Why 14-year-olds don’t run the world

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It was Spring 2003. After training my early-morning clients on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, I’d ride the N or the now-defunct W train under the East River back to the friendly confines of Astoria. I never failed to raise my eyes from whatever book I was reading to smile when the train rumbled out into the sunlight. We made through a 100+ year-old water tunnel yet again! Hallelujah.

Once, when heading straight to another gym where I’d do my own workout, I got off the train two stops early—36th Avenue, my old stomping grounds—and I soon noticed that Joe’s Pizzeria has fallen victim to Astoria’s creeping gentrification.

On the corner of 36th and 31st, the decades-old pizza joint had its windows covered with newspaper and was undergoing a metamorphosis into yet another Manhattan-style eatery.

Years ago…many years ago…my friends and I were regulars at Joe’s (although we never got a satisfactory answer as to why it wasn’t named after Gino, the owner). We’d hit up passersby for jukebox money, order a slice, and then wait for other customers to put their money down on the counter so we could pretend it was ours to pay for the slice (and maybe even get an Italian ice on a good night).

Through it all, Gino seemed to like us. He even sponsored our 14-and-under softball team with jerseys that unfortunately read: Joe’s Pizzera.

No spell-check back then.

Whenever we won (which we did often), Gino would give everyone on the team a free slice. Not satisfied with the meager schedule of games provided to us by the (original) Long Island City YMCA, we’d occasionally don our jerseys on off-nights and show up with heroic stories of late-inning comebacks.

Gino never questioned our arduous softball schedule (or lack of bats and gloves) so we got more free slices. There we were, listening to Grand Funk Railroad, a group of juvenile delinquents in pizza sauce-stained jerseys…fueling up before a long night of mischief.

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These images and more came to me in a flood as I neared at the soon-to-be-trendy-café. When I got closer, you see, I discovered that the newspaper being used to block out the windows of my old haunt was, shock and awe, the first issue of Wide Angle—a local newspaper for which I was serving as senior editor at the time. In fact, there was my column (named Cool Observer) facing out to the street, covering a window that a much younger version of me once gazed out of.

This was a life-flashing-before-my-eyes moment.

I played first base for the Joe’s Pizzera softball team…unusual for my size but, hey, I’ve never done the expected, I guess. I made the all-star team and my Dad wanted to come watch me. It was being played at the old L.I.C. High School yard just 3 blocks away from our fourth-floor walk-up…but I asked him to stay home. When you’re 14, parents are useless (unless you consider being annoying a use).

Midway through the game, I made a big play in the field and looked around at the folks clapping for me. That’s when I noticed my Dad watching near third base…trying to hide behind the entrance gate. The next inning, I doubled with the bases loaded. I ended up coming in a close second for game MVP award. I did all this while my Dad surreptitiously watched. Thankfully, he ignored my petulant edict. 

I guess that’s why 14-year-olds don’t run the world.

Joe’s Pizzeria (with or without the second “i”) is gone now and the pages of Wide Angle (also long gone now) once camouflaged its future incarnation. I wonder, what would the 14-year-old me think of all this “progress”?

Would that long-haired punk even notice the odd character—wearing a purple hemp winter cap with the word “vegan” emblazoned on it—wistfully gazing at a window covered in newspaper?

Would he find any interest in the subversive message of that Cool Observer column? Would this glimpse into the future inspire curiosity…or dread?

Nah…the 14-year-old me would’ve had only one thing to say to his older counterpart: “Ya got a quarter?”

Planet of the Living Dead (Halloween 2014)

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Halloween is an odd holiday. The ostensible concept—as it has evolved to become—is to shock, startle, frighten, petrify, horrify, and/or terrify…all while consuming enough high fructose corn syrup to keep the American Dental Association content for another century or two.

Step away from the candy corn…

Every year, as October 31 nears, loyal consumers also squander a small fortune to adorn their soon-to-be-foreclosed-upon abodes with Made-in-China images of tombstones, skulls, ghouls, goblins, monsters, zombies, and even the occasional bloody severed limb or two. But let’s face it, none of these cardboard depictions remotely compare to the real-life horrors we passively accept as normal.

handpointRTig Click here to read my full article

(Occupy this Book: Mickey Z. on Activism can be ordered here.)

The primary concern is results

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There is purity in the street fighter. They react without the “benefit” of organized training. Every punch, every duck, every kick, every block, every action—for better or for worse—is an expression of self, uncluttered by memorized forms and moves. This is precisely why so many seasoned martial artists would not stand a chance against a confident bar brawler. There’s much more to life than the tried and true lessons our teachers attempt to pass on.

Enroll that same street fighter at your local karate school and you will witness a dramatic change. What was once automatic becomes robotic. Too much time and effort is now dedicated to remembering what one is “supposed to do” instead of just “doing.”

Fighting skill comes full circle when someone who is able to maintain the beginner’s mind of a street fighter combines that freedom with the conditioning and skills learned in a more formal setting. The enlightened fighter, the one that instills fear and respect in the heart of their opponent, is the fighter not troubled with labels, titles, credits, or rankings. Their primary concern is results.

A dollar and a dream?

“A Lovely Piece of Real Estate”: 31 Years After the U.S. Invasion of Grenada

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As I’m sure you’re all well aware of, we’re fast approaching the 31st anniversary of a momentous American victory—a military operation that not only warmed Ronald Raygun’s cold, cold heart but was also deemed film-worthy by the former mayor of Carmel, California.

Yes, of course, I’m talking about the Oct. 25, 1983, “liberation” of Grenada.

handpointRTig Click here to read my full article

(Occupy this Book: Mickey Z. on Activism can be ordered here.)

What Bruce Lee Can Teach Us About Activism

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“Adapt what is useful, reject what is useless, and add what is specifically your own.”

“It is not a daily increase, but a daily decrease. Hack away at the inessentials.”

“Use only that which works, and take it from any place you can find it.”

“Man, the living creature, the creating individual, is always more important than any established style or system.”

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“Set patterns, incapable of adaptability, of pliability, only offer a better cage. Truth is outside of all patterns.”

“Using no way as way. Having no limitation as your only limitation.”

“The man who is really serious, with the urge to find out what truth is, has no style at all. He lives only in what is.”

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(pardon the patriarchy)

Decoding the Media