PLACES TO GO


Thursday, July 29, 2004
 
M.Y.O.B.

Because I don't know what to write about and because I'm having "Oh, no, I haven't posted in three days" panic, here's a bunch of random stuff:

  • Over a month later, my wisdom teeth are still causing me pain. Yes, the gum-piercing agony may be gone, but this week, I received a bill for an additional $600. (I'd already paid over $300.) I naively thought that the insurance company was going to cover most of the bill, but it turns out they have a yearly maximum. Oops. Who knew? So much for doing it before I left my job in order to take advantage of my insurance policy. You win this round, Delta Dental! (And let this be a cautionary tale to anyone else getting their wisdom teeth out in the near future.)

  • I've realized that the problem with me doing blind items is that too often, I'm the one who's blind. I'm just not good at spotting celebrities -- or concluding with any certainty that they are who I think they are. So I can't say for sure if that was a certain former TV star of a long-running reality show and a short-lived sitcom (and fellow blogger) who's now working in my gym. (And no, I don't mean "working out".)

  • I finished that book in my sidebar last week, but I'm going to leave it up for a while because: a) it's the best book I've read in a long time, and b) I can't find another good book to read right now. If anything, the book made me realize that I'm borderline autistic myself. I'm good at math, guarded with my emotions, I crave routine, and strangers frighten and intimidate me. Okay, so I don't deal with stressful situations the way the loveable-but-incapable-of-giving-love narrator does -- by curling up in a ball and making dog noises -- but only because I never thought of it. My new catch phrase is, "Woof, woof!"

  • I love you, Al Sharpton. You're funny like him, angry like him, liberal like me and unlike him, you know when to quit.

  • I received a belated approval from Other Drew to post the following picture of last weekend's White Castle excursion. Personally, I think he's less interested in endorsing the lame marketing gimmick than in attracting the attention of potential suitors. Yes, he's single, so send those emails over for your chance to meet a big-shot TV writer! And if you have any doubt about which team he plays for, I've called attention to a telling detail in the photo.


Pictured (l-r): Other Drew, Nice Lady, me
Detail: Extremely gay wrist cuff



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Monday, July 26, 2004
 
JERRY AND DREW AND OTHER DREW GO TO WHITE CASTLE

Because Other Drew loves his tiny square hamburgers and because Regular Drew and I love a good publicity stunt, the three of us headed up to Sunset to check out the latest stroke of marketing genius, a makeshift White Castle restaurant installed to promote the new movie Harold & Kumar Go To White Castle. I'll admit, I've been burned by disappointing marketing gimmicks in this general vicinity before, but as George Bush would say, "Fool me once, shame... shame on... you... Fool me can't get fooled again." So off I went.

I have to admit, the setup looked mighty impressive. Tell me a building's only going to be standing for ten days, and I picture some type of Unibomber domicile-esque cardboard shack with a magic marker sign that reads "Whyte Castull" -- which, don't get me wrong, would have been a beautiful sight. Instead, the temporary building looked remarkably sturdy and permanent. And not only that, but it was surrounded by a mini-wonderland of marketing wizardry -- an inflatable slide/bounce house-looking thing, a hula hooping area, and what I'll describe, for lack of any precedent in my personal experience, as a beanbag chair garden.



Of course, on closer inspection, it became clear that the building was only a facade and the whole thing really did have kind of a slapdash shithole kind of ambience. Not only that, but the menu was pretty limited. They had one item: burgers, and if you showed up, you got exactly one. Granted, it was free, which definitely warms my heart, though it leaves my stomach sad and empty. According to Other Drew, "normally, you go there and you buy, like, six". It definitely was a small burger. Also, they have no ketchup. And no drinks.



The woman who gave us our burger was very friendly, and she broke the news that the inflatable slide was not for sliding on. There were a couple of women in Hooters-tight half-shirts and short shorts teaching little kids to hula hoop, but the beanbags were deserted, so I plopped down for a photo op. I assume the movie will explain the point of thirty vacant beanbag chairs under an awning.



I'm all for movie characters visiting East Coast fast food chains, but since there was never a White Castle near me, this adventure failed to satisfy my nostalgic pinings. Therefore, can I suggest that in the sequel Harold & Kumar go to Carvel or Dunkin' Donuts? I can forgive the imperfections of this "White Castle" experience and the lack of ketchup on the burgers, since I have nothing to compare it to, but let me just warn you up front, New Line Cinema, my Fudgie the Whale better have some damn fudge in it.


The slide you can't slide on



I'm going to guess that the movie ends with the requisite stand-up-and-cheer moment in which our heroes finally reach their destination and all the wacky shenanigans they had to endure along the way are made worthwhile. But our adventure ended with a discussion about where we should go for dinner, since we were all still pretty hungry.

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Friday, July 23, 2004
 
DONDE ESTA UNCLE JERRY'S BRAIN?

One of the best parts of my vacation was spending time with my (almost) three-year-old niece, whose favorite TV show is Dora the Explorer. Anything can be fun when done with an (almost) three-year-old, but unfortunately, DtE isn't one of those kids shows that's made for adults to enjoy as well. In order to sit through it, you pretty much have to be a toddler or really, really dumb. Like Blue's Clues, which could spend thirty minutes explaining how to find two socks that match, it's educational programming for the severely uneducated, although as Drew noted, it would have a bit more educational credibility if its title actually rhymed.

Still, the cool thing about Dora is that she's bilingual and, like most kids her age, she doesn't always know the difference between English and Spanish words, so she uses them interchangeably and will sometimes mix them up within a single sentence.

Dora appears to be Latina, so her command of Spanish didn't surprise me. What I didn't expect was that my niece would be able to comprehend as much as she did. At one point, Dora asked the home viewers "Donde esta the bridge?" (In addition to needing constant help from the audience, Dora appears to be blind as well, as the bridge was no more than three feet away from her.) But to my amazement, my tiny niece with her still-developing brain extended a finger toward the cartoon bridge in the corner of the screen to provide Dora some assistance.

It was a revelatory moment for me. Suddenly, I'd found a new way to exploit her cuteness for my own amusement.

"Donde esta the bridge?" I repeated. And she pointed again. Awwwwww...

So I started looking around the room. "Donde esta Mommy?" Point.

"Donde esta the piano?" Point.

"Donde esta Chicken Dance Elmo?" Point.

"Donde esta your little sister?"

"Donde esta Uncle Jerry's suitcase?"

"Donde esta the remote?"

You'll notice that she stopped pointing halfway through. By then she was just staring at me blankly, wondering why I needed every single thing in the room pointed out to me. Suddenly, I was the uneducated one, and she didn't find it cute, just sad and confusing. So I stopped, and we went back to helping Dora find the damn bridge so she could go across it and pick one-two-three-four-five... five flowers on the other side.

"Seriously, donde esta the remote?"

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Thursday, July 22, 2004
 
UNTIL THE END OF TIME

If there's one thing I miss from my childhood more than anything else, it's time. When you're a kid, you have nothing but time. Time and the complete freedom from time. There are no deadlines, no bills to pay by the end of the month, no boring parties you need to make appearances at when you'd rather be sitting on the couch doing time trials on Mario Kart. Whoever said youth was wasted on the young was wrong. It's time that's wasted.

Whenever I see a kid riding his bike to nowhere in particular or playing hockey in the street, it makes me mad. They have no idea how lucky they've got it. I want to go up and push them into the dirt or beat the crap out of them with their stick. But I don't, because I don't have time.

I think this became even clearer to me on my trip. I spent about twelve hours on airplanes, and I loved every minute of it. On an airplane, you have no obligations and nowhere to go. You never have to feel like you really should be accomplishing something, because there's not much you can do on a plane that's of much value. So instead, I spent my time doing invaluable things. I read two and a half entire books, I listened to music, I watched a shitty in-flight movie that I would never have seen if I had anything better to do. It was bliss.

I started wondering how I could arrange it so that I'd be able to spend the rest of my life on airplanes. Being a pilot or a flight attendant would defeat the purpose; I don't want to work. But maybe there was another way to recreate that experience of being an airplane passenger, that combination of confinement and a surfeit of time. Hmmm... prison? Prisoners get to read and write and play Scrabble. They even have gyms in prison -- imagine having time to go to the gym! But how? Suddenly, I was back to my fantasies of beating up kids.

One of the things I was looking forward to when I quit my job was having some time again. Being poor is no fun, but it was a fair trade for a little while if I got to watch some of those DVDs I never got to. Well, now I've got a new job that starts in a week and a half. I'm grateful for the employment, but I'm already mourning the loss of time. My new job is going to be challenging and stimulating and (hopefully) fun -- all the things my old job wasn't -- but it's going to take up a lot more time.

The new job is only going to last three months, so it's not really the end of time. But before it begins, I've promised myself I'd do a few of the things I wanted to do in my time off: finish my new script, read that mountain of books I've been meaning to get to, watch more Buffy, maybe even go to the third or fourth happiest place on Earth. I'm not going to sit at home surfing the internet all day (yes, I've already been doing this for half of today, but I had a lot to catch up on, okay?). I'm old enough to know the value of time, and I'm going to make the most of what I've got left.

But if you're thinking of riding your bike or playing hockey in my neighborhood, consider yourself warned.

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THE BEST REASON I'LL EVER HAVE TO CHANGE MY PHONE NUMBER

Since this seems to be catching on, here's a new one, from my last day at work.

The Temp I Trained to Take Over For Me: "Can you leave me your phone number, so then if I have any questions on Monday, I can get in touch with you?"

What I said:  "Um... sure."

What I should've said:  "Um... no."

I wish I would've had the guts to say that, but I didn't.  She was in way over her head, and we both knew she'd have tons of questions on Monday.  I had to agree to help her.  I mean, who wants to seem like a complete asshole?

Thankfully, I think I've mastered the art of being a complete asshole without seeming like one. 

I said I'd leave the number, but I never did.

It's been a week and a half, and I haven't heard from her.

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Saturday, July 17, 2004
 
VACATION
 
Sorry for the lack of updates, but I've been out of town and, when I've had computer access at all, I've been using my mother's internet connection, which is about as efficient for making blog posts as pounding out my entries in morse code with a rock.  In fact, she doesn't even have a rock.  No wonder we've fallen so out of touch...
 
I'll be back later in the week, with plenty more to share about my job (which did end), my new job (which I found out about while in line for a roller coaster) and my sunburn (which hurts). 
 
Ow.  I miss L.A.  Is there another word for "vacation" that you can use when you're visiting family rather than, you know, vacating?

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Friday, July 09, 2004
 
JERRY DOESN'T WORK HERE ANYMORE

Today is my last day at my lousy job, and of course, because I'm a complete idiot, I'm actually getting depressed about it. When I started working there, I never expected to be there very long, certainly not for two and a half years, which is how long it's been, so I was careful not to get too entwined in the job. I didn't get attached to any of the people, didn't worry too much about the minute details of my responsibilities, never changed my voicemail password from 1-2-3-4, and I never put up any pictures or personal items in my cubicle, with the sole exception of a desk calendar.

Well, I took the desk calendar home yesterday, and despite all my efforts (or lack thereof), a weird territorialism set in. Someone else is going to be sitting here, I thought. They'll have their own calendar, and they'll put up pictures of their grandkids (judging by the demographic my office seems to attract). And as I trained the temp, I realized just how much there was to know about working at my desk. "If it's administrative, the billing code is A45-0631." "We send those forms to Linda in Accounting." "When Anthony Powell calls, he'll make it seem like it's really important, but it's not." Hundreds of little facts -- maybe thousands -- I had picked up over the years without even realizing it, and which were all second nature to me now.

And I think what's making me depressed is the realization that all of that information is now 100% useless to me. I'll never bill anything to admin again, never send anything downtown to accounting, never have to deal with obnoxious Powell and his bullshit. Two and a half years of knowledge and experience, made worthless the moment I walk out the door at the end of the day today.

I've made myself a promise never to do this kind of work again. (If I ever get desperate enough, I'll probably allow myself to break it.) And since this was never what I wanted to do in the first place, it's hard not to feel like I've wasted two and a half years of my life at this job.

I know that's not true, of course. The day-to-day details may never come in handy again, but there are things, many of which I don't even realize yet, that I'll take with me forever.

There's a flipside, of course, and it's the one thing that might be able to cheer me up as today winds down. Tomorrow, there will be a lot of free space opening up in my brain, space where a lot of stuff I never cared much about anyway used to be. And I can't wait to see what's going to fill that space up.

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Thursday, July 08, 2004
 
THE CLOCK IS TICKING

Not just anyone could do my job. I don't mean to sound snobby or boastful when I say that. In fact, I have a lot of respect for anyone who couldn't do this job. If someone walked in here, sized up my boss and told him to fuck off all on their first day, they would be my hero.

But here I am, trying to train the temp, with only one day left to go after this. I'm showing her how to do everything. I'm talking so much I'm losing my voice. I gave her a brief not-too-scary, not-too-sugarcoated warning about my boss. She assures me she's worked for difficult people before. She even seems to be picking up on certain things reasonably well.

And yet I know that as soon as I leave tomorrow, she's pretty much a goner. She might remember how to do most of the things I have to do (and I'm realizing through the training process that there are more than I thought), but I really don't know how she'll cope without me as her safety net.

Part of me doesn't care. Even as I'm explaining something to her, part of me doesn't care if she really gets the hang of it. I certainly don't care for my boss' sake -- so what if the phone calls get messed up or his expense reports aren't entered properly? I won't be stuck cleaning up the mess, I won't be here to take the heat, and the thought of him struggling in my absence makes me feel warm and beautiful inside.

If the temp quits the day after I leave, she'll be better off in the long run, and my boss will be totally screwed. It's win-win. I've vowed to stay in touch with a couple of people here after I go, if only because I need to get some updates on how many people my boss has to go through before he finds somebody to replace me.

I had a difficult boss once before. I worked there almost two years, and a year after I left, a coworker from that job told me that he'd through 20 assistants and still hadn't found someone permanent. I suspect my current boss will be lucky not to break that record.

It's sad, but I know that I'll have to be long gone before I'm really appreciated.

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Wednesday, July 07, 2004
 
MICROWAVES, CELL PHONES AND ME

What do those three things have in common? People who've recently had pacemakers installed should apparently avoid all of them.

The scene: a 4th of July party. The characters: me and a guy who had a near-death experience a few weeks ago. Although he's only 35 and in perfect health, his heart stopped without warning, and he barely survived the ordeal. The medical community was stumped as to what made his ticker sputter, and he emerged from the hospital with a pacemaker, a gigantic hospital bill and a chilling sense of his own mortality. If you're a normal person, of course, you approach someone in this situation with sympathy, concern and heartfelt encouragement. But if you're a dark, wicked soul like me...

IT'S A CHANCE FOR INAPPROPRIATE HUMOR!!!!!

This was the first time I'd seen or spoken to the guy since the operation, which was about five weeks ago. And he's always had a good self-deprecating sense of humor, so I figured, well... well, here's what happened...

ME: So I heard you've been through... well, kind of a rough patch, huh?

PACEMAKER GUY: Well, I was dead, if that's what you mean.

ME: You were actually dead?

PG: Yeah, my heart stopped for __ minutes. (Note to self: pay better attention to the details people are going to ask you about when you're recounting the story later on.) If it hadn't happened when I was at my doctor's office, they wouldn't have been able to resuscitate me.

ME: So you died and came back... You know that technically you're a zombie now, right?

(Silence.)

(Silence and a cold, wounded expression.)


Thankfully, I stopped myself before extending my arm and chanting, "Braaaaaaaains! Braaaaaaaaaains!", which was where I'd been headed. And I also avoided the temptation to say, "Well, it looks like they forgot to resuscitate your sense of humor!" That would not have been good.

It turns out he's still pretty shaken up about it, reevaluating his life, seeing a therapist, going through the whole "Fearless" experience -- which I guess is what happens, you know, when you die and all.

Please forgive me. I'm new to this whole "common decency" thing.

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Tuesday, July 06, 2004
 
TECHNICAL PROBLEMS

Sorry to anyone who came here last night or this morning only to be confronted by a very old version of this blog. Basically, I'm an idiot. Thankfully, I didn't wipe out everything I've done in the last four months... but I came close.

If you're still having the problem, just hit refresh and welcome back from the past.

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Friday, July 02, 2004
 
FINALLY, ALL THAT DATA ENTRY IS PAYING OFF

Do not click these links unless you are prepared to give up several hours of your life and possibly go completely insane.

You've been warned.

Tontie

Letters

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MY OBLIGATORY FAHRENHEIT 9/11 POST

I've really enjoyed every conversation I've overheard about "Fahrenheit 9/11" this week, even the ones where somebody who hasn't seen the movie is telling someone else it's all lies and that anyone who supports it hates America. At least people are talking, and the more people talk, the more ignorant the ignorant people begin to look.

I was really looking forward to the movie, not because I always agree with Michael Moore, but because I think he's a great filmmaker and because I'm smart enough to know how and when I'm being manipulated and to make up my own mind afterward. But before I saw it, and before all the streetcorner debating started, I really didn't think it would change anyone's mind. Lately, I'm not so sure. As polarized as the country is, there are plenty of undecided people out there who've been backing Bush all this time mostly because no one was telling them the things that Michael Moore's telling them.

Paul Krugman nails it in his NYT editorial today. The reason this movie is so popular is that the media hasn't been doing its job.

The most powerful parts of the movie are the footage where Bush comes across like the blithering idiot he most likely is, footage from press conferences and photo ops that we could've seen a million times by now if anyone bothered to show it. There are plenty of possible reasons why the media has been going so easy on Bush. Maybe they're cowering in the face of the administration's intimidation tactics, maybe they're under orders from their right-wing-owned media conglomerates, maybe they really believe you shouldn't make your country's Commander in Chief look bad during a war, maybe they're just lazy and sloppy. Or maybe their parents just taught them not to pick on the slow kids.

No one I've spoken to knew that Bush's limo was pelted with eggs on Inauguration Day, but Moore showed us the footage, and his account of the incident, as far as I know, hasn't been disputed. It's not really a comment on Bush that some jerks threw eggs at him, but the fact that it went largely unreported makes the media look sloppy at best, and puppets of the right wing at worst.

We shouldn't have to wait until Michael Moore puts out another movie to get to see what's really going on in our country. (Preferably, we wouldn't see it only through his not-always-100%-reliable filter either.) Maybe now that Moore has shown you can criticize the President and turn a profit, we'll start seeing this kind of thing on Dateline, but I wouldn't count on it.

If nothing else, I hope the movie's success convinces someone to give Michael Moore one more shot at his own weekly TV show.

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WARNING: THIS ONE GETS KINDA GROSS

I swear I'm not a complainer. When people ask me how I am, I say I'm doing fine, thanks, even though sometimes I'm not doing fine and I have a headache or I'm depressed or I want to talk about how freaked out I am about what's going on in the world. And I'm not a hypochondriac, as evidenced by the fact that I've probably been to a doctor about eight times in my adult life -- which is not good, I should get regular checkups, I know, but my point is that I don't freak out about little aches and fatigue and unexpected bodily fluid discolorations and things like that.

But to be honest, this last week has been Hell.

Since I had my wisdom teeth out, my mouth has been in constant, often unbearable pain. At times, the pain spreads through my skull and produces massive headaches that make it difficult for me to concentrate or think straight. Medication lessens the pain, but it doesn't make it go away entirely, and I'm on a pretty regular schedule where I carefully note the time I take each dosage so I can take the next pill as soon as the bottle says I can. I've switched over from Vicodin to Ibuprofen because it has just about the same effect, only without the potential to land me in rehab. (Sure, I'd like to meet Mary-Kate, but not that badly.) There's been a persistent, disgusting, metallic taste in my mouth, that I would describe more specifically, but I know foul tastes aren't fun things to imagine, so I'll hold back. And I know it's not blood because I don't see any blood, but it's something and probably not something good, and anyway, it's nauseating and whatever it is is what everything I eat tastes like now.

And when I went back for my followup visit this morning, that's pretty much what I wrote down on the form. There's a time and place for complaining, and I figured assessing complaints was pretty much the entire point of a followup visit, so I didn't hold back. The nurse sat me down in the chair, glanced at the form and asked me how I was doing. I told her it's been Hell, and I repeated everything I said on the form, and she took out a little plastic gizmo and said, "Okay, now I'm going to show you how to irrigate the wound," which I'm pretty sure is what she was going to say no matter what I told her.

After she'd done her job, she left the room and handed off my form to the dentist. He walked in, asked how I was doing, and I said, "I'm okay personally, but my mouth is killing me." He just kind of nodded and went, "Yeah...". Then he checked in my mouth and said everything looked great, the wound was healing nicely, and I was doing a good job with my post-op hygiene.

The awful taste in my mouth most likely came from all the food and gunk caught in the holes where my teeth used to be. For the first week after the surgery, you're not supposed to disturb these areas with toothbrushes, toothpicks, fingers or anything else that might disrupt the healing process. Now that I've got this gizmo, I can clean out the gunk, and hopefully, that will solve the taste problem. As for the pain, the advice I got was simply, "Some people have lots of pain; some don't have any. Just keep taking Ibuprofen."

Well, for once, I thought I was the exception, the .001% case, where something had gone horribly, horribly wrong. But it turns out what I'm going through is perfectly normal. The whole thing made me feel like a big baby. I take it back. I'm sorry I complained.

Really, I'm just fine.

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A TERRIFYING GLIMPSE INTO THE NEAR FUTURE

If this is what my friends are resorting to after only a month of unemployment, maybe I should be more afraid.

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