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To Know Me is to _______

In an attempt to learn more about myself I’ve begun compiling a list of all the things that are Good in this world. This is for you, my child, so that you may know my biases and how I might impart them to you throughout your life.

Unquestionably Good things:

             Girls on mopeds

             Pocketknives

             Those walking sidewalks that they have at airports

        The list stops there for now. I like music, but no specific kind other than this Chicago Motown compilation that I can’t stop listening to. A Tribe Called Quest’s Midnight Marauders would also be on the list, so I’ll just put those two down instead of the broader category: music. Your mother’s maiden name is Kendra Washington and on our first date I took her to a Tribe show back in ’93. At the transition of The Low End Theory’s seminal song “Jazz (We’ve Got)” into “Buggin’ Out,” when Phife Dawg comes in at 3:35 with what is indisputably the coolest “YO!” in the annals of hip hop, she held one bony arm up in the air and followed him for the whole first verse. Even when she’s giving me lip or in one of those moods where something dumb like me forgetting to put the mayonnaise away isn’t just a mistake but a reflection of some much deeper flaw, I can still think back on that moment and add it to my list of things that are Truly Good in the world. Your mother is Truly Good, too. Tell her I said that.

Also:

             Three-legged pets

             Little kids with cool hair

             Mix tapes from back when people made those for each other

        When I was twenty-five years old I attempted to make sense of my life by compiling a list of all the women I’d had sex with. The number of women on my list was twenty-five at the time, a curious correlation because if one were looking at it and didn’t know that I was eighteen when I lost my virginity then they might think I'd slept with exactly one woman/year every year of my life. I fell in big love with #25 and, without telling anyone, burned the list and buried the ashes in the front yard. We stayed together two years before it fell apart. I went a little wolfish after that, and would’ve tacked a few more names to the burned list had it still been around. That’s when I started the Good list. Your mother doesn't know about the Burned list. She'd probably be okay with it, but please don't tell her just in case.

        When Phife Dawg died in March of 2016 I posted this on Facebook:

        R.I.P. Phife. I blame Dr. Pepper

        This is in reference to the rhyme “I never half-step cause I’m not a half-stepper / I drink a lot of soda so they call me Dr. Pepper.” Midnight Marauders. Phife was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes shortly after that record came out, a condition that would ultimately kill him.

        Watching that post gather Likes stirred something in me not unlike pride. Phife Dawg was dead. My post got 40 Likes and all of our lives moved on. Let’s call it pride + finality, or: Pridality (n.) a feeling of doing/saying something great that you only get to do once in your life. I carried your mother down the aisle with my 21-year-old muscles, her 19-year-old figure, and felt this. I stepped down from the podium after reading a eulogy for my father and felt this. I set a new record for number of points scored in a single quarter for my high school basketball team, the Marmots, and felt this. Feel free to throw that word around. The smell after it rains is called petrichor, by the way. Other Good words in our language are peloton, moist, fast and fastidious, Reese’s, garbled, slapdash, tater and spud.  

            You'll probably hear your crazy aunt Linda talk about God at some point. She's what we call a Christian. A Christian is a person who follows a guy named Jesus who was sent to abolish the Old Testament and make a new one, but doesn't follow a guy named Mohammad who, after Jesus died, was sent to abolish the New Testament and make a new-new one. The people who came before both of them, the Old Testament ones, are called Jews. If this is difficult to grasp, just think of the Jews as Yoda, Jesus as Obiwan Kenobe and Mohammad as Luke Skywalker. This is in reference to a movie called Star Wars which you will definitely see just as soon as I feel you're old enough to appreciate it.

            When you turn eighteen I’ll say, “You're a man/woman now. Go to school, get a job or get the fuck out of my house.” I apologize in advance, but this is something that my father said to me, his father to him – fathers as far back as our family line goes have been saying to their children when they turn eighteen. This is called tradition, which is something you have to stick to even if you don't like it.

Other things you might not like:

             Pens that run out of ink while you’re writing

             Movies that are so dark you can’t see what’s going on

             Traffic Buffering

        Remember that if you choose not to make yourself strong, you are choosing to be weak. If you are dumb with money, you are choosing to be poor. Remember that if you open the door and your dog runs out, don’t chase the dog. Run the other way. The dog will chase you. Learn how to cook, as eating is one of the few real joys in life along with sex, coffee, motorcycles, wine, beer, cinema and the aforementioned knives and moving sidewalks.

        Good luck.

Matt Bender is the former host of the online FreeSongProject and currently teaches American Lit to bright young 11th graders in Guangzhou, China - home of dim sum and the Cantonese language.