Dec 7, 2011

I agree. The loss of life should never be forgotten, no matter how long ago it took place. A moment of silence in memory for those who lost their lives.
I heard a radio personality say, today that we (Americans) should never forget what happened on that day even though the events of 9/11 tend to overshadow it.
The attack resulted in the loss of over 1,000 lives and America's official entry into WWII. I've visited Pearl Harbor. It was a sobering trip, I recommend it.
Seventy years ago, today, the second worst attack against Americans on American soil took place in Hawaii. An early morning surprise attack by the Japanese.

Dec 3, 2011

On Racism

As a young, black male, the idea of racism is something that is both a real fear and brushed aside thought. I realize that the racism I have experienced (if any) is nothing compared to the social struggles and outright fights that generations before me have dealt with. I'm a product of a relatively accepting society. However, stereotypes are alive and well and from time to time I am acutely aware of when I come up against them. This puts me in an interesting place. On the one hand, I generally believe that people treat me fairly and are not racist. But I also feel that this belief makes me complacent and unable to distinguish "real" racism unless it is outrageously obvious.

Recently, some events have transpired that I think might be racist. However, I'm not sure if I'm being overly sensitive. This is where I need your help, dear readers. I want your opinions on these events to see if I'm justified in my qualification of them being racist. Here we go.

The "N-word-lipped" Situation
A friend of mine, who lives in NYC told me the following story. While hosting an open mic at a comedy club he stepped outside with another comic to get some fresh air. He and the comic he was with ran into a third comic who was outside finishing a cigarette. The comic with my friend asked the other comic if he could get the last few puffs from the butt. The smoking comic agreed, saying, "Just so you know, I N-word-lipped it." This took my friend, who is black, aback. Now, to be clear, the smoking comic, a white guy, did not say the n-word, but instead used the term "n-word." I know it's a little confusing. The question: Is what the smoking comic said racist? And going further, is this new use of "n-word" racist? My friend believes that "n-word" is the new term white people use as slang since they know the full word is off limits and I agree with him. I think the whole thing is racist and that comic needs to be told his behavior is unacceptable. I believe my friend intends to call him out at the next open mic and I fully support his actions. What do you think?

Ndamukong Suh is a Beast
Last week, the star defensive lineman for the Detroit Lions, Ndamukong (pronounced Na-dom-mu-kong) Suh,  was ejected from a Thanksgiving Day NFL game for stomping on Green Bay Packers offensive lineman, Evan Dietrich-Smith. If you missed it, check out the video below.

I bring this up because later in the week, while listening to sports talk radio here in the Dallas area, I heard one of the on-air personalities, a white guy, refer to Suh as "Donkey Kong" Suh. I admit Suh's first name is difficult to pronounce and even that Ndamukong has a similar sound to Donkey Kong, but don't let that obscure the issue. Since when has it been OK to to refer to black people as fictional primates? I think it's racist, am I on my own with this one? What do you think?

Why would you think that?
There have been some changes at one of my jobs, specifically, a new supervisor. One of the first things she did was talk to everyone about their work schedule and how many hours they usually worked in a week. When she talked to me about this, I told her my availability. After writing it down, she asked me if I had a second job. I told her I did. My new boss, a white lady, then asked me if I was available to work weekends, I told her I was not due to my third job. To that she responded, "What you got kids to take care of?" I looked at her with confusion and said, "if you mean student loans, then yes." She just nodded and moved on to the next thing she wanted to talk to me about. Was what she said to me racist? Just because I have multiple jobs she assumes I have children? Or, is it because I have multiple jobs and am a black male? This is the kind of stereotype I mean... So, again, what's your opinion? Am I off base or right on target?

These incidents are unrelated except for the possibility of racism that I've spotted in each of them. One could argue that these are things that are inconsequential on a larger scale, but I think that lowers the necessity of personal responsibility. I understand the need to pick my spots in terms of battles I can win, and these might not be winnable spots. However, I can't seem to let them go. Your thoughts?

Nov 15, 2011

I grinned at her and nodded. I hope she didn't ponder about it for too long!
I brought the product out from the cooler to her. She smiled and thanked me. Then she paused, looked away and said, "because what I said first was a question?"
A look if absolute puzzlement came across her face. I smiled and asked her what product she was looking for. She told me, still looking confused.
The other day, at work, a customer approached me and said, "can I ask you a question?" Naturally, I responded, "you can ask me another one."

Nov 9, 2011

On Optimism, or How to climb a Tree

The other day I watched my youngest cousin attempt to climb a tree. I'm not sure what type of tree it was, a native to Texas, no doubt. It was tan in color with branches that started about shoulder high on me. The bark was rough, almost sharp and my cousin would rip off chunks, revealing a smooth wood underneath.

"What are you doing?" I asked. "I'm trying to climb this tree," she responded. She reached her arms up above her head to grab hold of the lowest branches. I watched the small muscles in her arms flex as she tried to pull herself up. It didn't work. She rested a moment, then tried again, this time bracing her feet on the trunk and attempting to push off for leverage. Still no success.

"Let me help you," I offered. She puts her feet on the trunk of the tree again and works on pulling herself up. I grab her around the thigh and push her up. She struggles to find purchase but keeps working. "Use your arms to pull you up," I coached. "Like when you get out of a pool." She keeps pulling but doesn't make any progress. Finally, she goes limp in my arms and slides down to the ground.

"Let's try again," I said. She looks up at me and smiles. "It's too hard right now," she replied. I knitted my eyebrows. "Are you giving up?" I asked. Cocking her head to the side, she looks back at me and then at the tree. "Cousin Fred, the tree will be here. I'll try again later." Her wisdom caught me off guard. I nodded. As we walk toward the front door she asks me if I'm going to watch football all day or will she be able to watch cartoons.

Sometimes I forget that she's eight.

Oct 31, 2011

Story Time pt. 6

[What you need to know... First. Second. Third. Fourth. Fifth.] 

My head really hurts. The pills have long since stopped working but I'm afraid to go to the doctor because of what he might say to me. This whole week is going poorly but today it took a turn for the worst. I came back to my dorm room after turning in a paper to find a message on the answering machine. Nothing odd about that except that the message was from the Dean of Students and it was telling me that I needed to come in to her office at nine in the morning tomorrow to discuss something of importance. She ended the message by saying the meeting superseded everything else including a final. Now, I've never had to go see the Dean of Students before so getting a message of this nature was a bit shocking. I listened to the message three times on the pretense that one of my friends had called and was playing a really sick joke on me, but that was not the case.

My roommate came in about an hour later and would hardly look at me, much less speak to me. He definitely seems scared of me. I asked him what was up but he only gave me monosyllabic answers and avoided me as much as possible. I told him about the phone message and that seemed to make him happy. He said, " really?" It was the longest response I got out of him all night. Around six he got up and left the room. He didn't say anything about coming back or where he was going. I thought that was odd but I didn't really care. I turned on the TV to distract me from the meeting tomorrow but it didn't help. As I flipped through the channels, I caught a news update in the middle of a breaking story about my school. Apparently a female student had been attacked recently and some people were concerned about the welfare of the students. The student was an attractive black girl named Victoria who lived on campus.

They showed a picture of her in a slinky black dress, and then the news did a live segment with Victoria from her hospital bed. They talked to her about the attack. Victoria was the girl from my dream. In the live segment, Victoria sat up in her hospital bed with two black eyes and a bandage patched over the bridge of her nose. She still had bruises on her cheeks and chin and mouth was a mess of gauze but she spoke about being attacked in her dorm room and how she tried to fend him off by scratching his neck and shoulders. At the end of the piece, the reporter talked about how Victoria was a close friend of the victim who was found in the main dining hall. Then they showed a police sketch of the person they were looking for in connection with the crimes. It looked a lot like me. That's when my head started to hurt.

I turned off the TV and went to get some Advil, but felt paralyzed. I slouched into the couch, thinking about all the hallucinations and how they all seemed so odd. I thought back to the night in the dining hall. I remembered seeing a girl in a "Hello Kitty" t-shirt. I had hit on her but she had blown me off. I had seen her later that night with that black girl, Victoria, Victoria had gone into the convenience store in the building while the girl waited outside. I had grabbed her and dragged her up the back stairway to the track level. She had tried to crawl away but I caught her and started to push her over the railing. I touched my shoulders where she had dug her fingers into me. She was small so I had no trouble pushing her over the railing until she fell. I watched her hit her head on the table then I walked away, locked all the doors and when back to my office.

I shook my head. I killed that girl. I kept thinking back. Fifteen minutes later, Victoria, had come by my office and asked if I'd seen her friend in the "Hello Kitty" t-shirt. I told her that I hadn't. Victoria didn't believe me. "She was just in here, she had to leave through this door, you must have seen her." She argued. She had asked me to let her up to the track area so she could look around. I had lied and told her I didn't have keys to that area. "Well call someone who does, I'll wait." Victoria responded. She was being obstinate and I was getting frustrated. I had asked her where she lived so that if I did see her friend I could contact her. She told me which dorm, the one with bay windows.

A week later, when I saw the article in the newspaper, I knew I had to speak to Victoria. The student who wrote story had talked to Victoria about her deceased friend. I went to visit Victoria  in case she thought I had killed her friend. I had intended to kill her too, but someone stopped me. Her roommate had come home so I had put Victoria in her bed and left. The roommate must have seen me leaving and then found Victoria all beat up. They go to the hospital, get a sketch drawn, now the Dean of Students wants to see me and the police are looking for me.

I didn't mean to kill that girl, I just wanted to scare her, but she fell. With Victoria, I had to cover my tracks. they found my skin under the nails of Victoria's friend. Things are starting to make sense now, why my roommate has been avoiding me and all these hallucinations. I'm scared and I don't know what to do. I'm sorry for what I did but there is no way to back and undo it. I should have never gone into the elevator room when I heard those odd noises the first time, but feels like it happened so long ago.

On my way up to my room, I noticed the roof access door was open. Maybe I'll take a trip up there. It's a long way down.

Oct 30, 2011

Story Time pt. 5

[Get caught up: pt. 1, pt. 2, pt. 3, and pt. 4]

The pills aren't working. I'm still seeing things that I don't want to see. The doctor gave me some medicine to help calm me. I'm not sure what it is exactly, Haldol, I think. I wasn't paying close attention when he was talking about it. All I know is that I take two a day, one around lunch and one before I go to bed. It sucks because the pills aren't working. Last night I had a strange dream. It started with me waking up in the middle of the night because I wasn't along in my bed. The girl next to me was lying on her side turned away from me. I called out to her but she didn't move. I tapped her but she still didn't move. I began to get frustrated so I shook and pushed her. After that, she rolled over and looked at me.

She had two black eyes, the result of a broken nose that was still bloody. She also had bruises on her cheeks and chin. Both areas were red and raw and looked puffy. Her lip was swollen and split where someone had hit her. Her neck was by far the worst. It was heavily red and showed serious bruising as if someone tried to strangle her to death but did not finish. She opened her mouth to talk and I saw that her teeth were bloody and missing. She spoke to me as well. She kept repeating, "stop. Please! No!" Just like the other girl. I jumped up out of bed and backed away from the girl. She turned fully towards me and then began to crawl out of the bed. She fell from the bed to the floor and stopped moving for a second, but then suddenly she was on her feet and in my face. I backed away but there was a wall behind me. Looking around, I realized that I was no longer in my dorm room, but a much smaller cramped room of another dorm on campus. I looked out the bay window on my left over the darkened field behind the gym facilities. That's when the first blow struck me on the cheek.

My head bounced off the wall I was leaning against, causing my vision to double. I felt myself sagging towards the floor so I put my hand against the wall to brace myself. Before I could recover my senses, the second blow caught my chin making me slump fully against the wall. In a daze, I looked up at the ceiling of the room and wondered what all the glowing green dots on it were. Then I couldn't breathe. Someone was choking me, and pulling me off the wall by my neck. The shot to my nose came next. Upon impact, I could feel my nose change shape under the assailant's fist. My eyes began to water so I closed them. The next two hits came to my mouth, causing my teeth to move. The coppery scent and salty taste of my blood filled my mouth. As if hitting wasn't enough, my assailant kept choking me.

I struggled, clawing at my assailant's neck and shoulders but they were too strong and without air to breathe, my muscles were quickly losing strength. I opened my eyes but the edges of my vision were becoming fuzzy and dark. As I looked up, all I could see was that whoever was choking me was bleeding from their shoulder and neck where I had scratched them. Then something happened. Just as everything was going black there was a pounding at the door to the room. The choking didn't stop but for a second it relaxed. When the pounding at the door was followed by a key being inserted into the lock, the choking stopped completely and I fell to the floor.

My roommate helped me up and asked me if I was alright. All I could mutter was that someone was choking me. He said I must have been dreaming because no one was in the bedroom except me. I looked around to see that I was back in my dorm room and, besides my roommate, i was alone. I told him that I was cool and just needed to relax. I gave him some nonsense about being stressed out over finals and then went into the bathroom and closed the door. I opened the mirror above the sink to find my pills, and then decided not to take one. I turned the faucet and bent down to splash cold water on my face. As I was wiping my face, I noticed new scratched on my neck and places where it looked like the older scratches on my shoulders had been reopened.

My roommate has been looking at me funny ever since then. I think he's scared of me or knows something but is afraid to tell me. Whatever, finals are almost over and then I'm going home. I think all I need is to be away from this school and I'll be fine. Until then, I really don't care what people think.

Oct 29, 2011

Random Thoughts pt. 5

Here's another one for those of us who always have an eye on the job market. Have you ever found that "perfect" job through an online job post? It's that gig that not only requires the amount of education you have but also allows you to further your knowledge base through on the job functions. It's that job that asks for the exact amount of work experience you have and offers challenges that will make you more desirable for that next good job. These jobs are rare, trust me. So what do you do? What's the next move?

Well, first you obsess about ho awesome the job is and how perfect a fit you are for it. This involves telling your friends and family about it or maybe, if you're like me, sitting in silent despair because you know how this goes. Next, you apply for said job.

This requires looking at your resume and making sure it highlights all the work experience and education you have so that your potential employers know that you are perfect for the job. You'll probably meticulously, edit your already well-edited resume to make absolutely sure that it is perfect and paints the best picture of you. Don't forget to pick out your best sample writing. Those clips that were on the front page or that essay that received an "A," you know the one.

Now, it's time for the cover letter. At this point, you take the time and effort to write an original cover letter that acts not only as a brief description of your recent academic history, but also as a more in depth (than your resume) explanation of your key work history so your potential employer knows that you have the right experience and attitude for the job.

That's just the first draft. There will be at least two more. But when you get to that final draft, what do you do? Nothing, you sit on it and obsess. Is it good enough? Does it say enough? Does it say too little? Too much? The usual questions. Then you ask a friend to read it, for an outside opinion. 

They read it and give you some decent critiques. You know they are decent critiques, you wouldn't ask your friend to look at the cover letter if you didn't trust them. But you decide to wait a little longer, just to give it some space. You're obsessing and you know it. Finally, you pluck up enough courage to send off the cover letter (you didn't make any changes your friend suggested because, let's be honest, it was fine the way it was), resume, and your best writing samples.

Off they go and then you wait. And wait. And wait... Well, we all know how this ends, right?

Just a random thought...  

Oct 28, 2011

Story Time pt.4

[What the what? Start here. Then read this! Now, click here.]

I went to the doctor. These hallucinations have become an issue. That is what the doctor called them, these dreams or visions or whatever I'm experiencing. He called them hallucinations. He asked me if I experimented with drugs and other stuff. I told him I didn't but he wanted a urine sample anyway. I can tell he doesn't believe me. He also thought it was strange that I seem to be present at places that later turn into accident scenes. I asked him what he meant and he asked me if I read the newspaper. I said I was joking and knew what he meant but was trying to forget about it. He seemed to buy that.

After the appointment, I picked up a local newspaper and skimmed the headlines. Nothing major but there was one story that caught my eye. The morning after I worked in the dining hall one of the morning workers came in and found the body of a young girl. Apparently she had fallen, (though there was speculation she had been thrown), from the track level of the dining hall. She hit her head on a table during the fall and the impact killed her. Sources for the story mentioned that the victim had skin under her nails, indicating a struggle. This worried me. The bruises on my shoulders still hurt, and that morning I noticed that there were small scrapes on the top of the bruises as well. I just don't want to think about it.

Oct 27, 2011

Story Time pt. 3

[Confused? Read this first! Then read this second!]

Some strange stuff happened again. It wasn't like last time when I saw a creature, which I think might have been a gremlin. I know this sounds weird but I put the description of what I saw into Google and it came up with a bunch of lizards like Kimono Dragons and Godzilla. But, it also came up with gremlins, fictitious creatures that like to damage and destroy mechanical objects. It also said that they enjoy causing mischief among humans. The sad reality is that the explanation of gremlins that I found online accounted for everything that I saw that night. I also learned that gremlins are harbingers of psychosis, going crazy. I'm not sure how that makes me feel, especially in light of the elevator accident that happened two days later in the student center.

I heard some of the building staff was moving some equipment from the third floor to the basement. They loaded the equipment on to the elevator and then got on themselves to ride it down. When they pushed the button for the basement, all the lights in the elevator flickered and the emergency bell went off. Then the elevator dropped to the basement as if the cable and winch system had given out. Apparently, it crashed down pretty loud and scared a bunch of people who have offices in the basement or were walking around at the time. Luckily, no one was injured in the accident but when the maintenance crew went into the elevator room they found the elevator control panel a mess of wires and fried circuitry. The cables had been almost fully cut. They also found a wrench...

But that has nothing to do with what I saw last night. Last night I was working in the main dining hall. Around ten at night we are supposed to lock all the doors except for the one that opens near the building manager office. It's one of those safety precautions that let us see who is coming and going from the building. I was locking the doors when I heard some noise upstairs near the dining hall entrance. Usually this means that someone has taken the elevator up to the third level of the building and is hanging out on the "track" above the food service area.The dining hall used to be a gym. Technically, the whole dining hall space belongs to the company that supplies food for the campus so we building managers only have keys to back stairway for emergencies. The rest of the area is locked. But, the elevator goes through all levels so they're still accessible. What was odd, though, was that the noise sounded like a door opening and closing which didn't make any sense because anyone who would have keys to that area had left around six that evening.

I went upstairs to the track level and found the door ajar. Moving onto the track, I did a quick sweep of it to see if someone was sitting on one of the many couches that are up there. No one. I even walked around the entire track once to make sure no one was hiding from me. Still nothing. As I was leaving the way I entered, the door to the back stairway clicked and swung open. The dining hall has those halogen lights that never go off, you know the emergency lights or whatever they're called. Some corners of the space are dark, but most of it is well lit from these "always on" lights. When the door to the back stairway opened, the emergency lights flickered and dimmed, making the already dimly lit track area even darker. The lighting from the stairway was the only source of light on the track level and even that seemed dimmer than usual. Then she appeared in the doorway.

She was young, no more than nineteen or twenty and she was wearing a pair of jeans and a "Hello Kitty" t-shirt. I couldn't see her face because her long black hair covered it. She took two steps toward me and fell; she began to crawl towards me, pulling her legs as if they didn't work. I took a step back unsure of what to do. I could hear her mumbling something as she crawled towards me. This was a little much for me so I pulled out my walkie-talkie and called for the police officer who is on duty at night. I got nothing but static. I radioed again and got more static. The girl kept crawling closer, until she was close enough for me to hear what she was saying.

"Stop... please! No!" She kept repeating. I backed up some more until I felt the crash bar of the main door in the small of my back. She looked up at me and through her hair I could see one of her eyes, all white with a small black pupil. That was enough for me. I turned and pushed the main door open and moved forward to exit the track area. But then I felt pressure on my shoulders.

I turned and was face to face with the girl who, just seconds before, had been crawling. She dug her fingernails in. As she leaned toward me, the one eye I could see looked directly at me. I watched in terror as the pupil widened to take up the entire space of the eye. I screamed and screamed and staggered backwards with the girl still clutching me. We twisted in an awkward dance and I struggled against her weight, but I couldn't shake her off despite being bigger than her.  She forced me back to the railing that ran around the track. I felt myself slipping over the railing but I couldn't get from underneath her. Her strength was overpowering and I felt my lower back reach the edge of the railing and I knew I was going to be forced over it. Our combined weight was too much. She leaned in and we both toppled over the edge.

I hit the floor of the building manager office pretty hard. My head snapped back and the world swam in and out of focus. It took me a few seconds to realized that I had fallen out of my chair. I sat up but there was no sign of the girl I'd seen and when I went back up to the track level all the doors were locked. There was no sign that anything had taken place. At the end of the night, I locked up the rest of the building in a daze. I guess I could have fallen asleep and dreamed the whole thing but that doesn't explain why I have bruises on my shoulders. Something is going on here and I'm not sure what it is. But it's affecting me and I need to do something about it before it get more out of hand than it is now. I'm not crazy. I know what I saw, but...

Oct 26, 2011

Older Works pt. 2

                             The Things I Carry
My bag isn't heavy, in fact, it's really light. Not much in there aside from the usual and necessary. Two notebooks for class, a few pens, the syllabus and the required reading material. Recently, I've been carrying an extra T-shirt for those hot days when a collared shirt is more an act of self-torture than dress wear. I also carry a handkerchief to wipe away the sweat that inevitably comes from wearing a collared shirt all day.

I have my cell phone too. I hate it. Not in the sense that I feel the need to get rid of it, but more like a sense of caution about something I don't fully understand and am afraid to use for fear of hurting myself or others. A friend of mine recently called me to complain that her mother had changed her cell phone plan and now she "barely had enough minutes to hold a decent conversation." She was angry and shocked that her mother, claiming she was too dependent on her cell phone, would lessen her minutes. I "uh-huh-ed" in agreement, but silently I laughed that nervous laughter of someone who is happy it's not happening to them. That kind of dependence on something freaks me out. That's why I hate my phone, I'm afraid I'll become addicted like my friend... I don't want that.

I carry keys to my house, doesn't seem important except when you forget them, but I guess that goes without saying. I also carry a small piece of a blanket I'm told I had when I was a baby. It's pink and blue, faded, but still soft. It's like a rabbit's foot to me though, it's not for good luck. I think it reminds me of times past when I was more optimistic, and not so jaded. Hopefully, I'll get back to that outlook.

I carry other stuff too. I carry crazy thoughts and fantasies that span from being a knight-in-shining armor to playing quidditch and then on to some flight of fancy involving big guns and cool matrix-like slow motion and kung fu. I carry thoughts of girls, that I have loved and the ones that loved me. There is a difference that I am dimly aware of only in retrospect. It seems this difference is quite subtle and easy to miss, something I've done more times than I can count. I carry a smile; well, to be honest, it's more of a grin. Quite disarming and charming if i do say so myself. I've got it perfected so that it throws just enough slyness to keep people guessing about what I may be thinking. It walks the fine line that separates mischievous and devious, always staying on the mischievous side, but pushing the boundary just a bit.

I carry a fair amount of pressure. That would a generalization because this pressure comes in so many forms it's hard to tell them apart. They mix and become a haze of urgency. It's never tangible, but it's always there, poking and prodding me. It keeps that feeling of unease in me, a small knot in my stomach. It rarely surfaces, but when it does, it's like a blanket that engulfs me, weighing me down to the point where I feel I can't move, nor do I want to. Everything seems so hopeless at these junctures I wonder why I bother. The only way to get our of that is to do something, get something done. You feel loads better and the blanket lifts a little, allowing you to move. Mind you, this isn't depression, it's just pressure. As far as I know, depression doesn't give up so easily.

As I said before, the pressure only feels concentrated because there is so much of it. It comes from different places. Academic pressure is probably the biggest. Must have good grades, we've all heard the speeches about good grades opening doors. It's true, I know, that doesn't mean the pressure isn't still there. Parental pressure is also among the larger ones. I always thought that as I got older it would be easier to deal with parental pressure. It's not true, but I handle it, it hasn't broken me yet, I'm strong. Societal pressure, being a black male is one of the toughest jobs I've ever been given. The worst part about it is that there is no way to mark your progress unless you're doing horribly or really well. Currently, I'm doing neither. Where does that leave me? I try not to think about it because that leads to depression, which we all know doesn't give up so easily.

Cultural pressure goes hand in hand with societal pressure. I find myself wondering if my success has alienated me from other black people who aren't as successful as me. When I hang out with my friends do I "keep it real" by wearing the latest styles and speaking in slang? My father would have a conniption if I did this, yet I don't feel comfortable in his word of polo shirts and khaki pants. I've reached a happy medium for myself of jeans and T-shirt; sometimes I wear nice dress shoes with the ensemble. Sort of a tip of the hat towards my father and his boat shoes. He'll laugh at me and say that someday I'll find my own style. He views the way I dress now as a transition to something else that he will ultimately approve of. I like how I dress. I've found my style.

I carry a lot. And, despite the load, I don't strain or struggle. I just hump it and keep going. I guess you get used to it after awhile. raging over what you carry doesn't solve anything because other people are carrying just as much. If you see me, I'll give you my smile and say that everything is cool because it is. After all, my bag is really light.

Oct 25, 2011

Story Time pt.2

[Lost? Start here.]

I was going down in the elevator to my office, it's in the basement, when the elevator began to make strange squealing noises as if it was straining to move. This didn't bother me at first because the elevator is old and is always making some kind of odd noise. However, this squealing was new and different and my gut told me that it should be checked out. So, I went back into the mechanical area and let myself in to do a quick check, expecting nothing to be out of order. I was walking back through the mechanical area and as I suspected, everything was fine. I got to the elevator room and just as I was about to turn and leave I heard the same squealing noise that I heard before when I was in the elevator. I turned and unlocked the elevator room door and opened it.

For some reason, it is always really hot in the elevator room. The heat hit me immediately and I began to perspire. It's also really dark. I could just make out the two steel cages that take up most of the small room. they separate the electrical and mechanical stuff from the path that leads through the room to the other side. There is also a smaller path that cuts between the cages so that a person can reach the circuit breakers and elevator controls, which are on the wall between the two cages. I stepped into the room and looked around for the noise. The further I went into the room, the hotter it got. At first, I couldn't hear anything except the hum of machinery so I turned to leave but then I heard it again, just a little way in front of me, the squealing, but this time followed by a clicking sound. I moved closer to the noises, which I could tell were coming from between the cages, but I couldn't see who or what was causing the racket.

"Hello? Is someone in here?" I called out. The squealing and the clicking stopped, but no one answered me. It was at this point that I realized I had stopped perspiring and was now sweating full out. I was also breathing hard. I stopped and took a few deep breaths to calm myself and then proceeded forward to the gap between the cages. I took out my cell phone and used the screen as a makeshift flashlight so I could see down the path. Looking down the path, I saw circuit breaker on the wall and the elevator controls beneath it. I couldn't see the entire set of elevator controls because something was blocking it. I thought it was a stepladder but then it moved and began tinkering with the elevator controls; it appeared to be hitting the elevator controls with a wrench. It hit the controls again and some sparks flew out of the control panel, lighting the area up. I screamed. I couldn't believe what I'd seen. I staggered back and tripped on the edge of one of the steel cages and fell. It reached out and pulled at the exposed elevator wiring, causing a stream of sparks to fly out, creating a flickering light that made the shadows dance in crazy patterns. It turned around and looked at me and I screamed again.

In front of me, standing no more than two and a half feet high, was a dark green scaly creature. It's eyes were a blazing red without pupils. It had no lips and many jagged teeth jutted out of its mouth in different directions. It's head was shaped like a cross between a human and a lizard, with broad flat features and two holes above its mouth where a nose would be. It tilted its head and looked at me almost intelligently and took a step forward, dropping the wrench it was holding. I tried to back away but the wall opposite the steel cages stopped me. It took a step towards me and opened its mouth to reveal rows of jagged, sharp teeth. Then it squealed and ran towards me. I freaked out and covered my face only to feel the creature jump on my chest and then over me and scurry towards the door.

In a daze, I scrambled to my feet and followed it but when I got to the door and opened it, there was no sign of the creature in the hallway. I checked all the exits from the mechanical area and there was nothing, no sign of passage, no footprints in the dust, nothing...

I locked up like usual that night and went home. Nothing else weird happened that night or the next day at work so I'm not sure what to think. I know what I saw, and I'm certain it was there, I mean, it jumped on my chest. I felt its weight. I drink occasionally, but never at work and I don't do any drugs. I'm not sure what to make of what happened so I'm writing it down. I doubt anyone would believe me if I told someone. I'd probably just end up in the psych ward. I'm not crazy.

Oct 24, 2011

Story Time

I don't believe in ghosts or monsters, and I'm not afraid of the dark. When I was younger, some of my friends told me about the boogeyman in their closets or under their beds and I remember thinking that it was stupid of them to be afraid of something they couldn't see. I do enjoy scary movies. But not because they scare me but because of the way they scare other people. It is quite interesting to me to see how some people can let themselves get so involved in something that is obviously fake that they jump and quiver whenever something scary comes on the screen.

I'm not very religious, though I do believe that our actions in life will have some consequences after we die. Some people say that I lack faith. I don't think that's it. I do have faith, but I don't have time to believe in things that go bump in the night. It just seems pointless and trivial. That's why I'm writing this down now, because recently I've seen something that has made me question my sanity. Let me explain.

I'm a college student and my school is a bastion of intelligence and rational thought. All things considered, I feel the school has done well by me. I'm a majoring in psychology and I'm looking to go into counseling as a profession. I think, and I've been told that I am fairly normal when compared to other students at my school. I enjoy hanging out with friends and partying, but I also know when to sit down and study. After three and a half years at my school, I've finally figured out the perfect balance of studying and partying. Of course, partying costs money so I have a student job on campus. In fact, I'm told it's one of the best student jobs available. I'm a building manager for the student center and the the main dining hall on campus.

It's a good job with good hours and pay. I like it because I can set up how many hours I want to work in a week so if I need money for something I can schedule a heavy work week or if I need to study I can take fewer shifts and not worry about my boss thinking I'm slacking off. One of the few drawbacks is that it requires me to work late. The closing shifts don't end until two in the morning and on a weeknight that can be difficult, especially with morning classes. I wish I could schedule so that I could get as many hours as I want without having to work closing shifts, but to make it fair to all building managers, we all have to take closing shifts. The issue with the closing shift is that after a certain hour the building empties out and hardly anyone comes in. I've always wondered why we need to keep the building open so late when hardly anyone is in it.

I'm digressing. My job makes me work late and the place gets empty. Now, a part of the building manager job is to walk around the building and make sure that everything is in its proper place. This basically means that if the various student groups use a room in the building we have to make sure they straighten up the room and leave it looking decent. We also have to walk around in the mechanical areas of the building to make sure that no one unauthorized has been or is back there. Normally, this only takes a few minutes because these areas are locked and only a few people have keys to them. Last night, when I was working a closing shift, something strange happened.

Oct 22, 2011

The Mashup

From time to time, interesting things happen that I want to talk about but due to their nature they are not enough to make a complete blog post. I do my best to not short-change you, dear reader, so instead of a bunch of small, underdeveloped posts, I present "The Mashup." Here are a few things I've seen and done recently that seem kinda cool, interesting or funny...

Rick vs. The Car Accident
This morning I was witness to a car accident as I drove home from picking up my dry cleaning. I was cruising down the "feeder" road that runs along next to the Dallas Tollway when it happened. At this particular intersection, the road consists of three lanes, the left lane, closest to the highway, is a left turn only lane, the middle lane allows for left turns or to continue straight. The right lane is for right turns or continuing straight. I was in the right lane, intending to continue straight. Next to me in the middle lane was a red two-door car, some pseudo sporty model that was at least seven or eight years old. In the left  there was a third car. It was also red, a four-door model that looked no older than three years. I approached the intersection at the same time as the two-door in the middle lane. the four-door came through the intersection a few feet behind us, probably far enough to be in the blind spot of the two-door. 

Then things got wonky.

The aftermath looks worse than it really was.
The two-door began to make a left turn from its lane to cross under the highway. The four-door attempted to continue straight and merge into the middle lane as it crossed through the intersection. Physics informed both cars that they couldn't occupy the same space at the same time and a collision ensued. Mirrors and side panels clipped and the two-door skidded off to the right, while the driver of the four-door over-corrected and swerved into one of the support columns of the highway, smashing the front end of the car and involuntarily releasing the hood catch.

As I saw the accident developing I slowed to a crawl, watched it happen out of my driver side window, and slowly drove past it and pulled into the gas station at the corner of the intersection.Once it was established that everyone was OK, I drove home. Pretty crazy!

Rick vs. The Pansexual
While working a gig this past week I met a person who described themselves as a "pansexual." Click on the word for a definition, I know you're curious... Generally, those who refer to themselves as pansexuals do so because they "hate to be labeled," or some such other semantic BS. But, this one explained to me that physical attraction had little to do with her partners. That, she found someone's intellect, regardless of their sexual orientation, to be the largest factor in attractiveness. Later in the day when I mentioned that my conversation with her had been fantastic all day she agreed. I'm not sure where that leaves me...

Potpourri for $1000, Alex

This guy was close to 8ft tall!
Yesterday evening, I worked a gig at the Fort Worth Zoo. It was a party for the Texas Rangers baseball team. They are currently playing in the World Series and the event was to celebrate their win in the American League Championship Series over the Detroit Tigers. The guests had an entire section of the zoo cordoned off just for them. There was a was a concert, as well as live animals and people dressed up like this guy walking around posing for photos. I even saw Nolan Ryan, president of the Rangers, walk by. Due to over-scheduling, I almost had to go home but I was able to get in as a barback and spent most of the evening running alcohol, ice and mixers between the two bars in my section. Tough work, but at least I didn't waste a 45 minute drive out to Ft. Worth, like some of the people who were sent home.
It's getting close to All Hallows Eve around here, and folks have been putting out carved pumpkins in my neighborhood. My friend, Eric, has a few outside his door, all pretty cool, but one in particular caught my attention. He carved a partial Flying Elvis into one of the pumpkins to show his team spirit in the midst of Cowboy country. He told me he intended to do the full logo but lacked the tools for the intricacy of the detail. I thought it was great so I took a picture.

Oct 21, 2011

Older Works

I was cleaning up the various paperwork and documents I've accumulated over the years and found some old writing I did for a class several years ago. Naturally, I re-read it to see if it was any good. Most wasn't but some was. What I like, I'll post here. I might even add notes in the comment space. Enjoy!

Wrap up the garbage on Tuesday night, and put it out Wednesday morning; look both ways before crossing the street; wait for your sister at the bus stop and walk her home; finish your homework before I get home at six o'clock; don't run with scissors; if you're going to be out late, make sure you call when you're on your way home; if you go out of town by yourself, call home when you get in; call home at least once a week when you're away at school; visit your grandmother at least once a week so she doesn't worry; call your other grandmother once a week for the same reason; this is how you fold your pants to keep the crease; this how you tie a tie; this how you spread your bed in the morning after you've slept in it; this how you change your sheets after you've slept in them for a week; comb and brush your hair so you look neat and not like the thug you're trying to become; if you're sitting, stand up whenever a lady enters the room; check all your mirrors before you pull away from the curb; always use your turn signal; but sometimes you forget to use your turn signal

Sit still in church; is it true that you sneak our of church to buy snacks at the store nearby? This is how you iron a shirt; this is how you iron pants to maintain the crease; don't take candy from strangers, you don't know where it's been; be home before the lights come on; shave your face so you look neat and not like the thug you're trying to become; if you want long hair, take care of it; lose thirty pounds; clean your room; keep your eye on the ball and swing through it; this how you tie your shoes; this is how you set a table for dinner; this how you make eggs for breakfast; this is how you make spaghetti, you will impress girls if you can cook for them; save your money, don't live paycheck to paycheck; mow the lawn; did you do the hedges too?

Don't eat with your elbows on the table, only thugs do that; stay away from fast women; but how will I know if they are fast? Are you saying that you're going to be the kind of man who won't be able to tell when a woman is fast?

Oct 20, 2011

Random Thoughts pt. 4

Have you ever noticed how many social pitfalls surround gum and mints? For example, if you use an item to freshen your breath and your're in mixed company, people watch and, unless they know you well, won't say anything (i.e. ask for a piece for themselves).

Etiquette generally dictates that you offer a piece to the company but there is the rub. you can't offer to share without people presuming an insult. How often do you hear, "What? Does my breath stink?" Then they cover their mouth with their hand.

Yes it does, But that's not why I'm offering. I'm trying to be polite.

On the other side, if you see someone with gum or mints you are reminded that your breath may be stale. However, asking for said item presumes the person is willing to share. Assuming you're not asking for the last piece, think about the dilemma you've created. The person with the breath freshener has a decision to make: Do they give you a piece or do they refuse and leave you to offend others with your halitosis?

On top of that, now the person with the gum or mints has to apologize for not offering to share in the first place and feels like a jerk because you didn't think ahead and bring your own piece of breath freshening goodness.

Just a random thought...

Oct 10, 2011

How to Spend a Long Weekend

 Long weekend holidays are a bit of an oddity for me. Due to school and work, in the past three years of my life, I haven't had a day off from work on an official government holiday. Today is one of those official holidays. I know this because my bank is closed on a day it should be open. Realizing this, I figured it would be a good time to recount my activities this holiday weekend, it might be my last for a while...

Looks like folks are trying to do more than  just occupy Wall Street.
On Friday, I spent several hours in downtown Dallas. A majority of the time was spent setting up and bartending a Texas-Oklahoma University party. I'll get to that in a second. I was also able to hang out at a rally that was taking place at the JFK memorial. I believe it was a part of the "Occupy Wall Street" movement that has recently gotten some media coverage. The demonstration at the JFK memorial looked more like a sit-in chock-full of hippies (modern and old-school) as well as various on-lookers and tourists who were just there to see the memorial. As far as protests and demonstrations go, this one was kind of tame. People had the requisite signs and chants, but they weren't very loud and the police presence was minimal. I stayed for about forty-five minutes waiting to see if a speaker would step up but nothing happened.
These guys were my favorite customers. They drank for the cycle!
 Later that evening and into the next morning, I bartended a Texas-OU party held at the famous Sonny Bryan's Smokehouse. It was insane. By 9:30 p.m., the line in front the bar was ten deep and growing. The DJ was cranking out the hits and both Texas and OU fans were dancing and enjoying themselves. Several times, the rivals would start school chants to taunt each other. There were five fights in the bar, but I'm told that was on par considering the rivalry.
Three TVs is a bit much, but so worth it!
On Saturday, I ran errands and met with one of my students in the afternoon. However, the real fun happened in the evening when I brought my TV over to my friend's place and he and I and his brother system linked three Xbox360s and played Borderlands until the wee hours of the morning. It took us a while to figure out/remember how to system link and setup our gaming profiles. But, once we got it done, the action was nonstop.I haven't done that since college and it was a pleasant throwback to days gone by.

On Sunday, I watched football. Nothing new there. All in all, a good weekend, long or otherwise.

Oct 6, 2011

On Support

Yesterday, when I realized I would not be able to produce a full entry, I sent a brief apology to those who read my "scribblings" on this blog. I like to think of my blog as an open forum where I post interesting things that I see or that happen to me and then other people respond to it. I'm not so arrogant to assume that everyone hangs on the words I type, but I'm happy to know that there are people out there who stop by and read what I have to say from time to time.

A few hours after I posted my "mea culpa," a friend of mine left a note on my Facebook wall saying that she enjoyed my entries and would miss them. Her note made me realize a few things:

1) While I was working on creating a habit of writing for myself, I was also creating a habit of people expecting a new post from me daily. It's one thing to write for yourself with no idea or care that what you write will be read by others, but now that I have an audience (minor though it may be) I feel like I have an obligation to to my readership to produce in a timely fashion. Thank you for that reminder.

2) If I want my blog to be a true forum, I need to reciprocate. I'm not the only writer out here. I know many people who are sharing their ideas and experiences on their own blogs. None of us get paid to blog (though Fienberg gets paid to write poetry), it's something we do because we feel a desire to express ourselves creatively.They listen and support me, it seems only fair that I do the same.

Let me take this moment to "press up" a great blog about food and cooking. It's called Salt to Taste and honestly, I can't read it without getting hungry. It's that good. Check it out, the writer is a close friend and she does awesome work, both on the blog and in the kitchen.

I'm not sure if I forgot or just took for granted the amount of support I get from my friends and those who read my blog. They may not be the most vocal of supporters, in terms of leaving comments (feel free to do so!) but I appreciate you all the same. Thank you for everything, seriously.

Oct 5, 2011

As I adjust to this new schedule, I'll get back into a more regular routine. Thanks for hanging with me.
I like all of this because it equals more chances for me to make some quick cash. However, it also cuts into my blogging time. Thus, the lack of posts recently.
On top of that, it's also college application and testing time. This means that I've seen an uptick in people requesting me as a tutor for them or their kids.
I've been picking up a lot of gig work recently. Apparently, this time of year is huge for catering and with that comes opportunities to find quick work.

Oct 1, 2011

The woman walks past me to the counter and picks up her drink. She thanks the barrista and walks out. Silly me!
Then she stands up and walks towards me. Her male friend stands as well and follows her. "Grande mocha frappuccino with skim milk," the barrista calls out.
Looks away and then looks back again. Her male friend keeps talking. She nods at him but looks at me. I smile politely.
A large black male sits down next to her and they begin chatting. They obviously came in together. As they talk she casually looks my way. I catch her eye.
She's fairly attractive, slightly taller than average, thick, with light brown framing a round face. Glasses. She sits across from me and my student waiting.
I'm currently sitting in a Starbucks working with a student on writing an essay. As I'm sitting here, a black woman enters the cafe and orders some fancy drink.

Sep 30, 2011

That lesson has meant more to me, as a writer, than any other. I'm back in a groove and I'm back writing. It feels good.
I don't remember his name or any of his poems but I do remember my teacher telling me that he would write one poem everyday. Good or bad, it didn't matter.
Sure, not all of the entries were pristine gems, but I wrote everyday. That action reminds me of this American poet whose work I read in high school.
But overall, I think I succeeded in my goal of making writing a part of my daily routine. That means a lot to me.
I'll be the first to admit that I missed a few days during the endeavor. Some due to technical glitches, others due to laziness. All my fault.
Near the beginning of September I made a pledge to write a blog post every day for the remainder of the month.

Sep 28, 2011

Youth Involvement

I noticed a recent fad of today's youth. They are wearing these thick rubber bracelets that say, "I <3 Boobies." Have you seen this?

I asked one of my late-teens/early 20s co-workers about it and she said that I could find them at a local store that caters to (tragically) hip youngsters. A place like Journeys or Hot Topic, no doubt.

My co-worker went on to explain that the campaign was started to get youth involved in and aware of ways they can be activists. Plus, a portion of the profits is donated to breast cancer research.

My first reaction was curmudgeonly. Why are they wearing these silly bracelets? I thought. Even if it's for a good cause, the purpose is lost in the message!

But then I gave it some time to marinate. A few years ago, I did a story on a breast cancer charity started by a Harvard grad. The charity was aimed at recent college graduates and people under the age of 30. Naturally, the group had a catchy name, "Saving Second Base" (if you don't get it, you're probably too old to be targeted by the group).

As the group grew in notoriety, they changed their name to something less amusing and more "age-appropriate." I remember being bummed out by the change. It was as if the group lost a bit of itself, the part that made them edgy and connected them to the demographic they were trying to reach.

Considering all of that, I think the "I <3 Boobies" bracelets are pretty cool. Sure, I'm too old to wear it without looking foolish, but I think it's a great way for young people to show their awareness of the issue and support it in a fashionable way.

For that, I say kudos. Wear it proudly and rock it hard. I <3 Boobies too.

Sep 25, 2011

Fort Worth Zoo Concert or, A Taste of Motown

This is the madness of the bar the customer never sees!
I had a bartending shift through one of my catering companies to work an event at the Fort Worth Zoo yesterday. After several events of just serving beer and wine, the prospect of working a "full" bar was exciting. It didn't hurt that Diana Ross was scheduled to perform for the 500+ people attending the event. After getting my bar assignment and setting it up, the zoo fed us and then we waited for the onslaught to being.

Sultans of Swing rocking out
The opening act was a group called Sultans of Swing. They did some jazz standards to warm up the crowd before Diana Ross hit the stage. It turns out they are all from the East Coast. I heard one of them say "entire start," (pronounced "en-tie-yah staht"). My ears perked up. I recognize a Boston Accent anywhere. We spoke for a bit and I learned that the group is from different places in New England. They were happy to meet another East Coaster in Texas. Around 10 p.m., The Queen of Motown hit the stage and the the crows went wild, including us, bartenders.
The Queen of Motown 
 The crew I was with was stationed at a bar close to the stage. That was both a blessing and a curse. For a fair amount of time, our bar was empty, the clientele consisting of waitstaff asking us to make drinks for the people at their tables. But when Ms. Ross took the stage, we were ambushed with people asking for drinks, and generally hanging out near the stage. I was looking forward to seeing the hair. Ms. Ross did not disappoint! Sure, it wasn't as crazy-large as I'd seen in old photos but it was in full effect as she strutted across the stage, belting out classic Motown songs, that I had forgotten that I knew.
Second Costume change...
 The best part of her performance was the fact that she had four costume changes throughout the hour-long set. Each outfit was more shiny than the last. She engaged the audience by giving them the mic and letting them sing famous choruses. Her band was great too. Their instrumentation was phenomenal. I was able to quickly recognize the songs and begin singing along with her. Not only did Diana Ross sing her songs, she also sang Gloria Gaynor's "I will survive" and "Ease on Down the Road" from the Wiz.
...Fourth costume change!

 In honor of Ms. Diana Ross, I concocted a fruity and sweet drink called a "Divalicious." Vodka, cranberry juice, lemonade and a splash of triple sec, it went over famously. The event ended late and afterward, I went to eat an early breakfast with a fellow bartender at the Ol' South Pancake House. The only drawback to the evening was that it didn't tip out as well as I thought it would considering the surroundings. But, it was still a great time. See a certified music icon/diva. Checked off my bucket list!

Sep 24, 2011

I'm bartending a gig where Diana Ross is going to perform.... Stay tuned for updates!!

Sep 23, 2011

Random Thoughts pt. 3

Here's one for those of us who have been looking for a (good/better) job recently.

Have you ever found a job post online and applied to it? You go through the process of writing a job-specific cover letter, attach your resume, maybe a writing sample or two (depending on the job) and then send it out into cyberspace.

If you've gone through this, then you know what happens next. Nothing. No response, no notification beyond some automated email saying your application has been received, and that's if you're lucky.

But what happens when you actually get a response, from a human no less? You kind of freak out, right?

A friend of mine got an email response to an online application within ten minutes of sending it out. She was so caught off guard that she asked me to take a look at the email to make sure it wasn't a scam (we concluded that it wasn't, but it was still odd).

Are jobs so scarce these days that when you get a response you're skeptical of its origin? Or have we job seekers become so accustomed to being ignored by companies "looking to hire" that a response from these companies freightens us?

I think it's a little of both. Job seekers are gun-shy because all we deal with is rejection and being ignored.

Which makes it difficult for companies to appear genuine in their attempts to contact us for interviews.

No real point here, just a random thought... 
The customer is forcefully removed from the store. I giggle to myself over the whole event...
The customer tells the supervisor "you're not a psychiatrist! So don't act like one and tell me how I feel."
Now, voices are raised as tempers flare. The supervisor mentions something about the customer having a bad day.
The supervisor leaves, it appear that the customer has won... Not so fast. The supervisor returns with a security guard, asking the customer to leave again.
The supervisor and the customer go back and forth in hushed heated tones. The supervisor asks her to leave the store. The customer refuses.
She then tells the BN worker to "get out of her personal space." The BN worker leaves, a few seconds later a BN supervisor shows up.
The BN worker apologizes profusely and offers to find her book ar a different store. This does not appease the customer.
The customer proceeds to berate the woman, in the softest tones, about how she pays a membership fee and expects books to be in the store when she wants them.
After a few minutes, the BN worker returns and tells the woman that the store doesn't have the book she is looking for. Then things get interesting...
As I'm updating this blog, a women nearby requests help from one of the BN workers.
I'm chilling at one of my favorite places to do work and write, Barnes & Noble.

Sep 22, 2011

Post will be up tomorrow. Might even get a double... We'll see!
Also, I realize that I've missed a day or two this week. I'm okay with it since I've been so productive. I consider it an earned break ;)
More technical difficulties preventing me from posting today.

Sep 20, 2011

Tales of the Service Counter pt. 2

A funny moment happened during my close this evening. As I was melting the ice in the service counter I noticed movement out of the corner of my eye.

I looked up and spyed a woman meandering towards my area, stopping to browse the selections in the various bunkers in the aisle.

She was wearing a tight-fitting cotton dress that stopped a few inches above her knees. As she moved it would pull seductively along her hips. Her skin was the color of coffee and cream, her hair, brown and shoulder-length with tan highlights.

Her flipflops smacked softly on the tile floor.

It was difficult to get a look at her face because she had a phone to her ear and was constantly looking down at contents of the bunkers. She's pretty, I thought. I was prepared to let that be the end of it. But, as she walked by the counter, she looked up at me.

I made a grunting noise in my throat as if I had been punched in the stomach. My head jerked back involuntarily.

Her face looked like a Billy Goat I had seen in a petting zoo at the Fort Worth Stockyards.

I attempted to smile to cover my reaction. She smiled back and continued walking away from me through the rest of my area.

She had a great ass.

Sep 18, 2011

Random Thoughts pt. 2

I'm watching the pregame interview of Michael Vick and I'm struck by how quickly success breeds forgiveness or forgetfulness. 

I think it's interesting that a little over two years ago, many people were shocked that the Eagles would take a flyer on Vick as a "backup." Despite the fact that he had paid his debt to society and was free to pursue employment, there was a huge outcry that any team would give him a shot. Never mind that when he played, he was prolific. Last year, Vick proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that he not only can play at the highest level, but also that he is worth all the money the Eagles paid him.

Now, I have no issue with Vick. Among my friends, I've argued that there is no reason for Vick to be met with such enmity. He's done his time and now he's back playing football and earning a living. I have no issue with it.

However, I find it interesting that the same people who lambasted him as an evil person for what he did are now calling him a hero and acting like his crimes never happened because he has successfully come back to professional football. I don't have a problem with people changing their opinions about him, I just find it odd and somewhat annoying when those who have changed their minds act as if they never held an opposing thought. 

Come on, that behavior is just silly. Own your opinion, both of them. Even if they are opposing views. There's nothing wrong with that. 

Sep 17, 2011

Despite the insanity of the event, the patrons were respectful and the tips were great. Hopefully, I get the call back for next weekend...
Now, I'm having trouble with my wine tool and the cork in the wine bottle... The line at my bar grows. I'm sweating more.
I'm sweating. My hands are cold from plunging them into tubs of ice, and my fingers hurt from constantly popping tabs on beer.
I'm bartending a tailgate party at SMU and it's ridiculous. People crowd the bar shouting out orders, waving empty cups or cash to get my attention.
A few hours ago, I found myself behind a makeshift plywood bar popping tabs on cans of Bud Light while drunk college students shouted at me...

Sep 16, 2011

Chicago Highlights

It's well known that I was in Chicago this past weekend celebrating my friend's birthday. The trip was my vacation for the year which came at the perfect time because I was in dire need of a change of scenery. I took a fair amount of photos to commemorate the  occasion and all the events that took place. Generally, a trip like this, would produce a blog that detailed what I did an saw while I was there. I think that's kinda boring and would take too long besides. Therefore, I'll hit you with the highlights, the best parts that I remember and some I didn't until I saw my photos...

We look like the principal characters on a BET sitcom
 This was the weekend birthday crew. It was great to see my best friend and all the people I used to hang out with when I lived in the city, plus my boy from high school. I had no doubt it was gonna be a good weekend. Little did I know how good it would turn out to be. This was at The Spot at the beginning of the night. Here we go...!

I sweated through my shirt... It was that popping
 Several hours later, the crew is juking it at Baby Atlas, a basement bar and dance floor at a place called Matilda's. It had to be 110 degrees in the place. Everyone was pressed in close, dancing and having a good time. I hadn't done that in months. The crowd mentality as the music dropped was ri-damn-diculous.

There was a a dance pole in the corner. We never got that far into the joint to take a spin on it, but there were a bunch of other people who lived out their stripper fantasies. I there was an unspoken consensus in our crew that we were "too old for that."

My boy feels right at home...
 The first night ended at a popular late night diner in the same area of the club. Eggs, corned beef hash, potatoes and toast. The perfect capstone to a night of intense alcohol consumption and sweaty dancing. My high school friend and I got home around 4 a.m. An excellent start to the festivities.
I think this will be my new motto.

Day two. With a few hours to kill before a party at my best friend's house, a day bar crawl was suggested. I already wrote about that, though I must confess that I was unable to finish the play-by-play due to severe inebriation. Allow me to complete the deed. The neon light slogan was inside the Town Hall Pub. It was a dimly lit spot with a long, wood L-shaped bar. Behind the bar, photo booth photos plastered all the available wall space.

DS Tequila Co., Fiesta Bowls
The last stop was the DS Tequila Co. We initially went in to do a shot but ended up being talked into Fiesta Bowls, by our lovely waitress, Rachel. More kudos should go to Rachel, we only wanted to get one Fiesta Bowl, but a quick questioning of our manhood earned her a larger tip. Well played.

Valois! If you don't know, find out.
The third day was the Hyde Park tour. It started with breakfast at Valois, a cafeteria-style restaurant. They might have the best pancakes in Chicago. From there, we took a walk around the neighborhood, taking in the places we used to live as well as seeing all the changes to the area since we had last been there.
Robot Library!
We even spent some time on the University of Chicago campus. We took a look at their new automated  library extension, walked the main quad and spent an hour chilling on a bench. We ended with a stop at a popular cafe near campus. My best friend and I had spent hours there, eating apple pie a la carte and drinking coffee drinks.

Better skyline than NYC. 
On Monday, we did a boat tour of Chicago architecture along the river. Our tour was filled out by a high school class from Fort Wayne IN. Besides learning the history of the various skyscrapers in Chicago, the highlight was when the tour guide used the term "hoi polloi." My friends and I snickered and laughed at the fact that he had used the term. None of the highschoolers got it. That made us laugh more.

All in all, a great trip. I forgot how much I love living in a city. Makes me think about making a change...

Sep 15, 2011

On teaching or The second time around

I feel like I've been suffering from deja vu recently. Around this time, last year, I met a high school student who needed help improving his writing so that he could apply to college. I wrote about it on my other blog.

Now, here I am again, working with  a high student on her college apps. Perhaps this is a chance to fully succeed where I fell short initially. Let me explain.

My first student had his heart set on Northeastern University. One of the programs in their various schools was the kind of field he wanted to go into as a career. However, NU was a bit of a "reach," according to his grades and test scores.

Despite this, I felt confident that with a great set of essays on his app he could turn heads and earn a spot in the program. He and I worked diligently together over the span of several weeks to perfect his essays. In the end, we both felt confident in his chances.

We finished our work and he submitted his app for the November deadline. Fast forward to January and I found out he was not accepted to NU, but had been accepted to his second choice, Suffolk University.

I was happy for him and excited at the idea that I had helped him get into college. Even with all of that, I was crestfallen because I promised him NU and he didn't get in.

My current student wants to to go to the University of Texas in Austin. I haven't been sold bold as to promise her I'll get her in, but I'm aware of the stakes, both for her and for me.

It's a second chance, a do-over. I intend to make the most of it for all our sakes.

Sep 14, 2011

"No, no," I said. "Definitely Kevin Smith... Can I get a photo with you?" "Sure thing," he said. Best. Photo. Ever.
I approached the bar and told him, "Dude, you look just like Kevin Smith." He nodded, "I get Jack Black a lot. Not so much Kevin Smith," he replied.
"Yo! That dude looks like Kevin Smith!" She looked and nodded her head in agreement. "I'm gonna get a picture with him!" I proclaimed.
He was a bartender at a restaurant/bar called The Spot. I was there for my friend's birthday dinner. When I saw him I immediately said to the birthday girl.
Kevin Smith...?
Okay, that's actually not true. I didn't meet Kevin Smith, but I met a guy names Miles who looked just like him. You be the judge...
My Chicago vacation produced many memorable moments. One of which was meeting Kevin Smith, director or such great films like "Mallrats" and "Dogma."

Sep 13, 2011

Stay tuned for a full recap in the coming days...
Suffice to say, I'm wiped out and happily recovering from a great long weekend. No official post today.
I always underestimate how much energy traveling takes out of me. Even now, I'm not home yet.

Sep 12, 2011

On Friendship, pt. 2

Very little is better than sitting on a park bench,
In the cool shade of a tree, with friends
Sharing A good conversation.
Biology, Bioethics,
Literature, History, and 
Pop Culture.
A lovely hour spent in the Classics Quad.

Sep 11, 2011

Where were you?

It is the iconic moment in the lifetime of my generation, the "Where were you" moment. Like the assassinations of Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr., it has become indelibly etched into the fabric of our nation's memory. On the ten year anniversary of the event, I find myself in the same city, traveling to the same place I was when I first heard about the tragedy. I can't help but think there is poignancy in that circuity.

It was my second year of undergrad and I was on campus early that year as an orientation aide for new students. I had gone through a full day of orientation training and preparation the previous day and was psyching myself up for another six to eight hours of sitting in a room with others talking about using some metaphorical leadership tool kit to bring out the best in those around me.

That morning as I walked across campus, I met up with some fellow orientation aides and we joked about how boring the previous training session had been. As we entered Swift Hall, the theology building, another orientation aide met us at the door. "The World Trade Center Tower has been hit by a plane!" She exclaimed. "They canceled training today."

The rest of the day is a blur of random memories. I recall watching the second tower getting hit and thinking it was unreal, people crying and making phone calls, and dinner with my best friend at a local pasta restaurant.

What do you remember of that day? Where were you?

Sep 10, 2011

Next up, we're going to stop in at the Town Hall Pub, across the street. There is also a house party later this evening. I'll keep you posted!
Brendan's served us grape bomb shots and Flyguys, a drink of my own creation. From there, we moved to Minibar, the ultra lounge for some red sangria and pizza.
From there, we wandered to Brendan's Pub, your typical "hole-in-the-wall" Irish pub with all the trimmings. "Jameson" was detailed on the mirror behind the bar.
Rocks was the first stop, a sports bar with daily drink specials. A 20oz Sam Adams Oktoberfest and a "Man-mosa" got the crawl started in proper fashion.
With my best friend from high school and the brother of one of my other best friends, I am intrepidly exploring the area, one drink at a time. Come with me now!
This morning, those cares reminded me they were still present... Despite that, I find myself currently out on an afternoon bar crawl through the Lakeview area.
Spending time in Chicago thus far has generated some fantastic content. Last night, I partied like I was 22 and didn't have a care in the world.

Sep 9, 2011

Why I like Air Travel

Air travel has always boggled my mind. Ever since I was little, the idea of getting in a plane, sitting for a few hours, and exiting said plane in a different place has stirred a sense of wonder in me.
First, how the hell do those giant metal plane achieve liftoff? Don't worry, I understand how the physics of flight work. Doesn't mean it's not a marvel of engineering.
The thing about air travel that spins my head the most is taking a day trip somewhere. Yesterday, my aunt was in Texas for a meeting. She flew back home after the meeting was over. In the span of 16 hours she woke up at home, in a different state, caught a flight to Texas, sat in a meeting, and flew home.
That gets me every time.
Over the life of this post (drafting, editing, posting to blog) I have traveled from Texas to Chicago. What have you been doing for the last two hours?
Now that I'm in Chicago stay tuned for updates on the hijinks that are surely about to ensue...

Sep 8, 2011

Random Thoughts

Ever notice how text messages only allow a certain amount of characters? On my phone, the amount of characters over the total allowed appears around 130 or so. Then, it counts up until 160 at which point my phone tells me I'll now be sending two text messages. But, I have received giant messages before... My sister often sends me complete tales about her crazy friends via text message with no issue. So, if technology can process long messages, why a BFD? Why hold to the old form of keeping track of characters in text messages? It's not like we're twitting. Just a random thought...

Sep 7, 2011

On Education, or Getting back in the Saddle

Later this evening I will be sitting face to face with a high school student, attempting to explain why she can't do a compare and contrast on her college essay. Having read the essay in question I'm a little daunted by the task...

This student will be the first person I've tutored in several months, and honestly, I'm a little concerned as to whether I'll be able to communicate the issues in her essay so that she is able to understand what mistake she made, how to correct it and how to avoid it in the future. Less than a year ago, I used to complain and lament with my friend and fellow tutor, Gage, about how much I disliked dealing with the same students and errors day in and day out.

Now, I'd relish that consistency because it would mean that I was so much in the zone of teaching others about writing that I required a new challenge. Well, I've taken some time off. Sure, I've been using my writing skills in the time between but have my teaching skills gone to rot? I don't know, and I won't find out until tonight. Let us all hope that my student and her parents are patient with me. I'm assuming that the teaching skill is in the same set of those skills like bike riding. It'll come back to me as soon as I start doing it again.

In truth, I  suspect it will be like that. I was working with my one of cousin's children last week on a geography assignment. As he and I worked our way through a bunch of different world maps, filling in countries, rivers, and mountains, I felt a thrum in my pulse. It was the sense of excitement I get when working with a student and they begin to comprehend what I'm telling them.

It was that, or the beginning of a headache because he couldn't remember that the countries of Saudi Arabia,  Iraq, Iran, United Arab Emirates, Yemen, Oman and some others were often referred to as the "Middle East."

Either way, I'm looking forward to doing it again, to sitting with a student and working through the written language to help them come to a better understanding. I'm looking forward to that thrum of excitement... Or maybe just the headache. Either one lets me know that I'm back in the field of education. That I'm teaching again.

Tales of the Service Counter

The following is a true story from  my retail job. The names have been changed to protect the idiotic...

Usually when I work nights I'm by myself for most of my shift. While this allows me to go about my routine in peace, it also means that I don't get a break unless I want to take it an hour into my eight-hour shift. That just feels like a waste. I might as well come in late for all the good taking my break that early does me.However, last week I was "gifted" with another co-worker who had been scheduled to work several hours into my closing shift so that I would be able to take a break near the middle of my shift. Little did I know how useless this gift would be.

Issac is relatively new to my dept of the store. However he's been with the company for at least two years and, at first glance, seems fairly competent. He's not, I promise. When I got into work that day and saw the schedule I rejoiced. Having Issac at work until 9 p.m. meant that I could take my break at 7:30 or 8p.m.
Sweet, I thought to myself. A little help with coverage means I can get some things done faster and without interruption.

Issac and I worked diligently until about 6 p.m. At which point I told him I needed to take care of a few things in the back and asked him to watch the counter so that I could work straight through without interruption I said it would only take me 45 minutes or so. He nodded and said he's watch the front.  Awesome, I thought. He and I have an understanding. 

About ten minutes into my work in the back, I happened to look up an see a customer waiting to be helped. I frowned, Where is Issac? Why isn't he helping this person already? I went to the counter to help her and then returned to the back, wondering where Issac had gone. About five minutes later, Issac came wondering into the back.

"Hey man, where did you go?" I asked. "There was a customer, I thought you said you would cover the front?"

"I was in the bathroom. Sorry," He replied.

"It's not a big deal," I said with a shrug. "I'm not done back here so just keep an eye out, cool?" He nodded but kept standing, looking at me. "Is something up?" I asked.

"No, I just wanted to tell you that I'm gonna take my break now," he said. I jerked my head in surprise and frowned again.

"Wha... Uh.... I thought..." I sputtered, shock making me stumble over my words. He looked at me like a dog does when it's confused. "Fine, OK. I'll see you in a half hour," I said. I was too caught off guard to argue with him. What about our understanding? I thought?

Thirty-five minutes later, Issac sauntered back in from his break. I spent the entire time helping customers at the counter quietly seething over his blatant refusal to help me with coverage. Upon his return I told him to watch the counter so I could finish my work in the back. As I walked away he called after me.

"Are you gonna take your break soon?" He asked.

"No, not yet," I responded. "I have to finish this work." I waved towards the back. He nodded his head as if he understood, then asked me a question.

"Hey, is it cool if I take off early?" I just stared at him, then turned and walked away, shaking my head.