Tuesday, October 31, 2006

My last day in Boston.

We checked out the Old North Church, famous for being the signal point that set off the midnight ride of Paul Revere (Silversmith). The church itself is full of box pews, walled in on each side, supposedly the highest in America. The idea is that they would help keep parishioners warm, back before the church was heated.

To me they look like office cubicles.

I'm back in Chicago now. At Logan Airport, a security official waved me through the metal detector, smirked, and said, "Get enough kissing done out there? I thought you might miss your flight."

Monday, October 30, 2006

Two things Boston excels at: Autumn and old graveyards.

It may be too small to see here, but Boston is also very good at being home to people who enjoy dressing up in elaborate colonial outfits and walking around the city.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

At the theater where Sarah works/performs, there's a giant poster of the cast as you walk in the front door. She wrote in her blog, "On paper, having your pictures in lights seems pretty neat. Like a childhood dream come true. In reality...it's horrifying."

I think it's more neat than horrifying.

Sarah: People here ask me how you're doing all the time.
Me: That's nice. People ask me about you, too.
Sarah: What do you say?
Me: I say that you're doing well. You like Boston. You like performing at the theater. But it's still hard and you're still a little homesick. I say you could probably use a few more friends. How's that? Is that what you'd want me to say?
Sarah: Yeah. That's what I'd say.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

I woke up at 7, more than enough time. I showered, I printed up my boarding pass, I put the last few things in my suitcase. I even stood around in the apartment for a few minutes, thinking, "I don't need to leave just yet. I'm well ahead of schedule."

I got in the car. I took a special route to avoid construction. A little over half way to the airport I glanced into the backseat and realized... I'd left my suitcase back at the apartment.

General panicking and cursing ensued. Could I just go catch my flight without my suitcase? No. I sped back home, grabbed my suitcase, hopped in a cab. No time to drive myself. During the expensive cab ride I texted Sarah, letting her know everything that had happened. Her response: "Bullshit." Still, I got to the airport in time.

Airline Counter Person: Where are you flying to today?
Me: Boston.
Airline Counter Person: You know your flight's canceled, right?

And on and on like that. But by 8pm, I was in Boston's North End, stepping out of a cab, suitcase in hand, as a street performer played the theme to the Godfather on an accordion.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Fall is my favorite season but it changes so quickly into winter. When I leave work now (usually 6 or 6:30), it's dark out.

As I took this picture, Harry and Woody walked out of the building.

Harry: Perhaps will this picture end up on a blog?
Me: Maybe. There's always the hope that something more interesting will happen before I go to bed.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

I was talking to Evan, one of the programmers, about long distance relationships.

Evan: You two should play World of Warcraft together on-line. I'm just saying, some couples do it.

He forwarded me an ESPN article from a few years back about two baseball players, Doug Glanville and Curt Schilling, who play Everquest on-line together. They used to play together for the Phillies until Schilling was traded. During Schilling's first game against the Phillies Glanville hit two home runs off Schilling.

After the game, when asked how he was able to hit those two home runs, Glanville reportedly said, "We used to play video games together. He killed one of my characters one time. I never forgot that. Schill was playing his character, Cylc, and he asked me to team up with him in Faydwer, in the zone of the Butcherblock Mountains, to kill Aviaks, which are basically walking birds." Midbattle, Schillinger abandons Glanville's character. Glanville's character dies. "I vowed revenge on the soul of Bingbong, for the negligent actions of Cylc."

I'm visiting Boston this weekend to see Sarah.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Job #7: Dry Cleaning Delivery

One summer I worked driving a van, delivering dry cleaning to people's homes. It was a decent job, easy, I'd follow a set route that alternated every other day. I was mostly on my own, driving around the van.

In the morning, while I waited for my deliveries to be ready, I would talk to the ladies that worked behind the counter.

Dry Cleaning Lady: I rent a movie every night. I see everything. I love action movies, scary movies. Nothing with the devil, though. That's how he gets in you. He can get in your from the movie.

It doesn't feel like it yet, but Halloween is coming up.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Poland sent me a link to a site that sends classic works of literature (from the public domain) to your e-mail account, serialized, a few brief pages a day.

I don't read as much as I used to. In the past I'd get a good amount of reading done on my commute to and from work, but I rarely ride the L anymore. And I like my job, so I don't read at lunch, desperately trying to escape into a book.

Over the years I've spent a lot of lunch breaks eating a sandwich head-down, my eyes locked to the page, not making eye contact with anyone else in the break room. Maybe literature is mostly meant for teenagers and people with dreary jobs. People who just need to be someplace else for a while. At other times in my life, reading has seemed mostly a pleasant distraction, but trapped in a terrible job I'll identify so intensely with the words on the page.

I read 'Watership Down' while working twelve hour night shifts at Texas Instruments and I remember thinking, "This is Efrafa. I will never escape."

These days I don't read much. I've been reading 'The Historian' for months (and probably for months to come). So, quick snippets via e-mail makes sense. I checked out Daily Lit's catalog and it makes sense to start with a little Dickens. His works were originally published episodically. I'm giving 'Hard Times' a second chance.

"'NOW what I want is Facts. Teach these boys and girls nothing but Facts. Facts alone are wanted in life.'"

Monday, October 23, 2006

Young has an audition for a commercial later this week. The breakdown says they're looking for a "Donald Faison (Scrubs) type."

Young: Oh yeah, I've got this one in the bag.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

I stopped by the Horeshoe for Thea's 27th birthday party. I think Thea's been having a rough time lately. She's been working sucky temp jobs and is going through a break-up. It probably doesn't help that she's currently in two plays and a band with her now-ex-boyfriend.

But the party was fun, a lot of people showed up and Thea seemed to be in good spirits.

Thea: A bunch of people told me 27 is a good age.
Arnie: I was one of those people. To be honest, I kind of say that to everybody when they tell me how old they are. But, yeah, 27 actually is a good age.
Thea: It's supposed to be a good year. It better be.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

After about two months of negotiations (most of it along the lines of, "Can we change this?" "No." "Can we change this?" "No."), the cast of Whirled News Tonight signed a contract for a super-secret project we're working on.

Here, a portion of the cast pretend to sign all at once.

"Oh great, now there's an ink blot on the contract."

Friday, October 20, 2006

Job #12: Texas Instruments Clean Room

N decided to move back to Arizona to get her PhD and I decided to move back with her. While living in Chicago it had become a source of strain on our relationship that I spent so much time rehearsing and performing improv and so little time working towards anything resembling a lasting career. Moving back to Arizona, I thought, "Well, I can use this time to get my life together."

But there weren't many jobs in Arizona, and I ended up interviewing to work in a clean room making microchips for Texas Instruments. This is what the bulk of the interview involved: Six people who seemed desperate for work (myself included) put on full clean room gear. Face mask, goggles, hood, full body suit, two sets of gloves, two sets of boots. Then we were shown a half hour video about clean rooms, how a single fleck of skin can ruin thousands of dollars of microchip material. We had to stand, breathing into our facemasks for the length of the video. If you watched the whole thing without passing out, hyperventilating or sitting down, you were hired.

The first week on the job was classroom training on the dangers of the clean room. The biggest danger was, of course, chemicals. One chemical would not hurt at first, but would steadily burn deeper into your body. Another chemical would not only burn you but also, "slightly alter your D.N.A." Apparently your future children would carry some altered trait from the chemical.

I remember sitting there, hearing these things, half a country away from Chicago, where I wanted to be, in a relationship that was slowing falling apart, and thinking, "I'm just trying to make things work."

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Today at lunch, Nate had his first taco ever.

Me: How could you have never eaten a taco before? Do you really just only eat super-simple foods?
Nate: Pretty much.
Me: Well, what do you eat?
Nate: Chicken fingers.

After lunch I asked him how it was. He shrugged. "Eh. It was alright. If I ever need to order the cheapest thing on the menu again and they're tacos... I'll order 'em."

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

I received this picture message from my youngest sister, Allie (Volleyball Scholarship College Sophomore).

The text reads, "Class is so boring..."

Shouldn't she be paying attention?

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Erik is one of the artists at work, and the guy who did the velvet Hansen painting.

He told me a story about a job he once had at a screen printing shop during a summer break from grad school. During the interview he was given a tour of the place by the boss, who seemed distracted and had huge bags under his eyes. Everywhere they went people would flip the boss off behind his back.

Erik: I was like, Oh fuck. But I needed the job so bad. I didn't want to have to move back to Cleveland.

When he came in to start the job he found out that the boss had killed himself over the holiday weekend. The boss had been forced to sell the business and the new owners did away with benefits and holidays. That's why everyone hated him. He had tried to fight it. No one knew that. His entire workplace turned on him.

Erik: I guess that's why he killed himself. I mean, other chemical imbalances could have come into play.

Everyone felt horrible but it was too late. No employees were invited to the funeral. The executives moved in and made the workplace much worse.

Me: That's a pretty sad story. Did anything funny happen?
Erik: Uh... I used to take naked pictures of myself with the stat camera. Does that help? I got caught once.

Monday, October 16, 2006

This is an out-of-focus picture from last February, the day the new writers (myself included) got Jellvision hats. As I mentioned before, the new project involves significantly less people, so there are a number of people not around anymore. I'm the only one in the picture still here.

People read each other's blogs. Someone could look at this blog and see, oh, Arnie's back. Chris is back. Shane is back. Why not me?

And people at work can read the blogs of people who are no longer here.

Mary wrote in her blog, "I miss my old job. It seems like I'm the only one out of the group I was hired with who's not there anymore. I feel like the kid who wasn't asked to play and I want to play more than anything. It's an awful feeling and I'm afraid I did something wrong, somewhere along the line. Funny, because I tried so hard to do it all right."

Thea has begun temping and her blog is pretty blunt about the experience. "It was like going through a school bus back to your fucking cubicle (the seats were so crammed together) and my soul was stabbed with rusty rapist forks. I doodled on a piece of notebook paper for an amazing amount of time as I waited for my supervisor to tell me how 'interesting market research was.'"

Sunday, October 15, 2006

My friend, Niki (Second City ETC Stage Performer), was on 'ER' this week. It was a small part, she basically just said, "Who's that guy talking to Max?" but Niki and I spent a couple years performing improv together and it's exciting to see her on television. She's also on TV every week on the syndicated show 'Sports Action Team.'

More and more when I turn on the television I see someone I know. The bottom of my DVR Recorded Programs List is cluttered with shows I taped because of brief flashes of familiar faces, more often acquaintances than actual friends. I wonder when it'll stop seeming cool to me.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Job #6: Cutco

I spent about a month in college trying to sell Cutco knives. I was trained in a make-shift office with a few generic inspirational posters on the walls. It was the kind of office that could have been dismantled and disappear in an hour's time, like a traveling circus.

To this day I still remember a lot of the sales catchphrases I was required to memorize. "The patented 'Double-D' blade cuts with a back and forth motion, not with pressure." "A lot of knives only have partial tangs, Cutco knives have full tangs." "I'm sure you've probably heard of Craftsman tools and their 'Lifetime Guarantee.' What could be better than a 'Lifetime Guarantee'? How about a 'Forever Guarantee'?"

The knives themselves were incredibly sharp and kind of frightening. During our training we had to break up into pairs and practice cutting things with the knives. My practice partner, a sad, lumpy man with thick thick glasses, slipped and cut a long deep gash into his hand. Our Cutco Team Leader immediately whisked him out of the room.

"Well, it's a good thing he cut himself with a Cutco knife," the Team Leader said. "At least we know it's a clean cut."

Friday, October 13, 2006

A co-worker is getting married. We planned to surprise him with cake and a card that we all signed. We planned to hide behind our desks and jump out, yelling, "Surprise!"

Then we realized that this co-worker isn't coming in to work today, and couldn't be persuaded to come in under false pretences ("The server is down! You have to come in right away!") for the surprise.

So we ate the cake ourselves.

The mother of a different co-worker passed away recently. Yesterday, I saw Lacy (who isn't currently working at Jellyvison) and she asked if I would give him this condolence card for her. Delivering it felt slightly strange, as if I should say, "Uh... I didn't get you a card. But here's one from someone else. Someone more thoughtful."

Thursday, October 12, 2006

They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

I was engaged once to a girl named N. It was your usual boy meets girl, boy and girl finish grad school and move from Arizona to Chicago, boy loves Chicago, girl doesn't, girl decides to go back to Arizona to get her PhD, boy grudgingly decides to move back to Arizona as well, boy and girl try to make it work, boy and girl break up, girl stays in Arizona, boy moves back to Chicago and starts a photoblog about the break up story. That blog was 'A Year in Pictures Following the Break-Up.' You may or may not have seen it.

A couple weeks ago Chris asked me if I would mind if he started a similar blog about his own recent break-up. I said, "Sure, of course. Do it."

He sent me a link and I was surprised by just how similar it was. 'Another Year in Pictures Following the Break-Up.'

Me: Would you mind changing the name? I just don't want people to get confused and think it's my blog. That wouldn't be good for either of us. Maybe call it 'My Year in Pictures Following My Break-Up.' Or, 'A Year in Pictures Following the Break-Up Too' and under the title it says 'Arnie: Chris; Michael J. Fox: Jason Bateman.'

He changed it to 'A Different Year in Pictures Following the Break-Up.' He hasn't updated it since.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

According to the 'School Years' book, throughout elementary school the things I wanted to be when I grew up were always variations on the same theme.

First Grade: Artist
Second Grade: Movie Star; Cartoonist
Third Grade: Movie Star; Cartoonist
Fourth Grade: Movie Star or Cartoonist
Fifth Grade: Author; Movie Star
Sixth Grade: Writer/Illustrator; Director; Movie Star; Cartoonist

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

This morning, Amanda stood at my desk and held this picture in my face.

Allard: Who the fuck is that?
Amanda: What do you mean who the fuck is that? It's Taylor Hicks!

Amanda was gone a few days on a business trip. One of the dinners ended with a surprise performance by Taylor Hicks, the most recent American Idol winner.

Amanda: The room was made up of 400 people who had no idea who he was, 50 who didn't care, and me at the front table yelling, "Taylor! Woo!" So, that was day one.
Me: That was just day one?
Meyer: On day two she went to the moon and had lunch with Eisenhower.

Monday, October 09, 2006

It's interesting that 'The Office,' a television show that satirizes office culture, has become a resource for ideas for real-life offices.

Most of the suggested ideas for an upcoming office party (casino night, booze cruise) were followed by the words, "You know, like on 'The Office'."

Most everyone at Jellyvision plays the computer game 'Red Faction', all the computers hooked up to the network so co-workers can shoot each other (I'm one of the few people that doesn't play because I could never figure out how to install it on my computer). Last week's episode of 'The Office' involved everyone playing a similar game, 'Call of Duty.' Over lunch on Friday, a conversation about this episode led to the decision that we need to spice things up with a new first person shooter game in the office. After lunch everyone walked to Best Buy to pick out a new game. After about 15 minutes of debate, a 'Call of Duty' combo pack was purchased.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

While she's living in Boston, Sarah is storing several things in my apartment, including a complete collection of the works of Charles Dickens. I was looking at them today and came across 'Hard Times', which I had been assigned to read in college, but never finished. I don't remember much about it besides that it dealt with class and that the factory workers were referred to as "Hands."

I flipped to the last page and read the last paragraph. "Dear reader! It rests with you and me whether, in our two fields of action, similar things shall be or not. Let them be! We shall sit with lighter bosoms on the hearth, to see the ashes of our fires turn grey and cold."

Okay then. Well, now I know how it ends.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

I received a postcard that Mary sent from Croatia. The mail must be slow because she recently sent me a text message saying that she is back in Chicago. The text message also said, "hey girl! how was maine?" so I'm pretty sure she meant to send it to someone else.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Poland is in Chicago for a wedding, so he stopped by the office to say hello to everyone in person.

Poland: God, my head must be huge on this thing. I don't think I could work looking at me all day.

His old band will be playing at the wedding.

Poland: We only really play at our friends' weddings now. This is the last of the bunch. It's been over a year since we've played together and there isn't any time to practice. We're going to sound horrible.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Sometimes at the end of the workday, I just can't explain what I did all day. Part of that is a contractual thing, I'm bound to secrecy... but beyond that, sometimes I just can't explain it.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Job #11: Law Firm

After moving to Chicago the first time (back in 2000, I think), I got a temp-to-perm job downtown at a law firm, as a Project Assistant, organizing files and running documents to the courthouse.

Me: What kind of law do they practice here?
Project Manager: Environmental cases mostly.
Me: Oh, so like 'Erin Brakovitch'?
Project Manager: Yeah. Except we're the bad guys.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Poland works in the television set next to my desk. He lives in Michigan and telecommutes every day from his basement. It occurred to me that Poland sort of has a long distance relationship with his job.

Poland: I'm used to it. The old lady and I had a long distance relationship for five years. I was in LA and she was in grad school. It's in my blood.
Me: Is it similar at all, having a long distance relationship with your job?
Poland: It's similar in that, when we finally get together in person, it's kind of awkward for a while. But it's not like I have to fight the desire to work for other companies while we're apart.

I dropped Sarah off at the airport this morning before coming in to work. It was nice to have her here in person and it's sad, the thought of going back to just talking to her on the phone. I don't really like talking on the phone. I'm not good at it.

Poland: It's definitely a challenge. It helped that I was totally depressed while living in LA and the phone calls were my only salvation.
Me: I enjoy talking to her, I just find that I'm kind of done before she is...
Poland: Isn't that always the way.
Me: [laughing] That sounded odd.
Poland: Maybe you should email her for awhile beforehand, just to warm her up.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Took the day off work to spend time with Sarah. We went to the lakeside.

Sarah: It's weird that I live right by the ocean in Boston, but I'm super-excited to come see this old lake.

Sarah and I share the (bad) habit of taking pictures of ourselves with our digital cameras, making unfortunate I'm-trying-to-concentrate-on-pushing-the-button faces. The bright sun and strong wind didn't help. She still hasn't gotten the aiming perfected. I'm guessing she took about twenty pictures of herself, and by herself I mean her right ear and eyebrow, often missing her head entirely.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Among the people who came to Young's birthday party last night were Marc (Lead Archivist) and Joe (Unemployed), who I perform with in the improv group Otis. Marc has decided to do Sober October, which means no drinking for the month of October. He's added to that no smoking, no caffeine, no meat and no television.

With an hour to go before midnight, Joe decided he would do Sober October too. I thought about joining as well until I remembered an upcoming work party. It's hard to pass up an open bar.

The waitress, who was bringing the meat and beers that Marc was downing with a pre-Lenten gusto, thought it was a horrible idea. "A whole month?" she said. "Why? I do Take It Easy Thursdays and that's enough for me."

Me: Have you ever been able to go the whole month?
Marc: Oh yeah. I always do it. Well... once I decided not to do it at all right at midnight, but otherwise, yeah.
Joe: What about Halloween?
Marc: Halloween's in November. You didnt know that? In America, the months have thirty days. October 31st is actually part of November. Not many people know that.
Joe: I don't really drink much on Halloween.
Marc: Oh I will.

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