Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Beantown Reunion

I used to live in Boston, moved there right after college. Boston will always have a special place in my heart because it's where I first began what I consider my adult life.

I had a real job (that sucked even back then), financial responsibilities, and a bleak outlook for the future - all the things that go into being an adult.

I barely made it to Boston. I had to borrow five hundred dollars from a good friend just to leave campus. This paid for the car rental from Syracuse, NY, and provided some spending money until my job started. Based on my salary and expenses, it took me a year to pay back the loan, but I did it.

I always felt like an outsider in Boston. It was a place I could only look at but not touch. It was an expensive place to live. If I had five bucks at the end of each week, I considered myself lucky. So I, and my roommate Curt, spent a lot of time walking, biking or running through the city. If we were lucky, we would come across something free, like a concert at the band shell along the Charles or some street performers in front of Fanueil Hall.

I remember doing a lot of watching, especially in the posh downtown areas like Back Bay, the North End and Beacon Street. I'd walk by the high-end hotels and wonder what it was like inside. Occasionally, I would slip into The Four Seasons across from the Commons to use the bathroom. I always expected to be stopped at the entrance, but the doormen always greeted me graciously. I felt like I was pulling one over on them as I walked with purpose to the Men's Room.

These days I've had the the good fortune of visiting Boston on business trips. I've had the chance to stay in some of the hotels I used to pass by in my poorer days. While my company is paying for the room, it doesn't take away from the feeling that I somehow arrived. I feel a little bit richer, a little more nostalgic - but only momentarily.

This is a picture I took from my hotel balcony on a recent trip. I am looking right at Fanueil Hall.

It would've been hard for me to imagine back then that I would be standing in a hotel room looking out onto the city one day. And there I was, in an excellent location, in a beautifully appointed room. But yet, I still felt like an outsider.

While I was finally on the inside, I had no one to share it with. No one to relate my story of where I had once come from. No one except that couple who had been standing near the stop light for quite some time staring up in my direction. The woman now had her back to me, she was in discussion with the man.

What were they thinking? Did they look up at me with envy? Maybe they were young lovers smitten by the downtown scenery and warm air wafting in from the scenic harbor. Maybe they desired a room of their own, a bit of privacy where they could embrace and share each other if just for a brief moment.

And I thought, what if someone looked down from their perch onto me back then. What if this person had the power to play with dreams. What could have been?

That's when stepped back into the room and picked up the phone. I dialed the front desk and was greeted personally, like a real guest.

"I'm calling to report that two people have been harassing me from the street below. They have been staring at me incessantly. I wish to have them removed."

"Removed?," the front desk asked.

"Yes. They are disrupting my view."

"Please accept the hotel's apology. Security will take care of the matter immediately."

"Yes, that's what I expect. Now, step lively," I said and hung up the phone, and drew the curtains.

Ah, it's always good to return to your roots.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Sittin' On My Thumbs

All this recent cool air has got me thinking about how my body will be going into a deep freeze in the coming months. More specifically, how my hands will be losing blood flow and feeling.

Most people can tell the change of the seasons by watching a thermometer, or watching the leaves accumulate on the ground, or even by a calendar. Me, I know the season has really changed as my hands become cold and clammy.

I'm sure it's some type of survival technique. Some neuro-sensory mechanism deep in the recesses of my recesses kicks into full gear in preparation for the sun's angle change. As I go throughout my usual life-cycle processes, oblivious on how to handle these celestial machinations on my own - that is, my conscious being - a whole colony of brilliant cells have figured out how to keep the power plant alive without me - the outer me - having to worry one bit.

Around this time of year, they begin shunting blood from my extremities to the core. The core houses the vital organs, the things that really need to stay alive or else. My hands, and my feet, who needs them. And if the whole of me was really smart, not just the involuntary part that keeps the brain functioning and the heart pumping, I would stay away from cold weather altogether. But for some voluntary reason, I live in an area where these things happen. Stupid, right?

Well, this year I'm making changes. Perhaps, small changes. This year I'm focusing on keeping my hands warm with gloves. To be exact, it's about keeping the thumbs covered.

Why do we have thumbs anyway? Sure it's the whole opposable thing. It's also for hitchhiking, for giving really good movie reviews, for sucking and for sticking it up your. Ask me again, and I'll tell you we have thumbs for texting.

That's right, texting is what we have finally evolved to. This is the reason we have thumbs. And you can only text if you have thumbs. (Do not mention stylus. Stylus is so Palm pilot).

But what do you do when you live in colder climes, and your phone or blackberry pings you telling you you have an ever-so-important message that needs to be responded to?

- Wat up?
- Wher r u?
- Lunch?

What do you do when you're wearing thick, meaty gloves or faggy Isotoners? How do you respond quick enough to show the sender you are worthy of a two-way conversation? This is what happens now:

- Nszlgja
- hhyrt7
- Yyyyyyyyyyyyyy

Completely embarrassing. The only thing saving you is that you probably can't even hit the send button to send this mess across the airwaves.

Don't even tell me, you're going to remove your gloves. Please do not give me a lame-ass answer like that. In December in Detroit, you're going to take off your glove, expose your entire hand, actually hands, to 26 degree weather???

No. Absolutely not. You're not going to even flick back some cute-ass finger hood to expose a finger tip. I won't let you. You're not even going to stuff those leather-skinned hand protectors into your mouth or under your armpit so your naked thumbs can tap away on those plastic keys. No.

And you are certainly not going to go out and buy another pair of gloves that may or may not enable you to text through some plastic dot on the finger tips. You're not going to do it because those gloves only come in one gay style and they are f-ugly. You bought your own stylish gloves and you are going to use them to communicate.

As you read this right now, a legion of illegal immigrants are busy cutting fabric, stitching seams, affixing Made in the USA labels, hiding under tables from the INS raids, packaging and preparing to ship the next greatest fad for the frozen kind - ThumbDogs.

Stay tuned.

Also, works in extremely hot situations, like Hell.

Some of my (happy) workers

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

People Who Died, Who Died

Being a celebrity and dying sucks. But, being a celebrity and getting overshadowed when you finally die, sucks even more.

I thought about this when Farrah Fawcett passed away a couple of months ago. She reached her peak of popularity in the late 70s in her role on the successful Charlie’s Angels. She also became a pop culture star thanks to her big hair, smile and tight bathing suit featured on a famous pin-up poster.

Soon after, though, she faded taking on some weak acting roles involving critical flops. To her credit, though, she did garner some dramatic roles in the late 80s which won her some acclaim. But the press had more fun with her personal life. Her marriage to Ryan O’Neal and their son’s drug arrests were great fodder for the tabloids. Her quirky appearance on the David Letterman show didn’t help dispel a dumb blond image, either.

But it was her battle with anal cancer which really took the cake. What a way to go. I mean, there are only two ways listed to contract anal cancer. One is smoking, which I can’t picture Farrah doing. The other is, well, anal sex, which is quite a picture.

I have to admit that I felt a bit saddened when I heard she died that morning on June 25th. She was 62 and that seemed young. The web was filled with gorgeous photos of Farrah and I thought that at least she’s getting some respect now.

But then a few hours later, MJ knocks himself off and boom, Farrah’s photo is reduced to a thumbnail, then to just some text. Wacko Jacko had upstaged her. Maybe it was a fitting summary of her career, but it just sucked.

I thought about this overshadowing again when just a few days ago the great Jim Carroll passed away. I was not expecting any big photos on the web but I was glad to see at least a reference to him in the major media as a “punk rocker and poet”. I was hoping this would spark an interest and revival in his music and writing. His biography, captured in the book and then the movie, Basketball Diaries, is still one the most powerful personal stories I know of. Even with the passing of Larry Gelbart, creator of MASH and other great comedies, Carroll did not seem to get overshadowed. His name stuck around in the press longer than I thought it would.

And then, yesterday, Patrick Swayze died followed shortly by the news of the passing of Jody Powell, Jimmy Carter’s former press secretary. That seemed to be the final nail in the memory coffin for Carroll, as well as Gelbart.

Not only is life so fleeting, but it seems trying to squeeze out a few days of remembrance once you die is also quite tenuous.

Perhaps the posthumous work of a PR firm would be in order. I think Michael has a good one. I'm sure he will go the way of Elvis or some other major religious figure as the years go on. (Note to self: Write business plan for after death revisionist history PR firm).

For me, I don’t have to worry about any of this – I’m already dead and this is hell.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Labor Day 2009

This is always seems to be the saddest day of the year to me. It's the unofficial end of summer, a season I anticipate all year long like a kid waiting to pop a piece of candy into his mouth.

While I'm in the thick of it, I try to appreciate the sunshine, long days and smell of warmth. Those appreciations, however, seem fleeting these days. As I get older I have other things on my mind - unfinished business that nags at me and never lets me be fully immersed in the summer memories I had from my childhood.

It's not until Labor Day when I look back and try to remember if the summer was successful or not. Did I get to the beach? Yes. Did I have a meal outside in the evening? Yes, with bugs. Did I take some time off of work and do something special? Yes.

Then why so sad?

Because the child in me questions why these things have to end.

Why does winter have to come? Why do the days have to get shorter? Why will my hands be cold for the next six months and my body just slightly more hunched over with the added weight of warm clothing?

Because Labor Day heralds a change of the seasons!

Now, I know people in other parts of the country are jealous of the change of seasons but after spending all my life in this area I can tell you it's a pain in the ass - leaf cleanups, gray skies and slush, breathing in dry heated air, seeing ads for Caribbean vacations that are too expensive to go on. I've had enough.

And to add to this, I have a little bit of guilt celebrating a holiday called Labor Day. I believe it became a national holiday in 1894 as a way to honor the common worker - union workers who slaved away in factories to help build our country. Today, the unions for the most part are despised, most of the work is outsourced to a foreign country, and I don't really consider what I do at the office anything resembling work.

I started a little tradition this year. On Memorial Day (the happiest day of the year), I put an American flag out in front of my house. It's a little symbol of all the hope and good times the following days, weeks and months can bring. It hangs out front all summer long. And on Labor Day, I take it down - a symbol that I need to put away some of my childishness, look reality in the face a little harder, and get on with my life - in hell.