I was happy to angrily throw the old camouflage shorts in the trash. I wish I would've burned them actually. Like ritualistically with sadistic pleasure.
And I love me a great pair of camo shorts.
But this pair...this frickin' pair....
Had become my nemesis.
I remember thinking at the end of last summer that I'd get rid of them. They had tears all over. Particularly in the right rear pocket. Where I keep my big ass Harley Davidson chain wallet. Sans the chain. Strategically moronic. You'll learn why here in a minute.
But I never did throw them out when I should have. As I pulled them out this spring, I forgot they were waning. And I wore them on the first day of my recent weekend trip to NYC.
I figured I was going to go see Madball, Booze & Glory, Turnstile and others play at the Black N Blue Bowl, and I'd be bouncing around like a helpless molecule with sweaty hardcore dudes, so why wear anything else but the old ass camo shorts?
Bad choice. Faulty thinking.
The trip was supposed to be a fun father-and-son bonding trip. Hit up BNB bowl on Saturday, visit some cool joints to eat and then some kitschy NYC touristy things on Sunday. Ya know, Hudson ferry tourist cruise, Irish Hunger Memorial visit, visit the NYC Apple store, and of course the 911 memorial.
My son and I got in the Uber car 6am Saturday. An extremely affable North African dude picked us up in the Uber car. The man explained how grateful he was to be in the US. No one messing with him if he didn't mess with them. Apparently it's not quite that way in North Africa. Imagine that.
North African dude went on to chit chat with us about our NYC trip. He recalled his last one with his family. He said it was perfect weather, great time, great everything. Until at the end when he realized he lost all his keys. He said, with complete emotional recollection palatable in his voice, that he could not describe the utter feeling of misfortune he felt when this occurred.
Struck with terror at the thought, I instantly took my keys out of my front right pocket and put them safely into the velcro secured right side cargo pocket of my camo shorts.
I was totally petrified of losing my keys after hearing the urgency in the voice of my new North African friend.
We got to the bus stop no problem. We boarded the bus, took our seats, and proceeded to clamp on our respective ear buds and chill for our two hour ride to NYC from Philly. This, in and of itself, was a deviation from our original itinerary. The horrific tragedy that occurred just a few days prior in Amtrak's northeast corridor had our train plans cancelled. Prayers to all those affected.
My son wasted no time asking me to pass the Anker portable charger that we brought. I swear my tech supremacist son was more excited with the possession of this charger than any sight, sound, or experience he could possibly encounter on the weekend excursion. No wonder our visit to the NYC Apple store was one of the highlights of the weekend for him. Along with his first Uber ride. Although he was still pissed we were staying in the Hampton Inn as opposed to an Air BNB room. Quintessential specimen of the great over-washed, unrugged, inherently privileged millennial generation. Neo tech supremacist snob, but I love him. Blood is blood.
After a brief stop at the hotel, we hailed a cabbie to Times Square. Again, my tech-focused fourteen year old was primarily enthralled with anything digital and new. The obnoxiously large LED screens in Times Square fit that bill.
We had watched a Louis CK stand up comedy the night before. In the cab, my son and I joked about Louis CK's comment that New York City was not the environment. Louis explained how he had thoughtlessly littered a candy wrapper on the street and his friend asked him if he cared about the environment. Louis CK responded by explaining that New York city was the giantest, shittiest piece of litter next to Mexico city in the world. It wasn't the environment at all-it was where people were.
This was the backdrop from which my son began his first NYC trip.
Minutes later we were dropped off right in front of the NYPD office in Times Square. We were excited to start the day and our weekend itinerary. I don't remember all that happened. The sequence, the conversations, whatever. It was bit of a blur.
I do remember paying the cab fair with my debit card.
And then I remember getting half way down the street and feeling the right back pocket of my camo shorts. I felt entirely way too much of my ass.
My wallet was gone.
Thanks to the cautionary tale from my North African Uber driver friend, I still had my keys.
But the damn wallet was MIA.
Frickin' camo shorts.
Deep horror struck me. My keys were safe but my frickin' wallet was AWOL. And I was smack dab in the middle of the giantest, shittiest piece of litter in the world next to Mexico city.
And my son, the tech supremacist, exhibited little by way of compassion or sympathy. All I remember him saying is "this wouldn't have happened if you had Apple Pay."
I love you too son. I work in the payments industry, and yet needed my son to remind me of my failure to adopt Apple Pay for personal use.
All the sudden I felt like a bald, tattooed cross between the lost and clueless Will Ferrell inElf and the semi-gridless, disconnected, pissed and hunted Will Smith in Enemy of the State.
Yeah, my imagination collides with strange, exaggerated circumstantial distortions. Sorry.
An hour or so later, I realized I was neither of the Wills.
Following the filing of an incident report with NYPD and a few new temporary debit cards from Wells Fargo, I was about half relieved. Half.
It was time to make chicken salad out of chicken shit and improvise, overcome and adapt. I was gonna make a good weekend out of this come hell or high water.
I decided instantly I was going to react the way the fictional character of Ray Drecker in the HBO series Hung would. I suppose a lil WWRDD (What Would Ray Drecker Do)
When his house burned down and he had failed to pay his home owners insurance bill on time, he reacted by improvising, overcoming and adapting and practicing advanced gratitude. He took inventory of his options and resources with the quickness and yielded a positive attitude as he told his distraught misfit children, "We'll pitch a tent and go camping out back. It'll be great. We'll make breakfast."
Might not have been his exact words, but something to that effect. Point is, Ray Drecker kept his roll going and didn't flinch when life forced an unexpected and unwanted pivot. He found the positive and the adventure in devastating and sudden misfortune. One much more devastating than me losing my wallet in NYC.
So I forced out the inherent state of extreme pisstivity (a word invented by Luke Cambell of 2 Live Crew) out of my mind and marched on to a memorable weekend. Like Ray Drecker, when life erupts and flames burn all around me, I push them to the rearview and I look for a sheltering tent. And breakfast.
I enjoyed a great My Father Flor De Las Antilles cigar sitting on a bench in Battery Park.
I got to briefly meet and introduce myself to Lars Frederickson of Rancid, Lars Frederickson and the Bastards and Old Firm Casuals. This, right after my son and I had just watched Rancid's Ruby Soho video at the Hard Rock cafe while eating lunch.
I got to meet Mark from Booze & Glory, a band I've been working with on Sailor's Grave, but hadn't yet met in person.
I said hello to my man Freddy Madball after not having seen him in years. And caught up with Madball's old manager Royce Lee. An old friend.
Then while watching Madball's fiercely energetic set at Black N Blue bowl, some drunken dude saw me hanging with my son and began chewing my ear off. But this dude was great.
He told me his whole life story. Told me how his dad took him to a VOD (Vision of Disorder) show and told him he'd never take him to another show again but how he always remembered his old man for taking him that one time. He told me how great it was that I was hanging with my son at a show. Told me I reminded him of his dad. Said his dad had tats and wore a fedora same as I do.
Dude got rather emotional as he continued on about his family history, upbringing, regrets for never having kids, sadness when his dad died. The whole nine. Heartfelt. Real. He was drunk as hell, but all heart. Moved me. For real. Dude made my weekend.
The next day as my son and I waited in line for the Hudson ferry cruise tour thing, there was an Indian family in front of use. Eastern, not native American. I overheard the father explaining to his son, after the young boy whined and fretted with impatience about the reality of waiting in line, that "You have to wait for good things to happen."
Earbuds firmly in place, and oblivious to the words of the Indian dad in front of us, minutes later my son started in on the "I'm bored" routine.
I parroted, "You have to wait for good things to happen."
He looked at me sheepishly and confused. Dunno if my son got what I meant, but the Indian dude looked back at me and smiled.
Bad things happen. Life's a bitch. We do have to wait for good things to happen. And when bad things happen - illnesses, failed marriages, loss of loved ones, addictions, business failures, bankruptcy, and even lost wallets in NYC -we need to remember the wait. And in the wait, we need to keep failing till we accidentally succeed. Keep pivoting until we find shelter and sustenance in a new tent. Keep improvising. Overcoming. Adapting. Sharpening our ability to create chicken salad out of chicken shit.
Forget the lost wallet and find other currency. Ideas are the only true currency anyhow. Find a new re-invented identity. Burn the camo shorts and leave them behind. Flickering threads of emerging ash flashing in the rear-view. Move forward and live life to the fullest. Dig deep for the strength that you seek.
While you wait for good things to happen.
For more insights on how to fail to success, create chicken salad out of chicken shit, and to improvise, overcome and adapt with a balanced life, look for my forthcoming non-fiction book Failure Rules!: The Hard Times Handbook for the Die-Hard Entrepreneur.
To read a kick-ass spy novel with a tattooed, cigar-smoking Mick anti-hero protagonist who bears strong generational contrast to his CIA director boss—as my son’s tech-focused snobbery contrast with me — give a read on to BLAZE: Operation Persian Trinity and dive-in to some supernatural near-term geo-political forecasting.