Three Blind Mice

October 26, 2010 at 9:02 PM | Posted in Riding In Cars With Pizza | Leave a comment
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I’d hate to think it was just me, and luckily, it’s not.
A week or so ago, Don came up to me.  “Can you do me a favor?  Can you tell me where this is?”
He needed my help finding something on the map?  But he’s been here longer than me.  Obviously, he recognized the skills that I–
Looking at the map, he continued, “I left my damn glasses at home, and I can’t see if that’s the street I need.”
Oh.  Okay, then.  I get closer to the map, peer in, then drop my glasses because these damn no-line bifocals are only good for telling me that I can’t see something.  Close in, the map is a rendered in beautiful detail.  From a distance of three feet, it might as well be a plate of spaghetti.
I confirmed for him that it was indeed the street he wanted.
It’s a Monday night, so it’s a little slow and it’s a bit quiet, the way us older folk like it.  Not as many people here, and the ones that are working are more subdued, more low-key.  Courtney, for one–Courtney is not here.  She’s a loud, brash, energetic, peppy, perky 17-year old.  We don’t need that.  Not on a Monday.
I grab my run and amble to the van.  The van is easier to get in and out of than the car was–no bending down, no climbing out.  I just grunt and slide right over.  Nice.  In the dark, clear evening, against the backdrop of glare from porch lights, streetlights, and passing cars, I can’t make out a street sign to save my life, much less a number on the house.  Well, I know I’m close.  That sign–I can’t read it, but it doesn’t look long enough to be “Reddington.”  Keep going.
I should have used my old trick that I use to make sure I can find a street that is directly off of a busy drag–counting.  If I expect traffic to be heavy and I don’t want to slow down every ten feet and try to read a sign, I just count on the map:  “Elm is one, two, three, four streets past this light at Hurst.  Four.  If I get to William I went too far.”  But this was the middle of a subdivision; normally it’s not a problem.
The next street up could be the street I need.  The stop sign is obscured by a tree–on purpose, I’m sure–and when I pull around to see the side of it I need, I find it glowing with the light of the streetlight making a perfect back light.
So of course I can’t read it.  As I sit awkwardly in the middle of an intersection in this subdivision, a car cruises past me.  They slow down to see me squinting and looking up at a tree, from their perspective.  I can’t read the sign, but I think I see an “R.”  And the sign is long enough that it’s either Reddington or Remington.  Either way, I’m close.
I roll down the street and catch sight of a house number.  Or part of one.  I see a “53” and then a line.  Probably a 537.  Okay, good, I’m close, because what I’m looking for is 3556, and that was probably 3537.  Down about four or five houses on the other side.  Of course, that house has no light and no number that I can see.  But the house just past it I catch sight of a six and something that could be zero–either an O or a zero or possibly the letter Q, or even the Greek letter theta would be close at this point.
Confidently, I walk to the door.
And I walk away with a five dollar tip.  I’ve heard that when one of your senses is diminished, the others improve.  We already know that I’m going deaf.  I can’t hear about 80% of anything–and the rest I just ignore.  Since I’ve become a smoker, I feel like my sense of taste and smell are covered in a fine gray soot.  And now the eyes–
The eyes have always been bad.  I’ve been near-sighted since puberty.  Growing older has actually helped, because you become far-sighted.  These two-counter-acting energies have balanced each other out, and my eyes have stopped getting worse.  I think.  Well, there’s no change in acuity, but I can’t focus like I used to.  The ol’ eyeballs used to be able to change and change back, focus and refocus again, instantly, in split second, adjusting it’s size to the needed task and then snapping back quickly, like a sorority girl’s vagina.
Now my eyes are more like an old woman’s vagina.  They’re dry all the time, for one thing.  And there is no “snapping back” quickly.  Imagine rubber band that’s not a rubber band any more.  It’s just a string.  Tied in a knot.  Bottom line: whether it’s an old woman’s vagina or my eyes, you can’t see shit with either one.
So what sense have I gained, then?  I feel an increase in my sense of irony, ironically.  But what gets me by when my other senses have failed me is my sense of direction (it’s a real sense) and my audacity.  And my instincts.  I don’t have any other explanation for it, but man, can I ever find my way around like a Jedi.  And I might as well be driving around with one of the helmets on like Luke did.

Back at the store, my eyes adjust to the harsh indirect fluorescent light.  I have trouble seeing my way around, but I can feel, and I can smell.  I smell…
I smell pizza.
Okay, it’s not that bad, really.  But this is the part of growing old that bugs me.  I don’t like to have to–I don’t want to just accept it.  I don’t want to acquiesce, dammit.  I’m 45 years old, and I still feel–up here, in my head–like a kid.  How can my body be getting old when my brain is still teenager?
I was distracted from my temporary dementia by The Dude.  “Hey, man, can you show me where this street is?  I’ve been there before but I keep forgetting…”

The Raven

October 4, 2010 at 6:39 PM | Posted in Riding In Cars With Pizza | Leave a comment
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I thought there was an underground railroad, for cars. If you get upside down on your loan and can’t pay it, and to keep the finance company from repossessing it, I thought you and your car could escape through the financial underground railroad and escape, and be free, and live forever in happiness, and freedom, and open roads. I thought there was a place you could go where you didn’t have to fear having your car taken from you in the middle of the night by The Men in Black. The Repo Men. The Raven…
I also thought that having a luxury car was supposed to be a joy, a thrill. A never-ending automotive orgasm where I furtively spurt 5W-20 motor oil as I take a hard right turn and say, “Wheeee!”
I reminded myself just the other day, when I was missing Nigel and wishing I had kept him–and I do wish that–that Nigel was getting a bit long in the tooth. He was getting older and had some miles on him. He was still quick and spry, but you could tell that when you weren’t looking, he was nursing his aching joints.
We put him out to pasture–quite unexpectedly, I think–and I miss him.
Having the Mercedes was exactly like having a love affair with a younger, exotic, foreign woman. At first–at first it is exciting and fulfilling: The the adventure, the night life, and the jealous glances of lesser men all added to the thrill of wrapping myself in this expensive, luxurious beauty.
But there is always a price to pay.
And often, that price is actually money. I have recounted my financial problems with the Mercedes–how I couldn’t even afford to pay the personal property tax on it to license it, for starters.
Even working on the car was like being with an exotic foreign woman. I didna understand the language she spake; and when I puzzled it out, I had a hard time relating it to what I needed to do to please her.
Just figuring out how to change the windshield wipers was an adventure. Changing the oil for the first time was an epic tale of misunderstanding, stupidity, and frustration.
But that may be all in the past. This torrid love affair, this scandalous experiment in European couture is over. If one can no longer pay for the services of madame escort, then madame escort shall bid you adieu.
Like a poorly-done spy thriller, her people tried to blackmail me, and then they double-crossed me, see? I ignored (or perhaps forgot) their demand for payment, and as their patience wore thin they just took it! They took my money! They absconded like common criminals with money from my account! Extortioners!
As Bugs Bunny famously said, “Of course you realize–dis means war.”
But I guess I am glad they did that, because what it did was brought to my attention the fact that I could no longer afford this sordid affair with German engineering. Maybe if she didn’t insist that we go to the most expensive restaurants and hotels…
I couldn’t afford her, and I started to resent her for it, and it showed. The sweet Fraulein got a taste of what middle-class America is like: fast food trash, mud, and the wrappers of cheap cigars. She was starting to feel used. Vindictively, I felt she deserved it for what she had put me through. Talk about high maintenance.
I held off the calls for about a month and a half. They were really starting to sweat, I think, wondering what I was doing to their little Germanic princess I was holding hostage. Finally, I answered the phone.
Tactically, of course, she measures her words. But the question was, did I want to continue this game, this charade, this cat-and-mouse chase? No. I was done.
The woman was still trying to leverage me when I told her that I am ready and willing to give up my hostage. Where do you want me to make the drop?
Her tone changed from stern but friendly to hostile and accusatory. “You knew what you were doing! You knew!”
“Indeed,” said I.
But it was a game of he said-bitch said. I say they didn’t have authorization to withdraw funds. She said I did approve it, and she herself handled the transaction, because she told me if I couldn’t make the payment by the end of the month to give her a call back.
So now she’s my holla-back girl? Even if that is true…I don’t explicitly recall saying, “Yes, take money out of my account.” On the recommendation of my personal banker (and everyone should have one), I closed the old account and opened a new one. Instead of needing a new debit card, they simply attached the card to my new account.
And not just because I work at the bank at which I bank. My personal banker (You know, he’s just a glorified teller that has a wood grain cubicle off to the side instead of standing behind the counter. And he was the next one available when I went down to see him. Still, that makes him “my” personal banker.) said that whenever there is an issue like this–some breach of security or private information–they recommend closing the account and opening a new one.
That happened back in August. The week I was on my useless vacation, they withdrew the money from my account on Wednesday. That just happened to be the day *before* I got paid, which was Thursday. So they put me in the hole.
I didn’t check my account until the next week, and by then it was too late. Since I’m petty, vindictive, and passive-aggressive, I approached this with a new, calculated strategy. I refused to answer the phone when they called. And they called often. A few times per week. The funny thing–the odd thing–is that right after they would call my work phone and it went to voice mail, my cell phone would ring. My brand new cell phone with a new carrier and new contract and new phone number that I had not given out to ANYONE. How did they find my number? Oh, I know how they did it. I’ve watched Veronica Mars; I know how this works.
But the man leaving me messages on my phone was different and had a different tone than the woman calling my work phone. It made me wonder, really, was it just a coincidence?
In a very stern tone that was meant to indicate “You’re in trouble,” the man would say this: “Today is September 27th. A file has come across my desk with YOUR name on it. A decision must be made concerning this matter. It would be better for all parties involved if you were a part of that decision that needs to be made. Call my office at blah-blah, blah-blah-blah, blah, extension blah-blah, before 4pm Pacific time today, September 27th.”
Yeah. Notice how they never *said my name*. It’s a new phone number for me. I don’t identify myself by my full name on my voice mail–hell, I might not use my name at all, I need to check–so am I supposed to presume the message is for me? Not on your life. Hell, for all I know, it could be one of those identity theft-phishing scams.
But during that time it also gave me time to assess my financial situation. I have pages of budget spreadsheets figuring shit six ways to Sunday, color charts, bar graphs, pie charts–and all they do is tell me in a variety of interesting and colorful ways how broke I am.
No matter how I did it, the number that I was in the red every month…was curiously similar to the amount of my car payment. There was just a point where it clicked with me. I had been looking for ways to make more money–sell blood, sell semen, sell my body–and looking for ways to cut my bills, but *that* bill I never conceived of being able to reduce.
But I could eliminate it completely.
By eliminating the car payment, reducing my car insurance, and going from a big phone plan down to a cheaper one (I’ll explain that in a moment), that puts me in the realm of not being in the red every month. Maybe not “in the green,” but out of the hazard.
We also changed the phone plan. Again. Out of desperation. We had been with–let’s start at the beginning. I was with Sprint when Detroit and I first met. We got together and went with Verizon. Last year, I think, we switched from Verizon to Sprint…for two weeks. Then we went to AT&T. I thought we were getting a good deal–but Christ. Detroit and her son and I, unlimited data and text, and 700 shared minutes *should* have been about $120 per month. But it ended up being about 184 per month, when you add on late fees and all this other stuff. Taxes. Things like that.
So I owe them money now, because we just dropped them like a bad transmission, and went to Cricket. Alex joined his Grandmother’s plan, so we don’t hasta worry about him. Detroit pays her Cricket and I pay mine. Thirty-five bones per month, unlimited text, unlimited voice. And nothing else.
I could get data and web and other crap for another 10 bucks a month, but fuck it. I never used the internet on the phone before. The only thing I can’t do is text photos. I think I’ll live. So our phone bill went from 180 to 70, and *mine* went from 180 to 35. Fucking sweet. Even if it was just the right amount, call it 120 bucks. The car payment was about 275. Four hundred, easily. When I redo my insurance, it’ll be less as well.
I wonder–should I get full coverage on my truck? It is paid for. Regardless, insurance for a ten-year old truck should be cheaper than the insurance on a 10 year old Mercedes.

When my handler finally transferred me to a repo case worker, he was more polite. He explained some of the particulars, and offered me some other options, but that only served to firm up my resolve. First of all, I paid 10 grand for the car. I know I overpaid right there-I bet the car was worth only 8, maybe less at the time. But then factor in my bad credit and what they chose to ream me for on the interest rate–
And by the way–a year later I was able to refinance my house, so how bad was my credit *truly*? But the ganked me on that as well. So, Juan tells me that I’ve made 23 payments–that’s over 6300 dollars–and I still owe over nine thousand. Based on the year and miles of the car, it’s probably worth about 4 grand, he tells me.
It’s the beginning of October, so the car would probably be sold at the end of the month. At an auction, they aren’t going to get anywhere near the four grand it is supposedly worth.
And good luck getting that out of it with a cracked windshield, a trashed interior, body damage, needing engine work and a tune up…oh, and surprise!–A big honking computer monitor rolling around in the trunk.
So by January I would hear from their lawyers, and be responsible for the balance due, which they could garnish my wages or put a lien on my house. Hmmm.
Is it the truth or is it a tactic?
Don’t know, not sure, and I’m a little concerned. Juan did ask me about my bills. I said, with my house payment and child support, I can’t afford the car. That’s the whole point. Can’t afford it. “How much do you bring home a month?”
“About 2 grand,” I answer.
“How much is your house payment and your child support?”
“Eleven hundred and five hundred.”
“How much are your utilities?”
“About four hundred.”
Yeah, cowboy, that adds up to two thousand. Not much there to garnish, is there?
Here’s hoping.
Juan faxes me a form to sign and fax back, for voluntary surrender. But I wanted to make sure, so I emailed my lawyer-friend, and I haven’t heard back from him yet.
Last night–or this morning, at 215 AM–I hear a knocking, gentle knocking, at my chamber door. Actually, first I heard the dog bark. Then I heard someone talk to the dog. Then I heard some other muffled voices. Then someone knocked on my bedroom door. “Someone is here to take the car.”
Really? Really? At 2 am you want to do this? Really?
He was a smallish, short guy in overalls. He seemed slightly taken aback to see my large frame come through the door in the middle of this cool October night wearing only knit shorts and nothing else. I mumbled something about why they couldn’t do this in the daytime. His excuse–echoed by the unseen guy in the truck–was that they tried to call and leave a message. Sure they did. Sure.
I trodded out to the car and grabbed my Pizzarama Hat from the back seat and my lighter from the dash in front. Damn luxury car–the cigarette lighter never worked. I looked for my sunglasses…but shit, it was dark and I was half asleep. I’ll have to buy another pair for ten bucks.
I handed over the key and walked back in the house. I wonder if I was supposed to sign something? Oh, well. As I snuggled back into bed, I heard the truck drive off, followed by the car.
Quoth the Mercedes, “Nevermore.”

Why I Does What I Does…

September 4, 2010 at 9:57 AM | Posted in Journal, Riding In Cars With Pizza | Leave a comment
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Why I deliver pizza part time:
Last night wasn’t typical, of course. But I’ve had some nights just as good. Last night I was scheduled for three-hours, from 5pm to 8pm—prime dinner rush.
It was threatening to rain, and I did get sprinkled on a bit, but nothing big. But we were busy, and I ended up working until 830 basically.
We were busy, but there were lulls, or spaces, where I waiting for a delivery. Also, our area is big and unwieldy, so sometimes it can take a long time to get from one end to the other, especially with suburban rush hour traffic and construction always going on. So even though I worked 3 and a half hours, and in other places I could have taken more deliveries, I took 14. That’s about 4 per hour, which is really not a bad average.
So, 14 deliveries. I get the pies in the car, I drive around, I listen to the radio, I go up to the door, give them the food and take the money, and go back to my car, and drive away. I’m not sure if you can really call it “work.”
I made 65 bucks in cash. Fourteen of that is the dollar per run I get from the company to cover gas. And then I get paid by the hour—minimum wage, which is currently 7.25
Ready for some math?
Sixty five divided by 3.5 is 18.57. Add the minimum wage to that. I made 25.82 per hour last night.
Now, the problem is, I can’t do that for 40 hours a week. First of all, they don’t need me for 40 hours. They are busy for about three hours a day, around dinner, every day. I work about 3 or 4 days per week, anywhere from 10 to 15 hours.
And that money I made is not average or typical; it’s the high of the high-low. What’s low? Several nights I have worked 3 hours and made in the neighborhood of 25 bucks in cash. Now, that still gives me about 14 bucks per hour….but your gas is included in that number.
All in all it’s a good job—if you can take it. If you’re tough enough. What does that mean?
Well, even though it is easy, and often I hesitate to call it work—you have to have a little something on the ball do it.
You have to be able to read directions and follow a map. I’m going to say it right here, right now, to your face: GPS is for pussies. If you can’t read a map you’re goddamn lower primate. And, while I do intend to get a mapbook and put it in my car in case I need it, what I have been doing so far is reading the map on the wall at the store, remembering where I’m going, and then leaving with nothing written down.
Yeah, I’m that good.
In fact, last night one of the runs I took was actually four runs: a four-stop. They routed well, and although I am still somewhat new to this area, two of the streets I had been to before, and all of them were in the same general area.
And this goes to the difference in how people read a map. If you need “directions,” like turn left here, turn right here, go two blocks—“ that’s not reading a map. That’s reading directions. What if you had the four stops I had, and didn’t know the area? You’re going to need a page of written directions. Do you have time for that?
No, you really don’t.
You look at the map, and first you see where the streets are that you need. Then, you look for main roads, and roads that are familiar to you. Then you try to string them together, what you are familiar with and the new stuff. But not with directions. Visualize the map. See the map in your head. All of the these streets you get to from McClay. You know how to get to McClay. Don’t worry about that. Get to McClay. First street on that side, then wind a bit, and there’s a court. Come back out and continue onward. Turn just past the light, and remember a street name—your street is off of that. Find your way out. Go back to the light, and head up. This is more complicated, but you remember what the map looks like in your head. You go in, you come out. Head back. Take that main drag back to the other main street, and turn up it. There’s a court off of it somewhere….there it is. Found it. Now come back.
Instead of countless directions, I remembered what the map looked like, and two street names to look for that I had to turn onto. Much, much simpler. I made the round trip in traffic in about 25 minutes. No wrong turns, no delays.
And this is why I’m better than you at reading a map, and why GPS is for pussies.

Well, Do Ya, Punk?

August 25, 2010 at 4:55 PM | Posted in Riding In Cars With Pizza | Leave a comment
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  Man, I needs to be getting back on taking care of the ol’ blog, right here.  Sometimes, shit happens.
  And sometimes I just get distracted.
  And now, another exciting episode in the life of Bryan.  That would be me.
  My psychic ability, as you know, is quite erratic.  Naysayers and nonbelievers might go so far as to say that I don’t have any.  But I have proof.  Again.
  For the last several weeks, maybe a few months, I’ve been worried about a flat tire.  Detroit, of course, as a bad tire on her van, and I’m sure that is about to go.  But nonetheless, it seemed to loom larger on my mind–like it might happen to me.
  Add to that my tire tool.  In my garage I have an assortment of tire tools and 4-ways ("Hey, Oldestgenxer, what’s a 4-way?"   "It’s a menage a trois with someone to run the camera.") amounting to several different choices of size, but the Mercedes takes its own special size, and it has a tire tool for that.  Terrific.
  I had to work on the car a few months ago.  What did I have to do?  Something with the brakes, I think.  So I used the specially-included tire tool.  When I was done, I left it in the garage with my tools instead of putting it back in the car.
  Is this enough foreshadowing for you to figure out what happened next?  Today I left work a tad early, all excited about getting started on my one day off in the middle of the week that I planned clandestinely to get a few projects done.  The weather turned a little cooler, the sky is clear and blue, I have some shit that has gone unattended, and the first slight hint of Autumn has energized me–
  I got a flat on the way home.
  Yeah, of course I’m on the highway.  You don’t get flats anywhere else–except maybe on a gravel road.
  I didn’t even get out and look in the trunk.  I knew the tire tool wasn’t there.
  But here’s the lucky part, ladies and gentlemen:  I had a cell phone on me!
  Why is that lucky?  Well, in the last few years, I have been stranded with no phone.  Like the time I hit a deer.  And the time I lost a wheel on the interstate.  But this time, I had a phone.  I counted myself amongst the lucky ones.  Only the lucky ones get lucky.
  I called Detroit, and she was still at work.  I called her son.  With me remotely directing him, he found the tire tool, and then he brought it out to me.
  Meanwhile, I’m sitting on the side of the road as rush hour begins.   There is a roadside assistance service that patrols the metro roads, and I thought if I was lucky, they might come by.  Either they would have a tire tool, or they wouldn’t, and I could make the guy feel inadequate.  It would be a win-win.
  What I didn’t need was a cop to come by, because my plates is expired.  ("Why do your plates be expired, Mr OGX?"  "Well, it’s all
about my battle with The Man.")  
  So right after Alex shows up, a cop pulls up.  Yay!  I’m saved!  My only hope was that, since I’m a middle-aged white guy, I wouldn’t get beaten and/or maced.
  My fantasy was that I could actually tell the cop, "Thanks for stopping because I had a flat, and then giving me a ticket.  Can you taze me now?"
  But that didn’t happen.  Instead, it was a very hot red-headed chick in uniform.  Swear to God.  My fantasy generator switched gears.  She was polite, asked if we were okay–obviously she didn’t want to get down and dirty (or help with the flat)–cautioned us to watch out for traffic, and then she left.  But the signs were there:  obviously, she was digging me.  No ticket.
  Hot damn.  I do believe it’s my lucky day…
  Because my expectations are set pretty low, they are easy to exceed.  On the way home, I stopped and bought a few lottery tickets.

The River Is Wide

August 16, 2010 at 8:50 PM | Posted in Journal | Leave a comment
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…And it’s too hard to cross… 

So many things going on, so much as happened.  I’ve know that when you have time to write about it, there’s nothing happening.  When there is shit going down, you’re too busy dealing with it to write and reflect and ponder and so forth.
To me, that’s why a journal style of personal record keeping is optimum.  A daily diary can’t string together events over a period of time without appearing choppy.  A journal-style (or at least, *my* journal style) lets me tell a story that may have happened over a period of weeks, or months, or years.
Or hours.  Sometimes I get long-winded.
But not tonight, children.  Gather around the radio with your hot chocolate and let me give you several brief synopses.  Ah, where to start…?

The radio show seems to be going well, let’s start there.  We had a rough month, though.  Race was a big topic in the news, and we did a show about it.  It was harsh, and ultimately unairable.  Luckily for us, there were technical difficulties, and it didn’t record anyway.  The following week, we did a better show, and still touched on the subject but in a different way.  That show, too, disappeared into the ether.  Not the ethernet.
Thrice we tried.  This show was better.  It was good.  But–what happened?  The following week, we received word from the studio (in other words, Lou) that due to technical issues, there would be no show.  That was a week ago.  Lou assured us that by the following week, we would be good to go.  I certainly hoped so–
So much had happened in the news, I was chomping at the bit to get my opinion out there, like it matters.   But it was frustrating.  Finally, Saturday, we show up–
And all appears well.  I say “appears” because, although we did record and it did seem to go well, until it’s posted in a couple of days, I’m not taking anything for granted.  But Bill’s show just got posted, so here’s hoping the technical issues are over for now.  This week, Lou should post our last show, and then the most recent one.  He thinks he can recover a majority of the last show we did before the gremlins overtook the machines.
That’s all I have on that, except this:  The show is taking up alot of my creative energy.  I do have some to spare, but not much.  But this is unique for me in many ways.  It’s a collaborative effort (with partner Suzan) and I’m working on something tangible that other people can experience, thanks to Lou and his network.  It gives me drive and focus and a reasonable desire to succeed.  We may never have an audience to speak of–
–and I swear to God, all I want is someone–anyone–to tell me that they’ve listened to the fucking show!  Just tell me that someone is out, there for Chrissake!  Fuck.

Things at Pizzarama are going well.  I work about 3 or 4 nights per week, anywhere from 12 to 15 hours a week.  Just enough to piss me off and not enough to solve my financial problems.  It’s a precarious balance.  I’ll write more about that when I feel like it.

The first week of August, I took a vacation.  Kind of had to–financial industry requirements.  However, I still had to work the night job, and I also worked the Tuesday as an election judge.  Basically, I had a shitty vacation full of unfinished projects and unfulfilled dreams.

I have several friends named Kim.  Of course, there is the one I sleep with, Detroit.  Then there is my life-long friend Bunny.  At the bank I have a new one, whom I shall call…Kimmie.  Nice woman in a trashy kind of way.  The previous week, I was on vacation, and I also had no cell phone, because that’s what happens when you don’t pay the bill.  She wasn’t able to get in touch with me.
Her boyfriend committed suicide.
Christ, I can’t imagine.  But it must be hard.  I feel shitty for not being there that week.  Dammit.  I’m trying to be there for her now.

Speaking of being there, I got cash problems.  I made a decision a few weeks ago, and slowly it solidified for me, and I realize that I have to do it.  But now, I’m okay with it.
I’m going to have to let the Mercedes get repossessed.
No matter what I do, every month I’m in the hole about the amount of that payment.  They charged me too much for it, and then they screwed me on the financing.  If the payment was half of what it is, I would try to manage it.  Hell, it’s been a problem since I got it, which you would know if you were a regular reader of my column here.
I have my truck in the garage, which hasn’t run in about a year and a half.  For less than one payment, I can get Fred running again.  Hell, I should have done that instead of buying the car in the first place.  I think we might have had other plans at the time, but I’m not sure.  Hell.
The plates are up on the Mercedes, and it needs a tune up.  The plates being up means inspections and it also means I need to pay the personal property tax I haven’t paid that was due December 31.  But I’m going to have to pay that to get the truck on the road as well.
The difference is that monthly payment.  That will make me or break me.  As it has already shown, it’s breaking me.  It’s going to fuck my credit, I know.  But I have the house.  I have two houses, actually, and me paying the mortgage affects both of them.  It’s more important to keep the house than it is to keep the car.
This is me, chewing off my arm to get out of this.

Sapphire In The Moonlight

July 12, 2010 at 10:05 PM | Posted in Riding In Cars With Pizza | Leave a comment
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No, sometimes the title really doesn’t mean anything…
After I talked to The Dude, I conspired to talk to Rob, the manager at Pizzarama.  First things first, however.
Friday, I left the bank about one-ish to see my shrink.  I brought with me some self-test for the ADD that I had done.  One was a before/after, where I graded myself on how I was before seeking help, and now.   From zero to four, with zero being none of the time and four being constantly.  On 34 questions you want to be less that 2 as an average, or less that 64.
For the before part, I scored over 80.
For after, I scored in the 30s, I think.  Even if I did cut myself a break, that’s still pretty good.  But subjectivity is in the eye of the beholder.
I did the whole test because I wanted to see where I stood–I felt that maybe I wasn’t getting better.  But this put it in perspective.  Plus, it allowed me to see (again) that many of the hurdles I face are my own, that I have to overcome.  And I have seen improvement.  Likewise, I was able to clear some of the brush from the forest, so now I can see the trees that I’ve been walking around.
What I mean is, I have a handful of big tasks that I’ve been avoiding, putting off.  I put the pro in procrastination.  But now I see them more clearly, and also see a game plan forming to tackle them.  I swear to God, you have no idea what it’s like inside my head.  Imagine a loud bar, with several bands playing and a different channel on 17 TVs all over the place.  And no one is getting carded.
After the shrink, I went to–
Hey, I had a great idea for a game.  Go the the psychiatrist’s office and sit in the waiting room, and try to guess what’s wrong with the patients by looking at them.  It’s fun; you should try it.  Feel free to vocalize your diagnoses by shouting them out like you’re playing “Yatzee!”  The first one to make someone cry wins. 

Speaking of which, afterward I visited the ex and gave her more money than I should have for child support, but I’m still behind a few months.  I’m glad she’s being cool about it.  Eventually the damn will burst.
She said something that made me so happy:  “Your son is so much like you I just want to strangle him.”  I’ve never been more proud.

Then I drove by Pizzarama, and talked to Rob.  We cleared the air, I hope, and had a good talk.  After what the Dude told me, I had to straighten shit out.  Here are a couple of points, briefly:
*  The knee:  It really was hurt, but this is not a thing that happens all the time.  I’m not a sickly guy.  I don’t call off.  But it was serious.
*  Some people thought I was being aloof:  that doesn’t describe me.  But the previous manager so emphasized that people had to be working, that I put my head down and worked so I wouldn’t be seen as fucking off.  Plus, I like to feel the place out so I don’t say something stupid.
*  Like the whole thing with the tip on the credit card.  I apologized again, hoping it would stick this time.
And Rob said we are cool, and is putting me back on for just a few days–less than I want, but he wants to make sure my knee can take it.  I can see his point; he wants to cover his ass.
Sunday I got some calls from numbers I did not know, so I ignored them.  However, I listened to my messages, and some driver chick named Ashley was looking for someone to work for her that night.  I called her back:  Hell yeah.  Her many messages and texts indicated that she was desperate enough to pay me for it, but I wanted to get in good with everyone there, so I did it for free.  I need the money, anyway.
Besides, I’d rather have a handjob.

Golden

July 8, 2010 at 10:43 PM | Posted in Riding In Cars With Pizza | Leave a comment
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Well, I thought things were going well at Pizzarama.
However, I got a call from The Dude, and he rehashed the scoop for me.  It seems that they (the bosses, the outgoing manager Alex and the incoming manager Rob) had a problem with me taking off because I hurt my knee.
Well, I can see that–I started pretty recently, and then this happens.  But shit–what could I do?
But the other thing is, Rob is still holding a grudge over the…altercation?  That’s a pretty strong word.  I got a little upset, and by the time I got back I apologized.  The story that The Dude heard corroborated all of that–
Except the apology.
And dammit, I apologize so seldom–I’m often sorry and usually feel remorse–that when I give one I mean it.  I had hoped it would stick.
I don’t apologize unless I mean it.  “Say you’re sorry” we teach our kids.  I’m not going to say it unless I feel it; anything else is dishonest.
I’m not saying I am honest, but I am saying that I do try to be.  Interface in the real world is hard.
Right before I talked to The Dude, I called the store and talked to Rob, and let him know I was ready to come back to work.  He said I wasn’t on this week’s schedule at all, and all he had me on for next week was Friday.  But the schedule wasn’t finished.
That’s a long time to go with no money, and that’s a problem right now.
The Dude also said other things that makes me think they don’t like me so much.  I’d say that would hurt my feelings if I had any, but that’s not true.  Honesty, remember?  I always thought of myself as a likable guy.  People generally like me.  Don’t they?
According to his report, I am standoffish, aloof, and a know-it-all.
Man.  That hurts.
I don’t think the word “aloof” has ever been used to describe me.  I’m fairly gregarious, although with age has come experience, if not a little wisdom.  In new situations I kind of hold back, fade into the background, and try to assess the place, the flow, and the people.  And Alec, the manager who hired me, repeated often that he expects people to always be working.  I made sure I did that.  But I interacted with people, I chatted, I showed interest and tried to learn about everyone, as well as learning about the job.
If anything, I thought they were being cliquish and snubbing me, but I put that down to the age difference, and I was generally in back trying to do my prep.  I was working, dammit.  Fucking Three Jakes got me into the habit of not standing still.  I did have a long conversation with Amanda, one of the pizza makers.  I thought we got along well.  Am I wrong?
But the know-it-all thing–maybe they have me there.  I don’t want to be like that, but I can’t help it since I really *do* know everything.  No, seriously, the only time I can remember is when I told Rob that these two weeks around the Fourth are typically the slowest of the year.  But I was self-deprecating when I said it–“I sound like an old guy when I when I say this…”
Dammit.  One guy that I did seem to get along with–Micah–The Dude tells me is not well liked there by everyone else.  Great.  I befriended the asshole.  How was I supposed to know?
I still think Rob had a bit of a hard-on for me because before I got there The Dude told him about me and all of my experience, and he thought I might have been gunning for his job.  But he’s manager now, so what does it matter?  So help me, what does it truly matter that I never wanted his fucking job to begin with?
I need to go and talk to him, in person, have a sit-down.  Have a chat, clear the air.  Hopefully let him know that I’m not the asshole he thinks I am.
Because I am a different asshole entirely.

Balance

July 6, 2010 at 10:44 PM | Posted in Riding In Cars With Pizza | Leave a comment
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I’d like to know where people in this fairly rich neighborhood I deliver in get off tipping the way they do.  I’m not complaining.  Okay…maybe I am.  But some of this shit is ridiculous.
That was my thought process the first two days I worked.  The fucking people–it doesn’t matter how big their house is or how big their order is–they tip two dollars.
I delivered 60 dollars worth of pizza to a half a million dollar house (And by the way, this is half a mil in the real world, not Califuckinfornia, where 600k gets you a 1200 square feet on an eighth of an acre.  Here in the Midwest–aka the real world–600k will get you half an acre and 4000 square feet in a great school district.) and got a two dollar tip from the mature executive with bright teeth in his pricey coif and pressed shorts dressed for leisure/action, and matching Lexi in the driveway.
If I have to refresh your memory, the minimum acceptable on 60 bones is six clams, which is only ten percent.  Nine bills would have been fifteen percent.  Then round it out to ten to show the world you’re not an asshole, asshole.
But the money is decent overall, even though it’s slow in coming.  Rob is the new manager, and he’s a young guy.  I would put him about mid-20s.  On the last night I worked before I hurt my knee, he remarked that it was a bit slow.
I said, “Look, I sound like an old asshole whenever I say this.  But I’ve been doing this for about 24 years.  The weeks right around the Fourth of July are historically the slowest of the year.  Always.  Maybe it’d be different if we were a resort town.”
“Yeah, everybody goes to the Lake.”
“I just wish I knew what the hell Lake ‘they’ are talking about.”
Rob and I had made amends, after I made the mistake of presumption.  A few days earlier, I was on a delivery.      The customer answers the door, and he’s holding a credit card.  That’s going to be a problem.  The order said cash.
The family communicates randomly, and I’m there to pick up the pieces.  The oldest daughter ordered online, but she didn’t specify a card and she says the order screen didn’t ask.  Possible, even likely.  No, I don’t have a machine to put the card, slide it (Ca-chink!) and give them a carbon, because this isn’t the 70s, or a third world country.
The family is running around back forth, collectively a group of chickens-sans-cranium, trying to come up with a solution before the buzzer goes off and they lose a turn on this game show.  I manage to get someone’s attention.
“Hey, here’s what we can do–”
I had call the store and run the card right then.  I said, “As long as you don’t need me to bring back a receipt, we’re good.”  They agreed.
I listened to the young lady’s end of the conversation, trying to pick up a hint about what was going on.  The card went through, and everything was fine.  Well, hey, Lama–How about a little something, you know, for the driver?”
But I’m not going to *ask*.  In addition to probably being against some ridiculous company policy (which wouldn’t stop me), I feel that it is just plain rude.  I didn’t ask, and they didn’t offer.  I left empty-handed.  Back in the car, I called the store and talked to Rob.
I had to fill him in on what happened–he wasn’t actually a part of it.  Oh.  I explained, and in a hurt tone, I said, “Why didn’t whoever took the card ask the customer if they wanted to tip the driver, since there was no coming back with a receipt and all?”
Well, the thought never occurred to him.  No one had ever ever done it for him, it’s not how things are done here.  He may have almost said policy, but I know that rules aren’t that specific, no matter how anal a company is.  But he didn’t quite get it.  I was mad, then I cooled down when I realized I was fighting a losing battle here.  It is only two bucks (if I’m lucky), and I’ll get over it.  I’m not going to start a fight about it.
You see–when I was a manager, and this situation occurred (customer at the door with credit card that hasn’t been run for whatever reason), when I take the call at the store, the driver is standing there.  He can’t ask for a tip, but as the nameless, faceless person in the store, I can ask for one on his behalf.  More often than not, they will say to add a few bucks, or tip in cash.  All they need is a reminder.
But it’s not done that way at Pizzarama.  The culture there I’ve experienced is that they use the facade of professionalism to cover for the fact that they are rude and a little selfish, and don’t give a shit about people.
Maybe I’m saying wrong, because I don’t think it’s a bad thing.  You KNOW how I feel about the customer.
However, in this situation, it bit me in the ass.  I had time on the long ride back to the store to think about it, and I apologized to Rob when I came back.  He may have almost said he was sorry as well, sort of a generic sorry-for-the-inconvenience-that-your-misinterpretation-caused-you kind of apology.  Still, he did say, in future scenarios he would keep that in mind.
We have achieved pizza detente.

Here We Go Around In Circles–

July 6, 2010 at 5:33 PM | Posted in Riding In Cars With Pizza | Leave a comment
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Almost as soon as I started at Pizzarama, I had to take some time off.  I hurt my knee.  How?  I don’t know.  What happened?  That’s the same question, so here’s the same answer:  I don’t know.  But it’s better now.  I’ll…be back.  I hope. 

Most jobs come my way through networking.  I don’t mean intarweb networking, I mean good ol’ fashioned knowing somebody.  If you network via a social networking site, I guess you are really hyper-networking.
My first jobs farming were of course because I knew someone.  My first job at Majik Market wasn’t so much because I knew someone, but my aunt knew they were hiring and sent me up there; I guess that counts.
My job at the warehouse I got because my dad worked there.  Now, my first job at Domino’s I got on my own, and my second job at Domino’s I got on my own because I had experience from my first one.  My brief stint at Steak n Shake happened because I knew someone.  And my job at Papa John’s (both times) I got because I knew someone.
The job at Scooter’s and the bank were both because I knew someone, and the third job at Domino’s as well as Angelina’s and Imo’s were from contacts that I had.  The Three Jakes I got on my own–and we know how well that turned out.  And this job at Pizzarama was through someone I know as well:  The Dude.
I was desperate to work, and he hooked a brother up.  His boss was hiring.  I interviewed, and it was a bit dicey–until he heard about all my experience at Domino’s.  He was a bit shocked, because it wasn’t on the application.  Well, I said, there wasn’t room…
Still, he really wanted someone who could work Sunday night.  I balked at this, and we were at an impasse.  He said he still had to interview a few more people.
I drove home thinking *shit-shit-shit.*  Before I even got to the highway, I called the manager back at the store.  I said, “Look, I’d rather work than not work.  And I can always use the money.  So I’ll work on Sunday.  Just keep that in mind.  I’ll do that.  I don’t want to turn something down just because it’s not perfect.  We can’t always have our way.”  He said okay.
A few days later he called me, and told me I had the job.  All I had to do was sell a little piece of my soul.

But the work is fine.  It’s pizza; it’s what I know.  I’ve gradually gotten to know a few people, and they seem pretty cool.  Alec is the manager–although, by this writing, I think he is gone, moved to another store.  The assistant, Rob, got promoted, and now it’s his store.  The Dude is a driver, some guy named Nick trained me (because I’ve never done this before), and there are a few others.  There are two older men, one Bulgarian, and neither of which I know the names of.  There’s a chick whose name I don’t know and a few other guys.  One of them is named John.  I’m pretty sure that’s not the chick.
Then there are some inside people, most of whom I don’t know.  One skinny young dude, and a girl named Amanda who has threatened to move to California.  Good luck with that, sister.
The routine is all too familiar.  I come in, I clock in.  I put a cartop on the car.  I get a bank.  I look at the prep list to see what I have, and get started on it, and finish it between deliveries.
The delivery area is St Charles, a predominately white area that ranges from middle-class to upper-middle, and lots of fucking traffic.  It seems that no matter where you are, you want to be someplace else, and then come back.
I have a street guide around here somewhere–dammit, I swear I’m going to find it and put it in the car.  Not that I really need it, but it’s nice to have, especially to save me the embarrassment.  So far I’ve been kicking it old school.  I mean *really* old school:  I look at the map before I leave and remember where I’m going.
Pizzarama is a giant in the industry.  I’m using an alias, and I hope you don’t figure it out because I’m sure they have rules about this.  Whatever–a boy’s gotta write, right?
But Pizzarama has a reputation as being a bit impersonal…and I don’t think they give a shit.  Okay.  We’ll do it your way.  They do have a pretty good structure/system in place, even though some of it seemed odd to me at first.
First of all, at every other place I’ve delivered, you take deliveries and collect the money, and turn it in at the end of the night.  Here, after every delivery, you cash out for that run.  Every time.  Also, the drivers don’t pick their own runs or check themselves out on deliveries.  Ever.  That and the cashing out is always done by a manager.  Doesn’t that slow them down?
Well, yeah.  But they aren’t overly concerned with speed.  I mean, it’s restaurant, so when it’s busy they work fast.  But not at the expense of making mistakes or being sloppy.  The toppings on every pizza are weighed and measured.  If one person has 10 pizzas to make, then she just hunkers down and makes them.  The manager rolls around doing his thing with the cash and other stuff, and then at some point he may amble over to the makeline.   But we give a realistic delivery time.  If we get busy, we up it.
At all the other places I’ve worked, I’ve done something on the production end.  Made pizzas, made sammiches, worked the grill–the whole nine yards, and some change.  I’d like to learn how they make pizzas here, just because it’s a passion of mind.
But so far all I’ve done is cut some pizzas, and put them in boxes.  It’ll come around.

Happy Father’s Day

June 20, 2010 at 10:12 PM | Posted in Personal | Leave a comment
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It hurts if I think about it
So when I want to wallow in it
I can, with gusto
But I don’t want to talk it about okay?

Here’s the thing
I don’t want you to tell me its okay
I don’t want you to console me or
Try to make me feel better about it
I don’t want to hear that its not that bad
Or that things will get better

Because maybe they will and maybe they wont
And I don’t want to speak about
The thing I dare not say
My own admission of guilt is mine and mine
Alone
And how can I counsel others when I have failed so
How can I listen and empathize
When my own sins are so much worse
What have I done?  Oh, God, what have I done?

Maybe it’s not that bad but it feels that way to me
And to the ones I’ve done wrong-
My children-
It feels that way to them
I’ve tried, over and again, to make amends
Two steps forward and three steps back
Is such a funny cliche for such a horrible situation

Here I sit, on Father’s Day, alone.
Or surrounded by people other than my children
Which, today, is the same thing.
It’s not fair…it’s not
She has the kids
She has custody
She has their hearts
I have photos and memories, all outdated.

I could wait for a phone call, or
I could take the initiative
Like I haven’t done so many times before
I can place a call, or send a text, or write on Facebook,
Or I could drive the many miles
Or send up smoke signals
Or think happy thoughts

I don’t want any more of this pain
My chest–my heart–I cant take it
I don’t want
I don’t want any more holidays
I just…I surrender.  Please, no more.

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