Friday, February 25, 2011

Snow Days

"Mulder, it's just snow."
Snow days.

As a kid, there were few greater gifts than a random snow day. The excitement the night before, the anticipation overwhelming...SNOW! Then, the next morning, waking up early and running out into the living room, plopping on the floor in my footie pajamas, waiting to hear the name of my school. Then, it was either a squeal of joy or a groan of an unwritten book report.

If there was a snow day, it was fantastic. It was a totally free unplanned and unscheduled day.

A snow day was like Christmas morning. Snarfing my cereal quickly so I could get outside to play. Maybe build a snow something456 or go sledding. My mom would wrap me in scarves and mittens and hats and boots and...a snow suit. And just like Randy from A Christmas Story, unable to move or put my arms down, I would shuffle outside to play.

I might make a snow fort or maybe a snow creature (I never had the dedication to make a snow man). Who knew?

Then as an adult, snow days started to take on an entirely different meaning. Depending on your job, a snow day could be a free day to get caught up on laundry or it could be a bitter unpaid day where you seethe and simmer about losing out because you work with wussies that couldn't make it in.

I had the joy of working for a boss that once threatened my job if I didn't make it in, even though the city had declared a snow emergency and the Mayor informed residents that if you are not an emergency worker and you are in the streets driving, you would be fined. That was a good time. I made it in 2 hours late to find out our department was the only one in the building besides a few scattered Vice-Presidents. I was there about an hour before we were told to go home by the higher ups. Yes, the vein in my forehead is ready to pop out just thinking about that scenario.

The strangest snow day experience I ever had though was when I lived in Tennessee. Even by Cleveland standards, it was a vicious snow and ice storm. I had my power knocked out for a little over a day, but due to my good fortune of living next to a business district it was restored rather quickly compared to my neighbors across the street. Other people in the city would go without power for days, in some parts of the state, weeks. Tennessee was not even remotely prepared to handle a snow storm, and especially not one of that magnitude. I remember being scared out of my mind watching guys in pick up trucks roaming neighborhoods with chainsaws. I was relieved to see that they were actually clearing the roads, hacking apart whatever trees had fallen. Since I had power, I received all sorts of calls from people, some wanting to walk over, some considering a drive to get warm and maybe mooch some food.

I had two co-workers in particular that I was friends with that were without power from the storm. One, we'll call Fraiser and the second we'll call Suzanne. Frasier packed up and came over my house, a normal 10 minute drive that ended up taking about an hour and a half. We hung out for a while, had a sandwich and then I started to receive disturbing telephone calls from Suzanne. 

"Am I roaming?"
This my friends was the time before cell phones were prevalent. Very few people had them and those that did have mobile phones had to figure out how to get the darn things to work. Sometimes you were roaming, sometimes you had to switch channels. Sometimes you had to switch channels to roam. You always had to remember to pull the antenna out. They were in a word, a pain.

Anyway, Suzanne wanted to come over, freezing and hungry and lonely and she finally said she was going to just do it. She was going to brave evil mother nature and come over.

Suzanne, a true Southerner, had very little experience with snow and even less driving in it. Frasier and I were worried that if Suzanne did try and make it to us, if something happened, there was no way to get help to her other than climb through snow drifts.

Frasier and I threw caution to the wind (possibly ill from cabin fever) and drove to Suzanne's house to rescue her. What we saw was shocking. It was one of those situations that you look at one another and  make a silent vow to never discuss again. Until now of course.

The roads were terrible. There were no plows, no salt trucks. There were a few bobcats in the road trying to clear the way. There were a few city pickup trucks with, I swear to this, guys in the back shoveling sand into the road.

I made my way up the winding mountain road, and then we saw her. Suzanne was knee deep in snow trying to dig out her car with the top of a plastic patio end table. It was like a scene from Band of Brothers when they were in Bastogne. There was a soldier that was trying to dig a fox hole in the frozen ground with his bare hands. Thinking back, that is what she reminded me of.



Later that night we ventured out and walked a block or so to a restaurant that was open and had many beverages of an adult variety.

Hmm. Remembering that story makes my day today of watching an American Chopper marathon while doing work stuff with the cat trying to eat my sandwich seem pretty tame.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Like Clarence Clemons, I Think I'm Happy. Finally.

Clarence Clemons and Bruce Springsteen.
There was a recent article in the Cleveland Plain Dealer about how Clarence "The Big Man" Clemons, and how if it were not for simple twist in fate, he could have been a member of the Cleveland Browns. The man who has been a member of Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band since 1972, was almost a member of the Cleveland Browns.

I had to repeat that several times and reread the article because it sounds absolutely absurd. The Big Man played ball in college and even played for the New Jersey semi-pro team for a couple of years. The day before he was to show off for a Browns scout, he crashed his Buick into a tree and never played football again. A few years later, Clemons met some scruffy looking guy named Bruce in a club on the Jersey Shore (I'm quite sure it was Snooki-free at the time) and the rest is rock and roll history.

When it comes to finding what you *should* be doing in life - the job or profession that is your true calling - sometimes you can only find it on your own... without a map, without a gps, but instead by trial and error, making wrong turn after wrong turn along the way. Some wrong turns are better than others I freely admit, and may be kinda fun (ok, a lot of fun), but they are still wrong in a sense.

I've had a wide variety of jobs, some that I have enjoyed significantly more than others. I've worked as an administrator in Higher Educaton (I liked that), Retail (would you like a belt with that?), a bartender/server/restaurant manager (liked/hated that) and I have worked in non-profits, just to throw a few categories out there. I've always fantasized about being the person with a 9-5 job. Working hard and then enjoying the weekend until Monday. Going in somewhere, punching the time clock and my widgets and moving on. In reality, I'm not that person.

I can't do that.

I have tried though. Tried to be the good little worker bee. It never seemed to work out.

As I have gotten older, it occurred to me that the problem is that I want to do something with my life. Now, before anyone gets the wrong idea, I don't have grandiose ambitions of curing cancer, saving the rain forest or figuring out how cow flatulence is contributing to global warming.

Don't get me wrong, those would be great and wonderful things to solve.

Just not for me.

What I have found is that in my jobs, I have enjoyed making a difference, as "pass the cheez-whiz" as that sounds, it is true. So, moving on to the non-profit world, seemed like a perfect fit. But, not all non-profits are equal. Some are more mission driven than others and some have a more compelling mission than others. I'm sure this is a topic for another post, but, some jobs have been a better fit for me than others.

And then it happened.

It has taken me almost two years, but I have finally found a job in Cleveland. I'm working at a non-profit where I'm directly involved in making Cleveland a better place...a better community.

I've been unhappy for a very long time with my career. And maybe it has been the hundreds of prayer chains that my mom has put me on, or my sheer desire to be home...but *whispers* things are working out.

It almost scares me to say it, but I'm happy with my job. I enjoy the people I work with and they all seem to enjoy what they are doing....which is always an added bonus. Most importantly, I see every single day the impact that we as an organization are making. For the first time in my life, I feel like I can truly improve the life of someone else by simply going to work. Every day, I see the importance of what I do. Not just me as a singular person, but me as a part of a team working together toward a common goal.

Whoa.

On a trip to Dublin Ireland years ago, I was in the Guinness Storehouse, picking out various trinkets for friends and family. My arms were overflowing with shirts and mugs and knickknacks and general stuff when a young man in a Guinness Staff shirt came up to me. With a smile and a wonderful accent, he asked, "Would you like some help?" I thanked him profusely and said how grateful I was for his assistance, as he helped me gather my things that were quickly falling all over. He said something that years later has still stuck with me.

As I thanked him, he smiled and said simply, "Hope comes from unexpected places."

Yes.

Yes, it does.

Wall behind the Guinness Storehouse in Dublin.


Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Streak Is Over, Let's Leave It At That


The Cavaliers were on a 26 game losing streak. 26 straight games.
The team went from first to worst. From the penthouse to the outhouse.

But when the opportunity showed up for tickets to see the Cavs and the Clippers play, I had to go to the game. For that game, there was a chance, a chance that they might...just might win. There was no way they could lose 27 games.

Lately, people are giving tickets away because no one will buy them. Season ticket holders are dumping their tickets quicker than a hot potato on the lap. No one wants to go to games. No one wants the frustration of watching their team lose while swigging 7 buck beers. Masochists maybe. But most people would rather sit in the privacy of their own home to curse at the TV in the company of family.

I had to go though. They had to win. The streak couldn't go on forever. The Cavs couldn't lost 27 straight. I wanted to be there to see them win. I had a feeling...the same feeling all Cleveland sports fans get...that hope in the pit of your stomach that this is finally the game to win.

When I arrived at the Q, it was immediately apparent that I wasn't the only one with that idea.  The stands were full. The air was electric with the anticipation of a win.


The fans were tired of being the joke at ESPN. I'm sure that the team was as well. The game was going well and then it looked like we had a chance to win. The team played with heart. With a purpose. Fans were on their feet and screaming, turning to high five anyone in arms reach for each basket. By the time the fourth quarter rolled around, it was like game 7 of the playoffs.


Then...overtime.

Every fan had the same thought, "Oh God, this is where we blow it." But the Cavs didn't blow it. The Cavs won. The streak was broken and the team won! The losing streak was forever locked at 26.

Not only did the Cavs win...they won with a score of over a hundred points, which meant 20,562 chulupas for the city of Cleveland.


People lingered around. It felt like the Cavs games of the last few season when the guy's name I won't type was there. People laughing and smiling. If you looked around as the crowd filed out into the night, you would have no idea that we were a team with the worst record in the NBA. That the team had just lost 26 straight games...a franchise record. Then something happened, which I think would only happen in Cleveland. People started trying to figure out if the Cavs won every remaining game if they could, oh my, go to the playoffs?

But *that* is what people don't understand about Cleveland sports fans. We love our teams. We rant and rave and swear...but we still watch. We go to the games. We always believe that we can win. We buy the jerseys and vow that next year will be better. We are always waiting for next year.

The new view from the Q.

Friday, February 11, 2011

I Demand My Chalupa

Jamario Moon.
The Cavaliers are making it more difficult than usual to be a Cleveland fan. Their record is to the point that it is angrily comical.

If you are a Cleveland fan, it is difficult enough, with the constant Cleveland sports fail reel that is shown whenever we have a team half way decent. Yes, yes, we are a city desperate for a championship. But the Cavs are making me angry right now.

There are very few people that are Cleveland fans that are not from Cleveland. I'm ignoring the LeBron years here as an anomaly.I'm tired of losing. I'm tired of Cleveland being the butt of jokes again. I'm tired of the team giving up.

Yup. I said it. The team has thrown in the towel. I understand and realize that there are major players that are out. But it all goes back to that Heat game. LeBron got in their heads and they listened to him. The team isn't *this* bad. I don't believe that. When he was close to the bench, he said something. Something so awful no one will repeat it. But whatever it was, it stuck.

What bothers me most is that they believed him. LeBron James. That is the man they chose to believe.


Please don't say that it's just a game. That will make my eyes pop out and the vein in my forehead explode. You can read my feelings on the topic here

I demand change. I demand my chalupa.

I'm going to the game tonight and I am expecting a win.

We can do it.

We have to. The Cleveland fail reel has enough material already.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Detroit Leaning




Today was a monumental day.
I'm officially an Ohio resident once again. 

Allow me a moment there. It is officially official. I'm home. I'm really home. I clicked my little heels and here I am. I feel like there should be some brass band marching through. A ticker tape parade maybe even.
Now, I still need someone to buy my condo (great place in Indy, you could even walk to the Colts stadium and the 2012 Superbowl), but as far as everything legal, I'm back. I have a great job that I love and I'm near my friends and family. Life is good. 

But, to make all of this happen I needed to go to the BMV and switch over my car title, get plates (I'm spoiled. In Indy I only needed one plate. My poor car is going to get its grill all messed up to add a front plate), and get an Ohio license. Couldn't be too hard right?

Umm, sure.

In the interest of full disclosure, I'm as much of a fan of the BMV as I would be of someone forcing me to be next to Bobby Flay grilling spiders at a Steelers game. That would be not so much. For reference, you can check my last BMV experience here. So, I woke up today, fully prepared to get the run around and go from place to place to place to place. Indiana has points over Ohio for the convenience factor. In Indy, you go to one place for everything. Plates, license, testing, titles, you name, you get it there. Ohio offered me a little surprise of a different place for everything. Granted, some of the locations are very close together, but the majority seem to be in different buildings or completely different locations. If I had to go out a door into the cold, I counted it as a separate location.


I checked the internet and even went old school and called ahead, hoping to save myself some run around. To see how well that worked, here was my rundown of my morning:

Stop #1:  Auto Title. Brrr. It sure is cold out. I hopped out of the car and tried to get in the title office. I called ahead and was told this was stop #1. They don't open until 9 so I start hopping around to keep warm. They let us in and the woman tells me that I need to get my vehicle checked next door. She was very chipper and blew off my grumbling, which was probably the best choice. Good for her. Grr...as I walk next door.

Stop #2: BMV. I need to get my VIN checked so Ohio knows my car isn't hot. Guy walks out with me and he checks the VIN. Go back in the BMV and write check #1. They tell me to go back to Auto Title. Grrr.

Stop #3/#4/#5: Auto Title. Good thing is the line barely moved since I left. Bad thing is the line has barely moved since I left. There are rumblings of only one computer working. There is a sign, after you get inside and through part of the line with lots of !!!!!!!! shouting that you need to get your VIN checked next door before you can get your title. 2 people come in behind me with the same bad intel. Selma behind the counter tells us all that we must have called next door because they don't ever get it right. Selma also tells me I need to get the exact mileage so I hop out of line and go out to get it and then back in. Grrr. Writes check #2.  Walk away with my Ohio title. Yayyy.

Stop #6: ECheck. Selma gives me directions to the Echeck place that were like something out of Pee-Wee's Big Adventure. I make it there and to me it looks like a car wash place. I explain to the guy that I just got my title and need the check thing. He asks for my Ohio license. I tell him I don't have one yet. He tells me I can't get my Echeck. Vein in my forehead starts to protrude. He goes and gets his supervisor and I get the all clear to wait in some booth thing and watch my car get checked. I consider asking for a car wash but decide against it. The guy manning the booth shares with everyone his theories on parallel universes. I decide that the alternate me is likely fighting with the cable company. I get the all clear and head back to the BMV.

Stop #7: BMV. I go back to the BMV to get my plates. I'm pleasantly surprised to see that getting Browns plates were *still* cheaper than getting plain ol' regular plates in Indy. Woot! She gives me the option to get plates until my birthday (next week) or through 2012. I refrain from asking why the heck anyone would only renew their plates for a week only to have to come back again and instead I politely ask for plates through 2012. I write check #3 and I figured I was done. No such luck. I need to go next door to take my written test for my license. Grrrr.

Stop #8: Testing Center.friggin written test was. I have to answer 30 out of 40 questions correctly or no license for me. I miss a question about farm equipment and one about how many points it takes before your license is suspended. Once I answered my 30 correct the test stops and tells me to go to the desk. Part of me was cranky because I was recorded with a 75% passing grade and I wanted to do better, the other part of me had to pee so I just wanted to move on. Guy tells me to move on back next door to get my license. 

Stop #9: BMV. Back to the BMV to get my license. I'm once again happily surprised to see that there are rest rooms. There are no potties at the BMVs in Indy. When you are in line for hours, I assure you, the lack of rest rooms cranks up the frustration level. Writes check #4 (glad I brought a new book of checks) and waits for my picture to be taken. Further surprised that no one asks for my proof of insurance and I'm allowed to *gasp* smile for my picture. Indiana uses some facial recognition software so everyone's driver's license looks like a prison id.

Whew. 

After all the running, I stopped to get gas and some lunch with an accompaniment of an adult beverage.

Buckle up Ohio. I'm home.