Friday, August 30, 2013

Officially "off the grid". For now.

Okay, here it is. This journey or whatever it is I've been on lately (there is some travel involved, so why not call it a journey?) is nearing an end, a successful one, I'm happy to say. Unfortunately, this is the most difficult part of that journey and as of right now, I'm really, REALLY out of circulation. No phone, no text messages, no Facebook, no Twitter, no television, no radio, no nothin'. I mean gone as in GONE. This, naturally, also means no posts here of any kind (brief pause for you to cheer or boo, whatever feels right for you). But more important than announcing my absence is re-iterating my promise that I will be back, sooner than later. I WILL BE BACK! When? Can't say but trust me, you will know. And when it happens, I'm bringing good stuff. Better stuff. Really good stuff. I'll go so far as to say it will be THE BEST stuff, which is probably a huge error in judgment on my part, but yeah, it'll be pretty good.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

This happened yesterday

I'm moving out of my apartment on Sunday. I don't exactly know when I'm moving into my new home. As a result, there's going to be a gap and I will, for all intents and purposes be homeless. This is strictly a descriptive term. I'm not homeless like most people who are homeless in that I have prospects, I have a place to go (eventually), I have hope. In my case, it's not a big deal. It's, at worst, a pain in the ass. Temporary, at that. Seriously. It's going to work out and I will be fine. Still, there's upheaval and a certain measure of uncertainty (I have no idea where I'm sleeping Sunday night; Tampa has some lovely parks) and it's stressing me. That's the background. Now, here's what happened yesterday. I left work at 5:30 to go to my other job less than two miles away. I hadn't had lunch and I needed to be there by 6:30, so I had an hour to get something to eat and get to work. However, downtown Tampa being what it is (a fucking nightmare in terms of access in, out or around), traffic was snarled due to Kennedy Boulevard, the busiest east-west street in downtown, being closed to one lane for construction. The hour I had to get something to eat between my two jobs that are less than two miles apart evaporated quickly. I had wanted to get something good to eat and a bottle of water at the grocery store. Instead, I settled for ordering a stupid hamburger and a Coke at a fast food place. I ordered and as I moved up in line, some guy stuck his big, dumb, fat face in my window. "Excuse me, sir..." I was not in the mood to be panhandled, mainly because I am never in the mood to be panhandled, and I told him, truthfully, by the way, "I have no cash". He said, "I don't want money. I want food. Will you buy me some food?" Timing is everything, you know. And the timing of this request is worthy of note in that I had already ordered my food and the dominant thought in my head right now is that I am on the verge of not having a place to live. I snapped. I paid for my food and shoved the bag at him. "HERE! TAKE IT! WHY NOT? ANYBODY ELSE? IS THERE ANYTHING ELSE I CAN DO FOR ANYBODY WHILE WE'RE AT IT?" He took the food and backed away slowly, staring at me. "You know, I don't know where I'm going to live in a few days", I told him. "Who do you think is going to step up and give ME something, huh? When is it MY turn to cash in?" He said, "Somebody will". "Somebody?", I yelled back incredulously. "Who? You? Where's mine, goddamn it??" He just backed away slowly and I drove off. As a result, I felt terrible for being a big, fat, still relatively well-off, entitled asshole who yelled at somebody who was hungry and whose circumstances were undoubtedly more dire than mine. I felt terrible for just giving away the meal that I'd paid for, having gone without lunch and now dinner. I felt generally terrible for all this crap piling up and causing me to lose my shit. Still, and I know this doesn't make me a good person, when I was going off, that felt GREAT! For a few seconds there, I felt all the pressure and stress releasing and that was fantastic. Sure, almost immediately I felt like the biggest piece of shit on the planet, and I still have all the problems I did before. But for a minute there? Wow! I've never smoked crack but if it's anything like that, I totally get the appeal now. For what it's worth, if anybody's worried that I didn't receive sufficient karmic payback for that outburst, my day ended with a Philadelphia Flyers fan sending me bible verses via Twitter. I think that makes me even.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Take me home

I need a home.
I'm not homeless in the classic sense. There's a place with a roof and walls where I can sleep and store my stuff. I know this puts me ahead of the curve relative to people who have real homeless troubles, so I feel bad complaining. But because I'm no longer comfortable there, I feel... displaced. And that's a pretty significant source of stress right now, manifesting itself in digestive issues lack-of-rest issues.Everybody deserves a true home.
I used to love where I live, an older apartment complex north of Raymond James Stadium. It wasn't the nicest place when I moved in but the people who worked there were cool and committed to doing the best they could. One time, my water heater sprung a leak at five in the morning on a Sunday. As I sat on the floor catching the boiling hot water spraying out with a bucket, I called the emergency number and pictured myself in that situation for hours, possibly all day. To my surprise, the on-call maintenance guy was there within a half hour and I was actually able to go back to bed by 6:30. That really impressed me. So in spite of little inconveniences like being robbed at gunpoint, I was happy there. In a lot of ways, it takes very little to make me happy. In the case of where I live, I really don't want much more than privacy. I had that and that was enough. But something has changed and things have deteriorated. Now the management lacks regard in terms of the privacy of their residents. Now I'm unhappy. Here's a recent example.

Last Thursday, I got a call at work from the property manager's office.
MANAGER: There's a problem and we need to go into your apartment.
ME: Oh crap. What is it?
MANAGER: There's a water leak in the apartment below yours.
ME: Oh. Well, I can probably be there in about a hlf hour...
MANAGER: We're going in now. We're just calling to let you know.
ME: Oh.
I wasn't thrilled but an emergency is an emergency, I guess. I came home that night and found that everything had been pulled out of my bedroom closet and strewn around the bedroom. There was a hole in the wall at the back of the closet. That's not cool on a number of fronts and I went to bed angry.
The next morning, I woke up with someone simultaneously banging on my front door and ringing the doorbell. DingDongBANGBANGBANGDingDong. It was the maintenance man. Because I don't know his name, we'll call him Rudy. For all I know, that is his name, He wears a work shirt with a big R on the breast. That could be the logo of the property management company but I don't know for sure. I guess what I'm saying is I don't know for sure that it doesn't stand for 'RAPIST'. But he is rude so let's go with Rudy.
I answer the door and Rudy is standing there with a plumber.
ME: Yes?
RUDY: There was a leak in the apartment below, coming from the ceiling. We couldn't find where it was coming from. So it must be something you're doing.

This is perfectly reasonable in the same way that I don't know what 17 X 63 is without sitting down and doing the work to figure it out, but I'm not going top do that so I'll just say the answer is 'BUNNY RABBIT'.
ME: I don't know what I could be doing wrong; I've been taking showers in this apartment every day for the last seven years and I generally do it the same way every time.
RUDY: You need to make sure the shower curtain stays inside the tub and the water doesn't run out on to the floor.
ME: Yep, that's how I do it. I'm going to take a shower in about 45 minutes. You're welcome tto come back and check when I'm done.
RUDY: Yeah, well, this was very expensive and if the problem continues, we're going to send the bills to you.
ME: Uh huh. Good luck with that.
I closed the door. I hadn't planned on being in a bad mood that day but sometimes other people make plans for you without your consent.
I was in an even worse mood when I came home that night and saw this note taped to my door:
"We caulk around the tub & install splash guard. Please let dry for 8 hrs"

I hadn't received a call in advance. They just came in and made alterations to my bathroom, including the installation of a new shower head that sends maybe 30% of the water through the shower head while the rest continues to pour from the bathtub spigot The result is less a shower and more like having someone spill a little bit of water on you.
Good work, Rudy. Take the rest of the day off and go celebrate at Applebys. This is in addition to my truck being broken into and my air conditioning not working.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Back to school

No, not me.
In my case, it's probably safe to assume I've learned everything I ever will at this point. I'm not saying I know everything; I'm saying the part of my brain that is supposed to pick up and process new information probably shriveled up, died and fell out of my earhole.

But in terms of other people, it seems like everybody I know has kids going back to school this week, either grade school or college. And the small handful to whom that doesn't apply are teachers, so they're on the receiving end. My friend Marissa wrote this wonderful article on her blog.
She sums up the bittersweet situation with this:
"Emotionally letting go of our kids is painful. The process begins from the moment we hear their first cry."   
Once again, my not having children is endorsed as a solid plan. Because here's me as a father holding his newborn child for the first time...
Wait a minute. What was that? Did you hear that? It made a noise. Sounded like crying. Not cool! Good thing we're still here at the hospital. Let's get that fixed while we're here, okay? Huh? It is? Well, how often is that going to happen? What?? Seriously?! And what in the world is that smell?!?
So here's to all of you dealing with the wee ones tryin' to get their learn on and here's to me not being a participant at any level of that madness.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

My friend Rob and the "Oklahoma!" story

I know a lot of very funny people but nobody on earth makes me laugh like my friend Rob Gander. 
He and I are similarly wired in a lot of ways but also different enough to keep the relationship interesting. Rob's a theater guy. I like to think I am, but I'm really not. I can recognize something by Neil Simon or somebody trying to be Neil Simon but that's about it. Rob knows about Sartre and Jacques Brel and all kinds of other stuff that makes my head hurt. I met him when I lived in Sarasota and got involved with a local theater company, Theatreworks. He was directing "Bleacher Bums", the play about Chicago Cubs fans. I auditioned and was cast and Rob and I hit it off immediately, in spite of my increasingly exaggerated re-telling of our first meeting:
ROB: Thanks for coming in. We'll announce the cast after tomorrow's auditions.
ME: Great. Can I come back tomorrow?
ROB: Sure.

ROB: Thanks for coming in. We'll announce the cast after tomorrow's auditions.
ME: Great. Can I come back tomorrow.
ROB: I guess. If you want. I mean, there's no point but it's open to the public so I can't legally keep you from coming in. So yeah, the short answer is yes. If it were me, I wouldn't bother, but hey. Sure.

He and his wife Melody, whom I have seen in her underwear because we were in a show ("Grease") together, now live in Nevada where Rob is a college professor teaching theater. Sometimes I call him and say something like, "So Dr. Gander. Once again what was briefly yours is now mine. Ha ha ha ha!" or I ask him about all the hot co-eds in his class. This is because my knowledge of what college professors do is informed entirely by movies, specifically the Indiana Jones saga and "National Lampoon's Animal House".And then we complain about our lives and catch up on terrible things that we find funny.

The other day, I remembered one of my favorite Rob memories, which I'd like to share with you now.

As I mentioned, Rob is a theater guy. That doesn't mean he loves everything about it though. Quite the contrary. There are many, many aspects of it that he despises. I was still married at this time and I don't remember how or why but our wives wanted to go see a local production of "Oklahoma!" at the Golden Apple Dinner Theatre. Rob was not a fan of any of the last ten words in that previous sentence. Yet another re-telling of corny old material by performers of varying degrees of proficiency spread out over two plus hours in what might as well have been a rest home cafeteria (on average, the typical Golden Apple Dinner Theatre patron was about 135 years old) is something theater people have to do from time to time because that kind of thing sells tickets. But most of them hate it at least a little bit. In Rob's case, he hates it so much that I believe it physically hurts him. As such, he would never willingly subject himself to a production of "Oklahoma!" unless he had to. He might begrudgingly present the show as a means of keeping the light bill paid but he definitely would not buy a ticket and watch it on what would otherwise be a perfectly good night to do absolutely anything else in the whole world. However, as spouses all have to do from time to time, he eventually resolved to suck it up and be a team player.
MELODY: Come on, it will be fun!
ROB: No. No it won't. It'll be awful and long and terrible.
ME (purely instigating): It's a western! How can it not be awesome?
ROB: If anything, it's a mid-western, which is very true to life because nothing interesting happens in it, ever. (NOTE: Rob grew up in Wisconsin and I'm from Michigan)
DEBBIE (my wife, totally sincere): I really want to see it.
MELODY: Some of our friends are in the cast.
ROB: Those people are not my friends.
MELODY: Since when?
ROB: Since they were cast in "Oklahoma!"
ROB: Fine. I'll go. Sure. It will be great.
I knew with just the gentlest of prodding that I could get him to abandon that attitude, though. Our wives knew this too and made sure to keep us separated by sitting between us. We ate dinner, which I don't remember but I'm sure featured an entree of the 'creamed' variety. Rob was managing to stay on his best behavior though, and I remember being kind of proud of him, in spite of how much I wanted to instigate activity that would get us both in trouble for weeks. "Wow", I remember thinking. "He's actually going to get through this." 
Then the house lights went out. The stage lights came up and an actor offstage launched into "Oh What a Beautiful Morning", That's when I heard Rob let out an exasperated and disgusted "auuugh", His resolve had lasted exactly two syllables into the first line of the opening song. He had made it as far as "There's a" and melted down before "bright, golden haze on the meadow" before being utterly defeated by life. Meanwhile, I nearly ruptured myself in trying not to laugh.
Man, I miss that guy.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Here's something

She loves me.
Hi. How are you? Are you guys okay? I'm worried about you in my semi-absence. Are you getting enough sleep at night? How's your situation with what's-his/her-name? Everything all right? These are the things I worry about.
Mostly I worry that you're going to wander off because I'm giving you pretty much nuthin'.
So here's somethin'.
Sure, it's a re-run but it's from a long time ago and it's entirely possible you never saw it or forgot about it.
It's a tribute video to our old pal Lynne Austin. She's so funny that she's not even in this video (aside from a couple of stills) and she's still hilarious.
So please enjoy
A Pilgrimage To Hooters
And get some rest, will you please?

I really believe this is the best acting I've ever done.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Forecast: Continued inconsistency

Sorry the posting has been so sporadic but I did kind of warn you. Unfortunately, that's going to still be the case for a little while longer. I promise* that things will settle down eventually and things will return to normal. Sooner than later, hopefully (prospects are relatively promising!). Until then, whenever "then" is, I'll post when I can but the only promise I can make is no promises. Look at it this way; the blog is simply living up (down?) to its toothsome title.

If you really, really need a Clark fix, I'll continue to appear on the Spike On The Mic Show every Monday night at 7pm. And those are lots of fun.
If you really don't need a Clark fix, and I don't blame you, just keep coming here while I'm not posting on the regular. Or go somewhere else, for that matter. I hear Pennsylvania is nice in the summertime. It doesn't matter to me. Get out. Pack your shit and go already. Who needs you?

Just kidding. Don't leave me, baby. I love you.

* = All promises are null and void in the event that I am run over by some kind of farm machinery or meet any otherwise untimely and unpleasant demise. Please don't sue my estate.

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Nobody I know doesn't speak English!

You know, it's really not such a small world after all. I came to this conclusion recently when I realized that every person I know speaks English. Some of them speak other languages too, but every single person I know speaks at least a little bit of English.

I know English is the world's dominant language (air traffic controllers everywhere are required to use it on the job) but there are still lots places out there where people don't speak it. There are literally a couple of other languages and that's what those people speak instead. And I don't know none of 'em. That means that right this minute in some village in the Sudan, nobody is thinking, "Hey, I wonder how Clark is doing?". Nobody in Sri Lanka wants to email me a picture of a kitty. Not one person in Cechnya is concerned about what's on my mind and how they can make my life better. This, in spite of the fact that I rarely turn down Facebook friend requests and I accept any and all challenges in "Words With Friends".

What the hell is wrong with the world?