In an effort to gather all my writing in one place, I’ve been posting articles that originally appeared elsewhere. This piece was published by the The Morning News in 2003.
You are a good person. You feel bad when other people are sad; you try not to laugh when someone trips; you’re fond of puppies.
Now, maybe you’re not rolling in cash. Most of us have some debt, and we’re all trying to build our savings. But you’ve got 10 bucks to spare, and there’s some disturbing shit going down in the world. Perhaps you’ve heard.
The surprisingly good people—the ones who are feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, and pulling small children out of harm’s way—they could probably use that 10 bucks more constructively than we could. Give it up, and bask in the warm glow of self-satisfaction.
* * *
1. Southern Poverty Law Center started out as a small civil rights law firm in Montgomery, Alabama, and grew into a well-known center for tolerance. They sponsor tolerance-education programs, fight white supremacists in court, and track hate groups throughout the U.S.
Ten bucks in their pockets: fight evil
Ten bucks in our pockets: wineglass charms
2. The Carter Center is a non-partisan organization that works to alleviate human suffering, and they have one of the least-annoying mission statements I’ve ever seen. Among other points, they pledge not to ‘duplicate the effective efforts of others’ and to ‘[address] difficult problems and [recognize] the possibility of failure as an acceptable risk.’ They’re for peace, world health, and democracy. Coincidentally, I’m also a big fan of those things.
Ten bucks in their pockets: thwart corruption, fight social inequities in the Western Hemisphere
Ten bucks in our pockets: ticket to The Green Hornet 3D
3. Heifer International gives an animal to a needy family to help feed them or sustain the family economically—a cow, pig, duck, buffalo, some bees, you name it. The family signs a contract saying they’ll give the first female offspring of their animal to another hungry family. They also agree to teach their neighbors how to care for the animal.
Ten bucks in their pockets: milk and honey for hungry people
Ten bucks in our pockets: olive-oil mister
4. Habitat for Humanity finds a family that needs a house, helps them build it, and then lets them purchase the house at cost with no interest paid on the mortgage.
Ten bucks in their pockets: build a house every 26 minutes
Ten bucks in our pockets: another bud vase
5. Mine Action Group is dedicated to solving the problems caused by leftover landmines and unexploded bombs. Problems like how those things tend to blow up at hideously inconvenient times. The group locates, clears, and destroys leftover weapons so those weapons don’t destroy the lives of children who accidentally play too close.
Ten bucks in their pockets: protect lives
Ten bucks in our pockets: Lego cufflinks
6. Wings for Kids is an after-school program for 240 elementary-school kids in South Carolina. The organization’s focus is on ‘emotional competence,’ meaning they teach the kids empathy, self-awareness, and how to negotiate relationships and manage their emotions. If we give them some money, maybe they’ll let all of us in.
Ten bucks in their pockets: help little kids develop emotional intellect
Ten bucks in our pockets: new eye shadow!
7. Helping Hands trains capuchin monkeys to help quadriplegic people in their daily lives. I am not making this up. We’re talking about real, live trained helper monkeys. The monkeys feed people, pick up things they’ve dropped, operate lights, and generally provide a pair of hands and some company. All this, plus they’re friendly little monkeys!
Ten bucks in their pockets: monkey helpers!
Ten bucks in our pockets: chili-cheese poppers
8. WaterAid provides safe water and basic sanitation to 15 countries in Africa and Asia. Thanks to them, some of the poorest women and children in the world no longer have to walk miles for water, freeing up time for them to generate income or attend school. WaterAid also builds latrines in communities with open sewage systems.
Ten bucks in their pockets: safe drinking water
Ten bucks in our pockets: Cranberry Chutney scented candle
9. ProLiteracy Worldwide teaches adults how to read. They offer literacy programs and publications that are distributed to schools and libraries all over the world. Their work touches 45 developing countries and the United States.
Ten bucks in their pockets: teach 350,000 people how to read in a year
Ten bucks in our pockets: Girls Gone Wild: Spring Break III
10. Big Brothers Big Sisters provides one-on-one mentoring for at-risk kids from ages 5 to 18. This greatly decreases the odds of them skipping school, using illegal drugs, and generally becoming little punks. It’s the oldest and largest mentoring program in the United States.
Ten bucks in their pockets: friendship for 200,000 kids
Ten bucks in our pockets: heart-shaped pancake molds
Historically, I’ve been so terrified of the dentist I would have panic attacks at the thought of going — I mean that literally. I felt like I was going to pass out or throw up, or possibly die a horrible dental chair death to a symphony of drills. This complicated things when I finally got dental insurance and had an appointment where they told me I’d need about $30,000 of work beyond what was covered. That was when I was 22.
If you’re similarly terrified of the dentist, I found that being trapped in the elevator at my dentist office really helped put things in perspective, so try that. Otherwise, my tips for overcoming dental paralysis for major procedures are as follows:
1. Manage your own pain. Accept that there’s no need for you to feel anything beyond the novocaine shot. The minute you do, ask for more novocaine. Because of the panic, I metabolize that stuff like crazy, and have to ask for up to two reapplications per procedure. Raise a finger so they know to pause and tell them you have sensation. A good dentist is uncomfortable when you are, and they’ll take care of it or explain your options.
2. Close your eyes. You don’t need to see the implements. Especially not the needle. Breathe.
3. Pay attention to your body. Note how your entire body is clenched like a vise? Concentrate on relaxing your muscles one and at time, from the toes up. Unclench your jaw. Unfurrow your brow. If you feel yourself panicking, start again from the toes.
4. Wear headphones. Loud, soothing music you rarely listen to in real life. No need to sabotage your favorite tunes with dental recall. Ask your dentist to squeeze your hand if he or she needs something.
5. Find an escape. If your dentist doesn’t already have one, ask him or her to hang a poster of a soothing scene (the ocean or something) on the ceiling above the chair. That way, if you do open your eyes, there’s something non medical to look at.
6. Care for yourself. When you’re back at home, ice your jaw and rinse gently with warm saltwater whenever you’re in pain. This controls swelling and infection, both of which cause a lot of the post-procedural pain. If they gave you painkillers, take them the first day even if you don’t think you need them. If they gave you antibiotics, set an alarm on your phone to remind you to take every last one of them.
7. Take it easy. Trashy magazines, warm broth, ice cream.
What did I forget? Tips for making your dentists appointment more bearable? Fill us in.
The best parts of Object of Beauty by Steve Martin:
“Lacey was just as happy alone as with company. When she was lone, she was potential; with others she was realized.”
“… a young man, Jamaican, perhaps, his head circled in a scarf with sunbleached dreadlocks on piled on top, looking like a plate of softshell crabs.”
“He brought the Van Gogh out to the offices, where ambient sunlight would make any flaws in the drawing more visible. He hovered around Lacey’s desk, tilting it this way and that, looking for fading, looking for foxing. Lacey presumed he didn’t notice her, but when he said, “A beautiful thing… a beautiful thing,” Lacey, at her desk, said, “I do my best.”
“Auctions were, and still are, spectator sports, where the contestants are money.”
“Lacey squeezed back into her slot across from [Jonah], with Patrice having to turn sideways to sit down. She seemed genuinely in love with Patrice, and genuinely trying to rekindle Jonah’s fleeting interest of three years ago. Looking back, I think that both behaviors were valid. To her this was natural, to Patrice it was unsettling, to me it was bewildering, and to Tanya Ross, who had matured normally, it was creepy.”
malfeasant – one guilty of malfeasance, an offender
incised – cut into a surface; engraved
prestidigitation – sleight of hand
feint – a movement made in order to deceive an adversary
vitrines – a glass display case or cabinet for works of art, curios, etc.
ovoid – egg shaped
argot – a secret language used by various groups—including, but not limited to, thieves and other criminals—to prevent outsiders from understanding their conversations
Every month, when I get my Esquire, I flip straight to the What I’ve Learned column. It’s my version of eating dessert first. In January they do an entire What I’ve Learned issue, and these are my favorite moments of insight from this year’s issue with links to the full interviews:
“Some people understand what it is to create something special, and others are thinking what they can get out of it.” -Al Pacino
“There was an incredible power that was against me. And that power, I hope I was able to use it to do something good. Power is power. It’s energy. And if you get big, big energy, you can use that in a good way.” -Yoko Ono
“People don’t remember who the critics were.” -Robert Redford
“Running from something and running to something are the same thing.”
“There’s always going to be someone smarter, prettier, nicer. It’s better to appreciate it instead of being threatened by it or defending yourself against it.” -Mary Louise Parker
I think you ought to treat your spouse like you treat your friends. You clean your house for your friends, you make sure they’re taken care of, and a spouse comes second. I think you oughtta treat him like a friend.” -Barbara Bush
My woman is smarter than me, stronger than me, and within six months would be just fine without me. A motherfucker’s got to pay attention to his relationship.” -Esquire reader, Russell Bryan Love
“I don’t look ahead. I’m right here with you. It’s a good way to be.”
“If you’re going to have kids, there’s only one way to go. They have to know they’re th emost important things in your life, and once you’re doing that, there’s no way that you could not learn from them, because they just give you stuff constantly.” -Danny DeVito
“I don’t want to impress people I wouldn’t cross the road to talk to. I want there to be a strict door policy at my club. I want to go, “You can’t come in. You won’t like this. And I don’t want you to like it.” -Ricky Gervais
“Could you imagine people eating a painting — if they could introduce a painting into their bodies? It’s probably the artist’s dream, and we have the opportunity to do so.”
“I dedicate more than double the time most people do. Thus, at the same level of talent, I have an advantage.” -Ferran Adrià
“In the history of the earth, there’s never been more people writing. Everyone’s a writer. Everybody spends time trying to let people know who they are. Twitter.” -James L. Brooks
Internet, this is my own personal Rickroll.
There’s Nutella inside. Yeah there is.
So this is what happens when it rains. On the plus side, it lends verisimilitude to my rendition of “Love Bites.”