Thursday, September 30, 2010

I Blinked

Yesterday I was supposed to go to a job fair in Connecticut. I'm happy in Massachusetts. I don't want to leave. But you know, I'm now unemployed and, hey, some of the companies (Target, ADP, the IRS) have offices all over.  Why not?

The problem is that Tropical Storm Nicole (see yesterday's three-sentence post) was rumbling through Connecticut.  I wasn't going to let that bitch stop me.  So I headed down to Fairfield anyway.

The moment I crossed the state line into Connecticut, the weather took a turn for the worse.  Instead of a steady drizzle, it really started to pour.  And I'm sitting there on I-84 and beginning to feel for a split-second like I was hydroplaning.  I regained control without any problem, but it was enough for me to decide, nope, not worth it. 

All the companies in the job fair were listed online.  I turned around and headed back to the safety of my living room and Dell laptop, and started applying to these places online.

I'm not proud of myself.  I stared Nicole right in the face.  And I blinked.

That Bitch Nicole

I'm not scared of Tropical Storm Nicole. I'm not letting her stop me.

More details tomorrow.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The End of the World Is Here, And It's All My Fault

I got wound up with several other things Monday, so for the first time since I started my blog I didn't post that day.  No big deal, I thought.  It was actually a little exciting.  Me, the rebel, flying by the seat of my pants, doing all sorts of exciting things like failing to blog.  It's not like the world will come to an end, right?

Wrong.  It has come to my attention that, because I did not do a blog, the world spun off its axis and is now flinging itself into the sun.  Luckily, it has also been called to my attention that, because I did not blog, the sun has burned out, which would save the earth from incineration, yet also freeze the planet into ifelessness.  Therefore, the world will indeed come to an end.

It's not a pretty site.  In a cave somewhere in Afghanistan, al-Qaeda is calling for my head.  The Republicans have also blamed me for the end of the world, as well as the stagnating economy.  The Democrats are blaming "Phil-sponsored dirty tricks" for the end of civilization as we know it.

For this, I sincerely apologize.  It's all my fault.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Special Bonus Blog: Red Sox Eulogy

As of five minutes ago, the Red Sox are eliminated from playoff contention. The Yankees 6-1 win over Toronto just ended, so it's now mathematically impossible for the Sox to catch them, despite the fact that Boston may finish with the fifth best record in all of baseball. 
The Red Sox started 4-9 this year, and there wasn't one moment all season when I felt like they were legitimate World Series contenders. Yet they stayed in playoff contention through the final week of the season through injuries and a horrible bullpen, one in which only Daniel Bard played well all year.

Part of me thinks this means they could contend for another World Series next year, with better health.  And part of me thinks next year they'll spin it that, "We almost made the playoffs without a consistent leadoff hitter and terrible bullpen, so all we need to do is stay the course and we'll be fine." 

In my humble opinion, the latter would not be a good mindset. They played over their heads this year and nearly got away with it. Next year they may not be so lucky.     

Yes, I'm Still Here

Now that I've skiped a day for the first time, and the earth didn't spin off its axis and go hurtling into the sun, it's back to the important topics at hand -- NFL Week 2.

It was nice to see the Patriots make a commitment to balance on offense Sunday.  One of my biggest complaints about Bill Belichick is that he falls in love with Tom Brady and has these games where he just seems hell-bent on throwing the ball 50 times a game.  Sunday against the Bills -- 38 runs, 28 passes.  (Technically, it was really 37 and 29, as one run was a Brady scramble that was designed to be a pass play.)  It was almostg dead even until the final drive, when the Patriots were protecting the lead.  And they didn't try to force the ball to Randy Moss, yet he still caught two touchdowns.  I'd like to see things stay in balance the rest of the year.

What the hell was Packers coach Mike McCarthy thinking last night?  In a 17-17 tie with two minutes left, he let the Bears run out the clock and kick a field goal with four seconds left.  I know this will draw the ire of football old-timers who think I'm making a mockery of the game, but in that situation you have to let the Bears score a touchdown so you can get the ball back and allow your elite quarterback, Aaron Rodgers, an opportunity to go back down the field and score to try to salvage the game.

All right, enough for today.  I'm exhausted.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Kicking the Irish While They're Down

As one of the all-time Notre Dame haters, I enjoyed it when Stanford bunbled those arrogant, self-important boors 37-14, dropping the Irish to 1-3 on the season.  Ratings for Notre Dame home games on NBC have been up thus far this year, probably thanks to curiosity over new coach Brian Kelly.  They had been dropping in the Charlie Weis era as the team continued to lose.

I contend that Notre Dame's TV deal with NBC actually hurts the program.  When I watch college football on Saturdays (and I was late to the party yesterday, see yesterday's blog for details), I check, in order, ABC, CBS, ESPN and ESPN2.  NBC is an afterthought because they only televise one school, half of the time.  I suspect most people's midnset is similar to mine. 

The irony.  The big TV deal, standing in the way of success.

Couldn't happen to a better team.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Writer, Football Fan -- In That Order?

Today, I spent most of the morning sleeping.  (Some idiot wrong number called me at 7:34 am.  Question, Mr. or Mrs. Wrong Number: why are you up that early on a Saturday? And even if you have to be, why would you call someone else, who probably doesn't have to be up that early?  Luckily, I was able to go back to sleep pretty quickly.)  And then I went to Trader Joe's, and then I came back here and wrote.

It didn't occur to me until a few minutes ago to turn on the TV, since it' football day.  Holy shit.  I'm missing college football!

To be honest, while I enjoy watching a game, I'm really a lost soul when it comes to college football.  I grew up rooting for Boston College, but they're kind of a frustrating team to follow -- every year they go 8-4 and play in a low-grade bowl game.  Syracuse, where I got my undergrad degree, sucks.  Fairfield, where I'm currently pursuing a master's, doesn't have a team.  I find myself watching NCAA football as a pseudo-coach, thinking about what play I'd call here, whether to kick of go for it on fourth down, go for 1 or 2 after the touchdown, etc.  And, actually, I'm such a nut that watching football that way that can seriously occupy my time all day and night.

But, having totally forgotten about college football and missing an hour-and-a-half of action, does that mean I've officially become a writer first and football fan second?

Hmmm.  I'll have to ask my writer's group tonight.


Thursday, September 23, 2010

Mascot on Steroids -- a.k.a., The Perils of a High-Scoring Offense

Every time the Oregon football team scores, the Oregon Duck does push-ups -- one for every point. If Oregon scores a touchdown on its opening drive, the Duck will do seven push-ups. If the team adds a field goal on the second drive, the Duck does 10 push-ups, etc.

The season is only three weeks old, but suffice it to say the Oregon Duck has ben getting a hell of a workout. Oregon has won its first three games 72-0, 48-13 and 69-0.  After adding up all the points Oregon has scored and the sequence of the scoring, all told the Oregon Duck has done 1,219 push-ups in the first three games of the season -- 506 in week 1, 192 in week 2 and 422 in week 3.  At that pace, the Duck will do 4,876 over the course of the season (not including a likely post-season bowl game).  Pretty soon the Duck will be so jacked, they'll be forcing it submit to steroid testing.

I've been working out a little more lately, but 4,876 push-ups is a little ridiculous.   

The Power of Drew

The new season of "The Price is Right" started this week. Or maybe it was last week.  I'm losing track.  Whatever.  Anyway, Drew Carey looks jacked, like he's been dieting.  Good for him.  By the way, If anybody's ever looked up Drew Carey on Wikipedia, there's an old photo of him from back in his Marines days.  He look like he could've single-handedly gutted the entire al-Qaeda operation all by himself.

CBS made the right move on hiring him.  He's one of those rare examples of someone who replaces a legend (Bob Barker) and actually represents an improvement -- the antithesis to Cliff Stoudt replacing Terry Bradshaw, or Brian Griese replacing John Elway.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Fried Death

At The Big E, they're selling fried butter -- fried dough with butter in the middle.

As Jay Leno would say, "How fat are we getting in this country?"  I think I gained 5 pounds just reading this.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Ode to Vault Soda

Yesterday I took a jaunt down to Connecticut to interview novelist Wally Lamb, which was pretty inspiring.  It was a great interview and I really appreciate his candid comments and approachability.

Because of my blatant lack of planning, I forgot to gas up before I crossed the state line into Connecticut, whose nickname is "The Expensive Gas State."  Idiot.  Two things made it worthwhile, however.  One, I stopped at a Sunoco, so I was able to use my Price Chopper AdvantEdge gas card for the first time (you get a discount on gas at Sunoco stations depending on how much you shop at Price Chopper supermarkets).

Second, I found that in Brooklyn, Conn., they still sell Vault soda.  Vault was the answer to my prayers when it came out in 2005.  It was touted as an artificially flavored energy soda.  It's like the old 1990s soft drink Surge, which I had a similar addiction to.  I can't really describe the taste.  It was Mountain Dew without the weird aftertaste.  Sprite without the overfruitiness.  Coke without the syrupy flavor.  In other words, really good.

But apparently Coca-Cola, which makes Vault, had a change of heart.  (Or I was the only person drinking it.)  Recently it's disappeared from store shelves in my neck of the woods.  It stayed a little longer up in the Fitchburg area, but it's disappeared there too.  One of the guys who works at a convenience store near my place, who apparently began to recognize me after I came in every day to purchase a bottle, said his Coca-Cola distributor told him they were ditching Vault in favor or resurrecting Mello Yello.  Sigh.  Mello Yello which tastes like bad Mountain Dew, and since even good Mountain Dew tastes like bad soda, that's not a good tradeoff.

I don't know why Vault is still kicking around in Connecticut.  (When I was at residency in July, I noticed it was still being sold in  Mystic, too.)  Maybe it's more popular with Nutmeggers.  But I imagine it's only a matter of time before they pull it from Connecticut shelves as well.  As for me, I bought eight bottles of Vault yesterday on my way back from the Wally Lamb interview. 

Maybe I'll sneak back down there next week sometime to stock up some more.                   

Monday, September 20, 2010

Yeah, but other teams suck too...

It's disappointing when the Patriots lose.  But I didn't know what to expect from them this year, so I'm not gonna dwell on it.  There are other teams I knew what to expect from, and seeing them stumble out of the gate makes me happy.

It's fun to see Minnesota start 0-2.  I've always said one of these days Brett Favre will crash and burn, and maybe this will be the year.  He's started off the season with 1 touchdown and 4 interceptions. He can bitch and moan about how he's not comfortable with the receivers, but minus Sidney Rice it's the same bunch he had last year.  And he can't blame the interception he threw at the goal line on the receivers -- that was a horrible throw.  It's sad when you're rooting for Favre to get hurt.

Likewise, seeing Dallas start 0-2 is a joy, particularly when you think about who they've lost to.  At least Minnesota has lost to a couple of teams (New Orleans, Miami) that should be contenders.  While Washington may be improved, I doubt they'll be contending for hre Super Bowl just yet.  And I may be proven wrong but I still contend Chicago sucks.

Maybe the Patriots won't do much this year, but watching Minnesota and Dallas cash and burn will make the season well worth it.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Cure for What Ails Me

I started taking olive leaf extract earlier this year on the advice of a former coworker. It supposedly blocks viruses and bacteria and stuff that makes you sick from multiplying.  I've been trying to take it every day since then.

It seems to have worked. After I got home from residency I was exhausted, and could feel something knocking on my door, so to speak, but I never got sick. And from what I heard everybody at residency got sick when I got home.

Since I got laid off, I've been surprisngly busy, writing and blogging and working out more and fine-tuning my resume and finishing up my third-semester project. Suddenly I woke up at 4 a.m., my nose was dripping and I felt like I had been hit by a truck. I took some more olive leaf extract (this time I took two) and went back to bed. And I feel much better now, 8 hours later.

So, maybe it's not 100% seamless, but it seems to work pretty well. We aim to educate here.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Dead and Alive

Pat Burns is one lucky guy.

Friday, the former Bruins coach died -- for about five minutes.  The news flashed across the Internet news sites around noontime.  I scrolled Wikipedia and he was on the "Recent Deaths" page, and the Wiki article on him was tagged "This article is about a person who recently died -- Some information, such as that pertaining to the circumstances of the person's death and surrounding events, may change as more facts become known."

I checked back five minutes later and the tag had mysteriously been removed.  Seems Burns contacted the media to inform them that he was still alive. While he's been fighting cancer for some time, he apparently is still kicking around.  He sounded pissed, "I'm not dead, far (expletive) from it," he said in a wire article.

My question: why be pissed?  How many of us get a chance to read our obituary?  I'd be fired up about the opportunity to read mine.  Even if someone does say anything bad about me, at least that way I know who my real friends are.

Personally, I'd frame the obits.  But maybe that's just me. 

The Final Half-Hour of Life

Tuesday night I ventured out to Newton to see my former Harvard Extension fiction writing professor and 2010 Pulitzer Prize winner Paul Harding read from his novel Tinkers at Newtonville Books.  I'm a groupie, and it's great to catch up with him. The other night he drew a crowd of nearly 100 -- though part of that may be because it was supposed to be a joint reading with Rick Moody, who called in sick.  Still, that's pretty impressive if you've ever been to Newtonville Books, which is the size of a closet.  The store employees were bringing in chairs from the basement to accommodate everybody, and a few people still had to stand.  If you ever get a chance to see him, take advantage of it.  Tinkers' path to publication is the ultimate underdog story.  It makes the 2001 Patriots look like prohibitive favorites on their run to the Super Bowl.

On my way home, I got off the Mass Pike on the Framingham/Southboro line.  At the time, the most notable part of my ride was the toll-taker getting her panties in a bunch because I paid my toll with a $5 bill.  This is around 10 p.m. Once I get off the highway, there's some construction on Route 9.  I saw three guys along the side of the road working the site.  No big deal. 

I wake up the next morning and there's a story on the news about an accident at that same interrsection, which happened about a half hour later.  A pickup truck with two guys in it plows into the constriuction site and kills one of the workers.  The two men in the truck are being charged with vehicular homicide and DWI.  It's sad.  If I had stopped to grab a bite to eat, which I was seriously considering, I could've been messed up in that. 

Apparently the victim's birthday was Wednesday; he had a wife and kids. I don't know what his plans were for his birthday, and I guess it doesn't matter. 

I stop and think, one of those three guys I saw was in his final half-hour of life.  And none of us knew it.   

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

I've Created a Monster

I should've learned from Bono.

The U2 frontman has it all figured out.  He started his career signing about politics and oppression, then ventured into sappy love songs like "The Sweetest Thing."  And everyone bought into it.

Me, on the other hand, I've got it all backwards.  So I've been blogging for a few days now and I thought it was going well.  The first day, my blog had sort of a humorous theme and got rave reviews.  (OK, maybe not rave reviews, but AJ O'Connell said I was the Peter Cetera of blogs.  I think that was meant as a compliment.)

I should've stuck with what works.  For my second blog, I switched to a more serious, inward-looking topic -- the question of whether to go to attend a taping of "Who Wants to be a Millionaire?"  And boy was that a mistake.  It didn't go over well.  As Will Schubert said, "I've read this blog since it started and have loved it . . . but clearly it's past its prime now."   

I have only myself to blame.  I've always been a tough critic when it comes to, well, everything.  I'm the one who bitched and moaned about how woefully unfunny the second season of "Beavis and Butt-Head" was compared to the first.  I was also pretty tough on the Red Sox in 2007 when, after winning Game 1 of the World Series over Colorado 13-1, they squeaked out a 2-1 win over the Rockies in Game 2. (Of course, they went on to sweep the series anyway.)

So apparently I've jumped the shark.  I've failed you already.  And for that I apologize.

Expectations.  Who needs them?

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Angry For Being Fat -- And Not 'Phat' With A 'Ph'

Later today I'll be going to my gym to start working with a personal trainer. Simply put, I've gained a lot of weight.

Two years ago I was in probably the best shape of my life, including high school and college -- the difference being that in high school and college, I drank like a fish  (this statement may come as a surprise to my MFA brethren, but the reality is that, outside of Enders Island, I pick my spots and only get hammered once or twice a year). In 2008 I was working with personal trainers, began eating better and it showed. I lost 40 pounds and kept it off for awhile.

But things have changed. The major damage started in April when I began a streak of working 50 consecutive days. I was exhausted when I got home, too exhausted to make it to the gym. After the streak ended, I had more time to go to the gym, and I did.  But as things slowed down at work, the Census began laying people off. This meant every other day we'd either have cake or go out of lunch, neither of which is good for the waistline.

So now I'm in bad shape; I'm scared to even step on the scale again, worried that the full 40 pounds are back. 

These are not excuses. I should've fought through it and said no to bad food and inactivity. But I can't change the past. I'm back where I started and I hate myself for that. All I can do now is take out my anger at the gym.

Monday, September 13, 2010

I Want "Millionaire" Back

The past few years I've made a September pilgrimage to New York to attend a taping of "Who Wants To Be a Millionaire?"  Historically I've met up there with my friend Susan from Philadelphia, whom I hit it off with at my first "Millionaire" taping.

This year she decided to schedule her annual trip tomorrow. I can't go tomorrow for a couple of reasons. One, Wednesday is my designated day to call the unemployment office and start a claim. (The second reason will be the subject of tomorrow's blog.) So I was kinda bummed, but thinking about going on my own in the coming weeks. It's a fun trip. I like New York -- though I hate all the sports teams that play there. And I get a perverse pleasure out of setting my alarm for 4 a.m. once a year so I can catch the 5:30 Acela train in Providence that gets to New York in time to make the taping. There's something about reading a novel while taking the train through Rhode Island and Connecticut and into New York, hanging out at Penn Station, the bar across the street from Penn Station with the pretty waitresses, whose name escapes me right now, and taking in the taping of a game show that has an irresistible appeal to me.

Today I watched the season premiere of "Millionaire" on TV. They've shuffled the dollar values around, so you have no idea what amount of money you're playing for in the early questions. The hot seat is gone. Now the contestants have to stand at a table and talk to Meredith. The only surviving original lifeline is "Ask the Audience." A new lifeline is "Jump the Question," in which you can basically skip a question if you don't know the answer (you get two of these over the life of the game). And there are other changes that are just too complex and difficult to explain.

Here's the problem: I don't feel like I'm watching "Millionaire" anymore. It's morphed into a completely different game show. And it's not as fun. Now that I'm unemployed, do I bother spending $200 on train tickets and another $50 on food and parking in Providence and a beer or two at the bar in NYC, when I feel like I'm going to see a different and less interesting game show. Part of the appeal is the chance to audition. I suppose the advantage is that, you'll never really have to worry about missing the $100 question anymore, and since I am unemployed I should probably think about it as an opportunity. But it just doesn't seem fun anymore. And I've always been afraid of being on TV, worried that I'll humiliate myself somehow and it'll become the topic of ridicule at my class reunion.

What should I do?

The first day of the rest of my life

While unemployment isn't great news, I try to look for the silver linings. And it's true, I've been looking forward to the next phase of my life -- getting some errands done that I previously didn't have time for, finishing the gargantuan third-semester critical thesis for my grad school MFA program, cleaning my apartment, getting an oil change, you know, onward and upward.  Oh, and starting a blog too :)

It was at 8:08 this morning that I was jolted awake -- not by my alarm clock, but by my phone. I stumble into the living room to pick it up, and it's one of those telefundraisers for local police and fire departments. The guy on the other end of the phone goes through his script, and then asks, "So how much can you give today?" (Clearly, it was never an issue with him that I might say no.)

"Dude," I said, "I just got laid off from my job Friday. I'm not giving money to anyone right now."

"Is that a temporary or a permanent problem?"

"Listen," I said, "If I want to donate, I'll give you a call, okay?"


Thus begins Day 1 of my post-Census life.