Category Archives: face job

enough of face job

It’s high time to get out of this category.  On February 22, it will be six months since the face job operation.  It was, by far, the most brutal, difficult thing I’ve done.  And I’m still in the healing process.

I was lead to believe that I was going to be back to (somewhat) new two months after the op.  What a laugh.  At four months they told me I was looking good.  I was wondering what was taking so long.

I’m extremely grateful to the medical guys for helping me, but they live this life so seeing the results of their work is something they deal with daily.  What is new to me is not new to them.

I’m trying to wear prosthetic teeth where the hole is to try to fill out the space and protect the upper teeth.  They hurt like hell.  I can’t believe they don’t make them in softer material.

This operation must have cut some key muscles or connectors that run up through the neck.  The right side of my neck is normal.  The left side is hard as a rock and inside feels like over-tight banjo strings about to burst. From my chin along the left side of the jaw line there is still a significant amount of edema that is bothersome both physically and cosmetically.

This is a hell of a lot more than I signed on for when I started the radiation and chemo.  I should have been back in the game as a full-time starter.  Instead, I was thrown in the penalty box.  It’s hard not to get pissed off.  Not many players are thrown into the p box.  Why me?  It was incorrectly called a foul.

If my face was only cosmetic, it would be one mental hurdle.  But the fact that I don’t have full control of the lip muscle on the left side means that my speech is not what it was.  And any advances I had in eating were set back.

The leg where the bone came out is still sore but most of the swelling is down.  The scar down the leg has healed, but the patch where all the muscles and tendons needed to be unwound and veins taken out is still tender.

But hey, my head is still screwed on.  I need to and am looking at the positive.  So my neck and face is a little frigged up.  ANBMFD.  I can still ride a bike.  And I can still do pirouettes — at least with one leg.

So quit your griping Freddie.  Get out of the face job category, get a move on and stop being a wuss.

So be it.  Movin on.

fruitcake

Clarification:  In last week’s post, I made mention that the gym locker-room attendant (Gustavo), a.k.a. toalla man, was no fruitcake.  Perhaps in a weak attempt at humor, I could have used a less disparaging term.  Although fruitcake can refer to someone deranged or out of balance, it was meant to mean a homo(sexual) man.

toalla man in action re-folding towels.  he's no fruitcake.

toalla man in action re-folding towels. he’s no fruitcake.

No one called this out.  I thought if it as I was sitting in the sauna the other day looking down at my flip flops (not the ones I tripped over two weeks ago).  These are rubber and I use them in the public shower area.  Or outside in the summer when it rains.

I bought these flip flops about 12 years ago when I lived in Mauritius, a small island in the Indian Ocean.  They were a welcome purchase.  They fit well, were functioned in sand, surf, on a boat, at home, and now the locker room.  I didn’t think at the time that they had the gay, fruitcake-like colors woven into the borders.  They were simply black with colorful accents.  But as I looked down at them dripping sweat in the sauna, I suddenly realized that they could be mistaken for the gay flag colors and that wearing them may be a declaration that I myself am a fruitcake.  I think they were missing a color or two but wasn’t sure.  It was a weird feeling.

I’m about as far from being gay as a guy can get.  Mind you, I’ve had and have gay friends — but so what.  Who gives a hoot whether one is gay or not.  It shouldn’t matter in business, in social settings, in politics, or war.

my fruitcake sandals purchase in Mauritius still going strong after 12 years.

my (almost) fruitcake sandals purchase in Mauritius still going strong after 12 years.

If one is gay and wants to join the military and defend our country, so what?  Their sexual persuasion is about as relevant as their favorite color.  If two people of the same sex want to marry each other, so what?  What does it matter?

As long as we are within the boundaries of respecting one another’s rights and not doing harm, what does gayness matter about anything?

Back (way back) when I was in graduate school, after I finished an International Law course, the professor teaching that course called my apartment and left a voice mail.  He said that never had he had a student who entered his course knowing so little (about the subject) and leaving his course having gained so much.  He sounded truly sincere saying that I was one of his most memorable students.  (In reality, I did what anyone could have done by investing lots of weekend time applying logic to case studies).  I’m not patting myself on the back, simply recounting an event.  Anyhow, as I was proud of receiving this compliment, I called someone close who was a lawyer and played the message for him.  His only (serious) response was “he sounds gay.”  I was dumbfounded.  How could he have detected gayness from a sincere voice?  I had never considered the professor or his voice message, which had no extrinsic motive, gay or not gay, so my lawyer friend’s fruit-oriented response was surprising and a tad disappointing.

I can’t mention the number of times I’ve been asked over the years whether I was gay or not.  Been asked by male and female, by straight and gay.  When I was about 30, I overheard a roommate and his girlfriend discussing the subject (they didn’t realize I was home).  She was peppering him with questions about whether I was gay or straight. Perhaps she was more concerned about him than me.  At least he defended me and said he didn’t think I was.

When I was single, a woman I was friendly with asked me if I was gay.  As my eyes bore into hers, I asked her why she would ever think that.  She said it was because I was neat.  Because I kept myself, my clothes and my home clean and organized.  This was before the definition of metrosexual existed.  Regardless, I chalked her off my friendly list after that.

Then there was one flaming fellow I knew in my gym in San Francisco.  After months on any gym floor, you get friendly with those who are there at the same time doing the same thing.  One day he asked me if I was gay or straight.  He said he normally prides himself on being an expert at detecting someone’s sexual preference but he had been observing me for months and could not tell.  When I asked why, he said that I looked at everyone the same.  Of course I told the fruitcake I was no fruitcake (not even a wholewheat cupcake).  We still chatted on the gym floor and helped each other when one needed a spot, but he went from just flaming to a flaming goofball for asking that question.

What I don’t get is why ask anyone whether they are gay or not.  Unless you are into the gossip scene, what the hell does it matter?  In all my decades, I’ve never asked anyone whether they are gay.  I could care less whether anyone I know or don’t know is gay or not, or how much fruit is in their cake.

a whole fruitcake

100% fruitcake

There are two opposite ends of this spectrum.  At one end are those who are completely heterosexual, who are repulsed by the notion of sexual affection with someone of their same sex (I fall in this camp).  On the other end are those repulsed by the notion of sexual affection with the opposite sex.  In between those extremes is a huge population with every imaginable combination of the those tendencies.  Throw in transgender and it’s a (large) community now labeled LGBTQ.  (As a side note, it’s interesting that men who are repulsed by the notion of fruitcake tendencies within their own gender are actually excited by those same tendencies in the female gender).

Perhaps one of my more surprising episodes was while living in Brazil.  As it went on many weekends, I headed to the beach with a couple of female friends.  Everyone wore skimpy bathing suits then, men included.  While on the beach, I had to walk back and get something from the car so I wrapped a thin shaw around my waist for my own modesty and had a wide brimmed hat for sun protection.  Did I look like a normal Brazilian guy? Probably not.  And as I passed a group of guys, they started cat-calling at me, pointing to me and calling me fag (in portuguese).  For a second, I pictured how they would cat-call with their teeth bashed in.  But then I just quickly wrote them off as local juvenile idiots.  (but I kept the shaw off after that).

It’s common in Middle East countries for men to kiss.  In India, you routinely see men or boys holding hands.  In many South American countries, girls hold hands all the time out of friendship.  In these cases it’s cultural and has nothing to do with fruitcakeness.

Do I think it’s natural to be a fruitcake?  No.  But it’s not a requirement of nature to be rational.  The one thing that does matter and should be natural is our ability to tolerate each other’s preferences, as long as those preferences, tendencies, or beliefs don’t infringe on or otherwise harm fellow humans.  So why are we compelled to label those tendencies?  Shouldn’t they be a non-issue?

One of the most impressive talks I’ve heard on the subject is by iO Tillet Wright.  I’d highly recommend spending 15 minutes listening to her 50 shades of gay presentation.

Regarding fruitcake, the actual cake itself is not bad in small bites.  We always seemed to have had one during the holidays growing up.  Some are all fruit and little cake.  Other cakes could use more fruit.  But using the reference to describe one’s gay tendencies is like handing out an overripe papaya.  It may not be all that appetizing.

fruitcake much better taken in small bites

fruitcake much better taken in small bites

I still like my rubber, color-on-black flip flops, even if they could be mistaken for displaying fruitiness.  And not that it matters one bit, I may be slightly off the wall, but I swear I’m no fruitcake.

toalla man

Time flies when fun is happening.  It’s been more than 15 years ago that I had moved to Dubai for a three year stint.  Overall, it was a hot, dusty place.  It makes sense to be robed in white there (if you’re a man).

GV and I used to power walk around a local park called Safa Park, the perimeter of which was/is 3.2 kilometers.  Most week days we would do two loops, weekends up to six loops.  In the early mornings or late evenings, when it wasn’t so blazing hot, we’d find many others doing the same.  Even the local ladies, dressed in black robes with faces covered, would be swinging their arms in the power walk stride.  The heavy perfume they wore smacked you like a hammer when you passed them.  No one would walk the loop during the weekend day.  No one except us and toalla man.

Don’t get the idea that these posts are turning into spanish lessons, but toalla in spanish means towel.  We had nicknamed him toalla man because he jogged (a pace slower then our walk) but he never did so without a towel draped around his neck.  We were always on the lookout for toalla man.

Getting into (in my case, back into a lifestyle of) exercise is not easy.  I took essentially five months off to recuperate (which I’m still doing) before heading back into something I can call “working out.”  The mind so creatively rationalizes and serves up every excuse known to man why you might want to skip a workout.  Or shorten one.  I’ve used many of them.  It’s damn tough not to succumb to what seems like wise logic talking you out of  exercise.

In the NYC gym I go to there’s a new toalla man.  Actually, he’s not so new.  He’s worked at this same gym for 33 years.  He tends the men’s locker/shower room during the week, day shift.  He makes sure the locker room stays organized as he (mostly) stations himself behind the control desk where some hand over their dress clothes which he hangs for them (the lockers are not that large).

This guy, Gustavo, has redefined toalla man.  Why?  Because he refolds towels all day and he doesn’t need to.  The towels are already folded.  But he doesn’t like them folded lengthwise the way they come from the laundry so he refolds them into a square.   They are regular size bath towels.  Every single guy who comes through the locker room, whether they change or not, grabs a towel to use on the gym floor.  Most who use the locker room after a workout grab two or three more to use in the shower/sauna/steam and for drying.  It’s not unusual for guys to use three to four towels each workout.  Ridiculous but true.  We are not talking ecological conservation or greenness.  It’s just the way it is.  The towel circulation is significant because the locker room is always busy, from five a.m. until late at night, seven days a week.  That’s a chit load of towels.

The guys on the other shifts don’t refold the towels.  Only Gustavo.  I asked him why he refolds the towels and he told me that it makes it easier for guys to pull a towel off the pile if they are folded square vs folded lengthwise.  Less towel friction when one is taken off the top of the pile.  Hence, to make it easier, he refolds towels in between his duties, all day, week after month after year.  He’s a true toalla man.

But more than that.  He cares and has driven that into his work lifestyle.  Or maybe it just gives him something else to do.  He’s definitely not a fruitcake.  He sure seems like a good old fashion gym guy.  He cares about his job, and his towels.

towels folded the way Gustavo likes them

towels folded the way Gustavo likes them

Within a two block radius of where I live there are about eight different gyms.  Hundreds in NYC.  Coupled with the number of hotels in this city and I’m sure there are tens of thousands of towels washed every day.   There may be other toalla men (or women) around.  But I doubt it.  I’d give Gustavo the king toalla man award.

There are volumes written about the benefits of consistent good stress we place on our bones, muscles, and systems.  In other words,  consistent exercise is a big fat plus.  Are there those who live long lives who don’t?  Who might even smoke, drink, and live what we’d consider unhealthy lives?  You can find them, but they are outliers.  It’s not a good bet to let rationalization win and point to outliers.

So when rationalizations pop up convincing me that I cut the workout short, or maybe even skip one, I’ll just think of toalla man dutifully refolding towels, nonstop throughout his day.  He’s only missed work twice in 33 years.  Toalla man.  He’s got to be some kind of super hero.  His simple consistent and dedicated refolding action has turned him into an inspiration.

Who is your toalla man?

no dar papaya

Please wipe me clean!  I’ve felt that is what my iPhone and iPad devices have been screaming all week.  I’d very much like to comply, but I can’t get to them.  Only a few hours after the Alpha Device post last week, I was mugged and my bag containing those devices, among other things, was stolen.

I was having a late dinner Sunday evening in a relatively safe area.  Caesar salad with lots of goop and a whole avocado.  It was delicious as I ate grossly involved with a book on my iPad.  I almost never go walking in a foreign country with both devices in the same bag.  The iPhone was already tucked in the bag when I left and I threw in the iPad for dinner entertainment.

The distance from the restaurant to where I stay is about 1/2 mile, in an area not known for problems.  It was 10 pm when I finished dinner and started heading home. During the walk, the second (or 3rd) reckless thing I did was take a short-cut through a spottily lit park.

The entire park is a somewhat steep hill.  As I was walked down a sloping concrete path, a male, about my height, jumped out of the path-side bushes in a dark area and jumped me.  A second later, another guy leapt out from the other side.  Before I knew it, two guys had pounced on me.  One second I was thinking of the week’s plans, the next about out to get out of the situation I was in.  My first self-preservation reaction was fighting them.  I forced both of them to the ground as I tripped over my flip flops on the uneven slope.

When in situations like this, your mind races.  It went from protecting my stuff to protecting myself, not wanting to give up the bag, to the realization that if something happened to my jaw I’d be in big trouble.  Then one of them pulled a knife and held it over my shoulder.  It didn’t take much imagination of stab wounds before I quickly said “ok, ok, take the bag.”  As we stood up and the knife still a threat, they ripped the shoulder bag off me and told me to empty my pockets.  As I was in the motion of emptying one pocket, a yell emanated from one end of the park startling them.  Before they could take my front pocket wallet and id, they ran.

I took a deep breath and watched the thieves run out of the park.  As I looked around in the bushes for my flip flops (they evidently scattered for cover), I felt lucky that I had my id, my jaw intact, and no stab wounds.  I left the park in the opposite direction the attackers ran.  No sooner had I left the park then a guy approached me asking if I wanted to buy weed.  He didn’t want to take no for an answer even though my shirt was ripped open and I was slightly limping.  I wanted to tell him to do something anatomically impossible, but I just kept walking.  I owed him no explanation such as I don’t do drugs or that even if I did, I was just robbed and had no money on me. He got my facial message and shortly left me alone.

I proceeded to a nearby police station and reported the incident before retreating to the apartment. At least I still had my  laptop and internet where I could initiate the device wiping (erasing) process and call the phone company to cut service.  The most valuable thing stolen was the information on the devices.  And no, I didn’t have the keypad locks activated.

Precisely how the device wiping process works is not something the technical support staff at either Apple or the phone company seem to be overly knowledgeable.  Twenty four hours after the devices were instructed to be wiped, they were still not showing wiped.  There could be several reasons for that but still, after calling Apple four times I was given four different versions of how the wipe works.  One said it happens only through the wifi.  Another said it happens through cellular data, but only if the line is active.  Another said the wipe instructions would go through even in airplane mode.  And finally the fourth apple rep told me how it actually works.

On the phone company side, you can either suspend your line for theft or block the device or both.  But if you suspend before the wipe instructions are sent, then cellular data wipe won’t work.  One person at the phone company told me about their own version of a wiping app.  She told me it was too bad I didn’t have that loaded.  I wanted to say thanks for not telling me sooner.

For some strange reason at around midnight, one of the delinquents used my local phone and called the last number I had called earlier that day from my call log.  Astutely recognizing something was amiss, the person I had called found me available on skype and called me on my computer.  After I explained what happened, she did me the favor of calling the Colombian phone company and blocking my local device and number.

The have a slang expression in Colombia: dar papaya, which means that when you give or offer papaya, it will be eaten.  What I did was to offer papaya.  It was my fault.  I should never have been walking alone with valuables through a not-well-lit park late in the evening.  I offered up a ripe papaya and it was promptly taken and eaten.

stopped for a papaya snack in Barbosa today

stopped for a papaya snack in Barbosa today

The entire episode was a fruit basket of valuable lessons.  One being that I need to be even more alpha with the next device(s).  They both didn’t need my company at the same time.  Another lesson – don’t walk late night through parks holding an outstretched papaya wearing flip flops.

I walked away from the melee a little scuffed up, but lucky that the two thieves ran before consuming the entire piece of fruit.  What was I doing walking late at night in a foreign country where gringo shines brighter than a street lamp?  I was giving papaya.

Of one thing is certain.  The papaya here is superbly delicious, and one is much better off consuming it.

No dar papaya.

some papaya better off consumed and not given, like this one part of post ride shake

some papaya better off consumed and not given, like this one part of post ride shake

personal handheld alpha

To say we are in a different communication era from two decades ago would be an understatement.  A few blinks back I was working in Silicon Valley when Jobs was launching the first Macintosh, (before he was fired from apple).  Around the same time I occasionally ran documents for a major chip maker to the local Federal Express office in Sunnyvale to be sent via a new fangled system called fax.  Not many years later, most road warriors that I knew spent considerably more travel hotel expense with telephone charges connecting their laptops to send/receive emails then they spent on the hotel’s room charge.

Now of course, just about everyone has a handheld device that can make bank transfers, free international phone calls, recommend restaurants, guide us where we go, hail a taxi, take and edit pictures and videos, and provide a quick massage — all at the same time.  The result is that communicating is more efficient, less expensive, and significantly easier.  Because it is all those, we’ve quickly grown more attached to those devices.

I love my device.  Never leave home without it (almost).  It is always at the ready.  It’s more than just a smart phone.  It wakes me up, keeps my appointments, answers calls, and performs a boatload of other tasks.  It responds to the command of my voice (siri).

But my handled device and I came to an understanding long ago.  I’m the alpha in our relationship.  It listens to me.  It heals.  It knows who is boss.  Oh it tried to be the boss, the controller, the alpha, and it took some time to squash that behavior.

Living and working in New York City, behavior is magnified by density.  In an elevator for example, especially a crowded one, it’s easy to notice the majority who ride them are with focused attention to their handhelds.  I make no apologies for staring at devices which may be in my line of sight.  (Hey, screens of any type naturally attract our attention.)  If someone is sharing face time with their device in public, it’s public.  Because elevators are a way of life here, it’s a behavior noticeable on a grand scale.  Whether their devices are calling or not, many who board elevators immediately whip them out.  And what do most do?  Press the wake button and scroll, up and down a few key apps, sometimes simply scrolling the contact list.

my half alpha

my half alpha

With the millions of handheld devices in circulation in the last decade, many have not figured out how to become the alpha in their handheld relationships and have relinquished that role to the device.  And the alpha device demands attention.  Hence, handheld elevator behavior is replicated in most other places and circumstances where time is more importantly (and conveniently) spent with our alpha handhelds.

Of course there are times when texting or emailing or using apps on the run make sense.  That’s the beauty and value of the handheld.  They are there when we need them.  But for many, it goes well beyond need.  They become consuming.  They are time-fillers and provide more comfort than taking a deep breath and just being.

Twice over the past six months, two different nieces and their boyfriends were in town.  Both times I was lucky enough to have shared lunch.  In each occasion all three of us had our devices tucked away.  In each case, we were masters over the device.  We were the alphas.  The gathering of non-alpha devices was refreshing, and unusual.

Whether alpha or not, our personal handhelds have evolved to be our communication lifeline.  Many of us would be lost without the companionship.  We’d be lost without the device which requires so much attention.  Attention many of us are eager to give.

And I’ll stop here as it’s been three days since I’ve looked at my iPhone.  But since I’m in Colombia, the handheld is not roaming but resting on airplane mode.  Although I’m comforted to know that it’s not wanting for (too much) attention, I’d feel better taking it out in search of wifi to feed it.  Maybe I’m not as alpha as I thought.

new what?

New London for the time being.  It’s on the water, halfway between Boston and New York City.

A day or so out of town is what the doctor ordered.  (or maybe I heard wrong).  Hightailed it up to the upper east side yesterday morning to a popular delicatessen Agata & Valentina on 1st and 79th for a kosher and filling schnitzel and bitzel breakfast, then thumbed it up to (New) London.

Figured if I had to get out of town, why not go to another new place.  York was york, until it was new.  So was jersey, hampshire and london.  They were all determined new some time ago.

Not long ago when there were more of them, New London was considered one of the most important whaling centers in the U.S.  Now that we’ve killed off most of the whales, NL harbors a couple of submarines at the mouth of the Thames River.

somewhere downtown new london, ct

somewhere downtown new london, ct

Anyhow, came up here for a short snort of something new.  Still trying to get accustomed to a new jaw.  It’s kind of like a bad dream turned reality.  Can’t complain, just feel lucky somehow, because I have ten fingers, ten toes, and a less-than-big mouth.

With my not so big mouth, I was discussing the concept of newness with a couple of young smart guys, Arian and Claudio, sons of my brother-in-law.  As in – when does new stop being new?  We’ve described places, like New Hampshire, New England and New Mexico, they were new at one time until the adjective quickly crystalized into a noun form.  We discussed new this and neo that, but didn’t come to any new conclusions.

So I did something new and looked on the map of the area.  Up north, way up, there is  Newfoundland.  Creative name.  I can imagine the naming process went something like:

v1. duh, viking brother, we done ran into a new piece o land.  What da ya think?  What we call it?  How about white earth?

v2. we are pretty far north, but try not to be so light in the head my thick norse brother.  If we call this white earth,  we’d be laughed out o town back in Vinkinglandia.  I think we should call it big white rock.

v1. duh, viking bro, it’s not just a rock.  it’s land bro.  I’m not going back to Vikinglandia to tell people we discovered a big white rock.

v2. ok my thick brother, let’s go ask Lief….

v2.  ah, mr. Erikson, what you think we should name this new place?  My light head bro here thinks it should be white earth.  I think it should be big white rock.  What do you think?

Leif.  does a 180 degree horizon scan and declares, we’ll name this place new found land.

v1. but ah, mr. Erikson sir, with all due respect, don’t you think that name is fairly obvious?  Being that it is in fact new found land and all.

Leif. look dudes, we’ll simply peg the words together and roll over the phrase as if it’s one word.  say it with me dudes. Newfoundland.

The story goes that Leif told his brothers that newness was all about stimulating nerve endings, staying fresh, keeping your arse out of the mud.  And, that we shouldn’t get so hung up on names.  If we can’t think of something off the cuff he said, just call it new something and move on.  Hence, came to being so many new place names, like New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, New England,……

Whether new describes a place, thing, idea, or movement, it could be new until it’s not.  Then, something else replaces new with a new new and renders old new old.  What?  Whatever.IMG_1303

Consider this an old new post from New London, prior to heading  back to New York for same old stuff.

no weight please

Hold on, weight a minute.  Maybe I’m heavier than I should be.  Or lighter.

On Friday I was pedaling south from the upper east side of Manhattan on my city bike.  After the small mouth surgery Thursday I returned for a batch of HBO treatments.  The closest hospital with a hyperbaric tank is NY Pres, where our Secretary of State recently was discharged.  The early morning temperature was below freezing as I was struggling with the hills (er,..small slops) of Central Park.  It was the second time I was in Central Park inside a week gasping for oxygen and thinking about weight.  Whether I had too little or too much.

Coincidentally, when I arrived home I read an interesting tweet by skf115 where he sights a recent wsj article reporting that people who are slightly overweight actually live longer.  The recent study shows……after evaluating almost 100 different studies of about 3 million people, we are better off somewhere between normal and obese.  Weight.

Many of us like measuring.  There are always guys in the gym locker room who hop on the scale to weigh themselves.  I’ve done the same thing recently, hoping to increase the scale measurements.

The obese measurements we’ve heard so much about in recent years use a BMI (body mass index) scale.  Not that BMI isn’t a good index, but it can be misleading as it makes no differentiation between fat and muscle.

Whatever.  One interesting fact in this study shows that (too much) belly fat may be toxic, but fat in other areas is protective.

I’m simply trying to eliminate fat around the left side of my face, particularly the jaw area.  I doubt it’s protective, but maybe it is.  It’s definitely not muscle.  Maybe it’s a partially obese jaw.

We keep learning stuff all the time.  When the next study is published, we’ll learn more.  In the meantime, maybe we shouldn’t be so hung up on weight, unless we are peddling uphill.

And the point is?  Long life is probably a lot more complex than weight.  Or maybe the idea of weight is more complex.  Or gasping for oxygen is not a bad thing (unless you are underwater or in an oxygen tank).

Better not to worry about the hills, rather finding a different gear or cadence.  Screw the weight.  Because as I was writing and absorbed in this non-weighty post, I missed going to a good buddy’s daughter’s volleyball tournament in Queens.  I missed out on something being weighed down by an issue with no weight.

a new one

It would have been lovely to spend this long weekend with family at brother P’s spread.  Most of my immediate family is there.  Given the mouth stuff I’m still dealing with, I decided to hang tight.   Moreover, getting back into a productive state is paramount after so much unwanted but required downtime.

Sometime during the last couple of weeks, a tip of mandible poked through the gums.  A new discovery.  It wasn’t easy to detect at first because a flap of skin covered it.  The dentist who cleans my teeth in Colombia pointed it out.  It wasn’t a good feeling.  Lately the skin around it has become inflamed, sore.  The doctor last week said it looks like the toothpick-looking point can simply be shaved back, skin pulled over and stitched up, and I should be good to go.  But first he suggested taking a biopsy just to be double sure nothing was there.  Nothing was.  At least this latest endeavor will be an in-office procedure.  Then, a follow up with some HBO dives.

At least my face is a lot less swollen.  There’s a lot of residual stuff happening with the healing and settling.  A very weird feeling.  But hey, I’m somewhat whole, so I’m not complaining.

The last three years have been filled with mouth challenges.  I’m crossing lots of fingers hoping the next one doesn’t have any new ones.  And the next few after that don’t either.

Because years tick way too quick.  The world didn’t end at the turn of the millennium nor on the mayan calendar date.  Who knows when it will (for us)?  If we make them count somehow, or measurably productive, then those quick ticks make more sense.

And if this makes sense, I was talked into a midnight run on the 31st.  There will be several thousand running a short 4-mile course through Central Park at the stroke of midnight, preceded by dancing, a costume party and fireworks.  Just bundle up because it will be below freezing.

GV halfway thru a half-marathon earlier in the year.

GV halfway thru a half-marathon earlier in the year.

I haven’t been running for a while and my left leg is still swollen where the fibula came out.  But what the hey, if I keep it to a light jog, I’m up for welcoming 2013 in a way that will hopefully be a prelude of what the year should become.

May your new one be a happy one.

politically correct, not socially inept

Yeah.  It’s the holiday season.  The main holiday of the year.  The most important commercial holiday.  Perhaps even an important religious holiday.  But the holiday that is all about giving something, even if it’s a wish.

And the wish, in this country, has evolved.  It’s become more politically correct.  Possibly even socially correct.  Happy holiday is the greeting more common now than a couple of decades ago.

In my early 30’s while living in California, there were a few years where I had the wild hair of sending Christmas cards to family and close friends.  I thought it was cool to send a wish to those I didn’t get to see regularly.  It was a little work sending individual greetings along with the card, but well worth the small investment of time.  Or so I thought.

My wild hair tamed after three years so my tradition quickly petered out.  I can’t remember why.  I do remember the cards I sent were Christmas cards.  It seemed natural.  Even the Jewish friends I had celebrated the spirit of Christmas.

The other day I received a card from niece e who lives in Washington DC.  For some reason I knew it would be politically correct (coming from the capital).  It was.  The card was a wish for a Happy New Year, and a happy holiday season, along with a personal written note inside.  It was darn nice receiving the card and it’s still posted on my refrigerator.

The other card was from daughter j and is the annual family photo wishing Merry Christmas.  Given I haven’t sent any cards for years, I’m lucky to still be in the plus column:  sent 0, received 2.

I’m not counting the various Christmas and Holiday e-cards.  Using printer ink to get those onto the refrigerator would run counter to the digital reason they were sent.

Anyway, I’ve been thinking I should grow the wild hair again and get back in the tradition of sending cards.  A little too late for this year, but if I get this on a to do list in next year’s agenda I’ll have a fighting chance.

When next year does come around, I think I’ll follow niece e’s example and make it a holiday card.  It’s more efficient.  Makes more sense.  Not that I have anything against Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.  Just that Happy Holiday is more encompassing, while not loosing anything in translation — which is what we try to do when being politically correct.

We don’t call fat people fat, or yellow folks yellow, so it’s not just about being politically correct.  It’s about doing what makes sense without the offense.

I don’t know if what I’ll send next year will make sense.  Whatever it is, I’ll work hard at making sure it’s not socially inept.  I think I can do that if I strive to stay politically correct.

For now though, I’ve found a wish on the internet I’d like to extend to you, the reader, in the hopes that I’m well outside the borders of the socially inept.

Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, HappyWinter Solstice, and a Generally Happy Seasonal Greeting

Best wishes for an environmentally conscious, socially responsible, low stress, non-addictive, gender neutral, winter solstice holiday, practiced within the most joyous traditions of the religious persuasion of your choice, but with respect for the religious persuasion of others who choose to practice their own religion as well as those who choose not to practice a religion at all.

Additionally, best wishes for a fiscally successful, personally fulfilling, and medically uncomplicated new year, recognizing the generally accepted calendar year 2013, but not without due respect for the calendars of choice of other cultures whose contributions have helped make our society, (and the world) what it is, without regard to the race, creed, color, religious, or sexual preferences of the wisher, wishes, or wishee’s.

(Disclaimer: This greeting is subject to clarification or withdrawal. It implies no promise by the wisher to actually implement any of the wishes for himself or others and no responsibility for any unintended emotional stress these greetings may bring to those not caught up in the seasonal spirit.)

dress nice

A couple of weeks ago, GV and I walked uptown to take a look at the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center.  Along the way we moseyed into a Banana Republic store.  As we meandered through the women’s section, we saw a beautiful skirt.

walking to see the tree at rocefeller center

walking to see the tree at rocefeller center

At first I thought it was washed leather.  But it was a spray coated twill skirt which had a washed, antique leather-like appearance.  Whoever designed and made it did an excellent job.

As I was looking for the price tag, I estimated the retail price to be upwards of $200, or more.  It looked (relatively) expensive.  To my surprise it was only $89.00.  How did they do that?  Then I looked at the “made in” label.  Oh, Bangladesh.  No wonder.

Bangladesh has been a huge and important source for apparel brands over the of years.  B’desh has been pumping out apparel for decades, but only recently since the prices in China have been rising have brands large and small from the U.S. and Europe been migrating significant (increasing) amounts of production to Bangladesh.  It’s one of the cheapest places in the world to make garments.

Two weeks ago there was a fire in a Bangladesh garment factory that made world news because of the number of people who died–120.  The initial reports tell us that the factory didn’t have proper exits, extinguishers didn’t work, exits were locked and it was overcrowded.  No need to name names, but a couple of well-known brands made clothes in that factory.

As consumers, we demand the prices from the cheapest countries in the world.  We espouse “made in the USA” but we don’t open our wallets to pay homemade prices.

It wasn’t long ago that the brand I worked for had an extremely difficult time policing the factories right here in our own country.  Some sweat shops mirrored the worst in foreign countries.  They were very deft at fooling inspectors.  The sweat shops existed only because we demand the cheapest products we can find.  Manufacturing shops here that complied with treating fellow humans fairly couldn’t compete.  Production had to move.  It’s recently been moving in a big way to Bangladesh.  In a country where the monthly labor rate is barely $50/month, it’s hard to find a hotel room for $200/day.

Migrating apparel production simply follows the path of least resistance.  The resistance being how much we’ll pay for a dress.  Or to dress.

The brands who manufactured in that B’desh factory probably did (some) cursory compliance inspections.  Obviously not enough.  Having been in that world, I often wondered why buyers from one country must also be in the business of monitoring compliance of factories in foreign countries.

Shouldn’t governments be in the business of policing their own states, of protecting their own citizens?  But I guess state police can’t be everywhere.  So there is a responsibility of the foreign buyer to be ” in the know.”  But governments could help by making more visible examples of those who cheat systems that harm fellow humans.   That goes for the owners of garment factories where workers are harmed (and any executive of a company who bends laws so out of proportion that they are unrecognizable — think large US corporate/bank executives who got away with committing severe negligence at the expense of many others).  Jail for life seems appropriate.

The apparel production in China, India, Bangladesh and others is highly subsidized by their governments.  Subsidies of any kind end up creating an imbalance.  Apparel production has flooded into Bangladesh in part because of these internal subsidies.  Garment factories doing business with large brands rely on their consistent production.  The large brands have become particularly good at squeezing pennies out of the product.  It then becomes tempting for some factory owners take further subsidies into their own hands by negligently treating their workers.  The foreign buyer then bears the burden of constantly policing against this negligence, which requires a small army of people.

That’s not to say there aren’t excellent, well-run, state-of-the-art garment factories in Bangladesh.  There are many.  And they’ve become experts at making garments which are not only tailored for mass market “cheap” brands, but now also for many higher-end brands.

a large, state-of-the-art factory in Bangladesh playing by the rules we recognize as fair.

photo sent to me yesterday of a state-of-the-art factory in Bangladesh playing by the rules we recognize as fair.

If we design and bring a brand to market, we have an obligation to make sure it wasn’t made at the expense of fellow humans.  In our globalized world, it would sure be a lot easier if governments policed susceptible industries a little better, or at least make more vivid examples of offenders.

In the meantime, we’ll keep buying lots of dresses, jeans, shirts, and other apparel from Bangladesh and other low-cost countries.  So get that nice dress. Look and know where it’s made.  And dress nice.  Because you can.