Valium Vickie

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Flying Coach Is For First-Class Losers


I got to sit in the First Class section during my last flight. I'm still not sure exactly why or how it happened, because I didn't pay any extra money to upgrade. One minute, I'm sitting in Coach arguing with a man who claims I'm sitting in his seat, the middle one. The next minute, the flight attendant is saying to me that "It would help if you looked at the right ticket." I had been looking at the ticket for my connecting flight. See, that's how far removed I was from flying First Class. I was willing to board multiple planes and tack on several hours to my trip just to get a cheaper flight.

When the flight attendant looked at my correct ticket and registered where my seat was located, her eyes got really big, then she squinted to make sure she was reading it correctly. Finally, in a cold, condescending tone she said, "You're in First Class, sir. Of course, you don't have to sit in First Class. If you'd prefer ..." But I was on my feet before she could finish. I gave a wave to the common folk in Coach and made my to the front of the plan, temporarily cured of the terrible hangover that was settling in after my three-day bender in New Orleans.

I wish I'd taken a picture of my seatmate's reaction when I maneuvered around his knees (he didn't have to reposition his body a single inch) and took my spacious window seat.

"What the hell is he doing up here? I pay an exorbitant amount of money so I don't have to sit with these types of people," his look said. He was justified in being upset about having to sit next to me. Out of all the people in flying First Class that day, I can virtually guarantee I smelled the worst. The last time I'd showered was Thursday, the night before I'd left for Louisiana. I was wearing the same clothes I'd worn the night before, which happened to be the same clothes I'd worn the entire previous day.

On the contrary, my seatmate was smartly dressed in a elegant yet sporty navy blue suit. Throughout the flight, he alternated between shifting around uncomfortably and shaking his head.

In Coach, you wait anxiously all flight for that drink cart to make its way to your seat. In First Class, there a continuous stream of amenities the valued passengers are presented with right up until wheel-down time. Before I even had a chance to buckle my diamond-encrusted safety belt, I had a drink in my hand. I made it a point to take advantage of every perk that came my way ... even if I didn't know what it was. Throughout the course of a two-hour flight, I enjoyed several drinks, a healthy yet satisfying complimentary snack box and a piping hot washcloth that was delivered via a pair of metal tongs.

I wasn't sure what the washcloth was for so I let my instincts take over and started wiping my greasy, unwashed face with the wet cloth. That's when my seatmate spoke for the first time.
"You know, you're supposed to use that for your hands," sporty suit said in a nasally voice.
"I didn't end up in First Class by doing things the way you're supposed to them, Pal," I shot back, and rubbed my face again for emphasis.
"Touché," the man responded and began laughing in manner that was eerily similar to the laugh that followed Dr. Evil's request for One MILLION DOLLARS in Austin Powers.
For the remainder of the flight, sporty suit gave me investment advice he usually reserved for "his closest confidants."

OK, that last part didn't happen. Throughout the duration of the flight, my seatmate only communicated via grunts, eye rolls and head shakes. But the rest of this post is 100% accurate, and I even have this photo of my complimentary First-Class Snack Box to prove it:

My girlfriend tried several times to dispose of the evidence, but I kept pulling it out of the trash until I snapped this photo.



Wednesday, February 19, 2014

How To Start A Bar Fight In Frederick, Maryland Without Getting Hurt

According to Wikipedia, Frederick, Maryland, has a population of 66,382 people, and I'd say about 66,363 of those people are prepared to fight at any given moment.

At least that's been my experience in Frederick.

Photo courtesy of railfanguides.us/md/frederick/


Generally, it's not OK to make assumptions about an entire town based on a single experience ... but in this case, I think it's warranted, and I hope you do too.

One weekend, my friend Justin took me and a bunch of other friends down to Frederick so we could see firsthand how great his hometown really was. On our first night in Frederick, we went to a place called the Old Town Tavern. It seemed like a pretty standard bar to me, but online reviewer Jimbo Morrison IV, a prolific reviewer of Frederick hot spots and a man whose Google+ photo shows him brandishing a shotgun, had these disparaging comments about the establishment: "worst wings ever.... filthy establishment... always packed with underage children, mostly girls looking for a free drink. constantly there are patrons looking for a fight. i would give it 1 star but the staff is really friendly. good place to go pick up loose women..."

Had I read Morrison IV's review, I may have acted differently. But I didn't. So after a few beers, I came up with an idea on how to make the night more interesting. My plan was simple: We were going to get into a fight, but not with the other patrons of the Old Town Tavern. We were going to get into a fight with each other. More specifically, my friend Dan was going to punch me in the face, and I was going to go down hard.

Because my friends were also drinking the way 23-year-old white males tend to drink, they thought the plan was great. I knew the success of this stunt rested entirely on our commitment to following through with everything; we couldn't afford to half-ass this one. I sensed Dan, the main player, seemed a bit apprehensive about the plan, so I offered a little pep talk: "Look, you've got to hit me here. You can't hold back, either," I told Dan. "There had to be a few times you felt like punching me before, just draw on that and hit me like you f#cking mean it."

To his credit, Dan actually hit me. The moment Dan's right hand connected squarely with the left side of my face, I threw my body backward in the direction of the empty chairs behind me with complete abandon. There was a lot of noise, and a bunch of things got knocked over, so we definitely got everyone's attention. But the patrons of the Old Town Tavern didn't react quite the way I expected. Like most of my ideas, I hadn't really thought about what would happen after the fact.

When Morrison IV said "constantly there are patrons looking for a fight," he wasn't exaggerating. The moment Dan's fist connected with my face, virtually every guy in the place followed suit.
Our fake fight was the catalyst for a chain reaction, and almost instantly everyone in the entire bar was throwing punches.

It was just like what happens when you're at a place where there's lots of people and there's loud music, and you just know people want to dance but, for some reason, people aren't dancing. Then, one brave couple heads out to the dance floor, and the next thing you know the place is dancing. It was just like that only violent and dangerous and not fun at all.

In a matter of seconds, the entire bar was fighting; it was the epitome of a bar fight. The only thing I can compare it to is a fight scene in "Roadhouse." I didn't stick around to try and clear up the misunderstanding and let the rest of the participants know what really happened. While the rest of the Old Town Tavern beat the shit out of each other, my friends and I went out the front door unnoticed. You'd think at least one person would see Dan and me sneaking out together and think, "Wait a minute ... why are the two guys who started this wonderful bar fight leaving together ... and why are they laughing like a bunch of schoolgirls?" But no one did.





Once we made it out of there, we found a nice spot that a was safe distance from the action and watched the surreal scene -- a scene we were responsible for creating -- play out. Eventually, order was restored to the Old Town Tavern when a bunch of cop cars showed up, placed the individuals who they felt were most responsible in cuffs and drove away. Little did Frederick's finest know, the real instigators were less than 100 yards away watching the whole thing.

Looking back on the Frederick Fight, I'm not sure what I expected to happen. Dan would punch me in the face, the bouncers would rush over to toss us out and I'd yell out "It was an act! We staged the whole thing; we're actually friends" the moment before they got their burly arms around our necks. The bouncers would stop, there would be a tense moment where I wouldn't know how things would got, then the bouncers would burst out laughing. "That was hilarious," one of the bouncers would say. "You should be a comedian!" the other would add. Then, they'd would usher my friends and me off to some makeshift VIP section where we'd drink free the rest of the night.

Well, maybe not exactly like that. But I did expect to be able to talk my way out of the situation, and I certainly didn't expect Dan's punch to lead to the arrest of several Frederick residents. Do I feel bad people wound up being taken away in cop cars? Absolutely not. Look, if you're the kind of person who starts throwing punches just because you see other people doing it, chances are you're going to spend a lot of time in the back of a cop car or in an octagon or both.

I do feel bad for anyone who was simply looking to "pick up some loose women" and wound up getting slugged in the process. But even if Dan and I didn't start a fake fight, chance are something would've eventually happened because, as Morrison IV put it, "constantly there are patrons looking for a fight." And if based on his detailed reviews of everything in the town from Old Town to Arby's, that man knows Frederick.


Thursday, January 23, 2014

The Obligatory Proposal Story: Part 1

"How did you do it?"

More often than not, that's the question my girlfriend* and I are asked after we let someone know that we're getting married. People want to know how the proposal went down because they're expecting this big, elaborate story. If that's what a proposal's supposed to be, then I failed miserably.

Here's the short(er) version: After living together for five-plus years (dating for six), Liz and I discussed the possibility of getting married in a very pragmatic way. On the drive back from a week's stay in Atlantic City, I remember broaching the subject with: "So, we should probably look into getting married at some point, huh?"
"I guess we could do that," was Liz's overjoyed response.

The ring purchase


That was in August of 2012. Following the mutual declaration of our deep-seated desire to express our undying love for one another through the institution of marriage, I set about getting a ring. I got the circle part or, as those in the jewelry industry call it, the setting, from this hippie place in Seattle that makes custom-made jewelry (Liz had bookmarked the website). But the diamond was purchased from a family friend, a man I'll call "Vito the Bear" (I wouldn't do a Google Search with those terms).

Vito is this adorable little elderly Italian man. His face has the type of orang-ish hue that's only ever achieved with the help of a spray-tan bottle. It made me wonder if Vito tanned his entire body for consistency or if he simply sprayed the face to exude a healthy and youthful appearance for sales purposes.

Vito the Bear, a couple of moms, a life-saving aunt and me.


By the time I'd gotten the setting made, taken several trips up to New York to check out Vito the Bear's diamonds and picked out the right one, it was March. All I had left to do was get Vito to put his beautiful diamond in the hippie setting. So one Friday night I told Liz I had a show somewhere in the Poconos and I'd be staying the night at the hotel the booker had offered. Instead, I stayed at my friend Shawn's in the Bronx, shot over to Manhattan to meet Vito in the morning and was home by two in the afternoon.

The carefully orchestrated proposal


I didn't plan on proposing right away; I actually had a semi-formed plan set for later that week involving a Scott Weiland concert and fondue. But as soon as I got home, I felt like I needed to get rid of the ring. Plus, due to my carelessness, Liz had found out about Vito the Bear and knew I'd been working on getting a ring. I figured any type of scheduled plans I made would be a dead giveaway that the proposal was coming, so I scrapped the idea of the Scott Weiland concert cover-up. Instead, I opted to go with what I thought was the element of surprise.

On some random Saturday afternoon in March, I took the ring out of its fancy box and tied it around my dog Luna's collar with the chocolate ribbon that had been wrapped around everything. I remember sitting in my car, tying the ribbon and saying out loud to Luna: "I really need you to step up here. This is big ... this is really big." Luna responded by licking my nose repeatedly, which I took as her way of letting me know she understood the importance of our mission.


She thought the mission was curling up in the bed.

With my heart beating rapidly and Luna in my arms, I marched up the stairs and headed toward our bedroom. Liz had called me several times on my way home, and she sounded good and pissed about the fact that I wasn't home yet. She'd also worked the previous night and gotten around four hours of sleep. The best way to tame an angry, sleep-deprived girlfriend was with an engagement ring ... or so I thought.

When I walked into our room, Liz was getting ready for her cousin's surprise birthday party, a party we were both going to later that night. I handed her the dog and said something like, "Luna has something she wants to show you." Liz immediately put Luna down on the bed and went back to getting ready.
Unfazed, I picked the dog back up and handed her back to Liz, insisting, "Luna really has something she needed to show you."
"What is it Jar.." she started, but then she saw the ring. Liz's first words were: "Really? You're doing this now?"

That sounds bad, but the involuntary noise she made prior to that question was even worse.
"Ohhh" is a sound that means vastly different things depending on the pitch of the person making the noise. If the person's voice goes up when the "Ohhh" sound is emitted, it generally means that person is surprised, excited and even possibly overjoyed. But if the person's voice drops down an octave, then it's normally meant to convey annoyance or outright disappointment. Liz's voice sounded like it dropped several octaves when she made that initial "Ohhh" noise.

She did agree to marry me -- on the condition that I didn't tell anyone about the engagement during her cousin's party. To be fair, Liz knew all along that I'd been at Vito's picking up the ring. She'd checked out all of the firehouses in the area where I was supposedly performing and discovered there were no comedy shows even remotely close to that area. So she was annoyed that my lies weren't more carefully planned out and exhausted from working a 12-hour shift and dealing with needy patients. On top of all that, because of the party, she didn't have the proper amount to enjoy the moment and call up every person she's ever had contact with since she was seven, which I believe is a requirement of the engagement process.

She did love the ring, though. And because the company that made it encourages customers to share their proposal stories, I felt like I needed to contribute something. But the actual proposal story just wouldn't do.

TO BE CONTINUED ...

* I've been avoiding the word fiance at all costs for a number of reasons, many of which I discuss in detail here in this video.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

'Why Is The Iron In The Refrigerator?'

"Why is everything such a production with you?"

My girlfriend, Liz, asked me this right after I told her about the six or so tasks I planned to accomplish before I went to sleep on a random Monday at 10:30 p.m.

She followed that question up with, "Why do you have to drag everything out?"

I tried to explain that I'd never be able to relax enough to get to sleep until I at least attempted to do those very specific things, because some part of me insisted those things needed to be done at that very moment.

The reality of the situation is, I'd only get half of those tasks done that night -- and that was if I was lucky. See, I've always had a major problem with time management -- but it's more than that. I'm also unorganized. My personal space is a lot like the notebooks I'm constantly scribbling in: full of sloppy, unfinished projects with coffee stains everywhere. But it's not that either. My head is the real problem. Everything "is such a production" because I'm so focused on what's going on in my head that I have a lot of trouble doing the things that are going on outside of it -- or at least doing them correctly. Then night comes, and I realized I haven't done anything I was supposed to, so I try to cram everything into a ridiculous time frame.

Here's an example of what happens when I notice the kitchen's a mess and decide to try and straighten it up a bit:

(Man in his early 30s, to himself): Jesus, look at this place. How did it get like this? I just ran the dishwasher yesterday .... No, no, yesterday I came home and went right that open mic. Must've been the day before. (begins unloading dishes from the dishwasher and placing them off to the side) OK, if I clean up the kitchen, then I can sit down and write for a half hour before Liz gets back, and we can catch up on our shows. We've got Parenthood and Modern and ... When does Mad Men start up again? This waiting a year between seasons bullsh$t is really starting to get old. What was that thing I wanted to write about? ... Probably put it in my notes ... (walks to the counter, picks up his phone) There it is ... 'Bitch face/People act their face' ... what the f#ck does that mean? (furrows his brow and rubs his chin) ... Oh yeah, right. That woman from the Right Aide became a bitch because she was born with such a bitchy looking face. Even if she tried to be a nice person she'd fail because of that severe face ... I don't know, could work I guess. Seemed a lot funnier when I was drunk ... Oh, I love this song. I used to know how to play this sh$t, too. (walks to the living room, picks up guitar; 19 minutes go by, and he returns to the kitchen) ...

A strange, simple man.


OK, what time is it here? 8:12! How the hell did that happen? It was just 6:30 a couple of minutes ago. I can't ever seem to get a handle on this time thing ...There's just never enough time. Doesn't matter how much you get done, there's still so much left to do. And what's the point of being busy all the time? It's so stupid. All we're doing is trying to distract ourselves and keep our minds off the fact we're going to die some day ... All of us are going to die ... I really should try meditating more. That would probably be good for me ... But it's kind of weird. If it's weird for me, it's gotta be weird for Liz, right? Yeah, that's probably why I don't do it more ... I'm more afraid of her walking in on me mediating than of her walking in on me masturbating (laughs to himself) ... That's pretty funny. I should do something with that ... (picks an unfamiliar object out of the dishwasher) What the hell is this? Where does it even go? ... Where does all this sh%6 come from? We have so much sh$t that we don't even need in here than ... I'm getting a motorcycle. I don't care. I'm not really that bad of a driver, and motorcycles are different ... you have to pay attention. you have to focus. And it's amazing. I'm too old to do drugs, but I need something ... I'm getting a motorcycle. That's it; it's settled. I'll take those classes the DMV has in the Spring, then I'll start looking for bikes then ... Do I say something about it or just show up with a motorcycle one day? ... There it is (walks over to the counter and picks up an iron) ... There's no way this has just been sitting here all day. I looked everywhere for this thing. It doesn't belong here. That's probably why I couldn't find it. Alright, I gotta get this sh$t done ... I need to get a motorcycle. She's not gonna like it, but it's gotta happen ... God I'm starving. I really need to eat something (walks over to the refrigerator).

35 Minutes Later ...


(Young woman enters the house, put her stuff down, walks over to the fridge and opens it): Why is the iron in the refrigerator?
(Man): I'm getting a motorcycle!

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Top 5 Valiums of 2013

With another year in the books, some of us are planning out how we'll spend 2014 -- a year my Great Aunt Jeanie has already begun referring to as "The Year The Mexicans Took Over Main Street." Rather than looking forward, however, most of us are looking back, taking one last look at what just happened. Because that's what we do. We really like to look back at the stuff we just did or the stuff we just went through. A quick Google search of "A look back at 2013" yields more than four billion results.

We (i.e., this guy) here at the Valium are no different than the rest of the people. The 2013 edition is the third installment of the Top-5 list.  If your wondering why it's such a short list, the answer is very simple: There weren't too many posts to pick from -- a Top-10 list seems a little silly when there were only 12 choices in all. So that's why it's five. Before I jump right into the list, I'd like to thank everybody who took the time to read, comment and share anything from this blog. There are so many places on the interweb where you can go to waste your time, I'm genuinely flattered that anyone would choose to waste their time on my little blog.

I'm always looking to expand the reach of this Valium Vickie, a blog that got its name from an over-medicated former co-worker of mine. So, if you read something you like, pass it along to anybody you think may just feel the same way. And the same goes for stuff you hate. Feel free to reach out and let me know you think I'm an idiot.

Words with Friends, Foes and Complete Strangers



5. I've Never Been 'Molested, Molested.' As a mother, when your adult son asks you how you felt about a trip he took to Roy Rogers with a Catholic priest as a young child, you have to be careful exactly how you frame your response. Otherwise, he could easily take your completely innocuous response and turn it a blog post that causes a minor uproar in a small village in the Philippines.

4. The 3 Most Annoying Signs At The Philadelphia Rock And Roll Half Marathon. When I signed up for this thing, I had around six months to prepare, which seemed like plenty of time. Then, six months went by quicker than I expected, and I only ran the thing because, otherwise, it would mean I spent $90 on a T-shirt. The only thing dumber than paying a bunch of money to run long distances packed in with men in really, really short shorts (although sometimes you're lucky enough to run behind a fantastic ass in a pair of yoga pants) is standing around for hours holding a homemade sign, hoping to catch a glimpse of some friend, family member or person you're having casual sex with. This post was all about the worst signs I saw during my13-mile jaunt. On top of appearing on this humble little blog, the fine folks over at Philly Sports Live were kind enough to post it on their much more established site, which you can see here.

3. Dear Signature Room. Last summer, I took my future wife to dinner at the prestigious Signature Room, a restaurant located on the 96th floor of the John Hancock Center in Chicago. During our meal, a middle-aged German couple made a series of overtly sexual gestures toward us and did everything but ask us directly to partake in an orgy with them ... or at least that's what I told the restaurant in the detailed survey in filled out (I did give the Signature Room excellent marks in every real category). This post is a transcript of the conversation I had with the Signature Room's Director of Operations as a result of my allegations.

2. What Do You Do When That Dog You Love Too Much Dies Too Soon. My dog, Luna, died last summer, and instead of writing a ridiculous email to the company that handles the credit card we used to pay for Luna's care in her final months and asking them to waive a late fee because we needed every last cent to pay for the pet psychic we were going to use to contact our "ghost dog," I wrote about the pain I felt. (OK, I actually did write that email, too, and they did waive the fee, and I will be posting it at some point in the future.) Instead of writing something I thought was funny and was pretty sure at least a few others would the same way, I wrote this because I thought it would make me feel better. And it did. At first, I had no intention of putting the I'm-really-really-sad-over-my-dead-dog-and-here's-why post on this blog; it doesn't fit. It's like the Catholic Standard & Times including an editorial on the perks of being an atheist. I am glad I posted this one, though. On top of being the second most viewed post, I also received a bunch of very sweet, heartfelt messages from people, which meant a lot to me.

1. Words with Friends: What 'Needs More Games' Really Means. I'm kind of surprised this one took the top spot. I really thought "Dear Signature Room" was going to run away with it, but this one got almost twice as many views as any other post this year. If you haven't read it, give it a shot. It's basically a breakdown of the psychological disorder/disorders each type of Words with Friends' player suffers from. For example, Words' players who fall into the "Plays At Your Pace" category are often sexually aroused by humiliation. How do I know? This post explains it all in a very frank and often unnecessarily graphic detail.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Just Another Successful Heimlich Maneuver

I saw a guy get the Heimlich once. I was eating lunch at this Thai restaurant when, out of nowhere, this guy just started turning blue and flailing his arms around to let everybody know he choking. It was an absolutely terrifying thing to watch ... for the most part.

But I'd be lying if I said there wasn't a small part of me that was like, "Really? This guy's going to this pull this shit right now. I can't believe he's choking during my lunch! I've been waiting all week for this Pad Thai. (Side note: Pad Thai is essentially the General Tso's of Thai food: It's something even the most unadventurous person can order when he wants to try something foreign, and it's something waiters at Thai restaurants expect white people to order.) 

Let me be clear: Only a very small part of me felt this way. When this guy started choking, something like 85% of me was like "Oh my God! Somebody's gotta save this man. I wish I paid attention when they taught me to do the Heimlich in fourth grade." But 15% of me was very much annoyed and inconvenienced at the fact this man was ruining my lunch because he didn't know how to chew properly.

Photo courtesy of www.artofmanliness.com


The dude sitting across from the choking guy wound up doing the Heimlich, which is a good thing because none of workers even attempted to approach the table when the guy started choking. The waiters just kept aggressively filling up people's water glasses as if a customers with half-filled waters would be far worse than somebody dying during his meal.

The Heimlich guy's demeanor was downright remarkable throughout the entire life-saving incident. He calmly stood up, pushed his chair back, put his napkin down on the table (I have a picture of him daintily wiping his mouth before placing the napkin down, but I'm not sure that actually happened) and just went to work. I'm no expert, but it looked like textbook Heimlich to me. In fact, he was so calm throughout the entire ordeal that I'm convinced this wasn't the first time he actually had to do it to choking man.

The whole Heimlich thing couldn't have lasted more than a couple of minutes tops, but it's still a very unsettling thing to watch, mostly because it looks completely inefficient. If you didn't know what the Heimlich was, you'd think the person doing it was wrestling somebody who had tapped out already.

In this case, it worked. Somewhere between five and 20 thrusts, choking man spit out this huge chunk of what I'm guessing was Pad Thai. (Choking man was a very, very white dude in khakis with some type of corporate ID badge.)

I'm not sure what's supposed to happen after a successful Heimlich maneuver, but I'm pretty sure it's not what happened at this place. The two men at the center of the incident, choking man and Heimlich guy, went right back to their meal like nothing happened. No acknowledgement; no "Everything's OK. You guys can just go back to what you were doing." In fact, choking man dove right back into his dish with such veracity that he must've been thinking about finishing his meal the entire time the rest of us thought it would finish him.

Then, there was the chunk of food choking man spit out onto the floor. Nobody thought it was a good idea to dispose of the hunk of food that was left behind after the successful Heimlich. It just sat in plain view, an ominous reminder of what could happen to if we don't chew our food carefully enough.

I spent the rest of my lunch trying to figure out what should've happened. The way I saw it, there should of been some type of public acknowledgement by the choking man. I expected choking man to at least give us, the concerned/partially annoyed spectators, some type of an embarrassed wave or humorous explanation, so we knew the danger had passed and everything was A-OK. Had that happened, we'd all rise, one by one, to applaud Heimlich guy for his heroic efforts.

And then there was the staff. Not only did they completely ignore a customer while he was choking, they also didn't go over to talk to the man after the ordeal was over. They acted completely oblivious to the situation the ENTIRE time. I wouldn't be surprised if a choking fee was even added to the table's bill.

I don't think the owner, a gruff man somewhere between the ages of 60 and 103, even looked up once from his spot behind the cash register during the choking incident. It was as if he knew business would be fine regardless of what happened to choking man. Sure, had he choked to death right there, it would've made the local news, and business may have slowed down for a week or two, but that wouldn't last long. Eventually, the owner knew, the lunch crowd would be back, because he has the best Pad Thai around, and white office workers will always return to a place with good Pad Thai.

As for me, I was just pissed choking guy was able to go back to enjoying his meal despite the near-death experience, because I never was -- at least not the way I'd imagined. And I'd been looking forward to that lunch since Tuesday ... that selfish son of a bitch.

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

What do you do when that dog you love too much dies too soon?



What do you do when that dog you love too much dies too soon? That question sounds ridiculously dramatic coming from anybody -- especially a guy who sends letters to fancy restaurants about fictional German swinger dudes who rub mashed potatoes all over their genitals. And, in the scheme things, it is. But ever since my Boston Terrier Luna died, I've been trying to figure out how I'm supposed to make myself feel better about the whole thing. And a big part of that has involved finding some type of answer to that dramatic question.

Time has definitely dulled everything a good deal. But if I think about it hard enough, I feel almost as shitty as I did on the day the vet called and told my girlfriend Liz and me we lost Luna -- and I don't think that will change any time soon.

If you've ever had a conversation with me for more than five minutes, chances are you knew about my dog. Had she lived, Luna would've been the ring-bearer at my wedding in May. And when I proposed, I tied the ring to Luna's collar and let her do all the work. For most people, putting your dog in your wedding is an absurd idea. For my girlfriend and me, it was never even up for debate. Liz and I decided to get married so, naturally, Luna would have to play some major role in the wedding.

Tissues, tests and meds

I should've know Luna's days were numbered the moment we walked into Metropolitan Veterinary Associates and Emergency Services and saw that every seat in the expansive waiting room was accompanied by its own personal box of tissues. Even the waiting rooms in the human cancer wards I've visited didn't have a chair-to-tissue ratio of one to one.

We probably made at least a half dozen trips to Metropolitan before Luna died, and there was always at least one distraught pet owner who really benefited from the personal tissue supply. "At least we're not in that situation," I thought every time except for that last visit.

In just two months, my girlfriend and I experienced everything from joy that Luna's tests (blood, ultrasound and endoscopy) confirmed she didn't have cancer to fear that her meds weren't working to a short-lived cautious relief she actually was getting better to shock that she was never going to pull through.



Luna lived to be about a month short of six years old. Based on the breed descriptions I've read, the average life expectancy for Boston Terriers is around 13 to 15 years. So it's hard not feel like I was cheated out of some key years we were entitled to -- at least according to all those expert books.

Coming home has been the worst: Pulling into the driveway, walking up to house and still half expecting to see my dog going ape shit the minute I walk through that door. Whatever happened while I away, seeing that crazy little dog when I came home made me feel better. And not just better, Luna's unwavering excitement always made me feel like everything was going to be work itself out just fine -- even when I wasn't so sure.

Luna always greeted me the same way. She'd rush up to the door, start shaking her upper and lower half's in two completely different directions (like those Chinese dragon costumes that are manned by multiple people) all while making these adorable whimpering sounds. Then, before I could get to her, she'd run off and return with a plastic squeaky hot dog, or a dirty, old tennis ball or one of her other many toys. It's as if every day Luna's instinct would force her to rush forward empty-handed (technically empty-jawed) the moment I walked through the door but, right before greeting me she'd catch herself and think, "Oh shit, I can't let this guy see me like this. I don't even have anything to show him," and she'd rush off to remedy the situation by bringing me one of her many treasures.

Having a dog is a never-ending series of daily routines -- routines that can be annoying when you're time-pressed (or hung over), but become second-nature over time. So every night when that unthinking autopilot part of me sends out the alert that I have to let the dog out before I wrap it up, I'm reminded there's no dog to let out anymore. I'm not trying to be overly sentimental here. Neither me nor Luna were fond of the morning dump ritual in the pouring rain or sac-shriveling February cold. But we still did it. And because of those many routines, I'm constantly being reminded of what I've lost, which is a big part of what I think makes this process such a bitch.



Because Luna's health went south so quickly, we put her through a regimen that seems a little crazy now. In her last month, Luna's routine consisted of a series of pills and elixirs administered several times throughout the day and night. Each morning, she'd allow me to shoot two milligrams of Peptobismal down her gullet because she knew what came next: Anywhere from five to seven pills (diuretics, steroids, anti-nausea meds and more) hidden in tiny pieces of lunch meat or peanut butter or canned tuna. This was repeated again in the afternoon and on a smaller scale before bed. We even had one of those special pill boxes that looks a sad Advent calendar where little doors open up to reveal an array of pharmaceuticals instead of delicious pieces of candy. The pill box remained in its spot on the kitchen counter for weeks after Luna died, and every time I happen to glance at it, I couldn't help feeling like we -- me and the stupid pill box -- failed that dog.

Then there's the house. That place just feels so empty now. In every nook and cranny of our home, there are spots where I still expect to see a little Boston Terrier lounging around and farting generously. To her credit, Luna made use of every inch of the place. She had spots in the kitchen, the living room, both bedrooms and even the upstairs bathroom, where she'd wait patiently until my girlfriend or I finished showering.

Whenever I'd change rooms, Luna would follow just to remain close. But she always let me know she wasn't happy about the move. When I'd go from watching full-length Stone Temple Pilots DVDs in the living room to searching for obscure Stone Temple Pilots YouTube clips in the guest bedroom, it would only be a matter of time before I'd hear the familiar patter of paws and see Luna making her dramatic entrance. She'd hop up on the couch and look right at me. Then, she'd let out this giant sigh and flop herself down in the type of position you'd think she planned on remaining in for at least a week. The only thing she hated more than moving from room to room was being away from the action -- even if all that action consisted of was re-watching old Stone Temple Pilots' clips.

Ever since she died, I've been thinking a lot about Luna's first home, the apartment Liz and I shared in Drexel Hill for five years. We hadn't even been living together for six months when we decided to add Luna to the mix. Luna was a sign of how serious our relationship was because: We got the dog together, dogs live for a long time (relative to the length of most relationships involving 20-somethings), therefore, Liz and I were going to be together for a long time. A + B = C. Simple math, right?

Luna, Liz and I were a little family, and that Drexel Hill apartment was our family's first home. Looking back now, it feels like I found my own version of utopia right there in Delco (that's Delaware Country, PA, for all of my Filipino readers). Of course, even the most awful experiences can seem appealing when you're far enough removed from them. In reality, our mouse-ridden apartment needed a ton of work our landlord was in no rush to do, and our upstairs neighbor was a rough, Russian single mother who allowed her "baby" (the kid was at least eight!) to run wild at all hours of the day and night -- making it sound like an FBI raid was constantly taking place directly above us. Then, to top it all off, our lease included a No-Pets Clause. Luna was never even recognized as a legitimate tenant and had to be tucked away secretly in the back room every time our landlord made an appearance. Plus, we never seemed to have much money, and it felt like we were always working through some drastic family (normally not the Luna, Liz, Jared family) problem or another.



But I don't think of those things when I think about 709 Morgan Ave., Apt. A. All I can think of are the trips to Luna's favorite park where she'd exhaust herself swimming out to retrieve sticks I'd throw into the deep part of the creek over and over again, or the walks to my favorite Chinese take-out place where I'd apologize for eating her people but promise her a piece as compensation or the Ppring hikes at Ridley Creek State Park where Luna would sit down right in the middle of the giant hill that marked the end of hike, indicating she expected to be carried the rest of the way back to the car.



I keep wondering why Luna’s death has caused me to not only think about Drexel Hill and our old apartment more than I have in years – but also to miss the place in a way that just doesn’t make sense, not when you consider how nice it was to finally get out of that old apartment with its crumbling front wall, rotted-out deck and no-pets lease. It’s probably not the apartment or the town I miss. More likely, it’s the point in my life I was at when I lived there. We were just starting out, and there were so many possibilities for our little family. No matter what life threw at us, it seemed like it would always be Luna, Liz and me. Now, almost six years later, I’m trying to adjust to living in this dog-less house, and I’d give just about anything to go back to that old apartment where all those wonderful years with my little dog were still ahead of me.
 
But I can't. So now back to that initial question. What do you do when the dog you love too much dies too soon? If you're like me, you cry ... you cry a lot. Unless I'm watching an emotional movie (or an exceptional episode of a show created by Shonda Rhimes), I don't cry too often. But the entire week after Luna died, it was the first thing I did when I came home from work. I'd trudge through the front door, look around the house, half expecting to see my spastic Boston Terrier doing her Chinese dragon costume impression, and just lose it for a while. It probably didn't help that our entire dining room wall was covered with Luna pictures from the impromptu memorial/Shiva (story for another blog) we held. But I'm pretty sure the involuntary late afternoon crying sessions would've taken place with or without the visual reminders.

Work was a challenge, too. That entire first week I felt like I was Dick Vermeil, and work was this terrible 40-hour press conference where at any moment, without any logical context, the waterworks could start up. Unlike Dick, I didn't break down on the job. But I did start crying while I was getting a massage. Thankfully, it wasn't during a happy ending. It was two days after Luna died, and Liz had sprung for this fancy deep tissue massage as a birthday present to take my mind off the whole dead dog thing.

There I am, lying on my back with the "relaxation therapist" working the hell out of my thighs when, out of nowhere, I start thinking how I'll never be able to take Luna to the park again and just like that, I'm tearing up. I wasn't falling out or anything, but it was noticeable. So of course this lady thinks I'm unable to handle the unbearable pain of her deep tissue massage and says, "I'm so sorry. If the deep tissue is too hard, just let me know, OK?" And that just made me mad. I mean, did this woman really think she could make me -- a guy who was branded with a stove-heated coat hanger and didn't make a peep -- cry with her tiny little masseuse hands? I wanted to let her know I wasn't crying from the massage, I was crying because my dog just died. But she was a relaxation therapist not a mental health therapist, so I said I got something in my eye instead.
 

I actually had a mini-crying episode before Luna even died. I was sitting in my little work cubicle -- a cell that's more bearable because of the pictures of Luna I hung up -- when Boyz II Men's version of "It's So Hard To Say Goodbye To Yesterday" unexpectedly came through my headphones. I don't care what anybody says, that's one of the most hauntingly beautiful songs ever recorded. Even under the most controlled circumstances, it's tough for me to listen to that song without getting a little teary-eyed.

But that song happened to come on around the time we discovered that Luna was sick -- really, really sick -- and I just happened to be glancing at over at this one particular picture right when the harmonies had kicked into full gear, and that was all it took. There I was, just another grown man sitting in his cubicle crying to Boy II Men's beautiful music in the middle of a routine workday with my neighboring co-workers blissfully unaware they were sitting a few feet away from an emotional lunatic.



In fairness to me, the picture was a huge part of the problem. It's this great shot of Luna and the backside of this other giant woolly dog. It looks as if both Luna and the woolly creature were galloping off to some unknown adventure when, at the last moment, Luna decided to turn her head and take one final look at what she was leaving behind. At least that's what it looked like to an emotional dog owner who was trying to cope with the fact that things may not work out. And one very clear thought came into my head while looking at that picture: I'm not ready to lose to lose this dog. That thought during that time may have been enough to bring on the waterworks. But when you add the soulful sounds of Nate, Waya, that anorexic dude, that dude who looked 15 years older than everyone else in the group and talked during the middle of songs and that other guy to the equation, I have no control over the situation.

Besides the all that crying, I've done all the standard things: Looked at old pictures, obsessively retraced the moments leading up to Luna's death to see what I could've done differently and just just sat around feeling really sorry for myself. And Liz and I even got matching tattoos of a cartoon Boston Terrier with Luna's name underneath. It's a decision I'm sure I'll never regret -- unless I wind up doing a stretch in prison.

But mostly I've been writing. Almost every day since Luna died, I sat down to write about it. Sometimes it was only for a sentence or two, other times I was typing away for well over an hour. As a result, I've written a single blog post in the time it takes some people to complete an entire screenplay.

I do feel a lot better doing it. It's been a nice little ritual for me, and I feel like I can go on writing this Luna post forever. But I know I'm coming to the end, and I keep looking for ways to stretch this thing out. I know once I'm done describing what that little dog meant to me and what it feels like not have her around anymore, I'll have given myself a form of that thing mentally evolved people call closure. I mean I do have to end this thing at some point. After all, there are plenty of prank emails and cable-company service transcripts to get back to.

Every dog has a unique personality, a series of subtle traits and peculiar little idiosyncrasies that make each one impossible to replace. And I'm going to finally end this thing by writing out as many of Luna's as I can remember, so I don't forget what an exceptional, ridiculous and irreplaceable creature she was -and how lucky I was to have her in my life for the time that I did:

The way Luna would wedge herself between my neck and and the car seat while I was driving like she was some type of a living airplane pillow.



The way, on her own, Luna would step off the edge of Liz's mom's pool, onto her favorite raft and float around like she was on vacation.


In the car, the way she'd prop one front paw on the open car window, let her other dangle against the door (like some a guy named Rick driving a Camero) and force as much of her body as she could into the open air to take in all of the smells. (The person in the passenger seat would always have to hold onto one of her haunches or her leash so she wouldn't fly out the window).


How Luna would "climb" the wishbone shaped tree at Rolling Green Memorial Park by running full-speed up the trunk until she was firmly perched atop the first level of the tree.



The way she would never come out of the creek -- even when she seemed like she'd drown -- until she saved the stick that was thrown in



And, even though I've heard this was a common trait among Bostons, I refuse to believe any of them did it with as much vigor as Luna: On an almost daily basis, she'd snap to attention, look around briefly and spend the next two to three minutes engaged in what can only be described as an epic battle with an imaginary foe or her own personal demons. Luna would dart around the living room at dizzying speeds, barking erratically and spinning herself in multiple sets of circles -- Dizzy bat relay race style. Then, just like that, it would all be over. The fit would pass, and Luna would plop herself down in one of her regular spots, where she'd remain until I left room. Then, she'd reluctantly pull herself up, shake herself out and follow, probably wondering why the hell I couldn't just stay put.

I wish I had more footage of these battles, but at least I did capture this one: