Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Happy trails (unedited)

In an anti-climatic turn of events, Jilf is gone, forever. Unlike a few of the dearly departed sales skanks, I'm doubting I'll ever cross paths with Jilf again.

Jilf was a borderline-psychotic display sales representative for my prestigious news organization. She announced recently that she was leaving. I was very happy for her, mostly because it meant that I wouldn't be subjected to her on a daily basis. She's a nice person, but also several cards short of a full deck.

Sometimes the departure of an ad rep is rather sudden. If the company doesn't think you're cutting it, or thinks you're doing something improper, it's a quick hook. When ad reps announce they're leaving, however, there are times that they stick around for a week or two. Sometimes the company kicks 'em out the door immediately, to prevent them from cultivating their current business contacts into new business contacts, I think. Although our ad reps have non-compete clauses of some sort that they have to sign to work for our evil empire, so who knows why they do what they do.

I'm unclear how long Jilf stuck around. She was still in the office last week before I left for Mexico, and it looked like she had stuff at her desk on Monday. But this afternoon I noticed that all evidence that she sat at her desk was now gone, meaning I've seen the last of her.

But I would pay money to sit down with her in 10 years and find out how her life has turned out. I'm sure it would make for a damn good story.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

The beginning is the end is the beginning

I didn't blog every other hour as I had hoped this weekend, and I didn't blog in bite-size nuggets as often as I anticipated, but it was good to sit down and type a few thoughts this weekend.

I could write for hours, literally, if life didn't get in the way.

I did a lot this weekend, although nobody would be envious or jealous of my life. My weekend culminated with me going to see "Role Models" by myself at the budget movie theater blocks from my house.

I laughed many times at the moronic humor in it, and in the end I was reminded of one very important thing: there's more to life than this.

Put your hands together

I have seen this more than once, and it puzzles me.

The scenario: a player is injured on the field of play during a football game and requires medical attention, as happened tonight during the final minutes of the Pittsburgh Steelers/Baltimore Ravens game. The injured player requires several minutes of on-field medical attention before being moved onto a stretcher and lifted onto the back of a cart or into an ambulance.

And as they load the guy in the meat wagon, people clap.

Why the hell does that make sense?

When an injured player finally gets up and limps off the field, people are relieved and want to acknowledge the dude's toughness, or something like that. I get that.

But when a dude is so badly injured that he can't leave the field under his own power, people think that's worth clapping for?

The only logical conclusion I can draw is that the rubes in the stands are happy the dude is being carted off, finally, so play can resume.

Applauding the paralyzed player being chauffeured off the field: yet another example that people are idiots.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Family feud, chapter 3 (unedited)

During the drive to Alabama last week mom and I discussed grandpa's situation.

The topic came up a few times during the trip. While I was driving on day 1 I listened to mom discuss the matter with her sister-in-law. And the topic came up while we were visiting with her friends who also "winter" in Gulf Shores.

I learned that grandpa receives $16,000 a month in rent, not $11,000 as I had thought.

I also learned that the siblings opted out of the business arrangement that gave them a share of the flooring business. I'm not sure grandpa is too fond of this, as it'll increase his financial obligation for the 2009 tax year, a year that started without him getting a rent payment.

It was during my chat with mom that I realized where things went wrong. When grandma died, grandpa took a trip with a few of his golf buddies that winter, a trip south. Grandpa hadn't traveled in years, primarily because he didn't want to leave grandma in her declining health. I don't think he was bitter about that, it was just the way it was.

Grandpa should have spent a lot of his time and money traveling, doing something that would help get his mind off grandma's death. Traveling south in the winter wouldn't have made him forget grandma, but it would have helped get him away from everything back home that reminded him of grandma. He could have spent thousands of dollars traveling the world without putting a significant dent in his savings. It's hard to believe things would be worse than they are now.

Of course he could of went back to Naples, Fla., where he use to go for part of the winter many years ago, and met the Huggy Bear of Naples. We'd end up with the same mess we have today, except the problem would be hundreds of miles away instead of in our backyard.

I expect the family business to survive the recession, but it's going to create a lot of hard feelings and leave lasting scars for many involved, and some of those scars won't be easily forgotten.

Friday, January 16, 2009

You can go home again

I was born in a small town.

Really, I was. I was born in Rensselaer, Ind., a town of about 5,000, as far as I recall. It is in northwestern Indiana, maybe 90 minutes from Chicago. When I lived there we made periodic trips to visit my grandmother in Chicago, but it's hard to recall how long those trips were.

The town is a few miles off the interstate, is the county seat of Jasper County and is surrounded primarily by farmland. I don't recall how close we were to another significant town, but our town was an island unto itself.

I left Indiana nearly 30 years ago, after my parents divorced. My parents' story is a rather bizarre tale, one I probably won't tell here, no matter how anonymous my blog is. When the divorce was final, mom decided she had no reason to stick around Indiana, all her family was back in Minnesota, where she grew up. While I still claim my Hoosier heritage occasionally, as a practical matter my life started over in Minnesota, and I have little connection to my years in Indiana.

But spending the earliest years of my life in Indiana left many lasting memories, whether I want them or not. I revisited the old hometown a year or so after moving. While spending part of the summer with my dad, he took us back to Indiana for about three days, providing an opportunity to visit several people from my recent past.

I made a couple of passes through town a decade or more later. In the spring of 1993 I drove through town during a return trip from Florida. It was early on a Sunday morning and still kind of dark, but it was a chance to make a quick pass through town. A few years later I made another pass through on a Saturday afternoon. I was on my way a bit further south to attend the wedding of my next-door neighbor from Rensselaer, and had time to spare. I don't remember much about what I saw during either of those passes, they were relatively brief glimpses into a world that I rarely think about.

I've lost touch with just about everyone from the early chapters of my life. Nobody has tracked me down via social networking, at least not as of yet, and I haven't gone looking for anyone, either. I still keep in touch, barely, with Jodi, my former nextdoor neighbor who now lives in Lafayette, but she's the only person I'm still in touch with.

For mom, Rensselaer was where she spent most of the 1970s, but it's not where she grew up, and she's about three decades removed from life there. Yet she's in touch with several people from her days in Rensselaer, and decided that as part of this year's trip to Gulf Shores she wanted to make a cameo in Rensselaer. She has remained in touch with a former co-worker, a widow, who invited us to stay overnight at her house on Thursday night, which we did.

Due to some miscommunication, however, Louise wasn't home when we arrived in town on Thursday night, so mom called her friend Barb, who was once my babysitter. Barb had been married, had kids, divorced, moved back east, got married again, had another kid, went back to school and, shockingly, returned to Rensselaer after more than three decades. I don't know the details of Barb's story, but I think her first ex-husband has remained in Rensselaer, and therefore Barb's kids have had some connection to the city their entire life. It's cheaper to live in Rensselaer than it is to live out east, undoubtedly, and if you like small town life, Rensselaer fits the bill. For whatever reason Barb found her way back to Rensselaer, and mom learned of this through the connections she has maintained in said city.

Like most small towns, Rensselaer has its share of amenities and familiarities. When I was a kid, it was a big deal to get a McDonald's three miles east of town, at the northerly exit of the interstate. There was already a Kentucky Fried Chicken out there, and I think Dairy Queen was built a couple of years before Mickey D's. Nowadays you can't go five miles without running into the Golden Arches, but back then, it was a big deal to get a McDonald's at our exit.

The old McDonald's is still there, but there's one in town as well, relatively close to the small, private Catholic college that put Rensselaer on the map more than a century ago.

The grocery store, pharmacy and big box retailer of my youth have all been replaced by similar businesses. I swear the old, classic downtown movie theater I went to a few times in my youth was out of business during the 1990s, but last week it was alive and well. I think a small multiplex theater opened somewhere, yet the small downtown theater is still making a go of it.

The downtown district has a large courthouse within it, and I was sure it wouldn't be as massive as I remembered it, but that's where I was wrong. As a kid the distance from point A to B seemed longer than it does now, and things seem smaller to me, for the most part, yet the courthouse is still an impressive structure.

I could easily spend hours driving around that town, jogging my memory and reminiscing, but on Friday morning mom and I spent about 10 minutes driving around before we departed. I saw a number of memorable things, and of course we had to drive past the old house on Jefferson street, a house that I'm sure I'd be stunned by how small it really is inside. I remember the basic layout to this day, and if you offered me a chance to walk through it, I wouldn't pass it up.

I knew we were staying overnight in Rensselaer, but I had no interest in trying to track down anybody from my past. Those I do remember, besides my neighbor, are likely elsewhere. But I'm sure a couple of people still live in town to this day.

I don't miss Rensselaer, and I wouldn't want to move back there, but maybe some day I'll get a chance to spend more than 15 minutes driving around town. Maybe I'll be able to walk the streets again and revisit a lot of memories I probably don't even know I have. And if I do, I'll certainly ponder how my life might be different had my parents never divorced. Perhaps I'd still be living in Rensselaer today.

Somehow I doubt it.

Blog early, blog often

I'm going to blog several times this weekend. Sometimes it'll be a quick five-minute post, other times I might put a little effort into my output. I have a million things going on this weekend, although nothing that would make anyone jealous, obviously, as I'm sitting here blogging on a Friday night.

This time last Friday I was in Birmingham, Ala., watching TV in a motel room. I had just eaten at a Sonic drive-in for my first time and I was looking forward to 3-1/2 days of mild weather in Gulf Shores, Ala. Next Friday I'll be in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. So I can live with the fact that I'm busy taking care of lots of crap in my apartment tonight and not running around freezing my ass off.

So what is the first topic of my weekend of blogs? Farewell, Jilf.

Jilf is the divorcee who sits near me at the office. She is a nice person, but a little too full of personality for her own good. She's a serial dater, and borderline psychotic.

Through a conversation she had with a co-worker this afternoon I learned that Jilf is leaving my prestigious media organization. I'm not sure when her last day is, but knowing I won't hear her laughing at her lame wisecracks much longer is all I need to brighten my day.

She's a cowgirl, and through the fine folks at match.com she met her latest boyfriend. I haven't heard her reference a boyfriend prior to today, and I'd bet she was single two months ago. But I guess when you find your soul mate...

She was telling another co-worker that she's going to work for this guy in some capacity. At least that's what it sounds like. Her new job is somehow related to her new boyfriend, who is a cowboy, evidently. He's not your typical match.com guy, Jilf claimed. I'm not sure what that means, but if he wants to roll in the hay with Jilf regularly, and is willing to have periodic conversations with her as well, then he can't be the typical match.com guy, because even the losers on match.com would struggle with her overbearing personality, I'm sure.

Maybe she's like Roast Beef's childhood buddy. Mark was a complete ass clown around his buddies, all the time. Yet despite that he found a woman who could tolerate him enough to marry him. According to Beef, Mark dials down the ass clown in his personality when he's with a woman. Perhaps Jilf is like Mark, perhaps she's tolerable in a one-on-one setting outside of the office. I wouldn't bet $5 on it, but stranger things have happened.

So Jilf is leaving for some job tied to Mr. Wonderful the cowboy, and I couldn't be happier for her. My only fear is that one of the sales skanks takes over her territory and brings a whole new world of psychosis into my corner of the world. Considering I put up with Jiggly prior to Jilf, I'm pretty sure I can handle whatever comes my way next.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Memories (unedited)

I hate anniversaries, mostly because they're not worth commemorating.

Yesterday was the three-year anniversary of my pacemaker surgery. My life is as meaningless today as it was three years ago, probably more so.

Tomorrow is the one-year anniversary of the great apartment fire. My life isn't worse off because of it, but it isn't exponentially better, and I will continue to live with the repercussions of said fire for at least several more months.

As it turns out, the one-year anniversary is also the start of my second annual pilgrimage to Gulf Shores, Ala., with mom. Last year we departed about 10 days later, but mom's schedule allows her to depart tomorrow, so we depart tomorrow.

Six days on the road and in Gulf Shores with my mom, not exactly the dream of most single, 38-year-old men. It's winter in Minnesota, however, so I'll take what I can get.

My junior year in high school was the toughest time of my life. In hindsight it was all rather ridiculous and stupid, but it was tough at the time, and I learned a few life lessons the hard way.

I'm going to have a lot of time to ponder my life here in Minnesota, and I will for a few hours. And maybe for a minute or two I'll forget all about it, but it's the life I have to come back to next week, whether I like it or whether I don't.

I don't.

But given I don't have a choice, when I do come back, all hell will break loose.

I promised myself I was going to die this year, and the death of me begins in Gulf Shores.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Retirement (unedited)

I have a feeling I'll be making a few retirement announcements in the coming year. Not all of them will be the subject of a blog post, and not all of them will be that impressive, but in the year of my death, it seems only appropriate to retire from a few things rather than let them die on the vine.

One of the less impressive retirements I'm planning: jumping in the lake. Each year on New Year's Day there's an organized jump into a hole in the ice of a local lake. This "dive" into a large rectangle cut into the ice started with just eight people jumping into the lake in 1991, as a way to sustain a New Year's Day tradition for a transplant from somewhere in California.

It became a public event that has grown annually. Some years it grows just a little. In 2009 the dive broke its 2008 record by more than 200 participants. More than 900 people jumped into four feet of open water, waded or swam 20 feet to the ladder on the other side of the squared circle and climbed a ladder out of the water.

I've participated in this event five times during the past 10 years, including Thursday morning's rendition. The problem with the event is that the venue at which the event takes place is too small to accommodate the mass of people that show up to participate.

With more than 900 participating, it's a nice problem to have. There's a participation fee for the event which offsets costs associated with it, but also raises money for charitable purposes. It went from being a running club activity to being a fundraising public spectacle.

But it's too big. With everyone descending upon the event for a 9:30 a.m. kickoff, it's a bit of a fiasco. The event center that hosts the event is too small to accommodate 900 divers. The makeshift warming house in its warmer level is overwhelmed with participants readying to line up at the hole.

I have enjoyed participating in the event, but being crammed into a building like a sardine for more than an hour, waiting for the privilege of jumping in a frozen lake for 15 seconds, just ain't worth it any more.

There's a certain pride in telling people I did it, again. And lord knows there's little to be proud of in my life, so I take anything I can get. But I need to find a greater source of pride in 2009. Not necessarily at the expense of my New Year's Day pride, but without changes in the event, I'm not going back. And even with changes in the event, changes in my life may prevent me from going back in 2010. I'm banking on it.

Whatever be the reason, I have retired from the New Year's Day dive.