Friday, February 27, 2009

Severe Bummer Alert

Please note: This Mousebed is sad. Like, really really sad. It involves a dead pet, and if that makes you cry – like it makes me cry – you probably shouldn’t read this post. Go back and read a Mousebed that isn’t sad. There’s even a great podcast of me complaining about things that aren’t as sad. You’ve been warned.

I love pets. I am in no way ashamed to admit that I will spend hours looking at pictures of cats and dogs doing stupid stuff. I get really excited when I see things like baby hedgehogs. They’re adorable. You may recall from an earlier essay that I grew up in a weird planned community/upper class slum, which didn’t allow pets. When I was eight, my mom got remarried, I was adopted by her new husband, and we moved into a house, which allowed pets. It was awesome. For the first year and a half or so, I didn’t really trust my new dad. For one thing, he was new. He represented all the changes in my life that I didn’t like. In hindsight, they were all for the best. I lived in a nicer neighborhood and we lived a pretty opulent life, compared to my old one. And again, I could finally get a pet. That’s really what was most important.

Right around Christmas I got a cat. I couldn’t believe it. He was orange and he liked to poop behind things like television sets and bookcases. My dad decided the best possible name for him, considering how much he liked to leave dried up turds everywhere, would be Crusty. I was eight, so it’s not like I was coming up with a better name. Best of all, my mom hated the name so it stuck.

Crusty was a pretty horrible cat. Like I said, he liked to poop behind things that were hard to move, he liked peeing in my parents’ bedroom, and he really liked scratching me. He even ate my Magic cards. He got fleas one time and they infested my entire bedroom. I was riddled with fleabites for a whole month. I realize he was a burden on my parents – after he died they had to put in new carpets – but I really loved him. He didn’t feel the same way about me, however. I was a little overzealous in my love of the cat. I wanted him to hang out with me. I don’t know if you’ve ever spent time with cats, but they’re more into hanging out with you if you’re not a spastic nine year old.

I was also really protective of my cat. I figured since I was his best friend – according to me, at least – that I knew what was best for him. I barely let my parents neuter him, so when they told me that they thought he should become an outdoor cat, I was skeptical. I didn’t want him getting mixed up with the riff raff and the other neighborhood cats. I mostly didn’t want him hanging out with my dad’s dogs. When my mom and I moved in with my dad, he had two dogs. One was an English Bulldog/Lab mix named Jamaica and his very angry and protective mother, a Labrador named Diamond. Jamaica was, true to his name, a pretty chill dog. Diamond was an asshole. One time we all went for a walk in the woods and she stole the ice cream sandwich I was eating. She jumped up and ate it right out of my hand. It sucked. I didn’t really care for Diamond after that. Whenever she came inside, she tried to fight my cat, so that didn’t score her any points either. Anyhow, I couldn’t do much to protest. Crusty was to become an outdoor cat.

That same week, I got some even more horrifying news. My parents didn’t just want the cat out of the house; they wanted to ship me off to summer camp. They were sending me away for ten whole days, to be holed up in a cabin in the woods in Duxbury, MA with a bunch of weird kids. I didn’t want to spend a week and a half away from my life, my new friends, my video games and most of all, my cat. I protested, but the problem with being nine is that nobody ever listens to you.

All in all, camp was pretty awesome. I learned how to use a bow, I learned how to make campfires, and I made my own Ghostbuster costume for the Halloween-themed party on the second to last night. I even learned how to make a candle out of only a wick and some wax! The best part was volunteering at the farm and spending time with the animals. I made friends with a goat, a chicken, and the family of calico cats living in the hay. I kind of wanted to just move into the barn.

When I finally came home from camp, the only thing I wanted was to see my cat. I put my sleeping bag and my backpack up in my bedroom and ran out to the backyard to see what he was up to. I was horrified to find that somehow he had managed to make his way into the dogs’ pen, and they had ripped him apart. It’s the worst thing I’ve ever seen. I ran inside and told my mom, who came out to look at the situation. She told me that my dad didn’t like the cat, and he had put the cat in the pen because he didn’t want him around anymore. I believed her because I was in shock, but looking back it didn’t really make any kind of sense. If he really wanted to get rid of the cat, he could have just given him away or put him out in the woods. Having his dogs kill the cat and leaving the body out there for me to find it isn’t exactly the perfect crime.

Anyhow, the aftermath of the dead cat situation was pretty gruesome. I developed a deep distrust of my dad, and my mom made my shit list just for suggesting that the cat should spend time outside. My dad had to euthanize Diamond at my mom’s decree. He wasn’t pleased about that development, either. This was really a losing proposition for everybody. I would go on to get another cat that would live a full and happy life before dying of natural causes, but I never let him outside.

You’d think I’d have learned my lesson from all of this, but sadly I did not. A few years after my second cat died, I got a third one. His name was Leon and he was the cat I always wanted. He would hang out with me in my room, and once he managed to trip my mom, causing her to break her leg in four places. As a result of my mom’s inability to navigate her way around him, my parents convinced me that he should be an outdoor cat. I took a week-long trip to Ohio that summer, and when I got home the cat was gone. He must have run away or gotten hit by a car. When I asked my mom what happened to him she said “What cat?” and never spoke of it again.

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Just so this post isn’t all dead cats and gloom, here’s Peepopo. In this picture she's sleeping with a pillow shaped like a cat. She’s not an outdoor cat. One time she ran through the front door of the apartment to make a daring escape, but when she saw how big the world outside was, she smooshed herself down onto the tile floor of the lobby and slithered back inside like a furry, ashamed snake. She doesn’t much care for the outside anymore, and I couldn’t be happier. The pillow's name is Norman, and he's also an indoor cat.

Photobucket

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Adidas Story 3: Sweatshirt Folding and Orwellian Mindgames

Adidas was a weird place. There were all kinds of behind-the-scenes deals and bargains made in the time I was there. The first winter I spent at adidas was full of said shady dealings. To set the scene, I was working two jobs. The first was as a personal assistant in the morning, a job that got me a free apartment and sometimes even free food. It was an awesome gig. Unfortunately, it was miles away from adidas, so I had to take the bus to and from Santa Monica every day. I’d get up around 9am, work until about 12:30, take a bus to work and toil away until about 11pm every night. I’d then take a bus home and finally get to sleep around 2:30am. I did this almost every day for nine months, and it was miserable. When I tell people the day I got married was the greatest day of my life, that’s because it meant that I only had to work one full time job.

Closing at adidas meant that every night, I had to straighten out all of the clothing. I had to make sure everything on hangers was hung in order from smallest to largest, everything was in the right place, everything was restocked and everything that was folded got folded properly. There was no greater stickler for closing procedure detail than Sal. Sal went by many titles in his time at adidas. He was the stockroom manager, footwear manager, operations manager – he changed positions pretty often. One reason for this may have been his complete and utter incompetence. There wasn’t a single thing he wasn’t terrible at. Whenever Sal closed, he would make sure to make everybody miserable. After the staff would spend an entire hour cleaning, organizing and sorting, Sal would roll through and declare it “unfit to close.” Nobody was sure what this meant. All we knew was that Sal wanted us to re-do everything, which really blew ass considering how much work we had already done. Most managers would have us out the door by 10:30 every night; Sal would make sure we were there until well past 11pm. It sucked. One particular evening, I figured I would beat Sal at his own game. I folded all the sweatshirts on his favorite table exactly the way he liked them. He came by, unfolded one of them and told me that I needed to refold the whole table because he didn’t think the adidas logo was in the right spot on any of them. Needless to say, I told him to fuck himself. That was probably the most frustrating thing about Sal. You could tell him anything and he’d laugh it off. I famously had a nervous breakdown at work one day and screamed obscenities at him for nearly 15 full minutes, telling him in no uncertain terms that everything he did, knew and believed was completely wrong. To paraphrase Dana Gould, like a diamond cut by a retard, every facet of Sal was perfectly wrong.

One night I finally snapped and talked to Alon, our general manager. I told him that if Sal wouldn’t stop being such a colossal fuckup, I’d quit. Alon decided it would be best to take me out to dinner that night, for some reason. I was hoping he would promote me or something. At least explain to me what was wrong with Sal’s brain. Maybe working in the stockroom for so long had damaged his cognitive abilities.

Alon really liked the idea of not being a Jewish stereotype. Unfortunately, he was. That night we went out to get Chinese food from the fabulous 3rd Street Promenade Food Court, where he insisted that the guy behind the counter ought to give him more chicken because it was the end of the night and he’d be throwing it out anyhow. He made it a point to do the same for my plate, and when we sat down he explained that “you gotta know how to work these people for extra food. They never give you what you pay for, and that’s how they get you.” I couldn’t believe it. It was like he stepped right out of a Leni Riefenstahl film and into a yarmulke. He pulled a list of names out of his pocket and put it on the table. He told me he knew I was somebody who would “not pull any punches” and tell him how I really felt about the people at the store. The list was of every person on the payroll at adidas. He wanted me to go through the list and tell him why I would fire everybody who worked there. I tried really hard not to laugh. It was like I had gotten a hold of Nixon’s enemies list. I told him that I didn’t particularly care for Sal, and I mentioned a few other people on the list that I felt the store could do without, but the idea of selling every person on that list down the river seemed so horrible to me. I would learn later, not exactly to my surprise, that others were given the same list. There are, no doubt, many people reading this essay who know more about Alon’s enemies list than I do. I’ve been curious for quite some time about the fate of that list, and if anybody actually got fired because of it. If you have any kind of information, please leave it in the comments section of this post.

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If you would like to read more adidas stories, here are the links:
1 Seth and Yanira
2 Area Leads and the NBA Event
3 Sweatshirt Folding and Orwellian Mindgames
4 (I Don't Want to go to) Chelsea
5 Stockroom MADNESS!
6 Santa Monica T-Shirt Boulevard
7 Shitwater Canyon and Fruit Flygueroa
8 Slowpoke Rodriguez and the Adidas Cavalcade of Stars!
9 How to Lose Friends and Influence Nobody
10 From the Basement to the Dream Factory

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Back by Lack of Popular Outrage

The good people at Podbean informed me that 10 people streamed our last podcast. Of those 10 people, two were mousebed staff writers. Of the eight that weren't, one voted in our poll and said they wanted more.

Well Captain Anonymous Listener/Voter, today is your lucky day! In my first official act as Podcaster General, I proudly present Episode 2 of Taking a Fifteen with John and Josh!!!



Here's what you can expect in this installment:

  • Josh pissed
  • Josh dissing athiests and believers at the same time
  • John and Josh both drinking Danny Ainge's ginger ale
  • Stories about crazy Los Angelenos
  • Substantially less racial insensitivity
  • Shoutouts to listeners who give feedback (Take a hint, people)
  • John clicking his laptop dozens of times
  • State of the Podcasting Union
  • Teaser for adidas mousebed Thursday
If you like our podcast, tell a friend. Please leave feedback in the comments.

Free Ahmad Bradshaw

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The Da Vinci Code: Not for Babies!

Over the last few years, many delightful children’s series have come out which, although geared towards younger readers, deal with more or less “adult” themes: His Dark Materials questions the possibility of intelligent design; A Series of Unfortunate Events acknowledges that human beings don’t necessarily have control over their own fates; and the Twilight series gives us a window into the frustrations of being a sexually abstinent teenager who is torn between the love of a vampire who sparkles and a werewolf who will totally do you.

Dan Brown makes an interesting attempt to join these ranks with his The Da Vinci Code, but although his good intentions are evident, his finished product falls short of the mark. His first mistake is huge: typically books for younger readers feature young characters, but the main character of the Da Vinci Code, rather than being juvenile, is a mature professor of occult symbology, to whom few children will find it easy to relate. As a matter of fact, there are no characters in the book under the age of thirty, and the most childlike character, a giant, self-flagellating albino named Silas, is more likely to give children nightmares than to inspire their empathy.

On the positive side, Brown’s writing is certainly not above a fifth or sixth grade level, and the “puzzles” his characters need to solve within their quest are simple enough for any bright kid who may have taken an extra-curricular art course, or passed a junior high school history unit on the Renaissance. Children will have little trouble following the main thrust of the plot, even though Brown’s explanatory asides tend to be clumsy and occasionally patronizing towards the reader. But again, the content tends to be poorly chosen--a youngster who picks up this book out of an interest in art, or Leonardo da Vinci in particular, will probably be driven away by the vast sections of theological speculation, no matter how dumbed down they may be, and parents will be horrified to let their children read this book when they discover how poorly researched Brown’s descriptions of the Great Works are.

I wish I could say that I appreciate what Mr. Brown was trying to do with this book, because I would like to think that he meant well. But unfortunately, he wrote a book that is too mature for young readers, and too simple for intelligent readers. It goes nowhere.

I just don’t see The Da Vinci Code ever finding much of an audience.

Friday, February 20, 2009

It's a Jetpack, Michael; What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

Today mousebed makes history.  

Over the last three years, Josh made a habit of calling me during breaks from work at Adidas.  Usually these calls were to shit on the Lakers, make fun of his mom, or complain about sketchballs with whom he shared public transportation.  These calls lasted 15-25 minutes, and were almost always extremely funny.

Since Josh changed jobs, the calls have subsided.  This gave me an idea: why not share the 15 minute phone call with everyone?  You know, set up a call, let Josh be Josh for a while, and then post it on mousebed?   That's exactly what we have for you on this most special mousebed Friday.  Here's what to expect:

  • Josh pissed
  • A recap of Tommy and Billy's trip to LA
  • Josh pronounces the death of talk radio
  • Technical difficulties
  • Excessive helpings of vulgarity and racial insensitivity

Without further ado, we present THE PILOT EPISODE OF TAKING A FIFTEEN WITH JOSH AND JOHN!!!

Please leave comments with feedback on today's podcast.  We need to know what you want, what you don't want, and how long you're willing to listen.  My editing skills and Josh's connectivity both need to improve.  We know that and we're working on it.

This will go down in history as either the best or worst decision we ever made.  Enjoy.


Free Ahmad Bradshaw

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Confessions of a Shopaholic: A Cry for Help

Just for the record, these book reviews were started as a joke and they're supposed to be stupid. I hate to have to do this with only my third review, but the movie just came out so there's no better time. Anyway, let the record show that this particular review is not a joke, this is my actual opinion of the book.

If you liked Confessions of a Shopaholic, I can’t be friends with you. I just can’t. But I know several people who do tend to lean towards liking these sorts of books and I like a couple of those people, so I am writing now to give everyone an opportunity to agree with me after all, because I am right.

It’s been a couple of years since I read Shopaholic and the thought of subjecting myself to it again gives me the dry heaves so I’m going to have to trust my memory here, but basically the book is the story of a woman named Becky who can’t stop shopping, hence the title. The thing is, Becky really can’t stop shopping. She has gotten herself so far into debt that every line of credit she has gets cut off and she can’t pay her bills, so to make herself feel better, she goes out and buys a Hermes scarf. (For those of you who may not be up on your luxury goods, your average Hermes scarf costs roughly as much as one full-load semester’s tuition at a junior college.) This is not a cute foible. Becky really is a self-destructive, full-blown disease, call-Dr.-Drew-for-an-intervention type addict.

But Becky is cute and quirky and British, so after about three hundred pages of running from her creditors like she’s in a Benny Hill sketch, she manages to charm a local gazillionaire into marrying her so that she can live happily ever after spending all of his money. Oh, and to prove that she’s learned her lesson, she ironically and quirkily ends up working on television as a financial consultant. Get it? The woman who can’t control her spending impulse is now a financial consultant! Hilarious! Man, has she ever managed to grow into a better person!

No, she fucking has not, because there are four horrible sequels. FOUR. (I can only assume that they’re horrible. I did open the second Shopaholic book once, but the whispers of the lost souls between the pages were too distracting for me to get more than four or five pages in.) If someone wrote a book about an alcoholic who got into crazy boozy scrapes and then at the end of the story she married a hunky guy who owned a brewery, we wouldn’t say that book had a happy ending. We probably wouldn’t even read it unless Tara Reid was passing it off as her memoirs. But we all like to buy things, so this shopping addiction is cute!

Well, most of us like to get drunk, too. ADDICTION IS NEVER CUTE. ADDICTION IS A DISEASE.

The Shopaholic books make me sick. Don’t read them.

Sophie Kinsella, rot in hell.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Romney Wordsworth, c'est moi

Eventually, everybody’s dream has to die. For most people, this comes as a result of a lack of talent. Maybe you’re too dumb to be a doctor, maybe you’re not tall enough to make it as a basketball star, maybe you just weren’t molested enough to become a stripper. Whatever it is, the dream just dies. For me, my dreams didn’t die as a result of a lack of talent or drive. The three things I wanted to do at various stages of my life are, in no particular order, print journalist, record store owner, NASA scientist. If none of those things materialized, I also wanted to teach. Let’s address each of these in order, shall we?

Print Journalist


It may seem odd that someone who hates reading as much as I do would want to be a newspaper man. I wasn’t always this way. It used to be that I would read anything and everything. I’d read for hours every day. Something changed. I’m not sure when, but at some point, books just couldn’t hold my interest. It didn’t matter if it was fiction or non-fiction, I just didn’t want to read. The last whole book I read was Side Effects by Woody Allen, which I finished months ago for about the 50th time. I can’t read anything new anymore, even things I know I’ll like. I bought the newest David Sedaris book right when it came out, but I couldn’t get more than 30 pages in. My brain just doesn’t work well with words. I digress.

I wanted to write for the paper because I was obsessed with what I perceived to be the great flexibility afforded the columnist. You could write about anything – sports, movies, food, actual news, Dave Barry-type shit. When I was in fourth grade, I “dated” a girl whose father wrote for the Cape Cod Times. We dated about as much as nine year olds could, which meant we sat next to each other in class. Her dad came in one day to talk to the class about writing for the paper, and I asked him why he only wrote about movies when he had the option to write about whatever he wanted. Why pigeonhole yourself like that? I was crushed to find out that since there was already a sportswriter and a food critic, he could only be the movie critic. What a bummer. I figured I would just have to pick one thing I liked and write about that, so I decided to focus on rock journalism. That wasn’t how I phrased it at the time, but I knew I liked music more than anything else and since I knew I couldn’t play violin forever – that was one dream that was crushed due to lack of physical talent – I would just resign myself to a life of listening to music and telling people what’s good. By the way, listen to Neko Case, Amanda Palmer and Sonic Youth.

As you may have noticed lately, the newspaper industry is dying a slow death. The problem the industry is facing is that nobody is willing to pay for the newspaper when they can get it online for free. At first they thought they could get away with giving away the two or three most recent days and charging for the archives, but nobody really gives a shit what happened last week. Then they flooded their websites with advertising, but nobody clicks on banner ads, so how effective is that as a revenue stream? And even if they start charging for access to their sites, there will always be free news. Network news will see a spike in viewers, and there will always be free blogs. Don’t expect to see any hard-hitting news on Mousebed (unless somebody other than me wants to write a weekly column), but there will always be somebody out there trying to get noticed by CNN or Fox News or whatever. They’ll keep on writing. Then once they get called up to the show, they’ll be replaced by a bunch of other news blogs trying to be the next to get that call. It’s too much work for not enough payout at this point, and I fear the day that the truly good writers go away for good. Who will be the next Bob Ryan, the next PJ O’Rourke, the next Maureen Dowd, the next Sarah Vowell? Who am I kidding? By the time my kids turn 23 they’ll be talking about how nobody makes podcasts like they used to back before the medium went to shit. By the way, listen to Radiolab, Hey We’re Back! and Krulwich on Science.

Record Store Owner

The dream of being a journalist was really a fallback for me. I always really wanted to own a record store. A local hole-in-the-wall type of place, like Championship Vinyl in High Fidelity which, by the way, is another book I can’t read. It’s tailor-made for people like me – music snob/loser types who judge a man not by the color of his skin but the content of his record collection. My dream of owning a record store was crushed by the Internet. This fucking Internet, man. Napster, as we all know by now, was created with the sole purpose of running the music industry into the ground. Wait, what? People are still buying music? Oh shit. The problem is nothing is being purchased from people anymore. It’s all digital. iTunes is cheaper and easier than going down to your local Tower Records and buying a CD, especially considering Tower Records went out of business two years ago.

I always loved going to Newbury Comics or Spinnaker Records in Hyannis, MA to spend hours on end browsing the used CD section. There is no greater feeling than finding a super cheap copy of an out of print or hard to find album. I recently scored a couple of old Dave Brubeck vinyls at Amoeba over on Sunset for wicked cheap. It’s awesome.

Luckily, there will always be people like me who enjoy the hunt for their musical prey. Unfortunately, the reason places like Amoeba stay in business is that record hunters are notoriously loyal to their store of choice. A small, fledgling store will sink in under a year because nobody would dare go anywhere other than their preferred outlet. I can’t blame them, though. I’m exactly the same way. This loyalty comes from the fear that the moment I start shopping somewhere else, Amoeba will go out of business because I didn’t spend $19 there this past Tuesday. I’m not nearly as angry at record store people as I am at newspaper people.

Recently, I discovered that people buy and sell things on Ebay. Over the past couple of months, I’ve made a couple hundred dollars selling stuff to people. It’s fantastic. The bulk of my Ebay income is from selling records I’ve purchased at Amoeba. I’ll go down there and get $15 worth of records and sell them for $30. I’ve been compared to a part-time drug dealer. The dream of owning a record store is dead, but at least I’m selling records.

NASA Scientist


At least the Internet didn’t ruin this dream. Back when I used to read, my favorite books were about outer space. I would read the same three books over and over, kind of like I do now with Side Effects, Steve Martin’s Pure Drivel and Sarah Vowell’s The Partly Cloudy Patriot. One was about the Solar System, one was about stars and one was about asteroids. Whenever my mom’s friends would ask me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I’d say scientist. I never wanted to go to space; I just wanted to work for NASA. What I didn’t know at the time was that there hadn’t been a manned moon landing since 1972. There hasn’t been one since. NASA has become wholly irrelevant. The government has decided that our focus should be on rebuilding America, rather than sending Americans to the moon. Whatever, Barack. There was a small blip on the NASA radar a few years ago when Bush made his State of the Union address about colonizing Mars or something, but people were too pissed about the war to notice.

As is the case with blogs putting newspapers out of business, the fate of NASA will be decided by how well independently funded research turns out. More and more space travel is being made possible by independently wealthy people like Richard Branson, who founded Virgin Galactic, which is starting to offer sub-orbital space travel for paying customers, and expects to provide orbital spaceflights in the future. NASA just can’t compete.

NASA’s problem is that it doesn’t do anything cool anymore. People just aren’t interested in spending millions of dollars on going to Mars and getting seven pictures of rocks and two soil samples. If NASA doesn’t do interesting shit, the American people won’t want their hard-earned tax dollars spent finding out if carpenter ants can make colonies in zero gravity. It also didn’t help when NASA blew up that teacher. Whose idea was that?

Teaching

Psssht. Fuck that. If I wanted to be poor, miserable and surrounded by children with no future, I’d marry that woman who just crapped out the octuplets.

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Please don’t misinterpret this essay as a cry for help. I’m really happy. I have a new job, where I’ve already managed to make friends – something I’m notoriously bad at. Three of the four careers mentioned would require some kind of college-type learning – something else I’m notoriously bad at. I’m glad I wasn’t born ten years before I was; maybe I’d be in a job right now that has become obsolete.

By the way, my dreams of being a concert violinist were dashed by a physical shortcoming. My fingers are like retarded sausages attached to my palms.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Adidas Story 2: Area Leads and the NBA Event

A few months into my tenure at adidas, I was given a “promotion.” Big Mike and I were deemed good enough at our respective jobs that we would be put “in charge” of our departments. I would be “in charge” of apparel and Big Mike would be “in charge” of footwear. We would be responsible for training all the new hires and making sure they knew about the technology of each product. You may recall that I was never trained, so I learned all about the Supernova ¼ Zip ClimaCool Running Tights by reading the tags. Big Mike did the same thing with all the footwear. It really wasn’t that hard a concept to figure out – reading the tags – but apparently nobody else was doing it, so we were the ones who got “promoted.” Neither of us was given any kind of real power or a raise, but we were held accountable for the sales and development of everyone in our departments. Apparently, our titles were invented minutes before the all-store meeting where we got “promoted.” We were to become “Area Leads” and we were to like it. Neither of us really did. The two of us were supposed to be fighting tooth and nail for a single promotion that neither of us got.

My first charges as an Area Lead were a trio of kids named Chris, Ron and Crystal. I was to train them on every aspect of apparel, from knowing about the technology to closing procedure. Chris was really excited about work. He was 16 and this was his first job. Crystal stopped showing up to work after her second day, so she wasn’t a huge problem either. Ron, however, was a huge pain in the ass. Ron was a 17-year-old Beverly Hills Israeli Jew with a shitty attitude and giant pupils. His pupils were dilated beyond comprehension. They were the size of nickels. It was straight out of a horror movie. Blugh. Our first interaction happened on one of my breaks. He came outside, saw me wearing the adidas uniform, and asked me if there was any “hot pussy at this fucking job.” Apparently, he left his last job as a grocery bagger because “all the chicks there were dumpy and didn’t like to fuck.” I had no idea how he made it through the interview process – I had to interview twice and I’m half the fuckup this kid is. I was elated to find he wouldn’t be in my department.

The attentive reader may have noticed that I’m a terrible, vulgar man. This no doubt comes from being raised Catholic, the religion that invented the most commonly used blasphemes and curse words. But I am pretty reserved around people I don’t know, so I never really swore around customers. Ron, however, made it his duty. He once told me, in front of a crowd of customers, that he “wasn’t learning shit for this faggot-ass job that I don’t even fucking like.” He was also lazy and stupid. One night he spilled a bucket of mop water in the elevator and asked Freddie, one of the SNR guys, if he needed help cleaning it up. Freddie told him he wasn’t cleaning up Ron’s mess, and asked Ron to kindly go fuck himself.

There were approximately twelve million customer complaints about Ron, but he never got reprimanded. All the employees complained to Alon, our general manager, but he never did anything. Ron later revealed that he got the job because his dad knew Alon’s dad, and Alon’s dad owed Ron’s dad a favor. All the pieces fell into place – nepotism, the best reason to have a rich dad. Alon, it must be pointed out, was also an Israeli Jew. He was notorious for giving his Jewish employees every Jewish holiday off without even having to request it, while making everyone else work late on Easter. He also hated Woody Allen for making jokes about being Jewish. I told a story once about a guy whose last name was Cohen and he got offended. Of course, this didn’t preclude him from making dozens of polygamy jokes at my expense. I’m not touchy about LDS jokes – make all the magic underpants jokes you want - I’m offended by hypocrite douchebags. Ron finally got fired one day for calling Big Mike an asshole in front of a customer.

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In September, adidas secured an exclusive, 12 year apparel contract with the NBA, making adidas the sole carrier of NBA jerseys. This also led to the NBA Entertainment League scheduling a party at our store that October. This meant that for an entire evening, the store would be shut down and overrun with celebrities and their hangers-on. A series of Xbox 360s were hooked up to projectors, a stage was built, two separate bar areas were installed, and the employees were instructed to just stand around and act as a grossly underpaid security staff. We were instructed not to speak unless spoken to and not to drink or eat anything. It sucked ass. Two live acts were to perform – Boyz II Men and Kelis. If you haven’t seen Boyz II Men perform in the past ten years, then you obviously have never watched the halftime show of a non-Super Bowl NFL playoff game recently. It’s all they do. That and eat, apparently. They got wicked fat since they were last popular. If I were a bitchy fashion critic I’d make a joke about how none of them let the feedbag run dry, but I’m just not that clever.

There were a few other luminaries of the NBA Entertainment world there - Christopher Knight, Jamie Foxx and everybody related to Eddie Murphy were present. While seeing all the famous people was nice, the real spectacle of the night was the Cavalcade of Potential Baby Mamas scouting the event. Dozens of short-dress-wearing, gum-popping, hair-extension-bedecked women of all races were present, all attempting to hook up with one of the entertainers. There was one Asian woman wearing a lavender dress so short that you could see her labia. It was fantastic. When Jamie Foxx saw me see him staring at her, he came over to me and said “I’m gonna fuck that bitch tonight, you just watch.” A few hours later, they left together, hand in hand. She was approximately three inches taller than he was, by the way. Jamie Foxx is like, 5’4”.

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If you would like to read more adidas stories, here are the links:
1 Seth and Yanira
2 Area Leads and the NBA Event
3 Sweatshirt Folding and Orwellian Mindgames
4 (I Don't Want to go to) Chelsea
5 Stockroom MADNESS!
6 Santa Monica T-Shirt Boulevard
7 Shitwater Canyon and Fruit Flygueroa
8 Slowpoke Rodriguez and the Adidas Cavalcade of Stars!
9 How to Lose Friends and Influence Nobody
10 From the Basement to the Dream Factory

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Pride and Prejudice - Yes We Can!

Pride and Prejudice is an inspiring tale of courage in the face of racial injustice, made all the more impressive by the fact that all of the characters are upper-middle class Caucasians.

The Bennet sisters are your typical sexy girl group: there’s Jane, the sweet one; Elizabeth, the sassy one; Mary, the nerdy one; Kitty, the one nobody remembers; and Lydia, the one who loves lottery tickets. These girls are trapped in an oppressive society in which a female who does not get married slowly lowers in esteem until she becomes equivalent to a Hindu Untouchable. In an ironic twist, however, this society frowns upon contracted marriages to ensure spouses for their children, and the young women are left to fend for themselves in a dog-eat-dog status war. Indeed, one of the most chilling characters in the book is Charlotte, whose terror of (we can only assume) a life of white slavery leading to an early, ignominious death drives her to marry a country preacher. Charlotte fades from the story shortly after her marriage, having been reduced to a soulless shell.

Jane is more fortunate then Charlotte, if no less a victim of her culture; being quite attractive physically, she manages early in the story to find a compatible mate in Mr. Bingley. Kitty and Lydia spend their time doing all they can to actively throw themselves upon the pyre of connubium. Only Elizabeth has the courage to stand tall against not only the ideas of her oppressors, but the ongoing capitulation of her fellow oppressed. When offered the opportunity of marriage, which would surely offer her a great advantage within the story’s dystopian world, she turns it down. Not once, but twice.

Sadly, as bravely as Elizabeth Bennet begins, the pressures of her society prove to be too much, and she, like so many before her, falls. But Rome was not built in a day, and it would be close to two centuries before we would see an African American in the White House. Elizabeth may have failed, but she fought hard so that someday, her people might succeed. Don’t let her efforts be in vain.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Funkmaster Flex

My freshman year of college was a rollercoaster ride of roommates. I started off with a Japanese guy who stayed for two days and left without telling anybody. This was pretty cool because the housing committee didn’t know he had left, leaving me with what was effectively a single with a bunk bed. You may recall by the end of the year I was living with Kedzie Matthews, who ended up date raping one of my friends on the top bunk. I submit for your approval, the story of Flex.

For three whole months, I had a room to myself. I had a bunk bed, which I turned into a blanket fort in my spare time. Chicks dug it, lemme tell ya. They really did, though. They would come over to see The Amazing Bed Tent, listen to my record player and play Mario Kart on my Super Nintendo. This would, more often than not, lead to sex. I’m not sure exactly how I managed to alchemize nerdy lead into sexy gold, but I’m pretty sure it was the fact that I didn’t have a roommate. People want to have sex in college, and they’re not really picky that first semester. All they want is a little privacy and a person who’s not creepy and ugly. I’m only one of those things, so that worked out in my favor.

Sadly, this came to a crashing halt when the housing committee – of which I was a fucking member – fixed the computer mistake. I’d be getting a new roommate by Monday. Blugh. His former roommate was in my English class, and was a world-class douche nozzle. He was overjoyed to be getting rid of his former roommate. He was kind enough to issue me a warning, saying “Look out man, this kid’s a faggot. I walked in on him jacking off to two dudes going at it. That’s why we kicked his faggot ass out of the dorm.” Fantastic. I was 99% sure that this kid was just being a jag off, but secretly I worried I’d be shacked up with a chronic masturbator. I wasn’t about to be the second biggest onanist in my own dorm room.

He came the next day with about 400 DVDs in tow. The first thing he told me was that he wasn’t gay, and that his old roommate was a douche. Well, I knew that. He proceeded to put all of his shit in the middle of the room, put his laptop on his desk and leave without saying anything else. It was a little awkward, but I’ve dealt with worse. I spent the rest of the day attempting to live my life around his mess, but I could see where this was going. I went from living alone to surrendering my entire life to this guy’s disorganized bullshit. This isn’t to say I put everything back where it belongs – far from it – but at least I’m not putting my shit on top of other people’s shit. That’s just inconsiderate.

That night, he came back around 11pm, closed the door behind him and didn’t lock it. This wasn’t a huge problem because I never locked the door when I was in the room; I figured if anyone came in I’d hear them. A few hours later, somebody did come in. It was a tiny, blond girl. She crawled under the blankets of my bed tent and started making out with me. I asked who she was, and she told me I was her boyfriend. This was not true. In the time it took for me to explain the situation to her, she had gotten naked and passed out. She woke up the next morning, gathered what clothes she had been wearing and took off before anything weird could happen. Flex didn’t say a word about it.

Over the next few months, a couple things became apparent about Flex. He didn’t like to talk. Ever. He’d have friends over and he wouldn’t say more than two or three words at a time, which was a lot more than the zero he would say to me. The other thing I learned about Flex was his smell. He had a smell that would permeate every crack, every crevice, every pore of your skin. His stink was epic, legendary even. This really drove down the amount of womanly traffic passing through my door, seeing as they could smell Flex from down the hall. This became especially bad when I settled down with a steady girlfriend, who couldn’t be in the room with around.

One weekend, he went home to visit his family. I took this opportunity to go to the Blockbuster up the street, rent some movies that I didn’t really have to pay attention to and really clean the stink out of the room. I bought cleaning supplies at Roche Brothers, trash bags, everything. I threw out trash, did multiple loads of laundry, scrubbed things, I was on a roll. Around 1am, I had finally finished. I opened the windows, let out the remaining smells, and finally fell asleep. The next morning, Flex came back with a bag of dirty laundry. Dirty laundry. Who goes home from college for the weekend and comes back with DIRTY LAUNDRY? I couldn’t believe it. Literally within ten minutes of his return, Flex had managed to stink up my fucking dorm again. To this day I don’t understand how this shit happened.

A couple weeks later, he spoke. Apparently he was moving out. The only person I ever saw him speak to had an open slot in his dorm, and Flex was moving in. This was literally the first thing he had said to me in weeks, and I was pissed. For two months I put up with him watching The Hulk over and over – seriously, he had the DVD on repeat. For two months I dealt with him having people over to watch Girls Gone Wild videos. For two months I could have been getting laid a lot more if it weren’t for his goddamned smell. The only thing he ever said to me was that he wasn’t gay. That’s it? I wish he had been gay - I've lived with gay guys and they’re a lot more into cleaning.

He moved out that Friday, leaving me to stew in his fucking stink all weekend. Once again I cleaned, because I knew I’d have a new roommate soon. Anything would have been an upgrade over Flex, and really, Kedzie Matthews was a huge upgrade. At least he had the decency to pick up after himself after he date raped my friends. Sheesh.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Adidas Story 1: Seth and Yanira


This is my workplace
And these are the people I work with
Yuko and Hiro.
We work together
We work for the company
That works to the future
We work hard to please me
They will protect us



Blur - Yuko and Hiro

The first time I set foot in the adidas store in Santa Monica, I knew I had to work there. All my life I wore adidas shoes, and the last job I had held for more than a month was working for another shoe store, so I figured I was more than qualified to work there. I applied online and got called in for an interview the next day.

I was greeted by Moises, one of the managers at adidas. He asked me the standard interview questions and told me to come back the next day for my follow-up interview. I wasn’t sure why I needed to be interviewed twice, but hey, I’m not the expert. I came back the next day, was sat down in a room full of shoes and parts of shoes and was told to wait for the manager. An hour later, Moises came back and told me I had been hired, and asked me to start on Monday. I was thrilled. I would no longer be poor! How wonderful. I would later learn the reason I was forced to wait an hour was that the general manager, Alon, had gotten stuck in the elevator and needed to be rescued.

Monday rolled around and I showed up ready to work. I was told to go back into the room full of shoes and shoe parts and wait for a manager. I was prepared to wait another hour, but luckily there were two other people in the room with me. One was a guy from Pittsburgh named Seth and the other was a local kid who I will call Cool Mike. This will differentiate him from Big Mike who, for the record, was also cool, and Creepy Mike who was very much not cool, but in fact creepy as shit.

The three of us filled out our hiring packets and talked about what brought us to adidas. Seth needed a job to support him while he followed his dream of becoming a DJ. I needed to eat while I lived in Los Angeles. Cool Mike needed money for pot. He didn’t say that out loud, but it was easily inferred. After filling out our paperwork, we watched some hilarious sexual harassment videos, were given uniforms, and were ordered to come back Tuesday for some real work. Seth and I were going to work in apparel, Cool Mike would work in footwear.

The next two weeks were pretty tough for me. The only people I really liked were Seth and Cool Mike, and Cool Mike was in a different department than I was. I spent every moment of every day hoping nobody would ask me about the clothing. I had no idea what any of the technology was, since I had never been trained. See, the thing about the adidas store was that it was a “Sport Performance Store,” meaning we didn’t just sell pants, we sold running tights. And they weren’t just running tights, they were Supernova ¼ Zip Climacool Running Tights With Formotion. I was supposed to know what all of those words meant, and I had no idea.

While I spent most of my time trying not to talk customers who knew more about the clothing I was supposed to be selling than I did, Seth spent most of his time trying to talk to Yanira, one of the cashiers. I feel the need to mention that Seth is a really cool guy, but when he was working at adidas, you could smell the desperation on him from a mile away. This was a guy who really needed to chill out and get laid or something, and he figured, who better than Yanira to fill that void?

One Saturday night, Seth, Yanira and I were all scheduled to close. Seth decided that night would be his best chance to ask her out, and he spent basically the entire night swooping by her register to make small talk, then returning to the apparel department to tell me how his romance was progressing. With each successive cycle, he felt more and more sure that when he finally asked her to go on a date with him, she’d say yes. Naturally, it came as quite a shock to Seth when she said no. I made an attempt to console him, but I managed to rub salt in the wound by going out to dinner with Aurora. We had milkshakes from Fatburger.

That night Yanira offered to give me a ride back to my apartment, which was nice of her. It meant that I didn’t have to take the bus at 1am, which is always a good thing. It was especially nice because it was unsolicited, and I’m really horrible at dealing with new people. Yanira was the first person who really befriended me at adidas, and it helped me get to know the other people who worked there.

When we finally finished cleaning the store, I made my way to Yanira’s car with two other girls who closed that night, named Anilu and Melina. After dropping Anilu off at her car, we started off to the 10 freeway. Before we could get to the freeway, however, there was an emergency. The milkshake I had had for dinner chose to exact its unholy revenge on me in the form of explosive diarrhea. I tried to politely ask Yanira to find a bathroom for me, and she said there was nowhere to stop along the route. It was then that I said the most regrettable thing I hope to ever utter:

If you don’t pull over, I’m going to shit in your car.

Those twelve words really put a sense of urgency in Yanira’s driving. We found a Denny’s and pulled into the parking lot. She started circling looking for a parking spot. I told her that I would really rather that she pull up close to the entrance, and when she finally did, I made a mad dash for the Denny’s bathroom. I don’t know if you’ve ever used a bathroom at Denny’s, but it is not very nice. In fact, it’s terrifying. Normal bathroom graffiti consists of crude drawings and dirty limericks. This particular stall had gang symbols carved into the toilet seat. Classy! What seemed like ages later, I left the bathroom feeling sweaty and violated. It was even worse when I got to the lobby and found Yanira and Melina applauding. Later I would find out that Yanira has a more disgusting sense of humor than I do, but at the time I was horrified.

After Yanira dropped Melina off, she drove me home. There was very little talk of my ass, thankfully. The next day, Seth came over to watch the Steelers game and mentioned that he was too full of shame to show up at work the next day for fear that Yanira would judge him harshly for being so brazen as to ask her on a date. I told him about the events of my ride home, and he felt a little better. I guess in hindsight it didn’t help him that much, because a week later he took his lunch and never came back. He apparently got a job working at a German sound recording studio in Culver City called “Stimmung.” A few months later he showed up at the store drunk and told the regional footwear supply buyer how absofuckinglutely ugly the basketball shoes are. These were the shoes that set him off.

Photobucket

I suppose he had a point.

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If you would like to read more adidas stories, here are the links:
1 Seth and Yanira
2 Area Leads and the NBA Event
3 Sweatshirt Folding and Orwellian Mindgames
4 (I Don't Want to go to) Chelsea
5 Stockroom MADNESS!
6 Santa Monica T-Shirt Boulevard
7 Shitwater Canyon and Fruit Flygueroa
8 Slowpoke Rodriguez and the Adidas Cavalcade of Stars!
9 How to Lose Friends and Influence Nobody
10 From the Basement to the Dream Factory

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

REVIEW: Goodnight, Moon: A Gothic Horror Primer

*SPOILER ALERT*

Goodnight, Moon
is the chilling portrayal of a small child (represented in the book's illustrations by a rabbit), listing the things in their bedroom and then saying good night to them, one by one.

At best, this is obvious stalling behavior by a willful child, remaining undealt with by a "programmed parent." At worst, it may be a symptom of what could turn into a crippling obsessive compulsive disorder, compelling the unnamed child to wish inanimate objects good night well past the threshold of exhaustion and madness.

A number of unanswered questions remain: Why do we only see the child in bed? Where are his or her parents? Who is the mysterious old woman who says "hush," and why are her preliminary attempts to quell the destructive behavior of the child not heeded?

All in all, a good read. Not quite the heart-stopping thrill ride of Runaway Bunny, by the same author, but with a subtle horror all its own. Two thumbs up, I say!