Wednesday, June 29, 2011

In Which I'd Have To Move

Something occurred to me the other day, something that I can't believe didn't come to mind when The Boss and I first moved into our apartment. This is something so huge that when the light bulb finally came on, I got goosebumps. What could be so big, you ask?

I think my downstairs neighbor is a hoarder.

Most of us have seen the TV show on A&E, or at least heard of it. The show documents people all over the United States who have the mental compulsion to “collect” or hoard things. They fill their houses with everything conceivable until their houses are unlivable. In a majority of the episodes, the children of these hoarders are in danger of being removed by CPS, or already have been. Another common theme is that the houses these people live in are often borderline condemnable.

I don't think my neighbor is at a level of hoarding that would qualify her for the show, but I've learned enough from watching the show to recognize a couple of the warning signs:


  1. She has multiple cats,
  2. She keeps her shades drawn at all times,
  3. She has an adult son that lives with her,
  4. They produce very little trash for weekly pick-up,
  5. Whenever I've seen her leave her apartment, she opens the door only enough so she can squeeze through, and then quickly closes it,
  6. She has teeth that look like a can-opener,
  7. I've only seen her wear Crocs,
  8. We can't ever hear her walking, which could mean that she's carefully picking her way through narrow walkways among canyons of boxes and bags and refuse.

While it might be cool to have the camera crews and all these people around to clean up her house like we see in the show on TV, I actually hope that she is not. I wouldn't be cool with all the vermin and the smell and all the city health officials and such.

Especially since we just moved in, I would hate to have to consider moving again.

Monday, June 27, 2011

In Which I Have Proof

Just about three years ago now, something awesome happened. I wrote about it here when it actually happened, but here's a refresher.

I was sitting at my desk, working, and my computer chimed to tell me that I had a new e-mail. I ignored it for a little while, assuming that it was probably just junk mail or some unimportant newsletter. As it turned out, I was wrong.

It was an e-mail from the head of the set production department for Warner Brothers Studios for an upcoming new TV show on FOX called “Fringe”.

My heart racing, I read on to find that they were researching pieces of art or photography to use in a particular set, and had stumbled across my photography website. They really liked a few of my prints, and since the location of where the pictures were taken fit within the back-story of their lead character, then wanted to purchase rights to use them on the show.

I couldn't believe it. Little old me, posting my pictures up on the interwebs where I had thought they went unnoticed, had caught the attention of a major TV production company. It felt almost too good to be true.

We exchanged a few e-mails back and forth throughout that morning. The woman behind the set design offered up a few details about her and the production company so I could feel more assured that this was real. We agreed on the terms in which they could use my pictures, they picked which three they wanted to use, and we agreed on a price. From there, everything happened fast.

They faxed up to me a series of documents that I had to sign. Independent contractor forms, a legal document that stated I gave them permission to use my prints in any way they saw fit for the purpose of the show, and a few other release forms. There was a deadline to finish the set that was less than a week away, so they stipulated that, as part of the agreement, I had to furnish the actual prints and express mail them down to New York to the production studio. I got them printed the next day, called them up to confirm everything, and they sent me a check over-night.

I waited impatiently for that check to arrive. I sat at the window that faced the front of our apartment for hours, and then finally the FedEx truck arrived. He handed over a cardboard envelope that I hastily signed for, and ran back inside to tear it open. Inside was what looked like your standard pay-stub, complete with the Warner Brothers logo on it.

To make a long story less long, I express mailed the prints down to NYC and waited to hear that they got them. I got a quick e-mail saying they did, and that was it. The whirlwind was over. All I could do now was wait.

I made it a point to watch all the episodes of Fringe that I could when they aired. My whole family watched the show, too, to see if we could catch a glimpse of my pictures somewhere. There was a couple of times where we weren't sure if we saw them, and ultimately I resigned myself to wait until it came out on DVD to really see if they were used.

The first season has been out on DVD for almost two years now, and I just recently bought it. I watched the first couple of episodes, and found nothing. I was starting to feel a dejected, but then I saw something.

Specifically, this:




That's right folks. That picture right there? That's mine. 

I took the picture, I printed it, I held it in my hands and mailed it myself to the great NYC, and there it is. 

Here's the original picture as proof:




I don't often talk about this whole experience because I don't want to brag, but I am so fucking proud of it. I have no idea if that's the only one they ended up using, or if they've used them more since the first season. I've got to get the other seasons now on DVD so I can find out. The fourth season starts up this September, so who knows what will happen.

This just goes to show that awesome things can happen when you least expect it.

Happy Monday, folks.

P.S. For those who want to see it for themselves, check out season one, episode six, titled "The Cure". Look in the last minute or so before the credits roll, where Olivia Dunham has just entered her apartment.

Friday, June 24, 2011

In Which I Appreciate Privacy

Ten Things I Learned/Found Out About My Apartment This Week:

  1. The walls and floors are thin. If I can hear the lady downstairs making grunting sounds in the part of the house where her bathroom is, she can hear just as much of our... noises, too.
  2. The house to the right of ours is *not* vacant. I was on our deck grilling up some dinner this week and didn't realize I was staring into the windows of the house next door. At an old man eating his TV dinner. He got my attention by waving his arm, and then gestured with his hands to what I interpreted as “What the fuck, dude?” Every night after that, the curtains have been drawn.
  3. There are many houses on the block that have views into our apartment, and I give every one of them a show every morning when I walk from the bathroom at one end of the house to my bedroom at the other covered only by a towel around my waist.
  4. The motion sensor lights in all the entryways that I first thought were annoying are really very handy when you're coming in with your hands full of groceries or a car seat and can't fumble for a light switch.
  5. The toilet does not have strong flushing pressure. Enough said.
  6. The washer and dryer make very distinct noises when in use. It sounds to me a bit like an argument, (ie, “Yes,” “No,” “Yes,” “No,”) or like a very picky person saying no to everything (“Nor this, nor that, nor this, nor that,”). It's very annoying.
  7. When you are trying to walk across the room and not wake the baby, the floor is VERY LOUD.
  8. There are not an adequate amount of outlets in certain rooms. Our bedroom, for example, has one. The kitchen has six. The living room has two.
  9. The living room floor is slanted enough so, if you're sitting in a chair with wheels, you can roll from one corner to the other. We call it Apartment Luge.
  10. Having an apartment of our own after living with family for seven months is quite possibly the best thing in the world. Except for not having a dishwasher. That part sucks.
What have you found out recently about your part of the world?

Have a good weekend, everyone.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

In Which I'd Totally Buy These

Inspired by the book that's been making its rounds around the interweb, “Go The Fuck To Sleep,” I decided to make a few changes to some classic children's literature. Check out these titles:




“Love You Sometimes (And Now is Not One of Those Times)”

An endearing, true-life story of a frazzled parent who is at the end of their rope with their toddler, and expresses it in moment of stark honesty. Teaches children the value of being truthful and tactful at the same time.




“Where The Wild Things Used to Be”

Max returns to where the Wild Things are to find that they've all been killed by poachers. This heart-breaking tale can be used by parents to help their children understand the concept of death and dying.




“The Little Engine that Couldn't Remember if He Could or Not”

The Little Engine is much older now, and Alzheimer's is creeping in. Before he used to think he could, but now he's not so sure. Will his friends help him figure things out, or will he wander off on his own (again)? This story can teach children why Grammie or Grampa doesn't remember them anymore.

After I made the images above, I realized that I was beginning to feel tempted to see about actually writing the stories to go along with them. I'm not sure what copyright laws I'd have to be observant of, but it might be worth finding out. 

If I saw these in a bookstore, I'd totally buy them.

Monday, June 20, 2011

In Which I Think

I was talking with a friend of mine this past weekend, and he asked if I had any big plans for Sunday. I told him that it was my first Father's Day, and that we had plans with family. He asked me what I thought about being a father, how it felt, how I thought it changed me. I sat back for a minute, trying to figure out a way to answer him truthfully.

Everyone talks about how being a parent is amazing, and how it's the best thing you'll ever do in life. I heard that a lot before my daughter was born, and I always wanted someone to give me specifics. I suppose I wanted something specifically to look forward to, with so much unknown territory ahead of me. I knew most of it in an instant when my daughter was born, and the rest I've gradually come to find out.

Being a father is amazing. I'm only two months in and I've known that since day one. Knowing that I am responsible for this child and her success in the world, knowing that I can help shape her and share my interests with her lends an emotion of intense pride. I know that raising her will be my life's crowning achievement, regardless of whatever else I do or accomplish. She is a part of me, and the love I have for her is unquantifiable.

I am different now that I am a father, but I'm still the same old guy. I'm the same person I have always been at work, and I'm still sarcastic and jovial when it's just The Boss and I. At home, though, when I'm holding my child or watching her sleep, something inside me changes. I become a fierce protector, a perseverant providor. I would do whatever it takes to make sure she has what she needs, regardless of mine.

Another thing I've come to realize is true is how much stress being a parent can put on a relationship. In moments where my daughter is crying and is inconsolable, when we've done all we know to do and she is still crying, it is all too easy to lash out at each other. It cost The Boss and I a few fights and some hurt feelings before we understood that we were doing nothing wrong.

Here's what else I know. Just because I'm changing a diaper does not mean my kid will refrain from peeing or pooping. Sometimes babies just cry. My daughter's smile will always be a bright spot for my day. Getting up during the night when the house is quiet and spending time with her while Mom sleeps is some of the best times I've had.

Most importantly, fatherhood has made me complete where previously I was not.

Happy belated Father's Day to all the fathers out there, and Happy Monday, folks.

Friday, June 17, 2011

In Which I Get Used To Things

As I mentioned earlier in the week, The Boss and I moved in an apartment recently. We had been living in my older sister's finished basement since December, which gave us a chance to save some money and pay down some debt, but it was time to have our own space again. Even though all of our stuff is still in boxes and our primary source of entertainment is watching DVDs on my laptop, it's good to have our privacy back. We've only been in the apartment for a week, but I've already made some interesting observations about our neighbors, both in the apartment building itself and those who live next door.

The building we live in is multifamily. There are three units and three floors, and we're on the second floor. The downstairs tenant has lived there for something like twenty years, and barely makes any noise. She's so quiet, in fact, that we had lived here for three days before I heard her make any sound. I started to think that maybe she had died, she was so quiet. Then, when she did make noise, it was laughter. Creepy, maniacal laughter. I don't know much about her other than the fact that she doesn't go out of the house much (so far this week, her car hasn't moved an inch), and she has a curious cat who likes to sit between the drawn window shades and the window to look at you as you walk by.

There is no one living in the third floor unit currently, so it's been pretty quiet. The only other thing to report is the neighbor who lives in the house to the left of our building. It would be good to tell you first that our apartment is located in a hybrid urban/suburban area. Most of the houses in this area are pretty close together, and none them have any space for grass or lawns, except for the house next to my building.

Being that he has the only turf in the neighborhood for a couple blocks, this guy has it all decked out. You name it, he's got it decorating his lawn. Ceramic garden gnomes? Check. Miniature park bench? You bet. Whimsical stone plates with thoughtful sayings carved into it? Sure thing. Wire fences surrounding potted plants? Of course. To top it all off, he's got a fence that runs around the yard (if you can call it that) and a sign warning everyone that his property is protected by ADT. He's got all of this stuff on a plot of land that is probably twenty square feet. Things are so close together that I don't know how he trims the grass with all of that stuff on it. I sure would like to watch it when he does, though.

So far this place seems to be pretty tame, when compared to other places we've lived. I'm sure that will change as time goes on, but at least it will give me something to write about.

Have a good weekend, everyone.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

In Which I Get Paid Back

It's almost poetic that not long ago, I wrote a post where I made light of The Boss' fear of spiders. I should have known better than to cross that line, because it usually comes back to me many times over. Karma and I haven't been the best of friends in recent years, and I don't see us patching things up any time soon.

You see, here's what happened. I was helping my brother-in-law move a patio canopy that he had setup outside. A gust of strong wind had picked it up and shifted it, and he needed help moving it back into place. He grabbed one side of it, and I grabbed the other. On the count of three we both lifted our respective sides, and moved the canopy.

I saw something moving out of the corner of my eye, but ignored it. I had to make sure I was paying attention to the task at hand, and that I didn't accidentally let one of the canopy support legs get twisted. We had to set things down for a moment, and as my brother-in-law reassessed things, I looked up to the corner of the canopy.

I saw this:




Here's a zoomed in shot of it:




Here in Maine, we have plenty of spiders. I'm not afraid of them at all. Growing up it wasn't odd to find spiders hiding in random places in the house, and if you forgot to shake out your bath towel before using it every morning, well, that was on you. I thought I had seen all the spiders there are in this area of the country, but that sucker sure proved me wrong. 

When I saw that Shelob had migrated from the darkness of Mordor and up to quiet central Maine, I'm surprised I didn't make water in my pants. Normally spiders don't faze me, but this fucker was huge. I have no idea what kind of spider it was, but I immediately called a halt to the canopy-moving process until the spider had been eradicated. I snapped a quick picture with my phone first, and since I had packed up trusty Sting in storage, I used a length of two-by-four instead.

And of course, the first thing I did after killing the spider and finishing up helping my brother-in-law was run to show The Boss to creep her out. I received a punch in the shoulder for it, but it was totally worth it.

Monday, June 13, 2011

In Which It's Better than Nothing

The Boss and I schlepped just about all of our belongings into our new apartment yesterday. Things are in boxes and bags everywhere around me. It's like our storage unit threw up all over our apartment. It's nice to be back on our own, even if we don't have internet hooked up yet and can't figure out which light switch goes to which light. 

In lieu of a new post (because I am sore and just about passing out typing this from exhaustion), I'm going to re-post this gem from about eighteen months ago. The moral of this story is to always be polite.

---

When you have a blog for a while, there are times when you struggle to find things to write about. You sit there at your desk and try to come up with something, anything to fill the empty page on your screen, but there is nothing but that blinking cursor, mocking you. You're just about ready to give up, preparing yourself to write a short post that says "I've got nothing to write about, be back on Monday" and then POOF, like manna from the Gods, something happens. Something you can write about.

Don't you love it when that happens?

I was in the express checkout line yesterday at Walmart waiting to purchase a few items and, as usual, the store was crazy busy and the checkout lines were all running extremely slow. After standing in the same place in line for five minutes I began to wonder why Walmart even bothered to have express checkout lanes. They don't often get you out the door any faster because they put the strangest, slowest (and oldest) cashiers there, and it takes all of my restraint to not jump behind the register and ring up items myself.

At long last there was only one other guy in front of me in line. He held whatever he was buying in front of him as he waited, so during our time in line I couldn't see what he was waiting to pay for. When it was his turn, he set his three items down on the counter: A six-pack of a local micro-brew, some EasyMac, and an economy-size package of 36 latex "ribbed for her pleasure" condoms.

The guy shuffles down to the debit card device and digs out his wallet. The cashier, a middle-aged woman with hair like Lucy from Peanuts and skin and teeth like an ancient crocodile with a penchant for chewing on rocks, bares her snaggle-toothed smile and greets him loudly.

"Heya!" she said. She reached up to the left panel of her standard-issue blue vest and adjusted one of the pins attached to her name tag.

"Hey," the guy said quietly. He was looking down, seemingly very interested in the contents of his wallet.

"How are you today?"

"Fine."

"Yeah?" she asked cheerily. She was very chipper. Almost creepily so. She paused for a moment, and then reached for the box of EasyMac. "I'm fine, too, thanks for asking."

She looked up at him as if she expected him to laugh at her wittiness, and then shook her head when she didn't get a response. She slid the EasyMac over the scanner and bagged it.

"Looks like you're going to have quite the night," she commented. She rang up the beer next. "Can I see some ID?"

The guy looks up, startled. "Wh-what did you say?"

"I need your ID. For the beer," she said.

He dug out his license and handed it over. "No, I meant what did you say before that?"

"Hmm? Oh. I said it looks like you're going to have quite the night. What, with the beer and the condoms and the mac 'n cheese and all." She gestured widely at his purchases with one hand as she keyed in his date of birth.

The color drained from the guy's face. He turned to look at me, and the expression on his face screamed "HELP ME". I shrugged and thanked my lucky stars that this was happening to him and not me.

He stammered and tried to come up with a response, and eventually just decided to stay quiet.

"Personally, I don't much care for them."

"What, the beer? The EasyMac?" the guy asked almost pleadingly.

"No, the ribbed condoms. They say that they're for 'her pleasure', but I don't get it. Maybe I'm just too loose down there for it to matter."

All the color that had drained from his face now came flooding back, and his expression morphed into one of fear. She handed him back his ID and rang up the rubbers. He swiped his debit card through the device and frantically punched in his PIN number.

"I guess when you pop out five kids naturally, that tends to happen," she continued. Having rung up all of his items and processed his debit card, the register spit out his receipt. By the time she pulled it from the printer and handed it over, the guy already had the bag with his items in hand and was walking away.

"Sir! Your receipt!" she called out.

"Keep it!" he yelled over his shoulder. He cast one last frightened look back at the cashier, and then booked it for the door.

I set my basket on the counter, and she turned to look at me. She crumpled up his receipt and threw it away.

"Heya!" she said again, in her classic cherry voice. "How are you today?"

I responded immediately. "Good, and you?"

---

Happy Monday, folks.

P.S. Baby Badass is two months old today. Time flies!

Friday, June 10, 2011

In Which It's Been Five Years

Today marks the fifth wedding anniversary for The Boss and I. 

Five whole years. A lot of things can happen in a year, and to think about all that has changed in the past five is almost too much to think of. It is, of course, easier to think of the moments when things weren't going so well, but when I put my mind to it and think back, the amount of good times we've had thus far are innumerable.

Limitations of our work schedules and the fact that we are moving into an apartment soon (finally!) prevented us from being able to make any special plans to celebrate our anniversary on the actual day, but we do hope to have a chance to make it up later on. I do plan on surprising her at work with her favorite flowers (Gerber daisies) and picking up a romantically mushy card. It's the least I can do for a woman who made an honest man out of me.

If you want to read about how The Boss and I met and where it all began, check out this post.

Have a good weekend, everyone.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

In Which I Defend Myself

I was reading something online recently when it occurred to me how awesome it is that most animals have defense systems built right into their bodies. I don't recall how that was related to anything I was doing or reading as I usually don't read anything about animals, but it popped into my mind and it got me thinking. 

Porcupines have their quills, turtles their shells, chameleons their camouflage, and skunks have their horrid smelling scent ducts. Some species of frogs secrete poison from their skin, while other frogs simply urinate like water coming from a fire hose (I speak from personal experience on that one. I was so excited to see this huge frog in our backyard, I had to pick it up. It was awesome... until the fucker peed on me.). I'm sure there are tons of other ways animals defend themselves that I haven't mentioned, but what really piqued my interest was wondering what natural, pre-installed defense mechanisms we humans have.

I'm not talking about weapons or body armor or bomb shelters here. I'm talking about features we were born with, things we have within ourselves to ward off those who threaten us. Of course, a couple of things immediately came to mind when I asked myself that question.

My first defense when I feel uncomfortable is stuttering. My firm grasp on the spoken English language slips away like Kirsti Alley's willpower after Jenny Craig. If that doesn't work, I start scratching my head like I got a sudden and severely dry scalp. From there I usually resort to profuse sweating, and then loud stomach gurgles. The absolute nuclear option is gas or the expulsion of some bodily fluid. It's never come to that last step, but it's good to have a plan. 

I'm not sure how well those things would work against zombies, but I'm pretty sure it'd keep me safe from anything else. 

What are your defense mechanisms? 

Monday, June 6, 2011

In Which I Think Change is Good

I've been a father for almost two months now, and during that time I have learned more about myself than I have learned over about as many years. It's amazing how quickly the transformation from man into father happened, and how deeply the roots of those changes run. To think I was worried that I wouldn't have any paternal instincts is almost laughable now.

Two months ago I was a guy who was uncomfortable with the thought of dirty diapers and, for the past twenty or so years of his life, would vomit if he witnessed someone else vomiting. Now without batting an eye, I clean up horrific diaper messes and wipe up seemingly ceaseless vomit disasters that even FEMA would quail at. Two months ago I was a guy who thought mostly of things he wanted for himself. Now I think solely of things I want for my family, and the extents of which I am willing to go through to make it happen. 

I know that deep down inside that all of these new feelings and instincts were a part of me right from the start (as corny as that sounds), and that it took the birth of my first child to bring it all to the surface. The changes within me are good, wholesome, necessary changes. I just wish I had a chance to experience some of it before, if only to dissuade my fears. 




I know now that there is nothing to be afraid of. I know because all I have to do is hold her, to have her wrap her tiny hand around my finger and feel the strength of her grip. All I have to do is see her smile when I'm getting her dressed for the day or when I make funny faces at her. I know because I've got an amazing wife alongside me the entire way, and we're going through this all together, one way or another. 

I've been a father for almost two months now, and I can't wait to see what's next.

Happy Monday, folks.

Friday, June 3, 2011

In Which I Didn't Realize It Was That Kind of Store

I feel like I've been lazy with this blog lately. I know I've cheaped out on a couple of recent posts, and I feel kinda bad about it. I don't want you all to think I'm running out of steam. It's just been crazy around here. Excuses aside, I was all set to write something more along the normal vein of things I post about here, but then something happened that is just too good not to share.

While perusing through a dollar store in town, I saw this wonderful gem:




That's right, folks. Two naked babies with matching expressions of ecstasy (okay, just happiness) riding a motorcycle. Combine that with the clever phrase "Love is a wild ride" and you've got a one-two punch of something that straddles the borderline between cutesy and pedophilia.

It didn't end there, though. After snapping that picture, I turned the corner and stepped on something. I looked down and saw I had stepped on a cardboard box that had been broken down and was laying on the floor. I lifted my foot and did a double take. Here's what was printed on the box:




Of course I know what that's supposed to be, but seriously. I would have a hard time believing you if you told me that the first thing that came to mind upon seeing three little oval-shaped blobs with wiggly tails was balloons. To me, that wonderful display of graphic design prowess looks exactly like three little spermies. 

And to think, all this time I was living in a city that was home to a dollar store that sells things with images of naked babies spooning and considers a bunch of sperm to be a party accessory. Wonders will never cease.

Have a good weekend, everyone.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

In Which I'd Have a Hard Time Waiting, Too

It's an age-old question, one that most of us surely have been asked at least once in our lives.

What would you do for a Klondike Bar?

I, for one, am not going to go out of my way to get a Klondike Bar, so my usual response is that I'll go out to the store and buy some. There have been commercials where guys massage their mother-in-law's feet or something, but my desire for ice creamy delight does not stretch that far. If it came down to it, I'd just go without.

I can't say the same for the guy who was responsible for quality control on a package of Klondike Bars I bought recently, though. See for yourself. This was exactly how it looked after taking it out of the cellophane wrapper:





Misshapened, not entirely square, and definitely not wrapped properly. Blaming it on a faulty robot or assembly machine that was probably responsible for the wrapping and packaging, I unwrapped it, and saw this:




Again, probably the fault of the machinery used to produce it, but all I could picture was this guy decked out in an insulated worksuit, gloves, and face mask, standing at the conveyor belt where all the recently made Klondike Bars roll past. His job is to take any of the deformed ones off the belt and discard them, and on this particular day, his hunger gets the better of him. Making sure no one is looking, he pulls down his face mask and plucks up a perfectly good Bar and takes a monstrous bite. Hearing noise behind him, he quickly puts his mask back on. In his haste he accidentally put his bitten Klondike Bar back on the conveyor belt instead of in the discard pile. 

For this guy, the answer to the question of "What would you do?" is "Not wait for my scheduled break."

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I've noticed some issues with commenting on Blogger recently, so I've installed Disqus (a commenting forum) to use instead. Please let me know if you have any issues, or if you dislike/like the new comment method. If I like the way it works, I just might keep it.