Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Waiting For The Bubble To Burst

Throughout this "Koyaanisqatsi" phase of my life I have come close to escaping the downward spiral and was "so sure" that things were "going my way"...most evidently with the "iCare Fiasco". I'll detail more about that in an upcoming "Timeline Of A Mid-Life Crisis a.k.a. The Koyaanisqatsi Years" post.

I am now at a point which emulates a lot of the euphoria of that Fiasco period.

Here are the scary similarities:

Dec. 2003:
Very broke and living on Ric's couch in his little studio in Casselberry having just arrived back from New Orleans with very little money. Ric's patience tested as he is worried I will neglect job opportunities for drinking opportunities and "use" him to gain free room and board.

Mar. 2006:
Living with Ric in Lake Mary and very low on money having "departed" my employment with Convergys. Ric's patience tested as he is worried I will neglect job opportunities for drinking opportunities and "use" him to gain free room and board.

Dec. 2003:
I attend an interview which I didn't anticipate anything positive about and am hired the very same day! It is an easy job, great pay and small-group atmosphere with the promise of a relaxed and opportunity-rich environment.

Mar. 2006:
I attend an interview which I didn't anticipate anything positive about and am hired the very same day! It is an easy job, great pay and small-group atmosphere with the promise of a relaxed and opportunity-rich environment.

The above similarities are eerie. Of course, the iCare affair soon went sour with the introduction of the evil Marilyn into the office, the paranoid schizophrenic Sue flipping out all the time and the deranged Helen faining alleigence but really a dirty rotten spy. So far in the current job, the "drama" has maintained a more normal intensity.

I don't think things will go bad but I didn't think so then either...so I am weary.

But, really, so far everyone at the current job has been either great or fair (Cheryl was just watchin' out for herself, were on great terms now that I'm off her team).

The money is such a nice relief from the sometimes abject poverty of the past few years.

I think I might find Marshall, the new guy, to be a good friend. He is most definately "family" though neither of us has "come out" to each other or, I presume the same in his case, to anyone else in the office...it's funny how people react sometimes to that, even in these "enlightened times". I blame my quick self-outing and open discussion about my sexuality to my co-workers at iCare about some of the mistreatment I underwent there so I am apprhensive to "out" now, in the workplace, unless specifically asked about family make-up (i.e. married, dating, whatever) or "am I or am I not" (the later question is really rare (and kinda bold) but it has happened to me before).

Well, I can only learn from the mistakes that I do admit making in the past, avoid recreating them, and move on...hopefully "up".

Time will tell, but if I am made "perm" in June and my personal mindset about the job is favorable as it is now...I may declare the end of Koyaanisqatsi!

(Or should it wait 'till my slimmed-down, in-shape firm asscheeks are snuggly in the driver's seat of my new car?)

cue the music...."Back in the Saddle" by Aerosmith

Monday, April 24, 2006

Wow! Heineken Really Sucks!

I haven't tried this beer in years so I thought I'd buy a bottle and try it.

(The inspiration was a TV news report just a night or two ago which broadcast a car wreck involving alcohol. One car was found to have 2 cases of beer onboard and it was unknown if the driver had been drinking any of them or had been already under the influence. the camera panned to the wreckage of the car and showed the smashed 12-packs clearly identifiable as Grolsh, the great beer from Holland that used to have those porceline stoppers instead of ordinary bottle caps...sweet!)

Well the store didn't have Grolsh so I had to suffice with Heineken the other famous Dutch beer.

But it tastes like skunk piss!

It probably doesn't help that I just enjoyed a six-pack of Samuel Adams Boston Lager.

Of course, anything else pales in comparison.

Although...

Last Friday I bought a six-pack of "Shipyard Export" a "handbrewed" selection from Maine...

OMG...it was fantastic!

I would definately recommend it...it even surpasses Sam Adams in refreshing satisfaction!

Alright enough about beer, let's get down to it...

Last week was a horror of continuing tension between Cheryl and myself. I was about ready to call the bitch out.

But, luckily, the gods smiled upon me since I was miraculously transfered to Nancy's team (which I wanted to be on all along) on Friday.

Nancy is cool and in no way the meglomaniac like Cheryl.

Mildred was continuing to flounder in the wake of the Great Malware Attack of '06. So I finally took the time and effort to do the "right thing".

The Samsung hard drive from 2004, itself crippled by the Great Malware Attack of '04, was reformated.

From this reformatted drive I reinstalled the OS from scratch...thus forever eliminating the memory leak and browser corruption which I had to endure.

(Sidenote: When porting files from the old Maxtor hard drive to the "new" Samsung, I noticed the memory leak still evident and, the hard drive itself was very hot to the touch....maybe the hard drive was dying?)

I have elected not to reinstall the AOL software, and though I am liking that decision in many ways like less memory usage, easier dial-up and better integration of IE, I have already experienced some annoying pop-ups wanting me to indicate if I want to "stay connected" or disconnect due to "inactivity" (ie. reading or, in this case, writing, rather than "browsing")

Called Phil Cross tonite, got his voice mail, haven't spoken to him in a while. We'll see if he gets back to me.

Ric bought a new couch and chair for the living room, it should be arriving in a week or so.

Well, that's the news from the homefront...

Let's have another pull of the swilly Heiny on that, eh!

Monday, April 17, 2006

Oh, Did I Forget To Post:


That It Was My Birthday Last Sunday, April 9th...Thank You!

Happy Year 42.

Uhhgh!

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

FLASHBACK: Winter 1990-91

Black Winter

This major downturn in my style of living began in earnest in the Fall of 1990.

I had pretty much let things get out of hand in my first "real" management job of my life.

I had been "management" (Recreation Coordinator) at BVC in the mid '80's and to my surprise, apparently did poorly in that position according to my best friend/boss Linda. She and her boss Veronica had met and decided that I needed "to go". So, Linda let me in on the scoop and I was allowed to graciously resign.

Now in 1990 at Amego, it was happening again, though I was in a position overseeing more staff and had much more responsibility attached to it...not to mention much better paying.

My boss Karen called me into the main office in Quincy, Mass. to discuss my "staff evaluation". In Human Service fields, it's common to be "empowering" enough to allow your staff to evaluate a manager's performance and submit that to the manager's boss and the manager's boss takes this as a true representation of the staff's perceptions, fair or unfair.

My staff had rated me poorly, for the most part, and in one quote, a staffer stated that I "acted like the Queen Bee" of the group home. (I wasn't officially "out" to my co-workers at this job, but I think it was generally assumed)

This evaluation hurt being, initiated by the folks under me who I though were overall loyal. But after weeks of contemplation I came to realise that the negative review was political payback for hiring a white assistant over a black one. My staff were mostly black and I think they saw me as racist for the promotion of the white guy and the reprimanding their habit of sleeping on the job and not conducting assignments as scheduled.

But Karen stuck by their word and de facto "vote" if you will (like management positions are democratic! Well in Human Services they partly are!) so I was kindly asked to resign.
I felt it was best as well so I resigned in October giving a full month's notice as is customary for management in that field.

Well, relations with my staff seemed to worsen for one reason or another so I was then "dismissed" after only two weeks of my "notice" period.

Thinking I had a full month, I hadn't even started looking for something else.
It took me 2 months before I found another job.

Meanwhile, finances hadn't been all that great that year anyway and since I was behind on my rent at Apollo Rd. in East Providence, I decided to not pay anymore rent and allow my first eviction to occur. (The first in four)

Before any actual sherriff came to take my stuff out though, I found a small attic apartment on Logee St. in Woonsocket that was cheaper and closer to Northern RIARC which I hoped to get into.

I also "returned" my leased used car that I was paying over $88/week for to the "Lease Here/Pay Here" lot by just abandoning it on the side of the lot with the keys in the car.
I resorted to using my very handicapped Fort Escort which, because of major automatic transmission issues ran in only "first gear".

I got a job with a door-to-door survey service verifying residents and such, kinda like the census but much suckier cause you weren't from the government but from the "Polk Directory" which people didn't know from jack-shit. So I just made up the answers for most of my route and quit before the week was out incase they caught on.

In December I was almost out of money and forced to call again on my tried and true friend John Batura at DialAmerica.

I started working for them again in mid-December but the job sucked so I was out the usual 50 to 80% of the time, thus making crappy paychecks.

But on the night of January 10th, 1991, my crummy decrepit, supposedly "rebuilt" 1981 Ford Escort decided that the trek from Warwick to Woonsocket (25 miles or so) was too long, or the night was too cold (10 degrees above zero Farenheit), or the engine too abused (running effectively only in "first gear" and couldn't be "shifted" since it was automatic and needing approximately 2 quarts of replenished motor oil per day)...or a combination of these factors...so that it just died.

Halfway home from Warwick, about 12 miles south of Woonsocket on lonely Rt. 146A, in the middle of a rural and sparsely populated suburban area, at about 1:30 in the morning...the engine gave one last gasp and seized. I was able to get the car off the road on the grassy area beyond the breakdown lane, and then that was it.

She never made another sound again.

Luckily, since the car also had no heater, I had dressed well for the cold in a long outercoat, but I was tired and not looking forward to a trek to a phone.

I walked about 2 miles before I came to a pay phone, but, being the wee hours of the morning on a weekday, no cabs were available. Even Providence cabbies weren't out this late, there just wasn't any usual call for it.

So, in the frigid night wind I trekked on to Woonsocket and made it home hours later and very numb indeed.

That cold walk cleared my head though and knocked me out of my funk. Of course, I didn't go back to DM since I couldn't drive there now that I didn't have a car.
I arranged with my father to borrow his Plymouth Duster and used it to get around for the next couple months.

I stepped up my job hunt for a quality job and decided to put aside my self-doubt and self-blame for the Amego experiences and went for management at NRIARC. After a series of tough, but well-performed interviews, I was awarded the manager position at Gaskill St. at NRIARC.

By late February, money from this new job was starting to make it's existance known by paying off my 2 months rent debt to my brand new landlady Nancy (with whom I went to high school with) and allowing me to eat and drink again. Oh, and how I would eat and drink again.

So the financial crisis of the "Black Winter" was over by March, but it's psychological effects lingered on for years.

No more should I consider myself "immune" to poverty, even to the point of homelessness...I knew how close Nancy came to turning me out.

No more should I consider a car a "birthright"...it is a benefit, but in no way guaranteed. And one must have the means with which to keep it and keep it running.

No more should I consider a job "easy to replace" and quit just because a few people were not satisfied with me. I should fight for the positions I truely feel passionate about.

Too bad it would take decades for these lessons to "sink in".

Thursday, April 06, 2006

The Crew at Work...


(Damn, now you know where I work...argh!)

I'm the big guy in the maroon shirt in the back row with the logo behind my head!

Anything But The Appalachian Emergency Room

The gout was very stubborn and morphed over the past 2 weeks from a moderate attack causing 2 absences to a now persistent ache and occasional swelling and pain flare-up from what has likely become a new case of tendonitis or muscle sprain, affecting the mid-foot and probably caused by my lopsided attempts at walking on a foot not-yet recovered from the symptoms of gout. My gait was all off-balance and the gout caused me to shift weight awkwardly to the left side of the left foot and to place the majority of my body weight on the right foot.

So now, my toe joints (the gout affected area) of the left foot ache still, but are noticeably improving, the mid-foot/arch of the left foot is prone to dull aches and swell-ups and not so-rapidly improving since I have to walk on it, and my right foot is generally aching and slightly swollen. And to top it off, the now 3-year old heel tendonitis symptoms in both feet are flaring up again. Oh such joy!

I have been taking cabs and "mouching" rides (which I hate to do, and people, though they never admit it, hate to be asked), but have decided today to start walking again. It was slow going and achey but I think I avoid any worsening of any condition. We'll see, because last week when I tried to walk for any length on it it took a day but swelled up like a balloon and stayed that way for 2 days, virtually incapacitating me.

Here's the funny thing about the whole situation which focuses a little spotlight on the oblivion of "middle-class" America on the plight of the poor:
Almost everyone who has seen me hobble along at work has asked, "Have you seen the doctor?"

I don't fault them, it would have been my first reaction, too, for most of my adult life.

Damn, I remember rushing over to my fully-covered, no-co-pay HMO many years ago for what I thought was a stroke or something (turned out to be a sinus headache), and another time calling the hotline with severe chest pains (indigestion).

But in my state now, it would be foolish to visit a doctor.

1. I would have to come up with the full payment.
Like the post where I wrote about the "fleshy-blob" removal from my arm, the clinics around here require full payment upon completion of visit.

2. How would I get to the doctor's office?
Bus? There's still some walking needed.
If I was totally incapacitated and needed emergency medical attention, it would have to be a very costly ambulance ride.

3. Gout is a chronic condition.
There really isn't a cure. It can be minimized in frequency and severity of flare-ups with proper diet and reduction of weight (foods rich in "tannic?" (some aspect of the chemistry of the food) like nuts, meats (especially organ meats), red wine and such, cause build up of Uric Acid in the blood, and obesity and sleep-apnia (which I suspect I have) all contribute to the problem).
So a doctor would charge me an arm-and-a-leg (or in this case a foot) to tell me what I already learned for "free" from the Web, and tell me to take NSAIDS (Ibuprophen), which I am already doing.

4. When would I have time to visit a clinic...especially considering I have no personal doctor so I would be one of the "cattle", forced to tell the receiving nurses how bad I feel on a scale of 1 to 10.
And since "Crack-Whore-Yolanda" in front of me, with the fat lip she got for mouthin' off to her "Baby' Daddy" said she is at "Level 10", and "Trailer-Park-Patsy" with her 4 rug-rats is here for the youngest one who swallowed a razor blade that was left out on the mirror-top coffee table (gee, what was that doing there with the white powder residue on it?)...I'd be stuck waiting for HOURS!

From SNL:

...It's time for another episode of "Appalachian Emergency Room"...

(I'd be the guy who shows up each time with a highly improbable "accident" where some odd foreign object "somehow" got jammed up my ass!)

Sunday, April 02, 2006

FLASHBACK: Summer 1984

Jeffrey-

Within seconds of making eye contact when we met first on Ward 1 of "G" Building at Wrentham, our mutual gaydars were flashing and we knew we had to get to know one another.

Funny thing about Wrentham...we were the staff but in many ways behavior among us was much like I would gather behavior would be like in any large "locked-down" institution, like a prison, or, what Wrentham was, after all, a mental hospital. (Oh it was named PC-ishly a state "school" for the mentally retarded (rather than mentally ill) but infact virtually all the "clients" (aka patients) were more accurately "dual-diagnosed", meaning both mental disabilities and mental illness.)

Staff at Wrentham grouped into cliques (much as inmates group into gangs in prisons).
The 2 main divisions were the interlopers like Jeff, me and several other younger men...we were there basically as a way to make ends meet until we found something better or, like me, as a way to pay for college (or so I told myself at the time).
Then there were the "lifers". The guys who were destined to be MRAs (Mental Retardation Assistants) for ever. For them this was about as good as it gets. No hefty prerequisites for employment like experience or degrees, very good blue collar wages and excellent benefits because it was a state job, along with a strong union in one of the most liberal states (Massachusetts), Man, you had it made.
Not to mention the fact that you got to abuse power by occasionally slapping around the "todds", sit on your ass all shift if management in your building was lax, and have the on campus connections for doing and dealing anything from prescription meds to coke, reefer, whatever.
It was a Loser's Paradise.

Jeff and I became fast friends but as I got to know Jeff more, I came to understand that rather than an interloper, Jeff was getting cozy with the lifers and emulating them.
Jeff had most likely already been a pot-head and boozer before Wrentham, but once ensconced in the lifer way of life, he fell deeper and deeper during that summer of '84 into the dark recesses of drug use, drinking and even molestation of a male client.
Not once to be judgmental, I continued being Jeff's friend and even partook in some of the drugging and drinking.

There was even a couple of weeks during that summer that we decided to actually become "lovers", even though we had already been circle jerking and I let him fuck me a couple of times. But our "relationship" lasted very briefly since he may have been sexually attracted to me but I really didn't get turned on by him. Though we would continue to circle jerk together for years.

Lisa-

The summer of '84 saw a slight modification of my relationship with one of my best friends, Lisa.

I had met Lisa several years before when she attended the same J.A. meetings as John and I and incorporated one of the members of our company (in fact it was she who named the company Sunshine and Rainbow Sales) (snik...little did she know how "rainbow" the company was!).

Lisa and I actually "dated" (I was unsure back then, LOL) and we attended each others junior proms. Mine at Woonsocket and hers at Cumberland.
We lost touch after those proms in the spring of '81 though, and I didn't see her until one evening in 1983 when she and her friend (and John's prom date) Kristen popped into Howard Johnson's at Park Square, not knowing (or so they said) that I worked as a "fountain boy" (aka soda jerk) there.

Lisa wanted to date me again and I agreed but this time only to be friendly and to provide an opportunity to explain why I had purposely "lost touch" with her.

On our first, post-high-school-years date in 1983, we went to a popular bar named Denny's Pub (later re-named Pub Dennis due to a court settlement with the Denny's restaurant chain) and I "came out" to her. She was oddly shocked. (Side Note: Back then and even to this day I am surprised by the people caught "unawares" when I come out to them...I always figure people suspect it anyway since, though I'm not effeminate, I do have many gay mannerisms. I guess I'm also a little perturbed as well because like Harvey Firestien once said about this same phenomenon to the "shocked" individual: "How dare you think I would be a heterosexual!")

Later that year we would frequent that bar, now, as friends, on many occasions and on one we decided to go clubbing in Providence. Lisa felt she had too much wine to drive and I, being, back then, immortal and a really good drunk driver since I did it all the time (sad, but true), got behind the wheel of her father's AMC Hornet and proceeded to drive it all the way to Providence only to ram it into the back of a stopped 18-wheeler on the highway, allowing both Lisa and I a bloody ambulance ride to the hospital (well, I was bloody, she was having chest pains).
But that is another FLASHBACK entirely.

By summer of '84 Lisa was living off-campus with a college friend in Cambridge and though in winter and spring of '84 I was visiting her virtually twice a month at her dorm at Leslie College, by summer she was spending time with her girl buddy.

She was also busy dating (I think that's around when she met her future husband Ahbid, a Palestinian exchange student attending M.I.T.), more actively pursuing a mate now that her attempt to sexually convert me that past winter proved unsuccessful. (Eh, she played with my nipples and that back then was like having just taken the then yet-to-be-discovered Viagra...what can I say. But once I tried to insert Mr. Mikey into her um...er...a..."thing", he decided to "call it a night" right quick!
So, since that "penetration attempt" failed, and that was the one and only attempt ever, I am, essentially by text book definition, still a "virgin"...so now you know.)

Now, I mainly saw Lisa only when she came down to Cumberland to visit her family.

David-

In the summer of '84 there was a nurse at Wrentham who worked in "G" Building who, thankfully, since she was an experienced fag hag, immediately picked up that I was gay and "pssted" me over to her one day and told me that she had a best friend (her "gay", as Kathy Griffin would say) named David who she thought I would make a perfect match for.
I said that "sure, I was game" and so she called him, told him what I looked like and arranged a blind date between us.

We arranged to meet at the restaurant he worked at, some trendy yuppie joint on Boylston St. or around there...definitely Back Bay. (Boston, in case you didn't know.) I'm not sure where we ended up going...I don't think we ate dinner there but we hit it off immediately and before the night was over we were going at each other like rabbits in heat.
(Sorry, I used this metaphor in a previous FLASHBACK, please excuse my lack of variety...how lame of me.)

This began a whirlwind one month fling. Yup, just one month. (During this summer...I would hook up with him over Christmas later that year.)
Why just one month. Well, he was the most gorgeous guy I had ever gone out with, had it all together and was going places (although he was just a waiter he was very smart and I knew he was headed somewhere).
He seemed totally into me and it seemed we'd be a perfect match. But somewhere along the line we got to talking about beliefs. He stated he was Jehovah Witness (which I found strange since I didn't think that religion was too fond of queers...eh, what do I know!) and I, being proud of my beliefs and unaware that others might find my boldness "offensive" to their "mind's-eye-image of their version of reality", blurted out that, I thought his faith in his God was misguided since, I felt, in fact that God didn't even exist. So why was he wasting his time with those kooks. (Oh, I was not always the most diplomatic back then)
(Side Note: But really, for a whole month I thought I knew him and thought he was a jaded intellectual like me...fascinated by the world mainly for it's fucked-upness, not for it's "God-given Beauty". I was really shocked that he was "one of them" the countless millions who are too stupid or too scared to let go of the lies and the superstition. I thought he was above that.)

When his "faith" was not shaken by my postulating logical dilemmas to his way of "thinking" (aka hallucinating) I went a wee bit too far and in a brazen declaration hoping to show him my unbound freedom from the poisonous Opium of the Masses, I looked up to the stars in the dark night sky and yelled: "Fuck You, God!" And turned smiling to him to show him that in fact no bolt of lightning had just fried me to a crisp.

He just nodded his head back and forth and didn't say another word until I dropped him off at his house and he told me we shouldn't see each other again.

Paoula-

During this summer I had decided to continue my art studies and a former instructor at CCRI offered to tutor me at her Boston Harborfront studio for something like $25 a session. (Not a bad deal.)

Each week for at least a couple of months I would take the commuter rail from Franklin, Mass. just north of Woonsocket, RI and spend an hour or two painting and drawing with Paoula's instruction.
(I had a car during this time, of course, but it was an 1972 Olds Delta 88 and it guzzled gas like, well, like a contemporary SUV! It was cheaper (and funner) to take the train...even the luxury of the Amtrak was only $8.00 each way back then...I think the Commuter "T" was only a couple bucks each way.)

These art lessons did no real good, BTW, I think initially Paoula, a junior art instructor and professional painter in her 20's was probably looking for more than just a "willing mind" to tutor. (Hey, I was gorgeous back then, what can I say!)
But when I started telling her about David she suddenly spent less of our hour session actually instructing and challenging me to "paint what I feel passionate about", and more just nodding at what ever I did and saying it looked "good".

But the scheduled lessons gave me an excuse to regularly commute to the city I loved every week.

Boston-

Finally, the last character I'll mention about that summer...the city of Boston herself.

Since meeting up with Lisa again the year before, I had been regularly visiting the area and fell in love with it.

During the summer of '84...this was the height of my love affair with Beantown.

Harvard frat parties with Lisa and her friends.

Picnic concerts sipping cabernet and nibbling brie with Lisa, listening to Al Jerreau in the Boston Gardens.

Getting shitfaced at a gay bar in the Fenway with Michael, Jerry and Paul Aubin.

The train pulling into South Station on my way to Paoula's classes...and after one session, heading over to the newly opened Computer Museum nearby and seeing, first hand, the computer that everyone was talking about that year, a Macintosh.

Going with Nancy to the Boston Museum of Art and our favorite which was just a block away, the Isabella Gardner Museum.

Attending the "King and I" at the Wang Theater starring Yul Brenner, audibly wheezing through the "Shall We Dance" number, in what would be one of his last performances before his death.

Visiting Lisa during her internship at the Museum of Science and going to see a film at the newly constructed Mugar OmniTheater domed IMAX cinema.

Treating Lisa out to a fancy dinner at the Top of the Hub Restaurant atop the Prudential Tower.

Strollin' alone through Fanueil Hall Marketplace, sipping a cup of Lapsang Souchong and heading over to the nearby New England Aquarium to catch a beluga whale show.

Ah the Summer of 1984...

There was never another summer quite like it.