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  • The Curse of The Purple T-rex.

    Purple T-rex

    Every year I do a fun, creepy, scary story for October. This year is no different. I’ll be telling the chilling tale of how I once turned into Bernie, the purple T-rex. Of course – this is fiction….or is it? 

    Enjoy this year’s story! 

    December 22nd, 1993.

    A group of ten or so of us decide to rent a cabin at the coast before the Christmas madness hits a few days later. It’s morning and I’m asleep, or so my bunkmates think. I decide to have a little fun and pretend I’m dreaming.

    “I love you…..you love me,” I sing, supposedly sleeping.

    “Look – Aaron’s dreaming….” I hear someone say. 

    About a half hour later, I saunder down to breakfast. Everyone else is sitting, waiting for me. I decide to expand my joke to the whole group.

    “I had a dream I was Bernie the Purple T-Rex,” I proclaim…

    Big mistake – everyone laughs. I hear someone say “Is that what you want to be when you grow up?” “It’s a prophetic dream!” Someone else screams.

    Of course, the group mocks me for several months after. “How’s the Bernie business?” “When do you paint your skin purple?” My little joke on my friends backfires. I am now the joke….and not the joker.

    June 18th, 1994

    We’re all in a van – going across the border from Tijuana, back into the United States. There must be a thousand cars, all trying to get into California from Mexico. Of course the local entrepreneurs see an opportunity. American tourists with money will  buy anything! One guy shoves a magazine through an open window on our bus, and into our interpreter’s face. She haggles a price, and finally he buys the magazine. A woman shoves a doll into someone else’s face. They refuse. And then….a stout man shoves a twelve inch, ceramic Bernie statue in my face.

    “You buy! You buy!” he demands.

    “No thank you,” I politely say.

    Still – everyone sees this. Someone yells – “It’s a sign! you really are Bernie!”

    I roll my eyes -I thought the joke was dead – but this incident will surely give it new life. I silently accept my fate, and shove my face into a book.

    July 23rd, 1994

    My friends and I are at the county fair.  We’re browsing the booths, when we stumble upon the kid’s corner. There’s a guy who claims to have written many of the scripts for Bernie’s television show. My friends, of course, shove me up to the guy.

    “This guy’s going to be the next Bernie! Tell them the dream!”

    I recall the fake dream, and then the incident at the border. The guy looks at me with horror in his face….

    “You’re – You’re going to have a really bad time!”

    He darts from the booth – like he had seen a ghost. I feel confused….but also a little frightened. What does he mean by this? Why would he say I’m going to have a hard time? I just had a fake dream…

    August 12th, 1994

    I wake up late – the alarm forgets to wake me once again. No matter – I have nothing planned. Besides….I feel a little off…a little weird. I feel warm – as though wrapped in a huge blanket. Maybe I’ll take it easy today.

    I walk into the bathroom, look in the mirror – and let out a shriek for all I’m worth! The face I stare at, it isn’t mine! It… it can’t be! I’m looking at the face of Bernie the Purple T-Rex! I have become an anamorphic children’s TV wannabe muppet! What do I do?

    My first reaction – call someone. I reach for the phone and dial my mom.

    “Hello?” she answers the phone.

    “Mom – mom….I’m in some kind of trouble! I’m not sure what to…”

    “Who is this?” She asks

    “It’s me – your son!”

    “Listen – I’m tired of prank calls! Goodbye!”

    She slams the phone down as she hangs up. My voice must sound like Bernie’s. Great….just great. This has got to be a dream. Ok, maybe I’ll go back to sleep.

    Later in the afternoon, I wake up. I hope to God that this was all a weird dream. Maybe that burrito I ate last night, or maybe the pasta the other night. Even if it isn’t a dream – I hope it’s done – over. I sheepishly look in the mirror once more. Yeah – I’m still Bernie. 

    I best go to the hospital. Should I call 911? Or will they just think I’m a prank caller. I mean – what do I say? Hey….I’ve turned into a big purple T-rex, I need an ambulance. No – they’ll laugh. I guess I’ll just take a bus. I can be at the ER in 20 minutes at least.

    A few minutes later I get on the bus and instantly the driver sarcasms, “It’s a little early for Halloween.”

    I laugh – and claim I’m going to a costume party….at least that’s what I tried to say. What actually came out of my big, stupid purple mouth…

    “Ooopaloppala do! Skiddy me skiddy you!” 

    That was Bernie’s signature line! But I didn’t say it! Yet – I still said it….I don’t know how…but the words that came out of my mouth, his mouth, were not my own words. I wonder – I was so panicked earlier – is that what my mom heard? Maybe that’s why she hung up so quickly. I take my seat, and hope no one bothers me. 

    Of course someone bothers me….a kid sitting nearby with his mom. 

    “Are you really Bernie?” He excitedly asks.

    “No – I’m not – this is just a costume…” I attempt to say, but the words of my mouth / his mouth come out as “Yes, I am…Skiddy me Skiddy you!” 

    I feel so frightened – I would break into a cold sweat – but I don’t think I have sweat glands. Just a giant, big, stupid purple head. I want to cry, I want to scream….but all that comes out is laughter.

    The boy hugs me, and goes back to his seat. I get off the bus a few minutes later and run to the ER. I must look like quite the spectacle. People are talking. Look at the dofus dressed as Bernie! I hear someone yell.

    I walk into the ER and up to the nurses station. I hope I can communicate with her…maybe if I write something down. Maybe I can tell her the story in writing.

    Of course her first words are “you’re going to have to remove that costume sir – or madam?” 

    I signal for a pad of paper….she seems to notice what I’m saying and gives me a pad. Still – she insists that I remove the mask at least.

    I attempt to write – “I’m trapped….I’ve become Bernie the Purple T-rex. Help me!” What I actually write – “I love you, you love me, we’re as close as we can be…” The damned theme song? really? Ugg….this is impossible! I rip the paper up…I’m unsure what to do.

    She blurts out,”sir, if you don’t take off the mask I’m calling security.” 

    In my head I yell, “Yes! Please call security, that might actually be what helps me.”

    I go sit down, and wait for security. Maybe they can help me…or at least assess me enough to know that I need a doctor.

    A few minutes later security comes and says “sir, remove your costume at once.”

    I put my hands up to signal that I’ll go peacefully…instead I find myself doing jumping jacks. Also…I hear Bernie’s mouth singing “Head, shoulders knees and toes, knees and toes.”

    Security of course tackles me….surprisingly, I don’t feel pain as I hit the ground. Maybe I no longer have a nervous system. Makes sense I guess. I wonder if I have any internal organs, fluids, and the like.

    Security answers that question a few seconds later….as they attempt to rip off my head. Blood sprays everywhere….all over the patients awaiting care in the ER. All over the nurse at the check in counter. All over the security guards. So much blood – and it’s everywhere! Children are screaming. A homeless guy throws up everywhere. A guy with a bandage wrapped around his head faints. Doctors run out with tourniquets and tranquilizers….unsure of what to do. Someone helps me to my feet and leads me to the back, while pressing a towel to my still gushing neck. The blood is all over me….but so weird. The blood is hot pink, no – lime green. Wait, now it’s baby blue. Hmmm….the blood seems to be changing colors. Out of the corner of my eye, I see a couple suited men, with sunglasses and earpieces. I feel a sharp pain! Whoa, I do have a nervous system….I….

    August 13th, 1994

    I must have passed out. I wake up in a dark room, on a bed. I’m strapped down, so I can’t move. 

    “Mr. Edwards….can you hear me?” A man in a white lab coat leans over and waves his hand in my face.

    I wonder how he recognizes me…have I turned back? Am I ok now?

    “Mr Edwards….blink if you can hear me.”

    I blink….and I breathe heavily.

    “Mr Edwards, you’ve got a condition. You’ll be ok, but you’re going to be in this condition for a two or three years. We like to call it – TV anamorphism. Basically, you’ve turned into a child’s TV star. You’re far from the first person who’s suffered from this condition – in fact – most of the overgrown, plush characters you see on TV suffer this very condition.” They live in this very facility in fact.

    “We can get you work as Bernie. If you’re good enough, you’ll be on the TV show. If not, you’ll go around to children’s parties. Unfortunately, these are the only outside activities you’ll be allowed to have, as we can’t have you running around in public like this.”

    The doctor rattles on and on about the condition – but I zone out. Apparently, my fate, at least for a couple of years, is sealed. I can either just be locked away and bored, until this goes away, or I can make a little money and get out of this building. The choice is clear. And hey – maybe I’ll look back on all of this and laugh.

    September 14th, 1994 – October 29th, 1996

    I’m going to be on television – as the real Bernie. The big, stupid, purple dinosaur which I mocked just a few months back was me, and I was him. People my age will be writing songs about how they want to put a bullet through my big stupid purple head.  How exciting!

    I tape a few episodes every month for a couple years. As there’s not much to buy, I’m saving most of the money I earn. I do have to pay for my room and board, but that equals to about a fifth of my income. If I could communicate my wishes, I’d put my money in the stock market. I hear the dot com boom is making a lot of people rich.

    Of course, when I think about this – I think about my loneliness. I can’t communicate. I miss my friends – they probably have no idea where I am. My parents stop by from time to time – but I can’t really say anything, as Bernie has control of any vocal chords. Even when my parents do come – my dad looks on with disbelief while my mom just sighs.

    For whatever reason – I’m not allowed to hug my parents. I can touch them – but only for two seconds. I’m wonder how they’re doing – they do tell me what’s going on at home. I wonder if the government – or whoever runs this facility – made them sign something saying they can’t divulge who or where I am. I wonder if there’s anything they’re not telling me. 

    The days I’m not taping a show- I’m free to wander around the facility. There’s a communal dining hall and a TV lounge that a lot of us like to congregate at. I think I’m friends with Harry the Monster from Poppyseed Place. There’s also an HR Poofanpuff that hangs around us. We really can’t communicate too much asides from our catchphrases, but we seem to get along anyways. I wanted to get Big Yellow Bird to join our group, but interestingly enough, he’s an actual human in a costume! Go figure.

    Aside from the loneliness – life is ok in the facility. Not the best, but things could be a lot more horrible. At least I’m not a science experiment.

    Every so often I think back to the fair and the Bernie writer. He probably knows the secret of us “stuffed ones” as they call us informally – but we’re harmless. Why did the Bernie writer I met run away from me? 

    October 30th, 1996

    Halloween, a couple days away, is our favorite day of the year in the facility. We get to run around the city – as long as we have a handler with us. I guess they figure people will think we’re just dressed up in a costume. But today -we got the news- no Halloween outings this year. We were not told why – just that it was for the protection of ourselves and others. We couldn’t even go tape our shows or do birthday parties. Weird. Still – there’s a lot of things they don’t tell us. They just bark out orders. We do as we’re told. Still – no Halloween….that sucks.

    October 31st, 1996

    Everyone walking the halls of the facility seems depressed. Some don’t even leave their rooms, some refuse to eat. I myself just sit in front of the TV the entire day. As I flip channels, I see a familiar face. It’s the guy who ran from me! He’s ranting on cable access about monsters, and how there’s going to be a reckoning tonight! All of a sudden the screen turns to color bars. A message appears “we now join the following program already in progress.” A church service pops up on the screen – complete with grainy video and crackled audio. I switch the channel, and forget about the incident.

    At about 10 PM – an alarm screeches. BLARRRRGGGAAA. The humans demand we all stay in our rooms for our own safety. I’m scared, is something happening that we should be aware of?

    All of a sudden, I hear gun fire in the hallways! I hear explosives on the streets. There’s sirens outside and panicking, yelling people all over the building. I see my friend Harry the Monster run by….and then he drops to the ground. I run out to see if I can help him – but he’s dead. A knife in his back. Rainbow blood flowing freely from the wound. I realize shit’s going down. I realize I am not safe. And then I hear a familiar voice….

    “Bernie! Hey Bernie! You’re going to pay for what you’ve done Bernie!

    It’s the guy – the one on TV that afternoon – the one that ran from me a few years ago! I try to react – but all I can do is that stupid laugh and “Skiddy Me, Skiddy You!” 

    The man lunges at me with a sword! An actual freaking sword! I run as fast as my stuffed legs can take me, but I trip over the body of my fallen friend. 

    “I loathe you….you loathe me….time for a sword in your belly”, the man sings as he hovers over me – ready to shove his weapon into my gut.”

    BANG BANG BANG! I hear gunfire. The man’s eyes dilate, and he slumps to the ground. Blood flowing from wounds on his torso. I hear more shots fired from other parts of the facility. Screams everywhere – and then an announcement over the loudspeaker.

    “The danger is over. The attackers are all either dead or detained. Please return to your quarters and stay there until we give the all clear. You’ll all be briefed in the morning. I suggest you all get some sleep if you can.”

    April 2nd, 1997

    I woke up screaming. The Halloween massacre, as I called it in my head, took the lives of 21 of our fellow stuffed ones, as well as 15 of the facility staff. We had a ceremony for the the fallen – but that didn’t go over well. We all wanted to cry, but of course our damned laughs and catchphrases took over every audible display. Counseling wasn’t easy either. We all had PTSD, but we couldn’t really work through things. Instead – we all had nightmares. At least I assumed we all had nightmares…I’d hate to meet the person or stuffed one who didn’t have nightmares after that.

    I get up and start my morning routine. I feel cold. Something I hadn’t felt in years. I look in the mirror, expecting to see the terrifying, yet now familiar big stupid purple head, instead, I see me! I see my actual face! I look at my hands….no puppet hands. And I have to pee! Like really pee….like I haven’t peed in two and a half years….and in truth I hadn’t.

    As soon as I’m done with my business, I throw on some clothes – oversized clothes – but it’s all I have. I run to the first human I see and yell “I’m me again! I’m me again!”

    A few minutes later  I find myself in the the head administrator’s office. I have clothes that fit and every word that I try to speak comes out as intended. I am so very happy. The administrator, however, does not look too joyful.

    A nurse walks in the room with a clipboard.

    “What’s the damage?” the administrator asks the nurse.

    “Fifteen kids hospitalized….three dead.”

    “What – what happened?” I ask? “Was it a school shooting? A bomb? What the hell happened?

    The administrator sighs, “You happened. There’s a reason we keep you guys locked away. You don’t know your own strength, and you crush children when they hug you.” 


    “Let me start from the beginning. This isn’t a disease. It’s actually a curse. Network executives got into some dark magic and created a race of – well – real life TV characters. All in the name of TV ratings. The only reason why we let you guys out on Halloween is because that’s the one day of the year your strength is diminished. Besides – kids don’t seem to notice you as everyone else is dressed up as well. Those kids that do try to hug you are intercepted by your handler.”

    “Why that day? Why is our strength diminished on Halloween?”

    “They renew the curse once a year – on that day. It weakens your strength for a 24 hour period. We’re really not sure of the particulars – it is magic after all. Not science.”

    “Why do you even let us do shows though? Why let us out at all?”

    “You probably think we’re some government agency men in black thing, don’t you? Well – truth be told – the government doesn’t know much about what goes on. We’re funded by the networks. If it wasn’t for their money, you’d be walking around, hugging kids and killing them all day long. It isn’t a good compromise, but it’s one we have to keep. One of these days we hope the networks will forget about this whole bloody thing – but for now – we live like this. For now – we do what we can to keep as many kids safe as possible”

    “Why can’t our handlers keep the kids away from us on set?

    The administrator slams his desk….”we wish we could. The networks won’t let us. They want to keep up appearances. They want the kids you work with to hug you on camera. Look – I know you have a million questions, but for now, it’s time to rest. You need to go home – hug your parents – and maybe get a psychiatrist. We have a list of them that know of our little secret. As for your knowledge, you will have to sign a waiver saying you will not reveal anything of this to anyone – even friends, spouses, children…No one.”

    “What if I refuse?”

    “Then you get pinned for the murder of three kids…you don’t want that, do you? Look – you’ve got plenty of money, go live your life kid. For the record – I’m sorry you’ve been part of this.”

    I walk out the door of the administrator’s office – broken – disturbed. I’m lead to the front exit where a car is waiting for me. As I walk out the door – I hear a faint but familiar voice singing. I look behind me, and there’s another Bernie being admitted. I wonder if he’s the one to take my place, or would he just be a birthday party staple.

    “Good luck, kid.” I turn and say to my probable replacement. 

    The purple T-rex turns to me, and in a voice that used to be mine says “Skiddy me, skiddy you!”

    Did you enjoy The Curse of Purple T-rex?

    I hope you enjoyed this year’s edition of my scary October stories. Did you miss my stories in previous years? Well, here they are: 2017: Brain Damage Related to Time Travel. 2016: Deadroll. 2015: Larry the Happy, Homicidal Squirrel. 2014: American (Voting) Horror Story. 2013: The Cave.  By the way – if you’re looking for some spooky, eerie fun music, I put together a halloween playlist on my music blog  (audioperfecta.com). Enjoy, and Happy Halloween – and if you see a purple T-rex – don’t hug it.

  • Working Tuesday through Saturday: Pros and Cons.

    Working Tuesday through Saturday could leave you free as a bird at the beach!

    In my last job, I worked Tuesday through Saturday. I really liked this schedule  – but there were certainly drawbacks. I did not appreciate hearing “TGIF” when I had another day left in my work week. Still, I got back at them by exclaiming. “I love Mondays!”, while everyone else drudged back to the working week. All in all, if I can choose a schedule for my next job, I will gladly work Tuesday through Saturday, however, I have different tastes than others. Maybe you’re considering a Tuesday through Saturday schedule. More and more Americans are opting to work on Saturday or Sunday and dropping a weekday from their schedule.  If you want to weigh the pros and cons, I’ve put together a list of my personal experiences.

    You get a lot done on Mondays if you don’t have to work.

    Do you ever find yourself running errands on your lunch break? Perhaps the bank isn’t open when you’re off work. Maybe the pharmacy isn’t open on weekends. Maybe you have to take PTO for a doctor’s appointment or a teacher-parent conference. Whatever the errand, when you work Tuesday through Saturday, this becomes less of a problem. Just make an appointment on a Monday, and all is well. Go to the bank and the pharmacy at your leisure on Monday, and enjoy your lunch break during the rest of the week. You don’t even have to use PTO to get that root canal!

    Three Day Weekends are a bit tricky.

    Almost all three-day weekends involve a Monday. So what happens when someone’s usual weekend involves a Monday? At my former work, I either got a different day off, or I got an extra eight-hour’s pay. I always felt it was a fair arrangement.  I usually opted for the three day weekend unless I really needed the money. Having said that, a three-day weekend meant no-one in my department for two days. If your job has work that has to be done despite the three day weekend, that probably means the person who works Saturday has to do more than their normal Saturday work load.

    There’s also the fact that by the time I got off on Saturday, everyone else has been off for a full 24 hours. If there’s a weekend getaway, your friends and/or family will have left on Friday night or Saturday morning. They’ll also want to come home on Monday, and if your schedule allows you to take Tuesday off – this means that you get less time with your loved ones. Depending on your work arrangement, you might be able to finagle getting Saturday off during a three day weekend.

    Everyone is off on Saturdays.

    I just mentioned that when I got off work on Saturday, everyone has already been off work for a full 24 hours. This meant everyone thought I’m free on Saturday during the day. Friends would call me and say “Hey want to do this or that on Saturday afternoon” I’m like – you mean when I’m working? I actually left a church partly because every time they would schedule something social, it would be Saturday afternoon. So – there’s a con right there. If you’re highly involved in a church, or other groups that have weekend events, you might want to forgo working Tuesday through Saturday.

    Your Saturday is everyone else’s Sunday:

    If you’re a night owl like me, what do you like to do on Saturday mornings? Chances are, you just want to laze about – maybe not even get out of bed before 11 or 12. What about Sundays? If you go to church, Sunday is probably the day you go. This is another reason I stopped going to church – I was too tired. It was my Saturday, and I just didn’t have it in me to be social. I wanted to, maybe even needed to sleep in on Sundays.

    Of course, by afternoon, I want to get out and do something – but everyone is busy running errands, grocery shopping, et al. Sunday evenings usually found most of my Monday through Friday working friends tucked in, getting ready for the working week. Staying up late just wasn’t an option for them.

    Simple supply and demand means restaurants close early on Sundays. Any weekend events – brew fests, street fairs, ethnic festivals, and what not -they’ll certainly be done by 5. If there’s anything happening it will end by 5 PM. However – my girlfriend and I did find a theater or two that offers cheap movies on Sunday. Saturday night movies are expensive, so this is an amazing perk. The theaters are relatively empty too – I’ve never tried to go to a Sunday night movie, only to find it sold out.

    Mondays are pretty much void of people.

    Again – if something happens on a Sunday, it closes at 5 PM. But nothing happens on Mondays. When was the last time you went to a chili cook off in the park on a Monday afternoon?  Having said that – with no one around on Mondays, the world is your oyster! Eat at any restaurant you wish without a long wait. Go to a movie with no line, even if a concert happens on a Monday, it’ll be less full than on a Friday or a Saturday. People are at work during the day, and really tired Monday night. Talk about an introvert’s dream.

    Your coworkers assume you can work on Mondays:

    One day during an informal meeting that wasn’t getting anywhere, someone suggested that we reconvene. This same person suggested Monday. I sat back in my seat, set out a sigh, and hoped to God that everyone else could meet a different day. This kind of situation happened all the time. It was pretty common to get asked “Hey, can you do this task on Monday?” or “Can we meet Monday afternoon?”

    About 95 percent of the time, I was able to pass whatever tasks onto the guy who worked in my department on Monday. Occasionally though, there were tasks or meetings that required my presence. Even if this involved a conference call from home,  that still cut into my day off. I remember a time when my boss called me while I was having lunch with my girlfriend, asking when I was going to get something done! That was not a good experience.

    Granted – this isn’t the fault any of my former (or your possible future) coworkers (including my former boss). They can’t memorize your schedule, just as you can’t memorize their schedule. This is just one of the hazards of working Tuesday through Saturday.

    You have less time to collaborate with your coworkers:

    Sure, Tuesday through Friday, you are in the normal groove of the workforce, but what happens when another co-worker works from home one day a week? What about a co-worker who works Sunday through Monday? Maybe Wednesday through Sunday? How about when a coworkers calls in sick? I faced every one of these situations – and it was frustrating. My workplace tried to solve this by trying to get everyone in the building on Thursdays. This helped, but that often made a tiresome Thursday. At least once a month, I would have three meetings back to back. By the end of the third meeting, I felt like a zombie. My brain had totally lost all cognitive thought, and I was just ready to go to sleep. Oh, and when you have so many meetings on one day, noting else gets done.

    You do get a lot done on Saturdays – and Fridays.

    I could get a lot more done on a Saturday than any other day of the week. Why? Because I was not distracted by emails, slack messages, coworkers waking in, etcetera. There were no spontaneous and/or looming projects that had to be done immediately. This also helped my stress levels, because I knew what to expect when I walked into work on Saturdays. Oh – and if you’re the only one at the office, you can play your music as loud as you want!

    There an added bonus to your co-workers starting their weekend earlier; no one wants to start a big project on Friday. No one wants to start a project and then go home for two days. They’ll be thinking of the project their entire weekend. So, since there were no big projects coming down the pipeline on Fridays, I also got a lot done that day.

    Conclusion: Is working Tuesday through Saturday right for you?

    Honestly, this schedule isn’t for everyone. There certainly seems to be more cons than pros listed. Having said that, the biggest advantage, or disadvantage, rests on your social life. Do you value a lot of interactions with your family and friends? If the answer is yes, you should probably stick with a Monday through Friday schedule. However, if you’re not as sociable, a Tuesday through Saturday schedule might be ideal for you.

    The other con set has to do with your actual work environment. Will working Tuesday through Saturday affect your work performance? Can you handle getting phone calls from you boss on what is essentially your Sunday? If you don’t mind this, then certainly working Tuesday through Saturday can benefit you. If, however, it throws you and/or your coworkers into a state of disarray, you should probably stick to a Monday through Friday Schedule. 

  • Getting laid off means so many goodbyes.

    Getting laid off - so many goodbyes

    Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls –  getting laid off sucks.

    I’ve been employed in my current field for 18 years, and have worked extremely hard to get where I am at now. While there’s been ups and downs, and various levels of employment, I have not been unemployed since then. The rushing thoughts of “what now” seem to be non-stop. I’ve never been really good at job hunting, and I’ve gotten used to a certain level of living. I honestly don’t know what type of job I want, and I don’t know how to get it. Having said that, this is far from my only fear.

    I fear I’m not going to see some of my coworkers ever again.

    I’ve gotten a lot of warm responses all around. I’ve seen tears in eyes, and looks of sadness when my boss announced the layoffs. I’ve gotten hugs, handshakes, and a bevy of other gestures. I even heard a heartfelt “I’m really going to miss you,” from someone who I used to fight with quite a bit. Again – there’s been a lot of ups and downs with coworkers all across the building, but having said that – I’m going to miss every single one of them. Getting laid off means the end of some amazing professional relationships.

    I’m going to miss my clients.

    I’ve been slowly telling the ones I connect with that I won’t be around for very much longer. I’m not telling them I was laid off – that’s none of their business and puts the organization in a bad light. I try to give them a bigger and better things type of answer when they ask what I’m doing.

    Going past missing my clients as people, I’m going to miss working with them. Customer service was probably 40 percent of my job. I might even miss their anger when things go wrong. I will miss finding an amazing solution that makes them happy. I like making people happy, and I have a creative mind – so this was a real perk of my job. I fear that the clients won’t get the treatment they deserve once I’m gone. Getting laid off means I probably won’t see a lot of those people ever again.

    I’m going to miss some of my projects.

    My soon to be former department has my name all over the place. When I took over as the department head, pretty much everything was different. I diligently worked to change the things that needed to be changed. Still, there’s so much more to be done! We were going to get a new scheduling tool to replace our aging system, and this was going to free me up to do other things.  I might have been able to finally make the TV Guide work better. I might have been able to redesign all my forms so as to make them more readable and accessible. I might have been able to join – even become the point person – of the accessibility task force. Getting laid off means these projects are now not something I’ll be able to do. That really sucks!

    Granted, there are a few things I won’t miss.

    I won’t miss trying to finagle the data when report time comes. I remember last time – I told the IT guy “I know my numbers are correct, but I have no idea how I got them!” I won’t miss the commute – North Portland to East County is a long way by car and even further by train. I won’t miss the seemingly constant irritations, both minor and major, of the playback servers. I won’t miss the transit center late at night (when I’m on my way home) – there are some scary and interesting people who frequent there! My point being, there are positives to getting laid off.

    I will land on my feet.

    I don’t know how, but I do know that I have a lot to offer. The job market is surprisingly good, and I’m smart enough to figure out the logistics. In the meantime, I can focus more on my writing. I’ve had a goal of writing on this blog once a month. Maybe I can up that goal now that I’ll have a bit of free time. I also have my music blog which I am about to launch. I need to put something up there at least once a week. Who knows, if I can monetize at all, my music blog could become my new full-time gig. It’s highly unlikely, but I might as well reach for the stars. I have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

    Again, I say – getting laid off sucks, but I do see some hope. I know this will probably not be a long unemployment streak. I also know, that my next job will probably be the best job I’ve ever had. Optimism – it’s how I’m going to get by. The future’s so bright, I gotta wear shades!

  • Even if I’m wrong, I’m right and that’s why I write….

    IS this right or wrong? Whatever, this article won't be as awesome as this. But it will be more confusing!

    Wrong or right, I have no idea what to write, I just know I need to write. The reason I need to write is because I want to be a success. I want more hits to my blog, and I read something somewhere saying if I post more often, I’ll get more hits. I also need to make sure that if I write the right stuff, I’m not wrong. Does that sentence make any sense to you? Well, it shouldn’t – but it makes my readability score turn green and that means more hits from Google and Bing and Yahoo. I’m supposed to repeat certain words several times, like write, right, wrong, and other things. This will make my score right and right is not wrong. And even if I’m wrong, I’m right.

    You might notice that this entry has no content….that’s ok because content is secondary to visibility. You need to market yourself even if you have nothing worth saying….especially if you have nothing worth saying. Just say something…anything….Say how much you love cheese but don’t give a reason why. Say how much you hate dinasours, but make sure you can’t spell the world dinasour. And for heaven’s sake, make sure no one edits your mispelled words! It’s not about the art, it’s not about your creative flow….it’s about marketing…it’s about SEO and making yourself monitizable. Is that a word? Doesn’t matter – I just made it a word. Why? Because even if I’m wrong, I’m right.

    Actually, forget everything I just said…I wrote. People don’t google unique things! People Google the same words over….like weather or gmail or porn or google or flowers or pill indicator. Yes, pill indicator is on the list of most googled terms – sitting at number 26. So, there’s a ton of people staring at random pills and saying “hmm, I  wonder what this does!” Scary thought!

    My readability just dropped to ok, instead of excellent.  I better use short words now. I am short, I am not long. Oh, I  speak in small words. Also, I speak in short sentences. Plus, I am right even if I am wrong. Hmm, that doesn’t seem to be working….it’s dropped to “needs improvement.” I wonder why….I said I was right. I said I was right even if I am wrong! Writing for computers is hard.

    Ok, I did a little edit and got my score back into good territory. Apparantly, I started too many sentences with the same word. That’s….actually a helpful tool. I mean, in this case, it was a matter of stylistic choice, but in general that’s a useful thing. There’s one thing I do need to improve upon here though – I don’t have any subheadings.

    Here’s your damned subheading

    Happy? Good. Ugg, can I rant now? Seriously….the very fact that they want us to use subheadings is because people refuse to read! They just want the basic point – without the prose or the explanations or the….ugg. You get the point. Why do we even have writers if no one is going to read anything? Maybe we should just start making short lists. But I digress. Oh, it’s also saying I haven’t used a “focus” keyword in a heading….sooo

    Here’s your damned wrong subheading

    There….. I also need to add some links to external pages. so. www.google.com. Does that work? Oh, wait….internal links. Random link, coming up! Now we come to the payoff!

    Yep – there you have it. I’ve officially gotten in the green on all the categories. That’s just how simple it is to write. Sure, the tone of voice changed halfway through. I also have to say that some of this just didn’t make sense….but here we go. I wrote over 600 words on utter nonsense. As long as the automated scripts and search engines are happy, evidently I should be happy as well. What a load of crap.

    Wrong....so very very wrong. And gross as well.

    Getting back to frequency of writing….actually that’s something I’m hoping to do. It will be tough, but I have a lot of quality things to say. I realize I made a big fuss about quality over quantity earlier, but sometimes there’s room for both. I can put out two quality posts a month. Aaron has it in him!

  • Breaking Up with Godaddy.

    I’ve spent most of today doing something I should have done a long time ago….I’m breaking up with GoDaddy. I’ve had my domains and hosting with them for over ten years (maybe even closer to fifteen). The aaronjedwards.com website literally launched and grew into its current form using GoDaddy’s servers. So why would I kick GoDaddy to the curb? Well, let me tell you!!!!
    The very first reason…a few years back, I found out their CEO hunted elephants. This bothered me enough that I thought “it’s time to change.” I, however, didn’t make the change at that point. I was much too busy to really look into what needed to be done. It’s a pain for sure. So….GoDaddy continued to get my money, month after month for hosting, year after year for domains. They treated me ok, sometimes gave me annoying sales calls, but whatever. As much as I want to stand against the slaughter of elephants, I guess I just had better things to do. The rumor mill is that they’re going to replace their CEO anyways – with a guy who only slaughters puppies…..(sarcasm).
    The second reason emerged about a year ago. I get a notice telling me that some of my files had been infected with malware and I needed to deal with it. Ok….great. I really didn’t know exactly what to do on this front, so I procrastinated. A few days later I get a call from one of their customer service (or lack thereof) reps. The dude was insanely rude, acting like I had done this on purpose. He said it caused their entire system to slow down. Yeah….my dinky little website, which traffic logs state barely had any visits at that point, really did sooooo much damage! I’m totally sure! I eventually just deleted the files they said were problem files…..I really didn’t know what else to do. It caused some minor damage to my website, but nothing that I couldn’t fix with a few Google searches.
    At this point, I decided I needed some extra security, so I looked at a few different highly recommended plugins for WordPress. I installed a few, and got a message saying “ PHP v5.3.24 is not supported….upgrade to PHPv5.4 or higher.” OK, simple enough, or so I thought. Yeah….GoDaddy wouldn’t give me that version of PHP. As a special go (bleep) yourself to those of us who had been using my particular hosting program, GoDaddy would not be giving us anything new and shiny like that. Thanks so much – signed, your loyal customers.
    Regardless, I thought I had my security under control. I thought…..yeah. In September 2017, I got another email from GoDaddy telling me I had more malware. This time I researched what to do and found they have a rollback feature. Wow, this was great….I just selected a restore point and voila! Website fixed and no new calls from GoDaddy! Wooohoo, I knew what to do if this happened again!
    And it did happen again. December 2017. Right after my mom’s funeral – talk about timing, sigh. Ok….so this will take ten minutes, or so I thought. I log in…..and hey! They decided to change my website’s IP address! Guess what I lost in that process? All. My. Restore Points. Maybe if you tried to visit my website during that period of time, you’ll recall an unfriendly error message. It was a constant thorn in my side for over a month, as I couldn’t figure out what exactly to do and really didn’t have the time or energy to figure out a fix. Oh, and my files were still supposedly infected on top of that!
    It turns out that these types of things are prone to happen to bigger shared hosting companies like GoDaddy. I’m not sure of the specifics, but it happens….I guess.? This is actually why they changed what server I was on. Some of my server mates were less than reputable people. But back to that….in doing so, a firewall plugin I had for WordPress was not updated to reflect the new IP address, and thus gave everyone that wonderful error message! For a month! While I googled solution after solution only to get more and more frustrated. Yeah…..ugh. Some of the suggestions I found were to call GoDaddy and tell them what was going on – basically tell them to fix it. Yeah…..when I called, I was once again treated rudely. They told me to go fix it myself – and by fix it myself, they – their attitude implied I do another thing to myself beginning in the letter F. Even though they caused the error….and gave me no warning. Just……ooops! Sorry! Ugh.
    When I found the solution, quite simple. Still, this whole ordeal motivated me to finally end this abusive relationship once and for all. I found the time and that’s all I did that day. And oy what a process it was. For a week after, I wasn’t sure if my website was running on the new host or the old, but I do know when I went to transfer my domain name, GoDaddy was like, 20 percent off if you stay!!!!! I laughed so hard. Yeah….no…..nothing was, will, and would ever keep me from leaving you. GoDaddy….go…..away. I’ve got a new hosting service now, and it’s not you.
    To be fair, I know some of my issues had to do with my level of expertise. I’m a novice on websites, and really only know enough to keep my head above water. But maybe if GoDaddy had been less cold and unforgiving…and maybe if they hadn’t yelled at me over the phone, I might not have had to take the time and perhaps I could have done something fun instead. I’m still wondering if I made a big mistake, sure….but I’ve come too far to turn back now. I’ve given the new hosting service (A2Hosting) my money, and they’ve transfered my domain name. Yeah, some of my stuff still exists on GoDaddy’s servers, but that’s going to change soon – I’m hitting the cancel button this week! The transfer did make my website go down once more – but what a way to learn about MySQL databases!
    One more thing – to the CEO of GoDaddy, if you ever read this…killing Elephants is something only small cowardly, boys do. You should be ashamed of yourself.

  • Brain Damage Related to Time Travel. A found document.

    I found a document in my files today. I really don’t know where it came from. It appears to be a report from the future. Weird! Read it for yourself….

    Historic document: 2068.7.21
    Subject: Brain damage related to time travel

    In the late 2050s, time travel not only became a possibility, but also available to a consumer level. This caused several problems of course, but one curious problem was that of the brain damaged time traveler. 1 in 350 consumer time travelers would come back from their trips with brain injuries. This never happened in purely scientific travels, even though the technology was similar enough that there should not have been a difference. Data was poured over by medical professionals, physicists, temporal mechanics, and the like. No clues were given. This problem did not discriminate on age, sex, or any other biological factor. Brain damage related to time travel was a mystery condition. We couldn’t even decipher it as a symptom, syndrome, or disease.

    The idea was floated to stop all time travel on the consumer basis, but the Federal Time Travel Act of 2063 stated that temporal travel was considered a right to every American citizen. Other countries were, of course able to ban time travel all together. Still, something had to be done.

    The first action was a series of PSAs – make the public afraid of the idea of time traveling. Of course…..stubborn Americans wouldn’t listen. Time travel did decline in numbers a little, but if Americans aren’t even going to quit smoking, they’re certainly not going to quit going back to see Ramses and Socrates.

    The second action was that of control. Sure, every American has the right to time travel, but there’s no stipulations on Americans having the equipment to travel back in time. We could even monitor biological dafa. We wanted to collect biological data – heart rates, oxygen levels, etc. Of course the ACLU stepped in and the courts told us not without the client’s consent. Very few clients gave us consent. No matter – the data we were allowed to collect produced no new insights.

    We decided to look at the technical logs – maybe the machinery was giving us brain damage. It was a long shot – as I said earlier, the scientific missions always resulted in no brain damage. While the consumer and scientific time travel machines have always been similar, now that the government had a monopoly of the industry, the machines were identical.

    In cases that resulted in brain damage, we compared electrical output, radiation levels – you name it, we compared it. Still – nothing. All technical levels matched those of non-brain damaged travelers.

    We found ourselves in the bottom of a well – no way to escape. We didn’t know what to do next. On a lark, we asked a few clients to wear body cameras. This is where we finally got suspicious of the cause. Well….we had a lead at least.

    We couldn’t make everyone wear a body camera, but most of the cases that did result in brain damage refused to wear body cameras. A few of the cases would lose the signal for a few seconds here and there. The idea was floated that perhaps it wasn’t time travel itself that was causing brain damage, but rather an activity during the time travel experience.

    Our statisticians started pouring over data available. One statistician noted that every single case of brain damage happened during the traveler’s lifetime. No one who went to see the signing of the Declaration of Independence, or to watch Brutus stab Caesar in the back, came back with brain damage.

    An experiment was decided upon. There was no law stating that we couldn’t trail travelers. Now that all time travel machines were monopolized by the federal government, it would be quite easy to trail travelers. Of course we couldn’t trail every traveler, not even every traveler going back into their own past – but we could do a few here and there…

    The experiment went pretty slowly. Following some travelers after they reached their destinations proved impossible, as they tended to go to private residences. However, that fact alone made a few theories develop. Cross referencing the addresses, most of them would actually go to their childhood houses. So it was theorized that meeting yourself in the past had the chance to cause brain damage. There was no scientific evidence involved, just correlation, so we couldn’t say specifically yes. Still, we did start to warn travelers. Sure enough, this reduced the amount of brain damage related to time travel.

    Of course, we still wanted to prove this. It was decided that we should continue to randomly follow travelers, and look for other factors. Curiously enough, travelers who we caught meeting their past selves never ended up with brain damage. And while brain damage as a whole dropped significantly, it still plateaued at a certain point.

    Finally, a stroke of luck! While trailing a traveler to a childhood baseball game, we witnessed a man smacking his ten year old self across the head. It was right after his ten year old self had mistaken the mother of one of his teammates for a man….and said so out loud and very loudly. When the traveler got back, they had brain damage, Further trials of travelers also confirmed this! Pretty soon it was evident. The cause for brain damage in time travelers were people going back to a time when their past self had said or done something incredibly stupid or shameful, and smacking themselves across the head. One subject had made an advance on their cousin. One had told his teacher to go fuck themselves. One subject smacked themselves just as they were about to defecate in their sister’s bed.

    Of course, the next round of PSAs went out. Brain damage declined even further. It did eventually plateau, but when a traveler came back brain damaged, everyone knew what that traveler had done. The case was closed.

    Long story short, if you want to go back in time and smack yourself silly for calling your aunt Frida a “cow mixed with a pig,” just don’t. You might end up with brain damage. That example was totally not from my own memory banks or anything by the way….I totally made that up. I love you Aunt Frida! I’ll bring you donuts tomorrow!

  • Deadroll

    Chapter 1: The First Day

    20161026_141438_film1“And this is our main studio control room…..” A short, chinese woman with a hollow voice said as we walked into a room. On one wall….monitors everywhere over a counter full of controls.
    “This is like something out of Star Trek,” I said with a snort.
    “Close….this console was actually used in Star Wars. You know that lever they pull on the Death star?”
    “Ohmygosh! Yes! Oh Wow!” I marveled at the controls – the lights, the buttons. Here was a piece of cinematic history in front of me.
    “Let’s look over here” We turn to see a large studio through the windows- maybe 75 by 100 feet. The walls were grey, and lit with a blue light. Cameras arranged in front of a stage, lights dangling from the rafters.
    “What the hell!?!?!” I noticed a horrific doll right at the window. It was female….it had curly brown pigtails….It looked vaguely realistic, but the paint was chipped…..like it was quite old. Maybe from the 50s or earlier.
    “Oh….that….that’s just Jill. We use her for training purposes. Her tone is fairly realistic, so she’s good at teaching how to color correct cameras.”
    “I swear….she moved her head”
    “Hah! A lot of people say that….it’s just your imagination though.”

    Later that day, in the same studio, I sit at the monitor wall. Over the intercom, someone says “10 minutes to dead roll”.
    “Dead roll?”
    “Oh, this is a live show. We have to end at a certain time. Dead roll is just a long ending. It has a countdown beforehand, so we know if it’s safe to cut to the ending or if we need to keep stretching the guests and host.”
    “Oh….makes sense.”
    “Camera one….you do realize you’re live. Stop moving around like you’re on a roller coaster!” the director, a plump, middle aged hispanic man yells.”

    Chapter 2: One Month Later

    The clock seems dead. Not literally. I can hear the ticking of the second hands, but it seems so slow. The minutes feel like they’ve been caught in a time warp. Ahhh. Bordem. I sit at my desk and fight the urge to space out.
    Just then, a rumble. My coworker rolls by my door – a cart with Jill and her “brother” Jack” on it. Covered with a blanket, almost as the equipment cart was a gurney. Almost as he was taking Jack and Jill into surgery. I think nothing of it…..I’m used to creepy Jill by now. I’ve convinced myself the incident on my first day was nothing more than my imagination. Jitters from starting a new job. But for some reason….Jill caught my eye. I stare at her. She’s facing the ceiling with her plastic half smile.
    And then she turns her head towards me…..
    And then she smiles….. a toothy….smile.
    I scream and lock my door.

    The next day I ask my coworker if he had been playing a trick on me. If perhaps he had rigged some remote control to her or something.
    “Nope, besides, her neck is fixed. No moving, come look for yourself.”
    We go to the storage equipment…..but Jill isn’t there.
    “Huh…I thought she was right here, someone must have moved her.”
    I look at the empty space, then I look over at Jack. Still at his spot. I pick him up and examine his neck. Solid. Nothing that can move. I know the dolls are a set….made exactly alike aside from one being male and one being female.
    “Hmm, must have been my imagination again. Mid day day dream fooling my brain”
    I shake it off, and go about my day.

    Chapter 3: Deadroll

    Another live show. On cue, over the intercom, a female voice monosyllabically announces” five minutes to dead roll.”
    I sit at my station, dialing knobs, dials, levers mindlessly. I hear someone behind me cue up the deadroll at the VTR station. Backwards chipmunks, forwards, backwards, backwards, forwards, backwards….they finally get it right.
    Three minutes later, on cue…..another deadroll announcement….”two minutes to deadroll”.
    At the minute mark however…..the voice changes to an excited little girl, hyped up on sugar.
    “One minute to deaaadrollllll! HAHAHAHAHA.”
    The plump, middle aged director snaps “that’s not funny! We’re professionals!”
    But thirty seconds later….the same voice. The same “little girl.”
    We’re looking around, frightened, wonder what’s going on…..
    5….4……3…..2…..1…….TIME FOR DEADROLL!!!!!!!!!!
    Every monitor turns a bright red. The windows into the studio turn black. All we hear in the studio is screaming! Terror. We run to the door….but the door is locked! Someone tries the landline – but no answer. We yell over the intercom…..no one seems to hear. Our cell phones have no signal. This better just be a prank!
    A couple minutes later, the windows clear up..
    “Ohmygod! Ohmygod!” the audio engineer screeches. Everyone that was in the studio is now dead. Their bodies, all thrown into a bloody pile in the center of the set. 20 or so bodies….lifeless. And no clue of what happened. Just dead bodies….
    Just then, the door opens. in the door….it’s…..I must be hallucinating. It’s Jill!. She’s got no arms….no legs, and yet she’s standing there. Her chipped face, smiling psychotic. Teeth showing that couldn’t exist.
    She spins her head clockwise…..screeching. Then mumbling – like twenty, thirty, maybe 50 voices are coming out of her mouth.
    Out of apparent thin air, she holds up a knife – with her lack of arms. It’s almost like the knife is attached to her dress. She floats to the audio engineer and cuts her throat. Her blood spills from her neck and she drops to the floor.
    Jill moves to the director. He’s whimpering in the corner, mumbling “”Hail Mary full of Grace”
    Jill “asks…..is this professional?” and then slits his throat. His dead body makes a hard thud as it crashes onto a counter.
    And now Jill turns to me…….
    “You…..I’ve been waiting for you…..”
    “Why….why me”
    “No reason…..boredom.”
    I decide to reach for a knife in my back pocket and quickly present it.
    “What the Hell do you think you’re going to do with that? My body is made out of plastic.”
    She quickly slashes towards my throat, but I block it with my hand. I grab her dress and pull her around….throwing her against the console. She drops her knife, but somehow bites me. With all my might, I throw her against the door. Her body is in pieces, her head, still intact. I reach for a book on the counter. It’s a heavy Bible…..appropriate.
    I yell, “I’ve heard of Bible bashing, but this is ridiculous.” and plummeted her head with the Bible until it was nothing but rubble.


    “How can we recover from this?” I ask the remaining coworkers.
    “We can’t….we just move on.”
    “I think we better burn the remains of Jill…..throw her into a furnace or something. Just in case.”
    “Probably not necessary…..but if it makes you feel better, feel free to do it.”

    Back in the equipment closet, next to Jill’s now vacant spot….an unexplained light shines on Jack. He awakens, and maniacally laughs as he circles his head…..

    The End?

  • What should one wear to the hospital?


    As many of my readers know, my mom has been in the hospital and at one point it didn’t look like she was going to make it. While she’s on the up now, she’s got a long road ahead – even now. If that wasn’t stressful enough, I’ve found myself putting a lot more stock in an everyday question. Every time I’ve gone to visit her, I’ve asked myself “what do I wear?” Let me step back….I have a lot of t-shirts, and unless I’m working – I tend to default to said t-shirts. I love my polos I wear to work, but they all seem so plain when I could wear a band t shirt or maybe something a little geeky. I think it goes back to my childhood – I went to a private grade school which didn’t allow for much. Boys were allowed to wear plain t-shirts, but shirts with any kind of printing were prohibited. An extreme example….I had this green and white shirt with an “Ocean Pacific” logo on the back. I decided to wear it that day and cover it up with a jacket. I started to get hot at recess, but the playground attendant wouldn’t let me take my jacket off because it was against the dress code. Never mind, the dress code was to prevent distraction during lessons and this was recess. Rules were rules, even if you’re drenching in sweat! Sidenote, the girls had it worse as dress code was pretty much a literal phrase….they had to wear dresses (or skirts). But getting back to my love for t-shirts, let’s just say when I switched schools in eighth grade, I wore printed t-shirts almost everyday. Just because I could.

    So…back to the hospital. The question that arose about what to wear vs what t-shirt I could or could not wear was the very real fact that my t-shirt could be the last thing my mom saw if she did pass away. Of course, it wasn’t just her – ICU in general is usually full of people who are on the brink of this life and the next. Of course it wasn’t just that – it was also the way I looked to family. My grandma hadn’t seen me with my beard until the day my mom was rushed to the hospital. I was wearing a dark green polo, and the combination really didn’t jive with her. She said I looked kind of scary! A few days later, she warmed up to the beard and told me it was the shirt. While this may or may not have been her overreaction – I still have not worn that green shirt since that day. And of course, that shirt is on the “do not wear to the hospital” list.

    Imagine this being the last thing you saw….

    But again, that’s a polo. What about the t-shirts? Of course, there’s some very obvious shirts one should never wear to a hospital (or, maybe anywhere, but oh well). A classic example is a Def Leppard “Hysteria” T shirt. Anyone that would wear this design to an ICU, ER (or even anywhere small children frequent) needs to get professional help; they’re obviously a full blown psychopath – no further testing needed! I can picture someone as they’re breathing their last… and seeing the two demonic faces in obvious eternal torment, and thinking – Oh crap, I’m entering hell, aren’t I? Another example: my “Spinal tap, None more black,” shirt. Probably less sinister than the Hysteria shirt, but still…a spinal tap t-shirt in a hospital? Yeah….probably not a good idea.

    The hordes of Hell have been replaced with Muppets!
    The hordes of Hell have been replaced with Muppets!

    Of course most of my t shirts were probably fine, but I decided if it was at all questionable, I probably shouldn’t wear it. I didn’t wear my Flogging Molly shirt because there was a skeleton on it – let’s not remind the sick what’s inside of them. I didn’t wear my Dead Kennedy’s t-shirt due to the fact that the word “dead” was in it. I didn’t wear my other Def Leppard shirt, the “Pyromania” shirt, because, well, I actually don’t remember. I guess I just felt it was a little too graphic. An explosion as seen through the scope of a rifle…..again….better be safe then sorry. I didn’t wear my Princess Bride shirt because it says “Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya, you killed my father, PREPARE TO DIE!” And I didn’t wear my Electric Mayhem shirt for the same reason I didn’t wear my Hysteria t-shirt – one look at Animal in chains, and they might have thought…I’m in hell and the demons are muppets!!! I didn’t even wear my deadpool shirts because….DEADpool. If the shirt had any macabre implications, real or imagined, said shirt was on the do not wear list.

    Going past the comfort of anyone in ICU, I had a selfish reason for not wearing certain shirts – I didn’t want the last thoughts of my mom to be – what a dork. I’m currently wearing a shirt that says “There are four lights!” with four dots over the text. If you’re clueless, it’s a Star Trek: TNG reference to when that Cardasians held Picard prisoner – snort. While it certainly isn’t my geekiest shirt ever, it does require a bit of geekiness to get the reference.

    RIP dude...RIP
    RIP dude…RIP

    And while another person might not have thought anything of it, my mind said “don’t wear this shirt! Your mom will think you’re a dork!” There’s a myriad of more obvious pop culture reference shirts. There were transformers t-shirts, several Star trek and Star wars shirts. There was Firefly in a bottle, and of course, there’s the Hodor quote shirt. It says “Hodor” – Hodor. Granted, my mom wouldn’t even get the reference…..but I was still worried. Almost all my geek shirts had to be put on the “do not wear” list.

    Finally, there was one more category I had to consider. If I wore a shirt that I really love, and my mom died while I was wearing that shirt, would I be able to wear that shirt ever again? Honestly, most of the shirts I love were already covered in the do not wear category – but I have a couple that had to be included on the do not wear list for this reason. I’ve got a “Pink Floyd – wish you were here” shirt that I love dearly. I’ve got a Cure shirt my girlfriend got me. I’ve got a couple U2 shirts. I felt shirts in this category had to be put on the DNW list as they’re really not shirts I want attached to tragedy.

    After all this I felt like I had one choice when visiting my mom (especially in the ICU). I wore plain, every workday polos. They’re comfortable, they’re ok looking, they’re non-offensive, and they’re forgettable. The biggest effect they might have on anyone around (aside from allegedly making me look scary with my beard) is that a lot of them have pretty, soothing colors. Purples, royal blues, lavender, and the like. I do admit…I avoided wearing any of my black polos – but that might be my own superstition. Then again….maybe all of this is superstition. They had us wear gowns when visiting her in the ICU, just as a precaution against microbes. So….seeing what we were wearing wasn’t all that possible. Maybe I just needed to control this….this one little thing in a time where so much was out of control.

    I did, the other day, break down and wear a t-shirt when I saw her. It was a “star wars coffee” parody of Starbucks. I kind of regretted it, not because the design. Not because I thought it might be scary or demonic or insensitive. I didn’t even care that it was a little dorky – I did, however, care that it was a little short. This is why I always get a tall size in shirts if I have the choice!

    I thought I ordered a TALL Americano with cream!
    I thought I ordered a TALL Americano with cream!

  • The toys on the bus goes round, round, round…

    It was an average day on a Portland bus, or so I thought. But as I boarded the 4 headed downtown, I found that it was hardly an average day. I took my seat towards the front of the bus, and noticed my fellow passengers all seemed to have a wide range of facial expressions. I saw disgust, I saw delight, I saw disturbance, dumbfoundedness, and in one passenger’s eyes, I even saw a bit of desire. It was quite the array of emotions. Despite the smorgasbord of emotions, not one of them seemed to have a look of disinterest. For on the floor, rolling all over the bus, was a sex toy.

    24214319_BG1It was a little dirty….it’s hard to say if the dirt was there from the, ahem, loving it received by it’s orphaned owner, or if the dust was just from the bus itself. It was silicon- nothing fancy by any means. Not that I’m an expert on sex toys, but I’ve seen enough on the internet to know this didn’t have any bells or whistles – granted, I never saw it up close, so I could be wrong. As far as size and, uhhh, girth, it was rather short for a sex toy and probably about average size, so average size by most standards. Just a flesh colored, no frills prosthetic penis as far as I could tell.

    The bus went along its route, the toy raced from place to place. Sometimes the toy landed in front, sometimes it landed in back, sometimes it rolled near our feet. Passengers would quickly lift their legs as the toy raced towards their toes – no one wanted to touch it. And can you blame us? I mean, where has that toy been? What has it seen? Who has it…well, you know! We just didn’t know. I mean a normal, healthy person is gross enough – but we had no idea if it’s orphaned owner was healthy. For all we knew, some horrible disease could be lurking on it’s silicon body. We just didn’t know.

    Maybe ten minutes into my ride, an elderly woman who seemed to speak some type of Slavic language got on the bus. She dressed as many elderly women dress – heavy polyester, below the knee skirt. stockings, and modest black shoes with a short heel. She sat at the front of the bus, in priority seating, and did not notice the sex toy rolling around the floor. The toy, however, seemed to notice her. As the bus rolled out of the stop and onto the road once more, the toy rolled from its previous position directly to her feet….and rested at her heels.

    We didn’t know what to do…should….should we tell her? Hey lady, there’s a sex toy at your heel! Should we keep our mouth shut? I mean, it was touching her heel only…I seriously doubt she would be making contact with that part of the shoe. Besides – it had stopped rolling so our terror was over. We didn’t have to worry about the toy finding its way to our feet. So….that’s pretty much what we did. We just let the toy be. Most of the passengers went back to their normal bus faces…delight, desire, despair – all replaced with the blank look of a passenger riding the bus some random afternoon. The lady seemed oblivious, and I think I only really noticed the toy at her feet because I happened to be sitting near the front, so the toy was still in plain view for me. The universe seemed to reset itself to normalcy – or rather the bus at least (when has the universe ever been normal?).

    A couple stops after the elderly lady got on (the bus), a few middle school aged girls get on the bus. They plop themselves in priority seating, and, well, acted like middle school aged girls act. When they looked across the aisle, and saw a toy at the feet of an elderly lady, they giggled and pointed. The lady herself, not noticing the young girls as she was absorbed in a novel by that time. The girls, of course, presumed the toy was the lady’s. Of course they didn’t realize that the toy was there before the lady – and of course I could have said something – but what could I have said? Hey girls…that’s not that old lady’s dildo. Awkward! For all parties – the girls, the lady, and myself! I kept my silence once more. Eventually the girls exited the bus, as did I.

    I have no idea what happened to the toy, or the old lady. I hope she didn’t realize she had a sex toy at her feet. That would have been, in my opinion, a wave of embarrassment, disgust, and queasiness. I know if that had happened to me, I would most likely never wear those shoes again. I wouuld burn those suckers as soon as I got home. So – yes – I hope she never discovered the secret of the toy at her shoes. And I hope whoever finally dealt with the toy, most likely an employee of Trimet, used rubber gloves.

  • American (Voting) Horror Story

    Note: This is a fictional account of voting in North Carolina. The state was chosen as a state that is far away from Oregon and does not have the vote by mail system we have in Oregon. The author has not, nor does he ever, have plans on moving to North Carolina. I also want to add, if anyone from North Carolina reads this and finds my portrayal of your state offensive, perhaps we can open a dialogue about it. Really, I played a lot of stereotypes here, and I don’t know how many are actually true. So yeah – let’s chat!

    electionmailIt was a foggy October morning. I had just moved to North Carolina a few months ago and was excited about voting in my first election in my new home state. I made sure to register on time, with my correct address and my political party of choice. All my t’s were crossed, all my I’s were dotted. I just needed to sit back, relax, and wait for the postal carrier to bring my ballot, along with the junk mail and bills they usually bring. I waited for a few weeks. By October 25th, I started to worry. What if I filled out my voter registration wrong? What if my address was wrong? What if the post office accidentally sent it to my previous residence in Oregon? My hands began to sweat, my body began to shake. I decided I needed to call someone.
    After I got home from work, I called the county voting office, which gave me a polite message saying they were only open from 10-3, Tuesday through Friday. Stupid government agencies! Oh well, I’ll call tomorrow during my lunch break. The next morning, sandwich in one hand, and phone in another I called again, only to be put on hold. I consumed my lunch and listened to the Muzak – patiently waiting for someone to answer my call. I waited 30 minutes and my lunch break was over. I decided to wait for a few minutes more, when finally someone answered.
    “Eeeyello, Mecklenburg County votin’, ow might I elp ya’ll?” – a male voice with a distinct, southern accent rang out.
    “Umm,” I said sheepishly, “I never received my ballot. What do I do?”
    “Son, what r ya’ll talkin’ bout?”
    “In the mail, I never got my ballot in the mail. Shouldn’t I have gotten it by now?”
    “Yer not from these parts, are you?”
    “No – I’m from Oregon. Why?”
    “Oreeegone? Shoot. Well I don’t know what they do up there, but ‘round here we don’t send no ballots in the mail.”
    “Umm….how do you vote then?”
    “Boy – you don’t even know how to vote? You gotta go to a polin’ place from 9 AM to 5 PM.”
    “Umm…that’s odd, but when in Rome I guess. Where are the poling places?”
    After a short interchange of information, he directed me to a school near my house. I vaguely, back in the 80s, remember standing in line with my mom at a school. Maybe this is what she was doing.
    I made arrangements with my boss to vote before work. He insisted I be in by 11, I figured that would be plenty of time. I figured wrong. When I arrived on Election Day at 8:45, there was a massive line. It was like the lines I saw in Portland, waiting to get into concerts. Strike that – these were not concertgoers. These were people from all walks of life, different ages, different ethnicities, different politics – way more diverse than a crowd waiting for a New Pornographers show.
    At 9 AM sharp, the doors opened. They let a few people in at a time. There was probably around 150 people in front of me…I had no idea how long my wait was going to be. I sat on the ground, but an officer came up to me and barked “NO SITTING!” So I rolled my eyes and got up to my feet once more. Meanwhile a slow drizzle of people walked into the school. Finally after an hour and a half, it was my turn. Voting Booths
    I walked into the door and to a table. A lady asked a few questions, glanced at my ID, and handed me my ballot. I was instructed to silently walk into a nearby booth. I felt more like I was taking a driver’s test at the DMV, and less like I was exercising my constitutional right to vote.
    As I reached my booth, I got my cheat sheet out and realized there were things on this ballot that I hadn’t even thought about! Geez, how do they expect you to know every little item, every little race, and every little measure on the ballot? I wanted to say to the next booth – hey, what did you get for number 8? I mean, I was in a school, and I felt like I was taking a test after all! Then I looked over my shoulder – the officer who barked at me earlier was staring straight at me, almost wanting an excuse to throw me out. I decided I better play by their rules for the time being.
    After I turned in my ballot, it was nearly 10:50, and I was supposed to be into work by 11. I was not going to make it. I raced to work and arrived ten minutes late. My boss, angry at my tardiness walks in and says “This is why I don’t vote – my time is too precious.”
    I miss a lot of things about Oregon. I miss the coast, I miss sunsets over the Pacific, I miss the weather, I miss the people, and I miss recycling. Today, I learned of one more thing I miss – I miss voting by mail. I miss the convenience of filling out my ballot at my leisure, and dropping it off whenever I had a moment to do so. I miss not having to stand in line like it was the 80s and we were voting for Regan. I miss not being barked at by officers who were overly stimulated on equal parts power and, I’m guessing caffeine. I miss not getting ridiculed or hassled, all because I want to cast my voice. All the pain and horror experienced casting my vote in North Carolina, could have been easily avoided by implementing a vote by mail system. This truly was an American Voting Horror Story.