braces.

so many topics in the works we need to get to, but i made a promise to a homegirl that this topic would be up next and as a man that is true the words i choose to be true to, let’s get to it. a famous elf named buddy once opined that ‘[he] just liked to smile. smiling’s [his] favorite!’ to which i say, ‘right on.’ it seems like there are two main reasons why something shows its teeth. for most creatures, it’s an imposing scare tactic. for us humans, it seems to be a sign of enjoyment and pleasure. as i like being enjoyed and pleasured, smiling comes in handy. it also seems that people like to smile prettily.

i feel i can only speak towards americans because i have no idea about teeth habits in other countries, save for the english (not known for their teeth) and the canadians (where the absence of teeth is like a purple heart for hockey). in order to ‘smile well’ americans seem to have chosen braces as the vehicle to do so, but there seems to have been a shady collusion that took place at some point between dentists, orthodontists and parents. that agreement led to years of awkward class pictures and mockery for kids in middle school. at a time when kids do not really need a specific reason to get picked on, parents handed bullies everywhere a mouthful of metal and months of metal mouth insults. sure it’s as cliched as calling little timmy four-eyes because he needs glasses due to the fact that he’s blind as a stinkin bat, but in middle school, rarely are kids worried about cliches.

i, personally, had braces two and half times plus one hulking contraption of plastic and metal that was so cruel i’m pretty sure it was created in some faraway medieval dungeon. the first time i got braces, i got the taunts and i took my awkward lumps and moved on. then, my (allegedly) wise teeth showed up and pushed everything around and screwed it all up again. out came the wisdom teeth, in went more braces and bing-bang-boom my teeth were as straight as the army during the clinton and bush administrations.

leaving aside the fact that dentists and orthodontists push this crap like they are on the corner slinging crystal (breaking bad. so good. so, so good.), braces bite. they suck like hoovers. all the way around. getting braces is akin to the (hopefully now defunct) ‘custom’ of foot binding. forced manipulation of one’s body due to some cultural or societal pressure for a particular ‘look’. speaking of buddy the elf (what’s your favorite color?!), will ferrell has some gangly, gnarly, jacked up mandibular teeth. you know who cares? no one. it fact, not getting braces and keeping that gap can actually make you a star.

you might not know paul scheer by name, but you there’s a chance you’ve seen his face. if you look at him with his mouth closed like in this picture, he is the creepy guy you avoid at the bar, but because he’s never had braces (as seen here), he is a comedy star and all over television. same goes for michael strahan, take a look. strahan is a retired football player, but you see his face on every damn subway commercial or whenever something happens in the nfl because he has a gap in his grin big enough to drive a buick through. it’s his personal marketing tool and he knows it. without having that extraordinary amount of space between two teeth, he is just another ex-football player no one really thinks about.

braces take special, custom built, unique, user specific smiles and homogenizes them to some creepy uniform smile from a crest commercial. i hate braces. i mean, how can you really get down with something that doesn’t allow you to eat popcorn or bite an apple? the only bracing that should be going on is embracing. embracing good ideas, friends and big gulps. ‘welp see ya later.’

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usmnt v mexico.

humor me for a minute and try to follow along. im well aware that most of you could care less about soccer. a few of us played and cheer for america every four years for the world cup, while most could care less. i get it, but i have always enjoyed the international game. there is an inherent  pride there, but i also love it because it’s truly symbolic and representative of the different countries. when you watch you can really feel the artistry and flair of brazil and see the buttoned-up tradition of england. different styles, different approaches and more than anything else it’s *that* that really makes it fun to watch.

if any team screams the identity of it’s country, america is right there. late comebacks, grit and determination. sheer willpower. as witnessed by the last two world cups (2010 men’s and 2011 women’s) you can see the us teams ooze this spirit. the women’s world cup was incredible to watch. it was like an epic march madness for soccer. for years american teams have been under talented and have over achieved. their style, with its decidedly ‘can-do’ attitude, is a miserable game to watch. defense, defense, defense. put everyone in front of our goal, and maybe well get lucky once or twice a game on a corner kick. essentially that has been our MO. we don’t attack, we *counter* attack. we wait all game for them to make a mistake then try to exploit it. maybe we get one chance, maybe none.

for years, the us soccer community has been discussing why we cant make that leap to an elite level and there are reasons aplenty, all the way down to how tykes like me get started playing as a kid. within the last few weeks we’ve undergone some seismic changes. they are really shaking things up. we just hired a new coach, jurgen klinsmann. he has been described as a ‘rockstar’ that is uniquely suited to bring us forward, literally and metaphorically. he is redesigning how americans play and think of the game. it’s his goal to *truly* create a uniquely american team and philosophy by using our ‘melting pot’.

for those of you who can remember before i was born, or if you’ve seen the movie ‘miracle’, just think of the 1980 hockey team. it’s a perfect analogy. we’re not the biggest or the best, but we can take a little bit of brazilian style and a little bit of the german style and keep a little bit of our style and put all these together and make a great american style. he doesnt want to sit back and defend anymore. he wants to attack and set the tempo.

tonight at 9 he coaches his first game against, none other than our hated nemesis, mexico. the ned flanders to our homer simpson. despised neighbor. this is a rivalry unlike any other. red sox/yankees got nothing on this. from the 1930s until 1990 mexico dominated north american soccer. they dominated us. but for the past 20 years we have established ourselves as equals, with maybe a slight edge to us. mexico doesnt like that one bit, actually they loath it. we have *never* won a game played in mexico. it might have something to do with the temp, altitude and smog. but it also *could* be because the mexican fans bring bags of urine to dump on players, throw batteries, beer bottles, and cheer for ‘osama’ as they did in 2004. most recently, at a game played *in los angeles*, where mexican fans outnumbered american fans about 60,000 to 10,000 (and the rays think they have a fan problem) the mexican fans booed every time an american touched the ball. in america. which brings us to the next point of why this could be so important. mexico just got good. scary good. like, they might win the next world cup good.

so if you have an hour and twenty minutes (i promise it won’t be longer, no commericals!) tonight and enjoy some compelling drama, tune in to espn2 at 9 and let’s support our yanks and look forward to the future of american soccer.


belt loops.

remember housing? like, your pants? good god i miss the nineties (was anyone else paying attention to ‘welcome freshmen’ on nickelodeon? it was like ‘saved by the bell’ but more flannel, more drama and everyone’s sitting around super bummed out. it was the nineties. youtube it.). for those of you that have a seven year memory shelf life, housing was the unnecessarily awesome act of pulling one’s pants down several inches so that they rested awkwardly on the butt displaying one’s boxers, butt crack or both. i dont know why housing was ‘a thing’ but it was. as i recall, housing made its way to the central florida ‘burbs around the same time i made the crucial switch from sporting tighty whities to boxers underneath my sweet umbros (important aside: that’s not me pictured). so maybe it was a case of ‘im wearing boxers now and i want people to know it damnit’ but that’s not likely. it was probably just a case of other people in the ‘hood’ were pulling their umbros (perfectly named by the way, um bros?) down and then i started pulling my umbros down too.

housing always led to that awkward dance of trying to look cool, teetering between uncomfortable/comfortable and not accidentally pantsing yourself. thankfully, im pretty sure the housing fad has (for the most part) passed us by. unfortunately, that housing fad was replaced by the current housing fad of not having a house. dont get me wrong there are still some staunch housers. i get to look at them on the corner of 41st and 9th everyday eating 99 cent pizza slices, but largely we waved bye-bye to housing sometime between clueless and when paul rudd showed up again. with the fad firmly behinds us, we had to place our umbros in our ‘memento box’ in the closet and burned the pictures of ourselves housing like idiots. then we were forced to go to marshall’s and buy a respectable pair of pants and a belt.

at some point, while we were all on vacation wearing our umbros (so comfortable and breezy!), the fashion ‘industry’ decided that the number and location of belt loops on pants required a much needed shakeup. no more were the days when you be confident that you had two loops in the front, two loops on the side and one loop in the back. the most glaring change was, also unfortunately, the most subtle. they shifted that back loop over two inches, added another on the opposite side and the deed was done. two in the front. two on the side. two in the back.

it’s now glaringly apparent that the general public needed a PSA to realize these pant alterations, but alas mr. (or mrs., i really cant be sure) levi did no such thing. so now we have a load of blissfully ignorant souls bumbling around with one missed belt loop in the back because they are unaware of the changes to pant practices. now, i can muster up a bit of empathy for those people because it’s important to have a healthy level of self-unawareness. without the right amount of self-unawareness we’d all be curled up in the fetal position at home with the lights out because human beings are, by nature, completely flawed. so while i understand that the dungaree jeans that people wore before they started wearing umbros probably had one belt loop in the back, and some of the current more popular styles dont much worry themselves with the loops at all, but largely the post-umbro pant world has two loops floating around back there. ‘the skippers’ as we’ll call them, go to the first and think they are done. i get it, but missing that second loop annoys the ever loving poop out of me.

i know this is earth shattering stuff here, so if it’s too overwhelming for you and you’re sitting there in the fetal position rocking back and forth in the dark, im here to provide you two surefire solutions so you’ll never have to worry about the quantity of belt loops on any pair of pants. first, you can go old school and say ‘the hell with the belt!’ like this guy of dirt inventing fame. if rocking the straight ‘spendies isnt your jam, option two might be more your cup o’ tea. option two is to go new school with the young fashionistas chris ‘mac daddy’ kelly and chris ‘daddy mac’ smith (double thanks to the fledging duo for also creating one of the dopest songs of the 90s).

belt loops save us from having to house to be cool, prevent us from getting pantsed, provide a designated resting place for the most underrated clothing accessory we own and are pretty much solely made to handle our fat fluctuating asses. belt loops are great but they are also extremely powerful. with great power comes great responsibility (or so spiderman tells me). be responsible with your belt loops and make sure they all get equal attention because i just about have a conniption every time i see someone walking around with a skipped loop and im no fun to be around when im in a fit of rage over something that matters not in the slightest.


gambling.

a few months ago, some friends and i decided to take a trip to atlantic city to get out of the city and celebrate a friend’s birthday with a little frivolous mirth. while i enjoy atlantic city’s airport because they have a small security line and cheap flights, i dont particularly like the city itself. walking around you get the sense that it was probably the bee’s knees in the 80s as all the casinos starting springing up. but then it got lazy and rested on its laurels of having a monopoly on the east coast gambling market. ironically enough, the properties you buy in the board game monopoly (with a big m) are based on the streets of atlantic city. so there, you learned something today. youre welcome.

these days, however, states are really strapped for cash and much more flexible with their morals then the were several decades ago. put everything in a pot and voilà these gambling crack houses are popping up everywhere, each with their own crack-like video game penny slot machines ready to take your debit card and your rent check. so atlantic city (big a, big c) sat back for three decades and collected all the money from people too poor or too lazy to cross the mississippi river (capital m, capital r) and go to vegas (big v). now the city is suffering and people can waste money anywhere they choose.

and since we were there for a saturday night reveling for friend’s birth, it’s safe to say we did some gambling as well. myself, i managed to find a seat at the poor man’s blackjack table, my gambling game of choice. did alright for a while, managed to get up forty or fifty bucks, then split aces with the dealer showing a low card. i cant remember if i doubled down or not, but i was sitting at eighteen and nineteen, respectively. obviously, the dealer draws a twenty and boom goes the dynamite. i ended up losing everything in a matter of minutes.

i dont particularly like gambling because its often synonymous with losing. not just losing, but losing with particular respect to money. not having much money to begin with, i try not to lose what little is around. when i do gamble however, i play blackjack. mainly because i feel it requires the right amount of interaction from me and it’s simple enough to understand. craps looks like fun, but it’s confusing. with blackjack youre not just sitting around waiting to see if you won or lost, so you feel like youre influencing the outcome and whoever ‘they’ are ‘theyve’ convinced us, or pathetically at least me, that we are smart enough to win. brilliant on their part, unfortunate on mine. having said all that, on the handful of occasions that i have gambled in casinos, i have won a pretty good amount of money each time. so naturally the numbers were bound to catch up to me, as they did that saturday night in ac (capital a, capital c).

then there is roulette. ive known quite a few people who have won a lot of money playing roulette. of course, they lost it all shortly after by vehemently sticking with wesley snipes’ advice. heres to hoping they dont follow his tax advice as well. still, i think roulette is a fun enough game. i enjoy the spinning of the wheel, the bouncing of the ball and the simple color system. at its base, its all very primal. red and black. bad and good. and on that very primal level human beings are essentially predatory hunters and have eyes are drawn to motion, so even the movement of the wheel and the ball are are naturally attractive to us.

but heres my problem with roulette: it’s too much like religion when you think about it. in light of the recent doomsday crazies, who still manage to spring up every few years, it’s pretty easy to see. all those people were convinced that they were going to heaven a month ago and i would be sitting in the pits of a volcano right now. they put all their chips on 34 red. the wheel stopped spinning and the ball was on any one of the other 37 numbers. sorry you lose. it’s obviously not a perfect analogy, but you can see the point im making.

fundamentally, religion is and should be good. used as a vehicle to instill faith and love while helping guide one through their day-to-day life, but in any number of cases it gets perverted with all these other concepts. the audacity to say there is a club of paradise that i get to enter because im right and everyone else has to go to hell because youre wrong is insane. the fact of the matter is, no one will ever know ‘the answer’, if there even is one. im not even sure i know what the question was. religion should be approached the way the experienced gamblers bet on roulette. they spread a little bit of their bet out over a variety of customized categories: evens, numbers 13-24, all red, etc… pick and choose the concepts that are most relevant to your life and allow you to live the best life you can. im well aware of my level of uncertainty, so the best i can do is lay my bets on the concepts that i value and get me through my day like friendship, laughter, balance and fart jokes. lots of fart jokes.


lavagna.

lavagna.

one spelling error away from a dangerous restaurant name.

lavagna is in the east village, which is a neighborhood i usually tried to avoid ever since seeing the movie men in black two. the movie was only notable for two reasons: the return of julie ‘the cat’ gaffney as the emo chick next to david cross and it informed me that the ev is the only safe place in manhattan for extraterrestrials to hang out during the day. while i love extraterrestrials conceptually, i dont feel any need to actually come in contact with one. but we went at night and had no awkward alien encounters. it was quite literally, all good in the hood. we had heard great things about lavagna, but no one had yet been.

while the name is one vowel away from being the funniest restaurant name ever and making me giggle for days on end, the food was ace. even the rigatoni dish, while seemingly simple, was awesomesauce.

cramped and loud, but well worth the trip. good wine list and when we pulled the manager aside to solicit advice on the selection, he turned excellent sommelier and brought out the perfect bottle of red, with our price range in mind, to finish out the meal.

lavagna is a sick little italian joint. check it out.


head patting.

i hate people touching my head. it goes way back to being a little kid and while currently my hair is disgustingly coarse and poo-stained (in color only), it was once a brilliant blonde so delicate it was almost white. lavish curls. i was adorable until about the age of three. the reason i cant stand people touching my head, even to this day, is because when i was a little kid creepy old strangers would approach me and start groping my hair and commenting on how adorable i was. if only the could see the goofy chimp-like face im forced to work it today. regardless, it left me traumatized and now almost no one can get close to touching my head. you can gauge our friendship level on how close i allow you to get to my head. with most people in the ‘stay the f away’ zone.

that personal trauma leads me to the subject of head patting. i hate head patting. its annoying and completely condescending. you can even hear a voice feigning pity while saying, ‘aww there there’ as they gingerly dab your head with their unwashed hand. they fluctuate their voice to create that sing-songy phrase indicating their understanding and feeling of empathy. it should better be recognized as apathy masked with a furrowed brow and gently pursed lips in the shape of a frown.

so imagine my surprise when i felt a great big ol’ hand tapping the top of my inevitable afro (theres really nothing i can do with my hair these days, afro or bust) last week while reading david brooks’ recent op-ed (hope youre not over your NYT monthly allotment). if nothing else, brooks usually puts together a concise and insightful column, good enough for a quick read and a few minutes of my time. by the end of that piece, however, i was seething. brooks is by no means the first person to come out with an opinion on the ‘oh-woe-is-me’ generation of current and recent college graduates, but as a self identifying member of the latter, we get it. the current situation is not lost on any of us. believe me, fox news has yelled loud enough for us all to hear. ‘worst recession since the depression’, ‘were all in this together’, ‘its not your fault’… save it.

clearly, the current situation was unintentional and the latent function of a long series of misguided actions made by many people because if it wasnt, then y’all are a bunch of rear-end holes. the fact of the matter is, the same people talking and patting our little noggins are the people that laid this situation before us. i have no patience for meaningless words and youre messing up my ‘fro. either do something and fix it, or shut up and get out of the way. we have shit to do. i need a job so i can figure out how to pay for the tall boy PBRs from last night.

so as we squirm our body to take our head out of the path of their collective hand as it descends for another pat, just as i did as a three year old to avoid the disturbing and smelly old ladies at the mall, i hope we can remember this feeling and learn from the mistakes that we didnt necessarily make, but the mistakes we still have to clean up. and dont touch my head.