Friday, August 31, 2007

Real Life Conversations: Senator Craig

(Setting: The porch of Starbucks in Doylestown.)

Tom: Drew, what the hell is up with that Senator from Idaho that got arrested?

Me: You mean the one that got arrested for tapping his foot in the airport men's room?

Tom: Yeah. Is that illegal?

Me: Apparently it is. So take note.

John: Does that make you gay? I've never heard of gays foot tapping in bathrooms.

Me: No, that doesn't make you gay. That makes you a straight guy who wants to suck some dick.

Tom and John: !

Tom: That's different from being gay?

Me: Oh yeah.

John: Well what does a gay guy do when he wants to have sex?

Me: He goes home and he says, "Sweetheart! Tell ya what: I'll take us out for dinner tonight so you don't have to cook. Let's head up to the bedroom, 'kay?"


[And by the way, what the hell? It's a good use of the taxpayer's dollar to post officers in stalls looking to bust elderly men for foot tapping? Might that officer's salary have been better spent on a bridge inspector? Outrageous.]

I'm Just Bi-Curious That's All

Well that's unsettling.

I had this dream last night.

In the dream, I was in a high-end women's clothing store. And there I saw a friend of mine from college, Janet, whom I haven't seen in twenty years. A couple of times, Janet walked right by me, despite my calls of "Janet! Janet!" Then she recognized me. And it turned out that another woman I knew from college, Donna, worked for Janet, who ran the store.

Both Janet and Donna pretty much looked like they did in college, only older. Although Janet had fabric braided into her long brown hair, which worked in a way. The three of us talked for a bit, then Janet, showing me her store, said, "And you've got to see this!" and took me out back.

In the back yard was this odd landscape of reddish-orange rubber in layers about two inches thick, and cut so that it resembled topographical lines. I didn't quite know what to think. Then Janet pointed to a pool in the rubber, again with the topographical lines, about eight feet long and four feet wide, shaped like... well... like a big vagina.

Janet, Donna, and I stripped down and took a dip in the pool, which turned out to be a hot tub. And there we sat, naked in the hot tub. Janet and Donna had great bodies, totally Girls Gone Wild. And I was fascinated by Donna's breasts, pert and plump, about the size of beefsteak tomatoes, with swollen nipples, one of which was pierced.

To the best of my recollection, I have never in my life had such an erotic dream involving men. In fact, my dreams don't tend to be very erotic, or if they are, they're vague and symbollic.

Until now.

Me and two beautiful naked women soaking in a giant red pussy.

What. Is. Up. With. That?

When I woke up, I was having pleasant thoughs about how nice it would be to have sex with Donna. Or Janet. Or Donna and Janet. Especially playing with their boobies. In a big red rubber hot tub shaped like a vagina.

Back in college, Janet and I were friends, but I didn't like Donna much. And she was engaged to a guy who I didn't like at all, who was kind of my arch-rival, although he and I were always friendly to each other, stemming from mutual respect.

Huh.

My life in high school was dominated by fear. All about fear. I was so afraid. Of everything, but mostly of just being noticed.

That fear stayed with me in college, when I knew Janet and Donna. And for a few years after college.

But this morning, lying there in bed as I came to consciousness, I realized that these days, I'm pretty fearless.

So where did all that fear go? Did I overcome it? Did I outgrow it?

And I wonder how hard it would be to clean and maintain a red rubber pussy shaped hot tub?

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Sentimental Fool

So today at Ho(t)me(n) Depot, my orientation continued.

I worked until close at 10:30 p.m., and after my dinner break, met one-on-one with the Human Resources Manager so she could give me the run down on benefits, policies, and such. About half way through, we moved to the video portion of orientation, which was me sitting alone in the training room, watching a "Welcome To Home Depot" film.

At the outset, given the number of actors I knew in NYC who supported themselves by doing industrial videos like this, I wondered casually if I would see anyone I recognized. (This sometimes happens with jurors or uniformed police extras on Law And Order... "Hey! I know him! He's a bottom!")

So, the "Welcome To Home Depot" video was pretty well produced.

Not too far into it, I felt my eyes tearing up.

By the time the Human Resources Manager returned, there I was choking on sobs.

Awkward!

She covered well. There was a sort of country-feel anthemic little song playing--acoustic guitars, major key, male vocalist--and she said something like, "Yeah, that song gets to me sometimes, too. I guess."

I did my best to compose myself, but I was totally busted.

Okay. On the one hand, it's not hard to get me to cry at movies. If there's a dog in it, let's just say I'm not going to go see it on a first date because that will be the last date. (I made that mistake once already. I can still see the look on the guy's face when he turned to me and said, "Are you alright? It's just a movie.")

But the thing that really got me was the leit motif of, "Welcome home. We're glad you're here."

Oh man.

After the long hard journey I've been on, it's not too hard to connect those dots.

Going into orientation, the Baron had some words of advice to me: Just this once, don't drink the Kool-Aid.

"Kool-Aid" is a reference to Jim Jones and the People's Temple, when out of love and devotion to their leader, his followers drank grape Kool-Aid laced with arsenic in the Jungles of Central America. For the Baron, it's short-hand for this tendency I have to embrace new experiences, like an orphan who thinks that every time he sees visitors sitting in the lobby thinks that it's finally over and he's finally found a family to love him ("Welcome home. We're glad you're here.").

The Baron offered this advice because he's usually there when I'm inevitably disappointed, doing his best to offer comforting words when what's running through his mind is, "Duh. It's a job. Why are you so surprised?"

After the Home Depot orientation video, I have totally drank the Kool-Aid.

Apologies to the Baron.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

My Porn Name

I'm not talking about Chippy Tollgate, my porn named formed by taking the my first pet's name as my first name and the street I grew up on as my last name. No, I'm talking if I was seriously to do porn and opt not to use my real name. I thought of it just now while walking Faithful Companion.

Ok.

Are you ready to hear it?

Okay.

It's Bruno Frei.

I'm pretty happy with it. Just as my first name and last name come from different languages (Gaelic and German), so too with my porn name. And if you point out that I'm not italian, I'd point out that I'm not welsh, either. Similarly, my given name has resonant long vowel sounds, U, O, and A. (That's including my middle name, Devoe. That's really my middle name. I swear.) And with Bruno Frei, we have U, O, and I.

Bruno Frei. As in, "Hey what's up. I'm Bruno. Bruno Frei."

Now a Google Search reveals that there actually was a Bruno Frei, and he had nothing to do with porn. Rather, he was a Viennese communist journalist who was interred by the Nazis but went on to live a long and productive life, dying in 1988. But I don't know that any Cease And Desist orders coming my way from Austria after I debut as Bruno Frei.

Right. Now all I have to do is launch my career in porn.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Bronze

In Sex And The City, it was was always Springtime in New York City. Except for a few episodes of the final season when it was Winter in Paris. And not that there's anything wrong with Springtime in New York City. But my pop cultural signifier came a few decades earlier: Andrew Holleran's Dancer From The Dance, which I read for the first time when I was about fifteen, and every summer after that through college at least. In Dancer From The Dance, it was always Summer in New York City.

So before I ever set foot on the north side of the Hudson, I only knew New York City in the Summer, and that's how I've loved the town.

Today, Saturday, August 24th, was a perfect Summer day in New York City.

And it was sweltering, with enough humidity to give that Walking Through Cream Of Asparagus Soup feeling I love so well. People were stripped down to the basics: just sandals, shorts, and tshirts. Faces have that sheen of sweat. And every other person you pass on the street has that dreamy expression on their faces like they just had really great sex. The heat makes you appreciate the little things. I used to love walking up Second Avenue going to work in the mornings through the East Village when all the folks who ran bodegas were hosing down the sidewalks in front of their stores, temporarily transforming the neighborhood into a cool dewy meadow. And of course, one of my favorites: emerging from some hyper-airconditioned space back onto the sultry streets. It's like opening the door of an oven. But most of all, I just love the feeling of Hot. And sweating makes it all the better. Love to sweat. Hot weather always gives me a yen for spicy asian food. I wonder if that great Malasian place on Allen Street off Canal is still around. It was like putting a hot coal on my tongue. Only in a good way.

'T'was softball brought me to New York City today. The Division Playoffs. This week, we played once again on Pier 40. Ah, Pier 40. An astroturf covered square the size of a city block surrounded by three stories of parking garage, ensuring that not a single breath of sweet breeze from the Hudson River disturbs the athletes who contend thereupon.

First, we took on the Diabolitos, a wonderful team. When the Diabolitos get their bats going, there's nothing to do. Some amazing hitters on that team. Pretty quick, they took a strong lead. We were down by seven runs. But then the tide turned when our secondbaseman came running in from second. But wait! A throw from the outfield to the catcher! Who made the catch! And tagged our guy out! Why did they end up in a huge manpile on home plate? Why that would be because the catcher was doing what catchers should never ever EVER do: block the plate. So when the dust cleared, the umpire called it Safe. From then on, we managed to bat our way out of the basement, and ended up winning the game 14-12.

Speaking of the umpires, or as we call them in Mondo Softball, "Blue," the game was officiated by a pair that... that just had me wondering how much money it would take to let me watch while the two of them went at it, no holds barred.

Oh yeah. The guy with the ink and the the arms like innertubes on his knees, while the big smiley family man feeds him the kielbasa till he chokes so bad his eyes tear up.

Oh. And they're great guys and their calls are usually spot on.

Our second game was against none other than the Bob Cats. Let's face it. They're good. They're really good. Early in the season, we beat them once. And that was one of their only losses this year.

We Ball Breakers convened for a pep talk: keep focus, stay with the game, no errors, and we can pull it off. Because they were seed higher than us in the season--as in, they're number one and we're number two--they got to be the home team, meaning they had last ups at bat. First inning, they got two runs. We managed to get four runs, taking the lead. And then, we managed to hold them scoreless, inning after inning. The Ball Breakers played amazing softball. Beautiful softball. Flawless softball.

Let me repeat: We. Held. The. Bobcats. Scoreless. For. Four. Innings.

Tragically, our bats were afflicted by the sounds of silence, too. So we got no insurance runs.

But there we are in the seventh inning, three outs away from defeating the Bob Cats. A pop fly bought us the first out. A force play got us the second out.

Omigosh... Could it really happen? Could we really beat the Bob Cats?

Uh... No.

That is to say, we could, but we didn't.

A good--not a great hit--went sailing out to center field. Make the catch, throw out the runner at second... But that didn't happen. Our centerfielder, who had been making beautiful catches all day long, didn't in this case. The ball careened off his glove instead of landing in it and headed further into the outfield, to where no one happened to be standing. First the tying run, then the go-ahead run crossed the plate.

The game was over. And for the Ball Breakers, the season was over.

We wuz robbed.

Not really. There was no shame at all for us.

As expected, the Bob Cats were all kinds of gloaty in victory.

But that meant that we could head back to our home bar, Ty's on Christopher Street, and start drinking. The Bob Cats had to now go on and play the Noreasters. We love the Noreasters. And not just because the husband of one of our team mates plays for the Noreasters. But we love the Noreasters about as much as we don't love the Bob Cats. The Noreasters took over our dugout, and we imparted to them some advice for their game against the Bob Cats: "Without grease."

Can't wait to hear how it turned out.

Even the straight guys on the team joined us at Ty's. And I was feeling all kind of something, so I decided that instead of my usual Red Bull, I'd treat myself to a drink, and ordered a Cosmo. Now, that vodka was the first thing to cross my lips all day long. And that would be all day spent in the hot sun. And my caring teammates decided that me drunk was something they had to see, so when I turned around for a second, my empty glass was replaced by a full one. And I was suddenly as drunk as I've been in a long, long time. To the best of my recollection, I didn't embarass myself. Although my recollection was somewhat impaired, no?

Pizza arrived at last, and I ate at last. Doing the best math I was capable of, I gave myself two hours for each cosmo before I started my drive home. Much of that was spent at Ty's, bidding a fond farewell to the 2007 season, but then, inevitably, I headed to Starbucks at 10th and Hudson.

I headed for home at 7:30 p.m., no longer inebriate, and very well caffeinated.

For possibly the last time this year, I headed over the Kosciusko Bridge, which, if you go fast enough, gives the illusion of soaring over the Port of Newark. Sky and terra firma became indistinguishable in the pale blue haze, dotted with pinpoints of mercury lights. Overhead, an almost but not quite full moon glowed orange through the curtain of the haze, sort of like the way they shot close-ups of Cybil Shepherd on Moonlighting all those years ago.

So that's it.

For the season, we came in second, so I should be getting a trophy at the awards banquet. ("It is great courage you give me little star, shining forth in a sunrise to which you lend no so small a part.") And for the playoffs, we came in third, after the Noreasters (Yay!) and the Bob Cats ( . . . ). We got the bronze.

And on Monday, a new chapter begins. And it's taking shape.

Last night, I sat down and figured out how much money I'll be bringing in from this part time deal at Home Depot. And it's not quite enough. I'll have to be working (Hard) Labor Ready jobs about three days a week to make ends meet. So that means that I'll be working six days a week, on the average.

Or not.

Y'see, I've got A Plan.

When I worked the second day for father and son team on Friday, at the end of the day, the father told me that he often needs another guy on jobs he works, and his son will be going back to school. And he said that he'd rather just take me on without going through (Hard) Labor Ready. At $13/hour. That's almost twice what I make from (Hard) Labor Ready.

And that got me thinking.

These (Hard) Labor Ready jobs will probably present many similar opportunities.

Huh.

So here's what I'm gonna do.

I'm gonna make sure I show up at these jobs with my tools, all ready to go, smarter than the average bear. And I'm gonna see if I can afford to get some business cards made up, simply bearing my name and phone number, along with the following: "Nothing feels as good as a job well done."

And so the next time that my (Hard) Labor Ready job site supervisor complements me on a job well done (which has gone down on every (Hard) Labor Ready job I've done, I'll profer one of my cards and invite him to keep me in mind if he ever can use me again.

it may turn out to be a dead end, but maybe not. Maybe I'll not only manage to cut out the middleman, but also get work experience in a variety of trades. If it works, and if I work it, I could become an all-rounder.

Oh And another idea I had. My birthday is rolling around in October. And this coincides with the start of AutoCAD classes at Bucks County Community College. So towards the end of September, I'm gonna sit my father down, look him in the eye, and say, "So. I guess you're wondering what to get me for my birthday." And thn I'll explain to my father the wonders of AutoCAD.

Anyway.

Time for bed.

Church tomorrow.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

I Have A Job

Whew!

What a day!

My alarm was set for 5 a.m. this morning. At 6:15 I was down at (Hard) Labor Ready for my job assignment today. And fortune smiled upon me. I let the (Hard) Labor Ready folks know that I absolutely positively had to be in Montgomeryville at 5 p.m. That meant that I was ineligible for the job they had planned for me, so I pulled another gig up in Souderton, a lot closer to home. And it turned out to be a good one, working with a father and son team putting together office cubicle partitions for a manufacturer of retractable awnings.

Ah, Souderton! A place I've never been before. I knew it was there, somewhere north of Perkasie, another place I've never been. But I never had much reason to go. Before today.

And what kind of a place is Souderton? Let me just say this. I was given a lunch break today, so I headed up the street to a pizza place. Y'know how in pizza parlors they tend to have paintings on the wall... ummm... make that "paintings" on the wall showing the harbor at Napoli or whatever? Well Sophie's Pizza in Souderton has a "art" depicting the Castle at Neuschwanstein in Bavaria up on the wall.

And the faces I saw, in the pizza parlor, at the manufacturer of retractable awnings... sehr aus Deutschland! It was a little disconcerting when they spoke and it came out in English.

The father and son team were great to work with, and there was plenty to do so the day went by quickly.

I think the mood has officially lifted. We can set the time fairly accurately at 5:20 a.m. this morning, Thursday the 23rd of August. It was still dark when I got up. The sky was just starting to glow behind the trees when I was walking Faithful Companion. There's something especially compelling about heading off to work that early, being a dawn-rising Knight of Labor. Like Trace Adkins sings, "Up with the sun, out on the run, making moneymoney cuz I like to have fun."

And I was actually whistling as I set off to (Hard) Labor Ready.

I'm softening considerably in my stance to (Hard) Labor Ready. For one thing, I'm a star there. They love me. And after months of "Eh," that sure feels good. And I'm not the sole white guy. (I didn't really think that I was.) There are a few bedraggled older guys, and one red-headed stunner that I bet looks pretty damn good without his Dickie's on. He sure looks good in them.

And then there's... Yesterday, I was waiting in vain for a job to be called in. A team came back from some other job. One of the group was this young Irish looking kid. I first noticed him because he was wearing a pair of nylon warm-up pants, verrrrrry low on his but, just about showing his asscrack. (Asscrack is the new cleavage.) So (Hard) Labor Ready folks were greeting the Conquering Heroes, asking them how the job went, eliciting the expected non-committal mumbles. Asscrack breathed a deep and dramatic sigh and declared, "I have got to find myself a Sugar Daddy."

So not only am I not the only white guy, I'm not even the only white homo.

Although I don't doubt that his chances of finding a Sugar Daddy are so much better than mine, old broken down tired workhorse that I am.

And the work was good today, and as promised, I was on the road headed for Ho(t)me(n) Depot in plenty of time.

On my way into the store, I passed one of my soon to be fellow employees heading out, going off shift. He stood about 5'8", arms like pythons, beautiful ink, beautiful auburn beard, an ass like something you'd see on a statue in the Greek Antiquities rooms at the Met. I wonder if he'll remember this day as "The Day My Stalker Showed Up"?

I zigned all zee papers and officially became a Sales Associate with Ho(t)me(n) Depot. I start on Monday. Two weeks from tomorrow I'll get my first paycheck.

I also gave some guidelines for scheduling me to work. And those choices were totally informed by television: No Monday nights because that's when "Heroes" is on, and no Thursday nights because that's when "Mad Men" is on.

Alas, I'm only getting twenty-four hours a week from Ho(t)me(n) Depot. The way I figure it, that will pay my bills. For money for lattés, cigars, groceries and such, I'll need to get work at (Hard) Labor Ready.

I'll make it work.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Final Word Before I Head To Bed

Feh.

Thank the Lord that's over.

On my way home from waiting and hoping for work at Hard Labor Ready today (no luck, but I have a gig tomorrow starting at 6:15 a.m.), I decided on a fitting motto: "Everybody seems to want something from me, and today, everybody is going to be sadly disappointed."

(The grumpiness continues.)

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

I, Eeyore

I am so tired of me!

Gloom gloom gloom.

A guy I used to know referred to his mother as "The Little Black Cloud," as in everybody is having fun at a picnic and then on the horizon appears The Little Black Cloud. Debbie Downer. Gloomy Gus. That kind of thing.

And now I'm that guy!

When I run into people I know, I can just see them tense up when they realize that the greeting, "Hey! How's it going?" has escaped their lips, fearful that I might provide the details.

I wish I could shake this, dammit!

I've become Eeyore. "It's not much of a tail, but I've gotten used to it."

So tedious.

But Freud said that Love and Work cured all ailments. I just hope that once I'm issued my orange apron at Ho(t)me(n) Depot my little black cloud will lift.

(By the way, how fitting that I'll be orange for work? It's my favorite color. The only downside there is that I won't be able to wear any of my favorite shirts or sweatshirts or tshirts or such as they tend to be orange, and orange and orange don't go together.)

I look forward to putting my Eeyore days behind me. i'm so much more of a Tigger.

Quote Unquote

Love this: "Men without facial hair count as women."

To be sure, I'm inclined to agree. Although I've never heard it summed up quite so well.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Piss And Blood

What is with this weather?

Hello! Al Gore? This part of the globe could use a little bit more warming! Where's that can of Aquanet Hairspray I ran across when I was cleaning out the bathroom cabinet? I'll unload it in the back yard. Maybe that will help.

Although Saturday for softball was clear as a bell, although our playoff games on Randall's Island were plagued by a stiff wind. Not only did this make things tough on pitchers and batters, but the stench coming across the Bronx Kill was fairly nauseating, making mentholated cough drops in high demand.

The Ball Breakers made a good showing, playing the Fusion (we won), the Noreasters (they won), and the Dragons (we won again). The playoffs are double elimination, meaning that you keep on playing until you lose your second game, then you take off your cleats and head home until April.

Such a different headspace for the playoffs as opposed to the season, with all of us taking things a wee bit more seriously.

I was benched during the first game, but came in as EP during our game against the Noreasters. In my first at-bat, I struck out (I blame the wind!). In my second at-bat, I got a decent infield hit, and promptly pulled my hamstring running to first base.

The other hamstring.

Several weeks ago, I tore the hamstring on my right leg. I've been icing and acing and elevating that. But on my sprint to first, I felt the Twinge of Doom in my left leg.

What the hell.

This took me out of the game.

Dammit.

And has left me haunted with wondering if my speedster days are behind me. Which is problematic to say the least. I'll have to learn to trot rather than to run. With my weak hitting, my mind is focused on exploding the second my bat connects with the ball, beating the ball again and again and again to first base.

And I'm having trouble believing that at 42, my body just won't do that any more.

I'll spend more time getting in shape, maybe doing windsprints or whatever next Spring. But at any rate, softball is over for me this season. Next week I'll be showing up just to cheer the Ball Breakers on to victory.

Damn it.

Yesterday, I took a shot at reading the Sunday Times on the porch of Starbucks, but found it to be a little bit too cool to be comfortable. At home, I devoted myself to a nice roast chicken with fingerling potatoes roasted in the pan for a nice Sunday dinner.

Then to bed.

And today, no trips down to (Hard) Labor Ready for me. I have to run over to Quest Diagnotistics for drug testing before I start at Ho(t)me(n) Depot.

I've never had to take a drug test before, so I'm not quite sure what's involved. Not that I'm concerned. My career as a drug user was short lived. During high school and college, I smoked pot a few times, including one memorable--not in a good way--dusted joint; I did cocaine a few times (it was the Eighties after all, dropped acid at a Billy Idol concert (I don't think I need to fill in any details there, do I?), and that's about it. Oh. And once while dancing I took a hit of poppers and had to go home because I got a splitting headache. Drugs failed me. The experience was either a huge let down or unpleasant. Especially with pot. In high school, we might as well have been smoking oregano (and quite possibly, we were). I did my best to be all giddy and giggly because everyone around me was all giddy and giggly, but I can't say I was feeling it. It could just as well have been attributable to all that sugar in the Fresca we were drinking.

But my freshman year of college, coming back to campus with a few friends, we helped a guy get his truck out of a snowbank, and in gratitude, he bestowed on us some of the buds he had. We headed back to the dorm, gathered a select few friends, and got our Cheech'n'Chong on.

Now this was some potent shit.

I was definitely feeling this.

But by "feeling it," I'm not referring to that blissy feeling that all is well with the world, heightened access to the memory centers of the brain, and mild hallucinations that make it so popular with so many. Tetrahydrocannabinol, THC, the psycho-active chemical found in marijuana, is an organic compound. So it's a really big molecule, with many molecular knobs and bumps and nooks and crannies. This means that as opposed to a psycho-active substance like Valium which pretty much does the same thing to whatever brain it's introduced to, THC can be idiosyncratic.

My brain's reaction to THC was to make me tired, irritable, and give me a hair-trigger temper. The rest of the night involved me stalking around the dorm, running into someone I knew, and in response to some innocent remark ("Hey Drew! You're up late tonight!"), hurtling a prolonged invective with nostrils flaring and the veins bulging in my neck with rage.

And I spent the next day making the rounds, apologizing profusely, and having everybody exact from me the promise that I would never ever smoke pot again, because pot turned me into a first class asshole.

And so I did.

So that was two decades ago, and no doubt all traces of my excesses of youth have cleared my system at this point.

But I'm still worried about my drug test today.

Not because of what they might find, but just because those haven't always gone well for me in the past.

Ironic for someone who once ran a syringe exchange program and who has counseled thousands of injection drug users about vein care and safer injection over the years, I am WAY needle-phobic.

The last time I paid a visit to Quest Diagnostics, my recovery time for a blood draw was something like two hours, and that was two hours spent sitting with my head between my knees. And when it was over, I couldn't produce a drop of pee, probably the result of dehydration from all my profuse sweating. Once before, I passed out entirely during a blood test (I heard the phlebotomist exclaim disgustedly as I hit the floor, "Not another one. Men are such pussies." Not helpful.).

Now I believe that drug testing only involves peeing in a cup. And I've got another batch of lime-ade on the stove right now to get me prepared for that. Although with the weather today, a nice hot mug of tea might better fit the bill. But I'm nervous that Ho(t)me(n) Depot might do some Extra Special Drug Test that will involve the extraction of a phial of sampling of my Liquor of Life.

Oh gee. I got a little light-headed just typing that.

So wish me luck.

Friday, August 17, 2007

The T

I have a job.

I am a part-time sales associate with Home Depot, working in their Kitchens and Baths department.

They want me.

I am so grateful that they didn't put me through the rigamarole of "well thanks so much, we'll be contacting you for a second interview." Going into it, that was the deal as explained to me. Home Depot asks nine questions, and based on those, I may or may not be called back to interview with the head of the department, blah blah blah.

The nine questions were pretty thought provoking. Along the lines of "think of a situation in your life..." and then some tricky situation was set out. Anyway, at the end of the nine questions, the human resources woman said, "Sit tight for a minute, and let me see if the manager for Kitchens and Baths is available." And he was. And I had a sit-down with him. And afterwards, human resources woman offered me the job.

And guess what? I'll be making $1.50 an hour more than I was making when I left Wuperior Soodcraft, albeit only working part time.

And, as became clear during the interview, Home Depot is a good job. It provides me with numerous opportunities for advancement. Home Depot is looking for hard working, motivated, sharp people, and I'm one of them.

I can't help but wonder if the next time a lush Project Manager job comes along I might end up getting it instead of being a very close number two candidate. After all, I'm be operating from a position of strength. If my metaphor that job hunting is like dating, nothing is less attractive than desparation, and for the past few months, I've had it oozing out of every pore.

Coming out of Home Depot (and the store was sure full of hotties), I felt great. Better than I have in a long time. I hit Quizno's for lunch, then headed to Starbucks in Doylestown. Alas, the porch was filled with kids, giving it all the ambiance of a high school cafeteria. I went around the corner to Bucks County Coffee and set myself up on the porch. There, I started making phone calls to share my good news.

Among my phone calls was to a certain Romantic Interest. I've owed him a phone call for about three weeks, but just haven't been able to get it together to give him a call. He said something pretty interesting on the phone, describing how his new doctor, of whom he has a pretty low opinion, seems to have let his testosterone levels go right into the basement. He's been wondering why he hasn't had anything to give to his workouts at the gym, why he felt so bad about himself, why his outlook was suddenly so bleak and the world seemed so daunting. A couple of shots and a testicular patch later and he's a new man.

And my immediate area was suddenly more brightly illuminated by the light bulb that appeared over my head.

Not to be too biochemically reductionist about this, but... I once heard that testosterone levels decreased in athletes after they lost a game. Now just what would be the effect of week after week after week of rejection?

I haven't been to the gym in two months. I just haven't had it in me. I haven't jerked off for weeks, something that for most of my adult life has been a nightly ritual. And bleak outlook? Yeah there's been a little of that, huh?

In the immortal words of the great Kurt Vonnegut in Breakfast Of Champions, "I've got bad chemicals in my head." Or in this case, I'm lacking one very good chemical.

But what about all of my devastatingly on-target socio-economic analyses and indictments? I'm not just going to let those go, chart them up to neurochemistry. After all, throughout the ages, what we now call bi-polar disorder has given the world some good stuff: Van Gogh's Starry Night, Christopher Marlowe's plays... Not that I'm in their league, but I'm just sayin'...

So guess what else. Those athletes, after they win a game, their testosterone levels go up.

And tomorrow, after softball, I have a date.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Busting My Butt Yet Again

On the one hand...

I scored a great gig at [Hard] Labor Ready today. In a newly built office building in Doylestown (don't picture in your mind a glass box; it was a vaguely Federalist two story structure surrounded by a parking lot that could accommodate a attendees of a Major League Baseball game), the property manager is showing a unit to prospective tenants tomorrow. But the construction crews just got out of there and the place is a mess. So he needed somebody to haul lots of trash out to the dumpster at the far side of the vast parking lot, sweep, run the shop vac, and wipe down the woodwork with a damp cloth. The space was air conditioned, and nothing I lifted was more than thirty pounds.

And the property manager guy was great. When I got there, right off the bat he explained the job and said to take all the time I needed and do a good job and rest easy because he was going to write down eight hours on my job sheet no matter how long it took me.

Sweet!

I threw myself into the work. And I love to do that. Property Manager Guy told me I could break for lunch whenever I wanted, but I didn't. Reason being I had $3.24 to my name. My goal was to get the job done and get paid and then I'd worry about my growling stomach.

As it turned out, my painstaking work had the place looking beautiful at 3:55 p.m., after starting at 10 a.m. Property Manager Guy was thrilled and grateful, and wrote that Magic Number Eight down on my job sheet under the heading Hours Worked and signed it.

Back down in Willow Grove at [Hard] Labor Ready, the chirpy woman was pleased to see me, letting me know that Property Manager Guy had called to let them know how impressed he was with me. And for my days work, I got $ 48.00. Which increased my net worth by 1600%.

Leaving [Hard] Labor Ready, I noticed for the first time a hair salon a few doors up from [Hard] Labor Ready called "Suburban Visions." To me, that sounds much more like a threat than a promise.

So a good day at [Hard] Labor Ready?

Not quite.

Let's back up a bit.

When I showed up this morning, there were eight or nine Black guys hanging out front of [Hard] Labor Ready HQ. And the doors were locked. There was a note on the door informing us that chirpy woman had left to drive some workers to a job site and she'd be right back. I took a seat out there with the Black guys and went through the want ads in the day's paper. (Nothing.) After about a half an hour, chirpy woman showed up and unlocked the door, letting us in. One of the Black guys, Blain, had some troubling news: "I missed the bus up to Doylestown for that job. The next one doesn't leave for two hours."

Chirpy woman was something less than chirpy, saying that the guy on the Doylestown job was expecting someone to show up about now. "Blain," she said, "If anybody here has a car, I'm sending them out on the job. Is anybody here driving today?"

The one white guy in the room raised his hand. (That would be me.) (I think that if you were to call [Hard] Labor Ready and ask for "the white guy," I'd be the one to get your message.)

Blain wasn't having it: I've been showing up here for three months! You gave that job to me!

All those questions on the Screening Questionnaire about getting into fights tripped through my head.

Chirpy woman did her best to calm Blain down. There was this palpable tension in the room.

"Are you ready to go out on this job," chirpy woman asked me.

Now, my better angels probably would have said that the appropriate response was, "I'm sorry, but I'm not comfortable with this. You gave the job to him already, and that's not fair. Doylestown is a half an hour up 611. I'll drive him up there."

But I wasn't consulting with my better angels. I needed to work. I grabbed the job sheet and the directions and with nine pairs of eyes on me headed out the door.

And a little piece of me died.

Ho(t)me(n) Depot called. I have an interview on Friday. So hopefully my days at [Hard] Labor Ready are numbered.

But man oh man, do I have incentive to leave Ho(t)me(n) Depot as soon as possible. The position is part time, and the Rules for part time workers there is that you have flexibility in arranging your schedule Monday through Friday, but on Saturday and Sunday, your ass belongs to them. From 6 a.m. to Midnight on Saturday and 8 a.m. till 10 p.m. on Sunday there's the potential that you'll be working there.

I have no choice, of course. I've got to go to work for Ho(t)me(n) Depot if they offer me a job. Even if that means I'll miss the softball playoffs. And the softball awards banquet. And That Will Suck. Softball has sustained me through this long ordeal.

Sustained me how?

Good question.

I was thinking about this morning.

Last night, while I was making dinner, I watched Marty, the movie that won Best Picture in 1955, in which Ernest Borgnine plays a shy butcher who falls in love with a dowdy school teacher. I was, of course, weepy throughout. And it made me think of Special Guy.

And how the really special thing about Special Guy was that he made me feel special.

Really special. He didn't just like me (although he did), he wasn't just totally sexually compatible (although he was), and it wasn't just that he gave me a hard on just by walking in the room (although he did), those scant few months with Special Guy were the best relationship of my life because the man made me feel like I was something special.

And man I miss that. And I often wonder if I'll ever have that again.

But this morning, I realized that I do have that: my softball team, those guys, make me feel really special. Infield flies and torn hamstring and all.

And that will be a hell of a lot to give up.

So this Saturday, the first game of the playoffs, might be my swansong for the season.

Please God, let me find a real job soon. Please let one of the jobs that I've applied for, any one of which I could do really well, come through. (Got an email from the museum. They opted for somebody else to be their Fundraising/Development Assistant.

Unbelievable, I know.

I spent six months at the Previous Place of emPloyment and raised over $ 400,000 for them. There's someone out there with that kind of an impressive resume?

No. Of course not.

But there's somebody out there who's in their Thirties, and even if he or she has spent the past fifteen years in Federal prison, youth is preferred over experience always.

I Forgot About This Part

I'm whispering because it's morning. Everything is still and quiet. Only the birds are up. I hear my neighbor's rooster crowing.

I love this.

I've really missed this.

Trace Adkins expressed it pretty well: "Up with the sun, off on the run; makin' money money 'cause I like to have fun."

Early in the morning, almost sneaking out of the house, because a day of work awaits. Full of possibilities.

I'm off to work.

Yesterday my co-worker-for-the-day and I were talking on the drive back to Forced Labor Labor Force. He was sort of explaining the ins-and-outs to me. He said he liked the fact that it was doing something different every day, although once in a while, you get a job where you're working the same place for days or weeks at a time. But if you get a bad job, you just bide your time, and you don't have to do it again tomorrow. Always something new. Never get bored.

And there's a lot to be said for that.

And for waking up, rolling out of bed and into the shower, and getting out the door as soon as possible to get to work.

I like that part.

Up with the sun.
Off on the run.
Makin' money money cause I like to have fun.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

"Did You Read That Book By Barbara Ehrenreich?"

"No... But I think I'm living it right now."

Oh man.

I am bone tired.

So today, I got up early, showered, shaved, dressed in my Carhartt's, and headed down to Labor Force in Willow Grove to begin my adventure as a Day Laborer. First off, I had to fill out an application. This consisted of proving to their satisfaction that I was eligible to work and accomplished by presenting my identification. They were amused at the dissimilarity between my ten year old passport photo and the person they saw in front of them.

Then, there was an intriguing Screening Questionnaire that asked three questions--Do you use illegal drugs? Are you prone to get in fights? Are you a thief?--in different ways seventy-three times. Some of the iterations were amusing, such as, "A hit of Crystal Meth helps me to get through my day: True or False?" I tried to imagine how many applicants answered "True" to "In a convenience store, if I don't have enough money for something I want, I'll just take it without paying for it." The only one that gave me pause was, "True or False: It can be fun watching two guys go at it in a fight." Does Forced Labor have something against Ultimate Fighting? If the question had read, "Watching two guys go at it in a fight can be pretty damn hot," I probably would have answered "True," but I decided to listen to my better angels on that one and checked "False."

After I passed the Screening Questionnaire with flying colors (Yay me!), the woman who scored me, who was chirpy in a way that I associate with women from Northeast Philadelphia (if you don't know what I mean, by no means travel to Northeast Philadelphia to find out) asked me, "Do you want to work today?"

I swallowed hard and answered that I did indeed.

They had a job available starting at 1 p.m.

This gave me time to run down the street to KFC to grab something to eat. It's been years--maybe twenty?--since I last dined at a KFC. Although I have to admit, there was a time when I was there alot. Back when they were known as Kentucky Fried Chicken. Y'see, they used to have an item on their menu called Mean Greens. I was wild about Mean Greens. I used to pull up to the drive thru at the Kentucky Friend Chicken in Doylestown (now a Starbucks) and order Mean Greens and a biscuit. Mean Greens are long gone from the menu, but they do have Cheese Curds, a delicacy of Wisconsin. I didn't order them. They looked pretty awful. But then again, I'm not from Wisconsin.

After lunch, I headed back to Forced Labor Labor Force. The three people who worked behind the counter were rapt with attention following an episode of "Little House On The Prairie." I shit you not. I met my co-worker-for-the-day, an African American man who bore an uncanny resemblance to Dave Chapelle. So uncanny that I think it must be intentional. He was a nice guy, and proved a good guy to work with.

Our assignment was to help a woman who was getting her house ready to go on the market. She had the bad luck to have the name of "Candy." I nicknamed her "Confectionary," although I told this neither to her nor to my co-worker-for-the-day.

As soon as I met Confectionary, I sensed that she was a kindred spirit. She was about my age, single, living alone, and something told me that she, like me, had recently made the troubling discovery that once you pass forty, this whole employment thing suddenly becomes much much much much more difficult.

Confectionary was a Stager. When someone is selling their house, they hire Confectionary to gussy the place up to get a better price for it. And now, Confectionary was staging her own home. I guessed that she was doing this because she needed the money.

Staging Chez Confectionary involved getting as much stuff as possible out of there to make it look larger and cleaning up the yard. We started off inside, moving furniture out to a U-Haul and down to the basement. The first thing we tackled was a sofa-bed. I used all of the Safe Lifting Protocols I learned while I was at Wuperior Soodcraft, but sure enough, I felt that little squish in my back indicating that I had pulled the first of many muscles that day.

After much lugging of furniture, we headed out to the yard. Crabgrass was everywhere. Our mission was to get rid of it. I was watching the clock. One hour, two hours, three hours... I dove into the yardwork, taking it very seriously. In addition to weeding, I also dead-headed her shrubbery and raked up the lawn. Confectionary was so impressed that she asked me to prune her rose bushes, something that should have been done last Autumn but wasn't. With trepidation--I'm no rosarian, but she seemed to be--I cut about two-thirds of their height off, leveling the rose bushes about at my knees.

We finished up at 5 p.m. Confectionary filled out our job sheet and we headed back to Forced Labor Labor Force.

Back at HQ, one of the folks behind the counter, one of the Little House fans (not the chirpy woman or the vaguely creepy older man but a young Latina) was talking to a group of workers coming back from another job.

"Oh yes," she explained, "You gotta Treat Yourself and not Cheat Yourself. Even though you might be broke the next day, go have some fun. Get yourself something nice. I have no time for people who are all miserly with their money. Treat Yourself, Don't Cheat Yourself."

The Forced Labor Labor Force guys seemed to agree with her.

When I got my pay, $25 for four hours of hard work that left my muscles sore and my hands adorned with countless little cuts from the roses, I wondered just what fun I could have. That $25 increased my net worth by 125%.

Everything is relative.

I decided that in this case, it would be Fun to get some gas, buy a pack of Camels so I'd have something to smoke tomorrow, and head to Starbucks in Doylestown.

As I was driving home, I got a great idea.

Months ago, the Baron was pressing me on what the hell I would do if I didn't find a job before my Unemployment ran out. (Which seemed unlikely to me at the time.) I jokingly suggested that maybe I'd get a job at Starbucks. The Baron didn't take it as a joke. And now that my Unemployment has run out and I haven't found a job, every so often he'll casually suggest that I fill out an application at Starbucks.

I'm cool to the idea. For one thing, it would be a little humiliating to be on that side of the counter at my local Starbucks. For another thing, I have a horror of getting burned, gained during the years I spent cooking in restaurants. I hate to get burned, and dealing with blasts of steam all day long must make getting burned a fairly common occurence.

But still, it would be a steady paycheck, the hours would allow me to pursue other jobs during the day, and I'd have healthcare even if I was a part time employee.

But driving home, I hit upon an alternative to working at Starbucks: I could get a job at Home Depot.

That would be blue-collary, and I have relevant experience having been an apprentice cabinet maker for three years. They like to hire industry people.

Huh.

Home Depot.

Our local Home Depot was coming up. I'd be going right by it. I decided to stop in and fill out an application.

Pulling into the parking lot, I hit upon another reason why getting a get-by job at Home Depot would work out pretty well.

There he was. He had just parked his Harley. This big, bald, deeply tanned man with a bushy blond moustache. He took off his helmut and leisurely walked towards the entrance. He paused outside, leaning up against the wall. As I approached (I think I was going about 50 m.p.h. when I pulled into the parking space next to Mr. Harley Davidson Rider), I saw that he was finishing up a cigar.

Working at Home Depot would provide an all but endless stream of Eye Candy. It would be like being an extra in a porn movie five days a week. It would provide me with jerk-off fodder to last a lifetime.

When I got to the entrance to the Home Depot, Mr. Harley Davidson Rider was still standing there, sipping his cigar. His eyes met mine and he gave me a smile.

A come hither smile.

I swear.

Okay. Maybe he was just being friendly.

Inside, my fantasies were confirmed. If the Bike Stop had such a good looking crowd on any of my visits there, I'd be heading down there every night of the week.

At the Customer Service desk, they suggested that I go to the Home Depot web site and fill out an application from there. It was set up so I could apply at all of the local stores through that one site, and my application would automatically go to the directors of human resources for all of those stores.

So at home, after I made dinner for my father and cleaned up the kitchen, that's just what I did.

But tomorrow, it's back down to Forced Labor Labor Force.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Let Me Take You Through My Weekend

No softball on Saturday. The games were called because the fields in Bloomfield, New Jersey were under water. Odd in that every time we've played in Bloomfield this season there were puddles the size of trout hatcheries in the infield but the games were on. Ironically, Saturday was a beautiful summer day. Just gorgeous. And with a day to kill, I decided to pay a visit to the Baron down in Chestnut Hill. The Baron took me on a tour of his recent finds in his new neighborhood, including Mount Airy and West Mount Airy, and some of his favorite stately homes of Chestnut Hill. (In Chestnut Hill, stately homes are legion. Alas, not a modern in the lot.)

I bid adieu to the Baron and headed home at 7:30. I had to make dinner for my dad, and I didn't want it to be a late night.

The next day, as planned, I met up with my brother and sister-in-law at church. The padre was just back from his summer vacation, which seems to have improved his preaching some. Coffee hour, of course, was like old home week. I split out early because I had some grocery shopping to do, and we met back at the Ol' Homestead for vegan key lime pie on the porch. (The recipe I used rocked. Rather than lime juice and sugar, I just used some of the syrup I made for my lime-ade. That worked out really well because I could just keep adding until I got the flavor I was looking for. And the vegan key lime pie was a huge hit, even with the non-vegans.

Family hit the road, and I got started on the prep work. I was having people over.

Damn.

Four years, and finally I get to host a party.

From start (walking up Tollgate Road, scissors in hand, collecting wildflowers and such for an arrangement on the table) to finish (loading up the dish washer), it's just like breathing. I know it all by heart. All the tricks I've developed over the years (put a dish on the table for everything you plan to serve and that way you won't leave anything untouched in the refrigerator).

When the gang arrived, after a day spent at the Raven, I had the whole spread ready. We chatted and ate and drank. My dad made an appearance, poking his head out the door to introduce himself. When I decided the time was ripe, I lit a fire in the Weber, added coals and hickory chips I'd soaked in water. First I grilled the vegetables, then the steaks. Then we ate. More talking as the light left us.

And then, at my suggestion, we all headed out to the garage. Work to be done. My five guests were all over my cage like maniacal elves. It was together in no time. I really have a great cage. Although it's a huge cage.

I love my cage.

Once the cage was assembled, we headed out to see if we could get a good view of the Perseid meteor shower. For once, there was no cloud cover. But, it seems, the Perseid meteor shower ran into some unaccountable delay, maybe making a left at Ceres instead of a right. After stargazing until the bugs started to get to one of us without any payoff, we headed back, and the gang got on the road. I loaded up the dishwasher, then took Faithful Companion out for his walk. At this point, maybe twent minutes later, the Perseids might have been going full bore, but clouds had moved in (!) and not even Sirius was visible. (Sirius, the Dog Star, is once again in the skies. Because we generally get the hottest weather of the summer when Sirius reappears, these are known as the Dog Days.)

I did some more cleaning up the kitchen and the porch. It's no fun cleaning up after a party, but it's even worse the next morning.

And then I couldn't stop myself.

I headed out to the garage. Standing in the doorway, I clicked on the light, and there it was: my cage.

Shiny and black. Pentagonal with circular plywood top and bottom. Almost five feet high and almost six feet across.

I climbed up on top and laid down, looking at the ceiling.

It wasn't hard to imagine that beneath me, the cage had an occupant. Maybe one of the choicer Starbucks boys.

A cage is all about psychology. He's in there until I decide otherwise. And he doesn't know how long that will be. how hot would it be to just pull up a chair, light up a cigar, and watch a man under lock and key? A powerful man, rendered powerless. To put a man in a cage is sort of the ultimate in objectification, in that you're literally turning him into an object. Whoever and whatever he is, now he's your captive.

*sigh*

I have a cage.

Right out there in the garage, with the tractor, my boxspring and mattress, a non-functioning refrigerator, and the dreaded white Ford Taurus.

My cage.

I went to bed early last night, because I had job interview this morning.

I wasn't expecting much. The add in the paper didn't say to fax or email my resume, it just said to call. I called, and without any questions, I was told to show up at this place in Downingtownhamvilleburgton at 9 a.m. and bring my driver's license and Social Security card.

Say wha'?

I was pretty sure this was a scam. One of those, "We're looking for Senior Managers and you could earn $150,000 a year and you'd be perfect but before you start your new career as our Senior Manager you have to take our four week training course and it only costs $250 and we'll refund that after you pass our training course" kind of deal. To make matters worse, Downingtownhamvilleburgton is a hike. It's fifty miles from me and there's no easy way to get there.

I figured if nothing else, it would be good interview practice.

I got it wrong.

It was a great job.

In fact, it was the same job that I applied for a couple of weeks ago but didn't get, project manager for a place that did emergency renovations. And even though it's in Downingtownhamvilleburgton, if I were to get the job, I would be provided with a Company Truck to drive.

It doesn't get much better than that: I get to drive a truck, but I don't have to pay for the gas. Plus, I'd love that job and I'd be really good at it for all the reasons I would have loved and been really good at that job from three weeks ago. And the interview went well, and it seemed like the guy I interviewed with liked me. So we'll see.

Let's pause for a moment and take stock of the Job Search. Interviewed with and waiting to hear from the welding job. Interviewed with and waiting to hear from this new Project Manager job. Got applications in with the County of Bucks to be a Corrections Officer, a college down by Trenton, and to be an assistant fundraiser at a... ummm... local museum.

No one should have to work this hard.

And tomorrow. Tomorrow I'm finally heading down to check out that Day Laborer deal.

Looking for work is sure a lot of work.

But once I find a job, I'll be able to turn my attention to finding a man to spend some time in my cage.

Friday, August 10, 2007

A Coupla Things

My brother and sister-in-law are up for a brief visit from Florida. They're staying with friends of theirs down in New Hope. I'll see them at some point, although it's not clear when. We've talked about me picking them up and taking them to church on Sunday, and I'm hoping that comes to pass as I'd enjoy it.

My sister-in-law is a vegan. No meat, no dairy, no fish, no eggs.

I am completely intolerant of all food dogmatists of whatever stripe, but I totally give my sister-in-law a pass. In part, this is because I love her. But mostly, it's all about the objectivity she has. She became a vegan when she discovered she had cancer. (Her cancer is now clear, but it can always come back.) She can't ultimately control her cancer, but it gives her some measure of sanity to control the food she puts in her body. Ultimately, she realizes that the cancer has little to do with her diet, but it just makes her feel better. I think that there's something poetic and ineffable about that.

And so, my mission today is to make a vegan key lime pie. It looks like it will be pretty easy from the recipes I found on the internet: lime juice, sugar, a graham cracker crust, and Tofutti Better Than Cream Cheese stuff. The key lime pie and iced tea will make for a nice summer repast.

(No phone call yet from the local manufacturer of cranes, hoists, and monorails.)

On Sunday, I'm firing up my Weber grill and fixing steaks and my grilled vegetable salad for JPZapper, dogtopper, Datt and Male, and Heavily Tattooed Guy. But I'm making them earn it: first we'll convene in the garage and put together my fabulous cage. Maybe someday I'll actually have the inclination to stick somebody in it outside of my masturbatory fantasies. With the six of us working on it, it should take about ten minutes or so.

I'm more excited about the fact that this will mark the first time in years that I've hosted a party, and I love hosting a party. And, such great guys on the guest list. I'm looking forward to it.

(No phone call yet from the local manufacturer of cranes, hoists, and monorails.)

Here's an interesting want ad from the Doylestown Intelligencer: PAINTERS, must have transportation, tools & be reliable. Losers need not apply. Bux-Mont areas. 215-348-... I'm betting there's a story there I'd like to hear.

(No phone call yet from the local manufacturer of cranes, hoists, and monorails.)

Softball tomorrow!

The playoffs start. The Ball Breakers are hopeful about our chances of bringing home a trophy. Alfonso Soriano of the Chicago Cubs has been having the same problems with a torn quad that I am. I even caught footage of Soriano hopping on one foot down the baseline just like me. I've been doing some wind-sprints to get my hamstring muscles back in shape. Hopefullly I'll be able to play tomorrow and walk afterwards.

(No phone call yet from the local manufacturer of cranes, hoists, and monorails.)

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Man Of Steel?

This morning, I had an interview for a Apprentice Welder/Metal Worker job with a local manufacturer of cranes, hoists, and monorails.

And it went pretty well.

First I interviewed with the chief engineer in the place, a man with a highly improbably porn star sounding name. It wasn't Dirk Digler, but it might has well have been. So we'll just call him Dirk Digler. I've gotta tell ya, interviewing for a blue collar job is sooooo refreshing in the wake of interviewing for white collar jobs. It's not a pissing match. It's not massaging sensitive egos. (That I don't even get called to come in for an interview for a development job when in my brief six months at the Previous Place of emPloyment I raised $ 400,000 no doubt has a hell of a lot to do with the fact that my title was "Executive Director," thus it's saying a lot more about them than me, n'est-ce pas?) For a blue collar job, it's more or less along the lines of: Are you a hard worker and you show up on time? Yup! And here's a list of people I've worked for who will tell you that I'm a hard worker and I show up on time! Great! When can you start?

Not that the Apprentice Welder/Metal Worker job with the local manufacturer of cranes, hoists, and monorails is totally in the bag. Somebody could walk in the door with more welding experience than me--let's keep in mind that I haven't held a welding torch in my leather gloved hand for three years--and the job will go to him instead of me. But I'm hopeful given that the ad in the paper specifically asked for an Apprentice Welder and Metal Worker. Welder's with experience already have well-paying welding jobs, so they're not interested. Theoretically, that makes my competition recent high school graduates, and they don't have that critical list of People You Can Call Who Will Tell You That I'm A Hard Worker And I Show Up On Time.

So on balance, it's looking good.

So besides the huge thrill of possibly no longer counting myself among the ranks of the unemployed (Amen, Brother!), I... I... I... Oh. My. God. I could be a welder! I could get trained and certified as a welder!

A few months from now, this could totally be me: Hi. I'm a welder.

Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!

Let's read back in SingleTails to my posting on July 19th in the year 2003. What do we find there? "Perhaps I will long remember July 19th. That's the day that I collared a slave and started on my rewarding and fulfilling path as a welder."

Well, thanks to basanos flaking out on me, July 19th was not the day I collared a slave. But it could very well be the day that I "started on my rewarding and fulfilling path as a welder." After all, that's when it all came to me. Four years and twenty one days ago.

And reading over those posts from way back when is instructive. Once I learned how to weld, I thought, I could set up a welding shop at home. And in my welding shop at home, I would start making steel collars, shackles, cages, crosses and the like. And, I'd also turn my skills to high end designer furniture. (Who wouldn't want a dining room table made from diamond plate stainless steel? Okay. Maybe not you. But are you a fussy design fag living in one of the Richard Meier towers on West Street in Manhattan? I bet you're not. Uh... If you are, wanna date me?)

Oh.

When I was out in Palm Springs back in March, Alpha and I visited a guy who lived in a one of Donald Wexler's steel framed Alexander Houses. I mentioned to the guy that I knew how to weld and asked if a welder could find work doing design work in Palm Springs. The Alexander House dweller looked at me and said, "Probably more work than you could handle. There's no one in Palm Springs who does that. I've looked. I had to get someone to come out here from LA."

[!]

Okay okay okay.

Don't do this to yourself again, Kramer.

Calm down.

That time worn advice about "counting your chickens before they're hatched." Remember that? Heed it.

Still.

Being a welder would be way cool.

Oh. Although remind me of this a couple of months from now if I'm complaining on here about how I don't get paid enough money as a welder.

Or better yet, shoot me an email then and tell me that if I ever stop complaining and get off my sorry excuse for a butt and get a welding shop out in the garage, you might be in the market for a custom set of shackles.

Or a diamond plate stainless steel coffee table.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

The Baron To The Rescue!

Yesterday, none other than the Baron paid a visit to me on the porch of Starbucks in Doylestown, Pennsylvania!

Typical of when the Baron and I get together, it was a non-stop chatter'plosion from the minute he landed. (Well, from the minute he got back from borrowing my Starbucks beverage so he could use the restroom.)

Among the topics covered...

• His Sister, a former federal prosecutor, with whom he's on the outs right now;
• The kids on the porch of Starbucks who annoy me to no end this year;
• Free market capitalism (the Baron quibbles with my Job Search : Dating analogy in that with the disappearance of anything like job security thanks to Ronald Reagan, employees aren't like people in a marriage, their like prostitutes. E.g., "Twenty dollars for a blow job? Huh. I can get a blowjob from that crack whore over there for five dollars. So see ya."
• My inability to remember my dreams, which the Baron feels is a deep flaw of mine;
• The restraining order obtained against a pedophile in Southern California for what is essentially a Thought Crime, in that the guy claims that he recognizes the fact that it would be terrifically disadvantageous of him to act on his impulses, but still enjoys watching girls and thinking about having sex with them (both I and the Baron feel this whole Thing about child molesters is wildly out of control);
• The welding job I have an interview for tomorrow;
Mad Men;
The Closer;
• Going to funerals just in order to See And Be Seen (we're both against that);
• La Colombe coffee;
• Albanians;
• Mohammed Kharzai (who I feel is very Hot for a world leader, and I want to get one of those hats);
• Over-hyped restaurants (The Baron: "Let's be clear, this so-called "art" of your chefs is deposited in a toilet four hours or so after people leave your restaurant, so essentially, you're in the business of making shit.");
• Jersey City;
• The Class War in Chestnut Hill;
• The propensity of former Philadelphia Police Commissioners to become Los Angeles Police Commissioners;
• Why the Baron wouldn't hang with me if I were wearing a dashiki or a caftan in public as I've wanted to do for years;
• How ironic it was that prior to our meeting the Baron had left home without washing his hair and I had left home without moisturizing; and, last but not least,
• the Bend Over Boyfriend phenomenon, whereby heterosexual men everywhere are discovering the pleasures of taking it up the butt courtesy of their girlfriends donning stap-on dildos.

Also (I know! Can you believe there's an "also?"), the Baron graciously permitted me to do My Very First Tarot Card Reading For A Person Not Myself. And it was a really interesting lay of the cards.

The Baron and I also cleared the air a bit on the tension in our relationship that started with our trip up to NYC for Gay Pride back in June. You might recall that the Baron was Four Hours Late.

At about 8 p.m., we opted for something to eat, so we headed down to Centre Bridge to partake of the excellent hot dogs and coffee milkshakes proferred by the formidable Dilly's Corner.

And now, it's back to cramming for my welding interview tomorrow.

And vacuuming. I want to do vacuuming today.

Beware Color Coordinated Sweaters Knotted Loosely Around The Neck. Always

For example...

check this out.

I'd have no problems writing this off as a subversive dig at the current frontrunner for the Republican nomination if it wasn't for the fact that I ran into so many types like this when the man was my mayor.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Are They Paying You Enough For That?

Oh cool!

If you go to this web site and punch in your job title and your zip code, some mysterious economists somewhere will tell you what the median annual salary is for that job in your area.

(And before you try, I already tried to search on Whore, Hustler, Rent Boy, and Call Boy for my zip code (Point Pleasant, Pennsylvania, 18950), but those job titles are apparently unknown to those mysterious economists.)

Meg, a dik

Over the last few weeks, I've been getting more and more spam. Mostly from folks in East Africa asking for my bank account information. The other day, it crossed my mind that when I had problems with spam before, it tended to be more sexually oriented, albeit off the mark. (E.g., PICS OF BRITNEY SPEARS NAKED!!!!!!!!!! YOUVE GOT TO SEE THESE SHE SHOS IT ALL!!!!!!)

What's up with that?

Do I have the reputation of being an asexual credulous dupe?

This started to worry me--not a lot, just a little--so I was cheered this morning when I found the following URGENT MESSAGE!!!!! waiting in my in-box:

Females always giggled at me and even fellows did in the urban lavatory!
Well, now I laugh at them, because I took Meg, a dik.
for 6 months and now my cock is immensely bigger than average.


Luckily, I live in the country so I don't have to deal with snickering in "urban lavatories" (lavatories?). And I can't remember the last time a female saw my penis, but it was probably back in the days when my biggest concern was failing Pre-Calc.

And my standard issue six, same as John Dillinger, has served me pretty well.

But I'm grateful for the attention.

Thanks, Meg, a dik!

Although maybe I should reply to that email with this link.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Oh Geez

I have an interview.

I sent in a resume and cover letter for this job back in the middle of July and heard no response. Their ad popped up in the paper again on Friday, so I rewrote my cover letter and gave it another shot. And this time, I heard.

So Yay, right?

And guess what else, the job is being an Apprentice Welder!

Remember me and welding? Four years ago, I was putting a lot of thought into how I could possibly become a welder, which seemed to me to be just about the coolest job possible. Welders are one of the last remaining skilled trades in the world. There's an art to welding. Consequently, welders are well paid (definitely making more than cabinet makers, for example). And what's more--and this is a really beautiful thing--in most job situations, welders are left to do their work without anyone looking over their shoulders.

And this could be my shot to make it happen.

So like I said, Yay, right?

Well there's a catch. They're going to have me do some test welds in the shop.

Yikes!

When I took that class at the Upper Bucks Vocational Technical Institute I did pretty well. But let's be clear: that was three years and eight months ago. And I was really good with stick welding, and I did alright with MIG (metal inert gas) welding, but TIG (tungsten inert gas welding), which is supposed to be the easiest to master, I have to admit I never quite got the hang of.

I hope they ask me to do something simple like fire up an oxy-acetaline torch and do a cut.

Maybe welding is just like riding a bike: you never really forget how to do it. Learning to weld was definitely like learning to ride a bike: I couldn't get it and I couldn't get it and I couldn't get it and then all of a sudden I got it.

Thank the Lord I took lots of notes.

At the very least, I still have my face shield. I'll be able to practice that thing that Jesse James did on Monster Garage where he'd just give the slightest barely perceptible nod of his head and the visor would go drop down over his face. That I definitely had down.

Ah well. Tomorrow I call and schedule an interview, so I'll at least have twenty-four hours or so to re-learn everything I learned way back when.

And if I can pull it out, maybe I'll get to be a welder.

That would definitely be the happy ending to all of this turmoil.

Keva

Yesterday, that would be Sunday, was the every-few-months-or-so meeting of the acronym defying Gay Men's SM-Spirituality Discussion Group that I'm involved with. Rather than meeting in Manhattan, one of the members invited us out to his home--with a pool--on Long Island. After an initial email discussion of taking the train, I proposed to drive the Manhattanites out to Long Island, and that offer was gratefully accepted.

Now, shooting through the Queens-Midtown Tunnel and heading out the LIE is one of my all time favorite trips to make. It reminds me of heading out to the Pines, so I'm stirred with anticipation of visiting that place I love so well. Even when I'm not actually going there. It always causes me to try to recall F. Scott Fitzgerald's words about Long Island, stretching out towards the continent, green with promise. Or something. It's been a few decades since I read The Great Gatsby.

We were asked to bring along stuff to eat, so I stopped at a farm stand before I crossed the Uhlerstown-Frenchtown Bridge to New Jersey and picked up some sweet corn, cantaloups, and blueberries. Traffic in New Jersey was surprisingly heavy, folks heading to the beach, no doubt, and New Yorkers fleeing that steamy metropolis. I picked up the guys who had convened on East 15th Street and soon enough, we were heading east on the fabled Long Island Expressway. Which, for a change, was not a parking lot. With none other than Diabolique serving as navigator, we arrived easily at our hosts wee little house in the woods. (Not so "wee" actually; the previous owners raised six kids there.) And after lunch and a dip in the pool, we settled into our circle.

Our host had recently bought one of those fire pit things, a big copper saucer sitting in a wrought-iron frame. He was intent on trying it, so even though the weather didn't quite call for it, wood was hauled over from the front porch and we had a nice little fire going as we began.

Now, I usually try not to think too much about what I'm going to say in the group. But to the extent that I do think about it, it was more or less along the lines of O Woe Is Me: my anxieties and frustrations and humiliations sufffered in my job search. I held off taking my turn--because who really wants to hear about that, right?--and sat listening to my fellow Gay Men's SM-Spirituality Discussion Group members take their turns.

I was sitting closest to the fire, and now and then, the smoke would blow right over me, tearing my eyes and causing me to hold my breath for a bit. In front of me was the round outdoor table where we had had lunch, painted black with a little hole in the middle to stand an umbrella in.

The fire, the smoke, the black metal table... it brought back a memory.

Almost a decade ago, on a trip to New Mexico, my Ex and I were exploring an anasazi site on top of a mesa. Walking around, I found a pottery shard on the ground, about the size of my thumb nail, glazed with decoration on one side. I was so excited--"It's an artefact!"--until I realized that the ground was littered with pottery shards. The pottery shard in my hand was not lying on the ground because it was so rare, but because nobody had gotten around to collecting the thousands of pottery shards on every square yard of the place. I didn't keep the shard, because legends are legions about the Bad Things that happen to anyone who removes anything from an anasazi site and takes them home.

Continuing my exploration of the mesa, I came across a hole in the ground about the size of a grave, with steps leading down into the shadows. A little marker identified this as a Keva, underground sacred space used by the anasazi for their religious practices. I headed down.

A Keva is a big, circular hole in the ground. The top is bricked up leaving a round opening in the center of the roof, which is architecturally referred to as an oculus. Around the perimeter of the hole is a low stone bench. A fire would be built in the middle, the smoke slowly rising up and escaping through the oculus.

At the bottom of the steps, my eyes slowly adjusted to the darkness. The midday sun coming in through the oculous at the center barely provided enough light to discern the walls of the Keva. It looked like an endless void.

Wow.

What a powerful place.

I could imagine those long dead anasazi, living their lives on top of that mesa, under the fierce, baking New Mexico sun. But time and again, they would leave the sun-baked daylight world and go underground. There in the darkness, lit only by a fire in the center. Drumming. Chanting. Barely able to see the faces of the people around you, faces of the people you saw every day of your life, but transformed, eyes shining in the firelight, faces painted, chanting, praying, murmuring. The smoke burning your eyes, the coolness of the underground space. The smells, the sounds. Regularly stepping out of your life and paying a visit to the underworld, familiar but strange.

As we sat in a circle around the black table, listening to each man in turn describe his own spiritual journey, my mind kept coming back again and again to the Keva.

And this gave me a kind of perspective on my own daylight world existence. I seemed to see myself and my own journey more clearly.

I'm working hard, so hard, to hold myself together. Keep my game face. Looking at the want ads in the newspaper, sending off my resume hopefully thinking "myabe this one," again and again and again and again and again. Talking myself out of or through all the disappointments involved in this pursuit. It takes a hell of a lot out of me. So much energy, even though I'm not even aware of it.

I once heard it explained as to why hot weather was so dangerous to the elderly: your body has to work hard to maintain body temperature, and when you exert yourself on top of that, walking to the busstop, the impact of that exertion is multiplied exponentially, so that walk to the busstop is like running up stairs.

And that's just what it's like with all this stress. Even though it looks like I'm just sitting here on my porch going through the want ads, hi-liter in hand, I might as well be sitting in court facing jail time.

And with all this angst, I'm setting aside as much as I can, narrowing my focus. Getting to the gym, whipping men, enjoying the beach, paying attention at church, thinking deep thoughts (I haven't been able to read a book for the past two months, I'm about ten pages into twelve different books at this point, I just can't concentrate)... all that will have to wait.

Till after.

After I am once again secure in the knowledge that I have a paycheck coming in.

And so, yesterday, in our circle, when my time came, that's what I talked about. About my visit to the Keva. And what I learned there.

Friday, August 03, 2007

...Going With That Theme

I'm so excited!

I just came across the profile of this really hot guy on WorldLeathermen found an ad for this great job in today's paper! I sent him a message and some of my pics a cover letter and my resume to him them.

Oh. My. God. What a smokin hot man he is great job it would be! He's built, inked, furry, smokes cigars, has some great ink, fluent in three languages, and he's an architect! The job is being an apprentice welder/steel fabricator! Can you believe it? How perfect would that be?

There we'd be. He could teach me Spanish and I could teach him Russian. And just wait till he tries my cooking. He says in his profile that he's a big fan of baseball and the beach. He just sounds so perfect.

Finally, after all this time, I'd get to be a welder! And the place is local, and it looks like they're a decent sized company that does business nationwide. And damn! How great would it be to get geared up every morning and spend the day welding steel girders together? I'd love that!

Now's the hard part: the waiting.

I sure hope I hear from him them.

To Starbucks, On A Mission

Yesterday, I was off to Starbucks.

Not much different there. Just ask my dad about that.

But yesterday, I had more on my mind than just enjoying a cigar and an iced latté and reading through the Times. You see, I need money. Over the past three years, I've made the acquaintance of many of the trademen in Doylestown by hanging out at Starbucks. (Granted, that's most of the tradesmen in Doylestown who are in AA, since most guys want a beer after work rather than a frappuccino.) My plan was to hit them up for a job. Just, y'know, a casual kind of "So Gus, are you looking for anybody right now?"

And I came up with nada. Except for this dispiriting bit of information: the economy is in the toilet. There's no work right now. Nobody is spending money on anything. Work crews that are usually out building houses are "doing stuff in the shop today" because there aren't any houses to build.

(Huh. Interesting. There's this interesting dynamic in politics in NYC where on the one hand, you have neighborhood activists and preservationists who try to protect landmark buildings and stem the tied of development so it doesn't turn every blessed neighborhood in the five boroughs into the Upper East Side; and on the other hand you have the construction unions, blue collar guys, carpenters and steel workers, who want to put dinner on the table for their families and get their kids through college. Most of the activists and preservationists are liberal Democrats--and since we're talking about NYC, in any other place in the country they'd be considered "communists"--they support unions. So it's always kind of interesting when they're all in the same room together. I bet there's a similar dynamic here in dear old Bucks County. Most of my tradesmen buddies would probably be overjoyed to learn that Toll Brothers was turning every acre of farmland from Riegelsville to Newtown into McMansionland. I and all of my neighbors, of course, would be weeping and gnashing our teeth with outrage. But nobody's organized out here, so we're never all in the same room together.)

But anyway, then it started to get weird.

It would go like this. I'd see my buddy Bill park his truck and head towards Starbucks.

"Hey Bill! How goes it?"

"Drew! What's going on?"

"Well, I'm looking to pick up some work. Are you looking for anybody right now? I've got a strong back and a weak mind, which can be a winning combination..."

"Man, wish I could help you out, but I have more down days than I'd like lately. Sorry about that."

"No sweat, just thought I'd ask."

And Bill would head in to get himself something to drink before he went off to his AA meeting.

Okay. Here's what's weird. It totally started to feel like cruising. As in, at a bar. Although not a particularly good night at a bar, because I kept striking out. Over and over and over and over again. (And I've sure had similar nights like that at bars.)

Come to think of it, that's what this whole job search thing is like. I'm scanning ads and job postings as opposed to profiles. I send off my cover letter and resume instead of a "Woof! What all do you get into, Boss?" message. Interviews are like dates. And that's just what it felt like when I got the Bad Phone Call about the Dream Job: "Uh... Listen: you're a great guy and all. Really enjoyed our date on Tuesday. But I have to say I just wasn't feeling it, y'know?" And I'm like, "Damn! I was sure feeling it! Are you nuts? We'd be great together!"

I may have declared 2007 to be The Year Without Romantic Pursuits, but that seems to have found a way to come around and bite me in the ass. SAME dynamic. Different goals.

But I did make some progress yesterday.

There's this guy, you see. This big blond guy. A total stunner. Cut off jeans. Workboots. Black sleeveless tshirt. Bandana on his head securing his fine blond close cropped hair. Big beautiful man. He and I have sort of a "hey how goes it" relationship from seeing each other at Starbucks. But yesterday, when I was just getting ready to call it a night day and Go Home Alone, he sat down at my table and we started talking.

It turns out he's looking for work, too. We talked about how hard it its, how the economy sucks right now and nobody has any money. Then I told him about the day labor thing down in Willow Grove. And I had an idea: left to my own devices, I'll never make it down there. But if I had a "Day Labor Buddy," that would give me some incentive. Especially if we made an agreement like, "I'll pick you up at 7 a.m. and we'll head down together."

And the big blond guy was amenable to that.

And more.

It seems he's kinda in a bad way. And he's lonely. He doesn't have anybody to hang out with.

Okay.

I guess I'm open to that. He seemed like a good guy to talk to.

Maybe that would be a strategy... Sort of a Sex And The City approach. Four of us--looking for work--could get together every day on the porch of Starbucks (over iced lattés rather than cosmos) and compare notes, support each other, call each other on our bullshit.

"What do employers want?"

"Can you get an entry level job if you're over forty years old?"

"Can employers smell desparation?"

"How far would you go for $10 an hour?"

"What's better: the job you want or the job you can get?"

Of course, I'm Charlotte, clinging to my idea of the Perfect Relationship Job, and driving myself crazy trying to make the lame Relationship Job I end up with perfect even though it's clearly not.

Stay tuned!

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Tighten That Hole

So the friend of a friend of a friend was in P'town. He was bored with the beach, and decided to hit the gym and get in a workout, figuring that it wouldn't be very crowded in the middle of the day. And he was right. In fact, there was only one other guy working out. The other guy was wearing this vintage '70s looking warm-up suit (!). And looked vaguely familiar. At one point, the other guy unzipped his top, all Steve Austin like, and revealed a flawless--save for the fact that it was also hairless--chest and a set of abs you could do laundry on. That's when the friend of a friend of a friend recognized the other guy: it was Jeff Stryker.

When I was told this story by a fellow Ball Breaker at the game a couple of weeks ago, everybody listening gave a little gasp when the identy was revealed. (Except for the younger guys, who were like, "Huh? Who?") "I once met Al Parker on the beach. He was a nice guy," said one of my teammates.

Jeff Stryker is huge. "Huge" as in Iconic.

Jeff is totally not my type, that shaved chest and absence of facial hair and all, and I've never seen any of his movies. And yet, he looms large in my imagination.

Way back when, there I was slaving away in my cubicle at Ernst & Young. I was pals with the two other gay guys in the office, Richard, who was the office IT guy, and Paul, who was in charge of everything, being the Director of Administration. There was this Big New Thing at Ernst & Young back then. Some flash-in-the-pan phenomenon called "e-mail," whereby you could send a message to anybody else in the office over your computer. Richard, Paul, and I, of coourse, used it to tease and torment one another. In fact, inter-office email was kind of my SingleTails back then, where I'd dump all my creative energies untapped by summarizing depositions and putting Bates stamps on discovery documents.

So one day, Richard, who was in charge of assigning e-mail accounts to all of us, happened to mention that it took about ten seconds to set up a new account. And I had an idea.

Shortly thereafter, Paul, the Director of Administration, received the following...

INTER-OFFICE EMAIL

TO: Director of Administration
FROM: Stryker, Jeff
SUBJECT: Tighten that hole

-------------------------------------------------

Jeff Stryker wrote:

You like that big dick, don'cha?

There were lots of guys making porn who had really big dicks. That was pretty much the price of admission. But Jeff Stryker had a whole thing, he was so proud of that big dick of his, and loved showing it off, and loved when his partners loved his big dick. And the whole dialog thing he'd do. And after Jeff Stryker, porn movies started to have something resembling a plot. Before Jeff Stryker, it was pretty much just footage of guys having sex out by the pool. But here was Jeff Stryker in jail. And here's Jeff Stryker as a lonely cowhand. And of course, there was his repartee. Yeah. Tighten that hole. Tighten that hole. You like that big dick, don'cha?

If I was forced at gunpoint to go get my Masters in Semiotics from Brown University, I'd definitely do my thesis on Jeff Stryker.

Ah, Jeff Stryker.

Jeff was in P'town because he's doing a stage show. It's Jeff Stryker, on stage, talking about his life in porn. And it's apparently pretty funny. And engaging.

That's quite the departure for Jeff Stryker. Otherwise, he's something of an enigma. No one has quite been able to pin him down on whether he's straight, gay, or bi. He lives a fairly quiet life in Van Nuys, raising his son alone. Or at least, Chuck Peyton does. That's the man who created Jeff Stryker. And that's what I find so fascinating: Jeff Stryker doesn't exist, he's fantasy. And yet, there's all that power there. And that power comes from us.

Anyway. Let's enjoy the musical stylings of Jeff Stryker. Here he is singing a little number he wrote himself called "Pop You In Your Pooper."

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

The Other Side Of Forty

Jiminy Crickets.

The County of Bucks asks a whole hell of a lot from their job applicants. I had to account for the past ten years of my work history with names, addresses, phone numbers, and email, and provide the same for five professional/personal references.

It was actually the references that were tricky. I've got three really strong ones (including a member of the New York State Legislature). But I had to think up two more. This had me going through my address book. There are plenty of wonderful people I've known for years and years who would no doubt say great things about me, but here was the thing: of those people, how many would be able to receive the recommendation form in the mail, open up that envelope, fill it out, put it in another envelope, address it and put a stamp on it, and drop it in the mail again?

If the people in your life are anything like the people in my life, that narrows the list down considerably. But I'm pretty sure I've got a couple of good ones to go in my final five. (*giggle* It's like a reality show, huh? "I have five roses here...")

But as I was going through my address book, reviewing my nearest and dearest, I had a really interesting revelation. Namely, this thing that happened to me... Well, I'm not alone in this.

In fact, I seem to know a considerable number of guys who were similarly situated.

What am I talking about? Well, the general demographic group for the people I tend to call my friends would be gay men in their forties. And here's what's striking. Just like me, things were going great, all the doors were open, all the lights were always turning green, on top of our games, lovin' life, and then WHAM.

The story arc is the same in every instance! In your twenties, you've got some crappy stupid job, and you think, "Huh. I could do better." So you take a chance, go for your dream, and spend your thirties riding the wave. But then you turn forty. And in this society, if you don't have some comfortable sinecure--and they are rare things these days, or if you aren't wildly successful, the world asks, "Why not? What's wrong with you?" And gently ushers you off the stage.

I could name ten people right off the top of my head, I swear.

So that got me to thinking... If it wasn't just about me, so could it be a generational thing? Does this always happen when you hit the big 4-0? Or is it something more topical?

For example, could this be laid at the feet of George W. Bush?

Bear with me.

What were the Nineties like for you?

In December, 1992, I was sitting in a hotel room in Washington, DC, with a couple of hours to kill before a meeting. I turned on CNN. President-elect William Jefferson Clinton had convened an economic summit down there in Little Rock, prior to his inauguration. He assembled most of the country's best economists and they were all having a roundtable discussion. And I was amazed. Bill Clinton was totally On It. No matter who in the room said what, Clinton had read all their books, and everybody else's books apparently. He wasn't glib or superficial. He had a grasp of these issues that even seemed to impress the economists.

Who is this guy? How did somebody so smart manage to get elected President? And indeed, I remember reading somewhere that Clinton was indeed one of the smartest Presidents ever. (Although it goes without saying that given the Blow Job That Rocked The Nation, there were some blind spots there and the smart didn't apply to all areas of Slick Willie's life.)

And the Clinton presidency was, of course, concomitant with the dot-com boom. Code Warriors walked the earth. "Sexy" was knowing what an algorithm is.

And I did alright for myself back in the Nineties. For a time, being smart was considered a valuable thing, and I'm kind of a smart guy.

But then, George W. Bush was elected was sworn in as President of the Union.

I remember reading at the time how the then new administration had a noticeably B-School dress code. During the Clinton years, if you showed up for your job in the White House wearing khakis and a Boston College sweatshirt, that was cool. But with the advent of the Bush administration, it was all back to grey or blue suits, a white shirt, and a conservative tie.

Okay.

It might be rather facile socio-political analysis, but what the hell.

If life is nothing more than the perpetuation of high school, then here's what the Nineties were all about. For a brief and shining moment, there was a time when the nerdy kids in the Computer Club and the smart kids who didn't have to study for the Calc final got to be in charge. For a little while, those damn jocks, who offered nothing more than the ability to complete a forward pass, gave up the reins. And those gay kids in the Drama Club didn't get picked on so much either.

It was, of course, too good to last.

In 2001 it was all over. The jocks and the rich kids once again ruled the school.

Now, not that the geeks and the brains did a better job of running things than the jocks and the preps did. Mistakes, as they say, were made. But still and all, as opposed to every other decade in history, it was kinda cool to have a break from that.

The answer, I guess, is obvious. Succumb! Give into it! Stop kicking against the pricks!

It ain't a meritocracy. You gotta get yours.

So go out there and get your real estate license!

Show me the percentage, Bay-bee!

Or find yourself a nice union job with the County. The application, by the way, is general. Every week, I'll be checking the website, and for one year, I just have to give them a call and I'll be considered a candidate for working in the Recorder of Deeds office or whatever.

Or I might get called up as a Corrections Officer at the County Prison.

I know that comments and emails and such are running two-to-one against me becoming a CO. And believe me, no one is more aware of what a potentially sucky job it is than me. And at the County Human Resources Office, they made it abundantly clear how it's particularly sucky during your first year. Corrections Officers, of course, need to work around the clock, seven days a week, three hundred and sixty five days a year. So the entire year is divided into shifts, 6 a.m. to 2 p.m., 2 p.m. to 10 p.m., 10 p.m. to 6 a.m.. And decisions about who works what shifts are decided by... seniority. Which during your first year on the job, you have exactly none of. And guess what else: if a double shift becomes necessary, then you do a double shift. And overtime is mandatory.

And oh yeah. You're locked inside a prison without a weapon.

But I think what really concerns me is the possibility that having a job like that will distort my view of humanity.

That's the crux, no?

But I have a pretty good track record on that score. For many years, I ran a needle exchange program. I spent so much time around people who were using heroin that to this day, I am unable to recognize when someone around me is on drugs. And working with folks who have made some really bad choices in life, choices so bad that they're not likely to pull it out before they shuffle off this mortal coil... That can get ya down. But I always have my eye out for the small but powerful redemptive acts of compassion that so many folks who are at the margins are often capable of.

I think I could help people. I think I could make a difference.

As a Corrections Officer.

And yeah. Being part of a para-military organization, wearing a uniform, handcuffs... Not without appeal to me.

Perhaps you're thinking that raises quite the red flag.

But I don't see it that way.

Because I know I'm a Sadist. And that knowledge allows me to keep my sadism out of my professional life and keep it in the dungeon, with masochists, where it's appropriate. And invited. I mean, if you were incarcerated, who would you rather have holding the keys: someone at the mercy of his unacknowledged urges to extreme power imbalances, or someone like me who gets as much of that as he wants in his off hours?

Okay okay okay. So no. I'm not God's Great Gift to the World of Corrections. I'm just a guy. But still, I think I have something to offer to the job.