04/01 Direct Link
Me Vs. The World: Day 32
Since I started my own company, I don't work in an office with tons of people any more. Thus, I was blissfully unaware of the April Fool's Day thing this year. One year, some of us played a prank on a fat production manager we didn't like. She rushed down the stairs thinking her car was on fire, fell down, broke her wrist and nose, then quit. We got lectures and had to do lots of overtime. They made us apologize to Fatso, too. I don't miss April Fool's Day. Me: 25. World: 7.
04/02 Direct Link
Me Vs. The World: Day 33
Today is my brother Micah's 36th birthday. I wish it was my 36th again. I was cool when I was 36. The whole world was my oyster. I commanded the respect of men and women alike when I swaggered into a room with my 36 year-old self. I was quite the 36 year-old strappin' sumbitch! Gosh, to be 36 again. Because, frankly, it's a sluice ride on the fast train to a private hell after you turn 36. I don't think I'll mention that in the card, though. Me: 25. World: 8.
04/03 Direct Link
Me Vs. The World: Day 34
Nobody encourages their kid to be a goalkeeper. The goalkeeper is the dog of the crowd. The mutt. The bum, the schmoe, the putz. Thankless, the job requires the most concentration, the quickest thinking, the greatest aversion to pain, and a hatred of failure somewhere between Vince Lombardi and Adolph Hitler. Unlike other players, when the goalkeeper makes a mistake, the result is usually visible on any nearby scoreboard. And if the other team scores, he'll get the blame when, in reality, it's almost never the goalkeeper that's to blame. Me: 26. World: 8.
04/04 Direct Link
Me Vs. The World: Day 35
Goalkeepers (more affably known as keepers or goalies) are usually certifiably insane. Nuts, but luckily in a sport which encourages them to act without rational thought or with any connection to reality at all, really. Which makes it extremely tough to analyze why the fuck they do anything. However, imagine the very most stubborn person you've ever known. They would be a goalkeeper. Remember, scoring a goal is the most fun thing about soccer, allegedly. The goalkeeper's task is to obliterate that fun from the sport. A literal "fuck you." Me: 27. World: 8.
04/05 Direct Link
Me Vs. The World: Day 36
The first time I faced shots, I didn't catch very many. I'd block it with my feet, shins, deflect it with my hands--and if the howling laughter of teammates was any indication, I likely resembled a sick stork slapping away fish. But, not one single ball went into the net. A fact I very graciously pointed out to those assholes taking shots. Those assholes taking shots? Unbeknownst to me, I was already thinking like a goalkeeper. A mistake that would soon shackle me to the 8' x 24' opening. Me: 28. World: 8.
04/06 Direct Link
Me Vs. The World: Day 37
Soon, I was minding my goal. I was pretty crazy already, so I had the first requirement down pat. See, in South America, the Colombian National Team's goalkeeper is known as "El Loco". A Canadian goalie, Tino Lettieri, had to have his stuffed parrot Ozzie with him in the net. England's netminder, Peter Shilton, was awakened by the police one morning. Naked. With a married woman. On a busy London street. In the back of a convertible. The lack of sanity possessed by goalkeepers is legendary on an international scale. Me: 29. World 8.
04/07 Direct Link
Me Vs. The World: Day 38
Hebden trained me. Hebden tried to kill me would be a more accurate statement, but amongst goalkeepers, that's not a punishable offense. He initiated me into the fraternity of "the mad ones". He trained me in the fundamentals of goalkeeping. These anguished lessons are the reason no one wants to be a keeper. They involve great deals of physical pain and repetition. Hebden delighted in having me turn my back to the shooters and not turn and make the save till I heard the sound of the ball being struck. Me: 29. World 9.
04/08 Direct Link
Me Vs. The World: Day 39
American sports fans are blissfully unaware of what it takes to be a goalkeeper in soccer. Sure, they know the goalkeeper gets to use his hands. But you rarely just stand there and have the ball float gleefully into your mitts. The prospective goalkeeper is bade to learn a skill known as diving. Goalkeepers leap sideways, hands first, body parallel to the ground, but facing the shooter. Landing is a function of the elbows, hips and knees, but this is something intentionally NOT covered when one is taught to dive. Me: 30. World: 9.
04/09 Direct Link
Me Vs. The World: Day 40
Goalkeepers in soccer DIVE to keep the ball out of the net. Unlike wide receivers in American football, who feel that they're really diving to catch a ball, the fact of the matter is that putting one's hands out to catch oneself is counterproductive. For goalkeepers, the only thing that matters is catching or deflecting the ball. Your body and how it lands is an irrelevant thing in the process. While an American wide receiver puts his hands out to break a fall, the soccer goalkeeper cannot. Mistakes induce goals. Me: 31. World: 9.
04/10 Direct Link
Me Vs. The World: Day 41
Another cheerful pastime was stopping one-on-one shots. Where a forward, unhindered, unencumbered, unchecked, unescorted, bereft of defense, enters penalty area. The strategy is to dive at his feet in front of the ball, so he'll blast kick it into your body and be rejected in his attempt to score. This is the THEORY. The REALITY is he usually kicks the ball, or your head, or chest, then steps on you. Since it's one of the few times a goalkeeper is totally defenseless, both tactically and physically, he's got to try and punish you. Me: 32. World: 9.
04/11 Direct Link
Me Vs. The World: Day 42
A goalkeeper must be quick-thinking and brave. Or impetuous and stupid, depending on how you spell it. And, you're the only one on the team with a different uniform--and you get to pick it yourself. You're not just one of the bunch, hell no, you're a man who appreciates a little self-expression and individualism in his sports attire. This usually appeals to the prima donna in every keeper. It also allows you that opportunity in sport that is so very rare. To intimidate your opponents with fashion. Me: 33. World: 9.
04/12 Direct Link
Me Vs. The World: Day 43
Although you take all the blame when the other team scores, if they DON'T score, you look exceptionally cool. Especially if the other team pummels your team with shots the whole game. It's a very dramatic position to play. And, the drama is addictive. If you're on top of your game, you actually begin to hope teammates screw up so you can stop the other side. You pray for an unstoppable shot, so you can stop it. You want the toughest chances, and you become bored by the merely difficult. Me: 34. World: 9.
04/13 Direct Link
Me Vs. The World: Day 44
I trained and trained and trained. My body was very ready. My mind was not. To play goalkeeper, you must hate more than anything being scored upon. To do this you must begin by hating the other team. Wanting your dominion to be run like Darth Vader would run it. Destroying everything that has the termidity to encroach upon the boundaries of your penalty area. But my hatred of being scored upon was more of a fear. Terrified is more like it. Getting scored on meant failure, disgrace and shame. Me: 35. World: 9.
04/14 Direct Link
Me Vs. The World: Day 45
Once I understood goalkeeping wasn't stopping shots, it was preventing shots, I began to toy with players on other teams. Especially ones who'd kick me when I was going for the ball. My favorite tact was to wait until the ball was kicked from one side of the field to the other. This is known as a "cross." When the player in question ran toward the ball, I'd run out to intercept the pass and "accidentally" deck the guy. It looks real legal, and they usually don't bother you anymore. Me: 36. World: 9.
04/15 Direct Link
Me Vs. The World: Day 46
There is a moment of truth and anticipation like no other as a player's leg is cocked and you wait for the ball to come. You don't know exactly where, you don't know exactly how fast or hard. Two players may strike the ball with the same speed, but one player's shot will be much harder. We goalkeepers call this a "heavy" ball, and we think they suck. There's nothing worse than a simple shot coming at you , then you catch it and it damn near rips your hands off. Me: 36. World: 10.
04/16 Direct Link
Me Vs. The World: Day 47
I got a shutout my first match in the net. Against the local Hitler youth. It had been raining all day and I was late to the game because my mom didn't think they'd have it. Rain was pouring and it was only thirty degrees out. I made a bunch of good stops and Keith Manson slid on his ass to save the shutout and clear the ball off the line. As you'll learn, I only made up for it about a zillion times. So it was a fair trade. Me: 37. World: 10.
04/17 Direct Link
Me Vs. The World: Day 48
The first time I ever got scored on was seven games later. I had started to get pretty darn cocky and thought a whole lot of myself in that net. Then some little nipper of a wing hit this shot I was going to stop easily, so I just waited on it. Naturally it hit a rut in the field, went over my head and into the goal. I felt stupid as shit. That feeling was the reason that I didn't get scored on for the rest of the season. Me: 37. World: 11.
04/18 Direct Link
Me Vs. The World: Day 49
My secret ambition is to create a device which will render stupidity useless. A technological marvel that would flash and buzz and wail when I'm about to do something incredibly fucking stupid. It would have been making a hell of a racket as I drove from St. Louis to Atlanta. It would have been telling me that although the warning sounds it was making could possibly make me a trillionaire with such an ingenious invention, very soon my new secret ambition would become living in a cat piss-free environment. Me: 37. World: 12.
04/19 Direct Link
Me Vs. The World: Day 50
Pansy singers like Frank Sinatra and Bon Jovi really blew it when it comes to cryin' and love and stuff. Cryin' is for people who think they're obligated to squirt weepies when they lose their main squeeze. All cryin' songs should be replaced with songs about vomiting. Now vomit really shows heartache, 'cause it usually follows binge drinkin', and there's no better way to leave that special person a lasting impression of you than heavin' on her carpet if she has the bad sense to dump you at her place. Me: 38. World: 12.
04/20 Direct Link
Me Vs. The World: Day 51
Why the fuck do restaurants give you straws with a little of the wrapper left on 'em? Too fuckin' lazy to take off the rest? Next thing, instead of givin' you ice, they'll be givin' you a glass of water and tellin' you to freeze it yourself. Other day, some "blond" waitress with roots as black as Ricky Nelson's corpse kindly informs me that the wrapper is there to prevent the spread of AIDS. Right. Look, babe, I'm gonna drink the god damn thing, not give it a knobber, OK? Me: 39. World: 12.
04/21 Direct Link
Me Vs. The World: Day 52
What's all this hub-bub about "date rape"? You don't hear guys whinin' when they get stuck with some horny bowser on a blind date, do ya? Basically, we're just talkin' an exchange of a few bodily proteins and hormonal fluids, right? You gimme some of your gravy, and I give you some of my gravy. And sorry, Patsy Schroeder, but the word "date" constitutes to old-fashioned guys like me that the price of a meal has changed hands in the transaction, so let's just call it even, huh? Me: 40. World: 12.
04/22 Direct Link
Me Vs. The World: Day 53
The bank claims to be friendly. Then could maybe David Ogilvy come over to my trailer and explain, if they're so fuckin' friendly, why not a little red carpet treatment when you're overdrawn? Miss Clitty in the teller cage always launches this 4 million decibel, "I'M SORRY, BUT THAT ACCOUNT IS OVERDRAWN." It's never, "I'M SORRY, BUT YOUR SWISS ACCOUNT IS TEMPORARILY OUT OF SERVICE DUE TO A POWER OUTAGE CAUSED BY AN AVALANCHE IN THE ALPS." I'm not lookin' for a handout, just a little P.R., fer chrissakes. Me: 40. World: 13.
04/23 Direct Link
Me Vs. The World: Day 54
I feel bad about the way me and my ex-wife broke up but who could live with the woman? Constantly hair everywhere!!! In the sink. On our pillows. The top of the TV set. All over a hot stove. Yeah, the chemotherapy finally drove us apart. Religion is silly. You spend your whole life worshipin' and scripturin', then when you die, you have to go to Hell because you didn't belong to the 132nd Street Church of the Universal Consomolon. Boy, would you feel like a butthead or what? Me: 41. World: 13.
04/24 Direct Link
Me Vs. The World: Day 55
Thinking about it now, it seems pretty stupid to be surprised by it. Then again, being surprised by anything anymore was pretty stupid. Such is the nature of surprise, and I guess that's why they call it a surprise. But when some woman you've only spoken to once calls you up to tell you your best friend is dead, I think God cuts you a break on pretty stupid and just lets you be surprised. Unfortunately, God does NOT cut you a break that keeps you from identifying the body. Me: 41. World: 14.
04/25 Direct Link
Me Vs. The World: Day 56
He was twenty or so, and a swing manager. He regarded me wearily. He wore glasses, and was intelligent looking. Kinda stocky. And he enunciated, too. "Oh, you're the new guy. Seen the training video?" He was interested and dismissive at the same time. "Yeah, I saw the video. Good subtext, and I liked the Bergmanesque quality, but the casting was poor, and the plot predictable." Hal let out the first of about a million long belly laughs. "Great, an intellectual in here. We'll put you at the fry station." Me: 42. World: 14.
04/26 Direct Link
Me Vs. The World: Day 57
I threw the little hardened disc of coaster-sized burger down on the grill. It let lose a sickly hiss of release. According to the video, I just had to follow the timers in front of me. First sear the meat, using a flat round piece of metal with a knob on top. Then turn with the spatula, then pull off the grill. During this time, I was supposed to "dress" all the sandwiches. Good in theory, and with the ample ten minutes the hot-looking training video chick had. Me: 42. World: 15.
04/27 Direct Link
Me Vs. The World: Day 58
My first day was getting slow and boring already. I looked around and Denny was still shooting the shit with the blond up front. It was only 8:45. I had to close the place. Eventually, Denny would go home and it'd be just me. God help the people wanting their food devoid of blood. Thus far, blood had proven to be my specialty as a chef, and I didn't relish the thought of straying from comfortable, familiar ground. No matter what the Indiana State Board of Health might think. Me: 43. World: 15.
04/28 Direct Link
Me Vs. The World: Day 59
At Denny's urging, some of the front line chicks would tease me every now and then about the prowess of my burger-making. It was decidedly embarrassing. Not because I wanted to be the honored hamburger preparation Czar, but because it was the first place I'd ever congregated with girls that didn't also have teachers. The managers at McDonald's were supervisory, but we all knew for a lead pipe cinch that most of them were FAR more interested in, and willing to, get in the same pants we all were. Me: 43. World: 16.
04/29 Direct Link
Me Vs. The World: Day 60
The rayon tarp with buttons I was wearing got sweatier and itchier. And I was beginning to HATE Denny. His opinion of my existence apparently was me shouldering all the work, while he screwed around. Then, when things got busy, he'd get all persecuted and yell out insults. "God DAMN it, Hal, who the hell hired this guy? Why didn't they hire my friend, Larry?" I was wondering why Larry couldn't be here in this sweaty hellhole with this Denny, too. I was on his turf, and his turf sucked. Me: 44. World: 16.
04/30 Direct Link
Me Vs. The World: Day 61
It was a sweaty, greasy trap. The meat was cold, pressed to a sear, then you turned it, and got grease all over your hands. Hot grease, on your uniform no matter what you did. I didn't have a grill apron, so the tops of my thighs were constantly soaked in grease, and would result in big, giant leg pimples. I watched beautiful co-worker girls parade in front of me, while I remained invisible. The Invisible Bloody Burger Machine. Lackey and slave of Mr. Denny MotoRayon, he-man womanizer. Me: 44. World: 17.