My Other Half

This is not a reflection on marriage or relationships.  It’s far more self-centered than that.

The still miraculously ageless Paul Rudd, our Dorian Gray of the 21st century, stars in a new Netflix series called Living with Yourself.  In it he plays a man in seemingly middle-aged malaise (Note:  Because really, it’s Paul Rudd).

There is actually a “Which Paul Rudd is Older” Quiz and it’s SO hard. Click here to take it and fail miserably like me #HEISAVAMPIRE

Life has turned against him and it’s mostly not his fault, more a circumstance of battle scars and, well, age if you don’t count his still voluminous hairline and the suppleness of his skin.

This man is 50 years old #dealwiththeDevil

In any event, after a sad public semi-meltdown at the office, his newly reenergized work friend takes pity on him and gives him a card with the key to his secret of rejuvenation.   What it turns out to be is the number of a slightly seedy storefront in a strip mall where, for a small pile of money, you will become the BEST of you.

Or, put more succinctly, a CLONE of you; the rested, hottest, most well adjusted version of yourself, the best of yourself and without having to endure painful psychotherapy or tedious self-help courses.

You will wake up and walk out as strong and as vibrant and as in demand as, say, football quarterback Tom Brady.  Because, as the series more than implies, that is how Tom Brady manages it.

Ugh, forget it

Though since nothing is that easy in our actual reality these days AND because all good TV shows and movies need some conflict, it’s not that easy.  Rather than killing off the world-weary version of Paul Rudd, as this storefront usually does (Note:  Ha, imagine that they thought they could even nick Paul!) with no one the wiser, things go awry.

The real, down-in-the-mouth Paul Rudd somehow manages to live (Note:  Was there ever a doubt?), emerging through dirt and plastic wrap from sex feet under clad only a diaper, where he then walks six hours home to his nice house and nice wife and angrily confronts…HIS OTHER HALF.

These pics are 11 years apart… I just can’t get over it

No, it’s not his wife who he encounters when he enters back into the world that was once, more sadly, his own.  What he sees instead is the best version of him; someone that he instantly recognizes physically but for all intents and purposes is now a psychological stranger.  Right before his eyes is his truly OPTIMUM self.  The can-do guy without the bumps and dings and self-sabotaging either life or he saddled himself with.

It’s infuriating and yet strangely comforting.  It makes him sad and resentful and, yet, gives him a sliver of hope.

In short, it allows him and us to look in a three dimensional mirror and try to somehow rectify what it means to be the best AND most world-weary versions of each of us in any given moment, mindful that every option is always available and every alternative has its perks and minuses.

We agree, Keanu.

This gets you to thinking.

If even ageless Paul Rudd is world-weary and tired and angry and bitter what hope is there for me?

But if there is indeed an age defying, bouncier version of the Paul Rudd that we all know and love hiding from even Mr. Rudd himself, perhaps each of us suffers from the very same malady?

Maybe there is a better version of yourself lurking somewhere deep inside.  This would be a person less jaded and certainly less fed up.  This would be a guy (or a gal, obviously) able to take a different, more positive road to, well, everything, and make his or her choices accordingly.  This could be someone WE’D envy and, more positively, even aspire to be if we weren’t already them.

Imagine if we had access to that?

My better version would look like Matt Bomer, right? #please

Who would Donald Trump be?  Is there a better version?  What would Vladimir Putin do?  Or maybe there are even worse choices and what we are now experiencing is actually his best self?

Or vice-versa.

Again, it gets you thinking.   Though that can be a perilous course depending on which version of yourself you are.

Jekyll or Hyde?

Difficult though it might be to accept that we are not set in stone, condemned to act in a certain way given our all of our specific life experiences up to that very point in time, it is worth considering.

What would it be like it be like if my mind and body could get serviced by the best human garage in town and emerge as a nearly refurbished version?  Not only could I be freshly painted and waxed on the exterior (Note:  Because, please, that’s the first thing you notice, no matter how much psychotherapy you’ve had or not had) your outlook could be a sharpened, shiny and certainly more electrifying version of that very same DNA.

We call that Fonda-ing

This does not mean you’d be anyone else but you.  It only allows you to be the very best of who YOU are and choose what actions YOU take accordingly in any given situation.

It also allows for a more limber point of view from which to make these choices.  Not necessarily younger, since we all must choose unwisely when we’re young, but simply less cynical and jaded.

It gets you to thinking again, and again, and again.

What are the possibilities contained within all of our inner operating systems?

Fiona Apple – “Better Version of Me”

Balls

Screen Shot 2015-01-25 at 11.44.26 AM

Who would have thought the word could conjure so many meanings. Certainly not a non-football fan like myself. But the point here isn’t the shock, outrage and banner headlines caused over the fact that 11 of the 12 footballs thrown by New England Patriots star/pinup/QB Tom Brady at his recent AFC championship game win were a full 2 lbs. under minimum ball weight requirements (10.5 lbs. per square inch vs. the minimum 12.5-13.5) – thus making them easier to grip, throw and catch– but why ANYONE AT ALL is surprised.

Amen, Chairy, amen.

Amen, Chairy, amen.

Is there really someone out there who thinks business is fair? Or even, at the very least, consistently above board? And yes, football is foremost a business. The NFL is the most profitable of all American sports, generating in excess of $9 billion (that’s with a “B”) of revenue each year. And just because none of that money comes from me don’t think for one second I am going to back away from a story this good – or timely – especially when it involves or even owes to balls in any context.

But neither should you.

The meaning of this “scandal” has nothing to do with the size of Mr. Brady’s balls or whether he or his team is punished for playing with ones that are too small. After all, under NFL by-laws the recommended fine for altering ball size is just $25,000. Even if one were to multiply that by the 11 balls in question it would still only come to a mere $275,000. Percentage wise that would have about as much effect on the New England Patriots as the ticket you or I receive for parking our cars at an expired meter. Probably less.

Tom & Gisele's LA mansion has a moat. #nuffsaid

Tom & Gisele’s LA mansion has a moat. #nuffsaid

Rather – the importance of this story is hero worship and how much we Americans can talk ourselves into believing in anything about the iconic people or institutions we truly admire. In order to topple said person or institution in that strata the proof has to be beyond rock solid – it needs to be both superhuman and have undeniable consequences for the world or aggrieved parties far beyond the specific incident – and in counterbalance to just how much we value the iconography of the culprit.

And even then there is no guarantee a certain percentage of minds will ever be changed in reference to said icon or those like-minded icons in the future who follow in said icon’s footsteps.

exhibit A

exhibit A

I haven’t mentioned Bill Cosby, Woody Allen, Roman Polanski, O.J. Simpson, Richard Nixon, Pete Rose, Wall Street, stock brokers, hedge funders, your local police, the legal system, your local realtor, or the entertainment industry in general or specific here, but feel free to fill in with a name, institution or particular system of your choice when appropriate. These are merely the ones who come to mind for me off the top of my head.

All this said, there is no reason for one to automatically condemn any or all of the above. We all – each and every one of us – benefit from time-to-time by having the “inside advantage” when we can. Okay, I suppose there are some exceptions but I find myself at a loss right now to think of one. Even Mother Theresa realized the value of good publicity for her cause. Not to mention the necessity of fundraising off of it.

The material just writes itself

The material just writes itself

Part of this reality has merely to do with human behavior. I don’t consider myself a cynic – just more of a realist. In other words, I don’t romanticize the acquisition of a lot of fame, money and public success because at a certain age, if you’re paying attention, you see all the pros and cons, ups and downs, moral and yes, immoral choices or passive participation – which is sort of the same thing – that goes into it.

I have no idea if Tom Brady is lying about his “balls” (Note: why couldn’t he just say footballs – was it a deflection of attention, aside from his 8000 mega-watt smile and perfect color gray sweatshirt on his perfectly filled out…oh, forget it). Or if Coach Bill Belichick is. Any more than if I really know for sure 100% just how much Richard Nixon knew of every single detail of the Watergate break-in, Bernie Madoff’s wife and sons got the full extent of what he was involved in, or if Bill Cosby, Woody Allen or Roman Polanski knew the entire breadth of the violations they were committing when they did. (Note: Though I do have my VERY STRONG opinions). Still, instinct tells me none of them were completely innocent and many of them are completely guilty. The question is how much, to what degree, and how severe their punishment should be. The one reaction no one under 35 is really entitled to in the lens of 2015 is sheer, unadulterated surprise.

Can we trust anyone that looks that good in a gray sweatshirt?

Can we trust anyone that looks that good in a gray sweatshirt?

This IS how the world works. Change it, write about it, prosecute it but don’t get up on a soapbox to express SHOCK (Note: Or even feign mild taken aback).

There is a song lyric in Stephen Schwartz’s critically underrated yet mega successful musical Wicked where the phony Wizard of Oz sings to green witch Elphaba – the latter of whom serves as the moral compass in this real story of Oz and who dares to challenge the false political rhetoric the Wizard is feeding his people in order to keep them in line. As the song Wonderful goes and the Wizard sings:

There Are Precious Few At Ease

With Moral Ambiguities

So We Act As Though They Don’t Exist….

This was right after a conversation where, when Elphaba accuses him of lying to citizens of Oz in order to keep them happy, he retorts:

Elphaba, Where I Come From We Believe All Sorts Of Things That Aren’t True. We Call It History. **

(** Note: Though it is impossible to know, one might credit the musical’s book writer Winnie Holzman with that line, or perhaps even the writer of the original novel of Wicked – Gregory Maguire).

This musical, still running strong on Broadway after 12 years and in line to be the longest running Broadway show of all time at some point, is based on Maguire’s 1995 novel of the same name. On so many levels the show is about the Reagan era of the eighties (and beyond) – a time when Americans were mostly thumbing their nose at the homeless, embraced the idea that greed was good and ballyhooed trickle down economics. This mushroomed into a no-holds barred economic prosperity where everyone could buy a house, borrowing against anything they did or didn’t have because the ingenuity of Americans and the belief that their markets could sustain anything. At least, that was the narrative we lived to then that continued for several decades until the economy massively crashed.   Never mind that the Reagan era eighties were also a time when the pandemic of AIDS had taken hold in America, most specifically in the gay community which saw mostly homosexual men dropping dead left and right with little help from the counterintuitive Morning in America speeches the American public bought lock, stock and 8000 mega-watt smile from Pres. Reagan. The lack of actions of that administration to aid the others in American culture was at full force and the gays, the homeless and soon – though they wouldn’t realize it until later – the middle class – were expendable. Forget same-sex marriage, we’re simply talking about survival – and in relation to what we were being sold it just wasn’t important back then – especially when it came to others.

Another Patriot in question

Another Patriot in question

So as a gay guy in my late twenties at that time who managed to survive, my view of reality behind the rosy curtain has clearly been colored. Perhaps too much, though, I’m not so sure. I’d rather err on the side of skepticism and then be surprised when everything turns out better than I had hoped than buy into a fiction that doesn’t exist and will pollute the reality and ideals I – and all of you – live by both right now and in the future.

Perhaps you can see, then, why I am never shocked, surprised or even mildly roused when the elite in sports, politics, entertainment, business or any other of our top dogs are found to be taking liberties in order to attain or maintain their #1 status. The day we decide to take these transgressions a bit more seriously – both for those who commit them and with our own behavior – will be the time when perhaps my own mood will lighten towards Tom Brady and his balls. Though even then, probably only just a little. As I stated upfront, I’m not and never have been much of a football fan.