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Best of The BAD: NYC 101

Another ‘Best of’ this was originally posted this past summer after reading an article in the NYTs about twin blonde-haired sisters trying to “make it” in NYC as college grads.  The article, aside from making me shake with rage, seemed to be sympathetic towards two white chicks living on the UWS, spending their days baking cookies and hanging out in Starbucks waiting for oppertunity to just waltz right in through the front door.

As a former NYer, who literally had to eat cat food off of crackers for sustenance at one point, I thought I’d inject my feelings on the article, which was originally title “Surviving NYC”.  So here it is, rebroadcast for your enjoyment.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m gonna go give my wife the wake up pipe.

Enjoy.

***

It seems that nothing much in the news or in the world has gotten me very fired up lately.  Boston sports is pretty much a numb limb; an arm lifted high for so long that the blood’s drained out of it, and the body proper can no longer tell what the fingers are doing.  Politicians from both sides of the political spectrum have been sniping at each other with the typical deft of an over grown four year old.  A war toils on in a waste land, etc etc etc.

So this morning – Sunday – I was flipping through the Times, when I came across this article.

If you don’t want to wade through three pages of mind numbing and frustrating bullshit, I’ll sum it up for you.  The Barry Twins, Kristie and Katie (aww) have been “struggling” to find long-term work in NYC for the last 18 months, and are starting to get discouraged by their lack of results.

Freshly out of college, the Ohio transplants have degrees in Journalism, which is akin to having a degree in Latin or VCR Repair.  It’s a useless degree in a field that shrinks daily in size like a puddle under the sun.  They aspire to be sports broadcasters, tv talk show hosts, or anything else related in the field.  According to the article they’re “flexible.”

They’ve submitted untold resumes along with freshly baked cookies.  They sit in bars or Starbucks, whining about how ‘tough” getting work in NYC is.

I don’t know where to begin.

I’ve read the article three times now, and each time I get a little more bullshit.  The first time I read through this slapped together feature piece, I thought it was a satire; some fiction to help illustrate the effects of our economy and rising unemployment rates on college kids finally entering the real world.  The Twins share an apartment with their college-attending brother and his artist friend on the Upper West Side to the tune of  nearly 3000 dollars a month.  One of the twins works three nights a week as a bar tender and rakes in 800 bucks.  The other used to bar tend, before getting fired for keeping the music “too loud.”  Now they spend their days browsing job posts on craigslist, sucking down 6 dollar Starbucks coffees, and playing the saxophone on subway platforms not for change, but for business cards.

It’s almost adorable, the naivety.

The second and third times I read through the article, I was just making myself more and more upset and flustered.  I mean, really girls?  You pull in 800 bucks a week, working three nights at a bar, and you’re not even really cute.  You should count your blessings on that alone, where the average 24 year old out-of-towner probably pulls in a fraction of that amount busting his or her ass at three jobs for a total of 60 hours a week.  I should know, because I used to be one of those 24 year olds.

The UWS apartment?  It’s a “cozy, fourth floor walk up.”  I lived in East Bumfuck Queens in a 1000 dollar a month hole in the ground with slits for windows that had a total square footage of a public bathroom, and smelled just as bad.  Starbucks and drinks at the bar?  I ate cat food off of saltines for a period of time, because I had no money.

I actually considered mugging people.

The Twins come up with cutesy ideas to try to get noticed, like sending home-made cookies with resumes, and the aforementioned sax playing for business cards.  Bitches, lesson one about living in NYC:  Cute doesn’t cut it.  NYC is the majors, it’s serious chemistry with all the charm of a dead hooker.  People literally live and die by the decisions they make in that terrible gray piss-soaked metropolis, and you’re sending cookies to HR reps?

Here’s how that’s likely going over:

HR Rep:  Hey, what the fuck are these?  (smells) Cookies?  And what’s this they’re stuck to, a resume?  Huh, not much on here to work with.  Well, I guess I’ll stick these in the break room, maybe someone will eat them.

Girls, don’t whine that in 18 months you’re not getting any bites on that ‘dream job.’  ESPN is not going to come knocking down your door because you’re the next best thing since white bread.  You have to work and earn your place in the pecking order of NYC, you are owed literally nothing.  Yes, you have friends, according to the article, that hook you up in various ways, so utilize that.  It’s called “networking.”  You meet people who know people and you keep adding them to that list.  You don’t sit on your ass all day baking treats and scanning job listings online.  You beat the pavement, you wear second hand clothes and you sure as hell don’t live ON THE UPPER WEST SIDE!

I’m almost willing to bet that they won’t even look for work outside of Manhattan.  I bet they’ve never been to Queens.  They went to Brooklyn to check out a trendy hipster bar, once.  And they probably took a cab.

The comment thread has been 50/50 where people are either supportive of the girls, or bleakly realistic.  A lot of would-be NYers, (like myself) have weighed in with their own experiences, detailing how the city eats people alive.

Again, I did three years, one of which I was pretty much on my own.  I started off by staying at a dorm while I was taking classes near Fordham, then moved into a two bedroom apartment in Brooklyn with two other guys I knew from school.  I basically turned the living room into my own room, which sucked because every morning I had to turn it back into a living room again.  When that situation fizzed out about two years later, I got the aforementioned apartment in Queens while picking up work at a generic office building.  I had my own little broom closet sized office and I wore a suit every day to the tune of 11 bucks an hour with no health insurance.

But it all came to an end and I realized I couldn’t do ‘this’ anymore so I packed my shit and went back home.  And here we are today.

I admire these girls for having the balls to at least try, and I don’t necessarily blame them for being so utterly naive.  There’s no class in college that breaks it down for soon-to-be-grads.  No one to stand there and be like “oh hey, by the way, this degree isn’t going to mean jack shit in the real world.  You’re going to be bussing tables til you’re about 29, so try to keep your head up.”

NYC is for self starters and these girls certainly have the potential, however they need to head in the right direction and pay their dues.  There’s doctors and lawyers who have been living in NYC for the better part of twenty years who don’t have an UWS apartment.

My advice to The Twins:  Dye your hair brown, cut out the cutesy self entitled bullshit, stop going to Starbucks (coffee at the diner down the block is like 65 cents, there’s little to no waiting, and you won’t be surrounded by smug assholes.  This is where the real NYC winners tend to gravitate towards.  Starbucks is for tourists and college kids), and start getting guys to buy your drinks for you at bars.  You’re both female; there’s no reason why any woman in New York City should be buying their own drinks, unless she’s an ultra feminist lesbian.

Move to Brooklyn, there’s plenty of nice places for half of what you’re paying in rent, close enough to the city that you’ll be actually forced to take a bus some places.  And for the love of Christ, stop sending out cookies with resumes.

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February 14, 2010 Posted by | Corporate America Hates You, Gay Shit I Know Too Much About, People I Hate, Shameless Self Promotion | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Best of The BAD: Bullet Shortage

I’m transitioning into a new gig at my job and because of this things have been and will continue to be pretty hectic for me.  So, as a service to you, the readers, I’ve pulled some of what I consider to be my best article from the past year, and I’m re-running them for a little while.

I will be running new content once a week over at IRdC, as soon as my editors send me some topics.

But yeah, in the meantime, enjoy these re-runs.  This 3000 word article ran back last summer;  it was a report on not only a nation-wide ammunition shortage, but the intricacies of a local gun show.  NPR, eat your heart out.

I hope you enjoy it.

***

I think it would be easier to find a red headed virgin in Rosalita, Mexico who wasn’t suffering from Swine Flu before I’ll ever find 9mm bullets in Southern Maine.

At least, this is what I was lead to believe last Sunday morning while traveling over fifty miles on a motorcycle when temperatures hit 83 degrees before I even left the house.

I made the tactical error of putting on a shit-ton of personal protective equipment – more than necessary, which includes UnderArmor, thick gloves, Kevlar jacket liner, etc – before ever walking out the door of my mother’s house.  By the time I got to my bike, one street over at my father’s house, I was pretty much covered in a thin sheen of sweat.

My objective was simple, though pulling it off would be a beast of a completely different temperament:  I had to find bullets for the new Glock pistol I bought the day before at the local Biddeford Gun Show, a gun show that was once the flagship gun collector’s exhibition in Southern Maine, but since the winding down of the Bush Administration, has somewhat become a shell of it’s former glory.  Gone now are the giant booths with tactical webbing-based vests and shoulder harnesses.  Displays of military-grade firepower that only Level Three Licensees can legal own, gone as well.  Even the old guy with the snow-white beard to his belt buckle, pushing a hand truck with an old Browning air-cooled .30 cal mounted machine gun was absent from the proceedings.  No, all that seemed to remain were a few logie-looking booths and venders with various instruments of death and destruction, marked up by at least 15% to as high as 50% depending on whom you were dealing with, and how exotic the piece was.

But what had returned were the crowds.  In recent years the Biddeford Gun Show’s attendance has somewhat fallen off, which in turn, diminished the level of prestige of the participating venders.  The surge in populace this year seems to stem from the current Democratic Presidential Administration, and the fears that a black Democratic President will “any day now” pass legislation abolishing the Second Amendment and send federal law enforcement officers into the homes of every Red Blooded American who owns firearms to forcibly strip the weapons from their owners, and possibly march them to a cattle car to be shipped into the wilderness in the dead of night.

This and other mythoi were being exchanged amongst the crowd of surly late-middle-aged panic-mongers in attendance at the gun show.  As I weaved through the crowd examining table after table of weaponry I overheard a number of what some could consider outlandish accusations, rumors and innuendo from those who paid seven dollars to get their hand stamped at the door.

“Any day now, Obama’s going to raid our homes and take our guns away,” grumbled one gun owner in farm-chic clothing.  Another:  “We’re only as safe as we make ourselves, no one’s going to take that away from me!”

The crowd of about one thousand constantly seemed to be teetering on the edge of full blown riot, with tensions flowing with every disgruntled half-truth that was being uttered as (mostly) men fingered cheap Spanish-imports of cloned 1911-A1 .45 ACPs and grease-packed AK47s.  Overall the mood was dark, and if you tried to inject another point of view, shed of optimism if you will, you were seen at best as a simpleton, and at worst, a spy.

I found this out when I stupidly tried to bring to the attention of one show goer who I was 90% convinced was a member of either the Klu Klux Klan or the Hell’s Angels that Mr. Obama has a little too much on his plate to deal with the issue of Second Amendment Rights at the moment, especially concerning the economy, filling out the rest of his cabinet, partisan politics, and that whole “Middle East Thing.”  I tried to assure the barbarian that if the issue was ever going to be approached, that number one, it wouldn’t be at least until the far side of two years from now, and number two, there’s far too much support against anti-firearms legislation in the country to make a significant impact on the individual gun owner.  Similar to anti-abortion, -gay rights, and -marijuana legislation, the laws enacted would be far too controversial, and no elected official would dare disenfranchise at least half of his electoral base.

“What are you?  One of those statistic-spewing faggots?”  Said the Klansman-Biker, who then worked up enough phlegm in his throat to convince me he was going to hock it into my face if I didn’t get enough room between me and him very quickly.

For the rest of the gun show I kept a very low profile.

Purchasing a firearm is still incredibly easy, despite what gun-owners in attendance would like the layperson to think.  Aside from the fact I was standing in the middle of a 100,000 square-foot converted ice arena, surrounded by tables and tables of guns with only one police officer standing duty by the front door, procuring a pistol, rifle, shotgun, authentic Nazi memorabilia from World War 2, or whatever you fancy is a matter of spending a few moments filling out a simple page of generic government paperwork (“no, I’m not a convicted felon,” and “no, I’m not addicted to any controlled substance, including marijuana” are actual questions with YES/NO boxes next to them.), submitting to a Federal Background Check through the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, and handing over a credit card to the federally licensed gun dealer to whom you’re giving your business to.

After haggling over the price of my Sig Sauer P230 .380 that I wanted to trade up to a Glock 19 9mm, as well as buying a new Remington 870 12 gauge shotgun (my father is moving to a trailer park in Florida later this summer, and asked if he could have my old Mossberg 500 for home defense), I tried to get the dealer to give me a “sweetheart deal” on an DPMS/Panther AR15 that he had listed for 1100 dollars.  I explained to him that being that the DPMS was a “flat top” receiver with no sights, I would have to go out and buy a sighting system at a cost of about 200-300 dollars.  I also brought up the point that I was already buying two guns off of him and if he wanted to move the products, he should cut me a deal.

He gave it some thought and came back with an offer of 950, a considerable mark down, but I figured he could do better.  On average, an AR15, which three years ago would have retailed for about 600 bucks, were going for between 975-1300 dollars at this gun show.  Getting him even below those numbers was a good deal, but I figured I had this guy on the ropes and he could go lower.

And I was right because he came down as low as 850 after a few more minutes of my complaining.  I then told him I didn’t want it and that I’d take just the pistol and shotgun, which seemed to piss him off a little (there were probably a dozen other customers standing right next to me who heard his generous offer of 850, who no doubt would sweep in on that deal after I walked away).  I realized that I had no real practical use for a high powered rifle in a dilapidated apartment complex, and that the likelihood of me shooting through our walls and into the apartment of one of the neighbors, although enticing, could cause greater legal ramifications for me down the line.

So I sat down in a metal folding chair and filled out the proper paper work.  And even though I accidentally omitted my social security number on the federal gun buyers form (I honestly usually put it down, as I’m inclined to believe that by not, if gives the BATF an excuse to deny my background request, even though it’s marked in bold letters that providing that information is completely OPTIONIONAL), less than five minutes after I put ass to chair, I was handing my credit card over to the dealer, and walking away with two highly lethal weapons that I could virtually do anything I wanted.

I just had to load them first.

I walked around the floor of the gun show a little longer and came to a booth that was selling re-loaded-at-home rounds and hefted a box of 9mms.  When the booth’s vendor told me that the box of 50-count bullets was going to cost me 25 dollars (usually a box – or “square” as it’s called in certain gun-circles – of 9mms goes for about 15-20 bucks, reloads less, obviously) I dropped the box along with my jaw and walked away.  The vender called after me, telling me that he had already sold two cases (roughly twenty boxes per case, and the case I plucked that one box out of was about down to three squares left) and would probably be sold out by tomorrow.

What he didn’t tell me was that there’s virtually no ammunition in Southern Maine at all.

Due to the fear and panic in Southern Maine, which is more “red state” than the rest of the traditionally “blue Maine” people have been buying and stockpiling ammunition in bulk at alarming and albeit, unsettling rates.  I had no clue that the case was so severe until later that afternoon, after leaving the gun show with two firearms and no ammo (making them two of the most expensive paper weights I’ve ever purchased) I headed over to the local Wal Mart, where previously I’ve bought ammo on the cheap, which is exactly what I told the ammo vender at the gun show.

Blinded by ignorance, I walked into the Wal Mart and headed back towards the Sporting Goods section.  The inside of the Wal Mart looked third-world: gutted, stripped of any semblance of that cheery yellow-smiley face conglomerate that once dominated Biddeford Crossing for the last fifteen or so years.  No, the monolith with her ever expanding parking lot seemed frail and decayed, shelving bare, what I imagine a Wal Mart in some remote part of Serbia would look like on a good day.

When I got to the Sporting Goods section I ran into another red-stater, dressed in a typical aggressively patriotic t shirt featuring wording about “colors” and “running” and a picture of a soaring eagle or something to that effect, buying a hunting license of some sort.

I don’t hunt, so I have no idea what game season is in vogue right now, but being that summer’s coming up, and Maine tends to get overpopulated with tourists during this time, something about a bald, big-eared, mouth breathing caveman buying a hunting license didn’t sit well with me.

As the clerk behind the counter diddled the register to print out the hunting license I wandered around the section looking for the display of bullets.  When I found the display, a large locked glass case, I stopped suddenly with confusion.  I turned to see if anyone was watching me, any employee that could help me, but I was alone.  So I went back to the clerk at the register and inquired with him as he finished up the total on the red-stater’s order.

“Excuse me, but are you guys like,” and I trailed off for a second.  The Budweiser-swilling tradesman was barking at his collection of children, aged 6-11, about five or six of them, and his gutturally sharp chunks of words took me off balance for a second.

“That’s strike one!” he snapped at one of his brood, who were horsing around by the register.  “One more strike and you’re not getting ice cream!”

I wanted to clear my throat and correct him, in front of his children, that you technically get three strikes, (based off of baseball or Family Feud rules) but I kept my mouth shut and went back to the clerk.

“Are you guys, like, renovating or something?  Because your ammo case back there is empty and I…” and the clerk cut me off.

“We can’t keep that shit in stock for more than a day.  We put out orders for handgun ammo, rifle ammo, you name it, at least once a week, and by the time it comes in, we have so much of the stuff on back order, that it’s all sold by the time the truck pulls up.”  Jesus, I thought, they’re hording all the goddamn bullets!

The red-stater decided to inject his opinion on the matter as well:

“It’s a real pain in the balls,” he started, his voice phlegmy and choked, as if he was speaking from underneath a boot across his windpipe.  “I’ve been buying online, you can’t get bullets anywhere, not the Wal Mart in Scarborough, the Cabelas, LL Beans, Dicks,” he went on.

I was shell shocked, in utter disbelief.  There had to be someplace I could readily buy bullets today, right now.  What if there was an emergency, and I needed to shoot someone TONIGHT!  Nothing is worse than an unloaded gun sitting by itself at home when you go out to a family restaurant with your wife and mother and spend the entire night alternating your field of view between the Red Sox/Yankees game on the tv over your head and the front door of the establishment, waiting for some barbarian to come barreling in to kill everyone on Margarita Two-fer Night.

The next morning I got up early-ish and took off on my motorcycle, with messenger bag slung around my shoulders, to try every conceivable store that would be selling ammunition.

The thought had occurred to me that I could just go back to the gun show and try my luck there.  I just didn’t want to pay out the nose for cheaply “remanufactured” bullets, given the price of admission is seven dollars, and the mark up on the ammo is about 100%.

So all morning I rode up and down US Rt 1, looking for a place that sold bullets.  I first pulled into the local Cabela’s monstrosity and found that they wouldn’t open until 10 am, which by then would be too late for me, as my mother committed me to helping my tacky aunt and uncle move “unwanted” furniture from my father’s place to their place.  So up the road I traveled still, finding myself at the Scarborough Wal Mart.

Mind you, I’m on a motorcycle, dressed in a black Kevlar jacket, black “murder” bandana around my neck, black messenger bag, black boots, black Oakley Flak Jacket HJXs, and my throat is all weird from the ride.  I stride into the Wal Mart and try to find the Sporting Goods section, but if you’ve ever been into a different Wal Mart than what you’re used to, you know that their store is SLIGHTLY laid out differently.

So after walking around a bit, I find the section and come across similar results.  I’m pretty dejected, but on my way out I find a stock girl- young, petite, blonde – with a clipboard, doing some sort of inventory.  I walk up to her and get her attention.  Immediately she’s intimidated by me; it’s all but written on her face in magic marker, so I lift my shades to my forehead so she can see I’m no threat.

“Hey, you got any ammunition out back?”  I ask.  Unbeknownst to me ahead of time, my voice comes out as if I’m Dirty Harry and I just found out my dog has rabies.  Her eyes develop a sheen of wetness and her lip trembles.  Her voice small, tinny:

“No, we’re all out,” I figured for this based on the evidence and snarl a little to myself.

“Mm, what about the Dick’s up the road?  Know anything about them?”  I unintentionally growl.

“No…” it’s like a stalking lion talking to a church mouse.

“Don’t worry,” I try to ease her obvious fear of this big biker looming over her, asking about affordable munitions.  “I’m not mad, I’m not going to kill anyone,” she lets a nervous smile slip out.  “…because I don’t have any bullets.”  Her smile fades quickly and I leave the store, watching my back on the road for the next few miles for police cars looking for a homicide-crazed lunatic on a motorbike.

I have similar results at the next few places I try, either they’re sold out or not open this early on a Sunday, and after running out of time, I head back to my mother’s house to help move furniture, which is like eating a big plate of glass shards for breakfast.

Later in the day I called what was going to be my “last resort” before being forced to pay for rounds at the gun show.  I used to work for the Kittery Trading Post, an Outdoor Outfitter in Southern Maine that I’m somewhat persona-non-grata with due to an incident in their parking lot that involved myself, a stalker, and the Kittery Police Department over two years ago.  They have a huge firearms selection, dedicating their entire second floor to just guns.  If they didn’t have ammunition I could buy, no one in Southern Maine would.

I called and after being batted around from associate to associate for ten minutes, I finally got a hold of someone on the gun floor.

“Hey, I’m trying to find 9mms, you guys got any in stock?”

“No, all we got on hand right now are .41 magnums and .22s, we can’t keep anything in stock for more than a day,” the associate said into the phone.  “Once word gets out, we get nailed.  We had a shipment of ammo on Friday and we were just about sold out last night.  You’re best bet is online,”

In the end, I went back to the gun show and bought an overpriced box of 9mms, but only because I didn’t want to travel without a loaded gun.  And to add another element of horror to my story, I thought the ammo-epidemic was contained in Maine and other-like minded ignorant locales.  No.  It’s not.

When I we finally got back to The Hook, I logged on to a few different sites that specialize in “hunting accessories” to see if I could purchase ammunition in bulk, only falling into my fellow statesmen’s hysteria half way, more concerned that the ammo crunch will continue to make getting rounds in the future difficult.  Three of the four sites I visited had handgun ammo on backorder, and another had some available, but it wasn’t anything special, just Full Metal Jacketed bullets at 115 grain.

So in the end, what does this mean?  It means I’m going to call Charles Schwab later today and buy stock in Winchester, American Federal, and UCM.

February 11, 2010 Posted by | Around The Office, Living in an Insane Asylum, Those Crazy Politicians, World Wide Events | , , | Leave a comment

Burning Down the House

We have a fireplace.

It’s the first place I’ve ever lived in with a fireplace as an adult.  When I was a kid, living in New Hampshire, we had this enormous fireplace where my father threatened to toss my toys into if I didn’t pick up after myself.  I remember many winter nights with a roaring fire, mom and dad on the couch with a drink each, and me on the rug in front of the fire with my plastic green army men that my father would in turn step on the next morning, cursing and pitching each one into the fireplace to meet a melty-end.

Now that I’m an adult, I’ve craved a fireplace.  There’s something awesome about a giant flame in your living room that you can watch.  Put on any tv show, any at all, and it won’t compare to a good, well-built fire in your fireplace.  Hell, I can’t even put the tv on and have a fire at the same time.  I think it’s disrespectful to the fire gods.

So last night I had a fire going.  Ang suggested it actually, because it’s been bitterly cold around here lately.  I had some wood and some materials to burn, so fuck it, let’s have a fire.

Ang was in the kitchen making a stew and I started to load up the fireplace.  If you’ve never built a fire in a fireplace, let me break it down for you:  You need to start a base of crumpled newspapers.  Take one sheet of old newspaper and crumple into into a loose ball.  You can’t crumple it into a tight ball because oxygen won’t get inside the material and allow it to burn fully.  Instead you’ll just get little burning balls of material that won’t spread the fire.

So after you’ve crumpled up a dozen or so balls of newspaper you then set up your wood base.  Small pieces of scrap wood work best, because they’ll catch easier than say a whole log.  A log requires a lot of heat to burn through, otherwise the fire will patter out long before the log is fully engulfed and have a chance to provide you with a lasting fire.  Scrap wood will burn quick and through, generating that log heat.

After you get a good small fire going, with lots of red and orange flames, add one log at a time.  A log should be about 12 to 16 inches in length, maybe 4 to 6 inches in diameter.  Wait til the first log catches and add another.  With two logs burning, you should have enough flame to last you about an hour.  Add logs as appropriate, never letting the fire burn down to just embers.

Oh, and an important tip: make sure your flume is open BEFORE you do any of this.

But it wasn’t the flume I forgot to open last night as I started my fire.  It was the materials I was burning.

It’s somewhat bad practice to burn anything other than wood and paper in the fireplace, however I’ve burnt boxes from Xmas and last night a shoe box that was taking up room in my closet.  I had built up my fire with too much material to begin with, starting with that newspaper base and then some chunked up portions of plywood that we had once used to stiffen up our bed when we couldn’t fit the boxspring in our old apartment.  I had used three sections of this chopped up plywood to make a small A-frame in the fireplace, with the paper underneath everything and the shoebox under the two pieces making the “roof” of the A-frame.

Obviously everything caught, and burnt fast.  Before I knew it, flames were licking out of the metal screen and onto the hearth.  Thankfully we don’t have a mantle.

Ang, becoming concerned with the amount of smoke and brightness of the fire took one look at the fireplace and immediately bailed out of the house.  The smoke detector started to go off which led the dog to freak out.  Meanwhile, I started to fill up the smallest fucking measuring cup we own with water to help knock down the flames.

After about five attempts with the measuring cup and a scorched finger later, the materials in the fireplace were soaking in about an inch of water, crackling, pitching embers out of the flume.  I waved the smoke away from the smoke detector and Ang came back in.

If I could see through the smoke, I’m sure I would’ve seen Ang giving me that look that every wife spends hours a day perfecting; that “you know you fucked up, right?” look.

I cleared my throat, eyes burning a bit, finger tip throbbing.  “Uh, I’m gonna go do those dishes…”

February 6, 2010 Posted by | Blogging Couple, Gay Shit I Know Too Much About, Getting Older, The Great Indoors | , , | 1 Comment

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.

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

TidBits: New Year’s Edition

Comcast, again:

Honestly, their website sucks.  I’m actually finding this more often than not:  Companies will hand the reigns over to some third-party website people who take all the stress of maintaining a reliable website off the hands of the company, and in turn, make things absolutely hellish on customers.

To wit:  I’m trying to pay all my bills (online of course, …I haven’t bought a book of stamps since like, 1996) and when I get to Comcast’s site from clicking the link in the email, it brings me to the log-on screen I’m familiar with.  I pump in my info, and then I’m brought to another log-on on screen.

This log-on screen tells me that I’m logging into ‘My Sign-In’ which will keep me logged into “all of Comcasts other great sites!”, what these are I have no clue, but apparently my log-in information is still the same, so I pump it in AGAIN, and am brought to a screen that tells me “account cannot be access because user has failed to make account secure.”

Ooohkay…. what?

I’ve been an unfortunate subscriber to Comcast for over two years now, and I think they’re giving me a heart attack on purpose.  It seems that any time I alter my service just a little bit, all sorts of wild shit gets fucked up days or even weeks later.  You’d think a company as big as Comcast (they just BOUGHT NBC from General Electric for chrissakes,) would have their shit together enough so where a customer like myself logs in, all their information would be right there in front of them, and not be led about the nose through a maze of log-in screens only to find out that for some reason they don’t have your account information.

Nothing is more frustrating than trying to GIVE money to some one or service, and not be able to do so.  I wish I could just not pay it, and be like “fuck you and your website,” but then they’d just shut our shit down.

By the way, from all the button clicking and navigating around that site, there appears to be no way to confirm or “secure” the account, resulting in my having to call them eventually later today.  Great, now I get to spend half an hour later today dealing with some prick on the phone just to give them 150 bucks.

I still don’t understand why I don’t just cancel my account and live without all this bullshit.

Other Movie-Goers:

Last night, in celebration of our one year anniversary, Ang and I went out to the local theatre to see “Sherlock Holmes.”  We never go to the movies, which was puzzling to me until last night.

I forgot about how when you go out to the movies, usually there’s going to be other people there, and these people are usually not very considerate of other movie goers.

I’m one of those types of people who like to get to the theatre a little early, get soda and popcorn, get good seats, and have the conversation while the stupid movie trivia is playing on the screen.  If you haven’t figured out by now from reading all my blogs, I’m sort’ve anal-retentive about shit.  I like to be comfortable long before the movie or even the previews start.

So imagine the bullshit rage I flip into when people show up late, stumbling through the dark after the house lights have dropped and there’s shit on the screen.  Imagine me going for my pistol when those asshole make a a bee-line for the seats directly behind us, and then engage in some stupid conversation.

It started off brilliantly: we arrived ten minutes early, got our snacks out, settled in.  There were only two or three other couples and everyone was spread out.  We had seats on the left hand side, back-middle, where we’d be able to take in the whole screen without being overwhelmed.

Then this family of five came in, two adults three children, all of them yapping.  Nothing had started yet, so it wasn’t a big deal, but they sat directly across the aisle from us.  Aggravation level is at about a 3.

The lights drop, more people shuffle in under the wire, aggravation level rising to 5, like, come on people, get it together.

Then, at the start of the “Iron Man 2” trailer, these three girls show up, late teens, early 20s, and sit DIRECTLY BEHIND US, put their feet up, and start fucking talking about whatever conversation they had started in the parking lot outside.  Aggravation level now around an 8.

We get up and move, making a big deal about it.  I’m wearing a mohawk and skinny jeans, and want to say some shit to these people like a skanky punk would, but I don’t, I just show them my ass as we shuffle out of the seats.  We take seats further down and on the right hand side of the aisle, slightly too close to the screen, so I’m craning my neck up, being bombarded by all the wild shit going on on the screen.  Aggravation level at critical.

In my heart of hearts I wish I had a plank of wood with nails in the end of it to brandish at idiots.  Maybe a cricket bat or something.

December 31, 2009 Posted by | Corporate America Hates You, Living in an Insane Asylum, Out and About, People I Hate, Smells Like Children, Why Am I Watching This? | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

TidBits: Snowed In Edition

On Friend Requests:

I have this guy I used to be best friends with growing up.  In high school we sadly parted ways.  He went with one crowd and I another – that shit is real elementary, it happens to everyone.

I literally hadn’t heard jackshit from this kid in close to almost ten years, and suddenly, as soon as I turned my Facebook account back on, I get a friend request from him.

I know what you’re thinking, or perhaps even saying to yourself:  “Who cares?”  I care.  That shit fucked me up a few different ways because one, I like to keep my “friends” on Facebook to a minimum; it keeps the News Feed clear of unneccesary crap as well as limits the amount of information about me that gets out there.  The other reason why the friend request was bothersome was because it was nothing more than just the request.  No attached note or message saying “hey what’s up, I’d love to reconnect, we had good times” or anything.  Nothing asking me about what I’m doing now-a-days, just a blank “add me” button to stare at.

I was friends with this guy for like… five or six years.  And by “friends” I mean basically sleeping over at each other’s houses every other night.  We were inseparable, we did everything and went everywhere together.  When he slipped on a patch of ice and broke his ankle as a kid, it was I who ran and got help.  And he couldn’t take two seconds to pound out one sentence to go with his request?

Maybe it’s just me.  Maybe I have a high expectation for people, or maybe I’m just a prick, but either way he should’ve/could’ve asked how I was doing in the very least.  No, what he was doing was just trying to inflate his Facebook “Friends” numbers and turn around and shit all over my News Feed.  And I ain’t havin’ that.

So I took the intiative and sent him a message telling him how I felt (by now I had received two of the same request, I had ignored the first one a few days ago) about his seemingly ambivalent approach towards me.  I was a real ball breaker, with the hopes that he won’t bother sending me another request.

Does it make me an asshole, yes.  But at the same time it saves me from two days of awkward conversations that peter out into me inevitably deleting him.  I’m just trying to save myself time and aggravation.

On Televised Violence:

I’ve been keeping half an eye turned towards Mtv’s Jersey Shore (read my review at the IRdC here), and was recently informed by my wife that a female character nicknamed (presumably by her pimp) ‘Snookie’ was physically assaulted at a bar after running her mouth – and it was caught on tape.

Of course I had to watch the footage.

If you haven’t seen the web-only footage (Mtv won’t air it, more on that in a sec), basically the diminutive skank with a love of trucker hats is standing on a bar stool and calling out some asshole who keeps stealing her and her friend’s pre-paid shots of booze.  She goes on a five minute long, insult-laden tirade on this guy, putting her hands in his face and coming within inches of assaulting him first.  The guy has enough and cracks her in the face with a straight punch.  He then (kinda) hustles out of the bar while a small army of guidos (kinda) chase him outside, where he’s met by the local constabulary.

Do I condone what happened to Snookie?  No.  Do I think she kinda asked for it?  …Maybe.

Either way, Mtv had decided that on it’s televised episode, they wouldn’t show the actual punch.  Instead, they black out the screen but give you the audio.  The audio consists of shit-talking abruptly silenced by the sound of a handclap, followed by a chorus of “ooooh”s, followed by a bunch of bleeped out cursing.  The shot comes back in with the assailant in retreat and Snookie on her side, crumpled up like a bumper after a head-on collision.

My beef is this:  Mtv won’t show a random stranger, who happens to be a dude, striking a female he didn’t know, in a public place that served alcohol.  They will however, show a promo for their other ultra-trashy reality television program “Teen Mom” where one of the teen mothers backs her baby’s daddy into a corner and slaps the shit out of him in anger.

And I’m not talking about like, one slap here.  I’m talking about taking this dude (who’s admittedly bigger than her) by the throat, slamming him into a corner, striking his chest multiple times, and then cracking him across his jowls.  Mtv has no problem airing this, let alone using it in the commercial for the next episode.

It’s a double standard.

I think it’s far worse to show domestic violence than just regular, standard violence.  I think it’s also a bad idea to show violence of any kind that’s centered around rearing a child, on a show that’s decidedly marketed towards teenage women, oppose to “Jersey Shore”‘s demographic which is conceivably slightly older in age.

Hey Mtv:  Just because it’s chick-on-dude violence doesn’t mean it’s ok to show it.  Just because the guy’s bigger than the girl doesn’t make it ok either.  That young woman on the show (Amber is her name, I watched a few eps this morning…) is psychologically unbalanced and dangerous.  You have untold amounts of footage of her crying in her car, on the phone, and in public places.  What makes you think it’s ok to air footage of her acting out in violence towards the father of her child?

It’s bad enough that there’s a stigma out there that men can’t be abused by their partners, but please don’t add to it and make it seem like it’s “normal” because it’s not.  Hundreds, maybe thousands of men take physical abuse from their spouses or girl/boyfriends in silence, because they’re afraid no one will understand them.  It’s a real problem.

So next time, how about you run that same stupid PSA text from that episode of “Jersey Shore” over the next episode of “Teen Mom” ?  It’d make up for running those Kid Rock videos back in 2002.

On The Holidays:

I wish Xmas was over with already.  I have all the gifts wrapped, trees up, lights are plugged in and I’m broke.  I’m really broke.

After paying all the bills and getting the last minute items shipped out, my bank account is tapped and it’s still like, ten days before my next paycheck.  I’m thankful that I’m on vacation for the next few weeks, because I’m not even certain that I’d be able to afford to put gas in my truck right now to make the commute.

I’m exaggerating obviously, but money’s tight, and that’s no joke.  The Holidays are rough on people for different reasons; maybe you’re broke, so broke you can’t afford gifts for Xmas, maybe you’re away from family, maybe you’ve lost people this time of year?  For all the joy the tv says that this time of year is supposed to bring, there’s a lot of long faces in the crowd.

It seems too, that The Holidays get longer and longer every year.  And I’m not talking like, they start decorating the stores earlier, I’m talking about how I seem to be ready for them earlier and earlier each year.  This lends itself to me sitting in front of the tv, watching the days tick by.  When I was a kid, this would be because I couldn’t wait for Xmas to get there, because the tree would be surrounded in a wall of wrapped boxes.  As I’m an adult, it’s because I’m just ready for all this shit to be over with – I’m waiting for the day AFTER Xmas, where I can wipe my brow, look at my bank account and sigh in a little relief.

Thank god Google’s been kicking ass in the stock market, that’s all I’m gonna say.

December 20, 2009 Posted by | Corporate America Hates You, Getting Older, Smells Like Children, The Great Indoors, Why Am I Watching This? | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Fat Lil’ Fucker

Lately, I can’t really comment on health and fitness.  The holidays are rough even on the most ultra-religious Nazi fitness fanatic.  Every where you turn there’s home-baked this, chocolate-dipped that.  Hell, just the other night, Ang and I made like 50 M&M cookies to bring into my work (full disclosure, I didn’t know I was supposed to leave some behind, naturally, I got an earful of this all week).

So I haven’t exactly been on my game.  As I was wrapping up work this past week in anticipation of my holiday vacation, I wasn’t really able to get over to the gym as much, if at all.  I feel lethargic and weak.

To help combat this, however, Ang and I have been doing hikes out in Nickerson State Park, with loaded packs on our backs.  These aren’t grueling hikes up the sides of mountains by any means, but at least it’s SOMETHING.

***

So last night I was in the local Shaw’s, getting some quick stuff for a carb-y meal of chicken parm; chicken breasts, angel hair pasta, sauce, the whole bit.  I get to the check out and I’m standing behind this guy and his 12 year old kid.  At first glance this kid looks hypoglycemic, badly stretched skin, yellow in color, eyes are simply dark colored dots poked into the middle of his face.  There’s one of those little dividers between his dad’s groceries and what appears to be the kid’s own purchase:  a small mountain of candy.

I’m not talking about a couple snickers bars and a thing of M&Ms, I’m talking about the hardcore candy, that stuff in the red packaging that’s glistening in sugar: gummy worms, sour patch kids, swedish fish, etc.  The stuff goes for a dollar a pack I believe, and in the end, this kid was buying over 15 dollars worth of the stuff.

In the mix as well, a few packs of gum, you know, because he needs something to do with his mouth between stuffing handfuls of confectionary into it.

I looked at the dad, who was non-pulsed by the scenario.  And that scenario was this:  The kid probably managed to roll off of his fat ass long enough to clean his room, and daddy threw him a Jackson as a reward with the promise that he could spend it on whatever he wanted.  Obviously dad must’ve seen the inevitable purchase of weapons-grade candy, because he was cool as shit about the purchase.

Literally, as soon as he finished paying for a bunch of small groceries (which I would’ve loved to have seen) his kid stepped up and paid for the candy with his own wad of greasy ones.  I must’ve had a horrified look on my face because the cashier glanced at me, then the dad before taking the kid’s money.

I felt like I had to be a responsible adult.  I felt like I had to say something to this father, that he was allowing his kid to kill himself.  To me, this was no worse than allowing your kid to buy a 30 rack of Ice House and pound the whole case down before heading out to school.

How was the father allowing the kid to get this out of control? Where was the authority?  I mean, easily, had it been my little butterball and he started grabbing up bags of candy with his little Vienna Sausage fingers I would’ve slapped that shit out of his hands real quick.

“No!” I would’ve yelled.  “No fucking way, no, if that’s how you’re going to blow your wad, then obviously you don’t deserve this money,” and yoink, there goes his allowance.

The whole scenario was so outrageously irresponsible.  Giving a kid money, allowing him to make a poor purchasing decision with no immediate repercussions, as well as allowing the kid to consume easily 200 times his daily allotment of sugars in one sitting reminded me of how, as a nation don’t deserve a public health option.

How hard would it to have been to be the dad and be like “no, you’re not buying that” or even “ok, you can buy candy, but how about you pick one of those bags and put the rest back.”?

No, instead dad is setting his kid up for failure.  At this rate he’ll be a diabetic by 22, his teeth will have rotted out by 28, he’ll have complications from all his medical issues by 35, and likely be in the grave by 60.  And by the looks of things, this isn’t just a snapshot judgement; the kid probably weighed around 140 and couldn’t have even been in his teens yet.

***

Did I end up saying anything?  No.  I knew that it would just create trouble, an awkwardness in the Shaw’s that would likely get me banned for life.  I kept looking at the dad, the cashier, the kid and then down at my own food in utter disbelief.  At one point my mouth opened to be like “hey…” but I knew I’d be swinging at a bad pitch, so I just clamped it and watched father and son waddle off like two human peanut M&Ms.

As my wife said after I told her the whole story when I got home “James, there’s nothing you can do – you probably would’ve gotten punched out by the dad.  Think of it like this:  That kid will be dead in a few decades, and there will be more air for us to breathe.”

December 17, 2009 Posted by | Gay Shit I Know Too Much About, Getting Older, Out and About, People I Hate, Smells Like Children | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Fuck Comcast 2

After spending literally an entire afternoon on the phone between Comcast and their third party contracted E911 people, I finally got our landline set up.

To put it another way, I spent roughly 6 hours attempting to outfit our new apartment with a technology that’s been around since 1880-something, can be replicated with two soup cans and a string, all to save myself 30 dollars.

Yeah, I’d have killed myself too.

The drama starts here:  I fucking hate Comcast.  If you’re fortunate enough to live in an area where you have another cable/internet/phone provider, good for you- you don’t know the levels of aggravation myself and nearly 5 million other Comcast subscribers are subjected to nearly every day.

By talking to my neighbors and co-workers, all of which HAVE to be Comcast subscribers (we do have the option for DirectTv and Fios – Verizon’s DSL service, but Comcast is the only service available on Cape Cod that provides high-speed internet access through coaxial cable) our experiences are shared; frustratingly confusing and hard to navigate automated menus when calling into customer support, inattentive customer support reps with a habit of buck-passing the customer once they realize there’s it’s not their department’s problem, tech service that usually leaves things more messed up than before they showed up, etc.

“It’s like dealing with a company manned by 14 year olds,” spoke a co-worker who also has felt the strain of having to deal with Comcast.  “I’ve had them for five years, and no matter what, they’ll fuck something up as soon as I call them,” he explained.

All I wanted to do was set up a landline at our apartment.  Because of some sort of geographic anomaly, we can’t get cell service where we just moved to, so we need a dedicated phone line that works.  Ang is on the job hunt again and it makes things a little hard if potential employers can’t reach her by conventional means.  I work in a field that requires me to be “on-call” 24/7.   I pitched the idea to my bosses that I could be reached at home via email instead of by phone, but my bosses felt that the “old ways” were better.  So a phone line was what I got.

First I called Comcast’s shitty customer service hotline and was greeted by a pre-recorded message from Shaquille O’Neal and Ben Stein, two people who have probably the most annoying, mouth breathing voices on the planet, each welcoming and thanking me for calling Comcast.  After five minutes of verifying certain information, like the last four digits of my cell phone’s number and pressing a bunch of buttons to talk to a human being, I finally get a hold of someone in the phone department.

I explain my case and site how apprehensive I am about taking on the service, given my and Comcast’s track record/rocky relationship.  I tell them that I’ve had numerous experiences where I’ve received sub-par treatment on both ends of the service, both from the office folks I speak to on the phone and from the techs in the field (I made sure I brought up the fact that the last tech that came out to do our cable/internet install completely fucked up our internet).  I shrewdly asked if there was any way to get a better deal on the price of adding a phone line.

“Well,” this woman starts.  “Right now you’re paying 120 dollars a month for just cable and internet, adding the phone service will bring you to 140 and change.  You’d be paying 20 dollars more a month for a 40 dollar a month service,”

“A phone line is a 40 dollar a month service?”  I hear my father’s voice coming out of my mouth.

“Yes sir,”

“Says who?”  I ask.  There’s a pause.

“Well, says Comcast, sir.”

So according to Comcast, they’re going to charge me 40 dollars a month for a technology that’s widely available ANYWHERE.  They say they’re going to “save” me 20 dollars a month if I bundle the cable and internet together with a dedicated phone line.  How the hell is a phone line 40 dollars a month?

I asked this, in polite terms.

“Well sir, you get unlimited long distance in the domestic US and Canada,” great, so I’m going to be paying for “unlimited” long distance that I’ll never use (I plan on prank calling Canada at least twice a week now -ed).

Granted I have one parent in Maine and another in Florida, I talk to them mostly from my cell phone, which I’d do from work if I really needed to chat with them.  Mom uses email just as extensively as I do, and 9/10s the time that’s how we communicate.  My father, still uses a phone for most of his communication, but even then, I call him once every two weeks for a 30 minute phone call from my cell phone.

“Ok, so, what if I don’t want unlimited long distance?”  I ask.  The woman seems baffled by this.

“Well, you could opt for the local only service, but that’s only going to cover you for your own town; any calls made outside of ________ will cost you 5 cents a minute.”

“Ok, that’s fine,” I say.  I really only need the device to receive in-coming calls, and really, what’s 5 cents a minute if Ang needs to reach me to tell me to bring home milk?  She starts to back pedal.

“Sir, um, it can get costly…”

“Do you think it’ll run me more than 40 dollars a month?”  I ask.  She corrects me and tells me that I’d only be paying 20 dollars a month, on top of my cable and internet.  “Ok, well do you think it’ll run me more than 20 bucks a month?”

“I don’t know sir.  But we’d have to send out a technician to set up the phone system in your house for that service, and since it’s an analog install, we’d have to charge you a technician’s fee, which is by the hour.”

“What’s the tech fee?”

“Twenty-five dollars an hour,” Jesus!

In the end, I opted for a self-install with their stupid unlimited long distance.  I don’t see myself carrying on like the babbling idiots in the commercials for Comcast’s unlimited long distance plan; some woman jabbering into a phone as she walks around her house.  I see an old, battered table top model from Kmart sitting on the counter, receiver tethered to its base by some tangled plastic chord.  I see the thing ringing once or twice a month, maybe.  Ang and I have already discussed that we’re not handing out this number to anyone other than my work, her work, and select few other people.

So with the little phone modem thing on order, and committing myself to paying out the ass for something I hopefully won’t need in the foreseeable future, I get a voice mail about an hour later.

“Mr. N, we’re from Comcast and we see you have an order in for our dedicated phone line service,” says the cheery foreign call center worker.  “We need you to call in and activate the device for E911 service before we can ship it out to you.  Please call us back at 1-800….”

Ok, not unreasonable, but I’m just curious as to why the woman whom I spoke to on the phone earlier couldn’t have handled this when I ordered the goddamn thing.  Plus I have to listen to the message again because the person who left the message sputtered out the number to call so quickly in a mushy-mouth way, that it’s hard to hear.

What I find out is that the number given is the central Comcast customer service number.  Awesome.

Back to navigating around Shaq and Ben Stein’s voices, back to another maze of automated options.  I finally get a hold of someone and explain the message I got.  They seem just as baffled by it as I was.

“Well sir,” some black college kid says, “let me put you on hold so I can figure out what’s going on here… did they give you a confirmation number?”  And they did, and given my past experiences with Comcast, I know to write this number down.  If you ever have the unfortunate experience of dealing with Comcast, WRITE DOWN YOUR CONFIRMATION NUMBERS!  Believe me, it’s the only way you’ll get anything done in a timely manner.  I was once on hold for 35 minutes just so the fucking idiot on the other end of the phone could look something up for me.  I nearly bled out from my wrist wounds.

So he comes back from putting me on hold and instructs me to call an 866 number that will take me through an automated process in setting up the E911 system.  I balk.

Being a cop in my former life, I know all about the E911 service.  It was introduced pretty extensively right at the end of the last decade by local police so that if you should call 911, and not be able to talk into the phone (sick and dying, hostage taking, etc) they can instantly see where you’re calling from.

Yes, it’s exactly like Caller ID, and half the time it doesn’t work or will fault and send out a signal to the police station if there’s a power surge, causing the cops to show up unexpectedly at your front door.  This is highly problematic if it’s Geisha Night.

So I ask if it’s necessary that I go through this step.  The gentleman I speak with says that not only is the E911 service an FCC regulation, but they can’t ship me the modem until I go through with the task of setting it up.

He assures me it takes less than 5 minutes and they only want to confirm my address.  He says it’s just pushing buttons on my phone and he’ll be happy to transfer me.

Sigh, ok, fine.

I sit on hold and here a few clicks.  I’m disconnected.  Apparently Leroy doesn’t know how to transfer calls.

If I had been holding a gun, I probably would’ve fired it into the ceiling by now.

I call back, hi Shaq, hi Ben; I know the number combination to navigate back to a human being by heart now (2-1-2-2-4-0).  I get a different service rep on the line now and explain the situation, AGAIN, asking if I can just get the number to the place I need to call to set this shit up.

“I’d be happy to transfer you,”

NO NO NO NO….. just the number please.

I get it, hang up.  My brow is drenched in sweat.

I call and get some fucking mish-mash of instructions that I guess are for technicians and not for an average Joe like myself to hear.  I’m confused so I just start picking options blindly, including mashing the ‘0’ key to talk to an operator.

“Sorry, we cannot provide that service at this time,” says the computer.

I finally wade through a bunch of bullshit and get to an option that will let me speak to a human.  I excitedly press the button.

I get some bored sounding housewife who starts reading through a script, prompting me to say “yes” in certain fields.  I stop her, and start to ask a question about the install, because I was unsure if I was pressing the right options and if she could confirm what I had done and make changes if something was really fucked up.

This of course takes her for a loop.

She stutters, there’s a long “uhhhh”

Long story short, I was worried that I might have tied my cell phone number to the account as well, which could result in me not being able to make calls with my cell, which is kinda a big deal to me.  I ask if she can go back in there and see if I tethered the two numbers inadvertently.

“Uh, I can’t do that, I’m not authorized.  I’m going to have to send this back to Comcast and have a service rep remove that information for you,” wait what?

“No no, no, its fine, don’t worry about it, let’s just move forward with this, and if it’s a big deal, I’ll deal with Comcast later,” I say.

“I’m sorry sir, but I can’t go forward with this install, if there’s a chance we could be cutting off 911 services from a cell phone it’s a big deal.”

“But I don’t think I screwed up that bad, let’s just get this over with so I can get my fancy modem and we’ll all just have a great day after that,”

“I’m sorry, I can’t, hold please,” and the line cuts out.  Suddenly there’s Shaq and Ben Stein again.  Motherfucker.

I hang up.  At this point I’m so mad that I nearly want to chop a tree down with my bare hands.

I wish I weren’t so dependent on Comcast for everything – like some sort of battered wife with no one else to turn to, so she keeps going back to the abuse.  I could opt for DirectTv but if we can’t even get cell service, what makes me think I’ll be able to get a satellite feed where we’re at?  We’re literally surrounded by trees and lobster gear.  There’s Verizon, but I don’t want to use DSL, and from what I understand the service isn’t that great either.

Then I read this article in the NYT this morning. 

I got half a chub.

In short, this guy and his hot wife dropped about five bones on a Mac Mini, a wireless mouse, keyboard and some extra cables and gave their cable company the fucking heave-ho.  They get all their television and movies through the computer and internet connection, circumventing the cable company (except for the internet access, which by itself is roughly 40 bucks a month.

He justifies the largely one time expense as being a cure-all to subscribing to a cable company for 140 bucks a month with not much to show for it except for a bunch of unwatched channels.

He gets the shows he wants and pipes in his Netflix feed seamlessly over WiFi.

It’s a little something to get used to, he explains in the article, but well worth it.  He ends up freeing about 1600 dollars a year.

Though, I’m sure he’s not stuck in a hole in the middle of the woods with no cell reception, either.  Another problem, this option isn’t really viable for sports enthusiasts who have to watch the game.  The writer’s solution:  Head to the bar.

This option echoes conversations regarding cable television (and subsequently its service) for years:  why is the customer paying out the ass for a bunch of shit he doesn’t need?  On one of my old blogs, I suggested that cable companies perhaps start custom-tailoring customer’s channel options, allowing the customer to purchase unlimited access to whatever and however many channels they wanted, for a low price, say, a dollar a channel, 5 dollars for a premium channel like HBO.  Being that local channels are all digital now this idea is even more advantageous to the cable companies, because it’s nearly guaranteed that people will want at least the local channels, plus grab up a few of the other channels too (for me it’d be Discovery, Vh1, NatGeo, AMC and Food Network, plus the locals).

But using the internet to get around the cable company is a do-able plan with the right materials, anyway.  Ang is by far a bigger proponent to watching television online, as she watches a few of her favorite shows (Dexter, Desperate Housewives, Family Guy) on sites like SideReel.com and Hulu.  As for myself, I’m more into purchasing stand alone episodes of my favorite programs (American Dad, 24, Sunny) on iTunes.  My argument is that there’s better picture quality, though sidereel – which is largely ad-free oppose to Hulu – isn’t bad, it’s just smaller.  Either way, even a season’s pass to one of my favorite shows on iTunes will run me maybe 40 bucks, which is a fraction of the cost of my cable bill.

In the end, I called back the third party E911 service number and followed the fully automated maze without talking to a human and without entering my cell phone’s number.  I completed the process in just fewer than 15 confusing minutes.

I let about a half an hour go by and I called back Comcast.  I got through to a service rep and asked if he could confirm that the device is now being shipped since I completed my end of the deal with the third party service.  The rep on the phone said that the unit was shipped earlier this afternoon and I should be getting it at my office’s address by Tuesday.

I breathed out.  Ok.

Hell, maybe the next place we move to, we’ll just cut out tv, cable and internet all together.  …I know, big talk, right?

December 12, 2009 Posted by | Corporate America Hates You, Getting Older, Living in an Insane Asylum, People I Hate, The Great Indoors | , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

350 Million People CAN be wrong….

So I restarted my Facebook account over the weekend, but only out of necessity.  You see, when we moved into our new digs, we neglected to check our cell phones to see what kind of reception we would be getting with the place until after we signed all the paper work and checks, etc.

Turns out, we’re lucky to get one bar, by the windows.  Usually it’s no bars or the dreaded ‘no signal’.  However, both those options are better than “searching….” being displayed, because while ‘searching’ for a signal, your phone traditionally uses more battery power, as it tries to boost it’s internal antenna to grab a signal it thinks is just out of its reach.

We’ve been getting by just on internet alone.  Thankfully having wifi enabled phones allows us to connect to our internet connection at home, so our iPhones aren’t just expensive paper weights that I drop 175 bucks on a month.

The problem becomes when one of us is home and the other is out and about running errands or working.  There’s no way to make a phone call or send a text to the person who’s away because there’s no cell reception.  We found this out relatively quickly on one of our first nights at the new apt when I ran out to the store to get milk, and Ang wanted me to pick up Nilla Wafers and paper towels as well.

Without ‘Push’ notification, email on the iPhone only updates every 15 minutes, meaning I could’ve gone to the store and came back in the amount of time it would’ve taken me to get the message if I wasn’t constantly refreshing my gmail (Apple offers MobileMe, which for a subscription price of 100 bucks a year, you get Push and Cloud features)

There’s the option of getting a traditional landline, an option I’m still giving deep consideration to.  My job somewhat dictates that I be accessible at all hours, and if I don’t have a working phone, it’s an issue.  My company actually provides free (1980s era) cell phones to employees who don’t have or can’t afford a cell phone, they’re that serious.

The problem with a landline is that it’s going to cost an arm and a leg down the line.  Comcast (our cable and internet monopoly provider) offers a deal where if you get cable, internet and a phone line you only pay like 100 bucks a month, oppose to just having cable and internet (like we do) and paying 110-120 bucks a month (like we do).

The rub is that after 6 months, Comcast jacks the price of the service up to 140 clams, leaving you either with the option to get rid of something, or pay out the ass.

I spoke with the installation tech who hooked up our cable and internet at the new apartment about the offer and this is what he said:

Call and speak to a customer service rep,” he suggested while speaking in an Irish brogue.  “They can sometimes set up deals with customers, like extended contacts for a certain price per month, that sort of thing,”

“But, what if I don’t want to pay the corporation, … maybe I’d rather just deal with the man on the street?”  I hinted.  He grinned a gnarled grin that only someone with a knowledge of the British Isles could love and brushed off the obvious attempted bribe.

Sorry, it’s not the same as it used to be, where we could just program the box to give you free HBO or Pay-Per-View, it’s all monitored and regulated by dispatchers now, sorry.  But seriously, give them a call, and see if they’ll work with you.  They’re more inclined to make a deal, because it’s money in their pocket in the long run,” and he has a point.

Though, he did fuck up the install, requiring me to call Comcast later that night from the end of the driveway.  While some phone jockey gave me instructions on rebooting our modem and changing out the signal to our wifi, I had to place my phone in the dirt and run back and forth from our apartment to take the necessary steps in ensuring our computers had proper internet connection.  So what does he know, really?

The next option we briefly explored was using Skype, the Voice Over Internet Protocol service that let’s people video chat for free around the world.

Skype would’ve been a great fix-it option if it weren’t for the fact you need wifi to make it work.  Due to AT&T’s business practices, apps and services like Skype can’t make calls on the infamously bogged down 3G Network.  Calling out from home would be no problem, since there’s wifi there; it would be making calls to home where we’d need to find a hotspot someplace.

I found this out while at work all weekend, where I desperately ran around my office’s property in the dead of night with my phone out in front of me, trying to locate the strongest unlocked wifi signal from the surrounding houses so I could steal some bandwidth and call my wife.

Hint:  If your wireless network is named ‘linksys’, I’m pretty sure it’s being abused by some dude parked out front of your house right now with a laptop full of porn.

So, tired of emailing back and forth, which in this day-n-age without Push Notification is similar to communicating by message in a bottle, Ang suggested I open the dusty crypt that held my old Facebook account, reactivate it, and use the chat on there.

The Facebook iPhone App isn’t bad, and I don’t have a real beef with it.  Its minimalist, like how Facebook used to be, easy to navigate and its chat feature is similar to the iPhone’s SMS/MMS screen.

It was a gut wrenching decision, honestly, because I wanted to leave Facebook behind me.  I’m 28 years old, and in my humble opinion, I’m in the waning years of online social networking.  I use Twitter extensively, because there’s no real bells or whistles to it; I post something that’s on my mind, or post a link to this blog, and let it ride from there.

With Facebook, there’s too much required involvement.  I have to ‘poke’ back everyone that pokes me, even if I don’t want to.  Someone’s bound to send me some virtual gift that I sure as hell don’t want, but will have to comment on, lest I look like a fucking Scrooge.

There are too many people for me to keep in touch with as ‘friends’ only because they’re associated with people I interact with.  I don’t want to get status updates (and subsequently the notifications regarding a status I commented on from people I don’t even know) from the wife of a guy I work with, because she decided to ‘friend’  me after raiding her husband’s friend’s list and wanted to pad her own numbers.

I can’t reject her request, because then I’ll hear about it from the guy:

“Dude, be friends with my wife,” I don’t even know her name!  I just have the unsolicited knowledge that you two like to ‘do it’ doggystyle!

And speaking of  the people I work with,  I’d like to keep most of them at an arm’s reach distance.  I can’t unfriend them, because again, I’ll fucking hear about it in real life.

And that’s really the point: when I got rid of Facebook, the biggest reason of all was to reduce the amount of ridiculous , unnecessary drama that was bleeding into my life.  With anyone with a set of ovaries who posted on my wall, I’d be grilled by my wife and her Spetznas-like interrogation tactics.

Have you ever been waterboarded while trying to make pancakes for breakfast?  It sucks.

But wanting to be able to at least text with my wife meant more to me than dealing with Facebook and the bullshit associated with it.  Fuck it, I thought, who cares?

Within 24 hours I was back to checking my News Feed every twenty minutes.

Fuck you Facebook.  Fuck you.

December 8, 2009 Posted by | Around The Office, Blogging Couple, Corporate America Hates You, Getting Older, Gonzo Journalism, Living in an Insane Asylum, People I Hate, People I Love, The Great Indoors | , , , , | 2 Comments