightmare gift. And now that's what I ask for. It's even a struggle with Sera. I told her today to get me some books--Charles Bukowski and Doug Coupland. I guess it's a good sign when there's nothing material that I want.

But all this goes back to my original question: when did I start getting old?

Xmas in Hell

Okay, I've done it again. Two days before Christmas and I've yet to buy anything. We got out of work at 2 to get some last minute shopping done. The mall is a mile from my job so I thought I could just swing by there on the way home. Hmm...To start with, lots and lots of traffic. Took me 30 minutes to get there. Got into a bit of road rage with a woman. I didn't want to pass through a green light because the cars were backed up and it would have caused gridlock. The woman behind me kept blaring her horn. I gave her the finger. Sorry, but she deserved it. I'm driving safely and thoughtfully(I would never intentionally cause gridlock) and this stupid selfish woman kept honking. After I gave her the finger she gives it right back! So of course I flipped her off again. I so wanted to block her in and not move my car. But it's just not worth it.

So I get to the Barnes & Noble to get the books Sera asked for. But, of course, they didn't have the whole set. I left and head for Target to get some other gifts. But traffic was just backed up too far. I thought "to hell with this" and took some backroads to get home. I'd go to Target later tonight. But the backroads were all backed up and it took another 30 minutes to get home. I spent 90 minutes in hell and got nothing. I'm going out in a few minutes to the Target to see if I can find anything Sera asked for. Or maybe I'll give in and go to Wal-Mart. I hate Wal-Mart with immense passion. They're destroying the US. I eschew their stores at all costs. But I'm very tired right now and they're so close to home.

So isn't Christmas just wonderful? I know, I know. This is all my fault for waiting so long to go shopping. And I do this every year. You'd think one of these times I'd learn.

I can't decide if I should write "Merry Christmas" or "Happy Holidays." You wouldn't think it should be such a big deal, right? Well get this: I work for the newspaper in Orlando. One of my tasks at work is handling Christmas donations to help underprivileged children get presents. The fund used to be called the Christmas campaign. But due to PC reasons it was changed to Holiday compaign(why someone in technology is doing this I still don't know). We've received several letters of complaint about this change, but one takes the cake. A woman wrote that she would not donate until we changed the name back. It MUST have the word "Christmas" in it--the only true Americans are Christians, and all Christians observe Christmas. She only buys presents from stores that say "Christmas" in their window. Can you believe that? So screw all the poor kiddies this year unless the name of the fund is changed. That's the holiday spirit!

At the risk of offending TRUE Christians I will wish everyone a Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, Happy Kwanzaa, Happy Hannuaka(you know, I'm actually Jewish and I still don't know how to spell that) and anything else you may follow.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

The Future's So Bright...

Last week I got to thinking about how lucky animals (non-humans) are in that they don't keep track of time. I'm sure many observe the changes in seasons, but they don't worry about their age or life expectancy. I think we're cursed in that aspect. It's disheartening to think my cats won't be around as long as us, but they're so blessed in that they don't know that. They live moment to moment without a care or concern about tomorrow; they don't dwell on yesterday.

And then I finished a great book that deals with this point on a much larger scale--Douglas Coupland's "Girlfriend in a Coma." One issue it dwells on is that humans are the only animal that keeps track of history. We're the only ones concerned with the future. But are we meant to do this? The human mind cannot really grasp anything further than 50 years into the future or 100 years into the past. Have you ever wrestled with the concept of when the universe first began, and then what was there before it? Your mind just can't handle it. "Girlfriend in a Coma" put it quite simply: the universe is just the universe. There's no point in measuring how old it is. We weren't meant to keep track of time in such a manner.

But the main question the book asks is this: are we really progressing as humans? The more advanced we become, the more unhappier we are. Technology is advancing at lightning speed: as you try to catch up you only fall further behind. More and more people are feeling lost as a result. I work in technology and it's a never ending learning process. Java was huge--now it's dying. Dot Net is huge now. But by the time I learn that it'll be dying. I'll never be caught up. And that's a microcosm for all society. We're advancing so fast that most people are stressed and unhappy that they're getting left behind. Imagine what life was like 50 years ago. If you wanted a job you could look in the paper, make a phone call and be interviewed right over the phone. You might be hired within minutes. Today you fax a resume to a number (many times the company doesn't even identify themselves) and hope they even receive it. Chances are you may be qualified and not even get a call back. You're just lost in oblivion with hundreds of other resumes. Things were simpler back then, and I have a feeling there were more happy people.

I just feel like I'm not living the life I'm supposed to live. I work in technology but I'm beginning to hate it. At least what it's doing to us. Things appear to be simpler on the surface: on-line banking, e-mail. It's hard to picture life without the Internet. Granted the information you can find there in minutes can be priceless. And being able to communicate with people from around the world for virtually nothing is amazing. But when I compare my life now to that before the Internet, I realize I was much happier then. I got out more. I didn't feel the need to learn HTML, Java, all the dot net languages, Flash, Photoshop. I didn't worry about identity theft, hackers, worms and viruses.

And it's not just the Internet. I have digital cable with over 250 channels and DVR. This package combined with high speed Internet costs $100 a month. I have 2 computers, each with 2 hard drives and dual boot operating systems, linked to a network at home. I feel like I always have to keep up with the Joneses.

I wish I could have a job where I could reach a certain level of expertise and be done with it. That will never happen in technology. And it's not just the technology field. Most jobs today require computer skills--and it's a never ending process. I remember when Wordperfect and Lotus were huge. Now it's MS Office. Many fields are becoming obsolete because of technology. It's forcing more and more people to switch careers at a point in their lives when they should be comfortable. I switched several years ago to technology because it was so lucrative. Now everyone's doing it and it's hard to find anything worthwhile. And everyone spends so much time learning what's new and improved that we have little time for the things that really matter: such as life itself. I don't see an end to this. I have to study all these damn new programs only to find that something new and better will be coming out shortly.

My point is that I don't want to worry about the future. I don't like spending so much time planning for my future that I can't even enjoy the present. Why do I even have to know that I'm getting older? I look at my cats and I envy them so much. For them the sun goes up and then it goes down. They don't know they're getting older. They don't worry about the future and they don't dwell on the past. I really wonder if we're the only species that does this.

We're always in such a hurry. Life is moving so fast that we'll all be in our graves before we know it. I want to slow down so much. But how? It seems you can't function in the first world without technology. You won't be able to communicate with the outside world. You'll get stuck behind with your head under water. I want life to be simple again. And I want to do it my way. Who knows--maybe my book will get published and I can finally live my life the way I want.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Gina Part Three

"I love you," I tell Gina, although we've only known each other a few hours.

She smiles. Her eyes glisten.

"I mean...I don't really LOVE you. But I love you." I sound like a confused fourteen year old.

"Yes, I know what you mean," she says haughtily. "You don't have to explain."

"We should meet some time. Somewhere neutral, where I don't have to pay you to talk to me."

Gina's eyes widen at my proposal. My heart races, partly because I want her to say 'yes' and partly because I'm shocked at my own audacity. After all, I am married. Nothing good can possibly come out of us meeting.

"Hmm," she moans. "I can't believe I'm even considering this."

I want to tell her to forget it. That I know this is just a fantasy world that's not meant to collide with reality. I want to pull away from her steely eyes and sensuous crimson lips, those full swollen lips I crave to press against mine as her soft slippery tongue thrusts in and out of my mouth, probing and penetrating deeper and harder until her wetness becomes mine and we are one.

I snap back into focus. Gina stares deeply into me, manipulating my mind. "It'll be fun," I suggest. "We can just sit at a bar and have a couple of drinks."

"I definitely don't want to go to a bar," she says. "I drink in here every day. It would have to be someplace else. And I don't mean my place, either."

"Well, we can't go to my place." My mind races in search of the perfect meeting spot. A place where we can relax incognito. Where we can be ourselves.
"I know a great place," I announce. "It's an alternative video store that serves drinks from around the world and has live acoustic music. It's small, dark and relaxing."

"Oh my God," she says. "I know the place. Stardust Video!"

Stardust Video looks like a typical Amsterdam hash bar. Cozy and dark with low wood ceilings. An illuminated cake display at the front counter. A frig behind the counter featuring exotic drinks from around the world. An eclectic crowd of hipsters in dreads, poet wannabes and dreamers. A place you'd expect to be able to casually light up a joint and puff away while analyzing Keroauc and Bukowski.

"Wow," she says. "I can't believe how much we have in common. And this should convince you that I like you. I've only met one other person from here, and that was when I was 19."

"How old are you now?"

"27. But I took a few years off from this. I came back two years ago." Gina strokes my hand, never taking her eyes off mine, never releasing me. I feel weightless, like I'm freefalling into an abyss.

"But I won't sleep with you," I state authoratively. I still have enough sense to announce this.

Gina's tilts her head back and laughs. "Don't worry." Her sensuous red lips purse. "But we can always kiss. I'd love to kiss those lips of yours."

My heart thumps in panic mode. Just stop this, I say to myself. It's going too far. There is no way you are going to kiss this girl. This stripper who only wants to corrupt my mind...and my morality.

"After all, kissing isn't really cheating."

Kissing isn't really cheating. The hallowed cry of the adulterer. The words echo as I wrestle with the logic. Kissing is something I first tried when I was seven. But seven year olds are innocent, so therefore kissing must be innocent.

"You're right," I say.

My response rings loudly through my head; loud enough for Tom and his playmates to stop flirting and look over; for the hostess who was walking by at just that moment to pause by our table; for the flames in Gina's eyes to dance with delight.

She leans over and kisses me firmly on the lips. I taste her sticky strawberry lip gloss. She pulls back and grins. "There'll be a lot more of that when we meet. And more passionate. I can't really kiss in here. It's against the rules." Gina leans in to my ear and whispers, "I want to taste your mouth."

I'm quiver like a frightened child. "Can you do that again?" I ask meekly. Gina looks around to make sure management isn't watching and leans in for another kiss. A soft, moist liplock as she gently bites my lower lip. I feel a throbbing in my pants. My cell phone. I pull back and pull it out.

"You have a call," Gina says, grinning.
I hand the phone to her without looking at the caller. There's no need. "It's for you," I tell her.
For once Gina is the one who looks lost.
"Go on," I say, pressing the 'receive' button, "answer it."

"Hello? ......This is Gina, who's this?......Oh, hi. Sure, he's right here."
Gina passes the phone back.
It's Sera.

But Sera is the coolest wife in the world. She doesn't mind that I go to strip clubs. It's natural for men to want to look at other women. And for women to look at other men. You're only lying and cheating yourself if you deny this fact of life. We can look all we want and openly talk about people we find "hot." Honesty is what keeps a relationship together. I tell Sera everything...almost everything. I tell her a little bit about my predicament. How Tom coaxed me into coming and now he's too drunk to drive. I tell her about Gina. That Gina's keeping me company while Tom flirts with all the women. Isn't it nice of her to do that? We chat for a few minutes before she lets me get back.

"Let me give you my phone number," I tell Gina as the evening shift girls begin arriving. It's night time now and I've been sitting with her for seven hours. Our only breaks have been when she has had to dance on stage--for two songs every 45 minutes. I get upset when someone comes over and stuffs a dollar into her garter. But when she's done she forces a fake smile for the others and comes directly back to me. It's been this way all day.

But now it's time to go. Gina's shift is ending.
"Do you have a business card?" she asks.
I fumble through my wallet although I know I don't. I stopped carrying business cards because I hated to think of myself as the type of person who would need a business card. I hate thinking of myself as being in any type of business. I don't like to be categorized or labeled and reduced to a faceless name and title on a pompous little card.

"Can I just give you my number on a napkin or something?"

"Sweetie, that would look too obvious. You'd need to sneak a card into my hand or garter. You'll have to come back again and have a card ready for me."
I'm desperate to give her something...anything with my name and number. But I have nothing.
Gina leans over and plants a kiss on my cheek. Her eyes sparkle as her gaze meets mine. "Bring a card next time. I promise I'll call."
She slides out and walks back towards the dressing room. I watch her shadowy figure as it slowly fades from view...until it disappears into the darkness.

Outside in the parking lot it is night. Tom has sobered up some, but is probably still too drunk to drive. But all sense of reason was lost many hours and promises ago. The drive home is a blurry sea of red taillights.
"Did you have a good time?," Tom asks with a conspiratorial grin.

I nod.

"I met this really hot girl with schoolteacher glasses," he says. "Man, I don't even remember her name. She's Hot For Teacher!"
He turns to me and says, "You know we have to go back now. I've gotta see this girl again. You're gonna come back with me, right?"

I don't want to come back. I'm no longer a simple bystander. I've become a key player in this emotional chess game.

"Sure," I say, trying not to sound too interested. "I'll come back with you. Just remind me to bring a business card next time."

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Xmas in New York

There has not been one single day since I left NYC in 2001 where I have ever yearned to return. They just had a blizzard a few days ago while temps are in the 60's here in Florida. I love Florida. But I do have a slight problem. It's difficult to get in the spirit of Christmas down here. It looks tacky seeing the streets lined with decorations of snowflakes and Christmas trees when it's typically in the 70's and people are in shorts.

Although I no longer live in NYC, I will always be a New Yorker. And this is that one time of year when it's good to be there (except for the cold and snow). People are friendlier this time of year. They're smiling and not so concerned to be in a hurry. It's always exciting to look at the storefront Christmas displays along 5th Avenue. It makes you feel like a child again, no matter how ambitious you are. Everyone slowly takes in the displays saying "oooh," and "aaah."

Rockefeller Center is at its most beautiful. The Xmas tree stretches deep into the night, illuminating the ice rink below. Funny--when Sera first moved to NY she thought the tree grew there naturally! Trumpeting snow angels line the pedestrian plaza from the tree to St. Patrick's Cathedral. I loved strolling down the avenues just beaming at all the decorations. I can't picture a city that's decorated any more festive than New York at Xmas. Miles and miles of lights, wreaths, and all the trimmings.

Meanwhile here in Orlando the only reminder I have that it's Xmas are the television commercials. I'd like to do something Christmasy here this year. My options are drastically limited--there's no snow or ice. Maybe I'll shoot over to Disney or Universal and see what they have going on. But, boy, I'd love to be in NYC right now.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Bit of Trauma

Just when I was writing every day on the final draft of my book, life got in the way. First impending layoffs at work caused some depression. Then when I learned I wasn't getting cut, one of my cats became seriously ill last week. I'm a HUGE animal lover, and was absolutely traumatized by this. Couldn't sleep or eat while he was in the hospital.

We met him during the early days of our relationship. He was just 10 weeks old at the time (a little stray kitten living in our bushes), and it's now many years later. We've been together during our extended stay in New Jersey, our temporary residence in Virginia and now Florida. He stayed with relatives in Maryland during our Round-The-World trip. He's an integral part of our family and has been a stabilizing force during our up and down periods. So to come home one night and find him listless and depressed was horrifying for us.

Our little friend spent two nights in a hospital, during which time I couldn't sleep. I took two days off from work to deal with this. But he's back home now and on medication, so we're hoping and praying that he'll be okay. I haven't been able to write during this time, but hopefully I will soon. Sera thinks the cat is doing better than I am at the moment. He runs around and plays like normal, while I can't sleep or eat from worry-"does he look okay?" "Is he drinking enough water?" "Is he drinking too much water?". So right now I'm just relaxing and trying to get myself better. I'm hoping to continue the final draft of my book tomorrow. 'Til then.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Attack of the Library Books

Back from a short hiatus. Had to defeat a brief bout of depression, what with layoffs at work and my struggles with my book. But now I'm feeling better.

Anyway, I've been getting stressed lately about my library book problems. The Orlando library just makes it too easy for someone like me. I log on to their website, find the book I want and click "Submit." And viola! They deliver the book to my doorstep. So I spend part of my work day browsing Amazon.com for reviews of interesting novels. If something looks good I'll order it from the library website. The problem is that I can't stop doing this. I now have 18 books out. There's no way I can read all these in time. I'm limited by the number of times I can renew a book and I'll soon be forced to return some. My problem also lies in the fact that I can't go to a bookstore without buying several more. Or I may even go to Amazon and order a used book at a cheap price. I've stacked all the books that I've recently purchased and ordered from the library on my coffeetable. They total 37 books!

I want to read the new books I buy but feel pressured to read the library ones first. I'd get excited about finishing a few novels and returning them, only to have several more arrive in the following days. I just can't reduce the books I have out. So the other day I decided to return the majority of the books I have out since I can always take them out again later. The idea sounds great, until I went back to their site and ordered a couple of more books. And then I found another one on my doorstep this morning. I just can't control myself.

It's funny: I just finished Wally Lamb's "She's Come Undone," in which one of the characters loses his teaching job. He decides to spend the next few months catching up on reading the "classics" in order to improve his writing skills so that he can become a writer. I'd love to do that. Only I can't afford to at the moment.

Charles Bukowski quit his job at the post office to write. He then wrote 10-35 pages a night while drinking, and finished his book "Post Office" in 21 days. But I can't do that. I need the stability of a job in order to write. If I was unemployed and running out of cash I'd be too panicked to write. It's a Catch-22: I can't find the time to write enough, but if I had the time I'd be too worried about finances to write.