Mother Nature is a heartless wench who will turn your own children against you

When I was a little boy, and thunder rumbled in the distance, my mother would react as though the approaching storm was an Afghani mortar attack instead of a minor weather event. Because of this, I spent much of my childhood reacting to thunderstorms in a similarly panicked fashion.

When my mother was a little girl, and thunder rumbled in the distance, her parents presumably reacted calmly … until that one time when the electricity went out during a storm, and they sent her to get from her upstairs bedroom something to play with, and she opened the door at the bottom of the staircase, and looked up to see that the second floor was engulfed in flames … because lightning had struck the house.

So she gets a pass.

Fortunately, by the time I became a parent, I had learned not only to not panic over the arrival of an electrical storm, but to rather enjoy it. And when the sound of thunder caused my own young children to react in an understandably fearful manner, my wife and I would calmly reassure them that there was nothing to be afraid of.

Let us travel back in time, shall we? Destination: The kitchen of our former home in Massachusetts, June of last year. The sky is dark, the lightning is flashing, the thunder is rumbling, and the rain has suddenly begun to come down in torrents.

We see Wonder Woman standing beside the kitchen table with the then-4-year-old Jayna in her arms and the then-6-year-old Zan by her side. They have been startled by a particularly loud crack of thunder that seemed to emanate from directly above their home.

“Wow, that sure was loud!” says Happy Smiley Reassuring Daddy. “Mother Nature is rocking out, huh guys?”

The children nod nervously, and clearly aren’t buying into Happy Smiley Reassuring Daddy’s bullshit.

Happy Smiley Reassuring Daddy walks around the kitchen table so that he can close the adjacent window.

“Look, guys, I know that’s a scary sound, but there really isn’t anything to be afraid of,” he says as he reaches up and places his hands on the lower window sash. “Mommy and Daddy are right here with you, and we’re all perfectly s— Read More »

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Posted in Jayna, Life | 14 Responses

Surviving The Matrix: Year One

Surviving The Matrix: Year One

A year ago today, I left my new house with a bag lunch in my hand, dorktastic clothes on my body, 10-year-old dress shoes on my feet and a massive knot in my stomach. After years of building a career on my own terms, I was, at age 40, taking an unwanted but necessary detour into Corporate America, where I would earn a living as a sunlight-deprived, business-casual-wearing, cubicle-dwelling web developer.

It’s not easy to pretend you’re Mr. Anderson when you know you’re really Neo.

It took a while before I stopped having anxiety attacks at my new job — anxiety brought on by the realization that I had no fucking clue how to do what it was I’d been hired to do, as well as a suffocating fear that, after years of eluding capture, I would now spend the rest of my life plugged into The Matrix.

Many weeks passed before I felt comfortable enough in my new environment to do anything other than job-related work on my computer. Paying bills online, reading and commenting on blogs, writing for my own blog … suddenly, all of that no longer was a part of my work day. I felt like a claustrophobic rat trapped in a cage. A small cage. With no sunlight. Some might even call it a cubicle.

A year later, things are better. For starters, it turns out I apparently do have a fucking clue how to do what it was I was hired to do, and have managed to do it well enough that my boss slipped me a surprise bonus last week. Does that make me feel any better about being trapped in The Matrix? In a word: No … but it does make it easier to endure this gig while I plot my escape.

To that end, the blog is back in action, and, whenever possible, I’m reading, writing and commenting from behind enemy lines — and based on the aforementioned bonus, I’m managing to do so while simultaneously keeping my corporate overlords happy.

But rest assured: It’s only a matter of time before I kung-fu my way out of this bitch.

There is no spoon.

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Posted in Cubicle, Life | 19 Responses

I’m not really as desperate and pathetic as my previous post suggests. Please believe me. I’m begging you. (Which, I admit, is both desperate and pathetic. Go figure.)

See what a happy guy I am?

One of my regular readers left a comment on my previous post, the one in which I (half-)jokingly lamented my failure (thus far) to reach blogging superstardom … and I was going to reply to her in the “Comments” section of that post until it occurred to me that she probably wasn’t the only reader thinking what she was thinking. And so, because I am a selfless giver who always tries to serve the Greater Good, I shall address her remarks here for all of you.

Allyssa writes:

I’m a long-time reader (found you from a comment on dooce’s website) … I follow you b/c I like to see I’m not the only neurotic person in this world.

My neuroses and I are here to help, Allyssa. You’re welcome.

I love your blog and love when you have a new lengthy post.

Thank you, Allyssa. I love knowing that.

I’m not getting the fame and fortune angle though … if you want to write/blog, then blog b/c you love it and b/c it touches people.

I’ve been blogging for almost six years now, and I couldn’t even begin to count the number of hours I’ve spent doing it, the amount of sleep I’ve sacrificed for it, or the many other leisure activities I could have enjoyed if I’d abandoned it. Had I instead spent that time taking guitar lessons, I’d be Eddie fucking Van Halen by now. Financially, I have nothing to show for it. Either I’m doing this because I truly love doing it, or I am a flaming asshole who’s too stupid to realize that his time would be better spent collecting scrap metal for cash. (Many would say that the correct answer is: “C. Both of the above.”)

If you are lucky enough to make a living out of doing it, then good for you …

I couldn’t agree more. I would feel beyond lucky if I was able to make a living doing this thing that I love. And while I know that the odds of hitting that particular lottery are anorexically slim, I’d sure love to win it … so when I read Greg’s “Top 5 Reasons I’ll Never Be Famous” post, I thought it would be a fun way to talk about my inability (thus far) to turn this hobby into a dream job. (And, to be clear: While my post definitely was built upon a foundation of truth, it mostly was meant to entertain.)

… but it seems really weird (insincere? disheartening? I don’t know) to read a blog and in the back of my head be wondering, “is the writer just putting this out there b/c he wants a certain number of readers or to increase interest so he can make money off of us reading?”

One of the main points I tried to make in my previous post is that I would not, and do not, post bullshit whose sole purpose is to pump more traffic to my site; I write things I feel moved to write about, and hope that people will feel compelled to read them. Do I want huge numbers of people to flock to my site? Of course. If I didn’t, I’d write these stories in a notebook and tuck it under my mattress. Would I pounce on the opportunity to receive money from sponsors in return for writing the same things that I currently write for free? Like a starving lion on a lame water buffalo soaked in barbecue sauce.

I haven’t ever felt that from this blog, but when I think deeply enough about it … it feels like it cheapens the story you are telling. I almost feel used.

I am sorry that you almost feel used … not because being used sucks, mind you, but because, had I known you were going to feel like I had used you, I would have at least used you first. That is, if I could have figured out a way to do so. Lemme know if you think of anything.

On the flip side, I get immense joy out of reading your blog, so maybe I’m using you. Maybe that’s how you feel: that you are just putting it all out there, and we’re experiencing things with you, and what do you get in return?

What I get in return is the satisfaction of writing, and of knowing that others are reading what I’ve written … and when someone leaves a comment telling me that they get “immense joy out of reading [my] blog,” or that I’ve made them laugh and/or cry and/or connected with them in some way through my writing, it feels phenomenally rewarding … which is exactly why I’d love to reach more people, and why I’d love to have the financial means to spend more time doing so.

But mostly? Mostly, I’m just trying to make you guys laugh.

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Posted in Life, Writing | 13 Responses

Oh, good: I’m not the only wanna-be-Internet-famous daddy blogger wallowing in obscurity while sucking down a tall glass of dashed hopes mixed with a paralyzing fear of failure

Sometimes, dreams come true … and all of the twists and turns in the road suddenly make sense … and all of your hard work finally gets you where you want to be … and all of your obsessive dedication to a seemingly fruitless quest is vindicated.

Or so I’m told.

And sometimes? Sometimes you have to settle for finding comfort in the fact that you’re not the only guy to have dreamed your particular dream, and that another guy with the same dream is standing beside you outside the fence, looking through the bars, both of you watching your shared dream frolic by the pool with the more fortunate souls who’ve gained entry to The Place Where Dreams Come True.

I only just recently discovered TellingDad.com, whose author, Greg, yesterday published a blog entry that he wrote after stealing my thoughts … which explains why I’ve started wearing this tinfoil hat … but that’s another story.

Anyway, as I read Greg’s blog entry, titled “Top 5 Reasons Why I’ll Never Be Famous,” I was, quite frankly, a little freaked out by just how much I could relate to many of the things he had written:

“I’ve come to the realization that this blog will probably never become what I initially hoped it would be. I suppose I’m okay with that but I can’t pretend I’m not disappointed. Without traction I’m sure there will come a day when the hours I spend without reward will whittle my motivation to where I no longer find pleasure chasing the carrot. For now, I’m keeping my eye on the prize and remaining hopeful that my visibility increases.”

Admittedly, Greg is a more self-actualized person than I, because, as he states above, he has come to a “realization” and is “okay with that.” I, meanwhile, remain in a fierce state of denial, because on those rare occasions when I let the reality of my seemingly futile quest seep into my consciousness, I am so not OK with it.

“I love to write but that alone doesn’t make me a ‘writer’ in the way I want to be remembered. I think I’m good at it, I’m told I’m good at it, but either I’ve overestimated my talent or others have underestimated my potential.”

Here we have a clear-cut example of Greg literally reaching into my brain and snatching out complete thoughts. (On a related note: I need suggestions for how to keep a tinfoil hat affixed to my head while sleeping. Thanks in advance.)

As for Greg’s “Top 5 Reasons Why I’ll Never Be Famous” list itself:

1.) I Don’t Make “Top” Lists

“Every time I see a Top 10, Top 25, Top 50, or Top 100 list featuring the ‘__(insert feel-good adjective here)__ Dad Bloggers’, I am predictably missing.”

I’ve made my way onto a couple of “Top” lists. Fame, fortune and a deluge of traffic have not followed. You’re not missing out on much there, Greg.

2.) I Don’t Do Product Reviews

“Because I don’t branch out beyond personal posts, there’s really no other reason for people to visit my blog. There aren’t deals to be had, freebies to obtain, or prizes to win if you spam the bajeebers out of your Twitter and Facebook streams. When you visit TellingDad.com, you’re coming for the humor. My site is one dimensional by design and I think it’s that very focus that impedes my growth.”

I have, in the past, held a couple of giveaways, but when I recently re-launched this blog, I decided to no longer hold such giveaways or seek out sponsored schwag, because those things have nothing to do with building a loyal audience whose members are here solely because they feel compelled to read my writing. I will talk about this more in my forthcoming book, “Integrity: The Express Lane to Obscurity.” Just kidding; I’m too obscure to land a book deal.

3.) I’m Not Controversial

I’ve been controversial, albeit by accident. And, yes, my brush with controversy had a fantastic impact on my traffic stats and overall visibility … but Greg’s explanation as to why he’s not purposely controversial mirrors my own philosophy:

“I don’t want to exploit controversial topics or fuel impassioned arguments just to experience a deluge of traffic.

“If people bombard my site, I want the inspiration to be rooted in enjoyment, not angst. Gaining one visitor by way of laughter is worth more to me than gaining a hundred because I inflamed a volatile topic. I get a total high when people tell me I made them laugh and THAT is what drives me to continue. In my case, the quest for that reaction is eternal.”

My daddy didn’t give me enough attention as a child either, Greg. Seeking validation in the form of praise from strangers is a normal response.

4.) I’m Nowhere Else

“Many popular bloggers branch out beyond their own URL by writing for a number of different publications and online sites. This provides several conduits through which new visitors and fans can find them. My reach is only so far, and without Jenny [The Bloggess], dozens of you wouldn’t have any clue I exist.”

Further evidence of the heretofore unknown Greg/Jon mind-meld: He shares my intense adoration of the comedic genius that is Jenny Lawson, a.k.a. The Bloggess. Jenny is so funny that I can’t help but read everything she writes … which is unfortunate, because when I read what she writes, it makes me feel like I’m an unfunny hack who should give up writing altogether. Bitch.

Greg advertises his blog via a text link on Jenny’s site. I used to do this, too … you know, back before I had to choose between electricity or advertising my blog on Jenny’s site.

5.) I Can’t Be Succinct

“People seem to love short posts yet I find it difficult to write them. I fear that if I don’t deliver substance, people will feel I took the easy way out … that I’m lazy. That I’m losing my touch.”

“Sometimes I just want to write a short paragraph and attach a photo of something I found funny, but I talk myself out of it.”

I occasionally post a Featured Photo (formerly Photo of the Day, which I’ve renamed, because the term “of the Day” completely misrepresents the frequency with which I post them), and often write a short little something to accompany each photo rather than grinding out a more substantial piece of writing. When I do this, I feel like I am cheating, and it doesn’t bring me anywhere near the same satisfaction as the longer pieces I write. Some would say “overly long.” Like this one, for example.

Hello? Anyone still here? I suppose I can just pretend someone’s actually reading this.

So, as you can see, I share with Greg many of the same roadblocks on the path to blogging success. Sadly, though, my path is further impeded by two additional and formidable factors. Please allow me, if you will, to append Greg’s list with a couple of my own items:

6.) I Say “Fuck.” A Lot.

As prominently noted on Greg’s blog, his writing is “F-Bomb-free.” He has written a manifesto that explains why he has chosen to go this route, and I fully respect his decision to do so. Having said that, I founded this blog with the intent of capturing my true voice … and my true voice includes profanity.

Of course, this sometimes creates an internal conflict for me, because I don’t want to scare off potential readers who might regularly visit my blog were it not for my inclusion of a handful of words that some folks find offensive.

For example: I love Ree Drummond’s blog, The Pioneer Woman. I comment there regularly, and often receive readers who have followed my comment links back here. And on those occasions when people coming from Ree’s wholesome, down-homey, bad-word-free blog are greeted here by a profanity-laden post, I feel like I am clubbing baby seals. I swear (no pun intended), I can hear the collective gasps of fine, respectable Midwestern housewives and grandmothers, and those gasps make me think for a moment that perhaps I should censor myself.

But here’s the thing: I curse when I speak and think and write … and whatever few qualms I may have about doing so are rooted not in an internal belief that doing so is wrong; they are rooted in the fear of offending others. And, truth be told, I’d rather have a modest-sized audience full of readers who not only allow me to express myself as I see fit, but who prefer and enjoy it when I do so than to force myself to communicate in a manner that feels constrictive and less than genuine in order to have a larger, more easily offended readership.

7.) I Don’t Post Often Enough

I remember reading in the late nineties an interview with Nine Inch Nails frontman Trent Reznor, who at one point was asked why it had taken him five years to release a follow-up to his previous album. I don’t recall the exact quote, but Reznor said something to the effect of: “I remember hearing that Kurt Cobain wrote ‘Nevermind’ in three weeks. That pissed me off. It takes me three weeks to find my notebook.”

I don’t know how Greg does it, but the dude manages to crank out a new post almost every single day. I, meanwhile, am lucky to post once or twice per week, and the process of doing so feels not so dissimilar from what I imagine childbirth to be like.

So, Greg, do not despair, for you are further along the path to blogging success than am I. Everything is relative, my friend. (You might want to consider doing product reviews, though. Controversial product reviews. I’m thinking something like “flasks for toddlers.”)

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Posted in Life, Writing | 36 Responses

All I wanted was a fucking sandwich

A turkey sandwich. With lettuce and mayo. That’s it. Nothing fancy.

And I’ve ordered a couple of these over the past 41 years — successfully and without incident, I might add. So the last thing I expected when attempting to perform this seemingly routine operation was to make a complete ass out of myself.

The trouble started when I told my co-worker I was going to pick up a sandwich at a local sub shop — excuse me: a local hoagie shop … because I live in Pennsylvania now, and they don’t have “sandwiches” or “subs” here; they have hoagies.

“How ’bout we go to Wawa instead?” my co-worker suggested.

For those of you not familiar with Wawa, it can best be described as the official Pennsylvania state religion … but you out-of-towners would probably refer to it as a convenience store. At any rate, it turned out I wasn’t ready to take First Communion at the Our Lady of St. Wawa altar on the day in question … because all of those other turkey sandwiches I had ordered during the past four-plus decades? They involved saying aloud to another human being “Turkey with lettuce and mayo, please.” But when we arrived at our local Wawa and approached the sandwich-ordering area, I was faced with this:

Now, in addition to having a proven track record of successfully ordering turkey sandwiches, I also have a long history of successfully interacting with technology. In fact, I’d go so far as to say I’m a tech geek. (As you may recall, I’ve even performed open-heart surgery on an iPhone.) So I love me some gadgets, and I most definitely love me the opportunity to further control my world via technology while simultaneously eliminating unnecessary human contact.

However…

On this particular day, at this particular Wawa, I was woefully sleep deprived and violently hungry and had been solely focused on uttering the phrase “Turkey with lettuce and mayo, please.” And so, when suddenly and unexpectedly faced with Wawa’s magical sandwich-ordering device, I somehow morphed into a 90-year-old man.

“There’s a big ‘Lunch’ button, and Jon asks me if he should press the special ‘Hoagie’ button,” my co-worker later said while gleefully describing to several other co-workers my sandwich-ordering fiasco.

“Dude, don’t be a douche,” I said. “I was trying to order a sandwich — excuse me, a hoagie — so it didn’t seem that far out of the realm of rational thought that I should maybe press the picture of the sandwich instead of the ‘Lunch’ button. It’s not like it was a picture of a fucking peacock in a headdress.”

I would not have ordered this.

So anyway, I tapped my way through the screens and ordered my sandwich … hoagie … whatever (and to further prove to all of you what a wild man I am: I didn’t even so much as flinch when the computer tried to up-sell me on adding some bacon to my sandwich. I immediately hit “YES” … because that’s just how I roll. Bring the bacon, motherfucker.).

“Please take your number,” the words on the screen instructed me as the printer spit out a slip of paper on which was printed a large “19” and some other, smaller print.

Then it dawned on me that I hadn’t specified “no tomato” … and I don’t think I’ve ever come across an establishment that doesn’t automatically put tomato on a turkey sandwich unless specifically asked to not do so. Turns out Wawa is the exception to that rule … which explains why the young sandwich-making lady looked at me like I was an idiot when I had the audacity to violate the Wawa-sandwich-ordering process by verbally requesting that she not put tomato on my sandwich.

Her reaction to my request caused me to play back in my mind the words I had used when making it, because although I was pretty sure I had said, “Excuse me, but could you please not put tomato on that?,” the expression on her face suggested that I had instead said, “Excuse, but could you please not put any peacock in a headdress on that?”

Unsure of what exactly I had done wrong, I decided to drop the matter and shuffle over to the refrigerator to select a beverage, at which point my brain finally caught up with the Wawa-sandwich-ordering experience.

“Dude, will they automatically not put tomato on my sandwich unless I specifically order it?” I asked my co-worker.

He looked at me like I had just said, “Dude, will they automatically not put peacock in a headdress on my sandwich unless I specifically order it?”

What the fuck was it with these self-righteous Wawa assholes?

Based on my revelation, I determined that I wasn’t going to be getting any lettuce on my sandwich, because I had not specifically pressed a “Lettuce” button during the ordering process. Nevermind the fact that I hadn’t even seen a “Lettuce” button during the ordering process.

“Um, hi, me again,” I said to the sandwich-making girl, who was visibility thrilled to have yet another opportunity to interact with Befuddled Middle-Aged Douchebag Guy. “I didn’t specify that I wanted lettuce on my sandwich. If you could please put some on it, I’d appreciate it. Thanks.”

By this point, the sandwich-making girl, my co-worker and the other smug Wawa disciples waiting for their own sandwiches all were looking at me as though I was a time-traveler visiting from the year 1885. Little did they know that I was about to up the ante.

Did you know that after you order your Wawa sandwich and take your number, you’re supposed to bring that number slip up to the front cash register and pay for your sandwich, and that you can’t retrieve your sandwich until after you’ve done so? Because I sure as hell didn’t.

“It says right on the slip that you’re supposed to pay up front first,” my co-worker told me after the sandwich-making girl who had just called my number informed me that I couldn’t yet take my sandwich.

“You mean the slip with the enormous ‘19’ on it?” I snapped. “I didn’t realize I was supposed to analyze my number slip like it was the fucking Davinci Code, OK? The computer said, ‘Please take your number,’ not ‘Please take your number and study the piece of paper on which it was printed.'”

I paid for my sandwich and returned to the deli area yet again.

“Thanks,” I said sheepishly as the sandwich-making girl handed me The Most Complicated Sandwich Ever Made. “Sorry for the confusion,” I added.

“Oh, no problem,” she said kindly and smiled at me … which felt even worse than her previously scornful treatment, as I’m pretty sure she had decided to treat me nicely only after concluding that I was mentally challenged.

I capped things off by purchasing a box of Depends and some Polident … because, clearly, the end is near.

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Posted in Buffoonery, Embarrassing | 28 Responses