The Pier

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We used to jump off the pier at the south point of Miami Beach. Some would do flips or dive head first, I was only brave enough to jump. It wasn’t life threateningly high, though someone once told me their stepdad spent his adult life in a wheelchair because of a tragic leap off it, but it was a rush that lasted as you sunk ten feet below the surface of the Atlantic Ocean and stayed with you like the salt on your skin until you washed it off.

The pier was closed off and under renovation forever. Maybe a year ago it reopened, child proof with clear signs that there is no jumping or diving allowed.

I took my daughter out there on a beautiful day. Though there was no way she could slither through the fence I still do the math in my head of how long it would take me to dive after her if she did and how I could climb up the rocks while holding her.

But there is no drama or action to this day. We sat in a shady area and the water was so calm and clear even with my awful vision I could spot a parrotfish swimming by. When a tugboat motored through, the waves in its wake scattered out even more sea life. I asked my daughter if she saw the fish, she acted like she did but I’m pretty sure she’s pretending. Then she points out a turtle. I act like I see it as well.

Proper Identification

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I carried my California driver’s license until it expired. My photograph was taken at the Redwood City DMV, months before 9/11 and somehow when I got it renewed they allowed me to keep the same picture from when I was 22 years old. I like to think I aged gracefully, but when I sold my car to a junkman he questioned whether I was using someone else’s ID card.

Last May I finally got my Florida license. I waited in a long line behind a man who kept complaining how long it was taking which in turn was getting me riled up. Eventually it was my turn and I had a new picture taken.

It had been over a year since I had cut my hair and my locks had gotten long. It wasn’t until I stared at my picture that I realized how long my hair had grown. I looked like Michael Bolton. The frightening thing was I actually liked that I looked like Michael Bolton.

But the summer is hot and my hair kept growing and in a fit of energy I decided to rid myself of my hair. I had been threatening to do it all summer with each dread that I felt knotted up in my mane, but every time I pulled out my ID I thought I should keep my hair. Nobody has heard from Michael Bolton after all since he cut off his hair. And if there was one lesson I learned from the Bible it involves poor Samson.

But for the umpteenth time in my life I went against religion. I walked into a barber shop that promised ten dollar haircuts. A man was in the back reading a book. I asked how much he would charge to shave my head.

“You want me to shave that? No, I won’t do it.”

So I began to walk out of the store, when he stopped me. “You OK if I shave it with the machine.” He took out an electric razor.

I said “Yes.” His English wasn’t so great, but I guess he thought I wanted him to shave it with a straight razor. It didn’t take him more than a couple minutes to lop off all the hair I had been growing for months. I asked him what he was reading.

“The Bible.” he said. I started wondering how much the chapter on Samson had to do with him refusing his services.

He finished it up. In the mirror I thought I looked younger, though less like Michael Bolton.

Now when I hand someone my ID I have to explain, it is me but I shaved my head.

And it doesn’t expire until 2023.

 

A Movie Only Donald Trump Could Love – Sicario

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump gestures and declares "You're fired!" at a rally in Manchester, New Hampshire, June 17, 2015. REUTERS/Dominick Reuter TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY - RTX1GZCO

“When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.”

This is a statement by Donald Trump, it is also the ethos behind the hateful new movie, Sicario.

I’m all for xenophobia in brainless action flicks, but when a movie paints itself as a serious, pretentious work of art as Sicario does with its long silent shots of landscapes of the US/Mexican border, to portray an entire nation as villainous is more than reckless, it is immoral.

Sicario tells the tale of a female FBI agent who goes to Mexico with a couple fascist CIA agents to fight Mexican cartels. The Mexico in this movie is a land where dead corpses are hung naked in the middle of a busy city. It is a country where tattooed thugs drive around ready to kill you in a moments notice. It is a land filled with such vile creatures, that we should build a wall higher than the one seen in Game of Thrones.

In movies like the original Red Dawn when Russians were painted as the enemy and in Olympus Has Fallen when the North Koreans were depicted as heartless, it didn’t seem so wrong because the movies didn’t take themselves so seriously. Sicario however tries to position itself as high minded, as a true to life portrayal of the dangers Mexicans brings to America, and thus it feels much dirtier.

It’s kind of like how it was easier to laugh at Donald Trump before you realized a large percentage of the population were going to vote for him.

Somewhere in the middle of this anti-Mexican, pro-waterboarding screed could have been a good B action movie. The battle scenes are often intense, and an out of shape Benicio Del Toro as a supersolider is such a ridiculous killing machine that if they bothered to write him a few witty one-liners this could have been a bizarro version of Machete.

The director of this movie Denis Villeneuve hails from Canada. After seeing the venom that spews from his mind onto the screen, not only in Sicario, but also in one of his previous movies Incendies,  I feel if we have to build a wall on the border of this country, we should maybe look North.

Pride

Cute little child play with book and glasses while sitting at table, isolated over white

To those without kids it seems idiotic the way new parents boast about how their children can do the simplest task. Facebook feeds are filled with Moms and Dads sharing with the the world wide web about how their child mispronounced some word or fell flat on their face after taking their first step or some other simple feat that most any idiot can accomplish after downing a bottle or two of cheap liquor.

What those that haven’t been around newborns might not realize is when we enter this world we are not much more coordinated or cognizant than a sack of potatoes. The only two recognizable skills infants have over root vegetables is the ability to cry and expel bodily fluids. So it seems somewhat miraculous when your little turnip can now crawl or your parsnip is picking up a crayon and drawing.

But I try to keep it on the down low when my little rutabaga does something new, because I know the only thing people hate more than a complainer is a braggart. Still, there was a morning where I couldn’t help myself. We live on the second floor and most of the time when we take our daughter downstairs we count down the steps. That particular morning I started “One, two, three, fo–”

I stopped because I thought I heard another voice chiming in. And sure enough my daughter kept counting even though I had stopped. “Five, six, eight, nine.” She skipped a number, but I still was blown away. Where did this come from? I know by her age Tiger Woods could already swing a golf club and Mozart might have already written a symphony, but her being able to count at the age of two seemed supernatural.

So when we got to the playground and she started climbing up the ladder to the slide and a Mom of another two year old said hi and asked how I was doing I couldn’t help myself but to become one of those parents. “Amazing! This girl is able to count!”

Her response has me convinced there is intelligent design of the universe and this woman was created just to put me in my place. “She can do it in Spanish too right?” she asked. “My daughter’s been counting in both languages since 18 months.”

More Misery – Your 2015 Miami Dolphins Preview

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It feels like a lifetime ago, but I think it was just 2003 when I walked into a Los Angeles sports bar and sat next to a bitter guy in a Dan Marino jersey to watch the Miami Dolphins game. He was bitching and moaning every chance he had about how much he hated the Dolphins quarterback, Jay Fiedler, and the coach, Dave Wannstedt. His hatred for them was so absolute, I had to ask, “If you don’t like the coach or the quarterback, then why are you rooting for the team?”

He couldn’t come up with a good answer.

Now a dozen years later I am the bitter man in the Dan Marino jersey without a good reason for why I should be rooting for the Dolphins every Sunday except for out of a sense of habit, and maybe a dose of self-hatred. We are now entering year four of the failed Ryan Tannehill/Joe Philbin experiment with no end in sight. Both the quarterback Tannehill and the coach Philbin have this past year been granted contract extensions, without a single winning season in their three forgettable years together.

If I’m forced to say something nice about quarterback Ryan Tannehill, it’s that he is tough. No matter how hard he gets hit he always gets back up for the next play. Unfortunately that next play is most likely a three yard pass when the Dolphins are eight yards away from a first down. You could blame coach Joe Philbin for his unimaginative play calling (a short screen pass followed by another short screen pass), but the times he would ask Tannehill to throw deep, the ball would end up far from the receiver’s grasp.

The only thing that gives idiots like me hope for the Dolphins to have a winning record this upcoming season for the first time since 2008 is the schedule. It’s as forgiving as you could hope for. Of the 16 games the Dolphins play, only five are against teams that made the playoffs last year, and four of those games are at home where theoretically the Dolphins should have more hope (though Dolphins owner Stephen Ross continues to ignore that by begging the league not to give the Dolphins early afternoon games, he kills Miami’s home field advantage where the South Florida heat has traditionally slowed down opponents not used to Florida’s oppressive humidity). Most positive about the schedule for the Dolphins is after November 29 in New York there are no cold weather games where  for the last few years Dolphins playoff dreams have frozen into ice cube shaped tears.

But looking at the lack of talent on the Dolphin’s coaching staff and offense, it looks like more December tears are in our horizon. While our defense anchored by the addition of Ndamukong Suh should be powerful enough to keep the Dolphins respectable, there are no threats on offense in an era where teams are scoring a historic number of points.

Which leads to my prediction of  7 wins and 9 losses.

I can only imagine how angry that Los Angeles fan of the Dolphins is right now. With each passing year of Stephen Ross’s reign as owner those Jay Fiedler/Dave Wannstedt Dolphins teams feel like the glory years.

The Looks You Get On Summer Days

I walked downstairs at 2:30 in the afternoon and the air conditioning repairman gave me a really weird look when I said hi. Maybe I was being overly sensitive, but whatever the expression on his face was, it wasn’t friendly. Perhaps he was pissed still from a couple months ago when I called the management company to have him fix the air conditioning. He seemed to be working really hard while I was killing time. Then a couple weeks later when I saw him fixing someone else’s unit and he asked me how the air conditioning was running, I was honest and told him, “It’s still not that cold.”

Perhaps he took that as a criticism of his life’s work?

Maybe he was angry at me that while he was working in the hot sun fixing someone else’s air conditioning, I, with towel and goggles in hand, was obviously walking to a swimming pool seemingly living a life of leisure.

Then again maybe he was weirded out by the bathing suit I was wearing. It’s one of those jammers that keep you streamlined in the water, but when you’re walking the two blocks to the pool in the surface world makes you look like a creep with a penchant for too tight bicycle shorts.

As I was about to think about something else, I for some reason scratched my head. I noticed there was an extra weight on it. Oh yeah, my daughter was bugging me to put a pink bow barrette in my hair and I forgot to take it out.

That would explain his look.

The First Question

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I’ve been interviewing rock stars for a couple years now and I can figure out from the first question if it’s going to be a waste of time. I got the idea for the introductory question from a British music journalist. He said his first question was always, “Where and when were you born?”

He said it takes his subject out of their mindset of trying to sell you on whatever they’re publicizing and into who they were before they found fame. That seemed to make sense so I took a variation on it and always ask, “When did you first fall in love with music?”

If they say, “I’ve always loved music.” I know I’m screwed.

Well, not necessarily. Sometimes I can prod them by asking, “Do you have any specific memories of the first time music really affected you?” And they might open up. But there have been a number of people who will just say, “I’ve always loved it, man.” and I know there’s no way I’ll get an interesting quote out of them about anything.

Fortunately, most people will travel back to a distant past and reminisce about their parent’s record collection or a radio station playing the Beatles or the first guitar they got.