The Immense Power of The Follow Through

Friday, March 22, 2013 | 0 Comment(s)

The hardest line to write of any paper, is the first line.  The toughest part of taking care of yourself is often actually making all of the phone calls necessary to set up the various appointments.  And likewise, when utilizing, having a willingness to put in some effort and respond promptly to correspondences can be the difference between a free 56" big screen T.V., and a bunch of empty emails shot into the darkness of the inter-webs.

My life has been dramatically bettered by craigslist.   Yours could be too.  Here are two helpful hints (with examples!!!) to working craigslist as if you owned it.  Which you do not.  Craig does.

1) If something of actual value is being given away for FREE on craigslist, and you want it, make the transaction process as painless as possible for the giver.  

This happens all of the time as far as I can tell.  Some guy who loves the latest electronica wants to upgrade to the next greatest thing.  Back in 2006, when living in Boston, there was a post on craigslist for a free 56" rear-projection (box) TV.  Perfect condition but, obviously, huge.  The ad said he was getting a plasma flatscreen or LCD or whatever, and that this one had to go.  His only stipulation was that it not be taken for resale.

Well, my housemate at the time, both an expert in these transactions and the owner of a pick-up truck replied to the post.  In his email he said, basically:  Hi, I'm Gavin, I live in Cambridge. I have a truck and can drive to you and grab the T.V. (for personal use) whenever is convenient for you.  Here is my phone number.  We promise to give it a good home.

Not too long after, Gavin (real name redacted--I'm not sure I could actually live with someone named Gavin) got a phone call from the T.V. giver-away'r stating his address and telling us to come on over and take the television.  He mentioned that Gavin's response was the only one that didn't request more information about the T.V.  All the other responses required him, a guy who is giving away a, let's say conservatively, $500 T.V. to do additional steps (send them the specs., tell them what inputs it has, exact dimension, etc.).

It's free.  Don't ask questions.  The price is RIGHT.  Don't handicap your own chances of success by further burdening a generous soul.  Put yourself in their position.  Wouldn't you choose whomever made the process easiest on you?  I know you would.

2.  Their are a ton  of jobs posted to craigslist.  Some are nutso, but many are quality postings seeking a greater range of applicants.  When you do see a listing that sparks your curiosity, you still have to have get up the courage to respond in order to make that dream-job a reality.  But it's so much easier (safer?) to just keeping clicking on by.

Back in the spring of 2005, I saw a post in the craigslist "jobs" section for photographers for the Red Sox.  Surprisingly, the ad was not asking for photography experience, but rather individuals with enthusiastic and outgoing personalities.  I am an individual with one of those personalities, and I also happen to be a huge Red Sox fan.  Interested individuals were told to come with a resume to the .401 Club on Yawkey Way.  I didn't know exactly what this gig was about . . . and I was at least a little worried that it was all a internet hoax, but all I had to lose was an afternoon.

I showed up 15 minutes early, and was welcomed by a small but growing group of eclectic individuals.  Some seemed to "know the drill" while others, like myself, had more of a deer-in-headlights expression going on.  We were eventually let into the club and there began my interview and subsequent induction into the FanFoto family.  An occupation which involves roaming Fenway during the pre-game and game, taking digital photographs of the fans, which they can then purchase subsequently on the internet  as a souvenir.  While for some this would be an absolute nightmare, I enjoyed the hell out of it.  Sure there were downsides (e.g. every time a middle-aged man used the joke, "I can't have my picture taken, my wife can't know where I am.), but I enjoy a good witty repartee with an audience.   In the Fenway grandstands, where banter is a un-ignorable constant, I was often thankful to always have the advantage of sobriety on my side.  Nothing is more precious than the look on contrition on an ├╝ber drunk dude's face when he thinks he just insulted your recently deceased mother. (sorry bout that mom)

While all jobs have their grit and sweat components, not all of them have perks like this one did:

- I got to watch games on top of the Green Monster for two summers.
- I got to take my father onto the field, onto the Green Monster, and into the Green Monster!!!
- I got to sign my name inside the Green Monster
- I caught/retrieved Dustin Pedrioa's first Fenway park home run.
- I snuck my Sox's loving girlfriend (now wife) into the park.
- I got all the ballplayer signature's I never tried to get as a kid.  I ended up with almost all of the Red Sox and most of the Mets (who I also like).
- I was on the field for one of the Mets vs. Red Sox games at Fenway, watched another with a friend, and watched the last one from the Green Monster.
- Met, shook hands, and got the signature of Hall of Famer Bobby Doer.
- Mistakenly took a poop in the women's bathroom at Fenway on opening day, just as the gates were opening.

Best. Perks. Ever.  All I had to do was show up to a craigslist ad and all this ended up happening to me.

I should mention that I recently responded to another job posting on craigslist, and the subsequent interview process has left me at the beginning of the runway to more good news . . . this time on the blogging front.   I can only hope that this experience turns out to be remotely as successful as the Sox gig.  Stay tuned and remember to make the most of the opportunities that present themselves.

A Case for Contentment

Monday, March 18, 2013 | 1 Comment(s)

Hey Mattitiyahu, what do you want to be when you grow up?

Just like all of you, I have been asked this question at various periods throughout my life.  

As a kindergardener, you're asked what you want to be when you grow up unironically.  "Growing up" is a time period you understand as being ahead of you, and you are young enough that you have no formal understanding of how that process will work.  At five, I wanted to be a zoo nutritionist (getting to make the meals and feed all the animal at a zoo) or a professional babysitter.  I did babysit professionally for a few years in high school, but eventually the gruesome training schedule got the better of me and I fell out of the pro game.

In high school the 'profession question' is wrapped inside a college choice and potential 'major'.  If you want to be a biologist you should look at colleges that have a strong department.   Entering college my nutritionist dreams had been shaped into a zoology/biology double major (coincidentally, this was actually my father's major in college).  

Exiting college five years later, as a dance and psychology major incidentally, this question is asked un-ironically for the last time.  This iteration is stuffed inside all college seniors least favorite moment: When friends and relatives ask them what their plans are "post-college."  This is essentially asking, "what do you want to be now that your are almost a grown up."  Around this time, I developed my answer to all questions that took the tenor of, or even hinted at moving in a direction of taking the tenor of, a "life plans" conversation.  

I would simply say, "I want to be happy when I grow up."

Frustrating.  Full of wise-assery.  True.  And deflecting.   It is the perfect asinine response to the most ubiquitous imbecilic question.

Unfortunately, it's a total friggin lie.  A double dipper of a lie in reality.  The first dip is implying that I'm aiming for happiness.  The second (more philosophical) dip is that happiness is not a sustainable emotion, and therefore impossible to achieve as a life goal.  

So let me make an important amendment in what began as an answer in jest and ended as a joke of an answer.  I no longer chase rainbows, because I always seem to find their ends too quickly.  I need a new life goal that is both attainable and sustainable.  Something to drive towards but not over.  And here it is:

"I am hoping for contentment in my future."

I know, I know.  One ineffable feeling state after another.  "What the hell is contentment supposed to mean?  Like, compared to the happiness that you just bagged on?"  Fair question.  

The past two weeks I sat on my living room couch alone (or sometimes with puppies) on Sunday night and I thought to myself, "Today . . . today was a solid day.  In a string of similarly solid days. It was productive.  I saw some friends.  Solid.  

I wasn't "happy." As any witnesses to me being happy can contend -- I am an active and vocal happy person.  Bouncy even.  In this case I was just aware that for that day, and the one's prior, the goods outweighed the bads.

That's a win.

Because, past a certain age, there are no days without bad.  Bad is as fundamental to the picture of life as the waxing and waning moon.  And while you may not love the darkness, things just aren't the same without it (ask Alaskans).  The more you can integrate the darkness as the shading on your life's mural, emphasizing the positives and providing a space for struggle, the less that darkness will feel like a mural all its own.

And when you see the positive and negative of life all together, instead of as two separate binary processes, you begin to find your own balance between them.   And when that balance doesn't feel like a constant burning anxiety/depression/deadline/life-chore/gasp-for-breath, you've found contentment.  

Congrats!!! Please spread it around.  We could all use some more.


Talk to the Hand, Cause My Face May Wanna Scream at Yah

Thursday, March 14, 2013 | 1 Comment(s)

I like people.  I think we all know that.  I'm a social animal.  You keep me indoors for too long and I will start clawing at the doorknob for a night out.  That said, today was simply too much.

Being a local bartender, I have an ever increasing number of townsfolk who know me on sight.  And, as bartending is a job based on approachability, it is not surprising that people come up and say hello, even when I'm at the coffee shop.  Truth be told, I like it.  These are the people in your neighborhood, says the song.  They're the people that you meet when your sittin in your coffee seat, they're the people that you meet each day.

But, and this is a critical but, we are not close friends.

And this is not to say that I don't have close friends that I also see at the bar, etc. etc. -- but the majority of these people are acquaintances.  And, as Seinfeld would say, "Not that there is anything wrong with that."

Today the world was my friend, and it simply would not shut the fuck up.

I went to the coffee shop to be joined by our magician patron.  A slight of hand based card-shark, this guy sometimes gives me the creeps.  It's just that he has a semi-abrasive personality and . . . he's a magician.  Don't get me wrong, I enjoy him at the bar, I mean, who doesn't want to get tipped in magic tricks (just a joke), but he epitomizes distraction.  Even when not saying hello, he is going through an endless routine of shuffling, cutting, and peeling cards onto the table.  While he may not be verbally trying to grab my attention, his hands say, "look at me!!!, look at me!!!"

At lunch, I escaped to my favorite little French spot, for a nice quiet lunch, writing at the bar amongst my friends who work there.  Not long into my meal, a tall white guy with a dollop of blonde-grey hair sat one-seat down from me a grabbed a menu.  Not 30 seconds later he leans over to me and says, "I see you're wearing a Red Sox cap, did you hear what happened to Big Papi?"

I do know what happened to Big Papi.  And I am wearing a Sox hat.  "He hurt both his achilles, and he's out indefinitely at this point."  My new neighbor took my response to his query as permission to continuously talk at me for the next 40 minutes.  Non-stop.  I began shoveling my food down so as to escape the locked prison his verbal assault.  "Have you been to France?" "Do you speak French?" "Mike Napoli is faster than Papi though."  "I've never been to Switzerland, have you?  Oh wait, I've been to the airport.  That was pretty nice.  The one in Zurich.  You ever been to that airport." 

I literally went to the bathroom to hide out.  From there I texted the maitre d to advise him that a potential throat stabbing was about to occur in his restaurant.  His response came immediately: "I know SHUT THE FUCK UP WEIRDO."  Pardon his English, he's French.

My check was waiting for me when I came back to the bar.  Cause they're a classy place.  Then, off I escaped back to the relative safety of the coffee shop.

Where a townie with his adorable son rolled up on me at the bar (literally--the kid was in his stroller).  His conversation began with a double check that I was still bartending across the street, and then inquiring if I was just biding my time til a 6 o'clock shift.  I responded that I wasn't working at the bar today and that on my "off" days (I used the air quotes), I did free-lance writing, as I was today.   He, seeing the Microsoft Word document open on my screen, continued to plow forward along his conversational path.  He asked more about the bar as I hit my threshold for pretending to give a shit and simply turned back around towards my work.  He still made a few more comments before taking the hint from the backside of my shoulder.

I know this sounds harsh.  And there is a piece of me that feels bad doing it.  But the reality is that if I don't ignore people sometimes, I end up being the one feeling bad about my lack of productivity come the end of the day.  And if I don't look after my free time, no one else will.

Thank goodness it's movie night.


Movie night was supposed to be the end of this post.  Sadly, it was not.  Because, behind my wife and I at the movie theater, sat two girls who I would describe as "almost certainly Dungeons and Dragons fans.   One girl spoke without interrupting for the 20 minutes leading up to the movie.  The only topic of discussion: Different English-sepaking accents.   "I once knew this guy who grew up around Polish people, so he spoke English with a Polish accent, but he didn't even know Polish, which was so weird.  And in England they say crazy stuff like 'half four' instead of 4:30, which isn't too weird, but then, if it's like, 4:40, they would say, like, 10 past half four (side note: this is completely untrue), so it gets, like, wicked confusing.  And don't even start me on how they spell things . . . "

As the trailer for the current Hayao Miyazaki animated film series came onto the screen, and the lights dimmed, I clung to the idea that this girl would stop talking like the South clings to outdating laws regarding slavery. Not today.

Today was the day where people talked no matter what.  And so, fittingly, as the mash up of Miyazaki's five films flitted about the screen.  D & D girl behind us took to identifying each one in turn.  "That one's Mononoke.  That one's Spirited Away.  Then Castle.  That one is Princess Mononoke again.  That's Totoro.  Then Spirited Away again.  Castle. And there is Howl's Moving Castle.  

She called out the names of the five films being shown for the entire 3 minute trailer.  I have never wanted a katana so badly before.  The only thing that saved her life was that she clamped her jaws once the feature began.

Thank goodness my wife doesn't talk in her sleep.

Two Jews Walk Into a Poker Game . . .

Sunday, March 10, 2013 | 0 Comment(s)

If you are offended by Jew on Jew humor, stop reading now.

Last night I played poker at a friend's home game.  While in my many respects I have become somewhat of an older statesman among my service industry crowd of friends, I very rarely find myself the "baby of the group".  The unique part of this poker group is that I am the junior member.  Of course, if we were going my maturity level, this equation would be skewed in a number of different directions, so lets stick to chronologically.

Anyway here is a scene from last nights affair:

Me and the other Jewish guy at the table are the only two left in the hand.  With the possibility for two winners and a split pot being fairly likely, "Jacob" (I'll use Jacob so you remember that he's Jewish) decides to crack wise:

Jacob: With the two Jews left, should we just split the chips?

Me: With two Jews left, you throw all the chips on the floor and then we'll SEE how we split the chips!


Hitchhikers Guide to the Obnoxiousness of the Northeast

Wednesday, March 6, 2013 | 0 Comment(s)

This weekend my wife and I made a mad dash to Philadelphia to attend the absolutely radiant wedding of my cousin to the love of her life.  You can't ever get enough of that.

Unfortunately, we had to catch a fairly early train out of the city in order to get home in time for my wife to teach on Monday.  As amazing as the festivities of the wedding were, the trip back was the opposite.  State by state we encountered various characters who typified each city's particular brand of obnoxious.  Come, let me take you on my Tour of Territorial Torture (Trademarked).

Philadelphia.  Of all the northeastern states, I know Pennsylvania the least.  First off, it's massive.  Driving east to west in Pennsylvania can break your spirit so much that you are excited to reach Ohio.  Enough said.  Phili has the nickname "The City of Brotherly Love" but the reputation as "The City of Throwing Batteries at Opposing Sports Teams."  While I have climbed the 'Rocky' steps and declared victory for America, there is very little doubt that Philadelphians are the most direct communicators of their feelings of all the states in question.  Let's look at this example from our Sunday commute:

After descending into the subway for our 2-stop commute to the Amtrak station, we were immediately confronted with the subway token machine.  I can't tell you what the exact fare is for the subway, but I do know that 2 tokens cost $3.10.  That's the stupidest thing I've ever heard.  But we'll move past it.  My wife puts a $5 bill in the machine and it pops up "3 tokens for 4.65".  We then, understandably, look for the button to get one less token.  Such a button does not exist.  Barring any other options, we get the three tokens.  I immediately grab the excess token and head to the woman inside the subway turnstile booth.

ME: (In my absolute friendliest tone): Hi, is there any chance that I can get reimbursed for this token, there didn't seem to be an option to get less than 3 for $5. 
Token Woman (larger, 40-something black woman with large frame glasses): [Loudly]Oh, no!  You can't do that.  
ME: (it is 9am post wedding, I give in almost immediately) Ok, well, will you just give this extra token to a weary traveller?   I push the token under the glass.
Token Woman: Oh NO! You can't do that . . . you push that token under the glass and I haaaave to shove it right back.  See the . . . 

She wants to tell me all about the rules and regulations regarding receiving and returning tokens.  I, do not care.  Even a little.  I am trying to get to the train ASAP and furthermore, in giving the token away I am only hoping on brightening someone's day who may not have the money or change for a subway ride.  She is looking for an opening to begin an extended conversation and break the monotony of sitting alone in a subway booth.  I am looking to close all of said openings.

I then produce my best suggestion of the interaction.  If I could go back in time, this is how I would have left things.

ME: How about if I just leave the token, here.   I place the token directly in front of the token lady, but outside of the glass.  One of the few places she could not get at from inside the booth.  It wasn't until later that I realized how this move would have psychologically destroyed this woman.

At exactly this moment, a woman was exiting through the turnstiles as another woman finished buying a token.  The token woman saw these women, realized that I was planning on giving this token/money away for free, and summarily had her brain melt inside her skull.  She begins SHOUTING through the booth microphone.

Token Woman: WHY DON'T YOU JUST GIVE IT TO THAT WOMAN!!!! (motions to woman coming through turnstile) OR THAT WOMAN!!!! (motions to woman ending her token transaction). JUST SELL IT TO HER FOR A DOLLER!  I MEAN AT LEAST SELL IT FOR A DOLLAR!!!

No good deed goes unpunished.  This woman's voice is billowing around the empty subway chamber.  The two women passerby's are now stopped dead in their tracks, stunned by the volume of this message's assault.  This token woman will not allow these token to be given away for nothing.  A free token given may shut down this subway entrance for the extent of morning service.

Mercifully, the woman who had just bought a token, bought our excess token as well.  She probably was headed to the train station as well, but the awkwardness created in the public space of this subway anti-chamber was so extreme as to pressure even the stodgiest of souls to cough up a buck to get the hell out of there.

The token woman was abrasive, against charity, and all up in everyone's face about it.  I give you, Philadelphia.

New York.  Immediately upon entering the train in Phili, wife and I make a B-line for the "Quiet Car,"  reclined our seats, and lost sight of consciousness in the half-blink of an eye.  We may have eaten a danish.  I cannot fully recall.  The next thing either of us remember was two women with New York accents, hovering over our seats, scream-talking to each other.

50-year old white woman: You think you can fit into that seat?

Her Mom: I don't know, you want to sit here?

Woman: Should we go further down (for the record we are in the 1st non-business class car.)

Her Mom: I'm not sure . . . I thiiiiink I could get in there . . . 

I was not fake sleeping.  I was Ahhhsleep.  These women are talking loudly in our direction in order to wake us up so that we will unrecline our seats fully so that they have easier access to the first available seats they've spotted which happen to be IN THE QUIET CAR!  Color me unimpressed.

I awake with a start (genuinely) and take in the scene.  Let me take a moment to say that, independent of the current situation, I am my most violent self during the first 15 seconds of being awakened.  I have literally punched my best friend in the solar plexus during this small no-holds-barred time window (in my defense, it was college and he was jumping on me at the time).  That old bat had the girl-balls to look at me, still-cotten eyed, and say:

The Bat:  Oh, I'm sorry.

I looked right back at her and glared as I immediately replied: No you're not. (emphatic period!)

My wife, fully awake, kept her eyes shut.  I'm sure she's in quiet disbelief that I just brought the pain-juice to this rude woman on the Amtrak train.

The Bat:  (realizing she has been 100% called the fuck out)  Oh, I guess I'm not . . .

and then, as if from hibernation, wifey awakes to the words . . .

Wife: This is the QUIET CAR!      (i love her so goddamn much)

Her voice tone was severe in that way that only a school teacher can be.  An undeniable scream that presents itself in a loud whisper.  These women were not expecting us.

They sat down.   We re-reclined.  And we enjoyed it until the very last second before we had to exit.

These women were entitled, aggressive, and completely ignorant of any social norms.  I give you, New York.

Massachusetts.  To leave Massachusetts out of a discussion about the most obnoxious northeastern states would be completely shortsighted.  And thankfully for my home state, the final leg of our journey   did not disappoint.

As we settled into our final train, the glorious New Haven to Hartford 3-Car Special, we were no longer afforded the choice of a quiet car.   Considering it was only a 30 minute trip "upstate" I hardly worried about our downsized luxury, and repositioned myself for one last nap-time.

That was when the girl in front of us on the train starting dialing her phone.  She spoke loudly and clearly and though she was facing away from us, it was like we were there, inside the conversation with her.

She was probably 21 or 22, light brown skin, and an accent that sounded distinctly Springfield MA, as opposed to the state's coast.  Her word came quickly as her first girlfriend answered the phone:

Girl:  How's you.   Good good.  Girl.  I got in a bar fight yesterday.  Yah. Fo reals.  Yah, so, like, I went out to the club with my homegirls, and we were drinking.  Girl.  We were drinking stupid.  I was drinking the white spirits with the dark.  Drunk girl.  Nah, not like blackout drunk, but, like, it's all pretty blurry.  So, we was like drinking at the club, and we were dancing, and I guess this guy spilled his drink on this girl.  And then the girl, I guess, thought it was me, and she started talking shit.  And she put her hand all up near my face and i was just like, 'Nah-aw,' and I punched her.  Then her girl ran up on me and I punched her two.  Then it was like me against theree shorties.  And it took like eight n----rs to pull me off, cause like I'm so small, that I kept spillin away n' shit.

Let me take a quick sec to clarify a few pieces of this missive.  First, it didn't pass the smell test.  She was saying "I guess" wayyyy too many times around the critical facts of the incident for me to believe that "some seemingly uninvolved dude" was the main cause of this whole kerfuffle, and then that guy just let this whole girl brouhaha transpire despite his transgression.  I think she did spill the drink.  Second, this was not a small girl.  Oh, she was short, maybe 5'1", but tiny she was not.  If i grabbed her around the waste, she was not so bony as to me hard to grasp.  Furthermore, she wasn't even thin.  She was eminently grab-able.  Not that I was offering.  She continues . . .

Girl:  What did my mom say?  She wasn't happy about it but she was like, 'You don't a bitch get up in your face.' And I'm like, 'Damn right?'  Oh, hold on, I got another call.

This scene then repeated about 3 or 4 times.  Seriously.  The second she finished telling the story to one friend, she made some excuse, hung up, called someone else and then it was wash, rinse, repeat the story.   That is how I remember it so distinctly.

There was one incoming call that didn't follow script.  The girl dials.

Girl: Hello?  Hello?   Who's this?    Darrell.   Oh, he's not there . . . well then . . . just tell him that I called.

Immediately following this interaction she redials her girlfriend.

Girl: Oh my GOD.  You will not believe what he just did.  I just called him and he had his girl answer. Yah, she was all 'Who you callin for? and 'He's not here right now.' And I'm all 'Bitch, I was just talking to him a minute ago.' and hung up.

Again, I am forced to point out that in reality she said, 'Oh, he's not there, well then . . . just tell him that I called.  I hope the truth warmed up, because it was getting stretched.

Then back to calling people again with her 'Girlllllll, guess what?  I got in a bar fight . . . 

And then the story of the fight again.  This time maybe one more shortie to fight and one less n----- to pull her off.  I have never been so glad to see Hartford Train Station.

This girl completely ignored the fact that there were others around her as she brashly violated the public space with her self-centered verbal diarrhea.  I give you Massachusetts.

Falcor vs. Mothra

Friday, March 1, 2013 | 0 Comment(s)

I have to admit.  The title to this post is overtly misleading.   I had the concept for this piece all set in my mind when I came up with the title, but then I realized that the title suggested its own awesome post.

So.  For those of you who came for a Godzilla-style (Pokemon-style for my younger readers) face-off between the Neverending Story's Falcor and the moth queen Mothra, this is for you:

I think Flacor would win.  The overall increased agility would allow Falc to literally flies circles around Mothman.  Add to that, Falcor is a friggin luck-dragon ya'll.  And while I am not sure exactly what powers that distinction denotes, I firmly believe that Flac has some hidden fire-power just waiting to be unleashed.

In fairness, Mothra could win.  Mothra's advantage lies in her offensive capabilities.  She's been preparing for battles like this since she was just a bus-sized larva.  If the Moth could get a direct hit with one of her power beams or poison attacks, in all likelihood it would cause a Mike Tyson-esc knockout.
And now onto the show.

Falcor is our puppy.  Number 17 of 17 in his litter, he's our dwarf-prince.  He hops whenever possible, be it snow or toy related, and is inseparable from his older brother.
I'm upside down . . . and I like it!!!

can't you see I'm poopin?
Last night, Falcor got in a fight.  And it sounded pretty serious.  Thankfully, it was 4 am, and he was fast asleep, barking viscously and whatever dream puppy was messing with him.  For me, this scenario was made all the more hilarious because Falc's usual bark, which can be quite shrill, was being muffled by his sagging sleepy jowls.  The sound emitted as a result of this muffling was a "Wokka Wokka Wokka!" perfectly emulated, as if from Fonzie the Bear himself.   Whatever dog was instigating this puppetry of my puppy, they were getting his full vocal attention.

And as I drifted away into my own dreamland, the sounds of The Muppet Babies filled my bedroom, and I knew, all was right with the world, for tonight.