Two Uncles In My Genes: 30 DAYS OF WRITING. EPISODE 10/30

chairThis is day 10 of a New Year’s Resolution.

If you’re keeping up with this 30 day write-o-rama, you know I’m in Milwaukee doing the serious business of grieving the passing of my Uncle in the way that Jews do: we eat. We tell stories. We nag each other.

My father and mother picked me up at the airport, we bought some frozen custard (my Uncle’s favorite), and we brought it to my Aunt and Uncle’s condo. There, in the living room sat my Uncle’s chair. I suppose it’s no longer actually my Uncle’s living room or my Uncle’s chair, but memories linger. Old Jewish texts describe the soul of the deceased person leaving the body and kind of… hanging around for a while. The mourners say kaddish (the original, not the Ginsberg poem), we’ll wait a year before we dedicate a tombstone — we make space for those who are gone to be “not gone.” 

Which in turn reminds me of the joke: What’s the difference between how Jews and Goyim say goodbye? Goyim leave without saying goodbye, but Jews say goodbye and don’t leave.

Well, jingoistic jokes aside, my Uncle was there, and when I said goodbye (and left), I shouted to the room full of relatives: goodnight everyone, see you tomorrow. Goodnight, Uncle David.

billAnother Uncle visited me tonight, one who’s been gone/not gone a long time. My Uncle Bill died suddenly, over ten years ago – I got the call while I was leading a group of 9th graders on a ropes course.

Supposedly, I am a lot like him. He had an odd-ball sense of humor, adored jazz, and was nimble with a drawing pen.

When my parents and I got home from the shiva, tonight, they told me they had a gift for me. Inside a flat package was a picture frame, and there, in black and white, was a well-dressed man. My parents had found the old photo in a drawer and had it restored and framed.

“We know that family is very much about sharing genes,” said my father. “But it’s also very much about sharing jeans.”

tieandsweaterbillselfonlyv8Behold the family resemblance. Scary, huh? The striped sweater, the jeans, the wide cuffs.

To my Uncle David; may every comfy chair I sit in remind me of you. And to my Uncle Bill, may every joke I tell be… off the cuffs.

New Years Resolution: 30 Days of Writing: Episode 2 – When to Cut Corners

Battlestar Galactica teaches us much about cutting corners.

Battlestar Galactica teaches us much about cutting corners.

This is day 2 of a New Years Resolution.

When we were young, our teachers and parents said “Always do your best.”

That seemed like a good idea, until many of the things asked of us were totally dumb.

  • 30 long division exercises. Do your best? No. Waste of time. Do them until you understand how to do it, then go play Pitfall.
  • Clean your room. Do your best? No. When you’re 13, a clean room is of dubious benefit. Push stuff under bed. Go play Pitfall. (For the record, as an adult, I believe a clean room is essential for well-being.)
  • Paper for US History class. Do your best? No. Make sure you learn the skills you need for life, write the paper, and play Pitfall 2. 

In style, there are certain things that are not worth obsessing over (and not worth dumping lots of money on) and certain things that demand attention and possibly a bit of money. Here is my guide – where to cut your corners.

Be sure your jeans are dark. Like your soul.

Be sure your jeans are dark. Like your soul.

CORNER CUT: Even though expensive gourmet denim can cost $200 and up, a pair of dark Levi’s is as good as it gets. I have a pair of indigo Levis and people frequently ask me where I got them. Hint: make sure they’re dark (indigo), and cuff them so there is no drape. Sharp. And not expensive.

CORNER CUT: Ties are a very important part of my style, and I love a splurge tie, but some of my best ties are not expensive. Find a knit tie or a denim tie (yes. Denim.) Bask in the compliments.

Which is the $20 tie? Which is the $125 tie?

Which is the $20 tie? Which is the $125 tie?


CORNER CUT: Sure, you can buy a pair of Pantherella socks for fifty bucks, but the dryer will eat them, just as it eats cheaper socks. Don’t wear junky polyester socks, but do drop by Old Navy or Gap or Banana Republic next time you’re at the mall, and find socks ON SALE. No need to pay full price. They’ll cost 3-5 dollars and will bag you compliments. Yes! On your socks! (May I offer my full blog post on socks, here?)

chrisCORNER CUT: You can find an endless parade of expensive sweaters at every department store, but the best place to bag a styley sweater is at a used-clothing store. I’m not talking about Salvation Army, necessarily, which will have a preponderance of Cosby-sweaters (both he and his sweaters are on my sh*it list right now). I’m talking about Buffalo Exchange or Crossroads Trading Co. or the like. (If you own any Cosby-sweaters, take ’em to Buffalo and exchange for one of these.

CORNER CUT: Leather jackets. Good ones are insanely expensive. And cheap ones look cheap. I don’t care what GQ says, you don’t need a leather jacket. Save your money for something else.

CORNER CUT: A black, grey, or navy pea-coat. Because there’s a million versions of them, you can get an awesome looking pea-coat for not a lot of money. Make sure you get the slimmest cut you can fit into. If it’s bulky, it doesn’t matter how much money you saved on it.

CORNER CUT: Glasses. Yes, get styley glasses. Don’t spend $400. Go to See Optical or try Warby Parker for affordable eye-styliness online.

Coming soon…where not to cut corners!