Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Work Ethic

First off, I want to say straight out. I love my job. Beyond that, I have discovered something far deeper. Something that I feared I did not possess as it regarded my chosen profession. Passion.
I used to have a phrase to describe a job – It’s a place you would rather not be, doing something you would rather not be doing, with people you would rather not be with. So they pay you for this unpleasant arrangement. Lather rinse repeat for some 40-odd years, then retire.
Rather morose, no?
Well, fortunately for me, life can be a great head-rearranger. What I have discovered was that I wasn’t in a boring profession, I was in boring jobs within that profession. I was a size-10 foot trying to fit into ballerina slippers. When I left my previous job it was this very mis-fit that ultimately led to it being, well, my previous job. I then tried consulting, which was a better fit for my metaphorical foot. Problem was, I couldn’t make enough money. That was a problem. Now my foot was getting frostbite. Daddy needed a pair of shoes.
My profession is public transit management. I am a transit planner. I decide where buses go. It is a small, niche industry. Also not known for its glamour. But I do enjoy it. The problem with the industry is, there’s only one employer in a given area. Which means a job change likely requires relocation. Knowing this, I literally did a nationwide search: Kansas City, Richmond Washington, Dallas, San Francisco. I damn near got a couple of those jobs. But I didn’t, and thankfully so, because I was finally offered a position that required a relocation of two hours – Orlando.
And it was here, in Mickeyland, that I finally found a size-10 comfortable Italian leather tasseled loafer to slide into. Decide where bus routes go? I got 65 of them with 280 buses. Picture when you were a kid & you got one of those Lionel train sets and you would set up the track in different patterns to see if you could make the locomotives synchronize. (Okay maybe only I did that as a kid) The point is, as I said at the beginning, I love my job. Love it.
Know how I know I love it? The days fly by. I don’t clock-watch because I am too busy. Often I have checked my watch only to bemusedly realize that it’s time to go home. It is exciting, engaging, challenging, at times frustrating, satisfying, fun. Fun!

And that is the ultimate yardstick. A job that I consider fun. Kinda blows that morose viewpoint to bits doesn’t it?

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Throwing Things Out

It is Thanksgiving 2009, and I am spending the day, not with family & friends, but taking care of some overdue tasks. I am now double-rooted (if that’s even a word…whatever) with a house in Post St. Lucie & an apartment in Orlando. I am at the house. And I need to get the place cleared out in order to rent it, which means I am going through stuff that I thought I would hold onto forever.


No, this is not going to be a rip-off of George Carlin’s famous routine. Instead it is more of a melancholy review of times gone by. See, I am 51 now and my son is 15. When I first moved here I was 42 & he was 6. Not a big move age-wise for me, but light years for him. Because I just went through the stuff in his room, and that’s where the memories slammed me. Here’s what I came across -

  • A Hot Wheels slot-car track.
  • Stuffed animals
  • Various board games “For ages 12 and under”
  • A half-finished log cabin kit
  • A model airplane kit that never really worked right
  • Jigsaw puzzles
  • His artwork

And I had to make hard decisions – what to toss, what to keep. For certain, none of that stuff holds value to my son, but each one just floods me with thoughts of where were & what we were doing. But I can’t keep this stuff anymore!

So now all of that resides on my devil strip. With one exception – the artwork. I made a vow when my son was 2 years old that I would keep every bit of artwork he ever created. I am not going to break that vow. Besides, he will be famous one day & those ‘portraits of the artists as a young man’ will hold some value. If not in the open market, then with me. Always.

But the memories are also pleasant, as they are proof of the good times we have shared. Now my son has an ipod, a laptop & a Wii. He likes to school me in Wii tennis.

Life moves on.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Brace Face No More!

It all started with an innocuous query to my dentist four years ago. During a routine cleaning I asked him if he could whiten my teeth. Well, much like an alcoholic that asks a friend "Do you think I have a drinking problem?", my dentist saw the opening to give me the ugly truth.

"Jerry, I could whiten your teeth. But given the shape your teeth are in, it wouldn't be worth it. Your bite is collapsing, your molars are slanting inwards, you still have a baby tooth, and your upper teeth are slanted inward so far that they are digging into your lower gum & is causing serious periodontal disease. You will need dentures within ten years. So yeah, I could whiten your teeth, but you really should get braces first."

Dr. Vincenzo is nothing if not direct.

He then handed me the card of a local Orthodontist, Dr. Mark Lively. I called & scheduled a consult. And thus started a 37-month sojourn that ended two days ago, when I finally got my braces removed. The initial consult was, if nothing else, illuminating. Dr. Lively is a guy whose name fits him perfectly - an always smiling, upbeat, song-humming, joke-telling wiseaker. "Bite down", he instructed me. "Now open.....hmmmm....bite down again....hmm..." Much like a lumberjack inspecting his next tree, he looked, inspected, hummed whatever song was playing in his office, hummed some more, then stopped, took a deep breath, exhaled & gave me the prognosis. "Okay. You got like four things going on in your mouth..." He then explained them in great detail that pretty much confirmed what I thought. I should have gotten those dang braces when I was 15 years old. I asked him, well, can you fix me? He replied, "I love challenges, and YOU, Jerry, will be a challenge. Yes I can do it."

And he did it. For three years and one month, I learned all about bite plates, utility arches, slanted incisors, scissor bites, impacted cuspids...and pain. Broken wires. Jabbing wires. Double-helix wires reinforced to somehow keep my constant gum-chewing deep bite from severing...but still did. There were many times where I would call up his Angel Of Mercy, Lindi, and cuss up a blue streak & threatened felonies unless Mark would pull these things out of my mouth. Gimme the dentures. I had had enough.

But I talk big. I hung in there. Mark & his staff were eternally patient with me, and on Monday October 12, 2009, they came off. As I was scheduling my follow-up for my retainer fitting, Mark came out & handed me a gift. A bottle of wine. Probably cuz I was a 'bottle of whine' throughout the whole process. I actually cried when he gave me the gift.

Now, who in the heck cries getting a bottle of wine from an orthodontist? For that matter, who in the heck GETS a bottle of wine from an orthodontist? Well I did. And I did. So there. And part of the reason for the tears was the realization that, even though the day I had long been waiting for had finally arrived, there was genuine sadness that it was over. I had grown very fond of my visits to see Mark, Lindi, Michelle, Essie & the rest of gang. And I think that they enjoyed seeing me. Well, except for the felony-threatening part. The realization that I wouldn't be seeing these wonderful people anymore made me sad.

But now for the good news:

NOW I can go get my teeth whitened.

Friday, July 3, 2009

O-Town Plus Three Months

I see that I haven't posted a story here since way back in the halcyon days of April, when I was one month into my new gig working for Lynx in downtown O-Town. Well, since I have bulging following of SEVEN members now (roughly a quarter of the population of Wasilla Alaska if you don't count the children that look like moose inbreeding), there is such a responsibility-laden commitment now. Or something like that. Life is pretty good these days, as the paycheck spigot is now full on, and meals no longer consist of whatever is a Publix Bogo. So I thought it would be interesting to give an update of my thoughts of this place I am now calling home, three months since my initial glow -
  • It gets hot in Orlando in the summer. While this is hardly a news flash, bear in mind that I moved from SOUTH Florida to here - I moved 150 miles NORTH. But the key geographic direction here is not north/south but from about 5 miles from the ocean to 55 miles away. I never realized the impact of a sea breeze to Florida climatology. The other day the high in Orlando was 98 degrees. With no breeze. And 85% humidity. The best way to give a graphic of this is, I wear glasses & the nanosecond I go from an air-conditioned building to outside, instant condensation.

  • Keeping with boring weather talk, it doesn't rain in Orlando. We have apocalyptic, Scriptures-induced storms. More electricity in the air than rumors of a Beatles reunion tour. Every afternoon.

  • People are friendly here. Bear in mind that I moved from the Sixth Borough also known as South Florida. Not to pick on New Yorkers, but I've found that when there are less of them in an area, said area tends to be a bit more laid back. And while I wouldn't necessarily call Orlando 'laid back', it definitely has a different vibe than SoFla. More natives here.

  • So much to do here. This is not a boring town. There is a reason why it is the #1 tourist destination in the world, and it's kinda cool to hear folks talk about things like 'Hey, Universal Islands of Adventure is having a 3-day special this week.' Yeah I know I lamented about this fakeness in my last post, but now I'm talking from the standpoint of what to do during down time, and living in a place where you got the pick of Disney, Sea World, Universal, Wet 'N Wild, Aquatica, International Drive, $20 helicopter rides, and scads of golf courses doesn't suck. And I've come to find out the 'cheapie' methods of entertainment, like Downtown Disney - free parking, free admittance. Two words: Lego Land.

  • You hungry? We got it. Mongolian barbecue? Check. Sushi restaurants everywhere. Vietnamese cuisine. Good ol' fashioned rib shacks (it's still the south). Sidewalk cafes in College Park. Authentic Puerto Rican cuisine in Kissimmee. Think of you favorite chain restaurant where you live & I'll betcha we got it here - Carrabba's, White Castle, Olive Garden, whatever. I haven't been stumped yet on that challenge.

Now, I know what you're thinking - 'Great Jer, but are you happy?' Uh, yeah, I am. The job is fantastic - and that may be the topic of a future blog - but the point of this post & others I've made is that life is so full of unexpected twists & turns, that you truly do not know where you may be a month or year from now. If you are finding yourself in the middle of a rough patch, just believe. Then get busy. And maybe you will find yourself, say 6 months from now, gushing about a new place that you now call home. I look forward to hearing from you with such a story.

Friday, April 10, 2009

O-Town O-My!

I have lived in Southeast Florida for over 25 years now, having moved here from Ohio in 1982. My domiciles have ranged from Port St. Lucie in the north to Boynton Beach in the south - centering around Palm Beach County mostly. And like any metropolitan area, we exhibit pride in our choice of residence. Part of the expression of pride is to decidedly trash other areas of the state. And the one area that has long be the whippin' boy is Central Florida, specifically the Orlando area.

Land of the Fake, Mickeyville, RatLand...home of overpriced happy meals, tourist traps & horrific traffic. That's the Orlando that we have portrayed. Much of which is, well, true - especially the traffic part. As my friend Lyle puts it, Orlando's the only town where, the fastest way to get from point A to B is to go in the opposite direction. Mind-numbing traffic. (Tip: Avoid International Drive).

Well, due to various sets of circumstances like the desire to not starve, I have been seeking gainful employment in my chosen career path, which led me to a real nice job offer in - you guessed it - Goofyville. And it was with real trepidation that I decided to take the position offered. That was a month ago, and I can tell you that I have discovered an area of Orlando that very much flies under the radar & is not talked much about - the downtown area.

Before I talk about what is in downtown Orlando. let me tell you what's not there. You will not find any souvenir shops, mouse hats, Chuck E Cheese, Japanese tourists, German tourists, hell - Florida tourists, insidious background 'It's a small world after all' music, or 45-minute wait lines for a 2-minute ride. All that is a 30-minute drive to the southwest that locals barely recognize, let alone point to with pride.
What downtown Orlando is, is one of the coolest urban settings I've ever been a part of. My office is smack downtown, and as such, I've been exploring the area - either on foot or through use of an awesome method of urban mobility unique to O-Town: The Lymmo. A cool decorated bus that has its own dedicated guideway & signal preemption. Translation: cars & traffic lights are not a factor - it glides past any traffic. And it delivers you to the center of bars, restaurants, musicians, museums, open markets & a cool/funky environment that, unlike more famous areas of Orlando, is completely organic and natural. Nothing contrived here. In downtown, It's a legit world after all. And there's no subliminal reinforcement needed of that fact.

The other thing unique to downtown is the proximity of great places to live. And by proximity I mean walking distance. Truly. Like 5 blocks away from a thumping night life & great restaurants are neighborhoods like Lake Eola Heights, Thornton Park & Colonial Town. Safe. Clean. A lot of pride exhibited by the residents. Totally freekin' cool as hell.

So there's my little advertisement for downtown Orlando. Coming from a jaded Floridian with long-held preconceived notions of what Orlando is, downtown has been an awesome eye-opener. And my advice to any would-be traveler to O-Town is this - Take the scads of money you would spend on a hotel with a mouse-shaped tub & overpriced admission tickets for the privilege of standing in mind-numbing lines, and stay downtown. Take in a Magic game, stroll around Lake Eola, try the Vietnamese cuisine on East Colonial...and basically enjoy the REAL Orlando.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Neurotic Browns Fan interviews Browns Head Coach Eric Mangini

Browns head coach Eric Mangini sits down to talk with Neurotic Browns Fan -

NBF: Thanks for taking time out of your busy schedule of remodeling the practice facility to speak with us.

Mangini: Uh, you’re welcome. Are you referring to the relocation of the Browns mural?


Mangini: Your passion is commendable. Also a little creepy. But don’t worry – I have only relocated it to an area where the public can see it. Have you ever seen the mural?

NBF: Are you being condescending? We pay your salary, bub.

Mangini: Actually, Mr. Lerner does tha…

NBF: LERNER!?! You mean that tea-sippin’ soccer-loving rich boy that cannot fathom the pain we have lived with all these years?

Mangini: Uh, yeah, Randy Lerner, the owner.

NBF: I know who he is! Now you’re insulting my intelligence. You’re not endearing yourself to us, Mangelichick.

Mangini: Well, since you mentioned him, you know that I got my start with the Browns when Belichick was head coach here. I was a go-fer, I broke down film, basically did anything that was asked…

NBF: So you supported the decision to cut (cue the choir) Bernie Kosar?

Mangini: Uh, actually, I didn’t have anything to do with that decision. During that time I was ordering pizza for the press corps that was gathering to attend the press conference…

NBF: I deliver pizzas for Hungry Howie’s.

Mangini: Uh…good…good for you.

NBF: That doesn’t mean I don’t know my football though, Mangoofus. Don’t try me. I once delivered a triple anchovy pie to (cue the choir) Dave Puzzouli. He sacked Elway during The Drive.

Mangini: You must have been proud.


Mangini: Uh, okay. Anyway, I am real excited about being the head coach of this great team, with its proud history and tradition. It is my goal to bring a championship to this great city and to you fans. You all deserve it.

NBF: What about the Steelers?

Mangini: Uh, what about them?

NBF: My God, are you as blockheadedly obtuse as your former boss, Beliprick? Are you going to beat the Steelers?

Mangini: Well of course. It is my goal to beat whichever team the Browns play on a given week…

NBF: Ya gonna instruct your players to disembowel Roethlisberger? Maybe face-plant him like (cue the choir) Turkey Jones did to Bradshaw? Maybe yank Polamalu’s hair until it rips the flesh off the top of his head exposing his brain matter to the frigid Cleveland air causing him to die a slow agonizing death? Cuz that would be cool.

Mangini: Uh…yeah. Look, my team is going to play tough, nard-nosed blue-collar football, but we will also play within the rules.

NBF: You’re a wuss.

Mangini. Noted. Anyway, the ultimate goal is a Super Bowl win, right?

NBF: No. Beat the Steelers.

Mangini: Pardon?

NBF: BEAT THE FREEKIN’ STEELERS!!! What’s this “Super Bowl” thing you talk about?

Mangini: Uh, it’s the championship game of the NFL, played every year.

NBF: Oh. Do you get there by beating the Steelers?

Mangini: Actually, you get there by making the playoffs & winning all your playoff games. Technically, the Browns could lose twice to the Steelers and still make it.

NBF: I don’t like that then.

Mangini: Sorry to hear that. Anyway, look – I gotta run. I’ve got a ton of evaluation to do on the current players & get ready for free agency & then the draft. There’s just not enough hours in the day, you know?

NBF: Yeah right. You need to go buy some more white paint. I get it. Not enough time for the FANS WHO PAY YOUR SALARY AND WHO YOU SHOULD WORSHIP, YOU FRAUD!

Mangini: Yeah. Anyway, have a nice day.


Thursday, January 8, 2009

...And There Was Much Yawning

So, the Cleveland Browns have announced their new Head Coach - Eric Mangini, the recently deposed head coach of the New York Jets.

And we collectively shrugged.

And I don’t get it. The apathy, that is. I understand that most fans were holding out for a ‘big splash’ hire like Marty Schottenheimer, or the whale of a catch in Bill Cowher. Neither materialized, and in retrospect, they were not going to happen – those were the wet dreams of the fans, but not the wishes of the guy who pays the bills, owner Randy Lerner.

But ponder for a moment what the hiring of Mangini brings to Cleveland, and that is this: A head coach with experience at being a head coach. Yeah I know, you’re yawning again. But for the Browns, this is an accomplishment. The last EIGHT head coaches of the Browns came to the job with zero experience at being a head coach. We have to go all the way back to Nick Skorich to identify the last Browns coach that had such experience when he took the job, and further, the list of such coaches ends there. Eric Mangini and Nick Skorich – the only coaches in Browns HISTORY to bring experience to the head coaching position.

Insanity is defined as repeating behavior expecting different results. And I would have placed the hiring of yet another assistant coach to head the Browns squarely in the insanity category. That is not to say that assistants cannot flourish in their first gig – Sam Rutigliano and Marty Schottenheimer are two examples. But for every Riverboat Sam we had a Forrest Gregg and Butch Davis. For every Marty we had Chris Palmer and Romeo Crennel.

So why is Browns Nation unimpressed with the Mangini hire? Some point to his dour persona and lack of sideline or press conference animation. Seems I remember people describing Paul Brown the same way. Some point to Mangini being part of the ‘Belichick Tree’ of coaches, and here in Cleveland, that is not considered a positive thing since our personal experience with Mumbles was not necessarily a positive one. But love or hate him, he has produced three Super Bowl victories, and the byproduct of that is a tree is planted & his assistants go on to head coaching gigs. We could certainly do worse.

Some think we should have hired a General Manager first, and then let that GM do the hiring of a Head Coach. Sort of like Phil Savage selecting Romeo Crennel. ‘nuff said there. Hiring one before the other guarantees nothing, so get over that.

What I really think is happening is that Browns optimism is at a low ebb. I think it is a defense mechanism us Browns fans have cultivated through the years of Butch Davis mismanagement and Romeo Crennel cluelessness. We don’t want to get excited until we are given a reason to. And hiring another head coach is not sufficient reason. Yet.

But like the Buzzards returning to Hinckley every Spring, you watch what happens when training camp opens in July. We will be back. But for now, we are treating the Mangini hire like we would opening our Christmas present and finding that instead of getting a Big Wheel we got a calculator. Disappointed.

But ultimately, it was the right gift.