Story 1: The Bear Who Hated Wearing Socks
On a dead-end street in Alphabet City, lived a bear who hated wearing socks. No matter how cold or snowy the ground, no amount of pleading or yelling could change Bear’s mind.
"My toes like to party. Party, party all day long. Socks are very restricting,” he explained once to me.
But a disregard of socks wasn't Bear’s only peculiar trait.
Bear was a sensitive soul.
A passionate pool player, he would retreat home despondent over missed shots. Listlessly lying on his bed, he would eat honey and listen to sad melodies by Beethoven and Mozart to soothe his disappointment.
One night, over a Thai food dinner and mango drinks, he told me how his bloodline is of the Ursus thibetanus, the moon bears of the Himalayas.
“Scientists say that, from an evolutionary perspective, all other bears stem from our lineage. We are the oldest species; we’ve been around for nearly four million years.”
“How do you know so much about your genealogy, Bear?” I wondered.
Wiping his mouth and delicately draping one leg over the other, Bear leaned back and explained how his father was serious about history, and as a child, he had studied the subject comprehensively.
I could hardly contain my surprise, for I knew Bear to be quite lazy.
“When I was a young cub, my parents were very stern, admonishing me to focus and study, study, study. The moon bears are known for their intelligence and superior work ethic, and my parents raised me to be the best among the best. Losing - in any respect - still leaves a sour taste in my mouth. Others like me, they grow up to become tense and quite rigid, as you can imagine. But I’m more of the mindset that one should work smarter, not harder. Plenty of H&H,” Bear said.
“Don’t you mean R&R? Rest and relaxation?”
Bear smiled. “That’s good too. But my version is a bit more specific. After all, what’s life without a little honey and some herb?”
Story 2: Rice Meats Bowl
Bear was not a creature of timid appetite. Once a food item was dreamed of and imagined, it was as good as promised, thus sparking a dedicated quest for attainment.
This proved problematic when such yearning was denied, as was the case when he came upon the closed doors of the shwarma spot he had been enthusiastically describing.
“Why are you closed?!” Bear bellowed. “It’s 12:30. It’s early!”
Bear had been traveling all day and the only thing he had been able to talk about during the ride filled with traffic and sobriety was the redemption of a great meal.
He closed his eyes, allowing himself to wallow in the pity such injustice caused. What misfortune had befallen him!
“And for no reason!” he grieved. “It’s Sunday night. The people are out and about!”
I pull him away, suggesting a pizza spot, or a cab ride to a noodle shop. He shrugs me off.
“It’s late,” he says, shoulders to his ears. “It’s too far.”
Bear drags himself toward the apartment, sorrow depicted with each heavy step.
“I don’t understand why,” he starts, pausing in front of his doorstep, “I can’t get a bowl of succulent meat over rice, topped with something rich and creamy. It’s simple! It’s easy to prepare! It’s DELICIOUS.”
I coax him upstairs, promising a back rub and a joint.
Later in bed, curled up next to the Volcano, full from a meal of Indian food small enough to feed a family of twelve, Bear ponders on an idea.
“An eatery, nothing fancy. Open late, with comfortable benches where you can sit and enjoy. You select the toppings for your rice bowl, and then it gets all mixed together with white sauce, green sauce, hot sauce, whatever sauce! And as many meats as you can think of!” he mused. “Brisket! Sliced pork! Charred chicken! The opportunities are endless.
“OK, Bear. It’s late. Go to sleep.”
Years later, after too many late night disappointments, Bear opened an eatery on East 5th Street called Rice Meats Bowl. It became the most popular restaurant in all of Alphabet City.
Story 3: New York, New York
“New York was always the goal. The bigness and loudness of city life excited me. The people! The parties! The different strains of honey! As soon as I graduated, I packed my bags. My time had come!
My mom was apprehensive about the endeavor, calling daily with horror stories about the subway. I bought a bike to please her, but the news only further alarmed her.”
Bear swirled his frosty honey drink, pausing to marvel at how much life had changed.
“You know, five years ago, I was sitting on a park bench in midtown, confused and unsure about life, when a man wearing a dark suit jacket over a white shirt approached me. He handed me a balled-up piece of paper and motioned that I should hold it for the moment. He then asked me a series of questions.
Pick a number from 1 to 9. Seven, I said.
What is your favorite color? Green, I answered.
Do you have any siblings? One brother.
I was starting to get suspicious, thinking this was a one of those money scams my mom had lectured me about. But I stayed put. The interaction was intriguing. The man motioned that I should open the paper.
It was incredible! I stared at him, trying to understand.
Do you want to learn more? he asked me. Let me tell you about your life.
He read my palm. He told me I would live to old age, but that I should drink lots of water and calm my party habits. He said love would find me later in life, and that it would be sweet as honey. He talked to me about the places I would live and the friends I would meet. He reflected on my childhood and some of the difficult moments I had faced as a moon bear. He said violin lessons were a horrible waste of youth, and, eyes wide, I nodded my agreement.
I thanked him and was starting to put on my bike helmet when, suddenly, he bent down and peered into my eyes. Grinning, he quietly asked, Do you know where I can buy that top shelf grass?
And that’s the story of how I met Scott."
Story 4: The Need for Weed
Bear was having a crisis of confidence.
It started with the whooping cough. Allegedly brought about by a sneezing friend at a birthday party, the gasping and wheezing forced Bear to bow out of a ping pong championship he had looked forward to for months. Even more heartbreaking, however, was the realization that he had to give up smoking pot, a drastic decision for a bear who prided in his ability to blaze through all sorts of life’s hurdles.
Bear underwent the classic five stages.
The denial phase was short-lived.
“It’s just a cold, nothing serious. It was very windy on Thursday, and I biked home without a sweater. Nothing that a vat of chicken soup can’t fix,” Bear added emphatically, straining to add cheer to his voice. “I don’t feel sick at all.”
Without looking up, his roommate continued bleaching the kitchen.
Anger came next, with a lot of cursing and foot stomping. Not even the offer of honey and belly rubs could calm him.
“That goddamn BABOON!” He shouted periodically, violent paroxysmal attacks and frustrated door slamming following. “Who goes out when they’re sick?! I could kill him!”
Bargaining and depression, the sweatpant stages, spurred a woeful cycle of reclusiveness. He “worked from home,” hitting pause on movie marathons only to venture out to the taco truck that didn’t deliver.
Finally came acceptance.
“It will be great. I’ll save money! I bet I will have more energy, more ambition. I will eat healthy and go to the gym every day!”
For six months, Bear kept his word and lived weed-free, allowing his lungs and mind to clear.
At first, he found it easier to motivate himself for workouts. He listened to Arnold Schwarzenegger YouTube videos at the gym, shouting “pump that iron” in the Austrian bodybuilder’s accent. A few people approached him asking for form advice, impressed with his muscular frame.
This enthusiasm, however, was short-lived. The thrill of exercise, no longer novel, failed to distract from the staleness and frustration of daily life.
Bear looked longingly at his bong, remembering better days. Needing to think and reflect, he slept even longer than usual, his arms wrapped around one of the many jars of honey he consumed for “brain fuel.”
Sobriety has changed nothing, he announced when he awoke one day.
"I don’t wake up any earlier; I still order late night delivery; my short-term memory is just as bad; I am not any more productive at work. The only difference with not smoking pot is that life has simply felt more grey.”
Lighting a long yearned-for joint, Bear reached Acceptance 2.0.
"Smoke weed every day!
Story 5: There’s a Bear in My Kitchen
Story 5: There’s a Bear in My Kitchen
“Oh no,” Ethan groaned. “There’s a bear in my kitchen."
Ethan had a right to be concerned. Bear had a tendency to spill rice kernels over counters and leave honey prints on cabinets. Just last week he had forgotten about the weed butter simmering on the stove, burning the pot and enveloping the apartment in a thick haze.
“Is something on fire?” Ethan had yelled, rushing to the kitchen. Realizing what had happened, he shouted incredulously, “Did you just hotbox the entire apartment?! I have a job interview tomorrow!”
Bear had spent the rest of the night scrubbing the stove.
Seeing Bear in the kitchen now, drunk and up to no good, made Ethan clutch his head.
Bear rejoiced. “Ethan! Ethan! What fantastic timing. Scott has a ridiculous view of how taxes work in this country and I’m making myself hoarse trying to reason with him.”
Scott, who had missed the last train to Princeton after a night out involving clients and their typical illicit Wall Street activities, had followed Bear downtown to Alphabet City.
“He’s the one with the cracked view on politics, calling social responsibility nonsense.”
“Do you see the level of idiocy I’m dealing with here, Ethan? Sit, sit. I am making fried rice. Scott, roll us a joint.”
Bear poked his head into the refrigerator, surveying ingredients, an artist considering his color palette.
“A couple of eggs, a little bok choy, some beef. I can work with this,” he declared with satisfaction. “Maybe a side of sausages for extra protein and healthiness. No one goes hungry tonight!“
Eleven beers, three joints, and one giant platter of fried rice later, the trio had exhausted the combative topic of politics, championed the glorious convenience of online grocery shopping, and laughed until they cried remembering Bear’s attempt to convince a cab driver to drive him three blocks from the taco truck.
“He thought I was pranking him. He couldn’t believe anyone could be so lazy.”
By the time they were singing along to No Doubt at sunrise, all past kitchen indiscretions were forgiven and forgotten.
Story 6: When Bear Met Sally (Part 1)
Love this story and want to share it? It's now available as a kid-friendly standalone version. Purchase the fully illustrated book on Amazon! The beautiful drawings were done by the very talented N. Soala.
Story 6: When Bear Met Sally (Part 1)
Once upon a time, many years before he lived on a dead-end street in Alphabet City, Bear was a young cub who spent his days playing with his brother in the park.
“Keep an eye on Tim,” his mother warned. “Make sure he stays safe.”
Bear liked to cover Tim in sand.
“But this way no one will see him, and he can’t get lost!” he explained to his scolding mother.
Bear liked to play on the swings and sit by the sprinklers eating honey.
“My sticky bear!” His mother would exclaim. “Run on in!”
Bear learned to ride a bike and would speed gleefully around the playground, showing off.
“Look at me! Look at me! Look at me gooooooo!”
It was in the park that Bear met Sally.
She was playing in the sprinklers, dancing around, when Bear biked past. He almost fell off the bike. Embarrassed, he shook his head and focused on the bike path, concentrating very hard.
Later that night while playing with Grandpop, he shyly asked how one makes friends.
Grandpop smiled and ruffled his hair.
“Good friends are those with whom you have a lot of fun. They make you laugh; they teach you games and other interesting things; they make you wish the day would never end so you could continue hanging out with them forever.”
Bear grinned at Grandpop. “Like you and me! We are the bestest of friends.”
The next day at the park, Bear rode his bike around and around, wondering if he would spot the girl with the pigtails.
“Come on, Bear, it’s late. Let’s head home. Will you guide the way?”
Bear loved leading, but today he wasn’t as enthusiastic as usual. Of course, he still shouted to the mailman to ask if anyone had gotten a big package today, and he counted the number of red cars he saw along the way, but deep inside he was thinking of tomorrow.
“Maybe tomorrow we can stay a bit later at the park, Mama. Let’s not go home too early.”
The next day, Bear brought his favorite toys. He splashed in the sprinklers until he was all pruney like the raisins in his oatmeal.
“Come take a break, Bear.” his mother called. “Tim wants to play with you.”
Bear was too distracted to sit and play. He walked over to his bike and said, “I’m going to bike around a little now.”
On his third loop around the park, Bear saw Sally playing on a picnic blanket. He got off his bike and wheeled it toward her.
“Hi, I’m Bear. Would you like to play today?"
Story 7: When Bear Met Sally (Part 2)
Scott was doing push-ups in the office gym space when Bear walked in and headed to his desk to turn on his computer. Biking had put him in a funk.
His shuffle had started playing “My Girl,” a song that always made him nostalgic and sad. It transported him to third grade when he and Sally, his friend from the playground, would meet at Pizza Stop after school on Tuesdays. They would have slices of pepperoni pizza and race to the playground for endless games of Monsters and Rock Paper Scissors. Sally moved away that summer and before she left, Bear had given her a card addressed to “My Girl.”
Focusing on work, Bear put all thought of Sally out of his mind.
Two coffees, a prosciutto BLT, and three phone calls later, Bear was lying in the office's hammock, listening to classical music. The calls had not gone well. At the last minute his recruit had revealed that she had lied about her ability to drive. She found the obligation so overwhelming that she was turning down the job offer. This news did not sit well with Bear.
"I tried to explain that driving isn't so hard, that I would teach her even. The role was terrific! She would have been great. And it saved her hours of commuting! The job would have given her more money and more hours at home to spend time with her family. Some people are so set in their ways they fail to recognize the big picture."
Trying to cheer Bear up, and hoping to save himself from listening to yet another rant on balanced life and H&H, Scott suggested that they have an afternoon session.
"Let's rip the binger."
Usually Trudy, the office manager, forbade such illicit fun in a working environment, but she was off today and Scott had brought a lighter.
Scott grabbed the Herb de Provence bag from the table.
"We are starting to run low on The Top Shelf," he whistled. "I guess I should call my girl today. She started selling edibles recently. They are supposed to be fire. I actually promised her an article for her blog. Maybe she'll hook us up with some free product in return."
Scott packed a small bowl with the remaining weed, and after taking a massive rip, started clapping excitedly.
"Now on to the business! Time to write."
Two hours later, Scott handed Bear an article.
"Will you look this over and tell me what you think? Chip will be here soon."
The title of the article read "How Stoners Stay Healthy: An Ode to Paleo and Weight Training."
"Chip, huh? A girl I used to know was called that. Her mom always said that she was as sweet as a chocolate chip."
The doorbell rang and Bear heard footsteps coming up the stairs.
"Sorry, girl!" Scott called. "A six floor walk-up is a killer but hey, cheaper rent. Plus, excellent for the quads!"
Panting slightly, in walked Sally, grown up and with no pigtails.
"Meet Chip! Blogger and baker extraordinaire."
Scott was puzzled to see Bear and Sally laughing and hugging.
"Whoa, do you guys know each other?"