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Why Being Late for a Wedding Can be a Good Thing

There was that air of tension for a brief second where I knew, before she even said it, that we were going to have to turn around.

My wife Ang and I were on our way to my Cousin Jaime’s wedding in Maine this past weekend.  I’d been at a training school for work all week and on Friday after school we took off to Maine.  Everything was fine.

But sometime during the night, when the temperatures in Southern Maine dropped down below zero, Ang’s Prius decided to do what any wild beast would do in those temperatures a have a fucking stroke.  The next morning, the (thankfully) less expensive of the two Prius’s batteries had shit the bed.  We found this out half-way to the wedding.

First off, a compliant:  Who the hell has a late-morning wedding?  When I woke up that morning, obviously not knowing what time the wedding was, I called Jaime’s father Uncle John (she probably refers to him as “dad” but…) to ask what time the wedding was.  I was shocked that at 9 in the morning he told me it was at “eleven, but you might want to get there at 1030ish”.  Damnit!

So we rushed, got showered and dressed at my mom’s house a few towns over and took off.  We were halfway there when I realized I didn’t have any dashboard read out.

If you’ve never piloted a Prius before, it’s all digital read outs on the dash.  No dials.  At first I thought I had the little dimmer switch turned down for some reason, but that wasn’t it.  Then I thought it might’ve been an optical illusion produced by my polarized sunglasses and the sun or something, and when I pulled my shades down, all I saw was black.

The car was still running though, and we pulled over to the side of Main Street to see if it was something we could fix if we just turned the car off and back on again.  I pushed the ignition button and got no response.  Queue panic from my wife.

God bless her, but if anything happens to her car she wigs out.  So now it’s all tense, we need to be at this wedding, very little time to spare and Ang says “turn back to your mother’s.”

Fuck!

We get back and, knowing nothing about cars, let alone Hybrids, I start googling “Prius + Problems + Cold Weather” and get a bunch of Toyota forums about people in high altitude/cold weather areas having significant ignition and battery problems with their Priuses(i?)

Ang takes the more direct approach and calls the dealership from where she bought the car directly.  After a few minutes of on-the-phone diagnostics, we discover that one of the two batteries the Prius runs on is likely dead or close to it.  We need to get to a dealership, stat, to replace said battery.

So about ten minutes going the opposite direction, we get to a dealership and all is taken care of.  By the time we’re back on the road, the ceremony is definitely over.  We can still make the reception, which I guess is at the same place as the wedding.

At this point, I should tell you about the funny feeling I get when I have to deal with my extended family.

Things have always been a little awkward with my dad’s side of the family, even from when I was a kid.  I don’t really understand why this is, and I simply accept it.  The family is large and I hardly know any of my relatives except the “cool ones” who have achieved this status either by showing some signs of kindness towards me or just by giving me butt-loads of cash during the holidays.  Whenever I come around, I feel like I have nothing to say, and things suddenly become very awkward.  Instantly, the tough-talking, ass-kicking, moderately successful man with the swagger of a guy who gets paid to knock people out is diminished to that clumsy, mush-mouthed 13 year old from fifteen years ago any time my Aunt Peggy comes around.  I can’t explain it.

We pull up to the reception hall and I’m instantly relieved that I listened to my wife’s advice and didn’t wear my three piece suit to this thing, and instead opted for a cashmere sweater and slacks: nearly everyone was in denim and sweatshirts, save a few adults who managed to put on some business-casual button-down shirts.  The only ties were being worn by members of the groom’s wedding party; they were dressed in rental black and red three pieces and looked more Ska band than Groomsmen.

Likewise, bridesmaids were dressed in some sort of Katy Perry-like tube dresses and black lace fingerless gloves with red lace accents.  My cousin did look gorgeous in her white wedding gown, complete with a pair of black and white Ray-Ban Wayfarers.

Oh yeah, and everyone was shitfaced.

As soon as we walked in, I was greeted by the bulk of my extended family.  Hugs were had all around, our gift was taken from us, and slowly, like a spreading pool of blood, the awkwardness set in.

First I had to apologize about a million times for being late.  Next I had to explain why I was wearing hiking boots and not decent shoes (I had forgot to pack them) when nearly everyone else was in loafers at best, gym shoes at worst.  To compound things, the inevitably and albeit obligatory questions about my mother and father started to surface:

“Is your mom going to make it?”

“How’s your father?”

“What’s going on with them?”

These weren’t the usual questions asked out of absenteeism.  No, they knew exactly what’s going on with my mother and father and the nasty separation/divorce.  The know all about my father’s self-exile to some remote campground out in NH and my mother’s slipping sanity.  They just wanted the gossip.

“Oh, I see your mother all the time at the Shaw’s” one of my aunt’s said.  “Awesome?”  I say in return.  I mean, what else can I say?   Then Jaime finally made her way over.

Blitzed, she punched me in the chest and with thick tongue said “you missed the wedding, ass.”  I felt about >< this tall.

To make matters worse, her younger brother Josh, whom I haven’t seen in YEARS swings by and gives me a hug.  I don’t recognize him and it’s not until later that Ang points him out to me.  Again, I feel about as tall as my boot laces.

We eventually sit with a pair of watered down beers at a table away from my family.  Joining us is a remote friend of Jaime’s whom she used to work with, and her husband Greg.  The woman (I can’t remember her name) came across like Sarah Palin (she disclosed that she went as Palin for Halloween this past year) only drunk.  Both couples had a lot in common and I could see Ang and I becoming this couple in roughly five years.  I kinda wish now I had gotten their contact info.  They were cool.

After nursing our one beer each (we had no cash for tipping at the open bar, and I felt like a shitheel for not tipping on the two watered down Natty-Ice’s) and eating some finger food, we left, promising we’d see everyone at the “after-party.”  Obviously, we didn’t intend to be at the after party.

The more distance I put us between my family the better I felt.  I knew the night before this wedding wasn’t something I wanted to really be a part of, but out of love for my cousin, who I treat more like a distant sister, I manned up.  For forty minutes.

In the end, being late for the wedding should’ve come across as some sort of omen; being late should’ve told us to phone it in, send out the gift via certified first class mail and send a heart-felt apology letter.  It would’ve been easier on my psyche.

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January 31, 2010 Posted by | Gonzo Journalism, Living in an Insane Asylum, Out and About, People I Hate, People I Love, Shameless Self Promotion, Those Crazy Politicians | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Highway to Hell

If such a crayon existed called “Surprised” you could take it out of the box, stick it into that sharpener on the backside, and then color me with it once I found out that my commute didn’t make the top 75 Worst Commutes in America, according to The Daily Beast

Of course, anyone and everyone who commutes to and from work tends to think theirs is the worst commute imaginable.  That is, unless of course you either A) are flown by private jet everywhere you go, or B) move through a secret tunnel system, utilizing not-yet-known underground tube technology ala Dick Cheney.

It’s relative, is what I’m saying.

But my commute, in all honesty, is balls.  First, if you take a look at the list, there’s some real imaginable nightmares in the top few.  I’ve been on the Hollywood Freeway out in LA and I recognize a total clusterfuck when I see one, as well as the SE X’way just outside of Boston (one of two systems that got mentioned on the list which were from New England, the other being in RI).  Boston, famous for it’s ‘Big Dig’ from the 70s through the 90s, is well known to be a maze of on and off ramps, ever changing exit numbers, and confusing instructions for your exit mounted on overhead signage planted a mere 400 meters from the exit in question.

But the point I want to make here is that RT 6 on Cape Cod should’ve made this list of the top 75.  If you’ve never had the joy (read: bleeding face-feeling) of having to navigate the main artery of Cape Cod let me break it down for you:

There’s only three real ways to get from point A to B on Cape Cod: US RT 6, 6A (which is the old RT 6) and RT 28.  Route 6 is the traditional highway which in places splits into four lanes (two each way) but for the most part is two lanes (one each way) divided by some pithy plastic sticks.  Route 6 is so nicknamed “Suicide Alley” by the people who are forced to use it on a daily basis, because of the high average of fatalities found on it.  Read the local paper and you’ll see that at least once a day there’s a major crash in or around RT 6.

6A and 28 are clogged, serpentine alternatives lined with shops, stores and in the case of Dennisport, a small village along the southern mid-coast of Cape Cod; a dilapidated shantytown of boarded up stores and child molesters.  In the summers, these two routes are largely parking lot death traps as you’ll be cruising at 40 mph and be forced to slam on your breaks as the doofus with Jersey tags in front of you is stopping suddenly to pull into one of the ten thousand fried seafood and soft serve ice cream stands you’ll find littered up and down both routes.

Fall provides a slight reprieve from the summer time buffoonery of the Off-Codders and tourists who flood the main corridor trying to get to beaches and t shirt stores and otherwise clog up your commute.  However, like a stay of execution, the reprieve is short lived because when the foliage starts to change from the lush greens to the brake light red, traffic cone orange and construction worker vest yellow of the Fall season, the cars with the funny license plates return to make a ten minute drive across town into a half hour mind bender where thoughts from homicide to suicide race through a motorists head.

Winter is no picnic either, as Massachusetts as a whole refuses to salt their roadways, and instead use sand which contain fist-sized boulders within.  As you drive thirty or forty feet behind someone, expect to see cracks and pits in your windshield developing as rocks pelt your vehicle like small arms fire in the narrow streets of Baghdad.

Also, they don’t really “plow” on Cape.  They kinda “scrape” the top layer of shit off the roadways, leaving this packed bullshit snow over the roads which are completely impassable in anything less than four wheel drive/tank treads.

When the roads are clear, unless you’re driving really early in the morning (this is me, fortunately, on my way into my office) or really late at night, expect to be caught behind some nutsack holding the throttle steady at exactly five miles under the speed limit for the next twenty miles.  This ballbag will be utterly oblivious to the growing train of cars piloted by pissed off denizens of Cape Cod forming behind him/her, and will refuse to pull over to the side to let people by.  And forget waiting to pass them on a broken yellow line, as every opportunity to do so will be thwarted by on-coming traffic.

This, and the fact that drivers on Cape Cod have a habit of not paying attention to dick, is why I got rid of my motorcycle last Fall.

According to Google, I live 38 minutes from my office.  I suspect Google Maps gets that number assuming I’m doing about 50 mph and sprinkling in the occasional stop sign or red light.  In relation to this information, it’s not entirely inaccurate for this time of year.  Though, come summer time, I can expect my commute, mid-day (when I’d normally be coming home) to be triple to quadruple that amount of time, just based off of the congestion of traffic alone.  If there’s some asinine parade going on in town or the Fourth of July weekend, I can expect to get home faster if I hoof it.

And out of everyone at my office, I live third closest… we’ve got guys who travel from well over 100 miles away who work here.

January 22, 2010 Posted by | Living in an Insane Asylum, Out and About | , , , | 1 Comment

The Good Out of the Bad

Last night I posted this on my Facebook wall:

“I know I’ll catch shit for this: that earthquake was the best thing that could happen to Haiti.  There, I said it.”

On it’s surface the comment reads somewhat callously.  White guy in New England who’s never experienced an earthquake of any kind, let alone in the middle of a third-world country, making a snide remark about how likely the event IMPROVED the infrastructure of the tiny shared island nation.

However, I assure you, Glen Beck I am not.

No, what I wanted to do was set a trap; a trap I knew that my highly reactionary wife would step right into and spring, which would lead me to writing this article.

Within a few hours of me posting my comment, she fired back with some CNN.com article describing the death and destruction in Port-au-Prince, Haiti’s capitol.  I’m sure she sat there, on our tattered couch, laptop on pillow on lap, in smug satisfaction as she clicked “send” thinking to herself “I’ll show him.”

Ah, huh.

No, obviously even without an Act of God Haiti is a tragedy.  A country run by General Who-Knows as he’s known to the local population, and Who-Cares by anyone living outside of it.  It’s a nation who shares an island with the Dominican Republic, which if you’ve ever had to live next door to Dominicans, you should know how dreadful a situations that is anyway.

The infrastructure of Haiti is piece-meal at best.  Is it any wonder that when an earthquake a whole point higher on the Richter Scale hits San Francisco, everyone in the Bay Area shrugs it off with a chuckle, but when an earthquake of slightly minor proportions hits Haiti, there’s a triple digit deathtoll (now quad-digit as of pub-time -ed)?

That’s because Haiti is literally being held together with corrugated steel, mud and straw bricks and chicken wire.  These poor people live in the minimalist of conditions, and I’m not talking about exposed brick and white space.  They have NOTHING.  They have our thrown away clothing on their backs and wobbly tables with nails sticking out of it to eat off of.  Their literacy rate hovers around the same numbers as my body fat percentage.  Of course we shouldn’t be surprised when there’s a significant loss of life in Haiti as the result of a natural disaster.

Why is this “good for Haiti” then?

Because when was the last time you even THOUGHT of Haiti before this earthquake hit?  As an American, sitting at home on the world wide web that you take for granted, reading blogs about the battle between Conan O’Brien and NBC, until yesterday you didn’t give two shits about Haiti or it’s people.

Don’t worry though, it doesn’t necessarily make you a bad person, but it does tend to put things into perspective.  These people, who would lose their homes even on a gusty day, have real problems.  You know what the biggest problem in my life is right now?  Fucking Comcast.  A cable company who I feel is screwing me over around every corner.  In Haiti, they don’t even have cable!  Over half the population doesn’t even have electricity or running water, for chrissakes!

Now, because of this earthquake, developed nations like the US, Canada, etc are going to be flooding Haiti with supplies like food and fresh water, electrical generators, man power to remove rubble and debris, medics and doctors to treat the sick and wounded.  We have fucking firefighters flying out from California, the closest thing we have to a third-world-like government, to help the Haitians.

So yeah, I’m sorry that it took an act of God to get Americans, let alone the rest of the world, to lift their heads out of their asses long enough to pay attention to a backwards country, but I tend to be an optimist.

January 13, 2010 Posted by | Shameless Self Promotion, World Wide Events | , , , | 2 Comments

FNG

FNG (Military Jargon, noun, pronounced Eff-En-Gee): Inexperienced personnel that requires extensive training and supervision; Fucking New Guy, see also: Rookie.

Where I work there’s a high rate of turn over.  People come and people go like the breeze.  Of course, as a product of this, we’re always getting a new guy who is absolutely clueless as to what’s going on.

I come back from being away for pretty much a month to find in my office this kid.  And by “kid” I mean this guy is 18 years old, fresh out of where ever he came from, complete with teenage acne, patchy facial hair and a lack of eye contact.  His stature is smaller than my 120 lb, 5’4″ wife.  My waist line is probably the same as his chest size (32 inches).  He looks lost and confused, stuck behind my desk like a wadded up bad idea that didn’t make it to the trash can.

Jesus.

“Who are you?”  I ask.  He gives me his name, not with a lot of confidence but not exactly whispering it either.  I ask him what the hell he’s doing in my office and he tells me that he was told to come here so I could help train him, make him the man that I am.  I smile, pull my hoodie off from my head to reveal my vacation Mohawk, drop my bag and walk to down to my little room where I change clothes and use the bathroom.

I find out that one of my superiors has passed the buck to me to train this guy.  He, the superior, sugar coats his reasoning to me as I’m standing in front of him with a frothy toothbrush hanging out of my mouth.

“Jim, you’re the best we got in your department.  I don’t have the time to sit down and show this kid the ropes, it’s up to you.  He’s your pet now.”  I’m told.  I reply back that I already have a 50 lb Labrador that thinks it’s a lapdog, I don’t need another.  As he walks away, my superior curtly tells me to “get it done” and not in the ironic Larry the Cable Guy way either.

So I come back to my office and I’m looking at this kid.  He tells me his name and I tell him mine and we go from there.  He has a lot of questions about me (which I sort’ve fend off), about our work (which I try not to be negative about, but I don’t sugar coat it either) and what’s to be expected of him.  To this I tell him:

“Just show up on time, ready to work.  Have a good attitude even in the shittiest of situations, be prepared to take criticism, and learn from your mistakes.”  All generic advice, but advice I should probably learn to take as well.

I was once the ‘new guy’ too, and probably shared this kid’s ridiculous sense of nervousness.  Two months ago this guy was probably busying himself with Xbox and skateboards or whatever it is kids do now-a-days.  Now he’s showing up to work with his first very own real apartment that he’s just realizing that he has to fully furnish.

True story, when I dropped that bit of knowledge on him, he looked like I just hit him in the chest with a baseball bat.

“You mean they don’t furnish the apartments?”  He asked.

“Well, I mean, some they do, but usually not.  I mean, there’s going to be appliances and shit, but-”

“Like a blender?”

“What?”

“You said appliances…”

“Yeah, like a stove and a fridge…”

“Oh.  So like a couch?”

“No, that’s furniture, that’s not an appliance.”

“Oh.”

Wow.

I’m ten years older than this kid, so I can’t talk to you like I grew up in the ‘old days’ but seriously, I was kinda-sorta on my own by his age, living a few states away and getting by just fine.  I didn’t know how the world worked then, and even now I only have half a clue.  The difference between Me Now and Me Then is that now I know where to look for answers to life’s questions, like ‘when can I contribute to my IRA again for 2010’ and ‘How fucking fast does a cheetah run?”

I go to Google.

This kid hasn’t figured that out yet, and it’s up to me to show him.

It’s an amazing amount of responsibility, and it’s not a task I feel like undertaking with my usual blasé approach .  The last time I took a kid under my wing it resulted in him going overseas to fight pirates in the Gulf of Aden.  Do I want to be responsible for telling this kid’s parents that their son got shanked by some opportunistic jihadist with a hatred of corn-fed Americans and a love of sharp knives?  No.  Absolutely not.

That and I don’t want this kid to pick up my bad habits, which I’m sure he will anyway.  I don’t want him to have my sour attitude or my apparent lack of serious maturity.  As another one of my co-workers put it, when they learned I was going to be sitting on this egg of an FNG until he hatched into a productive member of our team: “He’s going to learn all the bad things you do, but hopefully, he’ll learn all the good things you do around here, too.”

It’s just a process that I’m becoming all too familiar with.  It’s a cycle, because likely, in 6 months, this kid will have moved on to bigger and better things, and I’ll be walking into my office to stare at the next little fucker that’s come down the line.

January 8, 2010 Posted by | Around The Office, Gay Shit I Know Too Much About, Getting Older, Smells Like Children | , | Leave a comment