Midweek Rant #2: Coffee Mugs

February 26, 2009

It finally doesn’t suck to be a Green Coffee Drinker!

How awesome is it to drink coffee out of a paper cup?  Sometimes I think people that are trying to “Green” the world have no idea what they are doing.  I can’t think of a better example than Thermal Coffee Mugs.

I hesitate to call them mugs.  I’m not much of a football player, but every time I grab one of these things I feel like telling the closest person to go long.  The center of gravity has been optimized for knock-over-ability.  It’s hard to even put one on a flat surface.  Even if you’re successful, the amount of tension in your neck that accumulates from the impending spill requires at least a ten-minute massage to alleviate.  To make matters worse, a lot of them have added handles, which make the center of gravity outright cartoonish.  I could understand if the top was spill proof, but don’t let any claims made by the manufacturers fool you, you’re going to be spilling some coffee.  There’s only one possible explanation for the shape, and that is to accommodate for the cupholders you find in cars.  Well, shit, it hasn’t stopped people from buying 44-ounce sodas!

What irritates me more than anything about how inept these companies are is that they’re competing with a giant.  Paper cups are just so damn delicious to drink coffee out of.  And what has more nostalgia attached to it than coffee?  Holy crap, I don’t think I’d even have friends if it weren’t for coffee.  Since I first got hooked, it’s been with me for so many important occasions in life.  And given the fact that most places don’t even bother with ceramic mugs, all these occasions have been environmentally disastrous.  But shit, at least I didn’t have to worry about it getting knocked over all the time.

Finally the good people at MiGo have come to their senses and come out with what I call a “Cheersing Mug”.  I’d bring this thing to a keg party.  A fantastic shape, solid handle, and a lifetime warranty.  15 bucks at Target.

I like this thing so much that when I forgot it the other day and had to drink out of a paper cup, it really bothered me.

Go get one and Cheers the mother fucker.

 

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Finally, a mug that respects gravity...

 

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Chapter 12: Moving?

February 23, 2009

My festive Christmas was over and the house was feeling eerily empty.  I started to get the impression that the house was going to be handed back to the landlord and I would have to find a new place to live, so I started to search for a new residence.

There is nothing more painful to me than taking care of practical things.  The day before I went to college I worked my last shift at the restaurant as a line cook, then I went and played an open mic at Café Lena, then I got home and figured it was time to start packing.

Oh sure, I could’ve started packing weeks before.  And I could’ve not worked up until the day before I left.  And I didn’t really have to play that open mic, considering how much time you waste at those things simply waiting around to play your two songs.  I also could’ve kept my room tidy, so that packing didn’t have to begin with clearing open some floor space.  And I even could have thought of printing out directions for the four-hour drive before my mom and I pulled out of the driveway (now you know where I get the trait).

But doing all or any of this would have killed me inside.  It’s not that I don’t like doing practical things; they can be quite enjoyable.  It’s the mindset that comes along with being good at accomplishing simple tasks on a regular basis that I can’t stand.

Every now and then people talk to me about things being “natural”.  It’s natural to do this, or it’s natural to do that.  I normally can’t stand these arguments, because the society that we live in, founded upon the aspiration of civility, couldn’t be further from the natural world.  Go ahead and live like a caveman, see what happens.

But that’s my excuse when it comes to practical chores.  Man oh man, do I whip out the caveman argument.  Cavemen didn’t pack!  They didn’t use mapquest.  Improving this ability to take care of such matters would destroy that part of my brain that is still pure and has yet to be tainted by the reality of living in the 21st Century.

If I ever make this argument, I suggest you resist the urge to counter it and put me in my place.  Sure, my reasoning is flimsy and can easily be torn to shreds.  But I always carry a large club with me in case such a confrontation occurs and I need to take care of business, caveman-style.  And I found it in the woods, so it’s natural (although the North Face Backpack I carry it in isn’t…back off).

So as I thought about having to move to a new place, I had an absolutely horrifying realization.  After going though the tortuously tedious task of notifying various companies of my new address, I would have to go through the whole process…again!

Oh dear God, where’s my club?  Where’s my club?!  My way of life is being threatened and I can’t take it.  Despite the pain it will inflict upon me, I will walk through the process with you, as a precautionary tale.  If it helps one lazy kid decide not to change his residence, it will be worth it.

Here goes.

You first off have to think of everyone that might be sending something to your current address. Your family.  Your friends.  Your business associates.  Your former employers.  Your bank.  Your cell phone company.  Your various insurance companies.  Oh the list goes on, you get the point, right?

Thank you, I was starting to hyperventilate.

You then need to inform all of these people that you are changing your address.  Friends and family are pretty easy, except that they may not update their address book right away and forget to later on.  Your business associates and former employers need to know, and they tend to be very efficient.  Then comes the companies.

Oh the companies.  You try to change it on the internet, if possible.  But a lot of times they won’t let you.  Maybe someone has your password and they’re trying to get your information sent to another address.  It’s a security measure.  So then you call…

The Robot Lady!  I hate the Robot Lady more than you can know.  She asks you a question and then says, “say Yes or No”.  And you say “Yes”, and she says “I’m sorry, I can’t understand you, please say Yes or No”.  And so you say “Yes” and she says “I’m sorry, I can’t –“ but before she can finish you say:

“YES! YES! Y-E-S YOU STUPID ROBOT LADY!”

This is, of course, if you’re lucky enough to call during business hours.  And if you’re in a new time zone you have trouble keeping track of what time it is where you are and what time it is where they are.

Oh God, where is my wooden club?!!

The credit card company froze my card after I moved.  I called them to see what was going on, and they said they wanted to confirm that in fact I had moved to the new zip code 91601.

(Thanks, credit card company, for watching my back)

Thanks, credit card company, for messing up my day.  Now I’ve gotta go back to Target.  You made me look like a jerk in front of everyone.  And all because I changed my address.

Yeah, you can change your address with the Post Office, but that’s actually less helpful than you’d think.  There’s a delay before it goes into effect, and then there’s a delay between the arrival of a piece of mail at your old address and your new address.  How long of a delay you ask?  Long enough to miss a payment on my Discover Card.

“Why didn’t you tell us that you moved?” asked Dan from a call center in Wisconsin (or more likely Calcutta).

“I tried to tell the Robot Lady, but she wouldn’t listen.”

That one just didn’t land on Dan’s radar.

So there I was in North Hollywood, sitting on the porch I had come to love so much.  The house I had randomly found on the internet had started to feel like a real, albeit a wacky, home.  Then Christmas had to come along and ruin everything.  But was it really so bad that I would subject to myself to the torment of changing my address again? 

I started scouring Craigslist for new places to live.  All of them cost more.  All of them.  I would need to scrounge up a security deposit again.  Sheesh.  I thought of maybe moving closer to the beach.  How great would that be?  I’d probably be able to deal with the extra commute to have the Pacific as a neighbor.  Or maybe Silver Lake.  I’d have to get some new hipster clothes and start pretending like I’m unaffected by everything, but at least there’d be good vegan food.  Hollywood started to sound cool, despite how much parking would suck.  I could probably take the bus everywhere and feel like a public transportation person again.

But I kind of love North Hollywood!  It’s in the Valley, but only a few minutes away from not-in-the-valley.  Things are cheaper and people are lamer, and that makes me feel a little more comfortable.  There’s the guy at the hot dog place, the dude at the Thai place, and the girl at the coffee shop.  Sure, they never remember my name and sometimes forget we ever met, but I enjoy their friendship.

But I’d find this somewhere else.  It’s not like North Hollywood is the only place to have your regular spots.  I was ruminating on the porch when Danny the Lion moseyed on out to smoke a cig.  He went into a story that made me realize I had to fight for this residence.

Earlier that day Danny heard a knock on the door.  Opening it up, he saw the boyfriend of the screaming sister, Dallas, that shares the back room with her.  Except he looked a little different…wait…it wasn’t Dallas at all:

“Is Dallas here?”

“Uh…I think so, hold on” replied Danny as he started to retrieve him, stopping after a step.  “Who should I say is asking for him?”

“His brother”

Danny went back to get Dallas, thinking it was a routine visit.

“Did you tell him I’m here?!” Dallas panicked.

“Uh, I don’t – no.”

“Tell him I don’t live here anymore.  He’s no good, you don’t want him around here.”

This was the exact thing Danny had no interest in hearing, but it was exactly what I needed.

The day had come when the Sitcom of the house I live in adopted an element of a very different genre: the Soap Opera.  Dallas was about the nicest guy you could imagine.  A former marine, he was the sort of guy that smiled while he engaged in lively conversation with you, always letting you know he enjoyed the conversation before parting ways with you.  He said “yes, m’am” and “no sir”.  He was for me a source of joy in the house, always having a positive outlook on things and a genuine interest in what people had to say.  And he also apparently had an Evil Twin that was looking for him…

We never got another visit from the Evil Twin, but I realized that where I was living was a truly phenomenal place.  I had met some incredible people, whether they were intentionally incredible or not.  And I’d be damned if I was going to let one little Police interrupted Christmas ruin this place for me.

I had found my home, and regardless of how much I hate changing my address, this was where I knew I needed to be.


Midweek Rant #1: Water Bottles

February 18, 2009

In addition to my Monday posts, I’m going to start posting a Midweek Rant.  Here’s installment number one:

“The Tyranny of Madison Square Garden”

I’d like to talk about water bottles 

Occasionally I’m in a situation where if I don’t buy bottled water then I will get really dehydrated.  So I buy it, and keep the bottle, so I can reuse it as much as possible. 

Yes, yes, chemicals will leach out of the bottle over time and give me cancer.  What doesn’t these days?  I’m hoping to convert one day to an actual water bottle made from something friendly, but until I can find a way to make it cost effective given how easy it is to lose them, I’m sticking with my reused Aquafina.

I was at Madison Square Garden last year going to a Rangers game.  I had my backpack on, which I always had with me in Manhattan as I lived way back in Jersey City.  I was told at the security check that I couldn’t bring in any “liquids” to the game, referring to my plastic water bottle that was half full.  As I was early to the game, I told them I would go back out and drink it, and then come back in. 

I had done this several times before at airport security.  I always joke with the guards that it was a good thing I had gone to college, hoping to ease the tension as I pound twenty ounces of water, having stepped aside to let the irritated person behind me go past (is the person behind you always impatient, too?).  You end up with an empty bottle that, despite it’s cancer-inducing capabilities, will not be of much use in a terrorist attempt.

So I walked back up to the security check at Madison Square Garden, this time being guided to a different security guard.  He took the bottle out and told me I couldn’t bring it in, much in the same way as the other guard, using the word “liquids”. 

“Oh, it’s empty” I assured him.

“Yeah, but you can’t bring it in.”

“Oh.  Wait, why?”

“It just looks bad.”

This was the most fantastic response I’ve ever heard.  Sometimes I can’t even talk about such things because it makes my head feel like it’s going to explode.  It looks bad?  To who?  The guy sitting behind me?  What’s that goomba doing with an Aquafina bottle?  I don’t like the looks ‘o that. 

Does it look bad to his boss?  Like they’re doing a bad job and not checking bags properly?  This was perhaps the case, so I thought I could make things better by offering the solution.

“Can I see your supervisor?”

Holy crap!  I don’t think I’ve ever said that before.  Maybe once I asked to speak to a supervisor on the phone, but shit, this was a big security guard that didn’t look too happy at my request.

I asked with very innocuous intention; if the big boss says it’s Ok then nobody’s going to get in trouble.  But apparently I was being difficult.  I don’t normally like be difficult, but buying a 16 ounce bottle of water for more than the cost of a McDonald’s #1 Value Meal is a major problem.

The supervisor came over and I stated my case.  It was an empty bottle.  He actually jumped right away to my suspicion: “They want you to buy the water in there.”

Ha!  As much as this was pissing me off, I appreciated the blunt honesty.  I told him that I knew that, but that I was broke and wanted to bring this in and fill it up at a water fountain (he was honest with me after all).

“There’s no water fountains in there” he responded in his think Brooklyn accent.  This inevitably turned on my own New York-ese:

“You kiddin’ me?  They don’t got one water fountain in all of Madison Square Garden?”

“Not one, kid.”

“Well then I won’t be able to fill it up, so what’s da problem?”

“Cuz it looks bad kid!”

“To who?”

“It just looks bad.”

“To the people sellin’ water, I know.  Here ya go, do me a favor and at least recycle it.”

I walked by satisfied with my exchange.  At least this guy knew the motivation behind the “no liquids” policy.  Some would assume it had to do with security, but in fact, it was a “no food or beverages” policy.  You ever hear coca-cola referred to as a “liquid” before September 11th. 

Shame on Madison Square Garden for training their security to use this terminology.  And mad props to this guy for being all blunt about it.  It only took me one lap to find the water fountain.  I bought a bottle of water for 4 dollars 50 cents, and planned to fill it up at least six times, commenting loudly on how convenient the water fountain was. 

“We can’t give you the cap, is this OK?”

My jaw was on the counter as I nodded.  They beat me again.  I had a 16 ounce capless bottle of water. 

My only solace was fantasizing about the next time I would come to the Garden.  This time I wouldn’t have a water bottle, I’d only have a cap.  I’m pretty sure I could get through security with it, and then when I was buying a bottle of water and they said “we can’t give you the cap, is this OK?” I could respond with a big smile, holding up my own cap:

“That’s OK, I brought my own.”


Chapter 11: So This is Christmas

February 16, 2009

Before I got off track with my declaration of our new national holiday, JMD, I was espousing the car-driving gas-pumping lifestyle I had so quickly adopted.

I got my first tutoring client, and was getting four days a work at the gas station.  I knew that money was coming in, and for the first time since October (yikes) my cash flow would be in the direction that you’d like it to be.

I had spent four weeks at my dad’s house in Upstate New York during October and November, so I had told him I didn’t anticipate coming home for Christmas as that’s a time that employers in the service industry schedule “the new guy”.  Given the state of our economy, I thought it best to use my availability on the holidays to help me get hired.  For the second year in a row, Christmas with my mom would take place during one of the three-day weekends in January and February.

I think it’s a sign of how wonderful my job is that the boss crossed off my Christmas Day shift on the schedule, sending me an email saying that as I was still training there was no sense in making me come in on Christmas Day.  Now that’s a great boss!

So there I was in Los Angeles, not really sure what I’d be doing with myself.  Flying home was not really an option, as the last minute booking would probably be in the six figures, and with the travel time I’d probably get a net total of three hours at my dad’s.  So I asked all my housemates what they were up to, and figured there’d be some sort of makeshift Christmas celebration as all but one of them would be around.

Christmas Eve was pretty fun.  I was house sitting for my buddy Eric, stopping by his apartment twice a day to feed the cats, just a few blocks away.  I was taking the opportunity to enjoy his big screen television and DVR.  I got home the night before Christmas and a few people were hanging out, sipping wine and eating food.  I decided to call it an early night, and headed back to my room.

I had recently switched rooms, as I got the impression that my roommate Danny the Lion was going to move out, and a spot had opened up in Gentle Doug’s room.  Doug was a real easy guy to get along with.  I had only been in the room about six days at this point, and I was crashing at Eric’s apartment half the time, so I wasn’t quite yet settled there.  Gentle Doug was home for the holidays, so I had the room to myself.  I said my good-nights and retreated to bed.

‘Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the house, some people were drinking and having fun.

Yeah, that didn’t rhyme.  But there’s a lot about my Christmas that was unconventional.

There were days when I postulated why Santa Claus never woke up anyone.  How could he accomplish so much and be so quiet?  I mean he came down the chimney and all.  I always attributed to the fact that I’m a very deep sleeper.

Deep sleeping was always a tool of mine.  For example, as a young child of 8 months, occasionally my dad would be charged with the task of feeding me.  Should I not want to eat the particular baby food he had to offer, my solution was simple: go to sleep.  My brothers would scream and cry and clamp their mouths shut.  But me?  I’d hit the snooze button and there was no waking me up.  My dad was worried a few times that I had dropped dead, but I was breathing, so despite his best efforts all he could do was throw in the towel.

What was already a formidable strength of mine skyrocketed to an outright super power when I was in college.  The dork of the house, I generally went to sleep at 11pm, midnight at the latest.  I learned to sleep through anything, especially since my roommates had an affinity for waking me up when they got home from the bar at 3am.

“Jesse.  Jesse!  Let’s go to Denny’s”

But I slept through it all, developing a controlled state of Narcolepsy that could guarantee me my 8 hours under any circumstances.  All five of my roommates wanted to do a pile up on top of me like in the World Series?  No problem!

So it was no small event that I was woken up on Christmas morning at 5am.

The first thoughts that entered my head were “Where am I?  Who am I?  What’s going on?  What state am I in?  What time is it?  Who is that yelling?  How close are they?  Where am I?!!”

As I said, I wasn’t really settled in my new room yet, so even on a regular morning I’d wake with that “where am I?” feeling.  But this time there was a bit more urgency. 

After about fifteen seconds I realized that the blood curdling screaming was coming from the next room over:

“I’m gonna kill you motha fucka!  Get the fuck out of here now or I will bury you!  You don’t know who I am.  You don’t know who I know!  You tried to rape my sister you piece of shit, I’m gonna fucking bury you!”

Hmm.  That’s not Santa Claus.

But how was I to know that wasn’t Santa Claus?  Maybe he has Tourettes, ya know?  Maybe it’s like a man behind the curtain sort of a thing, except behind the “Santa” curtain it’s an angry, threatening woman screaming.

But after a little while I remembered that Santa Claus is generally believed to not be real, and the voice sounded a lot like one of my housemates.  And unless my housemate was in fact Santa Claus, and had Tourette’s, then some shit was going down and I needed to get up do something about it.

I can’t emphasize enough how not settled I was in my room.  My reflexive, jump to action attempt to get out of bed and come to the rescue ended with me doing the equivalent of the magician’s barrel drop down Niagara Falls.  My blanket was the barrel, the drop was only two feet, and the water was my hardwood floor with various books and shoes scattered about on it.  Let me tell you something, Houdini had a much easier time getting out of his barrel.

I managed to tangle myself in the two blankets in a way that would have Strait Jacket companies shaking in their boots for fear of obsolescence.  Far from coming to the rescue, I was merely flopping around like a fish out of water, each flop landing me on a different object that wanted to introduce itself to my ribs. 

I decided to slow it down, as I only seemed to be making things worse.  It was then that a new voice came into play, with a thick Latino accent, and a word choice indicative of limited knowledge of English.

“No.  No.  I no know what you is saying!”

Wait a second, I know this voice…

When I had come to the conclusion earlier that this was not Santa Claus screaming, an image popped into my head that initially propelled me into action: Some guy off the street wandered into the house and tried to rape someone.  As you can imagine, that is a terrifying image.  My only other thought was that it was some sort of ex-boyfriend or stalker, which is probably even scarier.  But this was a familiar voice.

Carlos?

Yep.  The doofy new roommate that had just moved in.  He’s the kind of guy that stands a little too close to you when he talks.  You kind of have to suppress the impulse to be like “hey! Back off man”.  It’s the same way a Golden Retriever or a Black Lab gets in your face.  It doesn’t bother you too much because it’s a big, doofy dog.  But nonetheless, you’re kind of like “hey, get outta my face!”

I’d only had a few conversations with Carlos before, and during each one I was concerned with the welfare of the closest lamp.  You just get the sense that he’s going to accidentally knock something over.  But you know if he does you won’t be all that mad, because he’s got those puppy dog eyes and he just wants to play.

Well, back to the strait jacket.  I was realizing that I wasn’t sure quite what was going on at this point, and other voices started to come into the mix.  The dominant voice the entire time was the screaming sister, who lives across the hall from the not-screaming sister that Carlos had clearly crossed a line with in some way.

By this point it was clear that there was a strong presence of housemates joining in, including one of the new people that had just moved in, Matthew just back from the Iraq War.  So the immediacy of the situation was fizzling out just as I was freeing myself from the tyrannical blankets that were holding me hostage.  I got up and started to put some clothes on, but not knowing where everything was and being in the dark, it was a bit cumbersome.  I was about to switch the light on when I heard it said:

“I’m calling the cops.  Fuck you motha fucka, I’m calling the cops and you are going to jail!”

Hmmm.  You see, the thing is…jeez how do I put this?…Hmm.  Uh – No fucking way am I going to get involved in this if the cops are going to be coming!!!

Sweet mother of a monkey!  I didn’t move to Los Angeles to help justice!  Of course I’m going to step in if there’s the danger of something bad happening, but at this point it was clear that what was done was done, and there was no changing it.  Matthew was trained to take care of situations like this, and the alleged aggressor was the big doofy guy that everyone already knew.  If I step out of this room, all I’m going to do is stand around and here both sides of the story.  Carlos seemed to like me, so I was sure that he would plead his case to me.  The screaming sister was nothing short of hysterical, and managed to keep the same level of intensity for a solid twenty five minutes, yelling at everyone in the house that if they let Carlos leave the house she would have them all arrested.

Que?!

I don’t know if this was yellow of me, or cold of me, or wise of me.  But I decided that staying in my room was the best option.  I step out of the room, and I’m guaranteed to have a five minute conversation with the police about something I really knew nothing about, except from the cases that each side would no doubt make to me.

So I decided to go back to sleep.  I stayed awake for fifteen minutes just to make sure I wasn’t making some sort of grave mistake I would regret later, but my interpretation of the situation seemed to be pretty spot on.  The screaming sister continued to scream at everyone, and dished out some curious phrases.  After assuring that she could kill him and get away with it, she proffered her reasoning: “you don’t know who I know – you don’t know the people I know – I know Michael Jackson, motha fucka!”

Hmmm. 

I stayed awake until the cops came, then figured it was safe to zonk out.  I wish I could tell you what really happened, but I’m no detective.  My thoughts about what occurred are such that I think it’s OK to make light of the situation in this blog, if that’s of any help.  I do know that the cops on the case did not see any reason to lock up Carlos, and just suggested that he leave the house.  Carlos was living with my old roommate Danny the Lion, who decided to sleep through it as well.  The cops came into his room with flashlights and shined it on him.

Recounting later on, “Dude I was awake when they did that, but I was like fuck that, I’m pretending I’m asleep.  But I gotta tell you, I was considering for a moment rolling over and saying with a big smile: Santa?!”

I woke up the next morning to (multiple choice)

a) Presents

b) Brunch

c) No Electricity

d) None of the above.

Choice 3?  Ding Ding Ding would have gone the bell if it weren’t for the power outage that started at 9am on Christmas Morning and lasted until 9pm the following night.

Carlos was gone and by the end of the day so was Matthew after getting into an argument with the guy that rents the house.  Taking care of my friend’s cats turned out to be the best Christmas gift I could get, as it got me out of the house and into a heated apartment with electricity.  I saw a movie that night and came home to find that the guy renting the house had moved out as well.  The hustling bustling house for the first time kind of felt empty and lacking the vibrant life I had come to enjoy so much.

I walked out to the porch where Danny the Lion was smoking a cigarette with several layers on.  Danny comes from Upstate New York as well, and we had reminisced a few times about pleasant Christmases passed.

“Hey buddy” he said as he handed me an unsolicited cigarette.  I happily lit up, knowing that despite tobacco’s bad rap, there were moments like this that it was in fact created for.  I took a big old drag, and as I exhaled Danny gazed off into the distance in a way that I could tell he was thinking of Los Angeles in it’s entirety, a place that was as new to him as it was to me.

“So this is Christmas.”

With the timing that comedians spend years training to master, I burst into a “cough take” of laughter from the smoke I was inhaling.  I joined in with him as he hummed the tune.  He took a last drag of his cigarette and put it out, with his final remark:

“Los Angeles, city of fuckin’ angels.”


Chapter 10: The Wisdom of James Malanga

February 11, 2009

When we last left off I had embraced my car-loving ways by securing a job at a gas station. 

There’s still so much more to tell before we arrive at the present-tense, but I need to fast-forward for this one and talk about something that I’m in dire need of.  But as you know, often times the cassette player will rewind instead of fast forward, because they combined the buttons into one and you have to hit it twice to fast forward, because they wanted to save money on buttons, which is why we started listening to CD’s instead, despite the fact that they are so easy to scratch and ruin.  But since we’re just starting to officially enter the Digital Age of music, MP3’s and the like, I think it’s safe to say that cassette tapes are once again “cool”, and not just something someone has because they’re too broke to upgrade.  They’re the new 8-Track. 

What did that have to do with anything?  Not really sure, something about rewinding instead of fast forwarding…

It was the fall of 2005 and I was living in a four-room apartment in Manhattan. A room had opened up and I was thrilled to have my Original Next Door Neighbor James Malanga move in, along with his good pal Tim Clancy, both fresh out of College  They brought some new life and optimism to the apartment, which I was in need of as two years of “the real world” had started to kick the “golly gee” out of me.  We were living exactly two blocks from the middle of Times Square, which, if you do the math, is pretty awesome (especially given what we were paying, granted the quality of the place met us halfway).

We didn’t have cable in the apartment, my logic being: why would you?  Walk three minutes away and you’re outside the window of the Today Show (or TRL).  This city is for living in, not sitting around watching the latest reality television show.

James seemed to enjoy the city just as much as anyone, that is to the degree that his or her budget would allow.  Within several months he was working full time, interning for a Production Company, and finding his way out to Brooklyn on a regular basis for the night life.  So it was with a jolt of horror that I received the news of James’ intention for his one day off of a particular week.

“Yeah, I did my laundry yesterday, went grocery shopping, and rented Seasons One and Two of ‘Rescue Me’.  I’m not going to leave the apartment tomorrow.”

Que?

“Yeah, I literally don’t want to step foot out of the apartment tomorrow.”

What the hell is wrong with this kid?!!  I mean here he is, a 22 year-old chap living in the middle of the liveliest and most visited city in the entire world, and he’s going to sit in our crappy living room on our crappy couch covered in our ratty blankets and watch two seasons of, granted, a really good show, but still…what the hell is wrong with this kid?  He could live anywhere!  Why not just move to a small town and get cable and call it a day?

I was appalled.  I was sickened.  And I was speechless.

“So, you’re really…?” I stammered, trying to find the words.

“Yeah Jesse G, I need to chill out.”

I couldn’t formulate a response.  I felt like one of those perpetually baffled girls that lives in Beverly Hills, calling all my friends and saying stuff like “I know” and “seriously” and “whatever”.  I’d heard of people taking it easy, but intentionally not stepping foot out of the door for an entire day?  Where would he get his Vitamin D?  “like…?!”

It’s at this point that I realize the tape is rewinding, so I fast-forward.  Knowing that the fast-forward is generally quicker than the rewind, I stop early, perhaps a bit too early.

It was two and a half years later and I was living in a studio apartment in Jersey City.  I was exhausted in general from an eight-month string of artistically rewarding while financially debilitating acting jobs.  I had been working at the restaurant like a dog, and my financial woes were further exacerbated by a five day sickness in which I couldn’t work, getting my backpack stolen on the subway while asleep, and getting mugged on a side street while wide awake.  On top of this I was paying more money for rent then I ever have because I thought it was time to get a studio apartment and live by myself.  Good thinkin’ Gavin!

The winter of 2008 was swinging into full force, and I was starting to feel like I couldn’t take it anymore.  That’s when it appeared: James Malanga came to me as an apparition.  But he wasn’t dead.  It’s just that I was in Jersey City, and no one really goes to Jersey City unless they live there, so he had to send his Alternate Soul.  The message was simple: chill out for a day, or I would end up in the Looney Bin.  I protested, clinging to my busy-body ways.  Maybe I can meet up with some people for dinner – it’s still relaxing, right?  Wrong.  The apparition of James was adamant (curiously enough, the real James had no idea his Alternate Soul visited me).

It was February 22nd, 2008, and I was taking my first ever James Malanga Day.  What was my poison?  I cranked Erykah Badu for half the day, and took two baths, candles lit and all.  I had read in a recent interview with her that she would dunk her head underwater for 60 seconds in order to clear her mind, repeating as many times as necessary.  I ordered Indian Food at one point during the day, and other than that I ate food that I had pretty much entirely prepped the night before.  I watched the Rangers game during the night time, and a few episodes of the Canadian television show “Slings and Arrows”.  Phone was off, internet was unplugged (I broke down and checked both during the early evening, but all things considered I thought that was pretty impressive).

My roommate Danny says the proof is in the pudding.  The next day when I walked into work everyone had some sort of comment for me that had to do with how relaxed and happy I looked.  Not a person neglected to say something.  Sure, it only took about 20 minutes of work to become a strung out ball of stress, but it was clear that my James Malanga Day did wonders for me (usually it only takes 20 seconds to become completely stressed).

James Malanga has accomplished a great deal in his three and a half years in New York City, working in one of the most competitive and least rewarding fields there is.  He was working 80 hour weeks at one point for a solid six months, pulling in a salary that would make a perplexed Beverly Hills girl go “you’ve got to be kidding me.”  So the proof was in the pudding: The guy knows how to get stuff done, but he keeps from burning out.  It was Dr. Alexis Carrel who said “those who keep the peace of their inner selves in the midst of the tumult of the modern city are immune from nervous diseases.”

(Fast-Forward).

Crap, I’m still not at present tense.  This is why we tolerated CD’s for so long (I mean a little dust gets on them and they skip like crazy, am I wrong?).

Summer of 2008 I was up visiting my dad.  As successful as my James Malanga Day was, it couldn’t overcome the Jesse Gavin Mantra of “I should really be doing something productive”.  And the proof is in the pudding, as I took so little care of myself that my nervous system had a little relapse in the form of a crippled hand (sheesh, I’ll explain this one later). 

My Great Uncle and Aunt were in town visiting, and talk turned to my dad’s new job.  My dad is one of the hardest working people on the East Coast, which puts him pretty high on the list for hardest working Worldwide.  My great aunt asked, out of nowhere, about how much vacation time he was getting.  He responded that he gets six weeks a year, but that that’s not realistic with his job.  I other words, he doesn’t really take vacation time.  Part of why he is so good at his job is because he goes the extra mile to reach the goals he sets for himself, an example I feel I was blessed to have for my own work ethic.  However, it was with almost Shamanic Wisdom that she retorted, “you’ve gotta make time, Jim, it’s important for your soul”.  The energy of the room changed, and I couldn’t help but think of how better off everyone might be if we listened to old people more.

The thing was that she was speaking from a life of experience.  She wasn’t one of those befuddled girls from Beverly Hills exclaiming, “Oh my God, you like totally have to take vacations!”  And I could see my dad truly taking it in.

But I also feel we’re cut from the same stone, and it’s tough when something’s in your nature to just change your ways.  But I think about the day when my dad finally gets to take a James Malanga Day, and it makes me smile.

Fast-Forward.

Instead of my usual list of goals for the New Year, I wrote Mission Statement 2009.  In the five or six weeks that have transpired, I have been an absolute maniac; meeting casting directors, playing open mics, starting pre-production on a new music video, writing this blog, pumping gas, tutoring, and exercising in some fashion five times a week.  I read Mission Statement 2009 every morning and feel like I’m on track.

But in the last few days I realized that if I don’t take another James Malanga Day in the next few weeks, then I may push myself to the point where James’ Alternate Soul has to visit me like in the video.  And it’s not that I wouldn’t enjoy the visit, it’s just that I live in Los Angeles now, so his Alternate Soul would have to fly all the way out here from New York City and there’s really no airline discounts available for Alternate Souls…I mean a seat’s a seat, right?

So here’s my rough plan for the next one:  Since I live in a house and have a yard that’s entirely ensconced by shrubbery, “not stepping outside” will pertain to the sidewalk and not the front door.  I’ll find a cheap Kiddie Pool on Craigslist, preferably with matching floaties.  I’ll get a six pack of beer to nurse throughout the day.  At one point I’ll get some food delivered from the Greek Deli where they speak Greek.  And I’ll just lounge in the most cliché way possible, soaking up the rays of sunshine that for some ridiculous and lovely reason will be plentiful in the month of February.

As for the music?  I’ll borrow my roommate’s boombox with the tape player.  I don’t have any cassettes, so I guess I’ll just go search through the One-Dollar bin at the record store and see what I can find.  It’s not too long until tapes will be cool enough to be expensive again.

What will your next JMD be?

Stop.

Eject (Same Button as Stop)

Ah, Shit!  The tape got eaten.  Stinkin’ Cassette Tapes! (Shaking fist at the sky).

I need a day off.                  

 


Chapter 9: Cereal

February 2, 2009

Yep, I work at a gas station.  A gas station…in Space!

Before I explain what I mean, I can’t help but get to thinking how it is I went from a Car-Hatin’ Subway Lover to a Gas Pumpin’ Jetta Owner.  I’ve written before about the day I vowed to my dad I would never own a car again.  I’ve learned from this and many other instances to “never say never”.

The next twenty four paragraphs will lead to the following phrase: I LOVE MY CAR.

When I was six years old, I left my bike outside in the driveway behind my mom’s car.  She was about to back up over it, and noticed just in time.  In a rush, she quickly jumped out of the car and dragged it towards the garage.  She stopped short, hearing a unique rattling sound.  A bit worried, she stopped and looked at the bike, worried she had possibly done some damage in her haste.  She didn’t see anything wrong.  She shook the bike a bit to see what was making the noise and found that it was coming from the front basket.  Slowly opening the lid, her eyes fell upon a carefully compartmentalized system of food storage.

You had your Cheerios.  You had your fruit loops.  You had animal crackers, jelly beans and oreos.  All in their respective sections of the “Veggie & Dip” Tupperware container that had been missing from the kitchen for some time now.

The thing about me is that I like to have food with me at all times.  I wonder if why I never backpacked Europe is because I thought I’d break my back with all the extra goods I’d be carrying due to my OCD nature when it comes to available snacks.  Maybe it’s part of my Irish blood; you’re not going to stray too far from the cave in weather like that.

When I moved to New York I had a sweet North Face backpack with the strap for extra support.  Yes I know, only fourth graders that are forced by their parents use this strap, but for me it was, like, the best invention ever.  “I can carry as much stuff as I want” I thought, fantasizing about showing up to Central Park with a Picnic for four, a whiffle ball set containing all four bases, and a blow up kiddie pool.  You see, it’s not necessarily just food.  That’s all the five-year old version of me was concerned with.  By 22 I wanted to have a minimum of four books with me at all times, a wide variety of writing utensils, notebooks, a TI-89 Calculator, and at least today’s and yesterday’s newspaper. 

There was one small wrinkle in the plan, so to speak.  If anyone has ever used that strap in the front for back support, and I urge you to let me know if you have so I won’t feel so alone in this, you’ll know that it makes your shirt look like an accordian from all the rippled creases it leaves.  Now I had auditions to go to, and food to serve.  I remember showing up to work and getting a talking-to from my manager:

“Jesse, this has to stop.  You need to go out and buy an iron.”

“I have an iron, I-“

“Then USE it!”

It’s hard to say what’s worse for the shirt’s appearance, wearing it with the strap on or trying to stuff it into a backpack doing it’s best to challenge North Face’s “Lifetime Guarantee” by grossly exceeding the volume capacity.

Thus began an epic struggle that was never really resolved.  If I didn’t have lots of stuff with me, I found it hard to relax.  “What if I want a Clif Bar?!  I’ll end up having to buy one at a Bodega for twice the price as I get at Trader Joe’s.”  The fiscal irresponsibility was too much to bear.  How could I go to a movie?  What if a car drove buy on a rainy day when I was standing right by a puddle, and someone in the car had a bucket of that Green Goo from the Nickelodian Show “Double Dare and I got “Slimed”, and then I had to walk home in the rain, and stepped in that puddle because the Goo was blocking my view, and everyone thought I was some sort of Alien or Warlock that started pussing Green Goo when it rained, and all because I didn’t have my trusty Green Goo Stain-Remover with me in my bag (let alone a towel).

So you see my dilemma: wrinkled clothing, absence of snacks, the Goo scenario.  The result was that I never felt comfortable being away from my apartment for long periods of time.  Especially when I moved to Jersey City, this became a major problem.  Jersey City was a PATH train away from everywhere I ever needed to go.

So when I moved to Los Angeles I thought that owning a car again could solve this issue for me.  Despite the fact that I swore off cars years before, I saw what was potentially a redeeming quality.  I was ready for a car again.  You can imagine my delight then, when my car started playing “hard to get”.

But thanks to my man Carlos down in Silver Lake, I now have a backpack that is not only twenty times bigger than my last one, but it is also a registered automobile in the state of California.  It can achieve speeds of almost 70 miles per hour and the trunk occasionally opens when you hit the “Open Trunk” button.

Now here’s the catch to this “backpack”: it’s still got a strap.  But this strap is much thicker and has been designed to not create the Accordian effect on whatever it is I’m wearing.  Unlike the other strap, it is not optional; California State Law requires it’s use.

Oh, but there’s more.  Green Goo!  I don’t mean there’s Green Goo in the car, I’m just using “Green Goo” as a nonsensical exclamation of excitement.  Green Goo!  This “vehicular” backpack has room to hang up whatever shirt it is I want to keep from getting wrinkled.

I love this country.

I will from this point on refer to the Vehicular Backpack as a “car”.  My car has room for four other passengers.  If I had to choose who I’d like to be traveling with me, it’d have to be Tony the Tiger, Cap’n Crunch, Count Chocula, and some dude in a giant Oreo costume, under the condition that he would have lots of Oreos with him. 

I could not have anticipated how happy the possibilities would make me.  What should I bring with me?!  I don’t know, I don’t know…maybe a filing cabinet?

So the point of my car is that I never have to feel the way I felt in New York.  I am determined to never hear myself utter the phrase “I should head home” now, unless it is because a pet and/or my roommate needs to be fed or let into the back yard to play.  I will be as free as a bird in this city, and will explore every inch of it.

When I got auto insurance I bought the cheapest plan.  “What if your car gets stolen” someone asked.  Eh, I’ll deal.  To be honest with you, the starter is so messed up that they probably won’t be able to jack it anyway.  Someone breaks into that bad boy, however, and they’ll be able to steal my entire life.  So you bet your ass I’ve got the lowest deductible possible for my renter’s insurance.

When I called for renter’s insurance they asked me how much I wanted to insure.  As I slowly searched for a number, the guy on the phone mentioned that the minimum was Fifteen Thousand Dollars.

Minimum?  

Who has fifteen thousand dollars worth of stuff lying around?  Some kind of jerk, that’s who.  Anyway, the contents of my Vehicular Backpack are now insured for Fifteen Thousand Dollars.  So there’s never any hesitation, like “wait, maybe I shouldn’t bring my extra pair of jeans with me, I’m only insured for so much”.  I’m insured for way more than I will ever lose.

I love my backpack.  And now I must expand that statement: I LOVE MY CAR.

Well.  We got there, didn’t we?  “Twenty-Four Paragraphs” was a bit misleading.  Quite a few of those were just individual sentences.  But here we are, in “Jesse Loves Cars Land”, which brings us to the eco-friendly gas station where Jesse works.

Que?

(that was technically a paragraph)

Eco-Friendly Gas Station is not a paradox in this new special world of “Jesse Loves Cars Land”.  It makes perfect sense. 

So come visit me in Space.  We’ve got competitive prices on all grades…

 

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