Guy Fieri — Man or Myth

For the last month or so, Amber and I will generally close out the nights with some of our last words being “We’re rollin’ out! I’ll catch you next time, on Diners, Drive-ins and Dives” shouted out in unison with Guy Fieri, the star of the show. We began watching the show semi-ironically, but now I don’t know that I have ever been so confused (intrigued?) by a human being—at least, not in the way I am confused by Guy. If one has not seen Diners, Drive-ins and Dives, I do not necessarily recommend it. The show involves Guy going around to different restaurants (all in the U.S.) and trying their food. I use the word “trying,” because there is no real reviewing present. In the several seasons of the show I have so far watched, I have never seen Guy give a negative review, or even some constructive criticism. Every location he visits could be considered a diner, drive-in, or dive in some light—though, the restaurants in the beginning were a bit dirtier, since business owners initially didn’t want to associate their investment as a “diner, drive-in, or dive.” The star will enter the restaurant, “interview” some customers about their menu favorites, watch the chef make the food (while seemingly helping them, but mostly just making a mess), and then shove said food into his mouth. Guy has spiked, bleached hair, tattoos, a goatee, and a wardrobe out of a classic rock band’s 1990’s reunion tour. Some of his best catch phrases include: “Welcome to Flavor Town,” “That’s all she wrote,” “Dynamite, brother,” and “Catch it right now, on Triple D.” As Amber and I watched more of the show, I became more curious.

According to a mashed.com article entitled “The Untold Truth of Diners, Drive-ins and Dives,” by Jake Vigliotti, Diners, Drive-ins and Dives is largely the work of a camera crew, who arrive at every location a few days before Mr. Fieri to get shots of customers, the outside of the restaurant, close-ups of the food, etc. Every restaurant usually gets a three day shoot, with Guy appearing on the last day to ask a couple of questions and mostly to eat. He drives a red Camero to almost every episode, which is in fact, not his at all. It belongs to one of the producers. Guy allegedly drives it for short distances, however.

None of this really gets at what makes Guy so interesting, though, which is his lack of connection to any one given stereotype; in other words, he can’t be pinned down. Guy Fieri (fee-et-tee, as he pronounces it) was born in Northern California to two hippie parents. Their meat-free, mostly raw foods diet is actually what drove Guy into cooking. Rumor is that at ten-years-old, he and his father created a pretzel cart. Guy supposedly kept running this pretzel cart to earn money for college [1]. Fieri then chose to spend a year of school in Paris, where he grew to love food more. He then went to Vegas for a degree in hospitality. Him and a friend soon opened Guy’s first restaurant in 1996, Johnny Garlic’s, which is now a small chain that still exists today. His season two winning of Food Network’s Next Food Network Star is what drove Guy into the limelight, in 2006.

Clearly, none if this is particularly strange. It is when you look into the nuances of Guy that one can see his oddities. Having the style of a classic “dad-rocker” is nothing to think twice about, but what about a dad-rocker who was raised by hippies and chose to go to Paris? The Food Network star also has what can only be described as a deep passion and admiration for the military—something which is generally seen as somewhat conservative. It seems just a bit surprising then, that Guy has also officiated some 100-plus gay weddings, including iconic chef Art Smith [2]. None of this is to say that Guy is good, or bad, right, or wrong, just that I simply cannot get a read on what is going on with him. This is not always in a political frame, however. For example, K.S. Wang, in a motortrend.com article nonsensically entitled “Celebrity Drive: Food Network Celebrity Chef and Car Junkie is a True Bow-Tie Guy,” we learn that Guy is a passionate Chevy owner (with the exception of one Lamborghini—which, how could he not have?), with five under his belt. He owns more cars, though they are exclusively and proudly American-made. Yet, Guy is still so happy to tell people that his first car was a 1978 Datsun 280Z (which is a Japanese car). Nevertheless, perhaps the most vexing trait about Mr. Fieri is how he can seem like—in Anthony Bourdain’s words—such a “total douche,” but still manage to have amazing PR and has never seemed to cultivate a legitimate complaint [3]. There are countless stories online—like the dailybeast.com one by Rachel Syme, entitled “The Trailer Park Gourmet”—of everyone from paying spectators of his live cooking shows, to reporters who want to dig up some dirt on the star, who walk away feeling like they have just talked to one of the only genuinely nice celebrities that seem to exist. Guy is known for having a good time with a live crowd, and will give out free drinks and get to know anyone he appears to have time for. With reporters, he is not afraid to laugh at himself, or to try and make light of someone who wants to tear his name to shreds for the sake of publicity. He doesn’t let things get to him, and he tries not to let them get to others, either. He’s the crazy uncle who is going to give you a noogie, making you want to punch him in the face; but he is also the crazy uncle who will get drunk at the family barbecue and make you laugh—genuinely laugh—like you haven’t in a while. I disagree with the New York Times piece by Julia Moskin, entitled “Guy Fieri, Chef-Dude Is [sic] in the House,” in which Julia claims Guy’s appeal can be mostly blamed for his attraction to men (that is, male viewers) and lower-income people. This is illustrated in the interview with a woman who claims that other cooking shows were “too preachy” for her.

This is where I struggle with Guy, I don’t know what to look at him as. Is he a chef? His restaurants regularly get poor reviews (Is it mean for me to say “hilariously” poor?). Gordon Ramsey has referred to him as a sham, as have other famous chefs—not to mention what the aspiring chef-star must think. And here is another struggle with Guy: the lay-people don’t seem to dislike him nearly as much as the popular people. I don’t think this makes him punk, necessarily, but it makes him something the likes of it.

As I grow, I am more and more curious about people like Mr. Fieri [4] and how I can incorporate their ethics into my (hopefully) sometime adult life. Guy is genuinely doing what he wants to do. Sure, a lot of Triple D is scripted, but it’s a script that he wrote himself. And when he isn’t sticking to the script, it’s his own shtick that we get to experience (endure?). He gets to travel all over (the U.S.), he gets to eat (junk) food for free, he runs into (B-list) celebrities all the time [5], and he gets to do (roughly) what he wants.

Though Guy will give a seemingly positive review to an old pb&j served in a shoe, he does have some apparent tell-tale signs as to whether or not he really likes a dish. The “mashed” article mentioned previously tells us that if Guy takes a bite and talks about the visual aesthetics of the place, he doesn’t like the food; just as well, if he stares into the eyes of the chef, the dish is a real winner. These things seem fairly obvious to me. The real question I’ve had on my mind is whether or not Guy has been doing drugs before every episode.

I would love to see Guy as a stand-up guy who travels around with women in the back of his ex-producer’s Camero doing the right thing, but something tells me there’s something fishy going on. Now, I don’t know Guy, I have only watched a fuckload of his shows and read just about every article I can Google about him. This is also coupled with my general pessimism. But really, I mean, he seriously does drive around in his ex-producer’s Camero with cheerleaders in the back. Not always, but it’s the screenshot for his entire show on Hulu right now. And even if you think, like, Well, what if it’s his daughter? (And it’s not, he only has two sons) that is even worse. Why would you willingly subject your daughter to be photographed in a cheerleader’s outfit, when she could just do it herself if she wanted to? And she could do it for someone other than her spiky-haired, backwards-sunglasses father. It’s just that, if this is someone’s first time looking at “Triple D,” and they see some bleached-hair guy in a sports convertible with a bunch of cheerleaders, they may not want to watch it with their family, and it is a family show.

Ethics aside, guy is seriously nice. Though I have always sided with the likes of Jeff Rosenstock’s new song “TV Stars,” it really does matter to be nice—even just seemingly. “TV stars don’t care about who you are” is true, indeed, but lots of people don’t care who you are. In a day-in-age in which I can obsess over what the “Puppy NFL” is up to, it is easy to see how many niches, subcultures, and cliques make it nearly impossible to really fit into a spot in which the average Hollywood celebrity is going to actually care about what the general public has to say or think. This is to say that Guy doesn’t give a shit what anyone thinks, but is still a nice guy.

To show that Mr. Fieri doesn’t care about what people think of him, it might help to know that all of his cars are all either yellow or black—even his wife is encouraged to buy only those colors, and has. In every episode, no matter what time of year, Guy is also seen wearing sunglasses—if not on the front of his face, then on the back of his head [6]. He is knowingly and willingly the bulk of so many internet memes. His two major-league acting scenes are in an Evel Knievel documentary (as himself) and in The Interview, with Jonah Hill and James Franco (also as himself in a one-second cameo).

My ultimate views on Guy Fieri come down to what I can only conclude is the issue I take with several other people who are a part of my life [7], which is that I simply disagree with them. My dad is a conservative (he’d say “independent”) republican, some of my friends are overtly liberal, and I hold my own opinions. All of this is fine, though I can say that I don’t seem to align with Mr. Fieri on most things. Like, I also don’t think its ethically a good idea to drag your kid along for a food-eating series around the world with you. At least let him finish high school.

I can go back and forth about how I feel about Guy Fieri, and have. The point is that he is an interesting person who is seriously fun to watch. Love him or hate him, he is a spectacle. If you are a conservative, he has lots on his resumé to make your dreams come true; the same still goes for the liberals. Whether you love the system or hate it, he can be your man. Forgive me for not straying more from political terms, but Guy would be the icon of bipartisanship, if ever there was one. Of course we can have several gay weddings, but let’s do it classy: tacos, tanks, and truckers, you know what I’m sayin’ bro? Sure, if Guy were president there would be legalized coke, but there would also be a military base in every town. Every flavortown! There would be no Muslim ban, only a ban on eating too many righteous yurtas and kumis. Want to smoke a joint? Sure, as long as your city has access to the most authentic Jamaican tacos this side of the hemisphere!

Okay, so things would not be “organized” so much, or even “realistic” if Mr. Fieri were president, but that’s all beside the point; he’s not asking to be president, just mayor of Flavortown. Sure, there are people who’ve spent years mastering what can only be considered the perfect culinary pallet, only to have Guy frat-boy all over it, and I’m sure they have a point. Does Guy have a right to go about America and judge mom-and-pop shops, always giving them an overwhelmingly positive review? I think so, and this brings me to where I disagree with Anthony Bourdain: he is (that is, Anthony) also paid to go around to different places and eat food. Obviously Mr. Bourdain handles this with a bit more class, traveling to places around the globe, trying things many Americans have near heard of, and documenting all of this in a pseudo-Thompson/ Bukowski-esque manner, but the concept is the same. Whether Anthony likes it or not—and he must really hate it—him and Guy share the same job, just with a different fan base. Or in my case, the same fan base. I think both shows are equally entertaining to watch, and have recently taken to pointing out how hilariously similar the two shows are—if just in my own head. Guy will be presented with an otherwise awkward situation, where he’ll have to think of some not-so-clever joke to accompany either a chef who doesn’t want to play by the rules, or a judge who seriously hates a dish that a contestant has to present. Bourdain will (thirty minutes later) be presented with a dish that no living person could enjoy, yet he will chase his terrible food with some local-inhabitant liquor. Here entails the true difference between Fieri and Bourdain: one can drink and the other cannot. On their show, that is [8].

One other problem I take with Guy, however, is that he claims to be such a “car nut,” but has claimed that his longest drive ever was between some Northern California town and some Oregon town, totaling three hours and nineteen minutes, the long way. This is a type of drive that I have taken completely at random at several points in my life; it is hardly a long drive and for a self-proclaimed “car nut,” should be nothing short of a pit stop.

Overall, though, I think there is something to be learned from Guy. Over and over, the whole claim-to-fame is that he is just a regular dude who happened to win a cooking challenge. You can genuinely see that, though. Guy makes jokes that only the only out of touch camp counselors at IDRAHAJE (does that even still exist?) would make. He is fun for the whole family, in the sort of way that half of the family is making fun, and the other half is having fun. He is all too much himself, however off putting that may be. Guy is almost something mysterious and avant-garde—is he really the willing mayor to “Flavortown,” or is he something more [9]? The private details of Mr. Fieri’s life are (understandably) mostly under wraps. All that I can say though, is that Guy is either a mad man or a genius. It is genius to be a food enthusiast who has his own hobbies and goals, and makes money primarily by eating good food in front of TV cameras. It is absolutely insane, however, to believe for one second that I will buy into the lifestyle of eating food to make a living. It is this mystery about Guy that keeps me watching and keeps me guessing—is he a real-life badass, or just another burn-out. The evidence seems to go either way and I think only time will tell; as with anything else. A view on Guy probably just comes down to a difference of opinions. I like to hold on to the one that Guy is somewhat of a pseudo-punk outsider—doing his own thing to make money for his family, but in reality knows better.

But these things can always go either way.

Footnotes:

[1]: Most of this is all general knowledge about Fieri that can be found on any number of Top Ten lists about the chef.

[2]: Art Smith’s wedding took place in 2015 and was part of a multi-wedding celebration to honor the American overturning of the ban on gay marriage.

[3]: I use the word “legitimate” because Bourdain is not the only person to have railed against Guy. Fieri seems to be an almost constant target of battering from reality chefs, to real chefs alike. This sort of makes sense, when a Food Network star has never complained about food outright, I suppose.

[4]: Meaning, famous people who somehow seem to fit, at least loosely, into the “punk” category. There is no one quite like Guy, let’s be honest.

[5]: Ex. Gene Simmons, Kid Rock, and Rosie O’ Donell (though his personal favorites are obviously the retired football players and coaches).

[6]: Come to think of it, I have never seen Guy wear a long-sleeve, either. He constantly visits low-cost cities in their cheapest months, but never seems to be physically cold, somehow. What a champ.

[7]: Yes, if someone is in your bedroom (on TV or otherwise) for several hours a week, they are a part of your life.

[8]: There has been a rumor that Guy’s tour bus is completely stocked with nothing to drink but PBR.

[9]: Let’s keep in mind that Rowan Atkinson—Mr. Bean—is a biochemist.

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Geese Revisited

I don’t think most people know how interesting geese are. I think this is because geese are not fun to look at, necessarily. They are not new, or exciting, or exotic. They blend in with trees, and crows, and other innocuous surroundings. If you can force yourself to stare at geese though, I guarantee you will have questions, as Amber and I have found. For example, you’ll see maybe five out of fifty geese in a field or at a lake take off. Why just the five? What did the five know that the other forty-five don’t? Or maybe you’ll see one goose off by himself. What the hell is that guy doing? What happened to him? I was initially not going to look up geese on the internet. I wanted my blindness to keep me amused to their behaviors. But then their behaviors got weirder, and I decided I had to know what was happening. So, like any sane person who wants to know about something, I Googled it to get to the Wikipedia page. (I am name-dropping here so that the reader is aware of how potentially incredible my sources may be.)

The geese are specifically Canadian geese, with some giant Canadian geese mixed in. When these birds hatch, they are immediately able to walk, swim, and find food; they also look like yellow ostriches and not really in a cute way. Canadian geese are monogamous and their kind do not usually end in divorce. If one goose dies, the living goose will find another mate, though. During the three-ish weeks it takes for their eggs to hatch, Canadian geese (both of the parents) will go, what can only be called, bat-shit crazy on anyone who happens to get too close to the eggs. This includes humans, who are often attacked by geese, because geese, by all accounts, don’t really give a damn.

Geese are assholes. That is a subjective sentence, but here are some objective facts: geese like to live in populated areas, much more than they like to live in the wild; geese feed on grass, but have been known to steal things out of trash cans; geese have elevated stress levels during their winter migration, and are thus more likely to hiss at you before biting you; and if you live in Denver and see a goose, it either hates you, or is a new permanent resident who will abuse the hell out of the fact that no one can hunt it and it can shit wherever it wants to.

It turns out that lots of people eat goose meat as a protein, and some residents in Canada even seem to be upset that their government will not legally allow them to sell goose meat. It’s a tough world, but in these times I like to remind myself that geese shit literally everywhere. I walk to work every day and see cars from the morning covered in it, and trails I walk on force me to watch my every step. It seems like I am joking, but there are several sidewalks I frequent that are literally covered in goose poop. The somewhat good thing about geese is that they eat mostly grass and whatever they find floating around in the lake. (I recently learned that ducks will swim in circles in order to stir up whatever is beneath them so that they can eat it; geese do not do this though, and I’m not sure how they get to the crap at the bottom of bodies of water.) Since geese don’t eat anything of real substance, their poop mostly just resembles someone’s lawn when it has just been irrigated. It also smells almost the same way, though this could just be some sort of psychological memory trigger, since goose shit has generally followed summer irrigation though my youth up until now.

Male geese cannot fly after they have mated. They shed their flying feathers (whatever the hell those are) and do not regain them until about the time when their offspring can first fly. This is perhaps nature’s own way of preventing deadbeat fathers and bastard children, at least in the goose world. Also involved in the goose world is the very real threat of child death to salt water. “Moderate to high salinity concentrations without fresh water results in slower development, growth, and saline-induced mortality,” Wikipedia informs me. And if you’re now thinking Damn, way to answer almost all of my goose questions, but, what makes a group of geese fly off, man? The answer is simple: no one knows.

That is the greatest mystery about geese: we don’t know why they fly in a V formation, or who gets to choose the “flock.” (Flock is here in quotes because although some geese may fly off for a few hours, the main collection of these birds always seems to remain together, come the end of the day. The real “flock” does not seem to consist of the generally seen five or so birds, but rather, of tens to hundreds of geese.)
The geese I see do not seem to just be tourists anymore. As I have written about before (sadly), the geese seem to have permanently taken up housing in Denver. In the same article that mentioned this, (I’m not citing things; this is a comedy opinion piece that you can either read or not – I’m sorry, that sounds harsh, just please don’t take things too seriously, I’ll include the video at the end) I was told that geese are mostly a burden because of their poop. A local Denver woman “volunteers” – because they totally want to do it – her dogs (two golden retrievers) to scare off the geese of pretty much any given location.
Needless to say, the goose nazi has not made it to southwest Littleton.
Walking passed the birds, I couldn’t help but think of people, and what we would’ve done under the same circumstances. I was saddened to come to the conclusion that we would probably destroy all the ice, harvest everything at the bottom of the lake for food to sell, and profit off of lake-side communities (like the Concordia Assisted-living Home which already exists on the lake); and that’s only if you’re one of the lucky geese, the other 99% will just have to find somewhere else to live.
{That got real pretty quick. Good thing we aren’t geese.}

The main thing to take away from the goose is that it’s an individual creature; it will fuck you up regardless of how large you are, and it will take over whichever parks it feels are the best to be at, and it will empty its bowels wherever and whenever it feels appropriate.

During the winter, the lake I walk past every day freezes over, mostly. There is a large, perfectly circular pool , however, which remains unfrozen. It is here that the geese now congregate. Being that it is the only open source of water on the lake right now, it is also where the ducks and seagulls gather as well. Clement Park, and the lake it encompasses have become barren and cold, except for the pool which remains in the middle. Here, all birds come together to bathe, eat, and hang out. It is quite a sight to see, as this gathering does not happen any other time of year. For the rest of the year, the birds will make cliques far apart from each other, keeping to their own kind. But during the worst, coldest parts of winter, all of the birds will come together here. It’s a beautiful thing, and means more than I’d care to blatantly write down.

Metaphors aside, I do hope some of these geese get the fuck out after winter though, because there is actually goose crap everywhere I step.

Why I Am Not Worried About 2018

It’s not so much that I am not worried about 2018, just that I am choosing not to lose my head about it. So much of the time spent in 2017 I feel (and especially now, in December, when everyone is doing a yearly recap) has been spent on complaining about how bad 2017 is (and now was). And now, as news stories emerge about the coming 2018, almost all of them are doing their best at attempting to explain why we should all be shaking where we stand, or why the next year will be incredible.

I can understand why this might be. Media outlets make their money on taking a story and making it interesting, and a story like this – while not particularly interesting – does not have to be facts driven, and thus can be “spun” in whichever way the author would like. If a journalist should happen to oppose the coming of the new year because they believed it would obviously end in nuclear warfare, they could easily express their view in an opinion piece called “2018 is Coming and Everyone is Freaking Out,” or something like that, etc, etc.

2017 was in no way a great year, or even a good one. But compared to the rest of human history, even within the last decade, it was not such an awful year as many like to make out. The idea of the last year being an especially terrible one is something that is completely corporate and artificial in nature. For example, a left-leaning Vanity Fair article by a T.A. Frank, entitled “5 Nightmarish Headaches Trump Faces in 2018,” lists things like “Democrats [being] less open to deal making” and “Robert Mueller [sticking] around” as being some of the top issues which are sure to make the next year horrible for anyone involved in any way. While it’s fair that partisanship and an FBI head bent on proving collusion between the president and Russia must be a huge headache, I would not say those are even close to being the toughest things for the president to have to juggle next year. They are catchy themes, though. (Just for the record, I believe the inevitable proof of Russia collusion will probably happen a bit further down the line.)

In contrast, both the ridiculously conservative John Ziegler and Rush Limbaugh think that 2018 will be an incredible year because of Trump. They mostly site financial gain and job employment as an overall bonus. While both of these points are [mostly] true, one cannot deny the fact that this has been a horrific year for most people living south of Colorado; massive storms in Texas, The Virgin Islands, Florida, and Puerto Rico, plus raging, unseasonal fires in Southern California have made this year one that is probably not so great for many. This is not to mention the families who’ve been affected by the several tragedies to have swept through the country this year, from the Las Vegas shooting to the Muslim travel ban.

I am taking joy in the fact that the Miriam-Webster Dictionary is watching the word doggo in 2018. Aside from that, I am choosing to accept that things are cyclical. History repeats itself and I don’t have the time or the patience to be bothered about being bothered about current events. I care enough, I think. What I have learned in 2017 is that there are people at every time in history who have been as upset as people seem to be now, and I do not want to be one of them. If one does not want to believe that 2017 has happened before in America, I suggest looking into 1972. I say this not just because of Watergate, but because of arguing, of childish insults between political professionals, of a massive slew of scandals involving famous people, and of extreme partisanship. I think that both sides are generally – as a rule of thumb – absurd, inaccurate, predictable, and thoughtless. Their arguments have been made before. Their arguments are also paid for. Fox News needs to be right-leaning because that is what their viewers and listeners want, and so on and so forth. Anyone who chooses to pick a side exclusively is setting themselves up for the same things over and over: the left will take things too seriously and the right will be too insensitive, rinse and repeat.

The point I am trying to get at is that 2018 is just another year. Instead of getting mad at T. Swift for Tweeting that she had a good year, let’s all decide to just chill the fuck out. Not everything needs to be a political statement. Let’s just watch football this year (and that’s coming from someone who genuinely thinks that the NFL is legitimately comparable to the gladiators of Rome). Let’s read more news about things that don’t matter, like National Geographic, or stupid essays like this (but the non-political ones – this is it for a while, I promise). And for fuck’s sake, let’s not give a shit when we can’t watch the stupid president attempt to play sports which he claimed he had no time to play in the first place.

Mainly this year, let’s not be assholes. Let’s be more accepting and less prone to labeling everything. We should try to not act like the world is going to explode tomorrow; it’s not great, but maybe things have been worse. And even if things haven’t been worse, let’s make an effort not to fixate on that. Things at least could be worse. Right?

Right?

Merry Christmas (I Don’t Wanna Fight Tonight), etc.

Listen to this first, if you have time?

I spent the Christmas of 2015 drunk and alone. I remember waking up and mixing my bourbon into the eggnog before grandma could come over. I spent the day quiet. I didn’t feel like talking at dinner. I was alone and I was depressed. I was, however, still talking to Amber. Amber and I worked together at a Payless a ways from my house. We had established between each other our interest in punk music, and that was enough for me to decide I needed to bother her.

I don’t quite remember if I said much on the day itself, though I remember Amber having to heavily console me over the fact that Christmas just happens, and even though it sucks it’s just a day. In a nice way, she was telling me that I was really letting out a lot of information, and probably being more dramatic than I needed to be. I took the hint; we asked each other what we got for presents, and I remember even just that making me feel better.

 

I am an only child. But, you have not killed anyone; you don’t seem like a psycho you might say to yourself, and you are correct: I have not killed anyone and I personally consider empathy to be the greatest virtue. I did not have the same Christmas’s that my friends seemed to enjoy, however. My earliest memory of the holiday is of waking up too early, just after my parents had happened to go to sleep, and finding all of my presents under the tree; among them was the Scooby Doo stuffed animal that I had specifically wanted. I immediately ran to it and was quickly caught by my dad coming down the stairs. “Woah! Santa already came! We’ve gotta wait for everyone else (just mom) to get into the presents, though,” and he put me back to bed. When I woke up in a couple of hours, I found the most amazing list of presents I could imagine.  Everything I had asked for and then some.

Being an only child on Christmas has its downsides, though. I got a video game system and didn’t have anyone to play with, I got a skateboard and didn’t have anyone to ride with, and I’d get a movie and have no one to watch it with. To make things worse, my dad was then absent for a few of my childhood Christmas’s, and I now feel a compulsion to try and make the day as joyful as I can for everyone else, with no regard for myself. It is this mindset that has established my anxiety, my distrustfulness, and my need to try and make as many people happy as possible – this time of year at least, I feel as though my seasonal depression eases up in the summer when there are no major holidays. It is also this mindset that has ruined this holiday for me, from being alone as a child, to feeling guilty for trying to not be alone – it has just always been a shitty day for me.

 

 

Shortly after the Christmas of 2015, I began hanging out with Amber, a lot. We began dating within a few months, and kept becoming closer and spending more time together, until I had completely fallen in love. As the 2016 holiday season neared, I feared the worst: Was my anxiety and depression going to resurface? Was I going to end up drunk and alone again? Would I be able to devote my time to all those who cared about me, equally? I assumed I would let someone down, and as the 25th grew closer, I knew I would let everyone down. For most of December I became short, needy, irritable, and broken. I lost my head in the bullshit that is American consumerism. I felt as though my just-above-minimum-wage job would cover the expenses for shit I wanted to buy everyone – fancy beers for the guy roommates, fancy wine for the girl roommate, a record for my best friend, art supplies for my girlfriend – and when I was wrong, I couldn’t handle it. I got into arguments with everyone. If a friend would invite me to lunch, my response would be “Is money everything to you? What is wrong with you?” When they’d explain that they just wanted to hang out with me, and would even cover my meal, I would become even more internally upset. I can do this on my own. I can do this on my own! I can’t do this on my own.

But then, something strange happened. Christmas day rolled around and I didn’t want to jump out of a window. The opposite, even. I remember waking up next to Amber and being excited for the holiday. Staring into her eyes as we woke up together, I was excited in the same way I was when I was little. Everything was ahead of me for the day, I wanted to make her happy and I knew I was going to at least come pretty close. Not because of the presents, but because of the thought. I genuinely couldn’t afford to buy much of anything, and so all of my presents had to rely upon the basis of knowing her intimately, of remembering our favorite moments together. What I got her specifically does not matter, but the fact that I made her feel loved, and that she made me feel loved is what matters.

The loud, and sometimes white-trash-tending roommates we lived with at the time would be gone for the entire day, and probably the night, too. We were free to be ourselves, to eat what we wanted and drink what we wanted, watch what we wanted and say what we wanted. It was that moment of having our own, complete space together, knowing that our only jobs at the moment was to make the other person happy that made everything so incredibly nostalgic, freeing, and reassuring. Amber and I had seldom had these moments together, when it was only her and I in a space that we were allowed to call ours. I had never in my life been in a place that I had worked together with someone for, experiencing it being filled with love and care and acceptance. It was a feeling that people live for it keeps them alive. I know that it is now on my list of reasons to be alive – not just for Amber, but for what we will build together. For the spaces which we will make ours. Places that will be closed off to the world, and even if they did see it, would never understand what they were looking at, because it was not their world. Every person makes his place in life, and this is mine, with Amber.

 

And now, as Christmas 2017 draws near, I only know more and more that a space with her is all I want in life. To be with her, and watch her do so many things, and help her when our heads are awful, and to feel like I will never, ever be alone again.

I know that my neurosis far outstretches hers, but she takes care of me any way. And I know that I am going to get better with her. We are going to grow together, and live more together, and become something even better than we are now. I know that our lives aren’t destined for mediocrity in this, or any suburb.

 

So merry Christmas to anyone who is struggling, to those who need it most, and to those that have not yet found out what they are waiting for. In 2017, it is easy for posts like this to go by the wayside, or for strangers to assume that this is something else manufactured, but it is not. From someone who has found a true home in someone who is my confidant, my best friend, my help at all times, and the love of my life, I wish anyone who can manage to read through all of this a very merry Christmas.

And I love you, Amber. Merry Christmas.

 

Dead Geese and their Secret Society

I’m not sure why I have never seen a dead goose. There are hundreds in the park I walk through every day. Amber just sent me an article about how thousands of Canadian geese are moving to Colorado this year, too. I am positive that I have seen literally millions of geese in my time on Earth, but I find it almost mysterious that I have never seen a dead one. That is, aside from the ones which are presumably dead that I hit with my car in high school. In that case, I have only seen a goose’s last moments.

Deep down, I know that coyotes and foxes have got to be the coroners of the goose world: a goose will parish, and one of them will quickly swoop in to dispose of the corpse. This cannot possibly happen in the daytime, however. Sitting there, drinking my beer and hoping something interesting will happen, I could not possibly miss a mammal preying upon a dead goose. I just wouldn’t. Foxes are my favorite animal, and coyotes look enough like foxes that I would also stare them down, wishing that society would not frown upon our friendship.

“Why don’t you just Google it?” Amber asks me, in reference to the goose deaths.

“Then what would I have to write about?” I respond.

I still have not Googled it, and I refuse to. I currently maintain the belief that geese uphold their own society. Just the other day, I saw hundreds of geese in the park by my house; the Labrador in front of me scared them off. I then saw hundreds of geese looking for their herd. I saw geese smack into each other in mid-air and continue on their path like nothing had happened. I saw geese stop on the ground, look around towards the air, and take off in the correct direction of their home flock. I have seen a goose shit on a person who has previously made a conscious effort to scare off an entire flock. It is based on these facts that I believe the goose society exists; this, and the fact the I have not seen a dead one of these assholes.

I can only assume, based on the lives (of geese) I have so far seen, that the geese will drag the newly-dead goose to a secret location. This location is one in which the fellow geese will constantly bark at (what the fuck do geese do – quack? squawk?). Growing up, I can remember my mom telling me that a goose “yelling at me” was a sign that it had baby goose nearby. I have got to call bullshit at this point, as the geese “yell at me” year round. I vividly recall summers in which I had to wait for geese on my street to pass before I could drive my car; springs where the cursed bird would drive my dog (at the time) crazy, my dog assuming it could fly as well; autumns filled with geese ruining the set-up of the local park light display by outnumbering the workers by at least 20:1; and now, this winter, a supposed twenty thousand of these giant, flying rats has inhabited my state, and the geese have – in every one of these scenarios – yelled at me the entire time.

This is where I should be clear: I have seen a lot of dead animals in my lifetime. This is not something I boast about, it is just an unfortunate fact. I have seen dead raccoons, crows, dogs, cats, deer, moose, rabbits, etc., etc., though I have never seen a dead goose. Not even for a second. Not even out of the corner of my eye, as some mysterious robed figure pulls the dead bird away for a secretive ritual sacrifice. Not even then have I seen a dead goose.

“The Office” had a Christmas episode in which Dwight (one of the show’s main characters) claims that he’s found a dead goose and would like to cook it for a Christmas meal. Just as I was forced to do with my mother, I had to (at this point) sever my ties with any advice I had considered even remotely helpful in this episode. A mindset in which one believes that dead geese can be seen by human eyes is one that cannot be trusted.

What must happen is that coyotes and foxes do, indeed, dispose of the geese’s corpses, (the possessive plural of goose really is geese’s, how dumb is that?) but that this activity must happen in a certain fashion. It is my estimate that the secret goose society, which appears to fly off out of nowhere, is actually controlling its personal image as a species that will live forever. The random taking-off of the flocks is their clever way of hiding that one of their own has perished, and that they are surrendering him or her to the circle of life.

Geese are also just shady. They’re the only bird that seems to make a conscious effort to hid their deaths. Geese are also the only bird I am aware of that will not back down to a fight. I haven’t directly challenged one of these birds to a physical match, but I have had them hiss at me for coming more within more than ten feet of them. Any other bird would fly away, but I know that the goose would attack. My grandmother on my father’s side is a first-hand witness. In her old age, she had developed dementia. Through the horrific illness, she still knew that she loved me though, as my only memory of her is of scaring off geese so that we could sit and have a chat at her nursing home. I was maybe five at the time, and she knew in her old age and deep wisdom, that geese were up to no good.

I do not bother the geese these days. In fact, I make a point to not scare them off as I walk through the fields they inhibit on a daily basis. Now more than ever, I have an appreciation for this bird. The goose is a bird that will not take any shit from anyone, will protect its young against a perceived threat that is at least five times its size, doesn’t let a mid-air collision slow it down from hanging out with its friends, and can move to a new location hundreds of miles away from its home and fit in just fine. Perhaps I have a lot to learn from this love/hate relationship I have with Denver’s 20,000 new inhabitants.

Jolly

This year for the holiday season, I am going to try and be something I have not ever consciously thought about being before: jolly. The way I intend to go about bringing forth this euphoric attitude is to do the opposite of what Americans are told to do at this time of year. I am not going to go out and buy decorations, I am not going to participate in “Incredible Christmas Deals,” nor will I find an atrocious sweater, drag myself to a random house, and get drunk on eggnog pretending to care about all the accomplishments from others as they flow into my ears.
I have always been a bit of a Grinch around the holidays, though I would generally put up with the games. I have played Yankee Swap over ten times, alright?
All of this – the shopping, the games, the silly uniforms and kitsch parties – is why I am not jolly during the holiday season. It’s quite possibly why everyone is not jolly during the holiday season.
Last night while Amber and I were picking up dinner, we over heard three people talking at the bar.
“So, I call a time out. I’m handling the game and I call a time out. And then you won’t believe this… you won’t believe this. Tye blows a kiss to a girl. And she’s like, contradicting what I’m saying on the bench. So I was like ‘if you say another word I’m gonna fire you. If you can’t get on board I’m gonna fire you.’” The guy speaking couldn’t have been much older than me. He was talking to two girls who were dressed in the same sort of sports uniform. One of them responded.
“You know, it’s just like, there’s times you’re upset and you know, you call me out in front of everyone. I’ve seen you do it before, but I’m never gonna question you during the game and I know you know that.”
I kept listening and found out that this small group was the remains of a larger group of coaches, etc. that had chosen to have their Christmas party here. I’m not quite sure what could compel these three to stay behind and complain about their jobs and berate themselves to each other after the other coaches were already asleep at home, getting ready for the next time they could threaten to fire girlfriends for interfering with their athletes’ commands. Perhaps it’s just the holiday spirit everyone talks about.

Nope, that spirit is not for me this year. There will be years where I plan to go needlessly into debt to prove to those I love, just how many dollars worth I love them. There will also be years where I have too many drinks at the family Christmas party, and end up drunkenly talking to someone I don’t care for, for hours. But this year, I will save my money. I will buy minimal gifts and I will expect nothing in return. I will skip on the parties to write, or to do nothing at all. This year, I’ll try to be alright, and is there a better reason to be jolly than that?

Jolly