Dear Grandpa,

I’ve been sitting on this for a while. I’ve saved and deleted several drafts of a letter not unlike this one, but I just can’t seem to put the words out right. I also never knew when it would be a “good” time to write to you – nearer to our birthdays, holidays, I don’t know. I guess it really doesn’t matter; you’ve been gone for nine years now. I last visited about five years ago, leaving daisies on the spot where we, the living, said our good byes. That warm June day, my cousin playing Taps, the harsh sound of the gun salute.

They were daisies because they had to be. Most people wouldn’t connect a flower with their grandfather, but I would think most people did not have someone like you. I remember the stories you told us about picking daisies in the fields on Staten Island with your sisters and friends from church, before you went off to war. When I see daisies I think of you. Did you know there were tears in my mother’s eyes when I told her I wanted daisies in my wedding bouquet? That I keep little daisy stickers on my things, like water bottles, in my car, on my desk?

I think a lot about what you’d think of me now. When you left, I was a stupid, annoying, awkward 16 year old. I would hope I’d advanced somewhat from that point. You just seemed to be able live your Navy Seabees motto “Can Do”, something I try, often stumbling, to do every day. I want to “Can Do”, too. You weren’t a famous man, you weren’t a rich man, you weren’t an educated man, but people loved you; you were a goodman. And you were good in spite of the hardship you faced: the Depression, poverty, war, working so hard for pennies, burying my grandmother young. You had this personality, a no-holds-barred way of being that drew people in. We had so many people at your funeral we needed a police escort and police to stop traffic for the procession to the cemetery.

People tell me that I’m funny. Sometimes. Alright, well, I try to be funny. You were so funny. You would grab my thigh, hard, and chuckle hard when telling jokes. You would do things like in that picture above, just because you could. The neighborhood you raised your children in had a sizable Scandinavian population, and they had (and still have) a Norwegian day celebration. I don’t know if that’s the sort of thing you were supposed to do for the occasion, but it was the kind of thing you would do. The sense of humor I have I owe in part to you. Keeping my sense of humor, being funny, being fun is keeping you with me.

I just wanted you to know.

Posted in Love | 11 Comments

Here Is New York

Depart from evil, and do good; seek peace, and pursue it.
Psalms 34:14

 Lake Michigan didn’t smell like this, I thought, as we ventured closer. I remember the day I spent on the shore of the Lake, with the Chicago skyline behind me, traipsing between the water and the sand. I could see the sunset of that evening in my memory, the way my shadow looked, stretching along the sand in the last bits of sunlight. It was beautiful. But it wasn’t me. It wasn’t this…

From here, the world was an ocean. All I could see is water and coastline, and ahead, the Manhattan skyline. The bright, cool, clear day allowed a gorgeous view of the city. The array of buildings appeared almost natural, like distant, humongous metallic trees. They looked as though the earth thrust them skyward like other natural things: flowers, mountains, and vines. The Twin Towers glistened in the sunlight. Their equal stance so far away made them appear scalable, like rectangular mountains. The Verrazano Bridge’s suspension towers glowed their light blue that day, but the huge rivets that hold it together that I’ve seen so many times up close were too far away to be seen now. The Empire State building tapered into the sky, it’s distinct shape giving it away. I nearly cried.

The characteristic noise of the city was silenced here, making it look idealized, the way I had seen it on postcards. “Ideal Beach” is given new meaning. The expansive city looked small, quiet, like it was its own island kingdom; the bay and rivers its moat, keeping out kids who grew up like we did. Kids who will always look at the city and think they would be better for being there, and not here, on this side of the moat. I could feel drawn to it, watching it, hearing the waves crash against the solid place where I stand.

Here Is New York

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Dear Boyfriend Sweater,

When the weather gets colder I love taking you off the shelf and unfolding you. I remember buying you at the Gap: a clearance priced men’s sweater, perfectly over-sized. I called you my Boyfriend Sweater. Because if I had a boyfriend and if he had a sweater, this is the one I would steal. You are one of the most comfortable things I have ever owned, even though your sleeves are about an arm length too long. And you’re sort of getting ratty. But I stand by you. Friends might say, “Oh, you’ve had that thing for years!” But I will not waiver in my devotion.

Every once in a while I’ll check out possible replacements, but I just can’t do it. I just wanted to let you know.

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Dear Alarmist Weathermen,

Everyone was saying that this storm system that’s moving through the Midwest was going to be big. Really big. Broadcast repeatedly were pictures from the Plains States of general carnage caused by the ice and snow that would surely be our doom. Desperate as I have been to spend time with friends this week, I decided not to call anyone or make plans for fear I would get stuck in the city during this impending blizzard that you had told me was going to land overnight Friday night. Friday night came and went and nothing happened. Oh, so now it was going to be overnight Saturday. Again, I thought, well, if I just go to Target, I won’t get caught in the Storm Of The Century.

What happened? Oh, nothing. It was raining. Raining. I was pissed. A friend texted me and asked what my plans were. By 7 pm I realized that the rain was certainly not snow and I should go out. The nagging suspicion that you had planted in my mind haunted me all night. On my way home the salt trucks were out and I thought – this is it. It is coming.

Sunday morning I woke up to some ice on my car, and again, I was pissed. On and off on Sunday I watched the news for the weather. Every single time, we got absolutely no information. None. Nothing of substance.

Here’s how every newscast happened:

Hairdo #1: Wow, the Bears won. Who knew? Roll that footage of drunk fans, just one more time!

[Fucking stupid tape of Bears fans celebrating in the parking lot of Solider Field]

Hairdo #2: Oh my, looks like fun! 

Hairdo #1: Cold fun!

Hairdo #2: (dead serious) And how cold will it get? Weatherman McBlowme will tell us how terrible the commute will be tomorrow – because there’s a good chance your commute will mean death.

I began to get frustrated.  But then I thought, you know what? I would love to be you. I would love to have a job where I could basically make up whatever story I wanted and broadcast it across a major metropolitan area.

Let me do a little run down of what you told me and the rest of Chicago what would happen tomorrow. Note the descrepancies:
Monday: Cloudy , snow showers early, falling temps, windy, 30 down to 25
Monday: High of 31, Low of 18, Snow gradually ends through the day.
Martin Luther King Jr Day – Light snow in the morning…then a chance of flurries in the afternoon. Snow accumulation up to 1 inch…total storm accumulation around 2 inches. Highs around 30. Northwest winds 10 to 20 mph. Chance of measurable precipitation 90 percent.
Martin Luther King Jr Day…Light snow in the morning…then a chance of flurries in the afternoon. Snow accumulation up to 1 inch…total storm accumulation around 2 inches. Highs around 30. Northwest winds 10 to 20 mph. Chance of measurable precipitation 90 percent.

I hope you’ll see that CBS and WGN were exactly the same. Which is concerning in it’s own right. I didn’t even bother with the local Fox affliate because blood started shooting out of my nose.

I guess I never realized science could be so relative. I have realized, however, that I am not the kind of person who should watch more than one newscast per day.

Oh hey, guys, next time I’m going to find you. And when I do, I’m going to beat you with your little clickers until you bleed.

Posted in Hate | 17 Comments

Dear Toothpaste Companies,

I’d like to know where you get off. For a product which your consumers are asked politely not to eat and in fact, spit out of their mouths, toothpaste is expensive. And I would consider it far from a luxury item. Far from.

 Exactly how much dough to you rake in on this racket? Because that’s what it is. A complete racket. Like, a shake down. Everyday you’re asking consumers: You want to have teeth in your head? Look like normal people? Have breath that’s delicately minty and not a concealed weapon? Pay up, suckers.

How can you sleep on your Egyptian cotton sheets in your mansions at night knowing you just charged people $3.59 for a tube of toothpaste? $3.59! That’s only about a dollar away from a pack of cigarettes! And to boot, your product claims are almost never true. You feed the consumers so much bullshit about whitening and cavity prevention and magic and unicorns and Jesus-is-coming and we keep buying this shit – because to be socially acceptable (at least in most locales) we have to! In the grand hierachy of rip-offs you are definetly third; there’s the diet industry, the bridal industry and you, toothpaste companies.

I think you should give toothpaste away for free, as a public service. And not just at the dentist’s office, nice try asshole, we already get floss. You should be required toothpaste away the way they give away condoms for free at Student Health Centers. Because, really, without the toothpaste, who is going to need the condoms? It’s the chicken and the egg fellas, better wise up.

Posted in Hate | 20 Comments