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Bad choices made, constantly

1313 Words About 30 Minutes in Wal-Mart

 

I don’t really have any kind of fashion sense, especially since I never go anywhere besides work, Starbucks, supermarkets and gas stations. I wear the same thing I’ve been wearing for however many years now. Jeans, never shorts, steel toed boots, two t-shirts and a “work shirt” over those. Usually one of those Dickies ones in blue or black. Even if it’s 107 out, this is the outfit I have on. Unless someone I love dies and I have to go to a funeral, I’ll probably never wear a suit or a tie for the rest of my life. I’m fine with this. I don’t care what other people wear and try my hardest not to associate with anyone who does care about trivial things like clothing. So it was with great sadness that I tore the black Dickies shirt I had owned for about five years now. (The blue one I wear has been going strong since the 90’s, really) The closest place between where I live and where I work to buy one of these is Walmart. I imagine there are other places I can buy these shirts such as THE INTERNET, but I really needed to get this shirt today if I wanted to satisfy the OCD thing in my head that was starting to make some noise at the fact I’ve been wearing the blue one exclusively for a couple of months now.

 

This particular Wal-Mart also has a Subway in it. Subway is currently enjoying a spot at the top of the fast food chain game world in the United States according to recent articles I didn’t read but saw the headlines on Huffington Post. Since I brought no lunch to work with me today I decided I’d give it another try. I hadn’t eaten at Subway in a year or so. I’ve recently lost a good amount of weight, about forty pounds, so most fast food is out of the question at this point. SUBWAY HAD THAT GUY THOUGH SO IT MUST BE GOOD FOR YOU. I figured I could find some sort of cold cut thing in there and I’m not eating chips anymore so I should be okay…but not really.

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I walk in and the Subway is on my right, I notice about five people in line so I decide to go find the shirt I need first. I panic a little as they only have the tan ones, and since I’m not about to join the Nazi Party I certainly don’t want one. Also, I don’t want to look like a walking cantaloupe. Finally I notice there is one black one left, my size on the shelf below, not hanging on the peg. I grab it and make my way to the registers which are all about a dozen people deep. I figure I can take the shirt into Subway and pay for the shirt after.

 

The line in Subway is significantly shorter now aside from some old woman and what I presume is her daughter. They are ordering…I try not watch the Subway people making the sandwiches and pulling the various meats out of the little trays as it really is disgusting. It would be what I imagine watching a video collage of yourself being conceived and born is like. While in line I am also keeping tabs on the lines out in Wal-Mart CENTRAL I guess we’ll call it. I briefly look at various escape routes and where cameras are located, and think of where I’m parked thinking I can just walk out with the shirt and not pay for it. It’s Wal-Mart, I would not feel a shred of guilt stealing from them. Sort of how you feel when you see someone young fall down on the ice and don’t stop to help them. They’ll figure it out. While I’m daydreaming about minor theft a guy steps in front of me in line, he’s apparently with the women in front of me and they were holding his space. I was pretty excited to learn this same gentleman was here to order FOUR FUCKING SANDWICHES. I briefly thought about how I joked on Facebook earlier about someone ordering three breakfast sandwiches. That story was not true at all. A guy did order one breakfast sandwich in front of me this morning, but as is often with things I post there, they are made up incidents created for humor. Most people can relate to mundane little annoyances like that and that’s where my humor and daily observations often come from. THIS FUCK IN FRONT OF ME THOUGH, NOTHING FUNNY ABOUT HIM AND HIS FOUR SANDWICHES AT ALL. This whole process adds about nine minutes to my experience in the line. I notice he is talking kind of softly when he orders each sandwich, like he knows he messed up my whole life and now I am staring at him with daggers. He is finally gone and I order my cold cut sandwich which I just ate and it was truly disgusting and I will never go there again as long as I live, but I don’t want to get into that.

 

I decide against stealing the shirt after briefly thinking I might be able to just put the shirt on over the ones I already have on. I’d have four shirts on. Maybe I could go hang out with Mr. Four Sandwiches Guy. I scope out a line to stand in. The express line at Wal-Mart by the way is “LESS THAN 20 ITEMS” What the fuck kind of express line is that? HOLD ON, LET THESE FIVE PEOPLE WITH NINETEEN DIFFERENT TYPES OF DORITOS AND BOYS UNDERWEAR AND FAST AND FURIOUS DVD’S GET IN FRONT OF YOU AND YOUR ONE SHIRT OVER HERE IN THE EXPRESS LANE. I find a line with five or six people. I look ahead and the woman checking out is putting potted plants on the conveyor thing which for some reason makes me sigh. I don’t know why I think a potted plant will take longer than say, a can of Glade to deal with but I do. Just then the dreaded happens. The lighted number above the register starts blinking and the cashier is now holding up a pair of boots. Probably not as intense as my semi-expensive steel-toed ones, but nonetheless, work boots. WHO THE FUCK PICKS AN ITEM THAT ISN’T PRICED? The cashier decides to leave us and go find the price herself. WAIT WHERE IS THE SHOE DEPARTMENT. WHAT IF IT’S ALL THE WAY IN THE BACK? WHO IS GOING TO TAKE CARE OF US NOW? Another woman shows up and rings up the rest of the boot lady’s items. Now there is one party in front of me, a woman in her sixties and a younger woman who have a carriage filled with stuff. The older woman suggests I go in front of her as “you look like you probably want to eat your lunch there” ARE YOU SAYING I AM FAT? We had a little small talk banter about the other Wal-Mart’s around. She apparently enjoys the one in North Reading. I let her know I’ve been there as I used to live in nearby Woburn and fuck I would rather be in the back of a police car on the way to the joint for stealing a $17 shirt from Wal-Mart than having this conversation with this perfectly nice lady. Just then a new register opens and I am motioned over. I swipe my card and the whole transaction takes maybe two minutes. I thank the lady who was going to let me go in front of her and now I think I am going to go stick a Sharpie down my throat and get rid of the Black Forest Ham and Turkey on Seven Grain Wheat. Perhaps I’ll write about how that goes.

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North Carolina to Pittsburgh in Seven Hours

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I took one good long look at the rug of the hotel lobby, and realized I would be in for, at the very least, an interesting stay.

“Sir,”

She broke my concentration

“Your room is around the back, 113. Enjoy your stay.”

“Thanks” I replied and walked out into the thick pea soup air.

August was a hot month for North Carolina. I had already withstood a week of this nasty hot weather, but today was extra brutal. I walked by the pool on the way to my room and noticed an old white-as-a-ghost man sitting by the pool. We both made eye contact, and then broke when a young boy jumped into the pool screaming something unintelligible.

The smell of a new motel room is always nice, like a new car. After the stale ashtray of my car’s interior, any new smell is always greeted with a pleasant sigh. One time, I was in Pittsburgh, or rather outside of Pittsburgh. My reservation should have been changed weeks before, but I didn’t, so I stayed in some small blue collar town with all kinds of factories and Ford trucks, and men with mustaches, and white people with nice SUV’s and black people with dirty sidewalks, and fast food restaurants filled with acne covered Puerto Rican boys. This was the epitome of traveling to me. The people who lived in these towns I passed through. The people that live and breathe the towns always make me feel unwelcome. “People watching” is a favorite way to pass time when I have time between travel days.

So I’m in this outskirt of Pittsburgh and I show up at this run down motel that is in between a Kentucky Fried Chicken, a McDonalds, and about nine hundred other generic signs burned into your brain. I get the key to my room. Before I even open the door, I am greeted with an odor that makes me practically gag. It’s the smell of a room that apparently had someone smoke maybe a carton of cigarettes (in a row) in a room with an air conditioner blasting (with a dirty filter). Not wanting to deal with this for more than five more minutes I did what any smart traveler would do, I fumigated the room with steam. This was a trick I learned…that day. “Improvisational fumigation” I turned the shower, as well as the sink on full blast and turned the heat all the way up on both of them. The steam started pouring out of the bathroom swiftly. First little puffs of steam here and there, until eventually I had the Iron Maiden stage set (during the pre Bruce Dickinson era, Killers [Paul D’ianno, vocals] tour of course. As later tours seemed to have specific themes, like the Egyptian/Graveyard mood on the Powerslave tour, or the Blade Runneresque Somewhere In Time tour. The room started to get unbearably hot, so I opened the door, with a good weeks worth of facial hair, and a cigarette dangling out of my mouth to discover a family loading into the room next to me. I made eye contact and said hello to the wife first, the young daughter, and then to the father, as what must have looked like a scene from a Fellini film took place behind me, and eventually around me. Smoke and steam can have a cool effect sometimes. If used in an original manner such as greeting a family from Connecticut in the midst of trying to fumigate your room from the smell of cigarette smoke (while yourself smoking), one feels like some sort of character. The smell did eventually go away, and I never saw the family again the rest of my stay.

I rested easy that night, as the stench was gone, and in a day or two, Pittsburgh would be a dim memory for me.

Back to North Carolina.

I get to my room and it smells wonderful.

“That new car smell!” I think to myself.

I throw the television on as usual, and go outside to get the rest of my stuff. A suitcase full of clothes, clean and dirty, a messenger bag filled with notebooks and journals filled with bad art, and worse memories, three CD cases filled with a total of 500 CD’s, and my trusty boom box. I can’t sleep in the dead silence, as my ears ring all the time and it keeps me awake, so I lull myself to sleep with anything from Miles Davis to Black Sabbath. Heavy metal is easy to go to sleep to actually. I set up the boom box and throw in the Duke Ellington trio CD (definitely one of the best things the Duke ever did in my humble opinion. With Charles Mingus and Max Roach rounding out the rhythm section, how can you get a better trio than that?) and immediately skipped to Caravan (track 8, which when one looks at the history of Track 8’s from tons of releases, you’ll see the attraction to this sacred home in album sequencing history, check it out: Bowie’s Man Who Sold the World: seven tracks before getting to the title track, Van Morrison gives us the beautiful When That Evening Sun Goes Down eight tracks in on Tupelo Honey, the Beach Boys Pet Sounds boasts (arguably) the greatest song they did in God Only Knows eight tracks in, my favorite track on the brilliant Stones Exile on Main Street, Sweet Black Angel is guess what, track eight. Even the Beatles knew what they were doing when they put the creepy Happiness is a Warm Gun 8 tracks in on the White Album. The Smashing Pumpkins Gish offers the listener Tristessa at number eight, T-Rex gives us Telegram Sam eight tracks into The Slider. This is obviously not an accident. Track 8 will be revered for years to come as the key spot to hook the listener and make a classic record just that, a classic record. One example of this not happening is on the seminal Replacements record Let it Be, where the weakest track on the record Seen Your Video is erroneously given the coveted track 8 spot. The albums best song actually opens the record as I Will Dare, or arguably opens “side two” with My Favorite Thing. There are good arguments for both songs. I Will dare boasts the best pop hook in the history of guitar playing this side of You Really Got Me, where My Favorite Thing presumably filled thousands of mix-tapes throughout the eighties. Both are great songs regardless.), one of my favorite songs of all time, made most famous by Dizzy Gillespie. I turned the volume down on the television set and started to fade off.

I dreamt of this big mountain I was driving on. It felt like I was driving for hours as my eyeballs felt like dry golf balls whatever that means. I was hot in the car as I drove down this huge mountain, and it surrounded me. There was mist and fog along the sides of the mountain that made it impossible to see how high up I was. My ears were filled with hot air. I felt all of this vividly in this dream. Perhaps it was the actual long hours I had been driving in reality, mixed with a steady diet of caffeine, nicotine, and THC I was living on for days that made me have such rich, alive dreams. So I’m on this thing driving not really knowing where I’m supposed to be going in the dream. Just following everyone else for the most part. Everyone is going just fast enough to make it uncomfortable, and unsafe. I feel like I am going to drive off the mountain. In the dream I am with someone else, they sit in the back seat, each time I look in the rear view mirror to see them they turn their head away so I can’t see their face. They sometimes obscure their face without turning their head confusing me even more, as I try to concentrate on gravity and speed at the same time. I picture the car driving off of the side of the mountain into the woods. Traveling at speeds well over one hundred miles an hour, this is a very real vision within a dream. I picture the car tumbling violently over jagged rocks and tree branches breaking, and the contents of my car being thrown around like balls in one of those bingo things. I picture myself landing though, and walking away from the car. Nobody is in the back seat. A bunch of broken picture frames and empty coffee cups litter the area in and around the car. I manage to get the crushed trunk open with the help of a piece of the bumper (?) and retrieve my most coveted possession, the boom box, and the CD’s. I start walking through the barren woods, knowing well I can’t climb back up the valley and make it to the highway above. I go through the CD’s and find Simon and Garfunkel – Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme and put it in the boom box and begin my descent into the woods.

I awaken to what sounds like someone hammering nails into a giant aluminum silo. I look out the window, and the father from the family is actually packing things into his car. I can’t figure out what he was doing to make such a racket, but I keep investigating. Pretty soon the mother, followed by the daughter come out of the room and start talking to the father. What looks like an argument turns into a kiss on the cheek from both women as they leave the parking lot and walk towards the gas station across the street.

The family is a foreign thing to me. I can’t really imagine what kind of things go with being a family person. Here I am traveling around the country in my car to amuse myself. I have a ton of money to just waste on nothing but rare blues records and cigarettes, and this guy probably has an agenda each day. “Today we need to leave the hotel room at seven in the morning so we can make our way to Hershey Park by noon. At ten o’clock this evening we will go to dinner at this restaurant I found in the travel book. This is what will go down. This is how my family will spend their vacation” Me, I’m showing up in these towns and cities and grabbing the yellow pages and looking for used record stores, book stores, and whatever else to look at along the way.

I close the drapes in the room and walk over to the boom box, The Ellington CD probably stopped playing 7 hours ago. I press the play button and crawl back into my seven thirty in the morning bed hoping to hit the town later in the day. Wondering how I fell asleep in North Carolina and woke up back in Pittsburgh.DSC02435

Dead Man Walking

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 I’ve now been involved in three layoffs in my life. The first one, I was laid off with a number of other folks, these last two (at the same company) I was saved.

 

At my last job, for part of my eleven years there I was head union steward. On more than one occasion I would get a call from a manager (usually that one from the warehouse with the ponytail and mustache that smoked weed and looked like a roadie for Black Sabbath) telling me they would be firing someone that day and I would have to represent them. More often than not they would have them finish working on some project and then fire them. When I say “project” I mean some menial task like emptying trash, sweeping an area or moving a bunch of heavy shit. I remember one particular employee calling him out on it once “you mean you had me do all that shit today knowing you were gonna fire me, that’s bullshit”

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Walking around work knowing someone is going to get fired or laid off that day is an awful feeling to have inside you. Even if the person was a horrible employee, there is still that little piece of empathy you carry. I heard about today’s layoff about a week ago. It is pretty slow at work right now and without getting into details and politics about my boring mundane job, they could have done things a lot different there the last few months and avoided this, but I’m just some guy that works out back, what do I know? They would be getting rid of four part time guys and one full time guy; I knew the whole list of employees that would go. Now I just had to work with these guys for a week knowing they would soon be gone. At one point last week one of them asked me if I could get a “direct deposit form” from the office. I told him I’d get it “next week, she’s out the rest of this week” (she wasn’t) I figured if I could hold him off a few days, he didn’t know he wouldn’t need a direct deposit form anyway. I briefly considered somehow talking him out of direct deposit, but couldn’t come up with any arguments quick enough. Is there a pro-paper check movement out there? Doubtful.

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In my opinion, the best way to deal with a layoff as a manager doing the firing is to do it when the employees that are staying are nowhere to be seen. The last thing you want to do is parade a bunch of freshly fired people past the employees that get to stay. From what I understood, they were going to do this at lunch today while the remaining five of us would be out of the building. In one particularly awkward moment, direct deposit dude asked me what I was doing for lunch. We often get lunch together. I had to quickly come up with some excuse and for some reason came up with “Oh, I have to call my doctor…” I have no idea where that came from or what kind of answer to “what are you having for lunch today?” this was. I don’t have a doctor. I haven’t had a doctor since I was probably seven years old. I should probably get a doctor at some point, but that’s a situation for another day. I know in my head I had the scenario planned out for him if he questioned me more. Which was basically me going to some place to get lunch and talking on the phone to my fictitious doctor while I drove. What if he had said he didn’t mind me talking on the phone while he was in my car? I didn’t have a back up plan for that. I’m a horrible liar. For whatever reason, they gathered the employees ten minutes before lunch, not informing me or anyone else. So there we were standing around like a bunch of jackasses in the hot-as-piss warehouse as their supervisor walked them out of the office with their little green folders just like I got when I got laid off that one time.

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I went through the air-conditioned office to get to my car so I could go get lunch. On my way through I walked past the desk of the manager/owner who did the laying off. On his computer screen was a website for some ultra expensive looking hotel called “The Manhattan Club” for one of his upcoming business trips. I drove to a supermarket up the road that sells premade sandwiches and meals. As I got out of my car it seemed as if the hot air outside smelled of mashed potatoes. For a moment I wondered how horrible it would be to sit in an 81-degree warehouse eating mashed potatoes. I went with something more sensible. 

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Jeff Hanneman Dying Was Like That Time John Lennon Died, But Worse

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When Jeff Hanneman of Slayer died last week it was like that time John Lennon died, but worse. When Lennon died I was ten years old and although I listened to The Beatles for most of my young life, him dying in 1980 wasn’t really that big of a deal to me. I was a kid, I didn’t have any kind of connection to him aside from the melodies he wrote and performed that sounded good to my ears. For guys like me, who spent most of their formative years up until the present in the “metal scene” or “hardcore scene” Jeff Hanneman was a God.

Being a young and naïve teenager, I thought once I got into punk rock and hardcore music I wouldn’t be able to listen to heavy metal music anymore. (the pic of me above, I seem to be okay with Iron Maiden, Rush and The Misfits) At one point I made the switch over to hardcore from metal but that’s a whole other story. I published a fanzine covering hardcore and punk music when I was 14. I had the great fortune of interviewing some of my favorite musicians from the time. These artists were generally always approachable and friendly. My first interview was Keith Morris of Circle Jerks and Black Flag, I interviewed Peter Stahl from Scream, Corrosion of  Conformity, Lyle Preslar of Minor Threat and many others…Around my third issue of the zine I wanted to interview the band Siege. My friend Mark’s cousin Kevin was the singer. As it turns out, Kevin was no longer the singer. The new singer was living in Marblehead. MA and I went to interview him at his house.  (as far as I know they never did any shows with this singer) While there he played me two records: Metallica – Ride the Lightning and Slayer – Hell Awaits. He only had to play me the two opening songs and I was sold. Metallica’s Fight Fire With Fire with it’s pretty acoustic intro that then explodes into the first thrash metal song I ever hear, and then Hell Awaits which as you might know begins with what sounds like a Bosch painting coming alive. Demons speaking backwards, which I quickly discovered was “JOIN US” over and over backwards.

One of the main reasons (along with seeing Cliff Burton wearing a Crimson Ghost Misfits shirt or James Hetfield wearing a Discharge shirt) was Jeff Hanneman. When you saw pictures of Slayer they all looked like typical metal guys, making ugly faces, “throwing up the horns”, etc. but then there was this bleached blonde dude with punk rock stickers all over his guitar. He seemed like the most approachable guy, and he was a fan of the same music I was.

Both Hell Awaits and the EP Haunting the Chapel were on heavy rotation for quite some time as a teenager and then Reign in Blood came out. The band, now signed to Def Jam recorded with Rick Rubin, who had up until then produced LL Cool J, Run DMC, and the Beastie Boys among others. What? Rubin basically took all the reverb out of Slayer, sort of the opposite of what AC/DC did with Back in Black. Instead of sounding like the music was recorded in some cavernous chapel in the deepest level of hell, every instrument was completely up front and dry. The album was a quick twenty-nine minutes. It’s widely regarded as the best thrash metal album of all time.

Jeff Hanneman wrote, in my opinion (and it should be yours) the best Slayer songs. Angel of Death (the “Ace of Spades” of Slayer, yet I’m still not tired of hearing it. Sampled by Public Enemy, which means Spike Lee has heard part of the song Angel of Death by Slayer, not knowing it’s about Josef Mengele!), Post Mortem (my favorite Slayer song), pretty much every song on South of Heaven, most of Seasons in the Abyss, and much more. His songwriting has stayed with me much more than most of my other “favorite” bands. I could probably recite every lyric on Reign in Blood, he was the “quiet” member of the band, his guitar solos, which basically sound like demons being strangled to death stick in your head forever, sort of like the guitar solo in Something by The Beatles. That makes more sense; Hanneman dying was like when George Harrison died but worse.

Jury Duty

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A postcard was sent to an old address I haven’t been at since August of 2009 informing me I had been selected for jury duty. I was more than happy to take a day off from work in the middle of the week. This was maybe my sixth time going to jury duty since I turned eighteen seventy-five years ago. Most people sigh when they tell you they have to go to jury duty as it usually means you end up sitting in some room for three hours with a bunch of squares who also don’t want to be there. What’s there not to like? I think of it as one of those civic duties you feel good about after doing like voting, giving blood, or wiping your ass on a piece of paper and mailing it to the Westboro Baptist Church.

 

I was scheduled to be there at 8:00 AM this morning. When I registered online after receiving the notice I put my new address in, since the court I was scheduled to appear at (Woburn) was in a different county. I’ve had four addresses since I lived in that county. Last night I received a “confirmation e-mail” that it was a go for this morning.

 

My normal social anxiety that takes place when I have to go to any kind of event that isn’t part of my daily routine would possibly be in full swing. Knowing that, I always try to dress as inconspicuous as possible. Sometimes it backfires. Today I wore all black, with a black Boston Bruins baseball hat. Halfway there I realized I was dressed like a cross between Kirk Hammett and a guy about to break into a house at night. I try to never wear anything that makes me stick out in any situation. I hate being in out with someone dressed like that as well. For instance if we were to ever meet up for dinner and you showed up wearing a yellow jacket I would probably leave. If you wear any kind of hat around me that has an elaborate brim, or has a feather in it, forget it, we’ll probably never be friends aside from on the Internet and maybe through some text messages.

 

Jury duty is generally a lot of sitting around and waiting for some adult to tell you it’s okay to go home. It’s kind of like being at a birthday party but without cake and singing. You always want to bring a book or a magazine with you. Some courts let you bring a cell phone, laptop, e-reader, etc. with you. I decided I wasn’t fucking around and brought two of those things in with me.

 

I arrived right on time, about five minutes early. Seeing security and metal detectors without a long line in front of them is always nice. I realized I was wearing steel toed boots about twelve seconds before walking in. Fuck. I emptied my pockets of everything and was reminded of the time I decided I would try smuggling marijuana on an airplane after September 11th, 2001. (I was flying a red-eye somewhere, for a brief three or four day trip. Upon arriving at Logan Airport I put a small amount of marijuana in a cigarette wrapper and put it in my mouth, like I was chewing tobacco. Looking in the rear view mirror my cheek was bulging. I decided to try behind my upper lip. Nope. Lower lip. Sorry. Looks like I wouldn’t be bringing any marijuana on my brief trip. My next best idea was to just smoke all of it, or as much as I could while sitting in the car. Maybe it would make me so high I would be high for the whole trip. Midway through that idea I realized, no, I’d be going through a security checkpoint, dealing with baggage people, and getting on an airplane. Social anxiety kicked into high gear as I made my way to the security checkpoint. Thankfully flying at night makes lines pretty much non-existent. I got to the metal detectors and emptied my pockets, placed my bag on the roller, and realized I had a cup of coffee in my hand. I put the cup of coffee in the bin with all of my emptied pockets stuff and sent it through the machine. Once I got to the other side, and one of the agents was guiding me along we noticed my coffee had spilled all over the inside of the bin, on my wallet, keys and everything else in there. The agent let me know I should have just walked through the metal detector with it. For whatever reason I thought this was the correct response to that: “Well, couldn’t someone sneak plastic explosives through like that?” The agent informed me I was not allowed to make comments like that. Now petrified of everything in the world, I made my way down to the gate.) Immediately the buzzer goes off and I’m told I am going to be checked with the wand. Just then one of the agents says “What happened to those Bruins last night?” I ignore him and then he says the same thing again. I realize I’m wearing a Boston Bruins hat yet I can’t for the life of me think of the single name of one professional hockey player even if I tried for five minutes. I don’t watch hockey. I like it, but I also like playing Boggle but I’ll probably never play Boggle again as long as I live. Wait, that’s not true. I kind of have an unwritten rule that when I am in a town other than Boston I’ll wear a Boston hat. If I’m here in Boston I’ll wear a Dodgers hat, or my St Louis Cardinals one I bought with my friend Mike from St Louis, in St Louis. Either way, it never fails, every time I wear this Bruins hat someone asks me about the game the night before. I should probably start wearing it the night they play so I look like I’m waiting to hear the outcome of the game. My boots don’t go off with the wand and I’m sent on my way.

 

Upstairs in the jury waiting room I’m sent to fill out a questionnaire to make sure I qualify. It gets to the part asking if I’ve ever been arrested and I have to think back to the few times I have been arrested more minor stuff. It was so long ago and so stupid (doing graffiti twice and driving with a suspended license once). I put the suspended license one down and made my way to the counter. The guy takes one look at the sheet “MAHBULHEAD? YOU SHOULDN’T BE HERE”, I look over at all the folks sitting there with their newspapers and looks of despair and now jealousy and I’m told to move down to this guy that will dismiss me. “You’re all set, you’re now set up for Essex County, they’ll probably call you at some point, or maybe not, have a good day” Thanks.

 

It’s 8:04 AM when I get back in my car. I should just go to work I’m only a half hour late now. I could go to a Chinese food buffet! The movies! Shopping! Nah, I’ll go home and write about my four minutes at jury duty today.

1035 – Laid Off From “The Music Business” Pt. 3: Back to Work

 

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I’ve turned into one of those guys that bitterly mutters things under his breath all day at work while watching the clock tick tick tick until 4:00. I wasn’t always like this though.

Much the same way I got every job I’ve ever had in my life, through networking, I finally ended up getting a job. I had an interview on a Wednesday and was working the following Monday. Exactly one-thousand and thirty-five days after being laid off from “Square Records” I started work in a warehouse.

To say the adjustment getting back to work was a little rough would be an understatement. Actually scratch that, it was easy going back to work. After a few days though, I was physically exhausted beyond what I had felt in years. My job is a physical job, doing work that doesn’t require that much brainwork. After the first day my hands and wrists felt like they were going to break off. The third and fourth day I was on my feet for eight hours straight. I could barely stand by the time I got home. I thought “I bet this is what it’s like to get off heroin” or what Nelson Mandela felt like.

After working in the music business for most of my life, I figured getting a normal blue collar job would be an easy adjustment. Here I am a couple of years later and I spend forty hours a week hating every second of my existence. The job itself is easy, mindless work for the most part. It doesn’t matter what I do for work, or where it is. What does matter though, are the people I work with.

When I started the job there was a small group of guys in their early twenties, a couple of them right off the bat rubbed me the wrong way. One of them was constantly coughing and spitting phlegm into the various trash barrels around the warehouse. The other guy was just plain dumb. I kept to myself for most days and just listened to their conversations. “Reagan, he was around like in the 60’s right?”, “Patrick from Spongebob is kind of a dickhead”, “Obama used to sell weed”, etc.

Over the next few months newer kids would start working there, the majority of them were hired because their parents knew the owners, or were somehow connected. They would work during breaks in school, the summer and the occasional day here and there. Most of these kids were young, Massholes-in-training. Everything was “gay” (bad) or  else it was “bomb” (good) One day I flipped out on one of them telling him to stop saying everything is “gay” In retrospect, who am I to tell people how to talk, especially since I rarely have any kind of filter. And I’m usually joking.

One thing a lot of people might not realize, or want to admit, is how racist every white person really is. You get any group of white guys together for an extended period of time the conversation is eventually going to get racist. One time they told the story of driving down the street and calling some black guy a nigger out the car window and laughing about it. In 2011. Upper-middle class white kids who wear camo baseball hats, chew tobacco and like modern country music. Good old Americans working boys.

One day my friend who got me the job recommended another of his friends a job there. He was closer to my age and apparently really into music and craft beer. I could care less about beer, and even less about craft beer, but the idea that we may have an employee that like me, knows every verse to “Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands” was enticing. He was into stuff like Guided by Voices and Dylan and “good music”, with an encyclopedic knowledge of those artists. Most of the time though, he wore headphones, presumably to drown out the constant barrage of racism and “gay” talk. On a couple of occasions he flipped out on them and it was extremely funny and uncomfortable at the same time. Thankfully he was there for the brief time he was as well as one of my best friends’ younger brothers. He was in his twenties now and worked alongside me for the time he was there and we had a great time listening to hip hop and making fun of these other fools. There is also a younger guy there that works alongside me now who is into music like Rush and Iron Maiden. I think he is maybe twenty years old, and is a great kid. I still feel disconnected to a lot of these kids since some of them I am double their age.

The other thing about all of these kids: They’re all future serial killers. Talk of killing animals is the norm. Everyone owns guns and has killed various animals; sometimes on hunting trips, other times just for the fun of it. One particularly gruesome story told was about a rooster that was making too much noise in the yard (who has a rooster in their yard?) so one of them hit it with a bat, another one slit it’s throat with a knife. AMERICA.

For the last year or so there has been a former policeman working there. I’ll call him “Frank the Cop” Frank the Cop is a former cop who was injured on the job, had to retire, got addicted to pain medication, worked at a couple of different strip clubs and DOESN’T TAKE SHIT FROM YOU FUCKING KIDS. He works alongside the twenty somethings in another area of the warehouse but when you turn the music down a little you can hear him in all his glory. He talks and talks and talks all day. They ask him questions like “Frank the Cop, who do you hate more blacks or Hispanics?” He immediately replies “oh, spics” He talks about getting his dick sucked and Chinese food and tittie fucking and movies. Frank the Cop knows about every movie ever. Except he doesn’t really. He knows about the last nine Clint Eastwood movies, that kind of shit. He’s the kind of guy that will go see a Denzel Washington movie in the theatre in 2013. For whatever reason Frank the Cop is allowed to just kind of come and go as he pleases. Some days he just won’t show up, no call, no text, nothing. Some days he leaves at 9:00 AM, comes back an hour later and then leaves at noon. He’s pretty much the reason you don’t like cops if you don’t like cops.

The bleak days there are tough to deal with forty hours a week and I find myself burning out fast. A low paying, dead end job at my age, surrounded by people I wouldn’t associate with outside of there is tough to swallow. Having a routine is comfortable, it numbs your brain. Most days though it belittles me and makes me feel like a failure. A series of bad decisions, depression and no motivation brought me to this place every day and I need to escape it soon.

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1035 – Laid Off From “The Music Business” Pt. 2

(the first part of this can be found here: http://wp.me/p1zaMw-1f )

When the phone at my desk rang I immediately knew what was about to happen. I had just arrived at work via taxi after dropping my car off at a garage for a number of repairs that cost just under $1000. In the dead of winter, smack in the middle of January, there was still filthy grey snow and ice everywhere. I walked from the garage to a Dunkin Donuts, and then a convenience store. I found a card on a bulletin board for a taxi service, which ended up just being some local guy in his 60’s with a Lincoln Town Car. I told him I would call him back later in the day for a ride to the garage when my car was ready if I couldn’t get a ride over from someone at work.

I was working at Square Records for a little under eleven years. Unfortunately they had been laying people off for a few months. I felt pretty safe. There were two other “equals” in my office. One had been there much longer than I, the other a little shorter than I had been. A few weeks before someone “from upstairs” accidentally printed a document in the printer room listing the salaries of everyone in the company, (even the owners, president, etc). A co-worker and I both discovered it. We of course immediately decided we needed to look it over. The best way to go about this was to make our own copy. The person who printed it could be showing up in the printer room at any moment. One of us acted as a “lookout” while the other quickly made a copy of it and put it inside of a manila folder. I still have this document at home in a folder along with other stuff from there. If you ever want to feel like shit at your job, find out what all those people you don’t like above you make on their paychecks.

I walked into the HR woman’s office and she had a bunch of paperwork ready for me and told me they were letting go go of my job. I could tell she must have hated doing this job. I think that particular day five of us got laid off. I signed all the papers including ones that basically said I wouldn’t talk shit about the company. I think this was just during the period where they were paying out my severance. Now it’s probably okay to talk shit about that sweatshop of a warehouse that released albums by some pretty amazing artists but also some really bad music as well. that’s for another time though.

I don’t really remember the reasons why I was laid off, all I can say as boy was I excited. I had hated the job for quite some time and I had just been told to go home, forever. They would still continue to pay me for four months and keep me on the 100 % full health and dental plan. Since my car was still in the shop and I had only been at work for a few minutes I had nowhere to go aside from back to the garage. My car wouldn’t be ready until way later though. The company offered me $25 to catch a cab back to the garage and then one of my co-workers offered me a ride. The ride was a bittersweet drive. I had seen this woman every weekday for years and now would probably not see her for some time. She was one of my favorite co-workers.

I got back to the garage and told the guy fixing my car I just lost my job but to “keep working on it” I then called my family, and texted a few friends and my girlfriend. Not knowing some of the turns my life would take over the next few years I was filled with excitement. Also, I was scared. Arriving home I hugged both cats and sat on the couch wondering what to do. I think I made a bunch of chicken cutlets. Or got high. Probably both.

That night I went to sleep and for the first time in who knows how long, and didn’t turn my alarm on. There was something liberating about that. I of course woke up early the next morning anyway. My first though? “Fuck, I have about twenty-five minutes left to make McDonalds breakfast!”  This was a mantra I would become very familiar with for a long time. The Mc Donalds breakfast had become a ritual for a while until one day walking in I saw a rather large man in his 50‘s walking out. I went in and bought a newspaper and waited in a brief line. When I got my food a few minutes later I went and sat at the window. Outside was an ambulance and a small group of about four or five people gathered around. Seems like my buddy from the way in dropped on the ground. I quickly ate my two egg and meat sandwiches, hash browns and coffee and left. I made it to my car without having a heart attack. It was a good day indeed.

When you get laid off it’s almost like having someone break up with you. They’re not really pissed at you, they just don’t think you should see each other anymore. I guess this would make a severance package a period of make up sex that abruptly ends a few months later.  I spent a few months confused not knowing what to do at first. Knowing I could collect unemployment at some point, knowing I had a place to live and a patient girlfriend that was working a good job was comforting. I decided looking for a new job would be maybe the fifteenth priority. My top priorities would be buying things from the internet to a point where a package was arriving everyday. I memorized the sound of that mailman’s truck pulling up in front of our house. Peeking out the window until he drove away and making my way outside to grab my presents. It was like Christmas every single day, just without the having to spend your money on other people.

I was making relatively good money so once I started collecting I would be getting a good amount of money every week as long as I checked in every Sunday. I supplemented my income with the sale of various collectable items I had acquired through the years working around music. Music collectors have deep pockets, and it’s always been a way for me to make extra money for as long as I can remember. The first week I started selling on eBay I put a Slayer 12” single I bought in 1987 for probably $4.00. A guy in Canada bought it for $450.00 FOUR-HUNDRED AND FIFTY DOLLARS. Yeah, I know right?

Music would end up helping pay a lot of bills. Not music I was playing, music I was selling. Whether it was promotional items I held onto for years or expensive Misfits albums (I had doubles of some so it was okay), I was always able to make some sort of money. At the same time I was burnt out from that business. Selling things I wasn’t supposed to and that kind of thing seemed ridiculous to me, and still does. It’s not my fault some asshole thinks buying a rare CD by the Cult for $60.00 is a good idea. Of course I eventually ran out of stuff to sell and grew tired of hunting down cheap stuff to turn over for more money so I slowed down. Thankfully, the government was in a generous mood as I was somehow able to collect for well over two years.

For the longest time, well for one-thousand and thirty-five days, I had no idea what going back to work would be like, What being responsible was like anymore. Without really knowing it I was entering a mid-life crisis. It was kind of fun though.

(to be continued)

I Went to Baltimore

As a general rule I like to travel by myself. Having traveling companions always slows you down. For the most part I like to observe things and report back instead of enjoying them with others. Thankfully my travel companions on this trip understand this as I’ve managed to do my own thing for the majority of this trip.

Two of us left early on Thursday morning to come to Baltimore, Maryland for a festival of basically all metal and metal related bands. Four days of music. Loud music. I love this shit. Well, not as much as the kids here toughing it out for every second of it, but I love this music and scene. The drive down was pretty uneventful. I messed up somewhere and missed the Tappan Zee Bridge and ended up pretty much on 95 for the majority of the drive, which is a pretty bland stretch of travel. Maybe because I have done the drive so many times it’s just become a boring background for the trip to somewhere better. Somewhere like Baltimore. Wait, Baltimore? Is this place any good?

Standing alone in crowds at shows, sporting events, anywhere. When people are behind me I imagine they are all watching me. Every single one of them freezes me in my footsteps. The second night there I wanted to turn around and go get a drink and stood there for ten minutes thinking it over until finally turning around, head down, avoiding eye contact and making my way to the bar to get a soda. It’s worse than it ever has been nowadays. Social anxiety. Yesterday I never went to the festival at all, catching a baseball game, and retiring to the room at 7:00, cutting off the outside world. Well, aside from attempting to be funny on the Internet and posting pictures here and there. I did this back home a few weeks ago as well, buying a ticket to see the Bad Brains after looking for months for one, going through some hoops to get one. The night of the show, drove by the venue and realized there was no way I could make it inside there so I just went home and ate the $30 I spent on the ticket. My passion for music, seeing it live, creating it, caring about it in general is pretty low at this point anyway.

Baltimore is indeed pretty good. The architecture here is pretty great. I’m staying in downtown, a mere five-minute walk up and down a hill to the venue. The walk back to the hotel is the only problem as it’s up a hill and I’m in horrible shape.  The other night on the way down to the show, near the venue I saw what looked like half of a joint on the ground. When I left hours later I remembered where it was and picked it up and it turned out to be a rolled cigarette. Well, I figured this out by lighting it and attempting to smoke it and then coughing pretty hard. Yeah I did that. Walking around the city as a white minority is refreshing and makes me feel like I’m in Los Angeles where being a white person you’re also a minority.

Out of however many bands are at this festival I’ve watched about five bands that I am a fan of. Metal fans are a dedicated lot, and the passion and love these kids put into just being metal heads is pretty intense. It reminds me of how it was in the 80’s when I was like that. The two best bands I saw were Eyehategod and Today is the Day, the rest is a blur of “yeah that was cool’s” but nothing I could write a trillion word essay about. I’ve been more interested in taking some photos than writing about music. Tonight is the last night of music and we are heading out tonight, rather than dealing with driving home on Memorial Day from Baltimore to Boston. I can usually do late night drives pretty well, especially if someone is with me. If I never update this blog again, it’s because I fell asleep at the wheel and went over a bridge.

I Was a Bully, But I Also Got Bullied So It’s Okay

When I was 13 years old or however old you are when you get to seventh grade I started school in my new town of Swampscott, Massachusetts. I was fat, had gross long greasy hair, bad acne and wore concert t-shirts all the time. Ozzy, Led Zeppelin, Iron Maiden, etc. Concert shirts back then were often “baseball style” with those long sleeves. I was also painfully shy and as I am now, socially awkward. Granted if I know the people I am with I am whatever the polar opposite of socially awkward is.

There were a group of 8th graders I could tell were just troublemakers. I mean granted I would be hanging with troublemakers pretty much a week or so later…One particular guy, his name escapes me now…his face though, he looked like a rat. Tiny little eyes, this rat nose and just this demeanor that was sneaky and shifty. Him and his group of friends were like those kids on the Simpsons, when you saw them coming down the hall you knew they were going to do something to you. So one particular day I was walking down the hall in an area where nobody happened to be at the moment and there was the Rat boy and his crew. This particular day I was wearing one of those long sleeved concert shirts and him and his crew grabbed me and proceeded to tie my sleeves to the two doors to the theater, which swung out. I was stuck there for a few minutes until someone, probably a janitor, came to my rescue.

Fast forward to couple of years after high school and I was a much bigger person, was lifting weights quite a bit and was considered “mean looking”. I was working at this small supermarket in this disgusting city called Lynn, Massachusetts. This girl started working there, and while she was a nice enough person, she may have been one of the ugliest girls I’ve ever seen in my life. She literally had a dark mustache and really hairy arms which led me to believe that whatever was happening “in other areas” was probably just as horrible of a situation. At one point she mentioned her husband would be coming in to meet her for lunch. So lunch rolls around and I am in the little lunch area and she comes in to introduce me to her husband and low and behold it is Rat boy!

So now I am much bigger and scarier than him, and he is married to the ugliest woman I have ever seen in my life. He shook my hand and we both kind of did that whole “oh hey yeah we went to school together” thing and subsequent visits to work he was always extra friendly to me.

Nowadays, this thing in the news has been “bullying” like it’s some new thing sweeping the nation. I guess with the onset of social networking bullying is worse than it already was. I don’t think it is, I think it’s less than it was. Aside from that incident tying me to the doors, when I was much younger kids were even meaner and nastier. You’d get pushed over, hit, shit thrown at you, etc. Nowadays kids get called fat on the Internet and they are killing themselves. I think the bigger problem is, parents are raising their kids to be pussies. In the summer parents are shaving the heads of their young men and sending these little shaved pussies out into the world to get taunted and made fun of. Wait, what about shaved pussy?

As a kid I bullied and got bullied quite a bit if I remember. One time, I had a paperback book with me in the bathroom and dipped it in a toilet and wiped shit on this kid Eric who later became a good friend, or maybe we were good friends already and this was some way of me showing my adoration to my friend.

In gym class in eighth grade I was playing basketball and my ball went into the area where another group of kids were playing. A tall fellow named Tom threw it back to me harder than he needed to. We got into a sort of tossing match with the ball, I’m assuming someone called someone a faggot and we agreed to “meet at 2:15” Which basically meant you would meet your new enemy and fight them surrounded by a small or large group of students cheering on whoever they were friends with. I wasn’t really a popular kid nor was Tom so our 2:15 meeting was a small affair with maybe a dozen kids watching.  It was definitely not like the Keith Roberts vs Dave Simpson fight that was such a big deal that it took place on a Saturday. I don’t remember what initially sparked the fight but I remember Dave (a good friend of mine at the time) “training” for it. Dave was a skinny pothead like me. Keith was a football player who pretty much knocked out Dave in less than a minute. My fight was similar. I pretty much won within a couple of minutes and then went on my way to smoke weed and listen to my friend’s dad’s Frank Zappa albums, smoke weed and nurse my light bruises from my fight. Quite the suburban denim clad victory parade I’m sure.

That was the last time I got in a fight. 1983. Years later I would see Tom around, and even as recent as a few weeks ago I saw him. We never acknowledge each other, he has about five or six inches on me now and is in much better shape than I am. I always imagine going up to him and asking him if he wants a rematch.

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