Monday, December 31, 2007

The Most, Uh, Unique Christmas Gift Ever

My dad had been calling me and leaving messages almost every day back in September when I started going back to school, and I didn't have time to call him back, so he took it personally and began to do weird things trying to make me jealous like calling my aunt daily and sending money to her oldest son, who attends the U. of Illinois. He was used to me eventually calling him back so he could resume browbeating me about not keeping up with him more, but this time, I wasn't in the mood. So I had not talked to him since this past summer when Christmas rolled around. But he told my aunt that he would make a special trip out to my uncle's, where the family gathers for Christmas, and he would have a Christmas gift for me whether I wanted to see him or not. And oh, did he have a memorable gift for me, or make that clear plastic bag of gifts:

  1. A bottle of British Sterling, quite possibly the rankest dollar-store cologne I have ever smelled
  2. A disposable camera
  3. A 4-pack of AA batteries
  4. A Southwest Airlines napkin
  5. A picture of his mother, and not a glossy picture, a Xerox copy
  6. A Xerox copy pic of his brother
  7. A couple of handmade fliers for his band and/or his various other hustles
  8. $40 cash (complete with totally useless deposit slip, like I'm a fucking bank)
  9. And finally, an empty manila folder

I couldn't do anything while taking each gift out and displaying it for everyone except say, "Tonight, all of you thank your God that your dad is not my dad."

My girlfriend is here for the next couple of days to ring in the new year with me. There's no better way to get the taste of that Christmas out of my mouth. (Although out of curiosity, she sprayed that cologne in the air, and now that taste and scent may linger well into the new year after all.)

Happy 2008 to everyone.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

32 Years Of Anonymity

That's two years in a row now that someone wondered why I didn't make a big deal of my upcoming birthday upon finding out about it. This time, it was my team lead at work, Tasha, who doesn't know a thing about me and never expressed a desire to. "You gotta tell us about things like that," she cooed. "We're like a big family!" Yeah, right. All In The Family, maybe. When I told the people I used to work with on 1st shift that it was my birthday, the reactions ranged from surprise, of course, to pity that I was spending my birthday working. But it's all good. I wouldn't have done anything today but clean the house anyway. What am I gonna do, go out clubbing?

The fact that no one knew my birthday was coming is but a small piece of my daily routine. I'm Mr. Anonymity. I'm the modern-day Mr. Cellophane, for you fans of the musical Chicago. Every day I trudge to work or school or both, and I trudge home, and I barely say a word or have a word said to me. Really, I might be known by some as That Weird Guy With The Headphones, because for almost 20 years now I've hardly been out in public without my headphones on, usually big ear-covering ones too, "kickerboxes on your head," as a former co-worker once called them. The bigger the headphones, the less I have to hear, plus they double as great earmuffs for those Chicago winters that my girlfriend will get to experience when she moves here in the next few years. I could be some cult figure like the loudmouth preacher downtown with the portable loudspeaker or those guys that dress in silver and gold bodypaint and do mime performances on the corner. There might be some punk band in Wicker Park whose members dress in baseball caps and huge headphones and nothing else, as some odd homage to that eccentric fat guy who always looks like he could kick the world's ass. But I would never know. And that's how I've always wanted it. Speaking up and making my presence known is not something I like doing most of the time. After I got to know my co-workers at my jobs, I wound up loosening up and being the class clown, so to speak. But my demeanor is the same for most of the day--head down, no smile, walking with a purpose, going where I gotta go, doing what I gotta do. Sealing off the whole world in a way for various reasons, be it shyness or lack of social skills or lack of confidence or, in those really special moments, hatred of the entire human race. (If you've ever wondered why I refer to myself as Planet Dre...)

My latest problem at work may not be directly tied to my attempts to be anonymous, but it's loosely connected. See, my job is rather simple when you break it down: Type in P.O. box number, scan a header ticket to start a batch, open all the mail sent to that box, enter the check amounts, run the check through a check reader, scan a separator ticket between each check, end batch, move on. Boring, I know. But apparently, the way I do my job is not satisfying this items-per-hour ratio that's been established by people above me who don't do this job and therefore don't know how impossible it would be to keep up that ratio for all 7 or 8 or however many hours you're working. The ratio is 133 items per hour. That means that in addition to checks, you can staple the material inside an envelope that has no check inside (we've been getting a lot of Christmas cards lately, for instance) and add that to your batch at the end when you close it, and you can also add the unprocessable items for those checks that may have something wrong with it, like a missing signature or it was sent to the wrong P.O. box, so it's not just 133 checks per hour, it's 133 items. But seriously, if you sit down and start working on a bundle of mail, like I do, you run into missorted envelopes in the wrong bundle, you run into a large amount of material that has to be taped together because the automatic mail opener sliced the pages up, you may have to photocopy an envelope because if it's cardboard (FedEx, DHL, etc.) it's too big to fit into the image run into a lot of shit that takes up too much of your time to process 133 items per hour. It's impossible. The way that co-workers are getting around this number is that they're pre-staging their work, meaning they're opening the envelopes and taping letters and making copies and all that good stuff before they ever start to type in boxes and check amounts. That saves time from their items per hour, but it doesn't get as much work done because they're spending hours pre-staging and not working, whereas I just sit down and work because that's how I prefer to do it. My supervisor Lucy, this ogre of a woman who obviously got off the first boat from Russia years ago hoping to wrestle bears in America for money or something, has been on my ass virtually every day for the past two months because my items per hour was below 90. But when she thrust the November numbers in my face showing me how many other people in my workgroup have better IPH rates than me, I noticed something in the total items column: Only one person in my workgroup nailed more than 10,000 items total last month, and that was yours truly. Then I remembered that I was on vacation for a week in November because I spent several days in Memphis after Thanksgiving! You'd think Lucy would be thrilled to see that bit of information when I pointed it out to her. Her response: "It doesn't matter how much work you do." I never thought there existed a job where someone could be told that it didn't matter that they produced more work than anyone else. Did I mention that I haven't made an error in my mail extraction job duties all year? I tie this to anonymity because when you're just a number in a humongoid company like J.P. Morgan Chase, no one has time to listen to individual issues. Something like this should be handled on a case-by-case basis, and someone should have the common sense to back off the most productive worker in the workgroup instead of smothering him daily just because his items-per-hour number is low. Since I produce more than workers who work more hours than me, it seems that the items per hour isn't that damn important. Oh, and Lucy showed me the numbers for December 1-15 just to bitch at me more about how my IPH hasn't improved since she started yapping at me. Guess who's done more items than anyone the first 2 weeks of December as well? But of course, how much work you do doesn't matter. How retarded.

So in this, my 32nd year on Planet Dre, I vow to work even harder in college and continue my push towards (hopefully) Columbia College and a degree in radio. Anonymity has worked well for me for the most part, but I'm starting to get a little tired of it. I can see a time where I shed my cloak and reach for the spotlight and let the world see and hear what my warped mind is creating. The right time, the right place, it all has to come together in a perfect mix of my guts, someone's need to smell-la-la-la-la what I'm cookin', and a whole hell of a lot of luck. But every day that I am told that my hard work doesn't matter because it doesn't fit the mold, I get closer and closer to being ready to leave behind my carefully constructed wall of anonymity and go for what I want.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

And If You Thought That Last Post Was Full Of It...

...I'll be taking psych class as part of my load next semester at the esteemed Harold Washington College, where I sit four mere classes away from my associates degree. So get ready for more armchair mental games from moi. Hey, maybe I'll finally find out why "Karen" did what she did to me, since she never got the guts to tell me herself, or as she put it in a letter once, "I don't have to explain myself to anybody." This semester that just ended last week was difficult for one reason--biology class. Not only was this a topic that I had no interest in, but the teacher insisted on making her students tie bits and pieces of information together with cognitive thinking, and after dealing with the jackasses at my job for forty hours a week, I wasn't always up for that. Okay, I was never up for that. I had to walk out of a couple of her classes because I just didn't have the desire to sit through another hour of her voice pushing me closer and closer to sleep. I had a B at midterm for that class, but I did so bad on the cumulative final that I bet I got a C as a final grade. Oh well. One science requirement is dead, and the second and final science requirement will be on the schedule for next semester--Public Issues in Physical Science. Hey, it's not a lab at least. The computer class was a breeze, and the speech teacher was open-minded enough to disagree with nearly everything I talked about, yet still gave me nearly perfect scores on all three of my speeches. She was fun. I wanted to take a TV/radio class she's giving next semester that would seem perfect for what I want to do after I get out of Harold Washington, but she's only offering one time frame, Monday nights, and I have to work Monday nights. So instead I'm taking a mass media class someone else is teaching that she says is very similar, in addition to the psych and the physical science. That will leave me one elective that I'll gobble up in the summer, then I'm done with the associates classes. I already visited the Columbia College website and asked for information to be sent to my house, so I'm sure I'll have plenty of contact with them as I try to arrange my records to facilitate a smooth transition there. As for the next few weeks before the spring semester, I have to clean house and get ready for my girlfriend, who will visit for New Year's. It would be nice if I got Christmas presents before next week. And there's laundry and grocery shopping as well. But I'm actually glad that I'm keeping busy like this--less time to sit around and let my brain ruminate about dark things or, worse, get bored and gamble. Or think about my 32nd birthday, coming up Saturday. Where does the time go. I'll be spending it working, which is actually fitting because that's what I've been doing seemingly nonstop the past two years. And the world keeps turning...

"He Took It In The Butt"

That was the headline in the Trentonian newspaper last week when Roger Clemens had his pristine name dragged into the steroids circus surrounding Major League Baseball. I just thought that was funny. I had one small thing to add to this, then I'll crawl back in my hole. I just watched Mike & Mike In The Morning, a sports talk show that also airs on TV, and they had callers commenting on whether they believe Clemens, who vehemently denies using steroids or HGH, or think he's lying like so many other ballplayers have when confronted with evidence. The very first guy who called said he was giving Clemens the benefit of the doubt, and so did the last guy who called, and I think the segment that I watched only had three callers. Mike and Mike wondered why they didn't hear this kind of benefit when Barry Bonds denied his intentional steroid use under oath before a grand jury a few years ago ("I thought it was flaxseed oil"). I have an answer--he did receive the benefit of the doubt, from a large number of black people. I remember all the polls that came out back then charting the racial divide among people who believe that Bonds was innocent. It was like 50 or 60% of all blacks polled, as opposed to something in the teens for whites. But hardly any of those blacks were taken seriously. Those polls were trotted out by sports talk people as some sign of the apocalypse, or worse, a sign of the bad role models those poor black people were choosing. But they didn't actually speak to those black people to find out why they felt that way. And here's Mike & Mike wondering why Clemens is being trusted and believed while Bonds wasn't. Um, I don't recall them taking calls from Bonds supporters, and neither did any other sports talk show I listened to. They didn't want to. He was a dirty black guy breaking the all-time home run record, and he didn't deserve supporters. But here's a bunch of white darlings loved by the media, like Clemens and Andy Pettitte and some little scrappy guys who would have never put up the numbers they did if not for juicing, and the media in general seem to be falling over themselves trying to cushion the blow and accept their word as bond. Makes me shake my head. And for the record, yeah, I believe they're all guilty, Bonds and Clemens and all the other idiots writing personal checks to clubhouse guys and putting "STEROIDS" in the memo line. I don't think they're conjuring up evidence to get back at any of them. I just think that some athletes are so addicted to winning at all costs and so used to getting anything they want any time they want that they believe that if they keep saying they're innocent, the whole thing will eventually go away. And for that, I think they're all floating turds, black, white, Latino, or green alien.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Cursing And Blow Jobs--The Planet Dre Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving went very well for me. It was my first outside of my own family, with people I had never met, so as past posts will tell you, I was very nervous. But they knew how to treat a man well, because no more than two minutes after I entered the house of my girlfriend's uncle, he handed me the television remote. Now THAT is how you welcome someone to your home! Yes, football was on from that moment until I left. Now, my girlfriend had explained that she didn't recall football being part of the family's past Thanksgivings, but as it turned out, the men of the house were just like most other men--get the ball rolling on a sport and they fall right in line. The first NFL game was already playing, but they didn't know it, so when I found the channel, all of a sudden here goes the football talk. Who's my favorite team, what about that Terrell Owens, etc. Turns out there's even a daughter in the family who's a Cowboys cheerleader, and they spotted her during the Kelly Clarkson halftime show. See, how did these folks get along before me???

The meal itself was outstanding as far as the quality of the food. There were some cheese products missing that I had become accustomed to at my uncle's house, like macaroni and his wife's spaghetti bake. That helps to break up all the seasoning that you get in the turkey and dressing, which starts to taste the same after a while. And speaking of the turkey, they bought a special kind this year just to piss me off--it was Cajun-flavored, which meant that it was infused with jalapenos before they even stuffed it and put it in the stove. Gross. I needed a lot of dressing to make it palatable. But it was very well-cooked, and everything else was just fine. My girlfriend created a sweet potato casserole with mini-marshmallows on top, and that was better than I thought it would be. Me and yams usually don't get along.

My girlfriend's mother was a very sweet lady, even more quiet and introverted than my girlfriend. I didn't know what to expect, but she couldn't have been kinder. She was going to meet us for dinner Saturday night after Thanksgiving, just the three of us, but unfortunately she fell ill. So I'm still waiting to be grilled. But she doesn't seem like the judgmental type, so as long as she never reads this blog, I believe she's not going to drill me with questions about who I am and what my intentions are with her little girl. So that bullet was dodged. Really, that was my biggest worry--I didn't want to underwhelm her mother because I know that no matter what she says, my girlfriend would take her mother's intuition about me very seriously, and I wanted to make a great first impression. (My girlfriend would later go on to tell me that her mother informed her of her impression of me over the phone--"Very, very, very bright!" Can't get much better than that.)

After going to the next-door house of a family member and taking a tour as a way of walking off the meal, we settled in for a game of Taboo. There were four team members on each side, and my girlfriend was on the opposite team, but her mother was on my team. I was told that these games got so loud and outrageous that sometimes they would videotape them and watch them afterwards, and I thought that this was a good sign because I have lots of experience with loud and outrageous board games thanks to my family. However, I forgot that my girlfriend's family, while loud and outrageous, was also religious. So when I accidentally said some of the Taboo words and exclaimed "Dammit!" or "Aw hell!", I didn't think one second of it. After we lost, one of my team members went around the table pointing out various funny things each player said or did during the game, and when he got to me, he said, "And homey here, with all the cursing!" I turned to my girlfriend and asked, "Did I curse?" She said that I may have said dammit or something like that. I was shocked that they saw that as cursing. It's not like I was at the bowling alley or something. If they want to see me curse, they should come there. They'll hear me make up new words, tell God to fornicate with his son, and many other colorful phrases. But when I thought about the game afterwards, it dawned on me that no matter how loud and crazy it got, indeed, no one was cursing. That's amazing and noble and very frightening all at the same time.

My girlfriend and I made out on her couch that night after driving back home, and she initiated giving me oral sex for the first time. It came out of nowhere, and I didn't expect it because, despite getting the results from the free clinic, she indicated that she didn't know when she would be ready to take that next step with me. I surely didn't want to shove it in her face and say, "I'm clean, bitch, now suck it!" I've been very patient with her thus far, knowing that she had never been with a man before me, and I was willing to wait as long as it took for her to get comfortable. Well, she got comfortable quickly, and I haven't stopped smiling since. Really, oral sex to me is the 2nd most intimate thing a couple can do next to only intercourse. And to do it with someone I love and respect and don't have to worry about how many other dudes she's done this to is such an awesome feeling. Now, the last time I got either oral or vaginal sex was two years ago with "Grace," the one night stand, so this was also a big deal because now when I fantasized or daydreamed about receiving head, I didn't have to try to force my girlfriend into the picture. I had my own mental picture now of her looking into my eyes while swallowing me. That's a very big deal to me. I hate having memories of meaningless physical encounters as my only concrete thoughts about the sex I've had. I'm so ready to write new thoughts into my memory, with the woman I love. That's as descriptive as I can get when I explain why it meant to much to have her give me head. I want her face and her body to be what I think of when I think of physical intimacy, and that's why this was so big. Now, I couldn't return the favor because Aunt Flo was in town, but I'm determined to become good at giving my woman oral sex since I was so bad at it all the times before. Plain and simple, I didn't have the patience to keep at it and learn how to do it right. I just took out my cock after a few minutes and fucked whoever I was trying to eat. But since that's not an option with my virgin girlfriend, I will have to stay down there and figure out how to get 'er done, so to speak. Maybe when she visits me for New Year's, she'll leave her aunt at home...