Sunday, July 30, 2006

A Normal Thursday Part 2

Part 1

It is a little harsh to describe her as the GOTW. EagleMan just ended a long relationship, and is getting back into the dating scene (as I described before). He is a romantic at heart, and falls pretty quickly. This was no exception. GOTW was an affable enough girl, more outgoing than the last one, but she fell pretty hard too. He had been seeing this girl for about a week, and at one point during the ball game, while EagleMan was away, she asked me what I thought she should do for his birthday. His birthday was over two months away. I hemmed and hawed as much as I could, but I was pretty uncomfortable, even though I knew he liked her. However, in a moment, I was about to be much more uncomfortable.

With GOTW talking to the older woman, I took my turn to bowl, focusing on not falling down. Throwing it down the right arrow was secondary. This scene would repeat itself 70 more times (I got no strikes that night). I was getting a little buzzed. I am not a fan of Budweiser. I managed to avoid the gutter with both rolls, and returned to the table, seeing the older woman putting on shoes.

"This is my mother," GOTW cheerily slurred. Her fucking mother? After a week? Holy hell. EagleMan did not look shocked, so he must have known that this coming. He neglected to give me a heads up. I have enough trouble interacting in social situations with my best friends, and now, out of the blue, the GOTW's mother shows up. The least I could have gotten was a heads up from EagleMan. I am very regimented, routine oriented, and I do not like things happening unexpectedly. Unless I am hammered. I was not there yet.

I quickly excused myself to go get another beer. Head still spinning, I walked up to the bar. However, I had enough sense to see if lovely honey was still around, but alas, she was gone. "Bud?" the bartender asked. "Uhmm, no, Bud Light actually." A look of confusion briefly wafted across the bartender's face, then dissipated. "I knew there was someone that ordered Bud Light's on Thursdays. Why did you let me give you a Bud last time?" Because I am a sadist. I grabbed my beer and returned to the table.

"You know, I setup a tab, just put your beers on that," GOTW's mother greeted me. Oh great, now I have her offering to pay for my bad habits. Could this get any worse?

"You know mom, he is in law school," GOTW said. "You should check out environmental law," the mother rapidly replied.

It just got worse. Now I am bowling with a hippie. "It is interesting, but I think I am going to have make more than $30,000 a year to pay off my hundred grand in student loans." "Well just think about it." Sure, no problem, I will think about it. When I get rejected by the public defenders office.

I was able to maintain a modicum of socialability with the GOTW and her mother. EagleMan is a social fiend. He can talk to anyone, anywhere, about anything. He was having no such problems. But, then GOTW and the mother got up for another round, and EagleMan turns to me and says, "I have been talking to the Ex."

And I am down for the count.

I am not Superman. Now I have to talk to the GOTW and her mother, while knowing that EagleMan has been talking to his Ex, and wants to get back together with her. I was not built to deal with such things. It of course is complicated by the fact that I liked GOTW more after a week than I ever like the Ex after a year. And I am not receptive to meeting new people.

Whatever, I decided to put all this shit out of my mind and focus on bowling and drinking. No more talking for me. I really don't have anything interesting to say anyway (but plenty of interesting things to write, I hope). This caused a chorus of "What's wrong?" from the GOTW. I replied that I was fine, as I do have a tendency to seriously introvert myself. I eventually relaxed (read: was drunk) around 11, and was able to be my slightly sociable self for the rest of the night. The beer flowed freely, in and out, and when the alley closed at midnight, my pump had been primed enough that I could have bowled for another three hours. Unfortunately, it was time to go home.

EagleMan dropped me off at my place at 12:30. At this point, I was faced with two decisions, go to bed or drink a beer and check my e-mail. My alarm clock was poised to go off in four and half hours, and I had to be out of bed in five and half. But going to bed meant that my next conscious thought would be the realization that I had to go to work for 12 hours. I turned on the computer and cracked a beer.

For the next three hours I was lost in the world of cyberspace and alcohol. I kept drinking, proclaiming each beer to be my last, and always finding a new webpage to look at, where I would be halfway through reading an article when my beer went empty, causing me to go grab another. Or, finding that I had to write some irrelevant comment on someone's blog. This could have gone on in perpetuity, but by the time 3:30 am rolled around, I realized that I was fucked.

I am not exactly sure what I did in those three hours on the worldwide web. I know I did a couple stupid things, but I do not think I spent any money, which is always good. Regardless, I absolve myself of responsibility for anything I did. I was in another world. A world fueled by hatred of work, alcohol, and the knowledge that I am who I am. I was able to break my bond with that hell, and reconnect with reality, and stagger to bed and pass out. An hour and a half before my alarm would start going off.

The sounds of staticky country music suddenly filled my ears. I was shocked awake, ripped from my drunken slumber. I looked at the clock. 30 past the hour. Fuck. It takes about 25 minutes to get to work. I hauled myself out of bed. Thankfully, in my drunken stupor I had the sense to pass out fully clothed, so all I had to do was grab all the change in my ashtray (vending machine lunch), and head out the door. Yes, I was still a little (a lot) drunk. I do not advocate drunk driving, and personally have only done it a couple times (and not in a long, long time), but at this time of the morning, with it being the only way for me to get to work, the rules are bent. In short, I was fine to drive. I had to be.

I turned on the car, and was immediately shocked by the radio. I expected Mike & Mike, the morning drive show on ESPNRadio, to come blaring through the speakers. But I heard two guys I never heard. Fuck it, I am drunk and I have to get work. I put the car in gear, and headed out. About five minutes into the drive, the two dumbfucks on the radio mentioned that they were filling in for Mike & Mike. Thank God, I thought, I have not gone crazy. But, five minutes later I looked at the clock.

5:45. The motherfucking clock said 5:45. I was a fucking hour early. Fuck. The only thing I could think was Fuck. I turned around and came home, made a lunch, and went back to bed. And woke up at 6:35. For the second time that day, I hauled my drunk ass out of bed, and left home. I started my car again, and for the second time that day, heard two guys I had never heard before. What the fuck is going on. The local affiliate had pulled the national fill-ins and put in some local fill ins. I figured this out later, but I was horribly confused at the time. On the second drive to work I checked the clock every ten seconds to reassure myself that I was leaving when I was supposed to. I safely got to work at 7 am and began my 12 hour workday.

That is my life. Want to trade?

Friday, July 28, 2006

A Normal Thursday Part 1

I have already mentioned in this space that my summer job decided to make overtime mandatory. You can explore my entries to see the exact specs of my job (except for what I do of course). The company's idea of mandatory overtime is to come in for an entire extra 12 hour shift. This particular week, my normal schedule was to be off on Thursday and Friday, and work Saturday, Sunday and Monday. With mandatory OT in effect, I was forced to work on Friday. This did not please me. This did not please me at all.

Thursday became my favorite day of the week during Undergrad. Going out on a Thursday was infinitely better than going out on the weekend for several reasons. First, Freshman do not learn until Sophomore year that you can get away with going out on Thursdays. They do it occasionally, but they are still naive and do not want to make a habit of it. Thus, the 18+ bars are not packed with a bunch of idiots, sober idiots. Secondly, once you turn 21 you reach the point where you know where you stand. By this I mean you know how much effort and how many classes you have to attend to get the grade you want. At this point, the guys with the 2.0 GPA know that there is not much they can do to improve it, so they just want to have a good time. These are the guys you want to hang out with. They fucking know how to party, and when you go out with them, you never know where the hell you are going to end up.

However, major reason that Thursday became my favorite day of the week is because I could go out. At this time, I had no idea that I would end up going to Law School. This was before the downfall of Enron and Arthur Anderson, and I had every confidence in myself and society, that I could half A's and half B's and get a job as an auditor with one of the Big Five. I had no need to go to class on Friday, and even if I could haul my usually still drunk ass out of bed, all I had to do was take some notes. Easy Peasy, Japanesey.

I should mention, that I tried to change myself. After suffering through the worst grades of my life Sophomore year, I decided I had to curb the partying during the week. My feeble minded solution to this was to schedule a class that met only on Wednesdays and Fridays at 8 a.m., and lasted two hours. The rationale was, it only meets twice per week, so I have to go on Fridays, so I cannot go out on Thursdays. It was a good plan, for about a week. The lure of the best night to go out was too much for me. Halfway through the semester I had used up my six absence allowance. Yet, I continued to go out on Thursdays, I just tried to make sure that when the bars closed at 2 a.m., I went home. It worked, I got a B, probably because of the pounding headaches while trying to take notes. For two fucking hours.

This summer, Thursday still holds a special place in my heart. I bowl on Thursdays (you cannot beat dollar games and $3 Bud Lights). This particular Thursday contained a twist. Before going to the bowling alley, my friend (this guy really needs a nickname. From now on, I dub he EagleMan (and if you live in Chicago, it is ten times funnier)), his girl of the week, and I went to see the local minor league baseball team.

As you know, I love my baseball. As you know, I love my beer. Combining the two, well that is my Field of Dreams. However, the evil specter of Friday work was the thunderstorm on my field. I took it easy. I was sober enough to realize that I would be getting home three hours after my bedtime. I had to take it easy. I had maybe four beers during the game, a new record. It should have been five, which would have tied the old record, but that was not to be.

After the top of the eighth, I went to the concession stand to pick up two beers for the last inning and a half. The transaction was completed without a hitch, and when I returned to my seat, I handed one of the beers to the girl of the week, saying, "Hey, I bought you a beer." Up to this point, she had not had one beer. In fact, the two other times I saw her, she did not drink. In my head, I was making a joke. She, however, readily accepted the beer, and took a sip. Ahh, well, it's not like I needed it anyway. After she finished half the beer, it became apparent that she does not drink too often. Half a beer, and she was slurring her words. Whoops. EagleMan is my full time designated driver, he does not drink at all, for the poor guy is allergic to wheat and such things. Drinking may kill him. It actually almost killed him. He used to drink more than me, then one day, Bam!, his throat swells up and he cannot drink anymore. But, he is a good guy, and is more than happy (well, maybe not happy, willing is a better word) to put up with my drunkass. I was not sure if he was willing to put up with his new girl's drunk ass though.

The Mudville 9 lost that day, but our spirits were high as we headed off to a night of bowling. Dollar bowling starts at 9 p.m., and we arrived at 9:30. Plenty of time. After picking up my shoes, I headed to the bar. The bartender knows me, in the customer sense of the phrase. She looked at me, and said, "Bud?" I had been staring at a lovely honey across the bar, and that snapped me back to attention. "Uhh, Yeah," I replied, and went back to my ogling.

Then, the lovely honey calls out to me, "You went to [Undergrad]?" For a second, I was horribly confused. I have no idea who this is, should I know who she is? I am terrible with faces. Even worse with faces when I am thirsty. Then I realized I was wearing a hat with my Undergrad's name emblazoned upon it. "Yeah," I said. I am smoother than sandpaper. "I graduated two years ago, did you go there?" I asked. "Yeah, but I just graduated," she replied. "That's cool." No, I am smoother than silk. The bartender suddenly appeared, blocking my line of sight to the lovely honey. The lovely honey was there with a bunch of guys, so I probably had no shot with her, and I was thirsty and wanted to bowl, so I took my beer and skedaddled. It's ok. You can tell me, I know. I am a social retard.

I returned to my lane, and put on my shoes. I took a sip of my beer. Immediately, I knew something was wrong. Fuck. It was a Budweiser, not a Bud Light. That bitch of a bartender fucked up my order. No wait, I fucked up my order, thinking with the wrong head, and not paying attention to what was going on around me. Whatever, it is time to fucking bowl.

The girl of the week sat down, beer in hand, and we began to bowl. We were in the fifth frame when the GOTW jumped out of her seat like she had been shocked with a cattle prod, and ran up to an older woman who had just entered the alley. EagleMan was bowling, leaving me to think to myself, who the fuck is that?

[Part 2 Tomorrow]

Friday, July 21, 2006


Ahhh, the Honor Code. Is there anything that is more conflicting? I want to preserve the sanctity of the education process, and report any violators of the Honor Code, but I also do not want a blind Al Pacino coming around the corner whacking me with his cane screaming, "You are not a Baird Man! Hoo-Wah!"

Thankfully, this is something I do not have to concern myself with right now. That is definitely a bridge I will cross when I come to it.

But I have a confession to make. I cheated. It was not my best moment, but I was trapped by competing pressures, and there was only one way out of the situation. I had to cheat.

It happened in the sixth grade. Junior High had just started, and I was in a whole new world. All around me, the girls who had towered over me in elementary school were suddenly getting shorter, but like me, they were growing, just in a different place. With all those hormones, how could someone be expected to focus on something that suddenly became so trivial in the face of thousands of years of evolution and natural human instinct.

The triviality was a spelling test. This was in the days when spelling still mattered. Back then, we spelled it "you" not "u" and "for sure" not "fo' shizzle." If you want more examples, spend two minutes on Myspace. At this time, no one had heard of Spell Check. My typing class was conducted on an Apple IIe. I got an A when I was able to type 14 wpm with no errors. There was no instant messaging, and the internet was an abstract concept that neither Al Gore nor WarGames could help to explain. Needless to say, at this point in history, spelling mattered.

But this was not an ordinary spelling test. The phrase "Spelling Test" conjures images of the Spelling Bee, words that are impossible to say, and even more impossible to use in a sentence. The test in question was the exact opposite. It was one hundred of the most commonly words used in the English language. Words such as "that," "this," "and" "the." Everyone had to pass the exam. We took it once a day until everyone passed. Once you passed, you got to take a ten-minute nap while the slower students tried to figure it out.

Given my thoughts on studying, this was not a test I bothered to study for. But after a week without passing it, I began to get worried. The other kids in the class who were about as smart as me had already passed (all two of them), and I felt myself slipping behind. The birth of Ego.

After a week, I had 99 words right. I just could not get that last one. For some reason, I either thought there was an "E" on the end or could not remember if the second letter was an "H" or an "I." I was not at all confused by the homonym, even though it was a homonym with a different spelling. It was just, that while taking the test, I would begin to confuse myself. "How did I spell it last time? Did I use the e? Maybe I did not use the e? There has to be the e right? If there was not an e, the word would be too easy. Wait, what is the second letter? Is there an h or isn't there an h?"

So there I went, screwing myself into the ground, unable to pass this damn test.

So did the only thing I could think of. I cheated. The second week of the test, when that bastard word came up, I snuck a peek at my neighbors paper. He was a friend of mine, but I did not tell him, I just caught a quick glance. He spelled it without the "E" and "H" as the second letter. There was that moment of, "maybe he is spelling it wrong" but I got passed that, went with his answer, and passed the exam, relieved that I passed before 80% of the class.

This would haunt me for years. Since it is one of the one hundred most common words, I think about it every time I use it. It eats away at me, my moment of weakness, where I gave into temptation. OK, it's not that dramatic, I don't really care, but it happened, I cheated. I hope they don't ask about cheating in job interviews.

Oh, and what was the word? I will not tell you which word it was or which words it wasn't, but not counting this sentence, I was able to refrain from using it.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

A New Years To Forget

A couple weeks ago I wrote a post lampooning the Gay Games. It was all intended to be in good fun. I (predictably) received no comments on it, but one person told me that it was a little harsh. I am not here to be PC, hold my tongue, or give a crap about others opinions. I am only here to be myself, inform, split sides, bust guts, and make people say "What the fuck?" WTF being, "I never thought about that before" or "Oh my god, this guy is a fucking retard!"

Needless to say, that post about the Gay Games may have been out of bounds (like Lance Armstrong's joke about the Brokeback guy at the ESPYs), but it is all in good fun. One of my favorite sayings is that you have to "Separate the stuff from the stuff." (From the second greatest short-lived sitcom ever, Sports Night)

With that in mind, let me take you back a few years, to Dec. 31st. I was at least 21 at the time, in fact, I think it was my Senior year of college, my first New Years after turning 21 (I am not sure though, it may have been after I graduated, but I don't think so).

Since I lacked friends in my hometown (X-mas break remember) at the time, I called on an old friend to see what he was doing for New Year's. He told me that his girlfriend and him were going into the city to hang out with "Todd" and his friends. I know Todd, I like Todd, and faced with the alternative of sitting in the dark watching the shitty fireworks on Channel Five, I agreed to go into the city to hang out with Todd and his friends.

All told, it was a pretty small gathering. There was my friend and his girlfriend, Todd, Todd's brother (Rod), three other guys, and Todd's new boyfriend. Oh, and the three guys were gay too. Thankfully, they all loved to drink, except for my friend's girlfriend. We spent the early evening sucking down beers (and nothing else) making small talk, and having a pretty good time.

Good time meaning that I got hammered. I do not remember much of what happened while we were at Todd's apartment (in Wrigleyville a.k.a. Boystown, of course), but I do remember that I had an odd conversation with the girlfriend. She was straight as an arrow (like, no drugs, booze, cigarettes, etc) and I proclaimed to her my desire to go shrooming.

Some background. I did not drink until my freshman year of college. Also, my freshman year I was in the hallway of the dorm with an acquaintance, when a funky smell permeated the air, and I asked him, "What is that smell?" He replied, "Pot" with a skeptical look on his face. I did not smoke marijuana until my sophomore year in college, and in total, I probably smoked it no more than ten times in my life. Hell, I did not even smoke my first cigarette until I was 19. Needless to say, I pretty much follow the straight and narrow path too. I have never done any drug harder than pot (is that even hard?) and really never intend to. But I was drunk, and when I try to make conversation with a shy girl I find that when you say something completely absurd it is either hit or miss. It will engage her or completely turn her off. Considering this was my friend's girlfriend, and I follow the rules, she had nothing to gain by brushing me off, and so I went into a lengthy explanation of why it would be fun to do a hallucinogen, but not a really bad hallucinogen like LSD.

So while I was espousing my [fake] desire to go shrooming, the rest of the room was planning the "where do we go from here." The others came to a consensus that we should go to a bar (at some point we cheered the New Year, but personally, I do not really care about that retarded holiday). Todd asked me if I wanted to come along, and I readily agreed. My friend was tired or some bullshit, and was going to crash with his girlfriend at Todd's place.

So, around 12:30 a.m. on the first day of 2003, I headed with six other guys to try to find some action. Unfortunately, it was not the type of action that I am into. Other than myself, the party included Todd, Todd's boyfriend, Rod, and three other guys. At the time, Rod and I were the only straight ones. Rod is an interesting character himself, a guy who lost his virginity to a Mexican hooker, and who would two years after this incident, confirm what we all knew, that he was a homosexual.

I am not here to debate if homosexuality is something you are born with, or a result of societal influence. All I know, is that Rod and Todd's dad is a pretty cool guy. I once went to a Cubs game with him, and had a gay ole time (like the Flintstones) and afterwards we went to the Cubby Bear, and the old man wanted to mack on all the young hot chicks. But who knows, it could have been the divorce, or they were born with the gay gene.

Anyway, the crew went out, 2 hetero's (at the time) and five gays. Take a guess where we went. We jumped on the "L" and headed to a nightclub called "Berlin." My party tried to assure me that it was a cool place for people like me, but once we walked in, I realized I had been had.

It was an experience like none other. There were guys all over, and a lot of them were dancing with their shirt off. The house music was at full volume, and there was men as far as the eye could see. My "friends" first act upon entering the bar was to head to the coatroom, leaving me alone in this bastion of debauchery.

Instinct took over, and I headed straight to the bar. If I learned anything in my three and half years of college it was this, "When in doubt, Drink." So drink I did. I was already pretty hammered, but the 20 minute "L" ride gave my liver enough time to clear some space for more alcohol in my blood.

This was probably the only time in my life that I thanked God that I was not an attractive man. I was able to make it to the bar without anyone offering to buy me a drink. After I placed my order, Bud Light of course (surprising that they had it), I scanned the bar looking for anyone that did not have something hanging between their legs. I saw none. I took my beer and retreated to the darkest corner of the bar, anxiously awaiting my "friends" return from the coatroom.

I spied them, 20 minutes later, acting quite giddy. "Where the fuck were you?" I screamed. "Sorry, long line," Todd answered. Yeah right, for the bathroom. Surrounded by people who would not try to cornhole me, I felt a little safer. I mean, no guy approaches a group of girls and guys to hit on the girls. That would just be stupid.

But I made a horrible mistake. As closing time was nearing, I saw someone that looked that familiar. Like a guy I had gone to high school with. Within the protection of my group, I dropped my guard a bit, and when I was staring at this kid, trying to figure out if I knew him, he made eye contact with me. Just as if this would have happened with a female, I quickly looked away, but could feel his eyes boring a hole in me. They say you should not stare at the sun, but sometimes you just have to check to see if it is really a bad idea.

So I gave him a quick glance, and he smiled. There is something addicting about a smile. I have only experienced this first hand, I have never caused it to happen. When I smile at a girl, they invariably, never smile back. But when someone smiles at me, I cannot help myself. The corners of my mouth creep up ever so slightly, and that is all it takes in a gay bar.

Then, the voice of God proclaimed, "LAST CALL!" I bobbed and weaved my way back to the bar. $20 in hand, I called to the shirtless bartender, "Jack and Coke, light on the Coke!" He was probably expecting that I was trying to gain courage to lose my anal virginity that night, though I had no such designs, and he gave me a double shot, and did not charge me extra. Drink in hand, I headed back to my crew, hoping to have thrown my new "friend" off the path.

My drink was nearly gone before I got back to them. I walked into the middle of a conversation, of which I heard, "Hell yeah, we need some goddamn food." Recently reunited with my group, I threw in my two cents, "Yes, I need some fucking food. I want PANCAKES!"

Maybe I should not have screamed that. But they all agreed, and after I finished my drink two seconds later, we were heading towards the door. Unfortunately, so was everyone else. The bar was closed. Among the throng heading towards the door was my new friend, who was not really a friend at all.

He followed us out of the bar, a calculating two steps behind. I hung close to my friends, in a "Hey look, I am gay with them" manner. But my new friend only had eyes for me. He was watching me. Staying one step behind. And when we entered the morning darkness on the first day of 2004 around 3 a.m., he put his hand on the small of my back and said, "How are you?"

I panicked, I fled, I tried to get away from there as soon as possible. I fled back to my gay friends. And they protected me. Todd, though drunk, had the wherewithal to assess the situation, and understand what was going on. That may have been the only time in my life I did not mind another man touching me.

We headed out, got on the "L", headed to some breakfast place (waited 20 minutes at 4 a.m. WTF), loaded up on a greasy breakfast, headed back to Todd's, and (I at least) passed the fuck out.

In all honesty, this was a great experience for me. I do not regret it. In fact, maybe every straight guy should go to a gay bar at some point in his early 20's. Just to know what it is like.

[Note: There are a lot of things I could have talked about, but Tucker Max also had an experience going to a gay bar in Chicago, and he writes better than I do, so you can read his account here (it really starts with Part 2). His story is one of the reasons I was reluctant to write this, but que sera, sera right. Also, there are some other stories with Todd, so stay tuned, I may write them up.]

A Little Light Summer Reading

I generally try to avoid non-fiction books while on vacation. Slow reader that I am, an endless stream of facts slows me down even more. I prefer a light, breezy fiction work, that I can steam through at a torrid pace. Then, when vacation is done, I can gloat and say I read five books in five days. But after reading a terrible book by some guy who went to UC Berkley's Boalt School of Law, I had to read something that would be worthwhile.

So, I picked up a biography of Vince Lombardi, When Pride Still Mattered by David Maraniss. The one thing that annoyed me about this book was that the author felt compelled to show off his vocabulary. I am good with words, right? Anyone who can use the word "didactic" in sentence, please raise your hand. There was a multitude of octosyllabic words, which slowed me down even more (and I did not have my dictionary with me). The author's . . . uhm . . . big vocabulary just bothered me because this is a football book. I am sure plenty of football fans read the first ten pages, then put it down, never to pick it up again.

Anyway, I do not want to rant about my limited vocabulary, just wanted to make a point about knowing your audience (and yes, I understand that his audience may be more business big shots and politicians than Freddie the butcher).

Which is the perfect segue to the most interesting fact that I extracted from this book. Granted, the fact took up a mere four sentences in the 500 page book, but it is easy to see why it caught my eye.

Vince is most remembered for his belief in winning being the only thing that matters (I am paraphrasing). Seems to me, the guy would have made a great corporate lawyer. Always going for the jugular, not accepting anything less than the complete and total submission of the opponent. However, Vince was not cut out for the legal career, but it is not as though he did not try. The Great Vince Lombardi went to law school for a semester. And then dropped out.

Apparently, great men learn early on that going to law school is not the correct path for achieving greatness (Sorry Holmes).