Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Rebooted

http://www.windycitysports.com/features/going-the-extra-mile.html

At the stroke of midnight January 1, Adam Miller registered as the first member of Jack’s Marathon Team ‘07. Why the urgency? His friend, Amy Kaphengst, a young wife and mom of two, was near the end of her battle with melanoma. Adam wanted to send her a positive message as she fought for her life.

Amy passed away a few days later. Inspired by her courageous battle, Adam spent months training for the Chicago Marathon and raising funds for the Jack H Marston II Melanoma Fund. To date Adam has run two Chicago Marathon’s in Amy’s honor and has raised over $3000 to fight melanoma. He continues to run in her memory.

In the process of fighting back against a disease that stole a dear friend, Adam found a passion for distance running. Friendships formed as miles were logged and one friendship grew special to Adam. So, during the Chicago Marathon ’08, at mile 13.1, in the midst of all the Jack’s Team supporters, Adam took a knee and proposed!

Many say that Jack’s Team is like a big family. We’re sure Adam would agree: embraced in both grief and joy; sharing a common goal; working together with Strength. Passion. Focus.



I realize my blog has gone unexpectedly dark for the past months, and it is with a slight sense of sadness mixed with satisfaction I must inform you of the end of Reboot.

With my proposal to My Love at the Chicago Marathon and our recent Wedding Day (starting at a sterile court room in the basement of the County Clerk’s office and ending in a slushy but fun Shamrock Shuffle 8K) my life as a “recently divorced father” has come to an end.

I embark upon a new life with My Love and our combined five children and will close this chapter in my life.

Before I go, I wanted to reprint the article from Chicago Windy City Sports March 2009 edition featuring the charity team for whom I run.

I had purchased the engagement ring without My Love’s knowledge and put it in that tiny “key pocket” in my running shorts the morning of the marathon. My Love was not running, but did go down to be a spectator. She promised to meet me at the Jack’s Marathon tent which was in the Charity Village just past the halfway point of the race.

As I dropped to one knee, the announcer at the Charity Village who was highlighting the runners passing by yelled to me, “Adam Miller, what are you doing!?”. It was surreal to have a running commentary and a gathering crowd of eyes upon me while I patiently waited for the shock to wear off on My Love so that she could reply in the affirmative.

The announcer finally jolted her out of her reverie by chanting, “Say yes, say yes, say yes!”

I kissed her, gave her a sweaty hug, and then left her standing there to complete the second 13.1 miles of the race. It felt strange to just leave her standing there, but I promised I’d see her at the end of the race (hopefully less than two hours later).

The first half of the race I stayed with a pace group led by a gentleman I happened to run into after the race. He is known as “The Pickle Juice Guy” and is a race director in Michigan. I promised to write Rick with my story, and finally can do so as I sent him the link to my blog.

The miles sailed by, the weather was mild, the crowd was exuberant and I was happily counting down the miles to my proposal!

The second half of the race was more challenging, although I was running on adrenaline (and Red Bull, as supplied to me by My Love in a squeeze bottle).

The lack of shade coupled with the cloudless sky made for hot conditions, although nothing like the previous year.

At one point my legs started itching very badly and I couldn’t understand what was going on, having never suffered such a condition on any other race. I figured out my sweat was drying and caking salt to my skin! I gave myself a bit of a sponge bath at the next aid station and emerged refreshed.

I amused myself by people watching, both the crowd and the runners.

Among my favorite T-shirts were the following:
- “I before E except after C. Weird.”
- Worn by a young male runner: “If you think I’m good ON my feet…”
- Worn by a young male runner who I just passed: “How does my dust taste?”
- Worn by two young male runners who were walking at mile 19 with their hands on their hips: “Boston or death.” Bummer, dudes.
- A sign held by two young ladies watching the race: “Your shirt is sweaty. Take it off!”
- A sign held by a father wearing thick glasses standing next to a young boy who appeared (sadly) to be his son: “Runner butt check ahead” The father was leering at every woman passing by. Chilling.
- And, finally, a guy with a shirt that said, simply, “More Cowbell” ringing a large cowbell.

Although the fan support was uniformly excellent, there were two aggravations. One was a spectator guy that starting running alongside a young female screaming at the top of his lungs repeatedly at her “This is your day Abbey!!!! This is your day!!!!!” I think she sped up just to get away from this guy.

And, in conclusion, a guy shouting out to the passing runners “You’re almost there!”

At mile 20. When there was still 6.2 miles to go. That is just wrong.

But, I did finish.

A blissful finish, indeed.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Triathlon

As I struggled alongside the man to get into my groove while avoiding the rhythmic slap of this hands against the water (and sometimes my face) I methodically attempted to separate our rubber covered bodies flailing in the foamy surf.

My triathlon season wound down with competitions the past two weekends in a row. Both of these triathlons were what is known as the International Distance (1.5Km swim, 40Km Bike, 10Km Run) also known as Olympic Distance (because it is the format used in the Olympics. You might not be aware of that – despite the name’s clue – because it didn’t make NBC’s primetime coverage. Apparently, triathlon is not as captivating as, say, Men’s Synchronized Diving or the “Artistic” Trampoline. The only artistic thing I can think of involving a trampoline would not be broadcast on television during family viewing hours.)

Typically it is not advisable to do two “A-races” in a row, but it was an appropriate way to cap off a season of under-training and over-doing.

I say “A-race” as this refers to an event in which the athlete plans peak performance, following a proper training plan culminating in a taper period.

In my case, A-race meant that I just pushed as hard as I could for the entire time. Not scientific, but darn fun.

The first tri was in Three Rivers, Michigan, the course in and surrounding a quaint lake near that town.

We actually started on somebody’s backyard and the transition area was in a small cul-de-sac’s road; the number of participants small enough to allow this.

I figured for such a small local race, I’d be competing against hicks in overalls and fat-tired mountain bikes. My dreams of a place on the podium soon faded as I saw the sweet tri bikes compete with solid core rear wheels and tricked out with components costing about as much as my entire road bike with clip on aero bars. (I placed 12 out of 13 people in my age group. A fantastic ass-kicking, but with the level of competition, I was satisfied. Hey, at least I wasn’t last!)

The water was clear and cool, the swim course being a large oval out and back. To be so alone in the water was actually a challenge as sighting became difficult and I took a more circuitous route than necessary. At one point, a wave from the Sprint Distance race cut into my course, as they were turning the corner on their shorter out-and-back. I looked up to see a large group of light blue swim caps bobbing in the water, churning in front of me, trying to make the sharp turn and swim back to the shoreline. It was disconcerting, I had been alone for so long, and now I look up to see this group. Did I take a wrong turn or something? My moment of uncertainty was soon replaced with the glee of gliding through this group like a shark through chum (politely, I assure you).

This was a stark contrast to the swim the following weekend at Chicago Accenture (billed as the “world’s largest”). It was horizontal hand-to-hand combat for the entire mile.

The Three Rivers bike was best described in one word: SICK! It was the most technical, hilly ride I’ve ever done. I suppose the “Ski Resort” sign on the course should have been a tip off. I was standing up in the lowest gear barely crawling up one moment and zooming down the other side the next. Down the largest hill, I actually hit 47mpg, the fastest I had ever gone on the bike. It was exhilarating for the most part, but I did clench by buttocks so tightly it was like I was trying to grip the seat for safety.

I felt a tingling sensation (not in my buttocks) and looked up at one point during this decline just in time to see My Love climbing up the same hill on this out-and-back course (she had started in a later wave). I felt even more exhilarated than from the speed.

Chicago’s bike was basically flat with a double loop on the famous Lake Shore Drive. The scenery was fantastic while the road surface was frightening! There were so many people with flat tires, I even saw one guy right in front of me run over a patch of sand (which was a futile attempt by the city to fill a bike eating pothole) and blow his rear tire. I heard the loud pop! complete with hissing white vapor spewing out from the back. Chilling.

The 10K’s on both courses were beautiful, and I was able to run without stopping, even for the water stations (my first time doing so in such a distance). In Chicago, I got to see My Love after the 4 mile turn-around. I was so pleased to see her and receive a boost of much needed energy to get me through the last 2 miles.

She, on the other hand, could not hide her bewilderment and displeasure at the sight of me.

I didn’t take it personally, though, I understood. She was supposed to be “on the other side” of this passing, having started two waves ahead of me.

Near as we could tell, during the race post mortem, I must have passed her unseen in the transition area after the swim. An odd feature of the Chicago triathlon is the quarter mile barefoot run after the swim out to the transition area. All this is done on rough concrete and asphalt. I think they should at least cover the area with pumice stone or the like so we could attempt a nice defoliation during this trot, but, then again, I am most likely in the metrosexual minority on this point.

Anyway, once you get into transition, where all the bikes and running gear are stored, you are faced with an area roughly the size of the entire town of Three Rivers, Michigan.

Normally, My Love is a faster swimmer than I, but her wave was mixed with both women and men, and she had a harder time with the mortal water combat than I, just due to sheer size. The guys don’t give way to the women in this part of the sport, and it is difficult to assess gender anyway with the wetsuits on and all. That was probably the difference in the race. Note: she wants to me to make certain I report that she had a faster run than I did, not only on this race, but also in Three Rivers. Ah, fast women.

As with Three Rivers, I got to cheer her on to the finish and we were both thrilled with the race conditions and our performances.

A fitting end, two races in two weeks, one the world’s largest, one tiny but extremely competitive. Both raced with My Love, and both ending with a smile (and a sweaty kiss =).

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Marathon II

Penned in with the somewhat pensive yet jittery polyester clad people waiting for the starting gun, I reviewed our nutritional necessities packed for the journey.

I decided to carry all the food because I like being the pack mule for My Love. Well, that and my shorts have pockets and hers don’t. It is interesting to feel the packs banging into your thighs with every stride but lessening as the stores are depleted during the run.

Like a male flight attendant before an international departure I laid out the menu, “We’ll begin with Black Cherry Clif Shots Bloks, moving on to a refreshing Pina Colada Blok, finishing up with a long string of Margarita Shots to keep up the salt content of our bloodstream as things heat up.”

The names sound much better than they taste, but these are a huge improvement over the gels I used to suck down during races. Bloks are like thick rubbery cubes with plenty of sugar and other carbohydrates to keep you going (to avoid your body eating your muscles for fuel) and in some cases (like Margarita) extra salt (needed when it is hot and sunny, or you are just a sweater – like me and My Love).

They are a welcome innovation over the gooey, syrupy and sticky gels of various at-first-tastes-good-but-after-a-few-hours-gag-inducing flavors. I actually tried a “plain” gel once that tasted exactly like Elmer’s Glue. I don’t need a trip down memory lane to grade school during exercise.

At last the final countdown to the 7:00AM start approached, and various inspirational songs were blasted on the loudspeakers. My favorite among them was “Save a Horse, Ride a Cowboy” which is becoming a staple at these types of events. They even kicked off the Walk for Autism using this anthem. “While the girls are sucking long necks down. Cure Autism!”

The gun fires and we are off!... to stand there for 15 minutes until the waves of people in front of us could take off and pull us along with them. I mused that it would be interesting if everybody just started running, but of course in reality it is like a traffic jam. Except you are ok with standing there a little while longer. Your official time doesn’t start until the chip you have attached to your shoe passes the starting mat anyway, so for anal retentive people like me it is comforting to know you are not being “charged” for this time.

The course was very beautiful. Nice smooth black asphalt for most of the way, with some charming cobblestone roads in the downtown area. Trees on the right, Lake Superior on the left (sometimes also blocked with trees so that you were just a human herd running down the black path with tall tree borders).

A couple of miles into the race I noticed far in the hazy horizon a familiar shape. Like the tiny Stonehenge mock-up on stage in the Spinal Tap concert (“it was in danger of the dwarves trodding upon it”) that huge steel bridge downtown I had mentioned before appeared.

Stupidly, I pointed out this fact to My Love because I thought it was interesting, the hulking mass reduced to a cute little toy in this visual.

She didn’t think it was cute. “That can’t be that bridge. It looks too far away.”

We both got quiet, acquiescing to the reality of our fate.

I needed a diversion so I decided to pee. Now, I am usually good with controlling my eliminations during races, but darn it I really had to go and didn’t like the thought of holding it for the next four hours.

Lots of dudes were just pulling to the side and watering the many trees along the path. I was a bit more demure and waited until a water station. My back turned to the hordes of friendly volunteers, I stepped down the embankment again and got my sweet relief. The upside is that I could use a cup of water to wash my hands as well (baby!).

There were aid stations sprinkled about every two or so miles along the course. I quickly learned the importance of making “mini-goals” like of reaching the next aid station instead of counting down the miles. It seems much less daunting than thinking to yourself, “Hmm… 10 miles down, only 16.2 to go. No problem!”

I just finished the book “The Power of Now” and the practice of staying in the moment and enjoying what is presented to you now really helped me in through the run. When my mind would wander towards how far I had to go, how far away that stupid bridge looked still, how great it was going to feel drinking that huge margarita at Angie’s Cantina afterwards, whatever, I would just remind myself, “Enjoy what is going on right now, this is what you trained for!”

If I started feeling down, I just reminded myself nobody is paying me to do this. In fact, a great deal of time and money has been invested to get me out on this course to, apparently, subject myself to such torture. So, enjoy!

Besides the scenery and conversation with My Love, I really enjoyed the crowds, both of the runners and of the on-lookers.

For the runners, I noticed a few interesting things (well, actually, much more, but I’ll just recount a few).

There was one skinny tall woman running in front of us for awhile. This was past mile 16 when the conversation between My Love and me started to die down a bit as we each got into the “zone”. She was wearing what appeared to be flesh colored support hose on each leg all the way up to her knees. She was really struggling and it was painful to run behind her and realize she had over 10 miles to go like that.

There was this one group of five guys with their last names and then numbers from one to five, father and sons, it appeared. We were rooting for them, but saw two of the even numbered ones camped out at a medical tent about mile 18. Five men start, three men finish. That is going to be an awkward dinner for those two poor bastards.

Speaking of bonking, My Love and I passed a young looking guy who appeared to be in perfect running form totally doubled over with the medical personnel repeating calmly to him, “Stay with me, son, stay with me, son, don’t pass out, stay with me, son.” The worst part: this was during mile 26. So close, and yet so far, dude.

Then there was this group of three guys who passed every mile marker and loudly exclaimed in unison, “Mile 3. Ha! Ha! Haaaaaa!”

It was funny the first 12 times.

Luckily we outpaced them. Who’s laughing now?!

Anyway, the on-lookers at this race were first class. As this was the 23rd year of the marathon, the people who live on the route really have this down to a science. There were countless parties with people getting drunk on all different sorts of libations, from the bikers with beer to the prim and proper starched collars with all sorts of top shelf liquor. If have to admit, that was torture; seeing all these people enjoying themselves, calmly sipping a margarita at 9AM watching us sweat. I tried to turn it into motivation and picture that giant margarita in my hand after the race. That stupid bridge still seemed pretty small, though.

The on-lookers got increasing drunk as we ran on. Towards the city there were groups of what appeared to be frat and sorority houses doing beer bongs and offering shots to us. I always went over and high-fived them, and they loved it. “Yeah, Jack, go for it, man!” they would yell at me. They were a very pleasant bunch, I must say, genuinely cheering on the runners, thanking us for legitimizing their public display of drunkenness at 10AM.

By the way, I had worn my Jack’s Singlet (which is kind of a funny name for a running T-shirt, by the way. When I was told I would be wearing one, I pictured one of those like wrestling outfits that is a one piece brief and tank, and I kinda freaked out. Imagine my relief when I was just handed a bright orange dry fit top instead.) I wanted to finish at least one marathon in this outfit, having bonked Chicago last year just past the halfway mark (where I proceeded to lie down in the grass behind my charity tent an weep bitterly into a block of ice).

It worked out well wearing this shirt, people kept cheering me on, “Go Jack!”, or “Go Jack’s Team!”. One time, My Love got a, “And you too… green shirt!”. She did not find it motivating.

As the race drew to a close, I realized we kept seeing the same groups of on-lookers at specific points along the race. They must organize themselves to drive to certain mile markers and congregate, congratulate, and then carpool onwards. There was one special needs young man, overweight in a Packer’s jersey with his family. He always greeted us with a huge smile on his face, and I made a point to high five him the three or four times I saw him. Even though he was… you know…

A Packer fan.

The mile 20 aid station was dramatically marked. The infamous Mile 20. Where the race begins, the veterans say. I don’t mind saying I got choked up when I reached it. This was now the longest race I had ever run in my life, every mile beyond this would be a personal best. But that wasn’t good enough. I had about 10K to go, and I knew I was going to finish it. It was a beautiful feeling.

I expressed this to My Love. She ran a bit faster to stay a few steps ahead of me, safely out of ear shot. “Headache. I need some ibuprofen,” was her terse reply. I had counseled her not to take the drugs before the race, as I had listened to many endurance podcasts on the subject that reported new evidence that doing so actually impedes performance and recovery. I regretted this advice at this moment, but was able to find uniformed marines very soon afterwards who gave My Love Motrin. She perked up, and we ran on.

As we neared the city and the end of the race we ran into some pretty steep hills, the first (and, thankfully, last) of the race. I commented to My Love that the elevation change was sort of refreshing, after having run flat and downhill so much. She stopped talking to me after that.

The last mile, my body surged with prickly excitement and I tried to soak in every last second, every last step. Just around this corner, and we would finish! No, wait, around this block here and! Oh, a bit more down this street and!

Seriously, where the fuck is the fucking finish line?

The circuitous course finally led us to the HUGE BRIDGE (at last), around a huge ship where, My Love and I, hand in hand, ran the last length of the race, and finished with a kiss.

For the past three years, I have been training, thinking, registering, fundraising, talking, reading, listening and dreaming all about and for this moment.

For the past years, My Love has stood around the large bronze pate commemorating the finish point of Grandma’s Marathon in the cobbled lakeside street with her children during her family’s annual trip to northern Minnesota and told them, “One day, Mommy is going to run this marathon.”

And we both did it. Together.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Marathon I

While my smile belied the toll the miles had already taken on my body, my gingerly gait out of the walked water stop told the real story.

It was my first marathon. Or, more accurately put, my third attempt at finishing one.

Instead of running the first one in Phoenix in January of 2007, I ended up at a funeral of a dear friend instead.

During the second one in Chicago in October of 2007, I stopped at my charity’s tent just past the halfway point. The heat and a virus I had been fighting (complete with a rash from head to toe) beat me down that day.

My third attempt would be in Duluth, Minnesota with My Love entered into Grandma’s Marathon (a rather famous one that began 32 years ago).

We drove up on Friday from Chicago, cutting 7 hours north and a bit west through the entire state of Wisconsin and just crossing the border into Minnesota.

Duluth is a macho port town softened by sweet people and quaint architecture. Jagged granite stones and boulders jut out the hills rolling down to Lake Superior. Huge structures of seafaring commerce line the shore, a massive steel bridge that famously rises to let the ships pass, enormous storage facilities and unloading machines. All constructed over the decades to mate with the bloated boats coming in with their wares from the ocean through the lock system into the great lakes.

The drive was very pleasant marred only by one exchange.

My Love was starting to talk about a friend of hers that had a little work done, just a touch up, you know, and was having trouble remembering the name of the procedure.

“Something for her face,” she said.

“Microdermabrasion,” I said.

There was silence accompanied by an unpleasant glare from My Love which I could fully sense even though my eyes were on the road.

“Seriously, what the fuck is wrong with you,” she said.

It is not the first time she has questioned my masculinity and why she is dating a “fancy lad”, and sadly it won’t be the last.

Anyway, we ate and drank the whole drive, nibbling on turkey and chicken salad sandwiches prepared the day prior by My Love for the journey.

We wanted to make sure we were properly nourished and hydrated for the run. This was also in part to make up for the fact that we hadn’t trained properly. Despite the fact that I have been basically training for a marathon for 3 years, and this would be the forth one for My Love, we neglected to follow the proper regimen.

One is supposed to do a series of “long runs” once a week, growing in length from 10 miles to 20, then back to 10. We ran a 14. Once. And a few 10 milers. That was it.

Back to proper hydration, a quick jaunt through the downtown convention center to pick up our packets and My Love and I were perched on a barstool outside on the patio of Angie’s Cantina. This restaurant is in the heart of the thriving night life area on the shore, and is right next to the finish line of the marathon and gives one a view of the hulking steel bridge I mentioned earlier.

We ordered our customary one beer (helps ease any anxieties and ensures a good night sleep before the race). The waitress asked whether I wanted a small one or large one.

I consider this a stupid question. In my opinion, beer should typically come in one size only; “beer size” which is the Imperial Pint. Just enough to keep you from having to call the bartender over too often, not too much to get warm in your hand or remind you of a “Big Gulp” from the local 7-11. (For those of you not familiar with a Big Gulp, may I congratulate you. This is a large plastic cup used in a convenience store to purchase an enormous quantity of artificially flavored fizzy sugar water. There is the Big Gulp, Super Big Gulp, Giant Gulp and so on. The largest ones come with handles on the sides, so you can waddle out of the shop clutching your refreshment in both hands like a loaded trashcan, a huge hose-like straw jutting out into your gullet. They also come with a catheter; convenient for road trips.)

For my second beer (oops, rule violation) I ordered another large “Long Hammer” (local micro brew, very nice). My Love, thankfully, intervened, “Actually, he’ll have a small. He is running tomorrow.”

We went back to our dormitory room and prepared for the 4:45AM wake up.

Dormitory room? One unique aspect of Grandma’s is not only does the marathon sell out in a few days (thus the reason for me registering us at 5AM this past January after it opened just past midnight) but also lodging is booked a year in advance.

Luckily, the University of Minnesota at Duluth (UMD) lets out dorm rooms and you can either opt for a regular one with shared bathroom or a “suite” with a private one.

You can imagine which one I chose. Suite, baby. This turned out to be a spacious two bedroom with living room and kitchen. Each bedroom was equipped with two single beds kept apart by a heavy metal dresser drawer.

Apparently, this is how they keep unwanted pregnancies down on campus.

We designated one “The Love Room” and the other room was for sleeping.

Two nights, two beds, no maid service. You get the picture.

We slept with the windows open (no A/C, but a nice cool breeze off the chilly great lake). I say slept, but that was after some serious single-bed-creaking-love that most likely gave the other residents in the building something to think about during their 26.2 miles the next day.

The next morning I thoroughly cursed myself for not brining up my Senseo as there was no coffee machine in the room and not a Starbucks for miles.

Nonetheless, we were both able to accomplish our morning elimination routines and drank Red Bull as a substitute for our morning java.

We walked to the bus stop to line up for the shuttle at 5:30AM. There was a long line full of anxious runners including some dudes in short shorts wearing no shirts.

Ok. We get it. You’re fast. Now put on a shirt. Your shivering is giving me the willies.

Anyway, we loaded the school busses and off we went to be dropped off in Two Harbors, Minnesota, conveniently located 27 miles away from Duluth up the lakeshore.

As I sat next to My Love with my knees in my mouth (slight exaggeration) I began to get nervous about how far we were being driven out. It was then the distance we were about to run really started to sink in. It took this bus about 45 minutes to drive that far, how long was this going to take to run?

Standing in a large grid of runners waiting in the middle of two perpendicular rows of porta-potties we soaked in the scene while the scent of the product of nervous stomachs wafted over us in the gentle morning breeze.

We made our last pit stops, washed our hands using the baby wipes I had brought in a zip-lock baggy (baby) and made our way to the start.

It was then we passed the table of lubrication.

Otherwise known as the table of lost shame.

Here men and woman grabbed great gobs of goop and slathered it on various private areas in a rather public fashion. There were young ladies with their hands up their shorts and dudes with freshly lubed nipples glistening in the rising sun.

Boobs lubed and ready to move, the 8,000 assembled in the starting area for the gun and run.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Everything

Take a look at the universe
What do you see?
Collections of specks
Spinning in the black sea of space

Look at these specks
What do you see?
Entire Galaxies

What comprises the Galaxies
But collections of specks
Swarming in the black sea of space

What are the specks
But entire planets
The Earth one among
Countless nameless orbs

Take a look at the Earth
What do you see?
Clumps of Land
Floating in a vast sea of salty water

Look to the Land
Stretches of silent soil
Spotted by collections of specks
Cities

Cities of specks of Humans
Swarming the streets
Sitting on the couches
In the grids of high rise buildings

Take a look at the Human
What do you see?
A skin sack of salty water
In which the Organs float

Every Organ a collections of Molecules
Themselves comprised of Atoms
Themselves comprised of Electrons
Orbiting their Neutron Proton anchors

Between the charges
Empty space
Vast distances separating
Negative from Positive

Take a look at the Proton
What do you see?
Quarks described by Probability
Comprised of

Nothing.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Vegas II

Although I was amused by the interaction with the statuesque transvestite as I reclined upon a velvety red pillow cradled in the prodigious bosom of the rotund half naked Hungarian woman, I was too filled with anticipation to be aroused by my participation in the staged orgy scene.

I lay there on stage, my shirt had been removed and my jeans unzipped and pulled slightly down. My CK bikini briefs were all that lay between my well “man-scaped” privates and the peering eyes of the crowd packing the seats at the New York New York Las Vegas Hotel theater. This was the finale of the show Zumanity My Love and I were attending that Saturday evening.

Upon my return from last visit to Vegas, as you may recall from the resulting blog, I had pledged to return, but this time on a vacation with My Love. I made true on this promise, and booked the trip in the middle of January, at a time when the weather forecast and my job outlook both appeared equally dismal.

Now, more than 4 months later, brightness has broken through and My Love and I were smiling and sipping our Bloody Mary’s comfortably ensconced in the second row of the United flight early that late April Friday morning.

The drinks were free (premier coupons) as well as the seats (miles and that free voucher I received for agreeing to give up my seat on the Florida bound flight late last year when I had that panic attack in the terminal). Free, baby.

On our second Bloody Mary (which, by the way, is a very excellent drink even on a plane. United Bloody Mary’s have kept me simultaneously tranquilized and hydrated for hundreds of thousands of miles thanks to the high salt content… probably not so great for the old blood pressure, but decent protection against hangovers) the flight attendant commented that we seemed much too happy and young to have a combined 5 children.

We were relaxed, even despite the challenging time we had making it to the airport that morning. My Love’s mother had agreed to get her kids off to school, and had accidentally overslept. She was very harried and apologetic, but we assured her everything would work out fine, and we greatly appreciated her assistance to enable us to have this greatly desired respite.

When the agent told us we were unable to check our bags because the flight was departing in 38 minutes and there is a 40 minute cut-off, there was a spike of anxiety. We had agreed not to carry on our bags so that both of us could pack a full assortment of beauty products and sun repellant.

Watching the TSA agents rifle through our carefully packed bags, lining up our full bottles of shampoo, conditioner, perfume, creams, salves, ointments and what-nots, like a colorful just-convicted rogue’s gallery took a little wind out of our sails, I must admit.

My Love was facing the loss of newly purchased shampoo, conditioner, sunscreen, all of her beauty supplies, and, worst of all, a nearly full bottle of her (and my) favorite perfume.

That paled in comparison to the loss I was facing: my bottle of Product I had just purchased from my hair stylist the day before.

I hadn’t even been able to squeeze one dollop from its gray and green supple body and there it sat, unceremoniously dug out with a filthy clear plastic glove and placed upon the stainless steel search table. Destined for the trash bin or (as I have been told, although I can’t verify the veracity of the claim) a battered woman’s shelter, I said a fond farewell under the bitter steely gaze of My Love who was convinced that her loss was far more onerous.

Her welling frustration was stemmed a bit by a new thought of what kind of man she had taken up with, and then seemed to subside with the TSA agent (whose ass I had been thoroughly kissing through the entire process. Traveler’s Tip: Surrender to the TSA or any other airport agent, it is your only chance of getting away with anything.) digging out a few “just in case” plastic bags I had packed and shoving as many things as he could into them.

The perfume of My Love was saved, and she was happy for my preparedness (which freaked her out a bit and added to her unease about my general state of manliness).

My Product, however, was abandoned, despite my pleadings. I can only hope it is brining joy to the locks of a lady much less fortunate.

We arrived at Caesar’s Palace an hour too early for check in, and soon found ourselves, salty rimmed Margarita in hand, on the outdoor patio of “Margaritaville”, nibbling on raw ahi tuna. The Sun, unshielded by clouds, swathed us in much needed warmth as we drank, ate, and expectantly looked across the street at our hotel.

It was clear something was amuck when the desk agent immediately picked up the house phone when he looked up our reservation. I had vowed to stay at the Wynn with My Love, but the rates were over $650 a night when I attempted to book the hotel in January. Many other hotels on the strip I was familiar with were upwards of $400 to $550 per night. Now, I don’t mind being a big spender once in awhile to live things up, but how much time do you spend in the room anyway? Plus, I was able to book Caesar’s on hotels.com for a much more reasonable rate.

The gentleman at the desk replaced the receiver and spoke to us in a hurried but polite stream of consciousness which left us both a bit taken aback.

“We had planned on construction being completed by the time you arrived but this was not the case so we do not have any rooms for you however we are owned by Harrah’s and they have several properties on the strip so you can stay as our guest at either the nearby Rio or Bally’s which is directly across the street Rio is newly refurbished and a bit sexier with every room being a suite but Bally’s is also very nice and the rooms are new as well and if that is not acceptable to you, and if I were you it wouldn’t be, we will also be sending you a certificate for a free room upgrade the next time you visit us and here is $20 cash for the taxi over to the other hotel so where do you want to stay?”

My Love was the first to speak, “So, our room is free?”

It turns out they credited our hotels.com charge and we stayed totally free at the Bally’s across the street. When our certificate arrived in the mail, it was actually for a free stay at Caesar’s for our next visit. My Love and I are already planning our return for the October timeframe. Free, baby.

Out of discretion, I will decline comment on the long sessions of uninhibited, playful, imaginative, passionate and even a bit naughty love making that ensued in our room overlooking the Las Vegas strip as well as the rooms from the other tower of the hotel. Let’s just say we left the maid something to think about.

Saturday morning we work up earlier than our 4AM bedtime would have predicted, and after Starbucks, a bran muffin and our morning elimination routines, we made our way to the pool’s at Caesar’s. We had been given nonfunctional room keys to the hotel so that we could still use their pool, as we were excited to visit the “Venus Pool”.

This was a private area, featuring comfortable chaise lounges, areas for rent, premium service by slender tanned white bikini’ed waitresses, and a European bathing dress code.

At 11 o’clock in the morning we were comfortably reclining on the white toweled couch by the pool we had rented, our guide and waitress chatting with us about children, Chicago and what we wanted to drink.

That day as we defrosted under the brilliant blue sky we subsisted solely on an entire bottle of Stoli Blueberry mixed with either soda water or sugar-free Red Bull.

During a swim, we ran into a young lady with the Chicago skyline tattooed on her stomach and side. We recognized it as our fair city and I have to admit, it was a very good job, very artistic and not trashy at all. I did notice she hadn’t added the Trump Tower yet, though.

We finally left the pool after chatting with a young gregarious man with a mild southern accent. He was with a large group of people and chatted with every lady possible, including My Love. We shared some drinks and finally got introduced to his wife.

She came to the pool fully dressed. Her outfit was completed by two heavily wrapped wrists. I smelled carpal tunnel, but she had just been in a small car accident and the air bags burned her slight wrists.

They had been married for just a year, he desperately wanted kids, she did not. He laughed and joked with everybody at the pool. She sat there with a grim look on what could have been a pretty face clothed and somber. It would probably take them years (and perhaps even a few children) to figure out they were absolutely miserable with each other.

The pool was closing, and our southern friend copped a feel of My Love’s beautiful bottom which put an awkward and unfortunate closing on an otherwise cleanly sexy day.

We showered and got dressed up for the show. My only complaint was that I had to use “LA Looks” hair gel for that evening, purchased that morning at a Walgreens of all places.

The show was so sexy and wonderful; we had a special loveseat right at the side of the stage so we could see the athletic bare bodies writhing right in front of us.

Near the end of the show one of the dancers leapt onto the laps of My Love and me. She was a grown woman but seemed to weigh less than My Love’s 5 year old daughter; she barely made an impact upon landing.

She led me on stage, and the resulting photo I have posted on this page.

After the show, I was like a mini celebrity, the crowd filtering out of the theater shouting out my name. Groups of girls giggling and waving. Dudes coming up to me and shaking my hand, “You are my hero, man.”.

It was a perfect way to cap off a perfect weekend of sexy sunny fun.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Light

As I considered the middle aged man being wheeled out on a stretcher by the medical personnel I’d seen previously rushing into the office, I thought perhaps this was not the optimal harbinger of a good first day spent at the headquarters of my new company in San Jose, CA.

He was calm, his face splattered with bright red blood which had emanated from his rather prominent proboscis. I sat there in the lobby, patiently awaiting my first day of new hire training. I hoped this was not a common occurrence, or something indicative of the new culture I was about to be initiated into.

Training was something to which I had really been looking forward. Both because I have just moved not only to a new industry, but also a new customer base entirely.

My background in semiconductor technology is an asset for my current role selling Light Emitting Diodes (LED’s), mind you, but there is a tremendous amount for me to learn. Exactly what I was after, rebooting my career along with the rest of my life, but seriously uncomfortable nonetheless.

The other reason I was looking forward to the week was the chance to actually see the SUN and perhaps even feel warmth. Unfortunately, My Love could not accompany me so the nights would still be cold and lonely.

The other new hires and I were escorted into the conference room, our new home for the next three days. We were served Starbucks coffee, a good omen cancelling out the bloody faced dude. At least in my mind.

We were treated to a light show, the room being rigged with the best of our technology to show off to customers. Quite impressive. Blinding. But impressive. I’m getting used to having to squint to actually see the products my customers create with our LED’s. The standard process is for them to haul out some big hunk of metal and glass, turn off the lights in the conference room, point it straight into my face, and calmly announce, “Check that out.”

What I am typically checking out is a neck jerkingly blinding flash of light searing permanent spots into my corneas. “Nice, looks great,” I meekly reply wiping the protective tears from my now useless eyes.

I was in a good mood, for that week, though. Not just because of the training, but also because I was able to get out for a few runs and actually got some non-artificially generated light to shine on me.

I had been put up in a “Homewood Suites”, a low rise collection of suites housing the lonely business travelers. It was where I had stayed for my interview as well. As you recall from that blog, the suite is so big it pisses me off because it is basically the size of my apartment but with newer appliances and somebody cleans up every day.

One nice thing about my room this time was the flowering tree right outside my door, a picture of which I show here.

Beautiful fragrant life.

I did notice, however, that I had not scored a room sporting a kickin’ little patio, like my across the walkway neightbors:

Just think of all the fun I could have there.

The one thing I found disconcerting about my hotel room was the matching drapes and bedding. Now, the fact that not only the pattern but also the material is an exact match was the not the worst part. The trouble was that the pattern distinctly reminded me of a field of alien invaders staring down at me, waiting for me to fall asleep so they could invade me in some unpleasant way. Don’t just take my word for it, look at their wide unblinking eyes and imagine yourself trying to relax under their watchful gaze:



On my second morning, I sat in my hotel room “office”, sipped the free coffee from the lobby and read the USA Today. I noted the stock of Crocs had dropped $7.68 to $10.11 the day prior, having been as high as $75.21 a share previously. The newspaper accompanied this grim article with a representative picture of a pair of these shoes, adorned with a young lady’s name. It happened to be “Ashley”, and that seemed to fit perfectly.

After my morning coffee and elimination, I trotted out for my run. I had planned to blindly jog around and just trust the universe that I would find a good path.

The stupidity of this naïve plan hit me in the form of a bitterly cold, dark Californian morning.

I ventured, instead, to the exercise room. This would more accurately be described as the exercise closet.

Stepping onto the ancient, overworked, undermaintained treadmill, I noted the sign on the wall which read, “No food, drinks, or horseplay.”

Now, the horseplay, I’ll give them. But food and drinks? Hasn’t anybody heard of sports nutrition in this crap hole?

I sweated out a quick 3 miles and as the sun was rising, ventured outside.

I wound my way down the sidewalk, heading west towards the nearby airport. On the satellite Google map, I had noticed there was a river that way, and I wanted to explore it.

Along the sidewalk, there were a number of large rectangular sheets of plywood lying on the grass. Each was marked in florescent orange letters, “Open Hole”. Not really truth in advertizing since, of course, the very sign created a “Closed Hole”, if there really was a hole there at all (I didn’t check, and didn’t have my camera on me to record this incident).

Just a little way down, there it was, the Guadalupe River trail. Excellent, a running path along the river I had seen, I guess my plan was working out after all!

It was still a chilly morning, but the brilliant sun was up and the light was shining down upon me, slowly starting to defrost my Midwestern carcass.

I ran, fast, free. I was smiling, looking at the greening life on each side of the gravel path. Much of the life was weeds, I suppose, but it was green life nonetheless and not some snow covered asphalt and I was happy to see it! Besides, what are weeds but just really badass plants that have succeeded along their evolutionary path.

Anyway, I was smiling like a mad man and saying a cheerful good morning to anybody that passed. I’m sure I raised a few red flags, but luckily I looked harmless enough so people just let me be.

I ran and ran, and finally reached a busy, wide road. I looked at my watch and it had been exactly 15 minutes since I started. I had wanted to run for 30 minutes to compliment my treadmill time, so I was happy it worked out so nicely. (When I later plotted out my run on mapmyrun.com (can you say “anal retentive”), it worked out to a exact 4 miles. Excellent.)

As I ran, I was accompanied by the wide-body impossibly flying painted aluminum frames of various aircraft taking off and landing at San Jose International airport. I ran among them, free, although I, earthbound, could not sail as high. At least I was not full of 100 pissed off human beings. Just one, at the most.

I turned back, and sprinted home. Well, not actually home, but back to the free crappy breakfast and the aliens in my bedroom. The sun was now right in my eyes. I stared into it, blatantly disregarding years of advice and common sense. I wanted to feel the heat, the light, sear into my brain. I finally closed my eyes, but not too tightly. My vision turned bright red, I fantasized that the blood in my lids was being lit and I could make out the very veins themselves.

As I stumbled through the busy intersection back to my hotel, I once again questioned my own sanity.

I would question my sanity once again on the last evening of my trip. I had been a guest of excellent dinners all week, twice with large fun groups of people, and the evening prior with one of my friends from my old company who lives in the Valley.

The last night I found myself alone, and was happy for it as I had a 6AM departure flight and therefore would be rising at 4AM.

I decided, against by better judgment, to partake in the free dinner buffet hosted in the hotel lobby.

The calendar on my refrigerator declared that evening “Grilled Cheeseburger and Hot Dog Night”. I figured, hey, they had me at Cheeseburger. Throw in a Hot Dog, and I’m your man.

I was early, and decided to pour myself a free Bud Light from the tap into a small Styrofoam cup. That was so wrong on so many levels, but I really needed the drink and it was either that or a jelly jar glass of White Zin from the nameless carafe chilling in an ice bed beside the keg.

I ventured out to the pool, laid down on one of the chaise lounges, and proceeded to drink myself into that wonderful hazy state that, coupled with the bright sun beating down upon me, was as close the heaven as I was likely to get without My Love being there.

Alone for only awhile, I noticed a trickling of women coming into the pool area. The trickling soon became a veritable flood, and I was immersed in a sea of bad hair and inane conversation.

Apparently, this was some sort of convention. The snippets of speech I heard had to do with things like “I told her, if you just buy a few bottles from me, you’ll be coming back for a case soon anyway, and that really is a much better deal.” For all the discussion I heard, I couldn’t figure out what kind of nectar these ladies were peddling, but I assumed it was not the Bud Light I was currently enjoying (way too much, mind you).

The proprietor of the hotel, a large slowly moving man wearing suspenders not at all for the fashion statement but purely out of keep-your-pants-up necessity strolled out to the pool. This was his moment to shine. He had slaved over a hot grill making the food for that evening, and was now telling the assembled throng his bounty was ready to bestowed upon them.

I waited 20 minutes or so, still giddily soaking up the sun, and walked into the lobby.

I soon became aware that I was the only piece of meat in the lobby that evening, save for the grilled variety. The song, “Hungry Eyes” pierced my brain. Looking at you, I can’t disguise.

The line for the free salad bar, and the meat was astounding. The cacophony of the “bottles of whatever” discussions became overwhelming. It was all I could do to pour yet another cup of Bud Light and stagger back to the sanctuary of the pool.

I finally did get to eat that evening, a rather unimpressive hockey puck of meat on a bun, followed by a passable Frank. I guess the busses had finally come to pick up the matronly mob.

With that, I retreated to my room, the sun still glowing, backlighting my alien watchers, turned off the light, and went to sleep.

The specks of light still dancing in my corneas were like stars in the endless sky above.

(By the way, I found out later during a fabrication facility tour that the gentleman I had seen earlier being wheeled out of the office was an employee of our tour guide at the moment. He had suffered a seizure during a routine meeting, and repeatedly hit his face on the conference room table before his team could sedate him and call for help. He had already talked to his boss and was planning to return to work soon.)

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Burn

The young lady in the full body fire resistant suit with matching helmet smiled at me through the clear Plexiglas face mask as I ran by.

The older man similarly suited next to her lifted up his shield to warn me of the flames and smoke I would encounter if I (stupidly, it seemed) continued.

My Monday morning 10 mile run began on the chilly, windy but mostly sunny day across the busy street and into the forest preserve directly to the south of my apartment complex. In the Chicagoland area, these green sanctuaries are reserved for mostly illicit sexual activity, horse manure and the occasional recreational runner or biker (I assure you, my interest was purely exercise).

The wind was whipping across my ears deafeningly, heightening my other senses, all of which were telling me one thing, “Fire!”

They happened to be doing a controlled burn that morning on the prairie fields bordering the path. A cluster of workers, some clutching flame throwers, fire licking at the tips, made way for me as I entered the smoky corridor.

Suddenly I was enveloped in the gray smoke and heat emanating from the orange flames lighting both sides of the path. I kept my focus on the savage beauty of the burning, and kept running, trying to breathe as little as possible (difficult to do while running, I don’t recommend it).

This was repeated a few times during that morning, with different spots being treated along the path. At one point, while I was all alone on the winter ravished desolate prairie looking out at gravel, brown sticks, dead leaves, a small all terrain vehicle emerged ahead of me. It carried four of these people, all completely covered in suits and masks, gripping flame throwers. I felt alien on this landscape, for sure.

The burning is a necessary part of maintain the preserve. The flames feed on the decaying underbrush, clearing away the forgotten beauty of last summer and fall. Intense heat bursts the seemingly lifeless seed carrying vessels, propagating the plants.

My body burned with the effort, a necessary part of breaking down the muscles to make way for stronger, faster fibers.

I smiled, wiped the smoke induced tears from my eyes (perhaps not all smoke induced), and embraced the burn.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Transition

As I sat at the railroad crossing, I examined each car of the slowly moving westbound freight train temporarily blocking my path. A few of the flatbed cars carried large spools of thick rusty colored wire. I wondered if these would be used to construct barb wired fences to keep people out (or in) or perhaps rebar in concrete to keep people up (or down).

The long train had nearly passed when another similar one chugged into view, moving eastbound. It too had several flat beds filled with the same twisted metal. An unnecessary transit, it appeared, and unnecessary transition from east to west, west to east.

I was sitting there in the rental car I had just picked up that morning. As Lindsey drove me to the rental facility to pick up my temporary wheels, I found her to be a pleasant, very thin (yet not painfully so, although almost) and professionally dressed young woman right down to her black leather dress ballet slippers (these joining Uggs and Crocs in an unholy trinity of comfortable yet supposedly fashionable adult female footwear).

Lindsey assured me that if there were any issues with the rental car, I could contact either her or her colleague in the office, whose name is Lindsey.

I drove off in my rented Jeep sport utility vehicle, a car that sports all the comfort and handling of a cargo van, but still manages to be only slightly less attractive. I need to use this rental until my next leased vehicle gets delivered to a local dealership.

The Chrysler 300 from my previous company needed to be dropped off at my old office. The new Chrysler 300 waiting for me from my old company remains in the parking lot at the dealership, as my lease had expired in February. Instead of that vehicle, I will be picking up a new Chrysler 300. My old and new companies use the same leasing service, but could not execute a transfer.

This is an example one of the “tools” I have been transitioning lately (and not too smoothly), getting a new computer up and running (accounting for a longer than usual gap in my blogging), selecting a new cell phone, new healthcare, passwords, accounts, systems, the list drags on and on.

Not to make excuses, but my blog went on an unexpected hiatus during this confluence of transitions. The emotional and physical toll of the past few weeks coupled with the fact that My Love has just made a huge transition of her own (legally speaking) really sapped the old creative juices as my brain shunted energy to emergency systems only.

Getting my home office in working order has been quite an ordeal, albeit a mostly pleasant one. I was on unpaid leave for a week ostensibly to take a vacation, but ended up working on these sorts of things mainly.

The home office is an attractive feature of my new employment, as I work from my apartment and travel the Midwest of the United States, managing the accounts and sales team in this territory. My last position was Global, and now I am Regional, so instead of traveling to Beijing / Singapore / London I now frequent Des Moines / Milwaukee / Detroit. Not as glamorous, perhaps, but I prefer the drive over the day long flights cramped in economy class seats.

My “Midwestern Region” consists of the Dakotas (both North and South), Kansas, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana and Michigan. As my new boss stated during my travels with him and my “big boss” last week, I have “a lot of dirt to cover”. He made this statement at a college bar where we had landed to wait until dark to look at our lighting installations in the city. The next morning we were scheduled to meet with the company that uses our solid state lighting to create these fixtures. The local sales manager had driven us to a Panera Bread where we could comfortably sip coffee, nibble on bagels and use the free WiFi to do e-mail. My bosses where not happy with this program and the next thing I knew I was sitting around a table with a 5 gallon bucket of beer (literally, a big pail filled with Oberon Ale, my favorite seasonal brew that had just been launched a few days ago by the nearby Kalamazoo Brewing Company) where I stayed until sundown.

It was then I knew this new job was going to work out just fine.

Back to my vacation, I enjoyed the Easter holiday (the last of the holy trinity of gluttonous holidays with Thanksgiving and Christmas) simply because I was able to spend the extended three day weekend with my children.

I’m very happy that Easter has passed, it has always been my least favorite holiday. (My favorite holiday sighting this year was the billboard “Let Us Resurrect Your Fireplace” while I was driving though Milwaukee after an account call.)

I still recall with dread the Wednesday night Lenten services, for which we would have to get on our Sunday best and pile into our poorly heated and maintained automobile. My father would drive the half hour from our small town of a few thousand people to the big city of a few hundred thousand in South Dakota. These dreary weekly services would culminate in the somber week of Ash Wednesday, Maundy Thursday (I don’t know what that is either), Good Friday and finally sunrise service on Easter Sunday. We would get up painfully early to go to the first service, then hang around for the next one so my parents could sing in the choir for that one as well.

The whole church would pile into the grade school gymnasium for pancakes and hard boiled eggs. Service at the church being the primary social outlet for my parents, my father would busy himself flipping flapjacks while my mother joined the women serving the throng.

The cherry on top of this crap Sundae was the fact that my brothers and I would have to wait until everybody was finished to clean up the entire place. Folding up the tables, stacking the chairs, disposing of hundreds of sticky syrupy Styrofoam plates, all the while dreaming of getting home at some point to find the baskets hid by the Easter Bunny (this being a large rodent bearing chocolate bunnies so that children could eat his effigy along with yellow marshmallow juvenile chickens).

The only thing good about Easter to me is that it signals the start of spring. Ah the first day of spring, which reminds me of my last visit to the Post Office.

I decided to get a Post Office Box since my business cards would be printed using my home office address which in my case, of course, is my apartment. Equally to avoid the contact explanations I anticipated (yes, it is an apartment, yes, divorced actually) and to avoid angry customers showing up at my door late at night demanding a refund (this being merely an exaggeration on my part, but still a paranoia… you never know). Plus now I get to drive ten minutes to find out nobody has sent me anything useful.

This was my third attempt in as many visits (and weeks) to actually obtain a PO Box. The prevailing attitude seems to consist mostly of “What nefarious acts are you planning to commit that you are in need of the anonymity associated with this service, hmm?!”

It was a sunny day outside, which punctuated the gray dreary interior of the government office. My persistence was rewarded this time by getting a reasonable competent, if not compassionate (more importantly), clerk who not only seemed capable of the task but willing (more importantly) to do it.

As she “hunted-and-pecked” her way through the menus displayed on the archaic miniscule monochrome monitor (my father had a better display, for example, over twenty years ago on this first “portable” computer which was the size of a small suitcase and carried a full size keyboard along with an 8 inch floppy disk drive) a middle-aged, matronly mother grimly approached the counter to my immediate right.

She pulled out a neatly stuffed wedding invitation and asked how much, if at all, mailing this would require over the standard postage. Her dismay was evident as she recoiled at the $0.12 response curtly given after the off white heavy stock parcel was unceremoniously slapped onto the bare metal plate of the electronic scale.

“What are my options,” she inquired, “I need this to match the picture stamp I have already purchased”. (This picture stamp was a 41 cent custom job showing the engagement picture of the currently happy, most likely one day miserable, couple. Not that I’m bitter, it is just with a mother and in-law like this, the cards are not stacked in their favor).

The clerk, unsympathetically displayed the standard 12 cent stamps she would use to augment her pretty little picture.

“Ugh, is that all you have!”

It was.

“You expect me to but a big blue antelope on this envelope? This simply does not match at all, can’t you see that?”

The clerk could not.

At this point she sauntered over to assist my clerk who had run into problems with my application, leaving the comfortably dressed suburbanite to mutter over her misfortune to herself.

The woman finally decided she had quite enough of this insanity and declared to the assembled crowd, “These people are incompetent! I am going to the south town branch to conduct my business!”

She stormed off, and I noticed neither clerk in front of me even raised an eyebrow, they simply took no notice of her departure.

“Your customer left”, said one, finally.

“Yep. Too nice of a day to waste on somebody like that.”

I had to concur. Too nice of a life to waste on ugliness. Transition to sunshine.

17 Syllables

I was tagged by my friend and fellow blogger Sarah to describe myself in a seventeen syllable synopsis.

Searching always
Finding sometimes
Finished never

Loving, longing.
Be?

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Lease

Seeing the manila envelope slapped on the carpet in front of my door filled me with not a little apprehension at the enclosed missive from my apartment complex's management.

I was at first relieved to find the contents were not a formal complaint or request for an increased level of decency on my part. When I realized I held in my hands next year's lease the relief faded to the somber realization I have lived in this humble abode for 10 months.

I remember entering the main office almost a year ago. I sat with the very young and very blonde agent Ashley in the well appointed room listening to my options. I had told her I only needed a place for a few months. Reason for the move? Divorce. It was the first time I had used this word out loud to a stranger and I found myself stupidly slightly ashamed. Ashley, to her credit, emitted a soft "sorry to hear" and moved right along to the hard facts.

I was facing an exorbitant monthly fee for a short term fully furnished pad, normally reserved for corporate purposes. I reluctantly signed up for a one year unfurnished thinking the month penalty for early termination would be made up by the lower allowance if I could stay there for at least 5 months.

Asking what was available, Ashley told me a third floor two bedroom with a balcony just opened up in a building she described as having personal knowledge of as a good choice. It was only later I realized we ended up being neighbors, by the way.

She asked if I wanted to see it, instead I just signed the papers and escaped to retreive my check book for the down payment.

Stepping a month later into my newly acquired white walled and carpeted, white veneer cabinetted, old ass appliance appointed crib I nearly had a full blown panic attack.

Luckily, I was accompanied by my Love, who at the time was only my "Training Partner" and dear friend. She tried to ease my mind with thoughts of all the wild parties I could throw, fully utilizing the "breakfast bar" slash "wall separating my tiny kitchenette from my office and front room". Just think of all the running group bashes we will throw!

To this day, I have had one party, Matt & Sarah (fellow blogger) visiting my Love and I for the Superbowl (which was expertly documented on her blog).

I do use the bar all the time, my son and daughter perch on my barstools (sturdy ones with full backs... put down the phone, no need to call DCFS on my ass) for their meals. Me serving them "diner style", standing as I eat. (DCFS = Department of Children and Family Services here in Chicago, by the way)

Anyway, I have made myself rather comfortable and despite the fact I still do not own a couch I am very happy here.

Let me address the whole couch issue. I am consistently surprised and a bit amused at how the lack of this item thoroughly disgusts people.

I first did not purchase one because I really didn't think I would be here this long. I wasn't intending to go back to "the house", mind you. That Saturday the moving van pulled up and caught the eye of every adult male on the block out mowing their Pleasant Valley Sunday plot of green will forever be the last morning I woke up in my McMansion. Packing up in no time at all (I totally rock at packing and organizing for a move), I took as little as possible, relishing the freedom to "leave it all behind".

I still relish this freedom, but alas this, like everything worthwhile, comes at a cost. The price I paid this weekend was mincing onions with a pizza cutter on a plate because I possess neither a sharp knife nor a cutting board much to the chagrin of my Love who was making her special guacamole recipe for the St. Pat's party that evening hosted by Matt & Sarah (soon to be fully documented on her blog!).

Despite having to cut up the avocados with a butter knife my Love's guac rocked and was devoured by the only half drunk crowd only minutes after our arrival.

My neighbors who share a wall with me had borrowed a beer bottle opener from me one evening months ago. This is a young couple who moved in the same time I did, and seem like genuinely sweet Midwestern people, but also the type that would not own a beer bottle opener, having no use for alcoholic accoutrement.

My Love suggested they return the favor, and tried to get me to knock on their door and inquire whether or not I could use a "sharp knife" just for a bit. I was not sure I knew them well enough to ask for such a thing, "Hey, I just need to cut something up really quick, I'll have this cleaned and back to you in no time!"

Funny story about the newlywed guy, I ran into him the first day I saw my apartment. He gave me a hardy "howdy new neighbor" and proclaimed he was just getting married that weekend. I actually was able to bite my tongue and filter out the "what a coincidence, I just got separated!" Why take the shine off of his good time?

Another funny thing about this couple... I have never even once "heard them". You know what I mean. The sound proofing is quite good in this complex, I'll give them that, but they are a newly wed couple. I feel like taking him aside to make sure he is doing it right but I'm afraid he'd just look at me confused and reply they didn't want to "make a baby yet" so why would they do... you know... that!

So back to my couch, I think I'll celebrate the signing of my new year long lease and get one. Not as an acknowledgement of defeat, but as an affirmation that my temporary living space is not as temporary as I would like but is still the bridge to a brighter day.
I am going over first thing Monday to drop off the signed and initialed document to Ashley. If she isn't there, I will have to give it to the new leasing agent, a very young and very blonde nice young lady named Ashley.

I also finally got Renter's Insurance. I assumed this would be taken care of since I have homeowner's insurance. Like when you have car insurance you are covered no matter what car you are driving. So, can't I be covered no matter where I happen to be living? Thanks to this naive (stupid) thought process I have been living uninsured for the past 10 months.

Walking across the street to the new "State Farm" office that just opened up (a signal to me I could not put this off any longer... how much easier could it get?!) I found myself in the middle of a true to life family business.

I was greeted by the gregarious manager / father and seated with the nervous daughter at the bad dark fake wood office furniture. Her name was Ashley and she sported a tense smile and a very pregnant belly covered, not unattractively, with a print dress of some sort of manmade fabric.

I happen to follow the Dave Barry regulation that a man must not comment on a woman's pregnancy unless at that very moment he can see a baby emerging from her body. I pretended not to notice.

I declined the offer of a cup of coffee from the mother who had been beckoned to help Ashley out with the form. The scent in the air reeked of "flavored beans", and I would rather remain thirsty and slightly sleepy that subject myself to artificially tinged java.

As she clicked away at the keyboard and furrowed her brow at the curiously monochrome screen, Ashley made small talk. Do you have any kids? I had already told her I was divorced (I like to cut to the chase with this and not describe how I am still in the process and it is just a matter of court dates and legal fees at this point), I am getting very good at delivering this information to strangers, and frankly enjoying it nowadays.

This was my opening to ask her if she had children. Here is how our conversation went:

Ashley: I'm pregnant right now!

AMLite: That's great, is this one your first?

Ashley: No.

AMLite: How many children do you have.

Ashley: Four. Or five.

AMLite: (silently to himself) WTF?

AMLite: (out loud) Wow.

Ashley: Yes, I'm much older than I look.

AMLite: Yeah, I get that a lot too, how old are you.

Ashley: 22.

This discourse made me wonder why the mother, father, and two other ladies in the office (most likely aunts by the look of them) allowed their youngest member to handle the first impression department for their office.

Anyway, it was a good thing I got this insurance as my faucet broke off and my kitchen sink turned into a powerful fountain which would make a great "water feature" in my back yard but a terrible addition to my tiny kitchen today.

My Love and I were just cleaning up from our little brunch when Old Faithful broke the serene morning into a frenzied "how do I turn off the damn water & grab some towels quick!" mess.

I would like to finish this story by describing in detail how we had to drop our robes to soak up the torrent and ended up making sweet love on the slippery linoleum, but alas this was not the case.

A quick call to my emergency maintenance number had a guy out to fix the problem in a matter of hours.

Hmm. Maybe this apartment living thing isn't so bad after all.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Happy

Although I had just quit my miserable job the day prior and accepted an offer at a new company, I awoke on Saturday morning feeling distinctly unhappy.

My children had risen quite early thanks to the sun artificially signaling morning time; a nuisance soon to be wiped out by daylight savings time.

A similar pattern of negotiations inevitably follow.

Them: "Its morning time, daddy!"

Me: "Ugh. Look at the clock, its too early, go back to bed for a little bit more!"

Them: "But the sun is up, daddy!"

Me: "But the current "time / daylight" gap is just a product of an archaic and arbitrary human made system to designed ostensibly to save energy and help school children which instead just leads to mass confusion and more waste."

Them: "Your slavish adherence to numbers on a machine to dictate your actions is robbing you of the opportunity to bond with us while we are still young and willing to hang out with you."

I relent, and my 6 year old son and 2 year old daughter crawl into my Sleepnumber bed for some serious cuddling.

Holding my boy, comfortably ensconced in footy pajamas, in one arm and my daughter in the other as she gently stokes my face, unblinkingly peering into my eyes, brightens my mood considerably.

Nevertheless, a certain melancholy had descended upon me. It was the hangover of an exhaustive past few weeks; the rigors of my soon to be terminated current position, navigating multiple new opportunities and interviews, the final negotiations. This stress cocktail was capped off with the resignation call to my now ex-boss Friday evening.

What was I to do? I decided I needed two things badly: a drink and a nap and not necessarily in that order.

I ended up taking two short siestas that day. I also thoroughly cleaned my apartment (yes, in the nude) and fixed the sunglasses of my Love (while clothed, in case you were wondering).

This last task involved me finding a repair kit I had received years ago (one of the benefits of my obsessive nature, I found the thing in no time!). Concentrating on that little screw clutched delicately in my bulbous fleshly fingertips while the tiny tool twisted ever so slightly, turning into the hinge, I felt useful and focussed. I was able to block out the rest of the world, fully turning my attention to this micro task, willing my hands to act skillfully without shaking.

Speaking of shakes, I really needed that drink!

My Love and I met up with Sarah (fellow blogger) and Matt at their lovely home to tip a few cold ones and share some laughs. My mood immediately brightened and I found myself happily enjoying the company of my friends.

My friend Joel had called me that afternoon to invite us to see his buddy's band play at a local establishment. He told me his friend is a keyboardist and the band plays 80's music.

My Love and I were intrigued, but so prepared to hate it. We gleefully pictured the cheesy bar scene complete with this dude banging away on a synthesizer wearing like a sweatband on his forehead or something.

Well, we were wrong.

After parking in the Jewel (local grocery store) lot across the busy street since the club's lot was jam packed, we held our breath and slipped past the crowds of smokers gathered in the entryway. Since our state went totally smoke free, these exiled patrons pathetically shiver in the freezing cold, banished to slowly kill themselves in the outdoors and try to keep up their cool facades while shivering in tight packs.

It actually took some time to dissipate the stench of smoke from this brief envelopment, and it made me happy I wouldn't be waking up the next morning with a second hand stink.

The joint was called "Double Vision". We were so prepared to hate this filthy meat market, but actually enjoyed the place thoroughly. It was huge, like a high school gymnasium only darker with a full service bar. The patrons were also slightly older.

The bathrooms were excellent, very clean with nice new tile. The only downside was the bathroom attendants on duty. Dude, I can crank out my own paper towel, thanks. I did take pity on one of the guys, I guess he was an ex-security guard down on his luck by the look of him. For a $1 tip, though, I expect to be at least "shaken off" (and I mean that in a hygienic manner only).

My Love and I paid the $10 a person cover and got hand stamped to enter the "band room" and there was my buddy Joel dancing in the front.

He was joined by two young ladies wearing matching self-made Michael Jackson T-shirts with the word "Shamon" printed in shiny silver letters. Their glow-in-the-dark bracelets completed the package. Bubbly girls, and quite nice. Lonely, clearly, but fun nonetheless.

We all stood in front of the huge speakers and shouted at each other at the top of our blissfully smoke free lungs. Throughout the whole evening I probably understood a total of two sentences of conversation, so I stuck to smiling and nodding.

Drinks were purchased and I saw Joel bring one to his buddy perched on the corner of the stage banging away at the synth.

I had to take him aside and advise him that delivering rum and cokes garnished with two bright red cherries to a male band member might significantly reduce his chances of scoring with the ladies.

Speaking of scoring, there was a young couple who follow this band around right in the front totally making out for the entire show. She had this bad yellow shirt on clinging to her young over-tanned body. I couldn't help seeing her ten years from now, and it was pretty. Anyway, her guy didn't seem to mind the way she was dressed or treating her skin, he had he hands fully roaming along with his tongue as they dry humped their way through Duran Duran. Hungry like the wolf, indeed.

That being said, the crowd was actually pretty cool and this place wasn't the meat market I had expected. Nobody approached up to buy us drinks, and when people walked by they didn't give you that knowing glance or piercing stare I associate with people on the make. There was this one guy, obviously drinking too much and fighting with his date who hadn't yet figured out her life would be much better if only she could stop dating assholes like him. He was wearing a polo shirt with a long sleeved white undershirt for warmth. I guess he thought the short sleeve striped top was so hot he couldn't wait until spring and had to bust it out for Double Vision. He kept trying to balance his beer glass on his head while dancing, I guess that was his "special power". I actually had the impulse to punch him in the face, but then I reminded myself that I am a metrosexual engineer and not some macho ruffian.

Back to my group, we continued screaming at each other, laughing and drinking while rocking out to the seriously excellent band. This band took all the one hit wonders and cheesy 80's songs and actually made them song good. Joel's friend actually quit his corporate job (selling high tech.... just like me) and does this full time as well as serving on the board of a charity that oversees education for children in Zambia.

So, it turns out this guy seems to have it all figured out, he lives downtown Chicago, has fun playing in the band, has a higher purpose. No wonder he seems happy.

Last call was announced and the lights came on and the cockroaches scattered. We said good-bye to Joel, I admonished him not to wake up the next morning in the back of his green mini-van also parked by Jewel as a "Shamon sandwich" wearing a now fading glow ring around his genitalia.

Finding my car still in the parking lot, untowed and untouched, at 3AM hand in hand with my Love I realized that I was happy.

Although I have been termed an Optimist by some, I consider myself more of a Positive Realist. By which I mean I embrace the reality of the situation but always think things will turn out for the best in the long run.

I used to think my goal in life was to be Happy, but now that I am happy, I realize it is not a steady state.

I love reading the latest physics research on the building blocks of matter. We are starting to realize that instead of collection of hard bits and pieces, all our flesh and bone boils down to quantum states, probabilities and vibrations.

And by vibrations I mean frequency, sinusoidal waveforms, ebb and flow, Yin and Yang, penis and vagina.

We aren't meant to stay in one state, always happy or always sad.

I look at it now as having a relatively stable & content foundation from which I can swing into happiness as well as melancholy. I want to be able to fully experience and enjoy the adventures in life but also embrace painful expansion and growth. Laugh to enjoy and cry to understand. Riding the highs and relishing the lows. Keeping grounded to avoid flights of fancy or pits of despair.

Staying in any one state too long, whether it is ecstasy or malaise, robs you of your vibrating humanity and starts your decay.

Ride the wave, baby.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Flight

As I considered the overweight middle aged woman in the SUV beside me stuck at the red light earnestly popping a zit in her rear view mirror, the thought occurred to me I might be in for an unpleasant day.

It was a bitterly cold, albeit thankfully bright, morning and I was off to San Jose for a full day of interviews. I've decided that getting divorced, moving into an apartment and immersing myself into the Love of my life wasn't enough change and stress (both positive and negative) for me. So, I've added looking for a new job and making a, what I hope to me, total career and industry change.

In reality, the move is not a masochistic one, but mandatory. I've tried to avoid changing jobs, but in the process rode my current situation down a bit too far for comfort as my company, customer and industry hit a chaotic confluence.

I found myself blankly staring at my computer screen, unwilling (actually, unable it seemed) to focus and read the red e-mails peppered with exclamation points dually reporting that the message is "urgent" and the sender is an asshole.

I recently completely missed an internal preparation breakfast before a customer meeting. I had never before even been late, let alone absent, for a meeting. I had been talking to my Love on my mobile and she asked me why I sounded so glum.

My response, "I'm driving in a car I don't own to a place I don't want to be to meet people I don't like to discuss matters I no longer care about to keep a job I don't like to make money I don't need to pay for a house I don't live in and an apartment I wish I didn't."

After that, I pretty much puttered around aimlessly for the next few hours, getting gas, vacuuming my car, going through a wash, drinking coffee and eating some donuts in the Dunkin' Donuts parking lot sitting in my car (something I hadn't done for years since hitting rock bottom back then).

The real eye opener came afterwards in a crowded airport terminal in the midst of many members of my team. I had what I later realized was a panic attack and decided not to board the plane to Florida for the customer event I was hosting. I wasn't nervous about the flying part, I've flown over 600,000 air miles and I only thought I was going to die once (just for a split second as the plane banked suddenly in the right during a wicked storm over Lake Michigan). I just shut down thinking about more wasted hours traveling to meaningless meetings.

My team was very compassionate and talked to me like I was a scared 6th grader which at the time I really appreciated because my racing mind couldn't compute.

I remember sitting there in the empty terminal calming down and gathering my thoughts for the drive home. All my life I desperately clung to the myth of total self control as my primary method of survival, so the whole episode was unsettling.

I now sit ensconced in 1st class (upgrade, baby) penning this blog on my way to San Jose. When I say penning, I mean that quite literally. I had hoped to write this on my laptop during the flight, but I am not able to do so.

Because I left the fucking thing at the security checkpoint.

Ah yes, another sign that this day might prove to me a bit of a challenging one.

Now as I sit here hearing the vestiges of ways I have relegated to the past ringing in my head ("You idiot, how could you have forgotten such a thing?! You've never done so before! Pay attention!") I calmly inquire to myself instead, "What can I learn from this?"

The first thing I learn is that my handwriting sucks. (I am laughing now because I wrote the word "sucks" so poorly I had to cross it out and write it again. I hope the guy beside me doesn't think I'm laughing at him because he just dropped some of his omelet on his sweater.)

My hands first found a keyboard during 6th grade when my father introduced me to the membrane keypad of the Sinclair ZX81. Since then my fingers have been tickling the QWERTY of many a typewriter and computer (and, being an engineer and a computer geek, that was the only thing those fingers were exploring for decades, believe me).

So, I forgot my laptop at the screening area for the first time. It is getting increasingly difficult to get through the scanners anyway. I've started having to remove my belt because it seems they increased the sensitivity lately and the buckle was triggering the alarm. As I prefer to avoid the gruff man handling of a pat down (keeping that activity shared exclusively with my Love and my tailor) I obediently de-belt, de-shoe, de-watch... demean?

It makes me wonder why I'm able to fly with a belt at all. Couldn't I use this thing as a weapon of strangulation? Shoe bombs we worry about, belt nooses, no problem.

I did read about a nude flight starting to operate and I think that would basically be the sure fire method of preventing highjackings. There are many fun things to do while nude, but commandeering a jet is not one of them.

Although I find the concept of sailing through the clouds unburdened by clothing rather calming and appealing the downsides cancel it out.

As I understand it, you are asked to disrobe while on the plane instead of, more logically, in the security line. At 6'4" it is difficult enough for me to sit on the plane, let alone strip. In fact, on this flight while I was walking to the bathroom I stood up and immediately slammed by head into the overhead movie screen. I shook my head in mildly amused embarrassment and kept walking up the aisle. Only to bang my head into the next overhead TV screen.

Back to nude flying, the deal breaker for me; the overweight gentleman sitting next to me by the window just asked me to let him out to the bathroom. I notice his vacated seat is filled with crumbs and one discarded paper clip.

Imagining his bare bottom embedded with such debris brushing past me brings me back to harsh, clothed reality.

Harsh reality I am better equipped to deal with nowadays, allowing myself to embrace melancholy without slipping into depression but also ride the highs of happiness without flying into fitful fancy.

So what, I forgot my laptop. What is the worst that could happen? I made a fresh full backup rather recently (sweet) and I have paper to write on and books to read.

It reminds me of the last flight I took with three colleagues (and, more importantly, friends) of mine; the return one from the internal meeting I talked about in Hotel blog. We were sitting at the airport restaurant / bar patiently awaiting our departure while scanning the monitors noticing that every 15 minutes or so our flight was pushed back another half hour. Not a comforting trend, but all the flights to Chicago that day had either been cancelled or delayed. There was a blizzard passing through the area and that spells trouble for the busiest airport in the world (placed in one of the worst climates).

Undaunted, we laughed and drank a few local beers and ate some lunch consisting of local food (pulled pork, which despite being served at the airport was actually quite tasty). (Traveler's tip: Always eat and drink local. There are rare exceptions; like when your chopsticks pull out a rooster's head from the boiling pot in the middle of the table in Beijing, China. Don't eat that.)

One of the guys joked around with the waitress, playing one of our favorite table games, "Guess the country of origin from the accent." I was correct with eastern European, but none of us got Bulgaria right. It was fun until one of the guys told her his diet Coke was flat and she responded walking away, "What do I look like, the bartender?"

We moved closer to our departure gate and sat down at the restaurant / bar there (which was the exact same one as the one we just left. Apparently the designers never heard the term "variety is the spice of life". They just assumed alcohol was enough.)

It was there we watched solemnly as all the flights to Chicago on the monitor were changed to CANCELLED.

None of us fancied the idea of another night in Raleigh, no matter how pretty it was there. We wanted to get home, and I was still hopeful I could make the party my Love was having at her house for a few of our friends.

We checked the monitor for the closest destination to Chicago that was still available. Oddly enough, there was a flight to Milwaukee still on the board. That would give us a 2 hour drive to home, so we went to the desk to transfer. Coming back through security grasping our newly found tickets home, we were flagged by security. It freaks them out when a group of people suddenly changes their destination city, even when there is a logical explanation.

The security guard used a loud Monty Python accent to corral us into a special area and none of us found him funny, much to his disappointment. After we were cleared, we crammed into the small full jet headed to our next destination. The people on the flight were not happy. The businesswoman sitting next to me was so bitter she even complained about the descent. "This is the longest descent I've ever seen! What are they doing!". I was going to tell her to chill out, the pilot was landing us into a blizzard and we should be happy to be alive, but I figured that would just get me a well manicured finger nail jabbed into my eye socket so I nodded sympathetically and turned up the volume on my iPod. (Yes, we were able to fly a small jet into a smaller city experiencing the same weather as Chicago. It isn't logical, but I wasn't arguing.)

We rented a car and were soon making our way south on the highway. There were plenty of accidents, but luckily they were all on the northbound side. Seeing the miles of slowly moving vehicles on the other side, the police with their flashing lights, and the cars in the ditch was a chilling sight, but we were undaunted.

That is, until, we realized we were rather hungry and really could go for a bratwurst.

Much to the chagrin of the Scotsman in the group, the Italians and I were hankering for some pork products and what better place than the Mecca of Meat, Milwaukee?

We found the Brat Stop on our GPS and stopped in for a pit stop. It was snowing heavily and we were almost the only ones in this huge place. It was late, the weather was terrible and we were still hours from home, but at least we had each other.

Feasting on fried cheese, fried jalapeños (stuffed with cheese), fried vegetables, fried chicken wings and, for the main course, bratwursts, sauerkraut and German potato salad all washed down with a local beer (Spotted Cow from New Glarus: Hard to find in Illinois, but worth the trip to Wisconsin.) we joked and laughed and forgot our shared problems at the office. We talked about women as well, and this reminds me about one of the unexpected perks about working with nerds; they are for the most part able to carry on a conversation concerning women without using words like "tits" or "bitch".

I even got to talk about my Love, being gently grilled by the guys as to whether or not I was running away from something horrible rather than to something special. I appreciated their caring inquiry, and talked about how my new relationship was an unexpected gift. Unbeknownst to me, my Love was at her party with the two intrepid people who braved to storm to attend doing basically the same thing, talking about me and our relationship.

In a few more hours, we were all safe and sound back with our families at home (except for me, I was just back at my apartment alone, but safe).

So, what started out as a potential disaster ended up being a pork laden journey drawing my traveling and I companions closer together.

And, what stated out as an unpleasant day and trip to San Jose turned into a job offer.

Next flight: out of my crappy company!

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Valentine

As this in the first Valentine's Day I have truly enjoyed experiencing, I offer the enclosed poem to My Love as a public display of affection.

"Eternal"

As I knelt, I felt
Reverence to you
Severance from shame
Fear & hatred

As I kneel, I feel
Fealty for you
Faultless & blameless
Love & lust

As I bow, I vow
My body to you
Purified by the searing
Heat of your soul

My love is not blind
But rather divine
And, you will find,
Eternal

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Court

The first question on my mind as I left my car in the parking garage was not if I had reached the courthouse correctly, but whether I had arrived in a different country altogether.

It started with the young couple in front of me walking downwards in the urine tainted concrete stairwell. They nervously exchanged Polish phrases through bitter shivers in the zero degree gray morning wind.

It continued as I neared the entrance and a blaring loudspeaker commanded us in Spanish to, as far as I could tell, not bring camera phones into the courthouse.

I had been warned solemnly by my lawyer's assistant that camera phones were strictly prohibited. Although I never use the camera function in my cell phone, it is difficult to get one nowadays without this feature and of course mine has one. I left it in the car after saying good-bye to My Love.

They really took this camera phone thing seriously, though. There were multiple signs with big red letters (in English, oddly enough) that read "No Camera Phones". It was evident somebody later added in smaller print "or cameras of any kind". That is the kind of small rose I like to stop and smell during an otherwise menial and meaningless meandering.

When I was told I needed to be in court, the first question I asked myself was, naturally, what should I wear? I discussed this with My Love and decided upon a suit and tie. Wintertime is an especially good time for formal dress, giving one opportunity to accessorize with gloves, scarves and (theoretically) hats (which I do not wear because there is no way I am messing up my hair just to stay warm up top. Stay warm outside, look dorky inside. No thank-you.).

As I stood in the security line removing my overcoat, suit coat and belt for the scanning machine, I realized I was better suited for what appeared to be the shorter "lawyer/judge line" than the ordinary citizen one. Apparently a visit to the court house for most of these people involved no more modification to their normal attire than, perhaps, not wearing the shirt in which they committed the crime lest the blood stains weaken their alibi.

The chubby guy in front of my removed his pullover sweatshirt (which doubled as a coat for him, so he obediently removed it for the scanner. I think he could have gotten away with wearing it, but I admired his thought process.) His shirt came with the sweatshirt so there I am stuck behind Mr. Harry Bareback in line with his jeans falling off his ample waist, empty belt loops bemoaning their useless existence.

Since I breezed through security (save for setting off the alarm with my "dress watch" I had forgotten I was wearing. Nowadays I normally wear my running watch just for convenience and comfort whenever I check the time I can think about my last workout or event. Plus I like to think it makes me look like a runner, which I admit is stupid.) I headed down to the cafe for a Starbucks I was happy to find served there (gee, do you think they can dilute their brand image any more? It's bad enough to have them at the Dominicks, but at the frickin' court house? Yeah, that says sippin' luxury). $2 for a small cup later I sat down in front of the filthy floor-to-ceiling window overlooking the frozen retention pond / waterscape amongst a throng of lawyer looking and sounding people.

I was comforting to sit & sip among similarly suited men and women. It was, however, a bit unsettling to overhear their conversations. (I am able to hear simultaneous conversations and keep track of their content, even if I don't really want to. It is very helpful in my job at meetings where several things are happening at once. It can be a bit challenging in public as there is basically a constant noise in my head. I have gotten better at sorting and somewhat silencing this cacophony, but it is difficult to "turn off".)

"You can't take a fucking day off, you know? He gets to take off for surgery, but oh no, I miss one fucking day, and he's pissed off. You know?"

I didn't know. I gulped down the rest of my coffee and went upstairs to anxiously await the arrival of my attorney outside my courtroom. She never showed up. But these people did:

An attractive young woman trotted by wearing a nice gray wool turtleneck sweater paired with "anti cruelty society" sweat pants and running shoes (shamelessly inflicting cruelty upon anybody with a halfway decent fashion sense and working eyeballs).

An older gentleman wearing suit pants tucked into his over sized cowboy boots which were themselves fitted with goulashes. (I appreciate the effort of protecting your dress shoes, but I think these steel-toed shit-kickers could have handled the snow and salt. Besides, I can never wear shoe coverings because my father always wore them and referred to them repeatedly as "rubbers". "Mother, where's my rubbers!?" He never understood why my brothers and I giggled at this, and yelled at us to settle down to no avail.)

Cowboy hat and Bluetooth headpiece guy walks by. Screams, "I'm a high tech hick." Yee haw.

Then I see an older gentleman with nicely slicked back silver hair sporting a solid silver tie to match. Very well done, talk about aging gracefully. He enters my courtroom, and I realize it is past my appointed time so I enter in case I missed my lawyer.

She is not in there and the cramped room is packed, the bailiff asks me to please have a seat (rather politely, I might add, which I appreciated since she was packing heat and could have easily been rude to me and I would have sat my ass right down nonetheless).

After awhile, I see a sign that reads, "This room is monitored by surveillance equipment sensitive enough to record any audible conversation in the room." I wish I would have read that before muttering "where the fuck is my lawyer?" to myself like one hundred times.

I find myself looking at the silver haired guy wishing he was my lawyer. He seems to know what he is doing, smiling at the other attorneys, getting his case scheduled with the judge with ease and, I might add, style.

But, I am left alone. I give her a half hour and then bail (pun intended). The last case I see involves a slick eastern European lawyer in a pin striped suit and hiking boots arguing custody for a bald headed, washed out jeans wearing, sunglasses tucked into his tight shirt father. He ex wife is "representing herself", and this piques my interest. Unfortunately, the judge doesn't have time to hear the details and instead tells them to schedule a time with another judge.

At this point I leave, and I see this unfortunate trio emerge from the room as well. The woman looks at her ex's lawyer, "Well thanks for that total waste of time!" They start to argue in English, but then switch to Polish (probably to really get nasty).

And so I walk in a circle, and my futile court date ends as it began.