30 Signs You May Be In Your 30s

 

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Hey Gang!

My least favorite addiction happens to be the clickbait lists found scattered across the Internet (I’m looking at you Buzzfeed…). I can’t help but read them.

“Article”: 15 things that only humans know.

Me: Hmm, I’m human. I bet I can relate to these!

That’s really what it is all about. They give out broad generalities to make you say, “Hey, that’s me!” Don’t get me wrong, I’m not hating on the type of entertainment they’re presenting. If anything, I’m congratulating them with a bit of my own pastiche. What I am saying is I’m not sure if my celebrity husband is Chris Pratt. I always thought of myself as a Ryan Gosling kind of guy but if a Buzzfeed test says I’m going to marry Chris Pratt, I guess I better go look at rings this weekend (I hear he is single! *squeal*).

I thought it would be fun to do something not broad at all. I want to be incredibly specific and use personal experience (my cells have decayed for about 31 years now).

Here is a list of 30 signs you may be in your 30s.

  • You hear any song by UB40 and think, “Hey, that’s pretty good!”
  • You think of dating as being an interviewer. You’ve moved past the phase where you want to hold them and watch the stars float overhead in the moonlit night. You’re now asking them direct and hard questions. You like long walks in the rain? Cool. How is your 401k? Do you have health insurance? What’s your student debt like?
  • You look into the mirror and notice a slightly receding hairline. You pull some hair down to cover it and tell yourself, Man, this bathroom lighting is awful. Better switch to LED bulbs.
  • You look at your growing amount of gray hair and believe you are “pulling it off” but really you look like the creeper who lives in the house down the street that everyone avoids on their morning power walks.
  • 10 p.m. is REALLY pushing your bed time.
  • You find it harder and harder to meet friends for drinks because the usual response is, “I wish I could but the kids really want to go to skyzone tonight. Have a drink for me!”
  • You notice your body is changing but not in that look-at-me-ma-I’m-a-growing-teen kind of way. It’s more so pops and cracks that make you think, That didn’t sound good at all…
  • You get depressed because your favorite restaurant started putting a calorie count next to their menu items.
  • If you have kids, you realize why your parents always said, “I hope you have one just like you.” Because you did and you kind of hate your younger self a.k.a. your current child/part-time hellspawn.
  • You begin “drunk-proofing” yourself. Okay, keys are in my right pocket, phone is in my left pocket with 911 speed dialed at position 1, I.D. and 20 dollars are in my shirt pocket, and I drank 16oz of Pepto-Bismol. Tonight is going to be awesome!
  • Fast forward to the day after you “only had a couple drinks.” You realize you had 4 beers and 2 shots. Someone may have bought a round but you aren’t sure. You also realize that obviously Daenerys Targaryen said “dracarys” and your brain is on fire from a massive hangover. You may have lost your soul from vomiting as well.
  • You get mad at your friend when you ask them what they are doing and they say, “Me and Beth are going to Tanner’s Orchard. Pretty stoked!” What makes this worse is that you are 30% mad because you wanted to hang with the person and have a friend brunch, but you are 70% angry because you weren’t invited and you fucking LOVE orchards (I mean fresh apples? Come on…).
  • You love brunch. Like, a lot. So much so that you may actually go by yourself even though you know they will put you over by the bathrooms at the tiny table or the table on the patio closest to the curb where inevitably someone is smoking and you think, What is this? A Jim Jarmush movie? Who still smokes?
  • You eat one, just one, piece of pizza and you gain 30 pounds. This is directly averse to when you were in your 20s and could eat 4 slices of pizza, 6 hot wings, and 8 beers. You would then be hungry roughly 3 hours later. Never. Gained. A. Pound.
  • You get really into loose-leaf tea and craft beers for some reason. Like, really into them.
  • You realize dating on apps is probably the worst thing on earth but you still have no idea how to hit on someone in public so you walk up to them and whisper, “Swipe right” lightly into their ear.
  • You hear Sade’s “Smooth Operator” and your shoulders gently sway left and right uncontrollably.
  • You begin statements by saying “when I was your age…” without any semblance of irony.
  • People between 18 and 24 look like toddlers playing dress up.
  • You start looking for “practical” cars. They most likely have heated seats, no spoiler, and “get great gas mileage.” Most times people will call it a van but you have to reiterate it is a mid-size SUV.
  • Kombucha becomes part of your diet. You hate it but you hear it’s “so good for you.”
  • Your doctor says, “That’s just part of getting older” way too much for your liking.
  • You’re super worried about when you should start getting a colonoscopy. (Including right now after reading this.)
  • You’re perpetually “hangry” due to only eating things that are supposedly good for you even though they taste like Styrofoam had a love child with cardboard.
  • You read non-fiction and actually enjoy it. Like, you seek it out. You sit down (probably with a glass of that oolong tea you brewed at home with your new tea set from China) and you open the book. You probably read the forward as well.
  • You refuse to date someone who has never heard of All That, Are You Afraid Of The Dark, or Bill and Ted’s Awesome Adventure.
  • Speaking of dating, you have come to the conclusion that people in their 30s who are still single are insane. You then have an existential crisis because YOU’RE in your 30s and still single so you must be crazy and it hurts your soul.
  • You don’t feel “immortal” like you did in your early 20s. This means you probably avoid super dangerous things like walking over sewer grates, getting too much sun (Luckily you wear enough sunscreen you look like the creeper from the Little Baby’s Ice Cream commercials), and you have your own grave plot picked out.
  • You track your steps.
  • You’re perfectly okay with not being okay all the time.
  • You love being in your 30s because you have a decent job and enough life experience to know what you want out of life and who you want in your life because you are awesome and so is your aforementioned life.

 

Until next week, friends!

 

-Chris

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The RV Stalks At Noon

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Hey Gang!

 

I admit that I have an overactive imagination. I can’t help it. I have been creating these overt, elaborate plots of nothingness for no reason. For example, I once went for a walk on a trail in the back woods with some friends. Along the way, we found barrettes, a small pillow, and a blanket. As a precursor to my revelation, this is adjacent to a campground and fishing; well-travelled it is, as Yoda would say (did you read that in his voice? J). What then unraveled in my mind was that there was a serial killer on the loose in the woods, killing people while they sleep and burying them along the trail…and we were next! Completely true story! Not the murders, the imagination.

Another instance is that, on a date,   we sat and made up stories of all the people around us. We sat next to kings and queens, spies, and everything under the sun. It was a fun night and rare that you meet someone who shares that imagination with you. I understand that my imagination is ridiculous but it is fun and makes the mundane seem like a festival. However, it does get to me. I get uber-paranoid because I let my imagination run. For instance, I was driving through town and the car behind me mirrored every turn that I made. It was unnerving because I thought of every Creepypasta and episode of Alfred Hitchcock that was even remotely similar and it made me freak out. I started going faster, and they matched my speed, I slowed down thinking they would go around but nope, they stayed behind me. I finally whipped into my parking lot to see them speed past and into the distant night. I let out a long exhale and contemplated my sanity.

Fast forward to now. I come to work and every day there is an RV camped out in our lot. We share a rather large parking lot with a couple other corporate buildings. This isn’t your average RV; this is the watch-the-back-windows-for-someone-mouthing-“help” type of RV. It has not moved in 2 months and I have to say, it is a bit creepy but it is bringing out my inner sleuth. I have seen a balding man come out of it once and walk up to the building. The next time I saw him place something on the back bumper and then hop in a little S10 with filing cabinets in it and drive away. Below are the theories I have come up with:

  1. He works there and is having an unfortunate circumstance where he cannot afford a house
  2. He may be in the movement of not planting roots.
  3. He is a murderer that is on the move and needs to be mobile to finish his awful deeds
  4. He is using the RV as a kidnap shack in the open because he secretly wants to get caught
  5. It broke down after he was traveling the world, making it by ship from Russia and is too attached to just leave it
  6. He is a member of a secret society that only live in RVs used in ‘80s horror movies
  7. He is Illuminati….
  8. He may or may not be a vampire, which means I am living the real version of Fright Night
  9. He is a meth dealer who used to be a chemistry teacher and now has cancer but this is his way of paying for the bills and not leaving his family in debt (followed closely by his sidekick, Jessie).
  10. I need to get a life.

It’s definitely one of these!

-Chris

Campfire Tales Part 2: Creepy-Crawlies and The Scream That Ended The Trip

This was the first time I had ever camped, except in my ninja turtle tent in my bedroom floor as a tot. I feel like that doesn’t count.

I know one thing, the dark is pretty terrifying. Let me clarify, what is in the dark, or the possibility thereof, is terrifying. I use this preface to go on about when our noses started to run. We had no toilet paper, tissues, or paper towels. However, in the darkened exterior of the camp, about 50 yards away, was the public restroom. Ben essentially made fun of me when I proposed we both go look for toilet paper. It didn’t bother me. At least this way, when the three-eyed beast came to eat me, I wouldn’t be alone in its stomach!

I carried my gas lantern as Ben led the way to the outhouse. It was impossibly dark only three feet away from the lantern. This made my mind go to places I didn’t know possible, which is kind of impressive for me, no?

We get to the bathroom and he opens the door. I peek around inside, slowly lifting the lantern up to illuminate the small, dark space, and notice cockroaches all over the bathroom. Ceiling, floor, and walls were covered by long, dark insects. I was blown away from disgust.

“Got it,” Ben says as he takes a roll from the bathroom.

He passes in front of me. Now, the entire time he was in there, all I saw was the left side of his body. As he passes, I see the right side of him…which is now home to about four massive cockroaches. I try to emote but it comes out in stumbles.

“Er.. You..On your back…Cockroach! Dude! Dude!”

Now, there are two versions on what happened next. Ben’s recounting and then the real story.

Ben said it freaked him out that I was yelling. That’s why he jumped.

What really happened:

He had a look of shear horror as he ran into the darkness swatting cockroaches off his back. I was dying laughing at this point. Grossed out and laughing.

He skulks as he is visibly embarrassed. We go back to the fire and blow our running, cold noses as the fire dies out. It is then the cold sets in but above us are stars; billions of stars unlike anything I had ever seen. We stood there looking upwards in the cold for quite a while.

Ben then decided he needed to go back to the truck for something. I thought, “Oh god…I have to be by myself in the dark with a broken lantern (lantern broke, I guess a breeze blew by and knocked it over. I blame karma).”

He went off and I became hyper-aware of my surroundings. My ears perked up and I could hear every insect landing on a leaf from 10 meters away. It was terrifying for no real reason. I felt like I was being watched the entire evening and now, by myself, it was amplified. He finally skulked back but the feeling never left me. We stood there growing colder but still in awe of the heavens above us for a while longer.

That was when we heard the lack of frogs croaking. It was silent. I remarked something to him for a moment, I can’t recall right now, and that is when we heard this blood-curdling scream coming from where we fished not but a few hours ago. We looked at each other in shock. The scream continued and moved up towards us as if it was coming up the hill. We were immobile. It then sounded like it went through the woods, which Ben’s back was to, and then flew over head and away. Its scream drowned out as it flew into the distance.

“So, go to sleep?” I said.

“Umm, yeah,” he quickly retorted.

We dove into the tent and set up the partition between us. We joked about the sound for a bit, calling it a witch, and then went to sleep. The next day, the boredom and monsters finally got to us. We decided to fish one last time in the main river and head home.

I guess that’s how most people camp, right? Fear and boredom?

Stay tuned for my next campfire tale: Mr. Raccoon has his day!

-Chris

Campfire Tales Part 1: Chris, Ben and the Infinite Boredom

Hey Gang!

So, it is getting that time of year where being outdoors becomes a life-goal. I have decided to tell a few stories of literally the only times I have been camping. It is funny, my best friend Ben and I have this saying: We can never be normal. It does not matter how boring the activity we do is, we never have a genuine normal experience. There was one time where we hung out, went to best buy, scoped out chicks with our 17-year-old eyes at the mall, grabbed lunch, and started our way home. Nothing abnormal happened. It was a beautiful sunny day with the windows rolled down and the breeze coming in through the small s10’s windows. Once again, it was completely normal, until a huge yellow jacket flew into the cab at about 55 miles per hour. We swerved and screamed as it landed on us and around us. After what seemed like an hour, the bug flew away and we breathed a sigh of relief, laughed, and yelled “Why?!”

—————————————————————————————————————————————-

These are some more (s’more, get it?!) of our stories that should have been a relaxing or uneventful tale, but took a sharp right. I think it makes for a better story anyway.

We found this great little place off a major lake a few years back. It was great and we wanted to spend the entire weekend camping in my massive tent that is bigger than my dorm room in undergrad. We get there and it is probably a hike of about an eighth of a mile in to where we camp. The walk way is beautiful and green. The path laid flat by lawnmowers. It had a natural elegance to it that I couldn’t put my finger on.

We put the tent up and went for a short hike along a path. We wound around and found a small two-person boat someone had repurposed as a bridge. The earth showed signs of recent flooding. The trees bent over the river in towering ways. It was quite beautiful. Until we got lost. I am not sure how it happened. Maybe it was the boat that threw us off or maybe our imaginations that ran wild when we saw cigarette butts and old, empty beer cans. Whatever it was, we got lost. I guess “lost” is a harsh word. We could see houses about a mile away and we could hear traffic but we could not find a way out of the wooded area or where our campground was. We felt crazy and slightly embarrassed.

“What if this is how we die?” I remember joking but not.

We found our way out as the sun began to set. We went fishing at a little pond about 100 feet downhill from where our tent was. We caught small sunfish most of the day and finally gave up on catching the big ones. We walked back to our tent as the sun set. I don’t really remember what we ate for dinner or anything like that. I do remember one thing….

We were so bored. I mean the bored that sent you into crazy fits. I remember at one point we were gathered around the fire as the pink sky faded into night. It was quiet except for the buzzing of insects and the croaking of frogs. Orange and black alternated around the foliage near the fire. I remember looking up at Ben, as he carved something out of a large branch, and thinking about how much he looks primal. It was all so very primal. I too was carving wood; a wooden shiv because what do you do with empty time.

We grunted and laughed every once in a while. We eventually found out that we each had been creating shivs; his more brilliantly crafted than mine, I admit.

END OF PART 1

The Ass In The Field

Pinwheel, Mallorca, Metal, Wheel, Wind, Wind Energy

Hey Gang!

I was driving home and listening to music at an unreasonably high volume this weekend. I saw multiple things around me that caught my attention: I saw a woman picking her nose, a flock of geese narrowly miss a semi, and the poor mangled body of an old deer. I saw these things and really took no notice expect if they were funny, sad, or cringe-worthy but there was one thing that stood out so strangely to me that I have been holding on to it for the past few days.

I looked to my right and there was this small farm. A large, gated pasture was on the hill as it sloped down beyond the horizon. The sun was setting and it gave the verdant grass a shimmer that was breathtaking. Patched with white and brown, cows grazed looking in different areas. They all had their backs turned towards one central character: an ass, or donkey for the lay person. The ass stood there completely still. His statuesque nature bewildered me. What was he doing there? Among the sea of cows where they took no notice, what was he to gain from being there?

I went home and began helping my mother with moving. Unfortunately, she fell and broke her arm. I called 911 and they took her to the hospital, which brings me back to the days when hospital visits were an everyday occurrence for me. That same sterile smell, the back hall conversations nurses have that you overhear, the way nurses chew their gum like rabbits chew their cud. It was all so similar, yet different.

I sat with my aunt while my mother wept from pain. I tried to be there for her but she has become so different from the woman who told me not to cry when I get hurt, to be tough. Now she is so fragile and I realize that maybe we are who we pretend to be to others but in our depths that surface when pain and pleasure are at stake are the realities.

I wonder when I will break as my aunt yammers on about her issues. It is a repetitive damning thing to visit with her. It is hell at its finest as she repeats the same story over the past five years: My cousin is in treatment for another breakdown, he has tried [insert highly addictive drug of choice here] and is now unable to control his bipolar, she is having a nervous breakdown because he doesn’t think about her and her feelings, her body aches, she is a godsend, she helps everyone, she is a martyr, she is going to have a seizure, she forgets to have a seizure, she lies, she cons, she is.

Afterwards we come back to the city where I currently am and it is a major ordeal. My mother is high on pain meds and wants to drive, my aunt is upset because I won’t chauffer her around the middle of the state to get my cousin as well as drive her to my mother’s new house. My aunt becomes huffy. My mother cries out in pain, my aunt somehow becomes ill as well. She has an asthma attack and begins to dry heave because a breeze blew, or something of that nature.

I finally get home and Eleanor Rigby, my puppy, has violently chewed on my shoes, Blu-ray of “Funny People” and “Where The Wild Things Are”, and somehow managed to turn the house into a disaster area. I believe I saw a guy from FEMA in my back room but I can’t be sure.

The funny thing about “Funny People” is that it was about people who were funny not being funny. People that are supposed to be one thing but violate our expectations and act like someone other than whom we thought they were: funny people.

I get my mother to lay down and she drifts to sleep. I go to my room as well and begin to drift, but I have a realization. I am an ass, probably in more sense than I mean here. I am not an ass, I am THE ass. The one in the field. I get why he was unnoticed by the cows and didn’t do as the cows do. It was because he realized that they do cow things and he was an ass. However, what is an ass to do when there are no other asses around. What happens when an ass is surrounded by cows?

You stand still.

You stand alone.

You think.

You drift.

You lament.

You realize that you completely and wholly exist but outside of this fenced in yard with all the cows that graze.

You just are.

In the middle of the weres and going-to-bes, you just are.

-Chris

The Modern Ape

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Hey Gang!

There are three things that one must accept in this world. 1. Sharks are the perfect predators, swim accordingly; 2. Dolphins are able to notice their own reflections, one of two which includes humans.; 3. We are, be you creationist or evolutionist or evolution-creationists, all just animals. We are beautiful, flawed creatures that are incredibly close to the things around us. We go to higher education and think that that somehow makes us better off than the box jellyfish. This fact is actually quite amusing because, take away all of those niceties that we take for granted: shelter, electricity, friends and family; what you are left with is the complete sense that you are alone.

You are not alone.

FACT: Eating a banana is 50% cannibalism as we share about 50% of our DNA with the banana, which is actually a berry.

I bring this up because the other day I remembered something that I had forgot long ago. A simple theory that Nate and myself made years ago, when we were in our teens. I was reminded of it when I was at my desk, wholly frustrated with a project i was doing. Whenever I get frustrated, I play with my Rubik’s cube. I never really have the goal of solving the puzzle. For me, it is about the ability to clearly think one one thing. There is nothing more than the rotating, oscillating form in front of me. So, I almost jumped out of my seat when a deep, kind voice said, “There’s a video for that you know.”

I turned around and saw a lanky, tall man I knew to be a professor staring down at me with amused eyes. I laughed and said, “Yeah, no one will ever solve this thing.” (I say this in reference to an old film called “The Wedding Singer”, it does not compute).

“Yes, they have. I think there is a way to solve it,” he said as he pointed to my computer.

He truly meant to look it up. So, I appeased. We found a video with step-by-step directions and i must admit, the puzzle made sense. He laughed and I finally realized how stupid I felt. THE MAN HAD SOLVED IT MANY TIMES BEFORE! He knew how to solve it and basically walked me through the steps like a small child trying to learn how to ride the bike.

I was insulted and yet, I was elated.

I felt a jolt of excitement. He left but I started looking at the puzzle in a different way. It started to make sense.

FACT: Orcas have an additional portion on their brain that allows for the feeling of more emotions than humans.

A few moments later and I realized this feeling. It was primal. I am guessing this is how humans felt when Prometheus brought them fire. I realized, however, that my demeanor must have seemed archaic to someone who knew the puzzle. The design was there in front of them and I was this grand creature twisting and turning the pieces aimlessly. It must have been a funny sight. I felt like an ape who had just started to figure out what good a tool a club was.

I laughed pretty hard at that as I thought of myself like an ape making calls and hunched over on the ground. I imagined myself grunting at the puzzle when it did not turn out how I wanted it to.

This is when I remembered the theory of “Angry Hot”.

FACT: We too were once single celled organisms, for about half an hour, much like the Gromia sphaerica, or amoeba.

Nate and I contended that there are women out there so hot that it would actually cause you to go into a frenzy. So, attractive were these women that it caused men to go primal. This was a thought process of two 17 year olds but there is actually a precedent. Women are, in evolutionary theory, able to make men more primal. There is a hip to waist ration that women have (.07) that causes men to find them more fertile. The primal act of mating takes over and you get a truly attractive person eliciting a response from another animal. So, “Angry Hot” can happen when other males are around to contest the attention of the female. 

Are you bored yet?

Listen, all I am saying is, we truly are close to that primal self. The one that kept us alive in the cold winters and scorching summers. We are still animals.

FACT: We are made of carbon, nitrogen, and oxygen atoms. Hydrogen and helium began our universe, followed by carbon and then a supernova occured and spread out these elements. Every creature on earth has elements of these basic natures. Zinc, iron and more. These make us up and were brought to us by an exploding star. Thus, every creature on this planet is made of stars.

Animals, we are animals. We breath and we fight and we make tools. We do these things and we see ourselves as better than other animals. Yet, I am an animal, as are you. We are all animals yet we have no communal sense. Why hurt this animal or that animal? Why get pleasure out of pain? Why pass by a homeless person in need of help? Why hate another person for their beliefs, values, skin color, or disabilities? Why do all of these things to better your life? That is like poison for a species as amazing as the ones on this planet.

Be animals, not beasts.

We are animals but we, every entity from the cold-blooded to the warm-blooded to the photosynthetic, are made of the same things that bind us together.

Us modern apes, we are all made of stars.

 

-Chris

PS- Good to be back! Hope you enjoyed it!

Beautifully Insane

 

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Hey Gang!

 

Is it me or did it get a little dark in this blog for a while? It has been a bit of a wild ride this past year but I must admit that there is a change in the wind. A change that I hope is for the better.

Well, it is 2014 and I can not help but reflect on the past decade. I have grown immensely as a person but it was not without learning a few lessons along the way. These are a few of the lessons I have learned that I hope you may be able to integrate into your life so that you will not make the same terrible decisions as me.

 

1. DO NOT EAT THE SHELL

It was a few years ago when I was not as well off financially as I am now. I was living with my mother and our money situation was not the best, so treats were very much a luxury. You can imagine how ecstatic I was when my mother surprised me with a large bag of ranch flavored sunflower seeds. I substituted those for all of my meals. I ate the entire bag of those delicious little seeds in about four days. It was terrific and broke the monotony of Ramen noodles and rice. It was terrific right up until the point when I had not used the restroom for three days. (I will substitute “poop” with “bunny”. It just classes up this story a bit more, I believe.) So, a few days go by and I had yet to bunny. It was distressing. I could feel a hardening in my stomach and I actually could not fully stand upright because of the pain.

I sat down to watch television when my stomach let out a god awful roar and I knew I had to bunny. I got up and ran to the restroom. What then happened was easily top ten of the most painful moments of my life. Passing that bunny was a combination of giving birth to a demon mixed with watching the television show “Ghost Hunters’. It was a terrible experience. As I sweat and cried, I wondered what had happened. I then realized what it was: the seeds. I had eaten the seeds with the shell on and they did not dissolve. So, my bunny was basically like shrapnel coming through my intestines. The next few days were filled with shrapnel being passed and fears of some sort of intestinal damage. I thought, “This would easily be the most embarrassing way to die. I will end up on that show “1000 ways to die” and that will be my legacy.” Luckily, this was not the case; however, I still cringe and pucker every time I see a bag of unshelled sunflower seeds.

 

2. SOME JOKES ARE ON YOU

I truly enjoyed playing jokes on people. I loved to prank individuals all of the time, specifically those who were very….deserving. Some sort of karmic equality by distress. I pulled on of my favorite pranks when I was about 18 years old and it was on my aunt. She is a goofy woman. A bit high strung and also a bit strange. She is very into being at home and spatially oriented. He property is her property. That being said, she is also hilarious. She is one of those people that are accidentally hilarious. She would go on tirades about one thing or another. Blame the president for problems with her water. Blame her allergies on the people next door’s cooking. Yell the “F” word every time she forgets something. Forgetting something small. Like, forgetting to get the channel changer a few seconds earlier when she had gotten up. Just hilarious. I must admit, as a youngster, I may or may not have enjoyed to exacerbate her insane rants.

This all came to a head when I had a girlfriend around that time and she found out. She teased me for hours about it. She was very explicit. This was beyond ribbing and I was very embarrassed. So, a prank came to mind a few days later.

My best friends and I were out and about. We would drive around and smoke cigars and usually find some trouble to get into. This was one of those times. Nate would often unroll condoms and place them on random cars’ antennae. This was hilarious for some juvenile reason. This night I asked him for the last condom. I then went in to Walmart and bought a travel size bottom of unscented lotion. I think you can see the dots connecting. We drove up to her house and stopped at her drive way. I filled the condom to almost the brim with thick white lotion, rolled the window down and flung it onto the cement. It splattered and white goo went everywhere. We took off and I went home soon after. A few days later I came downstairs and sat down with a bowl of cereal. My mother was crocheting and we made idle chat but then she said, “Oh my gosh, Aunt … called and you know how she has been having trouble with her neighbors? Well, they must have had sex and thrown a condom at her house or something. She found a big ol’ nasty condom filled with sperm the other day.” I burst into laughter.

“I think that is gross,” my mother said.

I then divulged the entire story. She looked at me for a moment with her mouth agape. I thought her reaction would be anger but it turned into a chuckle which turned into a laugh. I asked how she cleaned it up and my mother said, “A rake. It made the condom rip and it went all over.”

We both died laughing. A decade later and I still hear her ranting and complaining about the worst neighbors she has ever had and the nasty surprise they left her.

 

3. PARTNERS IN CRIME IN TIME

As you know, I have been best friends with two individuals for about 14 years. In that time we have done some of the dumbest stuff that I can think about. Ben and I threw Molotov cocktails on the back roads at night. Lit pumpkins on fire and ran from the farmers that chased us away. Nate and I have gotten into more drunken adventures than I can recall and been in more strange circumstances than I care to think about. The three of us created what should be an Olympic sport which we entitled “Asphalt Skiing”. One is able to do this by having a truck or car with a spoiler. Then have a person drive around a parking lot while another hangs on to the back and skis on the asphalt. In case you were wondering, yes I did film this. It was hilarious. However, the friction caused the treads on their shoes to melt away. For months we told people about this sport. We were truly proud of it. Most thought we were insane. Maybe we were but does insane recognize insane?

These crazy things that we did seem like a lifetime ago. In a way, they are. We are all doing so much more than we dreamed. We are a bit tamer now and those things were done by three young men who were trying to figure the world. Now, I look back on it all. I look at when we broke into a skate park and then had to hide from the police patrolling the area. It was crazy. All of this seems crazy but I was never alone in it. Fast forward a decade and we are still best friends. I look at it all and I see we were partners in crime but somewhere down the randomness of time we became brothers and it has been a pleasure.

 

 

 

So, three small life lessons that I have found helpful. More than stories. They are applicable, I believe. The stupidity of past acts that come back on us. The bonding over a joke and karma. The stupidity of the past that becomes the fond memories of the present. These are just a snapshot of the crazy things that have happened in my life but there is so much more. It builds a foundation on which I build my life and I realize I am one lucky person. I have a lot of fond memories and I am excited for the future as I try and live in the moment more and more.

The thing I know more than anything is that I am weird gentleman. I love doing weird things, having a weird sense of humor and meeting weird people.

Weird may not recognize weird but it sure does attract it and I am okay with that.

Happy New Year, my weird and beautiful friends!

 

-Chris

An Insider’s Guide To Being Broke

Hey Gang!

So, as you know, I am a person who makes rules for himself. I showed some in a post a while back about dating rules (see My Dating Constitution).

This has been an insane year filled with ups and downs. I would say rock bottom but there certainly is a lot of green grass for that to be true but I have been writing in a word document certain things that I want to remember when as I grow older that remind me of this intensely humbling growing experience that I am currently at the tail end of. I want to put a few of my rules here as a guideline for those others who are new to the venture of being broke. At least the guidelines from my…unique standpoint.

Do you eat Ramen noodles for lunch and dinner? Do you fantasize about eating food that hasn’t been freeze dried? Whenever you hear someone say they make $30,000 a year, do you wonder how they are not driving a gold Cadillac? Is Coinstar the closest thing you have had for a paycheck in months?

If so….

CONGRATULATIONS!

you’re broke.

Never fear fellow broke aficionado, there are some guidelines that will help you through this process.

First, a few lessons about your status. You may feel as if you are alone. No one understands the fact that gas is a commodity like you.

As of June 2013, the U.S. Bureau of Labor put out unemployment statistics. These stats had a participation rating of 75.6 from the labor force of 49,466. This is the demographic that had at least a Bachelor’s degree or higher. The unemployment level there is 3.9. This is relatively low when looking at other demographics.

So, putting this in different terms, you are broke. You have a degree but can’t get a decent paying job in your area and you don’t know why. Statistically, you have a tad bit more unemployment rating in your bracket than they did in 1929. This is just before the beginning of the Great Crash. The next year would show an average unemployment rating of 8.9% in this country. As of  June 2013, Those without a high school diploma have a rating of 10.7% of unemployment, High School and no college is at 7.6% and Some college or associate degree is at 6.4%.

According to a recent study by Georgetown University on recent graduates and unemployment, unless you are in the fields dealing with the creation of new technology, education, engineering or health and science, then your unemployment rate will be higher. A recent architect is looking at a 12.8% unemployment rate even as the housing problems in America are fading. Individuals who are non-technical majors can expect higher percentages as well. Those in the arts can see an average of 9.8% and those in law and public policy can expect 9.2%. Then there is the 14.7% rate for recent graduates where their degree is concentrated in clerical functions.

What does this all mean?

You are not alone.

Now then, I hope these few rules that I have lived and learned help you on your quest to understand, appreciate and attain that green paper that is the key to so many doors that are closed to you right now….unfortunately.

RULE #1

Do Whatever It Takes

-As you begin this epic quest of unepic proportions, you may say to yourself a few things that you REFUSE to do. You may think that that degree you just earned is going to make you too good for flipping a burger. This is not true. You are broke. You may have money in the bank but it will be gone. You need to put more in there. It’s as simple as what my grandmother told me about her old well. You can’t keep taking from the well when you hit mud. Don’t let pride get in your way because of a piece of paper and four years of your life. You need money for small things in life. This will get you by until the next part. That next chapter but until then, you must do it.

RULE #2

Don’t Sell Yourself Short….or Tall

-If you are in this situation, you have probably peppered the internet with your resume. You have written how stellar you are and you have received nothing but silence and “Thank You for applying at (Place Employer Here) but…”. This shouldn’t deter you. Start applying for jobs that you would want as a dream job. You may not be completely qualified but if you get an interview and knock it out of the park, you are in. Keep trying! BUT! Remember rule #1? Yeah, still applies, buster. When you go in for that interview at McDonald’s or Hardees or even a temp agency (AHEM…me…AHEM) never go in with the attitude that you are too good for your position. You must accept the fact that you are now a statistic but only you can change that.

RULE #3

Remember Your Love Life? Yeah, Me Neither!

-You think about that pretty girl or handsome guy you see here or there often. The video rental store. The coffee shop. She works at your favorite restaurant. He does his workouts on Mondays and Fridays at your gym. This is a tactical error to think that because you are broke, everything will be fine. If they don’t like me for me, then they can go eat a large bowl of eff off. No-No, dear reader. As adults, we want to be able to go out and enjoy ourselves but it’s hard when you only have the ability to choose from the dollar menu. Men, in the evolutionary theory of attraction, it is commonly spoken that women want security above all. You may look like an Adonis but you can’t provide that security and unfortunately it can be an issue. If not her issue, then yours. You may count yourself out but don’t. Just know that it is hard now but it will get better. Righting the course is never easy. For women, some people would say that most women would just have men pay for them but hey, I got a secret…IT ISN’T 1954! Women are more independent now than they have been in history. Their values are sound and more and more couples now believe on sharing the bill after the first date or two. So, my suggestion is to work on you.

RULE #4

Ballin’ On A Budget

-You just got done working at a temp agency/at your “burger flipping” job/giving plasma. You need release and all of your friends are going out. You haven’t been out in a long time but you have bills coming up and are tight on money. What do you do, hotshot? You ball on a budget! It can be embarrassing to be broke when everyone around you is drinking IBC’s that costs ten dollars a pint but you have to move past that. It is important during this time to socialize. Being broke can be an alienating experience but if you know your limits and budget in  some fun, you will call rock bottom home for a while without any bruising on your bottom from the fall. My suggestion? Pregame..Pregame…Pregame. Get a little buzz going before hand. Look up the specials on websites of what’s going on downtown. Who has cover and who doesn’t? Here, the internet is your best friend and if you can’t afford internet, then the library is your best friend! Just remember to leave the debit card at home and don’t drive drunk. I mean if you are broke, how can you afford the bail money from a DUI?!

RULE #5

Watch Your Words

– You may find that your friends ask you what’s wrong. A bit too often. Reply in a manner that is befits your character, “No worries, mate!” You have to keep that sunny disposition. You have to keep hope in there. When you do, you see it from a different perspective but you have to be careful. You may see the funny side in how creative you get with adding things to your Beef Ramen to keep it new but your friends may find it a bit well, sad. Know when you have gone too far with a joke about being broke. No one wants a sad sack around complaining in a funny manner. It brings people down and it infects your life. You start joking but it turns serious. Before you know it you talk about it all the time. To your friends, your parents, your pet parakeet, Julius Cesar….you write a lengthy blog about it AHEM!

RULE #6

Watch Your Step

-If you are this broke and past the age of 26, you probably don’t have insurance. According to the 2011 census, 48.6 million Americans are without insurance. Jigga What?! You are looking at bills unlike you have ever seen if you damage any part of yourself. Talking thousands. Tens of thousands, even. Then you have to worry if you develop a long-term illness, then when you do get covered, it won’t be covered by the new insurance company because it was a preexisting condition. So, before you take a step off the curb or debate to wash your hands before a meal, think really hard.

RULE #7

Never Compromise Your Integrity

-You are broke, not broken. Through the hard times grows a large chip on your shoulder that blinds you to the past. Chip away at it. Remember who you are and where you came from. You have values and morals. There will come a time when it seems bleak and it may truly be bleak but you have to look beyond the rock and remember yourself. At this point, you know what separates you from a street criminal? Will. Your will to not use fear and criminality to get money. There is no such thing as easy money. Keep that part of yourself at the forefront. Being broke seems like an ailment at times, “Hi, I’m Jim and I’m broke”,  EVERYONE: “HI JIM!”, it isn’t. Remember that degree or that training you had. Remember that High School Diploma or remember the reasons why you had to drop out. Let those drive you. In the end, you will be better than you were.

RULE #8

A New You

-At the end of this, when you sit drinking tea with a lovely person, remember the price of the meal. When you hear someone speak about money as if it is meaningless. Think about this very moment. When you read a blog or when you got that job. Remember what it was like when you were stripped down to your own bare bones. Remember what it was like when you saw the real you. Then think to yourself, “What would the old me, think of the new?”

***

Well, I hope you enjoyed the few rules I posted among many more that were more specific to my situation. I made light of it all but there is truth in it. Unemployment is a problem here. It is a problem that is pervasive worldwide. There are so many people worse off than most of us on the worst day of our lives. Our own universes are so small we can’t see into the cosmos of others. Our friends, neighbors or the janitors as your local thrift store. Hang your head for your situation for a moment but then hold your head up and remember that being a victim is not the way out.

I hope this helped you in some way or at least made you smile once or twice.

-Chris

And Then The Moon

telescope

Hey Gang!

 

“No man is so utterly dull and obtuse with head so bent on Earth, as never to lift himself up and rise with all his soul to the contemplation of the starry heavens, especially when some fresh wonder shows a beacon-light in the sky…So natural is it to admire what is strange rather than what is great.” – Seneca The Younger

 

I am a tourist.

The sun shown through my eyelids creating a pink hue as I rested my head on the metal siding of the large warehouse where I had just started working. I remember being exhausted from the job. I had never done factory work and the labor jobs I had had in previous weeks were hard but fun. This was different. This was a job of standing in a single place and repetitive movements. After a few days I could barely walk or stand. My back felt like two baseball bats were on either side of my spine and I took fistfuls of Ibuprofen just to get by.

It was break time and I sat by myself on the hot concrete as I was just a temporary employee. That’s the way it has been over the past few weeks. I jump from job to job and learn the new tasks. I am always having to tell my back story. Eventually it runs out in monotonous splendor. Yes, I am with a temp agency. Yes, I am from here. I do, in fact, know that I look Hawaiian. I am going back to school soon. This is not my career.

They ask me “What the hell am I doing here?”

It would bring me down because I was perpetually the new guy but in most instances it was an amazing bit of fun.

I worked in frame molding shop which was fun and hilarious. Although, they had me put the frames in shipping boxes. I have previously stated that I came from a single parent household where my mother raised me. She really had no inclination for using tools and things like that. To this day she calls me to help fix the TV when she hits the wrong button, which is usually the power button.

So, I put most of the molding in the bins and when I am done they ask me to help box. What I didn’t know was that they had a compressed air staple gun that had to be used. I stapled carefully and slowly as I was afraid to staple myself to…myself. It was at the height where you realized, “I should be careful here. I DO want kids some day.”

Later, I worked a day labor job for a cat fanciers competition. We set up tables and placed cages. I helped set up tables for vendors and they were all very great people. The one thing that scarred my frontal lobe was the cage I picked up that had skin and fur still attached to it. I mean, I am not a cat kinda guy but I felt bad for that poor feline.

I worked at a non-profit organization where we took donations.

PSST! Come closer to the screen. I don’t want anyone else to read this. Generally, the people who brought donations in brought TV’s, Computers, Laptops and all sorts of gently used electronics. We shook their hand and when they asked if people were going to get a use for it, we would say, “It’s going to help us out a lot. Thanks!”

The “help” came as they drove off and we picked up those TVs, Computers and the like and launched them into recycling bins. I would often pick up the biggest TV and heave it through the air into a bin with other TVs. It would crash and green circuit boards would go flying. This is how it was. We would toss these electronics that were treated with such care right up until we slammed them into a box. They would then be shipped off and taken to a recycling center where the money they get from recycling goes back into the agency…but you didn’t hear that from me.

Finally, I worked at this factory that shipped an unnamed product for sore muscles. I helped pack the materials but I had never worked in a factory before. I didn’t mind lifting more than a hundred pounds quite often in my other jobs but this was working at machines I had never used before in heat up to a bit over 100 degrees. We stood there and did the same action over and over. They kept asking me how my back was and I am a victim of pride so I would never admit that it hurt so bad I wanted to cry. They pushed me harder and harder and never spoke to me after I told them I was going to get my Master’s degree. They treated me like a pariah and even talked about how I wasn’t keeping up and it pissed them off.

It was my second day.

So, I was sitting on the side of the building with my head resting against it. They all sat laughing a few feet away, never acknowledging me. I looked down and saw this gas station cup that had tipped over and ants were walking up to the spillage of caramel colored liquid and then walking back to the crack in the concrete. I watched them for the entire 15 minute break. The pain in my back and knees faded as I thought about these ants. Doing this one job and following orders. I thought to myself, “I wish I just saw one ant go off by himself. Just see him thinking ‘F#$% The System’ and walk away.”

Those ants stuck with me as I returned to work. At lunch, they all talked around me. I was there in presence but never acknowledged. They all spoke of baby mama drama and how good the chilli and hooch was in the county jail. I couldn’t help but realize that I had nothing in common with them but I wanted to know them. They looked at me and just saw a guy passing through. A name and a person to do a job. Nothing more. A removable object.

I am a tourist.

My back hurt so bad I could barely move and after one of the men basically said he likes to go fast and didn’t want to work with someone who didn’t know what he was doing, I quit the week long assignment after 3 days. I came home and lay in the floor as Sofie came over to play. My breath was shortened by the sharp stings of pain along my vertebrae.

I slept that night in a daze of pain relief medication. The next day I went with my mother to pay bills and I was really bummed about the whole situation. I felt as if I had failed again.

We go into a thrift shop, as we always do this time of the month and I wander around. I look at the trinkets and gadgets. The old sterling silver table lighter and the porcelain choir singing. The not-so-gently used furniture and the questionable lamps. Then, at the back corner I find a bit of treasure. I found a telescope!

For anyone who has been reading a bit, you know I am a nerd about space. I memorized the constellations when I was a kid and am a regular subscriber to “Astronomy” magazine. If you were to look at me and talk to me you would never think that I was enamored with the way a Quasar is formed and fueled by a supermassive black hole.

This 1967 Jason Explorer 400 was mine. It was dusty and dirty but I took it home and cleaned it up. I took it outside and sat beneath th clear night sky. I tried to find stars but they only looked like blurry twinkling dots. The moon was just an obscurred light bulb. I took out the lenses and switched and then I saw it. I went outside and then then moon peaked out from behind the large oak tree out back. I caught a glimpse of it.

I had been frustrated that day, from pain and from feeling like I had failed, but I found triumph in that I saw the moon. It’s porous surface became clear. I looked at the craters and felt so close to its’ surface. I am not sure how long I sat there but it seemed like moments. In all actuality it was more than an hour.

I came back inside and thought about it. How great it was and then I thought back to those ants. Those ants still stuck with me. They did what they were compelled to do. I admired them.

I am a tourist but I got to meet people who were compelled to do these jobs. They were being paid much more than I but they were still doing these jobs that are incredibly hard. They go on behind the scenes. The people who do the small things that we never even know about to take for granted are some of the greatest people I have met. They are parents and husbands. They work hard and they play hard. They do what they have to do because they are compelled to do it. They may not like the job but it is about self efficacy and being able to use that money to do what needs to be done. I have met amazing people and objectionable people but I enjoyed meeting them all the same.

Even if I was just passing through.

These were foreign and strange jobs and people whom I was glad to get to know. I was in a place where just a few dollars helped but I gained a lot from these jobs. I gained knowledge of what was on the other side of the fence. The moon was my little win. It was that beacon that heralded the message of, “Keep your head up. Keep searching.”

I am a tourist now but it is not permanent. So, I enjoy the sights now and keep them for later.

 

– Chris

The Recipe

A GREAT DAY

Ingredients

1 Free day

1 New Favorite Can’t-Get-It-Out-Of-My-Head Song

1-2 Best Friends (Depending on your taste)

1 Pool Hall or local watering hole containing spirits

1/2 Cup of mocha frappucino at a Barnes and Noble Starbucks

1 Car

0 Expectations

Begin by waking up and looking outside at the perfect day. You may be greeted by the snuffles or barks of your Shih Tzu but delight in the sound.

Take a hot shower and put on Pandora radio. Come across a song that sinks into your depths and consumes you, yet it is too embarassing to sing aloud in public.

Wear the summer clothes you have been longing to put on for a day such as this where the sun shines and standing in its’ rays places gentle warmth on your shoulders. Enjoy as it sets in and you forget the long, cold months of winter passed.

Send a text of yourself making a goofy face to your friend(s) and tell them to wake up. Even if you get up early, there is no reason why they shouldn’t be up to enjoy the day as well. (Note: Too early and this may ruin the recipe as they may say expletives and hang up.)

Set a meeting time to pick up your friend(s) and take a drive.

Go to Barnes and Noble and get a mocha frappucino. Sit with your company and talk. Begin making too much noise from laughing and leave the cafe.

Wander the bookstore. At first you look at psuedointellectual books and flip through Kant and contemplate reading Shakespeare. Lose interest and look in the sex and relationships books.

Flip through two (2) books and realize you may have something wrong with you.

You leave with company and feel sick from the sugary mix in your plastic cup and throw it away.

Drive. Listen to the song that has been stuck in your head all day. You try to explain why the song is good but then digress. Your company makes fun of you but after the third listen you all break out into song and laugh at how ridiculous it is.

Go to a park. Walk.

Drive.

Get Gas.

Drive.

Decide to play a sport outside. Get sweaty and dirty. Possibly hurt yourself (This part of the recipe is kind of up to you!)

Take your company home. You go home and shower. You take an unexpected nap.

Wake up 2-3 hours later and call a friend to go to the Pool Hall or Watering Hole of choice.

Play Pool. Enjoy 3-20 beverages. Feel sick.

Dry heave in the bathroom.

Gather your life.

Call a cab and go downtown.

Dance with your company.

Think about hitting on an attractive person.

Realize it’s a bad idea.

Go back to your company’s dwelling, eat pizza and fall asleep in the front room just as your company places a just-too-small blanket on you.

Stir all ingredients together in 1 free day and enjoy!

(Note: Some may find the day after the recipe is made a bit dissatisfying compared to the day before.)

-Chris