Queen’s song “You’re My Best Friend”.

I was talking to my best friend on AIM a couple of weeks ago, and he told me that this song reminded him of us. Now, when he first said this to me, my immediate response was “you are such a sap, dude”. Then, because I hadn’t heard it in quite some time, and felt the need for a refresher, I perused my iTunes, and found the sucker.

I hate it when he’s right.

I’d never really given the song consideration any consideration before that point. It was always this cute little ditty by a fairly cool band playing in the background as dad would drive me and my siblings to get ice cream on a sweltering summer afternoon. But the moment after my best friend pin-pointed the “You’re My Best Friend” for me, I melted. It’s true, everything the song says is how I feel about him. Sure, it’s corny, it’s sappy, but it’s tried and true. He’s the best friend that I’ve ever had.

I have always been rather reserved in designating the term “best friend” to anyone. Actually, according to my own interpretation of what a best friend should be, I’ve never had one before sophomore year of college, i.e., last year. I’ve always had really, really good friends, but never a “best” friend. I’ve always been a bit weirded out by the fact that most people have no hesitation in calling people they’ve just met their “best friends”, or in today’s youth jargon, “besties” (ew).

A best friend should be like a comrade; you should be able to rely on that person for anything. A best friend should be like a sibling; you should feel as close a bond as possible. A best friend should be like a mentor; you should learn from this person.

You should feel love for this person, indefinitely. You should want this person, and even need this person.

Of course, this means that you should be all of these things to your best friend, too.

My definition of a best friend makes me, (and him, actually), laugh. This is how I define a best friend: it’s someone with whom you’ll feel comfortable enough to go out and buy a two-way walky-talky. Yup. This is how I honestly define what a best friend is.

I invite you to come up with your own definition of what a best friend should be. It’s fun.

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I remember my first time at a college orientation. We had just entered a new millennium, and I was a shy young lad of eighteen years wearing pants that had leg openings as wide as my waist. I smoked a pack of Camels a day and I thought Southern Comfort was the greatest drink you could have. I was going to be an elementary school teacher, and my life was going to be rich and fulfilling.

I don’t think I need to explain why all of those things didn’t work out together.

It didn’t mean so much to me then, though. I was young and invincible, I’d have time to get my life together later. It was true, I did. I do. I’m doing it now, and even though I’m closer to 30 than I am to 20, I don’t feel like I’m all that behind. In a lot of ways, I still feel the same way I did when I was 18, like I have all the time in the world and that there’s no need to rush anything. I’m certainly older, thankfully wiser, and more responsible by necessity, and it all feels natural. Some people get out of high school and get it done, and that’s great for those people. I’m not one of those people; I couldn’t do that. I wasn’t mature enough, I was prepared enough, I wasn’t confident enough.

I would give anything now to change all that. Why? Because I am TIRED.

Seriously, I am exhausted in ways that I never imagined possible. I didn’t even really do anything today. I slept a full eight hours last night, even. I DIDN’T EVEN DO ANYTHING YESTERDAY. It’s after midnight, though, and that means I’m tired. I quit smoking years ago, and even though I keep a nice bottle of bourbon on the dresser, it hasn’t been opened in weeks. I downed a few pints over the weekend, sure, but I didn’t even feel that next morning. The fact of the matter is that between my age and the fact that, between work and school, I have two full-time jobs, I’m starting to fall apart.

I’ve got to be honest, it doesn’t feel all that fair. I mean, I’m only 27. That’s not old. Hell, if I were a professional athlete, statistics would tell me that I was about to have my breakout season. I am not an athlete, though, and 27 is not 18. Back then, I would be throwing myself into the pit at hardcore shows, then sit at booth in Denny’s until dawn slipping vanilla schnapps into my coffee. Now, I’m listening to public radio and wondering what the hell I’m still doing up. My mind is even slipping. I’ve been so busy writing this entry trying to work in a line about my hair turning gray (my hair is turning gray) that I’ve forgotten where I was going with this.

I wish I’d realized then what going to college really means to me. Not because I wish I was doing something else, but because it’s such a difficult thing to balance as life becomes more complicated. I was overwhelmed by the freedom I felt when I graduated high school, and my early college career suffered as a result. Now I’m tired, and I never used to be tired before. I know now that when I had all that freedom and when I had all that energy was absolutely the best time to make a spectacular commitment like going to college and applying myself to the best of my ability.

Oops.

A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines.

This quotation comes from Ralph Waldo Emerson’s essay, “Self Reliance”. I first read this essay about a year ago, and it has had me thinking ever since.

I think my mindset has always been one where, if you change your mind on any given topic at all, then you’re a fool and a coward and a hypocrite. I always try not to say my opinions out loud unless I’m sure I truly believe in what I say, because there’s always the possibility (and in my case, certainty) that there’s an angle that I have not given consideration. And for me, I’m never sure of what I truly believe.

You see, I had a teacher in my freshman year of high school who told us, last day of classes, “Don’t be wishy-washy”. He wanted us to take a stand in the prominent issues of the day. He didn’t want us feigning knowledge by praising the good points of both sides of an argument, because he said that was too safe, and that we would never get anywhere staying on the sidelines. “Progress comes from courage,” he told us, “so don’t be wishy-washy.”

Well, I think that I perhaps took his advice a little too far. I’m so afraid to lend my voice to others, because I might not have found all the points relevant to any given issue. What if I’ve missed something so big, so obvious? And I never feel as though I completely knowledgeable, or at least knowledgeable enough. Am I even allowed to share my opinion? After all, who am I?

But let’s get back to Emerson. This first quote I’ve provided; before reading it, it never occurred to me that yes, it’s okay to change your grounding. You won’t look “wishy-washy” if you’re suddenly swayed by someone else’s argument. It doesn’t make you look weak; in fact, if you have the courage enough to admit that maybe you were wrong, or maybe this person’s got a good point, than you end up being the wiser. (And if it’s the wiser fool, than so be it.)

Secret Poor Tax

April 29, 2009

Universal health care sounds like a positive, socially beneficial policy.  Our politicians reinforce this by claiming it can fix many problems in our health system and that because we don’t have ‘universal health care’ our system is weaker or incomplete.  The fact that many other social-democracies offer health care to all their citizens is frequently used in health care conversations.  In fact, some nations that we would consider inferior in governmental structure are considered superior to us in their health care coverage.  Our system of health care tries to remain capitalistic while providing services which produces the profit-concerned, financially motivated health insurance system in existence now.

So why not go socialist?  Why not offer health care service to everyone and just tax more?  Can’t the government do the same job as the insurance companies?  These are important question that our politicians will face.  Currently, however, the question is not over social medicine or state-run-insurance-for-all.  The current issue that our politicians face is whether or not to require health insurance.  It was a defining question in the last Presidential campaigns.  In many State legislatures it has been hotly contested.  In fact, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts requires health insurance for all its citizens already.  Requiring everyone to pay for health insurance is called “universal health care” by our politicians.

What ‘universal health care’ means is that people must pay a private third party insurance company.  In other words, the government requires its citizens to pay into the health insurance company’s profits.  The same insurance companies that are at the root of many problems in our health service providing system are getting bank roll from a legislative measure designed to make citizens think their quality of health care has somehow improved.  It really only means that they are now required to buy health insurance.  Of course, if someone does not want a private insurance company they can buy into the government run insurance.

Lets look deeper at this mandatory insurance.  Prior to this measure, people who work good paying jobs and people who are in unionized professions received health insurance as part of their benefits package.  Therefore, for those employed with solid incomes, mostly, nothing will change from the new requirement.  Again, prior to this measure, people in low-income or non-unionized professions or unemployed and not costing the government extra by using welfare or unemployment were uninsured.  The reason many that fall into this category of uninsured persons were uninsured isn’t because their jobs didn’t offer a package, which they did not, the reason these people were uninsured is because they could not afford insurance.

Those who were or are to poor to afford health insurance are required to purchase it!  The legislature is forcing people with limited means to spend money in non-optional health insurance.  Since ‘universal health care’ clearly means that those without health insurance must purchase it and since the poor are mostly the ones uninsured, why not just call it what it really is – a secret poor tax.

‘Universal Health Care’ will undoubtedly appeal to voters more, it sound so benevolent that even I have a hard time writing negatively about it.  The truth of what this law does and would do, however, is far from benevolent, far from beneficial, far from positive, far from productive, far from helpful, and far from healthy.  This law charges poor people money.  This law encourages increasing private company profits.  This law is named to mislead, make false implications, and pacify the public.  The next time ‘universal health care’ is mentioned, think of it as a secret poor tax.  When the vote is called federally, or locally for those outside of Massachusetts, remember not the larger implications or the well-meaning intentions of our lawmakers but the true nature of this secret poor tax.  If our lawmakers would never dream of taxing the poor openly, why are we supportive when it is done secretly?

Wall to Wall Maddness

April 29, 2009

In 2005, I had never even heard of Facebook. A few of my friends had a MySpace account, but I didn’t really get what that was all about. Today, I probably checked my Facebook at least ten times. I can’t help it, it’s just a habit that I’m in. Whenever I sit down at my computer, I check my Facebook, my e-mail and Redsox.com. Even when I sit down at my computer with some specific purpose, like looking up a movie time or Googling a fact, I often find myself going through my routine first.

So believe me when I say, I am NOT against Facebook. I love the damn thing. I think it’s a great way to share things like pictures and get word out about events in and around your community or school. However, I often find myself question this whole wall to wall thing. Why are these things so public? Why does my homepage inform me every time two people talk to each other? Yes, Facebook is a great and easy way to stay in touch with friends all over the place, but couldn’t the Wall be more of a private inbox kind of thing? If you changed nothing else, but simply made it so only the account holder could view the wall, I think Facebook would be absolutely ideal.

I just don’t see the reasoning behind having the wall be public. What’s the point? Why should other people care what others are writing on any one person’s wall? I just find the whole idea a little sketchy. I personally would rather send a friend a private message than have a wall to wall chat. I think its almost rude to be having a public conversation like that. When one talks privately on AIM, the conversation isn’t plastered all over a thousand people’s homepages. It doesn’t make sense for these messages between friends to be so very, very public. Not only are these messages easily accessible on your homepage, but they are also randomly posted on your friends homepages. Why is this? If I wanted someone else to know what I wrote to so and so, I would have sent it to them as well!

Just Drive

April 29, 2009

I was that teenager that thought they were the very best driver on the road. I was convinced I knew how to handle every situation and I never listened when people criticized my driving skills or techniques. I KNEW I knew better than they did. I firmly believed if it was worth going somewhere, it was worth going fast. I was constantly pushing the speed limits to at least double, and I figured there was no reason why I couldn’t send text messages while doing so. I was an accident waiting to happen, and everyone knew it but me. Fortunately, when I finally had my epiphany that I was not an invincible teenage driver, I was alone, both in my car and on the road. On a gorgeous early November morning, I was the only car on this particular stretch of the Mass Pike. I lost control of my vehicle, and rolled my car down into the median that separated the East and West sides of the turnpike. My car rolled door over door 6 times before coming to rest (by some mysterious phenomenon) on its wheels at the base of the steep median. Miraculously, I suffered only minor injuries and help came to my rescue almost immediately.
Although my car was completely totaled, I can honestly say that some good has come from this experience. Since that day, my outlook on things has entirely changed. I no longer take driving as lightly as I always did. I have become far more cautious with my life and the lives of those around me, both on and off the road. In the hours that I lay in my hospital bed at Bay State Medical Center, I had time to reflect on how lucky I truly was. I couldn’t believe how stupid I had always been.
It took me five months to overcome my fear of being in control of a vehicle. After my accident, I refused to drive and I elected to walk over even being a passenger nine times out of ten. It was only at the beginning of this month that I began to drive again, and I have noticed that the roads are a much more dangerous place than I ever realized before. There are too many drivers out there that drive the way I used to, and there are many that have even worse habits. People, I’m begging you…learn from me! You are not as good as a driver as you think you are! You are NOT invincible and don’t say it can’t happen to you, because it can. Put down your doughnuts, turn off your cell phones, lower the volume on your radio. You may think you can multitask, but is it really worth finding out if your right? Honestly people, not everyone can be as lucky as I was.

The United States of America has only had one president that was not Protestant, John F. Kennedy, and he was still a Catholic – although controversial at the time. The similarities among all Presidents used to be drastic, all white, all males, and all protestant. Now the list of characteristics is, thankfully, a bit less rigid: all white, except one; all males; all protestant, except one. But how sure are we of the President’s religious identity. There was a lot of rumors in the most recent election about questioning Obama’s religious background/identity and I doubt it was the first time in history. The first non-protestant candidate, a Catholic running in the early 1900’s, was perceived as a threat – opponents blasted that the Pope was ready to move into the White House as soon as he took office. So clearly, as controversial and important as religion is today, it was even more so historically. That is why, some believe, one President may have slipped through, undetected.

All though it is tempting to say, since Moses was Israel’s greatest prophet that ever was or will be, that another “great emancipator” was a member of the tribe (meaning a Jew, from the 12 tribes of Israel) the evidence is sketchy at best. Abraham Lincoln had a beard, which is traditionally worn by observent Jewish men. However, during his first election campaign and his earlier life he did not have a beard or even side-burns, which are another traditional Jewish practice called payos. The myth is that a young-girl once wrote the President suggesting that a beard would help him look more presidential, and that is a far cry from a myth about his religious identity. Lincoln was also a famous hat wearer, another traditional Jewish practice of covering the head. His name, also, was Abraham, the same name as the fore-father of the Jewish people. These assessments of his attire and grooming practices are anecdotal and amusing connections but hardly constitute proof of his religious identity. Lincoln denied commenting on his religion only to quote the ten commandments and suggest that every American study and take them to heart. Bible study, particularly of such well-known passages was a common practice in Lincoln’s times and was, in fact, taught in school. Although it does not definitively suggest Lincoln was Jewish, it still leaves his religious affiliation/identification unclear.

Due to this lack of clearly appointable religious traditions to Lincoln, many theories and rumors have developed. Research has been made into Lincoln’s history and chain-emails have been spread on the subject. Some of the best evidence suggests that his family name, “Lincoln”, was attributed to an entire Jewish community living in and around Lincoln, England when the Jews were forced to take last names. Traditionally, Jewish men are named with a first name and their last name is “of their-father’s-name.” This event has helped continue the legend or myth of Lincoln as potentially being of Jewish decent. Regardless of whether or not Lincoln was Jewish or an unaffiliated Christian, it is interesting to see the connections and conjecture on the subject. The important thing is that each level of conjecture can and should be responded to, with the “evidence” being critically analyzed. For your own assessment of the debate see the following website:

http://msgboard.snopes.com/message/ultimatebb.php?/ubb/get_topic/f/36/t/000819/p/1.html

Maybe debates like this will make Americans more comfortable with the idea of a non-protestant President, a Jewish President, or even a Muslim President.

So I am really fascinated with this woman that was just discovered on Britain’s Got Talent. At first when I saw the clip, I thought it was a joke just because I didn’t think that she was actually singing. Actually I didn’t even know if it was a she at that point (I know, I’m a horrible person). She is a singing sensation from Scotland with an interesting look about her. Her hair is actually a large part of why she has gained so much attention. At almost 48 years old she went on this show to fulfill a dream that she always had, to become a professional singer. The judges didn’t know what to expect when they saw her some on the stage and neither did I to tell you the truth. She opened her mouth and started singing, and it was amazing. After she was done performing the judges had tears in their eyes, and Simon was speechless.

There’s more to it than just some woman doing an amazing job on a television show, it was a wakeup call to a lot of people, including me. In the society we live in today, focused on looks, weight, and wealth, people have just become accustomed to focusing on those things and judging a person with their first impression. That is exactly what happened to this woman when she stepped on stage. The audience laughed at her looks, and even I had to do a double take because I was judging on a first impression basis as well. She was a great talent and no one thought that for one second when they saw her. I just think that something needs to change drastically. She put herself out there, knowing that she was probably going to be laughed at. Even the show was designed to make it seem like she was going to be horrible before she started performing.
This woman really does show that you have to look beyond appearance, and that is something that this society needs to really work on. Stop reading a book by its cover and I think that a lot of people will feel more comfortable about themselves. This woman had a confidence about her that was hidden in a way, but she knew that she was a good singer and surprised everyone in the end. People need to find their inner confidence like she has, and I have a feeling people will be happier and it will be a different world we live in.

It almost took until May, but 2009 is finally official. As I sipped my coffee the other morning, I turned the news on halfway through the story. It took a couple of minutes before I ever actually heard the words “swine flu”, but I didn’t need to hear it. I could just tell. The look in the anchor’s eye just seemed to scream “pandemic” at me, and I actually giggled a little bit when they cut to an official from the center for disease control.

You see, I’ve got something of a pandemic fetish. It’s actually probably not as bad as it sounds. I just get this bit of glee at the panic these diseases. It all started with mad cow disease. I marveled at the panic and the complete lack of understanding, the fear it inspired and people’s complete refusal to do any research on the subject for themselves. It was something that nobody understood in any terms besides “dangerous”, and more often than not they would ignore all of the tools at their disposal to learn more about it in favor of just being afraid of it. Over the next few years, we’d get a little piece of something here and there, but nothing so dramatic.

I didn’t know just how much I enjoyed these pandemics until SARS. SARS was AMAZING. For a small window, everybody was convinced that they had SARS, even though they’d never been anywhere that would have any contact with SARS, and it was hilarious. Then we got bird flu, and again it was amazing. MRSA was pretty cool too, until I actually got that one myself. It wasn’t as fun when I was sitting in the emergency room waiting to have my face ripped apart by a doctor so that I wouldn’t die. It WAS fun that people were kind of afraid of me afterward, though. I’ll give it that.

Usually these pandemics come early in the year though, following the holidays, and I was starting to think that the best we were going to get this year was some salmonella in the peanut butter. But the year has been saved. Three cheers for 2009! Year of the Great Swine Flu!

I have this fear of being boring. You see, while I have the most loving, caring parents in the whole world whom I love very, very much, when it comes right down to it, I was raised by the television. So over the years, especially throughout high school and college, I can honestly say that I’m rather jealous of a lot of people. People who have talents and certain knowledges and fun little, quirky hobbies. I sit in my room and read. Or play videos games. That’s it, basically.

Oftentimes, however, I run into certain urges, usually when I’m with my best friend, although sometimes when I’m alone. During these instances, I develop an acute need for spontaneity. So I’ll walk back to my home from Stop-and-Shop with one of its grocery carts, or randomly pierce my ear with a sewing needle, or ask the manager of Papa Gino’s for his autograph, because every time me and my best friend go in there, he greets us with the warmest “Hello, how can I help you today?”

Being stupid helps me feel like I’m unique. But I don’t think I’m being stupid. I just think I’m having fun. It isn’t hurting anyone, (except maybe myself; I suggest using lots of ice if you’re going to pierce your body. Ouch). But there are some people who would find these antics idiotic and annoying. I wouldn’t mind as much, but these people are supposed to be my friends, and when I tell them that I just read this amazing book about the human hand and its development throughout the ages, they look at me and call me a bore with nothing better to do. Yet, when I break out of my shell and pierce my ear, simply because I wanted to, they call me crazy.

Some advice that I’ve been giving myself for some time now: don’t live for others. Live for yourself, and those select few who truly care about you, the real you. Do not trust those who try to change you. I do the things I do because I want to do them; because I’m afraid of being boring to myself. I’m not afraid to die, but to live a life of regret.