I create context. I also write blog posts:


Posted: March 31st, 2011 | Author: | No Comments »

All For One

Posted: March 10th, 2011 | Author: | 6 Comments »

I won the Rochester Youth Hockey Dynamites Division Championship with that stick.

A Three Musketeers bar is an odd thing for your father to hand to you at nine-thirty on a Sunday morning.

“Here, eat this.”

Odd, sure, but at one point in my life, it was a tradition of sorts — or better, a ritual. See, I’m superstitious, and was especially so when I was younger and when it came to playing hockey, so I didn’t let anything interrupt my routine. Got to the game about an hour before taking the ice, picked out a good cd to throw in the Discman — usually something from The Offspring or Green Day — started getting ready before everyone else arrived. I put everything on from right to left: right sock, left sock, right skate, left skate, up through the pads and everything else. Once I had the leg pads on, I did some stretching, listened to some music, and went out to watch whoever was on the ice before us. Talked to no one.

Ten minutes before the zamboni went out to chew up the ice and leave a clean surface behind, I went back into the locker room to finish getting dressed. That’s when Dad usually brought the Three Musketeers bar in. I don’t remember the first time it happened, but I don’t think I asked for it. He just used to go to the snack bar and pick one up for me because he thought it would give me an extra little boost of energy. That was how he used to help out before games — he didn’t try to give me long pep talks or coach me in any way; it was just a candy bar, a sugar-boost. That would get me through.

The hand-off was always short: “Here, eat this. And don’t let anything past you in the first five minutes.” He always said the same thing. I didn’t want him to say anything else.

Truth be told, I don’t even like Three Musketeers bars. Never did. But Dad had taken me to hockey practices that started at 6 o’clock sharp some mornings and he blew all of his weekends during the winter months for… oh, about fifteen years… ferrying my brother and me to and from the rink in a car that grew to perpetually smell like sweaty hockey gear. He paid for new skates when we outgrew old ones and hotels when we traveled, and sat in the cold stands when he wasn’t standing in the even-colder timekeeper’s box. How do you tell a guy who’s sacrificed so much that you don’t like his candy bar?

You don’t. You eat it and you play your hardest and you thank him at the end of the day.

And ten or fifteen years later, when you’re looking back on it, the candy bar seems to have very little to do with what was worth remembering about those Sunday mornings.

A Taste Of Manhattan In Port Jeff

Posted: March 7th, 2011 | Author: | 1 Comment »

It’s raining like hell outside. To the point where my windshield wipers are on high all the way home from the restaurant. I can’t remember the last time it rained this hard.

It’s good, though. It’s better that snow, and based on the amount of rain that’s coming down — that’s been coming down for hours — it would be a lot of snow.

It’s enough rain to cool the air, enough that running in from the car makes you want a drink to warm things up. No, not coffee or hot chocolate. Something that warms the interior. Something strong. Something delicious. Something with whiskey in it.

Whiskey and diet soda are the two most common household ingredients I have that work together. Except, because of a guy named Greg, they don’t work.

Greg’s a bartender at The Fifth Season, my favorite restaurant ever and Kelsey’s former employer (there’s my disclaimer, by the way: my girlfriend used to work there and I think they make delicious food…). See, Greg is awesome because, other than being a pretty awesome all-around dude, he knows a lot about drinking. Not in the way your college baseball team knew drinking, but in a way that can say “use rye instead of Scotch for this drink,” which, in my opinion, is infinitely better. Because when you can choose between “this is how to drink” and “this is how to get fucked up,” you should choose the former every time.

A few weeks ago, when Kelse and I were sitting at the bar drinking beer, I struck up a conversation with Greg: “I don’t have a drink,” I told him. “I don’t have anything that I can order when I go to a bar.” Have you ever asked for a whiskey and diet? It’s embarrassing. What the hell’s that? A frat drink. A wannabe writer drink (I know *allllllllllllll* about these…). It doesn’t even feel like a drink, it feels like a nasty-tasting glass of Diet Coke.

It’s still raining. Serious downpours ever twenty minutes or so that make me think the sewer systems on Long Island (which I’ve already noticed don’t actually drain water very well) won’t be functioning by morning and we’ll all be ankle-deep on our way out to our cars.

But that’s then. For now, I’m thinking about the concoction in my glass, and how it’s not quite as good as the one that was in my glass earlier tonight.

Here’s the deal: Greg works Sunday nights at The Fifth. I’ve decided to drop by during his shift and learn how to really drink, one cocktail a week. We’re tackling the classics first: last week, we tried an Old-Fashioned. I liked it; it was whiskey but it was smooth. This week: a Manhattan. Not so much.

But you know what? As much as I didn’t like the aftertaste left behind by the sweet vermouth, it was better than a Jack and Diet. That’s all I need. Let it rain as much as it wants.

So It Turns Out I’ve Been Living A Lie

Posted: March 2nd, 2011 | Author: | 6 Comments »

MY MOTHER was a children’s librarian for years, both before and after I was born. When I was learning to read, it was awesome. There were always new books in the house and when we finished them, they disappeared and new ones showed up. Like magic. Even back in elementary school, I was pretty cocky about it. Teachers would sit down to read something new and I’d feign boredom and sigh. “Goodnight Moon? Get outta here, of course I’ve read it. Frog and Toad? Those are my bread and butter, baby! The Very Hungry Caterpillar? Who hasn’t?” There isn’t a good children’s book out there that I haven’t read… Or, at least, I thought so until today.

Today is Theodor Geisel’s birthday. Theodore Geisel is Dr. Seuss. Dr. Seuss is a hero among children (and, I would imagine, children’s librarians.) Children count One Fish, Two Fish in their sleep, they know that it’s ok to eat Green Eggs And Ham, and they graduated kindergarten with a reading of Oh The Places You’ll Go.

Even today, when people mention favorite memories of their childhood and they get into the Babars and the Amelia Bedelias and the Hardy Boys, I feel that cocky streak come alive again.

“Child’s play! You want a good kick in the head, you should check out Ida Early Comes over the Mountain. That stuff’ll change the way you think.”

But any time somebody mentions Dr. Seuss, it feels like I have amnesia, like a big black hole in my head, ’cause I’m thinking “I must’ve read it but I have no idea.” Today, while I was reading all the quotes and fond memories, I felt that same haze creep in again.

I emailed my mother this morning to ask her what she was doing to celebrate Dr. Seuss’ birthday. I was pretty excited, because twitter was filled with Seussical quotes and even Mailchimp’s login screen (pictured above) bore the good doctor’s mark. I was expecting her to say that the library was doing something special or that she had read one of her favorites for old-time’s sake.

She didn’t do either. In fact, her response was the opposite:

Can’t say I was ever a fan of his books – a cat that made such a mess and got those kids into trouble was pretty scary to me! [Ed. Note: I'm assuming she means when she was little. I don't think she's still afraid of The Cat In The Hat.]

It turns out that I didn’t read any Dr. Seuss when I was a kid! I only got whatever we read in school.

My brother chimed in on the email thread: “I distinctly remember Mom and I reading Dr. Seuss books and Dad coming by and saying, ‘I thought you hated those books,’ to which Mom responded, ‘They’re terrible books, but they’re great for learning how to read.’”

Mom responded: “Thanks, Jason! It’s true – the language is great for learning how to read. But I think we switched to the Frog and Toad books for Peter.”


Nothing I know is the same anymore. I’m a fraction of who I thought I was.

But instead of cowering in the corner, I’m embracing this. I’m facing the world optimistically and taking charge of my life.

Today, I am a new man!

And I’ve got just the thing to inspire me along the way:

be your name Buxbaum or Bixby or Bray
or Mordecai Ali Van Allen O’Shea,
You’re off the Great Places!
Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting.
So…get on your way!

Ya Know That Feeling?

Posted: March 1st, 2011 | Author: | 1 Comment »

THERE’S always of moment of something real pure — I think it’s relief — before the terror sets in. It’s satisfaction as your brain momentarily tells you that you’ve completed this step, it’s kind of a pat on the back. But it’s fleeting. It’s almost always immediately replaced by a sense of real terror; not the kind you get when you see a spider, but the kind when you do something that you know your mother is going to find out about and she’s not going to be happy. It’s the opposite of the first feeling, replacing completion with uncertainty: I’m on to the next step and I have no idea what it’s going to bring.

It’s the feeling that used to come in the moments after handing in a test in high school. “Phew, that’s over” becomes “Oh shit, now somebody’s going to grade that.”

Enter: my weekend. It started innocently enough, a leisurely trip to the post office (that’s a lie — nothing in my neck of the woods that involves travel is “leisurely,” but I tried to make it so). A short wait in line, a quick checkout, a few bits of small talk.

And then the woman behind the counter took the envelope from me.

I thought about asking for it back.

But it was tossed into a bin under the counter and, as far as I’m concerned, it’s gone.

I’m not getting it back.

And so, I had completed a step, and now wait to see what, exactly, is next up. There’s uncertainty, and nerves, and a twitching in my left arm, but it feels a little good.

It’s progress.

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