October 29, 2006

I am so sure...

That I had laundry stolen out of the machine at the laundromat today. You see, that's why I procrastinate: cause when you actually do things, then people steal your laundry.

Big deal in the scheme of life? Not at all; two sets of sheets and pillow cases, a couple of towels... But come on, really? My sheets and towels? Really? Am I so indistinguishable from Brad Pitt that someone would want to wrap themselves in my used sheets and towels?

And I was so proud of myself, that I was actually getting chores done... I should have just watched tv and played video games like I had originally planned.

Let this be a lesson to you: don't clean your sheets and towels. No good will come of it.

October 26, 2006

One of those people...

Working my new job has felt much like being dropped in the middle of the ocean: though I'm swimming furiously, I'm not entirely sure which way the land lies...

Today, at 6:30pm I walked out of my office into the brisk, clear New York City night air. Looking north along Sixth Avenue I could see Radio City Music Hall, the GE building and Rockefeller Center, the Time-Life Building, Simon and Schuster, McGraw-Hill, and others I don't even know enough to mention. I was wearing a sharp suit and tie with a snappy overcoat and shined, dress shoes. I was carrying a blackberry/cell phone, and I had just finished putting together my to-do list for tomorrow, which includes calls to Hong Kong, Los Angeles, and perhaps even Sofia, Bulgaria (That last one is iffy, though).

And as I strode across the flagstones I marveled at my job with a major global media company, and my salary, and my mid-town Manhattan office, and I realized with some clarity that I was one of those people.

I had never planned on becoming one of those people, though upon reflection how many of us ever did? And I'm not appalled at the turn of events, not at all. Don't get me wrong, it's not a long, snide "those," as if I were trying to keep Jews out of a country club in Rhode Island or anything. It's said with with wonderment and awe at the way life's journey unfolds, the roads traveled, choices made, and expectations met, unmet, and undreamt of.

I don't mind being one of those people, and it's not like I didn't see it coming or anything. I actually look forward to being so good at being one of those people, that before too long I'm one of those people with a VP in their title... :)

But the me at sixteen writing incendiary papers for my US History class, the me at 20 who planned on redefining Shakespeare for a whole new generation, or even the me at 30 who only planned on staying in NYC for six more months - all those Dan's would be baffled by who I am today. Not disgusted, I hope. Nor disappointed. But they would shake their collective heads and say "A suit? An office? THAT company?"

A suit. An office. A clear Manhattan night, and a job that people think is important enough that they pay me well for it.

I'm one of those people.

October 22, 2006

Shake, it's great!

The top five beverages of all time, according to Dan:

5. Vanilla egg-cream
4. Ice Coffee (with vanilla syrup)
3. Mt. Dew
2. Dr. Pepper

and the number one greatest beverage: Yoo-hoo.

Yea, I said it. Yoo-hoo is the single greatest beverage of all time. I think it was Ben Franklin who once opined that Yoo-hoo is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.

A frequent reader of this blog, who wants some huggin' and some squeazin' and some stuff like that there, once said one of the funniest things about me that I can remember hearing. One night back in the early nineties I had been in mid-flirt with a certain young lady with a terrific ass, and in a fit of charming snarkiness I had commented to the lovely-assed lady that I would prefer to make love to her from behind, so I could "rest my wine on her ass while I was watching the news." When the recipient of this information shared it with Elise (the reader of this blog) later that evening, Elise remarked "Wine and the news?! Don't let him fool you, Dan watches Xena and drinks Yoo-hoo." And so I did, and so I do...

Since I was a young lad, Yoo-hoo has been my drink of choice. I remember in my earliest days of independence, circa 1977, I would ride my bike down to the local IGA and steal a small, 10 oz. bottle. I had a slick routine, too - I'd take one in hand and continue to shop for a little while. Then when no one was looking I would bend down as if to tie my shoe, and slip the bottle into my sock and cover it with my pant-leg. I was a junior king of thieves in those days, stealing for the thrill of it, and also - in the case of Yoo-hoo - for the frosty, chilled goodness of it.

As an adult who has put his thieving days behind him and who makes a rather satisfying salary, I no longer try to enhance my Yoo-hoo experience with the thrill of the crime. No, these days I just grab myself a Yoo-hoo and enjoy the crap out of it like every adult male American has the God-given right to do. Though for the most part I still do it when no one else is looking, because, you know, Yoo-hoo has an unfortunate and deleterious effect on one's street-cred.

I'm not alone in my fondness for the chocolaty goodness of my youth - my friend Adriaan and I were both known to sit down to an episode of Xena and crack a frosty cold one on a Saturday night (for some reason I was single, and he was trying to escape his crazy girlfriend). And it was Adriaan who pointed out that one of my favorite food-bloggers posted his own adult Yoo-hoo experience recently. Famous Fat Dave had a a close-encounter with a Yoo-hoo lover, and was transformed.
As we headed down Bowery just a few blocks from his parents’ project, he pleaded with me to change course and take a right onto Kenmare. “Why?” I demanded, thinking he was having another episode with a vaguely familiar figure on the street. “No, no dude. I need a drink,” he said firmly. “Why not stop at a deli on Bowery or Cherry Street, rather than go out of the way?” I asked. “Because this deli sells Yoohoo in cans,” he responded, as though that was reason enough.

Dave now shares the love that knows no shame with me, I wonder how many others are out there?

October 18, 2006

Is it only Wednesday?

What a crazy week it's been... I'm a wreck. For the past few days I've been working 9-5 at my new job, and 5 - 9 at my old one, and I spent about 6 hours at the office (the old one) on Sunday. Hopefully only a few more days of this, and I can get back to some semblance of normalcy.

The schedule and the change of seasons hit me hard this year, and I've been sick for the past week. So rare for me, I just never get sick - ill enough to want to call in to work sick - and it's been just another thing to deal with in this period of dealing with things.

But the worst impact of all is that I'm failing the many ladies of e-harmony! There are a few who have come to count on an email or call from Dan for their daily flirt, and I'm letting them down because of the schedule I'm living. Gotta tell ya, after 12 years of having a dog and a year of a girlfriend, suddenly not only having a life - but a busy one - takes some getting used to...

October 16, 2006

What's shakin?

When I first started this blog I had plenty of time to write. I was unhappy in my job and my relationship, and so I found an outlet in blogging. Now I'm happy with both - in that the former is new and the latter is finished - and it's harder to find the time to write. Last week my evenings were taken up with two dates, a seminar, and working late a few times. This week it will be a few dates, volleyball, and working late a few times. Too much life being lived, not enough time to write about it.

It's almost a Pyhrric victory when someone on e-harmony turns out to be great - 90 minute phone calls are wonderful and all, but who has time for that?

October 15, 2006

Getting Men Wrong Part 2

Had you been willing to bet me the cost of the suits that when I returned to Men's Wearhouse to pick them up they would have erred in some way, I would have taken the bet. And I would have won.

For literally the third time in a row, when I went to pick up my suits they had failed to do all the work on each of the items. Sure, they apologized like crazy; they even waived the tailoring fee to help make up for it. They bend over backward to make things right each time, but wouldn't that energy be better applied not fucking up in the first place?

October 10, 2006

Is there no room in the world for goats?

Today I read in the times that the Catskill Game Farm is closing after 73 years. What was so special about this place, unlike the bigger and bolder Bronx Zoo for instance, was the freedom they offered you to get up close and personal with the animals. Not only could you feed them from hand, but you could get all up in their grills if you wanted to.

Though I hadn't been there in more than 30 of those 73 years, the Game Farm holds a cherished place in my heart. Not because I remember going - I don't - but rather because of the fun I was obviously having despite being too young at the time to recall it afterwards.

Here I am, two and a half years old, chillin' with a goat. We also rolled film (super-8, baby) of me chasing, and then being chased by, a fawn.

It's a shame a terrific place like the Game Farm couldn't make enough to cover the high cost of operations. And it's a shame I won't be able to take my children there for a fun picture of a grown-up me with a son of my own, hanging out with a llama or something.

I know, I know, if I had gotten around to reproducing sooner, I might have managed it. Procrastination gets me again.

October 05, 2006

Getting Men Wrong part 1

I just got back from spending 1900 dollars at a Men's Wearhouse, and I'm upset. Not with what I purchased, those suits and shirts and ties look terrific, but upset because I'm always upset when I leave a Men's Wearhouse, because they always do something stupid to screw up. By always, I mean two different Men's Wearhouse stores, in two states, over the course of two years. Always.

Now, most of the shopping experience there is terrific; they do a fabulous job understanding what most men hate the most about shopping, and they create an experience that is painless and pleasant and effective. They get me to spend my money by making it easy for me to do so. You walk in, you pick out a few suits, and then while you're dealing with the tailor, a battalion of salesgirls (occasionally saleswomen but most often salesgirls) run around the store mixing and matching shirts and ties just for your suits. Like many men I'm horrible at determining what looks good with what, and certainly not audacious enough to put together some of the combinations they come up with. Additionally, I don't really care - I want to look good to get chicks, so having chicks tell me what looks good just seems to be the epitome of honest and efficient communication between the sexes.

Men's Wearhouse does the shopping part well; they get men and get the extent of the shopping experience most men are willing to tolerate.

And then they go and blow it in the homestretch. Most commonly, the tailoring isn't done when I come to get the suits. They've written the date incorrectly on the ticket, or they only have half the order completed, that's what I've come to expect. This time, it was a pricing issue, a matter of 80 dollars.

Here's what happened: I went in to buy two suits. I'm starting a new job, and my suits are a few years old and a few really need to come out of rotation. At the store I'm shown several nice suits, and I pick two I like, and waffle a bit over a third suit. I'm ambivalent, but I do need a tan suit, and this one comes with two pairs of trousers, and it's 350 bucks. "Tell you what," my sales man says to me "I'll give it to you for $250." Now, I know what he's doing, and I'm more than willing to let him do it. I didn't plan on getting three suits, but he's sweetening the deal, and for 250, I take it. Keep in mind, that's before tailoring, matching socks, shirts and ties... so even 250 becomes a significant investment, but he's willing to entice me, and I'm willing to be enticed. I'm easy that way.

Cut to Dan in his car, 45 minutes later, checking out the receipt. The tan suit rang up for $330, only a 20 dollar discount. When I head back into the store, my sales guy tells me he "was going to tell me about that, the computer wouldn't let him give me the full discount." So many things wrong here... so many things. Because I have a high tolerance for bad behavior, and because I don't like making people feel bad, I simply say that I'm very disappointed, and I considered myself somewhat screwed by him and Men's Wearhouse.

He's apologetic, he promises to make things right, he even comes out to my car after I left again to confirm he most certainly will make things right when I come back to pick up the suits (bets on whether the tailoring will be done on Thursday October 12th or no?). Like most stores in this situation, like most sales people, they'll attempt to assuage my anger by addressing the 80 dollars - a gift certificate or something - making that part of the problem disappear. Yet the more they focus on the money, the angrier I get, because it shows that they just don't get it.

I just spent $1900, so the 80 bucks is not the issue. I spend more than $80 on bad dates with chicks I'll never call again. So while the 80 bucks isn't insignificant to me, it's just not what I'm angry about. What infuriates me is the laissez faire attitude toward doing the right thing, towards integrity, and towards excellent customer service. What upsets me is that it was ok for an an 80 dollar issue to arise and annoy me in the first place at the tail-end of a 1900 dollar sale, leaving me frustrated, annoyed, and feeling like I'm getting jerked around because of their sloppy work.

It's a matter of understanding men just enough to get us to spend our money, but missing the most important facet of the male shopping experience, the most important key to male behavior - that no man anywhere in the world is ok being fucked with. Was my salesman trying a bait and switch on me and I caught him? Honestly, I don't think so -- but I likely wouldn't have bought the suit at 330 bucks, and so the end result is the same. The salesman didn't forget the discount, he tried to get away with not honoring his word to me, he tried to get over on me and he hoped I wouldn't notice. So sure, he can make the 80 bucks go away a number of ways, but my experience of Men's Wearhouse is now one of being fucked with, and not one of being respected as a customer (not to mention a good $1900-spending customer).

I can't speak about what women want and think about when shopping, but I can tell that for men, it's that last 20% of the process that makes all the difference for us. We're not browsers - we look for a place we can trust, one that doesn't let us down, and we go back there over and over. It's that last 20% of the sale that keeps us loyal, that makes the difference for us when we otherwise couldn't give a crap where we buy our suits from. The clothes are great and the suits look good at Men's Wearhouse, and I like the way I look just like their CEO promises. But I hate the way I get jerked around during the last 20% of the experience. I don't like the way I feel after shopping there.

I've been particularly sensitive to being misunderstood following my last romantic breakup, particularly sensitive to the assumptions and expectations placed on men in all arenas of life. Perhaps I'm even oversensitive to a common lazy sales-practice, but I'm reacting to the grander issue; that for men, not feeling like we're being taken advantage of is one of those foundational, cornerstones of our characters. Not being able to count on Men's Wearhouse to not screw me, or screw up, or otherwise take me and my sale seriously, reactivates that sense of being taken advantage of, which of course makes me wonder if that's where I want to spend my money.

Waaaah, I'm a big pussy, I know. Because they perpetually let me down, and like a big jerk I keep going back there to be disappointed by them in new and interesting ways. Is it too much to ask though, for that last 20% of effort? If we're all going to become consumer-slaves to mega-corporate greed in the 21st century, ok fine. But at least let's have some decent customer service...

October 03, 2006

The Danaissance

One of my favorite feelings in life is when things just work. Like the days when after dropping off my laundry I step out of the laundromat and the bus is just pulling up. It's the feeling of being in sync with the world, in tune with some great cosmic harmony. The resistance that makes life difficult just falls away, and though things may still be challenging, you know you're on the right path. I think of being on the right path in terms of my favorite video game from my youth - Dragon's Lair.

In this game, you were the noble knight Dirk The Daring, attempting to save Princess Daphne, a damsel who had been abducted by a dragon as damsels were wont to be. To reach her, you must wend your way through the dragon's lair, facing all sorts of challenges. And every now and again, to help you out a bit, there would be a quick flash of light in the direction you should go. It would generally occur at the last possible minute before your character would be killed, and it provided you with practically no time to react - but if you were watching for it, if your reactions were fast enough, the game would let you know the path you ought to take.

In that way insignificant things have of becoming significant, the way of proverbs, folklore, and religion, the video game-inspired idea that life will provide you with some last minute guidance if you're watching for it and leap when it occurs has become basic to my philosophy. I enjoy the way life changes direction so rapidly, the way your path can abruptly take an unanticipated turn -- be it a lottery win, a sudden and chance meeting with the love of your life, or perhaps a new job opportunity.

For instance, Memorial Day weekend 1998 I happened to catch a T.V. show on the city of San Francisco. While watching it I was reminded of how much I had wanted to move to San Fran when I was in my early twenties, and felt some regret for having missed my chance. By the time I was 28 I had a good job, a decent apartment, a dog, and as I remarked aloud to Zeke, now it was too late, and it was a shame I missed my window of opportunity for that particular dream.

Two days later my boss informed us that the fellow who managed the network and servers in my company's San Francisco office had given notice, and did any of us want to transfer out there? By the end of the day, it was all done but the details and I was moving to San Francisco.

This year, I began July with both a dog and a girlfriend and by August I had neither - and in the middle I went without power (and air-conditioning) for a week. That was not a good month for Dan.

Yet August and September were terrific, two of the best months I've had in years. I was part of a focus group which paid me in a video ipod; not a big deal, but sweet. I got into the alpha-testers group for a new video game I've been dying to play - again, no big deal, but something I was very happy to get to participate in. In August I fulfilled a lifelong dream, and last week had a very successful program at work -- one that I'm directly responsible for. In short, things are working.

Oh, and I got a great new job.

It was one of those flash of light moments, when my boss called me into his office to tell me of a position at our parent company, one he felt was exactly what I was looking for. Much like that day back in 1998, I lept at a chance as it presented itself, and my life is now heading off in another direction. My grand experiment as a corporate training professional comes to a dignified, and welcome, close, and my focus returns to information technology. A change of location, a change of responsibilities, yet I continue to work for terrific people in Human Resources, making a difference on a grand scale for a company that impacts hundreds of millions of people.

Though I had been considering taking my leave of NYC, instead I get to see what city-living without a dog is like, and I'll have the freedom to throw myself into the new position without having to accommodate anyone else's schedule or needs.

As it's said, you cannot cross a chasm in two short leaps. This fall, I'm taking a big jump and I'm looking forward to seeing what life looks on the far side.

I apologize for the paucity of posts these past two weeks, and despite the turmoil of life there will be more blog posts to come. Though I won't be writing about my job (keeping work out of the blog is rule #1) there shall be plenty to say on a personal level. I'm dating again, for instance. I had never planned on this being a dating blog, but my favorite blog is one of those, so maybe I'll give it the occasional try.

Last week for instance, I went out with two women - one who looks like a bird and didn't stop talking for three hours, and another who was lovely and charming, but with whom no sparks flew. You'd like to hear a little about them, wouldn't you? Yeah, I bet you would...

As with life I've no idea what path my writing will take, nor this blog, but if you're ok with me making it up as I go then stick around. It's a brave new world for Dan, a Danaissance, and I'm not entirely sure where it will lead...