Thursday, March 22, 2012

You Can Fill Almost Anything With Nuts

Firstly, a somber eulogy for my NBA writing of late. Quite honestly, work is partially to blame. Writing and staring at a computer screen for a literal 8 1/2 to 9 hours a day makes coming home to do more of it more of a chore than an escape. However, this is me we're talking about. We all know that I'd make time force the energy to crank some columns out. Simply put, I don't have cable and the last thing I want to do is base my own sports writing and opinions solely on the opinions of other sports writers. I read about the league avidly, and I get out to watch a game or two (or, pathetically enough, half, depending on how my 8 to 5:30 is treating me and whether I can stay awake) during the week, but I don't take it in nearly enough to have the kind of insight, and intellect to meet my own personal expectations for my NBA pieces. If I can't write the best material I'm capable of, I'm not going to force half-baked articles. I have too much respect for myself and the game.

With that said, I do have a Jeremy Lin article more or less complete, but by now it's outdated and likely won't see the light of Internet. Also, I think I'm still hip enough to the jive to analyze trade deadline moves, so I may well try whittle that out early next week. By mid-April, when I have some funds to wield, I'm hoping to invest in NBA League Pass online just in time for the playoff push. I definitely care too much about the game to let it slip away from me like it has the past few weeks.

Speaking of basketball, I've started going to a league on Monday nights. It's an indoor league, which came in handy while it was still cold, at this church about 20 minutes away. One of my co-workers was kind enough to put me on to the meeting and I've gone two of the three Mondays I was aware of it. The crowd is solid. It's a nice blend of skill levels and the cats there are competitive, but have a lot of fun with it. I'm really fortunate to have fallen into it. As I said, the games take place at a church and I think the league has kind of a tone of "God's community playing basketball" I don't know for sure if it's that kind of deal, but even if it is that's not really negative. I just notice that the in-game and post game chatter in not like some of the other pick up games I've hopped in on (not the "white boy can ball up in this bitch" that I got yesterday). There was also a point that I semi-shouted "shit" after throwing a bad pass and the place kind of got pretty quiet for a beat or two. It freaked me out a little bit considering the church, like a lot of things in PA, is in the middle of nowhere, you never know what can happen. With the exception of that minor linguistic hiccup, everyone has been really cool about getting to know me and vice versa and quite honestly, my game has been at a pretty high level of late (which surprises me, given my sedentary weekdays), which makes socializing on the court pretty easy.

One of the first things I set my mind to when I pulled in to the Lanc was to settle into a watering hole. On the evening I arrived, I asked my landlord where the Knicks were playing on TV. She answered, "The House of Pizza" and I haven't looked back since. Now, it's tough to paint a picture of this place. A very eccentric place where I'm usually the minority in about as many ways as you can think of, but the food is good and cheap, they play the games on TV, and I've had the pleasure of meeting some of the wildest characters. I've met some of my new friends there, too, don't get me wrong, but there are some nuts there, too. This one guy said "Boom, boom, boom" after every sip he took and sentence he spoke, I was hit on blatantly by two gay men (and no it's not that kind of bar) had a talk with this guy lamenting the fact that he just got convicted for his umpteenth DWI and was going to get jail time as he ordered his beer. I've also met a few new people I look forward to getting to know from a local college and traded life stories and philosophies with this train conductor, Tavis, which turned into one of the deepest conversations I've had in a long time. Simply put, for better or worse, there's no telling what you'll see or talk about when you head in there and I'm a fan of that element of surprise.

For a while, my Tuesday-Thursday evenings were looking pretty bleak, I admit. I even resorted to doing a full-fledged art project for the first time since I made Oscar the Grouch out of pipe cleaners last summer, but with the warm weather coming and me growing into my own socially around here at last, things are looking up. In addition, as I think I mentioned before, I'm going to start semi-frequenting a couple of weekly open mics to see if I can start performing poetry and music again. I miss that a great deal as well.

Weekend wise, I spend most time in York, I'm starting to have some people and places to see around here as well, which is exciting. Although, the weekend after my first week of work, when I decided to stay in Lancaster to see some people from work and Kevin, who was in the area, the already infamous Brickyard (your typical let's wear the tightest clothes we can and rub up against strangers on the dancefloor spot) claimed another victim as I lost my ID. Because of the way my wallet is laid out, (trust me on this one, I'm not as much of an idiot as it sounds like) I didn't even notice I'd lost it until a couple days later when I went to visit the equally infamous Jade in York and the.....sigh....infamous Murph's Study Hall. By the time I went retraced my steps over where I'd been that night, it was too late and I never found the ID and had to order a new one. To put it nicely, I felt like a horse's ass, especially because I was very sober on the night in question. During my time without an ID, I though of Jay not being able to take his SATs back in the day pretty often. The knowledge that someone out there has multiple forms of identification and is damn proud of it was the only humor and solace I found in an otherwise shite situation.

Ordinarily, other than naturally feeling like a moron for losing the thing on principle, I wouldn't care much that I didn't have the thing. I mean, it's not like I really drink that often and it would really just be a wasted 18 dollars to replace and a couple of weekends in less commercial hang out settings. However, I, in my infinite wisdom and good fortune lost my lone form of government issued photo ID during a time where I had to cash a check at bank that was not mine, the weekend of my birthday, and St. Patrick's day. Of course, the latter two are occasions where I kind of give myself the green light to dip into the sustination of inebriation, if you will.

Fortunately, after presenting a bank manager with pretty much everything but I signed note from my grandmother, including my social security card and old YCP card, I was able to cash my check and my birthday worked out well too.

I went down to York to see my good friend and former housemate, Rita's art show. She's a tremendous talent and it was awesome to see her work displayed all in one place. I admire her openness about some of her struggles and the positive attitude she maintains in spite of it. We all have our issues, but to present them so honestly while still in a way that people want to learn/hear/see more rather than separate themselves from it is intensely admirable and again, her work is great so it was a pleasure to see it and her, of course. The art show, as great as it was, wound up ending much earlier and with much less fanfare than I kind of expected, so I wound up driving over to the campus simply because it was too early too go back given the small but substantial trip I took to get there. When I got by the CPAC, I saw a sign that said "Dance Showcase" a figured what the heck? and walked in. Lo and behold, Rhapsody, decked out in some very fly new threads is performing on stage. You know I have to hang around now, so I take in the showcase and watch very talented people do dance moves that I would swear I'm capable of completing myself, but they never quite come out that way apparently. I catch up with the group after the show and wind up going to dinner with them (where I had the worst chili ever) and to a small party afterwards. Always great to see my good friends in Rhapsody and the was even a Poppyseed Sullivan sighting on the evening. As the clock struck midnight and my birthday began, they sang a little b-day ditty for me and we continued the carousing. Renee was kind enough to let me crash on her couch for the night and the next day I had the pleasure of seeing Nick Lynam's sax recital before meeting Sharnell and Brian for a wonderful birthday dinner. A very cultural weekend, if I do say so myself.

Times with Sharnell and Brian always feel worthy of a blog post in themselves. I can think of few other people I get around and laugh more constantly with. I thank them for spending the evening with me. A lone downside of the birthday had to be me accidentally making a small child cry. Apparently, he was staring at me pretty constantly ever since I walked in. I didn't know this and at one point made a very angry face out of jest and suddenly this poor kid to my left is wailing. Not since I knocked over that drink at the Tara Inn (almost reported in the Patch by Rich Arleo) did I feel so bad in the wake of being funny. Fortunately the kid relaxed and continued to watch me like a hawk. Needless to say, for the remainder of the night, I was extra cognisant of my surroundings.

This past weekend was St. Patrick's Day. Without an ID, hanging around here was out of the question and I didn't want to be the one guy in York who couldn't go to the bar. I didn't want to put my friends in the situation of having to stay with me, so I decided to make the trip to Eastern and visit my cousin. Eastern is a fine upstanding Christian school with about as much enthusiasm for St. Patrick's Day as Bosnia. Nonetheless, it was great to see Nick again and trade some stories and ideas the way we never really get the chance to when the family gets together. He seems like his head's on straight and he has good friends, which is all you can ask of a college experience. The institution itself seems a little tight and while I very much believe in God, I think they put a little too much emphasis in living God's way rather than finding your own. Personally, I don't see how you can invest yourself so fully in an idea without first knowing what it's like outside of it. Sean Gallagher put it best: If your religion doesn't leave you with as many questions as answers, your eyes are closed to something. "Eyes closed" is a bit of a vague analogy, but without its scapegoating powers, we're looking at a very different blog post. Just to be clear, I'm not painting my cousin with this broad brush, nor a lot of the people I met, just kind of the tone of the school as I gathered. We saw Project X together at the King of Prussia mall of speculative Phish lore (better movie than I thought, by the way) then we played some basketball with his friends the next day. A top notch visit in my opinion.

I got my ID in the mail yesterday, now that the birthday and St. Patty's are behind us. Regarding the job, I continue to get to know good people and find ways to brighten the days of myself and others while still working hard and staying humble. Like I said, I think my work ethic and ability to learn is apparent and this past week I had the ultimate chance to showcase my personality in a professional setting by writing a March Madness themed blog that has been well-received by friends and colleagues alike. Doing my best to bring some levity to the restaurant business, if that's what the powers that be are looking for, dare I say my future in the industry is bright.

I feel like this post is the equivalent of the first 50 pages of a novel where nothing really happens and they just kind of set the stage for the real action to start. Thank you for bearing with that as I skim and skip some stories and great times simply to give you all some context for future posts that I hope will come more often now that this grunt work is done.

Song of the Day: Rock N' Roll-Phish
Jazz Song of the Day: Winter Wind-Gretchen Parlato

Thursday, March 15, 2012

"I Never Knew But I Do Now"

Emerging out of darkness with either a poorly paraphrased Conrad reference, or a perfectly poignant nod to the 85 people worldwide who saw "Scream 4". I have returned to beat upon this typing instrument and shake the dust off of this blog, now hypothetically residing in the most Amish section of cyberspace possible, Lancaster Pennsylvania.

All flexing of literacy and thesaurus aside, it's a pleasure to back and I thank you for your patience and support as I settle into my new PA digs and pseudo long-term employment. I imagine a great many of you are tuning in to see how things are going; namely the job, new people and new area.

Regarding the job, there's less to say than you might think for a couple of reasons.

1. While writing product descriptions for various commercial and household kitchen equipment is not the most boring thing in the world to do, it may well be the most boring thing in the world to talk about. Rather than struggle to make the finer points of kettles and salt shakers sound compelling, I'm going to pull ye olde faste forwarde and narrow the experience down to a couple, likely less-than-concise points.

2. While I'm incredibly thankful to be employed and enjoy a lot of aspects of what I do, I don't want speak too candidly about the experience because you never know who's reading.

For those not well versed in all things Poli (I don't blame you), I'm essentially writing product descriptions and, very soon, blogs for a company that sells restaurant equipment over the internet. The job itself was quite an adjustment on a lot of levels, as you can imagine. I think firstly the realization that life on your own, own is different than even living on your own in college. I mean, in college, you learn to handle bills, manage money, handle landlords, work with/live with people, use your freedom constructively etc., it's definitely not a walk in the park sometimes, but in hindsight you at least had people all around in similar situations. Succeeding in college is not a breeze, I would never tell you otherwise and have the 3.8 cumm. to back it up, but, in a sense, you always had "college" in common with people. These are people you really grew into adults with and those bonds, positive or negative, are permanent and strong as can be. To be thrust into a place full of actual strangers at different points in their lives makes for a very different adjustment. It was weird to kind of be truly alone for a couple of days (before I opened up to people and at work and vice versa while trying to learn the ins and outs of this new environment. It was definitely a little overwhelming, but something that I undoubtedly learned a lot from.

I will say that since the start of my time at Clark Associates, while not exactly a breeding ground for social interaction, everyone I've spoken to has been nothing but nice and supportive and I'm proud to call a few of them my friends, even at the early stages of this not quite career. One perk of the job is that it works a little more with computers and html than I thought it did. Now, usually computers and I go together like grape jam and ceiling fans, but I think that's why I'm enjoying learning about that stuff because I really feel like I'm learning applicable skills from scratch and, dare I say, doing so quite quickly and efficiently. I kind of feel like that's part of what an entry level position is all about; having no freaking idea what's going on and powering through anyway. I can honestly say I've been working my tail off to succeed and I study where I can and I feel like the right people have been impressed with my progress, given my starting point. You'll have to take my word for it that at a place like this, praise comes at a premium.

Learning the system at Clark has had its hurdles, but it was amazing how much of a learning process the writing itself has been. I mean, I had no expectations of riding into the place on horse and buggy and suddenly being awesome at it, but I admit that I was kind of under the impression that if you showed me the technological aspects of the job, the writing would take care of itself. Not to sound immodest, but that's kind of how things have always come to me ever since I first put pen to pad, but this was a change. My task was essentially to take a syrup dispenser and make it seem like you're tabletop wouldn't look right without it. I promise, this is harder than it sounds and definitely required a bit of a learning curve. I remember on day one saying to myself, more seriously than I'd like to admit, "Well, it's a syrup pourer; 12 ounces; pours syrup nicely." For a while I felt like I'd rather write a novel in a night than one of these descriptions, but again, I learned quickly thanks to a lot of help from those around me and I'm really starting to find my groove there, which is a relief in itself, knowing that the people around me know that I'm working hard and willing to and capable of learning.

Regarding life outside the mecca of cookware, I'm going to save most of that for another post this weekend, but I've started playing in a Monday night basketball league, spend most weekends with good friends in York, have a place in the Lanc where I watch basketball when I can, made a couple friends here in and out of the workplace, and am going to start hitting up a couple open mics next week to fill up some admittedly empty Tuesday-Thursday evenings. Again, much more about the specifics of more social aspects life amongst the Mennonite.

Song of the Day: Consequence-Incubus
Jazz Song of the Day: It Might As Well Be Spring-Rene Marie