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07/01 Direct Link
From a purely objective point of view, it is so funny how nervous I get when I unexpectedly meet a friendly person from work while out shopping or at the gym.

I stiffen up and my eyes get cartoonishly wide, and I struggle in vain to find a topic of conversation that will simulate the sort of conversation topic that quote-unquote "normal" people who are mildly acquainted come up with, and I flee when appropriate.

From my own, subjective point of view, it is sad, and after any such encounter, I just want to feed myself into a shredder.

07/02 Direct Link
The prettiest girl I've ever seen was a classmate in Albany. Her name might have been Kristen. She had dark brown hair and eyes, and if I'm being purely objective, she was even prettier than Julia, and Julia was extremely pretty.

One time Kristen (let's agree that was probably her name) and I worked on a project, and I had to turn off the part of my brain that recognized how pretty she was in order to gain access to functions like speaking and thinking. Kristen was really nice and good at projects, and our brief collaboration was a success.

07/03 Direct Link
Back when I was playing the guitar a lot, I ran into the problem that I really liked certain songs, but didn't feel like some of the lyrics suited me.

I replaced some of the more violent lyrics of Sublime's "Santeria," for example, and let's be fair, sticking a "new slice of pie" down the throat of your romantic rival is still pretty aggressive and badass.

Other songs, like Cat Stevens' "Wild World" I had to abandon entirely, because there, even though the little descending scale riff is easy and sounds good, you're charged with writing an entirely new song.

07/04 Direct Link
One time in Albany there was a document that had to be hand-delivered to another state agency across the street. I agreed to take it, so they put the document in a special blue plastic envelope that said "OFFICIAL STATE BUSINESS" and "the bearer of this document is on official state business, and is not to be hindered in any way," etc...

I can tell you there's a difference in the way you walk when you're on official state business. You fear no hindrance, and people can see it in your stride. Use your imagination and try it today!

07/05 Direct Link
Last night around dusk I decided to walk out and see if there were any fireworks. There were none. There were also no people, dogs, cats, rabbits, or squirrels on the sidewalk. All of the windows in all of the houses were completely dark. It was weird.

Maybe fireworks are not popular here. Maybe everyone had gone to see the fireworks, which were being held somewhere else, but I was not invited. Maybe it was too cloudy for fireworks, and they had been delayed, and everyone was at home with the lights turned off gnashing their patriotic teeth in disappointment.

07/06 Direct Link
I've opened a gastropub or whatever, so come on down.

Monday is dollar pretzel night for the ladies. Ladies eat pretzels all night for one dollar. Don't miss it. We've got salted, unsalted, sourdough, you name it. All you pretzel lovin' ladies, come on down.

Tuesday it's "drink a beer, then drink another beer" night. Listen to music from my brother's old mp3 player and drink regular-price beer -- it's great.

Wednesday night we're closed.

Thursday night we'll probably do the pretzel thing again.

Friday night we figure you have better things to do.

Write in with your suggestions please.

07/07 Direct Link
In unguarded moments, Violeta tells me how she really feels about her husband -- she barely tolerates him and feels her life was better and easier before she had to deal with him every day.

I want to say, but never would, that saying "no" to him would have been a form of standing up for herself, but I can never understand the societal and familial pressure a late-30-something woman is under when she's proposed to.

Now she's pregnant, and she feels, "Hm, my life has taken a strange twist," and there's nothing I can do to help her.

07/08 Direct Link
If there were some sort of worldwide electromagnetic pulse that permanently destroyed every circuit, and we had to go back to oil lamps and memorizing epic poems, I would not be upset at all.

I would have to join an agrarian commune to survive, and Zebadiah would ask about my skills, and I would say that I know how to cook, and I can chop wood, and I can haul items from point A to point B as directed, and he would say "good enough," and just then they'd fix the computers and we'd have to go back to work.

07/09 Direct Link
It's a weird feeling to go back to your old neighborhood, back to the apartment where you lived for seven years, and you see some of the people you used to see every day.

"That guy!"

Because you never learned his name, but you'd nod to each other when you passed.

"Is that guy still living here? Poor bastard!"

Because you feel like in some way you've "moved on" although you've actually just gone to a different place that has its own problems.

And you pass that guy and nod to him, but he doesn't remember you and looks confused.

07/10 Direct Link
I was at a work picnic today, and I got to meet a lot of my co-workers' kids.

One of the younger ones walked up to a group of us and announced, "A BUG FLEW ONTO MY HAND AND THEN IT FLEW AWAY," and he held up his sticky but bug-free hand for us to inspect. With wide and serious eyes, he scanned our faces for any reaction, I think because he had no idea what reaction was appropriate.

The Bug Landing was the most significant event of his life up to that point, and we laughed at him.

07/11 Direct Link
The antique air conditioner at work breaks several times each month. It regularly gets up to about 85 degrees in our workspace. I am technically the one in charge, so I get the complaints. There are exactly three things, word for word, that people say to me in these situations:

* "It's hot!" (accompanied by a fanning-with-the-hand motion 80% of the time)
* "There's no air(!)(?)" (50% of the time an exclamation, 50% a question)
* "Can you do something about the temperature?"

I have learned to fake empathy with their discomfort and tell them it should be fixed soon.

07/12 Direct Link
Hitmonlee, Hitmonchan,
Pokémon trainers are
Ultracompetitive,
Shock, burn, and stun!

They make small animals
Fight to exhaustion,
and not just for glory but
Profit and fun.

I walked around and caught Pokémon on the sidewalk in a way that would have delighted me at whatever age I was in 1998 when I met my first Bulbasaur.

You may well wonder whether a man of my age is self-conscious about playing this sort of game in public, and your question is appropriate, and the answer is "definitely yes," but then again I am self-conscious about absolutely everything.

07/13 Direct Link
"I call this meeting of Welsh knights to order!"

(in unison) "Hear!"

"Jones! Your report on the dragon at Glamorgan."

"Slain, sir."

(*applause*)

"Stevens, you responded to Bonnie Tyler's call for a hero."

"She just wanted to get into my greaves, sir. She was just looking for 'a bit'."

"Surely..."

"She repeatedly pawed at my knightly regions, sir. I said, 'madam, I am a chaste knight -- you may offer me a scarf as your token', and she said 'I'll offer you more than that, come 'eere!'"

"Gosh."

"We need to find a way to screen out horny old broads, sir."

07/14 Direct Link
A SNAPSHOT IN TIME
In which the narrator describes a troublesome alfalfa sprout, and its fate

The sprout is trapped between the pointy tooth and the tooth to the left of the pointy tooth on the top right. I can't seem to shake it loose.

I did the natural thing and created a magical charm, like the "Ladybug, ladybug" charm, but this one is for sprouts.

Sprout, sprout,
Come loose from my mout,
I want you out,
Now germinate somewhere else
You stringy bastard


I spake this charm thrice and the sprout was released. On my honor, it really works!

07/15 Direct Link
One of the supposed perks of small-town life is that everyone knows everyone else.

I am starting to see what this is all about. I have been here long enough that people in town know me, and I can't take a walk without getting stopped by someone who wants to say hello, or having someone honk at me as they drive by, and there is indeed a sort of fuzzy and friendly 'community' feeling, which I'm sure if we dug deep enough, would be creepy and intrusive, but for now I guess it's not terrible and kind of nice.

07/16 Direct Link
In moments of maudlin introspection, I realize how, when it comes to self-improvement, how motivated I am by petty spite. It is pretty much the only reason I haven't actually taken up a drug habit and the ensuing lazy and carefree lifestyle.

Honestly, I don't even know whether living well really is the best revenge, but if that is society's consensus, I will take it to the bank and do my best to live well, or at least to appear that I am, in order to say in a way more powerful than words, "Fuck You" to Certain People.

07/17 Direct Link
While crossing the street in the city, I spend more time looking at the red light than the driver stopped at it.

In an ideal world, I would make eye contact with the driver, he or she would nod, and we would both understand this to mean, "No matter what the light does, you're good, I'm not going to run you over."

Instead, I fixate on the light, because I figure if it turns green while I'm in the crosswalk, I am in trouble. I guess this is part of my "mean world syndrome" more than a commentary on society.

07/18 Direct Link
I know several people with misophonia, a condition that causes affected people to fly into a blind, violent rage when they hear certain (especially mouth-based) sounds, such as crunching, smacking, or slurping.

I try to be sensitive to the needs of this small but vocal community by finding the quietest way to eat certain foods. The crunching sound of carrots, for example, can be minimized by cutting them into small pieces, then very, very slowly chomping down with your back-most molars. This demonstrably reduces your chances of getting your eyes removed with red-hot pokers by misophonic friends.

07/19 Direct Link
I briefly worked for a company that produced printed material, and I did some proofreading for the design team.

The design team's motto was, "Give them what they ask for, not what they want."

This motto did not come out of nowhere. When clients requested yellow text on a white background, and the design team tried to talk the clients out of it, and the clients said, "just do your job!" enough times, they gave up trying and the motto was born.

The clients want legible text, but they have asked for illegible text, and that's what they will get.

07/20 Direct Link
There's a reason people say you have to deal with your feelings eventually.

If you don't deal with them when it's appropriate to do so, they're just going to come back at 4 a.m., or during lunch, or on a Tuesday night when you think you might finally get a chance to relax.

People like me are good at experiencing the feelings, but bad at knowing what to actually do about them, and unfortunately the feelings, poor things, keep coming back like an annoying stray cat, tilting its head and looking at us, amazed at how incredibly stupid we are.

07/21 Direct Link
Today in a meeting we were running out of time and I was trying to get through a list of things, so I started to go through them quickly, and in the process some people perceived a menacing tone in my voice.

I was not being menacing! I was under stress and in a hurry! People were waiting to use the room!

I honestly consider myself a sort of gentle human-koala-sloth hybrid, and whether on the sidewalk or in a meeting room, if someone misinterprets anything I've said or done, it's a great cause of concern to me.

07/22 Direct Link
Last month I was at my grandmother's wake, and some of my younger relatives showed up with their kids. I understood then for the first time the big deal about children: they allow your family to continue.

Of course I always understood that, but it wasn't until then that I actually felt it, and I also suddenly felt how a failure to reproduce is almost like an act of violence against your family, since you're bringing your part of the family tree to an end. It was a bad feeling at a time when I was already feeling pretty bad.

07/23 Direct Link
I'm not saying that I want to have kids. On the contrary, I quite often wake up grateful that I don't. It's just that only once have I ever thought I might be willing to, and then it was the idea of having them with a specific person that intrigued me.

That's what I don't understand about people wanting to have kids or wanting to get married without having anyone particular in mind. With whom are you having these imaginary kids? Whom do you want to marry? Some people tell pollsters that they'd like to vote for "an unnamed Democrat."

07/24 Direct Link
In my early college days I was inspired by anti-consumerist Kalle Lasn and his friends, and I wanted to Stick It To The Man in the worst possible way.

Through some revolutionary channel, I found the idea of sending pre-paid credit card application envelopes back to their companies with bricks or pieces of scrap metal or any heavy object, which the credit companies would be forced to pay for, which would bankrupt them, and which would usher in an era of peace somehow. The details of this plan were foggy, but success was assured, and I gleefully participated.

07/25 Direct Link
Sometimes I'm grateful for Monday, because there are entire weekends I spend climbing up the walls trying to find new ways to distract myself, and work is a really wonderful distraction.

That horrible aching void that alternates between your chest and your stomach is something that everyone experiences, and we all have strategies for distraction. Sometimes, though, none of the strategies seem to work, and then you're in for a bad two days if you don't figure something out.

At work I get to play a role and be someone other than myself. And I get paid for doing it!

07/26 Direct Link
I just drank an entire pot of very strong coffee, and whatever dark cloud has been following me around for the past few weeks has temporarily lifted. It is a huge relief. My chest and stomach feel normal again, and I think everything is going to be OK.

The apocryphal story of the discovery of coffee involves a goatherd in Yemen discovering that his goats began to dance upon eating the beans of a certain bush, and if you've never seen the old illustration of this scene, you really should. I am ready to start dancing with the goats again.

07/27 Direct Link
The chairs in the room are completely mismatched. Nobody would ever think to put these five chairs in the same room with their variety of sizes and colors and styles.

The low wooden chair with the green fabric seat is the most comfortable and the most attractive, and it is closest to the little tray of individually wrapped almonds that Johnathan keeps in what he calls his "antechamber," but what is really his secretary's office. Johnathan's office is actually on the other side of the hall, but I guess it's important for him to feel like he has an antechamber.

07/28 Direct Link
It does not do me credit that I continue to call Jonathan's executive assistant a "secretary." That term is out, I remind myself.

Jonathan's door is closed, and I wonder who he's talking to. I wonder whether he is making me wait on purpose.

I have not up to this point ever spoken to or addressed Jonathan. Nobody in our organization refers to him by his first name, but I am determined to do so, being truly beyond, by virtue of age and disposition and length of time spent waiting, the point where I'm willing to call anyone "mister" anything.

07/29 Direct Link
After a long time Jonathan appears in his executive assistant's doorway.

"Step into my office," he says, without looking up or acknowledging me.

I make sure he notices that I've left quite a few almond wrappers scattered on the table.

"Hey Jonathan," I say, standing. I quickly study his face to see whether this has bothered him. It is important to me that he realizes that, as big a wheel as he might be, he has no power or influence over me; we occupy such distant nodes on the org chart that we might as well work for different companies.

07/30 Direct Link
The slow walk down the hallway to Jonathan's office gave me an opportunity to observe him up close. He was almost a full head shorter than me, and his suit jacket seemed too big for his narrow, slumped shoulders.

You can see the corners of his mustache from behind, and there's a comical way it swishes from left to right as he walks. Quite a few things about his appearance are comical, and I decided a lot of that is by design, because he knows he's at an advantage when people make the mistake of failing to take him seriously.

07/31 Direct Link
The chair in front of Jonathan's desk was slightly lower than his chair.

"Have a seat," he said, with a demeaning gesture. I refused to take the bait.

"That's fine," I said, "I don't mind standing."

Unfazed, he started to rummage through his drawer.

"My wife said you really loved the potato salad at the company picnic," he said, "and she made me promise to give you the recipe."

He finally found the folded sheet of paper and handed it to me.

"Thanks, Jonathan," I said, turning to leave.

Then, over my shoulder, "Hey, give my regards to your wife."