The Boner Policy

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Before delving into the collapse of my freshman group of friends from college, I think it’s important to describe some of the adventures that we had together so that you can mourn the calamity of our feuds as much as I did back then.

As I’ve said before, our common interest was partying.  In many cases, there was no further connection binding us together.

The group’s demographic skewed female to Jurassic Park levels.  There were basically three dudes, counting me, hanging out with like a dozen girls.  I loved the proportions at the time, but future events would make me question whether or not females are truly capable of empathy towards each other, or if any semblance of girl friendship is just a long con style intricate murder plot.

Bobby is one of those friendships that came out of our group (we called ourselves “K.I.T.T.” – short for Keep In Touch Tuesday) that actually made the enormous headaches that most of these people caused me feel worthwhile in retrospect.

The other guy, well, he had an emotional issue or two (or seven thousand).  We’ll call him “Tommy” because of his ongoing need for anonymity when it comes to the stories I have to tell about him.  Tommy was a quirky stoner with a lot of money and friends that liked to throw parties in their shitty apartments.

One such celebration of alcohol was The Lingerie Party.  Now 19 year-old Brantley had heard legends of lingerie parties, but was skeptical of their existence.  The concept was too awesome and it always seemed to happen to someone else.  I guess skepticism is the wrong word.  19 year-old Brantley thought of Lingerie parties as “winning the lottery” or “seeing a super majestic bald eagle doing its thing” – he knew that those things did indeed happen, but that they didn’t happen to many people despite everyone’s longing for them.

Well this time around, I was invited and I looked forward to the event with both excitement and trepidation.  You see, I was still self-medicating a lot of social anxiety at the time and if I didn’t get the dosage strong enough, I had a tendency to sweat like someone with a serious medical condition.  Being in nothing but my underwear, there was a strong chance that I would be making it rain on the whole party unless I somehow managed to attach the keg directly to my face.

I coolly suggested to Bobby that we grab some robes or like Hugh Heffner smoking jackets.  I also jokingly, but actually totally seriously, asked him, “So what’s the boner policy at lingerie parties?”  “Don’t get one,” he replied tersely.  Then the robes were more important than ever.

Helping Girls Shop for Lingerie

For some reason, Bobby and I accompanied a ton of the girls to the fancy mall so that they could go shopping for lingerie.  I thought the idea of being on hand to provide a male perspective to girls looking for skimpy underwear was a dream come true.  In reality, however, there are few responses that a slack-jawed 19 year-old boy can give to a lingerie-consumer requesting feedback (and none of them are particularly respectful).

Now at that point in my life, I wasn’t articulate enough to say things like:  “Women shouldn’t be viewed or treated like sex objects that exist solely for men’s amusement and gratification,” but something along those lines was clicking deep down inside of me.  I realized that these were more than just half-naked girls that I would soon be getting drunk with.  They were friends that I respected.  It was almost as if they were human beings equal to myself, you know?

After a few awkward moments of babbled feedback, Bobby and I absconded to the food court and ate meatball subs from Firehouse.

Bobby’s Weird Lime Chicken

The night of the party, the plan was for the boys to prepare dinner for the girls and then we would all part ways to get dolled up and go to this sexy underwear kegger.  Bobby took head chef duty, and we made this weird lime chicken that most people pushed around their plates politely before tossing into the trash.  Out of stubborn loyalty, I opted for seconds.  In a lifetime full of mistakes, this decision still stands prominently within the regret regions of my brain.

Unsurprisingly, Bobby and I were stripped down and ready to go to the party within minutes and the girls took much longer.  To be honest, I don’t remember all that much of the actual event once we got there.  I remember puking in the bathroom after just a few beers and being a good enough friend not to immediately blame Bobby’s Weird Lime Chicken.  I remember different scantily-clad girls sitting in my lap on the balcony next to the keg.  There really wasn’t any intra-KITT drama at that point, so it was a pretty tame affair as far as shit shows go.

The Purest Embodiment of Douche Baggery

Most importantly, however, I remember The Purest Embodiment of Douche Baggery ever to draw breath within our douche bag infested world.  He strutted around the small apartment with his chest puffed out and his arms held away from his sides like some kind of monkey with vertigo.  “I go to the gym a lot!” his body language shouted.  His hair was thoroughly, thoroughly, thoroughly gelled into spikes.  He wore sunglasses.  Inside.  At night.  Indoors.  At this nocturnal event.  Where there was no sun.  His heart boxers were cute but cliche.  But here’s the best part:  He wore about a half dozen Magnum condoms around his constantly-flexed bicep as a kind of arm band.  I wish I was a talented enough writer to make this up.

Naturally, I played him in beer pong.  Occasionally in a long-tenured beer pong career, you will encounter complaints that the cups don’t have enough beer in them.  The result is that they move around when the ball hits the side and the movement prevents the shot from going in.  It’s a real complaint, albeit an insulting one to make to someone far more interested in beer than pong.  The Purest Embodiment of Douche Baggery claimed that under filled cups were the cause of his beer pong mediocrity.  Every time.  After every shot that bounced off the cups and didn’t go in:  “Is there even any beer in that cup?”  I’m certain that if he acted this way at every party he attended, it was only a matter of time before someone’s fist decided that he had too many teeth in his mouth.

I don’t remember who won that game.  It doesn’t matter.  Pong is just a game.  Beer is a form of enlightenment.

I do remember my partner from the beer pong game sitting in my lap on the balcony later that evening.  The Purest Embodiment of Douche Baggery, who had been hitting on her and being brutally rebuffed throughout our entire game, strutted stupidly out to where we sat and asked her to grab him a beer.  She laughed in his face.  He grabbed his own beer and dumped it on her (and on me by proxy).  Everyone was on their feet and I don’t remember how I talked this girl out of altering some of his facial features.  I think I was standing in between the two of them and lightly shepherding the douche bag into the apartment, but I’m a pretty non-confrontational guy who totally panics in situations like that, so defusing this bomb was most likely entirely accidental.

The douche left eventually and we all kept partying and having a great time, despite Bobby’s weird lime chicken.

When Fate Graces You with an Apology

A few months later, The Purest Embodiment of Douche Baggery landed the task of going door to door in college apartment complexes for some reason or other.  I was hanging out with the girl that he dumped beer on when the douche knocked on the door.  He said his piece on whatever it was that he was doing and then awkwardly apologized for that night.  I laughed at it at the time, but now I know how rare it is to hear apologies from random shitheads that you cross paths with in life.  The potential divinity of the moment completely eluded me in that moment, but really, what are the odds of him knocking on that door in that apartment complex precisely at that moment when I was hanging out over there?

I wouldn’t be enlightened enough to see it this way for hundreds more beers.

The Powder Keg Foundation of Keep In Touch Tuesday

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In what could be considered the final triumph over my social awkwardness, I finally found my place in college in the final months of my Freshman year.  A group of friends had formed around my weekly Thursday night beer pong tradition and I had built for myself a social outlet to cure my weekend loneliness.

In the month leading up to finals and our group’s inevitable disbursement for Summer, what I thought was a brilliant idea came to me while I was pumping gas one already-miserably-hot- in- Florida May afternoon.  It was a concept that would eventually assign a name to our doomed conglomerate of people who had no business hanging out with each other.  The idea was this:  If any of us had gone a full week without speaking, we should call, text, IM, or Facebook each other for a Keep In Touch Tuesday tradition.  The idea was born from my colossal failures at keeping in touch with my friends back in Pensacola (failures that are ongoing to this day), but it soon resulted in a Facebook thread that would become the skeleton of our group’s destruction.

You see, we weren’t all friends based on a common interest or similar personality types.  We were friends because beer.  Some individuals bonded more and others, but for the most part, beer.

My Thursday night watch LOST and then get hammered thing began as me grabbing whomever I could interest to come into my room and be buddies for a little while.  The population in that tiny dorm was initially made up of people living on my floor.  Some of them actually became my pals.  Others drank beer, had a good time and were never heard from again.

The moment Elle stepped foot in my smells-real-strong-like-dude dorm room, that all began to change.  The first night she came over, she brought an empty-headed sorority girl that she was friends with from back home.  That girl never came back, but Elle did.  Every single week from that point forward.  She began bringing different people each time (including my longtime friends Katie and Ashlyn – who like my girlfriend probably feel like they deserved to be mentioned more often in this blog!).

The combination of my hodgepodge of dorm community-mates and Elle’s endless parade of newcomers fused into the earliest manifestations of our group, which in a tremendously stupid move would eventually come to call themselves “KITT.”  Keep In Touch Tuesday.  We were literally calling ourselves Keep In Touch Tuesday.  Those of us with enough sense to know that this was dumb just kept our mouths shut because everyone else seemed pretty happy with the group name.

As I have alluded to in previous posts, my friendship with Elle was always a ticking time bomb.  We were studying the same thing.  We both liked alcohol.  Other than that, we had a similar sense of humor and a frequent tendency to be inebriated.  There were a lot of key differences and personality clashes that we ignored because yay booze.

The origins of our grand friendship came on a fateful night when I drank myself into a state of hyperbolic appreciation.  In a fatefully slurred series of sentences, I declared Elle my “BFF.”  It might have been a joke, it might have been drunkenly sincere.  Who can ever remember such things?

BFFs we remained for several months.  We started planning short films and productions together, discussing possibilities for after graduation.  That’s right.  I told this girl she was my best friend while we were intoxicated and we soon found ourselves planning a future together.

That BFF status endured longer than it should have.  After being turned down by the girl I liked (Mallory) and venting to Elle that I needed some space from her while I got over it, Elle delivered Mallory straight to my door within the next 12 hours in a move as stupid and self-centered as it was prophetic to our friendship’s collapse.  They wanted to get drunk and have fun, Brantley’s broken heart be damned.

Elle was as “there for me” as she could be during the jumblefuck of The Last Girl I Ever Led On and The Greatest First Date Ever, though I had another outlet that was a far better shoulder to cry on.  She presumably read my rants, ravings, and confessions as I communicated them to her through instant message, but she wasn’t all that great at consoling me or making me feel better.  I didn’t hold it against her, because I’m not the greatest at giving advice either and also she was fun to hang out with when beer.

After a Summer full of hysterical and entertaining communication via the Keep In Touch Tuesday Facebook thread, our entire group of friends was thrilled to physically reunite in the Fall Semester of Sophomore year.  What we didn’t know was that we hadn’t actually been around each other enough to discover that we didn’t actually get along, but that’s an epic that will unfold over a future series of strange anecdotes.

As for my BFF-dom with Elle, she joined a sorority that fall and our differences became more apparent.  I’m sorry to generalize, but sororities tend to worry entirely too much about things that mean entirely too little.  I appreciate that these events and social dynamics are important to the “sisters,” but to an outsider they are trivial, tedious, and nauseating.  I did my best not to hold her Greek affiliation against her, but Elle and I were beginning to drift and become separate people in those first months of Sophomore year.

The space gave me enough breathing room to realize that Elle wasn’t a good person, and some of her faults would soon affect me personally in ways that became increasingly more difficult to forgive.

But that’s for another time.

Be on the look out for KITT posts with more details about how our group that was founded on a faulty friendships dramatically (read “ridiculously”) collapsed.

The Bar Epiphany

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I have a recurring epiphany that pounces on me at bars sometimes:  I’m so unbelievably thankful to have found my girlfriend when and where I did.  When I’m at a bar and she isn’t around, I can’t help but notice people looking to make some boozy love connections and realize how hopelessly inept I would be at finding romance in such a way. 

The first time these thoughts and the ensuing gratitude assaulted me, I was extremely drunk before even stepping foot in the bar.  As the friends I came with went and danced, I thought to myself, “Sweet Jesus I hate dancing and if dancing were my only chance at meeting the girl of my dreams, I would certainly die alone.”  I immediately drunk texted my girlfriend to let her know how lucky I was to have her.  

The epiphany struck again last night when I went out for drinks with a few co-workers.  A fairly nice girl was telling me about her hobby of collecting shoes (Air Jordans in particular) and showing me pictures of the pair that she has coming in the mail.  

I wasn’t bored out of my mind, but there was no connection there.  Sometimes I talk to people and feel like I have absolutely zero in common with them.  I don’t hold it against that person and I’m certainly not rude to them.  

I like hearing about other people’s lives as they would tell it.  Mostly because I think that there always exists an abundance of sub-plots, half-truths, and ulterior motives between the lines; but  I also enjoy comparing and contrasting my perception of the person with the perception that they try to project with their stories.  There are three identities at play:  Who I think they are, Who they tell me they are, and Who they really think they are.  I tumbled down the rabbit hole pondering these things as I listened to her life story prior to moving to Florida.  Drinking a Fat Tire, struggling to listen over the din of a mediocre house band, and contemplating some of the complexities of human nature combine for multi-tasking far beyond my capabilities.  I could never have met the love of my life at a bar, and I would have become a miserable, cynical human being had I ever tried. 

Notes From My Girlfriend’s Birthday

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This is over a month late, but oh well.

I’m beginning to realize that I have a tremendously introverted time at bars.  That being said, here are a few of the things that I remember thinking when we went out for my girlfriend’s birthday.

We took Uber, which is basically a freelance cab service.  It was awesome and cheap, though my mom scolded me publicly on Facebook which (aside from providing her with right wing propaganda) seems to be the only way that she uses social networking.  “They don’t do background checks on those people!  They could be bad drivers and/or axe murderers!”  Something along those lines.  You know, typical mom stuff.

Our first bar was Little Indie’s.  It was a hipster dive with provocative pictures of nude pin-up girls providing the entirety of the decor in this building that literally had plywood walls in places.  There were a few booths and high tops for people to congregate around and a VJ stood by the door, playing music in front of a flat screen TV with VH1 Classic on mute.  The music didn’t match the music videos, which was equal parts off-putting and exhilarating.  The unisex bathroom had two beaten up movie theater chairs facing the toilet.  We all know that girls tend to accompany each other to the restroom, but I had never thought of it being a spectator thing.  The bar area was pretty cool and they had a couple dozen craft beers along with some very convoluted cocktails with fascinating names.  

We left and went downtown to Bar-B-Que Bar/Eye Spy/Sky60, which are all connected and semi-indecipherable to me.  I just read on Facebook that the whole trio is shutting down, which is a shame because they’re weird and I like that.  We pushed our way past crowds up to Sky60, which is a rooftop dance party with a decent view of the city skyline.  

As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t enjoy dancing, so I occupied myself with getting us drinks and found myself in a purely utopian situation.  The bartender was pretty awful at her job.  Dozens of people were shoving their way to the bar top to assail her for beverages and she was clearly overwhelmed.  I stood politely waiting my turn, taking note of who arrived before me and after me so as to assert my place in the sequence should the need arise.  Some guys shoved in next to me and demanded some drinks.  The bewildered bartender told them that they would have to wait their turns and that because they were being ass holes it wouldn’t be any time soon.  

It was a nice-person-ocracy.  I received preferential treatment based solely on my understanding smile and manners.  I wrote encouraging remarks on the receipt when I signed it:  “You’re doing a great job!”  I added a smiley face just to emphasize that I wasn’t being sarcastic because in reality she was doing a dreadful job.  Even though this bartender seemed flabbergasted by the receipt printer for a solid 5 minutes at one point, I kept going back to her to have my faith in the worthwhileness of courtesy reaffirmed.  

Next to me, a very skinny guy tried to buy drinks for a girl behind him with no fewer than three declined credit cards.  

For some strange reason, a pack of a half-dozen fat girls kept migrating from this side of the dance floor to that side of the dance floor.  Unable to repeatedly part like the Red Sea for them, they shoved their way past us like linebackers and I wasn’t drunk enough that it didn’t annoy me thoroughly.  I contemplated rallying the troops for a game of Red Rover in which we held our ground against the migratory girls.  More comically, I toyed with the idea of twerking on them each time they walked past until they decided to take an alternate route.  

One of my girlfriend’s co-workers apologized to me for buying her so many drinks as we left the bar.  She was staggering forward in front of us as we neared the stairwell.  “So long as she doesn’t fall down the stairs, I won’t hold it against you!” I joked approximately twenty seconds before she twisted her ankle on the third step from the bottom.  

There’s a small cafe that sells pizza by the slice at the base of the stairwell.  It gets mobbed with drunk people around 2 AM.  We joined the line to grab a slice, hoping to stave off the nausea portion of tomorrow’s hangover with tonight’s junk food.  I bought her a slice of cheese, for myself, a slice of pepperoni and sausage.  It came out to like $7 somehow.  The pizza was terrible.  It was like a New York style Totino’s pizza that was over-microwaved and then left out to get cold.  This place stayed in business not because of the quality product that it provided, but sheerly based on its proximity to inebriated people.  Why?  Why would you want to own such a shitty business?  How could you aspire to mediocrity?  They would have been better off ordering Domino’s and selling it by the slice.  I couldn’t stave off the annoyance.  I’ve made homemade pizza without any clear idea of what I was doing and it came out 100x better than these crappy slices.  

I handed my girlfriend her slice, pulled out my phone to call for an Uber, and then turned back around seconds later to find that she had already somehow misplaced her pizza.  

Books I’ll Never Read:

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I’ve started listening to audiobooks I sit in traffic on the way to and from work.  It has given me a chance to enjoy some great works of literature that I would never have found the time to sit down and read otherwise.

So far, I’ve listened to:

  • The Call of Cthulu and At The Mountains of Madness by H.P. Lovecraft:  Both are awesomely verbose and dark.   Their brevity made for quick listens and kept me from getting bogged down in the thick language.  Lovecraft does such a great job of exploring the dangers of man’s curiosity.  
  • A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway:  I was really into the romance of Frederic Henry and Catherine Barkley at first, but then I felt like it never really developed into a realistic relationship between two loving adults.  I know that gender roles and expectations were different back then (and that masculinity is a virtue in any Hemingway story), but I’ve had deeper conversations with complete strangers than these two star-crossed lovers ever engaged in.  It is a great story, and beautifully written.  For about a week after finishing it, I obsessed over the idea of moving to Europe for the sole purpose of drinking too much and writing a few books.  Then, my beautiful girlfriend explained to me the process of our Magic dog being quarantined for like weeks and weeks before being cleared to move about the continent and we both glumly agreed that it was a deal breaker.  
  • The Old Man and The Sea by Ernest Hemingway:  I cared much less for this audiobook.  It featured a bizarre, overacted performance and lots of seagull sound effects.  The story is pretty depressing as well.  I guess we’re all struggling against nature and even our greatest conquests will be reclaimed over time as we dry up and become old men.  Not exactly a premise I care to dwell on as I try to avoid the black hole of self-doubt that is being 25 years old and struggling to make ends meet while working two crappy jobs.  
  • On the Road by Jack Kerouac:  I can see why this story inspired so many people to pull up their roots and become wanderers.  The details of the plot made me sad, though.  I feel like the era in which people could just jump in their cars and drive coast to coast, shirking all responsibility in search of adventure is over.  Gas is too expensive.  You’d have to have a pretty kick ass job to afford half of the things that these characters did.  Most jobs that pay that well won’t let you go roaming for months at a time at the drop of a hat.  Abandon your nagging practicality if you plan on reading this book.
  • The Tell Tale Heart, A Cask of Amontillado, and The Pit and the Pendulum by Edgar Allen Poe:  These three tales were a BBC production, read by Christopher Lee and I’m convinced that if you aren’t reading Edgar Allen Poe in Saruman’s voice, you’re just doing it wrong.  With a sprinkling of spooky sound effects and some creepy music before and after each story, these three performances were good old-fashioned fun.  I really enjoyed the plots as well, even though I’m sure that there must have been something very, very, very wrong with Edgar Allen Poe for being able to embody madness and murder so acutely.  
  • Frankenstein by Mary Shelley:  I’m convinced that no one has ever read this book.  Every popular film adaptation that I’ve ever seen has been no more than 5% faithful.  I kept patting myself on the back for knowing all of the big words used by the narrators of this tale, but then it got a bit old.  It was as if the author always used the largest applicable word in her lexicon.  It was pompous and the diction was supercilious (see I can do it too), and yes I know that people spoke differently back then, but it still made for drudgery in muddling through the story.  I also found my inner action-movie fanatic enchanted by the concept of two mortal enemies bent on each other’s destruction in an eternal chase for vengeance.  That is, of course, until they failed to punch each other in the face.  A cool story, if exhaustingly told.  
  • American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis:  The film adaptation with Christian Bale has always been in my top five favorite movies of all time.  I had heard rumor that the novel’s Patrick Bateman was a far more sinister individual, so I had to check it out.  At first, I hated the stream of conscious narration.  I’m not a fashion/style guy, so hearing Patrick describing everyone he ever comes into contact with head to to by their clothes bored me silly.  It feels extra tedious having it read to you.  Eventually, I got used to it and came to the conclusion that stream of conscious writing takes on a deeper meaning when you listen to it in an audiobook.  I literally had Patrick Bateman’s thoughts in my head.  This made his bloodlust and perversion far more grotesque and disturbing than if I had the psychological distance of reading it on a page.  The first person narration is enough to keep you up at night.  On a side note, the titular character’s acts of violence against dogs disturbed me even more than his butchery of women.  I guess that makes me a crazy person who likes animals more than people?  Or maybe I’ve just been more desensitized to that kind of thing given my propensity for grisly horror movies.
  • The Prince by Machiavelli:  Aside from bringing to light my enormous ignorance of European history, this book made me realize that probably every power-hungry fictional character since its publication was based on the ideas of Machiavelli.  It reads like Tywin Lannister’s love letters to Frank Underwood.  I highly recommend it to all unconscionable, ambitious, aspiring rulers of the world.  
  • The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton:  I still can’t believe that the author was only 16 when he wrote this story.  It’s so freaking simple, but so freaking good.  I listened to the ending while I was out running and almost choked up like a doofus as I sweated to death on the sidewalk.  It’s a short little book.  Go read it now. 
  • The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald:  I freaking loved this book.  The diction and syntax were the perfect balance of poise and restraint.  It’s exactly what I aspire to (obviously to little avail).  It’s fluffier than Hemingway, but not so verbose and pompous as Victorian lit.  I’m undecided on whether or not I wish I had read this book prior to seeing the movie.  Part of me wishes that I didn’t see the climax coming, but another part of me realizes the blood rage I would have been in had I fallen in love with this book prior to seeing Baz Luhrmann’s cartoonish adaptation.  Nick Carraway’s narration has inspired within me a deep, broiling hatred for Tobey Maguire.

Next Up:  The Stranger by Albert Camus, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter Scott Thompson, The Catcher in the Rye by:  J.D. Sallinger, and Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk.

Have any recommendations for great books that I’ll never have time to read that I should seek out in audiobooks? 

Freelance Writing Update:

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On July 1, I kicked off a more serious pursuit of freelance writing.  It’s been quite an emotional roller coaster so far and I haven’t made enormous gains, but I’m still optimistic.  I began my gig hunting with a wide open mind.  This led me to read a lot of job postings for opportunities that I’m not in the least bit qualified for.  That led to me becoming really bummed out.  Eventually I put that approach on hold to pursue another one.  More on that in a little bit.

My biggest accomplishment in the past month was easily the writing Fellowship that I’ve scored with TheDodo.com.  It’s like BuzzFeed for wildlife and conservation.  I’ve published two articles with them and both have made the front page!  They advertise that they are working with the same venture capital groups that were behind BuzzFeed and Huffington Post, so hopefully I’m getting in on the ground floor of something that could go really big!  

My one complaint about this website is that they pay 45 days after the end of the month that you publish the article (according to a Writer’s Agreement that they made me sign).  I was, however, paid within 10 days for my first post so I have no idea when to expect checks in the mail from this website.  At least I know that they weren’t lying about paying me though!  

The goal of 100% self-sufficiency through freelance writing has both sustained me and pushed me to the brink of a nervous breakdown.  You see, I haven’t shown off my writing very much, and so the idea of putting myself in position to be published in a wider way has been pretty terrifying.  So naturally, I used my go-to technique for handling scary things:  avoiding them at all costs.  I worked on everything but the things that frightened me.  I half-wrote like three articles while researching several more, all the while guaranteeing myself that I would never finish anything that I could publish.  All of my writing has to be squeezed in between my two jobs, so eventually the time drain of never finishing anything weighed on me heavily.  

I was throwing the ball for my dog in the yard as I researched the fates of failed presidential candidates.  I wasn’t paying attention to fetch.  I just picked up the ball when Magic dog brought it back and then chucked it into the pool for him to swim after again.  It wasn’t long before the ball smashed into the little frosted lights that hang from the overhang of our back porch.  Tiny white glass shards spread all over the pool deck and (I feared) into the pool itself.  

That’s when I lost my damned mind.  

I had put so much pressure on myself and I had so little time for writing that picking up these tiny pieces of glass would leave me with less than half an hour to pursue my ambitions.  I led the dog away from the scene of the accident, brought him inside, dried him off, and then went back out to search for glass shards.  

Frosted white glass on a white concrete pool deck on a sunny Florida (read “unbearably hot”) day don’t make for a fun scavenger hunt.  I looked high and low and didn’t find nearly enough glass.  I swept everywhere within a 10 foot radius of the incident.  That’s when I feared that the glass was in the pool and conjured horrifying mental images of my pup accidentally swallowing glass-laden water while joyfully swimming towards his orange rubber ball.  I started cleaning the pool thoroughly, vacuuming and skimming to no avail.  I was defeated.  We couldn’t let the dog near the area until I found more of the glass (which I did find in a small gutter next to the back patio a few days later).

This was the first time that I realized how much pressure I was putting on myself.  

That’s when I came up with what seemed to be a great way of coping with my self-inflicted frustration:  I would write a quirky, charming biography of myself from the point of view of my writer’s block!  I was a half-dozen pages into the project when I realized that I wasn’t all that interested in it and that it only served as a way for me to feel productive about avoiding writing that could be more realistically published.  

As I mentioned before, I abandoned depressing job hunting because it was eroding my soul and undermining my elusive, occasional, and probably hypothetical self-confidence.  I altered my strategy to involve finding out what the market would bear in terms of selling my writing to leads that I had already located.  I would bank articles and then try to sell them in bulk.  (Ex:  This site pays $100/post and they bought 5 posts from me in one week.  Thus they are good for $500/week).  Just to keep myself from regaining too much sanity, I created an arbitrary deadline to strive towards and stressed myself out by forgetting its meaninglessness.  

I had 4 out of 5 articles ready to sell to a website that I had never worked with before.  I would write the fifth article over the course of the week.  That was the plan.  Upon delivering the first post, I realized that hidden on the website as a lengthy list of Writer’s Guidelines that I had never seen before.  Committed to my imaginary deadline, I observed the ones that I could and ignored the rest.  

The article was rejected with a form letter.  I crumpled into despair, certain that I couldn’t possibly reach my goal now.  The next day, I moped more heavily than usual as I read carefully through the Writer’s Guidelines and realized that of the 5 posts I intended to sell that week, only one might be of any interest to the website.  I had jumped the gun in a fit of courage and now I had reaffirmed my mercurial low self-esteem.  I thanked them for reviewing the article and adjusted my goal to getting one thing that I had written accepted by the site.  

Once we had a more solid relationship, I reasoned, I would better understand what they would and would not buy from me.  I realized that this would need to be my approach with other leads as well.  

In the meantime, I was a neglectful jerk to my girlfriend who I treated like an obstacle to my ambition.  She confronted me on it and I saw how much of a turd I had been and reevaluated my obsession with fictional pressures that I put on myself and how I let them affect the person I love the most.  

I revised my one last hope, an article about hate groups that was surprisingly thoroughly miserable to write.  Did you know that we live in such a politically divided country that we can’t even seem to agree on who is and is not a hate group?  

I adhered to their guidelines, submitted it, and received a more cordial rejection.  This time it was a human responding.  They said it just wasn’t a good fit, but that they would love to give me feedback on some pitches before I spent the time to write another full article to submit to them.  

You better believe I took them up on that offer!  I pitched about 5 potential articles and thanked them for taking the time to review my much hated hate groups post, also asking if it was rejected for form/style or content.  

Now I’m re-tooling the hate groups post to pitch it elsewhere.  I’ve got about 12 hours of excessive research, rough drafting, and revision into this stupid post so I’ve gotta sell it somewhere!  

In the meantime, I’ve realized that writing web content is enjoyable and fun.  Even though the research takes hours sometimes, it’s a really awesome way to learn new things about this big weird world that we’re living in.  With that in mind, I’m going to take up my job search once more with a narrower focus on the type of writing that I find interesting.  Hopefully it will stave off the boringness of corporate form postings and the depression of confronting my limited professional-experience.  

In the meantime, here are my published posts from the first month of my freelance pursuits:

How You Can Help 6 Critically Endangered Species with Populations of 500 or Less:

https://www.thedodo.com/fellows-pitch-6-critically-end-628725703.html 

A Muggle’s Guide to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Universal Studios:

http://www.americansky.co.uk/blog/muggles-guide-wizarding-world-harry-potter-universal-studios

8 Endangered Species Making Epic Comebacks:

https://www.thedodo.com/8-endangered-species-making-ep-652564299.html

A Muggle’s Guide to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Islands of Adventure:

http://www.americansky.co.uk/blog/muggles-guide-wizarding-world-harry-potter-islands-adventure 

Since Last We Spoke

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Life Update

Dear Blog/Blog Readers,

I’m sorry that it’s been nearly two months since last we spoke!  I’ve made some changes in my life that have taken up a great deal of my time (and my words).  As terrible as I am at keeping my life in balance, my recent freelance writing pursuits have pushed the Brantley Blog right out of my mind.  

I will do my best to sum up the past 51 days in a series of short impressions and updates.  In this post, I’ll only deal with non-freelance writing stuff (that’s a whole ‘nother post!).

Disneyland Avenger’s Half-Marathon  

I just started training for the Avenger’s Half-Marathon in Disneyland.  Months and months ago I was too broke to buy new running shoes, so naturally, I pretended like my old shoes were just fine.  Boom.  Plantar Fasciitis.  I can’t seem to kick the arch pain in my right foot.  It doesn’t bother me when I’m running, but I have to stand for hours on end at work and that’s when it really acts up.  I’m pretty nervous about my training now.  I don’t want to exacerbate the injury, but I have to go on living my life (AKA running my miles)!  Plane tickets are booked.  Trips to San Fransisco and the Redwood forests are planned.  After this half (which is in November), I’ve got another full marathon in January. 

How Not to Make New Friends

Making new friends at work is making me realize that my people skills are weird.   There are definitely some bizarre things that I shouldn’t have said to people who don’t know me that well.  

Example 1:  Someone brings up that a co-worker doesn’t get to see his daughter because the baby momma is “a bitch.”  In an effort to lighten the mood, I pondered aloud the possibility that the baby momma truly is a “bitch” and that the daughter is a dog-human hybrid monstrosity that the co-worker father can’t bear the sight of.  It didn’t so much lighten the mood as bring the conversation to a screeching halt and fill the bar with silence for what felt like a few hours.

Example 2:  I was walking quickly to my car after work because the distance between the restaurant and my car in the parking garage is 100% not-air conditioned.  I passed two female co-workers.  One of which joked that I snuck up on her and I joked back that she should be more vigilante because it’s a big scary world full of dangerous people.  I said this to her in a parking garage…in the middle of the night.  Why?  Why would I say that?  

The Great New Radio Station Sucks

There’s a new radio station in Orlando!  It plays solely alternative music, which is a dumb, moving target industry term that effectively means “weird stuff that doesn’t suck yet still finds its way onto pop and rock radio stations.”  Think an Imagine Dragons station on Pandora. 

They kicked off their existence with 10,000 songs in a row with no commercials, which was thrilling because they play The Black Keys, Bastille, Arctic Monkeys, The Strokes, Imagine Dragons, and quirkier weirder stuff.  

Their cardinal sin is that they are still a radio station.  Anyone finding themselves iPod-less/CD-less/Spotify-less and doomed to listen only to what the radio has to offer can attest:  There is a music industry belief that people can only handle a few new songs at a time or else _________ (fill in your own dire consequence here.  Mine would probably read “the public might realize that there are millions of music options and that the radio is an outdated tool for discovering worthwhile songs,” but “the Stay Puff Marshmallow Man will destroy New York City,” would be an interesting fit too).  This belief has infiltrated my beloved alternative radio station and we are currently engaged in the following frustrating yet inevitable exchange:

Radio:  Oh you like the Arctic Monkeys?

Brantley:  Yeah, they’re pretty good.

Radio:  Okay, then we will play them twice an hour or maybe just every time you get in your car and tune in.

Brantley:  But won’t that make me hate them?

Radio:  You like The Black Keys too, right?

Brantley:  Yeah, but you didn’t answer my last question.

Radio:  Okay, then we will alternate almost exclusively between the Arctic Monkeys and The Black Keys on our station since we know that those are bands that you like.

Brantley:  But that will make me hate both of them.

Radio:  Shhh!!!  We’re playing “Fever!”

Brantley:  Look, there are tons of bands that I like and even more bands that I would like, but haven’t heard of yet.  You guys have a captive audience in this guy right here.  Maybe just give me the illusion of respect and use your position to promote interesting new music that people might really fall in love with.

Radio:  Okay fine.  We will throw in Cage the Elephant, but for every one time that we play them, we are going to have to play “Rude” by Magic thrice.  

Brantley:  I’m going to listen to an audiobook instead.

Also this radio station needs to change their batteries because they come through staticky just about everywhere in the city.  I’m pretty sure they were being overpowered by some dick with an FM transmitter listening to The Police the other night.  

Margaritas Are An Art

In an attempt to occasionally order something other than beer, I’ve discovered crappy margaritas at numerous bars.  I don’t know how to make them myself, but I don’t feel like they should be so hard.  My girlfriend makes an orange juice heavy margarita that is tangy and delicious.  Rocco’s Tacos (which is in my opinion, heaven on earth) makes tasty margaritas that are simultaneous smooth and crisp by some feat of sorcery.  

I’ve noticed that ordering a margarita occasionally raises eyebrows.  I’m not sure if it’s a “girl” drink or just an uncreative way to choke down liquor.  Either way, I don’t care.  Margaritas bring back fond Taco Memories for me, and Nacho Nostalgia.  

Maybe my love of margaritas is heavily influenced by this little Brantley Trivia tidbit (and this will shock regular readers of the blog):  I’ve never had too much tequila.  I’ve never puked or suffered a tequila hangover.  I don’t know how I’ve accomplished this, but I think that some credit goes to the booze-sponginess of Mexican food which seems to absorb 2-3 drinks in terms of alcohol tolerance.  

Remove the Nuts Before Jacking It Up

I helped a co-worker change a flat tire in the parking garage after we left the bar last night.  It was surprisingly not all that bad.  My worst memory of changing a flat tire involved me jacking the car up before removing the lug nuts.  The wheel spun as I manhandled it with the tire iron.  Frustration ensued.  Also it was hot, as it always is all the time everywhere in Florida.  Don’t get a flat down here.  

My Anti-Drug is:  Non-Existent

Many of my co-workers express enthusiasm for smoking pot.  After smoking a select few times early in college, I quit to pursue a job that I was certain would require drug testing.  Though I did get the job and they never tested me, I still abstained.  I just didn’t miss it that much.  I’m a junk food fanatic with motivation problems.  I’m practically stoned 24/7 by sheer virtue of my personality.  

That being said, people ask if I smoke and I tell them no.  Being an illegal hobby, they sometimes want to know why as if I’m on the verge of calling the cops.  I honestly don’t have a good answer.  I just don’t smoke.  I don’t care if other people do.  I just don’t.  I’ve got allergies and I’m not interested in putting smoke in my lungs (which don’t even seem that fond of air).  I’m either convincingly uninterested or off-puttingly strange enough that they don’t bother trying to peer pressure me into joining them when they light up.  

Smells Like Twenty-Something Despair

Our restaurant plays a boring, elevator music playlist of only about a dozen songs. All day.  Everyday.  On repeat.  They have a muzak version of Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit.”  Every time it plays, a little piece of me dies inside and I fear that I will soon be no more than a shell of a human being, a dried up husk with a soul made of dust.  

It’s Hard Out Here for a Good Lookin’ White Guy

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Last week I was working a shift as a host (that’s a male hostess for those who don’t speak restaurant lingo) and an older man walked in and brusquely asked about the wait list.  Our coordinator (a hostess) let him know that it would be 30 minutes before we could seat him and his family.  To this, the old man replied, “Your competition across the street can seat me in 25-minutes.”

Before the hostess could execute what might have been the most justified shrug in the history of apathetic shoulder movements, the old man glanced over her shoulder to find myself (a host) and a new guy that we were training (also a host, because he’s a guy, see).  “Is there anything that these guys can do to get me bumped up on the list?” he asked, obviously assuming that two males standing anywhere in proximity to a female absolutely must be her supervisors.  She gracefully returned the courteous equivalent to “Nope.”

Here’s the thing:  This hostess has been working at our restaurant for like over 3 years.  I’ve been working there for about a month.  The new guy has been working there for not at all because he’s technically still training.  I have surprisingly gotten through many situations in my life by appearing more confident than I actually am, but I was a silent bystander in this exchange so there is no way that I was projecting some kind of authoritative aura that led this geezer to believe that I was the boss.  He just saw a woman and assumed that she was a man’s underling.

My co-workers and I expressed our annoyance to each other about it after the old man walked away and that was the end of it, for me at least.

It was one of many incidences in which I’ve realized that I’ve never been discriminated against or looked down upon for my gender (I’m a man).  

I’ve never been discriminated against or looked down upon for my sexual preference (I’m straight – unlike the new guy who was also assumed to be in charge).  

I’ve never been discriminated against or looked down upon for my race (I’m white).  

The only assumption that people have made about me based on my appearance is that I would be a swell guy to share some crazy with.

Seriously, I’m a good-looking, heterosexual, white man.  If there are glass ceilings for me, I certainly haven’t found them yet!

Brantley Newton picture

My mom actually commented on this picture to let me know that she’s proud of how handsome I am…as if my appearance was actually an achievement.

The lack of discrimination in my life is something that I work hard not to take for granted.  The sheer volume of incredible bloggers on WordPress covering women’s issues and LGBT equality is so invaluable for achieving this.  Obviously reading a blog post is far from “walking a mile” in someone else’s shoes but it is certainly capable of broadening your horizons, provoking thought, and challenging perspectives and I think that these brain exercises are exactly what the world needs.

It’s hard out here for a good lookin’ white guy.  There are so many societal problems that I will never directly encounter and there’s an enormous danger that I could go my entire life overlooking them.

I challenge you, reader (s – hopefully).  I challenge you to observe how people treat each other, especially when those people don’t know anything about each other beyond appearances.

Would their interactions play out differently if you subbed out either person for a different demographic?  

Would the old man have just nodded and walked away had I been the one to inform him of the 30-minute wait?  

If he knew about my new co-worker’s sexual preference, would the old man have put up more of a fight against him?

Would I have acknowledged the old man’s sexism if he were younger?

Once you start thinking of things this way, it’s really difficult to stop.  Consideration for other people’s perspectives could go a long way towards solving most of the problems that plague the human race.

It’s hard out here for a good lookin’ white guy.  I make a conscious decision to notice when I’m not being discriminated against, otherwise, I could spend my entire life in a privileged little bubble.

 

Need Disney World Advice?

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I’m probably not going to get around to writing up another juicy post for this week.  Sorry bout that!

Instead, I figured I would take this opportunity to share with you some of the fruits of my freelancing labors.  Below are links to blog posts that I wrote for a travel agency in the UK.  As an Orlando resident and a Disney World Annual Passholder, I’m greatly anticipating the influx of theme park savvy Brits that can attribute their efficiency to my writing!

Be warned that these are a bit dry (lacking of the Brantley trademark drunken debauchery and staggeringly bad decisions).

If you found this post through the Disney World tag, let the education/debate begin!

A Beginner’s Guide to Orlando’s Theme Parks

Top 10 Theme Parks in Orlando, FL

10 Tips on How To Enjoy Disney World Like an Annual Passholder

Dear woman that found a 15 minute wait to be “unacceptable,”

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Dear woman that found a 15 minute wait to be “unacceptable,”

I was unsure of whether to laugh or frown at your overreaction.  I’m sorry that your blood sugar was low and that you had a long day, but after the way that you raided the chocolate covered mints at the host stand while you pouted, I’m certain you would have survived the next quarter hour without keeling over.

When you spat “I live locally,” you may never know the tidal wave of Brantley sarcasm that you so narrowly escaped.  “I’m sorry miss!  Why didn’t you say so!  Let’s just give the shaft to the 15,000 tourists in town for the convention, especially the ones that had the common sense to make a reservation.  I’m sure they will be completely understanding because you live in Orlando whereas they are just pesky invaders that came to spend money in our city.”

We’re a tourist economy.  If you think that anyone other than citrus farmers would be living in this muggy, landlocked chunk of Florida if not for Disney World, you are completely out of your mind.

I’m still angry that you got a table.  You acted like a child and should have been treated like one.  Throwing a tantrum over a 15-minute wait should have earned you a time out with your nose in the corner so that you could think about what you did.

In a Brantleytopian future, people like you will have to wear a scarlet letter so that all of society will know that you are rude and can treat you with the disdain, indifference, and discrimination that you deserve.

If you must be the portrait of despicable human behavior that you were yesterday, I suggest that you ask yourself, “Is the $7/hour motivation enough to keep this person I’m being rude to from head butting me?”

I couldn’t help but overhear you bragging to your business associates about how the hostess told you there was an hour wait and how you were able to force us to seat you immediately.  The man sitting across from you called us in advance to get on the waiting list and we told him 15 minutes as well, so that makes at least two people at that table who knew that you are full of it.

The most impactful thing you may ever do in your life is to piss people off, because yesterday you taught me something:

First impressions are powerful, 

but only impressions are absolute.

I hope I never see you again, but if I do, I just want you to remember that the only thing I know about you is that you are a deplorable turd of a human being.

 

Maybe you should think about the perceptions you give those that you treat with disrespect,

The Blonde Guy at the Front of the Restaurant