Monday, August 31, 2009

Conversational Bits

Here are some bits of actual conversations I’ve had or overheard recently:

Astronaut
Dee: “You can’t be claustrophobic or afraid of heights if you want to be an astronaut.”
Me: “Right.”
Dee: “That’s why I’m not an astronaut.”
Me: “Yeah, that’s why you’re not an astronaut.”

Swing
Kid 1: “I got this swing up pretty high!”
Kid 2: “Not super high, though.”
Kid 1: “It won’t go up super high.”
Kid 2: “That’s why you suck!”

Schedule
Me: “We have to leave in about ten minutes.”
Drew: “Okay.”
Me: “Are you going to shower?”
Drew: “Yeah, but probably later.”
Me: “Are you going to put on some clothes?”
Drew: “For what?”
Me: “We have to leave in ten minutes for the Space Center.”
Drew: “Oh, I didn’t know we were on a time schedule.”

Dee’s World
Dee: “If you got a job writing for a TV show, I’d move to LA.”
Me: “It’s that easy, huh?”
Dee: “Then I could work at the gym of the lesbian that has the TV show.”
Me: “Yeah.”
Dee: “And then I’d be on that TV show.  And I’d go on tour with Janet in my free time.”
Me: “Sounds like a plan.”
Dee: “Dee’s world.  Dee’s world.  Dee’s world.  Doo dee doo.”

Stalactites and Stalagmites
Dee: “What’s the difference?”
Me: “A stalactite hangs from the roof of the cave, a stalagmite grows from the floor.
Dee: “Oh.”
Me: “Do you know what it’s called when a stalactite meets a stalagmite?”
Dee: “Combustion?”

Friday, August 28, 2009

The Shuttle Launch I Almost Saw

Note: Due to my travels and extraordinary circumstances the regularly scheduled programming on Mindsilt.com has been slightly interrupted.  Everything will be back to normal next week.  If you haven’t noticed that there is a schedule and pattern to my posts, never mind.

If you’ve been following me on Twitter or Facebook, you know that I spent the past week in Florida at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in the hopes of seeing my uncle pilot the Space Shuttle Discovery into space. You also know that the launch was scrubbed twice during my alloted time there and I was unable to see him lift off in person.  They are trying again tonight but I am back home in Chicago and will have to watch the launch on NASA TV instead.

 The six days we spent in Florida were packed with action.  Friday night we went to see District 9 — to keep with the space theme of the week.  On Saturday, Dee, Dee’s mom and I went to Universal Studios and experienced the “rides.”  My suggestion: only go to Universal Studios if you are a fan of lame-ass almost-rides.  We spent Sunday at the KSC taking in the sights and collecting our tickets and passes for the launch.  Unfortunately, we didn’t have time for the bus tour of the KSC, so we decided to come back on Monday for the tour.  We did.  We saw more rockets and lunar landers and tried not to sweat in the 90-plus degree heat.

After the bus tour, we headed back to our resort to have a quick dinner and try to get a little rest before the launch.  Once we had nourished ourselves and napped, we piled back into the cars and made our way back to the KSC.  We overestimated the traffic we thought we would encounter and arrived much earlier than we had hoped.  Thankfully, the KSC still had many exhibits open and Dee, Drew, Alyssa and I were able to try the Shuttle Experience Simulator.  The Shuttle Experience Simulator attempts to recreate the feeling of being in the Shuttle during liftoff.  Basically, it just tilts you back and shakes you around a lot.

Eventually, we boarded the bus to the site where we were to watch the launch.  We were located about three miles from the launch pad and had a magnificent view of the Shuttle as it sat ready to go.  We sat in aluminum bleachers next to a large countdown timer and a small television so that we could see what was going on in and around the Shuttle.  Around us was a large swamp, so we were quite thankful we remembered bug spray.  It smelled like bananas.  The bug spray, not the swamp.  Strange.

We sat watching the launch pad and the storms that hovered over the area.  All evening, they were “red” for the weather conditions and we suspected the launch would be delayed.  However, minutes before launch all of the weather conditions with the exception of two went “green.”  The crowd cheered and the skies seemed to part just above the Shuttle.  Everyone was optimistic and you could suddenly feel the excitement.  I prepped my camera and got ready for launch.  The clock got down under nine minutes before a voice came over the loud speakers and announced that the launch was a “no-go” due to lightning in the area.  I said, “Aww, crap,” because my mom was nearby, otherwise I would have said, “Aww, shit.”

Disappointed, we climbed back on the bus.  Our tour guide on the bus looked and sounded like G. W. Bush.  He even said “simyooler” instead of “similar.”  His name was Dale and he was the type of guy you love to have narrating your trip on the bus but not the type of guy you’d want to run the country.  He tried to console us by telling us that they would try again the next night.  We hoped he was right, but he was not.  The next day they encountered a problem with one of the fuel valves and had to reschedule for today.

Unfortunately, we could not stay for a “maybe” launch on Friday.  We flew home Wednesday and I’m now sitting in my living room as Kevin (my uncle) is strapped into the pilot’s seat in the Space Shuttle Discovery.  Launch is scheduled for 11:59:37 pm EST.  By 12:08:07 am EST, Kevin should finally be in space.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

What To Do While Waiting for Your Uncle's Space Shuttle To Launch

1) Make sure your camera is set to take good night-time photos.
2) Text message your brother’s wife about how the bus tour guide looks and sounds like G. W. Bush.
3) Stake out a good spot in the bleachers.
4) Take pictures of the countdown timer.
5) Listen to your uncle do his communications check with Houston.
6) Explain to the lady disgusted by all the Swedes in the area that one of the astronauts is Swedish.
7) Twitter about the non-linear countdown system and its confusing ways.
8) Thank your wife for remembering to bring bug spray.
9) Stare three miles straight ahead and marvel that your uncle is sitting in a spaceship.
10) Pack up, head to the resort, go to sleep and get ready to do it again tomorrow.

Monday, August 24, 2009

T-minus 00:08:52:00

It is hot and muggy in Florida, but we've been making the best of it. Since we arrived on Friday we've been going non-stop which is why this post will be so brief and why this week's post schedule will probably be off. I'll try to stick to the standard schedule, but I'm making no promises.

Right now we're all getting a little rest before we head back to the Kennedy Space Center to see the launch tonight. There will be pictures and possibly video by the end of the week.

-- Post From My iPhone

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Truth: Wrong Number

When my phone rings at 1:00 a.m. I usually sleep right through it. Unfortunately on June 12, 2001 I woke up.  Waking up suddenly at 1:00 a.m. does not leave me ready to deal with a phone conversation.  In fact, I'm often quite confused and disoriented, even in my own home.  Confused, I answered the phone with a noise I imagine sounded much like, "He-o."  I’m not sure what I expected the person on the other end of the phone to say, but I was definitely unprepared for the conversation I was about to have.  Of course, I was unprepared for anything anyone would have said to me except, "I'm sorry, wrong number."  If that was the case, I would have hung up the phone and gone back to sleep.  No problem.  This man made a terrible mistake.  He asked me a question.

"Is this Jeff Ford?"

"Huh?" I wittily replied.

"Is this Jeff Ford, damnit?"

"Uh, yeah."

"You killed my brother."

"Right.  Wait WHAT?!"  At this point I was officially awake yet I hadn't quite grasped the concept that he was accusing me of murder.

"You heard me. You killed my brother."

"I'm sorry, you've got the wrong guy."

"What?"

"You've got the wrong guy. I didn't kill your brother."

"Is this Jeff Ford that lives at 750 Chicago 60657?"

"Um, yeah," I said, knowing that no such place existed in that zip code, and even if it did, I didn't live there.

"You killed my brother, I'm coming to get you."

"Excuse me?"  Notice how polite I am to this man accusing me of killing his brother and now threatening to "get me."

"I'm coming to kill you. You killed my brother."  Now he’s officially threatened to kill me.  I’m not sleeping tonight.

"Who is this?"

"You know who I am."

"No, I don't. Who is this?"

"Tyrone. Man, you killed my brother. I'm gonna get you."

"Me? But I'm not the guy you're looking for."

"You're Jeff Ford, right."

"Yeah, but not that Jeff Ford."

At this point I decided there was no point to engaging in an argument with this man about how Jeff Ford is a common name in this nation and that he might have to try several times before he found the guy. I hung up the phone.

I would have liked to return to my slumber, but closing my eyes and hanging out in dark places wasn't something I wanted to do anymore.  Tyrone was coming to kill me, after all.  Instead, I called the cops.  The cops put me on hold.  They didn't seem to understand the urgency.  I mean, I was standing alone in a dark apartment at 1:00 in the morning and there was a crazy man who was coming to kill me at a non-existent address.  Once the officer returned to the line, she got my information and I described the situation to her.  She said, "Well, did you kill his brother?"

"No! I don't even know who this guy is!”  Did she think she just got a big break on a murder case?

"Okay, relax. Well, I'll file it and someone may be in touch with you, but don't hold your breath."  Don’t hold my breath?  I shouldn’t expect a call back from the Chicago police after I received a death threat?  Serve and protect, my ass. 

A week later, the phone rang. I picked it up and said, "Hello, Jeff Ford."

"Mr. Ford, this is Detective Marcucci.  I'm calling about the threatening phone call you received."

"The death threat?  Yes."

"Are you aware of your name?"  I answered the phone with my name, maybe that wasn't enough for him.  "Sir, are you aware of your name?" he said quite loudly.

"Um, yes.  I’m Jeff Ford."

“Yes.  Have you heard of Jeff Fort?”

"I am Jeff Ford."  Are we going to do “Who’s On First” next?

"No, Jeff Fort. With a T."

"Oh. No, I've never heard of Jeff Fort."

"He was a leader of a gang in south Chicago in the '60s called the Black P. Stone Rangers. He's killed many men and is now serving a life sentence in a federal prison. This Tyrone fellow probably had you confused with him."

"I see."

"Well, there you go. If he calls back let me know."

"Right."

Unsatisfied, I turned to the Internet.  I searched for Jeff Fort and found the following picture.

This is a picture of him testifying before congress in 1968 so it may not be an accurate representation of what Jeff Fort looked like in 2001.  However, I was still pretty sure that no one was going to confuse me with him, even if he had grayed in the 33 years since then.

For more info on Jeff Fort, click here for his Wikipedia page.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

What To Do While Waiting for the Rain to Pass in a Public Park

1) Do your best to look straight while huddling under a tiny umbrella with your buddy Micah.
2) Try not to look like a drug dealer.
3) Avoid eye contact with the creepy looking homeless guy.
4) Be glad you’re not walking the dog.
5) Try not to stare at the girl on the track wearing a white sports bra.
6) Hide under the nearby bleachers.
7) Briefly consider smoking because it will seem like you actually have a reason to be outside.
8) Talk the park staff into letting you hang out with them in their storage shed and then answer questions about your video equipment that make it sound like you’re doing something legitimate without making it sound like you’re actually doing something legitimate.
9) Question the direction your life.
10) Pretend that you think the rain has stopped so you have an excuse to go out and check because you don’t want to fart in this cramped, windowless space.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Weddings and Snowflakes

It’s been the summer of weddings for Dee and me.  We’ve been to four and still have another one to go.  The wonderful thing about weddings is that they are like snowflakes.  They’re all annoying and the same from a distance, but up close they’re all annoying and unique in their own way.  What makes each wedding annoying and unique?  The guests and their clothes.

You see, I’m an old man and I’ve been to many, many, many weddings.  I’ve seen the good and the bad and no matter how cool you or your friends are, there will always be someone at the wedding that adds to the uniquely annoying pattern of your snowflake. 

Examples, you say?

I know that it’s warm and sunny in the summertime and that many of you have sensitive eyes, so I understand that you’ve brought your sunglasses.  I have mine, too.  Let’s wear them while we’re outside at the ceremony.  Let’s wear them while we’re on the patio having drinks.  Let’s not wear them inside while we’re hanging out having hors d’oeuvres.  We have lights that are adjusted to acceptable levels inside so that we don’t need sunglasses.  I know you think they look really cool — and they kinda do — but you look like a douche when you have them on inside.  Plus, people might think you’re blind and that’s insulting to actual blind people.

Don’t laugh over there, underdressed guy.  Your un-ironed shirt and poorly tied tie does not dress up those acid wash jeans.  I don’t care that you have a long, graying beard and steel-toed motorcycle boots.  You’re still at a wedding and everyone else managed to at least put on a pair of Dockers.  Also, your jeans are too tight.

I almost forgot about you, girl in ill-fitting dress.  Yes, that dress looked great on Vanessa Hudgens when you saw it in People, but you’re not Vanessa Hudgens.  In fact, it looks like you may have eaten Vanessa Hudgens.  Also, you shouldn’t wear an open-backed dress when your back looks like a topographical map of the Alps.  Look at that full figured lady over there.  Doesn’t her dress look great?  She’s accentuating the right things and not trying to be trendy.  Take notes.

I love to dance at a wedding when the DJ is really bringing it and I get hot and sweaty.  That’s part of the deal when you’re at a wedding.  Now, I know you think you look really good in your brand-new wife beater but we don’t need to see it.  Loosen up the tie, unbutton the top button, roll up the sleeves.  Those are all acceptable.  You can even lose the tie altogether, but keep your shirt on.  No one should have to see unshaven armpits at a wedding.

Excuse me, miss.  You’ve got great legs but that dress is way too short.  We’re not at the club.  Plus, my wife has caught me looking more than once.  Our hotel room does not have a couch.

Excuse me, sir.  Did short dress girl tie your tie?  That thing should at least reach your belt.  I’ve got some big shoes and a red nose you can borrow.

These are just a few examples of the people that make every wedding special.  I’d say that I’d love it if they read this post and took my advice, but then I’d actually have to work to make fun of people.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Fiction: A Punch In the Face

Now that Stinky Joe has left the car, I’ve got the train all to myself.  There is something comforting about an empty “L” car after a long work day.  It allows me to stretch out, audibly exhale in frustration and exhaustion and have my no-one-is-watching moment.  Today, it’s necessary and much appreciated.

I throw my shoulder bag on the seat next to me and step out into the aisle.  I inhale, balance myself — so that I may properly train surf and avoid touching anything on the train —  and stretch my arms out to my sides and exhale.  The sound I make is half groan, half sigh of relief.  I feel better, more relaxed.  I’m relaxed enough that I almost forget about the last — holy shit, it’s 2:00 AM — wow, nineteen hours.  I slump back into my seat suddenly feeling completely exhausted.  Thank God this is my stop and I’ll be home soon.

As I walk down the northernmost stairs of the Morse “L” platform, I realize how quiet my neighborhood can be.  It’s a nice change.  I exit the station and veer to the right heading north up Glenwood.  Glenwood is split by the “L” tracks — the northbound lane runs on the east side of the tracks and the southbound lane runs on the west.  I cross Lunt and follow the northbound lane towards my condo.  As I walk past a row of buildings on my right that have been undergoing renovations, I toss my gum into the industrial size construction dumpster on my left.  From behind the dumpster a man suddenly leaps out, blocking my path.  I look behind me.  Another man keeping me from going back the way I came.  They’ve got me pinned in.

“What do you want,” I ask.

“To have some fun,” the man in front of me responds.

I assume that “fun” to him means that he and his buddy are going to beat the crap out of me.  I know that I can’t fight both of these guys at once and expect to walk away.  Hell, I know that I probably can’t even fight one of them and expect to walk away.  My only chance is to distract one of them and hope I can outrun the other.

“Listen.  I’ll give you all my money, it’s right here in my bag,” I say as I unzip the external pocket on my shoulder bag.

“We don’t want your money, man.”

The guy in front of me slowly moves closer and I can make out that he’s wearing a Cubs hat.  I hate the Cubs.  I root around inside the pocket until I locate my small bottle of hand sanitizer and flip open the cap.  Cubs Hat takes another step and I lunge at his face, squeezing the bottle of sanitizer as hard as I can.  He lurches backwards in surprise and then clutches his face.  I turn and throw the empty bottle at the man behind me and sprint past Cubs Hat.  I feel the adrenaline surging through my body and I have a brief moment of euphoria as I think that I’m going to get away.  Then a hand on my foot.  Just enough to trip me up.  Cubs Hat managed to get enough of my shoe to make me stumble and that is all his buddy needed to catch up with me.  He shoves me to the ground from behind.  I skid on my shoulder and try to get to my feet.  As I look up, I see a fist flying at my face.

Everything goes black.

So that’s what it feels like to get punched in the face.  My eyes open and try to focus.  I’m tangled in something.  It’s something that’s moving.  It’s the guy that punched me.  I must have fallen into him after he punched me.  I struggle to get free but he is on top of me pounding on my back.  He has me down on my hands and knees.  He steps back to line me up for a kick and I quickly find his hips with my hands and push and stand up in one motion.  He rises off the ground about a foot before he is slammed into Cubs Hat, who has finally recovered from my mildly effective hand sanitizer assault.  They both tumble to the ground and I turn and run.  I turn right on Greenleaf and head for Sheridan hoping that there will be enough light and people to scare them off.  Unfortunately, I have underestimated the effects of the punch to the head.  I try to run as fast as I can but my balance is failing me and I begin weaving back and forth on the sidewalk, occasionally planting my hands on a parked car to steady myself and push off.  I see cars ahead zooming by on Sheridan and realize that they will catch up to me before I make it.  I try to keep moving but I have to think of something else.

For some reason I remember the lesson I was taught in elementary school that people won’t come if you just shout “help” and that you should shout “fire” instead.  I’m not even thinking clearly enough to be disappointed in myself for what I’m about to do.

“Help! Fire! Help! Fire! Fire! Fire!” I shout.

I wave my arms around like I’m pointing at something hoping that someone on Sheridan will see me.  I turn and look back and see Cubs Hat running towards me.  His buddy is behind him but moving very slowly, limping like he twisted his ankle.  I briefly wonder if this is lucky or unlucky for me.  I’ll have to put up a fight against one guy, but two would subdue me quickly and I’d black out before I felt too much pain.  I put the thought out of my head and start running.  I can hear him closing in.  I deliberately stagger towards the curb and drop down between two parked cars and take off my shoulder bag.  I adjust the bag so that I am holding the strap in a loop around my left wrist and I grab the briefcase handle with the other.  As Cubs Hat gets close, I spring up and swing the bag at his head.  He doesn’t have time to get his arms up and the bag makes a dull thud as it connects with his head.  He goes down.  I reposition the bag, ready to strike again when he gets up.  He’s not getting up.  He’s not moving.  He’s out cold.

Thank God I brought my laptop to work today.

I look up and see his friend frozen on the sidewalk about 100 feet away.  Remembering his limp, I suddenly feel confident.

“I’ll knock you out, too, Limpy!”

“Fuck you,” he shouts as he turns and limps away.

I suddenly feel very dizzy.  The adrenaline is wearing off and the pain in my head is very real.  I feel my jaw getting tight and gently touch my newly swollen eye.  I remember Cubs Hat lying on the ground and I grab my bag and start running home.  I feel every punch that Limpy landed on my back as I run.  I should probably go to a hospital.  I just want to get home.

When I walk into my apartment, I set down my bag and go directly to the bathroom to assess the damage.  I have blood on my face and shirt and all over my hands.  My roommate walks by the open bathroom door and says, “Hey Ted, what’s up?”  I wave as he passes by.

“Whoa!  What happened to your hand,” he asks as he turns and moves back into the doorway, “What the fuck?”

“I ran out of hand sanitizer.”

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The Pros and Cons of the NFL Pre-season

Pros:
1) It’s freaking football season!
2) There’s finally coverage of something besides baseball.
3) It won’t be long until I can go outside without sweating.

Cons:
1) The games are only interesting for about an hour.
2) People still pretend that the World Series is important in October.
3) My wife will want to crank up the heat.

Monday, August 10, 2009

The Future of Dance

As a former Luvabull and Adrenaline Rush Dancer, my wife loves her some dance shows.  If there is a dance show on TV, she’ll find it, TiVo it and obsessively watch it.  This means that I have seen way more dance shows than I’ve ever wanted to see.  In fact, there are one or two that I find interesting.  Dancing With the Stars is terrible, So You Think You Can Dance? is intermittently tolerable and America’s Best Dance Crew is watchable.  No matter what I think of these dance shows, it’s obvious that America loves dancing — right now, anyway.

Dee was watching an America’s Best Dance Crew marathon when one of the judges, Shane Sparks, mentioned that he wants to create a situation where dancers get paid like actors.  I understand his sentiment and it’s a very admirable thing to want for his chosen profession, but I wonder what exactly he is cooking up.  From what Dee tells me, he has been working on getting dancers from his shows into movies and to get more movies about dancing made.  What else?  He’s going to need more than that if he wants dancers to be on the same pay scale as big-time Hollywood actors.

Right now, the pinnacle for a dancer is to become a part of one of the many very popular shows on TV.  To become a pro on Dancing With the Stars, to become a judge/choreographer on So You Think You Can Dance? or to win the cash prizes by actually winning one of the shows.  Of course, winning those shows provides other opportunities - like appearing on other shows as guest acts.  The dance crew Jabbawockeez won America’s Best Dance Crew and they recently appeared as a guest act on So You Think You Can Dance?.  When I saw it, I thought it was great — look at Jabbawockeez, they’ve attained even more success.  Unfortunately, this success and opportunity has only been created by the shows that have made dancing popular in the first place.

It’s all circular.  So long as dance shows are popular there will be more opportunities for dancers to be successful.  What happens when those dance shows are eventually cancelled and replaced by the next big fad?  Where will the opportunities for the dancers be?  There will still be Broadway shows, movies that need dancers, award shows, NBA dance teams and music videos but those opportunities existed prior to the dance show craze.  Once the dance shows are gone, the opportunities for dancers will go back to where they were pre-dance show craze, unless Shane Sparks can develop some other persistent opportunities for dancers.

Why do I care?  I don’t, really.  I just think it’s interesting that when an industry creates a recursive series of opportunities that can all come crashing down at the whim of the American public.  Interestingly, it’s the same way they choose their winners.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Truth: Heeeere's Jeffrey!

Like any six year old, I never wanted to go to bed at my designated bedtime.  I never fought my parents too hard on it, though.  I went to bed like a good boy, but I didn’t fall asleep.  My head was too full of thoughts and ideas and fantasies for me to fall asleep.  I would lie there making up stories in my head or thinking about being a star in the NFL until I got bored with all those fantasies that I’d lived several times over in my dark bedroom.  Once I’d finished my mental playlist, I’d quietly sneak out of bed and make my way downstairs.  I’d get to the bottom of the stairs and immediately drop to my knees and very carefully crawl down the hallway until I was behind my dad’s La-Z-Boy.  From that position I could peek around the corner of the chair without being seen by my dad who was sitting in the chair and my mom who was sitting on the couch.  I’d get into position just before the beginning of The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson.

Every night I’d get excited when I heard the opening music because that meant that Ed McMahon was about to say, “Heeeere’s Johnny!” which was my favorite part of the show.  I always wondered why they didn’t let Ed talk more on the show because Johnny just got up and told a bunch of jokes about people I didn’t know.  Boring.  Eventually, I would get bored with the show — unless he had animals on — and I would head back to bed and fall asleep.

I kept up this routine for several months.  I had perfected my silent crawl and knew exactly how to position myself so that I wouldn’t be seen.  It also helped that both of my parents would fall asleep during the show, which made it significantly harder for them to discover me.  I had perfected the system and found a way to watch TV until I was actually tired enough to go to sleep.  Until one day when I threw it all away.

My mom was in the kitchen preparing dinner and I was roaming around the house with my imaginary friend when I decided (actually, it was a suggestion from my imaginary friend but let’s not split hairs) that it would be funny to surprise my mom in the kitchen.  I ran into the kitchen, spread my arms wide and yelled, “Heeeere’s Johnny!”  She laughed, paused and then gave me a funny look.  I walked out satisfied that I had made my mom laugh.

Later that night, I made my way back to my hiding spot and waited for The Tonight Show to come on.  I sat there barely breathing and not daring to peek over at the TV until I heard Ed McMahon.  The music started and I held my breath completely.  Ed McMahon belted out his line and my dad hopped out of his chair and said, “Heeeere’s Jeffrey!”  When I saw him in front of me I froze in horror.  How did he know I was there?  Had he known all this time?  I had been so careful.  What could have possibly tipped him off?  Then I remembered my moment with my mom in the kitchen.  Done in by my own showmanship.

My dad sent me to bed with much less fury than I had expected and I marched back up the stairs to the sound of my parents giggling in the background.  At least someone was happy, because I knew I was stuck entertaining myself at night from then on.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Here's the Thing...

…legally and logically, it seems like the correct solution is either marriage for everyone or marriage for no one.

…dancing like Michael Jackson involves more than just grabbing your crotch.  I know it’s the easiest of his moves, but push yourself, people.

…anyone who honestly thinks that the situations at Nickel Mines, Columbine and Virginia Tech would have been improved by the people involved carrying legally concealed firearms is a complete idiot.

…a really easy way to pay for a health care plan (and lot of other stuff) would be to tax the shit out of junk food.

…pretending to be a crazy man and actually being a crazy man are separated by a very thin, blurry line.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Fear

If my childhood friends had been more cruel, I might have been nicknamed “Fraidycat.” Fortunately, my friends were not cruel and I had to live with being called “Ford.” Luckily for me, that also happened to be my last name. However, that didn’t change the fact that I was scared of practically everything I encountered. I’d like to say that I’ve grown out of most of those fears, but that’s just not true. I’m still scared of nearly everything.

Heights

My most easily identifiable fear is heights. Acrophobia is the formal term. Anything above three stories pretty much scares the crap out of me. In my old office building, we had a four-story rotunda in the entrance and the company would often have events on the first floor and the employees would gather on each of the floors. My desk was located on the third floor and whenever I had to watch one of those events, I would try to figure out ways to not be on the third floor when they started. Unfortunately, I would always forget when those events were starting and I would be stuck on the third floor when someone on my team would come to my cube to round me up for the event. Everyone else would casually stroll up to the railing that overlooked the lobby and lean down to watch the proceedings. I, however, would slowly inch my way up to the railing with my arm extended out as far as it would possibly go. Once I could reach the railing, I would grab ahold and inch up to it without looking down. All the while, I was trying to look as casual as possible while everyone else looked at me like I was crazy. Once I had convinced myself that the railing wouldn’t fail under my weight, I was even able to look down and watch whatever corporate silliness was happening in the lobby — terrified all the while.

Phones

My parents were always very good about teaching me proper manners for answering and talking on the phone. Any good parenting handbook will tell you that is a sure way to inspire confidence in your children on the phone. It didn’t work for me. I’ve never been comfortable talking on the phone to people I don’t know. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s a trust thing. It’s so bad that my wife knows not to assign me to call places to make reservations because she knows I’ll put it off as long as I possibly can. Eventually, I’ll make the call and talk to the stranger on the other end and we’ll get our reservations, but it will usually be later than we want. If it wasn’t for the Internet, I’d probably never get anything done.

Water

When I was about seven years old my dad decided that I needed to learn how to swim. He signed me up for swimming lessons at the high school. Little did he know that I was terrified of the water — especially the Deep End. I knew that the high school had an especially deep Deep End and wanted none of it. I complained to my dad and told him I didn’t want to go. He insisted. On the drive to the high school, I got myself so worked up that we had to stop twice so that I could get out and puke. It was a ten-minute drive. Once I got to the lesson, I made a beeline for the shallow end and spent most of my time there. Eventually, I was promoted (read: dragged) to the Deep End. I refused. I was then physically thrown into the Deep End. I sank. Someone jumped in and pulled me out. I puked.

At some point in my life, I learned how to swim. I’m not sure when it happened and I’m not sure where, but I now know that anytime I get into a body of water, I can swim like hell if I need to.

Pretty Women

Does that really count? Aren’t all guys afraid of pretty women?

Fear Itself

Many of you who know me may be surprised that I have the fears I listed above. I do a fairly good job of disguising those fears because my biggest fear is the fear of people finding out that I have fears. Every time I encounter one of my fears, I’m temporarily frozen until I remember that people are watching me or counting on me. I then remember that I would have to explain my fear to those people if I failed to overcome. That scares me more than anything else.

The only thing I have to fear is fear itself.