Monday, March 28, 2005

...Picking Up Babes

I went to college with this guy Steve. Unlike most of the people I write about here, Steve is actually his real name, not a pseudonym. I sell him out not because of any sort of dislike, but only because it’s kind of important later on.

Our fellow fraternity brothers came up with the endearing nickname of “Vermin” for Steve due to his frequent and unapologetic hookups with just about anyone who was vaguely willing and possessed a vagina. To understand the depths of Steve’s lechery, just imagine how poorly you must have to behave to get fellow members a fraternity, a social organization whose primary function is to get young men drunk and laid as often as possible, to look at your behavior with universal disapproval.

Steve’s various pick-up methods became the stuff of legend. Two of his most common were:

1) The Cute and Unusual Pet Method
Steve was the owner of a smelly but irresistible ferret who was kept in his bedroom on the bottom floor of the fraternity house, below the house’s main living room/socializing area. This hook-up method entailed engaging a young woman in conversation just long enough to develop a level of comfort to where Steve could eventually ask, “Would you like to see my ferret?” He’d then bring the girl downstairs to show off his furry friend. If all went as planned, he'd get to see hers in return. While Steve was ridiculed unmercifully for the corniness of this approach, it's effectiveness is exemplified by the fact our fraternity house soon welcomed a second ferret and a whole family of chinchillas.

2) The Intellectual Method
I hope this doesn’t come off as sexist, but for attendees at an institution of higher learning who were supposedly representative of the best and brightest young minds in America, I saw a lot of college girls fall for some pretty stupid shit. Just one unrelated example - another fraternity brother, Aaron, was an Art-Photography minor who was able to easily convince large numbers of attractive young ladies to gladly pose for him in the buff under the guise of “helping out a young artist”; photographs I believe eventually ended up as community jerk-off material in the fraternity house.

There also seems to be a universal law of academia that states all college girls must fall for at least one supposedly “deep” guy as a requirement of graduation. This method of picking up women worked especially well for a guy like Steve who wasn’t likely to ever wow anyone in the looks department. With a body that could only be achieved through lazing around on the couch watching TV all day eating snack food, and a personal style that can only be described as “Fonzie-esque” (slicked-back hair, jeans, T-shirt and leather jacket, the only deviation being the once in a blue moon when Steve would replace a white t-shirt with a green or black one), Steve’s appearance alone didn’t turn any heads. But as a philosophy major, he could play the “Faux Intellectual” card better than just about anybody. A particular incident that stands out for me was on the drive back from Lake Tahoe where a few of us had joined some sorority girls on a Spring Break ski trip. Steve, being uncharacteristically quiet, was asked by one of the girls, Sally, why he was so silent that morning.

“I was just thinking about the book I plan on writing. It is going to be in the form of a science fiction/adventure novel but its theme is actually the philosophical concept of deciduism – whether or not we control our own destiny or if our destinies are predetermined”.

It took weeks for my backseat to completely dry.

If either of these methods failed Steve would just resort to the more direct approach of asking, "Are you drunk yet?" Tacky as hell, but at least honest with its intentions.

Some of Steve’s ideas were just stupid, though. My fraternity always threw a freshman orientation party the week preceding the new school year as a way to "recruit potential pledges". To be honest, getting a head start on meeting and wooing all the new freshman girls had a lot to do with it as well. At one such party, two girls who Steve and I had spoken with throughout the night independently of one another asked the two of us if we’d mind walking them back to their dorm. Honestly, I think they just wanted to be safe on what was a dark and unfamiliar path. But being boys, Steve and I of course took this request as, “Hey guys, howsa `bout some sex?”

Back in their dorm room we were making what we assumed was some pre-doing-the-nasty small talk when the phone rang. It was a new friend these girls had made, someone from another dorm asking what they were up to.

“We’re just in our room hanging out with a couple of the fraternity guys from the party, [my real name] & AUSTIN.”

Now I am not so naïve as to not understand that sometimes a woman will look at criteria other than the quality of a man’s soul to determine whether or not to sleep with him. But somehow I have a hard time believing that there exists a woman on this planet who would find a particular man worthy of giving her body only to determine that his name was too plain and/or common and change her mind. Or alternatively, I seriously doubt any woman has ever found a man otherwise unworthy of her bed but found herself unable to resist his unique and cool sounding name. Steve obviously thought otherwise, figuring “Austin” increased his fuckability quotient substantially vs. "Steve". Considering he came home with yours truly that night, I guess you could say it didn’t work.

Maybe if I had told them my name was Gooch…?

Thursday, March 24, 2005

...The Lack of Easter Eggs Delivered to the Bay Area in 1995

10 years ago the first night of Passover fell on the night before Easter. Which was convenient because it allowed my then-girlfriend Kari and I to drive down from school on Friday, attend my parents Seder on Saturday night, then hit her mom’s Easter party Sunday afternoon on our way back up North.

My sister, who had graduated from the same university I was attending and still lived in the area, joined us along with her then-boyfriend/now-husband, Chef. While Kari and I, being students, had fairly flexible schedules, my sister and Chef both had jobs, meaning we couldn’t begin our journey until Friday evening after they were finished with work.

Several hours into the trip, either my sister or Chef pointed out a shortcut to me, one I had heard about before but never knew exactly where to catch, that allowed you to bypass much of the heavier traffic on the 101 and cut several minutes off the last leg of the drive. The only way I can describe the shortcut, which was actually quite a pretty drive during the daylight, is that it looked like someone had paved a small road into the middle of the forest. Visibility was not great on this night because it was very late, there were virtually no other cars on the road, the lights on my tiny Ford Escort were not especially powerful and the road didn’t include any sort of streetlights.

So you can understand that I really had no way of preventing the premature demise of a certain animal, one who was never taught or chose to ignore the look both ways before your cross rule, who decided to hop right in front of my car within a timeframe that didn't allow me to stop or swerve in time to avoid a collision. I like animals and all, and yeah, I kind of still feel bad about the whole ordeal despite the fact I’m confident a jury would be forced to determine that there was just no way, barring divine intervention, that a car can avoid hitting something that jumps right out in front of it at the very last second.

Enough with the justifications and on with the repentance:
Easter Bunny, I’m sorry.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

...Going Bananas

Years before I was born an event occurred that has been forever cemented into our family lore. As I didn’t even exist at the time of the incident, this is all second-hand info as retold to me by my older brother, H.L. Apparently H.L., then 4, was protesting the eating of a banana because of a common occurrence in bananas – a gross looking brown spot. My father, at his absolute wits end trying to get my brother to eat, exclaimed, “JUST EAT THE BROWN, EAT THE BROWN”.

This event was apparently so traumatic for my brother that not only did it cause him to permanently swear off bananas, it also caused him to swear off all other fruits and vegatables, period, as well. He’s really a miracle of modern science and perhaps proof that grown-ups have been lying to children for years about the dangers of not eating your veggies and ingesting too much junk food. At nearly 40 years old his diet remains a strict regimen of red meat and various Hostess products, yet he has never experienced any health problems whatsoever (though I do wonder if his complexion, with has taken on a distinctive red hue in recent years, is the result of not getting enough nutrients or perhaps the beginning stages of scurvy). His convictions are pretty strong. Every year at Thanksgiving my mom practically makes the rest of us swear in blood that we won’t reveal to H.L. that the rolls he enjoys by the dozen are actually made with pumpkin.

I don’t want to be critical of my father, especially considering it’s his birthday today (Happy Birthday, Dad), but my tendency is to believe my brother’s version of this story, if only because A) he has a photographic memory and can tell you specific details of the most mundane events from over 30 years ago and B) my dad has never really denied it.

Whatever the case, this story has been repeated to me so many times from my brother that I too have developed a completely irrational banana intolerance. While food aversions may be normal in some people, it is rather odd in my case since I tend to be an extremely adventurous eater otherwise, often to the point of driving many of my friends and most definitely, my wife, to the point of absolute disgust. There is no sandwich on earth I enjoy more than the pastrami, swiss cheese and tongue at Nate `n’ Al’s, I consider it a rare, delectable treat when I’m able to indulge in some tasty chicken feet at Dim Sum (more than once being told by the waitstaff that I was the only white person they’ve ever had order that particular delicacy) and found myself completely confused a few seasons back on Survivor when an Asian contestant was ostracized from the rest of her tribe after they got grossed out at watching her eat a chicken heart, since doing the same has always been a normal part of cooking a whole chicken in my house. But give me a banana, a completely normal staple of the average, healthy American diet and I will recoil in horror.

I think my disgust comes from two factors. One, I find it unacceptable that every time I peel open a banana there is a high probability of finding an unsightly brown or black blemish that is questionably edible. What other food has such a statistically high possibility of finding something so gross on it? Second, there is just no mistaking a banana’s similarity, in both shape and consistency, to a big, white turd.

I recently decided, after probably a good 20 years, to confront my banana-phobia head on. It wasn’t a conscious decision as much as we had run out of apples in the house and bananas were the only available fruit left. I took upon the task with much fear and trepidation. Is it ok to eat the brown spots or should they be discarded? What about the little white strips that sort of come halfway off when you peel the banana? How do you tell if it’s ripe?

Putting it into my mouth, I felt like a girl giving oral copulation for the first time. I had to fight my gag reflex so as to not spew up the turkey sandwich, cottage cheese and baked chips that had made up the rest of my lunch. I felt queasy biting into the banana’s mushy texture, giving me the distinct feeling of biting into a crap.

Then it hit my taste buds. I’ve got to admit, they’re not bad. After having one more recently without incident, I am more than willing to welcome bananas into my regular diet. But I won’t eat the brown.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

...Pains in My...

I preface this by admitting that I am about the world’s least reputable source on any issues relating to science. I got a “D” in high school Biology and would have surely failed high school Chemistry had a good friend of mine not obtained a copy of the answer key to the final exam, allowing me to strategically place the correct answers onto the 3x5 card we were ironically allowed to use as a “Cheat Sheet” for equations and formulas. The only science course I took in college was a G.E. required Biology class that I took during the Summer, which tended to be far less challenging than during the regular Fall and Spring Semesters, and I took the course Pass/Fail so as to not screw up the good cumulative GPA I had built up.

However, I think I’m on to a great conspiracy theory: The pain reliever industry is a sham.

I suffer from fairly frequent debilitating headaches, usually brought on by one of the following factors: Not having coffee in the morning (or not having enough), going too long between meals or having my contact lenses dry out on me.

Like most people, when I feel a headache coming on or when the pain becomes too much to bear I take aspirin or Ibuprofen. I’ve tried virtually every brand, have tried increasing the recommended dosage and have even tried higher mg prescription medication. I think I took more of my wife’s post-giving birth pain medication than she did.

It never works. Like yesterday. I was in Palm Springs with one of our technicians trying to fix a long-standing issue in a system we installed for one of our biggest clients. Somehow we managed to fix the customers problem, but in doing so, created a newer, larger problem that took hours and hours to get right again. We couldn’t just break for lunch and leave them with an unusable system, so we worked continuously until the problem was fixed, which meant not eating until nearly 4 PM, when the damage was already done. To make matters worse, I had decided that morning to give my own car a break from yet another long drive and instead took the new work van we just purchased a week or two ago. Which was fine, except we’ve recently discovered the van has a previously unforeseen issue of making an obscenely loud, eardrum shattering rattling/banging noise anytime its speed exceeds 60 MPH. I would have been pleased to return to the office and be able to get back into my own car, except I remembered that I had thrown the propane tank in the back of my Explorer because it needed to be refilled, which meant I had to hear that bouncing and crashing around the entire ride home.

I had stopped at a gas station to buy 2 extra strength 500mg Bayer before leaving Palm Springs. It was probably 2 ½ hours between my taking the aspirin and returning to my home. My headache, if anything, was worse by that point. The aspirin, as usual didn’t do shit. In fact, I can think of no time in history when I’ve had a headache, took aspirin, had the headache disappear and was able to get on with my normal routine.

You know what made my headache disappear last night? The only one surefire cure to any headache I’ve ever had? A nap. Although I guess last night’s can’t really be defined as a nap since it went from about 6PM to 7AM this morning (I was reminded again last night that I married the most wonderful woman on the planet who happily took over my usual evening take care of baby duties so I could recover).

But I guess there’s no money in “TAKE A NAP”. Seriously, barring hardcore painkillers like Vicodin or Codeine, do over the counter pain relievers ever work? For anyone? What a fucking scam.

Friday, March 04, 2005

...Singing the Praises of Me

I’m all for people feeling good about themselves. But I’m also aware that there is a distinct difference between high self-esteem and a grossly inflated sense of self-worth.

I subscribe to an industry magazine aimed at small business owners like myself. I don’t read the thing from cover to cover every month, but religiously turn to the back page where my favorite column is located. It is written by a long time industry veteran who provides both technical and managerial advice based on his years of experience in our field. Most people would probably find his column somewhat of a bore since it is rather esoteric, tending to deal specifically with our particular niche industry.

One month, however, he decided to expand his scope and write a column that would be useful to business people regardless of industry. He shared an experience from his own life that I guess he figured was a useful metaphor for the larger world. Not surprisingly, the hero of this story was himself.

He was in an airport with only a short amount of time before his flight was scheduled to take off. Not having eaten all day, he decided to grab a quick bite at the McDonalds located within the airport. The line was long and moving very slowly, due to only one register being open. This fellow went up to the front counter and asked if it would be possible for them to open up another registerer to help speed up the line. His request was granted and everyone got their food and made their flights.

My hats off to the guy; I’m sure had I been waiting in this line and was forced to decide whether or not to go hungry or miss my flight, I would have been very appreciative that someone was willing to step up so I could both make my destination on time and enjoy a Double Quarter Pounder with Cheese. But it does kind of seem wee too minor an event to base an entire column around. Is having the guts to complain about a slow McDonald’s line really a useful metaphor for how I can better run my technology integration corporation? To paraphrase Freud, sometimes asking a McDonald’s manager if they can open another register to speed up the line is just asking a McDonald’s manager if they can open another register to speed up the line.

I mean, just last week I found a pair of car keys in the bathroom of a Togo’s and returned them to the counter. But you don’t see me writing a whole blog entry on the deeper significance of this act to the world at large now do you?
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