Monday, January 28, 2008

Wakuwa Vuka (When you fall, rise again)

It’s about as cliché as you get, but boy does it ever make you think. Yes, this will be one of Paul’s long-drawn reflections on life.

I resigned from my position with the high school I was teaching at. For a myriad of reasons, I decided I could not continue to burlesque as a teacher when I’m not one. I’ll get into some of those reasons throughout this composition, but some need to percolate in my head a bit longer before I toss them up for judgment.

Now that I’m unemployed in a city I haven’t felt particularly comfortable in, I’m torn about what to do. Do I finish the year here by working in a coffee shop, bookstore, or other ‘entry level’ position? Do I pack my car and go in search of chance? Do I book a flight home, and ‘enjoy’ some sub-zero temperature therapy? This is that quintessential movie-moment where the protagonist has to make a choice that will set the tone for the rest of the film (At least, that’s how I’m looking at it.). The problem is life doesn’t operate like a movie: There’s no guarantee that I get a satisfactory ending. I know that I’m thinking a little too “big picture” and concentrating on what is way off in the uncertain future when I should be thinking about the right-here-and-now (read, looking for a job), but I can’t help it. Also, I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in this. There’s a number of you looking at this thinking “Enough already Paul, you’re not any different from me. I graduated and my immediate thought upon getting my diploma was ‘well now what do I do?!’”

I guess I’m stuck on this because here I am wondering whether what I really did was fail, or if it was an example of making a hard decision, one that doesn’t seem to have a ‘right’ answer or even a ‘best’ answer. Or perhaps my whole framing of life is wrong and theses aren’t even the questions requiring answers. 

If I did fail, then how do I ‘get back up?’ What does that look like? By quitting, did I admit defeat and choose to quit the game. Or was quitting the falling down part? How big picture/little picture am I looking? Does it even matter? Ai yai yai, Paul! Enough already, go to the part where you’re not thinking so hard!

Well, fortunately, I can! Between the last paragraph and this one, I took a break and went out to lunch at my favorite restaurant in Baltimore. Gia’s is a tiny, family-owned, Italian joint on a corner in Little Italy. It opened pretty recently, but the word-of-mouth reputation earned by the tiramisu (I would commit a range of felonies to get my hands on it. Fortunately, they sell it, so I don’t have to.) has generated a small body of regulars. Me included. When I sat down, the owner, Gia, was surprised to find me 1.) alone, and 2.) sitting down for food when I should be at school. I told her about quitting and trying to decide what my next steps should be. At some point, she either called her mother, or her mother called the restaurant. That doesn’t matter, the point is, I was given the phone by Gia and found myself talking to “Momma.”

I should side track here for a moment and explain that Momma is often at the restaurant and the two of us hit it off one night. Anytime I ate at Gia’s, Momma takes a few minutes to check in with me and see how life is going.

Ok, so Momma heard that I resigned and demanded that I leave my phone number at the restaurant so she can call a few of her friends and see if there’s anyone around who can help me out with finding some work out here in Baltimore! Yeah, definitely the little bit of sunshine and good fortune I needed to boost my spirits a bit. Add a piece of tiramisu, and it was a good, good start to my afternoon.

Well, after Momma and I chatted, I gave the phone back to Gia, and a couple across the restaurant made a comment along the lines of “so are you the mayor around here, Paul, or what?” Yes, they knew my name. Gia’s father was in the restaurant so she introduced me to him and the couple overheard me. They invited me to join them at their table and we talked for about a half hour. They were in Baltimore (from Rhode Island) to see their son off before he left for Iraq. Dave was a counselor who took a bit of an interest in my story, he gave me his email address and told me I should contact him if I’m ever in the tiniest state in the country. A few words of wisdom later, I was on my way to my present spot. Latte Da. A coffee joint in Fells Point I’ve never entered before, but curiosity pulled me in.

So now, I’m going to hunt for some work and see what comes up. If nothing looks good by mid-February, I’ll probably roll back to the mid-west for a stretch afnd re-figure out my life. We’ll see.

Monday, January 21, 2008

From the basement of Sam Koelbl's

Well, it’s that time again. You’re bored, Youtube isn’t doing it for you, there’s nothing too exciting on the Facebook gossip grapevine, and you’re not interested in freezing your anatomy off. So here you are, hot chocolate in hand, probably wearing some old sweats and a T-shirt you bought to help some club raise money. Maybe there’s a blanket involved. Perhaps a cookie or two? Actually, if you don’t have these things, I think you should go get them. They sound like good things to have while reading a blog. I’ll wait. Heck, I’m going to go get those things! Meet you back here in 5 minutes.

Ok, I didn’t find any hot chocolate (who are these people?! I suppose I should explain that I’m at Sam Koelbl’s right now.), but there are some fantastic cookies in the pantry…well, said are cookies are in my stomach now.

Al Gore, you might be on to something
It’s January. That’s a month- according to tradition- that’s cold. My body sort of expects to shiver in January. So when I stepped out of my house on Tuesday of last week and found myself in a beautiful spring day (sunny, 70 degrees, birds twittering their happy little spring songs, etc., etc.), I got concerned. Really concerned. I’ll grant that I’m much further south right now than I usually am during the winter months, but 70 degrees do not all belong together in the same day in January. I don’t care where you are, winter is the off-season for degrees. They’re supposed to go on vacation, maybe work on their hobbies, read a book. You know, get rested before summertime. That’s just the way it works. So on Wednesday, when I caught a couple of degrees lounging on my front step, I gave them $40 and told them to high tail it for Minnesota because I can thing of few frigid folk in need of some Fahrenheit. Hopefully, they’re on their way.

Things got a little more normal later in the week when legitimate SNOW fell on Baltimore! I, suffering from chronic snow withdrawal, made it my mission to get in all things winter on that blessed Thursday. I made a snowman in the park with the help of a dog named Booker T. Washington (not kidding at all), and his owner, Andrea. Booker wasn’t all that much help really, he just made sure that no one who’s savvy to the old adage about colored snow would try to eat the snowman. Thanks, Booker.

Once my snowman was complete, a group of kids in the park decided it’d be appropriate to toss a couple snow balls in my general direction. Little did they know, I am an accomplished and highly decorated snow ball hurler. I may have gotten slightly carried away when I whitewashed a 9 year-old who tried to sneak up behind me, but since neither frostbite nor hypothermia was an imminent threat, I should be ok. Alright, alright, I didn’t actually whitewash a 9 year-old. I just threw that line in for the sake of paragraph length. Those of you who were envisioning me laughing victoriously while rubbing a wee boy’s face in a mound of snow should be ashamed of yourselves. Imaginary 9 year-olds do not deserve such treatment. Please take a moment to imagine yourselves apologizing to the child. Bullies.

After the snowball fight (that part really did happen. I dominated!), I was invited to take a few runs down the big hill in Patterson Park by the Pagoda (yeah, we have one of those. Jealous?). The snow was a little too sticky for a good ride, but it was fun. Not late-night sledding on the old ski hill with a bottle of firewater fun, but a wholesome fun that definitely beat what my roommates were up to at the time (XBOX 360 something or other.)

Wii is not for me
I took some time on Friday to explore the other side of Baltimore with Conor (TfA person) and some of his roommates (Not TfA people). We started our night with some shots of Amarula and a few rounds of Wii Sports games. As it turns out, I am not a particularly good bowler unless the object I’m holding is an actual bowling ball. The remote shape just doesn’t seem to trigger my innate bowling instincts. I am slightly worse at Wii tennis, and MUCH worse at Wii golf. Stupid Wii.
Once we left the game console and wandered out into the balmy Baltimore evening, I suspected that our BACs might rise to pre-graduation levels. I should have stretched more. A few games of beer pong in the back of a hole-in-the-wall bar, some shots and one or two or seven beers later, I was relatively certain that up was down and vice versa. As it turns out, I was wrong. Down is still down.

The mouse in my house
It’s been a few weeks now since I mentioned the little bugger who’s been keeping me up with his midnight snack scavenging. Reginald (I decided a nice name might get Reginald to act a little more polite), recently moved downstairs after I plugged the holes I suspected he was using to get upstairs. Reggie was last seen perusing through the overflow garbage in one of the other roommate’s room. The garbage was promptly thrown out and replaced with an excessive amount of rat poison. Reggie has not been heard from since although I suspect that he’s still out and about. Stay tuned for further developments.

Finals week!!
The students finished up their final exams this past week. Of the 90 students I teach, about 70 showed up for my test. Of those 70, about 15 passed. That’s slightly up from last year. Not enough that I can claim to have done anything particularly spectacular, but hey, at least I didn’t screw things up terribly!

Johns Hopkins
I’m still doing the graduate student thing out at JHU. I decided to finish the year’s worth of school, just in case I want to finish up my Masters. So Wednesday nights will be unbearably long, but I’m making myself stronger because of it. As some dead German philosopher said “that which does not kill us, only makes us stronger.” I don’t know why I’m taking advice from a guy who’s strength clearly must have ran out, but I’ve got to take it from somebody.

Shout Outs
Lil Buddy: Your Turn!
J-Bo: Back Door Slam!!! Listen to it and Love it!
Elise: You make me smile a smile I’ve never smiled before.
Tom: Get any good spam lately?
Johnny B: Infinite Jest is LONG! We both know what joke you might to build off that
sentence. Lies are not funny.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Not all those who wander are lost ; )

With a new year comes a new blog. And sometimes a little Tylenol.
Welcome to 2008 everyone. I know we’ve all been aching for this year to arrive. It means we have yet another opportunity to make a long list of resolutions which will inevitably be broken by 9 out of 10 Americans (someone did a study. I’m not sure, or how they did it, but I’ve been assured by a radio personality who uses sound effects such as *boiiiing* *muah, muah* and *doo dooo dooot doo dooooo* that it is a very scientific study.). Despite the odds, I have made my list of RESOLUTIONS. It is as follows (in no particular order)

Get more organized (oh, subtle irony, how I love thee).
Limit my use of profanity.
Stop half-as…I mean, putting 100% of my effort into the things I do. Phew, almost blew it!
Travel to at least 1 place not on the North American continent.

That seems like a pretty manageable list. I haven’t started yet, so look for updates in future bloggles. Why don’t they call these things bloggles? I feel like more people would have one if we called them bloggles. It sounds a lot more upbeat than ‘blog.’ That sounds too much like a cartoon bad-guy. Of course, ‘bloggle’ sounds like an absurd creature from a 1980s Saturday morning cartoon show. Hmmm, I wonder if anyone has ever pitched ABC the idea of a show called “The Bloggles.”

New Years Resolution #5:
Write and submit a script for the first episode of The Bloggles.

I returned to Baltimore from my week-long Midwest therapy session on New Year’s Eve. Worst possible day to be traveling instead of enjoying the company of friends? Yes. I apologize to one and all for my terribly responsible choice. I make up for it by sleeping in and arriving to class late. My students will never notice, they arrive 20 minutes late as it is.

I arrived in Baltimore just in time to catch a cab to my casa and see the fireworks which summon the New Year’s baby and scare away wrinkly old 2007. To Baltimore’s credit, they know how to execute a fireworks display. Nothing burned down, the best fireworks were saved for last, there were two pyrotechnics teams (one on the east side of the city and one on the west side. Perfectly coordinated I might add.), and the grand finale drowned out the noise of every dog in the city. Take THAT Captain Jack! (That’s the name of my crazy neighbor’s equally crazy insomniac dog.). Yes, the fireworks display was the exact opposite of the 4th of July show that followed my grandpa’s now infamous “Lining up all the fireworks on a metal tray right next to the spot I intend to light fireworks at is NOT a bad idea” speech. Thanks to some fancy garden hose maneuvers by Grandma (God bless her green thumb), the farmhouse and barn did not burn down.

That’s a story for another bloggle®.

Why did you get home so late, Paul?
Well, as it turns out, I am not savvy to the rules and regulations that are involved in buying a ticket with Northwest Airlines. I, being a foolish lad, assumed that because I had a connection flight in Minneapolis (my original departure city was Fargo), I could just show up at the Minneapolis airport and check in there. At this point, every single one of you is thinking “Paul, how could you not know that buying an airline ticket is the equivalent of entering a contract with the airline in which you agree to depart from a certain city. Failure to depart from said city is a breach of the formerly mentioned contract which permits the airline to choose either A.) to deny you passage on the flight, or B.) cancel your initial reservation, rebook you on the flight in the same seat as you were originally designated to sit in, and charge an exorbitant fee for booking a same-day flight.” To every single one of you, I say, “oooOOOOoooo you’re soooooo smart aren’t you?” To which every single one of you is entitled to say “Smarter than you, buck-o” so long as you say ‘buck-o.’

When I called Northwest, thinking there’d be no problems involved, I was shocked to learn they would charge me $754 for my flight home! Fortunately, I had the wisdom to demand that I be placed on hold until the next available manager could listen to my whiny plea for mercy. 10-15 minutes later, Stacy (names have been changed to protect the identities of those who spoke to me on the phone…and because I didn’t really pay attention to who I was talking too. Sorry, Susan…I mean, Stacy.) informed me that her manager, Ron (Ted? George? Stanley?), had graciously chosen to exercise his powers over the ticketing department and charge me only $100 for the change in flight. Considering who I was enjoying my last few hours in Minnesota with, it was WELL worth the money.

BUT THEN, when I arrived at the airport, I discovered that I had a ticket to Detroit, MI (originally one of my stops before Baltimore)…but no ticket to Baltimore! Confused, alarmed, and a little bit scared, I rushed through the security gate to my terminal (there was no one at the NWA counter outside the security gate. Damn self-service check-ins!) and found Marge (I remember her name because she’s my saving grace. I did, however change the name for the sake of her job). Marge was quite flustered because the flight to Detroit I was on was overbooked. When I explained my plight, she smiled broadly and told me she’d be happy to put me on the DIRECT FLIGHT TO BALTIMORE, give me a $25 travel voucher, AND $10 to be used in any restaurant in the airport. Thanks for violating NWA’s “how can we make the traveler miserable today?” code of ethics! So, meal vouchers in hand, I moseyed (Yes, I said moseyed. I mosey quite well.) to the Rock Bottom Grill, ordered a $7.00 beer and waited for my flight.

It’s almost 9:00, I have to be awake by 5:00 and there’s still things to be done tonight, so I end this one here.

Till my next threatening fan letter spurs my fingers to action,


Elise: Best Christmas Gifts EVER (Especially the scarf). You’re my favorite.

Heterosexual Lifemate: Thanks for the stir-fry! I’ll do something sweet for you the next time I see you.

Lil Buddy: boop booop boooooop boop boop

Tom: Stop sending me requests for toe-nail clippings. It’s creepy. You’re the threatening fan, not the creepy fan. Now go check your email again.

Morgan: Que Pasa?

Jolene and Chanti: WHAT HAPPENED TO OUR REUNION?!?!?