Monday, August 29

Vacation Email

So I'm back from vacation. So I turn on my computer. So what is the first thing I see?

"You have 382 messages."

I have been approved for 87 mortgages.

I have won 23 stainless steel watches.

Thirty-seven girls named Tiffany want me to call them ASAP.

A total of 48 well meaning folks want to help me with the quality of my - how shall I put it? - manhood. I wonder if any of them is named Tiffany?

There are 7 people who want to be sure my teeth are as white as they can be.

Nineteen dieticians will help me lose weight.

Twenty-eight pharmacists will sell me anything from Ambien to Xenical without the annoyance of obtaining a prescription.

Seven banks sent a total of 103 messages warning me that my account is in danger of immediate cancellation if I don't send them my user name, password, social security number, and mother's maiden name.

And the very erudite, though grammatically challenged, Dr. Clement Okon of Nigeria has offered to transfer "...THE SUM OF $21,320,000.00 (TWENTY ONE MILLION, THREE HUNDRED AND TWENTY THOUSAND U.S DOLLARS)...WE HOPE TO COMMENCE THE TRANSFER LATEST SEVEN (7) BANKING DAYS" into any of one those bank accounts if I just give him the account number and PIN. I'm sorry, Dr. Okon, but the chances of that happening are zero (0).

I must admit, though, it is humbling to be so popular.

Friday, August 19

Multicultural Medicine

I work in an office populated by, as my third grade geography teacher used to say, "people of many lands". I don't think they have geography teachers anymore. The other day on the bus I heard a couple of young people arguing about whether Chicago was in Illinois or Indiana.

Since we are a multicultural group, when anyone has a health problem there are several different suggestions for treatment. For example Nu might recommend acupuncture and tea, whereas Marcel would suggest a glass of wine and a good cheese. Esther never hesitates to offer to call her son-the-doctor, while Karl just wants you to tough it out and quit your Gottfluch whining.

Last time I was feeling under the weather I tried all of these palliatives, enduring Nu's needles in my neck while drinking a sludgy green brew, followed by cheap Merlot and runny Brie with Marcel. I called Esther's son, who turned out to be an obstetrician, and finally retreated to my office, being sure to let Karl see that I was suffering in silence.

As I sat behind my desk staring at the world map I keep on the wall, I could hear them talking and laughing and discussing their various remedies.

I'm glad I could help them feel better.

Wednesday, August 17

Do these pictures of these shoes make me look fat?

Yesterday I wrote about some new shoes I bought and longtime reader and loyal fan blogblogblog asked to see a picture, so here they are in all their glory.

Dig it!

Tuesday, August 16

Do these shoes make me look fat?

I’ve never been concerned about fashion when it came to sneakers. I usually look for something comfortable that doesn’t cost too much. I have no brand loyalty, and probably have worn shoes made by a dozen different manufacturers over the last few years. I do try to avoid certain brands because, thanks to Michael Moore, I can’t get away from the image of a half-starved, six year old third world child applying bloody fingers to a pair of $190 shoes. But that’s just me.

I guess that’s why market researchers don’t care about my opinon.

Recently I was shopping in a discount department store with my wife. She was actually shopping. I was just loitering around the underwear looking for those white tee shirts that have no label tag to irritate my delicate neck. As I wandered across the border into the shoe department I saw a pair a shoes that I found very attractive. Even though, according to my self imposed footwear schedule, I was not due to purchase a new pair of sneakers for at least 3 months, I couldn’t help but be attracted to these shoes.

They were not the Seinfeld white that I normally buy, but light tan in color with a flat bottom and very shallow tread. Around the edges there was a dark red trim. The laces were long and round and plump and glowed with an attitude that said “Hey, you. Tie this!”

They were on sale at a very reasonable price so I tried on a pair. They fit perfectly. I walked around the shoe department in them. They were light on my feet, almost like not wearing shoes at all. Then I stood with my back to a mirror and quickly turned around to get a surprise look. The impact was stunning. They looked great on me. I had to have them.

When I got to the checkout my wife was waiting. “New shoes?” she said, observing the box under my arm. “Is it that season already?”

“I saw them and I had to have them, that’s all”, I said somewhat defensively.

“Relax”, she said. “It’s your schedule, not mine.”

By then we were at the register and I handed over my purchase. The clerk scanned it and I saw the description on the register screen come up as “Skate”.

“What does ‘Skate’ mean?” I asked the young man behind the counter.

“Like, you know, skateboarding.”

“You mean these are shoes for riding on a skateboard?”

“Well, uh, yeah.”

Now I was riddled with doubt. How many 58 year old men wore skateboarding shoes? Was I just going to look ridiculous walking around in shoes designed to execute ollies and frontside 180's?

Still, I remembered the impact of that surprise look in the mirror. I went ahead and completed the purchase.

Now I have one more decision to make.

Do I get the maple deck pintail longboard or go with the f-glazz old skool pooler?

Sunday, August 14

Goodnight, boss.

Ollie, the night guard in my office building, has always bid a cheery "goodnight!" to the workers as we left for home, and many of us would wish him a "goodnight, Ollie" as well. On Fridays it really became a lovefest - "Have a good one!", "Ollie, enjoy it!" "Thank God It's Friday, right?" "You know it, Ollie!" "See you Monday!"

After a while Ollie started adding a little sobriquet to his farewells, like "Goodnight, boss" or "Have a good one, chief." This was a nice parting gift, and for a few minutes it made those of us workers in the drone category feel special. It added a little spring to our step. We walked the walk of "boss". We walked the walk of "chief".

One night I was leaving a little later than usual after an extended struggle with a database that wouldn't behave. "Goodnight, Ollie", I said with a sigh of fatigue.

"Goodnight, Doctor", perked Ollie.

Doctor? Where did that come from? I suppose he was just going for a little variety, but I must admit it was rather flattering. I spent my trip home weighing the value of "Doctor" versus "Chief".

The next night I gave Ollie a jolly wave on my way out and he sang out "Goodnight, Your Honor." I almost floated out the door until I was brought back to earth by the stinking, humid morass that is Manhattan in August. But I didn't care. The world of the mundane has little effect on someone known as "Your Honor".

Last Monday as I was leaving for home there was a new guard on duty, a polite boy, but rather young to be in charge of security. "Where's Ollie?" I asked.

"Promoted. He's going to be working days. He made Captain."

Just then I saw Ollie step out of the elevator, dressed in a spiffy new uniform. "Goodnight, Jordan", he said to the new guard, then nodded in my direction and said, "Goodnight."

"Goodnight", I said. Then I added, "Captain."

Wednesday, August 10

Creative Meets Critical

I recently started taking a creative writing class at The Learning Appendage. I suppose some less generous readers of these posts may be thinking, “Well, it’s about time” but I will forgive you those thoughts.

Unfortunately not enough people signed up for creative writing so we were combined with another class called "Critical Thinking for the Twenty-First Century". I have never been sure what was actually involved in critical thinking - regardless of the century - but I was about to find out.

At the first class the teacher asked if anyone wanted to read something they had written, so I read from a poem I have been working on for some years.

When I had finished the teacher asked the class for some feedback.

One of the critical thinking students said “Complete drivel.”

“Can anyone expand on that?” queried the teacher.

From the back of the room I heard a voice that sounded disturbingly like my nemesis, Nelson, add, “How about ‘unmitigated drivel’?”

“Better”, said the teacher. “Are you a critical thinker or a creative writer?"

"I'm a double major", said Nelson.

That figured. Nelson is nothing if not an overachiever.

"Now just a minute", I defended. "It's easy enough to be critical. Now how about some thinking? What's wrong with this poem?"

"Well, for one", said Nelson, "it's in iambic pentameter." The teacher nodded approvingly.

"and WRONG with THAT, i ASK you SIR, is WHAT?"

"It doesn't sound natural", said Nelson. "Language like that sounds unmanly. In fact, if you think about it, just writing poetry is kind of unmanly."

That really got my knickers in a twist.

"Hey, being a poet is not unmanly! There are lot's of very manly poets."

"Name one."

I ill advisedly tossed out the first name that came to mind. "Percy Bysshe Shelley."


"I rest my case."

"Ralph Waldo Emerson, then."

"Why do they all have three names? Trying to compensate?"

I desperately tried to think of a manly poet. "Bruce Springsteen."

"The Boss? I don't think so", sputtered Nelson.

"Or maybe I should say 'Bruce Frederick Joseph Springsteen'. If I count right that's four names".


"...Frederick Joseph...", I added.

"... is no poet."

"Seems to me they are always calling Bruce 'The Poet Of His Generation."

"How would you like to get poetic with a knuckle sandwich, buddy?"

It degenerated from there, with neither of us being creative or doing much thinking. I believe they will be separating the classes in the future, though.

As for my poem,

on IT i'll WORK both DAY and NIGHT til DONE.

Thursday, August 4

Learning Spanish

I've been learning Spanish by reading the ads on the subway. So far I have learned these words:

herido - injured

plomo - lead

resbalar - slip

daños y prejucious - damages

caída - fall

envenenamiento - poisoning

llama - call

un - a

a bajo costo - cheap

abogado - lawyer

Monday, August 1

General Washington, meet Mr. Rove

After reading about the adventures of George Washington in David McCullough's new book 1776 and at the same time following the adventures of Karl Rove on the news every night the following scenario occurred to me.

It is January 1777. George Washington and his small army have crossed the Delaware River and defeated the Hessian mercenaries at Trenton, New Jersey. News comes that the British General Charles Cornwallis and his army are approaching from the north to counterattack. Washington consults with his Generals, Nathanael Greene and Henry Knox, as well as a new advisor, Karl Rove.

Washington: Gentlemen, we have won a great victory. Now we must determine the best course of action against Cornwallis. How do you advise?

Greene: Sir, we must attack to secure our gains. Cornwallis is a worthy opponent, but the righteousness of our cause will not be denied.

Knox: I agree. Cornwallis is an good man and a fine leader, but we can defeat him if we keep faith with our cause. We must pledge our sacred honor and attack.

Washington: And you, Rove. What do you counsel?

Rove: I say we see if we can dig up any dirt on his wife. Find out where she works, if she maybe had something to do with him getting his job; make him look like he's “whipped”, if you know what I mean.

Washington: I'm sure I don't know what you mean Rove.

Rove: I wonder if he has any medals. Let's see if we can raise questions about any medals he has been awarded. You know, make it seem like he doesn't deserve them.

Washington: I don't think we want to pledge our sacred honor to "dig up some dirt".

Rove: You know, I heard he's a womanizer and a drunk.

Washington: I have never heard any such thing.

Rove: Well, you have now. It'll be plastered all over every pamphlet and almanac from here to Timbuktu in a week.

Washington: I think that is quite enough, Rove. I'm going to have to ask you to leave.

Rove: Leave? I'm just getting started. What about his kids? They ever been kicked our of school or anything? Or his old man? Any shady real estate deals or maybe a gambling problem?

Wahington: You there, Lt. Burr. Will you please excort Mr. Rove from the room.

Rove: Get your hands off me Burr. You don't know who you're dealing with. Your reputation is toast - do you hear me? Toast! It would be so easy to have Novak spread it around that you're a trigger-happy hothead. What do you think of that? How would you like to go down in history as a trigger-happy hothead, huh?

Washington: For God's sake, Rove. Control yourself. I worry for you.

Rove: You don't have to worry about me, "Excellency". Hah! Nothing excellent about your teeth, is there? How'd it be if Novak got a hold of that, General Splinter Mouth? “Anonymous sources report that the savior of our country can’t even chew his own meat. He has to have his wife do it for him.” Hah!

Washington: You are a scoundrel of the first order, sir. I feel sorry for you. Good day.

Rove: Don't feel sorry for me. I've already got another gig lined up.

Washington, Greene, and Knox: "Gig"?

Rove: I start work next week for a real hero.

Washington: A real hero?

Rove: It just so happens I‘ll be senior advisor to one of the finest military minds there is. And unlike you losers, I have a feeling he'll do whatever I tell him to.

Washington: And who might that be?

Rove: Why, Benedict Arnold of course.