Friday, October 21, 2011

And Smiles (Friday's Sunday's Poem/Hot Actress)

Rightfully Refunded

She doesn’t expect
to be repaid,
for the things she does.
They didn’t offer her
a silver platter,
or even a silver nickel.
The love she administers
isn’t contingent on
exchanges like that.

Pay and Respect
are two separate notions.
She grew accustomed to
the latter, it was all they
could give in terms
of reciprocation.

And Smiles.
The kind that caused tiny
creases to break from the sides
of their glistening eyes.

She looked into those gems,
and before they could say
just how proud they were,
She knew.

So when he left,
when he picked up his bag,
and glanced for a moment,
so quick, an Olympic calibrated
clock couldn’t have caught it,
She was

A doe paralyzed by the blinding
glare of betrayal,
of lies,
of the realization that
nothing in this world can be
properly returned,
rightfully refunded.


About the poem: Tori blogs at Little Miss Muffins, posting what can only be described as some of the best contemporary poetry around. I go and read her blog as often as I can, and you should, too. Quoting from her about me section:

I bake banana bread, clean my room in red high heels, and write little thoughts and things on index cards. I live in a small town, which I love leaving. I dream big and fast and have high expectations for myself and everyone else. I'm a grammar fanatic. I like to read and listen to music, especially jazz. Lunch has always been my favorite meal of the day, although I can't skip breakfast. Coffee plays too big a role in my daily life, and while I have recognized that caffeine is a drug, I do not care.

That itself is a kind of poetry. I mentioned to Tori that I liked her poems and would like to post one as Friday's Sunday's Poem, and as far as I can tell, this is the one she wanted me to post, although it's hard to tell for sure because we communicate by leaving comments on her blog. So it's a guess. But it's also a good poem.

What I like about Tori's poetry is the way it has a sort of rhythm of its own; the lines don't go in a sing-songy way but they still have a meter that's hard to grasp, and yet is there. That's really what separates poetry from prose, I think: poetry uses language for the sheer love of language, and the communication of that love of language is every bit as important as the communication of the message of the poem, whereas with prose, the love of language is clearly secondary to the message being conveyed.

Tori gets that. Go read her blog and comment on her poems.

About the Actress: Tracey Gold was on Growing Pains, and was pretty then. She's still pretty now. And she was in last week's Entertainment Weekly, which I only just read because Sweetie hides it from me by putting it in the basket where I told her we should put magazines. I never think to look where something's supposed to be.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

I really think this says something about me, or society. Or both. (Thinking The Lions)





Weird, right?

1001 Ways To Tune Up The World, Number Seventy-Eight

78. A "Stay-On" Button On Your TV that you have to press every 20 minutes to keep the TV on.

We have a "sleep" function on our TV that lets us set our TV to automatically turn off anywhere from 15 minutes to 120 minutes from when we turn it on, thereby guaranteeing that I will never have to say "Well, I'm pretty sleepy now, better turn off the TV and go to bed" and then have to risk whole minutes in which my brain is not given something to hear/see/think about.

(Actually, for me, that's a good thing. Being left alone with my thoughts results in me coming up with stuff like this.)

The other night, I was watching TV, unable to sleep, and I realized that Sweetie had set the timer because suddenly the "60 second countdown" feature came on: the screen at the bottom showed 60... 59... 58 and let me know that if I didn't do something in less than a minute, I'd be TV-less.

The remote control was right next to the TV, which, when you think about it, is a useless place to have a remote control. But I laid there in bed for a few seconds, watching the timer, and pondering whether I wanted to get up and go re-set the TV or if I should just let it turn off and try to get to sleep without it.

If you've read this blog for even 3.2 seconds you know what I decided: I got up and turned off the sleep timer and then for good measure got my smart phone, because screw you, private thoughts, and watched Mission: Impossible 3 and didn't get to sleep until about 4 a.m.

But somewhere in the jumble of Jonathan Rhys Meyer's quips, I had the idea that if TVs were equipped with a switch that would automatically turn off the TV every 20 minutes, and the switch was on the TV, then every 20 minutes or so, we'd have to re-evaluate whether we really wanted to watch that TV show or movie, and maybe we'd end up staying up and watching as Tom Cruise shows Fake Katie Holmes how to shoot a gun, but maybe we'd end up doing something else once in a while, too.

Also: Because he sent me a haiku on Twitter, here's some Jonathan Rhys Meyer's clips. He can really sing, as you'll see:

Prior entries:Link

13. Ban driving any kind of automobile, motorcycle or other personal vehicle within 1-2 miles of downtown in any city with a population of more than 100,000.

12. Abolish gym class; instead, teach kids to play musical instruments.

11. Change copyright laws to allow anyone to use anyone else's creative work provided that the copier pay 60% of the profit to the originator and that the copier not cast the original work in a negative light.

10. Have more sidewalk cafes and outdoor seating.

9. When you have to give someone a gift, ask them what they want, and then get that thing for them.

8. Never interrupt or finish someone's jokes.

7. Periodically, give up something you like for at least a month.

6. Switch to "E-money."

5. Have each person assigned one phone number, and then add an extension for the various phones and faxes that person might be reached at.

4. Abolish Mondays and Tuesdays.

3. Don't listen to interviews with athletes or comedians.

2. Have "personal cashiers" at the grocery store.

1. Don't earn more than $200,000 per year.

Is this working? You bet --

1001 Ways also helped change the world here!


1001 Ways also helped change the world here!


1001 Ways helped change the world here, too!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

It was like my own personal Bridge To Terabithia (I Get Paid For Doing This)

About every two months or so, I have to drive out to Richland County. The drive itself is boring: the road is almost completely straight for about 60 miles with little to nothing by way of scenery.

But what I liked about it was that halfway through, there was an old metal bridge that was, for a while, rusted and painted a kind of blue. The bridge crossed the Wisconsin River (I think it's the Wisconsin River) and driving across it for some reason always made me smile, the quick-flicks of shadows flitting over my windshield and my face, the old-timey-ness of the bridge making me think, for some reason, of childhood -- the bridge seemed to filter the sunlight in such a way that everything, for just a second, was both brighter and somehow faded.

Then they built the new bridge, and now when I cross the Wisconsin River, this is as close as I get to the Old Bridge:

Sometimes progress isn't.

Monday, October 17, 2011

McDonald's 6: Jobs v. Life

Jobs v. Life is an examination of every job I've ever had, in order. We're on only the SECOND job: My time at McDonald's, which, when last we left, was about to come to an end.

I was not a popular guy in high school.

*Waits for gasps of surprise, shocked looks, gets none.*

Most people, I think, weren't popular in high school -- they couldn't be, right? If most people were popular than popular wouldn't mean anything.

But I never really had a chance, the way I see it: I was fat for my childhood, the kind of fat that ranges from "sort of pudgy" to "actually pretty big."

Fatness alone didn't make one not popular, though: Don O'Handley was fat, and short, and he had freckles, which really should have made him not popular (No offense to people who had freckles, but, well, it's true)* but he was a popular guy.

*It's true only about people who had so many freckles that they blended in to become one big freckle. Which was everybody who had freckles. Nobody, in real life, ever has, say, three freckles, except that kid who played Tom Sawyer in the movie I think I remember seeing as a kid, and who then went on to play that rich kid on the show where he had a sister, and I think a butler. Maybe his name was Jody. But the point is, if you have freckles, you have lots of freckles. Also, the point is that it kind of seems like nobody has freckles anymore, at least to me. Freckles, as a thing, seems to have gone out of style, like white socks with two, or three, colored stripes on them pulled up nearly to our knees.
I also wore glasses, but not the cool kind of glasses. I wore the kind of glasses that began with me, as a third-grader and then fourth-grader, having to wear an eye patch, but not the cool kind of eye patch like Sally got to wear when she had what I have:

That kind of eye patch wasn't used when I had an eye patch; doctors instead preferred to use a flesh-colored, band-aid style eye patch that fit over the eye perfectly and makes one look like a cyclops from more than 3' away.

That, too, probably wasn't the sole reason I wasn't a cool kid, because some of the cool kids had glasses, although none of them had only one eye for a while, thanks very much, doctors.

No, the reason I wasn't a cool kid was that... I wasn't a cool kid. There's no way to say it otherwise. Some people are cool and some people are not. Think of The Fonz, which a guy named Andy Kemp did a lot in fifth and sixth grades.

Andy Kemp loved The Fonz, which I suppose is about the right timing for him to love The Fonz, because Happy Days started airing in 1974, and I was in 5th and 6th grades with Andy Kemp in 1980 and 1981.

The Fonz wore leather jackets and t-shirts and gave the thumbs-up and said Heyyyyyyy and rode motorcycles, all of which people think made him cool. But it didn't. Think: You've seen people who wear leather jackets and t-shirts, or who ride motorcycles, and how many of them are cool? Speaking as someone who lived in Milwaukee when they had that Harley-Fest in the 1990s, I can tell you that approximately 0% of motorcycle riders are cool and approximately 1,000,000% of them will cut you off as you're walking to your job at the theater and also rev their engines at 3 a.m. near your apartment so you can't sleep.

No, The Fonz was cool because The Fonz was cool, and so whatever he did was cool, even jumping that shark, which people tried to make uncool and it's become synonymous with becoming uncool but let's face it: Fonzie jumping that shark was cool too.

So is the name Fonzie.

This is all going somewhere.

I hope.

Anyway, Andy Kemp loved The Fonz and so Andy Kemp, as a fifth and sixth grader and probably even older except that I'm pretty sure I stopped being talked to by Andy Kemp after sixth grade, would emulate The Fonz. Literally. He stuck up his thumbs and he said Heyyyyyy like The Fonz and he wore white t-shirts and he even seemed to try to style his hair like The Fonz, only more feathered, and otherwise made himself look ridiculous, except that Andy Kemp was cool and so when he did it, it was cool.

Had I put on a white t-shirt and stuck my thumbs up and said Heyyyyy people would have (rightly) laughed at me. Because I was not cool.

So here's where this is all going: I got fired from McDonald's because I was not cool but I desperately wanted to be cool even though I had no shot of ever being cool in my life. I didn't know that then; I know it now, and I tell my kids the truth, the truth being: If you're not cool, you never will be, and then people like Oldest Daughter go off and be cool anyway, surprising me because somehow they turned out cool and then I feel a little rejected all over again.

(I suspect that Sweetie was cool in high school, although it doesn't seem like she was and she denies it. She was elected to something or other: Homecoming Queen, or Butter Queen, or some sort of Queen, and she was a cheerleader, I think, and also she tells this story about having to wear a swimsuit in a talent contest that she's a little hazy on the details but which I secretly think might have been a Miss Teen America show or something like that. That might explain how Oldest turned out to be cool, and The Boy, I think, was cool, too. Middle doesn't seem to have been cool but that may be because she was cool but didn't care about it because Middle is a driven person and doesn't much care what people around her think, which may be part of being cool, as I care all too much about what people think, even though I say I don't.)

My firing, in short, came about because society has complex rules for determining who is in and who is out and some people are able to understand and work within those rules, and some people-- like me -- are aware that the rules exist but that's it; we can't determine how to work within them and also spent a lot of time reading comic books.

And also it came about because there was a party, and we thought we could get in, "we" being me, and my friends Fred, and Bob, and "Flan."

Fred, Bob, "Flan" and my friend Eric, a guy who got straight As and graduated I think second in our class and went on to be very successful as far as I could tell from trying to find out about him on Facebook before I got kicked off of Facebook for being too social -- comprised my basis social group, and somehow, that weekend, we had gotten invited, kind of, to a party. I say "kind of" because that was how these things worked; there weren't formal invites, after all. If you were able to find out about the party from someone who was going to the party, you were able to go to the party, too, and if you went to the party and brought with you a couple of people who weren't completely unacceptable, they, too, might go to the party.

So how we were getting into this party was this: Bob was dating a girl named Stephanie, from Oconomowoc, and Stephanie was friends with someone who was having a party, which meant that somehow, Bob was clearly invited to the party.**

**Side note: We were not from Oconomowoc. We were from Hartland, which even I knew made us better than the people from Oconomowoc. No matter what rung of the social ladder we occupied in Hartland [very low and somewhat off to one side, in my case] we were above every single person from Oconomowoc, because they were from Oconomowoc. The only thing worse than being from Oconomowoc, from our perspective, was being from Pewaukee.***

***That was the kind of social stratification that existed when I was a kid and a teen, and may still well exist now, although if it does I pay it no real attention not because I'm better than that but because my circle of friends now consists of (a) people I work with and who I do not therefore want to socialize with (b) my kids and Sweetie, and (c) a law school friend I talk to by phone once a year and (d) two friends of Sweetie's that I get to be friends with by default. So I don't know where I fit in the social order nowadays [probably very low, and still somewhat off to the side], and I'm sure I'm a bitter disappointment to my parents, who were vigilant about enforcing social standing, vigilant to a degree which would have gratified and embarrassed Charlotte Bronte. In my parent's world, social standing depended on a complex mixture of "how good your lawn was," "what city you lived in" "what street in that city you lived on" "whether you parked your car on the driveway or inside the garage like a civilized human being" "how often your kids fought and whether they could be overheard by the neighbors fighting in the yard about dumb stuff because what will the neighbors think" and, most importantly, "whether you put your Christmas tree in front of the window where everyone could see it," that last being an unforgivable social sin.

The only problem with going to this party, a legitimate party where we would be legitimately invited sort of and there would be legitimate friends of Stephanie's who might kind of like Bob's friends, was that I had to work at McDonald's, and my friends, selfishly, did not want to wait until 10:30 p.m. or so to go to the party that started at 8:30 or so, and my Dad, selfishly, did not want to let me drive our car, which at that time was a brand-new Pontiac Gran Prix with t-tops that we would sometime take off and put in the trunk and drive around in pseudo-convertible style.

I was in a bind, clearly, as the forces of evil/nature/something or other conspired against me to make me... work... when clearly my life would be better spent drinking too-foamy beer from a poorly-tapped keg in the kitchen of a house owned by someone who didn't know any better than to live and raise their kids in Oconomowoc and so deserved having teenagers getting drunk in her house and hopefully making out with one of Stephanie's friends.

So I asked my dad, again, whether I could use the car to go to work and then go out that night, but my dad, who valued that car far more highly than he valued the likelihood that Stephanie had a friend who was hot and would like pudgy guys who read science fiction, said no, so I tried a different tactic:

"Can you call me in sick to work?" I asked him.

You can see, in that question, that I had, through 16 years of living, learned little to nothing about life and in particular about my dad, who got up every day at 5:00 a.m. to drive to work, work being actual work at that time, driving a truck and delivering soda to various grocery stores.

My dad absolutely refused to do that, pointing out to me that I was not sick and that he would not let me call in sick because I wasn't sick, and also that it was important to go to work because something or other, I don't know.

Proving that even smart kids like me are stupid, I said:

"But there's a party I want to go to and Bob and Fred and Flan won't wait for me to get off work to drive me out there," and I didn't finish the sentence because there was no place to go after that, given that my dad interrupted with another speech about the importance of blah blah blah.

Looking back, now, I'm pretty sure Dad was talking about how important it is to develop good work habits and/or whether or not I made a commitment to my job and/or how they were counting on me, and it's 99% likely that somewhere in there was the phrase "never amount to much" if I didn't do whatever it was I was supposed to do, but let's examine the facts:

A. A party existed that I could go to.

B. Competing with that party was my "job" at "McDonald's."

C. Was I going to be working at McDonald's all my life?

D. No, clearly not, especially given that

E. I agreed with my Dad on everything he said and then went upstairs and used the phone in his and my Mom's room to call my boss at McDonald's and tell him that I was too sick to come in to work that night and couldn't make it in and I was really very sick and also I couldn't make it in, and then I called Bob and told him to come pick me up at McDonald's and then I went back downstairs and got my McDonald's uniform and had my dad drive me to work, where I had him drop me off at the driveway leading to the McDonald's instead of right at the store adn then I pretended to walk towards the restaurant until he left, and then I went and hung out at the end of the driveway to the McDonald's where my boss couldn't see me until Bob picked me up and we went to the party.

Regretfully, none of Stephanie's friends were into guys like me, because teenage girls were largely not into guys like me, which meant I spent that Friday night much like I've spent every Friday night for most of my teens and twenties: avoiding responsibility while standing sort of near a group of people roughly my age and pretending I was a part of that group.

That particular Friday night was somewhat different, though, in that when I got home, around midnight, the party having ended when the poorly-tapped keg stopped giving out even foam, my Dad was still awake and said to me:

"How was work?"

I shrugged and acted nonchalant, even though I wasn't really sure what nonchalant meant, and said: "It was fine."

He nodded and I started to go up to bed, and he called after me:

"Your boss called. Wanted to know how you were feeling."

Standing on our stairway, I paused, and said cautiously:

"What'd you tell him?"

My dad waited just a second or two and said:

"I told him you were at a party, so you must be feeling fine."


I was scheduled to work at 11 a.m. the next day. My dad drove me to work, and I walked inside, already dressed in my uniform and trying to act, again, nonchalant.

My boss was there in the tiny office he used off to the right of the grill where breakfasts were made.

"Hey," I said, looking for my time card and pretending this was just an ordinary day.

He looked at me and said "You don't think you still have a job here, do you?"

I said: "I thought I did."
He said: "You don't. Turn in your uniform when you get your check Friday. Make sure it's washed."

So I went back outside, being careful not to look at anyone except Terry, the crew chief, who shook his head at me and turned away.

When I went outside, my dad wasn't there anymore, and I had to go back inside and ask to use the office phone to call my dad for a ride home.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

When nightmares become reality… (What The H?)

This week's What The H is a story I heard for the first time when I read it after Middle sent it to me. It's spooky... which makes it fitting for this time of year. Or did you forget it's only 2 weeks to Halloween?

I am a person that does not scare easily. (Despite what Briane may say.)

So when I started seeing things and hearing things that did not seem real I got a little freaked out.

The story begins a little over a year ago. I was living in a house with three roommates. We were living in a four bedroom house on the east side of Madison. There were two people that slept upstairs, another roommate that slept down in the basement and I was the only one that slept on the middle floor. I was also on the floor with the bathroom, the kitchen and the front door. So that was also more of a reason for me to hear certain noises that I was not use to hearing. Like the ice maker, the toilet flushing and people walking in and out of the front door.

A couple months after I was living in the house I applied, interviewed, and started working at a nursing home. I was a cook/dietary aide at that nursing home. The first couple weeks things were working out okay. Then weird things started to happen. They didn’t just start to happen at the nursing home but they also started following me home.

If I was left alone in the kitchen I would hear things. I would be in the back of the kitchen and I would hear the door to the kitchen open and close as if someone was walking in and out. I would walk around to the front of the kitchen and no one would be there. I would also be working on a meal or getting other things ready before we would start tray line and the dishwasher would turn on. I would walk back to where the dishwasher is and there wouldn’t be anyone there. The only way that the dishwasher works is if someone physically pushes a rack full of dishes through. The weird thing would be that there wouldn’t be a rack full of dishes that would come out the other end. There would be nothing there.

That stuff was minor compared to what was happening to me at home.

I was lying in bed one night and I was just about to fall asleep. I had to work early the next morning so I was attempting to get some sleep before my shift the next day. I did fall asleep shortly after but it wasn’t for long. Roughly an hour and half before I fell asleep I was awoken abruptly by a voice.


It was as clear as day. It was an older woman’s voice as well which led me to believe that there was a spirit of a woman that had died that had attached itself to me and followed me home. I woke up and it was dead silent in my room. I had an eerie feeling that I was not alone. At first I thought that it was a dream but I got up and walked out my bedroom door and walked into the kitchen and realized that it was NOT a dream.

Over the next couple weeks things seemed to die down. But then it changed…drastically.

It was a Wednesday night and I had to wake up early to go to class the next day. I was asleep or at least trying to and I started to hear some noises coming from my dresser area. I wasn’t sure what they were at first so I laid there and listened for a little while longer. It wasn’t long before I realized that this sound was the sound of someone rifling through my dresser drawer with all of my important papers. (I kept my letters from school, my bank papers, my private student loan papers or if you want to call it…mail.) I got out of bed and turned on my lamp. As soon as I got out of bed, you see my lamp is on the other side of the room so I had to walk across the room, and when I got to the lamp the paper shuffling had stopped. I sat on my bed starring at my dresser for a while with my lamp on and didn’t see or hear anything so I decided to turn my lamp back off and go to sleep.

The lights were off for a good hour before I was awoken once again by the papers being tossed around in my dresser drawer. I turned on my fan and pretended like I wasn’t hearing anything and went to sleep. It was hard to try and fall asleep but I eventually did and when I woke up the next morning it was as if nothing had happened. I went to work as if I had a great night sleep and the day was long but when I got home I was exhausted.

I got home at about three or three-thirty in the afternoon. I had class at five-thirty so I decided that I was going to take a nap before class. I did and when I woke up I changed and got myself ready and went to class. On my way I had decided that I was going to go to the grocery store and get something to make for dinner. I had to stop back at home though because I had forgotten my wallet in my purse and I had brought my pack back to class.

I was inside for roughly twenty minutes because I received a call from my boyfriend (at the time) and we talked for a while. As I ended the call I grabbed my purse and headed back out to my car. I got into my car and started to back out of the driveway. I noticed that my car was acting a little funny. I got out into the road and I could feel that my car was veering towards the left. I parked the car back into the driveway and got out to check it out.

When I walked over to the front of the car and saw that my front left tire was flat. Not only was it flat but it was slashed. I sat on the wooden ledge of our driveway and I just sat there staring at my tire. It was not more than twenty minutes ago that my tire was perfectly fine. I was sitting there attempting to get a hold of my boyfriend (at the time) and I heard a startling voice.


That voice was the same voice of the older woman that I had heard in my room a few weeks ago. I got up and looked around and saw nothing. I had never heard such silence on my street. It was dead silent.

Some people may think that it was random group of kids that slashed my tire but all of me thinks that whoever was yelling my name and whoever was rifling through my drawer full of papers is the same person that slashed my tire.

Since that day there have been a few things here and there that I cannot explain for instance like waking up in the middle of the night to find that my bedside lamp was turned on even though the light switch was turned off. Little things like that. But nothing has been as bad as the slashing of my tire.

"Laughter is the best medicine. You know, after MEDICINE." -- Bo Burnham. He'd have liked Uberhumor's funny pictures.

If laughter really is the best medicine, or is even in the top 3 (I think it might be a little behind acai), than is well into the second year of its residency, or however it is that med school works.

(My med-school knowledge is limited to (1) promising my mom I would go to med school, and (2) asking my doctor if Scrubs is actually kind of accurate, to which he replied, yes, and caused me to lose all faith in the medical system we have here in the U.S.)

Where was I? Not on "lying to my mom about going to med school," that's for sure. Let's get back to the funny videos, pictures & images on, the site that brings you "daily Fail pictures" like this one:

And there's more like that, of course. is one of those sites that I bookmark and check into throughout the day, because they're always adding new stuff that makes me laugh; it's great to take a little break here and there. I mean, I spend my entire day reading mortgage documents and arguing about things like "parol evidence" which is something I probably ought to have learned in law school but let's face it, none of us lawyers were paying attention during that section, so we're not at all sure what it is, and we have to read all these old 1894 cases from Justices with names like "William McClendon-Hurlington Toorthrow" and that gets old, so I need a dose of:

Ha! That is so like a dad. I mean, I'm a dad, and I...

... wait a minute.

Anyway, who couldn't use more humor in their life? You couldn't. I mean, you could. I got all twisted up in the negatives there. You get my point, which I will summarize as:

1. Go bookmark, and
2. Really, Mom, law school is pretty much as good as med school, isn't it?