Saturday, October 28, 2006

When the say "where there's smoke, there's fire" - they don't really mean it - do they?

Hello, all.

It is seeming stranger and stranger to me that this is my actual life. I don't know what lever hasn't clicked over yet, but I'm still struggling to realize that this job is not something I'm doing for a little while, but an actual adult job, that I go to every morning and come back from every evening, the cornerstone of every day that pays all my bills, the beginning of my career. Eeks.

In the same way, it's boggling to me that my apartment is actually home, that there is no other home that I go to, that there is no RA living down the hall making sure that I don't set the rooms on fire. As a result, I've already set the rooms on fire, but that's another story.

Oh, fine, I'll tell it now. I was lying, I haven't actually set anything on fire. But I am having some real trouble cooking. The smoke alarm and I have had some arguments, and while it won the first three or four days, I've finally conquered, since it's under the sink with its batteries disconnected. That'll show it.

See, the problem is
a) whenever I turn on the stove, there's smoke. Not a lot, but enough to set off the alarm, even with the fan above the stove on.
b) I don't have a skillet of any kind. I didn't think this would make much of an effect, but it has. See, I tried making a hamburger in a cooking pot, figuring that wouldn't make any difference. 10 seconds later, I was fighting a final, conclusive fight with the smoke alarm. 30 seconds later, I couldn't see into the pot because of all the smoke. 60 seconds in, I couldn't actually see the stove. 90 seconds in, I couldn't see the apartment. I opened all the windows, turned on the air conditioner and the bathroom fan, turned on both ceiling fans, and threw the door to the balcony wide open. It made absolute no difference. I decided to flip the burger. The bottom was burned to a crisp, the middle still frozen. I burned the other side, too, just for balance, pulled it out, and turned of the stove.

I drenched it in Ranch and stuffed it down, ignoring the gristle and purplish meat, squinting through the haze at the TV. I'll be damned if any burger is going to defeat me. Then I made a salad. It took almost no effort. I'm thinking of eating more salads.

By the way, someone insinuated that my purchase of the TV of the last post was a sucker's ruse, and they must have seen me coming for miles. I'll have you know that in addition to the fact that the TV is massive - which, if you read the last post, you must have surmised - it also only cost me $10, which is cheap, regardless. A bargain is a bargain.

When I returned to my apartment, I turned on the TV to 99 channels of black-and-white fuzz. I found an old paper clip in my desk and stuck it in the back: 98 channels of black-and-white fuzz and one channel of colored fuzz. Bingo. I pulled a shirt off its clothes hanger, untwisted it, and attached it to the back. 97 with black-and-white fuzz, one indistict channel and a new channel with colored fuzz. I gaze at the TV for ten or fifteen minutes, until I think figure out that the indistinct channel is probably PBS. Brilliant. I go back for more hangers.

All of my shirts, suits, and coats are in a pile in the middle of my bedroom. But I now get all 4 networks. Plus PBS.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Welcome to Houston!

I feel that perhaps I'll be updating this less often than normal. I am, after all, a full-time working man now. What's more, I don't have internet at my apartment for the moment, and don't know when I'll break down and spend that cash. I'm still in pretty deep debt these days, and I have internet here at work, so I figure I can probably stop in occasionally and post a short note about the details of life until I break down and purchase internet for the apartment.

I'm breaking the first rule of blog posting, which is "don't start a post with an explanation of why you haven't posted, and might not post again for a while" Also, I'm starting all my paragraphs with "I," the avoidance of which is rule three or four. Ah, screw it.

I have a reason for starting this post with that paragraph, and that is: I'm trying to learn how to do without, in order to develop some skills in areas that I'm weaker at. For example, I don't have any food except for a few cans of soda and some microwave dinners, so I'm learning to appreciate what I eat. Fittingly, I also don't have a microwave, so what food I do currently have, I can't eat. I'm hoping this will make me learn to cook. And finally, without internet, I'm forced to spend my evenings in the apartment doing something else - for instance, putting my apartment together, which is a total disaster at this point. I know, everyone says that when they're moving, but really: every CD case I own (I have about 200, plus about 100 burned ones) is lying on the floor, either empty or with the wrong CD inside. Ditto my 50 DVDs. Every scrap of paper I own (the total bulk weight of which is probably north of five or six thousand pounds), whether wall decoration or car title or personal letter I can't throw away or lease agreement, is on the floor. They used to be in piles, but that's long gone now. Basically, I took everything out of the boxes, made a big pile of the boxes, threw all the newspaper I used for packing on top, and then gave up because it seemed hopeless. Still, my kitchen is exceptionally clean, since I don't have any food yet, so there's nothing to clog it up.

But I do have good news. Following a friend's advice, I went up the highway to his exit, which is a hive of residential communities, and drove around looking for "Garage Sale" signs. Bingo. I found one area where everyone on the street had agreed to have their garage sale all at once, in order to bring in more customers. I purchased a very nice matching coffee table and end table ($5 total), a set of shelves that I can screw into the wall ($4), a set of navy throw pillows ($1 - they were kind of thrown in with the coffee table/end table deal), and what appears to be the original television set. I'm serious, it looks like Philo Farnsworth's original demonstration piece. Roosevelt probably threw it in as part of the New Deal. It's made out of solid wood, with a further wooden frame place around that. It weighs more than most cargo vessels. It took four of us to get it into the back of my car, and I had to drive away with the tail of my hatchback mostly open, even though the TV was laying flat.

Flash forward to the point where I pull up in front of my apartment. I load everything else from my car into the apartment, hoping that on one of my trips I'll see some muscle-bound neighbor headed for the weight room who could help lift the thing from the car to my second-story apartment, but no one's around. I walk back out to my car as it starts to drizzle a little and tug the TV up, out, and over until it's resting on the lip of the trunk. I wait there for a moment, hoping someone will walk by and say "Hey, bud, you need a hand with that?" A minute or two passes. No one comes. I realize at this point that while I have successfully pulled the TV onto the lip of the trunk, since I can't reach around the TV enough to angle it properly, I have lost the ability to get the thing back into the trunk. I also realize that while I lack the manpower to get it to the ground, I must either pull the hulking thing to freedom, or wait there for all eternity. I decide to have a go at getting the TV to the ground. This, dear reader, is the turning point in this story.

As I begin to pull the TV towards me, hoping for a better purchase on this cruise-ship-anchor-cum-electronic-appliance, the tennis racket I was using to prop up the tail of my hatchback slips out from the now-quite-wet metal and falls onto the pavement. My hatch, which has lacked hydraulics for all eternity, drops down sharply and lands on the back of my neck, pinning my throat and chest to the edge of television. My hands, trapped above me around the television, can't pick it up, since as soon I let go with one hand, the unbalanced weight of the television will cause it to swing backwards, crushing my pelvis between it and the sidewalk. I'd conveniently placed my feet right in front of the curb, which was just perfect for this occasion, as that way they'd get the chance to get trapped there when the rest of me is pushed backwards, in order to give myself a more interesting position to perish in. I also discover that my face is pressed up against the warranty agreement glued to the back of the television. The agreement, as thoughtfully typed up by Edison's secretary, states that the dealer is not responsible for any damage problems caused by accidents, negligence, calamity, abuse, mishandling, or an act of God.

"Geez," I think. "I've covered everything except for the act of God."

It is at this point that it really starts raining in earnest.

After a good ten minutes trapped in the jaw-like rear end of my car, a young woman in a fast food work uniform finally appears from the nearby apartment building. I have always depended on the kindness of strangers, so I give a sort of muffled yelp as she walks by. She glances over, sees a wet, twitching form jutting out from the back of a dented Ford Probe, turns sharply, jumps in her car, and speeds off.

I decide it might be time to take matters into my own hands. This, dear reader, is about the end of Act II, or the point in a Shakespeare play where you might say to yourself "Oh - I thought this was a comedy, but it looks like it's going to be a tragedy after all."

Pulling the televison towards myself, I decide to bend slowly at the knees until I've wiggled it all the way out of the car. Finally free of the lip of the trunk, the weight of it sags sharply down onto my lap. I stabilize it by balancing its mass between the cell phone in my pocket and my crotch. I take a few deep breaths and begin to slowly lower down towards the ground. The TV tips sharply off of the cell phone and puts all of its weight onto its bottom edge, which, you'll remember, I'd thoughtfully placed about mid-crotch.

Having decided that it might be time to get this thing on the ground once and for all, regardless of its final condition, I bend my knees down further 'til my legs form a roughly 45-degree angle at the knee. People who are familiar with the shape of chairs know that this is a great deal further south than one's bottom usually is called to go when sitting down, and might therefore assume that this position could not really therefore be called a "power stance." Which makes it all the more shocking when at this point that both my head and the television slip free of the hatch (which had slowly slipped across the base of my skull over the course of this process), causing all the weight to shift mercifully away from my crotch and onto my face, pushing it over backwards towards the pavement in a thoughtful effort to get it to bond more closely with the back of my head.

I don't really remember the next part too well, but I seem to recall that I sprang both my legs outwards to exactly opposite sides of my body in a fairly impressive gymnastic split, sort of like a graceless Dominique Moceanu, or one of those hinged dolls you hang on doornobs around Christmastime. The behemoth thudded to the ground a hairsbreadth in front of my crotch, which certainly hadn't been wishing for a reintroduction.

I won't say exactly how I got the TV upstairs from there, other than to say only that adventure was actually more exciting than the first, and if I get any visitors to my apartment before I purchase a vacuum cleaner, they're guaranteed to say "so what's with all the sawdust everywhere?"

And I'm afraid that's all the posting you're probably going to get for a little while. I hope it's enough for now.

The overheard quote of the day is: "Pssst. You wanna draw on the new guy?"

Saturday, October 07, 2006

New Rules for Soundtracks

Enough people have put forth issues that responding by comment would just be too long. I have thought about it and I have laid down my law - here are the new rules for making "The Soundtracks To My Life."

First, Bethany was correct to state that foreign language songs are to be treated very, very carefully. Anyone putting down a song to which he or she does not know the translation of, nor has any strong ties to the country that speaks this language, is to be treated with disdain and - if possible - derision. Therefore, Rule 12, "The Foreign Language Rule," is now in effect. You are not allowed to "really like that song" and therefore put it in. You are allowed to put a song in that ties you back to a country that you spent some time in - perhaps a semester abroad, or a long mission trip. However, if the total amount of time spent in said country is under 3 weeks, you cannot use one of their songs in order to look well-traveled. Yes, as always, exceptions can be made in extreme circumstances.

Remember, people, most people do have a Smitty song in their collection if they grew up in the church anytime in the 80's or 90's. No shame, everyone.

Jonathan, unless you have one doozy of a story that involves Braveheart's "Freedom" theme and how you rescued a family of dalmation puppies from a combo hurricane/warehouse fire - no, you cannot have any of the Braveheart soundtrack on your list. I'm pounding the gavel here. I mean, it's James Horner, for Pete's sake. Keep this up and I'll ban James Horner too. Don't think I hadn't already thought about it.

The TV theme song rule is also in effect. Even if you spent your entire early twenties watching Friends with your roommate, you cannot use the Rembrandts on your soundtrack. I know it sounds mean-spirited, but it's a tacky choice and doesn't say much for you. How badly do you want David Schwimmer to define you? (note: you are allowed to use Postal Service's "Such Great Heights" only if you knew about it before both Grey's Anatomy and Garden State).

As per request, "Dammit (I Guess This Is Growing Up)" is approved.

No. No. Absolutely not. No one can use Rocky. If I let one person use it, everyone would want to, and three quarters of males thirty to sixty would use the theme in their soundtrack. Rocky is out. It's done.

Should you have a situation where you have an artist who was with a band, later went solo and put out some different sounding stuff, you are allowed to use one song of each in a list of ten. Should your list exceed ten, you are not allowed to add another song by the artist in either set-up until the list reaches at least... 16. For example, you can use one Ben Folds song and one Ben Folds Five song in a list of ten. When the list climbs past ten, two Ben Folds songs are allowed, but the Ben Folds Five track has to then drop out until sixteen.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

How To Make A Soundtrack To Your Life

Renee had to make a "Soundtrack To My Life" list for one of her communication classes, and it go me thinking. I've made more than a few "Soundtrack To My Life" compilations for various reasons - girls, essays, CDs to give away as presents, etc. Having heard and winced over other people's soundtracks throughout my life, I thought it might be wise to stop for a moment and explain the ground rules, just so everyone's clear.

11 Rules for making a "Soundtrack To Your Life"

1. Unless the number of songs exceeds 10, you cannot repeat an artist, no matter how influential. Period. If one artist is truly dominant in your soundtrack, you are allowed to pick an entire album as one entry, but you can only pull the stunt once, and it has to be your most important entry.

2. You are not allowed to pick a song from any movie that does not mimic your life fairly exactly. Therefore, songs from High Fidelity, Garden State, Love Actually, and The Graduate are all acceptable - and maybe Almost Famous or Big Fish if we really want to stretch things. It is not, however, acceptable to pick the theme song from any epic movie. This includes: Braveheart, Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, the Princess Bride, The Godfather, and above all, Rocky.

3. Choosing classical music is acceptable, but only in moderation. You are allowed one classical piece out of every five regular songs. This piece should be filled with grace, longing, and beauty. It should not be something that has been played behind a commercial, or generally used at a wedding. It is not allowed to be "The 1812 Overture" or "The Hallejah Chorus" except for very, very good reason. On the flip side, it should also be from a composer that at least one person in the room has heard of. Everyone is given one Mulligan on this rule, in case "Fur Elise" or "Heart and Soul" is a must for your list because you always played it with your mother on cold winter evenings.

4. The list should, in all ways, be balanced. People who chose all classical, all emo, all 80's metal, or all folk are justly perceived as thinking simplistically. For someone in their early twenties, a list should incorporate at least one song from your childhood, one from your middle school depressive years, one song that reminds you of good times in high school, one song that changed you during a tough, introspective stage in your life, and one song you'd like played at either your wedding/funeral, depending on whether you want something sweeter or sadder at this point.

5. Not all of these songs can currently be on your iPod. If you have all of these songs playing currently, it's become the "Soundtrack to your Right Now." Stretch back further.

6. Some people will pick all songs that no one in the room has heard of. Some people will pick all songs that are played on the radio, or would be known by everyone in room. Both styles are wrong. Allow for your own uniqueness without rejoicing in your musical superiority.

7. "Good Riddance (Time Of Your Life)" is not allowed in your soundtrack, for any reason.

8. If at any point in your list you pick a song because it sounds more impressive, less embarassing, or you know someone else who might read the list likes it, start over. You're doing it wrong.

9. Christmas songs are not to be snickered at. Christmas is an important time in families and relationships, and is usually some of the coziest memories you have come from this time. If you weep when you hear Judy Garland sing "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas," then put it on that list and don't let anyone take it off.

10. This is not a time to show what your current musical taste is. If you only listen to rap these days, that's fine, but don't pick all rap songs if you grew up loving country. It doesn't matter if it's embarrassing now. We're not passing judgment on who we were.

11. Finally, don't defend the songs on your list, only give your reasons for picking them. It doesn't matter that you've got a soppy Backstreet Boys song on that list - if that was the song being played when your dad drove you home from that seventh grade party where you got dumped hard for the first time, then say that. It doesn't have to be a good song. It just doesn't.

Drinking in Public.

My dad steered me over to, where I discovered the 86 Rules of Drinking:

Rule 11. Unacceptable things to say after taking a shot:
a) "Great! Now I'm going to get drunk."
b) "I hate shots."
c) "It's coming back up."

I also discovered a universal sign language that can be used in any bar. This signal was my particular favorite.

Let us spring up out of our sober shells.
We will fly like drunken eagles.

Monday, October 02, 2006


Well, the big news is, of course, that I'm moving to Houston. I was offered the job on Wednesday, accepted it on Thursday (was it really that recently?), and I'll be leaving for unfamiliar parts a week from Saturday.

I expected a bigger fanfare from all of this, but instead life has continued at it's normal pace. I called a few friends and let them know the news. I put in two weeks notice at work. I started working out credit card details and cell phone plans. And then life has continued as normal. I go to work every day and take pictures of toddlers. I mow the lawn. I bring back library books and take a few more out. I walk our skittish dog every few hours (a stomach bug has given him the habit of leaving particularly... unsavory deposits in the house, on some of our best carpeting, so it's good to keep him outside as much as possible). And since an equally nasty stomach bug has also given me the habit of depositing equally... well, enough about that. Suffice to say, I've been drinking fluids and trying to sleep it all off. And so my last days around the house are passing in somewhat of a blur.

I guess it'll all be sudden anyway. I'll go into work one day, close down the store, take off my nametag, and never come back. The next morning I'll load up a truck or RV with what hand-me-down furniture my parents have seen fit to pass on to me, hop in the cab, and I'll be gone. I don't know how that'll feel. It'll be the first time that I'll be leaving this house and no longer considering it "home." It's the first time that whatever trip I'm on won't finish up back in this big brown house. Hopefully.

But strangely, it's not rushing towards me at a frantic, unstoppable pace. Nor am I counting down the days until I finally get out of here and out on my own. Instead - it's just coming.

And then it'll be here.

And then I'll be gone.