The Walking Dead Friday – ‘Inmates.’

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Season 4 – Episode 10: ‘Inmates.’

POW! Another week of Walking Dead captions out of nowhere! Enjoy!

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I remember this being a lot funnier when Steve Martin did it.

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This reminds me of every dinner I’ve ever had at Old Country Buffet.

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Tyreese, not good with children and attempting to lighten the mood, tells the filthiest joke he knows.

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There’s my little sociopath.”

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“Look, I don’t even care that you killed Karen, just TAKE. THIS. F***ING. KID.”

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You know, this looks sort of familiar…

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The Walking Dead takes place in the Lost Universe. Everything makes sense now.

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“If she randomly busts into one more folk song, I’m setting my feet on fire.”

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“Hey. Gurps.”

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(gurps)

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As I was following Twitter during the episode, I saw no less than 1000 tweets pleading for someone to “Shut that stupid/annoying/goddamn baby up.” But once Lizzie starting in with a bit of the ‘ole suffocation, the very same people started flipping their collective wigs. Twitter morality is tricky, I guess.

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Still, this is one of the nicer school buses you’ll find in Georgia.

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When I was riding the bus in Grade 3, an older kid spit in our bus driver’s baseball cap. This, as I recall, is pretty much what happened next.

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I’m just going to tell you right now: This Lizzie situation will not end well.

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Daryl crunches every equation in his head attempting to remember if Beth is over 18.

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I just had to show you how awesome this was…

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They care about the details; I can assure you.

Sound off in the comments section, click around and enjoy your weekend.

Season 1 – Episode 1 Review.
Season 1 – Episode 2 Review.
Season 1 – Episode 3 Review.
Season 1 – Episode 4 Review.
Season 1 – Episode 5 Review.
Season 1 – Episode 6 Review.
Season 3 – Episode 9 Review.
Season 3 – Episode 10 Review.  
Season 3 – Episode 11 Review. 
Season 3 – Episode 12 Review. 
Season 3 – Episode 14 Review.
Season 3 – Episode 15 Review.
Season 3 – Episode 16 Review.  
Season 4 – Episode 9 Review.

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So Long, And Thanks (Again) For Laughing At My Poop Stories.

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(The following is a Wayback Machine essay from 2-18-11.)

Today’s story is about retribution. Validation. Overcoming one’s fears. Miraculously learning to walk again after a tragic combine accident. Wait, scratch that last one.
Several months ago, my old friend Nicole requested that I come in to Janesville Craig High School to talk to her English students about my writing, books and anything else that came to mind. Apparently, she had been reading my essays to them for several weeks, and thought it would be nice to bring me in, have me say hello, read an essay or two and hit the road.

Educating and entertaining high schoolers has been Nicole’s job for eight years now. It’s second nature to her. She’s animated, intelligent, fearless of public speaking and generally unflappable. So she didn’t seem to understand why I flat-out refused the request the first 10 times she asked me. The idea of speaking to teenagers, and actually attempting to make them laugh, seemed like suicide to me. Literally the most disastrous thing I could possibly think of doing. Maybe even my #1 Fear. I was certain that no student in her class would be interested in seeing me, nor would I be able to win any of them over. Furthermore, teenagers aren’t exactly my target demographic. Sure, my stories of adolescence and teenage awkwardness would seem up their alley, but that sort of stuff is generally appreciated by adults years (and possibly decades) after the fact. Who wants to read about how much being a teenager sucks while you’re living it every day?

I remember what it was like when a speaker came into my high school. They were boring. Preachy. Woefully out of touch with youth. I hated them. Now I was going to become one of them?

No. I wasn’t going to do such a thing.

Over a decade ago, I gave up my dreams of being a rock star so I could write funny stories from the privacy of my Rumpus Room, and it’s what I’ve been enjoying. I never toured on my books. I’m not popular enough to get noticed on the street. I do 90% of my communication through Social Networking and e-mail. I seldom put on pants. This has been working for me, and you don’t screw with happiness.

Then I talked to my mother.

Every time I have a conversation with my mother, I eventually accuse her of being an agoraphobic, xenophobic recluse that sold out her dreams in favor of safety and security. I don’t like that she’s afraid of driving over bridges. I don’t like that she turns down gatherings for fear of feeling out of place. After my typical elitist bashing, I hung up the phone and soundly proclaimed myself a hypocrite. I was acting the same way. I knew now that I had to speak at that high school, even if it killed me (or at least made me throw up in the parking lot).

I e-mailed Nicole and told her I was in, then proceeded to ask her a thousand questions to prepare me for what I was in for. Not only had I not set foot in a high school in over 11 years, but my graduating class was 100 people I knew on a first-name basis. Janesville Craig had a population of 1600 students on a sprawling campus, and I was still operating under the assumption that none of them knew (or cared) who I was. Nicole tried her best to put me at ease, reminding me that this was to be an informal, fun Friday spent talking to young adults about whatever I wanted; this was a win/win scenario.

Then she told me her class sizes were 30-50 kids, and I nearly pissed myself at the thought.

Before I could once again talk myself out of it, I finally found myself sitting in my car in the parking lot of Janesville Craig. I was wearing a tie. I brought books to give away. I jotted down pages of notes the night before in case I lost my train of thought. I was prepared, but I couldn’t even open the door to walk into the school come 7:30am. When I finally did, stepping into the front lobby bustling with kids arriving for their day, I heard the following exchange behind me:

“Hey, who’s that?”
“I don’t know. Who gives a shit?”
“He’s scaring me.”
(Muffled giggles of sadness and failure.)

I heard this five seconds after I walked into the school.

That’s it,” I thought to myself. “I’m out. This school sucks.

I went back to my car, where I sat for 15 more minutes to collect myself. Why was I so afraid of these kids? Because I remember what I was like at that age? Because I remember how cynical, apathetic and rude I was? Well, why does that mean these kids would be the same? I kept reaffirming myself, psyching myself up in the car in a feeble, Tony Robbins-esque attempt at getting my legs to move.

“Come on, Ryan. You are a man. You own a house. You have clear skin and a tattoo and you’ve had sex. You drive a Mercury Sable. It’s go time.”

Eventually I did, where I met up with Nicole in the lobby, and she (thankfully) escorted me to her classroom. I hadn’t seen Nicole in over a decade; she was an old friend, an ex-girlfriend and one with whom I shared a singular brainwave for probably two full years in the mid-late 90’s. Seeing her again was great, and she put me at ease and again reminded me that this was supposed to be nothing more than a silly, fun afternoon, and that I should immediately remove any reservations I had about being mature, appropriate or nervous about what I was about to say or do. I grabbed a ‘Visitor’ sticker so nobody accused me of being a pedophile (again), and prepared for my day.

Nicole greeted me in her classroom with a plate of homemade blueberry muffins. I soon realized that getting these muffins out of the school unscathed would be my most difficult challenge of the day. The kids were hungry, pawing at the plate like starved zombies upon a fresh corpse, and I had to keep finding new hiding places throughout the day. By the time the 1st Period class came shuffling through the door, I felt slightly out-of-body, standing in front of them as they looked up, wondering who I was and why I was about to waste their time. Hopefully they couldn’t tell, but I was shaking.

Then, suddenly and without warning, the questions started.

“Was that story about the student teacher true?”
“Did you really get hit by a car?”

“That thing about pulling your groin was hilarious!”

“You live the weirdest life!”

Looking around, I saw students holding copies of my book. Reading along with me when I read my opening essay. Asking for autographs and snatching up the CDP buttons I brought along with me. Nicole was right; some of these kids sincerely wanted to see me. Sure, these students probably represented 10-15% of each class, but that was 10-15% more than I had expected. Instantly, my apprehension melted away, and I began my hourly ritual of meeting the students, rambling about myself, answering (and asking) questions, signing books and taking pictures. This was not what I had expected at all, and it was definitely for the better.

The kids who didn’t care who I was? They sat quietly and respectfully. The kids who did care? They grilled me for 50 straight minutes, which was great. By and large, they cared less about the mechanics of writing and humor, instead opting to ask a lot of questions about myself and the wide range of hard-to-believe stories I’ve written over the last eight years. The more inappropriate, the better. Here I was, sifting through my books the night before, trying to find any essay that was ‘school safe,’ and all they wanted were the stories about poop, sex and violence. I liked these kids a lot, and obliged whenever I could. Even the kids who were asking me any dumbass question simply for the hell of it (“Did you kiss our teacher?“) still cracked me up.

Going in, I wanted to be professional. Mature. Stoic. And I was, for a while. However, they sucked me in with their enthusiasm and humor. By the time each period came to an end, it had devolved into all-out chaos, which is an environment I can handle far better than sitting straight and raising your hand. I didn’t want to be a boring speaker, and thanks to them, I wasn’t.

The first three periods were straight-up English classes, but the next two were more elective-based, which meant a class of students that probably wanted to be there a bit more. For Period 4, the teacher across the hall (who also had a copy of my book), gave his students the option of watching my spiel instead of his, so for my last class before lunch, it was pretty much standing room only. I only had one more book left to give away at the end of this class, and so many students wanted it that I had to throw it over my head, wedding bouquet-style. The visual of watching teenagers fighting over a copy of Aerating The Mashed Potatoes was equal parts hilarious, beautiful and…well, beautiful.

I should have brought more. Sorry about that.

I had one more period to go, but it was after lunch, so Nicole and I took the opportunity to grab some food and catch up for an hour. We talked about old times, what we had been up to recently and generally fell right back into the repertoire we used to have. To meet an old friend for the first time in a decade is one thing. To do it under such strange circumstances was yet another. She assured me I was doing a good job, I praised her for running such an insanely-paced classroom for the last eight years, and before we knew it, the day was over and it was time to say goodbye.

I had done it. It was awkward at times, but I had done it. Before leaving, I encouraged the students to vandalize my Wikipedia page (as you can see in the title photo, which eventually led to its deletion), find me on Facebook and buy a million copies of the books if they liked my writing. Every fear I had was proven wrong, and simply because I felt bad for being a hypocrite to my mother, I wandered into one of the more rewarding (and exhausting) days I can remember.

I want to once again thank the students and teachers for being so welcoming (or at the very least, tolerant). I want to thank the African American kid that talked MarioKart with me and (jokingly) accused Nicole of being a racist. I want to thank the girl who suggestively licked her sucker in my direction until Nicole and I both told her to stop. I want to thank the Freshman that looked like Angus and said her shot cats for fun. I want to thank the goth girl that talked about retro video games with me (even if ‘retro’ means a Super Nintendo to a 15-year old). It was nice talking to all of you.

I had a great time, and appreciate all the questions and feedback, even if it was nothing more than stuff like “Did you and Nicole used to date?” and “Are you rich?” (yes and yes, by the way). I probably won’t do something like this for a very long time. Maybe never again. But I’m glad I did.

And to answer the question that was asked to me the most: Yes, the student teacher that liked me was hot, and yes, I probably should have ‘porked her hard.’ I consider it a lost opportunity.

Burning For You.

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I.

There’s a certain combination of chivalry and stupidity in attempting dangerous projects with your wife out of the house.

On one hand, if everything goes to hell, nobody gets hurt but your irresponsible ass. On the other hand, no one will be around to save you when the inevitable happens. If neither of these things transpire, you just may look like a responsible adult and your wife gets to come home to a newly working appliance. I don’t make the rules: If you want to feel like a useful and irreplaceable mate, you sometimes have to risk vaporizing yourself and everything around you within a tri-block radius. These are the risks you have to take.

The Missus spent yesterday evening at the movies with a friend, which left me alone and antsy on the couch. With the house spotless, my anxiety kicked into high gear without her around to tell me to stop moving around so much and watch Degrassi with her (I won’t! Never! NEVER!!!). I needed a figurative fire to put out, and I found it in the form of a literal fire that never got started.

Since we bought our house almost six years ago, the gas fireplace has never worked. It’s beautiful and accents the living room nicely, but every time we attempted to ignite it, the flame would fwoop out after only a few seconds. Eventually we gave up, putting the low priority repair on a non-existent list of things we would probably never fix until the time came to sell the place. It wasn’t that big of a deal.

Then came the bitterly cold Winter of 2014 (of which we’re still inhabiting). We’re lucky; it’s pretty cheap to heat our home, but when it’s -30 outside, you want to hedge your bets with as much toasty air circulating through the house as you possibly can. Without the Missus around to remind me that I wasn’t a handyman, fireplace technician or natural gas expert, I hunkered down and started taking shit apart. She was either coming home to a roasting, romantic sanctuary, or the ashen, glowing remains of her beloved.

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II.

Quick aside on gas leaks: They terrify me. In addition to the fireplace, we also have a gas range, and I’ve fired it up approximately never times. One of the few pieces of advice my father-in-law gave me upon visiting our recently-purchased place in 2008 was, “If you smell gas, don’t even wait around to grab anything. Just get out and call 911.” I took this to heart, and just last year, heeded his words on a rainy autumn evening.

The Missus and I were sitting in the living room when we heard a loud pop come from the kitchen. Thinking it was the cats, we initially ignored it, until it happened again a minute later, only much louder. I went into the kitchen to see if I could locate the sound, and immediately smelled something odd. In a calmer retrospect, I can’t say it smelled like natural gas, but it was close. Like a pungent electrical fire or blown fuse. I didn’t know what it was, but I knew it wasn’t normal. With my father-in-law’s sage advice ringing in my ears, I threw all logic into the garbage and immediately freaked right the hell out.

Celia, we need to evacuate the house right now. I think there’s a gas leak.

What? Really? I don’t smell any-

No time to waste. Let’s go outside. Chip chop chip.

It was raining hard when we stepped outside. I called 911 from the driveway and explained that I thought I smelled gas (or something) in the kitchen. The woman told me to stand 100 feet from the house and notify neighbors, which is exactly what I did. Nobody was particularly happy about standing in the rain, but it sure beat being explodified. I’d take a few judging glares at the next Condo Association meeting over a lawsuit any day.

The operator told me that the Fire Department was on the way with their natural gas and carbon monoxide-sniffing equipment. Just before hanging up, I attempted to downplay the situation as much as I could:

Um, the Fire Department isn’t going to come to my house with their lights and sirens blazing, are they? A gas leak is more of a…covert operation, right?

Sir…it’s standard protocol.

Goddamn it.

Not more than 10 seconds later, I heard the deafening wail of a fire engine siren bellowing down my street. This was officially an ordeal now. The neighbors that weren’t already standing in the rain with me now started pouring out of their homes just to see what the commotion was about. I live in a cul-de-sac with very light traffic; this was a rare moment.

I, of course, was mortified. The firefighters, in full costume (they call them costumes, right?), slowly teetered and meandered toward my door like a bomb squad on the surface of the moon, while I tried to blend into the crowd and keep people from knowing that it was my house (I would subtly point to the Missus when onlookers began to glace my way). By this point, I was hoping that it was a gas leak, merely to justify such a circus, but it was not to be.

The house did not explode. It was not a gas leak; not even close. A capacitor blew out on the back of my refrigerator. It cost $4 to replace. I caused a fiasco, made my neighbors stand in the rain, and made a few kids cry because of my complete lack of knowledge concerning…anything regarding domestic repair. I never said I was a handyman. Again, let it be noted that gas leaks terrify me.

Fast-forward back to present day, as I blindly began tearing apart the front of my fireplace. I swear to Christ, the guy in Memento had a better short-term memory than I do.

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III.

The pilot light was on as I pulled the decorative screens and insulation out of the way. This was a good thing (I guess); it meant that the house isn’t filling with gas, and the fuel was still being delivered to the valves. Super. Without an owner’s manual to speak of, I did the next best thing I could think of, and went to YouTube on my phone and started searching for random fireplace repair clips. For now, any clip troubleshooting a malfunctioning switch would do; I could focus on specifics later. I was operating under the suspicion that the culprit was an electrical short between the switch and the fireplace, which (logically) meant I would need to call in a professional.

But…just in case, I wanted to fiddle around with everything at least once to see if it was something different.

As I flicked through clips on my phone, looking for anything that even resembled my fireplace model, my cat (unbeknownst to me) began chewing on an exposed wire. I turned, saw what was happening, screamed, closed my eyes and prepared for the tranquility of the grave. This was how it would end for me. I mean, I knew one of my cats would eventually kill me; I didn’t realize it would happen in such a spectacular, Final Destination-esque fashion. Fortunately, I got to her just in time to shoo her away and watch the pilot light flicker out. Oh, no.

Shit just upgraded to Nightmare Mode. I’m no expert, but I knew I needed to either shut the gas off (which I did not know how to do), or ignite the pilot as quickly as possible (which I also did not know how to do), before the entire house filled with gas. What started a few minutes ago as an optimistic project to make things better, quickly turned into a feverish race against the clock to simply put things back to the way they were. Broken I could handle. Dead? Not so much.

There weren’t a lot of accessible parts underneath this fireplace, but there was one thing I hadn’t touched yet: A giant, red, cartoony button, like the one in the above photo. I didn’t know what it did: Self Destruct or Reset Existence were my initial thoughts, but the time for thinking things through was over; I had an emergency on my hands, and whatever this button did was my last hope before once again evacuating the house and calling 911. I could already hear my wife making fun of me. The emergency responders asking me questions like, “Weren’t we just here?” The neighbors slamming their doors in my face when I once again try to convince them to come outside if they wish to live.

I shut my eyes and pressed the red button. It was a pilot light igniter, and after the small fireball that went up through the interior of the fireplace (I peed ’em), it proceeded to do its job and re-light the pilot. Everything was back to normal.

I was sweating profusely. “Fine. Good. It’s still broken, but whatever,” I thought. “Nobody ever needs to know that I attempted this. I’m horrible at life, I’ll make a terrible dad and the fact I’m still alive has me beginning to doubt the theory of Evolution. I need a beer.” I put everything back together and sat back on the couch; Celia would never know.

When she returned home a couple of hours later, I kept a decent poker face. Then, something happened so delightfully karmic that it defies explanation. “God, it’s cold outside,” she said, shivering a bit. “It sucks that this fireplace doesn’t work…

She walked over and haphazardly flicked the switch on and off. For the first time since moving in, the fireplace ignited and turned on. Beautiful flames cascaded through the valves and caused the decorative ceramic to glow. The heat was radiant; the sight majestic. I was bewildered beyond comprehension.

Celia took a step back. “Wow…it works now?” she said quizzically. “How the hell did that happen?

I set my beer on the coffee table, stood up as confidently as I could, and gave her a big hug.

Surprise!

There’s a certain combination of chivalry and stupidity in attempting dangerous projects with your wife out of the house.

The Walking Dead Friday – ‘After.’

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Season 4 – Episode 9: ‘After.’

Happy Valentine’s Day! Because I love you, and because it’s been nearly a year, here’s a fresh batch of Walking Dead captions for you. Have fun, be responsible and please keep it above the waist until High School. Thanks.

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Michonne’s toddler inadvertently deletes Season 2 of Nashville from the DVR.

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Per Web MD protocol, Rick sleeps off his massive concussion.

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“Now, hold on a moment; I still think our camps can co-exist peacefully. Let’s talk this over.”

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This is what happens the next time someone links me to a Buzzfeed article, I swear to Christ.

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Once again, books nearly cut the life of a young man short. The lesson: Never read.

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Bird died of loneliness. And starvation. And its tiny legs probably got nibbled. But mainly loneliness.

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When it comes to blending in with a zombie horde, Michonne is basically Daniel Day-Lewis at this point.

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“Wow, I sure wish this hipster kid was still around…so I could break his ukelele over his head, run him over with his penny farthing bicycle and shoot him in the knee.”

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“Carl. Let’s stop. Carl. My feet hurt. It’s hot out here. I’m thirsty. My sleeves are missing. I think I has a brain damage. Carl. Carl.”

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In my Condo Association, if you’re late on your dues by so much as a day, you can bet your ass that this will happen.

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“Granite. Chain link. Hundreds of skulls. But it’s still sharp enough to slice through this delicate brick of Asiago. I ask you, how much would you expect to pay for a katana like this?”

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“Carl, you’re a man now. A psychotic, terrifying, pudding-obsessed man, and I’m very afraid of you.”

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“HE NOT HOME. WE STILL LEAVE COPY OF WATCHTOWER. FOOD FOR THOUGHT. NOW GOOD OF TIME AS EVER TO CONSIDER MORMONISM.”

Sound off in the comments section, click some links and enjoy your weekend. Oh, and one last thing just for you, my little pumpkin muffin, on this joyous day…

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Season 1 – Episode 1 Review.
Season 1 – Episode 2 Review.
Season 1 – Episode 3 Review.
Season 1 – Episode 4 Review.
Season 1 – Episode 5 Review.
Season 1 – Episode 6 Review.
Season 3 – Episode 9 Review.
Season 3 – Episode 10 Review.  
Season 3 – Episode 11 Review. 
Season 3 – Episode 12 Review. 
Season 3 – Episode 14 Review.
Season 3 – Episode 15 Review.
Season 3 – Episode 16 Review. 

Eat The Fish Head.

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A few nights ago, the Missus and I went out for Japanese food. We’ve both developed quite the fondness for Asian cuisine in recent months (Celia sticks to the tofu and vegetable dishes, while my newfound pescetarianism has me trying more shrimp and salmon) and the addiction is becoming increasingly difficult to hide from friends and loved ones. We’re hastily hiding sake and soy sauce under the sink when relatives visit; it’s getting sad.

We sat at the sushi bar enraptured, watching the chefs expertly create, roll, baste, flambé and arrange miniature works of art for every custom order sent their way. The artistic beauty in expertly-crafted food is undeniable; it’s almost secondary that everything at this restaurant happens to be delicious. You’re always rolling the dice with diarrhea when raw fish and seafood are involved, but I have yet to experience any ‘grocery yodeling’ in the near three dozen times I’ve frequented my local hibachi. I’m batting a thousand.

This Winter has been enough to drive anyone mad, but even amongst the Polar Vortex of 2014, we’re making out pretty well (and sometimes making out for real, baby). My day job is at a fever pitch, but I’m looking at some brighter horizons that don’t involve the theft of heavy office equipment and two middle fingers. The Missus just got promoted into a job so interesting that she officially has no reason to not start writing her first book. The cats are healthy and well-manicured. I fixed my gas fireplace without cratering our entire block, like a man. We have plenty of emergency wine. Olympic Curling is about to grace my television and flood my DVR. Life is as good as can be expected when it’s cold enough outside to glaze you over and snap you in half after 20 scant minutes of exposure.

I started freaking out when I was driving home today,” the Missus said to me between nibbles of teriyaki-glazed tofu.

What about?” I said while pretending I was any good with chopsticks. I’m getting there after a few hundred or so tries, but my technique could still be described as ‘little baby giraffe walk.’

Well, I was just thinking. You know…things have been going pretty well for us recently. And I started feeling this…dread. Like we were due for a disaster. Like something bad was bound to happen to us.

The Missus is not an anxiety-riddled woman; she had an honest reason to feel this way for, from an outsider’s perspective, what appeared to be nonsensical. It’s Zeinert Law: Bad shit will happen to you immediately upon realization that bad shit hasn’t happened to you for an extended period of time. It’s like The Game. When you go any longer than a few weeks in my family without incident, it becomes unbearable and impossible to enjoy. With each day, you become more and more leery of the karma anvil that’s about to pancake you and everything you love.

Even as a firm believer in Zeinert’s Law (I did invent it after all), I attempted to be the voice of reason and optimism, two things I find difficult to discuss without rolling my eyes.

Look at it this way, honey. If you look for something hard enough, you’re guaranteed to find it. Just enjoy these experiences day-by-day and continue to strive for better. Furthermore, it’s not really like we’ve hit a spell of good luck. Consider it a culmination of 10 years of working hard as a couple and attempting to create a decent life for each other. We’ve earned a little reprieve every once in a while, right? Can’t we just be happy for a little while?

I finished strong.

And hey, I could get hit by a cement mixer later in the evening and you’ll have to spoon-feed me baby carrots for the rest of my life, but let’s not deal with that until it happens.

I was speaking the heartfelt truth (I was a little drunk), but it was still strange to hear such foreign language coming from my mouth. This was, quite simply, as optimistic of a thing as I am capable of saying. Enjoy the little things and be happy, but stay hungry and don’t be concerned with what you cannot change. It’s timeless, bonehead, graduation speech wisdom that needs to be reiterated every once in a while so I don’t forget. I wasn’t lying to myself. I truly believed my own advice. I felt like an adult. I felt wise.

These feelings of smug superiority lasted about three seconds though, as my chopstick hand slipped and a sushi piece splashed directly into my cocktail.

Everything was normal in the world again. Then they brought out the head.

I don’t understand enough about sushi restaurants to know for sure: Are you supposed to eat the deep-fried fish head they usually place alongside your sushi? Is it a delicacy, or is it just for decoration? Is it akin to parsley, or more like an after-dinner mint made of exoskeleton and brain?

It seems like a damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don’t situation. I mean, it looks like they worked very hard on the cooking and decorative preparation of the head, so if I refuse it, will they be insulted? On the other hand, if I do bite into it, are they all huddled behind the kitchen door, laughing at the latest lumpy white hipster to fall for their practical joke? There isn’t a fish head-related scenario where I emerge looking like a hero.

Are you supposed to eat the whole thing?” I asked the waitress when she brought the head out on a SPECIAL PLATE. I didn’t ask for it on a special plate (or at all), yet they took the time to separately prepare it and serve it to me.

Yes, you eat the whole thing,” she replied.

Social contract. I was dicked. I gotta eat it.

As I sat there, looking down at whatever sharp, spiny creature was staring back up at me (the eyes, of course, were included), I had a lot of thoughts cross my mind, and throwing up wasn’t the least of them. After all, I had only started eating shrimp and salmon recently after over a decade of full-on vegetarianism. Would this make me sick? If I yack onto the hibachi, will I be banned for life? Even though it wasn’t the case, I suddenly felt like every eye in the restaurant was on me, waiting to see if I would wuss out or dive in. In reality, the only eye staring at me was that of the decapitated fish I was bringing closer and closer to my mouth.

As of this week, I’ve been blogging and writing essays here at the CDP for 10 years. An entire decade full of scrapbook moments, life experiences, cat pictures and a glacier-like transitioning into full-on adulthood. And yeah, the CDP is a bit more sporadic than it used to be in the glory days, but it has everything to do with my sushi bar conversation with the Missus. It’s because I’m happy. I’ll never be 100% comfortable, but I’m definitely happy.

I thrive on frustration, embarrassment and misery when I write. Taking unfortunate paths in life is sort of my thing, but life has been relatively (and bizarrely) fulfilling this past year (as fulfilling as they can be when you’re perpetually misanthropic and freezing cold). A more professional, creative writer would have found another muse. I’m not really that sort of guy. I’ve instead chosen to harness my anxiety about stagnation, and appreciate the positive moments we’ve created for ourselves. I also think that people who write about how awesome their life is more than once a year are liars who are hiding a dark, terrible secret, but it’s merely a standing theory.

Nearly 10 years ago (about four months after the CDP was launched), Celia and I got married. We were young, and naturally, every relative came out of the woodwork in an attempt to convince us that we were making the biggest mistake of our lives. In retrospect, I don’t blame them.

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(June 2004.)

Look at us. For real, look at us. For the first time in a long time, I saw the above picture of us and literally gasped. It sounds crazy, but I gasped because I immediately understood what everyone was worried about. As a 32-year-old man, I gasped because I was worried about the future of these kids. But we dove in, and we nailed it. Because that’s what we do, and that’s what we still do. We dive in. At the sushi place, Celia may have been justified in expecting the worst because things have been better than usual, but even if the shit blows up in our face tomorrow, we don’t quit.

We dive in.

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(February 2014.)

I bit the face of that goddamn fish right off.

It was crunchy beyond comprehension. The fried bits of exoskeleton, feeler and skull tore the insides of my mouth. Smoke billowed from the hole I left in the head, where the tiny, blood-red brain was now exposed. It was disgusting. I took another bite.

Celia gave me a look. What I had hoped was that she recognized that I was making a point. A point going back to what I said earlier about embracing the moment and not worrying about shit too much. About trying new things together, diving in and feeling good about the culmination of 10 years as a married couple. About looking Zeinert’s Law in the face and publicly denying its existence. About how we’ve always been okay, and how we were always going to be okay.

Her look said something different. It was more like, “You’re an idiot, you’re going to be very sick tomorrow, and you’re extremely lucky that I’ve stuck around for the last decade.

Hey, close enough for me.

Happy 10th Anniversary to us, and Happy 10th Anniversary to the Communist Dance Party. This decade-long transition and journey between myself, Celia and somehow getting from 22 to 32 without losing any limbs has happened all under the watch of the CDP, every smidgen of it, and you can experience it from the beginning if you so choose. It’s all here for you. If you’re new, please look around. If you’ve been here since the beginning, thank you for still finding my life interesting enough to stick around. I’m going to write more stuff this year, I promise.

I’m going to go back to vegetarianism for a while.