Tag Archives: Wednesday

Freya’s Concerto

There have been times in my life when things have worked in my favor with no effort on my part.  Such has been the case over the last few weeks, and I lay this good fortune squarely at the feet of my muse, Freya.  My writing has been on hold lately because she’s been on vacation—at least that’s the story she told me.  I’m pretty sure she was actually cheating on me, a suspicion I find very upsetting.  Relationships in my experience are based on three things: trust, common interest, and mutual attraction.

Until now my relationship with her has engendered all three, although I’m starting to rethink that first and most important item because of her absence lately.  However, I still find her stunningly attractive, so I’m not ready to break up with her just yet.

You, of course, know nothing about my muse, because inspiration, like making love, is a very personal thing and you don’t know me.  I’m just a writer—someone you will probably never meet and my life to you is nothing.  But what I will tell you is that she’s tall, Scandinavian, athletic, and boisterous.  In fact, rather than greeting me with a kiss, she just goes straight for the full body check—and these are all very attractive qualities to me.

She and I have several things in common.

First, she’s very fond of alcohol.  I know this to be an undeniable fact because she only shows up when I’ve been drinking.  There are countless times I’ve been enjoying a cold brew when, from out of nowhere, she shows up and announces her presence by playfully knocking me off my bar stool.

Then of course there’s the writing, the very reason you’re reading this piece today.  I listen carefully as she whispers soft words of encouragement to share my secrets with you—the good, the bad, and the ugly.  All the things I try so desperately to hide but that inevitably find their way to the surface under her commanding, yet gentle direction.

Finally, my wife is the muse of my muse.  If I had to hazard a guess, I would say that at least half of my writing is conceived by something my wife has said or done—and my muse invariably whispers “That would make a great story.  Follow me.”  And, of course, I always do.

And here is the path to which she led me today.

In the last two months my wife, Heidi, has entertained several suitors—among them a former boyfriend and an ex-fiancée.  Now the cultural definition of a suitor is someone who courts a woman in the romantic sense.  A suitor, however, can also be someone who is simply petitioning or vying for something from another individual or collective.  In this case these men seem to simply want her attention for one reason or another.  Now here I must add that I am, in fact, the jealous type—and this sudden popularity of my wife among these men got annoyingly under my skin.

Trust being a necessary component of marriage, though, I’ve adjusted to this current state of affairs and am convinced there’s no reason for concern.  That said it’s also true that I’m a self-doubting, self-loathing, drunk who believes deep down inside that I don’t deserve what I have and that somehow life’s been unjustifiably good to me.  I actually believe in these moments that it was just dumb luck that I somehow convinced the best woman living on the planet to marry me.

So when I see these guys posting notes on her FaceBook page, my  first thought  is “I’m totally screwed;” that I don’t stand a chance in Hell of hanging onto her.  But then this other guy surfaces from a hidden crevasse deep within my soul, and my eyes involuntarily narrow and a growl spontaneously erupts.  I am then inspired (no-doubt by Freya herself) to post a passive aggressive reply, have a drink, and chuckle because in that moment I think I’m clever.  This bravado then produces a feeling of euphoria in which I convince myself that I also happen to be the most charming and devastatingly good looking guy alive.

Such was the case on a Monday, four weeks ago.

Freya knowingly looked on.

It was the morning after said event and I was ruminating about my clever FaceBook reply to one of these gentlemen the evening before.  I was just out of the shower and stepped up to the mirror to shave when I heard the familiar voice of inspiration from behind me:

“You’re fat.”  She whispered.  I instinctively began scanning my reflection from the neck down.  I’ll spare you the image that confronted me, and instead offer the fact that I actually winced.

“Dear God.” I whispered.  “I’ve become Kool-Aid.”

My thoughts immediately returned to the guys courting my wife for her attention; panic ensued and only one thought came to mind.  At the top of my lungs I bellowed: “Heidi!  Can you come in here please?”

Opening the bathroom door my wife shushed me.   “Quiet!  Cindy and grandma are still sleeping.”  I looked at her for a moment.  She was holding a pillow with a half-donned pillow case and morning hair, wearing a tee-shirt that read “Got Sleep?” and a pair of flannel pants adorned with kittens. Funny; she never really looked as pretty to me before as she did right then.

“What do you want?” she inquired in a hushed tone.

“I uh—I want to join a gym.”

“You do?” she replied in a cheery tone while sporting a toothy grin.  “Yeah.  I’m fat.  I need to join a gym.”

Laughing she simply replied “Who are you?”

Freya smiled.

Fast forward to last Wednesday.  I was three weeks into a low-carb diet and exercise program.  No beer, no pasta, no pizza—and I’m in the gym three times a week.  It’s a total 180 situation.

Enter my personal trainer, Michel.  A young, good-looking, muscular kid who has been kicking my ass on Mondays and Wednesdays over the course of this awakening.  I have to admit I’m kind of getting into it—but this cross-training crap is BS.  I hate cardio.

Now these sessions are only 30 minutes so when I go in I’m a total clock-watcher.  I’m just counting down the minutes until I can go back to the office and scarf some tuna and collapse at my desk.  On this particular day, though, I was late, a fact which my trainer did not appreciate.  And he made that fact crystal clear after I suited up.  I approached him and he just kind of stared at me and said “You’re late.”

“Yeah man; sorry.  I just had some things going on at work and I forgot my gym bag.”

Suddenly I was back in boot camp.  Annoyed, he barked at me with a scolding tone: “When you first got here you said you wanted a change; you said that you had let yourself go, and you admitted you were fat.  I can’t help you if you don’t take this seriously.  Now let’s go.”

For the next 20 minutes he tore me to pieces.  At the top of the hour, I attempted to disarm him with humor:

“OK, so this has been good.  Great job.” I puffed while attempting to initiate a fist bump.

“You were late.”  He replied again sternly.

“Yeah; I know man.  You know; life gets in the way.”

“Outside.”  His stoic and commanding demeanor reminded me of when I’m in trouble with Heidi.

“What now?” I inquired.

“Running.”

An expletive crossed my mind.

Here’s the thing: you can’t negotiate with your trainer.  You’re paying him for results—but the thing is I got out of the damned service more than 30 years ago and now here I am taking orders from this kid half my age.

He led me to the parking lot and barked “Let’s go.”  I limped along exhausted and he continued: “Get ahead of me.”  Another expletive.

75 yards around the facility later and I slowed to a pause, which inspired his repeated command: “Move it!”

I obediently picked up the pace and pathetically “ran” the next 25 yards to the designated finish line.  I bent over with my head between my legs and he barked another order: “Stand up; hands over your head!”

More expletives.

“Dude!  You’re killin’ me here.”

“No growth without pain man.  Now let’s finish it; turn around and run backwards.”

“Who are you, freaking Nietzsche?” I exclaimed.

“Who’s Nietzsche?”

“Friedrich Nietzsche.  You know; ‘that which doesn’t kill us makes us stronger?”

“Hit it!” came the stern reply.

I somehow made it to the second finish line—pathetic though my performance was.  And it was in that moment I began to suspect that all of this was somehow divinely orchestrated.  That I was on a path set by forces beyond me.  As I stumbled back into the facility I realized that as a grandfather, I owed it to my kids and to their kids to take my health seriously.  I suddenly understood the importance of ensuring the longevity of my life so that my kids won’t have to tell their kids about me in my absence while pointing to a tombstone.  That I need to live a long and healthy life—not just for me–but for them as well.

Do you see how she did that.  First she made me jealous, then she called me fat, and then she assigned me a cross-trainer—“all for my own good.”

Freya giggled.

 

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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