Remember When I Started This Blog?

Today marks exactly two years since I started this blog.  So to celebrate, I’m re-posting the very first post I ever posted here.  I read it now and feel that I have come a long way.  I hope you’ll agree.  – MK

Do you remember Beavis and Butthead, that cartoon on MTV?

I do.

It was spring and I was in ninth grade.  A friend of mine quoted some dialogue at the lunch table one day.  I watched the show that night and thought it was the funniest thing I had ever seen in my life.  It was on at 9:00 or 10:00 p.m., I believe, and I started taping an episode every night on the VCR.  The characters spoke to me.  I too was a young man who saw the world divided into things that were cool and things that sucked.

One time my mother watched the show and forbade me from watching it anymore.  I had to watch and tape in secret.  I figured out how to tape the show without the television being on.  I would bring the tape to a friend’s house and we would watch it and laugh and I would think to myself, “This show is never going to go out of style.”

The two main characters spent a lot of time watching television.  Whenever an image of fire came on to their screen, they would shout, “Fire!  Fire!” not in alarm, but in excitement.  I too was excited by images of fire at that time.

Parents were outraged.  Educators were disappointed.  Congress got involved.  The “Fire! Fire!” got edited to “Fight!  Fight!” which did not make any sense.  Until that time I had thought censorship was something that happened only in places like the Soviet Union.  Now I knew the truth.

A few years ago while I was cleaning out some old boxes of stuff, I found my tape of Beavis and Butthead.  It was marked with a simple “BB” so that my mother would not know what it was.  I dusted off the VCR and popped in the tape.

You know something?  It was still funny.

Heh heh.  Huh huh.

Remember Julius Caesar?

What can be said about Julius Caesar that has not already been said?  He was a very good tipper, routinely going over 20% and making everyone else at the table feel cheap.

One time, when we were in Gaul fighting the Celts over whether their name was pronounced with a hard or a soft “C,” Caesar parked his chariot in the space reserved for a local chieftain who had 20 years of service and special sticker.

“Well I didn’t see any sign on the space,” said Caesar, but the man’s feathers were ruffled over this breach of etiquette.  He didn’t care if Caesar was there to make war or not, and Marc Antony’s attempts to smooth things over with a few talents of gold and some raspberry-passionfruit wine were not successful.  Eager to please, Antony remedied the situation his own way, which led to even greater disappointment.

“You told me to take care of it!” Antony said, waving his hands in the air.

“Well you didn’t have to chop his head off right there in front of everyone,” said Caesar.  “How can I go to the supermarket now?  It’s really awkward.”

Caesar also loved going out to new restaurants.  But he made it hard for everyone because he always wanted Italian.

“But we had Italian last night,” Antony complained once.  “Can’t we try that new barbecue place?”

“Yes,” said Cicero, “I heard the food was good but the service slow and desserts overpriced.”

Caesar was almost persuaded, but the omens for barbecue were bad, and he made them all get Italian for the third night in a row.

There was the time he returned from Egypt and discovered that he’d forgotten to pay his credit card bill.  “It was one lousy day late!” he shouted to a scribe from the bank who was recording the entire message for quality purposes.  When the credit card company refused to take off the late fee, Caesar had the scribe crucified and asked to speak with his supervisor.  The late fee was taken off but the interest was, unfortunately, already chiseled in stone.

Julius Caesar was so excited when he invaded Britain.  He didn’t even mind all the rain.  “The savages are so polite,” he wrote in his journal.  His observations were so poignant and witty that I was as surprised as he was when he couldn’t get any publishers in Rome to do even a limited printing.  Caesar was told that travel memoirs had been “done to death” and the market was looking for young-adult paranormal romance.

People misunderstood Caesar’s desire to become an absolute dictator.  They called him a tyrant.  “I’m really not a tyrant,” he would lament.  “So I want to divert a river.  Big deal.  Look at how it bends in the map.  Don’t you think it would look better if it flowed in a straight line?”

He even got criticism for changing the calendar.  He was only trying to give his daughter the perfect wedding.

“Ah, you see, there’s absolutely nothing left in June,” the wedding planner said, consulting his stone tablet.  “Everyone wants to get married in June.  So that takes into September…”

“But I don’t want to get married in September,” his daughter said.  “Daddy, you promised me I could have a wedding worthy of Minerva.”

“Did I say that?  All right.  And so you shall!” Caesar said, and created the month of July, thus clearing up a few more weekends for his daughter choose from.  He still had trouble getting invitations printed up, though, as the scribes weren’t used to writing the name of the new month, and took several drafts to get it right.

But all things in antiquity have to end in tragedy so that writers have something to write about.  I told Caesar not to go to the Senate that day.  Nothing was on the agenda expect for a routine appropriations bill for vomitoria, and a total puff-piece of legislation formally recognizing that being eaten by a lion was more humane than being eaten by a bear.

“But I heard they are going to serve cake,” he said.

“Sir,” I said to him, “you are the absolute ruler of Rome, the most powerful man in the world, a god among men.  You can have cake at home any time you want.”

“Yes,” Caesar said, gathering up his toga, “but the cake at home is just not the same.”

Remember Your First Summer Job?

This year brings a scarcity of summer jobs for America’s youth.  It is unfortunate that so many will miss the tremendous learning opportunity that summer jobs present.  I don’t know where I’d be today without such opportunities.

My first summer job, other than making spin art and being forced to play kickball, was at for a supplier of home security devices.  My task was to assemble and mail marketing materials.  The work was routine, and I was soon able to stuff, seal, and put postage on the envelopes while reading the books that my English teacher had assigned over the summer.  The system went fine until I accidentally sent one of our paranoid customers a copy of 1984 with our catalog.

The next summer I answered the calling to sell high quality cutlery.  We were trained to use the bonds of love to convince our family and friends that the wisest move they could make in their lives was to plunk down $600 for a set of butter knives.  If they balked at the price tag, we reminded them that the knives’ warranty could be bequeathed to later generations, like the estates of English gentry.  To seal the deal, we would demonstrate that the knives could cut pennies in half, perfect for salad or guacamole.

The most educational summer job was working at a convenience store.  My first day on the cash register I produced an error of $900, and the IRS showed up and demanded free Slurpees.  There was so much to learn.  I had to remember which cigarettes were running promotions and which ones prevented osteoporosis.  I had to know the price of every size of soda cup, from the 12-ounce regular to the 20-gallon Mega Gulp that included free use of the store’s dolly.  I had to serve hot dogs to customers without scrunching up my face.

Selling alcohol required extra vigilance.  Minors would try all sorts of tricks.  One time a young man told me he was 45, but that he suffered from a rare disease that made him look 19 and wear his baseball cap backwards.  I asked for identification.  He said he forgot it at home.  When I told him that, despite his condition, I could not meet his request, he threatened to sue me and then pedaled away on his bike.  I am still waiting for the summons.

Approximately 90% of our business, it seemed, was selling lottery tickets.  A man once gave me a list of six numbers to play, saying that those were his magic numbers.  I informed him that, statistically, he would have the same chances of hitting numbers one through six in order, and I showed him the math on a napkin.  He dismissed me as crazy.  I was about to pull out the calculator, but the line was getting long and people were starting to throw packets of Equal.  The next day the man played his magic numbers and the numbers one through six.

My shift was eight hours long with no break for lunch.  When a friend of mine saw me snapping into a Slim Jim between coffee station drills, he said that the law entitled me to a half-hour paid lunch break for every eight-hour shift.  I didn’t know if my friend was right, but I wasn’t about to let that stop me, and I told my co-workers I was forming a union.  That night at home while I stenciled my picket signs, a black car drove by and lobbed stale doughnuts at my front door.  I had gotten the message, and took a few of the doughnuts for lunch the next day.

I hope that the economy turns around soon, so that young people can have the same learning opportunities that I did.

Did you have any memorable summer jobs?

Remember the Year 2010?

Remember when it was the year 2010?

I do.

It seems like it was just yesterday or three days ago at the most. Unemployment was stuck at ten percent. State governments across the nation were facing unbridgeable budget gaps. Justin Bieber was a music phenomenon. I know — it is hard to believe what life was like.

But people survived somehow. They dipped into their hard-earned consumer credit or tax cuts and upgraded (finally) from DVD players to Blu-Ray players. They began to question union benefits. They discovered that there was an educational value to playing video games where the object was to make body parts fly as far as possible from the principal. They did what humans do best – innovate, adapt, and find new reasons to spend money they did not have.

And here we are in a new age, far from that sepia-toned time. We face the same problems our ancestors faced, but must find different solutions to those problems. We must learn how to reduce pollution beyond driving miles out our way for a lightbulb that is five percent more efficient. We must learn how attract the brightest young minds to fields other than banking, investing, and financial alchemy. We must learn how to fire public employees.

And most of all, we must learn how to make monkeys fly out of my butt.

Happy New Year, faithful readers.