Thursday, August 28, 2008


No season feels as short as summer. It's still how I measure every passing year, understandably enough, since until this move to Portland, my life had always been governed by the school schedule, either as student, teacher, or transient AmeriCorps volunteer on a one year contract.

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

AT, phone home

I have a new cell phone after losing my old one last week. I've lost many a cell phone, but historically, I've always replaced the lost phone with the exact same model of phone for free... free, that is, in exchange for agreeing to another hundred years of T Mobile contracts. But this time, I was smart enough to find out that my contract had already expired, that i was no longer committed to indentured servitude with T Mobile, and could walk out of the store free to find a better deal.

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.
"Internet access?"
"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."