Sunday, December 11, 2011

Why America Needs Tim Tebow's Faith

America needs Tim Tebow. In the midst of a deep recession, a national mood of cynicism, a farcical election campaign and a supposed apocalypse in 2012, Tebow inspires. Before watching his magical 20 yard touchdown run to beat the New York Jets in the last seconds of the game, I could have cared less about the Denver Broncos and their anemic season. Tebow's flagrant proclamations of his faith in the media and on field demonstrations of piety have inspired both ridicule and awe on a global level: see I'm sure God doesn't care if the Broncos win or lose, but Tebow's evangelical zeal has given him unwavering faith in himself. He is neither arrogant nor egotistical and with Tebow at the helm, Denver has won 6 of its past 7 games. Sports pundits across the nation have scratched their heads in disbelief as a quarterback with terrible mechanics and a low pass completion percentage continues to win games against formidable opponents. Of course, if he were losing, he would simply be the laughingstock of the nation.
Karl Marx wrote that "Religion is the opiate of the masses." When I think of evangelicals, Ted Haggert of the New Life Church comes to mind. His relationship with a drug dealing male prostitute exposed his true hypocritical nature. I think of crazed humans speaking in tongues awaiting the rapture to save them from this earth filled with sinners. But faith in a higher power channeled into service to humanity has given us our most iconic figures. Preacher Martin Luther King catalyzed the civil rights movement; Mother Teresa served God in the form of the the most destitute human beings; Gandhi harnessed his profound faith to free India from British Colonialism. Tim Tebow merely passes a football. He's no saint, but his purity of spirit in raising the level of his team's play, despite the obvious flaws in his game, make him an inspirational leader. As the recession churns on and America's zeitgeist plummets further downward, the powerful optimism of a young quarterback is worth paying attention to.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Sports vs. Politics

It's been a long winter in the mancave. The damp air and heavy grey skies have fostered this sudden introspection like so many young poets with dank body odor and unwashed dreads in Seattle coffee shops. Now that Osama bin Laden is dead and buried at sea, I now feel safe enough to express myself to the world at large. As an International Affairs student at CU for several years, I paid rapt attention to NPR, the New York Times, CNN and the BBC. I noticed that after 4 hours of piping news into my brain, I'd feel depressed and helpless. My attention these days is on the NBA playoffs and the nascent Colorado Rockies baseball season. A game offers a controlled environment with a definite outcome: someone either wins or loses. Although the same could be said about politics, the geopolitical field is so vast and complex that no one really knows what's going on. Pundits speculate, politicians prevaricate, and bloggers bloviate all to the effect of confusing the end consumer: us. Whenever I engage in political debates, the person I'm debating and I have a sense of oppositional self-importance. We have our opinions, based on myriad media sources - but in the end we have no idea what we're talking about. In sports, we are either for or against a particular team. In baseball, you have 9 men on the field, in basketball, 5. The rules are complex, but knowable. The political field is anarchic, unquantifiable and frustrating. Only elections have a satisfying sense of gamesmanship, where candidates vie for seats based on the electorate's choices (or whoever owns the Diebold voting machines).

The last time I turned on CNN our cunning Navy Seals were offing the world's most wanted man and masses of patriotic Americans were celebrating outside the White House walls. Thus the end game of the Global War on Terror initiated by George W. That game lasted 10 years. An average baseball or basketball game is less than 3 hours, commercial breaks included (or half that time on DVR). And now that bin Laden is gone, do you really think we've ended the GWOT?
The NBA playoffs, now in their 7 game format, seem endless. But in June when the finals are finally over, a victor will emerge. Sports have few real life consequences, unless you're the guy squashed under a mob of people in a soccer stadium. You pay to get in, you get entertained for a couple hours and you leave. The athletes get rich and pumped with steroids and we read about them in the daily paper or follow them in fantasy leagues. When our team loses we are momentarily sad. When they win, we're elated. When the Rockies made it to the 2007 World Series, I had a renewed sense of childhood glee unlike anything I've ever experienced.
I still listen to the news or pick up a Sunday Times on occasion. I would argue that we'd be much happier human beings without 24/7 bombardment of negativity. The kooky and brilliant astrologer Rob Brezny wrote a book "Pronoia, the Antidote to Paranoia- How the Whole World is Conspiring to Shower you with Blesssings" I saw Brezny in Boulder a few years ago on his tour to promote the book; he busted out a rap-like list of all the good things happening in the world that day that one never hears about. Although it's hard to convince a holocaust survivor that "It's all good", optimism and attention to positive thoughts are powerful medicine.
Meanwhile, I'll be looking forward to Dirk Nowitzski's next 48 point performance in an NBA playoff game, or the Rockies' Carlos Gonzales, the 2010 NL batting champion, hitting another 453 ft. homerun. These athletes won't end terrorism, get us out of the recession, pay off trillions of dollars of national debt, keep China from becoming the next world hegemon, solve immigration reform or reduce crime rates, but I'll sure have fun watching them.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

A Jewish Christmas to Forget

I tried to make Christmas go away this holiday season. Since I’m mostly Jewish, Christmas doesn’t mean too much to me and my strategy for this season was to avoid it entirely. Most of my friends, and my girlfriend, were out of town, rendering the day nearly moot. Christ was reportedly born in the summer anyway, so December 25th seems like historical fiction. The only bright spot on a day reserved for excessive amounts of eggnog and piles of non-recyclable wrapping paper for me was the thought of a traditional Jewish Christmas dinner: Chinese take-out. I called my favorite Chinese restaurant around the corner from my house several times during the day only to get their answering machine. The other two most popular Asian restaurants in town, one serving Chinese food, the other Vietnamese, had lines of hungry Jews literally out the door. It was worth just seeing that many kindred children of Abraham enduring an hour plus wait to chow down on the holiday. I decided to Google map the closest Chinese take-out and found Jin Chan. It had gotten rave reviews by at least one internet pundit and I was running out of options. The chef who’d been cooking up masterful cuisine for more than 35 years was lauded on the site. When I entered the dingy fluorescently lit hole in the wall, a brusque young guy at the counter took my order. 5 minutes later a balding man, stooped over came out with my bag of food – perhaps he was the master chef. He looked like he could have been an elder assassin from a Tarantino flick. My Yuletide spirit was ebbing low that evening, and I opened my paper bag full of anticipation. The Kung Pao vegetables were overcooked. Pallid broccoli without its deep forest green patina; oversteamed peanuts; brown sauce that had the consistency of watered down soy sauce; bamboo shoots as tough as Saran wrap. I ate the food trying to project a kind of optimistic Jewish faith upon it. “It’s not so bad.” In fact, I called it mediocre in my mind. We are long suffering people. We are the people who’ve always been chased out of our ancestral dwellings on forced migrations – and worse. But in paradisiacal Boulder, we are entitled to great Chinese food on Christmas Day. I wasn’t. I redeemed the evening by watching The Town. In the Christmas zeitgeist I should have watched “It’s a Wonderful Life” or something with a morally redeeming theme. But I wasn’t looking for inspiration, only entertainment. I made the day pass. It’s only one day out of the year. Next Christmas I’m going to order my meal from my favorite Chinese restaurant the day before Christmas and reheat it the next day.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

A Thanksgiving Upheaval

The night after a meal at my favorite Indian Restaurant in New York, the entire contents of my stomach heave onto the pillow on my childhood bed. My mom makes the bed with the same sheets and pillowcases from 1975 – the ones with the prints of the Grand Canyon on them. The mattress is still surprisingly comfortable, but my adolescent bedroom has been converted into a drab storage room. The stench of ammonia leaks from the closet where my mother stores woolens. The walls have never been painted; there are blotches of spackling paste dotting the dirty, mottled surface of the old plaster. My father’s bizarre black and white photos of a Manhattan mannequin shop decorate the room. There are file folders full of memorabilia stacked on the perimeter, which leaves a small patch of the 70s brown shag carpet, thoroughly worn and matted after 40 years. My mom refuses to throw anything out.

I have food poisoning or perhaps a stomach virus that is causing me to lose everything from both major orifices. Although my mom is 83 and wears a prosthetic leg, she fetches a plastic container from the kitchen but I’ve already puked the entire contents of my stomach onto the Grand Canyon pillowcase, the old shag carpet, the soiled rug that leads to the bathroom and all over the vintage 1950s pink tile of their bathroom. It’s total visceral carnage. My mom remains calm, concerned, and says she’ll take care of the mess but I don’t want her to clean up after me – even at her age, the maternal instinct is intact. At age 50 I’m standing in my t-shirt and undershorts, covered in puke and she cares more about me than the mess- that is, until she realizes the next morning that I’ve put the thoroughly vomit soaked 40 yr. old pillow in the washing machine. She stares at me with her nearly alien green-eyed scowl- the same look she gave me as a child that terrified me. Now it just pisses me off. I rarely am angry about anything, but mom can push the old buttons. The conversation goes somewhat like this: “You DON”T put the pillow in the washing machine, it will ruin it!” (big scowl, green-eyed stare, ugly throat noises).

“Mom, it’s a FUCKING 40-year old pillow…it’s GARBAGE. Why the FUCK do you want to keep all this old shit in your house. Especially a puked-on pillow!”

I always tease my mom that when she dies I’m going to get a 30-yard dumpster and throw all the shit out that she’s saved since 1968: stacks of National Geographics, New York Times, a plaid cotton hammock that would fall apart if anyone sat in it, a horrendously ugly sculpture of an ant I made in second grade that sits on my shelf. Even my sister has picked up her habit of never letting go of anything. She has clippings from the Mets 1986 World Series victory pasted all over her bedroom door.

The argument continues. Mom yells, “It’s MY house and I get to decide what I do with the pillow!”

I yell back, “Mom, do you realize how FUCKING stupid this argument is, how absurd it is that we are screaming about this $10 pillow!!”

“We don’t have the money to buy another pillow!!!”

The old money argument comes up again. I know now why I didn’t pay taxes for 17 years. My mom went into a catatonic state every April when taxes were due. She drilled into my mind that we never had enough money. Taxes seemed to be the worst evil in a life that a human being would have to face.

“Mom, you’re just being a bitch because you want to have control over everything and everyone!!” My dad is standing in the bedroom next door and chimes in “you can’t talk to your mother that way.” And my mom yells back, “How dare you talk to me like that!!”

He’s always been passive-aggressive. He’s always ceded to her authority. He’d fight back in their endless character assassinations of each other when I was younger, but now on a cocktail of anti-depressants, he’s more submissive. My sister is in her room about to have a meltdown because she always does when my dad is about to take her back to the group home she lives in 20 minutes away. At age 48, her emotional age is closer to 12. She was diagnosed as having a lack of oxygen to her brain when she was born and thus, mildly retarded. She’s a sweet soul and pure of heart, but still a child. She is yelling and adding to the fray and I yell back at her, “Shut the fuck up.” I don’t think I’ve ever said that to her. She breaks down and cries. My dad leaves to take her back home and I walk around the house to cool down. Five minutes later I hug my mom and tell her I’m sorry and I love her and we both laugh. She has no hard feelings. I tell her I will mail her another pillow. She doesn’t care anymore.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

I would so date you.........but

I've heard it in dance clubs, from a chance encounter with a professional matchmaker and a woman I fell in love with this summer: "You're just not ready yet." But my favorite line is from one 30-year old cutie who writes a dating blog who told me in a deeply inebriated state, "I'd so make-out with you and date you but you're damaged goods." I didn't even have to make the determination myself; women just tell me it's too soon after 12 years of virtual matrimony for me to be emotionally available for someone else. I've heard the formula for waiting one month for every year you're in relationship - it kind of makes sense. After rebounding from a 4-year relationship into an 8-year one, I determined this time around that I would wait some time before committing to the next one.
The fear that arises at the end of a breakup is universal: you conjure images of a life of involuntary solitude involving a lot of T.V. dinners, dateless Saturday nights and going to movies alone. You feel like you'll never be loved again, that you're too old, fat, bald (don't have that problem) or out of practice to meet someone. You feel like you'll lose the security and comfort of something so safe and familiar. Those fears kept me from leaving my last relationship for at least a couple of years before I made the commitment to end my ambivalence.

Back in March, on my first weekend of singledom, I found myself at Happy Noodle with a male friend who was determined to mentor me through my new found freedom. Like a patient who'd just gotten his tooth drilled (I have lots of experience with that) and had yet to experience the pain when the novocaine wears off, I was in a state of bliss after my breakup. Enter the New Jersey Jewess in full princess mode who had high leather ass kicking boots up to her mid-thighs, carefully cultivated eyebrows, a good dose of make-up and a voice like J-Lo. At the bar she overheard me say I’d just broken up with my girlfriend; she stared at me with her hazel eyes and demanded to know what had happened. I began the odyssey of telling her about my past 2 relationships….and she told me about her past one which she was still getting over. She is a matchmaker by trade, a Sex-In-The -Wrong–City girl with no apologies for aggressively and directly stating her point -and I loved every minute of her Jersey girlness as I have a long history of Jersey women in my life. She said that if a man breaks up with her he can just go eat shit and die because he doesn’t value her. Like me, Jackie is a Scorpio and not afraid of a 2 hour intense penetrating conversation that spanned the realms of astrology, madams, escorts, ex-lovers and most amusing, the list of men that she had to sleep with before she could get married (which hasn't happened yet). She had recently completed the list by doing a very attractive black man she’d met at a conference in Florida who unfortunately had a small cock. She demystified the notion of black men’s prowess saying “I just had to find the only black guy on the planet with a small penis.” Penis size became an important part of the conversation as she told me about donkey dong, the guy with the 10” schlong. I asked if she’d gotten her cervix split by him but she apparently handled him. Somehow, women have a desire to tell me everything. Someday maybe that can earn me some money. Then she went on to talk about the big dick swagger. Well endowed men walk into a room feeling important and secure. She feels she’s now an expert at sizing up a man before exposing the goods. As a professional matchmaker, she knew just the right woman for me. I didn't know if it was going to cost me hundreds, or thousands, to meet this supposed soulmate, but she wouldn't divulge who this potential future mate was because she thought I needed at least a year to be ready for another relationship.

I’m now almost 8 months into the void, and, well, there’s been quite a marked absence of exploring voids. I’ve stumbled through dating like an awkward zit-infested teenager with a cracking voice; as a serial monogamist, I’ve been accustomed to the next female suddenly appearing in my life and becoming a long term partner. I’ve always viewed dating as an artificial construct involving awkward blind dates, dead-ends and forced conversations with women who you’ll never see again. I’ve never understood why people refer to long-term live-in relationships as “dating.” But now I’ve warmed up to the sociological meaning of dating. It’s a Darwinistic enterprise in which you check-out the opposite gender to ultimately breed and further existence on the planet. In the process, pheromones are excreted, pre-mating dances occur and a choice is made. In my previous and now shattered belief system, I just waited for karma to roll around and jettison the right person out of the ethers to shack up with.

It took about 4 months of solitude to be ready to ask someone on a date – and I went the safe route, choosing a woman I knew had been attracted to me. It went well, but a few days later I met another woman I believed to be the ONE. Our first date, a hike, was pure magic and we’d planned a whole summer together that first day. She was one of the most gorgeous, elegant women I’d ever met, and I thought I’d just been handed the keys to the golden door. I was so convinced that she was it and that we were meant to be together, that I wasn’t listening to her: that she really wasn’t ready for me and that she wasn’t sure she wanted a relationship at this point in her life. She also thought it was too soon for me coming out of a major relationship to be involved with someone so seriously. She tried to get me to lighten up, to just have fun and enjoy knowing one another. But in my serial monogamist style, I honed in on her and tried to make her my woman. I enlisted a psychic, a couple friends who were well versed in astrology and my community to affirm that I had a future with this beautiful soul. I generally trust my instincts and live intuitively – by this measure, I was 100% sure that we would come together – I felt that everything in the known universe pointed in that direction. Despite my powerful desire, and a summer of dating one another, a relationship wasn’t materializing. I had to accept the painful realization that it wasn’t going to happen despite the potential that we both acknowledged was there. I had built a glass house around her and projected its image into the world. When the brick of reality hit the house, it shattered at my feet.

So what to do with all that heartache from an unrealized dream? I unblocked my profile, and met a tall, sexy German woman in Denver. After 3 dates it’s going really well. I have no expectations of what might happen – we’re just really comfortable in one another’s presence, so much so that I find I don’t have to say much. Now all I have to do is refrain from using my faux German accent around her.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

The Random Dude

Sometimes, truth is stranger than fiction – or at least, the two merge when you least expect it. Last night after a Rockies game my friend Heather and I stumble upon Fado, an Irish bar in Lodo. She challenges me to a contest to see which one of us can score the phone number of someone of the opposite gender first. At least a hundred people crowd the dance floor undulating to tunes from a leather clad 80s cover band. Before I push my way into the throng of dudes with Rockies T-shirts and caps and women who try just a little too hard to look good, a bachelorette party of mostly large females clad in matching black dresses with embroidered pink closures on the back detains me. The bachelorettes have printed cards of all the night’s activities and I show up at the precise moment when their schedule dictates a photo-op with a Random Dude hugging the bride to be. Last week, I’d just defined Random Dude on after a friend of mine going through a divorce appeared in an untagged Facebook photo with an unidentified ski bum. The almost betrothed redhead, who appears to be from solid Irish peasant stock, explains to me how she was engaged to the father of one of her bridesmaids before she met her fiancee (who showed up at the end of the night in dad jeans and a polo shirt looking like Stu from The Hangover). I scratch my head for a minute contemplating the implications of this. After the photo-op, Heather and I work our way to the edge of the stage. She notes that Denver’s fashion legacy is based on “a tradition of gold miner’s prostitutes and Cowtown bling, with all the style and grace of large farm animals branded with a Bedazzler.” Heather throws down her best go-go girl moves until a woman who's as wide as she is tall requests that we vacate our dance space. The second bachelorette party moves in, and I am pushed towards the bride-to-be by the aforementioned woman. This fiancĂ©e looks strikingly like the first one in her non-strikingness. She stares blankly at my face so I turn around and butt dance with her for a couple minutes. I then force my way through the crowd that is electrified by the Duran Duran and Billy Idol covers seeking a potential phone number from any 30-something woman with big hair and Bedazzled clothing in order to win my bet. Heather makes a last ditch effort with a tall dude in a checkered shirt, explaining to him that she’s trying to win this contest by getting his phone number. She is flatly rejected and they call her “crazy.” I’m waiting outside having fulfilled my Random Dude status with two brides already and Heather pulls me in to explain to these guys that she’s not crazy, just trying to win a bet. The checkered shirt dude and his friend are as emotionally pliable as hardened, already chewed bubble gum. Heather and I reflect on how neither of us could possibly be attracted to someone without a certain light of intelligence emanating from them. Although the brainpower at Fado’s was absent, the bride presence was uncanny.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

It Feels Like the First Time

We come spinning out of nothingness, scattering stars like dust – Rumi

It’s almost midnight. My date and I have consumed nearly two bottles of Argentinian wine after a 5 hour dinner and as midnight strikes she yawns and announces her desire to go home. I have one more desire and contemplate how to make my move.

In late July we met in front of the St. Julien Hotel in Boulder. I first saw her at a party last year, but I didn’t really SEE her. Seeing that is, in the Avatarian sense where the Navi with their pure primitive hearts and telepathic minds recognize one another’s souls. She stood at the entryway as I approached, as if she were waiting for me. We chatted briefly and she handed me her card. A few days later we were hiking, chatting and glowing. Two weeks later, we were reminiscing about meeting at the St. Julien. It’s an odd phenomenon that when we have an experience we are not necessarily conscious of the subtle thought forms and energies that we have perceived in that moment. But in retrospect I saw the essence of this woman then– ageless, elegant, gorgeous, radiant and proud. She appeared as a brilliant meteor that fell from the Perseid showers onto the circular pavestones where valet attendants take the keys of the well- heeled clientele.

By our second date, she’d given me a printout of the 12 stages of courtship: a road map to committed love. The stages are as follows, and are relevant throughout the duration of a committed relationship:

1. Noticing - seeing what is attractive in others and being conscious of the desirable traits in a long-term partner.

2. Attraction- curiosity and desire about the physical, emotional and intellectual traits of others.

3. Flirtation - playfulness, seductiveness and social cues that send signals of interest.

4. Demonstration – of prowess in athleticism, dressing to please the other person.

5. Romance – the ability to experience, express and receive passion.

6. Individuation – in a healthy relationship, each individual feels free to be who they are without fear of disapproval or control by the other (wow, I’d love to experience this).

7. Intimacy – the “attachment” phase in which a relationship deepens in its meaning and integrity.

8. Touching- the healing physical touch that requires trust, care and judgment.

9. Foreplay – holding, fondling, kissing and sexual play that build tension and eroticism

10. Intercourse – surrender to passion; to let go and trust yourself and your partner to be vulnerable.

11. Commitment- the ability to bond or attach to another. In contrast, addiction is the failure to bond.

12. Renewal- the capacity to sustain the above dimension in an existing relationship.

“Successful couples continue courtship, continue to show the other they are a worthy partner, continue to make efforts to attract their mate, and continue to express the value they have for each other.”

I’ve studied these two sheets of paper for some weeks, contemplating the meaning within each stage. I responded by sending her the Borat version of courtship in which his cross-country trip ends in an attempt to steal Pamela Anderson from L.A.

I don’t know what this meeting of our two souls will be – but she wants to explore it slowly. A part of me wants to dive in headfirst for the exhilaration of falling in love. As I am prone to project fantasy into the future, she grounds me in the moment. Robert Johnson wrote in his book “Owning Your Own Shadow” that falling in love is a disservice to the lover because one projects their happiness upon another person. Then when the intoxication of falling in love fades to reality, there is inevitable disappointment in the other person.

It’s midnight on my futon – the wine has made us both a bit loopy. I remember being 13, visiting my first girlfriend Jannie Israel at her day camp in Ossining, N.Y. We walked out into the woods on to a large granite rock nestled in a grove of oak and maple trees. We were talking and I kept contemplating my make-out move – but I was too afraid to do it. Decades later with my radiant date I feel the same way – like an awkward adolescent about to make his first move. She sits back down when I tell her there’s one more thing I want to do. Then I say “It’s time to kiss the Prince”. I’m an asshole. I meant to say something like “This Frog needs to become a Prince by your kiss” – either way, it’s totally cheesy. Not only that, I don’t even have a real couch to host this momentous event – it’s an old black futon with bamboo printed fabric. I left all the good furniture with my former girlfriend. I lean in, make my move, and……….