A Slow Burn in the Wild West

I’d like to think I passed the writing gene along, but he’s so much better at it than me…

From Damon to Dugan

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford is far from what you might expect out of a western. I’d argue the only thing “western” about the film is the setting, as the story itself plays more akin to a Shakespearean drama. What writer/director Andrew Dominik has crafted for us is an intimate and harshly melancholy character study of the twilight years of the mythological Jesse James. While you might think that Brad Pitt’s Jesse James would be the centerpiece of this escapade, you’d be mistaken. This is as much Casey Affleck’s show as it is Brad’s. The film refrains from simply giving us a “Greatest Hits” highlight reel of Jesse James, and prefers to focus on the somewhat mystifying relationship between Jesse and his infamous assailant Robert Ford.

assassination-of-jesse-james-by-the-coward-robert-ford(Photo courtesy of alchetron.com)

It’s difficult to put into words all the things that the film gets right. What’s…

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Torn in the USA

One Millennial’s musings on the state of the union…

From Damon to Dugan

John Kerry, John McCain ** FILE ** In this Dec. 1, 1992 file photo, Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., left, chairman of the Senate Select Committee on POW/MIA Affairs, listens to Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., a former POW in Vietnam, during a hearing of the committee on Capitol Hill in Washington. The committee released classified testimony detailing the Pentagon’s intelligence gathering efforts in Vietnam. (AP Photo/Ron Edmonds, file)

See that? That’s Democratic Senator John Kerry and Republican Senator John McCain. Opposite sides of the political spectrum, and yet, throughout their political careers, they’ve been good friends. There were even rumblings that the two might run together on a bi-partisan Presidential ticket in 2008. Can you imagine? That’s political history I wish I’d witnessed. This most recent election has shown just how far we’ve strayed from what seemed outlandish and far-fetched eight years ago. I’ve never seen any phenomenon foster as much hate and divisiveness in…

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Star Trek: The New Generation

For a much more insightful view of the movies than I could ever provide, a guest blog…

From Damon to Dugan

When it comes to influence on pop-culture, I’m not sure there’s anything that surpasses Star Trek. Having just celebrated its 50th anniversary, it’s hard to deny the effect Star Trek has had not only within the realm of science fiction, but in society as a whole. Star Trek (The Original Series), created by Gene Roddenberry, introduced bold topics and themes in a fresh sci-fi setting that was wildly unique; a cultural splash that fundamentally redefined science fiction. Unfortunately, this monolith of sci-fi pop-culture struggles to hold up today, especially to the uninitiated (myself included). While innovative in its time, the show can’t help but fall victim to its age. The dated production value is all too apparent, the larger ideas at play often outreach the writing, and then there’s William Shatner. While I admire what The Original Series set out to do, it should speak volumes that Shatner’s post-Trek career…

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A Barista’s Life for Me

coffee
I’m having trouble finding work
In case you haven’t heard,
But now I start a new career,
A barista – spread the word.

With apron tied and hat secure
I’m ready to become
Lord of Lattes, Mocha Man
And prove I’m not a bum.

The training goes without a hitch
And all are filled with bliss,
I’m steaming milk and pouring shots
Like I was born for this.

But training runs and real-world chops
Are two quite different things,
As I find out, to my chagrin
When lo the rush doth bring

A flood of thirsty customers
All babbling foreign crap,
“A half-caf brewed” “A dirty chai”
“Make mine a mocha frap.”

Little squares on all the cups
Get marked with letters bold,
A complex form of shorthand that
Is quickly learned, I’m told.

But now the cups are stacking up
And more are on the way,
While I am left to stare quite lost,
My mind gone blank this day.

I grab a cup whose “syrup” box
Has “C” inside of it,
For “Cinnamon” or “Chocolate”
Or “Coconut Gumbo” – shit!

With eyes aglaze I reach for milk
And cue espresso shots.
“How many pumps?” “Where’s hazelnut?”
“Is this one ‘extra hot’?”

To stem the tide of backlogged drinks
And grumblings from the mob,
I’m put on frappuccino post,
An equally hectic job.

Three squirts of this, a dose of milk,
Then ice and squirts of that,
Blend, pour and add whipped cream on top
Don’t forget the drizzle – stat!

But getting lids onto the cups
Requires some secret touch,
Where others snap them on with ease
For this guy, not so much.

At first I try to gently coax
The plastic dome to fit,
But soon I’m muttering epithets
And pushing like a twit.

Then finally the lid snaps down,
The contents squirting free,
I hand the cup out dripping goo
‘Cause ten more wait for me.

From Mistos to Espressos
Whether Grande, Short or Tall,
Of 87-thousand drinks
I mastered none at all.

Oh, somewhere in this caffeined land
The sun is coming up,
The coffee’s brewing somewhere
To be poured into a cup.

And somewhere men are laughing,
And somewhere children shout
But there is no joy in FoCo,
This barista has washed out.

Image compliments of pega.com

No Country for Old Men

ageism
It’s day three of my new job, helping a contractor with a house remodel. In that time the work has become progressively more difficult, while the weather has become progressively warmer. Today we’re trying to finish up some heavy demolition, tearing out a two-story fireplace – lots of brick and cinder block to break apart, throw into a wheelbarrow and trundle up a hill to a waiting trailer. This after busting up a six-inch slab of concrete, which met the same fate. The work isn’t easy. Nor is it my chosen profession – let’s just say I doubt I’ll be adding it to my LinkedIn profile.

We moved to Colorado, specifically Fort Collins, about five years ago, escaping the Rust Belt at the bottom of the real estate meltdown. My wife had an opportunity to make the move with her firm and we jumped at it. I worked in television at the time, as the Executive Producer of a morning news show in Grand Rapids. And radio (and marketing) before that. I’d never had trouble finding work in the past, so we didn’t give it a second thought.

But now that I’m 50-something, it appears they’ve changed the hiring rules. Either that or word is out that I’m carrying the Ebola virus. After several years of looking but not finding anything, followed by a brief stint stocking grocery store shelves overnight (another job that won’t grace my LinkedIn page), I was hooked up with ‘Bob the builder’ by one of my wife’s co-workers. He was in desperate need of a warm body and I, like Mayo in An Officer and a Gentleman, had nowhere else to go.

The last two days were cloudy and cool, but today the sun came out and shone from that perfect blue sky that is so prevalent around here. And while I always considered myself to be in decent shape, such a notion was dispelled some time ago. Now the Gods are simply driving home that point. By ten o’clock I am wilting in the heat – the deodorant I slathered on with such hope earlier this morning has long since forsaken me. By noon I am completely out of gas.

My nemesis this day is the 18-inch wide plank that serves as a ramp into the trailer where I’m to dump all the fireplace rubble. Having already muscled the wheelbarrow up out of the backyard, I’m winded and unsteady, and negotiating this incline becomes more treacherous with every load. As I was shown, the preferred method is to get a bit of a running start and just glide up the ramp with a few confident strides. But confidence is supplanted by exhaustion as my legs turn to rubber, leaving me wobbling like a drunk on a balance beam.

Eventually, inevitably, I lose control and spill a couple of loads onto the driveway. After that I simply avoid the ramp, push my wheelbarrow to the edge of the trailer and toss the broken stone and bricks in by hand. Bob is not amused but accepts the fact – grudgingly – that the extra 30 or so seconds it takes me to empty the wheelbarrow this way is still quicker than collecting scattered chunks of broken masonry up off the pavement. And it gives my legs ever so slight a respite.

Lunch, finally, and the chance to sit. How I’ll make it through the afternoon is anyone’s guess. Bob’s not much of a talker, so I polish off my sandwich and apple in silence, while a line from an old Simon and Garfunkel song plays over and over in my head…I’d rather be a hammer than a nail. Irony? Sarcasm? I’m too tired to give a shit. A quick check of my phone provides mute testament to my ongoing persona non grata status in the current job-market – no voice messages, emails or texts despite perhaps half a dozen outstanding applications. As it has been for almost five years.

So I dust off my hat and head back to my Sisyphean task, pushing another load of brick and concrete up the hill under that indifferent, perfect blue Colorado sky.

Image courtesy of blog.cachinko.com