Sunday, December 6, 2015

Is it Possible to Predict Injury?

            Get twenty fitness professionals into a room and ask each of them their definition of functional strength and you’ll likely get twenty different answers. But I’ll wager they’ll all recognize a sloppy squat. We might not know exactly what’s wrong with our wayward squatter, but at least we recognize that if they continue to squat that way, something’s likely to buckle under the strain.
             Fitness, as an industry, has become fragmented. The more specialized it gets, the further it is from establishing an industry standard for movement. If we can all agree that a client’s squat pattern is dysfunctional, then we can collaborate as to how best to fix it. Developing better screening methods might be the answer and there is a tool that helps determine what’s inappropriate for a client: The Functional Movement Screen.
Gray Cook, its inventor, sought to establish an industry standard for movement, a herculean task considering anything he came up with was open to the scrutiny of his peers. He met this challenge by developing seven movement patterns that were indisputable. How? By simply watching his infant daughter learn to walk.
First, she developed the core strength needed to roll onto her stomach. Second, she gained the stability needed to get onto all fours. Third, she crawled. Fourth, she found stable surfaces in which to get into a half kneeling position, stand, and eventually let go. Lastly, she fell in order for the brain to establish a baseline for moving forward. That fall required a posterior weight shift. Her brain knew instinctively that a forward fall would be more devastating than a fall backward. So the brain wrote software that dictated a backward shift of the pelvis, so she would fall safely. No one taught her how to do this; these patterns were in her brain at birth.
The Func­tional Movement Screen (FMS), follows the joint by joint theory which establishes the needs of the different joints and how the function of the joints relate to training. One beauty of the FMS is it allows us to distinguish between issues of stability and those of mobility. Below is a blueprint for how the joints are made to move, or not move.
Lumbar Spine
Thoracic Spine

The body is simply a stack of joints. Each joint or series of joints has a specific function and is prone to predictable levels of dysfunction. As a result, each joint has particular training needs.
So how do we take this theory and illustrate how it might help us determine if someone is in danger of becoming injured. The primary illustration is in the lower back. It’s clear we need core stability, and it’s also obvious many people suffer from back pain. The intriguing part lies in the theory behind low back pain—the new theory of the cause: loss of hip mobility.
Loss of function in the joint below seems to affect the joint or joints above. In other words, if the hips can’t move, the lumbar spine will. The problem is the hips are designed for mobility, and the lumbar spine for stability. When the intended mobile joint becomes immobile, the stable joint is forced to move as compensation, becoming less stable and subsequently painful.

The Process is Simple
• _Lose ankle mobility, get knee pain
• _Lose hip mobility, get low back pain
• _Lose thoracic mobility, get neck and shoulder pain, or low back pain

If somebody has a hip mobil­ity issue—if he or she has lost hip mobility—the complaint will generally be one of low back pain. The person won’t complain of a hip problem. This is why Gray suggests looking at the joints above and looking at the joints below, and the fix is usually increasing the mobility of the nearby joint. With the screen, we can tell whether or not dysfunctional movement is a mobility or stability issue. Corrective exercise programming can work to correct the problem, assuring we don’t put fitness on top of dysfunction. 

Making it all Relevant

            At first contact, it is imperative for the trainer to gain a thorough understanding of a client’s goals and needs. After screening, we do clients a disservice if we don’t stress the importance of corrective exercise to ensure the physical health of the joints. Improving a golfers swing isn’t merely a matter of improving core strength in rotation, it’s a thorough understanding of which joins are capable of rotation, and ensuring the client can summon that mobility during all phases of the swing. Golfers need as much thoracic and hip mobility to create the fluidity and momentum needed for accuracy and distance. If the thoracic and/or hip are tight, both of these crucial elements of the game suffer, and worse, the potential for injury is increased.

            During this time of year, when skiers are suiting up for the first run, its imperative that we prepare them to deal with the ground forces that both gravity and terrain will place on their joints and soft tissue. Mobility is crucial, but mobility needs the requisite stability to control force production. The screen exposes any weak links in our kinetic chain and can be fixed, thereby decreasing the chances that that unexpected turn or patch of ice will inflict any unnecessary damage. 

In fitness, as in medicine, there are no absolutes, but developing better screening techniques helps us bring issues to light that may not be noticeable at the onset of training. No screen is foolproof. But the likelihood of injury is statistically significant in those who score low in the FMS. If we provide our clients with the means of taking what they achieve in the gym and using it to not only feel better, but to move more functionally, then we’ve achieved something truly unique.  

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

He and/is Me...

HE crouches in the corner, wound up as a spring. Piercing eyes flash only as a response, there is no light within HIM, only dark. HIS muscles are contorted, claws dug in the dirt. HE seethes, waiting for signs of life, hoping the last blow delivered was enough to end it, secretly wishing for another chance.

I think I'm solid, but the reality is, I'm feeble as a sprout. Too little limelight, not enough sunshine. I know my nemesis lay waiting, so I feign death, knowing HE may very well be the reaper, or at least a relative, unfooled by my act. This time I think it's easier to be dead, to end this war, once and for all.

Tactically, my defense is simple, use enough opposable force to smote HIM.  There is a weapon that I suspect might end him, but I've never used it, and a weapon unused is a useless weapon. The fear makes me jittery, like a first-timer lighting a short fuse. And who cares if I die in the fight, as long as I take HIM with me?

Theatricality and deception are powerful agents to the uninitiated.

And I am uninitiated. I've never one even a single battle, my chances of winning the war, waning.

I hear, I hate you, with such malice, it oozes from HIM. I hate HIM back.

I reply, And I you, revealing that I was only possum to HIS fox.

I take hold of the only weapon I haven't used, not knowing how far back to stand to avoid being collaterally damaged. Unused is useless. But you don't simply enter the code and press launch. To unlock and engage takes courage. And I am afraid of HIM.

HE lunges from the dark, close-lining me to the ground. A cheap shot, taken after noting the wobble in my knees.

My instant autonomic response is to stay down. But something beckons.

 Get! Up! It says. No, demands

Meanwhile, HE waits. Sure this time is no different from the countless others. HE toys in a way only someone with multiple wins can. A TKO is one knock down away. HIS back is to me.  I rise. A cheap taunt.

I can't beat HIM at HIS own game so I try another. One I avoided, always. I do everything to keep my quivering knees a secret. HE senses my renewed energy and says, "You'll kill us both," over a shoulder.

The lunge forward is awkward both because HE moves laterally and because I've little experience with this tactic. HE dodges, turns, and delivers a blow to my sternum that should do me in, but HE's still toying. Which for once, is to my advantage, because something is different. HE faces me in a defensive stance with a caution too often uncalled for.

You won't win, HE assures.

I know. I slump. My chest aches. My heart feverishly pumps blood from battered chambers. Air in. Air out. Each breath excruciating.

Air in, calm.

Air out, focus.

Turning, I see HIM, HIS face washed in worry.

Don't. He snaps.

Nothing is tensed. My muscles are completely relaxed. My mind, still.

DON'T! HE screams as HE dives, nearly through me. We both fall like timbering oaks. Scrambling, HE pins me to the ground.

My mind races. HIS grip tightens. That's it, fight.

Air in, calm.

Air out, focus.

I mouth, I love you. HIS grip loosens. I whisper it, void of feeling, still testing.

HE falls back and leaps up instantly. I remain supine.

"I love you." I say, pitying HIM. Pain shoots through us both. I refocus and say again, I love you, with empathy. HE drops to one knee.

I say again, I love you, and HE holds up a defensive hand for the first time and grunts, "Stop," through grit teeth.

I step toward HIM, for the first time, ever.

I reach out but HE bats me away, still powerful, but is momentum lacks surety, confidence.

I step in, not to strike, but to gain surer footing. I reach around, pulling and stepping into HIM. The closer I draw, the more HE writhes, panicked, desperate to break free.

But my hold is unyielding.

When HE's close enough to hear without any added inflection on my part, I simply add...

and i always will...

and feel HIM disappear.

Monday, January 20, 2014


I chop garlic while Genesis asks where Superman has gone to now. The melody sinks deep into the recesses.Translucent onions act like windows to the past. I've done this before. In my home. In as normal a life as I have ever experienced. I am transported back to when she was in the corner, reading. 

My beacon. 

The comfort of knowing your best friend sat not more than a few feet away wrapped me like a wool blanket, soft with age and the time it took to really know someone. 

I cooked. To feed doesn't come close to explaining what breaking bread meant to us. We cooked to share. Normalcy defined.   

She stirred. I stirred. The onions were done.

Normal was infinite. Both defined and undefinable in the hands of interpretation, I defined it by how happy I was at the time. But my old normal was replete with chaos, making this new normal feel unreal, in both a positive and negative sense. 

Pearl Jam thumped into a long intro, WMA. Eddie Vedder mumbled beneath rolling drums. Dirty his hands, it comes right off. I rinsed the aroma of garlic off my hands as the skillet billowed its fragrance into the kitchen air. The smell wafted into where she sat, peering over her glasses to watch me shake my skinny white ass. I was into it, the cooking, the music, the intoxicating normalcy.

I felt home. Not a home we knew and recreated. One we built for ourselves. 

The way we wanted. 

The new normal.

Use the man you are and measure it up to the man you want to be, I'd heard more than once, twice, a hundred times. I did this repeatedly while we were together and always came up short. The old normal ruminated, refusing to sever its ties, ties that bound, constricted, and held me back. Can the two be reconciled? 

The old normal swept me away when I wasn't looking, wasn't working on keeping the ghosts at bay.

My body rejected the new normal like an incompatible organ. The old normal grew like moss, blanketing, suffocating, draining the new. The new normal fell apart. The old rolled in on road scarring treads, like a regime, back for revenge, with a full memory of being abandoned. It encompassed all the ego and twice the brash of an ousted dictator, who knows nothing about love. The old reigned again.

It didnt take long for the old normal to take me back to the same place it always does. So why return? What wasn't learned in the thousand other times I was here? What more do I have to pay attention to?

I left the new normal for the old and almost died. The old normal wants me dead, or at least subservient to its antiquated doctrine that I am the kind of shit that needs to be eradicated or at least alone.

She answered when I called from rock bottom and pulled me from the rubble. She poured me into the mold forged by her faith that I could have all I've ever wanted, I just had to reach out and take it. 

Because that's what her faith in me told her. 

I learned from this that the old normal needs attention, its due, if its ever to be integrated. I need to handle its fagility with care, let it know that its ok to hurt, stumble, fall. 

But I want normal back. A new one. One where the old can't get to me. I pine for it as I cook broccoli soup for myself. The man I want to be calls out from the darkness. He works undercover, throwing me images of his potential to love, live, and be truly happy. With each instance he sheds a little more light onto his opaque frame, filling it with a touch of color, of substance. Can he emerge? Will he?

I ponder this without her, believing her faith wasn't her mistake. Maybe she was right.

if only...

Monday, November 11, 2013

Squeaky Dark

Superman comics ignited my desire for large, hulking (pun intended) muscles, when I was a kid. Boy, wouldn't they be of help against my nemesis, my brother, who already had the muscles I dreamt of. I pushed against the floor, but each push-up looked more like a full body heave. I'd collapse, frustrated that I was never going to get strong, or at least strong enough to beat him or even defend myself against his bullying.

So, I'd have to watch someone else fight evil. Christopher Reeve's classic, chiseled features in the 1978 version of Superman were fine, but he was nowhere near the behemoth in the panels of my comics. I watched as Supes flu through to truth, justice, and the American way, feeling empty. At home, I flipped through the piles of comics stored in the hermetically sealed, specially designed, suitcase I kept them in (It was an old Samsonite I wrapped in plastic). Superman was S-H-R-E-D-D-E-D-E-D.


Batman outnumbered my Supermans by 10 to 1. He was dark. Complicated. Orphaned. And as badass as superheroes are allowed to be. It was 11 years before I saw another superhero movie. This time, Michael Keaton was caped and cowled, to play Batman. But it was Jack Nicholson's range as a character actor that stole the show. His interpretation of The Joker was flawless.

There were 4 Batman movies, each trumping the last in terms of awfulness. Keaton stayed on for two, Kilmer signed on for one, and the campy, bastardized, neon version with George Clooney, buried the franchise.

It was revived by Christopher Nolan in 2005. DC twice attempted to reintroduce Superman but failed miserable. Which proves my point about my generation. We like our heroes dark and brooding with checkered pasts, who have great big voids they can't fill unless they don a Jungian Archetype and overcompensate on a grandiose scale, like Nolan's Batman. (I credit Nolan here, but it was the 50 years of character exploration by the numerous writers and artists that contributed to Batman's depth).

Maybe my generation is more introspective, seeking to answer why one would fight to the death for an ideology, good or evil.  This is where Nolan succeeded beyond my wildest dreams. So Warner, owners of DC, asked him to dust off the Man of Steel and see what he could do with Superman. Nolan didn't direct but his influence is woven throughout the plot. Superman is an alien, asked by his earth father to hide his powers, caused by living under only one sun. Clark Kent toils with how the world might react to him should he ever reveal that he is Superman. He wanders, alone and lonely, conflicted about whether to help or manipulate these puny humans?

Rent it or buy it on Tuesday and see for yourself if you haven't already. You'll be happy you did.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Sweet Caroline, and Oh Yeah, F#@k You Cancer!

Not a great way to wake up, truth be told. I slept in. If you call insomnia until 3:30am, then passing out till 8am, sleeping in. I made coffee. Checked the blog. One reader. Thanks whoever you are (It was probably me).

I click on the TV.

Food Network.


But the Food Network must be run by aging, pot smoking, hippies cuz it's one of the only channels that takes the wee hours off and doesn't wake up till 9:30.

I perused the 200's, the movie graveyard for those of us fortunate enough to grow up in the golden age of the 80's. The decade that produced nothing, added nothing to American culture, (probably weakened it), and was the only decade that said, "Sure, its fine keep it short in the front and long in the back."

The Jazz Singer caught my eye. I pressed select.

You see, Neil Diamond was one of my mother's favorite singers. He, and Bob Seger, filled the airwaves of my dysfunctional home in Peabody, MA. It was a time you knew it to be OK to come out of hiding and enjoy a little free roaming without the threat of taking a beating. She'd sashay, cleaning, chain smoking, and singing. She always got the words wrong. No, Mum, it's not sweet calamine, it's Sweet Caroline.

I'm pretty sure it's sweet calamine. She'd argue.

Yeah, Mum, he's singing about a mosquito bite. 

For all her short comings, she was, and is, my hero.

I miss her dearly.

Cancer took her. Or more accurately, she invited it to take her.

So I spent the morning crying. I texted my sister Jess, but she undoubtedly had the same sleepless night, a family affliction. Maybe because it was anything but peaceful. I remember waking at 2am by the sounds of Mom, drunk, taking my door off its hinges, swearing at the screwdriver for its inability to work in her drunk, unsteady hands.

"Mum, why are you taking my door off." I asked, ignoring the fact that 12 hours earlier I was suspended from school for telling a teacher to go fuck herself.

"Cuz I don't believe for a second that just cuz you're sleeping, you won't fuck something up. I'm taking your door, you get it back when you're not grounded anymore. In like, 50 years."

She lied. I was out in two days. Mom didn't suffer fools well.

So fuck you, cancer. Eat a fat bag of dicks!

You took the one person who could save me from myself.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Lonely is as Lonely Does

As of late, all I know or feel is how alone I am. Someone once told me, We're all alone, we are born alone and will die alone, no one can experience those things with us, the question is, are you lonely?
I always have and always will answer yes to that. Recent revelations have uncovered discordance in what I say VS. what I do. 

If behavior is motivated solely by belief (argue against it all you want, its true), then I believe that being alone and lonely is worth more to me than being among friends. Because I always, always, act accordingly.

I wonder why?

Truly, why?

What do I gain by being where I am right now. Alone, in the dark, the flicker of my TV providing the room's only light. I listen and watch the world go by, hating every minute by myself. Yet, I end up here every time. Something's amiss.

I figured it out.

I push them away to save them, same as if I jumped in front of a bullet or speeding train. I protect them from me. Not a single one of them can say they're not better off now. They are. And maybe I am too. The same wise man quoted above also told me I don't get into relationships.

I take hostages.

I am what my parents made me. If I were you, had every experience you had through your eyes, processed by your brain, I'd be you. No one is self made. Beliefs are rooted to the soul. Leopards can't change their spots, only their outlook on what those spots represent, beauty, ugliness, camouflage. 

For two days now I have cried, deep, heaving, sobs. Throwing up pain as if poisoned. This realization as savior, not victim, hurts more than it's healed.    

I trudge. I wade. I step as if through crude. 

I'm tired, lonely, and full of regret.

I am neither normal, nor are my circumstances. But how long can I use that as an excuse?

Not much longer... 

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Improvise, Adapt, and Overcome

  For me Halloween was more than impersonating an icon to get candy, it was a sacred escape from being me. A time out to fill the shoes of those I admired. Like clockwork, or predicting that the sun will rise and fall, every year I was a different superhero, because I was not one in real life. So when I pushed through the doors of the toy store, my usual unfocused awe was replaced by tunnel vision. 
     I ran to the exact spot where Superman’s plastic likeness stared at me through the cellophane covered box containing my costume. With the eyes hollowed out, the mask captured the look of the ‘Man of Steel’ but it was listless, almost creepy, until my true love of the character brought it to life. So absolute was my belief that I would leap tall buildings in a single bound that during my dress rehearsal, and subsequent climb to the top of the porch railing, I fully expected to defy gravity and streak across the sky in a blur of blue and crimson. Unfortunately, I was rudely interrupted by my mother’s incessant ranting about breaking my friggin neck. 
     On Halloween, with my pant legs bunched up around the plastic red boots, I slid the plastic mask over my face. Held in place by a thin elastic that slid just behind my ears, the instant buildup of humidity caused me to gasp for air through the tiny pre-made slit. The cape, arguably the most important aspect of the costume, hung loosely around my meager frame. Tied tightly around my neck, it conspired with my already stressed cardiovascular system, one miscalculated snag and I was a goner. 
     My mother, already on her fourth vodka Collins of the evening, showed only a slight interest in my well being and eventually gave up on following me from house to house. 
     “Now don’t go too far from the neighborhood.” she warned, but failed to mention which neighborhood.
     Setting out on my own, I lifted the mask between houses for two deep breaths before hurrying to the next. I honed in on the conversations around me, extra keen on phrases like ‘no one’s home at the Smith house, they left candy outside,’ and ‘the Burns’ are giving out regular sized Snickers.’ 
     I waded through the quiet suburban streets, sometimes latching onto large groups of kids to avoid the inquisition I received whenever I stood, the lone superhero, unescorted on someone’s doorstep. Eventually I reached the dreaded ‘Busy’ street, the end of the quiet middle class neighborhood and the beginning of the mean streets of the city. I stopped, contemplating and weighing the risks against the rewards—more candy, possible kidnapping--I went for the candy.  
     My haul was grand that year. Later, alone in my room, I surveyed the sea of colorfully wrapped magic. I ate the candy in a specific order. My least favorites were first. Chewing and swallowing the black licorice and Necco wafers that I detested rather than discarding them, or worse, giving them to someone who would actually enjoy them. 
     With my pancreas in hyper drive, I plotted a grander costume for next Halloween. I listened intently in school for what the other kids were dressing as refusing to have a cookie cutter version of what everyone else was wearing. My costume needed to be unique.    
     I had to be tactful about announcing my intentions. Mom’s moods were dependent on what time of month it was. PMS issues aside, caching her sober enough but not too deprived was always better at the beginning of the month, after the child support payment cleared and her stash was stocked with top notch booze. After the fifteenth she’d be relegated to drinking from the bargain bin, and consequently, it was not a good time to pester her. 
     So one night, at the rare occurrence of a sit down dinner, I blurted that I was going to celebrate All Hallows’ Eve as The Incredible Hulk, green skin and all. The idea was scoffed at by my brother and sister, going as a pirate and a ballerina respectively, but their ridicule failed to offend me. They lacked vision. 
     Mom’s fuse was short that night and instead of garnering her assistance the ensuing bickering made her snap and we were told to pipe down and eat our friggin dinners. But later, as I sat alone in the basement with the TV bathing the room in black and white flickers, she sat with me and watched the television show. The ice cubes in her drink occasionally clinked against the glass, lulling me into a false sense of security as she chain smoked through the episode. 
     It started as they all did, with the show’s main character, David Brenner, walking aimlessly down the beaten path. A drifter, he was forced to abandon his lifelong study of gamma radiation after exposure to it left him with the ability to grow freakishly huge muscles and turn a nasty shade of green at the slightest hint of anger. The concept tickled me pink as a regular target of bullies and miscreants. Watching David Brenner transform, tearing his shirts and pants until they were mere tattered rags hanging loosely from his chiseled body, made me long for a gamma radiation pool to dive into, head first. 
     Inspired and more than a little buzzed, Mom got to work on my costume. “Go to your closet and grab that button down you never wear to church, and those pants that don’t fit you anymore.” She commanded as she swilled her last sip from her glass and reached for another cigarette.
     I stood, arms out to the sides, while a long ash formed from the cigarette that suctioned itself to the corner of her mouth. Periodically she would sit back, sip her drink with the cigarette still dangling, admiring her work. She cut lengthwise along the fabric of both the shirt and pants, emulating the torn clothing that was unable to keep the Hulk’s massiveness under wraps. It was a stretch since I looked as if some Catholic charity should have been sending me the eighty cents a day they were collecting to help feed and clothe some poor child whose name consisted of all consonants. 
     “But how are we going to make me green?” I asked as I looked in the large round mirror of her makeup table. 
     No, my mother didn’t have a makeup bag; she had an entire piece of furniture devoted to her beautification. It looked as if it were carved from a single block of wood plucked right out of Eden, and in the center was the largest, round mirror I had ever seen. The brackets resembled long fingernails that forced me to periodically peer behind it, hoping to catch a glimpse of the creature whose poor grooming habits were responsible for such a grand display of stability. 
     But what really enraptured me were the crystal knobs that adorned each of the four drawers. At dusk, as my mother was sitting down after her forty minute shower, the late afternoon sun would stream into the room. The knobs would saturate with light and redistribute it, speckling the walls and ceiling with tiny rainbows. A glass ashtray sat, clean and untarnished, while streaks and piles of ash discolored the rug just beneath the seat. Her glass, moist with condensation, branded the wood with yet another circle, eventually forming a pattern worthy of recognition by the Olympic Symbol Committee.  
     The transformation was almost magical. I would sit under the knobs so as not to interrupt a single rainbow. My mother used the tools at her disposal to convert her sodden, listless hair, into an architecturally sound beehive. She then decorated her high cheekbones, pronounced through malnutrition and stress, with layers and layers of makeup. In the end she rose looking like a new woman, fresh and alive. Ready for an evening on the town, an evening I would spend missing her terribly, wishing I could fly above her, ready to swoop down at the slightest hint of trouble.    
     “I’ll get some face paint from the costume store next time I’m out.” she told me.  
     Panic set in toward the end of the month when the booze stores began to dwindle, and no face paint appeared. My costume hung in the closet; the rest of my clothing was cast aside and mashed together to give it plenty of room. On October thirtieth, eleven thirty p.m., I snuck into my mother’s room, crawling on my belly so as not to rouse her. Johnny Carson told jokes from the tiny TV screen; Ed McMahon’s signature “Hey oh!” signified each punch line. It was part of a nightly routine of making sure she hadn’t drunk herself into a coma. But I was searching for evidence she had not let me down, that she had bought that integral part of the costume. Later, in the wee hours of the morning, I stood in front of my mirror wearing it, admiring the thought and care it took to create. But without the green I was just a skinny, pale, Caucasian, in torn clothes.  
     The next day I sat in class, sticking out more than usual as the only kid not wearing a costume. Lessons were light, wasted on unfocused, hyperactive minds dreaming of nightfall. When I got home I noticed the car of my mother’s drinking buddy in the driveway. Had they gone into town earlier and bought what I needed? I quickly scanned the countertops, nothing. Mom was in her room, sitting at her makeup table, primping, while her friend flipped through a magazine on her bed. 
     I stood in the doorway, my eyes surveyed every surface. They both leered at me quizzically. “What is it honey?”
     “It’s Halloween.” I answered, trying to keep my emotions in check.
     “It is. Are you excited?” Her friend asked.   
     My look shot imaginary daggers at her. “I have no costume.” 
     “What are you talking about? He’s joking,” mom told her friend, “he’s going as The Hulk.” 
     “No I’m not. I can’t.” 
     By now mom had swung herself around to face me; her concern feigned in the presence of her friend. “Stop being silly and go put it on so Jeannie can see it what it looks like.”
     My frustration neared its peak; outbursts were not tolerated in my house and could very well have rendered me grounded. “I can’t go as The Hulk if I don’t have anything to make me green.” I annunciated each word for effect. 
     My mother’s eyes shifted wildly, searching for the excuse that would save face. “You were s’posedta pick it up for me.” My tone regressed a few years making my distress come off sounding cute. 
     “Oh sweetie,” trying to manipulate me with her own disarming tone, “I have been so busy I didn’t have time to get the face paint.” Her head tilted sympathetically to the side, “why don’t you just wear the costume. I’ll tease your hair; you’ll look just like The Hulk.” 
     Tears welled in my eyes as I filled with dread. I was staring in the eyes of a woman who just didn’t get it, and she was the one person in the world who should have. I was on the brink of imploding. The world as I knew it was in danger of being destroyed by Evil Mom Lady-destructor of kid’s dreams. I finally knew what it was like to be a superhero. So I did what any hero would do in the face of adversity, I initiated a power whine:
“HowamisupposedtobeTheHulkifI’mnotgreen.AllthekidsaregonnalaughatmeifIwearthatcostumeandI’mnotgreen.TheHulkisgreen,he’sgreen,andI’mnot!” Tears streamed down my face as my body convulsed, my chest heaved, and my feet stomped. I was having a full blown meltdown, and it wore down Evil Mom Lady until she was forced to revert back to her alter ego--super mom. 
     She gathered me in her arms. It was as close to being back in the safety of the womb as possible, and I strived to visit it every chance I got. “It’s alright,” she sputtered soothing hushes like water from a golf course sprinkler, “shh-shh-shh-shhhhhh. Don’t cry baby. We’ll make you green, I promise.” 
     Releasing me, she went to the kitchen. For the briefest of moments she looked like she knew exactly what she was looking for. Like she had a secret stash of Halloween face paint, but my jaded brain knew better, she was improvising. 
     I found myself enjoying the opposite side of her duality, pacified by her devotion to fixing my dilemma. Super mom needed an adhesive to mend a broken heart. She found part of it under the kitchen sink and the other in the cabinet that housed baking ingredients, all of which were untouched, except for the vanilla extract she turned to at month’s end. 
     She moved about the kitchen with hyper speed, reaching for a large plastic bowl on top of the fridge and slamming it on the table. Next to it she placed some green food coloring and the item she took from under the sink. I knew what it was as soon as I saw the one inch sponge that served as both cover and applicator. 
     “Shoe polish, you’re going to use shoe polish?” Jeannie asked.
     “How else am I going to get the friggin green to stick? I can’t just cover the kid in food coloring.” 
     “The kid?” I thought to myself.  
     “Says here, ‘May cause skin irritation.’”  Jeannie chimed in again, obviously the only one concerned for my safety.
     “That’s a crock of shit, he’ll be fine.” Mom swiped the bottle from Jeannie’s hand. 
     She held it above the bowl and squeezed violently. White shoe polish filled the sponge then sprayed in all directions. With a few drops of food coloring and a quick stir, the polish turned green. 
     Mom took a huge swig of booze, draining her glass like a vampire over a fresh neck. Dabbing the sponge of the empty bottle into the green chemical concoction, she applied it to my forearm. Two things struck my senses simultaneously, the smell, and the burning. My eyes watered, my skin was on fire, but I was slowly becoming an ample shade of green. 
     Jeannie looked on as if watching a science experiment, keeping her distance, while keeping a watchful eye so as not to miss any possible reactions. By the time mom was sopping the last drops of polish from the bowl, I was completely covered in green. As it dried it had a hardening effect, pulling on my skin. I had to keep dabbing my eyes with a dishtowel so my tears wouldn’t cause the polish to streak down my face. 
     “Go put on your costume.” Mom ordered. 
     My haste granted me a momentary respite from the burning. I suited up and gazed at myself in the mirror. Except for the giant rippling muscles, I was The Hulk, or at least his smaller, weaker, cousin.  I looked out the window, twilight, time to go.
     Their reactions were instantaneous. By either assaulting their sense of smell or barraging their retinas with deep green, I stuck out like a sore gardener’s thumb. Flashlights shined on me from various directions. The rancorous laughter of adult chaperones echoed through the streets as homeowners ran for cameras before coughing up my treat. Disapproving housewives snickered; knowing full well the genius of my costume was generated out of neglect. But rather than act, they stayed put, sheltered by their own world, their own neglect. 
     After collecting an unprecedented amount of loot, I trekked over to my elementary school, temporarily transformed into Halloween central. Trick or Treaters congregated in the cafeteria, initiated small talk, and perused the adjacent hallway fashioned into a haunted house. It was all filler. We were all just waiting for the coveted costume contest, where first, second and third place finishers received a bounty of toys and snacks. My arch nemesis, Mikey Newhall, super-genius, won every year. 
     Mikey’s head was huge, chock full of gray matter capable of performing mass calculations, all of which rendered him a social mute. His jittery skittishness actually repelled bullies. He was the type who ended up cracking FBI databases in his spare time but couldn’t balance his checkbook. I felt a measure of camaraderie for him, knowing full well what it was like to live as the banished Omega of the pack. 
     His costumes were nothing short of spectacular. One year he presented himself as the entire solar system, with each planet in proper alignment according to their mathematically precise orbits and he, Mr. Heliocentric himself, poised in the center. He showed up late, the crowd parted like the Red Sea to pay homage. I stood alone, my own parting of the crowd caused by the smell I emitted. This year Mikey was a robot, decked out in metallic silver. A mirrored helmet concealed his face from the crowd, rigged with a microphone that distorted his voice. He even practiced and perfected the unnaturally smooth yet jerky robotic movements. The crowd was aghast. The best I could hope for was second. 
     We were lined up in single file behind the stage. I was next to a ghost, next to a cowboy, next to a vampire, ad nauseam. One girl was dressed as Little Bow Peep, I tumbled into third. In all, twenty of the best costumes were on deck to be judged by a panel of parents and teachers alike. When called, each contestant was to walk to center stage, pose, and walk off. Mikey managed once again to steal the show, and with it my thunder. My turn came and I halfheartedly shuffled before the crowd. 
     I pulled my shoulder blades back and brought my white knuckled fists together in front of me, attempting to emulate The Hulk’s signature pose. The crowd erupted. I traipsed offstage, a moment too soon, maybe, but I left them as all crowds should be left, wanting more.  
     My brother and sister helped me haul my first place loot home. Sibling rivalries aside, each of us basked in the limelight, a win for one was a win for us all.