Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Family feud, chapter 2 (unedited)

We had dinner at mom's on Christmas Eve, as usual. She invited Uncle Phil to join us. Uncle Phil was one of her two brothers that had Thanksgiving dinner with us.

Following dinner, talk turned to grandpa, Huggy Bear and the flooring business.

There was some sort of meeting that took place to discuss the future of the business. Uncle Phil doesn't work for the family business any more, he hasn't for many years. It's probably easier for him to raise concerns than for those working at the store on a daily basis.

Grandpa is starting to get it. He's starting to realize that the flooring business is suffering, like many other sectors of the economy. I'm not sure he's convinced that something has to change. He gets $11,000 a month in rent, and figures that if business is slow, perhaps it's time to cut some employees. He doesn't seem to think his rent checks should be reduced in order to keep the business afloat.

Things are really slow, evidently. I'm not sure if this applies to everybody working at the store or only the family members employed by the store, but my aunts and uncles, at minimum, haven't received a paycheck in December.

From what Uncle Phil can tell, grandpa funds the living expenses for him and Huggy Bear. Grandpa use to cook, especially in grandma's waning years because it was tough for her to do so at times. Grandpa doesn't cook any more, and neither does Huggy Bear. They go out to eat twice a day, every day. Huggy Bear wanted to have Christmas dinner at their house catered rather than have everybody bring food as we've always done in the past.

Huggy Bear has stock, a lot of stock, in a major corporation. It has been given to her by her brother. And since they got married, she continues to receive more. The theory is that she has spent very little of her money or income since marrying grandpa, and that she's living entirely on his dime, salting away all her money for her children and grandchildren. Mom referred to her as a piranha.

Grandpa doesn't have to worry about living another 25 years, and he's not obligated to leave a big lump of cash to his children, but he built a business over decades, and at a time when it's highly challenging to stay in business, he's flushing his legacy down the drain. A couple of my uncles have never worked for anyone other than grandpa, and a couple others have a lot of years invested in the company. His need for $11,000 a month is not only jeopardizing his retirement income, it's jeopardizing the livelihood of half of his 10 children. And he doesn't seem to see that.

Mom thinks it's time for a third party to step in and oversee his finances. But how do you tell somebody he's no longer allowed to spend his cash at will? It's a tough proposition, particularly since Huggy Bear certainly would have no interest in such an arrangement.

Grandpa definitely doesn't see the big picture. He came into the store on a recent Saturday morning, a Saturday when the weather was nasty. He shouldn't have been driving around, but he was. Given the weather and the lousy economy, it doesn't take the Amazing Kreskin to predict the store would be empty that morning. Yet grandpa showed up at the store and questioned why there weren't any customers in the store.

Mom was opposed to grandpa's wedding, and her objections seemed to be a bit self-serving at the time. I remember one of my uncles, perhaps Phil, suggesting that even if the marriage was less than kosher, grandpa is happy, and mom should be, too.

Unfortunately it appears that mom's objections have been validated by her siblings. And that's something nobody wanted, not even mom.

I hope it doesn't get ugly at Christmas dinner. There's no guarantee it won't.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

The death of me

My blog is not dying in 2009, but I am.

Technically it's the life I've known that's dying next year, not me, physically.

2008 wasn't a year to remember. It wasn't a bad year, but it wasn't anything special. Thanks to a fire in the main house where I formerly had an apartment, I was temporarily displaced on Jan. 8. Four months later I was moving into a new apartment, with all my belongings "cleaned" of their smoke damage, and repackaged somewhat randomly.

I use to value keepsakes and mementos. Not so much any more. I have reminders of my past, and a lot of old comic books and baseball cards I don't want. I don't want to throw them away or sell them all for peanuts, but I don't need them any more. I'll keep the White Sox troll doll Monica gave me many years ago. Those White Sox yearbooks from the 1980s, I don't need 'em.

I have a lot of old video tapes of movies and TV shows. Yeah, it's fun to watch old David Letterman anniversary specials. I might keep those tapes, but a lot of the stuff I've had on video for two decades, not worth the time.

I use to geocache periodically. I haven't done so since Jan. 1. I hope to get out some in the coming year, but a lot of the trinkets and boxes I've accumulated for the purpose of geocaching just take up space. I'm not in the business of creating geocaches any more, and having cool trinkets to leave is no longer of interest to me. This spring I'm going to dump all of that stuff into a few select geocaches.

I have a nice new lamp mom gave me for my birthday. I need that. I don't need most of the outdated electronic equipment I have accumulated. Adios to all that, one way or another. I have some nice stereo equipment, but little interest in a stereo any more, or many of my CDs for that matter. Not sure what to do with that stuff.

Beyond all that, I am finally at the end of my rope at the newspaper. This week it was announced that our 2009 vacation allotments are being cut 20 percent next year. That is being done to save the company money, even though it won't save a dime in Minnesota.

Allegedly our Texas offices are far more valuable than our holdings in other states. When people in Texas go on vacation they hire temporary help, evidently. That never happens in Minnesota. They even talked about hiring temporary help in a department where it is badly needed during this holiday season, but ultimately they sad "screw you" to those left in the department during a co-worker's leave of absense. They don't spend an extra dime to replace any of us in Minnesota, but because they do in Texas, everybody is going to lose vacation time next year. Merry Christmas to all of us who have worked our asses off for years.

I should have left for years ago. I knew it was time to go, but I didn't push myself to get out. I have wasted the last four years of my career. I can't get those back, but those assholes aren't taking any more good years from me.

Given the newspaper industry is dying a rather quick death, this means I won't be working in journalism in 2009, I'm sure.

And that's fine, there are a lot of things that need to change in 2009. The life I knew for the past 38 years is dead. Rest in peace.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Year in review

I'm not going to review the highs and lows of the year that was. I certainly didn't foresee sitting where I am tonight as I unceremoniously ushered in the new year at the Naples, Fla., condo I was staying at while attending my cousin's wedding.

But I have wanted to look back at the bicycling year that was. Tonight I will.

It's hard to guess how many miles I biked in 1997 or 1998, the first years I began pushing myself to do distance riding. I bicycled the MS TRAM both summers. That ride is 300 miles over five days. And in 1998 I also bicycled the MS 150. Did I bike more than 2,000 miles those years? I have no idea, but based upon my experiences of the past few years, I doubt I ever made it to 2,000.

It wasn't until 2004 that it made sense to log my annual mileage. I don't know why it took me that long to do so, but that's the first year I did. I pushed myself in 2005 to better my 2004 performance, and I raised the bar again in 2006. It was in 2006 that I first reached 2,000 miles in a season. I finished with 2,120.

2007 was a letdown of sorts. Maybe I wasn't as committed to bicycling, but there were factors that definitely curtailed my bicycling at the end of the season. I finished with about 1,600 miles. I'm too lazy to go look up the final tally right now.

Given last year's letdown, there was a renewed sense of urgency to reach the 2,000-mile mark this season. Thankfully I made it, even if it took until Halloween to get there. I finished with 2,053 miles.

Most years I get started in April. It's not a substantial month of bicycling, but it's a good month for working out the rust. That didn't happen this year, however, as I was living with my mother in April. That pesky fire that drove me from my apartment in January resulted in nearly four months of temporary housing with mom. I didn't move into my new apartment until May 5, which meant I didn't have access to my bicycling clothes or gear until then.

Even though I moved in on May 5, it took time to get my act together. My first ride of the year: May 18. That 13-mile day is probably the latest I have begun a bicycling season . That date was less than a week before my annual spring camping trip over Memorial Day weekend. I was home by Memorial Day, but very tired from the weekend, and ultimately too lazy to bicycle that day...something that would not be forgotten by me for the remainder of the season.

some years I bike 100 miles or more in April. By the conclusion of Memorial Day weekend this year I had biked all of 52 miles. It certainly didn't look like I'd make it to 2,000 miles in 2008.

I began to pick up the pace after Memorial Day and finished May with 127 miles. That's not the least bit impressive, some years I bike 300 miles in May.

I quickly worked my way up to 40-mile rides, however, which helped me catch up for lost time. Ironically my June total doesn't include 150 miles of bicycling during the MS 150. For the first time in five years I skipped it, despite being registered. I wasn't as well prepared for it as I have been in years past, there was a slight chance of it being a rainy weekend and my friend Margaret, whom I have biked the MS 150 with during the past four years, was behind on her training, too, and didn't think she was prepared for the challenge this year. Put those factors together and it wasn't too hard to take the easy way out.

Despite that I pushed myself just about every weekend in June, thanks to the fact my life is relatively empty and meaningless. The high cost of gas this past summer helped encourage me to limit my travels. Instead of driving all over town I dedicated a few hours to bicycling each weekend. No, I'm not trying to kid myself. I wasn't exactly turning down social invitations left and right, but I didn't look for things to do, either. Like I said, my life is rather empty and meaningless these days.

During the end of June, however, I did something unusual by my standards. I took a week off from work. I usually take my time off in small increments, but with the Fourth of July being on a Friday, I used four vacation days and took the entire week off. I went up north and stayed at my friends' cabin that week, the site of my legendary 112-mile bike trips.

As noted previously, I wasn't prepared on Monday, June 30, to make the round trip to Fergus Falls, but I managed to do so in less-than-impressive fashion, finishing the trip after sunset, but finishing it nonetheless. With that last day ride I tallied 663 miles in June....probably a June record.

I did another 142 miles of riding during the rest of my stay that week. I had hoped to do even more than that, but getting out four times over six days wasn't too bad. I logged 250+ miles during my week up north, and that's better than most weeks of the summer.

Despite the 142+ miles of riding that first week of July, I managed just 410 miles that month. That put my seasonal total at 1,200 miles...which isn't bad, but I am underwhelmed by my July performance, and am at a bit of a loss to explain why I didn't do more.

With the sun setting earlier each night in August I hoped for a big month to get me on the doorstep of 2,000 miles. That push included the third annual Tour de Tonka on Aug. 2. The tour is an organized ride with three routes, the longest being 65 miles or so. Margaret and I planned to bike the 65-mile route, and that's what we started out to do that morning. And it was a beautiful day for bicycling.

Unfortunately for me, the gear-shift cable to my rear derailer snapped about three miles before the 30-mile rest stop. I was able to bike my way to the rest stop, but I couldn't shift gears, and I was stuck in the high gear. I had hoped I could get my bike repaired at the rest stop, but that didn't happen. It was the end of the day for me, less than half way to 65 miles.

I took my bike to my bike shop that afternoon and didn't get it back for several days. It was a serious setback to my bicycling aspirations.

When I did get my bike back, not all was kosher. I got a tune-up and new parts for the bike, but I had problems with my shifting, problems I hadn't had up until that point. I took the bike back and it was recommended I get a new chain. I did, and that didn't help. I continued to have problems shifting, problems that make a routine 25-mile bike ride less than enjoyable. I took the bike back to the shop yet again in hopes of solving the problem. While my situation improved, I managed to drop my chain periodically, much to my frustration. It became troublesome to bike uphill, and shifting while biking uphill was a recipe for disaster. I was not happy.

There was a point I was ready to give up on my bike. The costs of maintenance, and the inability to obtain a smooth ride, were starting to try my patience. I could have easily justified throwing in the towel on my dream of a 2,000-mile season, but I sallied forth.

I even managed a couple of back-to-back 40+ mile days in August, somehow. By the time the Minnesota State Fair rolled around, I was up to 215 miles.

For the second consecutive year I worked during the state fair. Given the hours I work, and the fact I'm on my feet all day, I had no energy to bike before working at noon during 10 of 12 days at the fair. This year, however, I did bike a few miles during the two days I didn't work at the fair. My total mileage for August: an unimpressive 245. My season-to-date total: 1,445.

Summer unofficially ends on Labor Day and I was more than 500 miles away from 2,000. By Labor Day the sun is setting before 8 p.m., and daylight is fading fast with each passing week. Despite that I managed to find time to push myself on evenings and weekends following Labor Day. I managed 48 miles on the first Saturday following Labor Day, and 30 miles one night the following week. It was downright hot on Labor Day, yet the day after the temperature dropped noticeably. Most Septembers feature a few days that are painful reminders of the dog days of summer. But that wasn't the case this year, it was as if the 70-degree valve was shut off after Labor Day.

And to complicate things, I got a cold Labor Day weekend. While I wasn't on my death bed, a cold provides no incentive whatsoever to pedal your ass off on a 62-degree evening. Nonetheless I pushed myself through September and finished with 315 miles. It's unusual for me to bike more in September than in August, but I'm a strange bird.

Honestly, my monthly totals for August and September would have been comparable had I not biked the Headwaters 100 on the final Saturday of September in northern Minnesota. Margaret and I had been planning to bike the event for months, and we had outstanding weather that day, making the mission far more pleasant to accomplish.

But the bottom line, I was 240 miles away from my goal on Oct. 1.

October has become a challenging month for me in the past few years. Besides the early-evening darkness and the dropping temperatures, I now work weekends in October at a local Halloween attraction. I love it, but the late nights and long hours on Friday and Saturdays makes it a challenge to motivate myself to bicycle on the weekend. Long before those weekends rolled around I was determined I would push myself to bike during the weekends in October, regardless of where my bicycling total was at. The fact I needed 240 miles to reach my goal provided extra incentive.

Even with dedication to my goal, those 240 miles didn't come easy. I didn't plan to take time off from the newspaper at the end of October, but when above-average temps were forecast at the end of the month, I seized the opportunity to burn off some of my vacation days to finish the mission. I biked 49 miles on Oct. 30 and biked my standard 24-mile route on Halloween to break the 2,000-mile threshold. I managed a decent 254-mile month in October.

November can provide several bonus days, and it can be a cruel reminder I live in Minnesota. I took a couple of days off before capitalizing on a stunning 74-degree day on Nov. 3. By my calculations, the last day of the bicycling season was Nov. 5. From that point forward it was too cold for me. I would have loved a bonus day or two in mid-November, but it was not to be.

Despite the obstacles, I persevered, and biked 2,000+ miles for the second time in three years. As always I can find a lot of fault with my efforts, but at the end of the year, I'm satisfied with the result.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Put the milf out of her misery

I work with a lunatic. It's love/hate with this woman.

She's in her mid-40s, divorced and so high strung that members of The Flying Wallendas would look at her as a challenge.

What have I learned about this milf with cougar tendencies, who, surprise, is in sales? (We'll call her Jilf.)

Jilf is divorced. You think she's raising her sons? Nope, they live out of state with their father.

She loves to drive the tune of 70+ speeding tickets in her lifetime. (How does she still have a license?)

She has done some form of modeling. And worked as a flight attendant.

She loves horses, and considers herself a cowgirl.

She can't shut up, and cracks herself up every damn day. My favorite is what comes closest to being her catch phrase. I paraphrase: "If you mess with the bull, you're going to get the horns." Sometimes she cracks up when she tells people that.

She stays active in adult sports leagues.

She doesn't drink. (I'd swear she's drunk all the time.)

She thinks she's fat compared to when she was in her 20s, despite the fact she's practically a twig at 40+.

She doesn't own her home, probably due in part to the fact she seems to move around the country every few years. She has a roommate, however, although it sounds like Jilf is annoyed by the roommate. (Oh, the irony.)

At least one member of the sales staff has moved to an open desk far away from Jilf simply to get away from her loud, nutty daily diatribes.

She chronically dates, and even if she has a short-term relationship with a guy, it fizzles. (I can't fathom how a guy could take more than one or two doses of her.) She may be a mid-40s milf who hates online shopping, but Jilf is all about the online dating and text messaging.

As I said, there's a love/hate thing with this woman. She can be highly entertaning, but I really wish our worlds had never collided.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Family feud (unedited)

It's like a bad soap opera.

My maternal grandparents were married in the 1940s. They were 18/19 years old and my mother was born soon after they were married. According to my mother she was born less than nine months after they were married.

My Catholic grandparents proceeded to have 10 children, seven boys and three girls.

My grandfather proceeded to build a successful business in the flooring industry. Of his 10 children, eight have worked for the family business. My mom and one of her sisters are the only two who haven't, to the best of my knowledge. Today there are five of the 10 siblings working at the store, as well as one of my cousins who, despite going to college for something other than retail sales, seems to be on the road to a career in the flooring industry. Not a bad gig, I suspect, my relatives live a more lavish lifestyle than I do, although that's not saying much.

In October 2002 my grandmother died. My grandparents had been married for 57 years. Grandpa had been married his entire adult life, and suddenly, without warning, he was a widow. Sure, grandma had her share of health issues over the years, but nobody saw it coming that Friday morning.

It has now been six years since grandma died, and it's about to get ugly.

Grandpa has since remarried. He couldn't stand the idea of being alone, evidently. He married Huggy Bear 16 months after grandma died. Mom was not happy.

He met Huggy Bear six months after grandma died. Things progressed quickly. Huggy Bear is a widow. She has children. She has some sort of lake cabin up north. She didn't seem to be destitute. She's a nice person, albeit a bit odd. She means well.

Mom didn't try to stop grandpa's wedding to Huggy Bear, but she clearly wasn't happy about it. The wedding was a minor debacle, and mom took it as a personal slight. I didn't get it, but whatever.

Grandpa divided his business into 10 shares and gave one to each of his children. He wasn't working any more and planned to live off the rental income from the property on which the store sits. The kids own the business, grandpa owns the building and the property it sits on. Sounds like a good plan, eh?

Grandpa may have been a successful businessman for decades, but he seems to have made a mistake or two along the way. After grandma died grandpa bought land for a new store, a store that didn't happen. I don't know the details, but from what I've heard, it hasn't done grandpa any financial favors.

Huggy Bear must get some form of retirement income. She worked, so perhaps she has a pension. Her husband likely had life insurance. She can't be without income. But grandpa writes her a check every month, a check for $4,000. Grandpa gets a rent check from the store each month for something like $11,000. He left his checkbook at the store one day, that's how the aunts and uncles found out.

Since each sibling owns a share of the store, it has value and they're taxed on it. Although they've received dividends of some sort in the past, they're not seeing anything nowadays, and they still have tax liability for their share each year.

At Thanksgiving dinner my brother invited two uncles to join dinner. Mom and her brothers discussed the situation. It appears they think they need an attorney to represent their interests. Mom doesn't want to give back the shares of the store to grandpa, mainly because she doesn't want it to go to Huggy Bear if grandpa dies. They have a pre-nuptial agreement, but if the store winds up back in grandpa's hands, it would go to Huggy Bear, evidently. Mom is adamant that it won't become hers. Yikes!

At one point it was suggested grandpa is going senile and doesn't realize what is going on. The economy is in the toilet, sales are down and the store is barely breaking even. Grandpa is most concerned with getting his rent check, evidently, and oblivious to the fact that if the store goes in the toilet, he owns an empty building he'll have a really hard time renting. There's also some distrust of grandpa's legal/financial advice, I learned.

It has been six years since grandma died. We miss her more than ever.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

I'm a rube

I went to a premiere screening of "Four Christmases" tonight. Not bad. It's not groundbreaking comedy, but it's entertaining from start to finish. Pretty good cast, too.

I've gone to enough of these to know that if you want to see the movie, show up early, otherwise you may get shut out. It has happened to me once or twice.

Passes for premiere screenings are usually in excess of capacity, probably far in excess, as it's expected that for most flicks, other than heavily-hyped blockbusters, there will be a high degree of no shows. But if enough people are dying to see the adorable Reese Witherspoon, then yeah, your free ticket may be worth less than the paper it's printed on if you roll into the theater five minutes before showtime.

It wasn't that I needed to see the latest Vince Vaughn movie, but it was an excuse to go to a movie, something I don't do that often, and it was a chance to get together with a buddy I hadn't talked to for a while. He's a movie geek, goes to way too many movies at the theaters, so a movie premiere is not a tough sell with him.

Jason and I met for dinner prior to the movie, and made sure to get there early, just to be safe, because rubes gotta get in to see the movie for free. We ended up at the theater about 50 minutes before the start of the movie, and there had to be 75 people lined up already.

If it's a chance to buy concert tickets for a Beatles reunion featuring a reincarnted Lennon and Harrison, yeah, I get the urgency, but it's a just a movie, and not exactly "Star Wars Episode IX: Luke's Coming Out Party."

I don't get why people show up 90 minutes early to be the first in line for a free movie, I really don't.

But for a chance to catch up with Jason and see a flick he hasn't seen, it was worth being a rube.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Batman smells

October is a busy month for me, and although I never got around to blogging here, I did plenty of writing, including for another blog I maintain during the Halloween season, a blog related to my annual gig screaming at teenage girls in the halls of a local haunted house, but that's another story for another blog.

It's the most wonderful time of the year, when we're innundated with Christmas music, whether we like it or not. I don't.

You grow up singing the songs and hearing them every year. Some of them aren't bad, but when I listened to "Living After Midnight" by The Donnas for the millionth time the other day, it was because I wanted to. I can listen to those chicks rock out on that Judas Priest song every day and I'd never get tired of it.

But when I have to hear "Silent Night" while walking through a store, any store, on any day of the year, I'm not happy. And 30 days of that isn't enough any more.

The worst part is that there are enough Christmas rubes out there that most radio markets across the country have at least one station that changes its program from "good times, great oldies," variety hits of the 80s, 90s and today or even Hicksville country music to all Christmas music.

Here in the Twin Cities, we are lucky enough to have two FM stations who find it financially viable to do so. And for some reason there's some sort of clout with being the first station to do so, I'm sure of it. Each year the date of the first "flip" in the metro is earlier than the previous year. See for yourself: Flippin' out!

Last Saturday night as I was driving home from a card game at 3 a.m. I scanned the FM dial for something tolerable. As I hit one of the Christmas stations I couldn't help but wonder who the hell is listening to Christmas music in the wee hours of Nov. 16? You can't convince me there's one person who thinks that's a good idea.

You want to make my blood boil? Start playing that awful Paul McCartney song within earshot of me. You know the one:

"Sim-ply hav-ing a wonderfulChristmastime

The moon is right
The spirits pour
We're here tonight
I want to score

Sim-ply hav-ing a wonderfulChristmastime
Sim-ply hav-ing a wonderfulChristmastime

The party's on
The feelin's here
That only comes
From a case of beer

Sim-ply hav-ing a wonderfulChristmastime
Sim-ply hav-ing a wonderfulChristmastime"

If I ever run into Paul McCartney during the holidays I'm going to grab his scarf and choke him with it until fruitcakes come out of his ass.

If there's one consolation I can take from all of this, it's that in sexy Stinktown they had two stations that flipped on Halloween night! You can try all you want to paint Stinktown white, it's still not sexy.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

And finally (unedited)

Cosmo's wedding has provided more blog material than I could have imagined.

Cosmo was back in the office for a couple of days this week before departing for his honeymoon...following whatever Jewish observation is taking place this week.

Today we got to grill Cosmo about wedding details.

What we learned:

-- They intended to do a garder toss and a bouquet toss, but were too busy frolicking to make it happen.

-- Cosmo has rarely, if ever, seen a dollar dance, so it was never a consideration.

-- Since the wedding wasn't in a synogogue, Cosmo didn't need to wear a yamaka, but did so anyway.

-- The photographer provided one of those shopping mall photo booths for guests to take instant photos. Then prints of those photos were given to the guests, and placed in the guest book, along with a signature by the guest. I didn't take a photo, or sign the book, so I guess I never attended.

-- The round table the wedding party sat at in the center of the room was not a Jewish tradition, it was just a personal preference of the wedding party, and it's a much better idea than the press conference panel presentation of the wedding party at typical receptions.

-- The wedding planner is indeed Jewish.

And with that I'm done reminiscing about Cosmo's wedding. I can't believe it's the last wedding I'm ever going to attend, but it is, I swear, even if the new Mike is the same as the old Mike.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Thinking back (unedited)

Cosmo's wedding is like the gift that keeps on giving. For the third night in a row I'm blogging about it.

The timing wasn't perfect, but his wedding reminded me of three years ago. Cosmo was married on Oct. 5. Nearly three years earlier, on Oct. 7, 2005, I went to another wedding, of another co-worker. After three years, Heidi is still happily married, an no longer working for Napoleon's crumbling empire.

I remember that day for a couple of reasons. Her wedding was early on a Friday evening, the White Sox had a playoff game that afternoon in Boston and the ceremony started at a pivotal point in the game. Flash forward to Cosmo, his wedding was early on a Sunday evening (5 p.m. means it's no longer an afternoon wedding, right?) the White Sox had a playoff game that afternoon in Chicago and the ceremony started at a pivotal poin in the game.

Unlike 2005, the White Sox of 2008 will not be advancing to the American League Championship Series, or winning the World Series. But the similarity between the two weddings was not lost upon me. Nor was the significance of Heidi's wedding.

Unlike Cosmo's wedding, where I had all of two co-workers to hang out with, Heidi's wedding had several co-workers in attendance, past and present. The difference was that in 2008 I was hanging out with two editorial co-workers while in 2005 I was hanging out with a cast of salespeople. Where did I feel more out of my element? You'd think the answer would be 2005, since I'm an editorial guy, but I had a lot of fun at that wedding. I get to know many of the salespeople at work, despite the fact we live in two different worlds. We may work on the same product, and under the same roof, but our worlds are very different. Yet those folks seemed to be more my style.

It was that evening in 2005 with a group of people I was a relative outsider to that I came to an important conclusion and decision about my life. I made a personal commitment that night.

And at Cosmo's wedding I found myself revisiting that commitment. Here I am, two nights later, on the third anniversary of that decision, and I find myself examining the three years since that fateful night.

What have I concluded? To borrow a quote that has nothing to do with me, but speaks volumes about me: "This is the new Mike? Same as the old Mike."

Well done, genius.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Damn I'm tired

Blogging after Cosmo's wedding was an inspired decision, but I was tired all day Monday. I'm often awake past midnight, but I'm not often slurping up $5.50 cocktails for three or four hours prior to blogging at 1 a.m.

Those of us from Cosmo's newspaper circle were seated together at table 5. It seemed like a good idea, as there would be eight of us, and an infant. The problem was that Rush decided two weeks ago he couldn't attend due to childcare issues. What a bunch of crap.

At least he was able to let Cosmo know he had to cancel. Teri and her hetero life partner pulled a Teri. She said they were coming and then no-showed, as she is wont to do. She even e-mailed me last week to see if I would be attending, and I confirmed I was. Of course her dinner was paid for well in advance, and somehow I doubt it was an emergency or sudden Sunday night conflict that kept her and the mister from attending. Downright tacky.

So the four of us connected via the newspaper were sitting alone, until Marsha sat down at our table. I was curious who this woman with no family or friends was, but she was across the table from me, seated next to mother and child. I wasn't in the mood to make small talk. It turns out she was the wedding planner. She was there from start to finish, for what purpose I'm not entirely sure, but she was there.

I can only assume she's Jewish, but I don't know for sure. She's definitely a yenta, and while I've always assumed a yenta is automatically a Hebrew, I guess I'm not sure. At this point if I had to wager $10, I'd wager she's a card-carrying member of the nation.

How did I know she was a yenta? At some point she wants to know who we are across the table, and she immeidately starts asking if we're single. Oy ve!

Apparently I seemed like a less-than-hopeless project, because at a later point in the evening she asked what I thought of the maid of honor. She was quite lovely, and before I knew it, Marsha was checking on her availability. Here's a shock, she was "spoken for."

They claim that weddings are great places to meet people, and the whole "Wedding Crashers" movie was based upon that concept. I disagree. Nobody likes to go to a wedding and say "look at me, I'm flying solo because I'm a pathetic loser!" I never drag somebody with me to a wedding, but I'm tired of sticking out like a sore thumb. The way I figure it, you should be significantly committed to someone before you subject them to the awkwardness of a wedding, unless you both come from the same circle of friends.

Yet almost nobody under the age of 50 seems to be flying solo at a wedding these days. But given that I wouldn't drag someone to a wedding just to avoid sticking out like a sore thumb, it's another reason why I have to stop going to them.

I'm tired of playing by the wedding rules, so I'm going to stop playing, no matter how many hot young Jewish chicks are going to be at the reception.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Mazal tov

Sunday night was one I will always remember. It was the last time I will attend a wedding.

My Jewish co-worker, Cosmo, got married. The Sunday evening affair wasn't because he's from the Hebrew nation, it was because it was a night when they could hold the ceremony in the locale of their choosing without having to wait more than two years.

Mrs. Cosmo, for the record, ain't Jewish. She's a southern gal. Her exact denomination I cannot say, but the fact she doesn't eat kosher meals meant that the affair was only partly Jewish. So I'm not sure if I can claim to have been a spectator at a full-fledged Jewish ceremony, but this one was good enough for me.

The ceremony was held outdoors in Minneapolis. On a beautiful October afternoon an outdoor wedding would have been ideal. On Sunday, however, it was cloudy. I think it sprinkled for a minute or two prior to the ceremony, but the skies never opened up. We were under a giant tent anyway, overlooking the mighty Mississippi River. It wouldn't have been ideal, but had it rained, we would have survived.

The short ceremony had the token readings and sermons, with a few Jewish references and explanations thrown in for good measure. The finale was the stomping on the wine glass, or whatever the glass is that they break. We were all instructed to yell "mazal tov" upon Cosmo's ceremonial stomping on the glass. Sadly his performance was underwhelming, as I didn't hear any shattering of glass, and therefore I missed my cue. More Gentile I could not be at that moment.

The reception was at the site of the wedding, and it was largely non-denominational. Most of the music, dancing, eating and drinking was no different than any other reception I've attended.

But prior to dinner there was the ceremonial introduction of the newlyweds. They didn't introduce the wedding party, which curiously featured five bridesmaids and six groomsmen, but they introduced the happy couple. I didn't think anything of that, until the happy couple headed to the dance floor, and the live band started playing all the Jewish hits. People quickly descended upon the dance floor, dancing in circles around Cosmo and Robyn.

Before long they were being raised up above the crowd in chairs, just like I've seen in the movies. I was a bit surprised to see all of this take place before dinner.

If you wanted to play "Spot the Gentile," the pre-dinner dance was the time to do it. As many at the reception found their way to the dance floor, the Gentiles like me stood back and watched the drama unfold.

And the damn thing wouldn't end! Every time I thought they'd be wrapping up the dance, the music would kick in, again. Even Cosmo said the festivities went a little long. I swear the whole song and dance exceeded 20 minutes.

Following dinner the reception was rather Gentile in nature, although there was no dollar dance, bunny hop or garter toss. I don't know why, and I didn't ask questions. I'll do that when Cosmo returns to work.

There was an open bar all evening, so I pretty much paid for the cost of my wedding gift with drinks during the reception. A couple of co-workers attended, so that gave me reason to stick around past dinner. I kept hoping something unique was going to happen, given it was my last wedding reception, but no such luck. The Jews let me down.

I enjoyed the experience, especially watching the Princess of Power strut her stuff. I met her a few years ago, and she's hot. I was stunned she didn't have a boyfriend with her at the wedding. Despite that, I'm a realist, and not nearly creepy enough to hit on her.

So why is it the last wedding/reception I will attend? Because I'm bored with them, plain and simple.

People are lame. I went to another co-worker's wedding on May 31, and it's remarkable how many people bail out after dinner on a Saturday night. They don't have anywhere else to go, they don't have a four-hour drive home after the wedding. But they act like sticking around and socializing with friends and/or relatives is a pain in the ass. Maybe it is, but this is a recurring phenomena at weddings.

I can't say I entirely blame people. Most weddings have a DJ, and that means being subjected to a painful musical formula that includes that damn chicken dance and other assorted crap. I think I've been suicidal more than once as a result of the tedious musical format so many wedding receptions seem to follow. (Nobody really wants to dance to "Staying Alive.")

Beyond that, I find that the weddings I attend these days are less of a cause for celebration than those of past years. Most of my best friends have gotten married, with the exception of Chip and Monica, and I don't expect a close friend or family member to get married any time soon.

So what happens when my 25-year-old cousin gets married in a few years? I send him a gift and save him a few bucks on an overpriced dinner. What happens when Monica gets married? I feel bad that I'm not there, but a rule is a rule. Friends, family, co-workers, it doesn't matter. I'm not going to put up with the farce that is a wedding any more.

I'll send a gift, but it's time to start doing things for me and stop doing things for everyone else. Nobody will miss me at their wedding, and I won't miss the charade that is a wedding/reception.

My last wedding was a quasi-Jewish affair. It was nice to see one in action, to see something a little different than what I am use to. It was a memorable, and relatively enjoyable, experience. Given it was the last wedding I will ever attend, it was nice to go out on a high note.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

No. 8

I had hoped Saturday's bike ride would be a cause for greater celebration, but it's not.

On Saturday I finished the Headwaters 100, a bike ride originating in Park Rapids, Minn.

It was my second stab at the bike ride, which has three different routes, one approximately 45 miles, another approximately 75 miles. Guess what the third route is.

This bike ride has been on my calendar since June, but things change, and had it been rainy and miserable on Saturday there was no chance I was going to bike 100 miles. Upon arrival in the Park Rapids area on Friday afternoon it started to ominous sign.

But the rain cleared out overnight and gave way to clear skies on Saturday. It was about 50 degrees when I started the ride at 8 a.m., better than I remember it being in 2002 when I previously tackled the Headwaters 100.

And the high temperature for the day was forecast in the upper I had little to complain about. The only drawback to the day: there was a decent breeze out of the north. But given a choice between Friday evening's weather and Saturday's weather, it was no contest.

And despite a breeze out of the north, the longest northerly stretch of my 100-mile ride was early in the day, which is always appreciated when you bicycle. If you're going to fight the wind, fight it early rather than late.

The ride is named for the state park north of Park Rapids, Itasca State Park. It's the home of Lake Itasca, the headwaters of the Mississippi River. Clever name, eh?

After about 30 miles the ride leads you into the park, where you loop around the lake on a 15-mile road before exiting and traveling through the rolling hills of the greater Park Rapids area, periodically passing other lakes. It's a bit challenging of a ride because of the rolling hills, but there aren't any killer climbs, so I can't complain about the route.

The final 12 miles are mostly flat, as the ride finishes on an old railroad bed trail. When I hit the rest stop at mile 88 I felt like I was already finished, because the last 12 miles were relatively easy, and I knew they would be.

While it was a bit cool through the morning hours, it was far from miserable. There was never any doubt I'd finish the 100-mile ride, unless a freak physical or mechanical breakdown sidelined me prior to the finish line, but that didn't happen.

I admired the fall colors occasionally, cursed the cool autumn air that kept my nose running most of the day and regretted that I would not be reaching my goal of 2,008 miles at the end of the day, as I was about 250 short at that point. It's no small task completing 100 miles in a day, and that's reason enough to celebrate, but I still have work to do, given the lackluster August and September I've had on the bicycle...due in large part to repeated mechanical problems. But that's another story for another jukebox.

Despite my less-than-ecstatic mood, it is the first year I have pushed myself to complete two century rides in one year. Why did I do it? Why will I push myself harder in 2009? I'm insane, and I'll go to my grave living that way. To paraphrase somebody I no longer speak to, or respect, conformity is one of the greatest disservices you can do to yourself. I botched the quote, but you get the idea.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Holy shammy!

I made another 10-day cameo at the Minnesota State Fair this year. I worked the same job as last year, and every night I had achy feet to prove it. Unlike last year, I didn't keep tally of the bizarre T-shirt encounters I had. There were a few, but somehow I wasn't as amused as I was last year.

But I was amazed...amazed that the dudes at the nearby shammy booth didn't lie to people. Last year I watched two hucksters tell people, hour after hour, that "I can't do this for everyone, but for the first X people that buy a roll of shammies at $20, I'll throw in a second roll of shammies absolutely free."

I never heard them suggest otherwise last year, nor did I see it. It was two rolls for $20 plus tax, which meant a lot more money coming in than if they were selling them at one roll at $10 plus tax, or one roll at $21, I suspect.

News flash: There's a nationwide shammy shortage. Forget the war, forget the economy, people can't get a roll of shammies at their local fair.

The fair started out like any other, with the hucksters selling two rolls of shammies day after day. It was the same cast of characters as last year, but one thing was different.

People need shammies now more than ever.


There's a commercial I've never seen, evidently, and it's hawking shammies in 27 inches of living color. (I see the infomercial for Slim n' Lift body shaper all the time, dammit.)

That commercial, which I am told has nothing to do with the State Fair hucksters, has raised the demand for shammies at fairs across our great nation. In Stinktown the shammy hucksters were out of product after the first weekend.

In Minnesota they made it to day 10 before the supply ran thin.

The hucksters talk as if their company is selling the shammies featured on the commercial, and they have a new banner for their booth, clearly associating their product with the shammies seen on TV. Whether they're associated with the commercial or not, demand for their product is better than ever. I couldn't believe how many people were fascinated by the hucksters as soon as they saw the banner in their booth. I guess if I saw a demonstration for Slim n' Lift I'd stop, too.

On day 10 of the 12-day extravaganza I saw something I never thought I'd see, one roll for $21. They were throwing in some lame shammy sponge absolutely free, but for the first time in my two years of state fair merchandising, I saw the hucksters cut the offer down to one roll.

The booth was so desperate for product that the owner was importing shammies of different colors, indicative I suppose of a different supplier. The green and pink and blue and orange and fuscia shammies didn't last that long, however, as sales remained brisk.

What puzzled me was that by late Saturday night, the hucksters were back to selling two rolls for $21, as if they stemmed the tide.

But by day 11 it was clear the end was near. They were back to single-roll sales, for the most part, although they inexplicably went back to two rolls for a little while. Occasionally they were throwing in any random square of shammy they could find to make the deal sound sweeter than it was. Bottom line, they were still moving product at one roll for $21.

The state fair Nazis don't like their vendors to pack up early, so the sales pitches were cut back to one per hour instead of the non-stop six per hour the hucksters normally did. That helped extend the supply into today, day 12, but they still sold out of their last few hundred by mid-afternoon.

So why not sell all those rolls at $21 each? Me thinks its simple economics. The wholesale cost of those things has to be damn cheap. People are more likely to respond favorably to a great deal rather than a great demonstration. When they see one roll of shammies for $21, a lot of people probably figure it's not much of a bargain, even though the average family will save about $100 in paper towel purchases per year (allegedly). But when there's a second roll for that same $21, two friends can split the cost of two rolls, and feel good about their purchase. Or dad could buy an extra set for the family cabin and feel like he's getting a great bargain in the process.

If the rolls were $10 plus tax, a lot of people would only buy one, but the buy-one-get-one-free gimmick ensures many people are committing $20 to the life-saving shammies. It's marketing brilliance. Sell people two of something instead of one and increase your profits exponentially. What a country.

A country with a shammy shortage, no less.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Stinktown is sexy?

I heard this being discussed on the radio last week, and I was a bit speechless.

Stinktown is sexy.

That's right, Milwaukee has been described as sexy. The whole damn city: sexy.

I'm not making it up. The wise folks at Marie Claire magazine decided there's nothing than their 20- and 30-something readership wants more than a list of 101 sexy things. And they needed a sexy city to put on the list, so naturally they turned to Stinktown.

Because Stinktown has a massive summer music festival, a bunch of ethnic festivals, a NASCAR race and an occasional Harley Davidson anniversary rally, somehow Stinktown is now sexy.

I'm not sure if any major city can really be defined as sexy. Every major city has blight, poverty and homelessness. Those things are all appealing, but sexy? I don't think so!

Chip and his buddy have often talked about creating a website, The website would be dedicated to all the women who aren't sexy, but think bundling up in an over-sized green and gold Green Bay Packers jacket makes them sexy. Cheering for Aaron Rodgers doesn't make you sexy. Sorry ladies, it's true. Just like those stupid ankle tattoos don't make you sexy. It takes more than that. Trust me.

Considering the Sexy 101 list includes a sexiest sport (tennis), a sexiest polish (CND Nail Gloss, $6) and a sexiest office supply (Muji stapler, $4), it's no surprise the sexiest city is Stinktown. The list is highly ridiculous, so why shouldn't its choice for the sexiest city be equally ridiculous?

I've been to Stinktown, many times. I'm not sure what deserves to be the sexiest city, but it ain't Stinktown, I guarantee it.

But let's pretend, just for a minute, that it is.

If that's the case, the end is near. It was a nice run for planet Earth.

Monday, August 18, 2008

They bled me to death (unedited)

I'm a fraud and chronic liar, but I really think I have donated blood and/or blood products for the last time.

I hate needles. I couldn't adminster a shot or draw blood to save my soul, and the thought of taking a needle in the arm, leg or butt has no appeal to me. (I've experienced them all!) While I hate needles, I'm also a sado-masochist, evidently. Since my senior year in high school I have found my way to blood drives, donating a pint of Fonzie's best A positive.

Ironically I have passed out twice, both while giving much smaller blood samples for pre-employment physicals for jobs working in hospital kitchens.

I'm a good candidate for donating blood because I haven't pumped my body full of heroin, had tattoos or piercings or had sex with another man, even once, since 1977.

Some years I have donated blood six times. A few years ago I took an extended hiatus from donating. I figured a guy having heart surgery might be better off not donating pints on top of all the viles he's giving up every so often.

A year or more ago I returned to Memorial Blood Centers, a local agency that conducts blood drives and collects all sorts of funky blood products at fixed-site locations, including a few in the Twin Cities. Instead of going to a blood drive at a church or house of ill repute, you go to a strip mall and bleed for them. It's like selling plasma, but without the paycheck. And by the way, call it what you want, but when you get cash for two hours at a plasma center, you aren't donating jack shit.

A few months ago they invited me to donate blood platelets rather than whole blood. You can donate platelets more often, the end result doesn't take as much out of you, physically, and the need is greater than the need for whole blood. Platelets don't have the same shelf life, evidently.

The drawback: You have to sign on for a couple of hours.

I've been through the process three times this summer. And now it's time to retire!

It's not the time commitment that bothers me. And lord knows I've been far less careless with my health and welfare than the average skank, but I've reached the breaking point.

Each time you visit, you have to go through the tedious health screening. I get it, they can't blow the process off. But I'm tired of having to answer the same questions each time I visit. I still haven't spent five years in Europe, I've still never had any of those weird diseases I've never heard of, and I still haven't had sex with another man, even once, since 1977.

I realize the answers to some of the questions may have changed since my last visit four weeks ago, but I'm tired of the hoops. I ain't jumpin' through them for a while, if ever again. I'm tempted to get a tattoo just so I can be blacklisted.

I have no personal story about how blood donations have made a difference in my life. I became a blood donor simply to face a fear I've had, and I continued to challenge myself to face that fear for 20 years. I passed my test, it's time to move on.

There are a few petty reasons that support my decision, but those aren't worth explaning. I'm a petty human being, and after more than 3 gallons of A positive and a few platelets, it's time to stop doing so much for everyone else and start doing more for me.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Oops, I did it again!

It's not nearly as cool as a trip to Puerto Vallarta, but on Tuesday I received a call from my local Cub Foods grocery store, telling me I'm the winner in a prize drawing I entered. Somehow I can't resist signing up for prize drawings at the grocery store, even though the prizes are never spectacular.

My prize: a portable grill from a no-name steak manufacturer. I haven't seen it yet but I think it's intended to be for tailgaiting, as the grill is adorned with the Minnesota Twins logo. It's not the big, fancy gas grill Fuddrucker's was giving away this summer, but I'll take what I can get.

I've won five prizes this summer from contests, the grill is the second best prize I've won.

One day I'm going to win the lottery, I know it. You heard it here first! (Oddly I rarely buy lottery tickets, so when I do win it, the world will be that much more pissed at me.)

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

7 years running

Doug and I made our annual pilgrimage to the Minnesota/Wisconsin border for Camp Swamp this past weekend.

Swamp is a college friend who grew up in Small Town, Wis. After college Swamp wound up back in the same western Wisconsin area. I suppose it's nice to go home again, although I have no interest in living in Indiana again, or Coon Rapids, Minn., for that matter.

Swamp grew up camping on sandbars and along the banks of the Chippewa River, and he invited Doug and me to join him for an overnight on the river several years ago. That first trip was in August 2002. This year's trip marked our seventh annual pilgrimage.

Loading everything into a boat and navigating a sometimes shallow river to find a sandbar suitable for camping is a weird experience. Once you get there, you don't go very far. Even if it's a one-night trip, it can be a challenging experience. There's something about camping on sand that's different than camping in the woods. There's no shade to block the sun on a sandbar, there's little firewood to be found and while walking on sand sounds pleasurable, the sand gets hot when it's sunny, and the lack of solid footing can become rather annoying. Never mind the fact you can't avoid getting sand in anything and everything you bring for the trip. I swear there was a grain of sand on every Italian sausage I ate this past weekend.

Swamp was an unlikely friend when I went to college. Despite that, Doug and I have remained friends with him since we all graduated. Our one night of camping is the one time of the year I see him, typically, and I'd hate to give it up.

Why is it that I go out of my way to visit a friend who would have stopped calling me years ago had I not made an effort to stay in touch? I don't know, but it's who I am. For better or worse, I'll keep going back to Camp Swamp as long as I physically can, sand be damned.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

I hate ATM machines!

I've had an internet connection for nearly two weeks, it's hard to believe I haven't taken the time to rant about everything that pisses me off. (I have a modest part-time gig developing content for a Facebook application, so that takes up some of my time these days. Despite that, it all changes tonight.)

I went to the Twins/White Sox game tonight, my second in consecutive nights. I'll spare the details regarding why I'm 26 months away from retiring from pro sporting events. At least the Sox finally won in my fourth trip to a "Twins" game this season, but that's not nearly enough to make me happy.

On my way to the H.H.H. Metrodome, or the Big Inflatable Toilet as I like to call it, I decided to stop at my local bank's ATM machines. There are two of them, because we as a society like our machines more than human interaction.

When I pulled up, there were two cars lined up for each machine. But the line on the right looked to be longer than the line on the left. I saw a car in the right lane leaving as I pulled up, so logic dictated that the left side was advantageous. I was wrong.

The morons at the front of the line took their sweet time at the machine. They must have thought it was a slot machine, and by playing it long enough, the machine would start "paying out."

As I sat idle in the left lane, I watched cars breeze throught the right lane. A suburban-assault vehicle pulled up behind me as the lead car in my lane finally departed.

The vehicle in front of me was filled with all sorts of white trash. Perhaps I'm wrong and highly judgmental, but I doubt it. The car ahead of me had 7,353 separate transactions to process, including a mortgage application, evidently.

The suburban-assault vehicle behind me not only pulled over to the rapidly-flowing right lane, it completed its transaction before I even pulled up to my lane's slot machine. I saw at least three vehicles pull into the drive-thru lanes after I did, only to depart before I got a whiff of my slot machine.

Pouring salt on my open wounds, the white trash in the vehicle directly in front of me sat there for about 30 seconds after the last of their 7,353 transactions, doing nothing but talking about how they were screwing me over, I'm sure.

At that point I was tempted to spend five minutes applying for a low-interest loan at the ATM when it was finally my turn, simply to screw over the rest of the free world. But then I realized I'm not nearly as lousy of a human being as many people I have crossed paths with, and decided the better of it.

Regardless, by the time I completed my 30-second ATM transaction in the left lane, there was nobody to be found, either behind me or in the empty lane to my right. And for the rest of the night I was pissed. If there is a god in heaven, she was determined to test my faith in humanity. Congratulations, Alanis, I failed your test.

I have a new ATM policy as of 6 p.m. this evening. I won't bore you with the details...but the bottom line is this: I don't wait in line behind the white trash of society for access to an ATM, unless it is an emergency. Trust me, this plan is brilliant, just don't break into my apartment, there's likely to be $300 in cash in my dresser drawer.

If you think I'm pissed now, you ain't seen nothing yet.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Puerto Vallarta

I have never been to Mexico, but that should change this fall.

A couple of weeks ago I had a voicemail message from one of the twin cities radio stations. It's one of several stations I listen to for about 10 minutes per week. Somehow I don't need a constant soundtrack to get through my daily routines, unlike many people, it seems. Sure, it's nice to have music to listen to when I'm bicycling, but it's not that vital to me, not vital enough that I need an iPod plugged into my ears when I'm trying to yell at idiot Rollerbladers who are busy rocking out to Panic at the Disco while skating in the middle of a trail. I'll never understand the logic behind that, but I digress.

I have been receiving the e-mail newsletter of a lame "playing what we want" radio station for a few years. I signed up for the weekly e-mails back when the station was obsessed with 80s tunes, and when the format changed, the e-mail list simply rolled over with the new format. I usually scan the e-mails for online contests to enter, occasionally scoring tickets to something or another with minimal effort on my part, and without having to listen to the station.

A pimply-faced intern from the station left me the message a couple of weeks ago, explaining I was chosen for one of their prizes, and that I was receiving an upgrade. He could barely pronounce the city, and I'm pretty sure he didn't bother to read through the promotional copy prior to reciting it on my voice mail, but despite his inability to communicate I learned that I was chosen to receive a Funjet vacation to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. I was a bit stunned.

I am going to pick up the vacation package information this week, so I'll know more about it then, but based upon what the promotions woman told me the following morning I will receive a four-night trip for two to an all-inclusive resort in the Puerto Vallarta area.

I have never been to Mexico, and it wasn't high on my priority list, but I won't argue with the destination. I have never been to any of the exotic, tropical vacation destinations. I'm not sure where Puerto Vallarta ranks in comparison to the Bahamas, Hawaii or elsewhere, but I'm slightly excited by the idea of seeing a different part of the world, even if it's a touristy area of an otherwise repressed country.

If all goes well, I'll be going the week after Halloween.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

No. 7 (unedited)

A week from now I may finally have an internet connection in my new apartment. I finally signed up for service, but those crooks at Comcast tell me I have to wait eight days for a "technician" to come to my building and flip a switch, or something like that. I am convinced many of the services these so-called technicians perform are really just busy work Comcast has them do so they can charge a service fee and keep the dudes busy until a real problem occurs.

Last week I took a rare week off from work and spent it up north. I take time off through the year, but rarely an entire week, and usually not in the summer. That makes no sense, but nothing I do makes sense.

Last week I spent my vacation in Osakis, Minn., the small town I frequent thanks to my friends, who have a little lake place up there.

It was during this week that I completed No. 7, my seventh "century" bike ride. As I have noted before, bicyclists fixate upon the magic number 100, and therefore a 100-mile ride is something special. In all my years, I've accomplished the task seven times. For the third consecutive year I've done it while riding the Central Lakes bike trail. The round trip is 112 miles.

The ride was not particularly memorable. I've seen the sights twice before, and while it's a nice trail that passes several small lakes, what I'll remember most is how woefully prepared I was for the challenge. I had biked rather ambitiously throughout June, but I had yet to bike more than 48 miles in one day, yet I figured I was ready for the challenge of 112. It's a very flat trail, so why not?

During the past two years I have biked this trail late in the summer, weeks after completing the MS150, a two-day, 150-mile bike ride. I didn't do the MS150 this past June, and I learned last week that there's something to be said for completing such a ride prior to attempting 112 miles.

It wasn't very windy on June 30, the day I completed No. 7, but what wind there was didn't seem to help me. I thought perhaps it'd help push be back to Osakis when I reached the turnaround point in Fergus Falls, but I was wrong. It wasn't hot, but it was warmer than I prefer for a long-distance challenge. I stopped for rest breaks more often than I anticipated. Those helped, but during the latter half of the ride, I was riding on fumes at times.

I didn't depart until after lunch, but past experience has shown me that I can complete the round trip, with rest stops, in eight hours or less. I departed about 1:15 p.m., thinking I had plenty of time to finish the ride by sunset, which was approximately 9:19 p.m.

I was wrong.

I knew when I stopped for water about 25 miles from the end of my ride that I'd be finishing after sunset, but I didn't care. I don't like to ride in the dark, but without a break, I wasn't sure I'd make it back to Osakis. I finished at approximately 9:45 p.m. Although it was darker than I prefer, it's not as if I was trying to bike through the streets of Minneapolis in the dark, and there was a tinge of sunlight in the western sky when I finished, so it wasn't as dark as it could be.

My average speed was the worst of the three round trips I have made, and I wasn't surprised. It was still respectable, I suppose, but I was disappointed.

Moral of my story: prepare better before attempting my next century ride. Sometimes you have to learn things the hard way.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

I'm back, baby!

Well, not yet, but I will be soon. I will finally return to the online world on a regular basis sometime next month, ideally the week of July 7.

Until then, I need to remind myself that there's much to be done this summer. Here's one of my uninteresting bicycling updates.

Recent bicycling totals:
Saturday: 36.5 miles
Sunday: 39 miles
Monday: 40.5 miles
Tuesday: 28.5 miles
Four-day total: 144 miles

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Please join the Foundation for a Milk-Free World

Who knew drinking milk was just as nasty and terrible as smoking and gambling?

Not me.

But I learned that last week, thanks to my never-ending quest to save a buck.
I’m a sucker for those stupid promotions and gimmicks at Walgreen’s. I really should stop going there, it’s a terribly run corporation, and it’s not doing America any favors. I’d stop short of calling it the Wal-mart of the pharmaceutical industry, but it may be just as evil.

But those jip joints are do offer a few things I need at a competitive price. Granted, 99 percent of their crap is overpriced, (and anything on sale at a good price is guaranteed to be out of stock,) but nobody has given me more free toothbrushes than Walgreen’s.

One of their new gimmicks is the “instant reward” or whatever it is they call it. If you buy an advertised product at a set price, you get a coupon for a future purchase. The coupon works like cash, for the most part, although unlike the cash in my wallet, Walgreen’s cash is only good for two weeks. They don’t want my cheap ass saving $3 on a purchase in June, they need me to come in and buy more of their overpriced crap now.

Last week I bought a gallon of milk and two bags of M&Ms at the nearby Walgreen’s. Both products were on sale. The M&Ms were for my card game that night, the milk was for the house. Milk was prominently featured on the weekly sale flier for $2.99 per gallon.

I had one of those instant rewards, worth $3, and like the idiot I am, I forgot to use it when I made my $8 purchase. I realized this sometime Saturday, the day the reward was expiring.

On my way back home Saturday afternoon I stopped at Walgreen’s, figuring I’d purchase another gallon of milk, on sale, and use the coupon. All was fine until I handed it to Sluggo at the register. He said he didn’t think the coupon would work, due to some sort of restriction on its use. He was right.

At that point I asked if he could just apply the coupon to my previous night’s candy purchase. (The receipt was still in my wallet.) He said I’d need to talk to the manager.

So I did, and I asked her how the hell milk could be restricted from purchase with an instant reward. Promotional gimmicks often say that certain items – usually tobacco, lottery tickets, liquor and gift cards – are excluded from the gimmick, but milk?

The manager told me that because milk prices are regulated by the government – they are, somehow, but don’t ask me why – milk cannot be covered by an instant reward.

I didn’t ask why this highly-regulated liquid could be offered at a sale price, something I’m seeing a lot of in grocery store sales fliers lately, but not discounted $3 with what essentially is a cash-back rebate from a separate purchase. I am confident Nancy had no clue.

Instead I just shook my head, accepted $3 cash from her in exchange for the coupon I forgot to use on Friday and left the store.

The government will allow me to buy as much processed sugar as my heart desires with my instant reward, or an addictive over-the-counter medicine, but not milk.

Milk must be as dangerous and addictive as smoking and gambling. If that’s the case, pour me another rum and Diet Pepsi at lunch. If I’m going to drink a harmful liquid, I might as well enjoy my afternoon.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Where does the time go? (unedited)

It wasn't long ago I was adjusting to the idea of commuting much more than I cared for on a daily basis, not having a home computer at night and relying on the library for occasional weekend checks of my e-mail. It has been more than two months already.

I tired of the cameos at the library within a couple of weeks, instead relying primarily upon my work computer for periodic access to e-mail, my bank account, et al. It wasn't that bad. If I needed to access a website for my job on a regular basis, perhaps life would have been difficult. If my social life revolved around online poker, perhaps life would have been unbearable. But for me life without home internet access has been easy to adjust to.

I had planned to move to a new apartment in April, but for multiple reasons I think I'm going to delay that by one month. By the first weekend in May, however, it's back to some craphole apartment with annoying neighbors. All my living arrangements have been relatively small, one way or another. I've never lived in a big building with the unwashed masses, perhaps I'll avoid that fate again.

So I may not have the privilege of blogging when the mood strikes me until May, and that's fine. I know I would have written a dozen blogs in the past two months had my situation been different, but that's life. Besides, too much of it would have been introspective, and that's boring. There's a value to putting my thoughts into words and being able to see them later, but that's not the sole purpose of this blog, although it seems like it as of late.

Although next time I sit down at this blog I'll probably provide introspective content. I hope to, anyway. I'd like to blog about the things I've learned about life since fire forced me from my apartment in early January. I have learned a lot, not all because of the fire.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

On hiatus?

It sucks not being able to blog at night when the mood strikes me, but living in somebody else's home, where there isn't a home computer, leaves a guy with few options. There are topics to blog about, but I'm not sure when I'll get to them. The five weeks since fire drove me from my apartment have been eye opening, and not bad, all things considered. That's a topic to explore another time.

If there's one thing I have taken away from the recent turn of events in my life, it's to live 2008 like it's the last year of my life. I'm not sure where that will leave me in 2009, but I don't want to think that far ahead.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Revisiting Metropolis

This blog includes a few thoughts related to the preceding entry.

When you get outside of suburban areas, towns seem compelled to identify themselves by some trademark. International Falls, Minn., is battling to retain the legal rights to market itself as the “icebox of the nation.” I once worked in a small town that could come up with nothing better than the “land of 57 hills” or something like that.

While reflecting upon the otherwise forgettable southern Illinois town of Metropolis -- which deemed itself worthy of erecting a Superman statue and collecting Superman memorabilia under the guise of being the "home" of Superman -- I realized that 99 percent of the museums and city slogans you come across are warm and fuzzy. Nobody dubs their city “the armpit of Minnesota.” Herman, Minn., is famous for its effort several years ago to market the disproportionate number of eligible bachelors in its boring-ass farming community, and obtained a lot of national recognition for it. But you’d never see the city dub itself “land of undersexed farmers.”

And what are the chances of visiting a museum dedicated to the history of domestic terrorism? I’d happily spend a few hours in a sleepy little town learning more about the dementia of Jeff Dahmer, Charles Manson and the Unabomber. I’m not sure I want to see the contents of Dahmer’s refrigerator on display in a museum, but artifacts from the crime sprees would be as interesting as seeing Fonzie’s leather jacket on display at the Smithsonian, I am sure. I'm also certain that there'll be no Dahmer museum in Stinktown any time soon.

A museum isn't, by definition, a celebration of someone or something. There's a reason why there are war memorials and a Holocaust museum in Washington, D.C. We have no problem with cable channels producing documentaries about tragic events and serial killers or authors compiling books about the same subjects, but why not interactive displays to learn about these same subjects?

I know, rubes won't flock to Stinktown to visit a Dahmer museum the same way they'll flock to see a bronze statue of the Fonz, anticipated to debut by Labor Day. That's a shame.

Metropolis, bluegrass, fine wine and Geritol

My recent trip to Gulf Coast, Alabama, was less than spectacular, but it wasn’t expected to be highly exciting. My mother recently retired and is spending two months there at a condo overlooking the Gulf of Mexico. (Mom did well during her years of employment; the condo she is renting is on the top floor of her development.) I went along for the ride, literally.

Since mom is spending two months there, she needs a vehicle to get around town. She didn’t want to drive by herself, so I was recruited to assist. Being young and allegedly healthy, I was more than up to the 1,400-mile task. Although not by design, I did a majority of the driving.

Our first day was a long, uneventful trip all the way to southern Illinois. We stopped a few miles short of the Kentucky border in the city of Metropolis.

I’ve heard of this town, and like many small towns, it needed an identity. Metropolis dubbed itself the home of Superman, since that’s the name of the fictional city in which the comic book chronicles the life of Clark Kent. Before departing Metropolis to begin our Day 2 journey we drove into town to see its giant Superman statue. It’s probably 18 or 20 feet tall. It’s nifty, but not worth driving out of your way to see.

There is, however, a nearby museum of Superman memorabilia through the decades. On a cold Thursday morning in January I was hard pressed to believe that many people were flocking to the museum at 9 a.m., but that’s when it opened. Had I been determined to see an authentic costume from the Superman movies of the 1970s and ‘80s I probably could have convinced mom we needed to stick around town, since we were there five minutes before the museum opened, but it wasn’t that important to me. Maybe next year, if there is a next year.

Day 2 quickly brought us to Kentucky, and although I’m not sure what bluegrass looks like, I saw some distinct patches of green as we traveled across the state. It’s easy to forget how much milder winter is by the time you reach southern Illinois. Sure, it was cold that day by Minnesota standards, but not ridiculously cold. To hear the local forecasters talk, however, hell had frozen over.

About an hour from Gulf Shores we stopped to fill the gas tank. I was surprised to find wine in the convenience store. Like Florida, you could buy 12-packs of beer and single cans of Bud Light from an enticing tub of ice right near the cashier, but the rack of unchilled wines, and the selection of chilled offerings next to the beer, struck me as odd. I realize there’s no reason a bottle of fine wine needs to come from a pretentious liquor store, but is there really that great of a demand for fine wine by the hicks of Alabama? I guess there is.

My two days in Gulf Shores were less memorable thanks to the fact it was cloudy and cool, with occasional rain. The average high in January is 60 degrees, and while Friday wasn’t bad, it didn’t top 50 degrees during my stay. Saturday seemed colder, thanks to morning rain and damp air throughout the day.

As one would expect, Gulf Shores is Geritol City. On Friday night we went to dinner with two of mom’s friends who spend their winters in Gulf Shores. One of her friends commented on the fact I was a fresh face in a sea of antiquity. She was right. With the exception of the hired help, those without Medicare were few and far between. I noted, however, that I’d fit in well with the crowd, thanks to my pacemaker.

Mom is in her early 60s. She keeps rather busy with a variety of activities. She’s young compared to most of her Gulf Shores peeps, and healthy. She’s retired and will be able to enjoy the rest of our Minnesota winter in relative warmth, playing cards, reading books, sewing quilts, socializing with friends and learning to operate her new laptop computer. She worked hard to get where she is today, and she deserves it.

I have seen it firsthand. If the ghost of Heath Ledger knocked on my door and offered me a choice between ascending to mom’s Gulf Shores throne when I turn 60, or checking out when I turn 58, the choice for me isn’t as obvious as it may seem.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Racism in America?

My employer recognizes the Martin Luther King holiday by giving its employees a floating holiday instead of closing the office for a day. In the past I would take the day off and spend a long weekend in Stinktown. This year I chose to work on Monday. Does that make me a racist?

Friday, January 18, 2008

Who wants to be a superhero?

Grab your spandex pants and join the revolution, you too could be a superhero.

Our local “alternative” newspaper had a recent story that I found mildly interesting, but mostly puzzling. It was the cover story of the latest edition, although I’m not sure why.

People around the world, but primarily in the United States, have decided that it’s not enough to create a fictional world to write about online. Having a “Second Life” doesn’t keep them warm at night, either. They need to live out the fantasy of being a superhero, and they’re doing it. They don costumes, have names and in some cases attempt to keep the streets safe by roaming around, usually armed with an arsenal of simple assault weapons, such as pepper spray or batons.

These nutjobs come up with character names and custom-made costumes to live out this fantasy. Some do little more than volunteer time to service organizations while in costume, others actually try to help fight crime. I’m not sure why these folks feel it necessary to dress up like pro wrestlers to do it, but more power to ‘em, I guess.

The Minnesota connection to this cover story was two-fold. A dude who runs around in a costume wanted to volunteer at a homeless shelter or something like that, and decided doing it in costume made more sense. And a dude who learned to sew costumes for his career as a pro wrestler has tapped into the superhero wannabe market.

There’s an online forum for these goofballs to discuss their life as their alter ego, and a few of them attempted to have some sort of caucus in New York last year.

They're like clowns for the new millennium: dressed up in costumes, mentally unstable and fascinating to children. I know, not every clown is a pedophile, but if there's a "Black Arrow" or "Red Hornet" running around your city, keep your children away!

I read comic books for many years, and while I’ve often thought about how great it would be to have the power of invisibility or the ability to fly, never once did I want to pretend to be a superhero, even on Halloween. (I may have had a cheap Spider-Man costume as a kid, I’m not sure, but once I outgrew trick-or-treating, no, there was no Batman costume in my future.)

At times I look at my life and realize how meaningless it is. Thanks to “real superheros,” or “reals” as some call themselves, I can feel a lot better about my life.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Burn baby burn! (unedited)

A week ago at this time I was rather tired.

I will long look back upon Jan. 8, 2008, and remember it, for better or for worse.

At 4:44 a.m. my landlord burst into my apartment, asking me to call 911. We had a fire.

I’m not sure what led up to that point, or how the fire started. My landlord tried to put the fire out himself, I learned, but when exactly he made that effort I’m still unclear. I assume he woke up, realized something was wrong and attempted to put the fire out before calling 911. I’m pretty sure that’s how it worked.

My apartment was in the lower level of a house in an older part of the city…not your typical high-density neighborhood. I think my landlord had added onto the house twice, but it’s hard to tell.

His house, with its odd layout and gigantic garage, was the type of place you would suspect illegal activity of taking place. I never saw evidence of it, but it would be easy to cook batches of meth in his gigantic garage or grow pot plants back there. It would be rather easy to conduct a lot of other illegal activities on his property without anyone ever knowing, actually. That odd layout also made the building seem like a training compound for the next great uprising of the Branch Davidian cult.

There was no smoke in my apartment, so I had time to pull clothes on before exiting out the side of the building, onto the driveway. As I stood there calling 911 I watched smoke rise from the roof near the back of the building. As I reported the fire I thought perhaps it could be contained to the rear of the compound, and then we’d all be able to continue living in the main portion of the house.

As the first police cars arrived they began surveying the situation. Of course they left their emergency lights on as the parked there cars near the house, which is on a dead-end street. One was stopped in front of the house across the street. My landlord was running around frantic and in denial that his makeshift heating systems were about to cause a major fire to his house. (That’s my theory as to why the fire started, anyway.) As I stood in the driveway, not knowing what else to do, my landlord asked me to tell the police officer on the scene to turn his lights off because it made it seem like the situation was worse than it was.

I’ve been in a minor crisis once or twice in my life, and I don’t respond rationally. Neither does my landlord, evidently, judging by his odd request of me. I mentioned that I was doubtful they’d do so, but I wandered into the street, as if I was going to approach the officers, but of course I never asked.

There’s a fire hydrant in front of my landlord’s house. A couple of the first responders to the scene began opening the hydrant so the fire trucks could hook up to it upon arrival. My landlord managed to notice this while he was running around, trying to solve his crisis single handedly. He mentioned to them as he was about to run around the side of his house that he didn’t think they needed to bother opening the hydrant. God forbid they be prepared for the worst. Yeah, my landlord was just that delusional.

As I was standing out in the street about 5 a.m. there was an explosion in the center of the building, and a ball of flame blasted through a hole in the roof. That’s when I knew I didn’t live there any more.

After calling 911 I had went back inside the apartment for two things: car keys and socks. I had slipped shoes on to go outside, but I didn’t put socks on. I had grabbed my winter coat, and it was about 30 degrees that morning, so I wasn’t cold, but I knew my feet would be, so socks became important. I grabbed the car keys so I could move my car out of the driveway before the fire department arrived.

As I sat in my car watching the fire department put out the fire during the two hours after the explosion, I regretted not grabbing my wallet. It had cash in it, as well as credit cards and ID. If I was going to lose everything to the fire, I would have been far better off with my wallet.

As was pointed out to me later that day, it never occurred to me to try to save anything from the apartment in the minutes before the fire department arrived. This observation proved a point I already realized by that afternoon.

By 7 a.m. the fire was out and the last fire truck was preparing to leave the scene. I called my mom to let her know I needed to stay at her house for a while, most likely, since I was homeless.

My apartment avoided fire and water damage. All I had was minor smoke damage to my stuff. I grabbed about seven days worth of clothes, a bunch of my bills, my checkbook, stamps and my unopened cases of Diet Pepsi and headed for mom’s house within a couple of hours. The entire upper level of the building was significantly damaged, but not my area, I got lucky, allegedly.

I’ve been reminded that the important thing is that I wasn’t hurt. That may be true, but things could have worked out a lot better. Other than a few photo albums and other irreplaceable keepsakes, 99.5 percent of my stuff could be replaced, if I wanted to replace it, and most of it I wouldn’t.

It would have been a pain to improve to my insurance company what I had and how much it was worth, particularly the comic books and baseball cards of my youth. They may not be worth $10,000, but they’re worth more than a few hundred bucks, but I’m not sure how easily I could have proven what I had and didn’t have.

But given the chance to walk away from everything with an insurance check and start anew, in hindsight I’d take it. Unfortunately I wasn’t given that option.

My insurance will cover the cost of packing and hauling all my crap from the apartment, conducting the space-age cleaning they do to remove traces of smoke and storing of the crap until I’m ready to take delivery of it, which will likely be in April.

While I’ve cared less and less about possessions in recent years, it’s hard to simply dump everything in a Dumpster and walk away, valuable or not. A fire is something I’ve sort of wished for, and I came close to having my wish granted, but not quite.

Had I lost everything last week I’d be in the process of negotiating a check of up to $30,000 to start anew. I realized last week that a little fire and water damage would have given me the freedom to search for a new job anywhere I wanted without the burden of a bunch of mostly worthless personal possession. Had that fire been a little more intense, I might be starting a whole new life this spring rather than be saddled with the one I have. And believe me, the one I have seems less worthy of holding onto with each passing year.

Although I’m living with my mother until I have a new apartment, the timing couldn’t be much better. She is retiring this week and has a two-month vacation planned down south, so next week she departs. At least I won’t be in her way while living at her house. When she returns, I’ll be preparing to move into a new apartment, and this time I won’t have to move my stuff into it. I look at it as a small consolation prize.

I had hoped to move this spring or at the latest by early summer. I wanted that move to coincide with that new job I so desperately need. I wanted to pick a new apartment based upon where my new office would be. Unless I pull off a minor miracle and find a new job in the next two months, I’ll have to find a reasonable apartment in Minneapolis and hope for the best.

While I have to drive a lot further back and forth to work, I won’t be paying rent until April, so that will more than make up for my added fuel costs. Although I won’t be able to cash a fat check in the end, I’ll also get reimbursed from my insurance company for some of my costs associated with my temporary displacement. Yeah, my dark clouds have a few silver linings.

I have mixed feelings about this experience, obviously, and whether this is part of an aligning of the stars that provides a little meaning for my life in the coming year remains to be seen. I have felt like my life has been traveling down a dead-end road in the past few years, I hope this is one of the hiccups that takes me down a different path.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Sales pitch (unedited)

I am in the wrong line of work, I am sure of it.

When I went to college I intended to be a newspaper reporter. I enjoyed writing, so it made perfect sense. I never found anything better to do, and that’s a shame.

As a college freshman I accidentally attended a meeting for the campus radio station. I thought it was a general meeting about journalism opportunities on campus, but it was the ceremonial assigning of on-air shifts for our low-watt FM station. People filed in to get a weekly shift on the air, and although I never considered being a radio DJ, I wound up with a Friday afternoon shift.

I’m sure I was horrible on air, but I learned a few things during that first year, primarily by listening to others at the station. To me it became important to sound like a professional, not a college kid talking to his buddies in the dorms. I hated when people sounded as if they didn’t know what they were doing. I wanted to sound as if I belonged on the air. I actually put thought and planning into what I did by the time I graduated to a weeknight shift, the best shifts to have on our campus station.

I flirted with the idea of pursuing a career in broadcasting, but decided I was a better writer than broadcaster. Right or wrong, there’s a part of me that will always regret that decision.

I don’t consider myself to be a stellar public speaker, but when pressed into action, I do OK. On Wednesday I attended a retirement gathering in honor of my mother, a county employee for the past 29 years. A brief presentation was planned, so I made sure to be there, despite the hardships of the past two days.

I was surprised to hear several people speak about her. A handful of people had nice things to say about my mother, not all of them related to her career as a county employee. It was quite an event.

The last thing that occurred to me as I made my way to the seventh floor of the county offices is that I’d be speaking about my mother. But after watching several people speak about her, I wondered if somebody from the family should say something. After a handful of people spoke, it seemed obvious that somebody should. I quickly crafted a speech in my mind and then the emcee of the event invited anyone else to step forward and speak.

A few of mom’s co-workers accepted the invitation, so I waited my turn. Once it was clear nobody else planned to step forward, I did.

I’m not sure I delivered the best message possible at her party. My point wasn’t that she’s a great mom, as well as a great county supervisor. My point was more along the lines that she will continue to be a mom, even if she is retiring as a county employee.

I used a couple of events in my life to emphasize the point, and peppered them with comedy. While I didn’t say it in so many words, I think my stories helped emphasize why she is important to me as a mother, and how I still need her in my life. Even if I didn’t say it explicitly, I think my message came across.

Several people complimented me after the program was over. I was rather tired that afternoon, it had been a long day-and-a-half leading up to this party, so I don’t remember who said it, or how it was said, but I heard someone make the statement that I should be in sales. Somehow my ability to improvise in front of an audience makes me a candidate for a job in sales.

That’s not the first time I have been told this. And circumstances surrounding the other times I’ve been told this were equally as puzzling. I still don’t buy it, no pun intended. I don’t care for the mentality of many sales jobs. Having my paycheck tied to how many people I coerce into making a purchase they’re not quite ready to make holds little appeal to me. The idea that “if you can sell, you can sell anything” makes me sick.

Sales may not be the career for me, but my speech at mom’s party yesterday affirmed something I’ve known for a long time, there are better uses for my talents than writing for a weekly newspaper. I just have to find one of them. And I will.