Wednesday, November 23, 2005

A Quirkyalone Thanksgiving ... at the dog park

If you are single, the Quirkyalone Web page has a few amusing tips on surviving Thanksgiving. In addition, the Web page has a link that states that single households now outnumber nuclear family households. On the Web page, you'll find plenty of single folks who love the holiday as a time to connect with family and friends.

When I was a kid, I went to my grandmother's house for Thanksgiving. After eating, the men would go in the living room, light up their cigarettes and watch the Detroit/Cowboys game. Never liking either team - and being the youngest by at least 11 years, I usually was a bit bewildered. I didn't want to go into the kitchen and hear the women talk and tease me about girlfriends. But I hated smoke - so I usually wound up going outside and reading a few Bloom County books I brought along.

Fast forward about 20 years. I go to my sister's for Thanksgiving. My mom comes up from Lincoln. My brother-in-law's family comes over. They ask the same questions my extended family asked of me when I was a kid - but substitute 'work' for 'school.'
"How's school?"
"How's work?"
"Got a girlfriend yet?"

And that was about it. But to their credit, I usually stopped asking questions after "how's your job going?" Fortunately, after about 12 years of interviewing people, I've been able to squeeze just enough idle chit chat out of people so I don't seem like a sullen, bitter, single person. It's one of the skills journalists tend to pick up.

My sister has two dogs. Two magnificent dogs. One's a samoyed, one's an Australian lab/border collie mix. After the Thanksgiving feast, the women drink coffee and talk about their kids or crafts. The guys (non-smoking) are in the TV room, dozing off at the Cowboys game and making generic comments about the commercials. (e.g. "oh, he's in trouble" - as a comedic situation strips a guy of his clothes in front of a hot girl and his wife comes in). I'm full from the dinner and dessert. I'm restless because I can't really relate to anyone. I need fresh air. So I grab the leashes.

Instantly, the dogs go ape shit. I'd be lying to say I didn't feel any smug sense of validation. For the past three or so hours, I've been the odd piece of the family puzzle. I want this family to open a few bottles of wine, laugh and talk about anything not related to church groups, kids, cars or crafts. But I'm sure they want me just to find a girl, produce a few kids and get a house so I can join their conversations about lawn care and school placement. But these two dogs bark and jump happily. They lick my face and start circling me as I fill up their water bottles. I wave and take the dogs out and head to the dog park. All of a sudden, the single person becomes the center of attention on Thanksgiving for a reason other than incarceration or to be subjected to the "you'll find someone speech." The dogs pile into my Corolla and we head off.

The dog park on Thanksgiving and Christmas is usually packed. Usually with guys. There are a few younger women. I even suspect a few stray gay guys are in the mix. Everyone has this sense of escape and relief as they see their Vizslas, labs and Weimaraners wrestle, chase frisbees and run. I look at this 50ish guy whose 49ers sweatshirt is barely covering his gut, looking out at the park and the gothic chapel that protrudes the cluster of pine trees.

"Had to get out of the house for awhile" he says to no one in particular.

I'm right there with you, brother.

Happy Thanksgiving - 2005

Tuesday, November 15, 2005


I needed a new post to get my last title removed from the top of the list. Note to most writers: the half life of word puns isn't that much. Anyway, it's 5:30, I'm ready to go home. I have two options: indulge and head to the Old Dundee, have an order of onion rings, put a few dollars in the juke box, play a few games of pool while drinking a few microbrews. Orrrr, haul my tired ass to the gym and work on my cardio and my 'core' (another way to say 'abds'). Discipline won out.

While at the gym, my ego takes a few punishing shots. I bench press 75 pounds, but a pain shoots deep in my left shoulder. I can only do three reps. I curse internally. After a few more exercises, my upper body is so weak, I can barely lift the weight for this last exercise - an iron maiden-like contraption known as the 'pec-dec' machine. I feel angry and defeated. I feel like dragging my knuckles on the mats and throwing stuff. But I realize that I pushed myself to my limit - even though my limit now isn't nearly as good as my limit say a year ago.

I sit on this exercise ball and start to do some crunches. A few feet away from me is this guy who is wearing a very loose muscle shirt, exposing his perfectly-defined sides. He's muscular, but not muscle-head muscular. And he had a cute, messed-up hair style with the right highlights. His chest, calves and obliques looked like they were sculpted by an artist. But I'm careful. I have a rule at the gym: do not look at anyone for more than two seconds. I realize this may make me look like an excited border collie, but it's far better to look distracted than to look like a leering pervert. His eyes meet mine while I was looking at him at around 1.34 seconds of my look. I panic. You don't want to look away, because that implies you were looking - especially in the heart of conservative Omaha. I move my left side and stretch my neck a bit to make it look like I was looking at the clock.

The workout ends. I'm glad that I'll be energized enough to write this story for The Reader when I get home. Nothing left to do but hit the sauna and steamroom. The sauna and steamroom - yes, that's the spot for many fantasies for cybersex and bad gay fiction. But for me, the sauna and steamroom are off limits for any sort of scoping out guys. This is a domain where people go when they are dinged up or exhausted from their workout. It's a spot to chill and reflect. It's not a spot where anyone should feel uncomfortable in the presence of others. It's not a place to play out your Queer as Folk fantasies - at least this steamroom is not.

I shower and step on the scale. I'm worried as hell. I haven't weighed myself since I ate a seven-course meal at the French Laundry. This weekend, I helped my mom and my sister's clan paint a house and clean the outside windows and clean out the contents of a garage. A weekend at mom's means eating starchy, bland food (e.g. mashed potatoes, Village Inn-bought pie). I wince and look - 167. Eight pounds less than when I weighed myself on Nov 3. I get off the scale and weigh myself again, thinking the scale had this mysterious 'ten pound' glitch. 167 again. Keep in mind my diet hasn't changed - if anything I've slacked off - and I've exercised less. I turn the weight scale to 'zero' and it balances perfectly. I suppose that's awesome - but the last time I've lost that much weight that soon - I couldn't keep anything down for a week as a result of a killer flu. Stress couldn't do this ... could it? It's one of those times where your ego is boosted ("wow, this was my goal by New Year's!") and you get a sense of foreboding ("this is totally f**ked up")at the same time.

So - in short - gym etiquette:
1 - there are cute guys there, but try to obey the 'two second' gaze rule
2 - if you sweat like hell, please, please wipe the machines when you're done
3 - steamrooms and saunas = chill out places, not bathhouses

Preemptive strike
Drawn Together - It's a crude cartoon on Comedy Central. Some of the best comedy comes from crude humor, but there're usually other humor elements in it, such as satire (George Carlin is crude, early Beavis and Butthead episodes were crude, South Park is crude). But putting in stuff just to see how far you can push censors is so Andrew Dice Clay. The worst part of Drawn Together is its golden premise - reality TV show, played by cartoon characters. They had a great concept, but they had to f**k it up.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Holiday spirit, schmoloday spirit

First off, I haven't made a decision as of yet whether to allow this paper to fly me up for an interview. After careful review, it's a 43 percent pay cut. I'd be leaving my roommate high and dry for six months (even though we are now on a month-to-month lease) and I'm not too sure if copy editing is my exact forte. It's not like I can't live in poverty - I can. But just yesterday, my car needed about $300 of maintenance stuff done on it (120,000 mile tune-up, oil change and rear brakes).

Anyway - it looks like no one can make this decision but myself. So I'll leave it as that.

What I want to talk to today is the death of the Christmas spirit. I can trace the moment it died ... sophomore college year. Before that, the holidays seemed to move at the pace of a six-hour BBC News broadcast. School work slowed, I had a no-brainer job, so all I could focus on were going to the mall to buy gifts and catching the holiday movies.

Then... sophomore year - finals. Those Saturdays and Sundays at the mall were replaced by hours at the library. That money from my part-time job that was used for Christmas was now used for rent and groceries. Christmas was the last of my worries. And when finals were done, I was so wiped out that I barely realized I only had four days to shop for everyone's gift and wrap everything. Suddenly, Christmas became a giant pain in the ass.

There's no point to this entry (big surprise, some Blog entries have little to no substance) other than the simple answer to the naive question: "When did we adults lose the Christmas spirit?"

Answer - sophomore college year

Preemptive strike

People who can't decide whether to s**t or get off the pot. And currently, I'm that person.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Shaken out of complacency

So - I'm supposed to be doing some research for a freelance story. I've went on and on about how I want to get out of the area I'm in now. At 10:30 - in comes an email from Bend, Oregon. They want to fly me out there. For an interview. Rental car, hotel, plane. EVERYTHING.

My stomach is churning. My mind is buzzing and my palms are sweating. And I need to be in bed in about 30 minutes. Ok, ok - first off - all you one romantics out there that read my Blog - take serious note - this is some serious shit. I'm making a comfortable wage in Omaha. This job in Bend is a journalism job. I would be making...roughly 2/3 of what I'm making now. 2/3 is a lot. I can't get sick up there. I can't get a newer car. BUT - it is my profession. And I was always able to make it when I was in Tucson at $10 an hour as an intern.

So - that's the point. I can truely MAKE it here if I learn to love this place called Omaha. If I learned how to cope better with my mom's selfishness and some of my friends' taunts that I'll never leave this state. I can even do freelance if I tried a lot harder. But I'm 31. This may be my only shot...

Oh - here's some pics from my trip to the French Laundry and San Francisco...

contemplating a swim...

Nothing like dinner atthe French Lau...


Oh, oh - you've never seen this before - here's a shot of us going over the Golden Gate bridge...

Thursday, November 03, 2005

I forgot my preemptive strike

... dudes at the gym who weigh themselves.
Wait, I'm not done. It's a gym. You got out of the sauna. I've weighed myself plenty of times after about ten minutes in the sauna, hoping the heat melts off an extra ten pounds.

This preemptive strike goes to the guys who are about ready to step on the scale, then go back to their lockers ... and remove their underwear.
Sorry, mate. But unless you're wearing some decent chainmail, that underwear MAYBE puts a few ounces on the scale. That five pounds that you're hoping will come off if you remove those Hanes ... isn't going to happen. Try drying your hair. AH! - still won't happen.

What happens when you can no longer do what you're supposed to do?

In Nick Hornby's latest book, A Long Way Down, four characters meet on a rooftop that is famous for jumpers. Each character has hit their respective lows to bring them to this point. Jess, an American, has arguably the 'lightest' reason: his band and his relationship with his girlfriend dissolved. Compared to a television personality who just got out of prison for sleeping with a minor and a middle-aged woman who is tied to her disabled son, Jess' trials are pretty light stuff. But the volitile teen, JJ, sums up his situation perfectly:

"You thought you were going to be someone, but now it's obvious you're nobodyy. You haven't got as much talent as you thought you had and there was no plan B, and you got no skills and no education, and now you're looking at 40 or 50 years of nothing."

Ouch -

But her perceptions cut through all the BS. And it makes me think of what happens when people reach that point. Let's be honest - for every successful writer or musician, there's a struggling writer or musician who reaches a point when the well dries up. They're not supposed to be a writer, so they enter the world of insurance. The musician takes a job at an oil rig to pay the bills and that job turns into a lifelong occupation.

This doesn't have to be a tragic end. Just another stage in one's life, right? But I was just curious - what do people do, when they reach that cold realization that what they thought they were supposed to do with their life ends ...

And don't say 'pick themselves back up' - because that's too easy.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Why I can't go (at least, not yet)

It's becoming more and more evident that I'm not going to get a call from a company in Tucson needing my skills. It's a bummer. And I'm trying to be as optimistic as possible. Still, some coworkers who I have confided in have not been helpful. "Keep applying, they may hire you on the spot." ... when I'm 1500 miles away. And when I need to make a decision on whether or not to stay in Omaha for another six months by Nov. 11 at the latest. Some jobs posted on monster or on company job sites are either a) already filled by someone internal or b) haven't even received budget approval. THAT's what pisses me off! If you are asking applicants to spend a few hours of their time and money putting a resume package together, at least have a job that's waiting.

So... this situation has brought out the personalities of my friends and I can successfully lump them into two categories: the people who say 'screw it and move' and the people who say 'It's not time yet, you need a job.'

The screw it and move folks...

Impulsive to the core. "Things will work themselves out" "Once you get down there, everything will fall into place." These are the romantics of my circle. They believe once I'm down there, I may have to slug through six weeks of Target work, but then a job matching my qualifications will open and applicants will be far more receptive toward me because I'm there and I'm not 1500 miles away.

The 'It's not time yet, you need a job' crowd...

Much, much more like my behavior. Anything less than "Mr. Transformersgeeek - we have reviewed your resume and we think you would be perfect for this job, when can you come down?" - is unacceptable. Anything less is fleeing Omaha, like you're running away from something. You want to move from one area to another because there is a better life, a better option, better prospects. It's romantic in its own way - in that these people refuse to compromise their beliefs. It's also the more level-headed - in that virtually everyone in this group would never move to another city without there being a job in the waiting.

Well, readers...which side are you on?

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Our lease just arrived

My roommate gave me the news last night. I still have a few stray, waning leads in Tucson. I really, really need to get out of this city to grow as a person. Yes, I know "growth is in yourself" - but I really think a geographic change can do wonders. It has for me.

So - it's arrived, but it will be a few days before our schedules are so that we can all sit down and review the lease. It's only for six months, but I'm getting anxious as hell to vacate. I almost applied for a university job in Austin before common sense took over (no offense, Austin. I love your city) - it's a university job. It could take months before the application process finishes. I only have a few days left of breathing room.

Options are quite limited right now. I could pack up and take a job at Target, but that's like fleeing Omaha. If I'm going to leave, I'm determined to have a job waiting for me when I get down there.