Fresh Urinal, Hold the Pube Salad

I’m not sure which is more rare… a unicorn or a clean mens’ room.
The Lexicon Ninja Guide to Wisdom

As a precocious (but not ‘out’) gay school boy, I remember my female friends sneaking me into the girls’ locker room for lunch hour. There we would sit and laugh over our standard meal of Saltine crackers and Hi-C juice boxes. The one thing that still stands out in my memory was that the place was immaculate. It smelled like a wrestling match between Secret underarm deodorant and AquaNet. The lockers were decorated with colorful stickers, and the showers were filled with bottles of fruity lotion and flower-scented body wash. It was probably the least offensive smelling bathroom I had experienced in my teenage universe.

By contrast, the boys’ locker room smelled like rotting flesh. There were walls filled with crusty boogers and toilet paper (some used) was strewn everywhere. Add a few mangroves to the floor and it would’ve looked like the bed of a drained swamp. I dreaded changing for P.E. class in this “chamber of death”. Upon entering, tears would well up in my eyes from emotion – but also (no doubt) from the gaseous breakdown of various hydrocarbons and bacteria. The whole scene was basically a crime against humanity.

urinal

Luckily those days are long behind me. However, I often get a surprise flash from the past when I enter a public restroom for the gentlemen. Lately, at work I’ve been noticing that someone is leaving a “pube salad” in the urinal. It’s revolting, and as a dude, I really don’t care to have it staring back up at me while I do my business. It’s like looking into the Sarlacc pit from Return of the Jedi where certain death awaits as you are slowly digested over a thousand years.

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In The Company of Donuts

This morning, I sought emotional solace in a complimentary, office donut.

For whatever reason, I had a mood swing last night about being single and nearing 40 faster than a bowling ball toward so many standing pins. The feeling lingered well into my morning commute. And as I now stood there in the break room, I stared at this maple-iced confection knowing it would never reject my surly advances. It would remain inert to my bad jokes. Yet if only it could engage me in a fierce political debate, make a wisecrack about vehicular decapitation, or critique science fiction movies with swift and ruthless judgment – I would have found “The One”.

But alas, it was just a donut.

And I destroyed it with my digestive juices like so many that had come before it.

mapledonut

The Corporate Nanny State

Just the other morning in the office break room, I was overly tired and pouring myself a cup of “complimentary coffee”. A co-worker of mine swept in with some unnatural morning sunshine and made the comment, “Kick-starting your work ethic?”

“I guess,” I offered ambivalently.

She looked a little puzzled and said, “I thought you were really happy in your new position?” To this, I responded, “I absolutely love what I do, but I do not love WHEN I have to do it. I am not a morning person – whatsoever.” She seemed to shrug off my qualitative statement and just had to throw in the sarcastic “one explanation fits all” judgment: “There’s always something wrong, isn’t there?”

"Insomnia Sleeper" by John Jude Palencar

“Insomnia Sleeper” by John Jude Palencar

Normally, I would channel my rage into a cutting remark but I was so defeated by my lack of sleep I didn’t have the energy. However, the longer I absorbed that interaction in my mind, the angrier I became…and the more I inspected the thought of whether or not she may be right. After some careful deliberation, I determined that not physically feeling well due to lack of sleep is a very legitimate reason to not be happy. Aside from possibly winning the lottery or being proposed to by a decent partner, I can’t think of many things that would lift my spirits enough to change the fact that my bones feel like old iron pots and my skin hurts.

My mind made a leap-frog to an even bigger issue: Why the hell do people who have good work ethics and do their jobs well have to be at a prescribed building between certain hours of the day at all? Especially if they aren’t dealing with outside clients? And even if they are and 90% of the communication takes place by email, why can’t this be done from home? Heck, we even have cell phones that could handle the other 10%. Why are 30+ year old adults treated like toddlers in this day and age? I posed that question to another friend of mine who owns a blossoming business and he said, “Well, unless it is like a retail position, I imagine it is just because most employers don’t trust their workers enough to work from home or to work flexible hours. They think those people will fudge the system or take advantage of them, and honestly, a lot of them do when given the chance.”

Ok, fine. I admit some people may deserve the corporate shackle, but I’ve always been of the impression that if you give people a project and an allotment of time to do it, they either perform well or they don’t. And if they don’t, you get rid of them. I mean, if people weren’t actually working and projects were not getting done, someone is going to notice, right? Maybe I don’t know enough about the business end of it but it sure seems like allowing an employee some flexibility would mean a happier employee.

And after all, don’t you want someone who loves their job to do it when they feel their best? Seems like a logical way to improve your business, but I guess we’ll just keep doing things the way they’ve done them for hundreds of years because it’s too dangerous to think what might be actually good for the person could actually be good for your business.

The 8 Hour Work Day Is Just A Container For Your Life

It’s been a while since I’ve written in these parts, but I wanted to take a brief moment and let a sliver of sunlight in…

I have been performing in my new position at my work; a position which allows me to be creative and operate on multiple channels of talent.  It had been so long since I did anything that made me exercise those muscles that I felt all my magical visions were laying like fish skeletons on a dry ocean floor.  Certainly, I am not back to my full strength yet, but the time I spend now feels like a tropical vacation compared to the dark prison of my past position. I think there is something powerful about allowing your talents out of their cage. We all have them…talents that is, not cages. And when you keep those talents under wraps they get angry.

Well, here I am months later and my mood has changed substantially. When I encounter problems now I think, “Well, isn’t this a pickle? I am sure it will turn out alright,” whereas before, a pen could roll off my desk at work and my first thought would be, “Why me? Why am I damned to this punishing existence?”

This leads me to my point. It’s not profound or enlightening. It’s just a reminder: If you have to spend 8 hours of your day doing something to make ends meet, fair enough. But never stop fighting to make it something that you enjoy. Pull those goddam boots out of the mud and walk. Keep walking. Walk until the leather peels away and the skin is worn. Move. Don’t accept defeat of this nature. Go back to school and learn something radically different. Volunteer to get the experience that you need if you can’t afford school. Help friends with whatever talents you have. Keep exercising your talent.

Oh, there will be crying alright. Perhaps screaming too. But once you break through, your crying and screaming will be in a different cadence. And you might look back from your sunny, new position and see a barren wasteland fraught with thorns and hungry animals and think, “Damn, I can’t believe I made it through.”

 

My Prison Is Made of Full Spectrum Sunlight

All my life I’ve been a nocturnal creature. As I unravel my memory, I can look back and recall that I have always loved the night with its palpable silence and soft, velveteen darkness.

Rousseau

“La Bohémienne endormie (The Sleeping Gypsy)”
by Henri Rousseau. 1897.

Most of my friends were overjoyed for me when I accepted a daytime position in 2011, however I often feel as though I regret that decision. They said my dating life would improve and my social calendar would expand, but they really haven’t. I can certainly now attend more “happy hours” after work, but I often feel too tired to fully engage with people at these events, and most of the time I am watching the clock so I can get home and go to bed at a reasonable hour. It’s like subjecting myself to a government-imposed curfew – as if I live in a police state.

Although I cannot specify exactly what it is about the night that I find so alluring, I can definitely speculate…

I do know I enjoy the fact that planet feels a little bit more mine; I don’t have to share as many things like road space, grocery store lines, or internet bandwidth. I can open my windows without the constant droning of Seattle’s snarled traffic or the occasional ambulance wail. When driving, I can hit all the green lights if I time it just right. No stopping. No waiting. The quietness of each shadow is a balm and I can hear my thoughts like greedy dwarves working deep in the mines. The absence of light relaxes my tired eyes, whereas the daggers of sun feel like blasts of hot sand. After midnight, I feel like my mind is fully ripe – pregnant with mental juices and surreal visions for illustration or forging on my word anvil.

There isn’t much company, save for the moon: a friendly nightwatchman perched in the sky. Sometimes he’s wrapped in a gauze of clouds like a harmless drop of sun tucked in a cotton ball. On nights when the overcast skies of the Pacific Northwest hang like a ghostly ceiling over this city, the ambient light of the power grid echos off of it like an old electric blanket.

Yes, I miss the night. It feels like a beautiful language I once knew by heart but have now forgotten thanks to the processes of age and evaporation. Nowadays, I feel forced to sleep through its dark magnificence like a parent who has to work two full-time jobs to raise a family, and while honoring those commitments never gets to see their children grow-up into amazing human beings.

I often feel the best things in life pass us by while we are living by the rules of others.

A chain that runs from 8 to 5 can end up binding an entire life.

Try Try Try

Sometimes I like to pretend the Universe is talking to me through films or music. At certain points in life, I’m sure we’ve all felt that way; those moments when you’re driving down the road and a song comes on that completely telegraphs your emotional state via radio waves…

The better part of the last 4 years has been a lesson in frustration for me on the career front. The U.S. economy has not be forgiving to people looking to change careers or even those starting a search for their first one. I have applied for over 500 positions since November 2011. Six or seven resulted in interviews and none resulted in offers…until last week. I applied for a position that would utilize my creative and technical abilities but it is not one I expected to get after so many hits with the “rejection club”. At this point, my self-esteem was a seal pup, and the job market has been a ruthless pelt hunter.

Despite my pessimism about the odds, I remained consistent in my technique:

  1. A sent a glossy, well-designed resume tailored to the requirements of the job description.
  2. I wore a suit & tie to the interview.
  3. I asked intelligent questions and took a personal interest in the interviewer’s experiences.
  4. I sent a thank you card after the interview so show my sincere thanks for the opportunity. Yes, I am old school.

When I was offered the new position, I felt like I had a breakthrough of unimaginable proportions. I realize it is just a new job, and that it could potentially be unsatisfactory, but when your wheels have rusted to the road (and you feel like you are slowly fossilizing into your station in life) any forward movement can feel like a cloudburst.

Going back to my original thought about the Universe talking to me through the radio, I remembered hearing that P!NK song “Try” over the course of the past few months.

Where there is desire, there is gonna be a flame
Where there is a flame, someone’s bound to get burned
But just because it burns doesn’t mean you’re gonna die
You gotta get up and try
Try
Try

And although every minute of the past few years has felt like a slow razor, there was finally a moment when the dam broke. When the cavalry arrived. The moment where determination finally overcame the wall.

I am hopeful more walls will come down as a result.

Business Casual

I have the privilege of being employed with a company that doesn’t require me to dress like a stockbroker.

On any given day, I can come to work dressed like an average joe in T-shirt and jeans. Of course, there are a number of highly ambitious people who dress to the 9’s in the hopes that they will be recognized by the upper management on Mount Olympus and appropriately elevated to that place of prestige for which they so often salivate.

A few years back, a previous supervisor of mine showed up in her standard power-packed pant suit, eye-balled my street clothing with disdain and quipped:

“Always dress for the job you want, not the one you have now.”

To this I replied:

“Hmmm, well, I long to be a brilliant writer with a potential alcohol problem. Since my jeans are well-fitting and this wrinkle-free T-shirt smells fresh like Downy, and I don’t smell like a heady cocktail of vodka and dry urine, I’d say I am fairly overdressed for the job I want, wouldn’t you?”

I never received a response. Go figure.

Pumpkin Spice Lattes Don’t Cure Low Self-Esteem

On my break today, I went downstairs to the office lobby all giddy to try one of these pumpkin spice lattes from Starbuck’s that everyone’s been talking about.

As I was standing in line, the young man in front of me turned around to reveal a crass T-shirt that said:

I couldn’t help but take it personally…..and for the record: Pumpkin spice lattes don’t remedy the wounds of low self-esteem. I still felt like a hideous wretch while pouring all that tasty goodness into my ugly face.

“You really can’t pay someone to take an interest…”

One would think that writing and editing go hand in hand. No, they do not.

My regular full-time job is editing medical text (and I do a little on the side as well). I’m not really sure that I am very good at it, which is strange to me because I actually enjoy writing so much. Aren’t they supposed to be siblings? Well, over the years I have learned that “writing” is like being the basketball player, but “editing” is like being the referee. Same game, much different roles. And if you were born to be a player, you may not have the patience to watch the side lines and call the fouls.

One of my most favorite comedians, Paula Poundstone once said, “You really can’t pay someone to take an interest,” and I think she’s right. She was talking about how her psychiatrist doesn’t seem to listen to her at a therapy session, but rather seems to be doing a crossword puzzle (despite being paid by the hour). Well, this is how I feel. I am paid to perform a function that really isn’t in my area of interest. I’m expected to be the grammar police when I really should be robbing the vault for good adjectives. I must be the water in the fountain, not the boring cement holding its shape.

On the plus side, my favorite thing about my job is all the unintended humor I encounter. Today, I proof-read a sentence that said:

“The doctor may inspect your rectum (also known as the back passage).”

WTF? In what shady bar is that terminology used? It sounds like a secret trade route that Christopher Columbus would’ve used to find spices in India.