Why It Takes Me 2 Hours to Buy Groceries

On average, it takes me two hours to buy groceries.

Since I live alone and shop for one, you may think two hours is sad. Maybe even irritating.

And it is.

But I must. And here’s why…

2 Things that Happen Every Time I Shop at Wegmans

1. I Talk to Cookies

cookie aisle wegmans

I’m not sure if it’s just because they were the only things I ate as a kid, or because the radiant packaging mesmerizes my eyes, but I always stop to stare at the cookie aisle.

I like to see my old friends: Oreos, Pop-Tarts, E.L. Fudge cookies, Ho Hos, and Oatmeal Creme Pies.

I wave. “Hi guys. I miss you.”

They light up and respond, “Mike… Can’t we just–”

“No.” I shake my head. “I’m sorry.”

Holding back tears, I flee to the next aisle.

2. I Engulf Nutrition Facts


My next delay makes me think of a Ricky Gervais film.

In The Invention of Lying there’s an oddly honest Coke ad that makes me wish I lived in that world. Since “lying” wasn’t yet invented, the commercial could only provide the absolute truth. The advertiser bluntly explains that Coke is famous sugar water that can lead to obesity.

In college, I discovered that half the reason I only ate junk food was because of its rapturous packaging (the other half was for the sugar). Thankfully, a nutrition class taught me that Nutrition Facts labels require advertisers to be as honest as Coke in The Invention of Lying.

It takes me forever to grocery shop because I force myself to hunt through the shimmering surface of diabetic boxes to find foods with over 5 grams of fiber/protein, under 5 grams of sugar, and ingredients that I can actually imagine being grown.

After my two-hour voyage through Wegmans, It’s sometimes surprising to find that the only items accompanying me to checkout are milk, oatmeal, lentils, rice, and bananas.

Coffee Drinkers Are Weird

One of my earliest introductions to coffee was at a thruway rest stop during a family road trip.

Near the bathroom, I bumped into a lady who spilled coffee on top of my head. As scalding brown ooze dribbled down my skull, she muttered and scampered away.

Wriggling, I stood with eyes shut, jaw dropped, and fingers locked open. This liquid had forged an enemy.

Decades later, my oldest brother Joshua joined the coffee revolution that has scooped up the hearts of this nation with a mug.

As a barista for multiple businesses across the States, Josh helped me forgive coffee of its transgression. However, I still refuse to drink the stuff.

Coffee cannot be trusted.

Ducks and the College Castaway

I like castaway stories.

In fact, the 2000 film, Cast Away had eleven-year-old me so hooked that, in the theater, I prayed Tom Hanks’ volleyball companion, Wilson, would come back after drifting off the raft into the deep dark abyss.

I think that was the first time I ever prayed for a volleyball.

I was a castaway, too, once.

On my third year of college, I moved out from under my parents’ roof for the first time. I rented a room in the basement of a lady’s house. My new campus was a far walk from the house, and I didn’t have a car. It was just me, my bicycle, and the daunting approach of a cruel Upstate New York winter.

Until my first night alone, I didn’t realize how much I clung to my parents, friends, and cozy life at home. The instant my parents drove away, I was struck with fear.

Everything made me panic. I spent what felt like hours trying to attach a U-lock to my bike like my life depended on it. I kept telling myself: “If you don’t get this on right, someone’s going to steal your bike and you’ll spend the semester trudging through snow. You’ll get sick, fail your classes, and spend the next 20+ years paying back thousands of dollars for nothing”. The same panic occurred when I was in a rush to get to class and unplugged my phone during an update (NEVER DO THIS). It went black and I couldn’t breathe until it was fixed.

It was like I spent my whole life floating on a tube that suddenly popped. No more parents arranging my rides, or means to communicate. I had to buy my own groceries, do my own laundry, remember to eat and pay bills. It was like learning to swim by gasping for air.

Solitude strips you of everything. It isolates you from relationships that made you feel loved, important, funny, pretty, or intelligent. It leaves you with no one. No one to blame, and no one to impress. It leaves you with nothing. Just skin and bones.

And you finally see what’s underneath it all.

What’s under the skin and bones.

What lurks inside your core.

On a warm day, I worked on grammar homework near the canal. A paddling of ducks flapped out of the water and waddled over to a nearby tree to gobble up cherries. I plucked some cherries off the picnic table and fed them to a duck. The scene reminded me of words I’ve read:

Look at the birds of the air;

they do not sow or reap or store away in barns,

and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.

Are you not much more valuable than they?”

It’s remarkable to watch ducks approach random trees, expecting a meal, and be fed. It’s even more remarkable to think I can do the same.

This sobering thought kept refining itself in me until my final semester, when I applied for an English teaching job in South Korea. The night I was officially hired, I lay in bed awake, trembling.

My old panic returned: “How will you get your visa on time? How will you eat without knowing Korean? How will you use your phone in a foreign country? What if you can’t stomach the food? What if your glasses break?” – but then it cut short.

I remembered my first night of panic in my room, and that my bike never got stolen, and that God even feeds ducks.

I allowed my comfort to drift off into the deep dark abyss, and my summer in South Korea went on to be one of the most defining seasons of my life.

Next Week…

Speaking of castaways, my next guest is my very own Californian brother, Joshua. Enjoy the sweet, yet unsatisfying taste, of this mock preview.

See you next Monday, October 12th, for the actual episode!

Cool Boy Heroes and Sexist Female Villains

Ninja Turtles and Barbie.

Ever wonder why boy cartoons tend to star mutated heroes with a strange compulsion to fight? And why are many girl cartoons hosted by princess characters who are magically beautiful?

To be fair, there are many cartoons today working to inspire girls beyond appearances. However, despite accusations of sexism, it’s hard not to love those old cartoons. I just wonder where we got the idea to tell boys stories about fighting, and girls stories about beauty in the first place.

Was it instinct, or culture?

On this first episode of Chick VS Bro, please welcome my friend and coworker, Grace, who shares insight on what boy heroes look like to a girl, and her thoughts on the differences between male and female heroes.

Twizzlers, Twix, and Jesus

I used to have a nightmare every Halloween.

In the dream, my family watched in horror as the October sun set in our backyard. Then, swarms of ghosts emerged from the horizon, heading for our house. (They looked like Super Mario ghosts, since those were the only kind I knew).

Once the ghosts descended, they tried to suck out our souls as we ran, screaming. My grandma played a hero. She whacked most of them with a broom, until the sun rose and made them disappear.

When I grew out of the nightmare, it was replaced with a new one.

Come for Candy, Leave with Jesus

The church my parents took us to once stockpiled us with Jesus booklets for Halloween night. I remember sitting in the living room watching TV when one group of trick-or-treaters came to our door. My dad plopped a Jesus booklet into each of their candy bags.

That was the first and last time I ever remember trick-or-treaters coming to our house.

Even though I’m a Christian – and would probably agree with what the booklet said about Jesus – I just can’t imagine a sugar-lusting kid, gorging on his candy trove, picking up that booklet, and finding salvation as his mouth swelled with cavities.

Then again, maybe the booklet would help kids come to Jesus the day after, when their dentist injected them with novocaine and started gnashing their teeth with a drill.

Being “Christian” on Halloween

Halloween was a confusing time as a Christian kid.

I remember my dad carving jack-o’-lanterns and our family enjoying Halloween TV specials. But then my parents would pull me out of school before the older kids put on a show in their Halloween costumes.

I was told that Halloween was evil, and that it shouldn’t be celebrated. In fact, I was never allowed to go trick-or-treating. I became so embarrassed about it that when my classmates asked me what I was dressing up as for Halloween, I squeezed out made up answers. Eventually, one of my closer friends, Nick, found out I wasn’t allowed to go trick-or-treating. He felt so bad that he started sharing his batch of Halloween candy with me on the bus.

My Dad Used a Ouija Board

Finally, my dad told me a story about an experience he and a friend had with a Ouija board. I think his fear in communicating with an evil spirit was the start of why he was so adamant about not allowing us to “celebrate” what Halloween seemed to represent.

Don’t worry, I don’t have any psychological scars for never being allowed to trick-or-treat. But now, fifteen years later, I do enjoy the creativity and imagination of Halloween. I appreciate the elaborately designed settings of haunted hayrides/houses, and their progression of suspense. And of course, I still like carving pumpkins and watching Halloween TV specials.

If anything bothers me about Halloween, it would probably be those lawn scenes of demons committing bloody murder. Speaking of which, I should really take mine down.

A Road Rager’s Guide to Driving

This is Matt.

Matt is a law abiding Rochesterian, who (at the time of this recording) had just received a ticket for speeding while passing a fellow motorist.

As he struggles to cope with the penalty of his violation, Matt shares some off the cuff tips for drivers in the Rochester area.

If you, or “someone you know”, suffers from road rage, please seek help. Or share this video to spread awareness. Or speed past every slowpoke on the thruway until you’re bumper to bumper with another rager who’s foolish enough to challenge you on your roads.


Why September Smells New


Now that kiddos are back to school, I’ve been reminiscing about my favorite September things.

Besides the fact that I enjoyed going back to school (for the first two days), there was always something that made me love September.

And that was: NEW STUFF.

Allow me to list a few examples,

  • New clothes
  • New school supplies
  • New haircut
  • New teachers
  • New classes
  • New climate
  • New allergies
  • New opportunities to pretend I didn’t choose my seat to sit next to a pretty girl

But most important of all was… NEW TV SHOWS.

pander (verb): gratify or indulge (an immoral or distasteful desire, need, or habit).

I was sufficiently trained by Saturday Morning Cartoons, TGIF, and primetime reruns of Seinfeld to later pride myself in spotting a show that’d “make it” just by watching the trailer.

I clung at the chance to watch a show that crashed a plane of people onto an island and killed off main characters every couple of episodes. I beckoned my brothers to watch a comedy where the bizarre premise was to interview people who worked at a paper company. I fought with my friends to convince them that a show about a guy telling his kids how he met their mother was a tormentingly awesome idea.

Fall-time TV was the best.

As a token of my appreciation for the newness of September, I’m starting my own video channel. Season 1 kicks off with interviews of some fascinatingly ordinary people.

Stay tuned for episode 1, being released Monday, September 14 at 7:00 PM (EST).

See you Monday night.