Sunday, May 8, 2011

This has been a strange week for all citizens of the world. One week ago everyone was ogling pictures of the royal wedding that united Prince William and Kate Middleton in holy matrimony. Just a few days later, a ten year saga came to a close. Osama Bin Laden was killed by a team of Navy Seals at his home of five years in Abottabad, Pakistan. Twitter and Facebook exploded with Tweets and profile updates. The United States of America breathed a collective sigh of relief. The world looked to us for a reaction, and we didn't disappoint. People filled the streets to show their jubilation. A stadium full of people in Philadelphia stopped shouting expletives at each other long enough to break into chants of “U.S.A., U.S.A., U.S.A.!” According to a story on NPR, teenagers and twenty-somethings took to the streets in Newark, Delaware to vent their emotions. Just imagine you're a twenty year-old in 2011. You would have been ten years-old when the planes struck the World Trade Center. That would have been the most historically momentous occasion of your young life. Almost ten years later, the man who personified that day was dead. How would you have reacted? Don't judge, just take a deep breath and swallow any comments that come into your throat. In 2001, George W. Bush told us “Let's Roll.” In 2011, I say “Let's move on.”

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Duality at the Gun Show

I was invited to go to a Gun Show at the Manatee County Civic Center with a friend of mine and his girlfriend. This is not generally an affair I would choose to willingly attend. However, I had nothing better to do and it seemed like a good place to do some people watching. My assumption was spot on.
There were people there from all walks of life, but mostly from one walk of life. “Gun toting, meat eating fucking people” as Denis Leary would call them.

As we walked toward the venue from the parking lot, we came upon a sign that had two arrows pointing in opposite directions. One indicated the way to the “Suncoast Gun Show” and the other led people to the “Coleman and Pascall Wedding Reception.” I thought to myself, “Two Roads Diverged at a Civic Center, and I... I took the one more camouflaged.”

There were less people in camouflaged shirts, hats and pants as would have initially expected, but despite their lack of urban invisibility they had the other traits I was expecting. I even enjoyed the irony in the “Safe Place” sticker on the window of the ticket booth that was blocked by a man holding two large caliber hunting rifles in each hand. He put them down only to reach into his pockets to get his wallet and pay his entry fee.

Inside, I encountered many people with whom I would normally not coexist. There were plenty of anti-Liberal t-shirts with slogans demeaning our current President (apparently they want to keep their guns, and he can keep the change). Many others had rifles draped over their shoulders with signs signifying the make, model and year; as well as their asking price. Each person was there to either buy, sell or appreciate the art of weaponry.

I, on the other hand was a conscientious objector wearing a “Peace Sign” t-shirt and a pair of sandals. It was quite obvious that I did not belong there.  Yet, only one person made specific mention of it at a volume I could detect. A young boy looked at my shirt and said to his father, “Why is that guy here?”

I did not respond to him, because I didn't feel I had to explain myself to an eight year-old with a rat tail. I could have told him that I was indeed a fan of semi-automatic weaponry and other such death devices, but also an advocate for peace and diplomacy, further citing my duality with a reference to Full Metal Jacket. But again, it wasn't my place to defend myself or learn that child on the art of being a well-rounded citizen, or even teach him about classic cinematic characters like “Private Joker” and “Animal Mother.” Plus, I doubt he would comprehend what the words pragmatism or dehumanizing mean. I am quite sure they would go over his head, slide down his rat tail and scurry onto the floor to be crushed by an oncoming standard issue Army boot.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Overpaid and Underplayed

I'm not saying anyone put a curse on the Beckhams, but these last few years have not been too kind to them. Victoria has faced constant scrutiny in the tabloids for her reported choices in baby names (Brooklyn, Romeo, Cruz, and now Santa?). Not to mention the numerous reports of plastic surgery and anything else David's well-bronzed arm ornament has found her way into. David, on the other hand, has had to deal with disappointment on the soccer field (or more appropriately off the field). His career with Galaxy started with an injured ankle and eventually a sprained knee, causing him to be sidelined for 6 weeks and ultimately leading to the team missing the playoffs ($6.5 million well spent). In 2010, he tore his Achilles tendon while playing for AC Milan, which led to him missing what was likely his last chance to play in a World Cup as a member of the English National Team.

Again, I'm not saying the Beckhams deserved what they got. However, karma can work in very mysterious ways. David and Victoria, you will do just fine. I'm sure all that Spice Girl money will be a great subsidy to all the millions David has made in soccer salaries and countless endorsements. The physical pain of tearing your Achilles tendon must be hard to overcome, but you can rest easy in your $12 million estate in California or in Beckingham Castle in England. However, the pain of the empty trophy case the LA Galaxy owners have to look at is a little harder to swallow. You have made Alexi Lalas look silly, and that is hard to do to a red-headed man who once sported an eight inch goatee.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The “U” Word

According to a story I heard on NPR this week, the Republicans in the Florida State Legislature are now worried about language being used on the House floor. They are shouting “earmuffs” to all the pages, messengers and other impressionable young people that may be within earshot of this “Too hot for CSPAN” language.

In a speech on March 25th, Democratic Representative Scott Randolph uttered the words, “We constantly talk about not putting more regulations out there... But it comes to my wife’s uterus, more regulations; it comes to my friend’s bedroom, more regulations; it comes to union dues, more regulations.” The regulations to which he was referring were not the subject of the GOP's concern. No, it was the fact that he used the word “uterus” while trying to make his point.

According to some reports, House Speaker Dean Cannon (a Republican from Florida's District 35) or some other unnamed GOP leader(s) went to the Democratic leaders and rules chair to relay a message to Representative Randolph That message was to the effect of “please refrain from referring to any body parts while speaking on the floor.” The reports have been unsurprisingly vague and lacked the details the public wants to hear. Was Rep. Randolph chastised and told to keep his “potty mouth” to himself? Or did it go no further than the GOP leaders tattling on him to the Democratic leaders?

The funniest part comes from the public forum. Apparently, Rep. Cannon has been greeted with calls of “uterus” on the streets of Tallahassee, and his official Facebook page has seen numerous uterine references and jokes posted on it. The Democrats in the Florida Legislature have followed suit, and it has become an awkward, yet strangely satisfying rallying cry for them. Shouts of “uterus” have come as a reply to issues such as education cuts, union treatment and anything else that Florida Governor Rick Scott is considering for his budget cutbacks.

I enjoy a good sophomoric political discussion as much as the next person, but this one just doesn't make sense to me. It seems like both sides have missed the point again. The word “uterus” is not a bad word. If George Carlin were still alive, “uterus” would not have made it onto his “Top 50 words you can't say on TV.” This isn't TV we are talking about here, this is the floor of a State Legislature. There can not be limitations put on a Representative's freedom of speech. It's not like he said the “S” word or the “F” word, or God-forbid the almighty “C” word. No, he said “uterus.” The Alpha to death's Omega. That place where life begins. “Uterus” is not a bad word, it is a good word. Rep. Randolph should not be reprimanded, he should be commended for using words in his speech that cut to the core of the issue. That make people stop, listen and think. Those speeches take up hours each year, and only the occasional snippet ever garner the public's attention. It seems like he was successful in making his voice heard, and the GOP scuttlebutt is only furthering its effectiveness.

Let's talk about the issues Rep. Randolph was trying bring back into the forefront of our Floridian minds. I have read many stories recently about school teachers' health insurance budget deficits, hospitals losing state funding and a few others that hit closer to home. These “real” stories are being drowned out by people who want to know who said “uterus” on the floor of the legislature and who (if anyone) rushed to slap the wrist of the man who said it.

I haven't seen such an unnecessary uproar since the heated debate in April of 2006 over which pie would be the official pie of the State of Florida. It pitted key lime pie against pecan pie. These lengthy discussions ate up countless taxpayer dollars, and garnered the most attention this state had seen since the Bush/Gore election in the year 2000. One side argued that key limes are no longer commercially grown in Florida after years of Hurricanes and citrus canker disease decimated the crops, so why should they focus on a commodity that makes no local monetary contributions. The other side would concede the point that key lime pie is synonymous with Florida, but pecans are a 1.5 million dollar a year industry for Florida. Eventually key lime pie would emerge victorious. What a relief that was.

Unfortunately, while all that was taking place, our legislature could have been focusing on the more important issues at hand. Maybe they could have seen the housing bubble about to burst, or planned our class sizes better for the schools that were growing in population or even found a way to genetically engineer the world first key-pecan (which would have made everyone happy). They didn't, and we are now facing a major budget shortage just like many other states in this country right now. However, those other states aren't seeing their elected leaders on MSNBC yelling “uterus” at Rachel Maddow like a Monty Python Knight or a person inflicted with turrets syndrome. Florida has been the laughing stock of this country now for over ten years, and this is not helping.

I just hope that our Governor Richard Scott and House Speaker Dean Cannon don't end up running for president and vice president anytime soon. I can only imagine the parody bumper stickers that their Democratic counterparts could come up with for that ticket. I already thought of one, and were it a real weapon, it would spell doom for our nation's metaphorical uterus.

Read the related stories


The Bradenton Herald:

Sunday, March 27, 2011

The Art of "Too Soon?"

Recent events in Japan, Libya, Bahrain, Tunisia, Egypt, and Wisconsin have led many comedians, both by trade and self-appointment, to spout off jokes that toe the line of uncouth. Gilbert Gottfried found out that the line is not as well defined as he thought a little too late. As a frequent participant in these activities myself, I wonder if there is an art to telling jokes “too soon.” First, I will delve into the recent Gottfried controversy about his Twitter comments and the subsequent backlash across many cultures. Posing theories to the questions like “have we blurred the lines in the din of Twitter and Facebook between popularity and significance?” and “Do we expect those we follow in one arena to be role models in all facets of culture and politics?” Finally, I will pose a series of less remembered comments for you digest and share your opinions.

We'll start with the most infamous of the jokes so far, Gottfried's quip about the recent double tragedy in Japan. He tweeted “Japan is really advanced. They don't go to the beach. The beach comes to them.” Funny, yes. Inappropriate, we'll see. Obviously, something like this can be filtered many different ways. If the tsunami or the earthquake in Japan directly affected you, then you would be more apt to holler out “too soon!” If you are an overly sensitive attention-craving neo-conservative with no sense of humor, then you might also be on the side of anti-Gottfried. However, once you take into consideration that Gottfried is a life-long stand up comedian who has made his living by telling cutting-edge jokes, this doesn't seem all that out of character. I agree with AFLAC's choice to remove him as the voice of the Duck on their long running commercial series. But only because it was a business decision, and multinational companies have to worry about public relations more than stand up comedians do. When Gottfried chose to move from the 1st Amendment protected world of stand up comedy to the ultra-sensitive world of corporate advertising, he had to know that one day need to compromise one for another. I am glad he chose to compromise his meal ticket rather than his true talent of comedy.

Keep in mind, Gottfried wasn't the only person to make fun of the Japanese disaster. He was just the most famous person to suffer consequences (probably the first time Gottfried was the most famous person to do anything). 50 Cent, a virtuoso at using social networking to further his own agenda to rule the world, without ever mastering a single written language, also had something to say about Japan. His Tweet, “Look this is very serious people I had to evacuate all my hoe's from LA, Hawaii and Japan. I had to do it. Lol.” was mentioned in some stories, but not treated with nearly as much fanfare as Gottfried's comment. Was it because of the Twitter-approved lack of grammar? Was his “LOL” a get out jail free card? Or was it that nobody really takes 50 Cent's tweets with serious cultural significance? I would normally have sided with the last one of those three. Except, I had read a story just a couple of months ago, where a series of Tweets by 50 cent led to a small company's stock H&H Holdings, going up 290% in a single day. He was asked to delete those Tweets, and the stock has leveled off. However, there is an investigation pending by the Securities and Exchange Commission to decide if there was anything unlawful in his actions. So, 50 Cent does have cultural and economic significance. That being said, why hasn't his record company issued an apology? And why haven’t his endorsements come under fire? It is not because his comments were in the “too soon” category. It is because they weren't funny or witty. Gottfried's however, were a little bit of both.

I thought back to the Comedy Central Roast of Hugh Hefner that took place just three weeks after September 11th, 2001. A “roast” is known for its affinity to bring up all things lewd, crude and socially unacceptable. This time was no different. Gottfried was on the dais to perform that night. He stood behind the podium and joked that he had intended to catch a plane, but “they said they have to connect with the Empire State Building first.” The crowd did not know how to react. Some people let out faint calls of “boo” while others shouted out “too soon!” Gottfried realized he had to do something fast, and reached into his bag of tricks. Instead of apologizing and sanitizing the remainder of his set, he went off the deep end. I'm not sure if you’ve heard any of the many versions of the most infamous joke ever told, “The Aristocrats.” If you have then you know how far he decided to go. If you haven’t heard it, I recommend finding the Bob Saget or Artie Lang version on YouTube.. Gottfried went on to describe the most unholy things that have ever been uttered on the stage at a Friar's Club Roast. He has since been applauded for his courage and ability to think on his feet in such a situation.

I'm sure Gottfried will do just fine without AFLAC, and I'm sure his apologies were heartfelt. But I don't think he believes what he did was wrong. That sentiment has been aped by many of Gottfried's cohorts in comedy. Most notably Howard Stern and Joan Rivers have come to his defense in recent weeks. The least notable is likely to be Paula Poundstone. They explain that he is an insult comedian and a purveyor of shock jokes that his many fans have eaten up for years. Why should he change just because the twenty-four hour news networks have Twitter accounts and need to fill time in between “Balloon Boy” and the next crazy thing out of Charlie Sheen’s mouth? I say he doesn't have to change, because we can still exercise our right to change the channel.

That being said, I would like to invite comments on other “too soon?” comments I have recently overheard, and retweeted. Just note the comment below, and tag it with “TS” (guess what that stands for?) or JR (for a Goldilocks-esque “Just Right”).

  1. Why do I text to donate $ to Haiti for buying cell phones, so they can text $ to Japan?
  2. Pat Robertson must still be researching if Shinto is a Japanese version of Voodoo. If so, he may have a theory on the Earthquake.
  3. George Bush doesn't care about black people, Kanye told us that. Barack, you're on the clock for your answer about Libyans. Lupe Fiasco, you're on deck.
  4. Breaking News: Mariah Carey, Nelly Furtado, Usher and Beyonce donate their Gaddafi party profits to charity for the Hummer Drivers' gas fund.
  5. I think I've got it. Gaddafi is limiting collective bargaining rights in Tunisia, and that is why Charlie Sheen was fired as the PM of Egypt.
I look forward to your comments and judgments. Please feel free to share your own “too soon?” posts as well, but keep in mind that I might steal them and take credit.

Friday, March 18, 2011

A Pedestrian St Paddy's Day Indeed.

A pedestrian St Paddy's Day indeed. Jessica and I walked from our house to Old Main Street Thursday night with the mutual purpose to keep our reveling to a minimum. We both had to be at work by 8:00 am the following morning, and we knew that we could not do so after a night of boozing it up. I decided to bring a to-go John Daly for our walk (Sweet Tea Vodka and lemonade aka an alcoholic Arnold Palmer), and Jessica had a bottle of water. I packed a 20 ounce spare drink in my man-purse for future use and also to save a little coin. It was only about a 10-12 minute walk from our house to the bars, and we enjoyed the calm stroll.

The calmness immediately wore off as soon as we joined the swarm of people gathered on the street. Hundreds of people were packed onto the narrow thoroughfare. There were food vendors, beer stands, a live band, and a few random tents of people selling their wares. Jessica and I were solely in search of drinks and a nice place in which to sip them at our leisure. Our friend Kenny is the manager of a new bar that was scheduled to open that night, so we went there first. As we approached, we could see that it did not look very busy. Bad news for Kenny and his new boss Thomas, but good news for us. Unfortunately, it was bad news for all those involved when we realized that they had not completed the renovations , and the bar was not yet open for business.

We turned and went back the other way to go find a spot at one of the other local watering holes. Old Main Street in Bradenton is home to four such establishments already, and is about to add two more in the coming days and months. We slithered our way through the crowd to find a seat in one of them. I had finished my to-go drink and my cup was in need of ice. We chose to go into Corks Cigar Bar where I got a Vodka Bomb and Jessica got a beer. I basically paid $5.00 for a cup of ice that came with a free drink inside of it. We sat down at a table and after I spent a few minutes posting something I thought was witty and perceptive on Facebook and Twitter, I turned my attention back to Jessica. We sat there talking for a little while, and I suddenly had the urge to urinate. Yet another benefit to being a paying customer (besides the free drink in my cup of ice) is the convenience of a bathroom much cleaner than one of the Port-O-Lets outside.

The few minutes I spent waiting the line to use the restroom was full of experiences and people watching. The line to men's room was significantly shorter than the one for the ladies. I also did not see many ladies in that line. There was the gaggle of blondes with their fake-bake tans and bedazzled cell phones that whispered to one another and giggled incessantly. There were also a couple of more masculine women in line that had taken to openly insulting the Latino man waiting in line two places behind me. One of those women knew the guy standing directly behind me in line and she was asking if she and her friend could go in front of him and use the men's room. He obliged, but I was worried about the set of events that was unfolding. I explained to them that there would be no double occupancy due to the fact that there were two toilets in this bathroom, but no divider between the two. They eventually comprehended my reasoning, and let me do my business by my lonesome.

When I emerged a mere 48 seconds later (give or take a few shakes) there was a river of people trying to get from the back room to the main bar area. I merged into the stream of people and began taking baby steps back to my table. Directly in front of me was a young man who seemed to be sober, but the same could not be said for the elderly man in front of him. The young man was rather familiar with the inebriated man, and took to guiding him through the crowd. At one point the elderly gentleman stopped dead in his tracks. I feared for the worst. Was he about to vomit a puddle through which we would be forced to sidestep or worse yet muddle through? Did he lose something and was about to drop to the floor looking for it, therefore causing an even more backed up line of people? Luckily, he was just drunk, and his brain has ceased sending signals to his feet to continue moving. The younger man tried to urge him to move forward with slight nudges in the small of his back and words of encouragement. The elderly man stood there still. Finally he said “Grandpa, just follow the guy in the green shirt.”

This struck me as a ridiculous direction for two reasons. One, because this man was so drunk he probably had lost the ability to differentiate green from any other color in the spectrum. And two, because it was St Paddy's Day and every single fucking person in front of this man from here to the door (and beyond) was wearing a green shirt. Eventually the old man kicked it into first gear and made his way to the bar for another drink (just what the Irish Doctor ordered), and I was able to make it back to the table where my wife was impatiently waiting.

Shortly thereafter, we made our way back onto the street where I refilled my cup with the back up drink from my man-satchel. We wandered through the crowd and stopped occasionally to say “hello” to the people we recognized. An awkward conversation was had with a girl I knew from middle school who explained that her brother had moved to Utah with his crazy baby's momma (now his crazy wife). We also had an extended encounter with a Roller Derby girl-friend of ours who seemed to be enjoying the holiday as well. She is the proud owner of a Bachelor's Degree in Journalism, but was having trouble with any words that passed the three syllable mark. Finally, we came across a friend of a friend whose sole purpose of the evening was getting to another bar where she could meet up with some girl to whom she described as being “a hot blonde with decent tits.” She had also walked there, and was asking how much a 5 mile cab ride would cost. I have lived in Bradenton for almost 30 years and have yet to take a cab anywhere in town. I was of no help to her.

We finished our drinks and matriculated our way back home. When we reached our final destination I looked at my phone to see what time it was. The screen showed “10:24 pm.” A pedestrian St Paddy's Day indeed.

Friday, March 11, 2011

3/11/11: Hyper-extended Family

       I was on vacation all this week while my wife Jessica's dad was visiting us from Syracuse, NY. We had many different fun activities planned for the week, and some other unplanned activities that were not quite as fun. This was a day dedicated entirely to the former.

       I started off the day with a four mile bike ride along the Manatee river. My goal was to do some exploring and find a 10 mile route to prepare for an upcoming Wellness event at my work. That goal was not achieved. There are no bike lanes in the areas surrounding downtown Bradenton except for the Riverwalk trail through Rossi Park and across the Green Bridge to Palmetto. If I wanted find a 10 mile route, I would have to do three laps. That is not preferable.

       After working up a minor sweat and a major feeling of disappointment; I moved on with my day. I had to prepare dinner for the next evening and get ready for a trip to Riverview for our golf outing. Dinner was easy. I drove to the local Butcher to buy three pounds of brisket, and expertly mixed up the dry rub so it could settle into the meat for the next 24 hours. Getting ready for the golf trip was also easy, it was the outing itself that turned out to be tough. We played a nice course that was selected by my new Uncle-in-law (if that is an actual classification of a relative). It was called Summerfield Crossings. The entire outing lasted just over four hours. Most of it was spent waiting for the unskilled foursome in front of us to hack their way through 6,900 yards of rough, sand, and occasionally fairways and greens. It was that which followed that truly is worth writing home about.

       My new Uncle-in-law George lives in a four bedroom house in the Gibsonton-Riverview metropolitan area. His wife Svetlana lives with him and their choices for home décor are the only thing in the house that contrast more than the two people themselves. Svetlana is a Russian immigrant and George is a classic Florida Cracker. She looked to be in her late forties to early fifties. She had on a short black house dress and Zebra print headband that held her black curly out-of-control locks out of her face. George is in his late sixties, and has the face of a man who smokes about two packs of cigarettes a day and has spent a number of years washing down his feelings with whiskey and beer. Svetlana works as a “matchmaker” to supplement George’s pension from the United States' Postal Service. He is an all American, and she is living the American dream.

       We sat on George's back porch drinking Miller High Life and eating potato chips. Svetlana sat at another table talking to her “clients” entirely in Russian. We couldn't understand what they were saying, and they couldn't care less about what we were discussing. George told us stories about the boarding house for wayward Russians they were running. He spoke of strippers with mob connected boyfriends, mail-order marriages, and an assortment of other goings on that were fascinating to an outsider yet were everyday life to him.

       Our conversation was interrupted when Svetlana overheard George use the word “Jew” in a sentence. She immediately joined our conversation and asked what we were talking about. The actual discussion was in regards to Svetlana's daughter; who worked in Washington, DC for a human rights group that protects Jews around the world. Svetlana did not let George finish explaining before she looked us all in the eye and said, “That's fine, just don't say anything about Russian Jews. If you do... I'll kill you.” I did not add an exclamation point to that sentence, because her tone was a plain as if she just asked us if we would like another beer. Needless to say, Svetlana was an interesting Russian woman. Her background in “matchmaking” and her affinity for gaudy home décor aside, she was a plain speaking woman who lacked the ability to understand what was appropriate to say and what was not. I found her delightful!

       George had precisely instructed her to prepare the “fixins” for the hamburgers and hot dogs. She was to break up the lettuce into small pieces, cut half an onion into slices, dice the other half, and slice up a tomato. We all understood the instructions clearly, and we though Svetlana did too. After she finished smoking her Capri cigarette, she gripped the red lipstick-stained filter, extinguished it in the ashtray, and was on her way into the kitchen to get started on the “fixins.”

       Minutes later I walked into the kitchen to throw away my beer bottle and grab another one from the mini refrigerator that was strategically placed next to the TV. Before I could make it back to the beer fridge, Svetlana stopped me. She waved for me to come closer. I did, but I made sure the kitchen counter still separated us (I wasn't 100% sure I hadn't offended her before). She leaned in and covered one side of her face as if she were about to tell me a secret. My mind was racing with what she was going to utter next. Is there another taboo in this house that could result in untimely death? She finally began to speak, and she said, “I forgot what I was supposed to do.” She shrugged her shoulders while holding a head of lettuce in one hand and a red ripened tomato in the other. She could not remember the specific preparatory instructions George had laid out for her just five minutes prior. I was listening before and reiterated them for her in the kitchen. She thanked me and sent me on my way to the beer fridge and back out to the porch for some more of George's stories. I was happy to oblige. She seemed nice enough, but there was something about her that made me uneasy. I decided not to stick around to find out exactly why.

       From there, the night was a bit of a blur. There were more stories of strippers, some of steak, cellulite cream in the bathroom, quail hunting, duck hunting, deer hunting, whiskey, family, and finally of sleep. We had an hour drive back to Bradenton and an important morning task to attend to the following morning. We had to be on our way. I was sad to leave, but ready to go. I would hate for my affinity to speak ill of Russian Jews to slip out, and we all knew what the penalty for that would have been.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

1/22/11: The Cost of a Free Bike

        A Saturday just like any other. A morning filled with a quick and delicious breakfast of crustless spinach quiche for which I forget to add the bacon prior to placing it in the oven. Adapt and overcome I say, and the bacon became a side dish. NPR on the radio, newspaper strewn about, coupons clipped, and a coffee cup containing 16+ ounces of ground bean greatness. The day's agenda is written in pencil by design, subject to change at a moment's notice. It reads as such: 1) assemble Ikea dresser, 2) clean the bike and inflate tires, 3) Espanol por dos horas 4) create Wii exercise routine.
       The day got away from me as it always does. AM turned to PM before I turned off the radio and smelled the daytime air. My first order of business was not necessarily #1 on the list. It was an ever changing document. The deed that felt right to really start the day off was #2. Those with sophomoric minds need to stay with me and refer to the previously mentioned to-do list. You see, I just moved into a new rental house, and as a house warming gift of sorts I was the proud owner of a new (used) Specialized Road bike. It was left here by the previous tenant. I spent approximately 45 minutes wiping the dirt that had accumulated on it from sitting dormant in the detached garage for what looked to be about a year or so. I inflated the flat tires, sprayed it with 409 and posted a picture of it after its makeover on Facebook. I have never ridden a road bike before, this was new to me. My initial ride on this bike was not unlike my initial venture into the world of sexual intercourse. It was short and awkward, with lots of build up and preparation. I put on my bike shorts and a shirt worthy of a 30 mile ride. I fiddled with the helmet (also a freebie I found in the garage) for about 15 minutes, and carefully choose the appropriate footwear.
       I was ready to get this show on the sidewalk. I know its a road bike, but I doubt the sidewalk knew the difference. I still did not feel comfortable in those foot straps on the pedals. I have been riding a mountain bike for so long now, my feet were not used to being in restraints. Every time I stopped and restarted I felt as if there should be some leeway between the soles of my shoes and the pedals, but alas, the Velcro would not allow it. Full disclosure, it is now January, and the last time I vigorously rode a bike was just before my 30th birthday at the end of May. So needless to say, it was a short ride. Long enough to figure out how to work the gears, get moderately comfortable with the constricting pedal straps, and work up a slight drizzle of sweat.
       I had completed my short loop and was approaching my house once again. Keep in mind, I was used to reaching a top speed of 10-14 mph on my mountain bike. On this bike it was much easier to average a speed of 18-20 mph, and I wasn't exactly an expert at stopping yet. I was like the chubby girl at Roller Derby tryouts. Impressive at high speeds but capable of earth shaking collisions. The pedal straps were a hindrance, but the curb that lay between me and my stopping point was the wild card. Luckily my approach to my front porch was met without obvious incident. Even luckier still, nobody could hear what was going on in my head. It went a little like this: "oh shit, oh fuck, oh help me dear sweet Lord." Ultimately, an impromptu test of both the rear and front brakes was a success.
       Such a horrifying experience can only be followed by a cool down of equal significance. That was successfully achieved by another culinary masterpiece of steamed cheeseburgers and sauteed new potatoes. Thanks to my multi-faceted Christmas present, otherwise known as a Rice cooker. That was enough for the day. The Ikea dresser would have to wait. It was time to wind down and watch some mindless TV on Netflix. Each day can only contain so much productivity, and I would hate to set the bar too high for the future.

Monday, March 7, 2011

7/18/10: Paging Agent Alpha

       I hate being late, yet tardiness seems to follow me like a shadow. I thought I had broken that spell when I accidentally showed up a half an hour early for my flight going to Rochester, NY by way of Atlanta, Ga. It was a welcomed mistake as I did not have to worry about hurrying to my gate or dealing with the stressful baggage check process. Unfortunately, the Airline showed me how cruel a thing the unnatural measurement called time could be.
       My flight was scheduled to leave at 3:55 pm, and it was 2:30 pm. I didn’t even glance at the departure board as I 121never had an issue getting out of Sarasota before. In fact, it was the Atlanta leg of my flight that always worried me. Luckily, I found a flight that gave me a 90 minute buffer between the time I was scheduled to arrive in Atlanta, and the time I was scheduled to take off toward Rochester. I used the self check-in station by quickly sliding my credit card into the slot (per the directions on the screen). Nothing. I typed in the three digit code of my final destination by clumsily pointing and pushing the letters “R...O.... and C.” Nothing. I selected the time of day my flight was scheduled to leave by deliberately poking my index finger on the “Mid Afternoon” option. Nothing. I fished my itinerary from my black carry-on bag to find the flight number. I figured this had to do the trick. It did.
       I expertly navigated through the screens until I got to the question “Are you checking any bags today?” I was begrudgingly forced to select “Yes.” I was on my way to NY for a week of business meetings, so I had a very bulky hanging bag with all my business clothes in it. It was an inevitability that I had to check the monstrosity. I was perplexed by what happened next. It was still 90 minutes before my plane was scheduled to takeoff, yet the screen read “It is too late to check luggage for this flight. Please see Agent.”
This perplexed the agent as well. Now what?
       A pow wow of sorts had begun to take place amongst the tribe of Airline agents. They whispered what appeared to be concerned statements at one another, and they took turns looking over their shoulders at me. I’m not sure if they were gauging my current demeanor, or sizing me up to see if I could be taken down if it indeed came to fisticuffs. After a few moments my original agent returned to me and said my flight out of Sarasota was delayed. Therefore if I checked a bag, there was no way it would make its way onto the plane destined for Rochester. So, even if I was able to gather my carry-ons and matriculate my way onto my next plane, I would be wearing the same clothes tomorrow as I was wearing today. This did not seem like a positive notion. I asked the agent what my other options were. I expected her to shrug her shoulders and say something vague. I got what I expected. I asked additional questions that required simple answers, primarily requiring just a “yes” or a “no.”

"Will there be any chance of my other flight out of Atlanta being delayed as well?"

“Yes.”, she replied.

"Are there any additional flights from Atlanta to Rochester today?"

“Yes.”, she mumbled.

"Are there any open seats on this flight you speak of?"

“No.”, she answered.

Finally, I asked, “What should I do?”

       I was greeted with a sheepish smile and a second shoulder shrug. I had stumped her with an open ended question. This was not the reaction for which I had hoped. A second pow wow commenced. I waited patiently. Patience was all I had at that point; as I was two and a half hours early for my flight out of Sarasota and had nothing else to do.
       The agent came back to greet me with a permanently sheepish and ever increasingly awkward grin pasted on her face. At this point, I decided I need to get closer to her. Our relationship had gone beyond the normal passenger-agent phase. We had become dependent on one another. I needed her to get me to my destination along with my luggage, and she needed me not to break into a fit of rage and cause a national incident. I looked at her badge and saw it read “Kim S.” Before she had a chance to give me a report on the recent pow wow, I leaned in and said, “Kim S, please tell me you have good news.”
       She looked me right in the eye and started to speak. “Well...” She was immediately cut off by the extremely loud throat clearing coming from mustachioed agent further down the check in counter. He appeared to be the man in charge, the “Alpha Agent” if you will. Due to the proximity between he and I, his name tag was unreadable. He exclaimed to the growing crowd of people who were in the same predicament as I was “Ladies and gentleman, the flight from Sarasota to Atlanta has been delayed. It will not be here until 3:55 pm, and after everyone deplanes and we get a go-ahead from the FAA to take off; you will be on your way to Atlanta.” He paused, and seemed satisfied with himself as if what he said was a satisfactory answer. The crowd showed him quickly that it indeed was not.

“What about all of us that aren’t staying in Atlanta? What about all of our flights to other destinations?”, one gentleman exclaimed.

“Will the other flights also be delayed, can we make our connections, or do we need to look for later flights now?”, another woman posed.

I had a much more rhetorical question that pointed out the ambiguity of his prior statement. “Isn’t that how all flights work? We wait for the other people to get off the plane, then we get on, and the pilots take off with permission from the FAA. “

       A chuckle from the passengers was followed by a few stern glances from the agents, and a hearty clearing of the throat from the Alpha Agent who had made the ambiguous statement I was calling out. I looked over at Kim S. and she was hiding a smirk behind her petite hand. Apparently, our brief connection had made more of an impact on her than I thought. She obviously enjoyed the uncomfortable discourse the Alpha Agent was having to endure. She caught me catching her mid-smirk,. She quickly called me back over to her. She had a much more professional and confident tone in her voice now.

She said to me, “In my experience, delays like this do have a tendency to push most flights into slight delays. Especially if the incoming flight is coming from the same area of the country. Let me see where your connecting flight is coming from, that should tell us which option you should take. That should only take a moment Mr. Hamilton.”

“Kim… you can call me Wade.” I said. The sheepish grin returned.

She continued, “Okay Wade, your connecting flight is coming from Washington, DC. There is a good chance it will be delayed coming out of DC or once it touches down in Atlanta. I think your best bet is to check that bag, and have it tagged to go on the original connection. That is what I would do.”

       That was exactly the confident endorsement I needed. Kim S. I slung my hanging bag up onto the scale. Kim S tagged it quickly and expertly, then sent me on my way. I headed toward gate B4 where I would be spending the next 150 minutes of my life. I expressed my appreciation without any fain of sarcasm, and smiled as unsheepishly as my facial muscles could portray.

As I walked away, she shouted “Thank you for your patience Mr. Hamilton.”

I turned and glared back at her. She corrected herself. “I’m sorry, thank you for your patience Wade.”

I thought to myself, “That's more like it Kim.”

       I looked directly into the eyes of the Alpha Agent as I walked by him on my way to the gate. I glanced down at his badge, and it read “Lars.” How fitting is that? As I looked back up he said,” Thank you for your patience sir.” My mind immediately searched through as many movie references as it could for the proper retort. The top five that swirled in my head were:
  1. It’s Mr. Hamilton to you.
  2. You had me at Ladies and Gentlemen.
  3. We’ll always have Sarasota.
  4. Frankly Lars, I don’t give a damn.
  5. Go fuck yourself
       I decided to go with #6, none of the above. I walked right by him and said nothing. I’ll let Kim S have her day. She earned it.

A Day of Inches

       Jessica and I woke up this morning with a purpose. We were going to pick up her dad from the airport. His name is Jesse and you can tell by the way he named his only child that there is just a pinch of Narcissism flowing through his veins. After that, we would be heading to Riverview, FL to meet up with her uncle (his brother) to play golf. Unfortunately, there was a storm in Syracuse, NY that unleashed 18 inches of snow on them overnight. The 6:00 am flight out of NY was delayed, thus causing Jesse to miss his connecting flight from JFK to Tampa. It was supposed to leave around 8:00 am, but the next flight to Tampa would not be departing until 1:00 pm.
       What is amazing is that 18 inches of snow caused a 1,300 mile trip to be delayed 5 hours. I have done numerous mathematical calculations since hearing the saddening news this morning. I did this because I wanted to understand the full breadth of the situation. The most glaring result was that it took only 0.0138461538461538 inches of snow to delay a mile of travel. The cleanest example is that for each inch of snow, the trip was delayed 1,000 seconds. I don't care what it is, one thousand of anything seems like a lot.
       This got me to thinking, what other small acts can make such great changes in our lives? We've all heard of the “Butterfly Effect” (the metaphor, not the terrible movie starring Ashton Kutcher). If a butterfly can flap its wings in Syracuse and cause a hurricane in Australia (FYI: they call them cyclones, not Willy-Willies), then what else is making a difference in world that the unfocused mind is unable to pick up?
       I have subscribed to the Chaos Theory since reading Jurassic Park and watching the movie when I was a teenager (Michael Crighton and Jeff Goldblum are much more convincing than Ashton Kutcher will ever be). Be it a Lepidoptera inciting a tropical weather phenomenon, the flexibility of frog DNA leading to the deaths of numerous Dinosaur enthusiasts or travel delays caused by tiny frozen water crystals; chaos is something that can not be planned or even explained. I think that is why they call it chaos.