Jerel Says, ‘Ato no matsuri’; Organize

Obon Night

Ato no matsuri

Translation: The day after the festival (to be late, to miss one’s chance)

-Japanese proverb

Every August, for three days, the Japanese celebrate the bon festival, otherwise known as Obon. It is one of the most important Japanese traditions: a time when many Japanese return to their hometowns to honor their dead relatives.

Festival Crowd

The origin of Obon comes from the story of Mokuren, one of Buddha’s disciples. Mokuren used his psychic powers to look for his deceased parents to see in what world they had been reborn. Dismayed at finding his mother in the Realm of the Hungry Ghosts, he went to Buddha to ask how he might save her. Buddha instructed him to make offerings to the many Buddhist monks who finished their summer retreat on the fifteenth day of the seventh month (eighth in the Gregorian calendar, hence August and not July). In doing so Mokuren was able to rescue his mother. Looking into his mother’s past, he also began to see and appreciate her kindness and the many sacrifices she had made for him. Overjoyed and grateful not only for his mother’s rescue but for her selflessness, Mokuren began to celebrate and dance. His dance became known as bon odori, or simply the ‘bon  dance, which is still one of the major aspects of the bon festival to this day.

Bon Dance

I’m pretty fortunate that there is a rather large Japanese demographic where I live, and Edgewater, NJ is home to the largest Mitsuwa Japanese Marketplace in the country. These two things combined mean that every year around the 15th of August our Mitsuwa holds a giant summer festival in honor of Obon and it never fails to draw an enormous crowd. I even ran into an old coworker from my glory days working at Blockbuster and an old classmate and former club member from college. It was nice to run into old friends and catch up for a bit while enjoying a whole assortment of Japanese summer treats. There were all kinds of treats to enjoy. I had an assortment of grilled seafood, grilled chicken skewers, takoyaki (fried dough filled with octopus), yakisoba (fried noodles), okonomiyaki (Japanese style pancakes), squid pancakes with fried eggs, gyudon (rice bowls with simmered beef and onions), gyoza (Japanese dumplings), and desserts like shaved ice and mochi (sticky rice dough filled with ice cream).

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There were games where you could win prizes by shooting targets with a plastic toy bow or if you could get plastic rings caught on wooden pegs. On others you had a tiny net with a thin strip of paper and you had to delicately try to catch toys floating in a kiddie pool. Still others had a whole assortment of prizes attached to pieces of string and on the other side you had to grab one and pull and find out just which prize you ended up pulling out. You could also buy a variety of plastic Japanese festival masks. Some were the traditional demons and gods while others were things like superhero masks from Japanese television shows or even Pokemon.

Throughout the day, local Japanese cultural clubs and societies put on different displays and demonstrations. One was the trademark bon odori with singing and dancing and bells and spinning hats and parasols. The other was a taiko drumming performance. There was something really therapeutic and de-stressing about watching the flurry of sticks and movements and the yelling and the deep thunderous roar of drumbeats.

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It really was a huge community event and not just for the Japanese (obviously, since I’m Grilled Seafood 2Filipino). You see a lot of people enjoying the summer festival every year. It’s not uncommon to see a couple young kids from high school and college anime clubs doing cosplay and showing up dressed as their favorite characters. There are plenty of families and it’s adorable to see little kids dressed up in yukata and kimono (traditional Japanese festival wear). I can’t tell you how many times I probably fell in love with some of the young women dressed in kimono as well. Whole generations of families, grandparents, parents, and children, Okonomiyakiwere enjoying the festival together. Some were celebrating their culture, others were learning about an entirely new and different one from their own. Plenty of couples, groups of friends, all different kinds of people coming together not just to enjoy, but tons of volunteers of all different ethnicities running booths and helping to organize the event behind the scenes as well.

In the US the summer festival is a fun celebration of Japanese culture and food. Mainly food. It’s a nice community event, but it’s obviously more about the surface level things like food, toys, and fun cultural displays. But I like to remember the spiritual origins that Ohakamairi.pngare still major in Japan. See the story of Mokuren ended up taking on a very specific and influential meaning in Japan. It became a story of honoring one’s ancestors and celebrating and appreciating family. Over the three days of the bon festival the dead are allowed to return to the realm of the living. Families clean their houses in preparation and hang lanterns to guide the spirits back home. They also visit their ancestor’s gravestones to place offerings such as food and incense and also to clean them up every year by brushing away dirt and leaves and washing them with water. This is known as ohakamairi. On the last day of the festival families light paper lanterns and set them afloat into rivers to send their ancestors’ spirits back off into the afterlife. It’s a beautiful tradition that fills Japan’s rivers at night with floating lanterns that is just surreal and serene and at times equally somber but also celebratory, remembering our family members who’ve since moved on.

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Obon is definitely a beautiful and wonderful time to reflect on family and to honor the people who’ve moved on. But I also think it’s an especially important time to remember to appreciate life and the moments we have, because we never know when it’s ‘ato no matsuri’. There is a Buddhist teaching that says that the most universal message the dead have to give us is that death will come for all equally. Kings, peasants, rich, poor. Obon is a surreal, magical time where the infinite divide between the living and the dead is shrunk just a little. We feel closer to the people who’ve moved on, who we miss and who were huge parts of our lives. Maybe it’s nice to think that there is this time where we might be visited by them, that they haven’t entirely left us and we can bring them home. Or maybe it’s just nice to have this festival to set aside time for us to reflect and remember them and honor their memories. But it’s also an important lesson that the best thing we can do is to live our lives fully and well, and to leave a mark on the world that our families and friends might remember in the future, so that years from now, they might light a lantern for us.

Jerel says, don’t wait until the day after the festival.

Day 256: The Man and the Icy Spring; ‘Minimal’

As you may have known from the news, your calendar, but almost certainly not by looking outside, yesterday was the official first day of Spring over on the northern hemisphere. Some of you might have bravely tried to celebrate by throwing an outdoor picnic in defiance of the actual weather. Maybe you started your Spring cleaning. Perhaps you were just generally filled with an unreasonable amount of optimism, hope, and enthusiasm because somewhere underneath your three foot pile of snow, there is a flower ready to bloom.

I made ice.

SquidwardIc

More specifically, I made 40 buckets x 5 gallons each worth of ice. That’s 200 gallons of ice. I’m not even sure you measure ice in gallons. Once it’s a solid I guess you’re supposed to do weight?

Allow me to explain. If you grew up anywhere in the PA/NJ/DE area, you’ve probably heard of Rita’s Italian Ice. And as the business has continued to grow, your chances of visiting, or at least seeing them with their trademark red and white awning, spread to pretty much all of the east coast US, parts of central and north US, and hell, even the Philippines has a couple now too. My family actually owns and operates three Rita’s Italian Ice franchises here in northern New Jersey. After my parents both lost their jobs, they pooled our family’s money together and we bought our first two stores having never tried or even heard of Rita’s beforehand. None of us had prior food industry or business ownership experience either. We bought the first two five years ago, the third three years ago, and ever since from the months of March to October, we are Rita’s HQ. Our guestroom becomes filled with promotional marketing posters, cases of bottled water, and teeth shattering bulk tons of sugar and flavor syrup. Step too hard on the floor and you’ll hear all of the sprinkles (or jimmies if you’re from Boston) shaking in the bags upon bags we order for our ice cream toppings. For eight months out of the year I never have to worry about where I’ll get my next ice cream, milkshake, sundae, misto, or ice fix. Perks of being part-owner you know.

Get Rita's.jpg

The grandest and most marketably philanthropic gesture of Rita’s Italian Ice is that every First Day of Spring (what we in the ‘biz call the F.D.O.S.) every Rita’s store (I assume around the world as well) gives out free ice to celebrate the start of Rita’s season. Let me tell you this has been a tradition from way way way back before we bought the stores and no other entity has a grip on the First Day of Spring like Rita’s does. That is our holiday. Our jam. Our claim to fame. Dairy Queen can try to copy us, but pretty much all up and down the East coast, FDOS is Rita’s territory.

As you can imagine, with so much tradition behind it and a huge following, plus the always-enticing appeal of you know, ‘free’, the First Day of Spring can become pretty hectic at a Rita’s. We were grossly and sorely unprepared for our first FDOS. We only had two stores so my mother and father were at the one, and my brother and I were at the other. We had our standard eight different flavors of freshly made Rita’s italian ice (very different from a shaved ice mind you) and figured it’d be just like any other day.

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HOLY HELL.

We opened at noon. From opening to closing at 9, the line was never any less than 50 people deep. We had regular employees as well but still, we were running and jumping and scooping ice. My brother was in the back at the ice machine making bucket after bucket and we couldn’t make it faster than people were coming to eat it. To work at a Rita’s you need to be able to scoop and sling ice like nobody’s business. It’s a completely unique product with a very unique texture and character so it’s a signature skill of a Rita’s Treat Team member. When I was running and managing our third store on my own, I would train and time our Team members. If you couldn’t fill a regular sized cup in less than 6 seconds, you were out. On the FDOS, you need to be able to do it in 3. By the end of the day your hands are sticky from all the melted ice and sugar and they’re dyed all sorts of bright colors because of the flavors. Bright blue cotton candy. Brilliant orange colored mango flavored ice. The deep staining red of cherry or Swedish Fish. Green apple. Green obviously. It’s all over you. You try to fight it the first couple times you get splattered but by the end you look like you finished the diabetic version of a color run.

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Ever since then I’d like to say we’ve learned, perhaps even perfected the system, to ensure a successful and relatively easy FDOS with minimal setbacks. And yet…you just cannot ever really tell. Yesterday there was still a good four or five inches of snow on the ground and the warmest it ever got was 47 Fahrenheit. Here’s my store’s front at 11:45, fifteen minutes before opening.

Rita's Butler

Obviously now that we have three stores we are more spread apart. I used to run this location and so I have the most experience here so I was left alone to deal with everything until our first Treat Team member came in at 4. Most of our employees are high schoolers. Here’s what was waiting for me at 11:59, a minute before we opened.

Rita's FDOS.jpg

And from then on until closing it did not let up. I had 20 buckets of italian ice already on reserve made over the weekend and still last night I had to make ten more. Sugar and flavor base were flying all over the place. When we all finally finished I had to shake myself like a dog to get all the dust and powder off me.

You know what though…it was still a pretty fun day. I like the rush and the adrenaline and trying to rise up to the challenge of 30 people waiting for their free treat. And as much as Rita’s really is a unique product, the FDOS is a unique experience. One only Rita’s members can really attest to. We tell our members, especially if we hire them in the summer for extra help, you’re not really a part of the team until you’ve survived your first FDOS. Even now with my own career and path, I always take a personal day to help out my family. This business is my parents’ nest egg. We are trying to make sure the stores can generate enough for my parents to save and comfortably rely on later on. It puts food on our table, clothes on our backs, and a roof over our heads. At the end of the night, after we clean the stores and wipe down all the sticky sugary counters and count up the money we made, we all meet up at the local diner and share a celebratory, recuperative meal and share stories of the good, the bad, and the ugly. I didn’t get home until midnight last night, and after washing off all the dye and lotioning up enough to make Buffalo Bill uncomfortable (the constant submerging in water and sugar will dry your skin like nobody’s business) I didn’t get to bed until 3am. I’m exhausted and my legs are so tired from standing and running and moving and lifting those heavy ice buckets all day. I’m half-paying attention to my work and really just hoping to book a conference room and nap. But I would never not be there for the First Day of Spring. I’d never not throw myself into the ring for my family and more importantly, with my family. I’m never going to remember or share stories about the work I had to do for myself the day after. But I will always remember the late dinners my family and I shared on the First Day of Spring.

Day 256

Man: 223 Loneliness: 33

Day 191: The Man and the First Solo Culinary Adventure; ‘Exquisite’

Image result for no united airlinesOh my god. If you have to fly and you ever have the choice between United and literally anything else, I highly recommend you choose something else. My brother’s trip was off to quite the inauspicious start. I dropped my brother off yesterday at Newark airport with plenty of time to spare. His flight was scheduled to leave at 1pm, we were already hugging and saying goodbye by 10am. I made sure he had everything, told him he was going to be fine, to be safe, that I would miss him, and I saw my little brother walk off for his first real taste of adventure.

At least…I thought I did.

I get back to an empty, quiet home, and before I can finish contemplating how I feel about that, I get the text message from him.

Flight delayed. Won’t be leaving til 7pm.’

Okay, there’s a problem there. He has a connection in Hong Kong to get to Manila, there’s only a two hour window between the two flights. He’s definitely going to miss this.

Take your itinerary to the gate agent. Let her know what’s going on. Stress that you are traveling alone ESPECIALLY to surprise your mother in the PHILIPPINES. They’ll get you on the next best flight or take care of the connection.’

If any of you happen to follow me on Twitter, you’ll know what happened next. When this happened to me with JetBlue I took to Twitter and they not only helped me get on my next flight, they upgraded my seat, gave me extra miles and future travel credit, and when I jokingly mentioned how hungry I was and how much I love the blue Terra chips, they had an agent bring me ten. I’d never felt so special and so appreciated by an airline before. I told my brother to get a Twitter, and what followed was a complete mess of him telling his story on Twitter, me liking and retweeting, both of us trying to get United attention, and both of us trying to get him out of this situation.

For those of you who don’t follow me on Twitter, first his gate was changed last minute to Image result for travel stress gifbe across the airport. Second it was delayed further because they didn’t tell the catering crew and so their plane’s food was at the old gate. Third they were on board waiting to take off because the plane had to be ‘de-iced’. Fourth, as they are preparing for takeoff, the captain informs them they’ve reached their FAA limit and can no longer legally fly and they will need a new crew. Fifth, they can’t, so they end up CANCELING the flight altogether. Sixth, you’ve got an entire plane now of distraught travelers and only one gate agent and one customer service desk.

Ultimately they had to reschedule my brother for an early morning flight on Sunday. Which was still better than most, as a family of four wouldn’t be accommodated until Monday. They offered him only $20 food credit for the inconvenience and were going to put him up at a hotel, but I picked him up again and just had to bring him back at 4am. Fun times. United didn’t even give him extra miles or anything. Nada. Zip. Zilch. Come on guys, really?!

I dropped him off and there’s been no trouble at least since. He’s on his way to Hong Kong and by the time I wake up tomorrow he should be in the Philippines to surprise our mother. Meanwhile I’ve been living it up all domestic style. I did some grocery shopping, cleaned the house, cleaned the bathrooms, did the laundry, and prepped my meals for the week. I even hooked up some Bluetooth speakers around the house so I could play music from my phone while moving around the house. And some of you will be very happy to know, I kept all my clothes on, despite a past post to the contrary. Hahah.
Wanted to share with you all the first of the next couple weeks’ culinary adventures. Japanese umaki (eel omelet), shrimp tom yum noodle soup, and Thai iced tea. The eel was particularly tasty, marinating it first in eel sauce and grilling it before wrapping it in a sweet Japanese style egg omelet. The soup had a spicy richness that was cut with lemongrass and lime and the sweet shrimp. I made a whole pitcher of Thai tea and opened up a can of sweetened condensed milk so anytime this week I can make myself a cool tall glass of that uniquely dark, sweet flavor. My dinner was tasty, filling, and not to pat myself on the back too much but, dare I say, exquisite.

Good start to the month, looking forward to more!

 

 

 

Day 191

Man: 160 Loneliness: 31

Day 189: The Man and the Able-Bodied Boy; ‘Capable’

Well, tomorrow’s the day. I drop my brother off early in the morning for his flight and then I begin my solo time. I already have the next two weeks’ worth of meals planned. Hahah. It’s going to be fun.

Since there was no way we’d have any time to go out for a meal before his flight, I wanted to take him out tonight for a ‘last meal in the US’ sending off kind of deal. I asked him what he might miss the most while he’s in the Philippines so we could eat our unreasonable fill of whatever he chose.

Now keep in mind, last I checked the conversion of USD to PHP was $1:$49.70. The biggest, and arguably best buffet in the Philippines is in my opinion Vikings, which has locations all over the country. I went there last time I visited and I tell you, they’ve got carving stations and sushi stations for miles. Handmade desserts, fresh seafood, food from all different countries and cuisines, this place could very easily rival some of the best in Vegas. And it costs $18 USD. My brother will eat well and plenty while he’s there. But if there’s one thing we can both agree on, the quality of beef in the Philippines isn’t quite the best. Blame it on lack of good pasture or too much labor, but the beef in the Philippines is always much tougher than here. So he decided he wanted to get as many cuts of steak as he could before he left.

I took him to a rodizio in our town that I used to love going to. I was more than happy to be going back not just because the grilled meats have always been perfectly juicy, flavorful, and medium cooked, but because two years ago it burned down. The rodizio was recently resurrected this year (at a new location right across the street aptly named Choripan Too) to stellar reviews and I was so happy to be back and see that nothing had changed. It was still this homey, intimate, wood-and-brick styled restaurant with incredibly friendly staff who were more than happy to make sure our favorites kept finding its way back to our table. Juicy skirt steak, sirloin, beef rib, sausages, chicken thighs, we were in carnivore heaven. I ate so much meat I think I could have killed a vegetarian with just my thoughts. I brought a bottle of wine and my normally teetotaler brother drank with me as we toasted to his upcoming adventure. I invited my aunt (mother’s sister) along as well because once my brother leaves, it will really only be us two left in the family here in the states. Hahah.

After dropping my aunt off back at her place my brother and I spent the rest of the night playing video games together and then around 2am, as if we hadn’t eaten enough, we went out for our customary late night snacks one more time. We watched some of the DVR’d shows he’d have to be caught up on before leaving and now we’re just relaxing. I might have to go to bed because well, I still have a life to continue on with here but my brother might stay up all night to just sleep on the plane. Though he spent yesterday downloading all extended versions of The Hobbit onto his tablet so…who knows.

brothers runninI’m glad we were able to spend the night like this. The truth is, I was hoping we could also celebrate my brother having a job when he got back from vacation. He’s been sending his resume out to companies in the area, and there was even an opening in the IT department here at my company and he had an interview with them two days ago. Unfortunately the manager of the department, a good buddy of mine, came up to tell me that while he’s a smart and capable young man, he simply didn’t have the experience required. Which, come on, is one of the biggest contradictions of the modern job search. You need a job to get experience but you need experience now to get a job. I know we’ve tried to continually encourage him and all but after some months now I am sure it is beginning to wear on him.

The trip should be good for him. It’s his first time travelling by himself. He’s had to make sure he’s packed for the next six weeks, organize all his documents, and he’ll be handling check-in procedures and customs all on his own. I think it will be a good taste of independence and freedom for him. After handling this, maybe he will come back not only refreshed but reinvigorated for his job hunt. I’m also so glad that we (my father, brother, and I) decided to keep this a secret from my mother, who has expressed how much she wishes we could travel more as a family. Unfortunately I don’t have the days to spare, and the ones I do have I’d rather spend exploring new territory, but I know my brother is excited to be able to surprise our mother, and I hope he takes a video. Hahah. He arrives at midnight the next day, and the plan is he’ll go to sleep and then the next day just walk into having breakfast with everyone as if we were back home.

I think it’s important to have those reminders that, while the world may not be calling for Choripan.jpgus right this moment, we have the skills and the abilities and the capabilities to succeed and contribute. My brother is beginning what will no doubt be a very long and arduous but hopefully also fulfilling process of finding his calling, a place to belong and to use his talent. My brother will definitely benefit from this trip. He’ll taste some freedom and independence travelling on his own, facing a fear that I know he has but is too proud to admit. I’ve told him to use this as a chance to explore on his own as well. He’s old enough now, he doesn’t have to attach his entire trip to the hips of our parents. Explore something he wants to do there, plan something for himself and spend some time with family there. He’s going to make my mother very happy as well. All in all, it’s a good thing. And not the least because starting tomorrow I am king of all that I survey!

Day 187

Man: 158 Loneliness: 31

Day 179: The Man and the Departure; ‘Gone’

So to start, wanted to say that I will once again be incommunicado from this Friday, January 6th to Wednesday, January 11th. I know, it seems like I’ve been in and out. These past few weeks get pretty crazy busy with me because Christmas, New Year’s, and my birthday are all exactly a week apart each. Yep, that’s right, Man will be turning….*drumroll*…are you ready?…27 on January 8th. That’s my birthday, that’s my age. (We will of course be celebrating with the late-great Elvis Presley, David Bowie, and Stephen Hawking.) I’ll be headed to Atlantic City with my family, but very soon after they will all three of them (my mother, father, and brother) be leaving me alone to spend two months in the Philippines. Ah, the luxuries of owning your own business and/or being a young, unemployed, recent college graduate.

Me, I will be back at home, living alone, normally ecstatic to the idea of having the house all to myself, with all of its normal inhabitants gone.

But circumstances are a bit different this year.

Last year my parents took my brother and his friends to Vegas for two weeks and I had the No automatic alt text available.house to myself for then. I loved it because Beautiful and I had just started our relationship and now here we were with an opportunity to basically live together uninterrupted for two weeks. We slept together, showered together, and cooked together (I made pasta from SCRATCH and ricotta cheese from MILK and we made ravioli like goddamn MARTHA STEWART). I also used the opportunity to have my annual winter hot-pot dinner/sleepover with my friends. That’s No automatic alt text available.always fun and it’s a great time to relax and let loose. Since everyone stays over we get to drink just a tad bit more than usual and we get just a tad bit crazier than usual. The hot pot is a great way to just keep eating all night and since we cook it in boiling water that we flavor with different Chinese pastes and spices, that technically counts as staying hydrated, no?

So what’s changed?

Yes obviously I am single, that’s the big one. I’m not lamenting not having Beautiful around, it’s more like that anxious feeling of FOMO. You know, Fear of Missing Out. Like, here I am, in the prime of my life, with this time of independence and freedom, and I don’t have anyone to spend it with or celebrate it with. These are the feelings I knew would show up eventually during the course of this year-long experiment. That feeling I can’t shake of ‘come on, Man, this is the time you’re supposed to be out there and enjoying yourself!’ The temptation, especially with Valentine’s a month away as well, has never been higher to get back on some dating site and just find someone to be with to not be with no one. Two months of the house all to myself and, if you’ll allow me this small primal indulgence, I feel like I should be having some company over to avail myself of such luxury and pleasure! Ugh. Is it such a terrible way to be, to feel? Hahah.

Take comfort and solace in the company of friends though!

Yes, I will still use this time to have another hot pot sleepover. I got some great new drinking games for Christmas that I cannot wait to play with my friends. But with our careers having taken us further out and with my one friend in the excitement and thrill of his new relationship and my birthday coming up, I can’t help but reflect on my friendships and connections and wonder if maybe I’ve grown out of it in some ways. I’ve seen some great blogs and great writers on here wrestle with their own friendships and feeling they’ve put in more than they’ve gotten or that their trust has been misused or taken advantage of. There’s been this inkling in the back of my head for a while that has taken deeper root in the past couple months, now that I’ve been spending more time reflecting and working out my thoughts.

I think, and strongly believe, that both this loneliness from lack of romantic relationships and doubt of friendship stem from the same thing. For a very long time now, (179 days perhaps?) I’ve felt starved of any strong, deep, emotional, and mental connection. I’ve known some of my friends since elementary school. We’ve been together for decades now (weird I can now afford to make that kind of distinction). But we’ve never really been able to talk about anything of substance. They are great for some drinks, some adventures, and to pass the hours shooting the breeze until 3 in the morning. But, devoid of so many of the life experiences and passions I have chased after all my life, we can’t speak to each other of the deep and profound and emotional and heart-wrenching moments and thoughts. I used to find all of that in my relationships. It was a happy balance of satisfying all the sides of my self by finding the right company in each. But now I am without relationships (but still happy and content, mind you, I am still strongly on this path) so I have to look on my friends and then I see and wonder, has our relationship, has our depth, has our conversation, never progressed past our student lives?

I never got a merry Christmas from any of them. Or a happy New Year. In October I wanted to watch scary movies and play scary games so I kept asking everyone to hang out and they canceled on me all month. I decided there are only so many rejections a man can handle before his pride and dignity are hurt so I took a break in November and decided to let them organize and call us all together to hang out. Instead I spent the entire month by myself because no one did. No one even noticed. I didn’t see them again until the Friendsgivingmas that I still was the one to organize a week before the date. I wonder if, left to their own devices, they’d ever try and reach out first. I’ve celebrated each and every one of their birthdays. I even took them to Atlantic City each time they turned 21. They’ve never organized anything for mine. I find myself today texting and reaching out and clamoring to try and organize something before I leave for my birthday trip to see them and go out for dinner.

Without a romantic relationship to rely on like a crutch, I have only my friends and family. My family will be gone, and so I only have my friends. And even then now, I wonder sometimes about the company I keep.

I’ll tell you what though, because I refuse to give this day to Loneliness. I’ll tell you what I’m gonna do the next two months. I’m going to play music really loud and sing to an empty house. I’m going to dance in my underwear through the halls. I’m going to cook some crazy-ass stuff I’ve been wanting to try but no one has tastes for. I’m going to roast bone marrow. Cook lamb. I’m going to use the MeetUp app and find local groups of board and card gamers and hang out with them a few weekends. I’m going to watch movies by myself. I’ll catch up on all the shows I’d been waiting to watch. I’m going to do all this because if I don’t I’ll drive myself crazy and because this will help me stay sane and still appreciate my boring but oh so lovable friends. Hahah. I’m gonna be okay in 2017. I’m gonna be okay at 27.

Day 179

Man: 148 Loneliness: 31

Day 164: The Man and the Holiday Survival Guide; ‘Relax’

Holiday Stress.gifFirst and foremost, we have to remember that the holidays are supposed to be fun. Don’t you remember what it was like waiting for Christmas as a kid? I can recall excitedly watching the houses all put up Christmas decorations and counting reindeer lights whenever we drove anywhere. I never worried about the crowds at shopping malls or the long list of people to buy presents for because the mall at Christmas meant photos with Santa and incredible Christmas displays in the stores and so many toys in the aisles! At parties I would get to eat all my favorite foods and as much of it as I wanted. I played games, got presents from relatives, and whenever I didn’t feel like partying anymore I could just go somewhere in a corner and sleep, knowing I’d wake up eventually in my own bed again, waiting for Santa to come.

I know what Christmas might seem like to very many of you nowadays. I know that as you grow up you start to take on more responsibilities, and sometimes the buildup to Christmas can lose its magic and appeal when it becomes more of a chore. Did I get presents for everybody, what foods do I need to make, do I really need to go to x, y, and z’s Christmas parties, where are the relatives going to stay when they come over, what fight/sensitive topic is going to come up over dinner this time. It’s rough. There’s so much pressure around the holidays for everything to be just perfect. It seems that around the holidays our work, personal, family, and social lives begin to intertwine and the healthy boundary we often maintain around each wanes.

If you’re anything at all like me, you already know you’ll probably spend a good portion of the holidays taking a significant chunk out of your physical well-being. January is going to be a diet and detox just because it simply has to or I won’t live til next Christmas anyways. But our emotional well-being can take a real pummeling this time of year as well. The holidays can be a time where increased feelings of loneliness or over-exposure can become a real problem. You may miss your family and loved ones or become annoyed with them and lose patience with their seemingly endless meddling. I feel bad for women over the holidays especially, as studies have shown that women experience the worst of these emotional stresses and fluctuations as, not to be sexist or anything, it is women who normally take over the responsibilities of holiday decorating, planning, gift-buying, wrapping, cooking, and baking.

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So for those of you who are tempted to turn to venting, drinking, or gorging yourselves this holiday season to deal with stress, I’ve listed below some healthier, more effective, and less destructive, ways of dealing with holiday stress. I hope this list helps and that I see all of you on the other side of New Year’s.

ManVsLoneliness’s Holiday Survival Guide: 2016 Edition

  1. SET A BUDGET – While it is true that the holiday season and spending go hand-in-hand, so too does spending and stress. Last year, Americans added an average of $986 to their debt over the holidays. That’s almost a thousand dollars in the span of two weeks. Even just thinking about it has raised my blood pressure a bit. Obviously we know that we are going to have to spend over the holidays, and this isn’t necessarily the bad part. After all, we want to give our friends and family and loved ones thoughtful presents to thank them for the past year. And you might have some former Christmas party foibles to repent for. Set a budget for yourself before you go shopping and stick to it. Don’t let the pressure of the season and the ‘perfect’ gift force you into a debt that is just going to mess with the rest of your holiday enjoyment. There is nothing wrong with setting a budget with family and friends, or even setting up a Secret Santa instead to alleviate some of the stresses of keeping a long Christmas list.
  2. EXERCISE – Most of us will want to wait until after Christmas and New Year’s to get started on some physical well-being. But exercise can be a great way to relieve some stress and take care of yourself both physically and mentally. Research shows that physical activity can boost energy levels, elevate mood, and reduce feelings of anger, tension, fatigue, and depression. For those who don’t normally exercise, this could be a great incentive to get even a light amount of slight activity in, and for those who normally do, the stresses and temptations of the holiday season to set aside exercise time for other activities can actually contribute to feelings of depression and fatigue. Aim for at least 30 minutes of light activity at least three times a week. That can be a simple thing like getting outside to walk around your neighborhood and admire the Christmas decorations for half an hour or doing some holiday yoga by the tree.
  3. BE GENEROUS. This doesn’t necessarily mean to be generous with your finances. You could also be generous of your time, affection, and/or service. You could reach out to your local homeless shelter or soup kitchen and volunteer your time one weekend to give to those in need. If you were fortunate enough to receive an overabundance of wonderful presents, perhaps you can think of some people who might benefit more with some of them and donate them. Remember that ultimately the holidays are about spending time with those who matter most, so be generous of your time. Spend some special moments with the people you care about and remind them, and yourself, what the holidays are about. Bake some cookies together or decorate the house together.
  4. BE SELFISH. Have you ever heard the expression ‘giving to the grave’? Though Christmas may be ‘tis the season to give’, it is important to know your own limit and not overextend yourself. Be confident and aware enough to know when to stop and say no. Set aside time for yourself to relax, reflect, and rejuvenate. Even just ten minutes away from everything can be beneficial. Use the time to meditate or just pay attention to your breathing. Shut out all the noise and chaos and remember to always take a mental inventory of your own personal resources and replenish it when necessary.
  5. EAT WELL. I mean, who am I kidding? We all know I am going to go absolutely bonkers when Christmas comes along and I’m at family parties. But I will be eating mainly vegetables, meats, and seafood, avoiding unnecessary carbs and sugars. Over the holidays you may come across a glut of sugary treats that will feel great in the moment but will make you feel guilty afterwards. I know when my office party comes along, when we are going to relatives for their party, and what we’ll be serving at home on Christmas Day. I know exactly what I will eat and how much, and plan accordingly. I avoid the Christmas cookies and cakes and other such tempting but ultimate empty treats because I know I want to appreciate more fully all the savory treats. I’ll have to post later on what foods I most look forward to over the holidays!
  6. MANAGE YOUR TIME. Honestly the key to holiday stress-free success is a good sense of organization. Set a budget, stick to it. Have fitness goals, maintain them. Watch what you eat. Schedule yourself and commit. Best way to avoid the stress of last-minute holiday shopping and dealing with the crowds and lines? Don’t shop last-minute. Seven Christmas party invites? Feel free to decline them in a polite and timely Don’t be that person who never commits to saying yes or no. There is only so much you can do in two weeks, and I imagine you already have a pretty strong feeling what it is you would want to do. Find a schedule that works for you and work in just as much as you would like to handle.

Ultimately, let’s not forget what the holidays are really about. I know all of the hype and pressure around the holidays can make it seem more like a responsibility than a treat. But if you let yourself start viewing the holidays as an obligation, then really, what’s the point? As cliché as it may sound, it really honestly and truly is not about what is under the tree or what’s on the table. It’s about who’s around the table and who’s gathered around the tree. I look forward to seeing relatives we don’t normally see and catching up, seeing how much has changed over the year. I use the holidays as a time to thank my family and friends and the gifts are just expressions and extensions of my gratitude. There may be (okay fine, more like there definitely ARE) times when I feel a bit lonely over the holidays, wishing I had someone special to spend it with, or to kiss on New Year’s, but I look to the people who are around me rather than aren’t, and I am still grateful and appreciate that there are more people than aren’t. Maybe I don’t get to have that wide-eyed experience anymore like I did when I was a child, but I know the holidays are always going to be special for me, and I hope they are for you as well.

Don’t forget. Frankie says relax.

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Day 164

Man: 136 Loneliness: 28

Day 153: The Man and the Way Back Home

It’s…good…to be back…I guess? Hahah.

Well actually I got back yesterday, but spent most of the day resting and bringing my BAC back to a reasonable and livable level.

Cold Winter.jpgThere are a few things I definitely missed though. I missed the biting cold. It was hard to register that it was December and only two weeks before Christmas when it was so warm in Cancun. Everywhere we went there were Christmas decorations and the staff even wore Santa hats and I couldn’t quite understand why until someone had to remind me it was Christmas season. I guess I’m just too accustomed to cold, wintry Christmases. And honestly, I wouldn’t have them any other way. So while my family lamented the weather, I was glad to be back where I could bundle up.

I also feel as though nothing really brings you back home like a warm shower in your own bathroom. As soon as I was unpacked the first thing I did was jump into the shower and savor the sensations. Mind you, I wasn’t exactly wanting for a nice shower either. The hotel had a rainfall shower which was just, oh man, so luxurious. But there’s just something about a shower you know how to use, settings you’re familiar with, just the right amount of water pressure, your own soap and shampoo, and the comfort of your own bathrobe and towel that just reminds you you’re home.

The flight to Cancun was uneventful, which is kind of what you want out of you know, flying 35,000 feet in the air. There’s really no love lost between myself and United. I don’t have much to say about whatever it is they do with themselves. But just about the only Stroopwafel.jpgthing I look forward to when it comes to early morning flights with United is that I get to have a delicious, chewy, sweet, stroopwafel. If you haven’t had these yet, just order them from Amazon or ask your friendly neighborhood Dutchman. It’s much easier to get than to fly United for it. They’re wonderful thin waffles with a spread of caramel sandwiched in between. At room temp they’re chewy and sweet but if you place it over your coffee or tea mug for a bit, the caramel melts and softens and the waffles become warm. About the only thing to do besides sleep is snack on a stroopwafel for the four hours until we landed in Cancun.

The Resort

beach-view

The resort itself was fantastic. Absolutely gorgeous. In the center of the main building was a Japanese style garden with koi ponds. This is where Toji, their sake bar, and Bana, their Japanese restaurant, are located. A beautiful and fitting centerpiece to their resort. The other restaurants surround Bana, with Market Grill outdoors. They have three pools: a quieter adults-only pool, a family pool that is shallower, and a long sprawling main pool with a swim-up bar and little islets with water jets. They have a long sprawling expanse of beach right outside the resort.

pool-and-swim-up

I’d wake up in the morning and then either order room service or stop by the breakfast buffet. A sausage, mushroom, and mozzarella omelet on my balcony overlooking the ocean. Or maybe mimosas at the breakfast buffet while I loaded up on waffles, smoked salmon, freshly made omelets, cheeses, bacon, and fruits. Then I’d spend the day taking a paddleboard or kayak out onto the water and riding the waves. The Caribbean Sea picks up a bit of temper by the time it hits Mexico so there was definitely some action in the water. Lunchtime I’d go to the poolside grill and grab my body weight in guacamole and pico de gallo, seafood ceviche, burgers, hot dogs, and chicken wings. Then I’d laze the afternoon away in the pool, swimming up to the bar and shamelessly sipping on Miami Vice after Miami Vice.

day-view

Dinners we were spoiled for choice. Our first night we went to the Market Grill which is styled like a Brazilian rodizio, with skewers of meat traveling from table to table. Sirloin, filet, chicken thigh, beef short ribs, picanha, round after round as they brought it to our table fresh from the grill and sliced it in front of us. For meat, Scotch is best, so Blood and Sands were the drink of order.

sashimi-and-sushi

On the second night we went to Bana, their Japanese restaurant in the center of the resort. Best location, excellent food, terrible lighting and hot. Still. Dock and avocado eggrolls. Seafood shumai. So many pieces of sushi and sashimi. Octopus, scallop, tuna, salmon, soft shell crab, eel. And lychee martinis! They also had the best dessert, fried banana tempura with a chocolate sauce and green tea ice cream and black tea ice cream.

blue-corn-sopes-with-shrimpOn the third night we went to Mole, which to be honest with you I had the least hopes for. It was Mexican modern, and I’m not a big fan of Mexican so  I wasn’t too sure I would enjoy it. But man was I wrong! For appetizer I ordered these little blue corn sopes with shrimp and spicy sauce and mixed greens. Wonderful bite sized amuse bouches. I went all out for the entree. Entrees actually! All-inclusive after all. I had a goat canneloni with a cream sauce. The goat was tender and flavorful with the earthy spices of Mexican cuisine goat-cannelonibut stuffed into wondefully al dente pasta sheets and served with a rich creamy sauce. I also had the pulpo (octopus) roasted with garlic. Just the right level of toothsomeness and char. Dessert was a tres leches cake that they finished table side by pouring a tiny pitcher of condensed milk over and watching the cake absorb it all was definitely entertaining before digging in. I definitely wanted an appropriate drink but wasn’t feeling like margaritas so instead had caipirinhas. The lime was refreshing and helped me power through all those courses!

roasted-garlic-octopus

Our final night we ate at Fuego, which is the Paradisus’s Peruvian inspired restaurant. I had the highest hopes for this. I love Peruvian food. Of course I had to start with a ceviche of crab and shrimp. Then a bowl of mixed grilled seafood including squid, octopus, shrimp, and scallops. Followed by the thickest, richest, creamiest version of lobster bisque I have ever had. Then a pan fried sirloin with mushroom risotto and a parmesan tuile and then a roast breast of duck with sweet potato puree. Still room for dessert and drinks! I had plenty of Pisco Sours to keep me company and finished with a coconut creme brulee served with almond liquer ice cream.

The food was great but the luxury of eating whenever and whatever was just so freeing. I still feel new and fresh to the all-inclusive experience so any opportunity to order a drink at a bar or some food was always taken. Late night my brother and I would order room service. Buffalo wings, omelets, cheesecake, nachos, burgers, hot dogs, our poor hotel staff having to keep lugging everything! Because of my connections with the travel company they placed us on the highest floor with the best view so they really had a trek each time.

paradisus-cancun-room

Of course we couldn’t spend the entire time eating! On our second day we took an ATV tour of the jungle and got to ride them on Maroma Beach, one of the world’s best beaches. The ATV tour was fun but not as thrilling or challenging as the ATV tour I did in Cabo where we were riding on and over sand dunes and drifting in the dessert and going up cliffs. But it was just challenging enough for my family and the rest of our group apparently! There was one couple who were riding together. We hadn’t even left the parking lot, just going single line heading out, when you see them riding top speed streaking across the line turning wide. I think the boyfriend didn’t know how much kick these machines had. They ran straight. Into. A palm tree. Knocked it right over and they got stuck over its dead body. Luckily it was a young tree whose roots weren’t so deep yet. Then, as we were riding along the road heading into the jungle, my parents missed the turn and were headed into the highway. Our guide races in front of them and tries to signal them to stop and turn but my mother, riding as passenger, thought he was just being friendly and told my father to smile and keep waving back.

night-view

We also visited Dubai Palace, Cancun’s largest and newest casino. Cancun just recently legalized casinos so the selection is pretty sparse, unlike Aruba or the Dominican Republic. Still we had a good time, and in fact my father and I won around $1200 Mexican pesos playing some card games. It’s not much, around $50USD, but to them it sure was a big deal!

It was a great trip, with just the right amount of relaxation and activity. Most of all it was great to spend some time with my family. We haven’t had a vacation all four of us in a long while. My brother and I had the VIP room since it was under my name and my parents stayed in another room a few floors below. Still we were always together, either at the beach or by the pool, and we always ate together, though my brother and I would also have our late night snacks! We would even play cards in our room and play penalty games to punish the losers. I think I most cherish though the ability to just go bar hopping with my brother and drinking together.

It was a fun time and I think my family is hooked on the all-inclusive now. I still have a few more free rewards nights to use so I anticipate we’ll be back next year! Maybe a different place in the Caribbean though.

Honestly I needed this after finishing NaNoWriMo, and it was a refreshing restart. Ready to get back into things though! Missed writing, missed this community, and ready to start up again!

Day 153

Man: 125 Loneliness: 28

 

 

 

Day 114: The Man and the Bellowing Sorrows; ‘Smoke’

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Finally an opportunity when things have relatively calmed down. It has been a hell of a week which has been quite the shame considering how great the past weekend was.


Got a chance to watch The Accountant with Ben Affleck and Anna Kendrick. Great movie. I don’t know why the critics panned it so much. I feel somehow somewhere along the line, perhaps around the Giglii era, Ben Affleck turned into critic and box office poison. He has since proven himself again. The Town was great, Argo proved his abilities as an actor, producer, and director. Yet everyone was so eager to see him fail as Batman that I cannot really get a sense of where people are in terms of Ben Affleck anymore. I was always a fan and Anna Kendrick, though she pretty much plays the exact same person in every one of her films, still plays it well and convincingly and she’s just so damn beautiful. There was an entire subplot with JK Simmons and Cynthia Addai-Robinson that, though interesting, provided very little to the actual story. But the character was compelling and the intrigue was captivating. Highly recommended.


Saturday my friends and I got to go to Six Flags Fright Fest. The day was perfect for it. Fright Fest.jpgOvercast, slightly misty with sporadic rain, and 50°. The rain was moving through southern Jersey heading north so by the time we got there it had pretty much cleared up, but the weather did exactly what I hoped it would. The cold and rain kept most people away from the park so as soon as we were in it was nonstop rides. The shortest lines I’ve ever experienced and that made the cold so worth it. Plus, it’s crazy to feel the wind just freeze your teeth off as you’re screaming down a long drop. I’m a ride junkie so it was great but I was most proud of my one friend K, who hates rides. Something about Saturday just lit something in him though and he was on most of the rides with us. Some only I got on because everyone was too nervous to try. Joker was a solo ride because no one else wanted to try it. If you haven’t seen the ride or know anything about it, it’s a free-rotating and spinning rollercoaster ride. It goes straight up like an elevator and goes along the track with the carts suspended over the railing and Joker Ride.jpgspinning off. Green Lantern was fun and I love the gimmick of standing to ride. Superman you ride on your stomach. Batman the track is above you so your feet are hanging off. I love rides that are beyond your standard car and track. Having said that, the BEST ride experience of Fright Fest was after sundown, in pitch darkness, seeing nothing in front of you and going down an INTENSE drop at 70mph on El Toro. The frights of Fright Fest were okay, predictable, and the haunted mazes were unfortunately an extra cost, but just being able to do roller coasters in pitch darkness was entirely worth it. That and the hot cocoa and churros. Six Flags churros are the best.


Sunday was a thrill as well. I met my cousin in the city to try an escape room experience and take her to a bar in the Lower East Side that has some great drink and oyster specials all day on Sundays. I’ve done escape game before and I love them. Open ended puzzles, usually some great theatric elements (our had secret panels coming out of fireplaces and Mission Escape.pngsecret doors that opened to other rooms and chessboards that lit up when you placed pieces in certain places), wonderful opportunity to be working with friends or even strangers in small groups, and themes that to be honest, I could take it or leave it. The ones that are too over the top or try too hard actually turn me off to it, but just enough to create ambiance are fine. The one we went to was called The Hydeout, where we had to investigate what happened to Dr. Jekyll and how it relates to the mysterious killer Mr. Hyde. It was my cousin’s first time trying it and she admitted it was a bit out of her comfort zone, but I was so happy that she was willing to try it and I think the level of difficulty, the intricacy of the puzzles, the friendliness of the staff and our group, made for a great first experience and I think she sincerely enjoyed it. Afterwards I took her to The Essex, a restaurant in the Lower East Side of Manhattan. It used to be an old warehouse which gives it a great setting with high windows and a second floor loft. Unfortunately a rather…rowdy….birthday party was going on literally right next to us but as soon as they left it quieted down and we were able to have conversations without yelling over each other. The drinks were great (and half off on Sunday) and the oysters were only $1 each. Essex.jpgFresh, good flesh and flavor, enough saltiness, great pairing for the night. Actually almost missed my bus because we spent so much time talking and drinking! I’ve been really looking forward to these opportunities to spend time with my cousin since I never got to really know her whenever I would visit the Philippines. We talked about relationships and life decisions and all these wonderful engaging complicated topics. Always fun to stretch the mind that way. Feel bad though because I know it can be exhausting as well. Maybe next time I’ll talk to her about the weather. Hahah.


It really is such a shame then that as fun and exciting as the weekend was, this week has been complete and utter trash. A new update that we were supposed to give people time to prepare for and teach them how to handle was sprung on the company on Monday Dwight.gifmorning and suddenly it was mayhem and chaos. People are emailing, messaging, texting, everyone has no idea what’s happening and our responsibility within our team is to disperse the information as quickly as possible. While my team, who were consultants longer than I was and who know more of the agents out in the field, were handling the smaller requests and one on one messages through our FB@Work program, I was the medium between the actual programming team and IT desk and the area stores. I had to talk to our program director and my manager. When our support desk didn’t know what to do, I was the one who spoke to them and coached them through the updates and how to fix it and what to tell people so that they were armed and equipped to help everyone who was calling and emailing in. But this put me way far behind the front line. I was far removed from where people could see who was giving them information so my boss was wondering where I was, asking why I wasn’t helping, at the same time that I was coordinating with our entire support staff and answering the questions of my team members because they weren’t aware of the changes. I was the one who, at the end of the day, had to give a report of my activities because no one could see me posting on Facebook or responding on emails. It was my work pride that took a little bit of a hit when everyone else was getting shout outs and thank yous and special head-eskmentions for how wonderful they were and how on top of things they were. My colleagues are not ones to easily give credit to others (you don’t get far in sales by giving other people your commission, now do you) and I am not one to ever seek or expect recognition. I trust enough in meritocracy that a good job should be recognized as such. I’m not the type to ‘blow smoke’ up someone’s ass nor am I the type to particularly enjoy the sensation of it being blown up mine. I’ll praise a job deserving praise and I’ll accept praise for a job well done, but I can’t ever support anything else as more than superfluous. Yet here I was dealing with the stresses and demands as I should but watching the ones I armed getting credit. It just hurts the motivation and incentive sometimes, vain as it may sound.

On the bright side it’s almost the weekend, and next week I am on the road, getting to enjoy the traveler life again, staying in my favorite hotels, and I even organized my schedule so that I am working my down the shore so I can spend next weekend in Atlantic City by myself. I have a favorite late night Chinese restaurant that has real authentic dishes for delivery like oxtail noodle soup and salt and pepper squid and jellyfish, the hotel I always stay at is giving me a free night and half off their buffet, Philips Seafood does happy hour drinks and oysters all day Sunday, and I’ll spend some time gambling and maybe catch an IMAX film. Next week it’ll be about me and the road and my work and my writing. No reports, no checking in, and the immediate benefit of my efforts will be leaving a store better than it was when I first walked in.

But on a lighter, more humorous note, let’s talk about the origin of the phrase ‘to blow smoke up someone’s ass’, shall we?!


In the late 1700s ‘blowing smoke up your ass’ more than just a figurative expression for meaningless praise to ‘inflate’ your ego. It was an actual medically accredited method of Smoke Ass.jpgresuscitation, particularly among drowning victims. Much as how nowadays you are expected to know the location of an AED in your office or home, the people of the 1700s were expected to know where smoke bellows were found hung along the routes of popular waterways and by bridges such as in London and along the River Thames. To use the device, a tube was inserted into the victim’s rectum which was connected to a bellow and fumigator to create smoke and push it up into the victim. The nicotine was thought to be an accelerant that would speed up heartbeat, thus reviving circulation. The smoke was also thought to be able to warm and dry the victim’s insides, removing excess water. This practice was so prevalent that the Royale Humane Society offered the equivalent of $750 to anyone who successfully revived a victim through this method. Much like how we nowadays tell those who are administering CPR to sing Staying Alive by the BeeGees to remember rhythm, in 1774 the Royal Humane Society released this little ditty to help remind people what to do for drowning victims when administering the smoke enema.

Tobacco glister, breathe and bleed.

Keep warm and rub till you succeed.

And spare no pains for what you do;

May one day be repaid to you.

In fact, smoke enemas became so popular as form of treatment that its use spread to more than just drowning victims. Smoke enemas were used to treat headaches, hernias, and abdominal cramps. One of the earliest and most popular examples of a smoke enema successfully resuscitating someone was when a young man’s wife had nearly drowned and was unconscious. Without the proper bellow and tube, the husband took a lit tobacco pipe, shoved the stem into his wife’s rectum, covered the other end with his mouth, and blew as forcefully as he could. His wife regained consciousness, though I can’t help but think maybe it was really from the sensation of burning hot tobacco embers being blown literally up her ass.

It wasn’t until the early 20th century when tobacco was found to be harmful to the cardiac system that the practice of ‘blowing smoke’ up someone’s ass was finally considered more harmful than helpful and the expression stayed in the figurative sense. Personally, I’m glad for that.

Day 114

Man: 93 Loneliness: 21

Day 101: The Man and the Manliness of Praise P.5; ‘Candle’

‘Virtues are acquired through endeavor, which rests wholly upon yourself. So, to praise others for their virtues can but encourage one’s own efforts.’

– Thomas Paine

Thomas Paine.jpgFor the final part of my series on praise I would like to discuss the act of praise in particular as it pertains to men. I’d also like to issue a warning about the efficacy of praise and the discretion of its use. And finally I’d like to issue a challenge to everyone to become a bit more active in their mindset of praise. We’ve got a lot to go over people so let’s get started.

 

 

The Manliness of Praise

Though I know the majority of my readers are women (as seems prevalent among the blogging community) I cannot ignore the fact that I am a guy and I feel that more men should be able to write and find community and find relevant posts for themselves. And though I may direct this portion towards men in particular I believe there could be benefit in everyone reading this, as it does not necessarily only apply to men and it can also help understand a bit of the male psyche.

I believe that while men may have no issues giving or receiving praise from women, we are particularly restrained when it comes to praising our fellow man. I know I have definitely shared more positive words with women than I have with men and I believe this could be true for many others. The causes for this I think are rooted within our views of masculinity and other men.

See for the most part, guys view others guys primarily as competition versus ally, which is man2man.jpgusually the reverse for women. We are still tuned to want to hunt and provide and fear the scarcity of resources, including praise and success. For many men success, respect, and praise are all ‘points’ to be won and to offer someone praise is to ‘give up’ precious points. Yes, it is true that praising someone is to recognize that they particularly excel either in a particular skill, characteristic, or trait. But success isn’t a game to be won and simply because someone excels in something does not mean there are no opportunities for you to excel in the same thing or something else altogether. The truth of the matter is respect is something we have plenty of to go around and offering praise, while raising one person, does nothing to lower another. In fact the man you are praising most likely doesn’t even think to keep ‘score’ with you so this worry that prevents you from sharing some positivity with your fellow man is just keeping a valuable asset out of the hands of someone who might really need that affirmation.

Further, I challenge men to consider that it is actually the higher man who is able to comfortably, confidently, and consistently offer his fellow men words of praise. Humility, self-awareness, and the desire for improvement are all valuable traits to have in anyone, regardless of gender. Especially for a man who might be hesitant to offer a compliment because of lowering his value I say that it actually shows you to be someone who possesses these three traits. It is honorable for a man to be able to find excellence in others and respect and recognize them for it. Further it shows that he has thought about the traits he wishes to possess and it portrays it in his search for examples of such. Often times offering a kind word can also open the door to improvement. Praising someone for something you admire and wish to also possess can facilitate growth in the greatest way – by finding someone whose example you can follow either in the form of formal tutelage or in spirit.

I also believe that when it comes to men and the manliness of praise, praising another person in particular for their values also reflects positively on the one praising. Remember ‘it takes one to know one’? When you genuinely and sincerely and specifically praise someone for their values or virtues and it is convincing and thorough, you are also broadcasting that you too are someone who recognizes this trait and strives to possess it in its highest form as well. When you can honestly and without judgement or fear of feeling lesser or inferior recognize the great values and traits of others, you are indirectly glimpsing at the greatest version of yourself in various forms. It keeps you focused on your goals and directs your mindset to be seeking and improving on these aspects yourself.

A Warning on the Efficacy of Praise

As powerful and as positive as praise can be, when used improperly it can also be praise.jpgdestructive and have negative effects. For one, remember that praise is first and foremost for the benefit of the one being praised. Any ulterior motive or agenda, wither implicit or explicit, detracts from the value, the worth, and the sincerity of the act. This can jade our opinion of others and make us feel wary or suspicious of any kind words. It also reflects a manipulative and less than honorable image for the one who uses praise for their own benefit. So always be forthcoming with your words and intentions. Sometimes we may also be tempted to offer praise even to someone who may not necessarily deserve it simply because we wish to be kind or perhaps because we think they need it. While the person may honestly need some words of encouragement, if you are not careful to choose something truly noteworthy and simply make something up, you could make this person feel worse than if you had said nothing at all. Remember that the efficacy of accepting and internalizing praise is also predicated on if we believe that we truly deserved it or not. If they don’t deserve praise for that particular thing but you still wish to say something positive, choose something else. Undeserved praise serves no one in any way. And finally, in regards to back-handed compliments, remember that a compliment should be a compliment and an insult should be delivered to the front of the person, and not to their back. If someone is feeling particularly proud or excited about something and you decide it’s up to you to restore ‘balance’ with your back-handed compliment you could seriously damage their self-esteem or their enthusiasm. Praise positively, peeps.

A Challenge

Yes, I believe it is time we all put our money where our mouths are, so I am issuing this challenge to you all for the weekend with the understanding that I will of course also be engaging in it as well.

The challenge is simple. It deals with changing our negative mindsets to find the positives in our every day and then actively sharing what we see. Over the course of the weekend, preferably once a day, compliment the following people in your life:

  • A family member or friend: This is the easiest one of course, but it is also a great way to strengthen your relationship with the ones you love.
  • A co-worker: For most of us these are the people we will spend the second most amount of time in our lives with so it certainly wouldn’t hurt to improve relations and morale with your office mates.
  • A business you patronize: In a world of TripAdvisor and Yelp and viral reviews it’s a shame that we are more likely to share complaints and negative experiences over positive ones. Your local business thrives on word of mouth and needs the support of the community to survive. Try to spread a good word about a business you frequent not only on some form of media but with friends, family, or even just let them know you think they’re doing a great job.
  • A young person or beginner in some field: Remember from the early on in the series that the young and the novices are the ones who benefit from positive encouragement the most. So take some time to provide that boost of confidence they need to believe in themselves.
  • A stranger: Perhaps one of the hardest to do and yet the easiest in terms of finding something to compliment. Brighten someone’s day with as simple a remark as ‘I love your tie or shoes or etc’. Try to be specific to show that you are genuine and paying attention.

Thus concludes ManVsLoneliness’s seminar on praise. Hahah. I hope it helped in some way and I hope you take on this challenge.

Day 101

Man: 81 Loneliness: 20

Uh…candle.

Day 91: The Man and the Taste of Identity; ‘Daring’

Philippine Flag.png

So apparently October is National Filipino-American History Month. Another reason for a guy to love October I guess. Filipino-American History Month was established by the Filipino-American National Historical Society back in 1988 but was only recognized nationally starting in 2009. The FANHS decided on October as the first recorded presence of Filipinos in the US was on October 18, 1587 when ‘Luzones Indios’ (natives of Luzon) were brought on the Spanish galleon Nuestra Senora de Esperanza to the shores of Morro Bay, California.

It’s pretty cool and all. And I am damn proud to be Filipino-American and that they have set aside this month for us and everything but I’ll be honest with you…I can’t say much to Filipino identity or notable people or culture, really. When I say I’m Filipino, I really mean that my parents are from the Philippines. I never, and I emphasize never had any desire or interest in joining any Filipino culture clubs or anything in high school or college. It actually just *shudder* made me cringe just to think of it. UAASO, United Asian-American Student Organization, was the largest Asian club on campus in college and it was completely run by Filipinos. You’d think I would’ve run there with arms wide open, burst through the doors and yell ‘My people! I have come to you!’ Instead I went the complete opposite direction and became President…of the Chinese Student Association.

I think it might be a Filipino-American thing though, honestly. When I visit the Philippines it’s not like I think ‘oh god I can’t stand being around all these Filipinos’. I find the native Filipino spirit and personality very friendly and agreeable and a lot of fun. But Filipino-Americans around here…eeh…yeah not so much.

My family and I are perfectly content and happy to be proud Filipinos…on our own. We really don’t feel the need to broadcast this to everyone or to be with others just to tell ourselves how happy we are to be us. We still behave and act and think and do things in very Philippine ways. Yes we have a painting of the last supper hanging in our dining room (and another in the kitchen). Yes we point with our lips and pick things up with our feet. But we never thought we would ever want to make that our ‘thing’ or identify with all of this. We just wanted to do it because it made sense, whether culturally, historically, logically, or emotionally.

Don’t ask me about famous Filipino figures. Don’t ask me about Filipino art or music or literature or film. I feel like sometimes I purposely go out of my way to avoid Fil-Ams in pop culture because it would just feel like lazy adoration. Like, I’m not going to like or listen to the Black Eyed Peas just because apl. de. ap. is Fil-Am. I’m not going to listen to Bruno Mars for the same reason and I don’t want to give people the chance to assume that of me. Having Dante Basco be the voice of Prince Zuko was pretty bad-ass though. And yes, I admit I did have a crush on Vanessa Hudgens. But an awesome TV show and a pretty face precede any sort of national or cultural affiliation!

I think one of the reasons why I have such a disconnect with Filipino culture here in the US versus actually in the Philippines is because of how fluid it seems to be. One of the greatest strengths (and conversely greatest weaknesses) of the Filipino is adaptability. We are the second largest Asian ethnicity in the United States and why we are so numerous (and why you probably didn’t even realize that) is because of how well we can assimilate into our environment. We really don’t want a lot of attention drawn to us. We would much prefer to be known for how easily and quickly our neighbors felt safe next to us. Hahah. But because of that I’ve always struggled with the concept of ‘authenticity’. I don’t know what it means to be ‘Fil-Am’ when we have no real strong sense of community or identity. A first generation Filipino-American growing up on the East Coast is going to turn out a whole hell of a lot different from a West Coaster and I really don’t feel comfortable or at home with either. I grew up around other ethnicities. My best friends were and still are Taiwanese, Korean, Japanese, and white. My entire sense of Filipino identity was derived only from my parents who also quite notably did not really interact with other Filipino families. (I understand their reasons now but…hardly seems apropos considering we’re supposed to be celebrating Filipinos right now. Hahah.)

Even our food, which is usually used as a mark of cultural identity, differs from place to Adobo.jpgplace. We cannot even unite on what should be on our plates. This is more than just a regional anomaly. This isn’t like categorizing Chinese food as either Szechuan, Hunan, Cantonese, or Mandarin. A dish can change from family to family and interpretations abound. You will often times find more ‘Filipino Fusion’ restaurants than you will ‘authentic Filipino’ simply because almost all Filipino food is fusion. No one wants to unify or define Filipino dishes for fear of singling out certain areas or ethnicities or offending the myriad Filipino families who can cook the same dish a thousand different ways. Who would get to define what Filipino food ‘is’ and how would we even establish their credibility or criteria for such a task.

Still, when it comes to cultural identity, you can talk to me about food. I know food. Filipino dishes still share many of the same characteristics despite the variances. I love Dinuguan.jpgthe hearty and flavor-packed ‘sabaw‘, or sauce that comes with each dish. A lot of Filipino food is stew-based and the rich sauce that is the result of that long stewing process is so good over steaming white rice. Unlike many East Asian dishes that focus on exemplifying and stressing one or at most two different flavors at a time, Filipino food is about packing as many flavors and textures into one dish as possible. For this reason many of my friends have had to become ‘accustomed’ to Filipino food because of how strong the flavors are. Now they love it and when they crave hearty and rich, they know where to go.

Filipino food is also all about being daring. We never let any part of the animal go to waste Balut.JPGand we’ll be damn clever about it too. I love dinuguan, a pork stew of belly, ear, and offal braised in pig’s blood (regional varieties include my preferred one which lessens the amount of vinegar and adds hot green pepper for punch). There is of course the infamous (though utterly delicious) balut. Easy shock-TV material for the uninitiated  but really, it’s just a fertilized duck egg.

 

Okay I get it, that might be a bit…tough to swallow. (HAH. Get it. Swallow like to eat and swallow like the bird which comes from an egg.) You don’t have to jump off the deep end just yet. To be perfectly honest my mother and father were born and raised in the Philippines and refuse to eat balut. Personally I think it’s a great breakfast alternative. Regardless, if anything at all, I would highly recommend that this October in honor of Filipino-American History Month, please, find your friendly neighborhood pinoy and ask them to take you a restaurant. Try some Filipino food if you haven’t yet had a chance. I guarantee you that there isn’t one too far from where you are. We’re everywhere. We’re just very good at blending in. But everyone is going to need a nurse or a nanny!

Day 91

Man: 72 Loneliness: 19