I Hope Every IKEA Executive has to do This

A year ago, I had to help one of my girlfriend’s college buddies move into his new place with his fiance.  After a few hours of lugging their personal belongings up several flights of stairs, we were nearing the end. It was then that I learned that I was expected to help assemble a few IKEA pieces, namely the bed and a dresser. The girlfriend loved putting things together and committed us both to the project before I could come up with a reasonable excuse not to do it.

Of course we will do it


Fast-forward about thirty minutes and I’m struggling to assemble an IKEA bed-frame that must’ve gotten bent or warped in transit; the pieces just weren’t fucking going together. While attempting to screw together two metal brackets, I lost my grip and cut the shit out of my hand… with an IKEA Allen wrench of all things.

bleeding hand

After I spat out a string of obscenities through clenched teeth, I took stock of my hand. It was bleeding pretty badly, but it was just venous blood so I didn’t need to get it treated. I wrapped it with my shirt and realized how absurd the situation was. There I was, holding a wound taken from assembling crappy Swedish furniture. Crappy Swedish furniture that is produced by a company whose business model requires you to pay them to do most of the work yourself, mind you. Somehow this company has managed to Jedi mind-trick most of the world into believing that this is a fun project or do-it-yourself venture. As I was standing there staunching the bleeding, I began to fantasize about a world where the IKEA senior corporate leadership had to deal with their own shit on a 24/7 basis.

After all, leadership of any kind and at any level shouldn’t ask people to do things they aren’t willing to do themselves. I continually preach this and I go so far as to recommend that politicians deploy to and fight in the wars they propose, but I digress… Back to the IKEA corporate leadership.

I hope their day starts with a commute like this.

goodbye to swedish hubby

car in the driveway

closeup of face and allen wrench

Then they have to get to the board room two hours prior to the meeting to fucking put the chairs together.

unassembled chairs in the board room

They’re not even spared during international flights because their boarding passes would have the IKEA logo proudly emblazoned on the front for all to see.

boarding the plane

1st class seat unassembled

Even hotel stays would be extra special for them.

dead asleep


runs to fire escape

fire escape requires assembly

Even in death, they aren’t spared.

everybody but sven

whereun mah harpin

your harp is over there

Heaven harp box

You'll probably need an allen wrench


P.S. The book about my time in Afghanistan is coming along nicely! Expect more news in the coming weeks. It’ll be out and ready to pick up via digital download at the end of March!

P.P.S. Send all your thoughts and positive energy to Hank Hughes.  The Oscars are coming up and I’d love to see his film, Day One, win!

UPDATE – Hank didn’t win, but it was really awesome and surreal to hear his name announced live during the Academy Awards.  Please go check out his film, if you haven’t already.  The link is above.






I’m Starting to Believe My Car is Haunted and Trying to Kill Me.

So here’s something that I’ve wanted to talk about for a while now. As an employee of Johnson and Johnson, I’m part of a field clinical force. I am expected to drive long distances, each day, to and from separate hospitals in the NJ/ NYC area. As such, I am issued a company car. This would be a good thing, but I think my particular car is designed to kill me and is possibly haunted.


More on this later.

At Johnson and Johnson, we have a fleet of cars that are approved for use for our field representatives. There’s all sorts of makes and models ranging from unassuming Toyota compacts to fully loaded Volvo SUV s. We don’t pay for gas, maintenance, insurance or anything else associated with operating a motor vehicle. We only have to pay a modest sum each month (I believe it’s about $130 a month, but don’t quote me on that) for these privileges. It creates a scenario where it is inefficient to have a personal car. The idea is that this company car becomes our only car. We win, obviously, because this is a huge cost savings over operating and maintaining our own vehicles. The company wins by preventing lost work hours due to crashes and injury because its employees are operating vehicles that have been vetted and are supposedly safe; e.g. we are not operating (and potentially crashing) fiberglass sports cars or older, more unsafe cars. The company also wins because we are driving vehicles that are “on the grid” and they can track our activities and whereabouts in true “Big Brother” fashion.

Guess I can’t use my company car for running blow out of Juarez anymore.

Deal Gone Bad

Employees who have been with the company for a bit get to select the car that they have, but the very first car a new field representative is given is an issued car. That means there is no choice in the first vehicle one receives as a newly-minted field based employee. That’s where I found myself about two years ago; being issued a car I had no say in. I had gingerly sold my 2008 Honda Accord (the nicest car I’ve ever owned) and was eagerly awaiting my company car. On a crisp March morning in 2014, an elderly gentleman drove my new company car to my house, handed me the keys, got into his wife’s car (which had dutifully followed him to my apartment) and left me with my only vehicle I would use for the next two years of my life.

Enter the 2013 Chevrolet Malibu.

2013 Malibu

It is, without a doubt, the most unsafe thing I’ve ever driven. That’s a statement, isn’t it? I’d like to put that into context for you now. I was originally trained in the army as an armor officer. That means that I’ve driven tanks. I’m assuming you don’t know much about tanks so here’s the CliffNotes. Main battle tanks are 60 ton instruments of war that only do one thing… murder.

Lots and lots of murder.


Tanks are so singularly focused toward killing that they excel to a fault. A tank can kill its own crew just as fast as it can kill the enemy. While operating a tank, a misplaced hand can end in permanent mutilation. Trying to move from the hull to the turret while a tank is in operation will lead to a closed-casket funeral because you were fucking sheared in half. Even doing something you’re supposed to do, like firing the main gun while inside a tank is like experiencing a low speed car crash due to the concussive force. You get the idea. They’re dangerous.

The 2013 Chevy Malibu is more dangerous to me than this. Where a tank is deliberately and overtly designed to be dangerous, the Malibu is subtle in its trickery. For instance, the front of the vehicle offers a clear and open view. One would say to oneself, “Wow, this is pretty nice. I have a good, safe field of view while operating this vehicle.” The rear and side views, on the other hand, are almost non-existent. You can’t see out of the back or sides of this car. The trunk is so high, that a three foot tall child would have to be a full thirty feet behind the vehicle to be seen in the rear view mirror. “Well underwhelmer, why don’t you use the side mirrors?” I hear you ask. Well, super observant reader, I’ll tell you why. They’re smaller than my fucking hands and show me next to nothing, that’s why. I don’t have traditional blind spots. I have whole dark sectors in this car.

Mirror FOV

Because I can only see out of the front of the vehicle, I have been in countless near-misses. Every commute to work is transformed from a leisurely drive to a white-knuckle, harrowing experience in this car. I’ve changed lanes directly into cars that were right there, but completely invisible in my mirrors and blocked by the rear structures inside the car. I’ve backed directly into other cars and objects that were completely unseen in my mirrors and back-up camera.

I almost forgot… the backup camera. This thing is so goddamn bad, I’ve stopped looking at it because it’s so misleading. First off, it’s off-centered, i.e. it’s not placed directly in the center of the rear bumper. Secondly, it has no proximity alarm or distance measurements on the screen. To top it all off, it’s a severe fish-eye lens camera. Meaning, only objects that are about three feet away and directly in front of the camera are visible.

Camera FOV

Chevy, you guys really phoned it in on this one.

One of my favorite personal features is the light-up touchscreen console. It’s a small 8”x5” screen in the middle of the dash that controls the radio and not much else. The console displays an illuminated Chevrolet logo when the radio isn’t on in case you’ve forgotten who manufactured your car. This isn’t too bad during the day, but at night it blazes brightly like the North Star. It is unreasonably bright and it can’t be turned off. That’s right, you read correctly.

It. Can’t. Be. Turned. Off.

I thought I had outsmarted it one day when I discovered that there was a hidden compartment behind this touchscreen. A small switch flips the touchscreen up to reveal small storage area that is cruelly illuminated by an even brighter light.


This makes driving at night problematic. Because this screen is always on and facing me, my eyes can never truly adjust to night-time conditions. Unsurprisingly, I’ve nearly hit countless things at night that I would’ve been able to see in any other vehicle. This isn’t even the worst part though. Because the interior of my car is lit up like Times Square, my face is also bathed in light while I’m driving. I get pulled over about every three days because police officers think I’m on my phone while driving. I’ve had to explain why my car sucks so many times to separate police officers that I feel like it’s my elevator speech for a job interview. Often times, they don’t believe me and I challenge them to find a way to turn it off. One took me up on the offer and after about three minutes of fiddling with the console (he also discovered the sick joke that is the hidden compartment light) he laughed and told me that my car is “badly made.” I was let go without further incident. To date I haven’t gotten a ticket, but it’s only a matter of time before I do.  There are other fantastic features of the 2013 Chevrolet Malibu that I haven’t covered yet.

Another choice design feature is that they’ve placed the turn signal indicator switch a full five inches from the steering wheel. That means that I have to take one hand off the wheel to activate a turn signal. I can’t think of any reason why this is. It just is.

Also, there’s no trunk release button inside the car. There’s one on the key FOB, but it won’t work from inside the vehicle. You have to turn the car off, get out and use the key FOB to open the trunk. I don’t know what happens when the key FOB runs out of battery. I guess you just don’t have access to the trunk anymore.

At this point, I’d like to prove to you guys that I’m not making this up.  Here’s some real photos from inside the car.





All of this is pretty terrible and weird for a car, but the strangest feature of all in the 2013 Malibu’s menagerie of bad features is a Bono poltergeist. My car comes with a random and unwavering association with U2. Let me explain…

I don’t listen to the radio because there aren’t any stations that play the music that I like. I use the Bluetooth in my car to listen to Pandora from my phone. Most of the time this works out fine, but every couple of days the Malibu decides to play U2 when I first start the car up. Here’s the weird part, I don’t like U2. I’ve never saved or liked any of their songs on my phone, computer or other devices. I don’t have a U2 station. I don’t even have music that’s remotely similar to U2 at all.

I don’t know where the fuck it’s getting these songs from and it scares me a little.

One day, I decided to see how long it would play U2. I thought to myself, “Maybe it’s just a demo or filler song? It can’t possibly keep this up forever.”

Yes it fucking can. It plays an entire U2 album over and over and over again.

If Satan didn’t make this car, he was at least consulted during the design process because I refuse to believe that a team of professional car makers were paid to deliberately construct this thing. Also, side note, I think Satan is a big U2 fan.


This is a car that, if it were shown to me at a dealership by a sales rep, I would sit in it, look around and go, “Nope. I’d like to see something that’s less insane.”

It just blows my mind that upper management from a major automotive manufacturer all sat down and said, “Yup, all of this is a good idea. Let’s make thousands of these things.” Once they were done with that, I can only assume they went to go do what I imagine the wealthy and powerful do to celebrate…

Slather themselves in the blood of the poor and form a nude dancing circle around a bonfire of money.


What’s more is that our people from J&J said, “Fuck yes, this car makes my private areas happy and tingly. Let’s give this car to hundreds of employees.”

At first, I tolerated all of my misgivings about the car because I thought I was being a brat. After about a year of nearly crashing every single day, I thinks it’s clearly gone beyond me being a spoiled brat and transformed into a safety issue. It’s gotten so bad, that I’ve sent formal written complaints about the car. I’ve requested and pleaded for any other car. So far, my requests have been ignored.

It looks like my trusty steed, Bono and I will be traversing the metro area for the foreseeable future. Pray for me because I think my luck is going to run out eventually.


P.S. After writing this, I did some research and found out that my car randomly uses an auto-play feature that accesses my iTunes on my phone. U2 just gave away their album, Songs of Innocence, to every iTunes user at the end of 2014. I logged onto my iTunes account (for the first time ever) and found that I too have this album. I didn’t ask for it. I just have it.

P.P.S. Another thing that’s weird… I’ve never logged onto my iTunes account while connected to the car’s Bluetooth and I’m not sure how my car is accessing, let alone playing, this album on a constant loop. I think the Bono haunting scenario is still the most reasonable explanation. Also, bit of a complaint tangent here, FUCKING TELL SOMEONE, U2, WHEN YOU RANDOMLY ADD YOUR MUSIC TO THEIR LIVES. I’VE SPENT THE PAST YEAR AND A HALF THINKING THAT I’M SLOWLY LOSING MY MIND, YOU DICKS.



On Being the Impostor

Hi everybody. I’ve disappeared for a long time and it’s been for a very good reason. I have been dealing with a lot of stuff and I realize that nobody wants to hear other people whine, but it’s been an eye-opening experience and I’d like to share it with you for a couple of reasons. One, for the sake of full disclosure and Two, to hopefully give you something positive to take away from my journey. I’ve been living a very different life than what I imagined for myself and I’ve just realized it. That’s a strange statement to make, isn’t it? How could you not know what type of life you are really leading? I didn’t know that I had been walking a completely divergent path until something unexpected happened the other week.

Recently, a comrade from my old army unit announced that he was up for the Oscar. That’s right, THE Oscar.


He had produced a short film and had recently won the BAFTA. I thought it was a hoax at first, but after a cursory search, I soon found out that it was completely real. Through the magic of Facebook, I was able to track him down and send him a friend request which he graciously accepted within a few hours. I quickly posted my congratulations and set about letting my other friends know that one of us had “made it big”. I was and am genuinely happy for this man. To think that one of us soldiers from our tiny cavalry squadron in Germany could have done something like that was nothing short of amazing. What’s more, is that the short film that he made was set in the Afghan war.

My friend is Henry “Hank” Hughes and he is the writer and director of a short film entitled, Day One. I had remained friends with most of my fellow soldiers from my time in the army, but I had lost contact with Henry after he departed the service sometime in 2011. I wondered what he had been up to in the years after the military. A quick look at his Facebook page revealed that he had pursued a film degree shortly after the army, married, moved to LA, received several scholarships, accolades, etc. It was truly amazing and I was soon beaming with pride and fascination. I thought back on my interactions with him and the stuff that we did together. He was a couple of years older than me and was promoted ahead within our squadron. He was a captain when I was a lieutenant, but we were both considered junior officers since we didn’t have a command at the time. He was given a special platoon at the squadron level on a forward operating base while I was the second in command at a more remote combat outpost. We didn’t interact on a daily or even weekly basis, but our paths crossed on occasion and I remember being impressed by his intelligence and a feeling of creativity that he seemed to radiate. Maybe it was the artist part of me that was able to pick up on it, but I felt like he didn’t belong in the army, much like myself.

That’s when it hit me. I suddenly remembered a conversation that we had in the summer of 2010. If some of you don’t know what happened in Afghanistan that summer, it was the summer when two sailors inexplicably went missing. For reasons that are still unclear to this day, they drove from a secure compound in Kabul down to one of the most dangerous places in Afghanistan. That dangerous place was my hood, Charkh District. It was like leaving Beverly Hills and driving into Compton. To make a long story short, these two sailors went missing and it wasn’t long before we had to go searching for them. The search stretched into a ten day operation with hundreds, possibly thousands of soldiers conducting a sector-wide search. Henry and his platoon, like everyone else, were part of the operation to search for the sailors. With my commander out in the field, I was tasked with coordinating the search operations from our combat outpost. During a rest and refit period for his soldiers, Henry and I got to talking in my headquarters.

It wasn’t long before we broached the subject of what the fuck are we doing here in the army. We were both black sheep; two intelligent and creative officers working in an organization that didn’t really foster the type of creative thought we were prone to.

I asked a simple question.

What do you want to do

He didn’t miss a beat.

Make Movies

I was a little taken aback. I had met other people who were into movies and film making and they mostly struck me as the type of people who just drifted around in life. Henry came across as a person who was convicted though; maybe he’d make it? I didn’t make it very far with these thoughts when he turned the question around on me.

What do you want 2


The words felt a little strange coming out and I didn’t have that immediate response that he did. I hesitated a little. I was already putting limitations on myself even then.

In the years that followed, I had almost completely forgotten about that conversation and Henry winning the BAFTA and being up for the Oscar made it all bubble to the surface. I was genuinely happy for him. He had made his dream come true and he stayed true to himself, but there was this nagging feeling that I couldn’t shake. Then, a realization struck me like a thunderbolt.

He kept his promise to himself and I didn’t.

I suddenly started to feel incongruous with the life I had. I wanted to be a writer but I wasn’t taking any of the risks. I wasn’t putting the work in. How did it get like this? I started to retrace my steps.

Shortly after Afghanistan, I decided to get out of the army. I couldn’t stand it anymore. The constant drilling, the endless tide of pointless tasks, the nonsensical orders, the lack of thinking and creativity were all wearing on me. That’s not even considering the incompetent leadership. They often made many situations dangerous and scary when they didn’t have to be and moribund and reactive when they needed to be dynamic and decisive. I was married at the time and she asked me what I planned to do when I got out. I want to write, I told her. Books, blogs articles, editorials, it didn’t matter. I loved words and ideas and I wanted to do it all. She considered that for a moment and then told me I should do something more stable to support us as a family. Our family consisted of the two of us. We didn’t have kids or even one on the way. What she really meant was to support her. If I had realized that then, I would have changed my decisions. This was a person that was supposed to always be in my corner and she was already putting limitations on my life, for the sake of personal gain, without taking any of the risks or associated responsibilities. But, because my relationships (and my life as a whole for that matter) had been so weird and shitty up until that point, I had nothing healthy to compare it to. I truly thought that she loved and supported me and was keeping my best interest at heart.

I talked to her for a bit and we brainstormed some career ideas. Eventually, I settled on the medical field. I had always been interested in medicine and it seemed like a lucrative industry with good job stability. After all, there’s no shortage of sick and injured people to work on. I was too old at the time to start medical school and we didn’t have much money, having spent much of it traveling in Europe, so med school was out of the question. Instead, I looked toward industry. I was placed into the work force by a private firm that places ex-military officers in corporate gigs. That’s how my relationship with Johnson and Johnson began. I started work in the coronary space dealing with an experimental sales model where we tried to sell medical devices to hospitals and doctors remotely. Traditionally, this had been done via face to face interactions by a field force. The fact that we were doing the same job at a fraction of the salary didn’t sit well with the field employees and they tried to undermine us at every opportunity. It was a near-impossible task, but I really didn’t mind though because I was told again and again that I was hired for my leadership potential and that my time in sales was more of a check-the-block type scenario before they put my leadership skills to use in management. Nothing could’ve been further from the truth because the company I worked for, Cordis, started to go belly up and I was cut like the rest of the chaff and I found myself on unemployment. They didn’t even attempt to keep me in the J&J system or relocate me to one of the other dozens of J&J operating companies despite all their prattle about supporting veterans. That was in early 2013 and my wife had suddenly left me around the same time. In short order, I found myself in a new state collecting unemployment, struggling to get rehired, and separated from a wife that left me with a Dear John letter.


As angry as I was with her at the time, I couldn’t see that I had subtly become my own worst enemy. She had faced me toward the path of compromise and settling on my dreams, but I hiked the journey myself.

What followed was a kind of momentum that carried me into the next few years. I still had the blog so I was working on that and posting to you guys. I got lucky and was hired into another J&J company based off of some relationships I had made at the Cordis gig. Just when my unemployment was about to run out, I suddenly had a good job again in the medical device industry and I began to make decent money in the NYC/NJ area. The issue with all of it was that I was very good at what I did and I mistook it for what I was meant to do, much like my time as a soldier. I still had this nagging feeling that I wasn’t happy in the years that followed. I was making six figures and saving a lot of money. I had met and dated some good women and had a good relationship at the time, post-divorce and I was writing on the side, just like Wife had recommended. From the outside looking in, everything seemed to be on track again, but I still felt like there was an invisible ceiling or cap to my happiness though and I couldn’t quite place my finger on it.

Then I had some personal things happen that made me think. My dad died unexpectedly in July 2015 and I lost my first patient at work two days before Christmas of the same year. Both of these things got me thinking about life and what’s important. I think I would’ve eventually put this feeling aside and gotten back into the churn of my daily grind at the hospital had Henry not won that nomination. It made me really think and I started asking myself if this is what I wanted to do with my life.

I also wondered that if I told people I was a writer, why the fuck wasn’t I writing anything? The long and short of it is that I didn’t feel I belonged in my own life. I was doing the things I was supposed to do according to other people and I had suppressed for so long what I wanted and needed to do, that I couldn’t tell what I wanted anymore. All of this was rolling around in my head and it finally come to a fine point one night in a New Jersey FedEx office of all places.

My company had sent out a holiday gift for a job well done to all of its field employees and, since they are located in the LA area, they shipped our holiday gifts across the country. I heard through the grapevine that they were giving us Fitbits and it was in keeping with what they had done in previous years. Last year, they had given us Beats ear buds when we had exceeded our sales quota for North America.


The only catch was that we needed to be home to sign for them. After a couple of days, I started to get FedEx door tags showing missed deliveries. My schedule was sporadic at best and downright fucking awful at worst. Then, as with now, I worked an average of 60 hours a week in a high-pressure, live surgery lab setting and I just wasn’t home to sign for shit. After three attempts, they sent the package back to the home office in LA. I got an email from some person in the company asking me why I didn’t get my gift. I told them that it’s because I’m not home, I live alone and I haven’t taught my cat how to open doors or sign his name. I proceeded to ask them, if they were going to send it again, to waive the signature requirement. Just leave the fucking thing at my door; I accept any responsibility for its loss or destruction. The response I got was infuriating.

“Sure thing, we will send it back out. Be on the lookout for it, you will need to sign for it.”

I simply threw up my hands when I read it because it was clear that I was dealing with another drone that couldn’t see that repeating the same scenario would likely result in the same outcome. About a week passed and, huge fucking surprise, the same thing happens again. I get multiple door hangers and no package.


Eventually, I get a call from an angry FedEx driver who tells me to come pick this package up at a location a few miles from my house. They’re open till 11pm and I just got out of work. I made my way over there at 8pm and I think it’s important to state at this point in the story that I can’t ever, in any conceivable universe, find even one fuck to give about a Fitbit.

Zero Fucks

I think they are stupid and kitschy items that add yet another distraction to our already bloated, stupid lives. At this point though, it’s a thorn in my side and I want it out. I made my way into the office and tell them who I am. The girl behind the counter doesn’t want to give it to me because my ID has my old address on it. She recommends that I go out to my car and bring my vehicle registration in because it will have my name and current address on it. I went outside and fumbled around in the glove box for a bit and pulled out the registration. My anger flared when I realized that it’s a company car; it’s not registered to me. I took a few deep breaths and then looked around in the car for some current mail that had my address on it. I eventually found a letter from the VA with the right address and marched it inside, triumphantly. With a quick signature the Fitbit was mine.

The girl behind the counter wanted to know what all the fuss was over.

In it

Without looking up, I opened the box. I took it out of the ugly brown shipping box and turned it over in my hands. There it was, just this tiny little black band suspended in a clear plastic box. It was simple, almost elegant and I couldn’t have desired it less at that moment. I thought about Henry and the Oscar, my ex-wife, my dad and the patient I lost. I thought about the hard work and long hours I had been putting in at my job and the writing I hadn’t been doing. This Fitbit was a representation of my reward; the thing I was aspiring to and I couldn’t give a shit about it. I thought about all the money I was working so hard for, my paychecks, commissions and my bank accounts. I couldn’t think about the last time that I had looked at them or cared about the balance. I realized, holding that little box, I was working so hard for rewards that I didn’t want. I thought about Afghanistan and that young lieutenant that told captain Henry “Hank” Hughes that he was going to be a writer.

When I was in Afghanistan, I was under the constant threat of death. As bad as that feeling was, it made me want to live, I mean really, really live. The feeling I had when I was there was like standing on top of a mountain and being able to see all of your goals and desires for miles and miles away. Ever since I came back and that metaphorical knife wasn’t at my throat, that long view, that desire to really live, has waned a little more each day. Holding that Fitbit and thinking about my life, I felt like I couldn’t see for miles and miles away anymore. I could barely see my hand in front of my face. I had settled and compromised. I had taken the safe route and lived a life other people would run toward, but it wasn’t mine. I had lived the life that Wife wanted for me even years after she was gone. I had rationalized and reasoned my dreams away until it fit the reality that I found myself in. It had gotten so bad and I didn’t even realize it. I had gradually, step by step, silenced that little voice in my head that was calling me what I really was…



Henry followed his dream and kept his promise to himself and I didn’t.

“Oh, that’s nice.” The girl behind the counter said and I was jarred back into the present. I must’ve been standing there for a while. She was looking at me with a curiosity that bordered on concern.

“Yeah, it is.” I said as I examined the small, clear box in my hands, not really seeing it. I glanced at her for a moment or two and decided what I needed to do.


She looked puzzled as I placed the box on the counter and walked out of the office, but I wasn’t worried about that. I wasn’t worried about any of it anymore. I knew, right then and there, what I had to do.  I had to put the work in.  I had to write to become the writer.

That’s what I’m doing for you now. No more putting this off. No more making sure everything is perfect before I release it. No more waiting for permission or acceptance. I’m doing this on my own and I’m doing it now. I’m a writer and now it’s time to do the writing.

Starting now and going until the foreseeable future, I’ll be waking up before 5am to write each day either on my blog or one of my three book projects. I am going to self-publish my books and I want you to read them. No more safe bets, no more compromise. I am going to succeed or break my mind in the process. Either way, you’re in for an entertaining ride if you’re up for it. As always, thanks for reading.




P.S. Stay tuned for more posts on the blog under its new URL, underwhelmer.com

P.P.S. Please support Henry and his run for Oscar. You’ve helped me more than words can express, Hank!





My Mind Owns Weird Real Estate.

Hi interwebs!  I know I’ve been away for a few months, but it’s been for a good reason. The book is almost done and I’ve been up to my eyeballs in editing and draft work.

Good news for you though, I desperately needed a break so I decided to put together a little something special for you. Enjoy!

People often mistake me for a thoughtful and happy person.  To the casual observer, I’ll pause over mundane items or statements and find something entertaining.  Sometimes, I’ll even chuckle quietly to no one but myself.  This is usually done with a slight head tilt, vacant smile and an upward glance, like I’m using my head as an aluminum covered TV antenna to tune in to my own very special broadcast.  What a pleasantly happy idiot, right?

The truth of the matter is little more dark.  When I’m standing there giggling like a moron, people should know that I’m a mostly functioning mental patient and I’ve found something hilarious by connecting a weird series of associations in my brain.  It’s usually so obscure and removed from what I’m looking at, that I don’t share it with other people.  Over the years, I’ve learned that I have a very strange sense of humor, usually from the reactions of those close to me.

If my brain were a person, this is what it would look like.


Brain Turning

Brain Closeup

Creepy right?  If I knew how to go about drawing an anthropomorphized brain tweaking its own nipples, I would have.  Consider yourself lucky I’m not a better artist.

Normally I wouldn’t share my weird inner thoughts for fear of torch-wielding villagers, but with the power of internet anonymity, I can do that with you now!

Here’s a good first example.  I bought a blue colored sea salt scrub from Lush, an all natural and very granola bath product company.  The first time I used it, I noticed this icon on the label, proclaiming their intent to fight the practice of animal testing.

Animal Logo

I started laughing because this is what I immediately thought of.

Control Group

Bunny Face Paint

Bunny Slayer


Before that, I was walking out of work when I noticed a TV news headline on one of the many TVs in the hospital that were always on and playing to no one in particular.  The headline read, “Ryan Seacrest Live.”

I let out a small chuckle that caught the glance of a few patients in the waiting area.  This is what I envisioned.

Ryan Seacrest Tomb

Ryan Seacrest Hand

Seacrest Interview

Not even touching, tear-jerking charity commercials are safe from my weird imagination.  I cracked up when I saw a pancreatic cancer awareness commercial narrated by Bryan Cranston.

Bryan Cranston Commercial

annnd cut.

that's great

We need to cook.

I smiled like a maniac when I saw this news story.  An 11 year old boy boarded a mega bus from Nashville and took it to Atlanta, where he was picked up by the Atlanta police when they found him wandering the streets alone.  When the story concluded, the official statement from Atlanta police was that they were not sure if they were going to release him.  I’m sure this was done because they hadn’t contacted the boy’s parent/ guardian yet an they were figuring that out, but that didn’t stop my crazy brain from going down into one of its weird rabbit holes.

I just want to go home.

Let's play a game.

Carrot Peeler


P.S. 12,000 subscribers and counting! Thanks to everyone who makes this blog what it is!

P.P.S. Again, sorry for the dry spell and thanks for your continued support and patience!

How Does Every Holiday Sale Devolve Into This?

The Christmas shopping season always makes me think.  Companies all across the US are looking to unload their garbage onto you or your loved ones and they’re willing to use any tactic in the book.  Holiday sales used to be just Black Friday and then Cyber Monday, but now they’ve added more days and weeks to the sales and I just can’t keep track of it all.  It just seems to be a nonstop orgy of sales all the way between Thanksgiving and Christmas.  As someone without a lot of people on my Christmas shopping list, I get my Holiday shopping done early and without much fuss.  I then get to sit back and watch in complete awe as my phone, radio and email explode with special once in a lifetime offers for shit that I’ve never expressed any interest in whatsoever.

This is what every Holiday sales season feels like to me.

















































P.S.  I actually left out a few of the other holidays that have been steadily added to incrementally bloat Christmas Shopping Season over the years.

P.P.S. No imaginary creatures were harmed in the making of this post.


Some Call It Myanmar, but It Shall Always Be Burma to Me.

This past July, I took a trip out to LA for the new job.  It was part two of my training and I had been to LA previously for two weeks in May.  On the first trip in May, I had flown from Newark, NJ to LAX and, of course, they had lost my luggage.  I had traveled from New Jersey in summer attire which left me looking like an extra from the Jersey Shore.  That’s always a great look for the “meet the company leadership and be sure to wear business casual” introduction day.


I’m the king of good first impressions.

As eventful as that first trip was, I’m here to write about the second trip.  This time around, it seemed that all was going well.  We had completed our two week training without incident and I was boarding the plane at LAX to take me back east to Newark.  I’m a believer that the human mind likes to lump things in groups of three so when I sat down in the exact middle of a triangle of screaming infants, I thought that would be the summit of my suffering and not part one of a horrible trifecta of events.  I had no idea how bad things were about to get.

The babies were all perfectly spaced and facing inward, toward me.  It was like Hell’s version of surround sound.


Now I want you to know that I’m a very understanding and patient man because I have to be.  I’ve spent years with a very good psychologist to ensure it.  The alternative being, that with my training and violent past, I would horribly injure or kill someone for the slightest infraction based on my mercurial mood, Earth’s alignment with other planets and possibly, what direction the breeze is blowing that moment.











I don’t think you guys would like to get my posts from prison.  I think g-mail automatically blocks anything from Rikers Island anyway and my readership would likely suffer.

What I’m trying to say is that I was managing just fine with the screaming babies.  I understood that they were far more upset and uncomfortable than I was.  I had my little Zen moment, did my breathing exercise and I was good after that.  Then the kid behind me started digging his knees into my seat.  His tiny, bony knees found the one soft spot in the seat and directed an impressive amount of force directly into my lumbar area.  “It’s another test.” I told myself.  I closed my eyes and had a silent conversation with God.



With my little confrontation with God done, I leaned forward in my seat to get away from the pressure in my back and I put in my headphones at full blast.  I could still faintly hear the infant symphony over Blind Melon’s No Rain, but I was managing.

About an hour into the flight, I had to change my posture.  I’m a tall man and leaning forward to the tip of a coach seat was starting to take its toll.  I leaned back a little and was immediately stabbed in the back by those bony, squirming knees which, I assumed, had been screwing mindlessly into the seat for the past hour.  I don’t know if it was Against Me’s Piss and Vinegar on my headphones, but my peaceful aura was shattered.

“Fuck this kid.” I  thought to myself.  I hauled myself up out of my seat and turned around to the child behind me, fully prepared to deal with him and his family that was surely seated beside him.

When I saw the kid, I was a little taken aback.  He was about five and looked very dark and foreign.  His skin was almond colored and his eyes and hair jet black.  I imagined that he came from some part of the earth that was full of mangoes and snakes.  He was still jamming his knees into the seat like he was bracing against the inevitable plane crash.


“Hey, kid.” I said.  He looked at me and continued working his knees into the seat, clearly not understanding what I had said let alone the distress he was causing me.  I looked at him more closely and saw a placard on his chest.  It was suspended by a white yarn lanyard.  It seemed cheap and temporary like it was only for this trip.  I had just read the word “Myanmar” when the man next to the child spoke up. “I don’t think he speaks English dude.”  I looked over at the man seated next to the child.  It was immediately apparent that this child was seated next to strangers and not his family.  The man who had spoken to me was black and about my age.  I nodded and sat back down into my seat, my anger and indignation melting away and leaving behind unease and confusion.  “Who was this kid? Why was he traveling alone?” I asked myself.

I got up and went to the bathroom to give my back a break.  When I was finished and returning to my seat, I noticed several other people of similar ethnicity with little placards peppered throughout the plane.  The biggest concentration of them was about two rows in front of my seat.  There seemed to be about eighteen of them in total.  I found my way back to my seat, inched my way to the front of it and braced myself for the rest of the flight.

I was using my special power of focusing on nothing and accelerating time when I was brought back into the moment.  The group of placard people in front of me began speaking in hushed and urgent tones.  All of the talk seemed to be directed toward one unconscious woman in the Myanmar party.  Another Myanmar woman got up and was urgently trying to get the woman to come to.  Moments later, the woman sputtered to consciousness and mumbled something.  I could only see the back of her head but there was no mistaking the sound and smell of her retching all over herself.  The placard party looked around nervously, speaking their quick and clipped language which, I could only assume, was Burmese.  A few seconds later, two flight attendants appeared and began questioning the group.  I had pulled out my earphones and was listening intently.

It quickly became apparent that the best English speaker in the group was an indifferent looking middle aged male.  He soon was the spokesperson for the Myanmar group.







This was mind-blowing for me because that meant that they had been flying non-stop from Hong Kong for the past 48 hours and they didn’t think it was a good idea to feed some of the members of their party.  I began hating the male spokesperson of the group.  Maybe something was lost in translation, but his tone and affect conveyed such a level of callous indifference toward the sick woman.  He spoke as if he were just informed that the family dog had taken ill in the cargo hold.

The flight attendants gave each other knowing glances and the woman asked if anyone on board the plane was a doctor.  No one responded.  She then lowered the criteria to nurse.  Again, crickets.  She then asked if anyone had any medical experience at all.  There was complete silence yet again.  I waited for a second or two and looked around.  There were no hands up.  “Fuck.” I thought to myself, “It looks like I’m the only show in town.”  My hand went up and the female flight attendant came over to me.



I thought about some of the highlights of my medical experience.



I left out the specifics because my medical experience consisted of dabbling in cardiology for the past two years and, before that, years of battlefield trauma experience.  It didn’t look like anybody had been shot or was suffering a heart attack so I was probably in over my head.

I got out of my seat and was directed toward the sick passengers.  I looked at the vomiting woman and saw that her colorful dress was covered in a kaleidoscope of vomit and bile.  Her friend was stuffing a towel onto her mouth in an attempt to stymie the tide of puke.  The sick woman looked up at me, pitifully, and then wretched once more into her towel.  Her vomit was thin and clear.  She had clearly emptied the contents of her stomach minutes ago.

I looked at the flight attendant and told her that all we could do was wait it out and keep her hydrated once she stopped vomiting so profusely.  After that, we could try some nausea medication, but I wasn’t sure what she was allergic to, if anything.  This answer seemed to satisfy the flight crew who began getting juice and water from the beverage cart.  I put my hand on the sick woman’s forehead and felt that she was burning up.  She must have had a 100+ fever.

Before I could think further, the sound of projectile vomit erupted from behind me.  I turned slowly and saw another woman in the Myanmar group, spilling her guts onto the floor.  Then, in keeping with our theme of threes, an elderly woman in the Myanmar party joined the vomiting chorus.

I looked at the flight attendant.


She nodded and hurried off to the flight deck, leaving me with the sick passengers and the male flight attendant.

“Well this is fucking great.” I thought to myself.  I looked back at my empty seat and saw that the little boy was still worming his knees into the back of my chair.  I then noticed that the screaming babies were still going.  “Had they stopped and started up again or had they been going this whole time?” I asked myself.

I glanced back at the first sick woman.  She was ashen and grey despite her dark complexion.  Was this patient zero?  Is this how the zombie apocalypse begins?  Some random lady contracts some weird disease in the heart of Asia and then goes on a marathon flight across the world, infecting everyone along the way?

The PA system crackled to life


The male flight attendant thanked me for my help and directed me to my seat.  The fasten seat-belt lights illuminated and I strapped myself back into my seat, feeling the familiar stab in my lower back.  I was focused on patient zero in front of me.  She had fallen unconscious again and I was worried that she was about to reanimate.  I was alternating between staring a hole in the back of her head and looking around for objects to smash her skull open in case she turned.




I eventually settled on my tray table as my contingency weapon of choice.  There was a good chance I could wrench it off and use one of the metal arms to stab her through the eye socket if it came down to it.  I held the tray table and tested it against my grip.  It creaked and groaned under my hands.  “This could work” I thought to myself.

I spent the rest of the flight mentally orchestrating, step by step, my hypothetical zombie murder ballet.


I was so immersed in thought that I didn’t realize that we were landing.  When the wheels screeched against the tarmac, I was jolted back into a zombie-less reality.  We taxied up to a distant terminal and waited there for a few moments.  Shortly thereafter, paramedics boarded the plane and began disembarking the entire Myanmar group.  I felt those tiny knees pull out of my back and, moments later, saw the little boy gingerly skip behind the parade of deathly ill people as they were all ushered off the plane.

Suddenly, the flight seemed so much less exciting and, in a way, I was sad that it was over.  Sure, the flight was scary and uncomfortable and there was a slight chance that I had contracted some incurable super-virus, but I couldn’t remember the last time that I had such a long flight that had kept me so occupied.

Then, in the perfect stillness of the motionless plane, the trio of screaming babies started back up.



P.S. I didn’t catch anything at all from that flight.  As far as I know, the group immigrating from Myanmar was quarantined for what could’ve been MERS but, to this day, I’m not entirely sure.

P.P.S.  I hope that I didn’t offend anybody from Myanmar or Burma or whatever-the-fuck you call it.  I’m sure it’s a great place to visit.


Hummingbird Feeders

Just wanted to do a short post on hummingbird feeders today.

Somebody mentioned hummingbird feeders to me the other day and I started thinking about them a little.  I wondered why I hadn’t seen one in years.  I tried to remember back to our hummingbird feeders that my grandparents put out when I was a kid.  At first, the memories were pleasant.  I remember seeing iridescent little birds flutter about and feed off of sugar water.


The more I thought about it though, I began to remember that there were other creatures that loved sugar water more than hummingbirds; bees, primarily.  They love that shit… so much so that hummingbird feeders were only that in name.  These were plastic, sugar dispensers for bees.  For every beautiful hummingbird, there were hundreds of bees.  It suddenly dawned on me that most of my experience with these feeders actually played out like this.




Yeah, those things sucked pretty hard.


P.S.  Let me know what other horrible inventions you’d like to see me draw.


Another Long Hiatus Concluded

It’s good to be back once again.  Sorry for the long departure, dear interwebs, but I’ve had to contend with exploding laptops, the new job and a few other curve-balls from life.  The good news is that, much like the absentee father, I’m here now and I’ll always be here for you.  That is, until I run out of smokes or my new girlfriend starts bitching about me spending too much time with you.  Then you’ll just have to stay at your mother’s place for a couple of weeks while I smooth things over.  You’ll understand when you’re older.

So, back on track.  I’ve really been up to a lot lately

Yup, things have been a virtual beehive of activity.  You’ve probably even noticed the new art style.  My company  made a horrible mistake and issued us iPads and I’ve been drawing up a storm!  Here’s the first thing that I drew.


Do you like it? Well, I’m lying.  It isn’t the first thing that I drew.  The first thing was some god-awful iPad monstrosity that looked like the fevered dream of a mentally disturbed child.  I deleted it as soon as I was done because I was afraid Hastur, Cthulhu or some other Lovecraft horror would use it as a portal to our world. I’ll try to recreate it for you.

Isn’t technology great?

So a little update on what’s been going on for the past several months. I’m making great progress on the book and I expect to be done by the end of the year or early 2015 at the latest. The new job is going great. I’m basically a guide and adviser for electrophysiologists during live surgeries.  The fact that I don’t have a medical degree isn’t slowing me down either because everybody keeps listening to me for some insane reason that I haven’t figured out yet.

A lot of my friends ask me if I’m under a lot of stress working in these conditions with people who are far more educated than I am. To this I respond,


All in all, I’m really excited to be back at the blog-o-sphere with you. Although I haven’t posted in months, I have been jotting down ideas and I’ve got some good material planned for you guys. Expect stories about my flight from hell, discovering my real life clone, my take on the news and even my time in College Park, Atlanta; holla!  Stay tuned!


P.S.  Let me know what you guys think of the new artwork. I should be able to make many more pictures with each post using this technique. If my calculations are correct, expect to see approximately one metric fuck-ton of pictures!

P.P.S.  Just don’t be too harsh on the criticism. I’m a delicate flower.

Coming Out

Today I’m coming out of the career closet. I’ve kept my past and identity a secret and for a while, I was receiving a lot of emails and messages asking me what I used to do. I only really talked about my previous employers in vague terms like, “my shadowy puppet masters” and whatnot; always promising my readers that one day I would reveal all. Well, that day is today.


The truth was that for a few years I couldn’t talk about what I did as my day job because I was a United States Army officer. The military has a fairly strict policy about what its officers can and can’t say on a public forum. I decided to write my blog anonymously while I was still in uniform.


So when I drew myself like this,




The real version actually looked like this.




Sorry for the deception, but really the wizard robes were much, much more comfortable than body armor.


I actually started this blog right after I got back from a tough tour in Afghanistan. I was having a hard time coping with everything in general and Wife recommended that, since I always enjoyed writing, I start up a blog to release some mental energy. I originally started a blog about my military experience, but everything was too fresh in my mind to really write about it. Instead, I decided to write about humorous and/or nerdy stuff which gave birth to Live Nerd Repeat as you know it.


Why am I telling you all of this? Well for a very important reason.


Drum-roll please…




Words and shit


It’s a book about my time in Afghanistan and I’m over half-way done. I know this may seem like a stretch, but the writing style almost exactly the same as Live Nerd Repeat. The purpose of the book, unlike much of what’s already out there, is not to decipher the labyrinthine Central Asian geo-political landscape nor to further someone’s military or political point of view, but to give the reader a taste of the mental and emotional transformation that our service men and women undergo in combat on our behalves. In short, it’s my account of my time in war; expect it to be funny, sad, scary, pulse-pounding and riddled with sarcasm. More on this project in the coming months.


Now that your brain is digesting all of that, I’m going to throw one more curve-ball at you. I was contacted recently by one of my former soldiers, Pete, who has created from the ground up, a graphic design studio aimed at supporting our fighting men and women. Pete creates professional quality (and often hilarious) t-shirts, stickers, decals, and logos supporting our Soldiers, Marines, Airmen and Sailors.


Please go check it out. The website is called Inkfidel and they can be found on Facebook as well.


10% of Pete’s profits go toward the Art of War Project in Denver, CO. For those not in the know, The Art of War project is a non-profit art therapy project that uses art to help veterans cope with PTSD. As a combat wounded veteran with PTSD, I can think of no better way to repay my fellow veterans in need. Thank you for reading and thank you for your support.




P.S. Don’t get worried. Live Nerd Repeat isn’t going anywhere. I’m still a colossal nerd and I love wizards so I don’t think this blog is going anywhere anytime soon. 🙂


P.P.S. Stay tuned for next weekend’s story about the time I almost kicked off my life of crime in a series of unwitting felonies. Till next time, ta-ta!