Basic Green

Barbara was tidy from an early age.  As a little girl she enjoyed having all the books on her bookcase carefully arranged from big to small in gradual incremental steps.  She kept her bed neatly kempt, her hair brushed from her face and pinned up in berets.  She was a model child her parents beamed.   

The day Barbara met the man she would someday marry, the first thing she noticed were the dark stains his coffee cup left on the cafe counter, and his careless unkempt tie.   She’d change all that– in due time.

And so they were married after the appropriate length courtship, with Jim asking her father’s permission.  And after a modest ceremony they saved and scrimped and soon enough’ they bought a house.  A tiny place that Barbara kept clean.  

“Could we do something today?”   Jim would ask as he pulled the drapes back and open to the bright morning sun pouring through the spotless glistening glass.  

“We can’t“ she’d reply with a sigh.  “What if we have company?  My folks could drop by.”  There was just so much to do.  So they’d spend their weekends cleaning.  On their knees scrubbing with the spray of Basic Green drying out her hands so the skin cracked in between.   And they’d have house parties once a month and her friends would marvel at the spotless upkeep of’ the place.    

“Could we do something today?”   Jim raised his upturned face to the morning rays.  “It’s a perfectly enjoyable Saturday” he exclaimed.  But there was cleaning and laundry, and the ever encroaching dust.  “What will people think of us?” Barbra sighed gesturing to her slightly unkempt house.  So they cleaned.  And that’s the way things went for many years.  

Until, the cough.  First as murmur at dinner, dismissed as Jim eating too quickly as was his nature.  But in the growing months he would shift and turn in bed, unable to lay comfortable as his lungs kicked up spittle.  Unchecked, it spread through his crackling blackening lungs, until he finally succumbed– doubled over at his desk.

Rushed face-up mask-on with nothing but the overhead streetlights through streaked glass.  Oh Barbra would have something to say if she saw that.  Tires on asphalt giving way to pavement and then rows of fluorescent above and linoleum lined below as Jim was checked in to the hospital.  Barbra arrived in a panic, the all too familiar smell of antiseptic Basic Green.  Barba practically lived at the hospital as her husband lay weakening, weekly in bed.  The flowers delivered by friends lay drooping by his headboard.   

“I think… I would like to go outside today.”  He wheezed.  But he never did.  

Barbra returned home, to her empty house with the drapes pulled closed.  The sun sneaking beams through the seams and cracks, as if searching for the man who loved the sun.   Dust had accumulated everywhere in a find mist, sparkling and glittering in the dying rays.  Barbra reached under the kitchen sink for her cleaning supplies.  An empty bucket, and her spray bottle of Basic Green.  

“I wish… we did something today.”  She whispered.  But it was too late.

Bump it with:

Two Types of Dicks

I grew up thinking for the longest time there were two types of dicks in this world.  And I don’t mean some metaphorical two types of shitty-people… but literally two different types of penises in the world.  Let me explain:

When I was six or seven years old my parents brought me over to a family friend’s house to play.  I don’t really remember them exactly, but they were co-workers of my mother or father with a kid about my age.  The parents stayed inside to talk, this other boy and I romped around his back yard,  playing soldiers climbing up the terraced hill.  Eventually we came inside and upstairs to his room to play with his toys.  At some point I had to pee, and so did he.  So we went to the bathroom to unzip and unsheath and release two matching streams like Ghostbusters’ proton piss.

Now I had done this countless times with my classmates in the piss stained stainless steel urinal trough at school.  And I had a brother older than me and I’ve seen him pee, (sometimes all over the back of the toilet seat) so other dicks weren’t exactly a mystery to me.  But this kid was packing something different.

Earlier that summer I had caught a chameleon and played with it for days outside.  My mom had a brown exercise bike on the patio, that I would sit and ride and spin and spin those wheels.  I would let my chameleon climb on my head and the handlebars and my shirt until one day he fell, and landed right in the moving parts of the bicycle, between the teeth of the gears and the cold metal chain spinning in a fury from my feet and he was smushed to a green pulp.   This kid’s dick was like that.  Smashed and misshapen, with a weird pattern down the middle like a gear had been run through it.

His dick was like a crinkle cut french fry, except thin and slender like a regular french fry, but one from an old batch that had browned and bent from soaking up too much oil.    A pink french fry smushed lizard dick.  And compared to my fleshy round vienna sausage, his dick was weird.

“Your dick is weird.” I said, crossing our streams of yellow waste flow as they spun and sputtered into the white porcelain bowl.

“YOUR dick is weird.” he retorted.

There we stood, perpendicular to one another, our piss streams reducing to tepid dribbles.  There was a 50% chance he was right.  Clearly, one of us had a weird dick.  I had neither the capacity nor vocabulary to refute him, to explain no, in my young and traveled life I had seen copious amounts of dicks besides his and my own, and they all looked like mine in one way or another, and none of them looked the the Frankenstein french fry monstrosity that hung twisted between his legs.  So I did the only logical thing I knew:

“Mom!!”  I yelled as I went bounding down the stairs.

The adults were in the dining room, coffee and cookies on the table, legs crossed as the adult topics of the day meandering lazily through the room.  Nothing nearly as important as my discovery of french-fry-dick “Mom!” I yelled again.

“Yes?” She didn’t even look up from her friends.  Even at six years old I had enough sense to know that blurting out “dicks!” was not the right thing to do in a room full of adults, especially these strange towering adults that were not my parents.  But I had to, I just had to say something.

“His dick is weird.” it came out as a breathy whisper as I tugged on my mom’s sleeve.

“What?”  Came my mom’s disinterested voice.

“His dick…”  I began”it’s weird.”  She waved me off, engrossed in the conversation of adults.    I prodded her again.

“Jesse what are you saying?”  My mom gave an exasperated sigh, not even turning to face me.  Okay.  She was asking for it:

“I saw it!  His dick is weird!”  I shouted, raising my hands into balled up little fists over my head.  Just then my urinating rival had made his way down the stairs, sliding into the kitchen across the white linoleum tile with piss droplets on the front of his khaki shorts, his eyes narrowed into angry accusatory slits.

Eight pairs of adult eyes and one pair of kids eyes were focused on me.  I could see my mother turning bright red with embarrassment.  I don’t remember what she said, but I do remember we left that house shortly thereafter, and I don’t remember ever going back.

The thing is, I never got an explanation.  There was no awkward conversation on the drive home about the different types of dicks or people being different, or how I shouldn’t blurt out about dicks.   So I grew up thinking there were two different types of dicks: vienna sausage dicks, and crushed french fry dicks.  And to this day, my grown up mind has no idea what I saw, other than it was horrific.

Captain of the Ship

I am the captain of a sinking ship.

An old and dated vessel that ran aground some time ago.  Bound seaward with the rolling foam, with patchwork sails and scaly sides.   And my men, they sit where I tell them: in rows side by side oars at the ready to fight the tide.  And the waves crash repeatedly.  Those in the back near the rudder, go under.  Those in front stay scarcely above with coughing salty sputtering lungs.  And they all look up at me expectantly, wondering why I seated each one accordingly.  The measure of each man by the filling of his lungs.    

 Some go under in the boiling foam never to resurface.  Some make a panicked swim for a shore.   Some simply  drown into watery obedient nothingness, punished by their captain’s choices.  

I am the captain of a sinking ship.  But I’m the only un-drownable man on board.

Red Wagon

She pulled her little red wagon in the overcast afternoon chill, her thin coat pulled closely against her slender little bones.  The back wheel of her wagon was slightly bent, causing the tire to squeak and twist on its axis ever so slightly with each rotation.  *squeak* *squeak* *squeak* She trudged up the pavement, until at last she arrived at her destination.  Her tiny brow furrowed as she struggled with the sheet of paper against the pillar.  Worn sneakers on tippy-toes stretching tiny fingers as high as they could reach, fumbling with slick – sticking tape, fighting the corners for control until at last her poster was plastered to the pillar for all to see:

“Lost Dog”  

Curious onlookers inside the coffee shop peered over their steamy mugs through the frosty window frames, content to have a reprieve from an otherwise uneventful Tuesday afternoon.  

“Aww… isn’t that the saddest thing?” the patrons cooed.  The coffee shop was abuzz with tepid conversation, of collective pity of the little girl beyond the glass.  Outside, the forlorn little figure stepped back to admire her handiwork for a moment rubbing the heat back into her fingers, and then disappeared up the street– red wagon in tow.  *squeak* *squeak *squeak*


Weeks past and the poster tore.  Rained-soaked and wind swept until all that remained were tiny taped corner nubs.  The little girl returned, with her little red wagon with the slightly bent back wheel in tow.  *squeak* *squeak* *squeak* She stood on the tops of tippy-toes on the slick road with arms outstretched way beyond the enormous weight of her lost pet, plastering the pillar with her heart’s honest and earnest plea:

“Lost Dog”

“Aww… that’s the saddest thing I’ve ever seen.”  An outspoken barista declared as she wiped her hands down her apron; murmurs of agreement echoed in ripples across the coffee shop.  They all sat watching through paned glass as the little girl collected herself and disappeared down the street.  Forgotten, the barista poured another cup of coffee.  

Weeks passed and the elements ran their slender icy slicing fingers through her poster, reducing it to ribbons to be rolled down the street in limp tumbling tubes.  The little red wagon with the slightly bent back wheel came rattling up the pavement.  *squeak* *squeak* *squeak* A tall figure stood in front of the coffee shop and with a drooping head and slumped shoulders.  Slender arms with skinnier fingers pressed the poster to the pillar.  Patrons inside craned their necks to get a glimpse:

“Missing Girl.”  

Sentimental Plates

Moving in together is weird.  Relationship semantics aside, just the physical act of combining two people’s things is a feat in and of itself.  I feel like George Carlin put it best:

Now the missus and I have been living together for almost five months now.  Her stuff and my stuff have happily melded together to become our stuff.  But because we took over her grandparents’ house, there’s also a lot of residual stuff left over from them too.   Some of it was useful: her grandfather had a massive collection of tools, most of them in great working condition.  Some of it was clearly old and meant to be disposed of: Like that 1970’s vacuum cleaner with the millions of broken attachments, or the lamp that was more rust than lamp.

But there was one thing that simply could not be touched– The plates.

Her grandmother had amassed quite the collection of plates of the years.  Serving platters from the nearby Chinese restaurant the family loved to frequent.  Dishes brought home all the way from Japan.  The little cat bowl grandma used to serve my girlfriend as a kid.  Each dish has its own unique history and story.

But I don’t know any of these stories.  All I know is I have a cabinet full of plates.  Some of them will blow up the microwave because they have gold flecks inlayed in the edges.  Some of them may contain lead.  None of them stack, because this mismatched menagerie of dishware is amassed from so many different sources.  So our cabinets are full of a Dr. Seuss-ian dystopian toppling towers of dishware.

Now I can’t get rid of any of the dishes.  But I can… disappear some of them.  I am taller than my girlfriend by about three inches and we have one particular shelf that is waaaay up there where where only cobwebs and a rogue cat hangs out.   And ever so slowly, week by week I hide a dish up there.

In a way, I’m preserving them.  Like the Monument’s Men saving priceless artwork from the clutches of evil Nazis, I am saving her grandparent’s dishes from the inevitability of gravity, chipped corners, and explosions… all of which I am prone.

So I’m a hero.  A hero of plates.  Until that day she cleans up there and finds them all again.  And I’m back to square one.  But boy can I dream.

A letter to my Sister

Hey Little Sis,

So Mum said you and Mr. Potatohead broke up.  So obviously if mom knows something I too know it within a matter of hours.  Just kidding, I called her to tell her that Asahi went to the beach and has been pooping out sand all day, and she casually mentioned it.  See mom, I told you I’d be discrete.  *Ahem.*  I feel like I need to bequeath some brotherly wisdom to you.  So here goes:

We are baggage.
And I don’t mean that in some emo metaphor about how we carry around our past with us.  Literally, we are baggage.  We’re made out of hard unyielding suitcases and soft squishable duffel bags.  Being together with someone is making all that baggage fit into one finite shared space.  Some things are soft like duffel bags, able to stretch and squish and fit into the cracks.  Kayla wanted a cat.  We got a cat.  Kayla likes listening to Kpop whenever we drive.  We listen to Kpop when we drive.  These are not choices I would’ve made for myself, but choices I can live with and have grown to enjoy.

But there are hard inflexible surfaces as well; shells and frames and ribs that cannot be compromised, things that shouldn’t be bent or folded because it weakens and cracks the integrity of who we are.   Family, Career, my love of dogs and my long luxurious hair…  these all need to fit together too.  Love is compromise.  But at the same time it isn’t.  It’s not changing or throwing things away, it’s fitting your luggage where nothing breaks on the journey together.

I feel like you’ve been squeezed into an uncomfortable shape of who you thought you wanted to be.  And maybe you’ve been in that position, with a craned neck and tucked knees for so long that maybe you’ve forgotten your natural shape.   Have you ever seen the video of the happy cows?  Where they were kept in the barn all winter and then they get to see grass for the first time in months and they’re stretching and dancing and jumping.  That’s you.  Minus the impending sense of doom of being led off to the slaughterhouse of course.  Stretch out and figure out where all your luggage sits without someone else’s shit in the way.  Honestly, it’s a really good feeling.

You deserve the best.  Now I don’t mean Joseph Gordon Levitt best.  Because I’m pretty sure that guy is married.  Or gay.  Or both.  But the best of someone else, where their best is enough.  Y’know?  If you keep drinking from the same cup and you’re still thirsty… it’s not the cups fault.  You can’t be mad at the cup for being shallow and unsatisfying.  You just need to find a bigger cup.   I’m writing this as I’m sitting at the bar of my restaurant, and I’m drinking a beer.  Which is why I think the metaphor shifted from suitcases to liquids.  Which, side note, can you still only bring three ounces of liquid with you on board?  In which case, yes– you definitely need a big cup.

I love Kayla’s parents because they’re just like Mom n’ Dad.  Kayla’s mom sends us home with food almost every week.  She buys toys for Hibiki and Asahi just because she can.  Kayla’s dad did my taxes and is offering to buy us lawn equipment because he knows that’s my latest project– to fix up our lawn.  They’re not something to contend with or an obstacle to overcome– they’re two more supporting players in our growing relationship.  The only time I stress out about Kayla’s parents is because I don’t want to let them down or disappoint them (mom n’ dad are stuck with me so I can relax there).  But it makes such a difference having in-laws you can be yourself around.  And I want you to find that.  It feels so good not to have to put on emotional armor just to go to a family holiday party.  Because if you marry this person, you will see their people a lot.  Sure I drink less and am uber-polite but I’m still essentially me.  And for some reason, her family likes me.

Mr. Potatohead is a good guy.  And I feel like he’s done his best.  And that says something. When someone does their best you can either lower your standards or keep shopping for cups.  Otherwise you’ll squish like a duffel bag or crack like a suitcase. Or be thirsty.  I forget where I was going with this.

Anyhow, I love you.
Hit me up for anything and everything,

Letters to My Future Son: Get a Tent

I am in my early thirties.  By the time I have any children and they grow to the appropriate age to talk about the proverbial “birds and bees”, chances are I will be at the very youngest– forty five.  That’s if I get to baby making at this exact moment, and for some reason I want to sit down a bewildered fifteen year old and lecture him about sex.  In all likelihood I will be in my fifties by the time this conversation even becomes relevant.  I can’t remember the thoughts I was having as a ten year old… probably something about firetrucks and ice cream.  That’s the same span of age between where I am now– to fifty years old where I am giving you a lecture about sex.

Right now, I’m still a relatively young man.  I am the tiger just entering the cage of commitment.  Willingly, mind you, and lovingly building this structure around me.  But I still remember the rush of the grass and the thrill of the hunt.  I still remember what it’s like to be single, and alone, and horny, and stupid.  But I’m not sure how long I will remember these things; certainly not twenty years. So for your sake… I’ve decided to chronicle and hobble together what little tidbits of advice and experience to give to you. So When you’re asking me about sex and I’m fifty and you’re fifteen, I can give you more than a puzzled look and a blank, “Well your mom lets me do it, sometimes.”

First bit of Advice: Get a Tent

If you have the space for it, get a tent.  Now I don’t mean an outdoor tent with the bugs and the rain and mosquitoes; no buy a brand-new-never-touched-the-earth-tent, and set it up indoors.

Do you remember building blanket tents and pillow forts?  (it feels super meta, asking you about your past experiences which are happening in my presumed future, but I’ll assume with me being me, and you being my kid we’d do a lot of this stuff)  It’s this universal experience for every kid.  It’s fun, and it’s nostalgic, and it’s safe, and intimate.  Having an indoor tent taps into all those emotions.

Girls are the same way.  They did the same fort-building and tent making as children.  Maybe they had cool parents that actually took them camping and that’s a twinkling childhood memory for them.  So when you bring  a girl over and she sees you have a tent, the first thing she’s gonna want to do is go inside.  It’s human nature.  It’s instinct.

At my bachelor pad, long before I met your mother, I had a loft area that was about ten feet off the ground that you had to climb a step ladder to get up to.  The ceilings were low, where you couldn’t ever fully stand up, but high enough for a tent.  I put a tent right in the corner of my loft.  Some days when I was feeling especially shitty, I would climb up there and sit in my tent.  I had perfectly good and usable other spaces of my apartment, and it was only me living there, I wasn’t sharing living quarters with anyone.  But something about crawling into a tent felt safer, more private, more intimate, and more secluded even though it’s just a thin nylon sheet separating the space inside the tent and everything outside.

Okay back bringing girls over.  If you bring a girl over to your apartment, or to your room– it’s awkward.  You know what you want to do, she knows what she wants to do, but there’s all this space.  Do you sit awkwardly on the bed together?  Watch some TV?  Show her some videos on your computer?  There is no nice transition from two people existing in a room together, to playing backgammon.  (I might have to explain this reference to you later.)  Say you makeout.  At what point do you go over to the bed?  Or if you’re already on the bed, at what point do you do the thing where your two bodies kinda accidentally end up lying down on the bed?  There’s a lot of logistics involved, and with each subsequent step there’s room for error, miscommunication, hesitation, or in general you messing it up.

But say you have a tent.  She goes into the tent.  You go into the tent.  You don’t walk into a tent, you crawl into it.  And once in the tent, you don’t stand up… you lie down.  You’ve gone from sharing an entire room to sharing this close intimate space.  Your body is inches from hers.  Your face, inches from hers.  Basically the tent is doing all the work for you.  The tent is the little red crab singing into your ear “Kiss the girl”  (I might have to explain this reference too)  It’s fun, it’s exciting, for most girls it’s a new experience, and you’re the creative charismatic guy who for some reason has a tent in his house.

A gentleman does not talk or brag about his exploits.  But suffice it to say this: I wouldn’t be telling you about a tent unless it works.

best of luck,

What’s Your Secret?

One of the best parts of working in the restaurant industry is the multitude of people I get to talk to over the course of my day.  These are people who I would never otherwise interact with, each with their own unique tapestry of life-experiences trailing behind them.  I’ve met captains of industry, CEO’s and movie stars.  I’ve met small business owners and people from just about every walk of life.   My absolute favorite by far, are the old couples coming in to the restaurant to celebrate their anniversaries.  I always have one question for them: what is the secret to a long marriage?  And I’ve gotten so many beautiful answers, I thought it might be worth writing down.

What is the secret to a long marriage?

“There is no secret.  Marriage is work.”  (wife gives him a cold stare) “…what I mean by that is, you’re constantly working to make the marriage better to find new ways to make the other person happy.  You’re gonna get comfortable in marriage, but you can’t get lazy.”

– – – –

“You have to be able to laugh at yourselves.  Life sends you some big heavy problems sometimes, and you just need to be able to have a sense of humor about things rather than get serious and angry at each other.”

– – – –

“Everyone says marriage is 50 / 50 —  It’s not.  Marriage is 60 / 40.  You always want to be the one giving that 60, because if both people are giving it more than half, working hard to make the other person happier and [the marriage] better then it’ll grow.”

– – – –

“We met when we were seventeen and we were married by nineteen.  I never thought I could love him as much as I did then, but love grows.  You find ways to love your partner, ways to keep that fire going.  And it’s not always *boom* *boom* like in the movies.  That’s the easy part.  It’s finding ways to love the other person in a deeper and more meaningful ways.”

“like football.”  the husband pipes in

“Like football?!”  (she is incredulous)

“She hates football.  But she’s been with me to a hundred football games because she knows I love it.  That’s love.”

“I don’t hate football.”

“Yeah but you don’t like it either.”  he winks.

The Asshole Cat



This cat and I, we have a weird relationship.  I’m not sure who he belongs to, or where he lives.  He just appeared one night in the middle of my parking stall with these golden glinting eyes that caught the glow from my headlights.  He shuffled off into the darkness as if to say, “sure I guess you can park here tonight.”

Some nights he rolls around on the ground until I pet him.  Some nights hes an asshole and tries to bite me, and I swat at him and I go home.  Other nights he mews and cries indignantly, like I did him some great insult by coming home late.  Some nights I bring him bits of food and we sit on the concrete in silence, eating together and looking up at the stars.

But every night is a new night, regardless of how the last night went.  Whether he sunk his sharp little teeth into my hand, or I threw my slipper at him’ it all seems to slide off the cosmic score-card and every night we encounter each other anew.  Sometimes he’s an asshole.  Sometimes we are friends.

And usually, we are asshole friends.