Thursday, September 20, 2007

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Office

I got canned. Axed. Sacked. Made redundant. Laid off. Position eliminated.

Not that I didn't see it coming. I did.

Not that it wasn't in some sense a relief. It was.

Tuesday mornings aren't the slow grinding dread of meeting with an orangutang to go over progress on a project nobody is really interested in because, like a collection of children they have a blanky, a bowl of food and a place to crap. So what if the thing is always late, we always get away with it.

Unemployment nirvana. There's just one problem. There always is.

I got another job.

The next day.

Ointment without a fly simply does not exist for me. Not that I'm complaining, but really, could I at least go through a respectable period of unemployment. Just to get a sense of the thing. I now have a booklet of unemployment insurance rules, a payment calculation and a week wherein to post my first claim.

I also have an employment contract to sign.

So much for being the iconoclastic writer type who takes long walks through town, talks to a lot of people and taps away at a laptop on the front porch of the coffee shop he used to own, working on his second novel.

Now its off to Brooks Brothers for a new suit and some white shirts, pick the laptop to use, figure out the Blackberry and dive headlong into corporate America.

But I am thankful and there are folks who've lost their job and have gone through a personal hell before they picked themselves back up. They have my respect and admiration. I've not been there yet and haven't made it this time and am frankly scared out of my wits that I would have the gumption to pick up the pieces and begin anew. This time I got lucky and when I get lucky I tend to want to share that luck. Being that I have to assemble a staff, I got on the phone and offered a job to one of the most deserving and qualified people I know. They turned me down but had a hard time doing so. The opportunity was great, the money outstanding but the commute was hell. At the very least though, they know they have options.

I start in a couple of weeks. Been doing legwork all this week, travelling to customer sites, plant locations and so forth. If this is joblessness, could I go back to work? It was easier.

I'll see you shortly. My schedule is going to put me in a lot of hotel rooms with time to kill. I'll go corporate, at least for a few years, but I'll never stop bunnying.

Bunny on.

Thanks for listening.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Comedy Troupe with a Running Problem

What began as a bad joke a few months ago just resulted in five of us forming a running team and running a marathon relay last week.

A marathon relay is a full marathon run by a team of five carving the course up into five mile stretches. The idea being that we can all bask in the glory of a marathon race without actually having to run any more than our usual pathetic lunchtime circuit. A relay also sets up five hand off points along the course which means an ambulance isn't ever that far away. Not that we took advantage of that but I've run races shadowed by a worried EMT crew, pointing and frowning.

A bad joke is of course, self-explanatory.

We run for fun. Let's face it, while we stay marginally fit, we're all middle aged guys and the economics 101 chapter on diminishing marginal returns that we didn't get in sophomore year is suddenly clear and comprehensible. Running is a social activity for us. As long as there's enough breath to go around, we're talking about the baseball season ending, football season beginning, who's new at work, who's been handed the same fate as a Chilean dissenter, whatever catches our interest.

The race started at seven in the morning and the first complaint came from Dave who had to come into town from his house out in a county that probably has three complete sets of teeth in aggregate amongst all its residents.

"Seven a.m? We running or going fishing?"

He had a point. At least if we were going fishing we stood the chance of being able to feed ourselves and, failing that, we could be drunk by noon.

I was going to start the race and run the first leg. Amongst our group, Jim and I are the more hard-core runners, which is to say, ones without a lot of common sense. But one of us was going to start us off fast and the other was going to finish us fast. Chris would take a middle leg, the one with the only hill in the course. He chuckled and said he'd be fine since he knew the course and it wasn't that much of a hill anyway. Dave and Gary took the second and fourth leg respectively although they promised to run it in no such fashion.

Because of an injury and Jim being a better distance runner, we swapped out legs. The course had undergone a last minute change (something possibly involving a Superfund site, the details were unclear) and Jim took the now longer first leg. No problem, I took the last but shortest leg. Chris was still committed to the hill and chuckled that anyone would worry about that small of a hill.

On the way to the race we passed a fellow we knew would be running. He works for a large running magazine in the area. Gary stomped on the accelerator and declared that we should remember the moment: It would be the only time we passed the guy all day.

After we got Jim started with the usual words of encouragement, support, which attractive female runner to use as a pacer, we went back to the car and decided whether or not to see this thing through. Figuring Jimmy would probably think he was meant to run two legs we could be safely home by the time he'd figure he was on his own. The promise of a dry bagel and all the half ripe bananas we could eat post race kept us in the game and we were off to the first hand off.

I wasn't sure if there was a physical hand off for the race. Like a baton or perhaps a live rattlesnake just to keep the ratings up there with Survivor. I thought that a live grenade on a three hour timer would keep us fast and honest. When I pulled the last leg though, that idea was quickly discarded. The actual hand off was a high five between the finishing runner and the starting runner and Jim magnanimously kept an open palm even after the morning's taunting from Dave justified a more closed fist approach. Dave was off and we headed back to the car to drive to our next relay hand off point. This would be the third leg, the one with the (chuckle) hill that Chris was to take on. I was having a fine time of it. After all, I was in a race but was in actuality just driving around in a car wearing a pair of shorts.

Did I mention that the sun was now up and it was a lovely cool morning?

The next hand off spot was tucked away in some neighborhood well off the beaten path. Gary knew how to get there, Chris knew how to get out and on to the next drop point, the rest of us, well you could point guns to our heads and we couldn't lead you to anywhere that had anything to do with the correct direction of the race.

We waited for Chris. And waited. And waited some more. I stopped to use one of the portable toilets that had been placed alongside the track such that you had to watch how far you opened the door for fear of cold cocking a passing runner. The lines for the toilets were relatively short, maybe twelve people or so but once inside it was a little disconcerting to read the capacity warning. Apparently the thing was made to max out at about ten people a week before becoming unsanitary. I reckon we maxed them all out during the first half hour. Pick those things up gently boys, no tipping.

At last Chris came around the bend with an expression not unlike one would have if one had just been dragged by horses for the last five miles.

"Hill." He panted. "Hill." "Wrong." "Freaking." "Hill!" Which was the five minute last gasp of air way of saying the hill he had reckoned on was not the hill the race organizers had delivered.

It was just the wrong freaking hill and a little steeper the way a circular saw goes around and around just a little faster than a carousel does.

Did I mention it was a fine, warm, sunny morning?

Gary was now off and Chris announced that his wife was here to pick him up and he would be leaving. At this point, Jim, Dave and I surely shared a facial expression not unlike having been given a coordinated ice water enema. Guns to our heads, there was no way we were going to find the last relay point.

So Chris agreed to drive the next leg and we all ponied up for a few counseling sessions should he ever need them. We parked the car at the first available lot and ran up to the crossing monitor to ask where the exact hand off point was. It was about a half mile up the road. No problem, we'd jog there. The jog covered the same track that the actual race was being held on and we got to the relay station with much fanfare and encouragement from the spectators only to stop dead in the middle of it all. This concerned the audience. Why were three runners giving up simultaneously. It also concerned the race crew who logged our team split time and then had to back everything out of the computer when they realized we weren't handing off just yet.

The three of us, I waiting for Gary's hand off, Jim and Dave waiting for Gary as they were still as lost and clueless as to where they were as when Chris drove them here, were all killing time now. Jim and Dave began to point out some of the more interesting audience members, most, no let's be honest, all of whom were younger females.

What is it about us guys that immediately draws us to younger females? Aside from the obvious, I guess its an opportunity to stretch the imagination for those of us who are happily married but like to wonder "what if" just for fun. That's not me. I'm single and its not so much a game of stretching the imagination than it is of learning to define and accept one's boundaries.

In other words, "Yeah, she's cute and I guess if I were younger, taller and actually attractive, I'd walk over and start a conversation."

Gary showed up, handed off and I was off on the last leg of the race.

Did I mention the sun stood blazingly high in the sky, the temperatures had soared and there wasn't a breeze in the county? Yep, I drew the shortest but hottest leg of the race. Also the one that emerged from the canopied woods onto a bike path that led right into the city center where we ended. Not my finest hour. Nor my fastest. But we finished without too much undue embarassment.

Good time of 3.31.10 which, had we been one runner would be impressive indeed. All the more for if we were one runner and our ages were added up, we probably would have been around for Jefferson's first term. Of course, we really are one runner in spirit, ability, determination and goal of going home and really thinking it through before we ever sign up for this sort of thing again.

Bunny on.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Yes, We Have No Zucchini

In 1975 the town I lived in was hit by a drought so severe that the lake that supplied our water dried up. Literally. The whole damn thing, in the most arid summer in memory, was sucked away to wash Dodge Aspens and brand new Pacers.

So we don't drink for a few months. Car looks showroom new!

But the lake dried up. Fifteen to thirty feet deep, dry right down to the bottom. There were a couple of shopping carts near the shore, some sunk logs out in the middle, ice fishing shacks and at least one snowmobile that had seen the first of April pass at its peril. Everything the town had ever ejected into that lake was back for a visit. I was personally surprised that the old man didn't insist I venture out and retrieve every rock I had ever skipped, returning it to the shore where it belonged.

The lake, all for being pretty much in the middle of town, wasn't a focal point for most of the residents. Oh sure, it was there, but you didn't see it unless you specifically went to see it. Apartment buildings ringed its shore and one block in the lake was something you talked about as in remembering when they used to race cars on the ice in winter.

Now you had to pay attention to it because the town restricted water use and when you called to complain what all the fuss was about you were instructed to take a ride down to where the lake used to be.

People gathered at its edge and just stared. Amazed. Where did all the freaking water go? Sure, the apartment dwellers had spent the better part of summer watching water levels drop so, no surprises here. But the rest of us showed up one night in August for a collective "Whatfu?"

We had a neighbor who was running for the World's Most Awful Person and was in the top five finalists, having jockeyed Joe Stalin aside. She is fodder for another day but suffice to say she made our lives resemble so much elbow on pavement in her being a constant, consistent irritant.

Naturally, I sought every opportunity to pay her back in kind.

Even in summer, I was hustled off to bed at a reasonable hour. I think it was ten or ten thirty by the time I was thirteen or so. I'm sure there were friends within my circle that were up later but the hour was excused under the euphemism of my growing body needing rest when in fact my mom needed some kidshutup time. One night during what she called the "finally!" hour, I was laying in bed trying out some new insomnia patterns. These would of course serve me well in later life. In the first half hour of tossing, turning and worrying about Soviet nuclear capability I happened to hear water running. That summer it was as rare as hearing the old man come home and say "let's go to a ball game!" Ever. I got up and ruined the "finally!" hour by asking Mom where water would be running. A quick check of the house and we landed on the same conclusion: Neighbor Awful! Breaking the law. Watering something under cover of darkness. Only one thing to do:

Throw alight the freaking near stadium floodlights the old man had installed in the backyard.

Sent the old girl packing so fast, she left scorch marks on the fescue. The fun of it saved the "finally" hour and bought me a half hour of "Movie of the Week."

The point of all of this is being that my mother can be an awful cook.

As things got drier that August, more draconian conservation measures were brought up. One of which was a shutting down of individual home water feeds. That would leave homeowners to gather cooking water at a local artesian well, be allowed to bathe once a week and use communal toilet facilities. As in Port-a-Johns on each block. Mom decided to make stuffed zucchini to this.

Not really ever having mastered even the culinary basics, she sliced zucchinis in half and filled them with ground beef. Just beef. Spices were something for the Indian family up the street. Maybe a little salt to drive your blood pressure but that's about it. Then into the oven the whole affair goes to have the last shred of flavor driven out of it. And just before serving, now that the family is at the table, bring up the water shortage and use restrictions. Naturally the beef will have browned up and shriveled just a bit on the zucchini half and the half itself will be a little wilted. But no matter, focus on communal toilets and the thought of using them with Neighbor Awful while you plate what surely looks like fresh turd on zucchini halves.


I haven't touched the stuff since.

Bunny on.

visited 34 states (68%)