Archive for the ‘Comfort Zone’ Category

And then You Recognize that Homeless Person

Wednesday, August 2nd, 2017

Jogging around a neighborhood park, I realized the homeless woman sleeping under a tree is someone I’ve known most of my life. 

We were 15 once, and proud. She liked girls and I liked outcasts. Her Army buzzcut was black, blue, and brave, her sarcasm like a flamethrower. Pointed at you or not, it was dangerous to be near. She had an enviable wit I tried to emulate, and she could be as prickly and poker-faced as she was fast and funny. Being able to speak to her in ways others couldn’t was great.

All these years later and approaching the tree on my first lap, I saw only a female shape sleeping atop assorted backpacks and grocery bags. That particular bit of shade was usually occupied by sweethearts, fútbol hombres, or shadowboxing stroller-pushers, but I didn’t think much about it other than to mentally note the woman’s (relative) luck for claiming it first.

Staring straight ahead while I run helps me convey ultimate Kenyan focus, allowing me to mask the fact that I hate running and am actually dying inside. But the second time I passed the tree, I broke my gaze and glanced over. This woman was wearing Capri-style leggings, sunglasses, and a driver’s cap over her face. What I could see of it was weary.
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To Stand or Not To Stand

Wednesday, September 7th, 2016

to-stand-or-not-stand_where-excuses-go-to-dieIn high school I stitched an American flag to the seat of my pants and marched onto campus. Just before 3rd period a friend said, “You’ve gotta get out of here: the whole football team’s looking for you!”

I was beaming as I headed down the hallway, but the Vice Principal caught me on my way out. He calmly escorted me to his office, then locked the door, shoved me against his desk, and threatened my life. The pain and anger in his eyes as he described guys my age who’d died in his arms in Vietnam showed me far better than any lecture that I’d bitten off more than I could chew.

That began a lifelong need to understand the American flag. All these years later I can’t say I have any real answers, but I do have a relationship with the Stars & Stripes that’s filled with regrets, worry, and growth. The last one is what I’m most proud of. 
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The Sucker Factor

Monday, August 24th, 2015

For every credibility gap there is a gullibility gap__Where Excuses Go to DieThe sucker factor is off the charts: mass consumption has seen to it that we all have oral fixations in one form or another. So how do you excuse yours – or the ones you’re aware of, anyway?

Before we proceed, let’s get it out there that I know as much about Freudian psychosexual development of “oral character” and behavioral science in general as I do about piloting commercial aircraft. But we seem to be naturally equipped with onboard behavioral science labs, where finger-pointers in our heads tell us who pays retail, who doesn’t, who’s most likely to be struck by a bus crossing the street, and who will probably marry a drummer, speak the truth, or become a pain in the ass.

Designer Water Bottle Worship_Where Excuses Go to DieSo while I may have no “official” business offering my theories of the internal and external forces shaping our personalities, I’ll feel free to ask, what’s your excuse? How many bottles that look like toy spaceships do you purchase, maintain, nurse from, neglect, or collect? Of the seemingly endless choices, how do you decide which ones are right for you?

  • Capacity?Absurdly Pretentious Horseshit__Where Excuses Go to Die
  • Innovative appearance?
  • Important looking millimeter measurements up the side?
  • iPhone connectivity?
  • Spill proof-ness?
  • Polymer resin construction per NASA specifications?
  • Easy grip?
  • Percentage of sales profits donated to eco-friendly charities?

How about the thermosy thing that tracks all of the disposable plastic bottles you’re not buying (a self-important do-gooder tug job if there ever was one)? My favorite is the one that opens and closes for you, in case you’re too fatigued to do it yourself.

The point is, many of these impulse buys can go for $90 and up. What’s your limit?  (more…)

Confessions of a Texas Taunter

Monday, April 6th, 2015

TEXAS HATE LINEFor years I’ve sworn my epitaph will read, “…and he never set foot in Texas.”

  • Texas is one of the worst states to be either a child or an old person.
  • Its high school dropout rate makes the Alamo look like the Iwo Jima flag raising.
  • It seems fitting that this Lone Star of illiteracy is represented by a belt-buckle.
  • Gun-loving Texas is ranked last in the country in mental health spending and worst in health services, hospital care, and access to health insurance.
  • Its big #1 in carbon emissions and hazardous waste production is justified with claims of “per-resident emissions.”
  • Texans nearly top the list of most careless, worst drivers in America, but Houston scored 2014’s “Least Courteous” award. #guns
  • What’s not big in Texas? Voter turnoutcivic involvement, and political participation.

It’s a bit nitpicky to add that the average credit score in Texas has been the lowest in the country, because quality of life issues and countrified comedy gold are consequential, not illustrative. So instead, I’ll choose the one thing I’ve most openly mocked Texans for over the years – defending their vulgar bravado with “Don’t judge us ’til you hang with us.” (more…)

WHO THE HELL ROBS BOOKSTORES?

Sunday, October 19th, 2014

10/20 Where Excuses Go to Die at Univ. San Diego: Warren Auditorium

FREE WHERE EXCUSES GO TO DIE AUTHOR TALK WITH Q&A:

Many thanks to Gina DeLapa of Stuff You Already Know fame and the Department of School, Family and Mental Health Professions at the University of San Diego.

10-20-14_WHO THE HELL ROBS BOOKSTORES__Where Excuses Go to Die

.John Espinosa Nelson_Where Excuses Go to Die_Photo by Katie Ferguson

On the Concerns of Others…

Sunday, September 14th, 2014

I'm feeling happiness for someone else? This never happens!Deny this ugly age of self mania; recognize the concerns of others.

Something I dislike about myself is that I’m occasionally caught off guard by my reaction to the concerns of others. I spend so much time pretending to care that when it’s real, my whole being awakens. And it doesn’t matter if my bureaucratic, rubber-stamping brain comes along or not.

Finding myself 100% unreservedly happy for someone else’s joy, for instance, makes me need to find a chair, fast; to think and relish the awareness before it fades. Sadly, I can only remember nine or ten instances in which I recognized the strange sensation of wanting to sing out-loud because something good happened to someone else.

It works the other way too, like it did with Big Wednesday, a well-fed, fifty-something homeless guy with sun-bleached dreads. I hadn’t seen him when I pulled into the gas station, but suddenly he was at my bumper. (more…)

Defensive Architecture

Monday, June 16th, 2014

Anti-loitering architecture forces the homeless out into the shame

Dinner time for De-waged Americans_Where Excuses Go to DieKristin Hohenadel’s Slate.com piece on “managing” London’s homeless (“Are Anti-Homeless Sidewalk Spikes Immoral?”) points to a Change.org petition that insists we give a damn about vulnerable populations rather than ostracize them with defensive architecture. The “spikes” that sparked the outrage>petition>renewed UK debate>this blog entry were installed near the entrance of a luxury residential building in London on June 10, 2014.

The article’s example pictures of “anti-bum” devices, culled from artist Nils Norman’s international collection, show a callousness that is not, to me, the least bit surprising. For years, I’ve referred to nasty urban planning designs like these as “MAN-EATERS” since they frequently resemble shark teeth. Here in Los Angeles, in a world of caged trash bins and spatial confinement of the homeless, we have a disheartening array of them.

Pigeon Science on Human SubjectsWe’re not alone, though: across modern urban landscapes everywhere, commercial and residential developers are planning and designing “exclusionary” access ways and loading docks to discourage the poor from setting up shop in doorways and “gap sites,” those architectural nooks and crannies that most of us sinners have been grateful to find at one time or another – usually when drunk. But let’s face it: in every one of us lurks a little NIMBY contradiction, the sentiment otherwise known as, “not in my backyard.”

Partiers are grateful to find a place to pee, sure, but don’t want to work near or pass through one of these stink-holes on a daily basis. (By the way, if anyone is offended by the implication that you’d ever urinate in an alley or between two buildings, please discontinue reading now. I make no guarantee your head won’t explode when I start mocking those who feel a moral playing field has been leveled, now that anti-pigeon science is being used on humans.) (more…)

Jail Was Easier than Feeding My Grandmother

Sunday, January 19th, 2014

At 94, growing her hair long is the extent of her personal choice.

Photo by Alexander KleppestoIt was just an ice cream sandwich, placed in a bowl and broken up after it had thawed some. My mom had handed it to me, saying as she picked up a magazine, “Here, give your grandmother her dessert. Help your grandmother.”

She deserved the five-minute break; she’d been sitting next to her mother for the past 37 hours. Neither of my parents has left her side in years, whereas my brothers and I have the luxury of going wherever life takes those who aren’t trapped.

When I arrived I found my grandmother and my mom in a very nice hospital room. The staff was largely Catholic-Hispanic, so I knew both felt comfortable and free to exaggerate to their heart’s content. The large window perfectly framed the setting sun, and you couldn’t ask for a better time to look out at it. Which was all I wanted to do.

But my mom had put me on the spot by handing me that bowl. I resented her for it because I’m a selfish person first and an empathetic one second, plus I’d become aware of dueling feelings that had arisen within me. I felt both unworthy of and above this task. I was afraid of an up close look at what age had done to my grandmother, and while I wanted to believe this was normal, my brain defended that fear with pride and conceit. (more…)

Dumping Toxic People vs. Loser Management

Monday, January 6th, 2014

Dumping all the so-called “toxic” people in your life is an excuse.

TOXIC PEOPLE_THE FINAL SOLUTION_Where Excuses Go to DieIn line for coffee the other day I overheard a woman urging her two companions to rid themselves of all the “toxic” people in their lives. It sounded like a New Year’s resolution conversation had collided with an annoying friend story, but who knows and who cares?

She was off and running, listing relatively intimate evidence that proved a certain friend was a “guilt trip assassin.” This person had to go, she reasoned. And the relief and freedom she’d soon be experiencing by taking action would no doubt be something her two companions would want to get in on. Of this she sounded sure, if vulnerably so.

Now, maybe it was the hand gestures, the loud-talking, or the sequined fedora, but this young lady sounded like a mosquito in my ear canal. Following a life-coach testimonial with gossip as your example of why Friend X should be dismissed only demonstrates your poor coping skills.

Get rid of the toxic people in your life? What, you have a list? And you’re gonna push the button on all of ’em? Have any idea how much demented resolve that takes? I’ve seen it done on prison yards, but never in coffee shops.

Besides, what monsters are we talking about? Psychic hostages? Emotional cripples? Abusers? Followers? Manipulators? Martyrs? Excluders? Stalkers? Downers? Demanders?

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Making Better Bad Decisions

Tuesday, December 31st, 2013

There are many excuses for failed NYE resolutions. These are mine.

HEALTHY CHEAP FOAM WHOLESALE YOU BUY NOWResolution: Get more rest. I can’t afford a Tempur-Pedic® TEMPUR-Topper (but why so stupid a name?), which would make spending eight hours on my bed much easier, but in the face of a 2007 study by British psychologist Richard Wiseman, this excuse falls short. A tired brain is more susceptible to temptation, Wiseman found, making the value of a night’s rest a serious priority with regards to willpower. Problem is, willpower and one’s ability to control impulses are located in the prefrontal cortex, just behind the forehead, and I’ve bashed that in enough to qualify for some of that NFL money. The “better bad decision”? Hello! Discount foam!

1958 Borg Home Bathroom Scale.jpgResolution: Lose weight. I need to lose about 15 pounds, but with everything I’ve learned about myself and the (same) 15 pounds I needed to lose last year, hell, I’m going into this with such an advantage that I might not even have to modify my food choices. But just in case, I’ve got a fallback position. It’s a “better bad decision” to eat a few dozen less of the things I love, so I’ll just buy ’em every other time I’m at the grocery store. Lesson learned: self awareness isn’t enough. (more…)