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Archive for December, 2010

For Old Lang Zyne

As many of you prepare to ring in the New Year tonight, I can’t help but reflect back on some of the more memorable NYE celebrations I vaguely recollect attending.

There was that time in high school when I came down with the Taiwanese Flu for the entire winter break and I ended up watching the Beastie Boys perform live on MTV at midnight.

Then one time in college, a bunch of us planned a ski trip to South Lake Tahoe and we ended up at the casinos on New Year’s Eve.  Vehicular traffic was prohibited on Highway 50 at Stateline so the road between Harvey’s and Harrah’s was awash with a sea of parka-adorned, mitten-clad, half-drunken revelers eagerly awaiting the stroke of midnight.  Having had a decent evening playing blackjack, I still vividly recall the sleepless night I spent crashed on the floor of one of those motels on the strip with about ten people I hardly knew all the while worried that someone was going to roll me for the lousy C-note I won at the tables earlier that night.

And then there was the year I hung out with friends in a rented beach house in Santa Cruz.  It was that very evening when two of my co-workers bet me sixty bucks that I wouldn’t grow a goatee.  I grew it out and there it stayed — in one form or another — for at least half a decade.

I could never forget the time my band — the world renowned Bay Area Band — played our friends John and Traci’s wedding in downtown San Francisco.  There can be no excuse to forget your anniversary if it happens to fall on December 31st.

One year my friend and I went to see a Grateful Dead show at the Oakland Coliseum.  I couldn’t believe they opened with Hell in a Bucket and closed the show with Sugar Magnolia, before encoring with Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door.  Ah man, who am I kidding?  It was a Dead show!  I’m surprised that I even remember going to the concert.

And then there was that time in the hazy crazy daze of my youth when a group of us wanted to be high rollers for New Year’s Eve and get a room at The St Francis Hotel.  Well, one person in our crew got a little too rowdy a little too early and we were shown the streets by hotel security before the sun went down.  We ended up part of the teeming masses crammed into Union Square at midnight.

As far as memorable NYE experiences go, nothing compares to the year Fehmeen and I spent the holiday at Disneyland.  The future Mrs Picetti was sicker than a dog but that didn’t prevent her from enjoying the Magic Kingdom with every ounce of her being.  She was annoyed that every single doll in It’s a Small World was singing American Christmas carols that I thought they were going to permanently ban us from ever floating through the ride again.  Besides feasting on our weight in yummy churros that night, I will never forget spinning round and round the Teacups with my beautiful girlfriend until midnight and watching the fireworks light up the Southern California sky.  I never wanted that ride to end.

So, Happy New Year’s to you all.  Maybe Fehmeen will let me have a syringe-full of champagne down the tube ’roundabout midnight — most likely Eastern time.  Cheers

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According to Hoyle

Originally I had planned to see the 1:15 showing of The King’s Speech for this week’s installment of Thursday Afternoon Movie Club but that premise was scrapped so Fehmeen could attend prior to her three o’clock appointment.

We settled on attending the 11:15 screening of How Do You Know.  Approximately forty-two minutes into the film, we decided that enduring another second of this cinematic disaster would have most likely resulted in somebody not in the TAM Club — somebody who was actually guffawing at the lame excuse of a script — getting hurt by one or more members of our typically happy-go-lucky party.

Juan, Fehmeen, and I arrived home from the show at roughly one o’clock.  About four bites into my Whole Foods mashed potatoes, Juan received an urgent phone call from his pregnant wife who explained to him that the new baby was on his way NOW!!!

The second time father-to-be got the hell out of Dodge to accompany his wife in the delivery room, leaving Fehmeen to feed me my lunch while Emma paraded down the hall in her cute little light-up, high-heeled shoes.

And it would have turned out very differently if we didn’t walk out of that terrible movie when we did.

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Mental Math Minute

Being a true blue numbers geek, I am constantly on the lookout for ways to keep the tip of my mechanical pencil on the proverbial scratch paper of life now that my career as a molder of young mathematical minds has been cut short by motor neuron disease.

I discovered such a diversion today.

You know how on weekday morning news programs they have that little graphic in the bottom right corner of the screen that shows the current, up-to-the-second value of the New York Stock Exchange and just above that five digit, two decimal point number is a positive or negative two digit two decimal point number which denotes the gains or losses of the market in real time as well as that aforementioned overall number?

Well, this morning I invented a little mental math game — no calculators or all-knowing computer programs allowed — where given the current total and daily value of the NYSE, you have to figure out the initial value of the exchange prior to the start of trading for the day.

For example, let’s say that the overall value is up 2.3 points to 17.4.  The question that needs to be answered is what was the value before it gained those 2.3 points?  Simple math will lead you to an answer of 15.1 as the initial number.

Pretty easy, right?

Well, considering that both sets of numbers get updated about once every three to four seconds on the screen and the digits themselves are a bit more complex than those given in the example, now you’ve got yourself a more challenging puzzle on your hands.

Before you cry uncle and curse my name for even bringing it up, why don’t you just give it a shot the next time you are watching the morning news and you notice that little NYSE bug in the corner.  You just may find that it’s not as difficult a mental math problem as it sounds here.

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Solving the Conundrum

Our daughter Emma talks a mean game.  “I’m gonna do this and I’m gonna do that” but sometimes, when it comes down to actually doing what she said she was going to do, the end result is vastly different than what she visualized herself doing in the first place.

Case in point:  The Santa Claus Conundrum.

Her first Christmas at eight months old she wanted absolutely nothing to do with the man in the red suit at the mall.  She cried so boisterously that even the quick photo of her on Mommy’s lap next to Santa was not worth the purchase price.

The older and wiser Emma of the next Christmas season found her filled to the brim with confidence and courage while waiting in line only to see that bravado dissipate into a mantra of “I don’t wanna” upon reaching the front of the queue.  Again, no photo.

This year, in her third Christmas, she had two opportunities to pose with the Big Guy.  Her first attempt was at school and she more or less just sorta stood in relative proximity to Mr Claus.  The photo was okay but not worth sharing here.

She did get over her case of the St Nick Yips when she took this picture one evening last week during a visit to the mall with Nana and Nani.

Good job, Emma.  Mommy and Daddy are proud of you.

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Even though the Grinch tried to steal Christmas from us this year — Emma had a mild case of pneumonia and I  was working through a phlegmy, hacky cough and cold — he was spectacularly unsuccessful in putting the kibosh on our holiday spirit.

We all had a good time — especially the little one — opening presents and celebrating the day with friends and family.

In the gift department, Emma did more than all right for herself.  Of the many presents she received — a talking dolly, a microphone, several books, and lots of trucks — she is most contented, happily occupied and otherwise engaged cutting up a piece of paper with her brand new scissors while hanging out in her little pink tent.

In the tent with Mommy

Channeling her inner rock star

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Holiday Cheer

‘Tis the season to share with you some of Emma’s latest triumphs exploits shenanigans.  Enjoy.

Emma took the lead in decorating our Christmas tree this year.  At first, Fehmeen and I thought we would just leave it as was but we quickly changed our minds when we noticed that one branch in particular was supporting no less than a dozen ornaments.  Fehmeen quietly redistributed the crowded and low-lying decorations to other less densely populated areas of the tree while the Bug was distracted by visions of sugar plums dancing in her hot chocolate.

“Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way.  Mumble mumble mumble one horse open sleigh, HEY!!!”  Repeatedly sing this exact phrase without stopping for at least three or four minutes straight with the emphasis on the HEY and you too can feel what it’s like to be an adorable two point seventy-five year old around Christmas time.

Most evenings after dinner Emma and I find ourselves engaged in the fine art of conversation.  While sitting on our toilets.  Me on porcelain, Emma on plastic.  We laugh so much that Fehmeen always comes in to make sure that we are all right.  The family that drops deuces together, stays together.

This was the year that our daughter overcame her paralyzing fear of shopping mall Santas and sat on one’s lap.  Mommy and Daddy were not there — Nani and Nana took her — but we do have photographic proof of the landmark event.  I promise to post the picture on this site the day after Christmas when we get my new scanner up and running.

Two days ago, Emma asked Fehmeen to smell her hand.  Once she obliged her, Fehmeen wanted to know why.  Emma said, — and this is a direct quote — “It smells like my butt, Mommy.”  Apparently she got the idea to put her hand in her butt and have somebody take a sniff of it.  Stifling a laugh, Fehmeen told her that it was not funny.  Unfortunately my ALS symptoms prevent me from holding my poker face together when they recounted the story for me.  Sorry but I think that is pretty darn funny.

And no, I didn’t let her watch the stink palm scene in Mallrats.

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The Twelve Game

Staring at the illuminated digital numbers on my alarm clock, I had an interesting thought.

What if, instead of digits zero through nine, there were capital letters.

Not every letter would be available to use, however.  Only ones that could be legibly re-created on a standard nightstand digital alarm clock are eligible.  For example, an E would be acceptable while an N would not be.

Here is the list of letters that qualify:

A  C  E  F  H  I  J  L  O  P  S  U

Once I had squared away the upper case participants, my brain began making words out of those twelve letters.  I came up with a few:

FACE,  POSH,  HULA HOOP

Now I challenge you, my esteemed and literate readership, to find some more words and phrases using only the dozen letters listed above (as well as below).  Text-speak, slang, and all manner of creative spelling is acceptable to use for purposes of this friendly little competition.  Please post your answers as comments.

Good luck and happy spelling.

A  C  E  F  H  I  J  L  O  P  S  U

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Considering that I am living with a terminal illness, I have decided to make a list of ten  famous people who I would like to meet before the Great Delicatessen  in the Sky calls my number.  I am leaving it up to you, the esteemed readers of my ALS  Boy blog — with your personal and/or  friend-of-a-friend-type connections — to help me make the acquaintance of the talented folks who populate this list.  Feel free to forward this url to anyone you know who could make this happen for me.  I thank you in advance for your assistance.
*     *     *     *     *     *    *    *    *    *    *
Please note that the order of the list is completely arbitrary and in no way, shape or form indicative of my personal preference.  If you find yourself on this list, please know that you are numero uno in my heart regardless of your relative position below.

1. David Letterman I have been a fan of David Letterman’s shows since high school.   I used to enjoy watching him make fun of his more prickly guests without them really knowing he was putting them down.   Even more than that though I would love to see him be completely sweet and nice to guests like Teri Garr.  I have even had the privilege of attending a pair of tapings at the Ed Sullivan Theater in NYC.   Comedian Brett Butler and singer Al Green appeared the first time I visited and Samuel L Jackson was there the last time we were in town.   It has been a perpetual dream of mine to be interviewed by Dave for the show and then have the opportunity to jam with the band when we were done chatting.

2. Tom Waits Mr Waits didn’t become my all-time favorite songwriter and recording artist until I saw the movie Smoke in 1996.  Just one listen to the song entitled Innocent When You Dream (the tune that plays over Augie Wren’s Christmas Story montage at the end of the film) and my life and cd collection changed forevermore.  I spent the next six months after viewing the film purchasing his entire back catalog and I waited with eager anticipation for each new release from the album Mule Variations onward.  I whiffed on getting tickets for his show at the Paramount Theater in Oakland the only time that he performed live in the Bay Area but I did manage to first hear and then see him one afternoon at AT & T Park in San Francisco.  The Giants had just finished playing the Pirates and as my parents and I were exiting through one of the stadium’s doors we heard Tom’s distinctive gravelly voice several feet away saying, “Hey, quit hitting me with that bat!”  As my dad and I turned around to where his voice was coming from, we saw what we assume was Tom’s son playfully smacking his old man with one of the plastic souvenir bats that had been given away earlier in the day.  Not quite as cool as seeing him play live but I’ll take it just the same.  Also, congratulations to Tom on his recent election to the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame.

3. Larry David Larry David is on this list for a couple of reasons.  First, I am a fan of his shows Seinfeld and Curb Your Enthusiasm.  They are that rare breed of television program that you can begin watching at any point during the thirty minutes that they are on and you will still be amused and entertained every time.  Second, and most importantly, it would be one of the highlights of my life to bear witness to the meeting between Mr David and my dad.  The two men share an overall curmudgeonly attitude as well as an almost preternatural knack for soliciting confrontation with everyone they encounter.  While my dad is a good deal shorter, a few hairs balder, and infinitely less famous, this pair could easily have been separated at birth.

4. Nicolas Cage I believe the first time that someone told me I looked like Nicolas Cage was while waiting in line for a ride at the Santa Cruz Boardwalk when I was back in high school in the mid to late eighties.  Even to this day, not a month goes by where somebody doesn’t tell me that I look like Francis Ford Coppola’s nephew.  In terms of his performances in films over the years, I list Raising Arizona, Wild at Heart, Adaptation, and Kick Ass as movies that I rank in the pantheon of personal favorites of all time.  And considering the fact that Mr Cage is a fellow comic book nerd, the conversation should flow quite nicely from his being my celebrity doppelganger to that of graphic novels we have loved throughout the years and what superpower would we want and why.

5. Scarlett Johansson I have enjoyed Ms Johansson’s career in the movies for almost a decade now.  Amongst my favorites of her starring roles are the films Ghost World, Lost in Translation, Vicky Cristina Barcelona, and In Good Company.  While her body of work is both prolific and impressive, I am most smitten by the fact that she had the chutzpah and guts to record and release an entire album of Tom Waits cover songs.  In addition to that disc, she also collaborated with Pete Yorn on a highly underrated recording of original tunes.

6. Kathy Griffin Even though I am most likely one of her only heterosexual male fans in the country, I secretly get all giddy inside whenever one of her shows magically appears on our DVR.  Kathy Griffin loves to talk smack about major celebrities so much so that the overwhelming reason for meeting her in person is for me to have a front row seat for the ensuing conversation between Ms Griffin, Fehmeen, Farah and Alia (Fehmeen’s sisters), Maheen and Iqbal (Fehmeen’s parents), and Emma.  Not only would that discussion be boisterous, obnoxious, and freaking hilarious beyond description, I can already imagine my mother-in-law Maheen asking Kathy repeatedly about what the hell a D-list is.

7. Erik Per Sullivan I was a big fan of the television program Malcolm in the Middle during its first few seasons but that is not the only reason why Mr Sullivan appears on this list.  It was about halfway through my first year as a middle school math teacher when I happened upon this picture (to the left) in an Entertainment Weekly magazine.  I removed the full-page Got Milk advertisement from the pages of the weekly periodical and thumb-tacked it to the wall of my classroom.  Not two hours after it went up did one of my students say (in an intercepted note) that I was boring.  I nearly exploded with rage.  You can call me any name in the book but never accuse me of being boring.  The very next day I placed a word balloon (like one you’d find in a comic book) to the right of the picture on my wall that had the following words written inside:  Mr Picetti is NOT boring!!  My students thought that the sight of the big-earred kid named Dewey from Malcolm in the Middle sporting a chocolate milk mustache saying their math teacher wasn’t boring was just about the funniest thing they had ever seen.  In what was the single greatest decision of my teaching career, I put a new word balloon with a new humorous observation or one-liner up every day after that for the rest of the year.  The Daily Dewey became the signature accoutrement of my classroom for the next seven years and aside from my brilliant teaching of sixth, seventh, and eighth grade math, it is the one thing that every single student I have ever taught remembers to this day.

8. Regina Spektor Although I arrived rather late to the Regina Spektor party, I have emphatically made up for lost time.  Upon receiving her 2009 album Far as a gift from my acupuncturist for my birthday in April 2010, I must have listened to that disc every day on my faux-leather recliner with my headphones on for three months straight.  I then went and purchased her 2006 Begin to Hope album.  That disc also spent three consecutive months in my ears.  Of the twenty-five tracks on those two records, each song is like an audible work of art or a painting come to life or an exotic blend of lyrics and music distilled to perfection and simmered over low heat.  There is that dizzying solo section in Two Birds, that swimming under water feeling in the chorus of Genius Next Door, the alternating lyrical whimsy and wisdom of On the Radio, and even the sound of the keys being pressed and released on the saxophone that is playing at the end of Lady that I look forward to hearing every time I give those tunes a listen.  While individually these songs are incredible achievements in the areas of performance and songwriting, collectively there exists an overarching standard in regards to production and attention to detail that is above and beyond anything I have ever heard before.  The result of this flawless marriage between artistry and aesthetics inspires and challenges me to demand more of myself as a creative thinker and a writer.

9. My Future Book Publisher

Popular school teacher with a baby on the way gets diagnosed with a terminal disease and writes an inspirational blog under the name of ALS Boy.  Everyone around here knows the story, and now, with your guidance and expertise, we can bring this occasionally heartbreaking, sometimes hilarious, and always heartwarming tale of my life (so far) to a worldwide book-buying audience.  I’ve got several chapters already completed, as well as an entire, detailed outline.  You can contact me through Facebook, via e-mail (jasonp110@yahoo.com), or by posting a comment below. 

10. Willie Nelson I have always had an inexplicable affinity for the music of Willie Nelson.  Sure, my dad used to play his records for me all the time when I was growing up, but my love for Willie’s songs seemed to run deeper than through my ears and into my brain.  It almost felt as if I was connected to the music on a cellular level.  And although it wasn’t necessarily one of those burning questions as to why that was, it has always bugged me a little.  Then I discovered the answer.  Apparently, at some point in time several months before my birth, my mom attended a Willie Nelson show with my dad while she was pregnant with me.  While I can’t say I remember any details from that particular performance, I do know with one hundred percent certainty that I was imbued that fateful night with the indomitable spirit of Willie’s music.  I also think it would be cool to lament the loss of California’s Prop 19 while eating lots of outside food with him.

11-14. The Wiggles I realize that this list was only supposed to go to ten but what kind of father would I be if I didn’t include something for Emma.  My daughter has been a fan of The Wiggles since the moment she could see and hear.  Together as a family, we have listened to their music and watched their dvd’s so many times that we all know every single word to each and every song by heart.  And speaking only for Emma and myself, we absolutely love it.   

Major props for making it all the way to the end of my list.  I have been drafting it for a very long time and I can’t believe that it is finally going to be published.  It seemed like only yesterday when my friend Robin helped me type the introduction and we accidentally hit a key and the entire paragraph went irreparably into italics.  She offered to retype it but its inclusion adds a little character to the post.

I appreciate your reading my blog and putting it out there for me.  Thank you.

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I Am So Dead Some Day

This is what happens when you let a two-and-three-quarter year-old choose her own outfit for the morning combined with a dad who has a blog and a mom who can read that dad’s mind when she told the dad’s dad to get the camera in order to capture the moment on film.

Fashion decisions aside, she is still uber-cute.

And she changed before going to the park, in case you were wondering.

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Tube Gate

With the flimsy, rubbery, soft plastic lid of my feeding tube one hard snap away from breaking off irreparably, a temporary solution of sorts was needed sooner rather than later.  Nobody wanted to deal with the inevitable bile-storm that would likely ooze up out the tube if we didn’t get this thing capped off.

My caregiver Lhito found a miniature drumstick, cut it in half, and placed it perfectly in the tube like a cork inside a bottle of wine.  Truth be told, it worked better than the original one ever did.

Knowing full well that this was a quick fix, we made an appointment with the folks down at interventional radiology to get the real deal put in.  We were told over the phone that they would be replacing the entire apparatus and not just the damaged cap.

Once we arrived on-site, the surgical team reevaluated the situation and determined an alternative course of action.  They dug around some supply closet, unearthed this clear plastic spigot of sorts, and inserted it into my feeding tube.  Then the nurse showed us how to turn the handle a quarter turn to the right when administering a feeding and how to twist it another ninety degrees in either direction to switch it off.

We smiled and thanked them for their time and efforts.

Once we got home, we removed the over-complicated spigot system and replaced it with the tried-and-true miniature drumstick.

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