Monday, January 28, 2013

To Bowl Or Not To Bowl?

I can't believe I'm even asking the question; it sounds so unAmerican, so unmanly. My first Super Bowl memory is watching Super IV and happily tackling large couch cushions like I was Bobby Bell of the Kansas City Chiefs tossing old Joe Kapp of the Minnesota Vikings for another loss. Since then I have missed watching just one Super Bowl, the Dallas Cowboys over the Buffalo Bills (I think) in 1994 (don't have the fanatical chops to recall, or the inclination to figure out, which Roman numeral big game that was). '94 being the year of my complete withdrawal from television. So, do the math, that's XLII out of a possible XLVI Super Bowls I've watched so far--on couches all alone, standing in heavily non-football fan crowds at people's parties, and intensely rooting for the New York Football Giants a couple times as a good luck charm for my Giants-loving nephews and brother-in-law in pressure-packed man caves (alas, my Cleveland Browns have never made it the Big One).

Now I--like the great game of football itself--have evolved through the years. From Hi-C swigging to beer quaffing, pizza gorging to sushi feasting (not really, God and George Halas forbid). I have indeed bowed to the pressures inherent in a huge media creation--my one and only rule these days is, talk all you want during the game (one only needs to see it, really) but shut the hell up during the commercials (and yes, there have been plenty of games where the commercials are the best thing). But I never thought (disregarding my monastic year of '94) I'd evolve to the place I find myself this Super Bowl week--dithering about not watching, nay, actively boycotting the Super Bowl. How, you ask? Why? Simple, one word with two synonyms--Harbaugh, Jim and John. I loathe both these coaches, head coaches, respectively, of this year's combatants, the 49ers and the Ravens. The more obnoxious one is the one whose team is playing, so how can my psyche take it if both of their teams are playing at the same time, in the same place, against each other--at the Super Bowl!?! Sure, one will lose the Super Bowl, which is reason enough to watch it if only that didn't mean one would win the Super Bowl. I mean, it's a done deal, right? By the end of the day this Sunday, it's a foregone conclusion that there will actually be a Super Bowl-winning Harbaugh coach. I'd rather hear about Goliath stomping David or the apple tree falling on and fatally maiming George Washington than to hear that a whining, super-jawed, hard ass Harbaugh won a Super Bowl. So why even subject myself to the joys of hours of clever commercials, a universal green light to over-indulge in bad-for-you-food, trying to figure out the over/under on how many times the TV cameras will show the neutral-clad Harbaugh parents in the stands, and the potential of a really good Beyonce wardrobe malfunction if I know that in addition to five million shots apiece of the two loathsome brothers, one of them is going to hoist that Lombardi trophy, an image that will haunt the rest of my days with the irrefutable fact that life is not only unfair, but a sadistic black comedian? I mean, come on, football gods, it's bad enough being a Browns fan, but this is too much. I know a guy who religiously watches Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory every Super Bowl Sunday. I'm not that insane yet, but another Harbowl or two, and I'm cuing up How Stella Got Her Groove Back with a box of wine coolers and calling it a day every Super Bowl Sunday. As it is, I'm a little weak on willpower, so despite my bluster and threats here, I'm sure this Sunday I'll be on a couch somewhere watching the game, but just this one time, Jim and John. Maybe some pre-game pyrotechnics will hit both of them and send them to the ER--not fatally, just for like, what, five hours or so. A man can dream, can't he? Browns win Super Bowl XLIX, by the way.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Virtual Pack Rat

Well, a longtime literal pack rat, probably going back to the late 60s, early 70s. You know that feeling you get when your mother, and only your mother, calls you firmly by your formal, full (i.e. middle name included) name, that uh oh, what has she found out I've done pit in the stomach feeling? Well, the first time I remember experiencing that feeling was when my full name was catapulted out of our house and down the street where I was playing. I couldn't have been more than six or seven. I arrived, practically shaking, in my bedroom to find my mother pointing under my bed. There, gee, how did that happen, was a week's, maybe two, who knows, a month's?, worth of dirty clothes (I was still operating under the kid's belief in magic--throw it under the bed and it disappears; that was the minute magic ended for me). Ever since, I guess, I've kind of kept things lying around a bit. Not that I'll be on an episode of Hoarders or anything, but tidiness is not next to Dan-ness in my universe.

It's funny, though, how sometimes New Year's resolutions--the ones you actually keep to some degree--kind of gestate and just appear, rather than being mulled over and aggressively resolved. It seems like 2013 could, might, maybe, sure looks like it, be the year I become more cyber tidy. It started with my new job, a tutorial on all the possibilities of the joint's email system, and my own queasiness regarding my ability to handle the considerable organizational aspects of my job. Determined not to amass a few gigs worth of worthless old emails--as I have done everywhere else I've had an email account--I started from day one immediately deleting email that had no right to be preserved. A couple weeks into the gig, I must say I'm doing a good job of it, mostly because I'm appalled at how much electronic nonsense the modern organization generates. I read it, make a quick judgment about the missive's worth, and either delete it or leave it alone. Needless to say the knowledge of, and actual use of, email folders has made this new me possible. And although I don't really take any literal (as opposed to psychic) work home (yet), I have just brought a work lesson home with me. To wit: In the last two days, over about an hour and a half, maybe two hours, I have successfully weeded through my own personal email account that was nearing sixty pages of email (including 29! unread messages) accumulated over more than four years. Bingo, a couple dozen old messages moved to a "keep" folder (specificity is the gold standard of much good writing, but not so much when it comes to arranging email files) and the other several hundred kaput, gone, zapped. I feel like an after picture. Spry, lithe, sinewy. And what's more, I don't have to resolve to keep a tidy inbox from now on, because I know I will. Delete--who knew such an innocuous, semi-pejorative word would become such a godsend one in this new world of ours--a man's best friend. Too bad one can't simply scroll, check, and delete a lifetime's worth of boxes of stuff. But it's a start.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Mystifies Me: Some Things I'll Never Understand (Including Why I Can't Seem To Upload Pictures Here Anymore)

Why do people eat their lunches at their desks? Isn't the word "lunch" from some old Germanic word meaning, "get the hell away from this crazy day for half an hour or so"? My new job is going great, really, everything about it except my daily walk to and from the lunch room when I pass dozens of cubicle-shackled otherwise friendly and sane folks hunched over their work stations shoveling bits and pieces of what have they into their mouths from small squat square tupperware-ish receptacles. Why? Is facebook that addictive? Is keeping up to the minute on the seven emails a minute that important? Isn't anybody as sloppy of an eater as I am and thus worried they'll irrevocably stain some vitally important piece of work with last night's spaghetti? Isn't anybody as paranoid about protecting their free "off" time and worried that someone will see them at their desk and make the wild assumption that they are actually "at work" and engage them in an endless discussion about last month's reports as I am? People, take a walk, withdraw to renew, amble, munch in a change of scenery, get away! I wouldn't say my new place of work's staff lunch room is Zagat-approved, but the tables don't wobble, there's a nice window looking out to the beautiful day, and there's a TV set perpetually on--if I'm lunching during the noon hour, I'm treated to ESPN (what could be better? though I can't say listening to Stephen A. Smith pontificate about everything [I bet the man sounds Daniel Webster-oratorical when he's announcing he's going to the bathroom] aids in the digestive process); if it's the one o'clock hour it's The Young and the Restless (and it might be just me, but something tells me if I assert my presence and one day stand up, announce, "I can't stand this shit," and go over to the set and turn the channel, I'll stand a better chance of not getting maimed if it's twelve-thirty rather than one-thirty). Some of the greatest conversations in my life have occurred during the lunch hour at work; how can people eschew such a chance to instead chew in solitude at the altar of their diurnal blood, sweat, and tears? Dunno.

What petty lives we mortals must lead that we are continually flabbergasted, stunned, and incredulous when some mighty much-dreamed about super athlete is revealed to be just a regular foible-prone, clueless in the face of common sense, dumbass like the rest of us. Whether Manti Te'o was in on the hoax or not is pretty irrelevant to me, but I do know that now I respect him and salute as a human being more than when he was so courageously living and playing through his mourning (both real and maybe virtual). As for Lance Armstrong, I never liked the twit.

Why are celebrities such royal boobs? I just read an article about J. Lo's being upset about her picture on the cover of People magazine because, she says, they made her look old. Listen nimrod, you're 43. You're old. I'll text you to commiserate tonight at 3 a.m. when I get up to pee. "Unmitigated gall" is truly one of the greatest word mash-ups in this or any language, but it's wasted on J. Lo. Girl, Woman, Old Lady, you deserve nothing better than a Ralph Malph "sit on it."

Why, after a lifelong virulent strain of anti-feline bias, and several years of involuntarily sharing living quarters with a cat, am I slowly warming up to the attractions of the finicky species, to the point where I'm actually reading Garfield every day and even chuckling at it once a month? Brace yourself, J. Lo--aging is nothing but a slow ugly descent into insanity.

Why is winter cold?

Sunday, January 13, 2013

The Pros And Cons Of A Weekend

I am presently enjoying the weekend. I have not done so in a long time. Not that I am one to especially not enjoy what life affords one to enjoy, but because I haven't experienced a real (Saturday and Sunday) weekend in I don't know how long. After living two years of my life working a never set, constantly fluctuating schedule that called for anything from 8 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. shifts seven days a week, I have just concluded my first week of a regular 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. shift job. I have read, written, shopped, banked, napped, gone to the movies and dinner, wached TV, slept, and even stared off in thought so far this weekend. Blissed out, basically.

But as usual, I'm being pulled in two directions at once regarding this (rather drastic) change in my lifestyle. While I bask, I also mourn; while I delight, I also fret. Life is give and take, after all. I love the idea of having two days off from "work" in a row, the same two days every week, especially the days of Saturday and Sunday (with the slings and arrows of retail scheduling, I occasionally did have two days off in a row, but rarely were they both Saturday and Sunday; as anyone knows, Saturday and Sunday are different from the other days of the week, so, where the occasional Tuesday-Wednesday off days were welcome, they weren't the same--alas, both for good reasons as well as bad--as having Saturday and Sunday off). One never shakes the feeling that he or she should be "off" on both Saturday or Sunday, so when one isn't, there is a definite feeling of having been cheated, cosmically. But then again, having Tuesday and Wednesday off, when the rest of the world is struggling through their work week, feels like a blessing one hasn't truly earned. That said, in the middle of this first real weekend in some time, I'll opt for the regular, expected weekend right now. That said, I'm sure it won't be long (check in with me Tuesday) that I'll be longing for the days of weekday days off.

Days off, being crucial. There's a psychological cushion to having regular, consecutive days off that is sorely lacking in having just one day off (though, again, the oddities of the non-regular schedule did provide several work-one-day-in-four or two-days-in-six stretches, which were, undoubtedly, nice as hell, but also, too, several seven-days-straight or eight-days-out-of-nine stretches which were, no need to mention, hell itself). Life requires, as I think the Byrds said, time to waste and time to get shit done. The two-day, regularly scheduled weekend is perfect for this paradox. As I was running around yesterday getting shit done, I felt so at ease knowing ah, tomorrow I can just not do shit; likewise, as I have taken some time to just not do shit, I have felt relieved that I have had some time and still have some time to get shit done. It might seem odd (and a sign of one's undisciplined lifestyle) but one simply can't indulge this balancing act between getting shit done and not doing shit in just one day off, but it is so--the nudge of the other (non)activity is too great to fully engage in and enjoy one or the other. A day off is just that, a day "off," whereas a weekend is truly time away, away from whatever you need to be away from. Or so I see it.

More deeply, or deeperly, I am thrilled to get Thursdays back. I am a Thursday's Child, so I have been biased towards the day since birth, but Thursday could just be the greatest day of the week, one that really doesn't exist in the all-is-flux world of random retail scheduling (for that matter, all the days of the week lose their identity in such a schedule; instead of seven distinct days of the week, there are merely two--work days and days off; I can't tell you how equilibrium-smashing it is to start a five-straight-days work stretch at 2:30 p.m. on a Friday and telling yourself, this is my Monday morning [let alone starting a seven-straight stretch then and thinking, just get me through two days and then it will finally be Monday morning]). Ah, but Thursday! The day of promise, the day of I can taste it; I'd bet all the shrubbery in the world that the day Moses mounted Mt. Pisgah was a Thursday. Let's face it, if you can endure Thursday, you've made it to the weekend. Anything is endurable on a Friday--hangovers, blizzards, staff meetings, PowerPoint presentations, anything. And so that wonderful feeling on a Thursday afternoon--I've made it, I can see the Promised Land, the weekend is nigh. I mean, Wordsworth may have patented the idea, but really, anticipation trumps actuality 99% of the time, no? Speaking secularly, doesn't December 23rd's eagerness always beat Christmas afternoon's malaise? The opening of the beeping microwave always top the actual eating of the Hot Pocket? Lord, I thank you for the return of my Thursdays.

The Devil take my Sunday nights, though. Give and take, see? If my former job's piebald scheduling took all meaning away from individual days of the week, it also spared me the nadir of existence, Sunday night. Now I suppose one might argue for Monday morning being that nadir, but again, it's the anticipation of (read here dread of), rather than the reality of, that matters. I mean, once that alarm goes off on Monday morning, you're already out in the rain without an umbrella; there's nothing to do but run like hell. It's really the thought of running through that deluge that is the killer. Hence, Sunday night. Give and take. If you're going to take the joys of the real weekend, I find myself increasingly telling myself as the last minutes of Sunday daylight tick away at the moment, then you have to give into the fact that Sunday nights are back in your life with a vengeance. I am sure that just around the corner is the medical technology that will enable us to measure the collective human race's feelings of angst, ennui, flat out life sucks at any given time, and I am really sure that such measurements will show the time of the highest density of such feelings is Sunday night. Is there a worse feeling all week than the feeling that occurs, oh so aptly, while watching and hearing the last few seconds of the Sixty Minutes stopwatch tick away? Enough said; that moment is coming on fast, let me forget about it as long as I can.

And so I face Sunday's gloaming, as my feelings toward having weekends back in my life wax and wane. But God how wonderful to think that in four days it'll be Thursday, and that next weekend, God bless you, Dr. King, is a three-dayer. Fourteen straight days until the next Sunday night. I feel strengthened, not weakened.

(A video which begs the question, did John Lennon cop his January '69 rooftop concert look from Roger McGuinn's in this 1966 video?)

Tuesday, January 8, 2013


I started a new job yesterday. For two days now (and continuing all week, it seems) I've been inundated with new faces and names, new hallways and offices, new coffee machines, information upon information, training upon training, computer trickery I was ignorant of, and a comfy new desk chair. It's an office job, kind of a first for me. I'm the first settler in a brand new cubicle pod--I haven't yet amassed the push pin markings of my territory. Everything's new, the worst being me. All the dumb questions. But it will pass.

The first thing I saw as I was guided to my new desk, my new domain, was a reference book for services catering to the elderly. I opened the book randomly to a side-bar info block titled, "Incontinence Issues." As if I need another reminder that I'm hardly getting younger, let alone young. The standard office clock hanging (and is there anything else a clock can do but hang?) on the wall is one of those where the second hand jerks from second to second instead of sweeping time away. I find the jerking clocks a bit sadistic (let alone a bit false), but I'll adjust. Two training seminars concerning computer things, and of course, two training seminars delayed a bit by computer issues. Some things never change.

So it's a time of discovery for me. A new commuting path to get used to--the pot holes to avoid, the traffic enforcement cameras to kowtow to, the lanes to jockey, the best convenient stores along the way to equip my day. All the new people--an odd feeling I've experienced several times now, where you're just getting to know people and wondering what they're like, what quirks will reveal themselves, who will end up being your favorite work buddy, while at the same time wondering what they all think of you and missing already your former co-workers. Getting to know the view outside the windows. Getting to know the new toilet(s). And, for a couple weeks, fantasizing about the new number that will adorn the paycheck, the number that in time you'll know by heart and which in time won't seem enough. Ah, newness. Work, a four-letter word I still like.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

The Man For Whom Rock'n'Roll Never Worked

He's known three Rhondas and they never once helped him. The only Maggie he knew never worked on, let alone owned, a farm, and she sure as hell never kicked him in the head come morning. No pair of blue suede shoes ever fit him. Every Sally he's known has been short. And Caroline, no, wasn't sweet at all. Tall, lithe Fanny never sent him anywhere with regards for anyone. He stopped believing--and everything else--long before he ever had enough. Even after the rain's gone, his glasses are still foggy. He thought everything was gonna be alright, but the three birds crapped on his shoulder, ruining his seersucker suit. Even when school's out for summer, he inevitably finds himself back in summer school. No ride is free for him. The Suzanne he knows never takes him down anywhere, let alone touches his imperfect body with anything. Nobody carries an umbrella at his bus stop. The only tambourine player he knows is a woman, and her tambourine is brown. He would like to go to Chelsea but he's only got twenty-five dollars in his hand and that won't buy him a ticket for an airplane. He doesn't have a cloud of his own. He never received any pictures of Lily, just a drawing of Lee J. Cobb as Willy Loman. His bird doesn't sing. He knew a Lola once, 100% U.S. Female. His coolerator holds no ginger ale. Sloopy let go.

So now he listens to Lite Jazz and covets Kenny G's mane.