Move It or Put A House Number On It!

Driving to work this morning, running late (as usual) and I get stuck behind this:  red-mustang being driven by him:  old-man.  I’m driving to work.  So I’m fairly certain it’s not Sunday, but don’t tell that to Gramps there ’cause he and the missus were our for that kinda drive.

For a moment, (I had plenty of them to choose from driving behind this guy) I imagined the day he bought this car.

He hobbles up to the vehicle on the lot, a look of loving desire in his eyes, and maybe just a hint of a tent, in his pants and reaches out his lone free, gnarled hand (the one not steadying him by holding on to the cane for dear life) to touch this thing of beauty.

A salesman walks up.  We’re not sure if the look on his face is lasciviousness savoring the moment he’s going to take the old man for 15% more than the asking price; or if it’s resentment, angry at this old coot for taking up his time when surely he’ wasn’t going to buy such a beautiful specimen of a sports car.  “She’s a beaut, isn’t she?!” the salesman says, “Would you like to take her for a test drive?”

The old man just shakes his head and smiles.  “No thanks son.  I’ve already made up my mind.  I’ve been waiting 50 years to own me a mustang, and now I can afford it.  This is the one I want, right here.  I’ll take ‘er.”

The salesman is a little surprised now but happy to oblige.  “Well yes sir, Why don’t we step inside and get the paperwork started.  While you’re doing that, I’ll take your new car and get it detailed and fill up the tank and then you’ll be on your way!”

That salesman did the little old man and me and the world a disservice because let’s face it!  If you’re too timid to even drive THE SPEED LIMIT, then you have no business driving a sports car!

Germy Germison

Green M&M is a borderline neurotic germaphobe. She carries Ass Gaskets (toilet seat liners) in her purse. Despite this, in public bathrooms, she still hovers to pee, uses her foot to flush, dispenses the paper towel before she washes her hands and uses the paper towel to turn off the faucets and open the bathroom doors. When her now nearly (GASP!) 16 year old nephew was a little boy, she passed this crazy on to him (possibly not the hovering part).

It goes without saying that I give her a never ending rash of shit over this obsessive compulsive behavior. She responds that people are gross (granted) and that it’s unhealthy not to do these things. I remind her that if these things were true we wouldn’t be here now. I’m pretty sure cavemen didn’t have Ass Gaskets. The prairie dwelling farmers of the 18th century had no running water or disinfecting hand soap. Hell, Purell hand sanitizer, in which she should own stock, didn’t even exist until the last decade or so.

Don’t get me wrong. I agree it’s important to take precautions and I never, EVER, leave the bathroom without at least running some water over my hands (to quote Boston Legal’s Allen Shore, “I keep a very clean penis.”) but I do think it’s possible to go overboard and she has certainly done that.

Today, while sitting in the stall in the office mensroom I was reminded of all this when, while taking care of my own business, I listened as no fewer than three “Gentlemen” came into the bathroom, took care of their business, and left again with nary a drop of water spilled in the basin. This is particularly disturbing to me because I work for a health care organization (don’t worry, no medical personnel here). However, it got me thinking, if germs were so rampant, there’d be no hope for us in my office because clearly there are germs being spread like crazy.

I thought about this… I thought about it a lot… I thought about it while I was washing my hands (three times)… And while I was using the automatic feature to dispense a paper towel… And while I used the paper towel to open the door when I left.

Decisions, Decisions (Who Needs Decisions)

Yesterday was the first of two whole (and I use that term loosely) days this week I get to spend with she, who has previously been known as “Eve”, but is now to be known as “Her Royal Awesomeness”.  We will be spending Friday together at The Tech Museum, in San Jose, however due to another familial obligation Her Royal Awesomeness will have to cut the day short at dinner time.

We had big plans, which, to quote Her Royal Awesomeness, “consisted of lots of eating and indecision”  HRA and I are, the two least decisive individuals known to man, which makes us either the perfect pair who enjoy spending hours on end together, or two people who waste an inordinate amount of time trying to figure the other one out… I prefer the first answer.

It’s been raining – I was going to say, “raining up a storm” but I guess that’s a bit redundant – here in Northern California and my 40+ mile drive from my house in Oakland to Her Royal Awesomeness’s Grandparents house in San Jose, took a little longer than usual due to the worsened conditions.

I arrived in one piece and we headed out for our strategically planned day.  I asked her, “So!  What do you want to do?”

“I don’t know.  What do you want to do?”

See?  Now that’s what I call Strategery!  We have not an original bone between us and we did the same thing we almost always do:  lunch at The Cheesecake Factory, shopping at Target, wandering aimlessly around the mall, and a movie (He’s Just Not that Into You.)  Mostly it’s just about spending time together and getting to talk.  Something that doesn’t happen nearly enough for my taste.

By the time I was driving home, at 10:00 at night, the rain was coming down in buckets.  I drove home, wipers at full blast, eye’s wide open and knuckles white with tension.  Highway 880 isn’t the best lit (or striped) highway in the bay area and with the rain and the dark the drive was pretty tense.  I pulled into my garage and pried my fingers loose from the  steering wheel.

But you know what?  I’d do it all over again without a moments hesitation.  That’s how important this friend is to me.

So what about you?  What torment have you put yourself through for the sake of a friend?  Would you do it again?

Such A Twit

twitterI’ve recently fallen pray to a new addiction.  It’s called Twitter and it’s more fun than one person is entitled to have.

I “follow” 52 people, most of whom are famous celebrities.  I have 13 followers following me.  Many of whom, again, are famous celebrities.  I interact with these people every day.  I read their messages, I laugh at their jokes, I click on their links.  We have a good old time.  ‘Course none of them are talking directly to me, and with one notable exception, I’ve never received a reply to anything I’ve directed at anyone specific.  Yes, that’s right!  @therealnph (to use proper Twitter lingo) has tweeted at me… ‘Course the jury is still out on whether he’s really the real NPH, (That’s Neil Patrick Harris, for those not in the know) but I guess I can now say “I’m friends with ‘therealnph’.”

I’ve really enjoyed being on Twitter.  It’s open on my computer all the time, whether I’m at home or at work.  I’ve got two separate apps on my iPhone for accessing the Twitter platform.  I’m always on Twitter and it’s great fun.  However, I can’t help wonder what Twitter feels like to someone who is like I was most of my life; easily discouraged, insecure, feeling unloved and unwanted.

You see, being on Twitter tests my ability to handle rejection and judge my own self worth.  Having been clinically depressed most of my life, having based a lot of my self worth on whether or not other people wanted me around (or how I perceived whether they wanted me around), I could understand how someone who experiences these things would quickly be discouraged, possibly even hurt, by being a Twit.  It would be easy to develop a false sense of popularity, or cool…ness.  I don’t have five real friends so 52 twitter friends seems pretty impressive, ‘course most of them don’t know I’m following them. (Doesn’t that make me more like a Twitter stalker?) I’m just one of a legion.  And those that follow me, probably follow everyone who follows them.  Let’s see…

hal-sparks-autographHal Sparks is being followed by 656 people and  following 327 people.  I’m one of those 327.  OK.  I guess I’m special.

hayden-panettiereHayden Panettiere is being followed by 341 people and is following 81.  Not only am I one of them but she added me as someone she’s following within minutes of me adding her as someone I’d follow.  I guess that’s kinda special!

gavinnewsomNow, Gavin Newsom is being followed by 1351 people and is following 1262 people.  I’m one of those people, but that’s 93% of the people following him.  More importantly, Gavin Newsom is the Mayor of San Francisco and running for Governor of California.  I’m sure his following me is politically motivated…  More importantly, I’m certain Gavin Newsom himself rarely, if ever, sees his own Twitter timeline and the person/people really seeing my tweets are interns working on his campaign.  Me?  Not so special.

livestrong3I follow the LIVESTRONG foundation.  Livestrong has 5905 people following them and they’re following 6182 people.  This would imply that they’re following 100% of the people following them and then some.  Once again, me not special.

scharzenegger_narrowweb__300x3790Arnold Schwarzenegger is being followed by 16,760 people and is following 16,487 people.  I’m one of those people, but that’s 98% of his followers.  Among the masses, am I.  (Who let Yoda in here?)  Arnold is our current Governor so obviously his Twitter activity is politically motivated.

maria-shriverMaria Shriver (mostly just ’cause I can) is being followed by 6708 people and is following 5515.  Well, that’s only 82% and she started following me pretty much immediately too.  I guess that would be kinda special but she’s the Governor’s wife.  She has her own political function.  Again, pretty sure it’s an intern of some sort running her show.  Besides which, nothing has been posted in her name since I signed up.

barack-obama-for-presidentOh, and then, of course, there’s Barack Obama.  Followed by 298,345 people and following 287,407.  That’s 96%.  I’m one of them, added on the same day.  I’d feel special but I’ve never been more sure of anything than I am that The President of the United States is not running his own Twitter account.

I seem to have gotten a little lost in my point making.  Oh yes.

While I could be wrong and one or two of the people I listed up there might have found something interesting in the very slight bit of information they might find about me, I doubt it very much and can only assume that adding me as someone they follow was somehow a political/career move on their parts.  If what they thought of me mattered, or if I was counting on Twitter Popularity to make me feel good about myself that would probably hurt me.  If I had some real hope of becoming friends with famous people because I Tweet (and if you’re reading this, I do want to be your friend.  Let’s do lunch!), I’d certainly be setting myself up for a fall.  But I don’t expect that’s going to happen. I take Twitter for what it is and I do not expect anything more than what I’m getting.

Clinical Depression is not something that just goes away.  For me, it’s under control now.  I’ve learned a lot about myself and about life and I have, at least some, of the tools necessary to deal with it.  So while I admit that I get pangs of unwarranted negative feelings about what happens on Twitter, I am quick to remember that this is not where my value lies and not what my self worth is based on.  It’s just a fun thing to do!

Oh!  And Hal, Hayden, Mayor Newsom, LIVESTRONG dudes, Governor Schwarzenegger, Maria or President Obama (or any of your Interns), if you’re reading this, thanks for following me on Twitter and for stopping by my blog!  You’re my favorite Comedian, Actress, Mayor, Charitable Organization, Governor, State First Lady, or President (or any of their Interns) reading this at this moment!

Well, Either You’re Closing Your Eyes to a Situation You Do Not Wish to Acknowledge, or You Are Not Aware of the Caliber of Disaster Indicated. Ya Got Trouble, My Friend, Right Here, I Say, Trouble Right Here in River City.

In case you haven’t heard, times are very tough.

unemploymentMillions of people have been laid off from their jobs and the national unemployment rate is 7.6 percent as of January.  In California where I live it’s higher, at 9.3 percent.

The state of California is broke with a $42 billion budget deficit and it’s only getting worse by the day as the state legislature can’t seem to come to an agreement on the budget.

Can we all agree that times are tough?

I’ve known this all along but somehow I guess I didn’t really get it.  I’ve been suffering from “not me” syndrome.  “Yeah, it sucks.  Yeah people are hurting and I wish I could do something, but at least it won’t happen to me.”

Before anybody get’s too worried about me, no, it hasn’t happened to me… not yet, anyway.  For weeks, maybe even months, Douche Bag has been saying that we have to tighten our belts and cut back on spending, but he’s also been saying that we were not going to be facing any lay-offs.  “Senior Leadership” has stated that it won’t benefit The Company that Created the HMO to lay people off because after you pay severance packages you don’t realize any cost savings for at least a year if not longer.

Last week an e-mail went out from the President of Operations addressing the current economic crisis.  The e-mail said that we were facing some lean times.  It said that in an attempt to deal with these lean times they were taking certain measures to ready ourselves for the tough times ahead.  Among those measures was freezing the salaries of the top 500 employees.  This is a good move.  It proves that they are not just out for themselves and that they are trying to take care of their employees.  The e-mail went on to say that while The Company that Created the HMO was still going to give merit increases, they were reducing the overall budget for the increases by 1%.  Normally, my region’s budget is 3% so this year it would be 2%.  Not great news but livable.  In addition they were still going to give out the annual bonuses that we traditionally get in March.

Honestly, I had full expected to get absolutely nothing this year.  Not an idea I enjoy but not surprising, so it didn’t come as a huge surprise when the follow up e-mail came today.  While The Company that Created the HMO as a whole is following those measures, it has been determined that some regions will need to take additional measures, determined by the market they serve.  Northern California is one of those regions.  Not only will the top 500 Executives have their salaries frozen, but not a single one of the Northern California non-union employees receive a raise before fourth quarter when they will re-evaluate our financial status.  (Read, probably not then either.)  We will still receive our bonuses, which comes as a surprise to me but, raises will not be happening.  And then the big shocker, the e-mail stated that it will not be sufficient to maintain our 2008 staffing levels.  We must reduce the number of full time employees.  There’s no other way to read that, there will be lay-offs.  I think, perhaps, it would have been good if they’d included in that information when and how many they are planning, but at least now we know that it’s going to happen.

I’ve given a lot of thought over the last few weeks, as rumors started flying, about how I could see this playing out and there are a number of scenarios that could play out that would leave me vulnerable.  I have the most seniority in the department, besides Douche Bag, and my function is somewhat unique, in that no one else in the department does what I do.  It could be that the seniority will save me, but on the other and it could be that the seniority also makes me too expensive to keep around.  It could be that the uniqueness of my position will save me, but then again I do have a counterpart in another building that does the same thing and there was a time when our jobs were a one man operation for all of Downtown Oakland.  There has already been a proposition that the functions I currently perform should be consolidated to this other person leaving me free to take on other responsibilities.

I see three possible scenarios with that as well:

  1. Captain Oblivious will approve the proposal to consolidate the function to my counterpart and I’ll continue working here fulfilling other responsibilities – and potentially finding a way to like my job again;
  2. Captain Oblivious will deny the proposal with concern that doing this would leave me vulnerable to being laid-off;
  3. Captain Oblivious will approve the proposal and instruct that I be laid-off.

I have a peace about this.  There’s nothing I can do to change how things will play out.  I go to work everyday and do the best job I can do (when I’m not reading or writing blog entries or Tweeting) and wait to see what happens.  In the end there’s not much more I can do besides leave it in God’s hands.  I trust that he will lead me through it.

Yes, times are tough, but things will turn around.  They always do

I Do Not Think That Word Means What You Think It Means

I spent most of yesterday at Green M&M’s house doing laundry.  We have a long-standing arrangement, that might some day be explained in another post, where I come over to her house every other Saturday to do my laundry (the machines in my duplex cost $2.00 per load per machine) and it gives us an opportunity to hang out together.  I like it ’cause it’s a more convenient way to do my laundry (really) and it guarantees we will hang out, without having to put much thought into it or spend a lot of money.

Yesterday was our “anniversary” of sorts.  We don’t really have an anniversary, but the first time we saw each other socially, was when I invited her to come over for dinner and to watch a movie, 10 years ago.  I was new to the Bay Area and didn’t have any friends and we’d gotten to know each other at work and become friends.  I invited her over and it didn’t dawn on me until she showed up at my door-step with flowers (Tulips, which happen to be my favorites) that it was in fact Valentine’s Day.

We went to lunch at Applebee’s.  My food wasn’t what I’d hoped for but we had fun anyway.  Then we went to Target for some brief shopping.  We went back to her apartment, I did my laundry, we watched Transformers, and had Surf and Turf for dinner.  I was home by 11:00 much to Scared Kitty’s delight.  (He hadn’t been fed since I left him twelve hours earlier.)

menu_sweet_corn_tamale_cakesToday we went to The Cheesecake Factory.  I’d heard the hosts of my favorite morning radio show talking about it earlier this week and I was craving it after that.  It’s been pouring rain since the middle of last night and I really expected Green M&M to tell me she didn’t want to go, but she showed up at my house at noon as planned.  It’s an eighteen mile drive to the nearest Cheesecake Factory and we got there just in time to wait for thirty  minutes for a table.  A year and a half ago I was introduced to the Sweet Corn Tamale Cakes and was astonished at how completely delicious they were.  Don’t be fooled by what you see in this picture!  Each of these tamale cakes is four inches in diameter and piled high with fixin’s!  They are listed on the appetizer menu, but they are more than sufficient as a meal!  Especially if you want to have Cheesecake later!  Even still, I eat the tamale cakes at the restaurant and bring cheesecake home for later!

Looking forward to the Sweet Corn Tamale Cakes all week, I didn’t even need to look at the menu when we were seated.  I knew what I wanted!

You know how sometimes you build something up in your head as being so tremendously wonderful?   You know how sometimes when you actually get that thing, it can’t compare to the build-up in your mind?  😦  That’s what happened today.  This was the fourth or fifth consecutive visit in which the Sweet Corn Tamale Cakes have been my entree, but this time, they just didn’t measure up.  Such a disappointment!  Cest la vie!  It was probably just a fluke.

Green M&M was born on St. Patrick’s Day and she wanted to go into the mall to look for St. Patrick’s Day t-shirts and buy a birthday gift for her Step-sister who’s birthday just passed.  While we were in one of a department stores I saw this:  p-640-480-38ae9513-9345-4b03-80a1-8734653408a4.jpeg

Notice the tag:  “Floor Ready Date: 2/13”.  Today is the 15th.  Somehow I don’t think this is what they meant!

The drive home was quite exciting.  Torrential rain left visibilities at just a few hundred yards.  Interstate 580 West bound between Pleasanton and Oakland is not a terribly fun stretch to drive in the first place, but with the bad conditions it’s even worse.  Driving 55 miles per hour and white nucklin’ it all the way.  I was starting to relax as we got closer to my exit when suddenly there was a sea of red lights ahead of me.  Fortunately, I was able to get off the highway before I got to the stand-still so I didn’t actually see what happened.  I can only assume a major accident.  Somebody had a bad day.  I’ve been there.  Glad it wasn’t me.

I drove the last six miles home on city streets I did not know, following the instructions of Gidget the gadget (that’s what I call my GPS system.  I figure any woman who gets to boss me around oughta have a name!)  But I made it home, safe and sound, all in one piece with no dings or dents and none the worse for the wear…  Except for the three different pieces of cheesecake in my fridge.  I never can decide on just one when I’m there.

What Have You Done Today to Make You Feel Proud?

This song came up on my iPhone Genius Play-list today.  It is appropriately used as the theme song for The Biggest Loser.  It was also used at the tail end of the very first, and very last episodes of the US version of Queer As Folk. Also very fitting by my estimation.  I find it tremendously inspirational!

Proud, by Heather Small

I look into the window of my mind
Reflections of the fears I know I’ve left behind
I step out of the ordinary
I can feel my soul ascending
I’m on my way
Can’t stop me now
And you can do the same

What have you done today to make you feel proud?
It’s never too late to try
What have you done today to make you feel proud?
You could be so many people
If you make that break for freedom
What have you done today to make you feel proud?

Still so many answers I don’t know
I Realise that to question is how we grow
So I step out of the ordinary
I can feel my soul ascending
I am on my way
Can’t stop me now
And you can do the same

What have you done today to make you feel proud?
It’s never too late to try
What have you done today to make you feel proud?
You could be so many people
If you make that break for freedom
What have you done today to make you feel proud?

Yeah, We need a change
Yeah, Do it today
Yeah, I can feel my spirit rising
Change, yeah
We need a change, yeah
So do it today, yeah
‘Cause I can see a clear horizon

What have you done today to make you feel proud?
So what have you done today to make you feel proud?
‘Cause you could be so many people
If you make that break for freedom
So what have you done today to make you feel proud?
What have you done today to make you feel proud?
What have you done today
What have you done today
What have you done today to make you feel proud?
You could be so many people?
Just make that break for freedom
So what have you done today to make you feel proud?