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Monday, October 20, 2003

I am a Published Wacko 

I have officially graduated from the ranks of self-published wacko to published wacko. My two pieces have been printed within weeks of each other.

The first is an article in Kids' Holiday Crafts Magazine about children with back pain. Check it out in their October issue which is printed online in its entirety. Not particularly interesting or edgy, but my first triumph.

The other is a letter to the editor in the Times Union, a newspaper in Albany. The article is in response to a lady who is complaining about fibromyalgia, a muscular condition, and the government's reluctance to pay for Social Security benefits for people who are debilitated by the disease. I respond.

And the funny part is that my letter appears right next to a letter by some other crackpot (not me) who complains that waitresses put subliminal pressure on people to leave tips by asking "do you want change with that?" Why didn't I think of that one...It's a better topic than poop flinging monkeys!

Well, the links are above if you are interested. Enjoy.

Tuesday, October 14, 2003

Two Whacks with an Axe 

There are few things more therapeutic than chopping wood. I don't know why this is. Perhaps it's a primal thing, but there is something about holding a sharp object and whacking it against wood that cleanses the soul.

I had to split some wood this morning and I could not believe how much I enjoyed it. The cold air in your lungs, the challenge of splitting the logs down the planes of the grain, the risk of losing a finger (or a toe if you really miss), and the knowledge that you are going to soon be able to build a kick-ass fire to rival the best fires in history all combine to create a feeling that rattles a part of the soul that rarely gets touched.

I used a hatchet, an axe, a sledge hammer, and my log-buster. The log-buster is a "Hershey Kiss" shaped metal thing that you hammer into the end of the log. With a good whack, it bursts the log into four perfect sized fireplace pieces.

As I was swinging my large axe, it brought to mind something that I had not thought of in decades. Perhaps I had repressed it from my memory, but I am going to have to try to confirm the facts.

I remember being at my grandparents' condominium in Florida. I could not have been much older than five or six. I was sitting at the kitchen table waiting for my grandmother to bring me my OJ and toast with jelly. My grandfather was sitting to my left slurping the dregs of his cornflakes from his bowl. His cacophonous slurping is the most vivid memory I have of him and would often drive me from the kitchen holding my ears.

The other things I remember about him include: he often wore mustard color shirts that barely fit, his shirts were tucked so tightly in his pants that I feared if he undid his belt he would get whiplash, he had this notion that the British called the last letter in the alphabet Zed, and his glasses were the thickest glasses I had ever seen. But back to my story.

This particular morning he decided to tell me a little bit about our family history. He told me that back in Romania (Transylvania actually) his father owned a butcher shop. He said that when he was my age his father had trouble with some corrupt law enforcement officials. He told me that they demanded more and more money from him each month for "protection". On this particular date, they upped their price, started roughing him up, and began to trash the store.

Then my grandfather told me that my great-grandfather (who I never met by the way) took his butcher's cleaver and buried it in the skulls of the two corrupt law enforcement officials. Then, he put their bodies in the icebox, gathered his belongings and family, and fled Romania for England.

I fled the kitchen for the bedroom, toast still in hand.

To this date, I have no idea if my grandfather was telling me the truth or whether he was telling me a tall-tale. Tall-tales run in my father's side of the family, like the time my dad told me he met my mother when he was a California Highway Patrolman and he pulled her over for erratic driving.

So, if any family members out there know the truth, or at least a piece to this puzzle, let me know. I am curious. And if you ever question the therapeutic nature of splitting wood, put on a flannel shirt, don your work gloves, and whack a few logs.

However, I recommend leaving the slaughter of law-enforcement officials to the professional butchers.

Tuesday, October 07, 2003

Silly Things On Keyrings 

People put stupid things on their keyrings. I see this every day when I am standing in line at the store.

One person has a gumby. One has a little model of Undercover Brother (a short-lived crappy movie from about a year ago). Another has two beer openers (I suppose in case one fails).

I thought these weighty and bulky additions were ridiculous until I looked at my own keys.

I see little plastic tags from Price Chopper, Dick's Sporting Goods, GNC, and CVS (recently removed). Through the past several years, I have amassed an embarrassing amount of little plastic discount cards from retail stores. These cards, upon being scanned by the cashier, entitle me to outrageous discounts available only to exclusive membership (i.e. anyone).

Essentially, we are receiving a discount for carrying a 1 x 2 inch billboard in our pockets so that when the valet parks the car he looks down and says, "Gee, I really ought to buy my vitamins at GNC." I suppose it is also intended to remind us to pay visits to the stores that take the best care of us.

When I was a tot, I thought if someone had more keys on their keychain it meant that they were more important. I suppose to a four-year-old the more locked doors someone could open, the more power they had. I always imagined that the President of the United States had a keyring the size of a hula-hoop.

I wish these companies that offer these "outrageous member discounts" would just dispense with the gimmicks and give us the lowest price they can while still maintaining a reasonable profit.

So, those of you who have lucite encased copy of Footprints, or a mini magic eight-ball on your keyring, go nuts. I can't say a word until I toss my dozen or so plastic 1 x 2 billboard in the trash.

Monday, October 06, 2003

CVS Resolution and Telemarketing 

Finally, there is resolution with my film at CVS. My one-hour photo, from beginning to end, took two months. Now, you might say, "Whatever, it's just photos." But to that I say, "No, it is quite more."

My one-hour photo took 1344 hours.

This is the same order of magnitude as dropping your car off to get a tune-up that takes a day and not getting your car back for over three and a half years!

My issue is twofold:

1. If it says one-hour-photo, it should take one hour. If it is not likely that it will take an hour, the words should not be posted as such. It should say Same-day-photo or next-day-photo. Or in the case, TWO MONTH PHOTO!

2. Customer service, although they work hard to follow up once a problem exists, should be more concerned with proactive efforts to improve service, rather than accepting the low level of service that exists and picking up the pieces in the wake of problems.

Now, hopefully I will never speak of CVS and their photo developing again. Hopefully, I can move forward and experience better developing elsewhere. I hear Snapfish is pretty good. If anyone has used them, let me know.

Telemarketing. Three cheers for the Do Not Call List! I read in the paper last week that it was discovered the twelve owners of the largest telemarketing firms in the country are on the Do-Not-Call Registry. Thank god for public information! If this statistic does not say it all, then check out an article about Dave Barry's column. Kudos to Dave Barry!

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