Reality and Sanity

July 7, 2007

The Rachelution Meme

Filed under: Self-Absorbtive Tendencies — Paul @ 8:04 pm

Writing like this is why Rachel Lucas’s blog has become a daily read: she took a rather boring meme and jazzed it up.

WERE YOU NAMED AFTER ANYONE? WHAT INSULTING NICKNAMES WERE YOU CALLED IN CHILDHOOD?

Booger boy in the fifth grade: I had a runny nose and my mother didn’t provide me with enough tissue that day.

WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME YOU CRIED? WHEN YOU CRY, DO YOU LOOK UGLY, OR DOES IT GIVE YOU A BEAUTIFUL SAD GLOW?

I don’t know. I never saw me cry.

DO YOU LIKE YOUR HANDWRITING? ARE YOU FORGETTING HOW TO WRITE BECAUSE YOU SPEND SO MUCH TIME ON THE COMPUTER?

I wrote chickenscratch all the way through high school, now I have earned my Ph.d as a doctor of medicine in this area: only pharmacists can read it.

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE LUNCH MEAT? DO YOU THINK VEGETARIANS ARE INSANE? (BECAUSE THEY ARE.)

It is because of the progress since the start of the Industrial Revolution that people have had the luxury to create such novel eating patterns.

DO YOU HAVE KIDS? DO YOU LIKE KIDS? IF SO, WHY? WHY, IN THE NAME OF GOD?

Because I was a kid once.

IF YOU WERE ANOTHER PERSON WOULD YOU BE FRIENDS WITH YOU? IF YOU WERE A DOG, WOULD YOU LICK YOURSELF JUST BECAUSE YOU COULD? DON’T TRY TO DENY IT.

Yuck.

DO YOU USE SARCASM A LOT? ARE YOU AS FRIGHTENED OF CLOWNS AS YOU SHOULD BE IF YOU KNOW WHAT’S GOOD FOR YOU?

Yes, be wary of clowns. Especially if their name is Pennywise.

DO YOU STILL HAVE YOUR TONSILS? IF YOU COULD BE EITHER VERY BEAUTIFUL OR VERY SMART, WHICH WOULD YOU CHOOSE AND WHY?

Smart because knowledge is power. Beauty is only skin deep and lasts for only a few years in your twenties; ugly, which lasts the rest of your life, goes to the bone.

WOULD YOU BUNGEE JUMP? HOW MUCH MONEY WOULD YOU REQUIRE TO HAVE INTIMATE RELATIONS WITH MICHAEL MOORE OR ROSIE O’DONNELL (DEPENDING ON YOUR SEXUAL PREFERENCE BUT DOES THAT REALLY MATTER WITH THESE TWO)?

Barf.

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE CEREAL? WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE CUSS WORD?

Fuck. It can be used as a noun, pronoun, verb, or adjective.

DO YOU UNTIE YOUR SHOES WHEN YOU TAKE THEM OFF? IF YOU’RE A MAN, HAVE YOU EVER CAUGHT YOUR JUNK IN YOUR ZIPPER? HOW BAD DID IT HURT? IF YOU’RE A WOMAN, HOW GLAD ARE YOU THAT YOU’RE NOT A MAN?

Have I ever? Every man gets it caught. This is like asking if a woman ever gets cramps at that time of the month. And yes, it does hurt.

DO YOU THINK YOU ARE STRONG? DO YOU THINK YOU ARE GOING TO GROW OLD OR DIE TRAGICALLY YOUNG?

‘Going to grow old?’ I am old! At least I was considered to be so when I was laid off last year since I had to sign a waiver of rights to sue for age discrimination to get the huge chunk of severance cash.

Oh, and I’ve been getting AARP letters for almost 15 years.

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE ICE CREAM? DESCRIBE YOUR MOST RECENT NIGHTMARE.

I don’t dream. At least, I don’t ever remember them.

WHAT IS THE FIRST THING YOU NOTICE ABOUT PEOPLE? DO YOU WISH THAT, INSTEAD OF PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION DEBATES, THEY INSTEAD HAD TO BOX EACH OTHER, BECAUSE THEN THERE’D NEVER EVER BE ANOTHER DEMOCRAT IN THE WHITE HOUSE?

Nah, I’d rather have a WWE-style cage match. Now that would be sweet.

RED OR PINK? ABBA: THE BLONDE OR THE BRUNETTE?

Neither one ever captured my interest.

WHAT IS THE LEAST FAVORITE THING ABOUT YOURSELF? WHAT DISEASE DO YOU MOST FEAR CONTRACTING?

I don’t fear any of them. I am going to die one day, no matter what I do or where I go, so no use worrying about it.

WHO DO YOU MISS THE MOST? WHO DO YOU MISS THE LEAST?

Too many to count. There’s a reason that Todd Rundgren’s 1978 album is my all-time favorite title: Hermit of Mink Hollow.

WHAT COLOR PANTS AND SHOES ARE YOU WEARING? ON A SCALE OF 1-10, HOW MUCH DO YOU HATE SHOPPING FOR NEW CLOTHES (10 BEING SO MUCH YOU’D RATHER CLEAN THE CAT BOX WITH YOUR BARE HANDS).

10. That’s one reason why I no longer work in an office, having changed my career choice to welder/sheet metal worker.

WHAT WAS THE LAST THING YOU ATE? WHAT WAS THE LAST THING YOU ATE BEFORE THE LAST TIME YOU THREW UP?

I can;t remember the last time I threw up. I know I’ve done it since the time I got really drunk (see below.)

WHAT ARE YOU LISTENING TO RIGHT NOW? NAME FIVE “CLASSIC” POPULAR SONGS YOU HOPE YOU NEVER HEAR AGAIN AS LONG AS YOU LIVE.

Actually, there’s only one on the loathing list: Led Zeppelin’s D’yer Maker. Ecch.

IF YOU WERE A CRAYON, WHAT COLOR WOULD YOU BE? IF YOU WERE A DOG, WHICH BREED WOULD YOU BE?

Pit bull. Just because Rachel likes them so much; also so Sunny can kick my ass and get rewarded by laying up on the couch again.

FAVORITE SMELLS? FAVORITE BODILY FUNCTION? (COUGH, SNEEZE, BELCH, POOP, FART, YAWN, ETC)

Heh. Ejaculation during conjugation.

WHO WAS THE LAST PERSON YOU TALKED TO ON THE PHONE? WHO WAS THE LAST PERSON YOU HAD A HUGE FIGHT WITH, WHAT WAS THE FIGHT ABOUT, AND WHO WON?

My wife. Money. Nobody won, because neither ended up happy on the end. As my union steward buddy used to say, you know the contracts good when nobody likes it.

FAVORITE SPORTS TO WATCH? AS WE ALL KNOW, PRO FOOTBALL IS THE ONLY SPORT WORTH CARING ABOUT. IN LIGHT OF THAT FACT, WHO IS THE BEST NFL QUARTERBACK OF THE LAST 10 YEARS? BEST RUNNING BACK? BEST WIDE RECEIVER? BEST DEFENSIVE PLAYER? BIGGEST PRIMA DONNA? WHINIEST BITCH?

Best Quarterback: Tom Brady, unless Peyton Manning wins another Super Bowl, because two championships and a slew of records will eclipse three championships. This is still yet to be determined, and will be so only after both of them hang it up.

I also add that the question is specifically the last ten years. If the question was the best active QB, it’s Brett Farve, hands down.

Best Running Back: LT. Nobody else even comes close.

Best Wide Receiver: Marvin Harrison, with T.O. not far behind.

Best Defensive Player: Brian Urlacher. Da Bears defense is the league’s best, and Urlacher is the centerpiece.

Biggest Prima Donna/Biggest Whiner It takes some kind of player to whoop Randy Moss in this combined category. T.O. is some kind of player.

HAIR COLOR? BALD MEN ARE VERY SEXY. DISCUSS.

I agree. Yes, I’m bald and sexy. Yes, I’m biased.

EYE COLOR? THE INVENTION OF THE PILL IS A GOOD ENOUGH REASON TO BELIEVE IN GOD. DISCUSS.

It didn’t take the pill for me to cultivate a belief in God.

DO YOU WEAR CONTACTS? DO YOU HAVE PERFECT VISION? IF SO, RACHEL LUCAS ENVIES YOU WITH THE FIRE OF A THOUSAND GALAXIES.

No, so no need to envy me.

FAVORITE FOOD? FOOD YOU FIND SO REPUGNANT THAT YOU SIMPLY CANNOT BELIEVE OTHER PEOPLE PUT IT IN THEIR MOUTHS?

Cottage cheese. Brrr…I get cold chills just thinking about it. Also chitlins, which I’ve long called shitlins.

SCARY MOVIES OR HAPPY ENDINGS? WHEN YOU GO TO THE MOVIES AND THE JERK BEHIND YOU KICKS YOUR SEAT CONSTANTLY, DO YOU IGNORE/MOVE OR DO YOU CHALLENGE THEM TO FISTICUFFS?

I eliminated the problem by not spending money in movie theatres…or at least going when the place is fairly empty.

LAST MOVIE YOU WATCHED? LAST MOVIE YOU WATCHED THAT MADE YOU GET ON YOUR KNEES AFTERWARDS AND BEG GOD TO GIVE YOU THE LAST TWO HOURS OF YOUR LIFE BACK?

I am so picky with movies that this never happens. I’ve gone to the point of visiting spoiler sites to find out if I’m going to like the movie. Which brings up: why do some people get so upset if they find out the ending to a movie, to the point of claiming they won’t bother seeing it? I always want to ask if they ever see any biographical pics, since they obviously will know the ending?

WHAT COLOR SHIRT ARE YOU WEARING? DO YOU EVER PUT CLOTHES ON YOUR PETS?

No.

SUMMER OR WINTER? BEER, WINE, OR LIQUOR?

Liquor. Beer is disgusting and wine is too high class.

HUGS OR KISSES? FALL ASLEEP OR CUDDLE?

Fall asleep while cuddling.

FAVORITE DESSERT? FAVORITE FOOD THAT YOU KNOW WILL KILL YOU EVENTUALLY BUT YOU DON’T CARE BECAUSE IT IS JUST SO FREAKING DELICIOUS?

Italian pasta. The kind that you can actually feel your arteries harden as you eat, and two helpings are required to avoid insulting the women who cooked it.

WHAT BOOK ARE YOU READING NOW? HAVE YOU EVER BEEN SO DISGUSTED BY A BOOK’S ENDING THAT YOU VIOLENTLY DESTROYED THE BOOK?

Nope. I simply took it to a used book dealer..

WHAT IS ON YOUR MOUSE PAD? DO YOU HAVE P0RN ON YOUR COMPUTER? DON’T LIE.

Depends on what you consider p0rn.

WHAT DID YOU WATCH ON T.V. LAST NIGHT? TRUE OR FALSE: “REALITY” T.V. IS THE BEST REASON FOR THE REST OF THE WORLD TO HATE AMERICA.

I hate reality TV, so its true.

FAVORITE SOUND? FAVORITE DRUNKEN SLATTERN: PARIS, LINDSEY, OR BRITNEY?

Brittney. Only because the first two don’t count.

ROLLING STONES OR BEATLES? MOST DESERVING OF CHUCK-NORRIS-STYLE ROUNDHOUSE KICK TO THE THROAT: AL GORE OR JESSE JACKSON?

The GoreacleTM. Jackson has become insignificant.

WHAT IS THE FARTHEST YOU HAVE BEEN FROM HOME? WHAT HAPPENED THE FIRST TIME YOU GOT DRUNK? ‘FESS UP.

I passed out; I got sick with the dry heaves. Boring, isn’t it?

DO YOU HAVE A SPECIAL TALENT? IF YOU COULD HAVE MAD SKILLZ IN DANCING OR IN SINGING, WHICH WOULD YOU CHOOSE AND WOULD IT BE FOR YOUR OWN PERSONAL SATISFACTION OR TO IMPRESS OTHER PEOPLE AND POSSIBLY GET SOME ACTION?

I’m a church soloist, so I already have “mad skillz.” Did it ever get me some action? No.

WHERE WERE YOU BORN? IF YOU COULD HAVE ONE SUPERPOWER, WHICH WOULD YOU CHOOSE AND WOULD YOU USE IT FOR GOOD OR EVIL?

Wolverine’s power: to cure any wound, heal any disease; extensions of that talent sharpens all five senses.

WHOSE ANSWERS ARE YOU LOOKING FORWARD TO GETTING BACK? IF YOU NEVER SEE ANOTHER Q&A MEME AGAIN, WILL IT BE TOO SOON?

No.

Update: I corrected some spelling errors and other nonsuch. I’m telling you this in the interest of full disclosure.

I also want to add to one of my answers:

RED OR PINK? ABBA: THE BLONDE OR THE BRUNETTE?

Neither one ever captured my interest.

Female singers/musicians that did capture my interest in the 1970s?

Stevie Nicks.
Ann & Nancy Wilson.

July 5, 2007

The NC-17 Post

Filed under: American Uniqueness, Self-Absorbtive Tendencies — Paul @ 7:54 pm

Sex, bombs and guns, pain, and rampant homosexuality.
Sex, bombs and guns, pain, and rampant homosexuality.
Sex, bombs and guns, pain, and rampant homosexuality.
Sex, bombs and guns, pain, and rampant homosexuality.
Sex, bombs and guns, pain, and rampant homosexuality.

That should get me to an NC-17 rating at Mingle!

Update: That only got me to R. Let’s try:

Rape, murder, pillage, death, necrophilia, violence.
Rape, murder, pillage, death, necrophilia, violence.
Rape, murder, pillage, death, necrophilia, violence.
Rape, murder, pillage, death, necrophilia, violence.
Rape, murder, pillage, death, necrophilia, violence.

Update II: Heh. That did it.

Free Online Dating

Mingle2Free Online Dating

June 29, 2007

And Here I Thought You Were Giving Me A Compliment

Filed under: Self-Absorbtive Tendencies — Paul @ 5:32 pm

From Reason’s Brickbats:

Starting July 1, anyone wishing to buy beer in a Tennessee convenience store or supermarket will have to show photo ID. In an effort to stamp out underage drinking, lawmakers have required that everyone – no matter how gray, bald or wrinkled – must prove they are over 21. They say it will get clerks into the habit of routinely asking for ID.

I still get carded now that I’m twice the legal age, and I took it as a compliment. Now, stores are “carding everyone to offend no one,” but I’m still offended because carding is no longer a compliment.

June 24, 2007

Writing Prompts, Part IV

Filed under: Self-Absorbtive Tendencies — Paul @ 11:38 am

Another book meme.

You’re stuck inside Fahrenheit 451, which book do you want to be?
The Bible.

Have you ever had a crush on a fictional character?
That would be Marion Warren of the Grace Livingston Hill book Crimson Roses. I formed a detailed mental depiction of what she would look and sound like as I read. The day after I finished the book, I met a young lady who looked and sounded eerily like my mental depiction; so much so that I couldn’t stop staring at her in shock and bewilderment.

The last book you bought is:
P. J. O’Roarke’s Eat the Rich, next on my reading list.

The last book you read:
Still reading Carl Sagan’s The Demon-Haunted World.

What are you currently reading?
Ibid.

Five books you would take to a deserted island.
Ooo, I get to chose five this time? Where There Is No Doctor, Where There Is No Dentist, Survival (the US military manual), Watership Down and The Substitute Guest.

June 16, 2007

Writing Prompts, Part III

Filed under: Self-Absorbtive Tendencies — Paul @ 6:00 pm

Yup, it’s that time again. A book meme:

1. First book to leave a lasting impression?
Watership Down. I’ve read it again several times since I first read it back in 1982, still enojy it immensely every time.

2. Which author would you most like to be?
Mark Twain for the earthly knowledge and wit, C.S. Lewis for the spiritual knowledge.

3. Name the book that has most made you want to visit a place?
The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. Maybe the story isn’t exactly in a place (except for the ship) but I wanted to experience the adventures they did in all those different locales.

4. Which contemporary author will still be read in 100 years?
Stephen King.

5. Which book would you recommend to a teenager reluctant to try ‘literature’?
Treasure Island. Still the best pirate tale ever written.

6. Name your best recent literary discovery.
Not recent–I rarely read fiction anymore–but the best discovery was Grace Livingston Hill.

7. Which author’s fictional world would you most like to live in?
C.S. Lewis’ Narnia.

8. Name your favorite poet?
Hmn. Don’t read much poetry, but my favorite also happens to be a songwriter: Bob Dylan.

My favorite lines he ever penned is the last verse of Tangled Up In Blue:

So now I’m goin’ back again,
I got to get to her somehow.
All the people we used to know
They’re an illusion to me now.
Some are mathematicians
Some are carpenter’s wives.
Don’t know how it all got started,
I don’t know what they’re doin’ with their lives.
But me, I’m still on the road
Headin’ for another joint
We always did feel the same,
We just saw it from a different point of view,
Tangled up in blue.

9. What’s the best non-fiction title you’ve read this year?
Carl Sagan’s The Demon-Haunted World. To learn how to determine what is real and what isn’t using logic and critical thinking, this book is a must-have. I haven’t finished it yet, so it’s also the entry for 18.

10. Which author do you think is much better than his/her reputation?
Good question. One which I don’t have an answer.

11. One book that changed your life.
Grace Livingston Hill’s The Substitute Guest.

12. One book that you have read more than once.
The Substitute Guest and Watership Down.

13. One book that you would want on a desert island.
The Substitute Guest or Watership Down. Oh that’s two? Well, in that case I should be practical: Where There Is No Doctor.

14. One book that made you laugh.
Any book by Erma Bombeck or Theresa Bloomingdale.

15. One book that made you cry.
None of your business.

16. One book you wish had been written.
A better blueprint reading textbook specifically for welders.

17. One book you wish had never been written.
Not a book, but a short story: Flannery O’Connor’s A Good Man Is Hard to Find. Yes, yes, its a great example of character attribute switching and foreshadowing, but I FUCKING HATE THAT STORY. I hated it in college twenty-five years ago, and reading it again this year only made me loath it more. The worst part that it is nearly impossible to find and purchase a good book of short stories by various authors without its inclusion. ARRRRGGGHHH!

18. One book you are currently reading.
Carl Sagan’s The Demon-Haunted World.

19. One book you have been meaning to read.
The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich from cover to cover, instead of reading small snatches and chapters.

June 3, 2007

The Two-Decade Odyssey

Filed under: General Nonsense, Self-Absorbtive Tendencies — Paul @ 10:36 am

This is a long read; I suggest grabbing a cup of your favorite beverage before starting.

In 1988 I was working for Domino’s Pizza as a driver/assistant manager, and that’s when I first came to know what real hatred of a job is like. I liked the people I worked with in the store, but I hated upper management, I hated that I wasn’t making far more than the minimum wage (if I didn’t drive that night; the minimum back then was $3.25). I hated that no one was helping me advance (Kevin was a good manager, but he ran the store purely by instinct, an unteachable skill.)

Domino’s at the time is like all chain-store fast-growing and fast-paced restaurants: there was plenty of opportunity to rise because the turnover/burnout/manager-screwing ratio was high. Even Kevin, who broke all of our store’s records, got bounced, and within four months proved what a mistake the company made by founding the first of what would be five restaurants owned wholly by him.

Before that happened, I was already on my way out. A 30-second commercial showing an introductory seminar on how to buy and own businesses. The ad posited the tagline: “Live your dreams! Do what you want by doing what you love!” My ears perked up. I thought about how most of my dreams were crushed my senior year of high school and the few years after, leaving me with the sole ambition of simply making enough money to live comfortably…which to me was having my own apartment, a paid-for car, and no debt. My goals were so modest so that they would be easy to reach; I suffered from depression back then, still do. Back then I didn’t have it under control.

That ad gripped my attention and wouldn’t let go. I felt that since the introductory seminar was free, what did I have to lose except for a few hours of time, since I had nothing better to do anyway? No girlfriend, no hobbies except music listening and TV watching. I had become a hermit inside my living quarters. Maybe this would bring a ray of hope to a life utterly ruled by disappointment.

I attended the seminar, where in two hours the presenter touched on all the topics covered by the program he sold. The business method was on leveraged buyouts (which made me uneasy) and it cost $700.

On my just-barely-over minimum wage assistant manager’s money, attending the 2-day workshop was out of the question. (Domino’s Pizza purposely underpaid assistants as an incentive for them to move quickly to manager. Let me tell you, it is simply a joy trying to get drivers that make more than you to respect you.) But I did take away the commercial tagline and used it as a motivator to find a new career. At the time, I had no idea it would take me nearly twenty years to finally realize that goal.

I remembered my old dream of being a photographer in high school, and started to pursue that by attending The School of Communication Arts in Minneapolis, MN, with the goal of getting a Francesco Scavullo Cosmopolitan Magazine Cover job. Who wouldn’t want free reign to select which lovely models to shoot, what $5000 dress they would wear, the exact make-up and hair styling? Especially in the late 1980s, when every Cosmo cover model seemed to have one of two poses. All Scavullo had to do was pick which foot was in front; otherwise it was face forward, hands on hips with fingers delicately arched as one, thumbs facing backward.

But dream got steamrolled when I found how much trouble it is to make it in that field, and how so many few actually break through. Then there’s so many legal hassles concerning issues like copyrights, release forms. It takes someone with extraordinary ability to manage all aspects of a successful photography business so much so that you need an agent…or a wife with business acumen, which I didn’t have. On top of that, you still have to find glam models willing to pose for little or no money. Glamour Photography turned out far beyond my ability (and desire) to deal with, so I moved on to the other unglam side of the business: high-end photolab work.

I found a good job at the place that had processed my film and made contact prints. Why I applied there was because of a backlit display they had made to sell that service; it featured the Customer Service staff and their years of service, most of which came in the 13-18 year range. Only one was under ten, and she was at nine years. That display evoked stability, which after the quick-hire-quick-fire environment of Domino’s Pizza seemed to be a beacon in the darkness.

Once I got over my rookie mistakes, the job was good…for the first few years. That’s when the owner decided he was getting too old to run the operation and started to cede control to his oldest son. The father and son also allowed someone to reassert command as the plant manager who had done a dismal job when he’d previously held the position. Apparently father and son failed to recall why he had been demoted before. I soon found out why first hand.

I had several battles over customer jobs with this plant manager, eventually losing all respect for his authority because of his unreasonable demands and feeble photolab skills. I crossed the tipping point when he actually lied to a customer about a embedded dust problem with his transparencies and expected me to bring forth a miracle and deliver the job perfectly clean. This happened in late 1997; by this time, the career wheels were already turning that would take me to another job.

Sensing that computer programs like Adobe Photoshop would soon overtake the photolab field, I enrolled at the Minnesota School of Business in the fall of 1997, seeking Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator skills. I earned A’s in those classes and proudly showed my report to Owner’s Son, thinking he would consider me since they were looking to expand the fledgling computer department. His response? After complementing me for doing a good job, he then waxed poetic about how “Adobe was a great company and made such great products.”

No mention of how my new skills (which I had obtained without any prompting or help from them, meaning they got virtually free access to them) could help the computer department in their shortage to meet the work demands. None.

I made the plans to finish school, then find another employer that allowed me to use those skills. I started to consider finding one before I finished school when the plant-manager-lying-to-the customer episode occurred. This consideration became an all-out drive and near-necessity on Black Tuesday in the fall of 1998: four people were laid off, one of them being nearly untouchable for 20 years.

After informing the quartet of their employment loss, Ownwer’s Son called a meeting to inform us who were left what had happened. I can still hear the B&W custom printing lead man quietly exclaiming “wwwwhhhhoooooaaaa!” when Mr. Untouchable’s name was mentioned as the fourth layoff. While we were reeling from this shock, Owner’s Son revealed the reason for my immediate need to find employment elsewhere, even though I survived the cut: the delivery drivers were no longer permitted to accumulate overtime.

Think about this: what if it takes longer then the time alloted to do the job? Are customers with firm deadlines (like a book, pamphlet or poster needing to be printed for a event promotion) going to miss said deadlines? In a world where missed deadlines cause the red-ink jars of added expenses to flow freely, jobs are lost when the ire and wrath of bean-counters hits the desk of upper management as a financial report. Companies stop using your services quickly if you fail to deliver in such an environment. The lead driver, noting the same concern I had, asked, “So what happens when we have a rush job that is due that day, and the time is after 3:30?”

Owner’s son replied as if his wife asked him if he wanted the butter dish at the dinner table: “If you don’t have time, bring it back and deliver it the next morning.”

I couldn’t believe my ears. Could he really be that short-sighted?

Yes, he could.

I left in March 1999, to join a small business that also had a computer department, where I was promised to split my time between the photolab and the computer imaging department. Which I soon learned to be a flat-out lie. Once again, I had been disrespected and screwed by the Highest One In The Company.

I gritted my teeth through that experience long enough to finish school and find a graphic artist position laying out grocery ads that also had steady streams of images to color-adjust and manipulate. I thought I had found the motherlode, surfing a riding crest that showed nothing but promise and a long career. That tagline from a decade ago now firmly in my grasp: “Live your dreams! Do what you want by doing what you love!” Or so I thought.

What I saw instead was disdain from the new coworkers who almost immediately considered me scum. I saw rampant management incompetence and my first experience with office politics, negative of course. In short, my initial experiences showed me why Scott Adams is a millionaire for creating Dilbert.

A bit later, the storm subsided, allowing me to work relaxed. This period I recall as the gaunt quiet time; the first storm was over, but a new one was brewing that lasted nearly six years.

Slowly, the responsibilities given to me dealing with images were outsourced to another location in the company. Then I was passed over again and again for anything that would give more skills and training. Worse yet, the machines and software became more outdated, making the possibility of finding other jobs remote, since the skills I had weren’t up-to-date. My employer didn’t want to make any technology updates until a new contract was signed with the client we did the work for, since we worked on-site. Yes again, the spectre of short-sighted thinking. Why did they do this? So that if the account was lost, there would be fewer expenses. That attitude shows high confidence in your sales team.

Finally after five years of haggling and a series of one-year stave-offs, a new contract was in place, new machines and software purchased and we finally made it into the 21st century. That was short-lived, as the client, a large corporation themselves, bought out another large corporation and had to cut some of their retail operations to comply with the anti-trust laws so the U.S. Commerce Department would approve the deal. We served the retail operations sold off, so about a third of our work disappeared overnight, which made layoffs necessary in March 2006. This time, I didn’t make the cut, and I was relieved, because the treatment I had received had completely disillusioned me to any future there.

My disillusionment soon spread to encompass all types of print media, then all jobs in advertising and anything else dealing with computeres at as I found it impossible to land a new position even with an impeccable resume. So many others had my skills that HR directors treated me as a guttersnipe when I contacted them about open positions. Adding insult to injury, the Minnesota School of Business placement director treated me like a pariah when I returned there for help. She didn’t care that I was a past graduate. She didn’t care that I had compiled a 4.0 GPA and won the respect of every instructor that I took a class with. She didn’t care that the school president, her boss, immediately recognized me even thought we met only briefly eight years earlier. She told me the school wasn’t going to honor the lifetime agreement to refresh the skills I learned there.

That’s when I decided “Screw it.” I found some other crap jobs until I decided what the long-term plan was. At one crap job, I learned what it is like to be thought of as an unknowing idiot by people who weren’t even born when I entered the workforce. Another taught me to hate ISO 9000 because it is the ultimate micromanagement experience. Yet another showed me the definition of harassment–creating a hostile work environment. The tagline of “Live your dreams! Do what you want by doing what you love!” nearly evaporated completely as the negative experiences piled up.

I had been hearing for years that the trades were suffering: the workforce getting older, not many new people were coming in to replace the soon-to-be retired. I researched to find out if there was truth to this assessment. I discovered that this was indeed the truth, and enrolled in mig welding and blueprint reading classes. Welding is so short of people that companies are taking to tossing recruits from temp agencies against the wall to see who wears the velcro shirt. The American Welding Society predicts that 200,000 jobs will be available with no one to fill them. Someone with welding or machining skills from a good tech school can almost pick where they want to work. “That’s what I want,” I realized.

During the last three years of my graphic artist position, I developed a serious fetish for hardware stores and power tools. Welding would allow me to embrace that fetish while earning me a good solid income. So I started the classes with vigor, using up dozen of feet of flat bar two inches at a time to work on the fundamentals of making a good weld. I learned it so quickly that I had welds of such quality ready to show a prospective employer. I did just that, boxing and mailing samples of each weld type for their examination. That caught their attention, as they called me within a few days of the package’s arrival.

Seven weeks later, as of June 3rd, 2007, I cannot think of a job that I’ve ever held that I love more. I’m in a large workshop with my own area. My supervisor helps me when I need it, but allows me to work on my own with little supervision. There are no office politics to speak of (at least where I’m at. That does go on in the main office, but my position away from everything else acts as a soundproof, bulletproof buffer.) Sure there are some issues (like how the blueprints are drawn up–worthy of a separate post.) But those are minor.

I look forward every day to getting to work, and am disappointed when the workday is over. If the union would let me, I would skip the ten-minute breaks as I view them as an interruption to a roll. I also volunteer for overtime. The management probably thinks I have rocks in my head because of the zeal I bring to the job each day.

After a two-decade odyssey, I have the peace, serenity and job satisfaction I’ve been searching for all those years. I love it.

May 31, 2007

The Joy of Working Days

Filed under: General Nonsense, Self-Absorbtive Tendencies — Paul @ 8:34 pm

For nearly all of the period between November 1985 and March 2006, I held second or third shift jobs. There were certain advantages: limiting the expense of bar hopping and other (ahem) entertainment. Another was that I could arrange any appointments, do any needed shopping or play golf! during the day hours, completely missing the day crowd after-work rush. I also appreciated not sitting in traffic heading to or leaving from work.

One former coworker joked that we were all vampires and had to race home after a late night to avoid getting dissolved by the sunlight hitting our skin.

I was the quintessential night owl; staying up very late and sleeping late in the morning. I loved it.

There were drawbacks…like missing most Monday Night Football games, missing a whole generation of prime-time shows, and missing beautiful summer and fall sunsets.

Now, I work a job that requires me to arrive at 6am. So I still get to avoid the morning traffic.

I’ve found there are simple pleasures in a daytime shift that are far better than the constant working nights.

First, while I was on nights I noticed that regular workplace employees in general look on second-shift workers as second class: less skilled, more mistake-prone, and generally lazy. That isn’t necessarily true, but often, the perception is the reality to some people.

When I switched to days at some of these jobs, it seemed that I suddenly became smarter, harder working, and more dependable, even though I hadn’t changed inwardly or outwardly not one iota.

So being on days in my current job has been a boon to me among my coworkers.

Second, I can now see what I’ve been missing in televised broadcast media. Unfortunately, except for the NFL, most broadcast media seems to have collapsed on itself in mediocrity and worse. So now my time is devoted to reading, writing and running a small home business (the latter unthinkable during my time on nights.)

Third, I appreciate the silence. When I worked nights, sometimes my sleeping hours were ruined by construction workers, stomping feet pounding my apartment’s ceiling and blasting stereos. Now that I work days, my sleeping hours peace and serenity are enforced by city noise ordinances.

Best of all with the silence, I can fully take in the ambiance of the morning. Cool air lightly scented with fresh blooming lilacs, gently swaying the leaf-growing branches of the trees. The smell of fresh coffee brewing and breakfast sandwiches at the corner convenience stoe a block from my apartment. The nearly-clear freeways as I drive in, which I can now enjoy more because I am energized to get to work, not burned out at the end of another trying shift.

Then there’s fourth, which may be the last in this list, but first in my pleasures of working days. I can spend more time with my wife!

When I was working nights, there were days, even a whole week when I didn’t see her. I may as well have simply had a roommate during that time, we saw each other so rarely. Now I get to see her every evening when I return home, sharing the day’s events with each other in sweet converse. The dearness of having her next to me while I sleep.

The lack of sleeping at the same time in the same bed adversely affected Sweetheart also…there were many nights that she had trouble getting to sleep because I was not there with her, or at least home. Now she gets more rest, and is more energized to face the new day now that I’m home at night.

I can say that for all the years I worked nights, I did love my life as a night owl.

I’ve found that days as an early bird are even better.

May 28, 2007

Writing Prompts, Part II

Another device for writing is the meme: a list of questions that get you thinking and writing. This one is about movies:

1. Name a movie that you have seen more than 10 times.
Most movies that I own: Raiders of the Lost Ark, Star Trek II, the first three Star Wars movies, October Sky, The Blues Brothers, Ben Hur come to mind. There’s a few more.

2. Name a movie that you’ve seen multiple times in the theater.
Short list. That would be Grease, The Blues Brothers and Raiders of the Lost Ark. Note that all of them are over 25 years old. I don’t spend much time in darkened projection rooms.

3. Name an actor that would make you more inclined to see a movie.
Harrison Ford. I’ve seen many of his movies. I would also add Matt Damon, especially if there is another Jason Bourne sequel.

4. Name an actor that would make you less likely to see a movie.
Jake Gyllenhaal. He did a good job in October Sky, but has annoyed me ever since.

5. Name a movie that you can and do quote from.
The Blues Brothers. I cannot start a road trip without at least thinking “It’s 120 miles to Chicago, we have a full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes, it’s dark and we’re wearing sunglasses. Hit it!” or “I’ve always loved you” anytime I hear the strains of Flight of the Valkyries. Or when pleading: “There was an earthquake! A terrible flood! It wasn’t my faaaaaauuuuult!” When at a certain friend’s house, I’ll intentionally hold up an incorrect glass just so she can say, “Wrong glass, sir!” I then motion her to fill it, just like Dan Ackroyd.

Can’t play poker without quoting from the card shark swindle in Trinity is Still My Name.

Also have to mention my favorite from Return of the Jedi: “When 900 years old you reach, look as good you will not.”

If the meme was cartoon shorts or TV shows, I can quote lots of those.

6. Name a movie musical that you know all of the lyrics to all of the songs.
There used to be two: Man of La Mancha and My Fair Lady. Make that three: Oliver. I’ve long since forgotten most of them. Haven’t seen any of those in a long time.

7. Name a movie that you have been known to sing along with.
Disney’s Tarzan. Phil Collins had much to do with this.

8. Name a movie that you would recommend everyone see.
October Sky. Boy from coal-mining town overcomes impossible odds with the help of townspeople. They help him because he willing to do what it takes to lay the groundwork for his success. He sees opportunity where his friends see a “slack dump.” If the Vatican endorses it and it’s not either a religious biography or made 50 years ago, you know you have a winner.

9. Name a movie that you own.
Not already mentioned would be the Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Fugitive, The Village, Fantasia, Blade Runner and about 20 more.

10. Name an actor that launched his/her entertainment career in another medium but who has surprised you with his/her acting chops.
Female: Kim Basinger. Nobody seems to remember that she started out as a model for Cover Girl cosmetics. Now she has an Oscar.
Male: Gotta be Will Smith. I remember him rapping as The Fresh Prince long before the Bel-Air show ever aired. I could put Kris Kristofferson here, but he already had several movies under his belt by the time I learned he was also a recording artist.

11. Have you ever seen a movie in a drive-in? If so, what?
Yes, I have. Unfortunately for this meme, all of them were so atrociously bad that time has mercifully wiped them from my memory.

12. Ever made out in a movie?
No. By the time I had my first serious girlfriend (or even somewhat of a girlfriend) I didn’t need a movie theater for a necking spot.

13. Name a movie that you keep meaning to see but just haven’t yet gotten around to it. The director’s cut of Blade Runner. I saw the original in the theater–once–have the DVD ready to go–still haven’t removed the plastic.

14. Ever walked out of a movie?
No. If it’s that bad, I’ll Mystery Science Theater 3000 it.

15. Name a movie that made you cry in the theater.
The Passion of the Christ.

16. Popcorn?
Yes, except for The Passion of the Christ. I felt it would be disrespectful to be mucnching on popcorn while Jesus is going through several illegal trials and getting the stuffing beaten out of him.

17. How often do you go to the movies (as opposed to renting them or watching them at home)?
Rarely. Too expensive and crowded.

18. What’s the last movie you saw in the theater?
Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith

19. What’s your favorite/preferred genre of movie?
I’m a guy. Action. Preferably when the antagonist is a real scumbag and dies horribly in the end at the hands of the protagonist. Cobra–a crappy movie otherwise–is the gold standard.

20. What’s the first movie you remember seeing in the theater?
A Boy Named Charlie Brown

21. What movie do you wish you had never seen?
There isn’t a movie that I’d wished I’d never seen, but there is a movie I vowed to never see: Jaws. PBS once ran the clip of Quint getting chomped while the movie was still in theaters, and I swore that day I would never see that film. That clip scared the shit out of me. That vow is still intact, even though I could easily handle that scene today. The book and that movie have blackened the reputation of sharks. Even Peter Benchley has expressed regret for ever writing the story.

22. What is the weirdest movie you enjoyed?
Dr. Strangelove. I got the humor, but it is still weird to me.

23. What is the scariest movie you’ve seen?
I don’t watch scary movies as a rule. But I vote for anything by Alfred Hitchcock. He was a master at making you feel helpless with ordinary surroundings and objects.

24. What is the funniest movie you’ve seen?
Gay Purree, a full-length animated movie by Loony Tunes’ Chuck Jones, with the voices of Judy Garland, Robert Goulet and Red Buttons. There’s cartoon-style action for the guys and well-done songs and scenery for the gals. There’s also a scene in this movie that makes tears come from my eyes I laugh so hard. I can’t even describe it without laughing. It made me almost choke when I first saw it as a kid, and it still kills me 35 years later.

Writing Prompts, Part I

Filed under: Self-Absorbtive Tendencies — Paul @ 5:39 am

I have a small book called The Pocket Muse–Ideas and Inspiration For Writing by Monica Wood. The goal of the book is to get past writer’s block by selecting a prompt and writing about it. Now a person doesn’t have to follow exactly what the author suggests; the point is to get writing.

I’ve decided to create blog posts based on some of these prompts. Hey, it’s all in good fun, and if somebody actually reads this stuff, you’ll get to know a bit more about me than most people do outside of cyberspace. So here goes…

Reconstruct your first date. Can you recall a particular sound that brings it all back?

First Date?

-snicker-

First Date? I couldn’t definitively tell you what my ‘first date’ was. I suppose it was with a gal I call “Sharon.” We did go to dinner; we did go to movies; but she always insisted we were ‘just friends’ while any of my friends she met would end up locking lips with her in the back seat. Well, she did save me from a perfect record of zero high school formals (then made out with yet another friend afterward).

You have to understand…to say I wasn’t popular in high school is an understatement. I put up with this kind of treatment because I met flat refusal from anyone else I asked. When it came to dating, I was the polar opposite of one guy I’ve called a friend for over 35 years. Girls just loved him; he married this stunning redhead that was a grade below us that has no understanding of the distraction she causes anywhere she goes. She became an MILF (not to me, if I ever had a sister, she was it. Ewww…) before she was 20, and still holds that status today, even with all three of their children now high school grads.

When I worked for Domino’s Pizza in the late 1980s, she would show up with her oldest son to use my employee discount since I never used it. Invariably, after she left, another driver that had never before seen her would ask me excitedly in a higher-pitched voice, wide eyed and tongue dragging, “Is that your girlfriend?” I would then sigh annoyedly, explain yet again that No, she wasn’t my girlfriend, she’s married to a longtime friend of mine. I would then get a detailed unprintable explanation of what he wanted to do to her. But I digress…

When you can’t get a date to save your life and you have this kind of stuff go on, it’s devastating to a guy’s confidence.

Looking back, the biggest problem I had was confidence. After meeting endless flat refusals, not even given an opportunity to at least get to know someone or someone to get to know me, I wondered if I would ever get a date. I was young and stupid…and so were the prospective dates I pursued. These girls craved Excitement! and Bad Boys! that they could mold into their charming man. To them, I was like a pendulum, reliable but boring.

To be afflicted with Boring Nice Guy Syndrome, to a high schooler, is a fate worse than death. My senior yearbook is filled with comments from girls that start, “Paul, you’re such a sweet guy…” If I’m so sweet, why did you turn me down when I asked you for a date? I learned later that being reliable, concerned, courteous, and kind isn’t very exciting to a young heart that craves romance such as what is provided in romance novels. No, I was the crying towel when their excitement-inducing bad boys broke their hearts. It took them years before they learned that the guy you consider a friend, the one that’s always there for you, the one that fits in your life like those favorite old comfortable, frayed jeans is the one you want. Unfortunately for me, I wasn’t eventually that guy for any of them.

I don’t judge those girls harshly; they didn’t know any better, and neither did I. I later learned that I didn’t know how to ask them–more on this later.

So I cannot recall my first date, simply because I’m not sure any of them qualifies as a first date. I had a one-night stand with an acquaintance years before I had a real girlfriend.

That first real girlfriend nearly became my last, as she was very needy. She had no concept of the idea of personal boundaries; even if you are joined at the hip with someone, everyone needs some personal time, which she wouldn’t allow. She would also broadcast every detail I would tell her; no such things as information shared in confidence. I didn’t handle the situation well because I didn’t know how, I had never seen something like this, and neither did anyone I talked to about it.

I finally peeled her off me after several tumultuous months. After each of us grew up more, we became friends; unfortunately, she died of stomach cancer a few years ago in horrible torture. She was only 34.

I married the woman I had the next serious relationship with; but because we both tailored each other to our liking through the glasses of our desires, and both of us dragged in tons of personal unresolved baggage, it was doomed from the start. I do have some pleasant memories of that relationship; I still laugh about her playing with the claws of her crab legs anytime we went to Red Lobster. I still marvel how she lovingly earned my trust and allowed me to be vulnerable with her, never mocking me with any of my secrets.

The part that worked best was the sex. We weren’t into anything kinky, or into lots of positions or acrobatics, we simply thoroughly enjoyed each other several times a day because I constantly caressed her: lightly dragging my fingers over her back, tweaking her cheek, slowly rubbing my palm on her belly. I never knew I could be such a horndog and have a gorgeous wife that could match me drive for drive. I thought such escapades were reserved for Penthouse Forum.

Now, I am married to a woman that understands me, loves me, and gives me that space when I need it. She isn’t a closet nympho like my first wife, but there is plenty of loving to sustain both of us. I have a genuine good time with her, no matter what it is we choose to do, whether its attending a conference, working a job side by side, playing a game or watching a movie.

She is who I looked for when I aspired to be part of a couple in a cafe on a Tuesday late afternoon sitting across from each other because the table is so small that our noses are almost rubbing. We decide to skip the 9:30 movie we planned to attend because we are having so much fun simply talking about our respective days. Sharing of insights: a joke told by a coworker, a new labor-saving device purchased by the employer, a challenge met and addressed successfully. This is why we have been married for nearly ten years now, we are each other’s best friend as well as lover. Something we tell each other every day.

So when was my first date? With whom? Where did we go?

I never had anything near the stereotypical TV experience of asking the girl for the date, meeting the parents or what you see in the John Hughes teen movies. Maybe I would have if I knew then what I know now: how to ask.

It is astounding how many of us men don’t know how to ask for a date. Guys I know try to get the woman to ask him for the date, or worse, ask other women they know are friends with the woman they fancy to ask for the date.

Piece of advice, gentlemen. If you want the chance to take out that special lady that has your fancy, ask directly with these elements: Specific activity on a specific date at a specific time.

“Say Jennifer, I have two 5 pm tickets to the dinner theater this Saturday. Would you like to go?” Or: “Say Christine, the festival is holding Irish Day this Friday afternoon, and I’d like you to join me.”

I do this now with my wife. “Say Honey, I’d like to see (pick the movie) on Saturday evening. Would you?”

Now how hard is that? Think about all those young girls I knew years ago (that are an illusion to me now–thank you, Bob Dylan.) Maybe they would have responded differently if I had simply mentioned a specific activity on a specific date at a specific time. Maybe if I had asked properly and had a bit of success, I would have built up some confidence. Maybe if I suggested something that piqued their curiosity or sounded fun, I wouldn’t have been afflicted with Nice Guy Syndrome. “Paul, you’re so sweet!”

So to give a definite answer to the prompt: After all this reflection my first date was with my current wife, since she is the only one I asked properly (specific activity on a specific date at a specific time) before we were already involved. The particular sound that brings it all back was her jaw hitting the floor because she was incredulous that there was a man in existence that actually knew how to ask for a date.

May 27, 2007

Cell Phone Disconnect

Filed under: Self-Absorbtive Tendencies — Paul @ 6:23 pm

Now, I think cell phones are a wonderful invention, especially when you’re stuck with a broken-down car on the freeway. Some people, such as my in-laws, so much enjoy the convenience cell phones provide that they eliminated their home land lines. There’ll be no battles for phone usage for the parents of a very popular teenage girl in that house.

Of course, cell phones create nuisances. There’s the stereotypical sales exec talking client business while dining: “Hey John, glad to hear from ya. I can close this deal for you and set you up for LIFE!” His dinner partner invariably wears a pained expression that says, “let me drop into the floor,” because she knows everyone is boring their eyes into her head for allowing such juvenileness.

Then there’s the chick who argues with a boyfriend while standing in a grocery line: “You talk about getting married, yet you can’t hold a decent job, you can’t stop drinking and partying with your stupid friends…”

Why must people hold such converse in public with no regard at all who hears? Conversational politeness and personal boundaries seem to be forgotten in the 21st century.

I discovered a new cell-phone annoyance as I was eating a made-by-my-hands club sandwich during lunch break at work. A attractive, thin, early twenties young lady with strawberry-blonde hair and a fresh face recently hired as an Administrative Assistant came in and sat down at the empty table behind me. After a moment of rustling the loaf of bread and package of sliced turkey she retrieved from the company fridge, out came the cell phone. The call was to some clinic; innocuous at first, since she was determining insurance eligibility. Once accomplished, she then turned to the task of describing an ailment to a nurse taking the call. I really don’t need to hear this, I thought as I continued to munch on my second club sandwich.

Now my stomach and nerves are strong; I’ve watched PBS surgery documentaries while I eat. But I thought her conversation rude; I’m glad it didn’t include such mundane medical terms as cervix or vulva. I endured it amid some displeasure, and when I finished my meal, I simply got up, left the break area, and have rarely returned there. I find simply sitting in my work area in the shop (I’m a welder) or on a lawn chair outside provides peace and serenity from someone I privately refer to as “bodily-function chick.”

I’m just happy she’s not pregnant. The mind shudders to think of what might have been discussed, like how many times she threw up on the side of the road this morning on the way into work.

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