Tuesday, July 22, 2008


There's a guy at work that my colleagues call "Einstein." That's supposed to be ironic, because--ironically enough--he's not very smart at all. Get it? They call him Einstein, but he's stupid. They'll say things on the walkie talkies like: "Can someone tell Einstein that if you put skis on the belt, they break?" or "Einstein's bringing me Jet blue's bags." And all us educated ticket agents laugh sympathetically at the woes of dealing with inferiority. He doesn't work for northwest, but for a contracted company called Aviation which hires people to take bags from the x-ray machine and bring them to the bag belt so they can be put on the plane. A simple, unglamorous job. I don't think a master's is required.

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."
"Where abouts?"
"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

baby, you can drive my car

"Pretty Boy" Floyd Mayweather, boxing's pound for pound king, who you may know more for his cameos on Dancing with the Stars and WWE Wrestlemania than his boxing prowess, announced his retirement last month, leaving the game at his physical peak with an unblemished record and a wallet brimming with benjamins (he has an affinity for "making it rain" as other young, hip hoppy celebrities seem to enjoy. perhaps, throwing money in a crowded club and causing a melee is their way of giving back). He said he has nothing left to prove.

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.

Round 1

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.

Round 2

"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.

Round 3

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."

Round 4

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.

Round 5

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.

Round 6

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.

Round 7

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.

Round 8

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."
"That's right."
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.

Round 9

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.

Round 10

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


"have you seen my wife, mr. jones? do you know what it's like on the outside? don't go talking too loud, you'll cause a landslide."
-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.