Saturday, August 27, 2016

Daddy's An Idiot

People ask me if I speak English or Swedish at home with Bash.  Obviously I speak English to him.  I do so in part because I want to be able to fully express myself to him.  Me searching trying to translate my thoughts into my second language for him would be frustrating for the both of us.  I also want him to learn English like I speak it.  Here they learn the queen's English in school.  That's not exactly Miami talk.  He would benefit from learning Daddy's language from Daddy.  Another major factor is my confidence in my Swedish.  I understand just about everything and can make myself understood, but my Swedish grammar is far from perfect.  Bash would certainly pick up bad habits from me if I spoke Swedish to him.  Furthermore, he would realize at a way earlier age that Daddy is an idiot.  I'd rather he figure that out as a teenager or so.  Like we all do.

Recently Bash and I went to the park.  I like spending time together just Bash and me.  Father and son.  It's like a storybook or a movie.  I saw it all the time as a kid and I even remember it from those times when my father chose to be engaged with us.  Back then he was my hero.  I want to be Bash's hero.  If he has half the adoration for me that I had for my father, I'll be a happy guy.  I was insanely "Daddy's Boy".  Actually, if he has more adoration for me than I had for my father, I'll be a bit worried.  I don't think that would be healthy.

We have fun at the park.  Bash likes it when I go on all of the stations with him.  He doesn't quite understand size yet.

       - Daddy's too fat for that, son.  Everything at this park would collapse if Daddy got on that.

He takes it in stride.  Maybe he thinks I'm lazy.  I just don't want to break something.  That would be embarrassing and likely expensive.  Bash is good at park playing.  My completely unbiased opinion is that he's very smart and very strong for his age.  I guess he's my hero now since it didn't pan out with my first hero (Dad).

On this day Bash was excited about the park.  He went through his annoying routine of "I'll do it myself" faster than usual.  Independence is cute and all, but not when we have somewhere to be.  Kids have ZERO concept of time.  Plus... you're not even really using the shoehorn properly!  We weren't in a hurry anyway, so it was all good.  Bash did it all himself and wasn't the absolute stubborn perfectionist that he tends to be.  He REALLY wanted to get his park on.

Then when we were walking over, Bash pointed towards the big park area.  He was really excited.

       - RUTSCHKANA, RUTSCHKANA!!!

Now I was lost.  He was very excited, but I didn't know what the hell he was talking about.  I assumed it was something from Masha and the Bear or one of those shows he watches on Netflix.  Dammit Netflix show!  Why would you have a character named Rutschkana?  I decided to do some parental investigating.  This was a chance to talk to Bash and teach him a bit about the real world and make-believe world that exists in fantasy and Netflix series.

       - Rutschkana?  What's Rutschkana?  I don't know what that is.

He pointed more aggressively now.

       - Rutschkana!

I tried to follow his point.  I've never been big on imaginary friends and the like.

       - I'm sorry, man.  I don't know what you're talking about.

I kept walking.  Sometimes you have to disappoint with the truth.  This was like tough love.  Daddy was showing Bashie that Rutschkana is some TV shit.  But we're living life right now.  Life is real shit!  Bash stopped walking.  Probably pondering this life lesson that I dropped on him so delicately, yet ingeniously.  He cocked his head to the side.  The kid was in deep thought.  I stopped a step or two ahead of him and waited to bless him with more worldly insight.  He pointed again.

       - SLIDE!  I want SLIDE!

He was pointing at the big slide!  How didn't I know the word for a freaking slide?  That's some elementary stuff there, Dad!  And that's when the sadness hit me...  Oh no...  He already knows that Daddy's an idiot.  I guess it doesn't matter what language I speak.  Until next time...

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Hole Day Ruined!

It's summertime in Sweden.  That means EVERYBODY leaves.  At work it's basically a skeleton crew.  Mainly me (the sucker that took vacation early in the summer) and another guy who is waiting until the fall.  Mother nature hooked us up this year with a beautiful summer so far, so that makes it a little less fun to be cooped up at the job.  The good thing for me is learning so much on the fly.  Sometimes I HAVE to find answers on my own because I'm the only one there.  Learning by doing is the best, right?

Friday was a super crazy day.  There was a buzz about the office.  The mood was pretty much brink of insanity.  My counterpart forewarned me that at 2:45pm at the latest he was going to be getting out of there.  He had some summer stuff to do.  My brain immediately did a poop/lunch schedule check.  I could poop at 5, but I'd need to grab lunch at around 2ish.  Thankfully (and unfortunately) there is a Burger King across the street from my job.  The universe has tested me every work day since February.  I have failed that test more than I'd like to admit.  The people at BK know it's me because I'm the guy that REFUSES to call the FISH KING a "Fisk Meny".  You know why?  Because on the freaking poster it says "Fish King".  So stop fucking correcting me in your condescending way.

       - Va sa du? (What did you say)
       - Jag ta en FISH KING!?
       - (pauses for true asshole effect) Aaah, en Fisk MENYYY!

I hate all of them there.

So 2pm snuck up on me.  Now I knew this would have to be a true working lunch.  Things weren't slowing down by any means.  I figured my colleague would hang around a bit until things settled down.  He handed me some papers.  Great, a task.  I'll do this and then run over to BK and be back by 2:45.  I did the task while handling some other things (I'm getting good at this).  Now it was 2:25pm. I turned off my phone and waved to my colleague.  It was now or never.  I got out of there and headed to Burger King (cue heavenly music).

I'd like to take a moment to explain my love for Burger King.  They do burgers better than that clown establishment that I won't name.  The flame broiled taste is a winner.  I like the thickness of the fries.  It's just an overall better fast food place.  Couple that with the fact that Stockholm has a clown establishment damn near on every corner and only a handful of BKs and you can understand why Burger King holds that special place in my heart.  Of course it's not as popular, but it's an underdog with a better product.  Gotta love it!

My journey to BK entails me walking through a tunnel under a busy street and then either stepping up onto a hill as a shortcut or walking around the path to the sidewalk.  I was in a hurry, so I took the shortcut.  I stepped up onto the concrete slab and felt my pants constrict.  As I put weight on my right foot to lift my body up, I heard it and felt it.  The rip was like a release.  My pants exhaled.  Finally!  My office is inside of a refrigerated warehouse.  I was reminded of that fact when I reached down to feel the damage.  I knew it sounded bad.  I had looked around already.  A Swedish man was doing their patented walk without looking at anything in the world.  At least he didn't see my drawers.  My fingers were cold!  My hand was cold!  How big was this hole?

So many things ran through my mind.  I didn't have time to go home because my colleague was going to do some summer stuff.  I was going to have to just suck it up and work with holey pants.  I stood in line at BK feeling 10% fatter.  It felt like everyone was looking at me and shaking their heads.

       - What a greedy man.  He was in such a hurry he ripped his pants to get here!

I practiced the "why I have a big ass hole in my pants" story in Swedish.  I would need that.  I ordered my food with my legs pressed together tightly.  I backed up to a wall while waiting.  I grabbed my food and walked what now felt like 500 miles back to work.  I walked into the refrigerated warehouse.  Guess how cold my right upper thigh felt.  I just missed my colleague. It was up to me to run the show now.  I dreaded every time I had to get up from my chair.  Not only because I was eating so fast that I looked like I was somebody's inmate.  But also, my confidence was shot.  It's amazing how little confidence one has when one has a giant hole in one's pants. 

Long story short, I survived.  I ended up telling my "why I have a big ass hole in my pants" story twice.  That's not so bad.  They laughed and said they felt sorry for me (stackars...).  I worked through what was the most insane work day so far.  I came out on the other side knowing a bit more about my job and caring a bit less about my swag.  If I had one guess, I'd say it was the universe punishing me for not planning well enough not to "have" to go to BK for lunch.  Maybe it was payback for rushing at the last minute.  Or maybe... just maybe... it was that damn clown from that other establishment.  I'll go with the last one.  Until next time...

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Now that the jet lag is gone...

I'm back!  I know I've been back for a while and haven't updated this, but I'll explain later...

That vacation was real!  I had no idea it would be so awesome.  Swedie and I make a great team.  We (by we, I mean she) planned it all out well in advance and we (now I mean we, but still mostly she) executed it well.  We began in Florida at the Holm Home as my previous blog detailed.  We love them and miss them already.  The rest of the Florida leg of the trip was awesome.


Miami
Bash and Ava
I had my fill of conch salad during my trip home.  Moonk really does know how to hook up a conch salad!  I got to see my younger cousins (can't call them little anymore) and hang out a little bit with them.  I spent so much time in my youth trying to be the loudest and funniest and wittiest that I never realized how funny my cousins are.  Reggie and Julius had me cracking up!  Grandmother is still rocking her raccoon wig in public.  She's fun and I hope she gets the courage to make that flight over here some time.  Renee as well.  She's my favorite auntie and I'd love to show her around Sweden.  I just don't know if Sweden is ready!

We went shopping and ate at some of our favorite spots.  I was proud of myself for not forcing the list I had made beforehand.  We didn't go to Red Lobster or any breakfast chains (IHOP/Denny's) like we thought we would.  My pancakes are better anyway and who has time for finding a Red Lobster?  As for sushi, I regret missing out on that.  The mall was more tempting, so we never made it downtown.  We did however go to The Grill on the Alley in Aventura Mall!  Great food and an awesome manager.  We ate like Lannisters!

I was sad to leave Miami.  It never seems like long enough.  It was great seeing Latonya, Tiffany and Marlon from high school.  It's like we never missed a step, except now we all have kids.  I got to visit my second family (the Burleys) and that was a treat.  We even went to a club!  The entire time we worried that Bash was going to wake up and freak out (of course he didn't).  I feel bad that Eliza had to keep assuring us that everything was okay in the middle of the party.  Then we left early as a group on account of Swedie and me, well Bash.  Blame Bash. That night out summed up the Miami leg of the trip.  Short, but action packed.

Virginia Beach
Now it was off to Virginia Beach.  It was time to visit a military brother of mine.  He and I have been tighter than a frog's ass since our first military assignment in Alaska.  We've got STORIES together from those days.  We have a specific brand of humor and once we get together it multiplies and becomes magically awesome.  Obviously, since getting out and moving here it's been hard to see each other frequently, but brotherhood is brotherhood.  It would be the first time Bobby got to meet Bash, so I was really excited.  By the way, a woman in the airport stopped us to tell us that Bash is the sweetest child she's ever seen on a flight.  Duh, lady!  That's my son.  Our flight was early because of a change that Bobby didn't notice in the final message to him, so they were late.  No biggie.  I'd just charge my phone... oh snap!  Justin rolled up out of nowhere!  Justin is Bobby's old friend that became my friend years and years ago.  He fit right in with us and that's been great over the years.  Bobby and his family (Kim and Isaac) walked up holding signs.  Just like old times!

Bobby and Kim have a beautiful house.  He grew up in VA Beach and is stationed in Virginia.  He's got it good.  Family and friends close while he serves in the Air Force.  Isaac won't have as turbulent of a childhood as many children in military families have.  I'm glad for them.  It was Bobby's birthday weekend, so the turn up was real.  Well we're in our thirties now, so it was a grown up turn up.  We walked in to a pool party preparation.  There was good barbecue and side dishes under a tent.  The food was covered in foil and neatly presented on a table with a TABLE CLOTH.  Music was playing (not blasting).  I can see Bobby and me ten years ago preparing for a birthday by taking shots and talking shit until we created an impromptu octagon.  Then we'd get up, get dressed, take shots and go to a club.  I'd probably get black-out drunk and piss Bobby off at a McDonald's drive thru because I keep ordering a "SANDWICH MEAL".  My how things have changed.  I got unpacked and put on some trunks so I could sit poolside and swap jokes with Bobby and Justin while our kids played in the pool.

It was so good to catch up with everyone.  I had a mixture of pointless and introspective conversations with members of Bobby's family.  I was even surprised with visits by "Yosys Fire" and "Chuck".  Two other friends from back in Alaska.  Everybody is all grown up now.  It was fun to have drinks and reminisce.  In classic fashion, the guys would ask if I wanted to help move a counter.

       - Move a counter?
       - Yeah man.  Come inside and help us move this counter.
       - Okay... I guess.

We went inside and a few minutes later all the other guys came in.  Next thing you know Bobby was pouring shots.  I wasn't going to turn that down. We toasted and drank our shots.  Then everyone dispersed.  I turned to Justin as I walked outside.

       - What's up with that counter?
       - Counter?  What counter?
       - They said something about moving a counter.
       - Oh yeah.  Hey Bobby, we gotta move that counter.
       - Alright, I'll be in there.

We walked back in.  I shook my head.  How did they forget so fast?  Bobby came back in and started preparing shots for us.  The light bulb over my head went on.

       - Oh!  The shots!

Bobby explained how the running joke began.  I love these guys.  Needless to say, we moved a lot of counters that weekend.  Some of the most fun was watching the trio of Isaac, Bryce and Bash.  They were having a blast the whole weekend.  One morning they even had their teddy bears join them for poolside breakfast.  So sweet.  I also found out that Bash has my back big time.  Justin threw me in the pool (we're not THAT grown up) and Bash had a fit.  He stomped his feet and yelled at Justin at the top of his little lungs.

       - NO! NO! NO!  DADDY! DADDY! DON'T DO THAT!

I had to assure him that we were just playing.  He was so upset.  Note to self: Never get beat up in front of Bash.  He will be devastated.

The trip was full of reminiscing, shit talking and witty wordplay.  It's what we do.  We had a heated political argument (they're wrong) and the return of a years-long prank that Yosys and I used to pull on each other.  It was great.  An updated version of the old days.  We extended our stay an extra day and it still felt like not enough time.  It never is.

Maryland
Westley and Bash
Now it was time to see my sister.  We hadn't made it to the US in 2015 so I hadn't met my nephew yet.  I was excited about that.  It would be cool for Bash to see the people he had been talking to over FaceTime for the past year.

The drive up wasn't so bad.  We went directly to probably the shittiest little rental car center I've ever seen to drop off the car.  I hadn't peed on the trip, so I was able to get a good look at the shittyness on my way to the back.  It looked like they tried to turn an old mechanic shop into a rental office, but said "Fuck it" halfway through it.  At least they didn't try to throw any sneaky charges on me.  It was literally rented for four hours.

My brother-in-law Curtis picked us up.  It was great to see him.  He's been committed to working out which really means he's been committed to making me look fatter when I stand next to him.  Thanks Curtis!  We loaded up the SUV and headed to their lovely home.  It still shocks me every time I walk into their mini-mansion.  I fight off the urge to rub my hands along the wall and talk with a southern belle's voice.

       - My, my, my look at that chandelier. I wish grandma was here to see this here bannister!  Is that marble tile?

We got settled in and almost immediately started laughing and reminiscing.  That's basically all my family does.  Bash LOVED playing with Zoë in the basement.  He felt like he was in heaven down there.  Toys and activities.  So many activities.  I wanted badly for Bash and his Nana to get along well.  I could tell she was hesitant due to the perceived language barrier.  I told her don't worry.  Just speak in English to him.  He understands.  I left them down in the basement for a few minutes and then I heard panic in her voice.

       - Jon, what is he saying?!

I ran down and heard Bash asking about "jordgubbar".  Apparently he saw some toy strawberries upstairs that he wanted to play with now.  How does he remember that?  I told Nana that he wants strawberries.  Bash looked straight ahead.  The wheels in his little head turning.

       - Shraw-burry

Mom threw down!
I went and got the toy strawberries.  Nana spoiled us with some good food.  Curtis tried to kill me with his stupid and uncalled for workout routines.  I stopped after two days!  It's rude as hell to have your guest in your basement doing a leg workout routine made up by SATAN; knowing damn well that your guest has to ascend and descend STAIRS multiple times per day.  It's simply not what a gentleman should do.  For two days I considered living on my stomach.  Just lay down on the living room floor - on my stomach - until my body no longer hates me and my legs work again.

Besides that pain we took the kids to the park a few times.  They loved it.  Swedie had a little bit of shopping left to do, so we went to the mall.  Curtis and I chilled while Bash and his new best friend Zoë burned energy in the play land.  They rode a carousel and then wanted to ride it again and again.  We found a futuristic car ride that they should like [read: we would like], but they didn't and that was a waste of a dollar.  The part of the visit that brought tears to my eyes was when Mom made a cake with Bash.  I know it's simple, but it was beautiful.  He was so into it, just like I knew he'd be.  She showed him how to sift flour.  Then he sifted flour and slapped the side of the sifter just like Nana did.  It's the small things.

Zoë and Bash headed to the cereal aisle
Some of the beautiful small things were in the cereal aisle.  I rotated American cereals that you can't find here into the Rollins-Taylor household.  I had my fill of Raisin Bran Crunch, Lucky Charms, Crunch Berries and Cinnamon Toast Crunch.  Man I miss those cereals!  I went a little snack crazy with Oreos and granola bars and Oatmeal Cream Pies.  I wish you could see the drool run down my chin as I type.  By the end of the trip Bash was expressing himself very well in English.  He and Zoë were little chatterboxes.  I miss the way she hums as she eats her food.  Makes it sound delicious!

I had missed American television (there's like unlimited channels) so much.  I would wake up each morning and watch a documentary (On Demand is the shit!), then watch a standup comedy special before I went to sleep (I repeat... On Demand is the shit).  I met a guy from Boston a couple years ago that told me how he watches his sports teams through a thing called Sling Box.  I had read up on it, but never considered pulling the trigger on buying it.  I finally relented while on this trip.  I ordered the Sling Box.  It came a few days before we left and I set it up on Zoë's TV.  Now I have access to my sister's cable from anywhere in the world!  I recommend Sling Box to any American living abroad.  It's a nice slice of home.  Election season is important for me, so it's great to get good coverage of one of the most important elections in my lifetime. I still can't believe that Donald Trump is a nominee for president.  Even more disappointing is that I know smart people that will vote for him.  I won't get into it now (just wait), but that was a main reason I got the Sling Box.  Which in turn is the main reason I haven't made time to write a blog entry.  TV is so good in America!

One highlight of the trip was me actually doing standup in the US.  I was able to get on at an open mic in DC.  It was interesting to see comedians on the grind.  The club runner gave me five minutes and I made the best of my time.  My cousins came out to the show and I'm glad they got to see me perform.  Especially Andre.  He's been supporting me since I started.  Now he could actually see my progress.  It went pretty well.  I was nervous at first, but then got really comfortable at the first unexpected laugh.  I was flowed right into it.  I'll never forget that experience.  Here's the set:

video


One last hug...
It was so fun.  I'll be back and better in the future, America!

Mom sent us away with a box of 15 homemade cookies.  Just what I needed after hiding from Curtis' workouts for eight days.  A final addition to my love handles.  Bash and Zoë hugged one last time before we drove off in the HUGE Expedition that I got upgraded to (rental tip: book online to increase the chance of upgrades on site).  Now it was off to New York...

... But before New York we made a stop in New Jersey to see our friend Natasha.  Natasha is a fun, beautiful and talented young lady that Swedie used to train.  We met at Bahama Breeze (also on the list) and had some delicious Caribbean food.  Natasha had brought some makeup for Swedie and a toy for Bash (nothing for me, but I'm not bitter).  It was nice to catch up with her over some good food and drinks.  It was oddly reminiscent of our last hangout before moving to Sweden.  She was the one to take us to the airport then.  It's great that she's doing well now.  The last time she saw Bash was when she did his 3D ultrasound.  Now he was alive and out of the womb flirting with her!  It was a great, but unfortunately short visit.  Now to drop off the rental bus and hit up "the city"...

New York
We decided to splurge on a nice hotel in Manhattan.  I thought I was going to be doing some standup there as well, but it didn't work out.  It was cool though.  The first morning was odd to see Manhattan in such a quiet state.  5 Ave wasn't really 5th Ave without all of the brisk-paced New Yorkers flocking across intersections.  We found a charming French restaurant (Le Pain Quotidien) with an amazing breakfast.  It was so nice we ate there twice!  Fresh croissants (read that with a thick French accent), orange juice and salads.  So good.  We took Bash on a nice stroll around Central Park.  Buying that stroller turned out to be an awesome idea.

I reached out to our good friend Gary.  It was short notice, but he made time for us.  It was so good to see him.  Of course he was late as shit, but we managed.  Bash was quite the trooper as we trekked around Manhattan.  We met Gary and got pretty tipsy off of $6 mimosas and glasses of wine.  This was in preparation for the main event.  Gary joined us for what would be an amazing dinner.  Swedie was personal trainer for a pastry chef (Hi Stephen!) and he was nice enough to get us a reservation at Colicchio and Sons where he is in charge of desserts.  First off, I'm a huge fan of Tom Colicchio, so that was enough, but Stephen's dessert... OH MY GOD!  This was our second time eating there, and he does not disappoint.  He put together an amazing assortment of desserts that topped off just how sweet this trip was.  Gary Ubered us back to the hotel and bid us farewell.  It was great laughing with his crazy ass. I can't wait to see him again (come to Sweden man!).

The final day was a winding down of sorts.  We checked out of the hotel and met some friends from Jersey.  The Pride Parade was going on, so that was cool to see.  Music blasted and people danced as they expressed excitement in being proud of who you are.  It was beautiful and I was glad to be in there at that moment.  The shootings in Orlando hadn't happened so long ago and I'm especially glad the parade went on with no tragedy attached to it.

Our friends fought through the crowd and walked us back to our hotel.  We talked and caught up.  I was excited for them and the prospects of their future.  It was good to see them and wish them well.  It's great to see that friendships last over time.  That's what this trip was all about.  Now it was time to leave home and head home.  On to the airport.  Until next time...

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Bienvenido a Miami!

Eliza and Bash
 
 
For the first time in a year and a half I'm back home!  We didn't go at all last year, so now I was extra hype to get back.  This trip would be all about Bash.  I was concerned that there would be a language barrier that got in the way of the bonding I longed for between him and his American relatives.  He understands English, but would he understand that no one else understands his Swedish?  It was time to find out!

Of course with our luck, Bash came down with a fever the night before the flight.  He was in good spirits (as always) so we just gave him some medicine to get the fever down.  Everything would be fine.  We got to the airport and almost missed the flight because for some reason the airport officials thought boarding early was a good idea.  Don't they understand the concept of CPT?  We had to get some food.  If the flight leaves at 2:55pm, why would they board at 1:55?  Who does that?  The lady came out all mad at us and rushing us onto the plane at 2:30.  I refuse to run if I'm not being chased.  It's not that serious lady.  We got to the plane only to be told that the departure would be delayed. 
Bash had his favorite stuffed animal Björn with him.  He buckled Björn in for the flight and we were off.

Bash has recently been enamored with airplanes and helicopters.  He gets excited to see them and was extra excited to know that we were on one.  I don't think he fully understands the concept that we were going to leave the ground and travel across the Atlantic ocean to the hot and humid place where Daddy comes from.  He looked out the window at the clouds and said his WOWs.  That worked for me.

Bash had a cough that sounded pretty bad, but now it was sounding worse.  It was weird because he wasn't acting sick at all.  To the contrary, he was in a great mood.  He played his games and watched his videos.  He charmed people around us all throughout a fever.  We have the best kid.  Side note: it was funny as hell watching Swedie try to "comfort" Bash as the plane took off knowing damn well that she was scared.  Loosen the grip on his jeans, Swedie!  You're gonna cut off the boy's circulation.

It was great to see our hosts.  Every time we walk into the Holm Home it's like we never left.  We can't ask for better members of our extended family.  Bash warmed up quickly to everyone.  This trip is going to be fun!  Bash's cough sounded worse and worse.  I don't think the flight helped.  He woke up crying from the cough.  After some medicine he would slowly calm down and then doze off again.  It really breaks a parent's heart to feel so helpless as your child cries in pain.  Swedie is the best mom.  She rocked and comforted him throughout the night.  The combination of the time change and the apparent sickness was quite a load for little Bash.  He was powering through it.

The next morning Bash was up and at it before 5am.  Great.  We distracted him a bit and he eventually fell back asleep.  Thank goodness.  We ended up waking up again just before 9am.  When you're up and on vacay... make pancakes!  I feel guilty about how much I missed Walmart.  Seriously, what don't they have?  Breakfast/brunch would turn out amazing.

 

Pancakes, bacon, cheddar cheese potatoes, eggs and a new invention we call "pancakon" (strip of bacon cooked into pancake batter; try it!).  Oh... and don't forget mimosas.  What's vacay without mimosas?  The day was a lazy Sunday.  Bash was having a blast.  We took him to Eliza's mother's so he could play in the pool.  At first he was clinging to us like a starfish, but by the end of the afternoon he was going in and out of the water with his little floaties on.  There was cold beer, jello shots and delicious hors d'oeuvres.  Summer was here and I was loving it.  What I wasn't loving was this humidity.  I always forget how humid Florida is.  It's nostalgic and that's nice, but I can't help but wonder how I grew up here breathing through my nostrils.  It feels impossible to do it now.  And it's only THE BEGINNING of the summer. 

We went to my aunt's later for a barbecue.  I forget how much louder my family is than Swedie's (and probably every other family for that matter).  I heard the music from the street.  I walked in and poor Bash was terrified.  Music blasting, Spades trash talk and unfamiliar people in his face.

       - HEY BASH!

Bash got scared and started to cry.  I was afraid of this.  He was also sick and extremely tired.  This wasn't going as planned.  Finally someone turned off the music so we could watch the NBA Finals game (ass whoopin' if you want to get technical).  Side note: it amazes me how many people are all of a sudden Golden State "fans" now that they're the best team in the league.  NOBODY cared about them three years ago.  Especially people in Miami that were still Heat "fanatics".  I was so annoyed by all of these people screaming at the TV with passion. So fake.  We decided we'd leave at halftime.  Bash was knocked out.  It was fun joking around with family and friends.  I got a kick out of my Uncle Willie annoying people.  He's very good at that.

We were saying our goodbyes when Bash began a terrible-sounding coughing attack.  Everyone became concerned. 

       - He sounds bad.  He needs to go to the hospital.

Swedie had suggested that earlier.  I had resisted.  He had been in such good spirits.  My instincts were to not go to the hospital.  That would be expensive and a hassle.  Swedie contacted the insurance folks in Sweden.  They'd find the nearest authorized hospital and text her when we were good to go.  A few minutes later they texted a nearby hospital name and address.  The insurance company sent them verification and all we had to do is show up.  What?!  Another win for Sweden.  Woop! Woop!

We signed in at the urgent care center and a few minutes later we were holding a hose in front of Bash while gas crept into his lungs.  I couldn't help but roll my eyes at the financial side of things.  It was like first things first, are we gonna get paid?  Then once that was squared away they put focus on Bash.  The care was fast and great.  We felt the x-ray was unnecessary, but whatever.  Get your money.  Bash got his antibiotics and we were out of there in no time. 

Bash felt a little better the next day.  He still got up at about 4:30.  We had to get out of the house before the Homls hated us.  We went to the park, Walmart and Dunkin Donuts (home sweet home!).  Bash was loving it all.  We saw some ducks at the park and decided next time we'd bring bread.  A HUGE iguana ran towards us and that's when I found out that in an emergency I would probably forget that I have a family to protect.  I screamed and was GONE!  Swedie didn't know what happened. In my defense, the way that iguana's arms were rotating as it ran was completely unnatural and terrifying.  Swedie should have picked up on my social cue and run with me.  I am certain that that poor iguana was left at that man-made lake by a student at the nearby college.  It probably saw humans and thought we were there to rescue it, only for me to run from it.  Poor iguana.

This morning Bash was back in action.  We started the day with some duck feeding.  Turtles came out and the iguana did his creepy wind walk as well.  I wasn't freaked out this time. Then it was off to breakfast at Grandmother's.  Fish and grits hit the spot! I had two plates.  Bash destroyed a serving of eggs.  My aunt Renee came over and it warmed my heart when Bash decided to go on a walk with her WITHOUT us.  He actually told us not to go.

       - Mamma stanna här!  Daddy stanna här!

We obliged and watched them go look for ducks by the lake.  It was beautiful.  Bash was getting to know Daddy's side of the family.  He laughed and played with Daddy's grandmother, aunt and great aunt.  Yesterday he played around with Daddy's favorite uncle.  There's more family to meet over the next two and a half weeks.  Seems like Bash is just getting warmed up.  I can't wait to watch with pride. Until next time...

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Using "The N-Word" in my comedy: A recent critique

I had a gig the other night at Södra Sällskapet.  It's one of my favorite clubs to perform at.  It's a basement, nice room, normally a good, energetic crowd.  I have fun when I'm on stage there.  The gig went very well.  I got laughs and applause.  I felt good.  I stuck around for the rest of the show and some drinks and socialization.  The night was good.  I met with some comics and some of their friends upstairs and began chit-chatting.

One Swedish guy told me that I was funny.  It's always flattering.  I gave my normal "Thanks a lot, man!"  It really means a lot to me when someone tells me I'm funny.  You should try it.  Go up to a comedian and tell them they're funny.  I promise you you'll make their day.  However, this guy followed it up with a "but".

       - The only thing I would say...

Here goes.  Another person that doesn't get on stage telling me what I should do the next time I get up there.  Let me guess, "Talk more about things Swedish people do."  I've heard that before.  But I don't want to jump to conclusions.  He might tell me something that I could use.  I prepared myself to give a polite smile and say, "Thanks.  I'll consider that."  Don't get me wrong, I appreciate feedback.  Comics love feedback.  But we GET it INSTANTLY when the crowd reacts to the jokes.  If you wanted them to laugh and they groaned, then maybe you should work on that joke a bit.  If you wanted a groan and they groaned, keep doing that shit.  It's the terrifyingly gratifying thing that makes standup so awesome.  Real feedback.  That wasn't enough though.  I had to hear from this guy.

       - That word.  You shouldn't use that word.

I didn't see this coming.  This dude is white and Swedish.  I was perplexed.  I had to entertain him.

       - What word?
       - You know.  The one you used at the end.
       - The "N-word"?  Why shouldn't I use that word?  The story I tell is a true story and that's the word my uncle used in it.
       - But you're in Sweden now.  We don't have the same history as America.  You could lose the crowd.

This is when my "bullshit radar" started buzzing like crazy.  First of all, this guy's problem with me using the word wasn't due to any concern over my comedic success.  As I said, I got laughs all night.  Obviously I didn't lose the crowd.  His problem was probably that the word reminded him that a situation existed/exists in my country where people that look like him oppress people that look like me.  He felt the associated "white guilt" from that and it made HIM feel uncomfortable.  How dare I?

I kept my cool and went on about the way the word has been altered by black Americans in an effort to remove the sting from it.  He frowned and told me that I could maybe use this as a teaching moment.  You know, because Swedes are so non-racist that they won't understand what this "nigger/nigga" word means.  Please miss me with the bullshit, sir.  I was getting heated.  Another comic overheard the conversation and looked shocked and uncomfortable.  This guy's ignorance had his girlfriend sitting in awkward silence.  I decided to shut this dude down in as polite a way as possible.  I put on my "obviously sarcastic, dumbass" voice.

       - Oh I get it!  So I shouldn't use a word that was used to oppress my people in order to make you feel more comfortable.  I'll keep that in mind.

I couldn't hide my annoyance.  My sarcasm was received.  He flashed a slightly embarrassed smile.

       - I get what you're trying to do.

The conversation ended.  I began talking to the other comedian as I cooled down.  I'm not even that radical about the word.  I personally don't care who uses it.  Yes, even white people using it doesn't bother me. It's just one of those things that bothers some (probably most) black people and not me.  Imagine that.  We're not all alike. I won't force myself to be angry, however that associated anger is a right that I have as a black man that has dealt with the systemic discrimination that resulted in the sensitivity around that word.  The usage of the word is a luxury afforded to me as a member of a people that tried to change the tone of it.  One thing that I will not tolerate is someone without that history telling me not to use the word in order to relieve them of their white guilt.

What that guy should do is ask himself why was he so uncomfortable if in fact Sweden doesn't have that history.  Why would such a foreign word matter?  Does he really care to know about the history of that word or the context in which it was used?  I mean, I told a story about my great-great uncle speaking inappropriately to my brother.  One of the words he uses in the story is "nigga" (he also uses motherfucker, but I guess that didn't affect this guy so much).  Did that word really take this person sitting at a comedy show out of the story?  I don't think it did.  I think this man looked at me and only saw black and happy.  The layers underneath weren't as comforting though.  But they were real.  So he and future audiences are just going to have to deal with it.  As long as they keep laughing.  Until next time...

Saturday, April 30, 2016

One Year As a Comic!

At Big Ben
I made it!  For one year now I've been going on stage and trying to make people laugh.  It's been such a fun journey thus far.  I remember that first night like it was just yesterday.  Some American comedians were trying out material for their tour called "Team Amerika".  Cool!  My now friend Yemi called me onstage for my first set.  I was terrified.  I said my jokes and felt like the funniest man ever.


This comedy thing was going to be a piece of cake!  I was on cloud 9.  I blogged about the experience.  I called it "My Next Chapter".  I was sure that I was on the road to realizing my calling... Never mind the fact that I loaded the crowd with friends and family.  I had a dozen or so people there supporting me.  Of course I got laughs!

Guess what I didn't blog about... My very next standup set.  I went up the next week and asked Yemi for a spot.  I'm sure he could see the desperation and hunger in my eyes.  He asked if I minded going first.  I knew that was the toughest spot to perform at, but I didn't mind.  Um, I was a natural.  Had he seen me the week before?  He gave me five minutes.  I was going to kill!

I had practiced my routine some more, but now I had included pauses so the audience could laugh like they did the first time.  I said my first joke and paused.  No laughter.  I got flustered immediately.  My head got hot.  I began to stutter and say too many words.  Maybe I wasn't a natural.  My friend Peter was there filming me (so I could possibly send the video to Last Comic Standing or something).  I looked to him for help.  I felt myself sinking lower and lower after my third supposed punchline.  How was this happening?  These were the same jokes as before.  This would probably have been my last time ever doing standup if I wouldn't have heard Yemi chuckle at a joke that I said.  That little chuckle of his made me think, "Maybe I am funny."  My confidence shot back up and I got through my routine.  I got a couple of laughs, but now that didn't matter.  I took it as a challenge.  I was going to get a room full of strangers laughing one day.  I knew I could do it.

A couple I knew was at that show.  They sat in the back and watched me get through suicidal thoughts in front of a silent group of Swedes.  I had a drink with them after the show.  It felt like we had just come from a funeral.

       - So... How do you feel?
       - Good, great!  Um... I've got a lot to learn.  Can't wait to get back at it.
       - Oh, you're going to do it again?

Of course I was!  I had made a very funny comedian chuckle.  Hadn't they heard that?  My last joke got some people to laugh.  Never mind the silence and generally awkward feeling in the room, I was ready!

One night after what I thought was a good set, a comedian asked me where else do I perform.  Um, where else is there?  She told me to try contacting the owner of a club called Maffia.  I did.  He told me to come by and he'd see what I had.  I got there and he watched me tell jokes for seven minutes.  I got a lot of laughs.  My set didn't really have anything from my first night anymore.  These jokes were better and they were working!  He invited me back to do ten minutes.  Ten minutes?!  I had a good night then as well.  I didn't have ten strong minutes, though.  I had to use my first jokes in order to fill the time, but it worked.  Wow!  He invited me to Super Weekend to open up.  That's when I had my first blackout.  I got past that and rode into the summer with some good sets.

Stockholm comedy is pretty much nonexistent in the summer.  The only place I knew to go was Big Ben.  Guess where all the comics were going.  Yeah, I wasn't getting any time at all.  I started signing up for Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays.  Nothing.  I hung on international nights trying to get a spot.  It was tough.  I didn't get on stage for a month.  It felt like I would be starting all over again whenever I got on.  This would be a good time to give up.  

I kept trying until I finally got on.  There was no rust as I got my first applause break.  The host that night told me afterwards to keep at it and to come out whenever he's host and he'd give me a spot.  Awesome.  He may have thought that I was special, but I found out later that he was just a very generous comedian in the Stockholm comedy community.  He gave me that shot and I'm grateful to him for that.

The ball has been rolling since.  I still perform at least twice a week, and now I'm the host of the same club that I started at.  Check me out on Thursdays at Big Ben!  Now I bring on new comics that have just taken a 20 pound shit and nervously drink glass after glass of water.  Being MC has helped me improve my improvisation and work on small jokes.  I try to stay away from doing parts of my routine as a challenge to myself.  It makes me stay in the moment and deal with the crowd.  I'm more confident than ever and it's really helped me whenever I do get some stage time.  I've been able to open for established comics on Super Weekends and I'm glad to say that I haven't blacked out since that first time.

I feel like a comedian.  I was scared to say it for a long time out of respect for comics before me, but I am a comedian.  I get on stage and I make people laugh.  I've worked hard at it and in the past year I've gotten a hell of a lot better.  I dare say that I'm good.  I can't watch that first video up there because I've grown so much and it makes me awkward to see the false confidence and hear the nervousness.  I'm a different comedian now.  I can watch this set from last weekend with pride.




That's ten minutes of my material.  I edited the video so I can send it to clubs in the US that I want to perform at in June when we take vacation.  I can't wait to try out my stuff stateside!



This fall I'll be performing as a part of that same Team Amerika group from my first performance.  It's me and some of my funny American friends Ryan Bussell, David Weaver and Yemi Afolabi.  I'm on a freaking poster!  We'll be at the Lund Comedy Festival the first weekend of September.  Check us out.  It's been going great so far.  I can confidently say that I have 30 minutes of material now on my quest to an hour.  The grind will continue.  I will meet my goal.  I want to get so funny that I'm embarrassed about the ten minutes I did at Super Weekend in the video above.  Watch out for this comedian.  Who knows, maybe you'll see me live one day.  Until next time...

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

This Immigrant's Job Search in Sweden

Most of my blog posts about Sweden are filled with my affection for my new home.  I'm glad to be here and I love this country.  HOWEVER, the job search alone made me consider going back to the US.  I became completely frustrated by what seemed like a total disregard of my professional experience.  The worst thing is the way I'm received in social settings.  It's completely misleading.  Most Swedes are open and inviting to you when they find out you're American.  They are interested in you and your American story.  They want to know your journey and how you got here.  It's great.  My confidence was soaring as I filled out application after application.

I must admit that there is a cultural difference here when it comes to one's relationship to their occupation.  I like to say that in Sweden you work to live, in America you live to work.  We wear our occupations on our sleeve.  One of the first questions we ask someone is what they do for a living.  Then we take the answer and place that person in their rightful place in our imaginary hierarchy. 

       - Oh, she's a doctor!  She's smart so don't say anything too dumb.

I bought into this.  I played that game.  What I do is important to me.  I can't help it.  I'm built like that.  I don't judge people for what they do, but I feel like everyone is judging me for what I do.  It may sound strange, but that's the way it is.

My main argument against coming here was

       - I'm not trying to be a dishwasher.

Nothing against dishwashers.  Wash with pride, bro.  But I was alluding to the fact that many immigrants in America have loads of experience and education, yet end up with jobs well below their skill level.  I didn't want to be that guy.  I remember a driver at my old job didn't deliver a package.  He was originally from Turkey.  I talked to him about the situation like he was an idiot.  He explained his side of the delivery attempt in broken English.  I left that conversation thinking he was too dumb to get what I was saying.  I later found out that he was a professor back in Turkey with a PhD.  Who's the idiot now?  This was my fear.  I don't even have a PhD.  Imagine how dumb people would think I am.  Swedie assured me that they'd love my experience here.  I got here and the first American I met in SFI (Swedish language class) had a degree in finance.  Guess what he was doing for a living.  Yup!  Dishwasher!

That guy worked with numbers!  What was I going to do?  My background is in logistics and communication and leadership.  I was going to have to have a command of the Swedish language.  I worked hard at my Swedish.  I had a head start from Rosetta Stone and lessons that Birgitta beat into me like I was Karate Kid and she my Mr. Miyagi.  My Swedish is good.  I dare say that I'm fluent.  I wrote that in my resume.  I had my friend that works in HR look at my resume.  He said it was good. He even did a mock interview with me.  I was ready to work my butt off for some company.  They didn't know what a superstar they would get!  I don't even fika!  I bring my experience and that American drive that they see in movies that they love.  This should be a piece of cake.

Nothing.  I mean, I got to one interview.  That didn't work out.  I got used to opening my email every morning and looking for the word "tyvärr" (unfortunately).  That's when I knew I had been passed up again.  It got so frustrating.  Maybe I was aiming too high.  I stopped only applying for similar jobs than what I had back in the US.  Entry-level would have to do.  I worked my way up before, I'll do it again.  I just need to get my foot in the door.  Companies would love to have someone with a different perspective, right?  That's when I began getting rejection letters saying I'm overqualified.  Tyvärr.  Come on, Sweden!  Where do I start?

I got hired by a Canadian small business owner.  I would be taking my services to a boutique.  I was officially underemployed.  I was very glad that someone gave me an opportunity.  I was determined to be the best damn shop assistant ever.  I had the opportunity to improve my Swedish every day with customer interactions.  The interesting part was that somehow I could provide for my family on shop assistant wages.  Swedie was studying and I was the bread winner.  I'm not kidding, I would literally take home fresh baked, organic bread if there was some left over at night.  I could have lived a comfortable life working at that shop, but I wanted to do more.  I had their blessings to keep looking for something, and I did. 

It was so frustrating.  I would read job descriptions of positions that sounded exactly like what I USED to do before I was promoted.  I just knew it would be a no-brainer.  I would call the company after applying, just to get that extra contact.  The person would read through my resume and sound impressed.  They'd always remark on how good my Swedish is.  Man, this was it!  I'd start planning for my interview, reading up on the company.  Then... tyvärr.  I took solace in the fact that I wasn't alone.  I read this awesome blog post by an immigrant woman that moved here with more credentials than me that waited FOUR YEARS to get the job she was qualified for.  She never even got to an interview!  Something was wrong here.

Swedes by nature aren't that trusting of a people.  The typical Swede has a circle of friends that they've known forever and that's who they hang out with.  They aren't going to speak or make eye contact or leave that comfortable shell very often (well, unless they're drunk then all bets are off).  I think this transfers over to the work environment.  Taking chances isn't really the thing here.  They go with what they know.  Many people get jobs on referrals.  If no referral, then go with what you know.  What they didn't know was me.  Some dude that was an air traffic controller and then logistics manager with no degree to prove that he... graduated.  I guess I was a wild card.  You put me up against somebody named Johan Eriksson and guess which one feels like the safer pick.  Especially when it's hard to fire people here.  At least Johan REALLY knows the language.  And culture.  I want to say it's their loss.  But I was the one feeling the pain.

I hit rock bottom when I applied at a popular footwear store.  I got a phone call from a guy who mentioned that my resume had been chosen from over 200 applicants.  The job was as a warehouse employee.  Just stocking and whatnot.  I would work my way up.  It sounded cool and exciting.  The guy switched languages to English on the phone.  Cool, he likes that I'm American.  He invited me to the interview.  I thought it went well.  I knew I could do the job.  The questions were standard questions.  Nothing tricky.  He said there were eight people at this stage and they needed to choose three to four.  I just KNEW I had it.  I'm not some snot-nosed kid.  I know how to apply myself and get whatever job done.  Just tell me what the pay is going to be...  What's that?  Tyvärr!  Are you kidding me?  So I can't even get a job stocking shoes?

It wouldn't be a tunnel if there wasn't a light at the end.  My friend was working on this project with his job and he knew my frustration with my job situation.  There is a company called Yrkesdörren (The Career Door) that is made for people like me.  That's how bad it is here.  A rich person realized that the workplace isn't diverse enough and decided to do something about it.  Yrkesdörren isn't a job program.  It's a networking program.  It puts educated immigrants in contact with Swedes with related backgrounds.  It builds their network.  I gave it a shot.  I was matched with a door opener named Mikael.  The meeting was supposed to be one hour, but we kicked it for two and a half.  He took me around the place and I met another American guy.  He gave me tips as well.  He had gotten his foot in the door through a hook-up (father-in-law).  That's how the game goes here.  He suggested I look for international companies that have English as the working language.  Good advice!  I would definitely do that.

Mikael told me he would be leaving his company soon for another job at a package delivery company.  My eyes lit up.  That's my old territory!  I left the meeting feeling good.  I had learned not to get my hopes up anymore.  You never know when a tyvärr is gonna pop up.  But this wasn't an interview.  I could feel good about this.  I may even have made a friend out of this.  It turns out that before Mikael left, he told his boss about me.  In the end I ended up replacing Mikael.  I can't thank Yrkesdörren enough.  I can't thank my friend Amat enough.  My job search finally ended after almost three years.  My motivation now is to prove that taking a chance on an immigrant pays off in the end.  My unique perspective and experience and background is going to help my company (a company that has a diversity program in place already) improve in the long run.  I hope other companies here take notice and begin opening doors to the wealth of immigrant resources here.  I can promise you that we're ready.  Until next time...

Friday, February 19, 2016

Teeth Brushing

The last blog entry I wrote was a very serious one.  It was important to me, very personal and now it's out there.  The thing is, how do I follow that up?  I didn't know what to say after that.  Could the blog entry after one about rape culture be one about shower farts?  I guess it could, but it didn't feel right.  So I decided to let that one sink in for a couple of weeks and then get back to shower farts.  Just kidding.  This won't be about shower farts.  However, the thing about shower farts is...

I noticed recently that Bash has been more active and in tune with his needs.  That's parent speak for this little maniac is entering the "Terrible Twos".  I have heard the horror stories, so I'm prepared for the worst.  The thing is, I think it's going to be fun.  I'm interested in how he's going to test the limits. I'm interested in how I'm going to respond when he has me on the brink of sanity and my patience has run low.  Swedie and I have functioned as a pretty good team thus far, but what happens when he catches us off our game?  I'm interested to know.

Now things are fun.  He's communicating with us more.  I'm trying to get him to speak English to me.  I think he understands that Daddy speaks this and Mamma speaks that.  He speaks Swedish mostly though.  I get super happy when he gives me some English.  He's at that stage now where he repeats things a lot.  I'm focusing on getting him to repeat things in Daddy's language.  The trip we have planned to the States in June should be an interesting test for him.  I wonder if he'll speak more English so he can be understood.  Will he notice that everyone's speaking Daddy's language?  So many questions.  This is exciting!

One challenging thing has been to get Bash to want to brush his teeth (or have them brushed).  This is  very important to me.  I don't want to be the parent of the kid with bad breath.  Or worse, rotten teeth.  That can't happen.  I have always been slightly obsessive about my dental hygiene.  I vividly remember the last time I didn't brush my teeth for a full day.  I was nine years old.  My brother and I were living in Chicago with my paternal grandmother.  My dad was supposed to be there with us but he was "working".  No telling what he was really doing.  I just know he wasn't there.  Anyway, Granny was taking care of us.  Granny didn't have teeth.  Well, she had dentures, so I guess she technically owned teeth.  Does that count?  Regardless, toothpaste understandably wasn't really on Granny's grocery list and it's not like we (my brother and I) thought to tell her the supply was low.  We had video games to play.

So we literally ran out of toothpaste.  We had squeezed the very last drop out of that tube, cut the container open, wiped that toothpaste out; I mean not a bit of toothpaste remained.  Now we were bone dry and Granny wasn't going to the store that day.  My mouth felt so disgusting.  Thankfully it was the summer.  We didn't have school.  I just sat around the house all day with a stank ass mouth.  Granny didn't go get toothpaste the next day either.  She shopped on certain days (Thursdays, if my memory serves me correctly).  Toothpaste wasn't important enough for her to change her grocery schedule.  She told us that until she went shopping, we could use her denture toothpaste.  I think we used it for two days.  I'm pretty sure it's the same stuff as regular toothpaste (at least I really hope so), but it felt so slimy and nasty and old people-ish.  I was so happy when she came back with REAL toothpaste.  I snatched that shit out of the grocery bag before the cereal.  And I LOVE cereal.

I never missed brushing again.  It helps that my dad came back with toothpaste and 'Pearl Drops', the super strong toothpaste that specialized in whitening.  He's always been into the importance of appearance and I'm sure he heard about the toothpaste debacle.  He was going to get our teeth back white ASAP.  I didn't like that nasty feeling in my mouth that you get when you don't brush.  The thick, sticky, pasty plaque and saliva mixed with the odor.  How can anyone not brush as soon as they wake up?

So I want to drill oral hygiene into Bash.  It starts with routine.  My strategy is to make it fun.  He tries to be independent, so I bring his dinner chair into the bathroom so he can look in the mirror and do what Daddy does (this Daddy will ALWAYS be there).  I raised my eyebrows once to get his attention and he started trying to do it.  This brushing session became extra fun.  I had to film it for Swedie.  Bash taking a break from brushing to raise his eyebrows like Daddy.  

video

He's the best.  He's to the point now that he understands it's necessary to brush.  He doesn't always like it, but it is what it is.  It's been fun for this year and 11 months.  Bring on the "Terrible Twos" Bash.  I think I'm ready for it.  As long as you keep that mouth clean.  Until next time...

Friday, January 22, 2016

Confessions of a "Good Guy"

I always considered myself one of the good guys when it comes to women.  I am a proud feminist that actively tries to grow in my feminism.  Back in the day I was honest with women when I didn't want to get serious.  I thought I was doing my part.  Then I read this article about rape culture. It was basically a letter to men explaining how we subconsciously contribute to the fucked up situation that is rape culture.  I took mental notes and vowed to do better.  As I read through it I thought to myself that I was already doing some of the things the author suggested.  I was still a good guy.  I just needed to get better.  It wasn't like I raped anyone.

I'm sold on the fact that rape culture is real.  I'm sure that we men all contribute to it in some way.  But I had somehow excused myself from much of the responsibility.  The real problem was the rapists out there.  The predators were making it bad for all of us.  They are sick people.  Us good guys can do our part to show that we're not one of them, but then what?  We're the good ones.

Then I read an article by my good friend Cassandra Klatzkow.  I've mentioned her in this blog before.  She's a big part of my life.  She's one of Swedie's best friends and Bash's godmother.  She's smart, funny, talented and beautiful.  Please read her article.  If you don't understand Swedish, please translate it in an app or something.  It's stories that nearly every woman I know can share.  Times when a guy crossed the line because he was horny or thought that he had a right to a woman's body because he's a man.  That's putting it mildly in her case.  She has been through some terrible shit that some terrible men have put her through.  It hurt to read it because she is my friend.  It also hurt to read it because in some of those stories I was that guy.

I pride myself on being a problem solver.  People complain all the time, but where are the solutions?  I don't think the solution to eradicating rape culture is doing my best to make women feel comfortable and know that I'm not a threat.  It helps, but only to a certain degree.  I feel that the solution is to expose the "good guys" for the true threat that we are.  Cassandra says at the end of her article that every woman she knows has a story like that, but men don't have a story where they victimize women.  The guys and I had recently talked about this very thing on a recent podcast episode. You never hear a guy talking about that time he went too far or did something fucked up towards a woman just because he was horny.  In the podcast I nod and agree and say how messed up it is that you never hear those stories from men.  It didn't even dawn on me that I had those stories myself.  I was in good guy denial.  We all are.

So this good guy will now expose himself.  I'm going to tell stories that I am very ashamed of.  Men reading this can reflect on their similar stories and realize that our contribution to rape culture is deeper than we think.

I was in the third grade.  I liked a cute girl in my class.  We played outside and I chased her around as kids do.  Energy and curiosity ran through me and I grabbed at her as I ran.  I got a hold of her shirt and she pulled away laughing.  I had a good grip and tried to pull her closer.  Her shirt ripped almost all the way down the front.  I saw the strap of her training bra.  I let go of the shirt.  She ran off to the teacher covering herself.  The teacher later called me out of my class to talk to me. I remember her asking the girl to show me what I had done.  I also remember the excitement of possibly seeing what was under her jacket.  In hindsight, why would the teacher do that?  Anyway, the girl shook her head in embarrassment.  I was scolded for ripping her shirt.  That girl never played with me again.

In high school a good friend of mine wore a short skirt to school one day.  I teased her that I would lift it up and expose her rear end to everyone. She laughed it off.  I was a good guy after all.  I wouldn't do that.  I had a bit of a crush on her.  We were walking up the stairs and I grabbed the skirt and lifted it.  The skirt flipped all the way up, exposing her rear and panties to all of us below her on the stairs.  She was completely embarrassed and told me not to say another word to her or she would slap me.  She kept her word.  I remember thinking, "It was just panties."

I was 16.  There was this young, kind of dumb and very impressionable girl that used to hang out at my job.  She made no secret about the fact that she really liked me.  I didn't really like her.  I told her that she could have me if she had my friend as well.  She agreed.  My friend and I went over to her house one day and took turns having sex with her.  She asked me to be her boyfriend.  I told her I didn't want a girlfriend.  She stopped hanging out at my job.

In high school a girl came over to my house.  She and I had been flirting with each other since middle school.  Now she was here.  We messed around in my room.  She would stop me at each step when I tried to take things further.  Then I would "charm" her and "talk her into" going to the next step.  I eventually "talked her into" having sex.  I was Jon Juan.  My "charm" had worked again.  She called me that night and said she didn't like how things had gone.  She felt like I had pressured her into doing something she wasn't ready to do.  I thought she was just having regret.  Maybe religious guilt. I hadn't "forced" her into it.  I brushed it off.  She didn't come over again.

I was around 19.  "Jon Juan" was in full effect now.  I thought I was the ladies man of the year.  A new girl was at the base.  I figured I would go to her room to "keep her company". I guess that was "Netflix and chill" back then.  I was over there for a bit when we started kissing.  She didn't want to do more.  I tried to sweet talk her.  I began removing my clothes.  She didn't.  It was almost like I blacked out or something because next thing I know I was lying there almost naked and she was almost fully clothed.  I felt embarrassed.  Not that I had made her so uncomfortable, but at how ridiculous it was for "Jon Juan" to be almost fully naked and to still be resisted.  I never went over there again.

I'm married now.  There are countless times that I've whined and complained and tried using guilt trips to "talk my wife into" having sex with me.  Then later complain that she "wasn't into it".  The worst thing is when the last thing your wife says before you do it is:

       - Well alright then, damn!  We'll do it.  Hurry up.

It's embarrassing.  More embarrassing is that I shut up and do it.  Continuing this stupid cycle of mine where I am childish and selfish and inconsiderate.

I shared these stories for the other "good guys" that thought they were just "boys being boys" all their life.  Guys like me have been letting our hormones guide us while leaving damaged women in our wake.  A few minor detail changes and these stories could be turned into proof of my sexual prowess when they really only prove that I'm not a good guy.  Guys, look yourselves in the mirror.  Think back on your interactions with women.  Have you really been a good guy?  Have all of your sexual partners been as "into it" as you told your friends over beers?

I haven't drugged anyone.  I have never had sex with someone while they were unconscious. I have never threatened anyone before or after sex.  That doesn't mean that I'm a good guy.  It pains me to say it, but I have contributed more than I thought to this fucked up rape culture.  If you're a man, then you probably have too.  I'm not asking that you blog about it.  I'm asking that you stop acting like it didn't happen like that.  Share the REAL stories with your sons, nephews, younger male cousins and mentees.  That's the solution.  Teach the next generation that it's not okay to grab at a girl at recess.  Tell them to keep their hands to themselves.  Tell them that taking advantage of her interest in them for a "cool story" later makes them a fucking asshole.  Tell them that once she says no and shuts down, them taking more clothes off is creepy and disturbing.  Tell them that once they are in a relationship - no matter how long - she/he isn't theirs.  They can always be told "No" and they must always respect that "No".  That's how we'll improve rape culture.  We'll make real good guys.  Until next time...

Friday, January 15, 2016

My bad... An update on my life

Okay, I know I've been slipping.  I haven't written since Thanksgiving.  My bad.  I broke a promise to you that I would write once a week.  I had all of these ideas and all types of things have been happening in my life, but I just haven't taken the time to type it out for you in this blog and for that I apologize.  Thanks for sticking by me and reading this one.  I'll do better in 2016.  Here's an update on my life...

Christmas
This was the first Christmas that I could feel like a real parent.  Last Christmas Bash didn't know what the hell was going on.  He was focused on trying to walk.  Now he's having a daycare Christmas performance.  I actually went to a school performance!  What is happening in my life?  I was excited to go sit in an auditorium and watch kids on a stage messing up songs and dances and key in on distractions for 15 minutes.  Then go home and never watch the video that I made of the whole thing.

This was not that.  For some reason the daycare in cold ass Sweden wanted the parents to stand outside in the freezing cold as our kids trotted out and performed some songs in the doorway at the entrance of the building.  The performance was at 8:30 in the morning.  What?  Why?  I shivered through the entire thing as I stood on a table so I can get a good view over the other parents that stood there looking miserable in the freezing cold weather.  I swear not one parent had so much as a smile on their face.  It was like they were all on the subway waiting to get to their stop.  They were emotionless zombies staring in the direction of their children.  They had come to terms with the fact that this was life and that life sucks.  I found it hilarious.  The kids had no clue about anything.  That was actually cute.  I had a smile on my face because kids are awesome.  Bash was distracted by a candle-shaped light some older kid kept waving in front of his face.  He joined in on some Swedish song I don't know, did some hand movements and singing, then went back to focusing on that awesome light.

After the performance was over, we were all invited to stay for a "fika".  Some coffee and cookies and buns... You guessed it... OUTSIDE.  Why the fuck would I want to CONTINUE to stand outside?  Who comes up with this stuff?  And then I'm forced to stay because I don't want to be rude, but I really want to go home now because I'm a normal human being that doesn't want to stand outside and fake smile and stumble through Swedish sentences in the freezing cold.  Plus, I don't drink coffee.  This was not for me in any way.  Why was this my life?  I hung around for a bit and then did the traditional Swedish thing where everybody leaves as soon as one person leaves.  As soon as that lady left...

       - Well I'm gonna go ahead and get out of here.  Bye Bash!

This year Bash actually got excited about one of his Christmas presents.  He's obsessed with this show called 'Masha & The Bear'.  He wakes up in the morning asking to watch it.  We found a stuffed "Bear" from the show and he got super excited when we helped him open the package.  His jaw dropped and he looked at Swedie to see if this was real.  My heart damn near exploded.

We did the family dinner and gift exchange game thing.  My in-laws are still awesome and a main reason why my transition to Sweden has been a smooth one.  I nailed it with my gift selections this year.  Not an unhappy recipient.  Kudos to me!  I watched "A Christmas Story" as always.  I can't wait until Bash is old enough to enjoy it.  Next year I'm springing that racist ass Rudolph movie on him.  You know, the one with the clay figures.  If you haven't seen it in a while, watch it again and tell me you won't want to punch Santa in his racist mouth.  I can't believe they showed us that shit as a kid every year.

New Year's
New Year's Eve is my favorite holiday.  I've probably said it in previous entries, but it's true.  For the most part, everyone is happy at midnight.  You hear about family arguments at Thanksgiving and Christmas, but never at New Year's Eve. Maybe it's the comic in me that just likes when people are happy and smiling that makes me love New Year's.  I don't know.  I just love it.  This year would be different.  I normally try to party like a rock star, but I don't run my life anymore.  Swedie does.  She decided that we would be adult parents and not bring in the New Year pushing a stroller with a sleeping baby as fireworks explode and we hug and kiss our drunk and childless friends.  This year we would bring it in with other parents and have all the kids playing as we got drunk and shot off fireworks while the kids were asleep in beds (or the couch in Bash's case).

It turned out nice.  We had a bourgie dinner and champagne like some real adults.  We played good music and some games.  Our friends put a lovely evening together for us.  Bash was running around like a maniac and loving life.  All of the kids seemed to have a blast.  My interaction with them is one of fun and fear.  They laugh, but are seconds away from screaming and running for their lives.  I like it that way.  One day they'll love me and my crazy eyes and voices.  Though different, I must say bringing in the New Year this way was awesome.  I love my friends.

2016
I didn't make any resolutions this year.  I did set some goals for myself.  I'm working towards them every day.  It feels better than a resolution that will burn out in March.  Life was good for me in 2015.  I don't want to change much, just improve.  I'm getting more seasoned at standup comedy.  I feel more and more comfortable on stage each time I go up.  I've added new jokes to my set and I can say that I have a good chunk of material that I'm proud of.  Material that "works".  I've made friends in the Stockholm comedy community now.  Things feel like they're going in the right direction.

The podcast has been so fun to do.  I love my co-hosts and I get to learn something new about them every recording.  The process of creating the content and putting it out there has helped me in so many ways.  I'm proud of what we're doing and I know we'll get better and better at it. If you haven't listened to it (um... why not?), check it out.  If you don't understand Swedish, then only listen to the episodes that have descriptions in English.  Those are in English and are hilarious and interesting if I must say so myself.  We release an all-English episode each month.

So that's been my life over the past month and some change.  I have some things on my mind that I'll dump on you sooner than later.  Be prepared for some bloggage! I hope your life has been fun up to here and that 2016 is great so far.  Until next time...