Monday, May 31, 2004

The obligatory mention of the title.


This week, I didn't have a stressful time at my main job culminating in a moment where I seriously considered just quitting the damn place, taking my 401K money and just walking away. I also didn't have to deal with doctors regarding my prescription for anti-obsessive medication. And I didn't make a mistake while working the register at the new bookstore that allowed someone to walk away without paying for their merchandise. I didn't get a curt lecture four days later, after I apologized for it over and over, from a manager who's only met me twice and yet felt that I needed to be told the basics of cashiering, even though I've been doing it for four years. I haven't been working so much that I've barely slept and haven't had a chance to relax or write.

No, this week, I took advantage of the long weekend by hopping in my car with an overnight bag and heading for the coast. And William, a new guy, joined me, someone I've been going out with for weeks but haven't mentioned here. (Some things have to stay private, I guess.) We just thought it would be good to get away. He's really great - you know, cute enough, I guess - and I really like him. I mean, he seems to be able to talk to me, which is key. For some reason, I think it's all going to be all right. I mean, I felt so comfortable with him that I suggested this trip. And he went along with it. And that's why I haven't written. The best moments, though, have been when he's let me have time to myself. On Saturday, he went to get us food, and he just let me walk along the beach at night by myself. I took my shoes off, and I felt the sand beneath my feet. I never take my shoes off. I don't know what came over me. I was just feeling like, I don't know, everything had fallen into place. The sky above me was filled with stars. I'd not felt that good since that day on the Millennium Bridge in London. All in all, it was a good weekend. He's very sweet. He's sarcastic, but he's got this, I don't know, swagger I like. My mom's even met him - since she stopped by the apartment to drop off some stuff for the trip. (Truthfully, she just wanted to check up on me, I think.) And, though that was a little weird for me, it went well enough. I feel good about it, particularly now that we're back. I didn't even get sunburned. Seriously.


Lupo was worried about me when I talked to him this morning from my apartment, where I was lounging on the couch.

He said he was frustrated, that he didn't know how to just listen to me without offering help or assistance. He said he loved me, but it bothered him that everything with me was always in "such turmoil."

He suggested that there were things that I could do. I could look for another job, that I could try to get published. My life, after all, is my making. He's told me that about a million times. I know. I know. I fucking know.

So, having already told him about what happened at the bookstore where the manager lectured me, I told him that I took some time and just walked alone on a beach.

He told me that sounded nice, but he couldn't figure out how I'd done it. There aren't really beaches nearby.

In my head, while I'm at the bookstore, I think of where I'd rather be. I go on dates. Good ones. I go back to London. I see beaches at night, only at night. And that's how I do it. (I'm actually surprised that I end up on a beach when I do it. I'm not really a beach person.)

"Benjamin, I love you," Lupo said. "But I don't know what you want from me. I don't know what I'm supposed to say, if I'm supposed to say anything. I should maybe just start to listen to you. What do you want?"

I gave Lupo a speech about how frustrated I was with myself, so frustrated that I didn't know how to give him guidance in the situation because I didn't know where I was going, if that makes any sense.

I am not this, I kept telling him. This is not my life. This isn't something that's just happened. I'm not stuck.

I'm not this. I'm a writer. I'm a good writer, I told him. I'm a writer, and I have time and means to do it for a living. And I'm not working constantly, feeling crazed and misunderstood and tired.

I told him that I'm working at places where no one understands me or knows how to communicate with me. And I don't know what to do.

"This isn't the secret life of Walter Mitty," I pleaded mid-speech. "This isn't my secret life of Riley McCarthy. I mean, who am I? WHO AM I? Where is this going?"

I kept starting sentences, then stopping them, then starting new ones. It's a terrible habit. My mother used to hate when I did that.

After talking to Lupo, I had the urge to listen to Elvis Costello's "Everyday I Write the Book." But it only helped a little bit.


A guy I work with at the bookstore writes short stories. He's been published in some literary journals from Tallahassee and Valdosta.

I told him that all I'd had was a column published in The Guardian from London.

His eyes got big. I chuckled.

I had to stop talking about it, though, when a customer came up with their books.

"Did you find everything you were looking for today?" I asked the customer. "Will you be using a discount card, saving 10 percent?"


Ron and I went to a movie and dinner on Friday night. At dinner, we talked about when we both used to work for CNN Interactive.

That's the job I got fired from. Thinking about those people and that situation makes my shoulders droop and my face feel heavy.

I was very young. I made mistakes. And I was manipulated by people. Once one person decided they didn't want me around, it was only a matter of time. There wasn't anything, really, that I could've done.

I would've been laid off a couple months after I got fired anyway.

That was four years ago. It is no longer who I am. I don't know who I am, but I know who I'm not.

Is that something?


Speaking with a different manager at the bookstore tonight, a nice guy named Harrison who's pleasant when I speak to him, I asked him if I could be frank and confidential.

I told him that I didn't feel comfortable at the store yet, and I didn't know what to do about it. I said I knew it would take time, but there had been problems. I didn't really specify what the problems had been.

He assured me that the store was very busy and different, and it required a period of adjustment. He said he transfered a year before and that it's all worked itself out for him.

I told him that I felt weird with the new people. And I told him that I felt disliked and misunderstood.

"Really?" he asked me. "I thought everyone liked you a lot."

He said he noticed that I didn't have a problem talking to people.

"Some people here kinda keep to themselves," he said, "but you've been a talker."

In regard to other things, he told me that some people are naturally going to judge my performance based more upon the work that I've been doing over my longevity with the company. People make judgments based upon what they see, and, even if it's not the whole picture, that'd be a situation I'd face everywhere.

Give it time, he said.


Black called me during my shift at the bookstore today from a bar in the French Quarter.

He told me that I'd like it if I were there.

And he told me that I'd have liked one of the guys who apparently walked up and hit on him in that bar.


I don't know what this is about. I don't know where I'm going.

I know where I'd rather be. I know who I'd choose to be, and I know like I feel like I don't have a choice, even though I do.


I wanted to go away this weekend.

It would've been nice to be alone on a beach, barefoot in the sand and looking up at the stars.

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Sayonara, Plastic!

I paid my past due balance on my American Express card today, thanks to incremental payments and some help from some wonderful friends and family. The American Express people are also owed thanks ... for not turning my account over to some loan shark named Vito intent on breaking my kneecaps.

I was going to cut it up. Seriously. I was going to cut it up, pay it off and close the damn account. I may still.

Anything to keep me from using it. Because I overuse it. Because I'm in a store almost everyday, and you can't help but browse the aisles as you help others find their books, music and movies. (Hell, the store discount's half of the reason I got a job there.)

But, wavering, I've decided that it'd be good to have an emergency credit card in case my car catches on fire or something. I'm going to put it on a shelf somewhere. Somewhere high. Beyond reach. Out of mind. Not an option.

To be corny, I've got to leave home without it, at least.

But maybe I should cut it up.

Damn it.

I don't know what to do.

Monday, May 24, 2004

Ask, and you shall receive.

So I'm working at the register at the store today, and Marc, the guy working next to me, answers the phone.

Suddenly I hear him say into the phone, "Yes ... Benjamin is here."

I look over at Marc for a second, and he tells me that I have a call on Line Two.

It was my first time someone called me at the store. I figured my mom needed something or someone like Lupo read the blog and was preparing to be extra thoughtful and kind with me. Maybe Larry needed to talk to me before heading to Italy.

"Who is it?" I asked Marc.

"I don't know," Marc replied. "It sounded like someone's dad."

Hmm. I haven't dated any teens lately.

Still, I had lots of customers, so I kept the person on hold while I waited on people.

When the line died for a moment, I picked up the phone.

The person on the line, a distinctive, deep, scruffy voice I haven't heard in over a year, left me in a momentary state of shock.

It was Ron. My friend Ron. My completely awesome, thoroughly lovable friend Ron. My friend Ron from college. My friend Ron who asked me to the movies during summer quarter 1996 after we met in the economics seminar that I barely attended. My friend Ron who I once tracked down over the Internet when I was living in boring, religious Augusta after college. My friend Ron from CNN. My friend Ron who helped me get hired at CNN. My friend Ron who has a dog named Katie. My friend Ron who looks like a football player and went with me to a Braves game on my birthday. My friend Ron who used to find the way I hit on his roommate amusing and creepy. My friend Ron who saw "Gattaca" and "Being John Malkovich" with me. My friend Ron who moved to Boston a couple years ago.

You get the idea. He spoke, and all that flooded through my head in a rush.

"Well you're certainly hard to get a hold of," he said to me.

I was silent. My jaw, actually, almost hit the damn counter when I heard his voice.

I mean, I love Ron. Lo-o-ove Ron. He's terrific.

"Um, hello?" Ron asked into the phone, for I still hadn't actually said anything on the phone.

"Oh, sorry," I said. "I'm just ... in a state of shock."

He asked me if I was free after work. I told him I was working until 10. He told me that he was in town.

"Visiting?" I asked.

"Actually, I'm in town," he said. "I'm working at CNN again."

He's getting a house in Brookhaven with his partner in a couple weeks. He'll be, like, five minutes away.

I repeated that I was working until 10. Then a manager looked at me like I was the guy who's only worked there two weeks and was taking a personal call, and the line of customers flared up again.

"I'm sorry," I said into the phone, the whole thing going so fast. "I have to go again."

I hit the hold button.

"CAN I HELP THE NEXT PERSON?" I shouted at the line.

Through with that customer, I looked down at the phone.

There was no joy on Line Two. It wasn't blinking a little green light of held happiness at me.

Ron was gone. Gone. Ron, gone.

And I didn't know where he was staying or how to contact him. I didn't mean to have such an abrupt chat. Hell, I didn't even know how on Earth he'd even found me. If he had any number for me, it would've been an old one. And how in the hell did he know I worked at that bookstore?

It was all too much to take in while dealing with the customers.

During my brief break a few minutes later, I tried to figure out a way to track him back down.

I called my cell phone's voicemail, and he'd left me a message there with a long-distance phone number that I wasn't going to be able to use until I got home, the concept of which sucked. I wanted instant gratification.

Which I got about a half-hour later when a smiling, table-browsing Ron waved at me from over by the Customer Service desk.

With no customers in line, I walked past a co-worker and a couple managers over to the desk and hugged Ron.

God, I've missed him. You don't even know how much. I didn't even know.

It was one of those things where he told me he was moving because it was right for him, and I couldn't come up with a convincing enough reason for him not to go since I don't carry that kind of clout with him. So he left, and I focused on other stuff. And I would call him. But he was out of touch. We were out of touch. It wasn't intended. The cards just fell that way.

When Ron is in my orbit, though, he brings an entirely different perspective to the table. He's unlike anyone I've ever met. He's strong, smart, savvy, understanding, cool, ballsy, blunt, sensitive and completely honest. Oh, and he's athletic and could hold his own in a fight. And he's tattooed. And a writer. And some kind of Web genius.

He fascinates me, and it was hard for me not to just grin like the damn Cheshire cat when I saw him.

He's a friend. A friend who's seen me in some of my worst moments and yet has remained my friend. He's the sort who, despite a year out-of-touch, will use an old address book to call my mother to get my cell number and find out where I have a weekend job.

I needed that hug today so much that, if you looked in my previous posts, you'll see I asked for it.

We went to dinner during my 30-minute break.

The closest place was a McDonald's, actually, but I saw "Super Size Me" on Friday and told Ron that I'm never eating there willingly ever again.

Ron started laughing, saying that he'd seen the same movie that afternoon and didn't want to eat there either. Apparently, when he was in the movie theater, that's what got him thinking about looking me up.

(Thank you, Limited Release Documentary Film!)

During my break, we ate fast at Moe's Southwestern Grill, which was actually really good, and we spoke of seeing movies, of recent vacations and how we're doing nowadays.

It seems like, when you break it down, we're both doing pretty well.

The good vibe I got from seeing Ron today - and finding out that he's in the area again - helped me through my day. It was just what I needed.

Sunday, May 23, 2004

He doesn't write. He types.

There was another guy at the bar last night. I was watching him from the balcony. Looking up at his friends and at me, he began dancing to disco music, spinning around with his arms extended like Lynda Carter in "Wonder Woman." At the highlight of the song, he took the beer bottle he was holding, put the bottom of it into his mouth, deep-throated it and kept spinning.

His friends were laughing, and I was laughing. When he saw me laughing, he was sorta mildly amused, it seemed, that his behavior attracted attention.

When I left the bar, I walked past him and, smiling, said, "Wow, what you did was as amusing as it was unattractive."

I was trying to be funny.

But he didn't like that.

If it'd been one of my friends, then a friend would've found it funny.

There's, apparently, a social dynamic that I don't quite get.

It would've been better not to say anything.

Vic told me that my behavior is tied to how intimidated I am.

"You were bullied when you were a kid," she said. "And now you're a bully in your own way. You pick on people to see if they're smart enough or nice enough. You try to find people who'll play your game back at you."

There's something I've always found forgiveable and even amusing about a clever insult.

Vic told me over the phone today that Oscar Wilde, Truman Capote, Dorothy Parker and Groucho Marx were great at it, but they probably didn't have that many close friends.

Larry, also on the phone today as I legitimately examined my capacity for true rudeness, told me that he found me both rude and blunt. But he said he wouldn't change it at all.

"It's just your way," he said.

Why does that seem more like a curse, though?

More often than not, I'm thought rude ... "until you get to know me."

Can I file for a social exemption in those cases? Can I make the first impression not count?

Is this a problem to solve?

Bad impressions.

You know, I'm not the nicest person. But I'm not bad.

I'm not the sanest person. But I'm not crazy.

I am not a bar troll. Am I?

I go to the same bar every three weeks or so. I talk to people who, only on occasion, wish to speak to me. Michael the bartender, who I went to college with and generally makes me feel at ease, greets me with a hug.

Jonathan the bartender, who's known me four years, greets me with an "Oh, it's you ..." look most of the time, which is kinda painful, but other times he is genuinely nice, and we have conversations. I say hello when I'm there. I ask him how he's doing.

You ever feel like you're expressly not wanted?

If you walk up to a conversation at work or something, and it just stops.

Maybe it's me. Maybe I'm the rude one.

Tonight, Bob, one of the fortysomething people I'd consider a bar troll, was manhandling this kid, whom I didn't know, and I tried to step in between them. When I explained to the kid that I was trying to help him out of what I would've found an uncomfortable situation, he politely let me know that my assistance was unnecessary and that my labelling of Bob as "Jabba the Hutt" was completely rude.

I don't know Bob outside of the bar. I know how he acts. I know his way. I don't like him. At all. I made a judgment about him that he preys creepily upon younger people, and he's done nothing in the months that I've seen him to prove me wrong.

Watching him do the same thing over and over, with varying degrees of success, upon far younger men and having them treat him as some kind of drunken, amusing fool makes me sorta mad.

He's not amusing. He's toxic, the kind of guy who grabs your ass in a bar even when you don't want him to. At all.

I hate guys who grab me, as one did tonight. It makes me angry. It's not amusing. It's not wanted.

But my judgment isn't cared for by anyone other than me nor is it wanted, so I should just keep my damn mouth shut.

The guy I warned about Bob seemed way more disturbed by my interference than by what he thought of Bob's playful, drunken groping.

He found Bob benign and amusing. And he thought I was a complete rude, judgmental dick possibly trying to hit on him too by protecting him from someone else.

I wasn't trying to hit on him. I was trying to help.

I'm not getting points for meaning well. And I don't know if I should, but I want the points. I want my actions and motivations to be understood.

I sat on a bench alone for 10 minutes after that.

Then, I retreated upstairs to talk to Michael the rest of the night. Michael makes me feel comfortable.

When I left, I happened to walk past Jonathan and the guy I warned again. The guy smirked and grimaced in an "Oh, it's him again" kind of way.

From the center of their group, Jonathan waved goodbye and then reluctantly hugged me, even though he knows I'm not a freak. He knows what I'm about. He knows I don't deserve those labels, yet sometimes he's the one who gives me them. I don't know what to think.

I'm not a freak. I'm intelligent and observant, and I mean well.

I was trying to stop someone from getting manhandled by a stranger. A stranger I've seen do it countless times before.

I know. It shouldn't matter what the fuck anyone else thinks. But, Jesus, why does it?

Because I come off as rude, scorned, jaded, bitter, weird and confusing.

And those are hard first impressions to overcome. It's that way at work. It's that way when I'm out.

At my store, I've started to long for a moment when someone who knows me, a friend who really, really knows me, to come in and just say hello.

But I think that, instead of that, I'm going to have to completely make over how I deal with people. Again.

I want this blog to be happy. I want it to deal with, you know, going out on dates and making gay jokes and planning post-coitus lazy Sundays with someone I've been seeing for a couple weeks.

But that's not my experience. That's someone else's.

That experience is so divorced from my own experience, full of awkward conversations and social misunderstandings and true moments when I'm just a fucking rude bastard, that I don't know how much I'm willing to just accept that this is the way things are going to be.

Fuck it.

I need to take my meds, but my prescription has run out. The pharmacy needs to call my doctor. That has to do with why I'm being so touchy and hypersensitive to the point of paranoia.

Take five minutes. Get a hug. Someone who tells you that it's going to be OK. Really.

I was dressed up at the store Saturday night. Four people complimented my awesome new shirt. I was on top of my game most of the day, and it felt good.

This is probably just a mood swing.

No, wait, I saw how those people at the bar look at me like I was some kind of leper.

My attempts to speak were awkward, grasping idiocy. I said hello to someone I'd met before, and he moved chairs to get away from me.

It's really hard to just sit there and see that and not react to it.

It's really hard to see those looks and ignore them.

But a lot of it was my fault.

I'm coming off as some kind of creepy troll. I'm repelling people.

Jonathan looks at me sometimes like I'm a troll. I can't deal with that.

But he'd tell me I was just being paranoid.

No, he'd tell me that my attempts at flirtation, which I deny I'm doing, are transparent and sad.

I'm not flirting. I'm trying to find a conversation.

What the fuck am I doing in that bar? Any bar?

Things will happen when they happen.

Perhaps it's key to say that tonight, at one point, Michael and I were able to communicate through facial expressions. I just stood there, made a face at him, and he'd make a face back. I started laughing after a bit.

Downstairs, moments before, my confused expressions were making people think that I was crazy and pissed off.

I just couldn't completely - only partly - figure out what I was doing wrong.

This so shouldn't matter. (And, in the morning, this post will probably seem incoherent.)

It shouldn't matter. But it does.

Friday, May 21, 2004

Strange but not a stranger.

Tonight, after seeing "Super Size Me" with Larry and David, we met their friend Steve for dinner at this "restaurant and video bar" called Red Chair.

Steve's loud. Louder than me. Louder than Red Chair.

Steve spent dinner talking loud about his plan for installing hardwood floors in his house. He spoke, as well, about whether Pat Boone was a homosexual and how much he loved "The Birdcage" and how it accurately portrayed U.S. politicians.

The restaurant plays techno-mixed music videos on giant screens. I myself can't eat there and carry on conversations with people. I feel like I have ADD when I eat there, for my attention is always darting to some gyrating person on a giant video screen.

Tonight's dinner conversation felt sorta inane anyway.

Since I had no input about Pat Boone's sexuality, I darted from the table when I saw my college friend Chandler walk by.

Chandler and I, to be honest, had an awkward chat. I told him about why my blog needed to be anonymous - to avoid my parents' scrutiny regarding my therapy issues. I should've told him instead about other things, like how I was in London visiting Miss Gibson last month and had a great time, but I spoke about old troubles that he didn't know about and honestly probably didn't care to ever hear about. I should've adopted my cool-as-hell London persona with Chandler, but I didn't. I felt scruffy and underdressed tonight. If I'd known we were going to a stand-and-pose establishment like Red Chair, I would've had Larry drop me at home so that I could've changed clothes.

But it was still nice to see Chandler.

On a related note ...

The Daytime Emmy Awards air tonight on NBC, and I was actually considering possibly watching them. If I can't find anything else on Earth to do instead of that.

I could go see SUPER SIZE ME at the Landmark.

Or I could eat at Larry's apartment with Larry, David and the young guys that Larry's getting to housesit for him while Larry and David are away in Florence beginning next week.

The guys are, apparently, both 20 and dating each other.

When Larry talks about them, I refer to them as "those kids who are gonna have sex on your hardwood floors."

(Come on, you know I'm right.)

Oh well, anything beats watching the Daytime Emmys. I mean, Susan Lucci isn't even NOMINATED this year.

The big DAYS OF OUR LIVES twist.

The Serial Killer Marlena plot on DAYS OF OUR LIVES, which took on a shocking twist a couple months ago when they had Deidre Hall murder beloved show matriarch Alice Horton, will take on another bizarro twist next week.

It turns out that, even though the viewers and all the characters on the show saw some beloved characters bite the dust on screen, every single one of the 11 characters killed during this plot is REALLY ALIVE.

I mean, soaps have brought people back from the dead before, but this is just OFF THE WALL.

They're all alive and are trapped on an island that is, apparently, a desolate replica of their hometown of Salem.

Apparently, every one of the characters still "alive" in Salem are undergoing some sort of brainwashing or something. It sounds like THE MATRIX, if you ask me.

"Dying," apparently, is the way to escape the brainwashing. (We the viewers discovered this only after Marlena, the serial killer herself, "died" and then passed into this alternate reality or whatever it is.)

Now the "murdered" characters are trapped on the island, and no one knows how they got there. Or what the hell is going on.

Of course, I could be wrong. But something WEIRD is going on with that show.

I actually BOUGHT a copy of "Soap Opera Digest" yesterday - something I never do lest anyone actually catch me reading it - when I read on the cover that everyone's alive.

My friend Shannon, discovering this twist, told me that the whole thing's become a ridiculous roller coaster and that she doesn't enjoy having them toy with her emotions like this. After all, we've been watching people get killed since last September ... and now "Gotcha!"

Of course, it's just a show. And this is an interesting way of changing things.

So who knows what the hell is going on?

I'm gonna keep watching to find out.

I would hang this on my wall.

OK, I'm kinda in love with this poster. I just like the composition of it, the use of basic color tones, the idea that it's both an example of pattern and line but that it's also a representative artwork. It's abstract. Yet it's not.

Very, very cool.

I'm not sure how the movie's going to turn out, but this poster's freakin' excellent.

Thursday, May 20, 2004

Basketball diaries.

My friend Christina read the blog post below and wrote me with a different, funny take on the incident.

She wrote:

i remember. i remember thinking that ms. savage and mr. gamble were really mean for doing that. and, i remember how exciting it was when you made the shot. personally, i couldn't stand ms. savage. i always thought she was really mean (or, in adult terms...a real bitch). so, i'm happy to know that she was nice and helpful to someone. :)

My Afterschool Special

My earliest memories of my father, my only memories of when he was still married to my mother, are of him playing basketball with his insurance company's team.

Before and after the divorce, Dad would bring my brother Dan and I to the park for practices and games, and we would play around in the Hammond Park gym, which is five minutes away from where I work now, until his practice ended. Being athletic, Dan eventually took to the sport, making baskets constantly from around the time he was riding his bike - in fourth grade.

Of course, because he could do it when I - the disabled sissy who hated going outside - couldn't and he was my "little" brother, I envied him. I wanted to be able to do it. Well enough, at least, to be included by him and my dad. Well enough so that I wouldn't be bored and sitting around every other week during practices at that gym, hoping against hope that my dad would let me have a book or that someone else would bring a child so that I could have someone, anyone to talk to.

When I was a kid, I thought my little brother took joy in torturing me. He'd beat me up. He'd steal my bookbag and hide it around the house. When I was 12, we were visiting a skyscraper in Chicago, and he walked me to the edge of the roof and then, as I was looking over the edge, grabbed me by the feet and lifted me until my stomach fluttered, and I screamed.

Anyway, about the basketball - because this is turning into a badly written story about my brother's childhood bouts with sadism, and it wasn't supposed to - I would try to practice and play ball with my brother at that gym. The only times I would make a basket would involve being lifted onto my father's shoulders.

At my mom's house, I stayed inside when they put up the basketball hoop in the driveway. When I tried practicing there, I couldn't do it, even though my brother and stepbrother were great at it. Or, um, compared to me, they were great at it. Around the time we got the basketball hoop at home, I got my first VCR and started collecting videos.

P.E. class was terrible for me in middle school. I wasn't particularly interested in, you know, doing anything. I resented it, actually. People would make allowances for my disability that I didn't ask them to make, and it would make me feel different, something I didn't feel in other classes.

In fifth grade, when I was 11, I wasn't the last picked for teams in class, but that was only because a kid named Jamie was sullen, poor and didn't have proper gym clothes. And because one of the girls had a perpetual doctor's excuse that let her sit out that period. (When I could sneak away from the day's activity, I would go sit and talk with those kids. They were lucky, as I saw it.)

Everyone in the two classes in the gym that period, though, had to participate from time to time in a game the teachers, Mr. Gamble and Ms. Savage, invented called "Basketball Relay."

All the students would stand in line, and they'd put their foot up on the bleachers while standing on the floor, creating a tunnel out of legs. The person at the front of the line would take a basketball, dribble the ball to one end of the gym and make the basket, then they would go to the other end of the gym and make that basket. Then, they would rejoin the end of the line and roll the ball through the tunnel of everyone's legs until it reached the front person in line, who would do the same thing.

The winning team would make it all the way through the line first.

When this game was introduced in class, of course, I protested. I protested because I couldn't lift my leg up to the bleachers for a long period of time without losing my balance. I protested that I didn't know how to dribble. And I protested to Ms. Savage that I couldn't shoot a successful basket. When she told me that I just needed to try harder, I scoffed that I had tried. Over and over.

"I can't do it," I told her. "I can't do it, and I don't want to be responsible for my team losing all the time because of that."

The game started anyway, and I was, as I had predicted, terrible at it. I dribbled until the ball got away from me. I ran until I quickly ran out of breath. I shot at the basket until the time on the scoreboard ran out.

My team, of course, resented me. They hated that the structure of the game required that everyone participate.

I apologized to everyone in class, telling them that I was personally sorry that they made me take part in P.E. class. But the able-bodied boys didn't care. They just grumbled about the fact I had to play and tried to assure they didn't pick me for their teams.

I apologized and complained more to the teachers, particularly Ms. Savage. She was sweet to me, usually, but there was nothing she could do.

For some reason, "basketball relay" became a favorite activity of the teachers, though. On other days, they made us play it three or four times. I would try to sit out as often as possible. Sometimes, after three unsuccessful shots, they'd let you move forward so that the game didn't completely stall for one person, and I'd get to do that.

The more I practiced, the more it didn't work. Occasionally, I'd get to hit the rim. I'd try over and over. No one, not even cute, nice boys like Todd Schuelke or Sam Whiting, could help me.

People even suggested the unflattering "Granny Shot" technique. You know what I'm talking about. The one where you hold the ball between your legs with both hands and try to throw it up that way. The "Granny Shot" doesn't work. The ball goes over your own head or over the basket and backboard. Trust me. Any basketball player who suggests trying a "Granny Shot" to improve your game is an asshole.

My complete basketball impotence went on for a couple weeks. For me, as a young boy, it felt like an eternity. A humiliating, horrible eternity.

"Do we have to play this EVERYDAY???" I whined to Mr. Gamble and Ms. Savage one day. "I'm HANDICAPPED. Can't we do something I CAN DO?"

They'd just smile and nod, probably labeling me as "Future Gay Boy With Lisp and No Self-Esteem" in their memories.

Something about my attitude must've hit them as unacceptable because, at the start of the next P.E. class, the teachers put me through one of the worst moments of my life ... and one of the best.

The class wouldn't calm down for the beginning of class, while Ms. Savage went to get the cart of basketballs. Mr. Gamble tried calling the roll, but he couldn't because, you know, people like Evan Bennett and I were arguing about Oral Roberts' claims that he'd spoken to God or about how much cooler Bob Dole was than George Bush. (Seriously, I remember talking about that. It was 1987.)

Anyway, because Mr. Gamble couldn't call the roll, he got mad and yelled at the entire class. The class was put on a five-minute silence.

I looked at Ms. Savage's cart of basketballs and sighed, feeling lucky.

"What is it?" Ms. Savage asked.

"I can't do it, anyway," I said to her.

She looked at me, then she pulled Mr. Gamble into a corner for a second.

The class, grumbling despite our forced silence, just watched them, wondering what was up.

When Mr. Gamble walked back, he grabbed a basketball.

Then he looked at me. Then, he looked at the class and announced, "CHANGE OF PLANS ... you're not in quiet time for five minutes anymore."

The class's grumbles took on an upbeat note for a moment.

"YOU'RE IN QUIET TIME UNTIL BENJIE MAKES A BASKET!" Mr. Gamble said aloud, handing me a basketball.

I was NOT happy.

"Huh?" I asked him.

"Hit the court," he told me. I looked at Ms. Savage, the nice one, but I got no reprieve.

"But I can't," I said, pleading.

"Well then, they'll be sitting here for a while," he said to me coldly, pointing to the class.

Other classmates protested.

"HIM???" Todd Schuelke said. "OH GOD ..."

"We're gonna be here ALL DAY," Evan Bennett said, annoyed.

I felt like I was going to throw up.

I felt like I was in some Afterschool Special about teacher harrassment and exploitation of the disabled.

I held the basketball to me, and I stood up. And I walked, slowly, toward the basketball hoop on my left.

I made it to the free throw line before I actually looked back at the bleachers of students. People had their heads in their hands. Others were just shaking their heads in disbelief. Some were glaring at me.

Two classes were being held up, and the burden of that was on me. It didn't feel fair at all.

I'd never done it successfully before.

With all eyes on me, I looked up at the hoop, held the ball up and threw it.

And it bounced off the backboard and missed. People on the stands grunted audibly.

I ran after the ball, grabbed it and looked at Ms. Savage.

"I can't," I mouthed to her.

She just nodded at the basket.

I wanted to cry.

Frustrated, I hurled the ball again at the basket and missed it entirely.

Looking at the stands, people had started to lean back, resigned to the fact that they'd have to sit there the entire class.

"GRANNY SHOT!" someone yelled at me.

"IT DOESN'T WORK," I yelled back.

I wasn't about to do that again.

I looked up again at the hoop and the box on the backboard behind it. I considered how I was holding the ball. I moved closer from the free-throw line.

I looked at where I wanted it to go, and I threw it there.

And I screamed as it went. My eyes followed it. On the rim, then through the net. And, overwhelmed and delighted by it, my scream continued.

I practically doubled-over from the joy, and I heard the thunder on the boards as everyone ran from the stands to embrace me. Ms. Savage and Mr. Gamble running, too.

"Oh my God," I gasped, squealing.

My face was red from yelling, "I did it. I DID IT!"

Ms. Savage was crying when she hugged me.

It was my third shot. I remember that. I'd been through the steps of thinking the goal impossible, giving up on myself, of others giving up on me.

Then, I did it.

Other people do it all the time and had done it in front of me countless times. When I made my first successful basket, though, I felt like I'd done something beyond amazing.

When I got home from school that day, I even called my dad.

At the awards assembly at the end of the school year, Ms. Savage gave me her "Most Improved - P.E." award, and she talked in her speech about how my first basket made her choke up and start crying. She was an amazing teacher.

Thanks to her, I exceeded my own limits, and it was a great moment.

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

This is excellent news.

My friend Beth has apparently decided to restart her blog.

Since Beth is one of the coolest people alive and a sister of one of my Phi Kappa Literary Society friends, it's definitely worth multiple looks.

She's based out of New York, and she's a young, beautiful and unabashedly liberal Southern Democrat lesbian genius.

Unfortunately, I've only gotten to see her in person once, when we were both bridesmaids in her sister's wedding. (Yes, I was a male bridesmaid, a vision in periwinkle, and that's a detail about my life that never stops being funny.) But our one-and-only meeting was a highlight of my life.

Consider this a must-have.

To cheer myself up a little last week, I splurged and bought this. I've been watching it all week, and even episodes I'd seen before on TV are making me laugh out loud.

Plus, the DVDs have a metric ton of special features.

Those of you who've listened to my recommendations before, I suggest you buy this.

Click here, and buy "Freaks and Geeks" right now, in fact.

It's hilarious. Trust me. I do shameless sales pitches when I believe something is good, and I believe in this.

Buy it.

Monday, May 17, 2004

Thank you, Google.

Because of what I wrote here a couple days ago, the Google ad at the top of this page now mentions "Jem and the Holograms" as a related search.

Using that search, I pulled up the above image.

This is the sort of thing that Jenipher would love.


How disappointed am I in how my adult life has turned out?

Why don't I do more about it?

What exactly do I expect from myself?

Me in all this.

It was a really difficult week. It wasn't all good. It wasn't all bad. It was just hard to go through.

I coped with the new job at the store and my mixed emotions with that, for sometimes it's really cool there and the people are really nice. Other times, I wonder what the hell I'm doing and why the hell I transfered from a familiar place where I know people love me to someplace strange, busy and occasionally frightening. (Aside from the business with management that I've overexplained and my currently aching feet, there are weird moments there. Last night, for instance, a homeless street preacher trying to anger me asked me if I was crippled. Another time, a drunken, gay customer asked me if I needed help getting down some steps and grabbed me hard by the arm and wouldn't let go, even when I told him to. Today, Ernest, a friend of mine from college, was in my line at a cash register; I said hello to him, and Ernest said, "Well, this is awkward," because it was apparently disappointing of me to be a lowly cashier in a bookstore.)

I got in trouble at my main job again, as well, and I'm going to have to work to fix things, which I can do. I believe in myself, even if they don't completely believe in me there for the reasons I've given them, and I know I can survive trouble and change.

My finances will probably get better after this week. I'm relying upon certain things this week to turn my situation there, at least, around. I paid all my utility bills on Friday when I got paid. It felt good to do that.

My brother's engagement made me feel great for him, though it also served to remind me that we're not very close. I heard the news from my parents, and I left him a voicemail. He included me on a group e-mail with a blanket thank-you and dirty joke the next day. I've not spoken to him. If one of my cousins had gotten engaged, I would've at least gotten a phone call. And even though I know his engagement is not about me, my perspective on the situation can't help but notice what feels like a slight.

The engagement also reminds me that I'm now the only one in my immediate family and extended set of cousins to not have a partner. I'm the family's token gay, and I'm the family's token spinster. I feel like Matt the Dateless Gay Guy on "Melrose Place." I'm the Family Gay Eunuch.

The way I'm reacting to all this is probably an indication of why my psyche's not ready for a boyfriend. It's not all about me, and I know that. These feelings, though unreasonable, do exist, though. I have them. It's selfish and dumb and petty to have these feelings, but they're there.

So, saying all that, I must admit that it would've been nice to have someone to come home to this week. It would've been nice to have someone home with me, someone with a real stake in how my life goes, someone with their own set of things to tell me about ... someone who'd help me keep perspective and still help me feel like there was someplace where, when I was rejected everywhere else, I belonged.

I know love's probably not really like that. But, to hear some people talk about it, they say those things. My dad said that about his wife this week, that it's better to have someone than not.

I'm frequently alone and not lonely. I know the difference. This week, sometimes, I got lonely. But I didn't get lonely a lot. I'm not just idly sitting around, waiting for someone to show up and give my life a "purpose" or "meaning."

People around me are moving forward, gathering dependents and accollades. I see them and wonder what I have. My life seems small.

I want all of you with boyfriends or partners or fiancees to remind yourself, if only for a second, of the good things that sort of romance can provide you.

Because I felt safer with my finances and because I was proud of myself for surviving this hellish week, I broke down and bought the "Freaks and Geeks" DVD box set I've eyed for two months. It probably wasn't the most responsible thing to do just yet, but I had my last paycheck from my old bookstore. And it was larger than I thought it was going to be.

It was probably dumb to do it since my birthday's coming up next month, but I felt like, at the end of this week and with most of the bills paid, I could safely enjoy "Freaks and Geeks." (What I've watched of it so far, by the way, has been really, really good.)

This week's been tough. And, though I wasn't entirely admirable, I did survive. And that felt like something to take a small amount of pride in.

I sorta want to cry, nurse my emotional wounds and retreat into my own self-pity.

But I can't. I have stuff to do.

This is just a mood. It'll pass. It's a snapshot of a mixture of feelings.

Friday, May 14, 2004

Looking up.

Weird, bad day.

But, on the plus side, I'm dressed better than usual.

And I had lunch with my dad.

And I got paid and immediately paid all my utility bills and what I could of the credit card bills.

So, even though it was a weird, bad day because of work stuff, I did what I could to make it better. Or, at least, not any worse.

Thursday, May 13, 2004

The coolest thing EVER.

My father just called me. And my mother just called me.

My brother Dan, the cool and nice one that I speak to, just got engaged to Samantha, his absolutely spectacular, friendly and beautiful girlfriend of two years.

Yay. Yay yay yay.

Something that my family can feel good about!!!!

What a welcome change!!!!

Wow, I haven't used this many exclamation points since I signed someone's yearbook.

They're getting married April 2 in Savannah, where her family lives, in a Catholic service.

The photo above is of Samantha's hand wearing the engagement ring Dan bought her. Great ring. Great.

I'm being such a girl about this. But this rocks.

"Glamour and glitter, fashion and fame."

A couple weeks ago, when I had money, I bought this new CD, and it's really good. It's by a Welsh artist who sounds a lot like Dido, except more upbeat.

In my store, we've put it on in-store play, as well. It's upbeat and fun to hear while you're working.

Of course, I still can't help but giggle everytime I read the artist's name.


It reminds me of that '80s cartoon "Jem and the Holograms," where a girl named Jerrica found out that a computer program allowed her to transform into a pink-haired rock star named Jem and turned all of her girlfriends into a rock band.

Talking with Henry the music clerk last night, he told me that he had the same problem.

"Every time I look at that CD, I expect something on it to read 'TRULY OUTRAGEOUS!'" he said.

Then, overhearing us, Judson approached us. And we started - without prompting - to sing the "Jem and the Holograms" theme song.

"New Guy's having a panic attack!"

I worked with assistant manager Chuck for the first time last night. Well, it wasn't the first time that I worked with him. Technically, that was about three years ago, when he was training at Mall of Georgia.

"Hi, I'm Chuck," he said when he met me then. He's cute, possibly gay and well-dressed.

"Yes, I know," I said, pointing to his nametag. "I can read."

I thought I was being funny then. Or just being a smartass. I was in a mood that day. And he's cute. So I got weird.

He reported me to my managers at my store for "attitude," which surprised me because I didn't think it merited that and didn't know he was offended by it. They made me apologize.

He was just starting a new job, and I made him feel unwelcome.

That was three years ago. When I've seen him since, I've said hello. He's cold to me.

When he heard about my transfer after it happened, he immediately called my bookstore for the lowdown on it. Maybe because he didn't like being out of the loop. Maybe because he's charged with entering new employees in the system. Maybe because he thinks I'm weird and doesn't want to work with me and would be perfectly content if I dropped off the face of the earth.

I didn't know.

So I wasn't sure how exactly working with him would go.

For the first half-hour or so last night, it wasn't pretty. In fact, next to that time I watched the American version of "Coupling," it was one of the most uncomfortable half-hours I've ever spent.

I walked in. I tried to clock in.

I still didn't have my store codes, so I had to ask Chuck about them. (People who I'd told about this 'situation' a couple weeks ago told me to stay out of Chuck's way, but he's my manager ... and, the way the store works, getting out of his way isn't really viable.)

When he spoke to me the first time, he called me "sir" and didn't make eye contact with me. He didn't say hello, didn't smile and seemed annoyed. Really annoyed. He said, "Oh, OK, I'll take care of that," and headed to the back office.

A few minutes afterward, the job applicants came in and asked me if they could talk to a manager. So I called the back office and asked Chuck, nervously, if he would come up and talk to people.

He sounded annoyed. But he told me that he'd be right up.

Another employee said hello to the applicants and told them that Chuck was great and really, really nice, so they had no reason to be nervous.

This is the Chuck that people tell me about. I'd never seen him.

Greeting the applicants, Chuck came up, spoke to them, told them hello, smiled at them and wished them luck with their applications. He shook their hands. Then, not talking at all to me, he turned and started to walk away.

I was walking near Chuck, and I didn't know whether they discouraged paging over the intercom the way we did at Mall of Georgia, where the managers all carry cell phones. Since I'd just called him, I asked him for future reference what the proper means of contact was.

When he saw me walking next to him, I swear to God, he turned and started to walk the other way. But then, I said his name to ask him the question. And he stopped, called me "sir," and answered the question ... WITHOUT ONCE LOOKING ME IN THE EYE.

With that, I proceeded to very silently freak out. Carrying books back to the children's department, I began to feel lost. And I began to doubt whether the transfer was a good idea. And I'd started to wonder what I should do, if I should do anything. Maybe he was just busy. Maybe he wasn't intentionally trying to be rude. Maybe he was. Maybe he's trying to psyche me out. Maybe I didn't really need to talk to him. Oh, wait, I did. Maybe I'm just a paranoid.

Sweat gathered on my brow. I began breathing deeply. I felt a panic attack beginning, but, at the same time, didn't want any of the other employees to think, "Oh look, New Guy's having a panic attack!," or, worse, give them another reason to call Chuck.

I was just starting a new job, and he made me feel unwelcome.

But then, that changed. I don't know why. But it did.

When I walked to the back room to check the schedule and to see if Chuck had entered my codes into the computer, enabling me to do my work, he told me that he'd just finished it.

Thanking him, I added, "I'm kinda nervous."

Chuck didn't really say anything. So I let it go.

I asked him instead if I needed to get a register, and he told me, shuffling through papers because he was busy, that he thought I was scheduled for customer service. I was.

Somewhere along the way, I realized that I was paying WAY too much attention to what Chuck thought of me. And that's not why I was there.

So I got back to doing my work. I shelved books, helped customers, asked questions.

Chuck, eventually, approached me and started to tell me a better way to arrange the books to shelve. He answered my questions about the new register functions. He helped me find a section in the magazines and, when I apologized for asking something that I thought I should already know, he told me that "all the stores are different and that it takes some getting used to."

He watched me work. He even sorta smiled at me when he saw that I was keeping busy. He saw how I spoke to other employees.

He was nice after the first half-hour. Not too nice, but nice enough.

When a guy I knew from college and CNN approached me in the store and spoke to me, I chatted with him for a moment, though I told him that I needed to work.

That guy asked me what I'd been doing lately, and I told him about my jobs and where I was living.

I was telling him that I'd just started at the new store when Chuck, who wasn't wearing a nametag - something I DID NOT point out to him for irony's sake, by the way - happened to walk by.

"Oh well, get back to work," the guy said to me. "I don't wanna get you in trouble."

Chuck heard that. And laughed.

So I went back to work again. And I did the shelving and asked more questions and was still nervous enough to sweat about it.

But people softened to me and will continue to do so as time passes and I prove myself.

So things are good. Or good enough, anyway.

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Changing outfits.

Once again, because I don't like what I decided to wear this morning, I will change shirts before heading into the new bookstore tonight.

Today, for some reason, I wore a black shirt and navy blue pants. Black-and-blue is not the message I want to send my first week at the new store.

So I got a folded, clean shirt out of my car, from the laundry basket I put back there for moments just like this one, and it's light blue. It'll match my pants better.

I feel like I'm getting ready for a date. What's up with that?

I'm still nervous about the new store. I don't know who the closing manager is going to be tonight. I don't know if my codes will finally be in place. I don't know what I'm going to be assigned to do and if I'll have the computer access to be able to do it properly.

I'm working a lot, though. That's kinda cool.

Trivia team update.

I showed up a half-hour in at trivia last night, and the team had a perfect score. We maintained that perfect score until the next-to-last question.

"Which nation has a cape called San Lucas?"

The answer to this one is so freakin' obvious that we felt stupid for missing it, as though we'd been genuinely tricked.

"Cabo" means "Cape of" in Spanish.

Then, on the final question, we had the right answer written down - but then changed our minds about it.

We lost.

The team that won had a perfect score.

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

My first day at the new store.

Have you ever seen the first episode of "Mary Tyler Moore," when Mary interviews with Lou Grant? Mary's all chipper and eager, and Lou Grant is scowling and indifferent and tells her that he hates spunk.

Picture me as Mary, and you've basically got me and the rest of my new bookstore. At least, that's how it felt.

I was working my ass off - or trying to. I was trying to be up-to-speed and useful. And people either didn't notice or didn't much care.

For some reason, Mall of Georgia hasn't deleted me from their system yet, which means that Buckhead can't give me my register and computer codes yet. So I can't run a cash register, the thing I'm really good at.

Instead, I was doing customer service and shelving. I think I walked the length of that store 17 times last night. If it stays at this pace, I'm going to be in great physical shape.

The layout of the store is completely different from mine so that, even though I know the sections and know what books are in the sections, I don't know exactly where the sections are. So I got lost a lot.

You see, at my store, Drama, for instance, is next to Fiction. In the new store, Drama is next to TV and Film. So, if I thought I had an idea where something was and went there, I'd still end up lost.

The customers were nice enough, even though I asked someone else where a section was before I walked a customer to it.

The manager spoke to me in this bemused, mildly irritated tone. And, even though the store was still a mess by my standards, he told us it was all right to go home, which a bookseller assured me other managers wouldn't do. (MOG managers would've been freaking out over the status of that store.)

When the manager gave me a quick, point-to-a-section-and-tell-you-what-it-is tour of the store (which I did pay attention to), I didn't want to seem like just some random new employee, so I started straightening shelves when he would walk me by them. (I wasn't trying to be obnoxious. I was trying to be useful. I know the basics of the store already since I've worked at one for four years, and I can't just memorize it from having it pointed out to me. I'm going to have to walk there with books, learning it myself. Hell, I'm being paid to "work.") Eventually, he started straightening, too.

It was frustrating. And amusing.

So, from what I can tell, the store needs help. And I'm there to help.

Monday, May 10, 2004

Clothes make the man.

To better prepare myself for my first shift at the new store, I went to Wal-mart on my lunch break and bought a belt and shirt to wear.

The whole purchase ran about $15, but I believe it's necessary. (Even though I'm - GASP - wearing Wal-mart clothes.)

I looked at all my clothes this morning, and nothing was right. And, for some reason, I couldn't find any belts anywhere.

I need to stockpile them, I think.

Benjie doesn't live here anymore.

I was 15 minutes late to my last day of work at the Mall of Georgia Barnes & Noble on Saturday, which just felt typical at the point when it happened. Ever since I moved 40 miles or so away from that store, I was never able to get there on time.

Despite the start, though, it was a pretty good day.

They let me do Children's Storytime for the first time ever, and I read a group of one-year-olds two books about pirates, using my "pirate voice" and a wavering British accent. I had to stop the accent when one of the children started crying. Other than that, my reading received a decent amount of praise.

The staff got me a cake and a card for my last day. Since I'd been at the store over four years, I was sorta not-so-secretly hoping that there would be a to-do about me leaving. And they didn't disappoint.

The thing that made me the most happy was, of all things, that my card was signed - with genuine affection - by Christy, Casey and Heather, three people with whom I haven't always had the best working relationship. Over time, things improved greatly as we learned how to work with one another.

The significance of me leaving that bookstore, though I didn't realize it until I was driving away for the last time, is bigger than I thought.

I no longer live in Buford. I no longer work in Buford. I no longer have to commute to Buford. Buford isn't part of my day-to-day existence anymore. It is, as it was five years ago and as it was when I was in college, just the place where my mom lives.

My first shift at the Buckhead store is tonight. I know no one who works there, though one of the managers trained at my store a couple years ago. His name is Chuck, and I've had maybe four conversations with him ever, so he's not really, you know, an ally yet.

This is going to be weird. And fine.

Friday, May 07, 2004

Talking dirty with my mom.

I went to lunch with my mother, for Mother's Day is Sunday.

While talking to me about jobs, she asked me if I'd done any writing lately.

"I've been writing on a site under a pseudonym," I said. "I've gotten some good buzz from it."

"Why a pseudonym?" she asked me. "Oh, is it gay stuff?"

"Yeah," I said, which is sort of a lie. I write about more than gay stuff. I write about deep, dark family secrets that I don't want her to know I've mentioned in public.

She guessed that my pseudonym was my real initials.

"Do you call yourself B.J. or something?" she asked me.

"Yeah, B.J.," I said. "Because that'd make me really popular with the gay community."

She looked at me and paused.

Then, she asked, "Why would that make you popular with the gay community?"

Long pause. Then, a chuckle.

"Oh ... my ... God ...," she realized, still laughing. "I can't believe you would say that to me."

"But you said it," I said.

Still laughing, she said, "Well, Happy Mother's Day to me!"

Then, she told me she was going to call her assistant as soon as I stepped out of the car and tell her everything.

"She's a lesbian," she said. "So she'll think it's funny."

Do something.

Last night, I was mad. Really frustrated. I was so mad that I didn't realize how mad I was until I launched into a tirade while on the phone with Aaron. So mad that I got angry that he wanted to keep talking and talking and talking. I wanted contact. Movement forward. Action.

The action I suggested to Aaron was not something Aaron was open to ... and probably not something that I want to do ... but I just felt like having sex beat talking about why I wanted to have sex.

Also, I already knew, at the point where we started the fucking unnecessary "discussion of motives," that I don't really want to have sex with Aaron. I would have, though. Just to shut myself the hell up long enough to take action about something.

I'm sick of talking. I'm sick of myself talking. It's all I ever fucking do. I don't ever actually do anything.

Look at this. This is me writing an analysis of a conversation during which I complained about how I talked about how I never do anything. This is fucking sick.

My anger stems from lots of things. But mostly, because this is one of my stories, I have to admit that the catalyst of my current fit is ... an electronic rooster.

Technically, I suppose the catalyst is the crow of an electronic rooster.

This is gonna be a long story.

My office job is dead-end. My current manager has favorite employees - people that he migrates to our area from his old department - and admits openly that he doesn't know how to "talk" to me. He doesn't understand how I tick. He looks at me like I'm from another planet.

He's my third manager since I started here. He's chatty and friendly and nice. But he doesn't even bother to say hello to me anymore.

A couple months ago, when I tried to talk to him about something job-related, he flatly told me, "Go away."

He unofficially designated my supervisor Ethan as the person who's supposed to "talk" to me, so now I have practically no interaction with my manager at all.

Yesterday, during a regional conference call, I was talking to Sherry, one of the people on the call from Orlando, about something job-related. I'd just gotten an e-mail from her, so I started to talk to her about the e-mail she'd sent me. (Since I call the roll on the call, I can pretty much determine when it technically "begins." Besides, the topic was relevant to pretty much everyone.)

She and I spoke in civil tones for a few minutes, "in front of everyone on the call," and we reached an impasse, resolving the issue.

To get us to stop talking about it, though, someone on the call decided to interrupt our chat by playing a prank.

An ear-bleed electronic rooster's crow was launched over the fucking phone line in the middle of me talking.

At my desk, I pulled the phone away from my ear. I imagine most of the people on the call - held for workers in three different states - pulled their phones away from their ears.

Then, when it ended, there was silence. No laughter. No anything.

"WHAT WAS THAT?" Sherry asked the group, sorta angry.

"I don't know," I said. "It was obnoxious."

"Somebody ... thought ... it ... was ... funny ...," my manager said on the call.

He's got the rooster noisemaker in his office.

"I'm tempted to get off the call," I said.

"Me too," Sherry in Orlando said.

There was silence.

Then, my supervisor Ethan, who sits in my manager's office during the monthly call so that they can make faces at each other during it, piped up.

"Ethan ... thought ... it ... was ... funny," he said.

(If it came from their end, which I think it did, they obviously didn't get the prank at a deafeningly loud volume.)

"Well, good for Ethan," I replied curtly.

Another long pause.

I don't think it's professional to interrupt me and a colleague on a conference call with an electronic rooster crow. But, hey, what do I know ... I didn't go to business school.

"Apparently, not everyone thought it was funny," my manager said.

Another long pause.

Then, my manager asked me to go ahead and call the roll.

I'm going nowhere in this company. I'm not treated with respect. I don't care to the degree that I should about doing my job.

I'm sick of all this bullshit. I'm sick of myself.

Goddamnit, I feel like going back to the drawing board with my life and just starting the fuck over.

It's funny to me that I'm saying this, but that electronic rooster crow was the last fucking straw.

Thursday, May 06, 2004

Things intended to make Lupo feel better.

Lupo told me that he was sad I hadn't updated the blog today, so I'm writing this.

Lupo told me that yesterday's posts ended on a positive note that suggested I understood my own weaknesses and was willing to take action to fix the things that I thought were "wrong" in my life. He called that brave.

Because I don't want Lupo to be sad, I'm updating the blog, even though I'm still stuck in my dumb cubicle and still facing financial troubles that are slowly making themselves better. There's not really much new to report.

I was thinking of following Vic to Jekyll Island this weekend, but I have a meeting on Sunday night. It seems like an awful lot of driving for what would essentially be an overnight stay, but it beats doing nothing to celebrate after my last official shift at the Mall of Georgia bookstore on Saturday. (That I'm leaving there now makes me feel like I'm living through my own May sweeps series finale, if that makes any sense.)

Lupo suffered from sinus trouble for a couple weeks earlier this month. Whenever he wrote me and told me that he was sick, I would offer to call him up and "coo the Gizmo song" from GREMLINS to him until he felt better.

When I first suggested it, he told me, "Thanks, but I've already vomited once today."

He doesn't know how well I coo, obviously. I coo well.

The "Friends" finale is tonight. I, at one point, felt that saying goodbye would be poignant. Now, NBC's overpromoted the damn thing so much that I just wish they'd all go the hell away.

Wednesday, May 05, 2004

I am a self-fulfilling prophecy.

I'm coming at this the wrong way.

* I talk about love, rather than clean my apartment or clean out my car.
* I talk about when I'll write, rather than finding some place to do an open-mike reading.
* I complain about direction, rather than applying for a new job.
* I worry about faith, rather than reading one of the 8,000 books that I've purchased in my life.
* I question endlessly, but I don't bother with solutions. Instead, I even admit that all I like about the questions is the chatter.

Looking at it that way, I suck. I need to do something about that.

Jenipher's Trip to the DMV.

My friend Jenipher just sent me this e-mail about her trip to the DMV. I am relating it to you now, for it is interesting.

Nothing like this ever happens when I go to the DMV.

NOTE: Now that Jenipher's legal last name is "Resendez," notice how she's now peppering her conversations with fun phrases like "numero uno." Yesterday, she referred to herself as a "Latina," which I thought was funny since she really does look Scandinavian.


Yesterday I went to the DMV to renew my expired license and change my name. I had to stand in FIVE lines. In line #5, a weird guy started staring at me. I felt obligated to be nice. Here is our conversation in its entirety:

Weird Man (after staring at me for a few minutes): I don’t mean to stare, but you are very attractive.
Jenipher (looking uncomfortable and not making eye contact): Thank you.
WM: You must be Scandinavian.
J: No.
WM: Are you sure?
J: Yes.
WM: You look Scandinavian.

(Another awkward pause.)

WM: We have been blessed with beautiful weather.

And then it got exciting. Luckily I had my camera with me. Here is a photo I took of the incident. After the weirdo man (on the left) accosted me, Wolverine (right) stepped in and salvaged my honor. He wanted to ravish me then and there but I am married now, and had to pass. Though, technically, it would not have broken any bonds of marriage, as he is numero uno on my Top 5.

Trivia team update.

We won again last night, by the way.

Thanks to the fact that I knew Denzel Washington military films.

And, moreso, thanks to the fact that no one knew that the biggest earthquake in history hit China in the 1500s.

The ranks of the freaks who suspect they could never love anyone

Talking to Nick the Cute Waiter about my love thing last night - because I'm still on that topic, he listened to me wax on about it for about 20 minutes, then he told me that "you won't find love when you look for it" and that "if you're not finding it, then you're not ready." I asked him why he was speaking in bumper stickers. Then, I started talking about the validity of "narrowing the field" and what-not. He told me that I was taking what other people said about me too seriously. I kept talking and kvetching, which I do sorta well for a gentile who's seen too many Woody Allen movies.

And I guess I wasn't listening to him or I guess he thought I was beyond help, for that's when he told me, "Your soulmate's gonna need to be deaf."

I was confused - yet offended.

"What?" I asked, taken aback.

First, Nick, who's 21 friggin' years old, apologized for it.

Then, at my urging, he told me that I worried entirely too much and didn't listen enough.

And then, and I don't know if I got this phrasing exactly right, Nick told me, "God only knows how big the butt-plug will need to be to get you to loosen the fuck up about your life."

So, yeah.

I got quiet. So quiet, in fact, that Nick, who was laughing when he said all that, wondered for a moment if I was still on the phone.

I was.

Part of me thinks he's wrong. Part of me thinks he's right. Part of me knows not to care what the hell he thinks. Part of me thinks, "Dickhead." Part of me thinks, "Damn, he just said that. That was so harsh that it was sorta awesome."

Considering all this, I didn't really have a response for what he said.

Black called in the middle of my chat with Nick, so I clicked over and talked to Black instead of Nick.

Black's like me. (Cool, I just found an excuse to type that.)

Girlfriend-less Black waxes about love the way I do. Black thinks about it like I do. There's comfort in that, and that's the conversation I was better prepared to have last night, however much I may need to hear about needing to relax and ceasing worry.

Part of me, I know, kinda enjoys worrying. It's familiar and friendly, and it feels like action - even though it's more like wheel-spinning.

Does that make sense? That kvetching is actually a comfort on a lonely night in a messy apartment? Late-night, unnecessarily philosophical phone calls with Black about how we should date more and about how we're smart but misunderstood creatures who just haven't connected with the right person (OR INSERT: job ... faith ... meaning ... direction ...) are no longer about finding answers.

They're just about enjoying the talk.

I understand that. And I understand the implications of what sort of person that makes me.

I'm good at talking. Really good at it. I like doing it. And I enjoy the maddening way I think.

Others can't really stand it. Some can.

This morning, I got a great e-mail from a guy who reads the blog. He told me to trust myself implicitly, to remain feeling and vulnerable ... and that love will come eventually.

This is all too complicated to go into now.

I have a life that I need to fix. In the meantime, I just have to live in it.

Monday, May 03, 2004

Um, can I get a recount?

See what Care Bear you are.

I took this quiz from a link on Mark's site, and it called me this.

Lies, damn lies.

All crazy nerves and bad hair.

I can't concentrate today at work.

I need a haircut, and I've eaten pizza two days in a row.

For some reason, I'm thinking about love. I don't know why. I think it has something to do with the fact that I had a good conversation about art at a bar with a guy last night. And, as I was leaving the bar, Jonathan grimaced and seemed to openly disapprove of the guy that I was just talking to - not attracted to.

So I texted Jonathan when I got home - and asked others about this.

I basically asked this:

If the people I end up talking to are so bad that it becomes a running joke, what sort of people do my friends actually think I should go for?

If you can point out what or who's wrong, point me toward who's right.

No one's really answered that question or that challenge yet.

I had one person tell me that it's a continual process, which I knew. Another one told me that I shouldn't care what Jonathan thinks. Another person told me that Jonathan was dissuading me because he secretly wants me, which I'm sure isn't true.

I am taking his criticisms of the guys who hit on me to heart, though.

I don't know why.

I think I don't trust my own taste in guys.

I'm getting my haircut today. I can't stand this bob thing I've got going on. I look like the fifth Beatle.