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December 14, 2013 / Mickey B

ת״ק

 

Five hundred.

Five hundred pickups.

That’s a number I figured when I was a teen.

Five hundred street pickups and you could consider yourself a legitimate player.

You need them for experience; to develop leather skin

So I got started

Of course along the way you stop thinking about being a player and all that

Stops being the point

Get past the silliness of it all

But then

After

You realize that’s what you are

I tell you learn a lot of things on the way to 500

None more important than this:

“Hey. I’m Michael.”

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December 6, 2013 / Mickey B

The Looking-Glass

I am gently lulled out of my sleep by the sounds of seagulls. I get up and grab my phone and turn off the alarm. I have been using “Sleep as Android” to track my sleep cycles. It analyzes my movements during sleep to as I move in and out of deep sleep. Thus it has allowed me to wake without the feeling of grogginess as it sets off my alarm during my light sleep phase within the half hour alarm range.

I rest my head on my buckwheat pillow as I stretch out my limbs. I take a moment for myself. I rise and proceed into the kitchen where I drink a glass of 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar and water. I then put on an icepack mask and begin my pushup routine. I have 20 minutes before my stomach rumbles and I must take a porcelain cruise.

My pushup routine is simple and it gives me early mental clarity as well as pumps my body with endorphins.  10 diamond pushups, 10 shoulder length, 10 bulldogs, and 10 alternating bulldog pushups for a total of 40 a set. I do 3 sets and am invigorated.

I head to the bathroom and stare at my nude self. I take in every flaw and make a mental note on what needs to be done. I am displeased with myself this morning. I look bloated as if I was a corpse that had been left in a bathtub. I also spot a few speckles of acne on my shoulders and waist line. I am displeased with what I see as it is unacceptable. I sit down upon the toilet and relinquish the filth within. Apple cider vinegar always sees to me starting my day lighter on my feet.

I turn the shower and look once more at myself. My mental assessment ends once the mirror fogs. I take a natural sea sponge and lather it with Grandpa’s Natural Pine-Tar Soap. I enjoy the smell as well as the feel of it on my skin. I pay careful attention behind my ears as well as my belly button. In middle school I met a child who had a belly button infection and have maintained vigilance ever since. I wash my hair only with water. The natural oils regulate themselves. With back turned to the water I apply coconut oil onto my face. It moisturizes and helps my visage from drying as drying out makes you look older. I end my shower by turning off the hot water and standing under the cold spray. I count to thirty. The cold cools my body and stops it from sweating later on.

I squeegee myself and step out onto a neatly folded bamboo fiber towel and air dry myself. This provides me ample time to complete my oral hygiene ritual. I set up my Waterpik and pressure floss between each pair of teeth. Afterwards I take my natural bristle toothbrush and brush my teeth. I end it all with a mouthwash of a 50/50 ratio of hydrogen peroxide and water. Oral hygiene is paramount. A man without limbs can become a motivational speaker. A man without teeth is ignored. I apply a lip balm with UV protection onto my lips. The sun’s rays diminish the fat content in your lips causing them to disappear until only what remains is a thin line.

I massage Pinaud’s hair tonic into my scalp and form my hair with a Kent hairbrush.  The humidity is low today and thus I will not require Groom and Clean to maintain my hair’s shape. I pour some Witch Hazel  onto my fingers and rub it inside my bellybutton. Vigilance is rewarded.  I dab Royal Musk behind the ears, onto the inside of my wrist, and at the top of my chest. I prefer the smell over the brand name colognes that others douse themselves with.

I double check my finger and toe nails to make sure that they are at proper length. Today I do not shave, otherwise I would use my safety razor and badger brush. Instead I opt to use my facial trimmer to maintain the five o’clock shadow I grew the other day. No need to use my body trimmer as the rest of the hair on my body is at appropriate length. I rub my hands with Pinaud talc powder.

I take one more look at myself and determine things are acceptable. The morning routine is complete.

November 5, 2013 / Mickey B

Hamiltonian Task

The man behind the counter is telling me a pack of M&M’s costs $1.19. Everywhere else the price is a dollar. I make him an offer. “I have one dollar here” I state while placing it on the counter. “This is all I have.” He refuses and I walk away.

$1.19, that is too rich for me.

I only have twenty dollars in my wallet. After all my payments have been made this twenty dollars in my pocket is all I have for 31 days to spend on anything that I don’t need, but make my life a bit more enjoyable.

Twenty dollars for a month.
Five dollars a week.
A dollar a day for twenty days.

Stretching twenty dollars is no easy task. You enter a mind state of questioning every purchase.

You begin to see exactly how wasteful you are with your currency on a daily basis. No more bought lunches. Coffee made either at home or at the office. Forget about happy hours or booze in general. Brunches are seen as even more pointless.

You begin to embrace sobriety like an old friend and slowly see your social life begin to wilt. Your eyes become accustomed to how uncomfortable people become when they learn you are not drinking. Their faces coated with suspicion.

Your friends or acquaintances begin to call or text less. After refusing to go out a number of times in a row they no longer bother. Sure you can go out and not drink, but with today’s habits of binge drinking sitting at a bar easily can become unbearable. Lounges are your best bet, but even they inspire you to drop a bit more than you can afford. Like an alcoholic it is easier to avoid than attempt to fight the temptation.

Twenty dollars is all you have. Even a bottle of Two Buck Chuck is now closer to three.

You begin to find new things to do and new opportunities to amuse yourself. You become interested in simple pleasures such as long walks through your neighborhood or town.

Perhaps you end up playing pick-up games of basketball or soccer with younger kids or others who face the plight of the nickel and dime. You learn what hours others are out and about and modify your schedule so that you can get in on the games. Hat tricks over Magic Hat.

However the greatest thing you recognize is the cost of every single thing. You become more defensive over your wealth. Is this a good investment? What is my opportunity cost? What uncertainty should I hedge against?

Every purchase now has the potential of destroying 1/20th of your liquid wealth. There is no longer a negligible purchase. Candy bars now require the same consideration as buying a car. That is a petrifying realization.

On paper I am reduced to a value of twenty dollars. Many around you will see your value based on your paycheck or net worth. There is a dollar value associated with you. People have a bad habit of forgetting all the intangible positives you bring to the table when the paycheck comes.  Even if you’re sipping water they blame you for making them unable to enjoy their meal as they are the only ones eating.

I don’t have an extra twenty cents to spend on a pack of M&M’s. I walk down the block and find them for a dollar.

I pop five in my mouth and enjoy the taste of the chocolate. My spirits rise and a childish smile forms. This is the first treat I’ve splurged on myself in three days. I was looking forward to this. I planned the moment I would enjoy this confectionary goodness. This simple consumption became an event.

A dollar well spent.

October 22, 2013 / Mickey B

Heart.

It is easy to quit.
To stumble and succumb to weakness and lay broken on ground. When the clock is running out and the lactic acid grows within you, why grasp at the ground searching for leverage to raise yourself.

Thirty seconds and you’re down by thirty. There will be no comeback of a century. There will be no miracle. Lake Placid.

Take the knee and let the clock run out.

You are broken. It takes all your energy to turn your head and look at your teammate. They are face down in the mud. Their groans ring in your ear. You feel comfortable succumbing to the lose because they do so alongside you. The wisdom of the majority protects you from ridicule. Teutoburg Forest.

Out of the corner of your eye. Movement. Someone is shuffling. Breathing heavily they push down and rise above the bodies. With shaky knees they slowly make their way up. You turn to lie on your back to ease your breathing as they begin to stand on wobbly legs.

He’s caked and dirty. Muddy and bloody. You see the pain crawl through his face as he attempts to stand with oaken composure. Breathing rapidly he begins to walk forward. Twenty seconds and for some reason to him the game is still not over. You don’t understand why he won’t take the sweet release. Why he ignores the reprieve granted by his fellow teammates. The Valkyrie’s Choice.

Heart.

This is the difference between those that preserve and those that falter. It pumps fuel through the cockles into the belly allowing the fire to burn. It makes the ground uncomfortable and inspires the spirit to be struck down standing rather than begging on bended knees.

You cannot teach someone to have heart. It is a gift bestowed at birth or developed with stubbornness.

The majority will never understand the desire to pursue the end with the same veracity and tenacity one held in the beginning.  It simply does not compute to the masses.

It is a difficult thing to continue when the odds are so blatantly against you. You rationalize why it is pointless to continue on. The excuses come easy because it would require the unexpected to turn the tide. Dues ex machina.

Yet those with heart do not hear their mind’s rationalizations to quit. Their subconscious continues to urge them on. Their body pumps what last vestiges of energy it has into their limbs. They begin to smile, out of delirium or humor, it is hard to tell. Lawrence of Arabia.

The facts are there. You will not win.
The creature with heart is an abnormality of character.
They’re not ignorant to the facts; they merely do not care for them.

As he stands the glint in the eye temporarily blinds you.
His lips move and you can barely make out the words.
“These bastards are going to remember having to earn this win.”

July 30, 2013 / Mickey B

per aspera ad astra

I wake up in a pool of sweat. I had the same dream. The worst part is that I never know that I am dreaming because in my dream I am laying in my bed trying to sleep. There is no hint in my dream that I am not in my room. Everything is the same down to the streetlight filtering through the venetian blinds upon my walls.

The dream is always the same. For the longest time it feels that I am fighting with insomnia. I rustle in my sleep. My mind attempts to convince me that I am moving around to find a better position. Sometimes I even dream that I adjust my pillow. This dream has become such a realistic mental plague that I sometimes wonder if I’m dreaming when I’m wide awake.

I only know I’m awake when I feel the rustling of my sheets at my feet. I become paralyzed. My sheets become a sarcophagus below my chin. I can only move my eyes as the rustling grows incrementally higher.  It gets heavier as it makes its way towards my face. I know what it is. I want to close my eyes, but I can’t.

The weight is on my neck. It is staring at me. The rat is staring at me.

The beady black eyes glow with malice at is examines me. I can just make out its tatted fur. I feel the pink hairless tail moving back and forth on the sheets. The yellow claws dig into my neck. The rat begins to move closer. There is no escaping the vile smell. Its frenzied squeaking grows louder.  The eyes become menacing. The bastard bares its teeth.

The first bite is the worst. I have grown to expect it and yet each time it’s surprising. The rat begins to gnaw at the flesh of my cheek. The more it tastes the hungry it becomes. The pace becomes fervent as I feel my face slowly being digested. I feel no pain. I only feel as another part of my face becomes numb. I am terrified to move my tongue. I do not want to experience my tongue sticking out through a hole in my face.

I walk towards the bathroom and splash water on my face. I slowly peer in the mirror. I know that it was a dream, but every time I’m still worried that perhaps it happened for real. There is no blemish in sight. Relief overcomes me. I grab new sheets from the cupboard and make my bed. I’m thankful that I can go to bed again. The dream only happens once a night. I don’t understand why it happens each night only that it started a month ago, when I first saw a rat scurrying across my floor boards. We never were able to catch it.

In the morning I’m sitting across from my parents. It’s Saturday and we’re having a late breakfast. It is one of the few days of the week that we all sit down and are not in a rush. My mother is busy by the stove making bacon pancakes. My father lackadaisically is splayed upon his chair with a silly grin on his face.

“Why do people have fear?” I ask my father.
My question rustles him from his place and he sits straighter as he turns to face me. He takes a moment to answer. If he had a beard I imagine he would stroke it.

“People have fear when they believe they’re prey. When you’re in a zoo you’re not scared of a lion because you know that there is a fence protecting you and that people feed the lion. So the lion won’t hunt you because it isn’t hungry. If you were in Savanna and saw a lion you’d be scared because you would think you’re the lion’s next meal.”

I take a moment to think about what my father had said. It makes sense to me.

“So to overcome your fear of something is to not become prey?” I ask.
“Instead of being prey, be a potential predator. A mugger wants an easier target. If you know how to defend yourself you’ll be less afraid of getting mugged. Make the fight harder and you’re no longer easily preyed upon” is his response.

He nods his head contently as if he is proud that he answered my question sufficiently.
I need to stop being prey. I need to become the predator of my predator.

I need to catch the rat in my room.

I spend the rest of the morning researching rats. I learn everything I can about them. I understand this diabolical vermin. I will destroy the rat that dared come into my room.

I walk over to the hardware store and buy a rat trap. It is a large steel contraption that will let the rat in but not out.  I bring it up to my room and place it near where I think the bastard lives, a hole in the baseboards. I place Colby jack cheese and a piece of chicken breast into the trap. I walk out and watch a movie.

I doze off. The house is empty as my parents had gone out to do errands.  I hear a noise. Squealing and trashing. It is coming from my room. I had caught the vermin. I make my way slowly to my room. My breathing becomes labored. With a shaking hand I turn the doorknob. I inch the door open and the noise grows. The rat is pissed.

It had moved the cage over to the middle of the room. It is constantly hitting the cage with all its might. I move towards it and it stops and turns towards me. I grab the handle and the rat bares its teeth. It once again goes berserk in the cage. I am having a hard time holding onto it. I dare not put my fingers anywhere near where it can bit me.

I take it outside and place it on the grass next to the shed. I find a bucket and begin to fill it up. A smile graces my face as I realize I am about to conquer my fear. Then I realize something.

If I do not want to be prey, I must become the predator.
I turn on the gas grill. Run inside and grab a long metal skewer.

I bring the cage up to my face. I am determined and I am no longer bothered by the rats trashing. I hold it steady and I look at the face of my prey. I study it.

“You’re not that scary anymore are you?”

I drop it in the bucket full of water. I watch as realization begins to dawn on it. I watch as it fervently attempts to save itself, but it is all in vain. I watch as it finally stops moving all together.

I pull the cage out and the rat out of the cage. I run the skewer through it.
I place it upon the grill.

Predators eat their prey.

The smell is horrendous. The burning fur and flesh are acrid and I feel bile come up. The tail eventually becomes charred as it has fallen in between the metal grill and directly into the fire. I close the lid and go inside to grab a knife.

I slice the rat open and cut out a small chunk of it.
I take a bite. The meat is rough and sinewy. I continue munching on it.

Predators eat their prey.

Finally it is done. I take the rest of the charred remains the throw it away.

I am filled with elation. I am proud of what I have accomplished today.
I’m going to middle school next year. A ten year old shouldn’t be scared of things smaller than them.

The following is a fictional short story. I have never been afraid of rats. I never ate a rat.
You know who did eat a rat, G. Gordon Liddy. This story was inspired by his biography: “Will

July 24, 2013 / Mickey B

Curtailed Expectations

 

There is no such thing as talent.
Talent is something that was created by those who wanted to sleep peacefully at night.

Humans are a cursed breed.
We are born with unlimited potential. Hercules.
However we tend to focus on our ability to make unlimited rationalizations. Prophasis.

There is nothing more infuriating than having your accomplishments disregarded and attributed to “talent.”

I didn’t spend my entire youth learning how to sing. Sinatra
I didn’t spend my entire career shooting baskets for hours a day. Bird
I didn’t spend my entire life studying electricity. Tesla.
No I was born this way.

Talent only exists as an excuse for those that refuse to perspire, bleed, and cry.
Do some have a greater chance due to genetics, geography, and wealth of family. Yes.
Is success guaranteed. Never.

In our own lives it is interesting to note how short people’s memories are of us.
The harder you work on your goals the faster those close to you attribute your success to something inherent.

You wanted to lose weight so you develop an exercise and diet plan.
I wish I had a fast metabolism!

You play a musical instrument beautifully due to hours and hours slaving over each measure.
You’re so talented!

You wake up at dawn and train on the track for hours in the hopes of making the Olympics.
You’re such an early bird! I’m a night owl!

As you grow as a person and begin to work towards the pinnacle of what you can be people will disparage your gains with excuses to make them feel better.

You will grow angry.
You didn’t pray to be a confident well dressed individual with numerous hobbies and interesting experiences.
You decided. You planed. You executed. You became.

You will become slowly disgusted by these people. They claim to wish to be better as they reach for the clicker. They make plans but always find a reason why today is not the best time to start on their mission.  Procrastination.

Perhaps you even begin to believe that you can help them. You go out of your way to provide them with the tools and knowledge so that they too can stand closer to the mountain top. Folly.

Many people wish. Very few struggle to attain.

It becomes a challenge to interact with people who disparage your accomplishments on the notion of talent. You begin to look down at them, even more so if they have been given greater opportunities that your own. You lose an ability to relate to them. To interact with them. To be around them.

Some of these people will be those you’ve known your entire life. Friends. Family.
The harder you better yourself the harder it is for them to ignore their own shortcomings.
You become a constant reminder of their shortcomings.

You will no longer want to be around them because they have become a bore.
They complaining about things over which they have the power to change.

In the beginning deep in the cockles of your heart you will believe that you can help them. That you can be the push they need to become better. You may go out of your way to include them in your training regime, develop plans for them to attain their goals, check up on their progress.

Eventually most will disappoint you. They will stop showing up, stop following the regime you’ve developed, take a day off that becomes a month.

You will learn that most never wanted to be better than what they are.
They just wanted a reason to explain their status quo.

faber est quisque fortunae suae

June 28, 2013 / Mickey B

Catching Butterflies.

“Can you fly out next Friday?”

I’m interviewing for a job with a classical music festival in its inaugural year. For the last half hour he’s been telling me about the festival and how many big names are going to participate. This falls on deaf ears as I am not a graduate of Julliard or Curtis.

Outside of playing the Piano, Tuba, and Sax I know nothing about what he’s talking about. Earlier in the interview he told me that the only reason he called me in was because I used to work on a boat as a deckhand.  “We have enough people with musical backgrounds, you’re the only person that has any operations experience” he told me.

I don’t tell him I spent most of my time as a deckhand cleaning toilets and the vessel.

He looks at me with enthusiasm. I mull over the question if I am ready to fly out to Maine in a week’s time to start working on this festival.

I’m apprehensive.

I found this job on Craigslist and even though I’m sitting in an office off of Wall Street it still feels too much like a scam. It doesn’t help that he promises to reimburse me the flight ticket when I get out there.  Uncertainty.

I accept. I have nothing else going on in the summer and I’ve never been to New England.

The night before my stomach is constantly fluttering. Nabokov. I am constantly questioning this decision to go. Is there even a real festival out there? The website looks legitimate. What if I go out there and I find out that there’s nothing there? Well I could always fly home. What if this is some huge scam to kidnap people and etc. etc?

That was one of the best summers of my life. I learned more about the classical music scene than I thought possible. I met famous musicians and composers. I was given free reign. There was no micromanaging; just expectations of results and I flourished.

Many of us have to deal with one of life’s most annoying conditions: Second guessing.
For every decision we attempt to make we find ourselves hesitating.
We begin to wonder if we are making the right choice.
Hypothetical endings plague our minds.
Is this the right decision?

Our bodies become a flurry of activity. Our blood pressure rises and we begin to perspire.
Inside moths and butterflies emerge en masse.
What if?

As people we are masters of excuses. We are overly optimistic in our future orientation.
We tell ourselves that we have time. Maybe next year.

Then tomorrow we are plowed down by a bus.

Throwing yourself into the wind is daunting. It is difficult partaking in uncertainty.
However if we were to stop lying to ourselves every moment of our lives is with uncertainty.  Entropy.

We have an easy time climbing up to the diving board.
The challenge comes when we’re at the edge.
It’s difficult to jump. Tragedy plays before our eyes.

We can slip on the diving board and hurt ourselves.
We can flop onto the water and it’ll hurt.
We can lose consciousness when we hit the water and drown.
We can break something or land on someone.

You just end up cannon balling while everyone else had to dip their toes before they got in.

Bet big; lose big; win big.