Just because I'm Mexican doesn't mean I eat beans, rice, and tacos on Thanksgiving. I've been asked on more than one occasion if my family prepares Mexican food instead of the traditional turkey, stuffing, and mashed potatoes. My mother prepares the standard American meal every year, and she does it well.
Today is the day you will begin hearing Adam Sandler's seasonal favorites on repeat. You will know intimately his feelings on the traditional holiday food, as well as some of his Jewish heroes. You will never underscore the nuance of growing up Jewish, because Sandler lays it all out for you. His free-form singing style may seem kitchy and cute, but soon it will be seared into your cerebral cortex and you will curse Adam Sandler. To ease the blow, here is a list of songs that I recommend to brighten up your holiday season (a top 10):
Alvin and the Chipmunks, "Hurry Christmas" Brenda Lee, "Rockin' Around The Christmas Tree" Chuck Berry, "Run, Rudolph, Run" Dean Martin, "Let it Snow! Let it Snow! Let it Snow!" Elvis, "Blue Christmas" Gary Hoey, "Carol of the Bells" Jose Feliciano, "Feliz Navidad" Paul McCartney, "A Wonderful Christmas Time" Run DMC, "Christmas in Hollace" Wham, "Last Christmas"
I had a pretty good day today. Only one thing pissed me off. I went to Costco where two people, obviously together, entered the store and stopped right in the middle of the entrance, blocking the path of any other customers trying to enter the store. I was one of the customers trying to enter the store. I threw out a quiet, "excuse me," but they didn't hear it. I figured that saying it again would be useless, because surely they'd realize the error of their ways and move the fuck out of my way. I waited about 5-7 seconds. The whole ordeal took up about 25 seconds of my day, but it was by far the most frustrating thing I had to deal with. There are two ways I can go from here. I can either be happy that this mundane episode was the worst part of my day, or I can focus on how inconsiderate we've become as Americans. A night's sleep will erase this from my memory, but for now, on this evening, I'm going to focus on the total lack of civic responsibility that was exhibited by my fellow Costco shoppers. I call them fellow shoppers because we live in a society. We live in a world that has to be shared with millions of people. I'm waiting for a change in consciousness in the general public. I want people to consider humanity first. I want people to believe that this world does not revolve around their individual circumstances. There is a give and take involved in this life. Life does not stop and start at your convenience...
What do you tell a casual acquaintance the day before surgery?
Good luck! - implies that there's luck involved Hope everything goes well! - why wouldn't it? I'm praying for you - sounds too dire You'll be fine - oh, so you're a doctor now? Well, if you need anything... - now is not the time for bullshit
I've run out of options. I'm going to stick with, "see you when you get back."
I would argue that Dr. Dre had as much, if not more, influence in the 1990's as Kurt Cobain and Nirvana. I'd have a hard time convincing anyone that anything on The Chronic or Doggystyle matches the musical might of anything on Nevermind or In Utero, or anything on the Unplugged album, for that matter. Three years elapsed between the release of Nevermind and Cobain's death. Over those 3 years, Nirvana redifined Rock & Roll, killed 80's big-hair bands, and invented the "grunge" consciousness. They sold millions of records and achieved international notoriety. Grunge, as a movement, was short lived. As it became more popular, it quickly transformed into a parody of itself. Towards the end of the 1990's, grunge was obscured by the popularity of rap-infused metal, the new incarnation of pop groups, and, largely, by hip-hop. Hip-hop music outpaced the growth of grunge rock and never looked back. The godfather of 1990's hip hop is Dr. Dre.
Dre invented the "gangsta rap" lexicon as a member of N.W.A. and introduced it to the mainstream, especially to suburban whites, with the release of 1992's The Chronic. Its questionable language became commonplace on the radio, television, and, most importantly, in the schoolyard. A generation of consumers grew up using terms like "bitch" and "ho" and "chronic" and "biatch." Whether you think this language is a detriment to society or not, you can not deny the saturation it reached in the 90's. The ground Dr. Dre broke, lyrically, in The Chronic, as well as with Doggystyle (as producer), became a blueprint for future rappers. Taunting enemies, celebrating excess, "repping" your hometown, and overt sexuality was the formula invented on The Chronic and reinforced by Doggystyle. In 1999, Dr. Dre released an album that would prove to be the full realization of what he had done 7 years earlier. 2001, the album, cemented Dr. Dre's reputation as one of the finest producers in popular music.
Kurt Cobain was an icon. A generation of disaffected youth were thirsty for representation, and they found it in the downtrodden and humble front-man of the stripped-down rock band from the pacific northwest. The significance of his suicide can not be underscored when considering Nirvana's legacy. There is a tendency to judge the band by a trajectory based on what they accomplished in the 3 years between the release of Nevermind and the day Kurt Cobain took his life (which was quite a lot). Culturally, much of what was considered "grunge" faded away once Nirvana no longer released albums. The guitars got lower and louder, the singing became yelling, and once again, image become important again and Rock Stars emerged (Kid Rock, Limp Bizkit, Blink 182, etc.)
In an industry that moves in cycles and waves, Dr. Dre never seemed to fade away. The movement he created became much more than that. Hip-hop grew and multiplied and took many different shapes. In a similar fashion, Rock & Roll metamorphosed after the death of "grunge." What distinguishes Compton from Seattle is that the "grunge" movement was a musical and cultural gold rush--eventually, the rivers and creeks dried up and fans were left wanting. They moved on, got tattooed and pierced, and started listening to Linkin Park. And what happened to hip-hop? The rappers became movie stars, publishers, clothing designers, and entrepreneurs. Rappers became the mavens of pop culture. Even seen an episode of Cribs?
For those of you unaware, southern California is on fire. I was speaking to a friend in Chicago last night who mentioned that he was seeing snow flurries--not quite snow, but enough speckles in the air to know that snow is on the way. It's like that, but it's not snow, it's ash. I live in Santa Monica, a good 40 miles from the nearest fire, yet, standing outside of my apartment, I can see ash falling from the sky like snowflakes. I can smell the burning in the air. The sky is gray, there's an orange hue tinting the daylight, and scent is toxic. Lives have been lost, over 20,000 acres have burned, and hundreds of homes are gone. As of right now, we're at about 30% containment of the three fires raging through southern California's Santa Barbara, Sylmar, and Orange County areas. The heat and the strong, dry winds causing a near perfect storm for large fires. It's happened many times before, and seems to be a seasonal reality here in California. It happens so often that, unfortunately, I've become desensitized to the damage being done. Local news stations air horrific moving pictures and close-ups of individual homes burning. I can't help but try to image what it would be like to see my home burning to the ground. Or my parents house burning to the ground. The place where I grew up, the place where my parents spent their lives paying for, not to mention all of the possessions inside the home. My heart goes out to these people. The few people left who can actually afford their homes, displaced, helpless, watching their American dream reduced to dust. It's heartbreaking, particularly in the context of the current economy. And still I don't think this is affecting me the way it should be. I don't know anyone who's had their house burn down. I don't have any buddies from high school or college that are out there fighting the fires. All I feel is a slight guilt that I'm carrying on pretty much as usual, and all I can think about are the little inconveniences these fires cause me: need to wash car, keep windows shut, pick up some Visine, check to see if the freeways are closed, and on and on, blah blah blah, etc. Not enough empathy, but what could I do, really, that could help? Not much, I think.
[This is the dialogue going on in my head, and it seems a little pointless.]
The devastation unfolding makes it easy for me to not give a shit about Bond making over $70MM, Brock Lesnar beating Randy Couture, and all the other news (GM/WaMu/Obama/etc.). I'm trying to keep my mind off the fires, but it's hard when every breath seems to include ash and smoke. My throat hurts, my eyes are itching, and it's scary looking outside. I'm praying (I'm Catholic) that people are safe, and that seems to be the best course of action.
The kitchen in my office has two ways of making coffee: one is to brew a full bag of coffee using a Starbucks-provided coffee maker, and the other uses one-serving sized cups that you insert into a machine that shoots hot water through it and gives you a convenient single cup of coffee without having to make a full pot. The problem with the latter is the quality of coffee, which is poor at best. Everyone drinks the actual brewed coffee first, and it's usually gone by 11AM.
So the other day I'm yawning and feel the need for a jolt of caffeine. I walk to the kitchen and see, naturally, that the preferred coffee is gone. I then prepare one of the shitty cups of coffee and begin the unsatisfied walk back to my desk. Walking into the kitchen as I leave is an important executive. When I'm about 15 feet from the kitchen, I hear, "thanks for leaving me a cup you [expletive deleted]."
Here's the deal: I didn't drink the last cup, but this person has no way of knowing I didn't. I'm a pretty recognizable person (because I'm huge). This situation is now a pockmark on my reputation with this executive. For about 3 hours after this went down, I debated whether I should go talk to this person and let them know that I didn't drink the last cup. I was prepared to apologize for not brewing a new pot. The guilt and nervousness ate away at me for the rest of the day. It's been about a week now since it happened. I'm sure things have cooled down, but I still get an uneasy feeling from this person. I've waited too long and there's nothing I can do.
I find myself adjusting my problems to fit the tools that I have at my disposal, when it should be the other way around.
In related news, I will never buy an iPhone or a Blackberry.
To begin with, talking on your cell phone in public makes you look like a douche, no matter how important the phone call is. Bluetooth technology only magnifies this.
Do not expect me to have my cell phone on me at all times. Even if I have my cell phone handy, do not expect me to answer your call. I'm not anti-cell phones, I just don't like this imposed social norm that I need to be reachable at all times. If you accidentally forget your cell phone at home when you leave the house, you shouldn't feel like an idiot, even though most of us do. I don't like that.
I don't ever want to be in a situation where work melds into my personal life. I have work hours and can be reached during those hours.
Most of all, the gift of gab is diminishing. The art of conversation is becoming less important. We have far too many filters, barriers. I'm a shy introvert, so all of these digital devices actually suit me, but I'm looking to rise above that limitation. Over the course of a regular work day, I see a mass of individuals in our cars, in our own worlds. I get to the office and I'm overloaded with emails, faxes, forms, and photocopies. I drive home and I see the same faces, worn out and beaten down by the monotony of our mcjobs. I struggle to find the humanity in all of this. I try my best not to see an unread email in my inbox, but an actual person sitting on the other end of the internet, typing that email. I try to identify with the concerns of their job. I try to understand that they have bosses, procedure, bureaucracy that they have to deal with just like I do. All of the technology is a test--are you able to see a person there, or do you just see some widget that needs to be dealt with? iPhones fuck with my head because it reduces everything you need to process into a handy little 3 inch screen. I'm tired of that. I'm tired of staring at a fucking monitor all day.
So, how does a person that uses Facebook, Twitter, RSS Feeds, blogs, etc. reconcile with all this? Besides a willingness to swallow a bit of hypocrisy, I do my best to achieve balance. I'm trying to live an actual life instead of simulating one online. Right now I'm in the middle of trying to achieve that balance, and my fear is that an iPhone would tip the scales the other way.
If you know me, you know that I have the body of a 30 year old heavyset man, but the face of a 'tween. This freaks people out, especially blackjack dealers. They can't figure me out. My state issued driver's license only makes matters worse. It must be fake. "Why does this (soon to be) 28 year old look like Baby Huey," they say.
My youthful glow is something I embrace, but the gray hairs might undermine my plan to pretend that I'm still in college. I wonder what caused them. Was it a specific moment in my life? Was it a specific time period? I've worked a couple of crappy hollywood assistant jobs, which would be the obvious culprit. Perhaps they are the result of a decade of neuroses. Perhaps I should pay attention the irony of worrying about what caused my gray hairs.
Obama won. I cried a few times. Waiting in line and voting was a profound experience. I wanted to hug the black guy standing behind me in line just because. I was proud. Even though my dad isn't black, he's a Mexican immigrant, and I can't help but think he's especially happy to be an American. I'm excited for all of the young minorities out there who now live in a country without frontiers. They can now be whatever they want to be because someone went out and proved it can be done.
President-Elect Obama makes me want to be a better citizen. Like many of the red-staters, I have concerns about the next four years and the immense challenges we face as a nation. What gives me hope is the fact that Obama has mobilized the youth of this country. They came out in record numbers to campaign for him, and they're still energized. Let's get together and volunteer, donate, rally, fight, serve, give, teach, tutor, and sacrifice. This is a call to action. We wanted him and we got him. Let's not fuck this up.