Lumpen Some More

The phone interview went pretty well.  I yammered on for three quarters of an hour without the guy asking for a moment so he could put on his hip waders.  At the conclusion of our conversation, he asked me if I had any questions for him.  The main one on my mind was what was going to happen next.

I didn’t expect candor on this.  Hiring managers don’t come right out and call you an asshole.  That is considered unprofessional.  What they do instead is thank you for your time and tell you that they need to talk to other candidates, perhaps some who aren’t showing signs of brain damage.

What I was told was that they indeed needed to talk to others but I was still on the list for further consideration.  That was quite nice to hear.  I was also told that no decision would be made for at least two weeks and they might not hire anyone externally at all.  That was less nice to hear.

Where does that leave me?  Face to face with the sort of behavior I’ve never been very good at, that’s where.  Now comes the part where I must diligently search for another job while hoping this one comes through.  In theory, it’s simple enough.  In practice, I have a problem putting the existing job prospect out of my mind while looking for new ones.  This leads to putting less effort into the task than if I had no current chances at anything.  It’s a bad habit of mine, one that is the reason why I haven’t achieved as much as I could have in life.  Well, one of many reasons including drinking, daydreaming, and a near pathological hatred of authority.

So I’ll do something I didn’t in my last post.  I’ll ask you to wish me luck.  I didn’t need it then.  I do now.  Thanks.

Lumpen No More?

The clock is ticking.  At three pm today, I shall receive a phone call from a prospective employer.  I will try to impress him with both my technical skill and enthusiasm about the job.  The truth is that in both categories, I rate somewhere between awful and stellar.  That spans quite a range.  I hope to convince the caller that I am on the upper end of that.

I won’t lie.  It is both tacky and self-defeating to do so.  If I claim to be able to be able to perform in a job I flat out cannot do, my deception will not be a secret for long.  I prefer to tell the truth in such a way it works to my advantage.  It is much the same tactic I use when trying to convince  judge or attorneys that I would be a less than ideal juror, only in reverse.

I feel pretty confident about getting this job and since my brand of stupidity does not extend to superstition, I’m not afraid of jinxing my chances by saying so.  If I get hired, it will be for a contract gig lasting three months with a possible extension.  I’ve been in a similar position at another company and wound up sticking around for three years.  It’s hard to say what will happen here, if anything.

So let’s say for argument’s sake that the phone call finishes with the guy on the other end convinced that I am a perfect fit for the job.  What then?  Well, it will mark the end of a a phase in my life.  Two months is a pretty short period as phases go but long enough not to be dismissed as a mere blip.

It has been a time of leisure and time wasted.  Most evenings were spent at the Argus pistol whipping my liver with a pint glass.  My days were less productive, much of them spent napping or watching TV with glazed eyes.  Commercials would target those in my position, imploring us to jump start our lives by enrolling in their vocational schools.  The jobs they train you for are skilled trade positions, stuff like mechanics and electricians.  I justified my laziness with professional snobbery, considering such work beneath me, when in fact the only things beneath me were couch cushions getting flattened by my fat ass.

But all that is going to change very soon, at least I hope so.

Bad People

One summer night in 1987, I was sitting in the Espresso Roma Café in Santa Barbara with a friend of mine and his teenage-runaway girlfriend.  She was frying on acid, which she did fairly often, and I decided to have some fun.  The first thing I did was to fashion a voodoo doll from a paper napkin.  Then I reached across the table, plucked out one of her hairs, and wrapped it around the doll.  While making sure she was watching me, I took my butter knife and stabbed it through the doll’s chest.  The way she clutched herself and screamed, it was as if I had impaled her heart for real.

Good times.

Yes, I could be a complete shit back then.  However, I don’t do stuff like that anymore.  I’m over it.  Acid heads who are prone to suggestion (which is to say pretty much all of them) have little to fear from the likes of me.  I’m a nice guy now, more or less.

Now if I can mellow with age, it stands to reason that far worse people than myself can as well.  This holds true even in the case of serial killers, who are about as far worse as far worse can be.  Two examples that immediately come to mind are Jack the Ripper and the Zodiac Killer.  Whether these individuals experienced some sort of moral awakening or if they simply got bored will probably never be known.  What is clear is that they walked away from their life of evil deeds before the law could catch up with them.

Of course, this means these murderers are able to evade punishment.  Not a popular outcome in general and especially not for friends and family.  It’s hard enough losing someone to an illness or an accident without having to think about some hatchet-wielding lunatic as the cause of it all.

And then there are the homicide detectives who get a detailed look at a serial killer’s handiwork.  What they see is not a neat little bullet hole in the forehead like one finds watching shows from TV’s golden age where there was plenty of violence but no blood to speak of.  Instead, they are treated to raped eye sockets, intestines ripped out and knotted around throats like neckties, and faces cut off with surgical precision only to be unceremoniously reattached inside out.  And let’s not forget the vagina mutilators whose variations on misogyny-as-performance-art could fill volumes.

Those who work these crime are not interested in the perpetrator turning over a new leaf.  The want that person out of circulation and for justice to be swift and uncompromising.  Most of us share this view.

The problem is that sort of justice no longer exists in the American judicial system.  The right to appeal makes an April hanging for a March murder impossible.  This is not necessarily a bad thing as our courts have been known to convict the wrong person.  What is galling is someone like Ted Bundy who is as guilty as they come, living off taxpayer money for close to a decade before getting strapped to the hot seat.

OK, Bundy was never going to stop killing.  Even on death row he wasn’t able to come to terms with what he had done, preferring to blame his actions on the influence of porn.

So in Ted’s case, it was probably money well spent.  But for a killer who stops killing and never gets caught, I can’t help but think that all those dollars that don’t have to be spent on a trial and incarceration may actually go to something worthwhile.  Then again, it’ll probably get pissed away on some pork-barrel project so the hell with it.  Spare no expense.  Track them down and hang ’em high.  The government is good at that, at least the sparing no expense part.

How They Roll

Saturday nights are usually nothing special for me.  I go to the bar, have a few beers, then come home and fall asleep next to my cat.  It is the existence of someone who has learned to be content with life’s simple pleasures, at least that is what I keep telling myself.  Never mind that it can also be described as what happens when a person has given up on life and wants to painlessly run out the clock.

So I decided that enough was enough and that I was going to break free of that rut I’ve been in.  It was time to seize the day and grab all that gusto that old beer commercials said was out there just waiting to be had.  The problem was that gusto-on-demand is not always readily available to someone who has adopted the phrase “fuck it” as his personal refrain.  Fortunately, other people’s gusto can be enjoyed vicariously at reasonable rates.

If I were something approaching a normal person, becoming a slavish devotee of some mainstream spectator sport would fill this need quite nicely.  All I would have to do is grunt out “Go Giants!” and my life would have meaning.  Simple as that.  Pity I’m not wired up that way.

If I am to follow a sport, it has to have some real zing.  Major League Baseball falls short, despite the impressive chutzpah they show as a multibillion-dollar business that feels entitled to taxpayer money to build their stadiums.  No, the special something I’m looking for inhabits a realm where tough tattooed women with nicknames borrowed from a zombie-apocalypse biker gang who skate around a flat track and slam into each other at top speed.  For this, I need look no further than roller derby.

As luck would have it, I know  a couple of women involved in the local derby scene.  One skates on a team, another is a former player who is now a referee.  Both are bartenders at the Argus.  It’s really surprising that I hadn’t attended a bout (what a roller-derby match is called) before.  Part of the reason was inertia.  It’s a bit of a haul to get to Herbst Pavilion in Fort Mason, though much easier than when the bouts were held out near the Oakland airport.  Another factor was a sneaking suspicion that the reality would not be nearly as cool as the mystique.  The video shown at the bar wasn’t the greatest enticement either.  With the camera mounted high and away from the track and no audio playing, the footage was about as exciting as watching a bunch of people do the Hokey Pokey.

Despite everything, I decided on Friday night to go to Saturday’s bout.

The following evening, I got off the 49 Muni bus at Van Ness and Bay about a half hour before the bout was scheduled to start.  I had ridden up with two other bar regulars, Joe and Mark, who had decided to attend as well.  Mark knew the fastest way to walk into Fort Mason from the bus stop, which was a good thing because three pints of beer and a bumpy ride on city transit meant I needed to find a restroom in a hurry.  This wasn’t the Mission.  It was the Marina.  It’s perfectly fine for them to come to my neighborhood to publicly urinate but not the other way around.

When we arrived at Herbst Pavilion, I paid my $12 admission and made a bee line for me men’s room.  Feeling refreshed and my business concluded, I went to a beer set up against the wall and bought myself a PBR.  It was a pretty sizable crowd and pretty much all the seats were taken.

I wandered around the perimeter of the track and ran into Joe and Mark talking with J Crush, the bartender who skates for the Richmond Wrecking Belles.  She usually stands about five-eight but with the added height from the skates she was six foot easy.  Grinning ear to ear in her uniform, knee and shoulder pads, and helmet, she was very clearly in her element.  After standing between Mark and me while  Joe took a picture, she skated off to join her teammates.  The bout would soon begin.

A woman’s voice came over the PA.  The cavernous interior of the building created a sort of dampened echo that distorted her voice but she was still intelligible as she introduced the roster from each team.  Names like Minnie Peril, Brawllen Angel, and Luv U Longtime all drew applause and cheers from the audience as they were announced.

As the bout got underway, I realized how little the videotape had done the sport justice.  One thing was the sound.  At about an equal volume with the Dead Kennedys and Gary Glitter piped in as background music was the rumble of skate wheels on the wooden track.  Another thing is that this is a contact sport meaning the skaters do hit each other and they do fall down.

Of course, one might be disappointed if expecting the level violence seen in pro wrestling or the roller derby of decades past.  The difference is that in its current form, roller derby put its emphasis on actual competition rather than scripted mayhem.  To avoid serious injuries, the rules are very clear that body checks with the shoulder are perfectly acceptable but forearm smashes, clotheslining, and flying dropkicks are frowned upon.

Points are scored when the skater with the star on her helmet, the jammer, tries to skate past opposing players, the blockers, who try their best to prevent this from happening.  I’m sure there is more to it than I gleaned from a quick look at the rules printed in the program I got at the entrance to to enjoy the sport as a spectator, that’s really all you need to know.  If you see how the crowd gets to their feet when a jammer comes whipping around the track on a collision course with a bunch of real unfriendly blockers, you’ll know exactly what I mean.

In the end, J Crush’s team won but I was more interested in the spectacle than the final score.  And what a spectacle it was, homegrown, a little bawdy, and very badass.

After the bout, more drinking was in order so Joe, Mark, and I shared a cab to go back to the Argus.  As we passed the opera house, a couple of symphony goers who tried in vain to hail our taxi.  Nothing doing.  Tonight this cab was ours.  Not theirs.  Ours.

Doldrums Dispatch

It’s been about four months since my last blog entry.  A few things of note have happened between then and now.  To save my sanity and and my stomach lining, I switched from drinking whiskey to beer.  I spend a week’s vacation in New Orleans.  And oh yeah, I lost my job.

I was laid off on the second to last Thursday in May, though technically I stayed on the payroll until June 1.  I wouldn’t say I expected this to happen but considering the two-flusher of an economy we have these days, it didn’t come as a complete surprise either.

I walked away with six weeks’ severance, eligibility for unemployment insurance, and the promise to provide me with a decent reference for my job hunt.  It wasn’t a bad deal overall as far as getting kicked to the curb goes.

I’m still looking for work.  My morning ritual starts with checking the job boards for people looking for perl programmers within a 20 mile radius of San Francisco (I’m not going to consider jobs in the South Bay until the situation gets desperate).  If something catches my eye, I send out my resume with a slightly customized boilerplate cover letter.

After that, the day pretty much goes to hell.  I do have an abundance of time and seldom get around to doing anything with it.  That got me thinking about Poison Spur.  I’m sure there are people out there who want to read my stuff, at least a dozen or so.  So here I am, back again.