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3/18/2018 - The Need to Label, Categorize, and Create Lists

I like to make lists. My daughter’s passion for them may stem from me as well. If she reads this one day, well, sweetheart, this is where you might get it from … your dear old Dad.

Is it a genetic trait? I don’t remember my Mom or Dad making lists other than for trips to the grocery store, so no, I don’t think so.

Is it a form of OCD or a need to control my surroundings that I’ve passed along to her? Maybe, but I really think it’s more human nature than anything else. We all need to label and categorize things to some degree to better understanding them.

The desire for creating lists may come at an early age when we create a Christmas wish list of our most desired toys for Santa’s Good list. Early science teaches us to categorize everything else.

Bucket lists. Song playlists. And Top 10 internet lists of anything you could think of. People like lists. They especially fit into the way people read on the internet, because they either satisfy a limited attention span (have you even gotten this far) or it’s the best way to share popular items on screen.

Lists can be very good at grouping random things too. Football and Chess can both be examples on a Favorite Games list, for example. Or they can be more practical. The last list I made outside of blogging was for our vacation in Maine. I wanted to make sure I brought everything I wanted to, and I’ll be damned if I didn’t forget some things anyway! Ha-ha.

Here’s what prompted these thoughts…and yes, it’s a list I saw on the interwebs…

Top 8 Places for Stargazing
  1. Death Valley National Park, California
  2. Mauna Kea, Hawaii
  3. Natural Bridges National Monument, Utah
  4. Big Bend National Park, Texas
  5. Cherry Springs State park, Pennsylvania
  6. Denali National Park, Alaska
  7. Glacier National Park, Montana
  8. Kitt Peak National Observatory, Arizona
I want to take my daughter to one of these places someday so that she may see the awe and wonder of the universe by seeing the majestic view above us, but I had nothing else to say about it, so this blog expanded to be about lists instead. See how my mind works?

3/11/2018 - 19 Crimes and The Dead South

I like wine as much as I like Blue Grass music, which isn’t very often, but I just found one of each that are noteworthy to write about.

I recently created a list of food and drink that are supposedly good for you at my age and one of them is a glass of red wine (everything in moderation, right?), so I had asked my wife if she would buy me some that I might like.

I asked her because she drinks wine on a regular basis and knows a lot more about them than I do. In other words, my wife has a more discernable taste.

For instance, in my early twenties, the only wine that I would drink was Riunite, which I would only drink to get drunk on. I didn’t really care for its taste, if beer wasn’t available or if a girlfriend wanted wine, then this is what we would drink.

I don’t like bitter wine like my wife does. So she brought home a bottle for me thinking I would like its sweetness. And I do.

19 Crimes – The Uprising
“This wine pays homage to Australia’s ‘Rum Rebellion’ and thus a portion has been aged for 30 days in rum barrels. Dark with jammy flavors and a smokey finish.”

It is very tasty. And then I tried the app called Living Wine Labels, where you point your phone’s camera at the bottle’s label and the figure pictured on it becomes animated and tells you a story, which reminds me of the paintings and pictures in the Harry Potter series. Amazing! It makes me want to buy all of their bottles just to try out the app on them. What a gimmick!

So what does 19 Crimes have to do with Blue Grass music? Absolutely nothing, except that it is something new that I recently tried also.

I came across a group of musicians, The Dead South, a quartet of Canadians formed in 2012. Yup, Canadians. Not that there is anything wrong with that, I just don’t think of Canadians when I think of Blue Grass music. If nothing else, it’s unconventional in my mind, just like the group and their music.

The band refer to themselves as the evil twins of Mumford and Sons, as their explicit lyrics lean toward the dark and violent interpretation of old west pioneers.

After I heard and watched the video In Hell I’ll Be In Good Company, I purchased the Good Company album, and I enjoy the whole thing. It’s a nice change of pace from what I normally listen to, so I’m putting them on my “would like to see live” list.

Anyhow, if you’re looking to try something new, a change of pace for your taste buds and eardrums, I recommend listening to The Dead South over a bottle of 19 Crimes.

Let me know what you think when you do.

3/4/2018 - Let’s Get Lit

The most popular Urban Dictionary definition for “lit” is, “The state of being intoxicated (regardless of the intoxicating agent).”

Today, though, lit has taken on a new meaning, like when something is “turned up” or “popping.”

Me: Did you go to the concert last night?
Them: Yeah! That shit was lit!

In the 60s, maybe earlier, lit was used by blues and jazz musicians to describe the “sweet spot” in which someone was relaxed and would play better.

Perhaps lit came from the performers being “on fire” during their show, I don’t know.

Regardless, it’s interesting how vernacular changes over the years. I was once at a party of considerably younger people (I was in my 30s and was the oldest there by at least 10 years), when I was asked, “Do you burn?”

Burn? Burn what? I had no idea what he was asking me.

It turns out he wanted to know if I smoked pot. Duh. I can be a dullard at times.

I told him no, but that’s not to say that I hadn’t tried it back when I was his age. I just never really cared for it, because the few times that I tried it, it used to put me to sleep so what was the point? Amiright? My point is back in the day we used to just come out and say, “Do you get high?”

Anyway, back to lit… the website of Merriam Webster is quoted, “Though the ‘drunk’ meaning of lit has a pedigree stretching back over a century, it is still considered slang, it doesn’t have the same sort of all-purpose use that drunk does, and it still shows up generally in very informal settings, like speech and rap lyrics. In fact, the ‘intoxicated’ sense of lit has had a resurgence of use among a new generation of youth thanks in no small part to rap.”

So if you hear a young person talking about something being lit, don’t worry, it most likely means something was excellent or they had a great time, but parents should still lock up their liquor cabinet though, just in case.


And here's a shout out to my little girl who turns 9 today. Happy Birthday! I hope it’s lit!

2/18/2018 - Rite of Religion

Other than for weddings or funerals, I haven’t been to church since I was in the eighth grade. I have chosen not to because I don’t believe in organized religion.

That said, I would like to go to a black congregational church service.

The movies always show their Sunday services as such a great time. The music is uplifting. There is jubilant singing, clapping, dancing, and shouting. Hands are thrust into the air in praise. Preachers actually preach. There are people dressed in their finest clothes fainting in the aisles. Can I get an AMEN?!?! All of it seems like a grand celebration.

Does this actually happen? Are there church services like this in real life?

If so, perhaps if I had grown up experiencing this kind of celebration, maybe I would have ended up being a devote church goer, but Protestants are a mellow bunch (to be read as boring) and when I was old enough to make my own decision whether or not to go I chose not to. I split the scene as soon as I received my bible.

The lack of enthusiasm I encountered growing up does not mean I’m looking to find God now nor am I looking to find myself through God either. I would just like to experience in person the kind of energy and surround myself in the belief found in Gospel and its services.

But I don’t think I could just walk into a predominantly black congregation without feeling uncomfortable, which is sad. It’s not a race thing for me, but rather it’s just not my world.

Just as heads would turn if I walked into black church, I think a black man walking into a white church would elicit the same response. Unfortunately, in today’s world, tolerances would be tested.

Is this what separates us? We are one as a species, so is it this difference that makes us not get along? Not just black and white, but with all: Religion is a huge separator. How could it not be? Not only do we have different gods to worship, but we have different ways to worship.

Maybe if I were invited by a member of a black congregation. Maybe if they knew I was coming for a visit and that I wasn’t coming to make fun of or to harm anyone. Maybe then I could do it.

2/12/2018 - Day of the Dead

My wife and I took our daughter to see the movie Coco recently and we all really enjoyed it. Any movie that can move me from laughter to tears and back again is a fantastic testament to the writers and animators at Pixar. In fact, Jeannine said it was the best animated movie she’d ever seen, which is really saying something because she doesn’t generally care for animated flicks.

Coco is about a young boy, Miguel, who is an aspiring musician confronted by his family’s self-imposed ban on music, so he enters the Land of the Dead to find his great-great-grandfather, a legendary singer, to help him.

Besides the story itself, I found the Mexican tradition of celebrating their dead to be very intriguing. Unlike our Halloween, where we are practically raised to fear scary things like the dead, the Day of the Dead, or Día de Muertos, is something much more uplifting.

So I decided to look into it.

According to Wikipedia, the multi-day holiday focuses on gatherings of family and friends to pray for and remember friends and family members who have died, and help support their spiritual journey. Traditions connected with the holiday include building private altars called ofrendas.

The dead are honored.

Frances Ann Day summarizes the three-day celebration, “On October 31, All Hallows Eve, the children make a children's altar to invite the angelitos (spirits of dead children) to come back for a visit. November 1 is All Saints Day, and the adult spirits will come to visit. November 2 is All Souls Day, when families go to the cemetery to decorate the graves and tombs of their relatives. The three-day fiesta is filled with marigolds, the flowers of the dead; muertos, the bread of the dead; sugar skulls; cardboard skeletons; tissue paper decorations; fruit and nuts; incense, and other traditional foods and decorations.”

The dead are not forgotten.

I love this idea. Not only does this help generations to come know their past, to know their family, but it must give great comfort to the elderly to know that they won’t be forgotten. That has got to be the closest way that I know of to being immortal, so I’ll say it again, I love this idea.

How did the Day of the Dead begin? I couldn’t find the answer to that. Similar to Halloween, where our offerings are supposed to keep the ghouls away, perhaps the Mexican holiday started as a superstition that if you didn’t honor the dead they would come back to haunt you.

My wife and I joked about wanting to start observing the Day of the Dead as our own family tradition. It seems more practical somehow than carving pumpkins and hanging plastic spiders up in fake spider webs.

Since my dad’s death I have visited his grave every year on his birthday, but it’s been a solitary act. If we were to adapt the Day of the Dead into our household, he and others will be honored even more by the whole family.

2/4/2018 - Nicholas Pigolas: The First Snorting Pig

When my daughter gets into a giggly laughing fit there's no stopping her and she often snorts while trying to catch her breath, which of course gets her laughing and snorting more. The other day we were laughing it up in the car when she starts snorting and then she proceeded to tell me a story about the first snorting pig. I found it amusing, so I told her to write it down when we got home.

You may not be amused by it. It may very well be one of those “you had to be there” moments, but as a proud dad I wanted to share. I hope you enjoy it. Remember she is only 8.

Nicholas Pigolas: The First Snorting Pig

Once upon a time there was a pig named Nicholas. One day he was laughing so hard that he snorted. His friends stopped what they were doing. One of them said, “What was that sound you just made?”

“I don't know,” said Nicholas. “I think I just snorted.”

“How did you do that?”

“I don't know,” Nicholas answered, then he snorted again and again until everyone else was snorting too.

A few minutes later, one of his other friends shouted out, “What are we called?”

A silence fell across the field.

Nicholas finally said, “Hmm. We should be called pigs, after me, because I was the first snorter.”

Then everyone shouted, “PIGS!”

The End.

1/30/2018 - After My Last Post

I post links to this blog on all of my social media in hope that it will attract new readers and to give easy access for those who wish to return to my site.

After last week’s post about my calling BS! to an article about how men need to grow up and throw some things out of their house, my lovely wife, Jeannine, responded on facebook with “I have a feeling I would agree with this article.”

Ouch. That hurts. Why? Well, because…

1) She doesn’t read my blog.

She says she “lives with it every day” so why should she take time out of her day to read it?

How about because I don’t usually talk to her about my blogs? Heck, I usually don’t talk much at all, so maybe she would like to know my thoughts on particular nothings. Perhaps she thinks my thoughts about nothing are worth, well, nothing.

2) She would agree with the article.

She doesn’t like my stuff “cluttering” up our house. I realize most of my stuff is folderol, but it is our house.

She takes after her dad, wanting to throw everything out that’s been hanging around for any length of time. If it’s not being used then it needs to be in a basket (she’s big on baskets), up in the attic, or in a filing or curio cabinet.

Most of my stuff gets delegated to the partially finished basement, but there’s no furniture down there to hang out on so I don’t spend a lot of time down there.

We had a conversation the other day (yes, we do sometimes speak to each other) about down-sizing once the kids move out. My wife and I are in agreement that we would look for a single level house.

When that time comes, I’ll get rid of a lot of my useless crap because there won’t be any room for it. But until then, Jeannine and Mr. Bible can bite me.

And honey, on the off chance that you’re reading this, I like my stuff and it’s all here to stay until I retire.

1/21/2018 - I’m Calling BullSh*t!

I came across a web page that states “38 Items No Man Over 40 Should Have in His Home” through MSN Lifestyle and I immediately cried bullsh*t!

I won’t go through all 38 items, because some I agree with, but here are several that I call BS! on:

1: Figurines in Boxes.
The article claims that to be a man over 40 is to not have any toys in the house unless you have kids and it has the gall to claim I must live alone for having any of those toys in a box on a shelf for display. I call BS! Some toys will be worth something someday. If only I had held on to my G.I. Joes with the kung-fu grip from my childhood.

2: Posters without Frames.
I used to work in theaters back in the 80s and 90s. This allowed me to collect some pretty cool posters. But hey, I can’t afford to frame them all, not to mention not having the wall space to hang them. I do agree that the Jim Morrison poster that you’ve been hanging on to since high school should probably go, so I’m only calling half BS! on this one.

3: Trophies.
“Unless your life’s work merited a Nobel Peace Prize or maybe even an Emmy or Oscar, nobody gives a hoot about your past glories on the field.” I call BS! What’s wrong with having a “me” wall? Besides, it’s not for others to see, but for me. That’s what a “me” wall is for.

4: Mismatched dishes.
Who the eff cares? I’m not throwing dinner parties for snobs, like the person who wrote this article is.

5: Sports Paraphernalia.
I’m not a sports fan and I don’t own anything with a team logo on it. But I still call BS! If a man wants to be surrounded by his favorite team’s memorabilia, then he should. I don’t care if he’s in his twenties or one-hundred-and-one. If he finds enjoyment in it then I say let him be.

6: Glassware with Logos.
The article wants me to trash all of the random glasses and/or mugs that have logos or funny sayings on them. This is just like the matching dishes. Who cares? This is BS!

7: Wire or Plastic Hangers.
Um, hello? The article says that sorting through clothes (they misspelled it “close”) on nice wooden hangers can make getting dressed a “more pleasant experience.” I call BS! If a hanger is functional then use it.

Who wrote this crap?

I Googled the author, Adam Bible. He’s a freelance writer who has a multitude of other articles in various magazines. Good for him. If you wish to read the article you may find it here.

But don't bother.

Even though I agree with some of his claims (like not using sheets as curtains) it’s quite clear that Mr. Bible has no idea on how a man over 40 should live regarding these other items.

A man over 40 should be confident in what he believes in and how he cares to live HIS life. Whether we collect toys or own wire hangers doesn’t have anything to do with our “need” to grow up. No sir, not at all.

And yes, Mr. Bible, great sex can be had on a futon. You should give it a try sometime.

1/6/2018 - Happy New Year!

2017 has passed. Goodbye. So long. Adios. Adieu.

I spent a lot of the year confidently pitching a screenplay to movie execs. I came close with one but ultimately they decided not to take my rom-com to the next step, deeming it too similar to A Wedding Ringer, starring Kevin Hart.

I had never heard of it before, so I went and watched it, and yes there were similarities but the premise was completely different. My initial thought was, “Doesn’t every movie have some similarities?”

I mean, my guy hides his job because it’s not the normal kind of job, where society in general might frown upon it, but their jobs are completely different. Hart’s character gets hired to be the best man at weddings, mine breaks up people for a living. They both lose the girl when she finds out what they do and the men try to win her back, but IMO, that’s where the similarities stop.

But that’s not what bothered me. I knew going into this that there could be a million-and-one reasons for them to say no. No, it wasn't that. I became disgruntled with the whole process. Not that they didn’t optioned my screenplay, but that it took me several emails just to hear the “We’re no longer interested because...”

I realize that the exes are under no obligation to me, but common curtesy would dictate a response, yes? Even a form letter would have sufficed. But to be ghosted, not knowing if they even read it, or if it lay on the bottom of an infinite slush pile, was unbearable.

So what did I do? I wrote a new screenplay and I’ll try pitching it this year. Wish me luck. Ha-ha!

Another thing I will be doing this year is I’ll be seeing Taylor Swift in concert, July 28th at Gillette Stadium. And here’s a funny story I need to share with you about it regardless if you’re a Swiftie too.

First I want to tell you that I blame the death of Prince for my actions. I had always wanted to see Prince live, but I was never proactive about it and now it’s too late. I kick myself for it.

So, when I heard about Taylor’s upcoming tour, I wanted to make sure I saw her.

Anyway, Taylor wants to sell to her fans first, kudos to her, so anyone who signed up and performed certain tasks on her website, like watching and sharing her videos, received “boosts.” What these boosts did was place me on a priority list for the venue of my choice. Then, depending on the level of my boosts, they gave me a window of time to purchase my tickets before the general public.

Right. I ended up about half-way on the pre-sale priority list. I’m a fan, but I’m not going to go all fan-boy over anybody to be first on a list.

So the day came and I went online to get my single ticket. I used the Ticket Master app, and it showed me a seat that wasn’t half bad. Mind you, tickets are held for minutes at a time. You snooze, you lose, so I clicked the purchase button.

The app came back with an error message: “Your cart is empty. Please try again.”

Shit. That seat was lost. So I tried again and the seat wasn’t as good. Oh well. Click. A second time I see, “Your cart is empty. Please try again.” Uh oh. Forget it, I said, and left the app to go straight to the Ticket Master website, where I logged in and tried again. The seat assigned to me (also timed) wasn’t as good as the first 2, but I clicked on it anyway.

Yay! It worked this time with a confirmation of my purchase. But, given my trouble with the first two, I went to my email just to make sure I received an actual ticket.

And what did I find? I saw confirmation emails that I had purchased 3 separate tickets. Ugh!

Now the tickets weren’t cheap and I can’t afford to buy 3 of them, so I called Ticket Master and explained everything, and they told me they were very sorry to hear it, but “All Sales Are FINAL.” It didn’t matter to them that their app was faulty.

I then called the credit card company and explained everything again and they said that I couldn’t submit a dispute until the charges actually showed up on my card. Fair enough.

Once the charges appeared I called and explained again, “Can you help me? I need your strong arm to get me out of paying for 3 when all I wanted was 1? I don’t have screen shots of the app error, but obviously, if I wanted 3 tickets, I would have bought them together.”

“No problem, Mr. Westbrook. We will begin the dispute process right away for you.”

That is customer service right there. Are you reading this, Ticket Master?

My only despair is if I don’t win the dispute and I end up having to pay for all 3. That’s going to be one hell of an expensive concert. Also, at this moment I don’t really know which seat I’m going to end up with, but at least I’ll get to see Taylor Swift in concert.

Here’s to 2018!