Monday, November 30, 2015

George Harrison (1943-2001)



Everybody's third-favorite member of The Beatles died November 29, 2001. He was the first member of the group to release a solo album, and he also has the highest-selling solo album of any former member of The Beatles.

I was in the 10th grade when Harrison died. I knew of The Beatles and enjoyed what I had heard of them up to that point. I didn't know much about Harrison in particular. I got much more into the group in college and the members solo careers.

Just thought I would commemorate the anniversary of his death. Next year will be the 15th anniversary, so I would expect more of a mainstream memorial. 

Click here to see a cool article about his musical contributions to The Beatles.

Click here to read my Top 25 Beatles songs that I ranked a couple years ago.

Click here to read what I wrote shortly after The Beatles finally released their music catalog to iTunes.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Thanksgiving, 2008-2015



Thanksgiving Day, 2015. What am I doing? Nothing. For a detailed look at my 2008 Thanksgiving Break from college check out my book, a collection of essays and stories. I can turn anything into a plug for that thing.

I've lived in Luray, Virginia now for almost a month. Friends I've made: zero. Articles I've written for a newspaper: 13. I consider that to be a fair trade off.

I like this area. It has a very small-town vibe to it and I'm cool with that. If we're looking back at my life, it's more comparable to a Jackson County, Ravenswood and Ripley vibe, than it is to Princeton and Mercer County.

Just realized I spent 14 years living in Jackson County and then 14 living in Mercer County. How long will I live in Page County? I was jokingly told that I would be given six months before they would even consider firing me. So I have that going for me at least.

* * *

It's like John Lennon said, "And so this is Thanksgiving?" He didn't really say that. Thanksgiving used to be a big holiday in my family that I really enjoyed. But, as often happens, you grow up and things that appealed to you 20 years ago don't hold as much reverence. And, you know, most of the family members I really enjoyed seeing are dead now or strung out on drugs. I haven't been to a family reunion since 2012 and I'm not losing any sleep over it.

That 2008 Thanksgiving (which you can read about for only $3.99) is the last time "the family" got together for a feast. Most of the childhood celebrations have turned into a blur of good times and mashed potatoes. I remember the 2003 edition, my cousin brought a friend and I didn't like her. She scared me. Her ears were gauged and she had nails going through them. Like, actual nails that you hammer into stuff.

So, with all of that stated, let's take a look at what I did for various Thanksgiving celebrations.

2009 ... Kelly and I had just moved into our apartment together. It was called "Brown Apartments" and was a brick building. We made fun of my friend Robbie who tried to find my place one day and told me "I was looking for a brown apartment." 

Kelly's mom gave us a fouton and we spent Thanksgiving Day putting it together. I had to go get something and on the way back listened to that Arlo Guthrie song that everybody plays on Thanksgiving.

I was a shift manager at Pizza Hut. While the restaurant was closed on Thanksgiving, they were open the next day. Part of closing the place down is to get them ready to open the next day. I drew the short end of the stick and had to go in on Thanksgiving night and prepare dough for the next day. So, I got drunk at Pizza Hut, ate chicken wings, and made dough. First time I ever drank Milwaukee's Best. My verdict: Really? Is that the best they've got?

2010 ... Candace came and spent a week with me while she was off from school. Our exploits are chronicled in Facebook pictures from five years ago. And, also in a blog called Thanksgiving Break. Facebook changed the way that the post pictures on their site, so every link on there to a picture doesn't work. We had a good time.

2011 ... This was probably one of the worst weeks of my life. Candace came in and we were going to repeat what happened in 2010. I had recently left Pizza Hut and started working at one of those gambling places, which has been chronicled in archived blogs here. The first day Candace came in, we were eating at Cafe Soleil, which has since closed down. I got a phone call from work asking me to come in early. I do that and am promptly fired.

They're very strict about anything there, since their entire existence is predicated on losers pumping thousands of their dollars into those machines. So, if they have even the smallest issue with you, you're fired. My friend came to visit me and was loud. Lady gambling complained and I no longer have a job.

Remarkably, I get a job at another gambling place within two days. I go in for my first day of training that night. An older lady is teaching me everything. I don't know why this place didn't have a mop, but the way you "mopped" the bathroom at night was to take a rag and wipe the floor. I went and did that and when I came back the lady said "Are you really done that quick?" At this point, I'm 25 years old and in decent shape. She's in her 50s and most of her time doing that chore is likely spent bending over and getting back up. I go back and sit in the bathroom for 10 minutes then come out pretending like I scrubbed the floor.

The next day, Candace goes to Walmart and I go to work. I walk in, smile at the lady who trained me last night, then walk over to clock in. She stops me. "Did nobody tell you?" No, nobody did. Apparently I was fired after five hours on the job. Apparently the lady who spends all of her time in there gambling knew my boss and complained that I wasn't as helpful as I should have been.

In my defense, a job like that is tip-based. You do stuff for them and they give you money. I was training and this lady was my trainer's customer, so I didn't want to get in the way of her tips.

I had worked at Pizza Hut for six years, put in my two-week's notice and wound up staying an extra two weeks after that. Then I'm fired from two jobs in one week.

It gets better! Later that night, when coming back from Athens, home of Concord University, I get a flat tire! Candace and I are pulled over on the side of the road, roughly 10 miles from home and it's late at night. I call the car insurance people. At that time, I would get one free towing covered. The guy on the line tells me that he has one on the way. Half an hour later he calls back and says that the person is too far away and isn't coming and that nobody else will either. He then proceeds to ask if I will be okay. I told him that I wasn't going to die, but that I would like to get my car towed.

A couple hours later, I'm home. This week seems like it would make for a good story somewhere else, so I'll save it all for then. We went to her parents' house the next day for dinner. The only thing I remember from that is on the way there, we were behind a truck with a dead deer's head staring at us.

2012 ... I don't remember much about this year's holiday. It was once again spent at Candace's parents house. I fell asleep on a chair in their living room for a while. Of the four or five times I went to their house, one time I drank beer and got a little tipsy but I don't believe it was this day. There was also the time her religious mother found out I did not share her beliefs. But that's an awkward story that should probably remain buried forever. I think 2012 was the year that I played the mashup between Jay-Z and Linkin Park in Candace's car and she got mad at me about it. It wasn't "I don't like this, please change it." It turned into an actual her-getting-mad-at-me situation for playing a song she didn't like.

2013 ... At some point in the early part of 2013 I began dating Ashley Green. There's a date when we actually started seeing each other and then a day when we started telling people. By this point she had moved to California and we were doing the long-distance thing. I spent the week of Thanksgiving with her, then she spent the week of New Year's with me. Then it all came crumbling down shortly thereafter. Not really. We managed to hold out until May or whenever. That stuff is hard to keep up.

Going to California was a lot of fun. It was good to see the girl that I loved. For most of the week, I thought Ashley lived in apartment 20. Then I realized the one next to her was 2P. But, it was fun to get away from my life and just relax. I upgraded my phone while I was there, moving on from my beloved BlackBerry and getting an iPhone. I also bought a pair of Vans there that I still wear constantly.

I interviewed her for episode 06 of my podcast. Click here to check that out. It ends on an optimistic note, as I ask her if she thinks long-distance relationships can work.

2014 ... "Stone Cold" Steve Austin had a t-shirt that had "Alcohol Fueled" written on the front of it. That would about sum up my November in 2014. I wrote it down and calculated it at one point: I was drunk for 22 days that month.

That was probably at the height of my "woe is me," lost my license, had to move in with my mom, my girlfriend broke up with me, I have a job I hate, why isn't life working the way I want it to, blues. I had friends confronting me about my behavior, my mom gave me an intervention one day while she was driving me to work, I was out of hand for that month (and a few before and after) and I realize it now.

Thanksgiving Day, I woke up to find that CM Punk was the guest on Colt Cabana's podcast to break his silence on leaving WWE earlier that year. Too many people were excited about it, as the server crashed and I had to wait a day to listen. I spent most of the day laying in bed, avoiding people. I went downstairs, quickly ate some food, then went back upstairs for a couple hours until it was an acceptable time to walk down the street to the bar.

It was snowing out and I wore shorts. At one point I was walking to the bathroom and heard a guy say "This dumb motherfucker wore shorts!" I turned around and his friend jumped between us, like he thought I was gonna start a fight over that comment. I can't be mad at him. All he did was state a fact.

* * *

So those are my memories of the last few Thanksgiving holiday celebrations. How has 2015 been? Nostalgic. Mixed bag. It's fun to look back at the past, but not all of the past is fun. The future, though, I think that is looking good for me. We'll revisit this in a year and see how 2016's holiday was.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Norm Macdonald Clip of the Week


I was perusing the news on Tuesday morning, November 10 and came across an article noting that Helmut Schmidt, a former German Chancellor, had passed away at the age of 96. It instantly brought to mind a dumb joke that Norm Macdonald had made on his podcast.

The format of the podcast is Norm Macdonald and his co-host Adam Eget interview a celebrity guest. They talk about whatever for a while, then they have a segment where they read jokes. Norm writes all of the jokes and they are in his style, and he hands them to both the guest and Adam to read. Part of the hilarity is that the jokes often don't work, aren't funny, or just fall flat.

Early episodes of the podcast focused on the live aspect of the show, as it was streamed live. For later episodes, they don't point that out as much. This episode streamed live on April 1, 2014. While they were telling jokes, Norm also began birthday announcements. He said:

"... and former German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt would have been 95 today. April Fools! Former German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt is alive and well!"

Ironic in a way that the death of Schmidt reminds me of a joke where his death is used as a setup only for the punchline to be that he's still alive.

The April Fool's joke comes at the end of the video. The jokes before are dumb, but kind of funny. It's a decent way to spend a couple minutes.

For more information about Helmut Schmidt, check out his New York Times obituary.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

New job update: trying to move



I was talking to a guy recently about fighting. He said that if he got into a fight with me that he wouldn't punch me in the face, he would mentally mess with me. He said he would stomp on my hands so I couldn't type.

Speaking of typing, I start my new job next week. I'm a reporter for the Page News and Courier in Luray, Virginia. It's four hours away from Princeton. So, I have to move. That's been an issue. I dealt with a very unprofessional landlord in Luray.

I was told that this was the guy to deal with; that he would help me out. I called him and he was very terse on the phone and ended the conversation quickly. I didn't think much of it; he could have been busy when I called. He said he would email me an application. 

The next day I still didn't have the application so I called and left a message. Nothing. Next day, I send an email. He replies the next day and sends it to me. It was a Microsoft Word document with questions typed out and you fill in your responses. He accidentally sent me somebody's filled-out form. So I have this lady's social security number and all of her shit at my disposal. I erase her answers and put my own and send it back. 

Three days later I still haven't gotten a response, so I email him and basically say "Sorry to bug you, but I'm sort of on a deadline with needing to find a place quickly. Can we get this process started." He waited a day to reply with, and I'm paraphrasing, "Sorry, bro. They decided not to move. You can't have this place."

He had one other place that he said was going to be vacant at the beginning of November. So I replied and asked about that one. And it's been over a week and he hasn't replied. I guess I'm done with that guy. 

I feel bad because my new boss was like "This is the guy I recommend." And now I have to break the news that he was a very unprofessional douche to me.

So, yeah, I have to live in this town next week and I still don't have a place to live.

* * *

My announcement on Facebook got 150 "likes." That's about as many as a whore who posts a new profile picture. People seem to be happy for me. That always makes me feel good.

I watched "Clerks" recently for the first time. It's Kevin Smith's first film and tells the story of two guys who drudge through their lives of working at a gas station and video store and being losers in their early 20's not doing more with their life.

I didn't like the move, per se. Most of the dialogue felt forced. But I felt that connection with what Kevin Smith was trying to represent: the drudgery of having a meaningless existence and feeling like you're not accomplishing anything.

During my interview for the job in Luray, I told a story about one of the best and worst days that I ever had. It was the same day and it really illustrated my life and how I felt about it.

I was freelancing for the Princeton Times and covered the 2011 edition of the March of Dimes. It's an event where people raise money for research for premature babies. I show up and explain who I am, and everybody is so excited to see me. I'm treated with such respect and people are nice to me.

I interviewed a woman holding her premature newborn in her arms. She had twins and one died. And the other one barely survived; the one I was looking at. And she talked about how important this was to her and how she didn't want anybody to go through what she had to experience.

I did that and felt amazing, like I was actually helping contribute something positive to the world. Then I went to the job that actually paid the bills, manager at Pizza Hut, and had a pizza thrown at me by an angry customer.

Such a high and such a low all in the same day. It really made me think long and hard about my life.

* * *

I guess that's all for now. I'll update everybody on the apartment search and what happens with this new job.