Thursday, July 30, 2009

So we're talking about practice? Not a show. Not a show that I give my life for, but practice?

NB: So I'm writing a lot of material for a stand up act I'm doing at the end of next month. I'm working out a few of the beats right now, and I thought I would use this time to post some of the stuff I've been writing. If you're not exactly a fan of the idea of reading jokes that could be deemed incredibly offensive, I'd advise skipping this one. I work particularly blue when I write jokes, as it turns out. However, it's all I got this week, so I hope it's good enough. Enjoy!

So you know how at the beginning of the porno movie there's a disclaimer that reads “This film does not necessarily depict a healthy sexual relationship?” I'm not a huge fan of that. The last thing I need before beating off is a guilt trip. I know it's not a healthy sexual relationship, that's why it's a good porno. Also, what if the subject of this particular porn is how you actually live your life? Calling my lifestyle choices into question as I'm about to jerk off isn't exactly a turn on.

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So I'm married, and when people find out about it they're always surprised. I'm pretty sure I should be offended, but whatever. Anyhow, everyone always asks, “So what's your wife like,” which is tough for me because I can never remember. I always end up saying something like “I dunno. I guess she's 5'5”? Mid 20's?” It's like I'm describing her for a police sketch artist. I've just learned to give the people what they want to hear. For women, it's “She's my best friend and the greatest thing to ever happen to me.” For guys, it's “Red hair, nice tits, good in the sack.” I suppose the truth really lies in the middle.

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I hate people who need to volunteer super-personal stuff about their lives. This girl I know is telling me how she's going to graduate from high school in October because she had to be home schooled. I say “Why home school? Do your parents hate the government or something?” She says “No, I couldn't be in regular school,” and before I can say another word, she blurts out “Because I tried to kill myself there.” Total downer, right? But she was all cavalier about it. “Oh, yeah, you know me! I'm the girl who's unbalanced! Doesn't that make me fascinating?” I fucking hate people like that. You know what needs to come back? Shame. Used to be you didn't go around announcing to the world that you're a fucking nutcase. Now it's cool. Makes me sick. By the way, have I mentioned that I tried killing myself twice? Because I did. Please like me.

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I like to think of myself as being very similar to John Lennon. Not in that I'm a great songwriter, or an iconoclast, or a genius or anything. I'm a lot like John Lennon in that I spend a lot of my time in bed and none of my friends like my wife very much.

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I used to be afraid of two things. I'm afraid of snakes, and losing my mind to the point where I become a burden on the ones I love. Those two things used to terrify me. Recently, however, I was listening to an interview with Dana Gould, a comedian who is funnier than I could ever be, where he revealed his two biggest fears. First was snakes, just like me. Seems reasonable. Second however, was getting trapped in an elevator and having to take a shit. When I heard this I laughed and didn't really think about it. The other day, however, I was at work and I got into the elevator. As the door closed, I realized I had to take a mammoth shit. Like, urgently. It was then that I realized the validity of Mr. Gould's fear. Now, the elevator at work pauses for like, a one-and-a-half Mississippi before the door opens and friends, that felt like fucking ages. As the door opened, I pushed one of my coworkers out of the way and shouted “MOVE, OR I'LL SHIT ON YOU.” From then on I couldn't even look at the elevator if I had eaten in the past hour. Needless to say, I am now afraid of three things, and if you're anything like me, you are too.

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So yeah, that's some of the stuff I've been working on. It's still a little raw, and I still need to say it out loud more so I can get used to my own speech patterns. If you have any input, please leave it in the comments section. Thanks for putting up with my non-writing these past few weeks.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

So procrastination decides to walk into a bar later...

So it's Friday and I haven't really written anything. This isn't because nothing has happened - a lot has, really. Some of it even noteworthy. The reason I'm not really posting anything this week is I have a stand-up gig in about a month, and I've focused all of my writing time on banging out crappy jokes, and neither John nor myself was available for podcasting. I'm sorry. This (probably) won't happen again. In recompense, here is a photograph of my cat, taking a well-deserved nap after tearing apart a roll of paper towels.



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Have a good week, everybody.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Born Under a Yield Sign

The other day I caught four teenage girls trying to sneak into the movies. When I caught them, they freaked out and started explaining their scheme to me faster than a Bond villain. What they would do - and apparently they did this all the time - was they'd pool their money, go through box office and buy one ticket. That way, they could see which seats were available. They would then go through the upstairs entrance to one of the theatres, and all four of them would sit in the section that had the most empty seats. A pretty brilliant plan, considering the various checkpoints they managed to avoid. Honestly, I caught them by accident.

I'm a fairly cautious individual. I don't drive particularly fast, I don't run red lights - left turn arrows not included - and I certainly wear my seatbelt when I'm driving. I never snuck into the movies as a kid. At least not without paying. I would routinely buy tickets for one movie and proceed to sneak into an R-rated movie, but everybody does that. I never really stole either. My friends would often steal stuff from record stores and Best Buy and whatnot, but I was always too timid. I knew that the moment I tried, I would get caught. I had a friend get banned for life from Newbury Comics for trying to steal Magic cards once. His lifetime ban was lifted as soon as everybody who worked there forgot who he was, but it was pretty rough for him, and I couldn't bear the thought of not being allowed into my favorite store.

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There used to be a Strawberries record store in the same plaza as the Staples I used to work at. I would go in there before work to kill time and maybe buy some CDs. One day I found an empty case in one of the racks. It was a copy of Closing Time by Tom Waits, and somebody had taken the disc out of the case. I brought the empty case to the girl at the counter and told her what I found. She thanked me, and I left the store.

I went to the bagel shop up the street to get some lunch, and the store clerk followed me. She demanded I return to her store to be searched. She had decided that I stole the CD and she called the cops to search me. Naturally, I freaked out and started crying. She asked me for some ID, which I had in my car. She followed me to my car and wrote down my license plate number, I suppose in case I tried to make a speedy escape. I got my license out of the glove box and dolefully returned to the store. It was pretty awful.

When the cops finally showed up, I was searched. At this point, I was so rapt with guilt that I had forgotten that I hadn't actually done anything wrong. When it was discovered that no, I didn't actually steal anything, the manager of the store wanted my car searched. The cops said they not only didn't have the time to fuck around in my station wagon, but that it was also a violation of my rights as an American. That was a pretty cool moment for me - I thought the Constitution was just there for show. Anyhow, I was let go without charges, but the cops sent a letter to my house telling me that I had been banned for life from the store, and I wasn't allowed to park my car in the lot there. This was tough, considering I worked next door. I worked at Staples for three more weeks, and my car managed to not get impounded.

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As I've grown older, I've become less timid. I still don't run red lights, but I jaywalk. Often. I find it freeing. It's the walking equivalent of not wearing underwear.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Adidas Story 10: From the Basement to the Dream Factory

My mom is a depressed, delusional paranoid schizophrenic. All her life she has been convinced that everybody is out to get her, especially her various employers. She once famously quit a job because she was convinced that her boss and his wife were hacking into her email account. It's all she could talk about for months. It came as quite a surprise to everybody around her when her boss was arrested for writing prescriptions for painkillers illegally. My mom had decided that she was right all along. From then on, she decided that every one of her bosses was out to get her - to destroy her for bringing down one of their colleagues.

I spent the last year I worked at adidas trying to convince myself that my boss wasn't out to get me. It started when my hours were being cut. At first I was scheduled for shorter, seven hour days. Then I started getting only four days of work every week. This came as a direct result of Sal being put in charge of scheduling. Sal, you may recall, was the closest thing I've ever had to a mortal enemy. If anybody were to be out to get me, it would be Sal. Just having my hours cut was bad, but every week, my paycheck would end up a couple hundred dollars short. Not shocking when you realize that Sal's retarded ass was in charge of submitting the payroll reports. Another thing Sal liked to do was make me do his job. His favorite move was telling me to tell other people to work, and then to blame me when the work didn't get done. What a great guy.

One day I just snapped. I screamed at Sal for what seemed like an hour about how he was a terrible manager, how he's an awful human being, how he doesn't deserve to be allowed outdoors in polite society. It was quite a show. I then locked myself in the stock office and sobbed for a while. At most jobs this would be a fire-able offense, but this was fairly commonplace at adidas. Once a week somebody would start screaming and crying and slam the stock office door behind them. Usually it was my boss, Laura. When I came back the next day, it was like nothing had ever happened. I went back to work and everything was normal again. I'm surprised I kept my job.

Things got even weirder when a few weeks later I found out Rico, the manager, wanted to give me a promotion. Apparently he thought I would make a good team lead; all I had to do was pass the credit check and job was mine. I didn't have great credit to begin with, so I was a little worried. To make matters worse, getting shorted on paycheck after paycheck resulted in my wife and I having to take on debt, and we fell even further behind on our bills. On top of everything else, I had a unpaid medical bill from when I fell off a ladder at work and adidas made me go to the emergency room. They still haven't paid that bill, by the way, and it's been nearly three years. I pretended that my credit might be high enough to get the promotion, but I knew it wasn't. Ironically I couldn't make more money at adidas because I never made enough money at adidas. Not to sound like my mother, but I'm sure I can sue for lost wages at this point.

One week, the managers' schedule came out with my name on it. Well, at least it said “Josh.” I came in Monday morning, expecting to be showered with praise and given my shiny new name tag. Turns out, it was a different Josh. This Josh was the manager of the Camarillo adidas outlet, and he was training a new manager at our store for two weeks. I was humiliated. This is why I hate having a name like Josh. This never happens to Dweezil Zappa or Picabo Street. Anyhow, if there was one good thing that came out of this awful situation, Sal got fired shortly after Josh's visit, and Josh replaced Rico as manager a few months later.

When Josh came to adidas, he brought with him an Obama-like level of optimism. I was wary of his corporate doublespeak and his overly cheerful demeanor. Everyone told me to lighten up and give him a chance. Turns out I was right and he's a snake, but that's not really the point. In Josh's first week at the helm, he found countless financial problems in the adidas books, the biggest of which being that none of the store's bills were paid in the time Rico was in power. Apparently, having Sal monitor the finances of the store was a mistake. Who knew? There were also dozens of repairs that needed to be done. Josh decided it would be best to have the staff make these repairs, so we did. It was mostly the stockroom team that did the building and cleaning, including a complete overhaul of the stockroom shelving system. We spent nearly a month restructuring every fucking shelf. Thousands of dollars spent on tools, supplies, wood and payroll resulted in new shelves on which to put our shoes.

Good thing we had new shelves, because none of the stock was moving. The shitty economy, combined with a lack of quality product - we had some ugly, ugly stuff for two straight seasons - resulted in record lows for our store. On top of that, we were over hours as a result of the stock team being used to build shelves. Naturally, hours started getting cut. First we all went from 45 hours down to 40, then 32, then 20. Every time a new schedule came out, we were told things would be getting better soon. As soon as the economy turned around, we'd all get more hours. By the end of my tenure, many people were getting eight hours or less.

After years of threats, I finally went out and found a new job. I applied at Arclight Cinemas and was hired in under a week. I put in my two week notice at adidas and said goodbye to everyone who mattered there. It was sad. I really didn't want to leave. I had made so many friends, I loved working with the stockroom team. I loved my boss - Laura, not Josh. Honestly, I loved the manual labor. It gave me eight hours a day to be alone with my thoughts, and I even got paid for it.

My wife says my new job is better for my development as a person, and she's probably right. Since I started at Arclight, I'm a happier person, I've made more friends, I make a little more money, and I've even become a better writer. That last part is probably a result of writing more than I used to, but still. In all likelihood, I'm going to work at Arclight longer than I probably ought to, just like I did at adidas. I'm also probably going to have a few dozen awful stories to tell about it. Rest assured that as soon as I get a new job - or fired, whichever comes first - I'll start hacking away about the worst of times at Arclight. I've already come up with a title - Tales from the Dream Factory. Thanks for reading.

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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, July 3, 2009

State of the Union II

NB: I didn't put together one long-form essay this week. All I could really put together was a string of angry sentences. Here are some of the better ones, followed by a handful of photos from the Michael Jackson shrine that's accruing over by the Chinese Theatre, or as Julianne would call it “The Chinaman Theatre.” It's not exactly my best stuff, but what are you gonna do, right?

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I'm through with irony. Specifically, I'm sick of people liking things ironically. If you like Billy Joel, just fucking say you like Billy Joel. Don't act like it's hilarious that you own a copy of 52nd Street, because it's really not. You just like Uptown Girl. There's nothing wrong with that. Personally, I love the Carpenters.

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An addendum to last week's rant about cool dads: My dad is not cool. He's about as uncool as dads get. He wears t-shirts with the sleeves cut off, he wears tall socks with sandals. He eats sautéed mushrooms as a meal. He's a bald guy with just a mustache. Not exactly Lou Reed. However, he's a pretty decent dad. Of the two dads I've had, he's far and away the best one.

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I have a lot of First World Problems. My life is constantly plagued with difficulties like having too many podcasts to listen to or deciding which NPR affiliate to donate to. Last week I went out to brunch with my wife and we had to send out eggs back because they were undercooked. When they came back, they were half undercooked, half overcooked. Then they had the nerve to undercook my steak. I realized afterwards how ludicrous it was that this ruined my day. It really ruined my wife's night when she realized she had food poisoning.

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I wish people would act like fucking adults once in a while. I spend a lot of my time listening to people at work bitch about their 40 hour work week and how difficult it is to get time off so they can make their student films. Pay your bills first, then Make Art. Also, please, grown-ups, unless you've got kids of your own, stop watching TV shows intended for children. If nothing else, don't tell me about how awesome you think Yo Gabba Gabba is. I don't give a fuck.

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Michael Jackson just died, and I live up the street from his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. I thought I would go see what kind of shit was happening over there. As somebody whose life was not touched in even the slightest way by Michael Jackson or his work, I figured I would make a good objective observer of the kind of weird stuff that was going on over that way. Sadly, not a lot of interesting stuff occurred, but here are some pictures anyway.

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Out of frame: About 35 of those tall candles that they sell at the supermarket with Mary on them.

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Out of frame: A smelly guy in a denim jacket with gold puff paint on the back that spelled out the phrase “The Chicago Kid.” He was looking for acting work. Apparently a lot of Hollywood big-shots hang out by the Chinese Theatre, handing out Rich and Famous Contracts like the one Orson Welles gives Kermit at the end of The Muppet Movie.

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I can't tell if the single black glove is supposed to signify mourning or if somebody had never seen a photo of Michael Jackson before. I guess it could have also been there to signify that he played the Scarecrow in the film version of The Wiz.

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After a short wait in line, during which I was offered many hastily made Michael Jackson RIP t-shirts at exorbitant prices, I made my way to the star itself. I was asked to take a picture of the family in front of me, which I gladly did. I was also interviewed by a Japanese newspaper, a Korean newspaper and Telemundo. They were all disappointed when their respective translators told them that I wasn't there because I loved Michael Jackson, but because I wanted to observe how people mourn the death of an idol.