Archive for November, 2010

Eleven Thirty

The three hundred thirty-fourth day of the year is remarkable for several reasons.

Historically speaking, this date is known for the wedding of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz (1940), the country of Barbados gaining its independence (1966), Operation Desert Storm officially ending (1995), and Jeopardy champion Ken Jennings finally losing after earning over $2.5 million in prize money (2004).

Famous folks such as Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens to his parents), Winston Churchill (provided the intro for Iron Maiden’s song Aces High), Richard Crenna (had Rambo’s back as Colonel Trautman), Robert Guillaume (the one and only Benson DuBois), (the ageless wonder) Dick Clark, G Gordon Liddy (of Watergate infamy), Bill Walsh (proud papa of football’s West Coast offense), Abbie Hoffman (Steal This Book, please), Ridley Scott (director of Thelma & Louise, Blade Runner, and Gladiator), Mandy Patinkin (My name is Inigo Montoya, you killed my father, prepare to die), Billy Idol (born William Michael Albert Broad), Cherie Currie (lead singer of the Runaways), Bo Jackson (two sport athlete and world class marketing machine), Ben Stiller (managed to get the beans above the frank), Perrey Reeves (Mrs Ari Gold from Entourage), Clay Aiken (proved that runner-ups actually finish first when it comes to record sales), and Elisha Cuthbert (her juice was worth the squeeze in The Girl Next Door) all share a common birthday today.

It was the end of the road for Oscar Wilde, Zeppo Marx, Tiny Tim, and Evel Knievel as they bought the farm on this day over the years.

But for me, personally speaking, November 30th marks the end of a five month long celebration of JASON.  It will be another 212 days until the calendar smiles upon the months of July, August, September, October, and November again and JASON’s around the globe can revel in the pageantry of our name as the first letter of five consecutive months.

*Assistance in writing this post provided by Wikipedia, Netflix, Google, and the still surviving grey matter in my brain.


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ALS Boy Needs Your Help

Lately I have been losing the battle in my mind over the control of my body.

Granted, there ain’t much going on in terms of get-up-and-go these days with me being a quadriplegic and all but that is not what I’m talking about.

The issue is with my inability to get a handle on the way my legs go stiff and are unable to bend no matter how much coaching and coaxing anybody does to calm my frayed nerves and nerve-endings down.

I try to tell myself to relax and I even attempt to conjure up soothing mental pictures but I don’t get very far before an inescapable and overwhelming feeling of panic sets in and renders me more immobile than before I started the whole charade.

I am completely open to any suggestions you may have to help me get past this wall that I have erected (he he) in my mind.  Please tell me the secrets of creative visualization and meditation techniques and anything else that you may have stashed away in your personal toolbox in regards to what you use in order to get yourself into a better headspace.

Bonus points and my eternal, unending gratitude if you actually come over to the house and teach me those techniques in person.

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Your Last Supper

Hypothetically speaking, you are on death row, hours away from execution, and you are entitled to one final meal request.

The sky’s the limit on the menu of your personal last supper so don’t hold back.  There is no need to sweat the small details like food allergies, excessive calories, and any possible concerns of coming down with gout.

Personally, I would begin with the warm bread salad from Jardiniere (a restaurant in San Francisco).  Then I’d move on to a half-dozen Home Maid raviolis with meat sauce.  For my entree, while prime rib and veal parmigiana are serious contenders, I would have to go with a grilled chicken burrito from La Cumbre (world’s best taqueria in San Mateo).  My beverage of choice would be an ice-cold Dr Pepper in a Coca-Cola glass (just to be difficult).  Finally, for dessert, a single scoop of vanilla bean ice cream would be the perfect topper to the perfect meal.

Now that I’ve shared with you my last supper, I’m dying (still on death row) to see your final meal requests.  Happy commenting!

*This post was inspired by a family conversation started by my sister-in-law Alia.  I hope this oversight isn’t the start of our big fight.  🙂

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Every other Friday I have a one hour appointment with Troy Mandala — a pseudonym for purposes of anonymity — so he can practice medical Chi Gong on me.  I have been with Troy for a while now, ever since my previous healer moved to Atlanta and her replacement ran afoul of one too many radar guns in a short period of time and got his drivers license revoked.

For the uninitiated, medical Chi Gong is, in my uneducated in the ways of Traditional Chinese Medicine opinion, like acupuncture times a thousand in terms of energy movement through one’s body.  The hour goes by in moments and I always leave our sessions feeling refreshed, re-energized, and completely rejuvenated.

In more than six months of bi-weekly visits, the most we ever talked about — and by talking I mean him speaking and me nodding my head and smiling — was the weather, the Giants, and the 49ers.  But that all changed today about five minutes into my treatment.

Troy was just beginning to remove some energy from the area around my chest and stomach when he heard the front door of the office open.  Since we were in a private room approximately twenty feet away, he stopped moving his hands and arms for a moment in order to see exactly who had entered his studio.  The door closed seconds later and he continued clearing the energy off of me.

I looked at him and with my eyes I asked him who that was and said that it was just his ex-wife dropping something off for him.

What happened next was completely unprecedented in our shared experience together and totally out of character based on what my preconceived notion of what I envisioned from a master of the learned art of medical Chi Gong.  It was also the most riveting and compelling fifteen minute calm and in-control diatribes and rants I have ever been witness to in my life.

He began with statistics citing that 50% of marriages in this country end in divorce.  The odds are the same if you flip a coin.  In my head I tried to calculate the probability if a person was married four times.  Before I could finish the math, I found myself grunting in approval.

Then Troy told me a story about the Unification Church and how its founder Sun Myung Moon would gather his followers — aka Moonies — and line up boy-girl boy-girl on the field of some stadium.  He then instructed them to face one another and proceeded to marry each of the couples in a mass ceremony minutes later.  Studies showed that the divorce rate amongst those couples to be at a mere 30%.  I wanted to chime in with a litany of counterpoints but found myself grunting politely instead.

He then launched into a discussion about if a woman wants to be Queen for the Day then she should just purchase an expensive dress, hire a limousine, rent a hall, and invite all of her friends for the party of their lives.  There is no need to drag some poor guy into it if she plans on ruining his life eventually anyway.  I grunted my best tell me more grunt.

Then he speculated that if he could play God for a while that he would make it that both people in a relationship have to be emotionally and mentally mature before they can have children.  He stated with a smile that as a result of his heavenly edict that humans would most likely become an endangered species of about five.  Smiling profusely, I grunted not once but twice.  Loosely translated, it meant please keep going, please keep going.

Feeling the energy and enthusiasm emanating from the crowd of one, he proposed that marriages should have a five year term limit on them.  At that point in time, both parties would have the option to renew the marriage contract for an additional five years.  If one of the persons decides that the union is not living up to the agreed upon specifications, simply put, it’s over.  Speechless grunting from the delegate from San Carlos.

He then said that there should be a law on the books which requires the adult recipient of child support to disclose exactly what that money is spent on.  I gave him a series of grunts that I hoped conveyed an I feel your pain vibe.

He concluded on the following note:  While sometimes things seem to work out for people in married relationships but if it doesn’t pan out,  one can always become a philosopher.

And just like that it was over.  He didn’t speak for the balance of the session except to sheepishly say sorry for laying that on all me.  I just looked hhim in the eyes and grunted it’s okay.

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My new manual wheelchair was finally delivered to our home this past Monday.  Considering that we ordered it back in June, I had almost forgotten all about it.

Well, actually, that’s not entirely truthful.  They have been calling us for the last three or four weeks wanting to make the drop-off but we’ve kinda sorta been avoiding answering them.  You see, delivery of the new manual chair meant the taking away of my old power chair.  I have been sitting in it for over a year now and I’ve gotten quite accustomed to everything about that chair.  I didn’t really want to let go.

So when wheelchair guy Ryan arrived several mornings ago to make the switcheroo, I tried my best to give him the hard sell as to why I should maintain possession of my beloved old friend but he was having none of it.  He tweaked it and torqued it and customized it to my laser-pointed specifications.  And in the end, he left me with the brand new manual chair and an attitude of I-guess-I-could-learn-to-like-it.

We took the chair out and about yesterday to my physical therapy appointment.  My PT, Robin Tobias, couldn’t say enough good things about it.  Words and phrases such as ergonomic and excellent engineering were bandied about during the entire hour of our stretching session.

Suddenly, the chair didn’t feel quite as uncomfortable as it did less than an hour before.  If she likes it so much, the least I can do is give it a decent shot to do its job before I condemn it for not being what I am used to.

When Robin speaks, people listen.

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It’s the Small Things

As anyone who has “dealt” with me can certainly attest, I have a propensity to be somewhat stubbornly obstinate in the way I would like to have things done.  Perhaps this personality quirk is a leftover remnant from my control-obsessed days in the field of public school education or maybe it’s the product of a lifetime of having serious OCD tendencies.  Whatever the case may be, the bottom line is this:  there is a reason for almost everything that I ask people to do.  And even if it is a seemingly minute detail to the entire population of the United States of America (including Guam and Puerto Rico), it makes a whole world of difference to me.

For example, my feet need to be spread out wide before standing up to transfer me from the recliner to the wheelchair so as to maximize my precarious sense of balance.  When taking my two sets of pills with apple sauce, a pill scoop  should always be followed by a chaser spoonful so as not to leave unswallowed and rapidly dissolving chalky medicine residue in the back of my throat.  As I am sleeping, it is important that when I turn over from my left side and onto my back that I am not feeling suffocated and constricted by excess blankets and sheets that have mysteriously migrated to underneath the right side of my body, which, in turn, effectively renders me utterly immobilized and subsequently wide awake as I futilely struggle to get free from this cotton maiden medieval torture device.

On the other hand, the small things in this life are the things that I most look forward to day after day.  It’s the way that Emma talks to me when everyone is off in some other room doing whatever it is that they’re doing and it’s just me and Emma chatting it up like we are on a television talk show.  It’s sending and receiving texts with Fehmeen and laughing about them when she arrives home from school.  It’s watching Giants and Niner games with my dad, aka the Italian Man Servant.  It’s laughing about old times when pals like Steamy, Berra, and Beusch come over.  It’s connecting with old buddies and former students on facebook.  And it’s receiving comments on this blog from friends, family, and especially complete strangers that seriously make my day and bring an additional grin to my already nearly always smiling face.

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Tick Tock Tick Tock

It feels like only yesterday that we were living in our condo in Sunnyvale and Emma was about to eat solid food for the first time in her young life.  Fehmeen and I called my mom to join us for the monumental event, partially so she could witness a watershed moment in her granddaughter’s life and mostly to provide moral and logistical support for the proud parents of da Bug.

And it actually was yesterday as Fehmeen and I watched our growing little girl of two-and-a-half as she sat quietly on a black collapsible step stool behind our coffee table watching King of Queens reruns on TBS as she ate a half dozen dinosaur-shaped chicken nuggets dipped in ketchup while drinking apple juice through a purple straw from a plastic cup.

No picture in the world could replace that image in my mind, heart, and soul.

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Mathematically Eliminated

Much to the detriment of my fragile, testosterone-fueled male ego, I am ashamed to admit that my annually recurring dream of hoisting the Team ALS Boy flag atop the Bay Area Fantasy Football mountaintop is officially over for yet another year.  And we still have five games left to play.  Oh, the humanity!

Here’s what went wrong:  I blame my first round draft pick, Maurice Jones-Drew, for not doing points-wise what a fifth pick overall should be doing this year.  One rushing touchdown in eight weeks is not exactly what I envisioned when I laser-pointed to MJD’s name on draft day back in early September.

Next, I will never again, for as long as I am allowed to play fantasy football, draft Randy Moss to be on my team.  I hate having him on my team because if you put him in your lineup, he has a habit of not giving it his best effort and if you don’t put him in, that will be the week that he goes off and catches ten passes for 200 yards and scores three touchdowns.  Never again, dude.

Thirdly, the two leaders in our division are both 7 – 2.  Since only the top two teams make the playoffs, it doesn’t seem all that likely that my underachieving 2 – 7 squad will win the remaining five games while they will lose them all.  And besides, I’ve already lost twice to each of them and interdivisional records are the first tiebreaker so even if the aforementioned scenario plays out, I still lose.

Not only is this more than a little rough on my man-pride to have been beaten down week after week and eliminated this early on in the season, now I have to answer to a higher authority and explain myself to Fehmeen.  Every year she gives me the $200 entry fee out of the goodness of her heart and the generosity of her soul and asks me to win the league.  All that I have been able to do during the time that we’ve been together is to finish in fourth place (which gets your money back).

I am sorry about letting us down this season but as I have alluded to above, it wasn’t entirely my fault.  I promise to take it all next year and restore the good Picetti name — if you and your money let me.

Perhaps I should just take the advice that I gave my middle school students when I taught them how to play poker:  If you’re sitting around the table and you can’t figure out who the patsy is, then the patsy is you.

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It’s Still On

Good news, cinema fans!

The weekly meeting of The Thursday Afternoon Movie Club is still on for tomorrow.  Emma and Fehmeen both have the day off from school on account of the Veterans Day Holiday and we are planning a mid-morning family outing that includes a trip to the park followed by a tasty snack at a local eatery.

Once we are done with our playdate and The Bug goes down for a nap while Fehmeen heads off to a coffee shop for an afternoon of essay grading, Juan and I will be at the Century 20 in the City of Redwood for the 1:45 showing of Due Date.

If you can make it, we’ll see you there.  And if you can’t, I don’t know you.

Just kidding with that last crack.

Buh bye.

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Had me an over-the-top, out of control, off-the-chain, most vivid dream of my life last week.  It happened to coincide with the discontinued use of my nightly dose of Nyquil so I made certain to write down some of the crazy details as soon as I woke up and was plopped in front of the old eye gaze the morning of the premiere (and so far only) showing of the film in the widescreen my mind.

Enjoy the synopsis and because I’ve always wanted to say it:  Spoiler Alert.

The film opens in a department store as a high school symphonic band has gathered for rehearsal in the women’s outerwear section of the store.  The teacher is late in arriving so the protagonist — who for the remainder of this discussion will be referred to as me — convinces the ensemble to surprise the conductor by dressing in the full-length fur coats that were on display in front of them.

Cut to another area of the store where a dozen upright pianos are being played loudly and poorly by twelve distracted young boys who clearly would rather be doing anything other than practicing their scales and fingering.

The next scene is outside on a darkened two-lane road in the pouring rain as John Travolta sings an incredibly moving and beautiful power ballad.  The song concludes as a car drives off the embankment and explodes into flames in a ditch.

Following the explosion, John and I crisscross our way down streetlight illuminated suburban avenues avoiding various roving gangs of nefarious street toughs.

The two of us end up in a commercial downtown area pushing an empty shopping cart brainstorming a way to make some money.  We devise a scheme where we collect those blinking orange construction lights that can be found anywhere construction is being done (duh) and sell them back to the companies we liberated them from in the first place to the tune of $6 a pop.

Next scene is in a massive new and used record store which upon further investigation morphs into an exclusive high-end trendy clothing shop which specializes in amongst other things sports attire for the young and wealthy social set.

As I hide behind a circular clothing rack — apparently John Travolta stayed behind in order to bilk those foolish contractors — I overhear five really tall black guys as they plot to strong arm their way into ownership of the store so they can sell the merchandise for themselves.  Being a similarly profit-minded guy myself, I fearlessly interjected my two cents into their conversation by promising the entrepreneurs a steady stream of customers with serious disposable income for a small taste of the profits (of course).

There is a decidedly seventies vibe in the undergarment section of the store as I encounter a small group of men and women who are dressed in Victorian garb — including the white puffy wigs and open bodices — and they keep telling me that we are living in the year 2008.  As hard as I try, I am unable to find my way out of the store.

Retracing my footsteps the way I came in, I found myself outside in the bright sunlight kicking around a soccer ball with random children on the cement behind the mall that I had just exited.

Roll credits.

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