Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Interview

I have had the luxury of not being a part of corporate America this past year. But as with all luxuries, they wear out and need replacing.

My wife, who has been patient with me, is beginning to show signs of her tolerance wearing out. She's risk adverse and would like to see me become a worthwhile, measurable economic producer to the household again.

That's not to say I haven't contributed anything this past year.  I've been close to home to avert any logistical disasters with the kids - a.k.a chauffeur. I've been pursuing personal projects that are personally enriching (if not financially), and thus I have been a happier person which spills into a happier household (there's no money in that).

Thankfully, we are not facing dire financial consequences any time soon, but I have to agree that it would be good to replenish the pot before the flames start licking at my heels. I just don't want to do it the old-fashioned way - by working for corporate America.

Unfortunately, the easiest way to make money is to do the bidding for someone else. And while it goes against my grain, I have been quietly applying to jobs that match my past work history - marketing positions within financial services companies.

To my surprise, I have been getting responses from my submissions. In fact, several interviews have been scheduled.

My immediate reaction was to throw caution to the wind and tell my wife that I may soon be a productive member of society again. But the word, "may", stuck in my head. What if I didn't get the job? Or worse, what if I did and didn't want to take it? And doubly worse, what if my wife tracked my job progress like a bloodhound looking for an escaped prisoner? As a friend once said, "Honesty has no place in a relationship."

I decided to keep the prospects under wraps. And if a job offer presented itself, that would be my little selfless gift back to the family. 

So there I was, at home in the middle of the day, getting ready for my big interview that afternoon. I was putting on the suit and tie when all of a sudden my wife walked in.

"What are you doing?" she asked the startled dresser (me).

"What are you doing home?" I asked hoping to divert the matter.

"I told you I was taking a vacation day. You forgot? And what are you doing in a suit?" (the bloodhound hunts)

"Getting dressed."

"For what?" (the bloodhound cornered me)

"An interview," I hushed.

"A what?" (the bloodhound barked)


"When were you going to tell me?"


(The bloodhound growled)

Sunday, December 19, 2010

New Decade, New Drills

I just learned that our school system has instituted new safety drills for the high school students. The typical fire drill that I practiced as a kid, I have been told, is quite passe. You almost have to wonder why they even have these drills. I mean how many school fires do you recall - not counting the little mishaps in chemistry class?

Of course, the town is required to have fire drills and I believe they even have them once a month.  From what my son told me, the kids just stand outside the building near the exits for a few minutes until they're let back in. And now, with the cold weather, they barely make it out the door.

While those safety lapses may seem unsettling, what I find more disturbing are the two additional drills now being rehearsed on a regular basis.

One is the evacuation drill. According to my son, this is similar to the fire drill with the only difference being that the students are required to walk further from the building. I guess they are practicing the evacuation in case there is a bomb. I'm not sure how far or in which direction they are required to walk, but I'm guessing there's not much they'll be able to do if a bomb actually did detonate. Perhaps, the clever terrorist will fool everyone and place the bomb on the school grounds or in the parking lot where the kids are told to go for their safe place. 

But the other drill I just heard about, I found to be the most unnerving. This is the shooter drill. 

Students now practice what to do if a psychotic introvert who was mercilessly harassed by other students over the years to the point of mental breakdown goes out and gets an easily obtainable AK-47 and enters the school to seek revenge on the cool kids who ruined his life. When the alarm goes off, the students are required to huddle in a corner of their classroom that best represents a position where a shooter who peers through the classroom door window would have the most obscured view of the class. By cleverly hiding, the shooter will be fooled into believing that no one is in the room and will continue on to the next class, and the next class and the next. This will keep happening until the shooter wonders if he totally screwed up his doomsday plan by entering the school on a weekend since no students are present. Once realizing his error of stupidity he will understand why he was hazed all those years and called little Johnny dum-dum and then turn the gun on himself thus ending the drama.

I told my son that if he and his fellow classmates have to huddle in a corner of a room like trapped mice, he needed to make sure he buffered himself with other students in front of him (like the smug George Landau who keeps telling everyone he's going to Yale because he's a legacy, or the overweight Margie Halpin who tells everyone she's not fat it's just a thyroid problem) in case the shooter actually goes off plan and opens the door.

And, if that doesn't work, please head to the nearest window and jump out. The building is only two-stories high.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Eyes Wide Shut

A close friend of mine is getting divorced. It kind of sucks.

Kind of, because he's got young children. Kind of, because he's a good guy who tried to make it work. And kind of, because it costs money to get divorced.

On the other hand, I get to live vicariously through him as he enters a new stage in his life - the dating market.

He says the last time he was with a 26-year old girl was the day he got married. Me, too! He says he's gonna go on a tear and make up for lost time. I'm right behind you - figuratively speaking!

I'm not glamorizing divorce but I do have to say the signs that things were not going to work for him were always there.

Me: How's the family?

Friend: Good, good. [pause] I just need to get my youngest to high school. After that, I'll figure out if my wife and I can tolerate each other.

Me: That's 10 years away. Are there problems?

Friend: [shocked] No, no. She's great. A wonderful mother.

Sometimes you have to convince yourself that everything is good because it's such a long haul to the finish line. Knowing that each day sucks is not the way to get through it.

Friend: [on phone] Hey honey, how are you? Uh-huh. Yeah. Oh, great. Really? Oh, I'm sorry. I'm so glad you worked it out. Uh-huh. Yes, I'll be home by six. Bye.

Me: Your wife?

Friend: Uh-huh.

Me: You're so nice and patient.

Friend: She just chewed me out for leaving the web browser open on the kitchen computer.

Me: But you were so nice and patient.

Sometimes you have to just let it blurt out. Bottling it up inside can kill you - or fuck with your digestive tract.

But sometimes, you should be caned across the ass for being such a fuck-wit to the whole situation.

Me: [standing in the hallway of my friend's home] Who put this artwork on the wall?

Friend: That? My wife. She's supporting some local artist.

Me: Did you ever look at?

Friend: Not really.

Me: You should've.

On the wall were four separate, same-sized, glass frames of "art". Underneath the glass were embroidered linens with simple stitched illustrations and text. I've included two of them here:

These happened to be sitting outside his former marital bedroom. They'd been hanging for a couple of months prior to his wife asking for a divorce. Hello, McFly?

Monday, November 29, 2010

Why I Run

Just for reference,  I have to tell you that I have been running pretty consistently for over 30 years. Some years have been more consistent than others. But, I've probably done some amount of running, even if just a couple of miles.

I started running in the 8th grade. I had trouble making it around the track once. It was the most painful, harrowing thing I had done to my body up to that point. My legs felt like lead. My lungs worked so hard I thought I could taste blood. I wondered why anyone would want to jolt their body from the serenity of idleness to the gates of hell.

For some reason I kept at it. It certainly wasn't the joy; maybe it was the threat. When the oldest kid in the neighborhood told me I wasn't cut out for football and that I would be joining the cross country team in high school or else (of which he was the captain), my decision was sealed.

Luckily, many of my friends were also given the same ultimatum. Eventually, I was able to run further distances and grew to be more competitive. And, occasionally, as a team we did something phenomenal together - winning races, getting personal records, enduring long grueling practices. This forged our camaraderie for the sport and for each other and has given running a special place in my heart (legs and lungs). And I hate it.

Running has been one of those things that always nags at me. It never lets me rest. I feel guilt if I don't do it, and I believe it has turned me into a schizophrenic. While part of me asks - why am I doing this? why am I putting myself through all this pain? why am I running when it's dark and cold outside? - the other part goes out for a run.

Finally, after all these years, I believe I have come to an answer as to why I run.

Perhaps, it was because this past year left me in one of the most unique, personal situations I have experienced yet. Through a generous severance package I was able to leave my corporate job and not worry about finances - for a while. At the same time, due to a horrendous financial climate, I began to worry constantly about finances and if I would ever find a job again. I began to question my self-worth - what was I doing all this time? how much pain have I brought upon myself? why is the world so cold and dark?

I began to run more continuously because I promised myself that I would not turn into someone who is fat, in their forties and floundering. It would be easy to make excuses - too old, too strenuous, too hot, too cold. None of this would hold water when all I had now was time.

So why do I run?

I run to feel useful. I run because if I do nothing else during the day I have accomplished something. I run because in these times of uncertainty, running is the one thing I can control.  I run because it is hard. I run because it's not easy, but sometimes it's easier.

I run because sometimes the sun is in your face and the wind is at your back - even on cloudy days. I run because starting is bitter but finishing is sweet. I run because in this great recession, I can beat depression. I run because after four decades of slogging through shit, running relieves the numbness that has caked upon me.

I run to be alone, to escape from the encumbrances the world has heaped upon me. I run because the only noise I hear bearing down on me is the wind, my breath and my shoes touching the earth.

I run because the elderly woman who has walked religiously along part of my running route everyday has finally acknowledged me.  I run to say "hello" to people because it's something I don't do when I walk.

I run because sometimes I get better. I run because I only need a pair of shoes. I run because when it's over I feel better than when I started. I run because I like what's in the mirror.

I run because it is my time machine - youth and hope eternal. I run because I know one day I may not be able to do so. I run because I still remember the first time I tried and the many times after.  I run because one lap turned in to thousands of miles, and I did what I was certain I couldn't.

I run because a man in Chile - who was trapped some 2000 feet underground for 69 days wondered if he would ever see daylight again - ran to calm his fears. I run because this determined man said it all: "Running makes you free."

Monday, November 15, 2010

The Cleaning Lady Hates Us

We have a lady that comes in once a week to clean the house. She's been working for us for about five or six years. She's in her 40s and from Mexico. I only know her first name - Bertha.

She does a great job cleaning our house. She leaves the house smelling fresh and clean,  like clorox. I really look forward to the day she comes to sanitize the place and kill all our nasty germs.

We've been paying her the same amount since she started. No raises just a holiday bonus each year.

I'm sure she hates us.

But I'm sure money is not the reason. I know this because there's one room in the house she won't clean. It's a spare bedroom that was used by a live-in au pair we had when our kids were younger. Even though the au pair has been long gone, Bertha refuses to clean the room as a matter of principle. She doesn't clean the "help's" room she said. But for an extra 20 bucks she would do it on special occasion. It ain't the money.

She hates us because of who we are and how we live. I know this because each time she finishes cleaning the house she leaves venomous reminders of her feelings towards us.

For example, she hates the fact that we have shoes.

Yes, shoes. Shoes cannot be left in her sight when she comes to clean.

I usually have a slew of shoes near my bed. I have my dress shoes, my running shoes, my slippers. And in the summer, I have my flip flops and sandals. I like them all to be accessible even if I don't ever use them.

I line them up neatly in a row alongside my bed. I thought I was being helpful. I realized I struck a negative chord with her when each week my little assembly line of foot protectors would go AWOL. At first, they would be placed at the foot of my closet. Over the weeks and months to follow, they were hurled into a vicious, uncaring pile at the back of the closet. I've only seen similar images of scattered heaps from old pictures of book burnings.

She hates our faces.

When I arrive home at the end of the day, I find all our picture frames on the wall on a downward tilt. It's as if she hopes our portraits tumble out the side and splat onto the floor.

She hates our lamps.

Each lampshade is left askew. I imagine her aggressively dusting the covers, slapping them back and forth with her cleaning rag. Her satisfaction comes from knowing that when we flip on the light switch we become temporarily blinded by the protruding light rays.

My wife thinks I'm crazy, that I'm imagining all this. But I see these signs each week. And if I'm crazy then why does she announce the night before Bertha arrives that we need to clean up the house?

It's because she's scared of her, too. She doesn't want to Bertha to know what pigs we are. She doesn't want to face her scowl. I mean, who cleans up before the cleaning lady? That's like washing dishes before putting them into a dishwasher (which she does too).

Perhaps Bertha does these things to get attention, to communicate, so we take notice of her work. I'm sure I'll never know the answer. And I'm not going to ask. I don't want to offend her.

She doesn't steal. She doesn't eat our food and watch TV. And she doesn't show up late. [Prerequisites I have to mention, right?]. Good help is hard to find.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Moon Swings

I've been tracking this for some time. There's actually some (pseudo)science to it. At least once a month I notice a strange bodily change. Usually a positive one and it's all due to my little visitor.

No, it's not the fluid seepage you may be thinking. It's the bloody moon phases, fool!

Typically, when the moon is full, things are good for me. I feel elated. Happy. Positive. Energetic. Feelings that are not normally part of my DNA.

Now I know I haven't discovered anything new, but I have finally discovered how it affects me. Much has been written about the effects of lunar cycles like the rise in murders and crimes (lunacy) during the new moon. Or, that more babies (lunar babies) are conceived on the waxing moon rather than the waning. And then there's the whole thing on solar winds and its effect on magnetic waves and their disrupting force.

The moon is in this phase for only about 3-4 days each month. So this doesn't give me too many other days in the month to be happy about. So the full moon has increasingly become a phase I look forward to. And when things like job rejections, threats to unemployment benefits and general malaise greet me, I just chalk it up to the moon, check the calendar and wait.

Whether it's science or superstition doesn't matter. I know what I know - or rather what I feel. And feeling good for about 10% of the month is a pretty good bargain when your living in hell.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Gmail Shout Out

Just want to give a big "Fuck You!" to gmail and their whole hierarchy structure set up.

I never liked the format but I signed up for a gmail account because someone told me it was the only hip email client to have these days.

The way they group email senders and subjects takes some getting used to. I know they're trying to save some space as compared to the straight top to bottom listing found in most other clients, but I was always afraid that if I commented or forwarded an email to someone else everyone in the string would see it. It's just not that clear when you look at your email lists who can see what.

I know other services are now following suit (e.g. Hotmail) but it's a pain in the ass to expand all or collapse all to see what's going on.

My major gripe was spurred on by an email I was awaiting a response to this past week. I've been corresponding with someone who is inching me closer to a life-altering career change I've been hoping to make (just a small thing in my miserable life). This person emailed me to say he had a meeting in the morning with a director regarding a script I wrote and would report back once he got more info on it.

The director just had a very successful independent film released this past summer and is well respected in the industry. My contact who is a big supporter of the script has some good connections to him and has his ear, so I thought this would be a "real" meeting.

As the hours in the day ticked by I kept checking my email to see if a response had come in. It was a morning meeting and I figured either with good news or bad I'd hear something. I waited patiently. I didn't want to seem like the desperate, delusional writer that I am and harangue my contact. During this time, I imagined the different scenarios playing out - mostly negative ones.

The director probably told my contact how pathetic the script was and that he should never reach out to him again. And to top it off, he would report my name to the writer's guild to ensure no one else would have to be subjected to such garbage in the future. The story got more elaborate as the day went on - because I had not heard anything.

Finally, in the evening, I sent an email to my contact: "I'm dying here. Anything transpire?"

Again, I checked my emails throughout the night. The next day I was heading out on a 2-day trip and was hoping to have some resolution before I left.

I kept looking for the new email icon to pop up on my phone. Every time it buzzed I quickly checked the  inbox. All I was getting was spam. Saturday, Sunday, Monday - nothing on the script.

Was the news that bad? My contact had been pretty responsive in the past. This must be really awful to hear nothing.

Today, I decided to search my inbox again and re-look at the email string. Maybe I read the message wrong. Maybe the meeting was next week.

I did a search, found the grouping and went through the collected emails that were passed back and forth over the weeks. I scrolled to the bottom and saw that a response had actually come in. It had come shortly after I queried my contact on Friday, but I never saw it. It probably got mixed in with a spam message but I didn't see it because the frickin' gmail set up sucks!

I opened the message that I fretted about. "Meeting was postponed because Ray was sick. Re-scheduled for early November." And while the news was neither good nor bad I just want to say fuck you again, gmail. That's 4 days of my life I'll never get back.

Monday, October 11, 2010

The Long Ride Home

I'm not a loner but I like being alone. The other day, I had a chance to enjoy some solitude.

I was at my cousin's house for a birthday celebration. My favorite uncle (he's my only uncle now) turned 90 years old. He looks great and besides a recent set of hearing aids, he's got no major issues. Unlike his two brothers who are now gone, he's spent the last 30 years of his life constantly monitoring his health. He won't eat things with too much salt or too much sugar. Along with the bland food regimen, he works out on his rowing machine each day located in the corner of his bedroom. Besides the one vice of a shot of Scotch each day, he lives a pretty miserable existence.

"All my friends are dead," he told me. "You live this long you get bored. But what else am I gonna do?"

It still nice to see him and we made plans to go out to the cemetery next week to visit the relatives. It's not my idea of fun but I feel obligated to accompany him. I told him I'd go with him if he also promised to leave with me. In other words, I don't want to the reason I go to be for his funeral. He said he'd see what he could do.

While the cemetery is great place to be alone, the place I was talking about was my car. I had driven to the party on a beautiful fall day. Blue sky, leaves just starting to turn, sun warming your body through the crisp air. I went separately from the the family so I could pick up another cousin who didn't want to drive alone. It was a little bit out of the way but I thought I'd be a nice guy and pick her up. She's 82 years old after all and I had not seen her in a while.

Let me tell you, for 82 she's quite spunky. She's about five foot even and a working architect. She lives in a really cool barn she converted into her home. We had a great drive together as we headed up north. She told me about her grandfather who invented the words "schlmiel" and "schlamazel". True story, he made up the words in a humor column he used to write in the early 1900s. [He lived to 102].

Anyway, back to my cherished loneliness.  After being relieved of the duty to drive my cousin back home (she left earlier with someone else heading south), I had the pleasure of making my way home in solitary confinement. The crisp air of the day had turned into a frost warning at night. I climbed into the cabin of the car, a 2005 Honda Civic. It's the car my son uses and it drives better than anything else I have ever owned. Great gas mileage, smooth handling, even somewhat sporty to drive. It's smallness along with the heat I had to pump through the cabin that added to the coziness of the evening.

I had to meander through some dark country roads before I would reach a main highway. I thought about the possibility of breaking down. My cell phone hovered at one bar and I only had a light jacket for some added warmth. It wouldn't be a comfortable experience if something mechanical happened. I put my faith into the old car which had been running perfectly, but one never knows with cars. Maybe that's why we have some type of love affair we have with these machines - we hope that if we care for the car, the car will care for us.

The heat was coming through the vents nicely thanks to the little engine. The gauges were lit up and looked in working order. There was even a calming glow illuminating off the dashboard. The car was low to the ground. She hugged the road and gave a real feel of driving.  I felt better about my prospects of making it home. My ear listened to the engine, my hands sensed the wheel, my foot gave her gas. We bonded.

The car was equipped with a decent radio package. A six-CD changer, equalizer system, an auxiliary plug-in, and, of course, AM/FM. I turned on the button and one my son's CD's blared through the speakers. His music taste is awful. A lot of rap for some reason. Not something I wanted for a long night drive home. I switched to the FM channel and began scanning for something more appealing. It was late on Saturday night so I was afraid of finding a lot more high energy party music, but when I hit the familiar voice of Ira Glass I knew I was going to have a special ride home. The show "This American Life" was just starting, and it would last me throughout the entire ride home. I was just on the edge of the signal's range but I knew as I drove it would come in more clear. To help it along began to speed. I didn't want to miss anything Ira had to say.

While there is a perfect union between driving a car and playing your favorite music, there's something even more special when being entertained by the spoken word. Driving back on that autumn night, in the old car having just come from a party surrounded by people twice my age and listening to a talk radio program reminded me - I'm old. There's not much I can do about that, so I hope I've inherited the same genes as my relatives and can live as long as they have. Because being alone in a car, speeding along the asphalt on a cool evening with the ability to listen to NPR is fuckin' worth it - alone.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Family Guy

Sure, I'm one. But more importantly I watch the show.

I was pleased to find out that one of the main writers, Cherry Chevapravatdumrong, is a real person. It's great seeing that name pop up on the credits. Most people think it's made up, some kind of inside joke from the staff. Nope, she's real. American born with Thai parents - makes sense.

She studied to be a lawyer and then decided to chuck it all and move to LA. And voila! She became a writer. Heard a similar story about Terence Winter, head writer for The Sopranos, The Wire and now Broadwalk Empire. He practiced law for 2 years, knew he wanted to be a writer, moved to LA - without ever writing anything, found a day job and wrote at night. Voila, he became a writer.

Also, just confirmed that Seth Galifianakis is Zach's alter ego, not his real brother. (Yes, I suspected it all along). I think it's pretty cool that every time Zach goes into that character he has to shave off his massive red beard.

I'm quite certain he never went to law school, but I did hear one of his first gigs was as a writer on Saturday Night Live - a job he did not want. It seems he auditioned to be an actor and got a call back, but when he showed up for work they told him was supposed to write. He lasted 2 weeks before leaving. And now he's an actor.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Has This Ever Happened To You?

Probably not. Everyone I mention this to says the same thing: "That's never happened to me."

Well, it happened to my son - the guy who lives a charmed life. This account comes via my wife who got the lowdown from my son under the condition that she would not tell me. Heh, heh.

My 6 foot tall son and his teammate from the high school basketball team were in town the other night, just hanging out on a nice summer evening. After doing all you can do in a small downtown, the two decided to head back to my son's friend's house. It was just getting dark but they decided to take the shortcut through the town park - a nice open, grassy field with a small lake on one side.

"Do you know what happened?" my wife asked.

"No." Of course, I'm thinking that they got robbed or someone tried to sell them drugs or they found a dead person. "Why would I know. You haven't told me anything worthwhile yet."

She proceeds with horror to tell me two girls called out to the boys: "Hey, cuties!"

My mind raced wistfully. "We've got hookers in town????"

"What? No! Two girls, 15 and 16, started talking to them."

Okay. My son is 15 and so is his friend. What's the big deal? Why was my wife so irate?

"They weren't from our town. They were strangers from the next town over and the boys brought them back to the house."


"And your son played kissy-face all night."


"Really? With two girls they just met?" I said.

She nodded wildly, "Can you imagine the type of girl who would do that?"

Yes. All too often.

The next day I cornered my son, who looked suddenly quite mature in my eyes.

"Hey, mom told me you had some fun last night." [Totally blew mom's trust there.]

My son tried to play it cool for a few seconds, then smirked a bit. "It was a one time thing."

"You have to be careful. One thing can lead to another and then you're a dad."

"I'm not stupid. I would use a condom."

"Where would you get them?"

"My friend has a bunch in his drawer. His mother stocks it."

I nodded (trying to contain my shock and awe). "Did you need one last night?"

He looked at me with disdain. "No. We just kissed." He went back to watching ESPNZone.

I waited a few more seconds. "You know, those aren't the type of girls you would want as girlfriends."

"I'm not looking for a girlfriend. I was just looking for fun."

I smiled, nodded. "Summer fun. Enjoy it 'cause it may never happen again."

He smiled back, "I know."

I reflected on that bonding moment. Perhaps, I could share a similar story with him on the sly. But, of course, I had none.

Then my smile disappeared. Shit! I have 13 year-old daughter. What if she is the one hanging out in the park one day?

I left the family room and rushed up to my daughter's bedroom. I had to remind her how awful boys are.

I ran into her room. She was laying on her stomach atop her bed with her laptop in front of her. She strained her neck back at me. "You're intruding."

"What are you doing?" She went back to her screen.

"I'm posting photos from our beach vacation. Now get out!"

I walked closer. Peeked over her shoulder and saw the photos. Bikini!!!!

"We've gotta talk," I said desperately.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

A Beautiful Day

Sometimes I forget how wonderful it can be in Manhattan.

Today was a typical New York day. One of my favorite types - warm with a hint of rain in the air. I came into the city to do some business - beg for business.

When I left my first meeting it was raining. But the conveniences of the city were quickly apparent. Out of nowhere, the umbrella sellers appeared, on every corner it seemed. Who are they? Where do they get their supplies? How do they pop up so quickly? Are they an organized force receiving immediate alerts on their smartphones or just individual entrepreneurs constantly watching the weather forecast and waiting to pounce?

"Five dollars, two for three." How can you go wrong?

The other wonder of New York is the constant parade of talent. In between meetings, I sat by the window in a newly opened sandwich shop. Beautiful women streamed by me. Every few minutes I fell in love. Who are these people? What are they going? Do they all have jobs?

Sitting next to the glass with drips of rain sliding down the pane, I felt like I was looking into an aquarium of the most colorful and dazzling kinds of fish. Or, was I the one in the tank. The lone fish staring out, gasping for air and leaving a shit string hanging out of my ass?

I had an hour to kill before I had to leave for my next meeting. While the cafe was new and clean, the damn place had no Wi-Fi! I figured with my Mac laptop and strong signal detector I would be able to sneak on to some other open network that appeared on my lengthy list. But it was to no avail. The signals gave me false readings.

Across the street I saw a MegaBus pull up. An amazing double-decker behemoth that advertised trips throughout the northeast for just a buck -- and free Wi-Fi onboard! I checked my network list and saw "MegaBus" pop up. I clicked on it and presto, I was in.

I opened my browser, checked my email. Opened a message and typed a response. I hit "send" and watched the browser activity icon spin, and spin. It wasn't going through. I looked across the street and the MegaBus was gone. Fuck!

It was back to watching the sidewalk scenery. I felt like Hemingway sitting in Paris, except I wasn't writing anything down. I was just staring. I thought it would be smart to write these thoughts down, but I didn't. I just wanted my internet connection back.

About 15 minutes later, another MegaBus pulled up. Voila! I connected again, and then quickly sent off my last dispatch. This time I kept one eye on the MegaBus and the other on the screen. I thought I should check the MegaBus schedule online to see how often they depart. This way I could gauge my connection time, but I didn't. I just kept looking up across the street and then back to my computer - clicking on my silly bookmarks: Huffington Post, weather, stocks, news,the Onion, email, more news - and then the connection stopped. MegaBus was gone again.

I was able to kill the hour - going on and off the grid as each bus pulled up, filled up and left.

It was time to leave, so I packed up, headed out to the street and off to my next meeting. The rain had stopped and the streets were loud with the sound of car treads slurping the wet asphalt. The endless crowds were on the sidewalks. Some with their umbrellas still open, even though the rain had stopped. I walked north joining the stream of nameless pedestrians, and enjoyed the show of talent that headed south. What else is there?

Sunday, July 18, 2010

The Big Reach

WARNING: Rabbit hole ahead ...

I had hoped to be the last person standing to ever join Facebook (FB). My friends told me it was not something to brag about. With nearly 500 million users, I was the odd man out, and not in a good way.

Why do I need to join anyway? I already speak to the people who I want (the same ones who told me to join FB). But deep inside I admit I was curious. I wanted to know who would seek me out. Maybe some secret admirer would have the gumption to ping me after all these years and tell me their true feelings. Or, perhaps no one would contact me.

So with trepidation I joined finally. And my worst fears came true.

The very people, the ones I was never friends with in the first place, reached out to me.  The high school class retard, the class whore, and then recent colleagues from my past job - a place I was trying to erase from my memory.

The black hole grew deeper. I continued to check-in, set alerts to my email, comment on wall posts just to see if someone else would contact me. I even lowered my standards further and started to friend people on my own volition. I reached out to people with large networks in hopes of seeding the process. But still, my Facebook friend suggestions consisted of people I had no desire to friend.

And then, a high school classmate (no one I was close to) committed suicide. It was all over Facebook. Sadly, he had been out of a job for over a year and determined this would be the best solution to the problem - to stay permanently unemployed. The chatter back and forth was incredible. The outpouring of grief, the questions of why. Well, if they had just checked his past FB entries, they would've heard the pain and anguish he was going through. Where were the FB friends then? More proof we have become solitary content providers incapable of having meaningful dialogues - unless checking "Like" accounts for anything.

But I forged on through my FB journey, after all this was about me. I was curious as to what other digital fingerprints this person may have left behind. So I checked the next best self-effacing wasteland, the anti-thesis to long-form text - Twitter.

Sure enough, he had an account but his last entry was at least a month prior to his demise. And even those entries were quite tame and fruitless. I guess he found it too difficult to update multiple outlets. I have to agree that FB is the best choice for viral impact. Twitter suicide rants are far and few between. The140-character limit puts a crimp into your shout outs for help:

My life sucks. I've been out of a job for over a year. No one cares about me and I'm sure the world would be a better place if I just weren'

Damn. See how quickly 140 characters gets used up.

Anyway, back to me. What caught my eye on the last Twitter post was an "@" response. It came from a name that sounded very familiar. To cut to the chase, I eventually recognized the person as a well-known figure in the Venture Capital circles.

So what was his name doing on a high school classmate's Twitter page? And why were the two of them corresponding? The deceased was not involved in private equity or early-stage startups. And then, the other reason as to why the name rang a bell popped up. The venture capitalist also grew up in our town. In fact, I graduated from high school with his older sister.

So the wheels started turning. I'm involved in a startup. We need money. What a great connection to make an introduction.

There was one problem. His sister.

I had had a crush on her in the 7th grade. I had even gotten the nerve up to ask her out. There was no FB or Match.com back then. You had to get on an actual landline phone and talk to someone - and listen to someone. And in this case, hear someone turn you down on your romantic offer to get some ice cream.

I recovered (by the 11th grade) and had even become hallway friends with this girl over the years. She acknowledged my existence with a smile and that was fine.  I wasn't looking for anything else, really.

It didn't even effect me when I found out we had both chosen the same college to attend. I would see her on campus and we would wave and smile to each other. Sometimes we would chat briefly about the goings on in our home town. We never socialized during those years. We had our own set of friends and that was fine.

And then we graduated. There was a big party on campus. It seemed the entire place was consumed with  the end of year fever. The streets were packed. Music from the local bars filled the street. And I ran into her. She smiled, said hello and then grabbed my hand. How strange I thought how your wishes do come true - usually at the wrong time.

I really had no interest in rekindling something that was never really there. I had girlfriends in college - some that I was still interested in. But I remained polite. Not pulling away or trying to make the situation uncomfortable. I went with it - all the way back to her apartment.

Yada yada yada. And as I was leaving her before the sun had risen, she asked me to stop by for brunch later on. Her parents would be there and we could see each other before she left. I told her I would call, but I never did.

Believe me, this was not payback for her 7th grade diss or some type of macho stance I try to make with women. There were some more in-depth reasons which I'll save for another blog post, but I will admit it was wrong.

And I thought about that as my business partner encouraged me to contact her venture capitalist brother. "Don't worry, she's probably forgotten about it. Besides, you're on Facebook - reach out to her if you're that concerned."

He told me about the girlfriends he apologized to over the years and how everything came out just dandy.

Good for him. He didn't know I had run into the girl (by now a woman) about 6 years after college. It was at our high school reunion. She came up to me. She wasn't very happy. No smiles or waves. She sort of sarcastically referred to the last time she saw me and then walked away. At least that's how I remembered it.

Yeah, what could go wrong I thought. I'll contact her brother and then I'll do what half the other people on FB do - either look up old flames and break up their marriages or apologize to people from 30 years ago and move on.

I found the brother's email address and wrote a nice note about how we're connected from the old town and how my business venture may be of interest to him. He responded immediately.

"Hey, we're in," I told my partner.

"See. Nothing to worry about."

The meeting went quite well. We talked about our childhood town, friends in common and the business we were in. I managed to even test the waters.

"Hey, how's your sister doing?"

"Good. She's married with a kid."

"Great. Tell her I said 'hi'. I should really look her up."

"Yeah. I'll tell her I saw you."


My partner was excited, especially since we were asked back to meet more people in the firm.

"That's all you want," he said. "To get a second meeting. Now, you've got to reach out to his sister."

Later that evening, I received a FB friend request from the brother. I was excited because one, he felt comfortable to include me in his little circle (of 697) friends, and two, he had most likely not made contact with his sister so I still had time.

I crafted, what I imagined to be, a well thought out and sincere message that I would send the woman (btw, I realize I'm not using names here) through FB.

Hey, small world. Just met your brother today, and it reminded me I should reach out to you. 
I'm sure you don't have strong feelings towards me right now, but I was hoping if we could speak I could shed some light onto the issue and explain things. I don't want me you feel uncomfortable and I would understand if you didn't want to speak, but I'm hoping you do.
Look forward to your response. 

"Tell me you didn't send that," my partner said.

"What. I was being truthful."

"You should've just stopped after the first paragraph. I'm feeling sick."

What's the worst that could happen, I thought. She just never responds or she writes back and says your're fucking nuts and I've reported your name to the FBI for harassing me.

The next morning I opened my email and the first subject line that pops out at me says: "You've got to be kidding".

My heart sank. I started to sweat. Okay what happened here. First off, it's not from her. Phew. Oh shit, did I send the message incorrectly over the FB channels? Did I post it on a public forum instead? Shit, shit, shit.

When I opened the email I was soon relieved to find out the subject line was a lead in to a rant from my friend John. He had just seen one of the worst movies in his life - "All About Steve"- and couldn't believe Hollywood could produce such tripe. "You've got to be kidding. Have you seen this piece of junk? It's awful. Vomit-inducing, mistake-ridden. They have no conscience ..." And on he went.

Not a fun way to start the day. It would soon serve as an harbinger for other things and the evilness of Fucking Facebook (FFB).

I needed to know if anything had transpired since my message went out. I shot off a quick note to the brother that morning thanking him for his time and a chance to catch up. An hour went by, then another and another. I was expecting a quick acknowledgement based upon past performance, but nothing.

The mind began to wander. What if he did reach his sister? What if she told him how much she still hated me? What if like a good brother he promised her he would never do business with me? And what if he promised her he would tell the entire VC community not to do business with us? What had I done?

I kept checking FFB, every minute or so, to see if I had been unfriended by him. I went to his page. I purposely hit "like" on a couple of his comments. Nothing. I kept checking the Wall to see if someone started posting ugly rumors about me and how no one should friend me.

Why did I join FFB? Why do they make it so easy to reach out and touch everyone? How in a few mouse clicks did I manage to fuck up my life, my career? Did my deceased classmate make the same blunder?

"Shut up. You're crazy," my partner said.

And then at the very end of the day, an email popped up. It was a message from her.

Sorry for the delay in getting back to you. Please don't read anything into that, but judging from the tone of your note there seems to be some past incident that has bothered you. I'm embarrassed to say, I don't recall what that slight may have been. So don't worry, I hold no ill feelings and perhaps we should just leave the past in the past. But if you have a need to talk about something to make you feel better that would be okay, too. I'm just sorry for not remembering why.
After all that. After 25 years of thinking I did such an un-gentleman-like transgression, she doesn't remember. Was I really that un-memorable? Did she use me all those years ago, and was glad I never called? How dare she not remember. Well, honey you were not much to write about either (wait, I am writing). Oh, I'm going to make you remember now.

"Yeah, that's probably not a good idea," my partner interrupted. "You're note was creepy. You're lucky you got off with a 'I don't remember'. Just let sleeping dogs rest."

I thought about it. "You're right." He nodded.

"But can I friend her anyway?"

He put his head into hands. "Sure, go ahead and friend her."

All this proves one thing for sure - you can never, never, ever know what another person is thinking or feeling. Truth is elusive. You can't obtain it, you can only search for it by asking questions, listening and rationalizing to get your answer. Even then, you don't have absolute certainty. Yet we convince ourselves we know the answers and live our lives accordingly. That's how we deal with classmate deaths, slights from the past and why anyone would want to join FFB and reacquaint with people you stopped to talking to.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Living in the 'Passed'

I used to be a runner. Well, I still run but I used to be competitive. I ran in high school and college and even after graduating I was able to maintain some competitive conditioning by running occasionally prior to some road races.

As the years have gone by, my time to train and my physical ability to run consistently have lessened. (Sitting in an office doing nothing takes a significant amount of energy out of your day).  I found it easy to point to my age as the reason for slowing down (I'm really not that old, but let's say I can now be considered in a the Master's class). But now I don't even think that is reasonable.

I've noticed in several race results that guys in their 40s and 50s are running faster or just as fast as those in their 20s. Even women are doing quite well in those categories.

And talking about women, it used to be that no woman would place ahead of me in a race. NOW, a good handful (a big handful) are zipping by me. And there's nothing wrong with that. These are people who train a lot more than me and whose bodies have not endured more than 30 years of pavement pounding. They're fresher and more passionate.

What I do have a hard time with is the 10-year-old who is pushed onto the starting line for the first time because the parents think it would be cute for little Johnny to participate in a 5K race. That's fine, let him get a little experience -- except when the tiny a-hole is keeping up with me during a race.

And not in a consistent pacing fashion. The kid sprints out the first mile, begins to slow, walks and for some unexplainable reason, he starts sprinting ahead with a new burst of energy every time I come near, only to start walking further down the path. I don't know the kid. He doesn't know me. But he continues the activity almost mocking me until we near the end of the race, the part where I can kick right past him. But that's when all these adults urge him on to the finish line, cheering for him to catch Goliath. "You can beat that guy, Johnny! He's dying!"

And that's when the mini dynamo finds a new source of energy and surges ahead to pass me at the line.

Bravo for him. I hope he has unrepairable mental scars and physical ailments from that draining feat of energy.

I can let a few incidents like that slip under the radar. What I find a bit harder is watching Johnny's mother and his little brother zoom past me - pure hell.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Damn You, Roz Chast!

You've managed to capture my litany of sayings, thoughts, and beliefs into a single animated frame. A life's work marginalized by a cartoon. The mirror is up, and I don't like it.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Nature's Little Remedy

Hi, it's been a while. I've been a bit busy - writing some other stuff, keeping a day job and trying to figure out the best way to be regular.

Not a regular guy, but just regular. Even with the oatmeal cereal to start the day and lots of water at night, I'm still finding it a bit difficult some times to squeeze one off when I need to. If I can't deliver some cable, particularly in the morning, I know it's not going to be a good day. So I'm trying really hard to keep to a schedule - and I think I may have found a solution.

The prune. That disgusting fruit that you swore you would never eat because your old, crusty great aunt Bertha used to keep them in her apartment in a glass jar in her kitchen cabinet. You know, the place that smelled like 82 years of ancient history had been stuffed into a single room efficiency. A place with old photographs, doilies, yellow-paged books, a sofa that hadn't been reupholstered since 1961, and stale air that just didn't seem to circulate. Old.

Anyhow, old Bertie may have been onto something. Those prunes seem to work and you don't even need too many. In fact, they've made the prune downright acceptable these days. Even Paul Newman has put his mark on the product with his own line of organically-grown fruit, packaged quite nicely in resealable plastic bag decorated with Paul's face on the outside. (Too bad he's dead).

I keep a supply in the fridge and pop one or two seedless cold ones in the mouth before bed. They're quite tasty, almost candy-like, and they seem to do the trick.

Yes, this is what's come to. Worrying about ways to keep the pipes flowing and the chute holes free of debris.Next, I'll tell you all about the saline nose spray I keep by my bedside.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Hey, No One Told Me

No one told me Q-tips aren't for your ears any longer. Have you noticed the packaging recently? Nothing about ears.

They talk about removing make-up, cleaning computer keyboards, swabs for cuts and bruises, and even arts & crafts, but nothing about ears.

Didn't we all grow up sticking those things down our ear to scoop out yellowish brown ear wax?

Now what? Do we stop clawing for the canal candy? Is even this bad for us now?

Maybe they had too many law suits from idiots like this:

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Try this at Home

I was shopping with my current wife at Staples the other day. We were filling up the cart with "staples" and came down the aisle with all the "do-it-yourself" kits - things like create your own Will, or use this template to make a Lease.

I found one called "Divorce Made E-Z". I dropped it casually into our cart (he, he) and let her go up to the register to pay.

I stood a few paces back, pretending to look at some point-of-purchase display - and then the fun began.

"Funny. Very funny. You think this is funny?," she said with a snarl. She spotted me, "Hey, you wanna get this? Go ahead. You'll need it."

The other people in the line looked over to my direction. I froze, looked away. I remembered the advice someone once told to do in an uncomfortable situation - faint.

I was too chicken to fake that one so I just pretended not to listen to the heckler - just another crazy person in Staples.

"Yeah, that's him - in the black fleece," she told everyone. "I know you can hear me. The other people wanna know if I should buy this. Whaddya you want to tell'em?"

I walked further into the store, away from the register, aloof to the whole scene. I looked back briefly. People shook their heads.

At the back of the store, I scanned the wall, the corners. "Where's that fuckin' exit?" I was going to burst out, away from this hell, into the parking lot - to the car that my wife drove us here in.

Friday, March 26, 2010

I Got Hosed

Literally. I got a firehouse in my ass and a garden hose down my throat and I had to pay for it.

That's right, it was that time - the endoscopy and colonoscopy - the double whammy.

I'm all for preventative healthcare procedures but I don't get the exorbitant costs around it. Is this what our new healthcare plan is supposed to take care of? I doubt it.

How much do you think this 20 minute procedure cost? Wrong.

Considering I had to do most of the work myself, the price I had to pay was absurd. I should say, most of it was absorbed by my health insurance but not enough of it. This was no simple co-pay, my friends. I was on the hook for a good 10%-15%. Yep, my plan sucks.

After chugging 64 oz. of fluids, overdosing on laxative pills, and hugging the porcelain potty between my thighs for a good few hours, I got to wake up early and head to the doctor's office. Once there, I had to undress and put on that stupid gown. "Don't forget to leave the opening in the back," the nurse said. Duh!

I was pricked with a needle so a catheter could go into my arm and then wheeled into the procedure room. "How are you today?" the doctor asked. Duh!

I was knocked out with the most wonderful anesthetic drug (the same one Michael Jackson used on his last day) and then what seemed like moments later I was being jostled out of one of the deepest sleeps ever. Then to top it off, I was told by the pretty nurse that I had to fart before I could leave. Sheesh!

All of this cost about $8000!!! Here's the breakdown: the gastrointestinal doctor's time, the anesthesiologist's time, a rental fee for the procedure the room, the anesthesiologist's drug, a biopsy (which is standard procedure and the linchpin for actually being able to charge all these crazy fees), lab costs for analyzing the biopsy, and a fee for hose sterilization (they re-use those things???).

In the end (literally), everything turned out fine. The doctor said I did a great job on the prep and everything looked sparkling clean. He even handed me a report with color photographs of my shit pipes. But I look forward to the day when I can buy my own home test kit (drug included) from the local Walgreens, hook up a link to my TV and a hose to, well, you know,  and run a test in the comfort of my bedroom for a couple of hundred bucks. Now that would be an advance in healthcare.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Five Foods of Fun

How many times have you seen those dietary suggestions in the news and the list of the five most important foods you need to eat, or else you will die?

Well, I eat those foods. And I want to die.

  • Oatmeal: Part of the whole grain family. Do you know how boring it is to eat oatmeal every morning? My Quaker Oatmeal (Natural) looks like shredded cardboard flakes and tastes like the paper mache I used to chew on for fun in art class back in the 2nd grade, except the newspaper and starch recipe had more flavor.
  • Salads: The leafy vegetable. Sure, I eat salads but I can only get through them with a ton heavy saturated salad dressing. Do you think I'm nixing any health benefits here?
  • Almonds: Nuts and seeds. A great way to satiate any hunger pains. These little kernels vitamins and omega-3 fats fill me up, and constipate me at the same time.
  • Yogurt: Lowfat milk. Great for my bones but wreaks havoc on my digestive tract. There's a lot of gas build-up here, but thank god for the nuts that block the exit.
  • Tea: The source of antioxidants. Not bad stuff, but I'm so sensitive to caffeine that if I have a cup just after noon, I can't sleep that night.
So why do I put myself through this regimen? So I don't feel guilty when I wolf down a Baconator once in a while. 

The Baconator gets a bad rap, but I believe it has its own unrecognized five groups of healthy food - the bun (whole grains), the lettuce (leafy vegetables), the meat (another constipator and source of vitamins and lots of fat), the cheese (milk products), and the coke the comes with the family meal (full of antioxidants - have you ever seen how coke can cut through paint and metal?).

Go ahead, try it. You're stomach and the spackle build up on your intestines will thank me later.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Untangling the Mess

This blog has been about promoting nothing else but my miserable life. But recently I came across a book by the social media evangelist Gary Vaynerchuk and thought it would be useful to mention it here. It makes sense of the morass of social platforms out there that many of us may have no clue how or why to use in our lives - blogs, vlogs, flickr, twitter, viddler and piddler (this last one isn't up and running yet).

Gary's book, Crush It!, does a great job within a simple format of explaining how all the various social media tools out there can come together to do positive things for you. Chapter 6 boils it right down to the bare bones.

Most of all, it goes beyond a textbook tutorial because Gary talks about all these things from his own perspective, his own business and his own meteoric rise.

The best part is that he wants to share his findings with everyone because he knows how well it works for him and how it can work for us.

And I know how well it works because Gary's business, the Wine Library, was started right down the street from me. I watched it grow from a dismal little storefront to a mega-internet success. One of my friend's even worked there at one time also attesting to the phenomena.

Gary has the guts to cut through the mess and put it in his own terms and encourages us to get out of our private hells and do the same.

Now go crush it!

Friday, March 5, 2010

Go On, Smell It

Who knows how old this stuff is? I think SPF 4 may be outlawed by now. But I keep a little stash hidden away, for special occasions.

Any time I need a little splash of summer, I open the flip-top, give a gentle squeeze around the bottle's midriff, and inhale the fresh essence. It's like being on the beach. Go ahead, you know you wanna try it.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Some Things I Would Like to See

 The Olympics are taking place right now and I have to say I've enjoyed watching many of the events. In particular, I like the newer events that debuted during these games and in the past 2006 Olympics.

Ski Cross and Snowboard Cross have provided the most excitement with spills, mid-air crashes and major upsets. It's motocross on snow with jumps, bumps, turns and lots of speed. I've seen competitors collide, wipe out and slide through not just one but two protective barriers and end up near the tree line with their equipment spread out like a yard sale. Yep, this is good stuff.

And then there's ice dancing. I mean, is that really a sport? Sure, it looks nice and there's some grace to it but it would really be a sport if there was some exhilaration around it - and not just some frilly costume on some shapely skater. Imagine if the skaters had to go through a half-pipe on the rink or a loop-to-loop, or even if there were giant pot holes on the ice that added to the danger, not like the nice flat, safe pussy rink that exists today.

Here are some more events that would also be spiced up if I were in charge:

Ski jumping would involve four competitors going down the ramp side-by-side. How cool would that be? A slight gust of wind from the side and who knows what could happen.

Freestyle aerialists, which I admit is impressive already, would have to not only fly off a jump, but fly over a giant parking lot. Now that would provide some incentive to go high.

The bobsled would be combined with the biatholon - four guys zipping down an iced chute each shooting at targets on the way down. Perhaps, you wouldn't want to be near that venue.

The luge track would not just be a single chute but multiple crisscrossing ones so many lugers could go at the same, but let's just hope one is faster than the other.

And curling, well what could you possibly add to that?

Saturday, February 20, 2010

A Tale of Two Kids

I actually have three, but two are boys and they are completely different. So much so, that I even decided to do a DNA test on one of them. I was convinced the father was actually one of my best friends.

After spending $26 on a home test kit that provided me with two Q-tips and an envelope, my (alleged) son and I swabbed our cheeks and sent in the specimens.

[BTW, this has been a running joke in our family since he was born. He looks completely different from me, and he's okay with this joke. In fact, sometimes he wishes he was someone else's son. My wife (who knows the truth) thinks we're both idiots.]

Long story short, a few weeks later and $140 more, we got the test results. [Yes, I spent that much money on the joke, but he did get to parlay this experience into extra credit in his biology class.] The results proved, without a doubt, that he is my son.  (I'm thinking about re-taking the test.)

Anyway, the point is my two sons are completely different, which is where I started. And what is more different is how my wife and I treat each son.

The oldest one (who was recently confirmed to be of the same DNA) is watched like a hawk to ensure that he stays on top of his school work. We're convinced if we don't do this, his B's will drop to C's and D's and he we will fail out, end up living with us forever and make our lives miserable.

His younger brother pulls straight A's, manages his high school curriculum on his own and quite deftly, and basically just shows us his stellar report card when the semester is over. While he appears to be the perfect child, he has also been in a serious relationship with a girl for almost 2 years. She's also a straight A student, athletic and everything you would think a parent would want.

There's just one problem - we don't even know her.

The girl is shy around us and whenever she does come to the house, she and my son just head down to the basement to watch TV - in the dark. My wife and I never leave the two of them alone in the house because their groping sessions may get out of hand. And it really bothers us that after all this time they've kept us at arms length around this relationship. We've spoken to our son about this and he says he's trying to work through the awkwardness of the situation. We also recognize you can't force these things or else you run into a Romeo and Juliet situation - and that one didn't end well. So we wait.

My other son has never had a girlfriend until just a few weeks ago. Prom is coming up and he and a girl from his class have decided to go together.  She's really cute, a cheerleader and maybe not the best academic student, but did I mention she was a cheerleader?

My son denies it is his girlfriend, even though we encourage him to say she is.  She has already been a more intimate part of our life. She came to a huge family and friends event we held recently where there were nearly 200 guests. She mingled well and was quite gracious to my wife and I (she even gave us a big hug at the end of the party). My other son didn't even invite his girlfriend.

This new girl has been to the house a few times in just the last couple of weeks, and even baked a cake in our kitchen for my son just for the heck of it. She says, "hi" and "bye" to us, and while we've only known her for several weeks, we love her and think she's a great asset for our son.

In fact, whenever she does come over, my wife suggests that the both of us should leave the house, and let them be alone. As my wife says, "Maybe he'll get lucky." And this is the kid we're afraid will end up on double-secret academic probation if he goes to college.

So we live in this predicament, a tale of two kids, wondering where we went wrong as parents, and hope our youngest child, a girl, never grows up, leaves us or dates any boys. Just another day in Hell.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Just Can't Put My Foot On It

Is it me, or is there something really freakishly creepy about this Louis Vuitton ad? (Hint: Click on picture and scroll down.)

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Nothing's Hidden

While generation gaps have always existed, it's been reported that we now face one of the biggest gaps ever.

This one has been exacerbated through technology. Sure, I'll say it - the Internet. But it's much more than that. It's all the stuff on the Internet, like Facebook, MySpace, email, IM, Twitter, etc. 

For most of us, these tools are just that - tools. New things to try out, figure out and eventually throw out. I know, I know, we're not going to give up email. But with all the new communication channels out there, email is already considered passe by the younger folks.

Since our generation is vastly more mature, we recognize that while these tools are useful, we still need to be careful on how we use them. We know that once our words and/or pictures enter the digital ether, they become permanently tattooed across the electronic universe. And unlike paper that can be destroyed physically, bits and bytes don't necessarily go away when we press delete.

We have been brought up to be careful with whom we share information, to be cautious with our personal feelings and to demure from exhibitionist activities like blurting out one's private thoughts on blog sites.


My point is that for those in their 20's and under, these social mechanisms are a way of life. This is how they communicate. They put it all out there for all to see. From pictures on Facebook to sexting over the cell phones, they don't seem to care. Every photograph, every voice message and text is fair game to be shared - and they don't really seem to worry about the possible ramifications of this loss of privacy.

And then I thought, maybe they have it right.

As that generation will become the future one day, they will be conditioned to believe that everything should be exposed on posts, tweets and texts 24 x 7. It will be full disclosure, or nothing. It's how they live now.

And, we, the current future, will be looked upon with suspicion because we don't share personal data with such enthusiasm. Those who hide behind aliases will be scorned. People who don't use their actual pictures for icons will be mocked. We will become the lepers of society, the outcasts. No one will be able to trust anyone over 40. It will be a living hell.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

What Ails You?

When I was a kid I always wished my father was a doctor. I thought it would be so cool that when I had any physical ailment, I'd just have to ask my dad to look at it, right there in our living room. And then I'd feel better.

I seemed to get sick a lot as a kid - bronchitis, colds, sore throats. At least 2-3 times a year I'd be hit with something, and it was miserable.

I'm not sure what the healthcare benefits were like back then, but my parents never really seemed to want to take me to a doctor. In fact, it seemed like a burden to them if I asked.  I only went to a dentist once when I was kid. Luckily, I've never had any cavities or any other major problems with my teeth. Although I probably could have benefitted from braces, I by no means have the teeth of an Englishman.

Maybe it was the money issue, or maybe they thought doctors were only needed for the really serious things. It's certainly not like today, where kids go to their physician constantly and get diagnosed for things like ADD, peanut allergies, torn ACLs, blinky eye syndrome.

Now, I figured out how to feel better physically. Consistently exercise and eat well. It's pretty simple, and for the most part I've stayed healthy. If I get ill once a year, that's a lot these days, and I'm happy for that.

The one thing I do miss from childhood is the other side of being healthy - the mental side. While I may have felt lousy with a sore throat for a couple of days, when it was over I bounced back. I would  feel alive, enjoy being outside playing games, exploring, looking for adventure. It seemed like everyday had some interesting incident, some bright sunshine on my face. At least that's how I remember it.

But now, as an adult, that inner rush of exhilaration seems tamed. Oh sure, it pops up once in a while, maybe when the moon is in the right position, or when I'm watching a good sporting event, or a concert, or something my children did (that didn't cause a major blowout, a broken window or a smoke alarm to go off). But, for the most part, life is a slog. A day in, day out sort of numbness with  peaks of excitement that come along rarely.

Wah, wah, wah. Yeah, I'm grown-up. I have responsibilities. I have to worry about other people. No one told me when I was frolicking in the sun way back then, there would be a price to pay one day. Maybe Peter Pan tried but who would've believed him back then?

All I'm saying is that I want more of that child in my life. Not to the point where I can't take care of myself, still throw tantrums, and hold grudges (that will happen when I'm an old man). I just want some of those natural endorphins to flow through the body again. I want to unshackle that weight I've been dragging around. I want to ... oh, hold on, I have to go stoke the fire underneath the boiling cauldron of the eternally damned.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Life in Revolt

As the rakish, love-struck, sex-obsessed teen hero of the 1993 cult novel “Youth in Revolt,” Nick Twisp encounters all manner of obstacles, including dysfunctional parents, jealous rivals, the Berkeley police and, of course, acne.  Such a raft of challenges are not completely foreign to his creator, C. D. Payne, who has spent significant chunks of his own career struggling, working a series of lousy jobs, living in a trailer for four years and receiving a trail of rejection letters, professional and otherwise. Even with the critical success of “Youth in Revolt” — which he self-published in 1993 and which subsequently became an underground hit — Mr. Payne still couldn’t get a publisher for the book’s three sequels, which he ended up releasing himself. - From the New York Times

Even with the Hollywood release of the movie based on his book series, Mr. Payne is still wary of any success coming his way. "I have no faith that literature is going to pan out on a long-term basis, so I have to have a back-up," he goes on to say.

Yes.  He has a 1964 Airstream trailer filled with oddities and hand-made optical illusions. He tows his trailer around to county fairs charging a few bucks to patrons to walk through his museum. That's the back-up plan.

Not such an inspiring story for an aspiring writer, since my back-up plan was to be a writer! But I do have to admire the man. He seems to be at peace with himself, and he has found another hobby to fill his time - the Eyelusion side show attraction. Yep, I'm already combing through Craigslist to see if anyone is selling one of those aluminum cans on wheels.

His is not the story one envisions when you hear about a movie being made from one's creative work. One thinks of the TV show, Entourage, and the ensuing lifestyle. But I suppose Mr. Payne's life is more realistic. I mean, the guy showed up to his own movie premiere in a truck topped with a camper shell and stayed in a RV park north of Hollywood. It does add a little cachet to his background story, along with some oddity and sadness.

Perhaps, that's where he wants to be and where he feels comfortable. And maybe at his age (60), he just doesn't care about changing his lifestyle. He's been set in his ways, used to rejection, and he's already collected enough campers, mobile homes and trailers to keep him busy renovating for a lifetime.

He does keep writing because, "it was the only thing I tried in life I didn't find boring." But he also didn't make any money at it, so he's supplemented his need to write with bored-senseless jobs over the years.

Well, if that's not living in hell, then I don't know what is.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Connections and Coincidences

I'm a person who hasn't learned my lesson about coincidences. When they occur, I make the assumption that they are related to omens; that because I made some strange connection, there must be some meaning behind it. And because the coincidence gets your blood rushing, there must be some good that will happen from it.

For example, I was in Heidelberg, Germany once for a business meeting. It was the second time I was ever in Germany, and I really didn't want to be there. But I was asked to attend a meeting to listen in on some far-fetched business relationship being proposed between my bank and a giant software company, and so I went.

The company headquarters was in Heidelberg, so hence the reason to meet there. I had heard it was a nice town, but I had arrived at night after landing in Frankfurt and driving the hour or so to the sleepy town and didn't get to see anything.

I had a cousin who had once attended the university there, but beyond that I had no interest sticking around. Some of my relatives were not welcomed in the country for a period of time some years ago, and I suppose I still hold some grudges about that.

The hotel I checked in to did not seem too welcoming, either. It was a structure built in the 1800's, almost castle-like, typical Bavarian architecture. The inside looked like an alpine ski lodge with wood beams, tall ceilings, and strange medieval crests hanging on the walls. I'm sure Mr. Himmler and his friends thought it was all the rage in during the Reich, but I just wanted to find a nice modern Holiday Inn.

The hallways were long with high ceilings as well and big wooden doors to your room. I felt like I was the only one in the hotel. Picture the movie, "The Shining", and you'll get a sense of what I was thinking.

The giant room, with high ceilings, was sparsely furnished. The bed was low to the floor, like it didn't have legs at all, and the lighting was quite dim. Perhaps, because the single light bulb was so high up in the ceiling???

It wasn't cozy, but I figured I could make it through the night, get up the next morning, have some breakfast (I could only wonder what wonderful cuisine was on the menu), go to the boring meeting, grab a taxi back to the airport, and fly home to civilization.

Of course, I couldn't sleep. I kept wondering what types of ghosts were wandering around the halls. Was I in some type of Hamlet story. Oh yeah, that took place in Denmark - same difference.

On the night table was a book, a history of the hotel. Of course, it was written in German but at least there were pictures. There were photos of the hotel's original construction in 1860 and a time line accounting for each decade of growth after that. In 1890 a new wing was added. In 1920, a swimming pool was put in. In 1932, a spa. In 1950, a new restaurant. In 1970, tennis courts. And, wait a minute, they skipped the late 30's through 40's. What was going on in the hotel then? Surely, some activity occurred.

I looked around the place and thought about what type of person was sleeping my room around in say, 1941. Did he hang his hat on the door hook over there? Were his boots next to the bed over here?

Okay, enough of that, back to the coincidence.

The next morning, or was it just a few hours later, I went downstairs to get breakfast. As I walked past the check-in desk, I did a double-take. Standing at the counter, paying his bill was I guy I knew - not from business but from my home town, a guy who I was fairly friendly with. My wife and I had gone to dinner with he and his wife a few times, their kids were the same age as ours. We had always been cordial even though we didn't see much of each other around town.

I couldn't believe it, though. Of all the places to see him now, this is where I had to run in to him? What did it mean?

It turns out he was also here on business. He's in advertising and his big client is the pharmaceutical company, Bayer. He comes here once a year for an annual review meeting and this just happened to be the time.

I called my wife after saying goodbye to him and told her who had I just seen. It was six hours ahead at home. She told me she had just run into his wife in the supermarket that morning. What a coincidence. It must be some strange connection, some interesting meaning.

Another recent coincidence happened the other day. A friend, Andrew, who I grew up with and hadn't seen in about 3 years, called me. He was doing a day's worth of freelance work and wanted to meet for dinner when he finished crewing on a TV commercial being shot in the next town. Sure thing, it would be fun to catch up.

We went out to a diner that evening and while eating we both got phone calls at the same time. Of course, we answered our phones because that's what you do these days in the middle of a meal. My call was from a friend/ work colleague, actually my boss. He wanted to tell he had just come from a get together in the city that he decided to attend at the last minute and had run into a mutual friend of ours, Scott - someone we were just talking about out of the blue earlier in the day.

My friend, Andrew, also got a call from his boss, Greg. It turned out to be a Greg that is a mutual friend of ours. We all grew up together and I hadn't heard about him in about 5 years. He was offering Andrew more work on a TV commercial for the next day. And all these calls happened at the same instance.

After that coincidental connection, I did the same thing I did when I got back from Germany and after many other strange incidences I seem to come by. I went out and bought lottery tickets. And you know what happened this time? Nothing! Absolutely nothing each and every time. Nada.

Because when you're living in hell, there are no such things as meaningful connections or coincidences.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

It's All Fun and Games

I never read the popular life coaching book, "All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten", but I kind of get the gist of it. It takes some of the simplistic early lessons we all experienced as children and equates it to life lessons we should still follow as adults.

For example: Share Everything, Play Fair, Don't Hit People, Say You're Sorry When You Hurt Someone, and blah, blah, blah.

Yeah, wouldn't be nice if we could all follow this credo? The problem is ALL of us need to do it for this to work. Not many of us will continue on if the other person doesn't share, plays fair, hits, or doesn't say sorry.

While we may have learned all the essentials on how to be nicer people in kindergarten, I have a few things to add that were missing from that book. Actually, I'm sure they were intended never to make it into the book (maybe this should be a book on its own). These are things we learned through games played during recess or in some friend's backyard. The lessons from these games prepared us not about necessary niceties in life, but how to look out for oneself and survive in the cut throat world of business. Below, are a few examples of these

Mother May I
A game of permission. In the children's version, one person plays the role of mother and stands facing away from a line of kids. Each child takes a turn asking if they can take a certain number of steps, until one person reaches Mother. "Mother, may I take three baby steps?" And depending on the whim of the person playing Mother, they would either grant your request or deny it.

Wow, what a way to become submissive. But an essential trait in kissing as in the corporate environment. Think about how many times you have had to lower your self-esteem and ask a superior for permission: May I take a 1 week vacation? May I take the morning off for my colonoscopy exam because my doctor said I had giant polyps near the endpoint of my large intestine and the start of my anus? Or, May I take all those heavy files on our group year-end reviews off your desk and directly to the HR office, I'm heading that way anyhow?

Hide and Seek
The classic childhood game where a group of people hide and try to be the last one found by the seeker.

One thing I've learned in business is that there are some people who hide really well from work responsibilities, and others who don't - kind of like the fat kid who thought no one saw him standing behind the Maple sapling.

There 's the one person who you never saw in the office. They had a desk, they had a nameplate, they had mail piling up, they had the red voicemail light on their telephone always lit up, but they somehow rarely were ever present. It got to the point you actually believed they were on some high level assignment, and you weren't going to be the one to question it. Your manager wasn't questioning it, so you couldn't even dare. These no-shows were a mystery. Stories would circulate. Some would take about how much business this person was doing or that they had become so specialized and were working on such high level strategic work they were now invaluable to the company. That person is the ultimate hider, the one who had the best spot and could never be found.

On the flip side, there's the guy in the office who thinks that if it's lunch time and he's sitting at his desk reading a book that the boss isn't going to see him, or care. They think they have this invisible "out to lunch" sign over their desk and that everyone should know not to bother them. Bullshit! Even though this guy shows up everyday, muddles through his work and doesn't make waves, he's the first one the boss is going to fire for being such a dork to hide in plain sight.

This one may not have been as popular and you may have known it under a different name. For instance, we called it, "Kill the Guy with the Ball".

It was quite straightforward. Within a contained area, like my friend Ron's backyard - the one filled with patchy grass and rocks - someone would be given a football and told to start running. The other eight or twenty kids would chase this ball carrier who was running for his life because the goal was to catch him, throw him to the ground and pummel him. The person who could run for the longest amount of time was the winner.

We didn't play this game too often, but the lessons it taught us for business were endless. The main one being, no one likes a ball hog, a.k.a the leader. You see, everyone is gunning for the top position but only one person can have it. Everyone is looking for some fault in the leader that will topple the regime and allow the next person to move up the ladder. As the leader, your goal is to run for as a long as possible because the longer you do so the better the payout package will be when you fall.

And the most important lesson of this game is, you will fall.

So, these are just a few examples of the activities we experienced in our youth that can be extrapolated to adulthood. And remember, it's still just fun and games.

Except when someone does get their eye poked, an infection develops, that person loses their eyesight, claims workman's comp, collects long term disabilities, sues the company for inadequate safety measures, wins a multi-million dollar court case because the jury is filled with out-of-work people who blame the large corporation for their own woes and sided with the little guy, but is later found to have committed insurance fraud because the person was seen on the golf course in Ft. Lauderdale driving the ball 180 yards, because they didn't really lose their eyesight it was just that the guy got a doctor to lie for him because he agreed to share the award proceeds from the lawsuit, but the jealous ex-wife hired a private detective to find out what the deadbeat was doing and then circulated the photos on her Facebook page until one of the woman's 358 friends - a prosecutor in the attorney general's office - saw it and decided to press charges because he knew it would help make a name for himself since he was passed over for promotion last year, and the game continues ....