Wednesday, January 29, 2014

This is way more words than I said out loud today

It dawned on me sometime I after I ate dinner, which I ate at no set time (just as I did with breakfast, and probably lunch, if I ate lunch today) that working from home isn't all that different from being a shut-in. Or a crazy person.

I spent about 10 minutes trying to remember if I had actually opened my mouth to emit sounds to another human being at any point today. By the barest of margins, I think I did. I'm pretty sure I called Leslie early this morning to make sure she was awake. She was kind of awake, I think. She may or may not be able to verify that I called her.

I also may have said hello to the woman at the laundromat when I went to dry my clothes. This is a little more theoretical in nature. There is one woman who works there whom I usually exchange greetings with. Taking Leslie out of the equation, she is the person I spoke to the most today. A grand total of (maybe) one word.

Yes, through the wonders of technology, I did "talk" to a number of people I like very much (in addition to Leslie even) and I communicated with people for work and e-mailed my boss. But when it came to the actual speaking of words out loud, I'm pretty sure the crazy guy down on the corner pointing his umbrella at passing cars and yelling about the James Garfield assassination theories had more person to person contact today than I did.

At the end of the day, most days, I am lucky enough to Skype with Leslie, and some days I even use a lot of words. Most  days I feel bad that conversations about my day go something like this:

LESLIE: (spends at least 20 minutes talking about her day because interesting things happen at her job and there are people there and she likes to talk and those people talk to her) How was your day, honey?

ME: Good.


ME: Yes. I sat silently at my computer, watched videos of boring people talking about boring things. Then I wrote about it. Then I may have boiled water for raviolis.


It's taken a while for me to get too concerned about this, because I'm of the general feeling that the less someone speaks to me and the less I speak to them, the better off the world will be. But it's getting to the point where I've noticed that there are signs that working from home is starting to become indistinguishable from being a maladjusted shut-in.

There are the things I worry about in order to make my workdays have some kind of normalcy, when in reality, those things make absolutely no difference. The most obvious is the whole getting dressed part of my day. Sometimes I wear pajamas, sometimes I change into more "not pathetic" clothes in order to feel some level of self-respect. After a few hours of that, I usually change back into pajamas, satisfied that I am now in my "night-time" pajamas and not my "work" pajamas. (And yes, they are almost always the same pajamas, regardless of how I label them.)

Then there are the other things I do to trick myself into feeling professional and respectable. There is the point in the afternoon when I'm getting near the end of work and wonder if it is too early to open a beer. Now, if I was working in an office with the boss in the next office, of course it would be too early to open a beer.

The reality of working at home is that I could be gathered around a campfire in my basement with crazy umbrella guy knocking back 40s of Colt 45 and I'd still be able to safely watch boring videos of boring people talking about boring videos and type about some of the boring highlights without causing undue harm to myself or anyone around. Because there is no one around me. And it is impossible to make stories about property tax rates sound any less confusing.

Maybe it's time for me to look to get back into the working world where I work with other working people. Maybe someplace that at least has a beer and pajama afternoon once (or twice) a week.

Monday, January 13, 2014

RocknRoll, part one

The first time I went to see the Ramones it was sold out and I didn't get in. It was at the Living Room and Wall of VooDoo was opening up, because the late 80s were a weird time where Wall of VooDoo had funny hair and a song that people knew at one time and the Ramones were Punk Rock, so why not. And the Living Room was the mecca of the late 80s and early 90s for me. There were plenty of other places I saw rocknroll at the time in Providence and Boston, some lost and more fondly less than forgotten, but the Living Room was the place for me. Maybe because it was where I caught my first few club shows (Nina Hagen and Bad Brains were among the first shows I made it into), but mostly because it was the kind of place where you were supposed to see loud, sweaty music. It was basically a biggish warehouse space in a rundown part of Providence with excellent sight lines, a stage that was high enough to see the band but not set back from the crowd, and it smelled like beer and cigarettes and sweat.

There would be no Ramones for me that night. Eventually I would seem them at the Living Room, and the Channel, which was basically a less charming version of the Living Room on the waterfront in Boston. And maybe a time or two besides that. And they were okay. 

By the time I saw them, Dee Dee was off making rap records, any chance of having a big hit record had passed them by, and they were well into their second decade of playing night after night of too many places that smelled like beer and sweat and cigarettes. The times I saw them, it sounded like they were fighting a losing battle against the more rigid hardcore bands that were playing harder and faster than the Ramones had played more than a decade before. They played the songs too fast, losing the melody that laid at the heart of their greatness.

But I never felt disappointed when I saw them. Sure, there was always that slight hope in the back of my head that they would slow down just a hair, give the songs the full muscle they deserved without having the gas pedal pushed all the way down. 

Still, I was paying homage. It was the Ramones (even without Dee Dee) and there has never been a band I have loved more than the Ramones. 

There are bands I have liked more. There are bands that, if I were to be completely honest to myself, have even done the thing the Ramones have done at least as well as the Ramones did it. There have been periods where I haven't listened to the Ramones. I get why there are people who dislike the Ramones. Or think they are juvenile and are something to be outgrown. I get that most of the songs kind of sound the same (close to a perfect sound, but often the same just the same). The Ramones have never been my favorite band or recorded my favorite album, and somewhere in there there is a further discussion about what is great and what is loved.

All that said, there has never been a band I have outright loved more.

Because they believed. They truly believed they were playing popular music, music that the kids loved. They played three minute pop songs in 90 seconds as loud as they could. For long enough, they believed the Top 40 was right around the corner. Sure, they would eventually make some concessions in their weird grab for fame. Recording with Phil Spector. Making a goofily bad movie. But they were still always the Ramones, no matter what they did.

Sure, their music was an act, but it was one they believed in wholeheartedly. Shit, I even believe that near the end, Dee Dee believed Dee Dee King would be as big as Run-DMC.

As a young kid, I believed in the Ramones as much as they believed in themselves. As far as I was concerned, there was no band that was bigger than the Ramones. I could give a shit about who they've influenced or what their place in music has been or will continue to be. I know that when I hit play on It's Alive or Rocket to Russia, they earned every drop of sweat that came their way.

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Coffee nurse

I'm not going to say I'm glad Leslie was not feeling well during her last few days of her last trip here.

I will say I'm not unhappy that we got to spend four days together without traveling into the outside world all that much. After all, one person's strep throat is another perfectly healthy person's excuse to spend 18 hours on the couch watching Law and Order marathons.

More importantly, it gave me the opportunity to take care of Leslie, and it also gave us a little sneak peek into what it will be like when we one day (hopefully, fingers crossed, not too long from now) get to live in the same place for more than a week or two. I mean, I know we will drive each other crazy at some point, because that is what happens to real people, and lord knows I can retreat into a silent ball of inactivity that would drive anyone crazy if they spend enough time with me. Experience, my friends, experience.

But the initial returns, as I suspected they would be, were positive. We were able to operate in each other's space without getting in each other's way. We were able to talk and share and also be fine if we weren't talking and sharing the whole time. Unfortunately, my kitchen is a no more than one person can cook at a time affair, but we were able to split those duties and time out things well enough that I think we're both looking forward to a time and place where we have more than two-square feet of counter space.

And yes, I got to take care of patient Leslie. It wasn't the first time, or even the 100th time, when I've been on her gently to slow down and not push herself, but this time I had the germs on my side. Or the virus. Whatever. It's been a long damn time since I took biology.

I like to take care of people, I like doing the small things for people I love, whether they are sick or not. I'm sure one of the highlights of the trip for Leslie was that I brought her coffee in bed every morning. To her, this was a gift on par with receiving frankincense, myrrh, and whatever the third thing was. For me, it was my morning routine with an extra 12 seconds taken out of my day to pour coffee into a second cup, but I loved how it made her light up in the morning. Well, maybe light up is not the proper description of Leslie first thing in the morning, but I could tell she was singing show tunes on the inside. Sleepy, sleepy, groggy show tunes.

For the actual not-feeling-well portion of the week, we spent the days traveling from couch to bed and back again and ran through about 60 episodes of CSI: New York and Law and Order: Criminal Intent. We decided that CSINY is basically an ol' timey radio show with pictures, since Forest Gump's sergeant and the big fat Greek wedding woman spend most of the show explaining what they are doing.

Guy: I am walking down the street carrying my gun and, oh look, there is someone else with a gun and now I am going to shoot him and then we will go back to the lab where will set a montage of people staring at computers to zippy dance music.

Woman: I am opening the window to let in some air and the city is outside and somewhere someone is committing a crime and now I am going to lift this cup of coffee to my lips and take a sip.

Eventually we settled on skewing toward Law and Order Criminal Intent, because it is always fun to watch Vincent D'onofrio act crazy, and there is a certain comfort in knowing that the person who did it is always going to be the third person who gets questioned. Formula equals good when you are dozing in and out of sleep on the couch.

During downtime between shows, or during shows (because frankly, they aren't too hard to follow) I would make tea, cook the few things I know how to make that don't have microwave directions on a box. The whole time, I spent as much time cuddled up to Leslie as I could, banking on the maximum cuddle time to save for the weeks when we won't be together.

Sometimes, most times, I feel like I can't do enough, that I can't provide all that someone needs. A lot of this is my own neurosis and issues. It may be shocking to realize, but the newspaper business isn't one where you are showered with gold and riches. Because I'm not always rolling in the Benjamins, I get sensitive to not being a good provider. I tend to try to show how I can provide for someone by doing, and Leslie gets that, and that she gets that and appreciates that makes me feel better and makes me want to curl up on the couch and watch every Law and Order ever made. And I think Dick Wolf has made enough to keep us going until we are at least 103.