True Story


Hey Interwebs,

I know it’s been practically forever since I posted here…Cause I quit this shit.  But take heart, you can keep up with my non-ninja exploits over at DaveOdegard.com. Also, please checkout MadePossible.com, where I’m now Associate Editor.

It’s been fun.

-Dave AKA the Wordy Ninja.

Living in New York is different than living anywhere else in the U.S.  I don’t mean on a cultural level, of course there is that, but in an everyday sense.  Everyone living stacked on top of each other and an extensive public transit system makes owning a car pointless, most of the time.  It’s not necessarily a bad thing.  You save money on car payments and insurance (though, like everything else, it’s probably made up for in the cost of rent), you don’t have to worry about sobering up for the drive home from the bar, and you have a smug sense of self-satisfaction for being “eco-friendly.”  But sometimes, it really sucks.  You can’t jump in to your car and cruise over to a Wall-Mart or Target to pick a few things up.  You have to plan out what you want to buy, go to the different stores, and carry all that back to your apartment—and, if you’re like me (living in a walkup), up four flights of stairs.

So whenever they can, New Yorkers try to make things easier on themselves.  The city’s Chinese restaurants and pizza places employ an army of deliverymen that bring takeout to your door; any business that sells merchandise that can’t be easily carried out offer a complimentary delivery service; and one of the most popular grocery stores in the city is just a Web site.  If you’ve never heard of Fresh Direct, the concept is simple: order your groceries through their site and they bring them to your apartment. Yesterday, my roommate off handedly mentioned that it was how he would get his groceries from now on.  I had used the service years ago, but don’t anymore.  “What’s a good amount to tip the delivery guy?” He asked me.  “Do you think $5 is enough?”  I paused for moment to consider the question.  “Actually, I don’t think I think I ever tipped them,” I said. My roommate was shocked.  “Dude,” he said, “you have to tip.”

For the rest of the day, all I could think about was the act of tipping.  I kept replaying Steve Buscemi’s rant in Reservoir Dogs about throwing in a gratuity for your dinner.  In the film, Buscemi’s character, “Mr. Pink,” regales a table of career criminals just after breakfast on the morning of a heist on the inequality of tipping guidelines.  He points out that it’s good manners to tip a waitress, yet no one gives anything to someone working the register at McDonald’s. “I don’t tip because society says I have to,” he explains. “All right, if someone deserves a tip, if they really put forth an effort, I’ll give them something a little something extra. But this tipping automatically, it’s for the birds. As far as I’m concerned, they’re just doing their job.”

Okay, I don’t know what it’s like to be Fresh Direct driver.  Maybe it sucks.  Maybe they pay next to nothing and you need tips to get by.  But in all honesty: the job doesn’t seem all that different from Fed-Ex or UPS and we don’t tip them.  Is it because they’re delivering food?   What if you’re a diabetic and UPS guy brings you a package with your insulin that keeps you alive in it, do you tip him then?

A friend once told me that you tip to ensure good service for NEXT TIME.  And I get that for certain situations—try tipping a dollar or too more the next time you order from your favorite pizza place and you soon get a reputation among the delivery guys and they’ll get your order to you way quicker….and probably won’t spit in your food. But it still bugs me that there is this odd dichotomy about tipping, like slipping your barber five buck but leaving the dental hygienist hanging.  The only remedy I can think of is to not tip anyone (people will think you’re a cheapskate) or tip everyone (they’ll think you’re an obnoxious big shot).  In closing: tipping is weird.

[Pic via]

Sorry I haven’t posted in awhile, but I’ve been busy dealing with some horrible life-changing news.  That’s what this post is about.   It’s hard to write these words, so here it goes: I’m loosing my hair.

Now to be fair, I’ve know this was coming for sometime, my mother’s father is bald (he’s also who I blame for this…damn genetics) and my front hairline has been making a strategic retreat since college.  But things have taken a dramatic turn for the worse.  I awoke one morning just after Christmas; it was fairly early and the apartment was dimly lit and almost deathly silent.  I stumbled into the bathroom and flipped on the light switch and, blinded by the fluorescent lights, felt my way to the toilet to pee.  On my way back, I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror.  It was not good.  My tussled “bed head “ revealed the two paths of flesh cutting their way from my forehead to my scalp were closer than I was aware and… there in the very back of the crown of my head was a thin spot—a definite bald patch in its early infancy.  “NOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!” I screamed as I fell to my knees.  Followed by a “Not yet!” and “I’m too young!”

When I told my girlfriend about it in an urgent harsh whisper—as if I were telling her about some deep secret (like “I was the driver of an unsolved hit and run” or “I own a DVD of the romantic comedy Sweet Home Alabama starring Reese Witherspoon.”)—She was not surprised.  “Yeah,” she said, “It’s always worse right when you get up in the mornings.” Wait… she knew about this? She knew how badly unaware I was of just how thinning my hair was getting?  “Baby,” she cooed to comfort me, “I don’t care.” Don’t care? THAT’S NOT THE PROPER RESPONSE!  She was supposed to tell me that it didn’t look that bad.  “But then what will I say to you when it gets worse?” She asked.   IT’S GOING TO GET WORSE??!!

I quickly went through the five stage of grief.  First, denying that it was that thin at all.   The bright bathroom lights in my apartment made the thin spots seem thinner than they actually were (Yeah, that logic makes sense).  Which was quickly followed by anger at how unfair it was that I was loosing my hair at 26 and raging at just how many bald men I see EVERYWHERE I GO.  Then there was bargaining. I searched for a “cure” like I was the parent of a child dying from some rare disease.  I bought Rogaine and practiced new ways to comb the part of my haircut to hide the growing thin spot.  I even visited the Hair Club for Men’s web site.  This was swiftly followed by a bought of depression in which I wore my bathrobe for days on end and caught up on the entire last season of “Lost”.  I found myself identifying most with the character John Locke, who (if you don’t watch the show) looks like this:

And finally, just now, I’ve accepted it.  I figure I’ve got at least one or two more years with my beautiful hair.  Then, it’s time to shave it down to a low buzz cut (I should also be in fantastic physical shape by then, because there is no way I’m going to be fat AND bald). In the words of a friend going through something similar, “You’ve got to own it.”

Pics via and via.

[Okay, I admit it: I’m copping out with a cheap “listicle” for this post. Give me a break, it’s Monday and I had a rough weekend. So, enjoy…]

I’m a man of many talents. I can pontificate on the symbolism found in 80’s action movies, hold my own in drinking a surprising large amount of whiskey in one sitting, and make a fairly decent omelet. But alas, there are some skills which I simply do not possess though wish I did. With the New Year coming up soon, it could be my chance to finally pick these seemingly effortless abilities. Unfortunately, I suspect they will remain gaping holes in my repertoire. Without further ado:

  • Carrying an umbrella
    I don’t know what the hell I’m doing wrong here, but I can’t properly carry an umbrella. I’m either getting soaked down my back or its getting caught in the wind and turning inside out. Then, I’m sure to pass to some suave impeccably dressed ass holding his umbrella perfectly balanced over his well entrenched area of dry space. And he’s always sure to give me a pitying look. Motherfucker.
  • Closing roller window shades
    I recently got a new apartment. And the windows to my new bedroom feature those rather inexpensive vinyl shades, I immediately wanted to move again. Here’s how these things work: you pull them down to cover the window and block out light (or hide your hideously pale nude body from your neighbors when changing) then have to tug them to activate some apparatus that rolls the shades back up. For some reason, I can’t do this and it takes more than a dozen attempts to get the thing to retract EVERY SINGLE TIME. But there’s the rub, those who can get the damn thing to pull up in one try cannot comprehend not being able to use such a simple mechanism and thus are unable to describe how to do it. It’s like one of those test that kung fu monks give children they suspect of being the reincarnated soul of their master—they either intuitively know how to do it or they don’t.
  • Remember to brush my teeth
    This one isn’t entirely my fault. I think my parents should share part of the blame. For some reason, they used to let me slide on going to bed without brushing my teeth and then totally left to my own devices in regards to my oral hygiene. So I never got into the habit of doing it twice a day, everyday. But I’m sure as hell going to make my kids do it. And when I’m pointing a shotgun at them from the bathroom doorway and they’re shaking with fear as they squeeze Crest onto their toothbrushes, I’ll say, “You’ll thank me when you’re in your twenties.”
  • Fly a kite It’s ironic that in describing the first skill on my list I admitted that whenever I’m holding an umbrella it gets caught in the wind, because I can’t do that with a kite.  Flying a kite looks like one of the most satisfying and fulfilling experiences one can have in this world. But when I try, it simply crashes to the ground and lays there… much like my soul.

This last weekend I moved into a new apartment.  The experience inspired me to create a new game.  I call it, “the couch moving challenge.”  Why don’t you try it with your friends and see how you do?

To play, you will need: Three players, a fifth floor New York City walkup apartment (that means all stairs and no elevator, for you country folk), a huge black leather couch, and an illegally parked U-Haul truck.

How to play: Player 1 exhausts himself before the game by moving all the possessions he owns in the world over two days into said apartment while Player 2 does the same by loading his belongings that morning into the U-Haul.  Player 3 gets back early from a trip and reluctantly calls Player 2 to ask if they need his help, to which Player 2 says “God, yes.  We’ll need your help with this huge couch.”  Player 3 halfheartedly makes his way to join the game, while Player 1 and 2 further stain themselves by unloading the rest of the truck.  Player 3 joins the other two participants and the game is ready to finally begin.

Player 1 and 2 show Player 3 the couch, the route from the U-Haul to the building, and the front doorway.  Player 3 balks and tells players 1 and 2 they’re crazy.  All three then lift the couch off the truck carry it down the street and to the delight of onlookers somehow manage to squeeze it through the front door of the building.  All three carry it down the front hall and cajole it up the first flight of stairs. On the second floor landing, the players can take a break and congratulate each other on how the first flight is cleared and there are only three more to go.  They then pick it up again and manage to get it to the third floor landing (literary, halfway there) when tragedy strikes- the couch becomes stuck and it is obvious to everyone involved that it will not make it any farther.

Player 2 cries and punches his beloved couch.  He calls it an “unfaithful whore.” Player 3 gives Player 1 an accusatory look that he isn’t lifting enough; Player 1 contemplates shoving Player 3 down the stairs.  Player 3 just wants to get the hell out of the game. Player 1 then tries taking off the one inch legs to se if that will give them just enough room to slide the offending sofa by…it doesn’t work.  Finally, the couch is carried back down to the street and left on the corner—because player 2 needs to get the U-Haul truck back by 4 PM or they’ll charge him an extra fee.  All three players end up feeling defeated and impotent.

Who wins? “Is it like Risk or Monopoly where the only victors are frustration and boredom?” you may ask.  “No, there are winners in this game: the lower class family that Player 1 saw take the couch home later that night and Player 2 cursed to enjoy the comfortable leather cushions “and then die.”

[Pic via]

Well, it’s that time of year again. This Thursday is Thanksgiving, AKA Turkeyday.  And you know what?  I love this holiday. I love the food, the history, the traveling back home, and the togetherness.  It’s great. But you know what I love most about it? The fact that it’s total bullshit.

If you think about it, it makes perfect sense that Thanksgiving is a uniquely American holiday.  Its foundation is based on a brazen lie with a farce of imagery at the center: white English settlers dining in peace with Native American in celebration of their arrival.  Let’s focus on that this for a second.  Is there a holiday in Ireland, where they celebrate when the British came over?  Or in Germany where Germans and Jews celebrate a dinner their people had together? Did the early Americans invite their slaves to eat with them?  Maybe I’m being over dramatic.  But where are all the Native Americans now?

Look at how we celebrate this sham of a festivity.  We, adult children, go back home (if you made it out), a place we used every ounce of energy to leave before we turned twenty-three (once again, if you were able to) and sit around with our family, people we make every effort not to be with the rest of the year, and pretend to be a loving family.  So there you are asking your grandmother to pass the mashed potatoes while ignoring your uncle’s quasi-racist comments and doing your damnedest not call out your poser cousin.  Then, if you have the strength, you go out the next night to the local bar that EVERYONE you went to high school with shows up to and pretend that “everything’s just great” as they do the same (even though most are the same old fucktards you remember and all still hang out together). No one’s ever having a tough time when they’re talking to a former high school classmate.

So why do we go through it all? And why is it the reason I love Thanksgiving?  Because when push comes to shove, I’ll take the good self-aware lie over the bad truth without hope.  Because, more often than naught, what’s real isn’t good enough and we need more than what we deserve.  We all know that what we’re commemorating is a crock of shit, but who wants to strive for that?  Life sucks, but we can pretend it doesn’t for one day.

[Pic via]

toiletRecently, I experienced a questionable situation that shook me to the very core of my being.  I’m a reader, folks.  I like to read.   I think that my Summer Reading List Project proved that. Anyway, one of the things that comes with actually loving to read books is that you become very well equipped at finding other readers, among your friends, at the office, wherever.  It’s the intellectually version of Gaydar.  So you end up chatting away about your favorite titles, authors, etc.  And eventually it leads to moment when the other person recommends a writer that you’ve been interested in reading, but just haven’t gotten around to yet.  “Go ahead and borrow my copy,” they’ll say and you do.

And this is where things get complicated.  Everyone treats books differently.  Some handle them with kid gloves, other like abused housewives.  I’m more like the latter.   Most of the books I own are battered—food stains obscuring text on tattered and dog-eared pages held together by broken spines.  Honestly: I should be the worst person to loan books to, but I’m actually pretty good about that which I’ve borrowed from others to read.  I catch myself just as I’m about to mark my place by folding down page corners or placing it facedown on my nightstand.  But then I discovered a new dilemma when reading a borrowed book.

A friend who happens to be a huge Chuck Klosterman fan was recently raving about his latest book.  “You know, I’ve never read Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs,” I said to him.   To which he responded: “You should, it’s good.”   If you’re unfamiliar with Klosterman’s second book, which is considered his seminal work, it’s a collection of essays that humorously riff on a variety of pop culture themes with an intellectually critical eye.  While I appreciate Klosterman’s writing (I’ve read his stuff in the variety of publications he appears in), I’ve just always stayed away because he was a little too popular for my taste and I never really wanted to actually spend money on his book.  “Eh,” I said to my friend, “can I borrow yours?”

It was while reading Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs that I experienced my quandary.  I was at work and like most workdays, I needed to use the bathroom for an extended period of time just after lunch  (I’m trying to hint at what I was doing without being too graphic).  So I grabbed the book and strolled up to the eighth floor men’s room, to the stall I like in my office building.  And as I was sitting there, it hit me.  I was reading my friend’s book on the toilet and that was just not right.  I know people who get disgusted if you even call them on your cell from the toilet (okay, I may be referring to myself).  And there are many who think reading another’s book while going to the bathroom is a violation of personally hygiene.  Barnes and Noble won’t let you take any of its books into their store bathrooms.  Seinfeld did an episode about it. But did I do something that was really that terrible?  If I didn’t tell my friend, he’d never know. Still, it would gross me out if I’d found out someone I’d loaned a book to was reading on the john.

Racked with guilt, I confessed to my buddy.  Oddly, he didn’t seem that shocked.  “Doesn’t bother me at all,” he told me.  “In fact, I am delighted. I fully endorse reading in the bathroom, and if one of my books happens to be included in the process of someone enjoying a page or fifty (depending on the severity of the visit) then so be it. Read on my friend!”  He then added a little while later: “Just, you know, keep it clean.”

[Pic via]

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