Remembering the Ramones

ramones-end-of-centuryI loved this article in Rolling Stone about the Ramones. It reveals what we knew all along: it was never an act for the Ramones. They really were cretins, plagued with mental and physical ailments and limited intelligence. They were put on this earth to do one thing: Be the Ramones. They did that perfectly and then they all died.

My first Ramones album was the Phil Spector-produced End of the Century, which was an utterly bizarre intro to the band. “I guess this doo-wop shit is punk” I thought. Somehow I still became a fan.

I saw the Ramones two or three times in Miami in the late 80s. They were, of course, great.

But my biggest Ramones moment came during my junior or senior year of high school, when they did an in-store appearance at Yesterday & Today records. My friends and I raced to see them after school, expecting a long line. The place was empty. No one cared about the Ramones except us.

Joey, Johnny, Marky, and CJ (I think this was after Dee Dee quit) sat behind a table, looking pale and uncomfortable in their leather jackets under the glare of fluorescent lights. I nervously approached and asked them to sign the only slip of paper I had in my pocket—an admission slip from the school office; I’d been late that day.

All four Ramones looked over the slip and laughed. “He was tawdy! He was tawdy!” they said in their thick Queens accents. For a moment I felt like I’d joined their tribe of cretins.


My year without exercise 

In a slip-and-slide accident last year, I bruised my ribs pretty badly. I thought they were broken but the X-rays said otherwise. If you had seen my kids’ overly cautious attempts at slip-and-sliding, you too would have run full tilt and belly flopped on the cement-like surface.

My ribs hurt for two months and also served as a convenient excuse to avoid all physical activity. It also seemed like a good idea to eat more sweets and drink more beer. I did this for a year.

I did not get fat. When you have a body like Joey Ramone’s — but Joey in his 40s when he took to wearing XXL t-shirts — you don’t really gain weight; the weight just sort of moves. In Joey’s case, and mine, it moves to the gut, resulting in the kind of skinny/fat paradox that women and men find universally attractive.


My little science experiment came to a halt soon after we stayed in an Airbnb with a full-length mirror in the master suite. There was very clearly something wrong with that mirror.

Years ago I read something in one of Haruki Murakami essays on running: “As long as you have a pair of running shoes and a good road you can run to your heart’s content.” It stuck with me, but I never did anything about it because I hated running. Running was stupid.  “WHAT IS CHASING YOU???” I would chuckle to myself when runners passed by. “IS THERE A BEAR?”

This spring I took my Cub Scout on an overnight trip to NASA, and Chris Cabana, son of astronaut Bob Cabana, said something else that stuck with me: Every day, through normal physical activity, you crack your bones. Tiny spiderweb-like fractures form and then heal overnight when you sleep. In space, this doesn’t happen. In space, if you don’t exercise constantly, your bones forget how to heal.

“That’s me!” I thought. “I’m like an astronaut who never exercises!”

These pearls of wisdom, from a Japanese novelist and a NASA elementary ed specialist (combined with the grim reaper’s hot breath on a full-length mirror) finally spurred action.

Sarah introduced me to a neighborhood walk she likes to take. I went with her a couple of times and then made a habit of going on my own. Then I expanded the walk into a bigger loop. Then I started…running.

Or… “wrunning,” as I call it: a mix of walking and running. You see (warning: sad excuse) our neighborhood is very hilly.

At first it was painful. It still is painful. I feel like a rusty hinge. My knees hate the downhill; my calves hate the uphill. My lungs hate every goddamn moment.

And yet… when you start with zero muscle mass, it doesn’t take long to see incremental improvements. And I love measuring shit. In a few weeks I’ve shaved four minutes off my total time: from pathetic to merely embarrassing. I can run longer stretches, even up some of the hills. My goal is to run the whole thing, although I still haven’t figured out how to run down a steep hill without windmilling out of control.

I see more deer than people on my run. There is other wildlife, too. In fact, if anyone happens to ask why I am running, I plan to shriek “THERE IS A PACK OF COYOTES CHASING ME! RUN!”

Because running is stupid.

On the encroaching hellscape

Before 2016 I had several chances to vote for one of the Clintons — including Hillary’s first senate run in New York — and did not. My reasons for never voting for a Clinton amounted to:

  • Bill said Kenny G was his favorite saxophonist. If true, he has terrible taste. If untrue, that is pandering of the worst kind.
  • Hillary said, to a crowd of New Zealanders, that she was named after Sir Edmund Hillary. Considering she was born in 1948 and Sir Hillary peaked Everest in 1953, this seemed unlikely. Liar!
  • Bill, criticizing an opponent, pronounced the word “chameleon” with an “sh” sound: “shameleon.” What kind of psychopath does that?

You see: reasons.

Now that I am older, I still think Bill is a scumbag and I’m glad I never voted for him.

But I voted for Hillary in the Texas primary and will vote — several times if I can get away with it! — for her in the general election in November.

I came to this decision after a bit of soul-searching and also because I want to avoid the apocalyptic hellscape of a Trump presidency.

“But what about Bernie?” no one has actually asked me.

Nowadays in my soft, middle years I have the bleedingest of bleeding hearts and my politics align pretty well with Bernie’s. (Except on guns, which I believe should be dropped into a volcano along with the Second Amendment.)

So…Bernie’s fine. I still voted for Hillary.

Yes, it was a pragmatic choice and not one I would have made when I was younger. Younger me would totally be on the Bernie train. Younger me hadn’t had his heart broken a half-dozen times by other can’t-win candidates. Younger me was also more of a misogynist.  (Imagine if a rumpled old lady came onto the scene shouting exactly what Bernie shouts. We’d hold our noses at her old-person smell and she’d slouch off to eat cat food from the can.)

If I were a single-issue voter, climate change would be that issue. Climate change is the largest threat to our species and we are failing to do anything about it. It’s so much worse than most of us think. None of the candidates are talking about it enough; all of them will compromise with the oil industry if given the chance. We will continue digging up dinosaur fossils and lighting them on fire until it is too late.

But I would rather have Hillary in office making half-measures on climate change than see Trump reverse the scant progress that has been made. Worse: There is a non-trivial chance Trump would spark a nuclear war, rendering climate change moot. In other words, I’d rather our civilization die slowly than quickly. I want my kids have long lives with breathable air. (God help them if they breed.)

Why am I posting this? No one reads my blog or cares about my political opinion. There are pundits and essayists who are much more passionate and articulate about all of these issues.

I’m writing this because liberals like me tend to sit on the sidelines and assume everything will be okay; that in the end Americans aren’t suicidal enough to elect Trump. But history is full of characters like Trump who were called buffoons and whose rise to power caught people off-guard. I’m done sitting on the sidelines. If we Americans elect this fascist, at least I’m on record denouncing him.

Now… go vote for Hillary.


What if, instead of feeding free content to corporations like Twitter, we started blogging again?

I’ve been thinking of using this platform for microblogging–posting “tweets” here instead of on Twitter.

It’s difficult to shake the idea that blog posts are permanent and tweets ephemeral.

And admittedly I am hosting this on WordPress, not on my own host, and ads are part of the package.

This is my first post using the WordPress app on my phone. The tiny keyboard promotes brevity.

There is also the concern that on Twitter there is a chance of an audience. Here? Not so much.

Auto-posting from WordPress to Twitter is tacky, imo.

Uaing “imo” in a blog post felt wrong.

I still say blog “post” instead of just “blog.”

This concludes my twog of the day. I tried and failed to keep it under 140 characters.

The Bloggess Bump

Recently, thanks to a retweet from the Bloggess, one of my tweets went viral:

The tweet gained further steam when Buzzfeed embedded it in an article.

First, the story behind the tweet:

It was 1999 and I’d just moved to New York City to try to be a writer-musician-something-or-other. I didn’t have a job yet, so I visited a staffing agency that specialized in editorial work. They had me fill out a job application and one of the questions was “where are you willing to work?” Easy question, right? I wrote that I was willing to travel to all five New York boroughs.

EXCEPT. I had never actually written the word “borough” before and did not know how to spell it. So my answer came out like this:

“Any of the five boros boroughs bouroughs.”

Remember, I was seeking an editorial job — something writer-y that would require basic spelling skills. The nice lady interviewing me took one glance at my application and I knew I was toast. We went through the motions of a “job interview” and then she stood up to shake my hand and say goodbye. (In my tweet I might have embellished the number of people I shook hands with; it’s hard to remember exactly.)

And that’s when I tried to make a hasty exit, only to open a door and be confronted by a closet full of coats. There was nothing to do but back up and close the door.

“I bet that happens all the time!” I said.

“No, you’re the first,” the nice lady said.

Thinking back, I am pretty sure that the coat closet was very clearly a coat closet. It was not a door that was adjacent and identical to the actual exit. It was more like a freestanding, wood-paneled wardrobe, and I walked right on in.

I did not get called back.

Now… the tweet. Previously, none of my nearly 8,000 tweets — since 2007! — had gained the attention of more than a few IRL friends and Twitter acquaintances. I’m (mostly) fine with this, although I have a big enough ego to secretly long for Twitter fame and feel like a failure for not having achieved it.

It was surreal when I started seeing my notifications go haywire. The first thing I did was turn off email notifications, because I’d seen what can happen to other suddenly-Twitter-famous, as I was sure I was destined to be.


Overnight, the retweets poured in. At work the next day, someone posted to our team Slack channel a link to the Buzzfeed article — and only afterward did anyone (myself included) notice that my tweet had been embedded there. That led to TONS more activity for about a week. (Side note: Twitter changed their stars into hearts right in the middle of this. It was weird.)

I’d always kind of hoped something like this would happen, but I was mostly detached and numb to the experience when it actually did. It was a throwaway tweet, composed while my son was talking my ear off about dinosaurs. (Bad daddy!)

I was more interested in the data behind a viral tweet. Do retweets attract new followers? Was I going to finally be Twitter-famous? (Not really, and hell no.)

We’ll start with the raw data, as of today:

Impressions 58,151
Total engagements 2,260
Detail expands 913
Likes 899
Retweets 338
Profile clicks 88
Replies 18
Follows 3
Link clicks 1

The “Follows” row means that someone followed me directly from the tweet. That’s uncommon; people are more likely to view your profile and then decide whether to follow. In reality I picked up approximately 35 new followers.

So, less than one tenth of one percent (0.06%) of people who saw the tweet followed me as a result. (0.01% followed directly from the tweet itself.)

3.89% of people who saw the tweet “engaged” with it in some way. This could be a fav/like, retweet, reply, mention, etc.

1.55% of people who saw the tweet favorited or liked it.

0.58% of people who saw the tweet retweeted it.

0.15% of people who saw the tweet viewed my profile.

The tweet is still getting several engagements per day, but the trajectory has slowed considerably.


It was fun for awhile, but now I’m much more excited when a tweet other than this one gets any kind of activity. It’s taught me another lesson about the value of having a tight circle of friends compared to a mass of strangers.

However, the momentum may get another boost. Someone from Buzzfeed contacted me to ask permission to use it in a video. I have no idea what that means, but I said yes. I’ll update this post if anything happens. Also, thank you Bloggess!