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Category Archives: vast and existential

At the very least I’ve always attempted to demonstrate a grain of critical thought. Not that my blog subjects are always worthy of it. But I try to be capable of doing so.

Blog or not, we could say that critical thought is pretty big deal, right? Without it we do exactly what we’re told. We blindly follow the first cult leader we meet. We heed the advice of Dr. Phil to the T. We go to McDonalds every day. By the end we’ve become fat losers, sitting on the commune couch, doing our Dr. Phil affirmations, eating Big Macs as we’re about to drink some funny-smelling Kool-Aid that we’re told tastes like transcendence. I’ve always been a worst-case-scenario kind of guy.

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It’s not fair.

We could even say that critical thought is, in part, that which separates us humans from the golden retriever in the back yard chasing the nearest squirrel then the nearest squirrel then the nearest squirrel…

What am I without it? I’m starting to learn.

I began writing this in an effort to figure out why I have not done a blog in a while. Pretty sure I know the answer and that critical thought, or lack thereof, has a lot to do with it. But before I reveal the culprit, I have to point out that I’m writing a blog about why I haven’t written a blog, which in and of itself is a testament to how far off track I’ve veered. This act is only half a step removed from the clichéd writer who writes a story about a writer writing. I’ve fallen so far, and I didn’t even start that high. My standards are gone.

Q: Why no blogging lately? A: I got no critical thoughts for latching onto. It’s blank up there. Emotion and instinct echo through otherwise empty space. And there is, in fact, a singular source of my brand new simplicity of mind. She’s an unrelenting, crazy-haired force, drool strings emanating from her mouth, and occasionally the origin of a funky odor.

It’s my daughter’s fault.

I can’t help it. I can’t overcome the fact that she is six months old, and she is undeniably, insufferably cute. Amazing. Everything, EVERYTHING, she does is lovely. And this cuteness cannot exist side by side with any degree of scrutiny because everything I see, every thought I have, every analytical inkling that crawls across my brain disperses and circles back… to… cute.

I am the proverbial putty. I am the blathering mess.

She peed on me as I held her the other day and smiled while she did it, and I found it perfectly adorable in every way. After enduring a moment like that, how can I expect myself to ponder some labyrinthine literary theory, as I am often wont to do on a Saturday night, maintain the criteria I set for myself, or just write a simple blog about why WWE wrestling is more entertaining than musical theater?

I’m in trouble.

Cuteness is a close cousin to emotion, and as far as I can tell, emotion is incompatible with critical thought. Imagine a chess master furrowing his brow, about to sacrifice his knight in order to capture his opponent’s queen. If he let’s cuteness wander in, he suddenly changes course because he feels bad for killing the horsey. Who knows, the royals may turn it into dog food.

The cuteness wouldn’t be a matter for discussion if it took a rest. But it’s relentless. It envelopes everything, it surrounds me – a big pink bubble gum force field that itself simultaneously generates more cuteness and holds it in. Recharging, perpetual cuteness. Cuteness on top of cuteness. I can’t disregard it. I can’t question why it’s there. This is what it feels like to be mauled by kitties.

The strangest part is when I remember I used to have standards, standards that were based on my moderate reasoning talents. Standards for my writing and my interests, standards for myself, my ways, my blah blah… I don’t know. All I know is that I ate a mushy apple the other day even though anyone who knows me knows that if there’s one food I can’t stand, it’s a mealy, mushy apple. I’ve always been good at thinking about my apples, good at chucking them across a parking lot in disgust, cursing them out of my life, being irritated at them. I’ve been good at getting wrapped up in the criticism that reinforces those standards – criticism of apples or otherwise. But now these protracted moments pop up, moments in which the world is quite round.

Sigh.

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Here we go. I can feel it creeping in as I watch her attempt to chew on her own foot. It’s like the captivation of daydreams, being led helplessly through curves. What was I saying? She’s babbling, imploring her toes forward, squealing at them for being so remarkable. Those toes. She’s explaining in jabbers that she feels bad for the slobber bath that’s about to befall them, but they’ve brought it on themselves. It’s what happens when one loves ones toes so much – the way of the world. She gives me no choice. I’m a goner. Adios. And in a moment that’s coming up more frequently, I think how we ought to get a dog someday, a poorly behaved dog that does silly things. We’ll play with him in the back yard, running crazily through the trees, and we’ll laugh and laugh and laugh.

-MC JLight and Loretta

In sixth grade, I was Tom Cruise. Five days a week, weather permitting, I was Tom Cruise. Between 8 am and 8:15 am, or as long as it took me to walk to school, I was Tom Cruise.

I wasn’t trying to be a fighter pilot; this wasn’t about a boyhood aspiration. My Tom Cruise moments weren’t even about pretending to engage a flurry of befuddled MIGs, and I didn’t imagine myself in the kind of dogfight where the ground and sky zap into a single blur. No. It was simply about being and feeling cool, Tom Cruise Cool. My experience on those walks to school was a sixth-grade, approximated version of the feeling that followed the heinous dogfight, came after the aircraft carrier landing, after the cockpit high five. It was a taste of the coolness that was a fortunate symptom of being a fighter pilot. As far as I was concerned, this version of me radiated an aura identical to the one Maverick projected as he rode his crotch rocket into the fiery Jerry Bruckheimer sunset, knowing all the while that he was a complete badass.

Careful, Charlie. You might get burned by the cool. (He even looks like me.)

I didn’t even walk to school; I floated an inch above the ground accompanied by my own bass-heavy theme music.

This was my sixth grade cool.

Mom and Dad bought me the jacket for Christmas. It was a classic bomber jacket from Burlington Coat Factory made with fake leather, adorned with fake military patches, and finished off with a fake fur collar. But it was the sweetest thing I’d ever worn. It still might be. I mean, I slid my arms into those sleeves and my biceps grew, my mind a flutter with memories of hard battles, carbon-stained teeth, and the women who helped me clean them. I’m pretty sure that jacket accelerated puberty. It was wearable testosterone.

There were also the accoutrements of my Tom Cruise Cool. Hair gel—I used enough to choke an Iceman. Combed it down into a nice clean part, the comb leaving evenly spaced rows in my hair like striations on the barrel of a gun. You’ve got to wear jeans with a bomber jacket, which I did, or a sweet pair of camo green cargo shorts, just in case a tactical situation arose. Never knew when I might need a bunch of pockets. Finally, since naval aviators didn’t eat breakfast, neither did I. I was much cooler with an empty stomach.

L.A. Looks: The gold standard in aviator hair products.

You’d think that glasses would have been a necessary piece, a nice mirrored pair of aviators. But I was smarter than that. After all, how would my flock of female admirers see into my hardened, yet benevolent soul if they looked into my face and only saw their own reflection? Thanks, but I’ll leave the glasses at home. In doing this, I even out-badassed Maverick.

During a walk that spanned a single Strasburg block, I was the guy.

Authentic cool.

Sixth grade was when coolness started to take shape, when I knew the feeling and could name it and understood what it meant for me—confidence, rightness with the world. In many ways, cool is and has always been comfort. I was a twitchy goober in sixth grade, but those walks to school allowed me the comfort of being less goobery for about fifteen minutes.

The feeling of cool is an important one, so are its cousins: phat, groovy, funky, happening, fly, chic. And we all have our own bomber jacket, our own artifacts that catalyze the emergence of cool or uncover the personal phatness residing always somewhere inside. Those artifacts, if only for a little while, help us to brush aside airport lines, bills, empty gas tanks, debt crises, poor cell reception, and chirpy Starbucks baristas, with a feeling of… cool. For some, maybe it’s the sound of a basketball that triggers the memory of the time in high school they scored at the buzzer the feeling of which generates a moment of crowd-cheering cool. Someone else might feel their cool creep in as a hip-hop drumbeat reaches their ear. Even the still-goobery thirty-something me feels a tickle of cool at the memory of that jacket.

What awakens your cool?

-MC J Light

P.S. The quirk of my cool is this: it’s often tied to movie character types that I imagine as very cool. I have never been these characters, but I have felt their particular brand of cool.

The Guy Who Knows the Band – This is the guy who has the pull to get backstage. He may not have the musical aptitude to be in the band, but he’s the guy all the band members with they were. He is, in a sense, the wind beneath the band’s wings. His traits include; street smarts, shrewd business sense, and music industry pull.

The Cowpoke – This guy shares drinking water with his horse. Happy on the open plains with nothing more than a harmonica and the soreness from riding all day. His traits include: really good at chewing toothpicks, believes the saloon girls deserve more respect than they get, tough but only when provoked, happily eats beans and cornbread.

The Kung Fu Master – Similar temperament to that of The Cowpoke, quiet, compelled toward the way of peace, speaks in nature-centric metaphors. Traits: Good posture, baggy clothes, wiry, makes would-be aggressors look stupid without laying a hand on them.

The Guy Who Girls Find Undeniably Cute but Won’t Approach Because They Think He’s Out of Their League Even Though He’s Actually Pretty Down to Earth – No explanation necessary.

Others: The Sports Star, The Werewolf Sports Star, The Comedian, The Rap Star, The High-Powered Lawyer, and The Mountain Man.

My dad. Looking for that change I was supposed to give back.

If Mother’s Day is a sonnet, Father’s Day is a bullet point list. Dads don’t need the fancy words or deep sentiment (although it’s me, so I can’t guarantee a sentiment-free post, try as I might). Just a simple, straightforward shock-and-awe campaign of thanks. I will shock and awe you with my thanks because I’m glad you’re my dad! Sounds aggressive, but I’m pretty damn thankful. So here we go… I present the Father’s Day Bullet Point List of Dadness Day Listings Day of Dad Awesomeness:

 

  • If, as I mentioned in my Mother’s Day blog, mom is the original Jedi, then dad is the original Han Solo: less of the touchy-feely force stuff, more gumption, mechanically inclined, weathered, experienced, can always get you out of a jam. Han Solo dads may not always be so elegant and light-sabery, but they get the job done. Just like Han, dads tell you to toughen up. They act tough. Sometimes dads take you to sketchy bars where you cavort with bounty hunters.

 

He may not look like Han Solo, but he's done the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs. Way faster than your dad.

  • So you’re in a bar cavorting with bounty hunters. You ask, Dad, why are we here, in a bar with bounty hunters? And he says, It’s good for you. Trust me, you’ll thank me later. And at the moment he’s never been more obtuse. You scrunch your nose like something stinks and it does because you’re confused out of your small mind. You can’t imagine why he would utter such a thing. Eventually this moment passes, but there are others throughout your life. They are always uncomfortable or annoying or just plain maddening. Maybe it’s not always bounty hunters and bars like it was with my dad. Maybe it’s making you paint a fence against your will or pressing you take the heat for a ball through the neighbor’s window or making you read some boring, esoteric book. It’s always, he says, good for you. You still don’t get it. Time passes. After a while you come to expect his insistence on certain things. You oblige with less resistance. Then one day when you’re older it hits you: Dad was right. It was good for me. You still can’t fathom exactly how he was right or how he knew or how this forced apology or that chore helped you, but it did. It made you responsible, resilient, and capable. And Dad knew it would.

 

  • Dad gives good advice: move your thumb away from that nail, always check the oil, keep your hands off that girl, if that boy touches you then kick him in the balls, save your money, take it easy with the lighter fluid, check your mirrors, work hard, always be honest.

 

  • Dad gives the craziest advice: if you’re thirsty just suck on a rock, don’t ever ask for permission to play golf, if the ball is coming toward you lean into it and go to first, open it with your teeth, if it smells okay it’s okay to eat, always be honest.

 

  • Let’s be clear about one thing: golf is the most irritating game ever conceived. Sometimes I wonder if it was a joke that a few Scots dreamed up to see how stupid mankind really is. I’ve invented more creative cussing combinations on the golf course than I have anywhere else. All this and I continue to play this ridiculous sport. Why? Because I grew up playing it with my dad. He taught me everything I know and each time I go out—even when he’s not with me—I think about playing golf with him. I think about Dad trying to putt on the sand greens at the old Byers course and his congratulations after the first, and only, time I hit the ball straight. I think about watching the US Open with him on Father’s Day. So through all the discomfort of playing golf, there is a great deal of comfort because it’s Dad’s game. And though I may be an idiot for playing, it’s reassuring to know that there’s another idiot who I regard in high esteem with me.

 

  • Dad takes you on adventures. A few samples from the Bill O’Dell collection: canoeing in a gator-infested swamp (the canoe turned over), taught me to drive a manual transmission when I was about 10, careening down more the Strasburg overpass sled hill, whitewater rafting adventures, more hikes than I can count, an ocean liner gambling binge, several ill-advised ski runs, and many seedy restaurant visits because said restaurant has a “good patty melt.”

Me and Dad on an adventure.

  • Dads keep you safe. As a kid I would wake up in the middle of the night. I could never get back to sleep. So the drill was for me to go get my dad and wake him up. He would sleepily grab a blanket and pillow and take up a post on the living room couch while I tried to go back to sleep in my room. Being alone just didn’t feel right. It was dark. The house was creaking. Something in my overactive brain wouldn’t let me sleep when it was just me. But when Dad was there it was okay. Every so often I would call out, Dad? Yes, he’d say, patiently waking up. I’d pause for a minute, Just wanted to make sure you were still there. And he was always still there. So I fell asleep.

 

Dad,

  • You’re an awesome dude.
  • You have always put your family first and I admire you for that.
  • Thanks also for making me do things I didn’t want to do. I’m a better man for it.
  • I hope that I have it in me to be the same amazing father for my daughter as you have been for me.
  • I will need some more good/crazy advice.
  • You’ve done a great job raising four pieces of work. I mean that in a good way. We love you. Happy Father’s Day.

One of my favorites.

Adios

Dear Colombia,

My sister, Keely, is a wonderful person. You shouldn’t deport her. She’s funny and smart. She works with orphans. She is the wind beneath my wings because she knows that children are our future. See, her secret is to teach them well and let them lead the way and, in doing so, show them all the beauty they possess inside, thus giving them a sense of pride to make it easier. But in your infinite wisdom, you’d prefer she didn’t spread goodwill throughout your country. You’re not really into the whole “working with orphans” thing. You don’t see the point of “helping kids with developmental problems.” Allowing one to use one’s very expensive education to “better the lives of others by offering free physical therapy” isn’t your racket. Interesting, Colombia. Very interesting.

Love, Josh

P.S. I do find it a little funny. Thanks for the material.

———————————————————————————————-

As funny as it is, before I get into the aforementioned postscript material I’m obligated to come to my sister’s aid the best way I know how: with my words. Being a natural complainer who is unwaveringly intolerant of all things stupid, I will take up this cause for one entire paragraph. Why? Because in her own blog my sister the transcendent one has refused to go on complaining about being deported. Blaming the government would be counterproductive. Like a duck, she lets the water, or the orphan tears, run off her back. That’s nice and I respect her position. However, someone’s got to address this. I’m not saying that my banter is or will be any good, but it’s all I have.

So she didn’t have the correct paperwork. She had a tourist visa when she should have had a volunteer visa. But isn’t there some leeway for a do-gooder from Colorado? It’s not like she requested a volunteer visa as a front for selling Colombian mail-order brides. In fact, she went the other way; she positively expanded upon the activities typically expected of a tourist. I mean, what is a tourist visa anyway? It’s just the government giving permission for one to lollygag. So by helping orphans and personifying the greatest love of all, she’s being punished for not puttering. No, Mr. Colombia says. No, no, no. You promised us you were going to dilly-dally and you, Missy, are not. We want tourists, tourists who take pictures of crazy Colombian toilets and fill rolls of film with photos of every McDonald’s they encounter. We expect tourists who mock the misconceptions about our drug problem by posing in front of a Welcome to Colombia sign with a handful of baby powder. You are trying to teach about the greatest love of all? Please leave. Don’t let the puerta hit you on the way out.

C’mon, Colombia.

(This is where I’d lean in, whispering into Colombia’s ear.) She can be like that sometimes. She’s always going a step beyond. She did, after all, decide long ago never to walk in anyone’s shadow. Maybe she had it coming and needs to learn that she can’t go around selflessly helping other people willy-nilly.

The doctor's robe. The glowing aura. Need I say more.

She couldn’t even lie about her good deeds to Mr. Colombia when he questioned her. Of course, it’s hard to lie when you’re a do-gooder. But it could have been as easy as this:

Mr. Colombia: What is your business here?

Keely: I’m learning to salsa dance and I’ve fallen in love with a Colombian man without whom I am lost. I am drinking a lot of coffee. Also I took fifty three pictures of the Iglesia.

Mr. Colombia: Which one?

Keely: The one in the city.

Mr. Colombia: And that is all?

Keely: Yes.

Mr. Colombia looks at her suspiciously.

Keely: I do have one question. Where can I find Columbia Studios?

Mr. Colombia: (smiles) You’re just the kind of moron we want here. Enjoy your stay in Colombia.

Mr. Colombia emphatically stamps her visa.

Instead she probably shared her whole plan, talked about the special equipment she built for the orphans. She must have gone on and on about the greatest love of all happening to her. Defiant, she marched up and said, “If I fail, if I succeed at least I’ve lived as I believe. No matter what you take from me, you can’t take away my dignity.” Yeah, yeah.

———————————————————————————————-

Los Stupidos.

Come to think of it I’m might need to thank Colombia because I’ve been looking for something to hold over her head for a while. Back off. I’m not trying to be mean. In fact, I can write this because I love her dearly. But you have to understand that I am a selfish person and she’s been making my brothers and I look like a bunch of sideshow doofuses for 29 years. Granted, some of that is our fault as the level of stupidity to which the three of us have fallen is truly staggering and could fill a year’s worth of blogs. (Frankly, we’re lucky we have all our limbs.) On the other hand, Keely—or as we call her, The Mailman’s Kid if the mail man was a bongo-playing, Matthew McConaughey-resembling ex-Peace Corps worker who dabbled in organic chemistry “just for fun”—has always set a high standard. But now I have a comeback. Next Thanksgiving when Mommy and Daddy are scowling at me for slapping my brother with a piece of breast meat I can simply point across the table at Keely and say, “El Deporto.”

Of course, they will respond by pointing at me and saying, “El Stupido.” Then they’ll make me go to my room. Darn.

Los Stupidos II.

If any of my three readers are worried, fear not. She will almost certainly find a way to make the best out of Colombian Deportation 2011. She will convert this turd of a situation into glittering fairy dust. She told me the other day that she’s going to spend some time in Peru while she waits for the correct Colombian visa. Figures. She’s going to visit Machu Picchu where she will almost certainly make a discovery of particular worldly significance—a new species of flower, the petals of which can be used in lieu of gasoline in any internal combustion engine and whose only emission is love. She will stumble upon a band of never-before-seen Incan orphans who need help with their motor skills. She will write a book about her experience. It will be titled, Thanks, Deportation. I’ll open the book’s cover and hear the binding crackle as it does on any new book. On the dedication page I’ll see my name. It’ll say:

To my brothers, Josh, Jack and Andy, For every right, there is a wrong. Thanks for being my wrong.

You’re welcome. I’m going to chase my tail for a while.

-MC JLight

Rollin' some steam.

Many of the cool things I think up—and there are many, even if they’re only cool in my own head—seemingly come too late.  Still, I believe that the following must be addressed. Besides, I don’t want to wait until next year. So here we go.

It’s something I must address because it surfaces every year around the holidays like an annual case of explosive diarrhea. What I am referring to is in no way festive, as it ought to be. Rather, it is scary. It does not recall holiday goodwill or thanks or abounding love or wise men. It recalls a scrap iron processing plant: sheet metal grinding upon itself, sparks, carbon-stained machinery, hydraulics. It does not produce anything close to a feeling of warmth. It, instead, gives me the scary kind of goosebumps. Of course I am talking about the robotic stylings of Mannheim Steamroller and other “holiday” music of its ilk. The Trans-Siberian Orchestra makes me mad too, but I’m going after you in this blog, Steamroller.

Unfortunately, I remember this garbage from my childhood. The blare of synthesized trumpets echoed between the ceiling and our hexagonal orange kitchen tiles before tunneling into my skull like a Martian truth ray. Steamroller’s screeches contradicted the smell of cinnamon and sugar cookies and pine needles. Such forceful music produced by a computer, lacking the hominess and nostalgia of an actual Christmas carol in favor of an ethereal orchestral entity that, I imagine, was conducted by Arnold Schwarzenegger circa The Terminator. “I’ll Be Back” was one of their most popular songs.

The Mannheiminator

And I use the word “their” here, but I can’t say for sure if there’s an actual band involved or even a group of people or even a single person. As far as I can tell, Mannheim Steamroller’s songs are the result of a drunken lab rat bumping into maze walls that have been outfitted with a series of pressure plates. The rat bumps the plate and completes a circuit, which produces a sound. Put a year’s worth of these chirps together and you have The Steamroller’s version of Deck the Halls.

I pose this question to The Steamroller: Huh? Yes, remakes are okay. In a sense, we remake a Christmas carol every time we sing it. But while I don’t mind Bing Crosby singing “White Christmas,” The Steamroller’s remakes border on butchery. Sure, you can keep cutting a New York Strip, but cut too much and it turns into hamburger. Furthermore, if an already existing work is complete in the truest sense then I wish people would leave it alone, or at least be respectful. Take Gus Van Sant’s version of Psycho as an example of remake hell. The film is perfect already, what is one to do that might make it better? Granted, Hitchcock movies and Christmas carols are vastly different. The point is, why screw around with songs that have been decades in the making, have been sung and have been the same for a long, long time? If you want to invent some new carols, be my guest (see Mele Kalikimaka). But I don’t see the point of remaking time-tested carols so drastically. You can’t sing along to this stuff. You can’t enjoy a cup of cocoa or give gifts with The Steamroller blaring the background. You can’t look your children in the eye while it’s playing and say, “Sweetie, this what Christmas is all about,” because you’d be lying.

In fact, the best part about The Steamroller is the name, because nothing describes such irreverent, aggressive music better than a piece of paving equipment. Actually, if you listen to a Mannheim CD for long enough the odor of freshly-melted tar will permeate every room in your house. But don’t worry, nothing’s on fire; it’s just the smell of your eardrums frying like thinly-sliced pancetta. And if you close your eyes, you’ll see it. You’ll see the steamroller mowing down everything, flattening the Christmas tree, blowing out the Menorah (because it’s so bad that Hannakah is affected too), and chasing all eight reindeer into the night. That red sparkle you see on the carriage? That’s the remnants of Rudolph’s nose. Say goodbye to Jimmy Stewart and St. Nick’s jolly hue and candy canes. Not even fruitcakes will persevere. And I know what you’re saying, “At least angels will survive.” That’s true… But they’ll never get wings because no one can hear the bell ringing because The Steamroller is too damn loud.

Yes.

This said, The Steamroller isn’t a total loss. I propose a couple of alternate uses. 1) Rave music for senior citizens. The Steamroller has that industrial sound, without being offensive (in subject at least). So get some glow sticks and an abandoned warehouse and let’s party until 8 pm. 2) The aforementioned Angela and I prefer this option—use the term “Mannheim Steamroller” as an expletive. It’s fun to say, but no one will get offended. Suggested uses: a) Surprise. “Mannheim Steamroller, that deer came out of nowhere.” b) Exaltation. “This bratwurst is Mannheim Steamrollin’ delicious.” c) Frustration. “I can’t believe you cheated on me with the limo driver. You’re a real Mannheim Steamroller.” d) Ridicule. “You play Dungeons and Dragons? What are you? A Mannheim Steamroller?” e) Open-Mouthed Awe While Viewing The Aurora Borealis. “Ooh, Mannheim Steamroller.” f) Expressing Pain After Hitting Your Thumb With A Hammer. “Mannheim Steamroller!” g) Excited Fear When Going Down The First Drop On A Roller Coaster. “Maaaannnnheeeiiimm Steeeeaaammmrolleeeeer.” h) Crying (So Hard You Can’t Breathe) On Account Of The Simultaneous Pain And Rapture Of A Justin Bieber Concert. “Man…Mann…nnnn…hei…heim…mmm St…st…ste….steam…mmm…mmm…rolllllll…er…er…er. Justin, I love you.”

Boycott The Steamroller. Save Christmas.

-MC JLight

I’ve been away. And to all three of you who read this blog, I will try to be more consistent with my entries.

In the last few weeks I have: A) Had my wisdom teeth removed, which was a lot more fun that I expected. It’s not often that I get to wake up with a mouthful of gauze, discuss my apparent desire to visit a Taiwanese strip club with my wife, make goat noises, get reprimanded by a nurse, then go home and watch crappy movies while I suck down lemon Jello. B) Started a non-profit corporation. In doing so I am deep into IRS forms that I have no business looking in the eye. C) Gotten another tattoo. Apologies to my mother. D) Finished a couple of screenplays. Anyone got a few hundred thousand dollars, an iron stomach, and a morbid longing to be an executive producer?

There’s one more thing. I wouldn’t say I “did” it; it just happened—I’m pretty sure my biological clock started ticking. This is without a doubt the girliest thing I’ve ever thought, said or written.

Wait. I ought to start with an apology. Several weeks ago I spoke with my cousin, Katie, over the phone. Now, Katie is one of my favorite people. She’s fun and hilarious and considerate. Just an all-around good person. She’s married to a really cool dude named Mike. She’s also younger than me, quite a bit younger. Young enough to be called “my little cousin Katie.” Young enough that I remember burping her when she was a baby.

Katie: Hi.

Me: Hi.

Katie: So I have some news.

Me: Great.

Katie: I’m pregnant.

(Weird pause because I’m thinking, Oh boy, my little cousin Katie is pregnant which means I’m way behind and she’s much younger and way more put together and what’s wrong with me? and this is certainly a selfish thing to be thinking right now and wow, Katie is pregnant and I better get my act together and say something right now.)

Me: Bleh.

Actually I’m not sure what my response was and, while I’m not an interesting person, I hope I responded interestingly. You know, I hope I said something supportive. Not something pseudo-cool and laid-back like “Great work.” That sounds like a red-inked comment on the top of a 1st grade spelling assignment. And it’s weird. Work? Something pun-laced: “This is mom-entous news,” or “What pregnant occasion.” Maybe I just went with sheer excitement. “Holey moley!” Regardless, what I should have said was this: Katie, I’m hugely excited for you and Mike. You are going to be a wonderful set of parents. Congratulations and sorry for the lame reaction.

I was preoccupied when Katie broke the news because at that exact moment I had a birth of my own. Right then I welcomed into the world my newest schizophrenic personality. 316 lbs. 7 oz. 5’4”. Balding on the crown of his head. His messy three-piece suit doesn’t help his sweating problem. He even came with a tattered brief case. He is Keith, The Age-Calculating Mathematician. Keith is a jerk.

Keith's weapon of choice.

(Keith and I sit at a rickety, folding card table in a cement room. Keith is out of breath as a result of walking into the room. Keith pulls a loud adding machine from his brief case. He smiles at me like an IRS auditor would.)

Keith: Okay… How old are you again?

Me: Thirty-three

(Keith elongates his bottom lip and breathes in the corners of his mouth.)

Keith: Ouch.

(Keith punches numbers into his adding machine.)

Keith: Read WebMD much?

Me: No.

Keith: Interesting.

Me: What?

Keith: Nothing.

Me: What?

Keith: It has information… Lots of good information about having kids after your reproductive prime.

Me: Reproductive prime?

Keith: I can give you the website.

Me: I know the website.

(Keith looks at me awkwardly then punches more numbers into his adding machine.)

Keith: It’s w-w-w-dot…

Me: Shut up, Keith. Just run the numbers.

Keith: Right

(Typing.)

Keith: Okay… (Looks up) When are you going to die?

Me: Excuse me?

Keith: Ballpark.

(I stare at Keith for a while.)

Keith: Let’s go at this a different way. Let’s say you have a kid by thirty-five, just to be safe. (Punching numbers.) That means you’re fifty-five when he or she… Boy or girl?

Me: I don’t care.

Keith: We’ll just say a girl because girls are more likely to embrace an older-than-average father.

(I sigh.)

Keith: So she’s twenty and you’re fifty-five. (Typing on machine, the printer paper is getting longer.) How many kids?

Me: Let’s say three.

Keith: All girls then… Say you have them all by the time you’re forty… That means you’re sixty when the youngest is twenty and you’ve also got a twenty-five-year old and a, say, twenty-three-year old. And you keep in pretty good shape so you should be able to keep up when they’re kids: play basketball with them, clown around in the yard, et cetera.

Me: (Smiling) Right.

Keith: And sixty’s not that old.

Me: Exactly.

Keith: It’s the new thirty.

Me: That’s what they say.

(Keith starts frantically typing numbers in the adding machine. His brow furrows. He sweats. The tape gets longer. Keith suddenly stops; he puts on a fake smile. Keith is a bad liar.)

Me: Spill the beans, Keith.

Keith: How important is the whole grandfather thing?

Me: Pretty important.

Keith: On a scale of one to ten.

Me: Ten.

Keith: Cause let’s just say, hypothetically, that your oldest doesn’t have a kid until she’s thirty-five, cause the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. This puts you at seventy when you become a grandfather. When did you say you’re going to die?

(I burn a hole in Keith’s face with my eyes.)

Keith: Anyway, by then life expectancy should be up around seventy-six for an American male. So a solid six years with the little ankle-biter… Did I mention WebMD?

Me: Shut your trap, Keith.

Keith: Cause they have an excellent Life Expectancy Calculator. It’s free.

(I slouch into my chair. Keith pulls a package of Tic-tacs from his briefcase. He offers me one. I shake my head.)

Keith: And look on the bright side. All these figures are dependent on whether or not you even have the ability to conceive.

These do not make me feel better, Keith.

Talking with Keith drives me up the wall. I want to slap his face, but that would mean slapping my… Perhaps I should try it anyway.

Seriously, what the hell have I been doing with myself? It’s not like I’ve had huge career success that would force me to delay having a family. I’m 99.5% unsuccessful! I don’t even have a career! True, I wanted to be married before having kids and I didn’t get married until I was thirty. Problem is I dilly-dallied with the wedding thing too. That is, Alex and I were together for many years before I finally bought the ring. We wanted to wait because of school.

Wait a minute. Couldn’t have kids earlier cause I wasn’t married. Didn’t get married earlier cause I was an older-than-average graduate student. Didn’t go to grad school earlier because…. Oh, dear God. There’s only one logical explanation: I’ve got a debilitating condition that retards my maturity level by five to ten years. This is also known as being a screw-off.  What if this is nature’s way of telling me that I shouldn’t be having kids? What if I ignore the signs, have kids anyway, and in doing so I create a tribe of screw-offs? Forget zombies or a catastrophic asteroid event or alien lasers. I might trigger the apocalypse just by having kids. WebMD has a fantastic article about this, I’m sure.

It’s weird, too, because I can’t exactly give a reason why I feel the need to multiply. So maybe I’ve waited to have kids in the hope that I’d come up with an answer. There’s the standard reply: I want to have kids so I’ll have someone to forcefully push toward excellence at the things I was never good at in the hope that I can live vicariously through them and somehow redeem myself for my own failures. Other than that, why do I want to have kids? I have no idea. I know that all you forward thinkers out there will say that I’m just falling in line with the status quo and maybe you’re right. Biology majors will say that such a need is ingrained in my DNA in order to propagate the species. Also true. Frankly, I’m not afraid of either of these reasons, but they’re so general. I’d still like to find something else, a solid personal reason why I should have kids. So far this is the best I’ve come up with: I think having kids would be neat.

Whatever my reason for not yet being a father, the bottom line is that I feel behind. Behind and old. Behind and old and panicky. And, yes, I’m aware that thirty-three isn’t that old. It’s just older than I thought I’d be when this type of thing came up and that makes me itchy. Compounded with Keith and all his numbers and sweating and statistics and WebMD and the fear that maybe I missed my window—this is a bad combination. So what’s a screw-off, wannabe rapper, wannabe father to do?

Shut up, Keith. It’s a rhetorical question.

-MC JLight

I apologize to those of you who have already seen this. I am revisiting these events (1) for my readers who are not social networkers and (2) so that I can pontificate ad nauseam about motivations, greater meanings, and the effect on the global/interstellar community. Also I’m sorry for the language, but it’s a necessary element of the story.

___________________________________________________________________________

It was late, 2 am or so. I had just returned from work. Whenever I return that late I have to perform what I call Homeward-Bound Ninja. I’ve been an apprentice ninja for most of my life, but haven’t found the time to make it a profession. Still, every once in a while it’s neat to use my ninja training. Homeward-Bound Ninja involves many steps, all of which are specifically designed not to wake the light-sleeping Alex O’Dell because she does real things during the daylight hours and she needs rest and she deserves respect.

The swift ninja does not wake a slumbering woman.

Homeward-Bound Ninja. Go. Remove shoes before entering apartment. (Ninja Rule #1: Rubber soles are a screeching crow; socks are a creeping puma.) Insert key into keyhole—to maintain quiet this shall take no less than ten seconds. Patience is paramount to Homeward-Bound Ninja. Turn lock, turn knob, open door, enter, close door—all squeaky, all require maximum concentration and conscious slowing of heart rate to under five beats per minute. Stand motionless in entryway for fifteen minutes, allow the energy to settle. Tiptoe to couch, place keys on cushion. Pet David Letterman vigorously about the neck and back. Strip down to sleeping attire (boxers) in living room. Brush teeth at a rate of one brush swipe per minute to keep volume at a minimum. Slip into bed. Done.

I did a hell of a job on this particular evening. Alex didn’t stir. And I lay my head down on my favorite pillow. Alex was stock-still, her back turned to me. The overhead fan created little wisps in her hair. My neck muscles whittled down and disappeared, relaxed. The weights tied to my eyelids drew down past my nose, it seemed. Waiting for the sleep to catch up, I watched the shapes morph on the backs of my eyelids. It was quiet.

But that’s when she spoke, a little bit of sleep lingering in her voice. Alex didn’t turn toward me or rustle the sheets. She simply said, Today some guy told me to fuck off.

Á la a Tom and Jerry cartoon my eyelids rolled up like a window shade. I immediately transitioned in to a maneuver called Skinny Unthreatening Theoretical Germanic-Barbarian Bounty Hunter in which I ask a whole bunch of questions with the intent of finding and dismantling this perp. Who was it? I don’t know. Is he one of our neighbors? Maybe. What did he look like? I’m not telling you. Will you tell me if we see him again? No. What kind of dog was it? A black one. Was it a pit bull? No. Could I take him? I could have beat him up. And what, pray tell, did you say to incite such a response? I just asked him to pick up after his dog.

Two hours later I fell asleep.

__________________________________________________________________________

Exhibits:

A) I love dogs. I love them. I love to pet them and let them lick my face and scratch their tummy wummies. I love it when they tilt their heads and perk their little doggy ears up. Dogs are awesome. I have no beef with dogs, per se.

B) The grassy area outside our apartment is overrun with dog crap. It always looks like they’ve just aerated. I can’t play bocce ball out there. I can’t practice my chipping. I can only play a little game called Tip-Toe: a game you can’t really win, you just hope to not lose and losing always involves washing your shoes.

If only...

C) Having a pet is a responsibility. It’s kind of like having a kid minus a few degrees of magnitude. When you have a kid or a pet it’s your responsibility to do everything in your power not to let that being become a giant hairy mole on what is otherwise this beautiful, milky complexion called Earth. Granted, you can’t control everything, but you’re not helpless either: clean up its crap and watch the Dog Whisperer.

C.2) I was tempted, here, to go further with the whole kid/dog comparison and say that no one   would allow their kid to go pooping on lawns without cleaning it up, but that’s just silly. Funny, though.

D) I’ve become more daring as I’ve grown older. Maybe this happens to everyone. I don’t know. I’m not as afraid as I used to be. I’ll tell people what I think. I haven’t turned into a jerk, but if someone—even a stranger—acts like a bona fide jackass I’ll come back with a smarmy, sometimes-snide, always-pertinent response.* It’s not meanness. It’s me trying to improve the world one butthole at a time. I like this.

E) Yes, I am a hypocrite. I am sometimes a jerk. I shouldn’t be. I know this. Granted, I don’t get raw like this guy did. But jerkiness happens. After the fact, I am trying to see my dog-guy response as a reminder that my own occasional jerkiness does nothing but diffuse grief to those with whom I come in contact. My bad day does not have to be someone else’s. Still, it’s often difficult to see beyond your own nose.

__________________________________________________________________________

The next morning went something like this: wake, snooze for a few minutes, wake, open eyes, feel pretty good, realize something is amiss, what is it?, go through the usual problems, hmmm, wake a little more, remember previous night’s conversation and the dream I had about the amazing jerk and his crapping dog, ruffle eyebrows, get up.

So I had to say something to this dude. The only evidence at my disposal was one black dog. Not much to go on. I considered a campaign called Angry Yelling Wacko in which I would confront every male I saw walking a black dog. But generalizations are bad. There was also Bad-Aim Insult Sniper where I stood camouflaged in the bushes and yelled through a bullhorn at whoever could hear.

I finally decided on Computer-Wielding Jungle Commando. I badly wanted to have a face-to-face with this guy. Since that wasn’t possible I did everything in my power to make sure he got the message. I wrote this response. Posted 25-30 copies in all. I put one on every building in our apartment complex. One on each mail station. One at the dumpsters. One at the dog park. One at each pool and each laundry room. Some were taken down after about five hours. Some lasted several days. One stayed up for over a week.

Blowing horns... and minds.

If Alex ever points this guy out I won’t go MMA on his ass. That is not my style. Instead I will don a Shakespearean-era outfit. I will hire horn players and a dancer. As this man’s dog is dropping a fresh turd by our entryway the horns will begin playing. They will blare a majestic, spirited tune. A red, plush carpet will roll out. The dancer and I will enter. I will unravel an aged scroll and begin reading. And the dancer will perform a heartfelt interpretive dance as I narrate the story of a foul-mouthed man too lazy to carry a plastic bag.

Either this or I will hand deliver a copy of my response.

-MC JLight

 

*This is sometimes dependant on said jackass’ height/weight/weaponry. But not always.

Warning: This entry contains a shade of sentimentality. I’ll go ahead and apologize to anyone who reads this and says, “That Josh is such a cheesy fruit.” While I do not like abundant fruit and cheese in my writing or otherwise, I’ve been thinking about things like this and I’m giving myself a pass this one time. Everyone should get the occasional cheese pass. This is mine.

———————————

I’m not big on surrounding myself with canonical quotations by great thinkers. After a while quotes can just become a mélange of theoretical room decorations. So I try to stick with the ones I can actually deal with, that I can enact. And I have this one quote that I strategically place in my eye line so I’ll see it whenever I write. Show me a day when the world wasn’t new, it says. It’s the kind of thing I always consider when I’m writing: the amazing exists if I just try to notice. For the purposes of writing it’s a reminder to keep things fresh—that even if a character does boring things and speaks boringly and acts like a boring slug… even then there is something unexpected about that person. There is some reason to be amazed by him or her. If not, the story’s not worthwhile.

But finding amazement in real life is an entirely different tamale. I’m just as guilty as anyone and often find myself bored, bored, bored. I don’t mean this as an insult to the people I hang out with or to David Letterman—you regal little cat. But I am generally not enthralled by my daily activities. That’s why I have to write, to keep myself interesting and interested.

Why is amazing so difficult? Maybe it’s human nature, but it feels like the capacity for amazement is slowly being programmed out of us. For one, we just don’t have time to notice anymore. We’re always in a rush. I rush to get up. I rush to get my errands done and my run in and my writing finished and my grooming perfect (this always takes a while). We want things fast. We no longer have an attention span (whatever happened to just staring at the ceiling?) because we don’t have to wait for anything. I can have Steel Magnolias cued up, ready to watch in five seconds. Two more minutes for the popcorn to pop and sometimes that’s too long. We can get a fully cooked burger in 30 seconds. You can buy pre-made PB & J sandwiches. What? Worse yet, we’ve progressed to a point where we can explain away everything. Good? Yes. But bad for our capacity to be amazed. Thermodynamics, cloning puppies, ultrasounds, brain mapping, robots, satellites, infrared stuff and lasers… lasers for God’s sake. Right now my window shades are moving by themselves and that would (and should) be pretty cool in and of itself. And it is, right up until the a-hole fluid dynamicist in my head informs me that it’s simply the result of the sun heating up the window and creating hot air that’s moving up and taking the shades with it… or some such.

Perhaps the world’s newness has become invisible because we’re constantly focused on what we want, not what we have. That is, newness has become synonymous with faster, better, more gigabytes, sleeker, higher resolution, richer, happier. Newness in this sense is based not on noticing or appreciating, but on possessing the latest and best of something. We’re always told what we don’t have and, consequently, we’re unable to be impressed—as we’re walking down a street and talking on the phone to a distant friend about how much our cell phone sucks because it can’t take high-resolution video—by the amazing fact that we’re talking with our distant friend using a device small enough to fit in our pocket.

Amazement itself, too, is being somehow perverted. It’s like our capacity for it is redirected elsewhere: some dark and sinister place, like that basement in Silence of the Lambs. That’s right, I’m talking about reality TV. Reality TV is a dangerous two-headed monster. First, like it or not, we see this human image on TV and we identify with it, an identification that goes deeper when we know it’s “reality.” Secondly, we give precedence to the people on TV, their lives, etc. because a producer has deemed them worthy, i.e., they’re lives must be more amazing than ours because they’re on the screen. Thus, we have a presentation that is both close to us and, somehow, better. What results, I think, is a hermetically sealed, force-fed—albeit tasty—imitation of amazing. Our amazement at reality TV is like Krab. We think it’s real, but it isn’t. What’s worse, if we taste it enough our ability to appreciate the real thing slowly dissolves. Things like reality TV take amazing out of our hands and minds; we become numb. We watch the drunken, imbecilic cast of Jersey Shore do drunken, imbecilic things. We say, “Oh, how novel.” Kim Kardashian takes a dump. “Oh, how extraordinary.” Danny Bonaduce drinks himself silly, head-butts a limousine window, and—with blood streaming down his face—proposes to his girlfriend. “Oh, how heartwarming.”

In the face of Kate Plus 8 and 4G networks and particle accelerators all I can think to do is this: forget. Forget it all, even if just temporarily. Pull away and let all that stuff recede into the background. We often use the word naïve as a bad thing, an insult even. Naïve is the one who sees the world from a different vantage point: a distant overlook from which it’s only possible to see general shapes and shades, not the world’s details and faults and rigmarole. Naiveté resides in disavowing all the scientific and technological knowledge, all the explanations, we’ve amassed. It’s seeing just to see. This is the person who, despite everything we know about pollution, is still captivated by the reds and yellows of the evening. It’s the kid rolling around in the dandelions sending white parachutes all over the yard, germination be damned. Naïveté is when you forget any knowledge of osteoporosis and focus instead on the knotted beauty of your grandmother’s hands, on the clapping and handholding and exertion and worry and enjoyment that made them that way. (Thanks, Jourdan.) If nothing else naiveté is a hell of a lot more interesting than the alternative, even in small doses. Think of it as a way of writing the world.

Here’s some amazing stuff I saw today: David methodically grooming himself, a clump of dust twittering in the heating vent, a bike staying upright, a floating Cheerio, a woman walking a dog bigger than she was, a beaver paddling in the pond outside my apartment, a little girl’s wiry, cotton-ball afro.

Keep it amazing.

-MC JLight

P.S.-Here’s a great little short film that accentuates newness in the face of ordinary. Directed by Ramin Bahrani and narrated by one of my favorites, Werner Herzog.

Andy Jesus, a.k.a. Mayor McMoron

I had the opportunity last month to spend a couple of weeks with one of my favorite people in the world: my youngest brother, Andy J. We went to the beach, ate ice cream, swam at all hours of the day. Nothing complex, just good simple time spent with family. Wind whistled through the trees, bullfrogs burped out on the pond. There were lightning bugs and giggling. So serene. And it was this serenity, this pure medium, that allowed me to realize a certain truth… Namely, that my brother is indubitably a moron.

I love him dearly. It’s not his fault. After all, he is thirteen and male. When you’re thirteen and male you don’t leisurely eat ice cream. No, you take it as a challenge. You dominate the ice cream. You consume over a pound of the stuff (17.5 ounces to be exact) in one sitting. You don’t just go swimming; you wrestle-swim. You Kung fu in the water. You Jujitsu in the water. You leave your swimming partner with an ache in his most sensitive areas. You don’t just go to the beach; you make the beach your bitch.

And why do you do this when you’re thirteen and male? Why do you shoot BB’s through windows and blow up hot dogs with firecrackers and run around waving some poor girl’s underwear over your head that inadvertently ended up in your laundry at camp? Simple. Because it’s cool. Coolness is the sole justification. Coolness. People will blame this behavior on hormones or caffeine. Freud would say that the young man is trying to achieve some libidinal pleasure. No, no, Siggy. He’s trying to be cool.

“That’s domination, fish.”

Coolness is bliss. Upon performing an act of coolness you, at that moment, have reached the pinnacle of life in this or any other universe. At thirteen you have usurped the laws of physics and chemistry, thus creating a momentary ether in which you are the center. You glow fluorescent shades of blue. You emit never-before-smelled pheromones. You’re not a man, you’re The Man. This is coolness. But, like any high, it’s fleeting, so you become a chaser. You seek out other opportunities for coolness. You are relentless and, if nothing else, original. You realize that sledding in and of itself is not cool, but sledding off a six-foot, coccyx-shattering jump is. You discover that simply lighting the charcoal is a sad substitute for incinerating the charcoal with a gallon of gasoline. Who cares if the burgers taste like a trucker’s leathery hand because in doing all this you are striving for the ultimate, hoping that all these acts will somehow weave together, like an Arthur Fonzarelli spider web, and become law. You’re hoping to become the lifetime sheriff of cool.

photoProblem is, cool is not universal. Cool is in the eye of the beholder, but the thirteen-year-old beholder is too encased in coolness to know it. He sees coolness in having an indoor water fight using pitchers and pitchers of water. For his father, however, this event produces the polar opposite of cool; it produces red. It produces your-are-so-uncool anger. It produces go-to-your-room-for-a-week-and-only-come-out-to-help-me-tear-up-the-carpet anger. Anger, if anything, can thwart coolness.

And the thirteen-year-old male idiot does get his fair share of anger. It sometimes piles upon him like sticky tar. For a while he doesn’t understand what the big deal is, but then the reasons behind the anger soak in. He grows older, too. To some extent he starts to understand how to function in the world. He learns that coolness isn’t the only force in the universe. He learns the rules. But—and this is the scariest part about the male, cool-seeking moron—the urge for cool never… goes… away. Never. You just learn how to manage it. You dole it out in smaller doses. You get better at lying and making excuses.

Keeping it cool.

You know when the time is right. But the search for cool never leaves you. So, at 19, you create a floor-to-ceiling barrier of phone books in your dorm hallway while everyone else is sleeping. At 25, under the cover of darkness, you jump into bushes for no reason at all. You, at 32, take utter joy in stealthily whipping your friends with a towel. As a father at 40 you tow your children on sleds behind your truck, sending them whipping along the frozen streets, but you make sure their mother doesn’t see. At 45 you have to fight the urge, when walking with someone next to a swimming pool, to push them in. Doesn’t matter if it’s your wife, your mother, or your boss. And, at 55, you sneak off on the 4th of July with a Black Cat and a hot dog, knowing, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that blowing stuff up with firecrackers is the coolest thing ever.

Keep it cool.

-MC JLight

That was the day that mother told me I was too old to listen to rap music. Mid spring, 2002. I was twenty-four and moving out of my apartment. Mother was helping. We got into my car; I turned the ignition. When the engine started the radio was blaring a song by my friend, Snoop Dogg. He was extolling the virtues of a gin and juice cocktail. My mother, needless to say, did not appreciate his music. Mommy quickly flicked the volume knob and broke the news to me. It was so traumatic, so perverted that it has stuck in my head ever since.

In her sweet, irritation-laced voice she said to me, “Josh O’Dell, you are too old for this. You don’t need to be listening to such scary music.” Ahhh. But I love it so much. Scary? It’s not scary.

Since then I have not stopped listening to my beloved musical genre. If anything I have listened to it more even though I’m now thirty-two. Truthfully, I don’t know if I’ll ever retire my library. I can’t envision a scenario in which I’ll say, “Oh, what silly music. What was I thinking?” Of course when I have kids I’ll have to listen in private because no one likes a toddler who tells his grandmother that he’s got ninety-nine problems but a ______ ain’t one. She really might hit him. (Check your Jay-Z lyrics.) (Mom, I would never let my kids listen to Jay-Z. Not until they’re eight.)

I love rap music because of those satisfying moments when I am in the car bobbing my head to Biz Markie’s rough beatbox or the knotty rhythms of Dangerdoom…. In those moments I am cool. Possibly the coolest I will ever be. I’m not kidding. At that moment, when I’m spitting verses I am part of the musical collaboration That’s when I’m MC JLight, standing on stage with my hand cupped around the mic. I am a badass. I’m Steve McQueen with rhythm and gold fronts. And not even you—the staring lady next to me at the stoplight with your finger halfway up your nose—can tell me different.

The coolness factor is a big deal because those of you who know me well also know that my everyday alter ego, Joshua O’Dell, is patently uncool. He crosses his legs because it’s comfortable. (Sorry, it is.) He eats granola. He can’t tan to save his life. And, worst yet, he listens to NPR.

I like many other genres, but nothing is cool like rap. Classic country is twangy-cool. I’m going for urban-cool. Jazz is very cool, but I can’t participate in it unless I want to break out the old saxophone, which I don’t. Grunge is cool if you’re into sitting in a corner, thinking about why life sucks. Bluegrass is moonshine-cool. Metal just makes me weep—very uncool. There’s all that emotional, whiny, songwriter stuff. That’s sensitive-cool or don’t-watch-me-leave-you-but-listen-to-me-describe-the-rain-drops-for-five-minutes cool.

I love rap because, to put it bluntly, I’ve got beats in my bones and I’ve got a sweet booty that deserves to be shook. And it’s always been largely about the beats. Lyrics are cool, but the rhythm is the skizm. Rap allows for the baddest moves on the planet, e.g., break dancing, pop lock, cupid shuffle, stanky legg, lip gloss, Bugs Bunny, scuba hop, lip gloss, Aunt Jackie, running man, a-town stomp, SpongeBob, chicken noodle soup, the robot, the cabbage patch. I can do every one of ‘em.

Without rap there are so many things that I still wouldn’t know. Without Snoop Dogg I wouldn’t have realized that I need to have my mind on my money AND my money on my mind. Without Young MC I couldn’t truly bust a move. Without Busta Rhymes I wouldn’t know how to speak gibberish. If not for Freestyle Fellowship who’s going to tell me that the potato is hot? And without Black Sheep I wouldn’t have the option of this or that.

Besides, I grew up listening to this stuff. And it was okay back then, i.e., Mom knew I was listening to it. So it was okay until I turned, what, eighteen? Twenty? After that I was supposed to skip straight to Larry Welk? I mean at this point it sounds like I ought to keep rapping seeing as I’m so removed from being a grown-up. If I suddenly stop listening to it I might get the urge to sit in an office or eat a tapa.

Now that sounds scary.

-MC JLight