Tag Archives: FaceBook

My Life with You

I am a walking dichotomy.

I profess a belief in God, yet I sometimes take his name in vain.  I self-identify as a Christian, but I frequently break nearly every rule in Christian doctrine.  I want to be loved in a way that reeks of desperation, yet I revel in shocking you with a coarse comment, and I think doing so is amusing.  I want you to heap fawning praise upon me as you read my work, yet I go out of my way to make sure you cringe at least once in everything I write.  I am filled with self loathing, yet—or perhaps because of that fact—I have the most fragile ego of any person in all of Humankind.  Your words can shatter the frail veneer of my sense of self, yet I invite your scolding reprimand with my words.

Writer's BrainI’ve always known this about myself, but I never really reflected on it consciously until a moment ago as I considered a recent conversation with one of my publicistsDanielle Hartman.  That’s right; I have two publicists.  My inclination toward polygamy is not limited to a marital or social bent.  I need two publicists just like I need at least two of everything else in my life.  Yes; I need two.  One simply isn’t enough, and so I also hired Phillis Benson who has been educating me in the art of social media, and I need her because I hate social media, FaceBook especially.  

My need for two publicists is driven not only by my proclivity for multiple partners in every endeavor, but also by my tendency to ignore the promotion of my work in favor of the creation of it.

To the point, Danielle and I were IMing.  Wait; another pause.  I hate with every fiber of my being that the word message is now a verb, but enough of these admittedly annoying parenthetical jaunts.  Where was I?

Oh yes.  Danielle and I were talking about how awesome my book is not.

“Could you please post a review of my Book?”

“Well actually Guy, I’m afraid a review from me wouldn’t be very flattering.  The first chapter is quite rough. You’re writing is spot on, Guy. Lots of voice, lots of humor, lots of heart.  But the content and message was—well—awful.”

“How so?”

“Uhm; I hated it.”

“Why?”

“I felt objectified.  You were talking about Ginger and Mary Ann, and there was all this sexual innuendo and—I don’t know.  I didn’t warm up to any of it until I got to know you a little better.”

“That’s OK; my wife hated it too.  Can you post a review on Amazon to that effect?”

“You want me to post a review that I hate your book?”

“You don’t hate my book.  You love my book; you just didn’t love it right away.”

“Guy, I hope this doesn’t hurt your feelings—but my friends and I laughed at your archaic views.”

“Really?  You actually shared it with your friends?  That’s awesome!  Thank you.”

“But, Guy, it wasn’t in a good way.”

“It doesn’t matter.  It made you feel something.  That’s all I care about.”

“You want to anger your reader?”

“I want to inspire passion.  I want to reach in, grab that thing you care so much about, pull it from your gullet and force you to say it aloud and unabashedly.  Otherwise, what’s the point of writing—or even reading for that matter?  Now please post an honest review of my book.”

OK.  You asked for it.”

What follows is the result of my earnest request:

“Quite honestly, the first few chapters made me cringe, as a feminist. His mid-century views on how women “should” use their sexual prowess to get what they want is offensive and appalling, but I do have to say, Guy ends up being very lovable and very pro-woman. When you look at the book as a whole, you realize Mr. Oliver is trying to empower women in the only way he knows how.

I respect his ideals but disagree with him in some instances on how he arrives to his big picture. He recognizes the strength in women’s minds and their character but does generalize and place too much importance on sex, but his intentions are what count for me. I look forward to seeing an interview on how this book affects Mr. Oliver’s relationships with women in the future.

As for the writing style, it is full of voice, humor and heart.”

Perfect—and a three-star rating to boot.

I’m reminded of a recent birthday wish from my friend Laura who offered the following, which I’m paraphrasing because FaceBook apparently dropped it (just one more reason to hate social media):

“Guy, you’re one of the few reasons I put up with FaceBook.  I’ve come to know you so much better here than when we worked together.  Here, you’ve made me laugh, you’ve made me cry, and you’ve made me think.  Thank you for that.  I hope you have a wonderful birthday.”

And that sentiment is really the point of this particular entry.  I love fawning praise, but more than that I love to move you.  As much as I immerse myself and revel in the five-star ratings, meager though they are, my book specifically, and my writing in general, isn’t suitable for everyone.  To some it’s boring.  To others it’s pointless.  To a few it’s infuriating.  And to that I say good, good, and good.

To me, this blog spot is just one more manifestation of my inclination toward polygamy.  I love you and want to have a relationship with you, and I can only have that if we are suited to be together.  I also want that relationship to be intimate, and as in any intimate relationship there will be times when I bore you.  There will be times when I anger you.  There will be times when I make you hate me.  But if you follow me, there will be moments when you love me—and that is why you will follow me.

Does my ego offend you?  Are you squirming as I unapologetically offer a moment of honesty about what I want from you?  Has my obvious lack of humility made you cringe?

Good.  I’m doing it right.

Guy-o

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A Letter in My Absence

I can’t believe I’m posting this the day before Memorial Day.  That’s because this entry is not about Memorial Day.  Yet as we are so temporally close to the moment when we, a grateful nation, bow our collective head in memory of those who made the ultimate sacrifice, I am compelled to offer an acknowledgement.

My wife, who is my greatest critic (other than me), frequently complains that I do not come to the point quickly enough—kind of like I’m doing right now.  While I believe I am a master of the parenthetical, wielding it as a Samurai wields a sword, my wife believes that I waste her time with unnecessary verbal clutter.  To you, dear one, I say, a) be patient and b) what follows is more of an obligatory nod to those we honor tomorrow than a paragraph flanked by parentheses.

If you have a loved one who served and was lost in the line of duty, I salute his or her sacrifice with all the sincerity I can muster.  Please know that the smart-ass who sits behind this desk and uses a keyboard to express opinions and tell stories is also someone who deeply respects and greatly admires the sacrifice of your loved one.  God bless you both.

In addition to Memorial Day, I have also been thinking a lot about two other things that happen at about this same time every year: graduations and class reunions.

In June, my high school class is hosting its 35th class reunion.  I will not be attending, but my FaceBook feed has been rife with buzz about the upcoming event.  The coordinator, Mary Jane, has been hounding people to RSVP to the invitations she sent out.  She has also been heavily promoting the event by posting high school portraits of my classmates.  I sit by, lurking in the shadows and watch the comments, occasionally making an appearance to offer a trivial but thoughtful tidbit about some interaction I had with a few of these individuals.

This behavior is fitting, because it is emblematic of my high school experience.  My dad moved us to the tiny berg of Mineral Wells, Texas when I was 15, during the first semester of my sophomore year.  Here’s the thing about small towns in the South: they are a living dichotomy.  Southern gentility requires a soft politeness that embraces you and makes you feel welcome, which is at odds with their organic mistrust of outsiders.

I was speaking with a high school friend named Danny who had recently become reacquainted with another mutual friend.  He sent me a photo by text message and I replied “Who’s that?”  He refused to tell me so I called him.  We talked for a few minutes before he spilled his guts explaining that the photo he sent me was our hot-rod buddy, Terry.   Hot rods.  You never hear that term anymore.  If you’re in your 20s you might not know that hot rod is a term for a car that has been tuned for high performance.

Now Danny and I did not own anything that could be called a “hot rod.”  We each owned a Mustang, but were also broke and could not afford to tune anything except an old guitar.  Terry on the other hand was the son of a mechanic who restored vintage cars, and that proverbial apple did not fall far from the tree.  The point is we were close friends because of a common interest.

Danny and I spoke for a few minutes and then he broached the subject of the upcoming reunion, wondering if I was coming.  I responded: “The thing  is Danny, I don’t have the attachment that you do to our high school class.  You grew up with these people.  You’ve known them since you were very young.  I didn’t.  I spent two and a half years there, and it was really impossible to get to know most of them in the way that you do.”  “Yeah; I get that.  I just thought you might want to see Terry.” he replied.  “I’ll pass man; have fun.”

I hung up and thought about high school and how different my experience was from my classmates.  In that moment it occurred to me that, like small Texas towns, your teenage years are also a living dichotomy.  At that age we had insecurities and low self esteem, but we covered them up with bravado or an attempt to insert ourselves into situations that would buy us the precious currency of popularity.  As it turns out, high school is just a continual quest for social capital.  Even the most beautiful girls and the most braggadocios boys are victims of this phenomenon.  The most popular people at every high school face the same insecurities and self doubt as those at the bottom of the social ladder—and that is exactly how I perceived myself at that time.

I dated a very pretty underclassman named Linda during my senior year.  About ten years ago she found me through classmates.com, and I was surprised when I discovered over the course of our correspondence how differently she perceived me than I perceived myself.  She described me as gregarious, courageous, and socially deft, while I saw myself as shy, frightened, and socially awkward.  I suppose somewhere between those two extremes lies objective truth—but we will never know.

With that in mind I’ve been following the FaceBook page dedicated to the Mineral Wells High School Class of 1977.  Yes; I’m that ancient.

I look at the photos and read the comments, and with each new post, I have begun to see these people in a new way.  The veneer of their high school brand has been stripped away and I think I see them for who they really are or, rather, who I believe they have become—and you know what?  They’re really nice people, who love, care, and support each other as they attend college graduation ceremonies and announce weddings of their own children, and post photos of their grandchildren.

I now see them in a way I never did before, and although their high school experience and mine were vastly different, I find myself wanting to celebrate what this upcoming event means to them.

Schools are fertile grounds for cliques, and all schools have them; my school was no different.  They begin with common interest, evolve to account for mutual social and physical attraction, and plateau as a galvanized playmate collective.

In that sense Terry, Danny, and I had our own clique of which we were very protective—but we didn’t perceive our collective as a clique at all.  I’m guessing neither did the cheerleading/athletic clique, the Z club, the drama club, and countless other segments of my high school population.  Everyone was simply trying to get an education and learn good social graces while trying desperately to fit in with everyone else; I doubt anyone was really trying to shun anyone else.

Still, because of my late foray into that small Texas town, I never felt as though I was really embraced in quite the way the other kids embraced each other.

No; I’m not attending my high school reunion.  There’s just really nothing there for me, but I think I would like to write a letter of appreciation to those attending:

“Dear Class of ‘77,

Remember how you tried to hide your insecurities in high school?  Remember how, as you grew and matured and experienced life, you began to cope with them and to teach yourself that you really did have value?  Remember that pivotal moment when you finally began to sense your own worth?  Congratulations; you finally graduated from the school of life.  You’re all grown-ups now and the curve of your evolving emotional and mental maturity has become asymptotic.  Every day you learn and evolve a little more, but at an ever-slowing pace.

I, on the other hand, am still as infantile and as stuck in my teenage angst as I was my sophomore year.  Fortunately, I have the luxury of scotch and therapy.

Have a blast!  I’m celebrating for you in abstentia.”

Guy-o

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Crow’s Feet

I owe all of you an apology.   This is my second hiatus from my blog-spot since I established it in August of last year.  I’m going to rely once again on the excuse that my life is complicated and I often succumb to distraction, never mind that were you a proverbial fly on the wall of my life you would no-doubt blame my absence on whiskey.  However, you would be wrong.

Like a loving wife, I hope you will once again receive me back into your good graces and sit with me while I offer a few recent events that will explain my momentary exodus.  In addition to receiving a job offer after 252 days of unemployment, a week ago last Friday, I became a grandfather.  A grandfather.  Hmmm.

I’ve been pondering this notion as I prepare to re-enter the work force, because I’ve never thought of myself as old—and grandfathers are old.  This in spite of the fact that I’ve been trying to embrace the idea since my oldest daughter, Rachel, gave me the news last October.  Everyone else around me seems to be accepting their incremental aging quite gracefully.

My friend Fran frequently speaks about his need for reading glasses.  Karoline talks about her granddaughter with great fondness.  Tom talks incessantly about all his medications.  Jeff talks about his late onset diabetes.  The lives of my brother Mark and sister Suzan seem to revolve around their grandchildren.  I, on the other hand, tend to sit in my office and wonder how I went from disaffected youth to cranky old man—and the answer is of course, I have no idea.

No amount of meditation or whiskey can reconcile the perception of ourselves as time passes compared to the way we are perceived by others.  Allow me an illustrative moment.

About three weeks ago, back when the possibility of becoming a grandfather was still an abstract concept to me, several members of my immediate family came to town for Rachel’s baby shower.  Heidi, Cindy, Maxine, and I all met my father, mother, sister, and my sister’s granddaughter, Ari, for an attendee swap in the parking lot of one of the local HEBs.  The women got out of my car and transferred to my Dad’s car, while my Dad swiftly moved from his car to mine.

Neither my dad nor I had any intention of going to a baby shower, and we were about to head over for a beer at my favorite sports bar.  Protocol being what it is, though, I stepped out of the car to greet my family.  Suzan was the first to offer salutations:

Suzan: “Wow; it’s Guy with white hair!”

Me: “Hi Suzan; how are you.”

Mom: “My goodness Guy.  You’re hair really is white.”

Me: “Hi mom.  Thanks for noticing.”

Mom: “No seriously; your hair used to be so dark.  I can’t believe you’re 53, your hair has turned completely white, and you’re going to be a grandfather.”

Me: “Well you know mom, time marches on.”

Suzan: “Yeah; it’s just such a shock.  I was just looking at photos of Ashley’s wedding and you still had color in your hair.  I can’t believe how much it’s lightened since then.”

Me: “Well, Dad and I need to be going.  We’re meeting the guys.”

Brief hugs, a kiss goodbye for Heidi, and then dad and I got in the car at which point I simply sighed.  Politely, my dad asked “Everything OK?”  “Everything’s fine dad.” I replied.

Here’s the thing: When I look at my hair in the mirror, I see sort of a light salt and pepper—a kind of silver cast to what was admittedly a head of hair that was nearly jet at one time but is no longer.  I can actually see the black hairs that still have color in them blending in with those devoid of color.  Yet anytime someone describes me, I am known among other things as “the white-haired dude.”  This is but one example.

Several weeks before this charming incident I was having lunch with my friend Jen, who is herself a recent mother.  She began the conversation:

Jen: “So you’re going to be a grandfather.  How do you feel?”

Me: “I have mixed feelings.”

Jen: “How so?”

Me: “Well Grandfathers are old, and I’m trying to come to grips with that aspect of my mortality.”

Jen: “But you are old.”

I stared at her for a moment, my mouth agape and then changed the subject as she laughed aloud, claiming she was just teasing.

If these two incidents weren’t enough to convince me of how subjectively I perceive myself, I naively moved the ball forwarded toward the “oldsville goalpost” by posting a high school photo of myself on FaceBook.  Bad idea—or maybe not.

About a week ago, someone I attended high school with (an actual beauty queen in the Miss USA pageant mind you) posted an unflattering photo of herself from grade school, with a self deprecating remark as a joke.  Sensing a competition unfolding, I posted an equally unflattering high school photo of myself.

Now I viewed this image as either a bad photo, or a photo of someone having a bad day.  I had this image in my mind of myself in high school as a loner with devastating good looks, a poor self image, and a unique fashion sense.  The image the photo presents, on the other hand, is one of a sad, shy, lonely person who didn’t have a friend in the world.  And guess what happened next?  A groundswell of comments poured in from my former classmates.  To a person, they all said essentially the same thing: “Now that’s the Guy I remember.”

I was frankly floored, but I shouldn’t have been.  This is how I was perceived by others—and this is exactly the affect the march of time has had on my current self esteem.  I know this because last night my daughter posted a photo of me holding her son.  I hardly recognized myself.

There were creases next to my eyes, known as “crow’s feet” by women when they are critiquing themselves.  My hair, while not entirely white was thinning and missing much of the vibrancy it held in my youth.  My ears and nose seemed a little larger, and my unshaven whiskers were also dotted with white specks.  The only remaining sign of youth I could find was the color in my eyes—and all of this juxtaposed with the three-day-old infant, Roy, I held in my arms.

Maybe it was simply the camera, or the angle of the photo, or maybe I was buying into the voices of self-loathing once again but, whatever the reason, I felt as though I was seeing myself as others see me for the first time.

Somewhere in our minds, most of us see ourselves as youthful, kind, generous, and attractive—and the first three are typically true of the people I’ve known throughout my life.  That’s because they are the result of a state of mind.  That last item, however, is largely beyond our control.

Father Time is relentless, and no amount of wishing will keep us looking the way we remember ourselves in our 20s or 30s or even our 40s.  So now, how to be gracious and accept the crow’s feet as badges of dignity and wisdom?

I’m not sure—but I think it involves spending time with your grandson, watching him grow, and patiently answering all those inevitable questions.  Questions like “Why is grass green?“ and “Why is the sky blue?” or most importantly “Papa, why do you drink whiskey and carry a gun?”

The answer to all those questions given the fact that I’m neither a science teacher nor a psychologist is, of course, “Because.  What do you say?  Wanna go for ice cream?”

Guy-o

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A Dog’s Best Friend

People suck.  OK; that’s not entirely true; I’m just feeling a little misanthropic. That’s because I’m sitting at a sports bar nursing a beer, having just returned from the Williamson County Regional Animal Shelter.  Allow me a moment to provide some context.

Two weeks ago I was having lunch with my friend Karoline at Rudy’s BAR-B-Q in Round Rock.  She had taken the morning off to pick up some furniture at the Ikea there and invited me to lunch. I’ve known her for more than 15 years.  We’ve seen each other through a divorce and two marriages each.  I’ve worked with her, for her, and near her, and although I’m three or four years her senior, she’s like a big sister to me.

She frequently offers sage advice and tells me when I’m wrong (sometimes with significant verbal force), but always with the back-drop of the maternal nurturing I never received as a child but always craved.  It’s therefore unusual that I have the opportunity to offer advice to her.

She was talking about her weekend getaway to Dallas with her husband Dan while I worked on my brisket sandwich.  And then an unusual lull in the conversation pressed itself upon us.

I raised my head and saw her looking up and to the left, with glassy eyes.  “K?  What’s wrong?”  “Nothing.” she whispered quietly.  “What?”  She turned to me and with a haunting sadness in her voice said “I was just thinking about Tater.”  Tater was a Jack Russell Terrier she had raised from a puppy and who found her way to Rainbow Bridge the day before New Year’s Eve 2011.

This was Karoline’s first experience with losing a family member, which—if you’re a dog lover—is exactly how it feels.  I attempted to assuage her grief: “You know K, you’re going to feel this way less and less often and each bout will be less intense over time, but in the meantime what you’re feeling is normal.”  Soberly she replied “I know.”

I continued: “You gave Tater a very long, happy life.  The average life span of a canine is only about three or four years in the wild.  They endure the harsh elements of weather, hunger, and predatory attacks.  You not only gave her a very long life, you gave her a really good life.  In return she gave you a life of loving companionship.”

She responded with a gentle thank you and we moved on to another topic.

Fast forward one week to last Thursday.  I received a text message from her.  “Got a lead on a rescue Jack Russell at the Williamson County shelter, very unusual.  Heading over Saturday.  Want to join us?”  A truly awesome compromise.  She found a potential companion that suited her and it was a rescue dog.  Brimming with excitement I replied “You bet!”

What happened next falls squarely in the category of feast or famine.  The following day she got a lead on two rescue puppies—something as rare as platinum.  So now she’ll not only have the breed she wants and the opportunity to effect a rescue, they’re also puppies; exactly what she wanted, rendering a trip to the animal shelter unnecessary.

Later that afternoon, someone posted a heartwrenching video on FaceBook, which documented the rescue of two dogs living in a landfill foraging for food and water among the filth.  Now here’s the thing: I can’t get crap like this out of my mind.  It gets stuck up there and I can’t seem to exorcise it, which is reason #25 why I drink.  Compulsively, I began researching the Williamson County shelter Web site.

All weekend that video and the shelter remained on my mind—so Monday I arranged a visit to the shelter with the director Cheryl Schneider.  Some time ago I visited the Austin Humane Society where my friend Fran volunteers every Saturday just to see what he did exactly.  His experience of walking dogs and training other volunteers is truly a labor of love, but it didn’t satisfy my desire to understand what we (humans) are doing for strays more generally.  I hoped my trip to the WilCo shelter would set my mind at ease.

I entered the shelter and saw a woman in an office around the corner to my right.  “You must be Guy.” she said.  “And you must be Cheryl.” I replied.  “Yes, and this is Daisie.” she offered, gesturing to her foster dog, who was dropped off after the owner adopted her and then decided she was too much trouble.  She was a German Shepherd mix with a very sweet disposition who stuck by us through the entire tour.  Daisie’s insecurity was palpable as she stared up at Cheryl each time we made a stop.

We paused briefly by the operating room to see a vet who was about to spay two kittens.  She then showed me the isolation rooms, including one that was specifically designated for rabies observation.

Finally, there were all the housing kennels.  We walked by kennel after kennel of dogs who had either been dropped off by disaffected owners or picked up as strays and placed here with the hope that the shelter could find them homes.  I read the names: Chuck, a quiet Pit Bull, a Black Lab named Onyx, and a beautiful German Shepherd named Geneva.  As we passed each one, they made eye contact.  Some, like Onyx, would jump up and beg for affection.  Others, like Chuck, just sat quietly and asked to be held with a longing look.

We both offered a single finger through the cage and let them lick the digit that offered the only human contact they would receive that day—contact they were genetically programmed to crave.  The one exception was Geneva.  She just laid there gazing up at us casually with a distant look in her eyes.

As we left the room Cheryl said “The most common reason for euthanizing these animals is aggression toward humans or other animals.  That’s why Geneva is here.”

“Really?  She attacked another dog?”

“No; she bit someone.”

“Was she abused?”

“Your guess is as good as mine.  We don’t know her history.”

“Do you think you’ll have to—I mean will you; is she going to make it?” I asked, as a painful lump formed in my throat.

“I don’t know.” was all Cheryl would offer.

Here’s the thing.  I’m thinking as I sit here drinking beer and craving whiskey because of what I saw at the shelter and what I heard from Cheryl, that we invented these creatures.  Breeds have been created for their appearance, their speed, their ability to herd, and for their disposition—and that last one is huge.  We bred them above all for companionship, which means that being with, spoken to, and touched by a human is hard-wired into their DNA.  And yet we do this to them.

We decide it’s just too much trouble to support a creature whose only crime is loving us unconditionally.  And then we lock them away in a cage, and make it someone else’s problem.  Yeah.  Some people really do suck, but some people make up for those folks by donating the only thing any of us really own: their time.

Here’s to Fran, Cheryl and anyone else out there who redeem the rest of us with selfless acts of kindness.  You really do make the world a better place, and you are truly a dog’s best friend.

Guy-o

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Cat-atonic

I’m exhausted.  It’s funny; if you’re in the dwindling majority who remain gainfully employed, you must be wondering what is so fatiguing about my life.  I practically brag about the relaxed pace of my so-called schedule: get up, have coffee with family, shuffle the 40 paces to my office, get online, check e-mail, check FaceBook, check the news, apply for work, graduate to beer (or whiskey), work on this blog, watch Netflix, leave my office, turn on some music, sit at my bar, graduate to beer and whiskey, eat dinner, go to bed.

Not much going on there at all.  What I just described, however, is merely a sketch of my daily life.  Check out the color.

First of all, applying for work sucks.  Today, people look for work online.  It goes something like this: find a job aggregator.  For those of you unfamiliar with the term, an aggregator uses technology to scour the Web for any job listing out there, and then provides a search engine to find the type of job you’re seeking.  I use indeed.com.

When you find a matching opportunity, you follow the link to submit your application.  Sounds easy right?  No; no it’s not.  First you typically submit your resume.  Fair enough—but then you are also typically required to fill out an electronic application that asks for all the information on your resume.  Allow me to repeat that.  They make you enter all your resume information on a form so it can go in a database that contains your resume.  Then you typically repeat this process with every new search.  It’s maddening the number of times each week I enter my name, e-mail address, and work history for the last 20 years.

Then you know what they do with that precious information?  Nothing.  A very nice and well intentioned person called a recruiter receives an e-mail message notifying him or her that you applied for one of 25 different positions, each of which has hundreds of applicants.  Unless God is the recruiter you’re screwed.  They can’t possibly pay any significant attention to your pathetic job history, which they don’t care about anyway.  Seriously.  Nobody cares.

I know recruiters; lots of recruiters at this point.  They mean well but they’re mere mortals and they don’t know you.  You’re just the next guy in a long line of people who are clogging up their inbox.

Next there’s the obligatory networking.  This is kind of like job searching, except that the only people you’re going to meet are the unemployed.  You go to these events and you stand around trying to pretend you care about the guy you’re talking to and you know what he’s thinking?  “Damn it.  I thought for sure you were a recruiter.”  Want to know how I know that?  I’m thinking the same thing.

Last Wednesday I attended two different “networking” events.

The first event was a meet-and-greet for professionals in the healthcare industry.  I know nothing about the healthcare industry but it began at 5:00 and was right across the street from the event I actually wanted to attend, which didn’t start until 6:00.  I came early to get parking because parking is in short supply downtown, which is where all networking events in Austin unfortunately occur. I mention that it’s unfortunate because I hate downtown.  No parking.  Expensive food and drinks.  Dorks that think being downtown amps your cool factor.  Drunk guys hitting on narcissistic girls who are well on their way to drunkville as well.  Networking events where ghosts with resumes wander around looking for the ever elusive recruiters.

To the point, I entered the first “hip” joint, J Blacks, and was immediately recognized by a former colleague.  We chatted briefly and then two women arrived and began talking to him.  He introduced me and the typical inane dialog ensued.

Me: “Hi. What do you do?”

Her: “I’m in PR, working for a health insurance company.  What do you do?”

Me: “I’m a freelance writer.”

Her: “In healthcare?”

Me: “No.  I have a marketing background.  I write case studies, brochures, whitepapers.”

Her: “In the healthcare industry?”

Me: “No; I’m just, just a freelance writer.  If you need content, I can provide it.  Whatever you need written, I can write regardless of the industry.”

Her: “So are you affiliated with a healthcare networking organization?”

Me: “No.  I was told I should attend because someone here might need a writer.  I’m just a writer.  I write; that’s what I do.  You’re in PR.  Do you need a writer?”

Her: “Uhm; no.  Have a nice evening.”

With that amazing success story complete, I checked the time and, as fate would have it, nearly an hour had passed.  I set down my beer glass and headed across the street to Molotov Austin for my next downtown adventure: a journalist meet-and-greet sponsored by the Austin American Statesman.

Upon arrival I registered, paid my $20.00, collected my two measly drink tickets and stepped up to the bar.  $20.00 seems like a lot for the opportunity to meet journalists, but hey; at least the first two drinks are free, and I am trying to get my column in this very newspaper, so fine.

I ordered a beer and then began to look around, wondering if they had cordoned off the journalists and posted a sign to make their presence known.  No such luck.  So I wandered around like everyone else seeking out prolonged eye contact, a sure sign that the person wants to be approached.  I assumed this would increase my probability of identifying a journalist but this tactic proved fruitless.  A number of people approached me—but no one in the newspaper business.

I met a friend of my wife who recognized me.  We talked for some time, and then he moved on.

I exchanged information with a nice lady who had a business with her husband selling maps to all the popular things for tourists to do in Austin.  The business name was kind of ironic given this venue: Walking Papers.  And what better way to promote your business than to show up at a networking event for the unemployed and remind them of that fact by introducing your company.

Finally, I met a nice lady who owned a business down the street that sells premium spices.  Yes; this is just the kind of contact who can assist me with my dream of Opinion Writer Syndication.  A condiment dealer.  As she said goodbye to find a journalist who could promote her store, I noticed an area that was, in fact, cordoned off, and in which there appeared to be some sort of official activity.

I made my way over to this conspicuous place I had somehow overlooked.  I was certain I would find local celebrities with press badges standing around meeting us, the common rabble.  No; of course not.  It was a face-painting booth.  The artist was a stunningly attractive blonde woman, and she was plying her trade to a man who appeared to be in his late 20s.  And his choice of face paint?  A ThunderCats character—you know that cartoon show from the late 80s.

I just stood there staring, glad that I was alone.  The sight of a grown man at a journalism networking event having his face painted as a character whose target market was 10-year-olds was so embarrassing I was rendered speechless.

Another half hour passed and I ran into the woman who notified me about these two events.  “Did you find any journalists?” she inquired with some annoyance.  “Nobody.” I quipped with a flat affect.  “Let me see if I can track down the coordinator.”

She began asking around and one of the waitresses pointed him out.  He was standing a mere five feet from us with his back turned, wearing a black T-shirt and blue jeans.  My friend tapped him on the back.  He turned around and, big surprise, it was the ThunderCat dude.  OK; so let me break this down for you.

I drove 25 miles from podunk Pflugerville to the live music capital of the world for the purpose of meeting contacts in an industry I’m trying to break into—and my fate lies in the hands of Mr. ThunderCat.

If you’re still reading this entry, you should be exhausted too.  Another month of this crap and I’ll either be catatonic or a full-blown alcoholic.  Wait; that’s what I said last month.  OK.  Add AA meetings to the list.

Guy-o

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Thunderstorms

It’s finally happened: I’m out of viewing material.  I have successfully depleted the Netflix instant view inventory of “1,000 Ways to Die” episodes along with scores of other movies and TV programming.  No-doubt, your question to me is “What the hell is “1,000 Ways to Die?”  The answer is “It’s crap.”, but I respectfully submit that is the wrong question.  The question I think you should ask yourself is “Why have I depleted so much Netflix instant view inventory?”  The answer is I haven’t worked since July 2011.

My daily schedule is as flat the West Texas plains.  Nothing happens.  I wake up.  I have coffee.  I apply for work.  I watch Netflix.  I write.  I drink.  I go to bed.  Rinse, wash, repeat.  Wednesday nights, Friday nights, and Saturday afternoons I spend time with my friends—but that’s just beer and plotting the armed insurrection.  We never actually secede and my friends, by and large, are a pretty homogeneous lot who collectively share my world view pretty closely.  There’s never any controversy; no discussion of different viewpoints; it’s all the same day in and day out.

I am an unemployed writer who is marking time with a steady diet of Netflix, bacon, and whiskey, while praying desperately for a big-ass cumulonimbus cloud.  I remember thinking to myself earlier this week, “Dear sweet Jesus.  Enough with the blue skies and dry cotton fields.  Can I just get some refreshing rain, or a few brilliant flashes of lightening, or even the harmless bark of thunder?”  Last Friday I got all three.

It all began when I finished a beer and took a break from Netflix to check my e-mail.  In my inbox I found three emergency freelance assignments.  Hello rain.

I worked feverishly to beat the deadline, proofed my work, and fired it back 90 minutes early.  It was only three hours billing time, but that’s about a month’s worth of scotch and compared to the previous seven months, this tiny bit of work made me feel like a rock star.  It was like a fifteen minute, intense downpour after a two-year drought.

Enter lightening.  After grabbing another beer, I made the mistake of checking FaceBook, a pathetic act for a 53 year-old man to begin with.  The fourth post from the top was from my pregnant daughter who is in her third trimester.  It was two photos with juxtaposed messages.  On the left: a woman in a costume worn by waitrons at the Tilted Kilt, a pub with the same business model as Hooters, but with a Celtic theme.  On the right: a woman breast feeding her child in full view of the photographic lens.  The caption:

Left: “If this is acceptable in restaurants”

Right: “This shouldn’t faze you either.”

Bottom: “If it does, you’re a hypocrite.”

I was suddenly accosted by the Devil who began taunting me to weigh in with an opposing opinion.  Intuitively knowing what was best, I immediately turned my back on what was an overwhelming temptation to be a smartass.  But then I saw that Fran had weighed in with a rather innocuous dissenting view, which exponentially increased the temptation I had thus far successfully oppressed.

Now let’s play a game I like to call What Will Happen Next?  You guessed it.  I served up a counter volley, suggesting that while breast feeding is natural and loving so is sexual intercourse, implying that both required discretion and privacy.  In my opinion displaying cleavage as part of a restaurant costume was in no way the same as watching a woman breast feed in public—and I said so.

Who here thinks that was a good idea?  It wasn’t.

I was damned near electrocuted in the hail of comments that followed.  I could almost hear the yelling as my daughter pointed out the absurdity of comparing sex to breast feeding.  I could see the frustration in her face as she explained that I was sexualizing the female anatomy.  I heard the anger in her voice as she described an imaginary situation in which people were publicly berating her for simply feeding her child while I sided with the angry mob.

I opted out, deciding that discretion is the better part of valor.  If you’re familiar with Shakespeare, you know that’s actually code for cowardice, but it’s a reasonable reaction to both lightening and female ire, which at times are indistinguishable.

And now we come to the final chapter of this installment of A Day in the Life of Guy-o: thunder.

I headed over to my regular hangout with Fran, and another friend, TC, who rarely accompanies us anymore.  He has a new girlfriend and he’s been tending to the care and feeding of that relationship.

For the opening conversation, Fran scolded me about—I mean encouraged me to be more sensitive to my daughter in her currently fragile emotional state.  I quickly changed the topic to my Netflix viewing.  Two hours and four beers later we headed to a local sports bar for dinner.

We were nearing the end of our meal, and I still had Sloppy Joe filling on my plate, that never made it into the leftover bread that never made it into my belly.  “Are you going to eat that?” Fran quipped.  “No; do you want it?” I responded.

Fran replied by walking around TC to my spot at the bar and helped himself.  It was a little crowded so Fran was necessarily in my space, which motivated me to move away from the bar.  As I stepped back, for some reason known only to God, I thought it was a good idea to say “This is a little gay, so I’m just going to back up a bit.”

TC snapped to attention and innocently offered, “That was kind of homophobic.”  At this point I must refer you to a previous entry entitled Man up Dude.  Two things I attempted to make abundantly clear in that entry follow:

  1. Don’t make up words.
  2. There’s nothing wrong with being gay.

a) Homophobe is a made up word and by extension so is homophobic.  A person who is disturbed by the concept of a homosexual life-style, thinks it’s a sin, or is ignorant or naïve about the gay community is not a homophobe.  He or she is simply gay-averse.  A person who hates someone because that person is gay is something called a bigotBigotry is bad—but there is no such thing as a homophobe.

b) There’s nothing wrong with being gay.

Without thinking I lit into TC explaining that a) homophobic is not a word, b) it is political name-calling, and c) homophobic is not a word.  He returned the volley and explained to me that as a black man he understood the perils of prejudice and that my comment was bigoted.

Undeterred, I upped the ante, raised my voice, and asserted that not only is homophobe an imprecise term invented by that pansy Phil Donohue, it is universally used as a weapon against the political right in the same way the “n word” was once used against African Americans.

TC then raised his voice and forcefully suggested that I was using hyperbole to sell an emotionally based point of view and that my comment was, in fact, bigoted.  Then Fran entered the fray with yet another scolding—I mean exhortation that my arguing tactics were unsound and with even greater verbal force suggested that I step off.

After he was done there was a moment of awkward silence.  I simply looked at them both and in my calmest voice said “Homophobe is not a word.”  TC began to laugh hysterically, raised his glass, toasted our friendship, and I bought the next round.

As Homer Simpson once brilliantly suggested “To alcohol! The cause of, and solution to, all of life’s problems.”  Perhaps it also seeds rain clouds.

Guy-o

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The Interwebs and You: A Cautionary Tale—Sort of

In this installment of what is—no doubt in your minds—the most fascinating regularly scheduled “literature” on the InterWebs, I’d like to engage the way-back clock.

Long ago, in what has become a galaxy far, far away, a very smart and grotesque looking man named Reid Hoffman invented something called LinkedIn—perhaps you’ve heard of it.  It all began soon after the turn of the 21st century in 2002 (I know it’s ancient).

The idea was that you could use this thing called the “Internet” to do more than surf for porn, and send and receive e-mail.  You could also use it to make professional connections.  For those of you offended by my reference to porn, I agree with a recent comment from Herman Cain.  “…get a sense of humor.”

I myself would never use the Internet for such a purpose (as far as you know), but all of my friends did.  And I do mean all of them—at least all my male friends.  They had much more advanced personal computers than I did and I was still trying to figure out the www.

I worked for a software company and at that time the folks at this company actually encouraged unlimited use of the Internet.  They also didn’t monitor your odyssey on the Information Super Highway, which was really more of a farm to market road at that time.  Anybody remember lightning-fast 56 KB modems?  OK, so I’m ancient as well.

I remember walking into my friend Ric’s office in 1996 and got my first glance at a Web browser.  “What’s that?” I asked.  “The World Wide Web.” He replied.

“Huh?”

“I’m chatting with someone in Russia.”

“What?”

“Yeah.  We’re talking about my recent trip to Jamaica.  He wants to go.”

“What the Hell are you talking about dude?”

“You haven’t heard of the Web, man?  Where have you been?”

“Working.”

Ric sighed, trying to mask his impatience.  He then went on to explain what was to me a bizarre concept of virtual places you could visit on your computer.  Failing to grasp the concept I acquiesced with a polite “hmmm” and left the room.

Fast forward to 2003, I was laid off and as part of my severance, the company paid for six weeks of transitional assistance at a local consulting firm.  I attended a three-day orientation in which I was introduced to linkedin.com by the orientation consultant.  I immediately flashbacked to Ric’s office and asked her essentially the same question I asked him.  She then spent the next twenty minutes explaining the concept of virtual professional networking to me while everyone else in the room fell asleep.  Apparently I’m retarded when it comes technological advancements.  I didn’t grasp it much better than the notion of Web sites and forums when Ric tried to explain those concepts to me.

Up until that moment I used my computer for word processing and transceiving e-mail.  I was desperate for work, though, and so I set up my LinkedIn account as soon as I returned home and then broadcast my account name to all my e-mail contacts.

Fast forward further still to my latest little jaunt into unemployment: I’m now learning to embrace every social networking platform currently in existence.  God; I hate this crap.  I FaceBook.  I blog.  I tweet.  I integrate TM with Twitter—and by the way I typically screw that one up.  I’m even planning a series of vlog promos for YouTube.

And that’s just the beginning.  As I write this, all of these platforms are slowly becoming extinct.  Does anyone remember MySpace?  I was driving into work a few months ago and was listening to some morning radio.  The DJs were openly mocking users of MySpace as if that in itself made them social pariahs.

Here’s the thing.  I do enjoy writing this blog, because I have the floor and can talk about my favorite topics, among them me.  That said, I’ve already admitted publically to an alternative motive.  I was told I have to do this to sell my book.  Those other social networking platforms?  Same reason.  To me it seems like an act of vanity to put yourself out there in the way most people do on FaceBook, and Twitter, and WordPress, and what’s that new thing by Google?  Oh yeah.  Google+.

Seriously, why do you think I care that your “off to take a shower”, or that you’re at a hip new coffee shop drinking a “double espresso macchiato with extra foam and eating scrumptious scones?”  If you want to spend a fortune on an unhealthy breakfast that you’re washing down with an overdose of caffeine, have at it.  This is America.  Do what you want; I don’t care.  But that’s the point: I don’t care and by extension I don’t need to know unless you’re inviting me to join you.

The entire freaking world has turned off its brain and turned on a five-year-old look at me mentality.  I hate this social networking garbage as much as I hate reality TV—and I hate it for the same damned reason.  It’s full of people whose entire brand is LOOK AT ME.  How about, instead, you throw in “I want to earn enough money to get my PhD so I can find a cure for cancer and I’m willing to sacrifice my dignity to do it.”  Or maybe “I want to gain notoriety so that I can promote a book on repairing the human condition, and I think it’s so important I’m willing to put up with this crap to get there.”

No!  That never happens.  The entire point of being on reality TV is always so that you can be a jackass in front of 40 million viewers.  FaceBook and Twitter are no different.  Everybody wants to show how important and interesting their miserable little lives are.

OK; at this point, if you’re still reading, I probably owe you an apology.  I’m sorry about the rant; I just get a little worked up about this stuff sometimes.  As an individual, you are probably not that guy or gal.  You probably just want to stay in touch with your friends.  I say that because you follow my blog and so you are probably thoughtful and sensitive to the needs of others.

Hey.  Here’s an idea: pick up the damned phone and give him or her a call.  Novel huh?  Your cellular telephone was invented so that you could keep in touch by having an actual voice conversation from anywhere on the North American continent.

Now it is my fervent hope that you are laughing hysterically at the irony of my railing about this social networking crap in a blog on WordPress that I will promote on both Twitter and FaceBook.  That irony being compounded by the fact that I’m writing about stuff that is important to me and is no-doubt trivial to you—and, by the way, the book I’m promoting here does nothing to repair the human condition; it merely points it out and openly mocks it at times.  If that doesn’t strike you as funny or hypocritical, you’re probably not my target market.  You should consider going somewhere else.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to take a shower.

Guy-o

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