A Cold Day in Hell

Well, it’s the End of Days here in Austin, folks. For the last 48 hours, the news has been a grim parade of warnings on the radio, the TV, the internet: Stay inside! Do not attempt to contact loved ones! Lock your doors! Mercy kill your children! Prepare to use your orifices as currency to escape certain death at the hands of roaming bands of marauders!

I’m told we’re caught in the cross hairs of God’s very own wrath. Quiver before it, ye mortals.

mushroom-cloud_897102_GIFSoup.comNice try, but the Texan apocalypse looks nothing like that. Behold:

sleetwithface

The beast shall ascend out of the bottomless pit, and go into perdition: and they that dwell in Texas  shall wonder,what is this SLEET?

Yes, sleet. Sleet has transformed the proud population of Austin into a quivering pile of  yellow-bellied Jello babies. I mean, management distributed “In case of a Freeze” disaster manuals to everyone in my apartment complex last night. HR sent an “EMPLOYEES: Don’t be killed!” email yesterday at 2pm. Schools were delayed or closed long before the storm system approached the state. The streets are empty, save for the odd scrap of newspaper that blows across the road, borne aloft by arctic winds.

Let’s review the current weather forecast, shall we?

EVERYONE PANIC

EVERYONE PANIC

Mass hysteria, you contagious bitch, you’ll never have me! My Midwestern ass understands the mechanics of operating a vehicle in wintry conditions. I get that my pipes never have and never will freeze and explode, and I know we aren’t on the cusp of a societal collapse that will force us all to barter the profane use of our mouths and other parts to escape certain cannibalization. And yet….

And yet this morning I was peeking through the slats of my blinds into the parking lot to gaze upon the natural disaster that had been wrought upon the city overnight, praying to God my eyes would be met with horrors so I could just stay in my pajamas and drink coffee all day on the futon and not die like a dog in the frosty wreckage of my car at the bottom of a Hill Country crevasse.

But a couple of puddles and a light rain are all that met my eyes, and too proud to hide, I drove to work without incident and nary a patch of ice or snowflake met me along the way. But as I sit here in my mostly deserted office, drinking coffee, writing emails, billing, estimating, being mundane in every way, I wonder…do the Jello babies have it right?

Words with Friends

Hey. We’re alive. But only barely.

Somehow Erin and I have had the same sort of week, the kind where someone in your office goes on vacation and all of the sudden you are doing two people’s full time jobs instead of just one and you’re still slightly new and everyone’s panties are in a bunch about things you only kind of understand and/or care about. The kind where you’re CC-ed in on a thousand different emails that don’t have anything to do with you or have everything to do with you and you start suffocating under the weight of just how mundane your Outlook-related stress is. The kind where by 3 pm you’re a mere a shell of a person, brain short-circuiting, patience pushed to the brink before it is maliciously punted right over the edge by some self important bitch who spreads her miserable, black unhappiness like the plague and then dares you to come back for more. The kind where you go to bed at 9 pm because you’re falling geriatrically asleep on your sofa but it’s okay because you don’t  really want to be alive anymore anyway.

As you might imagine, our work-time chats have reflected this. And really, this is the truest snapshot of our lives since we last spoke.

Exhibit A.

Stress-eating: it's real.

Stress-eating: it’s real.

Just kidding. You didn’t really think that was accurate right? Look a little closer*.

Exhibit B.

That's right.

Ahh, yes.

There will be much drinking tonight.

*The merits of swearing from a totally respectable and reputable source

Forever Unclean

We found a dead cockroach on the living room floor last week.

Little did we know, that was the best possible scenario for meeting a cockroach, for if you meet a cockroach and it’s NOT dead, it’s scrambling over your dishes in the pantry as you shout every profanity you know with Megan screaming and hopping from foot to foot across the room while you fling all of the boxed appliances out of the cabinet onto the floor and you stare that twitchy motherfucker in the eyeballs and it unleashes its secret roach speed and sprints for the crack between the cabinet and the wall where you know all its family and friends are waiting, breeding, building whole roach civilizations in YOUR FUCKING WALLS that YOU’RE paying money for therefore only YOU have the right to live and have sex in them, and you know that if this roach escapes he and all his roach buddies will be back, they will have won, so you start bludgeoning the general area the cockroach is darting around in with the tool in your hand, a cup –

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This cup.

– until you manage to come down on its ass with such force that the blunt lip of the tumbler severs the bug’s disgusting head from its disgusting body with a mighty crunch and spray of bug juice and you fall back on your heels, panting, swearing that you will not rest until all cockroaches are still and dead and cold in the ground by your hand and Megan stares at you because she’s never seen your murder face until now.

Then, when you think peace reigns again in the kitchen, everything gets much, much worse. The cockroach head starts flinging itself around by the antennae and the roach’s brethren stir in the walls audibly for you’ve unwittingly given them half a dead cockroach body to consume (Cockroaches are willing cannibals, you see, and can also survive on an endless loop of eating their own shit. The life cycle and habits of the American Cockroach prove, irrevocably, that there is no god.). I ask you, which is more horrifying: the sight of a disembodied head rocking itself in a wide, panicky circle, or the scritch-scritch sound of an unknown number of enemy bugs in your walls?

Wordlessly, Megan and I agree that now we are at war.

Continue reading

The Enemy is Everywhere

Austin, TX. Monday 7:56 am:

“WHAT. IS. THAT.”

“What’s what?” Erin answered from her room.

“WHAT. THEFUCK. IS. THAT,” I repeated, my tone drawing her out of other room immediately.

A very large…something. On the floor. Unmoving. But with insect qualities. My brain wanted it to be a rabbit foot key chain.

Sometimes Erin wears barrettes and brooches like this.

Denial.

Is it…an orange and black feathery accessory that fell off of one of Erin’s purses?

Is it a moth? It MUST be a moth. Look, those..that..part appears to be…wings? And antennae. I walked to the other side of the couch, away from it while Erin performed her inspection from a safe distance.

“Uhhmm. I think it’s a roach?” Erin offered delicately.

I thought of my bed and its proximity to this creature. Cottage cheese and coffee threatened to come up on me. I have a hard enough time getting breakfast down as it is. I couldn’t get any nearer than three feet to help confirm. I couldn’t help confirm.

We put a tupperware over it and some weight on it and resolved to tell my pal Juan, the building guy, as soon as possible. “We will tell them. And they will SPRAY.”

I got in my car to head to work. My breakfast was still sitting high, ready to defy gravity with one mental misstep. I hoped his friends wouldn’t come to visit him while we’re gone. I considered the warnings that we’d received from our friends: bugs are a given here. I didn’t believe it, but here it was. Fruition. Then I wondered what other kinds of bugs we would encounter here in the wilds of Texas.

You see, Erin and I, we have a long and loathsome history with bugs. Continue reading

Solitary

The hard economic truths of my life (No Dolla$, No Cent$) have made it necessary that I continuously live with a roommate, and I’ve gotten lucky because Megan is a special kind of roommate that cooks for me, allows me to coerce her into afternoon drinking and puts up with my…peculiarities. We’re approaching our five year anniversary, which makes Megan shit her pants, so I’m probably going to send a singing telegram or a stripper in a giant cake to her office to mark the occasion because I’m not afraid of publicly declaring how much I love paying for only half of everything.

Just another Saturday morning at our place.

These are your options: live with your parents, your significant other, a roommate or no one at all. The last option is frightening indeed, because it means those peculiarities I mentioned above have nothing and no one to keep them in check. Without a human reminder of how weird you actually are, these tics annex the rest of your life. I know this, because Megan has been out of town for five days. Continue reading

Death and the Office

My grandma died shortly before Easter. I made the trip back to Omaha. My cousin came by, and we taped photos of our grandmother’s life, most of the pictures previously unknown to us, on a science fair board. Scotch tape and cardboard. It stood in the back of the church for the next few days. I attended the visitation, rosary, funeral, acted as pall bearer, shook a lot of hands.  I flew back to Austin the night after the service, considering over the course of two dark plane rides, the legacy of dementia in the genes of my father and brothers and me, constantly fighting with my iPod as it churned out, unbidden, the saddest of my sad bastard jams. I wouldn’t cry, not while I shared an armrest with some fast food-smelling stranger.

I was up early the next day to begin the New Job, in which so much time and interviewing and cover letter writing had been pumped.  First days are a grim business. One has to be determinedly cheerful and friendly, exude an air of gratitude and aggressive industriousness that would make Willie Loman blush. This was to be who I was for the next few exhausting months.

I’d been smiling so long when I sat down with the creative director that even when shit started going south my face didn’t falter.

“Make this job the priority in your life, and you’ll be successful here,” he said, all steepled fingers and knitted brow across a conference table.

That, I think, was the catalyst. A small bloom of claustrophobic panic opened up in my chest. That a job that I took out of rent-paying desperation and a lucky knack for the business should become my life was laughable, but it had also unquestionably brought the exhilarating (and selfish) momentum of moving and running around for the last 6 weeks to a halt. Where there were open doors, there was now routine and a silent, soul-searching commute to bracket the parts of the day that belonged to them.

Is it coincidence, the constant convergence of these things (grandmother, job, death) in my head? How can I help but read my own future in all this shit, predict that these are the days that my rotten brain will play on a loop for me in, what?, fifty years? This is the present that will replay because these rote office days outnumber the days that can be counted as actual living. Is this what she saw, eyes open through the morphine?

FML DMV

I should know by now that I exist on a sine curve of karmic reactions. For every positive event, there is a corresponding low of equal magnitude. I moved to Texas with minimal hitches!! I landed a job!! Mad Men season 5 is on Netflix two weeks before the new season starts!!!! So many consequence-free happy goings-on….I have been feeling indestructible of late and for this, today, I have suffered. Foolhardy mortal am I to think that I could visit the DMV unscathed, unraped in my more tender orifices.

Behold this map showing the location of the nearest driver’s license office:

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Thanks, DMV.org, for shrouding your lies in a veil of gov’t legitimacy

If you’re thinking that looks suspiciously like a neighborhood, you’re correct. It is a neighborhood, and a cul-de-sac is no fit place for a government office. I was acting as navigator, Megan driving, and this fact dawned on us slowly. With each turn the houses became more hopeless, lawns strewn with more broken toys until at last the grass became so untended that we couldn’t even see front doors.”Peach Grove Road”, indeed. We pulled up to the address we’d been told by the internet was the correct and real location of a correct and real State of Texas DMV. Here’s what we saw:

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So about American infrastructure…

So. The unpleasantness had begun. A second consultation of the internet revealed that there was another DMV of a less dubious nature not too far away. Off we sped, still unaware that we had only just begun the downward trajectory of our karmic journey. We wove out of the depressing neighborhood into a depressing business district, barely escaping death from multiple blind people driving in whatever fucking lane they so chose and at whatever speed would result in the most fatalities. Apparently knowing HOW to drive is not a requirement in Texas. so I supposed we wouldn’t have to take any tests when we arrived at the DMV. Silver lining.

At last we spotted our destination strip mall. Could it be? Could the parking lot really be so empty at 1 pm on a Friday? At last, a turn of luck! The lines were going to be short, we’d be back to our lives in less than an hour! Megan and I trotted to the front door, laughing breathlessly about how silly the adventure had been so far. My hand was on the door when-

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Good Friday: a state holiday in 12 of the 50 states, who knew?

So this afternoon, while we’re all off work not getting our driver’s licenses renewed, let us observe not only Jesus Christ’s death and crucifixion, but also the Passion of Erin, who’s physical, mental and spiritual anguish this day hit an abysmal low.