February 13, 2013 § Leave a Comment
I started walking to BART where I pick up my connection to get to work. It’s about a three mile walk, I do it just to keep somewhat active before I sit at my desk all day.
About halfway to work, there’s a cluster of Kaiser Permanente hospitals. On the corner of three hospitals and a construction site that will eventually be yet another hospital, I meet a drunk pregnant lady in a bathrobe, shorts, tank top and slippers vomiting on the corner in the cold. W’e're standing in the center of a medical center bustling with trained professionals, so it’s kind of asinine for me to pause a comedy podcast to ask her if I can help, ask if she’s OK but I do it anyway because she’s clearly not OK and I don’t know what else to do. There’s not really anything to do.
“Heyyyyouok? You ok?” She looks at me like I’m crazy and kind of chuckles to let me know that she is not OK, but that she thinks it’s pretty funny how not-OK she is and waves me on. She’s drooling and her mouth is not working well enough to say anything. “There’s a uh– .” And I wave my hand in the air toward the embarrassment of medical care and then we stare at each other silently for a moment like she’d just refused my offer to slow dance until she lifts her head and raises her eyebrows to express “Yeah, no shit”.
“Ok then.” And I start to cross the street, but have to wait, because an ambulance is turning the corner and returning to one of many hospitals inches from where we’re standing, extending our time together. The ambulance turns slowly and me and this lady stand shoulder to shoulder, waiting for this box-she-should-be-inside-of to pass by us in silence. To any onlooker, we’re standing there together, the worlds most unlikely couple enjoying a casual walk to much-needed urgent medical care. I look at the EMTs, they look at me and her, she looks at them, we all share a split second of life together and the EMTs drive right on by.
For a moment, I consider saying a hearty “Oh well, what can ya do?” and laughing with her but instead we exchange a last, weird look, and I continue on to work completely unable to ever do anything about anything, just like everybody else, day thoroughly ruined.
News! I have another writing project! Why? Why not! A weekly short story based on my wife’s writing prompts, updated every Sunday at 5pm Pacific Standard Time. You could call it a short-story podcast if you want to call it something that it isn’t to make it sound like something people are interested in!
Do I need another writing side-project? Do I have a main-project? Is this a half-assed scheme to develop a more regular writing routine? Only you can decide, dear reader!
It can be found here: Short Sunday
December 19, 2012 § Leave a Comment
It’s cold for Oakland and it’s a brisk walk to the station. I’m trying to feel good about the day. I’m trying to be more enthusiastic about work. I hate my job, but I also hate that I hate it, and, moreover, I hate that other people’s enthusiasm for working here makes me feel exhausted, broken, or deficient in some way. I also hate that my perception of their “enjoyment“ immediately gets italics and quotes and judgement and skepticism. Everything is perception according to a thing I’m trying to coax myself into believing, so all I need to do is change my perspective and then I’ll enjoyment the hell out of everything.
Recently I became fascinated with the idea of sending out resumes proclaiming that I was a Social Media Professional. Because that’s a brand new, complete nonsense profession that people have. It’s a thing you can just say out loud and then you’re that thing. Like Shazam – the fictional being. You can be a Social Media Professional because people are starting to recognize those words in that order and so now it’s a profession that people have, despite it not meaning anything whatsoever. It’s not like “Fireman.” You can’t just say that you’re a “Fireman” and then work from home and collect consultant fees. People are no longer so dazzled by the very idea of a fire that you can just pretend to know a lot about it, and then you’re a Fire Professional. People don’t have enough information about Social Media, so claiming knowledge is as good as actual knowledge, and from their perspective, for better or worse, you are what you are perceived to be.
At 19th, I’m looking at the signs above the tracks to see how long until the next train arrives when this happens:
“STOP LOOKING IN MY PURSE!” A lady suddenly yells at me.
“What? I wasn’t..” I wasn’t.
“Keep walking! GET THE FUCK AWAY FROM MY PURSE!” People turn to look and I am suddenly very angry.
“I was looking at the fucking signs you lunatic.”
“YEAH RIGHT!” She shouts.
“FUCK YOU!” I shout.
I look up and a father has his hand on the small of his son’s back and is ushering his child away from our shouting. I give him the ‘what’s with this crazy lady?’ face and he turns away quickly, towards everyone else in the station. They’re all looking at me. I assume they assume I’m crazy too and they’re justified in thinking so. She’s still yelling at me. She’s making fun of my glasses. I start to yell again, then start to turn to the people nearby to explain, but I just give up and sit down next to her.
November 14, 2012 § Leave a Comment
I’m reading a book I don’t think I like. I have a sleepy in the corner of my eye. I’m not sure if it’s called a ‘sleepy’ by real people. Put the book down, check the phone, look it up. Eye boogers. Never. I will never call it ‘Eye Boogers’ . What is it made of? I should be reading my book instead. Even though I don’t like it. It’s good for me. I touched the hand rail and then I touched my eye. I’m going to get pink eye. I should hold my hand farther away from myself now, but then it’s hard to read the phone. Guess I’m not reading the book anymore. Use book hand to hold phone. “Also known as Dried Tears.” That’s a pretty good phrase. I should file that away for use sometime, in the writing that I don’t. “Dried Tears.” Probably used elsewhere. My eye is itchy. I’m going to get pink eye. Oh hey, it’s that guy that doesn’t have teeth and loves rubbing his gums and he probably touched everything on this, and every, bus. This is the fifth time I’ve seen him in my life. That’s entirely too many times to see a stranger rub the inside of their head. I need a new job so badly. I should have asked Gummy to get my ‘sleepy’, cut the middle man, besides we’re almost family. How else could he be so comfortable hinging his head open like a fly trap. It’s like we’re in his house, just hangin’ out. Pals. Me and Gummy are pals.
“Dried Tears: A Woman’s Guide to Overcoming” by Jennifer Lucy. Number one hit on Google. I should get back to my book and not use that phrase ever again. Don’t tell anyone I thought that was a good phrase. I’m going to be so early to shitty work and my eyes will be pink as the inside of my friend’s toothless head. Hypochondria is the most narcissistic disorder, probably. “Even the germs need me!” I wonder if Jennifer Lucy covers that in her book. I wonder if that’s one of the things she needed to overcome. I wonder if she knew that Dried Tears also means crusty eye gunk. I should get back to my book that I almost threw away because the book was written in 2010 and an old man character uses the word “App” in the year 2001.
When I stand up to leave the bus, I cannot, must not, touch the hand rail, not because of the germs, but it’s loose, someone tried to tape the bottom of the support back together. The support is made of metal, probably not steel, but a metal, and someone masking taped it back together. That’s stupid. This whole thing is stupid. I’m aware.
“A powerful, yet practical and inspirational how-to guide on overcoming, Jennifer Lucy shares operational insight on how she did just that! She uses her life experiences of overcoming drug abuse, abortion, low self-esteem, and sexual sin, along with biblical principles, to help others.” On the cover Jennifer Lucy is sprawled out on a bed and I don’t like that one bit. I should go back to my book, which was approved by Oprah*. Oprah should have caught that ‘App’ mistake. She should have torn that page out of the book and made some writer eat it. I wonder if Oprah ever had a writer kneel before her and forcibly eat their own book. I bet she has. Maybe not Franzen, but Frey. Dry. No ketchup or anything, but just the whole book. Just eat the goddamn book, cover to cover. I’d do it. I’d eat a book. For a few million dollars? I think I’d eat a book. IN THE COMMENTS SECTION, TELL ME WHICH BOOKS YOU’D EAT AND WHY AND FOR HOW MUCH! I’m web-optimizing. Engage the audience! Build a community! Eat a book!
When I started writing this, I thought, “I’m not sure I have much to say.” If only I had a time machine I was afraid to touch the handles of, I’d go back and prevent myself from writing this, which will almost certainly prevent myself from regretting writing this in ten minutes. Self-Doubt is nature’s time machine.
*Congratulations to Oprah, for somehow being mentioned twice in this blog.
October 24, 2012 § 2 Comments
I’m stopped at a red light behind a hybrid SUV. I think it’s a hybrid SUV. It’s brand new expensive impracticality, packaged as a smart choice, purchased by people just in the space before realizing the difference between those two things or with enough money not to care. Around Oakland the giant hybrid SUVs always come off as a little guilty. People that were young and had strong ideals, but now have money to buy nice things, so they get something that feels righteous despite it being bigger than they need, more wasteful than they’d like, but it says ‘hybrid’ so it lets them not think about it. They can even put a peace sign on the back and not feel ridiculous. Maybe. Maybe it’s for the mileage. Who knows.
Above the peace sign there are some of those stick figures people have been putting in their back windows. One stick figure is taller, wears a triangular stick dress and says MOM underneath. The other is smaller, also has a triangle dress, and says SERENITY. And I can’t figure out if her daughters name is serenity, or if she’s decided not to have children and is enjoying her carefree, serene life.
I wind up going back and forth about this.
Let’s say her daughters name is SERENITY. I don’t like this MOM person. I don’t like this person for naming their kid that, or for putting their weird, half-story’s worth of information in the back window to boggle drivers-by all day long in their ecologically questionable pretend-car. Nothing against SERENITY, she can’t help her name, which she’d have to hate. I might hate SERENITY if she doesn’t hate the name, but she might be 8, then I’d feel bad for hating a child, but then she might be 34, there’s not a lot of information in these stickers. I’d be OK with hating her if she’s 34, and she stuck with that name. But then, maybe she changed her name to RUTH or something less pregnant with expectation. You shouldn’t saddle someone with the expectation of a character trait that you don’t know they’re going to have. SERENITY might be a SQUIRREL TRAP full of CRAZY ENERGY. There’s no way to know and it’s monstrous to pin that on someone you’re supposed to love a whole lot before you even met them. RUTH. RUTH is a good name. Maybe a little too BIBLICAL, but you should pick your own, non-descriptive-descriptor for your own creation that will not absolutely haunt that creation throughout their lives.
If her daughter is not named SERENITY, but SERENITY is her state of being for not having children. It’s an OK joke. I’ll give her that. But then, it’s only an OK joke if you mention it in conversation as a nutty thing you’d do, to illustrate how silly you are while at the same time illustrating great your choices are, and it starts to break apart right between those commas. So you might be a shitty person again because you’ve decided to drive around giving the finger to all the people who have those – admittedly obnoxious – stick figures. And they might deserve that. But who are you, MOM. Plus you’d have to be so sure of the joke that you’d have to order those online, have them shipped to your house, the whole time, not regretting this decision, putting the decals on your back window nodding your head and giggling about how great you are. “Oooh boy, wait’ll Trader Joes sees this…” I started out hoping this was the case, but now thinking about it, I’d be more upset if it were.
OK, so you, MOM, have a child named SERENITY. I feel comfortable now in this assumption that you’re the kind of person who would name your child that and then emblazon that fact on your kinda-hybrid. Now we need to move on to the second, more involved, horrifying part of this puzzle. Where did you get SERENITY? Not the name. The person. Where did she come from?
I’ve seen every iteration of these stick figures and once it was heart warming. It was MOM, MOM and SARAH. Three triangle dresses. Two moms and a daughter. I assume the daughter was adopted. I don’t really care where the daughter came from in this instance because it doesn’t make me think anyone is dead. So this gets filed under heart warming because of the beautiful story involved where these two women were able to adopt a child and a child got to be adopted and these two ladies get to be in love and have a family just like they should be. Kudos, lesbians! Thank you for sincerely warming my heart that time I saw your car.
Is SERENITY’s DAD dead? Oh my god, he’s dead. Oh Jesus what a horrible story you’re broadcasting, MOM. I wonder what happened? What if a tiger got him? Maybe he was crushed by something. Or a machine tore him apart in an accident. No, nobody who would name their child SERENITY would work near machines. Cancer, I guess. Oh wait, maybe he’s alive but he just left them. Maybe he cheated on equilateral MOM with his isosceles SECRETARY. So he leaves – oh shit – MOM had to go out with a razor blade and scrape the DAD figure off of her car, tears in her eyes. If he died, she’d probably have someone else do it for her, maybe a nosy neighbor does it without asking ‘to help’. That happens when those things happen. But if that bastard left MOM for the SECRETARY, MOM probably went out in the rain and did it herself. Still crying, but angrily. She’s angrily crying, shaking the razor down the glass and “FUCK YOU BOB”. DAD’s name is Bob. And then SERENITY has to come out the next day to drive to school – presuming she’s 8 and not 34 – and if she’s true to her name, she’s serene, pretends not to notice it for the sake of MOM, who is still bloodshot from crying and white wine, and calmly climbs into the back seat because of the warning printed on the brand new passenger side airbag. But maybe SERENITY bursts into tears and they’re late getting to school because she misses her dad because she’s too young to realize what a BASTARD he is, and so help me god if she starts calling SECRETARY MOM. SECRETARY will never be your MOM, SERENITY! I just bet DAD is ordering new stick figures right now to put onto the back window of his mid-life-crisis tw0-seater. Unless of course he is dead from CANCER.
There’s no way to know.
And the light is green.
I’m tempted to give MOM the finger, but don’t.
September 17, 2012 § 1 Comment
Sextant Winery is our third stop on an impromptu wine tasting trip. We have a case of wine in the back seat, whites mostly, we need more reds and a rosé for our upcoming wedding at our house in Oakland. We’re about halfway through our wine tasting when a woman in her forties turns to us and starts conversation. She’s nice, excited, chatty. Her husband is a few years older, but he’s in incredible shape, not drinking wine, but from a water bottle that has an undisclosed liquid in it. It’s the kind of water bottle you keep on the underside of your bicycle, in case you get thirsty during your fifty mile warm up ride to GNC. He seems tense.
It’s a Monday, Amanda and I are playing hooky, I assume they’re mostly retired, they seem like they have money. Pam finds out we’re stocking wine for our wedding, gushes and offers to buy us a bottle of wine, but Jeff surreptitiously nudges her with his elbow and she withdraws. “But we’re members here! So we’ll cover your tasting at least!” She glances at Jeff who is looking at me and I haven’t said a word and I don’t know why he’s looking at me. Pam motors on “Oh – wait. Tell me you’ve been to Alapay? NO? Oh you have to go, we’re members there – the owner is a friend of ours, they have the best rosé! Sorry Becky, it’s true!” Becky’s the completely indifferent wine server who is standing too far away to respond. “It’s right down the road, you turn at that other winery – I can’t remember the name, we’re members there too.” Her sun dress is red and purple flowers and she’s a little drunk. Jeff shakes with unblinking intensity even though he’s just drinking whatever is in his yellow bottle and nodding – but he’s putting a lot of effort into it. He’s doing it the best he possibly can. I quickly assume he’s a robot or a murderer.
Things get hazy here. Somewhere between Pam saying that Amanda reminded her of their daughter, and learning too much about their dog, we agree to follow them to Alapay winery. We’re saying sure that sounds great and Pam is marching us all out into the parking lot, while she talks about memberships and discounts and their dog who we need to go pick up right now. They load into their Mercedes and we into our Nissan and we pull our doors shut and the spell is broken instantly. “What’s going on?” “What the hell just happened in there?” “I don’t know, do you think they’re going to murder us?” “What? Of course I do.” “Well I think so too.” “Gonna get fed to their goddamn dog.”
Pam is beaming and waving from the passenger side window, Jeff has activated his driving program and is focused on the road. I assume any conversation they’re having is about how best to liquefy our corpses after the dog is full.
We don’t do things like this, I’ve explained here before that I’m not great with strangers. Amanda’s better, but I drag her down. Most of the ride is spent genuinely trying to figure out if something creepy is happening because why would you invite total strangers to go someplace with you? Why would anyone want to drag other people into your afternoon? It’s a ten minute drive and we can’t seem to not follow them. “Do you think they’ll keep our heads as trophies, or does the dog get everything.” “I think the dog is probably in charge. I think that’s his call.”
Pam and Jeff don’t invite us into their home, and it’s a relief, they just go inside to get their dog Rambo. “It’s spelled Rambeau” Pam corrects. Jeff finally talks. He’s a financial adviser on a cleanse. She doesn’t mention what she does for a living, she talks about Alapay, their friend the owner, about never wanting a small dog, but falling in love with Rambeau who stops on cue to shit in the crosswalk of a busy intersection. Pam panics and yells for Jeff who sprints to solve the problem and they apologize to traffic profusely, are nice to the dog and giggle while they clean everything up. They catch up to us while I’m typing snarky tweets about the experience into my phone.
We wine taste with them at Alapay, a bright, tropical themed room with a noisy fish tank. Jeff relaxes, explains his stance on personal finance and I give him too much personal information about our finances and he gives me some tips, I’m excited when Jeff says I’m on the right track. “What’s your email address, I’ll send you a copy of my book.” And I give it to him, even though I get annoyed at friends when they don’t use BCC on group emails, even when the group is only other friends. “I’ll send that to you tomorrow.” I realize that, even if he decides not to kill us today, I’ve now given this stranger enough information to hunt me for sport. Then, oh shit, “Where’d Amanda go?”
There’s a small boutique connected to Alapay. It’s full of flowery sun dresses. Pam is holding one up and if she says “Wouldn’t this look nice on Amanda?” I will shove Jeff into a rack of Hawaiian shirts and run out of the building with Amanda over my shoulder because I refuse to be hypno-sexed by these strangers and their dog. But she doesn’t. She just says that it’s pretty. She really seems to be having a nice afternoon. Jeff too. Amanda catches my eye, and we do the thing we do to let the other person know that we’re both ready to leave, but Pam is telling a story.
Last year, Pam went on a Development Seminar where she was let out of a van in the Canadian wilderness with nothing but a length of rope. She didn’t explain why and it was so baffling I got dizzy, but It was difficult for her, she survives it, and comes through it a better person. Jeff puts his hand on her shoulder and nods along. He’s proud of her for not calling home halfway through, but sticking with it, and really getting the most “development” out of it, pausing only briefly to drink cleanse-juice from his sports bottle, but never takes his eyes off her while she tells the story. It really was hard for her, and she really got through something and Jeff squeezes her shoulder at the end of the story. And it dawns on me that Pam and Jeff are scary because they’re the nicest people on earth and Amanda and I are suspicious cowards.
We all leave together. Jeff inexplicably takes a separate route home. Pam says he has to pick up the mail. I try to force myself to assume he’s going to get weapons or setting up the tarp in the murder room, but he’s not, he’s probably putting out a forest fire or calmly teaching an orphan about Roth IRAs. Pam makes it worse. We’re walking quietly when Pam stops us to look up at a tree she loves. It’s fifty feet all, covered in purple flowers and is home to what sounds like a hundred birds. “The lady who lives here says all that bouganvilla just climbed up the tree one year. Never seen anything like that. Isn’t it beautiful? The birds really seem to love it, too. All crammed in there together like that.” Nobody says anything for a minute and we just look up at this tree and it really is beautiful.
Jeff shakes hands, Pam hugs and we leave. The next morning I got this email from Jeff:
Good to meet you at Sextant yesterday. Glad that you could come down to our neck of the woods for a weekend jaunt. Congrats on your upcoming celebrations in the Bay Area and in Pennsylvania.
Here is a copy of our eBook I mentioned. Focus on your wedding…..the honeymoon in Italy….then if you have any questions thereafter about what might be a great path for a “young man to chart” that would give you the greatest probability of becoming financially free….hit me up!
Say hi to Amanda-
June 26, 2012 § Leave a Comment
I’m half asleep and I want coffee, but I don’t have cash, only the credit card, and eventually I’m going to want a bagel, but not right now, I wonder if it’s ok to just ask them to keep a tab running for me, but that not something coffee shops do and I want to be as low impact a customer as possible because the only other guy in the room is yelling about NASA. I might as well just get the bagel now, even though I don’t want to eat until later, because of the weight loss bullshit, and, really who cares about weight loss when the sun is about to explode. They’ve “Seen the solar storm! It is coming! Don’t think it’s not coming!” So the coffee and a plain bagel then. Just a plain, normal, regular, screamin as loud as I can at 8am about NASA kinda bagel.
I never want to own a coffee shop. It wasn’t going to come up, but I don’t think I ever want to own anything with an open door. I might have before the Space Man came in the room citing the New York Times about how a sun storm is going to wipe us out, which he didn’t seem scared about, by the way. If anything, he seemed angry at us for not knowing about the sun storm. And I understand, cataclysmic sun storms are upsetting, but you don’t want to misdirect your anger. You don’t want to be angry at the sun, and then direct it at the genuinely happy “I see this all the time, it’s ok.” coffee shop owner. You are the sun, crazy person, and we, but the lowly earth, terrified that you are going to stab us to death with your knife-you-stole- from-the-last-guy-you-killed-and-ate-storm.
Before the Space Man came in, I was settling into my new spot and had a conversation with the owner, who smiles a lot and is happy to have customers. I’m setting up my computer to work and to write when I’m not working, I’m trying to develop a routine that results in my not getting fired, and a chunk of a novel at the end of the year. It’s a good plan, but “I need consistency, you know, that’s what the frequent customer cards are for, and we started staying open later, we need more people like you, to come in every day, that’s where the money is. That’s how you retire early.” He says, and he’s smiling, even though the subtext is that he’s struggling. But he’s happy, and he’s working hard, he likes doing what he’s doing, and maybe that’s enough, even though “NASA has us all lined up to be shot, by keeping us in the dark, it’s people like me doing the real work, letting people know. Every day.” Gotta get up and do it every day. That’s how you get what you want. That’s how you get to retire early. That’s how you get to watch the sun explode.
My bagel is moldy. I don’t have the heart to tell anybody about it. I keep my head down. I get back to work.
June 19, 2012 § Leave a Comment
The posts have slowed considerably because I’ve stopped going to work. I’m still working, but I’ve stopped going. I’ve successfully increased my work-from-home days from one day a week, to two days a week, to five days a week. There are lots of blog posts out there about how to do that successfully, but I’ve found that most of them are inaccurate, and that the best way to do it is to be good at your job but difficult to be around. Offices are great for people who like to be involved in things, and working from home is great for people who have spent two days in a row trying to teach one of his cats how to moo. I’m the latter.
Working from home is great, it’s less complicated and quieter. But, not going to work involves me spending zero time on Public Transportation and only slightly more time around strangers in general. When you factor in headphones, it’s possible I haven’t heard a strangers voice who wasn’t shouting on the street or selling me coffee in six months. It’s great, but I’m not so sure it’s healthy, so I’ve left my cats to make whatever noises they want and am spending today in a coffee shop and trying to work and write at the same time. Going to be doing this more frequently, as the only way my work day could improve would be to remove the work and write for money. Getting closer all the time.
But anyway – NEWS: I’ve been invited to take part in a reading. It’s with the fine folks at Invisible City Audio Tours, it’s me, Sarah Ciston and Chris Pedler – the publishers of the wonderful We Still Like and Tupelo Hassman the author of a book you should read immediately. You should come. I’m going to be reading some tweaked versions of posts from this blog. Tweaked for reading-in-front-of-people-readability!
If you’re reading this and you’re in the Oakland area, come out. Check out the main Beast Crawl site and read the roster of people that are involved, there’s going to be a lot of talented folks milling around that night, should be a good time.