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Sunday, November 20, 2016

Pottymouth -or- How I learned to stop worrying and love the F-Bomb

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I was taught by my mother that you should never cuss. As the oldest of five kids, my folks wanted me to be a good example. They didn’t want my baby brother, 11 years younger than me, saying “fuck” in that adorable voice that four-year-olds use. I’m sure most parents teach the same thing, but as a grown-ass man, I wonder if that’s the right thing to teach our kids.

My father says he has never used a single profanity. I am inclined to believe him, as amazing as that sounds. He grew up very religious and conservative. He is also very structured and methodical. The man is a fourth degree black belt and an engineer. His world is extremely black and white, totally polarized. Mine is different… My world is infinite (fifty?) shades of gray, with nary a black or white in sight. I figure there is a way to justify anything. I guess that’s what this essay is all about.

In the community I grew up in, swearing was not a popular pass time, except for burnouts and dirtbags. When I left the state, I found that colorful language was the norm. Whether in a professional business environment, in the field, or in line at the damn super market, I would hear hilarious words and phrases that made my day, and it made the day of the people standing around, too. It’s seldom I encounter folks taking offense, and usually, that’s just my mom. 

Then I married a pottymouth. The funny thing is, she grew up in the next town over, but with one difference; she had hilarious parents. The first time I met her father, he hit on me (with the puppet master watching from afar). But that’s another story… Swearing is the paint with which they create the masterpiece of spoken word, heard in their home. It’s just part of their family culture, and definitely makes dinnertime fun.

Later, when I was in Basic Officer Training in the Air Force, my squadron commander wrote me up and called me into his office for saying the word “dammit”. This especially surprised me, because doesn’t the military love to swear? Isn’t that their thing? Granted, I was brand new to the gig, so what did I know? I was astounded. When I asked him why, he informed me that, as an officer, my troops would be looking up to me and expecting me to be a good example. He told me that “swearing degrades the respect of the man.” Even our drill instructors didn’t swear like normal. They say things like “what the PISS, trainee?!” It’s a little weird.

Clean up your damn mouth. This is exactly the same thing I was taught growing up! Why is that such a popular trope? It’s interesting to think that, in 2016, brands like “Kick Ass Coffee”, “Best Damn Root Beer”, and “Slap My Ass and Call Me Sally Hot Sauce” have vulgarities in the trademarked name, but we are taught to speak like it’s the 1950’s at home. “Mom, do you want some… Kick Butt Coffee?” No.

An assumption people make about colloquial usage of taboo language is that dumb people swear when they can’t come up with a smarter thing to say. Does cussing make a person sound stupid? Does it degrade the respect of the man? An article published by the Association for Psychological Science, entitled The Science of Swearing, says it’s okay. They said that, barring discrimination or sexual harassment, swearing has a cathartic effect and can be beneficial. 

A recent study published in Language Sciences magazine, states that "a voluminous taboo lexicon may better be considered an indicator of healthy verbal abilities.” Basically, that’s a nerdy way of saying the more swears you know, and the better you use them, the smarter and more creative you probably are. My pottymouth wife must be a genius, and I think her dad must be on his way to a Nobel Prize! The way he eloquently shoehorns the fuck word into casual conversation is nothing short of masterful.

So whether you cuss, curse, swear or use profanity, do it with creativity and pride.

http://www.psychologicalscience.org/publications/observer/2012/may-june-12/the-science-of-swearing.html

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Help Stop The Suffering! (An Anti-Thanksgiving Rant)

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Suffering is somewhat of an institution in this world. We see it every day, and sometimes it hits close to home. As a celebrity, it is my responsibility to take a stand in these uncertain times, to end the suffering. Sarah McLachlan can sing all she wants about those smelly old cats, and Roma Downey can continue to scare those skinny African kids. I’m taking on a stance that hasn’t been addressed in the popular media yet: Thanksgiving dinner.

Thanksgiving is a so-called holiday, when we all get together as families to catch up on the year’s gossip. We all remember what happened during last year’s dinner, right? When Grandma accused your crazy aunt of spamming her email account with her latest multi-level marketing scheme? And your aunt bitch slapped her to kingdom come? Last year’s festivities feed the fire for this year, and this year feeds next. It's a vicious cycle of chain emails and ferocious bitch slaps.

Am I right?

There is one upside to this charade we call Thanksgiving: Chinese food. Let me explain:
Thanksgiving food is gross. Just putting it out there. Remember when the pilgrims landed at Plymouth and discovered that old car factory? Even though they had sweet rides, they had not yet build the drive-in burger joints to drive them to, and had begun to starve when winter came. Luckily, the Native Americans had a thriving food bank ready to go for such a circumstance. The Eagle Scouts of the tribe had gone around and collected the canned food goods, and were more than willing to give it freely. The pilgrims, being the fat, lazy Americans we know today, grabbed all the food they could, without regard for the quality or deliciousness of the food. This resulted in a gross collection of food to feast on, thus the tradition of cheesy funeral potatoes and candied yams was born.

Food that's not completely disgusting? Chinese food. Ever since I was knee-high to a Moon person, I've always sought to find my favorite food at the Thanksgiving day buffet, but to no avail. When I turned 16 and was old enough to just drive and drive, away from the foolishness that is cornbread stuffing, I found myself at a P. F. Chang’s. I was the only white person there, which was no surprise. I usually am, even when it’s not Thanksgiving. This haven is where I experienced the greatest Thanksgiving feast of my life!

Orange chicken, egg rolls, chow mein, yum! Since that day, I have made it a tradition to have Chinese food on Thanksgiving. I mean, if everyone else gets to have their favorite "candied yams" and homemade "stinky-foot green bean casserole", I get to have my beef and broccoli, and my cashew pepper chicken.

This year, I plan on bringing home some take out ham fried rice and sweet and sour sauce to the feast in order to enlighten the other guests to a new way of thinking. My goal? Eliminate the awful tradition of nearly burning down the house, which is quite a steep price to pay for a disgusting, dry turkey. Eliminate the fighting, the gossiping, and the gastro-intestinal distress. I mean, that much mashed potatoes must stay in there for a while, right? With Chinese food, you could feast every hour, on the hour, because you'll just be hungry again later. That is much better than some disgusting cranberry sauced wheat roll or something.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m grateful for shit. I’m just a huge fan of decent food.

Please, I beg of you. Help stop the suffering. This holiday, you can save lives by bringing some Chinese barbecued pork to your family dinner tomorrow. Your family will be "Giving-Thanks" to you!



Originally published in My House on the Moon © 2013 Robodino Press. Used with permission.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Naming Names

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Like many people, I have a hard-to-pronounce last name. Every day, it seems, I hear a new way to pronounce it. “Eye-ree” - “Ee-ruh” - “Eye-rr” - “Eerie”… It’s seldom that someone actually gets it right, on the first try. When the Eyre brothers originally left England in the mid-1800’s, and landed in America, one went north and one went south. In the North, they pronounced it the right way. The South wasn’t so accomodating. As you know, they have a certain way of talking down there, so they added an extra syllable to the name – “Eye-rr”. If you didn’t guess by now, my last name is pronounced “Air”, as in Jordan Eyre, Extraordinaire (at your service).

Believe it or not, my middle name is Michael. My full name, backwards, is (Air) Michael Jordan. It can’t be a coincidence, can it? I was born in the summer of 1988. The Air Jordan I shoe was wildly successful, and Michael Jordan had been on fire for years. Michael was All-NBA First Team, an NBA All-Star Starter, won the Slam Dunk Competition twice in a row, and was the NBA Most Valuable Player. Michael was, by all accounts, killing it. 

I can’t get my parents to admit that it was on purpose. If I was actually named after him, it would be fine. My parents insist that I wasn’t, and that they are not basketball fans! They have no ties to Chicago or North Carolina. To my knowledge, neither have ever watched a game that wasn’t in a championship series. My father isn’t a football or baseball fan, either! In his spare time, after coming home from work as a manufacturing engineer, my dad is a Master Instructor in Taekwondo, 4th degree black belt and all. That doesn’t leave much time for sports fanaticism. Of course, my mother falls into the same boat. Ain’t nobody got time for that!

Even still, my name can’t be a coincidence. I even have a brother named Dennis Rodman – alright, that’s not true, but would it surprise you?

Besides the Michael Jordan of it all, my name is famous for yet another reason. When Elvis was swinging his hips, at the height of his career, he played with a band called The Jordanaires (an exact homophone of the plural of my name). The Jordanaires were a vocal quartet, specializing in gospel music. They became famous for the background vocals they provided for Elvis on many of his songs from 1956 to 1972.

In the summer of 2016, while moving halfway across the country, Channing and I stopped at Graceland. At every chance I got, I would ask the tour guide, the bus driver, or the girl at the ticket counter if they knew who The Jordanaires were. “Well, I’m Jordan Eyre!” I’d say. Anyway, when you walk down the famous Hall of Records, and look at all of those gold records, it says my name on like half of them! 

But were my parents Elvis fans? Not a chance. Maybe it was a coincidence…

I am not complaining. I love having a memorable name. It has helped me in ways I never expected. For example, as a salesman, no client has ever forgotten my name. It has gotten stuck in the heads of potential employers, and pretty girls alike, hand has often given me a leg up, so to speak. A strong, memorable name can be a very valuable asset, and I consider myself very lucky.

Naming a child is very serious business, but it doesn’t always have to be. Channing and I talk often about our future, and we dream fondly of welcoming our first child into the world. The conversation always comes back to the name.

Before I go on, I need to tell you something. I am so blessed to have a funny wife. When you are out searching the world for your soulmate, make sure she’s funny. If she has a sense of humor, you’ll never have a problem. When bad things happen, she’ll help you find the funny, and you’ll deal with it together. When good things happen, you’ll feel complete. Like you’re in the company of an angel. You’ll experience a deep, all-encompassing happiness, unlike anything you’ve ever felt, if she’s funny.

Anyway, because my wife is funny, she has decided to “let me be in charge” of the middle name. She’s not stupid, though, because she has retained full control over the first name, and full veto rights of my choice. But she’s funny, remember? I think she’ll go for at least one of my ideas…

Did you ever hear someone say the line, “Danger is my middle name.” Obviously, they’re being hyperbolic. They’re telling us that the concept of danger is engrained in them, and has been a part of them since birth. But what if it was literally your middle name?

The second is equally cool. “Hammer”. Nobody named Hammer was ever bullied. Ever.
For the next one, you should know that I’m a huge Johnny Cash fan. In fact, the concept for my book A Douche Walks into a Bar… was created inside a Johnny Cash themed bar named “A Bar Named Sue”. The name, of course, is from Cash’s famous song “A Boy Named Sue,” which is about a boy who, when his father left his mother and him at a young age, named him – you guessed it – Sue. The boy is angry at his dad for giving him such an awful name, and they get into a terrible fight. At the end of the song, the father gives his reason.

     And he said, "Son, this world is rough
     And if a man's gonna make it, he's gotta be tough
     And I knew I wouldn't be there to help ya along
     So I give ya that name and I said goodbye
     I knew you'd have to get tough or die
     And it's the name that helped to make you strong"

     He said, "Now you just fought one hell of a fight
     And I know you hate me, and you got the right
     To kill me now, and I wouldn't blame you if you do
     But ya ought to thank me, before I die
     For the gravel in ya guts and the spit in ya eye
     'Cause I'm the son-of-a-bitch that named you Sue"

Look. I don’t intend to leave my wife and child at any point, but I love the premise of the song. I love the idea that a soft name will make the boy hard, because he’s gotta defend himself, or die trying. It taught the kid to stand up for himself. The father was proud of the man that Sue had become, and he was proud that the name he chose did the trick.

That’s why I want to give my boy the middle name “Buttercup”. Cute, right?

As I mentioned in the beginning of this article, my last name gets mispronounced all the time. Most of the time, I insist on the correct pronunciation because I have pride in my name. A person’s name is their favorite sound in any language, and they should have pride in it! Sometimes, however, an intentional mispronunciation is essential for a joke… 

For any How I Met Your Mother fans out there (everyone), we remember Barney’s most oft-used catchphrase: “It’ll be legen – wait for it – dary! Legendary!” Channing and I love that show. Which is why I want to name my child – boy or girl – “Legend Waitforit Eyre”. Now, for this to work as a joke, you must mispronounce the name. It should be said just like Barney says it – “Air-ee”. Now, when the kid is old enough to enjoy that joke, the show will be so dated as to fall into oblivion, which is why I will buy the complete series, and put it in a bank vault, to be watched when they are old enough to enjoy it. Let’s be honest, the joke may fall flat.

If Channing picks a first name that starts with a T, boy or girl, the middle name will be Rex. It has to be. It’s out of my control.

Now, sometimes, when Channing is in a receptive mood, I subtly suggest full names. I say something like “How do you feel about the name Harrison?” If she goes for Harrison, I’ll choose the middle name “Derrick”. Then, he’ll be “Harry Derry Eyre”… get it? Like “hairy derrière”! Hilarious.

Maybe I’m projecting, but I have a feeling that my dad was just as funny as I am, when he named me.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Notetaking

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For the past year, I have been carrying a notepad and a pen, no matter where I go. Usually, while I’m at work, it comes out a few times per hour. During Officer Training School for the Air Force, I was told numerous times that “a good officer always has a pen and something to write on.” I would proffer that nugget of wisdom to you as well, and I have some specifics.

For years, I would just text myself a note, if I really wanted to remember something. Oftentimes, I’ll be running, driving, or even in the middle of a movie while sitting in a dark theater, when a beautiful nugget comes to me and I can’t just whip out my phone and record it. If I couldn’t write it down, I used to try to convince myself that I’d remember the idea. I mean, it’s a golden idea, I’ll for sure remember it, right?

Almost as a rule, when “I’ll remember” crosses my mind, I forget it. Unfortunately, in those places I mentioned, or especially when in a meeting with a boss or in class, pulling out your phone and texting is incredibly rude. What I’ve found is that pulling out a small notebook and jotting something down is seen as a very respectful thing to do, even if it has nothing to do with the conversation. The others think you heard a profound statement that you wanted to remember, but really, you were writing down a joke for posting on Twitter later.

When I started writing notes in a journal, I carried around a larger 5x8 book with 250 pages. While the crisp, white pages made me feel like I was embarking on an exciting literary journey, I have found that I would cram 3 or 4 notes on a page. After just a few notes, the book would look disjointed and cluttered. And that’s just the times I remembered to bring it with me! Having quick access to something to write on is vitally important. It’s like having an umbrella. It might not always be convenient, but you’ll be glad you have it, should you need it.

The “something to write on” part can mean anything. I have found that it is super unprofessional to pull out a napkin, and envelope, or to write on the back of your hand. Instead, I found these 3x5 Moleskine notebooks in a package at Barnes and Noble. Yes, they sell them at Target and Amazon, but PLEASE go to your local bookstore (not that you need another excuse aside from the smell of new books and coffee…)! The mom-and-pop book shop in my town just closed, because they just couldn’t compete with the massive online marketplace. Those little purchases keep them in business, and we should all do our part! And yes, I know B&N isn’t a mom-and-pop, but there’s a Starbucks in there.

I carry one notebook and my trusty Fisher Space Pen in my pocket at all times. The Fisher is an incredible pen. I’ve owned this pen for over 9 years! Sadly, just last week, it flew out of my pocket as I was running through some extreme weather, and I watched it get run over in slow motion. After I found it, lying bleeding in the street, I had a little funeral. Then, without skipping a beat, I spent another $20 to get my trusted sidekick back. Get one, it’ll be worth your while!

When I don’t have my Fisher, or when I’m feeling particularly fancy, I carry my Kaweco Sport fountain pen, with a fine nib. I use brown ink, based on an excellent recommendation from my friend, Brigham (thanks, buddy!). It is the smoothest pen I’ve ever written with, by a large margin. Fountain pens have been around since 1827, when the Romanian inventor Petrache Poenaru combined a barrel and a swan quill (wiki). I’m a huge fan of the Kaweco brand. They make their caps screw on, so it won’t leak in your pocket. This pen is the Lexus, the Mercedes, the Jaguar, of the pen world, and it is a joy to “drive”. It has improved my handwriting immensely, but more about that in another article.

Now that you have a pocket sized notebook and the most amazing pen ever, you’re ready to begin. First, you’ll need some direction, before you go scribbling all over the pages. Before you do anything, write your name and contact info on the last page. I have a stamp taped into mine, along with my address and a request to send it back if it’s lost. My ideas are worth it!

Next, write “Table of Contents” on the front page, and number all of the pages in the book. You can use just even/odd numbering if you want, I do. Skip a good 3-4 pages for a Table of Contents, and then start taking notes. When someone gives you a great beer recommendation for the next time you visit Breckenridge, record the note and any pertinent information on the next available page (i.e.13), then flip back to the Table of Contents and write “13 - Beer Recommendations”. You can always add to that page the next time the topic comes up. That way, when you need to reference something, you only need to scan the Table instead of the whole book.

If you can get in the habit of recording simple thoughts into your notebook as soon as the thought comes into your head, you will be surprised at how many million dollar ideas come to you. I no longer get distracted and fixated on an idea or a thought, because I’m fighting not to forget it. After I write the thought down, I’m free. I focus better. I ask better questions now, because I’m actually listening. I actually keep my golden thoughts for projects now, and I don’t kick myself for forgetting. My old, self-inflicted metaphorical kick-bruises are fading fast, and yours will, too.

Get your equipment here and here and here today!