Monday, June 27, 2011

Everyone Loves a Parade

This past weekend I had the pleasure of attending two parades - the Columbia Heights Jamboree parade and the Minneapolis Pride Parade.  They were a study in contrasts to say the least.  A review:

Best Parade Entry:  For the Heights Parade, this is a tie between the Crestview Senior Citizens Home bus and the Hilltop float.  The Crestview bus is in the parade every year and is filled with residents.  Those sitting towards the front of the bus have their windows open, are waving, smiling and seem to be having a great time.  Every year, however, there are four or five residents sitting in the back of the bus who are barely visible through the tinted windows.  These residents look downright angry, as if they were told this was the bus they were to get on for the weekly trip to Cub for Braunschweiger, goddammit, and they don't have time for this shit and Murder She Wrote/Matlock/Perry Mason begins in an hour.  I always empathize with these folks, probably because I am glimpsing my own future.  The City of Hilltop float is another yearly participant and consists of an old pickup towing a flatbed trailer.  On the trailer there is a sign which simply says "Hilltop", created with do-it-yourself stencils from the Walmart craft section and three inflatable stick figures flapping in the wind.  That's it.  No candy hand outs, no waving royalty or mayors, no flare of any kind.  It's brilliant in it's simplicity.

The Pride Parade award for best participant would have go to the gentleman who was walking completely alone (he was between a church group and the DFL party but both groups were trying to create as much distance as possible from him).  He carried no sign or banner signifying which organization he was representing.  He was somewhere in the 45-50 age range, about 80lbs. overweight (most of which he carried in his midsection), and as hairy as a shag carpet.  Oh, and his outfit consisted of a pair of black loafers and a pair of extremely threadbare tightie-whities.  Obviously, he was a huge hit with the crowd.  Whenever the cheering got loud enough - which was quite often - he would stop, put his hands on his knees, thrust his ass as far in the air as he could and shake that money maker.  Given the heavy usage of his undies, it didn't leave much to the imagination.  KT's comment was, "it's nothing I haven't seen before, but still, gross."  Given I haven't worn tightie-whities since the fourth grade and am hairless as a newborn, I am beginning to wonder a bit about her social life.

Winner:  I have to give this one to the Pride Parade, although I think the entrant may have just crashed the parade and thus shouldn't be eligible.

Best Giveaways:  The Heights parade was the usual fare of Dum-Dums, root beer barrels, bubble gum, and literature telling us how some dude named Jesus is super hip and we should get to know him or how if we don't vote for this senator/council member/representative our buildings will crumble and our children will end up addicted to meth.  My favorite was probably the carload of teenagers that drove down the route just before they closed the road throwing lifesavers out the window with a velocity geared more towards leaving a bruise than supplying a sugar rush.

The Pride Parade also had it's share of sugary items (including Fruity Cheerios - bravo, General Mills, bravo), but also stepped up the game a bit, throwing out items such as Jägermeister t-shirts.  There was a lot more preachy literature, but I suppose that is to be expected at an event such as the Pride Parade.  The award, however, goes to the organization that was handing out enema kits.  Awesome.  Fill yourself up with sugary garbage and then clean yourself right out.

Winner:  Pretty hard to beat a free enema, isn't it?

Best Spectators:  The Pride Parade had about what you would expect if you watched any news outlet - g-strings, tassels, fishnets, leather and lots and lots of skin.  The great thing about the crowd is that everyone there seemed to be having a fantastic time - dancing, clapping, smiling, laughing and enjoying the company.  Everyone except for the one guy we were stuck next to for the duration of the parade, that is. We somehow managed to end up crowded against the one person who overdosed on crabby asshole pills and washed them down with about a gallon of vodka.  Parade hand-outs became not a bonus, but his inalienable right and he was going to do whatever it took to make sure he was getting his.  This included going so far as to push kids over a piece of gum (I'm not exaggerating) to chasing and harrassing parade entrants down the route until he got what he wanted.  He also challenged one parader to a fight when he was refused a giveaway and wasn't real receptive to those of us around him asking him to calm down.  The clincher for KT, however, was when a sucker dropped out of his mouth onto her bare foot.  I've never seen her move so quickly from rage to utter and complete revulsion.  To her credit, however, she was able to persevere after ensuring that I was between him and her at all times for the remainder of the parade.

The Heights parade was incredibly entertaining people watching as usual.  The highlight was a pair of young mothers that set up right next to us.  Before elaborating, I feel a disclaimer is due:  The following descriptions are 100% truthful.  I have not enhanced or exaggerated in any way and have witnesses who will testify to this.  On with the description.  We heard these two before we saw them.  From somewhere behind came the following conversation at a decibel so loud that even I was able to hear it:

"Where should we sit, bitch?"
"I don't give a motherfuck.  Just fucking pick a place"

Needless to say I crossed my fingers, closed my eyes and continually muttered "pick me, pick me".  I was thrilled when they pulled up right next to us.  The visual was even better than the audio.  Both were pushing strollers with children under the age of two.  One was wearing a tank top loose enough that the side boob shots of her ample bosom were impossible to ignore.  To counter the tank top, she wore a pair of shorts that were entirely too short and too tight.  They fit like a pair of volleyball shorts, except they weren't volleyball shorts.  Also, I'm pretty sure she didn't play volleyball.  Her friend (sister?) was a case study in awesome.  Lime green tank top stretched over a several months pregnant belly, bright yellow shorts, hot pink socks and blue fuzzy bedroom slippers.  As an accessory, she had a cigarette dangling from her lips while she pushed the stroller.  I can only imagine the scene that would have ensued had anyone dared chastise her for smoking while being obviously pregnant.  The ladies chatted and smoked throughout the whole parade.  At one point the pregnant one pulled her child out of the stroller, removed the child's poopy diaper and, without looking, tossed it over her shoulder onto the sidewalk behind her.  If you need to ask whether she picked it up later I haven't done an adequate job describing her.  Later, the other one noticed the henna "tattoo" that Audrey got on her leg earlier in the day.  She pointed to Audrey's leg, then said to KT, "That mussa hurt like a bitch.  When I had this dun (she pointed at a small flower on her arm) I screamed like a motherfuck."  When KT explained that it was henna, not an actual tattoo, the lady responded, "I can't buleeve she did that.  That looks like it woulda hurt like a bitch.  She a tuff ass girl."  KT didn't bother to try to explain further.

Winner:  Heights in a landslide.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

My Top Six OCDs

I firmly believe that everyone, in some form or another, has Obsessive Compulsive Disorders.  For some, it unfortunately rules every aspect of their lives, leaving them unable to function normally.  For others, myself included, they are more annoyances than life-altering.  My current top six OCDs are as follows:

1.  Locking the doors and windows at night.  We live in a pretty safe neighborhood, despite Crumbling Frights reputation (undeserved!).  We often will leave the house for a few hours during the day and not lock up due to negligence, laziness or lack of keys.  We have never had a problem.  However, when it's time to turn in for the night, I become a maniac, preparing the house for the hordes of thieves, rapists, tea partiers and murderers that are sure to be lurking in the dark.  I will shut and lock all windows and check each door in the house at least four times to ensure that it is bolted securely.  This includes making multiple trips downstairs into the garage to ensure that door is indeed locked and has not become unlocked in the five minutes since I last checked it.  If I neglect any step of this process, I will lay in bed unable to sleep, obsessing until I get up and do it.  If KT is feeling particularly mischevious or wrathful, she will simply say "Is the back door locked?" to send me into a spiral.  It's a powerful weapon for her to have.

2.  The gauges on my automobiles.  My friend Adrian, who is probably the most mechanically gifted person I know (although to prevent him from getting an ego I will mention that he often wears shirts that are too small), drives his car with about six or seven different lights flashing at him telling him of his impending doom.  It doesn't bother him in the least.  I, on the other hand, go into full meltdown mode if the "wiper fluid low" light comes on.  If, god forbid, the check engine light comes on, it's time for full on panic and Adrian can expect a phone call begging him to save me from the fiery death trap my car has become.  This OCD made me a dishonest mechanic's wet dream until I met Adrian.  I would routinely shell out hundreds or thousands of dollars for things Adrian will do for a six pack of beer.  I still receive random phone calls from mechanics I have used in the past telling me I should really get my car checked out to make sure I'm not about to kill myself or my loved ones.

3.  Checking the mail.  This OCD has gotten much worse due to the related circumstances of being unemployed (and at home) and anticipating various important documents in the mail.  It is also compounded by the fact that rather than follow a daily pattern, our mail lady seems to deliver mail randomly.  One day our mail will arrive at 10:00AM and the next not until after 5:00.  It's never the same two days in a row.  So, naturally, I obsess and execute a stake out.  I will check the mail box in 15 minute intervals when awaiting something important.  If I go downstairs to shower, I'll check it immediately before and again right after.  Last week I think I actually frightened the mail lady away.   She began walking towards our house, saw me standing in the doorway with crazed eyes and a creepy mustache and walked away.  I'm not making this up.  She returned an hour later to deliver our mail.

4.  Getting to the airport on time.  This has been a life long issue and is undoubtedly the main reason why KT is never too anxious to travel anywhere with me that requires flying.  For a normal person, a 9:00AM flight would consist of this thought process:

  • It will take me 30 minutes to get ready
  • It takes 20 minutes to get to the airport
  • It takes about 30 minutes to check in/get through screening
  • I will get up at 7:00, giving myself plenty of time

Here's my process:

  • It will take me 30 minutes to get ready, but I really should check again to make sure I have everything and what if the zipper on the suitcase gets stuck? And, I better make sure the oven is off and the iron is unplugged and the windows and doors are locked, so I need to allow myself at least 90 minutes here
  • It takes 20 minutes to get to the airport, but what if there is traffic or road construction or an accident on the light rail or I miss my bus or I twist my ankle walking down the stairs making me move at only half speed?  Better give myself at least 75 minutes here
  • It takes about 30 minutes to check in/get through screening but what if there is a problem with my reservation (even though I have checked, rechecked and verified no less than eight times) or what if there is a bomb threat or what if there are really long lines because we are at threat code level orange or what if I forget a water bottle in my carry on and am subjected to a full body search because of it?  Better give myself at least two hours here.
  • I will get up at 4:00, but I don't really trust my alarm, so I will set two - one for 3:30 and one for 4:00.

Inevitably, I (and whichever poor souls I am travelling with) end up at the gate three hours before scheduled take off.  And, once there, I will refuse to leave the gate for food, books, etc., as I might miss an important announcement about a flight change or cancellation.  All things considered, I now understand why KT is fine with me taking trips without her.

5.  Making sure the laptop/cell phone is charged.  The laptop and my cell phone must remain at 75% charged or greater at all times.  Anything less is unacceptable.  When not in use, they should be charging.  When in use, they should be charging.  It is essential to have multiple charging devices for both the laptop and the cell phone.  If either the laptop or the cellphone's little battery symbol should turn red, all other activities must cease until the device is successfully charging.

I have the above mandate printed and framed in each room of the house.  I have also made it the screen saver on both devices.  I am considering learning to cross-stitch so that I can imprint it on a throw pillow.

6.  Peeing.  Yes, peeing.  Nothing bothers me more than having to get up in the middle of the night to take a piss.  The nearest toliet is down a flight of stairs, which presents a myriad of obstacles to successfully emptying my bladder.  My size 13 water-skis don't fit on our stairs, which means I have to descend sideways.  Additionally, our stairs are usually littered with shoes, books and various other items that should be put away upstairs but I was too damn lazy to do so.  Once the stairs have been successfully navigated, I have to get by our sadistic cat who tends to attack anything which moves in the dark, sinking her teeth in quickly before scurrying off before I have a chance to retaliate.  If the cat doesn't get me, the dog will.  Not by aggression, but by simply laying her fat ass in the most inopportune place possible, ensuring she will be tripped over.

So, to prevent this hassle, I usually will pee - or attempt to pee - at least five times before going to bed.  I usually alternate my attempts with loops around the house ensuring everything is shut and locked.  KT gets quite a kick out of it, to the point where she will stand in the bathroom for my third, fourth and fifth attempts making grunting noises and saying something along the lines of "C'mon Prostate Boy, you can do it!"

Monday, June 20, 2011

Unemployment Chronicles Part Seven - Oh Schlitz

On June 7th I wrote the following email to Schlitz Brewing.  It has taken me a full 13 days to realize that it may come across as a little crazy.  The problem is, I'm way more disappointed that nobody from Schlitz has gotten back to me than I am disappointed that none of the several jobs I've applied for have gotten back to me.  Also, for what it's worth, this is only one example of several emails I've sent lately that make me cringe a little bit during my increasingly scarcer moments of clarity.

Dear Sir or Ma'am:

I'd like to, with great enthusiasm, introduce the fine producers of Schlitz to the Schlitz Sporting Club of Minneapolis.  The Schlitz Sporting Club of Minneapolis is a growing group of gentlemen (currently approximately 25 strong) who gather on weekends to participate in various sporting endeavors.  The activities vary from gathering to gathering and include soccer, basketball, kickball, ultimate frisbee and other athletic pursuits.  We are even considering Botaoshi (google it, you won't be disappointed) as an event.  One thing, however, never varies.  At the conclusion of our game/match/event, we relax with a cooler full of  ice cold 16oz. Schlitz beers.  I can confidently speak for all members of the Schlitz Sporting Club when I say it is the highlight of the gathering and, quite frankly, the real reason we gathered in the first place.  Win or lose, we all win knowing the reward which awaits us.

The reason for my correspondence - apart from thanking and effusing praise on you for producing the same great product year after year - is to see if it were possible to obtain any sort of Schlitz merchandise for our Schlitz Sporting Club.  Ideally, we would love to adorn ourselves in official Schlitz uniforms for our events - t-shirts of different colors to differentiate the teams would be great.  Can you please let me know how we might be able to obtain items such as these?  We are also interested in hats or other merchandise which we can award to the "Schlitz Player of the Game" at the conclusion of each event.

In exchange, the Schlitz Sporting Club can offer the following:

1)  Unfaltering loyalty to Schlitz beer.  Although, you have that already, so I'm not sure how strong of a selling point that is.

2)  Recognization of Schlitz beer as the "Official Beer of the Schlitz Sporting Club".  Again, though, I guess it wouldn't make much sense for any other beer to be the official beer of the Schlitz Sporting Club.  

3)  Access to the private Schlitz Sporting Club Facebook page which includes photos of our events, wickedly funny (or perhaps pathetic) "trash talking" and the dates and locations of all our gatherings.

4)  Permission and blessing to use the Schlitz Sporting Club in all future advertisements or promotions.  All members of the Schlitz Sporting Club are damn good-looking guys (it's a prerequisite to being offered membership) that you would do well to place on billboards, magazine advertisements and other media opportunities.

5)  Finally, and perhaps most importantly, "Honorary Captain" status for any representative of Schlitz at any Schlitz Sporting Club event.  In other words, you get to throw out the ceremonial first pitch, conduct the opening coin toss, drop the first puck, whatever.  We will even allow Schlitz representatives to compete, provided they pass the by-laws of the Schlitz Sporting Club, which are spelled out on the Schlitz Sporting Club Facebook page.  (Although the laws are secret and available only to members, examples include "must be of legal drinking age" and "must not be an overly competitive dink").

Please consider this mutually beneficial opportunity.  I eagerly await your reply as I would like to be able to inform the members at our next gathering of any possible sponsorship news.  In sum, I'd like you to know that according to the Schlitz Sporting Club, no truer words can ever be spoken than those that appear in your motto:  "When you're out of Schlitz, you're out of beer".

Thank you for your time and consideration.

My Two Favorite Quotes from Last Night's Miss USA Contest

Miss Maine - "I consider myself a businesswoman because I recently started my own business"

Miss Tennessee - "I don't think people should be allowed to burn flags because that isn't patriotic and I'm a christain and I wouldn't like that"

Neither won.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

The Unemployment Chronicles Part Six - Good News Edition

Each November the local Columbia Heights/Hilltop (#1 in crime per capita!) newspaper puts out a ridiculously sugary edition called the Good News Edition.  The basic premise is that people are sick of always hearing about crime/unemployment/failing schools, etc. and so they aren't going to include any of that Debbie Downer stuff.  Instead, we are treated to stories of lost pets being found, 3rd graders raising $173 for local foodshelfs and folks who have been married for 94 years.  In honor of this - and because holy crap my posts recently make me miss Dr. Kervorkian - I present the Good News Edition of The Unemployment Chronicles:

Man Cuts Through Red Tape, Receives Unemployment Benefits - Columbia Heights, MN
Somewhat recently unemployed citizen Paul Kruse received his first unemployment benefits today, after persevering 28 website visits, four phone calls, 173 minutes of holding, three migraine headaches and two forced drinking episodes.  An elated Kruse, reached at home (where else?) said, "I just want to thank all those that believed in me from the beginning and never lost faith.  This just goes to show you that anyone who is committed and willing to work hard can also receive unemployment.  I'm just glad I can be a role model to kids today.  Dream big, kids, and never give up."

Liquor Cabinet and Wardrobe Stocked by Charitable Individuals - St. Paul, MN
Kind-hearted philanthropists took pity on the less fortunate Wednesday, donating various liquor themed clothing and libations to an individual in need.  The philanthropists, who wished to remain anonymous, commented that the fortunate recipient of their charity was in the same position as them not too long ago and they were happy to lend a hand.  The recipient, reached at home later, said, "I (hic) fuckin' love them guys, they're alright (hic) in my book."  He then began weeping and threw up in his slippers.

Last of Classic T-shirt Finds Home with Individual who Appreciates It - Sedona, AZ
A t-shirt long thought to be extinct was discovered and immediately placed in the care of an individual who promises to cherish it forever, wearing to only special occassions which merit it's awesomeness.  The Sedona My Face t-shirts were produced only from 1976-1979 and were thought to have all perished during the violent PC Revolution of the 1990s.  The t-shirt, discovered buried deep in storage, is being heralded as a major discovery by lovers of 70's porn.

Daughter Finally Begins Swearing at Age 15 - Columbia Heights, MN
A local couple known for their unnatural ability to insert cuss words into any and all conversations were overjoyed when their 15-year old daughter muttered the word "ass" today.  "We were starting to really get concerned," remarked the girl's mother.  "We tried bribes, threats and everything in between and we could not get her to swear.  Finally, today, her brother was able to pry an 'ass' out of her.  We are so proud."  The young child passed another milestone today, agreeing to take a sip of wine to see what all the fuss is about.  Asked about the wine sampling, the girl's father commented, "I (hic) fuckin' love them guys, they're alright (hic) in my book."  He then began weeping and threw up in his slippers.

Unemployed Man Discovers Friends Will Buy at Happy Hour - Minneapolis, MN
A somewhat recently unemployed man has discovered that inviting friends to meet for Happy Hour, then hitting them with story after story of how unemployed he is will cause his friends to not only offer, but insist, on picking up the tab.  "It's the greatest ruse ever.  I ask someone to meet me for Happy Hour, fill them full of 'woe be me' bullshit for a few hours and they pick up the entire bill!  I plan on seeing if I can stretch it into a full meal in the near future."  The man, who asked not to be identified so that he wouldn't be exposed, added "Liquor Lyle's is the greatest place to pull this scam.  Their Happy Hours are 2-for-1 so the poor sucker(s) I'm with think they are getting a deal."

Local Man Still Able to Disgust Family with Mustache After Seven Days - Columbia Heights, MN
A somewhat recently unemployed man is still able to disgust and embarrass his family with his sorry ass excuse for a mustache after seven days.  The man's daughter refuses to be seen in public with him, while the man's wife will not look at him for longer than 10 seconds and threatens to grow her own in retaliation.  The man's daughter and wife have also attempted to shame him into shaving with taunts of "pube face", "you look like an extra in Milk" and "my (9th grade) classmates grow a better 'stache in one day".  When asked for comment, the man simply said, "If you could get these kind of reactions from them, would you shave?"  He then began weeping and vomited in his slippers.

The Unemployment Chronicles - Part Five - Short Attention Span Reading

I'm quickly figuring out that not a heck of a lot happens when you aren't working and it can be quite a challenge to think of different ways to do nothing and yet write about it.  It feels kind of like I could just take any of the previous entries and "cut and paste" them here and call things a day.  However, doing that would only take a minute or two and then I would need to find something else to do that might be (gasp) productive or worthwhile.  So, instead, I ramble on with the daily (not) doings of unemployed life.  Also, because I was raised on MTV, thus preventing me from focusing on any one thing for longer than five minutes, I again go to the cheap and easy bullet format rather than anything more substantial.  I trust that is ok with most, however, unless you had hippie parents that made you do crap like read books and go to boy scouts rather than soak in hour after glorious hour of the god box.

-  I got thrown out of the house Friday night.  Apparently self loathing is only cute for so long before it just becomes a drag.  That, coupled with the fact that I cramp Audrey's style (KT described it as much worse, I'm uncomfortable even repeating it) and it was her last day of school and she didn't want me looming over whatever awful decisions she was going to make wrote my one-way ticket to Getthefuckouttahereville.  I was actually pretty excited about it as I tend to cherish extended periods of time where I don't have to talk to anybody and am responsible for nobody but myself.  So, Maggie and I hopped in Red and headed to Taylor's Falls with visions of hiking, kayaking and other exotic adventures.  We were there a total of 24 hours.  Those 24 hours produced 14 hours of sleep, eight hours of reading and two hours of eating and setting up camp.  After 24 hours, Maggie looked at me and said, "I could've done this at home shithead."  So, I took her home.  She's still mad at me.

-  Today is Audrey's first day of Summer vacation.  Not coincidentally, Audrey began working and bringing in cash money today.  For those keeping score at home, that means of the four - sometimes five - humans residing under this roof, I am the only one taking without giving.  It also means it took Audrey exactly zero business days to become gainfully employed.  Meanwhile, I still haven't figured out how to collect my unemployment.

-  Before reading this bullet, please cue your favorites sappy 80's movie music montage and imagine a video of my cliched voyage into maintaining a household with the song playing over it  (Jefferson Starships' Nothings Gonna Stop Us Now or Holding Out For a Hero by Bonnie Tyler will work).  I have done the following things in the past few days:  added entirely too much laundry soap into the washing machine causing soap suds to pop out of the drain, baked and burnt cookies, offered pizza rolls and tortillas with cheese for dinner, inadvertently sucked up various unintended objects with the vacuum, bought tampons and watched a soap opera while drinking a beer.  However, like all great 80s movie montages, it can end on a positive note as I cut flowers and put them in a vase in a clean kitchen today.  Hooray cliches!

-  Speaking of the flowers, they were peonies, of which we are blessed to have three plants in our yard that produce amazing flowers each and every year.  They smell unbelievable and look nice too.  Until KT and I had these plants at our own house, I never knew what they were called.  Growing up, my mom always referred to them as "Blooming Idiots" as the flowers, when they bloom, are so huge and so dense that they are immediately too heavy for their stems and flop to the ground where they quickly die, hence they are "Blooming Idiots".  I love that name and refuse to refer to them as anything else.

-  I really suck at starting campfires.  I am really, truly, horribly bad at it.  I could fail at this task if I were given a gallon of lighter fluid, six copies of the Sunday NY Times and kindling that had been completley dehydrated.  I don't want your suggestions or advice, I just want you to do it for me.  Needless to say, Maggie and I went without a fire Friday night.

-  Next week is the Columbia Heights Jamboree, which is an always awesome event and has an old-school traveling carnival and everything.  Think of every pre-conceived notion you have of carnies and rickety rides that make noises you're pretty sure they shouldn't.  Now, multiply that by ten.   For further reference, Audrey once got puked on at the carnival by an intoxicated lady wearing a neon pink shirt that read "What the Fuck are You Lookin' At?" that didn't even come close to covering her ample midriff (true story!).  That's the Heights carvinal.  Obviously, I love it.   I'm really scared that being unemployed is going to cause me to spend way more time there next week than I should.  Hey, maybe they're hiring?  Also, if any of you other Columbia Heights unemployed slackers think you are finding the jamboree medallion before me next week, I will fight you.  Unless, of course, you want to join forces.

The Unemployment Chronicles Part 4 - File under miscellaneous

Continued ramblings from an unemployed, overheated, middle-age man syndrome (MAMS) suffering blowhard.  Please excuse the lack of focus, plot, relevance and sanity.

- I finally got that haircut.  And, I caved to KT, not going to Fangasmic Sams, Cost Nutters, Great Twits or any of the other "fast food" haircut places she abhors.  I went to an old-school barber shop with a barber's pole outside and everything.  My reward?  "You look like Hitler", which has since been amended to "Not so much Hitler, but Hitler Youth.  You just need the circa 1930s Phy Ed outfit with the belt".  And she wonders why I prefer to just shave my head.

- Part of not having a job is I have more time on my hands.  Because of this I have decided not to drive anywhere that I can reasonably walk or bike to.  I'd like to say this is because I am an eco-warrior or a fitness freak, but it has more to do with the fact that I'm terrified of Red (our 1989 Ford F150 truck,  which I bought for a case of whiskey and remains the only vehicle I have ever loved) overheating and random good-intentioned strangers offering help and realizing what an incompetent buffoon I am when it comes to auto repair, or any sort of repairs in general.  Anyways, to return to the point, I have been walking to Greta's place to workout the past few days as I don't seem to have a gym membership any longer and there is an always vacant workout room in her complex.  Today, as usual, I loaded up a backpack with water, book, towel, etc., strapped on my headphones and took off, first swinging by the mail box outside of Cub to drop some things off.  When I arrived at Greta's about 1.2 miles later, I realized that although I had been wearing headphones the entire time, I never actually took the next step of turning the ipod on.  I attribute it to the not altogether unpleasant fact that I can't get the song "Metro" by Berlin out of my head.  Even then, however, wouldn't I wonder why the same song kept repeating?  Perhaps the continual conversations (arguments) I'm having with myself and the increasingly familiar "bat shit nuts" phrase has more to do with it.

-  The following quote from Wolf Hall, the book I'm reading now (happy, Carrie?) is excellent and I don't know if I find it depressing, inspiring, true to a fault, or the ramblings of an unhappy soul.  I do know I enjoyed it enough that I put down the book, grabbed pen and paper and copied it into my notebook.

  "You don't get on by being original.  You don't get on by being bright.  You don't get on by being strong.  You get on by being a subtle crook."

-  Filing for and actually receiving unemployment is one of the most mind boggling difficult things I've ever had the displeasure of doing.  We are going on three weeks now and I still can't figure it out.  Everytime I request a payment I get an inevitable error message telling me I've done something wrong and my payment will be delayed.  Problem is, the error message is incredibly vague and almost non-sensical.  Seriously, they may as well just list "Because we can" as the reason they aren't paying you - it would make as much sense.  And trying to find a contact email or phone number to get help requires about 12 clicks and dumb luck.  When, and if, you do find a phone number, and have the time to wait 47 minutes and 18 seconds (I timed it) for "the next available agent" (although I guess most unemployed do have the time), you are met with an inevitably crabby person who assumes that you are only calling to yell at them and is thus immediately defensive and assy (no I didn't forget the S).  I like to think of myself as a reasonably intelligent, college-edumacated person, but I'm damn near ready to waive the white flag on this one.  I can't imagine how difficult this process might be for some poor soul who is illiterate or doesn't use English as their first language.

-  Here is what has been on my television over the past 36 hours:

1)  Black Swan.  Meh from me, jerk-off motion from KT.  My biggest complaint - and this seems to be the case a lot - is they spend all this time developing a story and getting the viewer involved in it and then go "Holy shit, we are at an hour and a half length already, we need to wrap this up" and then totally fast forward so that the movie isn't longer than the dreaded two hour mark.  In other words, I kind of enjoyed the first chunk of this movie, but the whole climactic, meltdowny last 30 minutes seemed so rushed it completely ruined it for me.

2)  Golden Girls.  I am quite aware of all the easy snarkiness and sarcasm available here, but I can with complete and total honesty say that I enjoy this show.  I'm not ready to buy the boxset or anything, but I think it's well-written and well-acted.  For those waiting for the punchline, sorry, it's not coming.  My name is Paul and I enjoy the Golden Girls.

3)  Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations - Sweden.  Everytime I watch this show it follows the same pattern.  First twenty minutes: He's a funny guy, this is a great show.  Second twenty minutes:  He's kind of annoying but I like shows about other countries/cultures, so it's a fair trade.  Last twenty minutes:  My God, this guy is a pompous ass and I want punch him in the nutsack.  Please, just shut up.  

That being said, I don't like leaving anything incomplete, so I always end up watching the full show.  This particular episode confirmed to me the existence of something I had only before heard KT speak of, but had a hard time believing in.  Apparently, at bar time in Sweden, patrons don't stumble to the pizza-by-the-slice place or the gyro place as they do here, but instead go to a stand for a "tunnsbrödsrulle", which consists of a hot dog, mashed potatoes, ketchup, mustard, lettuce and - of course - shrimp salad wrapped in flatbread.  As disgusting as this may sound, its been added to my bucket list.

4)  Germany/Azerbaijan Euro 2012 qualifier (streaming).  3-1 win for the Deutschies, remaining perfect in qualifiers.

5)  A Somewhat Gentle Man.  Norwegian film about a guy getting out of jail after serving 12 years for murder and struggling to decide if he wants to go the straight and narrow or not.  Enjoyable, but maybe only because it was foreign and weird.  If it had been Bruce Willis in the title role, I never would have given it a chance.  Call me an anti-American pinko bastard if you must.

- Oh, and finally, Al and Toby just got home from work.  Yes, they found employment before me.  My circle of shame is now complete.

The Unemployment Chronicles Part 3 or Rock Bottom is Near! (Right?)

Signs (all from today) that I may be approaching the "rock bottom" stage of this unemployment thing:

1.  I laid into Al and Toby immediately this morning, telling them that I was sick of seeing their asses making imprints on my couch and they had to be out of the house by 9:00 and I was not allowing them back in until after 1:00.  When they asked where they should go, the only suggestions I could come up with were "find a job" (pot meet kettle), and "huff paint down by the train tracks".  As soon as they left, I went back to bed to read "just one more chapter" and didn't get up again until 12:00.  Don't tell Al (he won't be my Facebook friend so I don't have to worry about him reading this).

2.  Was told by Audrey that I was "absolutely, under no circumstances" allowed to attend her swimming banquet tonight unless I shaved.  I also had to drop her off at the side door of the school and was told not to worry about picking her up, she would figure something out.

3.  Went to the bank where I was told by a smirking 19-year old teller with a pierced eyebrow that the Menards rebate I was trying to cash actually wasn't a check and that I had to go to Menards where it could be redeemed for merchandise and that this was all explained to me right there on the "check" i was trying to cash.  Thought about arguing but realized she was absolutely correct and I had no case.

4.  Ran my flip flops through the dishwasher because their frequent use as of late has stirred up quite a stank and I didn't know how else to wash them.  And no, I didn't do dishes at the same time.

5.  Was told the following by KT:  "Fine - go to fucking Great Clips if you want - I don't care, but make sure they take care of those mutant eyebrows while they're at it".  Still haven't gotten a haircut or taken care of the mutants.

6.  Went to Walmart.  I could leave it at that, but I'll elaborate.  I went to Walmart, but refused to park there.  So, I parked at Cub and walked to Walmart.  Once there, I debated for no less than 10 minutes whether to buy Gobstoppers or Nerds.  I picked both packages up numerous times, compared the price per ounce, briefly considered mini 100 Grands instead, returned the debate to Gobstoppers vs. Nerds, ended up purchasing neither.  Know what I did purchase?  Pre-packaged "Tuna Medleys" with crackers.  Six of them.  Then, I used the self-checkout because I was embarrassed by what the Walmart cashiers might think of me.

7.  Decided to find out how much worse Super Chill Diet Cola could be than Diet Coke.  Quite a bit, as it turns out.

8.  Gave myself a high five - literally - in Cub when I examined my receipt and realized I had saved $7.98 by using coupons.  

9.  Got home from Cub, realized that the tortillas I bought were moldy, and made Al go return them because I was way too exhausted from all I had done today.

10.  Realized I have been wearing the same Swedish soccer jersey for three days now, but justified it by noting that I only wear it when I leave the house.

The Unemployment Chronicles, Part Two

I'm almost two weeks into this unemployment thing now and although it wouldn't be fair to say I'm going bat-shit nuts yet, there is only so much time a person can put into job searching before they either want to hit the bottle or step in front of a bus.  Although my enjoyment of drinking is well-documented, I find it gets exhausting after a day or two and I'm way too big of a sugartit when it comes to pain to step in front of a bus. So, I've been filling my days with other things - some productive, some not so much.  A sampling:

- Working my way through the Foreign Language genre of Netflix (built in close-captioning!).  I've just about completed Germany, have waded into Scandinavia and have France in my cross-sights.  I've thought about offering reviews and/or suggestions, but realized that every movie I see is categorized in one of three ways:

1.  Jerk-off motion
2.  Meh
3.  Holy crap, what else has that actor/actress/director done and is it on Netflix?

Not a very in-depth analysis but then again Siskel and Ebert made a career of only going thumbs up or down, so I have them beat by one.

- Entertaining and researching the thought of going back to school for a teaching degree or something similar.  I don't know how serious I am about this, but I've gone so far as to send a few emails and do a bit of investigating into classes, etc.  If I go this route, I see very few scenarios where I won't end up being a real life version of Pierce from Community.

- Dwelling/fantasizing on what it would be like to really shake things up and move to a different country.  I've gone pathetically into detail here, from googling English language jobs to searching for apartments (even street-viewing them).  I've narrowed it down to three cities - Göteborg, Hamburg or Rotterdam.  I think Rotterdam is in the lead because any city that can be cool with a name like that has to have something going for it.  I haven't yet decided whether or not to take the opinions of the rest of the family into account here.

- An ass-load of reading.  Between long days and seemingly longer commutes, I really, really missed this over the past few years.  One of the huge determining factors in my next job is finding something I can take the bus to so that I have no excuse not to get a solid hour of reading in.  Here is what I've knocked out in the past two weeks:

1.  Transit Maps of the World - Mike Ashworth, Mark Ovendon.  This really doesn't count as reading as it is 90% maps, but it's fascinating and beautiful all the same.  Some people like Renaissance Art, I like maps (particularly mass transit maps) and I'm not going to apologize for it.  Finding this book was like finally finding that porn fetish that really "does it" for you.

2.  The Sociopath Next Door - Martha Stout.  Not a fiction title, which makes it all the more disturbing.

3.  Tor! The Story of German Football - Uli Hesse-Lichtenberger.  I loved this book.  I wouldn't really recommend it, however, as the subject matter appeals to a pretty limited percent of the population (nerds, wannabe euros, unemployed - maybe not such a small percentage after all).

4.  Kings of Infinite Space - James Hyne.  I'm about halfway through this and at the rate I'm going I'll be done by tonight.  I still can't decide if it's a comedy, thriller, horror story or something in-between.  I say that not out of frustration, however.  It's kind of like Office Space meets the Shining.  I'm hooked on it.  

-  The cliched not-shaving bit.  Made all the more pathetic and pubic-like by the fact that no hair grows on my cheeks

Also, as a bonus and because what the fuck else have I got to do, here are a few things I haven't done yet, but figure can't be far off:

-  thought about going off the grid completely and living off the land.  I'd be dead within 3 days.
-  painted my house, which i really should do
-  had a torrid (or tepid) affair with a neighborhood lady, although I have been invited to coffee by a couple (*wink* - how you doin' ladies? you know who you are)
-  considered getting pregnant to find meaning in life by smothering a baby with my OCD tendencies.  

Ok, maybe it is fair to say I'm going bat-shit nuts.

Here is what I accomplished in Day 4 of unemployment

For the first time since the age of 19 I'm not working.  Here, in no particular order, is what I have accomplished today (and it's only 4:00!):

1.  Proofread a blog on salt for KT and  Ironic, as she is the only one currently "in the salt mines".

2.  Drove Audrey to school, argued with her about whether or not she is old enough to stay home alone overnight.  Dropped her off without settling the matter - round two to follow, i'm sure.

3.  Mowed the front yard.  Was about to mow the back yard as well but then thought "fuck it, Al is unemployed too, he can mow the back".  Told Al to mow the back.  Fought with him about whether he needed to take a nap first. 

4.  Ate a leftover bratwurst from last night.

5.  Led IFK Göteborg to a stunning 3-2 upset over Chelsea in FIFA10.

6.  Rescued a mama duck and seven ducklings from the confines of our backyard fence, while fending off our obese yet remarkably skilled sadistic killing machine of a cat.  I have video of my heroic efforts but lack the skill and/or patience to post it.  Thought briefly about whether there was a career in duck whispering but decided there probably isn't.  

7.  Watched the last 15 minutes of the Carling Four Nations Cup stream between Scotland vs. Wales.  Scotland won 3-1.  Also, checked the result of the Bundesliga relegation battle between VfL Bochum and Borussia Mochengladbach.  They tied 1-1, meaning Mochengladbach wins 2-1 on aggregates and avoids being relegated to the 2.  If you read more than the first couple of words of this accomplishment, congrats.  

8.  Looked for available jobs online.  Applied for one of them.  Thought about whether I really wanted it, decided it might be ok.

9.  Panicked about "what the fuck am I going to do now", neared a meltdown, dialed it back a bit, avoided meltdown.

10.  Went for a run, but not before mapping out an exactly 5K course.  I'm not running one extra step, dammit!

11.  Consulted Audrey's copy of Vogue which arrived in the mail today for "150+ WAYS TO HEAT UP MY SUMMER".  Determined that the majority of them (exotic beach bags and island florals aside) wouldn't really heat my summer up that much.  Looked at the pictures of Penelope Cruz for quite a while.

12.  Did a load of dishes and cleaned up the kitchen.  Began thinking about what to make for dinner.  Remained uncommitted.

13.  Paid stupid Sprint bill and stupid Comcast bill.

Note that "shower" hasn't quite made the list of accomplishments yet.  Just doing my part to keep the stereotype of the unemployed alive!

The Sprinkler

Much like an over-sugared eight year old, KT is always excited when she discovers a new way to swear.  Sometime in the last week (I haven't been able to pinpoint exactly when or whom to blame, but I have suspicions), she has discovered "The Sprinkler".

The Sprinkler:  Stand stationary, straight up and down with feet together.  Extend arms fully, creating 90 degree angles with the floor.  With palms facing up, form hands into fists.  Extend both middle fingers fully.  Rotate torso as far as able to the left and back to the right.  Repeat rapidly multiple times to create the illusion of full circles.  Imagine something like this:

We were treated to The Sprinkler twice today.  The first time was this morning when she discovered that 1) the coffee was not done yet, 2) I was going to watch "stupid German soccer" online than rather allow her to take the computer away and Farmville and 3) Audrey had commandeered the television.  She broke it out again this evening at the conclusion of "The American", which she agreed to watch with me only after I conceded that we could order Que Viet if she would allow me to turn it on.  By the way, this Sprinkler was well deserved - the movie sucked.

The Sprinkler, broken down on a 5-star scale:

Originality: 4 stars.  Pretty good, really - much better than "The Pistons", where KT simply holds both middle fingers in front of her and furiously alternates pumping them up and down.

Form: 4.5 stars.  KT excels here as she is flexible enough to sell the full circle illusion.  I imagine if I were to try it, it would look like there was a kink in the hose and the sprinkler were receiving sporadic bursts of water pressure rather than a steady flow - KT pulls it off beautifully, however.

Effectiveness: 3 stars.  As usual, this is KT's weak point, as the tell-tale slight biting of the lower lip to suppress a smile while she executes the Sprinkler removes all traces of anger and/or malice.

Overall: 3 and three 3/4 stars which places it firmly ahead of the aforementioned "Pistons" but not as high as the rarely heard but always effective "Hey Dumbass".

The 4500 Pound Experiment - Day 2

I realized today that this competition is no joke - the message board today was full of everybody's strategies.  It seemed like everyone has basically the same game plan - eliminate fast food, drink less, work out at least five days a week and one strategy purely for comic relief ("clean the wasteland", "lots and lots of internet porn", etc.).  So, I figure I need a strategy.

I've done the no-carbs diet before and it was brilliant.  I ate nothing but cheddarwurst three meals a day for about 4 months and dropped a ton a weight, which I put back on in about three days.  The Führer and the Tough Love Gestapo are deadset against this - something about fat, cholesterol, sodium, blah, blah, blah. 

So, looks like it's rabbit feed for me - which will be fine for now, but I worry about it getting old in a hurry.

On the plus side (pun intended), I weighed myself after basketball at the club today and I have already lost six pounds.  I am convinced this has more correlation to the pasty oatmeal i choked down for breakfast than the fact that I weighed myself in only a towel today and was fully dressed yesterday.  I'm on pace to drop 540 pounds, which I think should give me a pretty good shot at winning this thing.

Day Two:
Weight: 229
Mood: Still ok with this general concept
Slip ups: None, but the night is young

The 4500 Pound Experiment

Several people I know, and several I didn't before tonight, have agreed to join a 90 day weight loss challenge.  The rules are simple - we weighed in tonight and 90 days from now we will weigh in again.  Whomever has lost the greatest percentage of their original weight will win the $25 entry fee that everyone ponied up.

Normally I would absolutely not agree to something like this, but I genuinely like the participants (for those participants reading this - don't worry, you will remain anonymous unless you give me permission to "out" you) and I'm not in denial of the fact that I amseveral pounds heavier than I should be.  Also, I love the fact that the weigh in doubled as a happy hour and the final weigh will double as a giant orgiastic party.

The end (or beginning would be more accurate) result was 20 guys, about 4500 pounds and a wickedly funny message board for the participants.  My favorite posts so far:

1. "When I heard about this contest, I decided to hold off on some manscaping efforts until after weigh-in. Can you ladies say "instant 4 pound head start"? Sorry suckers."

2. " The day has come. Enter. Your body is a temple. And remember, masturbation burns 65 calories an hour. So, for most of us that's like 2 calories a day."

3.  "I'm not chubby, I'm kinda fat. Not Wal-Mart fat, more like Target fat."

4.  And the simple yet elegant post that began "Hey Fatskies"

So, here we go.  I figure being brutally honest every step of the way can only help.  

Things I have going for me:

1.  I work for a Fitness company for chrissakes.  Everyday I am flooded with talk and images of fitness, health and weight loss.  Inevitably, some of that is going to sink in -by pure osmosis if nothing else.  I have a gratis gym membership and a roster of about 30 people I can get together at almost anytime to play basketball.

2.  It's competitive weight loss.  Make it a competition and I'm there - be it weight loss, breath holding or farting.  My brother said it best this weekend - "Anything can be a competition".  (We subsequently spent the weekend trying to find the best hiding place in one another's things for the unbelievably rancid dried Ukranian fish that was given as a gag gift.  Because the dog dug the one out of his shoe, he wins for stuffing one in my wallet - i'm extremely bitter about this and plotting revenge).

3.  I live with the following two people:  Das Food Führer and Dr. KT the Tough Love Gestapo.  

Ever since Audrey first learned that food affects your health in kindergarten (damn you Mrs. Zimba), she goes on a kick about three of four times a year about how we are going to become the "Healthy Kruses".  She then proceeds to scrutinize everything everybody ingests for several days until she is convinced that it is more important that the whales be saved and begins to focus on that (usually a week or two).  I figure if I can just explain to her that I am damn near big as a whale, she will focus entirely on me for a solid few months.

Dr. KT the Tough Love Gestapo knows all and holds nothing back.  Example one -when contemplating how I would be able to refrain from drinking beer for three months (see below), I thought maybe a could have a whiskey-water or vodka-club instead when I wanted a drink.  Her response was, "It all turns to sugar, so you are fucked either way."  Example two - way back around the age of 30 I seriously considered getting a tattoo.  Problem was, I had no idea what kind of tattoo to get.  Tired of my indecisiveness, Dr. KT the Tough Love Gestapo gave the following advice: "Why don't you just get a pussy, cuz that's what you are."  Needless to say, my skin is free of ink to this day.  You can't buy that kind of boot camp tough love.

Things I have going against me:

1.  Beer.  I love beer.  There is really nothing about beer I don't love.  I can give up candy.  I can give up cake, cookies, chips, etc.  Beer is going to be tough.  Without beer, I won't know what to do during football games, happy hours, parent/teacher conferences, etc.  This one will be tough.  Even if whiskey didn't "just turn to sugar", it wouldn't be the same.

2. Let's face it, I can be a lazy S.O.B. sometimes.  I genuinely enjoy spending a day with the following agenda: Wake up, coffee, paper/internet, television, nap, more television, more internet, bed.  That's a full day - I don't see any time in that schedule for exercise.

I'll update when I am inspired.  Wish me luck.

Day One:
Weight - 235
Mood - Fired up
Slip ups - just the two beers I had at weigh in.  However, considering they were only 2 minutes after the contest began, that's really not anything to be proud of.