Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Reading in 2009

I started reading fairly young. I think it had to do with spending so much time in hospital waiting rooms. All growing up, I read quite a bit. I remember in 6th grade reading Stephen King books while the other kids were reading R.L. Stein books (if they read at all). I have since spoke with many people who say similar things, so I know that I am far from unique in this. I’m not in 6th grade anymore, but some things stay the same. In the last week or so, I’ve read 3 books. I read Push by Sapphire (it’s the novel that the new movie ‘Precious’ is based on), The Godfather of Poker by Doyle Brunson (an autobiography), and To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (I’d already read this one once or twice, but I love it).

After finishing the 3rd book this week, I started wondering how many books I’d read this year. I thought back and listed just the books I read completely. Even if I read ¾ of a book I didn’t consider it. Off the top of my head, I came up with 23 books so far this year. That seemed pretty high to me, so I figured they must mostly be small books. Looking back at each book and making a note of how many pages each one was, I realized that these weren’t small books. While the smallest of the books (Push) was only 150 pages, the largest (The Stand by Stephen King) was 1149. The average number of pages for all the books I read this year came up to 446 pages. That’s a pretty decent average. After breaking it down, though, it only comes up to 31 pages a day. For the pace I read at, it averages out to about 52 minutes a day spent reading. Just numbers….

Here are a couple of the books I’ve really enjoyed this year:

Push by Sapphire – At 150 pages, this is the shortest book I read this year. Despite it’s brevity, it has to be one of the best. This book is powerful. If the movie is anything like it, it is going to be amazing. The style of the narrative is the uneducated first person. What I mean is that it is written like ‘I did this’ ‘I thought that’. The first person. The ‘I’. The uneducated is just like it sounds. I really enjoy when an author can adopt the tone of someone they are so clearly not like. In doing so, you can empathize with the narrator of the story (In this case a poor, uneducated, overweight black girl living in Queens that has a life that must be hell on earth), but also see past their view to see things that the narrator clearly doesn’t see or grasp. Think of To Kill A Mockingbird or even Forrest Gump. In fact, after finishing this book I had to reread Mockingbird. The themes and styles of the two books are not so far off.

Dean & Me by Jerry Lewis – This book by Jerry Lewis is about Dean Martin and the relationship they had together during the 10 years they spent in the Martin and Lewis act. I actually listened to this audio book. The reader was so good at the voices of Martin and Lewis, I think it was probably even better listening to it than reading it from pages might have been. I really like Dean Martin. He’s my favorite of the Rat Pack and his greatest hits album has to be in my top 10 of all time. I laughed so hard at times that I had to rewind the audio book to catch what I missed (no small feat on an iPod). I originally listened to it because I liked Dean Martin, but this book influenced me to further my education on classic films and read about other Hollywood actors from the 40’s and 50’s. I went on to read ‘By Myself and Then Some’ - Lauren Bacall’s autobiography; ‘In Black and White’ about Sammy Davis Jr; and Sinatra: The Life. It takes quite a book to make me get interested enough in a subject to read several more books and watch even more movies. This is certainly quite a book.

Angela’s Ashes, ‘Tis, and Teacher Man by Frank McCourt – When Frank McCourt died this year, I took the opportunity to reread a few of his books that I really liked. Angela’s Ashes won a Pulitzer Prize back in the 90’s for nonfiction. It is the story of Frank’s life from when he was born until he was about 20 and came back to the US. Much has been written about this book, and I don’t have much to add other than it is a great book. It is written well without any of the bitterness you might expect given the subject matter. In fact, Frank is able to look back with some humor at some pretty appalling things. ‘Tis and Teacher Man continue the story of his life in New York working his way through the military and school before beginning his teaching career. Any of these 3 books are worth reading. If I had to pick just one, though, I’d have to go with Angela’s Ashes. Frank – I hope you are enjoying a pint in the everlasting pub in the sky.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

RIP Michael

I don't care what anybody says about you. I'm a child of the 80's and you'll always be the king of pop to me.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

East of Eden (1955)

John Steinbeck's books have made some great films. The Grapes of Wrath was made into a fantastic movie by director John Ford and starring actor Henry Fonda. There have been a few versions of his novella Of Mice And Men. East of Eden continued this tradition. Director Elia Kazan (On The Waterfront, A Streetcar Named Desire, A Gentleman's Agreement) directed this version which gave James Dean his first leading role.

It's hard to imagine the 1950's without thinking of James Dean, and yet for all of his smaller roles he really only had 2 or 3 movies as a lead actor. He had just started getting lead roles in the year before he died. East of Eden was his first lead actor role in a film. He was only 24 when the movie was released, but man(!) does he nail this role! It's not so far off from his role in A Rebel Without A Cause, so it's easy to see how he developed his public image.

The movie version of East of Eden is the story of the Trask family in Salinas, California right before and during World War I. Adam is the father to Aron and Cal (played by Dean). The movie starts off with James Dean following a lady running a 'house of ill repute' from the bank to her home. She gets spooked by him and when she gets home sends a man out to talk to him. After being roughed up a little, Cal tells the man to tell his boss that he hates her. From there, the movie moves to a house and we are introduced to Adam, Aron, and Aron's girlfriend Abra. We can see right off that Aron seems to be the golden child. He can do no harm in the eyes of his father. Cal, on the other hand, can't seem to do anything right. As the movie progresses, Adam invests all of his money into a business venture that would provide ice to keep lettuce cold during transportation - allowing it to be sold to more locations further away. For some reason the venture fails and Adam is left broke. After losing his fortune, Adam is forced to take a job a the draft board sending young men off to war. Cal eventually goes back to the house of ill repute and confronts the woman - Kate. We learn that Kate is Cal's mother and that she doesn't want her other son Aron to know of her existence. Kate is really well off. Cal comes up with an idea to make money to give his father back the money he lost in his venture by borrowing money from his mother and investing in beans - an industry suddenly thriving during the war. As the movie progresses, Cal gets close to his brothers girlfriend and things seem to be improving for Cal. Eventually Cal's investment pays off and he arranges to give the money he makes to his father at a birthday party. At the birthday party, as he his about to give his gift his brother interrupts him to announce that his gift to his father is that he is engaged. Adam is very happy and says it was the best gift he could have imagined. When Cal makes a gift of the money, Adam is not happy at all. He refuses the money saying he couldn't profit off of sending young men to war. All Cal ever really wanted was for his father to accept him and all the work he put into getting his father's money back was his last ditch attempt to save the relationship. From there all hell breaks loose. In anger, Cal takes Aron to meet his mother. Upon his father finding out, he has a stroke and is bed ridden. The final scene, Abra begs Adam to tell Cal that he loves him saying it is the only way he could be a man. In an emotional scene, Cal visits his father and his father whispers something in his ear. The viewer is left hoping that Adam professed his love for his son, but hopes are dashed when it turns out his father told him to stop fighting. And with that the movie ends.

This movie is fantastic. The story is interesting - darker than you'd ever expect from a movie in the 1950's. John Steinbeck had a genius for instilling strong emotions into his readers (viewers). You honestly want things to work out for Cal and are really bummed out when they don't. Rebel Without A Cause is the work that James Dean is most known for, but I'd have to say that his acting here is a little better. If you haven't seen this film, you should!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Dial M for Murder (1954)

Nowadays, you see a lot of movies built around 1 person. As in 'the new Bruce Willis movie', or 'the Tarantino flick', etc... If you look at the names included in this movie, it's pretty impressive. You take Ray Milland, who won an Academy Award for his role as a drunk hitting bottom in The Lost Weekend. There's Grace Kelly - a beautiful actress renowned for her sense of style and beauty, who would also go on to marry a Prince and become a Princess. And then there's Alfred Hitchcock. He practically invented the term 'psychological thriller'. You don't see that mixture of talent too often these days. (The newer remake of Ocean's 11 is a good example of an exception)

1954 was a great year for movies. Besides Dial M For Murder, there was White Christmas (the Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye holiday movie), The Seven Samurai (Kurosawa's classic), Rear Window (Hitchcock's other big hit that year), and eventual Academy Award Winner On The Waterfront - which starred a young Marlon Brando and included his famous line 'I coulda been a contender'. Brando had paid his dues acting in theater and it wasn't uncommon to see crossover actors and films. Dial M For Murder was one of those. The movie approaches 2 hours and only takes place it 2 or 3 locations. Not that it's a bad thing, either. What it lacks in set diversity, it makes up for in plot.

The movie starts out with a husband kissing her wife. The next shot is of that wife kissing another man. As her and her lover start talking, we soon learn that she and her lover were writing letters back and forth to each other. She had one stolen from her and started receiving letters demanding money in exchange for the letter. She paid the money, but never received the letter. We learn that the lover and the husband know each other and, in fact, are to attend an engagement together. When the time comes for the dinner engagement, the lover/friend of the couple shows up. Our hero lets his wife and her lover know he won't be able to make it due to some pressing work matter and with that the wife and lover leave. The hero makes a call to a gentleman inquiring about buying a car and talks him into coming over. From here, our hero proceeds to do some things that don't seem to make a lot of sense. He pulls out some gloves and lays them on the couch, walks around adjusting things, etc...

Knowing that this is a mystery film, I found myself trying to figure out why he was doing these strange things. That is one of the really strong points to this show: you are constantly having to think things over. Other than gratuitous explosions, there is nothing I dislike more in a movie than when the director explains things more than is necessary. A great movie leaves things up to the viewer. I should catch some things on a second viewing than I missed on the first. I won't miss subtle plot lines on a movie like Gone in 60 Seconds, you know? Anyways....

When the car salesman comes over, our hero slowly lets out that the car salesman is no car salesman and he isn't interested in buying a car. He is interested in blackmailing said car salesman into killing his wife. You see, despite the acting job, he's known that his wife was cheating all along. It was he who blackmailed his wife in the first place, and now he wants her dead. He explains how it is to be done and we move to the next scene. As the plan progresses, everything seems to be going fine. Then the whole 'murder' aspect goes awry and the attacker becomes the victim. Our hero is a quick thinking fellow who figures out a way to make it look like his wife knew the attacker and killed him for blackmailing her. And so it goes....

It would be difficult to understand a basic plot synopsis without seeing this film. There are enough twists and turns and explanations necessary to make it throughly confusing on paper. What Hitchcock did was make an engrossing movie with top notch talent while not losing itself in the plot details. I thought Ray Milland did a fantastic job. Grace Kelly was not bad herself, but I found myself not at all sympathetic to her plight. She cheats on him, he's mad and wants to kill her and he's the bad guy? It doesn't seem that easy to me. The bottom line is that this is classic Hitchcock and can be watched a second time through and still pick things up.

Double Indemnity (1944)

To truly appreciate this movie, we have to take it in context. This movie came out 3 months to the day after the US invasion of Normandy. Two and a half years after Pearl Harbor, World War II was in full effect with the US now in Europe going for Hitler. During the war, Americans were having to make sacrifices. They needed entertainment to escape more than any generation up to that point. 1944 was big band music. Sinatra was big, although some saw him as a draft-dodger. It was the era of the Hollywood studio films. Nowadays most movies are filmed on location, but that change was a few decades away at this point. Casablanca had come out the year before and cleaned up at the Oscars....

IMDB lists this as the plot to Double Indemnity: 'An insurance rep lets himself be talked into a murder/insurance fraud scheme that arouses an insurance investigator's suspicions.' That's a pretty bare bones description of this movie, but it's a good starting point.This film is in a genre of films they call 'film noir'. Think of a lady walking into a private detective's office with a voice over saying something like 'She walked into my office on a Wednesday. She was quite a dame'. That is film noir. While this wasn't the first or last movie in the genre, it may be the best. The American Film Institute lists this film at #38 on the list of 100 greatest movies. Accolades aside, this movie is eminently watchable. From the beginning, I was sucked in.

The story starts with a man stumbling into an office and beginning to record an intriguing message for his boss about the murder of a client. Cut to an earlier time, and our insurance rep hero is visiting the home of one of his clients to warn him that his car insurance has lapsed. (I couldn't even imagine that happening nowadays. You'll get a notice in the mail, but you're lucky if you get an automated phone message let alone your sales rep showing up at your home...) While waiting for his client, he sees a scantily clad beauty at the top of the stairs. He is instantly smitten and notices her bracelet. They start up a dialogue and then our beauty disappears to finish getting dressed. After some flirting and inquisitive questions as to the nature of our hero's job, they arrange for the main character to come back another day to meet with the client. When he does come back, the client is nowhere to be found and his beauty of a wife starts asking questions that make it more and more obvious she is looking to start an insurance policy on her husband without him knowing. Right around this point our hero realizes why she's asking and shuts down. He takes the moral high ground and opts not to help her get paid in case her husband dies of an 'accident'. He leaves, but eventually runs into our beauty again and changes his mind.

The title of the movie comes from a clause in the insurance policy that would allow for the beneficiary to be paid twice the amount if the insured were to die in an unusual way - say, a train accident. My favorite line in the movie is after our hero agrees to help Beauty kill her husband. He explains the clause and tells her they have to kill her husband and make it look like an accident. She asks him why and he says 'We're taking it for the limit, baby!' That line may come off as laughable today, but he pulled it off like a champ in 1944. Having insider information will help them commit the crime, but they have to make sure the hero's claims adjuster boss doesn't get wise to what's going on. I'm not going to get into anything else that happens in case someone out there wants to watch this. I'll just say that it's very suspenseful and held my attention the whole time. Despite the movie starting near the end chronologically, there are still a few surprises.

This movie was directed by Billy Wilder, who was to go on to direct Best Picture Winner 'The Lost Weekend' and comedy classic 'Some Like It Hot'. The main characters are played by Fred MacMurry and Barbara Stanwyck. Edward G Robinson - famous for playing a gangster in earlier films - does a fantastic job as the claims examiner boss of the hero. Seriously - this guy is to claims examiners as Patrick Swayze is to bouncers in the movie 'Roadhouse'. They ought to hang his picture in insurance offices everywhere. This movie has a surprising amount of innuendo with no actual blatant sexuality. Go 1940's. If I wanted softcore porn, I'd watch softcore porn. If I want a kick ass crime movie, I'll watch Double Indemnity.

Changing Directions....

So my life has been pretty steady lately. I'm staying sober and seem to be getting along with everyone pretty well. Maybe I'm getting a little bored with my life, but my sponsor says my idea of boredom is other peoples' idea of serenity. Because nothing major is going on, I guess like I've been feeling like there isn't a lot to write about.

I'm a pretty avid reader and I like to watch movies, too. A friend of mine and I were recently talking about a movie that was out. We'd both read the same review of the movie and were discussing it. I made some smart assed comment. My friend thought it to be pretty funny and told me I should review movies. So I think what I'm going to do for a while is to review a book or a movie. I have to be up front and let you know that I'm somewhat opinionated. As far as movies go, my tastes run more towards Scorsese or Billy Wilder than Michael Bay or Jerry Bruckheimer.

To some extent, I think that the advancement of technology has been detrimental to the overall quality of a lot of movies. Think of it like the old 8 bit Nintendo. The graphics on that system are archaic by todays standards. They weren't all that great then. (They were good by the standards of the day, but we have to remember that this is shortly after Pac Man and Donkey Kong) Graphics aside, a lot of those old games were really fun to play. You find me a man between the ages of 25 and 35 that doesn't know the code to get 30 guys on Contra, and I'll show you a man that has been cheated. Movies from years ago don't have the special effects. They made up for it with plot, great direction, and fantastic acting. There is a reason there is only 1 movie made after 1982 in 50 of the American Film Institutes's top 100 films of all time. And the one movie that is up there (Schindler's List) was filmed in black and white with no real special effects. Today it seems like a contest to see who can make a movie that blows the most stuff up. Testosterone driven teenage boys may love their Vin Diesel movies, but how many times can you see the same car explode without needing some plot to keep you interested?

With that in mind, maybe I can turn you on to some movies or books you wouldn't normally see. I'm not going to try to review new books or movies, either, just older ones. Stay tuned...

Monday, April 20, 2009

Steve Perry

When I signed on today, I thought about writing something so profoundly awe inspiring that it would change the world. And then I saw this picture. Awe inspiring writing. This picture. It was an easy choice.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Pictures that are Awesome!

Following the shenanigans of my ultra-political last 'Awesome!' posting, I'd like to lighten it up. I promise, you will barely have to think at all.

According to this motivational poster, it's 'comforting' knowing you'll never be this awesome. I disagree. This poster reminds me of the first time I heard a face melting solo by Yngwie J. Malmsteen. I was simultaneously blown away by level of Awesome coming out of the speakers, and depressed that I could never attain it. It was life changing for me. There was pre-Yngwie and post-Yngwie in my world.
So, was it a very emotional poster? In a word, yes. Was it comforting? If you define 'comforting' as wanting to step out in traffic to avoid the pain of living so far below this level of Awesome!, then yes it was comforting.

Some people say they live their life without regret. I have a word for those people: Liars. I regret lots of things in my life. I'm pretty sure my 5th time through rehab was a waste of time and money. The fact that I left the hospital and went straight to the liquor store reaffirms this to me. One of the things I don't regret, however, was taking this picture of my wife. There we were on a cruise: I had just waken up and peeked out onto the balcony to see the weather. There was Katie making out with a breakfast roll. I had to pause for a second to remember why we got married. And I thought 'Why did we get married, unless it was to spend life together trying to irritate and embarrass each other?'. And then I went and got my camera. With a little photo shopping, BAM! Now she's saying stuff AND making out with a breakfast roll. Embarrassing your spouse with awkwardly timed photos is Awesome! Here's another example:

(In a side note, I will say that sleeping on the couch tonight will be entirely worth posting this!!!)

Monday, March 30, 2009

GDMF'n MLM'ers

You know who I hate? Multilevel Marketers (MLM'ers). Want to know who I hate more? MLM'ers who won't admit that's what they are. They will tell you all the reasons why their 'plan' isn't MLM. If there is anyone who shouldn't get uppity, it's someone begging for my money. If you are curious about whether or not you are being scammed by a MLM'er, here are some of the signs:

  • If someone you know in passing suddenly wants to 'meet with you', watch out.
  • If you hear the words 'plan', 'downline', 'monthly commitment' or 'small investment' - run fast!
  • If someone says they are 'working for a new company and you'd be a perfect fit!', write that friendship off.
Living in Utah, which seems to be the epicenter of fraud and MLM'ing, I've been accosted many times by 'friends' who get involved in these things. Put the word out: anybody that approaches me and tries to get me involved into one of these can save their breath. If they still think they can 'help' me 'understand', that friendship is done. Good friends do not take advantage of each other. Good friends eat steak together (or vegetables if they are so inclined). They raise kids together. They take vacations together. Nowhere on that list do the letters M, L, and M appear together.

Whenever some 'friend' of mine tries to hit me up with one of these deals, I instantly put a red mark on their name on the file in my mind. Everything that person does from then on is shadowed. If they think the Cowboys are going to win the Super Bowl, I think to myself 'this coming from the guy who thinks selling his friendships is a good idea'. It's like I mentally handicap them. When I talk to these people again, I mentally pat them on the forehead like I would a 7 year old. I don't care if you sell soap, vitamins, financial services, legal services, or anything else: I don't want to sign up, make a commitment, join your downline, or even so much as see the plan, discuss my future, or take a look at your company. I know that you have your handbook with comebacks for my top 10 objections. You can try to convince me how much you are just trying to help me, but at the end of the day your dignity will be gone and I'll still have my money.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

More Things that are Awesome!

In continuing with my commitment to improving the world by pointing out to it the things that are worthy of their attention, here is the latest installment of Things that are Awesome! But first, a short rant:

Kids, don't listen to those anti-smoking ads. I hate that it is not politically correct to trash on almost anything and yet smoking/smokers are still held up to ridicule. There is a series of ads playing here in the state I live that make fun of smokers. Understanding that they are trying to tip the scales of today's youth to stay away from smoking, they are still effectively slandering an entire group of people for choices they are making. Imagine the repercussions that would occur if we saw ads trashing on a group of people that chose a certain religion. It interests me to know if any of my tax dollars go into these ads. If we would all focus on ourselves instead of trying to change other people by making fun of them, we'd get along a lot better. And on that note :

Cigars are Awesome!

With cigars you get the best of both worlds: you get the thrill of holding a stick of fire up to your head without actually inhaling. If you want, you can get deep into the world of cigars where you can talk about earthy overtones and smooth draw. If you just want to look and feel like a man's man, that's okay too.

Garages are Awesome!

Since the dawn of time (or at least the dawn of garages), women have held sway over both the decoration of the house and of certain marital privileges. In his continual effort to have a place of solace and perpetuate his species, man has gone to the garage. Here you'll find no flower paintings. No pink rugs here, unless you're talking about the one on the girl on a poster on the wall. Just the smell of gas, oil, and manliness. Common accoutrement here include tools, posters, vehicles, and the occasional dart board. Some men are lucky enough to have room for a couch and a TV. For the rest of us, though, a couple of lawn chairs and bar stools suffice. In this era of metrosexuals, it's nice to know that there is a place where men can find refuge.

(In a side note, when you combine the awesomeness of cigars with the awesomeness of the garage it adds up to something that is too cool for some. My wife, for instance won't let me smoke in the garage. I think it's because she's afraid of that much awesome coming together. Maybe she thinks I might be overcome by it all and spontaneously combust)

Barbecue Grills are Awesome!

This one goes along with another one of my favorites, steak. You, too, can enjoy a steak whenever you want to. Just buy some meat, fire up the grill, and bada bing bada boom- steak!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The Tides are Turning

There have been 2 situations in my life in the last 2 weeks that lead me to believe that my attitude and countenance have improved. Both of them left me scratching my head. I'll let you be the judge:

1) 2 weeks ago I went to a 6:30 meeting for the first time. I think the main reason I did it was that I knew I was going to have to go to a meeting a day and I wanted to have some nights available to relax. It turned out to have an added bonus: I came to work after that first morning meeting. I had arranged to be into work about 15 minutes late so I could catch the meeting. I got to work at 8:15. In my mind, I came in and kept to myself like I usually do. At about 10 o'clock a co-worker came up to me and asked 'Are you okay?' I was confused. I tried to think of why she was asking me. I drew a blank, so I answered honestly. 'Yeah, I'm fine. Why?' She says to me 'You just seem like you're in such a good mood. It's weird.'

2) So last night I go to pick Katie up at the airport. I'd had 4 days off in a row. I went to meetings, hung out with guys in recovery, cleaned the house, and took naps. Anyways, I'm at the airport and Katie comes down the hall to the waiting area. I see her and I stand up to meet her. It's at this point that I notice that besides her brother, it turns out she was flying back with the friend I referred to towards the end of my posting before this last one. She walks up to me, hugs me, and before I even have a chance to open my mouth she says to me 'You've been drinking! You're drunk!' If my coworker caught me off guard, this situation knocked me on my ass. I had nothing to say. Eventually I regained my balance and told her 'I probably deserve a lifetime of being accused of being drunk. This time is one where I'm actually NOT drunk' Eventually she realized I wasn't drunk, but I was curious about why she thought I was drunk. Her answer? 'You just seemed so relaxed and happy.'

The part that jumps out at me from both of these is that I hadn't even said anything. I must have exuded anger and unhappiness before I started making some changes about 3 weeks ago. Especially with the 2nd situation, where I was caught off guard and didn't have any time to adjust my behavior it shows that a significant change has taken place in me. It is a welcome one to say the least. I hope one day I'll be able to look back on the days when I was so angry and wonder how I did it.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

I May Need Counseling After This

This weekend Katie and I went with some friends to a local comedy club to see Marcus. We went out to dinner before the show and were among the first to get in the club an hour before the show was to start. While Katie and most of the others went in, I stayed behind to smoke a cigar with my buddy Jared. When we finally made it in, I found out that we were on the first row. And they had left the spot closest to the middle of the stage for me. A bad feeling hit me as I sat down, and as it turns out it was not unfounded.

The warm up comedians mainly stuck to their own material and didn't pick on the crowd too much. When Marcus got up there, he started off with his own material. As he got warmed up, though, pretty soon he was interacting with the crowd. At one point a cell phone went off. He went into the audience, took the phone, and hid it on top of a speaker on stage. When one lady was laughing obnoxiously, he mercilessly made fun of her saying 'Somewhere there is a horny dolphin wondering where that noise is coming from'. Yikes! Shortly after this, Marcus was grabbing a drink of water. I took the opportunity to stifle a yawn, except that he turned and saw me doing it. I knew I was in for it at that point. I was wearing some glasses, and he asks me 'You like TV, don't you specs?' I nodded yes and he went on with his routine. I breathed a sigh of relief thinking that I was off the hook. Maybe that was his plan.

He was setting up a joke about David Bowie's...lack of underpants in the movie The Labyrinth. He started it by talking about movies and 80's movies in particular. When he got to the point where he was joking about David Bowie flapping in the breeze like a flag in a storm, he hung the microphone around his waist and started bouncing it back and forth between his legs. We were all laughing when I realized he was coming for me.... As he climbed my chair and started bouncing the phallic microphone about my head and shoulders I tried to shrink away. There was nowhere to hide, though. My face was about 2 inches from his junk and I kept thinking it would end any second, but he kept going. At some point the joke turned into how long he could make me uncomfortable. The answer, for me, was FAR too long. All things considered, I thought I was a pretty good sport about it. I think I've learned my lesson with sitting in the front row and daring to yawn.... Here we are - post molestation.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Recovery Update/ Kids in the future?

This will probably be boring for most people. This blog has been tough at times, but for the most part a fun way to vent. For those friends and family that are interested in where I am right now, this is the answer:

I'm now into my 20th month of continuous sobriety. 20 months seemed like such a long time to me: until I got it. If a non-alcoholic sees a person who drinks and always seems to get in trouble, it seems logical and obvious that if the person stops drinking things will get better. Some of the more obvious problems (hospitals, jails, etc) do go away at first with just not drinking. From experience, I can tell you that they will always come back unless the alcoholic can find a way to deal with things differently.

At 18 months sober, I found myself the very same person I was when I started - sans booze. All the same fears, the same ways of dealing with things. Even the same results (witness my last post). How tough it is to hear from your sponsor 'You're suffering from untreated alcoholism'. He said the same thing to me 36 hours hours after my last drink. My excuse then was that I had a drinking problem. What's my excuse now? I haven't had a drink in over a year and a half. It's safe to say that drinking is not my problem. Living life sober is my problem. I won't say it's all been for nothing: all the meetings I've done and all the work this time around has kept me sober long enough to become willing to completely surrender myself to staying sober. For the last week and a half, I've been going to a meeting every day. I've been calling my sponsor every day. I've been praying every day. I talk to other alcoholics every day and still work with a guy or two. My willingness now extends to losing sleep: I've been catching a 6:30 am meeting this week. The first couple of days have been really hard, but it has been paying off. Starting my day off in willingness and recovery has made this the best week I've had in some time.

This is where the rubber meets the road for me. I am a good mimic and can talk a good game. When it comes down to it, though, only my actions will show how much I really believe this program can help me. I think I've caught some people by surprise. Myself included. Katie has already commented on being surprised I was willing to get up early. I wasn't a guy that was willing to go to a meeting a day. Look what that got me. I don't have to be too hard on myself, because I'm showing a willingness to stay sober I didn't know I had. For that reason this whole experience has been a good one for me.

* * *

In the past I've written about not being able to have kids naturally. When the denial and anger subsided, I was left with shame and hurt pride. Sometimes situations force us to be bigger than we really are. This is one for me. Despite the tough emotions that still sometimes arise, Katie and I have moved forward in the process to becoming parents. Together we chose a donor online (man, you really can buy ANYTHING on the internet...) and a couple of weeks ago I accompanied her to the doctor for the first insemination. I joked with some people that I wanted to be there so I could say I was there with my wife when she got pregnant. The truth was that I wasn't sure I wanted to be there at all. I felt like I could almost handle having children this way, but having to be there would just be too much. In the end, the responsibility I felt as a husband and potential father outweighed the shame I felt at being inadequate. I think this is the definition of being an adult. It was made tougher when it turns out the nurse doing the procedure was a friend of Katie's and someone who I'd been to dinner with before. My humbling was made complete when the nurse mentioned she'd told another friend of Katie's that we were trying to have kids this way. A friend that Katie has somewhat of a history with and I've had trouble accepting because of it. For Katie it was comforting to go through the procedure with a friend. For me it felt like another test to be endured.

Despite my feeling to the contrary, we both made it through the first procedure. Chances are that this won't be the last insemination before Katie gets pregnant, so I'll get another opportunity to stay humble. I hope that it gets easier.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Crash! Part 2

So this morning I was in another car accident. Or should I say 'a MAV full of teenagers driven by a 45 year old man crashed into the back of me when he became enraged that I passed him'. Either way, right? (MAV= mormon assault vehicle for those of you who don't know. Utah residents will know right away what I'm talking about. For those of you not in Utah, imagine a prison transportation vehicle full of polygamists)

Seriously. No joking here. I'm in my car driving, listening to some Michael Jackson, I pass this guy and 'BAM' I feel my car lurch forward. (I can't resist: what is it about Michael Jackson and getting rear ended?) I look in my rear view mirror and there is a guy shouting and waving his fist at me. I put some distance between me and the guy, write his plate number down and pull out my phone to call the police. I pull over at the next light and get out of my car to see what kind of damages we're looking at. Out comes the next Big Brothers Big Sisters star shouting at me. The dispatcher hears me about to get my ass handed to me and suggests I get back into my car. Relenting, I hung out in my car until the cops showed. I ended up getting a lecture about passing someone to merge rather than slowing down to merge. No tickets were issued. Damages were minimal. No harm, no foul I guess.

Like attracts like, I guess. I finally met my match in the anger department. How many times have I thought to myself 'I'd love to ram my car into that jerk'. In a sick way, I kind of respect the guy. Kind of. As much as you can respect a middle aged guy that hangs out with teenagers driving around ramming their car into other drivers.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Random Cell Phone pictures last week

I got a new phone last week and due to the novelty, I have been taking more pictures than normal. As I was looking at some of the pictures, there were 2 that I thought were pretty strange and worthy of sharing.

This first one is of our cat Roxy and her new hobby: watching TV. Being the refined feline that she is, she is not satisfied with mere romantic comedies or action adventure movies. She prefers 1 program. The documentary 'Planet Earth'. I have never seen a cat pay attention to anything that wasn't a flying thing or something to eat like this before. We're talking 15 straight minutes of a cat staring at one thing. Sometimes she tilts her head when she gets particularly interested. Other times she has to go look behind the TV to make sure the birds on the screen didn't disappear behind there. As soon as we watch something else, she leaves; but as soon as we put it on, she'll come from any part of the house to take her spot - right in front of the TV. (p.s. - I know what you're going to say Mom. Yeah, yeah, we need some kids...)

This second one is a letter I received. A letter that causes me to believe I'm being stalked from afar by someone who isn't very good at stalking. When I opened the letter, which was addressed to my first name (Steven) it was 1 sentence written in small font in the middle of the page. It said, simply: 'You are a sad, sad 'little' man' It was sent with no return address, but the postal stamp was to a town in California. A town I've never been to. I can be tough to get along with, so I figure I probably got someone upset enough to look up my new address and send me a mean letter. I still can't figure out why it was addressed to my first name, though....

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Why Katie is lucky to have me

This morning as I was driving to work I was contemplating something that I think about quite often: I was thinking how lucky my wife was to have snagged me. Take yesterday, for example. While she was at work being lazy, I was home with the day off working hard. I did my laundry. I changed the oil and spark plugs on my car. I watched Casablanca. I caught a meeting. Just typing what I did reinforces to me that Katie is one lucky lady to have snagged such a renaissance man. I even let her cook dinner for my dad and I after her lazy day at work. Man I'm a good guy.

Speaking of old movies: I recently made a decision to watch all of the American Film Institutes's top 100 movies of all time. I want to have them all in my collection one day, so I started buying the films in the top 10. So far I've collected Citizen Kane, Casablanca, The Godfather, Gone With The Wind, Lawrence of Arabia, Schindler's List, The Graduate, and On The Waterfront. I've watched all of them but The Graduate and On The Waterfront. At the risk of sounding ignorant - I've been a little surprised to find that these movies are not only watchable, but really good movies. I had this idea that movies in black and white were old and boring. It may be true with some of them, but not these. Citizen Kane, in particular, is fantastic. I found myself caught up right away. I think that I've seen enough cartoon spoofs of it to know the relevance of 'Rosebud' right from the beginning. Even with that knowledge, though, the movie was amazing. To think of a 25 year old first time director coming up with that film boggles the mind. I would encourage anybody to watch the film.

On January 27th, I celebrated 18 months of sobriety. If I continue on this path, later this year I will be able to say that I have YEARS of sobriety. That's something I haven't been able to say since I was 11.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Cruise Pics

Here are Katie and I out to dinner the night after the Bahamas. This picture was taken by the
girlfriend of a 'friend of ours'

Ahhh yes. Smoking a Cuban out on the balcony. Believe it or not, I'm listening to a book on my headphones.

Here are Katie and I in the Bahamas after our shouting match and subsequent making up. :)

Living The Dream on Eleuthera Island.

Here we are in the room the first night on the ship. Notice my CIA shirt. You have to be in the agency to buy these (or anything else with the official CIA logo on it)

Here are Katie and I out on the balcony. I spent a lot of time out there this trip because I brought Jenny (my guitar).

Here's me smoking a stogey in my favorite room on the ship: The Speakeasy cigar lounge.

Here is a picture Katie took. She was laying out and realized she had a pretty good view. She grabbed the camera and took a couple of pictures from the beach chair.

Here are Katie and I in St John, USVI. We're overlooking scenic Trunk Bay. Although we didn't get to spend long enough on this island, we absolutely loved it.

Jenny and I: this one is sort of sad. After 6 years of faithful service, she was cracked in transit on the way back home. I don't have the heart to throw her away or get a new one.

I'm not an art critic or anything, but I just love this picture Katie took of a beach chair on the beach at Orient Bay - St Maarten. It looks like it's just waiting for me.

Here were are dressed to the nines on the first formal night. We didn't get any other pictures of this, and it's too bad: we looked great!

Friday, January 23, 2009

The Cruise - Part 2

"Troy, wake up. Troy. TROY!"

As I blearily opened my eyes, I noticed Katie was walking back to the bed from the door to the balcony. Even half asleep I could tell she was bordering on panic, but being as how this is a condition that she frequents often I wasn't too concerned. What was she afraid of? The fog outside. She was afraid that she couldn't see the water. I muttered something about her going to bed and when she wakes up it will be gone and then fell back asleep. That's my Katie: afraid of the fog (I love you babe :P)

The first day was the Bahamas. We had to tender in, which means that the ship wasn't at a dock. We had to ride a smaller boat to shore. We went over at about 10:30 in the morning, set down our things and went over to the small booth set up for kayak rentals. We got in the kayak and I quickly learned something: neither of us had any experience in a kayak. As we bobbed around in the water, I got more and more frustrated. Pretty soon I was yelling at Katie that she was doing it wrong and she was yelling at me to shut up. Ahhh. Vacation.... (I want to interject here that we were asked several times during the course of the vacation if we were on our honeymoon. People said we seemed so happy together and in love. I guess when we're not yelling at each other, we get along pretty well...) We eventually got a system down and had a good time. As we were headed back to turn the kayak back in, we were in about 4 feet of water as we passed over a stingray. I'd forgotten that they like shallow water. Despite Steve Irwin's assertions, stingrays are mostly harmless. We floated by, got back to land and turned the kayak back in. A few minutes later Katie's back started to tighten up. We only ended up spending another hour or so on land. We got something to eat, I went over to buy some cigars and souvenirs, and we laid out in the sun for a few minutes. By then Katie's back was hurting her bad enough that she wanted to get some medicine. I didn't mind. We could lay out just as easily on the ship. As the day progressed, Katie was hurting bad enough that we started worrying about the rest of the trip. We called the service department there on the ship, but they had no ice packs or heating pads. Turning into Macgyver, I remembered I had a few Ziplock bags I kept deodorant and toothpaste and such in to travel. We called for some ice, and once it showed up Katie had a ghetto-fabulous icepack. She had pain for a day or two more, but we stayed on top of it and disaster was averted.

That night, we went to a 'Friends of Bill W and Dr Bob' meeting on the boat. How ironic is it that on a boat that holds 3200 passengers and 1000 crew that the only room they make available to have an AA meeting is the one room in the ship with a camera in it streaming on the internet? Maybe they don't realize the second A stands for Anonymous? More likely they don't know who the friends of Bill and Dr Bob are. Anyways, there was a better turnout than I've seen on a boat. There were about 11 of us drunks (strangely, The Flapper wasn't there...) , a couple of compulsive overeaters and an Al-Anon (Katie). I'm normally a stickler for who should go to AA meetings, but when you're on a floating bar and buffet the rules are relaxed a bit. By the end of the trip, nobody had relapsed so the meetings were a success.

On Tuesday (the day after the Bahamas), we had a sea day on our way to St Maarten. We slept in late and laid low most of the day. Katie's back was still a little sore from the kayak, so it worked out perfectly. At dinner we ended up seated by a friend of ours (random thought: I always liked how in the cosa nostra/mafia movies all the made guys refer to other made guys that way. For example 'Joe, I want to introduce you to a friend of ours' would mean the guy being introduced was a made guy. 'Joe, I want you to meet a friend of mine' would be a non made guy. I think I'm going to steal the term and refer to my alcoholic cohorts as 'a friend of ours' starting now) and his girlfriend. I'm constantly amazed by how quickly people in recovery can be good friends and so comfortable with each other. I don't even think people in the same church are able to come together so easily as 2 sober drunks. This guy was from Chicago. I'd never met in my life until the day before, but I felt like I could have been having dinner with my sponsor and his wife. I love recovery.


Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Cruise - Part 1

We got on the ship at about 1:15. Despite the 30 minute line to get in, there weren't many people on the boat overall. Our room was at the top of the ship and it was pretty nice. We've been really spoiled in having balcony rooms on each of the cruises we've been on, so we went out on the balcony and hung out for a minute before deciding to go look around. At this point our luggage wasn't in the room yet, but we weren't concerned. Our room was on the same floor as the buffet and most of the pools. We walked over to one of the pools and ordered a couple of burgers and fries. While we were waiting, someone came by selling drink cards. If you've never been on a cruise before, these are a really good deal (relatively). While the cost of the cruise includes room and board and all the food you can eat, drinks are not included. And at 2.15 for a 12 ounce coke, it can add up. For 30 bucks each we got all the soda we could handle. Compare that to over $7 per alcoholic drink. With our new mugs full of all-we-could-drink soda and burgers in had, we sat down and enjoyed a meal in the sun next to the pool.

As soon as we were done, we headed to the next pool over where there was a 50 foot movie screen showing the Eagles vs Giants NFL playoff game. My eyes lit up, but Katie didn't want to watch football. After touring some of the rest of the ship, she gave in and we went back to the football game. There were a lot of people from New York and Philadelphia on the ship, so it was a rowdy group. I watched about half the game before heading back to the room. From there I watched some of the game while we waited for the muster drill. A muster drill is where you learn what to do in case of an emergency. Basically you get your life vest and go hang out in a place until you receive further direction.

By this point, we were starting to get worried because we hadn't seen our bags yet. By 5:00 we were minutes away from the ship leaving port and we hadn't seen our bags. I was especially irritated after dropping 20 bones on a guy that I thought would take good care of my things. About 5:30, the ship blared it's horn 3 times and we were off. Still having no bags, I was pretty nervous. Over the next hour, we started seeing piece by piece of luggage show up outside our door and eventually we had it all. No thanks to my now $20 dollars richer friend back at the port.

The first night we found the dining room and were seated. At our table were 3 middle aged couples, 1 elderly couple, and us. Being an old soul, I don't necessarily mind spending time with older couples. In fact the only person I really had a problem with was in the couple that was next youngest besides us. It all started waiting in line to get in. I'm standing in line with Katie when I hear this awful ripping, flapping noise that can only mean one thing. I instantly ask Katie if she heard the noise. She hadn't, but within about 10 seconds the guy in front of us starts cringing. When the smell hit us Katie and I started blinking and breathing shallowly through our mouths like we were being hit with mustard gas. The jerk who let fly in close quarters never turned around the whole time in line. Not that I blame him after what he put us through.

As we were seated at his table, we realized we were being seated next to 'The Flapper' as we called him due to the noise I first heard before the wall of stink hit us. And it turns out that besides having no qualms about nearly sh*tting his pants in public, he also doesn't mind getting belligerently drunk in front of strangers. Katie and I put on our game faces and set about trying to enjoy the meal. At one point the flapper starts telling us that he and his wife are newlyweds. We all congratulate them and ask how they met. It turns out they met at work. It further turns out that they worked at a drug and alcohol rehabilitation center. God has a sense of humor. He really does. If there is anybody that deserves to be sentenced to hanging out with trashy drunks, it's me. Trust me, I've been that guy more times than I can count. It took every remaining iota of self control I had not to innocently ask naive sounding questions about treatment centers. The best part of all of this is that because it was the first night of the cruise, it took over 2 hours to complete the meal so we got extra time with my brother in alcoholism. From there on out, we waited for tables for 2 to become available every meal except 1 (I'll get to that later).

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

One Thing I Learned On My Trip

On Saturday the 10th, we got up at about 7:00 took showers and got ready then left for the airport with Katie's mom. We flew into Atlanta and from there to Fort Lauderdale. We took a cab to the Marriott hotel across the street from the port. We had some misgivings when we told the cabbie we wanted to go to the Marriott by Port Everglades and he asked 'Where's that?'. I was thinking that the Marriott corporation is doing pretty well if those directions didn't narrow down the search... So anyways, we checked into the hotel and went across the parking lot to eat at this cool little Italian joint. After that we went back to the hotel and went to bed. Sunday we woke up and got ready then went over to the port in a cab. We got out of the cab and gave most of our luggage to the guys there that take your bags and get them on the ship. It was here that we ran into a recurrent theme: how much to tip.

I'm not a cheap guy. In fact, I would go so far as to say that I have little respect for money in general. What I'm not a big fan of is having to tip everybody you see. Not that I have to, but I feel like I have to. With someone like a cabbie it's easy because it's just 'keep the change' when you hand him a 20 on a 15 dollar tab to get from the airport to the hotel. You get your bags out of the cab, though, and all of a sudden there is a bellhop there to take your bags. They don't ask, either, it's just 'here, let me get that for you'. And how much do you tip? This guy literally lifts 5 bags a foot off the ground to the waiting cart, pushes the cart around for a while and takes the bags off of the cart. It takes him maybe 10 minutes with the time it takes you to check in. Meanwhile, he's trying to make conversation. He's asking you about you and telling you about him. Sometimes I just want to say 'Cut the B.S. man. You're getting a tip. If you keep talking, you're getting a smaller tip. We don't know each other. Let's stop pretending we're good pals.' That's something about me, though. I'm not very good at social situations. I just don't see the need to do that. But I digress... So I come to the conclusion that 5 bucks is an okay tip for a guy in that situation, but then I wuss out and give him 10. At the port the next day I get hit with 2 situations in a row. The cabbie talks our ear off the whole block or so to our ship and when we get there he's falling all over himself to drag the luggage out of the cab (Something I've learned in life: people you don't know that talk your ear off in public usually want a tip). So I pay 20 on a 12 dollar tab. 8 bucks. 75%. Which I think is excessive, but what am I going to do: ask him for $5 bucks back? It turns out I should have, because now I've got another guy that wants to take my bags from the cab to the ship. Having been on a cruise before, I know that this guy is going to take my luggage to some place that I don't see while I pray that all of my stuff remains intact and finds it's way to my room on the ship. This guy literally has all my belongings. He's not a guy you want to start getting cheap on. As I open my wallet, though, I panic when I realize all I've got is 20's. With a sick feeling, I bust out a 20 and lay it on this guy to ensure my bags don't get lost. And now I feel guilty that I 'only' gave the cabbie 8 bucks. I hate it. I've been in town all of 15 hours and I'm already out $43 bucks to pay people I don't want to for things I can do myself. And to top that off, Katie sees this and gets pissed at me for wasting money. It turns out she had smaller bills. So the lesson here is this: when you're on vacation in situation where you are going to have to tip, be prepared with lots of 1 and 5 dollar bills unless you want to start throwing out 20's like a drunken sailor.


Does it ever seem like you're the only guy in pictures without his eyes open? Man, I swear.... The answer used to be to take 2 pictures in fairly rapid succession. My powers of blinking at exactly the wrong time allow me to blink in rapid fire succession, though, thus thwarting what could have been a pretty good picture... Blink.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

T Minus 40 hours and counting....

Saturday morning Katie and I jump on a plane to head down to sunny Fort Lauderdale. We'll spend Saturday night at this gem of hospitality:

We'll wake up Sunday morning and get on this cutesy little boat:

And then we'll spend a week in heaven. It's going to be awesome.... :)