Sing A Song Of Sixpence

February 26, 2010 at 10:15 PM | Posted in Riding In Cars With Pizza | Leave a comment
  I’m able to read some of the people at The Three Jakes a little better now.  Brian, the manager, for instance.  I realize now that he is a decent guy, and a mellow guy.  If you’ve made it to the point he has in the company then you have some miles on you in the beaten down arena.  He wants to do right by the company, and by his people.  Managing is a hard lot in life.
  I got a call from Brian on my cell phone, actually Wednesday evening about 515.  That’s an odd time for a phone call, unless they are wondering why I’m not there–I thought, as I very carefully didn’t call back right away.  I’ll tell you why I’m not there–normally, I’m not scheduled on Wednesday.  I didn’t notice the call until Thursday morning, when I listened to the voicemail.  Sure enough, I was supposed to be there.  After lunch I gave him a call.
  I explained my bad–normally I don’t work Wednesday–just the one time to be off for my birthday–so I didn’t even look.
  So he apologized for his bad as well.  And they covered it, so we were good.  He’s always very calm.  He reminds me of the type who keep it bottled up, and then when they blow, they really blow.  I hope he doesn’t have a gun or a machete…or a frog gig.
  I was later walking back and forth from the freezer, pulling bread out.  I heard snippets of conversation he was having with Jessica, as he was trying to wrap up and get out of there.  I don’t know who he was talking about, but he said, "–but the guy’s work ethic just drives me crazy."
  First of all, when you say something like that, you need to mean it.  And to mean it, you have to show some emotion.  Brian said it like he was ordering a cheeseburger.
  He’s laid back, but likable.  He took an interest in the radio thing that I never adequately explained to him, and the other day he said, "I have a joke for you–some material you can use."  Terrific.  We comics love stuff like this.  Like when your brother in law the car salesman tells you something interesting about how to perform brain surgery, because that’s what you do.  But he told me this thing, and it was amusing.  Done, but amusing.  He said he was in the store the other day moving his head to to the music, and he realized, "That’s when you’re getting old, when you dance to the music in the store."  I had to rephrase it to something usable.  "When you hear Black Sabbath as elevator music, something has gone horribly wrong…"  But at least we had a bonding moment.  I don’t remember exactly, but I’m sure that’s in "The One Minute Manager" also.

  I don’t have Stockholm Syndrome or anything; my loyalty is very shallow.  I am still only looking out for myself, and I’m not going to do anything stupid.  
  Stupid like what TJ did–after Tony quit (and then talked to the district manager and got a job back not as a manager but as a regular daytime slob) we needed someone to babysit the store between 5pm and 9pm on Monday and Tuesday, and TJ agreed to do it that one first time…
  And now it’s his gig.
  Anyway, I told him that originally I was jealous, because why didn’t they ask me, I have management experience, blah blah blah.  But I got over it quickly.  First of all I’m a driver.  They aren’t going to give me more money–I don’t think they give him more–and I don’t want to be in charge of this anal retentive shaved armpit.
  I more or less told him that I would try to not make his life too difficult, and that was really the best I could do.  I meant it, and he seemed to appreciate it, and yet–
  Thursday before Brian left, he did his follow-up on everything.  There are always little details and notes and so forth about hundreds of little things, which is one of the many reasons I want no part of it.  If all my ADD medication did was make me keep track of ridiculous stuff like that, I wouldn’t take it.  Brian came to me and had one of those "one-minute manager" sessions with me.  TJ had come to him and told him that he had asked me to do something–maybe out in the customer area–and I said I’ll just do the dishes.  This was seen by him as defiance of his shaky authority.
  I’ll have to take his word for it, because I don’t remember.  And I don’t hold it against him–he has to deal with it.  He doesn’t like doing the job to begin with, he sure doesn’t want to deal with an asshole like me not respecting him.
  Brian reminded me than when TJ is running the shift he is in charge–the usual conversation.  I told him I sure didn’t mean to–I don’t remember the context.  But I’ll be a good boy from now on.
  But I wonder–what *was* the context?  I can think of a couple of different things:  I might not have heard him (highly likely), or he wanted me to do something that involves bending over and I try to avoid those jobs (also highly likely), or maybe he phrased it as a suggestion or something less than authoritative.
  Or…petty as it sounds, was it retaliation for my interruption, when he told Marissa to break down the line?  I said, "Hey, it’s up to you, but generally they break down this other one, and go with that one.  I’m just telling you what I saw."
  He seemed to accept my observation at the time, but now I wonder.  Oh well.  It doesn’t matter that much to me, so I can easily apologize for it because I don’t have a real vested interest in it.

  It was a slow night.  Thursdays I usually make some coin, but it wasn’t happening this time.  Tuesday I had worked with Jessica, Will and Darnell.  Those two tried to outdo each other in who could do the least important thing on the bitch list, leaving me to do most of it–and I’m the goddamn driver.  I didn’t work that hard, though, because I noticed Jessica wasn’t, either.  She wasn’t scheduled; she was covering because Brian had scheduled TJ and TJ couldn’t be there…something Brian does because he doesn’t look at our availability.
  Which is funny–he’s done this several times to me, and a few times to other people.  If it was on the bitch list, he would get it right:
___ 118.  Verify that everyone is scheduled to work only on days they are available to work.
  I’m sure the DM has discussions with him about other items–and I bet that it is only items on the bitch list because they are a largely unimaginative lot.
  So Jessica was just kind of hanging out.  She sliced some meat, and that was about it.
  Around 9pm, Steve showed up.  Driver Steve.  I wasn’t expecting him until 11ish–but that’s okay.  This wasn’t the regular driver Steve anyway.  This was young Steve with the pony tail who works during the day.  Now he is our late night closer.  Why?  Because the first Steve got fired.  Did I mention anything about an incident last week involving alcohol?  Maybe not because it didn’t involve or concern me.  Nonetheless, Steve is gone.
  We had a good deal worked out, Steve and I.  He worked another job and didn’t get out of there until 1030 or 11pm, which means that instead of 9, I would "get to" stay until 11 or 1130.  More hours, more deliveries, more cash for me.  Of course the downside is that on those nights I wouldn’t get home until midnight, and get to bed around 1am.  The next day I come into the bank a little later than 630, which means I have to stay later in the day.
  So the new Steve comes and explains everything.  I get to leave.  Oh.  Well, okay.  I run the idea by him of me staying later on some days, and while he seemed to be okay with the idea, we didn’t nail anything down.  He actually lets me take two more deliveries before he starts driving, and that put me up to 20 bucks on this pathetic night.
  I get my money together, Jessica runs my slip, and I count out.  I owe 85.06.  Okay.  I know I don’t have any coin change.  Still, I count out 85, and it leaves me with a 20.  I said–joking–"And I’m not giving you six cents."  Ha ha ha.  She laughed too, as she counted the money.  Then she said, "So, do you have the six cents then?"
  "Yeah.  Or a dollar?" With that, she dug out 94 cents in change.
  You want me to break a twenty for 6 cents?  My eyes hurt a little; they had been rolling a lot lately.  I said, "Hold on."  I went out to my car.  In my bag I found some change.  I had two–make that three–quarters.  But they were clean and shiny, and that didn’t match my mood.  I looked in the little cubby under the ashtray, and there was a dime in there.  Dirty, sticky, covered in ash, and it had a piece of paper stuck to it.  Perfect.
  I went back in the store, and noticed Jessica was back at the slicer.  I didn’t slam it, I just laid the dime down by the register, and turned to walk out.  If I stay, I’m going to say something.  I don’t want to say anything.  She went to the register to finish the transaction, and by the time she got there, I was gone. 


Slouching Towards Soulard

February 24, 2010 at 8:32 PM | Posted in Journal | 1 Comment
  I’m fairly certain that Detroit wants to kill me and take the insurance money and use it to buy a house down in the city.

  Saturday was my birfday, and Sunday we went out to eat.  We had made  reservations and we were both excited about going to this new place that wasn’t exactly new.  Not by a long shot.
  I work at The Three Jakes in the Soulard area.  If you know anything about the history of St Louis and what is in that part of town, you should be familiar with this.  If you have an appreciation of beer, you should be familiar with this.  Also, if you are a student of the paranormal, you should be familiar with this as well.
  Let me give it to you in brief, and you can look it up on your own if you like.  Before Prohibition–a tremendous example of the progressive idea of state controlling behavior–there were more breweries in St Louis than you could shake a stick at.  Afterwards, many of them folded and disappeared.  One such was the Lemp brewery, maker of Lemp Beer. 
  The brewery and the family mansion are in St Louis, south of Soulard, and directly south of the world-famous Anheiser-Busch brewery.  The Lemp mansion is also famous as one of the most haunted places in the Midwest, I think.  Several family suicides and other violent acts have taken place there.
  The Mansion is now a restaurant and bed and breakfast and catering facility, but they do paranormal tours as well.
  On Sunday, they have an all-you-can-eat chicken dinner served "Family Style." 
  It was a cold, rainy day, and we went down there a little early, because I wanted to give Detroit a tour of the area.  Just as an incidental, as we passed by I said, "Oh, yeah–there’s The Three Jakes," where I work.  We didn’t stop.  There is so much more that is so interesting and cool to see.  We drove up and down streets, oohing and ahhing at the architecture.  If I was smarter and more learned, I would know what the style is.  Many of the buildings are over a 100 years old.
  There were some single houses, but mostly two-and four-family flats.  Some very big houses.  In the Soulard area everything has been redeveloped, rehabbed, and rebuilt.  The areas to the south and the west you can see the encroachment coming, like the reverse of an infection–whatever is spreading is making it better.
  We saw houses for sale, empty buildings, and potential.  Detroit said several times, "I want to live here.  I want to move here.  I want, I want.  Me-me-me."  Geez.
  The closed Lemp brewery was an impressively large complex.  It looked like someone was trying to develop it into a business park/small industrial/office space/storage. 
  I drove her down Lafayette, and showed her a large building.  At the very top, engraved in large letters, it said, "City Hospital."  In the past, it was.   It was part of Malcolm Bliss, which had been a mental hospital.  Or, in the parlance of the times in which it had been built, a lunatic asylum.  If not a house, I would love to have an apartment there, just so I could say I lived at the mental hospital.
  Either that, or a church.
  Several churches had been closed as heathens moved in, and many have been converted for other uses.  One was a catering and banquet hall in the middle of Soulard.  I saw a couple of them for sale.  I’d totally buy one, and start my own church.  Besides having a big, kick-ass place to live with high ceilings, I could use part of it as a garage.  Parking is a premium in the city.  I tell you what–in the last month and half, I have gotten so much better at parallel parking.  By this summer, I’m going to be a world champion expert.  If it was an event in the Olympics…
  But I’ve always wanted to own a church.  Especially a big brick or stone one–So cool.  And if I went ahead and started a religion, all the better.  In my short-lived stand up career, I wanted to have fans and groupies.  If I have a church, they are called acolytes.  No taxes, collect from your followers, and have sex with them.  Tell me what could be better–Seriously.  All I need is charisma (which I have) and that book "Starting a Cult for Dummies"–A.K.A Dianetics.
  By then it’s time to head to the Lemp Mansion for our reservation.  It’s for three pm, and we get there at 230.  They go ahead and seat us.  It’s very nice.  High ceilings are standard–people 150 years ago must have been tall.  The wait staff are all dressed very formally, making me feel as though I were under-dressed.  Should I have worn pants?  I mean, dress pants, as opposed to jeans?  We checked our coats–another sign that it was too fancy for me.
  We were served family style, just Detroit and I.  We had plates–real China–with cloth napkins.  I never knew quite what to do with mine.  We had a cloth tablecloth as well.  The server brought out a tray, and placed on our table…let’s see…A plate of chicken, with the four standard pieces; a small plate of roast beef, a small plate of ham with pineapple, a cup of gravy, a bowl of mashed potatoes, a bowl of corn, a bowl of German-style green beans, a bowl of dirty rice, a bowl of cole slaw, and bowl of some odd mixed vegetables.  I made out a piece of pepper and a slice of cucumber possibly on the top.  Oh, and a small bowl of fried cinnamon apples.  Am I forgetting anything?  Oh, yeah–rolls with honey butter.
   Everything that I had was so good.  I can’t remember ever having anything this good, ever.  The best meal, period.  I remember my favorite steak place–which I won’t mention by name–and the first time I went there.  I got a little angry.  Why the hell is this so good, and why the fuck haven’t I been here before?
  With the Lemp it was the same surprise, but a different emotion.  I was giddy.  It was so good I was laughing in disbelief.  How come this is so good?  The chicken was hot and moist, and tender and tasty–just like a college girl.  The other meat was really good too.  Ham–I’m pretty picky about my ham.  The shit was good.  Lean and tender, with a good flavor.  The pineapple didn’t overpower it.
  The gravy for the potatoes was phenomenal.  But I never tasted anything like the green beans.  German style?  I don’t know what that means.  They were in a kind of brown gravy.  I don’t usually do seconds on vegetables, but these were the best.  I didn’t have any Cole slaw because I don’t *do* Cole slaw.  I don’t have anything against people that like Cole slaw–I feel it’s a personal choice.  However, I don’t believe you are born liking Cole slaw.  People can change.  They can learn to like Cole slaw.  Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
  It’s just not for me. 
  Neither, too, for me were the odd mixed vegetables or the rice.  Or the apples.  It just looked like lumpy applesauce.  It smelled good, and I almost tried it.  But not quite.  Everything else I ate, and I ate a lot of it.  If it had been just a meal with this, it would have been worth the price.  But all you can eat?  I stuffed myself, as did Detroit.  Of course, it took more to stuff me.  They brought out more roast beef and more chicken.  I so wanted more mashed potatoes and more green beans, but I couldn’t make myself do it.
  While eating, Detroit again said, "I want to live here."
  I said, "You can’t live here; it’s a restaurant.  Besides, it’s haunted."
  And then we had desert.
  Detroit loved hers; she had carrot cake, her favorite.  I selected a slice of chocolate cake, and I wasn’t as impressed.  It wasn’t made there–I could tell it was processed, pre-made, frozen, and shipped.  Still not bad, but not hand-made.  Still, everything else was fabulous.
  After dinner, we went to the gift shop.  It was small and hard to get away from the lady running it.  Let me just look around for crap’s sake.  I’m not married to you, so I don’t have to listen to you.  But she did say–go ahead and look around–the basement and all three floors.  Wow.  Okay.  This was the famous haunted Lemp Mansion, after all.
  Maybe it was just the power of suggestion, but in the basement, I felt like I was being followed around briefly.  We went to the second floor, and saw some of the rooms.  These are rooms you can actually stay in.  That is something I’d kind of like to do.
  The third floor was odd.  We went to the far end room, and I had an odd feeling in the doorway.  Detroit went in walked around, and walked out quickly.  She said, "I didn’t like it in there."  I get that.  It was a little weird.  I had a dream-like, reality-bending experience, ever so slightly in there.
  Finally we left.  We cruised up and down a few more streets in the rain.  I wish I had the words to accurately describe the sense and feel of the neighborhood, as well as the look.
  I thought everyone lived in the suburbs before this.  It turns out that regular, normal people live in the city.  Not as many with school-age kids, however, and that makes sense.  The city schools are for shit.  We have a local weekly newspaper here, the RFT–the Riverfront Times.  Although I enjoy reading it, much of it never seemed to really apply to me, because it was so city-centric.  But now I see the appeal, and the draw.  In my sleepy little suburb, people go to work, go to the store, go to the drive-thru, and go home.  A portion of them go to their child’s sports activities.  By nine or ten pm, it’s roll up the sidewalk time. 
  At least in the city, people stay out later.  They stay up longer, and *do* stuff.  Like till eleven o’clock.
  There’s just an air of bustle, of *happening* in the city. People live in suburbs to get away from the bustle, from the noise.  The houses sit back from the street, there is space between the houses, and fences in the backyard where you can lounge in quiet in your own private Idaho.
  In the city, the houses are about two feet apart.  There’s no front yard–you can walk by on the sidewalk and see in.  There’s very little backyard, and they are connected by alleys–by definition a second, back-door way to gain entry.  In the city, it seems you can be more connected to people.  You can know more people, have more friends, more acquaintances.  Know your local grocer and other business people.
  It used to seem to me to be a scary place, but then again I come from the country, where you seldom have line of sight on another house, much less another person.  Now I see it for what it wants to be–what it once was:  A community, a place of gathering for friends and neighbors.  A place of familiarity and comfort.  An eclectic place where different people can do their own thing, and be considered cool for doing it.  A place where you can lean out your front window–or side window, or back window–and talk to someone.  A place where there are always interesting people around.
  Knowing all of this, I wonder:  does Detroit *really* want to live here?  She really doesn’t like people all that much.

  Speaking of people who don’t like people, I talked with my friend Serena this morning.  She and her man-meat have been looking at houses.  She wants to live in the Ferguson-Cool Valley area, which is definitely more dangerous than living in the city.  She had looked at some city places, but her conclusion (which I agree with) is that the *idea* is more appealing than the reality.
  But although I noticed this before, when we analyzed it and I was able to put this conclusion into words, it was a bit shocking to me:  In the area of the city that I work in–Soulard–I have not seen any children.  None.  Zip.  Zero.  Zilch.  Nada.  In the outer areas I have seen less than half a dozen.  In Soulard proper there were none whatsoever, unless you count the overgrown and socially underdeveloped man-children bunking with two others exactly like him in a coldwater shotgun flat decorated with beer posters and pizza boxes.  

  *An Actual conversation I saw between roommates*
Dude1:  Dude!  Asshole!  You order food?
Dude2:  I’m taking a shit, hold on!
Dude1:  (stomps up the steps, throws a beer can at the door) Food’s here, dickhead!
Dude2:  (muffled exclamation)  Fucker!
Dude1:  (comes back down stairs, he crosses to me) He’ll be right down.  Sorry, dude, my roommate’s an asshole.
I wait.  In a minute, enter Dude2, who I couldn’t distinguish from Dude1, except for the clothes:  Different team jersey.
Dude2:  Sorry about that, dude.  My roommate’s an asshole.  Here you go.

  I wanted to explain to them, that *I’m* not the Dude–
  But in addition to being an up-and-coming gay neighborhood, it seems to home to repressed homosexuals in denial as well.
  Be that as it may–the area is replete with yuppies, guppies, and hipsters (oh, my!) all without children.  The young straight couples will move out when they have kid; the suburbs beckon to the fertile uterus like a Siren’s Song. 
  But the whole thing reminded me eerily of the story I wrote:  "Whatever Happened to Mesopotamia?"  I actually rewrote the story and submitted it to a writing contest.  (I didn’t win, of course–maybe I’ll re-post it here in it’s new, improved form.)  One theme of the story was a societal death wish, a collective unconscious desire to end the species.  It manifested itself first in the people when they no longer had any children– 
  This has given me a different perspective of the place I work and secretly lust after.  I now remember that when I envision the town in the story, it was much like the neighborhood in Soulard.  Hell, the movie version of the story could be filmed there.
  All manner and variety of people, brought together with one thing in common:  they have no children.  Either old people, whose children have grown, or young people, who very carefully haven’t had any yet.  Or the gays, who never will. 

  Christ, I go on and on.  But I’m wrapping it up here, I swear.  Detroit once again made me self-conscious about how long my writing is.  But at least I stay on one topic (more or less) per essay.  And it’s my journal, and I’ll drag on if I want to.
  So.  The question I now have, after the analysis is this:

  Detroit’ children are grown (in the legal definition) and mine are almost so; in any event mine live with their mother.  Do we now not fit in the suburbs?  Do we now belong in the childless world of hip urban living?  Or does staying here make us more hip and eclectic by not following the crowd?

Math Quiz

February 18, 2010 at 2:58 PM | Posted in Riding In Cars With Pizza | Leave a comment
  The Soulard area is pretty good for tips, for the most part.  However, we have some projects on the north side of the area, and they discovered us.  Fuck.  You just know, when you go there, that it’s for free. 
  Some drivers that we have–a couple of them are brothers–are actually a little leery about going in there, like they’re going to get violated.  I’m supposed to be the scared white guy from the suburbs–what’s their deal?
  Maybe it’s because I’ve worked in places that are actually dangerous. but this phaseth me not.  Of course I’m still careful.  I watch where I’m going, I look around before I get in the car, I don’t go down dark, secluded walkways.  I’m cautious.  Being robbed will do that to you.
  Except the other night, I did go down a dark, secluded walkway.  This is not the story, this is the pre-story.  I had this run, the last run of the night.  I took the order, and the address was already in the system.  2213 A 9th Street, or something like that.  Apartment A–remember that.  Directions on it said, "through the gate, to the back, upstairs."  I know the routine.
  I get there, and 2213 is in the front.  Next to the classic brick structure is an alley, little more than two feet wide.  It’s dark.  What the hell.  I enter, and after a few feet, a motion light comes on and lights my way.  Nice.  I get to the back, and start up the rickety steps.  Another light comes on.  Cool.  But now I can see the steps, and these are not…they just seem flimsy, okay?  They give a little more than I’m comfortable with.  But I make my way up.  Knock, no answer, wait.  Repeat.  Repeat *again.*  Fuck.  It seemed like a simple run, so I didn’t bring my phone with me.  I have to go down the steps–which isn’t easy for an old fat guy–get my phone, call them, and very possibly go back up the steps again.
  I get back down and get my phone, and I’m about to walk back through the alley when the guy answers.  "Oh, my bad, dude.  I’m downstairs with my buddies playing–" and he mumbled something I didn’t understand and didn’t give a shit about.
  "Okay.  I’m at your front door then."  He gave me three bucks, which was my average for the night.  Not bad, I guess.  But a little something extra for the huffing and puffing and pain in my knees going up and down the steps in the cold–that would have been nice.

  Earlier in the evening, I was on the phone to Detroit while on a delivery.  I had my bluetoof in cause dat’s how I roll, y’all.  I had a double, and I went to the one that I knew would tip better first, because the second one was in the projects.  I kept talking to her, except when I was at the door.  This way, she could hear that all the stories I tell I am not making up.  They are real.  All…too…real…
  I get to the projects, and I’m driving low–I had unplugged the cartop light from the cigarette lighter before I got there because the last thing I want to do is encourage them.  I find the door to their apartment, talking to Detroit the whole time, and then hears me knock on the door.  She hears *everything.*
  Noise in the house gets quiet, then there is an odd shuffling and a bang, like something closing.
  "Whoisit!" I just barely hear it, so I ignore it.
  Footsteps pad to the door.  The blinds on the window rustle, and then I can feel I’m being stared at through the peephole.  "Whoisit!" the voice demands again.  Besides the fact that you called just recently and ordered some food–I’m wearing a Three Jakes official logo hat and a Three Jakes official logo shirt, and carrying a bag with the Three Jakes official logo on it.  Whom the fuck do you think it is?
  I sigh.  Quietly, I respond.  "Did you order some food?"  Quietly, because I want to make them work for it.  In case you forgot, I’m a dick.
  I heard a voice inside ask the other voice, "Whoisit?" and they responded, "It looks like a Chinese man."  I guess we do all look alike to them.
  The woman opens the door.  She weighs a good deuce, deuce-and-a-half, and the bottom is squeezed into purple spandez, so there is more squirting out the top.  Her top is process blue with some black flake in it, and when she reaches for the bag I notice that her nails match her top.  She is snapping gum as she speaks to me.
  It’s a credit card, and I explain what to do as I hand her the pen.  She says, "Oh, if I wanna put a tip on er, I just fillet out right her?" 
  The total was 7.04, and it only took her three tries to get the math right and add a dollar as a tip.  No, I’m not shitting.  She scribbled and crossed out on the thing a couple of times.  She said, "Can I just scratch this out and redo it?"
  The things I do for a buck.  Christ.

Slap Me Around For Focus

February 18, 2010 at 2:54 PM | Posted in Personal | Leave a comment
  I learned a couple of new words the other day.  One is "polymath." The others are didactic (and autodidactic), and dilettante, and junto.  Oh, and generalist.
  I would like to be considered a polymath, but truthfully I may be little more than a dilettante.  I aspire to at least the middle ground–am I a generalist, at least?
  I am fairly knowledgeable on a wide range of subjects, and most of that is auto-didactic.  Or at least–not learned in school.  What fields or skills do I have, what interests do I maintain, what things have I done that I can list as polymathic?
  Let’s start with writer.  Writer, poet, comic.  Cartoonist, too.  Now radio personality and producer.  Sure, why not?  What else you got?  Inventor?  I’ve thought of a few things.  Self-taught on the carpentry, I know that.  Of course, most of these are self-taught, so I have an equal skill in most of them.
  If I’m a carpenter then I’m also a mechanic.  I actually went to school for computers, so put down computer tech as well.  Cook?  Sure.  Not a chef by any means, but definitely a cook.
  Anything I’ve built as a carpenter I designed first.  Designer and architect.  How about my driving skills, and ability to get around?  What would you call that?  Hmmm.  I can read a map.  Cartography analyst, professional driver.
  Oh, let’s put down martial artist as well.  I have awesome nunchuk skills, and a blue belt in tae kwon do, so very long ago.  What other jobs have I had?
  Forklift driver.  I worked on a farm.  But I’m getting away from the brainy-type stuff here.  Leo (Da Vinci, not Dicaprio) had solid skills in intellectual areas.
  Let’s add mathematician.  I like math, I’ve had more math than a large percentage of the planet–Up to Engineering Calc III–and I like math.
  Likewise I’m a fan of science and history.  Can I truthfully call myself a historian, or a scientist?  What does it take to be a scientist?  Not much, apparently, if Al Gore considers himself one.  Do I have to write or create an original piece of work in the study of history to be a historian?  It is my aim to do that.  Does that count?  I’m not a published writer but I’m still a writer.
  I think alot about these things and others–does that make me a philosopher?  Aren’t we all…philosophers?
  The Junto of which I spake previously is the one Ben Franklin started.  The more I read of him, the more I am impressed.  Junto was a group, a club he started.  When he was only 21, he drew together learned friends and acquaintances, and selected a choice few to be a part of this think tank.  This brain-trust.  They gathered and discussed high moral and ethical issues, and the politics of the day, and other weighty issues. 
  I’d like to start a Junto, or be involved in one.  I wonder what I would have to add to the discussion?  Any thing of value?  I’ve read about Mensa groups, and they are full of brainiacs from a diverse background–perhaps that’s what it is like.  I know I’m smart enough to join, I just have to find my proof.
  Although I’m not a real specialist in any of these fields, generalist are important, too.  I read about the idea in a science fiction book written in the 50s, so it must be true.  Basically, the idea is this:  as a specialist, you have such a narrow range of study and knowledge that something that might be obliquely related to your field you will most likely miss because it isn’t right in front of you.  A generalist can look at a wide variety of topics and information and see relationships between them that would normally be missed.  From there, new avenues of study and discovery can be created.
  I’ve wanted to pursue all these things for some time, but have always been too distracted.  On one hand I know–I KNOW–that some of the great thinkers of the past, like Franklin, like Da Vinci–had ADD.  But also…man, they found a way to harness it, and work it to their advantage.
  That’s the difference between a polymath and a dilettante. 

The Belly Of The Beast

February 18, 2010 at 2:52 PM | Posted in Riding In Cars With Pizza | Leave a comment
Tags: , , ,
Mardis Gras did indeed suck, as foretold in the prophecy.  However, it sucked in ways I had not foreseen–life is full of surprises.
On a side note–and something I’ll explore in more detail later–the radio show has yet to materialize.  Saturday I should have gone to the studio to work on the show, but my laptop stopped.  Stopped what, you ask?  Stopped everything.  No power to the machine at all.  It is now a large, unergonomic paperweight.
I need the laptop to access the deep fried gold that is my material for the show.  Without it, I’m shooting from the hip, unedited and unprepared.  No one wants that.  So we postponed the show for the week.  We’re still waiting on a theme song anyway.  More–much more on all this–later. 

I had been looking for a way to get out of going in to The Three Jakes on Saturday, the night of the Mardis Gras celebration.  Mardis Gras is a BFD here in St Louis.  But, since I had telegraphed these moves earlier in the week, I couldn’t legitimately beg off work without attention being called.  So, I went in.
On the drive in, several things weighed on my mind, the most pressing of which was my lapsed car insurance.  This is supposed to be crowded as Hell, with drunks all over the place, and I really did not want to be driving around in this.  I just know I’m going to hit some pedestrians, and I simply don’t have *time* to dispose of all those bodies.
As soon as I got off the highway, right at the edge of the neighborhood, there were crowds of people in the street.  The parade started about one pm I guess, and it was over about 3 or 4.  Now it was five, and people were beginning to leave.  It was a nice day for February in St Louis–clear and cool, almost 40 degrees.
Many of the streets were blocked off.  The main drag, Broadway, was one of  them.  The Three Jakes sits right on Broadway, in the middle of the closed off section.  Other side streets in the neighborhood had concrete barriers in place.  The streets were lined with large industrial dumpsters and portable toilets.
I had hoped to get out of delivering in this mess, and I got my wish.  I followed the re-directed traffic around the block and back behind the street the store sits on.  I couldn’t get in the parking lot–but not because it was full.  We had cars of employees parked strategically to block all entrances.  I called the store from where I sat in the street, and Brian came out and moved so I could get in.  Thereafter, I blocked the way, and whenever someone wanted to leave or get in, they came and got me.  This was better than the manager moving every time–he needed to be in there.
Inside the store was much like outside, except louder.  The Three Jakes always has music playing, and today it was loud, and we had a store full of people.  We were having our own fucking after-party here.  Once in, I saw we had several people from other stores there, but not all of our people there.  What the hell?
We had both lines going, which is something I don’t see at night but is common during the day.  We had a person on each register, and each one covered a make line.  Then there was two and sometimes three people on each line.  There’s really no room for any more than that, and all the third person can do is make unhelpful comments and wrap sammiches.  Then there is a runner–the person between the register and the line who calls out to the line what they need, and gives it to the valued drunken-ass customer.
All positions are taken.  Brian had put me on a register, but then I had to go back and forth and move my car, so he gave it to someone else.  I hope there’s no cash shortage that comes back on me–
I told Steve and Jared–and Will–to go ahead and deliver around me.  Those guys were all on bikes.  Jared also had his SUV for longer runs that he could get to by driving.  I stayed inside.  I grabbed a position as a runner, but Matt–the fucking district manager or supervisor, or whatever the fuck you want to call him–kept coming in, doing my job, then walking away and taking care of something else.  Then he would come back, and jump in my way again.  What the fuck, mother-fucker?
But they needed someone like me, who can back and fill and anticipate what’s going to happen.  I could roll into place, and back out quickly and go do something else.  When a driver hit the road, I grabbed that spot on the line, and then moved back to running when they came back.
Brian sent me up to the downtown store for bread.  We bake our own, fresh daily–and we had bread proofing in racks all over the place.  Someone moves into my spot to block it as I leave.  When I get there, I see that the store is closed.  The downtown store only opened during the week, and it closes early–before 8 pm I think.  The director of operations for the franchise is there, alone, baking bread and slicing meat for us.  I load up what he has and head back.
The lobby–the customer area–is just constantly full of drunk people.  Lots of hot chicks, too, so that’s nice.  I leaned over to Cameron, a young black dude on the line, and said, “What would it take to get one of these chicks to lift her shirt?  If we got one to do it, it would be like a wave, and they all would.”  He agreed–but we never got it started.
When I first got there, various employees were “guarding” the hallway to the bathrooms–no entry.  I thought it was just because of all the drunken ass-clowns, but we actually had a plumbing problem.  In a little while, a hired security guard showed up, and his only job was to keep people away from the plumbing.  All manner of drunks tried various drunken logic to gain access to the bathrooms.  They wanted to complain to the manager.  They wanted to call the police.  They thought we were being unfair.  Can’t you just make an exception for my girlfriend?
One self-important asshole–after he had talked to Brian and lodged his complaint, talked to me because Brian walked away.  He said, “I’m an architect with the city planning office in Chicago.  Just tell your manager that I called the zoning commission and lodged a complaint because you’re supposed to have working restrooms.”
I shrugged.  At this point, I had been dealing with drunks for about 3 hours non-stop.  “Whatever, Paco.  This is St Louis.”
“Well I have friends and connections here.”
“Go use their bathroom, then.”  I turned and walked away from him.
Whenever I went out to move my car for an employee (or a couple of times, for random people that had somehow gotten past the barricades and into our lot) I would pull my car out of half of the driveway, and the other half was blocked by a big red pickup that was backed sideways into the spot, backed almost against the building in the lot next to us.  Every time I went out there, there was always several people squeezed between the truck and the building.  Peeing.
Terrific.  I’m glad I didn’t have my car there.  It looked like no one peed on my Mercedes–yet another reason I didn’t want to take any deliveries.  We did let employees go to the bathroom, which was nice.  About 9 or so I finally went.  The place was trashed.  The mirror was missing–a preemptive measure to keep it from being broken.  One of our cutesy little signs in the bathroom was broken off and stolen.
Long about 1030, I decided it would be safe to hit the road.  The streets were starting to clear.  City ordinance states that–on this day–all businesses that serve alcohol must close by 8 or 9 pm, or something like that.  Most restaurants would as well.  We were the last hold out, it seemed.  But we were getting delivery orders, and the boys on bikes were doing them.  Really, we were just blocks away from most of them.  I started taking deliveries, and the ones I took were far from the party zone.  I had to go way down and around, or way up and through and around to get through the closed off streets.
The streets.  Have you ever lived in a two-bedroom apartment and had a small dinner party, and then 150 people showed up?  Imagine that multiplied by several square miles.  The streets looked like the apocalypse, and as proof you could still see the occasional walking dead.  Work crews were busy moving barricades and stacking fence pieces in the aftermath.   The street cleaners were out in force, dodging the drunks.  Cabs prowled the streets looking for blood, and showed me places that I didn’t realize I could go yet.  More than once, I had to turn around and backtrack, finding the way at the end of a maze blocked by porta-potties and barricades.
Originally, was scheduled until midnight, like most of us.  I think it was because they thought we were going to have to close early, like everyone else.  As it turned out, we didn’t have to, so we could stay open till 4 am.  Yay.  But wait–“Bryan with your nose so bright, won’t you stay and close tonight?”
Well, fuck me.  Both Brian and Matt asked me to close–“we don’t have anyone else.”  What about Steve, who always does?  Or Jared?  Where was Darnell, the fucker?  But this was my chance.  I said, “Listen, on my day job this is a three-day weekend, and you have me scheduled ALL THREE DAYS.  If you can get me off either Sunday or Monday, I’m in.  I’ll close.”
Matt the supervisor, showing supervisorial-take-charge initiative, said, “Done!”  Okay.  We had a deal.
Except, we really didn’t have a deal.
I accepted the deal with good faith, thinking that I can still make some money tonight and then have one day off.  I had started driving about 1030.  About 1130 I came back from a run and noticed some water on the floor by the ice machine.  I said, “Hey, what’s up with the water?”  No answer.  I leave on another run and come back, and there is more water there.  I’m not asking again.  The Three Jakes has a shown me a track record of lapsed communication: It’s just not important to them.  Whatever.  I take another run.
By the time I come back, it’s 1230.  The doors are locked, the customers are gone from the lobby.  One more delivery–but no drive-thru.  The delivery is a time order for 130 am.  Now, they are forced to communicate with me, and explain what the fuck.  What, exactly, *is* the fuck?
“Bryan, can you call these people and ask them if we can deliver that now instead of 130?  Thanks.”
“Okay.  What should I tell them?”  No answer.  Fuck this is frustrating.  Am I supposed to assume something?  Under normal circumstances I suppose I could, but since nobody does anything here in a reasonable, logical manner, there is nothing upon which to base a supposition.  Finally, out of someone–not a manager–I find out that because of the plumbing issue–the sewer is backing up and coming up through the drain in the floor–we are closing early.  Well, thank you very much.  Would it kill you to explain yourself for fucking once?
I delivered the one last sammich, and whoever was left worked on closing.  I’ve never closed here, and even though I am a veteran of thousands of closes at other places, I had no idea where to start or what to expect.  I asked Brian, “Well, what should I start on first?”
“Just go by the bitch list.”  Fine, you want the bitch list?  I’ll give you the fucking bitch list.  There’s water all over the goddamn floor that we have to work around, you’re wandering around in a fucking daze because The Three Jakes thinks sleep is optional for its managers, there’s five or six of us here to close and only two of them have done it.  Some things need to be done a certain way, or in a certain order.  Some things can be done efficiently…or not.  There’s shit that needs to be directed, action that needs to be taken, and orders that need to be given.  Someone needs to MOTHER FUCKING TAKE GODDAMN CHARGE OF THIS RIDICULOUS SHIT AND ACT LIKE A GODDAMN FUCKING SHIT MANAGER FOR FUCK’S SAKE.  *Tell us what to do!*–It’s on the bitch list.
Fuck it.  I grabbed the sink, started doing the dishes.
Finally, we get out of there about a quarter till 2, and we didn’t touch the floor.  Shitto-Rooter is coming, so why bother–they can clean that up in the morning.
We were busy that night.  So busy that of course no one got their mandatory break.  After 4 and half hours, you HAVE to take a break.  And you get a free sammich, chips, and a pop.  Personally, I prefer a soda, but that’s what we have–pop.  I got White Castle on the way home.  Let’s see–home at 230, in bed before 330 after eating and having some wind-down time.
I set my alarm for 11 am, but woke up before that.  But I began to wonder–am I getting off one of these days, or not?  I know we had a deal…but deals were made to be broken.  I didn’t stay till 4, even though I was prepared to.  I wonder who would be in today?  Chances are, not Brian.  Chances are, not Matt.  Chances are, whomever I had a deal with would not answer the phone.
Oh, and today is Valentine’s Day.  Of course.  Luckily, Detroit got her flowers Friday, so I didn’t have to do anything.  She gave me a crappy little variety box of chocolates probably filled with mayonnaise, hot dog water and saur kraut for all I know.  I’m not trying them.  I’m not a hero.  Maybe I’m just having a bad day, and this isn’t helping.  She mentioned something about pizza–and it never happened.  I had to get something to eat on the way to work, otherwise I wouldn’t have eaten all day.  Am I bitching?  Yes I am.
I got ready to leave for work Sunday.  Earlier, I went to the store and bought some mac and cheese to cook for my lunch, since no one else is interested in lunch at all.  Then I took a nap, got up, and got ready.  I opened the door to leave–
It’s snowing.  My shoulders slumped, much like my soul did at that point.  What else?  What else are you gonna do to me?  Fuck.  I drove to work.  The highway was backed up in various places from accidents in this freshly-fallen and soft downey blanket of fluffy white crap.
Behinder and behinder I’m getting, and it looks like I’m going to be late.  I have two conflicting yet related thoughts.  The first was should I have called to see if a miracle happened and my replacement was found?  Should I call to let them know I’m going to be late?  The second thought was a passive-aggressive stubbornness:  The Three Jakes has laid the framework for being poor communicators.  They are teaching me by example.  I’m not calling.  Let them call me.
By now I’m close to 20 minutes late, and still no call.  This makes me wonder if I’m working after all…
No, I’m working.  I almost thought I was going home.  But Jared had been there all day (six hours?) and was mistakenly scheduled to close.  Meanwhile I’m scheduled 5 to 9, and Steve is 9 to close.  Two drivers?  Sure.  It’s Valentine’s Day.  They let Jared go home.  At least Steve showed at 9 instead of 11–it’s going to be one of those two, always.  He gets out of his other job late when he works it.  I remember when I started, Brian asked if I was cool with that, and I am.  First of all, it’s a few more hours and generally more money, but also, as I told him, “I’m good with it, because I’m going to need the same consideration.”  For being late or whatever.
Brian was there, briefly, on Sunday, then he left.  I should have brought it up to him then, but he left quickly.  Monday, I thought to be more proactive.  I called about four pm, and Brian answered.  How about that?  “I just wanted to make sure I was working,” I said.  “I know we had a deal for me to be off either yesterday or today, but I didn’t think you did anything about it.”
He hemmed and backtracked and rationalized for me, telling me that since I didn’t stay until four, he didn’t see the need to do it.  And besides, now, at this point, he’d have to try to find somebody.
“That’s what I figured.”
I just went in to work.  I knew I was working late tonight–Steve was in about 1130.  As long as I don’t do it every night.  Nine pm some nights, and eleven on others.  Oh, crap.  I just remembered that I agreed to work on Wednesday in exchange for getting Saturday off for my birthday.  So I’m on every night this week until Friday.
Brian didn’t say anything when I first got there, but he did say something eventually.  “Can you stay until 10 tomorrow night?  Darnell’s going to be late?”  I agreed without thinking about it.

China Town

February 12, 2010 at 10:04 PM | Posted in Riding In Cars With Pizza | Leave a comment
  There’s so much excitement going on at The Three Jakes that I cannah hardly stand it.  We’ve been open now for what–five or six weeks?  It doesn’t seem that long, because of all the fun I’ve had.
The manager I’ve worked with the most is Tony.  Tony is your typical angry young guy working in food.  He is unhappy and bitching most of the time.  I should say way, because he quit, except I’m sure his bitching hasn’t stopped.
He talked about quitting quite a lot.  On one hand, he was a bit lazy and liked to piss and moan about his raw deal.  On the other hand, he really did have a raw deal, and anyone in management on salary does also.  He was nominally an assistant,  but salary.  That means on paper 55 hours a week.  But they want you to go the extra mile because The Three Jakes is the best and everyone needs to have gung ho squirting from their ass, so consider that 55 a starting point to the 65 or 70 hours you are actually going to work.
I’ve done it before, too, so I feel for them.  Hell, between two jobs now I work about 60.  But doing it on one job–for salary–is bullshit.  I had an epiphany the other day that I couldn’t have had when I was doing it because I was too close, I guess.  But as an impartial observer, I know why corporate bosses in all manner of food service want their managers to work so many hours.
It’s not for the bullshit reasons they give, either.  Oh, sure, it’s important to put in “face time” in your store.  Management is all about being there, because management is largely babysitting.  Anyone who says otherwise is completely ignorant or a fucking liar, or both.
And babysitting doesn’t pay much, either.  Two bucks an hour?  And since you’re already there, why not stay?  This way, instead of paying three people for forty hours, they can pay two people for 40 hours, and get 60 hours out of them.  How’s that for efficiency?  You get sucked in by the money, because the money is not bad–for 40 hours.  Five hundred a week?  Not a fortune, but for someone with little education and less ambition, it’s not bad.  For 60 hours, however, that is less than minimum wage.
So the reasons for salary are obviously to save money, and to make you spend more time in the store.  But the epiphany I had revealed something more subtle–and more sinister:  they want you to work all those hours so that you don’t have time to look for another job.  Basically, they trap you.
Even if you do have any time off, your life is structured so that you are too tired to do anything, and won’t be able to get up early enough to make it too an interview.
That’s how they get you, brother.  That’s how they get you.  God, do I not want to do that again.
And here at The Three Jakes, where everyone is happy all the time or else, the managers work some insane hours.  I would never agree to this shit, so if for some reason I do, I need one of you to come over here and slap the living shit out of me.  How about 5 am to 5pm?  How aout 5pm to 5am?  On some days, it might be 3pm to 3 am, when they close early.
There is other ridiculous crap as well.  There is a bunch of paper, a list of shit–prepared everyday.  Let’s call it the bitch list.  So all this stuff has to be done on the bitch list for each shift, and there is some special stuff every day.  It is all encompassing, covering prep, money counting, paperwork, and clean up.  And this, in a nutshell, is what’s wrong with The Three Jakes and any other food service organization that operates by a list like this:  What about actual managing?
The bitch list is the final word, and so there is no wiggle room for decision making or adjusting to circumstances, or thinking.  The bitch list is an excuse–a tool for upper management to use–to dock the managers on their “bonus.”  And when you say it, you have to put your hand in the air and make air quotes when you say “bonus.”
For example, on a recent inspection (which I’m sure had some sort of bullshit corporate pseudonym, like “development and education opportunity” or BOSWCFU–“Bend Over So We Can Fuck You”) everything was executed correctly–which I guess means we killed everyone properly?–but the bitch list was found lacking.  Initials and signatures which are required in 116 places were only found in 113 places.  That’s enough to severely cut the bonus to the managers.  Where does that money go?  Back to upper management.  A cynical person might think upper management would grade in an overly harsh manner to improve their own bonus…but I’m not the cynical type, am I?
And even through all of this, you’re supposed to be deliriously happy to be working at The Three Jakes, and they want “buy-in.”  They want you to believe.  Like a group of fucking Muslim extremists, it’s not enough that *they* believe, everyone else has to also.  The Three Jakes is the best.  Do things The Three Jakes way.  Following The Three Jakes Policy will remedy this situation, no matter what it is.  The Three Jakes serves the finest food to the luckiest people in the world and cures cancer and gives hand jobs while doing it.
One problem I have with the bitch list is that, while it allows for everything to be executed perfectly (lined up and shot between the eyes, I hope), there is the next day’s bitch list, and part of the job on there is to go back to yesterday’s shift and find three things that could have been done better.  And this is mandatory.  The manager MUST find three things.  And then there are essay questions on the bitch list:  “What can be done in the future to make this better?”  How about, not be such an anal-retentive prick?
What if the store is brand-goddamn-spankin-new, opened for two days, and there is hardly any business because no one knows we’re here yet.  We hired a bucketful of assholes, and they tripping over each other looking for things to do, and there are extra managers all over, looking for things to have them do.  And the place is so clean you could eat off a turd dropped on the floor.  What then?
Doesn’t matter.  You still have to find three things that could be done better.
I manage to avoid much of this, partly because I’m a driver, and partly because I don’t have all of this foodservice experience for nothing.  I know how to avoid shit.  If someone needs something, I help them out.  I do my few things but I don’t sign off on them.  The manager can do that crap.  Why don’t I?  Stubborness.  Also, I saw Tony once get ridden up and down for crossing something off the list first, and then going to do it.  He was stopped in mid-stride, and Brian the manager said, hey, that’s marked off but not done.  Tony said, “I just marked it off, I’m doing it right now.”
That’s now how it works.  Do it first, then mark it off.  And it was a serious enough infraction that it merited him being chewed out for it.
So I’m not initialing ANYTHING.
The money is still good, which is why I’m still there.  There are some projects north of us that just discovered us, so I do get the occasional stiff now and then, whereas before that was non-existent. I just unplug the cartop sign when I go there.  Why encourage them?  My sister told me that this neighborhood–the nicer part of it–is actually an up-and-coming gay neighborhood.
And that’s fine with me.  It’ll be cleaner, for one, and better decorated.  They’ll tip better, because for the most part they don’t have kids.  That also means no kids in the streets, but I still have to watch out for the occasional wandering homeless and the numerous  staggering drunks.
It should also be lower in crime, too, being a gay neighborhood.  I don’t worry to much about getting robbed but I still keep my eyes peeled, both out of habit and I’m wary of traveling bands of gang-bangers.  In a gay neighborhood, that means something else entirely.
And since this is a becoming a gay neighborhood, that means my suspicion are confirmed, and when I see two hot women together in an  apartment on a delivery, they are actually lesbians.  There’s nothing hotter than a lesbian taking 8 inches from me and putting it in her mouth–
Even if it is a tuna sammich.  So we just got a new assistant manager this week.  Is her name Jessica?  Yet another perky 20-something with big dreams and limitless potential that I feel like crushing.  She has a brand-spanking new bachelor’s degree in psychology.  I guess the obvious choice from there IS to go into restaurant management.
This weekend is the big thing in Soulard, the thing Soulard is famous for:  Mardis Gras.  The second biggest celebration in North America–after New Orleans, and the third biggest in the world.  I guess somewhere in Brazil is hella big.  I’ve never even been down here for it and now I have to work it.  Just a bit of foreshadowing here–this is gonna suck to high heaven.
It’s snowed here a bit.  I worked last night and I work tonight.  They don’t…they don’t plow the streets in the city.  Or salt.  Or anything.  I have a feeling they might wanna, what with Mardis happening in a couple of days.  God, is it going to suck.

That Movie Where The Guy Makes Your Head Explode With His Mind

February 12, 2010 at 10:02 PM | Posted in The Corporate World | Leave a comment
  Meanwhile, back at the day job…

  Round about the beginning of January, Barb came to me from the title company about a problem with my scanning.  It seems that the image was funky.  It’s hard to explain how and boring if I did, so just take my word for it.  It went back to about two weeks earlier, before Christmas, when it started to get bad.
  I tried a few things to adjust or improve the image.  There are controls both on the scanner and software driven.  I talked to Josh, and he tried…everything I had already done.  I talked to Erica, my boss, about calling GFI, the company that does our support.  I had to talk to her first because my scanner is one of the old Panasonics, and they are no longer covered by our service agreement. 
  Everyone else had newer scanners.  Joe, who scans all day, has a newer Ricoh.  Shipping has two Ricohs, which is more than enough for the four of them that use them.  But I’ve been here longer than all of them.  All I do is scan, and I have, essentially, the 86 Lebaron of scanners.
  Brian from GFI came out…a total of three times, I think.  He didn’t charge us for any of those times.  What we were going to do is take parts from one of the spare Panasonics and fix mine.  We have three Panasonics in storage to get parts from, as each one gave up the ghost but we were just to sentimental about them to get rid of them.  The Panasonics are so old–about 8 years old, I think–that no one supports them any more and there are definitely no more parts for them.
  I had to work this several different ways, and see where a solution was going to come from.  I needed a new scanner. I talked to Erica, who talked to Chris, her boss.  I talked to IT, and to Brian.  Brian wanted our IT department to fix it, and IT said, "We dunno."  So I managed to get Brian back in here to work on it–twice–before we admitted we were beating a dead horse.
  According to the tests, the scanner was fine.  It didn’t know it was doing anything wrong.  If it doesn’t know, it won’t know which part is bad.  Is it the lens, the camera, the CCD, or some other board?  It seems likely that it’s a board, and the boards are what burns out on these and the boards are what are gone from the spare scanners.
  Meanwhile, IT was looking at getting another scanner, but when they found out we were trying to fix this one, they stopped looking.  They’re expensive, and I’m just not worth it.  One of these things new costs about five grand.
  When we got the final word that mine was beyond repair, we had to begin again to look for one.  Craigslist was mentioned, and eBay.  I wondered what one went for on the black market.  Doug from IT did get me a temporary fix, though.  He increased the resolution of the scan, and that improved the image.   However–
  It slowed the scanner down–a lot–affecting my production.  And, the increased resolution meant that the image file was bigger, taking up more precious space on their servers.  They intend for this to be a temporary fix.
  Two weeks later…

  Two weeks later, I’m still using my old crappy scanner.  What happened to the new one?  I heard a variety of things, in passing, and I think I managed to put the story together.
  Panasonic is no longer in the scanner business.  Ricoh is getting out of it as well.  Fujitsu is in it now, though.  As much of a hassle as it is, it makes me wonder–are scanners the peripheral equivalent of the bipolar hot chick?  You think you want to be with her, but it just turns out to be too much of a hassle.  You dump her and go to counseling.  Meanwhile, your buddy heard all about the wild good times you had, and happens to be at the right place at the right time to "console" her.
  And then it happens to him.
  In the meantime, The people who make decisions finally conceded that, indeed, a decision needs to me made.  Word was out that GFI had a used scanner for sale.  Because nothing is too good for me, they placed a bid, I think.
  I didn’t hear anything until my scanner was declared unfixable.  Doug in IT said, "That scanner that we were going to get for you someone else bought.  But they don’t like it so they’re returning it.  We’ll be able to get it for you."
  Awesome.  Nothing says love like electronic sloppy seconds.  Or thirds, even, because it was used in the first place.  So, a few days later, it finally arrives.  In the meantime, this other guy named Brian was going to scan some stuff for me because I had gotten so behind because I was limping along with a shitty scanner.  he was using one of the shipping scanners whenever the shippers weren’t.  But–they had a great idea.  How about giving Brian MY old shitty scanner?  Awesome idea.  Just terrific.  Really.
  Luckily, Brian quit and didn’t come in Monday to find the scanner at his desk.
  But now I have a scanner–a decent one–and I can (theoretically) get some work done.

Mysteries Of The Unknown

February 5, 2010 at 10:09 PM | Posted in Riding In Cars With Pizza | Leave a comment
  What happened to Imo’s?  Yeah, what did happen to them?  I have a new perspective, since I just saw the movie “Up in the Air.”  I was downsized, a victim of reorganization.
The place got a new manager, for one.  Brad–the old manager–was in stage four burnout.  He reached stage 4, allegedly stole from the company, and got fired.  Enter the new guy.  Chris.  He seems like an okay guy from the scant few minutes I spent with him.  He’s not my BFF.
But I had just gotten a regular schedule from Brad, Wednesday and Friday.  And I work Monday-Tuesday-Thursday and Saturday at The Three Jakes.  That leaves Sunday as my one day off, and I was working 70 plus hours between the three jobs.  Was.
Chris had plenty o people on Friday.  It didn’t take much to talk myself into saying, “Hey, if you don’t need me, I could be off that night.”  So I was down to Wednesday.  In preparation for the live event we had a few weeks ago on a Thursday, I called the Big L and asked him if he could cover Wednesday for me.  He said sure ’nuff.  Cool.  That was the 20th, I believe.
I came in the next week–which was last week–and worked.  I was there about an hour and had taken a couple of deliveries when Brian the heroin addict says, “Hey, you know you aren’t even scheduled tonight.”
I looked, because he’s on heroine and generally not a reliable source of information.  Sure enough, no Bryan.  No Bubba, either.  No where on the schedule was my name listed.  Brian said that Chris thought I may have quit.  I had talked to the fucker personally about my schedule.  And I arranged my own substitute.  Nowhere in any of those actions was a demonstration of my desire to quit.
I took two runs that night, and although they tipped me, I still got all kinds of attitude from them.  My life must be soft, because the most confrontation I’ve had to deal with from anyone lately was these two different assholes, each one giving me shit for knocking on the door instead of ringing the doorbell.  If I had only known that it was my last night, I would have told them the truth.
“Why didn’t you ring the doorbell?”
“Why does it fucking matter, asswipe?  It won’t make you open the door any sooner.  Fuck you and your fucking doorbell.  Answer the goddamn door faster or I’m going to put my balls in your pizza next time.”
I missed a golden opportunity.
Oh well.  I cashed out.  Melissa is the cute young girl running the shift, and she is quitting for another job soon; she had already put in her notice.  Since I was only there an hour, I asked if she wanted me to give some of the money back–the bank they give me.  She said, “Keep it.  What do I care?  I’m leaving soon anyway.”
I wonder if I should feel bad about that…
So I took two deliveries, got a total of five bucks in tips.  Plus the five bucks in reimbursement.  Plus the 20 dollar bank she let me keep.  I made 30 bucks an hour…for one hour.
I won’t miss the customers.  Most of them are black and belligerent towards white people.  They don’t tip in bad weather, and they always want something for free.  And they drive like retard school just let out and that’s where they all came from–That’s in good weather.  In bad weather, they drive like it’s their first day on this fucking planet.
I won’t miss the bullshit in the store.  One driver taking as many runs as he can and fucking over the rest, and no one can say anything to him.  Whenever a driver shows up to work, the rest look at him like he’s leper.  “Do you just want to go home?” is the nicest thing you’ll hear.  Vultures, all of them.  The problem with anarchy is that the pay is erratic.
But I will miss the free pizza.

What’s The Frequency Kenneth?

February 5, 2010 at 10:01 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
  I had this idea for a show…

  The ideas have run together somewhat, and I’ve forgotten what I said and where and when I said it, if I said it at all.  So I hope I don’t repeat myself too much here, but some of the stories overlap.  My life is a complex tapestry of interwoven BS.
  So you know we have this radio show right?  For a long time it was in development…and technically it still is, until our first air date.
  This puppy is all mine, I guess.  But having other people involved helps keep me in line and keeps me focused and keeps me from losing sight of the goals.  I hope.
  I’ve done a lot of writing and planning and so forth for this, and occasionally I pause and wonder:  to what end?
  Well, we want to put this show on the air.  And by we I mean me and Suzan and Lou.  And by air I mean the Internet.  My concern, as someone who craves attention, is how do we know we have listeners?  How do we get listeners?  How does this turn into advertising revenue?
  We’ve recorded thus far three shows, and they get better every time.  The last one was even good enough to use.  However–
  We want to make a good first impression.  That’s why we did several takes of the first show.  Unlike on TV, we want to have a strong pilot.  Content-wise it was all there, and the production quality was up, as well as the broadcast quality and our chemistry.  But part of the whole experience is the theme music, used as an intro and as bumpers in and out of commercials or between segments.
  I know this is all very technical for you.
  When I was with the band in the Boot Heel, I casually mentioned that maybe they could do a theme for our show.  Okay.  Great idea, a death metal, in-your-face theme for a death-metal, in-your-face kind of talk show.  They said sure.
  But maybe I should have pressed.  If I had been smart and aggressive and motivated–instead of smart and lazy and non-confrontational–I would have pursued this when we were at the studio, writing the lyrics right there and getting them to rip the track then and there.
  But I didn’t.  And I mistook what Lou (our producer) said.  I thought he said he had something we could use.  As it turns out, he would have to create something.  SO either he takes a week or so to create something, or I give the band a week or so to create.
  And the problem stems from licensing issues, because we naively thought we could do what the pros do on the FM dial–use snippets of real songs.  We can’t.
  Even if you use a snippet, you still have to pay.  And they pay.  And it’s easy to figure out how much to pay on the air.  On the Internet radio, it’s a complex formula because they want to get every cent they can, the bastards.  And I had a theme song all picked out.
  I wanted to use "Beer for Breakfast," by the Replacements.
  That was my first choice, but the second choice was wide open, so why not use a real band and get something that I don’t need to pay for?  So now, the show is all ready to go but we don’t have a theme song.  Yet.  They’re working on it.  Drew the guitar player said that it could take anywhere from 2 two weeks to two months because he wants to "get it right."  Whatever.  I thought they would just jam, and record, then repeat.  Whatever sticks when it hits the wall is the theme.  Fucking artists and their "creative integrity" or whatever.  I cared about that at one time, when I could only create one thing every other month.
  Now I don’t even give a shit if someone steals from me, because I know I have plenty more where that came from–either my brain or my ass.

  So now, at least, we aren’t feeling rushed about creating for the show.  It gives us more time to learn and grow and share–or learn the radio business more, and do some production work while we wait for the the theme.  And when that is done, we will be ready to go.  I expect it in the next couple of weeks, so it may coincide with my birthday.  Yay.
  In the meantime, the website is up and I twitter all the time.  I recommend you check it out.  Right now.  Or else.
And follow us on twitter to increase your hipness:

Make That “Missourah”

February 2, 2010 at 11:17 PM | Posted in Journal | Leave a comment
  Right now I have four journal entries that I still need to right, and that’s just what I have planned; it doesn’t include other things that may come up or come to mind, and it doesn’t include stuff that may yet happen before I get to all of that.  The future is a fickle little bitch.  January was such a busy month that it’s spilling over into February.  I stil have to tell you about what’s going on at the bank (not interesting, but it’s still happening, so I have to talk about it) plus what’s happening at the pizza place, plus details about the radio show.
  After the live event at the Republicans For Boring Discussion meeting, I was going to drive down to southern Missouri–or Missourah–to check in with Alex and the boys because they got hooked up with a studio to record their demo CD.
  Friday about one pm I finally left, and got down there about 430.  Straight down interstate 55, so it was an easy drive.  I roll into town, and yes, it is a tiny, tiny town; population about 5k, give or take.  I never saw more than a few dozen people.
  Ah, small town America.  I found the studio, off the main drag one block in a small building set next to the street with a couple of businesses in it, like a hair salon and something else.  It was an older building that saw its prime during Andy Griffith’s day.  The entrance to the studio smelled like dog shit, because the dog had shit in there.  Beyond that tiny "office" was the rest of the setup:  the control room and the studio were evident, and to the right down the hall was the "guest suite."  Actually it was a long bedroom with about three beds thrown in it.  By the time I got there, the boys had it trashed.
  The boys–Alex is the singer.  Since this is Death Metal, I don’t really get that.  Mark is the drummer.  He’s pretty good.  He actually drums for two different bands.  Drew is the lead guitar player.  From what I saw, he’s really good.  Dalton is the bass player.  I never saw him work, but from what I took away, they were all serious about the process and professional in how they approached it.
  I had planned on getting a motel room, because I was not going to stay in that room with these clowns, and I’m too old to sleep on the floor.  Tony, the guy running the board, had a connection and got me a deal at a motel in town.  A very nice place called Patty’s.
  I hung around the studio for a while, trying to understand what what going on with the recording.  I was also spying–I was there for a purpose.  The purpose was, the boys felt they needed an adult to come down with them to observe and make sure that everything was legit, and make sure they didn’t sign anything or agree to anything that was stupid.
  And I took that function seriously, because I took off of work and drove my ass down there, I’m going to do it right so that I wouldn’t think afterward that I wasted my time.  I sat and observed, then took a walk around town.  First, however, I walked around the building.  I just wanted to–
  Okay, here are the issues:
  First, is this a legitimate studio?  They say they are affiliated with a big name producer.  Does he even exist?  If he does exist, is he affiliated with this dump?  The boys spent about a grand on this four days in the studio.  Are they getting their money’s worth?  And this young guy Tony, running the board–does he even know what he’s doing?
  Over the next several days I got my questions answered, all without me seeming like a spy, so don’t tell anyone.
  Yes, this big named producer does exist.  I looked the guy’s name up on the Internet, and saw several news stories showing what he had done and whom he had worked with.  Some impressive shit on that list.  And yes he is affiliated with them.  Not just because of the gold records on the wall–because I thought cynically that those could be faked–but because several people came by–including a local cop, asking if they guy was back in town yet.
  I don’t want to give his name because it would be embarrassing for it to show up in this article not believing the guy.  But you understand our concern, don’t you?  We hear about this studio on the Internet, down in the butt hole of Missouri, run by a famous guy.  Why?  Why is it there?  Well, that puts him closer to Nashville–it’s just a few hours away–and it’s his hometown and he had a dream.  Also, it gives bands a chance to get away from the big city life while they record.  Meh.  Okay.
  I finally the answers I needed, and that was good.  Tony, the young guy running the board, called a hotel and got me a deal, and I went to check it out and check in.  I came back and hung out briefly, and left about 9 pm.  The boys were working musician’s hours:  they got up about noon or later, and stayed up until 2 or three am working.  They had laid most of the drum tracks, but later would have to go back and redo one or two of them.  When I was there Drew was working on some of the guitar tracks.  Dalton had laid down his bass tracks for all five tracks in less than an hour.  Alex’s part would be last.
  I went back to the hotel and chilled.  "You wouldn’t, by chance, have a wireless Internet connect here, would you?"  Yes she did, and she gave me a card with the password.  I emailed Lou, because if we were going to try to do the show tomorrow with me Skyping in, I needed to know what I needed to download and install, right?  I worked on some material, but I didn’t have my heart in it because I wasn’t sure if we would even be doing it.  I thought that we could just kind of go over the live show material, if anything.
  I got up early, and knew I would have most of the day–ah, freedom.  First of all, I had four days off from all three jobs–that’s kind of like 7 days off of one job.  No fiancé telling me what to do, either.  I could sit around in my underwear and play on the computer…which is not much different from what I do at home.
  Except I couldn’t get on-line.  I talked to Patty, who had already helped me last night when I lost the room key and she gave me another.  That morning I found it, but I had no connection.  I brought my laptop to the office and got a connection.  She said, "We can put you in another room, closer to the router."  Fine by me.  I left my car parked where it was and walked down to the new room with my bags and my pillows.  The connection is good.
  Still no email from Lou, or call from either Lou or Suzan.  Hmmm.  Okay, maybe we aren’t doing the show after all.
  I get a call from Suzan about 2:15.  "Ready?" 
  "Ready for what?"
  Oh, this is going to be great.  Lou checks his email and says, "Oh."  But it’s really simple.  I download the thing and install it, and we try to do the show.  This was to be the first "real" show, and while it went better than the practice run, ultimately it was unairable.  Good thing we record and post later.
  After we did the show, I stayed on skype and we talked about it.  I wonder if Lou was having doubts about us actually being viable.  I know I was.  But he gave us some constructive criticism, and explained more how it ought to be.  He said, "I’m going to be your harshest critic."
  I snorted.  "Have you even *met* my ex wife?"
  But at least now I have something to go on.  That, and what he said just last week, when we finally got a good show.  He said to me, "You largely drive the content."
  Oh.  I realize that now, I guess.  So is the show really all about me?  Christ, could I be any more narcissistic?  Suzan is there for…let’s see.  First, she’s loud, and she laughs at everything I say.
  Secondly, I can bounce ideas off of her, and see what sticks.  So to speak.  Also, she has some political connections and things, and knows some people.  And, since she is newly single and has entered the dating scene, we get some mileage out of that material.
  Plus it was kinda her idea.  But she knows, too, that the material comes from me, like a fountain.  A fountain of humor that just soaks you and gets all in your eyes and covers your face and sticks in your hair and smears your glasses and makes you look like–
  Never mind what you look like.
  So I guess I need to thank them both, and offer them to you to blame, for giving me yet another avenue to share my gift with the world.  The gift of sarcasm.
  Later, I went back to the studio.  It’s hard to tell if progress is being made, but it is.  I get the chance to talk to Tony, because I’m curious about how a guy as young as he learned how to do this, and operate what is clearly over 50 grand worth of equipment.  Actually, after he told me about it, let’s move that up to 200 grand.
  He answered simply.  "I started when I was 12 running the board at my church when the other engineer quit," he said with his laid back Arkansas drawl.
  And I believe that, but other stuff he says I just can’t believe.  That had me worried at first, which is why I wanted verification on the owner and so forth.  Tony is a shit-talker.  You can’t bullshit a bullshitter, son.  Some of the stuff he said hurt my eyeballs, because they were trying to roll and I was trying to be polite and hold my poker face.
  But ultimately, the proof will be in the pudding.  In a couple of weeks, they get their demo.  After it is professionally engineered by the man himself, the man in question who owns the place.
  I had a brief chat with Alex in the kitchen.  He said Tony recommended that they go get a 15 thousand dollar loan so they can cut the entire album.  Really.  I knew some shit was up.  I said, "You need to get paid more than 6 bucks a show before you get a loan for 15k."  That was my sage counsel.  I also said, we need to get them on my sister’s radio show–I had just talked to her–and she also knows some booking people for to get shows to play.
  As an afterthought, I said I know a guy who does the metal show on a big station in St Louis.  KSHE does Monday Night Metal.  On Tuesday night, of course.  I know the guy–not well, and not personally, but I know him.  I’ll send him an email, see what he says.
  Mark had been in the other room, in the studio.  He had overheard, because he popped the door open and said, "You can be our new manager."
  So I can put that on my resume.
  They were making progress, so I let them be, and I headed back to the hotel.  I was going to be gone before they got up, so we made communication arrangement, and I left.

  Sunday morning.  Ah, the country.  It had been a good couple of days off.  I was working, in a sense, but not doing my usual thing.  It felt more like I was a producer than anything, and it felt cool.  I had time away from the jobs and did some new things, and visited a new place.
  All in all, I had a good time.

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