Marvelous Marlowe’s

Marlowe's on 16th StreetChristmas is a tricky time of year for my girlfriend and I, as it contains a holiday where couples are supposed to spend time with everyone’s families, (that means four different houses for us), it is also her birthday, (at least two different houses), and our anniversary, (can we just have a nap?) plus all the other rigors of the end of year parties, working crazy hours, and trying to wrap up school. December is a beast.

This past December, for an anniversary/birthday date night, I decided to take my lovely lady out for dinner and a show. Cirque de Solei was putting on a holiday special called Holi-daze. A musical where all of the different ornaments on your average Christmas tree begin to come to life and celebrate the holiday in their own way. A whimsical and breathtaking show, it maintained a fun atmosphere without being irreverent, although watching a clown conduct carol of the bells with stiffs picked from the audience was quite possibly the highlight of the evening.

The point of the night out was supposed to be a slowly escalating adventure down the Sixteenth Street Mall in Denver. However, being the penultimate procrastinator, (read: this happened around Christmas, and I’m writing about it within sight of Valentine’s Day.) I forgot to make reservations for dinner. Not to be discouraged, we left early and I introduced my girlfriend to the wonder that is Yelp. We had three rules: It had to be someplace we’ve never been before, It couldn’t be a chain or franchise, and it had to be rated at LEAST three stars.

As we walked along, looking at window menus, trying to decide what we felt like having, (there are a LOT of burger joints along that road.) we meandered up to Marlowe’s Saloon and restaurant, and seeing STEAK on the menu in the window, we went inside. Dressed for the theater, I can admit with a little pride, but no exaggeration that we looked GOOD. The place was quiet as the lunch rush had left and they weren’t yet serving dinner. A man in a sweatshirt, whom I assume was the manager or the owner, ushered us to a corner table, looking out over the street. It felt like we were being shown off a little. We began our three course adventure with stuffed baby peppers; I’ve never known grenades of delicious sausage and provolone crammed into something so small and delicate.

Stuffed Peppers!!!Next came our meals, a nice filet over green beans and pesto for me, with a buttery salmon on faro for her.

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The meat was perfection. The salmon buttered enough to have a flavor of it’s own, but not so much so that it tasted oily. My filet oozed the rich juices of a nice medium-rare and seemed to melt as I chewed. It paired well with crispy garlic green beans that had just the right amount of crunch.

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The meal itself was wonderful, followed up by a four cup french press of a very rich black coffee which they pressed right at our table. In fact the only let down of the event was the crème brulee. While it wasn’t terrible, I’ve been a firm believer that all dessert should be the fantastic conclusion of a meal, not a wimpy afterthought. And even though this was a free birthday dessert, I’ve always thought that crème brulee should be a candy coated fluffy cloud that evaporates in your mouth. Marlowe’s served almost a pudding with a graham cracker cookie triangle. Again, not terrible, but also not worth the instinctive picture-taking.

In my book, Marlowe’s is a fantastic destination. Well worth a visit, bring a pocketbook though, as our awesome experience was about $100 for two people. Here’s to your next adventure. Cheers!

Douchebag or Doormat, A bibliography

Douchebag or Doormat, An Annotated Bibliography:

Eldredge, John. Wild at Heart. Thomas Nelson, Inc. 2010. Print.

This book, Wild at Heart, centers around the Christian Life, but specifically focuses in on a single point. What does it take to be a Christian MAN? The case he makes throughout the book is that in today’s society, especially in churches across the United States, manhood has been boiled down to an ideal being a ‘Nice Guy’, and that this is a fundamentally flawed view of what real masculenity should look like. Eldredge, who on top of being on the New York Time’s Best seller list for several of books, is also the director of Ransomed Heart Ministries in Colorado Springs, uses his easily accessible writing style to strike deeply at the heart of men, using examples from famous films, poetry, philosophy, and grounds all of his work with a strong Biblical foundation. The struggle with this book is that it is directed specifically at a Christian worldview. However, the cases he makes about every boy’s ambition to fight a great battle, to live a life of adventure, or rescue a princess has an appeal to the everyman. Eldredge maintains through the course of his text that masculinity is bestowed rather than earned, and that every man has some inherent wound on his heart. It is by acknowledging this wound and overcoming it that one can fully embrace the ferocity that epitomizes how a man should live. Originally published in 2001, the fact that this work is still a staple at Christian me conferences and held up in certain circles as the definitive work of what it takes to be a modern Christian ‘warrior’, is the basis of what makes it ideal for presenting the idea that men don’t have to be a doormat. Eldredge stance on how real men have to overcome a society of ‘mama’s boys’ is another key reason I choose this work, as he points out that real manhood cannot be ‘bestowed’ by a woman. This ties in closely with Palahniuk’s stance which is why I want these two authors to fight, er, talk, with each other.

Palahniuk, Chuck. Fight Club. Norton. 2005. Print.

A short story written for an creative writing class, read at a bar, then evolved into a novel and later into a major motion picture starring Edward Norton and Brad Pitt; Fight Club itself is a story of overcoming insurmountable odds to be successful. The main plot centers around one man’s struggle with insomnia and a numbness which manifests itself eventually (spoiler alert) into full blown schizophrenia and multiple personality disorder where the narrator’s alternate self creates a world of underground fighting and eventually full blown anarchist revolution. This later part of the work doesn’t concern me as much, as some of the snippets earlier on, where Tyler Durden (the fantasy anarchist) mixes Buddhist philosophy with Marxist social engineering to appeal to the Average Joe. This piece, Palahniuk’s first work in a series of brutal, gripping fiction, is very closely related to, and actually referenced by Eldredge’s piece mentioned earlier. It follows a similar thought, that men have become too docile and need to find their ferocity again, it even mentions one of the same problems of a ‘society of men, raised by women.’ The difference between Wild at Heart and Fight Club are serious, where Eldredge suggests that men need to overcome their wound, Palahniuk seems to say ‘Fuck the Wound, take what you want from a world that has denied you.’ Whether or not that was the author’s intention, this fantasy has developed a strong cult following for nearly twenty years, (the short story was originally published in 1996). It emphasizes the difference between secular and christian viewpoints on roughly the same issue.

Peres, Daniel. Details: Men’s Style Manual. Gotham Books. 2007. Print.

Daniel Peres is the Editor-in-Chief for Detail’s Magazine, took it upon himself to write a definitive guide to style. Working with several other editors for Details, he has assembled a veritable tome of knowledge for the young male professional; using engaging photography, top-ten lists, and interviews with fashion moguls like Giorgio Armani and Tommy Hilfiger, Peres outlines all the do’s and don’ts of modern men’s fashion. While not really quotable in itself, this book holds a light up to a serious need in today’s world. The main point of this book, like The Modern Gentleman mentioned below, points out that guys today don’t know how to act, or even dress themselves well. This work is a basis of illustrating the consumerism that drives the average unenlightened man today. Where The Modern Gentleman takes on the task of outlining how a man should ACT, Details confines itself to how a man should look. ‘Classics are classic for a reason.’ The underlying message throughout this work is that men themselves are lost, and need as much direction as possible, whether it is a pretty picture on how to tie a tie, or a complete breakdown on which shoes go well with jeans. These kind of materialistic ideas stem from a man’s need to control their environment and books like this are popular and prolific in catering to that desire.

Trungpa, Chögram. Shambhala, The Sacred Path of the Warrior. Shambhala Publications, Inc. 1984. Print.

While much of today’s society values aggressiveness in men, Trungpa holds a different stance, that of a peaceful, gentle warrior. Born in Tibet in 1939, Trungpa was the Supreme Abbot of the Surmang Monasteries and by the age of eighteen received the equivalent of a doctorate of theology. After the 1959 Chinese invasion of Tibet, Trungpa went into exile in India, where he was appointed by the Dalai Lama to serve as Spiritual Advisor for boys at the Young Lama’s Home School. In the late sixties, Trungpa studied western philosophy at Oxford, and in 1970 was invited to teach in United States. Using his home in Boulder, Colorado as a base, Trungpa founded over one hundred schools and meditation centers across the U.S. While the Shambhala is not a spirituality book in the strictest sense, it deals with the Buddhist versions of the Platonic ideals of Bravery, Dignity, and Beauty. Some of the key points through out the work place emphasis on self-esteem, and true courage. Using Buddhist asceticism and an anti-materialistic viewpoint as a foundation, Trungpa offers a humble and soft-voiced resistance to a society he sees as tearing itself apart at the individual level.

Mollod, Phineas and Jason Tesauro. The Modern Gentleman. Ten Speed Press. 2002. Print.

A loquacious and somewhat presumptive literary gem written by two lawyers with a verbose incontinence of grammatical elitism, The Modern Gentleman offers advice on every topic a man might face; from choosing songs on a bar jukebox to how to lie about your number of sexual partners without completely appearing the ass that you probably are. This work, when coupled with Details, offers an insight into the stereotypical Hollywood reject. While some of the advice is well intentioned, it does paint a grim portrait on how ‘real’ men act. One wonders at the author’s emotional and spiritual depth, but in reality is another example of a bigger problem: Men don’t know how to act. Books such as this one, while often regulated to gag gifts and coffee table paraphernalia, do get read and used often enough to be popular; and it this pop culture which becomes the defining source of the ‘douchebag’ stereotype. This book is something that you might find in the back pocket of How I Met Your Mother’s writing team, and serves to illustrate the attitude of entitlement which so many men have.

Chesterton, G.K. The Man Who Was Thursday. Ignatius Press. 1999. Print.

This work of fiction, subtitled ‘A Nightmare’ takes the reader on a journey through the looking glass of Victorian England. Chesterton, held in the literary heights with such authors as C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien, takes into an abstract world of intrigue and espionage where undercover policemen are sent to undermine the machinations of a group of philosopher-anarchists. The main character, Gabriel Syme, while a character of fiction, is a breathing, bleeding, incarnation of masculinity who is far too quotable to leave regulated to pages of a novel. Chesterton, with Syme’s lips, speaks the words that many men feel in their hearts. Through this caricature of Victorian ideals, Chesterton gives us a window into our own history of the many faces of the masculine. While much of the philosophy of Thursday centers around the ideals of justice and anarchy, the philosophies of the CHARACTERS within Thursday is of great import to the same idea of Thumos, laid out in Mckay’s piece, which is outlined later. The book itself is a poetical glimpse of what every author thus far has alluded to, a true Renaissance Man.

Mckay, Brett and Kate Mckay. “Got Thumos?” The Art of Manliness. Artofmanliness.com, 15 March 2013. Web. <http://www.artofmanliness.com/2013/03/11/got-thumos/&gt;

This blog, established in 2008 by the Mckay duo strives to ‘Rediscover the Lost Art of Manliness” and focuses on a broad range of topics, from literature to advice on shaving. This particular article is the beginning of a series concerning Plato’s chariot metaphor and specifically focuses on Thumos, or man’s Passion. Plato’s metaphor describes a chariot (symbolizing Reason) being pulled by a dark horse which symbolizes man’s Appetites and a white horse symbolizing Thumos. Through a delicate balance of driving this two horses together with the chariot, the driver can reach the immortal heavens and behold Truth. A well researched periodical designed to get at the heart of every man. This blog aims to combine what both Eldredge and Peres are trying to accomplish in their works, while being accessible to everyone. This article stitches together the two garments of these opposing sides of the Wounded man which Eldredge describes, and the Entitled or Wronged man prevalent in Peres and Mollod’s books. A unified approach to one of the classic Greek Ideals is one of the things men need, and coming from a blog dedicated to making guys act like real men becomes a center point for any conversation which involves lost masculinity.

Mr. Mafioso. “Is this the Worst Generation?” Ask Men. Askmen.com. 25 March 2013. Web.

<http://www.askmen.com/money/mafioso_250/272_mafioso-is-this-the-worst- generation.html>

AskMen.com, a site sponsored by such entities as GQ magazine and Macys is the center point of the douchbag culture. Hosting such articles as ‘Top Ten Pickup Lines’ and ‘How to Shave Yourself’ really appeals to the prevailing narcissist culture which faces today’s society. Mr. Mafioso, the working name of an otherwise unknown staff writer for the site is dedicated to appealing to the inner Al Pacino of his readers. One preeminent theme in his work is building back up that image of confidence one may find in television shows like The Sopranos or Boardwalk Empire, which has a mass appeal to every man dreaming of opulent power. This particular article, however, breaks from the mold of the website and holds a magnifying glass up to the current stereotypes and points out some of the things missing in our society now. A thoughtful, though humorous take on many of the same examples seen in Palahniuk and Eldredge, Mafioso shows himself to be tuned into the same underlying issue which every author so far has touched on, the emasculation of American Society.

Douchebag or Doormat?

Douchebag or Doormat?

(Okay folks, this is a little longer post from me. It got put out there a few months ago for a class I was taking and I like it alot. Bear with me, and maybe a few suggestions to make it more readable?)

“Professor,” he cried, “It is intolerable. Are you afraid of this man?” The Professor lifted his heavy lids, and gazed at Syme with large, wide-open, blue eyes of an almost ethereal honesty.
“Yes, I am,” he said mildly. “So are you.”
Syme was dumb for an instant. Then he rose to his feet erect, like an insulted man, and thrust the chair away from him.
“Yes,” he said in a voice indescribable, “you are right. I am afraid of him. Therefore I swear by God that I will seek out this man whom I fear until I find him, and strike him on the mouth. If heaven were his throne and the earth his footstool, I swear that I would pull him down.”
“How?” asked the staring Professor. “Why?”
“Because I am afraid of him,” said Syme; “and no man should leave in the universe anything of which he is afraid.”
De Worms blinked at him with a sort of blind wonder. He made an effort to speak, but Syme went on in a low voice, but with an under-current of inhuman exaltation–
“Who would condescend to strike down the mere things that he does not fear? Who would debase himself to be merely brave, like any common prizefighter? Who would stoop to be fearless—like a tree? Fight the thing that you fear. You remember the old tale of the English clergyman who gave the last rites to the brigand of Sicily, and how on his death-bed the great robber said, ‘I can give you no money, but I can give you advice for a lifetime: Your thumb on the blade, and strike upwards.’ So I say to you, strike upwards, if you strike at the stars.”
-The Man Who Was Thursday by G.K. Chesterton

Two men, arguing in a crowed bar about how to overcome an enemy who, by all accounts, is larger than life and evil beyond comparison. This is the pregame prep talk, or the deep breath before a big meeting. Chesterton has laid out in moving prose what a conversation might look like if you were trying to psyche each other up before tackling the next big thing in your life. No one talks like this now though; and this intensity, this ferocity of spirit seems nearly lost in today’s age of tepid masculinity.
In my own life, I have continuously struggled with what being a man really means. It seems like there is an ocean of opinions and ideas of what a guy has to do. Don’t wear pink; wear pink; work out; don’t care what people think; dress to impress; charm the ladies; respect the ladies; get the ladies, the list of contradictions goes around and around like a NASCAR track. There is no end to the opinions out there, but the fact of the matter is, that in today’s world, these opinions would be worthless and ignored entirely if guys had any idea what the reality was. Instead, we are sponges wrapping ourselves around the newest fad, the hottest actress, or the coolest toys. For myself, the question has always been, ‘How can a be a good man? I don’t want to a be an asshole to anyone, but I don’t want to get walked over either.’ The old phrase of how nice guys finish last has fit me like a glove for longer than I can remember. That’s the question I’m faced with today: is that okay? What else is out there? Can I occasionally be a total dick and be justified in my actions? Do I HAVE to be this condoling, timid, character that everyone likes to be around but no one really respects?
We’ll get into the details of my story a little later, for now though, I want to look at the two big camps of guy-dom that I’m faced with everyday:
Douche-bags, and Doormats.
It’s not really fair of me to label them that way, and for a world focused on political correctness and not offending anyone it is probably too much, but I’m going to strike upwards here, and hopefully with a little bit of exploration we can lay aside any namby-pamby bruised egos and really understand what is driving this dichotomy of the masculine psyche. I think a little clarification is in order, when I call out Douche-bags I use that colloquialism to represent a subculture of guys who feel like they’ve been Wronged somehow, whether by someone in particular, or the world in general. They are Tyler Durden. Men who feel like they have gotten the rawest deals and therefore the world owes them something, even if this is a subconscious decision. Doormats on the other hand, are the stereotypical ‘nice-guy’ we always hear about. They are accommodating to fault, bending over backwards to make sure that everyone is okay, that no one’s feelings get hurt, and usually they do so at their own expense. For myself, I’ve played both roles. While I think that there is some kind of middle ground, I feel a little incomplete regardless of whether I am taking care not to offend, or throwing aside socially acceptable behavior in an effort to be ‘edgy’. What’s true here? What does being a REAL man look like?
Sometimes I feel like I’m stuck between these two camps of guys, and there are always someone from both sides yanking on my arm, telling me how to live. On one hand are dudes like Chuck Palahniuk, author of the short story Fight Club, who has gained a substantial cult following around the book. Fight Club is pure aggression, with some of the characters in the story going as far as the castration of their enemies.

“Fight Club is not football on television. You aren’t watching a bunch men you don’t know halfway around the world beating on each other live by satellite with a two-minute delay, commercials pitching beer every ten minutes, and a pause now for station identification. After you’ve been to fight club, watching football on television is watching pornography when you could be having great sex. Fight club gets to be your reason for going to the gym and keeping your hair cut short and cutting your nails. The gyms you go to are crowded with guys trying to look like men, as if being a man means looking the way a sculptor or an art director says.” (Palahniuk 50)

This appeals to me. I WANT something to fight for, or even just an obvious enemy I can train myself to confront. I’ve spent a lot of years studying the martial arts, but every few years I just stop for awhile, and it’s always for the same reason: it feels like bullshit. Don’t get me wrong, I like feeling agile, and being in shape, and competing against both my fellow students and my personal best, but the politics of tournaments and ridiculous expenses involved in really training these days is more than a working stiff like me can afford on a hobby that in all reality will never pay off in my life. Lets face it, most guys will never have to put their life on the line unless they serve in the military or police. “The idea is to take some Joe on the street who’s never been in a fight and recruit him [to fight club]. Let him experience winning for the first time in his life. Get him to explode. Give him permission to beat the crap out of you. You can take it. If you win, you screwed up. ‘What we have to do, people,’ Tyler told the committee, ‘is remind these guys what kind of power they still have.’” (Palahniuk 120)
Wait… what? Power? What kind of power are we talking about here? Judging from most of Chucks novel, it’s the power to destroy, or use some twisted form of asceticism to recruit a legion of so called ‘space monkeys’ into your average cult of anarchy. He does make two excellent points that have always struck home to me.

“’I see the strongest and the smartest men who have ever lived, and these men are pumping gas and waiting tables… You have a class of young men and women, and they want to give their lives to something. Advertising has these people chasing cars and clothes they don’t need. Generations have been working jobs they hate, just so they can buy what they don’t really need… We are the middle children of history, raised by television to believe that someday we’ll be millionaires and movie stars and rock stars, but we won’t. And we’re just learning this fact, so don’t fuck with us.” (Palahniuk 149, 166)

Okay, I get that, there’s something missing in today’s masculine world. Is it really more aggression though? With national news always finding some new atrocity to display, a school shooting, a kidnapping, a murder in broad daylight, do we really need more violence? Is this what it means to be a man? I wonder. So does John Eldredge, a Christian author and Director of Ransomed Heart Ministries in Colorado Springs. His book Wild at Heart deals with some these issues of out of control anger, and attempts to drill into the core of what a man, specifically a Christian man should look like, “Our society produces plenty of boys, but very few men. There are two simple reasons: we don’t know how to initiate boys into men; and second, we’re not sure we really want to. We want to socialize them to be sure, but away from all that is fierce, and wild and passionate. In other words, away from masculinity and toward something more feminine.” (Eldredge 85) He goes on in his book to say, over and over again, that real men need to be given permission to be dangerous, to be fierce. As a middle management working schlep, I hear his words resonate within my soul. I was walking down a busy downtown street just the other day, coming home from a bar with a friend, as we’re walking I hear angry, one-sided conversation coming up fast behind us. Instantly I’m on my guard, and my hand moves unconsciously to my back pocket where I keep my CRKT fighting knife. A young man, angrily spouting what I can only relate as nonsense hustles past us, yelling at cars, people on the street, and the sign on Tom’s Diner. I wanted him to try something. My friend immediate diverts himself to cut through a parking lot and beckons me to follow, to give the crazy man a wide berth, and he turns to me as we walk. “Did you want to fight that guy?” he asked me. “Yeah,” I respond absentmindedly, “Well, not sure why, but I wanted to have a reason to hit something.” I’m the nicest guy you’ll meet, even when I’m angry, most people seem to belittle my rage into ‘you seem frustrated.’ As I sit and think about it, I’m reminded of a moment a long time ago. Growing up there was a group of guys that hung out at the school across the street from my house. One of them had it out for me, and I got really beat up a few times. After getting my nose broken the second time, my mom enrolled me in martial arts. That was the last time I got in a fight. I wanted desperately to prove that I had what it takes to defend myself. Eldredge talks about this kind of yearning, about needing needing permission to be fierce. “As [my son] Sam ascended[the rock wall], I was offering words of advice and exhortation. He came to another challenging spot, but this time sailed right over it. A few more moves and he would be at the top. ‘Way to go Sam. You’re a wild man.” He finished the climb, and as he walked down from the back side I began to get Blaine clipped in. Ten or fifteen minutes passed, and the story was forgotten to me. But not Sam. While I was coaching his brother up the rock, Sam sort of sidled up to me and in a quiet voice asked, ‘Dad… did you really think I was a wild man up there?’ Miss that moment and you’ll miss a boy’s heart forever. It’s not a question – it’s the question, the one every boy and man is longing to ask. Do I have what it takes? Am I powerful? Until a man knows he’s a man he will forever be trying to prove he is one, while at the same time shrinking from anything that might reveal he is not. Most men live their lives haunted by the question, or crippled by the answer they’ve been given.” (63)

“Well, If I am not drunk, I am mad,” replied Syme with perfect calm; “but I trust I can behave like a gentleman in either condition.”
-The Man Who Was Thursday, G.K. Chesterton, 52
So am I man? Am I douche or maybe just a talkative doormat? I want to be fierce, I want to be powerful, but I don’t know how to do that in a society of video games, political correctness, and mediocrity. I wonder if anyone really knows, or if this another one of those rhetorical questions of the ages. So far, most of what I’ve read goes right in line with the stereotypes that we see in the movies. Men are supposed to be dangerous, even violent. That is definitely a piece of what I feel missing, but it doesn’t complete the picture. What about the charm? The gallant chevalier? The knight-in-shining-armor? Society today yearns for men to be men, but at the same time lifts up this icons of debauchery we see in film and television. ‘Manly’ characters who seduce women, and then walk away. Love ’em and leave ’em. The level of promiscuity seems to directly link with the perceived level of achievement. And the books! There are so many books, instructing men how to dress, how to look, how to act, all in the pursuit of ‘getting some’. One book, Details, outlines all the ins and outs of dressing yourself, and ‘making your wardrobe work for you’. It is astounding the amount of philosophy and specificity contained in this tome and others like it. This particular book, written by the senior editors of the magazine which shares it’s name, contains a veritable fountain of knowledge for the man to dress for any occasion, as well as nearly a dozen interviews with top fashion designers, giving their top ten fashion tips. In one interview with Donatella Versace(the person behind the brand), she flat out calls it, “Ben Affleck looks like a nice American boy. He’s a gorgeous man, but he should have more attitude, be more dangerous.” (Peres 231) The real issue between douche-bags and doormats, I feel, is one of attitude. I get it! Every guy has been wronged by society somehow, and at the same time carries an inherent wound which they must overcome. Even the most successful people in the world can see that it boils down to your own actions, your own attitude. Things like fashion, courage, and nobility are things which all men can possess, but few do, and some abuse. It’s fine to dress well, it’s fine to work out, it’s fine to own a gun or a nice car, but the issue comes from needing those things to define you. “Clothing is the outward expression of the inner person.” Giorgio Armani says in another Details interview, “It’s important to dress in a way that sends the message but also looks effortless and natural. Wearing clothing that is inappropriate to your inner character is the biggest mistake a man can make in terms of fashion.” (57) Whether it’s how much you can bench press at the gym, or the amount of money you make, or your number of sexual conquests, these things are examples of your inner character, but not the SOURCE of it. Sean ‘P. Diddy’ Combs says it perfectly to Details, “Smooth is a thing you can learn from Sinatra. He looked everybody in the eye. The way he moved – Sinatra was always making statements, but he was never being loud. He didn’t have to yell.” (131)
Sinatra. Old Blue Eyes. That icon of class and style. ChairMAN of the board. Now that guy was neither a Doormat, or a Douche bag(well, depending on which biography you read anyway. We’re gonna pay attention to the character, if not the reality.) Sinatra is guy who had it all, the real classy feel, the dangerous edge, the romantic. Movies like Ocean’s Eleven, and I’m talking about the original one with the real Rat Pack, not that crappy remake with all of Hollywood’s modern pretty boys trying to regain some of that lost class; or The First Deadly Sin, where Frankie is a disillusioned detective solving one last murder while he tries desperately to hold on to a marriage he’s beginning to lose because he’s worked too hard all his life. Here is a man, or at least a character, I can hold as my own lighthouse. Our society today is faced with severe lack of manly role models. Mr Mafioso, a writer for askmen.com, puts it this way “The cultural icons of past generations were icons for a reason. Frank had the voice of an angel, Astaire had the dance moves that made you dizzy and Marilyn had, well, she had everything. But the cultural icons today don’t have anything but a hefty bank account. The green might come from daddy or an unwarranted record deal, and that somehow qualifies them to be on the front of every newspaper and magazine. This instills two great ideal in the youth 1) Talent doesn’t mean much and 2)It’s all who you know and what you have. In my day, you ‘knew who you knew’ and ‘had what you had’ from working the way we did.” (Mafioso 1) Let’s go back for a minute. Remember Gabriel Syme, the poet from the beginning of this little foray into the manly ideal? “Who would condescend to strike down the mere things that he does not fear? Who would debase himself to be merely brave, like any common prizefighter? Who would stoop to be fearless—like a tree? Fight the thing that you fear.” (Chesterton 136) Bravery is often considered the summit of masculinity, so why does Chesterton berate it in this tirade? Is this arbor-ous fearlessness the root of the douche? A lot of the self help books and advice columns I’ve read have talked about being fierce and fearless, but what about the peaceful atmosphere that comes from gentleness? Isn’t that the root of being a gentleman? In one book, ironically titled ‘The Modern Gentleman’, There are entire chapters dedicated to how to pick up women in bars, when it is the proper time to put on a condom, what your underwear says about your sexual prowess, and many more, though rather unsavory, details. Amidst all the ‘practical’ advice though, there still blooms a few flowers of truth. Things like meditation, responsibility, and general anti-asshole advice. Apparently even the incorrigible jerks have some sense. “A man owes himself more than stolen moments of solace. Weekly whiles alone are essential. When inner trouble is burbling, alight to a solitary meal or mid-day introspection or clear a night’s social calendar and take yourself out. ‘me time’ is therapeutic and efficient. Wash the car, hit the gym, open the diary, and purloin ‘me time’ without turning into a scruffy troglodyte. Remember: not every Saturday evening must be a raucous group affair. Don’t fear a phone that doesn’t ring with invitations. Little bespeaks the meek like a man who can’t muster the self-love for an unaccompanied weekend movie or sandwich in the park.” (Mollod 124)
So far we’ve danced around a lot of different ideals and opinions, but the singular theme I want to see is how it all ties together. We’ve talked about the ferocity and the need to be dangerous; about social standards(or lack of standards altogether); we’ve even touched on the idea of meditation and role models in living the masculine ideal. At the heart of it all though, to live the masculine ideal must be synonymous with living a heroic life. It is one thing to live bravely, as Chesterton would put it, but another thing entirely to live heroically. To be a real hero removes the capacity for misplaced or misused strength. Violence, apathy, abuse, even rape, have marred the name of real manliness forever.
“Most of you will remember the tragic story from April 1999. Two boys walked into the school library and began shooting; when it was all over, thirteen victims and their two assailants were dead. Sommers is alarmed about about the remarks of William Pollack, director of the Center for Men an McLean Hospital, and so am I. Here is what he said: ‘The boys in Littleton are the tip of the iceberg. And the iceberg is all boys.’ The idea, widely held in our culture, is that the aggressive nature of boys is inherently bad, and we have to make them into something more like girls.”
–Eldredge 85
Or perhaps we jump over to one of our more vulgar sources?
“A gentleman has a long fuse. Like a well-balanced pressure cooker, let off steam in small, frequent doses and avoid the histrionic supernova that leaves a high body count in its wake. When you start to feel the Bile Barometer rise, it’s time to self-monitor. After a bad day at the office, slug the heavy bag in the gym, not a fifth of Cutty Sark.”
–Mollod 257
With so many travesties committed by guys, whether it’s a college stabbing, the Newton elementary school shooting, or just a jerk picking a fight at a bar; the fact of misused strength remains as a throbbing sore on the heart of men. ‘If I become fierce, but lose my cool, who would I hurt?’ A long time ago, I asked myself that same question. And I didn’t like the answer I had for myself.
I was fifteen years old, and my little sister wouldn’t let me have the TV remote. I was pissed. I’d been training in muay thai kickboxing for nearly a year, and without thinking, wrapped my arms around her head and started throwing knees into her sides, just I like I had on so many training bags. I bruised two of her ribs. The resulting discipline involved being grounded, having a long sit down talk with my mother, father, and my instructor. Two full class periods at the Dojo of wall sits and push ups. I didn’t get to watch television for two months. Looking back, now that I’ve honed my sense of honor somewhat, I’m horrified at myself and what I did. I think it was right after that event that I promised myself I would never hurt anyone again; that I would protect everyone around me from such blind anger. Thinking about it now, that was also when I made an effort to stop being dangerous. Fear held me fast. Fear of hurting someone else. Fear losing control again. Martial Arts never held the same appeal for me after that day when I lost control of my emotions.
Plato has a beautiful metaphor of the masculine mindset. Imagine a chariot pulled by two horses. The chariot represents Reason(one of Plato’s Ideals, abstract, yet understandable), it is the conscious thought. On one side is a dark, unruly horse, representing man’s appetites and base desires.(wealth, pleasure, power) This horse can hardly be bridled. On the other side of the team, is a beautiful white stallion. This horse is nearly wild and constantly pulling and tugging the chariot onward. This white horse represents man’s Passion, or Thumos as Plato describes it. When Reason and Passion work together, pull Desire into step, the charioteer can reach the heaven’s and ultimately, enlightenment. Art Of Manliness, a blog dedicated to more old fashioned manly ideals wrote an excellent break down of how Thumos is missing in society today.
“Of the emotions, anger was the most important to check and channel, and restraining anger and restraining thumos were closely connected. One type of man with unbridled thumos is he who wants fight everyone about everything. The guy at the bar who starts a shoving match if he simply thinks you looked at him funny. He’s filled with anger, but it has no specific target – it’s just boiling inside him all the time, and the littlest thing can set it off. Thumos is much like fire – control it and it become an enormous power, handle it loosely and it can burn you and consume everything you touch.” (McKay 6)
I admit, I feel like this a lot of the time, but I’m working on it. The goal being, to become serene. McKay goes onto say; “Thumos, properly trained and harnessed, can be one of man’s greatest allies – inspiring and guiding him, stirring him up, and driving him on towards the peaks of greatness. It can perceive his possibilities and make them real. The Greeks believed that a man experience true happiness ‘in thumos.” (8)
Okay, I got angry, and really lost it; but as I learn more and more, it’s not the anger that’s bad, it’s how you release it. If I had been angry about a stupid remote control, and channeled that into a conversation of what to watch, or even just thrown up my hands and go for a run until I had cooled off, that would’ve been fine! Instead, I got violent, OVER A STUPID REMOTE CONTROL. I was bored, and wanted to watch MY show, not some crap that little girls watch. The more we delve into this heroic ideal, it seems like the warrior’s path becomes more and more likely the only means to achieve real manhood in a society so starved for heroism. But being a warrior doesn’t involve that guy with the out of control thumos. It means being at peace, powerful, and dangerously gentle. Chögyam Trungpa, author of Shambhala says “Warrior-ship here does not refer to making war on others. Aggression is the source of our problems, not the solution. Here the word ‘warrior’ is taken from the Tibetan pawo which literally means ‘one who is brave.’ Warrior-ship in this context is the tradition of human bravery, or the tradition of fearlessness… Ultimately, that is the definition of bravery: not being afraid of yourself. In the face of the world’s great problems, we can be heroic and kind at the same time.” (Trungpa 9,10 emphasis added)
I’m still mad. I can still be major asshole sometimes. I’m even known to just completely shut down and shut out everyone and everything around me. I’m still human. It doesn’t really matter who’s the Douche or the Doormat, living a honorable, chivalrous life is a matter of being willing to hold yourself accountable. To be fierce, and pick yourself back up out of the mud and filth around you and shout to the world ‘YOU COULD BE SO MUCH BETTER! LET ME TRY TO SHOW YOU HOW!’ even if(when) you’re met with silence. I don’t know if there is any single answer for living out the masculine ideal in today’s world. The point is to try.

“It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly .. who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat. – Teddy Roosevelt” (Eldredge 1)

The Righter

It was simple scene. The Boy sat there on his bed, a fan spinning overhead and cartoons playing on the television. He’d seen much in His life already, perhaps not as much as some, but quite a bit nonetheless. So He sat there, the bottle of pills sitting nearly empty, not quite enough to drown out the leftover pain, a coughing fit aggravating the stabbing pain left in his shoulders and stomach.

‘Pathetic’, He thinks.

‘I’ve done nothing, and now can’t do anything… for awhile anyway… and I’ve been such a whiny bitch. not just lately either…’

Realization comes almost as a tangible slap across the psyche. The noise of the cartoon fades, all that’s left is the page and pen next to Him on the nightstand. A page falls, then another, and another… words fill space and time, meaningless fillers, trying to force feed His soul until it felt full again.

‘This is no way to live… but I don’t know if I just stop caring and hang up… or care more and do something about the shit that’s bothering me.’

Hands aching, mind numb, sleep still wont come… silently He continues to assail himself.

‘Why don’t things ever go the way I want them to? Is it too much to ask for to have just a little joy… Do I have to stay trapped in my own mind like this forever?’

The mental pogrom continues and continues; exhausting, pulling deeper and deeper, everything else forgotten by now. The bottle of painkillers, cruelly ironic in their inability to live up to their name; the duality of cartoon of some Japanese invention about a boy with a demon living inside him, using it to kill demons and save the world; memories from a life lived from moment to moment rather than in the constant. So many things coming to a single poignant head…

‘Something needs to change. Soon.’

Without realizing what, without having any sort of starting point, the sentiment was as meaningless as the words written an hour ago. an hour wasted, but not all wastes are in vain.

‘If you write enough, eventually the words lose their meaning, but the shapes gain new meaning… like those poems in the shape of heart or leaf.’

So much time had passed. the Boy still aching, now more emotionally than physically, no end in sight of the psychological masochism, a cigarette seems appropriate, but it didn’t seem to help.

‘It’s just the old trifecta… life, love and finances. Why do they always seem to bother me? Is it a lack of confidence? Too strict of a moral code? Should I just hang up my character for awhile? Maybe it’s me who needs to change, rather than my situation… Damn it, I’m still whining! I’m so emo right now it disgusts me.’

Frustration had an interesting way of disturbing what little piece of calm he had left. This Boy had nothing left, it was obvious. Constantly driving his mind to the edge had left its toll. a happy shell with a cynical and apathetic soul.

‘I’ve talked so frequently about the difference between men and boys, and I wanted so desperately to be that Man, the one everyone thinks I am… but I’m still just that Boy, the one scared to disappoint, the one anxious about being forgotten, the one who’s always tried way too hard to fit in with every crowd. Time to grow up.’

The Boy sat back… somewhat satisfied, but still unsure what must still happen. Hope and Despair are the two constants in every mans life… and one will always lead to the other. no matter how you try and kill hope… it always creeps in, and despair follows just behind. The key, one must guess, is achieve some sense of balance.

‘I’ve never been very coordinated….’

Balance. A tightrope walker’s ideal, a martial artist’s dream, and a man’s hope.

The day had gone like most casual days… wasted. We’ve all been there, not wanting to do anything, not wanting to think. For this Boy though; a wasted day took on deeper introspection. Sitting there in his Pajamas, dreaming of activity but not willing to commit to any kind of motion. Self-deprecation and apathy still his constant companion. How many movies would it take to fill this voided intellect?

Hope and Despair, Hope and Despair, Hope and Despair…

The thoughts played over and over, a metronome of mental agony. As if something was tugging at just the edge of His psyche. Toying with a realization that could change Life and Death forever.

too many people… so many fakes… Hope and Despair. Is life simply just trying to impress the greatest number of people? Can it be that easy? Is a good impression easy? No. what would be the point if it was easy?

Questions without answers, energy without outlet, tension without reprieve, sentences grow and grow and there is no end to their inconsistencies. A walk sounds good, and as a cool breeze drifts into an open window promising a gentle reprieve from the mental heatstroke, our Boy can not decide if he is hero or villain. As in most stories, a hero bears a certain nobility, a code which empowers them beyond the normal, average person… whereas a villain controls his own freedom; they have an unbreakable spirit which must spread to those with narrower vision.

I must choose a path in this world… Hero, Villain, or Peasant. The Question must be then am I an incorruptible idealist, or an ever-changing flow of force, or simply chaff in the wind?

The place is still the same. a dank room reeking of undone laundry, an open box of cashews, and old deodorant. Places rarely change, they often simply evolve with the occupants. This place had seen life, tragedy, joy, subtlety, and failure… still it could not be the same place. Nothing withstands the eternal ebb and flow of circumstance, not even a Hero’s will.

Still, the place was the same only in the fact that it had grown evenly with the occupant. It is easy to lose track of time and size when everything scales with the observer. It is one of the most creative acts to destroy the place so as to measure the length of the fall as it tumbles to ruin. This simple act of knowing evisceration to know thyself, echos throughout the universe.

I will not be trifled with! I am free to know, because I hold nothing back! I forgo the use of my arm so to know the strength of my hand! I will be strengthened by knowledge and force of will!! Hope and Despair have no further bearing on my will!

Cries in the wind. Sentiment. Hope.

There are not many people in this world who can truly know their lot, much less often do they know their history, but simply blunder towards an unknown fate of uncontrolled happenstance; in the end, echos of deeds and remorse of apathy are the only wraith which still has a voice to shriek with:

HERE LIES THE ONE WHO DOOMED HIMSELF! SEE HIM REST IN DESPAIR FOR WHAT HE FAILED TO ACCOMPLISH! DO NOT FOLLOW LEST YOU SHARE HIS FATE!

Hope and Despair… Ebb and Flow… Sleep and Wakefulness… all are the same. A respite leads to anticipation which leads to exertion, and then exhaustion and starts the cycle over again. Balance, it always comes back to balance.

A tight rope walker’s life, a martial artist’s ideal, and a man’s hope. Where does one find this balance of inner and outer self? It dwells in neither place, but affects the universe from it’s home, so where does it keep it’s life? This unity of up and down, left and right, right and wrong; must it be ran down in some herculean task… where does it live!?!?!

Between… it must be somewhere in between. Hope and Despair, the center, balance is at the nexus where the two meet. What is the nexus, what lies betwixt hope and despair?

Another day wasted, another night of painful introspection, yet the solution seeming closer yet. the blankets warm, the tv mumbles a captain’s orders to his ship, and sleep begins to pull the eyelids down and dreams of a circus ebbs into reality.

I’ve never liked heights

Life, Love and Finances; the old trifecta of stress, anguish, and anxiety in everyday life. The Boy walked into life without much preparation. Not that he wasn’t intelligent, or moral, or formed in the way most humans are formed, but like most people when he woke up and saw the world for the first time as it really was, a jaded cynicism soon followed. Life, Love and Finances. The pattern has always stayed the same.

As the Boy returned to the place he had come from, which he couldn’t think of as home at the moment, exhaustion returned to his mind. The kind of deep tired soldiers and the indigent must feel, but without either the sense of accomplishment nor none of the hopelessness. It wasn’t depression, he had decided long ago, but something close to it. As if the body no longer wanted to function and the mind lacked any decent argument to convince it otherwise. Patterns and Rhythms took over, the pattern of getting ready, the steady beat of people and problems at work; every person has faced it. He only had three tools at the ready to fight this stiffness… a hot salt bath, several cigarettes, and his own introspective mind(which was just as easily used against him).

“I need goals, and a means to complete them.” The thought crawled in his psyche as the cool air drifted through the bathroom window. “There must be method, but what can I do, I don’t even know what I want.”

Whining. Pathetic, Sorry for yourself, whining; Order has never been brought from such belly-aching. That’s all that anyone can truly say that they are seeking. Order. Chaos and Strife, though obviously rampant in today’s world, are annoyances and thistles in a path towards the ideal.

Lightning and A Bottle

Lightning and A Bottle

Purple LighteningShadows begin to drape themselves gently over the sloping backs of the giants sleeping on the horizon. As the wisps of a storm commence their leisurely stroll into the frame, cracks and winks of lightening begin to flirt and flash, teasing at the tumultuous cacophony which they will soon unleash.

There is the same crackle-pop of anticipation as I look at the spirits sitting in front of me. The day, dreary as it may be, has left me hollow and down. There is a dark place, tinted by green glass and rosy glasses, a place I go to every time the world seems to go awry. A place that seems safe and happy, where everything seems a joke and a lark. The capsule of bliss sits in front of me, taunting me and waiting for me to throw it all away.Green Glass

The storm has begun to roil, churning a deep purple as the last remnants of sunset sink, ashamed, behind the horizon. The flashes of light have become a repeating angry strobe. Silent and deadly, the only noise is the building wind, a deep rumble as the pressure builds in the upper atmosphere; trying desperately to push away all the resistance the meager valley is offering.

“Well, you’re just lovely aren’t you?”

“I try. It’s my observation that there is an excess of douchebags in the world. So why not be awesome instead?”

“I know exactly what you mean. You see the jerks out there and all you can think is that ‘it’s no effort to be a decent person, why do you seem to have such a hard time with it?’

“As I see it, most guys can get whatever they want either way, so the only thing holding them to a higher ideal is themselves. Some people just can’t be bothered.”

The sky seems to sink in around me.

Empathy, particularly a false and depression fueled one, is the enemy of interior peace.

Sad Dandy

A slight stumble towards the bar, and some kind of dark sadness that can’t quite claw it’s way into a superficial display, both prove to be the deciding factor in choosing to finish the game and then head home.

The storm seems to be passing now, the green glass empty and the rosy glasses fogged; only the faintest wisps of cloud remain in the sky, obscuring the few stalwart stars as they aim to penetrate the darkness. Friends and family, coworkers and strangers all join together to make sure that you’re okay.

“No sweat. I’ll call you when I get home.”

The drive is precarious at best. slick roads and worried fingers conspire against you, but focus can be maintained. It feels like control. It feels like discipline. The reflective moon must be flipping these feelings upside down.

“Home safe. Good night”

Bed, and delirium; rest and blissful unconsciousness. Watching the strangers and friends float away like all those wisps of cloud. Tomorrow will be hard. Why won’t anyone else forget?

Step One

 

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”

-Lao Tzu

 

I never thought I’d get to this point. I want to be successful, provide for my family and be able to build something unique. Where does one even begin that kind of undertaking? I have always thought about being able to turn my love for writing and the arts into something that earns me a decent income, or find a field of work where I can use my great people skills and genuine care for other people to turn into something that I can sustain and support my family, and there’s always the dream of winning the lottery and not having to work another day in my life with next to no effort. Most of this is all a pipe dream right now. As a twenty-something with no education to speak of, or contacts to use, I’m far from financial independence, and will be lucky to be out of debt by the time I want to be able to retire.

 

So where can I start? What are my goals for this next year? How can get this journey started?

 

The first thing I’ve decided I need is a clear goal. I have a certain figure in my head that I want to reach by a certain time. That helps me break down the final goal into something a little bit more manageable a little bit more chewable. That is the goal of this blog; take those bite sized pieces of my personal journey, document the successes and failures, and set them up for critique and feedback from community at large.

 

That’s my first step then, chart out where I want to be, and of what those few first crucial steps consist. So then, here’s the goal, have a savings/investment portfolio worth at least a quarter million dollars by the time I’m 40 years old, and be able to do so without too deeply compromising my current way of life.

 

It’s not too hard to map it out, I have to be able set aside approximately five hundred dollars every week until my fortieth birthday, which as time goes on will become easier and easier. I figure starting out with a high yield savings account, aggressive short-trade investment portfolio, and picking up some extra overtime for extra liquidity. Perhaps even starting to freelance blog post. (Insert snarky grin here)

 

The greatest obstacle I have right now, is myself. I know that I have a hard time staying motivated and disciplined. So the biggest issue is to stay focused, and MAKE time to accomplish the goals I’ve set for myself, as well as begin to break them down into something a little more manageable. That is the first step.

 

Time is a created thing. To say ‘I don’t have,’ is like saying, ‘I don’t want to.”

-Lao Tzu