My Bad Luck With Women: A Brief History

I had not planned on spending more than one post on my past dating woes, but there was some interest in hearing more, so what the hell? Maybe my bad luck in the past will help somebody else avoid a disastrous relationship in the future.

Either that, or you’ll all laugh at me. Things are great nowadays, but there was a five-year stretch where my love life resembled a black comedy. “You don’t have the best track record with women,” my daughter told me recently, and that’s putting it mildly. I don’t know if they were all crazy or I was naive. It’s probably a combination of both.

After my date from hell with the tattooed grandma, I was gun shy about dating again, but there’s the old adage about getting back up on the bicycle once you’ve fallen off, and mama didn’t raise no quitters.

She did raise a cliche-spoutin’ son, though.

In any case, a couple of years earlier I had worked with a woman who’d admitted to having a crush on me. I wonder if she still does, I thought. So I called her up. She still did. We decided to get together and do what adults do when there are crushes involved. She was older and a staunch conservative. The perfect foil to my bleeding heart liberalness, I told myself! At least I knew what she looked like.diet root beer

Because I’m a gentleman, I figured she deserved a little wining and dining first. Big mistake. She sent me a list of demands before we even got together: she wanted pizza for dinner, but it must have ham and black olives only. There had to be diet root beer in the fridge. Coffee in the morning, but Folger’s only, taken black. And she wanted to go out for karaoke.

Worst evening of my life. I wrote about it in detail here. She slithered around onstage pretending to be Britney Spears, when in reality she was more like Bette Midler. Sure, she slept over that night, and that was great, but I ended up faking an illness the next morning because I just couldn’t take any more. Not my proudest moment.

This casual dating stuff is for the birds, I told myself. What I need is a relationship. 

What I didn’t need was a relationship filled with deceit and a side trip to Crazy Town, but that’s what I got. Much like with Tara, I met this woman through blogging. She lived in another state but moved here to be near me after ostensibly separating from her husband. Funny word, ostensibly.

os·ten·si·bly
äˈstensiblē,əˈstensiblē
adverb
apparently or purportedly, but perhaps not actually.

liarOur relationship was a strange one involving numerous break-ups and reconciliations. Furtive phone calls out of earshot. Lots of trips to visit her parents in California that never involved me because she kept our relationship a secret from them. It turns out she had lied to me about divorcing her husband, a fact I learned only after reading her obituary. She was seeing him the entire time, and stringing us both along. Several times I ended things and tried dating other women, but she pulled out all the stops to win me back, including faking not one but two pregnancies (and even doctoring up a home test when I demanded proof). We were on-again and off-again for several years before I finally had enough. A year and a half after our final breakup, I learned she had died unexpectedly at the age of 37 from cancer. Some things are just never meant to be, you know?

Well, that was a fluke, I thought. Surely her craziness is the exception to the rule. Let me find a new relationship!

The new relationship involved a single mother who brought new meaning to the word “theatrics.” After we had dated for three days, she got furious at me for wanting to spend a Saturday with my dad at the movies. Flew into a rage once after I’d taken a day off work so we could have breakfast, see a movie, and spend time together because 4:00 rolled around and I had to pick up my kids. Got mad at me once in the middle of the night for no apparent reason and asked me to drive her home at 3 AM. When I pulled on a pair of jeans and grabbed my keys, she asked what I was doing. “Driving you home like you asked,” I said, too tired to argue. For some reason the fact that I was doing exactly what she wanted set her off again. The night I broke up with her, she curled into a fetal position on her bedroom floor and bawled her eyes out in front of her daughter. Man, I’m not a hard ass, but I finally had to just walk away from that, her high-pitched wails trailing me across the parking lot of her apartment complex.

madwoman

Hmm, I thought. Maybe a relationship ISN’T the way to go. 

So, there was this girl who lived in Australia. Considering she was an entire hemisphere away, I figured it was safe enough to flirt with her. Hell, there was a 15-hour time difference, so if she ever got mad at me in the middle of the night it would be late afternoon here. Problem solved! Until she latched onto three little words I said one time in the heat of the moment.

No, not I love you. Do you think I’m stupid? They were far more innocent. I simply said, Marry me, then.

Her dad was an American citizen and was planning on moving back to the U.S. for a job opportunity, only this girl was having trouble getting a visa because she was Australian, had a different mom, blah, blah, blah. That’s when I said it.

But here’s the thing: I was joking.

She saw it as her ticket to paradise, though. Suddenly she was looking into flights. “We should at least meet in person before doing this,” she said. There was no LOL attached to those words, and I knew I was in trouble. She wanted me to pick a weekend. My birthday was coming up. How about then? Umm…

I stalled. That was my fatal error. I should have immediately said ha-ha, just kidding, you wouldn’t be able to find any decent vegemite around here anyway. Instead, because I suck at making clean breaks, the charade dragged itself on for weeks. She finally realized I had no intention of following through and extricated herself from the situation by bombarding me with a few choice words. They may or may not have been deserved – years later, I still have trouble figuring that out. For what it’s worth, I am sorry for that whole misunderstanding.

Vegemite

After international relations became strained as a result of my terrible luck with women, I decided I would instead remain single the rest of my life.

The next month Tara and I met up for one date, and the rest is history.

The Old Girl With the Dragon Tattoo

This story has been making the rounds for years, at least among my friends (both IRL and online). I’ve been hesitant to post it on my blog because it contains “adult themes” and, well, hi, mom! But I’ve been listening to a podcast called Risk! lately, and its tagline is “true tales boldly told.” This has given me the courage to finally come clean and share my story. It’s a doozy, but is nowhere near as bad as some of the stories on Risk!. Because I do have family reading my blog I feel some obligation to be a little discrete, so I am substituting the euphemism “managing her stock portfolio” to keep this in PG-13 rated territory.

This is the story of my first date in 20 years, and it takes place in 2006. It’s on the long side, but trust me – it’s entertaining. And every word is true.

In November of that year, I was separated from the woman I had been married to for 14 years. We had been high school sweethearts, but had been separated about two months, had each purchased townhouses, and our divorce was taking place in a few weeks. It was time to explore the dating world, only I was scared to death. At the ripe old age of 37, I felt like a fish out of water. I was not into the bar scene and didn’t have any friends or coworkers attractive enough (or single enough) to date, so naturally I turned to the Internet.

Popular sites like Match.com and eHarmony cost money and I personally do not believe one can put a price on love…okay, that’s bullshit. I was really just a cheap bastard. In any case, OK Cupid was getting a lot of attention and it was free, so I created an account, posted an online profile, and sat back to see what would happen.

A woman named Jennifer happened. She read my profile, messaged me and said I was “cute.” Game on, baby.

I had no idea what the dating rules because the last time I had been out with somebody new, Mr. Mister was all the rage. I was definitely surprised by how forward Jennifer was. She was quite the aggressor, and boasted that she managed her stock portfolio really well. I asked her how she could be sure, and she replied, “One guy went into a seizure when I finished. And he wasn’t even epileptic.”

Naturally, I was intrigued. My own stock portfolio had not been managed in quite some time, so we arranged to meet up. Taking the advice of a friend, we decided to get together at a Starbucks in the mall. It was a public location and would make for a short, no-obligation date if things went south. The evening of our date was rainy. Very rainy, even by our already-soggy standards Pacific Northwest standards. Keep this in mind, because it’s important later.

Right off the bat, things started going wrong. I should’ve called the whole thing off right then and there, but I was curious to see whether the Dow Jones would close up that day, so I didn’t bail. We had agreed to meet at 7:00, and because the mall was just a few miles away, I hit the road at 6:40, allowing myself some extra time since it was dark and pouring rain and, truth be told, I was looking forward to meeting her. The concept of dating was both terrifying and exciting, and I was ready to plunge in. The minute I arrived, she texted me, letting me know she was stuck in traffic and running late, so could we make it 8:00 instead? I was already standing outside The Gap and didn’t want to go back home only to have to navigate through the autumn storm all over again in another hour, so I decided to kill time by wandering the mall instead. This made me feel awkward, because it was a Friday evening and the place was teeming with packs of teenagers. Being the older guy in their midst shuffling past Bath & Body Works and Cinnabon while they goofed off just felt weird. Finally, mercifully, Jen texted me letting me know she had arrived, so I made my way to Starbucks.

“So, have I aged much?” were the first words out of my date’s mouth when she pulled up a chair beside me.

Has the Colosseum aged much?! I was tempted to reply, but bit my tongue instead. Her online profile had included a photo, but she had warned me in advance it was ten years old. I don’t know why that didn’t set off any warning bells, but remember, I was brand new to dating and a little naïve. In reality, her photo was probably twenty years old. The girl on my monitor had been fresh-faced and reasonably pretty, but the one staring back at me now had a face so wrinkled it resembled a roadmap. Destination? Old Town. I was learning – on the fly – the Rules of Dating in the 21st Century.

Rule #1: Make sure you have a current picture of your date.

Colosseum

As she leaned in close, I caught a whiff of her scent. Perfume? Nope – cigarettes. She reeked of tobacco smoke, which was a major turn-off. Under the word Smokes? on her profile, she had written N/A. Apparently, that meant Nicotine Addict.

Rule #2: Learn all you can about your date’s personal habits beforehand.

By now I had to fight off the instinct to bolt for the nearest exit, but Jen had just spent 90 minutes on the road driving through a torrential downpour, so I figured I owed her an hour of my time. Plus, she had paid for our drinks. I’m not even sure how that happened but I’m all for women’s lib, so I didn’t put up too much of a fight. I prayed instead that my phone would ring and I could fake an emergency.

Rule #3: Always have an escape plan.

Our initial topic of conversation? The fact that she had lost 300 pounds. Honestly, she looked like she had another 200 to go. I have nothing against women with a little meat on their bones, but when Jen mentioned that she’d contemplated buying an electric wheelchair to get around, I think I recoiled in horror. Attempting to steer the conversation toward more comfortable territory, I asked her where she lived, expecting to hear something like “an apartment” or “Taylor Street.” Instead, she replied, “with my parents.”

Rule #4: Find out your date’s living arrangements before meeting up. Anybody still shacking up with their parents when they’re pushing 40 has issues.

dragon-tattoo-legShe told me about her 21-year old son and 14-year old daughter, all living together under one roof with her folks. To make matters worse, she dropped another bomb by informing me that she was a grandmother, delivering this blow with what sounded like pride. I was in my 30s and had no desire to date a grandma! Suddenly, she was rolling up her pant leg. Why? What was happening now?? OK, she was just showing me her tattoo. No big deal. I like tattoos. But this was no tiny butterfly on the ankle; it was a sprawling dragon tattoo that wound around most of her leg (which was quite ample to begin with). I’d had enough, so I tried to courteously wrap things up with some half-baked excuse about getting up early the next day, never mind that it was Saturday. Ever the polite guy, I walked my date – this chain-smoking, obese, heavily wrinkled, tattoo-sporting, still-sponging-off-her-parents grandma – to her car.

Only, her car was nowhere to be found.

We scoured the parking lot for what felt like an eternity, getting drenched thanks to this deluge of epic proportions, searching for a car that wasn’t there. “Oh, shit,” she kept saying, over and over again, a broken record. Oh, shit, I kept thinking. I envisioned a long, wet, cold night spent talking to the police and filling out paperwork. I’d be obligated to drive her home, too. To her parents’ house.

“Are you sure you didn’t park on the other side of Macy’s?” I asked.

“Oh,” she said in response. “There’s another side of Macy’s?”

Of course, this was exactly what she had done. But I wasn’t angry; instead, relief washed over me as we finally located her car, which happened to be a purple Trans-Am I’m pretty sure you could have spotted from the moon. She offered to drive me to the other side of the mall “so you won’t get wet,” which was laughable considering I was already soaked to the bone, but again, I’m a polite guy so I hopped in. When we got to my car I thanked her for the fun evening (I am apparently also a liar), gave her a quick hug, told her we should keep in touch, and took off.

purple trans am

Ten minutes later, she was texting me.

Is it just me, or is a hug and “keep in touch” the kiss of death?

Overly dramatic much? I politely responded that I’d enjoyed the conversation but hadn’t felt a connection. And straight up asked if she’d been hoping for a goodnight kiss.

When a person says she doesn’t have to work the next day, Jen responded, it means she could have kept you up VERY LATE.

Reading those words, I nearly swerved off the wet road. The text was accompanied by a little smiley face emoticon with devil’s horns, making the implication clear. This self-professed stock portfolio expert would have managed my stocks and bonds all night long if I’d given her the chance, and probably would have diversified my holdings while she was at it.portfolio_watch

I figured I was more content keeping my money under the mattress instead (these analogies are getting weirder by the minute), and bid her adieu. Aside from a quick email exchange the day before Thanksgiving, I never heard from Jen again. Soon after, I deleted my OK Cupid profile. Within a couple of months, I began dating a woman who was both childless and grandchild-less, and completely free of tattoos. Whew! Right?

Wrong. She was batshit crazy. And married. And faked two pregnancies just so I would stick around.

But that’s another story…

Because, What Winter?!

Spring Blossoms

February in Portland does not usually look like this.

But in stark contrast to the eastern half of the country, winter in the Pacific Northwest was a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it affair this year. Month after month, we have set records for warm temperatures, and snow has been nonexistent. Even in the Cascades, where it is sorely needed. The snowpack is sitting at about 10% of normal, which could mean drought this summer – only time will tell.

So when we took a walk along the Willamette River in downtown Portland last weekend, we weren’t at all surprised to see blossoms popping up on trees, three weeks ahead of schedule.

Forget what the calendar says. Welcome, spring.

You Can’t Fight City Hall

“Do you want to take a trip to City Hall?” a coworker asked me recently.

“You can’t fight City Hall!” I said.

“Don’t worry, we’re not getting into a rumble or anything,” she assured me.

“OK, good. Are we going there to protest something? What are we protesting? I’m pretty anti-ISIS these days, but I could probably work myself into a frenzy over nuclear disarmament if you think that’s a better cause. We can make up some signs and everything. Even stage a sit-in. NO NUKES! It’ll be just like the 60s!”

NoNukes

“Mark. Settle down. We are going to ask about zoning restrictions on putting a sign up in the company parking lot.”

Even though there was no need for me to chain myself to anything, I decided to tag along because I felt like stretching my legs for a bit.

City Hall is a mere two blocks from the office, so we didn’t have far to go. I thought it would be fun to walk inside and tell them I wanted to turn a vacant lot into a park…ode to Parks and Recreation, a truly great sitcom that is ending its seven-year run this week even though it is by far the funniest show on television…but I was afraid the joke would go right over their heads. After all, truly great sitcoms don’t end when they are by far the funniest show on television unless nobody is watching.

What a damn shame. But I digress.

There were three of us total, representatives of our company’s made-up-on-the-spot parking committee. Anyway, we stormed inside City Hall full of demands! That is, if you define “storming” as quietly pushing open the door and “full of demands” as politely inquiring about whom we should submit our request to. Clearly, I have very weird ideas about government in action.

Only, it should be government inaction, because we were shuffled around from one department to the next, and within each department, were handed off to various individuals, none of whom seemed to have the slightest clue about the city’s parking regulations, or who is even responsible for code enforcement. I know bureaucratic inadequacy is a cliche, but dammit if it wasn’t on full display, right before my very eyes.

This is why we need to bring back Schoolhouse Rock. I mean, geez, I learned the whole process of how a bill becomes a law while eating cold cereal and watching the Road Runner get the better of Wile E. Coyote (every. single. time.) on Saturday morning. These guys could stand to learn a thing or two. Finally, they asked me to leave my business card and they’d get back to me with an answer.

That was five days ago. I doubt very much I’ll ever receive an answer at this point.

I’m just a bill
Yes, I’m only a bill
And if they vote for me on Capitol Hill
Well, then I’m off to the White House
Where I’ll wait in a line
With a lot of other bills
For the president to sign
And if he signs me, then I’ll be a law
How I hope and pray that he will
But today I am still just a bill

You may not be able to fight City Hall, but I’d sure like to try. Maybe next time we need to go all out and burn a few bras.

Beneath Mozzarella Sheets

It occurred to me the other day that Tara and I do not share the same tastes in decorating.

“I’ve got a great idea for the bedroom!” she said.
“Ooh,” I replied. “Do go on.”
“For decorating the bedroom, husband of mine.”

She pulled up her Pinterest account and started thumbing through pages of ideas she is collecting for our future home. There are vases and kitchen islands and artwork and French doors. She was particularly excited about a crafts project involving canvas, paint, and leaves that would be mounted collage-style above the bed. Her excitement was contagious.

“I’ve got a Pinterest page for home ideas, too!” I said, beaming.
“You do? That’s great!”
“Well, I’ve only pinned one thing so far. But it’s really cool. Check it out!”

When I shared my lone decorating idea with her, the one item I thought would be a great centerpiece for the master bedroom in our next house, I watched her face fall before my eyes.

“What?” I asked.
That,” she replied.

That was this:

pizzabedforcargo_900“It’s beautiful!” I said.
“It’s pepperoni,” she responded.
“We can order sausage instead, if you’d prefer.”

The look in her eyes convinced me that it wasn’t my choice of toppings that turned her off so much as the pizza bedspread itself. I tried to convince her how cozy it would be to cuddle up beneath mozzarella sheets, to rest our heads on pillowy piles of crust, but she was having none of it. And just like that, another great decorating idea of mine was shot down. I still mourn the awesome dogs playing poker tapestry that she talked me out of buying a few years ago.

In retrospect it should have been obvious, this incompatibility in the decorating department, given how quickly my shower curtain came down and hers went up once we moved in together. Come to think of it, my bath towels were replaced pretty quickly, too. And when we moved to the apartment last year, the living room drapes inexplicably remained in the townhouse. “We have no room” is a pretty flimsy excuse, given the fact that the 3′ tall garish plastic trophy from her car racing days managed to find a spot in our garage.

HEY NOW, woman!

Err…sweet wife of mine…

At least she likes my lava lamps.

Gimme Those TPS Reports. And STRIP!

A few months ago, the company I work for moved into a cool new building in downtown Camas. It’s not really “new” because it was built in the 1920s and housed many businesses over the years, most recently an automotive dealership. Where service bays once stood, there are now desks. The ceiling was ripped out, exposing wooden beams and skylights. It’s the very definition of a hip and modern workspace. We’ve even got a mezzanine with a ping-pong table, and a kegerator in the kitchen. You would never know that a year ago the concrete floor was stained with oil and the whole place smelled of rubber tires.

That was then…

Fuel 1

And this is now:

P1030749

As you can see, quite a change. We needed to move, because here’s a pic of what our old office looked like:

Like Sardines in a Can

Oops. Wrong shot. Here we go:

Old Fuel

Talk about a tight fit. It got to the point where new employees could either set up a desk in the parking lot or the vacant field next door, which is kind of a bitch when it rains. Fortunately, this is Washington, so it rarely ever rains here.

eye-roll

OK, fine. Maybe it rains a little. But the point is, we needed bigger quarters, and we got them. The new office is a great space that we are all pretty happy with. But after we moved, I learned the owners had been considering buying the building next door. Which would have been way cooler, because the building next door is…

A funeral parlor.

If I’m lying, I’m dying (and if I were dying, how convenient would that have been? They could’ve wheeled my body right into the conference room). Which means our front lobby might have looked like this:

Funeral Parlor

And c’mon, you know a place like that is haunted! The funeral home dates back to 1912. That’s over a hundred years’ worth of dead bodies gracing the premises. Surely a few of those spirits might decide to linger. And because I have such a fascination with ghosts, you know I’d just love that. Instead, if I’m lucky I might get to see the spirit of a ’53 Buick. It’s not quite the same.

The owners got to tour the building, and said it was pretty cool but in the end wouldn’t have given us as much space as we needed.

Damn. What could have been.

Stripper---Pole-DancerAlso, they said the office upstairs contained a stripper’s pole. I kid you not. A funeral home with a stripper’s pole?! I don’t know what kind of shenanigans were taking place there among the stiffs (heh), but suffice it to say, my interest is piqued.

And I’m thinking my cool new workplace isn’t quite as awesome as it could have been…

Wojo Goes Mobile

I was watching Barney Miller this morning, as is habit. And yes, I am aware it is no longer 1978. Whatever. My AM routine includes the local news, a cup of coffee, and an episode of the aforementioned sitcom featuring the antics of the men (and occasional women) of the 12th Precinct.

Thank you, Antenna TV, for your perpetual reruns of this great show.

Today’s episode made me laugh out loud. Wojo, Dietrich, and Yemana were marveling over “a phone without wires!” They thought it was the coolest thing ever, and couldn’t believe how advanced technology had become. Here they are, fawning over this thoroughly modern 20th-century engineering feat.

Wireless Phone

You think that’s something? Just wait, fellas.

And by the way, is this thing even real? Did such technology exist in the 70s? This is a regular ol’ telephone, minus the cord, with an antenna attached. And they were walking around the police station using it to make calls. According to my research (and by that I mean reading the “history of mobile phones” Wikipedia page), while the technology dates back to 1946, the first true handheld mobile phone was produced in 1973 and looked like the so-called “brick” we have all seen and laughed at in old photographs and movies. Hell, I was just joking about these primitive phones in my last post.

Martin Cooper showing off the first handheld mobile phone, released in 1973.
Martin Cooper showing off the first handheld mobile phone, released in 1973.

Which leads me to Conclusion A: Barney Miller took creative liberties with the whole “wireless phone” thing. Sure, they had existed for a few years by the time this episode originally aired, but I doubt anybody had ever actually seen one. And that leads inevitably to Conclusion B: Barney Miller was ahead of its time.

This got me thinking about other television shows that were ahead of their time, for one reason or another. These are not necessarily critically acclaimed shows that never found an audience (Pushing Daisies, Arrested Development) and may, in fact, have had long and successful runs – they just did things differently, or did them first. In addition to Barney Miller, which makes my list not just because of the futuristic look at mobile communications but also due to its forward-thinking, realistic depictions of homosexual relationships, I offer you the following (in no particular order).

  1. Star Trek. In 1968, this sci-fi classic boldly went where no man had before, at least on primetime television, and broke the color barrier by featuring an interracial kiss between Captain Kirk and Uhura. Despite occasional missteps (tribbles, anyone?), the franchise continues to live long and prosper.
  2. My So-Called Life. This short-lived drama became a cult classic and launched the careers of Claire Danes and Jared Leto. Though its main characters were high school students – nothing original there – their daily struggles with realistic hot-button social issues of the day were far more realistic than those experienced by their peers in the 90210 zip code who were more concerned with saving The Peach Pit.
  3. The Honeymooners. The Kramdens were the antithesis of all those other cheerful, well-dressed couples featured so prominently in the early days of television: they argued, they got into ill-advised schemes, and they were decidedly blue collar. All was not domestic bliss, but at the end of the day, you never doubted Ralph’s sincerity when he said to Alice, “baby, you’re the greatest.”
  4. Seinfeld. No other show spotlighted the flaws and idiosyncrasies of its main characters so perfectly. It succeeded in making a group of whiny, apathetic, self-absorbed New Yorkers likable, no small feat. Let’s not forget all the great catchphrases (yada-yada, spongeworthy, master of your domain). But the most compelling reason for being ahead of its time: in one episode, Elaine is dating a guy with the same name as a serial killer. She is flipping through Sports Illustrated and suggests he change his name to O.J. This episode aired seven months before Nicole Simpson was murdered.
  5. Lost. Love it or loathe it, odds are you talked about it (and those conversations inevitably contained the phrase “WTF?!”). This head-scratcher heaped layer upon layer of unresolved mystery upon you and the whole thing was a mishmash of unconventional plots that included time travel, flashbacks, flash-forwards, obscure references to 18th-century philosophers, and polar bears on desert islands. It never made much sense and the finale was infuriatingly dense, but it was completely original and strangely engrossing. Networks are still trying to come up with the next Lost, years after it went off the air.

That’s my list! What television shows would you consider groundbreaking or ahead of their time?

 

 

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

We watched Reality Bites over the weekend, and it made me realize how much I miss the 90s.

If you’ve never seen this movie, first off: why not!? Reality Bites, much like Singles, is the quintessential 90s movie. It is an excellent snapshot into what life was like moments before the Internet changed everything, and perfectly defines a generation. My generation. Generation X.

Reality_Bites-1

The movie already feels dated, beginning with the cast. Winona Ryder? She shoplifted her way right out of the spotlight. Ethan Hawke? He’s chosen to write novels and take roles in critically acclaimed but little seen films. Janeane Garofalo? Her political activism scared away the big studios. Only Ben Stiller has had a “conventional” acting career, though judging by the trailers for Night At The Museum 27, he really should slow it down a bit.

There’s no point to any of this. It’s all just a random lottery of meaningless tragedy and a series of near escapes.

The other things that date the movie are the things I love most about it, and miss the most about the 90s. There was both an innocence and a backlash against “selling out.” If you were an alternative rock musician and one of your songs started receiving radio airplay, you were shunned. I’m talking about you, Soul Asylum and Gin Blossoms. In the movie, Lelaina’s documentary is picked up by In Your Face (a thinly disguised MTV knockoff), and then corporatized to death, much to her horror. People felt that way back then. The creative soul of an artist was more valuable than any type of currency.

Your integrity mattered a hell of a lot more than a BMW.

old cell phone*304The year Reality Bites came out (1994) computers already existed, but were much simpler, mainly functioning as word processors or very heavy paper weights. Printing was of the dot matrix variety and took roughly twelve days per page. Email was a novelty. It wasn’t until the following year that the last restrictions on Internet traffic were removed and it went mainstream. Ben Stiller’s character owns a cellular phone in the movie, but it’s ridiculously large and impractical. People didn’t sit across from each other in restaurants holding a 4″ glowing screen in front of their faces. Instead, they had actual conversations. “Streaming” entailed wading through water.

I remember the first time I ever went online. I started chatting with somebody on the east coast, and thought that was the coolest thing ever. I remember telling my wife, “I’m talking to some girl in Pennsylvania RIGHT NOW. How cool is that?” Because the only words she heard were some girl she did not find it nearly as cool as I did. Go figure. It was innocent, though! I also recall buying my first mobile phone. This had to be 2003 or 2004, and the truth is, I didn’t know what the hell we were supposed to do with them. There was no texting then. I justified $80 a month to the wife by saying they’d be great to have in an emergency, but no emergency ever materialized. A few years and a couple of upgrades later, I got mad at the Sprint salesman because he was trying to sell me a phone with a camera.

Lelaina: Can you define “irony”?
Troy Dyer: It’s when the actual meaning is the complete opposite from the literal meaning.

“I have a camera,” I told him. “Why on earth would I want one on my phone?!”

Clearly, I was living in a pre-Instagram world. Turns out they didn’t have any phones that didn’t come with built-in cameras anyway, so I bit my tongue and made the purchase. And complained bitterly about it afterwards. Looking back on it now, I can only laugh at the absurdity of my reaction.

firstwebsite
The first website ever.

I am not under any orders to make the world a better place.

Technology has improved my life in many ways, I cannot deny that. It has made me smarter, and definitely makes my job easier.

And yet, I still long for those days right before everything changed. For that Reality Bites world where idealistic quotes like “the only thing you have to be at age 23 is yourself” still rang true.

Perspective

I will admit to some fairly dark moments and “woe-is-me” feelings after being discharged from the hospital earlier this month. Especially as I started to read up on diabetes more. The stats were eye-opening and more than a little disheartening. Basically, my odds for developing everything have gone up, while – statistically speaking – my life expectancy has dropped a few years.

You’d be a little depressed too, right?

No sooner could I begin to digest this new information than I learned a close friend of mine was in the Intensive Care Unit of a hospital down in Eugene. This caught me off guard, because she was young (only 40 years old) and in otherwise perfect health. With a husband and 3-year old daughter, both of whom were the light of her life. The diagnosis came as a shock: acute liver failure. Her internal organs had shut down, and she was on full life support. Doctors gave her only a 5% chance of survival.

For two weeks she hung on, but Wednesday morning at 10 AM she passed away. By that point, there was nothing the doctors could do. Her liver was just gone, and her organs were not functioning on their own. Even a drastic measure such as a transplant was not an option.

And the whole world wept.

Or so it seemed. Misty had a ton of friends, and touched the lives of many people in her brief time on Earth. The outpouring of love and support for her and her family was tremendous.

Misty and I worked together for a few years, between 2004 and 2007. We clicked right from the start. She was a spunky free spirit with a wry and sarcastic wit. The woman was taking college courses and more than once paid me to do her homework. I wrote about subjects I had no knowledge of. But she didn’t care. “I just have to turn something in,” she’d say while handing me a $20 bill. How could I refuse? She was there for me when I went through my divorce, and after she left the company, we remained in touch. Misty was my very first Facebook friend.

We last chatted just a few months ago. It was right before Halloween, and we were talking about ghosts. My favorite part of the conversation was this:

Me: I’ve been wanting to write a (nonfiction) book about haunted places in Portland for some time.
Misty: You should! I’d mouth rape a book like that!
Me: Umm, excuse me??
Misty: Ok eye rape! Just means I’d eat it up!

And that was the Misty I knew and adored.

Misty

Like everybody else, I am stunned – and deeply saddened – by her passing. Life is so damn unfair it hurts. It’s just the suddenness of it all, the fact that it came from out of the blue without any rhyme or reason, that is the hardest to bear.

Death sucks. (Mom, cover your eyes): Fuck you, death.

Here’s the thing, though. It’s given me a wonderful dose of perspective. I’ve got diabetes.

So what.

I’m not going to die tomorrow. Unless I get hit by a bus on my way to pick up insulin. But I’m not going to die from my condition tomorrow. I’m doing a great job taking care of myself now – eating healthy, walking a lot more – and it’s showing. My glucose levels are consistently in the normal range. I feel a thousand times better.

Maybe I’ll kick the bucket at 75 instead of 80. Or 85 instead of 90. Big effin’ deal. I’m lucky I only have diabetes.

Rest in peace, my sweet friend.

And thank you for helping me put things in perspective.

Catch the Witness, Catch the Wit

My brother called me one day last week when I was in WinCo, shopping for groceries. It was a little hard to bag broccoli and cart around carrots while simultaneously chatting on the phone, so I said I’d call him back.

Yesterday, I dialed his number and the following conversation took place.

“Hey,” he said. “What’s up?”
“You tell me,” I replied.
“But you called me.”
“No, you called me. I’m calling you back.”
“What do you mean, you’re calling me back?”
“Remember last week when you called me and I had my hands full, so I promised to call you back? This is me fulfilling my promise.”
“That was four days ago!”
“Right. So, what’s going on?”
“Calling four days later doesn’t count as calling me back. It’s a new call.”
“No, it’s an extension of the last call. The only reason I dialed your number is because you dialed mine first. Ergo, this is calling you back.”
“What if you had called me two months from now? Would you consider that calling me back?”
“Of course not. Too much time would have passed.”
“Four days is too much time!”
“Four days is a drop in the cosmic bucket. So, what’s up?”

This whole Seinfeldian exchange (and ensuing debate) does bring up a good question. At what point does a call back stop being a call back and become a regular call? Is there any way to measure this objectively?

Does a call back have an expiration date?

In my mind, apparently that distinction lands somewhere between four days and two months. I just don’t know where. My brother, on the other hand, would have none of that. I asked him to give me credit for calling him back, but like a corporate banker sitting across from a bankrupt man, he patently refused my request.

callback

And then, to make matters worse, he dissed Rush.

I mentioned that Portland is one of the stops on their 40th anniversary tour this summer, and we were thinking of going. At that point he made a gagging sound over the phone.

“You don’t like Rush?” I asked.

“Hate ‘em,” he replied. “I’ll give you three reasons why. A) They’re Canadian. B) Their lead singer sounds whiny and nasally. C) “Tom Sawyer.”

I thought my brother’s points were completely off base. Except for the Canadian thing, of course. Can’t trust our neighbors to the north worth a damn. But Tom Petty’s got the whole nasally thing working for him, so why not Geddy Lee? And what’s wrong with “Tom Sawyer,” anyway?!

What you say about his company is what you say about society. Catch the mist, catch the myth. Catch the mystery, catch the drift.

Etc.

So, do you think I called my brother back, or did I just call my brother? And what about Rush? Would you pay to see them in concert?