Sunday, December 18, 2011

What Al Taught Me About Non-Violent Protest

From the earliest age, Al was a master of the non-violent protest.  He was a good kid - incredibly laid back and easy-going.  We didn't have a problem bringing him anywhere because we was very go-with-the-flow and loved hanging out with adults.  Despite this, for reasons I can't remember, we bought one of those child leash things that you attach to your wrist and your child's so that they can never get more than three feet away from you.  Al hated it.  I don't know if it made him claustrophobic or he felt we were infringing on his personal rights, but he absolutely loathed it.  

When you picture a two year-old rebelling against something he hates, you envision screaming fits,arms and legs flailing everywhere, a red face and a snotty nose.  Not Al.  I have no idea where he learned it or how he managed to perfect it at such an early age, but Al was a master of the non-violent protest.  Without fail, as soon as the leash was snapped on his wrist, he would silently slump down to the floor in a giant boneless mass.  It looked like we were trying to walk a jellyfish.  He would make no sound and not move a muscle, but just lie there.  Picking him up was impossible.  If he would of fought, it would have been easier as we could have at least used his flailing leverage against him.  Instead, he would remain a silent shapeless mass.  It was like trying to pick up a 25 pound lump of oatmeal.  It was incredibly effective.  KT and I soon realized we couldn't fight this.  You can't yell and scream at a child that, technically, isn't throwing a tantrum.  The best we could do was drag him via his leash for a few feet hoping he would give in and begin walking.  He wouldn't.  So, we would grudgingly pop the leash off and - boom - he would be on his feet and happy as ever.  If we brought the leash back out, it was a repeat performance.  Needless to say, the whole leash experience didn't last long.  It only survived as long as it did because KT and I got such a kick out of watching him go all MLK Jr. on us.

It's a skill that never really left Al.  He simply changed his strategy some.  Throughout his teenage years, the following scene would play out more times than I care to remember.

Paul or KT:  Al, do the dishes please (or pick up poop or clean the kitchen or whatever)
Al:  *no reply*

10 minutes later -
Paul or KT:  AL, did you hear me?  I asked you to do the dishes.
Al: ok

20 minutes later -
Paul or KT:  AL!!! I said -
Al (interrupting): I said OK!

An hour later after KT or I have done the dishes - 
Paul or KT:  Thanks a lot, Al
Al:  What? I said I would do them

He wouldn't yell, he wouldn't scream, he wouldn't thrash or throw things.  It was maddening as hell and incredibly effective.

Flash forward to Friday.  At new job I am a vacation relief guy.  Meaning, I fill in and run routes for whomever may be on vacation or sick that particular week.  This Friday, for the first time, there was nobody out, so there wasn't a route for me to run.  On Saturday, however, I had to cover for a guy at our depot in Sauk Centre.  Being start time is 3:30 AM, they put me up in a hotel room Friday night rather than having me drive up Saturday morning.  So, the plan was for me to head into the depot Friday morning about seven, do "maintenance" around the depot until early afternoon and then drive up to Sauk Centre.  I wasn't thrilled about this, but understood they probably had to have me to do something to justify paying me for the day.

When I arrived Friday morning, however, and learned what "maintenance" was, I was a little less understanding.  As it turns out, maintenance consisted of two tasks: sweeping and mopping the grease stains out of the garage and cleaning the bathrooms.  I won't pretend I'm above either task, but I had used the bathrooms there before and I was not at all interested in having my mouth, nose or any other exposed cavity near that toilet.  Keep in mind that the people that use this toilet have five basic food groups:

1.  Twinkies
2.  Double fiber bread with flax
3.  Raspberry Zingers
4.  Wonder bread
5.  Cigarettes

It's not pretty.  I desperately wanted to avoid the task but knew that throwing a fit would just make me look bad.  Fortunately, as if by divine intervention, I had a flashback of leash boy and the zen of non-violent protest.  I grabbed the broom and started sweeping the garage.  Veeerrrrryyyy sllloooooowwwwllllyyy.  I felt like the Tim Conway old man character from the Carol Burnett Show.  I was working so meticulously and with such thoroughness that after 30 minutes I was not even half-way done with garage.  It looked damn good, however.  Too good, in fact.  Enter divine intervention number two.  I realized that doing too good of a job on this task might give them reason to assign it to me again.  So, the challenge became to both work at a snail's pace and do a shitty job.  As easy as this may sound, it is actually extraordinarily difficult.  Luckily, my manager unwittingly helped out.  The man is the very definition of a chain smoker.  It must have absolutely killed him when laws changed and he could no longer smoke at his desk.  So, every fifteen minutes, he trudges out to the garage, stands under the NO SMOKING sign, lights up and stares at his phone for five minutes.  If nothing else, I'm a quick learner.  After three smoke breaks, I picked up the habit of stopping what I was doing and staring at my phone for five minutes as soon as he would head back inside from his smoke breaks.  I justified it by observing that I shouldn't be punished for not smoking, so I would take breaks like a smoker.  It was brilliant.

I managed to waste four hours in the garage - sweeping, re-sweeping, not smoking, mopping, not smoking some more and re-mopping spots I had conveniently missed the first seven times through.  I could tell my manager was getting a bit exasperated by how long it was taking me from the looks I was getting, but I also knew he wasn't going to say anything about it because, after all, this wasn't really my job and I wasn't technically doing anything wrong.  Finally, about 11:00, he had enough.  On his way back into the office from his 700th smoke break, he stopped and grumbled "why don't you just take off?".  He didn't have to ask twice.

In my victory speech (for not having to clean the bathroom), I made sure to give a shout out to leash boy.  His Gandhi-like protestations may have been maddening, but, in retrospect, they were absolutely brilliant.

Sunday, December 4, 2011


I went to church this morning.  Here is what I did:

- got up early because I was awake, not because I had to

- played a game of FIFA while drinking coffee

- giggled my way through an episode of Beavis and Butthead

- researched breakfast options online with KT

- leisurely shoveled the sidewalk

- went for a walk around Kordiak while everything was still clean and beautiful and undisturbed by people and their people-ness

- watched the dog frolic, sniff (total cocaine nose), and act like a pup again and not the senior citizen she is becoming

- went to grocery store wearing my pajamas and my Jason Voorhees coveralls

- listen to KT opine that anyone driving over 20 mph today is a "jackhole"

- had a bloody mary with a PBR chaser

- fulfilled typical male/female stereotypes (I cleaned the kitchen while KT fixed the sink in the laundry room)

- sat down to watch the Vikings with the Sunday paper and the interwebs

Here is what I didn't do:

- shave

- get dressed up (or dressed at all for that matter)

- struggle vainly to hear and comprehend a sermon

- plot an escape route with the least potential of being welcomed as a guest

- feel shame when the offering plate is passed around because i didn't bring cash

Can I get an Amen?

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Conversations with Freud during my run today

Before I begin, two disclaimers:

1.  Blogging about running isn't original.  It's not even original amongst my circle of friends.  My friend Carrie has done it a number of times and much wittier and funnier than I could ever hope to.  Do yourself a favor and check it out at  Apologies to Carrie for blatantly stealing a blog subject from her.

2.  I loathe exercise blogs, especially ones written with the intent to motivate.  Just shut up.  You aren't trying to motivate, you are asking everyone to admire how awesome you are.  It's as bad as telling me about how awesome your church is or which way I should vote.  I have serious misgivings about writing this because just reading it over makes me feel I am guilty of doing exactly that and a giant hypocrite.  I feel this way often when I write - egotistical and like a giant blowhard.  My good friend Isaac, among others, told me to "just get over it and write".  So that's what I'm doing - writing.  I happened to be on a run today when the following thoughts pin-balled their way through my brain.  Exercise or don't exercise.  I don't care and I love you either way.

Whew.  Anyways, I usually drown out my thoughts with music while running, but my headphones broke in a particularly spastic bread cart accident, so I was left to fend off my brain alone.  Freud - or any amateur psychiatrist for that matter - would have had a field day with what went through my melon.  Among the diagnoses:

Denial, Rationalization and ultimately Guilt - It had been a while since I had been on a run.  Which is stupid as I have never, ever (ever) regretted going on a run when I was done.  Today I had nothing on my agenda other than a haircut.  I had absolutely no excuse or reason not to.  However, denial and rationalization nearly derailed me before I even left the house.  I get plenty of exercise at work (rationalization).  I exercise with the Schlitz Sporting Club all the time (denial as I do as much beer drinking as exercising in those situations).  I'm in better shape than I was 10 years ago (rationalization).  Finally, however, guilt won out.  I told KT and Audrey I was going on a run today and I have absolutely no legitimate excuse for them why I didn't.  Not that they would care - the guilt will be 100% self-induced. But nobody - not even their mother - can guilt a Lutheran raised boy better than they can guilt themselves.  So jog I did.

Euphoria - The run begins.  This. Is. Awesome.  I am awesome.  I haven't run in over a month and I'm like Zola Fucking Budd.  I see your 3.1 miles and raise you 2 more.  I can't be stopped.  I love the weather.  I love the world.  I love me.

Self Loathing - Early fatigue begins setting in.  I suck.  I look like a drunken hippo and everyone is laughing at me.  That car that pulled over a block after passing me?  It's a doctor convinced he's about to be the latest 11 Who Kare recipient for saving my life when I drop with a heart attack.  I will undoubtedly end up as a photo on countless snarky teenagers' Facebook pages.  Zola Budd?  Try Buddy Hackett.

Narcissism - Second wind kicks in.  I am soooo much fucking better than everybody else.  Look at all the lazy asses in their cars while I run.  They want to be me.  Look at me.  Adore me.  Worship me.

Narcissism and Dementia - Still flying high, feeling like a million bucks, but one-way conversations between myself and imaginary others begin taking hold.  "Ha - you're very kind but, really, I am 40 years old" or, more alarmingly, "How you doin' ladies?...Well, I'm flattered, but after my run I'm going home to do some laundry, cook an organic dinner for my family, build a shelter for the homeless and cure cancer...Yes, I'm married...Really, you're too kind.  You haven't met my wife, I'm the lucky one!"

Self Flagellation - Well into the run, euphoria and narcissism are long gone.  I hurt.  My lungs feel like exploding, my calves are on fire and I'm not having any fun at all.  Stopping and walking, even if just for a bit, would offer immense relief.  Yet I run on as I must punish myself for weighing more than I should, not being in better shape and being a general asshole.  I don't deserve relief, I deserve punishment.

Split Personality - Near the end of the run, a rather large hill looms.  Going up:  I hate going up hills.  You have to change your pace, your stride, your breathing, everything.  It sucks.  I wish my route could be like an M.C. Escher sketch - constant downhills.  Going down:  I hate going down hills.  You have to change your pace, your stride, your breathing, everything.  It sucks.  I wish my route could be like an M.C. Escher sketch - constant uphills.

Manic Depression - The end nears.  Sweet glorious relief, I'm almost done!  This was way more difficult than it should have been.  But I did it!  But I didn't do it very well.  I successfully ran a 5k without stopping today!  But it took me way too long.

I finished my run physically exhausted but able to quickly recover.  The mental exhaustion will take a little longer.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

13 Things You Are Better Than Me At (and Five I'm Better Than You At)

Things you are better than me at:

1.  Flipping an egg without breaking the yolk.  Yet another reason I am thankful to be married.

2.  Seeing the 3D image in those stupid effin photos in the mall kiosk where you just need to "relax your eyes".  Utter bullshit.

3.  Gleeking.  I just end up getting saliva in my nasal passage.

4.  Staying awake through the entire movie Amadeus.  I am 0-5 lifetime.

5.  Enjoying Sundays.  Sunday blues hits me about 4:30 Saturday afternoon.

6.  Karaoke.  Good for you.

7.  Packing a tin.  I had to stop chewing when KT refused to do it for me any longer.

8.  Growing a mustache.  Don't matter what sex you are.

9.  Hearing.  What?

10.  Imitating Beavis and Buttheads' laugh.   I simply can't do it.

11.  Ice skating.  I may be the only Minnesotan who has never done it.

12.  Checking tire pressure or any other automotive level that any self-respecting man should be automatically good at.

13.  Keeping my nipples properly moisturized.  As KT says, they are "like scabs".


Things I am better than you at:

1.  Eating vast amounts of pickles.

2.  Supermarket Sweep.  Also, Wheel of Fortune.

3.  Opening my throat to rapidly consume a beer.  Learned in high school, perfected in college, this skill has never left me.

4.  Bruising.  KT is exempt from this one.

5.  Imitating a loon call using only my hands and lung power.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Correspondence With an Oompa-Loompa

As anyone married to a Middle Age Man Syndrome sufferer will attest, we have mastered the art of complaining.  I sent the following email to Willy Wonka customer service last week after being instructed to do so via their Facebook page.  I have yet to receive a reply.

To: (yes, that is their actual email)
Subject:  You have made a grown man cry

I posted on your Facebook wall and was instructed to email here and mention Facebook.  So, Facebook.

Here is my tragic tale:

I'm a simple man.  I have a simple life, and find pleasure and happiness in simple things.  One of those things is Runts.  In particular, banana Runts.  Banana Runts are without question the supreme Runt.  Banana Runts are the six-time MVP, all-time leading scorer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar of Runts.  Cherry Runts are more of a Felton Spencer-esque Runt.  (Orange are a Patrick Ewing, but I digress).  I have developed a complex algorithmic formula where I score each box of Runts I purchase.  It's a complex formula, so I won't bore you with the details here.  If you are interested, however, I can send you details (maybe it could become popular and you could put a scorecard on each box!).  The best box of Runts I ever purchased, coming in with a 114.3 score, was in August of 2008, purchased at a Pump 'n Munch in Minneapolis, MN.  Generally, most boxes score in the 87.4 - 96.1 range.  Today, however, I hit a new low. I purchased a box of Runts that scored an embarrassing 47.2! 

I had a fairly miserable day at work, which isn't all that uncommon, but doesn't dull the pain.  On my way home, I stopped by the Super America on East River Road in Fridley, MN.  I can pretend that I stopped for gas, cigarettes, gum - whatever, but that would be untrue.  About noon today, the magical banana Runts began dancing in my brain and I knew it was inevitable - we would be together this evening.  So, I eagerly and happily slapped over $1.49 (+ tax) for a big ol' box of Runts and skipped back to my car.  The horrors of my day were a mere distant memory now as soon banana Runts would be making sweet love to my tongue.  I ripped the box open before even buckling my seat belt and peered inside, excited far more than a grown man should be over candy.  I didn't see any bananas from the view line of the ingenious "pull open/push shut" top, but that was ok.  I have a firm grasp of physics and realize that the aerodynamic build of the bananas often causes them to shimmy there way to the bottom of the box.  I happily chomped on the other flavors, fully confident my patience and perseverance would result in a bananarific bonus at the bottom of the box.

About half way through the box, I began to get anxious, however.  I had uncovered only one banana.  To give proper credit, it was a mind-blowingly delicious banana, but still, I wanted more.  I peered into the box and saw only the butt end of a shattered banana.  Small beads of sweat began appearing at my brow.  I gave the box a hearty shake and looked again (in retrospect, it probably would have been safer to pull over before doing this, but I was a little freaked out and not thinking clearly).  Still nothing.  Having supreme faith in the fairness and goodness of Oompa Loompas, I soldiered on, knowing my payday was coming.

As you have probably guessed by now, payday didn't come.  The entire box contained only four (FOUR!) bananas - I refuse to count the shattered sliver.  I was, and am, heart-broken.  I'm not sure why I am writing to you.  I know Oompa Loompas are magical, but I highly doubt they can turn back time and place more bananas in this particular box.  I'm also not writing to scold you (hey, mistakes happen) or to threaten to discontinue my Runt habit.  Did it hurt?  Sure.  However, I have loved before and I will love again.  Let's grow from this experience and never fight again.  Just talking about it with you has helped immensely.

Thanks for listening.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Things I have learned from KT

In a little over a week, KT will join me and several others we know who have hit the much feared but actually harmless four-oh this year.  Upon recent reflection, the fact that we are both now "at the age" hasn't been nearly as ground shaking for me as the realization that she and I have now been "in a relationship" (in Facebook terms) for greater than 50% our our breathing moments.  I vividly recall the first words she ever said to me  ("Excuse you") and the first words I ever said to her ("It wasn't me, it was him!"), but that is a story for another time and KT doesn't remember it anyways.  Our second conversation was a little smoother and took place almost exactly 21 years ago, during our sophomore years at GAC.  Gustavus had (and maybe still has?) a ritual early in every year called "Mystery Dates" where you were to set up your roommate on a date with a mystery person and then everybody went on a giant group date bowling or to a dance or whatever.  The intent was to get people to get to know one another, make new friends and have an easier time adjusting to college life.  It was great in theory and from what I recall (alcohol may have been involved), a lot of fun.  Anyways, knowing nothing more about her than a nickname (more on this later), my buddy Chris and I decided that we would try to set KT up with our friend Nick for Mystery Dates.  We saw her in the caf one day, decided there was no time like the present, and approached her as she was grabbing her silverware.  The conversation was as follows:

Chris/I (I don't remember who actually said what):  "Hi - we are Chris and Paul.  We were wondering if you would be interested in going to Mystery Dates with our friend Nick."

KT:  "Oh, you mean Misery Rapes?"

At this point, I figured we made a huge mistake and had just subjected ourselves to a lecture about how Mystery Dates objectified women and were nothing more than organized rape and blah, blah, blah.  Instead, this is what KT said next:

KT:  "Sounds good to me.  Who did you say I was going with?  I'll bring Bacardi."

I fell in love immediately.

So anyways, here we are 20+ years later.  KT is still up for anything and will still bring the Bacardi.  So, in honor of her birthday, the following is a small sampling of some of what I have learned from KT over the years:

1.  Not every girl has the same definition of a dream home.  Say "dream home" and, for 99.9% of the population, a large home with a pool and all the modern amenities springs to mind.  Not so much for KT.  For her, a dream home consists of a double wide trailer.  Seriously.  KT has dreamed of living in a trailer her entire life.  I actually caved and gave it a try shortly after we were married.  I lasted about four months before I told her I was moving and she was welcome to join me, which she reluctantly did.  Since then, we have never (and I mean this literally) driven past a trailer court without KT saying something along the lines of how desperately she wants to live there.  Regardless of how meth-infested it may look, for KT it is Shangri-La.  I do not now, nor have I ever, understood it.  I do know, however, that it is genuine.  She is not attempting to be humorous or ironic.  She truly pictures her dream home in the middle of a trailer court which could serve as the setting of a sit-com.  The same is true for vacations.  Five star hotels in bustling cities or awe-inspiring chalets in the mountains are not for KT.  Give her a trailer and a week of boredom to truly make her happy.

2.  Proper hydration is important.  Whenever the kids or I mention any sort of discomfort, whether it be a headache or a sore foot, KT will immediately follow with "Have you had enough water today?".  If we are foolish enough to challenge her and point out that whatever ails us has no connection to the amount of H2O we may or may not have ingested that day, we can count on a lengthy and thorough explanation of why the ankle we may have sprained playing basketball is indeed worse because without the replenishing electrolytes water provides the body does not heal properly.  Or something like that.  Quite honestly, I rarely stick around long enough to hear the explanation as it is far easier to just go pour myself a large glass of water.  KT's insistence on water as the cure-all elixir has even caused her nickname (mentioned earlier) to morph.  In college, her love and talent for dancing had earned her the nickname of "Gyrate Kate" which she embraced fully rather than saw as denigrating (much to her credit).  In fact, several of our college friends who were and are very dear to us but we see far too infrequently will still greet her with "Gyrate".  It is a term used with endearment, so I never have the heart to inform them that "Gyrate Kate" has been replaced by "Hydrate Kate".

3.  Halloween is a pretty important holiday and should be treated as such.  Like any kid, I loved Halloween.  Dressing up and receiving unhealthy amounts of candy while staying up past your bedtime?  Awesome, sign me up.  I even get the appeal of Halloween for the early drinking years crowd - any costume can be made slutty, enormous quantities of booze are consumed and acting like a complete jackass is not only accepted, it's expected.  I always assumed, however, that as I aged Halloween would become more of an afterthought or even a nuisance.  For KT, Halloween has only grown in awesomeness as the years have gone by.  She spends the entire year imagining and planning incredibly intricate and amazing costumes, changing what she is going to dress up as so many times that she usually ends up a week before as the only person without a costume.  Despite this, she never fails pull off a costume which puts all others to shame for originality and execution.  It doesn't matter if we are having a party, going to the bar or just staying home and handing out candy, she will knock a costume out of the ballpark.  It's a gift that has kept the magic of Halloween alive for me all these years and I'm thankful for it.

4.  You don't need a degree to be a doctor.  Around these parts, she is known as Dr. KT.  As mentioned before, KT can quickly diagnose and treat most medical problems with water.  If, however, you can adequately prove to her that you have indeed consumed at least the minimum recommended daily amount of water, she quickly will switch into doctor mode and will, within minutes, diagnose and recommend treatment for your problem using nothing but her mind and possibly a recollection of a television show (Oprah, Dr. Phil, House, ER, even Real Housewives - it doesn't matter) she once saw.  The fact that she will offer her expertise isn't the amazing part, however.  The fact that she is absolutely correct in her diagnosis 98% of the time is the part that blows me away.  Whether obvious (she once diagnosed me with a broken nose based solely on the fact that the tip of my nose was pointing at my ear) or exotic, KT will swiftly and accurately tell you what is wrong and how you can cure it at a fraction of the cost that someone paying off years of medical school will charge you.  Just don't ask her to actually treat you - the sight of blood makes her pass out.  After diagnosing my broken nose, she immediately looked away complaining of light-headedness.  She then laughed and said something along the lines of "you idiot, we ARE NOT paying for another nose job for you until you quit playing basketball".  So, I guess you can add compassion to aversion to blood and a degree as the only things that separate KT from a doctor.

5.  Finally, and this one will be really difficult to explain, but over the past twenty years I have learned that KT's thought process and consequently conversations, as erratic and scattered as they often seem, do actually follow a brilliant logic.  It's as if she is speaking a language all her own (she has even diagnosed herself in this case, claiming she has KDD.  It's like ADD, but her own special kind).  She will flow from one topic to a seemingly completely unrelated topic onto yet another completely different one without ever slowing down or even breathing.  Just when you have given up hope, however, she somehow ties it all together in a way that may be at first confusing, but once translated is brilliant and beautiful and hilarious.  Some people (such as her mom and friend Sara) are able to immediately follow along, nodding in agreement or laughing hysterically while I sit back completely befuddled until the light bulb finally comes on for me or someone will explain it to me in ways my linear mind can comprehend.  I've gotten much better at it and have learned to allow her to finish before claiming she doesn't make any sense.  It's difficult at times, but incredibly rewarding.  I'll leave with the perfect example.  I received two texts from KT today.  On the surface, I have absolutely no clue what she is talking about or why she chose to share them with me.  I know, however, that when she gets home they will tie together in some amazingly poetic thought process.  The texts were:

11:58 AM  - "I was shoving a stick up the ass of a mannequin"

and, one minute later, without a response from me,

11:59 AM - "I am thinking borscht for dinner..."

I can't wait to find out what the hell she is talking about.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

My Date with Adrian

Last Saturday was one of those rare nights where the stars align and clear the way for a night of revelry.  I worked that day, but the day turned out much shorter than I anticipated.  Audrey had plans for the night and KT had a party of her own to go to, clearing the way for me to be free to follow my own agenda.  Luckily for me, my friend Steve's band was playing their first live gig and (AND) it was Kielbasa Fest at Kramarczuk's, one of the greatest parties of the year.  Agenda set.  To add to my good fortune, my buddy Adrian was available and willing to join.

We decided right away that neither of us was interested in driving and being Al escaped the house and forced limousine duty a few months ago, our options were limited.  Our spouses - as kind, loving and patient as they may be - have limits and designated driving their progressively more obnoxious spouses from place to place was about as likely as "Dr." Marcus Bachmann liking boobies.  Plus, stupid traffic laws actually say that in order for a driver with a learner's permit to operate a vehicle, the adult in the car must be sober (it's true, I looked it up).  So Audrey was out of the question.  That left two options - bus or bike.  I love the bus - it's efficient, cheap and great for people watching.  The bus is, however, one of those things (like reading or drinking a liter of Jameson) that is best done alone.  Trying to hold a conversation with me on a bus is futile.  Even if you get past the roaring of the engine and my progressive deafness and I actually understand you, I'm too paranoid of other people listening in on the conversation.  This would not work with Adrian - there are few things Adrian enjoys more than talking (more on this later).  So, we decided to bike it like the urban middle-age man hipsters we are.

We took off from my place about 4:00.  Early, I realize, but as I had every intention of drinking until I was pretty and I can't trust myself to be awake past 8:30, I thought it wise to get an early start.  So, we hopped on and headed down Central, but not before the eternal mother KT forced us to have our picture taken.

Two items of interest in this picture:

1.  Yes, I'm wearing a helmet.  Partly because I know I will be biking home intoxicated later and partly because not wearing a helmet while biking is one of the three things that KT will NOT tolerate (farting in the shower and watching animals hunt each other on Planet Earth are the other two).  She is so strict on this rule that she still harasses Al about it almost daily and Audrey has given up bike riding entirely.  Also, Adrian is not wearing a helmet.  This is because Adrian is the type of person who drives motorcycles in triple-digit speeds.

2.  If you look closely, you will notice that Adrian has a considerable amount of sweat soaking through his shirt under his right breast already.  This is because he has already rode his bike all the way from his house to mine, which is exactly 1.4 miles, 1.2 of which are downhill.  I won't pretend that I wouldn't have also been this sweaty, but it's always fun for the sweaty guy to point out other people who sweat profusely (shout-out to Steve S. and Todd A.)

So, anyways, we head down Central which is a nice easy ride, the majority of it downhill (we do, after all, live in Columbia HEIGHTS).  After 15 or 20 minutes, we near Kramarczuk's and spy a menacing "Oktoberfest Beer Tasting" sign at Surdyk's, right across the street.  They had me at Oktoberfest.  We step inside and make it our personal mission to sample each of the 30-some beers, as well as all of the gins, whiskeys and tequilas.  We do, however, draw the line at the wine sampling, because what are we, sissies?  (side note: the beer experts who pour samples at Surdyk's are remarkable.  Who knew that every beer expert was young, perky and looked amazing in a dirndl, miniskirt and thigh highs?  Amazing!)  So, after about an hour of this, during which Adrian was careful to chat up anyone within a six foot radius (remember, he likes to talk - still more on this to come), we have our first inklings of a buzz.  It feels nice, our sweat-drenched shirts have almost dried, and the world is our oyster.  Off to Kielbasa fest.

There aren't a ton of people at Kielbasa Fest, but it's early and the beer line is short.  We pay our $10 cover charge, which includes a beer and a pretty cool mug as well.  Before long we have filled and emptied our mugs a few times while watching some Ukranian folk dancing and stuffing down some obnoxious sized kielbasas.  About this time, Adrian - not shy to begin with - starts to become extremely out-going.  Anyone within earshot who makes the mistake of glancing in our direction is fair game and quickly has either found a new best friend or tells tales of the crazy guy at Kielbasa Fest.  I, on the other hand, am slightly more reserved to put it mildly.  I don't like talking in general and doing so to complete strangers is about as much fun for me as constipation.  At one point, after Adrian had made about 14 new Facebook friends (I may be exaggerating, but not by much), he actually said to me "Every time I chat someone up you take at least three steps away from me, don't you?"  I denied it at the time, but only because I don't like it when Adrian is right.  Luckily (or perhaps unfortunately) alcohol is the great equalizer and soon I was joining Adrian in his quest to be on a first name basis with everyone under the tent.  

About the time of our sixth or seventh beer, I again noticed a giant sweat stain covering Adrian's shirt.  This was confusing as we hadn't been on our bikes in a few hours and although it was unseasonably warm, it wasn't soak-through-your-shirt hot.  I was about to ask him if he was alright, but soon solved the puzzle.  I watched as Adrian lifted his mug to take a drink and proceeded to pour the majority of the swallow onto his shirt.  Instead of recoiling or becoming embarrassed (we were, after all, talking with his newest Facebook friends), he didn't notice it at all.  He could not have possibly gotten more than a few drops of beer into his actual mouth, but never broke his continual conversational stream.  Me, being the assholic opportunist that I am, couldn't let this pass without trying to shame Adrian.  I pointed out his now soaked shirt, made some sort of brilliant snarky comment (I don't actually remember what I said but I'm sure it was brilliant.  Drink much?  Saving that for later?  You get the point...), and expected him to be shamed into submission.  Instead, without ever stopping - or even pausing - his conversation with whomever he had just met, this happened:

Three items of interest in this picture:

1.  Notice the psychotic look in his eye.  This wasn't a trick of the camera.  This is how he looked from about 7:30 on.

2.  I'm fairly certain that had I been standing behind Adrian, 3.5 inches of ass crack would have been visible.

3.  Good golly he is a hairy motherfucker.

As is probably apparent, Adrian whipped off his shirt in the midst of Kielbasa Fest and changed into his newly purchased souvenir.  Awesome.  I decided then it was probably time for us to move on.  Instead, we stayed for a few more beers, made several more bestest friends and finally realized that it was time to go to ensure we didn't miss the band.

We jumped back on our bikes and headed downtown - not nearly as daunting as it may sound as, despite our altered condition, Minneapolis is so damn bike friendly now (I'm not complaining) that it is easier to bike than drive or probably even walk).  We ended up arriving a few minutes early and decided it was probably best that we get some food and some water (gasp!) into us before we began drinking more.  We walked a few blocks to a pizza joint - uneventful except for Adrian intertwining himself with a bachelorette party, stumbling and nearly falling down a couple of times and saying "I'm loaded!" no less than 17 times - had a few slices and some much needed non-alcoholic beverages and were on our way to the Entry.

I've only been to the 7th Street Entry a few times since the smoking ban was enacted (see: Middle Age Man Syndrome) and although I am immensely thankful for the ban, I hardly recognize the place when I can see from one end of the room to the other.  My memories of the Entry are indelibly infused with a giant, thick smoke screen which is awesome at the time but makes your hangover about eight times worse.  Regardless, the music was great - Steve's band was incredibly poised and tight for their first live performance - the crowd was wonderful and full of friends and we had a great time.  I also had several more beers.  Adrian fell in love with his camera and became too busy to drink beer, instead taking extreme close-ups of just about everyone in the place.  It was probably for the best, considering we had a long and very uphill bike ride home in front of us.  We stayed through Steve's band and most of the next act before saying our goodbyes and leaving to pedal for home.

We stepped outside to the sight of about 70 police cars, lights flashing, and all the roads blocked off.  We didn't, however, see anything which might of caused this show of force.  After asking a few questions, we were informed that we were in the midst of a riot, which was baffling as we didn't see anyone but a few bar patrons (who seemed to be doing far more watching than rioting) and police officers.  We walked over to our bikes about half a block away and chatted with others wondering what was going on.  I was "feeling no pain" by this point and was having a pretty monumental struggle with my bike lock.  Consequently, I was looking down for a few minutes when I heard Adrian simply say "Whoa!".  I looked up to see a swarm of people rushing towards us.  We were soon in the middle of a giant mob of mostly teenagers moving down the street in a hurry.  They weren't rioting - most were either crying, making panicked phone calls or just looking really frightened.  After the crowd rushed past us, we saw several police on horseback riding behind them shouting "Keep moving!  You can't stay here!  Nobody is allowed on the streets!"  Coincidentally, Adrian and I happened to be on the street.  One of the cops stopped his horse directly in front of us.  I was expecting to be chastised for being on the street and was preparing my "I'm just trying to unlock our bikes" excuse while muttering "you're drunk, don't be an asshole" over and over to myself.  Instead, the cop looked down at us from his steed and said "Do you guys need a safe way out of here?".  I was rendered speechless.  Adrian, on the other hand, has never been rendered speechless.  He roared with laughter and said, "Do we need a safe way out of here?  From what?"  He then stopped the next officer, asked him the name of his horse (Wilbur, which was the funniest thing Adrian had ever heard), patted the horse on the rear a few times and we were off.

The ride home was fairly uneventful - apart from stopping after several blocks and remembering that I had both of our bike lights tucked safely in my backpack rather than on our actual bikes - and I was home just before my self imposed curfew of midnight.  Exhausted, I showered and went to bed, sleeping straight through 'til 5:45 Sunday morning. Sunday, I rewarded myself by staying awake for most of the first three quarters of the Vikings game.  To top it off, I may repeat the revelry this Saturday as rumor has it there is a killer double bill at the Cause Spirits and Sound Bar.  Who says middle-age men don't know how to party?  See you there.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

I'll Take Potpourri for $200 Please

1.  I have now been a part of no less than four truck breakdowns at new job, including a depot record two in one day on Monday.  I'm starting to get a reputation.  Number one I've talked about previously.  Number two was harmless (apart from a tongue lashing from our one-toothed mechanic who sounds like the crazy cat lady from the Simpsons when he gets agitated).  The truck didn't exhibit any signs of malfunction until I pulled into the garage at the end of my shift.  At that point it started smoking furiously and smelling like burning flesh.  I still don't know what was wrong with it (see mechanic above), but I know he wasn't happy with me and the truck was out of commission for a week or so.  Monday's episodes I can't be blamed for as I wasn't even driving, just riding along.  I won't bore with the details, but the end results were unloading one truck and loading another on the shoulder of a freeway at 5:00AM (breakdown #1) and an hour-long ride from St. Croix Falls, Wisconsin, to New Hope in the backseat of a tow truck (I didn't realize they had backseats either, but am thankful they do as I wasn't interested in riding three across the whole way back) which gave me an awful kink in my neck from the awkward position I was forced to take my nap in.  So, to sum up, I have killed or been an accomplice in the killing of four different trucks already.  I have been acquitted once from insufficient evidence, allowed to walk once from a hung jury, and escaped twice as my partner refused to testify against me.  I am the Jeffrey Dahmer of high-caloric delivery trucks.

2.  Speaking of the new job, a combination of that and the grueling, ultra-competitve Schlitz Sporting Club have left me with a nasty case of late 1970's pre-teen boy legs.  In other words, before video games and cable became so incredibly awesome that sheer boredom forced you outside and, invariably, into physical activities.  Witness:

Photo one is, I believe, proof that my skin has the toughness of wet toliet paper.  Not the double strength Charmin that those creepy cartoon bears always have stuck to their ass in the commericials but the kind of toliet paper you find if you have ever been unfortunate enough to have to take a shit at Walmart or the Metrodome.  This injury occurred playing volleyball with the Schlitz Sporting Club last Sunday.  Understandble, perhaps, except for we played volleyball on the kind of lush sand you see in travel brochures for exotic beaches in places you have never heard of.  It was so soft you could make matresses from it.  How I managed to savagely tear up my knee in it is beyond comprehension.  It's akin to suffering a concussion in a pillow fight with a toddler.

Photo two is the aftermath of a savage attack I suffered from a fully-loaded bread rack.  Rushing to finish my day last Saturday and begin my sorry excuse for a weekend, I was pushing a fully-loaded rack up a ramp at a faster than recommended speed (yes, bread racks have speed limits).  One small stone in my path began the slapstick hilarity.  A wheel hit the stone just perfectly, causing the rack to lurch violently forward and begin tipping over.  Determined not to let this happen, I reacted quickly, pulling back on the rack with everything I had.  Unfortunately, in my split-second reaction, I failed to take into account that I would also have gravity in my favor (I was pushing uphill).  The result was pretty obvious.  Next thing I knew I was laying on my back in the Cub parking lot, buried in 108 loaves of white, wheat and pumpernickel bread.  My extreme shame and embarrassment caused me to jump up quickly (I tried to do that!), reload the cart and race into the store.  Only after a few minutes of wondering why I was getting horrified stares from suburban tennis moms did I realize my leg was gushing blood. 

3.  I have been offered (and accepted) a temporary contract writing reviews of various places/events around Mpls.  I found the position on Craigslist, which made me a bit jittery as 97% of Craigslist ads result in anal rape or worse, as anyone who watches as much Lifetime Television or the Hallmark Channel as I do can attest.  However, it was with a site I had heard of before and follow up emails with them have been reassuring.  The interesting part is the ad said they were looking for "young, hip, social butterflys" for the gig.  Without question, these are the first three descriptive terms I would use for myself if asked.  Or perhaps the last three.  Either way, I sent them a link to my blog and answered a few sample questions and was offered the gig.  The only catch is they want the reviews to be short (ala Twitter format).  As is agonizingly obvious to anyone who has read this far, being short and concise isn't easy for me.  I get far too much egotistical enjoyment from my own narrative and tend to go on and on (and on).  So, it may be a bit of a challenge.  Regardless, I'm looking forward to it.  My friend Carrie (who has done online reviews previously) summed it up best when I turned to her for advice:  "Writing for money is entirely different than writing for yourself.  Think of it as having sex with an old woman.  Your dick knows what it is doing, but it isn't necessarily enjoying itself."  Brilliant.

4.  I realized sometime this week that I have worn long pants exactly twice since May 19th.  Once was for a wedding.  The other was for a wake.  I don't know whether to be proud or embarrassed of this.

5.  Finally, story time.  Or, more accurately, a cautionary tale about the perils of shopping severely hungover while suffering from middle-aged dementia.

I have a good friend - for sake of anonymity, let's call him Moe Bepple - who quite often is inviting me for cocktails.  I like Moe, and I love cocktails, but 98% of the time I decline.  Sometimes it is for legitimate excuses (other engagements, responsibilities, etc.), but sometimes it is because I am simply afraid.  Moe is 30 years old and, like most people ten years younger than I, is able to consume far more alcohol far more frequently than I.  When I do agree to meet up with Moe, it always follows the same pattern:  He will buy the first round, which we will drink down and I will buy the second.  Then it's his turn, then mine, etc.  It's a pretty simple ABAB pattern that you learn in kindergarten.  However, I think Moe may have been absent the day they taught this lesson.  Sometime around the third repitition, he always seems to fuck it up by introducing "C" into the equation.  In this example, "C" = undistinguishable potent shots.  So, now our simple ABAB pattern has evolved into something that looks like this: ABAB(A*C).  Confused yet?  If not, hang on.  After Moe introduces "C" into the equation, I will try to regain balance (literally and figuratively) by simply providing my B. (ABAB(A*C)B).  Moe, however, will not be denied.  Before my B has more than a few sips gone, A rears it's ugly head again, with it's now permanent (even uglier-headed) attachment C.  Pretty soon, B is removed from the equation altogether and we end up with something like this:  ABAB(A*C)(1/2B)(A*C)C(A*C)AA(A*C)C.  The end result is never pretty.  I don't want to give the impression that it's not fun - it always is, but it usually takes me about a week to recover.

Anyhoo, back to the story.  A couple of weeks ago, Moe asked if KT and I would be interested in meeting he and his wife for a drink somewhere before they went to a Twins game.  Perfect.  It was on a Saturday, meaning I had to work and couldn't meet before 4:00 or so.  Plus, the Twins started at 6:00.  How much damage could be done in two hours?  Needless to say, I severely underestimated Moe and his damned complex formulas.  Seven hours and two unused Twins tickets later I somehow ended up at home in bed passed out cold.  KT was slightly better off than I (apparently being a female - or perhaps just being sensible - allows you to refuse to accept C into your equation), but feeling no pain all the same.

Sunday morning arrived with all the well-deserved head and stomach issues one might expect.  Fortunately, we didn't have a huge list of things we needed to accomplish.  A quick simple trip to Menards for a pair of gloves to protects my hands from razor-sharp loaves of bread was all that was on our agenda.  Piece of cake.  Several Excedrin and a few pots of coffee and we were on our way at the break of noon.

Anyone who knows and loves KT dearly is already aware of the following two facts, but for all others, a brief tutorial:

1.  KT loves Menards.  Everything and anything about it.  This is in direct contrast to my feelings about Menards.

2.  KT does not, nor has she ever, allowed public spaces or the presence of others (strangers or friends/family) discourage her from talking about, laughing about or (especially) expelling gas.  Where most others feel a sense of embarrassment or shame, KT feels nothing.  While most times this results is nothing more sinister than exceptionally loud belching in the middle of a store, it can occassionally take a nastier turn.

Because of my severe hangover, I didn't have the energy to gripe and moan and be the crybaby I typically am at Menards and I allowed KT to meander the aisles aimlessly with only token resistance.  After suffering through bathroom fixtures, power tools and doors we arrived at the "seasonal" section which is always her favorite.  The seasonal section in late summer was filled with close out patio furniture and other summery items they were trying to dump off to make room for the Halloween crap they would be displaying soon.  I picked a comfortable looking chair in the corner and popped a squat knowing it would be several minutes before KT was thoroughly satisfied she had sat on every available chair/loveseat/swing possible.  Watching her from my perch, however, I noticed her with a rather disturbing look on her face, jumping from seat to seat at a pace much quicker than normal.  I knew immediately what was going on and wasn't surprised in the least when she waddled (yes waddled) over and said "we should probably get out of here".  You see, as comfortable as KT is with farting in public, she is equally - if not more - comfortable quickly vacating the scene of the crime and pinning the deed on some poor innocent sucker who just happens to be wandering by.

Happy for the excuse to bail, I jump up and head for the registers careful to stay upwind of KT.  We head to an open lane, watch the high-school age girl ring up one pair of gloves and a box of Gobstoppers, and then stare at each other uncomfortably while the cashier repeats the amount we owe a few times.  We both reailized immediately that we hadn't brought any form of payment along but spent a few moments patting all of our pockets anyways, not wanting be the one to break the news that we were unable to pay.  Finally I caved, saying "sorry, just realized I forgot my wallet and don't have any money on me".  KT, always the polite one (public flatulence aside), chimed in "we'll come back, we promise!".  I'm not sure if the cashier felt pity or scorn, and I'm not sure which would be worse, but she just turned to the next people in line and explained that it would be just a bit as she needed a supervisor to come over and cancel our sale out.

That's not so bad, right?  Just about everyone has at one time or another forgotten their wallet or even dropped ass in a store.  It's not a big deal - we just cut our losses, laugh it off and head home for a much needed nap.  Yeah, well, not quite.  Sometime between leaving Menards and walking the 30 yards to our car, KT and I seemed to forget all the valuable lessons we just learned.  We didn't drive home.  Instead, we drove directly across the street to Target.  I still can't figure out how it is possible for not one, but two, people to completely forget within 30 seconds that they had no money along, but KT and I managed to do it.  We strolled into Target and began shopping anew.  Miraculously, however, I managed to recall our lack of payment option before we reached the register.  Sheepishly, we headed for the exits.  About 100 feet from the door, however, KT violently grabbed my arm, digging her nails deep into my flesh.  Before I could react she begain wailing as if she were in labor.  Again, KT and I have been together a while, so I knew exactly what was going on.  She had to poop.  Along with a lack of filter on appropriate times/places to expel gas, KT seems to lack the warning signs others get when it's time to take a deuce.  It seems to strike her suddenly, violently and without warning or mercy.  A nasty hangover only makes it worse.  So, to compound my misery, I walked out of Target with KT clinging to my elbow, wincing and loudly proclaiming "It's coming!  It's coming! I have to pooooooooooop!" while all the normal Sunday shoppers watched us not sure whether to call the police, ambulance or psych ward.  

We left Target and headed for home.  After a nap, more Excedrin and KT taking care of her intestinal issues, we tried one last time.  Too embarrassed to go back to either of the other places, I was desperate enough to tap Walmart.  The trip went off without a hitch and after three stores and six hours I had my work gloves (and my Gobstoppers).  It's ironic that Walmart was our success story as our other exploits would have been par for the course there and nobody would have even noticed.  Three lessons were learned from the experience:

1.  Never, under any circumstances, trust Moe Bepple when he wants to have a "couple" beers
2.  Never, under any circumstances, go in public with KT after a night of drinking unless she has successfully expunged all her demons
3.  Despite my protestations to the contrary, we are indeed "Walmart people"

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Middle Age Man Syndrome - The Single Life

KT and Audrey went to Bismarck on Thursday for a long weekend. With Al out of the house now, this meant four beautiful, glorious days of the bachelor life. No taxi duty, the remotes are mine, no schedules to vibe with. Typically, this would mean four days of bar hopping, going to bands, eating shitty food and being a general jackass. I had visions of bike rides, Pizza Luce Block Party and whatever else I could cram around my work schedule. Below is a chronology of how my time went:


4:00PM - Got home from work, but not before picking up two (2!) snack size bags of Old Dutch Dill Pickle potato chips (best chip ever unless they start making the ketchup chips again) and a two liter or (diet) 7-up. Let the party begin. Poured myself a whiskey/7, cracked open a bag of chips and grabbed the remote. Free to watch whatever I chose, I dove into House Hunters International on HGTV. If that isn't evidence enough to turn in my man card, consider this - I had several episodes backlogged that I had DVR'd. After three episodes, realized I had a terrible stomach ache. Played a game of FIFA while waiting for my stomach to settle so I could have another drink.

6:30PM - Stomach still not settled, I took a shower, swigged some Pepto and laid down to read.

7:15PM - Woke up when iPad I was reading my book on slipped from my hands and smacked into my nose. Pain in nose made me temporarily forget that my stomach was a gurgling burbling mess. Decided to give up the fight and rest up for the hijinx I would partake in Friday. Apologized to the dog for being so boring, promised I would make it up to her tomorrow.


3:28AM - woke up, two minutes before my alarm went off. Came to the realization that for all my bravado about sleeping better alone, it simply isn't true. Paranoid about oversleeping my alarm, I woke at 11:13, 12:45, 1:23, 1:49 and 2:12, although I'm not sure if the 1:49 time counts because I don't know if I actually fell back asleep. I am confident of the accuracy of these times as I picked up my phone to check each time I woke, sure I had overslept.

4:15AM - Arrived at work to learn that because of various illnesses I would be working alone for the first time. No problem, I was confident I was ready. A quick shift at work and I would be home early afternoon to begin the bachelor life in earnest.

4:30AM - Was chastised by crabby old lady manager at my first stop for moving too slowly. I apologized and explained I was new to the route and the job. She replied, "I'm too busy to sit around waiting for you". Considered mentioning that there was nobody else in the store (a Holiday) and she had been standing glassy-eyed behind the counter, not moving in the slightest, the entire time I had been there. Decided against it.

4:45PM - Neglected to consider the simple mathematical formula that two people work faster than one. Was disappointed to just be leaving work at a time I expected to be at a Happy Hour somewhere. Raced home, showered, and went to feed the dog before beginning my evening. Realized we were out of dog food. Cursed, several times, and headed to Walmart. Had any and all remaining energy sapped from me by the Walmart black hole.

6:30PM - Thought about having a drink, remembered stomachache of previous night and decided against it. Ate a salad and a turkey sandwich while watching Hallo Bundesliga. Became enraged when I realized Al had stolen my second bag of Dill Pickle chips when he was home earlier to let the dog out. Sent him a menacing threatening text. His reply (he blamed a friend) 20 minutes later woke me up. Apologized to the dog again and went to bed knowing that at least Saturday was a short work day and I could bike down to the Pizza Luce Block Party when I got home.


3:27 - Up three minutes before alarm time today after another horrible night of (not) sleep. Asked Old Lady Maggie to go out and take a leak before I left. She took one step outside, realized it was raining and hightailed back inside to bed. I briefly considered doing the same before the Lutheran guilt made me realize that was impossible.

12:30PM - One mile away from my last stop of the day, ecstatic that I'm going to be home by 1:30. Twinkie wagon begins smoking furiously from under the hood. Soon entire interior of truck is filled with so much smoke that I can't see. Freak out a bit because I think Twinkies may be highly combustible. Pull into a parking lot and call dispatch who connects me to a mechanic. Mechanic tells me to pop the hood and tell him what I see. This is similar to asking KT to diagram the triangle offense. After several moments I notice a belt broken which has somehow destroyed the alternator (I still don't quite get it). Mechanic tells me the truck is done, he will call a wrecker and call me back.

1:30PM - Mechanic calls me back and tells me a tow truck will be there "within an hour".

3:45PM - Tow truck arrives. Driver fits every stereotype imaginable (cut off sleeves, bad tattoos, giant wad of tobacco, answers my "How's it going?" greeting with "It's goin'"). We proceed to ride the entire 45 minute trip back to the depot without saying another word (I'm actually quite grateful for this). He does, however, pick up his clipboard and use it to violently scratch his back about every five minutes.

5:30PM - Exhausted, but finally home, I decide to blow off the block party even though my twitter feed is filled with people saying it's the greatest thing ever. Full of pity, I buy a twelve pack and some chicken wings and decide to get drunk and watch the Vikings.

7:00PM - Kick-off, I'm well into my second beer, my belly is full and I'm feeling pretty upbeat.

7:45PM - I wake up. Dazed, but not beaten, I figure the nap will give me the kick of energy I need to stay up late and get my buzz on. I get up, crack open third beer and rewind the game to where I figure I must of drifted off.

8:30PM - I wake up. Third beer is sitting on the end table, untouched. I give it up and decide to go to bed and read.

9:00PM - iPad falls backward this time, waking me as it slaps against my stomach. I call it a night and decide to sleep in tomorrow for my day off.


5:00AM - Wide awake. I refuse to give in, however, and decide I won't get out of bed until 8:00

5:30AM - Give up. Head to Cub for a newspaper and orange juice. Inwardly throw a tantrum because it's too early to get the NY Times Sunday paper and I have to settle for the Strib.

6:00AM - Seriously consider going out to mow the lawn before deciding against it. Do some laundry and a quick cleaning of the house instead. Decide to vacuum the shag carpeting in the kitchen.

6:15AM - Realize we don't have shag carpeting in the kitchen but that the dog seems to be molting.

8:00AM - House tidied, breakfast made and eaten, I decide to start on the lawn so that I'll have the rest of the day to play. Realize I have to pick up dog crap first since I don't have a child at home to pawn it off on. Am amazed by the quantity my dog can shit in one weeks time and wonder if it is due to a bionic digestive track or a slightly less than stellar job performance that my child may have done when I asked him/her (her) to do it last.

8:30AM - determine the lawn is still too wet to mow, go inside to play a game of FIFA. Realize that somehow a bee has made it's way inside my shirt. Remember vow to never kill bees because I read somewhere that they are disappearing and we will all die if they go away. Try to coax bee out of my shirt and am rewarded with a sting to my stomach.

11:00AM - Audibly cuss at the FIFA game (yes, I had been playing for over two hours) for not calling a trip in the penalty box in the 90th minute of a nil-nil game. Realize it is the first time I have exercised my vocal cords in 20 hours. Start talking to the dog to make sure I remember how.

12:00PM - Mow the lawn. Applaud myself for not running over any of the hundreds of toads that have decided to breed in our backyard this summer. Try to mow the front yard in a cool looking diamond pattern. Realize I was never very good at art or geometry. Front yard ends up looking like a three year olds self-given haircut.

2:00PM - Have a beer to celebrate finishing my chores and to kick start the free-wheeling bachelor day ahead.

3:30PM - Wake up. Throw in the towel and decide to watch a Netflix stream. Throw a tantrum and cancel Netflix subscription when stream won't work. Watch DVR'd match between Bayer Leverkusen and Werder Bremen instead. Realize this has been the highlight of my single guy weekend.

6:00PM - Shower. Eat a cheese tortilla. Drink a beer and write this blog. Realize I really miss having KT and the kids around.

Now - Time to go to bed and read. Remember to wear protective padding in anticipation of inevitable iPad collapse.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

How to be a Swedish Crime Solver

I'm plowing through a lot of Swedish crime novels lately.  I tell myself it's because KT has asked me to help her write reviews for, but it's more out of a guilty perversion than anything.  I've come to realize that there are certain requirements to be an exemplary murder solver in Sweden.

1.  You must have an intense dislike for chain of command.  You must work best alone without a nosy son-of-a-bitch bureaucrat mucking things up with things like protocol and laws.  You must have an intensely antagonistic relationship with your direct report and be threatened with dismissal or criminal charges for your cavalier attitude.

2.  You must have a deep-lying psychological trauma that you live with daily but refuse to seek the help of a psychiatrist for even though everyone tells you to.  It will most likely involve the death of your parents or children and your sense of guilt over how they died, even though IT'S NOT YOUR FAULT!  There will be an intelligent, incredibly beautiful psychiatrist who tries to figure you out and help you, but you must resist.  You will have a flirtatious relationship with her and you may quite possibly have sex with her.  The murder you are solving must somehow conjure up your personal demons and - consciously or not - you must believe that solving this murder will give you the inner peace you are so desperately lacking.

3.  Younger, incredibly beautiful, smart, charming women must find you irresistible.  You should have sex with several of them, but never commit because you are horrible at love and have many past experiences to prove it.  It's always your fault, and you are well aware that you are horrible, married to your job and can't be trusted.  None of these qualities should prevent you from having sex with these incredibly hot women.  After all, they are throwing themselves at you.

4.  You should have a friend from your police academy days you have a mutual respect for but haven't talked to since your days at the academy.  This friend will be able to provide you invaluable help to solve the murder.  Seriously, as soon as the murder occurs, call this person!  There is no reason to wait until halfway through the book.  Calling him/her immediately will help you solve this murder much sooner.  If you don't have such a friend, a retired detective who was your mentor will suffice.

5.  You must follow a hunch at least once and have it go horribly, horribly wrong.  Either someone must be injured (but never killed) or the police, and your asshole boss (see number one), must be publicly embarrassed and ridiculed in the press.  And, speaking of the press, you must have an awful relationship with them (unless, of course, you are an investigative reporter instead of a cop).  The massive screw-up should have you removed from the case/story, whereupon you should resign or threaten to resign to solve the case on your own.

6.  You must capture the killer alone, without help, and incur great physical harm while doing so.  You must overcome seemingy insurmountable odds to capture the killer.  The killer may or may not die - either is fine.  You should call for back up, but there must be circumstances that require you to confront the killer alone before help gets there.

7.  All of the above must be accomplished in no less than 400 pages.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Unemployment Chronicles Part Eleven - The Employment Chronicles Part One

As hinted at earlier, I am once again in the world of the gainfully employed.  My official title is Route Sales Driver for Interstate Brands Corporation.  Put more simply I am selling/delivering Hostess brands.  Wingin' the Wonder Wagon.  Trippin' on the Twinkie Truck.  Or, perhaps most accurately, Delivering the Diabetes.  It is really one of those strange karma deals that got me here.  The day my position was eliminated at my old gig and I was at the height of my misery - down with people, down with companies, down with just about everything - KT and I were heading to the grocery store when I saw a bread truck and said, "Maybe I should just get a bread route".  It was a tongue-in-cheek statement, one which I didn't even recall saying until KT reminded me when I was called for an interview.  Being much more in-tune with the universe than I, she immediately said, "you put it out there and thus it became" (I'm kinda like Jesus in that way).  Regardless of whether you believe in karma or not, however, the job was one of several (over 50) that I applied for and the only job I received so much as a call back on.  So, long story short, I interviewed, did a "ride along", interviewed again, went pee in a cup and started on Monday.  Some early impressions:

The Good

- I was unemployed for exactly 59 days, or just over eight weeks.  According to the NY Times (and they know everything) the average length of unemployment is 37.1 weeks (9 months!).  So, I feel pretty good about getting back in the game after a short two month summer vacation.  Had I been unemployed for nine months I would have surely reached Charlie Manson levels of lunacy.  Fortunately, eight weeks only brought me to Charlie Sheen levels.

- In 60 days I will officially be a motha fuckin' Teamster.  I just like saying that.  I'm fully aware that unions can be as polarizing as religion and politics, but I'm ecstatic to be joining one.  I grew up in a union household and my parents still rave about the benefits they received because my dad was part of the UAW.  Plus the Teamsters just held their annual convention in Las Vegas (the town dirty Teamsters' money allegdy built) and their president is Jim Hoffa - yes Hoffa.  I will be dilegently searching for books on Teamster history now.

-  Speaking of books, I can still read them.  When I get home from this job, the job ends.  I don't have to think about it until I arrive the next morning.  I asked the guy I am training with if he ever stresses about his job when he goes home and he looked at me as if I asked him if he enjoyed gang bangs.  Books, movies, running, Schlitz Sports Club, this blog - all items I didn't have time to do previous to losing my job - I will be able to continue to do.  I won't be continually haraunged at all hours on all days via emails/phone calls.  Hell, I don't even have an email address with this gig.  I operate a tiny hand held "computer" with only a number pad and Enter button.  That's about as analog as you can get these days - and it's awesome.

-  I start work at 4:30 each morning.  No, this wasn't accidentally placed in The Good.  I love starting work this early for a couple of reasons.  First and foremost, it means getting home early.  On Monday I was home at 1:00.  Yesterday I was home at 2:30.  Plus, I haven't slept past 6:30 in the morning in over 19 years ( old is Al?) so a couple of hours earlier isn't really an issue.  I'm at my productive best early in the morning and dawn - when everything is eerily quiet, serene and beautiful - has always been my favorite time of day.  I was apprehensive about a 9:00 bedtime, but as usual KT set me straight in her famously loving gentle way by saying, "you're always old man asleep on the couch by that time anyways, so what's the difference?".  Touché.

-  It's an active job.  It involves a lot of lifting, walking, climbing, pushing, pulling, etc.  I won't be sitting behind a desk with my eyes glazing over staring at a computer screen (at least until I get home).  I have yet to come across another bread guy who is obese.  It would be pretty hard to do with this job.

The Bad

- I no longer have a weekend.  Ironic, as unions' catchphrases are often "from the people that brought you the weekend".  My days off are Wednesday and Sunday.  This will take some getting used to and pretty much eliminates being able to go anywhere too far away for the weekend.  More devastating, however, will be the loss of Friday night Happy Hour, which is always a highlight of the week.  If you want to be one of those annoying bright-side people, however, I suppose you could look at it like this:  I'm never more than  three days away from a day off.

-  It's a D.O.T. job, which means random drug testing.  Before you snicker and make stoner jokes, I passed my test, and I will pass any tests they give me - I'm not worried about that.  It's just that I think random drug testing is incredibly invasive and stupid.  It's like randomly selecting people to stand trial for burglary or murder.  Having to prove your innocence even though there is no evidence or even suspicion of guilt bothers me.  I can understand why a driving job would require a pre-employment or a post-accident screen but random tests can bite me.  (Side note:  I once saw a sign on the front door of a Blockbuster that said "We drug test our employees for your safety".  Thank god for that.  Heaven forbid someone stoned suggest a movie.  You can only watch A Clockwork Orange so many times.)

-  Driving a bread route is, admittedly, not quite the job I had fantasized about when I first became unemployed.  However, since my repeated harassing emails to the Bundesliga, St. Pauli, Eurail, Sparta Rotterdam and the Swedish Allsvenskan have (so far) failed to convince them that they absolutely must immediately hire me to travel Europe on their dime and write English language content for them, it will have to suffice for now.  However, if they do finally realize that they can't live without me, I might still be open to considering it.  Don't tell Hostess.

The Unemployment Chronicles Part Ten - The End

So I got a job.  I started on Monday.  Thanks for playing along.

The end.

Friday, July 15, 2011

The Unemployment Chronicles Part Nine - Memory Lane

Yesterday I undertook the gargantuan task of finding my Social Security card.  Or, more accurately, I undertook the heroic effort of following KT from room to room as she searched for my Social Security card.  We gave up after about four hours of searching and decided I would just venture to the Social Security office today and get a new one (which I thought would be a blog worthy adventure of its own.  Turns out it wasn't - I was in and out of there in five minutes and saw nothing but pleasant and helpful people the whole time.  Damn their efficiency and professionalism!).  Although we failed to find my card, we stumbled across a box deep in the attic which contained some of my personal items dating from early childhood through college.  It contained some of what you would expect - High School graduation program, confirmation picture, basketball cards (including thirteen Sherman Douglas rookie cards - I must have figured he was going to be awesome), etc.  There were also a few more noteworthy items.  Here is an inventory:

 - An envelope labeled "Paul's Teeth".  It contains exactly what you would expect.  Why I have kept my teeth for 30+ years, I have no idea.  I have a small box in our bathroom full of my kid's teeth as well.  Do other people do this?  I'm a little worried.  I can see perhaps saving a child's first lost tooth as a keepsake, but all of them?  The teeth in the envelope I discovered yesterday have no sentimental value.  They weren't my first teeth lost.  They didn't even come out naturally.  I had a messed up set of choppers when I was younger.  Think British meth-addict.  The seven teeth in this envelope were pulled out because they were growing in weird places or at weird angles.  Or at least that's what the dentist said.  In retrospect, he may have just been a sadist.

-  A white rabbit fur.  I don't know how or why I got this, but I remember my brother had one as well (his was gray).  It sat on the nightstand next to my bed and I kept my alarm clock on it.  The immediate question that comes to mind is who the hell manufactures rabbit skins?  Is there a sick farmer somewhere who raises rabbits simply to skin them and sell their hides to pre-pubescent children?  And if there is such a person, are they automatically on the "person of interest" list in all missing persons cases?  I would ok with throwing this away, but the fact that KT finds it so revolting that I can threaten her with it (really KT, I think this would look nice next to my side of the bed) means I have to keep it.

- A giant conch shell.  This didn't come from a memorable childhood trip to the ocean.  It came from a garage sale.  I think I paid 25 cents for it.  It also sat on the rabbit skin next to my alarm clock.  I have absolutely no idea why I have kept this and moved it from house to house no less than seven times.  I would dispose of it but I'm not sure if it is garbage or recycling.  Google couldn't help me on this.

- One Coca-Cola can and one Coca-Cola bottle.  When "new" Coke came out in 1985, I hoarded a bottle and can of classic formula, convinced they would be worth millions some day.  When Coke reverted back to their original formula less than a year later my plan was shot to hell.  I threw away the can yesterday because of leaking/evaportation but I'm hanging on to the bottle.

- An envelope containing corresondence from my first year of college at Gustavus.  This was back in the day when people actually wrote letters using pen and paper and stamps.  Here is a sample from one of my favorites from a high school friend who shall remain nameless:

Paul - Let me start out with a disclaimer of sorts:  I am extremely intoxicated from the hallucinatory effects of the drug THC, normally referred to as "marijuana".  In other words I'm Baked (note Capital "B").  So if the writing seems to wander a bit, don't surprised (sic); it should be good entertainment at least.

Needless to say, it was good entertainment.  Seven handwritten pages, single spaced, covering topics ranging from the Kansas City Royals to a dick down the hall that owed him $14 dollars.  At one point, without warning or explanation, the language switches to Russian and continues that way for half a page before switching back to English mid-sentence.  God I miss college.

The other favorite was this postcard my brother sent me from Chicago:

It reminds me of the picture Audrey found in an old coloring book at a friend's cabin last year:

The caption reads "Ape is bringing a big bunch of bananas."  Ape also seems to be bringing something else rather large.  KT and I were bursting with pride that Audrey took the time to color it, tear it out and bring it home for us.  Yes, that is hanging on our fridge.

- A jar full of pieces from the backboard my friend Eric shattered in High School during practice one day.  It was the most awesome day of practice ever.  Back when I went to high school, hardly anybody could dunk.  We had one person on our team that could throw it down on a somewhat regular basis, but only in practice, never in a game.  That didn't stop everyone from trying, however.  The rims and backboards took a beating everyday when every player who could grab the rim (I wasn't in this group) would spend at least 30 minutes attempting to dunk.  They would inevitably miss badly, but hang on the rim for a while for the cool factor anyways.  Eric apparently held too long one time because before anyone knew what was happening he was laying on the ground with thousands of small pieces of glass raining down on top of him.  We all froze, convinced he was dead.  I can literally remember watching him lay on the ground as his face turned from the palest ghotly white to a bright shining red as he realized what he had done.  Luckily, he escaped with only a few minor scrapes.  It goes without saying that he was a celebrity for a few days.  Side note - Eric was also the guy that somehow broke a window and nearly fell out from the 7th floor of our hotel on a 9th grade band trip.  Somebody shot him with a squirt gun, he backed up and went right through the window, just catching himself on the frame before he tumbled out.  He must have developed a taste for the adrenaline as he is both a cop and fireman now.

- An envelope containing some of my "poetry" from high-school and college.  Good Lord am I a colossal douche.  I will not subject myself (or you) to an entire entry, but let me just give you a small sample:

Morning brings in the setting sun
And you sink deeper into its grips
Recovery is the ultimate setback
It is a mere illusion of the impending doom
You can be born only once
Although death is a reoccuring procedure

I was emo before it was cool to be emo.  Except I wore button-fly 501s (rolled up of course), powder jackets and Swatch watches (I found one of these in the box as well!) instead of trench coats and black eyeliner.  As tempted as I was to destroy all evidence my "dark period" and the poems that flowed out during this time, I shoved them back in the box before pushing it back into the deep nether-regions of the attic.  Someday, when my grandkids or great-grandkids discover them, it will explain a lot.