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Chasing The American Dream

December 30, 2005


I guess it’s cliché to have a post about New Year’s. Nevertheless, I feel compelled to write down for myself what I did and didn’t do this year and what I’m going to try to accomplish in 2006. So here goes. *Sigh*

Comparatively speaking, 2005 was a much better year than 04. But that’s not really saying much. I think 04 may have been the worst year of my life. But when I think abut 04, I realize just how far I’ve come. Overall, I’m pretty happy. I feel good mentally, and I’m still learning a lot about myself. I got divorced, got a new job, and moved closer to work. All three of those contributed greatly to reducing the amount of stress in my life. So I give myself a few Brownie points for those things.

Socially, this year’s been pretty much a flop. As bad as 04 was, I met some amazing people and had some wonderful times. This year, not so much. Fewer dates, fewer good times, fewer interesting people than last year. The one person I thought I had a connection with sort of self-destructed during/after a concert.

But on the other hand (queue the sappy music), I met more wonderful people this year via blogging. You guys know who you are out there. You rock! And, I have managed to keep most of my blogging friends that I met last year. Your friendships all mean a lot to me, really. I also know that there are many of you who read but don’t necessarily comment. Thanks all for your continued readership.

On a personal note (wait, it’s all personal isn’t it?), I didn’t finish my book once again, and I didn’t maintain my weight. I think I did an OK job keeping up with the blogging, but I guess you guys are the judges and jury for that one. So my #1 New Year’s resolution is to finish my book and get some book proposals in front of some agents. #2 is to lose 10 pounds and get back to a regular exercise program. #3 is to keep blogging. #4 is to buy a new bed. And lastly? I guess you all know the answer to that one, but I’m going to make it optional. Yes, it would be nice to meet ‘someone,’ but I’m not putting undue pressure on myself. Who knows, maybe I’ve already met her and I just don’t know it? Heck, if it happens, it happens. And maybe that’s the most important thing I’ve accomplished this year. I’ve learned to be comfortable with my simple life, able to live alone without needing someone else, and not feeling the pressure and need to find that certain someone.

They say when you stop looking, that’s when it happens. Let’s see what 2006 brings, shall we?

Happy New Year!

December 28, 2005


I guess this is becoming an annual event. A year ago I said I’d never use FedEx again. I’ve controlled my end of the bargain, but someone sent me a gift via FedEx. I thought perhaps that FedEx could redeem itself after last year’s debacle. I thought wrong.

Thursday last week, I noticed a FedEx door tag near the little call-in security box outside my condo complex. It had my apartment number on it. The tag said the driver couldn’t get in the complex; redelivery was set for Friday. There was no information as to who the sender was. Geez, at least with UPS, they tell you where the package came from and even who the sender is. Friday, same thing. Door tag, couldn’t get into the complex, redelivery set for Tuesday. Tuesday? I guess they don’t deliver on Xmas eve. I wanted that package before Xmas/Hanukkah/Festivus because I didn’t really have many gifts to open.

I wondered why the driver couldn’t get in and how long he really waited. Plus, why the hell didn’t they call me to say they were trying to get in? I could have been there in less than a minute! Frustrating. I looked on the back of the ticket for a phone number. I wanted to see if I could pick it up myself on Saturday. I got the phone number and called. Oh no, the dreaded automated voice response. I really hate having to shout into the phone. Can I just press a button, please?

Let me tell you, that voice response crap is confusing enough. The menu options were so vague it was unbelievable. There was one option to “pick up a package.” As I stumbled through the menu, I realized this meant for FedEx to pick up your package and not for me to pick up my package at the FedEx location. Man was I getting steamed. They didn’t give you an option to speak to a representative. I began shouting my responses into the phone and, of course, Mrs. FedEx computer voice couldn’t understand me. I was totally lost and couldn’t even get back to the main menu. I had to hang up. God, I hate FedEx.

I decided to try the internet route. I got the web address and found the tracking option. It asked for my door tag number and I punched it in. It said there was no such tag number. Hmmm. I looked at the tag and, yes, I typed it in correctly. I tried again. Same thing. No such tag number. Oooh man, was I mad. Now I had to try to call these MFers and battle the computer voice again.

The second call was no better. Same run-around. I was really having trouble calmly expressing my options. I kept saying, “I hate FedEx,” into the phone. “I’m sorry, I didn’t understand your response,” said Mrs. FedEx computer voice. Somehow, I ended up in the International delivery department. I was totally exasperated at this point. I explained to the dude that all I wanted to do was to pick up my package at the address the door ticket indicated and I wanted to make sure the package was there before I left the house. He told me to hold. Aahh, success. He said the package would be there after 2 p.m. Saturday.

Saturday afternoon, I called to make sure the package was there. Affirmative. Off I went. 4:30 p.m. on Christmas Eve and I was going to a FedEx office. What a life! I was merrily greeted by a smiling dude wearing reindeer antlers. I guess he was in the Christmas spirit, or so I thought. I gave him my ticket and he typed the number into his computer. His smile instantly vanished. He started mumbling to me about how the package was still in the truck or something and that he would have to search to find it. AND, it was upstairs! Can you believe that? I was making him go upstairs to get my package. The nerve of me! Mr. Antlers steamed off to find my long lost package. I felt like saying, “Hey buddy, isn’t that what you are here to do?” I mean, what else is he here for, for crying out loud?

I looked incredulously at a lady customer in the next line. “That’s a shame, isn’t it? Making him do his job?” She laughed. I heard Mr. Antlers complaining in the back about this day being the longest four hours of his life. Well, it took him all of four minutes to find this seemingly unreachable package. “Sign here,” he demanded. I signed and got the hell out of there, shaking my head as I exited. And after all that, it wasn’t even a gift. It was some basketball tickets I ordered for Andy when he comes to visit in March.

I drove home and guess what I found? Another door ticket outside the complex. Heck, I was THERE at 1 p.m. and I couldn't even get the delivery for crying out loud! Seriously folks, is it just me or does FedEx totally suck? Call me Ebenezer Scrooge but when I think about FedEx, I can only think of two words. Bah humbug.

December 24, 2005


I miss you guys...

Merry XMas and Happy Hanukkah to all, and to all a good night.

December 18, 2005


Tis the season where we often receive gifts that we have no earthy intention of ever using and wonder how anyone could consider buying such gifts. Yes I know that it’s the thought that counts. But what if the act of giving really didn’t take much thought at all. Take, for example, a coffee gift basket that your neighbor or Secret Santa got. They decide there’s not much use for the basket so now what? Well if they’re like Tim Watley of Seinfeld, and his Label Maker, there is only one option. The regift.

That’s right. Take a gift you got and regift it to someone else. I think at some point in our lives, we’re all guilty of it. But the one thing you simply must avoid is getting caught, right? You gotta make sure that your regift will leave no trace that your cheesy gift is actually a regift. Well, my friend’s neighbor didn’t cover his tracks.

My friend told me he got a coffee/cocoa gift basket from his neighbor. A seemingly nice gesture. But when he opened up the basket, the coffee mugs were already personalized with his neighbor’s names, “Kate” and “Matt.” Busted. So you see ladies and gentlemen, make sure you’re a Santa when you regift and cover your tracks. Otherwise, you’ll be labeled a Scrooge or worse yet, a regifter.

December 12, 2005


I’m becoming increasingly disappointed with one of the only two shows (Lost and Survivor) I watch. I’ve been watching Survivor since its inception in 2000. To me, what made this reality show interesting and different was the mix of characters and personalities. The game was once won and lost ‘on the field’ without interference from one Mark Burnett, the creator of the series. But then things started to change. The show got predictable. If one tribe had a mathematical advantage, it was inevitable the other tribe would be voted off one-by-one. So Burnett started taking matters into his own hands by playing switcheroo games with the tribes and changing the show’s emphasis from the players to an ‘anything can happen on Survivor’ approach. That has bothered me because the player could play a perfect Survivor game and be a victim of one of these silly switch games and quickly voted off. Silas of Survivor Africa, season 3, comes to mind.

But now, it’s the stupidity of the players that’s irking me. Physical strength in challenges is always viewed as one of the biggest assets a player can have. But strangely, if you have brains, you’re a liar, a villain, and someone unworthy of winning. It takes brains to have a unique strategy good enough to win the game. Often this strategy involves some deceit to alliances and lies to cover your ass. To me, that’s an essential part of the game. I mean, the slogan says outwit and outplay, right? Yet when it comes down to the final tribal council, it seems to me the nice person often wins because the jury’s ego is bruised for being lied to by the supposed villain who had the brains to think his or her way to the final two. Time and again, most of the jury’s final questions relate to lies being told and having the finalist justify lies and/or deceit. Almost without exception, the finalist fails to take advantage of these questions by explaining to the idiots on the jury that brains and strategy are part of the game. An integral part, in fact.

Stephenie was the villain finalist for Survivor Guatemala. She fielded all the usual questions from the jurors who felt wronged by lies or deceit. Stephenie rationalized her lies and strategy, blah blah without any effect. Man, I was screaming at her to tell this muscle-head Judd that outwitting and outlasting are part of the game. Steph, try telling Judd and the other hurt jurors to not vote on the fact that they were duped by and double-crossed by Steph, but vote on the fact that her strategy got everyone to bite and that outwitting is truly part of the game. Take the personal feelings out and vote on who truly played the game the best.

But human nature is to take things personally. Steph failed to make any reference to her superior game-playing ability and to warn the jury to not vote against her just because they felt wronged by her. And of course, the jury had their minds made up anyway that Danni was nicer, didn’t lie, and was more deserving. The final vote wasn’t even close. It was 6-1 for Danni. I liked Danni. She was sweet, nice, was very athletic. But she coasted along as a lot of ‘nice’ Survivor winners do. Sure, being ‘nice’ is a strategy, I suppose. But outlasting 17 other players with a target on your back for 39 days was truly an accomplishment and deserving of a win. But not with Survivor these days because you don’t get any credit for outwit and outplay. I guess when I think about it, outsmart is not part of the Survivor catchphrase. That’s a shame because this loyal viewer is getting tired of outnice which isn’t in the catchphrase either.

December 08, 2005


25 years ago to the day, I was a freshman in college. I was watching Monday Night Football. My beloved Dolphins were playing the Patriots if I’m not mistaken. I think Miami won, but I’m not even sure. I don’t remember much about the game, just something that happened *during* the game.

It was late in the 4th quarter as I recall. Howard Cosell, sort of out of nowhere, made an announcement as only he could. In a somber tone, he told us that John Lennon had been shot twice in the back near his Dakota apartment in New York City, and that he was rushed to so-and-so hospital. Before I could even process my shock, Howard said something like, “Dead on arrival. An unspeakable tragedy.”

My blood rushed right through me. I felt flushed, tingly, and numb. I was a big Beatles fan. A big Lennon fan. John had been out of the limelight for so long until his then recently released album “Starting Over.” It was good to hear his voice over the airwaves once again. I had just read that he was at peace with his life and happy. So sad. I dunno. I felt like I lost a best friend. I had this really empty, empty feeling in my heart.

It’s still there. Every anniversary now is a reminder. And now, incredibly, it’s been 25 years. And I’m sad to watch the stories once again. I recall that this story dominated the news headlines for weeks. Mark David Chapman made sure there would be no Beatle reunion ever. I know I’m only one of millions of John Lennon fans who has spoken or written about his death. Any maybe this story is, in fact, old news. But I can’t really imagine ever forgetting John, his music, his genius, and his untimely death on December 8th, 1980. Happy Christmas, John.

December 06, 2005


OK all you self-proclaimed trivia buffs. Can anyone tell me what important historical TV event happened on December 9th, 1965? I’ll give you a hint. It’s holiday season-related. I’ll give you a minute to think about it…queue.. the Jeopardy music…

It’s one of my all-time favorite shows and some of the most entertaining 30 minutes (OK, maybe 22 net of commercials) one could ever ask for. I don’t think it matters what race or religion you are. You’re bound to enjoy it. I swear I’ve watched this classic every year since it’s been on; it’s got everything. Stage performances, dancing, an unbelievable soundtrack, humor, poignancy, impersonations, religion, chorus singing. Wow! Some show, huh?

Of course, I’m talking about the timeless classic, A Charlie Brown Christmas. I don’t know what it is about that TV special that makes me laugh year after year. Perhaps all of the above. We all know the famous Charlie Brown Christmas song, the Vince Guaraldi piano instrumental known to us closet Peanuts fans as “Linus and Lucy.” I remember Snoopy’s animal imitations, the classic Christmas play scene where you’ve got some of the funniest dance moves ever seen, Shroeder’s 'Jingle Bells,' CB’s poor little tree, Linus’ Christmas speech, it goes on-and-on.

So tonight on your local ABC channel, gather the family and friends and make sure you catch this classic. I guarantee you’ll feel warm and fuzzy when it’s over.

EDITOR'S NOTE: TV Land named this memorable show #56 on the 100 most memorable TV moments of all-time.

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December 04, 2005


I call my son Andy, “Tin Man” because he’s such a sentimental little guy. I wonder where he gets it from? I spent this weekend moving out of Plantation. I don’t know why I get so nostalgic when I move. I guess because I know I’m putting another chapter of my life behind me. This was a particularly tough chapter. These two years have arguably been the toughest two years of my life. There were times I questioned the value of life. Was it even worth living? I got through divorce, a new job, depression, missing my son, and finding then losing the woman I thought I was going to spend the rest of my life with. I look back and marvel that I got through it. My family, my friends, my doctors, and even you bloggers out there helped me. All the while I was living in Plantation.

So maybe that’s why I felt a bit of sadness making my last drive around the neighborhood. I hugged and said goodbye to April at Winn-Dixie and Evyan at Starbucks. I gave my neighbors a homemade roof tile Hurricane Wilma souvenir before locking my apartment door for the last time. I’ve heard the expression, “Don’t look back,” but I’ve never applied it to me. I always take that last look back. I think it’s because I know I might be back some day. I know I’ll be back. There are golf courses to play and hockey games to attend. So yes, I peeked behind me as I drove away today. I can’t help it.
Tonight marks the beginning of a new chapter. My first night in my new apartment in Coconut Grove. I even plan to utilize the bedroom. No more sleeping on the couch. I think I've finally graduated after two years. It all feels a little special. There’s so much to look forward to. So much anticipation. It’s a good feeling. Sentimental, but good.

December 02, 2005


I was 24 when I got my first real post-college job. I shunned the then Big 8 accounting firms for an opportunity to work at the same bank as someone I call, ‘number one.’ She was my first girlfriend. But that’s another story for another day. I was a Staff Auditor in the Internal Audit department. My mind was a sponge ready to absorb everything I could about Finance, Accounting, and Auditing. I wanted a solid foundation with which to build a so-called career.

I lasted just over two years before moving on to American Express. I got the foundation. But you wanna know what the most important thing I learned during job #1? Her name was Minerva Chalwell. She was African-American and very motherly toward me. She was very eager to help me transition from college to the real world. One day, she noticed a flaw in my attire. My button-down shirt was sans one button. True. It came off while I was at work. I was stuck plain and simple. Or so I thought.

Miss Minerva told me she was a sewing expert and offered to sew the button back on right then and there. She told me sewing buttons was easy and proceeded to show me. Less than five minutes later, my button was fixed.

19 years later, I’m still sewing buttons. I just fixed up my shorts with a button and thought of Minerva and what a wonderful lesson she taught me all those years ago. When people ask me what was the best thing I learned on my first job, I always tell them the button story. Thanks, Minerva.