This blog is just to test how different sized images will look in this journal. The picture is the picture that FNSC and auxiliary member Jesse Howard will be sending to our sponsored child in Uganda if I ever get off my duff and print it up and send it to him.
I took my first crack at some fall pictures during my lunch break today. I wasn’t 100% pleased with anything. However, I will go back out for my lunch break tomorrow with a guy holding an umbrella. That guy is Jesse. It is good to have him back at the mine.
Hopefully I will be able to get what I’m looking for tomorrow. I’ve made a commitment to only eat out for lunch one day a week in an attempt to eat healthier and save some scratch. This has been going pretty well and it opens up my lunch breaks to pursue my other interests.
Below is the best of what I captured today.
“Every renaissance comes to the world with a cry, the cry of the human spirit to be free.”-Anne Sullivan Macy
Jesse has been sitting on his couch for the last eight weeks watching reruns of Hannah Montana and dreaming of a day when he could return to his office at the computer mine. Today he walked into the mine and handed me a note:
You might not be able to read the scribbling of a doctor, but I can assure you that this note says that Jesse will be returning to work on Monday. He is pretty excited to be returning to work, even though he will miss Hannah, Lilly, Jackson, Robbie, Oliver, and Rico.
FNSC added a new auxiliary member this past Friday. Jason Baier joined us on the patio at La Carreta on a brisk summer night. His name will now go down in the annals of history with other Auxiliary Members of FNSC:
That Kristy girl Willy works with
I’m sure there have been others. I just don’t have the official FNSC Ledger with me at this time where all of our exploits have been documented. Even if I did have it with me, it takes all 3 of our keys to open the book any way.
If you would like to be at least as cool as Jesse Howard, you may one day join us for a Supper Club. All you have to do is give me a call and if you don’t have my phone number, I probably don’t like you that much any way.
After FNSC Jason and I cruised the town in a Rideshare van. You would think this was against “Rideshare” rules, but apparently as a backup driver he is entitled to dip into this 200 mile personal use monthly pool that the drivers get to split up. Only he is the only person that uses the miles because he is running some kind of scam on this elderly lady that is the other driver. I didn’t want to get too much information on the situation in case I was going to have to testify against him at a later date.
We cruised the Rideshare van around, looking awful cool, then stopped and took the picture below:
I would consider it a fairly successful evening.
Over the last week I have had to face a couple of hard truths. The first truth is that the Pope isn’t the sharpest tool in the shed. Or perhaps I’m wrong and during this time of religious bickering, it was a smart thing to piss off Jews and Protestants and unify them against him and the Catholic Church.
The second truth I’ve had to face is that I’m not going to finish my 14 part blog. Or at least not any time soon. So I’m going to break the silence on the things of done since May 19th. So these are the things I’ve done since that day, in no particular order:
I’ve went to the following movies:
Pirates 3 – Very disappointing ending.
Oceans 13 – Better than Oceans 12, but what wasn’t?
Ratatouille – Easily the best movie of the year thus far.
A Mighty Heart – Not as good as I had hoped.
Waitress – Also not as good as I had hoped and the doctor gets off way too easily.
Transformers – Easily one of the worst movies I have ever seen. What passes for wit in this loserfest is the racial stereotype transformer tells Megatron “You want a piece of me?” Megatron rips the racial stereotype Autobot in half and says “No, I want two pieces.” This movie is even bad by Michael Bay standards.
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix – A lot more fulfilling if you have read the book, other wise many sequences are just confusing.
I talked to and shook hands with Barack Obama and told him about my job.
I helped set a sales record for Little White Lye Soap.
Walked a few laps with Willy at Relay for Life. He walked 31 miles.
Went to the 2nd oldest restaurant in Iowa (Stone’s) with Jay.
Had lunch with Faust in Mankato.
Visited the National Hobo Museum.
Took pictures of flowers.
Saw Buddy Guy in concert with Derrick and Jen.
Turned in my photo entries for the State Fair.
Attended a birthday party for Jen.
Took the Henning family picture.
Watched K-Dawg’s team get smoked by Jefferson in the Little League tournament one day and come back to do the smoking a few days later to advance to the state tournament.
Took Jesse to the emergency room.
Bought a sweet new monitor for my home computer. (I’m not normally one to brag about my consumer tendencies, but I really love this monitor.)
Watched Killdeer lay on eggs and the eggs hatch a few days later.
Went to the wedding of Mr. and Mrs. Brian Beavers.
Saw the world’s largest strawberry.
Saw the world’s largest bullhead.
Saw the Jolly Green Giant.
Despite have to walk a half mile due to a guy’s gastronomical difficulties, watched Willy complete the 5K at Midnight Madness.
Had lunch with Mark before he returns to Taiwan.
Went to Backbone State Park with Shannon.
Helped Stephanie pick out a camera for work.
Went to the State Center Rose Garden with Jay.
Attempted and failed to make Mentos/Diet Coke rockets with Eric.
Took pictures of the “844”.
Enjoyed several Friday Night Supper Clubs with Jay and Willy.
Enjoyed several New Taste Tuesdays with Frank, Jesse, and Steve.
Went to the Company picnic. Seemed like people were actually excited to see me.
Drove to Minnesota to see Nate and watch Harry Potter.
Watched a slide show of pictures from Willy’s trip to Spain.
Attended a pretty sweet Memorial Day barbecue.
Set up a new squirrel feeder and two new bird feeders.
Changed the oil in my car. (personal reminder, change oil again at 161,000 miles)
Helped make soap.
It is most likely I did more than that, but that is all that comed to my head at this time, with one exception. One major exception.
I went to the Des Moines Arts Festival with Rebecca and Jay. I would have to say first and foremost, what a dog that was. What a major disappointment.
However, it did inspire me to put together the blog that I will hopefully post on the morrow. I can’t say that it is a good blog. In fact, it is probably the type of blog that makes one lose friends and gain enemies. It is the type of blog that may make people stop returning my e-mails or phone calls. The type of blog that may make people move to the other side of the street if they see me walking down the street. It frankly might be a subject that will make some people uncomfortable. Yet, that is for tomorrow.
I also wanted to check in on my friend Monica and report on what she has been doing lately. The answer is painting. I’m posting 6 pictures of her more recent paintings for you to enjoy.
When I started typing away on my novella, I stated that I wouldn’t do anything worth writing about while I was writing about those 11 days. It is a pledge I haven’t been able to keep. I have done some stuff worth writing about, but I’m not going to write about them. I am merely going to post a collection of pictures from my most recent adventures. There will not be an explanation for the pictures. They will simply exist, unless somebody out there wants to try to explain where these pictures came from.
Friday Night Supper Club has been in existence for over a year now. Since its existence, there have been three members. We are just like the three musketeers, without the intrigue, sword fighting and problems with the Cardinal Guards. Willy is Porthos. Jay is Athos. I am Aramis. Auxiliary member Jesse is our d’Artagnan. There have also been a few Planchets, Man from Meungs, and Constance Bonacieuxs that have graced FNSC as well.
Since its inception one cold March night at Tic-Toc, it has met without fail. True, on some occasions, Willy has skipped out to roof or watch steroid jockeys talk about God. Jay has missed on occasion to clean his apartment for Symposium. On occasion, actually I don’t think I’ve ever missed a FNSC. In my world, FNSC is sacred.
However, it was looking like our streak was going to come to an end. There was a Friday looming on the calendar that looked like trouble. Porthos was going to hop on a plane and go to Spain. Aramis had birthday dinner plans. This left Athos to hold down the fort and keep the streak going. It wasn’t promising though. d’Artagnan was at Safeco Field in Seattle, watching Chris Young dominate.
The three musketeers weren’t about to give up though. A plan was hatched. Friday Night Supper Club was going to have its first ever Thursday night meeting. It would work perfectly. Porthos would be able to get to his plane on Friday. Aramis would be able to get to his birthday dinner. Most importantly, the streak would continue.
Jay called me at work in the afternoon and wanted to know where I wanted to go for dinner and asked if this was going to be for my birthday.
“No. We can’t go out for my birthday without Jesse. That will have to wait until he gets back from Seattle and Willy gets back from Spain.”
“Where do you want to eat?”
“I’d prefer to eat in Ames because I have some errands I need to run in Ames. How about the House of Chen?”
>We agreed on the House of Chen, but we weren’t sure if Willy was going to make it. He was leaving for Spain the next day and probably still had ducks to get into the row. Jay agreed to meet me at the computer mine. The plan was set.
I did not tell Jay what my errands were. Some people view me as being hyper-secretive. I don’t think of myself this way. I think that I am a builder (not just because that is my unofficial job title at the mine). I build suspense and let things play out in a superior way, rather than just giving up the goods at the beginning.
Plus I’ve learned that when I tell people my plans, they feel like they need to give me their “ideas”. I prefer to work on my thing and unveil it when the time is right.
The night’s errands consisted of going to Hobby Lobby and buying a frame for Rebecca’s graduation signature thing, going to Lake Laverne to feed some swans (and get rid of some old bread that was stinking up my bench at work), go to Wal-Mart to pick up the 2 Disc Special Edition of “Pan’s Labyrinth” and square my 14 buck debt with Monica.
When Jay met me at the computer mine he had the look of a man that wanted to drive. I don’t think I’m giving up a major male secret that there are just times when a man needs to drive. If you can read people, you can usually tell when a man has that need. I emphasized with Jay. I had often had the need that I knew he was having, but I really needed to drive. Not in the visceral, instinctual way that Jay needed it. I needed to drive because I didn’t want to transfer stuff back and forth between cars.
“You want to drive, don’t you?” I asked but already knew the answer.
“I really need to drive.”
He was slightly deflated.
“Because of all the errands I have to run. It will be a lot easier if I don’t have to move all of this stuff from my car to you car and then back to my car.”
He seemed slightly defeated.
“Alright.” He offered, “But we have to be back by 8:30. I’m having electrical problems with my car.”
As I reached for the door to my car the riff from “Mannish Boy” blasted out of my cell phone. Only two people have that ring tone and one of them was standing about 5 feet from me and he believes with religious fervor that the cell phone is an evil invention. This could only mean that it was Porthos.
I looked down at my phone and saw Willy’s smiling face staring back at me from the Caller ID window.
I answered my phone, “Lone Wolf.” I’m not a nickname enthusiast like Jay, but I felt like playing to the crowd.
“HOWWWWWWWWLLLLLLLLLLLLL.” Willy responded.
“You joining us?”
“I left work early; I got everything taken care of. I’m in. Where we eating?”
“House of Chen.”
“I have heard of such a place, but I don’t know its location.”
“I have to run a couple of errands before we eat. Just meet us at Lake Laverne.”
“Will do! Wolf out!”
I shut my phone and got into the car. Jay was already in the passenger seat. He looked at me and asked, “What is this about Lake Laverne?”
“One of my errands is taking an acceptable swan picture.”
I started the car, turned on the iPod and we headed towards Hobby Lobby.
I have been a long time sufferer of HobbyLobbyphobia. The anxiety caused by this condition does not keep me from entering Hobby Lobby. This anxiety only keeps me from looking a Hobby Lobby employee in the eyes or asking one for help. If the unthinkable happened and a Hobby Lobby employee actually asked me if I needed help, this anxiety would prevent me from accepting any assistance from them.
My HobbyLobbyphobia does not prevent me from pulling things down off their shelves and taking them to the checkout line. I’m quite willing to do this despite the fact I usually have to go through about 5 or 6 frames, candle holders, or whatever before I find one that isn’t scratched, dented, or otherwise damaged. I have no problem doing this if I don’t have to see any Hobby Lobby employees. It is when I’m in the line my anxiety usually turns to frustration.
This trip to Hobby Lobby was one of the rare times that I can say the experience was painless. I knew exactly what I wanted. I wanted a 24×36 frame that was silver. I had already scoped out the frame I wanted. It had a metallic finish. I waited until this week to pick the frame up because one of the good things about Hobby Lobby is the fact that if something you wanted isn’t on sale, wait 1 week and it will be. At least this rule has always served me well when it comes to frames and mat boards. This rule served me well again. 50% off. I was a winner.
I found a frame that looked like it hadn’t been dropped from a high place. I grabbed it and headed for the dreaded line.
The strangest thing happened. I was the 2nd person in line AND the person ahead of me wasn’t buying 40 glass bowls that all needed to be individually wrapped. I was through the line in no time. I was back to the car in no time. We were heading to Lake Laverne in no time. My HobbyLobbyphobia did not ruin this evening.
I parked at Lake Laverne. We had beaten Willy there. This seemed weird to me at first, but then I recalled that despite his love for his sports car, he rarely exceeded the state prescribed speed limits.
I looked around the lake. I looked for the swans. Earlier trips had resulted in swan photos that I considered to be unsatisfactory. I was hoping to entice them with some of my old bread and get in good and close for the picture I wanted.
The swans were on the south bank of the lake. This was where I usually found them. It was going to work out well because they were in fairly deep shadows. I wouldn’t have to worry about small bits of light fighting through the foliage and creating awkward bits of contrast in the images that I didn’t want.
I began making the walk around the lake to the swans. Even though there is a side walk that encircles the lake, I walked close to the water. I was hoping to catch a picture of a frog on my way to the swans. I had no such luck.
Willy showed up while I was doing this activity. He, Jay, and the loaf of bread caught up to me.
“What are we doing?” Jay asked. He was always the inquisitive one. Willy was always the one just able to go with the flow.
“I want a satisfactory swan picture. I want you guys to feed the swans, while I take pictures of it.”
“We’re doing this because?” Jay still wasn’t satisfied.
“So I can get a satisfactory swan picture.”
We finished the walk and approached the swans. They seemed receptive to the idea of having their pictures taken. Jay opened up the bread and started throwing bread at them. I took a couple of pictures.
Then out of nowhere, two geese swam in on us. They moved quickly. In an instant they were on the bank. The beautiful swans were spooked. They plopped into the lake and floated away.
My plan had been foiled by these two honking geese.
Jay looked at me, “Now what?”
“Well, I have to get rid of the bread either way. Give it to the geese.”
Jay and Willy threw some bread at them. In an instant, the geese were on them. They were begging for the bread, but not in the way a dog begs for food. They were moving in on my fellow musketeers demanding the bread. They were hissing at Jay and Willy. They didn’t just want the bread. They felt that they were entitled to the bread. In all my years, I’ve only seen one other creature with such a false sense of entitlement and that was a human.
These birds weren’t thankful for this handout. They felt that they deserved the bread. I still can’t fathom why.
Willy and Jay looked at each other. They stopped giving bread to the geese.
“We can find some creatures out there that will be thankful for a free meal.” Willy said and closed the bag of bread. The gravy train was over.
“Go get a job!” Jay said to the goose nearest to him. Only he didn’t say it out loud. He said it with a look.
They pushed their way through the geese. We walked along the lake for a few hundred feet. We stopped by a bench. Willy and Jay started throwing hunks of bread into the lake at some perch.
It was a melee. 9 or 10 perch all came to the surface and fought for a hunk of bread. This was good entertainment. Plus the perch that got the bread had earned it. They weren’t just sitting around hissing about what they thought they deserved.
“We’re the only Canadian Geese on this lake; we deserve to be given this bread. It is our right!”
These perch were busting their humps for a little taste of bread.
I moved slightly away from my fellow musketeers. I wanted to get a picture of them feeding the fish. Unfortunately as soon as I got into a good position to take a picture, I realized that there was a silver sandwich wrapper on the ground next to Jay’s feet. This trash, this pollution ruined the purity of my shot. I silently thought about how much I hate people that litter in parks. Absolutely the dregs of society.
I was denied my first satisfactory swan shot, but at least I could do something about this picture. I walked back towards Jay and Willy to pick up the piece of pollution. When I was within 15 feet I heard this sound:
It came from both their mouths. Something relatively cool had happened.
“What happened?” I asked.
Willy answered. “A catfish just showed up.”
I checked out the lake and there was a catfish mixed in with the perch. It was fighting for its hunk of the bread.
“That thing is so nasty.” Jay said.
Jay is afraid of fish. He always has been. Despite his biased perspective, I do have to agree with him. Everything in the catfish family is a pretty nasty fish. They look nasty and they spend their whole lives in mud. Pretty tasty though.
The catfish made Jay and Willy throw larger and larger hunks of bread into the lake. A second catfish showed up. Then a third. Watching the catfish fight for bread was better than watching the perch. They began throwing full pieces of bread.
I picked up the piece of pollution and moved back to my position.
“Save me a piece of bread.” I called out.
I took a couple of pictures.
When there was only one piece of bread left, we continued on. I wanted one piece of bread left in case we encountered any more geese. I have never been a fan of the goose, but I wanted to see if it was just these two birds that were filled with this false sense of entitlement, or if it was the whole species.
I was not to find out. We finished the loop around the lake without spying another goose. I threw the last piece of bread into the lake. Nothing happened. Willy grabbed a stick and pushed the bread farther out into the water.
A catfish hit it. Then another. Then another. Then it was a catfish feeding frenzy. At least 6 catfish hit that piece of bread. After the first hit it was gone in seconds.
“That was disgusting.” Jay offered.
“Yet cool.” I countered.
“I don’t feel like eating fish for sure now.” Willy offered.
Willy followed us to the House of Chen. We walked into the restaurant and were seated. We sat for a while. Then our waitress came and took our drink orders. It may have become apparent that I’m not real big into physical appearances. I haven’t described the physical appearance of a single character in this tome. There are a few reasons why I haven’t included any physical descriptions of anybody.
The main reason is that I’m not a physical appearance person. Anybody that has seen how poorly I put myself together knows this fact. Another reason for the absence of physical descriptions is that I’m not very good at making them. I can tell you the color of somebody’s hair. I can tell if you if they were short or tall. I can tell you if they were slender, plump, or fat or some degree elsewhere. Sometimes I can compare what a person looks like to somebody else I know. That is really the limit of my skill in this department.
The final reason is that I have yet to come up to a point in this story where somebody’s physical characteristics added a dimension to the story. There hasn’t been a point where somebody was so short they couldn’t do something. The color of somebody’s eyes hasn’t changed the course of any event. The degree to which somebody plucks their eyebrows has not been important to me. Somebody hasn’t been so fat that something else happened.
This is about to change. I will make a vague physical description of a person and it will only happen again one other time in this tome.
I’m not very good with physical descriptions of other humans. So I’ll just say this about our waitress, she met the benchmark for being physically attractive in about every category on the average male’s checklist.
Why is this important? It isn’t terribly important, but it does lead to a minor episode that occurred at dinner.
Perhaps I should give a little bit of background on where this episode was spawned.
I work with a guy by the name of Steve. I lunch with Steve several times a month. Steve is a terrible rubbernecker.
I’d like to say that Steve is an admirer of the beautiful form of woman, but I can’t make this case without knowing that it is a lie. You see whenever we are at lunch; Steve suffers from a decided inability to make eye contact with the waitress. Steve is a straight to eye to mammary contact man.
In the past I have tried to defend such behavior. I point out that when the human eye looks at a photograph or a painting the eye instinctively always looks at the point of greatest contrast. This can not be controlled. It is instinctual.
When a man looks at a woman, he instantly looks at the cleavage because cleavage is the point of greatest contrast. The fair skin contrasts with the shadow that the cleavage gives off. Inevitably the eye is lead into the complete darkness of the cleavage valley.
This does not mean that the man is “checking out” any chick because he looks at her breasts first. The man’s eyes are just drawn to the point of greatest contrast and then his eyes move out from there. It is the same as looking at any other piece of art. That’s just science.
However, it is hard to make this argument for Steve. Not when most waitresses where polos (which hide the mammaries) and most restaurants are poorly lit. This just isn’t the proper environment to create high contrast. It could be that the way women are composed (the lines of a woman also draw the eyes to their breasts like the way the lines in a picture draw the eyes to a subject) that makes Steve so powerless, but I think the truth of the matter is that Steve likes what Steve likes and he doesn’t have the societal training to stop him from making eye to mammary contact for minutes at a time.
Jesse also lunches with us. Jesse is always giving Steve a rough time for his uncouth behavior. Steve deserves the derision, but it comes from a man who is standing squarely on the San Andreas Fault of moral ground.
Before I met Steve, Jesse was the most notorious rubbernecker I ever laid my eyes upon. Jay often recounts tales where Jesse was driving down the street and would almost rear end the car in front of them because rather than watching the road, Jesse was admiring some buxom lady on the sidewalk.
The times when our d’Artagnan would join us for FNSC, he would be on the prowl. Not for himself though. He would be on the prowl for Porthos and Athos. Any restaurant we eat at, he is constantly nudging one those two gents and pointing out the physical qualities of any girls within our table’s sphere of influence. This nudge is usually accompanied by a finger point and a visceral half grunt half “huh, huh?”
It is as if rather than dining with a normal human being, we are dining with the “nudge, nudge, wink, wink, say no more, say no more” character from Monty Python. It is uncomfortable for everybody at the table, except for King Rubbernecker.
I wasn’t thinking about Steve or Jesse at this time though. I was just thinking about what I wanted to eat. Feeding the wildlife at Lake Laverne had built me a mighty appetite.
The Waitress came back to the table. She took Jay’s order. She asked me for my order. I ordered pepper beef.
The Waitress stopped before she took Willy’s order.
“I really like your shirt.” She said to me.
It is rare that anybody ever compliments a shirt I am wearing. The exception is the shiny pink dress shirt I bought for the Oscar party earlier this year. Other than that, (and the occasional backhanded ‘you clean up nice’) I don’t get very many compliments for the way I dress. That is fair though. I don’t deserve many compliments. I don’t have a discernible style. My style consists of “what was clean and what musician/movie/cause/plaid I like today”. That is all the thought that goes into how I dress myself every morning.
I get out of the shower and think, “this is clean and I like Dang! root beer.” I throw those on and I’m ready to take on the world.
On this day, I didn’t remember what I had decided I liked. Was it red plaid? Was it Shannon Curfman? Was it saving Darfur?
I looked down at my shirt. Rocky Balboa was staring back at me. This morning, my “Rocky” shirt was clean.
“Thanks.” I said.
“It is really cool.”
“It is a great movie.”
Then she moved on to take Willy’s order and then she was gone. It was a simple comment. Nothing was meant by it other than that she liked my shirt. The only other thing one could deduce from this comment was that perhaps she was also a fan of “Rocky”. You could just as easily deduce that she liked the monochrome color scheme of the shirt.
Whatever her intent, the dye had been cast.
I looked at Willy. His elbow was out and he was moving it in a rubbing motion. If we were not so far apart, I assure you that his elbow would have been grinding into my side. Then he pointed in the direction that the Waitress had left.
“Huh, huh!” Willy stammered out a visceral half grunt.
Jay laughed and spit out some water.
It was indeed rich. I had never been the victim of Howard’s vicarious rubbernecking. It was always Willy and Jay. Now Willy was using this opportunity to mock Jesse. Jay was enjoying the moment as well.
I knew that mocking Jesse was funny, but I only laughed, took a sip of RC Cola, and said, “What? She likes Rocky.”
We stood outside of the House of Chen. We wished Willy the best of luck in Spain. Willy accepted our good tidings, got in his Stealth and drove off.
Jay was ready to get a move on.
“Let’s go.” He said. “I got to get back to Boone.”
“I need to make 1 more stop. Maybe a second stop.”
I really wanted to make 2 more stops. I wanted to stop at the Ames Wal-Mart and see if they had a copy of the 2 Disc Special Edition of “Pan’s Labyrinth”, but that was going to have to wait, unless we made record time at Monica’s Salon.
“We don’t have time.”
“We have plenty of time.”
The sun was quickly fading in the western sky. I had to make at least 1 stop. I owed Monica 14 dollars and I was going to square that debt. I may be a lot of things, but I’m not a welcher. I make good on my debts.
Monica’s salon is located in the mall. We were right next door. We barely drove a block. We still had plenty of time.
I parked the car and Jay asked, “Should I come in?”
“I guess that depends on whether or not you want to see Monica?”
He decided that he wanted to see Monica. We ascended the stairs to her Salon and saw her working on somebody’s hair.
“Benndawg. Jay.” She said excitedly. Monica is one of the last people that still calls me Benndawg. “What are you guys doing here?”
“I came to settle a debt.”
She looked kind of worried. Her look made me think she thought we were in some mindless action film. I was going to explain how she had wronged me. Then Jay and I would shoot the place up. We would miss her with the thousand some bullets that we would fire, and the debt would finally be settled in an extensive martial arts battle that involved hair supplies, shears, and people running up walls and doing flips.
This wasn’t an action movie though.
“I owe you 14 dollars.”
She shot back a blank stare. I would swear she was wondering if she threw some Griptight in our eyes if it would blind us long enough for her to make her escape.
“For taking care of my HobbyLobbyphobia.”
“You had forgotten.”
I reached for my wallet and pulled out a twenty. “Can you make change?” I asked.
“As soon as I’m done with this client.”
Jay became agitated. The sun was fading away. He only had one headlight. He was blaming me for the situation.
“What do you mean you need change?”
“I only have a twenty.”
“We don’t have time to wait.”
“I’m not a welcher.”
Jay pulled out his wallet and started handing me cash.
“Take this; pay her so we can go.”
I then realized that I had money in one of my front pockets. I reached in my hand and pulled out exactly fourteen dollars.
“What do you know about that?” I said wondrously.
I put the 14 dollars on her cash register.
“There you go Monica. We have to go. Jay is having electrical problems.”
Before the last words had escaped my mouth, Jay was down the stairs. He was in a hurry. There would be no stop at Wal-Mart. That was the bad news.
What I didn’t know then was that my quest for “Pan’s Labyrinth” would end at the Boone Wal-Mart in less than an hour. That would be good news.
When I got home that night, there was a 20×30 picture of Rebecca waiting for me in my mailbox. That was great news.
Jay Giving the Handout
Swan Floating Away
Goose Throwing a Hissy Fit
Willy Feeding Perch
Jay Watching Willy
Jay and Willy Feeding Fish
I woke up on a Friday morning. It had been 32 years since I was born. If I know the story correctly, my parents had to leave the Hillbilly Auction for my birth. That sentence didn’t sound correct. Let me try again. If I know the tale, my Ma and Pa had to leave the Hillbilly Auction for my birthin’.
Perhaps it is tales like this that prompted my cousin Allan to once give my kin (sisters) the backhanded compliment that he was impressed with how well we turned out considering the White Trash we came from. I’ve always considered this to be a bold and clueless statement considering that we are related by blood. If I came from White Trash, he came from the same white trash bin. Believe me, I don’t want to compare sides of the family, but he comes from the side of my family that is considerably less sophisticated.
I had realized long ago that family is family and it doesn’t matter so much where you came from as where you are going. But where you came from always remains part of who you are. I embrace that fact.
Yet, where I was 32 years ago on this day mattered little for where I was going on this day. I got out of bed, showered, and went to work.
The drive for me to work is almost always the same. On this day though I was going to add the complication of trying to change my voice mail message. This really goes against my core belief that people shouldn’t talk on the cell phone while they are driving, but I really didn’t want to be bothered with a ton of phone calls wishing me a happy birthday. It was my birthday, but I didn’t want that to control my entire day. I was going to change my voicemail to say something to the effect that I “wasn’t taking calls on this day, but if you leave a message I’ll return your call tomorrow.”
It turned out that I pushed a wrong button along the way and changed my message to that message that just tells people what number they have just dialed. Then the battery on my phone died. I considered this to be good enough.
Work was more or less uneventful. More than half of our employees were in Seattle for the big convention. To placate (the people who care that they weren’t in Seattle, which doesn’t include me) the people left behind, the Company grilled out. This meant some kind of pork. It was tasty and prevented me from having to leave to find food.
The only other eventful thing to happen during the workday was a call from Jesse. Apparently he wasn’t to be denied. He actually called my work phone. This is a good thing, because if you take out him calling my work phone, it has rang on only a handful of other occasions. If it wasn’t for Jesse, my phone could break and I would never know it.
When he called I was not at my desk. I was talking to a co-worker about 70s science fiction movies. The Shipping Manager approached me and said, “I have Jesse parked in 4.”
“I don’t know what to do about that.”
She explained what to do and I was successful. I had Jesse on the line.
“You not answering your phone?” It was both an accusation and a question at the same time.
“The battery is dead.” It didn’t dawn on me that he was talking about my work phone because nobody ever calls it.
“I mean your work phone.”
“It hasn’t rang all day.”
“I just called you.”
“I didn’t hear it ring, but I was over talking to Co-Worker X about ‘Zardoz’.”
“Well, I just wanted to talk to you on your birthday.”
“You got anything big planned?”
“Just going over to Colleen’s for supper.” I had enough of this birthday talk. I changed the subject. “How is Seattle?”
“It is awesome. It is the greatest and cleanest big city ever.”
“Are you going to do anything cool?” This was a legitimate question. I’m always disappointed when I here stories about people that travel to exotic and interesting locales and all they can tell me when they got back was how drunk they got. I’ve never been much of a drinker, which people tell me clouds my judgment on such issues, but I’ve never been to Seattle or Hawaii or Los Angeles. I wouldn’t want to go some place that has so much to offer and only come back with a basket full of “I got so wasted” memories. I can make those memories in Boone for a quarter of the price.
The other side of this question was because I worry about Jesse. Our big convention is just like every other convention. It involves lots of drinking. Jesse is not supposed to mix alcohol with his medication. This is exacerbated by his well documented lightweight status. It only takes a few drinks to get him going, but there are theories that it isn’t possible for human to get drunk on as little alcohol as it takes to get him loopy.
A friend of ours by the name of Corey is a leader in the field of alcohol research. He is a man that is so passionate about the field that he has even suffered broken bones in the pursuit of new knowledge. He has purported the theory that none of us have ever actually seen Jesse drunk. We have only seen him pretend to be drunk.
That might be the case, but I do know that despite his doctors warning and being surrounded by alleged friends at the convention in Las Vegas last year, he had too much to drink. As I have stated, due to his medication, too much to drink is anything to drink.
I say this because while a few of them were walking down a Las Vegas sidewalk, Jesse decided to drop trou and have a whiz. This actually is not a completely rare sight. It is not uncommon for a group of men out and about to stop short and take care of business out in public. Men don’t even have to be drunk to engage in such an activity.
You don’t have to be drunk to take a leak facing a building. You have to be drunk to do it facing the street. I was hoping not to hear a repeat of the Las Vegas story come back from Seattle.
“We are going on an underground city tour and we are going to a Mariners game.”
I was jealous of these two activities. The Mariners were playing the Padres on this evening. The Padres have been my favorite team for over twenty years now. I have never seen them play. In fact I have never seen a real baseball game. I have been to the Metrodome and to Kauffman Stadium on numerous occasions, but that doesn’t count as real baseball. They use the Designated Hitter. Then I reminded myself that an interleague game at an American League stadium did not qualify as real baseball either. They would be using the great abomination as well. Still, I would like to see the Padres play some time, even if it is under such conditions.
The underground tour would be fascinating as well. If I ever do make it to Seattle, it is the one thing I would have to do. Seattle has a fascinating history in this respect. I’m a sucker for almost all kinds of history.
“Chris Young is pitching tonight. You’ll have to watch his control early in the game. If he throws strikes early in the game he will dominate. If he his is going deep in the count in the early innings, he will have a short night. There is no middle ground for him. He either has control or he doesn’t.”
“I’ll have to watch for that.”
“The underground tour, that would be the number one thing that I would want to see if I went to Seattle.”
“Why is that?”
“Seattle has a unique history and their underground is unlike any other in the world. Their city started to sink, so they just changed what was considered ground level and what was ground level is still there, but now it is underground.”
“That does sound pretty cool.”
“It sounds fascinating. You’ll have to let me know how it was.”
“I’ll let you get back to work.”
I left work at about 6 pm. I was supposed to be at Colleen’s for supper around 7 pm. We were having a giant birthday supper for all of the May birthdays. Rebecca, Nate, Colleen, and I all had the great pleasure of being born in May. Nate and Bethany were coming back from Minnesota for Rebecca’s graduation and this was really the only time that we would all be available to sup together.
It was my birthday, but it was really just like any other day. There were times in the past when I would take my birthday off and do whatever I wanted. I would make my birthday my own 24 hours of hedonism. I would only do the things that I enjoyed. I would even have grand birthday bashes where I would send out birthday invitations that glorified me. Those days were behind me now. I was perfectly content to let my birthday pass by just like it was any other day on the calendar. I didn’t want or need birthday presents. Today was an adequate birthday. It was a day like any other. That was all I wanted.
(Secretly though I did covet a couple of birthday presents and I have gotten one of those presents and I have an IOU for the other.) I have found though that whether or not you want presents or not, people some times insist on giving them to you. Which is alright, I guess.
I arrived at Colleen’s at about 7:15. She greeted me at the door. Rebecca and Kirk were there, but Bethany and Nate were not there. For the tenth straight time that I have been to Colleen’s, Kirk was watching some form of auto racing. It seemed like a waste of such a nice television.
“Where are Nate and Bethany?” I asked. It had been a while since I had seen either of them. I don’t think I had seen Bethany since we went to the Sculpture Garden and I don’t think I had seen Nate since the Jordis Unga concert.
“They are still on the road.” Colleen answered. “Apparently they had to stop somewhere because Bethany wanted to buy a camera.”
I took a seat and waited. I looked at the television. There were trucks driving around in a circle. I don’t know much about racing, but I hope this wasn’t the big race of the week for truck racers. There must have been maybe 100-200 people in the stands. I did not make any comments deriding auto racing though. I have quietly come to accept the fact that auto racing has invaded all of my families on some levels. Although I have accepted the fact with a defeated dignity, I figured that I would take a few jabs at the “sport” when Nate was present. He had the ability to do it in a good natured way where feelings were only bruised and not injured. If I started in with Rebecca as my backup, things might get personal.
So I turned to Rebecca. “Are your hands clean?”
“I got that book that is going into Kelly’s Salon, if you would like to check it out.”
I handed the box in the book with it over to her.
“Good news,” I said, “Your picture came yesterday, so I just need to get it matted and then it will be ready for Sunday. Are you going to be around tomorrow?”
“I will be in the morning. I’m going to a Slaughterhouse 6 show at Vaudeville Mews tomorrow night and I have some graduation parties to go to.”
“What time are you getting up in the morning?”
“Pretty early. Probably about 9.”
I knew that meant 11.
“Did you like that Van Gogh book that I got you?”
“Yeah. It is pretty neat. I think it will come in real useful when I go to college.”
“I hope it does.”
It was then that the door opened and Nate walked in with Bethany. Nate looked at the television and saw that racing was on the television. Nate had been admiring the television for quite some time. He held his tongue, but the look on his face clearly indicated that he thought that this was a waste of a perfectly good television.
Bethany looked at me and said, “Hey Chris!”
Whenever Bethany is going to ask me for a favor or for my help she always starts the request with these two words and an identical inflection. This is the type of inflection that makes the two word “hey” and “Chris” a question more than a declarative statement.
I already knew that a request was about to be made and I already knew that the request was going to be granted. What I didn’t know was what the request was going to be.
“What are you doing tomorrow?”
“I don’t have anything scheduled per se.” I still didn’t have much information. “Except that I’m going to be delivering Rebecca’s picture signature board thing.”
“Can you help me buy a camera?”
Wow! This was something I was actually, sort of qualified to do. In fact, people had sought my advice about buying a camera quite frequently lately. Only every single time I had given my advice and backed it up with reasons, the advisees had bought something completely different.
“Yeah, I can do that. I’m actually pretty excited about it. Perhaps you might listen to my advice.” I said and thought “rather than completely wasting my time”. Why don’t people listen to me? They come to me for a reason, but then they just wander off into the wilderness. Fools and knaves! All of them!
I stroked my goatee knowingly and then I asked, “What time were you thinking?”
Bethany sat there for a second.
Nate chimed in, “Why don’t you ask her what time she is going to get up.” Brothers are always there to help.
I acted on Nate’s advice, “What time are you going to get up?”
“I can get up and be ready by noon.”
“Then we’ll go at noon.”
Racing trucks roared in the background.
Moments later we were sitting around the kitchen table eating supper. Colleen had fixed a wondrous spread. It included turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, and asparagus. There were also various salads but I’m not going to try to describe them. I’m sure they were varying forms of pasta salad, but that is all I can say about them for sure, besides that they were delicious. This is a gap in my schooling that I have looked to close in recent weeks. I have yet to be successful.
After dinner I sat down in the chair where I couldn’t get a clear look at the screen. Trucks were still driving around in a circle. It boggles my mind that at this point they had been doing this for over 2 hours.
Nate, Bethany, and Rebecca all sat down around the television. We were all miserable from eating too much food. It was a good kind of miserable though.
In the kitchen Colleen and Kirk did the dishes and cut up the birthday cake. Even though it seemed that I couldn’t eat any more food, I managed to eat a piece of cake. It was a good cake, but it wasn’t the caliber of cake made by Nate. I think I would have added a third thing to my secret birthday list, but in retrospect what Nate did give me was almost as good as a Nate cake. Besides, he certainly didn’t have the time to make a cake while he was down this weekend. Nate makes such good cakes. Perhaps if he asks me for a birthday list next year, I’ll just point to my belly and tell him to make if full and happy. Happy with cake.
Even though I did not desire anything, I was given a couple of birthday presents afterwards. It not being just my birthday, I was not the only one. Rebecca had brought bag purses for Bethany and Colleen from the Senior Trip to New York City. One was a “Prada” and the other was a “Coach”. I received a pretty sweet stocking cap that says New York City on it. It makes me look even tougher than I normally do. When I wear it I will no doubt scare small children.
From Colleen and Kirk I got a copy of the first season of “The Office”. Always an excellent choice.
Shortly after the cake had been eaten, Sara H. showed. Sara had just graduated from college. She told me how she was going to work for Habitat for Humanity for a year in North Carolina to be near her boyfriend who goes to Davidson.
The thought crossed my mind about her working on a construction crew. It might be possible that her mastery over profanity could be taken to the next level. Habitat might be a non-profit organization, but I refuse to believe that anybody can frame a house and put up dry wall with out the occasional f bomb flying out of their mouth. Well, perhaps the Amish.
She ruined this dream. She is going to be doing office work. How boring.
After a few more minutes of polite conversation, Bethany and Sara H. left for a bar in the west end of town.
A little after they left, Colleen and Kirk left for the bar. That left the television remote unguarded and up for grabs. Rebecca and Nate both made a move for the remote, but Rebecca is younger and was quicker.
She turned the television to TBS and just like that truck racing was replaced by “Sex and the City”. Nate grumbled at this development.
“This is only marginally better than watching auto racing.” Nate declared.
I moved to the couch so that I could actually see the television screen. Nate grumbled some more. Then he watched in silence for about five minutes.
“Well, I’ve seen all of this I can take.” Then Nate got up off the couch and left to go to the bar.
This left just me and Rebecca. Watching “Sex and the City” reruns on a Friday night.
“Do you hate ‘Sex and the City’?” Rebecca asked.
“I’ve been more or less conditioned to watch this show.”
Then we more or less sat in silence watching the remainder of the episode where one character hooked up with the guy from “Office Space”, one character decided that she really did love her baby’s father, one character realized her relationship could only go so far because her boyfriend was Jewish, and I can’t remember the problems of the fourth character. The show ended and we watched another episode. Same problems.
“Sex and the City” was followed by an episode of “Scrubs”. About half way through this show I got up and said, “Well, I better call it a night. I have to get up early tomorrow to do some matting.”
Rebecca wished me a good night. As I walked down the stairs, through the door, and out to my car I had one thought cross my mind:
“This was a perfectly adequate birthday and there was nothing wrong with that.”
Former Birthday Party Invitation – Parody of “Logan’s Run”
Present from Rebecca – Photo by Corey Schmidt
One of my “secret birthday wishes” – Stained Glass Made by Jen
I’m going to attempt to get out of the video posting rut that I’ve been in lately. Not that the videos I’ve posted have been bad. In fact, they have been highly entertaining. However, this here “Artist’s Notebook” isn’t supposed to be about funny videos. It is supposed to be about “Yours Truly” and my artistic endeavors and artistic failures. Although it is certainly also about my inspirations. Those videos are a part of my “Online Idea Box”, as I have been known to refer to this thing as.
This “Artist’s Notebook” is also about my more personal inspirations: My friends. So I should reveal what has been up with some of my friends.
The biggest news about my friends would be that Derrick has become the man at his place of employment. I believe his previous job title was “Guitar god” or “Guitar Guy” or “Sales Consultant”. Now his job title is something like “General Manager” or “Store Manager” or “The Man” or “Mr. Man” or “HHIC”.
It is a strange twist of fate that his S.O. Jen was once “The Man”. She hired Derrick on. Now it is a few years later and he is now “The Man”.
There was a store manager in between them, but I fail to recall her name. I do know that the rulers of Derrick’s company did her in on Monday. They pulled the old switching the locks to the door trick. A classic of all passive-aggressive wieners that don’t have the testicular fortitude to do somebody in face to face.
I know from my extensive firing experiences that it takes a man to look somebody in the face and tell them: “Get out of here kid. You’re no good. You don’t have a future”. Of course my extensive fire experience includes firing not a single person.
You see I was once “The Man”. Not with the same company where Derrick is currently “The Man”. Yet, I was the man for a couple of years in a quickly failing restaurant. It was hard to be “The Man” at this place because the owner of the restaurant wanted it to fail. They were begging their understanding of God for it to fail.
I ran what in the politically correct vernacular would be known as a “quick service restaurant” in Campustown. The large overhead of such a business and poor location spelled doom for the restaurant.
While I was captain of this sinking vessel I did not have to fire anybody. I soon realized that most people fired themselves. You set up standards for people. You communicated these standards to the people. You set up consequences for not reaching these standards. You communicated these consequences to the people. When people knew that they weren’t reaching the established standards, they would pretty much quit on their own.
I should point out that I wasn’t exactly setting the bar high either. My minions consisted of High School and College Students. This wasn’t a career stop for them. This was a little bit of spending scratch so they could booze it up on the weekend or go to that Dave Matthews concert or for some it was to pay for their textbooks or their rent.
The good ones already cared about their job, not because they cared about the job. They cared about their job because they were the type of people that did well because what they were doing was what they were doing. In less convoluted terms, anything that they did they were going to do well because the result was a reflection of them. It wasn’t what the job consisted of that was important. Whatever it was, they were going to do it well.
Then there were the employees that failed under my regime. They really failed of their own accord. At least they left of their own accord. Which the majority of them left because their time at Iowa State had concluded or they realized that they could get paid much better doing a much easier job some place else. However I am not typing words out about the people who just moved on to better things. This is about people who theoretically could have been fired. The failures.
My standards were not that high. It isn’t that they were low. It is that when you are stuck working in corporation there are about 1 trillion incredibly dumb rules about every single insignificant aspect of how to do every single mundane job. In huge multilevel corporations like the one that employed me, you will find people that memorize and dream about every single one of these stupid little rules that have nothing at all to do with the success of a business. In fact the enforcement of these rules is a waste of time. Concentrating on the mindnumbing minutia that is the “Proper way to pull eggs from the grill” is allowing insignificance to control the significant aspects of the business.
There were really only a handful of things that I cared about. I never spelled this out, wrote it down, posted it, or handed it out on cards. But if you were to really spell out my rules of management they were simple:
1. Serve the customer, in a fast, friendly manner with a good product.
2. Keep the store clean.
3. Maintain the equipment.
4. Don’t get me in trouble.
People who couldn’t do these things usually phased themselves right out of the business.
WOW! I never meant to drone on and on and on and on and on about it.
Willy had oral surgery last Thursday. It must have went well. He was up and back on the dance floor by Friday night. He even attended the largest Friday Night Supper Club in history. There were 6 people there. Including 3 people that had never made it to a Friday Night Supper Club function before. Jen, Derrick, and Sara now have FNSC Auxillary Member Status.
Jesse did not make it to Friday Night Supper Club because he had his nose broken Friday morning. It was on purpose. It wasn’t like he had lipped off to some dude and got regulated. A doctor busted him up good and attempted to rearrange some of the nose parts so that he can breathe better and make him a little bit softer on the eyes.
I got the pleasure of hanging out in the Ambulatory Waiting Room with Kelly and Mary while the doctors were working him over. It was through a conversation with Kelly that I learned more about his lying, scheming ways. Also I got more ammunition for the Bandwagoner side of the Jesse Howard: Bandwagoner or Innovator debate. Wives sometimes talk too much.
Kelly also regaled me a tale that I will file in my memory banks under the “Great Easter War”. I will not retell the tale at this time, but it might make its way into a short story collection in a bookstore near you.
Last night after work I headed to a park to test out my new camera bag. Once I got to the park I realized I couldn’t test my new bag out because the only thing I had brought with me was my camera and the new bag. I hadn’t brought my old bag that was full of goodies. I was looking forward to doing some bird photography, but that dream was effectively snuffed out by the fact that I had left my telephoto lens in my old camera bag. Therefore I was stuck with only my 50mm lens to try to capture images. The 50mm is a great lens, but birds are known cowards. I believe that they are the first known draft dodgers.
Due to their well documented cowardice (sometimes known as migration but really draft dodging) it is difficult to get close to them with out them taking off. So below are the best pictures I could muster out of the experience. They are failures. I know this fact.
This is going to sound slightly harsh, but it was nice to see a collection of deer without injuries. There is quite an assortment of deer that live in the woods behind my current place of employment. Almost all of them suffer from at least one injured leg.