Ahhhhh. It's only 75 degrees in the middle of August. Pete be praised.

Actually, it was monkey-butt hot & humid last week, & this is a welcome respite. Had a bigass lightning storm a couple of weekends ago. Some dumbass got electrocuted while standing on his roof watching the show. Can I get a D? An A? R? W? Maybe an I? Surely an N. "What's with the shitty word games, pencildick?" you might be asking. And well you should. The reason I have so much more time on my hands is an odd one.

So I make up my mind to give my one-day notice last Friday. 7 to 6 is killing me, giving me daily headaches and generally cramping my life. I give the word in the morning, so they have plenty of time to arrange for my replacement on Monday. Everyone's cool with it, they understand, can't blame me, nice to work with you. As the day progresses, one by one the other temps come by my desk, and an approximation of the following conversation ensues:

"So you're not coming back Monday?"



"Why not?"

"So you're just leaving?"

"Ummmmmmm, yeah."

"Can you do that?"

"What, leave?"


This hasn't occurred to them, I see. Strange, since all week I've been hearing how they're not putting up with this shit anymore.

"It seems I can."

"So do you have another job lined up?"

"Not yet. Jelly's working on it."


I do feel a bit of sympathy. Most of my fellow temps aren't married and some have kids, so their safety net is even more threadbare than mine. But part of why they've been complaining is because the hours don't allow them to see their kids much. I figure they'll stick it out well after my departure.

And I've grown fond of Elvin, a permanent employee, who says he's sad to see me go. I tell him I'm sorry he's stuck with it, but I gotta do what I gotta do. He understands.

But a funny thing starts happening. One by one, I see these same temps approaching our supervisor, Jared, and mumbling something about next week. Though odd, I decide to ignore it, thinking people are wanting my desk when I'm gone. Most of the other temps are on their feet all day escorting job candidates around.

At 5:00, I hear laughter from Johanna, my deskmate. What's so funny, I inquire.

"They're all scrambling around like fools in there."


"Jared & them. Ain't nobody coming back next week."

This is news. "No one?"

"Nope. Boy, they're sorry now. They should've known we weren't gonna put up with that shit."

Before I have a chance to consider this, I spot our bedraggled supervisor Jared huddling with Elvin in the hall. They glance at me, and Jared draggles himself into the room and right up to my desk.

"How can I make you come back?" he asks.


"Next week. What will it take?"

I am stupefied. He continues:

"I can't give you any more money, but we could work on the hours."

"Ummmm, all right. I dunno, 9 to 6?" No way he'll get it past the big bosses, I'm thinking.

"Hold on."

He draggles back out the door, hunchbacked with responsibility, as the room fills with the rest of our temp crew, who've apparently smelled blood. The anticipation lingers for a full minute before Jared limps back in, defeated.

"Okay, then. 9 to 6 next week, all of you."

The response from the room is like the end of some damned take-this-job-&-shove-it workers' union movie, arms pumping up & down as if in varsity victory of some sort. Glancing into the hall, I see Elvin giving me a sly thumbs-up, like I've just pulled off some seriously shrewd Jimmy Hoffa shit. Wait a goddamned minute. What the hell is going on?

I am more than stupefied. I am utterly confused. Now everyone's thanking me. Why are they thanking me? What the fuck is going on? Jared is giving me an unmistakable "okay, you win" look, like George Bailey just ran him out of Bedford Falls. Goddammit, I didn't win! I don't even care what Mr. Potter is doing!! Goddammit! WHAT THE FUCK IS GOING ON?

The world has lost its mind. I give notice to leave a temp assignment, and suddenly I'm Norma Rae in boxer shorts. WHAT THE FUCK IS GOING ON?

I sense that Elvin's behind all this, though. I say farewell as I'm leaving for the day, and he says goodbye like it's just another Friday. In truth, I probably would've turned down the 9-6 if I didn't feel like giving the man a hand with this bigass project. He's just a really nice guy.

So imagine my surprise when I show up on Monday and Elvin's been transferred to another hiring site. Imagine my incredulity when I discover only a couple of the temps actually did come back. Now I feel ripped off. Why, I don't know, but I feel deprived of victory in my battle against The Man. Even though I didn't even mean to battle against The Man! Goddammit.

So I guess I'm stuck here for a while, mostly out of fear that any attempt to quit again will generate an even weirder upheaval. I don't know my own influence, it seems.

The big news this week, though, is......TA DAAAA!!! Wifely's got a job! Whoot, whoot, hidybob splat. Yessir, she's a Production Editor for a nice Manhattan publisher, and it is now possible we could get our own place sometime this decade. Damn, that was a hard wait. But well worth it, and many thanks to everyone for their support. She starts next week.

She's also the source of my envy, because she's taking a brief trip out to Wyoming for her friend's wedding next weekend. She's flying into Denver & driving the rest of the way. We couldn't afford two tickets, & I was cool with that until her friend sent her a state map so she wouldn't get lost.

I love maps. I mean, I loooove maps. It's like heroin. It's like a crack/heroin waffle cone. I loooove to plan routes and weigh possibilities and find obscure shortcuts and just generally wander all over the damn place. The day it came, she was upstairs cooking, and no sooner had I opened up that map than I was popping the calculator out, trying to find a way to afford another ticket. Yesss, my precioussss....mapsessssss....yesssss...we likes the little mapses, we does....yESSSSSSS....

(Why do I always turn into Gollum? Why not The Incredible Hulk or something cool?)

Blessedly, Wifely came in and talked me down off the ledge before I called to get our credit card balance. It was a very Mars/Venus, Everybody Loves Raymond moment, and I will live in shame the rest of my life for raising such a spectre. Bluggghhh....

Saw Signs this week, M. Night Shyamalan's latest bid for Hitchcock status. I have these comments, but don't read them if you don't want a spoiler:


1. I am never living anywhere near a corn field. No one with any sense does. Come on.

2. If aliens could find their way across light-years of space, why do they need to make bigass crop circles to find their way around our measly little planet? The humans pick up their radio signals, so we know they communicate verbally. Why do they need crop circles?

3. If you're going to attack people, don't announce where you're going to attack days in advance by hovering over your big engraved target symbols and giving people time to board up their windows. If the U.S. Army behaved in this manner, the Taliban would've gotten the hell away from our big Afghan rock-circles well before we got off a single shot. Although this appears to be our strategy in Iraq. Wow, who said that?

4. As we have seen, these are stupid aliens, as are most aliens we get attacked by in the movies. Could someone other than Star Trek please have some smart aliens attack us for once? They're like the fucking West Virginians of the universe. It's rather an empty victory to defeat intergalactic hillbillies who can unwittingly get trapped in the pantry, or who can't defend themselves against a man with a baseball bat. Showing up announced and unarmed is not a terribly effective strategy for world domination. And if these stupid aliens can develop interstellar travel, what the hell are we doing hanging around here? We could invade other planets waaay better than these fuckers, & I think it's high time we got off our asses and did something about it. Or make 'em a deal: You give us some starships, we show you how to invade planets.

5. The movie still scared the crap out of me, so don't think I'm all that. Fucking cornfields.


On the musical front, my Zip drive troubles are still slowing me down, but I'm gonna plow through. Nothing that can't be rectified eventually, I just need to put more coals in the boiler to get it done. I'm signing up with BMI this weekend so I can get my millions when the royalties come in. Aww, yeah.

Got some weird stomach thing. I never get proper illnesses, they're always some fucked up thing that no one's ever heard of. This time, I get a stomach ache after lunch. Doesn't matter where or what I eat, I get a stomach ache after lunch. With one notable exception: McDonald's Quarter Pounder with Cheese. I discovered this one day by eating one, then after waiting the requisite 30 minutes for the stomach ache to kick in, realized I felt fine. I tested this theory the next day by eating chicken at a deli, & sure enough got a stomach ache. Next day I had a Quarter Pounder with Cheese. No stomach ache.

What kind of illness is that specific? Is McDonald's conducting some experiment? It would make sense: Put a drug in your Quarter Pounder that renders all other food indigestible between the hours of 11AM and 1PM, and BAM!! You've got a permanent lunch crowd. Somehow I don't think their science is that tight, though. They still build two half-menu locations instead of one full-menu location. Whatevah.

The illness puts me in mind of how old I'm getting. Don't laugh, it's happening. I think Einstein's theory of relativity should be re-evaluated to include the possibility that certain people age faster than others. All these people in their mid-twenties are asking me questions like I'm the old man of the mountain. I'm only 28, for chrissakes. But I don't feel 28. Nor do I sound 28 when I answer their questions with an amusing anecdote, like...well, like I'm the old man of the mountain.

This young girl I'm working with found out I played Dungeons & Dragons as a kid, and in wonderment, asked me to describe it. How does one begin? Somehow in the 8 years between my early teens & hers, role-playing games went the way of New Coke and became shrouded in the mist of legend. I don't doubt it. When I visit Forbidden Planet in Union Square--which is Manhattan Geek Central, thus my attendance--their upstairs gaming room is filled with people my age, still swording it out with scaly beasties and traitorous maidens who never once went out with them, Helmet of Testosterone Elementals or no.

And while we're at it, cursive. They're not teaching cursive in school anymore. I now possess knowledge of a dead language. If that doesn't make you old, nothing does. What am I, Gandalf the Grey? Next they'll come up with some kind of New Math. Oh, wait...

Actually, this girl is pretty cool, though she claims to have invented the Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon game in 8th grade. She says a group of college students overheard her & her friends playing it at a restaurant & nabbed the idea. I was dubious, but she solved several of my most outrageous queries, so who the hell knows? Anyone who can link Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Martin Sheen deserves at least a little cred. She did Tom Waits & Will Smith too, but damned if I can remember how.

This week's Treasured Moments:

1. I'm selecting a suitable bottle of water from the complimentary beverage table, & this guy I've never seen before decides the best conversational intro to a perfect stranger is, "You know, I haven't had a regular shit in weeks." He was probably talking about the coffee, but I'll never know, because I got the fuck out of there.

2. A guy gets on the train and makes the following announcement: "Ladies and gentlemen, I am a member of Sandwiches for the Homeless. If you are homeless, please take a sandwich. If you are not, please give a small donation so that these people can eat sandwiches on the train." Wh..? That almost beats the guy who asked for donations to the United Negro Pizza Fund.

3. On a related front, the guy who sits every day at the corner of 45th & Avenue of the Americas and screams like Gilbert Gottfried for "ONE PENNY!! Just ONE PENNY to feed the homeless!!" gets frustrated when I ignored him yet again. He bangs his bucket on the ground and wails, "WHAT IS THE MATTER WITH YOU PEOPLE?" I don't know, maybe we'd all prefer it if you quit screaming and made some fucking sandwiches.

4. I'm strolling through Times Square and I suddenly realize I'm the only person in my immediate 10-foot radius who's not wearing flip-flops. What the hell is the matter with people?

5. Wifely and I are in the upstairs kitchen listening to the backyard party a couple of doors down the street. Isn't it interesting, we note with intellectual aplomb, how much Latino music sounds Arabic? Oh, it must be the Moorish influence on Spain, we agree. Yes, very sound theory. In fact, one might say that Latin musical culture and that of the Muslims are linked in many ways we may not be aware of. Yes, quite, quite. Then, upon further listening, we find that it IS in fact Arabic music we have been sampling, and that neither of us know shit from shine-ola when it comes to non-Anglo music. That's it, my intellectual props are shot.

Having established this, I must risk the following assessment anyway: There is no reason for The Three Tenors to exist. The local PBS station is running their Old & Senile People With No Taste programming right now because it's pledge time (sadly, this practice is not limited to Texan PBS stations, as I'd hoped), and they've decided the pinnacle of pledge-raking is this pile of tuxedoed sheep dung. If they were televising cow insemination, it couldn't be more unpleasant than The Three Tenors. Not one fat man bemoaning his indigestion, but three...

...which just happened again, because they put on The Bee Gees right after that! Aggghh!! Pete preserve us. I guess since I've come back around to Pete, this letter should be over. Sorry they've been so long lately, there's just been a lot going on. Now I'm off to eat a goddamn Quarter Pounder with Cheese and threaten Jared with another labor strike. I've still got my multi-sided dice and a Saving Throw versus undead supervisors, so watch the fuck out. Thanks, Pete.



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the matthew show