A Dozen Things My Ex’es Got Me Into

Relationships.  I’ve had a few.  In a relationship, you not only share memories – you share dinners, you share the remote, maybe you even share a car or a computer or – heaven help you – a bathroom with your significant other.

When a relationship ends, so does the sharing.  When the love fades away and you’re stuffing a garbage bag with all the stuff that reminds you of him or her, is there anything positive left to salvage?

I didn’t used to think so.  But the truth is that every relationship completely changes the trajectory of your life.  If I didn’t meet Suzy Whatsherface then, would I be living where I am now?  Would I have the same job?  The same dog?  The same life?  No way.

Every relationship leaves its mark.  Certainly I would have discovered some of these things if not for the lovely ladies who shared with me, but would I have felt the same about them?  Unlikely.  Maybe it’s the sharing that makes them special, because, hey – Sharing Is Caring.

 

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Dave Matthews Band

Of course I knew who Dave Matthews was before I met my ex.  In fact, I had actually met Dave a couple of times in the hallways of Z100, a fact that made my girlfriend incredibly envious until she too met Dave before a concert in Philly a few years later.

I was never a fan of the music that DMB made, but I thought Dave was a super cool and personable guy who went out of his way to talk to me one day while performing an acoustic set up at the radio station.

So when my super-fan ex dragged me to see DMB in concert, I went somewhat willingly.  The next time we went, I didn’t need to be dragged.  Soon, I was jammin out with all the stoned whiteys in their trucker hats and Crocs to songs like “Cornbread” and “Rapunzel.”  Soon I knew the names of the dreadlocked violin player (Boyd) and the rotund, bald saxophone player (LeRoi).

I’m still not too keen on (most of) the music DMB makes, but they do put on a helluva live show.  Dave drinks like a fish and prances around the stage while these amazing kickass musicians sweat it out behind him and it’s all pretty electrifying.  The Cult of Dave is real.

Sometimes a song from the super-long mix of DMB songs my ex made me pops up on my iTunes Shuffle.  She called the mix “Time Machine.”  I’d say that’s pretty apt, considering my time with her seems like a lifetime ago.  Memories often fade, but whenever I hear Dave, I think of my ex.

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Eating Green

Don’t get me wrong, I never met a hamburger I didn’t ultimately conquer.  I love to fire up the grill out back whenever I can.  If I’m home on a Tuesday, I’m making tacos.  Fried chicken is my secret lover.  But I had an ex who had a fetish for making green drinks, feeding them to me regularly while I trained for the NYC Marathon.

I bought her a Vitamix for her birthday and soon I was reaping the nutritional rewards – and also discovering that kale, celery, broccoli and other mystery legumes were actually quite delicious in liquified form, especially when mixed with strawberries and peanut butter.

My ex kept the Vitamix in the breakup, but I kept the diet, and after essentially every workout, I down a green smoothie filled with goodness and some Vanilla Warrior Protein Powder.

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Chuck Klosterman

I had admittedly never heard of Minnesota native Chuck Klosterman before meeting my ex.  Oh, an author who loves heavy metal and college basketball, who pontificates on romance, LOST and Breaking Bad?  A beer guzzling mountain man philosopher who knows more about the Boston Celtics and Motley Crue than I do??  What rock had I been hiding under?

I quickly gobbled up my girlfriend’s copies of Klosterman’s first two essay collections, Fargo Rock City and Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs, and completely fell in love with the deeper-than-a-black-hole road narrative Killing Yourself To Live.  I’ve been a huge fan ever since.

A few years after my breakup, I would wind up meeting and interviewing Chuck inside his Brooklyn apartment on his birthday.  We sat at his dining room table, split a six-pack and talked about everything under the sun.  I got up to pee about 6 times during our 3 hours together, my bladder clearly as excited as I was to be in the presence of bearded, bespectacled greatness.

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Foam Rolling

After a particularly bad breakup at the end of 2011, I started running fairly religiously.  Whenever you start any exercise, you’re gonna pay the price.  Soon I would work my way up to 5-6 miles, then ice my knees with packs of frozen vegetables and soak my feet in a hot bucket of water.  At the time, I was training like Rocky Balboa, unaware of the more modern cures for muscle recovery.

I continued to run into 2012, then I ran some more in 2013, when my girlfriend at that time introduced me to foam rolling.  I soon bought my own foam roller on Amazon and we’ve been together ever since.  I often take the foam with me on vacation, where I continue to run like a lunatic.  Not only does my foam roller loosen tight muscles, it also doesn’t talk back, it has never cheated on me, and it never gets jealous.

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Junior Boys

I have always prided myself on my musical expertise, and I feel joy when spreading the gospel via music education.  A new single, a new album, a classic song you may have forgotten about – I’m not only doing my lady a service, but also the bands and artists who make the music.  I’ll make a mix for a girl I like, I’ll take a girl to see a band I’m into.  Sometimes it has worked both ways, a solid give-and-take between partners who live for the music, both new and old.

A recent ex turned me on to this critically acclaimed Canadian electronic duo whose music she claimed reminded her of my own.  The girl may be history, but the love affair with Junior Boys lives on – they’re featured next month on my Independent Minded podcast.

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J. Crew

Shopping for clothes for myself can sometimes be intimidating.  I always need a second opinion.  While a bro can often be helpful in these situations, I’ve found a woman’s approval to be the difference between spending a hundred bucks on a shirt or tossing it back.

An ex made life even easier for me one summer and surprised me with a bunch of casual clothes from J.Crew.  The fact that my girlfriend was turning me into her very own Ken doll wasn’t lost on me, but I found it only slightly creepy since I approved of her fashion choices and she also got my size right.

I’ve since become a loyal J.Crew customer and even bought my last suit from them.  Online.

As for my ex, the guy who she’s dating now isn’t named Ken but I’m sure she dresses him too….

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Guitar Hero

I haven’t had a home gaming system in my house since my teens, for the simple fact that if I did, I would never leave my house.  Video games are like chocolate chip cookies – I love them too much to keep them nearby.

The one exception was Guitar Hero.  My ex had a Playstation 2 in her apartment.  When we first started dating, I would stay over on the weekends.  I was off on Mondays, so she would go to work in the morning and I would wake up, tidy up her apartment, hang out with her cat and play Guitar Hero.  All. Day. Long.

I’m a piano player by trade, but I got pretty damn good at Guitar Hero – like enter-me-in-a-tournament good.  When we moved in together, my ex and I bought an extra guitar controller and picked up other editions of the game, including the Aerosmith and Metallica collections.  I conquered them all.

My ex left Guitar Hero behind when she moved out, but I barely touched it.  The PS2 and all the games drowned during Superstorm Sandy and I – wisely – have never replaced them.  But for a few years in the mid 2000’s, I was a guitar god.

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Sushi

As a kid, I was always a picky eater.  I was always down with Chinese food, but by my teens, when Japanese food started to become a real craze in America and sushi joints started popping up all over the map, I was still pretty stubborn about trying new things.

I had only been inside a Japanese restaurant twice before my then-girlfriend convinced me to try sushi.  My first time was memorable, as the older kids I was with challenged me to eat a whole ball of wasabi, which I eagerly did, unaware of the eye-watering consequences that were to come.  But I didn’t touch the fish.  It wasn’t til my ex forced me to eat a California Roll a few years later that I was converted.

I go easier on the wasabi nowadays, but I count sushi among my favorite all-time delicacies.  Whenever I travel, I always try to hit the best sushi spot in the area.  My favorite spot in NYC?  The heavenly BondSt.

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Stoner Flicks

I’m a movie aficionado – after music, it’s all about cinema.  I’ve seen over 2500 movies – how do I know?  I have a nerdy Excel spreadsheet on my laptop that lists them all, complete with my own rating for each movie.  It’s just for me and I make no apologies.  List making is my little OCD thing and it could be worse.  I could be a hoarder or counting toothpicks after they fall to the diner floor.

I was never high on Cheech and Chong, the poster boys of stoner movies for multiple generations.  Around the turn of the century, however, the canvas widened.  Dave Chappelle and Half Baked, Harold and Kumar, Seth Rogen and Jonah Hill and James Franco.  Grandma’s Boy.  Even a network show like That ’70s Show carefully depicted casual recreational drug use.  One ex in particular took my hand through this period and led me thru the green fields, filled with lots of laughs and even more Funyuns.

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George Carlin

I was familiar with the legendary comedian and social critic before meeting my ex, but only exhibited a casual interest in him before that.  I was practically a baby when Carlin was at his commercial peak, unable to understand and appreciate his commentary on language, culture, and society at large.

As I got older and my brain got heavier, Carlin became an idol of sorts.  My girlfriend turned me on to some of his books and I would eventually gift her with a DVD box set of all of Carlin’s stand-up specials, which we devoured together.

One of the things I most appreciated about Carlin was that his wife was his manager.  At the end of one of his specials, he invited her on stage to thank her and have her take a bow – I thought it was one of the coolest, realest gestures I’ve ever seen from a famous person.

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Bill Hicks

Bill Hicks is the guy who would have claimed George Carlin’s throne as the premier satirist to do stand-up comedy, if only he had lived long enough.  Before meeting my then-girlfriend, I was only aware of Hicks via Maynard James Keenan, the lead singer of Tool, a band I really dug.

Keenan was a huge Hicks nut and Hicks’ material is famously canonized on Tool’s 1996 album, Aenima – my gf and I were both fans of the band, only she had dug deeper into Hicks’ career than I had as a result of her Tool fandom, and would soon turn me on to the Texas native’s irreverent stand-up.

Hicks died in 1994 at the age of 32 from pancreatic cancer, so there isn’t a whole lot of Hicks to absorb, but I surely took in as much of Bill’s scathing wit and truth-telling mania as I could while dating my ex, and in the years that followed.  He is a cult hero to many, and one of his life mantras – “It’s just a ride.” – is something I find myself repeating during tough times and bumpy airplane flights.

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Cooking

Most every girl I’ve ever loved has been a great cook.  I’m an Italian guy from Brooklyn, so this is no small deal.  My own mother and sister are also masters in the kitchen, so needless to say, I have rarely gone hungry around the ladies.

As a single guy, I’m no Guy Fieri, but after years of observation – and plenty of sampling – I am now a fair daredevil in the kitchen.  I make a mean tomato sauce (my late Nana’s recipe), but I still haven’t figured out the perfect hard-boiled egg.

I suppose I always saw cooking alone as a chore, but no longer.  The kitchen in my place is extra large, plus I finally know the proper technique for slicing vegetables.  I put on some music, pour some wine, and start mincing up some garlic and it all makes sense.

Typically, it’s my dog who has reaped the most rewards from this newfound talent – be it meatballs, BBQ chicken, or a nice juicy steak, Buttons always gets a sample.  But the next lady who comes along won’t find herself hungry for long.  Mangia e statti zitto!

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