Thursday, April 28, 2016

Let Me Earn Your Praise

Sal and I have a friend who is getting married. How do we know that? Well because she made a hashtag, and if you search for that hashtag she has six daily reminders that, "this is the last laundry day until my wedding," "last sandwich until my wedding," "last date as fiancees."

Now, someone excited for their wedding, no matter how much of the patience of their friends they are spending, is a good thing. But this person also wants all eyes on her for everything. She wanted a bachelorette party, a wedding shower, a housewarming party, and she even tried to set up a present unwrapping party for the day after the wedding.

I like when all eyes are on me. I love attention. I will gladly take control of a room and get everyone listening to my quips and stories.

But I like to earn it.

I've always had a hard time where all eyes are on me and I didn't do anything to earn it.

Like my birthday for instance, I've always hated the cake and song and opening presents while everyone watches. Yes, celebrate me! Yes, I love getting presents! But all I did was not die in the womb. Everyone's eyes should be on my mom while I open presents. Sing to her. That's sort of my ideal birthday.

Same thing for college graduation. I was going to go to college anyway. I looked at the roster, saw there were 600 people I didn't care about graduating at the same time, didn't recognize the speaker, and thought, "meh, I'd rather have free time."

Even my wedding, I had to win over Sal and by the time the wedding came along, I had already done that. Now everyone wants to congratulate me for what? Being attractive, funny, and locking things up?

And then I was awarded "Team Member of the Year" at my old job. I didn't realize I was signing up for exactly the thing I hated. I showed up in a button down and tie and soon saw everyone else decked out in suits and dresses, I heard the music hit, and realized... "uh-oh, I stumbled backwards into an award ceremony."

I guess what I'm saying is... only throw me parties if I've won the room over on my own? I don't know what the point of this really is. Just been hearing a lot about weddings and graduations today and it is really weird how different I feel about those situations than most people.

Edit: After giving this a second read, I think I realized the point of this was a humble brag about how awesome I am.

Friday, April 22, 2016


In elementary school, I was in the gifted kids program. Once a week I was shuttled off to the high-school where we did incredibly more interesting studies than we did at our normal schools.

Usually we would study something in history in the morning (middle ages, Greek mythology), do something language related around lunch (poetry, French), and something science related in the afternoon. (weather studies, engineering). 

The lesson plans were usually written out to last about 6 weeks before moving onto a new subject and typically at the end of the 6 weeks you had some sort of presentation to give. 

Well there was one time where we had to come up with an invention. 

Being the selfish video-game addict I was, I would get incredibly irritated anytime my mom vacuumed the living room and I was watching TV or playing a game. Not only do you have the noise from the vacuum, but with older CRT TVs you would get all the static fuzz on the image.

So my idea was some sort of vacuum muffler or insulation. Something to kill the noise and interference. 

Now, I'm an idea man. I've never embraced math or science. I tend to blame having really boring math teachers never gripping me in the studies. I remember really enjoying balancing equations, but that's about the end of my math love. 

Now, I also loved building LEGOs. So I had a sort of engineering / problem solving mind, but without the math background this never really matured. 

So... my idea, incredibly solid. My implementation... meh... maybe not as much.

I remember the two teachers telling me it would be hard, but as long as I tried, even if the invention failed, I would get a passing grade. 

We had to call places and ask them if that product existed as part of this. I called Sears and asked their home appliance department if they ever heard of a vacuum muffler. They sounded really confused for a moment and then said, "No, I don't think so, but if you figure it out, we would be really interested in that."

And then I ignored the project for the next four weeks until I had that panic grip me because I was never going to get this done.

So, idea man happened again. I figured I could use recycled materials and get a bonus for being environmentally friendly. (I also did not want to go to stores and figure out what material I would actually use for this.)

So how did I solve the problem? I cut (probably my mom actually) several gallon milk jugs in half, taped them together, and then spray painted this monstrosity red. Once the paint dried, I glued a ton of cotton you use to stuff pillows with to the inside.

Success bullet points:

  • It fit nicely over our vacuum.
  • There was a mild noise reduction to what I considered to be acceptable levels. 
Failure bullet points:
  • The vacuum got really hot since I essentially put a blanket over it.
  • Spray paint does not stick to milk jugs, so the red paint chips went everywhere in the classroom and on my hand.
  • Static was still an issue.
  • I lied, the sound reduction was not at an acceptable level.
So basically, if you need an idea or a brainstorming session, I'm your guy. If you need me to build something for you... you should really just call literally anyone else.

I did get a passing C+ since I did build something and it was a good idea, but my teachers knew this was a last minute and half baked idea.

And to be fair, the inventions that did work were really dumb rip-offs of things that actually exist. Come on Brandon, there are already utility belts you can wear that stores your tools. Don't be dumb. Just look at every handyman in the world. 

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Memory of Spencer

I had one of those insanely vivid dreams that I was on an adventure with a very old friend, and of course a stream of memories were accessed in my brain when I woke up this morning.

I just had one of those feelings that my brain was getting ready to purge this information for some new stuff, and I felt sort of sick to my stomach not having a memory of my friend Spencer.

Spencer and I hit it off in 4th grade, when during our scheduled restroom break, we were sitting cross-legged in the hall of the school. Most of my friends were in the other 4th grade class, so not being shy about just talking to whoever was around, I turned to the guy behind me, pointed at a roster for the 2nd grade class, and said, "there's a kid in that class named "I-ON." (Phonetically how I said it)

Spencer looked at the name, and looked me in the eye, and said, "You're an idiot. That's my brother. His name is Ian."

And that is how we started hanging out.

Spencer used to spend the night at my house fairly often, especially early on. We would spend nights drawing from comic books, drawing on huge pieces of paper, even drawing on my unpainted wall in my basement room.

I remember how he used to tell anyone that would listen, how great of an artist I was. He's honestly probably the reason I kept with drawing for a few more years.

I know Scully, my face exactly.
He'd often spend the night on Friday. I remember this because he had an unhealthy obsession with Gillian Andersen's (Scully) boobs.

After NYPD Blue showed a bare butt on TV (a dude's at that), Spencer was convinced that Scully's "bowling ball boobs" (his 4th grade words, not mine) would eventually be shown on TV. So every week, around Wednesday, he would start hyping up the Friday X-files by telling me his older brother heard this was the week.

It obviously never happened.

Side note: This may be where my love of red heads came from.

After we had been hanging out for a year or so, he started inviting me to spend the night at his grandma's house, but not his.

His grandma and grandpa were pretty well off. They would pick me up and take us to Mid-Rivers mall in their giant, leased SUV. Spencer's grandma would give him $30 to spend while we putz around the mall. I always thought Spencer was lucky to have so much money at his disposal.

We usually ate mall food (me Sbarro, him Chic-fil-a), comb through all the books at Walden's, usually buying a comic-book (me, Calvin and Hobbes if I had money, him Batman vs Predator), and then head back to his grandparents's really nice duplex around a lake.

Normally we would then play his grandparent's Gateway PC which was incredibly powerful
compared to any computer we had.

There was a largely forgotten game called Hunter Hunted that was our favorite, where one of us would play as a beast and one a man, and we would fight our way through a post-apocalyptic future together.

To this day, these warm memories usually have me loading the game onto my PC once a year to play through it.

We would fall asleep on the couch bed and every hour I was woken by an incredibly loud cuckoo-clock.

It was probably year 2 when I got my first invite to Spencer's actual house. Even then, I remember feeling really bad for him and his dad.

It was an ideal Bellefontaine Neighbors suburban ranch home, probably built in the 50's. It was down the street from a middle school, had fenced in yard, made of brick, and had a market on the corner.

Except that this house was on the western side of the town, near Glasgow Village and the river. White flight had already started in the area. The middle school had closed down from lack of kids. There were 10 houses on sale and not taken care of in the area. I remember how the street used to shimmer under street lights from all the broken glass.

And Spencer's dad... he was the man I really felt for. He had a 900 square foot house, filled with five children. He worked long hours, 5 in the morning until 7 at night from what I understood. Some sort of manual labor. He would come home, pass out fast food to everyone, and sit to watch TV.

He was nice, never hit anyone, but he did have a temper. He was too tired to really pay attention to the kids, so instead he would yell for them to do things.

I remember eating pancakes off a plastic plate at Spencer's one morning and the pancakes tasted like soap. Spencer's dad flipped out yelling at Spencer, "I told you to rinse all the soap off of the dishes when you're done cleaning them." We all sat in silence eating our soapy pancakes.

I think the worst I felt for Spencer's dad is even though he had all the kids, Spencer's mom got them in the summer and she got to be a superhero. All the kids couldn't wait to go out to Arizona where there were no rules.

Every year, when Spencer was coming back from his mom's, excitement built again. I couldn't wait for nights filled with games and comic-books.

Then one year he came back. I rode my bike to his house, and we started walking to our favorite market to buy candy. He pulled out a cigarette. This must have been before 7th grade. I felt a sea change.

He offered me one, I said no. Then he got antagonistic, "Oh, I guess you're too good for me now. You think I'm a piece of crap for smoking don't you?"

Despite me answering no, something had changed. We both knew it. We got some candy, made some small talk, and this is the last time I remember hanging out with Spencer. I was at a different school now, we were both at different places in our life. It's one of those friendships where a coming of age film could be based off of it. It was probably a few years too short, but I really appreciated having it at all.

I saw Spencer once, maybe six years later, at Jamestown mall. He looked exactly as his older brother looked back then. Him, just stretched longer, some stubble on his upper lip, wearing a Charlotte Hornets Starter Jacket.

I think about Spencer every now and then. I think because it was such a short friendship, I don't have as many stories about him so he doesn't come up as often. I hope he's doing OK.