Saturday, October 31, 2009

Beep Beep! Toot Toot!

How-do? I have this flip camera and I've been kinda futzing around with it. Just having fun y'know? At any rate, I thought I'd try shooting my commute home. Now bear in mind that I don't know what I'm doing here. I edited it to increase the frame rate...are you still reading this? Just click the fucking thing already will ya? The high-pitched sounds are the music I had on as well as me complaining about people's driving skills. I couldn't figure out how to fix that.

For to enjoy. Please don't hunt me down and murder me.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Hey! Get Offa My Porch!

Halloween is this weekend (tomorrow as a matter of fact) and I'm not looking forward to it. When we first moved in together, the Wiff (then the GF) and I had zero trick or treaters come to the apartment. Granted, they would have had to have access to the building first so that's probably the reason. The next apartment didn't offer much in the way of Halloween festivities either and it wasn't until the 3rd apartment that we finally had a few kids come to our door. I usually would spend the night worrying that some shithead kid would egg my car or something. Nothing ever happened like that luckily. And now that most of our friends have kids themselves, the possibility of being invited to a Halloween party are lessening too. That's not something I'm missing at all, I just thought I'd mention it.

When we bought the house we were excited that we would probably have a few kids come and do the trick or treat thing. It was going to be fun! We'll get to meet our neighbors! We'll be able to establish our place as the cool house in the neighborhood! We even went the extra mile and bought a bunch of goofy stuff from this catalog and filled up little bags with toys and candy. We spent a couple nights sitting at the dining room table filling up the bags and trying to evenly distribute the chotchkies so that everyone got a fair share. It was a big hit and we got (if memory serves) 80-something kids that year. "Holy crap", we thought. "That's a lot of kids!" We were mistaken. That's nothing. The next year we got over a hundred and it has been steadily climbing ever since. The cats hate it as they associate the doorbell ringing with a terrifying attack or something because whenever it rings they bolt upstairs instantly. Oliver actually growls too. He's wicked intimidating.

We have since scaled back on the extra gift things and have gone with straight candy for the last 5 years or so. But that doesn't seem to matter as last year we got 135 kids. This year, who knows? Maybe we should start giving out Smarties or some other crappy candy or maybe pennies to make our numbers go down (by the way, when did the regular Halloween candies get so small? I remember the "Fun Size" bars being the disappointing standard but now they're all like "mini bars" or some bullshit. Whatta gyp). However, when we were cleaning out the basement during The Great Purge of 2009 we did come across a bag of leftover Halloween toys. We won't do the little gift bags but The Wiff will be handing out those toys on a first come/first serve basis. Hopefully no one will get stabbed on our porch during the mad scramble to get a shitty rubber skeleton and a pumpkin pencil. I don't actually interact with the little buggers because I find them annoying but the Wiff loves it. She does the whole sing-song voice thing and Oooohs and Aaaahs over all the kid's costumes. She's insane.

But Halloween also reminds me that our wedding anniversary is rapidly approaching. It was 12 years ago tomorrow that I proposed to Amy in a bar at Logan Airport. Classy. We were planning a vacation in Vegas and I thought that this would be perfect. Luckily for me she thought so too and we were married 3 days later on November 3, 1997. Happy anniversary Amy (a.k.a. The Wiff)!

Monday, October 26, 2009

I Left the House Again

I went out Saturday night AND it was raining. I want extra credit for that. Ad Frank and the Fast Easy Women played out at Great Scott in Allston and since I hadn't seen them play in about a year and a half I really wanted to see this show. Plus, it being their record release, I figured it was going to be a good show. So The Wiff, my sis Mary and our friend Dee piled into the volvo (a.k.a. The Old Girl) and headed over to Allston.

We had plenty of time and so we had decided to grab something to eat before the show. The Wiff had made reservations at this cool Japanese place called Shabu Toki. I had found it while I was online looking for another restaurant over there (that seems to have closed, thank you ever-so-creepy Google Maps) and it looked interesting. I dropped the ladies off at the restaurant and then went to find a parking spot. I figured that since this is my old neighborhood that I'd be able to find a place to park fairly quickly. I was so wrong. I went up and down Brighton Ave a bunch of times, down side streets (even past our old apartment on Chester St) and over into areas that I really didn't want to leave the car. Nothing. No spots to be had. And the rain just would not stop. I had hoped that this would keep the traffic down but no such luck there. Apparently rain doesn't bother young people in the slightest.

After 43 minutes, yes, FORTY-THREE MINUTES of circling and back-tracking I finally found a spot a few blocks up from where the club is. Now normally finding a spot that was relatively close to the club would be a good thing (and it was after the show), but I still had to walk past the club and to the restaurant in the rain. And since I am whatever the opposite of a boy scout is, I did not have an umbrella. "Never prepared". That's my fucking motto. By the time I got to the restaurant I was soaked. Drenched even. And no, I did not have a rain coat either. The good thing about this though is that since I was so delayed in getting there, the food and my beer were already waiting for me when I finally did arrive. That was pretty sweet.

And goddamn that Shabu Toki place was great. I didn't know much about what the whole Shabu Shabu experience was like but I'd go back there again. I don't know that I'd go back on a Saturday night (in the rain, did I mention the rain?) again but I'd certainly try a Tuesday or a Wednesday perhaps. I would recommend it to anyone too by the by. Plus, as a bonus, it's pretty cheap too.

After dinner we trudged back through the rain to the club. When The Wiff and I lived over in Allston this bar was kinda off limits to us cuz it always seems stuffed to the rafters with douchebags and frat boys (is that redundant? I think it might be). I can remember fights spilling out of there and onto the sidewalk and thinking to myself "yea, I'm never going in there". So walking into the club I didn't really know what to expect. The bar area itself is a little wonky but the space is ok. Unfortunately it's another one of these places that decided to have bands play as sort of an after thought. The stage is stuffed into a back corner of the bar where, as Kevin C. said, it "looks like that's where they used to store the empty beer cases". He isn't kidding. There really isn't much of an area for the crowd to stand and watch the show without completely blocking access to the bathrooms. So throughout the show there was a near constant stream (hee!) of people making their way to and from the bathrooms.

Normally I hate crowds (cuz of the whole hating people thing) but for some reason when I'm at a show I can be in a crowd getting bumped into every 2 seconds and I'm ok with it. I'm not saying I ENJOY it, but it doesn't make me freak out or get angry. I think it's cuz there's a sense of purpose or community perhaps when people are gathered in a tiny narrow room to watch a band play. Everyone knows it isn't ideal and so we just get along. I found a space where I could have my back up against a wall (to minimize the bumpings) and as it turns out the sound at the club was pretty decent. The band really sounded great and as always put on a fun, energetic show. I always run into a bunch of people that I know at their shows too so that's cool.

After the show ended I went and got the car and picked everyone up out front 'cuz I'm a fucking gentleman goddammit. When we finally got home I was all wound up so I knew I couldn't go to sleep right away. I watched some god awful television until 4am and then went upstairs and passed out. So there you have it: a night out with me with very little complaining. Ok, so I did moan about the parking issue and the fact that I was soaked oh and that people kept bumping into me and ... fine. Hmph. I still had a good time overall so there. Go by "Your Secrets are Mine Now". Do it.

Friday, October 23, 2009

The Very Timely Death of The Crack

After living with the ginormous crack in our kitchen ceiling for 11 years, the Wiff and I have decided that it's time to fix the mofo. And of course by this I mean "hire some dude to fix the mofo". The ceiling was damaged by what we suspect was the previous owner's kids. The bathroom is directly above the crack and an overflowing tub is the likely culprit. For the first 9 years we lived in the house, we completely ignored the crack and just puttered around the house blissfully ignorant of the blight taking up residence in our tiny, whacked-out kitchen. It was there, and we knew about it but it wasn't bothering anyone so we left it alone. Then in 2007 we put the house up for sale (I know...not exactly the best timing. Thanks economy!) and the crack was like a big ol' gaping mouth saying "HA! No one will pay what you're asking for this place with ME hanging around!" The crack was right.

I had attempted to repair it for the sake of making the house more presentable by using plaster button doo-dads but that didn't work out so great. As I was trying to install them I got a first-hand look at just how bad the damage was/is. When I drilled in the first button, the crack started to open up about 2 feet away from where I was applying pressure. I stopped cold and so did the ceiling. There was a bit of stand off for a few minutes and then I backed off. The crack was taunting me. So I ate the cost of the buttons and decided to smear some joint compound into the largest part of the crack. Yes, it looked shitty but it looked somewhat less shitty than before. I am no artisan. Oh, and then our house still didn't sell. Awesome.

So cut to this past summer and how damp it was here in the Boston area. The beginning of the summer was cooler and certainly wetter than recent memory and when the heat finally did arrive, I noticed the crack had widened. It had drooped more and become more noticeable. And then it started to drop bits of itself onto the kitchen floor. I'd notice little tiny bits of plaster crumbs that the cats had obviously enjoyed batting around the night before. Well goddamn. Now every time I wander into the kitchen (which is a lot...heh, stupid belly), I immediately look up at The Crack. It is now large enough to warrant proper noun status. I secretly think that my joint compound band aid may have aggravated the situation but don't tell the Wiff ok?

And so blah blah blah we're getting it fixed. A few nights ago we had a guy stop by to take a look but it turns out he doesn't fix ceilings (mis-communication there...he's a painter. whoops) so that wasn't so much helpful as it was a complete waste of everyone's time. However, tonight we have a genuine ceiling fixer dude/plaster guru coming over to laugh at our ceiling. Dunno if he'll be the one we end up hiring but it's a start. So fuck The Crack. He must go.

This is The Crack. I hate him.

Stop grinning at me you prick.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

We Have Had Our Summer Evenings, Now for October Eves!

The change of the seasons: It's the one thing that people who move away from this part of the country say that they miss. But as my friend Janine pointed out, it's mostly autumn that they miss. It is hands-down my favorite season. Autumn to me is brisk mornings with dew on the grass, clear blue skies, leaves changing color and clean air. It's a light jacket and the nice walk down by the water. It's poems by Dickinson, Keats or Thoreau. It's apple picking, cider donuts and pies. It's sitting in the living room reading a book with a fire going. It is glorious and it should last from mid-September to mid-November.

This year? Yea, this morning it was 58 degrees downstairs in the house. It was 61 upstairs. Fuck that shit. Last night I closed the storm windows in the dining room and some of them upstairs but there are still some open. I had a fire blazing last night so it was at least comfortable downstairs. But this morning when we got up we had to turn the heat on earlier than we have ever had to in the past (or at least earlier than I can remember us doing). Granted I only had the thing come on to 63 degrees but that took the chill out of the air and made getting ready for work more bearable. Tonight we'll close up the rest of the house and hopefully we won't need to have the heat on at all. Usually, since I'm a stingy cunt I like to try to wait until the first of November before turning on the heat. I think I've been able to do that maybe 3 or 4 times since we've lived in that house.

Autumn also means that winter is fast approaching and with that so is my birthday. I'm turning 40 goddamn years old in January. Holy piss. Now I know that people say that "Forty is the new thirty!". Mmm-hmm. You know who says that? Old people, that's who. Forty is forty and that's that. Luckily for my mindset I'm really only as mature as a 15-year-old so I've got that going for me. I'm not one for harping on age normally but this one has me kind of off balance. I guess I just never really thought about getting older and being a 40 year old guy. Yea, yea, stop saying "but it's not really old". I know this. But it's older than I ever really thought I'd be. Not that I'm saying I thought about dying or anything like that, but since I'm not really a well-thought out guy, I just didn't allow myself to think or plan about what I would want/need at this age. Or in the future for that matter. Plus, my own immediate family history doesn't bode well for getting older as both my parents died at a young age, Mom at 58 and Dad at 61.

So what does that mean? I dunno. Thinking about this kind of stuff is new territory for me. I have a pretty good life overall (great marriage, fantastic friends and family, decent job and a house that is still standing) and for the first time in a while the future is looking pretty stable. I say this with trepidation because although I don't believe in much, I do believe in "jinxing" things. Plus, the economy and my own checkered past tell me that there is always the possibility of losing my job and then at least one aspect of my life will suffer. But I've made it through that stuff before so it doesn't worry me as much as it used to. The Wiff and I decided years ago to not have kids and I am still fully on board with that decision. I think it was the right one for us and will continue to be so. That being said, I think there is room for a change soon. Ha, no, not on the "no kids" front. I'm talking about living where we live. Having no kids makes this decision easier to execute.

Ever since I was 10 years old or so I've wanted to live in Maine. Why Maine? Well, because it isn't Massachusetts (anymore). Real estate in Maine, in comparison with what I'm used to here, is affordable. The biggest issue of course is looking for work. Finding a place to live with a decent mortgage is a pretty large problem too. I've been looking at places near the Augusta area and the prices are reasonable. I would like this to happen within the next 3 years. "But Mark, you're a city boy. You've never lived outside of city in anything even remotely rural. Won't you go sort of stir crazy?" I dunno. I don't think so. I have less inclination to go out to clubs to watch a band play like I used to (I still do it on occasion but just not EVERY weekend like before) so I don't feel like that'll be a huge issue. Plus, keep in mind the fact that I really, honestly do not like people and places where there are ... people. The occasional night out with me has usually turned into me hating on those around me and the Wiff annoyed at how intolerant I can be. So maybe living in a less crowded area is exactly what the doctor ordered.

But whatever does happen it'll be ok. For reals. I'm less of a worry-wart than I used to be. Don't get me wrong, I'm still a mess but less so. Plus, I'm looking forward to the trip to Ireland the Wiff and I are taking for my b-day. We're going to Dublin, then down to Cork, Kinsale, and swing up the west coast to Galway. I can't wait. We went to the west coast of Ireland a few years back on a bus tour with a bunch of people but this time it'll just be the two of us and a little rental car. Maybe we'll move there instead....hmmmm.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

More Jobs that do not Appear on the Resume

Time for another dose of Vocational Errors by Your Host Mark. This one took place right around the same time as the Greenpeace incident. Don't hold me to these dates though as I have no concept of time anymore.

I was still living at home and my morning ritual included me grabbing the paper and perusing the Help Wanted section while dropping the kids off at the pool (you're welcome for that image). I came across an ad for "Motivated individuals needed for IMMEDIATE HIRE with HUGE opportunity to SUCCEED!" or something along those lines. It looks like a pyramid scheme or some shit right? Yea, I didn't know what that meant. Motivated? Fuck yea I'm motivated. I don't want to live here with the parents for much longer please. Huge opportunity to succeed? Sign me the frick up Billy. I told my parents about it and how I was going to the office in downtown Malden to meet with the hiring guy. My dad said that it didn't sound like a legitimate business but I said I should at least try it out right? My mom said nothing cuz she just wanted her $200 a month.

So with my dad shaking his head slowly at me I left to go to the interview. I got to the office space which was right on Ferry St. in this rundown building. I walked in and there was about 10 other guys there who were also responding to the ad. The first thing I noticed is that they were all wearing ties and some even had suits on. I had just a button down shirt (probably untucked) and some pants that I'd probably already worn a couple of times. I sat down amongst the other candidates and filled out the application. When my turn came to meet with the hiring guy he mentioned that he liked my relaxed style which I took as a compliment but he most likely was poking fun at me. He explained that the job was a sales position (zero experience there) in the exciting field (read: risky) of direct marketing (read: pyramid). I nodded a lot and agreed to accept the position (I later figured out that ANYONE who walked into that office and didn't immediately turn around and bail got "hired"). He told me to come back the next day for the sales meeting and then I'd meet the guy who'd be training me. "He's a big up and coming guy in this organization!" he boasted. What organization? You have a pool or morons like me who you're going to have sell shit products to less than bright people. Awesome business plan.

I'd like to point out that absolutely no red flags went off for me at all. Zero. I just thought that I need money and this guy says that he can help me get some. He's in an office and wearing a suit so he must know more than I do right? Well yea, but that's all relative. I went home and told my parents that I got hired and that I'd be going to work the next day. No response from them on that subject. Feh, what do they know anyway?

At the sales/team meeting the next day I got my first glimpse at what this guy thought my future would be. Apparently I'd be super excited all the time and say things like "YEA! GO TEAM (insert name of this guy's shitty company here...I can't remember what it was)!" I'm just not the "go team" kinda guy really. I can't muster up that kind of excitement for...well, anything. I would not classify myself as high energy or Type A. Type C perhaps. Type D even. I just want to do whatever I have to do and please leave me alone. So why not realize this and immediately leave the meeting? Well, I do like money. So with the prospect of perhaps earning some I thought that I can maybe fake the excitement part.

The meeting lasted about 45 minutes and then I met up with the guy who was going to be training me on how to go about selling the products. What products, you ask? Oh, a horrible set of 6 steak knives and a 5 piece reversible belt set (it was 3 leather belts of questionable quality which were reversible and 2 different buckles. You totally want a set don't you?). We jumped into his Caprice and made our way to a super market parking lot in Dorchester. When we got there he parked near the entrance and opened up the trunk where he had boxes and boxes of this stuff. We got out and he immediately started trying to sell knives to people who just wanted to go get some groceries. "Hey ma'am?", he called over to some lady who just pulled up. "You should check out this AMAZING DEAL!" He then would point to me as I would do an interpretation of a Price Is Right model while trying to show how fucking fantastic these steak knives were. "Excuse me sir," he would say while annoying some poor guy getting into his shitbox. "Every man needs more than one belt right? Well this is SIX BELTS IN ONE!" Which technically isn't true. It's more like six belts in one set...or 3 belts in one times 2. I guess that's not as zingy though.

Here's the bizarre thing: people would stop and buy this shit. I think the belt set was like $10 and the knives were $15 or something like that. We would hawk this crap all over the city hitting little strip malls in run-down areas because as he so eloquently put it "people around here will buy anything". Nice. So now I have to deal with that rolling around in my head. I'd like to say that it was right then and there that I decided that I didn't want anything to do with this guy and this "business" but I was still blinded by the promise of "big bucks". Plus, he had been saying how he was going to be moving to Florida soon and would need guys like me to help him get his franchise set up down there. Oh you mean like guys who haven't sold ANYTHING ever, who hate people and can't drive? Those kind of guys? Well hell, I'm yer man then.

After several hours of moving from parking lot to parking lot he decided that I was all trained up and could easily set out on my own the next day. What? Seriously? "Oh jeebus, I think I've fucked up again", was the thought going through my head. "How am I going to carry this crap around? On the goddamn T?" I decided that I wasn't going to accept his offer to move to Florida if asked and I certainly wasn't going to return the next day to continue with this career. Plus, I still had to purchase my inventory. Had I mentioned that part yet? Oh yes, you needed to have a certain amount of crap in stock to sell to people who should know better. One thing I was definitely lacking was moneys with which to purchase goods. So this whole scheme was doomed from the start.

We wrapped up the day of sales and headed back to the office in Malden. He was going on and on about how great it's going to be when he gets to Florida and how much I'm going to love it there (apparently I had landed the job after all even though I never actually heard an offer or accepted anything. That's how goddamn charming I am). We were on Rt. 93 north near the Boston Garden when he said "Oh man, I gotta take a leak. Here, grab the steering wheel a sec won't ya?" I'm sorry, what? I do as instructed and grab a hold of the steering wheel as he turned over onto his left side, cracked open the door and pissed out of the opening. All of this while stuck in traffic. Oh COME ON! What the fuck? Even I could see this for the giant red flag that it was.

We got back to the office and I followed him in to talk to the boss guy. He went in to the guy's office and told me to wait out in the main reception area for a sec. I did and in a few he came out and said the boss guy wanted to see me. WHY AM I STILL HERE? I SHOULD JUST FUCKING LEAVE ALREADY! But of course I don't leave and I go in to talk to the boss guy. "Petey (or whatever that guy's name was...I forget) says your a natural at this! As far as I'm concerned you have a job here!" Oh really? You do realize that Petey if a fucking moron right? Do you know he pisses out of his car door while driving on Rt. 93? Do you know he's a huge racist? I do. I know a lot of nuggets about Petey. I don't ever want to see him or you again. Good DAY, sir. That's what I should have said. What I did say was "Oh really? That's nice of you." Whatta pussy.

I did eventually tell the guy that I couldn't really do the job, not because of the fact that it was an unsustainable business model or that his hiring practices left me wondering about his intelligence or even that the idea of hawking knives to people at 8 in the morning isn't a pleasant prospect; oh no, I couldn't do the job because I couldn't AFFORD to buy in. Yep. Moral standards officially lowered, full speed ahead. He said he understood and I left the office to start my walk back to my parent's apartment. And I still didn't have any money to pay my mom the room and board I owed her. Awesome.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Loose Ends and Housekeeping

'Sup? I haven't fucked anything up in the last week or so which on the one hand is good from a life-management aspect but on the other hand from a "I have a blog that chronicles my blunders on a semi-weekly basis" perspective it doesn't exactly make for good reading. So I figured I'd address some of the open issues I have at the moment. In no particular order, other than as they came to my mind, here goes:

The Sour Kraut: ah yes. Not much going on there. This weekend Andy and I plan on taking another look-see under the hood to see if we can trace down where the major problems are. My prediction is that the major problems will be that it's a fucking pile of shit and we don't have the money/interest to fix it. Yep. That sums that up quite nicely. Lesson learned for this project is to not take on a car project that needs waaaaaaay more work than you are willing to do and/or capable of doing. Also, have a garage to work in. A lawn doesn't quite work.

Giving Trainings at Work: I'm still terrible at it but improving. I gave another training today via a web conference and it went much better. I think it was because of the fact that it was a web conference and not a face to face deal. All I had to do was talk to a telephone and use my computer. Not so bad but still not up to snuff. I would say it was less like a train wreck and more like a 4-5 car pile-up on a highway. There was still carnage (flop sweat and um-ing) but less than previously experienced.

The Great Purge of '09: The Wiff and I have been really going through all the stuff we have in the house and purging it. Most of the stuff has been or will be donated to Big Brother/Big Sister but there are some things that simply have no real value anymore (old mixed CDs, VHS tapes, shit like that) that just get the unceremonious heave-ho. It is quite satisfying to really go through this stuff. As I have mentioned before, we've just accumulated so much stuff over the past 11 years and since we had the space to store it, we did. Not anymore. There is no room at the inn.

The Cats: Morticia has arthritis. Molly has glaucoma and Oliver has asthma. I've never been a dog person but I did find the one breed of dog that I would like to have one day. The English Bulldog. It's me in dog form. Awesome.

What else? Not much I guess. I'm still the FNG at work so I'm trying not to fuck up there. I'm still seated in the back room but I'm used to it now. That sounded worse than I had intended. What I meant to say is that I don't mind sitting where I sit. It doesn't really matter as much as I thought it would. So even though my boss tells me he's working on getting me a different space, either way is fine by me honestly. I would like some drawers though. All my shit is spread out on my work surface (and by work surface I mean Formica counter top) and it looks all messy. Oh, did I mention that there are fucking house centipedes in here? Yep. Luckily we've only seen one which Chris (the guy who I share the room with) killed. But if there's one, there's bound to be more. Shudder. They are pure, unadulterated evil. Plain and simple. Hmm, maybe I will hope my boss gets me my own space after all...