Archive | November 2012

My Favorite Hypocrisy

I really am not fond of Capitalism. It’s no secret; nothing new or monumental from me. I really do think that consumerism is dangerous, leading to being controlled by things, stuff that was supposed to make things easier.

Black Friday shoppers, standing in long lines, finalizing their attack plans-who gets what and what to do if there is no more of what to get. Deals deals deals.

At Walmart on Thursday night (I will get to the question of “what the…? ” in a moment), Sheryl and I witnessed the beginning of the 8 o’clock sale when hordes of people dove (literally, over the top of each other) into bins of reduced price DVD’s, grabbing armfuls of product, regardless of title or quantity (the sorting comes later), inflicting slight injuries on themselves and others.

While pushing a (foolishly picked up) shopping cart through throngs of shoppers, all trying to get to the same places in opposite directions, I had my left leg bashed repeatedly by a woman behind me (also pushing a cart). After making my presence known three times, I finally pushed back (after my leg was lifted off the ground and I feared being pushed over my cart and injured), causing the handle of the woman’s cart to collide with her stomach. An audible ‘oof’ signaled the end of her shoving.

A line of cars right out of  the last scene from Field of Dreams, greeted our arrival at the Tanger Outlets near Park City. Thousands of people walking the outdoor shops in the dark and cold of November, many under the age of 20, bags and bags of discounted merchandise.

And here is the silly part.

I  loved every second of it.

I understand the hypocrisy of it, even as I grab a fantastic leather coat for 70% off. I don’t need it, but I want it, will wear it every day. I pass up the Nike outlet for fear of the line, avoid J Crew for the same reason. Somehow, I walk out of Van Heusen, without a purchase (which is amazing, considering dress shirts and ties were also 70% off. Their slacks haven’t changed in three years and I own a pair of each style already), choosing instead to spend my money on a half price pair of Lucky Brand jeans and a dark black hoodie from Old Navy.

We went to Walmart to see, if by chance we could get our hands on two bikes for the boys. At 99$ each, what a steal…They were all gone, but that is fine. We don’t make or break our holiday by door buster deals.

Which brings me to the point (sort of)-I am a complete hypocrite. I love things…things and things and things. The DVD’s we came across (discarded at various places in the store) will be enjoyed over and over. The jacket is already getting its use and whatever else we decide to buy in the next few weeks will be appreciated. I have good and grateful kids.

I am not even going to try and justify my behavior or pretend it is anything but what is is-greed and wanting. I flat out love the Christmas season, every aspect of it.  I love the music, lights, bustle and over commercialization. I also love the quiet moments with family or friends. The moments to express what I feel, what I am thinking. Its a wonderful, perfect time of year.

Hypocrisy fully embraced!

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Oh My, Indeed

I have great friends. One of these great friends has done me the greatest of services today. She took me to get Banh Mi. For a few weeks, Katherine has been talking these sandwiches up like they were fallen straight from heaven. She has never led me wrong when it came to food or places to eat food, so today, after running some awesome errands, she  asked if I wanted to go to  Oh Mai and I instantly agreed.

When we walked, the smells were overwhelmingly delicious. I am a sucker for almost any Asian cuisine. My mouth began to water until I read the menu and became a bit nervous. All the sandwiches seemed to have some sort of sauce I was certain not to like.  Mayonnaise or chili-lime fish vinaigrette seemed to saturate every sandwich and neither sounded very tasty. I almost backed out and ordered a rice dish or soup, but I decided to trust Katherine and chose the Honey Glazed Pork Banh Mi in the end.

Sitting on a bench at Liberty park, I took my first bite.

The baguette was the right amount of crispy and soft. The outer crust easily giving way to a flavorful interior. Instantly I was hit with the chili-lime fish vinaigrette. Amazing! What a fantastic sauce with so much flavor. It superbly complimented the crunch of the vegetables and paired with the (tons and tons of) cilantro, made every bite absolutely delicious.  The meat was tender and full of honey flavor. There could have been a tad bit more, but with such tasty vegetables, I easily overlooked the small meat portion.  The best moment came near the end of the sandwich when I came across the jalapeno. I had just given up hope of finding any (though the menu promised them unless I asked otherwise) when I bit into one. An entirely new flavor added a wonderful, spicy  finish to the sandwich.

Not only was the sandwich fantastic, it was really inexpensive. An 8 inch sandwich cost less than five dollars and was easily enough for me.  I can’t wait to go again. Maybe tomorrow?

Simple Things, Miles to Understanding.

Six days in New York City is never enough. I cannot wait to get back, perhaps permanently (though that plan will take a few years).  For someone who was always afraid of large cities, NYC fits me. I love walking the streets, the smells (even the nasty ones), riding the trains, dealing with all the people. The entire experience is exhilarating.  I want the chance to have living there become mundane, normal.

The weather gave me a grab bag of experiences. Down right cold when we arrived Thursday night, perfect 64 on Sunday, rain and wind on Tuesday.

Nature has surely given NYC a beating lately. Many places are still trying to recover from heavy snows and of course, the hurricane. Some places in lower Manhattan were still without power when we were there. A few were still flooded.  Yet, like they always seem to do, New Yorkers continue to bounce back, insist on normalcy. The subway system was up and running. Buses were on time and people were living their lives. It was a testament to perseverance, perhaps stubbornness. Either way, it was a great trip.

Our main purpose for a November visit was the wedding reception of Sheryl’s cousin, Meredith. What a wonderful celebration! She and her wife, Jordan were married at city hall on Friday and the party on Saturday night (held at Roberta’s in Brooklyn) was filled with fantastic food folks and fun. Sheryl and I danced our tails off.

New York  changes me a little, lets me see the world differently. My visit to Ellis Island on my first trip altered my perspective on my past. Visiting the Site of the World Trade Center connected me to the people of NYC in a profound way. Before that visit, it was easy for me to intellectualize most of the events of September 11, distancing myself from any deep emotion about what happened. Standing there back in 2006 changed that. I lost a great deal of my cynicism; replaced it with a heavy sadness. The people who were murdered there were just going to work, or helping others. Regardless of political ideology, this event still is hard to understand.

On this trip, I visited the Cloisters and the Metropolitan Museum of Art for the first time. I highly recommend this experience. Standing in these two buildings, seeing and experiencing the art gave me a connection to the past, to history that I did not expect. I have been to many art galleries (even a few in NYC) but this particular experience was vastly different. Perhaps it was the buildings themselves (particularly the dark and intimate feel of the Cloisters. The expanse of the Met) that added to my connection to the art. For the first time it made sense to me, mattered that someone had created what I was looking at, someone long gone in many cases. The Met is massive! You could spend ten hours there and not see the entirety of the collection. After entering, we went left towards the Roman and Greek sculpture. From there we wandered upstairs where many of the worlds master painters work is on display. I was again struck by the knowledge that human beings created all of this. It seems so simple but means so much. Like me, they had lives and experiences that, while not unique in nature, were unique to them. Unique and important enough to preserve them.

I have had this thought before, but I really understood it for the first time. It mattered to me.

And that was the essence of my experience the first three days-a connection to history and humanity that I had not previously had. It culminated at the wedding reception. Here I was, nearly 3000 miles from home in a place with people, most of whom I did not know, sharing an experience that offered us a chance to connect, to share in our mutual affection for two people (Meredith and Jordan). Everyone I met or talked to, looked at or watched, was smiling, happy. I can’t speak for everyone at the event, but I felt nothing but love, everywhere. I imagined a world of people doing the same thing. It made my heart happy. I had to travel far from home to have a chance to experience it.

So simple.

This one emotion that connects almost all of us. We all need, crave, want love. In situations like this wedding reception, for this weekend in NYC, that emotion overcame every other difference.

I am starting to see that personal enlightenment is rarely an understanding of complex ideas or an affirmation following magnificent events. Instead, it is almost always a conformation of the simple. I’m exploring how that feels and taking great comfort in it.

Harder than Expected

My first presidential vote was cast for William Jefferson Clinton, as was my second.

My third vote was easily cast for Albert Arnold Gore Jr. In the end, I voted for the losing candidate for president. Still, I felt good about my vote and as the Electoral College always gives the (at the time) 3 votes from Utah to the republican, It really didn’t matter who I voted for. If I chose someone other than the GOP, it was a click on the popular vote meter, nothing more.

I never liked George Walker Bush. Threw another vote on the fire for Kerry.

It is obvious who I voted for in 2000. Like many others, I felt I was  casting a vote to change history. Though the results of the first Obama presidency will be hotly debated for decades, I still remember how amazing it felt to see the first black president, feel another false barrier demolished.

The line at my precinct was long. It was the first time in 6 elections I have had to wait longer than three minutes. Waiting with so many other people gave me a chance to engage in some great conversation. We discussed our dismay at the line, the beauty of America and our system that allows us the privilege of voting (even if that is only an illusion of choice).  No one was frustrated or unhappy. We were all where we wanted to be.

I stood at the voting machine, having already completed the majority of my ballot, and pondered if I could really do what I intended to do. I determined to keep a commitment to myself, one I had promised in  two previous presidential elections. I was choosing NOT to vote for the democrat or republican candidate. My research had me leaning towards Jill Stein. I have always liked the Green Party, and Stein’s commitment to environmental job creation interests me.

I found it difficult to submit the ballot. My whole life, I had been sure of my Democratic convictions. Even as I thought of voting for Ralph Nadar in 2004, the pull of my past was too much and I gave in.

I have heard many similar stories.

If the line had been shorter I might have stood there an hour, pondering, but I felt I should allow my fellow citizens the chance to vote as well. It was time to make my decision.

I voted my heart. I voted for Jill.

I don’t regret it.

Instead, I imagine a country where more than two ideologies are valued. Tens of Millions of people with real choices for leadership, voices that more closely match their own. The possibilities are frighteningly wonderful.  For the first time (with maybe the exception of the two votes I cast for Bill), I voted for who I wanted to be president.  I hope everyone else did the same.

Going, Going, Not Yet Gone

Heading to NYC this Thursday.

Six years since the last time I was there. I have missed it a great deal. We went in October and the weather was near perfect. Cold on some days, warm and inviting on others. All the touristy things excited me. I have photos standing out front of Madison Square Garden, Several cathedrals, and too many from Ellis Island.

Ellis Island had a large impact on me.  Like many, members of my family entered the United States through this place. I imagined how the buildings would have appeared to the immigrants, the excitement and fear, so much unknown.

It humbled me. Standing in the same places, spaces, as family I never really knew. Their entire lives uprooted for the possibility of  a new one.

I am astounded at their faith, willingness to trust what they are doing is best and will result in more happiness.

I  am not sure I could do the same.

 

The museum of modern art intrigued me. It wasnt so much that the art moved me or inspired me to think about things differently.

Nothing poignant stands out.

Instead, an overall sensation, another connection to the past, to moments I could only experience vicariously, lingered.

This picture always makes me giggle…I call it, Ryan as art.

 

 

Something I am very excited about is riding the subway again. I was actually quite afraid of the prospect at first, but after my one (and only, I promise) experience of riding from JFK in the back of a hired car, I decided the subway was infinitely safer.

Once I figured out how to read the maps, how to get around from station to station, I loved the subway  It is certainly best for people watching.

This photo is of a fantastic TOOL etching I came across on an E train.

 

Writing this has added to my excitement. Three days! Three more days!

 

Normal

Blood tests are in and I am disgustingly normal.

With the exception of low HDL cholesterol and a Vitamin D deficiency, everything looks fine. While this should fill me with intense waves of relief, I am instead completely baffled. I had resigned myself to a low testosterone diagnosis and was looking at how that was going to change my life. Instead, I get to start over again, wondering what the hell is going wrong in my body. It is not a good sensation to wonder like this.

I am going to New York next Thursday and have decided to not give it another moment of worry until after I get back. I will grab some Vitamin D  from the store, maybe another supplement  and see where I am later.

I am glad to see that my overall cholesterol is good. It had been high a few years back. Funny how eliminating processed foods from your diet can eliminate so much salt and fat.

Anyway, I am interested in any crack brained, half assed theories as to why I might feel so off. Feel free to share them, though I may just ignore them for a while.