Sunday, November 29, 2009

Don't Touch!

The thought takes you by surprise. Is it really a good thing you’re not a car designer or an architect? Given your current circumstances, it’s—to say the least—ironic. Okay, maybe it isn’t a good thing. But it’s definitely a less-embarrassing thing. Because it occurs to you that you’re Steely Dan. You’re the Eagles.

Explanation is required.

While going through some late-seventies issues of ‘Rolling Stone’, you came across stories about their recording processes. That they were obsessive-compulsive is like saying you have employment issues. You laughed while reading how they would spend months getting just the right drum sound. Or how they spent weeks recording and re-recording a vocal. Or how EQing the bass nearly broke-up the band.

And that was just for a single song. No wonder years disappeared between albums.

But now that you write blogs, you discover the same unfortunate tendencies in yourself. Once posted, you can’t leave your blogs alone. There’s something about seeing them published that blows open the doors of your creativity—such as it is. Words, thoughts and phrases that refused to come now dance upon your keyboard. But only after you click the ‘submit’ button.

Your newfound compulsion demands that you use them. You edit and edit again. It is critical that this be perfect. Only you don’t know why. Am I Don Henley yet?

Taken to its logical extreme, you imagine life as a car designer. The fender crease on a recent design is all wrong, so you spend the next eight-years hunting down every example built. Be it driveways, parking lots or drive-thru lanes, you remove the offending fenders and one by one, re-shape them to your new design.

You’re an architect. Construction permits be dammed, you’re out there in a thirty-ton crane removing windows and walls and facades and installing your corrections. Motorists and clients are not pleased, as this can’t help but impact them. It is especially troublesome on high-rises. And in winter.

Can humanity even begin to fathom how fortunate it is that life as a tattoo artist didn’t appeal to you? Never mind surgery.

You’re determined that, once posted, this blog will rest in peace. Excuse the reference, but if Michelangelo could put it in stone, so can you. There is no ‘edit’ button. Anyone know if Sarah Burge is single?

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Giving Thanks

This is what it’s like. In a desperate attempt to extract yourself from the Land of Entrapment (a.k.a the Land of Enchantment) and move to a state with an actual economy, you drain your bank account. Every single penny.

Unfortunately, you do this just as the nation's economy is getting bent over the couch by Wall Street. The entire country becomes the place you're trying to leave.

Every day you get out of bed, you fall further into debt. Every bite of food, every watt of electricity, every drop of gas consumes a non-renewable resource called cash.

It gnaws at you. It infests your sleep.

You once enjoyed the luxury of being self-supporting. But that requires a job. You wonder why you get headaches every day. And you wonder how long before the stress and the strain and the mounting hopelessness splits you and your girlfriend.

There isn’t any government assistance. You’ve got a dried-up carcass of an IRA that, seven years after 9-11, still isn’t worth now what it was then. But that won’t stop the government from snatching a third should you decide to cash it in for impulse items like food, gas and rent.

Or from finding hundreds of billions of dollars for the vermin who flushed us down the toilet in the first place.

You mull over the fact that because you have an IRA that wouldn’t cover an appendectomy, you’re too well-off for food stamps. You attempt to reconcile this with the fact that you have given-up taking pictures because you can’t afford to develop them.

You haven't gone to a movie in a year and-a-half. But the government says you’re rolling in it.

You make a note of it.

You haven’t held a job in over a year, unless you count the two-months you spent in a hell-hole known as the Van Ru Credit Corporation. Fifty-percent of the employees don’t see their three-month anniversary because the training isn’t worth the shit up your ass.

If that's not enough, your supervisor is delusional.

Joyce Tillis sees herself as the Oprah Winfrey of the collections world, and will lead her team of inner-city African-American women not just to meetings, but to life-changing empowerment. She will then receive national exposure and a talk show of her very own.

There are just two problems: you have a penis. And it’s white.

When she’s asked what’s wrong with this picture, the answer is you. You’re the speck of plaster the paint didn’t cover. She humiliates you. Lies about you. Makes no effort whatsoever to conceal her resentment of you.

She accuses you of stealing another agent’s call, and becomes apoplectic when you deny it. She threatens to run a report. You suppress the urge to tell her you hope she runs reports better than she runs teams.

When it becomes clear you are innocent of all charges, it goes without saying the bitch doesn’t have the balls to apologize.

On the other occasion you impress decision-makers, you have a job offer withdrawn because after receiving two, you inexplicably choose the permanent one over the temporary one.

You’re not some poor, dumb fuck trying to stay dry in the sewer-bound torrent of 2009. No. You’re a sneaky, manipulative con-artist who pulled a fast one on the company and needs to be removed before you spread, virus-like, throughout the chain.

At least that’s what Laurie Colson, the manager who low-balled you with the offer of temporary employment, says when her inflamed ego can't bear the indignity of seeing you work for a competing Half-Price Books store.

Your continued employment is an affront to her self-perception as a savvy, experienced manager.

The remaining companies who express an interest in you are the backbone of newspapers and job sites everywhere because their openings are permanent. The only way they could retain an employee is to dress them in a straitjacket and lock them in a burial vault.

In an act of transformation Dr. Phil would appreciate, employees in these jobs morph into Harry Houdini with alarming regularity.

You’re over or under-qualified for everything. Apply for menial jobs with a college degree and employers assume you’ll be bored and unhappy.

Go up market and there’s invariably some twenty-three year-old with a master’s degree, fifteen-year’s experience and every one of the one-hundred fifty-eight characteristics the ideal candidate should possess.

This includes setting-up and collapsing a Mongolian yurt in under ten-minutes.

Which isn't to suggest business is unreasonable. Far from it.

You recall an article from the Wall Street Journal titled "Only the Employed Need Apply" which attempts to explain business's belief that only the employed deserve consideration. The thinking is that those still employed are a strain of super-employee, impervious to the cutbacks, layoffs and rampant downsizing so many of the rest of us have fallen prey to.

Despite the fact that 60% of jobs are currently found through networking, business insists the time-honored maxim of it's who you know, and not what you know is untrue. That those drawing paychecks aren't just friends, pals and buddies.

This is very different from performance-based employment. This is also very different from being good at what you do.

But then, what do you know? You forget that in America, intelligence is measured in dollars.

And you're broke.

Confronted with your six-billionth attribute inventory, you want to retch. That these are gateways to mansions in Florida for the slicks who sell them seems invisible to every HR department in the country.

You want to get this straight: no business using them has ever had to fire a single, solitary employee, because every hire was a perfect fit. Is that correct? Because you know differently.

Then you remember the expression “Monkey see, monkey do” was inspired by the business world. And if it wasn’t, it should have.

If America’s corporate managers aren’t the most-obedient bandwagon-jumpers in existence, you're too big to fail. If personality profiles are this year’s model, you can bet the thirty-five incher in the living room that business will be the first in line and want one in every color.

While applying at the local supermarket, you answer one-hundred eighty questions about your moods and self-esteem and whether feelings are important in the workplace. About how strongly you believe in rules and hierarchies for a minimum wage, part-time job placing boxes of cereal on a shelf.

No health insurance, no benefits, no vacation.

Just one-hundred eighty questions bent on finding out how hard you’ll squeeze your eyes shut and pretend the shit you’re being served is caviar. The piss you're drinking is champagne. One-hundred eighty questions bent on finding out how desperate you really are, and just how much you'll take.

You’re a fucking circus dog. Beg. Roll-over. Sit.

Afterwards, you visit the supermarket you applied to and buy a newspaper. The cashier is able to wordlessly express a multitude of thoughts and emotions. Namely, that she'd rather be the subject of a televised gynecological exam than ring-up you and your goddamned paper.

She snatches the dollar bill and pounds the register keys. She accuses you of wanting a bag. The register drawer springs open. You say you don’t. She slams the drawer shut, rips the receipt from the printer and hands you your change in an angry blur.

Before the quarter hits your pocket, she’s reaching for the next customer's purchases. It couldn’t be more clear you’re in her way.

You wonder how she answered the questions about moods and leaving problems at home and not just meeting, but exceeding customer expectations.

Yeah, you wonder.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Sports in the Twenty-first Century

Man. What a decade. Ever think you’d live long-enough to see the New Jersey Nets and the Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA Finals? Or the Tampa Bay Rays in the World Series? How about the Arizona Cardinals in the Super Bowl?

Are the Tampa Bay Buccaneers not only going to a Super Bowl but actually winning one a vision not even binge-drinking could inspire? Imagine the Boston Red Sox and Chicago White Sox finally ending their championship droughts—in consecutive years!

Okay. Very funny. When does the alarm clock go off?

Sure, the usual suspects made plenty of appearances; the Lakers won four titles, the Yankees, rejuvenated Red Wings and Steelers two each. The San Antonio Spurs at last converted all those winning seasons into a trio of trophies. And the Celtics recovered from their post-Bird stupor long-enough to snatch one.

But that’s not what this decade is about.

It’s about the Florida Marlins winning another Series just six years after their ’97 title. It’s about the Phillies winning only their second title in 108 years. And it’s about the fresh-out-of diapers Arizona Diamondbacks denying the fabled New York Yankees a World Series fourpeat by scoring two ninth-inning runs in the seventh game of the 2001 classic—off of Mariano Rivera.

It's about the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim—a hockey team named after a Disney movie—going to the Stanley Cup twice. (And winning once.) It’s about the Anaheim Angels winning the 2002 World Series against the Giants and big, bad Barry Bonds. Can anyone say Anaheim—Suburb of Champions?

When the Tampa Bay Lightning (What? Tampa Bay again?) and Carolina Hurricanes win successive Stanley Cups, and the New England Patriots become the dominant team in the NFL, you just know someone spiked the punch.

But not everyone tried it.

The Los Angeles Clippers still reside at the bottom of the NBA. The Cleveland Indians haven’t won a Series since 1948. The Sacramento Kings haven’t put their fingerprints on a championship since 1951, when they played in Rochester, N.Y. and were called the Royals.

And the Stanley Cup remains a rumor in—of all places—Toronto, where the Maple Leafs haven’t bothered since 1967.

And then there’s the Detroit Lions. Once upon a time, the Lions were the cream of professional football, playing for four NFL championships between 1952 and 1957 and winning three.

But then, the Titanic used to float.

That leaves the hapless Chicago Cubs. One-hundred years and counting. A Las Vegas bookie calculated the odds at a million-to-one, which actually means the Cubs have won the lottery. Only no one's calling and claiming to be related.

When homes wired for electricity represented cutting-edge technology the last time you won a championship, you're overdue.

When eleven of baseball's fourteen expansion franchises have seen World Series action since you did, you're overdue.

And when a football team quarterbacked by Rex Grossman hits the Super Bowl before you're awarded World Series visitation rights, you need to call your OB.

Now.

Who knows. Maybe the next decade will be the one. But like my math teacher once advised me about a malfunctioning calculator—don’t count on it.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

A Bit of Silliness

Dear Sodomy Corp.,

I am responding to your Internet post seeking a Resource Allocation Specialist and am submitting my resume for consideration.

Resource allocation has been a passion since childhood, and a position with the Sodomy Corp. is a dream I never thought I’d have the opportunity to realize.

Let me tell you about myself and my qualifications.

As the senior member of a bio-team with working parents, I had extensive experience serving as a Resource Allocation Specialist (RAS). For instance, a junior team member was frequently assigned school projects. These typically required glue, paper, scissors, crayons and rulers.

As the on-site RAS, I would retrieve the educational enhancements from a hallway distribution center and deliver them to the appropriate team member. (I should add that I was instrumental in having senior management upgrade facility terminology to better reflect current marketplace realities.)

Another junior bio-team member was struggling with a pile of reports. After identifying the need, it became apparent our distribution facility did not stock the required item. Outsourcing was clearly the best option.

As a customer-driven RSA, I not only secured financing through our financial arm, but was able to locate and deliver elastic bands with a minimum of project down time.

The reports were secured and, most-importantly, the junior bio-team member received the tools they needed to succeed.

While I lack the requisite master’s degree in supply-chain economics and resource distribution theory, I have demonstrated, real-life experience in getting things to the people who need them—on time and within budget.

I am also certified in cyber and ‘legacy’ resource management, which gives me the product knowledge critical for thriving in a pluralistic work environment with diverse resource needs.

I am fluent in the operation of compressed air keyboard dusters, as well as mouse pad replacement. On the legacy side, I can source and replace chisel-point staples for Swingline units dating as far back as the nineteen-eighties.

In a summer internship with Phukum, Goode & Hart, I had the unique experience of training on a nineteen-seventies-era typewriter. My background is as extensive as my ability.

In an on-demand world, efficient and timely resource allocation can be the tipping point between project success—and project failure. Resource allocation stands on the very precipice of those extremes, and demands strong focus and high attention to detail.

It’s not just handing out paper clips to receptionists.

The Sodomy Corp. is one with a reputation for standing behind its employees, and one whose executives are well-known for the personal attention they take in filling every opening.

Through their careful probing, the Sodomy Corp. has achieved the market penetration that is the envy of the business world.

It is for these reasons I wish to bring to the Sodomy Corp. the results-oriented resource allocation it deserves.

Thank you for your time. I look forward to hearing from you soon!

Sincerely,

Jonathan Hynde

Friday, November 13, 2009

Haunted

She was seventeen when we met. I was in my mid-twenties, and working at a convenience store until something better came along. She worked there part-time. Afternoons and Saturdays. Our paths would cross occasionally.

She was tall, with sandy-blonde hair and green eyes that tried to hide behind slightly-nerdy glasses. There was a whiff of not-quite-fitting-in at school. She called her mom ‘Wilma’ because of a certain coat she wore.

Conversation flowed like a river—easy and deep. Her company was elevating. And I fell hard. But however wildly my heart was beating, I was wracked with guilt.

The eight-year difference felt like twenty. I imagined outraged fathers—with shotguns. Many nights were spent talking to myself. “This isn’t the hot flash of lust. You really like her. And if you really like her…”

Only I never quite convinced myself it was okay. I couldn’t outrun the feeling that I was some vile, heinous cradle-robber.

Late one afternoon, I was checking in the week’s shipment of cigarettes. She asked me out. Did I want to visit a college campus she was thinking of attending? It was inexpensive, informal and a nice, long drive away.

I put the last carton of Winstons away and looked up. I was an encyclopedia of neuroses. The expression on my face said everything I couldn’t.

Later that day, she approached me from behind and tousled my hair. I looked up. Her flawless vanilla-caramel skin; her searching eyes. I was speechless. God how I wanted to kiss her.

I’d like to say I did, and that it was the beginning of a passionate, life-changing relationship. But I didn’t. I'm not sure I ever saw her again.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

In memories, we are ghosts. Forever frozen and endlessly looping. Remembering unrequited love makes possibility permanent, even as it remains out of reach. It is regret and longing lightly dusted with powdered sugar.

Cue the languid country and western song. Do I ever cross your mind?

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Got Truck?

Does the world make you feel "small", no matter how many nights you put in at the gym?

Introducing the cure for small—the Titan XL Panacea. It says I’m on the road now. And I’m in control.



The sheer force of its testosterone-inspired styling blows slow-moving traffic out of the way. Your path clears instantly when drivers get a glimpse of the Titan XL Panacea’s ferocious grille. Yes, the days of being stuck behind indecisive mopes are over.

Want more?

The Titan XL Panacea’s patented “AweForce” protects you from traffic citations because it renders law enforcement agencies awestruck. And if they can’t talk, they can’t ticket. From now on, speed limits are things for other guys to worry about. You've got AweForce.



But it’s not all about vehicular intimidation is it? No. Sometimes it’s about the love. And the Titan XL Panacea has you covered there, too. The optional testosterone diffuser means the ladies are always available—even if they detest your politics and the smell of rotting deer flesh.

Go ahead and toss that Axe bodywash; there isn't a woman above ground who can resist the scent of pure testosterone.



And the diffuser easily converts during hunting season to dispense whatever scent you need to attract that prize kill. Deer urine or elk hormones, the Titan XL Panacea can handle it.

Best of all, respected medical journals report that Titan XL Panacea owners enjoy an average 36% increase in penis length, and a 21% increase in circumference post-purchase.

Yes, the Titan XL Panacea is a game-changer. No more pills, syringes and embarrassing suction devices that just don’t work. No more worries that you don't "measure-up" to other guys.

And check out the Titan XL Panacea’s guns and ammo locker. Let that tree-hugger in his Prius honk. You’re reloading.

And because the Titan XL Panacea can accommodate up to fifteen firearms and three-hundred rounds of ammo, there’s a whole lot more of where that came from, isn’t there?

It's no accident the Titan XL Panacea doesn’t come in green.



The Titan XL Panacea is all the truck you’ll ever need. Or want. Feel its hot, hard steel. The stiffness of its beefed-up, hydro-formed chassis. And the continuously-erect suspension mounts that keep rubber pressed against asphalt just the way you like it.

Or direct your eyes to the Titan XL Panacea’s massive hood-mounted power bulge. It can barely contain an eight-liter aluminum block V-10 now engorged with a class-leading five-hundred and fifty horsepower. Yeah, there’s a y chromosome here all right.

The Titan XL Panacea. Don’t negotiate—dominate. Climb in and feel what it’s like to be a man.



(Socio-sexual performance attributes apply only in vehicular environments. Characteristics are not transferable to bedroom or office environments and said transfer is neither expressed nor implied. The Titan XL Panacea starts at $19,732. As shown $36,212. Does not include tax, title and licensing. Destination charges apply.)

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Tales of the Unemployed

After a restless night with a four-thirty AM wake-up call, it’s kind of tough to find things to be grateful for.

When found, those things are usually of the “at least” variety. At least I don’t have pancreatic cancer. At least my car wasn’t stolen last night. At least I didn’t lose my keys.

Gratitude notwithstanding, the grind of unemployment continues. The stubby, fat forefinger of unanswered questions pokes my breastbone. What are you going to do?

I log on to the computer and apply at one of America’s biggest retailers—the one where the employees wear red tops and beige pants. Under the aegis of something called the Work Opportunity Tax Credit, the site asks me for my birth date.

Isn’t this illegal? I try to convince myself that as one of America’s leading companies, they’ll use that information responsibly. It doesn’t work.

I take a personality test which determines my suitability for wage-slavery.

What percentage of politicians are corrupt? What percentage of people would shoplift if they could get away with it? Is taking a pen home from work stealing? How many days a week do you feel angry for no reason? Are you happy with your life?

What percentage of your friends are more-satisfied with their lives than you are with yours? What is the consistency of your stool?

(Sorry. That last one is from my proctology exam--not the online questionnaire. It's so easy to confuse the two!)

The site then asks when I am available. Like the flotsam I am, I answer ‘anytime’. Two AM Saturdays, eight PM Wednesdays, seven AM on Mondays—it’s all the same to me. What I lack in life-satisfaction, I'll make-up for in availability.

It then asks me to confirm this yawning chasm of free-time using my digital signature, a combination of digits from my social security number and birth date. This is presumably legally-binding and allows the company to terminate in the event said employee isn’t as available as promised.

I am then asked a third time if I am actually this available. I take it as an insult.

The next question is ‘Have you ever applied to this company before, and if so, when?’

Answer ‘yes’ and your application is consigned to the circular file. If they didn’t want you before, why would they want you now?

Answer ‘no’ and your application survives until the next cut. (Or until your life-satisfaction is found to be wanting.) I lie and answer ‘no’. I wonder where and when I learned to obfuscate the truth.

I ignore the metaphorical implications and click the ‘submit’ button.

I do not hold my breath.

Later that night, I’m watching TV. A man defines insanity as the repetition of an action with the expectation of a different outcome. This bears a disturbing resemblance to my job search.

I go to bed. I do not sleep well.