Archive | July, 2012

For Love of Money (Part 1)

26 Jul

It’s recently been pointed out to me that I’ve been overwriting the shit out of this blog (thanks, Chris!). That’s a point well taken, but I have my reasons. I have had a lot of interesting, humiliating, and just balls-out bizarre things happen to me in my time on this planet that I need to share. Additionally, there are an almost infinite number of things that vex and/or piss me off. The good news: for those two reasons, I’m unlikely to run out of topics to rant about. The bad news: I am a seriously longwinded motherfucker. [Author’s Note: my copy of Microsoft Word now recognizes “motherfucker” as a correctly spelled word even though I’m about 299% sure it was highlighting it in red when I first started using the program. Apparently I’ve used the word so much that Word gave up and decided to let me have that one. Ponder that for a moment: I was able to wear down spellcheck into complete submission through the sheer will of my vulgarity. Score one for the humans before the inevitable robot apocalypse (or “robocalypse” if you’re a fan of portmanteaus).] As you can tell by this intro, this is going to be another War and Peace-like epic. In fact, this is going to be my first ever two-parter. I’m going to try to end on a cliffhanger, so prepare to have your mind blown by some amazing Hitchcockian suspense. In fact, consider this the pre-suspense before the real suspense of the cliffhanger. Are you ready for this? I can tell by the way you’re rolling your eyes that you are.

When it comes to stories of things that happened to me, they are typically miserable experiences that I either (a) didn’t know were going to be awful when they began or (b) situations where I knew it would be awful going in, yet did it anyway just for the story. Do you have any idea how many things I’ve done simply to have an awesome story to tell? Do you appreciate that? DO YOU?? I hope so because I do it for you, gentle reader, I do it for you. This tale, however, falls into category (a).

Allow me to set the scene: it was the mid-90s. Grunge was dying a slow death at the wee, falsetto-voiced hands of the boy bands. The internet was currently known as, “That thing that takes 3-hours to download a single nude chick pic from an ‘80s-era Juggs magazine provided no one picks up the phone and disconnects me.” Waterworld was poised to smash box office records around the globe and be christened THE GREATEST MOVIE EVER MADE – a title it holds to this very day. The movie features Kevin Costner – with gills. GILLS, bitches. That shit just flat out owns. There I was: a fresh-faced, cocksure 21-year-old who had just given up the glitz and glamour of my job as stock boy at the local grocery store. I know, I know – how could I walk away from that? I’ll simply say this: life in the fast lane isn’t all it’s cracked up to be: the fast cars, the women, the 10% employee discount – it was all so empty. It was time for me to move on. I searched for a new job in the finest place I knew: the classified section of The Baltimore Sun. It was truly the Craig’s List of its era. I perused the listings looking for the perfect opportunity, something suitable for my massive skill set of being able to both stock shelves AND bag groceries. There in the middle of the page, shining like a distant and beckoning oasis, I saw it:

WAREHOUSE POSITIONS. MUST HAVE FORKLIFT EXPERIENCE. STARTING PAY $10/HOUR. NO ALBANIANS, PLEASE.

Okay, maybe it didn’t mention anything about Albanians, but the rest was there: $10 for one hour of work. Un-fucking-believable. Never had I ever made that much money for doing anything. I quickly did the math and, within a few short hours, my calculations told me that’s $400 a week. A WEEK! This was too good to be true. I calmed myself, took a deep breath, screwed my courage to the sticking place, and called.

The phone rang. Twice. Three times. Four. Finally, just when all hope seemed lost, a click followed by a raspy voice, “Yeah?” I estimated that voice had been mercilessly beaten down by at least 60 coffin nails a day for 30+ years. “I…I’m calling about the job?” (How’s that for confidence?) He cleared his throat and tried on what I imagined was his “happy voice” once he realized I wasn’t shaking him down for money. His name was Sal. He asked me a few questions about my work experience, but tellingly, nothing about forklift expertise (RED FLAG). After hearing that I’d worked at a grocery store for 4 years he declared, “You sound like manager material (RED FLAG). Any experience?” This was all happening so fast. I wavered in my response, but ultimately decided to tell him the truth: no, I had no managerial experience, but I could steer the shit out of a forklift. His reply, “Don’t matter. I can tell you got what it takes (RED FLAG). Be here 9:00 Monday and we’ll get you started.”

Score! I was so stoked! The first place I called and I had the job. Not only that, but I was offered an even better job than the one for which I had hoped to apply! Nothing unusual about that…right? Of course not. Clearly this was simply amazing luck along with the massive amount of charm and charisma I was able to exude over the phone. Beaming with pride, excitement, and a laundry list of shit I was going to spend my first $400 paycheck on, I called my girlfriend. She assured me this was a scam. I assured her that she best shut her bitch-ass mouth. Sorry, I didn’t actually tell her that. I just told her that she was stupid and she ought to get her ass back in the kitchen and make me a sandwich. Okay, I didn’t tell her that either. I believe my actual unedited quote upon hearing her cynicism was, “Nuh-uh.” Hardcore, right? Totally torched her ass. Confident that this was not a scam, I couldn’t wait to prove her wrong. She’d know shit was real when we were enjoying the finest steaks Sizzler could sell to a man earning $10 an hour. Chris Parnell said it best: “It’s all about the Hamiltons, baby.”

Monday morning came and I was ready like a goddamned boss. I put on a fresh suit (with tweed jacket – natch) and my brand new pair of suede loafers. This job was mine. He said be there at 9:00, I rolled my ’86 Honda Prelude onto the lot at 8:45. Early and dressed for success, I pictured myself walking up to the front door in slow motion while “You’re the Best Around” from The Karate Kid played and shit exploded in the background. They don’t even make floor wax smoother than that.

It’s probably at this point that I should mention that this particular establishment was located in a strip mall in Golden Ring, Maryland (let’s call it “Mullet Heaven” for those not familiar with the area). The “warehouse” was ridiculously small, more like a storage unit than a place of work. No matter, less for me, the manager, to be concerned about. The door was open. A few pallets stacked with small, nondescript boxes lined the concrete floor. My smile faltered, but then there it was in the corner: the forklift. It too was Lilliputian, but it was there, goddamn it. Sweet vindication! I knew it wasn’t a scam. I emitted a small sigh of relief.

I saw a man, 50s, seated behind a desk puffing away on a Marlboro that was nearly all ash. He looked like a disheveled Jack Lemmon from Glengarry Glen Ross. I approached him. “Sal?” I asked cautiously. A look of, “Who the fuck are you?” bloomed on his face. “I’m here for the job.” His face softened and he stood up to greet me. We exchanged pleasantries and he told me that to be a manager meant learning every aspect of the job. How Zen. Still, this seemed odd as we were the only two people in this very small space. How much could there really be to learn? Then he walked in. Sal and I stood up as he ambled over to us. Sal gestured to him: “This here’s Kevin.” Cheap, wrinkled suit, slicked back hair, John Waters ‘stache – the guy oozed salesman from his very pores. He stuck out his hand and I lightly shook his sweaty palm. “Kevin’s the best. He’s going to take you on his sales calls today, show you the ropes.”

At this point, I’m still in denial. As we stroll to his car (a canary-yellow Suzuki Samurai), I’m picturing scheduled meetings in boardrooms and sales presentations. I’d soon find out how off-base such thoughts were. I continued on towards my car. “Where you going, guy?” he asked. “I thought I’d follow you,” I naively offered. He said that’s not how it works; that I’d ride with him and he’d bring me back at the end of the day. I walked to the passenger side, scared without knowing why. This was my last chance to bail. I had to choose: get in or get the hell out of there. What should I do…?

I totally got in. Man, I suck at cliffhangers.

Next week: the thrilling conclusion of, “You did that for money? Seriously?”

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Worst. Song. Ever.

18 Jul

I deal in hyperbole, ostensibly, for a living, but in reality, for shits and giggles. You can call it my oeuvre my milieu or whatever other French word you can conjure (showoff!) that basically means “medium.” Because it is my chosen medium, you’re correct to assume I’m not serious when I say things like:

·         “It was so goddamned cold, I froze my ass off!” (nope, still attached)

·         “It is seriously hotter than balls out here!” (“Balls” is currently not a recognized measure of temperature, though the Kelvin scale is its closest analogue)

·         “Jesus loves me.” (Well, He thinks I’m kind of all right, but He wants to see other people)

However, when I describe, “The Devil Went Down to Georgia,” as the single worst song ever recorded in the history of everything, I assure you that I am not waxing hyperbolic. I have my good friend Science on my side. With the help of super-sciency, scientific Science, I’m going to explain myself.

Let’s begin with the obvious: it’s a country tune. Anyone who knows me well, has met me once or twice, or has shared a brief elevator ride with me knows that I loathe country music with the white-hot intensity of a 1000 suns gone supernova (again, not hyperbole). I’d rather stand on a bed of nails with Andre the Giant on my back and have a red-hot poker slowly inserted up my pee-hole while Liberace plays “Call Me Maybe” on a Casio, ‘80s-era keyboard than listen to country music. So yeah, I’m not a fan.

What vexes me most – what put this song on my radar in the first place – is the fact that they play it on Classic Rock radio. Nothing about this song rocks; it’s all fiddlin’ all the time. It’s even featured prominently in one of my all-time favorite bad movies, Urban Cowboy. In addition to having “cowboy” right there in the title, it’s a goddamned John Travolta movie about goddamned mechanical bull riding. Can you get more country than that? Sure, if your name is Colt Cash or Johnny America, but that’s about it. The song isn’t even that somehow-kind-of-works-for-me-on-certain-days genre mash-up, Southern Rock (see Skynyrd, Lynyrd; Special, .38; or Top, ZZ if you, for some reason, have never heard of it). Southern Rock is generally more rock than country and, ergo, does not totally suck balls. I’ve been forced to listen to this song for at least 25 years and it is nothing less than country-ass country music – can we agree on that? I see you nodding, hypothetical reader. Thanks for being agreeable this week. Still, I don’t feel that you share my hatred yet. Let’s see if I can change that with a breakdown of the lyrics.

“The devil went down to Georgia, he was looking for a soul to steal. 

 He was in a bind ‘cos he was way behind and he was willin’ to make a deal.”

Wow. Even the Devil himself has to deal with HR assholes and arbitrary quotas. Who knew? I wasn’t aware that the Devil could “fall behind.” I had always assumed that Satan was kind of the dictator of hell and made any and all decisions vis-à-vis the proper amount of souls needed for torment at any given time. It’s somewhat comforting to know that even the Prince of Darkness has a jerk-off of a boss to whom he must answer. He probably calls pre-meetings where they meet to discuss the shit that’s going to be discussed during the actual scheduled meeting too. I sympathize with you, Lord of Lies – bosses are dicks. Just sit in your cubicle and stare at the kitten poster you no doubt have posted to the wall that reads, “Hang in There!” It will be Friday soon enough.

“When he came across this young man sawin’ on a fiddle and playin’ it hot.

 And the devil jumped upon a hickory stump and said: ‘Boy let me tell you what:’

 ‘I guess you didn’t know it, but I’m a fiddle player too.’

 ‘And if you’d care to take a dare, I’ll make a bet with you.’

 ‘Now you play a pretty good fiddle, boy, but give the devil his due:’

 ‘I bet a fiddle of gold against your soul, ‘cos I think I’m better than you.’

 The boy said: ‘My name’s Johnny and it might be a sin,’

 ‘But I’ll take your bet, you’re gonna regret, ‘cos I’m the best that’s ever been.’”

Lots going on here. I have to say that based on this exchange, I’m on the Devil’s side here. Look at him in action: he talks to Johnny like an equal and offers him a gentleman’s bet – a fiddle competition. If Johnny wins, he gets a golden fiddle. If Lucifer emerges victorious, he gets Johnny’s soul. Now, the price of gold is at an all-time high, but this deal still seems a bit lopsided to me. Does Johnny see it? Does he take a moment to weigh the value of a golden fiddle versus his eternal life force? Nope. He takes maybe 1/8th of a second to consider the ramifications of his actions (“it might be a sin”) before saying, “HELL YEAH, SATAN!! I AM GOING TO LAY DOWN THE FIDDLE THUNDER ON YOUR ASS!!!” Come on, Johnny, you’re from the South. I know growing up you must’ve heard at minimum 18,000 cautionary tales about THIS VERY THING happening to you and none of them ended well. The devil doesn’t play fair. Ever. There’s always some ironic catch to deals like this. But, whatever – your soul, Johnny. Piss it away as you like.

“Johnny you rosin up your bow and play your fiddle hard.

 ‘Cos hells broke loose in Georgia and the devil deals the cards.

 And if you win you get this shiny fiddle made of gold.

 But if you lose, the devil gets your soul.”

Okay, this part of the song is 300% pointless. This is basically “catch-up” if the first verse was too full of twists and turns for you to follow. Now it’s restated so even the ultra-slow are on board. I don’t know about you, but every time I hear this verse, I picture thousands of listeners smacking their foreheads and yelling, “Oooooohhhhhhhhhh! I get it now!”

 “The devil opened up his case and he said: ‘I’ll start this show.’

 And fire flew from his fingertips as he rosined up his bow.

 And he pulled the bow across his strings and it made an evil hiss.

 Then a band of demons joined in and it sounded something like this:”

Uh-oh. Shit just got real. The Wicked One has just laid the smackdown on Johnny. This is the only part of the song that is even remotely cool. If you haven’t heard it, basically, it gets all bassy with some guitar shredding thrown in for good measure. There’s some fiddle, sure, but strangely, only a bit. Things took an odd turn in this devil vs. man fiddle competition.  But come on now, Johnny, what did you expect when you agreed to this contest without a second’s hesitation? The song really should end here with Johnny pissing himself in terror as he realizes what a mistake he made while his soul is earmarked for eternal torment. The listener learns a valuable lesson about not being a moron and we all move on better for the experience. That doesn’t happen. This does:

“When the devil finished, Johnny said: ‘Well you’re pretty good ol’ son.’

‘But sit down in that chair, right there, and let me show you how it’s done.’

Fire on the mountain, run boys, run.

The devil’s in the house of the risin’ sun.

Chicken in the bread pan, pickin’ out dough.

‘Granny, does your dog bite?’

‘No, child, no.’”

 What the hell is this shit? Not only is Johnny not afraid, he’s brimming with arrogance. For Johnny’s retort, the songwriters apparently threw their entire vocabulary’s worth of over 10 words into a hat, pulled them out one at a time, and wrote them down. That’s the only excuse I can come up with for that retarded nonsense above. How in the Christ is that better than what the Devil rolled out? The Devil eschewed lyrics in favor of bad-assery while Johnny just verbally ejaculated whatever dumb shit popped into his pea brain. To be fair, this was a fiddle competition and Johnny was the one competitor to play only the fiddle. So Johnny wins the Spirit of Competition Award, but we all know Beelzebub has this thing in the bag. Right?

“The devil bowed his head because he knew that he’d been beat.

 He laid that golden fiddle on the ground at Johnny’s feet.

 Johnny said: ‘Devil just come on back if you ever want to try again.’

 ‘cause I told you once, you son of a bitch, I’m the best there’s ever been.’”

 WHAT???? Let’s take a moment to consider something: do you realize who was judging this competition all along? THE DEVIL! The Devil himself was the sole arbiter and HE LOST! He challenges Johnny to a fiddle competition and before he can even announce terms that stack the deck in his favor, Johnny accepts. He handily defeats Johnny (which is a moot point anyway because, you know, THE DEVIL WAS THE JUDGE) and declares himself the loser! I never realized what an honest and fair dude the Devil is before hearing this song. I think he listened to Johnny play that awful stream of consciousness garbage on the fiddle and he felt sorry for him. The Devil took pity on Johnny – that’s how bad Johnny plays the fiddle. Taking Johnny’s soul at that point would’ve been tantamount to dropkicking baby ferrets. There is apparently some shit even the Devil won’t do.  

If the point of this song was to make the Devil out to be a sympathetic, benign, pretty cool guy and make Johnny look like an impetuous, stupid, arrogant prick, then mission accomplished. I mean read those last two lines of the last verse again. Johnny took a total shit when it was his turn to shred on the fiddle (oxymoron?) and he has the massive balls to not only revel in his awfulness, but to taunt Satan! How does he get pants over balls of that size? I begrudgingly respect and salute those balls.

In summary, here’s what the two principals exude in this song:

The Devil – dignity, class, good sportsmanship. Johnny – arrogance, douchebaggery, obnoxiousness.

And that is why The Devil Went Down to Georgia is the worst song ever recorded. Scientific facts have never lied.

X-Treme Hygiene!

7 Jul

So I guess I’ve got to keep this going, right? As far as the blogging thing goes, I’ve realized two things: (1) I have no idea the proper frequency with which to post and (2) I don’t know what the hell to say. I think my first post pretty much cleared the decks. Truth be told, I’m just not that deep. Pac-Man and turning my cubicle into a pirate ship is just about all I had.  So much like a man who’s just engaged in nearly six minutes of sex needs a quick eight hour power nap to recharge the batteries (that’s normal, right?), I decided to take a brief refractory period and ponder exactly what it is I want to say.

I know I’m overthinking this, but that’s kind of what I do. This isn’t exactly Faulkner I’m churning out here. Still, I’d like to have a theme. So after much consternation, I’ve decided this blog will focus on three things:

  • Shit that I think is funny
  • The general douchebaggery I encounter in my day to day life
  • My writing career (as it gains more traction)

The story I’m about to share is being told by request, and hits 2 of those 3 bullet points rather nicely.  You see, I’ve worked with a number of crazy people over the years. “Yeah, and?” you say, “Who doesn’t?” Whoa, you are really cynical, impatient, and rude, hypothetical reader. Let me finish. I’m talking about a special kind of crazy here; the kind of crazy that would make even Caligula say, “What the hell is wrong with these people (in Latin, of course, ‘cause he was like, Roman and stuff)?” Let me give you a few examples:

·         A woman with such offensive body odor she was forced by her boss to go home and shower because she was disrupting the work environment. With her funk. Ruminate on THAT for a moment: she smelled so repulsive, her coworkers couldn’t work. I’ll leave it at that.

·         A man who wore a chrome bicycle helmet while sitting at his desk because he feared the ceiling might collapse on his head. What good such a helmet would do him should that unlikely event ever take place, he never mentioned, but goddamn did he look stylish. How could he not?

·         A man who wore über-tight Lycra bike shorts (no matter the temperature) EVERY SINGLE DAY that both vacuum sealed and emphasized his manhood for all to enjoy. I can’t tell you how many times I turned around at my desk only to have that Johnsonville Brat staring me in the face because he had been standing behind me. Did I mention he didn’t ride a bike to work? Yeah, I should’ve mentioned that.

The above three examples are but a sampling of the kind of insanity I’ve encountered over the years at my job. They all pale in comparison to what I am about to share. *DISCLAIMER*: What you are about to read is going to be unpleasant. As a writer, it is my job to paint you a picture. If I do it right, the images in your head will shock and disturb you and can never be unseen. As a wise man once said, “You can’t gouge out your mind’s eye.” Then why am I sharing this? Because, like the old man in The Rime of the Ancient Mariner (not the sweet-ass, 15 minute tune by Iron Maiden, but rather the poem by Samuel Taylor Coleridge), I am cursed to share my tale. (By the way, if you ever have to choose between listening to the song or reading the poem, go with the song – Bruce Dickinson is the shit.)

It all began when I got promoted and started work in a new building. This entailed a six-month long training period: 8-hour days spent in a classroom learning how to process claims. It was about as thrilling as waiting for a Jell-O mold to set (only without the gastronomic reward of a wiggly, fruity treat when it was over). Within the first two weeks in my new position, I excused myself for what I thought would be an innocuous trip to the bathroom. Little did I know that my life as I knew it was about to change…

I entered the bathroom and saw a man standing in front of the sink – nothing odd about that. He appeared to be washing his hands – still perfectly normal. As the door swung shut behind me, I realized something didn’t seem quite right. He wasn’t washing his hands; he was…holding something. I thought to myself, “Oh, he’s peeing in the sink. That’s cool.” [Now, I have to stop for a moment to comment on that: I saw what appeared to be a man pissing in a sink at work and didn’t find it odd – what the hell does that say about me?!? I’ve never urinated in a sink nor have I ever seen anyone do it. Good to know that my brain is totally prepared for that scene should it ever present itself. Back to my tale.]

It turned out that what I had mistaken for hand washing or just good old-fashioned bladder to sink evacuation was neither of those things. No, this man was washing his junk. In the sink. In the middle of the day. At work. I hesitated for the briefest of moments, stunned by what I was witnessing. My eyes seemed to grow too large for my head. My brain screeched from inside my skull: “LOOK AWAY! LOOK AWAY!!!!” I raised my eyes. For one horrible moment, the dickwasher and I made eye contact. In my entire life, I have never before or since experienced a more awkward moment. To his credit, as if sensing my anxiety, the man stopped scrubbing his unit and gave me a nod as if to say, “It’s cool, dude.” Amazingly, I felt my head rise and fall in return like this was the most normal thing in the world. That broke the tension and I continued on my intended path to the urinal. I stood in front of it unmoving, waiting for him to finish. If it took until the end of time, I’d be standing there still. Fortunately, he finished up in another few moments, put Uncle Richard back in his pants, and left.  The silence he left in his wake was deafening.  

That entire event took place over the course of maybe 30 seconds almost six years ago, yet I recall it as if it happened just yesterday. That’s how it goes with the watershed moments of our lives. I left the bathroom that day a forever changed man, my brain filled with nightmare fuel and unanswered questions. I never saw the man again after that and thus never got to ask the most important question of all: why? Why was he doing that in there? Did he spill coffee on it? Was he eating peanut butter or something and got some on it? Was he a germaphobe? If so, wouldn’t a dollop of Purell applied safely behind the closed door of a stall have been the better option? To ponder the possible answers is to gaze into the eyes of insanity. I will be haunted by them until the end of my days.

And now, gentle reader, you know my pain. You know why I squeeze my eyes tightly shut whenever I enter a men’s room. I think you’d be wise to do the same. You just never know what’s lurking behind that door.

Next week: an essay on the worst song ever recorded.

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