When is it okay to die?

Fair warning…..this post tackles a more intense topic than normal. Today is April 2nd, which would be my brother Rick’s 46th birthday. This post is about his death.


Rick is in the middle. Grandma on the right. I’m on the left. Sister Penny in front of Rick. Bunch of cousin-rats in the front row. Circa 1989?

On an early morning in November of 1995, I returned to my college dorm room from Taco Bell with a sack of tacos and a pretty furious hangover. I was also wearing red converse sneakers. It’s funny the details you remember when your world is turned upside down.

A campus security car was sitting outside my dorm room entrance and it quickly became clear that they’re eyes were trained on me.

First reaction: Oh shit, what did I do last night that I don’t remember?

Unfortunately, the message I was about to receive wasn’t nearly as pleasant as ‘you stole a bunch of raw fish from the dining hall and snuck it into a professor’s bedroom as a prank and you’re busted’.

My older brother, Rick, had committed suicide.

Rick and Mike - College

Rick in college with his good friend Mike Kammen.

The loss of a loved one, unexpected, sudden and inexplicable, or expected and after a long and losing battle with an illness – is devastating no matter what. But in this case, I can’t honestly say that my brother’s death at his own hand was unexpected or inexplicable. It WAS expected and after a long and losing battle with the illness of depression.

Flash back to 1987, 8 years prior. As a 12 year old sharing a bunk bed room with my brother I awoke to find him twitching and foaming at the mouth. He had overdosed as his first (to my knowledge), attempt to kill himself. He survived and spent a month plus in the hospital.

But some diseases are chronic. You can treat symptoms temporarily – in this case with antidepressants, lithium, even shock therapy – but the disease remains, growing and insistent. As Rick progressed through what was left to him of a high school experience, through college and ultimately into the first years of medical school, the sickness was always there, and he attempted suicide multiple additional times. My other brother would get a call in the middle of the night that Rick had gone missing again and have to go hunting, sometimes for a day plus while the family held its breath, to find him somewhere on the side of the road in his car. Not quite dead, but certainly no longer living. Back to the hospital. Restart the process.

This experience, year after year, took a significant toll on the rest of the family. The never knowing. The always waiting. And it is this toll that causes me to reflect that it’s not always the most selfish thing to do to kill oneself as some have said. In some cases, finally ending a life might be a mercy to many around you.

Weeks before Rick finally stepped in front of train, making a decision that was not ambiguous, not a cry for help, he visited me at college. Late one evening, in tears, Rick confided to me simply how miserable he was, how insufferable his day to day existence was. And I said to him in no uncertain terms that he couldn’t continue to drag the family through repeated suicide attempts. That it was a misery for us as well. And that if he was going to kill himself, do it for real. I believe I said ‘put a shotgun in your mouth and make it permanent’. I didn’t say this with animosity. I said it out of love. Love for Rick, and love for the rest of my family. That may be hard to believe, but it’s true.

Did he take my counsel in making his final choice? I don’t know. Do I feel guilty? I also don’t know. But do I know Rick is at peace? Yes. Do I know the family, though saddened by this loss, is at peace? Yes.

To be clear, I am not advocating for anyone to commit suicide. I believe there are many ways to get better. Medicine. Therapy. Time. By definition, suicide is the only last resort. But I do think there is a point when it is okay to die. I don’t believe Rick made a selfish decision. And I can respect a decision made out of love, no matter how hard and permanent that decision may be. I know this will be controversial. It may be a very unique perspective. I invite open discussion in the comments about this and am happy to continue to share my thoughts and experience.

With over twenty years in the rearview mirror, my last thoughts of Rick are quite pleasant. When we went to his apartment to clean out his things, I found a cardboard box with my name on it, and a note to open out of view of our parents. Inside was a massive collection of VHS porn. I know that Rick did this as a playful joke. A final act of love to remind me that while he knew I and we would struggle with this, his care for us never ended. And in the depths of the grief that was still days fresh, I laughed. Thank you Rick.


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I did a juice cleanse….and it sucked bad.

Like ‘I fell down some stairs because I tripped stumbling out of the bedroom where I found my wife cheating on me as I was running to tell her about a foreclosure notice on our house because my ne’er-do-well brother in law stole all our money and during the fall got a lego that my kid (who it turns out is also not mine) left on the stairs lodged in my hind quarters. Oh and Trump is President’ bad.


Not this type of juice

So why did I do this cleanse? Mostly curiosity. Also because my wife told me to. And before you ask, the metaphor above isn’t based on experience. We don’t buy our kids legos. God damn leeches.

I’ve heard about and read about juice cleanses for years, and because I do believe you should walk a mile in someone else’s moccasins regardless of how racially charged that statement might be, I decided to give it a try, just like I took archery and basket weaving at Boy Scout camp.


The promised benefits?

  • More energy – like a bump of cocaine but without the social stigma
  • Flushing the system of toxins – said toxins not really defined
  • Elimination of bloating – bloating is a nice word for your fat belly which was caused by years of drinking beer and eating ribs, but some kale juice should clean that right up
  • Maybe some weight loss – as in, the physics of starving yourself is a validation of the law of conservation of energy

Before I started, I did some basic research on the science behind juice cleanses. In summary, there is none. It’s made up, hippy dippy nonsense. Honestly I have nothing more to say here. If anything, much of the science questions the potential negative effects. But ‘science’ never stopped me from drinking a fifth of vodka, and ‘math’ never stopped me from playing craps at 3AM in Vegas after that fifth of vodka. So who cares.

Day 1  – I decided to weigh in. 179.7 lbs. And yes, I’m 5’8″. So just like my stupid physician you can say ‘Hey….maybe you could stand to lose a few pounds’. And while you’re at it, just like my stupid physician, you can say ‘Hey…..you’re over 40 now….so bend over.’ Jerk.

The day began with a pleasant vanilla / nut shake. And then it all went downhill. The nut shake was the biggest calorie infusion of the day (about 420 total). I drank it in < 30 seconds. That was my first mistake. You have to make these things last or you’ll end up standing over coworkers who have food and inhaling dPassed Out Drunkeeply. Which I do generally, but in this case fully clothed.

My second mistake was underestimating how addicted I was to caffeine. By mid-morning a low grade headache had begun. By that evening the headache had matured into the type of hangover you experience after a full day drinking tequila that ends up with you waking up in Mexico even though you live in Canada. Also you are now married. Also you are missing a kidney. Also you adopted a ferret. Awful.

My answer was to go to sleep at 7PM. Also I cried. So on the ‘more energy’ front, I’m going to say Day 1 was a failure.

Day 2 – With 1 day in the bag, I was excited to wake up and feel clean, toxin free and energetic. Unfortunately, when you’ve consumed 50 liters of fluid throughout the day, your body spends most of the night waking you up just in time to not pee the bed. Sometimes not ‘just in time’. But a little bit, that’s okay. I think our sheets get changed.

I will say the headache was less brutal throughout the day. Some co-workers commented that I looked ‘yellow and sweaty’, including my eyeballs. Sweaty eyeballs. You don’t see that in the list of benefits of juicing.

That evening I decided to go for a run. I run a decent amount, so a short run should have been no problem. I managed to eek out 2 miles before the creeping gray on the edges of my vision and the swerving down the sidewalk became a safety concern.

I weighed myself before bed. 184.1 lbs. So in 2 days of starvation and caffeine withdrawal, I’d managed to add 4.5 lbs. In theory water weight. But likely just the weight of despair. I made it until 9pm before collapsing into the sweet release of sleep.

Day 3 – With just 24 hours left to go, I admit I was feeling better. But I think that was anticipation of being done. Fortunately the universe always likes to put you in your place, so I got to spend the day dealing with a multi-thousand dollar auto repair bill. Turns out an engine needs oil to function. It wasn’t just Big Oil propaganda.

By the middle of the day I was even a bit chipper. Then I had to go to a 4th grade school event about kelp forests.

The morning after I was done I weighed in at 175.2 lbs. Down 4.5 lbs from the start (with a 9 lb swing in 1.5 days). So at least I could clam that victory. Gonna tell my Dr. to keep her fingers to herself moving forward. I did my job.

My Conclusions:

  • You can sell shitty juice for $8 a pint to idiots like me. Gotta love guilt and fad-based consumerism. There are more businesses to be made here.
  • I don’t think you’re supposed to extrude toxins through your eyeballs.
  • I did lose weight and do feel leaner, but given the ridiculous swings I don’t know that it was healthy or in any way the type of weight you want to lose. You may as well cut off a foot.
  • Getting off caffeine was awful. It’s a hell of a drug. I had a cup of coffee this morning. I refuse to live this way. But perhaps 4 cups a day is unnecessary. I think the only ‘energy’ I feel is the reintroduction of caffeine into my system.

Most critically…..don’t do a juice cleanse. Seriously, don’t. If you want to feel healthier, eat a bunch of vegetables, lots of fiber and non-animal proteins like beans. Eliminate sugar. The science here is irrefutable. One thing I hated about the juice only cleanse is they took all of the fiber out of things like kale, and if I’m eating kale, I at least want to take a pleasing dump.

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I get man-shamed in my house. I know in the current political climate my suffering may not qualify for top billing on any news site, fake or not, but the struggle is real. The reason I get man-shamed is I am incompetent and prone to sudden sparks of rage.


For instance, my wife bought an articulated mirror for the bathroom a few weeks back. It sat on the counter for days, staring at me, challenging me to install it correctly. To not f*ck it up. To not destroy the wall. On Super Bowl morning I took that challenge. When I found out the batteries for my drill were out, I went a more manual route. That route involved smashing incorrectly sized holes in the wall that ultimately lead to the drywall anchors facing and the entire mirror being wobbly. Accompanied by more than one profanity, I ripped it out of the wall, destroying more drywall. Did I mention it was Super Bowl morning? I may have had a beer in me.

You might be thinking ‘Well, that sounds like you’re just a loser and a d*ck. You probably deserve whatever frustration you’re whining about.’ True.

But the thing is, I’m pretty good at a number of other activities about the home. For instance, I can do laundry pretty well. And I cook and clean like the best of them (you may be asking who the ‘them’ is….don’t). If I were a single male and had help for any of those traditional domestic tasks, I wouldn’t be shamed at all. Yet there is something about these basic chores fixes – hanging stuff, fixing a leaking toilet, fixing a sink stopper – that society seems to say I need to do myself. And if I can’t do them, I’m a failure.

And I can’t. I can’t do them well. If I do get it done the work product sucks and I hate myself and it even more. I just sit there and stare at the uneven picture and want to blow up the moon.

I need a new service – kind of like task rabbit – but where someone comes to my house not only to do the job I need done, but also to reassure me that my time is clearly better spent on other activities and in no way is that a condemnation of my manhood. That soufflé won’t cook itself.


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Holiday Cards With Meaning

Now that Halloween is behind us, all eyes are turning to the Holiday season. And those eyes aren’t always jolly and bright. In addition to suffering through a few hours of Thanksgiving with your crazy Aunt Betty, you’ve also got to prepare yourself for the onslaught of Holiday cards you’ll receive from family, friends, ex-friends and soon-to-be-ex-friends-they-just-don’t-know-it-yet.

Part of the Holiday card tradition requires the sender to capture a photo or two of their children (and perfect black labrador) dressed to the nines, smiling broadly, and seemingly happy to be together. That alone can be hard to stomach as you look at your own children covered in candy cane-fused dirt and a carpet stained with what you hope was mud the dog tracked in.

Even worse is a Holiday card that includes a single-spaced, double-sided diatribe on how fantastic everyone in the family is doing. Little Jimmy excels at soccer, plays french horn, is captain of the debate team and never gets caught stealing money from your purse. And Susie is just so grown up now. A beautiful young woman. Of course she didn’t have three wine coolers and end up parking the car half on a mailbox.

To spice it up this Holiday season, consider sending the card you actually want to a friend or family member. Tell them how you really feel. The folks at Rated Cards have made it possible to combine distinctly beautiful and artistic cards with sentiments that might feel a bit more true-to-form this Holiday season.

Whether you just want someone to know you see through their bullshit…card-sample-successlessSuccessless: (1) failure to accomplish a goal or objective (2) your life

Or want to get together, but would murder yourself if it’s over coffee.day-drinkingDid someone say something about Day Drinking? Oh. That was me. Let’s get together soon.

Or want to express your condolences but not really pull any punches.card-sample-sorryloserSorry to hear about your loss. Loser.

These and many more Rated Cards just became available for pre-order at www.rated.cards and will be just the thing to send this Holiday season if you’re ready to put an end to the Holiday card torture once and for all.

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Welcome to Your Life, Stranger

Fifteen billion odd years ago, give or take a billion, there was no universe. There was nothing. Except what some religions call the Word, or the Will or God. That’s not that much different from science calling it Energy. Whatever it was, it just was. Totally and completely enclosed in itself. Uniform, unchanging (there was no time remember), unending, unrelenting, uninspired and bored to shit.


Think about sitting in a first grade arithmetic class practicing addition. Sure, you might need a brush up course on the big numbers, especially if you’re from Boston, but after a few days you’d probably be one of the top kids in class. You’d be able to add and subtract even double and triple digit numbers without flaw and mostly without fail (it’s okay, we all make mistakes). No answer would escape you. There would be no whiteboard challenge you couldn’t handle. And since you’d be an adult, you wouldn’t even mind going to the whiteboard with a boner, especially if your teacher was Ms. Julie from Ridgemount Elementary (I’m on Facebook, call me!).

That said, even if Ms. Julie was there wearing her brown skirt that accidentally showed a bit of her slip, and even if you weren’t turned off because who wears a slip today anyway, eventually you would be bored beyond belief. There would be nothing in the first grade arithmetic curriculum that you didn’t know completely and utterly. There would be no challenge and no inspiration.

And this, I believe, is the experience that the Word/Will/God/Energy/It found itself in. Complete, mind-numbing boredom. If you’re that entity, before existence and time, you can’t have a thought or experience without knowing that thought or experience before you have it. There is nothing to experience because you are everything and you can’t experience yourself.

Then it comes to you. You need to try The Stranger.


If you haven’t already clicked on the definition, The Stranger is simple. You sit on your arm until it’s numb and then masturbate with it. Because you can’t feel the arm or hand, it’s like you’re getting diddled by a complete stranger. If you’re the universe, it means you can finally have an experience that is unique, different and most importantly new. It would be something, and after an eternity of nothing, you are desperate for something, anything.

So the Word/Will/God/Energy/It sits on its arm, and just like that the Big Bang starts the ball rolling. Like five foreign fingers dancing across your flesh, electrons and protons are suddenly interacting in ways that you experience for the first time. Time suddenly exists, so the concept of cause and effect can exist. Matter has properties that govern its actions and interactions, properties that serve to make it separate from each other. Suddenly not everything just Is. There is distinction. And to the Word/Will/God/Energy/It, that is deeply satisfying.

So welcome to your life. You’re basically a masturbation tool.


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Viva Mexico!

Years ago, we took the whole family to Mexico for a weekend. When Erin first scheduled the trip I figured we were headed to Cancun for spring break. To this day, I regret being so timid in that wet tee-shirt contest from 1995, and wanted a chance to really show the crowd what I had. This time I planned to stay away from the edge of the stage where it’s so easy for the audience to say mean, nasty things, grope you or throw bottles at your skull. At a minimum I planned to stay out of prison. I’m a father after all.

It turned out our trip was to Rocky Point, an obscure and ridiculously expensive slum turned resort city on the Sea of Cortez. Ten years ago the beaches were crowded with dope-smoking coeds learning, the hard way, what fecal cholera really does to a body. Today, the coeds have been replaced with multi-million dollar McMansions looking over the ocean, the dope has been replaced with a seven US dollar deposit on a case of twenty Dos Equis, and the fecal cholera has been replaced with the smug, self-righteousness of people who were smart enough to buy up the ocean lots from unsuspecting Mexicans years back.

We stayed with friends on one of those ocean lots. I quickly adopted an air of my own smugness. But that broke down when Erin informed me she wasn’t planning on serving me on demand and that my daughter had a messy diaper that needed changing.

Our arrival night was chaotic. First of all, there should be a rule that says, if I have two children under the age of four in the car, and you’re telling me how long a trip will take, lying is punishable by death. Rocky Point is not four hours from Phoenix. Rocky Point is four and a half hours from Phoenix. You might be thinking, hey, it’s just thirty minutes, what’s the big deal? You don’t have children. Thirty minutes in the car with a twelve month old who wants out is worse torture than water boarding, and just as likely to cause you to hate America or at least your penis for getting you into this mess. Bad, bad penis.

By the time we got to the house, it was already close to bedtime for the brats, nobody was in the mood to go out for dinner, and the bottle I urinated in to save time during the drive down had tipped over on the floor of Erin’s car. That last part isn’t true. It was a can.

We pretty much put the kids right to bed and then started drinking with furious abandon. At least I think the kids were in bed. Dos Equis goes down very easily when watching the ocean or when standing over the cooler with one in each hand.

The reality of vacationing with children really set in the next day. The whole point of the trip was to get some rest and relaxation. Not so fast. It turns out some babies like to put their faces directly into the sand, scream when the sand sticks to the snot caked all over their cheeks, and then do it again fifteen minutes later. Over the course of chasing my daughter around the beach she put the following in her mouth: sea shells of various sizes and shapes, live snails, cigarette butts, clumps of sand and something unrecognizable but foul smelling. In the storybooks, the cute baby stumbles upon a buried treasure and appears with a gold doubloon dangling from her lips. In the real world, the baby is hard to look at without vomiting.

Speaking of vomiting, during high tide Friday night a dead dolphin washed up on the beach. That wouldn’t have been all bad except for the jackass pre-med student who wanted to show off for her friends and decided to eviscerate the carcass just upwind from our house. Hey look, here are guts.  I know, let’s expose them to the Mexican sun and see what happens. I wonder what the dolphin was eating. Oh, fish. Dead fish. Rotting fish. Super.

We decided to name the dead dolphin Dee Dee.


The next day, I excused myself for a beer run mid-day Saturday and spent two hours eating street tacos. In fairness, I brought my son with me, so I didn’t completely abandon Erin. I even left the window of the truck cracked open such that if he woke up and started screaming I could hear him. He did wake up and had his first street taco with me. Every father should introduce his son to un-refrigerated meat products.

That evening, the girls got to head out and enjoy an evening on their own. They even came back. I took that as a signal that I had a chance to get lucky, regardless of the fact that our bed was the lower bunk with my son asleep up top and my daughter in a crib inches away. I have been known to misinterpret signals. I could not be Major League pitcher because I would throw a fast ball when the catcher called for a slider. I would also throw it 20 feet short of the plate. I throw like a girl.

Rejected, I slunk back out to the main room and it was volunteered that perhaps I’d have more luck with Dee Dee. And you can’t really argue with a little romance on the beach under the moonlight. Plus she has a blowhole….

Sunday dawned clear, bright, beautiful and hung over. Staring down the barrel of a four plus hour drive home, we did our best to enjoy the rest of our time on the beach. My son and I took a walk. At one point he turned to me and said, ‘Dad, sit down. You need to enjoy the ocean.’ So I told him not to smart-mouth me. But he was right. For thirty-six hours we’d run around like chickens trying to enjoy our brief weekend vacation. The truth was all I needed to do was sit, be still and look at the ocean. It puts you in your place, gives you a sense of perspective, and allows you to breath. Also you can check out the girls in bikinis.


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9 Struggles I hold in My Pea-Sized Brain

I struggle with balancing all of the following. These aren’t original, but I like to write things down.

  • There is an inherent moral code that directs us to choose good over evil at some instinctual level. We associate that instinct with God being good.
  • But terrible, terrible things happen in the world, to the world, and to the people I love most in the world.


    The curse is over

  • At the same time, amazing miracles happen in the world, sometimes to people I hate. I’m talking about everyone in Boston. Kidding. Not all people in Boston. I love South Bay.
  • I can’t help but think we’re all connected, humans, animals and mountains, in some vast, cosmic manner.
  • I’ve been told to live in the present, and something deep inside me believes this is absolutely the path to ease of life and happiness.
  • Despite this knowledge, I find it impossible to not worry about the future, relive the horrors of the past, and generally ignore the smell of the roses because they give me allergies
  • Meanwhile, I’ve read or heard of things like ‘The Secret’, which is all a
    bout controlling my future by visualizing it. And that doesn’t feel like living in the present, but I can also believe, at some level, that visualization does work.



  • When I try and wrap my brain around the concept that everything we know – all matter, planets, galaxies and Uncle Frank who alway
    s made everyone uncomfortable when we
    visited Grandma’s for Easter….all of that was created instant
    ly from an infinitesimally small point during the Big Bang before which time and space did not exist – it makes me want to drink.
  • A bad day at the office makes me want to drink too. So does a good day. We have to celebrate life’s wins after all.

In fairness, the last actually isn’t a struggle. It’s a victory.

None of it makes sense, but I spend a lot of time rationalizing those thoughts. Perhaps it’s the journey, not the destination.


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