Monday, June 29, 2009

Life & Times: Part IV

I finally forced myself to watch "Marley and Me" tonight. UGH.

I read the book, which made me laugh, cry and the like. But the movie just brought me to tears. And it wasn't even that great of a film. I can't stand Jennifer Aniston and Owen is my least favorite of the Wilson brothers, but it was still one of those flicks...

I remember a few years back when my Mom gave me the book to read. They say you can;t judge a book by its cover but as soon as she handed it to me, I knew why.

There was a yellow lab on the cover for God's sake! I'm a sucker for puppies, first off. Secondly, grew up with Melly- a yellow lab. Not to mention I had just lost a dog, which made me hesitate before opening the first page.

But it was more than just that. The author, John Grogan, was just starting a family when he bought his pup. He eventually became the father of two boys and a girl. I am the first of three, with one younger brother and a younger sister. Hmmmm....

I think my Mom could relate to this. And I think she knew I would as well. Which leads me to a part of my life I tend to block out: my childhood.

The earliest memory I can recall is crying in preschool. I didn't want my Mom to leave me. It wasn't the first day or anything, but I clearly remember Mom telling the preschool teacher that my Dad was off work that day and that I wanted to stay home with him. Strangely I don't remember how true this was.

I have spent hours upon hours trying to recall childhood memories of my father. It is always a struggle. I end up with tee ball, business trips and a handful of Christmas mornings. I suppose these are the things most people hold onto, but I feel like I missed so much, or I am missing so much.

when my parents split, my brother was first to go running back to my Dad, while my sister and I wanted nothing to do with him. Not that we hated him, we just were content with Mom. But as time passed and water passed under the bridge, it was my brother who eventually shunned my father, while Courtney and I became closer with Dad.

I eventually moved back in with my Dad, after he had found a new job, new woman and cleaned up his act. The man who once was asking me to borrow five bucks for smokes or booze was now, once again, putting a roof over my head and food on the table.

However, this chapter of Life & Times is not about what has become of me, it is about what was me...

I "was" or was what should have become the "all American boy next door." Upper-middle class, living in the suburbs, academically "gifted" and carefree.

How did that become this?

I know for sure that I wouldn't have it any other way. I may have, at one point wanted to be that carefree little dude who probably would have turned into a cookie cutter fratboy banker, lawyer or doctor, but what a boring, sad life that would have been. I would probably end up divorced, depressed and dull.

I am not a huge believer in fate, never have been. I think this belief can be traced back to 1992, when I was in the third grade. I scored very poorly on the standardized tests and my Mom was shocked and had me "retested."

This "retesting" placed me in the main office of Centennial Elementary, at a large round table opposite this older woman. She asked me all of these personal questions followed by a slew of tests. I felt like I was being interrogated and psychoanalyzed all at once. In the end I think I impressed the lady, but I still felt like I was under an unnecessary microscope.

The "tests" landed me in a gifted program at an elementary school away from my friends, siblings and comfort zone. But I was young and naive. It's only now in retrospect that I can make sense of it all: my own Mother was stealing control of my life.

I always knew growing up that I was overprotected. I didn't realize however, how much it would fuck me up down the road...

When I finally took control of my own life, years later, my Mother refused to let me learn from my own lessons and took control once again. And now, I am far too dependent on her, and she wonders why.

Now it all makes sense. I know why I eventually went back to my Dad. The unstable, bitter, functioning alcoholic he may be (sorry pops, still love ya), he can give me my space and freedom to learn from my mistakes while still being there for me in dire times.

I love both my parents unconditionally. They really made a great couple, if only they had allowed themselves to learn a thing or two from each other.... but then I probably would have never learned to think for myself, ended up in one of those dreaded professions, and would be headed in the downward spiral of my hereditary past.

I need a Zantac!

Today I had the worst heartburn I have had in months. Half a bottle of Walgreens brand Tums later, I'm feeling alright, but man that was awful for awhile. Yuck.

Anyhow, it got me to thinking... Why all of a sudden out of nowhere did this raging volcano in my chest pop back up? Perhaps a weekend filled with BBQ and excessive drinking was the cause of my indigestion? But honestly, though I hate to admit it, it's probably stress again.

While it feels good to have a decent job again, and everything seems to be going well in my life, I'm totally stressed out. But my emotions are quite the animal. I feel great- I'm having fun, enjoying life and not worried about anything in particular, yet something is eating away at me. Panic attacks have returned, my appetite is so up and down, I am waking in the middle of the night from bad dreams and night tremors and I just don't get it.

I am writing more, and better than ever. I am exercising (perhaps not as much as I would like, but more than before). I am keeping myself occupied with all sorts of things. I just can not make sense of it.

I'm going to blame the heat. Today was a bit of relief, and tomorrow should be even better. So, here's to hoping for the best and a stress free tomorrow!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Reasons to support your local record store & more...

Today I got the best phone call EVER!

It was Jeff from Exile on Main (local record store). He asked if I could keep a secret. Since I can, he told me that Wilco The Album had arrived early and I could come pick up my copy. So as I type I am listening to it on my record player. Sounds even better on vinyl!
So, kids, lesson here: support local businesses, because they will take care of you.

In other news, I have broken ground on my first novel, and have plans in the works for a memoir of sorts I will be co-authoring with Jim. We're thinking "Tuesdays With Jimbo" for a title, but I think that one's been done before...

Work just keeps getting better. I got an opportunity to work in another department today, which was cool, and my hours keep getting upped, which is also cool.

I want to thank those of you who have taken the time to read my entries lately, and special thanks to those who left comments and positive feedback. The Life & Times series has been a lot of fun to write, and I promise much more of it in the near future.


Sunday, June 21, 2009


65 Questions You've Probably Never Been know the rules. tag people in this note (including the person who tagged you!) to learn more about people. Also, try to tag people who you've tagged in other notes, sometimes you learn things in new notes that you didn't know before about them.......

1. First thing you wash in the shower?
naughty parts

2. What color is your favorite hoodie?
navy blue (and gold - for Notre Dame)

3. Would you kiss the last person you kissed again?

4. Do you plan outfits?
not really

5. How are you feeling RIGHT now?
intoxicatingly happy

6. Whats the closest thing to you that's red?
some chicks bra

7. Last dream you remember having?
the one where I was in space

8. Did you meet anybody new today?
all sorts of bakery customers

9. What are you craving right now?
a smoke

10. Do you floss?
i should

11. What comes to mind when I say cabbage?

12. Are you emotional?
No! God, thanks for asking! Geez!

13. Have you ever counted to 1,000?
that's a lame question

14. Do you bite into your ice cream or just lick it?
lick it good, then bite. rawr

15. Do you like your hair?
who doesn't?

16. Do you like yourself?
again, who doesn't?

17. Have you lost a best friend recently?
just an ex

18. What are you listening to right now?
Go Cubs Go, actually

19. Are your parents strict?
mom- yes. dad- no.

20. Would you go sky diving?
if it was not so damn expensive

21. Do you like cottage cheese?

22. Have you ever met a celebrity?
a few

23. Do you rent movies often?
i rent blow up dolls often...

24. Is there anything sparkly in the room you're in?
me personality

25. How many countries have you visited?
four.. ish

26. Have you made a prank phone call?

27. Ever been on a train?
people havent?

28. Brown or white eggs?
there are brown eggs?

29. Do you have a cell-phone?
are you retarded?

30. Do you use chap stick?

31. Do you own a gun?
does a super soaker count?

32. Can you use chopsticks?
as weapons, yes

33. Who are you going to be with tonight?
two crazy dogs

34. Are you too forgiving?

35. Ever been in love?

36. What is your best friend(s) doing tomorrow?

37. Ever have cream puffs?
ever ask a stupid question?

38. Last time you cried?
dont remember

39. What was the last question you asked?
ever ask a stupid question?

40. Favorite time of the year?

41. Do you have any tattoos?
do birthmarks that look like Idaho count?

42. Are you sarcastic?
me? no way!

43. Have you ever seen The Butterfly Effect?

44. Have you ever walked into a wall?

45. Favorite color?

46. Have you ever slapped someone?
many a times

47. Is your hair curly?
i wish!

48. What was the last CD you bought?
hahahaha, I download illegally

49. Do looks matter?
for girls, yes

50. Could you ever forgive a cheater?

51. Is your phone bill sky high?

52. Do you like your life right now?

53. Do you sleep with the TV on?
almost always

54. Can you handle the truth?
I NEED the truth

55. Do you have good vision?

56. Do you hate or dislike more than 3 people?
not really

57. How often do you talk on the phone

58. The last person you held hands with?
the dude in church

59. What are you wearing?
what am i NOT wearing? wait...

60.What is your favorite animal?

61. Where was your profile picture taken?
a very dry, boring place

62. Can you hoola hoop?
on the Wii

63. Do you have a job?

64. What was the most recent thing you bought?

65. Have you ever crawled through a window?

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Life & Times: Part III

The summer of all summers.

I am a fall person, for multiple reasons. First of all, I love the smells, sights and tastes of autumn. It's the time of the year that things wind down and we head indoors to spend time with family and friends. Not that we don't do this the rest of the year, but summer is too chaotic for me sometimes. I like chaos, in small doses. Summer is three months of constant chaos. Then comes fall. School starts, we put our clothes back on, get back to the daily grind, and things get quieter.

However, there was one summer that changed me. I was taking classes and working full-time, so my personal chaos was kept at bay. That is, until I took my first vacation, as an adult...

I remember leaving College of Dupage after my last final, to the best of my recollection mid-June. I pulled out my cell and called Peters or Mike or Dan...

"Vacation baby!" (probably Peters, lol)

Shortly after Peters and I signed our lease at Lakeside, we planned a trip to the Dells with Mike, Dan, Krista and Sam. I had taken a few days off work. We booked a hotel room for two nights. Class let out in the evening. Bags previously packed, I drove straight to Bartlett to pick up Dan, Mike and Sam. Peters and Krista had drove up earlier to secure the room.

I forget how we got the booze, but we had plenty of Smirnoff Ice, Mike's Hard and MGD for the weekend. All six of us crammed into one hotel room, bathtub full of ice and delicious alcohol.

We spent the weekend drinking, smoking, playing rock-paper-scissors and crashing go-karts. We shared a fabulous meal in the hotel restaurant and made a couple late night trips to Taco Bell.

I remember calling camp grounds at 1AM in Peters room, trying to get Jess to come with us, and vaguely recall kissing Macey goodbye. She had a cold when we left, but it barely phased me.

After an intoxicating couple of nights we made the trek back down south.

Living with my Aunt and Uncle at the time, I came back to an empty house in Carol Stream. Like the momma's boy I am, first thing I did was call home.

"How was your trip?"
My mom asked in a somber tone.

"Good. Fun. What's up?"
I knew something was up.

"I have to tell you something," she said.

I knew at that moment. My eyes swelled up, and I braced for the worst as I asked, "is it about my dog?"

It was. Macey had died.

They took her to the emergency vet, and she battled.

I balled for a good half hour before going for a drive and ending up at my parents house. My brother and sister answered the door, as teary-eyed as me. We didn't say much. Sometimes silence speaks volumes.

I called a couple friends who were more than comforting. We all (my brother, Dan, Mike and all of our friends) met up at Peters' place that night, for a rock-paper-scissors tourney and random shenanigans. It was again, more than comforting.

Jess was there too. But it was not the first time we met. Prior to that was the D. Schwartz cotillion- a party hosted by my brother and I for Danny's 18th birthday, held at our parents house while they were out of the country for a few weeks. Great success! And before that, Jess had showed up at a BBQ at Mike's place after an Arlington outing. She looked so very familiar. For a minute I thought she was the girl i had a crush on my senior year of high school, Michelle Marzullo.

It was at the cotillion however, that I got to know Jess, as well as some poker tourneys at the Bauer's place, followed by the roadtrips with Amy, Sam, Krista and Hely... all of whom I became infatuated with immediately. But it was Jess that really stood out in the crowd.

That summer was also the start of Sunday Night Softball, which I will endlessly take credit for starting. I don't recall every last detail, but I mentioned it to Brad and texted Noah, and before we knew it, two dozen people were at Liesberg Park, gloves and bats in hand.

At some point, perhaps during a softball game, Jess and I struck up conversation and soon we were texting back and forth, with her eventually ending up at my Aunt and Uncles place (while they were out of town) to watch a movie.

It was obvious, we hit it off right away. Next thing I knew, rumors were flying and Haley mentioned something along the lines of, "so, you and Jess" at the next softball game.

After a couple crazy parties at my new digs (again, with the Aunt and Uncle out of town), I finally (with the help of my buds) mustered up the courage to ask Jess out.

Peters and I moved into Lakeside (with the help of Chung, Brad, little Peters, and a bunch of other friends) in August 2004. My first date with Jess was August 28th. I took her to Luigi's House in Naperville, followed by a stroll down the riverwalk, where I should have kissed her.

We threw our first major party Labor Day weekend. Jess was there. She went home with some friends, but didn't get very far before they convinced her to turn back around and kiss me. It was the best moment of my life.

Summer turned to fall, as it always does. But that summer was not the end of warm sunlight. It was the start of something much more...

Life & Times: The Epilogue, Part I

While every passing day is easier than the last, I don't think I'll ever entirely get over Jessica. Maybe it's just me being possessive, but reading tweets about her going to Northbrook (to see Mr. Fratboy) remains just as much of a kick in the groin as it did three months ago.

Falling in (and out of) love.

While a handful of my friends are engaged or married, I don't really think I know too many people who are, or have been in love. Perhaps I'm wrong. Maybe it's just that no one talks about it, or simply have not recognized it.

But friends, I have been in love. Once. I don't know if it was with the "right" person, but I am sure that I was in love.

Maybe someday I will fall in love with someone else, and the love I knew with aforementioned previous lover will seem petty. I am no longer in love with said individual however, because she is no longer a part of my life; at least not on a regular basis. It's hard to be in love with someone you don't see or at least talk to regularly, especially when that someone has moved on, or at least pretended to do so.

I do still love her, but not the way I love my friends or family. When you can no longer feel the reciprocation of your love, you begin to love much more... er, passively. It is equivalent to the love one might have for a deceased relative.

What you really miss is what you once took for granted. There comes a point in nearly every meaningful romantic relationship when the spark fizzles out. Cliche, yes. But, it's human nature to become "comfortable" with someone over time.

It is a precious gift, almost a virtue to hold the ability to reignite the spark. Over the course of nearly five years, in your our early twenties, we reignited this spark many times: some obvious and intentional, some more abstract and intangible.

She was almost always more emotionally more mature than me. This does not change the way I feel for her. And there were times where I was ready to move to the next level and she was not.

As I type, I am listening to Wilco...

Distance has a way of making love understandable

I have yet to figure out why this is true, but I can tell you that it is. It's kind of a paradox. Distance makes the heart grow fonder...?

It may have just been a coincidence that our relationship fell apart when we were finally together geographically. But trouble always seemed to find us when we were within a half hour drive of each other.

I always told her she deserved better, and one day she would come to realize what a jerk I was. Maybe it was my inferiority complex or a self-fulfilling prophecy, but that one day came. And while it did feel good to say I told you so (I'm sick, I know), the heartache burns on.

She gave me so many chances. The one opportunity I had to give her a second chance, I took. And I got burned.

The downward spiral of my thoughts has finally subsided. I no longer wonder "where did I go wrong?"
I suppose I have reached the stage of acceptance. I am not even holding out hope for another future with her. We had what we had and the likeliness of us getting back together is unknown. But I am okay with that.

Meanwhile, I'm not looking for a replacement. I don't need nor do I want another Jess right now. Sure I miss the companionship and the love, but I don't need a crutch right now, like she was for me for so long.

I have my friends and my family, which is nice, but more importantly I have myself back. For so long, I was not me, I was just the other half of her. I am still in the process of dusting all of the relationship dirt off, but every day I see more of myself, my real self. And while at times it is shocking and confusing, deep down it feel good and right.

I still miss something. That may never go away. But letting go and moving on is part of life. So, I'll keep on truckin'. One day at a time... the only way to really live life right now.

Life & Times: Part II

In late February of 2004, we met for the first time. She had under 10,000 miles on her and was a demo car, maintained by the dealer. I fell in love. She moved in with me that March. By April she had her first accident.

I finally got my insurance check today - more than a month after my accident. It was exciting. Getting a check for two grand is always nice. But it brought up the fact that I miss my car. Not for it's ability to get me from point A to point B (public transportation and my bike are serving that need), but for the memories attached to it.

Then again, buying that car was probably the biggest mistake of my life and I DO NOT miss the payments and other costs associated with vehicle ownership. You see, I bought the car when I was young, already had debt from my previous vehicle, and while I had a good paying job, $350 a month kinda strains you financially. I just wanted something nice and new to call my own. In retrospect, it was a total status symbol thing. I was so naive.

So, over five years, thousands in repair costs, a new transmission, and 120,000 miles later... the wreck came as a blessing. But, here are a few things that car and I went through together...

Approximately 7 speeding tickets, countless other violations, and of course, my DUI.
Three impounds.
Five tows.
So many road trips: the Dells, Tomah, WI (post-prom 2005), Milwaukee at least three times, Indiana Beach, Iowa, Indianapolis, and I had to have logged a good 5-10K on trips to and from Champaign.
She probably STILL smells like Pizza from all of the deliveries we made together.
A drive down 355 on the coldest day of the year to replace her back windshield.
She doubled as my bed on more than one occasion.
She was the stereo at many softball games, and even the lights for a night game or two.
I don't cry often, but she is one of the few who have witnessed my tears.
Likewise, she was always willing to let me scream at the top of my lungs at times of anger and frustration.
She also let me play the music as loud as I wanted (thanks to her eight speaker Bose system).
I ate the majority of my meals in the driver seat for a period of about three years.
Her trunk was also a dining table when it came to tailgaiting at Miller Park, Alpine Valley and elsewhere.
She transported a handful of pets, from the late Macey and that crazy cat Bowser, to chinchillas, Portia the snake, and of course Syrus and Dexter.
With all of her cargo space, I packed my entire life in her and moved down to Champaign.
She was the carriage for m'lady and I, as well as a place to "have fun."
I used her as an excuse time and time again to call into work... if only my bosses new how reliable she was (I would have been fired at least three times).
She once "hit a coyote." (right..)
I didn't bathe her as often as I should have, but she was treated to timely oil changes and tire rotations.
While stale frys and empty coke bottles often littered her interior, she was never puked, pissed or crapped in or on.
I remember when we hit 100,000 miles... like it was yesterday.

And then on that fateful day of May 14th, I watched her get towed away, for the last time.

Perhaps what I'll miss most about my 2003 Volkswagen Golf is the freedom she gave me. Whether it was driving around Naperville, simply to smoke and listen to music, or get away from everything and everyone, for a 2 or 3 hour drive, she was always there.

I know it seems kinda corny to get all sentimental about a car, but May 14 is not just the day I totalled my car; it marked the end of an era. It was a sign from the universe; a sign of closure, marking both a beginning and and end to a chapter in my life- which, is why I decided to reflect on my car for this second installment of "Life & Times."

First of all, when I am old and gray, and don't remember anything, hopefully I will be able to come back to this blog entry and recall all of the memories of my youth, good and bad, based simply on a statement about roadtrips to the Dells, tailgaiting at Miller Park, and calling in to work.

My friends, this is just the jumping board for what is to come in this series. Bringing up all of those memories, and talk of "moving from one chapter to the next" has only brought up more to write about.

So for that, and so much more, I thank you Golf. I wish we could have had more time together, but while I loved you for the freedom you gave me, you don't even know how much more freedom you have given me in your passing. Rest in peace. (Actually, probably pieces.)

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Back on track. alas!

Finally, finally, finally, things are going well once again. I got a real job, I get to stay in the place I love, and good things have suddenly came my way!

It's been a pretty crazy few weeks- well, actually few years, especially the past one. But everything that has happened to me has happened for a reason. My DUI, losing my job and girlfriend, the car accident: it all had to happen. And now that all of the obstacles are out of the way, my wings can spread once again.

A lot of you probably doubt me, rightfully so. I got a text message this morning (it actually came around 5AM, but I got when I woke up at nine) which was basically a plea for me to "straighten out my life" and "stop drinking." Well, I still drink, but it no longer consumes my life, keeps me from working, being myself or maintaining relationships. My DUI, specifically my "rehab" classes and Victim Impact Panel really changed my thinking, and in turn my drinking habits and overall outlook on life (to a degree).

So friends, there is no reason to panic, or even cause for concern. Ryan got himself into this mess and he is more than capable of getting himself out. Not to say that no one helped me out along the way. There have been many of you who have helped in so many different ways, some of you probably don't even realize it. But thank you all.

And all the rest of you can fuck off. If y'all think I got problems, confront me.+