Wednesday, July 28, 2004

The Great Satan

!Hola!  I've recently returned from a trip to the sunny land of Mexico.  Thus explaining my inability to add to my lovely blog.  I spent the week helping a church in Monterrey, Nuevo Leon, build pews.  It was hot.  It was hard work.  It was good.  (Halo temporarily forms above my head but then fizzes out like a neon sign on its last leg)  This trip allowed me to spend ten glorious days away from one of the great evils of our time.  I'm not talking about a somewhat voluntary media blackout where I didn't watch a TV.  Nor do I speak of the absence of a internet connection.  Those things, at times, can produce positive results.  The thing of which I speak is so innocuous as to go unnoticed by most, and probably never viewed in such a horrible light.  But its mere beastly existence is detestable to me.  It is...(three hard, descending chords on a piano).....the alarm clock.
That's right, for almost a week and a half I was not cruelly awakened by this master of dismay.  It sat idle and I woke in peace.  And I think that's really the issue. 
People, myself definitely included, hate to be awakened unnaturally.  That is, anytime someone must wake up before their body has given them that natural nudge, they are vexed.  Irritated.  Inflamed.  Also, they tend to despise whoever caused this unwanted plunge into consciousness.  Parents waking up their children are never met with appreciation.  I even came up with elaborate schemes to sabotage such attempts, if nothing more than to delay the inevitable for 60 seconds.   The neighbor next door who decides lawn care is required before 8 am?  I'm grumbling under my breath just thinking about it.   And let's not even dwell on the poor soul who must make the wake-up call at a hotel.  My tone with them is usually pretty harsh until the truth finally begins to sink in that I put them up to it.   Ever called someone in the morning thinking they'll be up only to get the delayed, dazed and groggy..."hello?"  My first instinct is to just hang up I'm so horrified by the realization that I'm that guy.   And anyone who's been on the other end of the call invariably assures said caller that its ok only to hang up the phone and muse,"What was he thinking?", and possible name calling.
I think that's really why alarm clocks are so prevalent.   No one wants to be responsible for such an act as yanking another human from slumber.  So we make the machines do it.   And you can't be mad at the machine, for it's only doing what you told it.  Heck even the wake call is now automated many places.  But I found this week that the absence of an artificial, evil little sleep stealer can have an amazingly positive effect on one's (mine) attitude, energy level, and overall enjoyment of life.  I was still waking up by 7 am.  But I felt rested, and not bitter about waking.  Contrast that with a typical morning that starts with the plaintive tones of a clock radio; happy is not a word that usually comes into play. 
As soon as I figure out a way to get to work on time with out it, I'm done....or more likely I'll just continue being bitter...and sleepy.

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

The Man in the Suit

I think everyone has had the experience. The rush of blood and emotion. The realization that you are in the crosshairs of a certain someone's stare. The pressure of feeling the attention of those around you joining that of the suited one to see what you're decision will be. Or maybe it just causes a smile or grin or shake of head that results from such a sight. So this morning I had such an experience but with many peculiarities. The man I speak of is the "sales promotion mascot." That poor soul who sucks it up, swallows his/her pride and puts on any number of silly inflatable/plush constumes with the hope of coaxing that one extra customer through the door.

I believe there is nothing the average citizen hates more than being put on the spot. That why people detest the door-to-door solicitor. I can't just walk away, I'm already at home! "Where's my anti-sales pitch bunker?!" And no one really enjoys rejecting someone else, so the pressure builds. And many times these purveyors of curbside guerilla advertising employ a similar brand of pressure. You can almost hear them saying through their fake, gargantuan(or non-nonexistent) mouths, "I'm pointing at you! I'm waving at you! Please come to my store! Make the children happy, don't turn me down. (Fake wiping away tears) You horrible person! How could you just drive on by?"(shrug giant inflatable/plush shoulders not being able to comprehend anyone who doesn't slam the brakes). This morning was not one of those sort of experiences. This one brought a chuckle and then a wave of questions and confusion.

I must name names. The business involved is a new Quiznos opening very near my home. Let me also say I am a big fan of Quiznos--"Toasted is better." Now, as I rolled along Greenville Ave. at approximately 7:10am I look over to my left and see an inflatable character harmlessly waving at passersby. It did, indeed, cause me to smile in bemusement. Those two oversized, white, gloved hands poking out of the costume waving to and fro is just funny...can't help it. But as I took the whole scene in, the peculiarities overwhelmed me. First and foremost, the costume being donned in this endeavor for a restaurant who's main product is sandwiches was a drinking cup with lid and straw. Ok, well I guess you can enjoy a refreshing cola with your sandwich that really a draw?
Human #1: "Let's go to Subway."
Human #2: "Naw, dude. We need to go to Quiznos. They have drinks....with straws!"
H#1 : "Thank God you said something."
Two, the cup held no sign, no indication of a special. Maybe free drinks with your sandwich this week only? Just a little Quiznos logo on the cup and those big hands. For gosh sakes, the cup didn't even have a face! And's sevenish in the morning! Quiznos does not serve breakfast. Even if this advertising attempt was successful and I immediately felt the urge to yank the wheel and drive directly to the front door of their fine establishment, they don't open for another 3-4 hours. Do they think all these cars on the road are out scouting for a lunch spot? We're all going somewhere else. Somewhere we will be at during the lunch hour, most likely. Not to return until well after lunch and most likely too soon for dinner. I guess Quiznos could be trying to corner the afternoon snack market. Or maybe I'll just stop in for a $1.29, 20 oz. Sprite on my way home? These seem like ideas that should not be the primary focus of your high-dollar "sales promotion mascot campaign". But what do I know? I'm not the man in the suit.

I would like to share more of the confusion that arose from this inflatable mascot sighting, but it's lunchtime......and there's a Quiznos nearby.

Friday, July 09, 2004

Coincidence?.....or Fate?

Today I want to talk about someone very influential in my life. Someone who holds a special place in my heart. This person has an unusual knack for showing up at that moment when my guard is down, when I'm at my most vulnerable. It's a relationship that seems purely the fruit of happenstance, timing. But is it? The fact that it's reached this level never fails to make me more than a little tense, but it exists nonetheless. The person I speak my Pee Buddy.

Yes that's right, I said it,"My Pee Buddy." I didn't choose him, and hopefully(please dear God), he didn't choose me. You might be asking,"What is a Pee Buddy?" Well, it is a phenomenon of the workplace where 30 or more people must share a single bathroom. At first, it just seems like deja vu, but after a while you realize (thought bubble forms above my head),"this guy is on the same bathroom schedule as me." Who can fully know the physiological mysteries that bring people together in such a manner. Where, in the male case, the must stand side by side, day after day.

Here's the other issue. I have very strict bathroom etiquette. The main one being - No talking while taking care of to speak. I'll allow a brief convert at the sinks, but it still sorta disturbs me. But my Pee Buddy is a talker. And sometimes it's so confusing that I must reply (I usually try to limit those to one word answers) at length. So now, not only do I have to deal with the fact I have a Pee Buddy, which may or may not be gay, but not gay gay, just...well...see Bob and Dan for what I mean(link); but I also know that looming is an uncomfortable conversation from which I cannot flee. Is it bad that I've been known to keep walking on by if I see my Pee Buddy approaching the men's room door right ahead of me? Probably, but sanity is kept by such a razor thin margin. And I rate sanity more important than my Pee Buddy's forlorn urinal longings for awkward conversation, or at least generic talk, which sucks the life-force right out of me. (Possibly a future topic)

I typical "encounter" goes something like this. I enter the restroom and take my place at the wall. I hear the door open and shake my head in disbelief. It like he has surveillance set up. The Pee Buddy assumes the position next to me. And just as the silence seems to have set in and I begin to relax in the belief that this meeting will be conversation-free, it begins...
Pee Buddy: "So number 7, huh?"
Me (Perplexed look crosses my face...): "Scuse me?"
PB : "Oh I noticed you're wearing a number 7...on the back of your shirt."
Me : "Oh, yeah" (I then remember what I'm wearing)
PB : "So, you went to Japan?"
Me : "No, just a shirt..." (Trying to figure how to break the news to the guy that just because I bought a $10 shirt at UrbanOutfitters that is some loose copy of a Japanese soccer jersey, I have no real connection)
Me : "Ok, hope we don't wash away in this storm" (I leave, but hate myself for resorting to generic guy talk, the most abhorrent form being weather talk)
I walk away from the "encounter" completely drained.

I have a "very good friend" (also using hands as quotes for emphasis) who shall remain nameless who used to work in a certain Capitol in the D.C. area. She told me that not only did she have a Female Pee Buddy who was blind, but this certain blind woman had a seeing-eye dog. So she had a Canine Pee Buddy by proxy. I can't imagine the tension and stress this would cause me. Does the fact that the other person is blind remove the necessity to speak? Or make it required? Do you also greet the dog? Is the dog suspicious of seeing the same "other person" in the restroom every time their master goes. Too much. Even now I'm getting dizzy from the potential uncomfortableness.

Couple of notes.
(1)every time I see my Pee Buddy I hear the jingle for the male doll from the 80's, My Buddy, in my head and I can't get it out. (Song breaks out) "Pee Buddy, Pee Buddy, He goes every time I go. Pee Buddy, Pee Buddy."
(2)Some people may be saying, "How do I get a Pee Buddy?" Well, you don't. Only us fortunate few, explicitly "blessed" (fingers again) by the Lord above get them. And you're not, so there!

That's it. I have to go to the restroom. Pray for me....and my Pee Buddy.

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

Baseball, the sport that makes sports sports

I greatly enjoy the game of baseball. Not just a single game...but the whole idea. It's formal, it has tradition, it demands respect. From baseball cards to summer nights with the game on the radio to seeing a random set of lights with a random set of little leaguers underneath, it all warms my heart. It places a great importance on numbers, which should offer assistance in predicting future performance and then it goes the exact opposite direction. The Marlins win the World Series, and my local team, the Rangers, lose the best player in the game (that situation still irks me) and their best pitcher (not saying much, but still...) and transform from one of the worst in the league to a serious playoff contender. Huh? There are very knowledgeable baseball people in the town who predicted they would lose 100 games, and I could find no reason to disagree. But now, the fact that they lead the division and the wild-card race at the half-way point of the season produces a sort of glee that is hard to describe. Then add to this fact, that over the weekend they had 5 players named to the all-star team. What? The most ever for the team. Every time you think you've got this game figured out it doinks you on the head and runs off into the night laughing a devilish cackle.
I believe it takes some knowledge to appreciate the beauty in something, and that includes sports...especially baseball. Admittedly, baseball does not deliver the amount of purely athletic exhibition as some others sports. It does not have the power of football, the high-flying acrobatics of basketball, the speed of hockey, or even the extra element in a sport like soccer that makes you bemusedly say to yourself,"They're able to do that without using their hands!" It does have some amazing examples of all those, but in spurts. The power to hit a ball 500ft, the blazing speed to go from second to home on a bunt(I've seen it), the leaping catch to bring a ball back from over the fence, and the skill for the catcher to put the ball right on the bag from his knees. Personally, to see a perfectly turned 6-4-3 double play is just as beautiful as someone might find in ballet. I don't know ballet, so I'm only guessing, but someone surely finds it beautiful.
And that's really my point. You truly can't appreciate it if you don't understand it. I'm sure it's incredibly boring to you if all you see it a bunch of guys standing around. But it's much more than that. And while we're on the topic. If you want to find a sport with guys just standing around that would be football. I recall a study done by a writer for SI a long time ago and he found that football had the least amount of continuous action of any of the major sports. Something like 8 minutes out of a 60 minute game. While the action may a bit scattered and in very short bursts, I believe baseball had almost twice a much. I was saying. A lack of understanding of art will allow to find what you think is pretty, but will not allow you to appreciate the difference between a Saurat, a Thomas Kincade, and some 6th grader's art project. No real knowledge of music will allow one to think there is no distinction between The Beatles, Bach, and Britney Spears.
It also promises nothing except 27 outs for the losing team. There is no clock. That's why two nine inning games can occur on the same night and one can last 1:52 and the other can go 4:27. It's not canned. The slugger's deep ball might just get knocked down by the wind, or he might have his knees buckled by the rookie's knuckle-curve. It's the only sport where the defense has possession of the ball. You're considered a good hitter if you can do it succesfully 1/3 of the time. It's these dichotomous attributes that makes it the best.
Don't get me wrong, I like football...and basketball...and hockey...and soccer...and sometimes even golf. Sometimes I find a particular baseball game a little boring, too. But in the end, baseball is a tie that American as apple pie. Comforting like a good book by your favorite author, who happens to have a new one waiting before you get that one read. I like it, and you should too. And you won't change my mind.

Friday, July 02, 2004

My blood is reaching Fahrenheit 911

Ok, I've tried to let this go...I have. I'm even hoping maybe this will help. But this whole Michael Moore thing is driving me nuts. I'm sure you're saying,"But dude, why can't you just let people make the movies they want to make?" Well dude, that's not what I have a problem with. If idiots want to go off somewhere and make "documentaries" that are basically truth-challenged anti-commercials...fine. Have a party. Here's what gets my blood boiling. The press and media not taking said filmmaker to task for either: (a) lazy fact-checking and film making or (b) purposefully misleading others. He's doing one of the two, and in this case I think everyone would join me in yelling...."B!!!!!" The only real challenge I've seen so far is the Christopher Hitchens' article (click here for article). I've heard the conversation and analysis of many that say the movie is obviously an anti-Bush project that plays fast and loose with the facts. These same defend Moore's choices with his own explanation that this is just his "Op-ed piece". Someone should drop Moore and all his defenders a memo...having an opinion does not allow you to purposefully mislead or outright lie. Does it give you the right to come to possibly crazy and nonsensical conclusions? Sure. Does it allow you to abuse the facts to basically force people to a certain conclusion....Heh, heh, heh, no. So even those who would be considered of similar political leaning to Moore that I've heard speak about on the issue have said that the film should be viewed as entertainment and not as a historically accurate reflection of events. But then I see this (link). A U.S. Congresswoman is using the movie as a campaign fundraising tool....and here's the best part. She says the movie is filled with "information that every American needs to know." --British sports announcer voice,"And there he goes, he's done it, Jason has just flown off the deep end!"-- Aaahhhhhggggg!!!! Yes Virginia, there are morons all over the place, even in Congress. Why? Why can't people just think? It confounds me. I don't know what irritates me more, her calling it information; or all her idiot constituents paying $25 a head to sit together in a dark theater and cheer and repeat their favorite lines like they're at the midnight showing of the Rocky Horror Picture Show. --"Bush just said Nuke-u-lar again! Wooooo!"-- Ok. I'm not sure this is helping. Either way I'm spent. But Sunday is the 4th. A day to celebrate freedom. Or in Michael Moore's case... lie.