Itsy Bitsy Spider

How many times have you heard someone say “I have a bump on my arm. I think it might be a spider bite.”

Oh, I’ve heard it lots of times…bunches of times. And every time I heard someone claiming a spider bit them in their sleep, I laughed to myself a little. Why do I laugh, you ask? Because I have a hard time picturing a spider crawling through someone’s bed for a midnight snack, that’s why. You never hear about spiders biting people in the daytime, when we can see it happen. More questionable than anything else is that the creature being blamed for a blemish incurred in the night is always, unfailingly, a spider. Why not an ant? Or a bee? Or a mosquito? Or, hey, I know…bed bugs! I hear those things are making a comeback. Why doesn’t anyone blame a bug known for inflicting red bumps upon humans? Why are we blaming the spiders?

Spiders get a bad rap. They rid houses of pests and generally don’t mean us any harm. “Charlotte’s Web” and “Spider-man” didn’t give enough good P.R. to counter movies like “Arachnophobia” and “Eight Legged Freaks.” Even the Lullaby video depicts a nighttime spider assault. Despite all of the negativity, I didn’t buy the hype that spiders are bad—if I see one wandering aimlessly in the tub, I’ll move it to higher ground. If it looks like it’s lost, I’ll usher it outside. I am at peace with spiders in my midst because I didn’t believe they would turn on me while I slept.

Recently, while starring in the role of "houseguest" , I stayed in the guest bed. One morning, as I awoke, I felt the strangest thing on my face. Something little tickled my skin, almost the sensation of a stray hair that had fallen on my face. Well, I reached for the hair and found it escaping my grasp. Everywhere I grabbed, whatever it was remained two steps ahead.

Nooo, I thought, this can’t be happening, as I swiped and slapped at my skin. Then from the corner of my eye, I saw it: a wispy little spider dancing away from my hand. I could even hear the faintest sound of laughter come from its little tiny mouth-parts. The spider had come for me at last. All of those people weren’t crazy after all. When the crawly sensations disappeared, I settled back into bed, but I didn’t dare sleep. I might wake up with a bump on my arm, or worse, family of spiders tucked away in my ear.

What, you don't believe me?

It could happen.

The Power Of Negative Thinking

It doesn’t take much to ruin my day. I worry about lots of things—too many things. If I knew how to stop, I would. I worry that all of this worrying is going to put me into an early grave and then I worry that I died of cancer or some other equally awful way to go.

Yesterday the indicator in my car started blinking. It was the one that tells you if you have a flat, and usually when it flickers on, it stays on. This time it blinked, just like a little round hazard light. Blinka-blinka, 5 seconds till your tires self destruct, it seemed to be saying. Blinka-blinka, too bad you were too cheap to replace those runflats with more runflats because you don’t even have a jack or a spare tire. Blinka-blinka, you’d better hope those two cans of fix-a-flat will be enough get you home.

I drove sensibly and took care whenever I went through one of those metal joints that connected two parts of the road. Stuck on the shoulder in 95 degree heat during rush hour is not one of the things I’m aiming to do before I die.

The car felt pretty normal—I wasn’t slowing down and feeling that bumping that comes with a flat tire. The car felt a little shaky, but maybe the alignment was off. I couldn’t hear the flapping of loose rubber or see the sparks of my rims against asphalt. I was okay, but in the corner of my eye, that blinking indicator was there, flashing on and off, reminding me that maybe I was wrong.

Of course this was a night when the traffic was moving like sludge. Damn it, I thought, I just want to get home and check the tires. Blinka-blinka, should have joined AAA, the light said.

I reached home, parked outside and pulled out the car's manual. From there I looked for information on the flat tire indicator. There was nothing about a blinking light. I followed the instructions and turned to the page for cars with conventional, non runflat tires. When I glanced at the diagrams showing the tire jack and the spare, I closed the book. Never mind.

I grabbed the tire pressure gauge from the glove compartment and checked the front tire—40 pounds of pressure—a little overinflated, but perhaps that was because I’d been driving and the temperature was warm. I checked the other three tires, deflated a couple until they were all at around the same pressure and replaced the valve caps. Then I got back in, turned the key and waited.


Four more turns of the key and it was still blinking.

I know, I thought, maybe if I start the car and roll it into the garage, the indicator will reset because once the tires start rotating, the car will figure out tire pressures have been evened out.

Start car, roll forward, put it in reverse, back in to park. Turn key.


I sighed, grabbed my stuff, closed the driver's side door and went inside.

The following morning, I returned to the car and just before I started the engine, I remembered. The light.


I pressed the reset button, just under the hand brake, and then the light stopped blinking and went solid. I pressed it again and the light went out. Thanks to Google, I was able to try out the solution I found online the night before. When it worked, I exhaled and turned up the stereo.

As I drove, I started thinking back to the day before, when I deflated the tires to even them out. You’re only supposed to check the tires when the car’s been still and the air inside the tires is still cold. I had done just the opposite the day before. All of it was hot—the rims, the rubber, the air—all hot!

Uh-oh. What if I overdeflated? What if the air in the tires cooled down and the tire pressure was now too low? The idea has been popping into my head regularly. Just like the little indicator light, major and minor worries flicker through my mind all day until I resolve the issues, get over them or fall asleep.

Blinka-blinka. Did you pay your credit card bill yet? Blinka-blinka, are we out of orange juice? Blinka-blinka, do you have clean underwear for tomorrow?

Maybe Google can help.

Alternate Universe

Do this:

In the web address, type “the” before the word “Sunday.” Do it and let the page refresh and come back in here when you’re done. Go on...try it. I'll be here waiting when you get back.

Trippy, eh?

That is the blog I never started (mentioned in “Take 2”). That’s what happens when you start a blog and let enough time elapse for you to completely forget your username and password.

So now that I have reclaimed the abandoned blog, I have two things titled "The Sunday Night Poop." Remember, you saw it here first--two "Poops" in the same convenient location.



In the past two weeks, I've received a windfall. Some would be skeptical of gaining so much through strangers via email, but I believe it's the universe's way of making things right. Thank you, universe.

Below are some of my responses to my random benefactors.
Dear Mr. Zunga,

Why wouldn’t your mail meet my personal ethics? According to you, this transaction is totally free of risk and troubles as the fund is legitimate and does not originate from drug, money laundry, terrorism or any other illegal act. You’re absolutely right, it’s perfectly legal to give me 35% of the Eighteen Million, Five Hundred Thousand US Dollars that belonged to the guy who died along with his wife and only daughter in the Alaska Airlines Flight 261 plane crash on January 31st 2000. That happened over 8 years ago and the money’s just sitting there, and we both know things aren’t getting any cheaper! You said it yourself, “Nobody’s coming for it” so we might as well split it. Besides, the late Mr. Morris Thompson an American and great industrialist and a resident of Alaska would want us to have it.

Yours also, Faithfully—


Dear Mr. Williams,
I am so sorry to hear that your father, a very wealthy Gold/Diamond dealer in Freetown, the economic capital of Sierra Leone, was poisoned to death by his close business associates. I am also terribly sorry that your mother died when you were 15 years old.

I am honored that you followed your father’s dying words and chose me to be the honest foreigner from the country of your choice to assist you in keeping his fortune of Twenty Six MILLION DOLLARS in safe hands. It’s too bad your uncle wants to kill you because of that certificate of deposits. It’s inconceivable that he’s not content with already having secured your father’s property.

It really was “Devine Mercy” that kept you from eating that delicious poisoned rice meal. I’ll bet you weren’t hungry anymore after you dumped it in the trash and later found those two dead rats soon afterwards. People around you are pretty big on that poisoning thing. Maybe you should invest in a professional food tester.

Anyway, I will gladly:
1. stand as your late father's foreign partner since you late father deposited it to be clem by his foreign partner and no name was mentioned,
2. help you come over to your country to further your education.

Come on over--you picked a great country—they don’t call it the land of opportunity for nothing.

“Dearest One”


Dear Mrs Rita Charles from Scotland:

Sorry to hear that you are a deaf and suffering from a long time cancer of the breast which also affected your brain. I’m so glad to hear that your husband and you are “true Christians” but awfully sorry to hear that he quite unfortunately died in a fatal motor accident.

Maybe you should go against the courageous advising of your doctors and use your faith to help you believe that you will live beyond the next two months, even though “the cancer stage has reached a critical stage.” I realize you have lost your ability to talk, but since you have a laptop in a hospital where you have been undergoing treatment, you’re not completely cut off--I mean, you wrote to me, right?

If it is truly your wish for me, good humanitarian, to also use your inherited $31.5million dollars to fund churches, orphanages and widows around, then who am I to deny your wish? I fully understand that this was a very hard decision, and I know you had to take a bold step towards this issue. I certainly will help you see your last wishes come true.



Dear Mrs. Alexis Henziluo:

Thank you for your message titled: “CONGRATULTIONS - BEIJING OLYMPIC NOTIFICATION”, however I don’t remember entering my email address into the the NLF ONLINE International Lottery BEIJING WORLD CYBER OLYMPICS GAMES 2008 Lottery programs. Are you sure your computer ballot system that drew from 20,000 companies and 30,000,000 individuals e-mail addresses from all over the world as part your automobile business and telecommunication promotion programmed in hong kong and china is legal?

If it is, I will gladly take a lump sum pay out of USD$ 500,000.00 (Five hundred thousand United States Dollars) from a total sum of USD $2,500,000.00 shared amongst the first 5 lucky winners entered in their 1st category, BEIJING WORLD CYBER OLYMPICS GAMES 2008 FORTUNE LOTTO DRAW.



Dear Brian Smith:

I am delighted to learn that I am one of the THREE LUCKY
WINNERS whose e-mail address won the sum payout of £500,000
pounds.(Five Hundred Thousand Pounds Sterlings Only) in the DELL

I can’t believe my luck; especially since I was chosen through a
computer ballot system drawn from over 30,000 company and 50,000,000
individual email addresses and names from all over the world. I also can’t believe I’ve won when I’ve never purchased anything from Dell in my entire life or that an American company would give out prize money in pounds.


Dear Mr Walter

You’re right; your message did come to me as a surprise. I will most certainly offer my assistance transferring the sum of ($39.5)million to from the African Development Bank, Ouagadougou Burkina faso to my account within 10 or 14 banking days. I understand that this money belonged to your deceased customer late Mr.George Small who died along with his supposed next of kin in an air crash since 31st October 1999. I guess there are a lot of rich people dying with all of their closest relatives in plane crashes these days.

Consider this my urgent response.

Best Regard,


Dear Mrs Elizabeth Johnson

Your letter did come to me as a surprise, and between all of the prize winning and the requests for help with transferring percentages of large inheritances to my bank account, let me tell you--I’ve been getting a lot of surprises these days. Even so, I can’t believe you, Mrs Elizabeth Johnson, from Liberia Monrovia 48years old and residing in Nigeria with your only son Prince Johnson Jr., contacted little ol’ me for help.

So you want to use the fund $ 7.5m (Seven Million Five Hundred Thousand USD) that your late husband who was until his death the former Army Chief during the regime of Charles Taylor deposited in the Security/finance house to move out of Nigeria to my country for investment? I realize you cry for Help, but I’m sorry, but I’ve already taken someone else up on a similar offer. Good luck and in the future be more careful who you share your personal information with; there are people running scams out there!



The following is a letter I sent earlier this year regarding a dependent care flex spending account reimbursement. It took a lot of time, energy and aggravation to get me to the point of writing this complaint, but true to the old cliché, the squeaky wheel got the grease; I eventually got everything back. I really do believe “they” make this shit hard (when it shouldn’t be) so people don’t want to bother claiming their own money.

To whom it may concern:

I am writing regarding your claim process for the flexible spending accounts. In March 2008, I submitted a claim for the total in my 2007 Dependent care FSA ($1200.00). Later that month, I received a check for $598.36. Because I did not submit all of the receipts that covered the timeframe from July-December 2007, this was understandable, so I submitted another claim for $601.64, which was exactly what remained in my account.

When I checked online to follow up on my claim, I saw that the second claim had been entered into the system and the amount that I was going to be reimbursed was $301.64, which left exactly $300.00 in my account. I can assure you that at $265.00 a week for 16 weeks and an additional $218.00 a week for 10 weeks for child care, what I am requesting back from my account is a drop in the bucket when compared to the total amount that I spent for childcare from 2 July through 31 December 2007. If there is any question, check the second claim submitted for $601.64 and you will find the receipts for each week of this timeframe. The customer service representative (“Nate”), who I spoke to this morning confirmed that these receipts were there.

So far, I have called customer service twice with no confirmation that this claim will be settled. In fact, after I called earlier this week (8 April 2008), I see that there has been a third claim submitted for the amount of $301.64. In addition to this update, I saw that the new claim was denied because:

“$301.64 of the submitted expense is not reimbursable because it was considered for payment on a previous claim.”

Please check the record again. Nowhere in my paperwork did I ask for $301.64; I asked for $601.64, which was exactly what remained in my 2007 account. Aetna reimbursed $301.64 and I am guessing that this was an error from the person processing the claim mistyping on the number keypad (the 3 is directly below the 6). There is no logical reason for exactly $300.00 to be left in that account. Therefore the third and final claim for 2007 should be for $300.00 exactly and it should be reimbursed in full.

While the customer service representatives have been polite and cooperative, there is no acknowledgement that the second claim was submitted correctly and that the error lies with Aetna’s processing. Basically, I am using my time to correct a mistake that was not my fault so I can get back my own money. The general response is usually “Let me get this to a processor” (which is some nameless, faceless entity that customers apparently can not speak to directly). Nate promised he would return a call to me today, but the person I spoke to on Wednesday came back with “Call us on Friday.” Why am I being told to call back to follow up when someone should have been contacting me in a timely manner? Oh, right, because it’s not their money and they don’t really care what happens. Kind of a “Good luck with that” mentality. This pervades the Aetna website too, it’s hard to find a phone number anywhere; the only reason I have it is because I have a member card from my husband’s medical coverage. There, at the bottom, in the smallest legible print is the 1-800 number. Somewhere along the line between the maddening automated phone menu and the ominous claim processing system, the message seems to be that Aetna does not want its members to call for help. If you make something that should be fairly easy into a time consuming, more-difficult-than-it-should-be task, then people will give up trying to claim that last bit of their own money because it’s simply not worth the trouble. Good for Aetna, bad for any customers whose claims were not full reimbursed.

I have to admit that strategy is working because I already regret starting a Dependent care FSA for 2008 and I am seriously considering claiming a tax deduction instead of going through your arduous claim process. Next year I will likely to switch from my husband’s health care to a different company, even if it costs us a bit more. Treat your customers like they matter and they will be loyal, and on the flip side, treat them poorly and eventually you will not have them around to bother you any longer.

Given my complaints, I have to say, the customer service representative who worked with me (“Alice”) last year was a great deal more helpful and seemed to care about my reimbursement. Maybe the next time I call (given the history, there will be a next time) I will get lucky and find someone like that. Probably not.

I am the customer, this is my money and I fail to understand what is taking so long when the receipts are there and I have re-sent the claim with receipts to prove that I spent well over that amount in the 6 months that was covered as well as a short letter clearly stating that I was asking for $601.64 which was the remainder in my account. If this letter spares others from the trouble I have gone through in getting my own money returned to me, then maybe it was worth it. (Probably not)

Thank you.


In Search Of Seymour Butts

During my illustrious year serving as a platoon leader in the Republic of Korea, I had to deal with a myriad of situations. Like Las Vegas, Korea was one of those places where people arrived and thought “What happens here stays here.” It wasn’t like being stateside, when you went home and had someone to answer to at the end of the day. No, this was half a world away with the Pacific Ocean separating you from the Good ol’ U.S. of A. If you didn’t call home you could say you were out in the field or explain that you were trying to save money. If you did call, you could tell the person on the other end a number of lies. It wasn’t like they could ever check up on you. Many people viewed this level of freedom as a doorway of opportunity.

One of those people was a sergeant in my platoon. He was a section leader—an E-5 in his mid-twenties. Sergeant Seymour was a tall man, with a medium build and glasses that implied intelligence. I gathered that he had a wife and five year old son back in Fort Bliss, Texas, but he hardly mentioned them. There were three other section leaders, guys that were all E-5’s and E-6’s and of course, there was my right hand man, the platoon sergeant, an E-7.

Our platoon was on Osan airbase just south of Seoul. The main gate butted against Songtan, a town packed with shops catered to the whims of the American dollar. Songtan had nightclubs, travel agencies, bedding stores, custom tailors, restaurants, and a number of shops that pushed “authentic” leather Coach bags. Despite all of this civilization (to include the airbase), the platoon’s site was on the far side of the runway, closer to a sea of rice paddies than to the Burger King and the Commissary. We were so far out that we didn’t even have plumbing because there were no pipes that ran from the main section of the base beyond the runway. We had two trailers and three port-a-potties and an unpaved lot filled with rocks far too big to pass for gravel. This isolation plus a rotating schedule of 24 hour shifts made the group closer. Almost everyone had a nickname, most of which were coined by Sergeant Borges, one of the section leaders and the resident comedian. He could make fun of people far above his pay grade, do it right to their faces, and they wouldn’t get mad because his delivery always involved a smile or an impish glint in his eye, as if to say, if I find it funny, so should you. I also believe this same quality was the reason why he an E-5 at the age of 35, while his friend and peer, the 33 year old platoon sergeant, was two steps ahead and already looking forward to a promotion. While Sergeant Borges had moments that displayed his leadership potential, no one took him seriously.

“Seymour Butts!”

The platoon headquarters trailer had an announcement system that Sergeant Borges liked to play with. The thing had a siren and a number of other amplified blips and beeps.


“Is Seymour Butts around? I want a Seymour Butts?” Sergeant Borges announced, resurrecting the old Bart Simpson phone prank to beckon Sergeant Seymour.

Everyone in the platoon was a legal adult, but no one was above grade school humor. Whenever Sergeant Borges made one of his announcements, anybody within hearing range would stop what they were doing and laugh, or at least crack a smile. Our isolated site and the constant roar of jet engines protected these announcements from being heard by anyone but us. This was our island.


“Seymour Butts?”

Sergeant Seymour always went along with the joke. He seemed to be an easy going guy who didn’t readily socialize with the other sergeants, preferring to keep to himself. He did well on P.T. tests but otherwise wasn’t a golden boy or a problem child. He was just your average, run-of-the-mill junior NCO.


“Does anyone know where he is?” demanded our commander.

She was a 28 year old captain juggling a battery consisting of three platoons. Her office was on Suwon airbase, ten miles from the battery’s location on Osan and this separation worked to our advantage, affording us ample goof off time. We knew she couldn’t be at the maintenance, fire control or launcher platoon sites AND in her office all at once. And if she left the office, someone usually had enough sense to call ahead and warn everyone that she was on her way. This gave us a 30-45 minute lead to get things straightened up for her arrival. The only times she had the entire battery in one place was in the mornings, during formation, and in the evenings, during formations. It was a morning formation when we discovered Sergeant Seymour was gone.

“He wasn’t in his room, ma’am.” Said my platoon sergeant. “We already checked.”

The commander wasn’t happy with this. A vertical line was etched into her forehead, right between her eyebrows. By the end of her year in command, I thought, that thing’s going to be as deep as the Mariana Trench.

She dismissed everyone else and kept me, the XO and my platoon sergeant around.

“Okay,” she said with a sigh, “maybe there was an accident. Let’s think of the possible places where he might be. XO, call around to the local hospitals.”

“Yes, ma’am.” Replied the XO.

“He wasn’t on duty over the weekend, but he could’ve stayed on site.” My platoon sergeant said. “He might’ve gone out last night and went to the site when it looked like he wasn’t going to make it back to his room on time.”

We tried to come up with plausible reasons to explain the mysterious disappearance of Sergeant Seymour. No matter what scenario we imagined, the conclusion was always this: Something happened that was beyond his control. We didn’t ever consider that his disappearance might have been intentional.

“He’s not in any of the hospitals.”

“He wasn’t on site.”

Those two findings meant this guy was still somewhere out there. Sergeant Borges kept the mood light.

“He fell down drunk and hit his head and he’s out there in Songtan wandering around with a case of amnesia.” He joked. “He can’t figure out why everyone’s calling him ‘Round Eye.’”

A week later, someone spotted him during lunchtime.

“He was standing on the sidewalk across the street!” A private said. Three people from the platoon had seen him just before getting lunch in the food court and they recounted the story to the rest of us as if it were a Bigfoot sighting.

“He was standing right there, but when I waved, he turned and walked away like he didn’t even know us.” This came from one of the soldiers in Sergeant Seymour’s section. She seemed hurt that he had failed to acknowledge her.


“We have to report him as AWOL. It’s already been two weeks.” The commander broke the news to me and my platoon sergeant in her office. “Once we start proceedings, we can have him dropped from the payrolls.”

Among pregnancies, adultery, article 15s and multiple instances of soldiers being sent to the psychology ward (by order or request), having someone go AWOL was a new first for us.

How can someone just disappear?

His room was still completely intact. All of the clothes, civilian and uniform, were still in his closet. He didn’t even have his wallet with him, or his military I.D. How was he getting back through the gates without a military I.D.?


“They got him.”

The phone call wasn’t long after the day of the Bigfoot sighting. The Air force security police captured Sergeant Seymour at the gates when they matched his face to the blown up photocopy of his I.D. card.

“You need to go to the station and pick him up.” My commander told me and my platoon sergeant.

My platoon sergeant used the power of delegation to escape the task. He sent Sergeant Borges with me that night to pick up our wayward soldier.

We rode in my car, a black 1987 Daewoo Prince. There was an unofficial rule that officers should have cars so they didn’t have to rely on a bus to get from the site on Osan back to the headquarters on Suwon. For $500, I had a set of wheels courtesy of the warrant officer who sold me his ride. One of my fellow lieutenants, a guy who spoke Hangul and was engaged to a Korean, explained to me that Koreans didn’t really believe in keeping old cars, after so many years, they wound up in the junk yard. “Tune up” was a foreign concept and my car was long past its expiration date. I wasn’t a religious person, but I said a little prayer every time I got into this car. At 12 years old, it was a miracle the thing was still running.

When we arrived at the station, which was just inside the main gate, one of the airmen greeted us and welcomed us into their waiting area. He wore his uniform with an accessory belt that held a billy club, handcuffs and a pistol.

“You know, he was trying to get back on base and we said, wait a minute—aren’t you that guy that went AWOL? Well, long story short, he’s in the back now.” The guy said. His puffed out chest indicated his obvious pride in catching the legendary Bigfoot.

Sergeant Borges and I waited for our prisoner. The waiting room had a sofa and two chairs, all upholstered in matching brown vinyl, a countertop with the sign in roster, and a hallway that looked like it led back to the holding cells. It reminded me a bit of the waiting room of a doctor’s office. Above the countertop was a banner with the police unit’s motto. “Defending the Force, Maintaining the Peace” it read.

“Well that’s catchy,” Sergeant Borges said after reading it out loud several times, in varying inflections.

“What’s taking so long?” I wondered aloud. We had been sitting there at least 10 minutes and no one was reappearing from the hallway that led to the jail cells.

“I’ll bet they let him go.” Sergeant Borges said.

Five minutes later, I heard two of the airmen talking. The one who welcomed us when we arrived emerged from the hallway. He looked embarrassed.

Sergeant Borges and I rose from our seats.

“So where’s Sergeant Seymour?” I said.

“He went outside on a smoke break and I guess he got back out through the gates.”

“You let him go out on a smoke break?” Sergeant Borges said. “No one went out with him?”

The second airman nodded. “Yes, but he was right outside the door.”

“Let me get this straight, you let the guy who you caught for being AWOL--you let him go?”

“No," the airman replied, "he ran away.”

Sergeant Borges stormed out of the station with a cigarette at the ready. He placed it between his lips and looked at me. “I’m hungry, L.T. You hungry?”

I nodded.

He lit the cigarette and took a long drag. “Let’s go outside the gates before we head back.”

In the short walk through the gates, Sergeant Borges shared his theory. “As soon as Seymour heard our voices he asked for a smoke break and those idiots gave it to them. ‘Defending the Force,’ my ass. If they spent less time coming up with catchy mottos, maybe they’d be able to contain someone who’s unarmed.”

In the middle of the street there was an older Korean woman with a cart of hot food. I knew from experience that some of these carts yielded the best food you’d ever tasted. Who needs filet mignon when you could have meat on a stick?

“You ever tried this, L.T.?” Sergeant Borges said. I shook my head. He greeted the cart’s owner, Miss Kim, and she asked him something.

“Oh no, no.” he said laughing. Sergeant Borges looked at me and smiled. “She asked if we were together.”

The idea was laughable. Sergeant Borges reminded me of the clever older brother that I never had. Ignoring the fact that I was charge of the guy, I was 23 and he was 35; he was old.

“You want one, L.T.? It’s on me.”

Miss Kim’s specialties were burgers topped with fried eggs and condiments. At night, most of the shops were closed, but the clubs were open and the streets and sidewalks were dotted with strategically placed food carts. This was a market catered towards the drunk American servicemembers who stumbled out of the clubs with a hankering.

The burger filled my stomach and took some of the sting out of Sergeant Seymour eluding us once again. By morning, the whole fiasco was just more material for Sergeant Borges to add to his repertoire.


On a Friday evening, I worked with the first sergeant and one of my section leaders to pack up Seymour’s room. Rooms were a commodity and it made no sense to use one as a storage facility for someone who had chosen to leave.

“Twelve shirts.” The first sergeant said, as he piled a bunch of flannel button downs onto Seymour’s stripped mattress.

“No, first sergeant,” said my section leader, who was marking the inventory list, “you have to describe each one.”

The First sergeant rolled his eyes, as if to inform us that he didn’t have time for this shit. He was nearing retirement and Sergeant Seymour’s shenanigans were yet another reminder of why he was ready to leave the Army.

It took a few hours, but we managed to box up Seymour’s clothes, toiletries and computer. A few people came by to see if they could siphon off some of his stuff, but that wasn’t allowed. According to the regulations, everything he had in that room had to be inventoried and stored in cardboard boxes.

Another two weeks passed without any more sightings of Sergeant Seymour. The man who had been nearly invisible while he was around had become a legend in absentia.

After a morning formation, the commander pulled us into her office to tell us she had spoken to Sergeant Seymour’s wife.

“She can’t stay in post housing now that he’s officially AWOL,” she said. “His wife threatened to take this to the press.”

I could imagine the story about the big bad Army kicking out the poor defenseless Army family out of their home. It was a twist on the tale of David and Goliath.

“Let her go to the press,” said the First sergeant, who was clearly tired of the entire situation. “We’re just following the rules. Her issue isn’t with us; it’s with her no-good husband.”


It was Sergeant Borges who trapped Seymour. He took great joy in telling the story multiple times, which was no surprise, given his outgoing personality. He was the hero and had no qualms with promoting himself.

“We were out in Songtan—at a club,” He said, “And we see him hanging out, so I go up to him and invite him over. Then I went to the bar and acted like I was ordering drinks. What I really did was tell the guy next to me:

‘Don’t look at me, don’t talk to me. The guy over there in the
glasses is AWOL. I need you to go to the cops on Osan and get
them down here ASAP.’

He would then lean back and let the suspense build. “So we’re in there smokin’ and jokin’ with him. He had no clue what was about to go down. Next thing you know, the S.P.’s get there and they’re dragging Seymour Butts outta there in cuffs.”

Sergeant Borges claimed that the hardest part was carrying on a normal conversation without checking the door to see if the police had arrived.

I imagined the scene—Sergeant Borges in the acting job of his life is ribbing Seymour the way he always did and Seymour is falling for the trap. What was he thinking, a few beers would mend fences? Didn’t he feel bad when he saw the soldiers he had abandoned, or the other sergeants that he had left to handle his work? The guys were short shifted now, which meant every four days one of the section leaders had to stay on site for a 24 hour rotation. Did he have any remorse?

This time around two people had to watch Seymour until he boarded the plane and left the country. He was stripped of his rank and the guys stuck supervising him hurried to get him outprocessed from the unit and chaptered out of the Army. Seymour didn’t carry himself the same way anymore. He stooped when he moved, the way prisoners do when their wrists are cuffed and their ankles are shackled. He didn’t make eye contact or try to explain or excuse what he did. He did offer me a mumbled apology, and to this day I regret not telling him that I wasn’t the one who needed the apology. All of the other sergeants and soldiers in the platoon were the ones who deserved that.

“He called her from the airport.”

Sergeant Escobedo told us how the story ended. “He called her and told her he was coming back for her.”

It would have been romantic if he wasn’t already married. Sergeant Seymour, husband to an angry wife and father to a five year old son, had thrown away his career and family for a woman he had met during his tour—a woman so captivating that he intended to turn back around for her.

The escorting duties included walking Seymour to the gate of his departing plane and seeing him board. Once you made it that far, you probably had to make sure the gates were shut off and the plane backed away from the terminal before you could truly believe your job was done. Our unit heaved a sigh of relief once the drama had wrapped up. The story wasn’t over yet—Seymour still had to answer to the Army, and to his wife and explain why he thought his crime was justified. Our part, though, our part was over, thanks mostly to the wit of Sergeant Borges.

Epilogue: Several weeks after he was sent home, we received a letter from the Army telling us that Sergeant Seymour was going to be promoted. It was a testament to the slowness of the Army’s administrative process. The guy had been stripped of his rank, and ousted from the Army, yet this piece of paper told an entirely different story. Incredulous, we passed the letter around, had a good laugh, and threw the letter in the trash. To this day I have no idea if Seymour stayed true to his pledge to return to Korea.


Top Secret Mission

I’ve held a secret clearance since it was granted to me by the government in 1994. I’ve renewed that secret clearance once--every ten years you're required to update your information to keep your record current. The 2004 update involved an extensive questionnaire on the computer and a short follow up with an investigating agent, just to clarify some of the details.

When my boss put in an application for me to upgrade to Top Secret, I had no idea what I was in for.

The questionnaire was twice as long as the secret one, with much of the same material I had already submitted. “Don’t they already have this stuff?” I asked myself as I typed out the addresses of the places I’ve lived. Not a whole lot has changed since 2004. It should’ve been stored somewhere, because what was the point of entering all of that information if it wasn’t being saved somewhere?

I submitted my responses and printed out a confirmation—or so I thought.

“Your information didn’t go through, are you sure you submitted the application?” asked the security officer.

“Oh, yeah, yeah.”

“I didn’t get a response from the system yet; I don't think it went through.”

“Really? But I could have sworn--”

Upon further inspection, it appeared that I missed a few questions and I needed to go back and fill them in.

“Mother’s naturalization number?” The cursor blinked on the screen; I wasn’t allowed to sign out without first entering these numbers. If you’re applying for a top secret clearance, it doesn’t work to your favor to have a foreign born parent or spouse, even if they hail from non-threatening countries. You just never know what Italy and Jamaica are plotting. And you don’t truly know where your relatives' loyalties lie, do you?

I called my mom and got a busy signal. Called again, busy signal. She was tying up the line scheming with the Italian side of the family, I just knew it.

Finally I got through and she read off the numbers from her naturalization papers. “Write it down and keep it somewhere safe.” She said. We went through the same drill in 2004. “Okay, I will.” I said. It’s scribbled in pencil on a crumpled Post-It on my desk somewhere.

I had the dates and numbers from my in-laws’ certificate too, since apparently if you move to this country when you’re 6 years old, you don’t get your own papers.

I finished the questionnaire and submitted it at last. Now all I had to do was sit back and wait for my new and improved clearance to come through.

“Some girl called me to talk about you.” My best friend said. I put her name and contact info in the online questionnaire because she could vouch for me, and apparently there was a female investigator already handling the follow up.

“We talked for like 20 minutes.” Said my friend.

She had given all sorts of information beyond the basic facts. “I told her you were my moral compass.” She said.

I smiled, imagining the investigator writing down “moral compass” onto her little notepad.

Months later I got the call for my own interview. “When’s a good time?” He asked over the phone.

“Oh, how about tomorrow…morning-ish?”

“10 a.m.?”

“Sure, I’ll be around.” I said. How hard could this be—an interview outlining the stuff I already told them.

The intervestigator was dreamy, with icy blue eyes and deliberately styled short brown hair. The only flaw in his appearance were the puppet lines near his mouth. I had at least 4 years on the guy and I didn’t have puppet lines. How could he be so young and already have puppet lines?

“Oh, let’s get you signed in and then we can go back to the room near where I sit.” I said.

Once we were through with the formalities, the investigator went through my questionnaire responses line by line.

“How long were you at the Lee Street address?” he said.

“A year and a half.”

Even though I thought I had answered everything accurately, I messed up the timeframe from one of my jobs. The investigator regarded me with a raised eyebrow.

“So you worked full time at both of these locations?”

I looked at the printout he held and realized my flub.

“Oh, no, no,” I said, attempting a smile, “Ha-ha, no, I wasn't working two full time jobs from December 2004 through May 2005. I meant December 2003 through May 2004. My mistake.”

He got into my military service record. I took my time finding a new national guard unit after moving from Texas to Maryland. Ten months, to be specific. I served what I believed to be enough to ride out the rest of my obligation and “retired” from my military career within a year of joining my unit. For some reason, my mind had this as two years. I even told the interviewer the wrong date, fully believing I hadn’t bailed out earlier. Then, when he was going over his notes, he laid out the alibi option.

“Are you willing to agree that all of this information is true to the best of your knowledge?” Here was my chance to set things straight.

“Yes,” I said, “but—“

The investigator raised an eyebrow and waited for me to finish. He was young but he was a pro at this. He should have been doing something more challenging, like detective work, or cross examining witnesses on the stand, not checking on people’s addresses.

“I’m not completely sure I gave you the right dates for my time in the Maryland Guard. I need to check my records.” I said, knowing this guy was now going to check and triple check everything I told him because I was turning out to be either a big fat liar or a big fat flake.

An hour after he had arrived, we rose from our spots and I led him to a couple of my managers so they too could vouch for me. I still had to provide a list of contacts to him, which I promised to send over email. I was still talking to a few people from my last job, but anyone from the jobs before that were purged from the mental Rolodex.

“What about neighbors?” asked the investigator. “I need someone who’s not a friend or a relative.”

“Oh, um…the guy next door to me—“

The neighbor and I said hello to each other and sometimes we exchanged a few sentences, but he didn’t know me and I didn’t know him. The only reason I had his full name was because sometimes we received his mail by mistake.

“Anyone else?”

“Uh, there’s another guy a few houses in—“

“Right, because you’re on the end—“

I paused for a moment. How did he know I was on the end? He must’ve already looked up my address on Google maps and gotten a satellite image. Now I had a better understanding of how people must feel when they're being stalked. That was basically this guy's job—to stalk people with the purpose of finding out as much as he could.

“Tom.” I said. “I don’t know his last name, but his first name is Tom.”

“Tom,” wrote the investigator.

They really need to update their investigation methods, I thought. There is an online message board community of women I converse with daily that could tell this guy more truths about me than Tom ever could. Get with the program, I wanted to say, no one actually talks to their neighbors anymore. People probably assume that living close, in my case, in a townhouse and condo community is all the more reason to know your neighbors. They’re always there, blocking you when they park crooked, taking a shortcut across your lawn, putting out their cigarettes in your flowerpots. They live so close, they have to know each other, people think. I tend to believe the opposite. You spend so much time near these people that you don’t want to know them beyond what’s necessary to maintain the facade. You exchange greetings and wave when you’re in your car but it’s all done to make things appear civil. No one knows their neighbor.

I compiled my list for the investigator and emailed it at the end of the day. I warned a few people that I had given out their information, but at least half didn’t know. When my husband met an investigator (I have no idea if it was the same one) at a local Starbucks to discuss yours truly, he said the investigator was also coordinating with our neighbors.

“You told them, right?” My husband asked.

“Uh, well…no.”

My husband gave me the look--the one that said "Oh, come on. What are you scared of?" It's the same look he gives me when I pass the phone to him so he can order Chinese for dinner. Someone must be aware that initiating talk with others is an issue for a segment of the population or else Papa John's online food ordering system wouldn't exist.

I shrugged.

I knew it wouldn’t have taken me more than 5 minutes to go over and knock on their doors, or even mention it when I saw them in passing. I knew I should have said something so they’d know what was coming, but it just seemed so strange. How would I word it—I gave your name to the investigator because you’re the only neighbor I know, and by “know” I mean I've committed at least one part of your name to memory? I need you to do me a favor and talk to this guy so I can get a top secret clearance? Too late now.

After the fact, I continue avoid these people because what do I say? “Thanks for talking to that guy on my behalf when I didn’t even have the courtesy to warn you?” No, I’ll just duck my head and pretend not to see them, or if they happen to look, I’ll wave. I wouldn’t want to appear uncivil.


I Suppose You’re All Wondering Why I’ve Gathered You Here Today

An interesting thing happens when people discover that I’m a West Pointer.

They say, “Oh, I didn’t know,” or even more dramatic: “Why, I had no idea!”

This is said in an accusing “Why didn’t you tell me?” tone, as if I were purposely holding back a secret.

Here’s the secret: It’s not a secret. I wear my ring every day at work. In fact, if I leave the house without it I don’t even make it out of the development before realizing, “hey, I forgot my ring” (no I don’t turn back to get it, that would be a bit much). It’s not really the kind of jewelry I’d choose, but class rings have a list of required elements, and in the case of the academy, there’s an extensive list, so it’s a sizeable ring. Even the girls’ standard rings are big. The only things you can customize are the color and quality of the gold, the finish, and the rocks you want in the setting. Mine is a few steps away from Liberace grade gaudiness, with a ring of eight tiny diamonds around an oval, faceted amethyst. If you didn’t notice me sporting the hunk of gold containing what appears to be a glitzy purple eye, then maybe you need to have your vision checked.

Aside from the ring brandishing, I don’t reveal anything unless it’s relevant to the discussion. See the following example:

“So you’re going to your ten year reunion this weekend--is that high school or…?”


“Really? Where’d you go to school?”

“I went to West Point.”

If the person didn’t know this, we’ll shift to the “I had no idea” conversation. If the person knew but forgot, they’ll nod slowly and say something like, “Oh yeah, that’s right.”

Shortly after I was hired, my boss at a previous job pulled me into his office for a getting to know you type orientation deal. We chit chatted, but really I just wanted to go back to my desk and get back to figuring out whatever it was I was supposed to be doing. I already knew he was a West Pointer, a ’73 graduate, but I didn’t mention anything about myself until he asked me where I went to school. “Well, why didn’t you say something?!” he said. His face was devoid of a smile and his eyes were serious; it was as if he thought I had pulled a prank at his expense. For the rest of the time I worked there, I had the distinct impression that he held my keeping quiet against me.

But really, what was I supposed to do? How do people expect me to make this known? The name of my school is on my resume, it’s on my transcripts and it’s on the ring I wear Monday through Friday during business hours. How else should I tell the world I went to West Point?

Short of hiring a town crier, I’ve come up with a few ideas--

Just as a meeting starts, I'll rise from my chair and say, “Before we begin, there’s something you all should know about me…”

Upon settling a dispute: “But I’m not wrong—don’t you know where I went to school?”

When being volunteered for something I don’t want to do: “Well, I believe my diploma from West Point excuses me from this menial task—good day!”

I realize it appears that there’s always an advantage in admitting that I’m a West Pointer. This isn’t always true. When people know, they suddenly have an increased level of that dreaded intangible known as “expectations.” At the job from “9 days a week,” one guy found out and I could practically hear him thinking, “Well then, what the hell are you doing here?” His brother was an academy graduate so he had a pretty good idea of the goings on during those four years and what he concluded was this: West Pointers aren’t supposed to be underachievers. They aren’t supposed to be anything less than the best.

It’s a lot of pressure. People have an image of a West Pointer and I defy that image every time someone squints at me and says “But you don’t seem like a West Pointer.” It’s an absurd thing to say because the place attracts people from all walks of life. It’s not as if everyone accepted to the school is sent through a factory and homogenized before popping out on the other side on a conveyor belt--perfectly molded cadets standing tall like toy soldiers. If that’s what you thought, I’m here to tell you it doesn’t happen that way.

I was a square peg for four years straight. Among the best of the best, I was like the sediment in a fine wine, settling into the bottom of the cask. I was unathletic and did terribly at most of the required courses. I was a psychology major (okay, you got me--I mean “field of study”) in a school known for its engineering program. After graduation, a friend confessed that someone had said about me: “She’s the most unmilitary person I’ve ever seen.” When she told me this, I was hurt--insulted, even, but with some time and perspective, I now recognize the truth in his statement.

Over a decade removed from my graduation, I see my classmates and realize maybe I wasn’t the only square peg. Many people have left the Army and taken their own paths. Some have stayed in while juggling other endeavors on the side. Each person has defined what qualifies as “best” for themselves and if that doesn’t fit some other person’s ideal of what a West Point graduate *should* be doing, then the person making the assumption needs to widen their perspective.

Looking For Work In All The Wrong Places

There’s something I’ve discovered when it comes to job hunting. Interviewing when you have a job = easy. Interviewing while unemployed = hard.

When you have a job in hand, you have confidence and lack desperation. It’s not a catastrophe if you don’t get the offer because you’re not pressed by the immediacy of bills.

Unemployed is a whole different bag. If you let too many pay periods pass, you achieve desperation and you lose confidence. Having an employed spouse might buy you some time, but even that won’t last forever. Sense the resentment when they come home and you’re on the couch, watching Judge Judy. See those shoulders sag when they’re suited up and off to another day as you spread yourself across their side of the bed, turning over for another cycle of REM sleep. Feel the anger burbling just beneath the surface as they hand over their debit card linked to their bank account containing their money so you can buy something.

Unless it’s part of the agreement, it’s not fair to burden one person with the title of “breadwinner.” In our case, it wasn’t part of the agreement and with the cost of living, it wasn’t up for negotiation. I needed to get out there and make some money, honey.

I had a few resources at the ready. One was the recruiting agency that had actually found jobs at the same company in the same office for the husband and me. We talked at length about that offer. Should we take it? Is it what we want? Would we wind up competing against each other for a promotion? Unsaid: If we lived AND worked together would we eventually end up hating each other?

We didn’t take the offer. Instead he took an offer from a competing recruiting firm. This was the job at the top of his list, in the area of the country where we were aiming to relocate and I told him to go for it. He took the job. And me, I took—

Well, I took nothing. I don’t even know why I attempted to make that seem suspenseful; if I took something the rest of this entry would be 100% fiction (vs. 50%, or more, depending on what line you’re on). I took nothing partly because nothing appealed to me. I had panic attacks about getting “trapped” in a job I hated and how awful that would be. Clearly this was before I experienced how awful it was to not have a job when you really needed one.

Fast forward past moving and getting settled. The agency that offered us the jobs we declined was still willing to work with me, but I sensed a reluctance. “We’ve already done found you a job and you didn’t take it, you ingrate” seemed to be the underlying current anytime I spoke with one of the recruiters. “Well,” (sigh), “For the moment, we can line up a few phone interviews. I’ll see what else we have available in that area and get back to you.”

The other agency, also aware of my predicament, and also aware that we had turned down the jobs from the competition, was much more helpful. “We’re having a conference in Hampton, Virginia. Come on down.”

We drove to their corporate office for an interview with a local supermarket chain that was hiring. Not exactly what I had in mind, but I was open and it would be mighty nice to have a paycheck again.

I hit it off with the woman who was interviewing me. We laughed until we cried, we talked about all of the possibilities that came with being a supermarket manager including a quiz about how I would handle things if we were running a special on grapes and ran out. We talked for an hour and a half, running long past the scheduled thirty minute block. She gave me a 12 disk CD booklet with the name of the supermarket across the front—a parting gift. I left that office feeling buoyant; I had it in the bag. The recruiter suggested I finagle an opportunity from a manager of one of the local supermarkets from the same chain to get a feel for the job. I nodded and agreed to this while thinking, “Not bloody likely, pal, let’s wait and see if I get an offer first.”

A week after the interview I heard nothing. Two weeks, nothing. “I haven’t heard from them either” the recruiter said, “but I think the company is going through some sort of reorganization right now.” Three weeks, nothing. Spin those clock hands ‘round to a full ten months later and an ominous message on the answering machine plays: “I heard you did great in the interview so if you’re still interested, give us a call.” It was funny only because by then I was gainfully employed. I would’ve been pissed if I had followed the recruiter’s advice and wasted a couple of hours on shadowing some unsuspecting produce department manager only to hear from them nearly a year later.

Since the interview process began, I noticed I did swimmingly when interviewing for jobs I couldn’t see myself doing. The supermarket interview was just one example of that, but there were many others. When the guys from the home building company mentioned there would be days when I would get dirty at the construction site, I quipped, “I’m washable.” How they laughed—how we all laughed—this wasn’t an interview, it was a cocktail party without the drinks. The line was swiped from Margaret’s grandmother in Judy Blume’s book “Are You There God, It’s Me Margaret,” and it was also the funniest thing these guys had ever heard. They offered me the job, but I didn’t accept
(because who wants to move to New Jersey?)

Conversely, I bombed the interviews where I really wanted the job.

Medical sales representative making a guaranteed $90K the first year?

Target distribution center shift manager in the itty bitty town where the only place your husband can work is at the Hershey Chocolate factory?
"You're hired!”

The pharmaceutical sales job with the unlimited use of a company car and perks aplenty?

Transmission factory manager with 6 day a week/5 work weeks in a row/6th week off shifts for a salary that doesn’t come close to compensating for the bizarre use of time?
“When can you start?”

Eventually it seems like everyone else can sense the desperation radiating from your situation. When I saw that Staples was conducting a hiring frenzy at a store not far from my apartment, got myself onto the schedule and drove down to the place for my interview. When opportunity knocks, you gotta hustle to answer the door.

I was directed to the offices at the rear of the store—not the place workers go to see if they have something “in stock” (on a side note: does that place really exist?) but the place where people go to use the rest room, or to take a break or to handle manager-behind the scenes type stuff.

“Go in this room and answer the questions on the computer. It should take about twenty minutes, then someone will get you.”

I worked through a multiple choice survey of what ifs, mostly related to corporate ethics and whether I’d steal a ballpoint pen if no one was looking. I entered the responses I thought they were seeking and signed off. Then I waited. And waited. And waited well past my scheduled time. If I had an explanation, I’d say this was payback for the supermarket interview and instead of me being the one hitting it off and running all over someone else’s designated slot, I was the one waiting because someone else was hitting it off.

I perked up when I heard a male voice down the hallway. “Oh, I overscheduled these interviews,” it said. “Ha ha ha,” they laughed, two male voices in on the joke, except it’s not funny when you’re the one who got all dolled up for nothing. As the minutes ticked by, I got annoyed, then peeved, then indignant. This guy—this someone who was supposed to check on me one and a half hours ago--was taking advantage. He knew whoever was coming to interview with him was desperate. He knew he could make or break us and if anyone got impatient and left, there would be plenty of others, hungrier people who didn’t mind waiting an hour, two hours, three-- whatever it took. In fact, maybe the waiting was part of his weeding out process. After a full two hours of waiting, I gave in and left, fuming all the way home. Back in the sanctity of the guest room/home office, I fired off a complaint to the same email address that I had used to schedule the interview. “My time is still important,” I wrote, “even if I’m not working right now.” I could’ve been home watching Maury, I thought, still furious. I could have been comfortable in a tee shirt and shorts instead of sweaty in a Petite Sophisticate pinstriped pants suit.

“I’m so sorry, they’re not supposed to overschedule interviews,” came the emailed reply from the P.R. person, “would you like to schedule another interview?”

For what? To be a store manager in the same miserable place where I had already squandered two hours of my life? To you I say, good day! Staples*? What was I thinking? (*Before you ask "What's wrong with Staples?", keep in mind this was before they invented the Easy Button.)

Another instance where my desperation worked against me was when the recruiting company came back with an opportunity to be a movie theater manager.

Now, I like going to the movies but that doesn’t mean I want to work there. In fact, working there would probably make me hate going to the movies.

“You’d get Sundays and Tuesdays off.”

Not even two consecutive days? That’s like having two Sundays in one week. Are you aware of how I feel about Sundays?

“You’ll be working through most of the holiday weekends because that’s when we have the biggest premieres.”

In a world where most people work regular hours, the majority of my job offers were coming from industries that made up their own calendars. I.J.’s 9 day week might actually be feasible to some of these guys.

“You’ll be working nights pretty often, but let me tell you, having this schedule has been great for me because I see my kids off to school in the mornings.”

Okay, stop it. Just stop talking. Say no more.

I landed a follow up interview at the corporate headquarters.

“Now you’re going to have to buy the plane ticket to get yourself up there, but they’ll reimburse you.” The recruiter said.

When we interviewed for the company that offered my husband and me not one job, but two, not only did that company make the travel arrangements, mail the tickets, send a car to shuttle us to their office and host a posh dinner at a local restaurant, they paid for all of it without hesitation. “Did you ride on the corporate jet?” asked my mother. “No.” I replied, dashing her high hopes. They were good, but not that good. This, though, this was a far cry from “good.”

“Fine.” I told the recruiter. “I’ll look up the tickets.”

I looked up the tickets and thought, “Where am I supposed to come up with $600 for a flight to Syracuse? Don’t they know I’m unemployed?”

“He’s going to buy the tickets for you then.” Said the recruiter after getting back with the interviewer. “Except you’ll be flying into Albany instead. They’ll drive down and meet you there.”

Out of curiosity, I looked up prices for tickets to Albany. $120. I could have handled that. Funny how Albany wasn’t an option when I was the one buying.

I flew up to Albany, rode in a ramshackle cab to the mall, and met the interviewers. As they talked, all I could think was “Please let something else come along because this can’t be it.”

My husband looked hopeful when he picked me up from the airport.

“I don’t know.” I said.

“If you don’t want the job, don’t take it.”

He made it sound so simple. If our roles were reversed, I’d be nudging him towards that job with a quickness. “I’ll hang out in the theaters on the weekends you have to work, honey.” And “Holiday weekends, schmoliday weekends!” And “Can you bring home a bucket of that movie popcorn? Microwaved isn’t quite the same.” Despite footing the bills on his own for over a year, he said none of these things; he was still objective enough to understand if I decided not to take it. Amazing.

The movie theater people came up with an offer and the recruiter broke the news. “You can take the eight week course at the Germantown theater.” This was a major bargaining chip because the training was usually in upstate New York and they were setting it up less than ten miles away from my home. Then came the offer, for less money than I anticipated and with the niggling detail that it wasn’t actually an offer to be a ‘Manager”, but instead, “assistant manager.” After being in charge of thirty soldiers in an overseas location with a combat mission I wasn’t qualified to be a full fledged manager? Ouch.

“I didn’t interview for that. I interviewed for manager.”

“Yes, but—“

We all know a sentence beginning with those two words is the prelude to disappointment.

“—there was another candidate that was better suited to be a manager.”

So the truth comes out: I was the runner up. “I’m not going to take it.” I said.

Here’s where the recruiter showed his true colors. “Wait a minute--don’t feel bad—they really liked you, they just didn’t feel you were ready to be a manager.” And then, as if that wasn’t insulting enough, he added, “If I were you, I’d take the offer. I know you could use the money.”

Anything that came after that sentence was tuned out. I knew what happened--the plane ticket situation had revealed my hand; he knew I couldn’t hold out any longer. On the flip side, he was desperate too. In the post 9/11 landscape, these recruiting companies were having trouble finding “opportunities” where they could pimp their candidates. My taking this job meant his company got a cut.

I called him on it.

“No, no—it’s not like that. I don’t want to have you in a job you don’t really want and if you end up leaving, it reflects poorly on us.”

“Shove it.” I said.

Okay, I didn’t really say that, but wouldn’t that have been funny? In reality the conversation disintegrated into a verbal tug of war. In the end, it really was as simple as my husband had put it--I didn’t want the job and I didn’t take it. There were other places to look without relying on recruiters and I was just getting started.


Nine Days A Week

At work, you encounter a number of people from different places, different upbringings and different ways of thinking. In my first job in the D.C. metro area, I was hired under the pretense that I would handle some administrative duties for our project team, but also that I would inherit work from this guy who was supposed to move onto other things.

True to his words from the interview, my boss, the program manager (an Army lieutenant colonel), insisted on making his own travel plans and processing his own travel vouchers. The ones who wanted help either approached me with a humble demeanor or else they were demanding. “I need you to do X, Y and Z, fax it and give me a copy.” Evidently they didn’t get the boss’s message that the administrative tasks were going to fall back on the individuals—that was why the secretary position was eliminated and I was hired. But when you’re in a secretary desk with a half wall, and you’re placed directly outside of your boss’s office, then it’s hard to shed that label. I looked like a secretary (sorry, administrative assistant), handled mostly secretary-like things, so therefore…?

This entry is also about the guy I was supposed to be working with—the one who was supposed to leave his job to me while he moved onto bigger and better things. Apparently no one told him this or what I tend to think is that he was perfectly aware of this, but he preferred to carry out his own agenda. It didn’t take long to discover that there wasn’t a whole lot to his job. The biggest duty was the daily “hotwash.” The term “hotwash” has nothing to do with the temperature in which you should wash your dirtiest laundry. It was a teleconference, scheduled daily at noon (just in time to interfere with the possibility of lunch plans), in the boss’s office. Having it here meant everyone strolling into the office took the liberty of dumping their stinking banana peels and odoriferous tuna packets in MY trashcan, which was just outside of the office.

After the guy (we’ll call him “Important Job,” or “I.J.” for short), took roll call, the boss took over the meeting and everyone talked about the newest developments in the product development since the last hotwash (only now do I see how close that word is to “hogwash”), 24 hours earlier. I had steno pads full of notes and assigned tasks, busy work to keep me gainfully employed. The daily teleconference was easy; it was the weekly video teleconference that was the big show. This involved an extensive slide show, and coordination of VTC facilities. The slides had to be printed and copied—color copies for the boss, full sized black and whites for the people at the table, and, if time permitted, handouts for the ones in the cheap seats. This would turn into an all day task thanks to last minute changes and no set deadline short of the meeting’s start time to make the changes. Once we finished preparing for the meeting, the next step was to gather everything together and schlep it over to the one building that had VTC capabilities. It was here where I assumed the role of “slide advancer,” another duty I.J. was probably more than happy to shirk.

After receiving orders from I.J. to make copies, shred the two tons of documents that he had exhumed from his rathole cubicle and do all the other suspiciously administrative-assistant-ish work, I eventually realized that I.J. was never going to give me any of the more important stuff. That was because there wasn’t a whole lot for him to pass on and because he had been doing the same job for 15 years and was coasting his way to retirement. Giving anything to me meant he was obsolete unless he took on a slew of new tasks. Why would he want to do that? Why would he possibly want ruin a perfectly good set up?

The thing that killed me most was that he had a daughter not much younger than I was. This girl was clearly the light of his life. He bragged about her field hockey skills and took obvious joy in the weekends when she came home. “Oh!” He’d announce at the end of the work week, “My daughter’s coming home with her friends! The scourge is coming! They’re going to clean out our fridge and do laundry!” All of this said with a twinkle in his eye. He didn’t mind it at all.

Upon her graduation, he bought her a brand new car and told us all how he was having a sunroof cut into it, because that was what she wanted. She was going to be commissioned into the Army as a second lieutenant. Here’s where I get confused—generally when you come to work there is someone out there who wants to help you succeed. Sometimes they’re assigned as a sponsor, sometimes it’s as informal as pulling you aside to let you know they are in your corner. Sometimes you learn from them through short conversations in the hallway, sometimes it’s out at lunch, away from the office politics. Given that I.J. was supposed to be teaching me the ropes, he seemed like a shoe in as my mentor. Given that he had a daughter who was going into the Army--much like I had done not too many years before--you would think he would look at me and make the connection. He was supposed to think “I wouldn’t want my daughter doing B.S. admin stuff when she wasn’t hired for that and she’s capable of doing so much more. Hey now, wait a minute," he was supposed to say, "the same applies to this person. If she were five years younger, she’d be in my daughter’s shoes." And that's where the synapses would fire and he'd rise from his cube shaking a fist and shouting about the injustice of it all--

"And if I don't expect my daughter to have this kind of crappy job, then I shouldn't expect her--" (he points to me slaving away in my half-walled cube)-- "to do it either!” Then we'd all break out into some ode to the working stiff musical, waving jazz hands and dancing on our desks and on the low pile carpet in moves so perfectly coordinated and yet, somehow completely natural in our fluorescently lit environment.

Mais non. That version of the story only happens in this blog.

He had no qualms about telling me to buy doughnuts for the next day’s meeting. Saw nothing wrong with sending me to the Xerox for a new set of copies after the nineteenth miniscule change in the slide presentation. Never once did he ever acknowledge that I was overqualified for the things he was passing down. Nope, to him, I was merely the one there to take over the mindless, unimportant parts of his job while he kept the interesting bits all to himself. When you realize the person who should be looking out for you isn’t, it’s time to take control of your fate.

My problem was that I had just come off of 1 ½ years of unemployment when I accepted the job. When you haven’t had a job in that long, your confidence wanes. But it took so long to land this job, you think, why risk it? But I kind of like having a paycheck, even if my dignity is taking a hit. Or: Well, at least it’s not a hard job.

It took the better part of a year to get angry enough to actively start looking again. Before I did I thought it was only fair to talk to my manager first—give the guy an opportunity to correct the problem. The odd part about being a contractor at a government site is that you have two bosses—the government people you work for every day and a manager who handles the company related stuff—the paychecks, your timecard, your yearly reviews, etc. I stopped by my manager’s desk and informed him that I was considering a move. My complaint was that I wasn’t doing much and thought I could do more (for more money, except I didn’t mention that part) elsewhere.

My manager was caught off guard, but he recovered quickly. I could see the wheels spinning as he promised me a solution.
"We're going to do something to change that." He said.

What was the solution?

“You’re going to Fort Bragg!”

Um, thanks? I didn’t have any excuse to *not* go, I just figured I would stay in the office and support everyone else who did go. It was a 5 hour drive and honestly, with the things I had heard about the place, I wasn’t particularly thrilled about going, but okay, I’ll take it for the sake of “professional growth.” I’d never been to North Carolina. Despite the "North" in the state's name, that was officially considered "The South," right? Maybe it wasn’t as terrible as I imagined.

When a co-worker heard this, she said, “Oh, yeah—they’re just sending you away so you can’t interview.”

Yes, that certainly made sense. I didn’t get any additional tasks, I just got sent to do—oh, I don’t know—we had a daily teleconference at the end of every day—that was important, right? We needed to pick up supplies to set up camp in the old building we were working out of--that was important, right?

I wasted no time getting to work. The first morning I was there, I posted my resume on the website of the company I worked for in El Paso. They had openings, I had internet access and a saved copy of my resume on a disk; it was worth a shot.

The trips to Bragg (yes, I said “trips”—I.J. and I worked out a schedule where we rotated after I made it clear that I wasn’t okay with being there for five weeks straight) were a waste except that I got to see my best friend from college, who was no longer the Army, but in the area because her husband was still on active duty. Her husband was deployed and she was in the last days of her second pregnancy. I wouldn’t have gotten to see her otherwise. This was the silver lining, so to speak. That and the realization that North Carolinians were vastly more patient and polite than the D.C. metro-ans.

Once I was done with the Fort Bragg stuff, it was back to business as usual. I.J. liked to fill the silence of the office by spouting off his crazy ideas, one of which was the nine day week. “Six work days and a three day weekend. That’s what I would do.” He’d say. How he planned to overhaul the entire world’s ingrained acceptance of the seven day week never came into discussion. And then what about the Beatles song, “Eight Days a Week?” It would be rendered obsolete—someone would have to change it to “Ten Days a Week.”

Another one he liked to share was, “I’d eliminate income tax entirely and put a flat sales tax on everything.” Not such an outlandish idea, but it’s a bit oversimplified. He would repeat these ideas loudly, maybe with the thought that saying them often enough would start a revolution right there in the heart of building 317.

In your life you have pivotal moments (commonly known by AP English students as an epiphany, or, for Oprah viewers--a "lightbulb moment")—these moments usually involve events that change your path irrevocably. My moment was not when my company canned a co-worker (one who, unlike me, genuinely seemed to enjoy her job) on a Friday, immediately after she arrived at the office. It was not when I drove 3 hours to get to work after the worst snowstorm of the decade, only to get sent home an hour later for a 2 hour trek back. It was not when an Army major flat out asked how much I paid for my car (Who does that?). No, it all went down when our boss had a meeting in a nearby building. I had gotten everything set up—60 cup capacity silver bullet of coffee with powdered creamer and sugar, doughnuts, and even fruit and juice for the health conscious. Thanks to me, all of it was in place before the ever-important attendees arrived. I got back into my car and drove back to the office thinking my work was done.

A few hours in, I.J. calls my desk and asks me to make more copies of the briefing; apparently that other building does not have any copy machines. Fine—I make the copies and shuttle them back over to the meeting location. I slip into the conference room, hand them off to I.J. and make my exit. As I’m walking down the hallway towards the doors, I hear I.J. call out my name.


A flash of uncertainty passed through his eyes. Was he going to thank me? Tell me that everything had gone off without a hitch because of that morning's spread? I waited for his words.

“Could you make another pot of coffee? We’re all out.”

In a meeting of at least fifty people, he thought it was acceptable to call me over from my desk to make a fresh pot? Was he not capable of going down the hallway with the empty bullet and starting a new batch during a break? Was he for real?

I stood there for a moment, feeling the most speechless I had ever felt in my life. He had baited me over there with a request for additional copies and thrown in the “well, while you’re here…” to hook me.

Mais, non. Not this time, buddy.

Heart pounding, I turned away from him without a word. It was an unprofessional move, but surely anything I had said to him just then would have been infinitely more unprofessional than pretending not to hear what he had said.

Besides, what was more unprofessional than what he did? After doing the job I understand the intricacies of being an administrative assistant—it’s not as easy as people assume, but the hardest part about it wasn’t the actual work, it was the lack of respect that comes with the very moment you’re seated behind that half exposed cubicle. It’s the “Oh, she’s just the admin” mentality. Now if people had any sense at all they would take care of their admin assistants and I don’t mean giving them a wilted bunch of supermarket roses and a cheesy card for Administrative Assistant Day. Every day show respect to that person—or else it’s going to be, “Oh, I don’t know if you ever gave me that file,” or “I’m sure I entered your time for the week, what do you mean you didn’t get paid?” or “Hm, I thought I sent that voucher to the finance department last month, I don’t know why you haven’t been reimbursed yet.”

That moment has stuck with me and it probably always will. The moment that caused me to turn away without another word was the very thing that convinced me to leave. When you’re working in a place where people feel they are too good to do the most basic things for themselves because it is “beneath” them and the leadership does nothing to tell these people they’re wrong, it’s time to say “Mais, non” and move on.

Goth Girl Of My Dreams

The internet is an incredible thing. Even now that it’s a daily (hourly? minutely?) presence in my life, I continue to marvel at the possibilities that exist—accessing everyone, everything and anything you desire is just a simple Google search away. Thank you, Al.

My first days of internet access were as a cadet with my own computer, which was connected to the wall by a bright blue cord that looked something like a thick telephone line. An “Ethernet” cable, they called it. I had an email address consisting not of a name, but of a number and letter combination: my Cullum number plus academic company assignment. I had access to “bulletin boards”—West Point’s own version of Craigslist that existed before Craigslist--some portions of which were restricted to cadets only. Because plebes were not allowed to speak to each other in the cadet area, they often took their conversations to the boards designated for our class.

“Jokes” one person would title their post. From there you could use your mouse and open the entry to read the jokes or click again to add some of your own. In the more popular posts, comments cascaded down like intricate staircases made of bright blue hyperlinks. Many of the contributions were part of a collective effort aimed at making mealtimes easier for us all. If your table commandant demanded something funny, you could placate him by whipping out that printed page of jokes that good old “Smokestack” posted the night before.

That’s another plus of the internet—you could post as “Spider-Man” and none would be the wiser. In the readers’ minds you really were that guy in the red and blue suit spinning webs on the web. Most people used their actual names, but some thought it fitting to throw in their alter ego as if to say, I’m a generic plebe by day, but behind my computer I’m a superhero, and I’m letting all one thousand of you in on the secret.

Ghost that I was, I was petrified of heading out of my room at the end of the day. I didn’t socialize, I didn’t study, I merely lived in daily terror of the upperclassmen, who in retrospect weren’t really all that scary. My refuge was the local network and the cadet bulletin boards. It was there where I sparred with some yearling calling himself “the General” or poked around to find something clever or funny. It was there where I printed off trivia and menus for upcoming meals, or read debates about the fairness of the rules and whether the academy’s “toleration” clause in the Honor Code was worth following.

It was there where I discovered someone else who admired The Cure just as much as I did.

One of my classmates had posted an inquiry about the Cure—my favorite group. That post hung there, unanswered, as if it were beckoning for me and only me to respond. I was a worthy responder--I had every one of their albums in my Case Logic CD storage book, including their very first album, produced when I was 3 years old. The group’s lineup had changed over the years, but the one that mattered, Robert Smith, had been there from the start. I spent most of my high school years wanting to be that man’s lipstick, and even went through a phase where I carried a Wet N’ Wild tube of the closest knock off of the shade he wore. My Spider-Man wasn’t the one in the skintight suit, it was the thing from the “Lullaby” video. At one point I had five posters of the Cure on my walls in all, each one containing the aforementioned Mr. Smith with his porcelain skin, raccoon eyes, teased black hair and smudged red lips in what was to me at the time, a varying array of come hither poses. What my parents must have thought when they opened the door and looked at the walls—I’ve never asked, but I sometimes wonder.

“I love them,” I typed, excited to have found a kindred spirit, one that didn’t post about U2 or Jimmy Buffett or any of the typical cadet musical mainstays, no! This guy liked the Cure. And so did I! Finally, someone who got it! Who can ask for anything more?

We exchanged a few more messages until the guy decided we needed to meet. Things were rolling right along, why not? It might be a love connection or at least someone else to swap music with.

“Meet me by Ike Hall.” He replied.

See, this was the point where I should have politely declined because all of the magic, all of the conversational chemistry we had over the web couldn't possibly survive once we met. In fact, everything came to a grinding halt not long after we recognized each other and introduced ourselves.

He was attractive—tall, with well placed features on an oval face. Wire rimmed glasses framed inquisitive eyes and dress gray made him sharp. My first impression wasn’t the problem but I knew instantly from the look on his face that he was disappointed. "This isn't the Goth girl of my dreams," he appeared to be thinking. Here was the down side of the internet--left to your own devices, the person typing on the other side of that ethernet cable looked any way you wanted. Then you actually met them, the reality very rarely matched up to the illusion you created. I'm guessing he was imagining a female version of Robert Smith, with alabaster skin, a wisp of a figure and hair the color of midnight. I knew in my heart that the reality: tan skin, short curly hair and the lack of being able to carry on a conversation as effortlessly as I had done through a computer was going to be the death blow to anything that might have been, and ironically enough, "what might have been but never was" is the running theme of many Cure songs.

“Um, so it’s nice to finally meet you,” I said.

“Yeah.”he replied, though he probably felt like adding, "Get away from me, you impostor!"

Kill me—kill me now, and kill me quickly, I thought, when things fell so flat so fast. I wouldn't be able to rescue this meeting with small talk because I don't have that quality we all know as the gift of gab. I know you're thinking, "Nooo...not you. It can't be. I've read these blog posts and you are one wordy mutha (shut yo' mouth)!" Well, that's true, I can be wordy if it doesn't involve actual talking. I can work wonders with a keyboard and lag time to come up with something witty, but when it comes to a live performance I get stage fright. And God help me if the other person is cute.

“Well, the Cure, I mean, their intros are just sooo long.”

“Oh, yeah." he said, nodding, "They do have really long intros.”

We stared at each other, knowing that unlike a Cure song, this intro was likely to be very, very short. We both wanted this to work but we also seemed to realize that it wasn't. With just a few lines of conversation we found ourselves bogged down in that swamp known as “So what?” territory.

“I have all their stuff.” I said, while thinking: “Eject, Eject, Eject!”

We didn’t last five minutes. Maybe he had invited me to Ike Hall with the idea that at some point we could venture inside for a Coke and fries, but he never admitted it and I don’t blame him. Why continue the awkwardness when you could cut your losses? When we parted, we returned to the barracks with the smallest of goodbyes, and the unspoken promise to pretend it all never happened, to never speak of our meeting again. We didn’t even attempt to rekindle the magic over email because we knew it was futile.

It was a disappointment (not the worst) then but it’s funny now. What was I thinking? How did I ever believe that meeting was a good idea? How could I ever have thought, in my deluded teenaged mind, that if only Robert Smith met me would he truly know his soulmate when I couldn’t even get past a few sentences with a commoner--a non-famous fellow fan?

I’ve often asked and sometimes wonder.



Yesterday I had the privilege of taking my 2 1/2 year old to the movies. We almost had to abort the mission when we arrived at 12:02 to an 11:45 showing. We entered the theater and as we walked up the aisle towards the seats, a scary part of a scene played. My initial thought was "WTF, it already started? I thought this was the 12:15 show!" For two year olds, you hear exactly what they're thinking, and in this instance it was:


I coaxed her towards the exit (which is the same door as the entrance) and went back out to the ticket taker, who then welcomed me, for the second time, to Loews. I thought, "Dude, you just took my ticket a minute ago." I said, "Um, this ticket is for the 11:45 show. It's already started and I wanted a ticket for the 12:15 show."

Without sending me back to the ticket counter for the correctly stamped tickets (thank goodness for common sense because toting an Icee, a bag of popcorn and holding a 2 year old's hand while trying to conduct a ticket exchange didn't sound appealing to me), he directed me to the right theater.

Take 2.

We entered again, me, spilling popcorn while dragging my kid, who was still hesitant about the whole movie thing. We made it up the aisle, and across the divide between the neck breaking seats and the normal seats. We settled into an island of three seats just behind the divide. I sat down, continuing to spill popcorn, while my kid, who was experiencing her first taste of the stuff, was grabbing for the kernels that plopped to the floor. "No, no, no, don't eat those," I said. The five second rule does not apply in the movies, but it was already too late. I find the best way to remind myself that a few germs won't kill her is to remember how much bacteria laden crap I must have consumed as a child. It's the "hey, I turned out okay," line of reasoning.

We sit through almost twenty minutes of previews. The Wall-E (Pixar) one is amazing. I am glad we're in a dark theater so no one can see the tears coming. Yes, I am a sap at the movies, but only for cartoon trailers, nothing else. Seriously, I just thought of how breathtaking the images were for that film and how much I look forward to watching the entire story. Other cartoons that brought tears: Iron Giant, Finding Nemo, Monsters, Inc. (not anymore, I've seen it about 50 times)...yup I am a big ol' sap. Just for cartoons, though. You can show me real human sob stories and I'm hard pressed not to feel like I've been manipulated into crying. Cartoons, on the other hand--well they are just so derned innocent. I can't help it, I tell you!

The movie starts. I think "Oh boy, we have to sit through the scary scene again--maybe it won't be so scary the second time around." I get a few "I WANNA GO HOME!"'s throughout the movie, but mostly I get wide eyes and a hand shoved into the bag of popcorn or in her mouth. I get through it without tantrums, freak outs, or having to chase a wandering kid through the theater. It was an overall success. The funniest part is that she's more obsessed with the movie after having seen it. I've played the trailer many times now--so often that I say "Skiddoosh" and it results in a flurry of toddler laughter.



Elements Of A Sports Bar

So while I was stranded in the airport hotel last Thursday, I ventured down to the lobby to get myself a treat. Okay, I mean dinner, but I can’t help it, I had to follow through on the joke; I love that little jingle (as visions of smiling bags of popcorn, candy bars, and soda-filled, straw-poked cups strut through my head--click the title of this entry if this is now in your head too!).

As I was trapped in a hotel on a street with nothing but other hotels, the only thing going was the “Champions” sports bar on the first floor off the hotel lobby. I entered and looked around, knowing in seconds that whatever I was getting from this place was going to be gotten “to go.”

Let me add that I looked and felt like a disaster. I had missed my flight, which landed me in this predicament. I was a sweaty, stressy freakshow in scoop neck brown cotton t-shirt, black and white flowy skirt and Rocket Dog skull and heart flip flops—comfortable for a plane trip, cute in its own bohemian way, but not quite what you wear to a sports bar—or any sit down type place—for dinner.

The server arrived and gave me a menu. In the time between making my choice and paying the bill, I observed my surroundings. Sports Bar. Sports + Bar. Sports. Bar. Because nothing says “sports” like eating (even that’s a sport—competitive eating!), I suppose the concept of a “Sports bar” is a natural development. Sports bars have been around a long time, but to qualify as one, there are certain requirements. (Don’t get scared away by the whole “bar” definition. While these places usually do contain a bar, they also have regular tables and chairs and booths. “Bar” just sounds cooler than “restaurant.” “Pub” also works if you want to go for some Luck o' the Irish flair, but at a minimum, you’d better make sure you have Guinness in your drink selection).

And now I present the three universal elements that make up a bona fide sports bar.

1) Multiple TVs. You can’t just have the old 27” clunker hitched up in the corner of the wall these days—no! A sports bar requires no less than three flat screens clustered above the bar and a section of wall dedicated to the mother of all flat screens—five feet by six feet at least, consisting of a projection image or a collection of smaller monitors feeding into the big picture. A spattering of flat screens around the rest of the restaurant and the TV requirement is good to go. Oh, and I feel silly mentioning the obvious, but all of these TVs must be tuned into sports at all times. Don’t think of this as a restriction—think of the possibilities—softball, curling, poker*, basketball, hunting**, pool**, table tennis**, bowling**, hockey, fishing**! You can even watch all of those simultaneously if your peripheral vision is up to the task.
*Not a sport, but it has a World Series, so it gets in through some weird loophole, apparently.
**questionable—I’m not going to attempt to explain
2) The crap on the walls
No, no…not literally (I seem to have a running problem with using the wrong word to describe something perfectly innocent—just look at the blog’s title). I’m talking about photos of sports teams, framed jerseys, tools associated with various sports—crossed Lacrosse sticks hung strategically over an entrance, a football helmet strapped to the wall—you get the point. Nothing says sports like musty old sports equipment hanging from the walls of the place where you consume food and beverage.
3) The attire of the servers. Well we’ve gotten through the décor of the eating establishment, so the other piece of the puzzle—the people! In “Champions” the servers wore referee shirts. Nice touch, after my initial thought that they looked like cast offs from Foot Locker, I realized, hey, the servers are the refs, which must me—we--the patrons, are the “players,” the stars of the show, the ones getting all the “play!” Makes sense—the name of the bar is “Champions” so therefore “we are the Champions…”



Leaving My Skin The Hell Alone

After much experimentation with make up and cleansers and lotions and potions, I have decided on a new routine--it's the "I'm going to leave my skin the hell alone" facial care system. I have had more breakouts in the past 2 months than I did when I did nothing—no foundation, no lotion at night, no scrub a dub dubbing of the face in the shower. I have a cluster of zits budding in the lower left quadrant, at the 4-5 o’clock position. I also have a few dark blemishes that don’t seem to be getting any lighter. All of these have started post Bare Minerals-Boots face cream (1 for day, 1 for night)-regular skin cleansing routine. What the hell?! It is taking every ounce of will to not poke and pick and pop. Instead, I am just going to leave my skin the hell alone!

"Big News!"

Yes, those were the words that started off the second half hour of the local morning news. “Big News,” a grinning Barbara Harrison declared, “Ashlee* Simpson is tying the knot!”

Now my question is: who in the world thought this was relevant enough to be a) on the local NBC affiliate NEWS program and b) at 6:30 a.m.? What, now I can start my day with a smile and feel that all is right with the world because I know Ashlee Simpson is having a shotgun wedding? Yippee! Hallelujah!


I am sad that we have sunk so low. I could see if there was a lull in the world—not much going on, nothing to see, or do, or talk about, but there is a war (two if you want to split the “Global War on Terra” into different locations) going on. There’s a recession. There’s an upcoming election. All stuff that is kinda sorta a bigger deal and infinitely more newsworthy than Ashlee Simpson. I get escapism but that is why you have Access Hollywood, People Magazine and the internets. Leave my morning traffic/weather/local crime report alone.

*You can't imagine how it pains me to type "Ashlee" instead of the proper spelling.