RIP Pop.

My Pop died on Tuesday.

I wrote about my grandfather a few months ago, detailing his losing battle with dementia. Well, I saw him earlier this month. It was the first time I’d visited him since Christmas. I couldn’t believe how different he was in just that short amount time. He was basically confined to his bed, unable to move without help. He didn’t seem to recognize anyone. I knew that he was deteriorating as the dementia got worse, but I was completely unprepared for how much it had ravaged his body and mind in just six months. It finally won on Tuesday, and he passed away.

But I don’t want to dwell on dementia, or on this incredible sadness that will now become a part of me. Instead, I want to post the eulogy I read at his viewing. Really, this sums up everything I’ve been feeling about him. And I’ll also throw in the video tribute I made too.

Hello. For those of you that may not know me, my name is Chris. I am one of Dave’s countless grandchildren. Many of you are here to honor a man that you know as a friend, a neighbor, an ally, a soldier… or the “Garbage Man.” Others remember him best as a loving father and husband. But for us – his grandchildren and great-grandchildren – Dave was simply known as Pop-Pop… or Pop, for short.

The last thing I said to Pop was, “I’ll see you soon, Pop.” I remember it because I always said some kind of variation of that when I’d leave his house. He’d ask me, “When are you coming back?” or “When can you come and help me take the boat out?” I’d always tell him not to worry, because I’d see him soon. For almost my entire life, Pop has been the only grandfather I’ve ever known. I’ve been so lucky to have as much time with him as I’ve had. But even so, I find myself wishing that I’d lived my life a little faster. That he could have had the opportunity to see me start my own family. But I know that, if he had, he would tell me the same thing he always told me when I would visit him: You’re a good man.

It is an honor to stand here before you today and an absolute pleasure to share some stories of this unparalleled man. It’s a daunting task, though, to talk about a man who spent 93 years on this planet. I can’t tell you about what Pop was like as a child, growing up in Baltimore. I don’t know the horrors he faced during World War II, or when he watched atomic bombs devastate Bikini Atoll. I can’t tell you what he was like when he married a 17-year-old Hawaiian girl, or what he was like as a father, a real estate agent, or even what he was like as the Garbage Man. But I, along with my cousins and siblings, have had the greatest of luck to be his grandchildren. And we CAN tell you what it was like to know David Hartlove as a grandfather.

Pop has taught each and every one of us about love. I’m pretty sure everyone in this room has heard his favorite saying, “Never go to bed angry.” That sentiment is something that Pop has always lived. In fact, it perfectly sums up the constantly cheery attitude he always had. Pop was a man who knew that arguments were ephemeral. He didn’t waste time being angry, because it got in the way of his love. And I have never seen anyone love another person the way that Pop loved his wife, Eileen. Or as I call her, Grandma. When I would go to the grocery store with him, he’d always be sure to bring a flower home for her. There was no doubt about it – Grandma was his everything. Pop knew that life was fleeting, and going to bed angry one time could lead to a mistake that could never be taken back. That kind of selfless devotion, for him to put aside his own anger or frustrations (no matter how justified he may have felt), is a kind of devotion that most can only dream of obtaining. It’s a peaceful state of mind, and Pop was truly the definition of a peaceful man.

For as long as he was able, I always knew Pop to live each day to the fullest. When I would visit Pop as a little kid, he was always the first one out of bed. If I was lucky, I’d wake up to him shuffling around in the kitchen, whistling a tune. If I was unlucky, the creak of the floor outside my door would wake me up just in time for Pop to barge into the room and bellow, “Get your butt out of bed!” It was both delightful and frightening at the same time, and I loved him for it. Even as we both grew older, he never lost that love of rising early. He may have needed a cane in his later years, but he just adapted just fine. You see, as a teenager, I began to sleep more soundly. The morning whistling and creaking floorboards no longer woke me up. But I have no doubt that Pop loved taking advantage of that, using it as an opportunity to wake me up with a poke from his cane. I’ll never forget how he’d laugh, always in such good spirits. It takes me at least three cups of coffee to reach the level of happiness that he started each day with.

Without a doubt, Pop was also one of the bravest people I’ve ever known. And I’m not just saying that because he survived a five-way bypass, or because he lived with diabetes for decades – although both feats certainly showcase his bravery. He even joined the Navy without knowing what the future would bring. Pop lived his entire life as an example of how someone can be brave. I’ll never forget the first time I saw Pop as a brave man. We had been out in Waldorf, riding in his old pickup truck – you know, the one with the windows that had to be manually rolled down and the radio that only played country stations? I was just a little kid, still in the single digits. And I had a loose tooth. There was nothing Pop seemed to love more than pulling out teeth. I’m pretty sure that every cousin of mine can regale you all with stories about the teeth that he pulled out. We always seemed to flock to him when they needed pulling, and he was always ready and willing to rid us of our teeth. So there I was, riding in the passenger seat of Pop’s truck. It was night outside, and just starting to rain. And as most kids seem to do, I was passing the time by playing with my loose tooth and complaining about it. Little did I know, I was about to have my first tooth-pulling experience by Pop. It happened fast, but I still remember it clearly. Pop was driving, and suddenly asked me to open my mouth. When I complied, he reached over and, with a single tug, pulled the tooth out. While never taking his eyes of the road. That, to me, was the epitome of bravery. And at 25 years of age, I still think it’s brave to be the designated tooth-puller of a family his size.

To Pop, there were never any problems. Pop approached everything with an, “I can do it” attitude. It’s how he became a real estate agent, even though he had no real estate training. It’s why he decided to raise his own chickens for meat, and why he tried to fertilize his yard with rabbit manure. And I always knew Pop to be a stubborn man, too. The good kind of stubborn, mind you. You see, Pop didn’t have any limits. If someone didn’t do something, he would get it done. Period. It’s a rare trait in people today, but it was a code that Pop lived by. Sometimes, it meant that he’d fall off the pier after testing for loose boards by placing his entire weight on each board. Sometimes, it meant pulling me aside to give me some words of wisdom that I desperately needed and didn’t even know – about love and family. Throughout his life, Pop showed his friends and family that he could always be counted on to get something done – and that nothing would stand in his way.

I’ve often wondered if Pop had any idea how his future would unfold. Standing on the deck of an aircraft carrier, under the starry night sky of the Pacific Ocean, did Pop imagine that a hula-dancing young woman with an infectious laugh would soon become his wife?

Did he ever imagine that he would have six healthy children, who would take his morals and life lessons to heart when they began raising their own wonderful families?

Did he imagine that he would become a respected leader in his community? That he would reinvent himself as a sailor, a real estate agent, and even a political figure?

Did he have any idea that his family would be so huge, with so many grandchildren and great-grandchildren that it is now practically bursting at the seams? That he would have enough love in his heart for all of us, even though none of the grandchildren joined the Navy?

Could he have possibly imagined that he would live a life so long and storied? That, in the last years of his life, he would still live in his home with his wife, blessed with a large family that still visited him regularly? That some of his greatest joys would be listening to his grandchildren regale him with stories of their own lives, or attending their plays, or listening to them play music?

I don’t know the answers to any of these questions. But if I had to guess, I’d say that the reality of Pop’s life was greater than anything he could have ever imagined so long ago.

And even with everything that Pop accomplished in his life, his single greatest achievement is seated here today. There is no better testament to Pop’s character than his family. We are his legacy. He wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.

We love you, Pop. I hope you’re resting peacefully. You deserve it.

The Kidney Stone Aftermath.

Hopefully, this post will be the last time I’ll ever write about kidney stones. Because with any luck, my kidney stone ordeal has finally ended. Knock on fucking wood. Obviously. The sound wave procedure (commonly referred to in the medical community as a “lithotripsy”) was a success.

Sort of.

First off, what is it about the doctor’s office that thinks they can make patients wait over an hour to have a medical procedure? Seriously, my lithotripsy procedure was scheduled for 10am. So, of course, I got to the office a solid half hour early – which I should have realized was stupid because it was well after 11am before I had the procedure done. Waiting that hour, never knowing when my name would be called, sucked. By the time I was in my hospital gown and an IV firmly embedded in my arm, I was shaking. Not from the cold, but from being scared out of my fucking mind. Before the anesthesia knocked me out, the doctors strapped me to the hospital bed and lowered the ultrasonic shock wave machine into position. Then a quick ultrasound informed them that my kidney stone was actually 6mm, not the 4mm it had previously been thought to have been. It was still in my ureter, right outside of my kidney. The stone was too big to pass, and it hadn’t moved since leaving my kidney the week before. So kudos to me for being scared smart enough to decide to have the lithotripsy procedure done.

The procedure itself was actually painless. Of course, I was knocked out for all of it. I vaguely remember being told the anesthesia was starting… then I woke up in the recovery room. I sipped on some orange juice and ate some goldfish while the doctor was telling me that the procedure seemed to be a success. The problem with blasting kidney stones in the ureter is that the ureter is a goddamn tiny tube in your body. If a kidney stone is demolished, there’s really no way to tell because there’s nowhere for the fragments to go. They stay clumped together. The doctors, however, were optimistic. But before I left, the doctor asked if I had painkillers with a very serious look on her face. When I assured her that I did, she told me that there was a possibility that, once the pain meds I was on wore off, I could end up in a lot of pain. After all, they just beat the hell out of my abdomen with 3,000 shock waves. I told her that I had Percoset, but didn’t want to use it unless I absolutely had to. She responded by telling me that if my pain was awful, to take one Percoset every half hour up to three times. If I was still in pain after that, go to the ER and get the super strong pain meds. I assured her that I was fine, and actually walked out on my own recognizance about an hour after my procedure was over.

The first thing I did? Ate a huge meal at 5 Guys. In preparing for my lithotripsy, I hadn’t eaten anything for the two days prior. To say I was hungry was a massive understatement. So me and my dad had a 5 Guys feast. That first half hour after the procedure was bliss. I felt no pain. I even proudly proclaimed, “I read online about all these people who said that their lithotripsy procedures were so painful. What a bunch of pussies.” I remember saying those exact words. Because I ate those words the moment we left 5 Guys.

It started as a dull pain in my left abdomen. Just a slight ache, but nothing major. Certainly nothing compared to the initial kidney stone. Except that the pain meds began to wear off exceptionally fast. It was a simple 15 minute car ride back to my apartment, but it might as well have been 15 hours. The ride back was excruciating, and I’d wager that the lithotripsy aftermath actually hurt more, overall, than the initial kidney stone moving from my kidney to my ureter. It was unbelievable. I have never been in so much pain. It actually felt like someone punched me in the side about 3,000 times (which, technically, was true). I basically collapsed into my apartment, took that first Percoset, and writhed in my bed. I desperately wanted to pass out, or to at least feel so much pain that it knocked me out. Of course, I had no such luck. But in the end, the Percoset won. That doctor was right on the money, after I took three of ‘em, I was almost in a coma. I slept a lot, and it killed the pain finally. Even better, I started passing kidney stone fragments immediately – and there was absolutely no pain. I was feeling great, and assumed the whole process was finally over.

If only I knew how wrong I was.

The day after my procedure, I decided to return to work. I didn’t want to use up any more leave, and I guess I was still riding high on my Percoset from the day before because there was no more pain. The morning was great, and I even had time to meet my dad for an early lunch. He was impressed at how fast I seemed to turn around from the pain-filled day before. And yet after our lunch, as I drove back to my apartment, I felt an odd pain in my left abdomen. I figured it meant the pain medication was wearing off. I was disappointed, but not surprised. I had been in a lot of pain after the procedure, and surely it couldn’t have entirely disappeared. Only, the pain started to get worse. A lot worse. There I was, driving way too fast on the highway, and suddenly the pain spiked even more – and now it included my groin too. It happened in seconds. I distinctly remember almost passing out from the pain. I started swerving in lanes, and mashed my pedal to make it to my apartment (and the pain meds) faster. I bit my lower lip until blood flowed. I pulled my goatee hair, and slapped my face. Anything to stay awake and keep myself from concentrating on the pain I was feeling. Whatever was happening to me, it wasn’t the same pain that I felt after the lithotripsy. No, this was something totally different.

In fact, it was something different. Something that I should have been warned about, but never was. You see, my kidney stone was broken up into smaller pieces. I was under the impression it was essentially pulverized – as the small bits I was passing led me to believe. My urologist put it a different way. “Ah, this is fairly common. It sounds like your kidney stone was broken up, but not completely broken up. So the pain you’re feeling was a smaller version of your kidney stone moving from your ureter into your bladder.” Thanks for the heads up, doc. So the lithotripsy was a partial success, but I was still going to have to pass a kidney stone after all. It was believed to be much smaller, only 2mm or 3mm. Which, honestly, might as well be a boulder when you’re talking about things I don’t want to eject from my downstairs. So now I had the added bonus of lingering lithotripsy pain and a constant pain in the bladder – which, after an hour, turned from that sharp pain to just irritating my bladder and making me think I had to pee when I didn’t. The doctor said I’d pass it within 24 hours. Actually, it took me 48 hours. It was so frustrating, feeling it inside of me but never knowing exactly where it was. Feeling so much anxiety every time I went to pee. Would this be the time I finally passed it? Would it hurt? Would I cry? Would I bleed? Should I believe everything I read on the Internet about how bad this will suck?

Friday morning, around 11am, the saga (hopefully forever) ended. There was only a sharp pain, which I took as meaning that the stone must finally be on its way out. When I finally did pass it, there was no pain. That surprised me. It had been a little uncomfortable, and kinda sharp, on its way, but in the end it was the little clink in the strainer that let me know I had passed it. It was small, maybe just 2mm. Either black, or a very dark brown. No blood. No tears. I was so excited and happy and nervous that, in my attempt to put it in the little jar I’d been given to save pieces of the kidney stone, I dropped the asshole down the sink. All that effort, gone. But I still had pieces of it, and to be honest, I was just glad the ordeal was over.

As of now, there haven’t been any other pieces or fragments. The only pain is a lingering pain in my left abdomen – likely from the lithotripsy. I’ve only been off Percoset a few days, and I’m sure my body is not too thrilled about it. With any luck, this will never happen again. It’s been an awful experience. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone… well, except maybe my worst enemies. I definitely could have done without this medical crisis. But at the same time, now I can say that I’ve been through one of the most painful things a human can go through, and I’ve emerged on the other side. Intact, but pained. Hoping I’ll never have to go through this ever again pleasepleaseplease. But now I don’t have to worry about feeling like a normal human being again, and I can focus on the big milestones coming up in my life. Now, I can write about fun stuff and not document the crazier, less interesting (and slightly gross) parts of my life.

Hopefully.

Pain is Weakness Leaving the Body. Or a Kidney Stone.

When 2012 started, I declared it “the best year of my adult life thus far.” Admittedly, it wouldn’t take much for the year to be better than some of the previous ones. I moved to my apartment, went to Disney World, and even got a promotion at my job. Everything was coming up roses. But what comes up must eventually come down.

I got a fucking kidney stone.

It all started last Monday. Well actually, this stone has probably been forming in my kidney for weeks, or even months. But for the sake of the story, it started a little over five days ago. I woke up with some abdominal pain. Nothing too major. I’d been out partying on Saturday (not belligerent, but good times) and figured it was some gassy remnants. It happens, you know? So I did what I always do: laid on my stomach in bed. That, of course, did absolutely nothing. In fact, it made the pain worse. So I did what I always do next: I took a shower. That, as you can probably guess, also did absolutely nothing. I just kept feeling worse and worse. When I sat back down on my bed, confused as heck, the pain quickly blossomed from a “ow, that’s a little uncomfortable” to “OhmyGodfuckfuckfuckIamdying.” I didn’t know it at the time, but this was the exact moment that my four millimeter kidney stone was passing from my kidney to my ureter. Well, the doctors use the term “passing.” What it’s actually doing is forcing its way from the wide-open space of my kidney into my ureter, a tube in my body so slender that a 4mm calcium deposit has to force its way into it. From the ureter, it eventually reaches the bladder. From the bladder… well, then it’s just a matter of peeing the thing out. Oh, and that really sucks too apparently.

To call it “painful,” would be the understatement of my life. I’ve never been stabbed, but the kidney stone literally felt like someone had stabbed me in the gut. And then wiggled the knife for the next five hours. It was awful. The pain was so bad that I couldn’t walk. I had to call 911 and take my first ride in an ambulance to the hospital. From there, it was just a matter of time before I got my CAT scan done that confirmed my worst fear: a kidney stone. Wanting to be proactive, I asked what the hell causes them – because whatever I was doing wrong in my life, I’d be correcting it immediately. So imagine my anger when the doctor sort of chuckles, and tells me that they don’t really know. “Sometimes, it’s hereditary. Sometimes, it’s from drinking the wrong stuff. Or dietary. We won’t know until we can look at your kidney stone.”

You gotta understand, when I was in 7th grade, my science teacher was a kind old guy. Mr. Sewell, his name was. One day, we learned about kidney stones. I don’t remember the lesson at all, but I remember Mr. Sewell telling us his own personal experience with kidney stones. He’d had two of them, both because of his well water or something. What I remembered most was his description of how awful they hurt. He equated passing a kidney stone to peeing out a small shard of glass lodged in the penis. I was barely a teenager, and the story made my skin crawl. The last thing on earth I ever wanted to have was a kidney stone. For the record, soda seems to be one of the most common reasons for kidney stones. Obviously, I haven’t touched the stuff since Monday and I have no plans to again. I can cut that shit outta my life easy. Small price to pay.

Of course, here I am now. I’m 25 years old, and I’ve got this little bitch in my body that just cannot stop hurting me. The thing that gets me is that it’s 4mm. In the grand scheme of things, it’s so goddamn tiny. But small things can apparently pack one hell of a punch. I’ve been told that a kidney stone is the most painful thing that a man can experience, and that it’s second only to child birth on the overall pain scale. I’d believe it, too. The pain is nuts.

The worst part, though, is that I haven’t felt like a normal human being since I got the kidney stone. If I stand up too long, my legs start to ache. If I drive more than a handful of miles, my groin starts to ache. I’ve got to pee in a filter, in case I pass the stone. Which, by the way, is so embarrassing. I feel like a freak. Not only can I got out and do things, but I can’t even use the bathroom like a normal person. I was on pain medication, until my urologist gave me the option of having the kidney stone blasted with ultrasonic sound waves. In theory, it will break up the kidney stone internally so that I won’t have to pass such a large (in scale) foreign object, and it’ll have the remnants come out sooner because it won’t be one big thing forcing its way through my body. You better believe I elected to have that procedure done, too. It’s Tuesday morning. I’m not really nervous about it, even though they’re using anesthesia. I’m more nervous about the fact that I never know when I’m going to pass this stone. I might pass it in a half hour, or maybe it won’t be for another few weeks. It’s the whole never knowing thing that freaks me out.

I’m scared about this. And I’m not the kind of person that scares easily. It’s lonely too. I realize I tend to live a more quiet, non-busy lifestyle, but now I don’t even have the option to go out if I want to. The outpouring of friends has been especially nice. I’ve really been milking this, but truth is – I’m scared. It’s so easy to feel like you’re all alone when you’re basically stuck in your room, on medical leave from work, and even your family is too busy to swing by and catch up with you. I know, everyone has their own lives. That’s why it meant so much to have friends reach out, whether with humor or with genuine condolences. I’ve been trying to manage with humor. That’s how I handle most stuff anyway, but cracking jokes also makes people think that I must not be in much pain. No, but the jokes make it manageable.

So the saga isn’t over yet. Hopefully, that will be on Tuesday. I’ll get my groin blasted with sound waves for an hour, pass a disintegrated stone, and live my life like normal – minus whatever changes I need to immediately make in my life. Of course, there’s a 30% chance that the procedure won’t work. Or that I’ll end up with internal bleeding in my kidneys. But hey, who wants to think negative? For all I know, I could pass this stone right before my procedure – which would be both the greatest and worst thing of all time. Shit, sometimes life has a real cruel way of playing out. It’s tough when you can’t control your own body.

Why I Love Movies.

I stumbled across a couple different “Why I Love Movies” posts that are currently circling the film critic community online, and I thought it was just too great. It’s funny how something as simple as a list of reasons you love movies can give you so much personal insight into the identity of a person.

I didn’t become a movie buff until I got a television for my 16th birthday. It didn’t hook up to the satellite, so all I could watch on it were DVDs. For a long time, I only had a few movies. And then, I stumbled upon a now-defunct website called Film-Talk. It was a forum where a bunch of ridiculously knowledgeable movie buffs got together and discussed movies. I got a ton of recommendations from there, and it’s how I first learned about directors like Tarantino and movies like Equilibrium. I had my eyes opened to decades of cinema that I had barely scratched the surface of. In doing so, I became a movie buff too.

So, why do I love movies?

Because of Darth Vader’s entrance in Star Wars: A New Hope.

Because Buster Keaton proves that comedy is truly timeless.

Because the aliens in the vents in Aliens traumatized me as a child.

Because of the abandoned London sequence in 28 Days Later.

Because of every single second of Dumb & Dumber.

Because of the “outtakes” scene with Jean Dujardin and Bérénice Bejo in The Artist.

Because every time Obi-Wan yells, “NO!” after Qui-Gon Jinn dies, I still get chills.

Because Ace Ventura gets a spear thrown in both legs.

Because Indiana Jones shoots the swordsman.

Because in Rocky, he went the distance.

Because of every line of dialogue that Stifler has.

Because of Edward Norton in American History X.

Because of Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight.

Because a good film transports you to another world.

Because of the chestburster scene in Alien.

Because of Rocco’s speech in Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day.

Because “I love you.” “I know.”

Because of the parkour scene in Casino Royale.

Because of the chase scene in Tangiers in The Bourne Ultimatum.

Because Watchmen brought the graphic novel to life.

Because of John Goodman in The Big Lebowski.

Because of “I’m Batman.”

Because I’ve never laughed more than I did with South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut.

Because of the heist in Heat.

Because of the blood test in The Thing.

Because “Damn you, Scuba Steve!”

Because I cried when I watched My Dog Skip.

Because they shot the cat in Boondock Saints.

Because The Butterfly Effect made me think for days after seeing it.

Because of the long take scene in Children of Men that lasted more than 6 minutes.

Because of Vin Diesel in… every movie he has starred in.

Because Cloverfield was the first “found footage” movie I absolutely loved.

Because the shark ate Samuel L. Jackson.

Because of popcorn.

Because “Now I have a machine gun. Ho ho ho.”

Because District 9 looks like it was filmed without special effects.

Because of the train sequence in Wanted.

Because Christian Bale saves the puppy in Equlibrium.

Because the twist in Fight Club blew my mind.

Because The Fountain is one of the best love stories ever told.

Because “I’m gonna make him an offer he can’t refuse.”

Because of Zach Galifianakis in The Hangover.

Because I actually screamed during the “key-in-the-eye” sequence of Saw II.

Because Black Hawk Down captures the tone of hopelessness so perfectly.

Because “No one sees more butts than you, Uncle Tony.”

Because Kevin McCallister was home alone… twice.

Because Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever is so bad, it’s great.

Because Hot Fuzz proves that British humor is leagues better than our own.

Because Snatch proves that you don’t need intelligible dialogue to enjoy a movie.

Because we’re in a dream inside a dream inside a dream.

Because “Welcome to Earth.”

Because of the ending of Source Code.

Because of Christoph Waltz in Inglorious Basterds.

Because Spider-Man came alive on the big screen.

Because of the stylized use of color in Sin City.

Because in space, no one can hear you scream.

Because Jurassic Park still scared me the second time I saw it in theaters.

Because Black Dynamite exists.

Because I love explosions.

Because Jackie Brown is Tarantino’s most underrated movie.

Because of Kevin Spacey in K-PAX.

Because of the birthday party scene in Signs.

Because without Star Wars, there would be no The Old Republic.

Because Captain America was a 1940s period piece.

Because Kill Bill Vol. 1 blew my mind when it ended.

Because District B13 doesn’t need an English dub to be a great action movie.

Because Letters from Iwo Jima made me sympathetic to the WWII-era Japanese.

Because of the Ewok that doesn’t get back up  in Star Wars: Return of the Jedi.

Because Lord of the Rings captured my heart, soul, and imagination through three films.

Because Neo saves Morpheus from Agent Smith with a helicopter minigun.

Because Mel Brooks is a comedic genius.

Because The Mist was darker than Stephen King’s original short story.

Because Happy Campers is the best story of growing up that you’ve never seen.

Because of Sam Rockwell in Moon.

Because ” Yeah we’re putting cover sheets on all the TPS reports before they go out now.”

Because “You maniacs! You blew it up! Damn you! God damn you all to Hell!”

Because “If it bleeds, we can kill it.”

Because Pulp Fiction changed the way I look at films.

Because of Michael Madsen in Reservoir Dogs.

Because of Morgan Freeman’s narration in The Shawshank Redemption.

Because Se7en is so simple in design, yet so complex in execution.

Because I catch something new every time I watch Scarface.

Because Serenity was actually made.

Because Behind Enemy Lines is so over-the-top patriotic, and is still a blast to watch.

Because “I’m tired of these motherfucking snakes on this motherfucking place.”

Because I still get upset every time Scar forces Mufasa into the stampede.

Because of Andrew Garfield in The Social Network.

Because of how damn amazing those kid actors in Super 8 are.

Because “I’ll be back.”

Because Michael Bay’s Transformers looks so beautiful.

Because I watch all the summer blockbusters with my dad.

Because X-Files made me want to believe.

Because watching Avatar in 3D was breathtaking.

Because there are still so many films and actors and directors I’ve yet to discover.

So that’s just some of the reasons why I love film so much. Film is an artwork that I have long come to admire. There’s so many different styles, and so many different stories to tell. I may be an action and sci-fi fan at heart, but as I’ve gotten older, I’ve found myself falling in love with most movies I watch. Film is the only medium of entertainment in which I enjoy the vast majority of what I experience. There are very few films I’ve seen that I’ve felt had no redeeming qualities. I can always look past glaring flaws if I can find something to enjoy. There’s so much about movies that have stayed the same for the last 100 years, and even more that has evolved. There’s symbolism, hidden Easter eggs, always reasons to re-watch our favorites time and time again.

So if any of you readers love film, share why in the comments!

No, I Will Not Go to the Bar with You.

To be honest, I’ve never really been into the whole bar scene. In fact, my interest in bars faded pretty much five minutes after I first walked into one. Bars are loud, dirty, and usually propagated with the kind of guys I’m (secretly) jealous of and the kind of girls I loathe. You know, the chiseled former frat guys with their perfectly maintained three-day-old beard stubble and the pretty girls that are so superficial and fundamentally broken emotionally. They’re both just disgusting caricatures that I can see right through.

This isn’t my crowd. This isn’t my scene. No thanks, I will not go to the bar with you. Not tonight, and probably not ever. I say “probably,” because there are three very important exceptions that I should make clear:

1. The Work Happy Hour. This is a very important social function, especially when you work a job that gives you extremely limited social contact with basically anyone. They’re rare, and damnit you better jump at the chance to down a few Captain and Gingers while keeping an eye out for good conversation or a pretty new face – both of which are, honestly, pretty damn rare. The good thing about the exulted Work Happy Hour is that they normally take place at a nice bar, or a real hole-in-the-wall. Either way, you’ll get good service, pay nothing to get in, and won’t be deaf from loud music or blind with rage in a half hour. Another great thing about the Work Happy Hour is that they’re fairly rare. Or, they should be. If you’re having a Work Happy Hour every Friday, you need to rethink your life because you are either an alcoholic, destroying your bank account, or too cool. And all of those options piss me off – so stop it right now.

2. Any celebration involving me. It’s true, I don’t enjoy bars. But sometimes, I make an exception. Sometimes, I want to get trashed with friends and not have to worry about waking up to a destroyed apartment because everyone left and didn’t clean up after themselves. Man, those cleaning-while-hungover days are the worst. Sometimes, I just want to gather all my friends up, go ape-shit at some bar, and let whatever happens happen. Because these celebrations involve me being the center of attention, I don’t have to worry about feeling left out or dejected. There’s always a friend looking to chat, or to take a shot with you. That’s what makes me-celebrations different from going out to celebrate with another friend. I usually end up the odd man out in those situations, and having no one to talk to while out is pretty much the worst. When I surround myself with plenty of friends that I know, I’m not worried about my lack of game. I’m not worried about dancing by myself or having a cute girl, no matter how sober or drunk she is, totally reject me based on a two second appraisal based solely on my appearance (I’m really nice on the inside, damnit, I swear). Nope, I’m with friends, and it’s my birthday – or I’m so drunk that it might as well be my birthday – and it’s a guaranteed good time. Aside from birthdays, any sort of promotion, new job, or visiting a friend that lives in another state/city/far-away-land is the only other me-centric celebration that I’d consider going to a bar for. Any kind of negative celebration (like breakups, losing a job, etc) are not bar events. These “celebrations” call for a pint of Ben & Jerry’s “Half Baked,” playing Call of Duty all night, and crying.

3. Any bar in Vermont. I don’t know what it is about Vermont, but I basically love almost everything about that state (actually, I do – that’s a blog entry for another day). Deep in the mountains, in the middle literally nowhere, you’ll find some of the most redneck, pissant little bars in existence. Every single time I’ve gone out in Vermont, I’ve made best-friends-for-the-night with everyone within a half hour. That’s what’s so great about Vermont bars. I always walk in expecting the absolute worst, and the next thing I know, someone in flannel is buying me a drink while explaining just why Vermont has so many different kinds of maple syrup. It’s always a blast up there, whether its listening to a hippy talk about his time touring New England in his reggae band over 30 years ago or remaining skeptically amused while a mousy guy shows off his Wu Tang Clan tattoo and, between drags of his cigarette, attempts to convince you that he is the Wu Tang Clan promoter whenever they come to Vermont (which is… never?). Up there, the phoniness that is so prevalent in the bars and clubs that you normally find on the East Coast just fades away. You’re left with real people – and those are the people that I like to meet when I’m out for a night of fun.

Honestly, these are the only times when it’s ever acceptable for a guy like me to go out to the bar. I’m not made for it. It’s not in my genes, I guess. I take everything way too personally. There’s always some sort of stupid drama that makes itself known too. Always. That, and wondering what the puddle that you just stepped in was. Any time I go to the bar, I am guaranteed to find the only puddle of questionable liquid, and step right in that sucker. I’m slightly germaphobic too, so there’s nothing like spending a couple hours in a bar and feeling increasingly dirty just by being trapped in an enclosed area with like 800 other people, all of whom are way more drunk, happy, pretty, and oblivious than me.

The crowd of every bar on the planet. I can already feel my rage building.

I used to think that my Irish ancestors would disown me if they ever knew that I harbored these kind of feelings about bars. Mostly because I imagine my ancestors were drunk pretty much all the time. But you know, I’ve always been more of a party person. They’re much more personal, the crowd size is way smaller, the drink selection is better (and cheaper!), and there’s always someone for me to talk to or a new face that I can meet with an easy line like, “Hey, so how do you know whoever is throwing this party?”. There’s no worry of fading into the background, or dancing like someone who clearly isn’t very good at dancing. And in that regard, I think my ancestors would understand.

So the next time you ask me to the bar, don’t be offended when I say, “Hell no.” It’s not you. It’s me. I just don’t have what it takes to enjoy the bar. And I’m perfectly fine with that.

There’s No Such Thing as “Adults.”

When I was a little kid, adults were pretty mysterious people. They worked all day, and worried about things like the weather and the news. All in all, pretty boring stuff. In fact, I spent the entirety of my childhood under the impression that once you graduated from college, you were classified as an “Adult” and had to begin a boring lifestyle immediately.

I think it was that fear that made me so adverse to growing up. I just wanted no part of it. I grew up in the boonies of Prince Georges County, in an affluent subdivision where people really enjoyed their privacy. Each lot seemed to have about five acres, and none of the neighbors had kids my age. Another real problem for my social interaction growing up was the fact that school was so damn far away. I started off in Catholic school, before spending five of the worst years of my life in a private school that was a solid 45 minute commute (each way!) every day. To this day, I don’t know how my parents put up with that drive. They must have really loved the heck out of me and my sisters. But the problem with a school so far away was that having friends come visit was something of a rarity. Looking back on it, that lack of socializing really screwed me over. It’s not something that I blame anyone for, though. It’s just an unintended side effect of life.

I turned to video games and television. Shoot, I still enjoy ‘em now – so not a whole lot has changed on that front. Being by myself so often, I really developed my imagination. I’d often march off in the woods and spend hours out there by myself, just exploring. Having an imagination brimming with ideas led me to writing – another topic for another day. These interests were developed during my formative years. I never really took a liking to playing sports, and my lack of friends made electronics a big interest of mine. I was also intensely lonely, though. School didn’t make things easier, either. I started private school in the third grade, not aware that my parents had placed me into school a year early. I have never claimed to be a genius, but I was the first born – clearly, my parents thought I was. It seemed like the right move too, for a while. My problems didn’t really manifest until I hit the fifth grade. I was a year, sometimes two years, younger than my classmates. Emotionally, I just wasn’t on the same level as them – and I think that really contributed to my inability to make friends. Heck, even physically, I was smaller than the rest of them. To my classmates, I was just the annoying little immature kid.

Slight aside: One of the happiest moments in my childhood occurred while I was attending private school. Before school started, we had outdoor recess every day. My classmates loved to play soccer – the vast majority of them were jocks, which immediately put me on the outs. Still, I’d want to play – but I was always, without fail, picked last. I was the teammate nobody wanted. It must have been a private joke amongst my classmates, because half the time, no one on the other team would even cover me. And even then, my own team wouldn’t pass the ball to me. One morning, again picked last, I found myself alone on the field, away from all the action. I hovered around center field, while my teammates battled the other team near our goal. Without warning, the ball somehow got loose and came right to me. There I was, with the ball. Alone. The other team had so much disdain for my athletic ability that they hadn’t even bothered to keep a goalie. This is it, I told myself. You can do it. I tore off down the field like a bat out of Hell. I could hear panting from behind, and knew that the others were going to do their best to stop me. One of my teammates, Taylor – widely acknowledged among my classmates as being the fastest kid in the school, and possibly on the planet – reached my side and shouted, “Pass me the ball!” Even in the third grade, I thought that was one of the most moronic requests I’d ever heard in my life. There I was, wide open and about to make my first soccer goal ever, and this kid wanted to ruin my moment? The kid who never passed me the ball, and who always picked me last, expected me to just give up? Yeah right. I ignored him, and then I nailed the goal. Then it was time for class. I didn’t care. It was my first goal, and I was beyond ecstatic. It didn’t change things. I was still picked last, and still never got the ball. But it was that single moment, of defying huge odds and doing what I had written off as impossible, that still makes that moment so powerful to me.

Eventually, growing up got easier. I had to repeat the fifth grade, after my parents decided it would be best to have me take classes with kids my own age. My family moved to Calvert County in October 1998, right after I started sixth grade. I made enough friends in my neighborhood that all I wanted to do was join them in the local public school. Sure enough, I started public school in the seventh grade – and never looked back. It was a rough transition, I’ll be honest. I was still a pretty dorky kid, lacking a lot of social skills and being a real uptight kid at times. It’s tough to come into a new school in seventh grade. At that point, you’re a year late to the party. But I stuck it out. I got picked on my fair share, and the guys would pin me in the gym locker room for “free shots,” but that was the first year. Rough sometimes, yeah. But it wasn’t all bleak. And by the next year, it felt like I was part of the gang. People routinely assumed I’d been around since sixth grade. By the time high school came around, I finally felt comfortable being myself at school. Those were my social butterfly years, and while a lot of people don’t really care for their high school memories, I look back on mine fondly.

All through the years of school, adulthood loomed large and unseen. Even after I graduated from high school, I still didn’t know what being an adult meant. It had morphed from this mysterious lifestyle to simply my next step. I was going to graduate from college, get a job, move out, and become an adult. Marriage, kids, the whole nine yards. Even more confusing, though, was that by the time college rolled around, I was interested in things like the weather and the news. But I didn’t feel like an adult either. My parents, and the parents of friends, displayed a maturity and grace – something that I figured either came with age or (more likely) being old and boring. I was pretty scared about adulthood. For me, it meant an end to being a kid. It meant that I had to put away my video games, and essentially stop being so imaginative. Because being an adult is all about being practical, right?

It wasn’t until college that I realized there was something wrong with adults. Growing up in Southern Maryland, my only real exposure to adults were the clean-cut, conservative type. Sure, I knew that there were plenty of adults that didn’t have their shit together, but I always assumed that they were in the minority. It’s funny to think back on that, when I now wonder if any adult truly has their shit together. College was a great time for me, it really opened my eyes and exposed me to all kinds of adult role models – some outstanding and some… well, not so much. I had ‘em all. The old professor who didn’t care about the students in his Intro course, the professor who bought me a cup of coffee to talk about what I thought my future in journalism was, the English professor who was an admitted Marxist and communist, the Asian communications professor who could barely speak intelligible English. I got to know some of my professors, and saw that they had worries that were more than just the stereotypical stuff. They were human, just like me. They worried about employment, they grappled with ethical decisions, and some were especially tuned in to the latest pop culture references. Some even still played video games. As a whole, I found adults to be exceedingly more interesting than some of my peers. My world view was slowly turning upside-down with each passing day.

So fast forward to now. I’ve been working the same job for almost two years, and I’ve moved out of my parents’ basement (I know, stereotypical. But also true!). I consider myself an adult at this point, at least by the legal definition. I can buy alcohol, I can vote and fight in wars. I watch the news and worry about the weather. But at heart, I’m still a total kid. I still geek out when I see a cool movie trailer. I still love to read, and I still find a little time in my increasingly busier schedule to play some video games. Being an adult, I’ve learned, isn’t about becoming someone else. It’s about learning to balance the things you love to do with the things you’re now obligated to do. There’s really no such thing as adults, and there really isn’t any such thing as kids. We’re all just who we are. Some will always be immature, and others will spend their whole lives stoic. There’s no point in telling someone to “grow up,” because that doesn’t mean anything. All it does is rob people of what makes them unique, and tells them to conform to what society deems appropriate. Forget that nonsense. Tackle your adult responsibilities with maturity and grace, but when you find yourself with a moment of free time, embrace what makes you happy.

How to Win Friends and Influence People.

I should probably make it clear that if you take everything I post on this site literally, you shouldn’t bother reading this blog. All it took was a several paragraphed message I received that complained that my (hilarious) Superbowl rant was “hate-filled” for me to realize – Uh oh, the crazies have found my sanctuary. “Hate-filled.” Gee, that’s a loaded phrase – the kind I normally reserve for things like Darth Vader, public swimming pools, and mimes. But I guess the socially inept use it when they feel unpopular. Look, when I rant on this blog, don’t picture me smashing my keyboard with balled fists. That’s clearly impossible, I’d never be able to write anything intelligible if that was my game plan for this blog. Hey anti-sports nuts, “game plan” means “strategy.” Also, I can’t believe I live in a society where the phrase “curse word” still exists. Did you know that there are actually people in real life that still consider cursing to be akin to being inarticulate? It’s so weird how people will actually consider themselves superior to others for something as simple as word choice. It’s just so outlandish to me. It doesn’t matter if you use “shit” or “poop” to describe the bowel movement you just had. They literally mean the same thing in that use. Yet one is such a bad word oh my gosh I’m telling Mom and the other is completely acceptable? America, we need to grow up and calm the fuck down.

My whole philosophy about starting this blog was to free myself. I figure that this blog will be 50-50 between serious posts and humor posts… because those are the only two sides I have – serious and hilarious. But I guess one man’s humor is another person’s “hate-filled rant.” Oops. Look, If you’re ever insulted by something I write, please jump off a cliff. Life is too short. I’m using some of my time to sometimes share poignant moments of my life and myself with friends and random strangers. Other times, I’m going to post stuff that I really hope is funny. Because I love to make people laugh. That’s like, one of favorite things. I’m not going to be politically correct, and I’m not going to bend over backwards and cater to the (special) needs of everyone. I’m just gonna write what I write. If you don’t like what you’re reading, then please stop and go outside or fly a kite or something.