Archive for January, 2010

Order of Business: A Procrastinator’s Timetable

8:00 – Receive a message via my Blackberry calendar reminding me to submit a Claymore blog post by midnight.

8:01 – A very specific memory flashes before my eyes. It’s 5th grade all over again. The science fair is more than two weeks away. I have two entire weeks to come up with a simple yet effective research question and a kick ass hypothesis. Two weeks to come up with some bullshit results, print them out on my Dot-matrix, and slap them on my bright green three panel display board. Two weeks, to stick some equations and graphs in a Trapper Keeper that would blow the judge’s minds due to my breathtaking organizational skills. But I hadn’t given it much thought on that dreadful Monday morning, because after all, I had TWO WEEKS left… or so I thought.

8:03 – Present. Begin to hyperventilate. Break into a cold sweat. How in the world will I finish an entire blog post by 12:00. I should have been working on this post all week. I’m such a lazy ass.

8:04 – Avoid responsibility. Blame it on my Blackberry Curve. After all, I swore that I had set a reminder on my calendar to notify me at 8:00 on Friday night.

8:05 – Vivid flashback occurs. I’m back in 1995. As I step on the school bus I notice other children holding giant display boards. I panic for a moment and then regain my conviction. The science fair wasn’t for TWO WHOLE WEEKS. I know this to be true because I wrote it down in my daily planner. There’s no need to even double check, I’m filled with such certitude. Than Donny walks on the bus holding a 48″W x 74″H display board. I scramble into my backpack and pull out my planner. I frantically turn the pages to the day’s date, February 15th, 1995. Science Fair Due Today. F&$#!

8:07 – Present. Look back at my Blackberry calendar and notice my error. Still not entirely convinced it wasn’t a vast conspiracy, but knowing that I must move forward I abandon these silly notions… almost as quickly as Alcmene abandoned Heracles or Gary Busey abandoned sobriety.

8:10 – Sit in front of my computer for a solid twenty five minutes wondering what I should write about. Maybe I should write a blog post about the Claymore Live Internet Sketch Comedy Show Fundraiser? No, no… that’ll come across as too needy. Maybe I should write a blog post about Tiger Woods? Overdone. Oooo… I know! I’ll write a blog post about how much I hate the Twilight series. Wait! Shit! I already did that.

8:15 – Flashback Numero Tres. I’m teleported back to the second floor bathroom of my elementary school. What am I going to do? I HAVE to turn in a science fair project. I have three options.

1) I can go to the nurses office, feign illness and hope that I’m sent home early, giving me a full 24 hours to complete my project and turn it in a day late.
2) I can beat up a fourth grader and steal their science fair project effectively claiming it as my own.
3) Bite the bullet and come up with something in the next half hour before the science fair begins.

Option 2 was never a viable choice, so we can scratch that right off. I simply don’t have the physical capacity to injure a fourth grader. Option 1 would be equally hard to accomplish, especially since the school nurse was a Nazi. I knew a kid once who fell off the jungle jim and dislocated his shoulder. She gave him an ice pack and told him to go back to class. So Option 3 was my last hope. Luckily there were some extra display boards in the science room and I could steal some construction paper and markers from the art closet. I had half an hour.

8: 30 – Present. I can’t think on an empty stomach. I retreat to the kitchen for my favorite evening snack. Some Nutella and Graham crackers. I contemplate, who was the brilliant mind behind the creation of Nutella? My interest gets the better of me and I search Wikipedia for a history of the delightful treat. I discover that Nutella is “a modified form of gianduja” which is “a type of chocolate containing approximately 50% almond and hazelnut paste.” I learn that Nutella was essentially invented by Michele Ferrero who revamped an ingredient that his father Pietro had created called Supercrema. With a few modifications Michele named his product Nutella and the rest was history. How wonderful.

8:45 – I come to my senses and realize that I still need to finish my Claymore blog post. But what will I write about? My stomach begins to ache and my palms are soaking wet. The feeling is all too familiar.

8:46 – Flash to the flashback. My stomach is growling and I’m sweating buckets. I’m sitting on the bathroom floor putting the finishing touches on my… errrr… science project? I have five minutes before my board needs to be on display in the gymnasium. I think I’ve come up with a fairly clever title for my project “Ferrets: Are They Faster then Rabbits?” As you can see from the title, I’ve come up with a rather compelling question. As for my hypothesis, I decided that “No, I believe ferrets are not faster then rabbits.” I sketched a few pictures of rabbits and ferrets with a small notation apologizing for my lack of actual pictures, but due to my father’s recent job loss the purchase of film and cost of development was simply out of the question. This, of course, was all elaborate bullshit. I then came up with some fictional statistics, drew a graph and even included a venn diagram (which in retrospect seems like it may have been entirely unnecessary.) I pasted my final conclusion, “I was correct, a rabbit is most certainly faster than a ferret,” on to my display board and headed for the gym.

9:00 – Present. Feeling uninspired. Let’s see what’s on TV. Oooo Castle! Castle’s watchable. I’ll watch Castle.

10:00 – I had no idea Castle was an hour long. I admire the blend of comedy and drama that the series has to offer. I mean he’s a mystery novelist who helps the NYPD solve crimes, what’s not to love? That Nathan Fillion is one charming fellow. Why does he look so familiar to me?

10:01 – Look up Nathan Fillion on IMDB. No way, he was in Saving Private Ryan. I loved Saving Private Ryan! God, Steven Spielberg is awesome! Wait a tic. He was a producer on Lovely Bones? That movie sucked. Steven Spielberg gets deducted one point on the Awesomo Meter. No worries Steve-o you’ve still got 88 out of 100. What? You produced Eagle Eye, too? Maybe I should stop looking at your credits before I deduct all your points. I wouldn’t want you to fall behind Martin Lawrence on the Awesomo Meter. Oh shit, my blog post!

10:10 – FUUUUH- lashback! I’m standing in the gym with my science fair board. I’m still a nervous wreck. I’m between a kid who did a project about pollution in the Chesapeake and it’s effect on subsidiary streams, and a kid who did something about the solar system or something. I’m SO going to get an F. I see the judges as they pace up and down the aisles, examining each board with the utmost meticulousity. Is that a word? Meticulousity? Probably not. As they approach my project, my heart begins to race. They’ll know I’m a fraud! James, you moron, why didn’t you do your project on time! And then one of the judges looks at me and says “Hmm… interesting. You found the rabbits to be faster after all.” I couldn’t believe it. Was he actually buying this bull? I nodded, as if my conclusion was even remotely the result of any actual research and with that the judges made a few notes and were gone.

10: 30 – Present. As I stare at the blank page on my computer, I realize that I consistently procrastinate. Perhaps I should document my procrastination from the moment I realized I had a blog post to write until the point when I’ve completed my post. Not sure whether this is a stroke of genius or not, I realize that it’s better than nothing and set off on the not so difficult task of documenting my activities from 8:00 until 11:38.

10:32 – I spend the next hour and five minutes working on the blog post which you are currently devouring. I only take two breaks. Once, at 10:52 to grab a cup of water and once at 11:22 to take a pee. At exactly 11:37, I finish typing this exact sentence and effectively finish this blog post.

11:38 – Flashback to the Science Fair. I didn’t win any ribbons that year. Nor did I deserve to. Was my procrastination and forgetfulness worth the stress that it induced? Probably not. But in the end I had accomplished something, no matter how pathetic. I had convinced four judges, two of whom worked for NASA that rabbits were indeed faster then ferrets. In recent years I’ve come to discover that ferrets are actually faster than rabbits. Actually almost twice as fast. Sometimes when I hear about a terrible NASA disaster, I think to myself… “Am I in some tiny way to blame for that?” Could my inaccurate data have acted as a sort of butterfly effect that changed the course of history. Did those two NASA scientists take my data to heart and because of my ineptitude, did some important satellite explode or was the Apollo 13 disaster actually my fault? Sometimes I think about these things. Not very often and not with much concern, but sometimes these thoughts haunt my psyche and I just now wonder will this blog post have an effect on the course of history. Maybe Gary Busey’s career will be resurrected? Or Nutella will go out of business? Or maybe…. just maybe…. a little boy will sprout wings somewhere and learn how to fly. I don’t know. And you don’t either. Anything’s possible in this crazy crazy world.

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ABOUT THE KIDS IN MY BASEMENT

by: That Guy Who Lives Alone

Yeah, I’m keeping some kids in my basement. What of it?

I’d like to say that I don’t think it’s anyone’s business about what, or how many kids, I keep in my basement. You got that? I know who’s telling people about this: Roy. He and his wife were over to look at my Hummels last week, and he “stumbled” into the basement. You know where the bathroom is, Roy; you’ve been here before!

Anyway, he sees all those kids in the basement and just starts flipping out! Being all, “What’s with all those kids in your basement?!” and, “Do you know how many kids are in your basement?!” Yeah, Roy. I do. Forty-eight. Now I see that Roy’s not the only self-righteous one in the neighborhood. Don’t look at me like that, Gladys, like you don’t have things in your basement that you don’t want people to see.

Oh, and it’s not like I don’t know what your thinking, and I want to point out that that makes YOU the sick ones. That’s like if I just sitting here eating a piece of pie…or, like…like I’m some nice Arab man sitting reading his Koran, and you see him and the first thing you think is, “I bet he’s going to molest that Koran.” Because you see things that you don’t understand, and you always make the worst assumptions about them. It’s typical suburbanite thinking, and it’s exactly how you’re fantasizing the kids in my basement.

You can all go home, because I’m not coming out. The only one you’re wearing down with those lights and that music are the kids, and they don’t get a lot of sleep as it is. I suggest you get in your SWAT vans, turn around, go home, and take a long hard look at yourselves. Maybe you’ll find something you don’t like. In fact, I’m positive you will! Because I don’t think this is really about the kids in my basement anymore. It’s about your secret drinking problem, Ari. That’s the kids in my basement for you. And Pam; it’s about how your husband won’t touch you sexually since the mastectomy. That’s the kids in my basement for you. And Dr. Jacobi; it’s about the kids in your basement (which I think it kind of sick, by the way).

So go ahead: break down my doors, go in my basement, take all the kids out. Hope it makes you feel better. But before you do, just remember two things. One: We all have guns in here. And Two: Say what you want about the kids I have in my basement, but at least they don’t judge me.

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Late

I’m late.

What’s taking this elevator, so long? Come on. Come on. Come on.

I’m alone. I’m still alone. Good. I want to ride alone.

Ding.

Finally. Eleventh floor. Doors closing.

Ding.

What? Why are the doors opening? No, someone else wants to get on? I was so close.

And who’s it going to be? Okay, I don’t know this person. That’s good. A late middle-aged woman. Smile back. Closed mouth smile. I wonder if it looks like I’m smiling. I want to seem kind. I’m hoping that I’m seeming kind. I think it’s enough of a gesture to show that I acknowledge your existence; I respect you as a human being, but it also communicates don’t talk to me. This smile is the extent of our interaction. Okay, good. She just smiled too. I get in my corner of the elevator; she gets in hers. There are elevator rules. Must maintain equilibrium.

Wow, that’s strong perfume. Middle-aged lady perfume. Why did I think that? It seems types of perfume fragrances denotes a woman’s general age. It seems like they all wear that perfume. It’s so thick. Smells of desperation. “I’m still pretty! I’m still pretty husband! Don’t leave me! Can’t you smell how pretty I am? Don’t use your eyes, use your nose!”

That’s not nice. Why did I think that?

She’s going to the fourth floor. Good. I’ll be able to enjoy 6 floors alone in the elevator.

Wait. There’s someone else. I can see their shadow walking towards the elevator. They’re running.

“Can you hold that?”

No! I don’t want to hold that! Ah! Great. I’m pushing the open door button. I am pushing the open door button! I’m making an effort. I acknowledge your existence; I respect you as a human being. Guilt is stupid.

And who’s it going to be?

No! Not Gary. Co-worker Gary. I don’t know what to say to Gary? We had a conversation once, like three months ago, something about bass fishing in Wisconsin. I say hi to him in the work kitchen every once in awhile, but that’s it.

This is the worst type of acquaintance. I know him well enough to feel obligated to talk to him, but I don’t know him enough to have a smooth, sweat-free, stimulating conversation.

“Hi.” Whispered.

“Hey Gary.” Whispered.

Nod.

Gary takes his place in the elevator to form the expected equilateral triangle. Equal spacing. Must maintain equilibrium.

Doors closing.

Now I am grateful the strongly, scented middle-aged woman is in the elevator. Gary and I don’t have to talk yet. There’s a stranger with us. Gary and I can’t talk in front of a stranger. That would be rude. But now those six floors of solitude I was looking forward to, have turned into a social nightmare.

Floor Two.

I have to look comfortable. I need to make him think it’s okay we’re not talking.

Floor Three.

I’m going to pull my cell phone out. Look like I’m busy. Look at the time. Geez, I’m late. Why couldn’t I get myself out of bed? 5 minutes earlier would have been a world of difference. I could have probably caught the express bus and not the local. And I wouldn’t be riding in this elevator with Fisher McGee and Ms. Potpourri over here. Why did I think that?

Floor Four.

Don’t leave lady. Oh shoot.

Floor Five.

She’s gone. The smell stays. Silence. Gary moves to the corner. Equilibrium. The hum of the elevator. Done looking at my cell phone. Done looking at my fake text messages. Close it.

“This weather, huh?” Not whispered.

Floor Six.

I spoke first! I spoke first. I acknowledge you; I respect you. I’m friendly.

“Yeah.”

Yeah? Is that all, Gary? Now I have to think of something else to say.

Here comes the sweat.

Floor Seven.

“Any trouble getting in today?”

Why did I ask that? I really don’t care about this.

“Not too bad. Roads were pretty clear.”

Floor Eight.

“Cool. Cool.”

Silence. The hum. Damn it.

Floor Nine.

Silence. This hurts.

Floor Ten.

Yes, we’re almost there! I’ll say one more thing. What should I say-

“How about you?”

Oh, thanks Gary, you’ve decided to join the conversation. Thank you.

“Not too bad. I ride the bus. It was kind of slow.”

“Yeah.”

Ding.

The Eleventh Floor.

We made it. We made it, Gary. You and me. We made it. Heck, I’ll let you get off first. Give him the sign, the slight bow with hand outstretched. He nods. We’re civilized. Acknowledgment. Respect.

“Have a good one.” Slightly whispered. I’m back to whispering.

“You too.” Caught in the throat.

I make sure he has about five steps in front of me.

And we’re disconnected. No more pressure. We did our duty. It’s over.

And Gary is off to live another day. A day I will have no knowledge of.

I guess I will live my day too.

Oh no, Mary the Receptionist is at the front desk. She knows I’m late. She has no authority. I hope she doesn’t tell on me or resent me. I resent her. I resent her for my tardiness.

Why did I think that?

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How JFK, Linus Lee, and Peguins started my year

Polar bear

“And they may well ask why climb the highest mountain? Why, 35 years ago, fly the Atlantic?

We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win…”

At first, I was surprised it wasn’t cold. In fact it kind of burned, and the further I ran the more it burned. “No matter,” I thought “let’s just get it done.” So I ran until I found a wave approaching me and met it full force. It was then, as the water swallowed me, that I screamed.

This never would have happened without Linus Lee. Sure. I had read about these crazy people who jump in the lake when it is 17 degrees outside. I had also seen the photo of the burly man making a snow angel wearing only shorts and a swim cap.

I am not one one of these people: I have no health insurance. So when I caught my death of cold from stripping down and charging the water in a sort of perverse reverse Normandy, my death would be a slow one, free from the finest medical care the industrialized world had to offer.

Linus didn’t care. “2010!!!! GOONIES NEVER SAY DIE!” Linus yells at me and throws one of my favorite childhood movies in my face. Now it’s personal. I’ll just sleep in and say I forgot, or say I’m hungover, I reassure myself when I see him the night before. It’s new years eve, he’ll understand.

Only he doesn’t. When his text message fails to wake me, it is followed by an immediate phone call. Serving as both an alarm and a call to arms, my excuses get stuck in my windpipe. I can’t start 2010 backpedaling in to the safety of a lie.

“North Avenue Beach,” I say to the back of a head that turns almost all the way around. Cabbie short hand for either I didn’t hear you or I don’t believe you. I have a change of clothes, a blanket and a red headed towel holder. She thinks I’m crazy, but hell, I think I’m crazy. It’s way more crowed that I would have thought. Most are here to rubberneck, I am here to get baptized as a true Chicagoan.

Wearing Jaromír Jágr’s Penguins jersey, I feel connected to my spirt animal. Linus has his Green Lantern ring and Lisa has her Lifeguard bottoms. Almost no more time to back out now. Just in and out. But, as anyone who went swimming in a giant slurpee can tell you, the footing is few and far between. Halfway between falling and jumping I get in the water.

Running back towards the shore, I start to feel the wind whip around me. It does not feel good. Nor does the huge chunk of ice that makes me loose my footing. Now I can really feel the air. Trying to pull myself up on the snow cone that is the beach I realize what I can’t feel, my hands or feet. If getting to my blanket is an accomplishment then getting my shoes off is a miracle. This is when I start to think that I’ve made a mistake. My fingers aren’t numb, they feel like they never even existed. Running in place fully clothed, I start to regain feeling. Where the ice cut me on my leg, the hot tingling of my ears and the feeling that I was truly alive.

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