Time Machine

Courtesy of my parents, a birthday look back at where it all began:

Zero

One

Two

As Jess points out, while I don’t yet look like myself at a day old, I do by a year; by a year and a half, I’m apparently already more or the less the guy I am today.

Countdown

Last day of 34.

As a birthday gift to myself, I’m dropping my worst habit: bullshitting / lying / ‘selling’ / whatever. It’s gotten me into trouble in the past, and I’m sick of it. I’m calling a do-over, quitting it cold turkey, and starting 35 fresh. Wish me luck.

As Samuel Butler once observed, “life is like playing a violin in public and learning the instrument as one goes on.”

Haiku

“Barn’s burnt down -
Now
I can see the moon.”
– Masahide

Homeward Bound

I remember, when I was younger, watching the movie Homeward Bound, and wondering how good a dog’s sense of direction was in real life.

At least in the case of Gemelli, I can now say: problematically good.

Gem not only remembers where things are, he also has strong ideas about when we should visit them. When he comes with me to work, for example, he always drags me to the pet store, many blocks away, even if it’s been months since his last visit. He knows where all the pet stores are in our home neighborhood, too, as well as all the TD Banks (where he can find water and free biscuits), and not a walk goes by that he doesn’t try to take us to a least a couple of those stops.

A few months ago, my younger brother got a cockapoo, a little girl named Brooklyn. Gem loves Brooklyn. Not in a ‘where the ladies at?’ kind of way (his other focus on walks), but in a platonic, member of the same pack, besties-for-life way. The two of them will wrestle and play for hours on end. Fortunately, and unfortunately, Brooklyn lives just ten blocks from our house. So on any afternoon or evening walk, Gem now also tries to drag us down to see her. And, a few times a week, we let him.

Last night, Jess and I had dinner at a restaurant near Columbus Circle. We brought Gem along, and ate at an outdoor table. Post-dinner, we walked into Central park.

So far as I know, I don’t think Gem had ever been to Columbus Circle before, nor to that corner of the park. But, even in the relative darkness, he looked around, and then started pulling us northward. A few blocks up, he veered out of the park, and onto Central Park West.

“He’s trying to take us to Brooklyn’s house,” I told Jess.

“I don’t think so,” she replied. “That’s still twenty blocks away, and he has no idea where he is; he thinks this is near our house.”

But, in fact, Gem knew precisely where he was. And he was on a mission. Up CPW, then across some street in the mid–70’s, and up Columbus. When we were two or three blocks away, Jess conceded. A few minutes later, triumphantly, Gem dragged us in my brother’s building’s front door.

Sure, those excellent navigation skills are at times a pain in the ass. But they’re also kind of a comfort. As Jess has a terrible sense of direction, it’s nice to think that, so long as she’s walking Gem, the two together are likely to find their way home.

A Frayed Knot

My great-grandfather, a prolific inventor, dreamed up the machine that’s used to this day to mass-produce men’s ties. (Not a savvy entrepreneur, he sold the design for a flat price, rather than taking a cut long-term, so my grandfather [like my own father] was born on the Lower East Side, rather than up on Park Avenue.)

My grandfather, a far better entrepreneur, ran a silk import business that sold fabric to a slew of high-end designers, for dresses, for shoes and in large part for ties.

A second generation tie guy, I remember my grandfather standing in front of the mirror, carefully forming his tie’s dimple, key touchpoint of sartorial sprezzatura. When my grandparents stayed with my brother and me at one point while my parents were out of town, he was the one who taught me how to tie a tie in the first place.

My own father provided much-needed touch-up lessons; like learning to drive a car, it’s easy to lose steps before the motor pattern is fully engrained. So tie-tying, it seemed, was sort of a family art. But I’d never given much thought to what kind of knot I was tying – four-in-hand, Pratt, half-Windsor, full Windsor, etc.

My grandfather was a believer in moderation in all things, a common-sense kind of guy. (At one point, I dropped my towel while ‘surfer-changing’ into a bathing suit at the pool near our house. Distressed, I told my grandfather I was worried a girl might have seen me. “Don’t worry about,” he advised; “If she’s never seen one, she won’t know what is; if she already has, it’s nothing new.”) From that, I assumed the family knot must have been something down the middle, like the half-Windsor.

Recently, hearing the phrase four-in-hand three times in one day, I decided to look up how to tie that knot. And, to try and make sense of the online diagram I found, I pulled up the half-Windsor, to compare to something I already knew. But neither the four-in-hand, nor the half-Windsor, were close to the knot I had grown up tying.

Instead, after some further Googling, it appears the Newman knot is a full Windsor, described by one tie instruction site as “a thick, wide and triangular tie knot that projects confidence” and by another as “the knot for special occasions”. It’s the kind of knot for a guy who takes ties seriously. A family tradition for a tie family. One that makes me think, even in today’s casual world, I should find a way to wear one more often.

Recommended: Mr. Lid

Normally, I’m a savvy consumer. Rarely susceptible to impulse buys, skeptical of unreasonable claims, thorough in my research and careful in my buying approach.

Unless I’m watching an infomercial, in which case all that goes out the window.

That’s the only reason why, a year or so back, I ended up buying a set of [Mr. Lid containers](https://www.mrlid.com):

3145

By rights, these should have been terrible. But, in fact, they’re so good that I bought more, and chunked all of our other Tupperware-esque refrigerator storage. And then my sister-in-law saw them, got jealous, and did the same thing.

The sanity saved by never having to search for a lid – along with the space saved by easily stacking containers without worrying about those lids – has been more than worth the price.

Flip Flopping

While we’re talking about things to avoid overusing this summer, here’s another for the list: flip-flops.

Sure, they’re lazy, comfortable, and a perennial summer classic.

But they also lead to changes in gait pattern, and screw up the Windlass mechanism of the foot. In turn, that douches up your plantar fascia, and can cause a slew of other potential problems up the kinetic chain (cf., knee pain, hip pain, low back pain). (And if you don’t believe me, listen to Kelly Starrett, the smartest physiotherapist I know, saying the same thing.)

So trash the thongs, pick up a pair of these guys instead, and enjoy summer strolling without paying for it painfully the balance of the year.

Connecting Dots

  1. All of the blood in your body circulates through your eyes about 8 times an hour.
  2. A cutting edge medical treatment involves extracting patient’s blood, and irradiating it with UV light before reinjecting it, to take advantage of UV’s powerful anti-microbial effects.

So what are the odds that wearing sunglasses all summer long is actually short-circuiting an ingenious aspect of your evolved immune system?

Perspective

In a Japanese class in college, we once had a conversation about disgusting foods. By American standards, we were all adventurous eaters. But there were still some Japanese food items, like natto, that we just couldn’t stomach.

But what about American foods, we wanted know. Weren’t there foods that our native-Japanese professor thought were repulsive?

Yes, he told us, grimacing at the thought. Bagels. The taste, the texture. As gross as it gets.

Yolked

When I was a kid, my mother was obsessed with food safety. Handle raw chicken, and you were in need of full-body disinfecting. Cook burgers, and you’d best crisp them to a germ-free, well-done briquet. And when sushi first hit the San Francisco scene? Forget about it. I mean, raw fish!

From that childhood, I’d been inculcated with a fear of runny egg yolks, presumably a salmonella-laden path to near-instant death. At the same time, I also hated the texture of hard-boiled egg yolks. So, between the two, I was sure I hated runny eggs.

A few years ago, however, I fell in love with the spaghetti carbonara at Otto. And in trying to replicate the dish at home, I discovered that the secret to their version is egg yolks; lots and lots of egg yolks. (Like five yolks and one whole egg.)

Which, in turn, made me think that perhaps I didn’t dislike runny yolks after all. And, in fact, it turns out I don’t. At age 34, I tried eggs Benadict for the first time, and suddenly understood why the dish is so perennially popular. At Landmarc, one of my go-to breakfast meeting spots, I’ve switched to ordering my eggs poached, which smush together particularly well with their diner-style hash browns. (Side note: why does NYC serve breakfast potatoes everywhere instead of real hash browns? Terrible.)

I know I’ve previously observed that simply doing things the way you always do things isn’t a particularly good life strategy, that it makes sense to question our assumptions and look for better ways. But, as with most pieces of life wisdom, it’s easier said than lived.

So perhaps it’s a good reminder of that to discover that I’ve cheated myself out of decades of enjoying a now favorite food. As they say, looks like the yolks on me.