I hereby resolve for you to…

I am pretty good at making new years’ resolutions. After all, I am one of those neurotic types who feels compelled to analyze every detail of his life, including how effectively I brushed my teeth and if I have taken too many liberties in my carbon footprint. Thus around December 30,  I begin carefully constructing a systematic plan of self-improvement, a fail safe way of avoiding frivolous actions such as buying snowmobiles and trying to complete the NY Times Crossword Puzzle without Googling every other question.

This year’s resolutions includes such Herculean tasks as cleaning my car, paying off my credit card debt and organizing my papers. This is not likely to happen but at least when it comes to resolutions, intention is a good 7/10 of the law.

cluttered desk

A decent day of organization

But this blog is not about me.  Although being less judgmental is one of my resolutions, this is about you, well maybe not you my handful of readers, but “you” as in the general hodgepodge of people I see around me, people who don’t seem to have taken the time to reshape the less newsworthy aspects of the world exactly as I would like it.

Just as there should be a little Holden Caulfield in every adolescent, so too should there be a little Larry David in every adult. In some cases such as mine, perhaps a lot. I realize that the older I get, the more tolerant of others’ shortcomings I should be just as I hope they are of mine. But living in Miami brings an entirely different magnitude of seeing human “quirkiness” in action, a firestorm of just downright hostile cultural and behavioral norms which threaten to our ever growing Shangri-La into the dystopian world depicted in Michael Douglass classic societal rant “Falling Down”.

falling down

So without further ado, here is what I really think needs to go in 2019. As in immediately.

(1) Give me normal-sized food, at least one that does not look like it was meant for Avatars

I don’t know which person at the FDA or spawn of Demeter decided that our produce wasn’t large enough but Google search the size of strawberries, grapes or oranges from lets say 2010 and believe me, they were already large enough. I haven’t seen someone who is about to eat a strawberry the size of an orange  delight in its new dimensions. Nor a grape the size of a bull’s testicles.

There is serious food insecurity globally but not necessarily for the people who shop at Whole Foods and Fresh Market. Lets fatten up some fruits and veggies for them or just farm produce them entirely. But no need “to go big or go home” back here in Miami. There is enough artificial growth on the locals’ bodies to fill the Indian Ocean with silicone. I don’t want to have to use two hands to hold an apple, and I insist on getting at least 12 strawberries per package.

Final opinion on genetically modified fruits – less is more.

Speaking of less is more…

(2) I need to be tipped to pay for all of my tips

Please stop strategically placing that “Please Sign this page which includes at least 87 icons for different tip amounts” in front of my face unless your service merits a tip. I am a chronic over-tipper with a guilty conscience who perhaps rightly feels his blessing of good financial fortune should be shared with everyone including the mailman, but please give my mind a break and just charge me for the service rendered and leave it at that.

I am the type of person who makes on-the-spot calculations about how the impact of a potential tip might impact your self-esteem, your ability to pay for higher education, bear children and eat organic food at least once a week.

too much tipping

If you are a food server, mend hearts (literally), fly airplanes or have the chance to gash open my scalp with cutting shears, I am happy to tip you. But if you just charged me $17 for two coffees and a stale pumpkin muffin, please don’t expect what’s left of my pocket change….

Speaking of two cents…

(3) Keep your politics off FB

At least if you are die hard Republican, although I would say the same for my extremely liberal friends whose postings may entice those same Republicans to post ridiculous meme after meme about how El Salvadorians are trying to cross the border so they can “steal our jobs, our money, our women and eventually Texas”.

Granted I really shouldn’t be on FB in the first place as I crossed that age threshold a few moons ago, but in those few guilty pleasure moments I am on it, please don’t make me correct your fallacious perspective. I will and then spend the next hour telling all my friends how I am just so much better informed than everyone else, one because I subscribe to hard copies of newspapers and two, teach AP Government, and therefore must be right.

speaking of right…

(4) Please turn right, I mean left, I mean go straight… Recalculating

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Michael then drives into the lake

Once upon a time we got our bearings through basic human observation. After that accomplishment, we could pretty much remember the lay of the local land and learn how to navigate new places within a day or two. If all else failed, we consulted a map or in the ultimate surrendering of our foolish sense of manhood, asked a local passer-by for directions.

Concurrently we memorized phone numbers, did extensive Math problems in our heads and could remember the important details of our appointments even if sometimes we showed up in the wrong city. Then along came digital devices about which I have ranted enough to write a solid doctoral dissertation. But in all of my commentary, I omitted much mention of perhaps the biggest threat of all. Until now.

Not a day goes by when I don’t use the Apple Maps app. And not a day goes by when I wish I didn’t have to. The GPS may be the quintessential personification of the U-2 song “With or Without You”. Kudos to the GPS “Siri” for being able to provide directions to millions of wayward souls simultaneously. And she is polite about it. I can hardly teach a class and take attendance at the same time.

But for God’s sake and that my family who is in the car with me, please provide the specifics of the route in a timely fashion, especially when on a city highway such as the Mass Turnpike which resembles an extended DNA strand. Thinking about the amount of near crashes I have experienced because “you” have sent me mixed signals literally causes heart palpitations.

The solution escapes me but I’m thinking somewhere along the lines of going GPS free or if this is pie in the sky, providing a live directions guru who talks to us face to face through the route. Particularly when I’m tired, my Apple maps robot becomes the equivalent of an air traffic controller giving the pilots conflicting messages or no signal at all. Or if the GPS is going to call the shots, then at least suggest the simplest and most scenic route once in awhile.

speaking of scenery..

(5) This is not Lego Land. Let’s stop building

Lets keep some of our natural scenery, even if some of us, myself included, don’t fully appreciate nature. Not every open plot of land has to be developed. Nor does every new building have to reach the troposphere even if that does maximize space. For one, putting a little harness on our real estate development inclinations, especially in the Brickell Ave and downtown areas nationwide would create less population congestion.

hurricane irma cranes

Secondly, parking would not be as scarce and third, I wouldn’t feel so bad about being the type of person who is adventurous, but genuinely fears change.

Speaking of change…

(6) Parking used to just cost me my spare change but now..

Because I am a reasonable guy I just want things to be reasonable. I realize that some aspects of life such as the cost of medical care, sporting tickets and private education will never be reasonable. But there are still some recreational or “secondary market” activities which should be. One of them is parking.

I don’t need a car wash, a valet to open the door for me nor any other form of pampering when I decide to rest my car for an hour or two while I overspend at some trendy local establishment. After all, I have already paid big time money in property taxes and tolls just to right to drive on your roads.  But I’m not territorial.

cluttered parking lot

That will be $40 please

If you want to leave your car in my driveway or on my street, all I want is a thank you. But to park in public spaces, I’m willing to pay you enough to but a nice 12 inch sub at Subway or to buy a matinee movie ticket. Please just refrain from charging me an hour worth of pay to shove my car in a tiny lot that has amassed 170 vehicles in a space big enough to have two simultaneous games of racquetball. In case you think I am directing this complaint at a specific vendor, you are exactly right Adrienne Arsht Center. Frankly regular attendees should be able to park for free.

Speaking of free……,

(7) Could you please turn off the music

What is free and I almost wish it wasn’t are the airwaves in private establishments such as pretty much anywhere one goes to spend money. Even cabs and elevators now blare ambient noise. I have written about this before but the problem seems to be anything  from being resolved. It’s getting worse. Absolutely ear splitting, soul deforming, spirit killing music is being piped from every structural orifice including the ground, shower head and ground floor sinks. Those automatic air dryers (more on that in a bit) also play music in some venues.

music public places

My travels yesterday are a great way to  illustrate the phenomenon. I awoke early to hack away with my writing and sure enough Richard Marx, then Gloria Estefan then a medley of perhaps the most gag-able love songs in the history of sap blared through the hotel lobby sound system. Now I am not sure who was the consultant or in-house strategist who decided the best way to greet customers when they enter a hotel is to pipe extraordinarily loud music, but that has now become a pretty much universal practice. From there it was to the  ski slopes and in the rental area that charged $35 for boots which smelled like a postgame football locker room and skis with edges as dull as twenty year old butter life, it was your typical 104.5 classic rock station assaulting me with one overplayed 1980’s hit after another, including Taylor Dane and I think Ratt. Right now, it’s Whitney Houston.

Now in my teens this might have been appreciated, but please not as I approach middle life and not as I am trying to mentally resolve the credit card maxing amount I just spent.

But the worst was at CVS where I was already frustrated because I can never figure out where they keep basic things such as cold medicine. The music there was not only loud, but the re-shelving clerks and I think the cashiers were singing along with it. As a result, I couldn’t get either of their attention. Looking for some sympathy, I asked the only contemplative looking employee how she dealt with all the noise. She kindly replied that “she couldn’t” and that it drove her kind of crazy. 

When I asked her what if there was anything customers could do about the ambient noise and she coyly replied, “Shop somewhere else”.

Speaking of somewhere else…

(8) Miami is definitely “somewhere else”

The whole Latino/a kissing thing is another unnerving issue, worthy of a PhD thesis topic in Sociology. In Human Geography, we call this type of behavior the result of contagious diffusion. But even more strange to me and because of my exponentially growing peevishness feels even more infectious, are those commonly used Latino “terms of endearment” or pet terms which are so gratuitously used in non-endearing contexts.

Let’s set the scene. I walk into an office building ground floor Colombian bakery. A bunch of customers are giving each other the customary pecks on the cheek even though are barely acquaintances. I just want a coffee and empanada and am ready to order>

“Hola mi vida”, the cashier says. At first I tune her out but then start to think about it. How can I be her “vida”. I’m just a total stranger who just came into her place of employment for five minutes. And if I am “your life, how did I reach such a privileged status in just a matter of seconds?

$3.50 later I get a “Gracias mi amor”. Now I am not only her life, but her love too.

As an English teacher, I am big and perhaps hung up on semantics. Words should matter. For their cashier, I hear another fifty people or so, including many of the employees at my school, doing the same thing. Perhaps this is just another scene in my ongoing Spanglish odyssey, but I just feel the cultural disconnect here a bit more strongly.

gordita

I will try to give it a context by providing an English speaking example. I sold sneakers and tennis equipment for several years. Imagine a customer or two sit on the bench to try on some shoes. “Hello my life”, I say to them.

“Excuse me”, the female customer responds. “Yes my love, how can I help you? Are you looking for running or just everyday comfortable shoes?”

At this point, the patron would either laugh at me, complain to another salesperson or just walk out. But if she stayed, I can’t imagine finishing the transaction with “Thanks my life or thanks mi “cielo” – my sky.

I get the whole “passionate”, “we just want to show affection”, thing but this needs to be tempered. I’m passionate too but try to save it for the right time and place.  Why not just sound like a normal person in a normal situation?

A simple “hello, thanks and goodbye” with a smile would work wonders for me.

Speaking of wonders…

(9) Not Miami’s roads

Miami generates a lot of money from consumer spending. Sales tax is relatively high, hotel taxes are even higher. The service charge for purchasing tickets online almost as much as the ticket sometimes (exactly whose services am I paying for if the website has already been created and the pay portal?

But even more outrageous are the costs of parking tickets and express lane usage respectively. How is it that parking on the street costs between $1-$4 an hour yet if I get to my car 15 minutes after my paid parking expires, I get charged $40? This windfall of unjust revenue fails to account the cost of regular tolls. Miami is a commuter city with the public transportation system of a fourth world country so we are pretty much forced to travel everywhere by car, including to the neighbor’s house.

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In other words, the municipal governments are taking in a shitload of money from sin taxes and basic services.

So exactly why can’t we get any properly paved roads?

I live in the Grove where my annual property taxes are enough to pay for a year’s tuition at Ransom. For me, there are hundreds of others paying the piper in spades.

So I must repeat the question – Why can’t I get some local roads that are comfortable to drive, bike, rollerblade, walk or even look at it? Just stop and glance at South Bayshore Drive and you will realize it is not even fit for ants.

I could go to one of the most industrially polluted cities in the upper Midwest and I would bet my house their roads are more comfortable than ours. Every year I say the same thing:  “This will be there year they finally give the roads a new coat of asphault. This is the year that the Grove joins the 21st century?”

Like Don Quixote, I persist in this folly.

Speaking of folly

(10) Would bikers kindly share the roads

When I was about five and living in Chicago, a swarm of early spring locusts began colonizing the sidewalks. No I was not hallucinating about “The Prince of Egypt” because it hadn’t come out yet. These were not Palmetto Bugs either because those don’t go to the midwest. They were locusts.

There was hardly an inch of bare sidewalk and I remember frantically walking home from school to find some sanctuary.

I think of these locusts every time I see a swarm of local “athletes” cycling on my neighborhood streets, especially on weekend mornings As I would like to think of myself as at least a partial throwback, I applaud their dedication and willingness to enjoy an “analog” hobby. But please know your limits and keep to your part of the road.

road hogs

Imagine if this was Miami

These cyclists annoy me on all levels. First I see them biking at almost all hours of the day on weekends and then just lounging at Starbucks as soon as their ride has ended. I have for long conjectured as to what they do for a living and my current conclusion is “something very smart” because they don’t seem to have to work at all.

But my bigger peeve is how much of the road you feel is necessary. Rather than trying to look like Team USPS at the end of Lance Armstrong’s doping induced 7 Tour De France victories, please bike in single file. It’s actually safer for you and a whole lot easier than having to force the likes of me to drive against traffic to pass you.

Besides, if it isn’t obvious to you already, drivers are in a hell of a lot bigger rush than you are…

So there you have it. A Larry David minion shares his take on what all of you need to do, especially local city planner, to make my 2019 better. I really don’t think I am asking too much especially since I obviously know what is best for both you and me. In truth, I would be happy if only half of these things came true. I am not as picky as one might think, nor that much of a fuzzy eyed dreamer any more.

I guess I just liked thinks the way they used to be. Except for the old music. You can keep that to yourself.

 

 

 

 

 

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I hereby resolve for you to….

It’s that time of year again, or should I say that time of new year, a time when we get all warm and fuzzy towards family members we could hardly remember still exist and casual acquaintances from whom we borrowed packing tape in February.

And this is before the first drink.

new-year

Then after that first glass of wine, when we turn on CNN to watch the last two of its 17 hours of continuous Oprah-show like countdown to the dropping of the crystal ball, the euphoria kicks into high gear as we send Gettysburg Address-sized heartfelt wishes to our gardener, home insurance representative, AC repairmen and most vile Trump supporting acquaintances.

Yes, this is New Years, a time when we used to spend the last 10 second countdown with complete strangers wearing white hats and blowing into kazoos in some downtown hotel ballroom, where two glasses of $26 champagne erased the remorse from just having spent $175 on a pear salad, rabbit carpaccio and a bowl of lobster bisque.

But if now you are either normal or a  renewal believing, neurotic, pseudo-mature soul like myself, you spend the waning hours of the year closely surrounded by loved ones, and pile of long-neglected clothes you are now folding to take to Goodwill.

You are also starting to conceptualize your new year’s resolutions, a few of which you have absolutely no intention of keeping such as running a half-marathon, checking your phone apps less and cutting down on your intake of caffeinated beverages.

The plan also includes a handful you must keep in order to stave off immediate and perhaps permanent peril. These include but are not limited to: not buying any more houses, finding a full-time job, removing the four year old Pangea-sized mold stains from the kitchen ceiling and not engaging in  red-light political discussions with pick-up truck drivers who don “Don’t Tailgate or I’ll fully exercise my second amendment rights” bumper stickers.

One of the beauties of the new year is that for at least the first 16 hours, including the ten you spend sleeping, you genuinely feel transformed, so chock full of resolve that you read Psalm 31 twice, put your MasterCard on autopay, and pick up your dog’s poop from the neighbors rock garden.

Speaking of which, I’m still getting used to the whole dog poop scooping and dispensing habit. It feels phony. As if I really feel bad that a biodegradable fertilizing Twix bar-sized turd has been donated to a small parcel of turf my neighbors never step foot on.

Nonetheless, along with Layla’s poop, here’s what I hope gets left behind in the sound, fury and absolute cosmic surreality of 2016 and what we can hopefully bring more into the limelight in 2017.

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(10)  Out – Tipping. Enough is enough. I now devote a good chunk of my daily thought process and my innately strong math skills to deciding when and how much to tip. Everyone’s wants and thinks he/she deserves a tip nowadays including the volunteer Santa Claus and grocery store clerks for simply doing what we are paying for in the first place. Just the other day, my dentist added a 15% service charge and my pool cleaner refused to add chlorine tablets until I filled his tip jar.  I mean I am a chronic over-tipper, one who in the aggregate has tipped enough to pay for half of Somalia’s graduating high school class to attend FSU, but even my ridiculous conscience can’t take it any more.

In – A one-time tip fee added to my real estate taxes. Say $1200. And distribute it as the powers-that-be see fit.

selfies-stupid-selfie-photo-camera-confession-ecards-someecards-share-image-1479837415

(9) Out – Selfies. I get it. Really I do. Taking pictures is fun and sharing them about lets say, falling into a garbage strewn canal is even more fun, but not enough to justify all the commotion your need to take a selfie. Just look in the mirror and share the juicy details about your life in some other mode. Besides, I want to enjoy my leisurely walk without having to stop for you to finish your selfie. Chances are you want a passerby to take the picture anyway so the narcissism really does intrude on others.

In – Polaroids. It’s time to bring them back. The minute of anticipation is quite the hoot and the instant gratification factor is higher too.

(8) Out – The cost of a scoop of ice cream. I have been in denial about this for decades. Paying $5 for a scoop of ice cream is akin to paying $350 an hour for legal services. (Joke alert). But really I should be able to get at least 150 scoops of ice cream for the cost of that”highly” efficient lawyer. The cost of ice cream, Lincoln Road rent costs notwithstanding are unacceptable and given all of the major initiatives Obama passed in 2016 (another joke alert), the least he could do is pressure these sacred ice cream shops to exercise some price ceilings. I am going to boycott ice creams shops for at least three days to galvanize the cost cutting movement.

In – Waiting to get home to eat ice cream.

 

(7) Out – National Anthem protests. With apologies to Colin Kapernick who has become pseudo-enlightened, life here in the good ole US of A is pretty good; in fact someone who shall not be named at this time, plans to make it “great”. So if you really have a legitimate reason to feel disenfranchised, go ahead and take a kneel. If not, you are diverting too much attention to yourself.  However…….

In – redoing the lyrics to the national anthem. Maybe I am running dry on poetic sensibility, but some of the lyrics as such are way too arcane for the 21st century. I think we can do better than “O’er the ramparts we watch’d were so gallantly streaming”. Frankly this probably means absolutely nothing to a good chunk of the American population.

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(Graphic courtesy of Donald J. Trump, former celebrity)

(6) Out – Texting. How blasphemous for me to say considering I expend a good chunk of the expertise which came with getting a masters degree in English on how to phrase and punctuate my texts. But all this texting, aside from its likelihood of rheumatoid arthritis, is such a bizarre way to communicate. Instead we should revert to..

In – Communicating as the phone was intended. By actually making phone calls. We speak on the phone so rarely that it’s actually becoming awkward even for the most savvy of communicators to “talk” on the phone.

(5) Out – New England Patriots. I know they will likely win the Super Bowl and I spent most of my childhood in New England, but enough is enough.  The Pats are the NFL’s version of auto-renew. Enough winning, enough Brady, enough winning with just the practice squad, enough is enough.

In – And no I did not just return from a “ski” trip to Colorado, but yes, the Miami Dolphins. They apparently drank Trump’s new Kool-Aid the last few months.

(4) Out – Vladimir Putin. Listen one Napoleon was enough. As was one Cold War. We get it. You like power and miss the USSR. But isn’t winning your own election enough of a power play. If we really wanted a Russian to infiltrate our corridors of power, we would make Anna Kournikova the Interior Minister, or Head of Something powerful.

In – TBD. But definitely not the Filipino President nor anyone Putin has a bromance with.

(3) Out – Fox and CNN. You made oodles of profit off the election. But you both wield too much power and not enough objectivity. Trump would still be the host of Celebrity Apprentice if it wasn’t for you.

In – Books and Newspapers, except for ones that do continual election polling.

 

(2) Disclaimer – I am no Scrooge but I can play one in my blog.

Out – Christmas Jingles, especially in Miami.

If I die of premature brain cancer, it’s not going to be because of all that Mountain Dew I downed in my twenties. It’s because of two songs which I will only allude to; one is that Mariah Carey “All I want for Christmas” nonsense and the other is “Last Christmas I gave you my heart”. Maybe I will believe in Trump’s promise to make America great again as long as he permanently banishes both of those jingles, along with a few others from the airwaves.

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I mean for God’s sakes, the average temperature in Miami this month has been 82 degrees. Christmas is inherently a beautiful holiday but here it’s merely an excuse to play naked mini golf or go jet skiing all day.

Give the Christmas jingles here four days of retail and radio time. Maximum. I am not trying to Scrooge this but I simply can’t connect with slight bells a sleighing when I am applying SPF 70 to most of my body.

In – Playing the Beach Boys and Jimmy Buffet during the holidays. Or music from The Nutcracker

(1) Out – worrying. Really. Even though pretty much everything that happened in 2016 was cause for worry, and I inherited a bit of the worrier gene, I say lets apply some reverse psychology and a little Bob Marley to all the chaos and just take it all in stride.

In:  Becoming more yogi, or Yoda, or Yogi Berra or even Yogi Bear-like.

So there you have it. My collective resolutions which will naturally be more of a case of do as I say rather than do. But given the last resolution, I’m going to stay optimistic. I am going to click “no tip” at the bagel shop, not text anyone including the AC repairman for at least two hours today and maybe even start reading a new book.

Besides you know what they say about resolutions. Actually I don’t know what they say so I am going to make up my own quote:

“They are fun to make and even more fun to break.”

Happy 2017!