Category Archives: Places I’ve Been

I get around

Spring Time

saratoga Katherine and I took a short road trip to Saratoga Springs, Wyoming in August just to get away for a few days.  About three hours drive from Loveland, Colorado, this town consisted of some hot springs, two gas stations, a handful of hotels, and a few hundred people who seemed to have taken up residence here for their own personal reasons.  We booked a room at the hotel which included access to several hot tubs and a large pool filled with mineral water.  Some of the hot tubs were mostly covered with teepee-like structures that gave a large amount of privacy, just in case, say,  you and your partner needed some alone time to, oh, review old tax returns or exchange highly sensitive military intelligence.

The hotel room had its own share of peculiarities.  In addition to the queen sized bed, much of the room was occupied by a large rustic looking armoire.  I’m not sure if it was real rustic or fake rustic– around here it could go either way.  Inside the armoire is a very medium sized television set.  A shelf above the television is a shelf bowing under the weight of a large VCR with, if carbon dated, would probably be traced backed to the early 1980s.  I can’t remember ever having been in a hotel room with a VCR.  We got all the standard cable channels, some better than others– perhaps a sign of a few too many sets connected to the cable feed.  All the network channels were based in Denver, which kind of negated the feeling that we were out in the middle of nowhere.  Or at least as much of nowhere that is left these days.  Come to think about it, we did pass a large Walmart distribution center about 60 miles from town, so somewhere is getting closer all the time.

The only other notable attribute of the hotel was the high pressure nozzle on the shower.  This device literally separates the water molecules into individual atoms before shooting them out at a velocity approaching the speed of light.  This causes the water to assume wavelike properties and travel straight through my body, the tub, the subfloor, and so on until it slows down somewhere, I suspect, near the molten core of the planet.

While somewhat limited in our dining choices, we found a rather small-townsy type place that served a small selection of breakfast options.  We must have come during the morning rush, because the one waiter was overwhelmed trying to take care of everyone.  When the shelf of clean coffee mugs became empty, one of the customers cleaned up a few tables, took everything into the kitchen, and came back out in a few minutes with a dozen clean mugs.  That’s what I like about visiting small towns– well, that and we didn’t see a single mugging or car-jacking.

Escape to New York

For everyone just catching up on my life, a few weeks ago I married my long time partner in crime, Katherine.  So in any future posts here on my website I will, at one time or another, refer to Katherine, Kat (though not Kathy, she hates that–I think it has something to do with the cartoon strip), my wife, my baby mama (more on that as it develops, but the short version is: yes, yes, December 15, 2009), and finally the one person in the house who knows where things are located.

In our consistent approach of reaching our relationship milestones in the complete wrong order, we decided to go on our honeymoon a few weeks before the actual wedding.  We decided, for no exact reason, to spend a week in New York City.  Our flight from Denver to LaGuardia was uneventful.  Katherine gave me the Dan Brown’s novel “Angels and Demons” to read during the flight.  I quickly started thinking the book would make a great season of “24” if Tom Hanks hadn’t starred in the big screen version that came out last week.  And, let’s be honest here, the script just doesn’t have enough gratuitous torture sequences to show off the talents of Kiefer Sutherland.

After a relatively short cab ride to our hotel, we got our luggage put away and started randomly walking around the city.  Central Park to the north, and Times Square to the south– we had plenty of areas to explore.  My first impression of Times Square:  this is not the bisexual prostitute cowboy part of town I saw in that John Voight film.  (Who, coincidentally, was also in the most recent season of “24”, but I digress.)  I didn’t even see that naked cowboy.  No, Times Square is a busy mix of automobile traffic and pedestrians who stop in the middle of the sidewalk because they need to get a half dozen pictures of the 37 foot neon “Mr Peanut” on the corner of 45th and Broadway.

As we visited different parts of Manhattan, we noticed everyone has formed an alliance. Times Square, Chinatown, Midtown, and of course the magicians have all resorted to aligning themselves– presumably against one another, or at least against the magicians, who always seem to have some kind of trick up their sleeve.  Keeping a fragile peace over the island is the Ray’s Pizza Alliance with has locations literally on every block of the city.

Whenever I would see a scene from a movie or television show involving Central Park I always thought it looked like a back lot somewhere in southern California.  But I can now personally attest that, yes, that is what Central Park looks like.  The rest of the island has been stripped of all natural vegetation, but one rectangular area in the middle was spared.  I think of it as an island with a mowhawk.  A pamphlet about the park when on and on about the beauty of Central Park.  Maybe the island would look better if they just built the city where Central Park is and left everything else how it was when they got there.  Somehow I think it is a bit too late for that.

For no particular reason, I wanted to go see Coney Island.  We took the N train all the way south and walked a block to the boardwalk.  The weather was warm, the sun was shining, and Coney Island was closing up for the night.  We arrived at 6:05 PM five days before the unofficial start to summer, Memorial Day, and the place was a ghost town.  We got there just in time for the restrooms “convenience hours” to have expired.  Nothing promotes tourism more than locking the bathrooms when people might be interested in using them.  We headed back to the subway, and we saw an ad on the side of a bus for Coney Island that read, “Coney Island: Really Fun, Really Open.”  And no, I’m not making that up.  We stopped in the bathroom at the subway station before getting back on the train.  Not the best facilities I’ve been in, but I wouldn’t call it a shithole.  Katherine, however, did use that exact description for the ladies room.

So that wraps up the highlights of our trip.  I finished the book on the flight home and we made our way back home to Loveland.  Now I’ll be busy getting everything ready for my wedding in a few weeks.

Home Sweet Home

Have you ever had one of those days when you come home from the movies on a Sunday evening only to have your longtime friend/roommate/landlord tell you that he is moving in with his girlfriend to a brand new place ten miles away? Welcome to my world.

As if I didn’t have enough to keep me busy between not getting fired at work and arranging my Netflix movie queue on the Internet (OK, maybe that last one doesn’t sound that difficult, but if I don’t keep a constant eye on it, Kristin will fill up the list with her silly choices like the complete cartoon collection of “Jem and the Holograms” while showing absolutely no respect for my culturally enlightening selections such as “Shakes the Clown.” I mean, come on, how can Bob Goldthwait playing (“playing”) a depressed alcoholic clown not be an important social commentary?

Back to the “me getting kicked out of the house” thread, Scott assured me that I could live in the house until it was sold to someone else. This meant that I had somewhere between two weeks and six months to find a new place to call home. Before I started looking for a place I needed to answer several important questions: Do I want to rent or own? What part of town do I want to live in? Could I just sleep at the UPS center and avoid the extensive cost of shelter altogether?

After considering all my options, I decided to buy a place of my own. That way, I reasoned, if I got kicked out it would most likely be due to: A: a freak meteorite hitting my place or B: a complete and long-term finical irresponsibility on my part. In either case, I would only tangentially blame Scott for having to move again.

My search for personal residential real estate began, like any good search, on the Internet. I entered what I wanted in a house and how much I could afford to spend. In roughly 1/10th of a second I got a response back from Google. It offered me, in this exact order, books on houses from, doll houses for sale on, and finally every single piece of real estate, commercial and residential, for sale and not for sale, on the entire planet. Since this didn’t provide me with much useful information, I decided to take a more realistic approach to my dilemma– I drove around parts of town where I wanted to live and looked for “For Sale” signs on houses.

After a surprisingly short search, I found a place I liked and made an offer. For everyone who hasn’t purchased real estate, the negotiation process goes something like this:

Buyer: I will pay you X dollars for this house.

Seller: Well, I don’t know, I think it is worth 2X to the right buyer.

Buyer: How about 1.5X?

Seller: I might be able to swing that. Of course I would have to keep the washer, dryer, and all the windows and doors.

Buyer: If I have to buy all that stuff I would need to take my dying mother off dialysis. Would that make you happy?

And so on.

Once the terms of the sale are agreed upon, the next stage in the process is to arrange financing. Most people don’t have enough money to write a check for the total cost of the house. This is why mortgage companies were invented. In exchange for giving people lots of money to buy a house, the mortgage company has the right to put people through a complex and deeply humiliating loan approval process. This includes, but is not limited to, financial information from the past three generations of relatives, a complete pantry inventory, and, at the sole discretion of the mortgage company managerial staff, a complete urine analysis. “I’m sorry, but the sample you provided us was a bit too dark for our taste. You will never own a house. Have a nice day.”

Once financing has been arranged, the final step in the process is the closing. In addition to having to sign 8000 pieces of confusing yet legally binding documents, the soon-to-be homeowner needs to check for any forms clerical and typographical errors in the loan documents. This included making sure names are spelled correctly, dates more or less correspond to when events actually happened, and that the title company isn’t under the impression that you are buying a used muffler bracket assembly from a 1978 Pinto.

The title company’s main responsibility is to say everything is going smoothly, and then, two days before the closing, inform the buyer that six crucial documents have been mysteriously removed from the closing file. This is exactly what happened during my closing. Imagine this: I’m driving on the east side of Fort Collins delivering packages trying not to fall behind schedule when my cell phone rings. “Hello, this is so-and-so from your friendly neighborhood title company. Look, we just now realized that your place is a ‘pud’. Now that doesn’t mean anything to you, but since it is a pud, we need additional information from your employer regarding your pay from two years ago. If you could just fax that to me in the next half an hour or so, that would be great.” First of all, I’m in a big brown UPS truck, which does not have any type of onboard fax machine. Second, I’m 20 miles away from my computer and still have 4 hours of work to get done before I can get home. And finally, getting any kind of useful information from a company as large as UPS cannot be completed in less than four to six weeks.

Despite all these difficulties, I did manage to complete the process of buying a townhouse (or ‘pud,’ if you will). With that accomplished, I now get to move on to a whole new set of challenges such as moving all my stuff, landscaping the front yard, and putting up window coverings. I was planning on getting some of that done this afternoon, but I just noticed that my “Shakes the Clown” DVD just came in the mail from Netflix.

Turning 30

For the first seven or eight years I knew my friend Brian, he kept telling me the word sopapilla meant “soup thief” in Spanish. Since my entire south-of-the-border language exposure took place at numerous Taco Bell drive-throughs in the Denver metro area, I accepted his explanation without question. Whenever the words “soup” or “thief” came up in casual conversation I would proudly explain to everyone in the immediate vicinity how deep-fried dough can soak up, or steal away if you will, warm seasoned broth when used in a traditional dipping motion. (This often occurred while viewing the movie “Best In Show” when the character Sherri Ann Cabot described the relationship with her new fiancée who was roughly forty years her elder. “We both have so much in common, we both love soup and we love the outdoors, we love snow peas and talking and not talking.”)

So everything in my life is going fine– I have an interesting tidbit of information that makes me come across as funny and wise in the ways of the world. Unfortunately, it turns out Brian was wrong all along. The word sopapilla actually means “fried dough sweetened with honey.” My point here is that you can’t always trust what you hear, even if it comes from your best friend. Having said that, I spent last weekend celebrating my thirtieth birthday. I shit you not.

Of course turning thirty is only significant if you have ten fingers. If Kristin, my nine-fingered girlfriend, was put in charge of creating a numbering system it could very well be based on nine. If that were the case, twenty-seven and thirty-six would be important age milestones. I’m not sure the world is ready to abandon the decimal system in favor of the more obscure nano-mal concept. Similarly, if Mickey Mouse or the society displayed on “The Simpsons” were to set things up, we might base everything on the number eight. Since the numbers are really the only thing everyone on the planet can agree on, the odds of this changing by the time I finish writing this are quite small. Hence, my turning thirty is an important sociological milestone in my life. I’m not as young as I used to be, and not as old as I will be. That, and my age ends in a zero for a while.

I started the celebration a week before my actual birthday by going to see the musical “Hairspray” with my mom and Kristin. I was excited to see Ricky Lake play the lead role—especially after seeing her amazing performance as the front of the Filthy Whore ship in the movie “Cabin Boy.” It turned out that the story’s lead character, Tracy Turnblad, was instead played quite well by Carly Jibson. Despite this slight confusion on my part, I found the entire production to be quite enjoyable and would recommend it to anyone who enjoys dancing, singing, and jungle love subplots. Keep in mind, however, that I’m part of a small but dedicated group of people who thinks “Cabin Boy” got shafted by the Academy Awards.

The next Saturday, which was my actual birthday, I went to the Comedy Works with a bunch of friends to watch Carlos Mencia. One of the highlights of the show involved Carlos letting two drunken women heckle him. He did a suspiciously amazing job at putting them in their place, which made us all wonder if it wasn’t a setup to make him look good. Another, well, I would call it more of a bizarre occurrence than a highlight, was when I received money at the end of the show. The man sitting directly behind me spent a large percentage of the evening yelling out random comments while at the same time inadvertently depositing tiny droplets of spittle on the back of my bald head. While he didn’t feel the need to actually shut up during the performance, he did feel bad enough at the end to hand me a twenty dollar bill.

To wrap up my birthday celebration, Kristin decided to throw a surprise party for me the following weekend at Old Chicago. She did a great job of coordinating the evening without me getting wind of her plans. Unfortunately, one of our friends called her the night before as Kristin and I were sitting on her couch in the living room. The reason they called was to say they wouldn’t be attending my party. Not that I was eavesdropping, but its kind of hard to be sitting two inches away from someone talking on the phone with the television muted and not listen in to the conversation. Even though the surprise element of the night was compromised I had a great time with my friends eating pizza and soaking up the general atmosphere of downtown Denver.

While I am not exactly sure how it could be measured, I think I celebrated this birthday more than all my birthdays in my twenties. Since I’m not very good a consuming alcohol, I celebrated my twenty-first birthday by going out for ice cream. When I was twenty-four I spent April 3rd checking out Antwerp, Belgium. So while I may say a lot of things that, after careful examination, aren’t exactly factually correct (like when I swore up and down to Kristin there was a “Godfather 4” movie that just happened to never be at Blockbuster), I’ll never again say I’m in my twenties.

One Ecstatic Birthday

While being completely organized has never been one of my strong points, I have yet to forget my girlfriend Kristin’s birthday. One reason for my impressive track record in this area is the fact that we have only been dating for a year and a half. The other, and by far more relevant factor is the consistent effort on Kristin’s part to make sure I remember. After twenty-three casual verbal reminders, three email messages, and one formal printed birthday “wish list,” Kristin did everything humanly possible to ensure that May 27, 1976 was a day not to be forgotten. And don’t even get me started on the “Countdown to My Birthday” lighted, animated marquee sign she constructed (at, I’m sure, considerable expense) in the living room.

Last year I made Kristin a website that anyone in the Internet-free world can go visit at The site contains a collection of her writing along with various photographs of places she has visited over the years. While the website probably isn’t going to cure cancer or get any new Democrats elected to congress in 2004, it’s a fun place to poke around from time to time. Kristin really enjoys having her own website, despite the constant disagreement with the web design team (that would be me) about the image on the main page showing her in a moderately low-cut t-shirt. But, she does admit that it is better than a picture of me showing too much cleavage.

This year I decided to take a less traditional approach to Kristin’s birthday. While I could have simply gotten her something off her birthday list, I wanted to surprise her with something else. As I drove to the local Wal-Mart I used a highly specialized process of meditation specifically designed to make me think like Kristin. When I arrived at the store I was a five-foot-two, red-headed, nine-fingered woman. Fortunately, nobody else in the store was aware of my transformation.

After about twenty minutes of shopping, I decided on a set of steak knives, and a headset for her cell phone. As I was heading towards the checkout area, a motorized bubble making machine caught my eye. Not literally, thankfully. It basically consists of a series of plastic loops that get immersed in bubble solution and then move in front of a small fan. It looked like fun and was consistent with my birthday shopping mission. I picked it up, paid for everything, and went home to wrap Kristin’s presents.

I swear I didn’t know it at the time, but one of these seemingly innocent gifts might very well be [NOTE TO READER: prepare for sudden topic change.] TURNING MY GIRLFRIEND INTO AN ECSTACY ADDICT!

A few days after Kristin’s birthday, I saw an anti-drug advertisement on the television. It turns out that blowing soap bubbles is a common activity for people high on ecstasy, also known on the street as “E.” Or is it “X”? Well, the word ecstasy doesn’t even contain the letter X, so now I’m not quite sure. And why do the letters “CS” make an “X” sound?

Putting my annoyances of the English language aside for the moment, the commercial displayed half a dozen other types of ecstasy paraphernalia. After letting the facts digest for a few moments, I called Kristin at her office to address the issue. Here is the gist of the conversation:

Her: Thank you for calling, how may I help you?

Me: The game is over, Madame Lovejoy. I know you are hopped up on E!

Her: Huh? Is that you, Omar? This is Tiffany. Do you want me to get Kristin for you?

Me: Oops, um, yeah. Thanks.

Kristin: What’s up? I was in the back room catching up on some filing.

Me: So are you an ecstasy addict?

Kristin: Uh, no. Why would you think something like that?

Me: I found out people who get high on it like soap bubbles—and you have a soap bubble machine.

Kristin: Well, honey, you bought it for me as a birthday present. It wasn’t even on my wish list.

Me: STOP TRYING TO CHANGE THE SUBJECT! And what about those angel wings? That is another sign.

Kristin: I don’t own any angel wings. Maybe you are the one on drugs here, Omar.

Me: What, are you going to pretend I don’t spend time carefully examining every image of that Victoria’s Secret catalog you get every few weeks? Every issue has women in various states of undress wearing angel wings.

Kristin: You are driving me nuts.

Me: And the television commercial told me that small stuffed animals are another sign. You can’t deny that you have a large basket of them on the living room floor.

Kristin: HELLO! Those are for the dog. You love watching her play with all the squeaky toys.

Me: Things are worse than I thought. Now you are giving your dog drugs? Have you no sense of right and wrong?


Me: Hello? I can’t hear you. Must be some problem with the phone line…

Well, that phone call didn’t seem to resolve anything. Kristin is still denying being an ecstasy junkie, and this whole episode has put a bit of a strain on our relationship. While I’m not really sure if I learned anything here, I have decided that next year I’m going to just pick something from Kristin’s birthday wish list. And I might even consider buying her one of those silly, girly DVDs she is always talking about starring some silly, girly actor like Hugh Grant and/or Colin Firth. If that isn’t a sign of true love, I’m not sure what is.

Heading Out to San Francisco

For one reason or another, my family isn’t very big on Christmas tradition. We don’t cut down live trees. We don’t prepare an elaborate turkey dinner for Christmas. Heck, we have yet to construct a family coat of arms. This probably means the Lutfey family isn’t every going to be featured in a Norman Rockwell painting anytime in the foreseeable future. Despite all of this, we do make an effort to be in the same city every year around the holidays. This year my mom and I packed our bags and headed out to visit my sister in San Francisco. (NOTE TO SELF: Come up with a witty and insightful “Rice-a-roni” joke to end the paragraph.)

My journey started out by driving to Denver International Airport. My plan was to park in the long term parking lot and take the shuttle to the terminal. Which would have worked fine, except for the fact that the long term parking was too full to accept any new cars. I honestly don’t how this could happen since the airport is located in the geographic center of the Great Plains. I think letting cars park next to the paved parking lot in one of the hundreds of thousands of acres of undeveloped prairie land would be a valid option. But then again, people often tell me I think too much. My concern started growing when I kept driving towards the airport only to find the on-site long term parking was full. Same thing for the relatively close-in economy parking. The only option left was parking in the actual parking garage. Fortunately, there was plenty of empty spots. Unfortunately, it is the most expensive place to park in the entire state of Colorado. As I got out of the car I noticed a sign stating that all cars left would be towed when either A) Thirty days had elapsed, or B) The bill for parking exceeds the estimated blue book value of the car.

Once we arrived in San Francisco and got all of our belonging settled, my sister drove us around the city so we could see various points of interest. After seeing the Golden Gate Bridge and Fisherman’s Wharf, my sister drove us through the mission district (a predominantly gay part of the city.) As we were stopped at an intersection, I pointed to a man in the crosswalk and said, “He looks SO gay.” Right after I said that, I realized my window was open. The guy looked right at me, made a “telephone” gesture by extending his thumb and pinkie finger, and mouthed the words “call me.”

OK, the last part just happened in my “wouldn’t it have been funny if…” fantasy world. My mom was completely offended by the whole situation, which only made it more entertaining for me. My sister was amused, but thought I was flattering myself. I spent the next hour or so making the telephone gesture whenever my mom looked at me. My sister’s boyfriend sat in the car quietly thinking to himself, “They will be gone in three days. They will be gone in three days….”

Over the past few years we have gotten into the habit (or “tradition”, if you will) of going to see some form of theatrical presentation around the holidays. In the past we have seen “Rent” and “Phantom of the Opera.” This year my sister purchased tickets to “Hedwig and the Angry Inch.” I must say it was quite an experience. Anyone familiar with transsexual Nazi propaganda musicals knows exactly what I’m talking about. For all the other people out there still living in trees and caves, the show centers around a young man whose penis is cut off in an elaborate attempt to escape from East Berlin during the mid 1980s. Despite (or maybe because of) the odd premise, I enjoyed the evening. The musical numbers were fun to listen to and the finale used enormous volumes of artificial fog. (NOTE TO IMPRESSIONABLE READERS: Please do not take this paragraph as an endorsement of genital mutilation.)

After my whole “getting stuck in the women’s bathroom in an Amsterdam McDonalds” experience back in 1999, I thought my days of writing about fast food franchise restrooms were over. Not so, it turns out. But I’m getting ahead of myself here. Despite being in the culturally diverse city of San Francisco, we stopped in a McDonalds near my sister’s apartment one afternoon for a quick bite to eat. Situated on the west side of the city near a monstrously large park, the area is home to quite a few homeless people. One of the fundamental rules of owning a restaurant in a large city is to make it really difficult for anyone to use the bathroom facilities. Most of the time this involves the use of a bathroom key tied to some sort of large and cumbersome item such as a brick or open container of scalding hot french fry grease.

This facility, however, took the inaccessibility concept one step further by installing a remote buzzer device. Anyone wanting to go to the bathroom would go to the cashier and asked to be buzzed inside. In principle, this is a decent solution. There is, however, a weak link in the system– it assumes everyone understands the concept of a buzzer. Which, unfortunately, was not the case. As we sat at a table we watched several people have difficulty gaining entrance to the bathroom. One young man kept trying to turn the knob after the buzzer stopped, which turns out to be the exact opposite of what he was supposed to be doing. This led to a rather annoyed manager coming over and giving him a quick lesson on how to operate the door. This was followed by a spirited philosophical discussion of “if there is one person in the bathroom and two stalls, am I allowed to go in?” After we finished eating, I decided it would just be easier to go outside and pee in an obscured corner of the parking lot.

Eventually we had to fly back to Colorado. We got on the plane and I realized the passenger in the seat next to me was the same guy one I yelled at in the Mission District. Let’s just say I had some explaining to do. Or was I sitting next to my mom? Either way, the plane landed in Colorado, I went back to Loveland, and my sister’s boyfriend is happy to be rid of us for the better part of a year.


The world in which we live is far from perfect. The English and Metric systems of measurements are still fighting it out, the Republican party completely pummeled the Democrats in recent mid-term elections, and the soda I just opened exploded out of the can and soiled my last clean T-shirt. While I like to believe otherwise, I have to admit that Kristin, my significant other, is also a little less than perfect. While many of her personality traits fall into the “quirky” category, quite a few people have asked me, “What’s it like to have a girlfriend who is missing a finger?”

For anyone keeping track of this type of information, Kristin is missing her right ring finger. Actually, I wouldn’t say she’s been missing it, Bob. (NOTE TO SELF: Watch “Office Space” movie later on tonight.) In all honesty, she never had the digit in question to begin with. It all started twenty-some years ago when the stork paid a visit to Kristin’s parents. To save some money, Kristin was ordered unassembled. Her parents carefully unpacked all the baby parts and started reading the extensive directions. Unfortunately, they were too busy trying to locate “slot A” and “tab 3” to notice the dog ran into the other room with part RF-0004. By the time they realized the situation, it was getting rather late and the decision was made to wrap things up before the new episode of “The Love Boat” came on at eight. Perhaps if Ethel Merman wasn’t a guest on the Princess Caribbean that night the situation would have been different.

In some ways Kristin’s life is more difficult because of her missing finger. One problem she constantly faces involves finding a decent pair of gloves. Most glove manufactures only make gloves with exactly five fingers on each hand. When she does find four fingered gloves, they usually are constructed of inferior materials and do not reflect current fashion trends. Also, most department stores will not allow customers to mix and match the four and five fingered gloves. Kristin is currently looking for a “complimentary glove life partner”– another woman with similar hand size that is missing the left ring finger. Despite an extensive Internet search, no such woman has been found.

Another problem Kristin faces on a daily basis is balance. Since the right side of her body has slightly less mass her internal balancing mechanism has to constantly readjust for this irregularity. When I first explained this to Kristin, she did not believe me. To prove my point, we drove to a nearby field to test my hypothesis. I blindfolded Kristin and told her to walk in a straight line back to the car. Sure enough, she started drifting away from the straight line after a few steps. She eventually walked in concentric clockwise circles with a radius of roughly forty-seven meters. To help correct this situation, I suggested that she start wearing a watch on her right hand. While not a perfect solution, it does seem to balance her out.

Having an odd number of fingers can have certain advantages. For instance, Kristin has landed a role in the upcoming movie “The Princess Bride 2.” I don’t want to give away too much, but she spends her adolescence as a metalsmith apprentice. In her spare time she creates a custom four-fingered mace for the climatic battle scene with the mysterious six-fingered man. And Fred Savage, well, he is an evil robot. Unfortunately, the shooting schedule has been delayed because the casting director is currently looking for another eight-foot-tall French wrestler to replace the late great Andre the Giant.

The best thing about Kristin’s missing digit is holding her hand. With most people, this process is usually complicated by the issue of finger placement. Personally, I like my thumb to be on top, but I also like to have my pinkie on the outside. Now I can have it both ways, and the overall situation is a lot less crowded. Four fingers seems like more than enough to establish a positive connection. For this reason, I believe this condition will eventually work its way into the process of human evolution. Four fingered people will be highly sought after for their superior hand-holding abilities. Through the process of genetic manipulation (either by the multiple generation-spanning process of natural selection or through shady scientific DNA meddling of mad scientists) human beings of the future will simply stop growing so many fingers. Which actually makes a lot of sense– I almost never use all ten of my fingers at the same time.

What does Kristin think of all this? Not too much– most people don’t comment on her missing finger. I guess its just human nature to assume people aren’t missing body parts. While most normal people don’t consider her condition to be much of an issue, Kristin did qualify for a disabled drivers license when she lived in the state of New York. (NOTE TO READERS: No, I’m not making that part up. The only exceptions to that rule are people who lost fingers through illegal offshore wagers or in the making of “Jackass” style home videos.) Of course that does little good since she hasn’t lived there for more than a decade. So until Kristin decides to drive 2000 miles to renew her driver’s license, I just like to think of her as the woman who puts the “hand” back in “handicapped.”

Working Man

I must start out here by admitting that, by any objective measurement, when it comes to being a productive member of society, I haven’t been “giving it my all.” First off, I’m not exactly sure how to calculate “my all.” I don’t want to run the risk of giving too much and not having any for later. But on the other hand I don’t want to be stingy and only contribute half of what I am capable of producing. And now that I think of it, who exactly do I give “it” to once it’s ready? Can I do it on the web? Despite all of these legitimate questions, I actually got up, put on “going outside” clothes, and found myself a job.

Everyone who follows my web site knows that I have spent a considerable amount of time writing about various aspects of my life. Most of these aspects revolve– either directly or indirectly– around my continual unemployment. With the exception of doing some web design consulting work, I have been unemployed for a period of almost two years. While I like to recognize the effort I put into writing as “making the world a better place,” the general goodwill I generate can not be converted into more tangible concepts such as “rent” or “biweekly excursions to Taco Bell.” Perhaps if my marketing skills were as finely honed as my ability to surf the Internet I would be able to make a living through my writing.

Not that I’m giving up on my dreams (especially the one about building a time machine to travel back to the 1960’s so I can replace Larry Hagman in the “I Dream of Jeanie” situation comedy), but I have come to realize that having a job is a great way of keeping myself busy until my writing career skyrockets. While being a world-famous writer first would have been a lot easier for me on several levels, I recently started working part-time at UPS.

On September 25, 2002, I started working at the UPS sorting facility in Loveland, Colorado. Each morning I wake up at 3:30, get dressed, and drive to work. Yes, that is 3:30 A.M. Once I get there, I help load delivery trucks with packages. Not exactly rocket science, but there are a lot of challenges.

I had some difficulty adjusting to the physical nature of my job. Before working at UPS, I generally slept in my bed from 3:30 to nine in the morning. The most intense function my body was responsible for was to breathe in and out and produce a constant supply of drool for my pillow. I would hardly ever lift heavy boxes during this time. Now that I am working five days a week I move somewhere in the neighborhood of 600 boxes of various sizes and weights from a moving conveyor belt into two different delivery trucks. When I first started, it was a lot of work. It still is, but after a few weeks I don’t feel as though I will die of exhaustion at the end of each four-hour shift.

The other aspect of my job is to make sure that only certain boxes get loaded into the delivery trucks. While my job would be considerably easier if I could just take random packages from the belt and load them haphazardly, it turns out this would create much more work for the drivers. So not only do I have to get very specific packages into the trucks, I have to load them in very specific spots. As if that wasn’t enough, there are also rules about how to load packages in general. If there is a box marked “Glass– FRAGILE” I have to be very careful about what NOT to place on top– like an anvil, for example.

Yes, I said anvil. No, I’m not kidding. UPS will ship just about anything that weighs less than 150 pounds and isn’t very radioactive. In addition to the aforementioned metalworking equipment, I have loaded a variety of large and cumbersome objects. Tractor tires, large pieces of metal, and countless spools of various wires get shipped every day. One day I saw an anvil in a cardboard box. (Note to all anvil distributors out there: There is no need to use protection when shipping your anvils through UPS. In case you weren’t aware, these devices are designed to endure countless impacts of scalding hot metal on a daily basis. This will cause a lot more damage than will occur during the typical shipping process.)

The novelty of loading large heavy objects wore off after a few days on the job. The more interesting packages are generally of more average size. For example, a few weeks ago I loaded a box that said “live crickets” on the side. Upon closer examination, I noticed another sticker on the top that said “Caution– Live Animals.” Below the text was an outlined image of a dog, cat, and turtle. While I didn’t actually open the box, I really hope that there wasn’t a puppy dog inside. And while I haven’t personally witnessed this, I have been told that large shipments of live bees are shipped towards the end of the summer.

So while it may not be my dream job (especially since it lacks Barbara Eden in her prime walking around in a Jenie costume addressing me as, “Master”) I am pretty happy working at UPS. I get a good workout, a steady paycheck, and I get to wear a cute brown outfit to work each day. Just kidding– only the drivers get to wear the company uniforms. I just wear shorts and a T-shirt on most days. Which is just another benefit for me. So until further notice, I am no longer unemployed.

Dog Park

After watching Kristin’s dog for a week, I have come to the conclusion that two dogs are better than one. Many great comedy legends have come in pairs such as Cheech and Chong, Penn and Teller, and Warren Beatty and Dustin Hoffman (as seen in the 1987 full-length motion picture “Ishtar”). These groups’ total value is greater than the sum of their parts. For example, when Penn leaves the room all that is left is a curly haired mute fellow wearing a suit quietly preparing for the moment when he will extract his revenge on his cruel comedy partner. I put Henry and Murphy in the same category– despite the fact they haven’t quite achieved the same level of commercial success.

Being a dog isn’t such a bad gig. The more I watch Henry and Murphy, the more I realize how pretty much everything that happens to them is a source of joy and entertainment. When someone comes into the house they can hardly contain themselves. When the phone rings their tails start wagging despite the fact that neither dog is capable of adequately operating a telephone. I highly suspect that if both dogs weren’t fixed as puppies these experiences would be literally orgasmic.

Even when sleeping (which, by my estimates, takes up an average of twenty-two hours of any given day) they take time to enjoy themselves. Both dogs seem to have an active dream cycle. I’m not a licensed pet psychologist, but they seem quite happy in their dreams. They generally dream about playing with their dog toys or making the humans beg to be let outside to go to the bathroom. Either way their tags wag and their feet twitch– something which I will always find amusing.

Maybe I’m developing self-esteem issues here– sometimes I really wonder why these two dogs are so excited by my presence. Its not like I make a habit of keeping large chunks of cooked meat in my pockets. Then I realize why they love me so much– all I have to do is say the words “DOG PARK.” They stop whatever they were doing (the odds favor sleeping) and run around frantically between myself and the front door.

The first step in going to the dog park is to get both dogs inside the car. While I am generally happy with the performance of my two-door Saturn Coupe, I have to admit this is not the most efficient vehicle for transporting large mammals. Getting Henry and Murphy into the back seat is always a challenge. Neither of them like to spend time in such a confined space, but they do understand they will be running around with a bunch of other dogs once the car reaches its destination.

On the way Henry always finds time to shake his body violently enough to ensure that every hair on his body that was even considering shedding itself is now floating about in the interior of my car. The experience is similar to being stuck inside a novelty snow bubble that has just been moved around. Well, maybe without so much water.

For anyone who has never been to a dog park, I would like to point out that the actual experience bears little resemblance to the movie “Dog Park.” No matter how many times I go, I never see Luke Wilson or Janeane Garofalo with their favorite pets. For the most part people walk around and make small talk about their pets. Gossip about scandalous dating triangles among people at the park is a rare occurrence. The last time I went the most interesting person was an older man who sat on a rock and spent twenty minutes intensely drawing a sketch of a minivan in his notebook.

Once we enter the fenced in area of the dog park, the dogs immediately start running around sniffing everything they can get their noses into. I have read that some dogs noses are many times more sensitive than humans. This explains why most people don’t spend more time sniffing their work and living environments. For the next hour or so Henry and Murphy get to run around, socialize with other animals (canine and human), and anything else they can manage to do from within the confines of the area. Eventually, they come over to me, sit down, and look at me as if to say “OK, this ‘dog park’ thing is a blast, but we really have to go home and get back to sleep.”

Hair Daze

The other day I woke up, looked at myself in the mirror, and said to myself, “Is this going to be yet another bad hair day?” On a more typical day I would have simply gotten my hair wet and wrestled it into something resembling a hair style. I’m not sure why, [EDITOR’S NOTE: Maybe because your girlfriend– who would have done everything in her power to stop you– was out of town at the time.], but I decided on the slightly different approach of completely shaving my head.

Before I go on, I need to explain the nature of my hair. For reasons I don’t completely understand, my hair doesn’t succumb to the traditional forces of gravity. If I don’t get my hair cut once a month it gradually transforms into a big, fluffy, brown afro. While this style looks good on some people, I also have to deal with my genetic disposition for a receding hair line and male pattern baldness. So while things could be a lot worse, I just have to accept the fact that, just like Richard Simmons, the world is not going to love me for my hair.

While my mother has above average eyesight, she has recurring visions of me with wonderful curly hair. One explanation involves her confusing me with some famous “nice hair” actor such as Hugh Grant or Fabio. The only other reasonable cause for this behavior involves my mom receiving information from a parallel universe– exactly like ours, but with extensive advancements in the area of hair genetics. When I visit her, she always says I should “grow out my curls.” This usually leads to me bringing out my senior picture as a visual aid for my rebuttal. In addition to the obligatory suit and tie, the image shows me with fairly long frizzy hair– not a curl in sight. When presented with this evidence, my mom politely looks away and goes back to her fantasy world.

Once I made the decision to shave my head, I gathered together all the tools needed to complete the procedure. Much like a skilled surgeon, I didn’t want to have to drive to the grocery store in the middle of the operation. I placed everything I needed on the bathroom counter: a pair of office scissors, hair clippers, shaving cream, and a new razor. To provide motivation, I taped images of Telly Savalas and Charlie Brown to the mirror.

I picked up the scissors and started cutting large clumps of hair from my head. I watched as they fell into the wastebasket I placed in the sink. Things were going well until I started looking in the mirror to decide where to cut next. That was when the concept of “mirror image” started to sink in. I would move the scissors in exactly the opposite direction since left and right are switched around. Soon questions started to pop into my head along the lines of, “Why is left and right switched, but not up and down?”, “Are mirrors like this in the southern hemisphere?”, and “Should I rent ‘The Dirty Dozen’ after I’m done shaving?” I considered sitting down at my laptop, pointing my web camera at my head, and looking at the image on the screen to improve my aim with the scissors. In the end I decided A) I didn’t want hair getting stuck in my keyboard, and B) I don’t have a web camera.

When most of my hair was gone, I put the scissors down and picked up the hair clippers. In the past I had only used them to trim my beard. I wasn’t sure if they would be powerful enough to shave my head, but I was already well past the point of no return. In retrospect, this was the easiest step in the whole shaving process. Being careful not to shave off my eyebrows, I quickly finished phase two.

The last step was for me to get in the shower and get a nice close shave. I don’t know the “best” way to shave, but I prefer the shower to standing in front of the bathroom mirror. In the twelve or so years I’ve been shaving, I’ve never been able to develop the technique I see on razor commercials where the model takes a single swipe from his ear to his chin in exactly 0.3 seconds– revealing perfectly smooth skin. If I shaved anything like that I would puncture my skin and expose a large portion of my jaw bone. Since this was the first time shaving my head, I stuck with short and deliberate strokes of the razor. This ensured that my scalp remained on my head and not on the floor of the shower.

After I finished in the shower I stepped in front of the bathroom mirror and thought to myself “Wow– I can’t see anything with all this condensation on the mirror.” So I went into my bedroom and looked at a mirror that wasn’t all fogged over. Despite a bit of razor burn, I was pretty happy with the outcome. I spent a lot of time thinking about it and asking everyone’s opinion. In the end I realized its just hair, and I’m pretty sure its going to grow back.

Being bald isn’t really as different as having hair. This is mostly due to the fact that I never really spent much time thinking about the stuff on top of my head. The biggest difference is that everything seems a lot cooler. [NOTE TO SELF: Solution to global warming?] I also save a total of thirty seconds each day since I don’t have to shampoo or comb my hair. Of course I lose about ten minutes each time I shave my head, so I guess I’m not really saving any time.

What does Kristin think of me now? When I would talk about shaving my head, she would always have five or six reasons why I shouldn’t do it. She even suggested I buy this “Cosmo” CD-ROM that would let me see what I would look like with different hair styles. Needless to say, that idea never got off the drawing board. She was in Florida when I did the deed, and not too happy when I told her over the phone. Despite all her protests, concerns, and delaying tactics, she likes it. A lot. [EDITOR’S NOTE: Grrrr!]

I still haven’t decided if I’m going to keep my head shaved or let it grow back. Once the weather cools down I might feel the need for more hair. But at the moment it’s still quite warm and I live in a house without air conditioning. But until then, think of me as a modern day Cujo. Or maybe I’m thinking of Kojack. Whichever one has less hair.