Welcome to Conformity

welcome to conformitypopulation infinity
where trash cans form a 

silent dawn patrol, transversing

dewy lawns
and in every home, pestilential secrets are sealed, the hinges on every door 

weakened by promises left desolate
these freak flags won’t fly here without

invoking a bloodless coup

Drive Like You Stole It (Poem)

our spaces are filled up with so many useless notes,

coined by uninspired copywriters 

peddling you this

half-assed ideal of a better life
that has never been yours to

live anyhow
learn to live, learn to love, learn

to fuck, learn to chase the perfect

whiskey with an ice-cold beer
lose money at the poker table,

root for the wrong team, fall in love

with a dangerous woman. or a

dangerous man
drive like you stole it

oprah doesn’t give a fuck about you

Suzanne, Part III (Writing 101, Day Sixteen)

Part I, click here.

Part II, click here.

 

Even though she’d disappeared from my life, I thought about Suzanne frequently. I’d wanted to call her, but never could get myself to do so. There was a part of me that was hurt she’d disappeared, just like that. It was stupid, of course, to feel this way. The relationship was doomed to be nothing more than short-term. I wouldn’t have been surprised. I shouldn’t have been surprised. Yet I was stung by how the end just came, without warning.

I still rode the 7 train to work every morning. In time, I stopped looking for her. She’d moved on, and it was time for me to do the very same.

Several months later, right as the weather was starting to flash the first signs of summer’s arrival, I spotted a familiar face across a 7 train car that was sparsely crowded in spite of it being rush hour. Without hesitating, I walked across the car and positioned myself next to her, as she was standing by one of the doors. When she recognized me, she blushed, then threw the kind of bear hug that betrayed her not giving one shit as to whether or not someone had anything to say about her very public display of affection. I certainly wasn’t complaining. It was exactly the kind of reaction I was hoping for.

“Omigod, how are you, how have you been, how’s everything, my God, I’ve been busy, I’ve missed you!”

Suzanne said a lot – she landed a new job, she went on that trip to Jamaica she’d threatened to go, did you see Jerry Maguire? – but all I heard was I missed you.

What didn’t matter to me was, if she missed you so much, why didn’t she bother to pick up the phone and call you?

What mattered to me was, how much did she miss me?

We met for dinner and drinks a couple of nights later, and caught up.

We chatted about every topic we could imagine.

All the while, I was waiting for her to say something to me: I’m sorry things ended so abruptly. I have to apologize to you for what I did. I need to tell you what happened.

The conversation was lively, as it had always been. Months had passed between us, but it felt as if Suzanne and I hadn’t seen each other in mere days. Nothing had changed.

Yet everything was different. Her eyes were still alive and wild, and I could tell she really wanted to be around me, but there was something missing. I hadn’t expected any flame to be rekindled, and it wasn’t going to happen. The same overwhelming desire to chase this high that she exuded was gone. In its place was a relationship that was going to be strictly platonic.

And I was going to be perfectly fine with that.

The irony of the platonic relationship, in losing a romantic relationship, but finding some new relationship, was that Suzanne and I now spent even more time together. We attended parties together. We would meet for lunch often – the steps in front of the New York Public Library was a favorite spot to meet for a quick bite and people-watch – or just hang out at her place, sharing what red wine and recreational drugs she had readily available. Whenever she’d call and ask what I was doing, my answer was typically, “Whatever you’re doing.” What I found in Suzanne was a partner in crime, an equal of sorts whom I could bounce ideas off of.

Yet I couldn’t get past why she ended the relationship, the romantic one, so suddenly. I never got an explanation. I imagined all sorts of reasons why she disappeared and didn’t return my calls. Maybe there was another man. Maybe there was a coke-and-booze fueled weekend. Maybe she just got bored of me. I never probed for an explanation, knowing I wasn’t going to get one. But it still rankled me.

In spite of my unresolved feelings towards Suzanne, we remained tight. Then we drifted apart. The last time I saw her was on – surprise, surprise – the 7 train; she was getting on, I was getting off. She invited me to a party she was having. Just a few friends, at Sheep’s Meadow in Central Park. I told her I wouldn’t miss it.

I didn’t go. And I didn’t get a “Why didn’t you come to my party?” phone call from her.
POSTSCRIPT

Several years later, I’m in a relationship, with the woman who would later become my wife. We’re living together. I’m happy, excited about the future.

On the commute to work one morning, I see her. Suzanne. She doesn’t see me. She’s wearing a smile on her face, clearly amused or pleased about something unbeknownst only to her. I think about walking across the car, just to say hello, but I don’t. It’s for the best, anyway. What’s the point in saying hello and writing another chapter to a story that wasn’t going to have a good ending to it, anyway.

She gets off at the next stop.

I never saw Suzanne again.

 

It’s Gotta Be the Steroids

An admission: I am all hopped up on steroids recently. No, not the performance-enhancing kind, unless there are some writing-enhancing steroids, which in that case I’ll cross the border in Mexico and bring back suitcases full of that shit. Yes, I’m on Prednisone. I had oral surgery last week; I really won’t go into gory details, except Prednisone and some low-grade painkillers and Amoxicillin were involved post-surgery. At any rate, I really hate that I’m on this crap right now.

My wife warned me that Prednisone would make me irritable. Oh, joy! As if I’m not already on the fucking knife edge of irritability! Now I’m on doses that will not only take me over the irritability edge, I’ll likely set up permanent camp there. Hoo-fucking-ray! For example, my job has me overworked and hyperfunctioning. And every time I get another e-mail about some request that I’m supposed to complete RIGHT NOW, I just want to pull this on my laptop:

What would Don Draper do? Throw a hissy fit on a typewriter, that’s what.

But I can’t. I’m a professional. So instead I simply gnash my teeth and unfurl the worst kinds of obscenities possible. Good thing I work from home, where this kind of behavior is acceptable.

All kidding aside, that’s not the worst part of being on Prednisone. The worst part is the ravenous appetite. As in, I’m constantly hungry. All I want to do is eat like The Rock on one of his cheat days. Just last night, my wife and I ordered pizza from Papa John’s, which we never do, but since our daughter’s away at the grandparents, we figure, hey, let’s party!

Well, Jabba the Hutt here just about ate all but two slices of an extra-large pie. And then I was hungry a couple of hours later.

It’s not just hunger. It’s a craving for sweets. I stopped to buy cupcakes for my daughter’s party, and said to myself, “What the hell, I’ll treat myself to one.” No, not one. Two. Two big fat cupcakes. All this while being able to chew only from one side of my mouth.

I took my last dose this morning. But it stays in your system for about a month after the last dose. Great. Just my luck. By this time next month, I’ll be 30 pounds heavier, a diabetic, and prone to fits of HULK SMASH! moments.

At least all of that would make for a charming anecdote in my memoir.

Wait, I’m writing a memoir?

Suzanne (Writing 101, Day Four)

The 7 train from Flushing, heading into Manhattan, teemed with humanity every morning. I would catch the 7 train at 74th Street, watching Queens Blvd. pass me below as I sunk into the music piping from my Walkman. Everyone on board the 7 train looked exactly the same, preoccupied, needing to be somewhere, even if that somewhere wasn’t that important. Faceless faces everywhere, ignoring one another, their faces buried in the morning’s New York Times, or simply staring off into space. This was my commute to work every morning.

Until I first saw her.

She seemed to have appeared from out of nowhere, a pale-skinned, crystalline-eyed girl standing in between the faceless face, holding on to the handrail, looking amused. She was something different to look at, so I stole a few glances her way. Somewhere in between Queensboro Plaza and the tunnel heading into Manhattan, she returned my glance. And smiled. And coyly looked away. Time froze for me at that moment. Oh shit oh shit oh shit I’m in trouble she’ll think I’m some stalker.

But, no. She looked at me once again. Smiling once again.

This was my stop. It wasn’t hers. I made sure we made eye contact as I walked off the car with the rest of the faceless faces getting off at Grand Central. It was all I could to keep from thinking about this girl all day long. Who was she? Where did she work? What was she like? Would she like me?

I searched through the car every morning and every night on the way home, through the faceless faces, searching for this girl. A few days passed, and it dawned on me that perhaps this girl was a figment of my imagination, and she wasn’t there after all. Maybe my drinking was catching up to; I was hallucinating now?

 

The 7 train that one morning wasn’t as crowded. For once, I found a seat. In front of the girl.

Play it cool, son. Play it cool.

We exchanged more glances. I wanted to say something to her, something smooth, but terrified I’d blurt out something idiotic like, “Come here often?” She’d laugh in my face and tell me to get lost. So much for playing it cool. I played it so cool that I just sat there, the two of us making eye contact. I was hoping she’d make the first move, at the very least lean over the aisle and ask me my name. But there’s still rules to be respected. If I wanted to get to know her, I needed to make the first move.

All the while, I was conveniently avoiding that I was in a relationship. One that I wasn’t happy in.

Grand Central, next stop. I got off, but not without bidding her good day. She smiled and whispered the same to me.

Don’t be such a chickenshit next time, I reminded myself as I trudged the sad bastard walk up that long flight of stairs to the street, thinking I’d probably blown my chance with this girl.

 

The next time, I wasn’t going to miss my chance. And when that moment came, there she was, as the doors to the subway car came open at 74th Street. There was no way I could avoid her; we were within inches of each other, face to face, and someone had to say something to one another.

I gathered myself as quickly as I could, and said the first thing that came to mind:B

“You know, if we keep meeting like this, people are going to talk.”

Oh, that was fucking smooth. What’s next, “Hey babe, what’s your sign?” Idiot!

But she laughed. Loudly. And replied, “You’re right. Maybe they should talk.”

Her name was Suzanne. She loved J.D. Salinger, a strong beer, and the Stones. She loved to talk, and that’s all we did on the 30-minute train ride. Just talk, freely, getting to know one another, because there’s no better place to meet a random stranger and learn what you want to learn about them than on a subway car, right?

And I never felt more at ease with another woman like I had with her. Unlike what I was feeling with my girlfriend, who made me feel pressured to move into a another step in our relationship that I wasn’t ready or even willing to discuss with her.

When I got off at Grand Central, not before getting her phone number, I walked off the train with my chest out, happier than a pig in shit. Then I realized I had a decision to make.

And someone was going to get hurt.

 

Everything I Learned About Life, I Learned From Watching Movies

Over at the Daily Post, Anna Fonté – who blogs at girl in the hat, and it’s a terrific blog you need to add to your blogroll RIGHT NOW – is hosting this week’s writing challenge, and she’s come up with an outstanding one that’s right in my wheelhouse. In “Listing Towards Something,” Anna challenges us to make a list, a random list, but to transcend that list in the numerical or orderly format that lists usually fall into. By digging deeper into the list, we mine more into the story we’re searching for.

Challenge accepted.

Lists are a big deal for me. As an obsessive list-maker, lists chronicle important aspects of my life, and the obsessive qualities that I carry with me throughout my life. As an example, this coming Friday the 30th will be the first in a series of list-type blogs in which I’ll countdown a favorite thing of mine (favorite film, book, music, etc.), and document what each item on that list means and how that item has impacted me. This Friday the 30th will feature Part One of “101 Favorite Films: #101-91. Stay tuned.

I wrote “Everything I Learned About Life, I Learned From Watching Movies” as a way to describe a few personal tenets I’ve picked up along the way in my journey through life. Thoughts about taking principled stands, falling in love, having a personal philosophy, things of such nature, I’ve found that several of my favorite films echo these very same sentiments.

Here now, is a list of personal tenets and philosophies that I’ve learned just from watching movies.

Enjoy.

 

ON DOING WHAT’S RIGHT

“Just get up off the ground, that’s all I ask. Get up there with that lady that’s up on top of this Capitol dome, that lady that stands for liberty. Take a look at this country through her eyes if you really want to see something. And you won’t just see scenery; you’ll see the whole parade of what Man’s carved out for himself, after centuries of fighting. Fighting for something better than just jungle law, fighting so’s he can stand on his own two feet, free and decent, like he was created, no matter what his race, color, or creed. That’s what you’d see. There’s no place out there for graft, or greed, or lies, or compromise with human liberties. And, uh, if that’s what the grownups have done with this world that was given to them, then we’d better get those boys’ camps started fast and see what the kids can do. And it’s not too late, because this country is bigger than the Taylors, or you, or me, or anything else. Great principles don’t get lost once they come to light. They’re right here; you just have to see them again!”

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939)

 
ON RACISM

“All right, we’ll give some land to the n*****s and the c****s, but we DON’T WANT THE IRISH!”

Blazing Saddles (1974)

 
ON DIVERSITY

“I could be wrong, but I believe diversity is an old, old wooden ship that was used during the Civil War era.”

Anchorman: the Legend of Ron Burgundy (2004)

 
ON LOVE

“The greatest thing you’ll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return.”

Moulin Rouge! (2001)

 
ON REKINDLING AN OLD FLAME

“Where I’m going, you can’t follow. What I’ve got to do, you can’t be any part of. Ilsa, I’m no good at being noble, but it doesn’t take much to see that the problems of three little people don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world. Someday you’ll understand that. Now, now… Here’s looking at you kid.”

Casablanca (1942)

 
ON REGRET

“You don’t understand! I could’ve had class. I could’ve been a contender. I could’ve been somebody, instead of a bum, which is what I am.”

On The Waterfront (1954)

 
ON FINDING THE RIGHT CAREER

“It’s important to have a job that makes a difference, boys. That’s why I manually masturbate caged animals for artificial insemination.”

Clerks (1994)

 
ON BEING FED A LINE OF HORSESHIT

“Well, I’ve been to one world fair, a picnic, and a rodeo, and that’s the stupidest thing I ever heard come over a set of earphones!”

Dr. Strangelove, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying And Love the Bomb (1964)

 
ON PHILOSOPHY

“Well, I believe in the soul, the cock, the pussy, the small of a woman’s back, the hanging curve ball, high fiber, good scotch, that the novels of Susan Sontag are self-indulgent, overrated crap. I believe Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone. I believe there ought to be a constitutional amendment outlawing Astroturf and the designated hitter. I believe in the sweet spot, soft-core pornography, opening your presents Christmas morning rather than Christmas Eve and I believe in long, slow, deep, soft, wet kisses that last three days. [pause] Goodnight.”

Bull Durham (1988)

 

ON BUSINESS SAVVY

“I’ll make him an offer he can’t refuse.”

– The Godfather (1972)

 

ON THE BANALITY OF EVIL

“Some men aren’t looking for anything logical, like money. They can’t be bought, bullied, reasoned or negotiated with. Some men just want to watch the world burn.”

The Dark Knight (2008)

 

ON LIVING UP TO THE EXPECTATIONS SET BY OTHERS

“This never happened to the other fellow.”

– On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969)

 
ON SPONTANEITY

“Let’s just say we’re taking a flying fuck at a rolling donut.”

Last Tango in Paris (1972)

 
ON SEX

“I haven’t been fucked like that since grade school!”

Fight Club (1999)

 
ON THE MEANING OF LIFE

“Vice, Virtue. It’s best not to be too moral. You cheat yourself out of too much *life*. Aim above morality. If you apply that to life, then you’re bound to live life fully.”

Harold and Maude (1971)

 
ON DEATH

“I’m obsessed with uh, with death, I think. Big – big subject with me, yeah. I have a very pessimistic view of life. You should know this about me if we’re gonna go out. You know, I – I feel that life is – is divided up into the horrible and the miserable. Those are the two categories, you know. The – the horrible would be like, um, I don’t know, terminal cases, you know, and blind people, crippled. I don’t know how they get through life. It’s amazing to me. You know, and the miserable is everyone else. That’s – that’s – so – so – when you go through life – you should be thankful that you’re miserable because you’re very lucky to be miserable.”

Annie Hall (1977)

Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word (Especially if You’re a Racist Billionnaire)

Raise your hand if you’ve had enough of this guy already.

“Are those black people sitting over there? Who let them in? They smell!”

A month ago, unless you were a NBA fan, or a real estate groupie, you didn’t know who Donald Sterling was. Those of us who follow sports hate the kind of person Donald Sterling is: a spectacularly inept owner of a laughingstock of a franchise that often pleads poverty, yet laughs all the way to bank, thanks to the NBA’s lucrative revenue sharing program. Sterling’s Los Angeles Clippers were, for decades, the worst sports franchise around, thanks to his indifference. Why build a winning team when the NBA’s socialist-like share-the-wealth economics guarantees that even bad teams like the Clippers turn a hefty profit. The Clippers were a remote NBA outpost, where high draft picks turned into million-dollar busts (Michael Olowakandi, anyone?), and former All-Stars went to watch their careers slowly die. Meanwhile, across the street, the Los Angeles Lakers of Magic Johnson (more on him later) and Kareem Abdul-Jabber, and then Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant, were one of the pillars of continued NBA excellence.

But then the Clippers got good. Real good, thanks to Chris Paul and Blake Griffith. All of which must have pissed Donald Sterling off. Because Sterling’s clearly the kind of owner who’s more concerned about his bottom line – as evidenced by all the years of the Clippers being the NBA’s Shittiest Franchise – than building a championship contender. Because all this winning means he’s going to have to pay the likes of Paul and Griffith (and quite possibly LeBron James, if those stupid rumors are to be believe, and they’re not) fat, long-term contracts. And Donald Sterling doesn’t like to pay fat, long-term contracts.

(All of this is moot right now, because he may not own the Clippers much longer, but let’s speculate, shall we?)

His parsimony, in spite of his billions, speaks volumes about him.

But he let his bigoted views, albeit viewed privately, say even more about him.

You’ve probably heard and read the racist nonsense that spewed from his mouth, from a conversation recorded by his then-girlfriend. Sterling managed to come across as a plantation owner (“I give these people money, clothes, cars…”), an expert on Instagram (“Stop posting so many damn pictures of you with blacks on Instagram!”) and a marketing genius (“I don’t want black people coming to Clippers games”) in the span of a privately-recorded conversation. Being the NBA is 95% African-American, of course NBA Commissioner Adam Silver had to act quickly and harshly: a lifetime banishment for Sterling, plus a $25 million fine. Some decry the punishment as too harsh, but if the punishment is too lenient, it sets a dangerous precident: the Clippers can forget ever attracting high-priced talent, or any talent, to their organization, and the loss of fans and revenue would be too much for that franchise to bear.

So would Sterling have learned his lesson? Of course not. Not as evidenced by his loathsome interview with Anderson Cooper the other night.

Sterling didn’t apologize – okay, he did say he “made a terrible mistake,” but that’s not the same thing as showing contrition – as much as he began throwing everyone under the bus. As if him spewing racist comments about black people was somehow his ex-girlfriend’s fault, or the NBA’s fault. Or worse, how he disparaged Magic Johnson in the most vile fashion possible. “Magic Johnson hasn’t done much for the black community. And you can’t trust him, he has AIDS.”

Sterling’s attack on Magic Johnson isn’t just vile and unfounded – because, after all, Magic Johnson has done a million times more for black-owned businesses than Donald Sterling has done, and he has HIV, not AIDS – it demonstrates the human inability to truly apologize for any wrongdoing. We’ve seen it happen all the time: a politician caught in a scandal, blaming his enemies or the media for being caught with hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribe money. A former child actor who blames his drug addiction on “bad parenting.” In our own lives, we’re quick to find a scapegoat for our sins, rather than own up to our wrongdoings.

I should know. I’ve been guilty of a lot of wrongdoings, and I spent a lot of time finding convenient excuses: addicitions, stress, anger, bad parenting. When my marriage was crumbling, I blamed everything around me for my affair and for my horrible behavior. It was only when I was at my lowest was when I came to the realization that being truly sorry for everything I did wrong meant acknowledging what I did was wrong, and I had no excuse for my behavior. And not just that, but accept the consequences and punishments for my wrongdoings. I had to show I was sorry, not just say it. I’ve spent the better part of the past two years successfully rebuilding my marriage, and demonstrating that I’m not just sorry for what I did, but that I will never do it again.

For me, personally, being able to say I’m sorry has the best thing that could happen to me. I hesitate to use language like “it’s cleansed my soul,” but it’s given me a peace of mind I don’t think I’ve ever really had. It’s allowed me to resolve guilt, the guilt which unnecessarily fueled more destructive behavior.

I realize saying you’re sorry is something a lot of people have a very difficult time doing. For some, it’s a matter of vulnerability. For the likes of politicians or actors or Donald Sterling, it’s a toxic combination of arrogance and denial. You’re beyond reproach. So what if you got caught? You don’t get punished, because punishment is for little people.

As it stands, when Sterling is forced to sell the Clippers – not if, but when – the $15 million investment he made back in 1980 (when the Clippers toiled in San Diego) will net him a profit close to $500 million. As a businessman, he’d see the potential in making nearly a half-billion dollar profit, and ask, “Where do I sign?” because, after all, anything’s for sale, depending on the size of the check. But in Donald Sterling’s perverse world, he’s making a principled stand against those who have wrong him: his snitch of an ex-girlfriend, the NBA, commissioner Adam Silver, Magic Johnson, Oprah Winfrey, the NAACP, and Robert E. Lee, just to name a few.

Sterling’s shown he’s not going down without a fight, because losing his cash cow is his punishment. So the NBA will now brace itself for a fight. A needless, ugly fight. And he’s not sorry. Not one damned bit.

“The Shoelace,” by Charles Bukowski: A Mantra to Keep You From Going Insane

I have to remind myself daily that no matter what’s thrown at me in an attempt to piss me off, it’s not going to send me off the deep end. This is why I’ve read “The Shoelace,” a poem by the great Charles Bukowski, a lot lately. Read it, and you’ll see why it’s become my mantra, my koan, my litany against me losing my fucking mind on the stresses of life.

a woman, a
tire that’s flat, a
disease, a
desire: fears in front of you,
fears that hold so still
you can study them
like pieces on a
chessboard…
it’s not the large things that
send a man to the
madhouse. death he’s ready for, or
murder, incest, robbery, fire, flood…
no, it’s the continuing series of small tragedies
that send a man to the
madhouse…
not the death of his love
but a shoelace that snaps
with no time left …
The dread of life
is that swarm of trivialities
that can kill quicker than cancer
and which are always there –
licence plates or taxes
or expired driver’s license,
or hiring or firing,
doing it or having it done to you, or
roaches or flies or a
broken hook on a
screen, or out of gas
or too much gas,
the sink’s stopped-up, the landlord’s drunk,
the president doesn’t care and the governor’s
crazy.
lightswitch broken, mattress like a
porcupine;
$105 for a tune-up, carburetor and fuel pump at
sears roebuck;
and the phone bill’s up and the, market’s
down
and the toilet chain is
broken,
and the light has burned out –
the hall light, the front light, the back light,
the inner light; it’s
darker than hell
and twice as
expensive.
then there’s always crabs and ingrown toenails
and people who insist they’re
your friends;
there’s always that and worse;
leaky faucet, christ and christmas;
blue salami, 9 day rains,
50 cent avocados
and purple
liverwurst.

or making it
as a waitress at norm’s on the split shift,
or as an emptier of
bedpans,
or as a carwash or a busboy
or a stealer of old lady’s purses
leaving them screaming on the sidewalks
with broken arms at the age of 80.

suddenly
2 red lights in your rear view mirror
and blood in your
underwear;
toothache, and $979 for a bridge
$300 for a gold
tooth,
and china and russia and america, and
long hair and short hair and no
hair, and beards and no
faces, and plenty of zigzag but no
pot, except maybe one to piss in
and the other one around your
gut.

with each broken shoelace
out of one hundred broken shoelaces,
one man, one woman, one
thing
enters a
madhouse.

so be careful
when you
bend over.

Yes, things have been rough recently, and my levels of frustration have reached astronomical levels. But in the grand scheme of it all, everything that’s conspiring against me and my family – our careers, this very possible relocation, my daughter’s illness (which I haven’t really discussed, but I will in a future blog) – is just a collection of broken shoelaces, or, as my wife puts it, “death by a thousand paper cuts.” If we let those broken shoelaces impact us, then we’re heading straight to the loony bin.

And we can’t have that.

PS – I’m fine, actually. This isn’t some veiled request for help or anything like that. It’s just that when there’s a lot of balls that need to be juggled all at once, you need to look to something to help you sort things out. I started this blog nearly 2 years ago as a therapeutic outlet, and it’s a good time right now for sorting things out as I’m getting my writing back on track. Thanks for reading!

Time to Regroup, Or: Taking Matters Back Into Our Own Hands

My life has been in complete flux over the past couple of months. And when I say “flux,” try to imagine being tossed into a clothes dryer on the highest cycle, and then just as the cycle slows down and you think you’re about to be pulled out of the dryer, you get tossed back into the dryer. And it’s not like someone’s thrown a dryer sheet to keep you smelling fresh or keeping the static cling away, nothing like that, no sir.

Life was humming along nicely for my wife and I. Our jobs were treating us well – to be honest, mine better than hers, but we’ll get to that in a bit. The house we’re building was beginning to progress at the pace we wanted. I was writing daily, and with purpose, vigor, even. We were even seeing some very positive results from the Paleo diet we’d committed ourselves to. Funny how we felt so much better now that we managed to eliminate wheat from our diets entirely.

Then my wife’s employer, whom let’s say is a Fortune 100, no, a Fortune 10 company, decides to throw a monkey wrench at her. A giant, greasy monkey because they can. They love throwing monkey wrenches, in a we’re-gonna-challenge-you-because-we’re-assholes kind of way. The Human Resources organization she’s aligned with – she’s an HR Manager supporting nearly 1,000 employees in 49 states and 8 countries – is undergoing a restructuring, which means two things: one, my wife will be transitioning from her current assignment to a new assignment, and, two, her assignment will be in Cincinnati.

Neither of us want to relocate to Cincinnati.

That’s not the problem. The problem is we don’t know when the re-assignment will take place. That won’t be announced until before Memorial Day. Right around when we’re looking to close on the house we’re building. The re-assignment could take place this July. Or next July.

A few things could have happened here. My wife and I could have fought over this. Or we could have resigned ourselves to relocating to somewhere we have no desire of moving, even if that means a promotion. Or we could have taken matters into our own hands, and took back the decision-making regarding our professional and personal future.

We opted for the latter.

We’re moving forward with the home purchase. If all goes according to plan, we take ownership of our new home the first week of June. But if her employer comes back to her and tells her she’s being re-assigned come July, then they need to relocate us to Cincinnati, and assist in putting our home on our market and provide assistance for us to purchase in new home in a new city.

But we’re working on a contigency plan. Both of us feel as if the decision regarding our future has been taken off our hands, so we’re retaking this. Both my wife and I are looking for new jobs – she a new role, me a full-time role, since I’m a contract employee. I’m having some success with interviews here locally, with some employers interested, and a few interviews having taken place. But if we’re going to have to relocate, we’d rather relocate to somewhere we want to relocate. My wife has attracted interest with several employers outside of our current home location, and she’s slated to interview for an HR Manager role in a few weeks. It remains to be seen whether they’re interested in hiring her.

Look, nothing against Cincinnati, but both of us have been there, and it’s not a place we’ve ranked high on our list of places we’d want to live in. But if we have to relocate, we have to relocate there. So be it. The thing that’s made everything so in flux lately is how we’ve felt as if our fates are being decided by others, and not ourselves. That just doesn’t seem right. So we’re taking matters into our own hands.

Add to this the massive workload I’ve taken on with my current job. I’ve been working nearly 60-hour weeks for nearly 3 straight months. I’m grateful for the work, and very happy that I’ve been recognized by peers and management for my accomplishments well above and beyond my scope of requirements. But when all is said and done, I’m still a contract employee, and my contract ends in June, with a likely extension until September, and then I’m shown the door, because I will have completed an 18-month tenure.

If there is a plus, it’s that my wife and I have taken this challenge on with great clarity and maturity. If this would have happened in the past, we would have fought bitterly, and perhaps this would have ended our marriage. But we’ve grown stronger together these past few years, so much so that we’re now faced with a decision regarding our future that greatly impacts us for a long time, and we’re able to look at all our options clearly and calmly, and talk things through. I can’t tell you how happy this makes me.

Because of this craziness that’s taken place, both personally and professional, a lot of the things I’ve wanted to accomplish have taken a massive back burner. My writing has been completely non-existent. My blog has taken a hiatus. I’ve been so stressed that I’ve taken to emotional eating – I forgot how much I’ve love chocolate…ugh. I was running twice a week; my feet haven’t hit pavement in nearly 2 1/2 months.

Work has slowed down; I’m back to normal 40-hour weeks. My wife and I are pretty clear about what we want to do. So I’m going to regroup and start inching back to the things I enjoy doing again. I started writing again this past week; I wrote a pretty crap short story, but it’s a start. And then there’s this blog you’re reading. I’m returning to a normal blog schedule again. And, yes, I’m going to start running once more. I’m tired of feeling, well, tired.

I have some short stories I’m wanting to finish writing. Then jump-start my novel, which has been sitting there ignored for a few months. She needs a lot of attention, and she’s going to get a lot of it from me.

It’s also time to read The Goldfinch, which has been staring at me from my bookshelf, longing to be read, now that Donna Tartt has won the Pulitzer Prize for her novel.

Whatever the case, there are going to be some changes that are coming to our lives, so we readying ourselves to both face those changes and to make those changes. We realize there are worse scenarios to possibly be in right now, and I’m very much putting things into their proper perspective. Relocating to Cincinnati is definitely not like being deployed to Afghanistan, nor are we treating it like such. If we have to relocate, then we will; we’ll find the right school for our daughter, buy the home we want, and my wife will accept her promotion and bide her time until the next promotion comes, and she’ll have some more leveraging power as to where that next promotion location will be. And I’ll find the right job.

If we do stay here, then we’ll move into our home and I will continue in my current capacity and search for a full-time role in the meantime. And my wife will remain in her capacity.

As long as the decision regarding our fate remains firmly in our hands.

 

My Life Story, in Six Songs

The lovely folks over at Running On Sober have issued a challenge to their readers: tell your life story in six songs, and then for fun, wrap up your life in a bonus seventh song. With each song, guest bloggers are encouraged to fill in the details as to what that song means in that particular point or aspect of their life.

The series runs every Monday, through September, and today’s edition features myself and another guest blogger by the name of Twindaddy, who blogs at Stuphblog. We were each given the opportunity to tell our life stories in six songs, plus a bonus, and share these stories with the Running on Sober readership. I thought I’d repost Twindaddy and mine here, but for you lazy few who just want to know what songs I came up with, without any context – sorry, but you’ll have to click on the link to read my story – here’s my list of seven songs:

  1.  “Star Wars – Main Titles/Rebel Blockade Runner” by John Williams
  2. Rock & Roll” by The Velvet Underground
  3. Cure for Pain” by Morphine
  4. (I’ve Got You) Under My Skin” by Frank Sinatra
  5. New York I Love You, But You’re Bringing Me Down” by LCD Soundsystem
  6. This Tornado Loves You” by Neko Case
  7. Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood” by Nina Simone

So without further ado, here’s Life in 6 Songs, Vol. 7 – Twindaddy and Gus.

This series, and it’s an excellent series which I encourage you to check out past volumes of other shared stories, got me wondering: if you could choose one song, or several songs, what would that one song, or those several songs be?

Post the results in the comments below, along with a couple of sentences explaining why. You don’t have to go into too much depth – add as much or as little as you like – but some context would be appreciated. No prizes for originality, and I promise, no mocking if your song is “Wind Beneath My Wings” or “I Just Called to Say I Love You” or anything by Wilson Phillips.

Actually, I WILL mock you for “I Just Called to Say I Love You.” That song is the fucking worst.

Don’t be shy. Share your song or songs below, and let’s discuss!