Twitscape
Search this hizzle
Sunday
Mar302014

Dr. Yes

I've come to this point where I need to get out the Razor. Occam's Razor is that principle where you trim away the fat and get right down to the necessities in life. I need Occam's Ax. I need to hack at some pretty big issues. In my first attempt at this, I've told two people NO. Yes, I have said "No," which to most isn't too startling a story, until you get to know me and realize that I have trouble saying anything but YES. And then, AND ONLY THEN, do I shout NOOOOOOOOoooooo in the privacy of my car. So I do say NO. But only to myself in sad, regretful instances.

I'm not going to get cocky, but I'm pretty stoked about my Two No in a Row streak. It's March Madness here at the Ewy house. But sometimes I've been known to say NO and then, feeling badly, turn around and say "yes." Then I'm twice as sad and still doing what I don't want to do.

What is the typical case of not saying no? Handjobs on the bus? Doing dirty tricks for furry fetish Internet cams? Both would take less time and be less of a hassle than what I typically agree to. My wife might actually prefer my being a low-rent gigolo to the hours I spend editing somebody's wedding. Or whatever it is that usually involves a production that, in my head, will only take a few hours but ends up gobbling up part of a week. My kids are growing and driving and moving on without their father, and I'm a volunteer actor in a community play about being a bad parent. It's amazing irony and very close to the truth.

A fine example of this would be...well there are many...but one that really sticks out is my telling my friend Dave that I would help him run the lights for his children's theater. Why? I mean, really, why would someone say "yes" to something they have no idea how to do? Yes, I've been on stage. Yes, I've turned on lights, but neither of those add up to the qualifications of someone who can control the drama and mood of 150 inattentive children.

What was going through my head? I thought, "Well, I've done radio, and from what I've seen that lighting mixer is like a sound mixer and...yah, sure Dave. I'll do it." What kind of deluded freak says that? And it turns out I'd be doing audio, too. Also, you do much of this in the dark, with only a tiny pen light to keep the children from stampeding out of a blackened theater.

At least the evacuation of a dark building would have been a quick end for everyone. Instead, it was 90 minutes of professional actors pretending to be parched in the desert under cold blue lights and thunder. And then, when it was time to celebrate the rain, there was hot, red light and dust storms. I've never been more impressed with performers than the tests I put these through. Actually, that could be part of the audition: can you pretend you're drowning in these wind chimes?

For me it was an hour and a half of terror. Typically, the kids didn't mind, but every once and a while there'd be a teacher or chaperone looking up at the lighting booth to make sure there wasn't a medical emergency. Dave--who I think is still my friend--was luckily preoccupied with lobby duties, but on occasion would hear me disparaging myself, and make sure I was OK. Which has me wondering how many times the tiny venue shared too much of my struggle.

Professional actor: "And now, children, we will sing the happy song of our people! (darkness, thunder)"

Me: "Are you fucking kidding me?"

I still remember the face of the lead, actually painted as a lion, and standing under the hot lights of a monsoon, pausing, wondering if he'd screwed something up. You're fine, Simba. It's me. The tragic character who could not say NO.

Sunday
Mar232014

I could cause cancer in rats | My diet soda problem

I've gone three days without caffeine, or actually three days and 10 hours. I'd count the minutes but I'm too tired. Now I am not your typical three-cups-a-day coffee swiller, and I'd probably be better off if I were--if I had some kind of traditional beverage I stuck to with religious fervor--but I have this issue where I always veer towards diet soda. And diet soda makes me an irritable asshole who affects the behavior of animals. Worse yet, once I start, I can't stop. I'll get the 44 oz white trash special, and there can't be anything worse for you than what comes in a silo and tastes like chemistry.

So what does diet soda do to me? I'm naturally caffeinated anyway, and often frighten people, and then I add phenylalanine and aspartame and caffeine and I'm a squeaky monkey just short of the awkward chafing primate at the zoo. But I'm the dangerous chafing monkey, with my emotions on a cheese grater. Paco, our lovely dog, went through this phase of, well, being an asshole, and it was brought to my attention by a tiny Argentinian that perhaps he was feeding off of me. "So I'm an asshole?" I asked her in a quick and panicked glance.

Yes. A diet soda asshole.

Now the Argentinian asshole incident took place in '09, but I had been alerted as early as 2007. The epiphany was delivered unto me by a woman named Aditi. We worked at the same fledgling startup company and she told me (and I thank her eternally) that I was very distracting. She said it in the kind of deep earnestness that shows concern for the entire planet. As if I were, at that moment, not only a detriment to her focus, and our careers, but perhaps an epitome of all that's whirling out of control in this crazy world. In the reflection of her deep, dark Indian eyes, I saw the horrible timeline of caffeinated misdeeds that led to a woman gently lobbing darts into my soul.

Otto seeks guidance from someone who's not a caffeinated asshole, circa 2012.
1997: While co-hosting the Martin & Russell (I went by Jared Russell) the Coca Cola company unveils a new Mountain Dew-like soda called Surge. To promote it, they give us dozens of cases that would sit next to me in the studio. I had a huge cup that I'd fill with ice and then pour in an entire Surge six pack. Jared Russell made many poor decisions.

1999: I'm on stage and emceeing the opening of Star Wars: The Phantom Menace. I take a drink of my Death Star-sized theater pop and realize that I've had enough. It tasted like human degradation and uneducated children. It tasted like a handrail at a carnival that had been rubbed down by the hands of a serial killer and 1000 incontinent pedophiles; it was everything that was wrong with the world. After a short pause I got back to promoting the event, but I would not drink much soda until 2002.

2002: We'd just bought a house and I had three jobs. One of them was as volunteer coordinator for the Democratic Party. This was not an easy gig. America had just been attacked by Saudis and we were going to obliterate Iraq. Even the Amish were running into the streets with axes. The party of relative pacifism was about to get trounced. This meant we were awake all of the time trying find someone who might like us. This also meant I needed caffeine. I discovered diet soda.

2004: Producing a morning show meant I had to be at work at 4am. I was also hosting a night program at another radio company. I drank diet soda the way the 80s drank Tab. One time I turned on the microphone and made a high-pitched squealing noise.

2006: I had big plans to take over the world with my entertainment report I hosted out of my house. Instead, I spent much of the day praising the bursting bubbly goodness of diet soda.

2007: Distraction notice.

I remember walking back to my desk and realizing that I really wasn't even doing anything productive for the company. The only reason I was going to the office was because they had soda machine with the 16 oz bottles for the price of a 12 oz can.  And there was this other thing where I found that I enjoyed the process of getting a soda. I love going to the store and filling up the cup. I love the coins dropping into the machine and the proper package bouncing out of the bottom. I've explained to Sarah (who noted this long before me) that it might be because I grew up in the middle of the woods and I pine for the interaction of the customer experience and the magic of technology. In fact, I so enjoy the idea of soda machines that I put money in one that I found in a landfill. Nothing came out of it.
Second-hand diet soda would make him an asshole.
Here we are, somehow seven years after the indisputable truth of my soda behavior was delivered like a mallet to the groin, and I'm still battling it. I'll quit, and then, convincing myself I should have one to reward myself for not having one, I have one. And then it's another and another and I'm shrieking with autistic delight at the perfect 32 oz compliment on my drive to work. It's terrible.

When I drink it I can't think. I can't operate normally. I'm crazy. And worse, I can't write. I cannot sit down and get out even a little ditty. It's terrible. There's no upside yet I can't quit. Or couldn't. I feel that if orange juice were the cheap, accessible elixir that buoyed beverage conglomerates, that diet soda wouldn’t see the light of day. But diet soda is the moneymaker, and I hope for Aditi and diligent, hardworking people everywhere, that I've ended supporting the cartel of madness.

Monday
Mar102014

What I'm Doing at #SXSW (and for the rest of my life, dammit)

It's not until someone demands an explanation that you truly realize what you are doing. It's as if in the entire planning process no one uttered it into the innocent air of unspoken realities. It's just this thing that's in your head and it grows and grows until it finally flops out like a root too big for its pot:

We're here gathering high fives to raise money for the Austin Children's Shelter.

You hear that out loud and then you yourself have as many questions as the person asking. And you're relieved that it all makes sense...it makes sense in the way things make sense at a giant festival in the age of the Internet. It makes sense the way searching for a recipe is called "googling" or a well thought out quote is a "tweet." It makes sense in the way that creatives banging on the walls of convention have hoped it would one day make sense. How many people have been carted away in the name of crazy because their sense was way ahead of everyone else's sense? Or simply different. Only if they'd been alive now. They'd be heralded as geniuses and have half a million Karma points on Reddit.

I'm happy I live in an age that that makes sense, and because we do, a young man with a giant counter on his back gets a nickel donated to a good cause with every high five he gets. And people are all about the High Five Guy. To think that they can make a tiny difference by slapping someone's hand (and oh the irony of the hand slap going from chastizing to charity) makes all the difference as to whether they care or not.

It's funny, though, how this coming together so well has me coming to pieces. I think that's a good thing, to be dismantled and have to build yourself again...or maybe just leave it in pieces. No more need for a facade of any kind of togetherness; just laid out and open and honest and doing the things I should have been doing years ago--or that I did do years ago--but with the confidence that it can all make sense...or doesn't have to at all.

You just have to do it. (he says to himself)

Friday
Mar072014

Giddy Poop Car 

Now that I have a girl I want to lift weights again. I mean it's a genuine primal urge to get strong and prepare for war. It's weird. It just happened. It wasn't like most important issues that I'm only alerted to when Sarah does that gentle, "Um, Jared," that's followed by phrases like "the children need pants" or "you should join us outside to avoid dying in the fire." I was just on it. And now I can't even pull myself away for work because this little lady is so damn cute. From what I've heard she can be a jerk in the day, but in the morning she is on.

She's like a Walmart greeter: in a diaper, toothless and has no idea who I am, but just really happy to see me. That alone, that ridiculous optimism, has me on the floor and grinning like a mentally misaligned zoo animal. It's my one chance! It's my one chance to make an impression without the world intervening. The periphery is all but a Monet and the interaction is simple and it's clear and it's wholesome. You smile. I smile. You smile again, and I smile like something's broken. There have been happy tears, so I hope those haven't confused her. "What's wrong?" might ask one of her middle school friends. "Oh nothing...the world is all too much to take in," will respond the girl who'd get invited to dances if she didn't smile weep at the mere thought of being liked.

Hell, I may be on to something there.

Curbing the Enthusiasm

So there's a giddiness factor I should amend. Some would say to keep it all rocket fuel to the fuckyahtmosphere, but I'd like the children to see some measure of dignity and control. You know, a touch of salty hipster stirred in with their saccharin dad.

I really would like to be hovering over them all of the time.
It's hard not to be too giddy. I mean I have the potential, every hour on the hour, to be the love child of Clark Griswold and a muppet who's taken to heavy stimulants. These kids are crazy good to me and all I can do is reciprocate with kid-like insanity. How much will that hurt them in their twenties with concerned coworkers? I don't know. I think that's why they become teenagers so that we'll be less excited about them. That's my chance to instill the graveness of adulthood. Already I can shave that enthusiasm right off with a Quin's snarcastic "really?" He nails it with the stabbing deftness of an indignant tweener, and while it's been used to torpedo some of my paternal enthusiasm, I'm also hopeful it's working to gently put down the bigger kids who give him a hard time. And he's been picked on some at school. That's helped me to not like kids in general, to the point where I asked his teacher to present unto me the bully's closest related adult male. I shared that with Quin and I got a "really?" steeped in the genuine horror that permeates a teenager terrified his father will somehow cause a scene.

Channeling the Enthusiasm

I do cause scenes. I cause one every morning, but I have managed to contain it within the walls of our white Subaru. The Subaru is our dirty little Israel, a walled-off place where the once-persecuted can thrive. Inside the "white car!" as it is known to the boys (and always with that enthusiasm) is where they can use all the potty talk they want.

That guy right there in the middle. You try and not get excited about him.
Luckily, they both think "shut up" is the worst of bad words. After the first day Quin rode the bus he sulked around the house like an eye witness to murder. After some interrogation, he admitted that his seatmate, a fifth grader, had used the "s-h" word. I thought "well, 'shit' does merit some shock." But then he mouthed "shut up" and further impressed upon me the grave infraction by wide-eyed whisper shouting, "and 31 times!" I can just see him now, his head down in plane wreck position with clenched prayer eyes hoping to withstand the SH bombs raining down around him. Do I need to pause here to say how I much I love this kid? Or would it be more appropriate to admit I worry about him getting his ass kicked at school?

The point: our potty words are very accurate biological functions. So it's the poo and pee that fills the Forester with the kind of revelry that has you trying not to laugh and encourage such behavior. The most popular game is the one where I'm an airplane pilot and Quin and Otto the perturbed passengers pushing the emergency button and complaining that someone has just filled their diaper on row 23. It's comedy gold. And luckily, for the most part, contained within a small foreign car.

And that daughter of mine, I can pretty much guarantee that one day she'll shut that shit up before the men in her life embarrass her.

Tuesday
Feb182014

My Big Bobsled Adventure with the New Zealand Bobsled Team

We hit so hard that my ass hurt. At first I was like "I can handle this" and then we hit the wall and started going faster and it was like, "I guess I'm religous."

Who knew there could be as something as deeply personal as bobsledding, or maybe better put, that bobsledding could be deeply personal. That it would be the kind of thing that would spelunk you to your depths and just leave you whirling on the end of your line. The funny English guy from South Africa saw my face and knew what had happened. "You're still trying to download it, aren't ya?" he stated in the interrogative way that only the English can. I was touched. I couldn't believe he'd nailed what I was going through. That 80 mph run down the hill had kicked the ant pile of my brain cells and left me wondering what in the hell I'd done. 

I would have prepared better. I would have gotten into better shape. You know, so I could have actually fit in the sled. The captain of the team had asked if I could fit, and I said "yes" because there was no way in hell I wasn't going to do that run. It was the opportunity of a lifetime, and I was really wanting to get that GoPro footage. I wasn't going home without it. Anyway, I should have been better equipped, but I was also working on getting the right video shots and charming anyone who had anything to do with getting me down that hill. When the time came I didn't even have the right gear and I even forgot to put in my mouth guard. If anything, I've got to have the record time for a bobsled run in khaki pants and pea coat.

Here's the one thing I don't say: I'd totally do it again. I saw the Olympic sledders (slopesliders to us in the biz) and I bounded home to tell Sarah I was going to get ready for the 2018 games.

Here is the full series of the trip, with a big "thank you" wrap up coming for our sponsors and including the funny English guy from South Africa.

Monday
Feb172014

Sliding with the New Zealand Bobsled Team, day 1

The thought of bobsledding seems like a lot of fun until you tell someone you're going to bobsled. "Didn't a guy die doing that?" asked one well-meaning friend. Another pointed out that I'd be going 80 miles an hour without a seat belt. I like seat belts. One once saved me in a wreck when I was going about 65. The car had a roof, too. And soft seats. Wrecking in a bobsled, it turns out, can melt your underwear to your body

The bobsled looks really good on the outside. It's a sleek missile that makes this awesome/daunting rocket noise as it glides around the turns of the track. On the inside, however, it's a bit like a modified port-a-john with the cushioned amenities of a coral reef. The captain of the team, an athletic horse named Martin, asked if I was sure I could fit into the bobsled. I told him yes, as I couldn't imagine that I wouldn't. Also, in my head I still see myself as I was when I was 19.

Coming up: The story behind name.com and the New Zealand Bobsled team, Daniel Negari of .XYZ makes a bet...and then it goes downhill fast.*

*It should be noted that Whistler's bobsled track is the fastest in the world.

Tuesday
Jan212014

The birth of the 10-second clip

You know why I'm up and writing at 5 in the morning? Because my brain is pissed at me. I used to think my brain hated me, and we still have our moments, but I've realized that my brain is like a Louis Gossett, jr. character who's only yelling at me because he wants me to be better. So I'm up at 5am because I haven't written in two weeks. That's not healthy. You're not condoning sanity if you write only work emails and Facebook posts. It's the unexamined life that's, well, worth living but just not in any kind of happy fashion. Screw it. It's not worth living if you're not happy. Fuck off modern feel-gooders, makers of positive kitchen quotes and head patting encouragement. If you're not examining and reprocessing you might as well be a fucking goat. A goddamned animal gnawing on some garbage.

 

Jesus, brain, a little aggressive I'd say.

 

There are several things i need to write: 

 

1. Continue my thoughts on climate change and how today's living adults can avoid being the biggest losers ever to walk the earth.
2. A tribute to Otto. I penned one for Quin, and O really needs some blog time. Honestly, he could probably give a damn, but you live in the same house with two growing boys, one for whom you've written a blog post and the other you have not. 
3. The stories. There are so many stories.

 

My boy, Otto. He's as white as you'd imagine an Otto.

Of course there's the baby, too. She's pretty cute. Right now she's in the "I don't give a damn phase" which could be a far greater and more profound attribute than the "innocent" label we dabble on their bright foreheads. What greater gift than to think, "I'm hungry right now. I'm going to scream my head off until someone feeds me," and only gain affection for it? Of course we're not always sure if it's hunger, as Eliot struggles with the specifics of her communication. So therein lies the struggle of newborns and the parents of newborns. We can title it simply, "What in the hell is wrong with you/us?" 

It is during these times that the life examination becomes less voluntary and more necessary. To what purpose it serves is a decent query because there is nothing you can do but lurch forward and hope that lack of sleep and caffeinated sugar doesn't do too much damage. It is also here where you're sitting on the couch with your loved one, the egg in the reproductive potluck who, not many years ago, was not a "Mooooooooooooooom," but a cute girl at a Taco Bell. It is precisely at that moment when you remember the one thing that humans have cornered on the evolutionary market: channeling menacing issues into humor. So you're on a couch that needs replaced and feeling the bloat of lethargy and poor diet decisions. Compound that frustration with lack of sleep, insecurity over hair loss, and doubts about your career, and you come to a corner where it would be a big, fat gift to be an empty-headed animal gnawing on a sock. But you're not, so you need to construct something out of the mess and I swear to all of the stars and past war heroes that the only way out is to communicate. 

I took a mental picture of my frustrated self and then, throwing words out into the indifference, I asked my wife, "Wouldn't it be funny if before marrying me you were offered a ten-second clip of our future and this was it." There was laughter. If I recall correctly at that moment the ten-second clip would have included my rubbing my bald pate while my occupied cognition left me choking on my spit. 
this lady.

And the ten-second clip persists. Later that evening, Sarah would turn to find me rubbing lotion on my belly. I have dry spots. But that's not what a young Sarah--the most tolerant woman known to man--would have wanted to see in her mid twenties and on her way to the alter. Not to say that our wedding day didn't provide enough calamity to make most women set fire to themselves, but seeing me across our cluttered kitchen counter two-fisting my cheeseburger gut with handfuls of lubricant would have been enough to gift the world with another lesbian. 

And so we have it: another meme. Another massive, self-throttling concept spun like the Arc of the Covenant into the convenient package of the ten-second clip. It's a simple idea, our own infantile cry into the dark, but bring it up when you might need something to break through the rubble. You'll find that you're not alone.