Wednesday, May 29, 2013

some assembly...

The other night, I dreamed I was playing a prototype of the newest of the Lego video games.  Move over, Star Wars Lego, Lord of the Rings Lego, Lego Batman.  I was playing the hottest, coolest, most awesome one yet:  the Lego version of the classic first person shooter Doom.

Of course, it was recognizably Doom.  There were all the weapons,from the lowly knife to the infamous BFG. There were imps, spectres, cacodemons, and worse.  There was the creepy lighting and twitch-inducing soundtrack.  There were tricks, traps, hidden rooms, and pits...the whole works.

It was, however, also recognizably the Lego the demons were all a bit comical, and when you got hit, yes, you would get bloody--you would probably even lose limbs...but reassembly was never that big of a deal.  Get your hand blown off?  Just pop it back on.

It was, to be sure, an awesome video game.  And as much as I would love to play it in real life, I have ultimately decided I want more.

Screw the game.  I want a Lego life.

I want the ability to rebuild.  I want to know that, if I so desire, I can rebuild myself.  Yeah, I've gained weight....just reach into that box and hand me the teenage torso and metabolism, please.  Crave adventure?  Just tear apart this police station and build a space ship.  Outgrow your hosue?  Expansion is as easy as stack and click.

Mostly, though, it would be nice to actually have some control over your own existence.  Lego is, in the end, about pure creativity.  No outside forces.  No social constraints.  No mysterious powers which have you eternally at their whim.

It would be a wonderful life...with only some assembly required.

circular motion

The great landlord controversy of '013 has, in a sense, been solved.  Said solution, however, makes me question the notion of trajectory.

When our landlords informed us that, as we had the gall to ask them to maintain their own property, we would need to find somewhere else to live, they also told us they would "work with us."  What this mystery phrase seemed to really mean, though, is that we could stay a little bit longer...but just three weeks shy of when 95% of city rental properties became available.  As nice as my sister's offer of three weeks in her guest room in Michigan was, though, being without a home of our own was not really we limited the search to places immediately available.

The property search itself was...disheartening.  We found one place I would actually feel comfortable raising my daughter;  it was, however, almost $300 a month over what we have been paying in rent...and had no air conditioner...and had two other apartments on in the house.

Most of the other places, however, were true horror stories.  One, for instance, was an old duplex $125 more a month than our current place.  When I did my tour, there were hefty bags of trash in more rooms than not.  There were piles of dirty laundry on the floor in more rooms than not.  One bedroom had two half-full pizza boxes and a half-eaten platter of McDonald's pancakes.  The toilets looked as if they had not been cleaned in a year or even flushed within the week.  I was glad I didn't have my daughter with me that day, because frankly, I wouldn't want her to touch a millimeter of the place.

The apartment complex we chose is, by comparison, palatial.  It's run by the same management company who ran our micro-house of old, so we know the maintenance will be good.  It's mostly inhabited by the AARP set, so loud keggers are a little outside of the realm of possibility (although if there is one, I really hope they invite me).  Plus they have an indoor pool, an outdoor pool, a fitness room, and a fenced-in kiddie play area where I can drop off my kid before I go hit the bars.  Plus the staff is fascinated with my daughter from our last time doing business with them.

So it could be much worse.  But, man, I hate that phrase.  Yeah, I could be getting repeatedly kicked in the taint by angry Lithuanians.  Not the point.  Yeah, it could be worse.  The problem is this:  it is hard to see this as anything other than a step backward in my life.

I thought that, in regard to living arrangements, we were at least on a positive trajectory.  I move from my folk's place in the insane state of Florida to my own place in the only moderately insane state of Ohio.  I find a nice place in an apartment complex seemingly catering to transients (but in the nicest possible manner).  I get hitched and move to a nice micro-house.  We have a child and move to a nice suburban-esque house in the townie part of town.  All positive moves.

But then our landlord suffers some sort of mental disconnect...and we find ourselves back in apartment living.

I immediately start wondering in what other ways will my life regress.  Will I receive notice I have to resume work on my dissertation?  Will they make me start taking classes again?  Will I have to move back in with my parents? Regrow my heavy metal hair?  Go back to work at the pizza place?  Wear braces again?

The mind boggles...but when the very concept of trajectory disappears, who knows what past hells I will have to endure...for the second time, no less?

Just please don't make me re-experience teenage would clash with the angst in which I currently reside.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

note from the bar last night iii--comparative losers

I'm sitting in a bar by myself.  My only friend in the place was the bartender, and he got off work five minutes after I walked in.  So I'm sitting at the back table, doing the tortured artist thing--yeah, it's that kind of week. 

The lonely drunk artist thing, though, doesn't come with that much prestige.  No one is going to respect me as an artist for scribbling in a notebook while sipping on a mini-pitcher.  Well, maybe they'll consider me a poor man's Dylan Thomas in a hundred years.  From my perspective, though, this is no real enticement. 

One can only be tortured artist thing while alone, though, and that is a drawback.  I'm not gonna say I'm friendless, though.  I have plenty of friends...just none who live in the same city as me.  My best friend lives in another continent, my best friends in the country live in Minneapolis and Los Angeles, and my best friend in the state lives two hours away.

I've just found out I will not have a place to live in a few weeks.  Good options are not on the horizon.  We will either paying money we don't have, or we will be living in ramshackled tenements.  It's not where I thought I would be at the age of 42.

Earlier, I spent hours roaming the streets of this town.  It's not an unfamiliar thing to do.  I used to do the same thing as a teenager.  Then, it was to smoke and listen to music.  Now? To try to find a place to raise my daughter.

I really don't have the temperament for this life, I'm discovering. I find myself needing not to think of it too much, but apart from being with someone who must process out loud, I found myself without distraction.  It's been months since band practice.  I'd just play on my own, but the sound of my guitar seems to send the family to the other side of the house.  I would hang out with friends, but, as I said before, I don't seem to have any in the area.

So what do I do?

It all seems terribly melodramatic, I know...and compared to the very real joy of which I do partake on a daily basis, it is inconsequential.  I will freely admit this.  I still have my turns--I know I will always have them.  But they are not my life.  They are not my existence.  They are not who I am even a significant portion of the time.

It seems, though, that uncertainty and isolation are gonna be a lot of who I am for some time.  I just wish I was the kind of person suited for suck a live.

Ah, to be the social butterfly who lives in isolation.  To be the one who needs closure in an existence devoid of it.

It is important, though, to maintain perspective. 

A little while ago, this couple covertly snuck into the men's room together...I can only assume for some attempt at illicit fun of some sort or another.  In thirty seconds, however, they were covertly sneaking back out.  I can only assume the illicit fun wasn't very thrilling, or the surrounds did not create the proper ambiance for said fun. 

In comparison, I'm not doing all that badly.

At any rate, I'm gaining a certain amount of perspective from the weird week and my most recent turn.  Plus I've finished several prose pieces and two lyrics, one of which has been on the burner for three years.

There's something to be said for being the right kind of loser, I guess.

note from the bar last night ii--Musician, I

My identity has, for a long time, been bound up in relation to music.  First, I was the guy struggling to learn.  Then I was a guy who was constantly told he sucked as a musician.  Then I was the guy who used to be a musician.

Later, I joined a band and then became a guy who struggled to think of himself as a musician.  Eventually, I came to terms with being a good guitarist and songwriter.  So of course, that band had to break up, and I started to see myself as the guy who used to be in a band.

Relatively quickly, though, I was invited to join another band.  I had to get used to being a musician in a whole different context.  Then half the band quit on us.  Luckily enough, before I could start trying to think of myself as a former musician again, we got a better rhythm section, and I was able to start thinking of myself as a musician in a kick-ass band.

We recently put out an album on an indy label.  This means, of course, I feel more of a musician as ever.

This February, I decided to go out on a pretty shaky limb and perform as a solo artist.  This meant, of course, another change--into being a self-sufficient musical entity.

I've been writing all night, so I have been feeling all singer/songwriter.  Saturday, though, my band plays a show, so I guess I'll revert to lead guitar guy.

It's fun being a musician...regardless of the key of the song.

notes from the bar last night i

Do you remember when you eagerly believed in a directing, hands-on God?  When there was some higher power to hear your prayers?  When you held out home for some sense of cosmic justice, even one comprehensible to man, to make sense of the world as we knew it?  When there seemed a point to it all?

What was it like?  And were you happier?

the long and terrible saga of being a renter

It started a couple of weeks ago with a crash.

When we moved to this house, we wanted to find a place in which we could hang out for several years.  We wanted a nice house where we could live, raise our daughter, pay off our debts, and then look for a place to buy.  This house, in other words, was always a long term option.

The first few times we saw our landlords, they told us several times about how they were worried about holes in the wall, how the previous tenants had left tons of nail holes. This was a little puzzling to me...after all, how hard is it to fill a hole with spackle?  The husband mentioned those 2 sided tape picture wall hangers, so I went out, bought a bunch, and used them to hang most of our art.

A little over three weeks ago, one of them failed.  A picture fell of the wall, tearing off the paint and the drywall paper.  I immediately sent our landlords a message explaining what happened.  I asked if they wanted us to go to nails, or if they'd rather us continue to use the wall hangers.  I assured them we wanted to be good tenants and take care of their house.

No response.  A week later, I sent them a text message.  Several days after that, I got a reply saying she would send me a proper response via e-mail.  Several more days passed.  After two and a half weeks, I sent another e-mail.  I didn't actually get a response until Sunday, and it was fairly brusque and rude.  We left a few messages.  Later in the evening, they finally called my wife.

It was, I thought, a good think my wife talked to them...she is able to stay much more calm than I.  But as the conversation continued, I saw my wife's face contort, and I saw her make "are these people insane?" gestures, and I knew there were issues.  As it turned out, the landlords thought we "were excessive" in our demands.  They thought we called in for too much maintenance.  They thought that we should take care of all the building maintenance ourselves, and that they shouldn't have to do much of anything other than cash our checks.

This puzzled me, particularly because the last time I asked for maintenance, it was because we had noticed some loose bathroom tiles, and the garage door would not open.  As far as the tiles, I thought this was a natural matter for the property owners.  I thought they would be concerned about water damage.  Yet it took them two and a half weeks to fix the tiles.

After the phone call ended, my wife told me that they would rather not renew our lease because of our excessive demands.  As our lease ends June 31, this essentially means we have 5 weeks to find another place to live, secure a new lease, and pack and move all our stuff.

There are several problems with this.  First, we live in a college town, and pretty much 98% of the rentals are student-oriented.  This means they are in student ghetto areas...and these places are not really conductive to raising a child.  But it also means most of the leases are tied to the school there's pretty much nothing available immediately.  Our current landlord said they would be open to doing month-to-month for a little bit, but they would raise our rent if we did.  Yay.

The second problem is actually trying to find a new place.  I took two hours Sunday to drive around the town, noting every "for rent" sign I could find.  Most of them were for this one rental agency in town, but they had some really nice properties, in really great areas of town.  The only problem was that when I went to their office Monday, they told me most of the places with the "for rent" signs weren't actually for rent.  They put the signs up (get this) as free advertising.  They only had two properties for rent which fit our needs.

I spent some time searching on-line, but that's really no help. Most of the landlord websites would've looked archaic in 1998.  Moreover, they're not up to date at all.  I found a great place on one company's website in a gorgeous neighborhood, but when I called that rental company, they told me the house had been rented for weeks, and that they in fact only had two places available (as opposed to the ten or so on their site)...and both available places were in the student ghetto.

The third problem with this is the quality of some of the rentals.  We found one place in the paper, so we set up an appointment to see it.  When we did a drive-by last night, we saw that it 1) had no front yard, 2) had a moderate back yard facing an auto repair shop, 3) was right next to the railroad tracks, and 4) looked beat up and dingy.  Yet they were still asking a lot of money.

Right now, I have three visits set up.  The first one is via the rental agency.  The house is in an okay neighborhood, but the building itself looks rather run down.  The second is also via the rental agency;  this one looks nice, is close to both City Park and downtown, and is in a nice neighborhood...but it is $100 more a month than our current lease.  Both of these places aren't available until August, which makes them a little more challenging.  The third is a private place across from place one;  I don't know yet when it's available, and it does look nice...but we would have to rely on on-the-street parking.

Of course, this has me in a bit of a panic.  I really don't want to rent a duplex or an apartment after living in a house.  I also really want to find somewhere nice where my daughter can safely play outside.  And I really don't want to keep renting from our evil current landlords any longer than necessary.  Most of all, I really don't want to live anywhere other than Bowling Green.  This is where I want my child to grow up.

And if we have to move (a process which I hate with a passion--I'd rather have a railroad spike drove into my forehead), I don't want to settle for a place which sucks and which we'd want to leave after a year.  I want somewhere we can hide out for a few years (which is what I thought we were getting in this house).

There are, however, so few choices available, and our time is short.  I'm not thrilled with any of our current options.  I have a few outstanding phone calls, though, and I'm hoping one of them comes through.  But for now, I'm trying not to panic.

I am, incidentally, also spending time trying not to freak out about having to pack up and actually move all our stuff yet again....but that's another post.

Sunday, May 19, 2013


I just noticed that Blogger seems to keep stats of page views.  So, not having anything else to do (I've already seen this episode of Team Oomizoomi), I thought I would do a quick scan.  Some thoughts:
  • According to the stats, pretty much nobody was reading my blog for the first few years.  I know I suck, but still...
  • The most viewed post was my first academic bio by a mile.  The runner-up, though, was my post about meat raffles. with a whopping 361 views.
  • Point two obviously contradicts point one.  
  • Furthermore, I've seen some posts which supposedly had 7 comments but no page views.
The moral?  These are some of the most pointless stats I've ever seen....outside of early presidential primary polls.

one of my inside view

I've said it before, and I will certainly say it again:  depression sucks.

Depression on its own is bad enough.  It sucks that you get into random bad moods.  It sucks that any tiny little thing will set you over the edge.  It sucks that once one bad thing happens, you can't shake the blackness.  It sucks that whenever this happens, you start to take it out on the people who still actually stay with you.

Medication certainly helps, but it doesn't cure it.  You still have to watch every mood, every action.It sucks even more when legitimate bad stuff (as opposed to imagined stuff) actually happens...because who knows where you will end up? 

At first, it's little things, such as when trying to contact friends turns into "I wonder when/if they'll get back to me this time."  Then there's the online stories of the fun they had the night before...while you were sitting at home by yourself, staring at a silent phone.

But then, on top of the little things, the big things hit.  I had two of those happen today.  First, I have realized I'm apparently in a fight with my landlord and might have to rent and move into another place in the next week and a half.  I would rather run a railroad spike through my eyeball than move again, and now I might have to do a rush job (on top of trying to find money for a security deposit...because of course this all had to happen right after I paid bills.  Then I had my place on the social scale firmly stamped onto my head upon learning an out-of-state friend came to visit a couple of weeks ago, and I was apparently not  worthy of even being invited to see her.

What makes this even more harrowing is that I had such a wonderful day Friday, only to have that good mood slowly disintegrate over the next 48 hours.  And sadly enough, knowing "this too shall pass" isn't much of a help.  I want to be playing with my daughter.  I want to be playing guitar.  I want to be watching wrestling with friends.  I want to finish a couple of songs-in-progress.  I want to write that blog post about writing comedy. But instead, I'm just trying to tamp down the black.

a gambling man

We had a poker night last night.  It's been a long time since I've been in a good poker game, so it was particularly fun for me.  I got excited and prepared for the occasion by making chip dip, getting a good folding table, buying several new sets of cards, and procuring real poker chips.  Yep, no jars of pennies or cheap plastic tiddly-winks or frozen peas or fingernail clippings or any other betting tokens for us.

It took ages to get a full bevy of players.  Many self-professed poker fans said they would love to play but had previous many, in fact, that, if I were slightly more paranoid, I would think they were blowing me off.  But eventually, we got a full table.

Some of our players, however, were amateurs. This seems like it would be a real advantage, but there were several drawbacks.  First, we had to spend an inordinate amount of time explaining rules, hands, betting, and such.  This itself wouldn't be a problem...but the two self-professed "poker virgins"  were the ones who made the most money through the course of the night...which yes, is slightly aggravating.

I love poker, and while I don't think of myself as a shark or anything, I do have a certain amount of skills.  Yet for the first few hours, I was playing horribly.  Cards simply were not coming...or, if they did come, someone else would be obviously beating me.  We were doing low-stakes ($5), and I started losing around a buck an hour.  As the size of my stack shrunk, I started to play more timidly out of necessity...because when everyone else has four to five times the chips, pushing around another player becomes an impossibility. About three hours later, I had to re-buy for $2 more.  In about an hour, I had to re-buy again.  It was my inaugural poker night, and I was going broke.

Something then snapped.  I started to get cards.  With the cards, I started to regain the attitude.  I pushed all-in a few times and won.  I began playing with authority.  Eventually, I pulled very close to my original stake...I think I might've lost a quarter or so, but as I was down over eight bucks at one point, I'm pretty happy with the result.

Now if only I could break even at any other part of life.

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

the link between television and violence

I finally have proof of the insidious power of the media...and your worst fears have come true.  Television will cause erratic behavior in children.  They will copy what they see on television. It will be violent.  It will be brutal.  But most of will be cute.

I know this because I learned it the hard way.

About a week ago, there must've been a program on which featured a pillow fight.  My daughter must've seen it.  I don't have either a clear memory or 100% verifiable evidence of this. But still, I know this must've happened.

Yesterday, my daughter grabbed my hand and led me down the hall. We bypassed the study and headed into Mommy and Daddy's bedroom.  Sylvia wanted up on the bed, so I set her on it and laid down next to her.  She went to Mommy's side and picked up her fairly heavy memory foam pillow.  Sylvia then said "fight!" and threw the pillow onto my face.

New warnings on television! The world must know how dangerous the wanton televised depiction of pillow fights can be! Back in the good ole days, before we had these darn talking picture boxes in every room, there must've been less pillow-on-Daddy violence.

on endings and perspective

One of the weird things about being even tangentially associated with the academic life is that the end of the school year becomes an end in many different ways.  It is an end of sorts for the town, because in a few days, the transient students will abandon the town, and it will once again become ours.  This is, for those of you from other paths of life, completely glorious.

It is also an end for many in terms of employment.  Some see it as the end of certainty, particularly if they're in a job where renewal is not automatic.  Some see it as the end of this phase of their life, particularly if they're making a move to a newer, bigger, better job.  And both of these ends affect those of us who stay in one place, so it might be an end of sorts for me too.

It's still early, but so far, the good news from colleagues has been outweighing the uncertainty and fear from other colleagues.  I hope the trend continues.  I have friends without any definite prospects, and I hope they gain some certainty.  I have a friend who desperately wants to return to the country, and there are so many people who also want him back here, there would be mass celebration if he gets good news.  The joy, in other words, would definitely spread.

But this time around, the most significant end I'm celebrating? It isn't for the school year being was actually one of the best teaching years I've ever had.  It isn't just for the end of night classes...although the opportunity to cook for and eat  with my family every single night is intoxicating.  And it isn't the end of that horrible time of the year when I have to wear socks...evil, cursed things.  While these are all ends worthy of cheer, they're not the biggest conclusion in my life right now.

The biggest change for me is that I have already heard of the good fortune of several of my friends...and the only reaction it prompted within me was of cheer, of admiration, of well-wishes.  Not a single time did my thoughts turn to bitter jealousy of careers which actually advance, of professional lives which gain recognition. I am not weeping for my failures. I am not hearing good news and being angry I never received recognition. No, I am only happy for my friends.

Maybe my own depression, my own crushed ego trips, my selfishness...maybe these are what's truly ending.  I really hope this is the case.  But if they're only diminishing....hell, that would also be a huge victory.