Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Free at Last!

It’s nearly 10:00am on a workday and I’m at home with my faithful cat by my side. The whole day stretches out before me like a blank canvas. I can do with it what I want. I can waste time or use it profitably — it’s entirely up to me. What a country!

The catalog job I’ve been continually moaning about is still not completely out the door, but my colleagues are more than able to finish dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s. Something I’ve been threatening to do for years is to one day come into work on a day off with a sandwich and Thermos, plop myself down at the conference table and watch everyone work. Not help, mind you, but just sit back and enjoy the show. Today, I think, would be the day to do it. The final remnant of the catalog job has to do with the index and “black plate layers,” and I know some salty language and entertaining melodrama is sure to happen. I could sit there sipping my coffee and nibbling my scone and say things like, “Is anyone ever gonna answer that phone?” or “That job has to go out today, you know.” And then there’s: “My, everyone seems so stressed today! Perhaps a bit more productivity would make things go smoother.”

Do you think they’d mind?


Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Ms. Smith: The Killing Joke

Now this is getting out of hand! I’m supposed to be on vacation right now! But where am I? In the office! And where should I be? Laying on a couch with a bowl of Fruit Loops balanced precariously on my stomach watching cartoons. This . . . is . . . not . . . right!

Ms. Smith is to me what Professor Moriarty was to Sherlock Holmes. She is my Lex Luthor, my Hamilton Burger, my Inspector Javert, my archest of arch-nemeses. She haunts my thoughts, she invades my dreams. She’s the hoarfrost that blights the bloom of my hopes and aspirations. Damn you! Damn you to hell, Ms. Smith!

Here was my plan: I had seven vacation days left to spend before the year’s end (my company has a use ’em or lose ’em policy regarding vacation days). So I planned to take all of this week off and Monday and Tuesday of next week. That meant that if you include the four-day Thanksgiving weekend, I had the equivalent of roughly two weeks to sit on my rear end and be of no practical use to anybody. Not bad, right?

The catalog job, the very bane of my existence, absolutely had to go out to the printer Wednesday, November 23. Had to. If it didn’t, then Judgment Day would come. Great portents would occur: the sky would turn red, the earth would shake, people would dress up in leisure suits and go-go boots, David Letterman would forget his Top Ten List, George Bush would articulate his thoughts at college level, and my cat would start using the toilet. A strange, new world, frightening and apocalyptic.

But the catalog didn’t go out. The world, thankfully, has continued to spin on its axis and people haven’t yet started to spontaneously combust. But because of Ms. Smith and and her stubborn refusal to let go, I'm still here and a good chunk of the catalog is still here with me.

Here’s a good example of what’s happening: beside this larger, main catalog, there are three mini-catalogs that have spun off of it. For reasons too technical and abstruse for my limited mind to comprehend, even though the mini-catalogs are begotten of the larger “mother” catalog, they had to release first — despite the million holes still left in them. That was Monday, November 21 (their original deadline was November 8). So Ms. Smith camped out at our office and made edits upon edits upon edits to the mini-catalogs, bringing us close to the local FedEx office’s deadline of 8:30. When the time drew nigh, rather than stop her painstaking and maddening copy edits (edits that, incidentally, should have been done weeks ago), she called the FedEx office at Logan Airport to confirm that their office didn’t close until 9:30. Great, right? So her red pen continued to do its devilish work and we had just enough time to get everything packaged for her to hit the Batmobile and race to Logan before 9:30.

Well, this is the last day, I just know it. Then I can rest and regroup and spend some quality time with the cat. And Oprah.

Friday, November 25, 2005


How was everyone’s Thanksgiving? Good? Eat too much? No? Who said no? Well, you march right back into that kitchen and gorge yourself until I say you can stop. Thanksgiving and your pants still fit? Not on my watch, buster.

We don’t have a traditional Thanksgiving at our house. First of all, I’ve got this weird personal diet that doesn’t allow me to eat turkeys or chickens or cows or pigs, or, for that matter, snakes, rabbits, chinchillas, orangutans, cheetahs, and so on. The only meat I eat is fish. It’s a long story why and I really don’t think I can explain it intelligently. Suffice it to say, I'm not a turkey guy. And my wife, who grew up in Puerto Rico, doesn’t have a taste for turkey. (By the way, if you're curious, they do celebrate Thanksgiving in Puerto Rico — the last Thursday in November is usually the only time your average Puerto Rican ever eats turkey.) So Thursday night we had some friends come over and we sat down to roasted pork, roasted chicken, baccalau, arroz con gandules, pasteles, coquito, sweet potato, egg tortillas, and a host of other things that have gotten my stomach hideously distended.

I wasn’t always a lacto-ovo-pesce-vegetarian, you know. Growing up, my family invariably had the traditional Thanksgiving meal. Like most people, I preferred the light meat over the dark, and I loved to flood my mashed potatoes with gravy. My mother made the best stuffing. We all assembled at the table to watch my father make a federal project out of carving the turkey. He was a civil engineer, and watching him slowly and systemically carve the turkey made you wonder why he didn’t just go all the way and break out his surveying equipment. Every year he waited until my head was turned while making a wise remark to my sister so he could stealthily toss the turkey’s butt onto my plate. Then he’d wait for me to ask, “what's this?” so he could make his little joke: “That's the part of the turkey that went over the fence last.” I never got tired of that one. No sir.

This is an exciting time of life for me, by the way — my tame little world has just been rocked. See, Daughter Number 2 — although she’ll never admit this — did something fatal to the old Mac PowerBook we have at home so it wouldn’t start up anymore. Maybe she downloaded the latest from song from Killer Virus called Melt Your Drive. All we were getting was the disk icon with the flashing question mark, a sign of very sick Mac. Now, this PowerBook is old. How old, you ask? Well, Lewis and Clark mapped out the Northwest Passage with it. How old? The first draft of the Magna Carta was written on it. How old? Og used it to plan his cave paintings (the computer came with a “bison-hunting” program). I'm sure you get the idea: it’s pretty bloody old. It had System 9, for crying out loud, and it froze all the time. At work I have the latest of everything, so it’s always been a bit of a comedown to go from cutting edge to an old family heirloom. BUT, because Daughter Number 2 nuked the PowerBook, I was forced to wipe the hard drive clean (losing all documents and programs in the process, naturally) and install System 10! And do you know what? It feels like we have a brand new computer! I could dance a jig I’m so happy!

For everyone who synchronized their calendars with mine so they’d know exactly when I planned to start my last vacation of the year, it’s been put back a day. This catalog job of mine won’t let me go. I had to put in a few hours on it during Thanksgiving day and then Friday, a day we traditionally have off, most of the staff had to come in to work. Ms. Smith shows no mercy. Monday will be my final day of work, and then I can stay home in my jammies and big poofy slippers and watch Oprah with the cat on my lap and a box of Whitman’s chocolates by my side. I also hope to do some writing . . . if I can squeeze it in between napping and Oprah. We’ll have to see.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

The Sort of Stuff You Think About

I was walking from my Saturday morning breakfast spot to the office this morning and was thinking how nice it would be to write a post. You know how these blogs are: they require a fairly steady diet of words all strung together into sentences that then coagulate themselves into paragraphs or else they shrivel up in a hurry . . . and no one wants to see that. The Schprock Report itself has been nearly placed in an iron lung several times. One time the last rites were said over it. So I thought, as I walked up Huntington Ave. and took a left onto Mass. Ave., it was high time I wrote something. But what?

And then, as I walked, my mind drifted. My mind drifts a lot. I was called absent-minded when I was a kid, and even these days I often have to summon all my reserves to pull things into focus. Here’s a case in point: I’m in the office ostensibly to work, but what am I doing? I’m stringing words together into sentences! And I’m a slow writer, too, so let’s see how much real work I get done today.

It was Oscar Wilde, by the way, who said, “Work: the curse of the drinking class.” What a great philosopher he was.

So then I decided to keep strict mental note of what I was thinking and report on it. Lots of words and sentences there, boy. And, doubtless, there are many people in Blogland eager to find out just what goes on in this highly-developed brain of mine — 4, maybe 5 of them. Let’s take a look, shall we?

OK, here’s what I mainly thought about as I walked to my office, and this is something I think about a lot: women. You see, I believe I have been given a great gift, an ability I acquired somewhere in my 30s. There really ought to be a word for my gift, but I don’t believe there is. If I were required to coin a term for it, right here on the spot, I suppose it would be something like this: beauty-seeker. Or maybe beauty-discoverer. I’ll explain how it works.

I can find beauty in nearly every woman. It’s true. The obviously beautiful women, the ones you see every day sashaying up and down Newbury Street with a studied unconsciousness of their beauty, as if they have no idea how many heads are being turned in their perfume-scented wake, that’s kid’s stuff. Anybody can see that kind of beauty. Hell, when you come right down to it, half of them are composed of ordinary raw material enhanced by cosmetics, hair styling and expensive clothing anyway. But what I’m talking about are the ones who don’t turn heads, who often go by unnoticed.

Almost every woman has something going for her. It could be youth or nice skin; maybe it’s fine eyes or a big smile, a certain way of walking or an eccentric way of dressing, an attitude, a characteristic facial expression, a pleasing meekness or disarming outrageousness, and so on. Look hard and you’ll see. And it’s fun to take older women and mentally deduce from what you see how they might have looked when they were younger and in the fullest flower of their outward charms. Every one of them is beautiful when you do that; I swear to God they all are.

I worked in a department store called Caldor when I was in high school. There was a girl working there, several years older than me, who could not be called pretty. No matter what she could have done with her hair or make-up or clothing, she just was not pretty (here’s a secret, by the way: I’m no Cary Grant myself). But what a sense of humor she had! What a personality! She was sarcastic as hell, but in a personable way, and the breakroom was a better place with her in it. Everything she said was funny. And then one day it hit me: I was attracted to her! The scales had dropped from my eyes, so to speak. And then I thought: how the hell did that happen? Was there some mistake? But it never went any further than that because she had a boyfriend as it turned out, the head of cashiers actually, who everybody thought was destined for greater things even though he looked like a shaved gorilla. Still, what a revelation!

While we’re on the subject of women, would you like to know which race or ethnicity or nationality or what have you can claim the highest incidences of beautiful women? I’m talking the easy-to-spot kind of beautiful women — would you like to know? And this is coming from someone who freely acknowledges that every race, color or creed has beautiful women to their credit — truly, when it comes to ogling women, I am not prejudiced in the least. Here’s the verdict: the Italians. They have the most beautiful women.

How do I know? I went to Rome once and every woman I saw was beautiful! The fashionable way they dressed, how they styled their shining black hair, their perfect olive complexions . . . and the way they spoke Italian! How could I help but be smitten? Let me tell you, it’s true that Italian is the most musical of languages, and Italian spoken in a female voice is a siren song that will never leave you. I have no idea what they say, it could be about buying bread at the local store or how to eviscerate a fish or the dirtiest joke you ever heard, it doesn’t matter. Italy has the market cornered on beautiful women. I’ve forgotten all about the Trevi Fountain and the Colosseum and the Vatican. But the women . . . they stay with me.

And what is the second most musical language to listen to? French, of course. But don’t go to Paris to look at the women. Sorry — I went there expecting to see a bunch of Claudette Colberts and Leslie Carons, but no, mighty slim pickings as it turned out. Boston outranks Paris in that respect. But they’ve got a pretty cool tower and arch and art museum and all that stuff. And here’s something: people were nice to us, even though I’m the most obvious American you ever saw. How about that?

Who’s a good genius-spotter? Anybody? I’m not. I’ll give you a perfect example: I’ve read Moby Dick, by Herman Melville, and, just recently, Heart of Darkness, by Joseph Conrad. If it were up to me, no way in hell would I have ever pronounced both of those works classic literature. I would have merely said, these are two clumsily written books that both took an awfully long time to say something their authors hoped would come off as profound. I read Moby Dick 10 or 12 years ago when I had a terrible cold, so maybe I wasn’t much in the mood to like anything, but I read it knowing that Melville first intended it to be a travel book and then someone suggested he make it a novel instead. So what I think happened was, he finished the travel book, afterward wrote the novel, and then shuffled the chapters of each together like you would two decks of differently-backed cards. It was about as integrated as stitching the left half of a tuxedo onto the right half of a leisure suit. The critics at the time didn’t like it, and I’ll admit I would have been right there with them. And, as far as Heart of Darkness goes, I believe Conrad used up every word beginning with “in-” and “un-” in the English language: incomprehensible, unfathomable, inscrutable, incalculable, unimaginable, etc., etc. Again, even though I’ve been told it’s genius, it looks like a short book the author worked very, very, very hard on, which in turn made reading it not an easy task at all.

So there you have it: I’m a philistine. As if you didn’t already know.

While we’re on the subject of the arts, if they ever make a musical out of Rocky, I propose this title: Cut Me, Mick! I’d buy tickets to that.

And speaking of movies, my wife, Daughter Number 2 and I saw Walk the Line last night. Great movie, loved it. Joaquin Phoenix didn’t try too hard to sound like Johnny Cash, which was just as well. I watched it thinking, well, the facts are probably pretty much straight, but I’ll bet none of this happened exactly the way they showed it. Johnny Cash’s descent into drug addiction must have been tawdry as hell most days, just something you wanted to ignore if you knew him. But here’s a prediction: Johnny Cash CDs and biographies will fly off the shelves, and rightly so. There was something about him you couldn’t resist, he had that indefinable “it.” He was the coolest-looking ugly man I ever saw, singing with the coolest-sounding off-key voice I ever heard. No one can learn to be Johnny Cash; you can only be him or not be him.

The first record of a popular song I ever bought with my own money, by the way, was a 45 of A Boy Named Sue. It’s still one of my all-time favorite songs. In fact, it’s one of the very few songs I know the lyrics to.

The very first record of any kind I ever bought with my own money was Orson Welles’ famous War of the Worlds radio broadcast. I wore it out.

I bought that record when I was 10. I’ll turn 50 in February — February 18, to be precise. I believe many of the people who read this blog aren’t very close to turning 50. Do you want to know what it feels like? I’ll tell you: not bad. Physically, I don’t feel much different from how I felt in my 20s (of course, I exercise and sort of watch what I eat, which helps), but I appreciate the level of life skills I have now. I’m a lot calmer and more patient than I used to be. I take the bumps and bruises of life so much better than I did when I was younger. And get this: often I have myself convinced I’m still young! I’m not kidding — every now and again I forget I’m nearly 50. I’ve still got a bounce to my step and I can work pretty hard when I need to. You should have seen me raking leaves last weekend: not bad for an old guy. But the mirror doesn’t lie. That’s a 50-year-old head looking back at me all right. Oh well. Any time now that mid-life crisis should kick in.

Well, that’s about all of what I thought of on my way to the office. Heavy, huh?

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

A Brief Visit to Schpröck Manor

Well, hello. How good of you to drop by. Pity you didn’t call ahead, but I suppose spontaneity has it charm, does it not? Please, please, do come in out of the rain, all of you, and enter my — ha ha — humble abode . . . if a 26-room mansion can be referred to as such. Schpröck Manor, you see, has been in my family for centuries. It is all I know, so, for me, I suppose I can call it “humble.”

You are staring at my two dobermans, Fritz and Dieter. Fine looking specimens, are they not? Ach! Gelassen, Fritz! You will not be rude to my guests! Oh, please, come all the way inside, they will not hurt you, not without my permission they won’t. Ha ha, that is my little joke! They really do not require my permission — they can hurt you of their own free will. Ha ha, I jest again! You see, they’ve been fed quite recently, so I do not anticipate any harm to you. But be careful of Fritz, all the same.

I suddenly notice you all seem famished! Can this be true? You seem weak and wan, as if the vapors that envelop this house are pestilential to you! I will ring the staff and have them prepare a meal. Tut, tut!-— it’s no bother, do not protest, it is my pleasure. A moment please. Karl, aufbereiten das abendessen, schnell! You see? It is all arranged. My staff, they live to do my bidding at any hour. They are most — I am sorry, my English fails me — pliant? Is that the word? Yes, pliant. Ha ha. That is my little word for them.

Please, come in and let me take you for a tour. I have guests so rarely — why, I cannot say, for I do enjoy the society of my fellow man, truly so. My family had at one time entertained the crowned heads of Europe. Do you see those chairs by the great hearth? The czar and czarina loved to sit there for hours upon end, talking to that good fellow Rasputin who bounced me on his knee when I was a child, calling me many an affectionate nickname — for I was a morose lad, and needed much cheering up. But come, come, let us enter the drawing room, and see what there is to be seen.

Surely you do not mind a little dust? No, no, of course you do not, I can see that. This was where we used to relax, before Papa saw the devil one night and did the most mischievous things. Yes, he quite broke our little family up, but I won’t bore you — it’s an old story and we really don’t speak of it now. Ah, and there he is, as he appeared in life! No, no, I am sorry, your eyes go to his portrait above the mantel, quite natural to be sure, but I mean behind you, yes! Behold, Papa!

Ladies, ladies, forgive me! Oh, how unforgivable of me, how terribly, terribly clumsy! Gentlemen, help me with them, they faint, they scream! Ladies, you will laugh when I tell you! Yes, you will! He is not alive, he won’t harm you. He’s been — oh, what’s the word? — Präparation von Tieren, what do you call it? — stuffed! that is it! Stuffed, he is! It was his will, he asked that it be so, and we put him here, in his favorite room. See? The Board of Health certificate hangs there, it is all legal, all proper! Come, come, ladies! And you, sir, why so pale, why do you shake so? He is like wood, like this stick of furniture, this chair, he will not trouble any of you! Come, come, now!

That’s right, compose yourselves, very good. A little fright, eh? But it’s all funny now, we will laugh soon, yes, we will. Please, step around here, all of you. Take your minds off of Papa, that was naughty of me and I do apologize. I ask you to observe the portraits of my ancestors, barons and baronesses all. Baron Ludwig the Mad. Baron Maximilian the Voracious. Baron Otto the Avenger. The Baroness Gerta von Schpröckenberger, also known as the Scarred Mistress. Many stories here, my friends. A history to be proud of! And over here —

Yes, young lady, you have a question? You are pointing and you have a question, something you wish to ask me, do you? Ah, of course! A conversation piece to be sure. We are all used to taxidermy now, are we not? We are made of sterner stuff than we were earlier, yes, I can see, you are all braver now, you are ready to appreciate and learn, to marvel and enjoy. Then let us step closer. Come see, for this is art, upon my soul it is.

Two hands, a woman’s hands. You can tell she is into her middle years, they are veined, but the skin is still smooth, smooth as the day when — let us just say, as smooth as life. Flesh as white as an angel’s. Exquisite nails, regal nails, the nails of nobility, painted with crimson lacquer. And upon her fingers are the rings of my family — can you not see the crest upon them? Surely you can witness the eagle’s talons crushing its prey, rending it to a furry pulp, such strength, such majesty! And on such lovely hands — delicate feminity adorned by brutish masculinity, can you feel the counterpoise, my friends? Looking at it, your mind walks a tightrope, it’s rawness and its fragility are little breezes that blow you each way, they seek to knock you off and save you. Ah, such hands! They belonged to my mother.

What’s that? Do you mean to be droll, asking me such a question? You see I can joke, so you can joke too, eh? I will allow it. But, is it possible? Can you mean it seriously? When did she die, you ask? My mother? Why, she is in the next room. You may speak to her if you like, although I didn’t plan for that until much later. But — but what is this? Where are you all going? Your dinner! This is — this is most precipitate, I must protest! Oh, please, please, I have visitors so seldom! Karl! Mama! They are leaving!

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Why Thanksgiving Beats the Hell Out of Christmas

Several years ago, I watched a so-called Christmas special that nearly served the purpose I thought it meant to fulfill. It came so close. The half-hour animated program centered upon the fictional town of Whoville, whose denizens were aptly called the Whos: willowy, slightly furry creatures who were busy preparing for Christmas. They were all doing the decorating thing and the singing thing, which was OK, I didn’t mind that too much, but they were also jacking up their credit cards and putting themselves deeper into debt at exorbitant interest rates in a pathetic, desperate attempt to slake the unquenchable thirst of their greedy, materialistic children — who in turn lived only to acquire more and more expensive electronic gadgets and overpriced designer clothing, caring nothing for the perilous state of the family finances. The grownups put up a brave front, wearing bland smiles to hide the stress churning within, while the children also showed happy countenances, lit by an unmistakable avaricious glee. It was sickening.

The hero of this tale was a fellow called the Grinch. From his mountaintop lair, he saw all too well how the meaning of Christmas had been perverted, and, being of an altruistic turn, he conceived a plan to teach this modern-day Sodom a lesson in spiritual morality. So, very early Christmas morning, he dressed himself like the false god Santa Claus and, with the aid of his remarkable dog, relieved each household of this soul-harming junk (all of it, by the way, cleverly concealed in colorful, harmless looking packages — poison with a perfume scent). It was a truly Herculean effort, and I was on tenterhooks to see what effect it would have.

And this is what I saw: the Whos awoke Christmas morning, immediately perceived their liberation from this terrible, longstanding habit of grasping piggishness, then contritely gathered in the town square to sing a paean celebrating their spiritual recovery. It was so beautiful, so moving, my eyes grew misty as I watched.

But then everything turned sour. The Grinch, who watched all of this in amazement, suddenly suffered a bizarre cardiac episode. His heart immediately enlarged several sizes too big for is his anatomy to handle (a strange accelerated form of dilated cardiomyopathy, no doubt). The unwonted torrent of blood that resulted from this must have traumatized his brain, because, in a hideous moment of mental collapse, the Grinch inexplicably returned to Whoville all the materialistic crap he had earlier saved them from! The result: no lesson learned.

I suppose this was one cynical writer’s idea of realism: you know, avoid the fairy tale ending and prove yourself some kind of genius (apparently it was a doctor of who wrote it — although doctor of what I can’t tell you). I was so disgusted it took all I could to keep from throwing the remote through the TV screen.

But let’s face it, Christmas is the most overrated, costly, and stressful of all the holidays. So much money, angst, and planning for one day out of a calendar of 365 makes absolutely no sense. If people would just try practicing a little mind over marketing, perhaps they could see it. Please tell me if this is or is not true: isn’t Christmas meant to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ? Is not “christ” the root word of Christmas? Well, yes or no? If the answer is yes, then let me ask you this: are flying reindeer and happy, industrious elves part of the iconology of the Christian Church? I only ask because I’ve never seen them on any stained glass window. And granted, though it’s been a while since Sunday School for me, I don’t remember Santa Claus in the manger with baby Jesus, unless he was traveling incognito as a wise man. Pursuing this line of thought, did Bethlehem have a Best Buy or Walmart? Did Joseph and Mary use Frequent Flyer Miles for their trip to Egypt? Did Mammoth Multi-Media Megacorp own the naming rights to the star that guided the shepherds and the wise men? This enquiring mind wants to know.

It’s a cliche, but it’s true: Christmas is way, way over-commercialized. It’s a monstrosity, a burlesque of what it should be, a holiday turned unholy. Don’t even call it Christmas — call it Crassmas. It’s about shopping at the last minute for stuff you can’t afford for people who will look at it once, shake it twice, then put it down and forget about it. It’s traffic jams and fighting over parking spaces in mall parking lots. It’s writing the same hackneyed phrase on a million Christmas cards to people you hardly ever talk to. It’s a careful gift wrapping job ripped to shreds and the thoughtful card accompanying it cast aside unopened. It’s four page statements with your Visa and MasterCard bills and a credit card debt that stretches from the south to the north pole. It’s Christmas spirit in the form of rude hand gestures by drivers reacting to your protests when they cut you off in standstill traffic to advance their progress exactly one car length. Ho ho ho, you ho, ho, ho! Oh, yeah. Jolly, all right. Boil ’em with their own pudding, I say, and bury ’em with a stake of holly through their hearts!


Now, people, please review the illustration below. That’s Norman Rockwell’s famous painting Freedom from Want. A nice Thanksgiving dinner, isn’t it? The family is all assembled. There’s Ma and Pa working the turkey, Jim Bob laughing at something Granny just said. Brother Billy Joe’s hot wife, Maybelle, is exchanging a pleasantry with Aunt Clara, while Uncle Elmo laughs and thinks, “Ain’t she a peach!” Little Juney is peering around Jim Bob, checking to see if Pastor Lundquist appears too tipsy to say grace (he’d been hitting Ma’s cider punch pretty hard earlier), and Pa’s hired hand, Ernie, looks back at us as if to say, “We’ll be bustin’ some buttons after this one, folks!”

That’s Thanksgiving. Simple, clean, very little pressure. See, no one has to break open their piggy banks or put themselves into hock for this holiday. If people are fair about it, they each will bring a dish or two to help out the hosts. And then what else do you have to do? Sit around, talk, over-indulge a little bit (what the hell? it’s Thanksgiving!). Let the kids hang out with their cousins, watch some football, maybe play some cards. Then, after a few hours, pack everyone in the car and head on home. That’s it! Simple!

Giving thanks for what you have beats losing half of it on a few unappreciated trinkets purchased in an overcrowded department store. Sharing a joke and helping yourself to more mashed potatoes is far more desirable than holding up a loud tie with a frozen smile on your face. Raising your hand in a toast is infinitely preferable to massaging it after addressing your hundredth Christmas card. Do you want to know what symbolizes Christmas for me? The trash of Christmas: a dead tree lying in the snow, its needles turned brown with bits of tinsel clinging to its lifeless limbs, stirred occasionally by a cold breeze, crowded by bags upon bags of discarded packaging. Just what the hell’s so merry about that? Huh? Huh?

Bah! Humbug!

The editors wish to point out that if Mr. Schprock’s wife reads this, he still wants the Lionel Elvis Presley Train Set with Fastrack and the G.I. Joe with Kung Fu grip.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Schprock Redux

Wow! I have what I can only describe as an “I’m caught up” feeling at work! I don’t exactly know how it happened, but yesterday afternoon, when I poked my head up and looked around, I noticed the flood waters had receded all around me. That’s right: the amount of stuff in my In box is well under its maximum weight capacity for the first time in weeks. I no longer need to shovel my way to my desk through the mountain of client revisions. It’s Friday, and it just might be an easy day! Why, it makes me want to thank God it’s Friday. Wait a minute – “Thank God It’s Friday.” Catchy, isn’t it? I think I’ll print that on a T-shirt.

Our weeks here at the old design mill run from Friday to the following Thursday. I just finished filling out the past week’s timesheet and it’s got 66 hours on it. That’s roughly 5 gallons of sweat off my brow and a pound and a half of elbow grease. Now I know: everyone reading this has put in longer weeks, and I appreciate that, but still, 66 hours is nothing to sneeze at. And let’s see: last week was 59 hours, and the week before that was 57. Look, I’m just a little sissy-boy. I think I deserve some major points, overcoming my sissyness the way I have. It’s much harder for a sissy to put in long hours than a real man. In fact, now when I think about it, I don’t think a statue in my honor would be entirely out of line. Something tasteful in a prominent place in the Boston Public Gardens. I see a laptop, a desk groaning with paperwork, a phone ringing off the hook, and a look of sweet, sweet agony, all cast in bronze. Kind of a Stoning of Saint Stephen feel, you know?

So how is everybody? I hope everyone is well. Sorry I’ve made myself so scarce. Ms. Smith came to stay with us all last week, a friendly little visit that extended through the weekend. I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this before, but she used to be a kindergarten teacher way back when she was a kinder and gentler Ms. Smith. It showed in the way she installed herself at the conference table right in plain sight and graded our layouts all last week. Wednesday I got a big gold star stuck on my forehead for doing one of my layouts right, and all day Friday she made me classroom monitor and I got to boss all the other kids around. Next time she comes to see us, she’ll let me clap her erasers.

Oh, I’d like to clap her erasers all right!

(What did I just say? I don’t even know what that means!)

Have a great weekend everybody!

Friday, November 04, 2005

Pulse Check

Thanks for the comments, guys. I'm readin’ ’em, I'm enjoyin’ ’em, but I got no time for nuttin’. Right now, it’s Friday night at 6:30 and I'm still here at work . . . and guess what? I'll be here at the crack o’ dawn tomorrow (but here’s a small consolation: I'm not lonely — Ms. Smith is right here with me, God bless her). I've got some posts floating around in my head that I really want to write and I will — I'm keeping a list — but God only knows when.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

A Brief Update

Heigh ho! Your weekend blogger here, serving you 24/2/104. I’ve been a little busy lately. How busy? How about busier than a one-armed paperhanger wearing roller skates in a barrel-rolling contest fending off a swarm of killer bees? That right there is pretty damn busy, my friends, and I’m busier than that!

Actually, I can’t even call myself a weekend blogger because it’s Tuesday already. Generally, even during the most trying times, I try to throw up a post a week, but I just couldn’t do it last week. Stupid work. Stupid responsibilities. Look, I never asked to grow up — maturity was thrust upon me. I’m a victim here. Why couldn’t I have been born rich at least? Then I could use this as an excuse: “I can’t work! I’m a gentleman.”

The only reason why I’m posting anything right now is to let the two or three people who read this drivel know I’m still breathing. You know, put to rest all those “Schprock is dead” rumors. What’s up with that, huh? And then there’s those people with too much time on their hands who have been reading my posts backwards and uncovering supposedly subliminal messages claiming I’m the antichrist, quoting stuff like “follow me my minions, the gaping maw of hell yawns before you,” and “my bologna has a first name, it’s O-S-C-A-R…”

Well, in other news, I’ve put in for my remaining vacation days for the year. Right after Thanksgiving I plan to park my butt somewhere warm and cushiony and stay there until December 6th. Then, on December 7th, a date which will live in infamy, I’ll return to work a whole man. Actually, I have an idea for a (hopefully) funny short story, and that might be my main goal during vacation. Oh, and then there’s all that stuff my wife wants me to take care of around the house. Can’t forget that. Maybe I’ll fake gout. Nothing like a good bout of gout. Unless I’m blue with the flu, or suffering the pain of a sprain. I’ll think of something to shirk work.

Okay, that’s it — I’m spent. Move along people, nothing more to see here.