The death of interpersonal relationships

Monday through Friday my days couldn’t be more urban. I spend my daytime hours and, courtesy of an understand wife, many evenings in Manhattan. I consider myself damn lucky that way. On Saturday mornings, however, I do what a lot of suburban dads do; I take my kid to basketball. It’s not my favorite activity but it’s important to my 7-Year Old that I be there so I go without complaining [too much].

One afternoon, she came off the court for some water and said, “Dad…you didn’t see me make a basket. You were looking at your phone.” Don’t you hate when someone holds a mirror up and you don’t like what you see? I was actually pretty crushed. I made a vow. From the time she goes on the court until the final buzzer, my phone stays in my pocket. It’s not easy when I feel it vibrate, but I haven’t cracked yet.

Last week, a mom parked her stroller next to me. While one daughter ran onto the court, she handed an iPad to the tyke in the stroller. The little one donned a set of pink earphones, adroitly plugged in, and zoned out.


She spent the rest of her time playing idiot games while mom, what else?, got on her smart phone to text and peruse Facebook. Neither of them looked up once to see her daughter/sister play. They couldn’t have cared less.


After the game, daughter the first came over and sat on the bench. Mom took the iPad away from daughter the second and you should have heard the blood-curdling scream she let out. You wouldn’t think such a banshee wail could come from such a little peanut. The only way to silence her was to stick another gadget in her hand. The three of them sat there ignoring each other.


Do you know how you’re supposed to be all humble and not think you’re better than anyone? That you shouldn’t judge someone unless you’ve walked a mile in their shoes? That you’re not supposed to feel superior? Well, sometimes it’s really hard to not do that.

I see episodes like this all the time. Children will never know what it’s like to just sit and enjoy the quiet. They’ll never learn how to connect with flesh and bone. If we’re not careful, all of our most important relationships will exist on the internet. That can’t be healthy.



The Half King. W. 23rd/10th Ave. 12:20 p.m. Saturday, January 11th


My 12-Year Old daughter has a friend whom I adore. She’s intelligent, polite and can stand her ground in a conversation. Not all 12-year olds can do that. She’s an excellent influence. The kind of kid you’d want your kid to spend her time with. Her father’s a hell of a nice guy, too. He’s a successful investment banker. My daughter extended an invitation on Saturday but it was declined because her friend was away skiing in Vermont.

Skiing is an activity for wealthy, white people. I’m doing okay, but not take-my-family-to-Vermont-for-the-long-weekend okay. This is where my daughter will start to learn what the term economic disparity means. As they get older, my daughter and her friend will start to move in different circles. Their friendship might dissipate like vapor under the weight of their different lifestyles.

I try to teach both daughters that wealth is a lousy barometer for happiness and that of all the unhealthy emotions, envy is the one that will rot your soul the quickest. But it’s hard to practice what you preach sometimes. This being a family-provider stuff can really fuck with your head.

Reading the fine print

I work with a lot of legal disclosure text so I’ve become hyper-sensitive to the fine print. I can’t help but to take note of the cautions that corporations post when pitching their products. Some of them are pretty amusing.

For instance, Nissan posted these helpful words during a recent commercial for their sporty Rogue. In it, three young, multi-racial, milt-gender, attractive (God, dare I say it?) hipsters are caught in a traffic jam and running late. Evasive action is taken by the pretty driver.


Because someone might not realize that a car flying through the air three stories off the ground is not real. After the car lands on the roof of a speeding train, they cut to the pretty driver as she flicks her hair, arches an eyebrow and smiles confidently. Easily done. The car speeds along and we are further cautioned:


Do you know what this means, don’t you? This means that a gaggle of lawyers sat in a boardroom at TBWA/ChiatDay and decided that their commercial is so well-crafted and so convincing, that some idiot out there might actually buy a Rogue and try to jump onto the roof of a speeding train, which will only result in death and, worse, litigation.

Pharmaceutical warnings are the best. I recently saw an ad for Chantix, a drug that will help you stop smoking. The usual litany of nightmare side effects were listed, but along with the constipation, gas and/or vomiting, you might experience this:


Excuse me, but I WANT vivid, unusual and strange dreams! Who doesn’t?! I’m considering becoming addicted to tobacco so I can take Chantix and enjoy a riot of colorful dreams. Thank God for the Food and Drug Administration. Do you think your friends at Chantix would reveal any of this if it wasn’t mandated by law? No, brothers and sisters, they would not.

*     *     *

I was in lovely Cleveland visiting dear family right after Christmas and you’ll never guess who I was shooting craps with at the downtown casino. Santa Claus!


After a long night of delivering gifts to all the good little boys and girls–a trip that apparently causes Santa to shed a significant amount of weight–Santa likes to cut loose at the crap tables. Mrs. Clause was nowhere to be seen. Santa was busy chatting up the tiny box girl next to him who looked suspiciously elf-like. Santa was laying money on the center prop bets. An unwise strategy, as any student of the odds will tell you.

*     *     *

I am Mia! My hypnotic gaze will penetrate your soul and enslave you! I command you to toss this ball into the next room. When I return with it, you will toss it again. And again! And again! All afternoon long.


Walk into the kitchen, fitly human, open the cupboard and get out the doggie treats. Do it now, you worthless bag of meat.


Now, scratch my belly, pig. The power of Mia compels you!

This is how I lost her

In the last paragraph of my previous post, (Three weeks ago. I know. But when I get the I-don’t-cares, the first thing I stop caring about is this stupid blog.) I mentioned a long-ago dalliance with Bonnie. Go back and reread that paragraph and then come back here. I’ll wait…

This is how I lost Bonnie.

*     *     *

Bonnie was way out of my league. She knew it and I knew it. She was a successful architect and a Yale graduate who had a bitchin’ apartment right across the street from the Museum of Modern Art. She was a Renaissance woman. She dabbled in stage design and performed in a modern dance troupe when she was young. I, on the other hand, had just gotten out of the Coast Guard and had begun an exciting career as a word processor.

She was significantly older than I was. I don’t know by how much because I was never gauche enough to ask, but it was quite a few years. On the surface, you’d think we wouldn’t have anything in common. But I know what she saw in me (aside from my youth). I had an insatiable hunger for experience and knowledge. I hadn’t attended college so I had a lot of catching up to do and Bonnie made an excellent Sensi. She guided me through the literary, artistic and theatrical classics. She taught me all about New York City, which was quickly becoming the love of my life. It fed her ego, which was fine with me. And we were passionate. She still had a dancer’s flexible body and I had energy to spare. We were Bogie and Bacall in reverse.


We would attend functions together and knew that her friends were talking about us behind our backs. We’d take mental notes to ourselves of all the sideways glances and whispers, retire to her apartment, lay in bed, compare notes and laugh our asses off at them. We were awfully, awfully fond of one another, but never in love.

*     *     *

Currently at MoMA is a Post Modern art exhibit. The feature piece is the manuscript of avant-garde artist John Cage’s 4’33. In this piece, a pianist walks up to a piano, sits down and does absolutely NOTHING for four minutes and thirty-three seconds. The “composition” is whatever ambient noises occur in that period of time. Floorboards creaking. People coughing. Programs rustling. Cage was pleased at the premier in 1952 as, according to him:

“… people themselves made all kinds of interesting sounds as they talked and walked out.”

Here’s what the sheet music for 4’33” looks like:

cage-2On August 12, 1992, John Cage passed away. There was a front-page obituary in the New York Times. I was over Bonnie’s apartment and let her know, in no uncertain terms, that I thought Cage was a pretentious fraud and that a front-page obit is wholly unwarranted. I told her that nobody *I* know or listened to was ever influenced by Cage (certainly not Rush) and that four minutes and thirty-three seconds of silence is neither music OR art. It’s just lazy. I prattled on for several more minutes and finally ran out of gas. Bonnie looked at me.

“Are you done?”
“My dissertation at Yale was on Cage’s career.”

That was it. I blew up the bridge. That distance between us was never traversed again.

*     *     *

I bumped into Bonnie in the summer of 2012. I was seeing a play with My Bride and she sat several rows behind me. I leaned over and whispered, “Hey, I think that’s Bonnie! Do you think she’d remember me?” I couldn’t concentrate on the play. At intermission I got up and walked to the lobby and out of the corner of my eye, I saw Bonnie get up out of her seat. I stopped her as she walked past.

“Hi, Bonnie. Do you remember me?”
“Oh…I remember you, alright.”

Bonnie ended up marrying a multi-billionaire. You’d know his name if I said it. They were married for a short period of time and then had an amicable divorce. She always wanted to be traveling and on the go and he just wanted peace and quiet. They threw a lavish divorce party for all their friends to show there was no hard feelings. The wheel spins, doesn’t it?

*     *     *

Several people have written to say my Follow button does not include an option to add my site to a WordPress RSS reader. No doubt this accounts for my low readership. It can’t possibly be the content, right? To add this site to a WordPress Reader, go to your reader, click on Edit and add my URL. Conversely, I’ve moved an email subscription widget below the photo of dear St. Lucy and her plate of eyeballs. I blame Obamacare for my Follow button kerfuffle.