They say you can never go Home...

Soldiers of Sparta were allowed to return home after lost battles, only if carried dead upon their shields. I'm convinced this is a more practical and time-saving way to go about it.

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Jupiter

This week I am in Jupiter, FL. I’m told that the beaches are beautiful here. However, I’ve been busy being in shock after the realization that it is 86 degrees outside AND I’m still in Florida AND it’s still summertime. I’m seriously thinking about moving here. Plus, it’s really beautiful. The cloud formations are amazing, and they’ve got some pretty nice hills. And yachts!—everyone here’s got yachts.

This time, my Dad has accompanied me on this trip. I spent the better part of three hours silently critiquing his driving style and marveling at the fact that he hasn’t killed himself or anyone else while navigating toll roads, while attached to a cell phone.

I guess it must be admitted that Florida has its fair share of more seasoned (read, nearly-dead) drivers. Perhaps for this reason, Florida has installed what is termed “rumble strips” on the margins of most highways. The way it works is, when Grampa starts nodding off behind the wheel of his Cadillac of Death, the strips create a noise and reverberation loud and obnoxious enough to wake him up to enjoy a few more days of Adult Depends and shuffleboard. For me, the noise is obnoxious enough even one time to keep me awake on all subsequent trips. Dad crosses the strips at regular intervals. It’s the damned phone. I think he traded in a lobe of his brain when he signed up for his cellular plan.

Anyhow, during the course of the week, I’ve begun to really wonder whether this job’s for me. It’s not just the trouble I have visualizing myself as a marketing guy or a salesman—it’s just that I can’t really get…hormonal… about this industry in which I am now representing.

I sat down the other day with a student friend of my Mother’s—they’re both in Nursing school—and I was asking her about a thesis she is in the process of writing. I have an interest in theses myself, as I am beginning to write one for an old professor at Cal Poly. I found myself talking about viruses and induction and vaccines and getting totally worked up about it. That is, until my father came into the room, having been on the cell phone for tens of minutes, looking pretty peeved that I was not speaking a language he understands.

The other thing is, the people that I normally deal with are a bit different than me. I don’t intend to say that’s a bad thing, to be different from me. God knows, it could only be a plus. It’s not the Nascar references I routinely don’t get, or even the fact that I’ve never been to a Pork Pull. There’s a certain lack of candor or polish that’s lacking here. And again, that’s not a bad thing, necessarily. But is it really necessary to use the term “fucker” to refer to the current product of discussion? I’m all about the F word, but that doesn’t mean I want to use it like this, especially while I’m trying to do business over the cloying fog of your cigar, which frankly, smells like smouldering dog shit.

So, my thoughts have turned to whether it’s a good thing I’m doing this thing here, w/ my Dad’s business.

Then today:

We had essentially clenched a touch-and-go deal with a very influential customer, who, despite some pretty concrete info, had ultimately decided that we could be trusted because the company we represent happened to be owned by someone who is third- generation Eastern-Bloc. Which, you know, is the sine qua non of integrity, apparently.

During this sentimental exchange, my Dad caught my eyes, and for a split second, the same flash went across his as did mine. It was the equivalent of rolling one’s eyes, but almost imperceptibly so. Then we both smiled knowingly.

And then I realized, that in some way, my Dad totally makes this job worth doing. Well, SOMETIMES. But you know, I was absolutely shocked to come to that realization. So many years that we’ve butted heads; refused to see or respect each others’ differences—and it turns out that the same kinds of things irk us.

I was so glad he was there.

Tomorrow morning, I hope to see the beach before I leave for Delray Beach, Coral Springs, and ultimately, Naples. I will be telling everyone down there that I am of Lithuanian-descent, so for those of you who know I’m Italian, please keep it on the down-low.


The Panhandle

I have recently returned from a week-long business trip from the Panhandle, which included stops in Pensacola, Panama City, Port St. Joe, Apalachicola, Destin, Fort Walton Beach, and many, many more. During the course of this trip, I have not only learned that Florida is divided into two time zones, but that Florida is one damned big state. Granted, one look at a map and a pass of the eye over Florida’s rather flaccid geography, and it might be tempting to write off this state as one without staying power. However, despite its perpetually-detumescent condition, Florida is a state of magisterial length and girth, I'm here to tell you.

Those who travel to the Panhandle on a regular basis have a special term of endowment--er, endearment--for this part of the state: L.A. This would not, in fact, have anything to due with Miami’s showy cousin-city on the West Coast, but everything to do with its proximity to other Confederate States, namely Alabama. Which explains the nickname, L.A, (Lower Alabama.)
During my guided tour of this area, I was treated to some of the incredible local vernacular, which I am determined to start incorporating into my regular speech patterns:

Aw’m wrapped up tightah than a fiddle string!

It’s slam empty!

Watch youself theh, aw made uh devil of uh mess!

That’s jes’ wottamelon talkin’!


I have also been treated to stories about an unfortunate folk in Alabama termed inbreeds--or IB’s for short. One fellow told me I could spot them by their “5 gallon” heads. (Despite my constantly roving eye, I was not lucky enough to spot one). Another told me a story about a particular IB who was born with his left eye positioned on the upper-left area of his forehead, which endowed him with an ability to see around corners. (For a split second, I wished I could be an IB. But that moment quickly passed, when I reminded myself that at least I can flip my eyelids over. And I’m double-jointed.)

And if I wasn’t already worried about not fitting in—having a complete lack of anteriorally-located eyeball, nor having any original story whatever about IB’s, coupled with the fact that I have no cool vernacular of my own, save the ever popular “stoked”, I was counseled to sound as little as a white-assed Yankee as I possibly could, because the locals wouldn’t take kindly to me otherwise. Greaaaat.
.
As a kid, I was routinely mistaken for my Mother when I picked up the phone. (I still carry the complex.) And, having lived in Southern California for a good portion of my childhood, I have been accused of talking through my nose, like a gayer version of Don Johnson. But moving to Massachusetts in the springtime of my adolescence did somewhat help my speech patters sound more testosterone charged. But now—apparently sounding like I’ve done time in New England is a deal breaker. What to do? Go back to talking through my nose? I spent a good portion of the day ruminating about how to sound more like a southerner, and wishing I spent more time listening to country music.

All of my worries were for naught however, because one solid day of being in the world of the panhandle, surrounded by some of the thickest accents I’ve heard south of Georgia, I was twanging with the best of them.

Heck, I was even telling my new friend J, who was my tourguide through the Panhandle, that he was “jes’ tawkin’ wottamellons” by the close of the day.

Monday, July 19, 2004

Double the deal, Double the Entendre

I admit it: I have a bit of a weakness for things that come of out Bath and Body works.  Certainly, I do feel a bit less of a man, strolling in all flipflops and poloshirts, to find some aromatherapy lotion that will help me get a good sleep. But you know, sleep is quite a valuable thing, and therefore, I'm willing to shell out a few bucks and take a hit on the old Pride, even if it makes me look like the kind of guy who might knit, or highlight his hair, or even shave his scrotum occasionally. 
 
I surreptitiously perused the pinkish baskets of floral-scented goodness, and when I had enough, I oiled up to the counter where a knock-out brunette was at the register. At the last moment, I chose to rifle through a basket of lipstick-sized air fresheners, whose smells included, among others, "fresh linen." I must have looked a big agonized, because the brunette leaned forward and said silkily, "You know you want it."
 
Taken aback, and embarrassed, and somehow simultaneously turned on, but wishing to look bold, masculine, in-control, and directed--directed! "I made decisions easily and powerfully!"--I bought it.
 
She gave me my total, and I gave her exact change for the amount.
 
"Wow, you're the first person that's given me exact change today!"
 
I was going to start stammering, having fallen into a narcotic wooziness induced by all the feminine energy around me, and become shy in front of this Vision of Brunette Loveliness,--start to explain about the handy change purse that I bring with me, which is just perfect for exact change scenarios, like paying for that soy chai to sip while reading Memoirs of a Geisha.
 
But instead, I leaned forward and said in a husky voice, "Gosh, I've always wanted to be someone's First."
 
To which, she turned a heart-vibrating hue of red.




The Vagaries of Business Finance, by Father Mussolini

I invited my father to see "I, Robot" with me on Friday. Upon arriving to the movie theatre:
 
Dad: Eleven dollars? That's ridiculous. I'm not paying that kind of money for a damn movie!
 
Me: Well, Dad, that's okay, because I'M paying.
 
Dad: No, goddamit, you're not paying for me. That's ridiculous. I'm waiting until the 7:50 pm show.
 
Me: Okay, sure, Dad. No problem. Whatever you want.
 
Clerk: ...that will be 22 dollars, sir.
 
Me: Okay, great. Here you go.
 
Dad: (incredulous) What are you doing? I said I was going to pay!
 
Me: Geez, Dad, I'm sorry...it all happened so fast. I didn't mean to!
 
Later on that weekend, at a moderately-priced Italian restaurant...
 
Attractive Waitress: (bringing check for 75 plus dollars) Thank you!
 
Me: (reaching for my wallet).
 
Dad: Oh, Tom, just throw that on your business card. Let the business pay for it.
 
Tom: (shocked) Dad, have you SEEN my Amex card this month? It's higher than Robert Downey, Jr on the day after his birthday! 
 
Dad: Relax, Tom! It's only money. Go ahead and charge it.
 
 
 
 

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

Jacksonville

This week, I am visiting the great city of Jacksonville, FL, on business. I've got a list of clients, given to me by Father Mussolini, which could be measured in cubits. Considering the torrential rain coming down at the moment, cubits might be a good measurement to be familiar with, should I need to resort to building an Ark of biblical proportions, to sail out of this place.

I was told today (by someone very much In The Know), that Jacksonville is growing faster than President Bush's nose. There are some 100,000 homes being built in the area, this year alone, and no doubt, all of them will be built on newly-synthesized golf courses designed by Jack Niklaus's son-in-law. (Or Tom Fazio's son's best-friend's neighbor's cousin. Or some other terribly-extruded relationship to some (likely aged) Golf dignitary.)

It turns out that Jacksonville has a good bit of historical credibility. It was named after Andrew Jackson. During the civil war, the city served as a base for blockade runners, and during Reconstruction, was a popular winter resort. Presently, it really is a quite-nice place; tons of families, good schools in the area, nice homes, good economy. They've also got good beaches proximally-located, has a decent historic area that's been freshened up, and Mayo Clinic is here too. It's undeniably on the up-and-up.

Regardless and not withstanding which, most of us who've lived in Florida in the past ten years know Jacksonville from a more infamous standpoint: its involvement in the paper-milling business. Why paper-milling, you ask? And why Jacksonville for that matter? I don't know exactly; may have something to do with its juxtaposition on the St. Johns River. But whatever, none of that is important.

What IS relevant to know, however, is that Jacksonville's involvement in this industry had perfumed this 750 some-odd sq. mile sprawling city with a singularly heinous scent. I like to describe it as, the Collective Ass of a Thousand Counties.

I am much chagrined to have determined today, after a 9 year absence, that this smell is all but undetectable.

Which got me to wondering on the various ways to market this pleasing fact to would-be home buyers in the state:

"Now with less Ass Scent."

"Jacksonville: Denuding vegetation every day for your golfing pleasure."

"Jacksonville! Doing our part for the Great North American Enclosure Movement. Visit one our many gated golf communities today!"

"Come to Jacksonville! We've got that Fresh Feeling your mother forbade you to talk about."

"Jacksonville: Protecting your affluential family from other undesirable affluential families, one security kiosk at a time."

"Jacksonville: Because everyone should have a golf-course view."

Monday, July 05, 2004

Spider Webs

My dad convinced me to go see Spider Man 2 with him this evening. This brings the number of movies I've seen in theatres, this summer alone, to a grand total of four. This is more than I've seen in one year, and I expect I'm going for several more visits.
I was otherwise dancing eye to eye with an evening spent with my Studying for the GRE book. Spidey, therefore, sounded like a marvelous plan. So, Dad and I piled into the Volvo and headed to Ybor Centro.

The movie was great; a certifiably excellent, sound sequel.

Me: Thanks, Dad. That was a lot of fun.

Dad: Well, I didn't pay.

Me: I know that, Dad. Thanks for coming out. It was fun.

Dad: Oh, yeah, well..um (clears throat). Oh, you mean, thanks for the company.

Me: I just mean, thanks in general.

Dad: (Happy sounding; rattling off expectations and projections for Installment 3).

I am struck, as ever, with the sense that my Dad's knee-jerk view of himself may be one of a bottom line. It never seems to occur to him that his kids generally accept the concept of spending time with him; time that does not involve pedantic and critical suggestions about Our Lives and the Way We live it, tied in concert with some cash outlay. That we may enjoy our time with him, and that we like it when he's simply content himself.

It must be difficult to keep us at bay and at the same time, feel duty-bound to ensure our individual progression through life by his own financial investment. (Which, let's be honest, is probably a far-sight more like venture-type speculation than a solid financial investment.) It's as if he's afraid that we'll take or deplete (what he views as) his only bargaining chip (money) and thus, steal away his power (have no need for him anymore). It's a terribly confusing dynamic, especially to those of us trying to make an honest go of rewriting the history of This Relationship. In fact, it is not unlike a web of sorts, confounding us who are affixed to it.

Sunday, July 04, 2004

Desert Dating

Every time two or more of us kids are gathered around the dinner table, it turns into a hotly contested argument about the state of things in the US, particularly under the peerless leadership of the Current President of the United States (heretoforth referred to as The Hedge). My parents usually play the role of The Blissfully-Convinced Republican.

Brother: Answer me this: why the hell are we in Iraq?

Dad: Because we're fighting The Evil that lives there.

Later..

Brother: There's absolutely no reason to go there if it weren't for the oil; that's all there is to it.

Dad: So, you're saying you wouldn't want to go to Iraq?

Brother: (Dumbfounded) Dad, why the hell would I want to go to there?

Dad: (Thoughtful) Well, they have dark-skinned women there.

Pause. Silence.

Dad: I thought you liked dark-skinned women!