Diary of a Mad White Man: Addendum to Yesterday's Post

Madea and David Friedlander
Don't mess with me or Madea.

Yesterday I wrote a post about Peter the bore.  It was essentially a diatribe about his inauthenticity, his desire (and resultant failure) to impress, his lack of interest in those around him, and so on.  It was a warning to all the boring people in the world to straighten out and fly right.

I was pretty proud of myself for such lucid thinking, deconstructing the aggregates of boringness.  I thought I did a real mitzvah to all the bores or potential bores of the world.  They could read my post and reflect on and alter their behavior.

Last night, I headed over to my girlfriend’s where we were to have dinner with a couple friends.  I printed out my post, eager to serenade her with my mellifluous excoriation of the intolerable.

When I got to her place, I asked if I could read it to her.  She said of course.  I read it aloud and after the first few paragraphs I noticed something that I didn’t reading it to myself:  the author sounded really pissed off. Continue reading “Diary of a Mad White Man: Addendum to Yesterday's Post”

Thought of the Week: Life Never Happens Later

Not the best pic to convey my point. Image via break.com

“How would you live if you lived 100%?”  This was a question I posed to myself in a dream last week.  I woke up seconds later contemplating the question’s implications.  What was I waiting for?  When are you really going to invest in your dream of being a writer?  When are you going to stop being a miser with your money?  When are you going to tie up all the loose ends in your life?  Do I think there’s a better time than now?  Am I waiting for circumstances to improve?  Don’t I know better than that?  I got out of bed resolved to start living 100% then and there.

Before I started living 100%, I had to pee.  After peeing, I had to meditate.  Then I needed coffee and toast.  I couldn’t very well live 100% without showering, flossing and brushing my teeth.  By the time I had left the house and performed my automaton-like morning routine, my resolve to live 100% got knocked down to 68%.  After a typical day of email correspondences, some writing, web-surfing, Facebook, eating, and other mundane tasks, resolve dipped into the upper 30’s.  I will live life 100%, but later. Continue reading “Thought of the Week: Life Never Happens Later”

This Post Will Make You Happy

Panelists at PSFK's Good Ideas on Happiness Salon (L to R: Hill, Forbes, Dean and Rubin). Image via PSFK.

Growing up, no one sat me down and said, “David, this is what I’ve learned about living a happy life.”  The closest thing I got was a warning from my father:  “If it looks too good to be true, sounds too good to be true, it probably is too good to be true”—a sage tactic for avoiding unhappy situations, but not necessarily a strategy to get into good ones.

Without clear guidance, I tried to figure it out myself.  I looked around the house, but like I said they weren’t saying much.  Mom was boozing.  Dad was an every-other-week presence who dealt with depression much of his life.  Grandparents were pretty checked out.

I looked around the neighborhood, but the whole suburban, early-eighties, broken-home, lives of quiet desperation thing was all the rage, so that didn’t help much either.

That just left TV.  People on TV had problems like me, but they were, unlike my problems, settled in twenty-two minutes (unless it was one of those annoying “to be continued” episodes).  Happiness was the default setting for TV characters.  They started the show happy, faced conflict, overcame conflict, returned to a happy state of being.  The sitcom happiness arc was punctuated with commercials that brimmed with things to buy that assured happiness.

Out of this alloy of environmental inferences and TV-based philosophy, I had no clue how to live a happy life.  I spent my first eighteen years in near continuous depression.

I attended an event the other day by the organization PSFK.  The topic was happiness.   It was like an overdue version of the talk I never received as a child. Continue reading “This Post Will Make You Happy”

Checking Out for the Holidays

A TV and child's reunion is only a motion away.

I call Chicago home because it’s the region where I was born and I identify with the midwestern, salt-of-the-earth character.  Midwesterners are like their terrain, earthy, solid and level.  They are less frenetic than the tirelessly ambitious east coasters, yet more resilient than the sunny-day-chasing west coasters.

The downside of this is earthiness is that midwesterners tend be fans of inactive activities:  watching sports, watching TV, sitting long periods, drinking, eating.  This inert disposition has many culprits.  The weather sucks most of the time—frigid in the winter, blazing in the summer, with a perpetually grey, gauzy sky all four seasons.  In Chicago, there are few compelling outdoor diversions aside from a lake that is swimmable for two weeks in August.  You have to drive to get anywhere interesting as the city is huge and public transportation stinks.  In the winter, when I typically go there, driving sucks too; you eyeball the heat gauge, waiting for the needle to go up so you can blast the heat; you then drive a half-hour to get to your destination, spend another fifteen minutes looking for parking, brave the cold again, only to do it all over again on the return ride home.  Oftentimes, the effort doesn’t seem worth it.  You figure you might as well stay home and watch Romancing the Stone for the umpteenth time. Continue reading “Checking Out for the Holidays”

The Plurality is Near

Man and machine merge.

In 1997 my dad bought me a desktop PC for school.  It had a 2 gig hard-drive because, he said, “I thought you needed something you could grow into.”  It had Microsoft Office and came with a disk for a web-service called Gowebway.

I remember unpacking the computer, anticipating all the things I could do with it, like word processing and…well I didn’t know what else.  I didn’t have any reason to make a spreadsheet.  I’d never emailed.  The web was an abstraction.  It was like Encarta apparently, but more so.

When my folks left my place, I started up my computer, loaded Gowebway, hooked up my phone line and within minutes, I was online.  A minute after that I was looking for porn.  A few seconds after that, I found porn, and lots of it.  Before the day was through, I had signed up for a $30/month subscription service (seemed like a deal), and had spent the whole night—and many days and nights after—having a one man bacchanal.  It was a fitting entree to my online life, which has been the mental equivalent of a lifetime’s supply of Cheetos.  Like Cheetos, online content is satisfying going down, but leaves you totally unnourished no matter how much you consume.

Continue reading “The Plurality is Near”

Killing My Inner Child

That was supposed to be me up there.

My first and last bike race started with a clatter and ended with a whimper.  I was fourteen and had entered the Illinois state road championships months before.  This would be my first outing on my coveted and crinkled US Cycling Federation category-four license.
The race would mark my ascent to cycling greatness.  Soon I would be among cycling legends:  Eddy Merckx, Bernard Hinault, American Greg Lemond, who had just won his second Tour de France by eight seconds that day.
In preparation for the euro racing circuit, I dressed like top pros for my premiere race, wearing my PDM jersey (then the most powerful cycling team in the world) and a “hairnet,” a leather and soft-foam head covering that offers about as much protection as its food-service namesake.
My older brother, who also had an interest in cycling, drove me to the event in his beat up 83’ Toyota Celica.  My race started at 8:30 in Bloomington, a Podunk town two and a half hour drive from our place in the south suburbs of Chicago.  We arrived around 8:25. Continue reading “Killing My Inner Child”

Life Lessons from a Gutter Punk

Jeremy and Whiskers

Jeremy is a jolly man.  His well-upholstered and tattooed physique seems to hold reserves of joy.  Things rarely get him down.  If offended, he quickly takes responsibility for his part in the interaction.  If things don’t go his way, he sees how the new plan might be the best one after all.  He seems to concoct interpretations that leave him happy in any given situation.
Jeremy is not delusional.  He lives in a very real world at a place called the Catholic Worker.  Beside housing a daily soup line open to all, the Worker is a home to about thirty people, a mixture of ideal-driven volunteers like Jeremy and “the least among us”—people like Whiskers, a rotund, lisping, respiratory-disease ridden seventy-something-year-old man who has lived there for forty years.  The Worker strives to be the ideal of a Christian “house of hospitality,” which means that everyone is welcome and nothing is asked of those who come through its doors.
Like many others who live there and pass through the Worker’s, Jeremy is neither Catholic nor Christian.  He’s a self-described anarchist, similar to the house, whose ethos is broadly defined as Christian anarchism, which focuses on following Jesus’ teachings without the conversion stuff. Continue reading “Life Lessons from a Gutter Punk”