Category Archives: My Incompetence

Live Blogging The Day I Got Fired By A Sad Sad Alcoholic Trust-Funder

6:30 AM
Hit snooze button.

6:35 AM
Hit snooze button.

6:40 AM
Hit snooze button.

7:17 AM
Get out of bed.  Resolve never to hit the snooze button again.

9:04 AM
My mouth hurts.  I wonder if it’s because of my enchilada accident.

11:00 AM
I show up at Roy’s.  The cleaners came last night.  It looks better.  All the foil balls are gone.

11:12 AM
Waiting in the Taco Bell drive thru.  Roy hasn’t had anything to eat for over fifteen hours on account of him having to supervise the cleaning ladies.  I don’t know what this means.  Sorting foil balls I guess.  That one.  Not that one.  Anyhow apparently it was such a big job it left no time for food and now he’s hungry and we’re waiting for his combo meal.  Nothing like breaking a fast with Taco Bell right before hockey.

11:24 AM
I am now 99% positive that my mouth injury is indeed a burn on the inside of my cheek.  Last night I made chicken enchiladas filled with, among other things, sour cream and cheese.  I mention these two items because apparently when heated for a sufficient amount of time, it is possible for them to attain the temperature of liquid magma.  I put a way-too-big bite of liquid magma in my mouth.  And because another person was sitting across the table from me, I held it there next to my cheek while I fanned, panted, sweated, smiled and tried casually to utter the word “hot.” Had it been recorded, it would have sounded more like a greeting from Quasimodo.

11:25 AM
Why not just spit it out?  Why indeed.

11:26 AM
Honestly I didn’t know you could burn your mouth off with sour cream and cheese.  But you can.  You can burn it off.

11:37 AM
I sit in the ice rink stands, warmed by the glowing atomic-orange heaters.  While Roy skates, I work on a freelance assignment, writing Facebook wall posts for a large fast food chain.  I contemplate the irony that the one person in Southern California who has opted out of Facebook – and for several people I’ve met recently, this has been cause for sincere alarm – is charged with engaging a subset of people who consider lobbing comments at a corporation’s Facebook wall (my favorite are the ones that profess love) to be a fine way to spend an afternoon.  I literally shake my head as I write the copy.

1:24 PM
We arrive back at Roy’s house.  Roy has devised a system whereby I will call lawyers’ offices and explain that I have a “friend” who recently had three speeding tickets in a short amount of time and never bothered to take action on any of them. If I get a good feeling about them, Roy instructs, I’m to set up a consultation appointment.  I explain that the only feeling I will be getting (besides the constant urge to reevaluate my life choices) is about the receptionist, not the lawyer, as lawyers generally do not answer their own phones – at least not the kind you get a good feeling about.  No problem.  Roy is convinced I’ll still get a sense for the office.

1:32 PM
Mostly the sense I’m picking up is skepticism.  And some sarcasm.  Oh, your “friend” got three tickets?  And what did your “friend” do about it?

1:57 PM
My mouth is infected.  It’s going to spread through my body and I’m going to die.  I’m going to die because I took a big boy bite of molten cheese.

2:05 PM
I set up appointments for Roy all over town.  He will have to forgo hockey tomorrow.  He’s not happy about this.  I get solemn.  I know, Roy, I know….

2:21 PM
We’re done with lawyer calls.  I mean “my friend” is done with lawyer calls.  Now we’re apparently shooting the breeze till closing time.  I ask him what else needs doing.  He tells me why “Three and Half Men” is the Best Show on TV.  I look around for a sharp object.

2:22 PM
Damn you molten cheese.

2:55 PM
The window treatment guy calls.  He’s still coming to give an estimate but he’s going to be a bit late.

3:36 PM
I check my email.  There’s something in my inbox from a major network.  My heart skips a beat.  If it weren’t for the hole in my cheek, I would momentarily stop receiving oxygen.

Three days ago, I got a voice mail asking me to call someone at a network.  I was a semi-finalist for a prestigious writing fellowship.  I had a phone interview, which consisted of a person saying, congratulations, you’re a semi-finalist, the next step is a phone interview, so what are you doing right now?  I was sitting in my car having just flunked an interview at an automotive museum.  What I should have said was, hold on, Alec Baldwin’s trying to ask me something.  Alec, be cool.  Sorry about that.  Go ahead.

I click on the email.  I don’t even have to read it.  It’s short.  I have seen these before.  There were many exceptional applicants this year.

3:37 PM
My mouth effing hurts.

3:38 PM
I want to go home.

3:47 PM
I tell Roy I need to go.  My mouth is going to fall off.  And the chance to get into this writing fellowship, the one thing I was really hoping for, my one prospect for radical, wonderful life-change, has been swept away with one boilerplate email.

Time to go.

Roy is confused.  The window treatment guy isn’t here yet.

Now I’m confused.  You don’t need me to be here while the guy shows you samples.

Roy is incensed.  All this time since I’ve been done lying to receptionists (it was a lie, he’s not my friend) he thinks that’s what I was doing.  He thinks I was waiting around because I wanted to be here for the window treatment man.

The window treatment man?!

I just stare at him.  I admit, it wasn’t a very nice stare.  It may actually have been the kind of stare you give someone who doesn’t work but lets his house fill up with foil balls.  Someone who gets three speeding tickets and ignores them.  Who drinks vodka in the backseat of his BMW while you drive.  Who takes pleasure in teaching you lessons about his integrity.  Who thinks “Three and Half Men” is the best. Fucking.  Show.  On television.

A moment between us.  And we both know.  This is over.

DING-DONG.  Window man is here.  I answer the door on my way out.  Window man greets me.  I’m the one who made the appointment but I just nod to Roy – talk to him.  I have to go.

I have to fix my mouth.  And my life.

On Getting Fired By a Sad Sad Trust-Funded Alcoholic, Part III

The rest of that first day with Ron proceeds like so:
 
Roy wants me to make several calls arranging for the carpets to be cleaned, a gardener to come spruce up the yard, and a window treatment guy to give an estimate on installing blinds.  He also wants me to call a few lawyers just to feel them out, see if they can help his traffic ticket situation.
 
Since cell reception is bad in the house, Roy suggests I take my phone upstairs. Just make sure you take your socks off up there, he says. 
 
I decline.   This bothers him.
 
At the end of the day we arrange for me to return at the same time the next morning.  We talk about payment; I say the end of the week will be fine. 
 
That night, I tell a few friends about my day and nearly everyone is in agreement: I should have insisted on being paid right then and there.  I’m not sure what to make of this.  Roy may have been strange – yes, he was certainly strange – but he’s out to scam me.
 
Their doubts needle me.  Maybe they’re right.
 
The next morning, Roy is in a good mood as he opens the door.  Just doing some sun meditation, he says.  
 
I tell him, before we go to hockey, that I have two requests: one, no open containers when I’m driving.  Non-negotiable.  He nods.  You’re right.  And two, I thought it about and I changed my mind.  If it’s all right, would you mind paying me for yesterday and today at the end of the day?
 
This does not go over well.  I see the frustration and anger rising.  He accuses me of questioning his integrity.  I apologize.  It’s not enough.  He goes in rhetorical circles for fifteen minutes.  I stand there.  Nodding.  Every once in a while objecting, trying to smooth it out.  Trying to get him to see it from my point of view.  It’s hopeless.  He brings up the socks from yesterday. 
 
Roy: Maybe you think you’re too good for this job. 
And I think: There was a time when I was too good for this job.  Then my loans kicked in.
Roy: I just want a relaxed atmosphere. 
Easily achieved with raspberry vodka.
Roy: I don’t want this to feel like a boss-employee relationship.
Which is why you sit in the BACK of the car.
Roy: I want it to be like a frat.
Um…what?
 
He simmers.  I ask if he’d like me to leave.  He stews.  Mulls it over.  Decides I can stay, finally convinced he has taught me a valuable lesson.  There will be many more valuable lessons by then end of all this.
 
We drive to hockey in silence.  Turns out it’s a pick up match today.  Lots of guys show up.  Including this big tall alpha dude who was born furious and only finds occasional relief by winning insignificant contests.
 
I watch this guy as Roy plays.  Trash talking.  Screaming expletives.  I watch Roy slice past him, out-skate him and score a goal. 
 
Could you believe that guy? Roy asks on the way home.  I know, I say.  What a tool.  It’s like everybody’s there to have a good time, he says, and this guy’s playing like there’s NHL scouts in the stands. 
 
I smile.  A moment of solidarity.  Maybe this will work out after all, I think.  Maybe this will be okay.      
 

On Getting Fired By a Sad Sad Trust-Funded Alcoholic, Part II

Previously on “How is This My Life?”: I meet Roy in his natural habitat. I remove my shoes. Promise to get the carpets cleaned. And get the job.

TWO WEEKS LATER… I finally show up at Roy’s for my first day as his personal assistant. It’s Monday, 11AM.

I remove my shoes.  “What should we do today, Roy?  Should me make a list of things you want me to work on?”

“A list, yes.  But first we need to go.  It’s time for hockey.”

Hockey?

Roy starts throwing stuff in a large duffle bag. It’s open rink in Culver City.  And we have to go.

We’ve already determined that if there’s any driving to do I will be driving his car – which turns out to be a black BMW.  I get in the driver’s seat and wait for Roy to get in next to me.  A moment later he gets in.

In the back seat.

Okay.

Next time I’ll bring my cap and gloves.

Now that he’s safely inside the car, Roy allows me to finally open the garage door.  And we’re off.

We make small talk as we drive. I’m really making an effort to find this whole super-strange experience somehow enjoyable.

The conversation turns to different kinds of alcohol.  I tell him I prefer gin.  He’s unimpressed.  Gin’s for girls.  He prefers Puff Daddy’s Vodka. You know, the raspberry one.

Yes.  Definitely more masculine.

It’s about that time that I hear something.  Then smell something.  Is that…?  Puff Daddy’s raspberry vodka?  I glance back just in time to see him screw a top back on a concealed glass bottle.

And this is how naïve I am. I know what it is. He just TOLD me what it is.  And I think, there’s no way he can be DRINKING.  In the car.  While I’m driving.  At 11AM.  That doesn’t happen.

I change the subject.

“So what would you like me to get started on while you’re playing hockey?”

He seems flummoxed by this. “Can’t you just wait for me?”

I sit in the empty stands in the rink as about a dozen guys scrimmage on the ice.  Roy’s not bad.  He can skate.

There’s only one other person in the stands with me.  A teenage girl.  Probably waiting for her boyfriend.  I imagine the conversation I hope we never have.

Her: So like, why aren’t you out there on the ice?

Me:  Me?  Oh, I don’t play hockey.

Her: Then why are you here?

Me: See the Asian guy? Sharks jersey?  I’m waiting for him.

Her: Oh.

Me: He pays me to drive him places.  And have his carpets cleaned. But that’s not like a dirty euphemism or anything. If that’s what you were thinking. I mean like real carpets. But we haven’t really gotten to that part yet. He also drinks. In the car.  How bout you?

Her: I’m gonna get a soda.

Afterward, on the drive home, Roy reflects on his performance on the ice. It went pretty well today he says.

When we pull into the garage, he waits to get out until I’ve closed the garage door. I’m half way into the house when I notice Roy’s starring out the thin windows at the top of the garage door.

“Somebody’s leaving trash in front of my house.” He says it in that way the Aussie dinosaur hunter from Jurassic Park talks about velociraptors.  Far off, to himself.  The summation and confirmation of all his fears. Clever girl…

I join him at the window.  A piece of trash has indeed blown close to his curb.  Don’t worry I say, I’ll pick it up.  But that doesn’t change the question, the really profound question: Who would do that?  And why?

“Let’s go inside,” I say.  We’ve got calls to make.

(Stay Tuned for Part III)

On Getting Fired. By a Sad Sad Semi-Crazy Trust-funded Alcoholic.

As many tales of fear and loathing – and possibly decapitation – begin, about a month ago, I respond to an ad on Craigslist.

An anonymous person in West Los Angeles is seeking a part time personal assistant for what I consider a decent rate of $25/hour.  The ad is short on specifics but I responded immediately, and after some protracted back and forth emailing, we finally established a time for me to interview.

He says his name is Roy and sends me his address.  So one afternoon after my temp job, I pull up to his large four bedroom tract home in Playa Del Rey.  I’m thinking a guy named Roy in a large tract home in Playa Del Rey who needs an assistant for unspecified reasons is probably a middle-aged white dude.  And probably a little strange.

Yes.  Yes, he will be strange.

But it turns out “Roy” is the 30ish Asian dude who peaks through the sliver of his barely opened front door.  I am surprised.  But whatever.  This is L.A.  Hi, Roy.

He ushers me in, asks me to remove my shoes.  The floor, you know.  I nod as I survey the floor which hasn’t been cleaned since Blessed Union of Souls was up for a Grammy.  I remove my shoes.  It’s $25/hour.  And I’m broke.

“I never go in these rooms,” Roy says, as he leads me through the house, pointing to the large vaulted living room furnished only with a small sofa.  “There are four bedrooms upstairs,” he says, “but I never go up there.”  Better to keep the bodies, I think, as we head through the family room, which seems to be Roy’s main encampment.

Evidence of a dysfunctional bachelor’s existence is everywhere.  Empty takeout boxes.  A solo leather recliner.  Scattered Foil balls.  Two flat screens, one playing a movie, one paused on a Playstation game, squat on the floor, just out of their boxes.

Clearly I have interrupted his arrested development.

He opens the back patio door, beckons me outside.  “My shoes,” I say.  So he waits for me to retrieve them as I head back to the front door, and I think momentarily of making a break for it right then.

But I return.

It’s $25/hour.  And I’m broke.

I have a look around at the decaying backyard while Roy tries to explain what he’s after.  I notice the yellowing leaves, the inexplicable bouquet of cooking spices on the patio table.  “What do you need an assistant for,” I ask?  “Many calls to make,” he says.  “So much to do.  Got to get this place cleaned up.  It’s getting out of control…”  And there he seems to come to the end of his list.  I press for details.  “It’s like,” he says, “the upstairs; the carpet needs to be cleaned.  But how do you do that?”  The whole thing seems overwhelming to him, beyond him.  “We can call some people to come and clean the carpets,” I say.  “That’s no problem.”  He seems relieved.  I’m clearly an expert.

This is going to be a piece of cake I think.  I’m going to be a hero to this guy.  I’m the guy who get the carpets cleaned.  I’m the guy who makes things happen.

And Roy thinks so too.  I will start next week.  And we will get Roy’s life whipped into shape.  No problem.

There’s just one more thing, Roy says.  I also have some speeding tickets.  Three of them.  In a short amount of time.  I’m going to need you to drive me places.  Just some errands.

No problem, I say.  I’m an expert at that too.

(Stay tuned for Part Deux)

Let the Healing Begin

It’s Halloween!  And yet another bewildered soul launches yet another half-baked blog.  Coincidence?  Why, yes.

Except, perhaps, for this:

For the last three months, I’ve been a zombie.  A ZOMBIE!

And it’s time to wake up.

So this is a blog for all the zombies out there.  Struggling to get by in pursuit of a crazy dream.  Struggling – despite your intelligence, degrees, walls of awards, and treasure troves of past kudos – just to make ends meet.

Because  Zombies, as the wise man says, can’t laugh.  Or make spaghetti.  Or teach their young ones decoupage.

It’s time to return to the land of the living.  Even if things look bleak.  Take a step back from our bewilderment, marvel at the mess, have a chuckle, and maybe even learn something.

This is a blog about the things we have to do to get by.  And the choices we made that got us here in the first place.  It’s about what might very well be our own incompetence, stubbornness, stupidity, delusion, or just shit luck.

So confess those embarrassing moments, purge those cringe-inducing memories, exorcise those lapses in judgment, prudence and good sense.

Or simply shake your head in bemused wonder at the life you’ve been leading.

Let the healing begin.

(Photo by CustomGranite)