Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Patriots Draft Recap

So I have not updated in a bit, and that's on me. Most of it was due to writers block, or more actually not being able to write about what I really wanted to write about. Some of it is due to Pat's visit, which was short but very sweet, we had a great time but nothing epic occurred, nothing worthy of an entire post. The last reason though was that this past weekend was one of the weekends you dream about as a sports fan. The NFL draft was occurring, which is fantastic theater, and I am going to write down my observations now on the draft and hopefully it will still be around in some form so I can compare them with what really happens in a few years. Hope springs eternal on Draft Day, although as dedicated New England fan sometimes Belichick moves in mysterious ways on Draft Day. This was not one of those drafts, I think I get the whole thing, and I like it. The Celts are locked in an epic first round series with the Chicago Bulls. This series is a great match-up of a young and up and coming team trying to face down a Champion not quite ready to let go yet. The Champs are hurt and older and about as deep as a puddle right now, but they are fighting off the young Bulls barely. The Sox went into a 3 game set with the Yankees Friday on a roll, and came out the other side with their streak intact, again just barely. Finally the Bruins, well they should have been locked in a playoff battle with THEIR rivals le Canadiens, but they swept their French ass so the B's got to sit at home and enjoy the show.


I am going to through these pick by pick and just give some thoughts and predictions about what could be for each one.

Patrick Chung (S Oregon): Or as I like to refer to him, Rodney Jr. Started all four years at Oregon, a major Pac-10 team. The Pats have two young safeties already, but both are more cover types. Chung will play closer to the line of scrimmage, almost like a linebacker, and he will be the recipient of those plays Rodney has had for years, where he comes off the edge untouched on passing downs. Hopefully Patrick is just as good at bringing the QB down.

Ron Brace (DT BC): Listen to the commentators when they talk about the 3-4 defense, and they always talk about how hard it is to find the 3-4 nosetackle. Well, Brace might not be the most talented guy in the world, but he can take up space in the middle, a better candidate for backup NT then the undersized Mike Wright, and insurance in case Vince Wilfork gets hurt or leaves via free agency next year. Also you have to love the local guy coming to play for his hometown team. Born and raised in Worcester, played in college at BC.

Darius Butler (CB Uconn): With the addition of Shawn Springs and Leigh Bodden (who had his best year under Romeo in Cleveland) Ellis Hobbs was no longer necessary, this pick gives us depth and potential. A first round graded player with the third Pats pick in the second is always good. Has the same build as Hobbs without the lingering injuries that have plagued him.

Sebastian Vollmer (OT Houston): Sea Bass (as anyone named Sebastian should rightfully be called, and he is.) is my sneaky favorite pick of the draft.
He is a latecomer to football. He only started playing at age 14 in Germany, and came to the US as a 250 lbs tight end. Within four years at Houston they had turned him into an all-conference offensive tackle. Shows he is smart and able to adapt quickly, having no English when he first came to this country. He has the prototypical body for the new kind of left tackle, he is 6'7" and 314 lbs, with long arms that he knows how to use for great leverage. You probably will not see him this year, but give him some time under the Master Dante Scarnecchia, and some time in the weight room and i think this guy can be a beast as a pro, in the mold of an Antonio Gates or Stephen Neal, players that came to football late but blossomed.

Brandon Tate (WR UNC) Another great value pick, a guy who had first or second round grades on a lot of boards before a positive test for marijuana at the combine. (oh GOD! a college student smoked WEED! The only points he loses in my book are IQ points for getting caught.) Set the NCAA record for return yards which is necessary because we just lost Ellis Hobbs who was one of the best kick return guys in the game, and I would really prefer it was a rookie and not Wes Welker who gets his head taken off every time the Pats receive a punt.

Thoughts on the lower rounds: I got nothing on McKenzie, hopefully he can provide some depth at LB. Ohrnberger and Bussey, maybe we can pull a decent back up guard out of one of these guys. Jake Ingram, long snapper. Luckiest dude on the face of the planet. He went to college at Hawaii for god's sake. Now he will probably have a job in the NFL for 12 years executing one and only one thing. Hiking a ball back between his legs at certain distances 13-18 times per game. I wish I was Jake Ingram. The two late D-lineman I don't feel good about them making it out of camp. Julian Edelman, WR/QB from Kent State is interesting if only because I wondered last year what Belichick could do with judicious use of the wildcat offense. Maybe we will find out.

Last but not least, this is the biggest roll of the dice, but I just want to get this out now, so hopefully I can point to it down the road. The Pats need a QB to groom for the future, a la Brady or Cassel. They signed Brian Hoyer out of Michigan State after the draft, and Todd McShay convinced me that the kid can play, he was just plagued by drop balls by his WR's. I am not saying he is the QB of the future, but he could be. Please feel free to point and laugh when he is playing for Amsterdam in two years.

Thoughts on the Celts, Bruins and Sox soon. Draft recap took longer then I thought it would.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

I GOT you man.

So tomorrow the man I have referred to previously as my platonic life partner flies into visit with me and my roommate. It brings to mind the last time that we got together. The Reno Trip. It was a few years ago. I was living on the Central Coast of California at that point. Pat (who is a Marine) was training in Nevada. Pat had trained before there, and the trip the soldiers usually made on their off time was to Reno. I took an extra day off from work and made the 6 hour trip on a Saturday. Reno is like the white trash second cousin of Vegas. Its smaller, dirtier, cheaper but it is less hot (Thank God). But this was all totally cool. Pat is my boy. We don't need a lot to entertain each other. We used to sit in the tall grass on the slope of a highway overpass at night and just shoot the shit. It was like a 3/4 of a mile walk to get there too. We don't need much. So Saturday I get in, check into the hotel and wait for Pat to show up. I do a little gambling, we get some dinner, then we just spend some time catching up. The calm before the storm.

Sunday, it is on. I am due to drive back Monday during the day so we need to pack as much as we can into Sunday. We are up to the challenge. Team Pat and Andy is raring to go and we are going to tear up the biggest little city or whatever bullshit slogan they have in that town. We start out with sushi. Pat got a recommendation from a friend of his about a little place in a strip mall, so we head out there to begin our day, pounding down some warm sake and delicious raw fish and rice. Back to the hotel, I do a little gambling and we wander a bit, and then we spot our place for dinner. There is a very nice steakhouse inside our hotel, the kind offering table side service of caesar salads and 30-40 dollar steaks. Fuck Yeah. Pat and I hammer down at this establishment, filling up on red meat and good whiskey. After rolling ourselves out of there we head to a tiki type bar where we meet some of the members of Pat's company. Drinks are had and rounds are bought. I had set aside a decent amount for this trip and I am leaving in the morning so we lay it on thick. I am drinking whiskey and ginger like I will catch fire without them. By about 11 we are buzzing something fierce, and there is only one thing to do. Strip Club. Pat had been to Reno before and there was a favorite club already in place. I could be wrong but I believe it was called Fantasy Girls. The fine upstanding and hard working women who labor in the confines of that establishment are a credit to their species.

By this time I am drunk as fuck, and I know a strip club is going to be trouble. I tuck a fifty dollar bill (for gas and food on my way home the next day) behind my license and away we go, cabbing our way over. We party like motherfucking rock stars. We are buying ourselves drinks, dancers drinks, bartenders drinks and its Sunday night and pretty damn slow so we are knee deep in girls. (Yeah, I am well aware all they want is the cash, but still, its not the worst feeling in the world. I certainly paid enough for it.) Pat and I are both glowing, doing the normal "I fucking love you man" drunk bullshit in between lap dances. Bonding occurs. I blow almost every dime I have, partying like I never have before and have not done since, and doing it with my best friend makes it totally worth it. We close the strip club down and stumble out with barely enough money between us to cab back to the hotel. Back in the room we are both still charged up from the night we had so we sit in the dark and shoot the shit some more, until the booze catches up and we both pass out.

Next morning comes, and we are hurting. But we both have stupid happy grins on our face from the night before. That was some shit. I am packing, getting ready to take off. Pat is going to be in Reno for a few more days, and he really wants me to stay one more day. I am down to my last 50 bucks, and 35 of that at the very least is going into the gas tank. I tell Pat there is no way I can afford another night in Reno. Now Pat is better with money than I am (to be honest, just about everyone is better with money than I am) and he has built up some savings since he has been in the military. So out of kindness and generosity he utters the fatal phrase. It is a simple declaration, but it is imbued with utter confidence to go along with his generosity.

"I got you man."

What a guy, simply because we had such a good time last night and he wants to hang out one more time he is prepared to finance one more night for me. How can I say no? After some discussions and some (most likely pro forma) protestations on my part, and many more utterances of the phrase "I got you man." we agree I will stay one more night. Pat is steadfast, he has my back. Fuck yeah. Shit is back on. We head out inside the casino for some delicious sushi (do they not have fish in the Marine Corps?) and then we head to the ATM. Pat attempts to take some money out. Wherein tragedy strikes. Turns out Pat maxed out his daily limit the night before at 1 AM in the strip club. (told you we partied like fucking rock stars) Dismayed but with unbroken will we return to the hotel room to contemplate our next move. It is decided that all we have to do is make it until midnight, a long 11 hours away. We only have my 50 bucks cash between us. Its not really enough to get us lunch and dinner and drinks to get to midnight. Now smarter men then us would have bought a 24 pack, a bottle a whiskey and a bucket of chicken. Then those smarter men would have battened down the hatches until midnight. But we were young and intrepid souls, and a plan that conservative is unacceptable. Now this is one of those times in my life when I am doing some gambling, and I am actually convinced I am pretty good at poker (I'm not). I had won some money the night before, so here is Pat's plan. I gamble with the 50, I make some money, we eat and drink to excess, midnight comes we get back to the strip club. Easy Peasy.

Any gambler will tell you how shitty this plan is. Even pros lose only slightly less than they win, and I was far from a pro. The most likely result of this plan is me losing most if not all of the money and the two of us subsisting on water and Saltines copped from the buffet until midnight. But Pat has faith in me. I can do this. Pat promptly takes a nap and I head down stairs, and buy into a $2-4 limit hold 'em game. This is some of the cheapest poker you can find in a casino and it generally is a crap shoot. I probably would have had a better shot betting the whole 50 on one hand of blackjack. I sit down and play the tightest poker of my life, dwindling my stack down below $30. I am sweating bullets and playing scared poker. This will not end well. Against all odds, and almost certainly because of some form of luck applied only to fools and drunks, I pick up a pot, and then another. I loosen up a little as i go over $60 and I go on a roll, popping up above $130. I am getting greedy now. Cards go cold and I punch out of the game at an even $100. With cold sweat still drying on my face I return to the room triumphant. I wake up my partner in crime. And we are off and running once more. By midnight we have full bellies and are loaded up once more on booze. "I got you man." has passed into the lexicon of our friendship. We count down the minutes gleefully until midnight. At 12:01 Pat has hit the ATM and we are back in the cab to Fantasy Girls. Good Times.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

The appealing simplicity of heroin; or the perils of a vivid imaginination.

As I have mentioned previously, my car is dead. I spend a lot of time on public transit with only the companionship of my trusty iPod. I like to listen to podcasts while i wait at the bus stop, or while i ride the train or bus. On one such podcast I heard Russel Brand, British comedian and former junkie, talking about heroin addiction. He talked about how the general neuroses of life fade, like looking for love or surviving your job, and all that becomes important is obtaining that next fix, your whole life becomes heroin. I have never tried it myself but I am familiar with the perils of the stuff, having only known one person in my lifetime who has completely come back(he says he is not over it, just taking a break until he retires). And knowing more then a few who have died from it. But I had never looked at it from the standpoint of simplicity. I am a worrier, a neurotic in the grand tradition of Mikey from "Swingers". (I have never acted out the famous answering machine scene, but only because I saw the movie before I had a girl to obsess about. God bless you Jon Favreau.)

I am an addict. I am a man of massive and elemental hungers for food, alcohol, pornography, viedo games and television. There is not one of those that I value over the others, they have all reached various levels of primacy in my life from time to time. I don't really consider myself addicted to those specific things, i have lived for long periods of time without one, some or all of them at one time or another. What I am addicted to is what they offer: Escape. Wherever I am, whatever I am doing there is a tiny little gear in my head, behind my right eye. It spins wildly, always pushing and driving me to think about what the next thing. That tiny gear is responsible for my insomnia, keeping me up nights,. It eats at me. The only time I can quiet it is when I throw myself into one of the aforementioned activities. Of course the downside is that when I eventually burn out of losing myself in these things, the little gear comes back with a vengeance. Turbo-charged by a super-sized well of guilt to feed off of.

I am trying as I get older to be more settled in my own skin. My roommate John and his lovely fiance (sorry I called you half a friend, I thought you would think me presumptuous if i had said more.) offered me a golden opportunity last year to get an apartment with them in the Bay Area. When I decided to take them up on it I made the resolution in my own head that i was going to make a stand. I had jumped around too much in the past 5 years career-wise, never staying more than a year or two in any one job. I was going to get a job and stick with it even if i hated it. (I did hate the job I got, and I resolved to stick it out, only to be laid off in January. Roll that irony on your tongue for a little while. I am pretty sure the lack of continuity on my resume is primarily responsible for my continued unemployment.) I was not going to run away anymore. And my newly engaged roommates are looking to buy a place of their own (in this soft market it only makes a shitload of sense), and I am not sure how long I can last in the Bay. Supposedly my last stand. There is a Yiddish Proverb that I think applies especially to this situation. Men plan, God laughs.

Disclaimer time. I have not and never will do heroin. I am not encouraging anyone else, and anyone who does do heroin and blames what I write is a fucking moron. You got bigger problems than drugs if you do them based on my musings. But I did spend some time after listening to Russel thinking about the simplicity of it. I have had many happy periods in my life, but never have I been content. Which is good. I think complacency is awful. There is an attraction there though. An attraction to lay down my burdens. To not worry about not having a job. To not wonder what the fuck is going on in my love life. To quiet that little gear once and for all. To trade in my many masters for just the one. Boil down my existence to the service of that one thing. That's too much like giving up however, too close to suicide. So I will keep plugging, trying to get back into the industry I love. Keep writing. Keep trying to figure out what the hell the girl I am halfway seeing would like from me. Keep trying to scale back on the escape and accept my life as is.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Socially awkward, with a soupcon of apathy.

I am not that good with people. I have a very small group of friends and I am very poor at adding onto it. For example if you were to break down my lasting friendships by the decade of my life in which they were born, it would look like this: Ages 1-10: 1 (my platonic life partner) 11-20: 3 (a bumper crop that includes one of my present roommates; John, his girlfriend from our high school years who i am horrible at keeping in touch with {my fault not hers} and the ex from my first real serious relationship) 21-30: 1 (This is actually two people who only count as half each for different reasons. One is John's fiance who graciously went along with the idea of the three of us getting an apartment together last year and probably regrets it to this day. I am pretty sure she would not have anything to do with me if not for John. The other is my roommate from my late 20's who only counts as half because he went incommunicado after he moved back to the East Coast. ) My moving to the Bay Area coincided pretty closely with my 30th birthday, and since then I have made approximately 1.5 friends. (my thirties could be another bumper crop) one is my neighbor who will probably move away shortly seeing as he just got married, the other is a friend I made at the job I had up until January, and she just moved down south.

See a pattern developing?

I do. I mentioned my platonic life partner; Pat. We met when I was 8, before i even moved into the same town as him. I lived in an adjacent town, we were both Catholic so we attended the same Sunday School. His memory from this time in our lives? How we would talk about saints and I would pipe up every so often and say: "Hey, that's my uncle's name!" I come from a large Catholic family on my mother's side. She had four siblings named Judith, David, Michael and Thomas. Think those names came up occasionally? I really don't know how my teacher kept from screaming at me: "Yes fucknuts, for the last fucking time, Thomas is a saint's name. You are Catholic, Catholics name their kids after saints! Now eat shit and die motherfucker!" Before choking the life out of my tubby eight year old self.

How did I not make this terribly simple connection? I am a fairly smart guy, was even smarter back then. I always tested highly and even skipped ahead a few grades in English in elementary school. Yet I was blind to that very simple connection, Pat was not. Luckily he still chose to be my friend after this introduction to me, and other than my older brother he has probably been the witness to more of this flaw in my emotional makeup then anybody. There is actually a picture from my First Communion, I am dressed up in a white collared shirt and standing stiff and proud (god only knows why) for the camera with a dopey smile on my face, while in the background Pat is pointing and laughing at me. Which is the natural order of things. I need someone to point and laugh at me, because otherwise i will have no fucking clue how obnoxious i am being at any certain point. And my potential for being obnoxious is off the chart. I have potential coming out of my ass.

There is no rhyme nor reason to this emotion blind spot either. I am not completely insensitive. I am actually fairly perceptive on some levels. I am a fair bit adept at pattern recognition, but i see no discernible pattern to my lack of sense. If I could see it at least i could look for it. Intellectually I could pick out signs and be aware of when I am being a dunce. Mostly when it happens I don't find out until afterward, when John, or Pat, or my brother have a "What the fuck?" moment with me. That's fun.

Anyway, enough navel-gazing for one afternoon. Following up on my first post, I am far from alone on blogspot for being unemployed. My favorite fellow jobless?

Haiku are hard. That's all I have to say about that.


This sign is hanging on the elevator in my building. Went up yesterday the 16th in the morning. Modified later that afternoon. Modified again this morning the 17th. I can feel its author slowly losing hope. And she only lives on the 3rd floor. I feel for the people who have paid good money to live in the 7th floor penthouse apartments.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

The Workshop

So I am unemployed. You probably don't care. I don't blame you. There is a lot of it going around, and my situation is pretty middling as far as sucking. I don't have kids to support. I have two kindly and understanding roommates. I don't have a shitload of overhead. I was laid off so i am collecting unemployment. Lots of people have it worse, so I am not here to complain about my lot in life. (maybe later) There is a catch to that last one though. Sometimes the State of California summons you forth to see them. This is mandatory lest they cut you off from the governmental teat. This post is about going to see them.

My car broke shortly after I lost my job. I fixed it for a decent amount of money. It broke again. Fuck you car. So its public transportation for me. Which is fine, the commuter trains and buses in this area are both fairly well run and effective. So I Google my destination. The commuter rail drops me off 1/3 of a mile away from the office as the crow flies, but Google claims that for me to walk there I must walk in a vaguely U-shaped arc to get there on foot, and it will be approximately a mile. I am not a fast walker, so i arrive an hour early for my 9:30 appointment for personal job search counseling, leaving enough time for me to walk a mile and then cool down afterward so i don't enter my session as the sweaty fat fuck. I will show up as the cool and calm fat fuck. I get off the train and look in the general direction of the office I need to go to. Google has the street listed as an "expressway", which is why I imagined I would have to walk the mile long circuit to get in. The "expressway" has a sidewalk that goes directly to the front door of where I am going. Fuck you Google.

I arrive at the unemployment office more than a half hour early. It is the perfect storm of what I picture bureaucratic hell looks like. It has the gray padded 3/4 height cubicle walls, which I imagine give you the claustrophobic feeling of being trapped in a cubicle without actually blocking the awkward noises coming from the mouth-breather who occupies the cubicle next to you. The office looks for all intents and purposes like the principal's office would look like in High School if they stuck him/her out in the porta-classrooms. You get in line to wait to be "checked-in" by two people with all the charm of DMV workers. When it is discovered I am there because i got a "letter" I am dismissed to a waiting area, also much like the DMV. It is a small forest of small and uncomfortable chairs the government must buy by the container ship load. I stare at a water (i hope) stain on the side of the cubicle in front of me and try to figure out if it looks more like Ellen Degeneres or a water buffalo mounting a haystack. I try to ignore the smell of this place, a distinct odor of hopelessness with the sharp tang of desperation. Oh yeah, and sweat. Lots of really old sweat. More and more people show up with letters just like mine in hand. I am getting the feeling my personalized counseling session is becoming less personalized by the elevator load.

At last we are summoned into a large room. There are about 30-40 of us in a big conference room, and at first we are asked to turn in our sheets that show how we have duly looked for work over the past 14 days. I look at the form I filled out the night before and curse my shitty penmanship for the 4,523rd time in my life. Even if I try hard I write like a walrus during an earthquake. Its not pretty. Once we have turned it in the lady who is leading our little group through counseling starts her spiel. Within approximately 3 sentences I am enraged. I am a proud guy in a less than proud situation. Her tone is horrific and grating against my ears, dripping with condescension. If anybody had talked to me like this in 2nd Grade I would have been pissed. At age 30? I am near catatonic with rage, subtly rocking in my too small hard government chair and calculating how long i can make it if I tell the government to take their check and shove it(not far enough). I check my fury as she walks us through an informational packet, twitching when she says things like "I swear, when people get off that elevator they leave their brains behind..." or if someone raises their hand for a question they are brusquely told to wait until the session is over.

By question time I am counting backwards from ten in my mind and trying not to fantasize about burning down a federal building. At that point the worm turns. My fellow unemployed open their mouths, and I understand. I understand the place that the women who is leading the class is coming from. Honestly I fear for my IQ, just being in the same room with some of those people must have sapped some of my intelligence. I am probably far from the smartest person in that room, but the people with their hands up were disconcertingly dumb. One in particular was particularly disturbing. She looked like a dark haired female version of Comic Book Guy from the Simpsons. No, seriously. Right down to a wispy but unapologetic mustache of black hair that graced her upper lip. Her voice is laden with the petty officiousness as she debates a niggling detail with the woman running the class. I don't hit women, but I briefly consider whether a woman with a mustache might be some kind of exception.

I don't think i have changed my position on one person so swiftly or drastically in my life. I now feel for and admire the woman running the workshop like I have rarely felt before. I picture having to do one or two of these workshops per day, suffering through the inane questions from people who do not possess the common sense of a child. I imagine this madness, putting myself in her shoes, and the only possible ending i come up with is smashing my face into a brick wall until I am graced with the sweet relief of unconsciousness. Every person in this room is an adult, but their inability to comprehend that if we fail to update our resume every 60 days it will be swept from the State system is baffling. Comic Book Woman claims her resume has been on longer than that and is still there. I wonder how she can know if it is still there if she has not visited it. I re-visit the question of punching a mustachioed woman.

At long last my personal counseling session is over. The long trek from disquiet and dread coming to this place, followed by ennui, then a barely contained rage, a dollop of empathy, all smothered by the soul crushing hopelessness that surrounds it all is a lot. I am emotionally wrung out. I shamble the 1/3 mile back to the commuter train, and settle into a seat, plugging my iPod into my ears and trying to forget about my sad little morning Odyssey.