Friday, May 29, 2009

What ever happened to all the fun in the world?

So the other day I burnt my tongue on something. I don't remember what it was, but that's not really important. What is important is the fact that I can't taste anything. I just ate what might have been a delicious lunch, but I'll never know. I'm sure that within a few days I'll be able to taste again, so I'm not that concerned. Unfortunately, I've had the same sort of (lack of) feeling about life lately. I'm not sure if it has anything to do with being overworked at my job or anything, but I just feel like the fun of life has been kind of drained. I'm sure this is just another spate of depression, and just like my burnt tongue, things will be back to normal in a few days. There are some shitty side effects though. My wife asked me what I enjoy doing and I honestly couldn't remember. I think I like pinball, but I can't be sure.

The reason I mention this is I think I don't like writing anymore, at least writing about the horrors of my life. It's been nine straight months of writing about 1,000 words every week or so. This really isn't much , but it's more than I've ever written in my life. Frankly, I think it's pretty impressive considering the fact that I no longer know how to read books. When I started this blog - a word I still hate using - I was going to use it as a cheap form of therapy and just write about all the bad things that have happened to me. The one guideline I tried to set for myself was no writing about current events, whether they're political or personal. Unfortunately, this means that at some point, I would run out of stories. I've only been dumped by so many girls.

Luckily, bad things still happen to me. Starting next Friday, I'm going to start writing about other stuff. I'm not sure what yet, but I'm sure it'll be just as mediocre as everything else I've ever written. The one promise I will make to you, loyal Mousebed reader, is that this space will never turn into a standard “woke up, ate a sandwich, went to bed” blog. I'll be putting out different content than I otherwise have been, but it will be content nonetheless. Thanks for reading about my life.

Frankly, I feel better already.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

If You Need Internet, Don't Head to Californee

As you may have noticed, Mousebed Friday went by without a post. On Saturday, Josh texted John in a panic with some story about the internet falling victim to last week's earthquake or something like that. Based on intelligence gained from recently posted facebook statuses, Josh has become a library computer creep and Aurora is about to jump off a cliff. It's cool - that's why they pay John the big theoretical dollars. He happened to write a handful of stories for his Stylistics class this semester that kinda work for Mousebed. Sort of. Here is one that he never intended to have anyone read, let alone a couple of his friends who are either named or implicated in less than flattering fashion. He hopes that A) they don't read it and B) if they do, they aren't offended. What could possibly go wrong?

NOTE: If this post seems especially pretentious, it is. This story is supposed to be modeled after the style used in Wolfe's Las Vegas. Yes, John knows that it is far from a perfect adaptation. Please spare him whatever comments along those lines that you were considering making.

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Birthday parties. They're an incredibly strange concept for people beyond the age of twelve. When young, you've got a fairly solid and established social script for what such an event should be. Let mom and/or dad give the kids some sugar, some trinkets, and let them smack Spongebob around with a stick until he bursts and yields even more sugar and trinkets. A strange ceremony, yes, but also mind-numbingly simple and practically impossible to screw up.

Young adults and birthdays have always had an undefined relationship. Some use their birthday as a means of excusing themselves from that day's obligations of everyday life, such as work or school. Many use the date to drink at an abnormally high clip for a weeknight. Others have been known to use them as a passive-aggressive litmus test of their social network to see which of their friends actually prioritize their friendship. OK, maybe that one only applies to me. Often times, however, young adults decide to throw themselves a birthday party. Some of the more bizarre social cauldrons have sprung up from such events.

For an example, look no further than the cultural Mecca of Fall River, Massachusetts, a 19th century boomtown left behind by history. Remaining are the scores of mill buildings and hundreds upon hundreds of three-decker tenements in various degrees of disrepair. Everyone who inhabits one of these has their reasons, with many of them being students at nearby colleges looking to save a buck. Jenni was one of these, and she was friends/roommates with similar characters, but all of them were no longer college students, for reasons ranging from debt to graduation to failing marks to the allure of online gambling.

The four inhabitants of the house had an internally-fractured social web, and each branched out to their own odd assortment of colorful characters. Many of these people converged upon the same apartment on the night of October 11th. You had your Greek letter emblazoned frat boys. Primped and fashionable collegiate volleyball players. The entire morning shift from the local Target. Former college basketball players struggling to adjust to a world in which women did not care about the proficient nature of their jump shot. Young men playing by their own rules, on their own schedules, convinced they were riding the wave of the future by clicking at computer screens in their underwear all day. Self-interested men, including former, current, future, and mistakenly prospective boyfriends of the birthday girl. On top of it all, you had a sixteen-year-old younger sister with absolutely no business in the presence of these other characters, and especially not on a school night.

Like any large gathering in Fall River, there was booze, and quite a bit of it. It was consumed in bulk by dozens of fractured human beings trying to forget their problems for one night. The only problem was that many of these people were coming face-to-face with the sources or subjects of their problems. There were enough love triangles in the apartment to build an Egyptian pyramid. The results were not pretty. Broken furniture. Spilled beverages. Loud arguments. Confrontations. A stolen cell phone.

Remember the high school girl? She referred to a white, roid-raging basketball player as a racial slur commonly reserved for blacks. All 92 pounds of her. The recently much larger basketball player responded the only way he knew how: by indicating an overwhelming desire to fight the offender, in this case a cheerleader from Seekonk High School. Thanks to an unexpected dose of good fortune, it did not happen. But it was precisely the type of night which made eventual eviction an inevitable formality.

All of this transpired under the premise of celebration on Plymouth Avenue. As the ill-fated year went along, some of the roommates moved out for various reasons. Stopgap roommates were plugged in. Old friends, ex-boyfriends, mercurial strangers from Craigslist. Eventually, an invitation was extended to me. I thought about it, but I declined.

It didn't seem like the right fit for me. After all, I had a birthday coming up.





Thursday, May 14, 2009

Adidas story 9: How to lose friends and influence nobody

I worked at adidas for two and a half years. The last 12 months there were pretty weird, as far as management changes went. It started when, after about two years of declining sales, our general manager got fired. Alon wasn't a bad manager per se, but he always played these strange, cut-throat Orwellian mind games. He used his assistant managers to manipulate the staff, to varying degrees of success. You may recall he used Sal as his bulldog, his enforcer. This was a natural fit for Sal - he was a natural born asshole, and he loved approval from his superiors. He also had a light dusting of Downs Syndrome, which made it all the more insulting when it was made clear that I wasn't management material at adidas. I could write 2,000 words about Sal and how he is a pathetic, awful, wretched human being who had dirt caked into every crack, wrinkle and crevice on his body, but I won't. That's a different essay for a different day. Anyhow, Alon liked to use Sal as a villain so that he wouldn't look so horrible in comparison. It didn't work - we all hated Alon, too. Luckily, there was a manager who unified the staff and truly cared about us. Jared acted as the staff therapist, taking people aside and making sure they were at least not miserable - and sometimes almost happy - at adidas.

The day Alon was fired was a day of celebration at adidas. I was working in the stockroom that day, like I did everyday, when he stormed out of the managers' office, bumping into me and scampering upstairs. It was confirmed a couple hours later that he would never again darken the sliding glass door of adidas. After the initial jocularity, Jared gave us a terrifying warning - be careful what you wish for. He told us that chances were that whoever was to replace Alon would probably be an even bigger asshole than he was. We didn't believe him, but it turns out he was right.

For the next three or so months, Jared ran the store. Employee morale was the highest it had been since Alon took six weeks off to help his wife take care of their newborn daughter, whose name rhymed with an unflattering part of the male anatomy. Jared's rule at adidas was fantastic. The stockroom ran about as efficiently as it ever had, there was a chicken in every pot, and nobody was afraid of playing loud rap music. It was fabulous, Jared had even managed to stifle Sal. Sadly, it didn't last very long. Even though he had rejuvenated the store, Jared was deemed unfit to run the store by our new district manager, Nick. Nick, by the way, was a fat, queeny Mexican who claimed to be married. None of us were too sure of that. A few weeks after it was revealed that Jared would no longer be the heir to the adidas throne, Nick installed a new manager, Jose Rico.

Jose Rico came into a very good situation. He was replacing Alon as general manager - Heinrich Himmler would have been an upgrade - it would have been very easy to play the nice guy card and win the hearts of his staff. Naturally, he decided not to go that route. For the first three days at adidas, he didn't speak to a single employee who wasn't a manager. He quickly sized up his situation and decided it would be better to be feared than loved. Sal was used once again as an enforcer, but now it was ten times worse than anything he had done for Alon. He had to cover up for Rico's mistakes. By the way, he wanted everyone to call him Rico, not Jose. Jose sounded too Mexican, and he was really ashamed of his ethnicity, a move that scored him a lot of points with our predominantly Hispanic staff. Anyhow, during his first week of work, he decided to leave five hours early on a Friday to go watch some sporting event. He would do this every week, then a few times a week and eventually he'd do it almost daily. He made the managers' schedules, so he was seldom scheduled to close and when he was, he'd make sure to schedule somebody else to close with him so he could leave early. The person who would have to pick up his slack was usually Sal, who secretly resented him for it. This, combined with a terrible relationship with a woman who was using him for his money, sent Sal into a state of melancholia, with wild spikes of rage. Naturally he took it all out on the staff.

Eventually, the staff had just about enough of Rico's shenanigans, so we took our complaints to Nick. Shockingly, our complaints fell on deaf ears. Nick would stick up for Rico and defend all off his shortcomings, explaining that he was the best man for the job. Rico, by the way, was a fat, queeny Mexican who claimed to be married. Sound familiar? Yeah. He and Nick were butt buddies or something. Sheesh. After we complained to Nick, Rico turned the screws even harder on the staff, becoming aggressively dickish to all of us. He was cruelly sarcastic with all of his employees, making some of the managers cry, which he obviously took a great deal of joy from. What an asshole. Who takes pride in making women cry? I hope he's on fire somewhere. Anyhow, we all decided to make a concerted effort in trying to get him fired. This effort was spearheaded by Jared, who was promptly fired by Rico and Nick for some bullshit, made-up technicality. Sal was the one who ratted Jared out, believe it or not. Sal, by the way, is another guy who I wish was on fire too.

Sal, in his newfound position as Rico's Secret Police, was the scourge of adidas. Rico liked this because he thought there was somebody the staff loathed more than him. Not true, you fat, man-tittied fuck. We hated them both equally. Sal, in an attempt to get in good with Rico, got Tamara, another beloved coworker, fired through trickery and skulduggery. The trouble was that Rico really hated Sal, too. After using Sal for months, he had Nick come by one day when Rico wasn't scheduled so he could fire Sal. Poor fuck didn't see it coming. Now, I hate Sal. A lot. I don't think this can be overstated. I really can't stand him. I, for one, was thrilled to hear of his firing. Objectively, though, it was really sad. Sal had worked at adidas for eight years when they finally shitcanned him, and he didn't have any kind of prospects anywhere else. Adidas really was all he had. He even got a job offer from David, one of the former team leads, to work at the Brookstone up the street from adidas, but Sal never showed up for the interview. He just wanted to work for adidas. To my knowledge, he's still unemployed and it's been nearly eight months since he got fired.

This story, like so few of my stories, has a happy ending. After months of building piles and piles of evidence against him, the higher-ups at adidas finally saw fit to fire Rico. It was a joyous occasion, but with the joy came the bitter realization that if they wouldn't fire Rico for leaving early every day, being totally incompetent and never doing any work, he must have been fired for something even worse. It would be revealed by Josh, our next manager, that Rico had plunged the store into deep debt and stopped paying all of our bills. It's amazing they didn't just pack the whole store onto a flatbed truck and impound it.

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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

Friday, May 8, 2009

Faustian Bargain, thy name is Turtle.

About six weeks ago I was riding the bus and on that same bus was a family of Mexikids, each one holding a small clear plastic container with some ugly rainbow gravel at the bottom and a turtle about the size of a silver dollar. I immediately thought of my husband, not because I associate him with Mexican children or gravel, but because he loves turtles. He had a birthday coming up and I thought that one of those turtles would be the perfect gift, and he'd never see it coming. I was the smartest wife around!

Time passed. Josh's birthday fell on a Monday this year, and the Friday before that, I started making calls. I didn't want to show up at a pet store only to find that there were no turtles in stock, or that the store I had chosen was not a turtle-selling type of place (we don't have a car, so traveling hither and yon to various stores in search of the perfect gift can be a daunting idea). I soon found out that it was a good thing I checked ahead of time. I called six different Petco locations, and it turned out that most of them sold tortoises but not turtles, which seemed even weirder when I learned that tortoises are “out of season” right now. Apparently, there is a tortoise season. This is not it.

The good news was that the one Petco that did sell turtles would be fairly simple to stop by on my way home, so I did. But to my great chagrin, the turtles that Petco had were much, much bigger than silver dollars. They looked about like slightly flattened half-cantaloupes but darker in color, and they didn't come in adorable containers with ugly gravel--you had to buy the container separately. And a filter for the water, and a fake log for the turtle to be on when he didn't feel like swimming, and a whole bunch of other crap that was definitely overpriced, but even worse, it wasn't what I wanted! I couldn't commit to a full grown turtle! I wanted a turtle that would think of me as its mother! Okay, not really, but you see what I mean. Also, everybody who works at Petco is an asshole. I went home that night empty-handed.

During my pre-birthday reconnaissance work, I had found a website that would actually deliver turtles to your house, and I decided to re-check it, to see how their prices compared to Petco's. They turned out to be pretty much the same, so I decided to come clean. I hated to not have it to give to him, but I told Josh that I meant to get him a turtle for his birthday.

Now, since you read Mousebed, I am sure you know Josh. But I can assure you, you don't know Josh the way I know Josh, because you aren't married to him. So you probably don't know that whenever cute animals happen, Josh turns into a six-year-old. He got so excited about the idea of getting a turtle that I thought he might cry. I knew I had picked exactly the right gift, and I couldn't wait to be able to actually present him with a real live turtle. Everything was awesome.

I still wanted to take one last shot at finding the kind of turtle those Mexikids had been carrying, so at work that day I put in a call or two to some actual aquarium supply stores, and they told me what apparently everyone else in Los Angeles already knew: Chinatown. I couldn't believe I hadn't thought of that. Everything cute and cheap and plastic comes from Chinatown! What was I doing calling reputable pet stores? Did I actually think that a Mexican family was able to buy four pets in one day from a major retail corporation? Any child from Los Angeles could have figured this out quicker than I had. I thanked the aquarium guy for the tip, and told him I had just moved to LA from Iowa.

And then I got excited about the fun date that Josh and I were going to have in Chinatown. In the nearly three years since he's moved out here, we still haven't found time to go over there, which is a shame because I used to go all the time when I was growing up and it was always a blast. This was the perfect opportunity for an awesome cheap day: we'd find a tiny turtle, I'd buy a couple of four-dollar pairs of shoes and maybe one of those awesomely racist pointy-topped rice paddy hats, we'd eat something unidentifiable for lunch and pretend to be Jack Nicholson and Faye Dunaway--it would be the best day ever.

Unfortunately, while I was thinking all of this at work, Josh was at home doing internet research. You know how I just told you you don't really know him? Well, did you know he loves to panic about things he makes up? He spent the day finding out about every bizarre uncatchable disease turtles can possibly get, and how the Ph levels in their water need to be perfect, and they only have like, a six degree window for the temperature of the water that they can swim in, and all kinds of retarded bullshit to frighten him about how the turtle we don't even have yet has less chance of surviving than a Faberge egg hatchling.

Have you ever met a turtle? Those little fuckers are rocks with legs on. Let me tell you a story about a real turtle that I actually knew. My cousin Jonathan had a turtle (probably got it in Chinatown, now that I think about it) named Ted when I was about in junior high. Jonathan lived most of the time with his dad, but Ted definitely lived at Jon's mom's house. One day they noticed that Ted wasn't in his aquarium, which means that somehow, he had managed to climb out. We did a search of the apartment and nothing turned up. Jonathan was pretty upset about losing his turtle, but his grief was softened by confusion about how Ted had gotten out of the tank in the first place. Jon went back to his dad's house and about five days later, his mom found Ted under the sofa, looking pretty dried out. He was obviously dead, but she wasn't sure about the appropriate way to get rid of turtle remains and she thought Jonathan might like to have some sort of small turtle funeral, so she dropped Ted back in his aquarium until she could think of something better and went to work. When she got home, Ted was swimming around like nothing had happened. It was a turtle miracle. Eventually, through circumstances I'm not really clear on, the aquarium disappeared altogether and Ted ended up just living in my Aunt Rebecca's bathroom sink for upwards of three years--and by the way, she only had one bathroom, so if you were washing your hands, the turtle was going to be getting soaped, which is proof that all the temperature and Ph and calcium and taking them outside for “real” sunlight bullshit is exactly that. The turtle was always fine, and he lived in a sink for the last half of his life. And it's not like we're trying to take anybody to Turtle Winchester.

My entire family's long-standing attitude towards all living creatures is as follows: if you like it, give it food until it goes away or dies. This policy applies to everything from houseplants to children. It's how we dealt with Ted, and it's how my sisters and I were raised. It's how my dad and his seven siblings were raised too, and five out of the eight of them turned out mostly okay. My sisters Excalibur and Excelsior still own two cats that my family picked up as kittens in 1994. The cat that Josh and I currently have has the softest coat and the sweetest disposition of any cat I've ever met, and all we really do is not hit her on purpose. So the idea of spending a huge amount of time worrying about the welfare of a creature that hasn't evolved since before dinosaurs were born drives me crazy. I don't care if people say Chinatown turtles don't live very long. Do you know who buys Chinatown turtles? Six-year-old Mexicans. They don't take care of things, so they die. We do take care of things, so I'm not concerned.

Josh will read this himself pretty soon, and by now he's probably pretty close to a heart attack. So let me be clear: we are still, absolutely, getting a turtle. We are probably getting two turtles. I look forward to having them, and I'm sure that we will be purchasing them from someone more reputable than an anonymous Chinaman. But I really, really, really don't want to be a person who sinks all their money into their retarded hobby (in this case, aquariuming) instead of, say, living in an apartment that has more than one room in it. So I ask you, dear reader, as a friend of Josh's--please tell him that the turtles will be fine. They'll be just fine.

As long as the cat doesn't eat them.

More Procrastinated Bullshit That Isn't Writing

Yes, I know the podcast is very late. But trust me, this one is pretty cool. You demanded that this be shorter, and your wish has been heeded. Here's what we cover:

  • Aurora's appearance on the Adam Carolla Podcast and the Ace Man's subsequent ripping of Josh as a "lazy, no-account husband"
  • A lightning round of comically dated discussion of the Red Sox, Celtics and Bruins
  • That time John went to see Ben Folds by himself. What a champion.






Please stick with the mousebed. We know we haven't put out much in the way of enjoyable prose lately, but we're working on it. There are bills to be paid, semesters to be finished. I guess what we're saying is give us money.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Another photographic tour of the six or so blocks to the immediate east, west and south of my apartment

In case you somehow missed it, here's a link to the first photo entry from a few months ago.

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It's no secret that I love the hobo life. I think it's pretty funny. Recently, though, people have been dumping their fucking couches on my street and hobos are sleeping and peeing on them. I'm not too happy about this. Also, you'd think somebody would have locked down that shopping cart. I imagine it's a pretty hot commodity.

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This picture features only one, but recently this alley has been the hot spot for the feral cats of my neighborhood. Last night there were literally a dozen of them just hanging out and licking each other, sort of like that episode of South Park with the cat orgy, but quieter and with less feline cocaine.

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The spacing, spelling and punctuation make this sign a feast for the eyes. I like that the periods were added as an afterthought.

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I've been saying it for years - birds hate Ann-Margret.

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It must have come as quite a shock to many in the Republican party when they realized that voting for John McCain was in direct violation of the Word of God.

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What exactly are “pagan goods?”

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Oh of course. Halloween decorations and tarot cards.

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Nothing says “what the fuck is a business model?” quite like filling 25% of your sales floor with a giant urinal.

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This mosaic of Julie Andrews as Mary Poppins can be found at the Chase Bank on Sunset and Vine. Did anybody consider the fact that the antagonist in Mary Poppins was the father, a stuffy, misogynistic banker who treated his kids and servants like shit?

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Within 48 hours of Nike unveiling this ad campaign, Lance Armstrong managed to crash his bike and break his collarbone.

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For only $1,000 you can own the actual scooter used in Big Momma's House 2. You'd be a Goddamned fool not to buy it.

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For the past few weeks, “9/11 HA HA HA” has been tagged on dozens of street signs and construction sites in my neighborhood. I'm not thrilled with whoever has been doing this, but you could have at least found something funnier or more offensive to write than just “HA HA HA.” What are you, the fucking Joker? Sheesh.

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Times are tough, even for rental companies. They converted from gated parking to gated entry, then they had to raise their deposit and fire everyone who spoke Spanish. Bad times, indeed.