A few decades ago, it came to my attention that when I asked the DMV person who was taking the photo for my driver’s license to tell me when the photo was being taken, she/he would not. S/he wouldn’t tell me to smile, or say “ready” or any niceties. So, the photos never looked very good. We all know how lousy DMV photos can look.

I realized at some point the lousiness of these photos was due to our collective erroneous approach. In fact, there are even web sites who waste our time trying to tell us how to take a good DMV photo. We try to look friendly and pleasant, and instead end up looking doofusy and moronic. This is because, without having any idea when the photo will be taken, we are forced into two expressions:

  1. the idiotic half-smile
  2. the moronic blank stare

So, in my last photo shoot of about ten or fifteen years ago, I decided to go for a different expression: ANGRY. And it came out great. I looked hella pissed.

I recently had my photo updated, and I took the same approach, with even better results. Man, do I look pissed in my photo. I look positively murderous and psychotic. It’s fantastic.

I’ve decided my goal from now on is to make each photo look angrier than the last. And I’m telling you, you should try it. You can’t blow an angry look. At the very worst, you’ll look Charles-Mansonesque. And for years to come, instead of cringing when you have to look at your driver’s license, you’ll burst out laughing.

Of course, you could just aim for the ridiculous, but I think Angry Look requires more finesse.

I look at mine when I need a little cheering up. Damn, I look crazy in that picture.

mixednuts.jpgI used to be a religious nut. In fact, I’ve been all types of nuts. My life is basically a can of mixed nuts — especially the kind that, when you open them up, release a fake snake that leaps into your face. (You know, I once kept one of those cans on my desk at work, and damn if a few fools didn’t open it. Now, that is fucking funny. I’m laughing just thinking about it.)

Okay, back to the point. Religion is based on dogma. As you become more and more religious, the dogma becomes increasingly didactic. Then it becomes debilitating or sometimes disturbing. But enough alliteration. As a chassidic nut one thing I learned is that when you cut your fingernails, you shouldn’t let them fall on the floor. What you are really supposed to do is bury them, or if you’re a tzaddik (really holy person), you burn them. But, in the modern world, the layperson may simply flush them down the toilet.

The thought behind this is that the fingernails are basically a displaced piece of a live human, and since it is disconnected from its source it becomes a negative force a.k.a jinxed. Therefore, you shouldn’t touch the cut-off fingernails ’cause you may get some bad juju or something.

Why am I telling you all this? Because even though I am no longer religious and don’t even believe in god, I still have to cut my fingernails over the toilet. Moreso, if I see someone cut a corner of a nail and let it drop to the floor, I am thoroughly offended. And *even moreso*, K — a person who was never religious — has adopted the kabbalistic habit of cutting nails over the toilet. Hey, you never know, you don’t want to get jinxed over a fingernail.

ryf2.jpgI just think this is the strangest thing. I never got caught up in the strange “bad luck” myths of my youth about ladders, mirrors, black cats, etc., but the damn fingernails (yes, this includes toenails) have got me in their hold.

BTW, that picture is of the great Rabbi Yehudah Ferris (in his band The Ferris Wheels), one of my favorite people in the world, a very funny and truly great person. He’s taught me many things, fingernails being the least of it.

lilacs-300.jpgI meant to write this a while back, when lilacs first appeared hear in the Bay Area. Where I grew up I remember them blooming at the end of April or beginning of May, but here you see them about a month earlier. They don’t grow well here — they like a cold winter — the there’s very few lilacs bushes around (I know the exact location of each of them within a five-mile radius of my house). Mostly you see them at the florists.

lilacs2-3001.jpgLilacs have my favorite smell in the whole world. They come and go so briefly, so I spend most of my life wishing I could smell them. When they appear, I always buy some at the florists so I can sniff them as often as possible.

This year I was buying a bunch and a woman at the store said, “Aren’t they wonderful?” which launched us into a lilac conversation. She determined quickly that I was from the East Coast. It seems that lilacmania, at least the California strain, manifests most strongly in coastal transplants. I am not only in my intense longing. At the end of our chat, she said,

“That smell — you never quite get over it.”

I miss them already.

(photos courtesy of danjill and penywise at stock.xchng, respectively)

For a while in my middle age, I had a grandmother again after not having had one for about 30 years. This incredibly lucky and special status ending last Sunday on Mother’s Day.

Having a grandmother as a kid and as an adult is very different. As a kid, my grandmother took care of me physically and emotionally. My grandmother gave me lots of affection and love that I got nowhere else, and she was my favorite person in the world. As an adult, my new grandmother was the one who needed help and care. K and I spent almost every Sunday for the last five or six years giving her our time, attention and love. As time went on, she needed more and more help, and we did what we could. In return, she gave us something rare in our lives: someone who understood us and loved us unconditionally. (Sure, that wasn’t the story all the time such as during bouts of dementia-induced paranoia. But the real grandma always came back to us after a short time.)

K & I feel we have so little support in the world, and we have so few people in our corner. Our family — in the sense of people who understand, like, and respect us — is strong but very small, so each person dear to us is incredibly precious. Because of this, our loss is immense.

Since she wasn’t “really” my grandmother, few people understand or care to know how much she meant to me. We liked other from the first time we met, and no matter what state she was in, I was always happy to see her. She told me she felt I was sent to be her friend at the end of her life, and I felt that to be true. As different as these two grandmothers were, the love they gave me was very similar and very wonderful. Although both grandmothers were gone from my life too soon, I still feel lucky that I ever knew them.