Monthly Archives: September 2013

New furniture

I’d been meaning to get a new couch for a while now. Not that there was anything necessarily wrong with my old couch. It was perfectly comfortable. But it’s been through a lot, a few moves, more than a fair share of spills and accidents. My dog came of age with this couch, meaning that a couple of times I’d walk into living room only to find that he’d torn open the fabric and strewn all of the stuffing across the floor.

I did my best to collect all of that cotton and put it back in the cushion, to sew it all up. And it was fine, from a practical standpoint, it was usable. But the lines from my repair job were an eyesore. Also, it used to have an electric chord that would make it vibrate, there was a seat heater I think. I never got to use any of those features because my dog chewed through the wires almost immediately after I got it.

So I made up my mind that it was time for something else. Only, making that decision is a lot different than actually executing a plan, picking out a couch, figuring out how you’re going to pay for that couch, how to get if from the furniture store to my living room. And what was I supposed to do about the old couch? Is it one of those things where I just have to drag it to the curb and wait for it to disappear?

I figured that before I just tossed the couch outside, it wouldn’t hurt to see if I couldn’t make a little money. It had to be worth something. I mean, yeah, it looked kind of beat up, but it was comfortable. It was clean. Maybe a hundred bucks? I took a photo and put it on craigslist for a hundred and fifty, hoping they’d try to bargain me down to a hundred.

I’d act out a little bit of reservation, “Jeez, I don’t know …” making all of these pained facial expressions before I’d cave, “All right … I guess I could do a hundred.” And then I thought, man, maybe I should have put two hundred and have them bargain me down to one fifty. But the ad was already posted, and someone emailed me back immediately.

It was two guys that had just moved to the neighborhood, they stopped by later in the afternoon to check it out. “We’ll take it,” they told me after patting it, sitting on it, bouncing up and down a little. That was way too easy, almost no negotiation involved at all, I totally should have at least tried for two hundred.

But a deal was a deal and they had the couch out of my place by evening. Wow, I thought, that was so easy. I basically went from being overwhelmed with having no idea as to how I’d go about starting this process to standing right here in my living room, no couch at all. This place looked a lot bigger with no furniture, and dusty, I guess I should try and use the Swiffer over this way every once in a while.

Then I wanted to watch some TV before going to bed, but without a couch, I tried using one of the kitchen chairs, a hard-backed solid wood piece. It was so uncomfortable. I gave up after half an hour or so, telling myself I’d watch on the laptop in my bedroom, but I fell asleep as soon as I hit the mattress.

The next day I had to work, so I couldn’t go couch shopping, and it was the same deal the day after that. Finally I had a day off and I went to the furniture store, everything was like a thousand dollars, fifteen hundred dollars. Sure, they had some stuff for a lot cheaper, but everything felt not right, like if I had spent four hundred dollars on a basic model, it would have been a downgrade from what I was using before, albeit a brand new downgrade.

I turned to craigslist, and after weeks of nothing, I found an ad for my old couch. I called up the guys, they said they liked it, but it wasn’t really meshing with their apartment. I told them I’d be glad to take it back, but they wouldn’t budge from the advertised two hundred dollar price tag. I met with them for like an hour, my best defense amounting to me standing around saying, “Really? Come on. Seriously? Two hundred? Come on.” But they were good, I caved. I paid up.

After I handed them the cash, I was like, “Can one of you guys help me carry this thing outside?” And they were like, “Yeah, man, we’ll help you get this back to your old place if you want also, we’ve got a truck. What do you think, twenty-five bucks sound good to you?” And I didn’t know what to do, they got me again, I thought about saying, “Really? For real?” again, but whatever, I just wanted to watch some TV, so I took out thirty dollars. Neither of them had a five to give me change.

My desk is cluttered with junk

There’s a Powerball ticket on my desk from last week. I already checked the numbers, and let’s just say, if you’re holding any outstanding IOUs, keep holding them. I’ll make good on them eventually, I promise. Well, promise is such a strong word, but let’s say just one degree short of a promise, you know, barring any unforeseen circumstances, like if I die suddenly and I can’t pay you back, or if you die suddenly, and I can’t pay you back. I don’t want your ghost coming back to haunt me, “A promise is a promise!”

Also I have this tiny stapler right here, it’s really small, like when you buy a regular sized stapler at the office supply store, a lot of the time, included in the box, there will be like a mini sized stapler, only big enough to hold twenty staples at a time, maybe twenty-five. I’m not quite sure how this stapler wound up being the only stapler in my possession, but that was it, that’s what I was relying on for the rare instance when I needed between two and fifteen pieces of paper stapled together. But this thing is such a piece of junk, which isn’t fair really, I’m sure it wasn’t built for the long haul, primary-stapler role I had assigned it. A staple got jammed a while back and, on a normal sized stapler anyway, I’d just slam it down harder, forcing everything out. But on this little guy, all I did was jam another stapler in there. It got past the point where it’s fixable. It won’t even unhinge anymore. I don’t even remember the last time I’ve thought about it. Like, how long has it been on my desk, broken, taking up space?

A few inches away I have this click pen, it’s white with blue letters screen printed on the side. Although they’re really faded by now, at one point it said, “The Journey,” it was the name of a megachurch, something evangelical. One time maybe four or five years ago, I was waiting tables and these Southern tourists left me this pen in lieu of a real tip. I thought, really? You want to convert me to your religion and the best you can do is this pen? Still, I kept it in my rotation of pens, handing it to guests after I’d run their credit cards. I was indiscriminate as to who got to sign with my The Journey pen at first, but after a year or so, I started to imagine it to wield magical tip-boosting holy powers. I could tell that if I kept handing it out every day, it would break or I’d lose it. So I started saving it for only the worst tables, like people that would not be pleased, heavy complainers. After a miserable experience for the both of us, I’d hand them their credit card with a big fake smile and say something like, “I hope you have a blessed day.”

Both the stapler and the pen are sitting right next to my watch. It’s very basic, some sort of a synthetic navy blue strap attached to the same colored navy face. Two months ago or so, the watch stopped. I remembered making such a big thing of it in my mind, like how it would turn into one of those simplest of chores that I’d just never make an effort to actually get done, how I’d lose all track of time, I’d get fired for being perpetually late. I freaked myself out to the point that I left my house that very second and rode my bike to this dingy watch repair shop on Broadway. I walked in and the guy didn’t even say anything, he had a special watch monocle, he used little tweezers to artfully remove the old battery, put a new one in, and then adjust the date and time to make up for all of the lost minutes and hours I’d let slip away since the battery died. I asked him, “how long do these batteries last?” and he told me, “Six months.” He charged me six dollars. What’s that like, a dollar a battery? Not too bad, something I could definitely make a little room for in the budget. But just last week, the watch died again. I brought it to the same watch guy, went through the exact same routine, he took my watch, my six dollars. What’s the deal? Are you giving me defective watch batteries on purpose to bring in more business? Am I being played? But for six dollars, I don’t know, I can’t really get myself to even bother asking another watch question. I guess six dollars every two months isn’t that expensive either, and as long as I’m careful about my money, my Powerball tickets, not writing out too many new IOUs, I think I can squeeze it in, yeah, I can definitely make it work. I’ve got to be able to be on time, right? Nobody’s getting paid if I’m not getting paid, if I’m not showing up on time because I don’t know what time it is.

Thanks! Have a great day!

I was at the grocery store the other day, and after the cashier gave me the receipt and handed me my bags, she looked at me, she smiled and said, “Have a great day!” And I wanted to be like, excuse me, but don’t tell me what to do, OK? Why don’t you concentrate on your day? You want to have a great day? Fine. But how about just leaving me alone with my day, to do with it as I see fit?

And so, fuck that lady, bossing me around, I had the shittiest day ever. I went home and left my groceries out on the table for the whole day. The milk got warm, I had to throw the whole gallon out, the ice cream melted, my dog wound up jumping on top of the kitchen table to lick everything up. It was chocolate ice cream, and so of course he got really sick.

I had to call in to work, “Hey boss, my dog just ate a bunch of chocolate ice cream, so I have to take him to the vet,” and my boss was like, “Listen Rob, you can’t keep calling out like this so last minute. What am I supposed to do this late in the day? It’s way past time where I could’ve gotten someone else to take your shift.”

So I got fired, yep, my day was taking a sharp turn south. I got to the vet and my dog, he was like collapsing, I kept having to prop him upright just so he could take another few steps, and then it was the same thing, collapse, throw up, cough, prop up, walk. Finally we got to the office and the vet told me, “I don’t know that there’s much we can do right now,” and right as he said that, standing there scratching his chin, my dog dropped dead.

Totally not a good day. And the vet told me, “Look, I’m really sorry, but it’s going to cost two hundred bucks to dispose of the body,” and I was like, “Are you kidding me? I don’t have two hundred bucks,” to which he said, “Well, how were you planning on paying me today if your dog wound up surviving? Nothing here costs less than two hundred bucks.” And I didn’t like being talked down to like that, so I said, “Oh yeah? Nothing? Well what about those,” I was pointing to this display of leashes and collars that he had by the door.

“I was talking about medicine, treatment. That stuff over there costs twenty, thirty bucks, depending on the leash.” I said, “Nice try doc, you said nothing. You weren’t specific.” And so I hoisted the dog’s body over my shoulder, I threw a twenty on his desk and grabbed a new collar on the way out.

It took three black garbage bags to hold the dog without ripping the plastic, but I got him in there, that and the new leash I bought for him post-mortem. Everything was settling in, the dog, he being dead, me throwing away twenty bucks to prove a point. I had a lot of trouble carrying the bag to the park, and when I finally managed to get it inside one of the public trashcans, some Parks Department employee came running over, “Hey! You can’t dump that here!”

So I took off, I got back to my house, and, never having cleaned up any of that milk or melted ice cream, the whole place stunk. I don’t know how the flies got in so fast, but they were all over it, the spill, the rest of the groceries. I couldn’t find a mop so I got some old newspaper I found in the basement to sop everything up. But the newspaper print bled, the paper wasn’t absorbent, I just wound up making more of a mess than I had in the first place.

Eventually I just gave up, fuck this, the whole dog thing was really starting to weigh on me. I felt like I needed to cry but I couldn’t muster up the emotion necessary to really have any relief, it was just a ball of misery sitting right under my throat. Finally I decided that I’d better eat something, so I went back to the grocery store to get some bread, I’d make some peanut butter and jelly or something.

“Thanks a lot!” it was the same cashier ringing me up again, I couldn’t believe it. “Have a great night!” and I took the bag, I looked her right in the eye and said, “The fuck you just say to me?”

I’m with you, sir

Sir, I just wanted to let you know that, despite all of the growing doubts about your ability to lead this company, I’m still with you, you’ve still got my support. And so, going forward, I hope you don’t feel like everyone’s turned on you, that the vote of no confidence is unanimous. Because regardless of how everyone else voted, you’ll always have my vote, a vote of yes confidence.

And when the board meets later today to decide your fate, know that it’s against my strongest objections. I object to the fact that they’re meeting in the first place. We don’t need a board. We’ve got you, the best boss this company has ever seen. Sure profits have tanked lately, but there’s always going to be a period of loss. We’re cutting out the crap, right? Isn’t that what you said? So it’s just a matter of time before things turn around.

If they do throw you out, and things do get better, that’ll be exactly how you saw it coming, loss, then gain. But the board, the rest of staff, everyone’s so short-sighted. A few misguided ethics inquiries and it’s off with the king’s head. Well I want to you let you know that, whatever future successes this company might achieve, and whoever happens to be leading the helm to take credit for those future successes, I won’t be sticking around to add on to the pile of false praise.

No, because if they kick you out, I’m going with you. That’s if they kick you out. The board hasn’t even met yet, and so, who knows, right? Maybe they’ll all have some eleventh hour sense knocked into them. True, it does seem more and more unlikely that anything is going to sway the tide of popular opinion. But one has to hope.

Still, like I said, if that hope winds up not bearing any fruit, I’ll be by your side. Wherever you wind up next, know that you’ve got my unconditional support. Even if that means no pay for a while. Even if it’s just you at your house getting up in the morning and trying out a next move. I’ll make you breakfast. I’ll help you look for a new job, for a new company to lead.

Remember that speech you gave at last year’s quarterly? You said something about, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.” That was really inspirational. And I’ve kept that with me, not knowing exactly when I’d get to actually utilize such wisdom. But the moment is now. We are tough, and we’re going to get going. Together. Like if you’re pacing back in forth in your living room, trying to figure out how you’re going to get back in the game, I’ll have a pot of coffee going, so when you want a fresh cup, you’re not even going to have to ask, you won’t even have to stop pacing, you’ll just get to the natural end of your stride and there it’ll be.

And when you do make it back to the top, assuming that the board does vote you out today, and again, I’m not hoping that’s what’s going to happen, nor is it a certainty, I just feel like we should be ready for anything. Because if the office chatter is backed by anything substantial, it only makes sense that we brace ourselves for all options. But when you are back on top, you’ll have me right by your side. You won’t have to lower yourself to your opponents, sinking to their level, getting in their faces, pointing your finger at them and saying, “Hmph. I told you so.” No, I’ll be the one to do that for you.

So keep that chin up, boss. For the next four hours or so, you’re still the one in charge around here. Don’t forget it. Keep that chin up. Tell that guy over there to stop standing around by the water cooler and get back to work. There’s still time to get a few office wide memos in circulation, I could help put everything together.

And just remember, whatever happens, I’m with you all the way. My name? It’s Johnson. I work on four. Remember? I met you a few months ago at the spring benefit? We talked about the chicken, how dry it was? My hair was a little longer, not that much longer, but I just got a haircut the other day? Our wives had the same Chanel clutch? I passed you the salt shaker? Remember? Nothing?

Higher education

I don’t know anything about stars, about astronomy. When I was a freshman in college, I remember hearing about an intro to astronomy. I like outer space. It sounded really cool, something that I thought I wanted to look into, but I remember mentioning it to one of my friends, he was like, “No way man. I heard that you have to get up really early so you can look at the stars while it’s still dark out, and there are a lot of mandatory field trips. Don’t do it, I heard the professor’s a really tough grader.”

And that was all it really took to discourage me. My first semester had been planned out for me by the school, so I didn’t have any say in the matter, a couple of eight-thirty classes, the rest at nine-thirty or ten. I look at my life now and I realize that making it to class in the morning shouldn’t have been the challenge that I made it out to be. But I had a lot of trouble, going to bed at night, forcibly removing myself from where all of my friends were hanging out, watching movies, playing video games. That first year, sometimes we would pull all nighters, but not even thinking about school work at all. We’d just stay up and shoot the shit and all of the sudden it would be morning.

So I didn’t take astronomy. Second semester, I made sure that, regardless of any other variables, I just needed to make sure that my classes were as late in the day as possible, noon, five, I think I even wound up signing up for some at like eight or nine. And what kind of stuff would I be studying so much later in the day? Who knows? It didn’t matter. It’s obvious that I wasn’t taking school too seriously. I just wanted to hang out with my friends and have a good time. Any sort of learning was prioritized at a distant second. Actually, it wasn’t even learning. It was just doing whatever I could to make it look like I was receiving some sort of education.

I got my shit together somewhat. By junior year, I was making sure that I was actually putting an effort into my schoolwork. My grades were up and I found myself involved in various on campus activities. There was the school government, the student newspaper, my part-time job driving a van around campus. Still, even though I wound up doing OK, I never really feel like I figured anything out while I was there.

Like, I was supposed to pick a major by my sophomore year. I gave it a little bit of thought, and I couldn’t figure it out. I knew that I wanted to get good grades. Why? I have no idea. I chose history as a major, because my girlfriend chose history and so it seemed like a good idea. My dad was a history major. So I took all of these classes and showed up and took notes and wrote papers.

During senior year, I realized that I had saved up all of these electives, for what? Again, no plans, so I started taking drawing classes, painting, creative writing, filmmaking. It was the best year. I had so much fun learning how to do things that I hadn’t done before, like making short movies or putting paint on a canvas.

What had I been doing the previous three years? Why wasn’t I getting the same satisfaction out of any of my other classes? Probably because I didn’t challenge myself. I took history in large part because I knew that I could get away with putting in minimal effort in exchange for decent grades. Good enough, right? That’s what you’re there for, to get good grades.

But what else did I miss out on? I always think back to that astronomy class, every time I happen to look up at the sky on a clear night, I see the Big Dipper, the North Star, and that’s it. I don’t know anything else about any other constellations. I couldn’t tell you anything really, I’m trying to list all of the other random astronomic facts in my head, but there’s nothing. I said Big Dipper already, right?