Monday, December 31, 2012

Philloverse Goals in Review 2012

Like many people, I set some goals/resolutions for myself this past year. Unlike some people, I haven't followed up on these goals on my blog.

So in the interest of full disclosure, it's time for some accountability. Watch me fail.

Attainable goals:
1) Continue to revise and polish my novel until it's agent-ready: DONE, though it's certainly not agent-ready yet. So maybe this is a DONE, SORT OF instead. I dunno. Whatever, I didn't really set parameters for my goals. Lesson learned.
2) Apply for writing fellowships: DONE
3) Apply for adjunct teaching positions: DONE
4) Pursue freelance writing opportunities: DONE
5) Read for one hour a day: EPIC FAIL. Wow, I totally dropped the ball on this one. Things got really busy for me this year. I moved. I went through four different jobs. I felt like I didn't have much time to breathe. Something had to give, and unfortunately, it was reading.

Ambitious goals:
1) Secure an agent for my novel: EPIC FAIL. Well if I don't think it's agent-ready yet, I highly doubt any agents will think it's agent-ready. So I really didn't try.
2) Get accepted for a writing fellowship: DONE. I've had to defer it, unfortunately, because of some life issues (i.e., all these job moves). But since my goal explicitly was to "get accepted," I'm counting this one.
3) Land an adjunct gig for fall 2012 or spring 2013: SORT OF DONE. This is another situation where, I had an opportunity to pursue an adjunct gig but, for a variety of reasons, had to say no. (I think my biggest goal for 2013 is to have some goals that aren't so frikkin' ambiguous.)
4) Revise three short stories that have been sitting in the belly of my laptop for years and secure publication for at least one: EPIC FAIL. I did more on this than I did reading, but I did precious little on it.
5) Apply for creative writing Ph. D programs (just in case...): EPIC FAIL. Once again, my chaotic year got the best of me and, like reading and revising, this fell by the wayside.
6) Put myself in a position where, going forward, I can earn enough money to get by on some combination of freelance writing and teaching and fellowship money: EPIC FAIL. 

After all my job hunting and interviewing, I do have a good job now where I have some stability. (Knock on wood.) So, after some chaos in my life for 2012, I feel like I'm back on the right track. I think what this list shows is that I was pretty good at the attainable goals, not so much on the ambitious goals. And so that's a challenge for me as I go forward.

Now it's time to come up with some goals for 2013. 

Philloverse Year In Review 2012

2012 was one of the weirdest years of my life.

The year began I received my Master of Fine Arts for creative writing. At my graduation I gave a speech. Afterwards I was informed I made a couple of people cry. I'm such a douchebag. Also, it was pretty depressing to leave the MFA program.

The Patriots went to the Super Bowl, and in a hard-fought contest fell just short. Hopefully they can get back and close the deal this time around.

My unemployment finally ran out.

I got a job.

I left this job after seven days for a potential writing opportunity.

On the way to this writing opportunity, I nearly drove off a cliff and died.

Talk about an omen. The writing opportunity ended up being a writing + other things opportunity and, as I was debating whether to go through with it, two other jobs came calling and gave me the opportunity to pursue the two jobs -- one of which was 35 hours a week, the other was part-time (once every four weeks).

I was right about Bobby Valentine.

While I enjoyed the 35-hour-a-week job, it was a 45-minute commute (one-way) and I knew I wouldn't be able to sustain that long-term. So I knew I needed a change. And I left for another job closer to home, though not without a nice little sendoff.

There were issues at the new job almost from the start, and luckily I followed one of my life mantras, which meant a new job was once again waiting for me. This is now my current job, and my fourth job in the span of nine months (five if you include the one I never started).

What a crazy year.

Really, in 2013 I just want to get back into the habit of regular writing.

Monday, December 24, 2012

On the Controversial Job Of Being Santa Claus

I've been GChatting off and on with my MFA Little Sister Erin all day, and the topic of Santa Claus came up. Here's a guy who:

* Drives a sleigh at ridiculously unsafe speeds in order to get around the world in one night.
* Crash-lands on people's roofs with large, bulky reindeer in tow.
* Breaks into people's houses in the middle of the night.
* Causes fire hazards by damaging chimneys.
* Kisses mommies, many of whom are married.
* Makes a mess at certain households by tossing around lumps of coal.
* Eats holiday goodies that people have spent good money on.
* Has the audacity to tell some parents and children that, no, you're not getting anything this year.

It takes a lot of balls to do this. This has caused me to reevaluate my thoughts on him. I wonder if Santa Claus is trained in the martial arts. Of if he packs heat. Somebody has to get pissed at him breaking into their house, particularly if he's putting the moves on their sweethearts.

Sure, he only works one night a year. But let's face it, it's a 24-hour night. And since he manages a bunch of elves, I strongly suspect Santa's a salaried empoyee, so it's not like he gets OT or night differential for working a ballbuster of a shift.

Also, regardless of how attractive the women he's kissing are, it's risky business putting the moves on ladies who are already spoken for. Not to mention that he, too, is supposedly involed with someone. Do Mrs. Claus and Santa have an open relationship? Maybe that's none of my business, but it's a question thatg screams to be answered.

Santa must have to spend an arm and a leg on insurance. There's so much liability. He probably pays a much higher premium given the inherent risk of the job and the fact thatg hs sleigh is by all accounts a very experimental mode of transportation.

I don't know how Santa is compensated, but I think no amount of money is worth doing this job.


Sunday, December 23, 2012

The Krampus List 2012

I try to do some sort of Xmas-list blog here every holiday season, and it's getting pretty late so it's time for me to get going.

This year, I'm giving it a little twist by focusing on the Krampus, a mythical creature who is basicaly the antithesis of Santa Claus, punishing all the naughty children at Christmas by capturing them in his sack and flying back into his lair, presumably for them to serve as a tasty holiday midnight snack for him.

Thus, I now present the people I would like the Krampus to take away this year, in no particular order:

Politicians: We're going over the fiscal cliff in a week, and all anyone wants to do is babble about why the other party sucks on Meet the Press. If our politicians used the time they spend posturing on the Sunday morning political shows to actually talk to each other, they'd have a deal done in 30 minutes. Just shut up and get it done.

Anyone who predicts the end of the world: Another year, another hoax end-of-the-world prediction. This is getting ridiculous. Let's get one thing straight, people: when the end of the world is upon us, either science will have progressed to the point where we can predict it with pinpoint accuracy and we're prepared to jet off to a new planet, or it'll happen when we all least expect it. Stop pretending you have a crystal ball -- nobody does.

NHL players and owners: Every time hockey makes some strides in the right direction, they screw it up again. This past year the Los Angeles Kings came out of nowhere to win the Stanley Cup, and instead of riding the momentum, we get a lockout because millionaires and billionaires can't get together. The only saving grace -- nobody has to watch the Columbus Blue Jackets play.

Lindsay Lohan: Seriously. Enough is enough, Lindsay. Either pull yourself together or go to jail.

Peyton Manning: While I certainly admire his comeback from a career-threatening injury, I was really hoping the Patriots would no longer have to contend with him on the road to the Super Bowl. His MVP-caliber numbers have obviously put an end to those dreams. Could the Patriots sign the Krampus to play defensive end? Because Peyton needs to go away.

Let's hope that the Krampus comes through in the clutch and passes up innocent children this year in favor of these more worthy collections for his sack.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

End of the World

They tell me the world will end tomorrow, so this seems like a good time to reflect upon my life.

My biggest regrets:
1) I haven't paid off all my debt.
2) My novel hasn't yet been published. This would actually be a bigger regret for me than the first one. It's been a difficult year in a lot of ways and I haven't been able to work on it as much as I'd like. Were the world not ending, I'd love a second chance at polishing it off over the next year or two. Let this be a lesson to us all -- we never know how much time we have left and we need to seize the day.

On the flip side:
1) I'm healthy
2) I have a close network of family and friends.
3) I'm content with who I am as a person. This makes me happiest. I almost never go to bed unhappy. Small disappointments here and there, yes. Regrets, occasionally (see above). There are people in this world who don't like me, but you can't be liked by everybody and I feel like those who don't like me, it's more of a flaw with them than me. I'm content. And happy. In a lot of ways I feel like I'm one of the luckiest people on Earth.

I don't want to world to end now, so hopefully the Mayans are wrong. But if this is how I have to go out, I can be at peace with myself.  

Friday, December 14, 2012


Earlier this week I was on the phone with my mom and we got into a fight. It was fight over small things.

I don't always see eye-to-eye with my parents (or, really, with anyone). Yet, no matter how angry I've gotten at them, I can say emphatically that I've never wanted to gun them down. That's what makes this tragedy so senseless, and that's before the even taking into account the shooting of innocent children.

A few hours ago my mom called me back. It was a much different conversation. This tragedy put things into perspective.

Life's too short to argue about petty things.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

To Blog Or Not To Blog

Over the weekend, I wrote a couple of pages that a friend said was pretty good. I thought (and she concurred) that it might make a good blog post.

The couple of pages in question were about interpersonal dealings between myself and someone else.

I went back and forth. There were advantages and disadvantages. Writing is often a good way to get your thoughts out. That said, airing those thoughts in such a public forum can be narcissistic. And, while I'm pretty confident for a variety of reasons that the Someone Else will never read this, you never know. The piece is at times flattering and unflattering for both me and the other person.

It's been a tough decision.

At this current moment in time, I've elected not to run it.

That's not to say that I won't someday post the blog. It's very possible that, a week, a month, a year from now, I'll run with it. Or maybe the writing was therapeutic enough for me and it'll never see the light of day.

Time will tell. When I started writing this blog that you're reading now, I was still on the fence about my decision. Another situation where writing helped me talk myself through a decision. That said, I'm very sorry if you feel like I teased you into reading this without a payoff. If so, all I can say is, hang tight. Someday when you least expect it, you may get your wish.


Sunday, December 2, 2012

Extra Points

Here's something that's always baffled me:

In overtime of an NFL game, if a team scores a TD the game is over. And, by rule, the winning team doesn't bother to kick the extra point (even though it's an untimed play) because it's moot -- since the game ends instantly upon scoring a touchdown, why bother?

Today, the Colts beat the Lions when they scored at TD on the final play of regulation, and, by rule, they had to kick the extra point.

Why? The game is just as over as it would've been if it had been scored in OT.

These nuances of the NFL rules keep me up at night.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Writers Group

Last night I went to a writers group for the first time in a couple of months.

It was sorely needed. The past few months have been chaotic for me and because of that I had to put writing down for a little bit. It made me feel bad about myself. In January I gave a speech when I graduated with my MFA and one of the things I talked about in it was about the need to keep writing. And so the past couple of months I felt like a hypocrite.

I miss writing.

I also miss my writing friends. I find camaraderie is an important aspect of writing and it was just really great to share some stories with them. We also set some goals for our next meeting.

It's very refreshing to get back into the swing of things. Coming off the heels of my last day at my job, it was one of the happier nights I've had in a long time, and my writing friends were a big part of that.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Never Decline a Job Interview, The Sequel

Last month I gave my notice at The Chopper. While I enjoyed working there and made some good friends, I was offered a new job with Company A, a good opportunity for me to get paid a little more and to work significantly closer to home.

Then a funny thing happened. The day after I was offered this job, Company B (whom I had sent my resume to a few days earlier, before I knew Company A would offer me a job) invited me in for a job interview.

I once blogged on this site about one of my personal philosophies: never decline a job interview. And so, true to myself, I went on the job interview.

Sure enough, I soon had two job offers on the table before me. The two job offers were substantially identical. So identical that when I did the proverbial pro-con list, the pro and cons of both jobs came out as equal.

I don't like this kind of stress. So after a few days in limbo, I finally decided to go with Company A, for no other reason than the fact that they came through with the first offer. Company B was disappointed when I broke the news. Meanwhile, in the back of my mind I wondered if I was making the right choice. This was not because of any gut instinct -- had I chosen the Company B, I would have those same what-ifs rolling through my mind.

A couple of weeks into my new job, Company B called again, asking how the new job was going (clearly this was not the true reason for their call). When they called, I was at the new job. It was kind of awkward. But I appreciated that they saw something in me and politely said that I needed to run, but feel free to call me back.

The next day, things started to change at Company A. Actually, it's not that things really changed. It's that I started to notice some things. I won't go into detail. But let's just say that if Company A were an NFL team, the media would characterize Company A as having "team chemistry issues" and "poor coaching." And it was making my job considerably more difficult than it had to be. And so I swung by Company B (which happens to be conveniently located on my way home from Company A) later that day.

One thing led to another. Company B invited me in for a "second job interview," this time with the company HR Director, CEO and president. Once again, Company B offered me a job -- this time for considerably more money than the original offer. It was too good to turn down, particularly given the problems at Company A.

You can imagine how awkward things were the past two weeks at Company A (in fact, while I agreed to give Company A two weeks' notice, things have been so uncomfortable there that yesterday we mutually agreed to cut things off at a week-and-a-half's notice). I get it. I'm there for a month and then I leave. I don't expect people to be thrilled. But the sad part is, after I gave my notice, my boss at Company A started saying some nasty things about me to others. Saying that I need work on my "people skills" and "common sense" and that I "don't work well with women." Which smacks of someone crying sour grapes, or trying to cover her ass from potential corporate questions about why I'm leaving so quickly. These were never problems until I gave my notice. Also, give me a break -- I got a going-away party and cake when I left The Chopper, which was almost exclusively attended by female Chopper employees. Do people with poor people skills get that kind of treatment on the way out? I took the high road on my way out and it's disappointing that not everybody can do so.

Who knows, Company B may be a disaster, too. But I look at it this way: when presented with two opportunities, I've received a rare chance to sample both of them.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Thanksgiving 2012

I'm thankful:

* To have a job. Earlier this year I was going on my 18th consecutive month of unemployment, and in the last month of so of that my unemployment benefits had exhausted. It's been a difficult year, but it's nice to have a means of income.

* That Thanksgiving means two or three days of leftovers.

* That, to the best of my knowledge, I have my health. I say to the best of my knowledge because even with all the advancements in health care, we never know if we'll wake up to the day we drop dead of a heart attack. But I've always been pretty healthy and I hope this continues.

* That last night the Patriots beat the stuffing out of the New York Jets, a franchise that embodies everything that's wrong with America (narcissism, melodrama, gluttony and proselytizing). Also, that for the first time in my life, I laughed out loud at an NFL play.

* That while I'm human and make mistakes sometimes and can always look for ways to better myself, overall I'm happy with who I am, even when I go against the grain in life, and those who aren't happy with me for whatever reason are making more of a commentary on themselves than they are about me.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Traffic Stop 2, Small Town Boogaloo

Blogger's note: I know it's Thanksgiving today, but because the following happened to me the other day and in the interest of switching things up a bit, I'll do the "What I'm thankful for" blog tomorrow.

I'm right on time for work and, wouldn't you know it, I get behind a car with Georgia license plates, whose driver clearly has no clue where he/she is going, going at a rate of speed comparable to a snail in quicksand. This person begins to veer to the breakdown lane, but not enough for me to pass safely. So I'm slogging along behind, tapping my fingers on the steering wheel.

I look behind me and a cop has his lights flashing. Must be an emergency. Finally this car in front of me will pull over and I can pass.

You can imagine my horror when the cop pulls in behind me. License and registration, blah blah blah.

"Do you know why I pulled you over?" he asks.

"Honestly, no," I say.

"You were tailgating the driver in front of you." He looks pissed, like I ruined his day. For most cops, an armed robbery or triple-homicide ruins their day. "Also," he continues, "you were weaving back and forth." Clearly he has me confused with the jerkbone in front of me.

"I didn't realize that," I say. What I really want to say is, "Clearly you have me confused with the jerkbone in front of me," but I'm told that sarcasm isn't a good attitude to take with the police.

Great. I'm going to be late for work now. I am the king of bizarre traffic stops. Don't the cops have other things to do with their time, like stop an armed robbery?

In what appears to be a show of mercy, he takes my license and registration and brings it back to his cruiser and, within 15 seconds, returns. "Don't tailgate other drivers," he says and returns my stuff, ticket-free. I can get to work on time.

That's life working in a small town -- where tailgating slow drivers is a capital offense.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Retail Exhibitionism

It's getting toward closing time. There's a lot of stuff for me to do and never enough time to do it all, particularly when pesky customers keep coming in to buy stuff.

This one is buying vodka. I feel like he's of age to buy, but I don't see any outward clues that totally give it away (the onset of crow's feet, a few specks of gray hair, the beginnings of a receding hairline). So I ask him for ID.

"Shit. I don't have it. Seriously, you're new here. I'm 28. I come in here all the time."

If I had to guess, I'd say 28 sounds about right for him. But I pause. You never know if a sting is happening.

It was a long pause.

About 15 seconds later, from the car he was in emerges a girl, wearing only a bra and thong.

"Hurry UP!" she tells him.

I had to let him buy the vodka on principle.

Monday, November 12, 2012


"I once had a roommate who loved to hear himself talk. And, living in the same dwelling as him, that resulted in me sitting on the sofa on a nightly basis, tortured by having to listen to him talk my ear off about everything to the latest episode of Royal Pains to the Patriots’ defensive woes to his psycho ex-girlfriend’s plot to ruin his life. Most of the time I would pretend I was listening and nod accordingly. Still, I have to admit that every once in awhile he would say something that was actually quite profound, and I file away those rare nuggets to this day as proverbial 'words of wisdom.'"

n  Opening from a paper I turned in for a novel-writing class I took this past summer.

The topic of that paper is immaterial for this blog. The roommate in question was someone I lived with last year. He was mostly a good guy. I always felt like he just needed a break or two. And he did indeed have some moments where he would say something that brought some clarity to our crazy world. I’ve been told I’m a good listener, that I should’ve become a therapist, and I think the fact that I listened (even when I didn't always want to) caused him to take a liking to me.

Except that the ex-girlfriend’s plot to ruin his life became all-consuming, to the point where they would be at our place every night, fighting until the police would arrive. And then there was the day when he screamed at me for something ridiculously minor (getting him the wrong flavor of tea from McDonald’s). Whether he needed a break in life or not, I didn’t have to put up with mental abuse for any reason, let alone something as meaningless as tea. One instance was enough to me.

So even though I liked the place I lived in, I felt I had no choice but to move. But I always in the back of my mind wondered how he was doing, if he found a way to right the ship.

I recently found out that a couple of months ago he committed suicide.

We all have our problem and challenges we have to overcome in life. I certainly have mine. I feel like this is a lesson for me not to let my problems consume me. There’s always a silver lining, as long as you don’t sabotage yourself.

Friday, November 9, 2012

My First Trip to the Supermarket As an Ex-Supermarket Employee

8:24 a.m. -- Walk in.

8:25 a.m. -- Mutter to myself, "Where the fuck are the red baskets?" As someone who's single and shops only for himself, unless I got a 24-pack of bottled water, I never a shopping carriage because I don't need to do that much shopping. I used to hate it when I walked into a supermarket and there weren't any red baskets at the front of the store. Also, as front-end supervisor it was drilled into me: "Make sure there are plenty of red baskets out in the lobby," because they want to make sure douchebag customers like me wouldn't say, "Where the fuck are the red baskets?" In life, everything comes full circle.

8:26 a.m. -- Find and grab a red basket underneath Register 13.

8:27 a.m. -- To the produce aisle, to get my daily ration of four pieces of fruit. Just a reminder to my ex-work spouse: pluots are out of season.

8:30 a.m. -- Off to deli. When I worked at The Chopper I almost never bought anything at the deli. It was a function of the high-stress environment, I guess. Better to calm my nerves with a slice of pizza of chicken tenders then a slab of lunch meat (also, if you save it it'll go bad before you get home). It was refreshing to grab some American cheese for a change.

8:32 a.m. -- Grabbing some 93% lean ground beef. Also never bought this as an employee. See above.

8:34 a.m. -- To the checkout! It's early and there are not a lot of people in the store. Unfortunately there are fewer cashiers. So I have to wait in line. I used to hate this as a front-end supervisor -- being understaffed, having to hop on a register myself. Here, none of the soops jumped on. So I had to wait. Luckily the cashier was speedy and I only waited a couple of minutes.

8:36 a.m. -- I accidentally drop a 12-pack of ramen onto the belt and it bounces and nearly pegs the cashier. I apologize to her. I've dealt with some rude customers as a front-end supervisor, but none who ever threw groceries at me.

8:38 a.m. -- Done. Quick and painless. And I didn't have to worry about being written up for anything.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

2012 Election Night Redux, or An Open Letter to the Republican Party

From the night he was elected in 2008, I never once doubted that President Obama would be re-elected. Not when his midterm approval ratings were in the toilet. Not when he slept through the first presidential debate last month. Never.

I say this not out of any rah-rah cheering for him. I’m the ultimate political neutral. I posted my political leanings as Whig on my Facebook Wall. I’m liberal on some issues (mostly social and foreign policy) and conservative on others (mostly economic). I think Obama has done a good job in some aspects of his first term and a lousy job in others.

In fact, the reason I knew he’d be re-elected has nothing to do with him. It has everything to do with the Republicans. They can’t get out of their own way. They continue to make the same mistakes over and over again and then act shocked when they lose. This is now four of the last six presidential elections that they’ve lost, and had it not been for some blind/dumb voters in Florida in 2000, it might have been a Democratic clean sweep of the six. The Republicans had a chance to unseat Obama this year, and they blew it.

So I know Karl Rove is still arguing the results, but since everyone else in America has moved on, I’m going to list an action plan for Republicans to get their mojo back and maybe win something important in the future:

1)      Find a candidate who at least doesn’t look the part of a white male CEO – After Abraham Lincoln, who resembled a starving lumberjack, virtually every Republican presidential candidate since has looked like a guy who just walked into a board of directors meeting. The two exceptions to this rule were Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush, and people can say what they want about their politics/intellect. But is it a coincidence that both Dubya and Reagan were re-elected? I doubt it. Perhaps the worst example of a Republican called from Central Casting was your most recent candidate – Mitt Romney, a guy who’s physically incapable of sounding like anything but the corporate CEO we all love to hate. For one night (the first presidential debate) Romney was kidnapped and replaced by a cyborg who seemed to actually care more about people than money. And then that Mitt Romney disappeared, never to be seen again, replaced by the one we all know and distrust, the one who builds elevators for his cars, who calls corporations people, who gets caught saying he doesn't giving a shit about 47% of the country when he thinks nobody’s looking. There are Republicans out there who actually look and sound like real people. Marco Rubio. Chris Christie (if he doesn't eat himself to death before 2016). Mike Huckabee. And you Republicans would be wise to choose one who does as your next candidate. Remember, Republican Party, despite what Mitt Romney may think, corporations don't vote. People do.

2)      Move on from abortion and gay marriage – What you fail to understand, dear Republicans, is that all the right-wing conservative voters are already in your fold anyway. They’re not going to stray. Who else are they going to vote for? Stop being so anal. But the independent voters – that third of the country that ultimately decides every election, because one-third votes Democrat no matter what and one-third votes Republican no matter what – are not going to base their vote on a candidates’ abortion or gay marriage stance. There are always bigger issues. Yet you continue to jam the abortion and gay marriage planks of your party platform down everybody’s throats, even when many of your own party members are pro-choice and pro-gay rights. It’s baffling that the self-proclaimed “party of less government” somehow seems to need more government when the issue switches to our bedrooms. Also, here’s a neat little bit of trivia for you: what do Vermont, Maine, Connecticut, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Illinois and California all have in common? That’s right. None of those states have voted GOP since 1992, when you Republicans first went all-out on your family values crusade. That’s 152 electoral votes – more than half the amount needed to win the presidency – that barring a complete Democratic candidate meltdown you have no shot at winning. Is that a smart idea of a dumb idea, Republicans? Seems pretty dumb to me.   

3)      Stop blaming the mainstream media for your problems – It’s also bewildering how the self-proclaimed “party of personal responsibility” constantly uses the media an a convenient excuse when they lose an election, and continually condescends to the voting pool by telling us we believe everything the mainstream media tells (or doesn’t tell) us. Are there occasions of liberal bias in the mainstream media? Yes. Definitely. But that’s counterbalanced by FoxNews, which is basically a p.r. agency for the Republican Party. So it’s a wash. This just in, Republicans: people have brains and can critically evaluate a news piece and formulate their own decisions. When you bitch and moan about the media, you insult everyone and that only hurts your chances to win everyone’s vote in the future. Take personal responsibility in your actions, Republicans. You didn’t lose last night because of liberal media bias. You lost because you had a lousy candidate.

I’m not posting this because I like Republicans or want the nation to go all red-state. I’ll admit that I do appreciate the Democratic Party’s commitment to civil liberties and opposition to endless military interventions in other countries. But I’ve never been on board with the Democrats’ need to throw taxpayer money at every single one of the nation’s problems. And for that reason, I want a choice. I hope you read this, Republican Party. Because if you don't, we may only be a one-party nation going forward.


Friday, November 2, 2012


As if switching jobs, soul-searching on my birthday and contending with Stormzilla Sandy wasn't enough to keep me busy, I also moved this week.

My lease at my old place was up. I have no hard feelings against my landlord. He's a good guy. I wish him well. I've had some bad landlords in the past and he is definitely not of of them. It's just that there are some things I need in a place and other things I don't need, and I found a place that suits me better at this time somewhere else.

I've also had some less-than-stellar success with moving in the past.

The good news: this was the least painful move of my life. It's almost like I wasn't even tired. Part of that is because I'm moving right up the street from my old place. Literally. I can walk to my old place from my new place -- probably a 20-minute or so walk but a walk nonetheless.

Finding this place, however, was complicated for a number of reasons.

As per usual, I had to give 30-days' notice that I'd be leaving. And 30 days ago, I didn't know whether I'd be leaving my old job (I had a lead on what is now my current job but it was far from a certainty that an offer would come from it), so I really had no idea where to look for a new place. Thus, I had to tell a little white lie to my landlord about why I was leaving -- i.e., my new job is too far away from here and I need to move closer to it. I wasn't proud of this. But I felt like I had to massage the truth.

The month went by and my work life began to settle into place. I did the final walkthrough with my landlord. He asked where I ended up moving.

I did some more massaging, and while I didn't give him my address (I don't need to, I paid first and last months' rent instead of first and security when I moved in), I told him that a new opportunity had come about and I'd be staying in the general area.

He was fine with it. We shook hands and he wished me luck.

And I feel better sleeping in my new place. 

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Birthday Soul-Searching

"Scorpios are characterized as mysterious, passionate and brooding. They are known for both their deep feelings and their tendency toward a charming but edgy sensuality....Scorpios are also blessed with great creative zeal. You are subtle, sensitive and interested in relationships, but because the creative juices flow so forcefully in your veins, you simply require involvement, action and passionate experience."

-- From "The Oct. 30 Birth Date Book: What Your Birth Date Reveals About You"

An ex-girlfriend bought me that book one year for my birthday. She said it described me perfectly. I can't argue with her.

I've kept the book filed away in a box ever since, but I dug it out on Tuesday, my birthday, because for a good part of this year I've felt my creative zeal had disappeared. It's been a difficult year -- finding work, rejecting work, returning to old work, finding work again, working double-shifts, working nights, working again the next morning. I felt a little beaten down.

Part of it's on me. I have to rise above all the problems and distractions. I haven't always lived up to my potential this year. I have to find my creative zeal (both writing and all other things creative) and push myself to pursue it. I went from blogging almost every day to hardly blogging at all because I was having so much difficulty balancing life and work. There was no life. There was just work. I can't allow that to happen. I have to require involvement, as the book says. Force the creative juices to flow. I need to get back to working on my novel. I haven't done nearly as munch work on it this year as I would like. I want to be charming and edgily sensual going forward. I want the rest of my life to be one of passionate experience, one without regrets.

I'm not much for New Year's resolutions, and this is not a birthday resolution. It's just a public prodding to myself that I can do better. I want to live up to my inner Scorpio.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Phil vs. Sandy

So far I'm OK.

Work was fine. The lights flickered several times late this morning thanks to Hurricane Sandy but we never lost power. I spent much of the afternoon replenishing the cooler just in case. People need their milk, water and, most importantly, beer.

On the way home, I felt my car sway a few times on the road. The winds were wicked. It was also raining about as hard as it's been all day and once I felt like my car might start to hydroplane. But it righted itself and I was fine.

I wanted to do laundry (I mean, I still have to live my life) but the laundromat was closed.

My winter coat is soaked. It's actually kinda warm outside, but I need to winter coat to absorb all the rain that pelted me all day.

I wondered whether I'd have power when I got home. I do.

So really, despite a few tense moments, everything's been OK. I'm not in New Jersey and so I;m catching a break. I hope the best for them, that it's not too bad a storm. I'm toying with the concept of heading out to Wendy's (if they are open) for dinner tonight. I look forward to things beginning to slow down.

So far I'm OK.

Knock on wood.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Phil vs. Coffee

I hate coffee.

I realize this puts me in the minority of the adult world, but I can only be me. So I don't drink coffee. To me it tastes like liquid dirt. I get the whole caffeine aspect, and I'm certainly not a morning person, but I'd rather have a Coke or pop a few Vivarins if I need a boost when I first wake up.

But for my new job, I will occasionally have to open the store, which means I need to make coffee for the rest of the coffee-drinking world.

This is a whole new experience for me. I've never even made coffee in my life.

I tried. I did make a few mistakes. One time I didn't put the filter in. I spilled a lot of grinds across the counter.

But I more or less have it figured it out now. I can make seven pots in a short period of time.

I just won't be drinking any of it.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

In Memoriam Bob The Cat: ???-Oct. 24, 2012

I don't have cats, but cats seem to like me. Exhibit A: Bob the Cat.

He's my friend Dianne's cat. Bob had adopted her by virtue of appearing on her property at some point in the early 2000s and claiming it as his own. Eventually, she let him in and he became the family cat. But he was quiet. He rarely came out and socialized with them.

Until he met me in 2002. I put my hand out. Dianne said, "He won't come to you. He's antisocial."

But he marched over to met and craned his neck so I could pet him. A friendship was born.

She had no idea how old he was. We suspected, because of his size and energy level, maybe 4 years old. I got a kick out of him because he had a stub for a tail. Dianne thought Bob may have had his tail run over. Personally, I think he's just a Japanese Bobtail cat, which unlike most breeds only has a stub for a tail because of a genetic defect.

We had some great memories with Bob. We called him Hurricane Bob. We would shout, "Bob!" every time he entered the room and he would meow in response. He watched football with us. He loved having his neck scratched.

But recently he's become frail and thin. Cats age just like all of us. They don't last much more than 14-15 years, and as best as we could tell that's about where Bob was at. Saturday, Dianne broke the news to me. On Wednesday, while I was saying goodbye to The Chopper, Dianne went to the vet and put Bob to sleep.

That fateful morning, Dianne said Bob wandered over to a neighbor's German shepherd, seemingly in an attempt to commit suicide by dog. I hate to see Bob suffer and it was probably for the best.

Bob now lies in a coffin buried in Dianne's backyard. I kind of wanted to dig him up and scratch his neck one last time. But he's in a better place now. And he's at peace.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Last Day at The Chopper

Wednesday was my last day at The Chopper. It started like an ordinary day. A little work on signage. Then, as is usually the case, later in the morning my boss pulls me out of the price accuracy department. Usually this means I run the front end, assisting cashiers with customer service issues, scheduling their breaks, getting cash for them when they're low on $1s, $5s and $10s, etc etc.

I should've known something was up when my boss asked me to hop on a register.

This isn't unheard of. Usually once or twice a day I jump on a register for 5 or 10 minutes, when it's wicked busy or when I need to float a cashier's break. Wednesday mornings aren't particularly busy, though. In fact, they're usually quite dead. Everybody's stocked up on groceries from the previous weekend and don't need to restock for the upcoming weekend yet.

Then I hear over the store intercom, "Phil, please report to the CSM (i.e., my boss's) office. Phil to the CSM office, please."

And I'm such a doofus. I definitely should've known something was up by then. But I was stressing out, thinking about any bad customer interactions I've had lately, because normally when someone gets called into the CSM office, it's not to tell them what a great job they're doing. It's the supermarket equivalent of being sent to the principal's office.

Instead, what was waiting for me was a cake, from The Chopper bakery, with "Good Luck at Your New Job, Phil" inscribed on it. And a card with well wishes from my boss and all the cashiers in it. (Of course, this is why I was thrown on a register, to distract me from the cake being brought in and everyone signing the card.) Also, my boss gave me six stars, which in non-Chopper lingo means I get a $25 gift card.

I'm not gonna lie, I was starting to feel my eyes get a little damp.

This has been a very difficult, transitional and turbulent year in my life, for some reasons I've discussed and others that I haven't. I was only at The Chopper for 5 1/2 months. Before this I've never worked in a supermarket in my life. I made a shit-ton of mistakes. But I can't tell you how great it feels to receive this kind of warm reception on the way out.

Part of me wishes I could've stayed. Unfortunately there were some logistical issues (loooooooong commute, opportunities for better pay and benefits and a more consistent schedule) that prevented that from being an option. It's great to know that I made some really good friends, though. And that transcends a paycheck.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

On Signs and a Fear of Heights and Motion Sickness

I got an opportunity to cross-train at The Chopper in the pricing accuracy department. The Chopper has huge, bright yellow signs with bright red prices on it. One of the aspects of this gig is that, Sunday mornings, the sale specials change and so the signs need to be changed.

This requires me to get up on a ladder and climb to the top feet to flip the prices. It's very difficult, because the signs sway and rock back and forth and I have to grab them a few times before sliding the prices in correctly. I really don't know how high I am (maybe 10-12 feet?), because I've never measured it.

It might as well be 1,000 feet. I'm scared of heights.

Also, I get motion sickness wicked easily.

The rocking and swaying of the signs gave me dizzy spells, which, when you're at the top of a ladder, isn't a comfortable feeling. If I lost my balance from vertigo and fell off the ladder and onto the floor, it wouldn't have been good.

The first time I got up on that ladder, I saw the sign sway and then looked down. I thought I was going to pass out. My first reaction was to get down and say, "I can't do this. I don't feel safe."

But I had to give it a shot. Sometimes you have to face your fears head-on. This is one of those times.

I didn't let the heights or the rocking of the signs faze me. I got through each of the signs. And then I did it again the next week.

This past Sunday someone else did the signs. I was disappointed. It was actually becoming kind of fun. I won't be doing the signs again (that's tomorrow's blog). But for one week, I felt like I had conquered my fear. And for that, it was totally worth it.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Taking My Boxes to The Riv

I got the call early in the week.

An agent had broken her arm, or her leg, or quit, or got assassinated. Something like that. She covers Fall River.

"Phil, you have boxes, right?  We need you to deliver them to The Riv."

The Riv is an hour-and-a-half from me. It's so far that the easiest way for me to get there is to cut through Rhode Island and then double back into Massachusetts. Suddenly I'm starting to feel like I'm in an A.J. O'Connell "Beware the Hawk" sequel.

But money and mileage reimbursement are hard to turn down. So my alarm goes off at 4 am. I grab my boxes, throw them in the back seat of the car and head down to The Riv. I'm alone, and that's the way it has to be. There will be enough potential conflict when I get down there.

Luckily, I'm not without friends. My MFA Li'l Sis Erin has nothing to do with these boxes or this assignment. But she is a native of The Riv and she can provide crucial guidance and directions. I tell her only what I have to.

I get down to Fall River and park in as safe a place as possible -- it's The Riv and at any moment bullets could be whizzing past me. Worse, I need to shitload of stuff to complete this task and hardly any of it is here. Stolen. Probably by some thug or homeless person.

And then there's conflict. People coming up to me and asking, "What are you doing?" "You can;t be here." Trying to confiscate my boxes. Adversaries in every direction.

Fuck that noise. I have an assignment and I'm going to complete it. It took about four hours. But the contents of the boxes have been installed.

Mission accomplished. I had another long, 90-minute drive back home and a trail of bodies behind me. But I rewarded myself for a job well done with an afternoon nap.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Costanza Wallet

My name is Phil, and I have a Costanza Wallet.

This is a cry for help. I have too much shit in my wallet. It makes my wallet bulge like the Costanza wallet from that Seinfeld episode. It's embarrassing. Everything about George Costanza was embarrassing (plus he was a Yankee fan to boot).

Like every 12-step program, the first step is for me to admit that I have a problem. I've also reached out to a higher power (Bill Belichick) for help. Thus far I've received no response, but he's busy this time of year so I'm OK with it.

So while I've been writing this, I've also been going through my Costanza wallet and cleaning it out. Everything from coins to AAA cards that expired three years ago, to loyalty cards for chains I don't live anywhere near anymore. I don't think I need an ATM card for a bank account I closed back in 2007.

The result is a leaner wallet, maybe not necessarily meaner, but one that fits comfortably in my back pocket again. I can probably do more. This has been an exhausting experience and I'll revisit this in a few days. For now, I need some rest. But I can rest easier now that I have one less thing in common with George Costanza.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Drew Brees

As I write this, the hullabaloo has just ended on Drew Brees throwing a TD pass in his 48th game in a row, breaking Johnny Unitas' 52-year record for most consecutive games with a touchdown pass.

Outside of individual game marks, most NFL records were set fairly recently, as the league adopted its current 16-game schedule in 1978. Back in the '30s, '40s and '50s, NFL teams played 10- or 12-game seasons, so the Unitas record always stood out as one of the NFL's most longstanding records. The Joe DiMaggio hitting streak of football records.

I think what makes the Unitas streak even more impressive is that from 1956-60 (when his streak was ongoing), football was a much different, run-heavy game than it is today. Teams ran first and, for most teams, passing was almost a trick play. Unless they were trailing late in the game, teams just didn't pass the ball much. Obviously, the Unitas-led Baltimore Colts of that era weren't afraid to throw the ball, but they were the exception. The streak survived the likes of great passers such as Joe Montana, Dan Marino, John Elway and Brett Favre, none of whom even got close to approaching the record.

Still, I find it weird that it's called a consecutive game with a TD pass "streak." Unitas missed several games with injuries during his run -- the streak only reflects games in which he actually played. Not to be outdone, Drew Brees did not throw a TD pass in the final game of the 2009 season, because the Saints had locked up the NFC's top seed on their way to winning the Super Bowl that year and so Brees sat out that game with nothing to play for. To me, it really isn't a consecutive anything streak unless you play every game in the streak.

Never fear, though. If you go by consecutive uninterrupted games with a touchdown pass thrown, Brees still owns the record with tonight's TD pass. But he shares that record with New England Patriot QB Tom Brady. Sunday they both threw TD passes in their 37th consecutive uninterrupted games, surpassing Brett Favre, who has thrown TDs in 36 consecutive games at one point in his career. (Any time you can erase Favre from the record book it's a great day.) This is more impressive to me. It's difficult for a QB to stay healthy for a full 16-game season, let alone 2+ seasons.

That's not to take away anything from Unitas, whose mark is still pretty awe-inspiring. It's semantics, and I like to point out technicalities from time to time, if only to be a total jerk.

Friday, October 5, 2012

The Pyramid

Ya gotta give GSN props. They've brought back The Pyramid, a reboot of the old Pyramid franchise.

Contestants team up with B-grade celebrities for a word/clue front game. Then they go to the bonus round, where the real fun begins. The celebrity gives clues for six categories to the contestant (usually, though its the contestant's choice and sometimes the contestant opts to give the clues). The contestant then has 60 seconds to correctly guess the category (i.e., "Things You Add," "Why You Quit Your Job," "What Lindsey Lohan Might Say").

I like that the new GSN version has done very little tinkering with the original format. That said, it still leaves me wanting more. Part of this is that the bonus round never has more than $25,000 at stake. When I was growing up, Pyramid would have SEVERAL tournaments each year where the first contestant to get to the top of the pyramid would win a cool $100,000. I realize GSN is a low-budget, high-school-AV-Club type of channel so they probably don't have money to burn, but still, come ON guys! You can't do better than $25K?

But more importantly, my disappointment is because of what the new Pyramid doesn't have -- any tension. I used to get so fired up right before the bonus round would start when Dick Clark would shout, "Here is your first subject. GO!" Granted, Dick Clark has passed on to that big pyramid in the sky. But can someone please tell the new host (some guy named Mike Richards) to get a little enthusiasm.

Also, the bonus round ticking clock needs to come back. Nothing was more intense when I was growing up than the sound of that clock with $100,000 at stake and the contestant hopelessly stuck on the final clue.

So, while I like that GSN is kickin' it ol' skool, a little more kick would go a long way.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Bobby Valentine, The Sequel (And The End)

About a year ago, I blogged about my misgivings with the Red Sox naming Bobby Valentine manager.

Now, as the Sox completed their worst season since 1965 and Valentine got his walking papers, I give Bobby Valentine credit for at least this -- he tried to change the culture.

Personality-wise, the 2012 Red Sox were pretty much the same as the 2011 Red Sox: a bunch of spoiled prima donnas who thought they were entitled to do whatever they wanted.

Valentine tried to instill more discipline. The problem was that Valentine lost the team from the first few days of spring training. His way if instilling discipline was to berate Mike Aviles in front of the whole team for not running a cutoff play the way he wanted (which is prety ridiculous. This isn't football, where offenses and defenses are always evolving. The cutoff play has been pretty much unchanged for 100 years.). He lost the team before they even played a game. And that's not to defend the players, who are still spoiled brats and playing as poorly as they did this year is inexcusable.

But this speaks to exactly why I didn't want the Sox to tap Valentine as manager. He comes across as an arrogant jerk. Bobby Valentine would hate to manage himself. He thinks he's never wrong, which means that Bobby Valentine The Player would be just as much a prima donna as Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett or Carl Crawford. Boston Blobe columnist Bob Ryan once wrote that Bobby Valentine has never told a story in which he wasn't the hero, and it's true. Bobby Valentine wasnted to manage the Red Sox, but he also wanted to be the star. 

Worse, Valentine is horrible with the media. He argued with everybody, from Glenn Ordway to Buster Olney. Sports media can blow things way out of proportion, particularly in Boston, but the problem is that the media always gets the last word. And when Bobby Valentine threatens to punch Glenn Ordway in the face or answers questions about whether his coaches undermined him with a third-grade-esque, "No," then he looks like an ass who quit when it became obvious that the Sox were doomed.

Sometimes I hate to be right. Unfortunately, this is one of those times.

Sunday, September 9, 2012


I was down in Bridgeport today watching the first Patriots game of the season with a friend. I was outside by my car, wearing my Wes Welker jersey, when a car slowed beside me and the driver rolled the windows down.

This is bad news. I'm in the part of Connecticut where there are more Giants fans than Patriots fans.

There's a big release of tension inside me when the driver asks, "Can you tell me where [some local street in Bridgeport] is?"

Still, I'm looking down at my Pats jersey, leaning against my car with its Massachusetts license plate. Somehow, I feel like it's obvious that I'm the wrong person to ask.

"I'm sorry, but I'm not from around here," I say.

The guy drives off.

Hey, worse things could happen. Sometimes in Bridgeport when someone rolls their car window down, it's because they want to shoot you.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Traffic Stop

I currently have 10 boxes in my car.

I can't discuss what's in them, but I assure you they contain nothing illegal. It's all legit. I actually have 20 of these boxes right now, but only 10 of them fit in the PT Cruiser. Barely fit. There's practically no room for me in the car. I can just see the rear window, rear-view mirrors, etc. In that sense, I feel like I've done a perfect job loading them in my car.

Of course, this exact moment (coming home at 11:45 at night, with 10 boxes in tow) would be when I get stopped by a statie.

He claims I cut him off, which is total bullshit -- he merged into my lane. But it's not a good look to have 10 mysterious boxes in your car when you're being stopped. (Clearly, this is why he stopped me.) Also, it's really tough to get into your glove compartment to hand him your registration when it's being blocked by a big box.

"Where ya comin' from?" he asks.


"You make any stops along the way."


He asks what's in the boxes and I tell him. Then he asks, "When was the last time you were in court?"

(Really? When was the last time I was in court? What kind of question is that? Who do I look like, Lindsey Lohan?)

I muscle my registration from the box blocking the glove compartment and hand it to the officer, who goes back to the cruiser and does his thing. This is not what I need right now -- or ever, really.

Two minutes later, he returns and hands me my license and registration.

"You're free to go. Next time be more careful when you switch lanes."

Fine. Maybe I'll only keep 7 boxes in the car.   

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Sharp: A Memoir

I'm a little late on this, I know, but my MFA colleage David Fitzpatrick's book Sharp: A Memoir was just published. Here's the blurb from Amazon:

"Sharp is the story of a young man who began his life with a loving family and great promise for the future. But in his early twenties, David Fitzpatrick became so consumed by mental illness it sent him into a frenzy of cutting himself with razor blades. In this shocking and often moving book, he vividly describes the rush this act gave him, the fleeting euphoric high that seemed to fill the spaces in the rest of his life. It started a difficult battle from which he would later emerge triumphant and spiritually renewed.

Fitzpatrick's youth seemed ideal. He was athletic, handsome, and intelligent. However, he lived in fear of an older brother who taunted and belittled him; and in college, his roommates teased and humiliated him, further damaging what sense of self-esteem he still carried with him. As he shares these experiences, Fitzpatrick also recounts the lessons learned from the broken people he encountered during his journey—knowledge that led to his own emotional resurrection.

Sharp also demonstrates the awakening of a writer's instinctive voice. With prose that is tough and gritty, profound and insightful, Fitzpatrick takes us inside his head while he manically cuts himself, but these episodes are presented with a dignity and insight that has never been seen before. His writing also possesses a lightness of touch that brings humor to a subject that doesn't naturally provide it.

Above all else, Sharp is a tale of hope, a soul-baring quest of a lost man who returns to himself, overcomes his demons, and reclaims his life. It is destined to become a classic memoir."

David's a nonfiction guy and I'm fiction, so we never really crossed paths in workshop. But I know people close to me who have cut themselves. So this story, in particular, piques my interest.

If you haven't done so already, go get Sharp. I can't wait to read.

Monday, August 27, 2012


It finally happened.

Since December I've been avoiding Facebook's new Timeline setup -- largely because I felt like I was always being subjected to a Facebook Wall redesign every couple of months, and partially because some of my other friends who had converted said they had spent a week deleting many of their embarrassing comments from Facebook statuses past. It all seemed a little intimidating.

As time went on, and more and more of my friends were converted, I stuck with Old Facebook. Why change until you have to? As fewer and fewer people had Old Facebook, I started to enjoy being a rebel, wearing the old Wall proudly like a badge of honor.

Last week, Facebook finally got tired of my rebellious ways. I got the word they were converting me to Timeline. It went live Sunday night.

As I've seen other folks' Timeline, I've gotten used to it. There are some nice features to it. I like having a profile pic and a cover photo, or whatever the hell they call it. I'll miss being a rebel, but I think I can get used to being a Timeline cyborg.

I just don't want to see Facebook roll out a whole new format next week. 

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Appeal For a Former Mentor

My former mentor during my grad school MFA program, Porochista Khakpour, was one of the best things that ever happened to my novel-in-progress. (The novel was my thesis and she was the second-reader for it.) She's also a great personality. Once I dressed up as her for a "talent" show and she was a great sport about it.

I bring this up because she's sick and facing mounting medical bills. I won't go into the details here because they are better presented by her in the Web site she's set up to appeal for help.

She set the site up a few days ago and I status-updated it on my Facebook Wall. I blog this now because she's crossed a noteworthy and impressive plateau, but is still short of her ultimate goal and I want to see her get there so she can get the help she needs. I'm of limited means myself right now but I did make a contribution, and I'm writing this in the hopes that others will consider doing so, or if they've already done so consider donating a few more dollars ($5, $10, $15, every little bit helps). I don't want to see the initial flurry of support die down.

I can't truly do her justice in a blog. She's bigger than that. But ask me offline and I will tell you how fantastic she is.

Thanks for your consideration.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

An Apology, Or, If You Hate My Blog, Bad News

Dear Followers,

I have failed you.

It's been (roughly, I'm too ashamed to calculate an exact figure) a couple of months since I blogged. It's been nagging at me for most of that time. Many of you think I died. Many more wonder what the hell happened.

Here's what happened: It's been a bat-shit-crazy summer for me. I've been overwhelmed with stuff, both personal and professional. Some good, some not so good.

I won't get into specifics here, and some of it I won't talk about for awhile. But life is finally beginning to slow down for me. Still busy, don't get me wrong. I can't promise that I'll return to my old blog-a-day pace. But I feel like I can blog much more frequently in the coming weeks. And I have plenty of material.

Sorry it's been awhile. I'll try to do better.

Thank you for all your support.



Thursday, July 5, 2012

The Choice

I'm required by law to review reality dating shows. That said, I waited until tonight's Rob Gronkowski episode to review Fox's The Choice.

It's a knockoff of the NBC singing reality show The Voice. And to be honest, the concept makes more sense for dating TV than music TV. We can all be shallow at times, and trying to choose a date while you have your back to her makes the game of love that much more intriguing to watch. Four celebrities (usually male, though apparently there was an episode with female celebrities last week that I missed) listen to a prospective date try to pique their interest. If they're game, they turn their chair around. If multiple celebs turn around, the date gets to pick between the suitors.

The celebs get three dates, then ask them a series of questions until they settle on one and get to go on a date.

Cringe factor for women: High. I'll give them credit for putting themselves out there, because that has to be unnerving to pitch yourself to actors/athletes/singers/miscellaneous celebs. Still, it makes them pander to the shallowness. Two separate girls went out of their way to exaggerate their Boston accents to try to land Gronk. All the other girls said some variation on "I'm very flexible" to get guys to turn around.

Cringe factor for men: Stratospheric. You'd think they'd be a little more careful and gentlemanly since they don't have the benefit of actually seeing the women beforehand. But somehow it only makes them act even more boorish. All the women have to do is say something remotely sexual (like "I'm very flexible") and they pull their levers -- on the chairs, you pervert -- to turn around and drool. Then, when the host asks them why they turned their chairs, they say, "She sounded hot."

The verdict: Like many concepts that look good on paper, this turned out to be a train wreck. Concept don't factor in bad behavior. The episode isn't even over yet and I've made my decision.

The Choice: D

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Love in the Wild

Last year dating show Love in the Wild debuted on NBC and it's back for a second season. Contestants get paired up with potential suitors and suitoresses (I know, not really a word) in a small tropical country. Last year it was Costa Rica, this year it's the Dominican Republic.

They're forced to couple up and run around in the jungle, on the beach, find buries treasure, swim against the currents, wrestle alligators and pythons. OK, maybe no animal fighting, but you get the idea. The couple that finishes in first place gets to stay in a luxurious suite, while couples that finish progressively lower get progressively shittier accommodations. In the end, the couples decide (one week the guys get the pick, the next week it's the ladies turn) whether to stay paired up with their partners. If they choose someone else, their partner goes to The Unmatched Area, where maybe someone else will pick them, and maybe not. In the end, the one male and one female player left unmatched lose, and so on each week, until two people are left.

There are a few changes this season. For example, Jenny McCarthy has been inserted as host, replacing Some Boring British Guy. Also, the show inserted some extra guys in the first episode, so the women could date two men simultaneously, and then turned the table Tuesday night, giving the remaining guys an extra woman to date.

Here's the rundown:

Cringe Factor for Women: Medium to high. The new women brought out a certain cattiness and rampant jealousy in the existing women, who resorted to name-calling (though "Boobs McGee" was amusing). Also, it's pretty much shallow eye-candy-admiring/exploiting (for both genders, see below).

Cringe Factor for Men: High. In the confessional segments, there have been allegations on the show that some of the guys had "intimate relations" with their dates and then broke the bad news to them that, "the connection just isn't there." Funny how that connection faded after Boobs McGee arrived.

The Bottom Line: I would give this show an A if it were only the last 30 minutes of the show, when the couples are loving and hating each other in their respective quarters. But the first 30 minutes bore me to tears. If I'm going to watch couples run around on the beach or in the jungle, I want them to be chased by Sharktopus or Dinocroc or Supergator.

The Verdict: B-

Sunday, June 17, 2012

June 18, 1812

Two hundreds years ago today, the War of 1812 -- one of the silliest and most unnecessary wars in the history of the universe -- began.

The war was the culmination of more than a decade of deteriorating relations between the fledgling United States and its former oppressor, those obnoxious Imperial Brits. England had been waging war with Napoleon since the French Revolution and tried to prevent Americans from trading with France on the open seas. Americans were also pissed that their soldiers were being impressed against their will to fight in the British war effort.

Canadians also love to talk smack that the real cause of the War of 1812 was the American "invasion" and attempted annexation of Canada, but I call bullshit on that claim. Sure, in the early days of the nation the U.S. had designs on Canada, and once the war started and there were some early American victories President Madison threw up his hands and said, "Why the fuck not? We're at war. Let's march to Toronto." But that's like saying that the Battle of Gettysburg was an attempt by the Confederate States of America to annex Pennsylvania. The reality is that, thanks to the Indian wars, the U.S. government in June 1812 didn't even have de facto control of the Northwest Territory (what is now Michigan, Illinois, Ohio, Indiana and Wisconsin), so why would we try at that time to annex Ontario or Nova Scotia. Seriously, who writes the textbooks in Canada? Texans?

(Besides, the United States doesn't need to conquer Canada. We've owned the Stanley Cup for 18 years.)

The irony of The War of 1812 is that it never should've happened. The declaration of war was signed into law by Madison on June 18. But a month earlier Spencer Perceval, the Prime Minister largely responsible on the British side for the deteriorating relations, was assassinated. His successor repealed most of the anti-American policies and openly expressed a desire to normalize relations with the U.S. Alas, 200 years ago it took weeks for news like this to cross the Atlantic, so the Americans were unaware of this policy shift until it was too late.

The war went back and forth for a couple of years, until Napoleon finally went down for good and the Brits had an opportunity to focus on this side of the Atlantic. Then the English started to deliver an ass-whoopin' to the States, burning Washington, D.C., blockading the New England coast and conquering much of Maine (funny how you never hear Canadians talk about the root cause of the War of 1812 was Canada's invasion and attempted annexation of Maine). The blockade crippled the economy in New England, which as a region had patched things up pretty nicely after the American Revolution and now claimed Britain as its biggest trading partner. Morale got so bad that there was a movement afoot in New England to secede from the United States and negotiate a separate peace with Great Britain(though other New Englanders floated less radical proposals).

The U.S. regained its footing in the Battle of Baltimore, which led to Francis Scott Key's writing of the national anthem. By the fall of 1814, Britain and the United States, two nations weary of a war in which neither side could gain the upper hand, began to talk peace. That ultimately led to the Treaty of Ghent, signed on Christmas Eve 1814, in which both sides agreed to returned to status quo ante bellum, with no gain or loss of territory on either side. But once again, 19th-century communications technology hindered the end of the war. Because it took weeks to relay the signing of the treaty, the U.S. routed the British in the Battle of New Orleans the month after the treaty was signed, and gave Americans a sense of final victory, a "Second War of U.S. Independence."

It's interesting to see how war has changed over a couple of centuries. What would happen today if we fought a war and New Englanders were so opposed to it that they talked of secession? And yet, despite this era of instant communication, any nation can conveniently withhold facts through propaganda or lies of omission and still create a redux of the War of 1812. As the War on Terror seemingly (hopefully) winds its way to a conclusion, let's hope we don't have to think about it much in the future. War changes over the centuries, but it still stays the same. The end result is that people die needlessly.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Take Me Out

My Xfinity cable listing for Take Me Out says it all:

"Thirty women continue their pursuit of the perfect summer fling."

Summer is here and that means two things -- cookouts and cheesy summer dating shows on TV. Based on the trailers that have run the past few weeks, I had low expectations for Take Me Out. That said, it's contrived and shallow yet more entertaining that I expected.

As the listings indicate, in Take Me Out 30 women get to choose from a cattle call of bachelors who come out, one by one, hoping to win their hearts. The guys look like good catches at first, but then the show plays a series of videos than tend to focus on the bachelors' potentially embarrassing idiosyncrasies ("I dress up as a gladiator," "I only eat animals that I kill," "I live at the gym, literally -- I sleep on an air mattress and box spring in a closet at my gym,"  "I set the world record for stove tossing.") If the ladies are turned off, they turn off their lights. If any still have their lights on after two videos, then the bachelor gets to ask a question of and then choose between any remaining women. (Generally, as you can imagine, by that point the ladies are either all out or there are only one or two left.)

Host George Lopez brings to the show an element of bewildering one-liners ("Time to bring out the next bachelor! Let the peanut butter see the jelly! Let the spaghetti see the meatballs!")

Cringe factor for women: Medium. (Admittedly, I'm not female so I can't truly judge this, and I welcome any dissenting or alternate opinions.) The women get to call the shots on whether to pursue the guys, up until the final round, so they're generally empowered. That said, some of them showed their true materialistic colors, turning their lights off because of preconceived notions about the guy -- which often ended up not being true.

Cringe factor for men: Medium to high. The guys are mostly goofy, and they're pretty much at the mercy of the women's whimsy until the end. In a way, that makes me feel good about myself. But as a gender they don't do men much justice (they have update segments of past dates, and one guy apparently tried to grope his date the entire day). I feel like more of a meathead now through osmosis.

I really didn't think this would be entertaining, but it surprised me. For better or worse, shallowness does at times make for fun guilty pleasure TV and this fits the bill. The women are (for me, of course) easy on the eyes. Most of them seem nice, though a couple were obnoxious. The guys are dorky, yet watchable in a train-wreck sort of way. I feel like George Lopez tried a little too hard to be funny and, while he occasionally succeeds, he falls flat far too often. Better writers would help.

My overall grade: B.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012


Once again, you should pick up a book from one of my MFA colleagues.

You can pre-order Sharp: A Memoir by David Fitzpatrick. It gets released for real Aug. 21. I won't go into too much detail about it, as I can't really do these things justice. (I have enough problems describing my own writing.) But it's good.

So happy to see more MFAers getting published. Hopefully there will be more to come.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Fuck You, Middleboro

I have friends who live in Middleboro. It's a cute town, typical small town New England, though it does have typical problems -- managing growth, kids with not much to do, paying for school and municipal budgets, etc. etc.

One of the problems it doesn't have, any more than anywhere else at least, is profanity.

But now that is a problem. The town voted overwhelmingly Monday night to impose a $20 fine for public swearing.

Now, I am a person who's been known to curse from time to time. I'm OK with the occasional f-bomb. I always have to remind myself when I'm around young kids that I can't say certain things. But I do also have my limits. There are certain words and phrases that offend me.

Still, there are better ways to handle profanity. These things tend to work best when they police themselves. How do we define "public?" Do the police carry decibel meters with them? If I throw an f-bomb to a friend and someone's eavesdropping on me, are they going to drop a dime on the cops? And shouldn't Middleboro police be focusing more on drunk drivers? Violence? Theft?

It's still a cute town. But today I say the townsfolk have implemented bad public policy. Fuck you, Middleboro.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Bank Deposit Slip Thief

One of my new jobs only offers direct deposit if I open an account with their credit union, which seems like a lot of hassle. Another sends me checks. (Fortunately, the third job does offer direct deposit.)

So I have a couple of checks sitting on my desk and last week I used my last deposit slip. This won't do. I went to my bank Monday morning to deposit the checks.

And while I was there, I noticed a stack of deposit slips.

I looked to my left and right. The bank had just opened and nobody was really paying attention. I took a stack of about 50 deposit slips and stuffed them in my pocket.

Problem solved. Of course, now I feel like a criminal, like the scum that scum scrapes off of the bottom of its shoes.

I always was a rebel.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Days Off

I've been readjusting to life, working at juggling three jobs of late, taking a quick trip to New York and getting together with friends from my old work. Of course, something always ends up falling by the waside when that happens and lately its been the blog.

I finally have some free time. I don't have any supergreat ideas (or maybe I just forgot them) to blog about, but I have a couple of days off, which will be exceedingly rare in the future. I'll try to inspire myself.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Serial Killers

The world moves on. But it's sad to see the classic game show hosts from my youth -- Dick Clark, Richard Dawson -- passing on to that big bonus round in the sky.

That said, it seems like game show hosts have been inordinately targeted for doom of late. I'm worried this may be the work of a serial killer.

My mind work in strange ways and I started thinking of other ways for game show hosts to meet their untimely demise.

Wink Martindale: Slain by the Tic Tac Dough dragon.

Jim Perry: Decapitated in a terrible accident by the giant playing cards from Card Sharks.

Bob Barker: Trampled by an unspayed dog.

Howie Mandel: Suffocated after being locked in one of the Deal or No Deal suitcases.

Pat Sajak: Crushed by the Wheel of Fortune after drinking too much on the job.

I hope they all sleep with the lights on. This could get dangerous.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

How To Embarrass Someone -- 3 Easy Steps

Tuesday night I went to Target to buy some new khakis. What didn't occur to me was to leave the red collared shirt at home.

I got to the checkout line and the cashier looked at the two khakis I was purchasing, and my red shirt, and asked,

"Welcome aboard. When ya starting with us?"

Cute. He was apparently serious. But I turned the tables on him.

Step 1: I ignored him. This caused him to ask again.

Step 2: I stared at him.

Step 3: I said, "I don't know what you're talking about. I just happen to be buying new khakis. I'm not starting a new job, here at Target or anywhere else."

Now, I actually am starting a new job and they are for the gig. But he didn't have to know that. He turned as red as his Target shirt.

"I'm so sorry, sir," he said. "I shouldn't have assumed." (By this time I'm thinking, wow he really did think I was joining the team.)

I probably should've just told him yeah, I'm starting a new job. Chalk it up to a bad mood. I'm a jerk sometimes.

Monday, May 21, 2012

That Awkward Moment When...

As most of you know, I'm not moving out to Western Mass. after all. So life is pretty much back to normal.

One thing I forgot to do, though, is tell the guy in Adams whose apartment I was going to rent that I won't be moving in. (Luckily for me, he said he wasn't going to ask me to sign a lease until I moved in. Not sure why, it'd seem to make sense. Oh well.)

So when I got an email from said landlord Monday night, I was like, oops. That awkward moment when you forgot to tell the guy you won't be moving in.

I called him. I explained the situation.

I don't know what it is about Western Massachusetts They're much more laid back out there. He said, "Oh, OK, no problem. I wish you the best and good luck."

And I was worried. Five minutes of stress. Gone. Now back to the rest of my life.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Pedestrian-Motorist War

I live on a side street off of Main St. in Fitchburg. My segment of the street isn't busy, but the first part of it serves as a cut-through for many motorists headed to the police station, the Y, the Fitchburg Art Museum, etc. etc.

You also have pedestrians walking to shops, the Post Office, and Market Basket.

I've been on both sides of this conflict. I've been crossing my street and a car comes barrelling in from Main Street and nearly runs me over. I've also been driving and taking the right turn onto my street and someone's crossing. And crossing. And taking their sweet time, as if they're the only person in the world who's out and about in the world.

The other night, things came to a head. A car in front of me wanted to bang a right on my street, and a group of 5 folks headed for a bar were taking their sweet time crossing.

The car in front of me beeped.

The pedestrians glared and gestured with their hands.

The car in front of me rolled down the passengers'-side window, and all of a sudden I saw spit coming out, aimed at the pedestrians, and then the car resumed its right turn.

The pedestrians began to throw f-bombs and trot after the car in an attempt to ramp up the violence.

I can be a salty-hot-tempered guy. But I've noticed the past couple of years I've started to realize some things aren't worth sweating. I'd be annoyed of it was me waiting for the group of pedestrians to primp and strut across the street. I'd also be annoyed if someone spit at me because they didn't appreciate the pace. But it's not worth vehicular (or other) homicide.

After the car-pedestrian war, I bypassed my street in favor of the next set of lights, where I can also turn and cut through a few streets and get home. I don't want to be an innocent bystander and take a fist that wasn't intended for me -- or worse.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Livetweeting The Bachelorette

This winter I became somewhat infamous for livetweeting (should that be capitalized? someone get back to me on this) The Bachelor. Monday night someone asked me if I would be doing the same now that The Bachelorette is premiering.

(An aside: I'm spellchecking right now and Blogger does not recognize "bachelorette" as a word. Really, Blogger? Livetweet I can imagine, but bachelorette? WTF?)

I never get that into The Bachelorette, for a variety of reasons. The guys on the show have a different mindset than their Bachelor female counterparts. They don't get as catty or devastated when they don't get a rose (although, in the five minutes or so I watched Monday night a couple of the guys did take it unusually hard and choked back tears. But then again, The Bachelorette was cutting 10 people on this episode so it was probably inevitable that someone would be an unhappy camper). And, of course, for me the eye candy factor is not there on The Bachelorette.

Still, now that I have more of a presence on Twitter than I used to, I somehow feel an obligation this season -- if for no other reason than gender equity. I failed at it Monday night. But, for better or worse, I will try to do better at livetweeting The Bachelorette.

Apologies in advance. You've been forewarned.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Never Decline a Job Interview

One rule I've always lived by is, never decline a job interview.

Clearly if you're unemployed this makes sense. But there have been times when I was gainfully employed and not looking for other employment when I was approached to interview for somebody and I've always found a way to clear my schedule for it. It's good practice for those times when you interview for a job you do want -- polishing your interviewing skills, practicing your smile, your firm handshake, your answers to the tough questions. And hey, you never know. The job opening might be more intriguing than you think.

I'm fortunate that this policy has paid off for me this month.

A couple of weeks ago, I was offered a job in which I would basically be a one-man sports department for a weekly newspaper out in the Berkshires. I recently received an MFA, and this was a writing job. Perfect. I wasn't excited about moving -- again, but the prospect of covering a couple of minor league baseball teams, two Division III colleges and high school sports was appealing. Ten years ago I left the world of journalism, expecting never to return, but you never know when life will come full circle and here was one of those instances. I looked for a place to live out in the Berkshires. I also nearly drove off a cliff.

In the meantime, all the job-searching I've undergone the past few months began to pay off. Past experience has taught me that it usually takes weeks or even months from the time a company posts a job opening to the time they start interviewing candidates, and now companies I applied or sent resumes to began to call me to schedule job interviews. Part of me was like, "Great. NOW they call." But the other side of me said, "You know what? You have a couple of weeks to kill before you head out west. Go interview. Can't hurt."

So I did. And sometimes you're at your best when you feel you have nothing to lose. Three different companies invited me in to chat with them. And through phone calls and emails they continued to engage me in dialogue after the interview. I was beginning to think they were really interested in me.

The benefit for me was, while all this was going on, things were changing out in the Berkshires. After I accepted the newspaper job, the job transformed before my eyes. Some new responsibilities were being thrown at me, responsibilities that weren't part of the original job description, and responsibilities that I wasn't interested in performing. I wasn't thrilled about the conversations I was having out there. And, when I was all set to write a check and put down a deposit on a place in Adams, thing were unraveling.

These seemingly unnecessary interviews came to the rescue. I've been offered all three jobs. One is a 35-hour-a-week job. Another is a part-time job (depending on the week anywhere from 5-25 hours). A third is a glorified freelance writing gig -- dull writing, but writing nonetheless. Who knows what will happen from here. But, faced with two scary choices -- moving across the state for a job I no longer want or turning it down and going back to Unemployment Square One -- I feel like this allows me sidestep the fear and gives me an opportunity to land on my feet.

So I've resigned from the newspaper job before it begins. Hopefully there will be no hard feelings out there. But I'm glad I figured all this out before putting down a deposit. I'm glad I don't have to muster up the energy to move again. 

And I'm really glad I went on those interviews.