As the end of the quarter approaches, I am transitioning into my usual three weeks of panicking about how much shit I still have to do. I somehow still have 20 hours of field work to do and then write about, a thematic unit with enough content for four weeks of lessons/activities/general fun for first graders to create, lesson plans and IEPs have to write, quizzes to take, and I also have to sleep and nanny the rest of the days.
Luckily, I am not taking any classes this summer so after cramming ten weeks worth of work into the next three weeks, I’ll be as free as a bird who only had to write a ten page paper to fulfill a nutrition requirement.
In preparation for these three weeks of torture, I had my usual end of the quarter freak out during class last night to one of my teachers, in front of my entire class. This was followed by some of my class whispering to me, “are you ok?”, and I angrily responded, “Clearly I’m not.” For as much bitching these classmates do before my teachers enters the classroom, a lot of them sure were quiet during my panic to her about stuff I’ve heard them complain about. But, at the end of the day me and my teacher ended up on the same page so whatever, y’all.
I spent most of my time after class last night trying to kumbaya my way into enough of a relaxed state to fall asleep. I don’t know if it was my pinterest binge that finally took my mind off the chaos, or if my brain actually exploded, but either way I fell asleep.
Waking up this morning was terrible, but that is nothing new. My dog refuses to let me sleep in, thank god, or else I may show up to work three hours late everyday. As I begin to actually gain consciousness, I get excited to see my nanny boys, and then once I’ve had my coffee I remember–MY NANNY FAMILY GOT A PUPPY!
I get to work and am immediately like, what is stress what is sadness what is worry, hello puppy hello puppy hello puppy.
Now that the three babies are finally asleep, I get to sit back and think about how I spent my morning being chased/chasing three of the cutest creatures I’ve ever seen.
Fine, life is ok.
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We’re in New York City for my younger daughter’s college graduation, which gives everyone an excuse to go shopping.
My wife and daughter let me tag along cause they don’t know what else to do with me.
I follow them into a dress shop on Mott Street, where I stand by the front door looking bored and impatient.
In other words, a big drag to all the serious shoppers.
Then they get the inspiration to buy themselves some quality shopping time by pointing me in the general direction of Soho and telling me to go look for Louie C.K.
Apparently, Louie lives in that general vicinity, though exactly where, we don’t know.
By the way, Louie C.K. is a very funny comedian.
It was through Idera that…
Off I eagerly go, wandering up and down various meandering Soho streets in search of Louie C.K.
Though what I’m supposed to do should I find him is not clear.
After about fifteen minutes, I’ve pretty much covered all the streets where he may or may not live. I return to the dress shop, having failed in my journey to see Louie C.K. For all I know, he’s gone to the Hamptons for the weekend.
Good news from the dress shop! My wife and daughter have, mercifully, settled on a dress.
Immediately, I push for a visit to Chinatown, so I can eat some steamed dumplings.
I love steamed dumplings about as much as I love Louie C.K.
But, no, they must buy shoes.
We cut a deal. They have a ten-minute limit in the shoe store!
I find myself in David Z, a shoe store on Broadway, standing at the front counter next to Idera, the manager.
We’re at minute five in the ten-minute countdown, when I notice a large colored picture of Biggie Smalls, hanging on the wall.
You know–Biggie Smalls, the rapper.
I turn to Idera.
“Is that Biggie Smalls?”
“Taken in this store?”
“Yes, I sold him shoes…”
“Yeah, man. And look at this…”
I sorta met Biggie Smalls…
He takes out his cell phone and shows me a photo of him and Charles Barkley.
Apparently, he also sold shoes to Charles!
I feel compelled to take a picture with Idera on the grounds that this will be as close as I come to taking my picture with Charles Barkley and Biggie Smalls.
Fast forward three days…
I’m walking up Fifth Avenue and I see another David Z’s. I have this odd suspicion…
Into the store I run.
“Can I help you?” asks the manager.
“Do you have a picture of Biggie Smalls?”
“You know, the rapper.”
“I know who Biggie Smalls is.”
I scour the walls and see no picture.
I realize Idera was telling the truth. It’s not a stock picture hanging in all David Z stores. He really did sell shoes to Biggie Smalls.
Idera, why did I ever doubt you?
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Memorial Day is a wonderful day for politicians. There are graves of fallen American soldiers scattered all over this country and the photo opportunities for Senators, Congressman and Governors are endless. No career political hack can resist the opportunity to wrap himself in the flag and be photographed at a soldier’s grave site on Memorial Day.
For other folks, the best thing about this holiday is that they don’t have to work on Monday. It’s an extra day away from the office or factory, another day free of the indignities that come with working for a living.
Memorial Day has an entirely different meaning for veterans, especially combat veterans. Military personnel who have been awarded the CIB (Combat Infantryman Badge), which is given to soldiers who have personally fought in ground combat operations, often have mixed feelings about a holiday that was created to honor the dead.
Chances are, if a person has a CIB, they’ve seen and done some terrible things. They have spent time in the Inferno. They have experienced true horror. And the absolute worst of those horrors was seeing friends die. The ghosts of Alpha Company still haunt my dreams.
Some combat veterans, including me, are uncomfortable with the overly sentimental veneration of America’s fallen soldiers. It’s too little, too late, and the sentiments are usually off the mark.
It makes me uneasy when I hear politicians exalt dead soldiers, or read editorials comparing them to saints, calling them God’s warriors, elevating them to the status of angels with assault rifles. The image of the American foot soldier as a noble warrior, different than all the cruel, heartless bastards that came before him, is a false one.
The truth is, the American foot soldier is a bad motherfucker, a dangerous, highly-trained, superbly armed, brutal and efficient killing machine.
A lot of the soldiers in my outfit were tough kids, urban and rural poor boys, before they went into the service. A few months in the jungles and paddies made them even tougher. Spending three weeks at a time on Search and Destroy missions, sleeping in muddy foxholes at night, waiting for the next bit of Hell to arrive, and wondering if your next breath will be your last, has a way of bringing out the beast in a man.
After three weeks in the bush we’d be sent to a relatively safe firebase to relax and unwind. Those seven days were spent trying to forget the terrors of the previous three weeks. We drank heavily, smoked copious amounts of weed, and visited the whores who set up storefronts near every American firebase.
The liquor and drugs helped us escape the grim reality of our lives. The intoxicants made it possible, for a short time, to forget some of the things we had seen and done.
The young whores made us feel human again. The act of love, the skin-to-skin contact, the primal connection between a man and woman, helped soften the rough edges of our memories.
True, these were coarse comforts, frowned upon by church, state and the general public, but they were all we had. A few drinks, a little weed, and a piece of ass made an intolerable existence somewhat bearable.
No, we weren’t knights in shining armor. I doubt we would have been welcomed in polite society. We were just common foot soldiers, flawed in so many ways. But we were young and valiant, and did the best we could.
Here are a few lines from a Rudyard Kipling poem called “Tommy,” about British soldiers. I believe it captures the ambivalence that some civilians have for the military, why dead soldiers are honored, and living ones not so much.
“An’ if sometimes our conduck ain’t all your fancy paints,
Why, single men in barracks don’t grow into plastic saints,
For it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ ‘Chuck him out, the brute,’
But it’s ‘Savior of our country” when the guns begin to shoot.”
As I mentioned, I’m not a fan of Memorial Day. It brings back too many bitter memories. But I can understand how the holiday can be a comfort to people, especially those that have lost friends and loved ones in wars.
So, go ahead and celebrate Memorial Day any way you like. I’ll honor the occasion properly.
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I was watching Houston play the Clippers in game seven of their playoff series, when on to the screen came Pablo Prigoni, backup guard for the Rockets.
And I started wondering: Who does Pablo look like?
This is a compulsion for me. One face invariably reminds me of another. And I have to run through the images in my mental rolodex to figure it out.
Generally, it happens during a basketball game when I have a clear view of the faces, which are unobstructed by hats or helmets.
For instance, I spent the better part of March Madness wondering: Who does Frank Kaminsky look like?
Frank’s the star center for the University of Wisconsin team that made a run all the way to the championship game. So he got a lot of TV time.
It bothered me for weeks. And then one day I was walking west on North Avenue and it hit me–Sean Dinces!
Frank looks like my old pal, Sean Dinces.
I immediately texted to break the good news. I texted Sean, that is–not Frank. I don’t know Frank. But if I did, I’d have texted him, too.
“Let me be the first to tell you that Frank Kaminski looks like you,” I texted.
“I think you meant that for someone else,” Sean texted back.
I guess he didn’t think it was a compliment.
But, Sean–Frank’s a good-looking guy.
Pablo looks like…
Sometimes a likeness is so obvious it hits me instantaneously. Like with J.J. Redick, of the Clippers
As everyone knows, he’s a dead ringer for Chris Lamberti, The Third City’s outstanding baseball correspondent.
While I’m on the subject…
Yo’ Chris, hurry up and write us another post!
I even have a topic…
Has the time come for the White Sox to fire Robin Ventura and re-hire Ozzie Guillen?
Sean, feel free to weigh in with your opinion.
You, too, Frank Kaminsky.
But Pablo Prigioni? Pablo Prigioni? Hmmm….
That’s it–he looks like Matt Farmer.
In addition to being a great musician and lawyer, Matt’s another Third City correspondent.
Which reminds me–hey, Matt, hurry up and write us another post.
Now I have to figure out who Stephen Curry resembles.
I’ll let you know when it hits me.
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-My Robbie boy, I didn’t know you were picking me up.
-Yeah, grandma. Dad said you needed a ride to your appointment.
-Oh, I’m so happy to see you, Robbie.
-Happy to see you, too.
-How’s school? You doing well?
-Yeah. It’s ok. I’m on break for the summer.
-That’s nice. You dating anyone special?
-Not really. I’m keeping my options open.
-Good boy. You’re too young to be settling down. Have your fun.
-How are things at the retirement home?
-Don’t call it that. You father likes to call it that. It’s a shit show. Not a home.
-I know you don’t want to be there but dad’s spending a lot of money to make sure you’re taken care of, grandma.
-Well it’s a waste if you ask me. The place is dingy, the food taste like shit and the staff is made up of a bunch of idiots.
-It can’t be that bad.
-Oh, but it is, Robbie. They almost killed Nancy the other day.
-Your roommate, Mrs. Schwartzman? That woman is never going to die.
-Well she almost did.
-How’d they do that?
-It was terrible. So she has trouble sleeping sometimes, so her doctor prescribed her a sleeping pill to help her sleep.
-Well she only sometimes has trouble sleeping, so she doesn’t always need the pill. But that idiot nurse, Marco, comes in every night with the pill. “Doctor’s orders meesus Schwartzman. Time to take your peel.” That Filipino asshole….
-Ok, that seems annoying…
-…Annoying? It’s idiotic. Sometimes he’ll wake her up to give her the pill. She’s already sleeping and still with the pill, Robbie.
- I know but if the doctor prescribed it to her, I don’t see how it could kill her.
-So, the other night here comes Marco with the stupid pill. Nancy tells him she doesn’t want it, she’s been sleeping just fine. And what does he say?
-Right. So she takes the pill and goes to bed. In the morning Marco makes his rounds, waking the early risers up for breakfast. He comes into our room and wakes me, then, walks over to Nancy and gives her a shake.
-So what did he do?
-Marco starts screaming: “Oh my God meesus Schwartzman is dead! Somebody call 911! Queeckly!” And he starts doing chest compressions.
-I know. I sat there, horrified, thinking, ‘You Filipino son of a bitch. You killed Nancy.’ Then Nancy opens her eyes, sits up and starts screaming: “What are you doing to me?” She wasn’t dead. She was just knocked out cold from the sleeping pill.
-He didn’t check for a pulse or for breathing?
-I told you, they’re idiots.
-What did Marco do when she woke up?
-Of course he thought she was back from dead, he starts crying and screaming: “Oh meesus Schwartzman, you’re back. I saved you. Thank you God.”
-Yeah, we got to get you out of there, grandma.
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