2-9-04, 10:54 AM -

I'm traditionally not a big believer in human ability to foretell the future from dreams, but this is kinda weird.

Last night I had a dream I've had several times over the years. In it, I'm my present age (whatever age that is at the time), working a regular job, and suddenly I remember that I'm still going to school. I don't know why I'm still in school, but I am.

So quickly, I rush to school in the middle of the day. Now, I stopped going to class years ago, so I can't remember my class schedule or room number. So I go to the counselor's office. They give me my schedule (which somehow they still have), but I have no books.

So I walk into class, 12 years late, and the teacher sits me down to take a test. And I don't recognize a damn thing on the test (it's usually math, Pete help me). And I sit and berate myself for being so stupid as to forget I was in school.

So anyway, this dream happens again last night. This morning, I show up at the new job here at Don't Be Gankin', a trademark research firm. I'm testing functionality for a new website they're launching in March.

So the first thing that happens is that me & Jeri (the other temp) get handed a pile of school supplies. One pen, one Number Two pencil, one highlighter, one pack of Post-It notes, one pack of page flags, one stapler, one box of paper clips, and two legal pads.

I am aghast. My palms begin to sweat.

The next thing we receive is a 6-inch-thick pile of STUDY MATERIALS. We are shown to the lab, which our boss lady jokingly refers to as STUDY HALL, and told that yes, THERE WILL BE A TEST IN TWO WEEKS.

Holy mother of crap on a stick. I DID forget I was in school.

I swear to you, I started sweating like a pig in a sauna. I was still suffering from the lingering paranoia that always follows that dream, & sitting in Study Hall with Jeri, a quiet, bookish good student, trying to keep my eyes focused on my study materials, I just freaked out and had to go take a walk.

Me & school never got along. That's the most polite way to say it. The least polite way to say it is to note that my head is still sore from the amount of mind-raping that the gigantic, veiny cock of the of the Texas educational system administered over 12 long years, sans jelly. That's the least polite way to put it. But probably the most accurate.

(rant coming; fair warning...)

Because you see, I like to LEARN. I don't like to parrot. I don't like to memorize the book so I can write it on a new sheet of paper. I don't like to be told that a poem means one thing and one thing only, and that by the way, that thing is already written in the book for you to memorize.

School as it is practiced in many places is in fact modified daycare. Most teachers I've come into contact with are not interested in the expansion of young minds. They're interested in obedience and order. They're interested in you doing as you're told. Which would be fine if what you were told was, "Read this. See what happens." Instead you get, "Read this, and this will happen. If it doesn't, you get an F."

So let's let this demon out for a moment.

I spent 12 years in public school. I spent 2 years in college. I have been out in the wider world for 10 years. I can safely say that I have learned more during the past 10 years than I did in the previous 14. Which is not counting learning to read, mind you.

School didn't teach me to read. My parents did. School didn't get me interested in history and the workings of the world. Time magazine and National Geographic did. Luckily, I was fortunate to have a few good teachers to send me off in new directions now & then. They were the exceptions, however.

I will credit school with teaching me how to play an instrument. But of course, arts departments are disappearing nationwide, showing us how much value school systems place on that.

Whenever I bring up the crapulent nature of my public school experience, I always hear from old school friends who don't remember it that way. However, those who register alternate experiences are generally Quest kids.

In 5th grade, we were all rounded up and placed in the cafeteria to take a big important test. I don't remember what was on the test. I vaguely remember being cheesed off because no one would tell me what the test was for. But then I was cheesed off a lot in elementary school.

All I really remember is that a few days later, some kids got told that they were special, and that the rest of us were not. This didn't make a big impact on me at the time, concerned as I was about the outcome of the recent Transformers cliffhanger episode.

But upon starting 6th grade, I found that all of my few friends had disappeared. It was a bafflement. Surely they'd made it to 6th grade? They were smart, like me. A few weeks later, I spotted them all in front of a distant classroom. It was then I discovered the existence of Quest. Which kinda cheesed me off.

A year of mind-grinding, banal hell ensued, and at the beginning of 7th grade, I felt compelled to ask if there was a way for me to get into Quest. Well, no, they said, being that you've already taken the big important test, but you can sign up for Advanced courses. Upon asking what those were, I was told that they were essentially the same courses I was in now, but with more assignments.

Great, I thought. Let's add fucking insult to injury by giving myself more homework as well. I don't think so.

So the remainder of my schooling took place in "regular" classes, where no one learned a damn thing except for how to put your page headings exactly the way the teacher wanted. I think one guy learned how to spell "cheese" as well.

Thankfully there was Theatre & Band, and my one year as a columnist for the WHS Grass Burr (ah, the original rant pulpit). Minus those things, I may as well have been inseminating turkeys. Would've had more time to think, at least. And money.


This brings me back to the present day, where I find myself wasting time yet again. See, in two weeks, we'll be testing this website, following instructions that approximate the common activities of one of their clients. Anyone figure out why the hell studying for two weeks would do us any practical good whatsoever? You either? Didn't think so.

This ain't a doctoral thesis here. This is "when I press this button, do I get a 'beep' noise or a 'bing' noise?" I know, because it's exactly what we did at X to test Fandango.com in 2000. But like school, no one's happy until there's an overcomplicated and rigorous lesson plan to make sure that everyone is not only in their seats at the appointed time, but that no one has any fun, either.

It really ain't that hard, people. Just tell me what needs to be done. It'll take a couple of hours, tops. Then we can all relax & do our work, cracking wise & talking about Lord of the Rings.

Does anyone really need to ask why I fucking hate people?

2-9-04, 3:54 PM -

Yep. Still doing jack shit.

Lots of writing time, though. Gots to go by the meat market on the way home. Made some chili the other day using Dad's special recipe, & I aim to do it again. 'Cept I added a new ingredient: Polska Kielbasa. it works well, especially since we use ground pork instead of beef on account of the hormones.

Plus the mad cow thing. Best be steering clear of them bovines. Get it? "Steering"? You people are no fun. Actually, I bought a package of black work socks (who's gonna look to see if my socks are Gold Toe? Who, I ask you?) that went under the brand name of "Texas Steer".

This is just a guess, but I'll wager that the manufacturer doesn't know what separates a steer from a bull. (hint: it's the goolies) Which is kind of important if you're trying to make the product sound masculine.

"Texas Steer: The sock with its testicles removed."

Doesn't exactly encourage the impulse buying. Though I guess it didn't stop me...

A bit noisy in here sometimes. The radiator that lines two whole walls has some wicked gremlins that wait till you're not paying attention, then bang the shit out of the pipes with tiny balpeen hammers. Little bastards.

There's a big industrial building across the alley with a creaky old freight elevator. You can barely see it through the dirty, frosted factory-style windows. It seems to end at a loading dock, judging by the sounds I hear below.

From the north window you can see one of those makeshift rooftop hangouts that people put up in this city. It's just a roof, but you put a couple of chaise lounges & an orange umbrella out there, WHAMMO, it's your instant swingin' party pad. This place is right on the line where Soho & the Village meet, so the roof's probably a nice respite from your 12 roommates and the line for the community bathroom. Oy. Never again.

Speaking of apartment situations, you may remember that I mentioned something being wrong with Jose, our super. Well, no sooner do we slip a note of complaint in with our rent than we get a call from the building's owner, Hasim.

Jose is OUT. Like yesterday. Like Hasim got our note, marched over to Jose's apartment, and kicked the bastard out. Wow.

I shouldn't feel bad, but I kinda do. Surely he should've given the guy enough time to find a new place? Moreover, if Jose knows we're the ones who got his ass thrown out onto the street, might he decide to exact some retribution? Revenge takes motivation, however, which was something Jose never had in spades. Unlike, say, Hasim.

So anyway, we've got a new super. Big guy, kinda looks like Random Task from The Spy Who Shagged Me. I hope we don't make Hasim throw him out. We're very powerful, the Wifely & I. Don't cross us.

Headin' over to Staten Island later for some open mic action with Dorian. His album's coming along nicely, & I'll have some samples up once they've got a few more clothes on. Don't want no nekkid songs around here. Feels nice to be a Producer. Ain't paying the bills yet, but it's a start.

Just now getting over the January slump enough to pick radio promotion back up. With any luck, the response I've gotten so far is an indicator for the future. A future in which I, the matthew show, can afford new pants. These $30 Macy's Basement specials are starting to make me look like Boxcar Willie. Which sounds funny, but it isn't.

2-12-04, 9:54 AM -

Well, here I am. Fourth day on the job, still haven't done a goddamned thing. For this I get paid money. Guess it's all right with me.

Been sneaking a lot of internet time in, though. Catching up on some research and debating Floyd albums in the Forum. Loads of fun.

Today or tomorrow, rain or shine, I gotta get some new pants. Boxcar Willie turned into the Incredible Hulk, and I'm having to wear some of my old fat pants just to stay clothed. Though there could be worse reasons for me to wear them.

Went to a couple of shows this week. As I mentioned, Dorian invited me to his neighborhood open mic at Cargo in Staten Island, which turned out to be a real treat. Lots of good performances, and quite the cornucopia of accents. New Zealand, Tennessee, California, you name it, they had it. Monday was their last open mic until Spring, at which point I'll likely go back.

On Tuesday I caught dinner with my friend Ashton. You know, restaurants in New York need to be more specific in their menus. It wasn't until I received my salmon burrito that I found out it was, in fact, sushi. Not that I mind sushi. But I'd just like to know what I'm expecting to bite into. It's not much to ask.

Anyway, after that, I hit a show in the East Village. There's an old Smothers Brothers routine where Dicky sings I Talk to the Trees, and Tommy keeps cracking up at the premise. "Hi there, stage, you used to be a tree, didn't ya?"

I had a similar reaction as a well-meaning hippie dude took to the stage and began singing an ode to, yes, A TREE. I used to be a hippie. Really, I did. Or rather, I tried. But even then I wouldn't have sung about...okay, that's a lie. I DID sing a song about a tree once. In fact, it was called The Tree. But I stopped. This guy's older than me, and he's still talking to the trees. Damned hippies.

However, I must say that I preferred him to the first act. You ever hear a song start up and you think you're in a beer commercial? Well, this girl has perfected the Beer Commercial Song. She even LOOKS like she belongs in a beer commercial. Too tan, too blonde, too thin, kinda sporty, with a bra strap hanging strategically too loose out of her tank top.

Her band was tight as hell, though, adding to the feeling that at any moment, the announcer would pipe up and some studly dude in a cowboy hat was gonna casually chat up a chick and present his Bud Ice to the camera. Really weird.

And the crowd was full of those alternate-universe people, the ones who are dull, pretty, and make shitloads of money selling crap that only those people would buy. Smiling, but not really. Laughing, but not really. Making perfect photogenic set pieces for some drama that, if it were televised, would be cancelled immediately. Or turned into a beer commercial.

These are the kind of people who, when somone slips and acts normal for a second, salve the awkward moment with, "You're so crazy!"

And then I realize this girl's genius: She's created the perfect soundtrack for that lifestyle. Quickly, somebody fetch me my hangin' rope.

La, la, sittin' in the office.

I've developed a taste for egg white omelettes. Usually with bacon & American cheese. People up here are very specific about their breakfasts. It's not uncommon to hear orders like, "whole wheat, toasted on one side, half a leaf of spinach, with one slice each of American, Swiss, and Provolone, in that order." And the chefs, they're used to that kinda thing, so they listen carefully and prepare it while you watch.

Which I think makes it worse. If you know that there's a guy right in front of you who'll do pretty much anything you say, you're more likely to come up with whacked-out permutations on what is, really, just breakfast.

I do the egg white thing because of a yolk allergy, but egg white omelettes are very popular up here, it seems. I'm not sure why, unless there's some health reason. But when I make my rather simple order, the chefs always pause, waiting for me to finish. When I tell them that's it, they offer to put more crap on it. No, no, I insist, that's all I want. Then they whip up the omelette while taking a three-page order from Lady Highheels behind me.

Theatra back at Bigass Bank was like that. They'd be ordering lunch from some deli, & from the amount of time spent giving people specific cooking & preparation instructions, you'd have thought Queen Fucking Elizabeth's own private chef was making the order. And what came upstairs an hour later? A damned deli sandwich.

Neither I nor the Wifely have ever been high maintenance people, and it occasionally occurs to us that in NYC, we are definitely strangers in a strange land. New Yorkers are the reason the term "high maintenance" was coined (if you believe, as I do, that Billy Crystal was the first to use it in When Harry Met Sally). People want it the way they want it, no deviation.

Which is odd, because New York is a town that demands compromise. You compromise space for proximity. You compromise money for fashionability. And yet everyone still wants it their way. So what you get is not a society resigned to its compromises. What you get is a whole lot of complaining.

Lady Highheels complains to me while I'm paying and she's still waiting, "Damn, I guess I should have come in yesterday if I wanted to eat today." Well, if you would just ORDER instead of issuing a fucking treatise on Outer Polynesian egg preparation, you'd probably get your goddamned omelette a lot quicker.

It's a bunch of eggs. They're pretty much gonna taste like eggs by the time the guy gets done sprinkling rose hips on them.

I wonder, though, if that isn't the English part of me kicking in. Michael Palin once remarked that the English are the worst hagglers in the world, because they just want to buy the thing and get on with their business. Sounds perfectly reasonable to me. Maybe there's a gene for that.

But I do think that this peculiar tendency for specificity drives New York's economy. It's the reason why one neighborhood will have five tailors. People will shop around until they find the guy who does EXACTLY what they want.

In Texas, people buy off the rack & say, "Eh. That'll work." That's one of the reasons you can spot tourists in New York. They're the ones with too many colors on & pants that don't fit quite right. It's the damndest thing.

Which brings me back to my pants. Goddamn, I talk about my pants a lot.

Gotta get new ones today. I've pretty much decided that if I can't spend at least $75 on dress pants, I should probably just give up and work in the shipyard. I've just never had a pair for less that's lasted long enough to be of any use.

Now, I'm tough on pants. I don't have that many, and I guess I must walk rough or something because cheap ones start falling apart faster on me than on anyone else I know. I should probably be a pants-tester for some large clothier. "Well, we thought these were tough, but three days on the PantsMaster and they turned to ribbons."

I'm even worse on shoes, and thankfully I learned that lesson early. Never a pair under $70, if that low, or they'll be dust in weeks.

But the mystery of all mysteries is T-shirts. Why, if I am the Destructor of Leg & Foot Wear, do my T-shirts last for 2,000 years? Really crappy T-shirts, too. Piece-of-shit freebies I got at some guitar-string giveaway tent, & wore while changing my spark plugs. At least with pants & shoes I get a regular excuse to update my wardrobe. I have enough T-shirts to go a month without doing laundry. And yet there are only 4 or 5 I'll actually wear on a regular basis.

Damn. This must be how it starts. I'm becoming high maintenance. Pretty soon I'll be ordering an egg over half-easy with a teaspoon of parsley and goat cheese toast. Pete help us all.



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