Monthly Archives: February 2014

At least it’s warm in here

I’m looking at the life support stats and I can still hear the computer’s voice in my head, even though I disabled it hours ago, it’s right there in red text and my mind automatically fills in the blanks, that gender-neutral voice, the matter-of-fact way in which it would be reading aloud to me, “Oxygen levels, twelve percent. Situation critical. Return to base immediately.” As if I needed a reminder.


It’s one of these situations I’ve only read about in cheap sci-fi, but I can’t even panic anymore. That’s it. I’m like two days from the nearest base, no other craft nearby. I don’t know what to do. I got out the spacesuit, I hooked up the suit’s oxygen to the ship’s air supply. And what did that give me, twenty extra minutes?

I mean, I guess I could hold out hope that the monitor is malfunctioning, that maybe there’s more air in here than the ship’s capable of reading. But I don’t think so, and yeah, I went through emergency protocol, right, I did every step, right? Is there something I’m missing? Because I don’t think so. I think … I turned the oxygen down, OK. That bought me an hour and a half, but I’m definitely feeling it, a little light-headed.

What else? I did the spacesuit, right? Maybe it’s better if I just crank it back up again, I mean, what’s the ideal situation? Would I rather have three and a half hours of regular oxygen levels or six and three quarters hours of what it’s currently set to right now? Either way, I’m dead. And six and three quarters hours, it’s like, I don’t have a headache right now, but I’ll definitely have a headache in an hour or two. I don’t think I want to go out with a headache.

Maybe if I could get it to five hours. I won’t have to start really freaking out for another three. Shit, this is bad. I’m still trying to piece together what happened, autopilot was on, right, it must have been a really, perfectly timed piece of debris or asteroid or whatever. And why didn’t the computer seal the leak right away? I don’t know. I have no idea if there’s any justifying this.

And I sent out the distress, right, but that doesn’t matter, they’re not going to get it until it’s too late. OK, I’ve got to stop freaking out here, I’ll have plenty of time to freak out when there’s no time left. What can I do for five hours? I’m not going to watch a movie. I guess I could watch a movie. Do I really want to zone out though? My last moments of existence? What should I be doing?

Do I want to like reflect on life? I don’t know. I don’t want to get myself bummed out here. You know it’s like whenever this stuff happens in a movie, there’s always one obvious solution that’s never obvious until right when it looks like there’s nothing that’s left to do but give up and die. But this is worse, man, it’s like I almost wish that I could give up here, but I’m still stuck on that idea, like if I just keep looking through this emergency manual, something’s going to pop out at me.

I don’t think it’s going to happen. I wish once in my life I had made an effort to pay attention to one of those artsy movies where nothing winds up working out in the end. But no, just blockbusters for me, and now I can’t turn it off, that never say die voice in my head, always banking on that happy ending. It’s crazy, man, it’s like when I found my old lock from high school, I was positive if I stared at it long enough, the combination would come back to me, and I’d start in with some random numbers, but nothing. Whatever was in there, that’s gone.

I’m fucking dead. I wish I could override the computer and just get it over with, because I don’t know, I’m trying to stay calm here but I can’t do it, I wish it were at least cold in here or something, but it’s just the oxygen that got hit, not the heat, not whatever it is that powers this stupid monitor in front of me. I don’t want to keep staring ahead at the oxygen levels, it’s going down in real time before my eyes, but it’s so slow, I’m conscious of every second and … did I mention how I can’t get the computer’s voice out of my head? And it won’t let me just cut the air, I’ll black out, I can’t believe there’s nothing stronger in this med-kit than ibuprofen and, fuck, am I getting a headache? Or is this just a freak-out headache? Maybe I’ll just pump it up, all the oxygen, whatever, an hour and a half, I’ll put on a movie, I won’t ever have to worry about how it ends, just get me nice and oxygened up here, endings are the worst part anyway, at least I’ll be comfortable, at least it’s warm in here.

A word to the protesters in the Ukraine and Venezuela

Listen, I get it, OK, what you guys are doing over there is really important, right, and we’re all behind you here, one hundred percent, OK, I myself have witnessed several behind the scenes photos posted to reddit’s front page detailing exactly what’s going on over there in Kiev. Congrats on taking the presidential mansion, dude, that’s a huge accomplishment. Because it’s a fight out there, OK, and it’s a tough fight, so stick to your guns, and know that we stand with you over here in America.


But having said all of that, and I don’t want to sound like too much of a dick here, but your protest movement is nothing compared to what we’re living under on a daily basis over here. You think Ukraine riot police are bad? Try having your own government constantly spying on you. I’m not even kidding, my buddies and I took the 4 train to an Occupy event two years ago and there were like cops on every single car. And those were just the uniformed officers. Who knows how many bodies they’ve got watching us? Reading our emails? Retweeting our tweets back to the government?

Which is why what we’re doing over here is so much more nuanced and complicated – and ultimately more important – than what you guys are dealing with over there. Think about it. The Ukraine. Russia. The former Soviet Union. You guys have been dealing with overtly totalitarian regimes for ages. Now you’ve got a bunch of students holding a sit-in near your version of Tahrir Square. That’s cool, and again, stand strong brothers. But also again, that’s nothing compared to what we’re dealing with.

At least you’ve got an enemy to protest against. You’ve got the police. There’s the riot gear. Let’s protest. Let’s take over this mansion. That’s too easy. You know what we’ve got to do? We have to congregate at random spots downtown, right, and then the cops have like seventy-five percent of the street blocked off, so there’s not really a lot of room, and the hot dog guys are always on the other side of the barricades, so if you want a Gatorade, yeah, the cops will let you out to buy one, but they won’t let you back in. It’s fascism over here. But a subtle fascism.

Yeah, it’s so easy for all of you, in Kiev, in Venezuela, don’t think I’m forgetting about Venezuela, again, I’m very up-to-date in regards to everything that’s going on, you know, all of the stuff that the big media doesn’t want me to see. I’m seeing it all, right here on the Internet. And I’m telling you, you guys are like an Occupy farm team. Which isn’t bad, OK, I’m just saying, you guys are all like, “We’re on the front lines of the revolution!” and I’m like, we are the revolution, man. OK?

We’re like the birthplace of freedom, of democracy. Whereas you guys are getting your first taste of independence, we’re taking it back, right, we’re drawing a line in the sand. What happens here echoes through eternity, and I would argue that the protests in Ukraine, in Colombia, Latvia, right, you guys are all like field experiments. But over here there are real issues with serious consequences.

And what’s with all of the brute force? I was down at Zuccotti one day and this roving troupe of street dancers put on a quasi-experimental movement piece about violence and thuggery, the heavy hand of the state cracking down on the yearning voices of its citizens. It was powerful. Unfortunately the very nature of the piece prevents me from really giving a detailed description of what it was like, or the emotions it evoked in nearly everyone in attendance, including some police, I’m pretty sure I saw one cop tearing up. At least, I think it was a cop. It could have been a protester dressed like a cop, you know, making a statement. Or it could have been an undercover cop dressed like a protester dressed like a cop. You see? This is what we’re dealing with over here. Nothing is simple. Nothing is black and white. Not like in the Ukraine, where it’s easy, or in Caracas, where it’s even easier, good and bad, right and wrong. Over here, you just get lost in the maze, OK, and I’m talking both literally and figuratively, right, the figurative maze that is this ethical quagmire, and also the literal maze, the one that I was talking about before, with the police barricades and hot dog guys.

I’m just saying.

Come on, Bill, give me a call, for real

Dear Bill Simmons:

I’m not going to lie, I thought I would’ve had a full-time job at Grantland by now. Which is … well, whatever, you’ve probably got hundreds of would-be employees dedicating full columns on their blogs every week begging you to give them a shot as staff writers on one of the greatest sports and pop culture web sites of all time. I guess I’m just going to have to wait here patiently until you realize I’m exactly the writer you guys need to elevate Grantland to the next level.


No, even higher up, at least three levels higher than where you guys are currently at. And don’t get me wrong, it’s a great site. I’m not trying to say that it’s necessarily lacking in anything, you know, besides me as a staff writer. Bill, I’m like Butch Goring on the 1980 New York Islanders. Would they have gone on to win four Stanley Cups in a row without Butch? I mean, they still would have been a championship caliber team, so maybe. But then again, maybe not.

That’s me Bill, I’m the missing piece of the puzzle at Grantland. I get along great with everybody. Just think, you could’ve sent me to Sochi and I could’ve gained inside access to behind-the-scenes operations and special guests interviews. Like who? Like, I don’t know, maybe President Putin? Why not? I could have done it. Sure, I don’t speak any Russian, but I speak a better language: the all-encompassing dialogue of friendship.

And English. Seriously, everybody speaks English. I would’ve just kept walking in his direction pretending that I’m a lost American tourist, and then when I got close enough, I would’ve whipped out a microphone and my Grantland press pass and I would have been like, “How do you justify the use of authoritarian tactics on your own people? Why didn’t that fifth Olympic ring open up like it was supposed to? Where’s the rest of that meteor that fell out of the sky last year?”

His guards would immediately spring to action, holding up walkie-talkies, trying to restrain me and drag me out of the building. But Vladimir would stop, because despite whatever the international community says about him, he’s a man that respects power. He’d look me in the eye and he’d say something in Russian, at which all of the guards would release me. Some other Russian guy would come up to me and say something like, “President Putin admires your courage. You will be granted exclusive interview. Where are you from, the Times? New Yorker?”

And I’d just say, “Grantland.” Of course I’d call you up immediately and give you the exclusive. Just think about how much worldwide coverage you’d get, Bill Simmons, one-on-one with Vladamir Putin. And that’s just the start. If you go back to my 1980s New York Islanders analogy, I’ll keep getting better and better, our working relationship, hopefully I’ll grow to earn your respect just like I would have the Russian President.

I’m getting carried away. Who knows if you’ve even read any of these letters yet? My big worry is that I’m going to be doing it for years, letter after letter, and then one week I’m going to go on vacation or something. I’ll say, eh, I guess I could just skip one week. I mean, what are the chances that Bill Simmons is going to discover my blog on the one day that I decided not to post him an open letter? And then that would be exactly the day that you’d find your way here.

And seeing nothing of immediate interest, you’d scan my pages of text before writing me off as just another amateur Internet guy. After maybe ten or fifteen seconds, you’d click x on the web browser before you even got a chance to see all of these letters, to you Bill. Obviously I’d have no way of ever knowing if that were to be the case, but I have a pretty vivid imagination, and just the possibility of that happening is enough to keep me writing every week, regardless of if I’m on vacation or not. And that’s what I’ll bring to Grantland. I’ll work around the clock, never taking a break, barely sleeping, I’ll throw all other relationships and activities to the curb and make being one of your staff writers my only priority.

Let’s do it Bill. Call me up. Maybe you can get me to Sochi before the gold medal hockey game.


Rob G.

Open yourself up and get out there

You’ve got to be open to trying new things, lots of new things. You start getting complacent in life, doing the same old stuff every day, pretty soon everything’s boring, you’re sitting at your computer for four hour stretches at a time, the days are blending into the nights and you can’t remember off the top of your head what day of the week it is, what time you have to start getting ready for work, you’re getting all of these text messages from your boss like, “Are you coming in? You’re supposed to be here right now. Where are you?”


And so yes, text him back, tell him that you got mugged on the way to work or something like that, like they stole your wallet, luckily not your cell phone, because … OK, yeah, don’t text, just show up at work, maybe look a little purposefully disheveled, and tell him that the mugger stole your cell phone too.

No, you really can’t use a trick like this more than once a year. And so while you’re in the bathroom splashing some cold water on your face, staring at a reflection in the mirror that’s looking less familiar every day, telling yourself, all right man, just really, really make an effort to show up to work on time, just really make it a point not to be late again, also, at the same time, think about getting involved in some new activities. You’ve got to get out there and try some new things.

Lots of things. Like, I don’t know. Why don’t you take a cooking class? That could be fun, right? You can learn all sorts of different ways to prepare food. And then when you wake up in the morning, you can start thinking about going to the store, and buying all of those fresh ingredients. Do you remember what that okra looked like? Will they have okra at the regular grocery store? Actually, you probably should have gotten up a little earlier. You can’t expect to go to the grocery store, cook a whole meal, and still be on time for work. Just go to Subway, just grab a sandwich, just remember you’ve really got to be in on time today.

But don’t stop thinking about all of those new activities you’re going to get involved in. Life is what you make of it, right? Right. What about hockey? You used to play hockey in high school, right? Well, there you go, get involved. Or don’t get involved, I didn’t realize how expensive ice time was. And yeah, I didn’t really think about the cost of buying all new equipment. You sure you won’t be able to find any of your old stuff at home? No, I guess I don’t have a lot of my old high school stuff either.

What about tennis though? That can’t be as expensive as hockey. Just go on craigslist and find an old racket, nothing too old, but come, you’ve got to be able to find something decent online. Do you know how many people are constantly taking up new activities? I guarantee you that there’s got to be at least ten people within a five block radius that have made a commitment to get involved in a new activity, probably tennis. They buy brand new rackets, they sign up for a free intro lesson at the tennis center, and then it’s like ten months later and that racket hasn’t been taken out the case at all, it’s practically brand new still, just waiting to be plucked for a totally lowball offer on craigslist.

Look, I’m not saying it has to be tennis. It could be anything. Carpentry. Guitar lessons. Running. Gardening. Is anything sounding cool here? Anything jumping out at you? Painting. Bird watching. I don’t know man, you just keep shaking your head no, it’s like, what do you want to do? Huh? Because for me anyway, it’s like, I won’t really get into something until I at least give it a shot. And so what if you don’t like it after a while? Try something else.

You want to play video games all day? Well, I mean I guess that’s something. You could play online, right? You could talk with some of the other gamers. That’s an activity. Yeah. Making popcorn, sure, that’s something else. Think about people living three, four hundred years ago. I doubt they made popcorn. And if they did, they definitely weren’t making it in a bag in the microwave. No man, just count your blessings, don’t forget to look on the bright side. Is this helping? Are you feeling a little better? Just, after you’re done with that next level, let’s go for a walk, OK? Or tomorrow, sure, just, you let me know when you’re ready to get out there, OK? The world is your oyster, OK! Well, I was just speaking figuratively, there aren’t any oysters, not really. But if you’ve never had an oyster, you should definitely at least try it. Yeah it’s got a really weird texture, but I’m telling you, you get used to that briny taste, you start to really like it man, or you can just add some lemon juice and Tabasco until it doesn’t seem so weird just slurping it out of the shell like that.

Lick it

The other day I was messing around on my electric guitar when the distortion cut out. After a few minutes of troubleshooting, I figured out that the nine-volt battery powering my pedal must have finally died out. I collapsed, so totally defeated. In a split second, the universe had taken away from me everything that was going on at that very moment. I was sitting down, I was in my pajamas, I was strumming along to all of my favorite nineties alt-rock hits.

photo (4)

And now, what, I’d have to get up? Brush my teeth? Walk to Rite Aid and buy another battery? Because even though I’m pretty sure that I didn’t have any spare nine-volt batteries lying around my house, even if I did have one hidden somewhere, there was absolutely no shot that I’d be able to narrow down where it might be, let alone commencing a search and then successfully finding it.

No, and I couldn’t sit around either. If I let this go, if I just put down my guitar and told myself that I’d do it later, then it would never happen. I’d lose all momentum, the buying of a nine-volt battery at Rite Aid would become one of those background chores to my life, something that would only pop up on my mental to-do list once in a while, very rarely, almost surely at sometime around three in the morning right before I’d drift off to sleep, oh yeah, I’d remember, the battery, maybe I’ll do that tomorrow.

It was either I got up and got dressed and went out and bought that battery right that second, or I might as well kiss my guitar playing goodbye. Well, my electric guitar playing anyway. I’m sure I’d still mess around with my acoustic, but it’s not the same, not always. Sometimes you want to play Tool covers, and on an acoustic, everything winds up coming out all Unplugged in New York.

So I did it, I surprised myself even, standing up, putting on a pair of pants, I couldn’t believe I was not only envisioning a plan of action, but I was well on my way to actually executing the steps necessary for me to step out of the house and get done what I needed to get done. I walked through the door of Rite Aid, everything was so much easier than I had made it out in my head when I was sitting there at my desk in my pajamas, it was like a two minute walk, and look, the batteries were right there.

I was worrying like I wouldn’t be able to find where the batteries were, that I’d have to walk up and down every aisle, maybe one of the workers would see me wandering around clueless, they’d ask me, “Do you need any help? Are you OK?” and I’d be like, “Uh … batt … batteries? I need uh … a nine-volt? Nine-volt battery?” regretting immediately my jumbled choice of words. Why couldn’t I just ask for the batteries? Why did I have to get way too specific in my nine-volt request? Was I expecting the worker to not only lead me to the battery section, but to come back to my house and show me how to replace the old one?

No, the batteries were right there, I didn’t have to continue imagining how awkward any of those situations might get. And yeah, the nine-volt batteries only came in a two-pack, but whatever, ten bucks, sure, that’s not too expensive. I didn’t even spend ten dollars on lunch. Even though I didn’t really need two nine-volt batteries, There wasn’t much of an option. It was buy two or buy zero, and I couldn’t very well buy zero batteries, not after having already accomplished so much. Returning home empty handed, no way, it would have scarred me, I could envision a future scenario, me just about to head out the door for some small errand, I’d think back to the zero battery Rite Aid trip of February 2014 and I’d retreat, never mind, I could tell myself, I don’t need to leave the house.

I made it home, I took out the old battery and put in the new one. It was great. Except, now I had this extra nine-volt battery hanging out on my desk, the surplus from the two-pack. Should I put it away somewhere? I thought, wherever I decide to store this battery, there’s absolutely no way I’m going to be able to find it, years from now, the next time this distortion pedal on my guitar runs out of juice. But I can’t just keep it here, collecting dust. There’s too much temptation.

I can’t stop thinking about licking it. You ever do that when you were a little kid, lick the end of a nine-volt battery? I don’t know why, I guess it has something to do with science, but you get a shock on your tongue. The thing is, I haven’t actually licked a nine-volt battery in years. I’m pretty sure it was decades, probably like twenty years ago. I don’t remember what that shock felt like. Did it hurt? Was my tongue buzzing for the rest of the day?

The next thing I know I was holding the spare nine-volt in my hands, just inches away from my face. I stuck out my tongue, thought about what I’d need to actually do, like what muscles I’d need to move to make my idea a reality. But I couldn’t do it. There was something inside of me, a fear? Was I afraid? I was. I could feel it. I resolved to do it, I’d lick the battery right there, I’d get past my fear of a little tongue shock.

But I couldn’t do it. No matter how hard I tried, there was some sort of a force, a barrier of fear preventing me from jerking my hand the two inches necessary to complete the circuit with my tongue sticking out of my mouth. I started freaking out. What’s happening to me? First, I’m a little kid and I’m doing whatever I want. The next thing I know, I’m a grown man, I’m almost thirty years old, and I’m too scared to lick the end of nine-volt battery. What’s next? Am I going to all of the sudden lose confidence in my bike riding skills? What other abilities is the crippling fear of life going to rob from me next?

But then I thought, wait a second, this would a pretty funny picture, the battery, my tongue. So I took a selfie on my phone and put in on Facebook and Instagram with the caption, “I’ll do it. I swear to God, I’ll do it.” And it was pretty successful, you know, in terms of social networking. I got like twelve likes. And look at this, it wasn’t even noon and I was already out of my pajamas, basically fully dressed. Talk about carpe diem, this day had officially been seized.

Still, that battery is right here on the desk, right as I’m typing this. And I’ve mostly put it out of my head. But every once in a while it’ll pop out of the background and talk to me, “Come on Rob. Give me a lick. Don’t be such a little pantywaist. Lick me.” And I can’t. I just can’t do it.