Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Quote the Pogues

"If I should fall from the grace of God..."

If plans had gone acccording to my plan this spring, I would be groin-deep in murky James River water right now, wondering where in the heck my car had washed off to.

In the job timeline, I was interviewing with a position in Richmond with Cavalier Communications. While I had travelled through Richmond dozens of times, I had never really explored Richmond before the interview. With this job being based in Richmond, it seemed like a good time to check it out. And what a charming city it is - I had no idea Richmond was so hip, inexpensive and liveable. It's just Northern enough to be not sickly Southern, and just Southern enough to not be so bitterly Northern.

If you can put up with a very cigarette-friendly environment, Richmond's a fine little city. Reminded me of Des Moines but cooler. And closer to the beach.

And, after Tropical Storm Gaston yesterday, the beach just got closer to Richmond.

Initial reports state that about a foot of water was dumped on an already-saturated area, really damaging the Shockoe Bottom and Downtown neighborhoods. Full of neat little restaurants, bars, shops and apartments, Shockoe's where I would have moved. Found an apartment there I'd have moved into a New York Minute.

And my would-be apartment is on Richmond's News Channel 8 getting condemned.

Some of the footage looks like the aftermath of Tropical Storm Isabel in Baltimore and Annapolis last year. My old employer in downtown Annapolis had about 8 inches of water. The bookstore/coffee shop next door kept making high water mark signs, only to watch more water come in. Ego Alley Bar stayed open, and suffered 10 grand in electrical system damage. Hope the drinks were worth it. Juice It Up was 50 feet from the City Dock, and never bothered to pick up flood insurance. The morning Izzy hit, the owner of Juice It Up laughed at his neighbors who sandbagged and duct taped their store fronts. How could the water get this high, I head him ask aloud.

Good job, Nostradamus. Isabel was no joke.

I hope the folks in Shockoe heard and heeded the warnings as much as possible. Once the water dies down, I hope to take a quick day trip there. The businesses that remain will need the tourist dollars.

And I might find a good deal on an apartment.

- me


Friday, August 27, 2004

Welcome to Fantasy Football Island!

I have a few foreign friends who ask just how big is the National Football League in the U.S., I tell them the following:

Bigger than Paris Hilton's sense of self. Bigger than Willie Nelson's IRS debt. So big it doesn't return Spielberg's calls.

Not only do I have ESPN NFL 2K5 for my Xbox, but I will get Madden 2005. It's got Ray Lewis on the cover - I have to get it. Or he might kill me. Or know somebody who would.

I have no less than 20 NFL logo apparel pieces, ranging from hats, sweats, t-shirts, ear muffs and jackets. I have a Ravens' key chain lanyard. Kramer the Big Dumb Dog used to have a Ravens' collar and leash. Bubby's got an Orioles collar, but she's into the slower sport. If my dogs were athletes, Bubby would be a catcher or first baseman, and Kramer would be a running back. He'll run around you, over you, drag you, push you and simply run away from you.

Squeaky is no athlete. My cat is more of a Special Forces operative. Slinky, silent, deadly. Ask that poor mouse in the parking lot last week. Squeaky has a metal studded collar, but that's because he's into B & D.

I am in only two fantasy football leagues this year, down from three last year and five the year before that. Not because I like the NFL any less, but, well, I should pay *SOME* attention at work during the fall.

I don't obsess over Fantasy football like some guys. I usually buy a magazine pre-draft, figure out what free agents went where, what rookies look good, who's having a good camp....etc... I also figure out which guys kick my ass in Xbox and get them. Shawn Alexander, Brandon Lloyd and Peyton Manning, welcome to my team. If I can't beat you, I might as well draft you.

My Scottish friend Grant, in particular, is a big fan of their football. You know, the one where they use their feet? We call it soccer, mainly because it sounds more like "sucker" which is what you are if you think you can put your kids into a sport where they won't be hurt, little miss Soccer Mom U.S.A. I don't hate sucker...soccer, per se, it's just...well...so Euro. Euro connotes skinny guys chanting and wearing gold chains and going to discoteques.

I'm American. I don't go to discoteques. I go to a bar, a club or even a nightspot. I use my hands in sports.

And I call them "sports." Not "sport." That's so Euro.

Euro means a common monetary system that is pretty much useless. It means ratifying a treaty that gives every country in it the ability to get out of it and not follow a single damned rule set forth by the treaty. Euro means allowing a war to rage on your continent for damned near a decade with nary a hint of intervention by any neighboring countries, allow for the ethnic cleansing of a minority, and then whining about it when America comes over, brings in the tanks and BFG's and gets everybody playing nicely again. Shame Clinton will have Monica and Whitewater on his legacy moreso than ending a war in Yugoslavia.

Euro means following cycling, which is cool, but then whining about it when an American beats you at your own game. Euro means slandering him with drug allegations, jumping into his way, and having everybody treat him like a criminal, only to watch him ride off with the maillot-jeune yet again. So, yeah, France, you're so Euro. Lance kicked your boys' collective ass again, and then got some big fat Texas barbeque and tagged his hot rock star girlfriend.

That's American.


Thursday, August 26, 2004


It's ironic how telecommunications' firms always have the worst internal communications. It's a problem at every firm I've ever worked for, to some extent, but the telecoms are the worst. Bizarre, really - an entire industry built on getting people to talk, and yet, the industry can't talk with itself.

So, as Jules in Pulp Fiction would say "Example," I shall give one: assumption of knowledge. Every telecom starts your training with a lesson on the sheer basics of a phone network - switches, cables, phones - and then, when it comes to their own proprietary software and internal policies, you are to magically understand everything they say and do. Possibly through some sort of subconscious osmosis, or maybe through repeated trial, error, and yelling sessions.

But, with my first week back in the corporate world coming to a close, a new paycheck on the way, an old friend from a previous company coming to work here next week, and, perhaps most important, a week closer to health benefits again, my mind is obsessed with two thoughts...

1) Who am I going to draft in fantasy football tonight?


2) Man I hope I do well in the Bravo sitcom writing contest.

One thing corporate life is reminding me is how much of a love/hate relationship I have with it. I hate conformity, dress codes, cubicles, acceptable use policies - my artsy side rebels at such nonsense anyway. But, there is a rather significant part of me that rather enjoys dressing in a nice shirt, tie and shoe combo, having a fast internet connection at work, and mall food courts. Hate malls, love food courts.

I love contradiction. Sometimes.

But, this I have to admit - this place has potential.

Thursday, August 19, 2004


Work for a phone company in Owings Mills. Start Monday. Not going to work for Bud anymore, it would seem.

There was much rejoicing...will miss Bud.

Won't miss the related back strain.

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Better Homes and Dog Fancy

Had a job interview this afternoon. Small telecom company in Maryland. Could be promising...definitely promising a long commute until I get back into my house in Charm City. It's only been damned near TWO YEARS since the contractors started working on the unassuming 1.5 bedroom rowhome in Canton. You'd figure they *might* get done sometime for yet another Bush is elected President. Considering they've taken about 1/2 of W's term, what, will it be done when Billy, Jeb or even one of those spunky Bush twins take the oath of office?

I am not holding my breath - even if I had that oxygenated gel used in "The Abyss."

Wrote a couple of bits for both my spec script for Family Guy and my entry into the Bravo sitcom writing contest. It's nice to carry pen and paper with me - amazing how few jokes and bits I forget when I'm actually writing them down as I'm thinking about them.

One of the exercises I vaguely remember from college was to develop characters, and see how they'd react to a situation that you as a person had experienced. It's an interesting mental activity, and a good way to see how well you know your characters. But, in the same light as dealing with a fictional character in real situation, it's more fascinating to see how *you'd* react in a real situation that a friend is in. Case in point - tonight, one of the best friends called to say that his dog had a seizure, a potential stroke, and would probably have to be put down soon. The dog in question is pretty old, especially for a bigger dog, and definitely one of the sweetest canines I've ever met. Kind, gentle, and pretty obedient. Little hyper when she was younger, but, hey, most dogs are.

So, while the inevitable loss of the dog is sad, I began to wonder how I'd react when the same news would be delivered to me about one of my two dogs. Kramer is still young and pretty much indestructible. Bubby, on the other hand, is an old seven. Hip has been bad since she was a pup, and she hates to exercise. Food is her drug of choice, sleep is her M.O., and we all saw how well that combination worked for Elvis. Chances are, I'll be getting one of those horrible calls from the vet by 2007, maybe 2006.

Or, maybe by the time my house is completed.

Hopefully I'll catch the warning signs in time, to help ward off any suffering. Bad enough to see a human after a stroke, but a dog...jeez. I couldn't be a vet. No way. The way I get about pets - it is easier for me to imagine another dimension than to tell a little girl that her cat has died. Nope. Forget it.

I think if Kramer and I were stranded on a desert island, and it came down to him or me...he wins. I wouldn't. Couldn't. So, if you're travel agent, I think you can figure out that I won't be doing a dining tour of Southeast Asia anytime soon. Too many islands, and I don't munch on pets.

Uncle Larry was stationed in Vietnam. He said he found out he ate dog soup. I asked him what it tasted like.

"Kind of like cat," he replied.

- me

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

arrivals and departures

The man who was once known as Lurch arrives back in Merryland tomorrow for a little visit to the family and friends he left behind. Left behind so many years ago (ok, really, only about six of them....friends and years, that is) to pursue the bright lights of Los Angeles, trying to get a hug from that addictive mistress known as "Fame." Several extra gigs, a potential porno audition, a couple of lines on "Spin City" and a modelling shoot that seemed so minor at the time have been Lurch's only brushes with the aforementioned mistress. Fame's trusty sidekick "Fortune" has been almost as elusive, though a regular gig at Six Flags Magic Mountain has been keeping the bill collectors at bay.

Six Flags is a milestone for me, a Mecca and a false prophet all in one. Milestone - because it marked the first time myself and my bestest friend of damned near a quarter century had even been on a roller coaster together. Mecca, because I loves me the roller coasters. And, false prophet, because, as Lurchy can attest, the woman who wanted to be my agent in 2000 would probably get me a gig as "Stepdad" in a family-based sitcom starring her and her (admittedly) two really cute kids. The part of "Bitter Ex-Husband" would have been played by, ironically, her bitter ex-husband. Hilarity ensues.

Within two weeks, I will be going to the only thing Six Flags, Magic Mountain, has in competition for being the best roller coaster park in the free world - Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio. Home of the biggest and fastest coasters in the world - for now - until some park in Asia decides it needs the fastest and/or biggest coaster next year.

Which I don't get. As a rule, the humans who reside and breed in North America are pretty much the biggest people in the world, Yao Ming and Magnus von Magnusson not withstanding. If the average Asian is 5% shorter and lighter than an average American, don't their roller coasters need to be 5% shorter and slower for the same thrill?

Or is it that they get 5% more thrills than an American on the same ride? Same logic. If that's the case, I want a refund, Kings' Dominion.

Going to the laundromat to wash the bedsheets and blankets. Working on my Family Guy spec script tonight. Came up with six jokes for it at work today; can only remember 2 of them. If I played for the Red Sox, I'd be an all-star. Since I don't, it's just frustrating.

- me

be gentle, virgin post

It's about 12:30 in the morning on the East Coast, though my rapidly-wearing out Clinton-era Macintosh says it's 1:23 am. I've been up in my cubby hole of a room with painful abdominal cramps, either from the muscle-memory remnants of a torn ab of three years ago, or the slightly-less-than-awful tasting Carb Well breakfast cereal I had this afternoon. In any event, I have been waging a battle against my sense of smell over the past three hours as my G.I. tract tries to keep up with the various low-carb crap I inserted into. Low-carb cereal and soy milk - this coming from a man who's 19 meals-a-week dining hall plan at Virginia Wesleyan College could have easily been swapped with Ramen noodles, the then not-omnipresent Krispy Kreme donuts, Chanello's pizza and an ungodly amount of whatever beer was the cheapest.

Now, all I need to do is look at a McGriddle and I swell like Violet Beauregard. At least I don't turn violet, Violet.

Interesting how time and tide and an overabundance of simple carbohydrates wait for no man.

I'm still trim, mind you. Pretty good shape, actually, for a 31 year old who spent way too much time eating and not enough exercising. I mean, I'm not built like one of those mooks you see on Elimidate with the spiky gel-met hair, striped button-down shirt, jeans and sandals and more muscle tone than Jack LaLanne. Can now see one row of abs pretty well, and the faint hint of a second row coming through the fog. Got all my hair. All my teeth. Joints work pretty well. Still fleet of foot and quick of wit. Memory is pretty flaky. Can remember the name of the guy my first high school girlfriend dumped me for (Her - Becky. Him - Ed). Can't remember all the names of the women I've slept with, or even the number, but that's for another post.

You are probably asking "What is a obpopcultref?" I might tell you it's my own word, derived from the ETLA I used to use of "OPCR" when describing an Obscure Pop Culture Reference. Obpopcultref is the UNIX-ish version, and that's only because I really really really occasionally miss the Internet in the CLI days - that's circa 1994 for all you whippersnappers and your pretty pictures on the web. Some of us, though - we remember when we had no Google, only Gopher, and not that Fred Grandy bugger, either.

An OPCR was something I first identified in high school, when I first discovered the Baltimore City Paper. The BCP is a free weekly alterna-rag that is similar to other free alterna-rags found in most major and minor North American cities. They are filled with lefty-leaning articles ranging from urban decay, white flight to the `burbs, multicultural events and forward-thinkers. Really, though, most people use them for their convenient movie listings and phone sex ads. Any rate - the BCP had all of these references that I didn't understand. I had heard Dennis Miller, the undisputed heavyweight champion of OPCR, and figured he was just smarter than everybody else. What the BCP showed me through its snarky writing style and heavy use of OPCRs was that even psuedo-intellectual grad-school drop-outs who need the 150 bucks for submitting an article for pizza and pot money could pretend to be smart.

Took me a while before I realized OPCRs were the smart kid's way of separating the hip wheat from the unhip chaff. Anybody can wear a Coca-Cola rugby shirt (please tell me I'm not the only one who remembers when those things were cool) and Lord knows Vans, Op shorts, upturned shirt collars and pleated pants all had their fashionable fifteen minutes. The outward signs of upbringing, income level, relative education - those things can be faked, masked or even ignored. But world of the OPCR is very George W. - You're either for us, or you're agin' us. You can watch "Mean Girls" for the overt comedy, or Lindsay Lohan's impressive bust. A girl who can tell the weather, mostly, by feeling her boob is pretty funny. But a girl named Janis Ian - well, if you don't get that lil' in-joke, you ain't ever gonna get it.

Like in High Fidelity - the books we read, the music we listen to...these things matter. The OPCR is like the Washington Post - if you don't get it, you don't get IT.

And IT is important.

You might ask- "Why blog?" Why should anybody bother to read my mental farts when even my dog is walking out of the room with his actual farts, and the various gurgling noises from my midsection echo that of something Sigourney Weaver would blast with a flamethrower? Why bother reading the thoughts and actions of somebody who has pretty much tried to be and do everything possible, and pretty much failed or flogged at it all?

(don't worry, kids, back story is coming. this blog is gonna be written like Tarantino directs - you think that movie 'Memento' was something - wait until you see how my brain works...)

I would say "Why indeed." I'm no Jessica Cutler. I'm no Wonkette. I'm definitely no Howard Dean. I had some fun in college, but I think Cutler lapped my 13 years of sexual activity in a month. Wonkette has much better dish than I could ever muster. Yours truly, though - much better screamer than Dr. Dean. I have tried to do it all, I have failed at a lot, and I think the trying was a hell of a lot more fun than I would have imagined.

So, read me because I might scream.