Monday, August 24, 2009

Grad School Travels - Part 1 - Waiting for Godot (the 88)

I pull into the Balboa Park BART Station in San Francisco. It is worth noting that there is a Balboa Park in San Diego also, though, to be fair, San Diego actually has a park, whereas, upon exiting Balboa Park station, all I am met with is a man who wants a cigarette.

"Sorry man, I don't have any."

"I gotta quarter. You know in these tough times, nobody's givin' anything up for free."

"Yeah, I guess that's right."

I watch him walk over to a girl sitting on a bench smoking a cigarette. She tells him she doesn't have any. He starts to walk back over to me. "Times is tough," is all he can say. He is an African-American man, maybe 30 years old. He's a little hefty, but his clothes are fairly nice. He seems like a nice enough guy.

I take this quiet moment to evaluate my surroundings. Based on my research, I know that I'm looking for the 88 bus. I see on the bus stop that one of the buses that stops there is the 88, and I think it would be going in the direction of my hotel.

A bus pulls up. It's the 45, so it's wrong for me, but my cigarette seeking friend has a new group of people to ask. He pounces on this opportunity. "Hey black," he says to an African-American guy, "You got a smoke?"

"Nah man, I don't got any of that crap."

He walks back to me. "Times is tough. It's still a great country though. Except we got this President that looks in the mirror and hates what he see. Dude wishes he was white. Whatever though man. People going to get by. People be tripping, but I don't. Not unless it's about taking care of my family. That's the only thing I trip about."

"That's good man. You got to take care of your family."

"I sure do. See here?" He gestures to a bag with a couple of shoe boxes. I nod. "I been out since early today getting shoes for my daughter, and I just heard back from my baby momma that I got the wrong size. I got a good price on them though. Twenty-five bucks a piece. That's fifty bucks, man. I'm going back to the store to get the right size. I spent fifty bucks, man, they better hook me up, you know?"

"Yeah, makes sense."

Another bus pulls up. It's the 29. Wrong again. This time my companion sees a Mexican guy and says, "Hey homie! You gotta smoke? I give you a quarter for a smoke." The other guys just shakes his head and starts walking down the stairs.

The guy walks back to me, and clicks his quarter against the glass wall of the bus stop. "Times is tough."

Wanting to continue the conversation, I ask, "How old's your daughter?"

"Well, I got four kids. Two are eleven, one is seven, and one's four. That youngest one, she's crazy though. She just hits. It's crazy sometimes. These shoes are for the eleven year olds."

He clicks the quarter against the glass a few more times, and our conversation fizzles out. Finally, he takes off down the block, and I'm left alone. The 9x bus comes. The 45 comes again. Then the 29 comes again.

I see a few more cycles of the same wrong buses, and I decide just to walk it. I've now spent an hour waiting for this bus that apparently isn't coming, and I just want to get to my hotel.

I check my map again, and I take off one way expecting to find a specific cross street. I cross a few streets only to realize that I'm going the wrong way. I sigh at my inability to do basic tasks, and take off the other way, this time, thankfully, down hill. Half way to my hotel, it reverts to going uphill, making my trip effectively up hill both ways. Somebody tell grandpa he was right; it is possible.

A mile and a half later through some of the safest streets of San Francisco (you can tell it's a safe area because the bars across the windows and doors in conjunction with the prevalence of graffiti really scare away all the unsavory characters) I finally make it to my hotel.

Times is tough, all right. But things are looking up.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Doctor Feel Good? or This Post Is Rated PG-13

I went to a specialist yesterday. You see, I have an indentation on my right shin-bone (that's tibia to you dorks out there) that seems like it has been slowly growing since high school. It doesn't hurt at all, but my mind can't seem to help thinking about the possibility of me going out for a run, only to have my tibia shatter like so many glass bottles against so many heads of so many heroes of so many western movies in so many bar fights.

I went to my primary care physician (or PCP to you druggies out there) last year and told him about this (because at the time I was watching a lot of House, and it seemed like it was always the mundane detail that the patient neglected to bring up that made that patient lose their life/leg/face). He felt around on my leg and looked perplexed. Then he said, "Well, let's get you an x-ray to see if we can't figure this out."

I got my x-rays (in January 2009), and then at my last doctor's appointment (in August 2009), he reviewed the pictures. Given that there is a large hole in my leg bone, you would think that it would be easy to see on an x-ray. I can why you're not a doctor.

He pulls up the picture on the screen, and looks at it and then looks at the other one, and, sure enough, there is nothing to be seen. So he sends me to the specialist I referenced earlier, because the next step, in his opinion, would be an MRI, and only the specialist can order that procedure. I had my appointment yesterday.

My time at the specialist's office started off with them taking my weight. The scale is around the corner from the nurse's station; despite the name, a good number of doctors hang out there also. As I couldn't be seen by the staff, I overheard the following exchange:

Male Doctor 1 - Looks like you got a package in the mail.
Male Doctor 2 - Must be that [sex toy typically used by women]* I ordered.
Every other doctor and nurse in the area - SHHHHHHH!!!!!

This calm and professional environment really put me at ease, so you can imagine my surprise when they took my blood pressure a few minutes later and it was higher than normal. I made some excuse about how I've had coffee that morning, and that is what it was chalked up to.

I wait for a few minutes until the doctor comes in. She seemed like a nice lady. That is, it seemed like she was a nice lady up until she laughed.

Now, I consider myself a student of the human experience, and I have found that when people are in friendly conversation, they may chuckle for one to three seconds either nervously or in an effort to be polite. But this lady laughed for a good ten to fifteen seconds at a time.

I don't believe I am exaggerating at all when I claim that this was the most AWKWARD EXPERIENCE IN MY YOUNG LIFE.

Why, you may ask? Well, her laugh was very similar to Janice's on Friends. I submit the following clip as exhibit A.

Except it went on for ten to fifteen seconds.

Here is a clip from our conversation:

Doctor - So your blood pressure is high and I notice you're sweating.
AC - Yeah, it's a little warm in here.
Doctor - Sure, and I bet it's a little nerve-wracking to come to a new doctor.
AC - (Trying to be friendly) Well, you've been pretty far.
AC - (Chuckling politely)
AC - (Chuckling politely and looking Doctor in the eye to ascertain just what is going on here)
AC - (Trying to chuckle politely, yet wanting desperately to shoot himself in the face to get away from this insane laughter, but, having no weapon, opts instead to look at the floor)
Doctor - HAHAHAHAHA! So, I don't know what's wrong with your leg. I'll measure the indentation, and then you can make an appointment to come back and we'll see if it has grown. Does that sound like a good plan?
AC - (Thankful the aural assault has concluded, and not wanting to set her off again) Yeah, that sounds like a good plan.

And the whole thing repeats again.

I did not make a follow-up appointment, and I don't know that I will. It's a real horse race in my mind between coming back and letting my shin shatter. I'm just saying a wheel chair is looking real good about now.

*I couldn't bring myself to type it. I guess that's why I'll never write for Larry David. Also, it's why this post isn't rated R.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Ten on Tuesday: K

1: Kielbasa - This is delicious.

2: Kerouac, Jack - I don't really consider myself a prude, but when I tried to read On the Road in high school I found that I couldn't get through it. I had gotten to a point where Kerouac's friend Dean had left his wife and young children without explanation to go on another road trip with Jack, and I was too offended to continue. I don't think I would be quite as offended now, but it was profoundly offensive to me then.

3: King Stahlman Bail Bonds - I think it is a safe assessment to say that everybody in San Diego has heard of King Stahlman. His advertisements run across every form of local media. There is a location of his bail bond store (?) near my office, and painted on the same building, it is referred to both as "King" Stahlman Bail Bonds and King Stahlman Bail Bonds. I take the difference in quotation marks to mean that on certain sides of the building he is an actual king and on certain sides he is only playing a "king."*

4: 311 - A friend of mine in high school claimed that the band 311 got it's name because it was a white supremacist group, as K is the eleventh letter of the alphabet, and so 311 would therefore equal KKK. It seemed pretty unlikely to me, but the rumor was apparently pretty widespread as it has received mention over at However, according to Snopes, the real story behind the name is that 311 is allegedly the police code for indecent exposure, which the band figured out when one member got a ticket for skinny dipping. Take that high school friend!

5: Klondike Pizza - This little pizza restaurant started in a small town ("The Village of Arroyo Grande" as their sign says) near my home town and then started another location in my home town. It is my favorite pizza, bar none. Friday nights for me as a kid were pizza nights, and I did my fair share of begging to be taken here. From the peanut shells on the floor to the numerous posters for the Iditarod to their motto "We cheat the other guy and pass the savings on to you!", this place it good times.


7: Kart, Mario - A supremely frustrating game for the Nintendo 64 as the game would actually cheat (by having computer characters move much more quickly than they are supposed to) if you got too good at the game. This is why I don't have any hair. Thanks a lot Mario.

8: Koopa - While on the subject of Mario, in the original Super Mario Bros. game, at the end of the fourth level in every world, you would try to defeat King Koopa with the expectation that you would rescue the Princess after you defeat him. For the first seven worlds, there would just be a baby waiting for you, and a message would play saying "Thank you Mario! But our princess is in another castle!" At the end of the eighth world, you have to go through a ridiculous maze that, if you make a wrong turn, just repeats itself over and over again until you die by running out of time. I am not sure how anybody figured that maze out without the internet guiding the way; it was ridiculous for the designers to expect me as a five year old to be happy about getting to the last level only to lose life after life and ultimately have to start the game over. If you manage to get to and beat Koopa, you now have a Princess to fawn over you as well as seven illegitimate children to look after. I'm pretty sure this is why American men then to shy away from relationships.
9: Kilgore Trout - This is Kurt Vonnegut's alter-ego in many of his novels. Both are just so brilliant.
10: Krab - This is how artificial crab is frequently spelled in sushi restaurants. While it tastes virtually identical, one can't help but wonder if there is some pernicious Soviet influence at work with this imitation meat.

*I felt this was more appropriate in a foot note. In verifying how to spell his name, I learned that he passed away earlier this year. I was unaware.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Ten on Tuesday: J (With Extra Footnotes to Make Amends for Last Week)

1: Jeremiah - Was a bull frog (also, he was a good friend of mine).

2: Junk - When I was in college, a phrase that gained popularity when you were playfully mad at someone else was, "I'm going to punch you in the junk," or, instead of "punch," you could instead say some other violent action like "I'm going to kick you in the junk," or "I'm going to atom bomb and send smallpox to your junk".***** When somebody said this (and it was, quite frequently, Christie), I liked to add something along the lines of "Yeah! Right in their Chinese ship!" I was greatly amused.

3: Jersey Boys - I saw it with my brother on the Vegas trip with the guys, and I saw it again last week with my lovely wife. It was terrific both times; I highly recommend it.

4: "Jamaica Me Crazy" - At a get-together with some friends in my home town last year, I decided it would be funny to, whenever I saw one friend in particular, say the phrase "Jamaica me crazy!" and then playfully poke and tickle him.* His response was always to run away. I don't know whether he enjoyed it as much as I did, but I do know that the second time I did so, he disappeared from the party for about an hour.

5: James Buchanan - I, on a whim, researched him earlier this year, and I even contemplated getting a mouse pad with his likeness (though I decided it was a bad idea). I'm not sure why I have any friends.

6: Jar Jar Binks - When I was sixteen going on seventeen, I queried my mother by saying, "Mother dear, if you find it prudent, I would sincerely appreciate the opportunity to go see The Phantom Menace with some upstanding members of the community." She, in turn, allowed me to go to the midnight showing of Star Wars: Episode 1 with some friends. I was stoked; after all, that movie was going to be awesome, and I was going to be a part of the cultural force that got to see it first. As you all likely know, to say that that movie was a bit of a disappointment is like saying Tom Brady is only a little bit like Gaston -- it's an incredible understatement. Let me add to that the observation that at two in the morning, Jar Jar Binks gets real old, real fast. "Me-sa want-uh blow my head off!"

7: Jello - Is there really always room for it?

8: Al Jolson - When I was Snoopy in Snoopy!!! a few years back, the director wanted me to sing one of my song's like Al Jolson. So, I listened to some of his music, and I gave it my best shot. The director said something like, "Do you even know who Al Jolson is?" I don't think I ever got it the way he wanted me to get it. Looking back now, I wonder if he wanted me to do it in black-face.**

9: Jimmy Eat World - One of the first jobs I had when I got out of college was teaching voice at a music store.*** In between students, I would talk with one of the other teachers (who also worked as the cashier) about music and bands that we liked. One day, she said, "What makes Jimmy Eat World so good? Why are all of their songs so catchy?" I said, "I was thinking about that, and I really think it's the vocal harmonies."**** She looked at me with a look that looked like looking was the last courtesy she would afford me, and then she changed the subject.

10: Jalopy - This is my weekly old-timey word that I wish people would use more. As in, the cranky curmudgeon hopped in his jalopy and went to the haberdashery.********

*I have done straighter things in my life.*********
**Which is just offensive. I mean, absolutely morbidly obese.
***The store went out of business pretty quickly (in five or six months), which I don't really consider my fault, but I guess I'll never know.
****In my defense, I was listening to a lot of music at the time, trying to find songs for my students in the rock genre which I hadn't had as much formal experience with. I knew that I liked their harmonies. Would I still say that their harmonies are what made their songs catchy? I guess that would depend on how pretentious I was feeling that day.
*****Somewhat surprisingly, this one never really caught on.******
******Yes, I know these are out of order. It's called revising and rewriting.*******
*******(And being too lazy to re-asterisk your footnotes).
********Bam! Full circle!
*********And by "Straighter," I mean, "More heterosexual." In case anyone was wondering.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Ten on Tuesday: I

1: Incomplete - See this list. We'll see you at J!*

*Yes, I know this is a cop-out.