Friday, May 25, 2012

My Best Man Toast

               Finally I have a sister! I have been waiting for this for over thirty years. For those of you who don’t know, Tim was supposed to be a girl. I was told I was going to have a sister. Corrie Lynn. I was promised. My mom and dad told me he was going to be a girl. And then Mom and Dad came home with… this. Total let-down.

               We hated each other. We fought constantly. I used to get him in trouble all the time. My dad doesn’t like when you draw on the windows when they get fogged up, so when we were little I used to reach over when Tim was asleep and write his name on his window. He would wake up from his nap totally confused about why he was getting yelled at. When we would go on road trips to Pennsylvania, or Florida or Myrtle Beach, my parents used to stack pillows and luggage between us in the backseat to create a barrier. I used to have scratches all over my arms and legs because he used to grow his nails out so he could use them as weapons. If I had a sister, none of these things would have happened.

               But then I went away to school and we didn’t fight any more. Well not physical fights. Instead we would debate politics and religion and whether or not soccer was an actual sport. We’re best friends.

               And as his best friend, I warned him about getting married. Why would he want to get married? Tim was always a ladies man. I told him a wife would crowd him and hang on him and make him care about things he didn’t really want to care about. She’d hurt him too much. She’d sit in his chair. She’d ruin his sleep. She’d need him too much. She’d put him through hell. He’d have to let her in to his inner most secrets. He’d have to spare her feelings. Like it or not, she’d want him to share. Everything. And she’ll probably talk through the Yankees games.

               Most of you know Tim used to play drums on cruise ships. He traveled all over the globe surrounded by beautiful dancers and singers. He’s seen the world. And yet, for some reason, he came back HERE. He went back to school. He literally traveled ALL OVER THE WORLD and found Donna right here. Or maybe she found him. After MANY horrible choices, he eventually met the right girl. A girl who hangs all over him. A girl who sits in his chair. Who ruins his sleep. Who crowds him and who talks his ear off. But she also supports him. She makes him whole.

               SHE’s your best friend now, Tim. She’s not your maid or your cook. She’s your equal. So treat her right. Treat her good.

               And Donna, Tim lived a LONG time with his Mommy, so it may take a while for him to learn that it’s not okay to just leave his dirty clothes on the kitchen floor. Don’t be afraid to just smack him in the back of the head sometimes!

               So let’s toast the nuptial couple. But most importantly, let’s toast the fact that I finally have the sister I was promised 30-some years ago!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Theater Reflection

I should have written this post a week ago when I finished my last production, but life got in the way. The show wrapped on a Sunday and then I had my final week of classes, which included an exam and a take home test. Then I had my first weekend in a while where I had nothing to do, so that's exactly what I did.


So now here I am reflecting on my last theater production. I started the spring thinking I wasn't going to work on a show. I didn't have any plans on doing any theater related work, and I really needed to find a part-time job, so I concentrated on that. A week later I received a string of rejection emails from prospective employers. But in the midst of rejection and depression was a shining light: The producer and president of a local theater group that I have never worked with sent me a message asking if I was available to run the lights on their up-coming show, "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat." I jumped at the chance.

The production company that I had worked with for almost twenty years put on their final show last summer, and the group I worked with in the fall was on hiatus, so this was exactly what I needed. It was also a welcome distraction from the fact that from all of the applications I sent out for customer service representative, cashier, and teacher, not one felt I was a good fit for their company. But here was a guy who had heard about what I had done on the shows I've worked on and he wanted me to be a part of his team!

So the following week I drove out to Stella Niagara and he walked me around the theater. It was an old theater in an even older Catholic school built on the lower Niagara River. It had character. It had history. It had bats. Lucky for me the bats were hiding or hibernating, so I could just concentrate on working on the show. And other than a few new-show hiccups, everything went well. It was strange for me to be up in the light booth instead of back stage.

I have always been back stage during the shows I worked on since I usually was moving or flying set pieces in and out, or I was assisting the Stage Manager or making sure the props were where they needed to be and in the hands of who needed them. But this time I was up in the balcony lighting the stage. This time I didn't have a direct connection to the cast. This time I felt more like part of the production team. And that was nice. Although I love hanging out with the actors, it made more sense for me to be with the crew. After each show, I was invited to go for food and drinks with the producer and some of the board members. One night the director of the next show, "Seussical the Musical," was there and started picking my brain about the shows I've worked on and if I knew so-and-so and by the end of the night I had agreed to Stage Manage his show in September. He liked the fact that I have worked on so many shows with many of the actors that will probably audition for his show.

My first duty as Stage Manager was to let him know which actors were difficult to work with. "I can't deal with divas, chaz. You have to let me know who's easy to work with and who's a pain in the arse."

Most of these late-night get togethers were attended only by board members and crew, except for Dominic. Dominic had been doing theater since he was old enough to walk and talk but was still too young to hang out with the rest of the cast, yet too old to go straight home after the shows. So he hung out with us. He reminds me a lot of a younger version of me. When I first started working in theater, I was a freshman in high school, but the group I worked with had a lot of college kids from Niagara University. I used to hang out with them after the shows or on the weekends building sets, painting backdrops, and just having fun. I didn't like hanging out with kids my age. I liked the older kids. And Dominic is the same way.

When the show finally ended, we had to strike the set almost immediately. I have never seen so many cast members take part in strike! It was pretty awesome. It made breaking the set down and wrapping up the lights and what-not so much easier. I guess the cast feels just as invested in breaking the stage down as they do in putting on the show, and that's great. Like I said, I've never seen anything like it. I'm sure it also helps their chances of getting in the next show if people remember that they also participate in strike after closing.

So now I have another theater gig under my belt. It feels good to work on shows and be a part of something like that. I'm looking forward to working on my next show. Stage Managing a large show like "Seussical" should be a lot of work. And interesting. And fun.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Just A Little Freak

As I was parking my car in my work parking lot this morning, my phone started ringing. My phone never rings. People don't usually call me. Not unless someone died or there's an emergency. And even then, why would anyone call me if they had an emergency? I'm no one's first call. Call 9-1-1, or your mom. What am I going to do in the case of an emergency?

Probably blog about it, chaz.

This is true.

So I answer my phone because I see it is my cousin, Jan. She's one of my closest cousins. She, like most mothers of three, usually has her hands full but never complains about it. She's an awesome mom, unlike some of my other cousins who just let their children do whatever they want, even if it means playing in traffic or committing a crime. Jan asks if I'm busy, if I have time to talk, etc. Then she hits me with the lead-in:

"You were basically a freak when you were a teenager, right?"

"Um... yeah? What do you mean?"

"You died your hair crazy colors and painted your nails and did other, um... untraditional things, right?"

"Oh yeah. Of course. Why do you ask?"

So she goes into the fact that her oldest child, a freshman in high school, wants to paint his fingernails black. He's deep into Anime and metal music and comic books. He doesn't try very hard in school. His hair is in his eyes. Basically, he's a typical teenager. He's not a jock. The only running around he does is in the video games he plays. The friends he's gotten close with since getting to high school are very similar to him: Artistic, emotional, ghosts. The only time anyone notices his friends and him is when they're doing something wrong. They keep to themselves.

And Jan is fine with that. She tells her son to invite his friends over to the house. She makes them dinner. She stays out of their way, but still keeps an eye on them. She knows his friends have had a rough life. She knows her son has had a rough life. But that's no reason to not have a decent meal or to hang out some where other than under the overpass. Her son reminds me a lot of myself when I was his age. Which is probably the reason she called me.

She had a huge fight with him last night about the black nail polish. She refused it. He threw stuff (probably). Or he shut down (more likely). He ignored her the rest of the day. He didn't talk to her the next morning. He went to school without saying one word to anyone in his house. So she called her mom, who really wasn't any help because she spoils her grandkids. Then she called me.

"What should I do?"

I was hesitant to give her advice for a couple reasons: (a) I feel for this kid. I understand where he is in life. (b) I am not a parent and I don't know what it feels like to have children. But she asked for my advice, so I gave it.

He's a kid. Let him be a kid. This phase will wear off after a while and he'll want to do something else. Hopefully it's something equally harmless. She doesn't like it. She's afraid kids are going to make fun of him or tease him more than they possibly already do. She's afraid he's "going down the wrong path." She's afraid she's losing him. But she's not losing him. At least he's still under her roof. He hasn't tried to run away or anything. Deep down he's a great kid, but he's 14 years old. He's all messed up inside. He doesn't know who he is. He's not a kid anymore, but he's not an adult yet either. He thinks the entire world is against him. He thinks everything is about him. He thinks everyone is looking at him and talking about him.

In other words, he's a typical teenager.

Her compromise was that he could paint his nails on the weekends. But he had to buy his own nail polish and his own cotton balls and his own polish remover. The only restrictions were that he couldn't wear it to school or to a family function. I know she's afraid her son will embarrass her. Some people see someone with nail polish on and they assume they are either a girl or want to be a girl. Especially my close-minded family. They'd start asking her when her son turned into a "fag." I'm sure my mom had to deal with equally bigoted and short-sighted comments about me. But if Jan tells her son that the black fingernails would embarrass her, it'll just add fuel to the fire.

I told her to tell him if he wanted to paint his nails he had to wear a suit and tie instead his usual clothes. That was a joke, but really, if he's committed to the black fingernails, a suit and tie shouldn't get in his way. But then maybe he and his buddies would all start wearing suits and black nail polish and they'd look like Green Day.

And no one wants that.

Monday, April 9, 2012


Every time I think I'm doing better, I get kicked back down.

I went to bed miserable and I woke up in a worse mood. It just seems like nothing is going my way. I feel like I'm in a hole I can't get out.

I hate using this blog as a place to vent and complain, but if I can't do it here, where can I do it? No one wants to listen to my problems. No one wants to hear me whine and complain. So I just write it down, hoping it will help me a bit. But it doesn't. Not really. Because no matter how much I type and complain and vent, my problems are still there. I am still poor. I am still at a job with no support from my supervisors. Whatsoever. My students and coworkers take advantage of my kindness.

I. Am. Miserable.

And everything I see makes me think about the fact that I am somewhere I don't want to be. I want to be saving money. I want to be taking paid vacations. I want to have a job where people give a crap about what I do and how I do it. I want to be valued. I want to be happy. I want to be happy.

I'd also love to live on or near a beach, but I know that is asking a bit much.

Actually just the saving money bit would be great.

Do I apply for jobs that I don't want to do but need to do? Jobs that will pay the bills but aren't teaching gigs? Do I work on the line or in an office? Would I be happier if I was making and saving money but working at a job I disliked?

Following my dreams doesn't pay the bills.

Friday, March 30, 2012

I Hate Andie MacDowell

I want to throw a brick at my television every time I see Andie MacDowell's face. I hate her. But I love my TV, so I keep my bricks for when I finally get a chance to see her in real life.

Why do you have Ms. MacDowell so much, chaz? She's never done anything to you!

No she hasn't, but that doesn't mean I don't have reasons to hate her. Just writing about her makes me want to punch something. She's so friggin' annoying. And she's a terrible actor. Have you seen her in "Hudson Hawk" or "Groundhog Day" or "Michael"? OH. MY. GOD. It's like she's searching for the right emotion the entire time or talking to a little child. Why would anyone cast her in a speaking role? And "Green Card"? UGH. Put her together with GĂ©rard Depardieu and that's just recipe for disaster. But the true reason I hate Andie MacDowell is because of the role she played in "St. Elmo's Fire."


And for that I will never forgive her. Ever.

Emilio's character, Kirby, is in love with her character Dale. He is infatuated by her. She is his everything. She agrees to go to dinner with him and he even gets to the restaurant early to make sure everything is perfect for the date. But she gets called away to the hospital she works at. Sure she was. I bet that was just an excuse. A few days later he follows her IN THE RAIN to a party and professes his love to her. She could have easily shot him down at that point, but she doesn't. Or she doesn't do a very good job of it. She just makes him believe that if he makes more money she'll go out with him. Kirby throws a party at his new boss's house to impress Dale but she vanishes almost as soon as she gets there. When he finally tracks her down her boyfriend answers the door. HER BOYFRIEND. She had a boyfriend this whole time?? And she didn't feel the need to mention this to poor ol' Kirby? What. A. Bitch.

So you can understand my frustration now, right? She's evil. Just look at her:

My skin just crawls looking at her. Eww.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

While Watching "Singles"

I'm twenty minutes into one of the greatest period pieces about the 1990s. This has always been one of my favorite movies.

When I first saw it, I rushed home and decided to move to Seattle. I wanted to meet the characters that Cameron Crowe created. I wanted to be the characters he created. I loved the U-shaped apartment building with the fountain in the middle. I loved the conversations and connections that were made in cafes and underground rock clubs. And I loved the soundtrack. God, I wanted to be there then. It was like a city full of clubs like The Icon. (If you don't know/remember this Buffalo staple, you are missing out!)

But that was twenty years ago.

I never did move to Seattle. I never moved into a U-shaped apartment building. Instead I lived in Rochester and Buffalo. I lived in houses converted into apartments. But I did make connections and have conversations in cafes. Life gets in the way. Things don't work out the way you plan. Plans get ruined.

And I just realized something: these characters are all in their twenties. I am a thirty-something. My twenties have come and gone. Does that mean I'm past my prime? Have my best years already happened? Does Seattle even look like that anymore?

This movie makes me want a time machine.

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Thursday, March 8, 2012

Where's My Bat?

I swore I wouldn't do this. I swore I wouldn't use this blog as a place to vent and complain and be annoying. I hate complaining. I rarely complain outloud. But things have been going off kilter a bit as of late and I need somewhere I can get this off my chest. If I don't get this out, I may punch a baby. Or worse.

I hate money. With a passion. I wish I didn't have to rely on money, but I do. It's the necessary evil that makes this world go 'round. But I despise it. But I need it. And I wish I didn't.
My winter jacket has a goddamn paper clip on it so I can zip it open and closed. My shoes are slowly falling apart. My couch at home needs some repairs. My phone is starting to work against me because it's over due for an upgrade. But I can't do anything about any of these things. I have bills and car payments hanging over my head.
I applied for a few jobs over the past couple months and a couple of them actually called me for an interview. But did I hear anything back after that? OF COURSE NOT. Why would anyone actually call me after the interview to let me know if I got the position or not? That would be the nice thing to do. No, instead I sit here waiting and waiting for something-- anything-- to happen. I send thank you emails and I get no response. I follow up an interview with a phone call and I hear nothing back. JUST HIRE ME. You will not be sorry. I am a hard worker and a good worker. I can do this! I don't care if it's a job as a teacher or a cashier or a farm hand at this point. I swear to God I will shovel manure for money.

People ask me what's wrong and I say "Nothing. I'm good." Nice lie, chaz. Yeah, I know. But I don't like bothering people with my problems. They don't want to hear about so-and-so who is getting on my nerves or what happened in class the other day that really ticked me off. They want to vent out their own problems. They want to get their issues off their chest. And I am more than willing to listen. But when I listen, I want to fix the problems. Nine times out of ten the person complaining to me doesn't want me to give them a solution, they want me to empathize. But I can't do that. It's physically impossible for me to just sit and say, "I understand how you feel. I'm sorry." I want to tell them what they should do or what I would do in their shoes. And recently, since I have had all this other stuff bottled up, all I can picture is taking a baseball bat to whoever is giving my friends or family a hard time.

Don't get me wrong: I'm not talking about killing anyone. Just one good shot to the kneecap will do me good. It's been a while since I've been able to physically take my aggression out on someone or something. I'm too old to fight, so I just drive really fast in my car or turn my music up loud or drink too many beers or go over to my creative outlet and write something biting. In my younger days I would take my anger out on someone else. I can't really get away with that anymore.

Writing helps. Having a beer or three to calm my nerves and get my mind off things would help too. But right now I'm a responsible adult. Right now I'm working this job that doesn't pay me enough. Right now I'm trying my hardest to just stay on my two feet.

Friday, February 24, 2012


I needed to take a few days to compose myself before writing this. It's sad to say, but I have half-written this in my head months before my best girl passed away. She was sick for a long time, but we kept fighting. We kept paying trained professionals to run tests and diagnose her ailments. It seemed as though it was something different each time she would go in for a check-up. But we kept fighting. The last half of her life with me was a bumpy road, to say the least. She would shake and shit at the drop of a hat. And she hated the Buffalo winters. Some cold days she would almost refuse to leave her home. But we fought. We were a good team, she and I. But at one point she had had enough. We said our goodbyes and then she was gone. Forever. It's going to be hard to go on without her, but I will push on. It's what she'd want me to do.

Farewell, Blue Lady. I will miss you.

When I first met you, you reminded me of my very first teenage love. You were so similar, sometimes I thought I was still inside her when I was inside you. I know you knew. I know you knew I was thinking about that other girl. But you didn't seem to mind. You would drive me around my old stomping grounds and play Nirvana and all the rest of the great grunge music I love just like she used to do. We would drive around and I would reminisce about the old days. I will miss those rides we used to take. Remember how everyone thought you were the police? It was usually at night when they couldn't see you very well, but people would always slow down because they just weren't quite sure. Then we'd go flying past and I bet they felt like idiots! Good times. But then you started to get old and you started to get sick. The first time I noticed was when you refused to drive the speed limit on the highway. You never had any problems with it before, then suddenly you would shake and grunt and sputter. Then you refused to warm to my touch. I would talk to you and push your your buttons just the way I always did, but nothing would work. I would hydrate you and feed you, but still nothing. I got used to providing enough heat for both of us.

The trips to get tests done and have procedures completed just got to be too much. For both of us. I think you had given up way before I did, but I just didn't hear you. I just didn't want to let you go. But now you're in a better place. The last ride we took together was a bitter sweet one. I was glad it was a mild winter day and it wasn't too cold for you. And you knew where we were going. But you didn't say a word and you didn't complain. You just drove silently. I was probably more nervous than you were! But in the end everything worked out, didn't it? We said our goodbyes and off you went. I swore I wouldn't cry. And I won't. I swear i won't!

You'll be happy for me. I found someone new. I know you always wanted to be with someone younger than you. I didn't want to hear it when we were still together, but I can see where you were coming from now! She's so smooth and quiet. She's doesn't know all my eccentricities like you did, but she'll learn. We'll be good together. I hope you don't mind that I call her my new Blue Lady. If you're watching over me as I hope you are, take a look at a picture I took of my new girl:

Farewell, Blue Lady. I will miss you.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

New Car Anxiety

I'm going to look at new (to me) used cars. The Blue Lady (my 2001 Mercury Sable) didn't pass her inspection last month and she's not worth the $600+ it will cost to repair her.

It's time to put her down.

I'm excited to have a car of my own again and I'm sure my wife would love having her car back again. But I'm nervous. If you've read any of my blog posts in the past year you know that I am not in the best financial situation. A new car (even a used one) means another monthly bill. Sure, I'll use a bit of my tax refund as a down payment and I'll trade in The Blue Lady to cut down on what the new car will cost, but I'm still going to have to pay every month for it.

The other thing is I haven't talked to my boss in over a month. Strike that. My boss hasn't spoken to me in over a month. I've sent her emails but she doesn't respond or answer my questions. She sends emails to my coworkers and I, but she never responds to MY emails. This stresses me out. Is she purposely avoiding my questions? Is she going to let me go? Are my hours going to be cut even more? Is this all in my head? Am I just being pessimistic?

If I lose my job I am SCREWED. Especially if I accrue another bill.

Oh my God I hate being a grown up.

So suffice it to say I'm a bit stressed. I have some anxiety going on over here.

Some good news would be VERY welcome right about now.

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Thursday, February 2, 2012

Coffee Scents and Caffeine Dreams

The sense of smell is a powerful thing, isn't it?
Just a small whiff of something can bring you right back to another place.

I walked past the coffee beans in the market two days ago and I was immediately transported back to my days as a barista. I remembered the evenings of grinding coffee and filling coffee filters and drinking copious amounts of the evil stuff. At one coffeehouse in particular one of the end-of-shift duties was to grind the beans into portion-controlled bags to make it easier for the next shift to quickly brew coffee. The house blend was a combination of Mexican and Colombian beans. This blend made for the perfect cup of coffee in my opinion. It was not too bitter that you needed to cut it with hot water or milk, but it was also strong enough that you knew what you were drinking. It was smooth and strong. Kinda like me.

I hadn't thought about working at the coffeehouse in years. I had almost forgotten about it. It was a tiny little place in shopping mall that time forgot, tucked between towering office buildings. The owner used to roast the beans right in the shop. You could smell the aromas for blocks and blocks.

Just when I thought I was finished with the scent-induced flashbacks, I was hit again. Yesterday I picked my wife up from the caffe and as soon as she sat in the car, I was sent back to my days behind the bar. Certain places have certain scents, am I right? This smell was undeniable. If it was the other way around and she had picked me up somewhere, I still would have known where she had been for the last three hours. I still would have remembered all of the cafe mochas I made, topped with home-made whipped cream. I still would have thought about that one customer who used to spend hours in the caffe and who never drank coffee. He only ever wanted fresh brewed ice tea. He would spend afternoons there conducting business and flirting with the female baristas I worked with. Some weekend evenings he would bring his dates to the caffe just to show off that everyone knew him and that he got his drinks for free. Then he would spend the rest of the evening talking the poor girl's ear off.

I have never experienced any other smells that reminded me of any other past jobs before. Maybe it's just coffee that does that to me. Maybe because I worked in so many coffee shops and cafes and coffeehouses, the caffeine scents just stick with me. I rarely visit coffee shops any more. After I lost my last barista gig, I stopped going. It was too hard for me. I know I can do so much better than who ever is behind the counter. I know I could create a better quality product and I know I could create a better atmosphere for the customers.

Any time I visit a locally owned shop, I know for a fact I could do it all better. I also stopped drinking coffee, so I really have no reason to step foot into a cafe. Maybe that's why coffee sets off my flashbacks like it does. I have been separated from it for so long that it's calling me back. It misses me. And if I'm honest, I miss it too.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Loud Talkers

Why do people talk so loud?? Seriously. Can you just lower the volume a bit? It sounds like you're trying to talk to someone on the other side of a train station. It sounds like you're trying to talk to someone while a metal band is performing.


I find if you talk at a lower volume people will actually make more of an effort to listen to you. If you talk softer, people won't try to talk over you. They'll actually lean in and listen.

Imagine that.

Maybe instead of trying to talk over who ever you're talking to you talk softer or-- GASP!-- you stop talking and listen.


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Wednesday, January 25, 2012

...Sometimes The Bear Eats You.

Yesterday was definitely One Of Those Days. I'm sure we've all had them. Nothing is going right, nothing is working out, and there's nothing you can do about it. That's how my yesterday was.

It started out fine. I got to work in record time and started making some copies to prepare for my first class. But then I checked my email. My boss told me I can't get paid for time I'm not teaching a class. I told her the other couple hours I put in for each day was my planning and prep time. "You can't get paid for that" she said. Huh. Interesting. So I get paid for teaching a class but I can't technically plan or prepare for the class? THEN HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO TEACH IT?

The back and forth on the email just put me in a bad mood. If I had another job, if ANY of the jobs that I've applied to would just call me back and hire me, I would leave this job. I can't deal with ANOTHER job based on grant money and/or small budgets. I thought this job would be different since it was at a community college, but it's not. It's just like working for a not-for-profit.

Whenever I get pissed at my job or my work situation, I fly off the handle (in my head) and try to find a quick fix. This time I did not do that. This time I decided to use my energy to do something more productive: work on my PhD application. I sent in my writing sample and I faxed the letter to Niagara University to have my transcripts sent over. Then I got on the GRE website. I had to take my GRE to get into Niagara, so I was happy I didn't need to take that test again for UB, even though it is one of the requirements.

Not so fast, chaz.

I logged into my account on the GRE site and I clicked on the "Request Copies" of my test scores. If I could just have them send the scores electronically to UB, it would make this process that much easier. When I clicked on the drop down menu to select the year I took the test, it only went as far back as 2006. I needed it to go to 2004. I tried to type the date in. No go. So I called the 800 number on the site. They told me, after being redirected four different times, that my scores were no longer in their system. Once a test is over five years old, it gets purged from the system. WHAT?? "Our computers automatically do that, sir." The computers. So a teeny tiny electronic file that is composed of my name and address and four triple digit scores takes up SO MUCH room that you purge it forever? "Is there anything else I can help you with, sir?" Um, no. Thanks for nothing. "Did I answer all of your questions, sir?" Yeah, I guess. Not to my liking, but you did answer them. "Do you have time to answer a customer service survey?" I don't think that would be a good idea today.

Luckily I still have the print out of my scores. Not that they'll do me any good. My go-to person in the office at UB told me to send in the scores, but they may ask me to take the test again. Awesome. just what I need: To take a test that costs over 100 dollars just to sit for. If I have to re-take, then my application will take that much longer to be complete. Which means I may be SOL when it comes to a fellowship or scholarship or something.

Sometimes you eat the bear, and sometimes the bear eats you.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012


This past weekend I suggested we do our grocery shopping at Price Rite on Elmwood Avenue instead of going to Tops or Wegmans like we usually do. I was given the suggestion from a commenter on a blog I posted a week or two ago. Money has been tight for us for a while and we've been trying to figure out ways to cut back on the amount we spend.

We should have turned around as soon as we made a couple passes around the parking lot. It was hard to see exactly where the parking spots were, since the lot was still covered in snow and slush from two days earlier. The cars were parked haphazardly and the shopping carts were strewn all over the place. This was a bad sign, in retrospect. If the management/owners don't care enough about their store to clean up the outside, what was the inside going to look like? The outside is the first impression you make to potential customers. Maybe the management doesn't care about first impressions. Maybe they don't care if a customer slips and falls in front of their store. Maybe they just assume people are going to shop there no matter what. Maybe they know that since their store is in a low economic neighborhood, they don't need to worry about what the store looks like from the outside.

Since the snow and slush was not cleaned up outside, everyone is forced to track it into the store. There was an area of about ten feet or so just inside the door that was a dirty, messy puddle of gross melted snow. I had to track slushy snow into the store twice since I had to go back outside to find a shopping cart. There were three or four near the entrance outside, all of them filled with trash and empty food containers. I emptied the cart that was leaning against the overflowing garbage can and attempted to start my shopping.

We evidently picked the wrong day to shop because the produce section was clogged with shoppers loading their carts up with what appeared to be fresh fruits and vegetables. I grabbed a bulb of garlic and attempted to quickly move to the next isle. One of the ways Price Rite saves money is by not having any rhyme or reason to where items are placed in the isles. There was ketchup next to cans of Cream of Mushroom soup next to baby food next to large boxes of matches. I applaud the fact that they are trying to save their customers money by just putting the pallet of merchandise on the floor, but it makes for an even longer shopping trip because nothing is in any kind of order. We had to back-track a few different times because we missed something or we thought we remembered seeing something an isle back. There's no point in putting your shopping list in any kind of order if the store isn't in any kind of order.

By the end of the shopping excursion, I'm not sure we saved a whole lot of money to be honest. We weren't able to get everything on our list. Luckily we had a cardboard box in our trunk because there was no way I was going to pay ten cents for each plastic bag. We ended up leaving the store in a worse mood than we started. It was a depressing shopping trip. But at the same time, it motivated me. It motivated me to find another money source other than my current job. It motivated me to save money. It motivated me to be smarter with what money I did have. I never want to shop there again. I swear to God I would rather go hungry than shop at that Price Rite again. That store is gross. It has nothing to do with the low-income shoppers I was surrounded by, because let's be honest: I am a low-income shopper. The owners and managers of that store don't give one single crap about their customers. They don't give one single crap about how their store looks. They don't give one single crap because they know there's no where else for their customers to go. Price Rite is the only grocery store in the Elmwood Village. It is the only grocery store within walking distance for many of their customers.

Price Rite knows this. They don't have another nicer store to compete with. In the suburbs Tops and Wegmans and even sometimes Quality Markets are all within a few blocks of each other so they need to compete with each other. They need to make sure their store looks the nicest or the cleanest. They need to make sure their customer service is the best. We don't have this luxury downtown. We're stuck with what we've got.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Choices, Decisions, and Other Choices

This year is NOT starting off the way I had hoped.

My bank account and my cupboards are near bare. 2012 was supposed to be a good, no-- great year. I ended 2011 planning on making moves to do better. I was going to eat healthy. I was going to attempt to get my PhD. I was going to drive a car that didn't have issues. So far none of these things have happened.

I realize that I am not even two weeks into the new year, but things are not even on the up-swing.

Three things I need to pay for in the next couple weeks:

My inspection is due this month. My application fees are due by February first. Oh yeah, and I have a serious need to eat sometime this month. The way it looks right now, after I get paid on Friday and after I pay my bills, I won't be able to do all three of these things.

So what do I do? Do I sell my CDs and DVDs? Do I overdraw my bank account? I have applications out at local stores and shops for a part-time job, but even if I get fired tomorrow, that won't help me today. I need money now. I need money yesterday.

So I need to make decisions. I obviously cannot afford to do all of the things on the above list. I guess groceries comes first. On Abraham Mazlow's Need Pyramid, air and food and water comes first. So I'll but food to eat for the next week or so. Then I'll hope and pray that something comes my way. Get hired by one of the dozen jobs I applied to in the past month. Find something of value to sell. Manna from Heaven. Something. Anything.

I really do want to go back to school for my PhD, but maybe it's not in the cards for me this year. Eating and having a roof over my head and being able to get to work everyday is more important than something that will end up putting me in more debt, right?


Monday, January 9, 2012

Is Eating Healthy Cheap Possible?

I want to eat healthy. I want to eat fresh fruits and vegetables. I want to make my own pasta. I want to make sauces and soups and stews from scratch. I watch the cooks and chefs on PBS and the Food Network to get new ideas of great new meals. I scour the internet and my dozens of cook books for dishes I can attempt in my very tiny kitchen. I have so many things I want to do.

But then I go grocery shopping. I am a man on a budget. My paycheck disappears soon after it appears in my checking account. I am left with very little to buy food with. I am left with two alternatives: Buy ingredients for one fresh, delicious, and healthy meal; buy many not-so-healthy meals such as canned soup, boxed pasta, and sauce in a jar.

I try to find the deals. I have a Bonus Card or a Shopper's Club Card or whatever it's called. I try to use coupons. I'm frugal. But I just cannot justify paying more than twenty dollars on food that will turn into maybe four helpings. I can buy nine packages of Ramen Noodles, four cans of soup (if they're on sale), a couple boxes of pasta, a jar of sauce or so, and a box of frozen fish sticks for the same amount.

So what's a guy to do? I would love to have an unlimited supply of money to spend on fresh, healthy food. But I don't. So I buy a few jars of sauce instead of tomatoes, cloves of garlic, onions, peppers and mushrooms. I buy a couple cans of soup instead of cream and clams and potatoes and carrots and thyme and celery. And I make moves to make things better fiscally.

If you have any ideas of how to create a healthy frugal meal, please PLEASE leave it in the comments. I can use all the health, er-- help I can get!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

New Year, Same Stuff. Kinda.

It feels like it's been forever since I posted something on here. After blogging every single day in December, I decided to take a bit of a break (five days). Resound '11 really took a lot out of me. It was hard to dig deep and blog every day. Especially about the topics they proposed. I'm not sure if I'll do that again. We'll see. I have about a year to decide. Unless the Mayans are right.

This year feels just like last year. But with a better outlook. I can't just sit around and wait for things to change. I need to do it on my own. Be the change you want to see in the world. Or something. Right? The idea that someone is going to walk up to me and say, "Excuse me, are you Chaz? Do you want a job?" is a myth. That is NOT going to happen. Well, maybe it will, but I am done sitting around waiting for that to happen. I am going to make things happen. I have created a second blog here for my creative writing. I've decided that I need this. I have so many ideas and stories and characters in my head that I need to a place to purge them. Feel free to follow along. Or not.

I was really hoping to be out of this town by now. But things don't move at the pace you'd like them to. Life gets in the way. Things happen. But I'm hoping to try to direct all of my energy toward making my life better. If I'm going to be here for a little while longer, then I need to make it work. I can't just be miserable. Being miserable isn't any fun. Being miserable doesn't make things change.

And I hope that my readers, my audience, my friends, will hold me to this.