Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Welcome to the Cool Kids Club

I finally feel like I belong.

Tonight, I gained a bad-ass two-wheeler just like many of my biker friends.

My biker friends are of the ten-speed variety, not the Harley kind.

They’re essentially the same except with less tattoos and fewer leather jackets.

Anyway, I’m officially a part of the biking inner circle…sorta.

You see, I don’t exactly have a “bike” per se, I have um…well…it’s a Razor scooter.

That’s right, my Faithful Readers, as of tonight, I am the proud owner of a Razor scooter. Apparently this bad-boy was left behind in the Hayden lost and found for eons and tonight it was bequeathed to me.

As such, I finally feel like I belong with my biking peeps.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I realize that a Razor scooter is like the inbred stepchild of the bike world, but I’m cool with that. I’m not ashamed.

Okay that’s a lie, I’m a little ashamed.

I only rode the scooter home because it was after 2am and pitch black, although I did manage to come across a biker who gave me a double-take and an obvious scoff.

The worst, however, was that I came across exactly what I hoped to avoid, a pack of teenagers.

I was in the final leg of my trip home, less than a block from my front door when a pack of puberty-stricken adolescents were sauntering down the street in front of me.

Being the cool-headed dude that I am, I just kept on scootin’ toward my destination, only to hit a big crack in the road that sent me flying and the scooter whipping around behind me.

I landed on my feet, albeit whilst stumbling forward like an idiot and the scooter whipped around and bashed me in the shins.

As one might expect, the entire pack of angst-filled demons laughed and laughed and made fun of my scooter.

I did what any bad-ass scooter rider would do and I hopped right back on and glided the rest of the way home, just like I was riding on a cloud.

Mock my ride all you want, but I’ve got a sweet-ass set of wheels and a fresh, new membership into the cool kids club now that I’m riding on two wheels, just like all my cool bike friends.

Hells yes.

I finally belong!!

PS: I've named her Jasmine.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Confessions: Nickelback

I've decided today to share a deep, dark secret with all y'all, my Faithful Readers.

Today, I share with you one of my secret shames.

I like Nickelback.

I like ‘em a whole big lot.

I realize that everything Chad Kroeger mumbles, be it song lyrics or his grocery list, all sounds exactly the same.

I realize that it’s next to impossible to tell three-quarters of their songs apart.

I realize that liking Nickelback seems completely contradictory to my fanship of Taylor Swift, Carrie Underwood, Garth Brooks and Sugarland.

I realize that it’s not socially acceptable to like Nickelback, but come on folks this is Cambridge, Massachusetts.

I’m like 97% sure that it’s totally legal to marry a llama, reproduce with a cactus, and/or shoot a hobo for sport on the mean streets of C-Bridge.

Hell, I think everything short of forgetting to sort your recyclables is kosher here, so why not let a brotha rock out to some crappy rock “music” in peace.

After all, I do sort my recyclables, what more do you want from me?!

Making the Write Decision

I was hanging out at home the other night when I got a text message from my good buddy—and brand-new father—Mike Kunkel.

Mike sent me a text message that read:

“About time to update your BleacherReport profile, old man!!”

I giggled like a schoolgirl, as I’m wont to do, and went on with my evening.

It was a few hours later when I sat down at my computer and went to update my profile’s mini-thesis statement on BleacherReport that a big ole dose of reality bitch-slapped me right in the face.

My aforementioned mini-thesis statement reads: “I am a 26-year-old aspiring baseball writer.

I realized when I updated it from 25 to 26 that I’ve updated that little line four times. Four times, I’ve gone in and changed my age, but the goal remains the same.

That bothers me.

It bothers me so much that I went ahead and quit my job so that I could pursue a career as a baseball writer.

…okay, I didn’t quit my job. I’m not insane. It bothers me, but not enough to do something batshit crazy.

But it does bother me.

It bothers me because I know there have been long, long, long, long stretches of inactivity and blatant half-assedness.

It bothers me because I still have the exact same job that I did when I wrote that little line.

It bothers me because I’ve done absolutely nothing to reach the endgame of my mini-thesis statement.

After four different age changes, I’m still just an “aspiring” baseball writer.

I’ve applied for plenty of baseball jobs in my day. In the past two years or so I’ve applied to be the general manager of three different teams, the field manager of six different teams, the mascot of two teams, an equipment manager at various minor league levels and the professional level, dozens of random office jobs, and grounds crew jobs.

I’ve received offers for none of these positions.

What I haven’t applied for is a writing job.

Maybe I’m just intimidated because my writing background consists entirely of blogging and three years writing restaurant and movie reviews at my college newspaper.

Maybe I’m worried that I wouldn’t be able to consistently churn out good, worthwhile material on a full-time basis if it was required. It is so much easier to write about sports when you’re not required to do so by a deadline.

Maybe I’ve bought too much into the old school formula that you have to work your way up the ladder and I have no urge to write obituaries and school lunch menus for papers in Podunk, Idaho, and Goat's Fart, Montana, for the next five years to cut my teeth in the business.

Whatever the case may be, it pisses me off.

I’m a pretty spiffy writer.

I know the game as well as dang near anyone (save for Tony La Russa, my Pappy, Peter Gammons, and Willie Mays).

I absolutely love baseball and want nothing more than to actually get paid to talk and write about it.

As such, I’m officially laying down another goal for 2010.

I’ve already laid out my plan to purchase more books and, in theory, read more as a result. So here goes, another goal for the next year.

I’m going to start applying for baseball writing jobs. It doesn’t matter how incredibly out of my league the job is or how completely unqualified I am, if the job is available, I’m sending in my resume.

What the hell, right?!

Worst-case scenario, they say no. I think I can handle that.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

My Last Saturday (pt. 2)

I mentioned earlier today that I’m in the midst of working my last Saturday shift before a pleasant three-week hiatus for the holidays.

Well, it seems that our lovely patrons came in today with every intention of making sure that I won’t forget Saturday shifts whilst I’m away.

I’ve already blogged about my interaction with the nerd stampede and Sally Sassypants, but that was only a precursor to my blast from the past.

You see, earlier this week I was at the circulation desk and some chickadee was talking on her cellphone, an act which is—according to a plethora of very visible signs—forbidden within the library.

I asked her to take her phone call to the lobby and after initially ignoring me, she then asked me to “wait a minute,” and eventually she took her sweet-ass time sauntering out the library whilst still yapping away about stickers or the Backstreet Boys or ponies or whatever is it college-aged women talk about on the phone.

When she came back in she gave me a tongue-lashing for kicking her out and I gave her a polite rebuttal that it was the rules. That signs were posted. That it was the same for everyone.

She replied like most angry college kids do and said “whatever” and huffed off.

Well, she came back to the library today and she brought her phone along for the ride.

She came into the library roughly two minutes after my interaction with Sally Sassypants and was—surprise, surprise—yaking away on her phone.

I tried to say something to her, but I’m currently lacking a real voice, so it came out as nothing more than inaudible grumblings noises.

As such, she blew right past the desk, still jawing to whomever was on the other end and I followed her into the Dome.

You see the Dome, is supposed to be a quiet study space. As such, yammering away on your phone isn’t exactly kosher.

So I tapped her on the shoulder, because she was blatantly ignoring me.

She turned around, looking super pissed off, and I mustered whatever hoarse, scratchy, Jack Palance meets the Budweiser frogs voice I had in me and said:

Cap’n Charisma: “Excuse me, miss…”
Callie Callsalot: “Ugh…what?!”
Cap’n Charisma: “You can’t talk on your phone in here.”
Callie Callsalot: *mumbles into the phone and hangs up* “This is so dumb.”
Capn’ Charisma: “If you could keep your voice down, this is the reading room.”
Callie Callsalot: “So I can’t talk at all now?”
Cap’n Charisma: “That’s not what I said. I said you can’t talk on your cellphone in the library and you should keep your voice down in the reading room.”
Callie Callsalot: “This is so dumb.”
Cap’n Charisma: “It’s the rules, I don’t make ‘em, I just enforce ‘em.”
Callie Callsalot: “Whatever…this is so dumb!”
Cap’n Charisma: “Sorry ma’am, but the rules apply to everyone.”
Callie Callsalot: *she dropped her bag and it echoed through the Dome, she was clearly trying to make a big public point* “This is SO DUMB!

Now, I’m not going to take a shot at Callie Callsalot for her limited repertoire of comebacks, that’s not her problem. I blame MTV and Paris Hilton for that.

I will, however, say that this is where a bunch of folks from the aforementioned nerd stampede made me happy.

Random Nerd #1: “SHHHHHHHHHHH!!!”
Random Nerd #2: “Can you keep it down!!”
Random (and really cute) Nerd #3: “Other people are trying to study!”
Random Nerd #1: “Seriously, just take your call outside like everyone else.”

Not knowing what to do Callie picked up her back and sauntered off to a corner of the Dome where she’s now been working quietly and diligently for the better part of three hours.

Making things ever better is that her phone went off once and she got a huge round of shushes and then came sauntering out to the lobby to talk on her phone, as Jebus intended.

She’s since silenced her phone, and apologized for her attitude.

Here’s hoping that’s the end of the Saturday excitement until 2010.

UPDATE: Just as I posted this, Microfilm Guy—one of the most annoying and needy patrons of all-time—just sauntered in, no longer sporting his ill-advised attempt at a mustache. Here's hoping he just wants to check his email and leave.

I Miss My Voice

It may sound like something Carly Simon would serenade me for, but I really do miss my voice.

As I mentioned earlier in the week, Grace was worried she was getting the dreaded Swine Flu.

She clearly caught some sort of bug and, for the most part, appears to be on the mend. In the process, however, I appear to have gotten a bit of something too, although mine is centered entirely in my throat.

I feel fine. I feel great actually, I just can’t talk.

For the better part of the last two days, I’ve had no real voice.

Everything comes out scratchy and hoarse or high and squeaky, but nothing comes out sounding like me.

As vain as it may sound, I really do miss the sound of my own voice.

It’s hard enough to be taken seriously when your facial hair has a decidedly sad and pre-pubescent aura about it, having your voice follow suit is just plain unfair.

In the past couple of days, I’ve had to sit on the outside of some cool conversations because I can’t utter more than a word or two before I trail off into inaudible grumbles or I get all squeaky to a point where only dogs and long-shore fishermen can interpret what I’m saying.

I miss my voice.

My Last Saturday (pt. 1)

Today is my last Saturday shift for nearly a month thanks to my lengthy Non-Denominational Holiday Break.

As such, I was just hoping to come in and chill out today and get some work done so that things will be in order for when I disappear to the frigid Midwest for two and a half weeks.

Unfortunately, the patrons aren’t in any mood to just give me a nice chill afternoon here at the library. In the first seven minutes we were open, I’ve already had two different encounters with completely illogical nerdettes.

As such, I’m hoping that these were merely isolated incidents and the rest of the shift will go swimmingly?! Maybe…

Anyway, here’s the first scenario. Perhaps you’ve heard this one a time or two before: there were roughly a dozen people waiting in the lobby for the library to open.

Why?! No one knows.

The library doesn’t open until 1pm.

In the three-plus years that I’ve worked here, the library always opens at one and closes at six on Saturdays. That hasn’t changed.

Yet it seems there is always an intrepid pack of eager Beavers (get it, because the MIT mascot is the beaver) just chomping at the bit to get into the library before we ever open.

That much has become standard operating procedure at this point and I’ve come to the realization that people—especially stressed-out nerds—are just completely illogical sometimes.

Sure, sure they could just wander a little ways across campus to the Hayden Library, which swings its doors wide-open at 10am or they could—you know—spend their time studying, or whatever the hell it is they’re so eager to do here, in their respective dorm or apartment rather than standing in a lobby, pointlessly bitching about how we’re not open prior to our preordained hours.

Anyway, so I swing open the doors and I’m still in the doorway, propping the door open and the crowd bum-rushes me.

Seriously, it was like a full-on nerd stampede. So there I am, without spurs or a hat or assless chaps or whatever cowboys wear and I’m getting bowled over by some study-hungry nerds.

It was just ridiculous.

I actually got pushed aside and knocked into one of the doors.

Then some chickadee, we’ll call her Sally Sassypants has the audacity to get mad at me, whilst she’s working on trampling over me, like some sort of overgrown bovine.

Cap’n Charisma: “Whoa…take it easy there.”
Sally Sassypants: “Well we’ve been waiting forever!”
Cap’n Charisma: “No, no you haven’t. We open at 1pm and it’s 1pm.”
Sally Sassypants: “Whatever, I was here like an hour ago.”
Cap’n Charisma: “Okay, but we don’t open until now.”
Sally Sassypants: “I know, it’s so stupid. Harvard has better hours.”
Cap’n Charisma: “Well, we’re not Harvard.”
Sally Sassypants: “Obviously!”

With that, Sally took her little Uggs and her cup-o-Starbucks and stomped off into the Dome, presumably to do the all-important studying that I’d prevented her from by not opening the library early.

Making this all the more infuriating is that now—half an hour later—I just went to do a walkthrough of the Dome to make sure no one is leaving their laptops unattended and whatnot (as nerds are wont to do) and found her passed out in one of the chairs.

Perhaps three weeks without Saturday shifts will be good for my soul and/or my homicidal rage.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

My 2009 Reading List

I’ve mentioned quite a few times here at “Blank Stares and Blank Pages” that I want to become a better reader.

Unfortunately, I reached my reading zenith in the first four months or so that I lived in Boston and it’s fallen off steadily ever since.

When we first moved out here (read: before I made friends) I was plowing through one or two books a week, especially in the two weeks or so before we got cable and internet hooked up.

Since then, however, my desire for a social life and this incessant habit of writing have both greatly hampered by reading.

I set a goal for myself back in January or so, that I wanted to read the equivalent of a book a month, or twelve total for the year, as an absolute minimum.

As you can see below, I appear to have just met that goal.

In fact, I’m pretty sure there are a handful of other books that I read, but can’t remember at the moment. If/when they come to me, I’ll be sure to update the list.

If any of y’all recall seeing me tote around a certain title in the past twelve months, lemme know.

Without any further ado, here is—in no particular order—my 2009 reading list:

READ IN 2009

The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid by Bill Bryson
The Lost Continent by Bill Bryson
A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson
The Dead Zone by Stephen King
On Writing by Stephen King
Sex, Drugs and Cocoa Puffs by Chuck Klosterman
Downtown Owl by Chuck Klosterman
Small-Town Heroes by Hank Davis
Wild and Outside by Stefan Fatsis
Hank Aaron and the Homerun that Changed America by Tom Stanton
I’m Sorry You Feel That Way by Diana Joseph
I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell by Tucker Max
I Was Told There’d Be Cake by Sloane Crosley
The Death of WCW by Bryan Alvarez and RD Reynolds


Assassination Vacation by Sarah Vowell
Eating the Dinosaur by Chuck Klosterman

Not too shabby for a year that was pretty jam-packed with travels, writing, softball, and plenty of that bubbling social life I mentioned above.

I think I’m going to push the bar up to a nice solid fifteen books for 2010.

I realize that in the grand scheme of things, that’s still basically nothing, and I’m hoping to read drastically more than that, but like I said, I’m a busy dude.

I’m also making a new rule that anytime I go into a used bookstore from this day forward, I am REQUIRED to purchase at least one book every time.

If nothing else, it’ll help me grow a pretty bitchin’ collection.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Things at Which I Suck: Sad

Warning: This is a long one. It’s about my cat. It’s all mushy, touchy-feely stuff. It’s not really funny, like at all. In fact, there’s a really good chance that it’s just long and rambling. Okay, you’ve been warned. Proceed with caution.


I’ve said it here a time or two before and I’m sure I’ll say it again someday: emotions aren’t really my thing.

Sure, sure I have emotions, everyone does. I’m just not real adept at expressing them.

Happy, I’ve got down. I’m a pro at being happy.

Angry, I can do. I don’t do it nearly often enough, but I’m pretty good at it when the situation calls for it.

Sad, is a whole different story.

When I get sad, I’m not someone who necessarily likes to talk things out, that doesn’t really work for me. Lately, I’ve been sad and since I can’t really bring myself to talk about it, I figured I’d go with a different kind of therapy and write about it.

I figure I’m no good at sad, but I’m not-too-shabby at this whole writing thing, so it seems like the way to go.

With that said, let’s get right down to the sadness-laden nitty-gritty:

My cat, Tom S. Katt, died last week.

Tommy was a pretty old cat, fifteen to be exact, and we all knew that his time was running out, but it still sucks nonetheless.

To keep from going on some long-winded, blubbery tangent about how much I miss my cat, I’ll try to keep it short(ish) today.

I’ve been working on a longer story of sorts about him for awhile now. So if and/or when that ever sees the light of day, y’all can find out what a nerdy old cat-lady I really am.

Admittedly, the long version has become more of a feline version of “Marley and Me” than I’d hoped, but on the bright side it’s got no Owen Wilson and, well, roughly the same amount of Jennifer Aniston.

Anyway, today you get the short(ish) version.

We got Tom in 1994, back when I was ten, and he’s been a big part of our family ever since. He was quite the plump fuzz-ball for most of his life, but when I went home this past October he’d dropped roughly 10 pounds since May and was moving very, very slow.

His usual pissy, fighting spirit seemed to have been replaced by a desire to just lounge on people’s laps. He couldn’t go up the stairs anymore. He couldn’t jump up onto anyone’s bed anymore. He couldn’t even make the jump into a chair without assistance.

We all knew his time was running out.

I tried to take as many pictures with him as I could and spend as much time as I could with him, out of (now completely justified) fear that he wouldn’t make it until I came back for Christmas.

A week or so ago, on my weekly phone call home to the family—I’m a GREAT son—my Pappy told me that Tom was in pretty rough shape. He hadn’t been eating and had spent an entire day just lying on the floor, hiding in a corner.

He tried to sound the way Pappys are supposed to sound and went through the generic “old dirty animal” rhetoric that’s become his standard way of showing affection, but his voice sorta cracked which let me know it was serious.

My Pappy is a pretty stoic dude.

I can probably count the times I’ve seen him cry on one hand and I could hear him getting choked up on the other end of the phone.

I spent the better part of the next few days doing my best not to think about it, why start mourning a cat that isn’t dead. I tried to rationalize. I went even farther by thinking why should I mourn a cat at all…it’s just a cat.

That logic didn’t stick at all.

After fifteen years, a cat is no more “just a cat” than my brothers are “just dudes.”

He is family.

For years he’d slept in my bed with me and hung out with me when I was pecking away on an old typewriter, writing baseball stories and mini-novels that, to this day, have only been seen by his yellow eyes and mine.

He’s heard more of my dreams, secrets, and fears than anyone else. If for no better reason than because I knew he’d never tell a soul and even if he’d try, they’d just assume he was begging for food.

I rang in the year 2000 sitting in my bedroom eating day old pizza and ice cream with Dick Clark on the television and Tom licking away at my quart of cookies-n-cream beside me.

There was a brief period of time where I tried my hand at writing a series of stories starring Tom S. Katt as the protagonist.

Even when I’d been away from home for long periods of time, he’d still come right up to me when I got in the door and would barely leave my side.

The last time I was home he curled up in my suitcase so that I couldn’t pack to leave.

Sure, sure it very easily could have been that he was just comfy, but as a mourning former cat owner, I can believe whatever the hell I want.

Last Wednesday morning, I was at the laundromat before work and I called my Mama to check on him and she told me things weren’t looking good. She didn’t want to take him into the vet—most likely to avoid hearing the obvious—and she clung to the hope that he’d suddenly get better.

Unlike my Pappy, she didn’t mess around with trying to pretend she wasn’t sad.

For as long as I can remember, Mama has worked overnight shifts. When we were young it was so that at least one parent would be around the house at all times in case something happened to one of us.

After we’d all flown the coop, it was out of habit more than necessity.

During all those years, her only companion in the house during the day had been Tom, for fifteen years those two had the house to themselves every day from 8am to 4pm or longer.

She knew she was losing her best friend. She cried.

I nearly joined her when she—and don’t judge us, this is just what cat people do—put him on the phone. I heard him meowing and he sounded so weak and scared, I don’t even know if a cat can sound scared, but he did.

I spent most of the day trying to get it out of my head, but I just couldn’t.

She told me that she’d send me an email if/when he passed, because she assumed a phone call would just consist of us blubbering at one another for fifteen minutes or so and no one wants that.

Every day I avoided checking my email out of fear that there’d be an email telling me what I didn’t want to know.

Then, last Friday night, as Grace and I were leaving the house to go get some refreshments for my birthday party, my phone started to ring. As soon as I heard the tune, I knew it was Mama, and I knew Tom was gone.

We talked for half an hour and she cried and I, somehow, pulled a page from Pappy’s book and managed to be stoic. If nothing else, I think it’s because that’s what she needed more than anything else.

She told me that she’d finally given in and taken him to the vet on Thursday morning.

She told me that she came home and found him waiting at the door, meowing at her in a way that she interpreted to be asking for help. (Again, don’t judge the crazy cat people in mourning.)

She took him into the vet and, for the first time in his entire life, he got into a car without a struggle.

He sat in the seat like he’d been riding in cars his whole life. He’d meow at my mom and look out the window, then turn back and meow at her some more. It was just like a car ride with anyone else.

He didn’t struggle when they brought him into the vet, an event that used to result in a full-scale war of epic proportions. Back in the day, a trip to the vet usually resulted in piles of flying fur and flesh and pints of blood.

This time he was calm. He was ready.

They ran some tests and determined he had kidney failure. They could flush the kidneys and try to keep him going, but it would only gain a little more time and most likely, more pain.

Mama made the decision that no one should ever have to make and she told them to put him down.

After fifteen years, I can only imagine how awful that was for her. To have to actually say the words and tell someone you were ready for them to die.

She didn’t send me an email. She let a day pass.

In retrospect, I’m happy she didn’t send an email.

How do you encompass any sort of feeling and emotion in a few quick words?

Would you just say “Tom’s dead” or would you got into a long-winded, rambling tome like I’ve done here today?!

After I got off the phone, Grace and I went and got our refreshments. I spent the night blogging and then went to bed.

At about two in the morning, after thrashing around for nearly three hours, I finally got out of bed.

I did what anyone would do, I went to my computer and brought up pictures of Tom and I cried and blubbered like a small-child for nearly two hours.

I cried until my throat hurt and I was out of tears.

I cried until I’d run out of snot and Kleenex, thankfully these two ran empty at the same time.

I cried because I needed to cry.

I’m not a crier. Just like my Pappy, I can probably count the number of times I’ve legitimately cried on one-hand, but I needed to cry. I needed to be sad. I needed to feel bad for myself, Tommy, my Pappy, my brothers, and, mostly, my Mama.

So, for anyone who has seen me since then and asked me questions, about it, I want to thank you. I want to thank you for caring and thank you for your sympathy and thank you for simply being really great people.

I also want you to know that I’m not being brash and curt with my responses because I’m an uncaring douchebag.

It’s just that losing someone I’ve known longer than many of my friends, my girlfriend, my co-workers, and just about everyone reading this blog, well, that makes me sad.

…and I’m just not any good at sad.

A Moment with Grace

Grace can be a bit of a hypochondriac.

Don’t get me wrong, she’s not one of those folks who spend their evenings trolling webMD to prove that they’re dying of some obscure Venezuelan blood disease.

She’s more of the casual hypochondriac. If someone she knows has a bug that’s even remotely catchable, she assumes she’s got it.

Then there’s me. I never get sick. Like never, ever. I’ll get the occasional runny nose or head cold, but I never get really sick. Sure, sure my lung will occasionally collapse, but I don’t get sick.

As such, every time Grace comes around asking me to check if she feels warm or if her cough sounds like whooping cough, I generally tell her that she’s being paranoid and she’s plenty healthy.

She’ll usually agree and then ask me six or seven more times before ultimately consulting with other parties and—on occasion—a medical practitioner.

Well since yesterday, she’s felt a little “off” and assumes she’s coming down with something. We’ve gone through the usual “feel my head” routine and I think she’s fine and should just get plenty of sleep.

She, of course, is pretty sure she’s got the Swine Flu.

She went so far as to tell me that she had a dry cough…a week ago…and thinks that was a symptom of the Swine Flu.

As one might expect, I blew off this assertion as ridiculous to which she gave me another quotealicious nugget of her awesomeness and today’s moment with Grace:

“You’ll regret this in 3-5 days when the rapid onset of symptoms causes me to decease!!”

…yes Grace, yes I will.

With moments like this, I think we’ll all regret my callous dismissal of your week-old “dry cough” and non-existent fever.

She’s one of a kind, ladies and gents, one of a kind.

PS: If by some fluke chance Grace does come down with Swine Flu, this blog can serve as a testament to my douchebaggery and fodder for hundreds of thousands of future “I Told You So” moments.

Shout-Outs: The Kunkels

I just wanted to take a little space here to give a shout-out to my good friends—and former roommates—Mike and Alicia Kunkel.

I’ve known Mike since I was in middle school and Alicia since she moved to the Hartley in high school.

They’re two of the finest people that you’ll ever meet. In fact, they received an unofficial shout-out from me earlier this year.

As such, I’m proud to give them a legit shout-out and announce that they’ve just had their first baby!!

That’s right folks, I’m a quasi-uncle, yet again.

Samuel Michael Kunkel was born Monday morning at 8:40am (that’s Central time, y’all),

The future Major League Baseball Hall of Famer weighed in at 7 lbs 13.2 ozs and 19 3/4 inches long.

Major props to Mike and Alicia who have both been ready to be parents for years, I have no doubt that they’ll be absolutely awesome playing the roles of Mom and Dad from here on out.

Plus, the kid’s going to need a publicist at some point and everyone knows I like 15% off the top as much as the next guy!! ;-)

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Reeking of Patron Repellent?!

Why do patrons want to do everything in their power to avoid interaction with me at the circulation desk?

I realize that sometimes I can smell a little too Axe-y and sometimes I can appear too much like some sort of militant gangster (or “gangsta” as the kids say), but come on, I’m pretty freakin’ approachable.

I’m generally quite smiley and friendly, even to the douchebags.

Perhaps it’s some sort of innate sense they get that when they get near me, kind of like Johnny Smith in “The Dead Zone.”

Yeah, maybe that’s it, they can just sense that if the interaction with me goes awry, they’ll be end up on my blog, sitting as a shining beacon of d-baggery for all of eternity (or at least until the interwebs are destroyed during the impending zombie apocalypse).

I don’t blame ‘em for that one part, I guess.

Although, in my defense, the only people whose stories ever find their way to my blog, are people who have earned the “privilege” of having their tales immortalized in print (or, um, pixels?!).

Also I’ve never mentioned a patron by name, so even if—by some complete fluke chance—they’d ever stumble upon my blog, they probably wouldn’t even realize I’m talking about them; unless of course their douchey behavior is habitual, in which case, f*ck ‘em, they deserve it!

Additionally, since taking up the task of documenting my interactions with the worst of the worst, I’ve found hordes of fellow library peeps who appreciate having these stories told, if for no better reason than to not feel like they’re alone in the world of serving what is generally (but certainly not always) the most unappreciative clientele in the solar system.

Anyway, where was I going with this?! Ah yes, people avoiding me.

Okay, so I get that if someone does have some sort of extrasensory perception and they can tell that I’m going to write about them for their forthcoming douchebaggery, well then by all means, avoid me.

Avoid me just like you’d attempt to avoid the swine flu, MGD 64, turtleneck sweaters, Jay Leno’s new show, McDonald’s Filet-o-Fish sammitch, cafeteria food, Dane Cook movies, Detroit Lions games on television, gonnorrhea, layoffs, Freddy Krueger, wearing white after Labor Day, that awkward uncle who always shows up to Christmas hammered, empty-calories, zombies, Twilight fan-fiction, the movie Corky Romano, black cats, Star Trek conventions, and/or a night of stand-up “comedy” featuring Larry the Cable Guy.

Seriously, if you’ve got ESP and a propensity for being a huge pain in the ass, it’s in your best interest to ask the person beside me for help or to avoid the desk altogether and make a beeline for the self-checkout machine.

On the other hand, if you’re a pleasant human-being; the type that says hello and please and thank you, you can probably just go ahead and come straight to me for assistance and everything will be a-okay.

For every one person I do write about there are about 10,000 that I don’t write anything about; people who were nice and friendly and received wonderful, polite, Midwestern-esque service from me.

It’s a two-way street, folks.

If you don’t suck at life, neither will I.

As such, I fail to understand why so many people—even the nice ones—tend to avoid me like the plague.

Whenever I’m on the desk with someone else, people blow past me to have the other person help them and/or when I’m on the desk alone, they’ll go straight to the self-checkout machine.

Today this dude—who is always quite friendly and, as such, receives wonderful service from me—avoided me to spend nearly fifteen minutes messing around with the self-checkout machine to renew some books.

I offered to help him at the desk three times and he turned me down thrice.

After his fifteen minutes of failed attempts he came to the desk and it took me all of 30 seconds to get his books renewed and send him on his way.

I’ve had nearly half a dozen other people do the same thing this week, I’m a little confused.

Is my previously friendly, Iowan demeanor getting replaced with surly city scowl?

Am I legitimately wearing so much douchey, frat-boy body spray that people can’t stand to be within a three foot radius?

Is all of the caffeine in my energy drinks forcing my eyeballs to bulge out of my head in a way that is more frightening than inviting?

Whatever it is, it’s leaving me very confused.

If anyone out there has an answer to why patrons are avoiding me, I’d love to hear it.

Until then I’ll just sit here, grinning awkwardly at everyone who walks and hoping that they’ll choose me over that damned self-checkout machine.

I’m not gonna like, folks it’s a pretty big blow to the ego to watch people consciously choose a machine over the once-assumed-to-be-friendly Iowan.

It’s an even bigger blow when you realize that I can check out a dozen books, whilst blindfolded; faster than the machine (sans blindfold) can checkout three books.

Now I realize that this post has degenerated into some odd combination of the Matrix and that old John Henry song, so I’m going to revert back to my main point and hope I get some answer from y’all.

Why do patrons avoid me?!

Friday, December 04, 2009

Five Really Dumb Things that Fill Me with Rage

I was in bed the other night, completely unable to sleep and I found myself thinking about some ridiculously stupid things.

The worst-part was that while thinking of these incredibly dumb, incredibly innocuous things, I started to get angry.

As such, I’ve decided to make a quick list of really dumb things that fill me with rage.


I hate that King-Size candy bars aren’t really big candy bars anymore. Most of the time it’s just two small candy bars in one wrapper. This always leads me to contemplate murdering the guy at the 7-11 counter who sold me the “supposedly” king-sized Snickers.

What a lying JERK!!


I sometimes get upset that I don’t play videogames enough. I have three games that I either bought or received as gifts in 2006 and I’ve yet to play any of them. I have two other games that I’ve only played two or three times, ever.

I bought a new baseball game this spring and every time I turn it on, I spend three hours manually updating all of the rosters and never get around to playing the actual game.

When I realize how much time and money I’ve wasted, I always get an urge to take my Playstation and beat John Mayer to death with it.


I flip out when I can’t get a text message to send. Every time that box that says “Retry?” pops up, I want to chew unpopped popcorn and punch a baby panda in the face!!


I get so upset that it can’t be healthy when I’m trying to change the channel or volume, but the remote sensor won’t pick up the signal from the remote.

I move around and around and around to avoid actually getting up and adjusting it on the TV, which is only like three feet from my couch, and eventually—when I do have to get up—I flip out and nearly destroy the TV.


I get irrationally upset when I got into Dunkin’ Donuts to get an iced coffee and they don’t have the French Vanilla flavor syrup goo. I mean seriously, what’s the F-ing point of advertising the delicious sugary-concoction if you don’t have it!!!

Ugh, without it, the stuff just tastes like coffee and that’s not cool.

…and there you have it, my Faithful Readers, five REALLY dumb things that fill me with rage.

I guess that was entirely pointless, my apologies to any of y'all who are still reading. You deserve better.

Five Good Years: One Year Later

Tomorrow is my birthday, my 26th birthday to be exact.

It’s a little daunting to be entering final year of my mid-twenties and nearing that shaky, pre-midlife crisis-worthy zone known as "the late-twenties."

The late-twenties are when most people I know hit that whole "what the hell am I doing with my life" stage and start to contemplate major changes like babies, moving across the country, new jobs, and/or simply flipping out and going on a state-wide killing spree.

Luckily, I’ve got another year left before I have to worry about any of that crap, so instead I’m going to take a look back at the blog entry I wrote this same time last year, laying out a game plan for 25 and beyond.

I figure at one year in, it’d be a good time to take a look back and see how I’m doing on my checklist.


Drink more water and less soda and energy drinks.

-Well, this one has had ups and downs throughout the year. At two or three points, I’ve given up on energy drinks altogether (as I’ve done dozens of times in the past) only to find myself pulled into the sweet, intoxicating grip of a Red Bull on some sleepy-eyed Friday morning.

Reinstate my gym membership…and use it.

-Hmmmmmmmm, this one reminds me a lot of my junior prom date, I think it goes both ways.

I reinstated my membership in February and hit the gym hard and heavy for months in preparation of softball season. Along the way I even found some events to be blog-worthy and unleashed them upon the world.

After July, however, I hit a speed bump and quite going regularly, and instead switched to a workout at home plan, despite still paying the money for the gym.

I’ve been working to get myself back in a regular gym cycle and hopefully, I can get it going again at a regular pace really soon.

Maybe dial back the intensity a little bit when playing sports…maybe?!

-Much like the previous two, this one sorta worked and sorta didn’t work. I still got pretty banged up this year in softball, but I didn’t dive or slide on the turf at all (or at least not that I can recall). I did, however, slide and dive all over the grass and dirt and sand and at certain fall ball fields, all over manhole covers and into pipes.

By season’s end, I was in pretty rough shape and ready for some time off, hopefully next year I can find a way to avoid the collateral damage altogether.

Ice my knees when they hurt!!

-Nope. I’m just not a good icer.

Cut my McDonalds intake by (at bare minimum) 50%

-This one I can safely I say I accomplished with flying colors. For those who don’t recall, I established a McDonald’s Embargo back in February and haven’t been back since. Although logically, I should have caved on the embargo in May.

It was really the only dining option available to any of the groomsmen at my buddy Jay’s wedding and while everyone else ate the delicious, fatty mess that is Mickey-Ds, I sat there like an idiot and just watched.

I was starving all through the wedding and pretty much was hammered after one post-ceremony beer.


Start running again—or at least jogging—whatever the knees can handle.

-During the early stages of my return to the gym I was doing a lot of running and jogging, although—as anticipated—it pretty much decimated my knees so it only lasted for a little over a month.

Get rid of the gut. I’m the skinny-fat guy. Not a situation I’d ever envisioned for myself.

-Mission accomplished. Suh-weet!!

Find a way to sleep more and sleep better.

-Results on this one vary. There are a number of examples of me having issues with sleep in the past year.

Some examples are bad and some are quite wonderful.

All-in-all, I’ve done a decent job of sleeping better, but I still go through long stretches where I can’t really get any decent shut-eye.

Light beer only. I made that switch once for like a year and it was highly effective.

-Yeah, not so much. In the home, I’m all about the light beer and at most bars, I’m all about the light beer, but when I get to the Muddy…it’s all about the Budweiser.

Although, by comparison, Bud could be considered “light beer,” despite not being designated as such.

Help lead the Bibs to another softball championship.

-The Bibliotechs made a solid run, but as I detailed back in August, we fell just short of a championship.

The season was not without its fair share of—um—interesting moments and lots of big wins, but ultimately we were forced to settle for second-place.


Write more and try to get published somewhere…

-Well I’ve certainly had the writing more thing taken care of, but getting published hasn’t exactly happened in the first year. I’ve been featured on a number of sports websites, but I also haven’t really made any attempts to get published anywhere with anything else I write.

Early in the year I received an awesome offer to become a Featured Columnist for BleacherReport.com.

My blogging here at Blank Stares and Blank Pages took a hit as a result and in the late summer, early fall I fell into a pretty big rut thanks to a good ole fashioned bout of writer’s block, but I’m back in the saddle now and feeling good.

Call my friends and family more. I’ve gotten really bad about calling.

-I think I improved on this one. I know I spent a lot more time on the phone in 2009 than I did in 2008.

Spend more time just hanging out with Mlady.

-Grace and I did a great job of spending more time together last year.

Notably in the past few months we’ve become addicted to “Scrubs” and are doing our best to plow through all of that and we recently made our first IKEA run so that we could turn our spare bedroom into a writing room.

Take more pictures.

-I failed horribly at this one. I always think of pictures I’d like to take, but usually I don’t have my camera or I’m too busy doing whatever it is I want the picture of to take one.

Apply for more jobs in baseball.

-I applied to be the General Manager of the Toronto Blue Jays, San Diego Padres, and Washington Nationals. I also applied to a number of other writing and front-office jobs in baseball at all levels.

Needless to say, I’ve yet to hear back.

Keep rockin’ out to whatever crappy music I’m listening to at the time.

-Done and done.

Read more, a lot more.

-I’ve been plowing through books at a much better pace than in recent years, but still not overly impressive when compared to everyone else I know…perhaps I should hold myself accountable with some sort of goal for 2010, hmmmmmmmmm?!?!

Be a little nicer and more helpful whenever I can.

-I think I pulled this one off pretty well.

Win my f’n Fantasy Baseball league!!

-As is customary, I won the regular season and lost in the playoffs. Such is life.
I did, however, win $1000 in the NFBC league that I play in with my buddy Mike. It was AWESOME.

Keep on rockin’ the “Walter Mitty Syndrome.” Nothing wrong with a little imagination.

-Definitely accomplished this one in 2009. I went so far as to share a little nugget of my WMS with my Faithful Readers.

Get Jennifer Aniston to retract the restraining order.

-Not quite yet, but I’m sure she’s breaking down. After all she is 40 now, perhaps she’s willing to forgive and forget?!

Work harder, better and smarter. I feel like I’ve done a lot of work the past two years, but don’t feel like I’ve taken any steps forward, quite frustrating.

-Well, it turned out to be a year of less opportunity and more anxiety than anything else. Needless to say I didn’t do a whole lot to climb up the ladder at work.

I have, however, reached a point where I’m pretty much at peace with the entire “you could be fired at any time” cloud that’s hanging over everyone’s head. I figure if it’s gonna happen, it’s gonna happen and there ain’t much I can do about it.

It’s made things drastically less stressful and I’m quite happy I was able to kick the whole “I’m constantly worried about getting axed” mentality.

Be an awesome uncle.

-I think I’ve pretty much rocked the world in my capacity as an uncle, albeit in very short exposure to my tiny lil niece. To be honest, I think I’ve only seen here like three or four times total.

All I know is that every time I see her she is like twice as big as she was before and is doing a gajillion new things that she couldn’t do such as crawl, walk, run, and (sorta) talk.

Laugh more.

-Done and done, large props go out to the now (technically) defunct Friday Morning Sausage Party for this one.

…’twas a good year for tons of laughter.

All-in-all, I’d say I got a pretty good start on my “Five Good Years” game plan.

I hope to accomplish a whole bunch more of these goals in the coming year, but for now I’m less worried about the goals and more worried about my birthday party, after all it is the last mid-twenties birthday I’ll ever have.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Things at Which I Suck: Cooking

So, I came home from work the other night and it was like 9:30 in the PM or something like that.

I got in the house and I was pretty hungry, but Grace had already eaten, so I was on my own.

I decided I was going to make myself a Gobbler.

For those who aren’t in the know, the Gobbler is probably the single greatest sammitch of all-time.

It goes by a gajillion other names: “The Day After Thanksgiving Sammitch,” “The Pilgrim,” “The Mayflower,” and “Leftover Sammitch,” amongst others.

The long and short of it is that it’s a sammitch filled with turkey, stuffing, and cranberry sauce.

Additionally, it’s F-ing amazing. Like seriously, I would trade my good friend Mike Kunkel’s first-born child (which had better pop out before my freakin’ birthday!! I refuse to share!!) for a Gobbler right now.

To make the Gobbler, I boiled some water and threw in a box of Stove Top stuffing.

While that was “cooking,” I attempted to open up a can of cranberry sauce.

Unfortunately, our can-opener is on its last legs and barely cracked the top of the can.

As such, I was forced to improvise.

I stuck a knife into the tiny hole I’d created and tried to—um—saw my way through the top of the can and that worked marginally well for a little bit.

I then tried the can-opener again and got about half of the can sawed into pretty well, before I resorted to the good ole fashioned “man method.”

The “man method” pretty much just entailed me swearing a lot and trying to use brute force in a situation where it was completely impractical to do so.

As one would expect, it is completely pointless to attempt to “rip a can open” using your brute strength.

Yet that’s exactly what I tried to do for—well—longer than I’m proud to admit, and then I decided to revert back to my old, drastically less manly—yet for less-retarded—methods of can-opening.

Eventually, with more off-and-on can-openering and sawing with a knife, I got it about three-quarters of the way and I decided to stick a fork under the lid and just pry off the top.

At this point the lid eventually popped, but I got cranberry sauce all over the kitchen ceiling.

Within seconds of successfully opening the can—and spraying my ceiling with an unnatural (yet yummy) viscous goo—I remembered the stuffing and went to stir it, before it turned into one big ball of gross mush.

Only it had started to boil over, so I quickly lifted it off the stove and started stirring, only to send stuffing flying everywhere, including—somehow—down my shirt.

The stuffing that had found its way into my shirt eventually slid down and into my (apparently far too baggy) pants, and from there it eventually settled into my undies.

How?! I don’t freakin’ know, but it did and, believe-you-me, there are few things more awkward than having stuffing in your underoos.

After ducking into the bathroom to dispose of the stuffing and cleaning the cranberry off the ceiling, I assumed it would be clear sailing. Like seriously, what else could go wrong at the point, right?!

Well, in lieu of gravy, the Gobbler is made with mayo.

We were running low on mayo, so I had to shake and shake and shake the squeezy-mer-bobber to get any to come out.

Only, the lid apparently wasn’t shut tight enough and while I was shaking, mayo launched out of the squeezy-mer-bobber and all over the kitchen sink, the wall behind the sink, and the drying rack for the dishes.

In the end, I got my Gobbler, but I gotta be honest, if a dude can’t make a simple sammitch without spraying his ceiling with cranberry, get a crotch-full of stuffing, and splattering his kitchen with mayo…is it really worth it?!

I vote no.

From here on out, if I come home late, I’ll just have a bowl of Trix and call it good.