An Evening of Observations

1. There was a guy in the computer lab where my class meets who left just a few minutes before we got started. He looked like Ashton Kutcher and was wearing a red t-shirt that had a “McShit” logo on the front.

2. Hot-With-Glasses? Girl is truly an enigma. She is hot with the glasses on, and only marginally attractive without.

3. There are times when Charlie should probably just admit that there’s not a lot to cover in a given week of class and say, “Ah, get out of here early…”

4. While keeping all my computers (except the server) off most of the time is saving on electricity, it’s certainly not helping me make sure I get all my shows taped.

5. I have earned the Giant Dumbass merit badge a number of times over. Thank goodness my prof picked up my PDA after I left it in class tonight.

6. Kids might say they don’t mind “group work,” in class, but the truth is that’s because they don’t get dick done during those sessions.

Going Home

Missed an entry yesterday, mostly because of the hours that traveling took.

Wordy and I got on a bus at 7:00 AM EST Monday to go to New York for the day. We arrived in Chinatown at about 11, and then proceeding to walk a very long way, meandering past, in, and around any number of interesting or peculiar sites, until we got to Bethesda fountain in Central Park at about 3 (At least I think that’s about what time it was. I could check the pictures. OK, so it was 3:30. I was close.).

It was after we walked back out of the park to 53rd & Broadway (where I wanted to get a better photo of the Ed Sullivan Theater than I did four years ago) that we decided to pick up a map and brave the New York City subway. It was certainly no more frightening than any other sort of public transit, definitely faster, more crowded than most, but just difficult for a first-timer to navigate.

Anyway, we rode the train up to Columbia University, where Wordy wanted to learn some street names and whatnot, because a screenplay that he’s working on apparently has a car chase around Columbia in it. I took a few nice photos on the campus there, and a cute English girl asked me for directions, which I really wish I could’ve provided.

We asked a university security officer for subway directions back to where we needed to be for our bus, and holy crap – was that ever faster than walking! We got to the bus in plenty of time, even had a chance to grab dinner before it left, and then we both tried to sleep some on the way home. I also read the 2nd volume of the Sin City books, and it was as good as or better than the first.

Today we slept in for a little while after a very long day on our feet. We were up at about 20 minutes to 9, and we were across the street at the Au Bau Pain for coffee and a muffin at 10 after. Ben met us there about 30 minutes later, then at 10:30 or so, we hopped a train up to Harvard.

I had been there on Friday, but Wordy hadn’t, and I was really glad we went back, because the weather was beautiful for taking pictures. I found the ‘Harvard Alumni’ mug that I wanted, and Wordy got a shirt for his roomie that says, “Hahvahd.”

We ate lunch up in Cambridge before heading back to down with a stop at MIT. We all had a marvelous time all morning/early afternoon making fun of the smart kids at both Harvard and MIT. I guess it’s just what you do when you’re dumb/normal.

Wordy and I caught the train nearest Ben’s apartment at about 3:10 PM, and we were to the airport before 4. I was actually at the security check at 4. I waited on going through, though, so that we could have a drink before we took off. At 20 to 5, we said good-bye, and now I’m on the plane sitting next to a cute girl from Friendship, WI who’s a freshman at Boston University. I’m also sort of watching this guy’s DVDs over his shoulder without sound two rows up.

See ya back in ‘Sconnie.

Then Wordell Showed Up

Yesterday Ben and I made it to the airport just as Wordy was disembarking from his plane. We stopped at Dunkin Donuts for coffee and a muffin before we got back on the train, and Ben was right — they have some shitty coffee @ the DD.

We ate lunch at a place called The Screamin Pig. It was a nice English pub, I had a pulled pork sandwich.

Next, we walked over to Wally’s Jazz Cafe, which is one of Ben’s favorite places to hang out, and judging by the awards hanging on the walls, Boston thinks it’s pretty great, too. We were there too early to see anyone play, but the jukebox was an adequate substitute. A bunch of the pictures from yesterday are in Wally’s.

We went to the top floor of the Prudential building, where there’s a restaurant called “Top of the Hub.” The view was neat, but since it was a cloudy, snowy day in general, we had trouble seeing very far out. We were going to hang out there for a drink anyway, but they wouldn’t serve me because (and I’m paraphrasing here) “( they’ve ) never heard of a state that issues you a sticker to extend the date of your license before.” I was laughing about it, I think the people working there were offended, but like I told them — it wasn’t them so much as it was Wisconsin that gave me the chuckles. Silly, cheap, stupid Wisconsin, who doesn’t want you to get a new license, just a sticker.

There were a couple other stops along the way, finally we wound up at a place called Punter’s Pub, where we could throw all the darts we wanted for free (quite a change from WI) and we hung out there until around 1:00. Wordy and I ordered a lunchbox, which we had to tell the bartender how to make (1 part light beer, 1 part O.J, drop in a shot of amaretto), and which grossed out everybody at the bar. It was delightful.

Today the weather is supposed to be better, so hopefully we’ll get some outdoor photography rolling.

Bahsten, part 1

I write this blog from my friend Ben Leubner’s room in Boston, MA. It’s spring break time once again, and this year I’ve taken a short trip to New England to visit my friend whom I hadn’t seen since I returned to Waukesha from Montana, and to (hopefully) take some photos.

Yesterday wasn’t a very photoriffic day, but more on that to come.

I arrived about half an hour late, but it was a nice flight on the ol’ Midwest Signature service. The two seats across were nice. Of course, the plane was not nearly full, so I’m sure three seats across wouldn’t have been that bad. The plane was a Boeing 717.

Let’s rewind just a little further back to Thursday night — I met Jen & Joe and Raul & Kelly and Steve W out in Waukesha the night before, since my plane was leaving from Mitchell early on Friday morning.

I proceeded to get completely drunk Thursday night, to the point where, when Jen woke me from the couch on Friday morning, 70 minutes before my plane was due to take off, I didn’t even care that I would ruin my trip with beer. I wanted to sleep.

Wound up just rolling out of couch, pulling on clothes from the night before, and speeding across town to meet the plane. I got to the gate as it was finishing boarding, but at least I made it.

I felt like hell in the morning, and I threw up a little bit on the plane before it even took off. I think that that grossed out the woman sitting next to me enough that she didn’t speak to or look at me the rest of the flight.

Anyway, I got into town, Ben met me at baggage claim, and we rode the train back to his place. Dropped my stuff at his apartment, then we had lunch at a restaurant where one of the pieces of art on the wall was a painting someone had done of a family outside a Wal-Mart?.

We walked up to the North End, to a small Italian cafe where Ben enjoys the cappuccino. It was tasty. The walk was also nice — we saw a little bit of the tourist-y stuff in town, and some that wasn’t so tourist-y.

After that, we got on the train again, and went to walk around Harvard. We got there and made fun of the extremely wealthy smart kids. We thought of looking around for the English department, and I realized at that moment, looking for the English department at a university while I’m on spring break makes me simultaneously old and a big geek.

Harvard’s bookstore (The Coop) is basically a Harvard-branded Barnes & Noble. Where most university bookstores have a lot of merchandise with the school’s name enmblazened on it, this one did not. I wanted to get a “Harvard alumni” coffee mug, because I thought that would be funny. We discussed the lack of merchandise a little, and decided that they might only print up enough Harvard alumni mugs for each graduating class, or there is a secret code that we were, of course, too stupid to know, that would allow one access to the merchandising section of the Harvard bookstore.

We went out to a bar called Cornwall’s later on, where we met up with Ben’s romantic interest, Stephanie, and a couple other friends of theirs from class, Jason and Jim. They all seem like good people, and the sort of dorkiness that you would expect from graduate students in English.

Ben is proving to be quite accomodating in terms of lodging. He has worked tirelessly to assure that Wordy and I have a place to stay every night, even if it means that Ben himself is put out of his home. For example: last night I slept in Ben’s bed, while he stayed with Stephanie.

We’re due to pick up Wordell @ the airport in about three hours, so that means I’m going to take a little walk around the neighborhood, have some coffee and a bit o’ breakie perhaps, before Ben returns for the morning.

More on everything as it happens, although, if previous vacations are any indication, I will get to the day that I’m too tired or busy to write something in the blog, so be prepared.

We Now Resume Regularly Scheduled Rambling

First, thanks to everybody who sent some positive feedback about what I had to say about Ben over the weekend. It’s definitely still weighing heavy on my mind, and if I have more to say in the future, I appreciate you listening to it.

On a lighter note, here is what I see as laundry’s leading problem: people wear it. You have clean clothes, then you have to go and wear them, secrete all your juices all over em, they get dirty, you gotta wash em again… it’s a vicious, never-ending cycle.

I just did a ton of wash last week, and here I am, 4 more loads seven days later. Is that a lot for a single man? 4 loads is about average for my week. Does that sound excessive? The funny thing is, if I let it go two weeks, I usually only end up with two extra… eh, whatever.

The rest of my time in Vegas for the week will be spent cleaning, packing, and otherwise preparing for my abbreviated vacation to Boston. Thursday night after work, I drive down to Waukesha to stay with Jen and Joe, then Jen is driving me to the airport early on Friday morning. I’ll be in Boston by 10:30 EST.

Wordy is getting in about 25 hours later.

We’re staying at Ben Leubner’s place, and let me tell you what a helluva guy this guy is: not only did he drive all the way to WI with me from Montana only to drive back, when we get there he’s letting us crash at his place, guiding the tour, and shuttling us about where we need to be. Quite a good friend to have made, I hope someday I can reciprocate some of his kindness…

Either Sunday or Monday we’ll take a train into New York, I don’t think Wordy’s ever been there.
Wordy you been there?
Right, been a couple times, not lately. Got it.

So that’s my week in a nutshell. Gotta run, time to change the f*n laundry…

On the Event of an Old Friend's Passing

On Wednesday, March 1, an old childhood friend of mine passed away. Ben Wartgow was diagnosed with brain cancer late in 2003. I visited him and his dad, Jeff, at their home in Eagle River in late January for the first time in years. I was very glad to have seen them again, and I was honored to be asked to be a pallbearer at Ben’s funeral. This short essay/reflection is the first of a few different topics I wanted to write something about as I consider the meaning of these current events and the importance of all the memories.

I sat down in the church next to my friend Clint, who I hadn’t talked to for more than a few minutes since graduation, and at once I realized that I sat in virtually the same place twelve years ago when Ginger died. It was and eerie sort of feeling, because at that moment, these two days didn’t seem nearly far enough apart.

I listened as Jeff read two of Ben’s favorite poets. I remembered Ben as a person who was at least as skilled with language as me (probably more so) and as one who loved books. But I had not known him to read poetry.

As the pastor spoke about Ben’s accomplishments and adventures as a student at UW-Madison, then later as an American professional in Japan, I thought of how all these things were news to me. At once I felt like a fraud, a stranger in friend’s clothing who had been disconnected so long that I was in a way unfit to be here, since there was so much living that had happened in the more recent years of Ben’s life.

I remember Ben’s preparation to leave the States for his first trip to Japan, when we were sophomores in high school. Those were the last days that I was very close with my friend. As I try hard to remember, I have some recollection of an afternoon in late summer – it must have been no more than a day or two before he would leave, and I said good-bye, fully expecting to return to this relationship in a year, and hearing all the stories of Ben’s adventures overseas. What a pivotal year that one turned out to be.

I can remember or imagine all sorts of reasons why we weren’t as close after that, and in some time and place it may be worthwhile to consider those things more deeply, but when I think back on the last seven years of my life, there are not a lot of things that I would change. I doubt that Ben would have a lot of regrets either. What makes me more sad than to realize how I missed out on the those years of friendship with Ben is thinking about how now—as grown, formed, adult men—we probably could have been very close again.

I sat with Clint in the basement of the church eating lunch, chatting about the days growing up. I missed out on those same years with Clint, for similarly unimportant reasons. I made sure that before we parted, I got his phone number, email, and promised to keep in better touch. I hope that it’s not an empty promise; I certainly don’t intend it to be, but who can tell on a day like this one?

Clint and I agreed that time keeps moving faster and faster, and as we continue to get older, people get more and more involved with their own lives, their own families, etc. That’s why I can sit here quite calmly, wishing that I would’ve known these old friends better in more recent days, but refusing to regret the way things have unfolded. I try to keep the faith that the Universe continues to evolve as it should. It is a comforting thought, and relieves anxiety.

In these last seven years, I’ve had three of my grandparents pass away. I loved them all very much, and, as I’ve learned in my Christian upbringing, I look forward to seeing them again on another plane of existence. But I must honestly admit: until today, as I helped to lift Ben’s casket into the hearse, I have never longed more deeply for the day when I might join all of them, when I will look up my old friend Ben, and get to know the man he had become.

Previews and Recaps

Here’s just a random opening comment: I don’t know if it’s legal, but it’s definitely funny how there are some regular weekdays that the mailman just doesn’t show up at my building. I know what you’re saying: how do I know for sure he wasn’t here? I guess I don’t, but I take the fact that the outgoing mail that was here at 7:50 AM is still on the ledge combined with no mail for me today as a pretty clear sign.

I forgot where I parked again today. This is a growing problem for me. Usually, I park in the lot across Elmwood from the library, but sometimes if there’s no spots there, I have to go to the one on the south side of Kolf. Today marked the sixth work day in a row I walked to the wrong lot after work. I even had a reminder set up on my PDA (WHERE DID YOU PARK? just like that, in all caps) and that didn’t work at all. I suppose I’ll just have to live with the problem.

I was in lovely (and cold, and somewhat dreary) Bloomington, MN this weekend to visit my old comrade Josh Schneider. Josh lives in a townhouse with his girlfriend Terry and their two cats, which, thanks to some of Terry’s allergy meds, didn’t bother me at all. We hung out a bit like in Bruce Springsteen songs, also made a shopping voyage to IKEA and a couple other spots in the Twin Cities metro area.

On Saturday night, Josh and I met up with Greg Willis for dinner and then went back to his place to play Scene-It?. I also drank a bunch of bourbon and got pretty annoyed at Josh’s mad Scene-It? Skillz. Sunday morning, we met Tom Elko and his girlfriend Stephanie for breakfast @ Keys in Minneapolis.

Sunday afternoon, I arrived at Christy’s apartment in Menomonie, where I discovered that she had a number of unsecured wireless access points nearby, but also that her computer hadn’t worked since Christmas, so I have to work on that. She made dinner for us and her friend Janet, and we just sorta watched a movie while doing homework and stuff. I finally got back to Oshkosh after a full and entertaining weekend on Monday afternoon.

After lunch at work today, I was at the front desk and short on front desk-type work, so I decided to take a look at IMDB to see what movies I’m going to want to see in the next couple months. I took it a couple steps further and found 16 movies that I’m interested in seeing between this Friday and October 7. I’m sure there will be additions and subtractions to this list.

Be Cool – March 4
Sin City – April 1
Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – April 29
Crash – April 29
Kingdom of Heaven – May 6
Revenge of the Sith – May 19
Mr. and Mrs. Smith – June 10
Batman Begins – June 17
War of the Worlds – July 1
Fantastic Four – July 8
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – July 15
Happy Endings – July 15
Elizabethtown – July 29
The Brothers Grimm – July 29
The Pink Panther – September 23
The Wallace & Gromit Movie: Curse of the Wererabbit – October 7

That’s all I’ve got for now, need to get some homework done.