I take medication. Pretty, palish pink capsules full of peace and harmony. Combined with the tan pills that keep the headaches away, I am the picture of dullness. A real boy filled with artificial joy. Not that these things are bad. Taking medications that defend my body and mind against the puking from blinding migraines and the behavior caused by torrid emotional states is beneficial. There are limits, however, to the miracles of pharmaceutical science. For instance, these same magic beans of sanity cause me to be remarkably slow. Remarkably slow is demonstratively slower than plain, old slow. I find myself staring at random objects and people in a dull-witted, ponderous way. I’m happy, though. Happy and slow. Slow and happy.
Each new morning is a race against slowness. I awake and find myself not really bounding out of bed and over the laundry pile anymore. I wander the house in search of something. Maybe it’s the brown no-mo-headache pill, maybe it’s coffee. I feel like I’m living in the David Byrne school of dissonant reality.
You may ask yourself, well, how did I get here?
At work, the whole dullness aspect of my personality is paying off. The more I stare at my computer blankly, the more it looks like I’m controlling it with my mind. Co-workers wonder how I got the IT department to give me one of Dell’s new hands-free, mind controlled p.c.’s. This arrangement works out until I topple over onto the keyboard or just get out of my chair and wander off. At church, the slowness is equally mystifying, because it looks like I’m deep in trance-like prayer. Every once in a while, I’ll come to my senses and yell “Abawootchie”* or a hearty “Be healed!” and everybody will just nod. That’s what mid-western church folks do. They behave politely and nod at everything they don’t understand. So, if you ever meet me, just nod. That way, I’ll realize that I’m acting slow, or dull, and try to speed up my body and mind.
*I saw this in a TV movie once. Apparently, Elvis was cheating on Priscilla Presley with this groupie and he’d shout “Abawootchie!” every once in a while, because that’s what they did in his church growing up. Now if your messing around on your wife and still talking about church, you must either be Elvis, or just taking a combination of pink and brown medications.*
First off, thanks to the Dutch spammer who sent the weird material. I had no idea you could do so much with a windmill! Man, what a strange week. I’ve put aside all of the silly little things that came with being on vacation like sleep and um…sleep. ‘Back on the chain gang. This morning I was in the restroom at work and started to fall asleep. Standing up. That’s part of being grown up. In my old college days I found myriad ways to sleep. If there had been a major in creative somnambulism, I’d have made the dean’s list. Remember 1994? I don’t. Spent that year mostly asleep. Until recently I thought Newt Gingrich had been invented by the same geniuses who gave us K-mart and underwater speed dating.
This week has been a reminder that the change of calendar really can be a sign of a magical year to come. There are marathons to train and work toward, both physical and spiritual. What is lost in sleep is made up by possibility. This is the year when I take 10 more minutes off my 26 mile time (which makes my new marathon pr 23 hours, 36 minutes), There‘s the novel I joke about writing every year. Maybe this will be the season that it gets done. So far, like this blog, it’s just a rambling 300 word mess. I have the faintest bits of plot mapped out. See, there’s this famous ex-Heisman winner and TV sports analyst who goes on a killing rampage. He can’t find gloves that fit. You know, I had that dream back in the 90’s and I always wonder if it could happen in real life. Nah, that guy would totally go to prison. That story is about as believable as Newt Gingrich.
Every once in while, I manage to find something called a “wrinkle-free” dress shirt while shopping for work clothes amongst the $4.95 racks. Sure, I could be a grown up and get clothes dry cleaned, but this sort of care would cost more than the clothing itself. So, the idea is to find clothes that spend their existence doing nothing other than avoiding wrinkles. Wrinkled clothes are a drag. I like to be pressed and ready to work upon awakening in the morning. The thing to do is shower and shave the night before and then sleep in the clothes. If I lay still, and don’t move my arms, or legs, my threads come out with sharp creases and no wrinkles.
My obsession with pressed clothing is not as obsessive as it has been in the past. My worst fear was always being in a hotel overnight for some event, or meeting, and waking up to late to iron my attire. Most times, I’d do it the night before. The worst moment was being behind on time and having to iron the clothes while wearing them. Hotel irons are unpredictable and the first time a man melts polyester onto himself while straightening out a shirt is always the worst. Not that the second time is any better. This is what I go through as a man, however. The astounding lengths for a wrinkle free wardrobe. The world is full of wrinkles and who among us wants more? The great earthquake fault lines, after all, are just enormous wrinkles in the earth. If I can control the one’s that I wear, then that’s a little insurance. Maybe not against earthquakes…but against rumpled clothing at least. I guess that there might be too much worry on my part over the inconsequential. Dunno. Gotta go steam my forehead.
A friend of mine recently spent 4 hours on hold with the phone company. The wait time would have been longer, but the gentleman’s head spontaneously combusted when a call center representative came on the line and asked if he was in any way dissatisfied with the level of service received. Nothing left but smoke and receiver. The phone company is fine with this. They have nothing to lose. Customers are still on hold who’ve been waiting since the Bell System was founded in 1878. Each knows that the sweet heavenly repose of death awaits as soon as they get that pesky .3¢ overcharge off the bill. “Today’s expected wait time is between 3 minutes and blehhhhhh.”
Verizon will never be the phone company and it’s pretty safe to say that Magic Jack won’t own that title any time soon. No, the phone company will always be that conglomeration of companies responsible for preserving antiquities, AT&T. They’ll provide cellular phone service as long as the device is wired to a building. AT&T is a pioneer of successful paperless billing, provided that you remember what you owe and then take a steam engine to the nearest Bell office. To be fair, AT&T offers an automated menu to guide callers through problems during wait times. Actually, the menu is just a recording of my Uncle Frank. Most of the programmed responses sound just like my relatives enjoying fried green tomatoes on a summer evening. “Hmmm…Seems like you’ve called because you have a problem? Is that correct?” “You’ve called using a telephone today. Do I have that right?” “I think that I’ve identified the problem. Before I can fix the issue I’ll need you to tell me what you’re wearing.” I’d tell Frank that I like the automated help, but he’s on hold with the phone company.
My New Year’s resolution is to stop writing this blog…and it’s broken. Promising to modify behavioral malfunctions with the change of calendar year’s is always tough to make real. I resolve, however, to live the sane and moderate life I enjoyed until the first week of November. It was then that I saw the specialist for my chronic headaches. Like going to the old junk shop and buying a Mogwai, I was given modern miracles of chemistry along with specific instructions on how to use them. The specialist warned that no amount of pharmaceuticals would make me less of a jackass and that some might even enhance that facet of my personality. I went home, took the pills and watched the results in wonder. If my life has been an ongoing war between strict dietary restrictions and migraines, then the pills were like Jimmy Carter being dropped into the middle of peace talks and bringing both sides to the table. Eventually, both parties came to the border and shook hands. One- Term Jimmy found a bag of peanuts and watched peace break out. So I ate. Ate some more. Ate some more.
The old specialist was right. Even good pharmaceuticals are no match for stupidity. The first sign was when my Levi’s 501’s needed to be traded for a loose gunny sack. The 501’s are my last stand of rebellion against age, indifference and looking like the smiling doofus in a Sears ad. Then there was the epic, Technicolor esophageal explosion in my driveway on Christmas night, following a migraine that made my head feel like a kettle ball. In the quiet that follows misery and minor humiliation, I prayed and pondered. By week’s end, I’d gotten right with body, although mind lags behind. Carefully, I resolve to take the meds and eat right, watching the borders between food and headaches for skirmishes all the while.
This morning I was sitting in church watching a guy surf Facebook on his iPad during a sermon on personal integrity. Let me start by saying that I’m the last person who should judge anyone. There was a least one occasion in my checkered worshiping past when the minister shouted out from the pulpit in an attempt to wake my sleeping carcass. Anyone who makes it to a church service has started down a road of betterment that I can’t criticize. To that gentleman checking out the status of people he never speaks to, or isn’t sure he remembers, I can only say “Thanks for coming out today.” God doesn’t really need to friend people and his status remains God for all of eternity. He doesn’t post pictures of his activities, because God knows the race of two-legged Weebles He created to stare at social media night and day can pretty much go outdoors if they want to see how the earth came out.
It’s very hard to be truly present when worshiping while doing anything else. Maybe there are religions out there where you can reflect on your chosen deity and still fold laundry, but I haven’t found one. The times have changed and maybe churches will add an Angry Birds service later in the day for those who need to kill egg stealing pigs and reflect on the unfathomable nature of God at the same time. I am a simpleton, a throwback to earlier times. There is nothing I can do during a church service, save for listen to the inspired wisdom of scripture and confess my shortcomings as a human. Multitasking is a modern myth. In the end, I’m only able to breath and to focus on a God who is not only bigger than me, but the universe.
The prize possession in our home right now is a cardboard box. The box is a flat shipper that came in ages ago, about 2′ x 3′. The contents have all been removed from day one, but it’s the box that remains. Each day it finds a new use. We use it as a baby gate, so Grace the Wayward Beagle can’t easily assault our furniture. She enjoys loving up the couches to the point that they just smell like wayward beagle. The box has thwarted her recent efforts and she just assaults whatever is within reach. Saturday morning she sat down and showed us exactly what was on her mind, which simultaneously assaulted and insulted the kitchen floor. We are not slovenly people, or hoarders. It’s just that the “million and one use” cardboard container has proven an indispensable tool for modern living. Yesterday, my wife asked what had originally arrived in said box and I shrugged. Dunno. The box was all we really needed.
In the mornings, I like to use the box as a Swedish Redneck breakfast table. In the dark of 5:00 a.m., the only thought registering is that at least coffee spills won’t make as much difference on the box as they do on an actual piece of purchased furniture. The box also makes a shelving unit. I use it to layer clean laundry, or assemble clothing choices for the day. Just now I learned that box has given up the ghost and broken. I plan to have a funeral for this most useful piece of furniture. The fond farewell and send-off for this venerable space taker-upper that has been in my living room since before school let out for the summer. The box was better than our real furniture. Sigh. I am too fond of it just to give to Grace to have her way with, but since she hates it so, I think death by doggie is inevitable.
Those who know and love me, or at least friends and relatives who tolerate me, all learned long ago that they can’t take me anywhere. Scratch that. Friends and those stuck with me can take me lots of places, but leaving me behind proves to be the difficult part. Usually I show up at home or work within a day or two (or twelve. When people stop counting days is a great time to return). As I’ve often mentioned on this blog, there is a lot of embarrassing behavior that travels within my person. Since the behavior entertains me..it entertains someone. An indulgent loon, at least unto myself. One behavior that falls into this “can’t take him anywhere and drive off” pattern is my penchant for falling over. I just do it for no reason, other than for the pure joy of toppling sideways. Church is a fun place for this. Yesterday morning I was keeling over mid-service, because it’s become my go-to, poor man’s yoga. The sideways leaning shoulder flop, would be a fabulous name for this move, if only I had the desire to name it.
How I ended up married is one of the great mysteries of the universe (along with why geezers walk around beach towns wearing Speedos ). My wife was the first woman to not be fooled by the shoulder flop. During the less than magical years in which I dated, falling dead over like a tree being cut down was a way out of many awkward conversations. Sure, I got pretty bruised up falling out of restaurant booths and off of couches, but it worked. No more threatening conversation and only a little kicking from the beleaguered girl’s father. My wife Lori saw through this and would politely tell me to get my Bill Laimbeer flopping butt off the floor. The stable life is mine. All for the price of staying upright.
The arrival of Fall makes me weepy and emotionally irresponsible. I muddle through the Michigan weather and wait out the Seasonal Affective Disorder, all the while coming up with creative solutions. On days when the clouds are heavy and the world seems to recede into darkness that won’t fade until the January thaw, I go and stare at the gas station hot dog machine. The glowing light seems to afford my soul peace and tranquility. This doesn’t help with the seasonal weight gain, though. Part of the S.A.D. dilemma is that it causes increased appetite, sleepiness and the need to be on a constant sugar bender. We-ird. I eat and tear up like Sissy the Blogger. Every time someone mentions that the World Series starts tonight and that my beloved Tigers (sniff) are sending Justin Verlander to the mound against Barry Zito, the waterworks start (“Ahhh…get me some marshmallows! This is too much pressure!”).*
Lately I’ve started to take notice of advertisements for supplemental testosterone. For the most part, these seem to be just commercials sponsored by the inadequacy industry. I don’t need no stoopid testosterone! Give me some Turtle Wax and I’ll be fine. I’m a man, and that puts me in a fraternity of men. The fraternity of understanding the onside kick, the infield fly rule and Top Gear. The brotherhood of “If it ain’t broke, let’s break it on purpose.” The boost of testosterone might help with the obnoxious, seasonal emotional jags, though. Not that I can afford it. It’s more than likely that my insurance doesn’t cover hormones, even if my doctor’s chart states “necessitated because dumbbell can’t keep his big boy pants up.” What to do? I guess that I’ll turn to other, more homeopathic maleness supplements. Since we haven’t been to the grocery store in a while, the only items in the house that might do the trick are Vitamin D pills and Ramen noodles. Get my mortar and pestle. It’s time to mix up some mojo.
*After writing this, Justin gave me reason to tear up. I’m going to need a bigger bag of marshmallows.
This is the Mostly Teachable Podcast for the second week of January, 2013. In this episode I (probably) offend Notre Dame Nation as the podcast continues to speed toward irrelevance. This podcast is about as much fun as one can have with a Michigan fan and still be clothed, sober and not named Gerald R. Ford. Catch past episodes and subscribe to all the poddy rockin’ goodness on itunes-just search Mostly Teachable. Yes, those really are my b.c. portholes in the picture-the glasses I had when I got kicked out of the service. Keep calm and cookie on.
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Saturday nights can be so much fun for the wayward geek. Tonight has been a good case in point. I took a personality test to determine which type of marriage partner I am. Yep. Slipped into something comfortable, grabbed some water (really strong water, because it was time to get funky and fill in some circles) and filled out a personality trait profile. Oh, yeah. I’m the Barry White of Briggs Myers tests. I completed my test, but upon submitting my answers the website crashed. I could swear that the lights dimmed and there was a temporary brownout from the amount of electrical amperage it takes to process the group of malfunctions that make up my personality. When full informational capacity returned to normal, the results shot out of my printer in the form of crumpled paper projectile. The conclusion was “unique.” Oh. That again. The test didn’t know what to do with me.
The test said, basically, that I like to sit in the back of any room full of people and make absurd comments. Also among the results, were some cautionary notes. I am not a danger to others, but I shouldn’t be left near a clothes dryer because of my tendency to become trapped inside until someone comes along and frees me. The world, I fear offers very few accessibility options for persons exhibiting my personality traits. If it happens that you have any sort of impairment, modern life has been designed to meet your needs. Computers, elevators, Irish folk music, and barbecue grills are among the many redesigned amenities in life that have been made to accommodate users of all abilities. Sadly, life for the socially awkward, those of “unique” ability, is a test of will and ability. I get around okay. Much of the time I can make it the entire three minutes to my desk at work and back home without getting lost. C’mon, now. Everybody has ended up in South America on their morning commute to work at least once. One behavior I’ve learned to engage in might be a benefit to all unique people. Make friends with everyone. When I get coffee in the morning, for instance, the ladies at the stand put the cream in for me. They know that I’ll pour scalding coffee into my eyes trying to get half & half. If you fall into the undefinable unique category, just be kind and patient with the world. Try a little tenderness. Just don’t babble. Which ends another blog entry. Thank you for reading.
I don’t put much stock in my horoscope. Using the alignment of the stars and planets to predict my future is pretty hit-or-miss. I may as well just base my future on good luck brought about by the Kim Kardashian/Kanye West pregnancy (he’s pregnant, according to the announcement. She’s just bootylicious and confused). I also am betting that I’ll have a great day if no more than one of the kids on Buck Wild ends up with alcohol poisoning or head trauma on tonight’s episode. My horoscope for Leo read as follows this morning:
When someone reaches out to you today, stifle your shy, introverted side and reach back at them. Smile, flirt, and try to be open about how you feel. Even if you are caught off guard by all the friendliness, just try to relax and go with it. It’s fun! People find you very approachable, and you should get used to the unexpected. Start making small efforts to react more warmly and receptively … these tiny moves will be recognized and appreciated.
I am doomed if this horoscope is a representation of my day. First of all, if it weren’t for my shy and introverted side I wouldn’t be anything more than a cloud of noxious gas. As an introverted, stifled gas cloud, it’s hard for me to smile and flirt with people. I just look pained. Then there is the idea of relaxing and not being so caught off guard by friendliness. Many times I misunderstand friendliness and end up drooling on people. There are ways to compensate for the drooling such as wearing absorbent clothing. Needless to say, I don’t get a lot of second invitations to people’s houses even with my squeegee clothing. I do try to live out some of the horoscopes recommendations already. For instance, I make tiny moves to act warm and receptive to friendliness. Tiny, cat-like moves. I like to spring out from behind chairs at parties in an effort to be flirty. This is done, warmly, of course. I pay for a lot of dry cleaning and carpet shampooing, but my tiny, catty moves are always recognized. Oh, well. Horoscopes are fickle and inaccurate. Tomorrow’s will probably tell me to take on all the personality traits that would make a Kanye/Kardashian baby likable.
One of the wonderful things my wife did when we got married was that she made me stop dating. Okay, I honestly wanted to stop. I love Lori more than any other person on earth. Thank God for not having to go through the sham ritual of courtship anymore, though. I was never any good at relationships. Or personal interaction. Or speaking to people without gibbering and flapping my arms. Flirting was impossible. I just never got it. Maybe it was because everything I tried to say came out in 452 word bursts. Some people have a gift for nonchalant flirtation, some only manage to catch fire from zipper friction, because they wear cheap pants. I don’t flirt. There are times when I make the vain attempt at speaking casually and end up paying for it (and having to purchase new pants when the old ones burn up).
I went for a haircut. This is always a mistake, because hair stylists often are the best at making therapeutic small talk. They know nearly everything, because they’ve heard nearly every story conceivable. Once in the chair, I began to babble about how my hair always ends up looking like that of Sopranos tough guy Pauly Walnuts. The side wings just say I should put on a jogging suit and a Members Only jacket. The patient stylist asked me lots of questions about myself and I babbled. And babbled some more. The problem, I noticed after returning home, was that one side of my head is cut differently than the other. This always happens when I try to be funny and light. The rule before each trip out of the house should be: “continue to be a jerk, Andrew.” This is not my first brush with small talk induced failure. A few years before meeting Lori, I tried to practice being fun and flirty at a blood drive. When asked to choose between an older, veteran Red Cross associate to draw my blood, or a cute girl, I went for small talk and jokes. Unfortunately, practice outweighs pretty. I have veins that show like the Mississippi River on a map, but she missed on a half-dozen attempts. Signaling for the seasoned vet and another guy my age, nurse vampire had the three of them sit on my arm in an attempt to get blood from the part of my ulna the needle was bent and wedged into. My arm should hurt as much as it did that night every time that I think about trying to be friendly. It’s good to be married to a beautiful woman who doesn’t pay attention to my dumb attempts at small talk. Hopefully, she won’t ask about my weird haircut.
I recently went on a journey of the soul. Call it a search for substance. After two weeks I gave up, having not found anything. Oh well. This is what I get for sloughing around the house, laughing like Jabba the Hutt the entire time. At least I had work to keep me sane and focused during the last few weeks. Maybe sane, or focused. Having both would be too much to ask for.
There is a reason I never get out of the basement at work. Socially, I’m about as awkward as a person can be. My general demeanor is like President Obama having a debate with his note cards. I try to think of it as an advantage during moments of foolhardiness. Awkward, mumbly, focused on the floor when I talk. Little jokes come out every now and then. Good jokes at times, but you’d miss them through the downward mumbling. Every once in a while, I do get out of the basement and have some fun. Flu shot day was a good example of awkwardness in action.
Monday, I went to get my annual flu shot at work. This meant going all the way to the third floor of my building and experiencing daylight. You know, that part was okay. The daylight dwellers have good cookies. When I came out of the health office, having gotten my shot and neon orange bandage, some of the nurses still in line asked how it went. “Oh gosh, it was like The Hunger Games in there.” The nurses, who’ve seen all manner of barf and death, just groaned. Yep, awkward. I put my head down and went back to the basement. Not before getting coffee and cookies, though. One of the benefits of looking up and confidently joking with people is that there is usually food and beverage involved. Having said that, I do really want to put a coffee maker and a package of Oreos in my basement cubicle. At least until I overcome awkward shyness. Or retire. Whichever comes first.
The other night I attended a semi-mandatory outdoor meet and greet at my daughter’s elementary school. The trick is that in return for attending this event, each participant is given an ice cream bar and the chance to meet the child’s new teacher. These events are excruciating for me. While the ice cream social is always well executed and expertly put together, I find myself shuffling and stamping my feet. The kids in attendance have this kind of cool to them. They’ve met this year’s teacher, who is usually a rested looking woman full of the kind of energy that is reserved for amped up pageant contestants. The students themselves are a bit indifferent to the whole ordeal. They speak casually to each other, smile at their new teacher’s jokes and then inexplicably go and swing from tree branches. Within two weeks, they’ll be staring wistfully out the windows at those same branches and dreading the fact that they were yet again sucked in by the parade smiles of teaching professionals. During the social, though, the kids cling to a last bit of late summer casual and effortlessly mingle in a blase fashion while eating melted ice cream sandwiches in the schoolhouse courtyard.
As a parent, there is no cool, even from drippy Eskimo Pies. We have no casual attitude. Much of what we do is competitive parenting and semi-professional eye rolling. Mom’s and dad’s have a way of overdressing for these events. Yeah, I think the sequined halter tops and shirt/tie combos are neat, but unnecessary. I have no such desire to be a fancy dad. I can sort of manage to stand around and look like a schlub, before some ancient Miss America teacher slaps my wrist and tells me to stop picking my nose. We’ve spent every day since college looking out the door’s and windows of our workplaces wistfully for a tree to climb. Eventually, as often happens, my blissfully calm daughter will give me some ice cream, tell me to shut up and then smile beatifcally. Future teacher in the making, I suppose.
I am not a social person. For all of the bubbly, fun spirited, networky crap I put on the internet, my social skills are appallingly crude. To meet the real Andy, the one not hiding behind the keyboard and the Cookie Monster, is to meet a cave dwelling troglodyte of epically awkward proportions. Most of the time, I won’t look at you when speaking, and hugging is definitely verboten. It’s not that I don’t like you, it’s that I do. I’m not sure which is worse. The only thing I have a harder time with than polite human interaction and the genial hug is playing board games. Board games are the ultimate in socially awkward interaction. Part of my mojo derives from a strange aloofness born of not knowing what the blazes to say to you. My social coping mechanisms are completely broken down by having to spend two hours playing a board game with other people. Games mean eye contact and actively taking an interest in the mechanisms that separate humans from birds, or cattle. Games require cooperation and speaking in more than monosyllabic mumbles. Games require being able to gracefully lose, and to learn how to win without…I don’t know. Game playing never reaches that point with me.
When my daughter was little, she developed gamesmanship during family bonding times. Anna had a mechanized, magnetic fishing game, which I actually loved watching her play. At two years old, she developed a knack for clubbing the revolving, yap mouthed fish with a plastic pole until they bent to her will. This to me was a relatable game. Smackafish was great fun. In time, Anna adapted to the contraints of civilized society. She plays by the rules, because it preserves the entertainment value and integrity of the time together. I’m not there yet, although taping the Uno cards together in order to win has finally left my repertoire. The fun will eventually be in enjoying the closeness of friends and loved ones, and not poking them with magnetic fishing poles. We’ll see.