Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Who Are "They?"

If you have not yet had a chance to see the movie "Role Models," give it a look-see. It may not be for everyone and may be pigeon-holed as just another simple humor buddy comedy, but there is some heart in there that I am certain is getting lost in translation. Specifically the character of "Augie" played smartly and convincingly by Christopher Mintz-Plasse. Again, I am sure the party line is that he's back with another take on his "McLovin" character, but that is wrong...so wrong. In fact, I almost cried once or twice in this movie that is all about the laughs. Back to Augie in a bit...

It is commonplace for people, as they get older, to become more set in their ways, curmudgeonly and stubborn. Things that may have been bendable issues are now no longer up for discussion. I have always had an ingrained sense of stubbornness courtesy of my genetic make-up from both parents, and I have honed my skills of refusing to waiver over the years. I fancy myself liberal and open to a variety of ideas, but some things - we just won't go there!

I can lay out some of my unending quirks even at this very moment - I am watching hockey...in Arizona...while wearing my Canucks jersey which I MUST wear while watching any game! So concerned with supporting my team, I will wear the jersey that corresponds with what the team is wearing on the night I am watching - the home or away, or even "Third" jersey. And being a Vancouver fan from Ottawa/Montreal/Boston territory?!?! Blasphemy! But, this is my team, my favorite sport and how I choose to watch. This is just one little nuance of me.

The thing is, I don't ever want to be TOLD what to think or feel, or buy, or wear, or watch, or do, or say, or think...most people say they don't either...but dig deep and see how true that really is. Ever find yourself marching in line with the lemmings? I don't mean following rules and laws and playing it straight - I mean the things in life you succumb to because that's what "they" say it should be. As my friend Alison would say, "Who are THEY, anyway?" Styles, trends, news, foods, places...do you do it because that's what "they say" you should do? Think about that...and we'll come back and revisit the notion.

And, beyond this thought, it isn't even about wrapping some love around your inner chi or whatever you embrace as "your own." It is about doing or not doing because that's what YOU choose and not what the prevailing winds say. Lately, my biggest correlation to this ideology is the phenomenon of "Twilight" or even "Harry Potter." Never seen, heard, read or watched either of these things. I am certain they are both great fun (especially Harry Potter) but when they came to the forefront, I felt like the masses flocked to these because that's what the populous said to do. There is something inherently pride swelling in "discovering" things and making them their own, and not falling into line. We all have those little things that we found on our own, and if they do hit the mainstream, we suddenly feel like we lost our connection. I can't wait to one day meet Harry Potter...on my own terms.

I know the biggest reason we don't always trust our own instincts and gravitate to what we want is because of popular opinion. There are times when we are made to feel small or strange because of the things we hold dear to our hearts. How can you wear that or do that or eat that or watch that? And I am not innocent of this either...I have mocked people for their little beliefs - never mindful of the weirdness that is me! That being said, this is clearly a 'do as I say, not as I do' rant more than anything. Or better yet, a reminder to show understanding or tolerance for someone's beliefs that don't line up with yours. In fact, appreciate the character it takes to do something unique and different and embrace it in the face of opposition.

Back to Augie.

This was the flash card that reminded me of my quirks and people reacting to those things that aren't perceived as the popular opinion. Without being Mister Spoiler, Augie is a fan of "Dungeons and Dragons"-style reenactments and battles. He wears capes and choreographs battle sequences. Because of this little quirk he is ridiculed, made fun of and laughed at - even by his own family. Why? Because it is different and not the thing everyone does. Forget that is brings him joy, gives him an escape from the world, and is something he is good at. "They" say it isn't right, so "they" feel the need to make him feel small because of it. Why can't he just do what makes him happy? Why can't we all?

Do you have something that you do that doesn't align with popular opinion? Is there some new 'fad' or trend that seems to be sweeping the pop landscape that, in your heart, you know just isn't 'you?' I challenge you to take pause whenever a decision is pending based on something 'they' say.

And then go ahead and tell "they" to go straight to Hell!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Smoke 'Em If You Got 'Em

Yes, I am a smoker...let's get that out in the air like a purple-haze puff of exhaled tobacco. Anyone who knows me knows this fact, and not everyone approves. Such is life. And for this rant, blame the dye-job blonde who wandered into an arena one clear night, past the "Designated Smoking Area" and decided to proclaim, I am sure hoping we'd hear..."<<>> I didn't know I'd have to get lung cancer to watch the game tonight!" I prayed she'd developed a scorching case of herpes by half time.

Truth be told, I was a late bloomer to the Phillip Morris fan club. I started my professional career in radio back in the days when ALL radio announcers puffed, chain smoked and wheezed day and night. This is why the "old school" jocks had such a gravelly voice...a finely and carefully crafted coat of tar on their adenoids. And if you ever stepped foot into a studio, you'd be able to indulge in the stale stench of old Camels burned down on every drive time air shift for years. Spending most of my days in the studios, it wasn't long before the addiction grabbed hold of me. When in Rome, light one up!

20 years ago you could just about smoke anywhere, any time...and this was when I did not smoke. Funniest thing you'd see back in the day was any random visit to the hospital. Yep, visitors, hooked up to IVs and heart monitors were ALLOWED to puff away in special smoking areas of the hospital. Oh, the blessed irony!

I understand government policy is driven by lobbyists, there's no two ways about that. As long as business has the money to pony up to government and law makers, your particular interest would never see regulation or at least fly under the radar. I guess at some point, Big Tobacco felt it didn't need to drop a little coin in the lap of the Congress or their local judges, so the giant lawsuits came rolling in and it suddenly became the hottest hot button issue on the forefront...quash the smoking industry! Look out Joe Camel, you forgot to grease a palm or two and now it is time to pay the piper. Except, the piper can't even keep his pipe anymore.

Over the years, smoking has been banned and belittled in many different ways, and - as a smoker, mind you - I am okay with some of the laws and decisions too. But, at some point, political correctness, personal freedom and pomposity converged...and it got ugly and flat out ridiculous. The smoke going into my mouth is bad, but the vile spew coming out of many mouths is much, much worse.

There are some casual and comfy fits that go hand-in-hand with smoking...having a first coffee, just after a meal, having a cocktail or just at the bar. These are places that were always bastions for puff-fests. The whole landscape has changed. I knew things were going to become very odd when I was in North Carolina...TOBACCO ROAD, mind you...and smoking was being treated like the plague. As if it was no longer legal to pray in church...no smoking in the Carolinas?!?! It is a new world!

Let's cut to the chase. Smokers have now been sent...banished...to the outer reaches of the world and literally treated like lepers. As I said, in many instances, I am okay with some of the changes...but something more happened than the simple notion of "protecting the health and welfare of our society." People suddenly became a judge of character, and from their highest of moral grounds had no resistance in voicing their opinions. And it is these annoying, loud-mouthed pricks that are really starting to piss me off...and probably the main reason I keep smoking! Stay with me....

Can we agree, one of the reasons tobacco companies got thrown under the bus is because they hid documents and research that proved smoking is addictive? It is true...and the easiest proof is to see the reactions of long-time smokers who try to quit 'cold turkey' - yeah, steer clear of those people! Once you're hooked, it is hard to get off...and the attempt to make it harder to find a time, a place, and - quite frankly, the cash - to grab a few puffs makes one work a little harder to quit. It is working. Mostly. And I will save the rants on "Sin taxes" and the outright banning of tobacco for another day....

So we have been lied to and sold an addictive product, now we are not only being forced off it, but made to feel inferior because of it. Find your one biggest addiction - whatever it is...sweets, seafood, Manilow records - and stop it---immediately! Maybe you got through the first day or second, no worries...but the addiction returns and builds and swells and you suddenly discover it isn't so easy to quit after all. Smoking is much the same way. Again, that is fine - we will march out to the "Designated Smoking Area" of shame set up outside many public places, but nowhere in the fine print does it say to rain down your morality with verbal barbs. Stay with me...still...

Food is addictive, yes? Fair to say that someone who is overweight is addicted to food, yes? Or, at the very least, has difficulty knowing 'when to say when?' Okay - would you walk up to an obese person and say, "Put that hamburger down you fat whale!" or "Drop the Cheese Puffs, Chunkerella?" Of course not, that's rude! Yet, somehow, a smoker's addiction is a non-factor when some dolt chimes in, "Don't you know that's bad for you," or "Smoking is such a disgusting habit, why don't you quit?" I'm sorry....did I ask you?

Yes, I know one overweight person's burger indulgence is not detrimental to Reverend Tobacco-Free's personal space in the way that a smoker's puff is, but that makes it okay to vocalize your opinion on me or the Marlboro Man next to me? Absolutely not.

Here's one...smoking affects your breathing and lungs and health, sure. So, one time on a cross country flight to Vegas, I was seated behind a person who had their toy pup in a carry case under their seat. Don't know the make of the dog or it's name - couldn't care less as it endlessly yipped all along the flight - but it was right in my space...and I am allergic to animals. I know MANY people allergic to animals. For some reason, my smoke affects peoples' breathing and I am shunned and cast out as an ax murderer, but some pretentious flight passenger's pup is a-okay while I wheeze my way on a five our journey to Sin City, eyes puffing and gasping for clear air. What the hell was I thinking, being born with these allergies and even dreaming of inconveniencing Pookie the Cock(suck)er Spaniel flying in the First Class seat in front of me?


I am not ranting with the goal of seeing smoking brought back into every facet of life the way it was in tobacco's heyday (I remember being in the NY Assembly in Albany and the ceilings were still caked with the old tobacco smoke of the past lawmakers...too funny!)...but, think before you speak - please!

I will wander outside, even off to the little 2 X 2 patch of sidewalk in the next county designated as the "Unholy Bastions of Evil Who Smoke Area of Shame" as the law prescribes. But, if you CHOOSE to wander into my cubby - any area that is deemed 'a-okay to smoke' - and voice your unending stream of consciousness about the evils of tobacco and how I must be Satan for lighting up, because - if you get too close - I will blow smoke in your face! Is it any worse than that blonde who decided to blow smoke up my ass?!