"...it's like Will Rogers, Jean Shepherd and some grumpy Jewish man all rolled into one."

Saturday, March 30, 2013


It's Easter weekend, and the missus and I are taking the next week off for a brief vacation. We've vacationed before; in fact have done so with such frequency over the years that there's not much left for us to vacate. You name the place - we've either been there or can find it on a map (well, a Google map).

Recently the term "staycation" became part of the lexicon. It appears to have taken root during the most recent recession when every American was suddenly laid off and/or underwater on a sub-prime mortgage and couldn't afford $4 a gallon for gas, and was therefore unable to go anywhere. Since all modes of transportation were now priced beyond middle-class reach, families stayed at home and generated adventures in their own neighborhoods. Instead of the ocean -- swim in the pool. Instead of the mountains -- climb the stairs. Instead of doing something new, exotic and fun -- watch DVDs all week. Fortunately, the economy appears on its way to recovery despite how much the GOP denies it, so travel has become de rigueur (from the French, meaning "trapped in the car") again.

Some folks have their vacation "spot" - the same destination they head for during those precious one or two weeks off during beach or ski season. The advantage of this approach is that planning becomes easier over the years - you know where you're going, you know what you'll do when you get there, you know which restaurants to avoid. Others are more adventurous -- reading travel guides and planning itineraries that will take them to far and distant lands. The advantage here is the thrill of discovery of the new; the risk is you find yourself thousands of miles from home, perhaps surrounded by people speaking a language you don't understand and oh shit where's my credit card??

People look forward to vacations because they claim they need a break from work. Gee, I don't know what you do for a living, but at my job I have uninterrupted access to the Internet, get to eat anything I want for lunch for free (depending on what I find when rummaging through the refrigerator) and can sit in a bathroom stall and read without anyone clamoring to get in to grab a hair dryer. Why would I want to leave that kind of bliss behind?

Here's an oxymoron for you: "family vacation". Isn't your family what you need to get away from in the first place? Much less jam them all into a 120-square-foot motel room with only one toilet? One of the strangest things I experienced recently was being on a business trip and seeing families checking into the hotel -- as their ultimate destination. They weren't staying there as a base of operations for daily excursions into the surrounding metropolitan area or zoo or museums, or because Grandma's house doesn't have enough bedrooms for company. No, these families would troop down for breakfast, let the kids make all the free waffles they wanted, and then the moms and dads spent the rest of the day sitting in plastic chairs while their shrieking children jumped in and out of a chlorine-saturated indoor pool. For a change of pace, their shrieking children jumped on me in the heated whirlpool. Some parents would set their kids loose in the exercise room: running backwards on the treadmill, playing giant inflatable dodgeball, or climbing on the weight station like it was a jungle gym. These families didn't even go out for dinner; they'd have Papa John's delivered to the hotel lobby, and then they'd sit in the dining room eating pizza and watching TV just like they would do at home. For these families, the "vacation" was a break from having to make their own beds or clean their own bathrooms.

(On a related note - don't you find it odd when a hotel has a laundry room? If you're on vacation and doing laundry, that is one shitty vacation...)

Anyway -- next week it'll be just us two adults engaging in some sorely-needed time away from the overly-familiar. I'm looking forward to a trip to the Cape. I wonder where Carol decided to go?

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Somnambulance Ride

There's nothing worse than a sleepless night, is there? Unless you have a job as a mattress tester, there's generally no way to make up the lost sleep during the day. While there are studies out there advocating for "power-napping" at work, most companies (i.e., the ones you and I work for) haven't yet embraced such forward thinking.

My restlessness seems to come in spurts -- I'll have trouble sleeping for several nights in a row, then the next night get back to normal. The worst for me was two solid weeks where I just could not get to sleep, not for a single minute. That was the one time I took a prescription sleep aid -- the good news, I didn't suddenly awake to find myself operating heavy machinery or walking along the side of the highway; the bad news, it didn't help me get to sleep at all.

Lately I've been going through a bout of insomnia, and what's particularly frustrating is that I fall asleep just fine but wake up several hours in and then can't get back to sleep until the first hints of dawn, if at all. Reading doesn't help, mostly because I start to get drowsy and drop whatever weighty tome I'm perusing on my face, which wakes me up all over again. (I find a dropped smartphone also leaves a mark.) Generally, I come downstairs and turn on my old friend the television. If I'm lucky, there's a "Law & Order" rerun on: I've seem 'em all yet have forgotten the plot twists, so I can feel both relaxed and intrigued at the same time. Inevitably, if there's a movie on that I'd want to see, it's already started and I hate to come in after the movie has started. I don't watch so-called "reality TV" -- the news is reality enough for me, thank you very much -- or infomercials, and don't care for the hyper-caffeinated pace of most sports highlight shows rerun in the middle of the night. That pretty much leaves flipping through the channel guide as my principal viewing activity. Mostly I end up seeing what was on, the program I would have wanted to watch that just ended.

Over the years, I've become much more of an "early to bed" person. During a period when my job responsibilities were at their most demanding, I'd routinely wake up pretty early -- usually between 5 or 5:30 -- regardless of whatever latitude I'd given myself to sleep later via the alarm setting. (And if I knew I had to get up extra early for a business trip, then I was guaranteed not to sleep a wink while waiting for that 4:00 AM alert.) Workday, weekend, it didn't matter - I'd wake up at the same time on Saturday and Sunday as during the week. The concept of "sleeping in" was foreign to me.The last few years work hasn't been as demanding (or, frankly, as rewarding), and I've gradually found my way to where I don't wake up until the clock tells me it's time to vacate the covers. However, now I find that the later I go to bed, the earlier I wake up. Even on the weekends, if I've been out at a party or to see a show, or stay up to watch "SNL" or a movie on cable, for every hour after my customary turn-in time that I finally hit the hay, I get up that much earlier in the morning. To bed at 10 means waking up around 6:30; to bed at 11:30 results in ready to go at 5. After midnight I might as well not even bother with putting a dent in the mattress. Fortunately, we have cats to keep me company whenever I come downstairs, and by "keep me company" I mean "pester me mercilessly until I feed them".

I worked third-shift some years ago and enjoyed it. It was nice to have the run of the place with no interference from the executive team and in the company of fellow late-nighters. If I'd been single at that time, I would have found the schedule ideal and tried to maintain it forever. Being married with a young one (our son had just started elementary school) made it more challenging: I'd get home just in time to help get him out the door for the school bus and would sleep until he came home, but that was never quite enough and those little ones surely want to be entertained in the afternoon. I'd sometimes take a nap after dinner, before leaving for work -- but naps leave me sluggish and grumpy and, in that state, a less-than-optimal driver. A number of my co-workers would merge break times with the meal half-hour and take naps in the middle of their shifts. That worked out well for them, since they'd find a quiet, dark spot somewhere in the building (often on a different floor), stretch out/curl up -- and fall into a deep slumber. As the shift supervisor, I'd notice that folks were 20 or 30 minutes late returning from their breaks and have to search the building for them. Talk about "power napping" -- this was full-on, making-up-for-what-I'm-missing-because-I'm-working-two-jobs slumber. I only tried to nap once while at work -- waking up sluggish and grumpy, as usual -- so substituted laps around the floor in place of sleep. Not so much sleep-walking as sleepy-walking. Sometimes folks would pair up during nap time and I'd have to... well, that's another blog post entirely.

As Warren Zevon sang, "I'll sleep when I'm dead." (He's been sleeping soundly for about a decade now, I believe.) He was referring to a life of drinking, drugging and general excess. While I may have indulged in one or two of those vices in my past, currently my motto is "I'll sleep when I'm ready -- DAMN! I missed my moment. Well, at least I've got Lennie Briscoe's wisecracking to keep me company."

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

10 Reasons Not To Own Cats

  1. They like to share their food -- about 30 minutes after the digestive process has gotten underway.
  2. They shed hair that finds its way into folded clothes underneath other folded clothes inside a chest of drawers behind closet doors. In other people's houses.
  3. They like to keep you company, even when you are sleeping. Sometimes they offer you a "snack" in the middle of the night.
  4. They lick and kiss and caress you right up until the moment they sink their needle-sharp claws deep into your soft, supple skin.
  5. When company comes to call, they make a bee-line for the lap of the person who is most allergic to them.
  6. They have boundary issues -- primarily with the sides of the litter pan, at which they aim their pee just slightly above.
  7. When you get up from your favorite chair or spot on the couch, even for just a moment, you'll find them fast asleep in that very spot upon your return. When you try to reclaim it, they'll sink their needle-sharp claws deep into your soft, supple skin.
  8. When they're not eating, they're thinking about eating and letting you know how hungry they are.
  9. Whoever said "let sleeping dogs lie" obviously never owned a cat. Claws, skin, etc.
  10. The difference between "kittens" and "cats" is like the difference between Lindsay Lohan in The Parent Trap and Lindsay Lohan in Liz & Dick.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Things You Never Want To Hear @ Work

  • "That meeting started an hour ago."
  • "Random drug testing is today?"
  • "Why did my email to the CEO bounce back as 'undeliverable'?"
  • "HR wants to see you."
  • "Our best days are ahead."
  • "Would you mind showing the temp everything you've been doing?"
  • "Did anyone else have trouble cashing their paycheck?"
  • "Would you mind copying your files into this network folder?"
  • "Nobody's seen the boss for, like, a week!"
  • "Good news - you don't have to bother filling out your performance evaluation."
  • "The stock price isn't important."
  • "We've got a lot of residual good will with these people."
  • "Why doesn't my code let me into the building?"
  • "My spreadsheets are automatically backed up when I turn off my computer, aren't they?"
  • "At least I know my job is safe."
  • "Where'd all the copiers go?"
  • "Nothing is going to change."
  • "Did you mean to hit 'Reply-All'?"
  • "That's just a rumor."
  • "I didn't know the Board of Directors was meeting today."
  • "Hey, where's my monitor and desk lamp?"

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Oxymorons for the 21st Century

  • Political benefit
  • Bipartisan agreement
  • Fox News
  • Sincere apology
  • Fiscal responsibility
  • Clean coal
  • Thoughtful analysis
  • Progressive Democrat
  • Lasting impression
  • Computer literate
  • Insightful commentary
  • Social media
  • Peaceful transition
  • Facebook friend
  • Compassionate conservative
  • Inspiring debate
  • Sports hero
  • Financial stability
  • Reality programming
  • Corporate integrity
  • GOP leadership
  • Public servant
  • Work family
  • Influential blogger