Really Mistaken Beliefs

I don't know where it started, or where it came from. It was just there, in my head like a fact I had always known.

I can hum along to any song I had never heard.

Of all the things for one to be capable of, this seems quiet ridiculous.

It wasn’t something I ‘made up’ exactly. That would have required some thought behind it. My efforts were more spent on defending this ridiculous statement.

Why humming? It had nothing to do with an actual ability. I was not a prolific hummer by any means. I didn’t' regularly strut around the house in a top hat swinging a pocket watch. I can't even remember a single instance where I even wanted to hum.

I might have owned a kazoo at one point in time. And I had one of those “make fun stuff out of the things in your home” books. One of the activities was turning a comb with a piece of wax paper into a kazoo. After I created it I remember thinking.

Seriously?

Even at 7.

So my prolific humming wasn’t one born of experience. It was just something I claimed, and for some reason, something I was proud to share.

Perhaps it was me compensating.

It could have been due to the fact that I couldn't really whistle. Not in the traditional sense anyway. I would try and try but it just, it didn't work. I couldn't understand why either. It seemed like a simple two part process.

But as I would learn later in life, over and over again; how simple something is has nothing to do with how good I am at it.

I would do this kind crap whistle, which came as a result of making a Lamaze face and pushing air out between the space in my front teeth.

I'm not sure how many people I told or how often it came up. I do distinctly remember an argument with my sister though that took place in my kitchen.

I had shared my secret ability with my sister and she immediately challenged me.

But how do you know?
I just know.
But how?
I can just do it.
Any song?
Yea I can hum along to any song on the radio.

The discussion then went deeper with my sister trying to use things like "logic" and "reason" which I had no interest in.

In all fairness, I was 7.

The beauty of youth is that you can say completely insane ridiculous things that carry no significance or any bearing on the course of your adult life. Had I known this back then, I would have claimed to be good at far more interesting things than humming.

It was also around the same time that I had developed another mistaken belief. This one I didn’t really share with anybody, I just thought about it a lot. My belief was that, when competing in the Olympics, the possible medals were:

Gold
Silver
Bronze
Copper

I have NO idea where I got this idea.

Maybe I had some kind of inferiority complex and wanting to make sure that I always had the chance for some recognition, I created a recognized 4th place as a possible thing to aspire to/fall back on?

I would revisit this notion as I did underwater somersault contests by myself at hotel pools on family vacations.

I would pretend to be different people in my class from school, going through underwater commentary in my head. I would do as many somersaults as I could without coming up for air, somewhere between three and five usually.

The people I liked or was friends with would do very well getting the silver or sometimes a bronze. People I didn’t like would get a copper or nothing at all.

I always got the gold.

I pretty much knew I wasn’t going to get gold in any real events, so why not one I made up?

It is not exaggeration to say I spent hours doing this.

It still doesn’t explain where the copper came into all of this.

The only place I could have even heard of copper is in a 64 pack of Crayola Crayons with a built in plastic sharpener. Copper was one of the four crayons in the box that had a very distinct metallic sheen to it. So I must have just thought if Crayola deemed it enough to be part of the pack then it must be deemed adequate by the International Olympic Committee.

Not that I knew what that was.

It wasn’t until years later watching, or should I say, actually paying attention to the Olympics that I found myself thinking:

Hey what happened to the copper metal?

I might have brought up this point to my parents, or I might not. There is a good chance I just continued watching the Olympics, observing the athletes compete for far 25% fewer medals than I thought should be available.

I probably just watched the TV as athletes crossed the finish line 4th, and thought to myself they deserved a medal for their efforts, something to act as a thank you, something they could treat as their swan song.

A swan song I could probably hum along to.

What I Shouldn't Have Not Done

Growing up, I often thought the role of adults was simply to confuse me.
It was about the same time I realized my parents didn't have the answer to everything, which I realized, adults in general didn't have answers to a lot of things.
But as an adult you can't just not have an answer, you have to say something. Hence why I think oftentimes adults just make some stuff up, or repeat something they heard somebody else say. Maybe they will bring something out of their "my parents used to say this" handbook.
I suppose it also comes down to the fact that at a certain point, you just run out of things to say. I know for a fact that as a child I was always talking… actually that hasn’t really changed. But I can’t imagine my parents had a response to everything I was saying, also I can’t imagine they listened to everything I said.
Whatever the reason, as a teenager I heard some very confusing things.
Like after I sneezed my parents would say gazzazablatz. To this day I have NO idea where the hell they got that term. And any time I tried to use it out of the house it was met with confusion.
Gazzablaztz!
What?
It means bless you.
In what language?
Um… Boehmcke?
I still say it to this day but I’m much more aware of the face that it is in fact a very niche saying.
My sister and I were frequently accused of inactivity, which looking back seems a bit ridiculous considering I felt like for the first half of my life I was always in motion.
But when I stopped moving, or more specifically, when we weren’t doing what we were supposed to be doing my parents would bust out this gem:

You’re j sitting there, like a bump on a log!
A more vague and generic statement I have never heard. I understand what this means but I also feel like it was a bit unfair. Sometimes, even as a teenager, I was very tired. Had I accused my parents of being bumps on logs I most likely would have been sent to my room.
But the term itself is so devoid of any character. You look like… a thing on… another thing! Bump on a log, lump on a frog, chunk on a dog; none of it really makes any sense.
Sometimes though I think my parents would have preferred I be a bump on a log than the frenetic, 50 question, “can I, may I, would you mind if I,” type of kid that I was.
Whenever my mom was tired of answering my questions, or I didn’t really care specifically about what I was asking, she would say to me:
Knock yourself out.
I found this one to be particularly hilarious because as a child there was a very good possibility of this actually occurring. Whenever they said this I had this image in my head of wearing gigantic red boxing gloves and giving myself an uppercut to the chin, knocking myself unconscious.
And while that never literally happened, the similar equivalent almost did. Like that time I ran out onto an icy path but slipped and went nearly horizontal into midair before landing on the back of my head.
I didn’t knock myself out, but it’s really a miracle I didn’t.
I suppose the opposite of knocking myself out would have been being “bent out of shape.” This was another one of my parents’ favorites. I was a kind of oversensitive kid and even now, I still kind of am. But whenever I would get really upset or frustrated about something that my parents didn’t feel was justified I would be accused of being bent out of shape.
This, to me, always conjured up an image of some metal man all twisted and curved walking all crazy because of his literal imposition.
The other problem with being called bent out of shape is there is no real good come back.
I’m not bent out of shape! I’m… in shape! I’m bent into shape!
I didn’t have a lot of good comeback when trying to refute accusations from my parents.
But when it comes down to the ultimate opposition silencer, that honor must go to my high school band teacher.
He was a really nice guy one on one, always really friendly and personable, somebody you might like to have a dinner party… if you were prone to throwing dinner parties in the 10th grade.
But when he lost control of a room of 100 teenagers he would lose his cool and dish out what is still the most confusing statement I have ever heard:
WHY AM I NOT THE ONLY ONE TALKING?
He said this every day.
Every.
Single.
Day.
I guess we were a chatty group. It’s tough being a nice teacher, kids frequently mistake kindness for weakness. And anytime we stopped focusing and digressed into chatter he would come out swinging with that confusing statement.
WHY AM I NOT THE ONLY ONE TALKING?
And I would always stop talking immediately, mainly because I was trying to figure out what the hell he was saying.
I’d start making sentence trees on my sheet music.
Why am I the only one talking?
Why am I not talking?
Why am I (not) the only one talking?
It was like a math equation wrapped in words and put to music.
Every time he said it I would instantly become lost in a 15 minute haze of wonderment, trying to figure out why on earth he chose such a confusing statement.
Maybe he did it on purpose. Maybe that is the best way to deal with teenagers is just to confuse them until they shut up. It apparently worked for us.
Sometimes I think about that teacher and wonder how he came across that statement. Did his parents used to say it? Did his band teacher say it to him?
Who knows what he’d tell me, but whatever his reason, I’d probably say the same thing to him.
Hey if it works, knock yourself out.

The Housing Crisis - Part 2


I am waiting at my apartment for this brain genius rocket propulsion human species wizard home inspector to show up at my apartment to tell me what apartment is worth.

I am waiting, and he is ten minutes late.

I call him but he doesn’t answer, so I leave a voicemail. He calls me back.

Oh geez I gotta tell you I’ve never seen anything like this. I’ve been here for 25 minutes, there is just nowhere to park, I mean I can keep trying but I just don’t know we might have to reschedule this.

First of all, we are not rescheduling. I don’t care if I have to drag his car up to the roof with a rope made of spit and licorice rope I will make sure this idiot gets into my apartment.

Second of all, we are not rescheduling.

I will keep trying. That’s what he said. Trying. Trying is not a word one uses to describe finding a parking spot. Looking is more like it. Basically he was just driving around the block with his eyes open, which is how almost all people drive.

Ten minutes later he arrives at my door having apparently managed to find a spot.

I open the door and see before me a kindly old gentleman which makes all of the hate and anger I have saved up for him hard to apply.

He walks into my apartment and starts asking me questions which I am trying to answer as best as I can because this guy apparently holds the key to whether or not my apartment is worth what its supposed to be worth which shouldn’t even be a question because I own it.

Bah.

Would you call this a living room slash dining room?

Dude, I would call this a living room slash dining room slash Turkish bath house slash discotecca if I thought it would help me refinance my mortgage faster. So yes, call it whatever you’d slash like.

How many square feet would you say this is?

Um, 27,000. He fathoms a guess but I raise his estimate.

Yea, I can’t check because I don’t have my measuring stick.

Measuring stick? You were going to get the square footage of my apartment with a 3 foot piece of reject wood? It’s no wonder this guy only works 10 hours a week, if I only had a stick to measure with I wouldn’t want to work more than 10 hours a week either.

I maintain a pleasant demeanor though because again, I don’t want him to leave and tell the bank that my apartment is worth 14 dollars. After five minutes he is gone. As he leaves he tells me he will send the documents to the appropriate people, which, I don’t even know who that is anymore since I am dealing with so many different idiots.

Like the guy at the bank who was processing my refinance who calls me and says:

Hey Rich we need you to send in those forms.
What do you mean? I sent them in last week.
You did? You sent them here?
Yes, I sent them where you told me to send them.
Oh Ok, my partner didn’t tell me. No problem.

Well, not no problem entirely but why don’t you go ahead and take your partner out for a coffee or something and get your shit together because if you come back and tell me the refinancing of my motorcycle went through I’m going to walk into the bank and just start doing karate.

And I don’t even know karate.

But amazingly the process continues on to the next step where I have to get the board of my condo to approve my refinance. Because that makes sense. The building in which I own an apartment needs to approve of me spending less money every month. I don’t even know how to get in touch with my board so I call my broker; another space genius prodigy mind-winning superhero.

I ask him how to get in touch with the board. He tells me to email the management company. I email them. What follows is the EXACT email conversation that took place.
           
I really wish this were an exaggeration.

Dear Bob and Joe,

Gentlemen, I am currently refinancing my mortgage and need to send over the paperwork to be approved by the board. Can you let me know where I need to send it? I have it ready.
Thank you.
Best 
Richard

One minute later

??? What property is this for?

The so and so apartment building in Queens

Send it in

Please tell me where to send it.

Here

Bob I don't have the address please send me the address where you would like me to send this.

Joe please deal with this request thanks.

Can either of you please tell me the address of your company so I can send this in? I'm not sure what the issue is here.

They don’t respond. So later that day.

Bob and Joe,
Please give me the address of where to send in my paperwork for my apartment so the board can sign off on it. I am concerned at this point at the lack of professionalism in responding to this email. Can you explain to me what the issue is?

By the time the conversation ends I am in such disbelief I am looking around my office like I am on candid camera. I feel like annoying 14-year-old girls from the valley runs my apartment complex.

I want to quit my apartment and the process. I want to buy an RV with cash and park it on a deserted beach outside of Tijuana. I cannot believe that other people have managed to successfully refinance their apartment without ending up in a homicide trial.

I become convinced everybody I have encountered in the process is a complete and total moron. I want to pick them in a room filled with one way mirrors and watch them interact like baboons, which aside from the ones I've met, I am not sure they aren’t.

When I began the process I stupidly hoped I could get it done in a couple of weeks. I was mind blown when they told me it would be many many weeks.

The process is still not done though I am pretty sure the end is near. Either the end of this process or just the apocalypse is looming. Either way I am never refinancing again.

The Housing Crisis - Part 1


Renting out one's apartment is an awful, tiresome, and frustrating task.

Refinancing one's mortgage is a process so convoluted, confusing, and frustrating that it should be reserved as a punishment for war criminals.

In April of 2012 I decided to try and rent out my apartment and refinance my apartment at the same time.

This was a poor decision.

I started by trying to sell my apartment. Or I thought I was going to sell my apartment. I had a broker come in and take a look at it, he said I could get my money back for what I paid for it. He said he'd call me to start the process.

I never heard from him again.

I invited another broker to look at my apartment, he was not as optimistic about me getting my money back... Because he wasn’t lying to me.

When I asked him how much he thought I could get for it he made what some people would call "a poop face" and started telling me about the real estate market.

It was at that point that I realized I would not be getting my money back.

Real estate broker suggested I rent out my apartment. After some thought and private counsel with my trusted board of advisers, or as I call them: mom, I decided to go ahead and try to rent my place.

My broker was excited. "great" he said. "when can you be out and have it painted?"

Ummm after you rent it for me?

Apparently my profound confidence, snappy dress, and impeccable grammar led apartment broker to think I was some sort of Vanderbilt who could afford to keep several homes around the city in which to stay in when I become bored with any of the others.

I told him he would have to rent my apartment with my stuff in it.

Well, its gonna be a lot harder to rent if its not empty.

Well, that's why I am not doing it. That's why I have you apartment broker. I didn't say you had to rent my apartment to a gnome, a red head, or Australian royalty, I just said rent it. I don't care how hard it is, just make it happen. When I go to a restaurant and I order a dish the chef doesn't come out and tell me how hard it is to make.

So apartment broker begins the process. He complains that it’s tough showing the apartment only at night and he could show it more if he had the keys. And there is nothing I love more than giving strangers keys to my apartment.

Regardless, I give him my keys.

Apartment broker complains that what I am asking in rent will be too high and we should lower the price. I tell him I NEED to get that rental price to cover my mortgage which I acquired in the spring of 2008 when the mortgage rate was just under 437 percent.

I realize I need to save some money somehow.

So now I go to see a new broker. Mortgage broker. He explains to me I can save a considerable amount every month by refinancing my mortgage. All I need to do is fax in several documents and forms to begin the process. I am excited. I begin the process.

Meanwhile every time I talk to apartment broker he tells me how my kitchen is too small and before they rented out a similar apartment they had to show it 35 times.

First of all, I start to loathe him.

Second of all I want to scream at him that I don’t care if he has to show it 100 times. You have the keys. That's why I gave you the keys, so I wouldn't have to care. Again, the chef doesn't come out of the kitchen and go

Oh geez guys sorry but I am having a hell of a time chopping this onion

No! He chops the fucking onion and makes me my dinner. You on the other hand insist on telling me all the minute intricacies of apartment renting that I have never once cared about until now. And looking at it now, I still don’t care about them.

Every time I get on the phone with him he wants to tell me everything about every prospective person. I ask him how its going and it’s like he hears me say “Hey, ramble for five minutes.” Every conversation sounds like this:

Ya know its tough we got a lot of traffic in the office and then we post ya know but we gotta make sure we get the right people because and then ya know I gotta deal with the board and you don't even wanna know what I gotta deal with.

You’re right. So please shut up and just rent my apartment.

Meanwhile after faxing in my forms, my mortgage broker explains to me that I have to have somebody assess my apartment to tell me what it's worth.

Good. I was hoping I could invite a stranger into my home to place a value on the thing that I own but no longer want to so must rent except at a lower cost than what I am currently paying now so that I could potentially lose money to not live in the place where I live.

Getting in touch with the, I don’t even know what to call him, apartment assessor, is like trying to track down a missing child but I finally succeed. This bozo calls me back and asks if he can come by my apartment at noon the following day. I tell him no because I have a job, like other adults. I ask him what times he works. He says

Monday to Friday 10 to 12.

Oh. Good. I was thinking this might be a challenging experience but if you work ten whole hours a week this should be a piece of cake.

Naturally, I should have anticipated what would happen when he showed up at my apartment.

To be continued…

Unlikely Women I Could Potentially Marry - Part 1


While I haven't always done well with all women, there are certain groups of women I have always seemed to be popular with. These women are almost always considerably older than me, and often... Married themselves.

Like mothers of my friends for instance. Even from a very young age I was able to turn on the charm (whatever charm a 10 year old can have) to make mothers like me.

But as I got older, I started noticing what some might call a trend. Different groups of seemingly very different women would take a strange liking to me. It was something that came out of nowhere, and at this point, I think it has happened enough to call it a phenomenon.

The first time I noticed a strange interaction with a new female audience was when I started donating blood in college. Blood donation vans would regularly be parked on different sites around campus. My friend and I would go a couple of times a year because we wanted to do a good deed. And also, it was college... We didn't really have anything else to do.


We would climb into the cramped bus full of overworked nurses who were exhausted from the ridiculous questions kids would ask. Such as the one we heard a kid ask once:

Hypothetically, if somebody did drugs, like, recently, like… can they still donate blood?

I believe the answer ended up being yes since that kid stayed on the bus. Which was interesting because I am almost positive what he meant by ‘recent’ was ‘immediately before getting onto a blood donation bus.’

My friend and I would make jokes with the nurses who largely ignored what we said, not paying attention enough to realize we were much funnier than the other silly and squeamish college kids who distracted them from their needle wielding responsibilities.

I will talk to pretty much anybody, and if I am going to be lying in a chair for an hour while vital nutrients are sucked from my body, I like to strike up a bit of a rapport with the person who is initiating and implementing that process. Most of the time said nurse was a woman.

I would joke and ask questions, receiving one-word responses, not really breaking through. Nobody would really refer to what I was having as a conversation.

That is of course, until the nurse told me to roll up my sleeve.

At which point the response would almost go something like this:

Woah!

And suddenly I was in. It was like I had been flirting with her unsuccessfully until I accidentally let it slide that I was a billionaire. Except by billionaire I mean, I had good veins. Suddenly the nurse was all about me, awake and alert as to what I was saying, telling me how most people's veins were hard to find, and often they would have to prick somebody three or four times.

I tried to ignore that terrifying image and instead focus on the newfound attention the nurse was lavishing on me.

Before disinfecting my arm for 30 seconds with an iodine soaked scrubber that felt like punishment by exfoliation, the nurse would push on my vein several times making little noises to herself saying things like,

Ohhh what a juicy vein!

In fact several DIFFERENT nurses have used that same phrase on different occasions while examining the middle part of my arm.

I didn't even know this was a compliment you could receive! In fact, it’s probably a compliment you really shouldn’t even give as in any other setting it would make you sound like a vampire.

My veins had never received this much attention. There was one time in Junior High when a girl I had known a couple of years saw my arm hanging over the desk in 8th period Italian and suddenly said:

Oh my god you have such good veins, I love that.

I was completely baffled and excited at the same time. I looked at my arm.

Really?

Here I was, three years into picking out my own clothes, cultivating a humorous personality, and using near record setting amounts of hair gel to attract the attention of the opposite sex, and the thing that finally garnered me the attention of an attractive female was... My veins?

I tried to figure out new ways to show off this sexy feature of mine but there are very few ways to showcase one’s veins without deliberately and very obviously flexing one's forearm directly in front of someone else's face.

And the opportunities for such a performance continue to be quite rare.

I was left with few options outside of just... Not wearing sleeves.

That aspect of my life retreated to become once again unknown until the blood donation nurses brought it back to my attention.

It isn't just blood donation nurses; it is any nurse responsible for taking my blood. I go from a nobody to someone of great gravitas the minute my sleeve rises above my elbow.

This left me thinking that if I ever fell on hard times, or had trouble meeting somebody, I could always try and meet a blood donation nurse.

So… do you extract blood from strangers here often?

I thought it was just a freak occurrence that an entire group of people would find me so desirable. That is of course, until I started working full time and met another group of ladies I apparently could do well with...

Middle aged women who work in Finance.

To be continued...

Loop, Swoop, and Pull


I am not sure, but I think a significant milestone on the way to adulthood is the day you start untying your shoes when you take them off so the next time you put them on you are not just trying to jam your foot into an already tied shoe.

I can't remember when it happened but sometime after college I started untying my shoes before I took them off. Perhaps it had to do with the fact that I was wearing dress shoes to work and trying to slide your foot out of a tied dress shoe is the equivalent to trying to remove your pants by jumping up and down.

For a large portion of my life, unless I had some kind of sporting event, I never untied my shoes. I might have rationalized this by explaining that I was lazy.

Which in hindsight, doesn't seem to make sense since it takes less time and physical exertion to untie and tie a shoe as opposed to hopping around doing a shuffle step trying to beat the system.

This might have made sense had I not known how to tie my shoes. Like those guys who don't know how to tie a tie and just loosen their tie at the end of the day and slide it over their head without taking apart the knot so they can just slide it back over their head the next day.

But this is not the case for me because, and I am not trying to brag here, but I can tie both my shoes and a tie.

However back when I was a summer camp counselor for six and seven year old lunatics boys, there was one boy in my group who did not know how to tie his shoes.

His name was Eddie. He was the tallest in my group of 15 kids. He was also the roundest. He wasn't extremely athletic or coordinated, but he got along fine with the others. He was the type that, if you asked him a question he didn't know the answer to, would just stare off into the distance and make an uncomfortable type of smile that let you know you could stare at him forever.... He wasn't coming up with an answer.

Eddie usually wore Velcro shoes, which was really best for all of us. But he did have a pair of lace-ups which he would wear occasionally, quite possibly when his mother thought we should have a more challenging day. They would regularly come untied and I, or my co counselor, would inevitably have to tie them for him.

This always frustrated me, as I dropped to one knee to fix Eddie’s shoe while he looked around the galaxy completely uninterested in the very simple, very basic, mechanical process I was now engaging in.

Finally I got tired of tying Eddie’s shoes for him and decided to teach him. I believed my role as  an industrious camper, a self sufficient one, somebody with skills and abilities.

This is why I would teach my campers things like:
How to gel their own hair
The refrain to Bon Jovi's "Cowboy"
And how to dance "The Freddy" from Troop Beverly Hills

I was going to teach Eddie how to tie his shoes.

However, teaching Eddie how to tie his shoes proved to be more challenging than teaching him to dance, and just slightly less challenging than teaching him to speak Japanese.

He not only seemed to have no concept of shoe tying, but also, no concept of how to learn something either.

It was like I was teaching somebody how to drive and the minute it was their turn to get behind the wheel, they immediately tried to put the keys in the gas tank.

No no no.

At first I was extremely patient, thinking maybe he just hadn't seen what I had done, missed my demo as it were.

But as we went along me demoing, him attempting but failing miserably, I got less and less patient.

I would clearly and slowly explain the three steps so he could see. And then he would take over the laces just kind of flying them around each other like he was trying to perform some kind of magic trick. Which maybe he thought he was.

Unfortunately he was the worst magician ever.

There are basically two schools of thought on shoe tying, the loop swoop and pull, and the bunny ears. I myself have always been a loop swoop guy. And I remembered being in elementary school and judging anybody who used the bunny ears method. Like it was some sub par shoe tying philosophy.

But as I struggled with Eddie I even attempted to teach him that method thinking, maybe this method might work for him.

Of course it didn’t. His less than nimble fingers just fumbled and succeeded at nothing.

What bothered me even more was his seemingly complete lack of interest in learning this skill. Like he was completely content to have people bow before him for the rest of his life to fix his shoes.

My mind started racing as my frustration rose. I had imaginary conversations with this seven year old in my head:

Damn it Eddie come on! What are you doing here? Do you even WANT to learn to tie your shoes? Because it sure doesn’t seem like it. This is just the beginning. You NEED to learn this. Because you will never get anywhere in this life if you can't learn to tie your shoes! Don’t’ you want to be successful? Don’t you want to have friends? Don't you want to grow up and get married and have a family and a comfortable lifestyle?! Well... Then learn to tie your fucking shoe!

But all I could actually say was “Ok… well Let’s. Try. Again.”

Eventually I just gave up and continued tying his shoes for him. That was ten years ago and I never saw him again after that summer. But I’m pretty sure there’s a good chance he’s still wearing Velcro shoes.

My Short Leash On Life


I had this assignment when I was a kid in elementary school. We were reading about being a servant in ancient Rome. And to understand the concept, we were given a handout and told to write a couple of sentences putting a value on our own skills and abilities.

I wrote about how I was tall and creative and handy. The name of the assignment was called “What Am I Worth?”

Looking back now it is kind of a funny assignment title to give to a third grader. I still have my assignment but it has been many years since I reread what I wrote.

However, I have been thinking about that assignment lately. The title of it reverberates in my head. Over and over again I hear it. When I’m silent. Before I sleep and as I walk.

What am I worth?

The question hasn’t arisen completely unprompted. The series of events that have taken place in my life over the past 15 months really do seem to warrant such a question. And the only thing I have been able to come up with in this time is more questions.

Before I knew what I had to offer (which does not exclude this very moment) I thought my offering was making people laugh. Granted it is fair to say that it is also based in a need for attention. I have told jokes, poked fun, and been loud to draw attention to myself.

See? I have something to offer and it is this. Laughter and fun, that is me!

And that is how it has been for years. It is why I frequently joke with people the first time I meet them, it is how I break down boundaries. It is how I make friends. It is how I have presented my public persona even though all along I have known it wasn't all of me. I just wasn't sure how to show off the rest.

Nor did I know I didn't have to show off at all.

There is a quote I found many years ago in some trite little nightstand book about life and such that goes: “One who requires the attention of others has not yet found the attention of himself.”

That quote has always sat peacefully in the back of my brain. I was always just inches short of understanding it, even as I tried to play down its connection to myself, lying to myself.

I have started to reevaluate my life, myself, and the way in which I act. It has something to do with the people I have spent more time around. 

Incredibly driven entrepreneurs who have created successful businesses from ideas, artists who have impacted thousands of people with little thought of failure, writers who have seen their words circle the world taking them along for the ride.

I have succeeded in gradually building up the amount of amazing, interesting, and dynamic people who surround me. And I have begun to wonder. How do I fit in?

What am I worth?

What am I worth? What are my skills? For what reasons do people value me? What is it that I offer? What do I contribute? What am I now contributing? What is it other people see when they look at me, when they talk to me? What do I bring to the table?

I know now it is not just laughter, it can’t be, and I don’t believe that it is. But as that has been my mantle for so long by the time I started asking myself those questions, I realized, I hadn’t really asked myself anything in a very long time.

I spend so much time looking elsewhere for the answers, in books, in movies, in the lives of others. Seeking solutions. Excuses. Failing to find external answers being far easier than never finding an internal reason.

And as I asked myself these questions I have grown confused and (more) insecure. I have felt the layers of myself pull back. Rolling back like dead onion skin. And bare beneath I feel sensitive, hesitant, unsure.

Afraid.

I carry these worries around like sacks on my soul, invisible to everybody but myself. I have created, I have shuffled, I have shipped. I have made noise while I do it, to let the world know I’m here, that I exist, that I should be paid attention to. Never really showing anything worth paying attention to. Never quite knowing why I need others to pay attention to me in the first place.

The reasons why I’m not quite where I thought I would be have always existed in other places. And there have always been reasons.

My mind has always sought the easiest answer and thus the easiest rationalization. I have justified things I don't have by blaming it on external factors I haven't been touched by or a set of experiences different than my own.

When I was younger I believed the reason was money. One day I would have enough money for everything to make sense. When I was a little bit older I thought it was confidence. One day I would be confident enough so everything would make sense.

At a certain point though, I realized it was something else all together. Something deeper, literally. Something that came from inside, more innate and significant that had to do with happiness of self. Something that, if nourished and given time, would manifest itself as the confidence that breeds money and success and all else that comes with it. But knowing that didn't make it any easier to find that thing. The absence or ignorance of which, had thus far defined my 20s.

I have successfully avoided all but the shallowest of internal excavation and introspection, saving my energies to spout reasoning and observations on the existence of others. Never taking the time to understand the insecurities that I have that guide most of all that I do.

I have filled my life with supposed wants, furniture and clothing and things, attempting to fulfill needs far more significant than I could understand.

As I continue to live my life, vacillating between the need for codependent relationships and borderline siloed independence, I am starting to realize, I know it’s neither of those things that I want exclusively. Yet still I struggle to figure out what, since the signposts between those territories are few and far between.

I continue to retread the same thoughts, and worries. Massaging them with my feet. Slow at sometimes. Faster at others. Hoping I am making a difference but never really feeling as such. As the same fears keep coming at me and I can process them at no faster a speed. Walking down an up escalator and calling it exercise.

It has been exhausting. I share this with the people closest to me. With strangers. With anybody willing to listen, hoping that somebody will free me from this suffocatingly thick air.

My close friends don't worry about me the same way I worry about myself. I know this because they tell me so. They tell me they know I will figure it out. That my talents and my spirit will overcome anything that comes my way. They have this incredible faith that no matter what, I will be OK.

It is that faith I seem to have lost somewhere along the way, if indeed I ever had it. Naiveté never deeming it necessary to let me see my own limits. A frighteningly beautiful allowance that has permitted me to accomplish things in my young life that I never could have, had I really understood anything I ever embarked upon.

But that belief, that trust, that everything is going to be OK no matter what is hard for me to reinvest in myself.

I have turned my eyes to the universe and its storied past of infinite wisdom. And I will attempt to put my faith in it. That no matter what happens, no matter how I feel about my own life, and regardless of whether or not I believe in free will, that as long as I continue to try, the universe will permit, predestine or allow for the creation of, a path through this life bringing me into the person I want to be.

But even that is a passive course.

So feeling at a loss for actions, behaviors, and ideas I have been grasping at everything. At metaphors. At reasons. At significance. Anything I can hold on to. To send my fingers out around and back again to my palm to let me know that I am safe. That the relationships, and life lessons, and life purpose worries that swirl within me are not completely unique. That I am secure. That I am OK. That I am normal.

Because for a while now, I haven't felt that way.

That assignment I did so long ago still exists somewhere, in a box, in my parents house, buried in the garage like a time capsule. But if I had to write it today how would I respond? What would my answers be? I can honestly say I don’t really know.

So I try to connect. Offering myself to friends. I don't know what my skills are or who I am. But take me. All that I am and all that I have to offer. I give myself to you. Lovingly. Openly.

Gratitude. That is the one thing I know I can control. I can be thankful and grateful and go out of my way to express that to the people around me. I can derive value and self worth from that. I can establish myself as somebody who is appreciative and lets it be known. Because I have so much to be thankful for.

And giving. I can be giving. I can give to my friends.

I will focus on gratitude, and I will focus on giving as much as I can to the people I love and the people that love me. And I will do that as long as I can, until I can figure out what it is my life is supposed to be.

And then I will do it some more.

Sleeping Around


My friend Michelle who has an irrational fear of escalators volunteered to go mattress shopping with me. Seeing as I had never done it before, I wasn’t sure what a good mattress shopping co-pilot needed to have.

As it turns out, somebody who is afraid of things that move automatically is a good partner for buying something that stays completely still.

We started our search at the second largest department store in the world, the Macy’s in Herald Square. We made our way up to the mattress floor where I was immediately overwhelmed.

There were easily over 100 mattresses out. This was going to be way more complicated than I had hoped.

Luckily a salesperson comes over to us and starts to walk (or lay as it were) us through the process.

He starts us out on some $2,300 dollar mattresses. I assume this is standard practice. Start the customer out on the most expensive mattress and then gradually work them down to the less expensive mattresses.

Except we never really got to the really inexpensive ones. He just kept taking us from one expensive mattress to the next. I was too embarrassed to tell him I couldn’t afford to sleep that well.

The sales person then ask me if I want to try memory foam. I thought I wanted to. But Michelle who, in addition to her irrational fear of escalators, also has a wealth of knowledge about eco-friendly products for the home, whispered in my ear “Memory foam is the most toxic element in your home. It off gasses throughout the night.”

Little did I know I had to be aware of off-gassing, which apparently is not just something I do during the night. Technically it means to emit toxic fumes based on the chemicals that were used to prepare the material.

Great. So not only am I crippling myself I am also gassing myself to death.

I turn back to the sales person.

Umm I don’t think Memory foam is for me.

So we continued testing out the non-memory foam mattresses.

Firm, plush, cushion, plush firm, cushion firm, medium plush. Every single time I laid down on the mattress I immediately forgot the type of the mattress I was laying on.

Also, I started dozing off.



Some it was easy to tell right away were too hard or too firm. I felt like Goldilocks and the 100 mattresses.

Some of the display mattresses had two different feels, split right down the middle so you could test out both sides. Michelle and I did this by doing a mattress fire drill. One of us getting up and running around to the other side, the other rolling over.

The whole time I was testing out mattresses I kept wondering two things to myself:

Is this mattress right for me?
And
Am I getting bed bugs?

While I was focused on flopping around on every single mattress like a fish...



And also, how much everything cost, Michelle was focused on important things like, asking questions that made sense.

Despite her best efforts to learn things, we had a lot of laughs, and we made a lot of jokes, many of which our sales person did not laugh at.

But even though we were having a ball, we were there on serious business. My mattress was killing me and I needed a solution. But as the testing went on I realized that this probably wasn’t going to be something I could accomplish in a single day.

There were definitely mattresses I did like, but after lying on two dozen different mattresses of varying levels of firmness I couldn’t really tell the differences between the ones I did like.

Michelle suggested we go to another store that had some more eco-friendly options. I readily complied. As we made our way to the next store we passed another mattress shop and Michelle grabbed my arm:

The mattresses in here are $35,000, let’s go lay on them.

Michelle can be very convincing.

So we walk into the beautiful airy space and lay down on mattresses that cost more than any car I have ever driven, never mind owned.

We lay down on a mattress and I feel good knowing that I am laying on an organic mattress made from sustainably acquired horse hair, even though I’m not quite sure what all of that means.

Michelle then expresses interest in trying out another type of mattress.

At this point I’m just along for the ride since I have resigned myself to just having bad nights of sleep on the floor for the rest of my life.

Our sales person then starts to speak. 

You can try out this next mattress but it’s in the display window…
Yes!

Things were about to get awesome.

So there we are lying in this mattress in the display window.


And our sales person is talking to us but I am having a hard time not smiling because out of the corner of my eye I can see people on the street laughing at us which is making me laugh.

It’s ridiculous to pretend that this situation is not ridiculous so I start waving at people as they walk by. Which in turn makes them laugh more, which makes Michelle laugh, which makes me laugh even more, so that I’m laying with my friend, in a bed I can’t afford, laughing at strangers I don’t know, while a sales person I just met slowly comes to the realization that there is no way I’m buying anything today.

We went to one more store where Michelle dared me to dive into a pile of 12 down comforters. I though this was a good idea. The staff of that store did not. The sales person there kindly asked me to get up but I could tell she really just wanted to kill me.

So to avoid death in a mattress store, we gladly left, moderately unsuccessful. And I returned to sleeping on my couch until I host some sort of mattress fundraiser or win the lottery.

Or I could just buy a memory foam mattress and sleep in a gas mask.

The Gift of Sound

My parents had gotten a new TV before Thanksgiving. Paired with their DIRECTV and Bose sound system this should have been an exciting time in their lives. However at some point the sound quality deteriorated severely. My parents found themselves cranking the volume up all the way just to be able to barely hear it.

Though it was extremely frustrating it was a reality they had come to accept. And that was sad because my parents don’t hear as well as they used to. After working all of their lives they finally retired and have a beautiful huge television with great sound but now… no sound.

However when my sister visited for Thanksgiving we were not satisfied. We saw not only the opportunity to correct the issue, but also an idea for a great holiday gift.

Now I know as much as about electronics as I do about cars. Which is to say I know nothing about electronics. So I went online and started doing research. The research I did pointed to some inexpensive speakers that would work with what my parents had.

Jump to Christmas Eve when my electronically clueless sister and electronically clueless self walked into a big box electronic store to find what we were looking for. After two minutes of talking to the guy there I learned two things.

  1. 1. I was an idiot.
  2. 2. We needed to by them a stereo tuner and not just speakers.

As these things go the guy said he had ONE stereo tuner in the back that happened to be on sale.

Isn’t that always the case? There’s always just one, and it’s in the back. Like the sales person has to get on a camel and trek 5 miles through the Mohave to get to the back of the store.

It’s never: Yes I have one left and… it’s right here!

But my sister and I are know nothing and it is a really good deal, so we purchased it. The nice guy at the store gives us his card and tells us that when my parents need to come back and purchase the speakers later on, to come back and see him.

We readily comply.

Christmas morning comes and we give the stereo tuner to my parents and they open it up excitedly.

This will make things better!

We say.

You will be able to hear the TV now!

We honestly believe.

Christmas passes, as does the following day. And sure enough it is soon time to install the stereo tuner. So I sit down one morning and begin the process. It starts off easy enough.

I open the box. I take out all of the items. I move the box to the side.

And that’s when things started to go downhill.

The first problem I encountered was the fact that the cords that connect the TV, to the DIRECTV box to the DVD player to the BOSE speakers are all only long enough to just barely make the connections without any slack.

So in order to actually move or unplug anything, I have to get a flashlight and contort my gangly body into the entertainment center. One might think 6 months of yoga would have helped with this, but no, not at all.

Within no time, the normally organized living room looked like this.


Also keep in mind while everything is connected at this point, nothing is actually working. The TV is on but there is no sound, the tuner turns on but it’s not doing anything, and the red light on the Bose speakers just glares at me like the Eye of Sauron.


So that’s when I give up on the instruction booklet, which has a lot of pictures like this:


A picture like that means nothing to me. It could have been the back of a toaster over and I wouldn’t have known the difference.

And I want to be clear I tried to follow the instructions, I really did. But after I followed the instructions and didn’t get it to work the first time, I knew I was screwed. So I just started plugging every cord into every hole in every machine in the living room. If you had told me to run the microwave while putting my tongue in the DVD player I would have tried it.

Nothing worked.

So I took to the Internet.

Bad idea.

I don’t know how to fix what isn’t working because I don’t even know what’s wrong. So I’m googling things like…

How come this isn’t working when I plug the red thing into the red hole?

Or I’ll just write the name of every product I am trying to connect and put a question mark at the end. And believe it or not that’s when I started to find answers.

Meanwhile, at this point it has now been two days since I took apart the living room. The discussions between my parents and I have elevated in intensity as none of us knows what’s wrong.

My dad wants it to work. My mom wants us to just return the thing. And I can't bare to face the guy at the store business card I got, too embarrassed to admit that I’m a technical moron and maybe I should have just bought my dad a book.

After reading multiple sites and comment boards I finally come across a picture of the Bose system my parents have with a remote control. I ask my parents if they have a remote control.

No.

I don’t think so.

Let me check.

At this point I’m spiraling down a hole of self-doubt and regret as I anticipate the conversations I will have with my friends after I return home. 

Hey rich what did you get your parents for Christmas? 
Oh three small fights, an old remote control scavenger hunt and hypertension.

Twenty minutes later we have found a lost remote control with dead batteries. After we change the batteries I press the power button the little red light suddenly turns green. Their original speakers work! The sound is perfect!

They didn’t need a stereo tuner, or new speakers, or a trip to best buy… all they needed was to turn their speakers on.

It wasn't their fault, heck, none of us knew what was going on. But maybe buying them new things isn't the way to go. Maybe next year I will just find something around that house that doesn’t work and fix it.

Or at least... turn it on. 

Death in the Woods

As we plowed down the unpaved road in a pickup truck that we would soon found out did not have 4 wheel drive I had an interesting thought:

This might not be a good idea.

Shortly thereafter my phone rang. It was my buddy in the Hyundai ahead of us.

Turn back. Don't come any further we are stuck in the mud.

Naturally by the time he had finished his sentence we were directly behind his Hyundai and stuck in snow mixed with mud which had made a wonderful slush that trapped us too.

My then girlfriend gunned the engine of her parents Toyota pickup truck we were driving, trying to get us into reverse and out of the woods. I turned to her and said:

I thought you said this was four wheel drive?

She turned to me and shrugged.

I thought it was.

Ohhhh. Suddenly it became clear.

We were going to die in the woods.

I had thought of the many ways I might die in my life. But stranded in a snow covered wood from starvation really had never entered my mind. I'm not one for camping, or hiking, or just hanging out in the woods. So not only was I surprised that I was going to die in the woods, but that we had ended up in the woods in the first place.

That wasn't the plan. The plan was to go skiing. And in 2005 when you needed to get someplace you had never been before, you went on MapQuest. And whatever MapQuest said to do... we did. It had never gotten me lost before. I had always arrived safely at my destination.

Then again MapQuest had never invented an imaginary road that cut across a mountain to a ski resort.

So there we are, 4 of us, 2 couples with a Hyundai and a Toyota stuck in the slush trying to get a pick up truck out of the slush with a board and our wits.

Needless to say this didn't work.

So instead we started debating what to do. Who should we call? The police? What would we even say?

Hi 911? Yes we are lost in the woods. No I don't know where, we are lost. Actually if you try and get directions to go skiing via MapQuest that should get you to where we are right now.

We didn't have any friends in the area, and the only friends we did have were 3 hours away back in Phoenix. We were lost deep in thought when we saw a Honda barreling down the dirt road towards us. Immediately we start screaming.

TURN BACK! STOP! DON'T COME ANY FURTHER!

Before it makes it all the way to us the Honda stops and two girls wearing flip flops step out of the car. Part of me wonders if we should have let them keep going at this point. Immediately it is obvious that these two girls are also going skiing via MapQuest directions. We explain the situation to them and right away the driver gets all pissy with us... like we're trying to prevent them from going skiing.

Yea that's it, we know the skiing is really good so we basically parked our cars in the snow on a dirt road in the middle of the woods MILES AWAY FROM THE SKI SLOPES so nobody could get to the good snow which we are hoarding.

A-holes.

The a-holes get back in their Honda (which is smaller than both of our cars) and manage to back out of the woods to safety and civilization and all that crap, whereas the four of us are left with a greater issue. It is cold. We have no plan to get out. And some of us have to go to the bathroom.

As we are all aware, there are two kinds of having to go to the bathroom. The kind you wouldn't mind doing in the woods, and the kind you never want to have to do in the woods.

Naturally you can probably imagine the situation we were faced with here.

Even though you are in the middle of the woods, miles from people, part of you still thinks...

I wish I had a door right now.

But enough about that. After walking in circles we eventually decided we had to walk back the way we came. So we locked our cars (who knows) and started trekking out of the woods. We had been walking for about 15 minutes when I saw a giant black bear running towards us.

As it turns out it was just a large dog. But when you think you're going to die in the woods your mind is ready to accept crazy things.

But now I was worried I was going to eaten by a rabid woods dog. Until I saw a man following it. At which point I was ready to be confronted by an axe. I really didn't know what to expect.

As it turns out the man was the nicest man I'd ever met in the woods (read: only). We told him our story and he said just the weekend before he had met more people in the woods who had been kindly guided there by MapQuest and it's "invent a road" software. He volunteered to drive to Wal-Mart, buy a tow strap, and then come back into the woods and tow us out!

We were all in disbelief. How could a person be so nice? That's amazing! Please do!

As he drove us one of my friends turned to the rest of us and said "Is this a good idea?"

We suddenly realized that this guy knew we were stranded in the woods and maybe he was going back to get his weapons or people chopper or axe wielding friends. But we realized we didn't really have a choice.

And believe it or not he came back, axe-less and with a tow strap, and pulled us out of the woods.

I don't remember his name, and we never heard from him again but I never used MapQuest again.

No TV

I don't watch a lot of TV. I used to, but not anymore. I’ll watch the games during football season, but that’s about as regular as it gets. People make fun of me for this. A lot of people start conversations with me that go, "Hey Rich did you see.... oh yea, of course not."

I don't watch much TV for several reasons. First off, I don't have cable so I only get like 8 channels (not including the 15 Spanish channels my TV receives). My TV is also a monster. It’s from my parents’ old basement. And it’s like a 46 inch TUBE TV, so it weighs about 23,000 pounds.

But really the main reason is that when I am watching TV, I am not doing anything else. I don't write as much, I don't consume as much culture I just kind of… exist on my couch.

Since I rarely watch TV, when I do watch it, certain things get burned indelibly into my brain. Things like commercials.

And what bothers me about commercials is that they suck. Not just that they are bad (although most of them are bad) but the fact that the story telling is so falsified.

I mean I know believing everything you see or here in commercials is dangerous. And I don't do that, but even still, they are so way off that I can't even handle it.

For example, take commercials for paint. I have painted before. I painted my entire apartment. I know what it’s like, how long it takes, etc. But TV paint commercials are completely misrepresenting how difficult it is to paint a room. The people in paint commercials are freaks of nature.

First of all they always paint in khakis, a polo shirt, and a do rag. And they always just kind of look around the room in beautiful reverence paint a little bit, and then cut to them admiring their work they finished on the same day.

And they never have any paint on them! Not a drop. There's no paint on the floor, there are no drop cloths, no painters tape. It's just time to start, oh look let’s paint perfectly together beautiful spouse of mine, oh look at that we’re done.

Oh and how about that, our clothes are still in perfect shape. Oh wow and we just painted 12 walls and our backs don't hurt and hey look its still light outside. Let's go for a jog!

Now if that were real life it would be pitch black outside, those people would have paint in their eyelashes, and they would be curled up in the fetal position on the floor holding a beer and a slice of pizza. But no, paint commercial couples look at each other, grab each other’s hands, and skip off into the sunset.

Shaving commercials also piss me off. Like most people, I have very important things on my face... like my mouth. And if I shaved my face as fast as those guys in commercials do, I would have shaved it off. They shave so fast that at the rate they show, every man should be able to shave his entire face in 29 seconds.

People in commercials shave while smiling and looking at the camera instead of at the BLADE IN THEIR HAND! Hello! That is a blade, or in the case of today's razors, 12 blades. Be careful with that shit and stop telling me how I can swipe it across my face the same way I might wipe chocolate sauce off my cheek. It is a sharpened piece of steel, not a napkin.

And all these commercials where they “surprise” men in gym locker rooms shaving their face to challenge them to use a new razor. First of all, nobody believes that’s real. And second of all, do you know what the legal ramifications would be for sneaking up on somebody holding a razor next to their face?

Every shaving commercial should have the same message:

Hey guys, do you have hair on your face? Do you use our razor? Well be careful! Our razor is ridiculously dangerous!

But shifting to non-violence, my last commercial frustrations are those for laundry detergent. Apparently the science behind laundry detergent has really come leaps and bounds the last couple years because it is so concentrated now it seems like you can go 20 years on the same bottle of detergent.

It’s 3 times concentrated, not it’s 5 times concentrated, no 10. Use a half a cap full, no a teaspoon, no a drop, no actually just wave the bottle of detergent above the washing machine and it will do the work magically. You don't even have to open the bottle. On bottle will last you a lifetime.

I fully expect to walk into the detergent aisle of the store and just see some product that comes with an eyedropper for you to dispense your cleaning liquid.

I have a hard time believing all of these claims since when I do my laundry and start to pour the tiniest bit into the machine I almost always doubt myself and say, no you know what, I should add more. I just feel safe with too much as opposed to too little.

But I suppose part of it is my own fault since I buy the unscented detergent, I can’t tell if my clothes smell clean just… not dirty. Who knows, maybe I am not the target clientele for these advertisers. Maybe there is some other breed of super human to whom these products apply.

But then again if you can shave your face in 29 seconds and paint your entire house effortlessly without spilling a drop, you probably have no need for detergent anyway.

Jerk.

Half Price - Full Pain

I received one of those group deal emails that advertised a special discount for a new men’s barbershop: Two haircuts and a shave for a great price. It seemed like quite a bargain. I was interested, I was enticed, I wanted to buy it. At that price, even if it wasn’t great, how bad could it be?

I really need to stop saying that because I have had more near death experiences in barbershops than any other location.

And regarding the discounted haircut and shave I should have known better. I have made enough poor decisions in my life to know when things are a bad idea.

Things like free shaves.

Had I actually known better, I might have avoided the worst 20 minutes of my life. But I was so blinded by the discount I couldn’t think logically.

After reading some reviews online I decided to purchase the deal. I then went to the barbershop and requested the specific gentleman who got the best reviews online halfway thinking that he would be good at what he did.

Incorrect.

It’s amazing who can get licensed to wield scissors these days.

In fact, it is actually interesting how the words Barber and Butcher are just a few letters off. I wonder if they have their beginnings in a similar location. Perhaps there is an institute that screens people for professions by asking a series of questions.

All right so I see here that you want to use a knife. OK how would you like to hack away at a dead piece of meat? No? How about a human head?

Now that I think about it, I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the barber shops I’ve been in also had animal carcasses in the back.

So I go to the barber shop for my first haircut. I sit down in my chair and my barber, (we’ll call him Hernando) Hernando asks me (I think) what I would like to have done. So I tell him, and he kind of does what I want, though not without abusing me.

For instance, some barbers, when they comb through your hair and find a knot, will relax and try again slower. Not Hernando, he took that as a reason to demonstrate his wrist strength, which while impressive, did not impress me. And when he ran the electric clippers along the back of my neck I began to wonder if whether or not he’s actually using an electric knife.

So despite the minor violence, I depart mildly satisfied and a little red.

Six weeks later I return for a haircut AND a shave. Again, I see Hernando. Again he beats up my head while cutting off my hairs. And then he tips back my chair so he can destroy my face.

I tell him very clearly (because I’m almost sure he doesn’t speak perfect English) that my face is VERY sensitive so please don’t shave against the grain and don’t shave it twice. Just go once with the grain.

Hernando says:

 No worries. I’ll take good care of you.

I laugh because that is what I do when catastrophe is at hand.

As soon as Hernando starts, I realize, he is not a barber. He is a barbarian. Conan with clippers. Attila with a straight backed razor.

Had my face been made of sun weathered leather, his treatment might not have been so bad. But sadly my face is made of skin. Baby soft tender skin with emotions.

I can’t tell you exactly what he did because my eyes were closed so tightly I think I could actually see the past.

There are certain rules about shaving that ensure that the recipient of the shave do not end up dead. One of these rules includes not stretching the skin while shaving the face to avoid irritation. Granted this is something the old barbershops used to do. And since this barbershop was in the "old style" apparently it meant "anti-evolution."

So... Herando is dragging this razor back and forth back and forth across the same swatch of skin of my face like he is raking a rock garden. MY face is not a rock garden. My face is a marshmallow garden that needs to be tended by delicate flocks of feather carrying underweight butterflies.

He shaved with the grain, against the grain, above the grain, below the grain, into the grain, through the grain. And I’m not sure about this, but I’m pretty sure at one point he used sandpaper.

I kept praying for it to be over but it wouldn’t stop. He couldn’t stop!

Finally there was a pause and I was almost positive it was over. But not quite. No it was time for the powder. He put powder on my face the same way Animal from the Muppets would.

The whole purpose of me warning him before the shave was to prevent the pain, distress, and more pain I faced over the course of 20 minutes. I really thought that my warning would have been enough to prevent such a massacre, but not even close.

Now you’re probably wondering why I didn’t stop him. Well I am an optimist and I kept thinking it might get better. I kept thinking surely the pain must be over.

And also I figured it was better that he did his damage to my whole face, so I didn’t have half a swollen face.

At least the good news is I won't have to have my face exfoliated until.. well until my face grows back.

When my shave was finally over, as I stood up out of the chair Hernando looked at me with a face of I told you so and said without a trace of irony, humor, or sarcasm in his voice:

You're very sensitive.

Thanks.

Jerk.

Free T.V.

I’ve been spending a lot of time in Brooklyn lately. Now even though Brooklyn and Queens both qualify as outer boroughs, they are very different places from each other. It’s kind of hard to explain the differences in mentality, but there are some specific behaviors that are a lot easier to pinpoint.

For example Queens tends to throw out its trash, while Brooklyn tends to, well… give it away.

Maybe this is because people in certain neighborhoods in Brooklyn are a lot more giving with their belongings. But when people in Brooklyn no longer need something they don’t put it on eBay or have a garage sale, they just… put it in front of their house… like a gift.

On any day of the week, on any block in Brooklyn, you can find random items that you can take with you as long as you want them. What is available runs the gamut: trinkets, tapes, fondue sets, and books. Oh lord can you find books. If you are in the market for a forgettable novel from 25 years ago, the streets of Brooklyn are your paradise.

It’s like a library, if a library didn’t require a membership card and was more like a scavenger hunt where you could play “book roulette” at every stop as opposed to an actual physical location.

Several weeks ago I even came across a pair of tiny pink wooden chairs just sitting outside someone’s house, as though there was a dwarves’ tea party that had just let out. I sat in them for a while before I decided they weren’t for me.

Because I’m not a dwarf.

And I don't have tea parties.

But after several blocks of the usual brick-a-brack, I came across this note card just sitting in the middle of a sidewalk:


I looked around but there was no T.V. in sight, which led me to believe that this sign had been on a T.V. and that T.V. had been taken.

Frankly the sign caught me a little bit off guard.

Imagine you have a T.V. you need to get rid of. You don’t want to put in the effort to sell it because you don’t think you’ll make much money. And you don’t want it to just go in the trash because you feel like that is a waste because the T.V. might be worth something to somebody.

So what do you do?

Well if you live in Brooklyn you put it out to the curb of course. But how can you ensure somebody takes it, how can you make sure that this is something that somebody will want?

Why not tell them “it works?”

Now I wonder what the conversation was like with the couple that took the T.V. I picture a nice husband and wife walking by on a spring evening when they come across the Television and the husband says:

Oh my gosh! Lucinda, look, a television set!
So Herb?
So? We were just saying how we want another television for our home.
Yes, but we want a television we can watch! Not some piece of junk off the street.
Lucinda you are not looking, look at the sign. This T.V. WORKS!
Ohhh it works! Every other T.V. we passed had a sign that said “piece of shit” or “friggin useless” but if this one works…

What surprised me was that Herb and Lucinda didn’t choose to bring that note card with them when they took the T.V. set. If that were me, I would have taken that with me as a voucher/receipt.

Because let us say that Herb and Lucinda bring that T.V. home and it doesn’t work. Then what? Well I imagine they'd want their… time back, don't you? I would want to march right up to the home I found that T.V. in front of and say to them:

Excuse me. I found this T.V. outside your home with a note on it that said “It works” but we brought it home and it doesn’t work. Can you please provide us with some sort of retribution? Like… an apology? Or maybe just a note that says "we lied... it doesn't work."

It’s like some sort of renaissance bartering agreement strategy. The sign is the promise. Once you put it in writing it must be true! It wasn’t the first time I had seen a note next to an item on the street. Usually the note just says “free books” or “washed baby clothes.”

Though I truly believe even if a sign says something has been washed, there is really no harm in washing it again. Just to be sure.

But the “it works” signage is brazen. Because if you leave a T.V. outside in the elements for an indeterminate amount of time, there is a very good chance that when a stranger picks that shit up and brings it home… it doesn’t works.

There is an earnestness to it, a sincereity, almost like… an unspoken code.

There is no mandate that you put a sign with your items, though it might make for more interesting perusing.

Tiny Pink Chairs – Will make you look ridiculous
Fondue Set – Completely unnecessary
Books – Unreadable for the last 25 years

But I myself like this strategy of putting your crap out in a box for anybody who wants to take it. I mean let’s be honest, there is very little difference between putting it out in a trash can and putting it out in a box with a sign.

The biggest difference is you save somebody the time of digging through your trash. I remember when my parents moved out of their house and they would put stuff out to the curb on trash night, nearly every single time somebody would come by and take the furniture we had put out.

But what if we could save people time and money by allowing them to have our old shit… I mean treasures. What if instead of just considering everything waste, we could allow others to judge for themselves? Wouldn’t that make everybody’s life a little bit better?

I think it would. So I encourage you to do the same. And if you doubt that it’s a good idea, well you shouldn’t…

It works.

In the Hood of Confusion

This is my raincoat.


It is brand new and yellow. I like it. But unfortunately, like several inanimate objects in my life, it appears to be smarter than me.

You see I bought this raincoat for many reasons. Some of them include
-It is yellow
-It is waterproof
-It has a stowable hood

And you might think to yourself, oh a stowable hood, what a great convenient idea that shouldn’t be difficult.

Well you know what? You should try it first before you start saying things with such an accusatory tone!

I was in the store, and I had already spent 15 minutes trying to figure out how to fold up the hood before I realized this wasn’t going to prevent me from purchasing the jacket. So I went up to the register to purchase it and I asked the kindly young woman ringing me up if she happened to know how to fold it up.

She did not.

She called her colleague over and asked him if he knew. He walked over slowly sucking air through his clenched teeth and said in halted speech:

That... is the big question.

Really? How to roll up a hood is the big question? What kind of society are these two living in that matters over hood stowage trump all others?

The guy went on to say that there was apparently only one person in the tri-state area that knew how to roll up the hood and he worked at the store in Garden City.

I responded by saying ohhhhh.

But really what I was thinking was: Are you kidding me? We are talking about a hood. A HOOD! It is fabric and string and a piece of Velcro. Sure I can’t figure it out, but this is my first date with the jacket. You two have been seeing each other for weeks, maybe months! And there’s like 5 of you in this store!

You honestly can’t figure it out? What kind of jacket nincompoop are you?!

But seeing as I wasn’t able to figure it out right away, I can’t really be too upset. After all, I am regularly flummoxed by seemingly simple objects that do not work the way I would like them to.

Like the first time I tried to twist open a Corona bottle. It was until there was no flesh left in the palm of my right hand that I realized… Corona tops don’t twist off. What made this even worse was the fact that this was a Coronita - A baby corona.

It reminded me of something called the Math Olympiads we did as kids in elementary school. There were these math brainteasers. Five or six of them and you'd have an hour or two to work them out. And you'd work so hard to figure it out and end up realizing the answer was so much easier than you'd thought.

I don’t want to brag but when I graduated the sixth grade I had one of the highest scores for the Math Olympiads. Though I think it’s worth mentioning they never did ask us any questions about raincoats.

But my life is full of these little mini roadblocks. It’s kind like driving down an open road and then I see one tiny orange traffic cone in the middle. And I can for the life of me figure out what to do, so I make a u-turn and go back the way I came.

Or getting a piece of furniture you need to assemble by yourself. And so you open the whole package and all the tools and parts and after hours of effort it is done. But then realize you have like 4 random extra pieces left when you finish. What the hell am I missing here?!

The same thing applies to cooking. I think oh man 4 ingredients, 3 steps, how hard can this be? And it isn't until I am halfway into cutting into a carrot that I realize I don't have the capacity or the wherewithal to julienne a carrot. And it seems easy enough to try but 2 blisters and 9 carrots later all I have is a pile of non Julienned carrot parts and a feeling of self loathing brought on my skinny orange vegetable that I no longer even want.

But none of those others things bother me as much as this stupid hood. I start to question if it is even possible. Perhaps the idea was great but nobody tested the design. And it wasn’t until they had made the first 500 raincoats that they said....

Ohhh you know what? This doesn’t work.

Ahh screw it. Just put them on the rack and let the poor sons of bitches figure it out.

I can just see the designer now. Laughing himself into a tizzy at the great hilarious fraud he has pulled off or perpetrated at the expense of the non waterproofed populous.

But whether it is possible or not really doesn’t matter by the time I’ve asked for this explanation. Because now I have to watch this poor woman flop around in the same shallow poll of experimental stupidity that I just crawled out of while her coworker looks on knowing that he has nothing new to contribute.

I have exposed a weakness within this coat: it’s intelligence. A tragic flaw. These salespeople are incompetent. Much as I am. All I have learned is that I am now qualified to work at Eddie Bauer.

I get home and I try to Google the answer. Is this feat even possible.

No such luck. There are no answers to be found.

Alas it is weeks later now, and I remain a jacket nincompoop. But I still like it, ya know, because it’s yellow.

Twentease - The Pilot Webisode!

Here’s the timeline of how it happened:


First, I didn’t like my job. And desperate to find a way out, my mother emailed me a link to a video contest to win an amazing job. Make a 60 second video and submit it.

I had never done anything like before, but we learned on the fly and I became a finalist. I didn’t get that job, but I started doing video contests so that was cool.

Next, I was doing a favor for a friend of mine acting (which is to say pretending to be a 12 year old in a pit stained white tee) in a one-act play about the 60s. And while running around the stage firing an imaginary toy gun at another actor who was taking this way too seriously I thought two things.

1.    I am the worst actor in the world and don’t want to ever act again.
2.    I could write something better than this!

And so I got to writing my first plays and put them on later that fall. I didn’t become wildly famous from them, or wealthy, but I still got to put them on and I found something new that I loved, so that was cool.

And most recently I was sitting around in my apartment with a friend of mine after some very cheap wine and a dinner that had roughly the same amount of garlic as a vampire defense kit, and we were talking about some ideas I had for future projects.

And as we chatted without directly facing each other to avoid what is known as an “exhalation assassination” I spoke of the idea I had for a future play about people in their twenties not really making it in Manhattan. It would be like a cross between Sex and the City and Ferris Beuller’s Day Off.

We both agreed we liked the idea, and then retired to our respective abodes to sleep off what I refer to as an Italian hangover (wine and garlic).

So the idea was ruminating in my head while I was getting ready to start making for short videos to enter into contests so that I could continue financing my vacations with free trips to exotic beach locales.

But then something happened.

I saw a contest for a web series pilot. The contest was based around decisions and the winning pilot would win 25 thousand dollars and the ability to make 6 more episodes. And I had one of those moments where your heart starts beating really fast. When that happens my first instinct is usually oh shit, I screwed something up.

But when I realized I hadn’t done anything wrong in days, I realized I was excited. This contest was perfect for that play idea my friend and I had talked about. So I put all of my other important obligations (laundry, dishes, dusting) aside and got cranking on a script.

I wrote it in one very neurotically and obsessive-compulsive weekend. And my friend and I spent the next 3 weeks editing it and trying to gather a crew.

We had to hustle because the deadline was only a couple of months away and Thanksgiving was fast approaching which meant people would be pretty much booked straight through to the end of the year.

And we didn’t just need a couple of actors, we needed:

5 Actors
A director of photography
A cameraman
A producer
An editor
A musician
Five locations

And the only thing I had… was an actor.

And while we were able to fill almost all of those needs in several weeks, I decided, against the better judgment of the universe, that since I knew I needed something specific for the lead role. I would just play it myself.

Is it considered nepotism if you give the role to yourself?

Oh wait, I forgot, that’s just called narcissism.

I hadn’t had a critically acclaimed (Read: Teacher Supported) performance since my turn as the Cary Grant role in the play Arsenic and Old Lace. And that role, which I played in 8th grade, was not uncomfortable at all seeing as I had to make out with a girl 5 years older than me on stage in front of my parents.

Noooo, not uncomfortable at all!

My theatrical roles in high school consisted of people who were either careless, emotionally exposed, or completely out of control. So I thought I was pretty well poised to play somebody in their twenties.

That and the fact that I am in my twenties. So… ya know… I could just be myself.

So that was it. We found a location that was willing to let us shoot before they were even open. And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that fabulous place here.

Wine Bar
65 Second Ave
Between 3rd and 4th Street.

A great place for wine, laughter and friends.

That’s not their motto, but I think it should be.

So we had a location, we had actors, a crew, and a date. And we went and we made it happen!

Oh yea, and then I spent a million hours editing it using software I didn’t know how to use, bought DVDs to burn copies so I could submit it, then went to submit it in person but accidentally went to the wrong building and spent 20 minutes there before I realized I was an idiot, went to the correct location, dropped it off, then got an email saying none of the DVD copies worked so I went and bought new DVDs, re-burnt the series, snail mailed it, emailed twice to make sure they got it and found out they did.

Ta-Da! Easy enough. Now all I had to do was wait until May so I could get that 25 grand and make an amazing web series and become wildly successful.

Naturally we found out last week that we didn’t win.

::Deep melodramatic sigh::

But it’s cool, because in the mean time I wrote the rest of the episodes, which we can start shooting. And now I can finally show the pilot to my friends instead of fearing that I was breaking contest rules and hording it like some kind of troll.

So without further ado I present to you a show about people not quite making it in their twenties. All I ask is that you share it with your friends, post it on Facebook, tweet it out and whatever else. Let’s make this the most significant event in my life since that time I made out in front of my parents.

More Words of Less Wisdom

Recently when I was having a stressful day somebody suggested a very ridiculous solution to me, and instead of saying no thank you, I almost said this:

I need that like I need a hole in my head.

Luckily I caught myself, because the person I was talking to would have had no idea what I was trying to say.

What was I trying to say? I’m not really sure. But I blame my childhood.

The reason I even know that statement is because it was said to me frequently as a child when I proposed less than good ideas. And that was a frequent occurrence. But even when I was at my dumbest, it still seems like it might have been bit too severe of a comparison no?

I mean I suppose that’s the point but to a child, that seems like a ridiculous thing to say. I can just see myself wondering why my mother would need a hole in her head, or who would ever want a hole in their head, or how anybody would actually go about getting a hole in their head. It seemed like the least wanted thing in the universe.

I started thinking about other takes on this sentence that I could start building into my daily repertoire. Here is what I came up with.

I need that like I need:

a snake in my ear.
a harpoon in my foot.
a grenade in my throat.


But honestly thought I could do better and up the ante.

I need that like I need:

a dragon full of dynamite.
a balloon full of asbestos.
a panda in a dress.


Actually I might take the panda. But I figure as long as you’re going to confuse somebody you might as well really go for it. And speaking of confusing, I had a high school teacher say the following thing to me once:

Charles Dickens must be rolling in his grave.

Why? I understand that you are trying to tell me Charles Dickens would be upset, but why is he rolling in his grave?

Rolling in your grave presupposes 2 things.

The first is that anybody expresses anger by rolling back and forth. Not stomping, or screaming, or kicking. Rolling. What about this activity says anger? If I saw somebody rolling back and forth in one place I might think ‘drug use’ or perhaps ‘they were just on fire.’

But anger? I think not. Can you imagine the conversation that would lead to that? I mean in a normal circumstance if somebody were pissed off it would be like:

Bill: Are you OK man?
Steve: No! I’m so pissed I’m going to go home and punch a hole through my wall.


Ok wow yea that seems to make sense. But let’s say:



Bill: Are you OK man?
Steve: No! I’m pissed. I’m going to lay down on the ground right here, pull my arms to my chest and roll from side to side until this anger that exists deep within my heart has subsided. I will roll my anger away!
Bill: Oh… I don’t think we can be friends any more.


Actually you know who rolls around on the ground when they are angry? Children. Toddlers. Babies. Me… 25 years ago.

OK maybe 15 years ago.

The second thing that ‘rolling in your grave’ presupposes is the idea that pissing off a dead person would reanimate them only enough in that they would be able to roll around in their coffin, when everybody knows that if somebody came back from the dead they would fly into your bedroom at night and haunt the shit out of you. Not just roll around in a box underground.

I suppose it’s good we can’t know when we have pissed off dead people, or when they are unhappy. I on the other hand, always knew when I seemed unhappy because I would be told to:

Get that puss off your face.
Now, even though I had never heard the word puss before, as soon as my mother said that, I KNEW what a puss was. And I had one on my face. And I had better get it off or else.

Can I describe to you now what it looks like? Nope, I just happen to know it when I see it.

And I suppose it makes sense for a parent to say something to their child using the least amount of words necessary. It seems like being a parent consists of a lot of telling your kids what not to do. I can’t imagine I would have been as good at following instructions if my parents had said something like:
The current physical expression you are making on your face is neither conducive to improving the situation nor is it appealing to view. Please alter it immediately and bring about a more pleasant and kindly demeanor.

Of course not. Get that puss of your face works a whole lot better. The word puss could have been interchanged for snush, glerf, bloaf. It all works. Which just goes it’s not what you say after all, it’s how you say it.

So the next time you think you might have a puss on your face, you’d better get rid of it. Unless of course you’ve got a harpoon in your foot, in which case, I think you’re allowed to have a puss on your face.

The Most Signs of the Most Times

Let’s get right down to it shall we?

It continues to happen. I continue to stumble across signs, labels, and symbols meant to convey a message that do more to confuse than anything else.

I would suggest some sort of common sense police but I know that would get shot down before I could… you’ve already shot it down haven’t you?

Damn it.

Well regardless, I was up in Boston visiting my sister recently when I realized I had no money. Since I stopped bartending this happens frequently. My pocket is physically much emptier since I stopped giving alcohol to strangers.

So I decided to visit an ATM to get some cash, which is the reason I visit ATMs in the first place. And I saw this sign.



Ohhh OK. Cash only. So wait… you mean this ATM doesn’t make pancakes? Here I am, walking around Boston thinking that I can stop at an ATM and get some cash and pancakes, and I come across this frigging thing that does not make OR sell pancakes. How am I supposed to deal with this?

What has this city come to?

Does anybody use the ATM for anything else aside from taking out cash? I do know that that there are far too many options in the ATM screen. As soon as you put in your pin, it is suddenly asking you if you would like to:

Make a withdrawal
Make a deposit
Check your balance
Transfer funds
Call your mother in law
Share a milkshake

I mean ENOUGH already ATM machine. Just be yourself. Nobody expects anything else from you.

Something else I don’t expect a lot from is my conditioner. But apparently my conditioner expects a lot from me, like loyalty.



Official supplier to men? What men? I don't recall signing a contract. I know I don't represent all men or even some men but shouldn't I get a say? Have I been breaking some code up until now?

I don’t know if I’m going to get in trouble here but I have definitely used other conditioners, and those conditioners were not all specifically for men. Actually, some of them were made specifically for women. I’m not sure if they were the official supplier to women, but they definitely had a contract.

Does that make me a woman?

Don’t answer that.

There should be a law about putting statements on products that can’t possibly be proved true or false. Anything in the realm of:


Official Cola of Extra Terrestrials
#1 Choice of People Who Are Picky
Official Supplier to People Who Buy Stuff

And even if it WAS the official supplier to men, who made that decision? I want to make sure I get to vote for our representative. I would vote for somebody with a name like… Burly Von Steeleater.

And speaking of manly things, I own a paper shredder. It’s pretty much the closest thing to a power tool that I own.

I have been using for about a year before I actually looked at the instructions on the top. I noticed there were some symbols there to caution silly people. One symbol said don’t put paper clips in. One symbol says do not try to shred your own hand. But there was one I didn’t understand.

Do you know which one I am talking about?



Yep you guessed it. Second from the left, no shredding of gingerbread men.

Does this apply to all cookies or specifically to gingerbread men? Is there something specific about gingerbread men that makes them a bad idea to shred? What about ginger snaps? Or snicker doodles? I mean shredding an Oreo (in addition to being a sin) also just seems impractical.

But why cookies? Is this a call the company regularly gets?

Hi is this shredder support?
Yes it is, how can I help you?
Well, I had a box of chocolate chip cookies that I meant to put in the cupboard but I accidentally jammed them into the shredder. Can you help me with that?

And it’s only cookies. No vegetables, meats, or dairy symbols.

But at least the shredder company was putting forth the effort to prevent any issues in the future. They were expending effort, whereas one of the tenants in my building proved just how lazy and inefficient that person is.

Upon leaving my building last week I saw what appeared to be a note taped to my super’s office door. Apparently somebody in my building had something to say to him before he reported for duty.



Let’s just skip over the passive aggression, because that is obvious enough. Because obviously the super of my building is controlling the individual heat going to every single apartment in the building and directing rage at him is a good choice. We all know that.

I was more confused about the whole package of the note, specifically the order of sentences.

I actually think “I can’t breathe” would have made a better lead. Because heck, by the time you get to the end of the paragraph this person just sounds whiny. But if you as the writer kick it off with your inability to process oxygen, wow! I mean if I were a super I would be like,

Hrmm should I fix that leaky pipe in 2D or the woman in 5F who won’t make it to sunup. 5F it is!

It seems like it makes the process easier.

And I’m not sure you can see this, but that note was actually written on an envelope. A blank envelope.

Which makes me think this is a person who has envelopes but no paper and they would rather waste an envelope than an actual slice of paper. I mean if you are going to write a threat, or a complaint, at least write it on an actual paper. An envelope looks like it was a mailman complaining.

Not that a mailman’s complaints are any less important than a regular person’s. Unless of course that person is Burly Von Steeleater.

That guy always comes first.

Interweb Confusion

Based on the kind of communication I’ve experienced I’ve come to the conclusion that the Internet is kind of like a bar. There are people from all different walks of life, it’s really too dark to see anybody’s face, and everybody is drunk.

There is no filter on the Internet, people can just say whatever they want. Add into the fact that there are tons of people spamming you; the confusion of tone in emails and typos, there is nothing but nonsense in store for you every single time you log on to the Internet. Sometimes it’s intentional, sometimes it’s not, but it’s almost always ridiculous.

I received one of my favorite spam emails recently. Not to brag but I regularly receive emails from women in other countries looking to start a relationship with me. I mean rumors of my charms have obviously spread far and wide over the web. Why else would I receive the following email?

Hello!

My name is Anastasia.
I want to search my love. I want to search the man for long relations. I want to have serious relations and the real love. Therefore if you do not want it that you should not answer my message. Maybe learning more about each other we can have real relations. I shall write more about myself and send you my photo if you will interest on my letter.

You can answer me to my address:peefoy@yahoo.com
Earlier I do not use dating service, therefore I want excuse for you if I have made it not good.

I hope to speak with you soon,
Anastasia.

I had to laugh because even though Anastasia was probably a robot, she still knew that what men really want is “long relations” whatever that means. It made me think of an email I got back when I still worked at the magazine.

I was a part of a small department that was not hiring at the time. We received a job application directly to our department from a young woman who lived in Georgia… the country. Granted this young woman wasn’t applying for a particular position, she just sent us an email unsolicited. It was quite a, let’s say “unique” approach.

The email included a resume that was a hodge podge of very confusing schooling and experience. Not only because all of her experience was from Georgia, but also because her English was beyond awful. It was like trying to decipher an Eastern European puzzle.

Oh and she included 2 pictures of herself.  In a bathing suit. Which made me believe she either didn’t know what we did, or, the job application process was extremely different in Georgia.

We might have ruled it out as a simple spam had she not applied 2 more times. We didn’t respond because, well, what do you say to a woman in a bikini from another country that doesn’t speak English?

Sorry, you don’t have 1 single qualification.

But sometimes our communication gets skewed because we try and pass it through one too many filters. My favorite example of this is my experience with Google Voice.

For those of you who don’t know, Google Voice is a free service that translates your voicemails and sends it to you in an email and/or a text message.

I admire Google’s advances in all things Internet. But I must say that their advances in speech recognition are slightly behind. Instead of helping me to understand what the voicemail actually says, it just makes me laugh. Here are a few examples of voicemails (according to Google Voice) that I have received.

Office attacks you back. I think like 2 minutes.

I’ve had bad days at work, but my entire office has never attacked me before. And I had never attacked it. This was a false alarm.

Hey Ricketts

Hands down the worst mispronunciation of my first name. Ever.

R. E. T. V I totally with the big grid from 1,008 9 Y contact with the kind of highly disappointments. It's like read something your time now. We have a fact. So I don't know if you have. Maybe later. My name is HI. Thank you, such. Okay, good to everybody Obviously, the speed about your What your area. I'm concerned, since I read about it. I don't talk to you. I hope you are internet possibly happened. And hey. Seriously, hope you have a great birthday. Her, Cleo soon. If I see.

The only thing I managed to gather from this lengthy email was that it was my birthday. Even though I’m not sure I even got this on my birthday.

A lot of wonderful please and fabulous trip lots of putty in your future.

Lots of putty in my future? That sounds like a fortune cookie from a first grader’s birthday party.

8 minutes of ceiling.

Oh… OK.

I know if you're still gonna be crazy in that. So I totally get that Shannon who. If you are now have a free time. Anyway, call me, feel free. Otherwise, you can just chat when you look after 10. Now I'm going to so excited for you and I can't wait to read your baby. So Arthur, I'm if for some reason you could give me if I get from now. I read it on my 3 on a flight on Thursday and hit the meaning of her the changes. I'm sure I can get the gist of it. So think about it. Consider it. I'm pretty. I'd like to. Thanks.

My baby? I don’t have a baby. Nor would I want someone to “read” it. And I am glad you are pretty. This is key to friendship.

I feel like I've had like 22 batteries in South.

Don’t we all.

It seems the longer the voicemail the more absolutely incomprehensible it gets. Its almost like the machine just says, oh screw it, there’s no way I’m going to get all of this. But I still use it, because it makes me laugh.

I think a voicemail I actually left for my friend actually sums it up best.

Friday refuse. I meet you. I'm trying to teach english well. There's a feeling. Pretty good.

I’m not sure what that feeling is but as long as it is pretty good, well, I’ll have no need for those long relations.

New Signs of New Times

I am a person that believes that it is possible to convey a message with very few words. Granted this does not mean that I always am an economist of words. I understand I can be rather loquacious. But I think this qualifies me to recognize when more words are not needed, or when some words are possibly redundant.

Recently I have come across some instructions, signs, and messaging that could have, perhaps, used a bit of assistance in hitting their intended goal.

I was in a shoe store recently, one of those self serve kinds where you have to comb through the aisles amidst boxes and boxes of shoes that may or may not be in your size. I pulled a pair out in my size and noticed in the lower right hand corner a sentence that kind of threw me.


Average contents? I believe that when purchasing shoes, I shouldn’t have to be working with the law of averages. If I buy a pair of shoes, I don’t want there to be a “good chance” I’m going to get both of them.

And I know I am the worst person on the planet to be pulling apart math theories here, but as I understand it,  average means that (in this particular case) there are some shoe boxes that have 1 shoe, and some shoe boxes that have 3 shoes. And I’m not sure if you’ve ever seen a shoebox before, but they tend to only fit 2 shoes at a time. So that would mean that there would have to be 2 regular sized shoes and like… a Barbie shoe.

I have no use for Barbie shoes, nor am I in the habit of purchasing them. I would prefer that my shoe boxes contain 2 human shoes… definitely.

Something I don’t have an average need for is donuts. My need for donuts is something many people know about. I don’t believe I have a sweet tooth I just enjoy eat 3 or 4 donuts in a sitting. Does that mean I have a sweet tooth? I don’t personally think so.

But the signs that donut shops put up really crack me up, and not just because they seem to state ridiculous facts, but also because they are written with ridiculous grammar.

Like this one.
 
Not accepting over a 20 dollar bill seems like maybe it is not a great idea. I mean sure, if I go in and try to buy 5 munchkins with a Benjamin, yea, that doesn’t make sense. But what if I want to buy 5 HUNDRED munchkins. Am I really going to have to pay with 20s?

And the not selling the empty cup. I mean, you have to have some pretty stupid customers who are looking for a cup full of nothing. And if they are so stupid as to want to purchase an empty cup, well, I mean I think you should let them. When did we decide to be against accepting money from strangers?

Like the 99 cent store in my town. It is a store so jammed with junk that you could probably buy cotton swabs, electrical sockets, and a sled all on the same shelf.

On the nicer days, they display some of their crap outside of the store that you can purchase. It was on just such a day that I noticed they had some very inexpensive books for sale. But their pricing structure confused me.


First of all, a 99 cent store selling anything for more than a dollar seems like cause for a lawsuit, but I will let that slide for the moment. What I am most curious to is how they came up with their price. Does the $1.17 price have something to do with the 12 per customer limit? Are they somehow opposed to:

A. Selling all of their products?
B. Making more than $14.04 per customer?

Is there some crazy tax law at play here? This really doesn’t seem like the establishment to be capping their business. I don’t really see them expanding their empire anytime soon… Unless of course the smell of asbestos and claustrophobia make a huge comeback in popularity.

On the same day I frequented my 99 cent store, I also walked past a construction site that was nearing completion. Construction sites are usually a mess of safety cones, and signs, and warnings. I don’t pay too much attention to them, but on this recent day there was one that was for some reason on a golden sign that said:


The mystery and sheer ambiguity of this sign really peaked my interest. The number is important yes. Absolutely. But in case of necessity? I mean, why else would I call?

Hello this is the necessity hotline, is this a necessity?
What? Oh no no, I’m just calling to say hey.
Oh I’m sorry sir, this line is only for necessary phone calls. You’re going to have to hang up.
But wait, I really want to talk to you, and if I don’t call you it is not possible to do so. So in that regard this is kind of necessary.
Oh… well.. I never thought about it that way. Continue on then.

I can’t even wrap my brain around the need for this sign. That’s like putting “Please don’t prank call my phone” on your business card. It almost begs that people do so. I wanted to call that number on the sign just to find out what their definition of necessity was.

Perhaps if they put a limit on the average necessity I was allowed, that would have made it clearer.

Mad Men... Myself

I love living alone. I’ve had my own apartment for over 2 years now and it’s fabulous. It is quite possibly one of my favorite aspects of my life. It allows me a freedom and comfort I couldn’t have if I still had roommates.

The only thing challenging about living by myself is not having anybody to instantly coerce into helping with the half a dozen projects I am always thinking about doing. If I schedule it far enough in advance, I can gather some wonderful friends to help me.

But every once in a while I find myself dressed in a suit and tie climbing out my window holding a tri pod and a bottle of Jim Beam.

Allow me to explain.

I have been on a contest kick the last 6 months, video contests mostly. And that has led into other ventures like the viral videos that I did for my friend Sean's company Boom Boom Energy. Myself and my friend Brandi self shot 3 videos for him in my apartment using a tripod and my camera. You can see them all here.

But as I was moving stuff around my apartment to assemble a desk I just bought, I put the tripod in my room and forgot about it.

Until later that day when I came home, walked into my bedroom and saw a tripod... with a camera on it... facing my bed. I can only IMAGINE what somebody would have thought had they come over after work. Thank god nobody saw that one.

But aside from incriminating myself in my own apartment, I recently started watching Mad Men. Yes I know this is the 5th season and it’s amazing. But I don’t have a lot of time, and I don’t watch TV. But the amount of people who told me

Rich you would LOVE Mad Men. You HAVE to watch it.

Was starting to get annoying, and I was pretty interested in it anyway. So I bought it on iTunes and started watching it. I got so into it that I watched the first 2 seasons in about 3 weeks.

I noticed 2 immediate effects.

  1. I started drinking a lot more. I’d like to believe that it was the 95 degree weather but something felt positively sinful about not whetting my whistle while engaging in mid century misogyny and philandering.
  2. I really felt myself wanting to be a part of that lifestyle. And not because I want to get married, cheat on my wife, and then cheat on the woman I am cheating on my wife with. But because they were so damn stylish, I wanted a reason to look that good. I will admit I wanted to be Don Draper. 
Luckily around that same time, a friend of mine sent me this tasty little flyer from Banana Republic.


A chance to walk on to the set of Mad Men? Absolutely. I was in. Now I just needed a plan.

While I had previously sworn off public voting contests, this one was just too much fun to pass up. So I took a look at the site and was immediately disheartened.

The person with the most votes had many thousands of votes. Something I couldn’t possibly match.  I contemplated not doing it but then I decided I would and enlist the help of some friends.

Well the friends ended up being quite busy and or out of town at that time so I had no choice but to shoot it myself. I was at work on Friday afternoon when I realized I could take the picture on my roof. With the sun setting. Perfect!

So I rushed home after work.

Actually that’s not true. I walked fast to the train, but then I just sat on it, it doesn’t matter how much of a rush I am in, the train tends to go the same speed and or slower. So that sentence should have said:

So I went home at normal speed.

Better. I got home and climbed out my window onto my fire escape and up to my roof. I quickly realized that I didn’t have much time. The sun would be gone soon. So I climbed back into my apartment to shower, shave, get suited up and set up the shoot that I would be doing of myself.

The shower was quick and easy but shaving in a hurry is like, well, I mean it’s really its own metaphor. Any time we are talking knives and faces, there really should be as much time allowed as possible.

Thankfully, I didn’t cut my head off and was able to quickly get dressed and part glue my hair into a 1960s quaff.

I grabbed the camera and tripod as well as a bottle of Jim Beam which I was going to use as a prop for the shoot.

Now I was in one of my favorite suits which I wouldn’t exactly call “action wear.”

And climbing out of my window requires getting over an extremely high sill which I can barely do in basketball shorts, never mind tailored pants. And with nobody to hand me all of my stuff I had to simultaneously lift my leg 4 feet in the air and over a ledge to get it out the window while also holding a fully expanded tri-pod (for some reason I hadn’t thought to collapse it) and a 30 year old bottle of whiskey that hadn't been opened since the last time my parents had a "nautical party" in our old basement.

Right about the time I was straddling the window I thought to myself, what if somebody sees me? What would they think?

OH there he goes again. Always getting dressed up to drink whiskey on the roof!

Never mind the fact that once on my fire escape I have to walk past my neighbor’s living room on my way to the ladder to get to the roof. My neighbor, who recently bought an Ab Rocket and uses it for 30 minutes every morning so I hear a half hour of

Squeak Squeak Squeak Squeak

Well... at least I think that’s her Ab Rocket. Anyway, I'm just saying we both have our own stuff going on.

Mine is not the tallest building in my neighborhood, so I can only imagine if the people in the buildings across from me looked out to see me standing on my roof, in a suit, and sneakers, striking poses for a camera on a timer.

A couple of years ago this might have bothered me, or made me insecure. But I have embraced my ridiculousity and thus do not mind doing strange things that attract attention.

I mean it doesn’t always go so well, sometimes trying to take a picture of myself all I got was this.


Headless man on the roof.

But when it went well it was pretty cool. And I was happy with how most of the pictures came out, and after much debate I picked one that would be my entry into the contest that I had no chance to win.

Which picture did I choose? Well, you'll just have to wait and see now won't you?