Back to work

It’s been a busy month and a half.

Since the beginning of September I have taken two road trips. The first to Indiana to visit my brother and his family — daughter Addy came along on that one. The second was over Labor Day weekend to visit my relatives in West Virginia, a solo trip. Then I moved out of my apartment and back in with my folks. And, I collected my final unemployment check, not because my stipend had run out but because I started a new job. I was on unemployment for only 8 weeks. Don’t think I don’t know how lucky I am, especially when you consider all the people who have been out of work for months and and years, especially here in Michigan. I got lucky, I know it.

Speaking of my job, it is pretty cool. I’m not going to name the place, though. It’s an office job with all the Dilbert-esque accouterments that that entails, like cubes and copy machines and daily meetings, but the people are really cool. I like it there. Hey, we get free slushies (made from Faygo) and popcorn daily. Coffee too. This week’s slushy flavors are Lemonade and Rock n Rye. Last week it was Grape and Red Pop.

Recently JenX67 posted on her blog an entry that is, in part, about Generation X in the work place. My office is full of GenXers. I’d say mostly GenXers, from what I can gather. But there are plenty of Gen Yers/Millennials as well. In fact, my immediate supervisor is one. He’s maybe 24 or 25 years old. I heard someone ask him where he went to high school and he said Fitzgerald, graduated in 2006. I stood up at my cube and, speaking over the half-wall, said, “Hey. I went there.”

“What?” he said. “You taught there?”

I said, “No. I graduated from Fitz…twenty years before you did.” I graduated in 1986. He laughed.

My supervisor is very cool, very hip. And very good at his job. I like him a lot. I was asked by someone if it bothered me to be “taking orders” from someone so much younger than myself. But you know, it doesn’t. I could really care less. I’m there to work and to learn and he has plenty to teach, so my ears are wide open. You know, I think I’d rather have this young guy than some aging Babyboomer. At least with my boss I don’t have to listen to droning nostalgia about the 60s or The Beatles or anything like that. My boss digs JZ.

In my immediate area there a few other  GenXers. And few a Gen Yers as well.

The other day 0ur supervisor, in response to something someone else said, replied, “Awesome blossom.” He said he didn’t know why he said it.

I asked him if he was referring to the 80s TV show “Blossom.” The other GenXer’s near me just laughed and said that could not possibly be the case, he, our boss, was way too young. I’m pretty sure he didn’t have a clue what I was talking about. Although strangely enough he was singing that Sade “Smooth Operator” today. So….

Maybe this is an opportunity to blog about GenX in the workplace. Gen Y too for that matter. We’ll see. I’ll be working long hours soon, 10 to 12 hours a day some day. This new schedule means I don’t see my daughter as much. She stays with her mom more, not an ideal situation or one that I want but one has to do what one has to do. Addy and I will just have to make the time we do have together count.

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two books

I am constantly reading. Mostly fiction. But just about anything that captures my interest. It’s almost as if I can’t not read, you know. I go from finishing one book to immediately starting another. Often I’ll be in the  midst of more than one book at a time, and I’ll jump back and forth from one book to another to another to…. until I get really hooked into just one. I liked to focus on just one book at at time. However, sometimes I won’t be able to choose. It’s usually between two, sometimes three  but usually no more than that. And I can never be sure what books it will be. Could be one I’ve never read or even heard of before or one that I’ve been meaning to read for some time or one that I’d started previously but never finished or one that I’ve already read, perhaps even more than once.

That is the situation I find myself in now. I’m toggling back and forth between a book that I’ve read before and one that I’ve been meaning to read for some times.

The book that I’ve read before is Stephen King’s The Stand.

I’ve actually read two and a half times. The first time was I believe the summer of 89, the summer just before I left to go away to college at Eastern Michigan University. I remember loving it, not being able to put it down. And ever since I’ve had a thing for post-apocalyptic fiction. The second time I read it was when it re-released in it’s unedited form. The original paperback edition that I read (pictured above) was just over 800 pages. The re-issue was something like 1,200 pages. Also it was supposedly updated for timeliness. The 1/2 time I read it was a few years ago when I tried picking it up again but it did not hold my interest all the way through. Not sure why. This time, though, which was just this past week, I’m hooked into again, although not exactly like I was the first time I read it,which was just for the thrill of it. Now, I think maybe this could be King’s most significant novel. Maybe it don’t quality as a great American novel, but I think it can be said to be a significant American novel. Or maybe with global warming and the fear of an impending apocalypse of some sort it seems timely again. In any case, it has the rare quality of being a big book that does not read like a big book. It clips right along and nothing feels extraneous. I’m digging it once again, and don’t see any reason why I won’t read it through to the end this time.

Something I never would have admitted in my younger days was how much of an influence Stephen King has been on me and my writing generally, and the Stand specifically. I considered him too “popular” to be taken seriously. But I’ve since changed my mind. Rereading King I can see how he’s influenced the way I right, especially the pop culture and Americana references. I used to try to quell my impulse to put pop culture into my writing after it was pointed out in a workshop I was in that my pop culture references might not be a good thing. Writing workshops can do more harm than good. Anyway, I’ve long since put that behind me. Often King himself is a pop culture reference in my writing, and The Stand speficially. A piece I’m finishing a draft of now references The Stand, along with Ray Bradbury and Cormac McCarthy and The Road.

The other book that I’m reading it Nevermind Nirvana, by Mark Lindquist.

This is a book thatI’ve been wanting to read for some time. I remember coming across it in the bookstore. I noticed it because of course the cover looked like the Nirvana album cover. Not sure why I didn’t buy a copy at at the time. Actually, I think I may have not only been off the the whole GenX thing at the time but I was purposely shunning it, sort of rolling my eyes at it as it were. But some time ago I cam across a used copy and put it on the shelf with the other books that I intend to read some day.

Reading it now it really strikes a chord; there’s an idea I have for a story, perhaps even a novel, that is very GenX. But not about young 20-somethingers bar hopping and getting laid and doing drugs in the 80s blah blah blah. I tried that one and it never really came together. The one I’m thinking of is about GenX at 40-something, or at least about one GenXer at the age of 42, who suddenly find himself unemployed, living his parents and divorced. Sound familiar? Gee. I wonder where I got that idea from. But who knows if it’ll ever get written. None of my other novel ideas have….

In the mean time, I can’t seem to focus on just one of these two book. So I may end up reading them in parallel until I finish at least one of them.

In any case, I’m going to get back to reading now.

No music….

….please!

One of the real bummers of my current circumstances, i.e. getting divorced, is that I can no longer enjoy music. In fact, I can barely stand it.

I’ve always lived with the notion that music can be a comfort and cathartic, especially when you’re down, but for me right now it is just painful. It is the emotional equivalent of chewing on tinfoil.

Of course, I’ve never been a music connoisseur, but I’ve always  liked music, like anyone else. So to suddenly have it be a source of discomfort rather than pleasure is disheartening to say the least.

This is especially a problem for me at work, because I have a job where I sit at my computer all day and listening to music is one of the ways that helps you pass the time. But as stated above I can’t do that. Instead, I listen to TV shows online. I’m not so sure that listening to TV shows provides comfort as much as it is simply a distraction, which isn’t bad except there isn’t real joy in it, you know.

I do get some semblance of joy from reading still, thank God! Don’ t  know what I would do if I couldn’t read. I read all the time, somteimes several books simultaneously. But I can’t read while I’m working.

Writing helps but in a different way. It isn’t so much about joy or distraction as it is about making order of chaos. It is helpful to write, to shape the ides, to reconsider and rewrite.

Why am I not doing this for a live, you might ask?

Good fucking question. Why not indeed?

GenX in recession

What is a recent Washington Post article (which I was hipped to by The Gen X Files blog) saying about GenXer attitudes in light of the current recession?

They’re antsy and edgy, tired of waiting for promotion opportunities at work as their elders put off retirement.

Huh. Doesn’t sound all that different than before the recession or during the last recession or before that one too. But there is something that’s different compared to when GenX workers were the age that Millennials are now. And that is this:

A good number of them are just waiting for the economy to pick up so they can hop to the next job, find something more fulfilling and get what they think they deserve. Oh, and they want work-life balance, too.

That’s right. Screw loyalty! To any company anyway. Because we’ve learned the hard way that such loyalty will get you nothing in the end.

I learned it long before I entered the work force, when I was witness to General Motors attempts to force my father out of his job as an engineer before he was ready. He worked for GM for 35 years but that mattered little because it was cheaper to higher a younger person who would work for less.  I say attempts because my old man is stubborn as hell and he wouldn’t budge until he got a good retirement package, even when they demoted him to a basically a data entry clerk. Of course, years later GM reneged on their deal to provide health coverage to my father and mother for the rest of their lives.

I learned it again when, in my first foray into the corporate world, I (along with others) was booted in order to balance a budget. Of course, it wasn’t put that way but it didn’t need to be said.

More recently, I learned that there is no loyalty in the economic world when CitiCard arbitrarily hiked my APR from 12.24% to 17.99%. No real reason was given for this increase, although later I was reminded of the bill that goes into effect in Feb. 2010 that cracks down on the credit card companies; they’re all uping their rates before that law goes into effect. Fuckers! And it didn’t matter that I’d had a CitiCard for 17 years, that I’ve always paid my bill on time, that my wife also has a CitiCard, that our mortgage is through CitiBank or Citigroup or whatever the fuck they call themselves. And this is a company that was given government bailout funds.

But enough ranting. Because this whole situation has me wondering. What will come of GenXers being put out of work and not being afford the oppor5tunity to return to the same level again. Perhaps a resurgence in creative endeavors, not just technology-driven but in terms of  art and Literature, music and movies, poetry etc. Certainly family cohesiveness will become stronger. Which is to say, as the article notes, Generation X is tought, resiliant, creative, and we’ve been here before. So bring it!

GenX Lit

Title: It Feels So Good When I Stop

Author: Joe Pernice

Genre: novel

feels so good_

This is basically slacker fiction, about a  white, 20-something [nameless narrator] who bolts his marriage after only one day. Not sure what the point of not naming the narrator is exactly. Is it supposed to make him more of an “everyman,” a concept that I’ve always found rather pretentious? That particular descriptor doesn’t seem to quite fit this book. Maybe Pernice just never got around to naming the character. Sort of like the “you” in Bright Lights, Big City, which I’ve read many times, and I’m still not sure where the main character’s name is actually mentioned, if at all. Maybe Pernice is paying homage to BLBC. Who knows? Does it matter?

It’s set in 1996 and from what I can gather I’d be about the same age as the narrator. In 1996, I was graduating with my MFA from  Western Michigan, after which I hung around Kalamazoo for a couple more years, teaching adjunct at the university and working maintenance and cleaning at Oasis Hot Tubs.

I like this book. I’m still in the midst of it, though. Good narrative drive. Witty. Sarcastic. And just the right amount of pop culture references; doesn’t feel forced, like the dude is trying too hard. Of course, I particularly love the music references, something I wished I was better at in my own writing, but my knowledge of music is simply not very sophisticated (is it redundant to say “simply not very sophisticated”?).

I have to say after starting strong, though, the first part seemed to rush to an end, with an incident that seemed perhaps overly dramatic and then isn’t really dealt with afterwards, or at least not yet. It’s not a big deal. Not something I’d call a flaw even. More of a quirk really.

I wasn’t familiar with Pernice before I picked up this book. Or rather I wasn’t aware that I was familiar with him. He appeared on TV show the Gilmore Girls, which my wife loves.  I like it too, for it’s very GenXness, especially the sarcastic, quick-tongued humor, and boundless pop culture references.

This is the kind of book I wished I could write, not just in subject matter, but in size. My writing tends to spiral out of control, growing and growing like an invasive species or something. I’d like to be able to keep it more…controlled, you know. Condensed. I think that creates an energy in the prose.

alive and kicking….

….stay until your love is….

A DM on Twitter from JenX today inspired me to post. I haven’t in awhile. Not sure if I’m burned on on this blogging stuff. Or if perhaps I’m just on a hiatus.

Anyhoo… not only am I still alive and kicking, I’m doing quite well. In fact, things could not be better because C and I are reconciling. That’s right. I’m giving up the apt and moving back in. It only took a couple of months. And some little yellow pills and a whole lot of blathering to a stranger in a Dilbert-esque office can do for you. Although to my counselor’s credit, he’s done as much as can be expected to give the plain white wall box some personality and charm. In any case, it did the trick.

That’s where thing are now… for the few who might be interested.

Which of course brings me to this point: What now?

I’d intended for this blog to be about how C and A and I re-formatted our lives in the wake of the separation. But there’d have to be a separation for that happen so….

I’ve been concetrating my writing energies on my fiction, at present specifically a novel I plan to pub online. A psychological thriller of sorts. With a bit of supernatural thrown in for good measure. Along with a dash of conspiracy paranoia. But on deeper level, I suppose, it is an expression of one person’s grief and pain and sorrow. Yeah, I know — how original, right. Hey. I never claimed to be some great literary talent.

Finally. I can’t help wondering if the blogging sprung from my depression, for lack of a better word. We’ll see, I suppose.

Okay Simple Minds. Play me out….

Do you really like Radiohead, or do you really like them?

Driving home from work today, I heard a Radiohead song. It wasn’t one that I new, but then there are plenty of Radiohead songs that I don’t know. Anyhoo… It made me think of something that Colleen said to me the other day.

She said, “Do you ever feel like you’re supposed to like Radiohead more than you do?”

And my response was, “Yeah. I do.”

I just wondered if anyone else felt that way too.

Having said that Radiohead’s Creep is still one of my favorite songs:

I’m playing it as I type, and Colleen, passing by the office, informes me that Radiohead hates this song, they won’t play it in concert anymore. As a creative person (or so I’d like to think anyway) I can understand this to a degree. Even so, it is a mantality that I find kind of pretentious and annoying. I mean, it isn’t as if they don’t get to play 20 other fucking songs of their choosing. What the fuck’s 4 minutes out of that time?

In grad school, I wrote a story titled Creep that was inspired by the Radiohead song. I thought I was being all clever and shit, embedding lyrics from the song in the story. I’d once heard someone say that F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel, The Great Gatsby, had bits form popular songs of the time in it. I have no clue if that is really true. But I liked that idea. I figured my teacher, Stu Dybek, wouldn’t get the allusion to the Radiohead song, but he did. I’d forgotten that, at the time, he had a son that was like 13. Stu liked the title of the story but that was about it. He wrote me a note that went something like although this piece is full of nice detail and often beautiful writing it doesn’t really amount to a story, which is more than just a compilation of details. Of course, he was right. I haven’t looked at that story in awhile. Perhaps I will again soon.

NIN Toledo show sucked!

Don’t misunderstand. That’s nothing against NIN, Trent and company. But the accoustics at the SeaGate Conference center were pretty lame. But you know, I could have lived with that. What choice did I have, right?

No, what really pissed me off were the assholes that push up toward the front when the concert starts. We had main floor, just like Colleen had at The Palace on Saturday. And we got their early enough to be about five rows back center, and after the warm up band we managed to get up to about second row. It was pretty cool. I’d never been that close and I wanted to see a show close up for once at least part of it. But fucking A! Once the lights went down and the band came out there are these fuckers who just shove right up, trying to get up front, passed the people who staked out a spot early.

This bullshit is nothing new. And I know I probably sound like an old crank. But really, I could deal with people pushing up on me. That’s to be expected. But it’s these 6’4″, 200lbs plus dudes that clearly have a fucking homo-erotic obsession with Trent. They just used their weight to press down on you. And I had three of them converging on me. I lasted one song and decided, fuck this shit! Colleen stayed, of course. You can’t budge her.

I suppose I could have just lingered in the back. The view was fine. But I was so fucking pissed. I mean, I had a hard time breathing, I felt like I was about to be trampled. It pretty much induced a panic attack bording on low-grade PTSD. So I left the main floor and went all the way to the back and sat down on the floor with  my back against the wall.

Sitting there, I remembered why I didn’t do this shit anymore. It isn’t any fun!

Although when a guy tripping on acid sat down next to me it got a little interesting.

But then I saw the fat fuck in the sleeveless t-shirt with the mohawk that almost crushed me. I wanted to pull out my car keys, hold them between my fingers in a clenched fist and punch the prick right in the fucking throat. That was when I knew I had to get the hell out of there.

So I bolted, and walked around downtown Toledo.

It was a nice night, cool and breezy, bud damn that place is a dead town after dark, let me tell you. Probably would have been even deader if there hadn’t been a Mud Hens’ game going on. I really needed a smoke but could not find any place that sold cigarettes. So, I found the bar where Colleen and I ate before the show, had a beer and watched the end of the Tigers’ game against Cleveland. Tigers fucking lost!

Shit night! Needless to say I will not be doing that again.

NIN encounter

Colleen is all geeking out because we met Trent Reznor last night. He was sitting in the park in downtown Birmingham and she just could not pass up the opportunity to talk to him.

NIN played the Palace in Auburn Hills on Saturday and the band stayed at the Townsend Hotel in downtown B’ham. A lot of famous people — entertainers, politicians, athletes — stay there when they are in town. The hotel caters to that kind of clientele.

Anyhoo… Colleen of course went to the concert on Saturday — whenever NIN is on tour she attends as many venues as she possible can. I was supposed to go with her but ended up not. She took her younger brother, Adam. The tickets were main floor/general admission. They started out third row center but by the end up of the night Colleen was right up front on the rail, first row center, and came home all giddy over getting that close to Trent. He made eye-contact with her several times. [swoon]

If you don’t know my wife or haven’t already guessed, she is a huge NIN fan. Of course, I dig them too. Back in 89′, Pretty Hate Machine blew my mind and became something of soundtrack for the fucked up summer before I bolted Warren to go away to college at Eastern Michigan University in Ypsilanti (yes, I know. it isn’t exactly like heading west for the coast of Cally or anything like that, but still, it was getting out Warren, which if you’d ever been there you’d understand why Ypsilanti seemed like Shangri-La to me). And, as a GenXer, I consider it to be a pretty important album. I know that it is common to assign Nirvan’s Nevermind as the seminal Generation X album, especially for disaffecated white kids from the suburbs like myself. And I wouldn’t really argue with that, in general. But for me, in many ways, Pretty Hate Machine, is THE album, my Generation X album. Still, I am not nearly the fan that Colleen is.

However, I will be going to the concert in Toledo with Colleen tonight (I did go, but I wrote this yesterday). It should be pretty cool because it is being held in a high school aduitorium or something like that. I’m not down with the exact details. Colleen, of course, is.

But back to meeting Trent — OMG OMG OMG OMG! Returing from a b-day party for our nephew, we decided to go see Tropic Thunder, which was fucking hilarious BTW. Driving through downtown B’ham, we saw the NIN buses still parked in front of the Townsend Hotel. But then we saw the guitar player lounging on the lawn outiside the police department, reading a book. Actually, Colleen noticed the guy. I would never have picked him out, although with his hair and purple socks and this cool hat he was wearing, I might have suspected. I told Colleen to call out the window to him, tell him it was cool show last night, but she wouldn’t. Then Colleen saw some guy walking his dog, and said that she thought that Trent took his dog(s) on tour with him. So we parked around the corner and decided to take a stroll through the park downtown, just to see what we could see, you know. Turned out, the guy walking his dog wasn’t Trent. But then we saw him, sitting on a bench with some girl, and he was fiddling with an iphone, it looked like.

We passed them. At first, we weren’t going to approach him. But Colleen really wanted to. So we circled and finally went in for the meet.

It was brief. We talk to him for maybe a minute or two. Actually, Colleen is the one that talked to him. I just sort of stood back. I didn’t want to crowd the dude. Colleen told him that she’d been to the concert the night before and thought it was great and that she’d been following him since 94, really loved his music etc. He thanked her, shook her hand. He shook mine too. And that was pretty much it.

Colleen was glad that she did it. It would not have mattered to me that much if we had not gone up to him. I’m not real big on going up to famous people. I figure, what’s the point? They don’t know you. And honestly, when you get down to it, they don’t really give a shit. I mean, only as much as they required to becasues it’s bad PR not to. But for Colleen it was different. This encounter was like 15 years in the making.

When Colleen was like 16 she went to a NIN show and got backstage or whatever. Trent said hi to her but she couldn’t bring herself to talk to him. Ever since I think she’s been waiting for the chance like the one we had Sunday. So that was cool.

Me, I didn’t really say anything. I just sort of stood back and was glad to be able to shake the dude’s hand. But it was strange. The whole time I was standing there, I kept looking at his shoes and thinking, hey, those are pretty cool. I wonder where he got those? But it would have been way too lame to ask. Right?

While we are on the subject of Trent’s attire. Funny how anyone else wearing a black t-shirt, black shorts, black socks and shoes in the middle of August, sitting in the park, would have looked like a dork, but somehow it worked for him. Go figure.