Tuesday, March 26

Actually Spoken During the Course of My Day

"I don't care if I saw them saving orphans in real time, the Black Eyed Peas suck." 

[Now Playing:  Sevendust - "Black Out the Sun" ]

Friday, March 22

Take Me To The Volcano

I've got a problem at work -- I need to take a vacation.

Here's the thing. For years I worked jobs where there either wasn't any sort of vacation at all (temp/contract work, my time as a DJ, roadie work) or even better where your vacation was built into the job itself (teaching). But I can only think of like one or two gigs I've ever had where I actually accrued vacation hours and then had to turn around and declare that I wasn't coming to work on such and such a day.

And even then just because of some of my ..spotty history of getting fired from stuff for dumb reasons, I honestly think I've become a little gun shy when it comes to not being around when I can be at my desk instead.

Which is kind of funny to say out loud, because as many of you know -- few people are more slack at the office than I am.

Not that I don't do the work that I'm responsible for, or that when the time comes I can't put my nose to the grindstone if I have to -- but more that I've become sort of a jedi over the last few years in being on vacation while I'm at work. 

It's sort of a sad thing to say  ..but I don't always mind being here.

I never really envisoned myself ending up as experienced a corporate drone as my resume suggests that I am, so I guess I still view most of what happens around here with a sort of detached shrug. I do good work, and people can count on me -- but when you get right down to it 90% of what my company (or any company, really) does is push paperwork from one side of the table to another, so it's hardly worth busting an ulcer over.

I have a coworker named Frank -- just this old, irascible barnacle. The guy has been here for ages, and has seen it all. Before he came here he apparently worked at the Pentagon for the Navy in some capacity -- which means in all likelihood he's seen some things that would make the rest of our eyes explode. But what it translates to here in real time is that even if what we're working on seems important to us, it doesn't really impress Frank at all.

So if you're one of those guys who's pushing to get things done fast and needs to know exactly when things will happen and who do I need to talk to so I can get that date to happen faster, you fucking hate Frank -- because he flat out doesn't give a shit.

Even better though, he'll tell you that right to your face.

"Bring me a body," he'll say. "This is a surgical supply company, wheel the patient in here on a table that needs this paperwork to be done now, and I'll hurry up. Otherwise, get in line with the rest of the jokers."

To be sure, part of this act it is just an old man making his fiefdom harder to travel through just because he can, but I've always sort of loved the fact that Frank takes his role as the bad cop so seriously. Time and time again he will tell you that when things get hurried under pressure, that's when the truly big screw-ups happen. His whole thing is that it's better to slow down and get things right instead of throwing it all against the wall and then cleaning up the mistakes better.

It can be a frustrating lesson sometimes, but he's ultimately right.

The point of all being that most of what we do at this office isn't worth rushing over. And if the IT department doesn't seem to mind a little time spent on the web, or taking care of personal business between 8-5 -- why not back off the tempo a little, take some time to smell the flowers and slow jam the job?

But now we're subject to this whole new vacation rule where earned hours are now "use it or lose it" hours -- where after a certain point if you haven't used your vacation it becomes forefit. And my boss is on me.
You never take vacation.
So I check the hours in the system and I indeed have available vacation time. Like tons of it. And I have a rapidly approaching deadline that I have to call out when I'm gonna use it, but I just look at the thing and think to myself, "I don't even know how to begin thinking about this."

My workload is project based. Fires crop up and I get assigned to put them out. I don't know when that's gonna happen. So it's hard to look at what seems a wide open summer and just block 3 weeks or so of that out without worrying that I won't be able to use it.

But when I really start to think about it -- it's like there's actually something deeper going on here, something perhaps I don't like to admit: Maybe it's not so much that I never take time off of work as much as it's the fact that I don't really know how to take a vacation.

Just because I'm a slacker, does that mean that I actually know how to relax?

I haven't traveled nearly as much as I wanted to in this life. I've always claimed financial troubles or obligations at work, and while that was sometimes technically true -- I'm starting to think more and more that there's something else behind my hesitation.

Whether it was the fact that for a long time I haven't had anyone to go with, or really the fact that I've often felt like I really didn't have anywhere to go -- maybe the whole idea of planning a vacation, actually trying to envison a life separate from the one I have day in and day out was sort of a mirror that I wasn't always eager to face.

Like I'm really good at coming to my job and making it feel like a vacation.
But do I really know how to not be here and have a good time?

[Now Playing:  The Bangles - "Walk Like an Egyptian" ]

Tuesday, March 19

I Just Met You and This Is Crazy, But DIE ALREADY

There are few things worse in this world than getting a tune (no matter how much you like it) stuck in your head to the point of insanity.

So, what was the last song that made you want to drive a pencil through your brain?  

[Now Playing:  MS MR - "Bones" ]

Friday, March 15

Sweet Sour

Take you by the hand and feed you
Do you really feel the need to ..talk about it?
What you know. What you feel. It's there, on the tip of your tongue like a bitter tab winking face back at you. Once you take the bite, nothing will ever be the same. Everything around you, all the bad memories and darkness will be nothing more than wisps of dust that you could simply brush away with a breath. But even more -- even better, is the chance that everything right in front of your eyes will melt into something else -- running the colors like water and turning the lights all around you into trailing sundogs forever chasing tennis balls into the night.

You want the taste.

Maybe you don't need it. Maybe you've had too much already. But oh, do you want it again.
You should get a little braver
Do us all a favor ..shout about it.
The hour is late. The bartenders are flickering the lights. The crowds are milling. You're not a kid anymore, you can't bounce back like you used to (or always thought you use to be able to). But really, what would it hurt? After all, all those bad things happened in the past. You know better now, don't you?
Tell her.
Opportunities present. The voice on the line. The silence in the air. Awkward pauses, uncomfortable silences. These moments that belong to us, between the sparks. A quiet that wishes for something to be said, but desperately wants to be the one to hear it from the other set of lips staring back at you.

It's not even that I know something you don't. You were never dumb. You know. But one of us needs to say it, and more and more I know it has to be me. Not because she won't. Not because of some old code, some shield of rules on a wall that mean something to somebody.

But because it's the truth.

Do you see the same moon that I do? Do you feel the water of the ocean between your toes as you stand on the edge of the tide? Do you know, even now after the whirlwind of all we've been through how my eyes light when I hear your voice, feel your smile, catch you laughing?
Try another spoonful
Love is to be truthful ..dance around it.
Where is the hesitation? What is this fear? That all these things will somehow stop -- that a string of words will change them, make them go away? That by saying something out loud instead of just feeling it in the air that the sparks will make a fire that will destroy more than it will illuminate?

..Isn't that always the risk?

You've stood in the char of burned things before. You know what it feels like to have been wrong even when everything inside of you wanted it to be right. You know the shakes that came, the cold lonely nights afterward. The realization that half the reason for the fire was lighting the match too soon, forcing the flame. It's only natural to question those instincts. Especially now that everything's different. Especially now that the power is back on.

Maybe I'm not saying anything just yet because I need to be sure. Maybe I just want to keep your smile right now for what it is, and not risk pouring the waters of definition over the flames all around. Maybe I don't even really know the reason. Maybe I just like the taste.
Sweet sour,
Sweet sour,
Sweet sour,
Sweet sour..

[Now Playing:  Opeth - "Heir Apparent" ]

Thursday, March 14

Actually Spoken During the Course of My Day

"Oh my god, have you seen monkeys having sex? There is nothing wrong with hot monkey sex."

[Now Playing:  Nancy Sinatra - "Sugar Town" ]

Wednesday, March 13

Why Don’t I Like Grantland?

Every now and then I see a link. Every now and then there’s a redirect. And the title is exactly what I want to read, by an author that I’m more than willing to give my time to. Here’s a essay about current sports trends using movie tropes as a discussion device. Here’s a review of David Bowie by Chuck Klosterman, or even better -- a conversation about Bowie's legacy that's framed in the emotions that happened on the night when people thought he was dead.

Grantland.com is kinda like the sports version of McSweeney's Internet Tendency -- they're equally as eager to discuss Metallica and the finer plot points of Point Break as they are to break down zone defenses and the moronic way that pro athletes misuse twitter.

So why do I prefer SBNation and Uproxx?

Is it the ponderous writing? The goddamn footnotes in a blog post style? The rambling way of “would you get to the goddamn point already” discussions that never seem to go anywhere? How could I hate on that – that’s half of what I do all the time?

And yet more often than not, whenever I dig into something on ESPN’s microbrew of a sports blog, I find myself checking out halfway through.

I remember first hearing about Bill Simmons -- the ESPN “sports guy” writer who basically cooked the thing up as a frequent name-check and guest on Adam Carolla’s radio show and later podcast. There was something refreshing about the way that Bill was a superfan but didn’t seem to be an over-hyped asshole about it, but now that I start to really think about it what I really enjoyed in that setting was the way that Carolla and Simmons sorta balanced each other out. Carolla might be a sports superfan, but his normal M/O is discussing pop culture – so in a way having someone like Bill Simmons around gave him an excuse to talk football without making his show too lopsided. While in equal measure it seems like Simmons (at the time, pre-Grantland) loved to talk crappy movies and terrible trends, which Carolla enabled him to do.

But the fact that it was two people talking to each other gave it that limit. That to and fro that kept it from getting too awful. 

Plus there were those terrible commercials that they aired on ESPN to help launch the site, which made it feel like some uber-secret club that only certain kinds of eggheads were allowed into:

Yeah, maybe open with a joke next time.  Oh, that was one?

I like my sports. I have that genetic code in my guy DNA. I will watch hours of football if given the chance. March Madness is coming up, and thus I will transform into a pseudo-college basketball genius within a week or so (only to let it all drop about a month or so later when it’s Stanley Cup time). But I don’t live it anymore.

I used to watch a loooot of ESPN. Sportscenter had a vibe once upon a time that I enjoyed. It got too full of its own crap after a while and became a testosterone variety show, and I kinda left it behind. Not so much that my love for sports changed, but that Sportscenter wasn’t really sports anymore. It was some sort of bad-catchphrase theater production with athletics as the backdrop (something I’ve written about many times before).

I do still listen to sports radio to and from work, which is an easy way to make sure I still know what’s happening in that world (which is a funny thing to say, because twitter) – but what I find myself listening more for than anything is the way the yokels who call in act. Local sports fans are still hilarious to me, because you can’t tell them anything.

But my connection to sports as a whole is something I’ve noticed waning.

It’s kinda like a discussion we were having on OHN the other day about celebrity. About this idea of a “Universal Tax” that famous people seem to be blind to, wherein they bemoan the endless presence of paparazzi and their own inability to easily “live their own lives” without prying eyes when they were the ones in the first place who made the life choices to have publicists, agents, and attend press junkets with red carpets.

Do we focus too heavily on celebrity? Well of course we do – the zeitgeist of our times is the overworship of anything that more than three people know about at the same time. But in an era of social networking and internet over-saturation  the one thing I think people discount is that in order to get that video game on the screen on your phone or your laptop or your desktop computer in front of you all day to work is a token.

Celebrities, sports, fashion, pictures of cats – these have become cultural currency.

We trade in the stock of the things we know about like we used to discuss the weather. Whether it’s going to rain or not is so 1998. Now we need a topic with some real meat, so here’s a dog that snores like Daffy Duck.

Put the quarter in, hear the beep, press 2 player – discuss.

Maybe that’s part of the disconnect for me with sites like Grantland. Because if there’s one thing the writers on that site don’t do – it’s wink at their audience. And I bet someone out there going to take issue with that, because it seems like the whole idea of the site is to do articles that feel like total inside baseball.

Discussing Hollywood trends on a sports commentary website is an utter niche, how can that not be winking at the audience?

But to me that’s sort of the whole thing – a blog post fettered with footnotes that you feel compelled to scroll around to read, because once you look at it the footnote is almost as long as the article isn’t a wink at me the reader, it’s a wink at the writer himself. It’s the whole David Foster Wallace Infinite Jest thing -- assuming I can’t get the subtext myself, or that I’m not intrigued enough by the discussion to go look it up and act like I knew it all along.

Or to put it another way, in 1980 Sting wrote a song called “Don’t Stand So Close to Me” that included the line “Just like the old man in that book by Nabokov.” – And I know I wasn’t the only one who eventually used that as springboard to find out what he was talking about.

I first read Lolita because of Sting.

And there weren’t footnotes in the liner notes of Zenyattà Mondatta telling me what it was. There was me, a kid with earphones getting his intellectual curiosity sparked.

But now that I’m older.. or well, old – with a completely different sense of “I already know everything I want to know” than when I was a teenager, it confuses me sometimes that a sports and music and movies based website that’s basically written by a bunch of other guys basically like me feels like such a collection of pretentious windbags that I can hardly stand it?

Is my money no good in this arcade anymore?

Recently I wrote a bit about my lack of guy friends, and how I had trouble making new male buddies. About how I’d reached a point in my life where connecting with dudes was in a lot of ways an exhausting exercise because of all the matching up you had to do. If you wanted to make friends with a guy who was deep into sports and you’re not – that becomes a hurdle, some sort of knock against your sense of authenticity as a “guy” – when all you really are is just a “different kind of guy.”

It’s like this idea of cultural currency I was talking about. It’s like you meet someone who’s so into something that all his money has pictures of Petyon Manning on it, and when you try to ante up on the table and all your money has pictures of famous guitar players on it you can’t figure out the exchange rate.

And in the end, I think that’s sort of my issue with Grantland.

There’s something about the discussions there that by and large doesn’t seem to desire the influx for new and different money. It’s their bank of ideas and they don’t seem to want to open the door to anything else. As much as I enjoy Chuck Klostermans voice as a writer, what I’m always struck by when I read him is how he never seems to change his mind on anything. How much the premise of what he writes is “this is what I think, and here’s an article where I prove that it’s the only way to think about something.”

I suppose there’s a value to that in writing, but whatever happened to an evolving viewpoint? What’s the point of commenting on an article or opening a discussion with someone who isn’t even open to the concept of new interpretation? It’s like talking to a republican – there’s literally no opening anymore for the idea of arguing a topic. It’s all talking points and absolutes, and if you don’t see the logic in that then you clearly side with the terrorists.

I like discussion. I like reading stuff on the web where the comments are as much fun (and many times just as enlightening) as the article.

And I kinda hate your footnotes, nerds.
Stop it already.

[Now Playing:  David Bowie - "Boss of Me" ]

Tuesday, March 12


Ask me a question. Do the research. Gather the trends. There's something I'm not sure about you, but I'm working on it. I can hear it in the songs you like, see it in the words you say, the pictures that you link to, but how can I know if you're still all the way over there? Just because I can see an avatar on a screen doesn't mean that there isn't distance, that we've even traded 5 words together. And yet you're like a sweater with a thread hanging off that I just don't want to stop pulling at -- there's a fascination.

Where does that come from?

It's 2013. We're connected to connections. It's what we've become, even if the intention all along was just to build a better bridge to finding something real. There are places to meet people that have like buttons so that other people can see that we like meeting other people. And even then, somebody will see that on your wall and like that too.

We like a lot of things. We like a lot of the same things.

Websites pay a lot of money to draw lines between that. Some nerd, locked in a coding bay -- twisting his mind this way and that to try to figure out a way to get two people on completely different sides of the same town to realize that even though they've never met and their lives are totally separate, the fact that they both like ketchup has to mean something.

We all know what that's about. We've just gotten better at not saying it out loud.

And even if it does kinda mean that some ketchup company is desperate to find a way to make money off that piece of code, it doesn't mean that we're not all lonely sometimes. Even in a crowded room, sometimes you feel miles away, like it's not your crowded room to be in. Like you know how to navigate it, you've been through the practice drills and the run-throughs, but at any moment talking about this and that you could still easily slip a million miles away into a favorite song or a long lost memory.

There's been energy around me lately. My therapist says that "I've been putting in the work" -- even though I don't really feel like I know what he means by it. But whatever the case -- the seeds I planted by moving into a new place and trying not to eat so many damn microwave dinners at 1am started to show through.

And so you fill out a few profiles, and take a few dozen quizzes on OK Cupid, because that's how things are today. The emails come, the conversations flicker. You browse faces, you read profiles. You put in the work. Collate, divide, pare down. It's new and exciting just as much as it's old and tired. I mean, this shouldn't feel mentally exhausting (it's supposed to be fun, right?) -- but at a certain age you don't want trial and error anymore. I can read a profile menu, let me just order the dish I want, dammit.

But you can't just mix paint and get a new color. Even if you try, the first few swirls are really two colors spinning around each other, waiting a few dates before really smushing into something else. And even then, too much blue in the green and it's not really what you were after in the first place -- even if it is kinda yellow when you look at it.

Because when you get right down to it -- as many shades of a color there are, as many subtle hues and variations, if I say PURPLE

You'll see something.

You see your purple. Your shades and overtones. Your depth. Maybe it's more lavender, maybe it's more grape, or maybe it's the one that almost fades to black when the satin falls outside the direct light. But whatever the case, it's yours. You can look at a million dresses on a rack, a million shirts on a shelf -- but if it isn't there, it's not really what you want (even if it will do sometimes).

When I close my eyes I see a girl. a girl who leans back when she sits in chairs, but she sits on the front edge of her seat when she drives. Arching forward, close to the wheel -- like she wants to be in the wind as the car cuts through the night. Like she wants to get there first. It's sort of like the way she holds her hands over her mouth when she laughs, like she wants keep it for herself -- or she's been around too many people who would ask what she's laughing about who wouldn't get the joke if she told it to them.

There's something isolating in that. Something we've all felt I imagine -- that feeling like you're the only one who finds something funny in the way that you do anymore.

It's why we send texts to people we haven't talked to in forever. It's why we hold candles long since melted past the wick. It's why we still let our lives get entangled with faces from the past, even if there are consequences to be had.

We're connected to connections. We want to feel like we can laugh out loud for real, instead of typing it again and again. Say it enough times and it becomes true, I suppose -- but what would you give in the middle of the night in your bed all alone to just to bust our into a big dumb grin, to know, really know what the joke is about and to laugh from the bottom of your belly and not worry who else could hear?

Because I do.

It's what I've always wanted, I think. It's what I've occasionally found, but then somehow lost again. Things aren't always as easy as they seem in the movies, I guess. Timing and circumstance. Maturity and mistakes. There's been so many wonderful people in my wake, so many amazing smiles I couldn't stop from leaving. Each cut leaving a line on the skin, each one healing in a different way.

It makes you wonder if it's even worth trying sometimes.

But who would we really be without a smile that wasn't ours looking back at us? Where would the poems come from, the colors on the canvas?  All that work you put in, it's got to count for something, right? And so you press on. You find warmth in moments, even if it seems like the energy is uneven. Because what else is there but clicking "like" on ketchup, even if it turns out what you're really looking at is just ..catsup?

Close your eyes. See the girl.
Maybe this time she's really there.

[Now Playing:  Journey - "Separate Ways" ]

Monday, March 4

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