Girls Weekend = Boys Weekend (The Origin of BeeHenzo) or (La Familia es Todo)

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So my wife, Renee, is on a girls weekend….in South Beach, Miami…flying first class..staying at Fontainebleau.  I’ve given her (ahem…we agreed that she would have) carte blanche to spend as freely as she wanted so she could live the life of a 1 percenter, if for only a few fleeting days with some really cool gals.

Me…I’m listening to my two sons play Minecraft – which equates to a mix of primitive, digital renditions of aggressive “mining” and “building” sounds, layered on top of new age, sparse piano driven music, gently pulsing in the background, and punctuated by collaborative and sometimes emotional human outcries from them both.  And I have a glass of Sauvignon blanc next to me, a gift from my good friends Liz and Doug for a dinner party I threw last weekend.

This is the first single getaway that either of us has taken.  Sure I travel plenty for work, but it dawned on me as she left this morning – why haven’t I taken an honest to goodness boys weekend myself?  Cigars, steaks, golf, walking together in slow motion wearing suits…  Then I remembered I don’t really play golf, and whenever I smoke cigars I inhale them and get sick. Steaks I’ll eat.

So what kind of a boys weekend would I really be into at this stage of my life?  Where and with whom would I go? I’ve seen a good bit of the world on work trips already, and having to be social is pretty much in my job description when I travel.  And while I know how to have “fun” on these trips, I’m not quite sure if I know the difference anymore between work fun and personal fun.  Certainly eating well tops the list, but after that, I am at a bit of a loss.

What I really like to do is see live music in dirty rock clubs.  It’s the one thing I’ve spent more time doing for grown up recreation than anything else thus far.  I also like to play music – so a getaway in a country house surrounded by instruments and recording gear sounds like heaven too. Then there’s my deep love of combat sports. I could get exicted by a high level boxing or mixed martial arts weekend bookended by great dinners and after parties. But I could also be swayed by a series of late nights in a major city, looking for the best pulsing beats and deep grooves of techno, trip hop and electronica being spun by DJs both famous and up and coming.  As I finish a dram of Ardbeg writing this, I only now realize that I am currently ON a boys weekend – Me and my two sons, Bruno (B-dog) and Henry (Henzo)!

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Shoot, we are gonna kick it all weekend long! Tomorrow, I think we’ll get a couple of cheese steak hoagies for dinner and watch some Pixar movies. Saturday we can hit the batting cages, maybe do some mini golf and eat Pho. That evening I think I’ll throw a small party for another one of my homies coming into town. While we wait for guest to arrive, the boys can binge on Minecraft and we’ll snack on Franzone’s, with that ghettolicious, sweet sauce of theirs – locals you know what I’m talking about.  For later I’ll break out some homemade hot corned beef sandwiches for the guests (I made it when they were playing Minecraft) and wash it town with cold, hoppy beers. Sunday we can hit Honey’s Sit-n-Eat and stuff ourselves with those crazy, wedge latkas.  After we’ll take a nice long hike in Valley Green, Fairmount Park. We’ll have a lunchtime snack of cheese, salami, grapes and apples, nuts, and popchips – my boys call it a “smorgasbord.”  I’ll then proceed to kick their assess multiple times in Connect Four, and then shame them again by crushing them in Chess.  I’ll make it up to them by making popcorn and watching Teen Titans with them, which isn’t all that bad since it’s one of the best cartoons on TV…for real. I’ll likely have fallen asleep for 5 – 10 minutes (which I always do), and before you know it…it will be time to pick up Renee from the airport.  We’ll come straight home and I’ll make spaghetti and meatballs while we reunite and hear all about mom’s tales.

Wouldn’t it be great if all that really happened?


Superman’s Dad was using YouTube

I had a scare with cancer back in 2006. I got a referral from my GP to go see a community oncologist for “staging” – it was his opinion that I likely had metastatic lung cancer. For a moment I saw things very differently and prepared myself for the fight of my life. I had expected to lose weight, hair, be sick to my stomach and fight this thing until the end. At the time I was a newlywed, 2 years into a marriage but not yet a father. Being in the life sciences industry in the greater Philadelphia region, I figured why not seek the best of the best – in this case, I went to the Fox Chase Cancer center for a formal diagnosis and hopefully, treatment.

Examinations of my x-ray and CT scans puzzled 3 oncologists, and upon further invasive examination, numerous diagnostic tests, and one referral later, an infectious disease specialist concluded it was a fungal infection called histoplasmosis. Given that my symptoms amounted to little more than a nagging cough and some weight loss, I was not even treated, and all turned out well.

Since then, I’ve seen real cancer come into my social circle more than once – even take the lives of some – and I am always reminded of my “scare.” As I grow older, I’m confident I’ll see more and more of it affect those around me, and there’s always the possibility my number will come up. Although my scare wasn’t “real,” I still feel like I’ve been given a second chance and I often think about how I would deal with it now that I am a father.

I don’t doubt that I would fight tooth and nail to live, but cancer can get the best of the best. So as a father, my plan now also includes leaving a legacy in a way that hadn’t occurred to me back in 2006: I would now leave my own, Jor-El Archive.

When I was a kid, the original Superman movie was pure magic: the triumphant “1-4-5” chord progression, the special effects, the suit, the fortress of solitude. After a paltry diet of the black and white Superman played by George Reeves, followed by a meager, weekly cartoon installment of Superfriends, this was mindblowing. That is, until Marlon Brando (I had no idea who he was at the time – I was only 6 years old) later showed up on the screen as Jor-El, Superman’s old man. Snooze, right? Superman is looking for answers because he’s all alone – wah, wah, wah. Get on with the super powers and crime fighting!

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But now I get it. Jor-El knew he would not be there for his son and wanted to make sure the knowledge was passed down.

My sons are very young now and we have a great relationship – nothing like I had with my father, but that’s another blog post. I’ll admit, much of our relationship is based on tickle sessions and readings of James and the Giant Peach, and I recognize that I’m no Jean Piaget. But we talk in depth about ethics, values, emotions, and justice in a way that is relevant to the events in their lives. Anyway, I would hope that our communicative relationship would continue into adulthood. God knows I would like to have had an empathetic, non-dogmatic, accepting, encouraging, expressive mentor in my life for a bunch of decisions that I often imagine re-doing (I guess you’re getting a sneak peek into that next blog after all).

But what if I’m gone too early? Who will help them think through love, work and friendship? Who’ll psych them up for their first job interview? Teach them to pick themselves up after a disappointment? Who’ll teach them about what it means to be a man? A husband? A father? And now I realize I could be the one! I wouldn’t need to rely on an “Uncle Ben” or another surrogate. And if I ever see a dogfight coming sooner than I want it, I hope I’ll still be inspired to start a series of my own Jor-El archives. With YouTube, creating a library like this is effortless. Something they could recall from anywhere and experience a strong, loving (I hope) memory of me whenever they wanted.

Last year, a friend of mine died from a rare type of cancer. The battle was fierce and the chips were always down. While the convention in these situations is always to send “positive vibes”, “wish for survival”, and hope that “you’ll be the one who beats it”, I reluctantly offered this idea of also creating a Jor-El archive for her children. Though she didn’t lead me to believe the suggestion was completely offensive, I don’t know if it was met all that warmly either. Maybe it’s not such a great idea after all….


The Human Garbage Disposal

I’ve been working from home since July 2014, and one nice thing about it is the fact that I don’t need to really worry about packing or buying lunch anymore.  No more boring salad bar or weak sandwich.  My potato chip and french fry consumption has gone way down. And I’ve given myself a little $14 to 35/week raise (assuming a ~$7/day for lunch).

I’ll admit though…the stuff that qualifies for a lunch, precisely because I don’t pack or buy anymore, can be a weird mix of odds and ends.  I’m talking half eaten sandwiches, scrambled eggs, cold cuts by the slice, cold pasta, nuts, pickles, or a bag of carrots.  Often I have to spoon out strange moldy bits of food to salvage the 80% worth eating. And sometimes I’ll have a formal meal made with Thanksgiving leftovers, which is odd for its own reasons.

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And it dawned on me today, as I plated some 7 day old roast turkey, stuffing, and cranberry sauce, that I had turned into a human garbage disposal.  I picked around some of the turkey that had some pink slime on it, cut around the parts of the stuffing that had fuzzy white puffs emerging, and then gave the whole plate a big whiff to make sure it hadn’t turned in some way that didn’t reveal itself upon visual inspection.

My wife was working at home with me this day and I asked her, “Do you want some of this?”  She gagged and said, “Oh my god, no.  That stuff is so old.”  I ate it anyway.