Character

Tonight was an interesting study in human character.  A couple years ago I worked with this guy who’s about my age.  He was never military, but has had a wide range of experiences.  We have similar interests and kind of hit it off, even though we were in different departments and at different levels of hierarchy.  A couple of years ago he decided he wanted to get into motorcycling and asked me to help him shop for a new motorcycle.  We’ve gone on photowalks together, I’ve sent customers to buy hand made leather products from him, etc.

He likes this particular brand of motorcycle gloves.  I’ve always thought they looked like gardening gloves.  I tried some on in person and they were just awkward and uncomfortable.  I left that experience believing they were just a hipster badge, like drinking PBR and wearing flannel and beards.  If you want to spend your money on that, no problem.  But they aren’t for me.

When I did this last ride, I realized that my gloves suck.  I like wool, so I started searching online for wool lined gloves and the only ones I could find were made by this company.  So I ordered them, at $95/pair.  They showed up last week and were terrible.  I soaked them in water and wore them for an hour, that helped them fit better.  The next day I wore them to work.  On their website they advertise them as “winter” gloves.  When I rode to work it was 50 degrees and my hands were still cold in them.  So they officially got a “hell no” from me.

I’ve been upfront about them.  I don’t know what my end goal is, but I’m trying to grow my “brand” on social media.  I’m never going to stop being an IT guy and start being a full time photographer (at least until I retire) but I’d rather have options than not.  So I’ve been posting stuff online and building a base.  When I got the gloves I started taking photos of them, tagging the manufacturer online, etc.  And I’ve been honest.  When I didn’t like something, I said it, in public, in a public forum and I tagged the company so they could respond.  They chose not to.  And my comments haven’t been “they suck!”, they’ve been thought out and solid.  Not always as verbose as possible, given the medium, but the channel was there for the company to contact me for more in-depth feedback.

I met up with 3 Army guys after work tonight.  People I’ve entrusted with my life over the years.  I’m not going to say they’ve been perfect.  They’ve failed.  But they’ve picked themselves up and tried again.  And while we were drinking tonight we were honest again.  Told one guy how much we all hated him when we first met him.  One guy told me I needed to stop talking because my opinion wasn’t valid anymore because I’d been out of the Army too long and my info was dated.  That stung, he knew it did, but I got over it.  The mutual respect and admiration was palpable.  And because of that respect we could have different opinions and still be friends.

After I left the bar I saw I had a text.  I’d thought my former coworker had posted a photo and tagged the company that makes the gloves.  Actually the glove manufacturer had re-posted my friend’s photo.  I’d said “I’m sorry, but I can’t support you on this one, I think they’re glorified gardening gloves”.  His text was frantic.  Did I realize it wasn’t his account that I’d posted it to?  No, but I didn’t care, I’d say it to their face.  That was fine, but I shouldn’t drag him into my displeasure with their product.  How was I drawing him in?  I said I just didn’t agree with his opinion?

Well, turns out they were upset and contacted him.  They didn’t have the nerve to contact me, even though they’d admitted to him that they knew I wasn’t pleased with their product.  They weren’t willing to discuss the merit of my opinions.  But they’d helped him get some exposure as a photographer and were threatening to black-ball him in the community.  And even though he agreed that they were way over-hyped, he was scared to admit it.

I’m trying not to judge him.  I don’t know his personal situation and I don’t know what he’s going through.  I don’t know him well enough to know what motivates him.  But I do know that the timing of our conversation definitely makes me appreciate my real friends, my tribe, more.

Frontline Radio

I’ve had a slacker account that I’ve used for years.  Way back when I thought it had a nice, flashy interface compared to Pandora and I love music enough and was too lazy to convert my extensive CD collection to MP3 so I bought a subscription.

I really haven’t been getting the most out of it over the years.  Originally I created a station or two, threw a couple dozen artists in there and then just started hitting favorite on songs until I had an auto-generated playlist.  Late last year I switched to an android phone and since Christmas I’ve been road-tripping a lot on the weekends.  With the new interface for the Slacker app on the new phone and more time in a car I decided I should start exploring more and started playing more of their curated stations.  My “favorites” station was getting somewhat incestuous and it needed some fresh blood.

Not too long ago I found frontline radio.  You can listen to it here. 

It’s a pretty neat station.  People write in with songs that had some significant meaning to them during their military career.  Even if you just fast-forward through a song because you don’t like that particular piece of music, the stories are fun to listen to, especially as a veteran.  I was road-tripping this weekend and was just enjoying it so much that I called my Dad and I think he’s downloaded the app so he can listen now too.

For years, this song always struck home with me.  It’s “Cot” by the Carnival Strippers:

I’ve been that exhausted before, especially at the end of a tour, coming home after a year of keeping it all together and getting everyone back.

This weekend while driving the song “Zzyzx Road” by Stone Sour came on.  I’d never heard it, but the story was instantly relate-able as was the song:

 

 

Time

I didn’t have the absolute best dating luck in the beginning.  The first girl I ever made out with committed suicide.  My first REAL girlfriend cheated on me while I was laid up for the summer with a broken ankle.  I got engaged to my second.  But she was settling for me.  Once she got accepted to Harvard Divinity School for her graduate degree she moved away and called the engagement off less than a month later.  My third serious girlfriend broke up with me while I was in a month long residence course in the military.  We were sequestered in a section of Ft. Bragg, NC, cut off from the rest of the world.  Of course, she didn’t really tell me that she was breaking up with me.  This was early in the days of usable cell phones, when they were becoming affordable and small and not everyone had one yet.  I sure didn’t.  So we communicated a lot via old-fashioned mail.  One day the letters started coming back to me.  It wasn’t until I graduated the course that I finally got her on a landline and got some answers.

Years later she tried to get in touch with me.  We haven’t been super close, but we check in from time to time.  A couple of times she wanted to get back together, but I could just never trust her again.  I can’t really explain it, but she was kind of the straw that broke the camel’s back.  After that I definitely turned turtle and I don’t think I ever opened up as much or was as sappily, openly romantic again.

When I was a kid, I was way more painfully shy, awkward and introverted than I am today.  I was a senior in high school before I really ever asked someone out.  And those “asks” probably didn’t go well.  I think my Dad knew, but didn’t have a clue what to say to me.  He was always on the extroverted side: no such thing as a stranger, just a friend he hadn’t met.  And apparently he was a little bit of a player back in the day so he just couldn’t relate.  I never really moped about it much, but once he felt the need to try and cheer me up a bit.  I actually think it was when I didn’t make a basketball team in junior high and his pep talk had nothing to do with dating.  He just admitted that he grew up gawky and awkward and had to get by on his personality.  He told me to hang in there, that when I was 30 I’d be a catch.  When I was 13 or 14 that wasn’t a helluva consolation.  I can remember when I was finally in my 30s and things didn’t really get better, thinking I’d been cheated!

That girl texted me today.  She’s working for a florist and doing all these arrangements for Valentine’s Day.  She’s single, so that’s a special kind of hell.  “You did a lot of cute romanticy things for me when we were dating.  I appreciate those things so much more now.  It’s been years since anyone tied my shoes.  And years since anyone did anything really romantic for me.”  Now to be clear, I don’t have a creepy foot fetish.  She’s 4’11” and had tiny feet.  I used to love to tie her little sneakers for her.

Anyways, it was…  something.  A weird validation or something.  I’m not happy to see her life as the big mess that it is.  Yeah, there’s a petty part of me that is happy that the woman that broke up with me way back then now wishes she had someone like me.  But it’s more a validation that the work I’ve done over the years is good.  Getting over the things that happened in the past and opening up and making myself vulnerable is essential for connecting with people, for making good, lasting relationships and reconnecting with that goofy, romantic side of me is fun.

 

 

Dad

My Dad and I have been having some interesting discussions about combat and military service over the last couple of years.  He read “After Action, The True Story of a Cobra Pilot’s Journey” by Dan Sheehan a couple of months ago and it was pretty impactful to him.  So much so, that he jotted down these two notes to himself:

dad

Really, I’m just writing this as a note to myself, just to keep the photo.  But he felt that military service gave a lot of servicemen and women an enhanced consciousness and world changing knowledge.  It’s not the only way to gain such things, and some servicemembers are too…  closed off to ever grow personally.  But for most of us, it’s both a gift and a curse.

My Jam

This is a goofy little story about my song:

I’ve loved that song since the first time I heard it, I bought my first set of speakers specifically so they could handle the heavier bass of it.

I’ve quoted this before, but I’ve always liked the saying “When you’re happy you enjoy the music but when you’re sad you understand the lyrics.”  I’ve been listening to that song for almost 30 years and never, ever really heard the words.  I just loved the beat.  It’d get me jazzed up for whatever, work, running, rucking.  Whatever I needed to psyched up for.

I was hanging out with my son tonight, Christmas Eve.  He decided to go down the block to a friend’s house to stick his head in for a Christmas party his friend’s family was throwing.  I took the time to load up his stocking and realized it came across as a little light.  So I ran to Target to get him some extra filler items.  On the way this song came on one of the radio stations.  It’s one of those that I recognize the beat instantly and love the intro.

I’m not really sad, but J and I were supposed to go away the week after Christmas and possibly get married.  I’m aware of that.  Us breaking up is a good thing.  But hearing that song was a nice little Christmas present of a reminder.  I’ve done a lot of work the last couple of years.  Came to understand myself, what I want and need, what’s good and bad about me, trying to drive undesirable behaviors out of my system.

With all of that, I realize that I’m still not perfect for everyone, that personality and physical attraction and things like that still come into play.  But I know for a fact that I’m a much better partner now than I used to be.

That song came on tonight.  “It takes two to make a thing go right”.  Obviously, the rest of the lyrics aren’t about relationships, but it was good to hear those words.  I was feeling a little…  remorseful about the implosion of that relationship, wondering if maybe I could’ve said or done something different.  I tend to look inward in such situations.  There weren’t really “bad times” perse.  There were a lot of good, and then the realization that it wouldn’t be good long term, that certain behaviors would cause resentment.  Hearing those words though, reminded me that I can’t take responsibility for everything.  She’s been through an insane amount of trauma in her life, and done a wonderful job of doing the work to overcome it and become a functioning member of society again.  But she isn’t ready to be in a relationship again.  And isn’t willing to own her issues or do her own work to improve them now.

 

Evil Girl

There’s a girl at work that is, obviously, evil.  Very two faced.  Has bragged to her employees about the people that have been perceived as obstacles to her career advancement that she’s gotten fired since she’s worked her.  Has admitted that if she’s stressed out at work and someone else isn’t she is resentful of them and will attack them.  Has actually admitted that she filed a fake sexual harassment/discrimination complaint against a guy here in the office because of that.  She was having a terrible day and he was happy and things were going well for him.

She’s incredibly unprofessional to boot.  Treats information as power, throws a fit if she feels she’s being left out of something, etc.

Anyways, I’ve bumped heads with her numerous times and have tried pretty much everything I know to try to smooth things out between us.

The other day I was talking to a former co-worker who left this place in the summer and hated working with Evil Girl.

Me:  I’m actually thinking of buying her a Tokyo Joe’s gift card

Her:  Wow, you’re really thinking of everything. I wouldn’t waste my money on her! But that’s because I really really really don’t like her. I know you don’t either, but you have to work with her. And I understand that.

Me:  Yeah, and I like me and want to keep on liking me, so…

And that’s really what it’s about.  I have this self-image and I want to be able to look in the mirror at night and feel like I honestly did what I could to extend and olive branch.  I’ve tried to understand what she’s scared of, what makes her feel like she has to be mean and unprofessional.  I’ve tried to be a professional ally to her.  I want to give up and just throw her under the bus at work sometimes, so instead I’ll give extending some kindness to her another shot.  Who knows, maybe it’ll be a Christmas miracle!

Fun?

A webhosting company got on my bad side this month.  I’ve been in my new company for a little over two years and my boss, who knew where all the bodies were buried recently quit.  A couple of weeks ago, a co-worker asked me if I knew anything about a certain website that I’d never heard of before.  Turns out, several years ago, we bought this site from a different company and were supposed to transfer the content to our main site but never did.  I found the domain name info, found where it was pointing to and attempted to reach out to that provider.  That’s where the problem started.  This hosting company has no inbound number listed.  Anywhere.  Not on their site, not in forums, google it and nothing comes up.  They want to force you to use their online ticketing system.  Which, to me, sucks.  If my revenue generating site is down and I’m bleeding money, I expect to be able to pick up the phone and call someone.

So I sent in a ticket.  They tried to call me.  But because they don’t want inbound calls a) they come up as anonymous and b) they don’t leave a message to tell you they called.  So  you get mad because you don’t get a response and send another ticket.  And they snarkily answer that they DID call, but you didn’t answer.  They won’t setup a scheduled time (like RIGHT NOW) to call you back again, they do it at their own convenience.  So this nonsense went on for two days.  Then they tell me that they’re not going to be working the next business day and will call me the day after.  There’s a weekend in between there, so my site has now been down for at least six days with no resolution.  No call.  No call.  So I start blasting them on social media and instantly get a rude call from the owner, who then starts mocking me and berating me, then threatens to hang up on me because I’m “abusing” him.  At no point did I call him a bad name, did I raise my voice, anything.  All I did was express my dissatisfaction with their lack of service and unwillingness to help me resolve the situation.

So now what?  Well, we finally got it resolved a different way.  We hit the internet’s way-back machine, found an archived copy of the content, and have started to migrate it to our main site.  But, petty as it may sound, I foresee myself screwing with these guys on social media for days (if not weeks or months) to come.  It’s just a nice, safe outlet for frustrations.

Why did you need to know this?  You didn’t.  It’s just a placeholder to capture more thoughts about the blog post I want/need to write.  More pieces are coming together.