Does modesty really make men behave better?

Fire Island Nude Beach
Fire Island Nude Beach

The first breasts I remember seeing as an adolescent child belonged to a Finnish woman who was sitting across from my brother and I in a sauna in the bowels of a Swedish ferry that was carrying us across the Gulf of Bothnia.

Though I was raised in Europe until the age of 7, my parents had moved our family back to the United States, where nudity was relegated to hidden colonies and Playboy magazines.

On that same trip we visited friends in Austria, at the castle I had grown up in, and they invited us down to the local swimming pool for an afternoon in the water.

To our astonishment, the two teenage girls in the group disrobed in front of us, quickly pulling on swimsuits in a practiced and efficient manner.

They were not the least bit ashamed, but my brother and I, red-faced with eyes cast directly at the ground for fear of getting caught looking, took the time to find the bathrooms, where we changed into swimsuits as modestly as we could.

What I had grown up with in my time in Europe had become a great mystery to me in the United States.

After reading a recent blog post about a woman giving up wearing leggings because she doesn’t want to contribute to men thinking lustful thoughts about her body, I started thinking about the idea of what is really at fault in our society when it comes to nudity and sex.

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Teenage Politics

Politics

On Thursday, around our dinner table, I couldn’t help but think that my kids are becoming really great liberals.

If liberals means they espouse a political ideology founded upon ideas of liberty and equality.

We discussed the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, the State of the Union address, the economic impact of falling oil prices and, of course, school testing, a topic they are all too familiar with and opinionated about.

As I listened to each of them make a case for or an argument against some aspect of our discussion, it dawned on me that they have become what I had hoped they would.

Independent thinkers.

Thoughtful question askers.

Skeptical analysts.

I was fast becoming a Young Republican at their age, bent on making my worldview, the one I had fashioned as a second generation immigrant, work for me.

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Eating Fiji: They killed a goat for me

Peppers, curry powder, ginger, fenugreek and cloves are among the flavorings in Fijian goat curry
Peppers, curry powder, ginger, fenugreek and cloves are among the flavorings in Fijian goat curry

Food is a serious thing in the South Pacific.

It is labor, nourishment, hospitality and worship all wrapped up together with every other part of the distinctive cultures in the islands.

Food is gathered and pounded and wrapped up in leaves and cooked in underground ovens. And increasingly bought from store shelves and microwaved on countertops.

Food is simple, essentially what grows on the limited terrain and in the tropical climate, and yet it’s complex and strong, like an alloy comprised of different metals.

When I think of Fiji, I can taste the green coconuts I would pick up and drink from a hole in the husk on a hot afternoon.

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Pervasive Fear and Loathing in the Suburbs: Leaving your children home alone

Tools like Find my iPhone allow parents to track their children's whereabouts.
Tools like Find my iPhone allow parents to track their children’s whereabouts.

I want to establish something at the beginning of this post. My parents are amazing. They are loving, caring, protective and responsible.

The reason I say this, is because what they did to me as a child, directly relates to the way I’m raising my own children.

I don’t remember how old I was the first time I was left alone.

From the stories I’ve been told, I was a bit of a wanderer, often disappearing, leaving my parents to find me preaching to a crowd or singing songs in front of whatever audience I could find.

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The Lucky Hat

I went for a walk at half time and smoked a cigar.

It wasn’t a victory cigar.

It was a cigar of reflection.

I kept telling myself it’s only a game. It’s only a game. It’s only a game.

When I was good and cold, I walked back into my neighbors’ house to take a peek into that crystal ball and see what the future held.

The future still looks bleak.

It looks big and physical. Not pretty, just tough and gritty and textbook playbook. The way football has been played for more than a century.

Maybe that’s the way it’s supposed to be.

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Charlie is us

Charlie Brown

I spent one summer working in a print shop in Santa Rosa, California.

My cousins owned the shop in partnership with my uncle, and they were gracious enough to host me for the summer and allow me to make a little money while attempting to learn the family trade.

I was a better production assistant than a press operator, which required some mechanical and engineering skills.

So I collated, packaged, invoiced and made deliveries in a beat-up old GMC truck with a hydraulic clutch. Which proved very interesting when I had to make deliveries in downtown San Francisco.

My favorite delivery, by far, was to the house of one Charles M Schulz, who lived and worked in Santa Rosa.

I only ever met the man on a handful of occasions, dealing mostly with his assistant or his wife, but I was as enamored of his celebrity as anyone I had ever met personally at that point in my life. Which I think included the actor Craig T Nelson and Pope John Paul II.

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Craft Beer in the Southeastern United States

Southeastern Craft Beer Road Trip
Southeastern Craft Beer Road Trip

I didn’t start out planning to do a Southeastern United States craft beer tour.

It just happened to turn out that way.

I’ve become a bit disillusioned by craft beer in the two and a half years since I moved to Chicago.

From hoarding to overnight lines for new releases to subpar beer pushed out as aging liquid and everything in between, the craft beer world doesn’t represent the community spirit that I have come to know in places like Oregon, Montana and Alaska. Small breweries bent on craft and who cater to their immediate audience are what represent the trueness of the profession or art form to me.

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Sunrise on Water

Just after sunrise at Cocoa Beach, Florida
Just after sunrise at Cocoa Beach, Florida

We didn’t stay more than a half hour.

But it will go down in our memories like it was hours and hours.

I couldn’t figure out the pay-by-phone system on the parking meters in the tiny lot at the 1st street access to Cocoa Beach.

So my son and I wandered down to the water’s edge to catch the sunrise with the specter of a parking ticket hanging over my head.

We arrived exactly seven minutes before it was scheduled to appear, according to the weather app on my phone.

The sun was set to rise from the cold Northern Atlantic Ocean horizon at 7:12 a.m. on Christmas Day 2014.

And I damn-well wanted to be there to witness it.

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Savannah on my mind

She always finds her Tardis
She always finds her Tardis

Gabrielle and I approached the breakfast buffet at the Comfort Inn in Columbia, South Carolina, trepidatiously.

That is to say we’ve been there before.

That moment when you walk into the foyer of whatever cheap hotel occupies every single exit from here to Modesto, and you discover that it looks like it’s been pillaged by Viking raiders.

The tables were covered in the viscera of yogurts and bananas, whose skeletons and skins bulged in a heap atop the trash can like a pile of bodies ready for the pyre.

Sloppy paper notes indicated the orange juice, waffles and sausages were gone. Forever.

So we made up toast with jam, salvaged the rest of the Fruit Loops and drank apple-juice colored water and headed to the pool, where I taught her my secret skills of playing the mouth trumpet in an echoe-y room.

“You’re really good at that dad,” she said.

“I know,” I replied. “I want you to put that on my grave stone.”

She just looked sideways at me and continued to swim.

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Asheville, The Art of War and Cheryl Strayed

IMG_7658I started writing this from the Chili’s across from the Comfort Inn we’re staying at in Dentsville, South Carolina tonight.

The kids are staring at me after I just scolded them for replying to the waitress with their typical “ya,” or barely discernible grunt meant to infer  that yes, they would indeed like fries with their burger.

“This is the South, where people are polite, and when they ask you if you want fries with your burger, you say yes please,” I told them.

They replied with those barely discernible grunts meant to infer that they indeed understood what I was saying.

After a long evening with Jon in Cincinnati, I was up early, as is my usual habit. I showered, dressed and sat in bed for a while waiting to wake my sleeping wife and kids.

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"THE WORLD BREAKS EVERYONE, AND AFTERWARD, SOME ARE STRONG AT THE BROKEN PLACES." – HEMINGWAY