Anatomy Of A Goose Chase

March 29, 2008 at 10:51 AM | Posted in Journal | 1 Comment
  So, I’m trying to straighten this thing out on my credit, see?  I’m trying to get my house refinanced in my name.  If you recall, I work at a bank so all of this should be a cakewalk.
  Well, not really.  You know, I accept full responsibility on this.  But not the blame.  Let me explain the difference.  It was my credit issues that got me into this, oh so many years ago.  But–but!–They have been resolved.  The blame lies with the dozens and dozens of ass clowns standing between me and clearing my (relatively) good name.
  I’m not going to bore you with the details of my debt…I’ll bore you with other things instead.  The long and short of it is, when I was young and stupid I amassed a sizable credit card debt.  By the time I wised up and tried to clear it up, the biggest one, Bank of America, went into default and then into judgment.  With the help of Bunny, my BFF who was working here at the bank at the time (before I started) I got a home equity loan and rolled all my tiny little debts into one big debt at a lower interest rate.  God Bless America.
  And I paid Bank of America, also.  Or their lawyer.  Or their lawyer’s lawyer.  Through my lawyer, of course.
  That was ’04.  Fast forward (or scene select) to today, where I’m trying to refinance.  I had a few little issues to deal with, but everything else was good.  You know, mostly.  But for some reason, The Bank of America judgment was showing as still open with the St Louis County Court, and hence, on my credit report.

Day One

  The logical place to start was with the Courthouse.  I call them, they are friendly.  Yeah, we show at being still open.  You should probably call Bank of America, and have them send us the Satisfaction of Judgment.
  K.  I call Bank of America.  Now, this was from 04–Hell, the credit card itself was even older than that, closed in 02.  I have no card, no account number.  I have the phone number on the credit report.
  Which is not a working number.  Please call–
  So I call another number, work through my options, and eventually talk to someone.  The first thing they always say in their semi-hispanic and poorly trained voice is, they want my account number.  I have no account number.  Is this a mortgage or a credit card?  Credit card.  Uno momento, por favour.
  I get transferred from one department to another, basically because no one there knows what the hell to do with me.  Yet again….Here’s the thing–let me explain this.  Have you ever heard of the term "hoo-doo"?  My mom said a hoo-doo is person around whom mechanical things do not work.  The person who always seems to have bad luck with cars, who has things that are always broke…The person who has a 13-inch black and white TV on top of a 17" TV….which is on top of a console, and none of them work.  A hoo-doo walks alot, because his car is always broke down.
  You know someone like this.
  My feeling is that I am a hoo-doo….with administrative systems.  For some reason, *I* am always the special case.  The unprecedented.  This is what I always hear:  "I’ve never seen this before."  "That’s not supposed to happen."  "You can’t do that.  I think."  "Let me call someone."  "Uhm……uh…..wait here."
  At first I thought I was special, now it’s just annoying.
 
Day two, three, four and five
 
  Bank of America continues to ask me for information I don’t have, put me on hold, and transfer me around the country.  Somewhere down the line they gave me another number, and I went through all the options and never talked to a person.  I started at the beginning, and they said–Oh, of course!  This went into judgment, you need to talk to our law firm that handles this:  Hannah and Associates.  Jack Hannah?  No, Fred.
  I begin to traipse around the country by phone again, this time counter-clockwise.  At one point I’m talking with someone here in St Louis!  He says–like all of them–"I don’t know why they transferred you here."  This office had only been open a year, and would have no records from 4 years ago.  He gave me another number.  It sounded familiar.  Sure enough, it was THE VERY FIRST NUMBER I called. 
  I continued to make calls while occasionally looking behind me for Rod Serling.  I swear I’m gonna jack his fuckin jaw if I see him–
  Yesterday I had a thought, which may end up being my saving grace while I pursue this telecommunications nightmare.  Since I work at a bank–the bank I have my loan with–and I work in the mortgage division, and have access to that software….
  I looked up my original home loan, found my credit report.  The page showing the B of A judgment says "PAID."  I printed it off and showed it to Bunny.  Four years ago, it was marked paid.  It’ll do for now; a placeholder, at least, until I get this straightened out.  I mean if.
  I continue my quest.

Day six, I think.  Whatever.  Yesterday.

  The people that were the most helpful and the nicest to me while lying to me were at B of A Recovery Center.  Back in January, someone here (I have record of it) actually said they would take care of it.  Of course nothing happened.
  "But Bryan," you ask, "If you dealt with these people before, why didn’t you just call them back?"
  That’s a very good question.  The answer is, Fuck you.  I’ve got 2 dozen goddamn phone numbers scribbled down here with various notes, names, and what-have-you.  I couldn’t keep this shit straight.  I came across the number by accident.
  Besides….they weren’t that helpful.  I called them again, and Richard was out (I don’t understand why I needed to speak with him anyway).  He told me I needed to put all this information on a piece of paper and fax it to Dina.  I had to fax it because she never answers her phone or looks at email because it’s too convenient; a fax gives her plausible deniability and is easily ignored.
  Which she did for several days, that’s why I called Richard back yesterday.  He wasn’t available but someone else said….geez, what *did* they say?  I’m having a hard time keeping all the lies separated from the half-truths.  Someone was going to call me back.  Riiiight.

Day seven

  Someone actually called me back.  She said Hannah and Associates handled their collections and judgments.  "Yeah, I know."  And…[on second thought, I won’t mention them by name] handled them for Hannah in St Louis.  That name sounded oddly familiar.  She gave me the number, and I called.  I got through several layers simply by not being able to answer any questions, which is an odd way to filter calls.  One girl said, "Let me look that up for you.  Please hold."  Then the phone rang, which, for anyone familiar with the bill collector rodeo, means I’m getting transfered to someone brand new that I can tell my sad story to for the the 68th time in 7 seven days.
  "This is Beelzebub."  An icy blast hit me through the phone.
  "Uhm.  Okay.  I thought I was just on hold; I didn’t expect to be transferred."
  "Perhaps I can help."  But her tone was saying, "Not bloody likely."
  She asked me to explain, so that she could cut me off.  "What’s the account number."  She didn’t ask, she said.
  "I don’t ha–"
  She cut me off again.  "I need your social then."
  I gave it to her.  She said that my lawyer would have to contact them. I didn’t have a lawyer.  I thought anyw–
  She interrupted my thoughts. How can she do that?  She mentioned the lawyers name,  "Does that sound familiar to you."
  Kinda, yeah.  "Kind of–"
  They cannot speak to me about the case; it has to go through my lawyer.  They cannot speak to me about it.  It has to go through my lawyer.  I can have the lawyer fax them a letter saying they are no longer handling the case, and only then can they speak to me about it.
  "Well, let me just ask you thi–"
  "I cannot speak to you about the case.  Contact your lawyer."
  "You know, I just want to say that–I’m not one of your deadbeats.  Your tone is very terse, and your attitude is very adversarial.  Is that–?"
  She got a little shrill.  "You know what sir.  I’m going to terminate this call.  You have a fabulous day."
  Well.  I think I will have a fabulous day, now that I managed to get under your skin.  That kind of made my day.  I love it when women try to put on their tough bitch facade.  Pfffftt.  Whatever.  Have you met my ex wife?
  So I look up the lawyer’s name (BTW, MSN live search is stupid, ridiculous, and unhelpful.  After a couple of failed attempts, I used it to find google, where I googled his name and went right to his personal site.  I gave his office a call, and he was in.
  I explained my sitch.  Again.  And about faxing the Law Firm From Hell.  He said, "I’ll be in court Monday, I can take a look at this."  At least–this time it was someone local.  At least this was someone whom I had previously paid to help me.  At least now….I could see an end to this.  But I ain’t holding my breath.

Tattoo You

March 26, 2008 at 3:50 PM | Posted in Journal | 2 Comments
  I’ve only had a passing interest in tattoos.  I think some are overdone and way to much, but some look very cool.  And on the right naked chick, some are very hot.
  My ex, her older daughter, and our son went out sometime after our break up about two years ago and they all got tattoos.  It was their little bonding outing, or whatever.  I’m sure they learned and grew and had their little Lifetime channel moment of togetherness and discovery and resolve, their happy ending.  Blah Blah Blah.
  Personally, I’ve never really wanted one, and much of that has to do with indecision over what I would get.  I mean, I’m going to be stuck with it.  It wasn’t until someone actually put the question to me that I thought about what I would get.  Then, when I realized it, I decided that I should get it.  But….I wanted to think about it for a while.  A few months.
 
  A few months later, and I hadn’t changed my mind.  I decided to go with it.  Detroit’s son (and two of his friends) were coming to stay with us for a week for Spring Break.  Uh, yay?  The boy had got a tat over Christmas when he was here, and wanted another.  I fear when people start to get alot of them–you don’t want to end up a tattooed freak.  Be a different kind of freak, in case you change your mind. 
  But he was the one who started it, just saying to me, "You should get one."  Funny, it made sense at the time.  "No one’s ever put it that way before."  The person who did his first tat I was going to call for this session.  My second cousin Greg.  We call him Little Greg, because his dad is Greg–but little Greg is a big, big boy.  We do have some nicknames in our family…He’s little Greg.  I’m known as Bubba by some.  I have cousin named Skinny.  My mom’s name was Margie but EVERYONE called her Judy (I didn’t know that.  I thought it was something that Dad did.  I referred to her Margie at a funeral on her side, and they didn’t know who I was talking about.  Then I said, "Judy," and they went, "Oooohhh" in understanding unison.)  Greg’s dad was Clarence, and everyone called him Junior.
  And my dad?  My dad was Bud.  To the family, Uncle Buddy and Aunt Judy.  My mom passed away in Feb of 04, and the one year anniversary of my dad’s passing was Easter.  As that date approached, it codified my desire to approach this undertaking. 
  Lil Greg is a pretty damn good tattoo artist.  There are alot of artists in our family, alot of people doing different creative things.  I honestly never thought it would come from his end–but we have it all over.  He’s a good guy  He looks like a rough neck, a tough guy, but he’s a pretty sensitive, creative guy.  I called him up, we made arrangements, and we had a date set.
  As for me, I finalized my idea about what I wanted.  Because of all the tats I could get, the one I decided I wanted was one that my dad had, to carry on the legacy.  He had a couple–and there’s one I don’t remember, actually.  He had to small ones, one on each forearm.  One said "Buddy" and the other said "Judy."  He had one I don’t remember–and now that bugs me–but the one I do remember was this:  A little cartoon devil character, with these words:  "BORN TO RAISE HELL."
  However, the picture I had of my dad’s tat was not a good one.  It was taken in the hospital the day he died–after he died, in fact–on my cell phone.  It was going to be difficult to duplicate the little devil character exactly.
  So my thought was…why does it have to be exact?  The intention is to reflect the same spirit of the message.  My thoughts turned as I searched for images.  I began to think of it more as a family crest than a tattoo, an idea I think my dad would have approved of.  In that sense, the design changes slightly but is always recognizable as the crest.
  I ended up selecting about a dozen pictures, and showed them to a few people, narrowing them down.  The direction the consensus was going took a surprising turn.  I really like the image I chose, and everyone I asked prior liked that selection as well.
  So, it’s not an exact duplicate of my dad’s tattoo.  It’s a tribute, but reflects some individuality and next generation newness.  This is not my father’s Oldsmobile.

  Li’l Greg comes over to the house to do the tattoos.  He doesn’t have a studio, but would like to get with one.  He comes to people’s houses and does it, and has all of his equipment in a rolling suitcase.  I never knew much about the process yesterday.  I show him the image and we discuss it.  I have it printed in black and white, but I show him the color version on the computer.
  We discussed it, I explained the vision, and he added to the drawing.  Then he traced over it onto carbon paper, to make a stencil.  I had shaved my upper arm prior to this, and he placed the stencil on my oiled arm.  It wasn’t an exact copy of the drawing, just the outline and some major lines to get it placed right.  Then he began.
  The sensation has been described several ways.  "It’s like a sunburn–" or, "A slight stinging sensation–"  Whatever.  Let me tell you, it hurt like a son of a bitch.  It felt exactly like he was taking a small Exacto knife and carving intricately into my arm.  First he did the outline, then some detail work, then he colored it in.  Afterwards it was like a sunburn;  it was sensitive to the touch and I had to put ointment on it.
  But I feel a real sense of satisfaction.  I feel like…like I’m carrying on a family legacy of sorts.  When I talk with Greg, and Li’l Greg, and my cousin Joe…We are kind of the male heads of the family, of this generation.  We are all very different from each other–really different.  But we have a bond, and a desire to protect and watch over the family–just as our fathers and grandfathers did.  So…it’s the family crest.

Children Of The Sun

March 24, 2008 at 11:45 AM | Posted in Journal | 1 Comment
  Yesterday, March 23rd, marked one year since my father’s passing.

  Things are different now, aren’t they?  But then again, aren’t they always–?

  My dad was a truck driver, and we lived out in a rural area.  This was in the 70s, and CBs were a natural extension of our life way before that damn movie "Convoy" came out.
  We lived about an hour from St Louis, where both parents had to drive for work.  Cell phones?  Are you kidding?  This is the 70s.  This is….the Stone Age.  The peak of technology was the TRS-80 and the Atari 2600.
  And the world was in color, but it was grainy; not hi-def.
 
  We had a CB in every vehicle, of course.  There is a shelf of radios down in my dad’s basement, still there.  Unused, untouched for years.  A bygone day…
  There were CBs with 27 channels (or was it 23?), and then the newer models came out with 40.  Then there was also sideband, upper and lower, which was actually FM.  We hardly every used sideband.  Of course, 19 was for truckers, like a community bulletin board.  Channel 9 was for emergencies.  But people also had channels that were their "home" channel.  Our channel was 4.  And the other one was 23.
  Of course we had the base station in the house.  It was quite a setup, like a stereo system.  The standing mike on a base, connected to a big radio.  Ours was "modded out"; originally we had 120 channels (40 normal, 40 upper and 40 lower sideband), but a friend of dad’s added a chip and a switch, giving us 360 channels, essentially the entirety of the 11 meter band of wavelengths.  This went into some of the Ham radio frequencies.
  On top of the base was the control for our directional antenna, and the switch between the two.  Because we had two CB antennas.  On the roof of the house was the TV antenna (which allowed us to pick up 6 and sometimes 7 completely different channels) and the omni directional; it radiated in all directions.  On top of the garage was the "Moonraker"; it had a motor and could be turned any direction.
  Next to the base was the linear.  Linear amplifier.  We pronounced it "lean-yer."   CBs had a maximum output of four watts; anything more was illegal.  We had a variety of linears, ranging from 100 to 1000 watts.  We had power.  And just to verify that power, above the linear was a meter.  Knowing how I am about gadgets, I recall now how my dad was.  He thought all of this was neat as shit.
  By the way, the base was modern and transistor-ized.  But the amps–the linears–were all tube-powered.  They took 15-20 minutes to warm up.
  I didn’t get up early often on the weekends, but when I did, I would come downstairs to the kitchen and find dad in his underwear, sitting on the stool in the corner of the kitchen–at the "command center"–drinking his coffee and listening to the radio.  Nowadays it’s called lurking.  Often he would be talking to some truckers that he knew…my dad knew alot of people.  I can see his gregarious nature passed down all the way to my daughter–his grandchild.
  And when the time was right, he would talk skip–communicating with people all over the world.  When the sunspot cycle peaked, the radio waves would bounce off the upper atmosphere and back down.  And then back up.  And repeat.  We could get sometimes four or five bounces, which is what it took to talk all the way around the world.  To Australia.  He could turn the directional antenna either way and talk to them.  He made friends in Australia, Quebec, Nova Scotia, Finland, and many far off places in the US, like Maine and Florida and Washington state.  I still have the post cards–confirmations of those exchanges.
  My dad was one of the first bloggers…
  They are called so many things nowadays, like logon, username, unique ID–but then it was called one thing:  Your handle.
  And we all had one.  Some of my dad’s friends I only knew by their handle.  Dad had two of them, and I forget what the other one was.  You had one for skip and one for regular talk.  I forget the skip handle, but his regular handle was G.R.  Grim Reaper.  The funny thing was, even though this was nominally a nickname, he still had a nickname for his nickname.  The show "Dallas" was popular at the time, and the main bad guy was "J.R."  My dad would be called G.R. or J.R. interchangeably.
  Mom’s handle was Miss Information.  Or, Misinformation.  Dad had friends like Bandit, PeeWee, Old Yeller, and GI Joe.  My handle was Viking Boy, which I hated…and came up with another one:  Southpaw.  My friend’s handle was Backhoe.

  I’d come downstairs and shiver from the mix of warm and cold air in the house in the winter.  I’d smell the coffee Dad had brewed, and some sausage in the pan that he had cooked.  I’d sit with him and watch him, as he listened attentively for some signal or message, and call out the world in the language of the day.  He leaned forward, his ears perked toward the speaker, and pressed the mike key.
  "Skipland, skipland.  CQ, CQ.  CQ DX.  GR hollerin at you, Skipland.  CQ DX."  When you got an answer, and was able to talk to someone, it was like stumbling through blogs and finding someone new to talk to.
  It was like…magic.

International House of Pizza

March 22, 2008 at 11:27 PM | Posted in Riding In Cars With Pizza | 1 Comment

I’ve known many foreign nationals, foreigners, naturalized citizens, and people from other countries.  I’m not well-traveled, but they are; they wind up on my doorstep.

Back in the 80s, I knew several men from Nigeria, working here in this country.  At Domino’s, oddly enough.  Sonny Ablidoblo (roughly), and Akinola Sulemani.  They were good guys, hard workers.  Black as coal.  Sonny hated black Americans.  Do the accent in your head:  "I will not deliver to them niggars!"

Akin came here to go to school on his country’s dime for geology, but stayed here and eventually started his own very successful cleaning business.  I remember one day he is parked in front of the Domino’s (taking the ‘good’ parking spot) with the back of his little Datsun jacked up.  He is changing his back brakes.  In the snow.

Yeah.  I had to help him.  He didn’t know what he was doing.  I put them both back together, using a pair of pliers in lieu of a brake tool.  He wanted to pay me; I said no.  "This is what we do for each other, brother."  I added, "Don’t fucking do this again."

A few years later, I was managing Blackjack, and hired Richard Mbatha, from South Africa.  A nice black man.  Green cards aren’t really green, did you know that?

In 96 or 97 I worked at Papa John’s, and it was like the UN.  There was Russian, a young Chinese guy, an older Chinese guy, and a Paskistani.  Our supervisor was Paskistani as well.  The Russian guy was always looking for the next big thing, a bigger, better deal.  He always had some scheme going.  The young Chinese guy’s family owned a restaurant–and he couldn’t stand working with them anymore.  The older Chinese guy was friendly, but it was hard to overcome the language barrier.  When he would take a delivery, he would look at the slip and write on it in his native language….I guess that helped him.

The Paskistani was a real hustler.  A good driver, and frugal, prudent.  In addition to driving nights for us, he drove lunch at a Chinese restaurant.  A little known secret is that he loaned money to the manager so she could buy a house after her divorce.  Eventually he bought a gas station, and now owns several with his brother.

Although not related to pizza, I do have a good friend named Serena, who is from Korea.  Or, as good a friend as I can be with her.  I really had a thing for her….until I got to know her.  She is just kind of cold, and distant.  Even though she’s not Chinese, she has a wall up.  A Great Wall.

At the Domino’s I currently work, there are two young Chinese kids and a man from Bulgaria.  The young Chinese girl is just so cute, and nice.  Her brother is the older one.  It is odd as hell to see them speak with no accent.  Yet together they speak Chinese.  I told them we were going to start speaking a secret language around them.  Pig Latin.  They thought I was making it up.

The other night Paro, the man from Bulgaria, was working.  We had some down time, and I wanted him to tell me about his country.  He explained the brief history of the Slavic states, and drew me a map.  We had a good talk, explaining the differences we had between our cultures.

Next to Scooters, there is a liquor store that has been through a few owners.  Most recently, a family from India.  The father and different sons and occasionally one of the wives will be working it.  Very nice people, we are friendly with them.  Occasionally I give them a pizza (cheese or vegetables only) and they give me some beer..like the one I’m drinking now.  I had a talk with the father this evening, he asked me, "So this Easter, what is this about?"

I explained a little, and he said, "Yes, yes, I know that.  But what about the eggs?"

You don’t think your customs are silly until you have to explain them.  Although they have their own beliefs, they have embraced our culture–he had to get an Easter basket for his young grand daughter.  I explained that the eggs came from pagan spring and fertility traditions that Christianity absorbed when it spread through Europe, in the same way many of our Christmas traditions originate.  He seemed satisfied.  It was good to talk about, to help others gain understanding.  Next time, I’m asking him questions.

As I left, he said, "Happy Easter!"

Depends

March 20, 2008 at 11:53 PM | Posted in Riding In Cars With Pizza | 1 Comment
  This Domino’s Pizza that I’m working at is ….kind of like a retirement home for pizza delivery.  I spend my time sitting around, reminiscing about the old days, and we all move at a very casual, laid back pace.  Occasionally I shit myself, and I can’t remember anyone’s name.

  When I first started delivering pizza–back in the 40s–it was a different world.  You young’uns have it easy with yer GPS and yer paved roads.  And cars.  I delivered pizza on the back of a mule on a cobblestone path.  Uphill.  Both ways.  In the snow.  And blazing heat.  The weather was odd back then.

  But it is different now.  Let’s put this in perspective.  It was 1991, maybe 92.  This was Domino’s.  We still had the 30 minute guarantee [As a real guarantee; it meant something.  It meant money.  When I was a manager, it meant money directly out of my pocket.  Customers would always ask the drivers, "Do you have to pay for it when it’s late?"  No, of course not.  It would be wrong to make the drivers pay for it.  But they had no problem making the managers accountable.  Lates came directly out of our "bonus." (When you say "bonus" in reference to Domino’s, you always use quotation marks to indicate its very figurative sense.) they have a thirty minute thing now but it’s little more than a suggestion], and the delivery fad was just starting to catch on.  Pizza Hut was delivering, but didn’t really know what teh hell they were doing yet, and Papa John’s had not yet entered the scene.  WE were king.
  I worked at a damn busy store.  Let me tell you about my busiest night ever.  It was a Friday, and I came in at 5 pm.  We closed at 2 am.  What is that….9 hours?  I took 54 deliveries.  If I’m up on all my gazintas, 9 gazinta 54 about 6 times.  That’s 6 deliveries per hour, every hour.
  What I hoped for was at least four runs per hour.  I would hit five and occasionally six, which would help out the average later on in the night when we were slow.  But six all night long is something else.  I made 170 bucks that night, also, which was really damn good.  I’ve had a few hundred, hundred twenty dollar nights.  Mostly eighty to ninety.  One-seventy was pretty fucking awesome.  A little over three bones per run.
  But look, this is 1991.  A dollar went alot further.  Taking inflation into account, 170 back then is equal to about a thousand dollars today.  I made one thousand dollars in a night.  And kept my pants on.
  Serious, it would be about–
  Close to 300.  That’s alot of fucking money for riding in cars with pizza.

  Contrast that with today.  Tuesday, it rained.  In the olden days, I would have driven my ass off and been pissed and wet all night long.  I worked from 530 to midnight, and took 10 deliveries.  Ten.  Ten fucking runs.  That’s about one and a half per hour.  I didn’t even get wet enough to bitch about it–and I have a low threshhold, as you might have guessed.  The reality is, I took six of them in the last three hours.  Ten runs, 30 bucks.  Three bucks a run.  This is not a normal night, not really.  But I was disgusted.  The last three mother fucking runs stiffed me.
  One of them was to a dorm.  I called on my cell when I get there.  "Yeah."  "Hello, this is Bryan from Domino’s Pizza."  "Uhn.  Oh.  Ah."  Click.  I wait about ten minutes, wondering if I should call again or just leave.  Or–
  Two young dudes at a table in the common area where I am waiting offer to buy them from me.  I said, "I already made the call.  It’d be awkward when they show up."
  Finally, the thug appears.  The total is 20.50.  Perhaps he misunderstood; he gave me 20.55.  I’m in no mood.  I hand him a nickel back.  I said, "Here.  You’re not doing me any favors."  Like most things in his life, he didn’t understand this.
  I thought he was gone, but it turns out he was still in the common room, but almost to the door when I said to the other dudes, "If you would have tipped me, I would have sold them to you."  They understood from my tone that the other assclown didn’t tip me.
  He may have heard me.  All eyes turned to him, because I just called him out.  Like I give a shit.  You better tip when it’s fucking raining, assholes.

As We Wind On Down The Road

March 16, 2008 at 1:17 AM | Posted in Journal | 2 Comments
  Friday and Saturday were probably the most perfect couple of days I’ve had in a while.  Perfect enough to be scary.  Perfect enough that you wonder when the other show is going to drop.  Perfect enough to make you a careful driver.  

  Saturday Detroit and I got up early because the last thing I said before I went to bed was "I love you."  The second-to-the-last thing I said was, "Breakfast."  We went out for breakfast, and then went for a drive.  It was a perfect overcast day, calm and cool with the scent of coming rain and Spring loomed on the horizon.  We drove.
  We ended up in Illinois.  I took her a way she had never been, and I hadn’t been in years:  we drove north, across the river, and into Alton.  It was a whim.  I wanted to be able to spot Fast Eddie’s.  Fast Eddie’s Bon-Aire is rated on many scales as the Best Bar In America.  Couldn’t find it, of course–but I know it’s there.  I didn’t look real hard.  We drove around Alton a bit.  There are actually three Altons:  Alton we were in, and then there is East Alton, white trash capital of the USA.  In Missouri, on the odd stretch of often flooded bottom-land where the Missouri and Mississippi rivers meet is a place called West Alton.  Population 536.  That may be an exaggeration, but most of them were at the Dirt Cheap where I stopped for smokes.
  Plus, since we’ve been having a string of luck, I bought some lottery tickets.  If any day is my day, this is it.
  So we drove around Alton a bit, enjoying (if you can call it that) the sights (if you can call them that).  Alton is hilly and rustic.  It…personified, Alton is San Fransisco’s bastard third cousin with syphilis.
  After tooling around Alton, we headed north on The River Road.  And it is right on the river.  The Mississippi River is quite impressive in spots, and this is one of them.  There was an overcast sky and a bit of haze in the air, making the far shore–over a mile away–seem majestic and mysterious.  To our right, the river.  To our left, massive rock cliffs going straight up, about a hundred feet, on average.  It was a nice day for a drive.  Further up the road, we came upon a few tiny towns and villages, and they were architectural throwbacks to a bygone era. 
  Does that sound right?  I’m just trying to say there were some old buildings.  Turn of the (last) century types, things like that.  Also alot of shanties and crap that didn’t belong there.  A few villages that appeared to thrive on the tourist trade, with antique shops and so forth.  Tiny diners with a view of the river.  Awesome.  Up further still, and we came to Pere Marquette.  Lodge, camp grounds, and state park.
  In my former life with my ex, we had been by it a few times, and had talked of staying there but never did.  Now, I’m glad I didn’t.  I decided to pull in and check the place out personally.
  It was incredible.  Detroit and I stopped at the front desk, said we were thinking about staying some time, could we look around.  "Sure!"  The Lodge is a a massive building of stone and large wood timbers, like a country castle.  It was beautiful, elegant, and spacious.  A couple of restaurants within, and a large, large lounge area.  In the lounge there was a chess set.  On the floor.  Because it was about 20 feet by 20 feet.  Two men were playing, standing on the board and picking up the pieces (the size of toddlers through first graders) and moving them.  Very cool.  In addition to the main lodge, there were also some outer cabins/lodges that looked to have about three suites per in them.  You know what?  I just realized this!  We should have asked to see a room!  Shit!  Where’s the web site?
  After that, we got some information from them and drove home.  It was a nice morning drive, a little jaunt.  Detroit was very happy.  It’s the kind of thing we like to do, and doing it together–what a wonderful, special time.
http://pmlodge.net/
http://www.greatriverroad.com/Pere/PereIndex.htm

The Return Of The Storm

March 14, 2008 at 9:50 PM | Posted in Journal | Leave a comment
  It all began with an ominous phone call.  One that I made.  I brought this horror upon myself, and upon the others with whom I work.  I did it.  It was I.  I alone am to blame.
  Pressure from Bunny to get this refi done on my house led to the phone call.  I needed her to sign a quit claim deed.  In turn, I would sign one for her on her house.
  "No."
  The ensuing conversation was fruitless, but she agreed to "think about it."  Never mind that it was part of the divorce decree.  Never mind it was something I had to do in order to not lose my house.  Never mind any of that–she thought I was trying to "pull something."
  Yes, what little of my hair is left I want to pull out after talking to her.
  Later, she calls back.  Okay, she’ll sign.  She had to talk to some of "her own" people, because she couldn’t trust anyone where I work at–even though I work at a bank…in the mortgage division…that even in these hard lending times our business is booming because we are the best in the business.  (And that’s not just me bragging.  I work at a small local bank that does more mortgages in the metro STL area than ANYONE.  And we don’t do sub-prime.)  Because it was where I worked, we were not to be trusted.
  Initially, she stood by her line that she didn’t need to sign a quit claim deed.  Her divorce attorney said all she would need is the divorce decree.  I said, "Does your lawyer work for a mortgage company?  Then she doesn’t know what she’s talking about.  We don’t practice law here.  She shouldn’t try to be a mortgage expert." 
  But I don’t blame the lawyer; it was just her way of getting The Storm off her back when she asked questions, and in a very vague and general sense it might be true, but not when you get down to the technical details of the mortgage and property.  Compound that with The Storm not understanding the context.
  So The Storm says she’ll be in after lunch, because she was taking half a day.  Originally I was trying to figure out how I could maneuver this.  She works near a branch of her bank; I could have mine notarized here and go down there and have hers notarized there so she wouldn’t have to come here.  Or I would drive 50 miles up to Troy on a Saturday morning and have it done at one of the banks there, and possibly have to pay.
  This worked out the best possible way for me, her coming here.  She rolls in–and maybe it’s just me–but an aura of negativity just flows with her like a fuckin cape.  She’s a superhero (or villian).  And that’s why I call her The Storm.  I go grab the first person who says "I am." when I say "Who’s a notary?"  I work in a bank–it’s kind of like asking, "Who’s drunk?" in a bar.  Abby comes over to the front counter.  I have two docs:  one is for me to sign, quitting on her house.  The other is for her to sign, quitting on my house.
  Right away, The Storm notices a mistake.  "It’s ‘Drive,’ not ‘Lane,’ referring to her address on the doc.  Abby says, "I can get that fixed."  I said, "I made them.  I have them saved in Word.  I can reprint real quick."  I come back with the new ones, and she has a problem with the wording.
  I know she was looking, really looking for something.  But on each doc it says:
  "To have and to hold the same, together with all rights and appurtenances to the same belonging, unto the party of the second part, and to the heirs and assigns of such party forever."
  I see that now, and realize she was fucked in the head for what she thought she read.  She thought it meant her, and her heirs–meaning the kids–giving up all rights to ownership in my house.  She didn’t want to do that.  They should have the right, or claim on the house at some point in the future.
 I explained that, first of all, ALL quit claim deeds were worded this way, and secondly, the kids were still MY heirs–or have you forgotten that, you bitch?
  I didn’t say that, of course. 
  As I look at it now, what it actually means is the heirs of the person who gets the house gets dibs on it.  Dipshit.
  But Abby left when The Storm got loud with the discussion, and when it was finally resolved, I retrieved her.  So Abby (and my friend Serena and another girl) was there to hear The Storm call me a moron under her breath.  This in addition to other disparaging remarks and general ignorant attitude.  But she signed.  I got her copies of them, and said I would pay to have them recorded– ("Damn right you’ll pay!" she says)– and then give hers to her when they come back.
  She said, "We need to talk.  Outside."  I handed the paper work to Serena, because I feared at this point The Storm getting pissed and ripping them out of my hand and tearing them up.  No, she’s not above doing that.  I go outside.
  The Storm gives me a mini-lecture about how the kids still hate me.  Really?  because I thought they were talking to me–  Then she says, "You know, I’ve been being nice to you for the sake of the kids.  But I want you to know:  I hate your fucking guts."
  I wanted to bust out laughing.  It was hard to control.  My smile got bigger and bigger as she walked away.  "Don’t look at me with that smile, asshole.  Someday, the gloves are coming off."
  All I could think of was, "Wow, I put up with that cunt for 19 years."
 

Happy Anniversary

March 12, 2008 at 7:15 PM | Posted in Journal | 1 Comment
  Today is, or would have been, my 20th wedding anniversary.  A few years ago, I was hoping to be on a cruise right about now.  I was prepared to be all introspective and everything, but it’s hard to muster sometimes.  In fact, I got nothing.  Other than what it’s done to my kids–and they’re doing okay, finally–I have no regrets.  
  Initially I wrote a long meandering piece.  Luckily, I got that out of my system.  Today is just another day.  A good day–I’m expecting good weather this afternoon. Sunny and 69 degrees.  I told Detroit I want to sit on the patio, smoke a cigar, and drink a couple of beers. 
  It’s also a countdown to Friday, a day I’ve been looking forward to.  I normally work at Domino’s, but I asked off a few weeks ago in anticipation of this event.  Steak And A Blowjob Day.  There is some controversy as to what day it is, the 14th or the 20th; however, since the 14th is the first one I heard of, and they have a nice website, we’re going with that one.
  Detroit, bless her heart, was surprised to find out it was an actual "day."  She thought it was something *I* made up….and she was willing to go along with it.  What a wonderful woman.
  This may have a lot to do with the fact that this day as an anniversary doesn’t mean much to me.  Detroit makes everything better–and not just the sex.  Geez, you perverts.  I myself am looking forward to it, because it’s been awhile since we’ve gone out for steak.
  Nonetheless, I did have some thoughts after I got done with my emotional high-colonic.

  Life is never what you expect.  It is what it is.
  Your life will never again be what it was.  It always changes.
  The greatest mystery you will encounter is how your life unfolds before you.

Bright Lights, Big City

March 12, 2008 at 1:17 AM | Posted in Journal | 2 Comments
    We plopped down in our seats, cold and exhausted, but excited and happily anticipating the night’s entertainment.  
  Once our seat were secured (the rule is, you have to sit in them for a minimum of two minutes, then place an article of clothes on them, AND THEN leave someone there to guard them–this secures ownership rights), I went to the bar to get a drink.  Detroit said she was still too cold.  I got a drink and sat down, and reflected on the evening.  We don’t get to go out much; this was special and fun.
  The show had first been announced back in 07.  I wanted to go but knew we couldn’t afford it.  Then, briefly I had the money–and the show was sold out.  A week later they added a second show.  And we had no money.
  Eventually the stars aligned; Detroit got her income tax refund.  Among other things, she purchased tickets for us for the show.  "Canadian Mist Presents The Bob and Tom Comedy All Stars."  At The Pageant, one of the best places in St Louis–and in the country–to see a show.  I’ve actually seen several concerts here.
  Still, it was close to being sold out when we got the tickets.  SRO–standing room only–was our catch.  The Pageant is in The Loop here in St Louis.  The Loop is a short section of Delmar, running from U-City (sorry–for those of youse out-of-towners, that’s "University City") into The City (St Louis).  It’s called The Loop because there used to be a streetcar turn-around there.  I believe it was named, "Desire."
  There are a few websites, if you’re interested.
http://www.ucityloop.com/
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Delmar_Loop
  The Loop was named one of the "Top Ten Streets In America."  This might have been a long time ago.  It would still be in the running for "Busiest Street In America" though; at 9 pm on a cold, cold Saturday night, nary a park spot was to be seen, and the strip was lit up with both the businesses nestled side by side and the cars sitting bumper to bumper.
  An observation my friend Bunny made was that The Loop used to be cool, hip, and trendy.  Vintage Vinyl is probably the last bastion of that era, and what was next to it used to be a head shop.  Now I think it’s a check cashing place or something.  Vintage Vinyl is famous for being the place to find used CDs and records (On vinyl; hence the name), with people that knew their shit.
  I have to say, though, that Music Reunion (formerly CD Reunion, which in turn was formerly Record Reunion) is way hipper than VV without even trying.  Cliff runs Music Reunion.  It’s not in the CWE (Central West End) so it’s not perceived as being cool; that’s fine with me.  Keep your goddamn manicured yuppie hands off of it.  Cliff knows every track on every album ever made.  I’ve known him for over ten years, and when he sees me he gets a blank look on his face because he can’t remember my name.  But he remembers what CDs I bought.
  Back to The Loop.  Like all things, it used to be cool, now it’s commercialized.  What the place needs is one of those vintage-look McDonald’s.  Actually, what the place needs is more parking.  There are still lots of great clubs and restaurants in the Loop, some odd, kitschy type places, some random street artwork.
  We drove up and down twice, then drove down a side street, and finally ended up parking in the original parking spot that we passed up as being too far away.  It was called, ironically, "Hobson’s Parking Lot."  Then we walked.  Apparently 22 degrees is seen by some as "bitterly cold."  It was brisk, I’ll give you that.
  We finally settled on a Mexican restaurant, El Maguay.  I think this is a chain, actually.  But we go in, and it is. . . .quaint.  We have our choice of four or five tables.  The two servers, one male and one female, were stereotypical hispanic.  The girl was cute, and she had some back.  The guy was full of machismo.  The decor was gaudy as hell.
  Detroit surmised that this place might be a gay hangout.  I said, "Not so much ‘this place’ as ‘the entire Loop.’"  To prove my point, the oddest character I saw that night came in.  He looked like a cartoonish Mos Def (as if Mos isn’t cartoonish enough), so let’s call him Mos Def. 
  Mos Def comes strolling in quickly, making sure to "make an entrance."  He has a huge fake diamond in his nose piercing.  He was adorned with other jewelry and assorted things that might be described as "flair."  He creatively flips his hat off, and it lands with style on the table as he whips around so that his coat could snap as he twirled and sat down.
  He seemed to be having a conversation with himself…or whomever else may occupy his brain cavity.  The Mexican dude came over to wipe the table off, and Mos Def quickly snatched his hat out of the way.  He laughed to himself possibly.  Detroit may have made eye contact, which I felt was a mistake.  But he leaves abruptly, flourishing his coat as he goes.  But he’s not gone yet.  There is a table by the window, a party of eight, and through the glass he stops and stares at them, trying to get their attention.  He raps on the glass, points, and waves.  Finally someone notices him, so he mouths something cryptic and leaves. 
  It was entertaining as hell.
  We leave, and begin our long walk in the cold back to the Pageant.  Detroit stopped and got under some cover to block the wind for a few minutes.  We watched as someone in a very large truck parallel parked in a spot that we didn’t think he could get in.  But he did, he did it perfectly.  We applauded him when he got out.
  Then we continued.
  There is a line that started that someone working in The Pageant seemed to have arbitrarily placed outside.  About 12 feet from the door, was a free standing heater–that,by the way, was NOT on–was marking the beginning of the line.  It was about 40 minutes before the doors would open, and the line was about 6 people deep. 
  We get in line.  From what I understand it was cold.  I’m pretty much oblivious to it; hell, I was comfortable.  Everyone was freezing and shivering and bundled up.  I did close my jacket.  At 930 the doors were supposed to open, but they didn’t.  There was almost a riot.  About 940, the doors open, and we scurry in.  We didn’t have reserved seating, but since we rolled in first, we quickly grabbed a couple of stools near the bar.
  We plopped down in our seats, cold and exhausted, but excited and happily anticipating the night’s entertainment.  

TRON

March 8, 2008 at 5:55 PM | Posted in Personal | 1 Comment
  I can’t really complain about this…without making me sound stupid.  But since that’s never stopped me before–

  I just got my own domain.  http://www.oldestgenxer.com is bought and paid for.  I own a little piece of the internet, although I feel more like a member of the Borg Collective.
  The problem is my knowledge. or LACK THEREOF.  To my great shame, I have to admit that I have a computer degree, but it’s in computer networking.  Plus, it’s only an associate’s degree.  And, while I did get straight A’s in it, it was from 01 to 06 when I graduated.  Plus, alot of stuff I didn’t pay attention to.  I kind of coasted my way to an A by not knowing the material, but knowing the system.
  How did I coast my way to an A?  Well, geez, it’s pretty simple:  I’m really fucking smart.
  Computer knowledge is so specialized now, too.  Most people don’t even GET that there are different aspects, much less comprehend what they are.  "I’m a programmer."  "Really?  Can you fix my computer?"  "No."  "But you’re a computer guy–"
  It’s like asking a gynecologist to perform heart surgery.  "But you’re a doctor."  "Yeah.  But I’m not a surgeon, one.  And my specialty lies in a different area."  "Really?  What is it?"  "Spread your legs and I’ll show you."
  I’ve heard of the concepts and I get the general idea, but the specifics of it are beyond me.
  So I buy the domain and the web space and what-have-you, and I’m ready to go.  I get on there….and I really have no frame of reference.  I make a call and I get started, and suddenly, I have a web page.  For a couple of days.  I still don’t know what I want, exactly, but the idea is starting to form.  And the more the idea forms, the more I realize that what I have isn’t what I want.  While trying to fix it and move it, I accidentally delete it.  Clean slate.  Kind of.
  Believe me when I say I’m skipping over alot of the boring details.  I had shit on there, I thought I made it go away, but much like wiping your ass, I guess–it ain’t clean till you lick it.  I thought it was ready to reload, but I got errors which indicated to me the equivalent of sloppy seconds:  I was trying to put new shit on top of old shit and it didn’t like it.
  At least I’ve had time to take some notes and think and plan what it is that I want.  I can’t believe how easily I get frustrated, and it’s in large part I know to my ADD.  I’m smart and I understand everything so well, that when I come across something complicated, I can’t slow down and comprehend it, so I get lost in it and get pissed.  Stupid brain.
  But this is something that I want to do, a section of knowledge that I want to gain, so I’m going to learn how to do this.  In the same way I learned how to build a computer, I can learn this.  I can.  This is going to be an education for me.  It’s going to be painful.

THE BIG PLAN

  So, this is what I want to do:  I want to have a website where the main page is a portal that links to all of my various interests and works.  Being the renaissance man that I am, I’ll have a pages for my different writing styles, my comedy, my cartoon strip, and all the various other shit.  I’m going to have a blog-like page (probably wordpress) where I will have all the good articles and writing that I do.  I’m going to have links to the several forums that I’m a part of.
  And I’m going to keep this blog.  This one has been with me from the beginning.  This is where I started.  I changed the name, and I’m going to change the look to reflect what it’s purpose is:  The down and dirty real true story, unedited.  This way I can have my professional website, and my professional blog for my writing profession, and still keep this one as kind of a backstage area.  It’ll be special, like a gimp in the basement.

  So that’s the plan.  All I have to do know is build the fucking site without killing anyone.

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