Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Timesheet

This morning, I'm supposed to complete my timesheet to account for my time yesterday. I decided to get a little creative with my description:

TPS REPORTS ADMINISTRATION; TIMESHEET; DRIVE TO WORK; STOP AT A COFFEE SHOP FOR TWO HOURS DUE TO HEAVY TRAFFIC; TEXT DIAMONDSTEIN: 'TRAFFIC IS HEAVY, MAN. LIFE IS HEAVY, MAN. GONNA BE IN A FEW HOURS LATE.' MID-MONTH BILLING CHANGES; COMPLAIN VOCIFEROUSLY ABOUT ABSURD, ASININE, MID-MONTH BILLING CHANGES; CONTINUE TO COMPLAIN ABOUT SAME; VARIOUS CALLS WITH TOMMY DIAMONDSTEIN ABOUT MY PETULANT FEELINGS; CALL WITH THE SENOR ABOUT ADULT FILM-STAR PETER NORTH, A TRANSCRIPT FOR YOUR RECORDS:

Mike: Senor, back in my day, the adult film industry was just higher quality stuff. I was the proud owner of a VHS copy of the film Head Over Heels Part II starring Peter North. And let me tell you something, Peter North never showed up to work two hours late like I did today.

Senor: No, of course not. He had a real passion for his profession because it's a great profession.

Mike: You're a get-it-guy. You understand. His life wasn't devoid of meaning and purpose. He paid attention to the little details in his work. He finished the job correctly. He did the job right. There was a certain pride that oozed from the man.

Senor: And a certain something that oozed from somewhere else.

Mike: Indeed.

Senor: When I was in high school, I bought some blue pills from India to help me in my quest to be more like Peter North. I just wanted to last 45 minutes like that big fella.

Mike: You're a man after my own heart. I met a girl I loved very deeply once, but it's always hard for me to act on my love for the ones I love and much easier to make it with the ones who drive me crazy. So I bought my own blue pills from India to increase blood flow. They didn't work.

Senor: I never got to find out with my pills. My parents confiscated them.

KICK A TPS REPORT IN ANGER; LONG FOR STEPHANIE; MORE CALLS WITH DIAMONDSTEIN; E-MAIL MANAGER TO COMPLAIN ABOUT NEW PROCEDURES; COMPLAIN TO ANYONE WHO WILL LISTEN WHEN A SECRETARY "ACCIDENTALLY" POURS WATER ALL OVER ME WHILE PUTTING A TPS REPORT IN MY IN-BOX; WRITE A BLOG POST ABOUT COWBOY JOE; CHECK THE SCORE OF THE GIANTS GAME; EAT A PIECE OF CAKE; DRINK A CUP OF COFFEE; POOP; DRIVE HOME; FINISH A CONSTELLATION OF VITAL PHENOMENA; CONTEMPLATE MY OWN UNBELIEVABLE STUPIDITY AND INTELLECTUAL VACANCY; LONG FOR STEPHANIE; WIDE AWAKE; CAN'T SLEEP; FINALLY FALL ASLEEP; 5 A.M. ALARM GOES OFF; THANK GOD I'VE GOT ANOTHER HOUR; 6 A.M. ALARM GOES OFF; I THINK IT'S THE 5 A.M. ALARM AND SHOT IT OFF ACCIDENTALLY; HAVE A DREAM THAT I'M BACK IN THE NEW JERSEY WOODS HAVING A CATCH WITH STEPHANIE AND DR. PARK; I TEACH DR. PARK HOW TO THROW A BASEBALL; HE THROWS A PERFECT STRIKE TO ME AND SMILES; I WAKE UP THINKING I'M LATE; I SHOW UP ONLY 15 MINUTES LATE TODAY INSTEAD OF TWO HOURS; IT'S 8:31 A.M. AND I'M GOING TO TURN IN MY TIMESHEET FROM YESTERDAY AND START PROCESSING TODAY'S PROCESSES; I WILL DO IT WELL, AT LEAST IN THE BEGINNING, BECAUSE MY HERO SHOWED UP IN MY DREAMS LAST NIGHT; I LOVE HIM FOR THAT.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Cowboy Joe Cain

A fictional guest post by Cowboy Joe Cain

When I recently moved to the East Bay to live with Diamondstein and The Senor, I didn't realize that there'd be a fourth roommate who came and went from time to time. The first time I went to check the place out, he was there: this handsome man with incredibly striking blue eyes. On the backyard porch, he shared a glass of wine with Diamondstein.

After I had moved in, one Sunday, this fourth roommate came over to watch football with us. The Senor was at a wedding with his girlfriend Nicki Manaj (sp?), so it was just the three of us.

Diamondstein told me that "Mike" was coming over. "Is that the guy with the pretty blue eyes?" I asked.

"Um, like, maybe? I'm not too sure. Probably."

He arrived with a hat full of hummus, chips, and salsa in one hand and a 12-pack in the other. He was wearing a gray New England Patriots tee-shirt.

"Did some grocery shopping, fellas," he said as he put the beer, salsa, and hummus in the fridge.

"Is that from The Corporation?" Diamondstein replies.

"It sure as shit is! The Newbie was rolling up around 2:15 as I was walking out, and I hear him yell, 'Mike, come meet my girl!' I roll up to their car all hung-over and haggard with stolen goods on my person and hat hair going everywhere in the wind. The Newbie goes, 'This is that blogger I was telling you about!' I was like, 'Yup, that's me, Mike the Blogger. Just doing some grocery shopping. The blogging isn't so lucrative.' She probably knows I'm a junkie."

"It's good to be a junkie," Diamondstein says.

I was doing some studying for class on the couch while they watched the football game. When Mike saw that I was reading some Dostoyevsky his big baby blues pierced right through me.

"Sensuality is a storm, my friend!" Mike yells at me.

"What?"

"You'll find out when you read The Three Brothers. But you already know."

I knew I was going to like this kid, and he knew he was going to like me.

"Have you heard of my blog yet, Cowboy Joe?"

"No. What's a blog?"

"I'll find you on InstaBookFace and you can check my shit out. Hell, I always use that as a pick-up line. It's never worked."

That night, I fell asleep to Mike's blog. I had thought his name was Mark, but apparently it's Mike. The next morning, I asked Diamondstein, "Is that shit real?"

"What shit?"

"Mike's blog."

"Most of it."

"I like his writing. It's good stuff....But, is he actually depressed? Or is that part of the shtick?"

"It's somewhere in between, I'd say. He's probably more prone to depression than others, but I think he's pretty high-functioning. I guess he just can't get over Stephanie. Thinks too much and feels his own feels and whatnot."

"Who the fuck is Stephanie?"

"Oh God. You'll soon find out."

And I would find out indeed. A few weeks later, on another Sunday, I asked Diamondstein when I'd get to see Mike again. I had gotten further into the blog and I had some questions I needed to get answers to right away.

"I don't know, Cowboy Joe. I think he's working today. I'll call him."

Mike arrived less than 30 minutes later.

"Diamondstein, Cowboy Joe, what's up fuckers?" he says as he enters the apartment, heading straight for the fridge, without stolen groceries in tow this time but with a copy of a book.

"I thought you were working today?"

"I gave it a good-faith effort. Put in 60 solid minutes of plus-plus TPS Reporting. Then I started fighting with Stephanie and had to get the fuck out of here and numb this pain."

"Oh Jesus."

Mike grabbed a handful of beers from the fridge and headed outside where The Senor and Nicki were catching some rays under a clear, blue, early autumn sky. I followed him down the stairs into the backyard where he sat back and joined in--monopolized, perhaps--the conversation with the young couple.

He hadn't shaved in weeks; he looked tired. He was tired.

"Mike, you don't look so good," The Senor greets him.

"I'm not so good. Everything was going great yesterday. Left work and caught some rays and waves at Stinson Beach. Took a long walk on the beach. Read some of this book," he says, pointing to the novel A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra. "Got some writing done. Then, I made the brilliant decision to call her, and here we are."

"Well, why the fuck did you do that?" The Senor asks.

"I don't know. If I had any self-control, we wouldn't be here, but I don't, so we are. I don't know. I guess I just thought that I could make it 2006 again and then everything would be okay. I had this idea of quitting my job and heading to New York City and then invading the Garden State from there, where my hero would be waiting. But I know that all my hopes are just misguided fears at this point."

"What happened?"

"I told her that I was coming, and she said okay, and then today she said she'd have to reconsider. And I was all, fuck that. I am the decider. Besides, I don't want to be where I'm not wanted."

"Then why did you want to go?"

"Because I thought I could go there and re-create the person I imagined in my mind eight years ago. Fuck, she was so much smarter than me then. Hell, she still is. She could've been a doctor or a lawyer or a professor; she could've been anything. I don't know even know what she does now. I guess the draw at this point is that never-ending thought of what might've been. If I had only done things differently, if I had only studied more in school, if I had only been smarter, if I had only been better, than we'd have made it. But I wasn't and so we didn't and a year-and-a-half later I still can't let go. Then again, if she did come back, there'd be a whole new, different set of the old fears, and I'd just push her away again. But she understands me, and on some level, I think I still understand her, and even if what we understand in each other isn't necessarily good, that basic sense of knowing and being known is more than I can say for a lot of people."

He's into his third beer now and he's squeezing the book as though he can win back her love through literary fiction. He's read 27 books since she left, since he told her to leave--sixteen months in the abyss wondering where it all went wrong, realizing where it all went wrong, and never being able to get it back yet always knowing it wouldn't be any better if he could.

"You've got to let her go," The Senor says with his agreeable girlfriend nodding in agreement.

"I know. I know. There's a lot of things I need to do but cannot summon the will to do."

He opens the book and searches for answers that, even if they came, he would never be able to put into practice. I couldn't understand why someone who had made-for-TV looks, who was a talented writer, who was a funny, likeable person could allow himself to be swallowed up so completely by a woman who, for all intensive purposes, barely existed in his life at all.

So I asked him.

"Sensuality is a storm, Cowboy Joe. It swallows you up completely to where you lose all control. It's worse than any drug or mind-altering substance. It's the worst kind of mind-altering substance because it seems so rational, so controllable, but then I play with the fire and burn my hands every time and wonder what the fuck happened."

"Why don't you just find someone else? You look like Tom Cruise or something."

"I've spent my whole adult life chasing Stephanie's when I should've been investing in myself, as if she would fill the void and mask the insecurity."

I had never seen a person quite so broken up before. I had to get ready for work, so I left Mike at the table where he sat with his beers and book. After I finished getting ready, I could see him still in the backyard with the book on his chest. He was leaning back in the chair and staring up at the sky, thinking thoughts of God knows what.

A lone squirrel sits under the tree a few yards from Mike, neurotically chewing on his nut encircled by both paws. Mike looks down and catches the squirrel's eye. The squirrel quickly panics--he drops the nut with his eyes still locked on Mike's and scampers up the tree on to the fence. Mike's eyes follow.

The squirrel thinks he's the prey, but Mike is the least likely predator I've ever met. After following the squirrel's movements for a few minutes, Mike buries his head back in the book. I can hear him start to read aloud from my window, "...when she still believed the meaning of a thing was limited to a few tersely worded clauses, but nothing, she now knew, could be defined in exclusion, and every bug, pencil, and grass blade was a dictionary in itself--'that long-tailed, bug-eyed squirrel is a dictionary in itself' he interrupts while trying to reconnect with his new friend--requiring the definitions of all other things to fulfill its own...Life: a constellation of vital phenomena--organization, irritability, movement, growth, reproduction, adaptation."

He puts the book back on his chest and sits back. A look of relaxation comes over his face. A solitary man sits in my new backyard staring up at the heavens with hopes of solace, the rest of the crew sits on the couch watching football, and I head to work hopeful that my new friend can find a way to conquer the demons that have controlled him for so long.

If he had conquered them in the past, it never held for very long. Maybe on this day, on this peaceful Sunday, under the squirrel's favorite tree, he'd find the strategy that had long eluded him.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Nine Innings and 29 Years at the NLCS

It's Game 4 of the National League Championship Series at AT&T Park between the San Francisco Giants and St. Louis Cardinals. I'm 28 years old. I'll be 29 in a month. I'm in Section 311 with my father.

On the video board in center field before the game, President Obama is commemorating the 2012 team on its second championship in three years in addition to the club's organic, fair-trade, GMO-free vegetable garden in center field. The paternalistic President believes eating vegetables is important, though--ironically--his administration has continued to subsidize high-fructose corn syrup. Maybe instead of growing vegetables in the outfield, the Giants could start growing weed for sale. That way, the next time a Jose Abreu comes on the market from Cuba, we can avoid getting outbid by the lowly Chicago White Sox. The corporatist, Orwellian joke gets worse when the big board hashtags #StrongerTogether and #OctoberTogether at us. What the fuck does that even mean? I can't imagine A's fans having to deal with the President of our corporate state reminding them to eat their vegetables and then having to read meaningless garbage on the scoreboard like stronger together and October together. Lou Seal, the Giants mascot, is an even bigger joke. To make matters worse, any time there is a rally during the game, I can't see anything, because everyone in front of me is waving their Big Healthcare Company orange rally towels as if we're Steelers fans now.

Barry Bonds throws out the first pitch much to the dismay of the man sitting next to me, who angrily protests that Bonds was a steroid user. It seems to me that booing Bonds for steroid use would be like booing the Pope for being a Catholic. To be shocked that a player used steroids during the steroid era reeks of the worst kind of ignorance.

It's shocking to see Ryan Vogelsong pitching in the NLCS after the debacle that was his season last year. I thought he was completely finished, that the velocity he lost would never come back. It's more shocking to realize how much I don't know. Worse is realizing how much I've pretended to know. The little that I do know, which consists mostly of a game played by grown men in pajamas, can easily be measured. All that I don't know is immeasurable. My knowledge is like one grain of sand on the beach, and my ignorance is the rest of the beach and all of the ocean and the limitless sky overhead. Vogelsong pitched the clinching game of the NLDS last round, and his velocity is 90-94 mph tonight. However, he doesn't have a put-away pitch, and the Cardinals knock him out after putting nine base-runners on and plating four in three innings.

Shelby Miller, the lengthy, live-armed Texan with mid-90s heat and a power curve--every high school pitcher drafted out of Texas is legally obligated to throw in the mid-90s with a power curve--isn't fooling the Giants, either. The Giants plan is to attack the fastball early in the count, and it works. They knock Miller out in the fourth with two runs to cut the deficit to 4-3.

It's 2002 now, 12 years earlier. I'm 16 going on 17, a junior in high school, a running back on the varsity football team, 20 pounds lighter, chiseled--I can do a few reps of 225 pounds on the bench press. It's Game 4 of the NLCS. I'm with my father a few sections over from where we are tonight. With two outs in the bottom of the 8th inning and the Cardinals and Giants tied 2-2, Tony LaRussa intentionally walks Barry Bonds to get to Benito Santiago. Santiago launches a two-run homer to give the Giants a 4-2 lead that they'll hold in the ninth to go up 3-1 in the series. Kenny Lofton will single in David Bell for the winning run in Game 5, and the Giants are headed to the World Series for the first time since 1989.

It's 1989 now, I'm 3 years old going on 4. I can't remember this, but the story goes that my mother yelled at my three older siblings and me to stop shaking the car as we prepared to go somewhere. We weren't shaking the car; the Lomo Prieta earthquake was doing the shaking that would wipe out Game 3 of the World Series between the Giants and the A's. I don't remember the series, but I do remember skipping school to watch the documentary Champions by the Bay several times throughout my childhood. Each time, the Giants keep getting swept by the A's somehow.

It's 2010 now and I'm at work at The Corporation. I'm supposed to be there right now, but I ditch out of work early to meet my father in Alameda for the game. I get lost going to Alameda because I always get lost. Mac, my co-worker who was always promising to help me with my embarrassingly horrendous sense of direction, is on the phone with his wife, who is in Europe. He announces the final inning of the NLCS Game to her, finishing in his loud Bostonian voice with, "THE SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS ARE 27 DEFENSIVE OUTS FROM GOING TO THE WORLD SERIES!" My co-worker, Dennis, also a huge baseball fan, points out to Mac that the Giants could get 27 defensive outs and still lose their next game and not go to the World Series. 

Back from the past to the present, the Giants score three runs in the sixth to take a 6-4 lead. Buster Posey is clearly ailed by a bad back, and although he hasn't even hit so much as a double thus far in the postseason, he's doing his best Tony Gwynn impersonation with base hit after base hit. Every move manager Bruce Bochy makes turns up roses: Joaquin Arias gets a pinch-hit single to start the two-run rally in the fourth, Juan Perez comes off the bench and works a walk to start the game-winning rally in the sixth. Rookie Matt Duffy lays down a bunt in the sixth. Up and down this roster, I see 25 gamers who will do a job for the ballclub, who will grind it out and find a way to win and advance, even if that means mostly just hitting the ball to the DH at first base Matt Adams, who can't control his large body. Before the Posey single makes it 6-4, leadoff man Gregor Blanco and second-place hitter Joe Panik get the fourth and fifth runs in by grounding the ball to first. On Blanco's grounder, Adams throws home late as Perez scores. On Panik's, Adams tags the bag before throwing wildly to second, which doesn't give the shortstop a chance to tag Blanco or throw home, where Brandon Crawford scores what proves to be the winning run.

It's 8 p.m. I've been at the stadium for almost 4.5 hours, the game is three hours old, and we still have to get these Midwestern Simpletons out nine more times to win this game. This game, this series, is an unfathomable grind. I'm absolutely spent already.

Yusmeiro Petit saves the game in the middle innings. He strikes out the side in the fourth and gets the game to the seventh inning. Petit only throws in the 87-89 mph range, yet the opposition continually swings and misses as if he's throwing 95 mph. Does he hide the ball well, or is it just great location and command?

Javier Lopez, Jeremy Affeldt, Sergio Romo, and Santiago Casilla are the four relievers who have been on this roster for the five-year run beginning in 2010. As a good sabermetrician who has read Moneyball twice, I know that three-year deals for relievers are terrible ideas. I hated the Affeldt, Casilla, and Lopez contracts, yet where would this team be without that bullpen?

Casilla allows a two-out single to Matt Holiday, and the man behind me says, "It's never easy."

He's right, nothing is ever easy. Life has always been such a struggle for me! Oh, how I wish I could express myself sometimes! But, I can never find the right words.

I normally hate the late mid-day, that time after work and before night falls where everything is stuck in a traffic jam which we can never escape. But this is how that time should be spent: under the blue-gray, falling fall sky, at a stadium surrounded by the Pacific, with the hills of the East Bay in the distance, with the Bay Bridge peaking above the stadium imitating the industrial eyes of God, as the Giants deploy their even-year magic on the envious opposition.

Casilla strikes the next batter out looking, and the Giants are, once again, 27 defensive outs from the World Series. They get those 27 defensive outs, and Travis Ishikawa--who had nearly retired after being released earlier in the summer and looked like another Brian Sabean ode to nostalgia later in the summer when the Giants signed him off the scrap heap--launches a pennant-winning three-run homer. Mid-summer acquisition Jake Peavy sprints out to greet Ishikawa as he rounds second base and approaches third. Peavy is blind and didn't know the ball had gone over the wall. Ishikawa thought he'd be out if he touched the psycho running towards him whom he didn't recognize. He avoids Peavy and heads for home, and the Giants head to Kansas City for a shot at their third championship in five years. Ishikawa touches home, and the camera cuts to Sabean up in his GM suite, already in tears. The gruff man who has constructed this incredible run cannot handle this euphoric moment.

It's 1993 now, and I'm in the front yard playing imaginary baseball by myself. Solomon Torres and Dusty Baker have just conspired to ruin my childhood with a season-ending loss to the Dodgers at Chavez Ravine. That 1993 team won 103 games and didn't make the playoffs. The 2014 team, in this brave new wild car era, won just 88 games. With eight postseason victories, they're still seven wins shy of that incredible '93 team. Life is never easy and it's never fair. There will always be some bureaucrat in middle management or Washington DC trying to make it even less fair.

I guess I've had that rebellious view of the world since an early age. That's why I created an unimpeachable world of imaginary baseball where reality could not interfere. Thank God I created Brian Sabean, Bruce Bochy, and this continuous band of lunatics to save the final years of my never-ending childhood.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Searching for Mike the Blogger

by Von Leigh

When I was hired by The Corporation, I met with The Boss, Galindo, and some other bosses. The Boss did most of the talking, as I recall.

"Von, the reason we're bringing you in is to infiltrate the unit and execute the TPS Reporter Mike the Blogger."

"How exactly do you want me to do that?"

"That's up to you. The bottom line is that we need you to terminate his command."

"Terminate?" I ask. 

"Terminate with extreme prejudice," Galindo replies.

I stared back with a blank look.

"He's out there operating totally beyond the bounds of human decency," Galindo continues. "Play the tape."

I'll never forget the first time I heard that voice. His words cut deep into my soul, and I'll never get those words out of my psyche.

"DIAMONDSTEIN, THIS IS A BUNCH OF FUCKING HORSESHIT. THIS IS TOTALLY ABSURD. I'VE GOT TO PROCESS TOO MANY PROCESSES. ALL THIS WORK AND IT'S NOT LIKE WE'RE GETTING RICH. MADITZA, YOU SHUT THE FUCK UP OVER THERE. I'M TALKING TO DIAMONDSTEIN AND I CAN'T HAVE YOU FUCKING CHIMING IN WITH YOUR BLOGS AND TEMPER TANTRUMS. I'VE BEEN DOING THIS SHIT SIX YEARS SO YOU SHOW ME SO GODDAMN RESPECT, YOUNG LADY.

DIAMONDSTEIN, WHERE WERE WE BEFORE MADITZA SO RUDELY INTERRUPTED US? OH, RIGHT, FUCK THIS SHIT. I CAN'T DO IT ANYMORE. WE NEED TO HEAD OVER TO PIER 15 AND GET MY FUCKING MEDICINE. THEN WE NEED TO START A UNION AND REVOLUTIONIZE THIS PLACE. IF HIMSELF ISN'T GOING TO TAKE MY CRIES FOR HELP SERIOUSLY, MAYBE HE'LL START TO UNDERSTAND WHEN I LAWYER UP WITH A GOOD UNION REP!"

"As you can see, Von, he's gone totally insane. He's out there leading a band of drug addicts, alcoholics, porn hounds, sex junkies, and food fiends to the end of the earth. I mean, just today, after the Giants beat the Cardinals to go up 2-1 in the NLCS, he's running around the office like he's Jake Fucking Peavy, screaming and yelling like a madman. He's out of his mind. I saw him pick up The Senor and start humping him like a hooker right in the cubicle. This type of behavior cannot be tolerated.

"Your mission is to befriend Mike the Blogger, earn his trust, and then terminate his rogue command."

"Yes, sir. He's clearly a very insane, dangerous individual."

When I interviewed to join Mike's band of lunatics, he was wearing black and orange sparkly Giants sandals, jeans, and an Indecision 2012 tee-shirt that was too tight for his expanding mid-section.

"Von, let me tell you something," he said. "This is the graveyard of ambition. This is where dreams go to die. I used to be a Bleacher Reporter and now I'm a TPS Reporter. If you think this job is the beginning of the rest of your life, then you're a lot dumber than I thought. But this job is a lot like David Foster Wallace said in that book, not Infinite Jest but the other one, 'We fill pre-existing forms and in changing them, we are changed.' It's some pretty dope-ass shit, my man."

This guy wasn't just pretending to be Jake Peavy, he was Jake Peavy. He didn't have his fastball anymore, but he was out there operating with plus-plus want, guile, moxie, pitch-ability, and intensity. The guy had been through so many battles it was no wonder they thought he'd gone insane. But the more I got to know Mike the Blogger, the more I realized he wasn't insane at all.

In fact, I could sense that when I started a running club--which he joined much to my shock and dismay--that he was on to me from the beginning. He wanted me to terminate his command; he wanted to be taken off that wall once and for all.

But what do you do when the man they've hired you to kill becomes someone you begin to love? How do you kill a human being you were paid to hate but learned to love?

He called me early Sunday morning and said, "Von! Mike the Blogger here! Hey man, really sorry I'm not gonna make it in today. Woke up with some real bad nightmares last night and couldn't get back to sleep. Had a weird dream that I was back in high school and Stephanie was transferring to my school from New Jersey to ruin my senior year. It was awful. It felt way too real, man. This is what I get for ditching Diamondstein and having a sober Saturday. Anyway, the Patriots have a big game today and Belichick says I might get some snaps, so I'm gonna sit this one out buddy."

Mike the Blogger came in last Friday looking a little haggard and hung over and ranting and raving about someone called Stephanie whom he used to date, and her father whom I guess he lost in a tragic custody battle after the breakup, though that doesn't make much sense.

"DIAMONDSTEIN! FOR THE LOVE OF GOD! IT'S FRIDAY, BUT IT'S NOT FRIDAY BECAUSE I'M SUPPOSED TO COME IN THIS WEEKEND BUT I CAME IN LAST WEEKEND AND I'M HUNGOVER AND IT'S 9 A.M. AND I CAN'T LIVE LIKE THIS AND WHERE ARE THE STEPHANIE'S OF YESTERYEAR?" I overhear Mike yelling into the phone at 9 a.m. last Friday.

And on the other end, even though he's only 12 feet away, I hear Diamondstein reply, "I don't think our fathers ever loved us!"

"That is just a great point by you, Tommy," Mike replies. "Just a great point. And, let's not give our mothers a free pass here."

"So true, Mike. My mom was never around, either!"

"Tommy, my mom threw my murdered cat in the trash can when I was six years old, and then went back to work! I gave that woman a free pass for too long. Ya know, we didn't choose to be born!"

"Oh, that is so true. I didn't ask for all these genetic deficiencies and intellectual limitations and nurturing issues that have left me here, a 24-year-old man who spends way too much of this time with you, a degenerate 28-year-old man who acts like a petulant 14-year-old overly emotional, whiny shithead all day."

"OH FUCK YOU, DIAMONDSTEIN. HOW DARE YOU TALK TO YOUR ELDERS LIKE THAT. YOU BETTER LEARN SOME RESPECT. OH FUCK! OH NO! THEY WANT ME TO DO SOME WORK NOW. FUCK THIS FUCKING BULLSHIT. WHAT A LOAD OF ABSOLUTE CRAP? WHY CAN'T I CATCH A BREAK? WHY DON'T GOOD THINGS HAPPEN TO BAD PEOPLE LIKE US?"

"Because we're bad people?"

"AND BECAUSE OUR PARENTS NEVER LOVED US! MY ATTORNEY'S PARENTS JUST LOVED HER TO DEATH, AND LOOK HOW WELL-ADJUSTED AND NOT CLINICALLY DEPRESSED SHE TURNED OUT!"

"But, like, wouldn't it be weird if our parents had loved us and hugged us and disciplined us and shit?"

"It would've been fucking terrible, Diamondstein. Every second would've been pure hell. But that doesn't mean my attorney didn't catch all the breaks!"

"To be fair, your attorney is a black woman, and you're a privileged, white, Christian male, so you can't really say what you just said."

"DIAMONDSTEIN, FOR THE LOVE OF CHRIST, I THOUGHT YOU WERE A GOOD REPUBLICAN, NOT SOME BLEEDING-HEART LEFTIST. YOU'RE A TURNCOAT."

"You're right. She thinks she's so much better than us because she doesn't drink $2.99 boxed wine, but we're the good ones, not her!" 

A lot of people wanted Mike to shut the fuck up, but I hadn't been there very long, so I wanted him to keep going. Each insane thing he said was more entertaining and fucked up than the last. They said he'd lost his grip on reality, but he hadn't. No, Mike's reaction to the absurdity of life and TPS Reports was the most sane thing I'd ever seen. He was going to keep pushing that boulder up the hill each and every day, but he was going to do it with extreme contempt and scorn for the powers that be.

At the end of the day Friday, I overheard Mike in Diamondstein's cubicle.

"I'LL TELL YOU WHAT TOMMY GUNS, I THINK OLE MIKE WILL BE HERE A LONG TIME. YUP, I REALLY DO. I THINK I GOT THIS THING WHOOPED PURTY GOOD. LET'S SAY WE HEAD ON BACK TO THE CASA AND REALLY GET BLACKED OUT TONIGHT. I THINK CLUB MALLARD CAN USE TWO GOOD WHITE CHRISTIAN MALES LIKE OURSELVES VOMITING ALL OVER THE PLACE TONIGHT. WHAD'YA SAY, MI AMIGO?"

And like that, at 4:37 p.m., they were off, like bandits. Every impulse was their downfall. If they had the self-control to avoid places like Club Mallard, maybe they could've made something of themselves. Maybe it was too late already. I don't know. This is a different world we're living in now.

Mike will be 29 soon and, if all goes according to plan, I'll murder him. Alas, I don't think I can pull the plug on this grandma. No, I think Mike the Blogger will live a long time. I've gone back and read all of his blogs, and he is getting better.

At the same time, it's hard for me not to see this blog of his as another delusional pursuit The guy is not the sharpest tool in the shed. I have a hard time envisioning him writing something truly worthwhile in this lifetime. It seems to me that he'd be better off giving up that racket, accepting Jesus Christ or some other slave mentality into his heart, giving up the booze and the hookers and the dope, and trying to get through life in the capitalist grind believing a different set of lies.

In the end, we all lied to ourselves to try to be happy. That's why Mike was so fucked up: he didn't want to tell anymore lies in a world where the truth made you anxious, then depressed. He wanted me to terminate his command as soon as possible because he feared deep down that if he walked away of his own accord, he'd never get another opportunity to lead the troops again. But The Corporation was done with him. If Mike would've processed half the crap and given them none of the shit, they'd probably have given him a raise and made him general. Instead, he processed the crap but did it while kicking and screaming, and no one wanted a headache. Mike was a headache that would never go away, so they hired me to make it all stop. The only problem was that I had infiltrated the unit and become one of his followers. If they wanted to take the TPS Reports away from Mike, if they wanted to take the ball from Peavy, they were going to have to hire a stronger man to pull the plug on Club Mallard's favorite son.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Starting Over at 29

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The woman I'm in love with called me fat, saying, "Oh my God, look at your belly!" when I used my lunch hour to get fit. In six weeks when I've got 36-pack abs instead of a 36-pack of CL in there, Mike Blogger will laugh last.

We hired this new kid called Von Leigh, I believe he's Eastern European or something, and I've joined his running club. It's pretty dope. After one day, I'm already looking super fit. If you want to go on a date with me based on those hot picks above, leave your number in the comments.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Gone Girl

Last night, I dreampt that The Professor and The Teacher were grilling me about my blog. Well, The Teacher was up my ass about it while The Professor said nothing. We were near some muddy river, and The Teacher was like, "You need stop this blog. Blogger Dot Com and the web are family places, and we can't have you writing blogs using the word 'cunt' and revealing all of these secrets, making everyone unhappy."

I remember feeling like Bill Belichick must feel in front of the media during this dream. I rolled my eyes, mumbled, and replied, "If I knew how to write something other than a 'blog' I would, but I don't so I don't. Writing is a battle between revealing and concealing. I've concealed far more than I've ever revealed. I've only written this crap because it was an outlet, it was a way to practice a craft, it was a way to deal with a career I loathed. I don't particularly enjoy writing. I don't enjoy anything really, but I certainly don't enjoy coming up against my severe limitations day after day. But I've never written about anyone other than myself. I've mentioned others, but I've never actually written about anyone besides Mike Blogger. It wouldn't be fair to do so on this venue. But if I did actually reveal my thoughts on the lives of others, what would I say? I don't know that I even could pull such a thing off, as it would require thinking about someone other than myself, and I just don't think I'm capable of that right now."

"You're a dangerous alcoholic socialist who I can no longer associate with. Your pal Diamondstein is even worse."

"I am not what you say I am."

"Since we went to Pt. Reyes last Friday, how many times have you gotten drunk?"

"Like, I mean, we're just moving onto Buffalo right now."

"Exactly."

"Well, like, if you had the choice between heading over to Pier 15 with Diamondstein and getting hammered and drawing nude pics of each other or going to church and hearing about how God so loved the world that He sent his only son to be nailed to a fucking cross so that my offensive sins could one day be forgiven, which would you choose? Like, I accept that I'm totally fucked up, but if nothing else, I am well-intentioned. I want to be like Jesus of Nazareth or Gandhi of India. But in the battle between my Dostoyevskian and Diamondsteinian impulses, good does not always prevail, and I blame the society at large. One has to like the path in order to stay on the path, and I can't fathom liking the paths to my salvation."

"You're a deeply cynical, negative, pessimistic, stubborn shithead."

The day had started like any other. On the drive to work--I was already running about 20 minutes behind schedule--I received a text message from my brother, "Rumor mill is swirling. Brady is getting dealt."

Oh Jesus Christ, I thought. If Bill trades Tom, I'm done. Within 30 seconds, I'm already seeing Bill's logic. He's thinking, "I can win this shitty division this year with Jimmy. Why not trade Brady one year earlier than planned, get some more picks and cap space, and lose to Denver in the playoffs with Jimmy instead of Tom." Maybe I will stick with Bill. Then again, he'd use the extra picks to draft Aaron Dobson, Tavon Wilson, Taylor Price, or some other terrible players who can't help.

I pull over and check Twitter Dot Com. I don't see anything about an imminent Brady deal. "Where are you seeing this," I ask my brother. "On a Michigan message board." "You've got to be fucking kidding me."

Brady wasn't going anywhere just yet, and I continued the long slog to work, listening to the This American Life spinoff Serial. The podcast is about a 1999 murder of a high school senior that took place in Baltimore. Her ex-boyfriend was convicted of the murder, despite a complete lack of any physical evidence. He just doesn't sound like the type of person who would murder someone in cold blood, but then again, who does sound like the type of person who would do that? The podcast ends without us getting any closer to solving the mystery. Maybe he did do it. The fuck if I know.

I get to work but I don't want to process my processes. I read The New Yorker for the first two hours of the day instead, e-mailing The Professor, The Teacher, and my attorney when I need a break. The article that stands out is this one about insider trading. In this case, it seems clear that the convicted man actually did the crime. It seems obvious that to make the kind of profits necessary to survive on Wall Street, you'd absolutely need to break the law. How can you get a 30 percent return on investment without cheating? Like Spygate and Watergate, Wall Street Gate doesn't really bother me, except for that whole tanking of the economy and permanent recession thing.

It's 10:30 and I'd better start processing processes. Then again, it's almost lunch and I need a drink if I'm going to process at optimal levels. If drinking on the job were allowed, I'd be the best employee in the economy but it isn't so I'm not.

After doing some work, I head out to lunch with Diamondstein. I get another startling text message, this time from Stephanie. "How 'bout your Giants? Hope you're doing well."

"They're showing lots of #want and #EvenYear magic. Things are good. Hope all is well with you."

"You don't hate me?"

"LOLz. Why would I hate you?"

"For marrying New Mike."

"I don't give a shit about that. I don't have any ill will towards you, only towards myself. I have nothing but good feelings towards you."

"Likewise."

"Well, everyone has good feelings towards me. How could they not. hehe."

Things are not good. I need my medicine, but it's only noon.

When I arrive back in the office after lunch, Himself--the boss--comes in and asks me, "Did you hear who I fired today?"

I hadn't heard that they'd decided to fire me, but I wasn't surprised that it'd come to this. I was just a little shocked that he was doing it right after lunch in front of all my co-workers.

"Uh, no, I hadn't heard that anyone was fired. I'm assuming you're firing me?"

"Hahahah, no, you're gonna stay a little while longer, Mike. No, I didn't fire you, I fired....."

I was startled that I had survived another day, so I didn't hear what he said.

"Mike?"

"Oh, yeah, that sounds great."

"Does that make you happier?"

"Yes, of course."

It shocked me that he still cared at all about my happiness. My only hope was that when Himself did finally have to take the TPS Reports away from me, we could still shake hands, agree to disagree, and continue to admire each other from opposite ends of the spectrum. I was a dangerous anarchist with a blog, and he was a wealthy capitalist with ownership of the means of production, a house, a wife, and kids. Well, I guess he didn't technically own the wife and kids, but they were his, and I had nothing. 

Somehow, I make it through the afternoon, and I sneak out of work at 5 on the dot even though I'm expected to sit there in my cubicle, in my misery, at all hours of the day and night.

I head over to a local watering hole, smoking a doob on the way over. Diamondstein and another of our friends meet me at the bar. Our third wheel tonight is probably the most beautiful woman I've ever seen in my life. Why wasn't I love in with her, I wondered. Was it that she was so unattainable I never bothered to allow myself to go down that road? No, that couldn't have been it, since those thoughts had never arisen until now. Had I just finally realized that I had nothing to offer, so why bother? Perhaps that was it. She was smart, fit, beautiful, funny, normal, well-adjusted, well-to-do, healthy, and vibrant, and I had eaten Chinese food for lunch again that day. Also, I was high on pot, and she was not.

"How's it going, Mike?" she asks.

"Not well! Oh man, I've got so many problems!"

"Mike, you don't have any actual problems. Try living in Newark or in the Third World, then you'd have some problems. You're like a One Precenter in the grand scheme of things."

"I fucking hate that argument. I have no knowledge of what it's like to live in the Third World, so how could I compare my current situation to that lot? Besides, people who have nothing seem much happier than the rest of us."

"You can relate. It's called empathy. And they're happier because they don't have to go to work."

"Exactly." 

After a few drinks, I head over to Diamondstein's apartment where the new roommate, Joseph, was blasting music, playing pool, and drinking vodka. My nemesis, Stu, had moved to the South Bay, and Joseph was a welcome addition to the apartment. As I walked into the apartment, I noticed that each house on the block had yard signs for the upcoming Richmond city council election. The corrupt eyes of Mayor Nat Bates no longer overlooked the freeway, and I didn't actually know anything about Bates other than that he looked like a corrupt politician on The Wire. His billboard had come down, but there were plenty of political signs all over this town.

When I arrived inside, Joseph was asking Diamondstein, "Who is Mike? Is he the one with the pretty blue eyes."

"Like, I think so."

I'm going to like this kid a lot. Joseph has soft, inviting eyes that don't judge me the way Stu's constantly did.

After a few more drinks with Diamondstein and Joseph, I head further east into Berkeley, where I grab The Professor and head to the movies to see Gone Girl. 

"Where is the attorney?" I ask.

"She ain't coming."

"She said she was coming on e-mail."

"Well, she ain't. She got all pissed because I didn't specifically invite her. I'm like, bitch, you're on the fucking e-mail trail, that means you're invited!"

"You two have a very violent, aggressive relationship."

"She brings out the worst in everyone!"

"I know. Hey, NPR just said it's Women Small Business Owners Month."

"What the fuck is that?"

"I guess it's like Black History Month but for women who own small businesses."

"That's weird."

I'm starting to wonder if maybe the marijuana made up the NPR segment I just heard. Is it really women who like own small businesses month? That can't be right. My God, what has my life become?

In the movies, we're treated to about 45 minutes of previews.

"I can't believe they're making this many movies," I tell The Professor.

"When is the fucking movie going to come on?"

"It isn't. We came to watch two hours of previews. It's like football, you're there for the three hours of commercials!"

At first, like the novel Infinite Jest, the film Gone Girl is hurried and it insists upon itself too much. All of a sudden, however, the film starts to occur. At times, things feel surreal, as though the film is just too much. This just isn't realistic enough, I think. But then I think about the absurdity of modern life, and it isn't the film that has gotten out of hand. Our modern world is just too much. Who could possibly make sense of all this? Who could capture all of the insanity taking place? It's all too much; it's all totally absurd.

The film somehow brought me back to Albert Camus' novel The Plague. The same passage kept popping up in my head, "And I know, too, that we must keep endless watch on ourselves lest in a careless moment we breathe in somebody’s face and fasten the infection on him...The good man, the man who infects hardly anyone, is the man who has the fewest lapses of attention. And it needs tremendous will-power, a never ending tension of the mind, to avoid such lapses."

I hadn't wanted to, but somehow, I'd done a lot of damage in my life. I could never summon the tremendous will-power needed to avoid lapses. I desperately wanted to remove this plague from myself, but I didn't have the mental toughness to stick with anything longer than 30 minutes. 

It had been a long day. I'd have to go back to processing in a few hours. The movie had emotionally drained me because it was real, this is what we do to each other out of neediness, selfishness, manipulation, and fear. People really do kill each other in this world, no matter how much we want to ignore the violent aspects of reality. I wanted to wash the toxicity away, but the moral aspects of my character were only useful for harsh judgements and creating greater guilt.

On the drive back to the North Bay over the Richmond Bridge, I noticed for the first time that almost equidistant from the bridge are Mike's cubicle and San Quentin.To the left, one could see the San Quentin prison, and to the right, one could see my office on the water and, further down, that beacon of modern American capitalism, a brand new Target. It was better to spend seven days a week in Mike's cubicle than it was to be at San Quentin, obviously, but how much had I been a prisoner of my own habitual thoughts all these years? The dichotomy was startling. If one didn't know where San Quentin was, you could probably easily mistake it for Mike's cubicle.

I couldn't fall asleep. The thoughts kept piling one on top of the other: Stephanie, Himself, Diamondstein's beautiful friend, et cetera, et cetera. I wished that I had been better towards her; instead, I was just...what? What was I?

Diamondstein's friend was right: you could relate to others without experiencing their experiences; it was called empathy. Then again, we'd never be able to walk a day in the shoes of another, and that still felt like a great tragedy.

Why was Himself still worried about me working there? Why did it matter to him anymore? Did he like me? Did he need a few more TPS Reports out of me before the end of my days? Even though we seemingly had nothing in common and I had been a terrible headache for him, I wondered if maybe there were still some bonds of affection there. After all, I could never blame someone for seeking his rent, even in such a rotten system. What else was a man to do? I don't begrudge anyone for trying to make it in this world; I just didn't really see the point in that grind anymore. Hell, maybe I never did.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Mike's Daily Progress Report: Day 1

Whenever I wile out and threaten to call HR to seek immediate mental health help for my mental ill-health, the buzz created around the office here at TPS Reports, Inc. always gets back to me one way or another. Then, I assume a new incident report goes into my file. Thus, I've decided to start filing a daily TPS Report on my own progress as a human being. Here is the first TPS Report on Mike, covering his activities for Monday, October 6, 2014.

Hours Worked: 12
Hours of Productivity: 11.1
Blogs Against Humanity on Company Time: One 
Temper Tantrums: Zero!
Creepiness Quotient: Mike left a voicemail with one of the female junior executives asking if she'd accompany him over to Club Mallard on Monday night as his date for Senor's birthday party. The voicemail stipulated that if she didn't want to come, she should forward that voicemail on to another female junior executive. When the first woman said no, and the second one didn't respond, I asked a third female junior executive to be my date at the birthday party. She said no because she was offended at being my third choice and because she'd heard bad things about me as a boyfriend and because she's married with children. I responded, "Don't believe Stephanie's lies. I was the best boyfriend ever." The Harassment Committee is currently determining whether or not charges should be filed against me. I will accept the consequences of their determination.
Other Comments: Diamondstein and Mike are getting squeezed out as the cool, cute new best friends that anyone could ever have at the office. Two of the new employees got a drink together last night, and the rumors circulating around the office are that, like, things have gotten stale with Diamdonstein and Mike. I just want to an issue a statement here that those anonymous reports are inaccurate and ridiculous. We are very happy with our ever evolving friendship, and even though we spend 100 hours a week together, we feel as though we should be spending even more time together. I'm considering reading him to sleep on a going forward basis just so that we don't miss out on any potential special moments in our dreams.
Final Score: We're going to give mike an "80" on the 20-80 scale for his performance on Monday. You just don't often get to see a Hall of Fame caliber TPS Reporter process his processes quite like that. It was a valiant, heroic effort made all the better by the fact that Mike took 97 coffee breaks during the Giants game. That the Giants lost is no matter, we'll always have 2010 and 2012, and we'll always have Mike the Blogger's (#MTB) sensational performance on October 6, 2014 to fall back on. It as a far, far better day of processing TPS Reports than he'd ever had before. After "watching the film" late last night, it was a far, far better rest that Mike fell into than he'd ever known before.