Monday, December 22, 2008
Can anyone explain to me why the Entenmann's Company persists in making the "Plain Donut?" If you've ever been to a meeting where they have a box of Entenmann's Assorted Donuts laying out, have you ever seen anyone grab the Plain Donut first? My only guess as to why this least liked of all doughnuts still earns a spot next to its far superior contemporaries, "White Powder" and, the apogee of all fried dough treats, "Chocolate Covered Yellow Squishy Cake," is to serve as a form of punishment. If you see someone eating a Plain Donut, you know he got to the meeting late. For that sorry son of a bitch, the flavorless, brown doughnut he's forcing down with coffee is no treat; its a humiliating Scarlet Letter he has to wear to show everyone he's the guy who can never be anywhere on time.
I know someone out there is saying, "Armin, that doughnut is there for the person who doesn't want the calories that are packed in the more delicious doughnuts." But, if you don't want calories, you probably shouldn't be eating anything with the name Entenmann's in the first place. This doughnut has all the ass widening capabilities of the other two without the desired yumminess. Eating this doughnut is like contracting gonorrhea without even getting to have sex with the hooker.
Wow, even I'm surprised by how much invective this stupid doughnut has provoked in me. You'll have to excuse me, someone recently gave me a half eaten box of Entenmann's Variety Pack Donuts and I just ate three Plain donuts which I dunked in my bitter tears of disgust.
Monday, November 24, 2008
The first goal was to fly a lot of places for free. In less than a year, I think I've already accomplished that fairly well. But the second goal, which I kept private, had alluded me for the longest time until this past friday.
While working in baggage service, I was trying to find contact information on an unclaimed bag and instead found a shopping bag full of dildos! It was just like that song by War, "Spill the Wine" because there were "tall ones, short ones, brown ones, black ones, round ones, big ones, crazy ones..." It was like finding Santa's sack of presents if Santa catered to horny middle aged ladies. Maybe this passenger worked for the non profit group, Toys for Twats.
So, there you go, my second professional goal of finding a shopping bag full of dildos in a passenger's suitcase has come to fruition. Excuse me while I go find some Purell to bathe in.
Friday, November 14, 2008
"Up in St. Johns."
"Oh... isn't that the ghetto?" she asked, a bit alarmed.
It's hard to answer this question because it's abrasive for a couple reasons. First of all, people have different qualifiers for ghettos and since I doubt most people who use the word ghetto for a neighborhood have dedicated extensive time into researching that neighborhood's poverty levels or crime statistics, I have to assume their judgment is based on hearsay or having seen graffiti and minorities in the area when they got lost there one time. I remember when I was living in Baltimore, both my parents thought I was living in the ghetto, not because they had gone door to door to discover the median income of the Waverly district was below the national average, but because they saw many more black people on the streets than in Lincoln Park, NJ.
Secondly, the fact that this coworker was shocked that I live in what she believes is a ghetto implies that I don't look "street" enough to handle living in the "ghetto." Understandably, the Northwest Airlines dress code strictly forbids me from wearing all the ice I frequently adorn, not to mention my Glock, but I assumed my "thug life" personality would shine in my every day speech, my way of checking in customers ("window or aisle, bee-atch?"), and my incessant origami folding. Do i have to drop an expletive-laced rap album with hooks featuring Pharrell on your cracker asses to prove I'm street? Believe me, if I have to, I will.
Anyway, I moved into my roommate Ross' condo in St. Johns over the summer and, I have to say, I've seen and lived in worse places. Yes, I know, I have a tendency towards martyrdom and want to always make it seem like I suffer with a stiff upper lip through trials that would kill the average man. If we both order soup at a restaurant, I will make the offhand comment that my soup is colder and less evenly seasoned than yours, but still forge on and eat it without nary a tear, so you can see how tough I am. I know, I'm a tool. So it's perfectly understandable if you think this is a trick and that I'm saying St. Johns is not so bad so that when you come to visit me, you'll be horrified by the gang rape and car fires in the streets and go back to your opulent, Rodeo Drive worlds and tell your tea time coterie that your friend Armin is nonplussed living in the ninth circle of hell.
At the same time though, St. Johns is not the prettiest neighborhood. I joke that the main employer of most residents in St Johns is Oregon Video Lottery. I've broken up a fight between toothless men in the street. In the public library, the vast majority of the patrons are not bibliophiles, but kids and old men checking Facebook for girls and I actually heard this lovely conversation paraphrased in there one day between two guys in stained beaters and large belt buckles:
"Yo, D, did I tell you I got shot?"
(jealous) "Really, where?"
"At Marie's party."
"Who did it?"
"I don't know. We just heard some shots and I got hit in the ass." (limps away)
The first time I rode the bus in my new 'hood, I was amazed by the crowd gathered at the stop. As I saw each possible bus go by, I realized I was the only one at the bus stop with the intention of actually riding a bus. For the rest, this was a club house, sort of a Peach Pit if they were the original cast of 90210, which they did not resemble at all. Two shaggy looking twenty somethings had found an abandoned milk crate of free Little Debbie Blueberry pies left on the street and were gorging themselves, the gobs of purple filling splattering on their beards and worn out cargo pants. Three other joined in the buffet; if nothing else, there's a sense of community in these parts. However, one woman with a droopy right eye was upset with one of the fellas at the feast; she turned to me, but without addressing anyone in particular, lamented, "He ain't sharing his cornbread." It's true, I concurred, hoping the damn bus would just get here already. One guy did indeed have a hunk of cornbread crumbling in his hand and did not offer her any. I guess she's not a fan of abandoned Little Debbie pies.
When I was younger, I fancied myself a bit of a nomad, a bohemian type--fringe, if you will--and these St Johns folks with their seeming lack of aspirations and simple desires, would have seemed cool to me. Maybe i'm getting snobby, or my privileged upbringing is truly showing now, but I'm getting a bit sick of it all, the loitering, the constant toping, the swearing, the smoking and gambling.
But, at the the same time, the rent is great, I have a roommate I don't detest, there's free pool and dollar happy hour PBRs at Slim's, free Wifi at Ladybug Coffee where the owner thinks my name is James and I've been too embarrassed to correct her.**
Sometimes I'll walk the four blocks from my place to the Willamette River to really enjoy my neighborhood. I sit on the docks if it's nice out, under the auspices of the great St. Johns Bridge, which reminds me of a giant green dragon crossing the river. The boats below are like remora feeding on its scraps and its head rests in the middle of downtown, its teeth made up of dive bars and coffee shops, while its tail circles the last pocket of wilderness left. That's a side of St. Johns even an uppity fat chick would love.
*I try to be politically correct with my blog, so I realize this might have ruffled some feathers, specifically, the feathers on fat people. Notice, I said the ratio was too high, not her weight. So for example, if her body fat was very high, but but her personality was like a Tina Fey and Sandra Dee from Grease mashed up, then maybe I'd be interested. Conversely, if her personality was significantly worse, but she had the looks to back it, then flirt away.
**If you don't correct someone the first time they say your name wrong, you never will because every subsequent time they call you that misnomer, you'll have a harder time pretending you just heard them wrong.
(in reference to an entry in which I did not pay a restaurant bill because I didn't have cash)
Adam writes: Has New Jersey figured out ATMs yet?
Yes, I understand I could have found an ATM while my friend was on the phone for twenty minutes. This is often known as the "Bathroom Quandary." You're waiting for something, say a friend picking you up, and you ask, "Do I have enough time to go to the bathroom?" You say, no, better wait. And you wait, and then ten minutes later say, "Dammit, I could definitely have gone to the bathroom already! But now I definitely don't have enough time." So you wait another ten minutes and now you're really pissed and have to go badly, so you pee behind an alley or something and your friend pulls up as you are walking out the alley zipping your fly. And unlike every other time you take a piss, you can't lie and say, "yes, i washed my hands" when you're walking out of an alley.
John Cocktoastin writes: I'm fine if you want to call yourself married to anyone. I just don't see why the government needs to be involved in it.
I have to agree that if marriage is a religious term with religious meaning, then it should have nothing to do with government. Here's a video worth watching:
Thursday, November 13, 2008
Nov 5, 2008
This is a remarkable time in American politics. This is a remarkable time in California politics. In the span of twelve hours, my sense of pride for the national stage has become tinged with a sense of frustration and embarrassment within my state. At the time of this writing, news organizations have begun to acknowledge the success of Proposition 8, which now will explicitly write bigotry into the state constitution of one of the country's most progressive states.
How did this happen? Who is against a state government legally recognizing the decision of an effort between two human beings to build their lives together?
Unlike other hot button political issues, the opponents of same sex marriage fall under an easily identifiable umbrella. Of the 52% of California voters who supported a ban on same sex marriage, I would wager a lot of Armin's money that the respondents overwhelming cited a religious aspect to their decision.
After numerous discussions with people, here is my personal summary of the arguments against gay marriage:
I. Marriage is a sacred (read: religious) institution and it must be protected at all costs.
II. Semantics. The word marriage is a religious one. God (who likely doesn't exist) told his followers that marriage is defined as between a man and a woman (or between a man and a 17 year old woman, a 16 year old woman, and a 12 year old woman in the Mormon definition).
(As an aside, the Mormon Church has sent tens of millions of tax-free dollars in this election to California to ban same sex marriage.)
III. The slippery-slope. If society legitimizes the act of two men living together (or two women for that matter), where does it stop? (Answer: When a man tries to marry his plasma screen television).
IV. Marriage should be set up to produce children. Gay people can't do that. (oh yes they can!)
Do any of the above hold water? Argument I can be easily deconstructed by one simple task: those who cite this should meet my parents. Heterosexuals have been screwing up the sanctity of marriage for centuries. Why can't we let we let gay people have a shot at doing the same thing? Shouldn't religious groups have an even greater political campaign to stop heterosexuals from getting divorced? "I'm sorry Beth. I know your husband beats you to within an inch of your life at least once a week. However, God looks badly on divorce. The Lord wants you to endure the beatings because he has a special place in heaven for you if you do." (Yeah, the intensive care unit.)
Argument III is simply asinine. Isn't this on the list of reasons for why Rick Santorum was voted out of office?
Arguments IV is extremely weak. No one would suggest infertile heterosexual couples shouldn't be together.
Finally, I would like to address Argument II: Semantics. This is undoubtedly the most common argument I have encountered. Many open-minded religious people (yes, even I know that this term is not an oxymoron) tend to use this approach. However, this argument falls flat, too.
It's true, I am not an accomplished etymologist, nor am I even a garden-variety linguist. Even so, I know this: while the word marriage has its roots in religion, it now has been woven into the secular fabric of society.
This marriage-is-a-religious-word argument is also disingenuous. Why so much attention on the word marriage? Why not other religious words, such as damnation, brimstone or myrrh? Oh wait a second... I have one: bible. We can all agree that the word bible is religious in nature. We can all agree that along with the word marriage, bible has bled into our secular lexicon. A search on Amazon.com produces many book titles that have nothing to do with religion. I haven't heard of any religious groups acting to remove such sacred tomes as The Barbeque! Bible or the Knitter's Bible. How could that be? Don't the same people who insist the word marriage is sacred view the word bible as sacred? Shouldn't they call it something else? The Civil Book on Knitting has a much better ring to it, doesn't it?
Aside from one ambiguous dream I had long, long ago, I am a simple heterosexual man. I do not happen to have any really close gay friends that were directly affected by the success of Proposition 8. Instead, I believe in equal rights and a secular country. The fight against same sex marriage has made me realize the tremendous influence religions still have in American life. People have a right to be religious. Religions do not have a right to be political.
And with this experience firmly rooted in my political perspective, I plan on spending the coming decades donating, volunteering and supporting the fight for same sex marriage in any way I can. I see this as the singular issue with many gains for nonreligious people to make. In 2008, religion should be a vestigial part of our society. It had its place in history. It has nothing more than a minimal place in the future.
Thursday, October 23, 2008
First of all, I love the idea of a guest blog. Before the hip hop industry killed it with overuse, I loved when bands had tracks on their albums featuring members of other bands. I was that douchebag that just had to share useless trivia about songs with cameos, "You do know that's Paul McCartney singing back up for Donovan, right?" Also, I love when all the artists of the Sunday comics decide to switch strips and take a crack at their colleagues' stories. It's like wife swapping only less morally objectionable and more sanitary. A guest blog can add a nice, refreshing change of voice.
More pragmatically, a guest blog is good because it adds filler to a blog that I do not update on any regular basis. So I will put the invitation out to people if anyone feels like doing a guest blog, like Cal, who, for anyone who has met him, would assume has plenty to say to fill up his own blog, but would rather scavenge readers off a long rotting blog.
Anyway, if you haven't read his entry, it was about how he's cautious about making broad generalizations at social gatherings for fear he'll offend someone. This coming from a man who at a work dinner raised his glass in a toast and accidentally said "Chink" instead of "Clink" in front of multiple Chinese Americans.
What Cal/Sir Thaddeus McDougal really wants is to eradicate "small talk." He's sick of it as I imagine many of you are, too. Trivial, banal formalities in conversations that we all use and from which we rarely deviate on a first meeting. A friend of mine in Boston had just joined Match.Com and she said her biggest pet peeve is guys who have questions ready. I told her I always have questions prepared and she was flabbergasted, "I don't believe that, Armin, because you don't have any problem talking to people." "Of course I don't have a problem talking to people because I have a bunch of questions ready before I meet them." She's lying to herself if she doesn't believe every adult has questions prepared for social situations because as long you're not agoraphobic or hermetically sealed in a plastic bubble, you should have had enough social encounters to compile a list of default questions for ice breakers, conscious or not. "Where did you go to school?" "Where did you grow up?" "What do you do for a living?"
In Cal's effort to extirpate (i'm studying vocab words for the GRE) meaningless, superficial banter, Cal will often bring up more provocative conversation topics than your typical "So what do you do for a living?" Let me make it clear: he is never trying to be rude or specifically make someone uncomfortable. He just values conversation and thinks he'll learn a lot more about a person and be more engaged if he brings up thought provoking topics.
When he met my friends in Portland, he made a bold statement, something along the lines of "Every guy watches porn, even married men," while in the company of a married couple. He wasn't trying to offend the couple or get the husband in trouble. I don't actually remember why he brought it up. I think he'd just rather talk about porn than the weather.
I've explained my stance on small talk to Cal and others:
I hate small talk. I find it boring and repetitive. At the same time, i think it's an absolutely necessary first step when meeting someone. People are generally not comfortable sharing very personal things about their lives the first ten minutes they meet you. Generally the only people who do that are the ones that smell like cat pee on the bus, oblivious to the fact you are reading a book and avoiding eye contact (yes, I'm now that east coast asshole that gives JerZ a bad name because he isn't friendly and doesn't want to hear about your day in the county jail).
If you ask small talk questions, then you as a listener should be able to pick up on something said that can lead to a slightly more substantial question. Slow, plodding conversations, like the herding of cattle. Tedious, but with an eventual destination. And so, as much as I'm tempted, I do not bring up porn at company parties.
Here's a summary of some of the more common small talk conversations I have over and over in my life. By sharing these with you, I realize I'm revealing myself as a complete and utter sham. Any of you who may have once thought I was clever will now realize it's all a rouse. I'm not clever at all; I have fake conversations in my head all the time predicting all the likely things the people will ask in any given circumstance and come up with cute replies. Nothing too fancy or it will sound rehearsed. Here a simple example. You get a hair cut. You go to work. What small talk statement will your coworkers say?
I'll give you a minute to think about it. Okay, pencils down. Did your answer look something like this?
"OOh, you got a haircut!" or "Nice haircut," or "did you get a haircut?"
If I'm getting a haircut, I picture this conversation in my mind and come up with cute replies, polished and ready for the next day at work:
1) Yeah, i thought it would make me faster at (whatever a common task is at work). You know, make me more aerodynamic." [this one does not work if your job is professional swimmer because then this answer is not cute, just obvious]
2) Yeah, I wanted to look more like (name of bald guy in the office).
3.) No jerk. I'm undergoing chemotherapy. [this is actually a very bad reply]
Pretty simple. Now next time you see me, you can throw me for a loop by asking something i'd never expect you to say like, "Why do you wear pink panties?"
"uhh... no, jerk. I'm undergoing chemotherapy." See? Now that didn't work well at all, did it?
Armin's Common Conversations
1. Conversation with random co worker at work on Monday morning
Random Coworker: "Hey, how was your weekend?"
Armin: "Too short"
2. Conversation i have with pilots when I ask them permission to close the airplane door.
Armin: "Alright Captain, we have everyone on board. Is there anything else you need before I close the door?"
Captain: "How about a million dollars?"
Armin: [Polite laughter] "If I could make a million dollars appear, I wouldn't be here, would I?"
3. Conversation while the song "Don't Stop Believing" is playing.
Average american: "I love this song."
Armin: "I fucking hate Journey."
Average American: "Why? How could you possibly hate Journey?"
Armin: "I don't know why. I just do."
4. Conversation while the song "magic man" by Hart is playing
Armin: "I hate Fleetwood Mac."
Average know it all American: "Actually, this is Hart."
Armin: "I know that [pretending to know that]. I just hate Fleetwood mac and wanted to share that with you."
I'd love to hear your horribly repetitive conversations... chances are, i've been on the other end of a script with you already.
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
One time I was checking in a couple going to Harrisburg, PA. I looked at the gentleman's name. "Thank you, Mr. Prime. Mr. Optimus Prime." While putting a bag tag on his luggage, I added, "By the way, you have the coolest parents to have given you that name."
"actually, I legally changed my name ten years ago," he said and it seems his wife took the last name Prime as well. It could have been worse. He could have been obsessed with some other cartoon and she'd be introduced at her wedding as Mrs. Tasmanian Devil. Or Mrs. Hamburgler.
"You have a pretty neat name, too," he says to me, looking at my name tag. "Arminius. Where is that from."
"I stole it from GoBots."
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
An Example of how slow my growth is into "Manhood"...
I visited an old boss/friend on the east coast the other week and we had lunch at a little Middle Eastern restaurant in quaint Lambertville, NJ. Since he's three decades older than me and I was always a poor college student through our relationship, he has historically picked up the check whenever we met up.
But now an adult (I was wearing a button down shirt and dress socks, for god's sake) I fully intended to pick up the tab. While he was outside taking a phone call, the waitress, young and attractive enough for me to want to impress her said, "Do you guys need anything else? Or should we not make that decision until the man gets here?" The Man? Meaning that I'm "The Boy?" Or "The Tranny?" What the hell does that mean?
I said, "We're all set. We'll just take the check. By the way, he's not my sugar daddy or anything like that." I broke out my Visa.
"Oh, we only take cash here. I can get you change if you need it." Twelve dollars in my pocket for a $20 bill. I checked and rechecked my wallet as if twenty dollar bills were okapi hiding in the woods, like one would jump out if I was patient enough to keep searching.
Ten minutes later, she returned asking again if I need anything.
"No, just waiting for my sugar daddy to come back and pay the bill." Unbeknownst to me, testicles CAN actually shrivel up and recede back into your torso. Who knew?
All the Knots Undone: Now in Syndication in Spokane, WA!
Heard from a friend, Ross, that his friend, Carey, spread the word about this blog to his coworkers in Spokane and they now check it regularly, too. Thanks for the support, readers I've never met, and this just goes to show you that if you are checking this blog at work, there are people out there with even more boring jobs than mine.
Thursday, August 28, 2008
To compound this feeling of foreboding that comes with the end of summer, I've recently switched to a three day work week. I know your immediate reaction is hot green jealousy, but if you only saw my paychecks, I'm sure some of you would mistake it for your monthly credit card payment. So this week, I've had a four day weekend, a tremendous amount of time off especially when compared to the schedule i kept during the summer (some weeks working 70 hours) and going back to work tomorrow feels like the end of a summer vacation that never existed.
I even have the nervousness of a kid on the eve of the first day of school, except I'm 27 and going to the same job I've been to for the last seven months. Appropriately enough, though, i just developed a large zit on my forehead. Maybe Northwest airlines will even decided to have picture day tomorrow.
Anyway, August always feels like the end of something to me, slightly melancholy because it marks the last chance for any summertime hopes to come true, and the acceptance that, well, maybe it'll have to wait to next year. It's a much more introspective time for me than New Year's and so, let's take a moment to assess this first summer in Portland...
1. Worked like a dog. Didn't know how to say no when people asked me to cover for them. Rationalized it in my head that if I take a day for them, of course they'll return the favor. Turns out, other people know how to say NO much better than I do.
2. Had a summer crush. Brief and innocent; it didn't turn into anything real, but I was happy for what it was and unconcerned by what it could not be. She held my arm when we walked across the street. That might have been the highlight of the entire summer.
3. Ate my first marionberry. They look like big ass blackberries entangled in a mesh of thorny vines. You know how when you're trying to break into a lobster and you tell yourself, don't worry, all this work and the minor cuts will be so worth it? Didn't feel the same about reaching my hands through thorns for a sour marionberry.
4. House-sat for my buddy Laurilyn again. You may remember her as the person whose car I destroyed last time I house-sat for her. Yes, she's a very forgiving person and was willing to give me second chance. No, I didn't destroy anything this time. The worst thing that happened this second time: I mistook rizotto for rice. Stir fried vegetables over Rizotto is not going to make it on any fusion restaurant's menu, at least not the way I made it.
So that's it. Soon we'll be breaking out the hoodies and the sun lamps to help stave of seasonal affect disorder. Soon enough, we'll be facing eight months of perpetually wet socks. Goodbye summer, for now. Let's do it again next year. Here's a song for the summer that, coincidentally, is called "The Summer Song."
Thursday, August 21, 2008
But if there's anything I hate, it's shopping for a better deal. The second most hated thing: being inside of a mall for more than 30 minutes. The third: Journey (but that is neither here nor there). I get very antsy and annoyed in malls or trying to figure out what is a better deal. And phone salesmen are some of the most off putting people in hell. Had Dante been born in 1981, I'm sure he would have added another circle in Inferno just for them. They solicit you, even if you are just walking past their store, aggressively enough to make you think the mall is bangkok and cell phones are underaged Thai girls. They wear that unique texture of sliminess specific to the likes of pimps and guys from New Jersey.
Most of the time, I can just ignore them. but this time, I actually did need a new phone, forcing me to step inside their world.
"Hi. I just want to know the cheapest phone plan you have for the cheapest phone you have."
"C'mon. Really? Don't you need an MP3 player or a camera?" says Mike, the young kid from Sprint, with greased back hair. I don't delve into it, but I'm pretty sure no one needs an MP3 player. I'm pretty sure the MP3 player did not make the cut for Maslow's hierarchy of needs.
"No." I'm curt and don't smile.
"No." My patience is waning.
"How about a fullsized keypad?"
Deep breath. "No." The mall is starting to close in on me.
But Mike turned out to be a nice enough guy and, more importantly, his company was the one that had the cheapest deal. The guy at AT&T tried to convince me why I should pay more with his company by explaining the subtle nuances of the cell phone game in simple terms for me, the layman:
"You see, in this industry, you get what you pay for," he says.
I guess that's unique to cell phone companies as opposed to any other industry where the standard practice is espoused by the motto: "You pay and then put your hand in a burlap sack and pull out something, possibly what you thought you were paying for, like cable service, or possibly a large Tootsie roll." When all you want to do is call people on your cell phone (and even that is a rather limited desire), paying an extra $15 dollars a month for better customer service on the help line or less dropped calls when you are in Juneau does not sit well with me.
So now I have a fancy new cell phone and most people think this is an improvement because i guess my old grey nokia was not as state of the art as I thought it was. Is the capability of mankind to speak to his brethren thousands of miles away not enough to impress you anymore? Sure, this new phone probably has tons of new features, but they will be wasted on me because I will never take the time to learn or discover them. Instead, I look at this phone and wish it had the features my old phone had, namely:
1. teddy bear wallpaper
2. a left and right parentheses, two of my most favorite punctuation choices while texting (it seems the new generation of phones, in an attempt to slay grammar, have done away with many very practical punctuation marks including both the colon and semi colon; all texts become run on sentences like The Sound and the Fury or this blog)
3. a luxurious ten minute snooze for my alarm (i know have to ween down to a five minute snooze and am jonesing like a motherfucker)
4. the pre-programmed FREE bowling game i used to play when sitting in public bathrooms. The new phone only has samples of games for free and I can't figure out how to make the buttons silent, so if I were to play in the can, I'd be embarrassed because people can hear all the beeping. I don't know why it bothers me so much that a guy in the next stall knows I'm playing Pac Man while taking a shit, but it does.
Why do these electronic devices have to keep evolving? Isn't the status quo good enough for you? You don't hear people saying, "Thank god those old fashioned, clunky manatees are going extinct! Too slow and dumb to not get chopped up by motorboat rotors. I much prefer blue green algae which are much sleeker and can download Kanye West ring tones."
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
I'm not standing on a soapbox. Einstein's real name is Gabe and I don't like him any more than my coworkers do. He's a whiny bitch. I just find it funny how my coworkers feel they are in a place to judge. There's this sense that because we're behind the counter, we're somehow better than they guys pushing the bags on the floor. In the same breath, my coworkers then will complain about how the flight attendants think they're so much better than customer service agents. Hypocritical, isn't it?
One of my coworkers once said to me, "I wish the Aviation guys would just stop coming over and talking to us," precisely while I was wishing she would stop coming over and talking to me. Funny how they think they're impervious to the same judgment they cast on others.
I judge everyone. I'm just as guilty of it as my colleagues. I look at your clothes and listen to the way you speak and I have an instant judgment about your childhood and education and intelligence. I just try to keep it to myself. Try to deny that I'm doing it. Try to correct it in my mind. That's a hard thing to change, though. You can change dietary habits and sleeping patterns, but how do you change thinking habits?
That's why I get so low doing this job sometimes. Not because I hate the job itself--it's not particularly worse than any other job I've had, and it's significantly better than a couple I can remember (loading boxes for FedEx and washing dishes at a nursing home stand out as the worst)--but because I feel debased by doing it. Maybe I'm imagining it; because I judge other people, I assume they judge me.
One day a customer was flying to Baltimore. I said to her, "going to charm city?"
"Is that what they call Baltimore?"
"Yeah, I lived there for a year and it was quite charming."
"Near Johns Hopkins."
"Oh, so you went to school there and moved here to work this job? I bet that happens a lot." I laughed along but wanted to bust her in the fucking face. Could have been a completely innocent remark, but i didn't take it that way.
I'll never be happy if I keep worrying about being judged. There's no job that isn't looked down upon by someone else in a better position. Even the Pope might have God snickering to the angels on walkie talkies, "Benedict put his mitre on backwards again. Retard."
Shana writes: I've never learned how to drive stick either. and i have this awful fear that one day there will be a horrendous bloody emergency or a desperate woman in labor and only a stick shift will be available for me to save the day.
I guess there's consolation in knowing women gave birth to kids long before stick shifts were invented and even without your help, parturition can occur. On the other hand, the horrendous, bloody emergency? Yeah, that fucker's screwed.
Anelyn writes: damn that croc tooth girl! plenty of other quirky girls in portland!
No big deal, but it's always disappointing when you picture something and it doesn't come true. I already had our celebrity mash up name picked out, a la Brangelina and Bennifer. Narrowed it down to either Crocomin or Armindile.
Kimbell1974 writes: Though you struggled, you didn't give up. Persistence is a good thing even if it's sometimes costly.
You're right, it was costly.
Moun'ain girl writes: I found myself wanting everything to work out with a fairy-tale ending at the beginning of your story - i was charmed by your accounts of crocodile tooth and so excited for your house sitting vacation. But why did i delude myself into thinking it wouldn't be a debacle?
Because you still possess hope which, like trans fats, is just empty calories that amount to nothing in the end.
Nimojo writes: Even though I got to hear each round in real time, I still get a good belly laugh each time I hear/read this story!
Thanks, but I'm sorry for people who live near me because they have to hear live renditions of the blog which are usually even more long-winded, if that's possible.
Joe Kickass writes: I find that Jack Daniels is a very good seamster. Sometimes he even tells me to write.
I remember a time when Jack Daniels told you to piss on a tree regardless of steady traffic.
Michael C writesL There was not a single, sweeping generalization in your post. What gives?
Will blog on sweeping generalizations, pros and cons, sometime in the future. Hope that's general enough for now.
Saturday, July 12, 2008
Bullshit. I'm not questioning his legacy as a hall of fame boxer. But you can't say there's nothing left to prove if in your same weight class, there is another young, undefeated fighter, namely Miguel Cotto, who has the most devastating body attack of any boxer in the game right now.
The general public only knows the names of knock out punchers, those head hunters who could throw one punch sending any opponent on the business side of the glove through the ropes. People who've never seen a boxing match know the name mike tyson just like I know the name Barry Bonds without watching baseball. We're drawn to the spectacular, naturally. But, any boxing fan will tell you, the way to knock out an opponent is not from one haymaker to the head. It's the disciplined, persistent (and perhaps, boring) body attack that saps an opponent's strength, makes him drop his guard, causes him to breath through the mouth making his jaw vulnerable to a chin shot. Body shots weaken the legs and take the snap out of an opponent's punches. Sure, most guys aren't knocked out by a body shot, but the accumulation of them through 12 rounds is what decides a fight. Floyd knows that and he's ducked a fight with Miguel Cotto for fights that may have had more box office draw, but certainly less risk. Floyd's not starving. He doesn't need the money. If he really wanted to prove he was the best, he'd face the pummeling that has crumpled all 32 of the fighters Cotto has dismantled in his career.
Don't worry this blog isn't about boxing (a dead sport, i know, i know). I just plowed through a series of events that felt like a combination of body shots... solar plexus, floating ribs, liver. Nothing enough to knock me out, just enough to make me drop my hands and buckle my knees.
Here's the round by round recap.
House sitting is a guilty pleasure of mine along with Gilmore Girls and girly alcoholic drinks. It's like a mini-vacation for me, getting to live in someone's house which is inevitably more luxurious than wherever i'm living (that's just logical, if someone lived in a house that was worse than my place, why would they need a housesitter? to feed the mice?). And my friend Laurilyn needed someone to house sit for her for a weekend while she went to a wedding. Coincidentally, her house has both Gilmore Girls Dvds and girly alcoholic drinks. I was set. Bonus: she was leaving me her car. I got rid of my car in March and since then, I've most noticed the lack of a vehicle during the times when I've wanted to pick up a girl on a date. I'd been out a couple times with a girl I refer to affectionately as Crocodile Tooth because, due to genetics and a lack of orthodontics, she has a tooth visible even when she closes her mouth. One way to differentiate an alligator from a crocodile is that a crocodile has a visible tooth when it closes its mouth, unlike an alligator which can afford braces at an early age. Hence the nickname. It's really a term of endearment because I really do think she's pretty and I love herpetology. But I've taken a lot of shit from people who think that's an offensive nickname, though I doubt anyone would say I'm a jerk if I called her something like Butterfly Girl. That's because we're taught at a young age that butterflies are "pretty" and crocodiles are "ugly." However if I quantified the nickname of Butterfly Girl by saying, "I call her that because she has a segmented body and an exoskeleton," people would probably find that nickname more disturbing that Crocodile Girl. Anyway, I'd been out with this girl a couple times and she always had to drive, which she never complained about, but finally I had the chance to call her and say, "i'll be at your place at 8."
So I was feeling pretty damn good about the whole situation when I got to Laurilyn's on Thursday.
"This is the key for the mailbox," Laurilyn said as she showed me around her place, explaining the trash schedule and how to use her toilet, one of those water saving flushes. Puffing my chest, i thought to myself, "Laurilyn, I have a college diploma. I think i can handle your place for four days."
After showing me where the towels were stored and which bottles of alcohol were fair game, it was getting close to the time for her to get to the airport. I told her I'd drive her there in her car.
As she was grabbing her suitcase, I tried to be funny:
"You know I don't have a license, right?"
She laughs, "Haha. But you do know how to drive stick, right?" No, she's not trying to be funny. She's not joking. And though I do have a license and a college diploma, learning how to drive stick weren't prerequisites for either. It was getting close to flight time for her and I didn't think there was time to find a new driver. Had I known then what I know after everything unfolded, I would have suggested we drive to the employee parking lot where I could park her car for free and then I'd get someone to drive it back to her place. No costs, just the inconvenience of getting a friend to drive the car back to her place.
Instead, I said, "I think I can figure it out." I doubt that any of my friends would think of me as someone who is conceited, overly confident, or unrealistic about his abilities. So had I never driven a stick EVER, then i certainly wouldn't have said I can figure it out. But, last summer, my friend Cal taught me how to drive his manual for a half hour when I visited him in san francisco and I thought the basics would come back to me. Five gears, three pedals, two feet. I mean, sixteen year old kids learn how to do this. There's even been stories of six year old kids who somehow drove their parents' manual transmissions to chuck e cheeses or some shit like that, though these recounts seem a bit apocryphal... how the hell could they reach the pedals? Anyway, i wasn't talking out of my ass. I definitely thought this was possible. Obviously, I had neglected the one rule that is consistent in my life: Whatever Armin believes, he's wrong.
Laurilyn drove to the airport with me in the passenger's side. She chose not to have me drive her, claiming what she didn't know wouldn't hurt her. "It's a brand new clutch, so I don't think you can do too much damage." The drive was about four miles.
I helped her get her bags out, gave her a hug, and waited until she was out of sight. Then, jumping in the driver's seat, I adjusted the mirrors and changed the station to oldies. I wasn't feeling particularly nervous at this point. I assumed I'd hiccup and stall a few times and have a funny story to tell at cocktail parties.
I couldn't even start the damn thing. I forgot I needed to push the clutch in first. I forgot which pedal was the clutch. I hadn't driven any car in months; i was shaky and confused. Still not very nervous though. I rolled down the window and smiled at people trying to unload their bags near me, "I'll be out of your way soon, kind sir. I don't know how to drive stick."
I called Cal for guidance since he had taught me how to drive. No answer. Then I called Nicole, and then Ryan, both of whom drive stick. Neither answered. So I called Ross who did answer, but doesn't drive stick himself. At least he helped me get the car started.
"are you going to be okay?"
"Sure," I said. "It's only four miles. I'm sure I'll be fine."
Arm out the window, sputtering along at a 8 mile per hour clip and stalling out every tenth of a mile, I still felt good. Still felt I'd make it home and I could figure it all out. I'd made it out of the unloading area in front of the airport and was approaching the main road, Airport Way, which is not a very fast road. I think the speed limit is 45 mph. But, I couldn't figure out how to shift out of first gear. I remember that when I let up on the clutch, I had to push the gas down, and vice versa. I did not remember that I had to push the clutch ALL THE WAY DOWN to switch gears. I thought I would be able to get back entirely in first gear.
My first moment of true concern came when I had to make a right hand turn over the railroad tracks. Since I had to let up on the gas, I stalled out, just as the green light adjusted to yellow and then red. And even when I pushed the gas down the car would not speed up and I heard the DING DING DING of red railroad barriers dropping their wooden arms, tomahawk style.
It was downhill though and I had enough time and momentum to drift through the tracks unscathed. But I was no longer as calm as I had been. I pulled over and gave Nicole another call. She picked up this time and was somewhat incredulous that I should try to drive a car I don't know how to drive. My decisions only seem ridiculous when I hear sane and reasonable people's first reaction to them. Her advice: 1) Push the clutch all the way down to shift, and 2) You will need more than first gear to get home.
Armed with these new tidbits of knowledge, I felt renewed. Like a prisoner who's exhausted himself searching for even the smallest crack in the walls until finally looking up to see there's a hole in the ceiling. I took a deep breath and tried it again. I still stalled. I could shift from first to second, but couldn't get past that. I started climbing a hill about one mile, ten minutes, from the airport where I started this debacle. As i struggled, I looked in the rearview mirror and saw smoke, so much so that I couldn't see the cars behind me. Then I saw smoke in front of me. And the acrid smell of something simple becoming something terribly difficult. I pulled over and called Nicole and Ryan. They picked me up. By then the car had stopped smoking and did not look as horrible. But the smell was still there. Ryan's guessed the smell was burning asbestos from the parking brake (oh, i forgot to mention i was driving with the parking brake on until after the train tracks). Nicole wasn't sure what had happened to the car, but they both seemed to agree that it would be hard to do too much damage in that short of time with a brand new clutch.
Ryan drove the car to Laurilyn's place without much ado. He said it was a little tough shifting into the gears, but maybe he was just saying that to help preserve my already shriveling testicles. They advised me to try starting that car again in a couple days and see if the smell was still there.
So I ignored the car and went immersed myself in the joy of living in someone's fully furnished house all by myself. I peed with the door open. I drank liqueurs instead of liquor with fancy Italian names and spell lemon limon. I got back from work at 1am and watched episodes of Man Vs Wild and every time the british guy had to catch lizards and maggots and roast them on sticks, i'd find left over halloween chocolate in her pantry and pretend I was surviving in the Indonesian swamps and Siberian tundra, too. I had a grand old time.
Then it was time to start the car again. Pushed the clutch down, turned the key. No problem. Dropped the emergency brake, put it in reverse. Holy shit! It's working! Put it back into first, bring it a few feet forward. I was ready to try it out again, now armed with the knowledge to make this thing go. I did not want to be defeated by this car.
Now someone who doesn't know me would probably chalk this up to excessive machismo, like I can't admit my limitations, or have to prove I'm a man in some way. But actually, I give up in tons of ways. I don't try to fix computers for myself or when I did have a car, I did very little work on it myself. I rarely try to do things I don't feel comfortable doing, and so this was a rare occasion when i was telling myself to take a chance, try to learn something on your own dammit without running for help. And so i ventured onto the very quite streets around Laurilyn's house and was doing great going into first and second and, my gosh!, even third. So i drove around for a couple minutes without any major issue, except getting stuck at a dead end and having to do a K turn. But all was well. The last think i wanted to do was fill the tank with gas because Laurilyn wouldn't get back into town until late and she had to work early the next morning. So i drove to a gas station but found it closed and didn't want to venture further out on busy roads so I just turned around and headed back to her place.
She lives up a bit of a hill and I found it impossible to move even in first once i stalled out. This was sunday morning and i was dead in front of a church, the Parkrose Deliverance Tabernacle Church, or something like that, and all the parishioners were on their way out the doors to proclaim the good news, i assume. Many of them saw me struggling and had to squeak past me to get to the main road. I asked one man getting in his car to help me out. He was more than pleased to oblige, a professional truck driver as it were. He couldn't get it to move either. Said the clutch wasn't catching at all. He helped me push it into the church's parking lot. I popped the hood, completely unsure of what I was looking for. He poked around and this drew the attention of a couple other guys because an open hood is to modern man what fire once was for the Neanderthal, a phenomenon that brings men together even though none of them can explain what the hell they are looking at.
As Nicole and Ryan surmised, the men at the church felt it was doubtful i could cause that much damage in 15 minutes of driving. Either there must have been some previous damage that went unnoticed until just now or whatever problem that was happening would magically go away after the car got to rest a bit.
I called Laurilyn. She wasn't mad at me at all, or if she was, she hid it well. She gave me the name of her mechanic. I called him and though he wasn't open--it was sunday, after all--he did refer me to a tow company he trusted. So for $60 plus $2 ATM fees (he didn't take credit), i had the hobbled Subaru towed to Ben's Japanese Automotive.
I watched more Man Vs. Wild and drank beer while I watched the British guy drink water from a chopped vine.
Monday morning, I biked to Ben's Japanese Automotive. Ben is a Korean man with a kindly face and shy smile. He's the one who replaced Laurilyn's clutch a couple months ago. Any time an older asian man speaks to me, it sounds both succinctly wise and horribly condescending. His diagnosis without taking the car apart yet: "If problem with transmission, not your fault. If problem with clutch, then you not know how to drive stick."
Four more hours later, he confirms the latter. His words: "The clutch is all gone." Like it's a fucking magic trick and I'm david blaine. Watch armin make a clutch (and his savings) disappear! And though the common consensus was that I couldn't destroy a brand new clutch in 15 minutes or two miles of driving, people clearly underestimate my apt for catastophe. Since Laurilyn wa his frequent customer, he quoted me a discounted rate of $450 instead of the usual $650. I was mildly consoled by that.
But he couldn't have the car ready until Tuesday. Laurilyn was getting back monday night and needed the car for work the next day. So, to make sure my idiocy didn't cause her any unneeded inconvenience, I told her I'd get a rent a car for her. She said not to worry about it; she could find someone to car pool with. But, i assured her it wouldn't be difficult. I work at the airport after all where all the rent a car companies are located and i could probably get a discount being a northwest employee. This was when things started getting a bit out of hand for me.
A friend of mine, Ryan, visited this past fourth of july and when I recounted this latest tale of Armin's Persistent Idiocy to him, he mentioned how much it sucks to have to spend all that money. True, but, the money didn't bother me as much as I thought it would. Money hasn't come easy since moving to Portland, but I'm not teetering on the edge of eviction, either. So if I could have written out a check for $550 just to make this problem go away, I certainly would have. What bothers me more is how I'm presented with a problem (generally self inflicted), then I picture a series of steps I need to do to extract myself from this mess, and invariably, those steps are much more painstaking and complicated than I could have ever imagined.
So on Monday afternoon, I called some car rental places at the airport. I'd rented a car when my friend Robbie was in town a few months ago, so I had some experience with the process. It cost $30 for one day and all we had to show was his license. It was a smooth, hassle free process, so I didn't imagine any difficulty getting one for Laurilyn. The only issue I could imagine was that I needed to be dressed and clocked in at work by 6:59 PM. I had decided on Enterprise by 2pm and all I had to do was take the light rail to the airport (a 40 min ride), rent the car (15 min?), drive back to Laurilyn's (10 min, tops), put on my uniform and bike to work (25 min). It seemed like plenty of time.
I didn't want to get the car too early because it would have to be returned by the same time the next day to be charged for just one day. So I got to Enterprise around 5:30 pm. Again, all I had to do was pay, drive to Laurilyn's, and bike back. I gave the gentleman at the desk my last name.
"And Mr. Tolentino, do you have a credit card?"
"Sure," I said and handed him my debit card.
"Ummmm... do you have a credit card that isn't attached to a bank?"
"No. Do I need one?"
"It's okay. If I can just see your flight itinerary, I can get you set up."
"I'm not flying anywhere. I live here."
"Oh. Well we can't rent cars to people who live here."
"it's a security thing. But you can rent a car from another Enterprise office."
"So I'm allowed to rent a car at other Enterprise offices if I live in Portland, but just not here at the airport."
My composure started slipping. My frustration was audible. Working in customer service, I know all about enforcing rules that make no sense whatsoever. I know it's not this 20 year old kid's fault that I can't get a car but I'm pissed off. "Where's the next nearest Enterprise office?" He showed me a place I could get to from the light rail. But it would be closing by 6 so I had to get there in a half hour. Rather than risk going there and it not working out, I decided to try all the other rent a car centers at the airport to see if they followed the same rules. Yes the rest of them held to the same policy, but Budget said because I had my employee ID that I could still get one. Relief like a warm blanket wrapped my heart. I started chuckling out loud at the close call while the girl began checking me in. She asked for my debit card--yes it was okay for me to use a debit card here--and stopped her typing.
"I'm sorry, Mr. Tolentino. It says Do Not Rent."
"What do you mean?"
"It just says I can't rent to you when I swipe your credit card." Yes, i might have been low on funds at that point, but I'm sure I had at least $150. Enough to rent a car. I couldn't argue the point and went groveling back to Enterprise. They transferred my reservation to the other office and all I had to do was get there before 6pm.
It was 5:40 when I caught the light rail. Of all the annoying little things that happened in this series of unfortunate events, one thing bothers me most. Every time I ride public transportation in Portland, I get a transfer which is good for two hours after my ride. So I can board any bus or train with that two hour span, show them my transfer, and not pay anything. So my pockets are full of these scraps of paper that I have to pull out on laundry day. For some reason that day, when I got out at the airport, I saw a trash can right in front of me and thought, "You know, i never use these transfers and they just clutter my room, so i'm going to throw it out. Why would I need it? I'm renting a car, after all."
And, predictably enough, I did need that transfer to get onto the train again to find an Enterprise that would rent me a car even if I lived in Portland. Thought about riding the train without a ticket, but knew with my luck that i would get caught by transit police and fined. So I sucked it up and bought another $1.75 ticket and rode four stops to the place where the Enterprise guy would pick me up.
He was a nice guy and explained to me that I needed something to prove I lived in portland for him to rent me a car. No, I didn't have an Oregonian license. Back in Baltimore and Boston, cops had asked me on different occasions why I didn't switch my license over to my new residences. They'd always say something demeaning like, "Son, did you know you're supposed to register for a new license once you live in a city for a month? Why haven't you changed yours?" Why? Have you been to the DMV, asshole? Would you voluntarily spend a day in line plus $80 to switch your license over when your old license can still let you get into bars and drive anywhere in the USA? Fuck that.
The Enterprise guy was more understanding than the cops. Since I had no way to prove I lived in Portland, no bills in my name and no license, he needed me to fill out the names of references. So while he drove me to the rental spot, I called Nicole and another friend Luana and told them, "A guy is going to call you in a few minutes and you have to confirm I live in portland. This is not a joke. Please answer him honestly."
So the Enterprise guy called Nicole and Luana and my boss at northwest, Art, who got a real kick out of me being in this mess because he loves cars and thought it was really funny that I didn't know how to drive stick. Then the enterprise guy had to photocopy all my work IDs and was looking for some other form of ID that would show I lived here. Gym membership? Anything? I gave him my library card and frequent customer card from a local coffee shop. "here," I said showing him old bus transfers from previous dates, "I swear I live here." He found it all amusing and cleared me for a car.
But, even though the Enterprise people at the airport said they'd transfer my reservation over to this other site, they didn't. So there was no car for me and I was ready to cry. Never fear, the Enterprise man assured me we could find a car, but we'd have to go back to the airport to get it. It was about 6:15 at this time and getting a little too close to work time for me to be comfortable. So i drove in a van with a bunch of Enterprise employees and they asked me why I needed a rent a car and I told them this entire story I've typed out for you here in this blog. And the common consensus was that I'm a retard.
But I had a car now and drove as fast as I could without getting a ticket and biked to work very quickly and took some good natured raillery from my coworkers for the events of the previous few days. Laurilyn had a car to drive to work. We picked up her car the next day, Ben the mechanic looked at me with his sad deep eyes and again repeated, "the clutch, it's all gone." I got the rent a car back in time without a hitch, though I did have to pay for their insurance because Enterprise knew I didn't have a car and didn't have my own. I wasn't about to argue that I didn't need insurance and i sure wasn't going to mention that I wouldn't even be the one driving the car. So that cost around $70. Think of it like I took a four day vacation at Laurilyn's house that cost me $580.
Remember Crocodile Tooth, the girl I had a crush on and wanted to pick up in this borrowed car? As you might guess, I didn't pick her up that weekend. After an ambiguous date after the car problems were behind me, I asked her via text if there was any chance for us to be a couple or if I was wasting my time. She replied "No, let's just be really good friends!" Exclamation point! Precious.
I was late for a 5 am shift at work. Had an alarm set for 3:30 am, but it didn't go off and I woke up at 4:15. Takes an hour to bike to work, but with the lack of traffic and my adrenaline, was able to get there in 45 min. Still clocked in late, but not too late and since it was my first infraction, I wasn't too stressed out.
I had to work the next morning at 5 am as well and so, learning my lesson, i decided to just sleep in the airport. It was cold and uncomfortable. I remember waking up around 3am, going into the lost and found to grab a sweatshirt and pillow someone left on the plane, and lying back on a bench to get one more hour of sleep. Can you believe I actually overslept again for work? The second day in a row, after having gone 5.75 months without an issue. And this time I overslept right in the goddamn airport. I woke up when the supervisor called my cell, quickly changed in the lost and found, and started working without even brushing my teeth. The line was snaked all around the dividers when i got there and there were only two people, one of whom was the supervisor who had called me, working. I felt awful.
This doesn't have anything to do with the car debacle, but it happened around the same time and I needed to add another round because boxing matches are never 9 rounds.
Post Fight Interviews
When my boss Art was teasing me about this story, he quoted richie cunningham of Happy Days, something to the effect of "If it hurts this badly, I must be learning something from it." If there's a lesson to be learned, I guess it's this: If you're wondering whether you are burning out the clutch in a car, the smell will tip you off. A burning clutch has the uncanny smell of burning a paycheck.
Wednesday, July 9, 2008
-the bee gees
I'm a coal miner stepping out of a hole in the ground, dusty, wheezing, and completely unsure of whether there is life on the surface anymore.
So for anyone still reading, thanks. It's been a while, i know. And my only explanation for this is that i need too much sleep. Something around 8 hrs minimum to function. It doesn't seem an unreasonable amount, but for all the things i want to get done every day, blogging invariably falls to the bottom of the priority list.
I was telling my friend nicole after a particularly trying week--nothing horrible, but just exhausting and frustrating (more about it in the next blog entry... you can expect that sometime in summer of 2010)--that i just feel life is in constant disrepair and we are each seamstresses (or seamsters for guys?) and our only responsibility is to try and stitch all these rips over and over, knowing it'll always fall apart again.
A hole in a sock for example. This always makes me a bit sad because a hole will only get worse. A hole represents nothingness and you can't make something out of nothing. Once a sock has a hole in it, it will never be the same. You can sew it. You can patch it. It'll never be as strong as it was before the hole and we can pretend the sock will be fine, but it's fucked unless we take the time every day to monitor and maintain it.
"Just throw the sock out, armin. Buy a new one." I get it. It's just an analogy because you can't just throw out your life. It's melodramatic. I'm replacing sisyphus' boulder with thread and needle. But every day we have these little, dull tasks we need to do and I don't even mind doing them. I just hate that they take away from the things I feel I'm really meant to do.
Flossing. That was part of the new armin's daily tasks. The new armin would floss every day and he's been pretty consistent with that. But you can't just do it once. You have to floss every day, this constant upkeep of your teeth. Or stetching. If you want to make sure you don't get old and hobbly too soon, you need to stretch. not just once, though. That does no good. You need to stretch every damn day or else it's all to shit. Exercise is the same and laundry and fixing my bike. There's all these repetitive tasks that can't just be done once a year. You have to do them over and over again, and that doesn't even mean it makes you exceptional. That's just to keep things from falling apart. If you stretch every day, that doesn't mean you'll be this amazing contortionist. It just means you might prevent yourself from severe pain when you try to pick up a spoon you dropped on the kitchen floor.
And so if I want to accomplish bigger things, say writing more, reading more, learning to play the ukulele and mandolin, get better at the guitar, improve my origami repertoire, resume my karate training, apply to grad schools, work enough hours to save money for grad school, along with having enough time to be with friends here and call friends far away... I get exhausted thinking about it because there's this mundane "to do list" that involves flossing, stretching, laundry, bike repair, cleaning the bathroom, etc.
The people in this world I envy most are those people who just don't need as much sleep, so they can go out with friends and write books and earn degrees and teach themselves special relativity along with a thousand other accomplishments all during the time that i'm in bed snoring.
I look at my hands a lot while typing at work or riding my bike. They look old now. Little scars and dark spots. I think of my two year old nephew's hands, each tiny finger pink and segmented like a caterpillar. Mine have the look of old bark instead. Maybe they look old because i felt I'd have more to show for myself at this age than a basket of folded laundry. I told nicole I would celebrate every accomplishment, no matter how small, but it's hard to rationalize cracking open a bottle of champagne every time you vacuum your room.
No matter. Summer has come to portland at last and some days the sun is just right and makes you remember the first time you ate a soft batch chocolate chip cookie.
Friday, June 20, 2008
In addition to this new way of reference, the practice of making sweeping, biased generalizations was already in sharp decline. For good reasons (the need to fight racism, sexism, antisemitism, antidisestablishmentarianism, etc.), these types of narrow-minded statements were increasingly met with disdain.
OK. Fine. That makes sense to me. But, I have a problem and here it is: my brain. My brain seems almost predisposed and uniquely structured to make rash, snap judgments based on sweeping generalizations. It is so ingrained that I believe it to be an inherent, primal quality. Instinctual, even. Heck, there is mounting scientific evidence that rash judgments, based on biases and not proven evidence, have contributed to the survival of our early ancestors.
So... how do I live in a society where my instincts run up against etiquette? Is it better to offer the world a polished, generic front to hide the sweeping generalizations that I make or to communicate them to shine a window on my imperfect humanity? And aside from etiquette, I believe that some sweeping generalizations are effective tools to use in life. Instead of trying to suppress this tendency to generalize, which is currently out of fashion in polite circles of conversation, my biased thoughts are used when I feel it's necessary.
Let me offer an example:
A few years from now, I will be married with children. I will want to get a babysitter so my sexy wife and I can hit the town. To find one, I will post an ad online. I will get a few responses and ultimately narrow the field down to two college students I have never met: a man and a woman. Both of them will be well referenced and will make an equally good impression on me. At this point, it might be hard for some people to make a decision.
But not for me. I will pick the female student.
Why? Because of my brain and this piece of information: in over 95% of people arrested for child sex crimes (pedophilia, child molestation, etc.), men are the perpetrators.
Now, it's true that since I don't really know anything about each of these hypothetical students, it is possible that this particular girl is a child molester. There is no way of knowing. But following the logic of wanting what's best for my children, I will pull in this generalization (that men are more likely to molest children) to make the best judgment I can.
And to anyone who actually endured this guest blog posting, I have this parting question:
Why is it not acceptable to admit or confess the biases and generalization our brains possess?
Yes, most of these thoughts breed intolerance and despicable behaviors. Yet, in our politeness and our measures not to offend, we lose touch with a valuable connection to our imperfect (but honest) humanity.
I think that's something that needs to be considered.
Sir Thaddeus McDougal
(AKA Cal, the college friend of Arminius)
Information derived from:
Vandiver and Walker. Female Sex Offenders: An overview and analysis of 40 case studies. Criminal Justice Review. Vol. 27, Number 2, page 284 (Autumn 2002).
Wednesday, April 30, 2008
I'm not an astronomer, but I've learned this much: The sun is the closest star to the earth and it is much further away than the moon. So if you shoot for the moon and miss, you will not be amongst stars. Instead, you will be floating in a black vacuum and you will die quickly in this lifeless, black vacuum because there will be no air or pressure or Little Debbie Cosmic Brownies to sate your hunger. Maybe that's not inspirational enough to laminate and stick on a wall next to your Ansel Adams print, Les, but at least it's the truth.
Wednesday, April 16, 2008
Since I've been thinking more and more about applying for programs to earn a Master of Fine Arts in Poetry, I started to question myself... why would I want to voluntarily surround myself amongst people like this? I'm stereotyping, but there is some truth to a brooding, suffering poet. Who else is self centered enough to think his feelings are unique and deserve to be read and beloved by the world? I get along with most people, I think, but whiny bitches are where I draw the line.*
Getting an MFA isn't like going to grad school. You can write poems without the letters MFA suffixing your name. You aren't going to be arrested for writing a book without a degree like you would if conducted surgery without the letters MD. Do i just want to prove to people that I haven't plateaued? That i'm still on course for more than an entry level job that pays a buck and a half more than the absolute bottom the state will allow?
When did we start having to do more than just live? When did surviving become insufficient while all other creatures with whom we share this earth consider survival the greatest form of accomplishment? Without any background in anthropology or history, I'm pretty sure the turning point was precisely when surviving became easy, expected. Once the challenge of gathering food was simplified to a trip to Fred Meyers and the possibility of getting killed by a gila monster or musky, predatory mammal was reduced to nil save for the most unfortunate or the dumbest of the species, our most natural human challenges evaporated. People needed to invent new things to make life more difficult and, ever since we've been seeking achievements, praise, and approval as desperately as our ancestors sought consistent sources of glucose and clean water.
It impresses neither employers nor girls to brag that you've eaten food every day without fail for the last twenty seven years. Nor are guests at cocktail parties particularly wowed when you confide, "I have never suffered from mumps or rubella." My question: is there any way to reverse this inflation that human contentment seems to be suffering? Can I lower the bar and be satisfied with doing less? Maybe no one else wants to regress like me. But, can I personally oppose this trend that demands I do more and be more than I am now? I eat every day of the week. I sleep out of the rain. Homo habilis would be envious of my bike repair abilities. What more do I really need? I'm almost certain that if I were struggling to obtain those basic needs, all the feelings of longing and insufficiency that poison my thoughts would not exist. And if that's true, then it's all a head game: these modern human needs of accomplishment and accolades are invented and not a biological necessity. So that proves they can be controlled, right? And besides having food and shelter, I received the best birthday present possible: Isaiah Thomas has been evicted from both the front office and the coach's bench at Madison Square Garden. That would be enough to make any homo habilis throw his excessively long arms up to heaven in gratitude.
*This is the trait I find most salient in my roommate Marty, which is the reason I dislike her so much. Her own bitching isn't so offensive to me as the fact that she reminds me how I can be a little bitch myself and that's one of the things I hate the most about myself. As the band Down says, "I'm trying to kill what's wrong with me." I wish Marty's last name started with an R. That way she could be MartyR which is how she presents herself, maybe a bit more vocal about her suffering though than say St Stephen, Martin Luther King, or Gandhi. Unfortunately, her last name starts with an S.
Tuesday, April 1, 2008
So, I'm not alone. Everybody plays the fool, including you. But--and I'm trying to be perfectly objective here-- I think I've played the fool more times than any of you have. Based on anecdotes and stories I've heard from other people during cocktail parties and various soirées, I think Rodney Dangerfield and I are in a league of our own. My stories are astronomically more embarrassing than anything I've heard from you. Here are some of the less embarrassing examples--if you can believe that--which many of you may have already heard and gotten a good laugh over already.
1. During one summer vacation from college, I was back in my hometown of Lincoln Park and went to a nearby town's library. There was a group of middle schoolers loitering in the foyer of this library and I intended to walk by them without any acknowledgment or further ado. But one of the boys in the group put out his hand as if to give me a high five, and so, not knowing what else to do, I went to slap his hand, only to have him pull away and say, "Syc!"making a dozen middle schoolers, including girls, laugh at me. The worst part was I still had to face them when I left the library and that punk ass bitch tried it again, but I just kept walking. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. This may not seem like a big deal to you, but this memory stuck with me for at least three years, and there were plenty of times when I'd call my college friend, Tum Tum, crying about how much I wished I'd just busted that kid's face up for taking my dignity away like that. He ruined what were supposed to be the best days of my life and I'll never forgive him for that.
2. A couple years back while I was teaching in Boston, I was on winter break and decided to do a good thing by de-icing the refrigerator in my apartment. we had never done this in the two years we'd lived there and there was a solid three inches of ice that had accumulated on all sides of the freezer. So i got out a Stanley screwdriver and began chipping away*. Yes, I knew that you are never supposed to use a sharp implement to de-ice a fridge. I just assumed that warning was for imbeciles who had no motor control; the same as the warnings to not use a Q-tip within the ear canal or warning labels on cups of coffee announcing in several languages that the hot coffee is served HOT.
I was doing great, chipping away all those years of frozen accumulation. I even found a ribeye steak that was dated to nine months before we had moved into the apartment. I felt like an archaeologist. I was uncovering layers of ice that may have even preceded the existence of refrigerators.
I had gotten almost all of the ice removed and was standing in a cold puddle that represented my victory over the years of neglect this poor Kenmore had received. There was just one little patch of ice left on the back wall of the freezer. I'd chipped away all of Greenland and Antarctica and all that was left was little, old Nova Scotia. No problem. So i began my delicate technique of tap tap tap, scrape scrape scrape, when suddenly I felt the screwdriver dig too far. Then, horrible smelling freon was splashing on my shirt. Fuck.
I called a refrigerator repair man. Contrary to what I assumed, duct tape would not fix this problem. Once you puncture a hole in a refrigerator, it becomes a Chinese wife who can't produce a male son-- fucking useless**. My options: pay the repair company $500 for a new refrigerator or search Craigslist for a free refrigerator and figure out how to transport it back to my place. There was no question i would go with the latter. This happened the first day of winter break and i had this horrible vision of me spending every day of that vacation answering ads for free refrigerators... and that pretty much came true.
Of course, the obvious challenges to choosing to find my own refrigerator instead of just paying to get it replaced: 1) how are you going to transport it? 2) how are you going to get it up the three winding flights of stairs into your apartment, and 3) is it going to fit in the apartment and the empty, dusty space the now defunct refrigerator used to occupy?
I found a refrigerator on Craigslist for $50. Not free, but significantly cheaper than the alternative. Remember, time was a factor here. i couldn't just wait around until a better deal came. I needed to replace this refrigerator so my roommates and I wouldn't have to pack food in the dirty melting snow outside. So i bit. Fifty dollars is a small price to pay when you fuck up.
As for transporting this refrigerator, I had a plan, surprising as that might be. One of my fellow teachers had a giant fifteen seater company Dodge van parked outside of his classroom. Since I worked for this teacher the year before as an aide, I knew he was lax about company policy and would have no problem loaning me the keys for the van to pick up a refrigerator, especially during winter break when no one was using it anyway. I'd even make sure to fill up the tank before I dropped it back.
This is the fine art of human problem solving. This is what separates us from the worms and other lesser coelomates. I was representing the apex of vertebrate evolution with my evolved and clever mind. So, recruiting my roommate and good friend Adam, we stole the company van and drove to Cambridge where a $50 fridge was waiting for us.
A kindly older lady who worked as a professor at Harvard University (pronounced: Haaaavaaad) had this old fridge sitting in her basement. Worked perfectly well, she said, but she didn't need it anymore. Turns out she taught high school teachers how to better teach their students and she had even done seminars for the organization with which I worked... the same organization from whom I'd stolen the van. So we hit it off right away and I paid her the fifty dollars and the only concern was how to get refrigerator out of her basement. It was humongous. It looked much bigger than the one I had destroyed, but with my tape measurer handy, it met the space requirements for my kitchen. So adam and I removed the hinges of her basement door, forced this ugly brown fridge up the rickety basement stairs, perched the refrigerator onto a dolly and tried to roll it down the stone path from her house to the street. Dollies are meant to work only on flat surfaces; as far as I know, they have not invented all-road dollies yet, and if they had, they were not at our disposal when we needed them. But, regardless, we made it the fifteen feet to the street where the glorious company van was waiting, gutted of its seats to fit this monstrosity.
Then we drove the ten minutes home and began hefting it up the three flights of winding stairs to the apartment. No problem. Adam and I are young, twenty something males. Healthy, strong, at the peak of our virility. How many kegs had the two of us lifted up these very same stairs over the past two years? Just take it one step at a time.
But, by the fourth step of the first floor stairwell, we realized this might actually be impossible. Not only was it very fucking heavy, the refrigerator didn't even seem like it could fit around the turns of the stair case. We were covered in sweat and our hands ached. We couldn't even hold onto the refrigerator after a while, and it would slide down the couple of stairs we managed to get it up. And worst of all, if we couldn't get it up the stairs, we'd have still have to figure how to get it back out of the stairs at least, which also seemed fairly impossible. Out of sheer desperation, we called Mandy, our other roommate and good friend, who weighs in at about 100 lbs and could probably fit inside of the vegetable drawer of the very refrigerator we were recruiting her to help us move. Understandably, we were desperate at this point.
Somehow, by the graces of god and the combined will of all three of us, we were able to push and yank and drag that refrigerator up all those stairs to the doorway of our apartment. With a few more heaves and more damage to the walls of the apartment, the replacement fridge was standing in front of the spot occupied by the old fridge. But, despite all my careful measurements, it was too big to fit in between the cabinet and the wall. Off by centimeters. The thought of tossing this refrigerator after the hour we spent getting it up the stairs was not inviting. We somehow figured how to dig the cabinets deeper into the wall to give us the necessary couple of centimeters to get our behemoth new refrigerator into place. And finally, there it was in place, plugged in, and I couldn't have been happier that day.
And i wish so much that's how this story ended. But, the next day, mandy, with the inquisitive nature of a mature Nancy Drew, concluded that the refrigerator was, in fact, not cold. It was not producing the customary humming or frigid air that you associate with this particular appliance. "Give it another few hours," I explained. "Refrigerators need to warm up before they cool down." But as always, I was wrong. The refrigerator that cost me $50 plus countless future chiropractic visits for me and my roommates was a lemon. A dud. An excessively heavy and ugly cupboard. I sent a very curt email to the harvard professor who sold me this refrigerator: "The fridge does not work." No reply. I swore if I ever had the chance to meet her again I would shove my entire fist down her throat.***
Then it was back to Craigslist and Freecycle and other websites to try and find a free refrigerator. My time was running out. I was sure someone from the landlord company would just stroll into the apartment to do something routine like bug spraying and find a gaping hole where a refrigerator should be and charge me $500 for a new one plus any subsequent penalties for trying to hide my misdeed.
But towards the end of this vacation week, which turned out not to be a great vacation because of this situation, i found another person giving away a refrigerator, a free one this time. So at least if it didn't work, i didn't have to throw away any more money. And just like if you suffer from a lot of flat tires (another subject about which I know more than I care), when you keep trying to move refrigerators, it becomes sort of routine. So i knew the drill: steal the company van, take out seats, pick up fridge, injure lower back, bring fridge home, force roommates to help move fridge even if none of this was their fault, cry when fridge doesn't work, lather, rinse, repeat.
So I drove to the school where the company van was being stored. And this is the part where I start realizing I am more of a fool than any of you. The company van is mysteriously missing. There is no way I can transport a refrigerator in my tiny Ford Escort. I need that fucking van.
I gave a quick call to the main office of my company to inquire about the whereabouts of this particular vehicle which should have been right fucking in front of me.
"oh, paul took it for some maintenance," said Anne, the secretary. Kindly, old Paul. A seventy something year old retiree who, out of the goodness of his heart, helped the organization out by maintaining their fleet of vans. And logically enough, he chose winter break to do maintenance because no one was using them at this time, except for idiots who needed to move refrigerators at low cost. So I thought of alternatives with my advanced mind: 1) Rent a uhaul, 2) rent a pick up truck from Home Depot, or 3) try to call Paul and see if I could get the van from him. Again, fearing that this refrigerator would not work even if I did have a van to pick it up, I opted for the cheapest method.
"Hi, Paul. This is armin. Do you know where van #15 is?"
"Hi Armin. I just took it for an oil change. Do you need it?"
"Yeah, ummm. I just left some papers in the back seat and need them to prepare class for after break."
"Oh, okay. I'll bring it back in 30 minutes."
Phew! No big deal. Just thirty minutes delayed but the whole plan was going smoothly. Soon Paul would come, we'd shoot the shit for a couple minutes, he'd drive off, and I'd joy ride to a New Bedford for a new used fridge. And so I waited, and though it took closer to an hour and a half, he did come with van # 15.
"You know Armin, that (name of teacher in charge of van) doesn't take care of this van at all. I mean, just look at the inside. It looks like shit."
"Oh, I'm sorry about that, Paul."
"No, it's not your fault."
Then Paul drove off and I hopped in ready to commit my crimes when i looked at the console between the driver's seat and the passengers seat. my heart dropped. GODDAMMIT!!!! You stupid old motherfucker! A cute little flip phone Nokia was sitting next to the armrest. Paul's cute little flip phone nokia. And he was already on the road headed home to his wife where she would probably ask him, "dear, where is your cell phone?" And he'd say, "Oh, I must have left it in the van. Silly me. I'll drive back and get it." But then he'd find the van was gone and he'd worry and call up the cops and they'd arrest me in New Bedford with a used refrigerator in the back.
At this point, I was feeling less pride in my problem solving skills and my alleged superiority over other coelomates and creatures that don't even have a spinal column. But my choices were obvious: 1) wait for Paul to realizes he left his phone, comes back to get it, then steal the van, whatever time or day that might be OR 2) somehow get the phone back to him.
"Hello, Mrs... um Paul's wife?"
"Yes? Who is this?"
"Hi, sorry to bother you. My name is Armin. I work with (same company as Paul) and just noticed he left his cell phone in the van here."
"Oh! Thank you so much for calling! I don't know where he is right now."
"well, I'm on my way home now. I can just drop it off at your place."
"Oh! that's so sweet of you!"
So i drive to paul's house and drop off the cell phone with his wife who praises me and tells me what a nice boy I am when really I was just trying to commit unethical deeds and would have just as readily murdered both Paul and his wife if that was the easiest way to get out of this quagmire of shit I'd created for myself.
Then I was driving to New Bedford and the refrigerator was still waiting for me and, much to my delight, looked much smaller and more manageable than the one i had purchased two days earlier. And it seemed a sign that everything was getting better when adam and I were able to lift it up the stairs without mandy's help and when we plugged it in, it made a familiar and comforting "whiirrrrr" and was cold on the inside. Joy of Joys! Beowulf has torn the arms off Grendal! Sir Lance-a-lot has slain the dragon! Armin has procured a refrigerator that works! So after that, Adam and I brought the two busted refrigerators down the stairs that were being stored on our porch at the time, and even though that was probably very tiring, I don't remember because the joy of having a working fridge (and the help of gravity) made it easy to get the two of those out of our lives forever.
And best of all, I did not get into any trouble for stealing the company van. After all the refrigerators were moved to where they belonged, one in the kitchen, two on the curb, i drove the van back to its resting place at the school with no one the wiser. until, of course, I got a call from Paul.
"Armin, I just went back to the school and the van is missing!"
"Oh... yeah. Um... I just took it to get it cleaned because you said it was messy inside."
"oh Armin, that's so sweet of you. You're such a good kid." he may have actually been crying on the other end, so moved was he by my consideration. So then, my dumbass had to take this giant van to the car wash and spend five dollars in quarters vacuuming out the inside so it would actually look like I took it to get it cleaned. The whole rest of the year Paul and his wife thought I was a saint.
But in the end, we had a working refrigerator and our landlords never knew because I still got my security deposit check back. So that means they also never noticed the poor spackling job i did on hole I punched in the hallways wall when I missed a shot in beer pong.
3. There is a third Armin Plays the Fool story to share, one that I'm pretty certain i've told to only one other person in this world. but it will have to wait till the next blog because I didn't realize how long and involved that refrigerator anecdote was. Suffice it to say though, i think I've made my point and if you think you could challenge my foolishness, i'd love to hear it.
* you know what's really not helpful? When you do something stupid and then after it cannot be undone someone tells you what you should have done. "Why didn't you just use a hair dryer to de ice the fridge, Armin?"
"Why don't you just shut your damn mouth?"
**I'm joking. Since it is the father who carries the Y chromosome necessary to produce balls, this joke doesn't even make sense.
***Amazingly enough, I had the opportunity to do just that. The summer of that same year, the organization i worked for asked me to take an enrichment class that discussed effective ways to teach math to high school kids. It took place in Harvard. The overseeing professor of this program: none other than my very own used refrigerator saleswoman.
After the first day, I came up to her and she said, "You look very familiar." It was hard for me not to look familiar back then since i had a mohawk.
"You sold me a refrigerator back in February," I said coldly.
"Oh, yes! How is it?"
"It didn't work."
"Oh, I'm sorry. I should give you a refund."
But for some reason, i broke down and let her off the hook, "Oh no. It's okay. Buyer beware, I guess! Laissez Faire!" And that's yet another reason I'm a douchebag.