Thursday, February 14, 2013

2,000 Twitter Followers Can't Be Wrong

I reached 2,000 twitter followers on the day of the State of the Union address, which I think qualifies me for sainthood, or at least a discount at Chuck E. Cheese.     It was a goal. I made it happen.   I'm now thinking about writing a self-help book.   Thinking about it.   Actually writing it would be another goal, and let's not get too hasty with that nonsense.

2,000 followers.  That's more than Jesus had initially, but less than the Beatles.    I say that not because I'm better than either, or want to stir up controversy, but because I noticed that Paul McCartney tended to wear his facial and head hair differently and clothes differently than the other Beatles, which is sort of a visual Yoko Ono to the rest of his mates if you think about it.     

Okay, none of that last sentence made sense, but then, neither does 2,000 people caring about me making fart jokes.    Of course, I suspect that 1678 of those followers accidentally hit the follow button rather than the block button, and were simply too embarrassed to ask their six year old for help with their smartphones.

But I did some data crunching and found out that I'm the 10th most followed person in Louisville, which is like being the 4,589th most famous graduate of Harvard. (Harvard Air Conditioner Repair School, not the place in Cambridge.)

Still, it's amazing to me that 2,000 people have followed me, and many more have retweeted me, found something I said amusing, or feel the need to enjoy my ranting.

This would be the point where I tell you that people like Steve Martin have tweeted their appreciation of a joke to me.  But I wouldn't do that.   He just had his first baby, and he really doesn't need the attention right now.   No, HE didn't have the baby, his wife did. Could you imagine Steve Martin having a baby?  That would be weird, what with the arrow through the head and all.     Did I mention he's 67?    And she's 41?   Which makes her my age.   I wonder why Steve Martin never asked me to have his baby.   Yeah, I'm a guy, but the man TWEETED to me, for God's sake.    I just looked up a picture of his wife.   She looks like Tina Fey and Kristin Davis had a love child.   Which would be impossible.    But that child would probably have more than 2,000 followers.

Which is to say that 2,000 followers, like this post, is meaningless.   It's not like I can tell any of them to do anything.   I doubt I could get five of them to agree on a place for lunch.  (Subway, guys.  It's $5 footlong month.)   And none of them are sending any money, for sure.   (Okay, @CNNLADavid would, but he went to a college that didn't teach decent critical thinking skills.)

But what I'm really trying to say is HAPPY VALENTINES DAY.    I'm hoping my 2,001th follower will be my wife, who I love dearly!  Seriously, she puts up with my goofy stupidness and my extreme flatulence.   Which must be because of love, or the fact that I've changed the locks and she can't get out of the house.    Love you, my Sweetiepoop!!!!!!!  

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Why can't we talk about gun violence?

A few years ago I lost my uncle to cancer.    My wife and I lost a friend to the disease not long after that.   My father in law had it, as did my aunt but thankfully, both were successfully treated.  

While we can grasp these fatal diseases and the pain they cause those they strike and their families in the abstract, the idea that something really must be done about it doesn't really strike your mind until it becomes personal to you, and touches your heart and mind.  Cancer's a real thing in my life now, and something I'd love to see defeated in my lifetime.   Kind of like gun violence.  

On January 8th, 2011, I was driving to a Sprint Store to deal with a problem my wife was having with her cell phone.     I was stopped at a traffic light when I saw the reports over twitter that a US representative had been shot, and perhaps killed.  

While everyone that was killed or injured that day was special and had their own story, I kept thinking of a little girl who was killed.   Christina Taylor Green was born on 9/11/01, the day of another horrific tragedy that was burned into all of our minds.  She was there to participate in the democratic process of simply meeting and talking to an elected official.     She was there with a neighbor, not her family.    And I imagined the horrible scars everyone would bear in that fateful decision to take her there that day.     She could have been my little girl or the friend of my own.   She was only separated in age by weeks from my own daughter. It was impossible to grasp how someone that young could be snuffed out so easily.  

And then there was Gabby Giffords, a well liked congresswoman who was severely wounded in the attack.   As recent coverage has made clear, the brain damage she suffered was devastating, injuring both her motor control, and her speech.   While she has made a miraculous recovery, it's clear she still has a long way to go before she approaches the life she once had.    Her family is lucky to still have her, but clearly bears the emotional scars of all that she has been through.

I think of a day after reading a local news channel's Facebook post regarding Gabby Giffords and Mark Kelly's ad running in the Louisville area.    Here are some of the comments:

 "Another commercial to change the channel on."
"Wish that guy would have just finished the job."
"It's sad what happened to her at the hands of an unstable person but it is just as sad to see her pimped out for a cause. I wonder if she speaks in the commercial and if so can she be understood?"
 "Hey Gabby! Go back to Veggies and do us all a favor and STFU!"
"What a bunch of idiots. I don't care what happened to her, the heffa is alive. Stop giving your sob stories and crawl in a cave. and anyway, the government shot her... not some innocent kid." 

In other words, Gabby Giffords, as both a gun owner and a victim of gun violence, has no business telling anyone what to do until she can prove to us she's not a brain damaged idiot who is simply a pawn at the hands of her husband.    Or, as one person stated it, I wish she was dead.

REALLY?   Who better to speak to both the issue of guns and gun violence than a friggin' victim?   And what better voice to do so than an elected official who was almost killed WHILE SERVING HER CONSTITUENTS?????  Would you mock her if she had been felled by a stroke and was doing an ad about doing more to prevent them?  

Gabby Giffords was meeting with the people who she serves, and was shot along with a little girl who wanted to be a part of that process.   She was serving the Constitution.  The whole document, and not just some vaguely worded and constantly reinterpreted part of it.   Don't we owe it to these people exercising their first amendment rights to at least listen?  What the hell are all of these people so angry and afraid of?  Do they shy away from talking about dealing with cancer anytime someone who is a victim of it speaks about it?   How about heart disease?    Why is it so tough to see that the issue is bigger than some redneck wanting his right to blast the crap out of some Mellow Yellow cans with his AR-15?     What the hell are all of you who are armed to the teeth so afraid of that you can't even have a rational discussion?   

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Baby I'm A Starbucks

Image, courtesy of Flickr and Sam Hozwit
A couple of weeks ago, while killing two hours waiting for my daughter to finish her art lesson, I decided to go to a coffee shop and wipe a cliche off my bucket list, by finally writing in a coffee shop.

And that first week was glorious. I ordered a "coffee, something smooth, don't care what".  Then I sat in my little corner and jotted my thoughts down, making up backstories for all of the people around me. There was the cute young couple talking about her job search. (Was he a mentor, or did he want something more?) There were the women without makeup who were catching up on gossip. There was the city council person (really) who was talking about real estate with two close friends, who said "hi" to me and made me think "he knows me" and then I realized politicians know everyone.

I read a fascinating article about high school and adulthood and dreamed of my own name in the pages of one of these magazines.   

It was quiet, and cool, and I felt like I was really advancing my writing career just by being there. "Why isn't there one of these in OUR neighborhood?" I asked my wife, who reminded me that she'd said the same thing about five hundred times before. Considering that Starbucks will open a Starbucks in the restroom of a Starbucks, it did seem surprising.

Fast forward to yesterday. I'm psyched about a second trip, which will make me become a veteran writer. I strut up to the coffee shop. I open the door with swagger and...... WTF!!!!!?!?!?!?!  The place is a zoo. There are three people ahead of me in line and they're all ordering drinks that require ingredients to be shipped in from Lithuania. All I want is tea and I'm given a menu that would a Cheesecake Factory waiter would call excessive. I wait 15 minutes for my drink, then find the only open table.  Of course, it is one that is right next to the bathroom and is also the only free lane for people to walk with their hot drinks.   I get to see everyone that passes as they glance at the book I'm trying to read (Let's Pretend This Never Happened) and secretly judging me because of it.   Or maybe they're looking at me and realizing I'm a writer wannabe, who thinks a real writer would be caught dead using a bluetooth keyboard and iPad mini.  

Then the table next to me frees up, and two guys sit down and decide to carry on a conversation as though they were both on cellphones. When I finally glanced over, I noticed one guy was about 60, but had the face of the mutant offspring of Bruce Jenner and Joan Rivers, post facelift. Odd, because the guy next to him looks and talks like he just walked off the set of Deliverance.

I turn away, hoping Bruce Rivers hasn't seen me, which is impossible, since I don't think he is able to blink. The entire place around me has turned into a McDonalds after a busload of fifth graders and eldery casino goers were dumped off, with loud conversations, random singing, odd smells, and Silly Bandz. (Those are still popular, right? Now it's One Direction? See, I'm a terrible writer.)

Of course, every 20 seconds someone walks to the bathroom, and my mind finds itself timing how long they're in there, and just knowing the pleasant scent of my tea is going to be overcome by someone's White Castles and PBR from the night before. 

And speaking of my tea, it tastes like crap. For the cost of a box of tea bags, I got a brew that tasted like a lemon rind found in Lipton's parking lot. It certainly wasn't good enough to warrant the evil looks I got when I added four packets of Splenda to it. Is that bad coffee shop etiquette? Was I supposed to only use the "local" honey, presumably made by bees wearing berets who smoked long cigarettes and scoffed at the pedestrian tastes of drone bees?   And what's up with them putting the "dirty" spoon container so close to the "clean" spoon one and making them identical? That's just asking for trouble.  Given all of the admonitions to be friendly to the environment, shouldn't I simply be instructed to stir my coffee with my own finger?

To be fair, this trip wasn't a total loss.  I got exactly five pages of my book read, and I played three games of Words With Friends, which is totally untrue, because I don't really care for some of the people I play with.   But yesterday has me considering where my writerly exploits might take me next time.   I see Lowe's has wifi.      


Thursday, February 7, 2013

Guilty Pleasures

I don't believe in guilty pleasures.  If you like something, like it.   -- Dave Grohl to Mark Maron 

I am a music lover and have been ever since I was old enough to sing along.    I can remember summers spent making the long drive to the pool as the powerful sounds of WAKY, 79 on your AM dial, pulsed through the speakers of my mom's 1977 Gran Torino Station Wagon, which was as long as a city block and had a cargo area that could seat 40 comfortably.  

Of course, 1970's AM radio was full of one hit wonders, novelty songs, earworms, and songs that no self-respecting college student would blare from his Discman CD player in 1992.  Almost none, anyway.    You see, I was slowly amassing a collection of both the history of rock (in the form of the 500 essential albums Rolling Stone told me I had to have) and filling in the gaps of the albums and songs I loved from my youth.

Essential to this was Rhino Records and their great set of discs, Super Hits of the 70s, Have a Nice Day, a compilation of AM wonders full of such greats as Leo Sayer, Maxine Nightingale, and Starland Vocal Band, creators of the best song ever, Afternoon Delight.  

I can't forget the feeling of coming home to my dorm from Tower Records, newly purchased disc in hand, ripping open the longbox, pulling out the CD case, spending 20 minutes removing the plastic from it, finally getting the disc open, putting it in my Pioneer 6 Disc Changer ($359 at Wal-Mart!) and forwarding to track 10.  

The sound of seventies acoustic guitars filled my ears as I sang:

Gonna find my baby.  
Gonna hold her tight. 
Gonna grab some afternoon delight.   

And then I had the sickening realization of what my 6 year old self was singing all those years ago.
Afternoon Delight was about sex, done by people who made the Osmonds look like the Ramones.   What the hell were my parents thinking?

But I loved it, and I bought several more of the discs, all of which evoked memories of time spent listening to the radio on car trips, at the pool, in my bedroom, and more.

All of this came to mind a few days ago as I was bringing my daughter and a friend home from art lessons.   My iPod was on and playing some song from the 80s and my daughter asked me to play "Call Me Maybe".   I grumbled a bit, secretly wondering why my daughter wasn't into my cool music, and longing to sit her down and simply play some of these wonderful history lessons and let her hear how Chuck Berry tied into the Stones and everyone else who ever played.  
But instead I found Call Me Maybe among the 22,000 other songs on my iPod.    And the sounds of my six year old self filled the seat behind me.

I threw a wish in a well
Don't ask me, I'll never tell
I looked to you as it fell
And now you're in my way  

Instead of singing along to the chorus that has 2012 written all over it, I listened to the two little voices behind me ringing loudly over Carly Rae Jepsen.    And I realized that at some point in 2022, my daughter will hear the song and have memories of being in the back of a car headed to a pleasant memory from childhood.

So when your child wants to listen to her music, remember that you too were young once, and had your own music.    As they listen to their future guilty pleasures, enjoy your own guilty pleasure of witnessing a bit of their fleeting childhood captured in song.  

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Tell me about your biggest weakness as an employee....

Today I have an interview within my company.   

Standard operating procedure among coworkers is to ask "how do you think you did."  

Of course, I'll tell them I've nailed it. 

But part of me will think I have walked out of the interviewer's office with them laughing at me, throwing darts at both my resume and then tossing it in the garbage, dousing it in gasoline and lighting it, then later putting out the fire with week-old coffee that someone tossed their cigarette butts in.   Because apparently my imagination is still stuck in the 80s, and  I work at a place where you can still smoke in the office and then put your cigarettes out in the coffee, but only after a three martini lunch. 

Truthfully, after over two decades of interviews, I never have an idea how well I've done.   I still remember my first real interview,  for a Resident Assistant job at my college, where I just KNEW (KNEW!) that I had the job.   I'd given great answers to the questions, and thought I knocked the ones designed to address how I'd handle sensitive topics OUT OF THE PARK!    (I talked a lot in capital letters back then.)

And when I didn't get it, I was crushed.   And the self doubt crept in.   What did I say wrong?   Was I too fat, too ugly, too arrogant, too dumb, too smart, or too much of a second guesser?   Did my answer about how to deal with an underage drinker who was puking up his lunch from fifth grade seem too harsh?   Or not harsh enough?  And that question about dealing with a student who was coming out of the closet.    Was it possible he found my answer too closed minded?  Or maybe too open minded.   He was wearing an earring.  But which ear was it in?  And which ear was the one that meant you were straight or gay? What clue was he giving me that I missed?  

NOTE:  It was the early 90's, kids.   This was before every square inch of every person under 30 looked like the lure section of a bait shop, and the ear you chose to pierce, meant something.   Most likely that you were drunk. 

And now, almost 20 years into a "real career", I still feel no better at the process.  I can do something incredibly stupid, like sit through an interview with my fly wide open (true story), and still get the the job.   

Or I can answer every question with quick, brilliant answers, put on my winningest personality, dress well (for me, anyway), and two days later get the cold rejection e-mail with my name misspelled.  It's the e-mail telling me that they've "decided to move on with other candidates, but would keep me on file".  Which hurts, because that's the same wording my first true girlfriend used when she broke up with me.    And she misspelled my name too. 

Point is, you never really know how you did or why they did or didn't pick you.     So prepare as well as you can, dress as well as you can, and answer as honestly as you can without diminishing your accomplishments or sounding like a complete jerk.

And leave your fly open.