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Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Strike busting on Mt. Willis

At first, I thought it was my imagination. Not one of their eyes ever blinked. Their plastic little smiles never wavered. Their dogged work ethic never waned. It seemed impossible, not to mention a little unsettling.

And yet, it was all true. They never blinked, frowned, or stopped doing their job. And L'il Otis could not have been happier about it.

It was a family Christmas celebration held a few days after the actual holiday. Unlike days of old, those days when opening gifts still held some amount of anticipatory glee, I sat amazed at the number of presents in front of the littlest man in the house. What was more off-putting was the number of blue collar workers in the house.

It seemed everybody had bought L'il O. a dumptruck, a bus, a tractor, a bulldozer, or some sort of landmoving equipment. And every damned one of the things had a little plastic driver inside it. Press down on the driver and he sings a song, like he couldn't be happier to be doing the hard work of moving land, carting commuters, and keeping the kid happy.

Dr. Jeff, my brother, was the first to warn L'il Otis of the danger.

"Best be careful," he said in his best doctor/capitalist voice. "You let those guys get to talking and they'll unionize before you know it."

At first, the suggestion seemed a little off the wall. Plastic drivers striking for better wages, shorter hours, and a decent pension plan? Hogwash, I thought. L'il O. didn't seem to pay much heed to the warning either. At the time of Dr. Jeff's advice, the kid was perfecting a sidearm throw that would eventually lead to a contentious relationship between he and Scoop, the resident therapy mutt and instinctually dangerous scavenger.

Several weeks passed, during which time I left the house for a couple of weeks. While I was gone, the duties of keeping an eye on the kid, the dog, and the plastic drivers fell to my parents and my wife. I was sure I could count on them to make sure nothing here at Mt. Willis would go awry.

It was just today, an exact 30 days since the drivers first laid unblinking eyes on each other, that I noticed a curious absence in the living room mess. Every seat of every blue collar vehicle in the house sat empty. The drivers had disappeared.

Indeed, folks, it seems Dr. Jeff's advice should have been heeded. I fear the worst. I fear a massive strike. I fear the whole of Mt. Willis will be without the necessary services. Further, I don't see any wiggle room in the budget. I don't think we can pay them any more than we already do (which is a very fair 'nothing').

I've already heard rumblings among the stuffed animals that the bus driver is taking on a leadership role. I've sent word through my one confidante, Dancing Elmo, that rumors should be spread that the bus driver has been misusing pension money and may or may not have slept with the wife of Dump Truck Driver #3.

All else fails, we may have a real strike on our hands before Valentines Day.

Any advice on strike busting would be appreciated. In the alternative, I'd also take the location of Jimmy Hoffa's body. That should be enough to scare those little plastic bastards back into their trucks.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

On Selfish Road

I think it's pretty telling that I started this sentence, started this entire post, in fact, with the word "I."

In the past three days, I've slipped into some netherworld that seems to only be occupied by me and my Freudian egos. It began Monday morning when I woke up in my own bed, next to my beautiful wife, just a couple dozen feet from my beautiful kid. The sun was out, the dog wasn't biting anything, and all the bills could be paid (given I worked up the energy to press a few keys on the computer). In short, it began as the pefect day in the perfect life of a guy with the perfect family.

And yet (I've found, if there isn't a yet, I've missed something).

Yes. Yet.

When I woke up, I had an untamable urge to DO something. Make no mistake, I had a lot to do and then a lot I could be doing if I didn't have so much to do. Still, none of the things on my mental list seemed to fit the bill of DOING SOMETHING.

As I cleaned myself up for a day of List Killing, I figured I was suffering from a little bit of action withdrawal. I'd just spent four days in the center of poker action during which time I stayed awake for 27 hours at a time, wagered thousands of dollars, and competed with some fantastic poker minds. I ate when I wanted, I slept when I wanted, and I moved how and where I wanted. And it was action.

Now, back to the perfect life, I had responsibilities again. I had no complaints, as a majority of people have responsibilities and mine are none too daunting nor displeasurable. What's more, having done a few amateur studies in action addiction, I know that it is real life that keeps the action junkies grounded. Those who stray off the real life path are the ones who get so hooked on the action that they can't get the high anymore. Suddenly the common action is not enough and they go looking for other kinds. That's not a path I want to follow.

So, I showered, paid the bills, played with the family, worked, and went to bed. It was a normal day, or as normal as my days get anymore. I expected I'd be fine when I woke up Tuesday.

I was wrong.

Tuesday morning, it was worse. By accident and circumstance, I got up earlier than usual. The early rise compounded the urge to DO SOMETHING. I worked until 2pm when the urge finally became too much to handle. The only thing I could come up with was a trip to the book store. So, I grabbed the family and headed to Barnes and Noble.

Though I didn't say it out loud, I implored the millions of pages, "Inspire me!"

I heard nothing in return but my kid screaming, "DADDY!" through the stacks. It's a cute little thing he does, which is perfectly appropriate at the house. In public, it can be a little much.

So, I wandered in search of inspiration. Like it was a reflex, I wandered first to the poker section. Though I hadn't heard of any new good poker books, I always liked to take a chance. When I headed down the familiar row, there was a woman sitting in a chair directly in front of the poker books. It looked like she was using a power outlet that was set into a pillar to power her laptop. I had a strange urge to call her a bitch, but then decided that I probably didn't need another poker book anyway.

So, I wandered some more. I looked for "Blink" but couldn't find it. The closest I came was a book called "Think" which seemed to be a book aimed at debunking "Blink." I stumbled across "Freaknomics," which I have yet to read. After thumbing through it, I decided it was only going to depress me. I'm not sure why I thought that. I enjoy the idea of looking at things with a fresh perspective. The problem is, I wasn't looking for something to tell me how to think (even if it was only offering me a new way to think). What's more, I just didn't feel like hopping on a bandwagon. Between James Frey and everything else, I guess I was ready for something to be vetted first. Call me a skeptic.

Suddenly, an idea hit me. "Call Pauly or G-Rob," it said. Pauly and Rob tend to have pretty specific ideas on what is good and what is bad. What's more, they read even more than I do. I figured one of them could offer a few ideas. Alas, I'd forgotten my cell phone.

Still wandering, I found the baseball section and looked for "The Boys of Summer." Wil had mentioned the book had done for him for baseball what "Postively Fifth Street" did for him for poker. Now, I was pushing the kid around in the stroller while the wife shopped on her own. I couldn't find the book (although I don't think I looked very hard). I did pick up "Moneyball" for a second. A friend had told me it was pretty damned good. But then I put the book back on the shelf. For some reason, I thought it might depress me, too.

I probably picked up two dozen books as I ambled through the History, Travel, Sex, Current Affairs, and Religion sections. I almost bought a book about a guy who spent a career fucking up the economies of Third World nations to the benefit of large corporations. I don't have to tell you why I put it down.

When I finally checked out of the store, I left with a postively uninspiring piece of pulp fiction that, no surprise, has in the first chapter left me terribly depressed at my inability to pick up a good book.

I suppose I might have shot my wad a little bit in the past few weeks. I finished up Christopher Moore's "The Supidest Angel" and Nolan Dalla And Peter Alson's "One of a Kind." I enjoyed both quite a bit and found some level of inspiration in the pages.

Somehow, I just managed to write ten paragraphs about not being able to find a good book when that's not really the point of this thing. The point is...

Fuck, I'm bored and uninspired.

Along with this comes the inevitable guilt. I should be happy to have the perfect family containing the perfect wife and kid and, if imperfect, at least adorable dog. I should be happy to have a semi-steady job that pays well and offers me the occasional action. I should be satisfied and unbored with normal life. And I feel guilty for wanting more.

And I do. I feel guilty. And I want more.

Perhaps this will all wear off in a few days, after I've been at home for a week or so and eased back into a regular life. In the meantime, however, I'm going out of my skin and staring blankly at comoputer screens, TV screens, and book pages.

Sue me, I guess.

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Rapid Eye Reality is the personal blog of writer Brad Willis, aka Otis.
All poker stories, travelogues, food writing, parenting and marriage advice, crime stories, and other writing should be taken with a grain of salt. It is also all protected under a Creative Commons license