Monthly Archives: November 2013

I am Banksy

I’m a little late to the game here, but I just found out about Banksy. Like, I had heard the name Banksy before, but that was about it, I never asked myself, who is Banksy? Why do I keep seeing his name popping up on the Internet? I never clicked through any of those links. And then a couple of weekends ago my brother was talking about Banksy and, not wanting to feel out of the loop, I did my best to pretend like I knew exactly what I was talking about, all while trying to steer the conversation toward another topic.


But now I know about Banksy. I mean, I still haven’t clicked on any links, but I get it, he’s a graffiti artist. He made some sort of a documentary. And nobody knows who he is. He’s like Batman, but without any of the crime-fighting. Actually, if you think about it, he’s actually a part of the problem, defacing public space.

Whatever, I’m not going to get into an argument about right and wrong. Even though I think that’s it wrong. Not that he’s doing it, but that it didn’t work for me. I heard that this guy was making millions of dollars, this whole mystery artist walking around town drawing little pictures of miniature men next to fire hydrants, I don’t get the appeal, of the art that is, I do get the appeal of the cash.

That’s why it appealed to me. That’s why I tried to get out there and tell everybody that I was Banksy. It made perfect sense, I mean, this guy doesn’t reveal his identity, and so I figured that all I had to do was study his drawings enough to make my own convincing Banksy-style replicas, and instead of fleeing into the shadows after I finished a piece, I’d turn around, I’d be wearing a hooded sweatshirt and a pair of sunglasses, I’d wait for the crowd to get really big, I’d even call the cops on myself, I’d be like, “Hello, police? There’s some guy spray-painting graffiti …” and then just as they’d come to handcuff me, I’d rip off the sweatshirt, I’d be wearing a t-shirt that said, “Banksy!” just, you know, to really drive home the point, and I’d scream out, “It’s me! I’m Banksy!”

But getting a crowd to gather, it’s not as easy as just wearing a bunch of clothes from Urban Outfitters and crouching down to tag a building. No, and I was just testing the waters, just kind of taking out the cans, I hadn’t even started painting yet, but nobody was looking at me, nobody stopped and said, “Are you Banksy?” No, not with the paint cans lined up in front of me, not when I started aggressively shaking the cans up and down, over and over again, each time the metal ball inside of the can hit the end I heard it as, “Bank – sy – Bank –sy.”

And finally, he wasn’t a cop, but he was some sort of a security guard, he came outside of the building and stood like a foot away from me. He didn’t say anything, he didn’t have to, he was just staring right at me, he had his security guard radio in his hand. It was like he was waiting for me to make a move. Well, a move further than just shaking the can up and down.

This went on for like a minute or two, finally I stopped shaking this one can, I held it out in front of me and slowly took off the top. The security guard remained unmoved, just watching me. I thought, OK, a game of chicken, huh? It’s not like this guy was a real cop or anything, and so I was game. I brought the can slowly to the wall, really slowly, like if this guy was going to make a move, I wanted to see just where that line was. But nothing. Maybe this guy was a fan. Maybe he would be the first person to witness me successfully steal the Banksy name.

Something had to happen, so finally I was like two inches away from the wall, and I made the smallest spray, I had the nozzle pressed down for less than a second. And that was it, the security guard wasn’t a fan, he kicked into action, that radio was out and he was shouting something, vandalism, graffiti, call the police. I panicked, I dropped the can, I didn’t even have a minute to pick anything up, I just screamed out, “I am Banksy!” as I booked it out of there.

And like three blocks, four blocks away, nobody was following me, I thought, if this guy’s really anonymous, how is he so rich? What if the police come and they dust my spray-paint can for prints, do I have to have my fingerprints already in the system to be identified? Should I commit some small infraction so the cops can link me to the paint? Could this still work out in my favor?

But then I thought about buying more spray-paint, about how it was so annoying the first time around, I went to this auto-parts store, all of the spray-paint was behind this cage on aisle seven, and I had to have a manager come out from around the back to unlock it. He was so impatient, he was just like, “Pick a color so I can get back to my job,” and I just wanted a minute, to think about which one I should buy, and this guy was so pushy, so I just chose like a royal blue, a sun-kissed yellow. I don’t know, I don’t really feel like going back, spending more money. I’ll just let Banksy be Banksy, for now, I guess.

I love coffee

It’s always a daily struggle to drink the right amount of coffee, to get the caffeine levels just right. I don’t know when I became so dependent, I didn’t start until after I finished school. Whenever I went to Starbucks during college, I’d always get something that didn’t really count as coffee, like a toffee nut latte, something with tons of syrup and milk and whipped cream. Or a frappucino, which is basically an overpriced coffee milkshake.


And I specifically remember one day, at one of my first jobs after graduation, I was working as a paralegal, there was an office kitchen stocked with soda, granola bars, a giant coffee machine. I thought, OK, maybe I’ll drink some coffee. So I had a cup, and then I had another cup, and then a third. And then I had what I can only assume was a caffeine induced panic attack. I sat there in my swivel chair and wondered when my racing heart would finally accelerate past the point of sustainability, I’d drop face down at my keyboard, my nose and my forehead hitting a weird combination of keys that, when entered into whatever spreadsheet I was entering meaningless chunks of data into, it would come out like, “ase0oitja;lwesdddddddddd …”

I wound up surviving and I stayed away from coffee for a while. But now I’m at the point where, for the past several years at least, I get up in the morning and the first thing I do is, before I even go to the bathroom, I go downstairs and make a pot of coffee. There’s something about waking up and drinking my first cup. I can instantly feel the caffeine get to work, there’s a buzz in the background of my consciousness. Even though my eyes aren’t yet fully opened, I know that at least I’m not going to fall back asleep.

And then I have my second cup, I start to feel invincible. I get these bursts of imagination where I envision all that I’m going to get done, I’m going to go running, then I’ll go to the gym, then I’ll come back home and I’ll make some bread from scratch, while it’s rising I’ll go upstairs and bang out five or six pages of writing, while the oven’s preheating I’ll read the newspaper, I’ll start planning lunch while I consider if I have enough time before I have to head into work to go over Home Depot and inquire about renting a power saw, because I just saw this home improvement show on TV, and I should be able to put up crown molding in the living room, I mean, I’ve never had any hands-on experience, but this should all be within the realm of possibility.

But then I take that third cup, which is always this leap of faith, a Mario Kart kind of floating question mark box. What’s going to happen? Am I going to get that final needed kick that lets me get started on all that I’ve set out for myself to do? Is the caffeine going to get stuck only in my brain, allowing me not to actually do anything, but instead to sit here at my computer desk tapping my leg violently against the floor, dreaming wild fantasies about replacing the siding on the front of the house? Or a worst case scenario, the dreaded albeit rare instance where I have another panic attack, the veins in my neck visibly throbbing outward, my chest muscles clenched as far inward as possible, I’m only able to whimper for air every now and then, my mind locked in on the fact that I can’t possibly have enough oxygen in my bloodstream to sustain my heart’s rapid pace, that it’s only a matter of time before I ;iaospjdoifeeeeeeeee.

I don’t know. Maybe it’s in my head. I’ve heard stories about green tea containing the same amount of caffeine as certain coffees, but I’ve never felt it active in my system. It’s the same with Coca-Cola. I could drink like four or five cans in a row and I’ll only ever experience a stomach ache. No, it’s just coffee that does the trick, and it has to be as soon as I wake up. Once I reach that first true caffeinated buzz of the day, regardless of how much coffee I drink later on, I’ll never get up to where I was when I first got up. Every once in a while I’ll attempt an early-afternoon recharge, it has to be one of those extra-large cups from Dunkin’ Donuts, and all that can ever hope to achieve is lessening of the inevitable crash, all at the expense of what I’ll no longer be able to count on as a solid eight hour’s sleep.

But I love coffee. I love feeling like I can barely contain myself. I hope that it’s good for me. I hope that the science works out, that someday researches will discover that people who drink tons and tons of coffee always wind up much healthier than everybody else. And happier. And richer. And smarter.

I’m so grateful

I’m so grateful on Thanksgiving. I’m grateful for Thanksgiving. I hate going to work on Thursdays, so it’s really nice to not have to show up. I’m really grateful for all of the gratitude I feel, mostly just today, because it’s Thanksgiving, and I really want to be true to the spirit of the holiday, extra thankful. I always say thank you, in general, but on Thanksgiving, I say it at least three times, sometimes more. Like even though I hate the idea of shopping on Thanksgiving or consumerism on Thanksgiving, there’s always at least one part of the day where I’m either driving to my in-laws’ house, or to my grandfather’s house, I always stop at Dunkin’ Donuts, probably because it’s the only place that’s really open for business, I get an extra large coffee, some donuts, even though I don’t need donuts at all, it’s just that I love Dunkin’ Donuts’ donuts, I’m so grateful for them, and after I pay, I tell the cashier, “Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you …” at least a dozen times, a baker’s dozen, even though Dunkin’ Donuts only gives you a regular, non-baker’s dozen, but whatever, I’m grateful for that too, knowing that, at Dunkin’ Donuts, you know exactly what you’re getting when you say, “Give me a dozen, thanks.” Extra thanks.


I’m grateful for the twist ties on the loaves of bread that you buy at the grocery store. I know it seems like a pretty trivial thing to be thankful for, but I’m thankful for everything, especially the little stuff, especially on Thanksgiving, and even more especially since I started buying six-packs of Thomas’ English muffins. They’re awesome, I’m so grateful to be able to go out and buy them, to have them for breakfast, I’m grateful for my toaster, it’s so reliable, I remember when we were shopping for a toaster, I told my wife, “It has to be an Oster brand appliance,” which, I don’t really know where I got that from. Did I mention that I’m really grateful for my wife? It’s just that, somewhere along the line, the idea planted itself in my head that, if I buy any appliance, it has to be Oster. It’s the gold standard of all appliances. And so my wife wanted this Kitchen-Aid toaster, it had a lot more functions, it was cheaper. But no, I insisted on the classic Oster toaster, exactly what you’d imagine a toaster to look like. Like, if you went into any random kindergarten class and told the kids, “All right kids, draw a picture of a toaster,” they’d all draw it more or less looking exactly like ours. Except there’s usually that one kid that insists on drawing Batman or Spider-Man, but whatever.

Wasn’t I talked about twist ties? I’m grateful for them. They’re super useful. I’m not grateful for the plastic tabs that come with the English muffins. I can never bunch up the plastic in such a way as to get it fully cinched, it’s impossible, and the more I try to maneuver everything in place, it starts bending, finally it loses its structural integrity, so even if you somehow manage to get it closed up, it all slowly starts to unfold. Whatever, that’s a petty thing to bring up on a Thanksgiving blog post, all of this stuff about gratitude. I guess I should just say that I’m grateful that I know the difference between twist ties and tab ties, and that I’m thankful that I understand that the twist ties are awesome and the tab ties are terrible.

Going back to Oster appliances for just one second, I was thinking about this one time we needed to buy a blender, and even though I kept saying, listen to me, it has to be Oster, you’ll be grateful later, I lost the argument, we bought some off brand. It lasted like a month, not even, I think we made half a round of margaritas before it broke, no warranty, nothing. I always used to get so mad thinking back on that experience, but it’s Thanksgiving, and I’m trying to be grateful, and so yeah, I guess I am thankful we bought that piece of garbage, if only to prove my point that you simply have to buy Oster, every single time. So yeah, I’m very grateful. I’m so lucky and thankful to be able to be so grateful and appreciative.

Happy Thanksgiving.

I’m a traditionalist

I’ve always thought of myself as a traditionalist, someone who sticks to what works. Why put all of your faith in innovation when some things are perfectly fine they way they are? Like turning signals. Call me old-fashioned, but for many years, drivers shared the road just fine by sticking their hands out of their windows and pointing at which way they were going to turn. But try telling that to the cop that pulled me over last week. He wouldn’t hear it, gave me a ticket for a broken turning signal, even after I showed him, “Look, it works just fine, I just prefer to use the hand signals!” he wouldn’t even respond to me, just kind of tore the ticket out of his book and let it float down in through my open window.


But I can’t expect the police to understand the values of tradition. They’ve practically given up on everything that’s come before them. Routine police work has been overtaken by all sorts of scientific mumbo-jumbo, DNA evidence, surveillance camera tape. When was the last time you saw a detective take out a magnifying glass at a crime scene? That’s like the most basic detective skill I can think of. No, but these modern specialists are all about forensics, taking pictures, using that two-way trick mirror supposedly to make suspects feel as if they’re not being watched.

And come on, if I’m ever in a room somewhere, and half of the wall to my side is a giant mirror, of course I’m going to assume that there’s someone watching on the other side. You know how old-school cops would do it? They’d interrogate a crook with everyone in the force watching, staring. You think a mirror is going to help extract a confession? I’m telling you, this new technology is ruining the force.

It’s ruining everything. It’s ruining dentistry. I went in for a checkup last month and there was this giant TV positioned right in front of my face. Whichever way I turned, regardless of what angle the dentist reclined the chair, I couldn’t turn away, they were playing Everybody Loves Raymond. What happened to sitting in a chair and listening to the soothing sounds of drill-on-tooth? Why do we have to be constantly entertained?

And yes, I still got to hear the drill, which I thought would have been enough to distract me from Raymond, but this fancy dentist thought of that one too, there were subtitles running along the bottom of the screen. When I was a little kid, there weren’t any subtitles. If you couldn’t hear the TV, if the volume button on the set was broken, and your little brother flushed the remote down the toilet, you just had to sit there and guess what they were saying.

And we liked it that way. What’s wrong with giving a kid a lollipop after he gets out of the dentist’s office? Call me an originalist, but I hardly feel like a free toothbrush and a travel-sized tube of Colgate Total makes up for the hour that I had to sit there and feel a tiny metal hook go back and forth over my gums. And go ahead, tell me that it was my own fault, that I shouldn’t complain if I turn down the laughing gas. My grandfather didn’t get to use laughing gas when he went to the dentist, neither did my great grandfather. And they had great teeth.

And they used to tell me that stuff like that was good for you, that sitting there being strapped to a chair while your mouth was in agony was a healthy thing. Like when my kids get braces, I’m going to insist on the old kind, a whole mouthful of metal, and I want those things cemented in, the kind of an adhesive that leaves a discoloration on their teeth after they’re done straightening everything out.

Go ahead and laugh at my antiquated ways, but it’s like I always say, “if it ain’t broke, don’t try to invent something else that improves on how it currently works.” It’s not as catchy as “don’t fix it,” but the gist is the same, and catchy phrases are nothing but grammatical trickery, a bunch of newfangled words arranged in a convenient jingle. No thanks, I’ll stick to how they’ve done it before, old, tested, that’s it.


I want to learn how to break blocks with my hands so badly. Last week I promised my sister that I’d go see my nephew’s karate presentation or ceremony, whatever, I went, but come on, why do you have to put on a show for every childhood activity? Can’t you just sign your kids up for something without having to make up some ridiculous pageant, sending out invites to your relatives, “Come over to the dojo to watch Ricky’s karate exhibition!”


And I don’t want to rag on a bunch of little kids, it’s too easy, everyone sucks at everything when they’re a little kid. I’m not taking a train forty-five minutes out of my way with the expectation that I’m going to be a witness to any serious martial arts. But everything that took place, I’m left asking, why set the bar so low?

It’s like they take turns chopping blocks behind the sensei, and dude, seriously, you want to be called sensei in front of all these strangers? Doesn’t that make you feel a little silly? Because, what’s stopping me front renting out my own storefront and putting on my own authentic looking white karate costume? And this sensei, he held up pieces of what had to have been balsa wood.

“Hiyah!” each little kid screamed out as he kicked it in half. Amidst all of that cheering, all of that, “Go Johnny!” and, “Thattagirl Kate!” I’m thinking, isn’t anybody else going to call bullshit here? I kept my mouth shut, you know, it’s not my kid up there, I’m not the one forking over thirty-five bucks a week so the sensei can fool a bunch of adults into thinking that their kids can break through wood. Wasn’t anybody else a little suspicious of how clean those break marks were?

But man, if I could find a serious karate studio, it wouldn’t be a studio, it would have to be like under a bridge somewhere, that’s where you’d find a real sensei, someone that the rest of the world totally disregards, only I’d be able to see his real talent. He’d make me do a bunch of these nonsensical chores, just like in Karate Kid, but even more tedious, and I wouldn’t have the benefit of a training montage to help speed things up.

And I wouldn’t ask, “When are we going to break some bricks? When are you going to train me to turn my chop into a piece of iron?” because I know he’d look at me and respond with some abstract proverb that wouldn’t make much sense just by listening to the words, but if I could get past what I thought the message was, I’d see underneath, these hidden layers of meaning, everything telling me, patience, in order to break bricks, we must first break … and it would be something, metaphorical, I’m not too good with the abstract, I just want to crush something, I want to feel those boards snap underneath my fingers, and I wouldn’t even say, “Hiya!” it would be something primal, something ancient, like, “Aaaahhhhhh!” I don’t exactly, and trying to spell it out here isn’t really getting the same meaning across.

But yeah, I’m so busy, with work, with my life, I don’t know if I have it in me even to go about looking for such a teacher. There are so many studios around, dojos, senseis, masters, I wouldn’t know where to begin. One time when I was in the fourth grade, I remember this one classmate, it was like three years past that phase where everybody in the class signed up for the same karate class, most everyone else had dropped out, but this kid, I don’t know, he stuck with it, karate lessons every week.

And everybody always used to make fun of him, we’d be playing basketball or baseball and he’d be like, “I can’t come to basketball. I take karate classes,” and everyone would laugh, talking about how the sensei didn’t look like a real karate teacher. I remember he gave a defense one time, he told us that, when looking for a karate teacher, his dad went to this one place and offered the guy a thousand dollars to buy his son a black belt. The teacher gladly said yes, to which the dad replied, “Actually, I think I’m going to keep looking around.” And finally he found a dojo where they refused to take his money, the sensei said something like, “I’d be happy to take your money, but your son must earn the black belt.” And that’s where he took his lessons.

And we all just started cracking up, this one kid Anthony got in his face and said, “That’s not true, nobody’s dad would go out and say that. You just have to take karate because your parents love having you out of the house every week!” and everybody kept pointing and laughing, surrounding him and giving him little punches on the arm, “Go ahead karate boy! Defend yourself!” and he sat there, he just took it, he didn’t know anything about karate, that dojo was like a martial arts themed daycare for fourth graders.