Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Rent In Chicago Is A Real Bitch

But I already knew that, having rented here for the previous eight years before this past February. I'm just being reminded of it looking over apartment listings as I get ready to get out of this basement by July 1. It's looking more and more like a tiny studio, like the one I had in 1997 and 1998 but hopefully without the roaches and mice. There's not much in a one-bedroom in the city that I can afford on my salary. I've had "Laurie" in Detroit and my friend in Memphis tell me how cheap their respective cities are, and I remember "Sarah" telling me how little it cost to get a place down in Springfield, IL. Hell, I even remember "Giselle" telling me between kisses during our little "high school reunion" in 2002 that when she was going to school in Florida, she and her man were renting a two-bedroom house for much less than the one-bedroom apartment that I was living in at the time. So the solution is clear: Move to some city I don't know and hopefully find work there while rooming with someone...oh wait, I was going to do that with my last three girlfriends. Never mind. Guess I'm staying here.

I've got a couple of offers to contemplate in the next couple of weeks. My gambling buddy, who just accepted an envelope stuffed with cash from me a couple of months ago thanks to the motherfucking Steelers, owns a building on the far South Side, and he wants to give me a two-bedroom for $600, which sounds way too good to be true. And today my aunt told me that the old lady on the first floor here is out at the end of the month, and she would give me that one-bedroom for $600, which sounds great since I'm already here, except there's no laundry on the premises and it's not easy to get to work from this area. But it's definitely a fallback that I would not be upset with. So at least I now have a plan of action: Look for a place closer to my job with the amenities that I want for a few weeks, and if I'm disappointed with my findings, get ready to move all my shit upstairs. Either way, no more fear of a sewer blockage and subsequent flood by the end of this month. Celebration time. Come on!

Thursday, May 25, 2006

For Once, Turning My Stubbornness Into A Positive

I am officially a full-time associate at J.P. Morgan Chase as of June 1st. As you remember, I posted a few weeks ago that I was not pulling any overtime hours despite their desire to have me work six days a week while they're backed up because I would be doing more than full-time hours at part-time status. I distictly remember a recent Tuesday when a co-worker was scheduled to go to training and therefore leave a void on the floor. They separately sent two floor leads and my supervisor to request that I come in that Tuesday, which is one of my off days. I had to resist laughing in their faces. The corporate decision when I was hired along with several other new workers was to give some of them full-time status immediately, but not me and not a couple others. Why? I don't know. But I knew damn well that they were not about to screw me with that decision, then turn around and have me put in forty plus hours anyway. Not a chance in hell. So basically, by asking for full-time status and indirectly refusing to do overtime until then, I held my breath until they gave in. Finally, being a Capricorn paid off.

Speaking of the gig, I believe I called it CEDA Lite after the first week or so because of some oddities and inadequacies that I felt were not befitting a professional corporation. After three months, it's not as bad. I am getting a clearer and clearer picture of how they do bidness up in there. I can't complain about the constant meetings because at least they're trying to keep us informed of some of the goings-on. I am not letting the personality quirks of some colleagues get on my nerves as I would before. Quite the opposite, I'm making those quirks the highlights of my day, enjoying the entertainment value of the one chick who still has yet to come in on a Sunday morning sober from my observation; or the team lead who didn't start her new job that long before I did, leading to consistently inaccurate advice on basically every problem I've approached her with; or the supervisor with the broken English who learned her people skills watching "Happy Days," sticking a thumbs-up at everyone when she praises them (or a "hang-ten" sign on one occasion, throwing the earth into reverse rotation briefly); or the old lady who thinks she knows everything better than everyone else and takes Godfather-like scorn on anyone who thinks otherwise and doesn't kiss her proverbial ring. And what can you say about the older woman who smiled upon learning my name and softly asked, "You're not crazy, are you? I've never known anyone by that name who wasn't crazy."

I could only laugh and assure her that, yes, this Dre is crazy, too.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Sports Weekend

Some of my worthless thoughts on this past wild sports weekend:

  • Michael Barrett is a bitch who should be shot in the head. Barrett is the Cubs catcher who blocked home plate while White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski tried to score during the Cubs-Sox game Saturday, and he got ran over because he wouldn't get out of the way. He then staggered to his feet, grabbed A.J., reportedly said "I didn't have the ball bitch," and sucker-punched him. I listened to this happen live on the radio while I worked, and I couldn't wait to get home to see the highlights because the national media on ESPN Radio doing updates made a big deal about Pierzynski going towards Barrett after he scored, which wouldn't make sense because the play was over. Sure enough, the replay showed Pierzynski stepping in the direction of Barrett and starting to bend down to pick up his helmet. Barrett grabbed his arm, stood him up, and punched him in the grill. Why? Well, he is a Cub, and they haven't shown any spark all season--really, all of their existence as a franchise--so maybe this was his way of trying to rally his squad to show how tough they can be. Or maybe he was embarrassed because A.J. jacked him up like a linebacker spearing a running back. Either way, there's gonna be some violence in a month when the Sox go to Wrigley Field, and I'm not even talking about on the field. I'm just disappointed the Sox couldn't complete the sweep yesterday and shut the Cubbies and their fans up completely. But that's nothing new. The Sox often take two of three games from the Cubs at U.S. Cellular Field because they get tight and start making dumb errors and choke away one of the games. I went to a Sunday Cubs-Sox game several years ago where the brooms were out for a Sox sweep, and they hit five homers that day and managed to lose. It's frustrating to outperform a AAA team in every way all weekend and manage to lose the last game. Hopefully they will take advantage next go-round.

  • I admittedly don't know anything about steroids and the effects the drug has on the body, but I remember when the rumors about Mark McGwire were flying in the early and mid-90s. A lot of the speculation centered around McGwire's frequent injuries and how he must be juicing because his muscles are just too big for his tendons and bones, making his body more susceptible to freakish breaks and strains. The same was said for many other muscular players who kept breaking things, including Kyle Farnsworth, who, as a Cub a few years ago, kicked a fan (a wind-blowing device, not a human) in frustration and broke his foot. Barry Bonds looks like he's in a severe amount of pain any time he has to run hard. His knees reportedly have no cartilage left, so it's just bone grinding on bone at this point. But his steroid use is said to have started around the beginning of the millennium in response to McGwire's power numbers and popularity. Perhaps Bonds avoided freakish injuries by maintaining a healthy body all of his life while starting to juice at a relatively later age. Perhaps the knee cartilage would have worn away anyhow; he is in his early 40s, after all. I'm not sure if anything can be definitively answered as far as steroid use and its effects until some weird science lab steps forward and starts a long-term test using human "guinea pigs." Until then, it's just a lot of speculation. By the way, freak steroid injuries came into my mind after seeing Preakness favorite Barbaro break his leg in three places shortly after the race began. Who knows if steroids are the reason Barbaro won the Kentucky Derby by the biggest distance in forty years. But one has to wonder after seeing him crack his rear ankle like an egg.

  • As one of Michael Jordan's biggest fans, I am officially afraid of what LeBron James may be on his way to becoming. There are very few guys that had his combination of skills, determination, conditioning, and savvy at his age. I wasn't watching basketball yet when Magic Johnson led the Los Angeles Lakers to a title at the age of 21 playing every position on the floor, but that's the comparison I'm hearing most. And Jordan wasn't near this good at this point in his career. LeBron almost took a pretty weak Cleveland Cavaliers squad and led them to a series win over the Detroit Pistons, who damn near matched the 95-96 Bulls' 70-12 regular season beatdown of the rest of the NBA and who were heavy favorites to win the title, much less their second-round series with the Cavs. LeBron has several things that MJ doesn't. He has the court vision to find open teammates, which usually develops at that young age only in future point guards. Jordan was too busy trying to win games by himself to work on finding open teammates. He has a body of armor, which allows him to take the ball to the basket and score on basically anyone living as well as give people headaches when he plays defense because you're not taking him to the post and bullying him around, so scratch that strategy completely. Most importantly, he already has a sense of how to play the game at an NBA level. Consider that Jordan didn't make his JV high school team, whereas LeBron has been touted as a future star since before high school. In this culture, it's possible to ignore all other aspects of an impoverished ghetto upbringing and become a student of the game as soon as you can dribble a ball. And that's partly because of Jordan and Magic and the popularity explosion of the NBA twenty-plus years ago. Whereas parents were more likely to take the ball away and try to guide their kids towards a different goal, now they're much more likely to encourage practice and playing as much as possible, seeing the riches potentially awaiting the next young baller and his peeps. And if you've read anything about LeBron's upbringing and his mother, you know why he is the latest product of that mentality of sweeping aside all other things and devoting oneself to basketball very early in life. And because the game is so much a part of who he is, that's why he could become the greatest of them all--there's never been anything else for him to concentrate on.

Friday, May 19, 2006

"Fuck The Cubs"

That was White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen's eloquent response to repeated questions about the Cubs-Sox series this weekend. Glad to see Ozzie's been listening to me tell my friends what the huge banner I'm going to put in right field at U.S. Cellular when I buy the Sox will read. Seriously. I said that years ago. It was going to be the perfect rallying cry for the new attitude the team would have under my ownership--to stop focusing on the crosstown Cubbies and start focusing on winning baseball. But since they are now playing winning baseball, I would just put the banner up to piss everyone off.

Ozzie also said that if the Sox were playing shit ball like the Cubs are now, there would be like 2,000 people at the Cell. I love how Cubs fans take that as a sign that they are true fans--because they come to Wrigley Field knowing the team sucks and the Tribune Company, which owns the Cubs, won't do anything to improve it as long as dumbfucks keep showing up at the park and giving the team money. I don't think fans stopped showing up for the Sox and kept seeing the Cubs when both teams were bad because the Cubs have better fans. I think it's because Sox fans, unlike Cub fans, don't like being screwed from behind. Hey, I call it like I see it. A manager who can't manage, a president and general manager who know their two best pitchers are extremely injury prone and yet don't acquire any help, and ownership who could care less...and they still draw 38,000 fans a game? They must love getting it up the ass in Wrigleyville. The more they get screwed, the more they come. They just can't stop coming and coming and coming over there.

All that screwing up the butt with no objections...makes total sense that the Cubbies play in Boys Town.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Finally, Some Down Time

Boy does it feel good to come home on a Monday and not go straight to school after work. The semester crashed to an end last week with three finals exams for me on three consecutive days, and of course that was followed by my usual off-center work week of Thursday through Monday. And tomorrow starts my first weekend in a long time where I don't have to go anywhere or do anything. Naturally, my job wanted me to come in tomorrow and work overtime because they're a little short right now. Sorry, Charlie. You need people to work more hours, you should have hired me full-time instead of part-time. Just on principle, I'm not doing overtime until they make me a full-time associate. What's the difference? Well, full-timers get more performance bonus money and a higher ceiling in tuition reimbursement, among other perks. I also would have had insurance immediately upon my hire instead of waiting for my ninetieth day, which occurred this past Saturday. But really, I may have considered saying no to OT if I were already full time, just because I want the rest. My dad and I visited my aunt Sunday for Mother's Day after I got off work, and I was snoring on the couch within a few minutes because I was so tired. I need to chill, even if it's a couple of days. I bought a "Nature Boy" Ric Flair DVD on the way home, I found my tape of the 2002 World Series Game 7 so that I can remind myself why Dusty Baker sucks dick as a baseball manager, I got cold soda in the mini fridge, and I am ready to do some serious unwinding tomorrow and Wednesday. At least, as much unwinding as I can do in between marathon spider-killing sessions. Sigh. I hate living in a basement.

Oh, and it's not a good idea to try to be smooth and suave on the phone when you're this tired. My ladyfriend in Memphis was telling me a few nights ago how much she enjoyed hearing my voice and she said when I said her full name it was like she was hearing it for the first time. So I put on my sexiest voice and said...the wrong last name. Yessir, smooth as Ex-Lax.

Monday, May 08, 2006

A Possible Corollary?

Funny yet sorta eerie story about what happened to me Saturday and maybe an immediate strike of karma, or sign from God, or something else scary and unexplainable:

This actually starts Friday, when I took a box of Pop-Tarts to the Osco cashier along with a basket full of other groceries and he set the Pop-Tarts aside in order to ring up everything else and forgot about the Pop-Tarts. I got home and noticed the missing box, but when I checked the receipt it wasn't on there, so he never charged me anyway. No harm, no foul. So I went back to the Osco after work Saturday to buy the Pop-Tarts that I was feening for. The guy who was my cashier Friday saw me shopping and said that he remembered me and that I left my Pop-Tarts and something else, to which I replied, "Maybe some juice," and he agreed with me. I did buy a few bottles of juice, but I had all of them when I got home. I just said it because I wanted him to think that he forgot to put that in my bag too. He told me to let the woman working the register know when I got up there, and I wouldn't be charged for my Pop-Tarts and another bottle of juice. I said okay and even got his name so that I wouldn't have any hassle from her when I pulled my scam. But while waiting in line, I had a change of heart and decided that I didn't want to pull off the scam after all. I got in a bit of an argument with the little voice in my head trying to tell me that I would be a moron not to go through with it before compromising and deciding that I would pull off the scam anyway if the guy came to the register and told the cashier about the situation. I justified it by saying that it would be rude to not let the guy do what he thought was a good deed. But really, I knew that I was being a snake by not speaking up and telling the truth. Well, the guy did just that when I got to the counter, and I allowed it to happen and walked out with my free groceries feeling more ashamed of this minor theft than I ever thought I would. But I didn't turn around and fix things, I just got on my bus and headed home.

I have been very tired lately, so I usually doze off on the way home, and when I do that, I have my arm extended against the window so that I can set my Walkman on top of my forearm in order to get a good reception on the AM dial and listen to sports talk radio. This bus hung a hard right turn, and the apparently loose emergency lock on my window broke free. So in my sleepy daze, my arm pushed the window wide open, and my Walkman went flying off my arm and onto the street. I let out a girlish shriek at the shock of what happened, and then I had to wait for the bus to drive a block to the next bus stop before I could get off and retrieve my beloved old-school Walkman. But it was too late. When I made it back to the spot where we turned, someone had already ran over it, and the thing was lying in the middle of the street, flatter than a pancake. Two things survived this accident, however. One was the battery. Amazingly, I was able to open the destroyed personal stereo and retrieve my rechargeable battery, ever so slightly dented at one end but otherwise just fine. The other item that survived was the cassette tape that I was listening to that day, because the Walkman must have popped open upon hitting the ground and spit my cassette out. The tape was lying a few feet away from the flattened Walkman unharmed. If this whole scene was some sign from God, it was a very ironic sign, because of exactly what tape I happened to have that day.

It was Black Sabbath.

Now I'm totally fucked in the head, because I'm thinking, if this was God telling me to stop being a dick and always do the right thing, wouldn't He have spared the Walkman and gleefully destroyed the Black Sabbath tape?? Or was it just bad karma? Or am I reading way too much into the whole damn thing, as usual? I do know this much: In all my years of having a Walkman, almost every day of my life starting in eighth grade, I have never had something like this happen. I've dropped it a million times, on occasion near sewer grates and other assorted holes in the ground, I've banged it against walls, I even tried to change my batteries once while standing on an elevated platform, and I dropped a battery onto the street several stories below, but I've never had a Walkman destroyed like this. And I know one more thing: I'm holding my next Walkman in my hand at all times and getting the best reception I can in that manner, and if it's not a good reception, I'll just have to live with it.

Boy, the shit that happens to me...

Thursday, May 04, 2006

The World Keeps Spinning, And So Does My Head

Just taking a moment to chill before classes tonight. Finals are next week, so lots of studying on the agenda this weekend, after work, of course. This weekend work schedule doesn't affect me until I have to get up and go to classes on my two days off, Tuesday and Wednesday. Then I start cursing and grunting, you know, acting like myself. I absolutely cannot wait until this semester is over, even if I will have to start paying my own way to work since my student bus pass will expire. I'm just too tired to enjoy any free time I have. I'm already sad because not only will I miss attending the Kentucky Derby this weekend, but things have been so crazy this year thus far, I had not even had time to watch any of the horses competing this year. So no Derby, no wild weekend in Louisville, not even an official pick. I'll just have to pick up where I left off next year. I'm so tired that I woke up one morning a couple of weeks ago sweating and trying to catch my breath, afraid to stand because I was so dizzy. The lady I visited in Memphis says that those could be symptoms of a mild heart attack. I don't know about that, but it wasn't a pleasant feeling. At least a couple of people who irritate me at work are off this week, so that's some peace. I will be finding a new apartment come June or July, I just haven't decided which ghetto I'm moving to since I can't afford to go back near the lake on this salary. But my ladyfriend has heard me killing spiders while talking to her on the phone several times, and she has indicated that she's staying her ass right there in Memphis until I get out of that basement. Can't blame her one bit.

Finally, I haven't decided if I think all of the attention that the kids going for the spelling bee title have received in the last few years is frightening or cute. There's the movies about spelling, as well as a play running here in Chicago. There's the national media focus on the most, um, unique spellers; they played that clip of the boy fainting last year so many times that I can see it in my mind's eye clearly as if I just saw it aagin. Today, I just read that the National Spelling Bee finals will be televised in primetime on ABC this year, following the ten years or so that it has been televised live in the afternoon on ESPN2. I guess that's not so bad. I didn't have cameras in my face when I misspelled "somizdot" in the 1990 National Spelling Bee, but I was already nervous enough in that auditorium full of people staring at me and my 14-year-old manboobs, so I don't know if cameras would have mattered. What sent me reeling a few years ago was finding an online gambling site with posted odds for each speller. I don't know how the hell anyone can handicap a field of over 200 8th-graders (actually, whatever grade each happens to be, but 8th is the limit) from all over the country, but absolutely any method is wrong. If you go by the stereotypical name of the contestant--i.e., making the favorite a girl named "Patel" because those India natives sure are smart--then that's ignorant and racist. If you go by location, then that's dumb because the best spellers don't come from the same city or area every year. If you go by past experience--some spellers have competed in the Nationals before, maybe even three or four times--then that's somewhat understandable, but then how do you rank all the ones that are rookies? And of course, you can't go by age because they're all about the same, with maybe ten or twenty outliers age 11 or younger. I don't understand it at all. It's enough for the kids to deal with just to have made it that far. Do they need Uncle Willie having a secret talk with them before they fly to Washington about how they really have to do their best because there's a C-note riding on it? Do they need Vito and his henchmen approaching them outside their hotel rooms offering special favors if they slip on a word in the 4th round? Or threatening them if they don't slip? Seems silly, but when you talk about gambling, stranger things have happened.