The Best Day to Die is Tuesday

If there is an afterlife, and the positive attention and recognition that your death receives is a measure of your contribution to the world, then many great men and women have been dealt an unlucky hand.   The day Groucho Marx died, the world mourned the loss of Elvis Presley.  When Mother Theresa passed away, the outpouring of emotion was for Princess Diana.  On November 22, 1963, the day John F. Kennedy was assassinated, the deaths of Aldous Huxley and C.S. Lewis went largely unnoticed.  And poor Farah Fawcett— she succumbed to cancer the same day that Michael Jackson left this world.  Like sharing an Olympic gold medal and squeezing together on the podium,  John Adams and Thomas Jefferson had to divide their death day with one another.  And most recently, Tom Petty passed same day as the worst mass shooting in this country's history.  

Lucky winners in the posthumous public recognition game include Prince, who had the Empire State Building, Eiffel Tower, Niagara Falls, and the Superdome all lit in purple in his honor.  Nelson Mandela had tens of thousands of mourners gathered into a stadium, that included over 50 world leaders and Muhammed Ali’s face covered every newspaper, news magazine, and TV station around world.

Of course, if your last breath acts solely as a catalyst to the first stage of decomposition, the subsequent events of remembrance mean nothing.  But if there exists a hereafter, the best day to die in my opinion is on a Tuesday, a day of robotic banality, and one free of any holiday, natural disaster, mass shooting, or Grammy Award winner's accidental overdose. 

 

In Search of Jay Leno 

I was sitting on a bench in Central Park when a man with a camera around his neck approached me and said in a thick French accent, "Excusez-moi, eh, looking for Jay Leno. is he here?"  I said, "What?"  He said, "Jay Leno, he is here?"  I said, "No, Jay Leno's not here."   I thought to myself, "Why would this tourist be looking for Jay Leno in Central Park?"   Again, he pleaded, "Yes, Jay Leno, he is here. Jay Leno, something."  I said, "Wait, do you mean John Lennon?"  He said, "Yes, Jay Leno!"  I said, "John Lennon, Strawberry Fields, yes, that's over there."  I told him to walk down to the end of the canopy walkway and then turn left.  He said, "Thank you so much, sorry to bother," and set out to find Jay Leno. 

Baby Ballet or Infant Yoga?

This morning I endured the colossal line at Starbucks and overheard two women in front of me discussing the summer plans of their 13 year-old sons.  Mind you, we’re only in November.  "Jake is going to Creative Writing Camp because it will look really good on his college application.  You can never start too early," said a woman in her 40's with frizzy brown hair. In agreement, the other mother said, "I know, it's so competitive now!  That's a really smart idea."  I thought, "No, that is a terrible idea."  The child is only thirteen years old and college is a full five years away.  He will have all of high school to stress out about and improve his holier-than-thou college application.  How about letting him run around outside this summer and maybe even hit puberty? 

As a father to a six month-old infant, I already know several fellow parents of twenty-five pound babies that are fanatics-in-training, and have their little ones engrossed in a schedule far busier than any Olympic athlete.  “Today David has swimming class at 10, music class at 11:30, Hebrew at 4, and baby ballet at 5.”  Now swimming and music class, I understand.  But baby ballet?  The kid can’t sit up without toppling over, but he’s going to pirouette like Baryshnikov? And Hebrew?  He can’t speak or understand one word of English—the only language spoken at home—but he’s going to chant "Shema Israel?"    

What is this rush to make a child literally run before he can walk?  Do parents occupy their infants in these activities because they think that they are beneficial or merely to provide a babysitter?  Besides being a gargantuan waste of funds, the infant could be doing something much more productive, such as tummy time or even napping. "Parents need to teach their kids to balance human doing with human being," said clinical psychologist Paula Bloom.  “As parents, we've got to get over our anxiety that we're not doing enough. Creating a sense of safety, helping kids have confidence to try certain things, those are the things that matter.  As adults, your kids are going to tell their therapists, 'Oh my parents never let me play piano,' or some other activity. It's going to happen. Being able to tolerate that is really important.”  

Now off to baby yoga!  

 

While You're Up

My wife is the Queen of “While you’re up” — While you’re up, can you get me my chapstick?  While you’re up, can you fill up my water bottle?  While you’re up, can you throw in a load of laundry?  To rise up off of the couch means to be bombarded with tasks and by the hypersonic speed that she rails off requests, she must comprise her list  twenty minutes beforehand and like a predator, wait to pounce on her prey the moment she detects movement.   

When we leave the city to see friends or family who happen to live in a house, she adds “While you’re upstairs” to the artillery—“While you’re upstairs, can you bring down the phone charger?”  “While you’re upstairs, can you bring down my iPad?”  If I happen to be downstairs and her upstairs, she simply reverses the noun and alters the plea to “While you’re downstairs, can you bring up my Kindle?”  Dare I venture out into the world, I receive a text, “While you’re out, can you get me cereal and milk, and also paper towels, formula and gas drops?”  I’ll reply “Yes,” and ten minutes later receive the text, “When you get home, can you move the dresser to other side of Benjamin’s room?” 

When you are a married man with kids, there are no days off or lunch breaks.  Like a Fitbit, your wife tracks each step and fills in any gap in your schedule with new tasks.

These demands all must be met or you may never have sex again.  Plus, the only excuse to shirk on a task is “I’m too tired,” and that is unacceptable in any house.  When we first got married, my wife and I would compete each night over who was more tired  She’d say, “Oh my God, I’m so tired” and I’d reply, “I know, I’m exhausted, too.”  I think I slept for like two hours last night.”  She’d retort, “Well, I slept for one. And I heard you snoring last night” and I’d protest, “Yeah, well I get up earlier than you do.”  After a few years of pissing her off, I no longer play this losing hand.  No matter the situation and regardless of veracity, my wife always holds the title of  “Most Tired.”  

To maintain a climate of respect, I now preemptively ask my wife if she needs anything before I stand up, go outside, move up and down stairs, or arrive home at the end of the day. This makes both of our lives less stressful, even if it leaves me the more tired one.  

Stay Alive for the Kids

Yesterday my wife asked me if I thought that the Coffee-Mate Hazelnut Creamer that we put in our coffee will eventually give us cancer?  I said, “ I sure hope not.”  She said, “But do you think it’s bad for us?”  I said, “Oh, absolutely, it’s terrible.”  She said, “Great.”  A few minutes later, I asked her, “How much time would you be willing to give up in order to drink Creamer every day for the rest of your life?”  After thirty seconds of silence, she said, “A year.”  I said, “A year?!  She said, “Yeah, cause what else am I going to put in my coffee?  Why, how much time would you give?” I said, “Three or four days—I could always go back to sugar.” Obviously, my wife was joking because today she set out to find a creamer with natural ingredients that lacked hydrogenated oil and known carcinogens.

Unfortunately, there are so many chemical pleasures that are likely to shorten a person's time here.  Research says that smoking one cigarette claims seven minutes of life, about the same time that it takes to smoke it.  Two drinks a day consistently for ten years shaves twenty three years off of your life, a bump of cocaine pilfers six hours, and a heroin addict is robbed of forty-two years.  The use of a tanning bed raises your risk of skin cancer by seventy five percent and each hour of television will cost you twenty two minutes.    

We all know people that resist positive lifestyle changes and will say things like “I don’t care, my grandma smoked two packs a day, ate bacon cheeseburgers for breakfast, and drank Jack Daniels every night of her life, and she lived to be 96.”   Yeah, well that’s her. The majority of the people with that lifestyle don’t see seventy.  As parents to a 6 month-old son, my wife and I are much more conscious of our health, now that we are responsible for this little boy.  That means more exercise, less alcohol, and getting our moles checked every six months.  It means more flossing, less eating, more standing, and less sitting.  It means not sprinting across the street to beat a traffic light or texting when stuck in traffic.  It also means joking more, criticizing less, and keeping our cool about things we have little control over.  Most importantly as well most challenging, it means getting as much sleep as possible. 

Two years ago, I would not have used SPF 50 sunscreen, let alone worry about reapplying.  Thankfully, my wife yells at me now and says, “You know who gets sunburnt?” Uneducated white trash.” She may be harsh at times, but she sure knows how to motivate me  Before our son, I was lax on dental hygiene and definitely would not have signed up for an unpleasant procedure known as a colonoscopy. For the record, the preparation is far worse than the actual exam.  Our future is unknown but we hope to stack the cards in our favor to one day meet and run around with our grandchildren.  

WESTERN BEEF

For 12 years, I have lived on the Upper West Side and enjoyed the beautiful architecture, family atmosphere, and wide sidewalks that display a healthy array of double strollers and dog shit. Though my address has changed several times, my supermarket choices always remained the same– Zabar’s, Trader Joe’s, Westside Market, and Fairway. The latter has always been my pick due to the wide selection, decent prices, and convenience in location. Yes, Fairway is a 24-hour earthquake that will raise your blood pressure and give you arrhythmia, but if you can evade the obstacle course of strollers, walkers, wheelchairs, and old, indecisive Jews sampling the grapes and seeking out the ultimate cantaloupe, you have a fighting chance of getting in and out in under ten minutes. The first rule of Fairway: Know your route. If you need apples, chicken, oatmeal, broccoli, tin foil, and water, you can move from left to right through the store without breaking stride–which is the second rule of Fairway. Without fail, you will encounter an argument–if you are on the express line, people will lambaste the person who broke the rule and stands their with a shopping cart instead of a basket. One time on line, I witnessed a 90 year old woman yell at an 85-year old woman for cutting her on line. The situation quickly escalated and the 90 year-old took a roll of Bounty Paper towels and slammed it over the head of the other women. Thankfully, nobody was injured.

A month ago, my wife and I moved to West 63rd Street, making the usual stroll to Fairway on 75th street a much larger chore. I explored the area and found “Gracefully,” a gourmet grocery store with a poor selection and sky-high prices. Knowing that this would not work for me, I ventured south and discovered “Western Beef,” a block down from our building. When I walked in, I quickly realized how different it was–Naughty by Nature’s “Hip Hop Hooray” rocked the airwaves and instead of old Jews, Blacks and Hispanics walked the aisles and filled their shopping carts. I loved it immediately. The prices could not be beat–49 cents for bananas, 2 dollar-a-pound chicken breasts, and Swiss-Miss Hot Chocolate - 2 for 3 dollars. In fact, nearly everything in the store was either 2-for or 3-for. The problem was that in almost every case, there was no discount! A gatorade would be two dollars but the sign would read “3 for 6″, and everybody would grab 3! Oatmeal was 4 for 12 dollars (or 1 for 3). The faux deal signs worked as drinks and snacks flew off the shelves in bulk.

When I was finished shopping, I noticed one long line at one of the cash registers. Though six registers theoretically could be in operation, only one was open until close to 40 people stood on line. At that point, another cashier yelled “6 is now open!” In pure anarchy, we bolted to the new register paying little attention to the previous order that existed. From daily trips over several weeks, I would learn that this was a normal day at “Western Beef” I also learned not to ask the cashier how he or she was doing, after one snapped at me and said, “How the fuck you think I’m doing? I’m here!”

This afternoon at Western Beef, I put my ground beef, crate of eggs, 2 onions, 4 sweet potatoes, 8 bananas, and box of white rice on the conveyor belt for the cashier to tally up. When she put the bananas on the scale, she realized that the scale was broken. I said, “Oh man, that’s not good.” She said “That scale’s been broke for over a week! I keep telling them to fix it but no, they don’t do nothing. You know what, just take it, it’s free. It ain’t my money and if they don’t care, I don’t care!” With that, she placed the onions, bananas, and sweet potatoes in a bag. I did not argue. She said, “That’ll be $18.05.” In shock, I thought to myself “Had I known all produce was free, I would have stocked up even more.” Still, I had come out a winner and will return to Western Beef tomorrow for yet another crazy adventure.

 

 We Should Sue 

A polysaccharide found in barley that is used to make Guinness beer is known to boost milk production in women that breastfeed.  For this reason, four cans of Guinness inhabited our refrigerator but went untouched since my wife hates beer and she has had no problem feeding our hungry boy thus far.  When an esteemed, beer-loving friend arrived at our apartment yesterday to cuddle with our two week-old son, we immediately offered her a can of Guinness which she gladly accepted. After about twenty minutes, her beer was three quarters empty and began making a rattling noise as she sipped it. Perplexed, she looked down into the can and saw a large piece of plastic at the bottom.  She said "Oh my God, there is a giant piece of plastic in my beer.  I could have drank it and died."  Immediately, my wife and I suggested that she sue Guinness and that we split the two hundred million or so dollars in half since it was our beer in our refrigerator that nearly killed her.  We became drunk with excitement and discussed the many ways that we would spend the money.  College tuition for our son would be paid for, we'd buy that dream house in Kauai that we always wanted, and then give the rest to charity.  Okay, maybe not the last part.  But first we needed a lawyer -- do we call Cellino and Barnes or Jacoby and Meyers?  Do we call Guinness or let our lawyer contact them regarding the pending lawsuit?  We couldn't believe our luck!  As least a hundred times in the past year,  I had pondered walking right in front of a speeding cab taking a sharp right turn or deliberately slipping on a sheet of ice in front of a bank.  That was my road to retirement!  Now I  wouldn't have to!  Before our lawsuit began, our friend suggested that we Google "Plastic thing in Guinness Cans" and sure enough thousands of search results popped up.  The plastic ball was actually known as a "widget" and was found in all Guinness cans to compress nitrogen so that the head of the beer was thick and foamy once opened.  We were shattered.  Our amazing future had disappeared before our very eyes and we felt like complete losers.  

 

Pull Out and Pray

When you are lifting weights, it is imperative to push yourself to the point of failure --  to that juncture where you cannot muster another repetition and then find the mental strength to knock out five more! Of course, training to failure raises the chance of injury so it is important to gauge the severity of the discomfort and decipher between good pain versus bad pain.  For instance,  if you are doing heavy deadlifts and you feel a twinge in your lower back, put down the weight immediately.  Approach that instant the way a college freshmen thinks about the Pull Out Method -- when you are about to go past the point of no return, get out quick and cut your losses.  

The Amazing Benjamin Franklin

I just finished reading "The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin" and found it both insightful and inspiring.  A true polymath, Franklin  was a great statesman, scientist, author, printer, and inventor.  Among his many inventions were the lightning rod, glass harmonica, Franklin Stove, and bifocals.  It's amazing how many things he invented!  But is it really that amazing?  Back then, nothing was invented yet -- you had free range!  "It's kind of dark in here." Ding! "My milk keeps spoiling."  Ding!  I'm sick of eating with my hands." Ding!  If we were alive back then, I am confident that each one of us would have invented something wonderful.    

Age Gracefully

Aging is a question of what doesn't hurt. After you turn 30, you wake-up each morning and assess the damage.  Does my knee hurt? No?  Great, I can walk.  Does my back hurt?  No?  Cool, I can stand up straight.   Does my shoulder hurt?  No? Wonderful, I can open a door.  Nevertheless, I love getting older and waking up achy, passing out early, plucking the grays, watching my friends become parents, and some other ones go bald. 

Every obnoxious 23-year-old has that moment in which they realize that they are older than the athletes on television. Immediately, they go into a panic and root against every player their minor. These days, I turn on the TV and see the gifted spawn of players that I grew up watching such as Stephen Curry, Tim Hardaway Jr., and Patrick Ewing Jr. Their fathers can usually be spotted sitting courtside with a big grin on their face that says, “Been there, done that, it’s Junior’s turn."   Sometimes the children are better than their parents, but most often, they’re not.  If you're jealous of those younger than you, you are forgetting how ignorant you were at that age. With a little luck, I hope to see and root for the grandchildren of players that I grew up watching. 

Hot Shower and Pajamas

“I wake up dreaming about going back to sleep,” said a friend of mine.  “There’s nothing better than a shower followed by pajamas,” said another.  To many of us, going to sleep at night is the highlight of the day. Of course, some may take exception to this and voice the hackneyed phrase, “I’ll sleep when I’m dead.”  Great, you enjoy that posthumous nap.  I’ll sleep when I’m alive, thank you very much.  You know, just in case.  

After monitoring my stress level for the past few years, I can declare the following conditional statement  — The earlier I am in pajamas, the happier I am.  I find nothing worse than getting home late at night and having to jump in the shower and then go right to bed.  On the other hand, being in pajamas by 6 PM is pure bliss.  If you find yourself stressed out and feel like you never have a chance to wind down, you need more pajama time.  Cancel happy hour, dinner plans, and that Off-Broadway play that you don't really want to see, and go home, take a shower, and get in your pajamas.   As I type this, I am  sprawled on the couch in my blue Superman pajama pants and gray t-shirt and have never been more relaxed. The secret is out--happiness is found in pajamas.