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Escape Hatch

It’s been a long time since my last update, folks, which means there’s a lot of verbal spew that’s accumulated in my mind and needs to be released. This post comes with the usual warning labels attached about excessive length, and possibly excessive bitching. Ergo, read at your own peril.

Yesterday was my 29th birthday. I wanted to post something, but wasn’t able to craft more than two or three sentences before I either became disgusted with where it was all going, or was interrupted by some other task. In the end, my actual “birth day” ended up being rather nondescript and mostly depressing, with a bunch of busywork and meetings bookending my complete inability to accomplish anything satisfying. It was fortunate that we actually celebrated my birthday on Sunday, with a great dinner and ice cream cake, so as a result I don’t feel bad about yesterday clocking the schabbs. (Wow, that was actually an id Software reference from 1992. I’m completely regressing.)

A couple of highlights from yesterday included enjoying the evening air with Apple (during which we watered the plants, one of our daily chores), seeing the very cool blog my mom posted about my birthday, and talking to my grandmother on the phone after my work meeting. All day yesterday I was in the mood to write; I’ve been working on a new story that combines an old-favorite subject with a more mature plot. I was sort of in a funk yesterday evening, though — having had my mood ruined by the mainstream media for the umpteenth time; more on that later — and it was late in the evening before I worked up the energy to resume my tale. I was just getting into it when one of my bosses sidelined me for an hour as he went on with childlike giddiness about how he’s discovered Linux and how I should try it. I’d love to, actually — I always was fascinated by Linux — but until all of the Adobe Creative Suite apps work either natively or through Wine, I just plain can’t. By the time he was done talking, it was time for my ops meeting. Bye-bye story.

After the meeting I talked to my grandmother to thank her for the birthday gift she sent me (I still need to call my parents and do likewise, but it had been weeks since I spoke to my grandma so I gave her precedence). Afterwards I thought about writing some more, but got caught up in troubleshooting our Internet connection. Our DSL has been going out repeatedly in the last four days, and in fact it was down all last night until 10:00 a.m. this morning. Naturally, it went out while I was in my meeting last night over a VoIP line, so that was great fun. I was beat from having gotten a lousy sleep on Sunday night, so I forgot about the story and just went to bed.

If I thought Sunday night’s sleep was lousy, I clearly hadn’t expected Monday night to be worse. I tend to like to get up late — say, 9:00 or 9:30 — and work into the evening, reserving the late evening / nighttime hours for my own personal pursuits, since that’s when my creativity is at its daily peak. While I’m in Thailand, this “half-offset” schedule also has me online for a couple hours when our U.S. office gets to work, in case they need me for some emergency. Unfortunately, it doesn’t jive too well with the other occupants of this house — my brother-in-law and his wife and baby daughter — who collectively rise somewhere around 6 a.m. and leave for work at 7:30-ish. This wouldn’t be a big deal, except for the fact that somebody has a habit of slamming the bedroom door every time they go through it in the morning, which is repeatedly and often. The door-slamming escapades this morning helped ensure that both Apple and I were listless, exhausted — and in her case, suffering from a sleep deprivation headache — all day.

My listless funk continued today, spurred on by more disgust with the mainstream media, combined with cranky sleeplessness and more random instant-message novels being written to me by Linux-boss. After lunch I carelessly snarfed the last piece of my birthday cake, which helped my mood a bit, but overall I haven’t been particularly productive or particularly happy today. All of the news from back home is just more of the same — doom and gloom; the sky is falling; the world is ending; blah blah. Oh, and despite the fact that we’ve all got plenty to feel depressed about as it is, the media has actually stepped up it’s finger-wagging habit of writing stories that aim to make us all feel guilty about the things that give us pleasure…like food with fat in it, performance cars, watching TV, using electricity, exhaling toxic carbon dioxide, et al. There was even a story meant to make us feel guilty for feeling guilty, in a rather misandrist piece that decried how men are particularly bad about wallowing in self-pity when they lose their jobs, and which even appeared to take to task the fact that a room called the “den” was ever invented.

The news that I probably have the most difficult time reading is news from the auto industry. For my entire life, I’ve been a fan of American cars. As of right now, I’d say it’s pretty official that being an American car aficionado is not only passe, it’s a reason for the rest of the public to waylay and humiliate you. And if you’re not taking flak from the import crowd or the anti-bailout Republicans, you’re under fire from the ultra-green Democrats who think that every domestic car consumes too much fuel (“gas guzzler” is officially the buzzphrase that I most want to see die in a fire) and that we should all buy a Prius before the world goes up in a global-warming flame.

I don’t even have to go looking for this derision in order to have it laid at my doorstep. A few weeks ago, I called our accountant back home to say that I had just sent her all of the paperwork for my corporate tax return. During the call, she remarked about how much lob loss there is in our part of Florida, to which I responded that at least it wasn’t as bad as my hometown of Detroit. I should never have mentioned the Motor City at all, because she took it as an invitation to blame the automakers for Detroit’s problems because they took their private jets to beg for money in Washington. Then she spent another five minutes telling me how much better Toyota products were because the Tercel she once beat to hell and drove through six feet of water never died on her. “For our next car, my husband said that we’re going to ‘buy American’ to help the economy,” she chuckled, “and I said, ‘like hell we are!'”

I nearly bit my tongue in half from keeping my mouth shut. I learned long ago that you can’t argue with these folks, and my blood pressure is probably high enough as it is. I would have thought, however, that knowing someone is from Detroit — and that they own an American car, as my financial records prove — might make you think twice about heaping scorn on both. Perhaps I overestimate people. Hell, strike the “perhaps.”

During my (unfortunate) perusal of the news from home yesterday, I ran across a video at CNN that was headlined: “Bye-Bye Muscle Car.” In another one of their endless series of doom-and-gloom Depress-O-Pieces, the network obviously intended to sensationalize the downsizing of GM, and the fact that the General just disbanded their entire High Performance Vehicle Team (which was responsible for go-fast models like the Cadillac V-series). Clearly, the suits at CNN get their jollies from proverbially rubbing it in; that’s all I can figure. But I got an unintended smile out of the piece, because the guy they picked to host the segment was clearly a Pontiac, Trans Am and Smokey and the Bandit fanboy much like myself, and couldn’t find it in himself to pour negativity and pessimism into the piece like most of the CNN androids do.

Perhaps coolest of all was the fact that the video spot highlighted none other than the 1979 Pontiac Trans Am Special Edition, better known as The Very Car I Have Parked In My Garage Up North But Which Currently Does Not Run Because I Am Lazy And Stupid™. In the video, they somehow found a classic car dealer that had an absolutely immaculate ’79 S/E in their showroom, and it brought a tear to my eye. (“Even the T-tops still work!” bleated the anchor, to which I responded, “What do you mean, ‘work’? They’re nothing but glass panels with a manual latch!”) When CNN interviewed the old dude who ran the dealership, he said, “What I would like to see is for a company to come out with a new car that looks exactly like this” — in other words, just reissue the 1979 Trans Am. Hey guy, you might want to check out Year One.

Anyway, despite the coolness factor, seeing this video probably shot me straight into the depression basement. I felt like a friend had died and I’d just come home from his wake. What makes this feeling incredibly misplaced is the fact that I already have the car showcased in the video. Unlike the CNN anchor, who giddily gushed about how if he could have one classic car, it would be the ’79 “Bandit” Trans Am, I already have one with no pie-in-the-sky pipe dreams needed. All I can assume is that my depression comes from the fact that I’ve missed out on nearly a full decade of enjoying the thing, simply because it wasn’t convenient to keep it running. In the last seven years, in fact, I have had the pleasure of driving it exactly one time. For something that purportedly means the world to me, this doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. And I’m miserable about it, pissed off and angry at myself because I am solely responsible for that sad statistic.

Well, I aim to change it. In fact, I aim to change a lot of things about my outlook on life, starting now. The first thing I did, this very afternoon in fact, was delete every news-related bookmark from my web browser. I have no illusions: I don’t deal well with the neverending parade of dismal failure and depressing reports, so I’m going to stop reading it. CNN can do one of their smug little politically-correct pieces on me if they want, wagging their fingers and clicking their tongues about how I deal with hard times by retreating to my room and getting lost in individualistic pursuits like creative writing and gaming instead of helping The Collective™ by joining the Peace Corps. Well, they can bite me. I’m not going to be much good to anybody if I’m dead, which is where I’ll end up if I continue absorbing stress from eating the mainstream media’s kibble.

Instead, I’ve stocked my bookmarks toolbar with non-political blogs, family and friends’ websites and gaming news boards. This is the kind of news I care most about, and as a bonus, reading it won’t bring me to a premature end. Sadly, I had to strike the automotive boards from my list, as they’re nothing but doom and gloom these days too.

Furthermore, once we get back to the U.S. in May, I’m going to get the old Trans Am running again. And then I’m either going to make plans to visit Michigan every summer to keep driving it, or transport it to Florida. After seeing that CNN video on my Twitter, my dad watched it as well and remarked that the car needs to be brought to Florida so that people there can ogle it. Personally, I don’t care where it is as long as it’s running, although having it in Florida might be a good motivator as it could stay road-worthy all year. But for the present, it just needs to run, so I’m taking the birthday money I received from my family and saving it for the effort. I considered using it to buy some games or some throwaway pleasure like delicious food, but I think the car is my highest priority right now. I don’t know if the guy who brought it out of mothballs in 2005 is still available to do the same job a second time, but I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it.

This weekend, Apple and I are taking a long weekend in Koh Samui, one of Thailand’s most famous island destinations. Tourism is pretty slow here right now, partly because of the economy and partly because of the political catastrophe with the nation’s airports last year. As a result, we got our pick of the litter at the beach resort we booked, which means a room right next to the beach with its own pool. I picked up a swimsuit during our shopping trip on Sunday, and I’m not even taking the computer — just the iPhone, a printed book (can’t read an electronic device in the water, y’know) and clothes. We have to take a bus and a ferry each way, which is like an 8-hour endeavor, so it’ll really be a chance to “disconnect.” I hear the hotel has a Jeep available for rent, so we plan to take it out and go exploring in the nearby town. Yay, I get to drive something!

Not only that, but right before we leave, we’re going for another one of those two-hour Thai massages. That’ll be a great way to kick off the vacation. Hopefully, it’ll be the perfect way to extricate myself from these news-fueled doldrums.

It looks like the final chapter on our Internet connectivity issues has not yet been written — our DSL went down again as I was writing this. Comedically, it almost always works flawlessly between 10 a.m. and 8 p.m., as though somebody at the ISP knows my work schedule and keeps the connection alive just long enough for me to do my job. As a result, I’m not really panicking about it, but it isn’t very convenient. Without Internet during my off hours, there’ll be no Xbox gaming, no Skyping my family, no editing my wiki, and no posting on my blog. 🙁 Every time we call the idiots at the ISP, they say “We’ll have a technician call you back,” and of course between then and the callback, it starts working again. So when the guy calls, he just says “Oh, it’s working? Okay, call us again if you have trouble.” Seriously, these people make Comcast look like geniuses, and you know how often I’ve ranted about the former’s ineptitude.

Anyway, I’m finishing this in post Notepad. I have no idea when it will finally go online, but hopefully I’ll get a one- or two-minute window of connectivity somewhere that I’ll be able to slip through.

As for the rest of my evening, the loss of Internet has gratefully removed my obligation to listen to any more instant-message conversations, field any more work emails or deal with anybody else’s unmitigated bullshit. So I think I’ll make up for time lost yesterday and get back to my story. Later, I might get back to Project Origin, Street Fighter IV or Onechanbara, all of which I recently picked up for my Xbox 360. Through it all, I just have to look forward to coming home and starting down the path toward achieving the rest of this year’s personal goals.

And I’m going to do it without any help from CNN.

2 thoughts to “Escape Hatch”

  1. Heh, that’s funny you would post the same thing about the media on the same day. Even Mamoo was on the same page couple nights ago when I was chatting with her. I’m not in a rush to make myself any more miserable than I have to be, thanks.

    Fortunately, I slept a lot better last night. Apple had a bit of a clash with our housemates about the door, but I think it did some good.

    I normally stay far, far away from those kinds of videos as well, but on the thumbnail image next to the link on their homepage, CNN actually had a picture of the screaming chicken on the T/A’s hood, and after seeing that I could no longer resist the temptation to click. What a bittersweet choice, in the end.

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