Thursday, July 29, 2010

Not Dead Yet

I’m too tired and sore to be in heaven and none of my friends are here so I can’t be in hell.

Actually, the post title doesn’t even refer to me. I’m just sitting down to write about the ghastliness that was yesterday before I compartmentalize it all away in the part of my brain responsible for flushing memories.

As I reckon I’ve mentioned, I’m a newspaperman in 2010. I might as well be in hoop-skirt repair, or moustache wax refinishing. But because I have no other marketable skills, I keep banging away at that old industry, even though it just lies there, looking at the ceiling, counting the minutes till it’s all over. And that clock is running down.

Meantime, it tries to kill me on a weekly basis, just to let me know it resents me continuing to bang away at it (“I’m fucking dead—what does an industry have to do to get some rest around here?”). This week was a perfect case in point.

The Boss finally got back to me Monday about whether or in what shape my job would follow me from Christmas Island to Fun City, Idaho, and the news wasn’t good. The gist of it boiled down to: Gee, it would be a lot easier for us to replace you than jump through the hoops it would take to retain your services.

But that’s just background info. It was about exactly what I expected. Hell, I don’t even blame them. It would be a lot easier to just hand me my walking papers.

Also Monday, the fellow from the main office with whom I work on the major paper I do every week got news that his Dad had died. This was especially bad news as said paper is an English/Spanish publication and I only speak enough Spanish to pass as a Gringo who hasn’t bothered to learn the language. I sound like John Wayne without the swagger. “Uh-adi-ose, ameegoh.” (I can also say, “His name is Francis but we all call him Uncle Frank” but have never had the opportunity in real life yet.)

So the one guy I can regularly count on to rise to the occasion and actually give 100% at that place was a basket case—no pun intended.

Additionally, a colleague in another remote office was going on vacation, so I inherited her daily paper for the first three days this week.

I woke up at 2:30 a.m. Wednesday in a panic because I had only gotten three articles from the guy at the main office, whereas usually the paper is all but done by then, with maybe three stories yet to come in. When I couldn’t get back to sleep, I sat down in the pre-dawn hours and started pulling copy—again, with extra difficulty added because I don’t speak Spanish. I had to scan Spanish headlines for words I recognized (Immigration, Obama, etc.), Google-translate them then search the AP site for matching headlines in English. Captions needed translating, formatting had to be done, house styles applied… time went by.

About 9 a.m., minutes before I was about to call our supervisor in desperation (and to cover my behind), the guy calls me up and says he’s about to send me more copy. I told him I’ve already pulled a shitload of copy and I’ll send it to him for approval/tweaking.

Of course, then, this was the day that Comcast decided to cancel my primary email account about mid-morning. Which I didn’t know until I asked the guy hours later about the copy I’d sent him and he wearily replied that he hadn’t gotten any. So I said “Fuck it,” and just went ahead and placed my copy. Let the heads roll where they may.

While I was doing everything else, I also spent about 25 minutes on the phone with Crumcast to finally be advised that my account, and any mail people had sent to me at it, was gone. Including all the stuff I had sent to my editor. Curiously enough, I was still receiving some emails at the Comcast account, but not all.

Then the power went out, just on the plug my iMac is plugged into, and I lost everything I was working on. The power never came back on and I didn’t have time to go hunting for the fuse box so I just plugged the power strip in a different outlet and started again. Backing up—and back-saving—the document I was working on every few minutes and uploading it to an ftp site I could access from my laptop in a coffee shop if need be. Tick tock, tick tock…

Then the dishwashing machine repair guy showed up with our new unit, but I was too busy to remember to warn him about all the standing water going putrid in the old dishwasher. Didn’t remember till The Boy came running back to my office to tell me about the “funny water” the repair guy had sloshed all over the kitchen floor. So we also had a huge, reeking mess on the kitchen and dining room floors to deal with.

This, too, was the first day The Missus had been extremely busy in preparation for her exacting new job, and therefore absent from the homefront; with her gone, there went my I-T person as well as co-caregiver for The Boy. Both capacities in which she would have served as a life-saver yesterday. And which she did indeed prove to be when all compulsory errands had been run, including an emergency trip to Petco for more dog food for the White Whale.

Then the printer emailed me (thanks!) with the news that the paper I was filling in on was having font problems. All the headlines had gone Courier. In my befuddlement, it took me three passes to resolve that dilemma. I’d used the same exact fonts and document for three days now; this was the day it went wonky.

In between everything else, I was trying to trouble-shoot the email problem, devise a short-term work-around, parent The Boy responsibly and control the dog, a giant 50+ pounder who thinks he is still shoebox-sized.

As it turned out, the real hero of the whole ugly ordeal was The Boy, who stayed in a good mood all day and whose presence forced me to rise gracefully to the occasion instead of doing what I usually do, which is let my wrath make me its bitch. He was consistently funny and interesting and saying new shit I’d never heard him express before. The close quarters these last couple weeks have  yielded unexpectedly delightful results. The new environ is really bringing out the best in him... He definitely did not get that from my side of the family.

To be fair, I was unusually accommodating to his various demands, especially where his requests for TV-watching were involved. I could do that “with” him while I continued working. We watched a lot of Justice League and Kung Fu before the grieving main office guy resurfaced and the TV became too much of a distraction to the fusillade of phone calls that followed.

Oddly enough, it was the first day since we got here that I’ve felt good about myself. I know, it’s an over-rated commodity, but like being tickled, every once in a while it feels good. I worked my ass off, way exceeded my job description and in the end, somehow delivered a viable product in spite of a cascading series of adversities. It was the first time in ages I wasn’t doing something that someone else could have done better or without me.

The kicker is, my colleague’s father isn’t dead yet. He’s actually conscious and lucid, albeit in a hospital waiting for the end. It seems my editor received a call from an estranged family member telling him his Dad was dead as either a tactical maneuver or a malicious prank. Now he’s got to go back to work while alternately deflecting expressions of condolence and explaining what happened without opening up a whole can of family worms.

Just when you think you got problems, someone else’s Dad goes and doesn’t die yet. I guess in the proper perspective—and with the necessary motivation—anything can be recontextualized into something sunnier than the actual experience itself.

Thanks for the motivation, Boy! I’m not dead yet, not even close.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Balloon-makers on crack, exhibit A:

After changes upon changes…

Fang is more or less the same. Which, depending on how one looks at it, is either a good thing or a bad thing. I tend to see it as a glass half-empty, frankly.

Because the one thing about myself I’d most like to change, and which seems most intractable, is my resistance to change.

Let me lay it out for you, as it stands now:

Mostly moved into the new house. Shit in boxes will probably remain there for a while, at least my shit. My back has sent me the message, loud and clear—cease all moving-related activities immediately or suffer the consequences!

I’m only writing right now while I wait for the Naproxen to kick in.

Still haven’t heard from my employers whether my job is going to make the move to Boise with me at all, and if so, in what shape? Apparently the guy in accounting/payroll is going nuts, but I am not the guy with his answers. All I can do is re-remind my supervisor of my situation and hope that he finds the time to resolve my employment status, one way or the other. Meanwhile, I’m blogging this morning when I should be working, which is a luxury that I am mindful to be grateful for.

On the other hand, I sure do hate my job in its dying industry. On the other hand, without it, we can’t make ends meet. I mean, placed in perspective, my pickle isn’t so awful. I’m not cannon-fodder in Afghanistan like my nephew is. I’m not pulling the graveyard shift at a chemical company with questionable safety protocols like a childhood friend is. I’m not facing the end of a long, distinguished legal career and just finding out my employer is trying to strip me of the pension I had planned to retire in comfort on like a loved one is. Hell, I’m not even flipping burgers at McDonald’s. (And my gimpy back rules out even an emergency return to the fast-food career of my youth.)

But I have so much more I want to do with the dwindling good years I have left. I have ideas for at least three more books in me, but between performing my meaningless job, parenting and wallowing in unhelpful self-pity, I can’t imagine how I could get even one of them off the ground. And if I lose the job, I get to spend every waking hour doing the one thing I hate more than my job, which is looking for another one.

Plus I have 3.5 more weeks of enforced family-together time before The Missus and The Boy go back to school. And since we just moved here, The Boy has no friends yet, so every waking moment The Missus or I are called upon to entertain him. And besides being busy, I’m just not feeling that entertaining lately.

And in the interest of full disclosure, I’m not being miserly with my misery. I’m making sure The Missus, who has bent over backwards to accommodate me, is suffering right along with me. I swear, if there was a switch I could hit that would just make me tolerable company, I’d push that button like a hop-head on a morphine drip.

Speaking of which, the back pain that had been so manageable on Christmas Island that some days I would forget altogether that my lower spine is shaped like a cork-screw has been a constant issue since the move. I’m burning through pain-killers just to get through every day. It’s only a question of what runs out first; my insurance coverage, the stash I brought with me or my stomach lining.

None of which is contributing to my joie de vivre.

I guess this is the point (about 2/3 of the way to end, roughly) where I go looking for a silver lining. As I’m drawing a blank at the moment on sunny revelations, I’ll go to the last refuge of scoundrels and patriots, song lyrics!

RUSH writes about change all the time, usually its inevitability. Resistance is futile, that kind of thing. From their biggest hit, Tom Sawyer:
    “[He knows] changes aren’t permanent,
     But change is;”
to their deepest album cuts, say Circumstances, where they reiterate the same point in French:
    “Plus ca change
     Plus c’est la meme chose
     The more that things change
     The more they stay the same.”

But I’m not feeling terribly RUSH today. I almost drowned my pricey cell phone in a Pepsi Slushie a few minutes ago and I have a long day of mind-numbing work and nerve-rattling waiting-to-hear ahead of me.

I’m feeling a lot more like Paul Simon’s The Boxer, kind of punch drunk and bone weary and it’s still only 10 a.m.:
    “After changes upon changes,
     We are more or less the same.”

Lather, rinse, read again from the start. Repeat.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Johnny Cash and I Are Here to Help

So we were in a furniture store today and The Missus was negotiating with the salesman. For a while The Boy and I distracted ourselves by playing on adjoining electric recliners, drawing disapproving glances from the Help that wasn’t ringing up the big commission with my wife. After I got bored with that, I wandered up to the front of the store and greeted two groups of shoppers with, “Hi, I’m Fang. Can I help you find anything?” before the Help, suddenly alarmed, began to hurry in my direction.

(In my defense, I directed the new shoppers correctly. I’d already noticed the layout of the store and the departments therein; it seemed kind of random to me to me and I was mentally framing my reproach should anyone inquire as to my opinion on the subject.)

No, it was probably my casual shorts and the Johnny Cash t-shirt (above) that the furniture store personnel, all dressed impeccably uncomfortably, objected to.

Anticipating their argument, I explained to the first blowsy, overdressed saleslady who reached me, “It’s okay, you don’t need a tie when you’re wearing a Johnny Cash t-shirt.”

Overwhelmed by my logic—or perhaps just frightened by the thousand-yard-stare in my eyes—she relaxed after a rote exchange of pleasantries and as of right now, all The Missus knows is I was up to something and they had to dispatch people to stop me.

Have I mentioned lately that I’m here to help?

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Happy Anniversary, Honey

Eight years is shredded paper, right?

Couldn’t remember if it was shredded paper or shredded nerves, so just to be safe, I made sure I got you both. Maybe it’s sandals, in which case I got you two pair. (I just Googled it and found out the ninth anniversary is definitely the U2 Anniversary, though! Looking forward to not forgetting that one.)

Thanks for putting up with me for eight great years on Christmas Island together; The Boy, three dogs, the death of my industry, a grueling edit of an impenetrable manuscript and especially to your Dad for helping us survive the move with my gimpy back to make it to this auspicious occasion. I wouldn’t trade any of it for Labor Day or Easter.

Let’s do it again next year.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Good night and have a pleasant tomorrow

This is pretty freaky, this starting over a whole new life. Leaving all my stuff—both physical and metaphorical—behind, including my beloved couch (above), dragged unceremoniously on to the front lawn for the trash people to come pick up. To add insult to injury, we had to pay to have it taken away.

Well, I won’t forget you so easily, my Monkey Wards Clearance Sale couch. We had a lot of good times together. Wink broke one of your footrests early on by hurling himself onto my lap from across the room in a charismatic stupor. I first wooed The Missus on you. You were home to dogs both beloved and ultimately unsafe at any speed.

Mostly you were the couch that The Boy grew up sandwiched next to me on, with my arm around his shoulder for the last almost five years.

And joining you in ignominy in the front yard on moving day was my office’s ugly pale-pink easy chair from where Johnny Cash and I also raised an infant Man Cub.

Then there were the boxes of newspapers I have produced over the years that I just couldn’t justify taking with me again. After culling a few selected issues, I threw 20-some years of my print output in boxes on the couch in the front yard.

I think I don’t remember being so weirded out after my last major, hundreds of miles away move, but I think that was because the moving ordeal took place on a Friday or Saturday and the following Tuesday was 9/11. That really superseded any melancholy navel-gazing for the next few months, and by then the new town had become the familiar routine.

So I’m going off the air for a little while now. The movers swear they’ll be at the new place at 8 a.m. tomorrow and the internet guy isn’t scheduled to come till Monday and that’s if everything goes exactly right, and nothing ever goes exactly right.

I hope that soon I’ll find more universal topics to write about, but right now it’s all about The Move and exercising rigid emotional compartmentalization.

Ooh, speaking of which, Inception, opening this weekend, is a movie that demands to be seen more than once. Bow down to its awesome coolness and mind-fuckery and if you can, see it on an IMAX screen. Even Leo DiCaprio not only doesn’t wreck it by his mere presence—ala Aviator—he’s not even an annoyance. Obviously writer/director Christopher Nolan is setting out to make himself this generation’s Christopher Nolan—imagine Alfred Hitchcock meets Michael Bay by way of Stanley Kubrick—and so far his film résumé is impeccable and only growing more distinguished with each movie he does. (On a related note, if you haven’t checked out Nolan’s  The Prestige on DVD, do it now!)

Okay. It’s tired, I’m late and tomorrow is going to suck rump, so hello Boise and goodbye Forum for a while. We’ll catch you on the other side.

Accidents waiting to happen

Or: City Planning Gone Haywire:

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Self-esteem issues v. Despicable Me

The Misssus, her dad (Pops), The Boy and I all went to see “Despicable Me” today.

It’s a hilarious, action-packed cartoon adventure that ought to give Pixar some real competition next year come Oscar time. The Boy laughed out loud repeatedly throughout and so did all three adults in our party.

“Despicable Me” tells the story of a Bad Guy who was treated thoughtlessly by his mother as a kid, grew up to revel in his perceived wickedness and [SPOILER ALERT] is redeemed by the love of three children by the time the end credits roll. If you've read my profile (above), you know that Fang has mother issues as well (not to mention narrative-mode issues).

I wonder if I was the only one who walked out after the screening feeling melancholy and introspective in addition to entertained. I rather suspect not.

I can’t say how much I loved this movie. Almost as much, as made apparent by the photo above, as The Boy loved himself afterwards while still in the theater lobby—and rightly so!

Greetings from Boise, Idaho

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Five Stages of Fang—Stage 5: Rock & Roll

Or: Let’s quit bellyaching and just do this fucking thing. The Boy’s had the right attitude all along…

Here’s someone doing the same song who knows what she is doing:

This guy’s version is also way better than mine:

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The Five Stages of Fang—Stage 4: Numbness in the Limbs

You’re way past Denial when the block-long moving van pulls up in front of your boxed-up and barren house at 8:30 a.m. and three burly members of the Brute Squad jog up to your front door, clipboards in hand.

Now all that’s left is surviving four or five consecutive nights on spongey motel room beds with a spinal cord shaped like a noodle. I’ve only got one night under my belt and I’m already on every painkiller that won’t keep me from getting my work done today (ie: non-narcotic).

On the plus side, the physical pain of sitting down to type will likely result in shorter blog posts like this one, so while my glass may be half-empty, the reader’s glass will be half-full.

Anyhow, I’m sure tomorrow’s 12-hour drive after another excruciating night’s sleep won’t pose any problems.

That’s Stage 4.5: Self-Delusion. It’s the most important step of all.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Card-carrying member since 2005:

Friday, July 09, 2010

This Could Be The Last Time/Never Can Say Goodbye

This whole moving thing, it’s not really to my liking.

This week is a good example of why. Good-byes and lots of them.

Paid my final visit to the cannibis consortium up here. I took my very first personal computer to the dump and unceremoniously disposed of it on top of a heap of equally outdated technology. Got a couple of fillings for the road from the dentist who’s been patching and pulling my teeth for the past nine years. Had The Last Boy Scout over for a final Guitarmageddon a couple nights ago and took The Boy to the community pool today for the last time.

Even stuff I didn’t used to like I’m missing already (perfect example: the dentist).

When we moved up here—3 days before 9/11—I was ready for a fresh start. I’d kind of run my previous situation into the ground and was getting ansty to move on. So when The Missus told me we’d be moving to Christmas Island, I figured, “Great. Whatever. As long as it isn’t here anymore.”

One big difference this time is, I haven’t run my situation into the ground up here yet. There was still a lot of room for growth and I hadn’t gotten the least bit ansty to leave.

The other big difference this time though, is the financial imperative currently at play. With my newspaper gig’s long-term future tenuous at best, and The Missus’ state university job dying the death of a thousand budget cuts, we were well motivated to take the first good offer that came along.

It just happens to be a promising job opportunity that is going to take me away from the liberal, powerful state I’d taken for granted for well over half my life, and where I had—unbeknownst to me—begun to lay down roots.

I’m sure the new place is grand and once I’m on-site and overwhelmed with the unpacking and re-stacking, my thoughts will turn to the future and completely unexpectedly to me, I will begin to build a life there, too.

But it’s hard not to drive down the shady, tree-lined street leading to our hippie little neighborhood of cul-de-sacs and community gardens and not look at the field on the left and remember all the times we ran Woody out there. This is the town he died in. Past the crappy apartment complex we lived in and think, “That’s where we made The Boy.” This is his home town we’re kicking to the curb like a daytime whore.

My carefully-constructed compartmentalizations are beginning to crumble. Just had an exit interview at The Boy’s preschool today, and if I hadn’t been so mad at The Missus for some imagined slight, I might not have made it through the meeting without overtly embarrassing myself. (A little bit of anger, no matter how trumped up, always goes a long way with me. I do “stoic” well when I’m pissed.)

For the record, The Boy was pronounced doing great at his evaluation. The only area his teacher returned to repeatedly was his difficulty in verbalizing his anger. It would have been funny if I hadn’t been sitting there, seething in silent fury over something completely made-up while The Missus favored me with “Gee, I wonder where he got that?” looks.

The next few days, our last before the moving van comes Monday to completely upend my apple cart, will be filled with more good-byes and last times. All the big ones are behind me now (bye Lee, Susie… sorry I never came up with cool nicknames for you) and the weekend ahead promises to be a grueling physical ordeal. Then there’s the cleaning, then the driving, then the waiting for all our shit in the world to rejoin us at the other end… should be plenty to keep me focused on looking forward in the short run.

I’m living every day as if it was my next right now and trying to savor every moment. There’ll be plenty of time in the future to wax nostalgic about Christmas Island; my final few days here should probably not be wasted in the pursuit of self-defeating melancholy.

Because that’s the beautiful thing about self-pity, isn’t it? There’s never a last time.

Sunday, July 04, 2010

One week to go

From this point on, almost everything we do will be the last time we do it here.

I’m even getting misty over Tuesday’s upcoming drill & fill. I already know what’s going to happen because it always happens: The new dentist in the new town will take one look inside my mouth, turn to the trash can to throw up, wipe his mouth with his jacket sleeve then proclaim my previous dentist a butcher.

Then he or she will get down to the serious work of further butchering my mouth.

Tuesday will also be the day of my last trip to the medical marijuana dispensary; Wednesday will be the last farmers market; Thursday my last lunch with Susie-from-the-office; any day now will be the last trip to the local pool…

Maybe today? Probably not, forecast calls for a scorching valedictory week. We have plans to head out, the three of us, in about an hour, when the day’s heat reaches its zenith.

It’s weird not saying goodbye to familiar merchants you know you’re never going to see again. It’s just too much work. It’s awkward and not the fun kind of awkward, either. So I mostly don’t say anything. “See ya next week” is my new big lie.

Every little detail is getting charted out and attended to. Large, dead furniture removed, old computers disposed of humanely (when exactly is the land fill open?), the pair of upside-down-swimming goldfish off to new homes where they will terrify and appall their new owners on a daily basis with their eerie simulation of fish death…

My calendar is a mess, besides which, due to a cascading series of errors I was at the initiation of, we’re having to move mid-week, the week before my scheduled vacation. I’m having to take a sick day with the job I’m not even sure is going to keep me, just two days before my vacation starts. They have a stated policy (which I signed years ago) of not granting sick days immediately before or after a vacation day, we’ll see where they stand on taking sick days two days before your vacation starts.

My Father In Law is coming up to help in the schlep from this place to the new one. I didn’t imagine requiring three drivers for a day trip with two cars, but I’ve never said no to a reasonable offer before. It’ll be good to have someone else in the other car with the Giant Puppy to make sure he doesn’t get out of hand.

Also discovered that the adapter gizmo I bought for the Subaru’s tape deck last-whenever still works great with my old-timey, tiny iPod, so even in the car without the CD player, I’ll have some rockin’ tunes to jam along to on the ride. And fortunately, The Boy is on record as liking it loud. I have just the set list prepared for the trip. Lots of Guns N Roses, RUSH (I hope “Red Barchetta” doesn’t result in a speeding ticket!), Iron Maiden, AC/DC, live Blue Oyster Cult. I think I’ll bring some Pink Floyd along too and blow his mind! And some Zep…

Suddenly, I’m actually looking at the bright side of life! I expect Eric Idle to begin the singing and choreographed dancing at any moment… there’s plenty of room in the house for an elaborate production number tonight, just not the energy.

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Plenty of moving anxiety to go around

The Boy contributed this piece of the puzzle last night. It even includes his cool new spikey haircut (left).