Monthly Archives: August 2011

Someone just subscribed to your blog…

Part of the Phone Calls to Julie Series.

Ring, ring…

WP: Hello, WordPress technical support, this is Julie, how can I help you today?

ME: Hi Julie, thank you for taking my call, I’m terribly concerned, Someone just subscribed to my blog.

WP: Ummm, okay…. uhh… congratulations?

ME: Oh… that’s what the e-mail said too, congratulations.

WP: What e-mail would that be?

ME: Well, the one that said that Someone just subscribed to my blog. It addressed me with the word “Howdy”. Do you think Someone thinks I am a cowboy? I don’t think I’ve ever used the word “Howdy” before.

WP: Is this the guy from Brown Road Chronicles?

ME: Yes, yes, you remember me? I’ve called you about my BOOBS. You have been very helpful the last couple of times I have called. Have you read my blog yet?

WP: No sir, I still have not read your blog.

ME: Oh, that’s too bad, it’s really great!

WP: Sir, I am sure your blog is great, but really, is there something important I can help you with? I am very busy today? We are getting a lot of angry callers because we changed the subscription function on all of our member’s blogs without telling anybody. Now everybody is mad and the phones are ringing off the hook.

ME: Oh yes, I did notice that as well. I think that’s okay, I don’t know what everybody is all worked up about.

WP: SIR, PLEASE IS THERE SOMETHING I CAN HELP YOU WITH?

ME: Oh yes, I’m very sorry, I’m terribly concerned, Someone subscribed to my blog today?

WP: Yes, you mentioned that… uh…and why is that a problem? Most bloggers are happy when Someone subscribes to their blogs.

ME: Oh my, does Someone subscribe to a lot of blogs? Do you know who Someone is?

WP: What does that mean “do I know who Someone is?”

ME: Well, it sounded like you maybe know who they were.

WP: Knew who who is?

ME: Someone.

WP: SIR… I am going to hang up if you don’t tell me how I can help you today.

ME: Oh, I am terribly sorry, please don’t hang up. You see, I got an e-mail today that said “Howdy, Someone just subscribed to your blog, Brown Road Chronicles.”

WP: Uhhh… okay… and what is wrong with that?

ME: Well, it didn’t tell me who Someone is… you know, and tell me what their blog site is. It just said Someone subscribed to my blog today and it had an e-mail address and where they were from. I thought that was kind of creepy. And it said “Howdy”. Do you think Someone thinks I am a cowboy?

WP: Sir, it’s just an automated e-mail when a reader subscribes to a blog. I don’t know why it says Howdy, but no one here thinks you’re a cowboy… and it said Someone because it was a subscriber that doesn’t have a WordPress account. So we don’t know who they are.

ME: Oh my… you don’t know who they are? Does that mean they don’t have an About page that will tell me if they are a stalker or not?

WP: No, there is no About page, but don’t worry, it’s probably just someone that read something you wrote and found it interesting.

ME: Oh yes, yes… the stuff I write is very interesting. It’s very funny too. Have you read my blog?

WP: SIR, I JUST TOLD YOU I HAVE NOT READ YOUR BLOG!

ME: Oh you’re right, I’m sorry, you did say that. I just got excited when you told me my posts were interesting.

WP: I didn’t say your posts were interesting, I said that maybe this person who subscribed to your blog perhaps thought your posts were interesting.

ME: You mean Someone?

WP: Sir, please stop it with the Someone! Yes, I was referring to this person who subscribed to your blog.

ME: So you don’t think there is anything I need to worry about?

WP: No, I don’t think there is anything to worry about. But remember Sir, blogs are very public spaces. Anybody can subscribe to your blog.

ME: Oh my… who’s Anybody?

Click

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Yeah, you’d be good at that!

The business where I work has been sold.  For those that don’t know, I have spent the last 18 years working for my uncle in a family retail business, a college bookstore that served a major university.  It’s been a good gig, but the textbook business (as well as the book business in general) has been shrinking considerably over the last seven or eight years due to internet competition, rental websites and digital course materials.  We made a mutual decision a couple of years ago that the time was right to get out and ultimately we believe it was a good decision.  He can retire and I can…..

Well, unfortunately I cannot retire… and as much fun as it sounds to sit around and blog all day, I am pretty confident that will not pay my mortgage or allow me to purchase shoes for my kids. I will be employed through the end of October, at which point the business will close down. I have an opportunity to work with a friend of mine, a collegiate apparel sales rep who has called on our store for many years and who I have known almost since day one.  Although any change is scary, it’s a good opportunity and I will be happy to get off a retail floor as it has beat me up over the years.

That’s not really what I’m here to talk about though, but I thought it was important to share that news with all of you.   What I’ve noticed is that when you are in a situation where you are switching jobs, people are of course inquisitive and the conversation inevitably goes like this

Nosy person: So what are you going to do?

Me: Well I have this opportunity, blah, blah, blah…

Nosy Person: Yeah, you’d be good at that!

That’s great and I’m glad people think I’ll be “good at that”. But I’m starting to wonder if people really believe it or if they would just say that no matter what I said I was going to do. They don’t really ever comment on why they think I’d be “good at that.” It seems to be just a blanket statement of reassurance.

But what if I said this:

Nosy person: So what are you going to do?

Me: Well I have this opportunity with this Rocket Scientist I know. You know, now that the space shuttle program is being shut down, they need people to design the next vehicles that will take us into space. I shot a model rocket once so, you know, I thought it might work out.

Nosy Person: Yeah, you’d be good at that!

Or what if I said this:

Nosy person: So what are you going to do?

Me: Well I was thinking I’d send my resume to Apple. You know, with Steve Jobs stepping down, they probably need some help over there in California. I don’t use any Apple products, but I do have a couple of Apple trees in my yard so, you know, I thought it might work out.

Nosy Person: Yeah, you’d be good at that!

Or perhaps this:

Nosy person: So what are you going to do?

Me: Well I have this opportunity with this guy I know, he works for the carnival and they need someone to run the Frog Launch Game. Since my college degree is in Biology and I’ve had to dissect a few frogs in my life, and you know, I’m personable, I thought it might work out.

Nosy Person: Yeah, you’d be good at that!

Or maybe this:

Nosy person: So what are you going to do?

Me: Well I’m going to be a goat farmer.  Except not for meat, just for milk, ‘cause there’s no freakin’ way I could ever kill a goat.

Nosy Person: Yeah, you’d DEFINITELY be good at that!

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Prospect Street Tavern

My attempt at a little fictional drama. All names, places, times, events, locations, proper nouns, personality disorders, situations and species, have been changed to protect the guilty… or is it the innocent.

It was 2:00 am when Nehpets Renraw walked out of Prospect Street Tavern having just emptied his wallet of every last penny in his pockets.  He shouldn’t have been blowing any cash in a bar having just twelve hours earlier walked away from an eighteen year stable career that had provided him with a great income, but during the last few years, had provided him with little personal creative satisfaction.  A few drinks though, was his reward for finally having the balls to make a change and try to make a living writing, even though it was a rash decision he had made with little forethought. He was just done wasting time. “I’ve only got one life”, he had said to himself, “and I’m not going to waste it sitting at this fucking desk.”  He had gathered up his personal belongings and walked in and gave his resignation to a shocked boss.

Nehpets had always wanted to be a writer. He knew an unusually weird name like Nehpets Renraw would look great on the front cover of a best selling novel.  But as a young man, life and the need for a stable job with a decent income had quickly gotten in the way of any creative pursuits.  Now, eighteen years later he found himself, walking drunk out of a bar, unemployed and with no plan for the future, other than continuing to write a modestly successful blog that he had been working on for the last six months.  He certainly didn’t have any clue how he would explain this to his wife and kids in the morning.

“Well, here’s to a new start” he mumbled under his booze soaked breath as he stepped onto the cobblestone sidewalks that traversed his neighborhood.  A slight drizzle fell from the sky and he felt it appropriate as if somehow it was cleansing him of the doubts and fearfulness he felt deep down inside. Sure, he was finally free, but he also knew the odds were slim of realistically making a living as a writer.  He had no experience other than this personal blog he wrote, an idea that had started as just a place to keep some thoughts about his life, but had quickly developed into a project that he would focus on throughout each day. He had named it The Prospect Street Chronicles, after the name of the street he lived on, and because he wanted to share with readers what his life in the city was like with his family and his animals, four cats, a miniature poodle and the two Bengal Tigers they had adopted from a local zoo. The response from his readers had been so positive and encouraging with comments such as;

“You always make me laugh and smile buddy.”

“Holy Hell! Hands down, the best post of the day…I think I just wet my pants.”

“LMAO!”

“I could hardly speak because I was laughing so hard! “

“That’s fucking hysterical!!”

“I hope you get this published.”

“You are very talented.”

It was all very narcissistic and somewhere down deep inside Nehpets’ heart he had begun to feel like he might just have the skills to finally make a go of being a writer.

Prospect Street Tavern was one of those local bars that seemed to attract the hardcore, down and out drunks, the people whose lives had somewhere along the line taken a wrong turn.  It was a place where it was okay to sit alone at the old intricately carved oak bar and not feel like people were judging you for getting smashed by yourself.  Although it had a reputation as a Bowery style bar that attracted some riff-raff and homeless types, Nehpets liked to hang out there because he knew the bartenders by name and somehow the place made him feel at home, comfortable even, as if he had been coming there for years. He talked with Frankie, the bartender on duty in the evenings and told him about the life changing decision he had just made and Frankie served him a couple of shots on the house. As on previous visits, Frankie mostly just stood behind the bar and listened to Nehpets talk about his blog, and the comments people had left.  Comments such as;

“Outrageously funny. Bravo.”

“Dude…you crack me up!!”

“You make the reader think, “I’d like to have a beer with this guy.”

“Man, that was awesome…what a great read! “

“What a fun post!”

“So funny! I cracked some chuckles.”

“I am officially convinced now that you must be smoking weed?!?”

Bartenders have bigger responsibilities than just serving drinks, one of which is to be a good listener and Frankie always performed that part of his job well. “We’ll see you around” Frankie said as Nehpets left for the night.

Nehpets headed down Prospect Street on foot towards the apartment. The neighborhood was always eerily quiet at 2:00 am when state laws required the bars to close.  For a brief moment, as he walked, he felt a pang of nausea and he couldn’t be sure if it was from too much alcohol or from the pit in his stomach that maybe he had made a mistake leaving his job. As he walked past the old brick buildings that hovered over the sidewalk with their front steps jutting out and their iron railings coated in peeling paint, he thought the neighborhood looked old and worn, as if time had somehow passed him by in the short time he had spent at the tavern. Had he made the right decision, he questioned himself over and over again? He recounted the conversation he’d had with his boss, and how his boss had continually questioned him on the merits of his actions. “I know what I’m doing” Nehpets had said, “I know what I am doing” and he wondered if he could write a blog post about this conversation that would generate lots of comments.

Roughly twenty minutes later, Nehpets had managed to stumble his way back to the apartment at 1211 Prospect Street.  The red entry door to the apartment building was always what made him remember.  When he and his family had lived there, the door had been a beautiful shade of dark green that contrasted sharply with the buildings century old brick façade. He didn’t remember when it had changed, but now the door was red, and seeing it every night would temporarily snap him out of his drunken trance.  He wondered how many times he had walked this route after leaving Prospect Street Tavern, recounting that fateful day when he had left his stable job to become a writer, a decision that had failed miserably and never earned him a cent. Had he really lost everything because a few loyal readers had left encouraging comments on a blog? Comments such as;

“Brilliant, just brilliant! Love it… “

“Really funny blog.”

“Feel free to whine, complain and share things that will not cause us to wet our pants and snort coffee out of our noses.”

“This had me rolling in the aisles!”

“Hahaha…. this is the funniest blog I have come across. “

“PUBLISH THIS BOOK. “

“LOL x 1000″

Had it really been twelve years since his wife had taken the kids, the four cats, the miniature poodle and the two Bengal Tigers and left him drunk, penniless and homeless so they could find a more stable life somewhere else?  Had his mind really deteriorated into a chaotic mass of mental illness and delusional thoughts because of a silly blog and a failed writing career?

Nehpets stared for a moment at the red door to 1211 Prospect Street. As happened every night, he thought about what a funny and entertaining blog post his life would make and how many great comments it would generate. Perhaps comments such as;

“I friggin’ love your dialogues. And I’m painfully sober AND this is hilarious.”

“I can’t stop giggling.”

“What a beautiful post.”

“Dude, you are fucking funny! I’m so glad to have found you.”

“Such an interesting post!”

“I cracked up all through your post. Hysterical!”

“This post made me laugh out loud. . .seriously, not lol, but actually laugh out loud.”

But computers, blackberries and smart phones had long since disappeared from his life. A few tears dripped from his eyes and he wiped them with his dirty, tattered sleeve. He wondered who might live in the old apartment now, and whether they ever noticed the homeless guy that walked by their door every night and if they knew what a great blogger he had been years ago. But he knew he better get on his way, to find a doorway or park bench where he could get some sleep and dream of all the great comments he used to get on his blog.  Tomorrow would be another day, panhandling money on the streets.  He usually could collect twenty to thirty dollars a day from the tourists and working folks that strolled around the neighborhood. Not enough money to purchase the equipment to get his blog started again, but just enough to buy some booze at Prospect Street Tavern and talk to Frankie for another night about all those great comments….

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The Rules of Texting

Here’s a phone, our teenage child.
It’s for your safety, don’t go wild.
With all that texting to your peers.
When the bill comes you will be in tears.

i will b careful ys i will
dnt wnt 2 hv 2 pay that bill
ill only txt a ltl bit
i dnt wnt u to hav a fit

Now let us set a few small rules.
Your parents aren’t a couple fools.
Even though you are an awesome kid.
There’s just some things we must forbid.

wat r these rules u must enforce
u know i wnt go wld of course
ive nvr bn in trouble b4
u shouldnt worry anymre

Just listen up, these rules are easy.
They’re nothing that will make you queasy.
No texting after you’re in bed.
And we can check your texting thread.

ok i promise u can trust
i think ur rules r very just
i wnt b txting after bed
and u can ck my txting thread

For many months you’ve had your phone.
We’ve noticed you’re quite texting prone.
So, so many every day.
Is not that which we want to pay.

bt all my frnds r txting me
i hv 2 reply asap
or else theyll wndr where i am
thats somthng u shld nt condemn

We’ve noticed something else as well.
You told us you would not rebel.
You’re texting after you’re in bed.
We sure don’t like to be misled.

im sorry & im guilty 2
im sorry i disobeyed u
i know i did it now and then
im sorry it wont happen again

We appreciate your true confession.
But you’ve made a serious transgression.
We’re going to take your phone away.
We’re going to take it for a day.

i thnk thats fair i undrstnd
i undrstnd ur reprimand
my phones a privilege nt a rt
i c that in a whole new lite

Thank you child for being you.
Sometimes you’ll break a rule or two.
Your Mom and Dad are here to guide.
The world’s a scary place outside.

i know ur trying 2 do ur best
4 tht i thnk my life is blessed
i luv u so much even tho
it dsnt alwys seem 2 show

O’ child of ours we love you too.
We’ll always love you through and through.
Sometime you’ll look back on these days.
And know you grew in many ways.

*based on a true story!

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Mr. Smither was in a dither…

Mr. Smither was in a dither while fixing his old house one day.
Kneeling on the floor, his knees were sore, a rusty nail was in his way.
His floor was squeaky, sometimes creaky, a shiny nail would do the trick.
But first he must, remove that rusty nail, a task that should be quick.

He tried and tried, he pulled and pried, his hammer wouldn’t win this fight.
The more he pulled, that nail would hold, onto that board with all its might.
His arms soon ached, he took a break, and came up with different angle.
A crowbar would, release for good, this nail with which he’d been entangled.

He hooked the claw, he clenched his jaw, he mustered up his strength and brawn.
He cranked with force, so much of course, he knew that nail would soon be gone.
Then what transpired, that nail it fired, like a bullet through the air.
Across the room, with a sonic boom, it bounced off the old-rocking chair.

In that chair, was often where, his Cat named Fred would take his naps.
Fred slept this day, snoozing away, dreaming of catching mice perhaps.
Unaware, of the oncoming scare, that would quickly give him quite a fear.
Poor Fred he leapt, from where he slept, straight up into the chandelier.

Mr. Smither, still in a dither, ran to see what he’d begat.
He was shocked, the chair it rocked, but in the seat there was no cat!
Then he heard a cry, from toward the sky, he looked to see poor Fred in fright.
The lamp was swinging, Fred was clinging, his big wide eyes were quite a site.

He grabbed his ladder, to fix this matter, and climbed up to the precipice.
He reached for Fred, who filled with dread and soon began to growl and hiss.
Then Fred decided, somewhat misguided, that he would rather try to jump.
‘Cause cats survive, they have nine lives, Fred nailed the landing with a thump.

With this commotion, in slow motion, Mr. Smither high upon that ladder.
First he twisted, then he listed, then he fell with quite a clatter.
Lo and behold, it knocked him cold, he lay there in a foggy trance.
Mrs. Smither, now in a dither, she quickly called an ambulance.

The Doctor said, “well, he’s not dead, just some bruises where he hit.”
“But I’d suggest, it would be best, to stay off ladders for a bit.”
The moral here, it is quite clear, if your floor might have a squeaky board.
Just let it squeak and let it creak, lest you end up in a hospital ward!

Listen to the Audio Version

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OMG are those OMB’s?

Let me tell you a story about a guy I know.  It’s not me… it’s just a guy… you know…that I know.  He thinks he might be getting… you know… a little bit of OMB’s.  He always figured the OMB’s would hold off until he was… you know… older… like maybe in his sixties.  He might even give in and say it would be okay in his fifties.  But not his forties… you know, he’s only forty-three… you know… this guy… that I know.  Sure he’ll turn forty-four in September, but that’s only forty-four years young. They’re far from full-fledged OMB’s.  They’re just starting to be OMB’s.  Let’s call them early-onset OMB’s. They’re OMB’s that are just starting to hang a little lower than they used to.  They’re nothing like eighty-year-old OMB’s.  Not that he’s ever really seen eighty-year-old OMB’s, but he’s no dummy. I… uhhh… I mean… uh… he… has a pretty clear vision of what eighty-year-old OMB’s probably look like.

This recent discovery hasn’t affected him in any noticeable or significant way, other than a slight downgrade to his personal self-image and psyche.  He just happened to notice his OMB’s in the mirror the other day. He had stepped out of the shower and was drying off and you know, the hot water had already caused them to hang down a little farther than usual. He said to himself “yeah dude, you need to start working out again… you’re looking a little soft in the middle… and man, you’re starting to get OMB’s.”  He looked closer and they seemed to be just kind of hanging there, sort of sad-looking, like a set of old, overused punching bags that had long ago lost their elasticity. He had visions of the punching bags in the inner-city Philadelphia boxing gym from the 1970’s Rocky film… just hanging there with their Everlast logo worn off.

It’s a tough day in a middle-aged guy’s life when he notices he’s starting to get OMB’s.  There are certainly many other signs of aging that a guy has to deal with. First a few brown spots and wrinkles all over his skin, then his metabolism slows down and each year his weight starts to inch up. Perhaps his fabulous coif of hair thins out a bit, but at the very least a few gray hairs start to appear.  That’s all okay. Lots of guys have the benefit of “aging gracefully.”  The gray hair looks distinguished.  The slight paunch can be disguised under a nicely pressed Oxford dress shirt.  The wrinkles on his face give that touch of rugged handsomeness.  But then one day he looks in the mirror and sees OMB’s… those dreaded OMB’s.  It’s an indisputable sign that the aging process is now in full swing and that the momentum in the epic battle between man and the overwhelming power of age and gravity is starting to shift. He thought it would hold off. He thought that those somewhat regular trips to the gym and a healthy diet would keep the balance on his side.  He thought that he was ageless and invincible.

This guy… you know… the guy… that I know… you know? So he gets out of the shower and he notices he’s starting to get OMB’s… he briefly considers switching from boxers to briefs. But in reality he figures its all down hill from here.  Then he remembers the squirrel…

... you know, the squirrel.

… and he looks in the mirror and says, “I don’t give a fuck about OMB’s.  I’m still a fucking stud and I’d stand in the desert and let someone take a goddamn picture of me and my OMB’s… just like the squirrel did…

… cause squirrels know what the fuck it’s all about.”

… and then he sang this song.

Do your balls hang low?
Do they wobble to and fro?
Can you tie them in a knot?
Can you tie them in a bow?
Can you throw them over your shoulder,
Like a continental soldier?
Do your balls hang low?

I’ll bet that kick-ass squirrel sang that before he got his picture taken!

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Yet Another Good Reason Not to Clean the Bathroom

This is a guest post from my good friend Lisa over at The Big Sheep Blog.

Steve, thank you for graciously agreeing to post this on your blog. At the end, I’ll explain to your fine readers why I felt it was best not to post it on my own blog.  Lisa

If you have teenagers, then you already know that cleaning their bathroom can be a disgusting frightening experience. Usually, I’m pretty courageous and just go in there and get it done.

However, if you heard a shriek yesterday morning at around 9:20, that was me. It started out as a routine exercise in blasting the grossness with a variety of powerful cleansers and disinfectants. Then I opened the cabinet under the sink to put away the assortment of products designed to make teenage boys not smell like teenage boys. I peeked in to find some room and saw something on the shelf that looked like maybe a black crumpled up bandana. I reached in to pick it up. It was soft. It was furry. It moved.

That’s when I shrieked and simultaneously slammed the cabinet door shut. I bolted out of the bathroom and down the stairs to find my husband, who was working from home and in the middle of a conference call. “THERE’S A BAT! A BAT! A BAT!”

After ascertaining that I was not in immediate mortal danger, he calmly finished his call and sauntered upstairs about 15 minutes later. Armed with a bath towel and a plastic container, he caught the bat. “Wow, that’s a pretty good sized bat,” he commented, observing the critter in the container. “I wonder how he got in there?”

“Get it out, get it out, get it out,” I pleaded. (I don’t normally repeat everything 3 times, but once or twice seemed insufficient for the gravity of the situation.)

After the crisis was averted, I couldn’t help myself – I googled the implications of finding a random bat in your house. Apparently, 90 percent of the time, a random bat in the house is an indication that there is a colony of bats in your attic. Oh crap. After sharing this finding with my husband, I requested he commence an inspection, which is not as easy as it sounds because we don’t have a full attic, only a series of crawl spaces accessible from various places in my kids’ rooms.

It was critical to complete the mission before my 14 year old daughter returned home from school because if she had any idea there had been a bat in her bathroom, she would never set foot in the bathroom or the house ever again. In fact, we’d probably have to burn the place down and relocate to another galaxy, preferably a bat-free galaxy. And that is why I thought it was prudent to tell this story here, rather than on my own blog.  Besides, I know that Brown Road Chronicles is very critter-friendly.

On a positive note, I’m thankful the bat didn’t bite me, I didn’t fall down the stairs or have a heart attack, and that my husband was home.  I’m most thankful, though, that it was not my daughter who discovered our little visitor.

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