Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Ballad of Arthur Workroom

(Inspired by a nameplate sign hanging outside an office in my place of work.)

Long ago there was a man,
Known now only in tales,
He conquered beasts and Layout files,
And even helped with Sales.

He came to work here one fine day,
In chambray shirt and tie,
A stack of proofs before him stood,
Near unto a mile high.

He did not blink nor flinch nor fail,
Confronted with this work,
He got right down to bus'ness,
Correcting with a smirk

He worked his way right down the pile,
Because he took a vow,
In Punctuation or grammar,
No error to allow.

He checked all offers, prices, codes,
And Postal he checked twice,
To the relief of the artist,
His notes were all concise.

At last he stood, he stretch'd his arms
And rubb'd his aching back,
For he had finally come to,
The bottom of the stack

"That was a job of work, no doubt,"
He was then heard to say,
"But now my work is all done here."
And then he walked away

A man, a legend in his time,
None know from whence he came,
A hero, some say, from beyond,
Art Workroom was his name.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

I'm a Lucky Guy

It was nineteen years ago to-day that I joined the privileged ranks of Very Lucky Men. On that day, my wife and I were married.

That's not what made me so lucky, though.

We'd been together for nearly four years (since our senior year in High School) and whether we were going out to do something exciting, or just hanging out or even talking on the phone, I'd always enjoyed her company. It seemed like no matter what I did, everything was better because she was there.

But, that's not what made me so lucky, either.

You see, lots of people meet other people with whom they enjoy spending time. And there are lots of attractive, caring, fun people with lovely smiles (though, to my mind, none quite so lovely as hers). And lots of people get married, too. There's like this whole huge industry around it.

No - what made me lucky, and why I still count myself lucky to this day is what was still to come.

What made me lucky was her love, and devotion and time that we would spend together from then until now, and on into our future together. What made me so extraordinarily lucky was that I'd truly found a soulmate - a partner in life - someone to whom I could commit my life, without fear or question, and who in turn, would commit her life to me.

And I got two really awesome kids in the bargain, too! (Two awesome kids who are quickly becoming awesome adults, I should add.)

And now here we are, nineteen years later.

I look back on that time, and like anyone, I have my share of regrets - some things I wish I had done, and some others I wish I hadn't. But, there's one thing that stands out like a beacon - the one overwhelmingly correct decision I've made in my life - and that was marrying my wife.

Whenever I've had a rough day, sometimes all that keeps me going is remembering who's waiting for me at home. And when I come in the door and see her beautiful smile, the weight & frustration are lifted, because I now have an evening to spend with the woman I love and with the children that we love and have raised together. No matter what else happens, as long as we have each other, we'll get by.

Happy Anniversary, Sweetie, and Thank You for a Wonderful Nineteen Years.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Grand Romantic Delusions Chapter 02: The BMV


I stole a nervous glance at the woman now behind me in the queue. She was rather tall, with dark, well-coiffed, medium-length hair. Her smooth skin was of a fair complexion. She was wearing a white tank and a short jacket with a matching mini-skirt that showed off her long legs. She looked like she must exercise - but just enough to keep in shape without getting all muscly or anything. Or losing her considerably shapely figure. A lot of the other men in line behind us seemed to be staring at her. Pigs.

She also had brilliant green eyes that seemed to light up the whole room when she smiled. Which she did. At me.

I turned back to the sweatshirt-wearing woman in front of me. She was still playing peek-a-boo with the little girl.

"Anyway," I started again. "What were we talking about? Vampires? Oh! Wait. 2012! So, do you really think the world is gonna end in 2012? I guess that's what a lot of people are saying. My friend told me that his pastor said it was right in line with some stuff in the Bible, too. I don't really understand all that prophecy stuff, myself, but I thought I might go to church with him tomorrow, just to hear what they have to say."

Despite her best efforts at playing hard-to-get, she couldn't ignore me any longer. She turned back to me.

"No," she said. "I do not, even for a minute, think that the world is going to end in the year 2012. If there were something disastrously wrong with the planet, or the sun were about to explode, or if we were about to be hit by an asteroid or something, I think NASA or JPL, or the ESA or some scientists, somewhere would know about it before your local pastor."

"Yeah," I countered, "but what if the Mayans are right and there's a secret planet that's dark, so the telescopes can't see it, and that's what's going to hit us. Or maybe that's when the aliens promised the Mayans they'd return, and when they get back, they're gonna be pissed that we haven't mended our ways, or something, so they're gonna wipe us out and take our planet."

Oh no! I was arguing with her! That's not at all what I wanted. I'd have to find some common ground again!

"Do you have any idea," she asked, "how crazy that sounds?"

I was stunned. She continued, "If there's a dark planet out there that telescopes can't see, just how do you suppose the Mayans would have known about it? And besides, there are no Mayan prophecies about dark planets. You're getting your doomsday scenarios mixed up. Then again, it seems everyone else in the world is, so why not?" She threw her hands up in frustration.

I noticed that a couple of the Registrar workers were putting up "Out to Lunch" signs at their stations. That should slow things down a bit. I felt a wave of relief. I had little more precious, precious time. Women are fascinated by men who can carry on an intellectual debate. Maybe I could spin this in my favor, after all ...

"OK, but what about the aliens?" I asked.

"What about them?"

"I mean, what if that's why the Mayans ended their calendar in 2012. Because of aliens."

The woman behind me must have been listening, because the interjected at that point. She sounded a bit ... Irish? Or French. I wasn't sure. Who can tell the difference between all these crazy foreign accents, anyway?

"I have heard that calendar ends because it is begins of new age of peace." Greek, maybe?

We both turned towards the woman who had so rudely interrupted us.

My dream-girl responded before I could say anything. "What the hell does that even mean? New Age of Peace. Pfsh! Suddenly people are going to stop fighting over wealth and power, and everyone's going to start sharing, and then some mystical race of space aliens is going to come on down and Buy the World a Friggin' Coke?"

The dark-haired woman tilted her head to one side, her eyes narrowing. "I don't know. Is just something I heard on the tele-vision." The way she said television, it sounded like two words. Definitely French. Or maybe Russian.

"Besides," the first woman continued, "the Mayans "ended" their calendar in the same way the calendar on the wall over there "ends" on December 31st."

She was actually using finger-quotes now. How quirky and adorable! I think I really like that kind of thing in a woman.

"It doesn't mean the world's going to end," she went on. "It means you start a new calendar. A new year. Or, in the case of the Mayans, a new calendrical cycle. Or do you panic every year when you get to the last page of your calendar?"

I had to step in and fix this, and fast: "OK. You're probably right. I was just theorizing, you know ... because of your book."

The man with the two girls was called up to one of the two stations that remained open at the counter.

"Have I mentioned how this isn't my book?"

"NEXT!" Oh no! I was too late. Unless the guy with the kids finished in a hurry, my moment was slipping away. The woman in front of me turned on her heel and went up to the counter.

The woman behind me said, "I do not know what she is angry over. I think new age of peace be nice for good change."

"Uh-huh," I said, dismissively.

She continued. "Do you no think so? Or you be thinking the aliens coming?" She gave me another one of those smiles.

"I dunno," I replied to her. "We were just talking, is all." I turned back towards the counter again, straining to hear what the woman in the sweatshirt was saying to the Deputy on duty. She was being very quiet, but I thought I made out the name ... Dessoshin? Fezozchin? What the hell kind of name was that?

Thankfully, the Registrar repeated it. "Mary Sue Defozchin?" He'd obviously had had a tough time hearing her, as well. So her name was Mary. I decided that was my favorite name. I still couldn't quite get a handle on that last name, though ... Dechoshkin?

Mary handed the guy some paperwork. It looked like a simple tag renewal, so it probably wouldn't take long. Unfortunately, the guy with the kids was renewing his license, so he would take some time. And I was there to renew mine, as well.

Jesus help me, I thought. That woman there has your mom's name, and I think maybe she's the right one for me. Please help me out here, OK, Lord?

"You seem a smart man, and I like to hear you opinion." That had to be some kind of Eastern European accent. Maybe she was Polish or Lithuanian or something. "I buy coffees, you talk to me about this? I have not many friends in America, as I am just moving here for school."

The woman behind me just would not leave me alone! Still, I didn't want to appear rude.

"I'm sorry, ma'am, but I'm really busy this afternoon. Good luck making friends, though." I looked her up and down. No ... she wouldn't have too much trouble making friends. Any other day, I would have accepted her offer. But not today. Today I had a mission. A mission named Mary Sue Defaozzchinin. Or something. It was destiny. I could feel it.


I turned back towards the counter. The man with the two girls was standing in front of me. It was the man behind the counter addressing me, though.

"Would you mind watching that man's daughters for a moment, so we can take his license picture?"

"Um ... sure?" I didn't know what else to say. Besides, Mary was bound to be impressed. Women like men who are good with kids.

The man told his girls to stand there with me, and that he'd be back in a moment. He walked down to the other end of the counter where the photo station was set up.

The man behind the counter then motioned to the woman behind me.

"Ma'am, you can come on up here. We'll help the gentleman in front of you after those girls' father is done."

The dark-haired woman gave me a little sniff as she passed me. I guess she didn't take rejection well. This was just great! Now there was another delay. I'd never get out of here in time to catch up to Mary.

There was now an elderly gentleman behind me. He looked like a stereotype. He was grey and wrinkled and looked about five feet tall, hunched over the way he was. He wore a red Cardigan over a white shirt and the kind of grey pants that you'd have to call slacks. In one hand he held a cane. In the other were his registration papers and a grey fedora with a feather in the band.

I turned back to the counter quickly, before the man could try to engage me in conversation. You know how old people can get when they have an audience. Besides, I had these girls to attend to. One of them started pulling on my shirt. The other grabbed me by the hand. Hers was tiny and sweaty and sticky. Ugh.

The man behind me started playing peek-a-boo with the smaller of the two girls, using his hat to cover his face. Why does everyone always want to play peek-a-boo with little kids? Do the kids ever get sick of it? I mean, how long can that remain even a little bit fun?

After a couple of moments, the girls' father came back, freshly-minted license in hand. He mumbled a thank you at me, and took his daughters. Come on, lady, I thought at the Serbian woman, or whatever she was. Hurry up!

Then it was all over. Mary walked away with her new license tags and registration packet, and headed out the door. Maybe it just wasn't meant to be.

"Next!" The woman behind the counter was waving me forward. I walked up and took my wallet and papers out of my pocket. That was when I noticed a wad of bubble gum rolled into the bottom of my t-shirt. Thanks, girls.

I handed everything across the counter, and said, "I need to renew my license." I willed myself not to cry. I wouldn't give the Slavic lady the satisfaction of seeing me cry.

The woman on the other side of the counter barely even looked at me. "Is your address still the same?"

"Listen," I said. "I don't want to wait in line again, but I need to be able to find the woman that you just helped. Would you please give me her name and address?"

The woman looked up at me. "Are you serious?"


"No!" She replied. "I can't do that. It's illegal and unethical."

"But you don't understand! It's destiny! Mary and I ... we are meant to be together!"

"Look, sir. I don't care about your destiny. My job is to renew your license and send you on your way. If you want to go chasing after her, I can't stop you, but you'll have to wait in line again."

I looked behind me. There were at least thirty people in the queue now.

"But ..."

"But me no buts, mister!" She wasn't going to budge. "This isn't some kind of movie where the rules don't apply and everyone is expected help you find your true love. This is the BMV."

The dark-hared Slovenian at the next station was looking at me as if I'd lost my mind. Maybe I had.

"All right," I sighed, resigned to my fate. "Let's do this."

"Is your address still the same?"


We then went through all the standard questions. She told me to look through the eye-testing machine for my vision test. When I stepped up to the machine, I spotted it. Mary's copy of Twilight of the Gods. She'd left it right on the counter next to the eye tester! Oh, Joy of Joys!

After my vision test, I carefully slid the book off the top of the counter. Here it was ... the clue I would need to find Mary. She'd have to come back after her friend's book!

I would find her.

Oh yes, I would.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Grand Romantic Delusions Chapter 02: The BMV

Part I:

I first saw her in the queue at the Bureau of Motor Vehicles Deputy Registrar Agency. She had stringy dishwater-blonde hair. I would say it was her eyes that first caught my attention, but I couldn't really see them due to the glare of the overhead fluorescent lighting on her glasses. I guess it was just the idea of her eyes that caught my attention. Also, the way she wore her baggy, shapeless grey sweatshirt.

I surreptitiously let the man between us cut in front of me, in order to get closer to her. He had two little girls with him, so I'm sure he was eager to get out of the interminably long line as soon as he possibly could. Why do some people insist on bringing their kids to the BMV with them? That must be a huge pain in the ass.

Anyway, pretending to look over my shoulder out the window at the front of the office, I stole a glance at her. I think we may have made brief eye contact, but it was hard to tell. The glare again.

"Next!" One of the women at the counter yelled. The line shuffled forward. We were all one space closer to the counter.

Women love guys who are musically-inclined, so I started whistling a jaunty tune. I took my phone out of my pocket and pretended to read a text. In order to make it more authentic, I texted myself. I allowed myself a small laugh, shaking my head as if someone had just texted me something amusing.

Finally, I did one of those half-turns, like I was leaning against the wall, so I could give her the opportunity to interact with me. There wasn't really a wall there, though - just one of those pole-and-rope thingies that's meant to keep the line orderly, but almost never quite does the job. I almost stumbled backwards, but caught myself. I did drop my phone, though.

I gave her a half-smile and picked up my phone. She turned away. I think maybe she was looking outside for someone she knew. When she turned back, I tried the smile again, but with a little nod this time.

It was time to step up my game. I opened with, "Don't you just hate waiting in line?"

Of course she hated waiting in line. Everyone hates waiting in line. At least we wouldn't start our relationship with a disagreement, right?

One of the little girls in front of me was attempting to climb her father like one of those walls you see at "family fun center" places. The other one was reaching into his pocket. Looking for loose change, I guess. The man had that defeated, dead-eyed look that people develop whenever they find themselves dealing with the government. Maybe he had candy in there. He didn't seem to notice either of his kids, in any case.

"Actually, I find it kind of relaxing," she said. Dammit! I should have known not to start on a cliché!

"Next customer please," said a man behind the counter. The line shuffled forward another space.

"Well, yeah," I countered. "I mean, I suppose if you want to let yourself go, in a Zen kind of way. But wouldn't you rather be, I dunno ... anywhere else?"

"It depends," she said, finally looking at me.

I was dressed in faded blue jeans and a plain black t-shirt. My hair was a bit wind-blown, as I'd driven to the BMV with my car windows down. I'd never stand out in a crowd on my own, so I had to make this conversation memorable - entertaining, even - if I was going to get anywhere.

"Depends on what?"

"Mostly," she replied, "on whether I can ignore any distractions around me."

"Oh," I said.

She turned around again, towards the big window in front. She must be waiting on someone, I thought. I hope it's not her boyfriend. She then pulled a paperback book out of her purse and opened it to a place she had marked with a dog-ear, turned back in the direction of the line and began reading. Clearly she was interested in me, but wanted me to work for her attention.

Oh, yes. I knew this dance.

"What'cha readin' there?"

She pretended not to hear me, so I tried again, this time a bit louder.

"What are you reading?"

The line moved again Step, drag, shuffle.

"Umm ... Twilight: Another Lunar Cycle." I hadn't heard of that one.

"I haven't heard of that one," I said. "Any good?"

She ignored me again, so I repeated myself.

"Is it any good? I haven't read any of those books, but I hear they're supposed to be really good."

She closed the book, marking her place with a thick finger. I noticed her hands appeared to be very large and strong. I decided that I like that in a woman.

"Huh? Oh, yeah. It's ... uh ... very romantic," she said. "And I like the supernatural elements."

"Oh," I responded. "Sounds interesting. I always liked those Anne Rice books. Did you ever read any of those?"

"No." She lifted her book and continued reading.

I soldiered on, "I bet Lestat would kick Edward's ass, though! And look cool doing it."

She glared at me. Or maybe it was the glare from the lighting again. At least now I had her attention. The climbing girl had reached her father's neck. She appeared to be strangling him from behind, but in his institutionally-induced zombie state, he didn't take any notice.

"Either that, or he'd rock Edward's world - make him totally forget about that Betty chick."

She glared at me again. I think. It was still difficult to tell, with the glasses. The pocket-foraging girl had come up with a piece of bubble gum that looked to have been chewed and re-wrapped. She set about separating the used gum from the wrapper, with her teeth.

The line moved forward, with an almost audible air of resignation. I was next to the wall, now, so I leaned casually against it.

"You know, because of the Vampires in those books all being kinda gay."

"I understood what you were implying," she said. "You don't need to spell it out."

"Oh. OK. I wasn't sure."

"And her name," she continued. "It's Bella. Not Betty."

"Oh, sorry. Like I said, I haven't read any of those."

"Uh-huh." She began to read more pointedly, lifting the book up to block my view of her.

I started whistling again. Trying to think of what to say next. I noticed the title of the book was actually Twilight of the Gods, and it was by some guy with umlauts in his name. Erich something. She was turning away from me again so I didn't get a good look. Must be German or something.

"Hey," I started again. "Isn't it funny how the word "umlaut" doesn't actually have umlauts in it?"

She dropped her hand again and regarded me with what I assumed was interest and maybe admiration.

I went on. "You know, like, shouldn't the first "u" in the word umlauts have umlauts? I guess then it would be pronounced like ueumlauts or something, though, huh?" I really did my best at drawing out the "ü" sound, towards the back of my throat. Women are usually impressed by men who understand foreign languages.

"Yeah. That's funny." She turned around and looked out the window again. Maybe it was her boyfriend, she was looking for, and she was afraid he'd see her talking to me and go into a jealous rage. It would be sweet if I got a chance to impress her with my fighting skills. I hadn't been in a fight since high school, but I was sure I could handle myself.

I flexed my biceps a bit, but I wasn't sure if she noticed. She had her nose buried in that book again. I noticed the heading under the title was The Mayan Calendar and the Return of the Extraterrestrials. Weird. I didn't think there were any aliens in the Twilight books. There was supposed to be some kind of Indian werewolf tribe, or something, though. Were they Mayan werewolves, maybe?

We all shuffled forward again, as the next person in line was called to the counter.

"Hey, so ... you really think the world'll end in 2012?"

"What, now?" She was clearly intrigued. Maybe even a little turned on. It was hard to read her expression. I'd have to figure out a way to get rid of those glasses.

"You know ... that whole Mayan thing. Like in your book." I gestured to the cover of the book. Suddenly I recognized the name. It was by that Chariots of the Gods guy - the one who thought aliens were responsible for, like, all the mysterious buildings and drawings from ancient times. Like the Great Pyramids and Stonehenge and Easter Island and stuff.

She looked at me with a what the fuck are you talking about kind of expression, before she turned the book around to look at its cover. Her face fell. Then she started to laugh.

"Guess I picked up the wrong book," she said.

I gave her a big smile. "That's OK. I do that all the time," I lied. No sense in embarrassing her. "So, are there, like, any vampires even in that book?"

"I don't know," she confessed. "I haven't actually been reading it. It's not even my book. My roommate asked me to hold on to it for her, and since I hate making small talk with strangers, I pulled it out just to have something to do."

"Oh yes, I understand." I nodded sympathetically. "Waiting in line can get boring."

"No, you don't. I wasn't bored. I don't mind lines. It's people I don't want to have to deal with. I wasn't reading the book. I was using it as a prop, so I could avoid talking to other people. Get it now?"

I gave her a knowing look. "Sure, I get it." I lowered my voice to a whisper. "I don't usually like to talk to the kind of people you meet in the BMV, either."

Her jaw dropped. She must have been shocked to discover we shared such a connection. It was almost as if we were mind-melding right there. She took off her glasses and rubbed her eyes, then her temples. Her eyes were light brown and they tilted down at the sides. They gave her that I'm almost always sad look. They were a little bloodshot, too.

Everyone in line sauntered forward again.

"You look tired," I said, patting her shoulder. "Have you been having trouble sleeping?

"I will tonight." She pushed my hand away.

"Yeah, days like this really take it out of you." I used the excuse of putting my cell phone away to put my hands in my pockets. I guess she just wasn't ready for our relationship to move to the patting on the shoulder level yet. Still, there was an unmistakable warmth in her touch. She was probably just not comfortable expressing herself in public.

"Um, yeah. They certainly do." She put her glasses back on, obscuring from me the full glory of her visage. "Erm ... would you mind doing me a favor?"

"Oh, not at all!" What could she want of me? Did she need help moving a couch or something? "Name it."

"Well, I'm in kind of a hurry, you see ... would you mind if I jumped in front of you?"

Damn! Her favor didn't involve me needing to know where she lived after all. But I'd already committed.

"No, go ahead." I shuffled sideways to let her past.

She gave a small wave to the little girl who was now perched on her father's head. Then she started playing peek-a-boo with her using her copy of Twilight of the Gods. It was going to be difficult to carry on a conversation this way.

Everyone stepped forward. The man with the two girls was up next to be served. I was going to have to act fast, if our relationship was going to make it past the BMV.