Mister

(He is well-known so I won’t reveal his name)

I met him when I was young.

He lurked in an unmarked van near the school

and once moved into the vacant house next door.

He was a foreigner –

an intruder to our land.

As I aged

I realized

every night

he entered my home through the screen

and I watched him with suspicious eyes.

I erected walls,

secured locks,

but like a stubborn itch

he always reappeared.

He sat next to me on the airplane

as I quivered in my seat.

He tracked me through the wires,

threatening to steal my life,

and I spent my nights

awaiting the midnight tapping at the door.

 

Eventually

I would surrender to him.

He was my protector,

the one keeping me safe at night.

 

Until the drunken dinner

when I carved him up

soaked him in butter

and ate him

brushing off the parsley and chives

relishing every bite

postponing the certainty

this would later make me sick.

 

And now I am dying

of this terminal disease

called life.

 

Why was he always near?

And who was so cruel

to introduce me to fear.

Mister2

In the Newds

Exotic dancers last week in Ohio staged a protest against New Beginnings Ministry by holding a topless rally outside the church’s doors. They held signs with slogans such as “Be curious, not judgmental.” This protest was in response to the church members picketing the Foxhole North, a strip club in nearby New Castle. Since there are no laws in Ohio prohibiting the exposure of bare breasts, the demonstration didn’t attract law enforcement but instead captured the attention of the media and a few curious onlookers. After church services, parishioners were shielded from the shock of topless women and ushered out the back door to the rear parking lot.

protest11

The protest did little to garner meaningful support for either side of the confrontation, yet somehow, at the height of the protest, both sides claimed to have won. The church’s pastor noted the fact that the strippers would resort to this behavior was evidence that the church’s efforts to harass the strip club were working.  The strippers probably noted the number of people who had come to stand with them as proof of their own success.

At first glance, it would seem the strippers may have misinterpreted the motives of their supporters who probably were more intent on stealing a look at naked breasts than showing actual support for the strip club’s cause.

The church, it would seem, clearly had the upper hand in the ongoing clash. Patrons of Foxhole North had been shamed home by the church’s picketers to the point where business must have suffered (otherwise there would have been no point for the topless counter protest).  Conversely, parishioners of the church could not be shamed by the topless protest. This is the beauty (and the scary thing) of organized religion. You always have the moral high ground no matter how distasteful your practices may seem to others. But isn’t there something supremely distasteful by blatantly infringing on a person’s religious views? The topless protest most likely only emboldened and strengthened the faith of the people inside.

How then is it possible for the Foxhole North to claim victory?

On second glance, the topless protesters may have a point. The goal of the protest was never to stop people from attending New Beginnings Ministry. The goal of the protest was to bring attention to the obvious. Breasts are fascinating.[1] Bare them in public and you instantly become newsworthy. In London, feminists protested the rigidity of sharia law by staging a nude rally, although it’s unclear if onlookers were able perceive anything beyond the nipple. A megaphone on a busy street corner is no match for the draw of a bare breast. Today, August 24, is Go Topless Day, where women are encouraged to strive for equality with men in the right to bare an unclothed chest. Woman all over the world are encouraged to go topless, and men parading with them have the opportunity to wear bikinis (and to get a front row view of bare breasts). Some of these rallies have had protesters holding signs with messages like, “You’re going to hell,” but did anyone really notice them? Maybe if they went topless…

In most of these rallies, it’s hard to get beyond the bare breasts to the real issue.[2] The Ohio protest was different. Now, on third glance, it would appear the protesters achieved exactly what they wanted. In their case, the breasts didn’t detract from a greater message of religious dogma or equal rights. The issue here was the breast. It didn’t matter if the crowd of media and curious citizens supported the Foxhole North or the church. What mattered is that there were a lot of curious people. What mattered is that they reminded us that given the chance, men will position themselves to gain a view of the blessed nipple. It’s human nature, which although at odds with our religious prohibitions, is biological reality. It reminded people that if they want a place to look at the bare breast without feeling guilty that they’re shamefully ignoring the substance beyond the breast, they have a home at Foxhole North.

Final Score[3]

Foxhole North                        2

New Beginnings Ministry        1

 

 

[1] For example, the design of the smooth, golden arches of McDonald’s was no accident, although the original artists would claim to reference the maternal, nurturing aspect of female breasts rather than their sexual allure as the underlying motive behind the design.

[2] Few probably know that Go Topless Day has its roots in the Raelien movement which believes that aliens came to our planet and designed human DNA and that Go Topless Day was intended to be an opportunity to celebrate the artistry of aliens rather than be ashamed of it. Now, the movement supposedly espouses equal rights.

[3] This isn’t a score of who ultimately is right or wrong, but rather, who had the upper hand in the protest.


 

The opinions expressed in this essay are solely those of DF Salvador and do not necessarily reflect the views of dfsalvador.com.

Grill Euphoria

As one fire ascends the jagged horizon of wooden fence

the nightly creatures, red-faced and salivating, converge toward the glow

carrying torches and tridents and thick slabs of raw meat.

 

A phosphorescent glow radiates from the coal,

the first smell—bitter and dry—billows from the pit

embers dance,

at the first sizzle, conversations cease.

 

The men grin their wet teeth

as the aroma summons hunger, curiosity, and unwanted advice.

 

Then comes the boy—naïve, untrained, and premature—with barbeque sauce

in a squeezable bottle

 

He is admonished and shamed.

This is the day he learns:

Never disrupt grill euphoria.

grill_euphoria

 

Tony Gwynn

In 1994, Tony Gwynn batted over .400 for most of the season, and every morning that summer I would open up the Sports section of the newspaper and check the box score to see how Gwynn had done the day before. He was on a tear heading into August, and many thought he might be the first person since Ted Williams in 1941 to crack the .400 batting average mark.

To me, the most important statistic in baseball was the batting average. It was the first thing I looked at when I checked out the stats on the back of a player’s baseball card. I would arrange my cards in my collection based on a player’s batting average. Home runs were overrated in my opinion. Home run hitters were guys seeking personal glory while the good hitters were more interested in team success.  I followed all the prolific hitters. I knew of Rod Carew’s year in 1977 when he batted .388 and George Brett’s 1980 season when he batted .390.

carew brett

I knew of all the seasons that Pete Rose had over 200 hits. For many years, Rose was by far my favorite player, but by 1990 his reputation was tarnished and all those baseball cards of his that I’d collected were now seemingly worthless.

Tony Gwynn kept my interest in baseball even after the black eye of the Pete Rose scandal. Gwynn was a good guy, loyal to his team, and a tremendous hitter.

1994 was destined to be the year someone would finally break the .400 mark. Although Gwynn repeatedly batted well over .300, never before had he gone so deep into the season hovering so close to .400. Then August 11th came and the baseball players announced they were going on strike. The season was over. I hated the player’s union and the owners for disrupting Gwynn’s glorious season. When Gwynn was unable to replicate his torrid pace the next year, I had nothing left to cheer for. I hated baseball. The strike had ruined everything.

The Sosa-McGwire summer of 1998 temporarily resurrected my fractured relationship with baseball as I began taking an interest in the type of player I had always detested. The home run hitter. These guys were hitting home runs at such an impressive rate that they captured the attention of the country.   Baseball was back. Mark McGwire smashed Roger Maris’s record (as did Sammy Sosa), but when the bloated Barry Bonds surpassed the record in 2001, the excitement was missing. Everyone knew something was off. The subsequent and ongoing steroid scandal sunk baseball to a level lower than the strike-shortened season of 1994, and the inflated stats from 1998 onward were no longer of any interest to me since it was impossible to know which ones to believe.

The last time I believed in baseball was in 1994, during that unfinished season. Would Gwynn have done it? Would he have cracked .400?  We’ll never know.

Tony Gwynn passed away on June 16th at the age of 54 after a battle with cancer. He didn’t get a chance to finish coaching his team at San Diego State University. He didn’t get a chance to see his son, Tony Gwynn, Jr. finish his own professional baseball career.

Tony Gwynn and Tony Gwynn, Jr.

On Father’s day, the day before Tony Gwynn died, his son told a Philadelphia reporter about his father, “I always try to get in an I love you. For a while that was uncomfortable for me, I don’t know why. But since 2010, it hasn’t been uncomfortable. It’s something I want to make sure I get in because you never know what’s going to happen.”

There are several things that the baseball strike and cancer didn’t allow Tony Gwynn to finish, but nothing stopped him from achieving the ultimate victory in life: achieving a meaningful bond with his family before it’s too late.

 

 

First Dance

Dance

I remember

dancing—

the first embrace

we both unsure where to place

our hands

and I wondered how much I should relish

the feel of my fingers pressing into her flesh

or the tickle of her hand crawling into my palm

If I close my eyes

and lift my hand skyward in a sign

of benediction

an invitation

or a wave farewell

I can sometimes feel her hand against mine

the squeeze

the pressure

before she pulled away

thanked me

and said goodbye

Beauty Matters

mona ace

You’re one of fifty-two people who mill about in a large room.  Each of you holds a playing card against your forehead.  No one knows their own card, but you can see each other’s.  The goal of this little game is to pair off with the highest card possible, but to accomplish this, your request for partnership has to be accepted by the other.  Of course the Aces and Kings are the most popular and they pretty much know right away that they’re the cream of the crop.  It’s instant mutual acceptance when an Ace requests to partner with another Ace.  It works fairly quickly with the Kings as well.  By the time this experiment is over, for the most part, Aces have paired with Aces, tens with tens, sixes with sixes, and twos with twos.

It must be kind of depressing being a two, being the last in the room to find a partner, watching all the high cards go, then the middle ones, and experiencing the horrible realization that you’re the low card that no one wants to pair with.

Research has shown this is how couples typically pair off in the real world.  Hot women tend to be with hot guys.  Sevens with sevens.  Twos with twos.  Through the process of assessing interest and receiving rejections, we get a pretty good gauge of where we stand relative to others, and we choose our partner accordingly.

The popular belief is that beauty is subjective—beauty is in the eye of the beholder—but really, we all hold similar opinions as to who we consider physically beautiful.  Even people in one culture can easily pick out beauty in another culture.  We are hard wired to perceive beauty.

So we do our best to enhance ourselves, to add value to our card.   We’ll diet and exercise to maintain the best proportions or wear makeup to project the illusion of youth.  We do this because it’s necessary to attract a partner with the most sexual allure.  We value other traits too, but physical beauty reigns supreme.  Talents can add to one’s overall allure but it’s more like one suit value trumping another.  Adding a Harvard degree to a killer body might make you the Ace of Hearts to the Ace of Clubs.  In other words, talent, charm, and intellect can increase the value of your suit, but not your pip value.

We often talk about the shallowness of physical beauty and how real beauty is something within, and there is a certain internal beauty we do admire.  It’s this internal beauty that makes a close friend or relative loveable in a heartwarming kind of way, but this kind of beauty doesn’t translate to romantic attraction.  They are two distinct kinds of beauty—one endears us to many friends and the other excites a potential romantic partner.

So can a Six ever make it with an Ace?  It happens but it’s not common.  If we’re slightly devious, we’ll try some sleight of hand.  Alcohol to level the playing field.  The use of power and/or intimidation.  Money.

shrek

Our stories, myths and legends try to convince the lower valued cards to hold out hope and that maybe in some perfect universe, Marisa Tomei might be attracted to short, stocky, bald men.

tomei

The lesson that many of our most cherished love stories attempt to drive home is that  inner beauty is everything.  But in what fairy tale is Prince Charming a three hundred pound oaf with big ears and acne?  The truth is, most fairy tales and stories are populated by pretty heroes and ugly villains.

So what about the twos and threes?  What is their destiny?  To become witches?   Criminals?  Is this what we expect from less physically attractive people?  With constant rejection and low societal expectations, wouldn’t a two or three naturally come to resent the world?  I’m sure at some point we’ve all felt that sinking feeling of being the last man or woman standing in the room—it sucks—but we all haven’t faced this rejection on a day-to-day basis.  This rejection does not come from only potential sexual mates.  Pulchronomics, which studies the economics of beauty, shows us prettier people earn more money than their plain counterparts.  Handsome children earn more attention from teachers.  It’s no wonder that criminals tend to be uglier than most.

Obviously, being ugly does not make one a criminal just like being depressed doesn’t cause someone to commit suicide.  There is, however, a striking correlation, and I wonder if we fully consider and appreciate the consequences of being physically unattractive and receiving constant rejection.

What we do tend to do is ridicule those who are preoccupied with their looks.  But in a world where looks has a greater bearing on future success than education, a focus on primping actually seems to be the smarter path to take.

This being said, we also tend to overvalue the benefits of beauty in relation to overall happiness.  Perhaps being the perpetual object of desire makes it easier to engage in extra-marital affairs, which can lead to painful divorces, breakups, or love triangles.  Perhaps the promiscuity associated with Hollywood is less indicative of the loose morals of show business and more the result of extraordinarily beautiful people constantly in the midst of each other.

So what’s the lesson?  Obviously beauty matters more than it seems appropriate to acknowledge.  But the more important question is what can we change?  Do we try to make the not-so-physically attractive more eye-appealing and encourage vanity?  Or do we try to change the perception and importance of beauty?  Can we really transform something that is hard-wired within us?

I think it would be nice if we could occasionally ask for a reshuffling of the deck.