Patsy Porco

I’d Rather Curse

In COVID-19, Humor on October 16, 2020 at 5:29 am

A few years ago, Socrates’s pronouncement, “An unexamined life is not worth living” was ubiquitous. I remember reading it everywhere, and hearing celebrities and talk-show hosts spout it. The expression was akin to trendy words or phrases that seem to pop out of nowhere and then be heard everywhere, like “my bad” and “I need a drink.” That last one has survived many generations. Others, like “I’ll eat my hat,” didn’t fare as well.

Even when it was popular, “An unexamined life is not worth living” sounded like baloney (another word that is edging its way into obscurity, at least in this sense, and probably in the meat sense, too). Even if it is true, it sounds obnoxious. Examine your life if you’re so inclined, but don’t tell me that if I don’t examine mine, I don’t deserve to live.

If you haven’t yet listed everything you’ve ever done and relegated some of your actions to the positive column and others to the negative column in order to earn your right to life, that can wait. The question that you should really be focusing on is: Am I wearing pants?

I’m not talking about pants that are acceptable in the home, like yoga pants, sweatpants, or boxer shorts. I’m talking about pants that you can wear out in public, or even a skirt or a dress.

If the police arrived at your door right this minute to arrest you, would you feel comfortable going outside in what you’re wearing now? My guess is no. I surely wouldn’t. Fortunately for all of us, mug shots are usually taken from the chest up. But even if your current outfit doesn’t become part of your permanent record, don’t think you won’t be judged by your cellmates. Of course, they’ll probably be in their underwear, too. Which brings me to my point: While we muddle through the health pandemic, we have created another one: a bottomless society.

I recently saw a clip of a newscaster who was broadcasting from home. He was wearing a starched shirt, tie, and suit jacket. Without thinking, he pushed back from his desk and treated his viewing audience to a shot of his boxer shorts.

In ordinary times, this would be noteworthy, but now, it was just an amusing video clip that we all watched from our homes in our pajamas during working hours.

My friend told me that her husband appeared before a judge on a Zoom call yesterday. Her husband looked like he was wearing a suit from the waist up, but he was actually wearing pajamas pants on his bottom half.

Why are we not getting fully dressed? I realize that it’s normal to dress less formally at home than at work, but why have we become averse to dressing our bottoms? I am as guilty as anyone. Probably guiltier, because when I have work video calls, I usually attend them from bed if I’m not required to turn on my laptop’s camera. When I have to be seen, I roll out of bed, pull my hair back into a ponytail, put a giant hoodie on over my nightshirt, and wear big red-framed glasses to distract from my lack of makeup. What is going on with me and the rest of the world?

Are humans intrinsically lazy? I don’t think so, because you just know that in the 1950s, people would have gotten “dolled up” even if they were in the ICU. I’m sure there were plenty of men wearing suits and women wearing starched dresses and white gloves while hooked up to life-saving devices in the hospital. And as soon as they were released, I have no doubt that the men plopped on their fedoras. The women probably wore hats in their beds.

So, why have we – people who have examined our lives and deserve to live … and the rest of us – given up on half of our wardrobe? I think I know.

Early in the pandemic, I started receiving emails from retailers who were pushing sweatpants, yoga pants, and plaid pajama bottoms, because, they claimed, people weren’t wearing dress pants, or even casual pants, any longer. Now, realize, these ads arrived about a week into the pandemic. At the time, most of the world had been blindsided by COVID-19, and we were focused on our survival … and where to find toilet paper. We certainly weren’t thinking about quarantine fashion. But retailers were, and they pounced. They told us that we didn’t need to bother dressing our lower halves in work attire, and that we should all wear the equivalent of pajama pants all the time.

And we fell for it. All of a sudden, online stores had massive sales on extremely casual pants and we loaded up on them. And because these pants usually had elastic waistbands, we didn’t notice that we were loading up on food, as well. Several months into the pandemic, we couldn’t get into our nice pants and skirts even in our dreams.

You know who should examine their lives? The marketers and stores that told us to spend our days in loungewear. Not only have they turned us into a world of slobs, they’re also responsible for our collective weight gain. We had nothing to do with it.

This is a perfect example of why my life is better unexamined. I wouldn’t take the blame for my transgressions, anyway. I’d blame someone else.

Which reminds me: In the 1970s, another pompous saying was popular, “It’s better to light one candle than to curse the darkness.” You heard it everywhere. It was a very old Chinese proverb that was adopted by Father James Keller, the founder of the Christophers, in the 1940s.

Suddenly, one day, we all woke up and everyone was reciting it, when they weren’t the day before. Everywhere you went, you heard, “It’s better to light one candle than to curse the darkness.” To which, witty people would respond, “I’d rather curse.”

I would, too.

Photo by Luke Peters on Unsplash

Van Halen Love

In love, Rock 'N' Roll, Van Halen on October 14, 2020 at 4:28 pm

This post was written by my son, Luke Porco, who is a huge fan of Van Halen. I know it will touch your heart.

The Bond Between a Rockstar and His Son

by Luke Porco

It has been just over a week since Eddie Van Halen passed away, leaving a void as impactful as one of his trademark solos. A guitar wizard, he truly was one of a kind and transcended the rock music world by creating Van Halen, one of the most popular and legendary rock bands in history, and also innovating how the guitar is played by popularizing techniques such as two-handed finger tapping and dive bombs, as well as his classic tone, commonly known amongst guitarists as “brown sound,” which can be identified as soon as you hear one of Van Halen’s classic songs, like “Panama,” “Ain’t Talkin’ Bout Love,” “Unchained” and “Hot for Teacher,” among others. He influenced generations of guitarists at every level, from those in successful bands to those who play casually, like me.

Since I was a kid, the guitar was always the “cool” instrument in my eyes, and I remember being around 10 years old, sitting in the car with my dad, and hearing a song on the radio, and thinking to myself, “That’s a cool band! Cool guys probably listen to that band!” I then asked my dad who the band was, only for him to reply, “Van Halen.” Without either of us knowing at the time, that moment would later develop into a lifelong obsession for a guitarist that would motivate me to learn the guitar and a band we would see together three times, including my first concert!

Fast forward five years later, and I’m developing my passion for the guitar, and all I can talk about is Van Halen, and how awesome Eddie Van Halen is, probably to my dad’s annoyance! I also had been fervently wanting to go to a concert, as they seemed like the next step to develop as a music fan. Van Halen was playing a concert at Madison Square Garden May 23, 2008, four days after my birthday, so months ahead of that show, I discretely (or so I thought at the time!) planted the seeds to tell my dad about that show and how awesome it would be for my first concert. So on my birthday, as I opened gifts that day, I opened my last gift, only for it to be…TWO VAN HALEN TICKETS!! I remember jumping up and down and diving into my dad’s arms, elated that we would be getting to see my new favorite band! That night was an epic one, as we drove from my guitar lesson in CT (guitar lesson to a Van Halen concert-how awesome!) into New York City for the concert. Saying I was excited was an understatement, as I even burned a CD with Van Halen’s hits to listen to on the ride there that by the third go-around on the CD, my dad suggested maybe we stop listening to keep the music fresh once we see it live! Once we walked into The Garden to see them, my life was never the same, as I saw a guitar legend playing face-melting solos and hits, as well as David Lee Roth’s reunion into the band and, last but certainly, not least, Eddie’s son, Wolfgang, on bass! While Van Halen’s music, with Eddie’s guitar playing, Alex Van Halen’s powerful drumming, and David Lee Roth’s howling vocals and boisterous stage presence sold me on Van Halen, another aspect that really hit home for me was the fact that Eddie and Wolfgang, father and son, were in a band together. Seeing how tight their bond was for years to come really reminded me of my dad and I and how we bonded together in the audience, as well as any time a Van Halen song came on in the future! From then on, I always equated Eddie and Wolfgang’s relationship to my relationship with my dad, as it was similar in some ways. Eddie was the star that Wolfgang idolized and shaped his life after, and Wolfgang was the sparkplug that kept Eddie going and developed a new passion for himself.

That night was only the beginning of my Van Halen fandom, and there were more Van Halen concerts, as well as plenty of music, books, t-shirts, guitar picks, and more Van Halen merchandise to follow in my future. In January 2012, around the announcement of Van Halen’s new album A Different Kind of Truth, word got out that Van Halen was playing an invite-only show at Cafe Wha? in Greenwich Village, a famous rock club, which was owned by David Lee Roth’s uncle, Manny. While I wasn’t going to drag my dad along to that, there was no way I was going to miss out on this, as I figured there would be a group of loyal VH fans surrounding the club, to hear the concert from the outside, hopefully. While I wasn’t completely confident that this would be the case, I decided to take a chance and go anyway. As I walked to Cafe Wha?, I noticed that I had nothing to worry about, as the tiny street was flooded with Van Halen fans waiting for the “Mighty Van Halen” media, all waiting for the show to start, and media waiting to see it live and upfront! After waiting for hours in negative temperatures, outside of a club where I wasn’t even sure I’d hear the show or see them emerge from the performance, I suddenly see a group of people huddled behind a steel barricade, where I could hear music! I quickly mad-dashed to that group and was suddenly taken to paradise! A group of fellow die-hard Van Halen fans, singing along to every word, and bonding amongst ourselves, what could be better? Oh I know, being feet away from the band as they walked into an SUV after the show! Eddie and I locked eyes as he walked out of the club, a moment that stills blows me away, and I saw the rest of the band follow him out. That moment lasted no more than 30 seconds, but the memory that I literally saw Eddie Van Halen will last forever! This was a great night, especially since at the time, I didn’t know many Van Halen fans besides myself. This leads me to two months later, Van Halen at Madison Square Garden, Part 2!

Getting to see Van Halen as my first concert with my dad was a dream come true, so I had to do it again. This time, I returned the favor to my dad and got the tickets for HIS birthday! Before we went to the show, we met up with my dad’s childhood friend, Lenny, and his brother, Charlie. They also happened to be die-hard Van Halen fans, and played drums and guitar, respectively, a la Alex and Eddie! I met these two guys and could not believe that my dad was friends who had even more Van Halen knowledge than me, and I was shocked and amazed! The four of us had so much fun having dinner at the same restaurant my dad and I had before the first Van Halen show, and it was great seeing my dad relive his memories with these guys growing up in the Bronx, as well as introducing more Van Halen fans to me in the process! This also grew a bond between Lenny and me, which we still have to this day, and talk about how amazing that night was, as well as the final time I saw Van Halen, at Jones Beach, this time with my mom and uncle, as well.

The third and final show had more meaning than I could have ever known at the time. That show, my dad and I sat next to each other, just like tradition, however this time, it was from the seats at Jones Beach, overlooking the ocean and the beach behind the stage. What I didn’t know at the time was not only would this be the final Van Halen concert I’d ever see, but also the last concert I’d see with my dad, as months later, he was diagnosed with kidney disease, and in 2019, passed away. His loss was, and still is, absolutely devastating, and the memory of our bond over Van Halen, among other things, will never leave me. When Eddie died last Tuesday, it almost felt like I went through the same grief process, as Eddie Van Halen was to Wolfgang, what my dad was to me: a Rockstar! I was in absolute shock and depression, and I know Wolfgang is going through the same thing.

While I personally don’t know Wolfgang, I hope he knows that I, along with the rest of Van Halen’s fanbase, are praying for him, Alex, Eddie’s wife, Janie, and the whole Van Halen family. Eddie made such an impact on everyone’s life, even if you didn’t play guitar, even if you had the slightest idea of rock music, chances are you know who Eddie Van Halen is, from his groundbreaking guitar virtuosity, to Van Halen’s classic songs that will remain timeless, and also, the joy he had every time you saw him play live. He always had a smile on his face while jumping and running on stage and doing his signature jump while doing a split in the air. That is just one of many reasons why he and Van Halen ooze coolness, and their legacy will carry on forever, as will his special bond with Wolfgang, which will always remind me of my dad.

God Bless Eddie Van Halen and Frank Porco, two awesome dudes who I hope are together in spirit, Eddie doing a solo, while my dad rocks out and celebrates in the crowd, just like old times.

The Scalping of Duke

In dogs, Humor on July 8, 2020 at 1:24 am

Last weekend, I tricked our dog, Duke, into letting me shave him. It had been really hot for weeks and Duke had been very uncomfortable walking around in his fur coat. I couldn’t find a dog groomer who had an opening before mid-August, due to COVID-19 restrictions, so I ordered a trimmer to shave him myself.

The trimmer arrived on Friday from Amazon. I had no plans for Saturday, so it seemed the perfect time to shave him. The only thing that worried me was that I had never used a hair trimmer on anyone or anything in my life. But I thought, “How hard could it be? I’ll just take it slow and easy.”

First, I started off by brushing him, which he loves. It’s like a luxurious body scratch to him. Then, when he wasn’t looking, I switched his brush for the electric trimmer.

It was nice and quiet, like the ad claimed it would be, so he didn’t even react to the switch. Things started out smoothly enough. The razor didn’t cut off too much too quickly. Actually, very little hair came off. I began to worry that it was going to take a week to shave him. And then I discovered that I was holding the razor upside down. After that, things speeded up considerably.

Once I held it right-side-up, the trimmer took off. I lost all control of the thing. It cut so deep that Duke had big holes in the top of his back. It didn’t break his skin, thank God, but it got right down to skin level. I found the power button and turned it off. Then I assessed the damage. It was pretty bad. Duke had a body full of long, thick, orange hair –– and gouges on his back that revealed the color of his skin (grayish). Now I had to match the length of the rest of the hair on his long, 135-pound body to those naked patches on his back.

It was just like when I cut my bangs. I cut them and they’re uneven, so I cut more, and they’re still uneven, so I cut more until I look like a serial killer.

But, back to Duke. He was so good. He only ran away once, and not far –– only into the house. He eventually came back and allowed me to shave him. I shaved for hours. We took breaks. We took naps. We had snacks. But we always returned to the task at hand: trying to match the length of the rest of his body hair to the length of his back hair. That did not prove, possible, however. I soon realized that I would have to shave him hairless to make his hair even, and I didn’t think that look would work for him.

So, we spent most of the day on the deck. Piles of hair accumulated around us. Whenever Duke decided to eat a hunk of hair, I would distract him with a treat and sweep up the debris. As I shaved, I discovered the different settings on the razor.

I used to hear my husband and son tell the barber that they wanted a #4 on top and #2 on the sides and back, but I never really thought about what that meant. Until Saturday. On Saturday, I discovered that there were cutting settings right on the razor –– but not until I had been shaving for at least two hours. There were also “limit combs,” that had inches marked on them. I supposed they were to limit how short the razor could cut, but I didn’t use them because Duke’s hair was so long and so thick that the razor cut nothing when the limit combs were attached.

Duke, as I said, was very cooperative. But he didn’t like standing for his shave so he reclined on the deck most of the time. This limited me to doing one side at a time. After I finished one side, I would have to physically roll him over so I could do the other side, and then roll him on his back to do his stomach. (The stomach shaving didn’t go very well at all. I didn’t change the razor setting and he had much less hair on his stomach than on the rest of his body to start with, so now he has no hair on his stomach at all, except patches that refused to come off.) When I finished his stomach and both sides, I had to lure him, with a dog biscuit, into standing up so I could compare his sides.

Of course they didn’t match. The hair lengths weren’t even close. It was at this point that I noticed that his face and rear had been completely ignored. So, I started on his face while he was standing. All of a sudden, Duke threw himself back down on the deck, causing me to gouge out more hair, but this time right above his eyes. “Great, just great,” I thought. “Now I have to match the rest of his head to the gouged-out areas. While he was standing, I also noticed that when I thought I was shaving his stomach, I had, in reality, shaved not only his belly but halfway up both sides of him, unevenly. I now had a dog who looked like he had lain in acid.

So, I put in a few more hours trying to even things out and trim his bottom. The bottom went well. That’s the only area that looks halfway normal, though. The rest of him is either bald or has visible trimmer tracks in the remaining hair. I don’t even want to talk about his back anymore. I just hope people don’t think he has mange.

At some point in the late afternoon, we both got bored, so we went inside to eat. Duke currently looks like a patchwork quilt, but he’ll never know, as long as I keep him away from the judgy dogs in our neighborhood.

At least he’s cooler, now –– in temperature, if not appearance.

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