Sunday, November 22, 2015

Awfully Detailed

It's probably just the Gee, Aren't You Full of Yourself? disease, but when something is my responsibility and I have to be away from it for any length of time, if someone has to fill in for me, I turn into a terrible, awful person.

I'm awful because I truly believe that whoever is doing it, if they're not me, they're going to do it wrong.


I'm awful, like, obsessing over ever minor detail, awful.

I'm awful, like, make myself sick with worry that it's going to be irreparably fucked up, awful.

I'm awful, like, leaving 12 pages of single spaced, typed instructions, awful.


I have gotten to the place where I at least make the attempt to *not* be awful. I trim the instruction pages down to 5 or 6.

Then I become horrified that one of those things I left on the cutting room floor will be the thing that they screw up because they didn't know.

My best (worst) example of this was when I worked at a Top 40 radio station, and I had to go home for my brother's wedding (Yes, "had to." I would have NEVER taken a fucking vacation day for the hell of it, are you kidding?). My fill-in, a truly lovely person, should have kicked me in the head. Instead, he accepted my typed-in-minute-detail list of instructions, AND patiently listened to my live presentation of said instructions. I left with a pit in my stomach and he, I hope, went home to tell his wife that I was a complete psycho.

Because nothing says, "I disregard your claim of talent" (or hell, responsible adulthood) like telling someone, "I know you may be tempted to do it your way, or even just add some of your own personal touches, but if you do that, the whole thing will go straight to hell, so for god's sake, DON'T."

I can't tell you how many times I have done exactly that. It's a lot.

There is, of course, another angle to this, which is that as a person who massages ever little detail of my work, I am mostly an outstanding employee. I'm good at things. That poor fellow filling in for me for those two stupid days was taking over an insanely highly rated radio show at the time, one that I had created with the sweat of my own insanity. In fact I remember when we got the numbers in, my boss Jack (RIP) just shook his head and said, "well I knew you were *good* but jeezuz-christ." It was a bit of a big deal.

Of course, it wasn't enough of a big deal for me to act like I was handing a Ming vase to a chimpanzee, but ratings are a weird thing. At my job now, where the only person rating me is my boss, I feel confident that she can see that the Pile of Amazing over there is a product of my hard work, and the Heap of Shit is that other guy's stuff (and if she doesn't, I feel confident that I will bring it up next time I talk to her, and she will say nothing more challenging than, "Oh, OK."). With ratings, you need to grab the attention of a group of people who don't really care, make them care, and give them a reason to continue to care, even when their inclination, their instinct, is to, well...not care. Oh, and that same group of people are a bunch of straight-up ADD motherfuckers who have a multitude of other choices. Even when they're easy, it ain't easy. You have to put in the hours, often to the detriment of other things in your so-called life. I'm sure my children have stories. All my exes definitely do.

In short, I have complicated feelings about the awful. I's awful, but I continue to justify it, and actually encourage others to be awful, too.

Example: You're giving me directions to your house because I have never been there. You say something like, "Go down this road three miles and it's on the left."

As I drive down that road, please know that I'm cursing your lack of detail. Sure, I have your house number, but what color is your house? Are there landmarks I should look for to let me know I'm getting close? What does your mailbox look like? Blah, blah, blah.

One time, I was giving someone directions to my house, and I sent them a Word document with PICTURES taken from Google Street View, showing stuff they would see on the way to my house. I even included...and, unashamedly so, suggested points along the route, where it would be a good idea to *change lanes* on the highway.

Yes. I fucking did that. Who doesn't do that, right? What? You think those people got lost? Hell no...they drove straight up to the house (and parked in the location I conveniently pointed out for them, in my finely detailed instructions).

As impressively sick as that is, you better believe that until they arrived, I sat at home, worried that I might have left something out of that document that in its absence would cause them to become horribly lost.

And now...part two of that story...those same people came to visit me on Labor Day weekend. They hadn't been to the house for about a year, and they live far away in a small town, so they have virtually no day-to-day experience with getting around Minneapolis. The husband called the day before they left and asked what is the best way to get to the house. It occurred to me that the previous route I had given them was now completely torn up by road construction and was this year's shit-show of traffic nightmares. I couldn't send them that way again. Only a sadistic monster would do that.

As it happens, there was a LOT of construction between my house and theirs. There was only one route that didn't show up as a red line on the traffic map, and it was my least favorite route. When there is no construction at all, I avoid that route like the plague, but, like many presidential elections, it was the least bad of all the shitty options.

I told him the name of the road.

But...what happened was, because I never drove that way, I didn't know any of the landmarks, or lane changes, or any of that. No clue. I just knew the exit.

I told him the exit.

So, recapping...they have just the name of the road and the name of the exit.

Do you think they got lost? Hell no...they drove right up to the house.

Because they are grown-ass people who can manage without me obsessing.

Of course that didn't stop me from expecting a "we're lost" phone call. Because I'm awful.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

I'd Be Your Huckleberry If I Wasn't Such a Lame-O

On a recent visit, I looked around the place I grew up and wondered how I would describe the experience of growing up there, or going back to visit, to someone who never had the benefit of the experience.

Maybe you grew up in a city, or hell, even just a town someone has heard of. Any person who had no more than a casual exposure to American sit-coms has an idea what your life was all about.

I didn't grow up there--or anywhere near there. I grew up in a place remote enough that even people who grew up in the same State as me have to be educated as to where that little town is because it's 100 miles from anywhere they've heard of, too.

I left that place. I didn't get pissed and say, "Fuck this, I'm out," or anything like that. I went away to school, liked what I saw, and stayed gone.

I've been gone ever since.

I make little trips back, see all the people who were kind to me, and then I leave again, wanting to bring the people I love back with me to a place I perceive to be better than the place they are.

They would probably be as uncomfortable here as I was there.

There is still a certain Wild West feeling out in Western North Dakota, and not just with the craziness of the oil boom. The sense of "what's right and what's wrong" is carved in the guts of so many people there, and they react to things in the only way that makes sense to them.


A friend of mine back in my home town had one of her children experience a fatal run in with some bad, bad, people.  Her reaction to that was to pull a Curt-Russell-in-Tombstone style of confrontation with some of the lower level bad dudes, telling them to let their bosses know that they just kicked a hornet's nest.
And where I grew up?  That's a perfectly normal reaction to someone fucking with your family.

Where I live now?  That shit would get you arrested.  It doesn't matter that the dude was responsible for the death of your kid--you harass them, and cops put out the closest and most obvious fire. If you're the one who is agitated when they arrive, you're the one that's going in the back of their car.

This weekend someone who lives in North Dakota called me "brave" because I drove them safely through holiday weekend traffic at Mall of America without flinching.

One the courage scale where the high end is "Face to Face Confrontation With Drug Dealers," I can assure you that the opposite end is "Driving to the Mall."

I wonder how soft I've become, having lived away from there for so long, or, if I moved away because I never really had what it takes to make it in a rough and tumble environment. 

I assume the latter. I'm a chicken-shit.

Well...maybe less chicken-shit than I think.

Ultimately, it's was through a series of confrontations here in the city that went badly for me that I lost whatever nerve I had.  I approached things with my gut sensibilities when a more sophisticated approach was called for. You can take that to mean I was hoodwinked by someone better at bullshitting than me--that is how I look at it, anyway, because I'm not from around here. 

You have to weigh the pros and cons.  I mean it's all well and good that I live in a city with everything available to me and can go out for Pad Thai at 10pm on a Tuesday night, but living in a place where people think it's OK to park in front of your driveway because they do NOT have your same sense of right or wrong makes it difficult to go anywhere at all.

If I still lived out on the prairie, I would totally own a shotgun--the sound of that gun cocking is like a universal (thanks to Hollywood) signal that you are not looking for trouble, but you will defend yourself with deadly force if it comes to it.  Perhaps I will buy one anyway, and keep it here at the apartment--I don't have to ever use it, just cock the gun when I'm feeling vulnerable. (Which would, of course, result in me being arrested for threatening someone with a deadly weapon. Even if the other person was an asshole who needed a little fear put in them, I'd be the agitated one when the cops got there...)

Every time I go back to the prairie, I bristle a little, at the perceived lack of...stuff.  It's not a lack of material things, but, fewer things to do or look at and a limited number of perspectives. It is exactly that limited number of perspectives that makes people who live there feel so strongly about what is right and what is wrong--everybody they know feels the same way they do. I guess that's why I left.  I didn't feel the same way--at least not about everything.

I am not at a point in my life where I feel so beat up by the city that I would leave. I'm not saying that day will never come--it just hasn't yet. If it does, I think I could take it. My shotgun and I would mind our own business until someone messed with us, then we'd be all, "You called down the thunder."

Until then, better sharpen my skills so I can be the thing that cities call for--sophisticated and charming...with my ability to apply deadly force masked behind my sickly appearance.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Hey! Here Is A Delicious Recipe I Just Accidentally Made Up's based off another recipe I stole from someone else, but SO different.* Promise.

In your slow cooker, add in this order:

  • One Cup Brown Rice
  • Half Cup (or more, to taste) Chopped Onion
  • Frozen Boneless Chicken Breasts (to serve 4)(I used frozen stir fry pieces)
  • One Jar Roasted Red Bell Peppers (include the juice)(I got mine at the dollar store--check your dollar store for surprisingly good food that is, well...a dollar)
  • One Small Box Frozen Spinach
Season with a teaspoon of salt, pepper to taste, and a dash of cayenne.

Cook on low until rice is tender and chicken is cooked through. You may need to peek once after a couple hours in, to make sure there is enough liquid for the rice to cook properly. Stir to combine and add water if necessary (1/2 cup at a time).

*original recipe calls for rinsed cans of white beans instead of rice, sliced fennel bulb instead of chopped onion, and fresh spinach or kale instead of frozen spinach. Also delicious!
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