Thursday, February 10, 2011

Is something wrong?

Well, apparently it was not the Starbucks, because in between my deep two hour sleep sessions, I still found time to darn socks and write sermons and research my family back to 1402 somewhere in Gloucester, England.  Considering I just spent the past three hours cancelling reservations for my long awaited vacation to Puerto Rico, and trying to figure out how to get home sooner without spending a lot of money- it seems that I could use a tall Starbucks Coffee right now, half coffee and half Baileys and half Vodka.  Not that I don't enjoy the thought of a week off - it has been a long three months - I just don't enjoy the thought of a week off in a cold place.  I will sit and stew and curse the viral gods for this one for the next couple of days, but I imagine as I drive down Highway 17 at four am tomorrow morning, most of this will be forgotten...ten hours of travel in the wrong direction - I am supposed to be heading to blue water and white sand beaches and fizzy rum drinks.  Sickness has no schedule, and I cannot imagine being sick and having to fly across the country, or being the one who is sick...oh well, there will be other weeks, and from what I understand, Puerto Rico is not going anyplace anytime soon, and the SkyMiles and Hilton Honors Points and American express Rewards Points and the free rental car days - well those go right  back in the bank.

Is something wrong is the most overused question - it came up today when I picked up my Mahwah Pizza and Pasta dinner (see box above) - I ordered the pie, waited the obligatory thirty minutes, then drove over to pick it up.  When I got there, she looked at me and thought instantly, "Oh shit" - and then handed my ticket to the chef, who then, in his best "fuck it, I make pizza when I make pizza" looked at me, and slotted my order behind the other 11 orders.  Then it came out "Is something wrong?" - well, now my emotional intelligence has gotten much better now that I watch re-runs of Oprah at two am, but in this case, I could not help but expand on the idea that something was wrong.  Allusion, Allegory, all of those literary terms were of no use.  I was straight and to the point, but stood patiently and swallowed my words.  I figured it was better to get a pizza than to get in a shouting match about having to remind them that I ordered a pizza for pick up thirty minutes ago.  It would have been pointless to explain to them that I ordered this pizza thirty minutes ago because I am not fascinated by watching someone make my pizza.  I am fascinated by eating my pizza, yes, something was wrong.

It gets better though when this question is asked - psychologists ask this question alot - counselors - I am reminded of my marraige counseling - 'Is something bothering you today", well yes, I am pissed that you have a comfortable couch and I have an old couch.  What the hell do they think counseling is for - of course something is bothering you - and I am not even a doctor.  A better question would be, "I know there is an issue, because you are here.  I know that something is bothering you.  What I dont know are the details of your discomfort.  Explain the discomfort to me using four letter words, adjectives, and obscure references to former sports stars who have either died or squandered away their millions on strippers or drugs or both."  It is kind of like a doctor, who, after you have been effectively interviewed by six traige nurses, two administrators, and some guy who does not understand why you are bleeding from your head, comes in and says, "Well what do we have here" - I actually had this happen during my recent neck surgery - I kept getting asked "Where does it hurt" - well where the fuck do you think it hurts?  "Well doctor, this neck thing, it is not anywhere as bad as this hangnail on my little toe.  I mean the drainage tube hanging out of my throat, the needles in my arm, and the bandage your nurse glued to my chest hair and beard are fine, but damn, if someone could look at my toe."  It happens in other places as well - returning an item at any department store - every department store manager has been trained to ask, "Is something wrong" - and my reply (don't think this is my first response, generally it is my eigth response, I am a prick, but it takes priming, it just does not come natural) "No, I have shit I want to give back to you.  Your high school student cashier cannot, even with a reciept, a credit card statement, a security video of me purchasing the goods, and a high tech cash register figure it out.  I have shit that I do not want.  You have money that I paid for the shit.  Let's trade." 

Being bothered is a way of life. Folks have perfected ways to make millions of dollars to make people less bothered, make them feel like there is less than anything wrong.  In fact, it seems now, that the folks want us to know that SOMETHING is wrong, SOMEWHERE, and that if we really felt compelled, that we SHOULD do SOMETHING about it.  Go to the web, and do a search on "feeling wrong"- there were, as of two minutes ago, 47,600,000 hits for that exact phrase.  On the first page, there were mentions of Chakra Healing, and some guys lyrics to a song.  Apparently, there are a large number of folks who feel wrong.  I guess that's my problem. with asking that question.  Have we gotten to such a pansy state that we can no longer directly address what is wrong - instead we have to preface it with "feel"?  Listen to me here - I think we have let the definition of defining something get out of hand - Glenn Beck crying and drawing pictures on a chalk board is an opinion (a shitty one) what caused things to be wrong - it is not a defintion of what is wrong - the definition is clear, concise, and understood.  For instance, "Obama spends too much money with his socialist ways" is not a definition of what is wrong - "The United States has a Trillion dollar debt caused by rampant overspending, poor oversight, and lack of fiscal control" is a definition.  I had to throw in a shameless shot at Glen Beck, I could have just as easily chosen Bill Maher for throwing unanswerable smart ass questions at guests - but hell, Glen Beck has a larger audience.  Anyway - back to what is wrong.  I just don't get it.

What is wrong with me -

1.  I work too much.  That is what I do.  I spend 80% of the year working, 10% worry about what I am going to work on next, and 10% on vacation or away from work wondering why my cell phone is not going off.  Pretty straightforward.

2.  I spend too much money.  I have x dollars, y wants, and z needs.  That's a three variable equation, and much like my calculus grade, I do a very bad job of figuring out which variable to solve for.

3.  I smoke too much.  They keep making them, and I keep buying them. Yes, I am a whimp for not quitting.  Yes, I do not enjoy them as much as I thought I would.  Yes, I am addicted.  No, I don't stop smoking when I am chewing nicorette or using the patch.

4.  I am abrasive and obtuse.  If you have been reading this for longer than five minutes, I have faith that you have figured that out.

5.  I am selfish. My narcissisitic tendencies are only supressed by my need for acceptance and a general sense of awareness (choking back laughter as I try to remember what self-help test I got that result from).

See, that was pretty easy.  Now, if I had a piece of re-bar hanging out of my gut, needed a kidney to live, had lost an eye - then something else would be wrong that was more pressing - but I don't - so right now, those things above are my wrong feelings.  (Imagine the sound of the drum circle as I confess these to my brothers and explore my deep inadequacy).

So what do I think is wrong with everything else?  That's a different question.  That's a longer question.  Hell, I tend to try and focus on what is right - and generally expand on those successes - nature hates things that are wrong - and they get punished or disappear - so I do not spend too much time feeling wrong - not that I am not in a constant state of being right, I just am not in a constant state of feeling wrong....I could complain - but the reality is, my complaints are not going to do anything about it.  I could quit my job and become a philanthropist (except when you are broke they just call you a homeless person who works at the soup kitchen, not a philanthropist) -

Yeah, there are lots of things wrong, most of them obvious.  We could spend, and have spent a lifetime about arguing what is wrong, and why.  Really folks.  We know what is wrong, so just do yourself a favor, and stop asking what is wrong, just ask what you can do about it. 

Now I need to go and figure out why the damn hotel remote is broken, and go tell the front desk something is wrong with my alarm clock.

Until next time.


Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Maybe it's the Starbucks...

It is 12:45 on a Monday night, and I am running out of various things to count in the beautiful Homewood Suites in scenic Mahwah, New Jersey.  I put down the Richard Dawkins, the scientific explanation of why our genes are selfish is a little bit cumbersome when you are trying to sleep - nothing like reading about the sexuality and reason why bees are the way they are - it is pretty exciting stuff, but not the type of stuff that promotes sleep - unless of course you are not really interested in why genes are selfish and why evolution really does make sense.  That's a topic for another time.  So I have been thinking, and I came to the conclusion that perhaps my sleep issues are directly related to the number of starbucks shot I ingest on a daily basis.  Today was 16 - that is four venti americano coffees.  (Like I said, I ran out of things to count) Now I am not what NASA would be looking for in a mission control specialist, but maybe, just maybe I am on to something here. 

I am not big on conspiracy theories, but I would be willing to bet that just about everyone who drinks starbucks also knows the words to every infomercial they show after 3 am, and I think, if we dig deeper, Starbucks is not really making their money on coffee - they are making their cash in snuggies, sham wows, and hair replacement products.  Just a hunch - but my jet fueled metabolism refuses to shut down long enough for me to catch a solid five hours of sleep before I head to the next green cup o goodness.  Perhaps we should hold a congressional hearing about it, and spend some tax payer dollars on something else that could be considered frivolous.  I can see it now, four strung out coffee addicted witnesses reading their emotional statements, bundled up in their snuggies, clutching their eco-friendly ceramic starbucks cup (by the way, those damn things stain, and start to look like spitoons after a while...) The Dems would sympathize and want to start a program that re-educates coffee drinkers to drink crystal light, the Pubs would ask what tax breaks had been given and somehow tie coffee to the muslim brotherhood.  The two or three independents would be wondering how they ended u[ on this committee versus the ways and means committee.  They would air it on CSPAN, right before the Heritage Foundation and right after some book signing in a quaint bookshop in some ethereal named town like Mist, Colorado or Snowybird Brook, Vermont. 

To compound all of this, my upstairs neighbors appear to be training for the latest release of the Cirque or the Blue Man group, or are just plain beating the shit out of something.  Been going on for hours, and I figure someone will eventually get tired, it will eventually get quiet, and I eventually will be able to formulate my conspiracy theories in relative peace.

It is not like I did not have a busy day, or did not get enough physical activity in, or that I am in strange surroundings - I had a busy day, did a routine in the hotel gym, and am well aware of room 113, although I prefer room 345 (no upstairs feats of strength being performed).  Nothing scientifically can tell me that I did not do everything that I was supposed to do to get a good night's sleep - except the starbucks.  Damn conspiracy I tell you.

As far as writing goes, this is pretty much crap, but hopefully it will get rid of the excited nerve syndrome that I keep hearing about for neck surgery folks.  Conventional wisdom says it can take two months to two years to get the nerves to calm down after they go in there and root around with a stick - and if I am any case study, two months ain't cuttin it.  I am wound up tighter than Ben Stein in the Denver Mint, and have been lucky to get more than three hours of continuous sleep...

Sure, I tried the medicinal route - the doc gave me ambien, but failed to tell me that it was highly likely that I would would wake up in my kitchen eating Drumstick ice cream cones naked.  I tried the whole counting thing, but when you count for a living, all that does is get me excited.  I tried the nyquil, the sominex, the tylenol pm - all great, for three hours of sleep.  I tried sleeping with pillows, without pillows, with pillows in various places, with no covers, with covers, with just a sheet, with socks, with long pajamas, with stuffed animals, with cold fried chicken (another ambien episode), alas, three hours.  Not that it is not restful sleep, just that every three hours, I am awake, and end up trying to work through some routine to make that makes me drift off into never never land and enjoy a few more hours with Big Bird and the Giant Hamburger. (Reference to obscure recurring dream that I occassionally have).

So really, the only thing I can think of that is doing it is the starbucks.  Too bad it is not going to do me any good tonight, but tomorrow, we'll lower it to twelve shots, and see if that works.

Sorry for the rambling, but it happens.


Friday, February 4, 2011

Blissful Mediocrity and Top Ten Seasons Responses...

Post number two for 2011, and I told myself I was going to be more disciplined this year about dropping a few more paragraphs on paper.  I also convinced myself that I would be in the gym everyday, stop smoking, spend more time in quiet meditation, and resolve my unresolved differences with the unforeseen meaning of life.  Pretty much dropped all of those off of the radar and just decided to keep doing what I am doing, that, so far has made things pretty interesting for me, and until some new epiphany comes hurling my way, I figure that while I still have money in my checking account, a job that pays, and food in cupboard, that I am doing pretty okay.  Not to say that there are not things that I know I should work on improving - for instance, I have made a conscious decision in this past paragraph to not use the "F" word, and am getting better about only using it once in every while as a descriptive adjective, versus using it as a general greeting or as a verb to those I disagree with (generally preceded by a "Go" and followed with a "yourself").  This to me is a major improvement - sort of like going to the gym everyday, except more of an exercise in discretion and manners.  I think I just laughed a little at my use of the words discretion and manners - just so my Mom knows, she is right, she did not raise me this way, the world corrupted me, and short of everything that she tried to do to prevent it, I did not listen.  (I will now and forevermore hereby refer to this phrase as the "Mom it is not your fault clause").  Anyway, I don't understand why New Year's resolutions are such a big deal anyway, it is the winter - no need to lose weight until April when you have to stroll around the beach, and you need to save money by reducing the amount of skin surface area you have to slather with sunscreen (or in my case, the finest carrot oil that Walmart can produce - just thinking of me walking around glistening in the sun like an oil slicked whale carcass just made me think of going downstairs and cracking open a new box of Little Debbie Oatmeal Cream Pies and washing them down with spiked Buttermilk - mmmmmm)....

Three months in the Northeast can get a little old at times, especially in the winter.  If I hear, "I like the seasons and when they change", one more time as a way to temper the affect of weekly doses of ice, freezing cold weather, and the ritual dumping of 14 inches of snow that only occurs when I need to fly somewhere - I think I am going to just cry.  There has to be some philosopher who has expanded on this thought of seasons, hell I think it is in the Bible and the Byrds wrote a song about it - but I digress.  I am not dreaming of a white Christmas, I don't want it to snow, and I would prefer that it remain 70 degrees to 88 degrees year round and would only rain from approximately one in the morning until four in the morning to meet my need for white noise whilst I sleep.  That way, I could return this Sharper Image noise maker that plays a loop of rain, a babbling brook, and a ceiling fan.  So that's what the picture is above - the view from the conference room.  Maybe it is that seasonal depression thing that is the real problem, but I am sure they will add some sort of pharmaceutical regimen to light therapy, and pretty soon, I will enjoy the seasons too.  If not, then I will enjoy staring off into space wondering why I am sitting underneath a UV lamp drooling on myself, and not really care one way or another about the seasons.  Winter is a time of blissful mediocrity.  That's what I say.  If you wish for me to expand on that thought, wait until the seasonal anti-depressants kick in.  None the less, and not to steal from Tosh O's great stand up bit about enjoying the good seasons - I have attempted to come up with the Top Ten retorts to "I love the change in seasons" - and seeing how my nerves are "excited" and I can look forward to about three hours of sleep tonight, this should be a worthwhile, low quality, mediocre endeavor....

1. "I like to gun shop in the Fall so I can kill in season animals and gut them and donate their meat to the local homeless shelters".  If this does not end you up in front of your Human Resources group, it will at least cease the discussions of why the leaves change colors, and will make for interesting talk in the break room while you are not there.

2. "My sweat really smells like Kim-Chee, you know, that Korean pickled cabbage, no matter what Deodorant I wear" could by a classic retort to "I can't wait for summer" - I can see the look of disgust on the recipients face and then the longing for a spring roll with noodles.

3. "Spring is the best time to plant at most cemeteries if you really want to make your loved ones grave sites look special" - I can only imagine this will come up with the first pastel shirt seen in the office in early March.  Note to folks who do not live in New York City - they only wear gray and black in the city year round - and that is offset by a $600 pastel tie and/or scarf.  I don't quite get that yet, in fact, I feel pretty strange in La Guardia as the only guy who wears tan dress slacks.  Don't ask me why that came up, I actually did count the number of folks who had on tan slacks, and aside from me, and the folks working at the bar/restaurant/gift shop combo, everyone else was in black or gray.

4.  "I composted my leaves into a fine earthy soil additive and used the Best Management Practices as prescribed by the EPA to rid it of any residuals that may have been leached into the soil due to the overuse of birth control hormones and antibiotics.  Then I poured diesel fuel on it and used it to smoke out birds that were crapping on my car."  Not really sure what the response is you will get for this one.  Both environmentally friendly and insensitive at the same time - don't use it in places that are north of Sacramento, West of Boise, or South of Anchorage, I think this is a fineable offense just for saying "diesel fuel" and "bird" in the same sentence.

5.  "When it gets really hot in the summer, there is nothing better than waking up to the smell of the paper mill that is close to my house".  This will only work for folks who live near or have driven by a paper mill.  You can replace it with "water treatment plant", "landfill","dairy farm:" - you get the drift.

6. "There is nothing better than a good ice storm to get the economy working again" - the fact that this makes absolutely no sense will only confuse the listener. 

7. "Spring is the best time to forage for baby bird eggs.  There is nothing better than a baby bird egg omelet.  My kids can't wait until spring, they love shooing off the mama birds with a broom and then stealing those little speckled treats.  Sometimes, we get enough eggs to have breakfast for dinner.  You know, if you get them at just the right time, you can mix them with some poke salad greens and grubs - and boy, let me tell you, there is nothing better." - The fact that you are displaying your survivalist nature and are only one step from having your own scripted Food Network Bear Grylls cooking show will not only impress folks, but will also make them back slowly away from you.

8.  "I was born in the late summer.  My folks always did have a passion for intimacy during the winter months." - This is just plain weird, not sure how folks are going to take this, but pretty sure they will have images running through their heads that are better left out of their heads.  The fact that you use "folks" and "intimacy" in the same sentence speaks of a Renaissance demeanor.

9. "I change my facebook picture whenever the seasons change.  All of my friends say they like to see me in different seasonal outfits, so I try to go to the TJ Maxx and pick out seasonal outfits while they are on sale, then I photograph myself, and then I change my profile picture.  I really like to go shopping at TJ Maxx.  They have last year's fashions at low, low prices.  The consumer price index really has held steady over the past several years, and I just don't understand how the TJ Maxx financial model can survive this long, but it sure does make it easy and affordable for me to change my Facebook picture every season so that my friends can see me in my seasonal outfits and things.  It is good to be fashionable. Does anyone want to go get some doughnuts?"  I find that throwing multiple pieces of worthless information into one sentence at one time can lead to some interesting conversations or at least end some not so interesting conversations.  Did it get quiet in here all of a sudden?

10.  "If we could just figure out a way to pump enough greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, then we could play golf and fertilize our yards with synthetic oil based fertilizers year round.  There is nothing nicer than a warm day, and lush green golf courses.  Man, it is even better in the desert, because even if they are watering the course for hours, there is no humidity, and most of the water evaporates anyway." - Show your proclivity to be insensitive to Mother Nature.

That is all I could come up.  It is two am, and I'll be damned if it is not cold outside.  Maybe another blog before a month or so, I would like to think more than 12 this year would be good.