Friday, March 14, 2008

Inspiration: Fingernails & burritos

Granted, the post title could be a messy combination, but it is/was completely innocent.

I was driving to work Friday morning - how I loathe the commute - and took the opportunity to engage in some clandestine people watching.

Staring at people from the inside of a car is an art. You're sitting in your metal box with wheels - and they're sitting inside theirs. When you're stopped at one of the traffic lights that litter this part of suburbia like politician's lies in the run-up to Election Day, the last thing you really want to do is have someone actually NOTICE you staring at them.

The art of a good traffic stop stare is to watch the action, but also to watch for subtle moment when they "know" they're being watched, and just at that moment shift your gaze to look "past" the person. You need to be able to wordlessly communicate the fact that you weren't staring at them, you were calmly listening to music, staring off into space, dreaming behind the wheel.

Of course, they probably know that you've just been staring at them, but they've got no proof - and unless they're packing, there is precious little they can do about it, short of getting out of the car and making a scene the likes of which Russell Crowe would enjoying throwing phones in.

One word of advice: Never give a good stare at someone likely to be packing. This includes vehicles displaying NRA bumper stickers, Confederate flags bumper stickers and anything with a W '04 sticker left over from Bush vs. Kerry. People who vote Republican are crazy.

What's the point of all this? Sometimes you capture more beautiful slice-of-life action in the ten seconds you're stopped at a traffic light than you do all week on CBS. Particularly if you're watching "Two and a Half Men."

I was gridlocked at the intersection of two major cross streets this morning, when a beat-up sable Acura Vigor careened from four lanes over into the left turn lane trying to catch the arrow and get onto the road headed for downtown.

In the car were three Hispanic women, obviously lively for this time of the morning when I wished I could crawl back into bed. They were eating what I can only believe to be takeout breakfast burritos from a really odd Mexican/Chinese storefront takeout in the shopping plaza they just pulled out from.

I don't know who they were, or where they were going, but it was just a perfect scene of three friends laughing, eating and enjoying their free time in the moments before they headed off to some hopefully not too soul-deadening job.

I didn't get too good a look at the driver, but the car was stopped in traffic long enough for me to get a good read on the woman in the passenger seat and in the back seat.

Passenger seat had that fiery red-black hair that looks so beautiful on some women. It was done up in big curls and had a lively bounce. She was half turned in the seat to talk to the woman in the back, and chomping on a burrito and swigging from a bottle of Dasani. Her nails were this ruby shade of enamel polish, and she had a set of talons on her. She's probably a hell of a lover, a fighter and wears her emotions on her sleeve.

Back seat looked like she was rushing to finish her burrito, taking big bites and holding her hand over her mouth not to laugh too hard and spew food everywhere. She would laugh and her ebony curls would bounce all over the place. She had nails too, but she had green - almost the color of emeralds - polish on.

No one in the car knew I was staring, and I doubt they would have cared. It was a beautiful scene - and over all too quickly.

Traffic kept moving, the driver handed the woman in the passenger seat the water bottle back and the car shot forward like the women were late for an appointment with God - or a timeclock.


Thursday, March 13, 2008

Today's findings: Ham, egg & feta burrito

Not dead, but the flu has left me decidedly weaker and with a persistent cough.

I have been driven from my apartment by the idiots at Comcast. As soon as "John Adams" is finished on HBO, I am going to cancel my HBO & Showtime. Maybe I'll start back up my NetFlix and just get stuff thataway.

But I have discovered a new coffee house, a local place that opened up not too far from my apartment. The coffee isn't much to write home about, but there is free WiFi. And a colorful cast of local characters hanging around. Think "Coffee of Doom" from the Questionable Content webcomic.

So I found inspiration - a ham, egg, roasted red pepper and feta cheese breakfast burrito. Overpriced at $6.95, especially as I didn't eat the unpreposessing slab of watermelon which accompanied it, nor the "salsa" that looked like ketchup, but the burrito was excellent. The feta cheese really gave the whole ham and egg thing a lift. I had a raspberry white chocolate scone for dessert. It was yummy.

The cast of characters here is really something. This little cafe is probably what the prototype for "neighborhood coffee shop" should be - except that I've been the only paying customer for the past 45 minutes. Well, there is this crazy homeless man in the corner, who seems to keep getting food without visibly paying for it. He has knocked back two cookies, a scone and four cups of coffee. I wonder what his story is - I know he has one. And who is paying his bills? I mean, if they like old, crazy and scruffy, I need to be in on that action!

Now he is singing along to whatever is on the radio. Pat Benatar should ONLY be sung by Pat Benatar. He'll talk to anyone - and thus far I have managed to avoid his efforts at conversation. I'm not minded by his presence, but he needs to stay on his side of the personal comfort zone. Crazy homeless people rarely seem to understand that not everyone wants to talk to them.

Hmm. Let me think about that for a second. I guess society has failed this old buzzard - and we should all be more forgiving. I wonder if he's mentally ill or just one of those people that have slipped through the cracks and is just wandering around without a home or family or anything to hang on to - and he thinks of the coffee shop as home. I wonder where he sleeps.

I just caught a glimpse of coin-slot as one of the "baristas" bent over to pick up something she dropped on the floor. Lovely way to start the lunch hour. The Coin Slot Cafe - $4 for the lattes, the baristas are a quarter out back!

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Please help me survive the day

I think I'm going to die. I have the flu - or at least the symptoms thereof and am currently feverish and sweating like a drag queen in line at an Army recruiting office. Bitch know she gonna get found out and won't get to see the pretty marines take their clothes off.

And I tried a new deli for lunch - girls, avoid turkey, cranberry and dressing sandwiches made by Cubans. If it don't come from your grandma, leave it at home! Lord. My head hurts, my stomach is doing a Flying Wallenda number and my eyes are crossing. I think I'm going to die. Ohhhhh. I have bad gas too.

These thin-blooded heifers keep the temperature in the office so hot. One turned it up to 78 degrees the other day. What is this? Egypt? Bring a sweater.

OK. Enough kvetching. I need to make a run to the bathroom before I throw up at the desk.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

I process at a keyboard

If there is a hell, it must be populated with the souls of Comcast executives and strung with thousands of miles of low-grade digital wires from which Satan's demons drop bricked modems upon the heads of the unfortunate.

If I am ever – EVER – in my life – EVER – in a position to destroy Comcast, I will. I will buy the company and personally force every single executive to live for a month in a neighborhood with shitty cable service. And then be forced to spend TWENTY-FIVE MINUTES on hold before even talking to a human being. No golden parachutes. I won't fire them. I will put them to work in the janitorial department.

As for the phone monkeys, I will go through my records and find every single one of you who EVER handled one of my calls. I know your little digital fingerprints are there. I will make your lives hell – wherever you are. Your incompetence is staggeringly profound. I DO NOT WANT AN EFFING SEFRVICE CALL. DON'T YOU THINK THAT AFTER I'VE CALLED YOU FIFTEEN TIMES IN SIX MONTHS THAT IT IS NOT SOMETHING A "SERVICE CALL" CAN FIX?

Stupid. Jaw-droppingly stupid. Wal-Mart hires people with more intelligence. And we all know what I think about Wal-Mart.

Moving on ….

I hesitate to write about being depressed, because I don't want this to turn into an emo-livejournal-thing, but man, I felt shitty driving home last night. And no, this isn't a cry for help, I'm just trying to work out how I feel. I process at a keyboard.

I don't know what's wrong with me lately, but I feel so "damaged," almost as if my life were an Etch-a-Sketch, and someone keeps shaking the drawing every three minutes. I don't know where to turn to, I don't even know which way is up or down or sideways anymore.

I just feel trapped in this loop where every day feels like it is over before I start doing anything – and every week is over before I get anything done. I bought my grandparents a card for their 59th anniversary, put it by the door to take to the post office, and just looked at it yesterday morning. Their anniversary was two weeks ago.

I don't know who I am – and worse, I don't know who I want to be. When I was in college, I suffered from the arrogance of youth – and I was so "sure" of who I was. I was a horrible person on the inside then – but youth is about learning. And I did learn – and I'm still learning – but damn – there has to be something more to life than this.

There's nothing around me that makes my heart race, my pulse pound, my ears ring. I feel like I walk through life a zombie sometimes, going from home to work and pressing buttons to make words appear on a screen.

There are all these thoughts in my head – things that I know with the certainty of a thousand oaths sworn upon the sacred texts of all the religions of the planet – that no one at my real job will listen to. It is so discouraging to be hired and asked to innovate – and then sit and watch people absolutely refuse to take the advice they're paying you for.

All too frequently now I feel like the only intelligent person in a room full of people with blinders over their eyes and their hands clamped firmly over their ears all screaming "LALALALALALALALALALALALALALALALALALALALA" at the top of their lungs as fast and as loud as they can, stopping only to cash a six-figure paycheck or tip the valet. And they only reason they're acting like that is because they don't want to hear what anyone else has to say. So damn discouraging.

This is how Fox Mulder felt – except that I don't have a Scully, or even the Lone Gunmen. I don't even have any fish. However, if this turns into that shitty "Jose Chung's 'From Outer Space" episode, I'm gonna kill a bitch. That mess was rank.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

CrumbCast - round one thousand

Before I start, THANK YOU for all your wonderful words of support. I had a really crappy couple days Tuesday & Wednesday, topped off by a meltdown in traffic while I was already a half-hour late to something I really didn't need to be late to. I missed a turn in the dark and drove three miles in the wrong direction looking for a turn lane or a median cut or anything – damn "NO U-TURN SIGNS." I went to work yesterday, basically because I had to – but locked myself in a conference room and didn't come out until 2 p.m. I told everyone I had bad vibes. They just think I'm unsociable. Whatever. Anyway. My GMAIL notifier kept going boing-boing and I'd read another comment and I just finally had to smile. Thanks. I mean that. I might be a shitty writer, but you're all fabulous, wonderful individuals.

On that note …

CrumbCast just sucks huge and major dick. I don't even call and complain anymore – it does no good. There is probably a note on my account "customer suck – ignore and promise service call – listen to strangled screams of rage."

If it rains, the line goes out. If the wind blows, the line goes out. If it gets cool, the line goes out. If a bird takes a crap, the line goes out. If a leaf falls the wrong way, the line goes out. It is a complete joke that a First World country has such poor infrastructure.

This is what monopoly has wrought upon the American people. I think I'm going to cancel my HBO & Showtime as soon as this season of "The Wire" is over – and possibly cancel my cable altogether and see about getting an aircard.

When I call to cancel, I am going to tell them – "You cannot provide me with Internet service, you do not deserve my dollars." Sadly, CrumbCast or Embarq (that motley collection of dog feces) are the only games in town. I long ago gave up on Embarq – back when they were Sprint and gave me a 10-day install time just to turn on the phone service in my apartment.

I downloaded the Scissor Sisters mashup album "Da-Tah" from arjanwrites – and I'm sort of liking it. I'm not a huge Scissor Sisters fan, but I love how the Internet and cheap/free software have inspired all sorts of new creative expression built upon the bones of established art.

Apropos of nothing, I had a late dinner with a friend last night. Word of advice to anyone considering Jack Daniels bourbon sauce for the hot wings – "avoid." Gastric distress – I CAN HAZ IT. I was driving home and had to make an emergency stop by the office park where I work and visit the necessary.

Of course, when you're in a "hurry," the parking lot seems ten miles long and the security measures just seem to slow you down. Badge. Elevator. Badge again, because we only get specific floors of the building, and maintenance is in the bathroom. I went anyway. I told the 700-year-old Eastern European man that does our maintenance "I have to go." He stayed for a second scrubbing the sink but left when I went into the stall. How nice of him. I have no shame dropping a deuce with people around though. I had to GO.

Going to every sleazy dance club and gay bar in three southern states teaches you real quick not to be particular about the facilities. If they have toilet paper and it flushes, count your blessings. If there's a sink with running water and some paper towels, you need to go buy lottery tickets and hire an investment attorney. And the signs on the door in these types of places are essentially just "suggestions," – and the more people that get comfortable going to the loo together the better. That just means you get back to the dance floor sooner.

Lord, the things I did back in the college days. There was this one club in Mississippi, called "Club City Lights," that was in a, shall we say, "not so good" area of town. (they always are). To get through the door, you had to go through a metal detector. Then, there was the pat-down from a six-foot-plus bouncer that could have started at linebacker on any NFL team.

It was a fun night though – it was just insane. The club had table service, there was great dance music and underground club cuts I'd never heard before and I think they had some live jazz around 4 a.m. – which was just amazing. The place was open all night – right up till 5 a.m.; we ate breakfast on one of the floating casinos on the Mississippi River sometime around 7 a.m. and watched the sun rise. I remember thinking that even at that hour on a Monday morning, there were some hardcore gamblers up in the joint pumping money into the slot machines or looking grim over the blackjack tables.

I miss the circle of friends I had then; we fought like dogs sometimes, but we did love each other. I work too hard now, and don’t play enough – and there's no one around me that has that same sense of carefree whimsy that we seemed elevate from character trait to lifestyle.

Being an adult sucks.