Inauguration Drinking Game

Tomorrow, at 11 am ET, President-elect Donald Trump will officially be sworn in as the 45th president. Now to make the day tolerable, and, well, forgettable, lets do some good. So a drinking game has been created using his inaugural speech. It may not be forgettable, but you will soon forget it.

Combover Drinking Game

  1. Whenever Trump states he is the best at (insert action) : Drink
  2. Whenever Trump uses three adjectives in a row: Drink for three seconds
  3. Whenever Trump says “Make America Great Again” : Take a shot
  4. If Trump pulls out or wears a “Make America Great Again” hat : Chug your drink
  5. Whenever Trump boasts: Drink
  6. If he grabs someone by the pussy: Drink a whole bottle of whisky and hope death comes quickly instead of the four long years you would have to suffer through
  7. When he attacks his opponents: Drink
  8. Speaks with such hubris it makes you want to vomit: drink, and again, death will probably follow with the frequency
  9. Makes inappropriate gestures or comments about his own daughter: drink for the length of awkward physical exchange or five second

Maybe, just maybe, this will make the day tolerable. Maybe, just maybe, it will help us find humor in this situation. Or…we’ll all die from alcohol poisoning. I am going with the latter of the two.

Good luck keeping your glass full!

The Cuckoo’s Tufted Combover

Wouldn’t Trump

make the perfect dystopian leader.

Erect at his podium

tongue spreading trepidation

like wildfire,

after lightning strike in prairie grass.


Feathered combover

waves and bounces with gusts

of wind.

Orange hue

unnatural in light,

skin should not glimmer

with such radiation glow.


As if he was

the quintessential allegory

for America’s secretive bigotry.

George Orwell

in all his totalitarian imaginings

would marvel

it didn’t happen

in 1984.

Craft Brewers are the Willy Wonkas of our Generation

I like to imagine that if I owned a brewery, it would look like Tim Burton outfitted the mechanics of the operation, and of course it wouldn’t be complete without some strange character portrayed by Johnnie Depp, lurking in the shadows, flitting around the brewery floor. But seriously, this generation, my generation, the Generation Xers who awoke to find themselves listening to Pearl Jam and Nirvana, Screaming Trees and Stone Temple Pilots, Alice in Chains and Weezer, confused and enthralled by the transition from the eighties rock our siblings consumed to the alternative music which exploded out of Seattle in full flannel regalia, seem to have wakened a sleeping giant. Resurrecting the fabled craft breweries that seemed to have wane and fizzled out during the middle of the twentieth century, the kind of breweries of who’s passing our parents lamented, as they cracked open a can of light, over-carbonated, piss-colored, dull tasting beer, because it was the only thing left for them to drink, is the product of our generations heterogeneous nature.

After being bombarded with lesser quality products for years and years, we came out on top, brewing, experimenting, creating phenomenal brews; whether at home in our basements, fermenting in 5 gallon carboys, or on a larger scale, in the craft breweries we all love and know today. To give you an idea on how bad the situation was, how dire it became for us in the beer world, let me give you some statistics. In 1887, 2,011 breweries were in operation throughout the United States. After the Eighteenth Amendment was enacted, and repealed with the Twenty-first, many breweries who’s operations ceased during this thirteen year drought, never reopened. Unable to cope with the change, breweries shuttered their doors of many famous beers our grandparents imbibed. This eventuality led to a homogeneity of the industry, and even as time moved on, and the Volstead Act seemed a distant memory to the population– nothing more than an unbelievable story lost in time, passed on from parent to child–its effects were still seen like ripples in a pond, each small wave growing larger as it moved away from the epicenter of that careless pebble tossed into the placid waters by the irresponsible peddlers of hypocrisy and temperance.

It was in the seventies that we saw the worst of the worst, and when you reach rock bottom, you only have place to go, and that is up. Many of us grew up with our parents drinking cheap beers smelling and tasting of sulfur, looking like urine from a camel having been in the desert for weeks on end, only palatable ice cold, the smallest bit of warmth instantly skunking these mass-produced brews; the Walmart of beers. Maybe this is why we revolted, why we needed to do something different, to buck the trend and bring back flavor. Whatever the reasons, I am relieved it happened. In 1977 there were only 89 breweries left in the United States. Think about that, from 2,011 to 89 in only 90 years. Many were bought up by greedy companies that didn’t care about taste and quality–and that still happens today–and many just couldn’t compete against industry giants, due to their large marketing budgets and campaigns which dominated the television screens of my youth, and so they faded away, their beers slowly disappearing for the shelfs of package stores and within bar coolers.

Come the rumblings of a revolution. A youth upset that toys moved from metal to plastic, that greed consumed everything in society. We watched our television shows with 90 second commercial breaks and no interruption for over fifteen minutes of program viewing. We saw quality programs. Imagination and innovation prevailed.  There was something unique about all this, but at the time, it was the norm, the status quo, the standard convention; we never thought twice about it. But then as we matured and got older, as we began to observe and rationalize, to coalesce information and our observations, to synthesize all this into coherent thoughts, we realized times had changed, and quality degraded, till there was nothing left but the tripe we find today in the mass media. Jump ahead, past our formative years, the years when we absconded sips of our parents beers and sneered at the foul taste, past the years we bought suitcases of Meister Braü because few others were available to us, and drank it with disdain, lets move past all those years. There on the horizon of the current, yet still the unknown future of our youths, was a revolution of brewing growing inside all of us, disgusted by what a generation of greed had done.

We exploded, like a firecracker in a closed hand. We blew up the industry, awakening a youth with our tastebuds, nothing less of something fabulous and revolutionary in flavor. Brewers began to melt out of the shadows, rubbing their eyes at the light of day, hidden for so long below the piles of empty silver beer cans, heaped with red and white emblems on many, others bearing the mark of “light or lite” on their bodies. These beer magicians become heroes for our generation, giving back taste to something that was so prolific in our lives, yet was missing for so long we didn’t know any better. They merged malt and hop with the cleanest water. They found strains of yeast, known only in Europe, to munch on rich sugars, creating the brews we began to love. And so it happened, we found ourselves destroying the bonds of homogeneity and creating something spectacular, an imaginarium of all that we held holy.

There is no sign of abatement, and for this I am excited. It seems we’ve reached an epoch, an era, a historical moment in time where we appreciate higher standards, taking quality over quantity. Today over 3,418 breweries and brewpubs exist in the United States, and that number is growing every year. Yes companies like InBev, one single company, now owns almost a third of the beer distributed in the world, but this is not a concern for us, the beer lovers of the world. While a few smaller breweries have allowed themselves to be bought by Anheuser-Busch InBev, selling out their values siting easier distribution, the majority of craft breweries resist this trend, knowing a loss of regional and local fanbase would occur, and, also, the whole reason they began this journey was to create something beautiful, works of art we consume, and no artists wishes to see their work destroyed. But, how can small breweries compete against giants like AB InBev, easy, they already do it. By creating better beer, and due to the attention their beers get by brewers who care about their product, they are like a gardner nurturing a plant, willing it to grow and flourish, investing the time so it can flower into something beautiful.

Like Willy Wonka hiding a golden ticket to sup on candy in his factory, breweries create special edition beers, that only the most dedicated beerphile will know of, find, and relish with secret delight, squealing with sheer giddiness and glee as they imbibe these toothsome brews. With brewery-release beers, like the hop forward, delectable pale ale Dinner, from Maine Beer Company in Freeport, Maine, droves of people wait in line for hours to buy a case, some even camping overnight to be first in line. Smuttynose Brewery, in Portsmouth, NH, once upon a time, released an imperial stout named Kate the Great, which, to obtain said beer, had to purchase a scratch off ticket for $2, of which 900 tickets out of 1000 were winners, allowing the holder to claim this illustrious, coal black stout. These events seem tame compared to 3 Floyds Brewing Co. who hosts a Dark Lord Day during which you can purchase their Dark Lord Imperial Stout. With musical acts and over 10,000 people arriving for this monuments day, those who purchase a “beer lover’s ticket” are then allowed about 3 or 4 bottles of this holy relic of beer. These are just a few of the special occasions we find ourselves drawn to as beer lovers, while domestic beers fall flat and insipid, even trying to capture the craft market, but always falling short with beers that lack flavor.

With so many other events and speciality brewery release beers out there I could go on forever. As we constantly rebel against the commercialization of everything, from enjoyment to experiences, food to nature, like a phoenix from the ashes of our childhood youth, we are creating something unique and exquisite, which is only going to grow with time. As Willy Wonka–the one, true, and only Willy Wonka, Gene Wilder– said, “We are the music makers and we are the dreams of the dreams.” Please, brewers, keep on dreaming.


Why I Love The Onion, and Why You Should Too.

Recently there was a tragedy, occurrence, event, catastrophe, calamity–whatever you wish to call it or the politicians wish to name it with their rhetoric. Either way, there was an event in which people died; that we can all agree upon. Whatever you wish to call the shootings in Colorado Springs, it doesn’t change the outcome. People are dead, lives are forever changed, and like a pebble thrown into a placid mirrored pond, the ripples from that stone will affect the lives of so many within their communities, families, and circles of friends.

Only a day after the shootings on November 29th, The Onion, the online satirical news media website, openly satirized the shootings, well at least poked fun at a certain segment of the population that tend to act like ostriches, burying their heads deep within the sand. The writers of this online website did what they do best, satirize an event, while at the same time, making Americans scratch their heads, thinking, “is this supposed to be funny?” As a comedy website that has articles named “Realtor Was Not Expecting Such Hard-Hitting Questions About Water Pressure”  or “New Study Finds Box Still World’s Most Popular Container,” it is hard to think of these writers taking such a serious stance on an issue such as gun violence in America, but that is exactly what they do after major incidents like this most recent killing spree .

#MemeOfTheWeek: That Article From The Onion About Mass Shootings

In October NPR wrote an article titled, “#MemeOfTheWeek: That Article From The Onion About Mass Shootings,” illustrating the prevalence of mass shootings in the United States. NPR highlighted something that confounded some; that even a website like The Onion,–one who satirizes moms drinking wine, or dads feeling failure from daughter not being as boyish as the boy he wanted– that they are one of the few media outlets who really tell it as it is, and give their opinion openly on these tragedies. And yet, they are comedy, they are Tosh.O, they are South Park, they are Steven Colbert, they are the sarcasm that some of us love, the sardonic wit of twisted individuals, with their dark humor. I wonder….I wonder if everyone who reads The Onion, really understands what they are reading. That in these moments, in these articles, they are reading something so powerful, something so important, something about an event that has affected so many lives, and will affect so many more in the future.

Frustrated Gunman Can’t Believe How Far He Has To Drive To Find Nearest Planned Parenthood Clinic

After shootings at military bases, colleges, schools…. and the list goes on, and on, and on. But seriously, after so many shootings at so many different locations, we have our most recent shooting, at a Planned Parenthood Clinic in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Again, The Onion was there to bolster us up, to remind us, that there is life after tragedy, but tragedy should not be part of life. Instead tragedies like this are part of insanity and extremism, and should be abnormal, not the normal. On November 30th, the article “Frustrated Gunman Can’t Believe How Far He Has To Drive To Find Nearest Planned Parenthood Clinic,” poked fun at lack of gun control coupled with religious zealotry. You know who they are mocking, it is there under the surface. Hell, they even chose Texas as the state of location; I wonder why? The irony isn’t missed on me either, that while in our nation, we are deathly afraid of Islamic terrorists, but Christian warriors, who do God’s will, are not terrorists. Huh, interesting. Now you may think this is all too soon. But no, it isn’t. Instead you get a feeling, reading this article, there is a sense of helplessness, a feeling of frustration. However you feel about it being in poor taste, The Onion is creating open dialogue and conversation on this horrible event, while candidates running for president will not even  make statements, acknowledging something horrible occurred.

NRA Visits Colorado Police Evidence Room To Check Up On Rifle Used In Planned Parenthood Shooting

Within 24 hours this satirical newspaper posted two articles, poking fun at the extreme groups that have a tendency to rally around religion, guns, and fear monger the most, and didn’t think twice about openly mocking one of the largest lobby groups in the nation, The NRA. In one line, The Onion highlighted how the lives of Americans are less important than their guns, and how you cannot feel sympathy for one, without alienating the other. Silence descends upon the Republican candidates all vying for position as the presidential front runner, as this tragedy confuses and befuddles their emotions. How can you feel empathy for the families of these people, who sold baby parts? How can you tell Americans this was a tragedy, while having no solution, because a solution would alienate your own political party? And thus comes the conundrum, what is more important, gun rights or people’s rights to live, to a safe society.

In the wake of this most recent tragedy, I read the articles posted by The Onion  and I did not laugh, or feel anger toward their satirization of this event, instead, I was grateful that they have the conviction to highlight the extremist ideologies that are attached to such events. Hiding your head in the sand, or debating and argument with the answer, “its my right,” is not productive discussion, instead it is opinion and want; it is pure desire. So, I love The Onion because they make me laugh, they make me smile. Their sarcasm warms my heart like reading a David Sedaris book, but above else, they have the mettle to stand up for what they believe is right, when others fall silent.

The Aberrant Writer


Today I purchased a hollow cement sculpture of a baby’s skull. Its eyes; empty, its surface; smooth like plaster, its smile; dead and flat.  This skull, which was so recently housed at the local antique store in my town, with a tag that noted “plant pot? candleholder?” now sits on my bookcase, staring at me with dead vacant eyes, as words spill from my fingertips and onto my computer.

I think you have to embrace your eccentric side to be creative. I embrace my idiosyncrasies and bask in the manic periods I may have, writing so fast my fingers feel as if they will fall off. I take full advantage of those periods. No subject is taboo. Writing is about exposing yourself to the world, and feeling stronger every time.

Somewhere, on the horizon, lies multiple projects that my mind is vomiting as I run, drive, breath, eat, and work. I now have to prioritize them, and work on them with a fervent zeal that would make David Koresh look like a bible salesman.

In the end I have a few hurdles to conquer, but I guess, the real question that I must ask myself is, would a clown really give me their blood?

Confessions from a Confessional

Bless me father for I have sinned. It has been…..almost two decades since my last confession.  Where do I begin? I guess, for this to work, you would have to actually believe in a god.

I  sat there in that stuffy confessional where the air hung like a thick miasma of dry heat and sin. The burgundy velvet cushion crushed under the weight of my knees, and as I knelt there, I stared at the silhouette through a gold colored fabric, sandwiched between two layers of wicker screen . The room was small, and the walls seemed to draw in on me, crushing my body in a vice of Catholic guilt. In that room of iniquity, that den of wicked transgressions, I raced my teenage mind for sins, and finding none, I blurted out lies.

What sticks out most in my mind, is how strange the experience was of confession, and the church where we asked forgiveness. This was not the normal church we attended mass, and that always struck me as odd. It was uncomfortable to be in this strange church, as if I were a visiting football team changing in the home-team’s locker room, only feet away from their school’s seal painted on the floor. That grand church with its vaulted ceilings, the saints and archangels staring down from the ceiling, their painted eyes passing judgement before I made it into that wooden box of guilty admission, was hot. Too hot. I can remember the steam radiators lined against the outer walls clicking and hissing as steam passed through their iron gills. It was like a well versed interrogation tactic. Get the sinners in the church and sweat them, make them uncomfortable, so they spill their sins like diarrhea of the mouth, just so they can make a quick escape into the chill of autumn, or the unbearable humidity and heat of a Long Island summer. But there was something else I noticed, something that made me cringe every time we made our pilgrimage to this house of the lord. The acoustics were great.

Seriously, who wants to confess their deepest, darkest sins, when everyone in the whole church can hear it. So there I am, a young kid, kneeling in a church pew, ten, twenty pews away from the confessional booth, and I can still hear everything the sinner is relating to the priest. Most of us whisper, some don’t, but for the most part every one’s guilt catches up to them, and they try and whisper, so as to avoid the rest of the judging Catholics’ eyes as they exit the booth. It is like a walk of shame when that door opens. Instead of absolution, you feel dirtier, as if you bathed in your sins a second time, wallowing in the muck of Satan’s deeds. Just moving on the kneeler in this church, with only a dozen repenters to dampen the echoes, makes a noise that garners the attention of anyone within its four walls. So you sit still, quiet, hoping that your uncomfortable shifting does not interrupt the strange rituals that occur behind closed doors. And then it is my turn.

Standing in line against the wall, the wall where radiators click and hum. The wall which feels like a blast furnace from hell, perspiring my body head to toe. Standing against that wall, I get closer to the booth, and peoples sins are now transmitted crystal clear, finding their receiver in my ears, and I cringe, knowing everybody will hear my sins. And then, before I know it, I find myself in the confessional.

“Bless me father for I have sinned. It has been–a long pause ensues–two months since my last confession.” Imagine a drawn out upward inflection after the pause. A question more than a statement. I have, and never will, been good with remembering time and events in relationship to a calendar of dates. My timeline floats somewhere in space, it is neither linear nor regressive, but instead jumbled, chopped, fragmented, and only assembled when need be. Already off to a good start, lying about the last time I had confession. So there I was, sitting there in that booth, the heat overwhelming and uncomfortable, but I haven’t even told you the weirdest part about all this, the wall which hid your face, was open on the left vertical half of the wall.

That’s right, open. I sat in that booth, while I could see the priest’s legs crossed, as he bobbed his feet up and down in the air. His face was behind the screen at least, but from his knees to feet, I could see those black wool pants that were always part of the uniform. Let me illustrate this for you. I could have reached my hand around the wall, and waved at myself, seeing the silhouette through that thin veil of a privacy screen. On some occasions, the priest decided to sit the other way, so you could see his face. Face to face confession! Come on. Really. So I sat there, melting into the corner of that booth, trying to squeeze as far into the opposite wall as possible, so the angle of his sight and my eyes might not meet, blocked by the wall that only obscured half the priest, only this time not his head. And then we spoke.

“Tell me your sins,” he would say. Tell me your sins? My sins? I would race through my mind, thinking, hemming and hawing. I had rehearsed this when I was in line against the horrid wall of radiator hell, but now I froze, like a teenager having recited how he would ask his crush out, only to get up to her and drown in a sea of self-conscious uncertainty, mumbling something incomprehensible and then running away in an awkward fashion. Whispering as low as I could, knowing everyone out there in line would hear my confession, I started. Of course he always told me to speak up, and I would just continue to whisper, like a passing birds call on the wind miles away.

My sins. I questioned so much as a teenager, as a child, I didn’t really believe in god, finding my the answers to my questions only created more questions. I was probably fifteen when I really committed to that, and for the next three years found myself just going through the motions. So here I was, thinking of sins that I didn’t believe I committed, and I was supposed to come up with something, anything. So, I did what any self-respecting teenager would do, lie. I created sins on the spot. I spewed forth a whole host of venial sins. Sins that were pathetic. “I lied to my parents about going out with my friends; I stole chips and cookies from the pantry when my parents had already said no; I said the lord’s name in vain,” you know, things like that. There I sat, lying to a priest about my sins, making them up as I went along. The coup de grâce of this act was always, “I lied.” Which I had just done. So yeah, confession was somewhat of a mockery for me, but what was I to do, I was a good kid.

I really was a good kid. I didn’t do much to incur the wrath of my parents. I was liked by my teachers. I didn’t really cause trouble in school. My rebellion was philosophical, my differences were and are with society, rules, religion, discrimination and a whole host of other inequalities; hence being a humanist and atheist. But Catholicism makes you feel guilty, as if sin from oozes your pores. If it is enjoyable, it is a sin. That is my take on religion. Now don’t get me wrong, I am glad I was raised with religion, it taught me valuable lessons that, and I have a strong understanding of right and wrong, morals and ethics, but that is where my appreciation of religion ends. I was strong enough not to drink the Kool-Aid, and as a result, live a very fulfilled life without someone else informing me how to function.

In the end, Catholic guilt still sticks with us all, even if we are recovering from our early years indoctrinated in the church. As my friend’s pointed out in my early college years , I draped–and still do–a napkin over any unfinished food on my plate. This act is not conscious, but subliminally done, and when I realized I did this, it became apparent that you can’t strip away all the years of sinful regret in such a short time. Because, some where in Africa, there is a starving child that would eat that food.

A Generation Raised by Hanna-Barbera

As someone who is on the tail end of Gen-Xers, I find myself drawn to the plethora of cartoon shows which are throwbacks to my childhood. Now, I am not referring to the crappy, computer generated Saturday morning cartoons that children watch today, unwittingly participating in a farce of this beloved tradition, which blossomed in the late seventies and took off in the early eighties. Clad in our one piece, zip up, feety pajamas, with some beloved character clad across the white torso area—the same pajamas that zipped up many a child’s penis inside its devilish teeth, as we screamed for relief, the only form of such aid, a quick tug. I equate this terror to aligning a dislocated patella. You don’t tell the patient you are doing it, or give them advanced warning, you just lull them into conversation, and snap, a quick yelp, and then they realize there is no pain, the look of excruciating pain actually preemptory, as their psyche anticipated searing pain to overcome their body which was never delivered. Anyway, I digress, back to Saturday morning. We sat glued, fixated on the screen as Hanna Barbera characters, Scooby Doo, GI Joe, Transformers, Muppet Babies, Snorkels, The Smurfs and so many others became essential to our survival as children. These shows became a daily tradition, a routine which became necessary for our weekend to begin. Friday night may have been the official start to the weekend, with our parents in the other room, huddled around the television waiting to see who shot J.R. or if on Falcon Crest, Cole would awaken from his coma, but Saturday morning cartoons made the weekend real. We sat in front of the crappy, nineteen inch screen with whatever sugared cereal was in the house, and became hypnotized by whatever was on at that time. We didn’t need our parents awake, we had cartoons to guide us. We were sucked in by shows like Pryor’s Place, where Robin Williams co-starred as a vagrant. We were a generation of Muppet Babies, and Muppet movies. Cartoons were part of our lives, and as such, it makes sense we accept them in our adult life.

I have noticed in recent years that there are more and more adult cartoons on television. From Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim, which has given us The Venture Bros. and Robot Chicken, to shows like the Simpsons, Family Guy, Futurama, Archer, and Bob’s Burger, it is no wonder these have become beloved staples of our tv watching routine. For those cartoon lovers, much like myself, who frantically watched Jonny Quest, The Venture Bros. has picked up that tradition. Satirizing this favorite staple, their critique of the show, and its unadulterated version of a strung out Dr. Venture, who was also a boy adventurer and now has psychological problems from all the near death adventures, much like Jonny, is perfect and spot on, speaking to this generation.

New cartoons on Saturday morning lack imagination, and have no cultural value. Even Loony Toons, who showed the occasional accepted racism and bigotry of the time, had cultural jokes which transcended children and allowed the adult in the room to chuckle at Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, and Bob Hope as chickens in Foghorn Leghorn cartoons. A whole cartoon was a Barber of Seville Opera with Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd, now that is amazing. Or take the references to Milton Berle, who is more famous for his third leg which reportedly was like a baby’s arm holding an apple. Either way, cartoons have devolved to the crap that children watch now. I am thankful that pioneers have found their way to make the adult cartoons that feature David Bowie characters and make pop cultural references to the eighties. Archer, may be crude at time, but the frequent jokes alluding to Archer’s proclivity to obscure references of which comes from his reading materials and strange knowledge of facts is amazingly witty. If anything, these cartoons draw us in, because as children, our cartoons treated us as if we searching for something more than banality. Pop culture was injected into our shows, and we drank it up with a straw.

So as I write this, my collection of The Venture Bros. DVDs in the other room is calling my name. I want to find footy pajamas that fit me, cut the feet out—because they were always too hot to wear—and get a heaping bowl cereal. Maybe Boo Berry or mouth cutting Captain Crunch. There is always the ever beloved Cookie Crunch or Apple Jacks, and wistfully, I would shove my hand deep into the bottom, hoping to find the jelly octopus which I would throw against the sliding glass door, and watch it walk down as gravity worked its wonder. We are a generation of cartoon fanatics, and they will always be part of our routine, maybe not Saturday morning, but somewhere in our lives, they help mark the time of the week, and bring us back to a moment in life which we wistfully yearn for, even if we don’t realize it.

Five Things You Cannot Un-see at the Mall

The other day I went to the mall. It is a rare occurrence, but occasionally I will find myself plying the wares the many different stores offer in their glass cubicle enclosures, like human fish tanks of consumerism. As I wandered down the antiseptic looking open corridor which runs down the center of the structure like a spine, all the wings just ribs connecting this concourse of pedestrian traffic, I saw many sights and wondered how this ever appealed to my youthful self years ago.

When I lived in Old Town, Maine over ten years ago, it was, and still is, the edge of civilization, the last bastion before the frontier. If you traveled any farther north on Interstate 95 you would travel miles upon miles before passing an exit, and even then, there was no guarantee a town would be waiting for you. So the Bangor area was where masses congregated, the night life of the air, the pulse of the great white north. It is where people from all Northern Maine shopped, because, lets be honest, if you’ve been to areas like Fort Kent and Presque Isle, you would understand. With that said, if you were bored and had a lot of time on your hands, you might just find yourself becoming a mall-rat at the Bangor Mall…and unfortunately, I had a lot of time to kill.

So as I walked around the Maine Mall in South Portland the other day, I had a lot of time to kill, and observe the tomfoolery that occurs in these bastions of retail panacea, and cringe at many of the sites.

Before I even entered the doors to the mall I noticed an unusual character worth note, and is number five on my list.

5.) Oddities

Like entering a circus or an old fashioned carnival, the mall seems to attract the characters which PT Barnum would have drooled over. Although it is not my intent to judge or make light of certain fashions, I noticed the mall seems to attract a certain demographic in large numbers. The individual I noticed the other day would stand out anywhere he went, but it wasn’t for his dress, but the whole package. As he stood outside the food court entrance, his baggy pair of basketball shorts falling off the second pair of basketball shorts underneath, and the long baggy tank top that he wore, the outfit was three sizes too large for his wiry muscular frame. His hair, standing straight off his head about nine inches, as if gravity had stopped working and was now operating in opposite fashion, was dark brunette in color, and looked like Eraserhead from David Lynch’s cult classic about a dystopian dark future. But again, this was not the oddest thing, and neither was the child size backpack he wore with both straps fastened. No, it wasn’t that at all. What struck me as odd, the strangest things of all, was how he walked around with a fifteen pound hex dumbbell. And along with carrying this weight he performed sitting tricep presses straight up into the air high above his head. It seemed irrelevant to this young gentleman that everyone in the food court was staring at him as he performed a workout with a single weight, and the whole time I observed him, he never switched arms, but continued on the left arm, over and over again.

4.) Where have all the arcades gone?

One of the best things about hanging out at the mall was the arcade games. I grew up during the revolution of gaming. Pong and Atari, Colecovision and Commodore 64, Nintendo and Sega, these were the gaming systems that defined my generation’s gaming experience. 8-bit arcade games were everywhere, and even in bars, adults found themselves drawn to their flashing lights, the idea of gaining top score stroking many an individuals ego, their initials forever etched in the memory of that cpu, like George Costanza and his obsession with Frogger. So why is it all the arcades have disappeared? Is this a telling trend that video games are  only to be enjoyed in the home atmosphere, where teens shamelessly down bottles of Monster Energy drink while chowing down on some cheese curl?. I know that bars like Arcadia in Portland, Maine and many others in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, New York, find an audience swarming their bars to play retro arcade games that harken back to our childhood. I still find myself playing 8-bit games at home on my computer, or try to beat Zelda in record time, finding all the hidden extras, or defeating it without any. Even to this day I try and beat Contra without the secret code that we all have ingrained in our memory– more vivid than that first time we kissed or took that first fateful shot of rotgut stolen from our father’s stash of whisky. So where have all the arcades gone? They are not at the mall, and that is something I envision every time I walk past the crappy retail store which now occupies the space that was once painted with black walls and ceiling, the dark lights glowing on the walls, illuminating neon paint, as the sound effects of tie fighters blowing up the death star rang through the air.

3.) Kiosks

I am not sure when Kiosks became a year round occurrence. I am sure if I kept a journal throughout the years I could pick out a time and watch the spread from there. Like a virus, the kiosks spread from one end of the mall to the other, as these itinerant peddlers of crappy wares found space in the center concourse of the mall. Cutting this pedestrian area in half, it is now a gauntlet of heavy pressure salespersons constantly honing in on those who seem the weakest and most likely prey of consumerism in our society. Locking eyes with one of these displaced hucksters is certain doom, and their brain focuses on you like a homing beacon, leaping in front of you as if throwing themselves in the path of a bus to save an elderly woman crossing the road further down the line. You are filled with self loathing and regret that you did not just dodge or dip out of the way, a quick pivot like a basketball player with the smoothest of moves. Instead they trap you in their toothy smile like a tractor beam, and you become hypnotized by their sales pitch. It is not yourself you have to worry about, but who you are with, your hope that they have enough fortitude to fight off the barrage of congenial platitudes that swirl around their head in a dizzy mist of obfuscation. It is like they are Jedi’s telling you these are not the droids you are looking for, but instead you need a buckwheat neck pillow or you should buy a calming mint liniment. You walk away dizzy and confused, but somehow you now own a collection of standup comedy DVDs from Bob Marley, even though you think his acts are boorish and crude.

2.) Foodcourt Food

I remember when the foodcourt had places you looked forward too, because, hell, when you are bumming around the mall, Sabarro or Taco Bell is the way to go, along with a big Slush Puppy from Auntie Em’s or Orange Julius. A tall Mountain Dew and crunchy taco used to get me by for hours, but now, fast food chains I have never heard of dominate or local food joints. I don’t know, I love sushi, I eat it at some of the best places I can in the greater Portland area, but there is something unsettling about buying sushi at the mall. This is not a judgement against the workers or owners of these locations, but it just seems wrong. A big triangular slice of greasy cheese pizza is what is called for when palling around the mall. What about a hotdog from Orange Julius with a slice of american cheese and bacon? Or how about just an Arby’s Big Montana sandwich, replete with the Horsey Sauce and potato cakes, all completed with a side of uranium yellow dipping cheese sauce–now that was classic mall fair. But now we find sushi restaurants, local soup joints, fast casual burger shops, and local Italian fair taking over the perimeter of the seating area. It is as if they are trying to give the mall a conscience, giving it the ambiance of Portland, even though the mall is in South Portland. Let’s be honest. I don’t go to the mall to eat at one of my favorite restaurants from the Old Port and gentrified Portland. If that was the case I would get in my car, drive back north, and swing into Pai Men Miyake for Sushi and Campari. When I go to the mall, I want the guilty pleasure to be just that, guilty, but I guess we can’t have that anymore, so I will save my slice of cheese pizza for another location, and not the pizza place that is no longer Sabarro.

1.) Black Friday (aka Consumer Insanity)

When did Black Friday begin? The crazy lunacy that encompasses this crazy-ass holiday of its own, seems to have spun to a legendary status that is an accepted part of society. As if people need the newest television or a DVD marked down five dollars, they become rabid animals, foaming at the mouths, throwing all convention of politeness out the window. It seems that people are hard wired to search out deals and purchase, or execute, with no question on whether or not they really need it or even want it. What happened to the Sear’s Catalog Wish Book? I remember pouring through page after page, putting a circle around what I wanted, and my brother the same, our initials next to our wishes so my parents knew who wanted what. There was no guarantee that we would get what we wanted, but we wished for transformers, G.I. Joe figures, or those awesome D battery powered robots that just wheeled around the hardwood floor–and you better hope you have a hard surface for it to operate on. Now, we have the ultimate devolution of humanity as people scrap and fight over  televisions and DVD players in big box stores, while the snarl of parking begins on Thanksgiving night, that holiday now nothing more than a prequel to Christmas Consumerism. I have visited the mall a few times on Black Friday, and it was interesting, depressing even, and as throngs of people crowd stores, I am reminded that the weightlifting Eraserhead, thin man, sitting in the foodcourt, pumping a weight over his head clearly out of place outside the context of the gym, is the normal one while the hoards of people threaten each other over the newest toy their child needs.

Malls, like video games, were great in the eighties and early nineties, but as time moved on, and the consumer evolved, so too do this space, and it became less and less appealing to me. I guess I will just buy my clothes and L.L. Bean, at least the animals there are taxidermied.


We groped along the dirt path in the onyx night bereft of moonlight. Stars twinkled brightly in the inky abyss of space like a fish eye lens high above our heads. The sky seemed to stretch on forever, with only the silhouettes of spruces and pines loosely clinging to the duff under our feet, stretching out their scraggily limbs as if unknown assassins reaching out for us in the stillness, disrupting our view of the stars for only a brief moment as we passed by. Granite protruded from the ground around us like the backs of dolphins breaching the ocean’s surface, a still undulation of the permanent ground, and underneath our feet, the loose gravel skidded caught in the treads of our shoes.

The sky unfolded overhead as we made our way into a clearing, the bony spruce encircling us like a stockade of rawboned statues, as we walked upon the mounded, rough stone covered in lichen and moss. Small plants, eking an existence out of the minuscule patches of duff which rested in depressions and bowls carved out by centuries of rainfall, tickled our uncovered calves as we wandered in the barely illumined night. Craning our necks high we stared into the brilliant milky sky of stars and heavenly bodies phosphorescent against the inky vacuum of space.  Lying down against the the rough surface of rock, the cool stone penetrated our shirts, chilling our bodies, as a breeze whipped off the ocean crashing in the distance, shrouded by the darkness and gaunt, gnarled trees.

The only sounds were the waves off in the distance as they crashed upon the shore, their spume resting upon the barnacled covered, pink boulders, that dotted the rocky beach as they washed over the tops with furious vigor, and the wind carrying heady, salt foam, which whipped off the vast ocean, a dark blob of nothingness, writhing as one, heaving, erratic body, somewhere out there, past our ability to view in the abysmal chasm of that hour. Laying there, with the night like a blanket caressing and covering our bodies, we could barely see each other only feet away. The stars exploded overhead with each twinkle and wink of light, their luminosity changing colors, like auras depicting moods. In those moments we seemed to melt into the rock, and a peacefulness took us over, washing away any worries that the mind trapped and imprisoned for later distress. The world embraced us, and encapsulated us in this wonderland of nature.




The Polarized Politics of Minimum Wage Rhetoric

I have noticed something recently, something that I find disappointing and bleak. Maybe this has always been around, and as one matures and ages you start to observe more critically. Fast food workers have taken the lion’s share of blame for the minimum wage debate in our nation, and as a result I have noticed people attacking their intentions on social media and in current conversation. These workers, and people who receive minimum wage are perceived as the lowest of low, and are vilified by many. As if somehow their receiving a livable wage affects those I hear debate this with a zealotry that I believed was only reserved for Christians and followers of cults, these people coming down on the side against those barely eking out a living seem to take umbrage with their requests, all the while it has nothing to do with them.


As a firefighter/paramedic I work in a job that requires me to risk life and limb on a daily basis. Although I do not run into burning buildings everyday, hell, every month for that matter, my job has a level of danger in which I am exposed to screaming patient’s off their psyche meds, drug overdoses, domestic assaults– where tensions run high as if the room were filled with thick sand and a humidity which just pokes and irritates all within this moist miasma,– and motor vehicle accidents, where as we walk in traffic, the majority of people are gawking rubberneckers or cell phone addicted fools, paying less attention to their driving, which makes us an unseen target of hundreds of pounds of steel on four rubber wheels. On top of all the few dangers I listed on the ambulance–there are too many to describe here without this becoming just a pedantic list of horrors–we still have to face the flaming beast of fire, collapse situations, any weather condition that can be thrown at us, hyperthermia and heat stroke, and a hole host of hazards which are associated with firefighting.


But wait, it doesn’t end there. We also are required to be hazardous materials technicians. So in our minds we must be proficient at firefighting, paramedicine, and hazmat. I love getting two days worth of training to hold a technician’s license when it was supposed to be a week long class, and that’s good enough–budgets, ain’t they a bitch. So here we are, all geared up for hazmat, and doing the best we can, with the bare minimum training we can have, dealing with chemicals that can and will melt your face off, burn through the encapsulated suit you are wearing, and you know, kill you if you breath it in. Now again, like firefighting, this doesn’t happen everyday, or month, or really sometimes in a year, but we still have to maintain proficiency in this arena of horrid, frightening level of expertise, where guessing the wrong chemical can melt the Level A suit to your skin like shrink wrap.

Now you are thinking yeah, that is a lot to know. But wait, there’s more. On top of all that, we have to be confined space technicians, and some even take on, voluntarily, high angle technician, where dangling from something a few hundred feet in the air is nothing but rush and exhilaration for few adrenaline junkies. In all fairness to the powers that be, the management and the chiefs, they don’t ask for all this for us, they only respond to society and their requests. In a changing world, who else takes the call. For some reason firefighting has become the catch all for emergencies. If it can happen, we do it. Oh wait, did I also mention Ice Rescue Technician, water rescue, and the ever gruesome body recoveries in open water. Why bring all this up, you ask? Am I trying to elevate firefighters to a level of superiority to other professions? Am I trying to sell us as gods amongst mere mortals? Hell we have days where we may not run a single call. Its not like television dramas where they are running against the clock every call, a rush to save a life where mere seconds count.  These instances are rare, but they do happen. We, for the most part, run many calls in our twenty-four hour shifts, and stay busy with training and station duties in between these moments of adrenaline infused chaos, but my reasoning for this blog is not to educate you on firefighting, but discuss an interesting trend I have noticed on social media; the comparative politics in the debate for minimum wage increase, using ambulance workers as a reason for not raising the minimum wage.

EMS minimum wage

Now what I just listed off to you is a lot for one profession to be proficient in. We are expected to save lives with a swiftness that borders on the impossible, with little budget, because, well, the public doesn’t like taxes, no one does. The same people who complain about being taxed too high, expect the fire department and ambulance to be at their beckon call at any moment when they need them, and expect the best trained individuals, yet, don’t wish to pay a professional salary. I get that, and understand it is legitimate, because I am a firefighter/paramedic, I see it happen everyday I work. But here is what I don’t understand, how did ambulance workers become the anti-fast food minimum wage increase poster child?

I am not against an increase in minimum wage. I will repeat that, I am not against it. As minimum wage has slowly inched forward over the years to the sad, pathetic rate it is today, the consumer price index, CPI, has increased by a large percentage year after year, leaving minimum wage in the dust long ago. Minimum wage is supposed to be the minimum livable wage, yet research shows, time after time, that this is far from the truth. What I find interesting is the lack of empathy, and the comparisons individuals show in this debate. When did our society become an us against them scenario? When did we start comparing apples to horse shoes? The comparison of paramedics jobs and wages to fast food workers can’t even be considered to be fruit on fruit, because they are so far apart. What perplexes me, is that while fast food workers rally around their profession, trying to make a livable wage through protests and walkouts, paramedics post vines and meme’s denigrating these individuals, complaining about their own low wage. I don’t notice anybody posting meme’s, about football players throwing an oval shaped pigskin ball around and making millions, while paramedics and firefighters only making the tiniest fraction of that, because those players are contributing to society. Or what about baseball, tennis, Nascar? This is because these are gods elevated to ranks that are above us mere mortals. These athlete’s sit, cast in bronze, atop Mount Olympus, while fast food workers are in Hades, forever trapped by Charon’s unwillingness to ferry them across, because their wages can’t buy them a ferry pass. My question to you ambulance workers and firefighters, why are you not starting a national rhetoric about our low wages? Why can the fast food workers come together better than we do, especially when most of us pay dues into unions?


I am appalled at my union brothers and ambulance workers who disparage workers of another profession by creating a polarizing comparison between the two. Instead of casting aspersions on these workers, why not start a national debate about the dangers or our profession, and the little pay we make. Why do we have to insult people and knock them down? How is their increase in fast food wage going to impact you in your lives? What, your burger might cost more? Good, it should. The question you should have is, how can a burger, fries, and soda be so cheap? And for that, what is it you are really eating, if it is that cheap? Maybe you shouldn’t eat there on a daily basis, and if you do, don’t cry when you have your heart attack.

So as professionals, lets step back and look at the meta-narrative and develop some compassion. If we need to get paid more, and you think your job is underpaid, then fight for it, but don’t knock other people down, insulting them. If you think fifteen dollars an hour–don’t forget taxes come out of that as well–is too much, think about how much it costs to buy food, normal, healthy food. While a pound of 85% ground beef, generic pink slime riddled ground beef, costs $7 per pound, and a box of hamburger helper is $5, that is about an hours worth of work. Ok, that doesn’t sound bad, but, when you then think of the cost of electricity, gas for the car, car payments or commuter passes, and heating, that adds up. Also, I only listed one meal, which is an obesity addled meal–you can’t, and shouldn’t humanly live off crap like that–what about breakfast and lunch. What about when hunger gnaws at your stomach, and you or your children can’t concentrate? Those kids will have a fair chance at life, unable to concentrate while in school, sure, right.

You’re right though, paramedic, ambulance worker who belittles the minimum wage debate, you are right. This should be like the 1940s and 50s all over again in coal-mining country Kentucky. Screw them, right? If they hunger, they hunger, and let them, I need my coal, and cheap, so I can heat my middle class home off the bent spines of coke black workers, who’s skin is tight against thick rib bones protruding through only muscle, not an inch of fat is to be found. I need that fast food, and cheap. I mean why should they get a decent wage. They don’t work hard, they just stand behind a counter right? Well, you’re just an ambulance driver, right? A taxi cab, lesser than a nurse, and far lesser than a doctor or PA and NP. You want to sling mud, just remember how our profession is viewed by the general public. Duracell has a commercial where firefighters sit around the station playing cards, doing nothing but leisure time. You know, but the public knows better than that, right? Because people don’t get fed ideas and believe everything on television. In the end, people are people, no matter what job they work, and I can’t believe, that we have to polarize such debates, and decry others to make ourselves feel good about ourselves. I hope, that as a nation, we begin to develop empathy again, and stop this, “us against them” rhetoric. We are a society, and society is about a collective group of individuals working toward something. If we are not society than we are nothing but selfish individuals who care only for our own well being. I for one support an increase in minimum wage, not because I care about fast food, but because I care about people. Do you?