Category Archives: FNSC

Minutia – Chapter 8: False Sense of Entitlement

Chapter 8: False Sense of Entitlement

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.

“Oh yeah!”

“I really need to drive.”

He was slightly deflated.

“Why?”

“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:

“Ooohhhh!”

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 what?”

“For taking care of my HobbyLobbyphobia.”

“The matboard.”

“You had forgotten.”

She laughed.

“I had.”

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

05-19-07
Goose Throwing a Hissy Fit

05-19-07
Willy Feeding Perch


Jay Watching Willy


Catfish

05-19-07
Jay and Willy Feeding Fish

Minutia – Chapter 2: Beans

Chapter 2: Beans

I do not get many e-mails at work. The ones I get are either related to a phone system failure that doesn’t affect me, the aisle copier being broken, new orders, or loaner requests. If I get a personal e-mail it is usually a link to read a story about or watch a video containing somebody doing something pretty darn stupid. Then there are the occasional e-mails that are of an actual correspondence nature. I wonder if I end up being a person of consequence someday, whether or not future historians or psychiatrists will have access to my pile of correspondence e-mails and what they will decide they say about me. I wonder what theories they will postulate about my decisions. I wonder what theories they will postulate about my motivations. I wonder what theories they will postulate about my mental health. I then stop myself from wondering. It is a futile enterprise to wonder what future generations might make of the sum of your life. For when they are, you will not be.

My wonderings aside, if it turns out that I go on to a smashing career in the field of commercial photography, there is one correspondence and one date that will be considered the genesis of that career. Historians will remember that it was a Wednesday. The time was 11:45 in the morning. The following e-mail blazed across the server at the computer mine and landed squarely in my inbox.

My boss just walked into my office and asked me to call a photographer that we’ve been working with. She didn’t do what we needed to have done. I asked why we work with her if she’s been difficult to deal with in the past.

He said something about just being convenient. So, I mentioned that I know a guy…and I had him look through your calendar. He’s interested in talking to you about doing a shoot for us.

Right now we’re looking at needing some close-up photos of roasted corn and soy beans. Would you have time (or want) to swing by {COMPANY NAME CENSORED TO PROTECT THE INNOCENT} today or tomorrow to speak with him?

You can say a lot of bad things about the Photography 139 calendar and its extensive use of free labor, but for the first time ever, it actually worked as a bit of advertising. 5 months ago when Shannon “purchased” her copy of the Photography 139 calendar and hung it up in her office at work, it began what would be the process that would on this day lead her to sending me an e-mail asking me whether or not I would be interested in an audition for a gig as a commercial photographer.

I read the e-mail and thought a second. Then I replied thus:

I could stop by and discuss it at least. I’m not what you would call a gifted commercial photographer, but I could give it a try.

What time were you thinking?

After a couple of more e-mail exchanges it was established that I would come in on Thursday and discuss the possibility of taking close-up pictures of soy beans and roasted corn.

I wasn’t sure really what they wanted. I wondered if they wanted to send me off to some farm to take pictures of somebody’s operation. I wondered if they would want me to do this photo “shoot” in their offices. I wondered if I was just to be a trained monkey for their amusement. You know, like at my old job, before I worked the mines.

I did know that one thing was likely. I would probably officially have to cancel the tenderloin road trip for Saturday. That was fine, because the tenderloin road trip that was planned was not tenderloin based, but was dance recital based. Frankly I wasn’t comfortable with the lack of purity.

So it was then that I sent an e-mail to Baier explaining the situation. He sent me a one word reply:

“Booooooooooooooooooo!!!!!!!!!!!”

I know it hardly qualifies as a rebuttal, however his response is what passes for discourse for people from Audubon.

I arrived at Shannon’s place of work at 1 pm. I had been there in the past, so when I walked in and saw nobody around, I began to walk toward her office. I only made it about as far as their massive television set, when Shannon showed up from the back room and indicated her boss would be with me shortly and invited me to sit down on the couch next to the massive television. I did what I was invited to do and wished that we had a couch like this back at the mine.

After a couple of minutes, her boss ran by and said something about, “being busy fighting fires.” I had a flashback to that previous job where the owner used to stay he didn’t want his managers to be “fire fighters”. He wanted us to be “boat captains”. This would lead into rhetoric about how the “Pre-shift Checklist” was the elixir that prevented fires from cropping up on your ship. That man loves his boat captain analogies almost as much as he love shoveling Grade A cow dung straight down his employees throats.

I wasn’t here for a walk down bad memory lane though. I was here to learn about the possibility of earning a little extra scratch through one of my passions. As I sat on the couch I did start to have a desire to turn on the massive television. It was unlikely that this television was hooked up to cable or satellite. It was even more unlikely that even if it had been I would have been able to find anything on daytime television that was more interesting than snow or the most recent development, the “unusable signal” channel. A favorite channel in the Baier household I would learn soon enough.

As I thought about touching the massive television, the Boss returned in the same rapid gait and uttered something to the effect that he was busy and I could just talk to Shannon. This was fine with me. It was what I preferred. Even though this was hardly what I would classify as a job interview, I still didn’t really want to go through the process of answer questions about my alleged photography skills with a stranger. I am not a person good at being interviewed. Maybe it is because I don’t like being judged. Whatever the reason, my interview skills are probably the reason that the only two jobs I’ve had for an extended period of time have involved Lowell.

I got up and started walking towards what I perceived to be Shannon’s office. To which she indicated that I was heading in the wrong direction. Her office had moved. So I turned and walked in the opposite direction back towards the door. Towards her new office.

I sat down in her office next to a file cabinet with a clear flaw. I noticed this immediately, but because this was to be a pseudo-professional meeting, I let it slide. “It” being an Iowa Hawkeye football schedule magnet.

Shannon is a Panther by education. This is fair enough. I do not hold this against her. Not everybody can go to Iowa State. Yet, when she is asked to pick a side between Iowa or Iowa State she reveals a terrible character flaw by choosing the Hawkeyes.

There was some polite conversation to begin this meeting, but then the conversation moved towards what they needed from me.

“We need close-up pictures of soy bean nuts and roasted corn on a white background. They will be used for a website and brouchures.”

Then she produced two clear bags. One was about ¼ full of soybean nuts. The other was about 1/3 full of roasted corn.

“Sorry, but this is all we have left. We gave the rest to the other photographer. I guess this is where you get to be creative.”

It was a fair enough observation. It does sound like an incredibly boring job. Taking pictures of beans. Where do I sign up? I would learn in the near future that most people seem to think that this involves taking one picture, and then you are done. It is quite a bit harder than you would think. And I allegedly know what I’m doing.

I didn’t want to make the same mistakes as my predecessor. That lady was in the unemployment line. So I asked, “So what was wrong with the other images.”

“Too low of a resolution. Plus you can’t tell whether or not you’re looking at beans or whether you are looking at roasted corn.”

I looked closer at the bags that were in my hands. If you did look closely, they were slightly different. This really only left me with two questions:

“When do you need these by?”

“Pretty soon.”

I knew I couldn’t work on this project tonight. It was Rebecca’s birthday dinner at Shorty and Doris’. I wouldn’t be able to work on it Friday night because that was Friday Night Supper Club and besides being sacred, we were also breaking in Willy’s new pad. I had cleared up Saturday. It would have to be Saturday because Sunday was Mother’s Day.

“Would Monday be soon enough?” I offered, but actually thinking that it wouldn’t be soon enough.

“That would be perfect.” Shannon said.

“What resolution are you looking to get?” I asked my final question.

“I’m not sure. I’ll have to ask the Boss.”

That concluded the business end of this meeting, I thought. Yet there was one question still to be decided. I had never thought about this question. That question was money.

“How much do you want to be paid?”

I hadn’t really considered that I might have to enter into a negotiation. Another reason I was glad to be dealing with Shannon rather than some stranger.

“I don’t know.”

Shannon quickly answered with, “That is what I told him you would say.”

It hurt to be so predictable, but it has never been my goal to be unpredictable. My goal has always been to be me. Who ever that might be?

So I answered the best way that I could: “Just pay me whatever you were paying the other photographer.”

That seemed to settle it. The business had been settled. Shannon gave me a run down of what they did at her company. They mostly produce football highlight videos for a third party. I scored 2 Cyclone highlight video DVDs. Then she showed me shelves and shelves filled with boxes and boxes that were filled with DVDs for high schools. Apparently the high school videos don’t sell very well. She showed me a list of schools in Iowa for which they produced these videos.

There is one thing that has always annoyed me. It is when people who aren’t involved in a business want to tell you what is wrong with your business. Even though this is a major pet peeve of mine, I couldn’t help but start running my mouth about what I perceived to be their problem.

“These are all large schools. That is why they aren’t selling. What they need to do is focus on small towns that having nothing going on but their high school football programs. Places like Madrid, Harlan, or Aplington-Parkersburg. There might not be as large of a customer base, but these people are going to buy them.”

It harkened me back to a particular customer from my past. I can’t remember his name, but he was an Engineering Professor at Iowa State, allergic to onions, potentially stalking me, and a super sized jerk.

The night that Campus closed one of the first things I did was take down the drive-thru menu board. While I was out there, Professor Know-it-all pulled up to the drive-thru speaker.

“Am I too late!” he bellowed out a half question and a half snarl.

“Yep we closed at 7.” I said, trying not to engage him in conversation but answering his question.

“This is too bad. I think you guys really could have made this work.” He said and then looked off at the distance like people do who are having deep thoughts and are about to say something compelling. What he did say was this, “What you guys needed was a hook. Something to get people in the door.” Then he made eye contact with me and continued, “You should have given people a free drink when they ordered something else.”

He continued the eye contact as if to tell me two things. He didn’t need my approval of his idea and secondly I should acknowledge his wisdom by pointing out the greatness of his idea.

I said, “Yeah that might have worked.” Then I grabbed up my tools and walked back into the story, leaving the genius alone in the night to think his genius thoughts. I’m pretty certain his thought was that he had saved the store. I was going to go in and tell the owner this brilliant idea. The owner would then say something about boat captains and change his mind about closing the store.

In reality I went inside and told some of my fellow Campusites about what I had just endured and we all had a good chuckle at the knave.

Truth be told, there was nothing that was going to save Campus. The owner had wanted to close the store down for years and years. He was emotionally invested in closing the store down. He had done everything possible to make sure it closed and certainly wasn’t interested in any ideas that might actually help the bottom line. On the contrary he was interested in ideas that would hurt the bottom line so that he would have more ammunition to take with him to the corporation as he pleaded with them to let him close it down.

Even if Campus would have been blessed with an owner that was interested in making Campus into a profitable venture, giving away free drinks was possibly the worst idea imaginable. Food cost on a soda is around 3.5%. Food cost on a sandwich is sometimes as high as 60%. You don’t make a profit by giving away the thing that makes you most of your money. Add in the labor involved in making a sandwich and you probably lost money on it. But a person would have to get over 30 free refills to put a dent in your profit margin.

Laughable! The ideas of that knave!

Perhaps that is the exact thought that was going through Shannon’s mind when she said, “Actually the problem is that they try to sell them for fifty-five bucks.”

I conceded her point that these DVDs were in fact priced out of the marketplace. She then offered me any high school DVD that I wanted. There weren’t any areal teams, but I thought that Jay was a graduate of Cedar Rapids Kennedy and they were on the list. Shannon snagged me a copy of their 2006 DVD. I was disappointed to see that the Cedar Rapids Kennedy Cougars had flat out stolen their logo from the Kansas State Wildcats. Whatever happened to originality?

After I had collected up my DVDs the Boss streaked by again and blurted out “RAW!” I now had all the answers I needed to tackle my project. I had a format. Which isn’t the same thing as a resolution, but it worked for me.

I left her office loaded up on DVDs, soy beans, and roasted corn. As I drove back to work I called Jay’s answering machine and left the following message:

“Jay Janson! Jay Janson! Were you a cougar?” I might have growled a smidge as well.

I decided to do this shoot outside. Saturday was a tad bit windy, but I would take the wind for the better light and the joy of working outside. I was also concerned that bright light was also going to make shadows somewhat troublesome. So my plan was to rely a little bit on fill flash and a little bit on the gentle shadow of the garage.

It turned out that the joy of working outside was slightly diminished by the neighbors across the alley. They had chosen this weekend to rent a power sprayer to clean their deck furniture and the toys of their children. This steady noise was not the blissful peace that I had imagined.

When I am working in a creative way, I strongly prefer to listen to jazz or classical, but mostly jazz. In particular I find I respond best to the albums that Miles Davis recorded in the mid 1960s right before he got hardcore into fusion. Although the sound of water hitting plastic at breakneck speed might have fit in decently with “Bitches Brew” or “Dark Magus” it wasn’t doing anything for me on this day. It was not mixing well with “Miles in the Sky”.

So I switched my background music to a little harder stuff. I found that Led Zeppelin nicely covered up the sound of noisy neighbors. Although I’m not sure what the other people in the neighborhood used to cover up the sound of this noisy neighbor.

I shouldn’t go into great detail about what happened when I finally started taking pictures of my subjects. I could. I’m sure that there are many interesting things I could discuss about exposure compensation, depth of field, aperture setting, saturation, sharpness, and leveling tripods. I will leave all that out because I don’t really like to discuss how I do what I do. I like it be sufficient for people to know that I do do what I do.

I will just state that it is a lot harder to tell whether beans are in focus or not. Way harder than it sounds. Let us just say that I eventually got enough of something on the memory card. I had enough to at least present something to Shannon. Whether that something was going to be good enough, I didn’t know. I did know that I was not a gifted commercial photographer and spending an afternoon photographing beans is more interesting than it sounds. I called it a day.

I burned the best of what I had onto a disc and went to visit Shannon again. She was in a rush to go somewhere, so the interaction was brief. I dropped off the disc. She looked them over and said she thought they looked good, but she was not the final word.

I acknowledged her compliment and indicated that it is a lot harder than a person thinks to tell if a bean is in focus.

I then left her to do what she had to do. She said that she would show the bean photos to her boss and they would get back to me today.

I returned to work and felt a little bad. I was worried that the Boss would look at the pictures and tell Shannon that this was the lousiest set of bean pictures he had ever laid eyes on. Then I would get the following e-mail:

The Boss says that your bean photos are no good. Get out of here kid! You got no future!

Unlike Marty McFly though, I can handle that type of rejection. It might be the only type of rejection I can handle, but I handle that type of rejection.

However it wasn’t the rejection that worried me. I would have felt bad for Shannon if she would have had to tell me that I suck. That is a hard thing for one friend to have to tell another friend. Even when it has to be done, like when you have a friend walking around insisting that “Shrek 2” was way better than “Shrek” and you have to tell him to stop doing that because he is embarrassing himself.

As I contemplated this potential dilemma, an e-mail popped into my inbox. It read:

I finally just got your CD to the Boss. When I asked him what he thought, he said something to the effect of, “I think we just found our new close-up photographer.” So my opinion was valid. They are great photos!

I was relieved and excited, but yet I wished that they would use the term “Macro Photographer”. Is that too anal?

Minutia: Chapter 1

After what could only be described as an extended absence, today I return to the blog world with full force. I have planned for this thin slice of cyberspace a monster of a blog. There will be 14 parts to this blog. When it has completely unraveled, it might be long enough to be considered a novella. The reason I have chosen to do this is because I wish to test my theory that everybody’s life is worthy of a biography. I have started with my own life. The 14 chapters that will be posted here will unfold in a nonlinear timeline similar to the kind that writers such as William Faulkner made famous. All of the events described transpired between May 9, 2007 and May 20, 2007. While these chapters are doled out, I will do nothing interesting, so you do not have to fear that while you are reading about my past, I am doing something worthy of reading. So without further adieu, I present my novella.


Minutia
An Autobiographical Novella
by Christopher D. Bennett

Chapter 1: Hick Town

Tuesday means two things for me. It means “New Taste Tuesday” and on this Tuesday it was Steve’s choice. He chose Indigo Joe’s which was adequate, but not superior. A superior experience would have included a tenderloin on their menu. A tenderloin would have been a perfect prelude to the tenderloin road trip. A superior experience would have allowed us to get in and out in a quick enough manner to allow me to make a trip to Best Buy to indulge in the second meaning of Tuesdays: “New Releases”.

On this New Release Tuesday, the service at Indigo Joe’s was not quick enough to leave me enough time on my lunch break to get to Best Buy and purchase the best movie to come out last year (Pan’s Labyrinth) and make it back to the computer mine within my allotted sixty minutes. This meant that I was going to have to wait to purchase the 2 Disc Special Edition of Pan’s Labyrinth. The question remained, for how long would I wait?

I knew that I couldn’t sneak into Best Buy after work on Tuesday. Even the briefest stop would have hindered the precisely crafted time schedule of the Tenderloin Road Trip. I knew that on Wednesday I was getting lunch with Monica and that we were either going to drive half way across Ames to eat at the West Street Deli or Chinese Homestyle Cooking and that was not going to leave sufficient time to also make a stop at Best Buy. I also wasn’t going to be able to make a stop after work because we were having a small West reunion at the Baier household and I was already going to be late because I had to stop at the post office to mail my RSVP for the Beavers wedding and I had already missed the deadline by a week.

It became clear that I was going to have to make a stop at a quick service restaurant for lunch on Thursday and slide into Best Buy to pick up my copy of the 2 Disc Special Edition of “Pan’s Labyrinth”. It was a fair plan.

About 1 pm on Thursday I put my plan into motion. I hopped into my automobile, turned on my iPod and headed across the street to Best Buy. It seemed almost too easy.

It turned out that it was in fact too easy. I looked all over Best Buy and there was not a copy of the 2 Disc Special Edition to be had. I was surprised. I had waited for a few days in the past to pick up a DVD and had never run into the problem of them being sold out. I re-evaluated my plan and headed to Target. Perhaps, Best Buy just had the best deal and surely Target would not do me wrong for 2nd time this week.

Yet, despite my arrogance, Target failed me. When I reached the new release section, the only thing I found staring back at me was a stack of rain check certificates. I was in a bit of a quandary. I was running out of time. I could drive across town and check Wal-Mart. I know that Wal-Mart customers are considerably less sophisticated than Target customers, so there was a chance that they still had a few copies left. After all, a Wal-Mart customer would probably be disgusted by the notion that you would have to “read a movie”. As the thought raced through their head they might even spit a bit of Skoal onto the ground just to punctuate their point, exactly as they had been conditioned to do.

However, I didn’t have the time to drive across Ames before my lunch break had expired. So I went through a nearby drive-thru and grabbed some sustenance and headed back to the computer mine once again empty handed.

The good news was that I had my night mostly free. The only plans I had cobbled together was going to Lake Laverne to feed the swans bread. I had made a few stops at Lake Laverne in the past few weeks to take pictures of Lancelot and Elaine, but I had yet to record a satisfactory image. I was hoping the aid of bread might help me in my quest. Other than that trip, the only other thing on the docket was visiting Monica to square up a 14 dollar debt that I had incurred on Wednesday.

There was the rumor of a special Thursday Night Supper Club to replace Friday Night Supper Club since Willy would be boarding a plane on Friday and flying to Spain. However, it was late in the afternoon and the rumor had yet to bear fruit.

Of course, that was when the guitar riff from “Mannish Boy” blasted from my phone. It was Jay. Thursday Night Supper Club had become a reality. I told him that I preferred staying in Ames because I had a couple of errands to run. He indicated that Ames would work for him, but he would need to be back to Boone by 8:30 because he was having headlight difficulty with his automobile.

Jay and I exited the mall. Hobby Lobby, feeding swans, feeding ourselves, and squaring a debt had taken longer than I had figured. It was now well past 8 and the sun was waning. I needed to take Jay back to his car before the daylight had expired and Jay would be forced to find his way home in the darkness. The Ames Wal-Mart was no longer an option.

I am not a quitter though. Boone has a Wal-Mart. I hatched a new plan. This time, my plan would not fail. I could drive Jay across town, drop him off at his car, drive to the Boone Wal-Mart, buy the 2 Disc Special Edition of “Pan’s Labyrinth”, and then meet Jay back at my place for our “Deadliest Catch” ritual.

If there is one thing I was certain about, it was that the Boone Wal-Mart would have the DVD. I’ve worked in Ames for about a decade now. When I first started working in Ames I was immediately oppressed for my Boone heritage. When people found out I was from Boone, there was the immediate smirk, guffaw, and statements like“that hick town”. For years I defended Boone on its merits. That list of merits does not include “cultured”.

Boone is a cultural Sahara. Consider this tally: 1 Speedway, 0 Art Museums. What passes for art in Boone is a mural of a train, chainsaw sculptures, and a statue of Theodore Roosevelt missing a thumb. (Although admittedly the missing thumb gives the statue just the slightest Cubist feel to it.) Boone for the most part has only one video store. There is not a foreign language or independent film section in this video store. The Employee Picks (employee picks were designed to get people to rent or buy more challenging or lesser known movies) in this video store are regularly the most recent Wayans brother movie or something directed by Michael Bay. There isn’t even an oasis in this Sahara, unless you count a fairly active community theater group and the City Band Festival.

It seems to me that for once, living in a backward, redneck, hillbilly, and hick town was going to benefit me. Who else in this town was going to buy a foreign language film? Admittedly there are small pockets of intellectual enclaves deposited here and there throughout this town, but not enough to snap up every copy of my DVD.

I entered Wal-Mart and headed straight for the new release end-cap and what before my wondering eyes did appear? An empty rack where my DVD should have been!

How could this be? I refused to believe that there was enough people in the unwashed horde known as the citizenry of Boone that were willing to throw down almost 30 bucks for a foreign language film. 30 bucks for a special edition of “White Chicks”, that would be no problem.

I theorized on a possible explanation. Is it possible that enough people from Ames had also had difficulty finding the DVD and had made the pilgrimage to the Boone Wal-Mart to stymie my bid? Or is it possible that I have just sold my Boonie brethren short? Perhaps mixed in with the mouth breathing morons I see beating their kids in the grocery store every week there are a few more enlightened individuals than I think.

One thing was clear though, whether it was people from Ames poaching in Boone or Boonies being more intelligent than I had predicted, I wasn’t coming home with the one DVD that I had waited for all year.

I gazed upwards and asked: “Why are you dicking with me?”

Perhaps it was not the most respectful question ever thrown in that direction, but it certainly was not the least respectful either.

Then I had an epiphany. Wal-Mart has two New Release sections. Perchance there was going to still be a happy ending to my quest.

I walked 25 feet down the aisle to the other New Release section.

Eureka!

There it was! In all of its 2 Disc glory! “Pan’s Labyrinth” 2 Disc Special Edition. There were about 5 copies left. I looked through them to find the one with the cardboard cover sleeve that was the least damaged. Although beggars can’t be choosers, I can still be that anal about a DVD.

Such a miraculous turn of events called for a celebration. I do not drink alcohol for personal reasons, but I do have other vices. There was only one thing that could add to the sweetness of my victory.

I grabbed my prize and walked to the Wal-Mart freezer section and opened the door. Much to my chagrin, they did not have any Haagen Dazs Cookie Dough ice cream. However, that still couldn’t dampen my spirits. I selected a half pint of strawberry ice cream and headed to the check out lanes.

My brain had thought too soon when it pluralized the word lane, for there was only 1 lane open. Furthermore, I was the 6th person in that line. It seemed that although I was destined to get my movie and celebratory ice cream, I was going to be terribly late for my meeting with Jay and our “Deadliest Catch” ritual.

In my melancholia I had forgot that while I wasn’t lucky in all aspects of my life, I had always had the good fortune of being picked out of long lines at Wal-Mart by the employee manning the service desk. While the other proletariat swine are left to wait in line behind the person who forgot something and has sent their 3 year old kid back to the sports department to find something or other, I am usually picked out and sent on my merry way lickety-split.

I like to think that it is because of my debonair good looks. It might also be that I don’t actually have that many items that I am purchasing. The most likely reason is that it looks like that I might have showered in this century and in my experience working with the American public, I can tell you that “limited body odor” goes a surprisingly long way in getting decent service.

While my hand started to lose feeling and my ice cream began to lose solidity I was waved over by the girl running the Service Desk. My good looks, limited items, or limited body odor had worked its magic once again.

The girl picked up my DVD and gave it the once over and then asked, “You know this movie isn’t in English, right?”

Now I can’t be exact in recounting what came out of my mouth next, but I’m fairly certain it was something like this:

“Yes I do. The movie is in Spanish. I saw it in the theater. The Spanish title for this movie is “El Laberinto del fauno”. For reasons I’m not sure of, they translated it into English as “Pan’s Labyrinth” when it should have been translated as “The Faun’s Labyrinth” since this movie has nothing to do with Pan, the Greek God of Nature. However, I’m sure they had there reasons since the director Guillermo Del Toro personally oversaw the production of the subtitles. I consider it to be the best movie to come out last year. It won several Academy Awards. However, despite being the only foreign language picture nominated in a category besides Best Foreign Language Picture (besides a handful of shorts) it did not win Best Foreign Language Picture. Some dreadful German movie won. I consider it to be a grievous oversight that the Academy should do something about. Like when it gave an Oscar to Bob Dylan a couple years back.”

To which she replied, “I just have to make sure. A lot of people have been buying this movie and then are trying to return it when they get it home and realized that it was in Spanish.”

This induced awkward silence from me. I was forced to come to the sad realization that the reason I struggled to find my copy of “Pan’s Labyrinth” wasn’t because of some small art film community in Boone. The reason I struggled to find my copy of “Pan’s Labyrinth” was because people are stupid.

I knew this deep down in my heart the whole time I suppose. I knew this because when Jay wanted to have a movie evening to send Willy off to Spain and I suggested we get the movie “The Sea Inside”. It is a Spanish movie starring Javier Bardem as a paraplegic fisherman and it won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Picture a few years back and seemed to fit the bill.

I knew this because when I suggested this movie to Jay he asked if the local video store had it.

I didn’t even think about it. My first instinct was to laugh and point out that the last time I was there one of the “Employee Picks” was “Scary Movie 4”.

My realizations and flashbacks were interrupted by the girl.

“I like your shirt.”

I looked down because even though the shirt I was wearing was complimented by another person in another place less than an hour ago, I forgot what I was wearing. Rocky Balboa stared back at me.

“Did you like Rocky Balboa?”

I responded, “Yeah. It is the only sequel that captures the spirit of the original and doesn’t degrade into a mindless action movie.”

“It was pretty good. Have a good night.”

“You too.”

I walked out of Wal-Mart knowing that at times it is good to live in a hick town, even if it is despite the fact that it is a hick town.

Randumbness

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. 


04-19-2007

 




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.

Odonata

I haven’t had the “pleasure” of being on MySpace much lately. Which means that my “blogs” have become sporadic and if I’m not mistaken, lower in quality. I can’t say that this saddens me. There are more important things I should be doing with my time, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t times that I miss the moments of entertainment I get from this little site or the contact I lose with some people that I seem to only make through this “social networking” thing. Still, Uncle Sam hit me with a pretty stiff tax bill this year. I should be trying to figure out how to raise the funds to pay the feds off before I end up rotting in debtors prison. Although I do know this one thing about many of my chums. If I do end up rotting in debtors prison, I shant be alone. Some of us will be rotting together. I think I speak for all of us when I say, “Do your worst Uncle Sam! Just not to me, I’m not like normal people. I don’t like pain.”

I have changed the background music for the blog yet again. I will not pretend to have the musical talent or knowledge of at least 4 of the subscribers to this thing. I just felt that I should cool things off a little bit after the hard rocking of Pillar’s cover of “Sunday, Bloody Sunday”. I’m also quite certain that somewhere north of where I sit typing, Mike Britson is scoffing at my tenet that Pillar is anywhere near the neighborhood of hard rocking. I can’t dispute this fact. Mike has always claimed to be the “World’s Greatest Music Snob”. I do not think that he has a t-shirt that proclaims this fact, but in my heart of hearts I hope that Stephanie made him a button that did.

I come away from that aside. All I really wanted to point out is the fact that the new background music is “Minuet in G”. It was composed by the great Ludwig Van. It has always been one of my favorite pieces of music. Due to my relative musical ignorance (despite being a wretched to middling trombonesman in my day) I may be interpreting the intent of the music incorrectly. I have always been struck by how desperate this music sounds. It is more than sad. It is desperately mournful. Yet when you feel like it should be too depressed to carry on, it seems to find a way to carry on. In that ability to carry on, I find the song hopeful as well.

Take that for whatever you like. I don’t claim to be an expert. Although I do subscribe somewhat to what Roy Adzak said about art:

“Good art is not what it looks like, but what it does to us.”

Meaning that the person interpreting the art is in many ways more important than the artist. That is a somewhat scary thought. I have the slight delusions of my own artistic ability I don’t like giving up my art and allowing whomever stumbles upon it to translate what it means. I don’t even struggle with the control issues that some of my friends do and it is still difficult.

I guess what makes this concept bearable and allows me to subscribe to it is the fact that the alternative is utterly unbearable. Namely, having to explain the meaning of everything. Of course, this also allows me to view “Minuet in G” as desperate and hopeful in the same breath and dear old Ludwig Van just has to accept it. IN YOUR FACE BEETHOVEN!!

Dictionary Dot Com defines “irony” in such a way: 5.an outcome of events contrary to what was, or might have been, expected.

I’m not sure this following tale is actually really ironic in the way the word was forged by its creators or in the “Alanis-Morrisette-I-Clearly-Wrote-A-Song-About-Irony-Where-I-uses-Examples-of -things-That-Aren’t-Ironic” way.

Perhaps it is ironic that I don’t know if this is ironic and I am having a go at somebody else for their ignorance. Perhaps I should just tell the tale.

Not really much of a tale. I have found a home for some pictures of mine. Here is the arguably ironic part: that home is the Boone Homeless Shelter. My church has adopted a room at the homeless shelter. As a congregation we are donating items to fill this room. I have donated a copy of “Happiness Shared: #01” & “Happiness Shared: #02” to adorn the wall of our room.

What I found out tonight is that when each homeless family leaves the shelter and sets up their home, they get to take everything from the room to furnish their new home.

I did not hand the pictures over to Pastor Phil personally. I left them in the hands of my sister Teresa. Allegedly Phil was excited by this donation and thinks that I should donate such pictures every time a new family moves into our room.

In some small way I have a “standing order”. In no small way, this kind of excites me. Looks like I’m just doing good deeds all over the place. But before I break my arm from patting myself on the back, I should show you what is going to the homeless shelter, to somebody’s home, and perhaps someday to a Goodwill Store near you.


04-04-07

04-04-07

So what would these other good deeds be that I am doing? Depending on your ability to recall facts about me, you may remember that a while back I was instrumental ( by instrumental I mean the same way I was instrumental to the success of the BHS Concert Band by holding down the last chair trombone) in the making of a batch of soap. Some of the soap from that batch is going into care packages for people being released from Mitchelville State Penitentiary.

The truth is that I had nothing to do with this donation. It is all Shannon. Yet since, she is donating soap for this cause AND I helped make the soap. I get to glom onto some of her glory. The boys I hang with like to call that bandwagoning. Except for one. He likes to call it innovating.

However, I am going to attempt to make the world a better place in one more way. It is through something I hope to propose and railroad through Friday Night Supper Club through my power of oratory. I won’t tell you what it is, but I will give you a hint. I should also point out that at this time Friday Night Supper Club is a secular organization. I point this out for my sister Teresa.

I like to go out to the woods on my break. Some people like to smoke. I like to commune with nature. No tax on that, suckers!!

While I was out there I went a little crazy with the camera on a fellow that became a buddy of mine. Since he was what I like to call Odonata, I cracked out the 50mm lens. This is a lens that is fine and dandy for Odonata, but then I heard a rustling to the left of me. There he was for the 5th time this year. The groundhog! The problem was that I was unprepared for this development.

I did not have the proper equipment. He was staring me down, practically screaming at the top of his rodent lungs: “I’m ready for my close-up Mr. DeMille!” All I could do was take this incredibly bad picture from about 75-100 feet away. This picture is cropped quite a bit. If you saw the original you would never be able to find the groundhog. That isn’t a challenge. Just a statement of fact.


04-04-07

At least I got a few decent shots of my chum Odonata:


2007

2007

2007

2007

2007

2007

2007

Within these images I find solace, but I’m still coming for you Mr. Groundhog!!!!

Reflections on the Last Few Days (Part I)

I may have alluded to having a pretty great weekend in an earlier blog. Although it might have been a bit of bragging on my part, I have always been a big fan of the moral philosopher Jay Hanna Dean (AKA Jerome Herman Dean) who argued that “It ain’t bragging if you can back it up.” So I shall try to back it up with the parts that were great. 

I might as well start out with the major failure from my weekend. Friday was the last day of employment for James at DM. I had all intentions of going in to congratulate him and pop some bubbly. I did not make my goal. As you can see by the image below though, it was the only goal that I failed to fulfill this past weekend. However, I do apologize James and I do congratulate you James. If you are the interested, James has accepted a position in Nevada as a CNA.




Although that was the major failure of my weekend, it would not be the first. I was given the proverbial “shaft” on two separate occasions. The first was the deepest and most savage cut.

I left the friendly confines of my place of employment on Friday night looking forward to the good natured camaraderie that is Friday Night Supper Club. I was slightly concerned because as I hit US30 I had yet to hear from the founder and president of Friday Night Supper Club. I usually get this call from Willy’s pseudonym Lone Wolf Dinner Reservations by 5 pm. I decided I couldn’t wait any longer for the call and I gave a little ring-a-ding-ding to Jay to inquire about this evening’s dining situation. Jay’s response hit me like a bucket of cold water in the face. 

“Willy isn’t coming! He went to go see some steroid jockeys talk about God. You want to go get a salad?” 

Two things instantly occurred to me. First, I’m going to name my upcoming spoken word album “Steroid Jockeys”. Second, Willy is in the process of abdicating his throne. This is something that will need to be addressed at the forthcoming Friday Night Supper Club. 

So Jay and I went to The Colorado Grill. I was so disturbed by the absence of Willy that I knew I would have to take my dining experience up a notch. I normally get the Black Diamond Pita sandwich because the sauce that comes with it is absolutely extraordinary. There are times that I also take down a breaded pork tenderloin. The pork tenderloin is one of my all-time favorite sandwiches and will hopefully be the impetus for a forthcoming roadtrip to Hamlin, Iowa to a restaurant that serves what legend claims is “The State’s Best Pork Tenderloin”. I was going to need beef. So I ordered a sirloin sandwich, medium rare. Just how the gods like their steak cooked.  

Somewhere in the middle of the meal my phone rang. I looked at Jay and said “I’m about to do something extremely hypocritical.” Then I answered the phone. 

The reason that this is hypocritical is because I have with the help of Scott taught the rules of basic phone etiquette to a certain Mr. Ungs recently. He had a nasty habit of answering his phone when he was out to eat with other people. A habit that is insanely rude. A rule that I will no doubt have to teach Jesse in the near future as well. 

Stephanie was on the phone. She was offering to donate her tips from Friday and Saturday night to the American Cancer Society Fundraiser that I was intending on attending on Sunday.  I accepted the offer and thanked her.  What a nice person! 

The rest of the night went by without incident.  I went to bed early to ready myself for what was supposed to be a busy Saturday.   

I had made the following plans:  I needed to go to Hobby Lobby to purchase a can of matte sealer and some mat board.  I was scheduled to go to visit Shannon and learn how to make lye soap.  Then I was going to go to Des Moines with my eldest sister Teresa to conclude my Oscar Party pre-work by seeing “Notes on a Scandal” at the Fleur Cinema and dine on the tasty goodness that is Hu Hot. Then I was to head to The Colorado Grill to celebrate Shorty’s 70th Birthday. 

Most of these plans fell through. For starters, Teresa had been hinting all week that if the weather was bad she wouldn’t want to drive down to Des Moines. I told her that she was a coward and I was ashamed of being related to somebody that would let weather dictate their life. She relented and “agreed” to go. Then on Saturday she calls me in the morning to tell me that she can’t go because she has been to the doctor’s and she has “Strep Throat”. Strep Throat. That is a made up ailment if I have ever heard of one. On par with Countchoculitis. 

I hadn’t gotten off the phone with her for more than an hour when my phone rang again. This time it was Doris (Shorty’s wife) telling me that she was and I quote “uninviting me” to Shorty’s birthday shindig. The roads were just too bad.  

I still needed my stuff from Hobby Lobby. So I did what any “real” man does when the weather is bad. He gets in his car and goes to Hobby Lobby. After all I was out of matte sealer and I need to come up with a new picture for Salon 908. “Last, Loveliest Smile” is nearing the end of its 6 week engagement. I’m thinking about using a B&W flower picture from my sister’s bathroom redecoration project as the next one to go on display. I don’t know if I will be able to get this past the sole proprietor of Salon 908. Kelly possesses a longstanding disdain for B&W photography. This one could take a little bit of the Mayor Goldie’s magic touch. If he sides with me. He might side with his wife. 

I also heard from my Ogden Agent, Monica, this week. With her shrewd negotiating skills she has found a home for some of my pictures in “Everlasting’s”. So I need to make some product for this exciting new outlet. Since this is a flower shop, I’ll probably stick with flower pictures. I don’t anticipate selling much there, but you never know. Allegedly people have inquired about buying “Last, Loveliest Smile” and it isn’t even for sell. 

So I hopped in the car and headed to Ames. I’m telling you people, the roads weren’t that bad. You could easily do 35-40. The only danger was swerving around the person going in the ditch in front of you, but after a couple of times of that it almost becomes second nature. 

Hobby Lobby. I don’t know why, but it seems like every time I go there I forget about there incredibly slow service. It always seems a surprise to me that I wait in line for 10 minutes when there is only two people ahead of me in line. I always stand in line asking myself the same question: “Do I really need this thing that bad?” Although I almost always tough it out, it never ceases to amaze me that as I am walking out the door, the “other” Hobby Lobby employee resurfaces and opens up another cash register.  

Despite yet another painful experience at Hobby Lobby, I swore to not let it ruin my day. If my sister faking an illness and being uninvited from a birthday party weren’t going to ruin my day, neither would waiting in line for 15 minutes to by 1 can and 2 matboards. 

I headed to the nearest Salvation Army to look for cheap used frames. I don’t usually find much at these places, but on this day I left with a 16 x 20 frame that I can paint and use to house the next Salon 908 image.  

I made my way across an ice skating rink that I swore was a parking lot last week and called Shannon. 

“Still making soap?” 

For the first time all day, somebody wasn’t letting the weather dictate to them what it was they were supposed to be doing. The Little White Lye Soap Company. I believe it was this company that Herodotus was thinking about when he penned this line: “these are stayed neither by snow nor rain nor heat nor darkness from accomplishing their appointed course with all speed”. 

So I learned how to and got to take a small part in the making of the latest batch of Little White Lye Soap. So next time you pick up a 6 pack, I might have played a small bit in the making of that soap.  

Shannon said that it “wouldn’t be very exciting.”  

She lied. It was exhilarating. It was indescribable.  I wish I could tell you all about it. I can’t because I signed a “confidentiality agreement”. I can’t tell you anything that might compromise any of her trade secrets. Sorry. 

The rest of Saturday was a wash. The best part of it being that I fell asleep on the couch during the ISU-Kansas game so I didn’t have to watch much of it. The worst part of it being that I’m trying to build this computer for Willy for his birthday present, but the thing keeps crashing every time you load Service Pack 2 on to it. It is trying my patience. 

This is to be continued at a later time. So I can write extensively and exhaustively about the Oscar results.

Spirit Pumps

Just thought I would jot down a few quick thoughts.

First of all, I would like to share the fruits of my labors from Craft Night!!


Restore Blog - Spirit Pumps - 01-24-2007

Okay . . . so one could make the case that painting a frame and matting a picture hardly constitutes a “craft”.

I’m not the craft police, but I did do this on Craft Night. I even finally decided on a name for this picture: “Last, Loveliest Smile”

This picture will soon be displayed in Salon 908. You could say that it will be on “Public Display”. I won’t because I’m not that pretentious. I’ll just say that it is hanging on a wall where people I don’t know might gaze upon it lovingly or in disgust.

I have to give credit to my sister Teresa. She was right about something. A few weeks ago at Supper Club we ate at Es Tas! It was terrible. Teresa recommended that we go to the West Street Deli instead. We ignored her sage advice and paid a pretty hefty price. Namely the worst french fries I have ever forced down in my life. Yesterday I met Teresa for lunch and we hit the West Street Deli. I ordered a club sandwich. It was tremendous. I don’t have the words to describe the greatness of this sandwich. Instead, I will steal a poem from Coleridge to encapsulate my feelings about this sandwich.

Desire

Where true Love burns Desire is Love’s pure flame;
It is the reflex of our earthly frame,
That takes its meaning from the nobler part,
And but translates the language of the heart.

That pretty much says it. One tasty sandwich!!! As some of you may or may not know, I bowl (very poorly) in a Monday night league. Even by my abysmally low standards I have been in a bit of a slump lately. In fact, going into Monday night I had not won a single game since before Christmas.

On Monday night I found myself matched up with Shaun Wirtz. Is he better than me? Certainly, but this is not an insurmountable task. Yet, he thoroughly thrashed me in the first 2 games, extending my losing streak to 9 games. I stood on the threshold of a double digit losing streak. So I dug deep inside and told myself: “You can not lose this third game. If you do . . . eh, whatever.”

With my new personal “whatever” mantra fueling me, I powered my way to a 10 pin victory. Of course, he won the series, but I left the bowling alley a winner. A winner of 1 of my last 11 points, but a winner nonetheless. Well maybe a little “theless”.

Tuesday night I went to see “Running with Scissors” with Stephanie and her friend Maggie. Let me tell you something about art films. For every “Little Miss Sunshine” or “Memento” there sure are a lot of “Pieces of April”. Actually I don’t hate “Pieces of April” that much, it is just the first movie to come to mind. “Running with Scissors” was a big time disappointment. They changed the focus of the book from Augusten Burroughs adolescence to his relationship with his mom. They eliminated about 10 characters, which is okay, but they twisted the other characters just enough to entirely screw up the essence of the book. I was particularly bothered by the way that pretty much left Dr. Finch off the hook for being responsible for almost all the misery in all the other characters lives. Rather than being grossly incompetent and extremely unethical; he came off as merely eccentric. Plus, there were at least two scenes in the movie that were so poor that they made you a little uncomfortable when watching them. Similar to when your friend shows you something that they are really emotionally invested in, but it blows and you’re not really sure how to react. Do you tell them: “Dude, this sucks.” Or do you try to change the subject quickly? Or do you feign enthusiasm? Whatever you do decide to do, you are still uncomfortable while you consider your options.

In “Running with Scissors” I was uncomfortable with the incredible lameness in particular of the scene where Annette Bening’s character hallucinates that she is seeing snowflakes falling from her ceiling while the soundtrack blares: “Blinded by the Light”. Normally I would laugh out loud at such a horrific sequence, but because I wanted to like this movie, I had to look away. Similar to Nader during the sex scenes of “BrokebackMountain”. Although Nader just felt a little squeamish around those scenes. I felt embarrassment for the filmmakers.

Tonight would be movie night with Scott. It would be my turn to choose the movie. Last time it was his choice and he chose “Clerks II”. I should make him watch a French New Wave Film or something by Fellini as punishment for making me sit through one long scatological joke trying to thinly masquerade itself as a morality tale. Although he does deserve to be punished in such a way, I do not wish to make his brain explode in head. I am making him watch an independent art picture. I do not know how good this movie is because I missed it when it was at the Varsity. I am making him watch “Brick” which I know is better than “Clerks II” without breaking its plastic seal; I just hope that it is exponentially better. Although no movie is that bad on a 106 inch screen, except maybe “Clerks II”.

I would just close by saying that I am currently reading what might be the best book I’ve ever read. I won’t tell you any more about this book at this time, but I would reiterate that it is phenomenal. It also taught me this fun little fact: “Presbyterians” is an anagram for Britney Spears.

Oh yeah, one last thing: Rodin is tomorrow. Still time to signup for the field trip!!

Score!

Some times it pays to show up for work. Usually whatever your hourly wage happens to be, unless you are on salary then you are consistently being robbed. There are times when it REALLY pays to show up for work. I’m talking about when you have a high quality converstaion with a co-worker or just out of the blue you get something dropped on you that just happens to be exactly what you need. You could even call it a miracle.

There is a beautiful sequence in the movie “Signs” where Mel Gibson is sitting on couch with Joaquin Phoenix discussing the concept of miracles. Mel Gibson’s characters says the following tidbit:

People break down into two groups when they experience something lucky. Group number one sees it as more than luck, more than coincidence. They see it as a sign, evidence, that there is someone up there, watching out for them. Group number two sees it as just pure luck. Just a happy turn of chance. I’m sure the people in Group number two are looking at those fourteen lights in a very suspicious way. For them, the situation isn’t fifty-fifty. Could be bad, could be good. But deep down, they feel that whatever happens, they’re on their own. And that fills them with fear. Yeah, there are those people. But there’s a whole lot of people in the Group number one. When they see those fourteen lights, they’re looking at a miracle. And deep down, they feel that whatever’s going to happen, there will be someone there to help them. And that fills them with hope. See what you have to ask yourself is what kind of person are you? Are you the kind that sees signs, sees miracles? Or do you believe that people just get lucky? Or, look at the question this way: Is it possible that there are no coincidences?

I’m a miracle man. I back this up with the following image:





My one man staff (Jesse Howard) and I have been diligently working on the handcrafted goodness that is the Photography 139 calendar. We have printers. We have a laminating machine. We have hole punchers. The one thing we are missing is our own comb binding machine. Not any more!!! The company that employs me was throwing this bad boy out. We swooped in on it like it was our job. I mean the jobs we get paid to do. So that picture you are peering at with most likely a small amount of envy is the brand new (20 years old) Photography 139 Calendar Comb Binder. The only thing left to make it “official” will be the slapping of the “Property of Photography 139” sticker on the side and christening it with a bottle of ice cold Original Black Raspberry Faygo Soda.

Warning !!!!!!

The following small story is going to contain juvenile and explicit reference to the female genitalia. If you are not comfortable with such subject matter I suggest you turn back now. Otherwise continue and discover the importance of good communication.

Last night at Supper Club a couple members had the following communication breakdown. I will leave their names out to spare them.

Setting: Es Tas

Member #1: (points to shirt that says “I love Pink Tacos”) Hey would you wear a shirt like that?

Member #2: I don’t know I haven’t had one before.

Member #1: What?

Member#2: I can’t wear a shirt if I don’t know whether or not I like it.

Member #1: What do you mean you don’t know whether or not you like “the product”?

Member #2: I haven’t had one before. I can’t wear a shirt for a product I don’t know.

Member#1: What?

Member#3: I think our friend is trying to say that he prefers a big, beefy burrito.

Finally it was learned that Member #2, thought the shirt said “Big Tacos”. Communication breakdowns, perhaps they aren’t always the same.