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 

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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

A Brief Explanation of Chicken Pot Pies for British People

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Followers of the blog know that I’ve recently started a new job at a fancy restaurant on the tourist-y side of Orlando.

Many of our guests are from all over the world, especially the UK and Brazil.  While customer service encounters with Brazilians could be an entire blog in and of themselves, today I want to address an issue that I’ve noticed with the British.

Last week, I overheard a friend telling a British family:  “The vegetables are inside the chicken pot pie.”  It was the only sentence that I picked out over the cacophony of the entire restaurant and it was so random that I laughed about it and shared it with some friends, who also chuckled.

Then, it happened to me.  I dropped off a chicken pot pie to a British couple and was asked:  “Weren’t there supposed to be some vegetables and mash with this?”  I politely explained:  “The vegetables and potatoes are inside the chicken pot pie.”

Now I can’t be bothered to Google the history and origins of the Chicken Pot Pie.  I can only assume that it must be an American invention.  Working with that assumption, I will try and define this dish for those unfamiliar with it:

A flaky pie crust is filled with a creamy mixture of carrots, peas, chopped potatoes, and chicken.  It’s completely sealed with more crust on top and then baked together.  It’s a pretty magical little thing the way that we serve it at my restaurant, but housewives also like to freestyle with it in more casserole-like variations.

The problem with Chicken Pot Pie Unfamiliarity is that the above stated location of the vegetables and potatoes is impossible to say without coming across at least a little bit condescending.  I know that my friend came across that way, and I did too (hopefully just minimally though).  Neither of us were trying to be snooty, it’s just an impossible sentence to say without that tone.

Obviously I don’t expect people from all over the world to memorize the construction of American dishes.  If they don’t have Chicken Pot Pie where you’re from, I’m not judging you or looking down on you for having some questions.

I mostly just wanted to apologize to anyone who felt belittled by the sentence:  “The vegetables are inside the Chicken Pot Pie.”

 

 

Strange Encounters with the Strangest Strangers

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Facebook friends will find this post a bit familiar, but I got a like or two on it so I wanted to share with the WordPress crowd.

My beautiful brindle dog has only increased my magnetic effect on quirky strangers. On a long walk, Magic and I pulled off of the bike path to let a woman in a motorized wheelchair pass. This was necessary because he is a dog and so he has absolutely no idea what to do with the fact that motorized wheelchairs exist and that people ride in them, thus making this woman appear like some sort of cyborg centaur that was stalking us on our walk. Seriously, he wouldn’t stop looking over his shoulder to track her pursuit of us.

Of course when she caught up with us, she had to stop and talk to me. According to this lady, my adopted mystery mutt Heinz 57 is “Part Pit, Part Shepherd, Part Dingo, and Part Wolf.” This diagnosis accounts for his brindle coat, large ears, and something about the color of his eyes makes him Part Dingo/Part Wolf – though he was allegedly found in Georgia Animal Control and I’m fairly certain that the dingo population in The Peach State are confined exclusively to zoos and people’s imaginations. But this woman knows her stuff because she volunteers for SPCA and was born on a reservation and has two wolves at home.

Then, she wanted me to bring my terrified best friend closer to her mechanized mount for closer inspection. I halfway tried to politely oblige, but Magic dug his heels in and I soon found myself scrambling to come up with a genial way of saying: “Dog isn’t about your Hoverround, ma’am.” Luckily, she caught Magic’s meaning and dismounted her whip to introduce herself. This only further baffled my dog, who before today has never ever in his entire life met a human being that he didn’t assume wanted to be his best friend.

At this point I was trying to wrap up the encounter, which probably didn’t do much to relax Magic. The problem was that I was cornered. If we walked away, she would resume stalking us on her Jazzy (to the dog’s tremendous dismay). She had to be the one to drive off into the sunset in order for us to conclude our walk. Magic tentatively sniffed her hand and let her pet his head for a couple seconds, which thankfully was enough for her to climb back aboard her wheels and go about her business (whatever that may be for someone driving their wheelchair on a bike path).

Why do these people always find me?”

Relationship Champion

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After mentioning to a new co-worker that my girlfriend and I have been together for 6 years, I was immediately knighted relationship champion.  6 years is just about my entire adult life (see Brantleyism #001 for my thoughts on adulthood being an 18+ condition).

It’s one of those accomplishments that make people assume that you actually know what you’re doing.  When people ask me how we’ve made it so far, I give one big goofy shrug and a Scooby-Dooesque “Idunno!”

That’s too broad of a question.  When it gets more specific, it gets more awkward too.  “You’ve been together that long and you’ve never cheated?  She’s never cheated?  You never even thought about it?”  The tone that people use with these questions make it sound like there’s something wrong with the answer, “no.”  It comes out like:  “You mean you’ve never even considered potty training?”  “You’re telling me that neither of you take showers ever?”  

It really makes me think, though.  Not about cheating, but about the absolute absence of any interest in that.  There’s no place I’d rather be than with my girlfriend.  Why would cheating ever even cross my mind?

Being perceived as some sort of relationship Saskwatch sighting is nothing compared to the weirdness of situations when I’m treated like a sage.  Here’s something that most of my readers would probably guess about me:  I have absolutely no idea how to give relationship advice.

The problem is that my girlfriend is perfect.  Being in love with her is as easy as breathing.  Actually with the amount of pollen in Florida this time of year, being in love with her is easier than breathing.

She makes me want to be my best self, and she knows exactly how to tell me when I’m not living up to the person I want to be (and in a way that cuts through my impenetrable stubbornness).  It’s hard to explain, but it’s everything I’ve ever needed.

We never run out of things to talk about because we share interest in some “evergreen topics” like movies, politics, and nature.  There’s a whole big interesting world out there and neither of us can get enough of it.

Best of all, however, is our love of stories and conversations when we discuss fiction as if it’s real.  Recently, we wondered where J.K. Rowling’s Wizards and Witches were during World War 2.  Rick Riordan mentioned the role of his demi-gods in the major wars of history.  There’s no way Jo hasn’t considered these things, she just hasn’t told us her answer.  (Seriously though:  Is the privacy of a small portion of the population more important than the lives of the millions of Jews that were being rounded up and slaughtered in concentration camps during World War 2?  Wouldn’t a societal decision by the Wizarding community to do nothing to stop the Holocaust color the very psychology of their culture?).

Also part of that conversation is the notion the epic veracity of the old saying “knowledge is power” in the Wizarding World.  Why would anyone study a minute less than Hermione if it meant being able to do incredible things?  Of course, my girlfriend cited mentions of inherent talent and power in certain wizards that determines the range of their potential for magic.

Sorry.  What was I blogging about again?

In short, our relationship is great because we work together.  We are similar in all of the right ways, but dissimilar enough to prevent ourselves from becoming one with the couch in a mutual comfort zone.  We strengthen each other, nurture each other, challenge each other.

She’s perfect, so I’ve got it easy.  She’s the one with the hard part.  I’m very, very far from perfect!

Regardless, our relationship certainly impressed this co-worker.  She wanted to know how after 6 years we still aren’t bored with each other; how we didn’t “go through a rough patch” after so much time together.  It all led to that inevitable moment when I’m placed on a relationship pedestal, and find myself speechless, dizzy and disoriented from the heights.

Luckily, I was saved in this particular situation.  Conversations like these at work are frequently interrupted and rarely carried through to their conclusion.

I couldn’t stop thinking about it though.  Every time I’ve ever been asked for relationship advice I feel like a deer in the headlights.  I don’t know what to tell people who are in trouble with their boyfriend or girlfriend.  If you don’t want to be with someone, don’t be with them.  Life is too short to spend with the wrong person.  As for me, there hasn’t been a single second since I first kissed my girlfriend on August 26th, 2008 that I haven’t wanted to be with her.  For all of my endless imagination, I can’t even begin to understand what it would be like to consider giving up on what we have.

Like I said, the conversation wasn’t ever finished, but I did come up with a few tips on how to be relationship champions:

  1. Don’t ever take each other for granted.  My girlfriend and I have something that people search their entire lives for and some never find.  Remembering that puts everything else into perspective.  There isn’t a single argument or disagreement that we could possibly have that would be worth throwing it all away.  When someone loves you, they will put up with you at your worst.  When you love them back, you know that they deserve nothing short of your very best.
  2. Don’t go to bed angry.  Fighting sucks, but it’s as temporary as you make it.  It’s better to be happy than right, especially because being right counts for so little in most arguments.  When it comes to relationships:  fixing things, apologizing, making up for your mistakes should be your top priority in life.  Arguments are no fun, but they happen.  Bury the hatchet as soon as you can and get back to loving each other.
  3. Finally, the most lame advice I can give people is this:  Have a little bit more money than you need. It’s not romantic at all, I know, but I can’t tell you how many fewer disagreements my girlfriend and I have now that we can pay our bills and go out for dinner and drinks every once in a while.  Being broke is an all-consuming stress that can poison your health, your mind, and your relationship.  It warps your sense of reality and your priorities, which is extremely dangerous when it comes to the most important people in your life.

It’s not much wisdom to impart and it’s probably not all that impressive, but that’s my answer.  That’s how we’ve made it so far, through so much and are still happy with each other.

Next time I suddenly find myself on the relationship pedestal and am completely flabbergasted, I won’t even try to speak.  I’ll just pull up this post, show it to the supplicant and scram before they can ask anymore broad, confusing questions!

Ice Cream Houses and Batmobiles

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As I’ve mentioned before, I recently started a new job at a fancy pants restaurant in the tourist-y area of Orlando.  It’s my first restaurant job and I’m basically learning everything by doing everything.  I’m a host/food runner/serving trainee.

If the volume of learning wasn’t daunting enough, I’m now faced with a brand new cast of characters in the co-worker department.  Most (read “all”) don’t yet understand my strangeness.

Exhibit A:  Part of training to be a server involved trying the food that the restaurant serves.  That way, you can describe and recommend dishes to the guests.

Well, the 4 or 5 other trainees and I had just tried the “Chocolate Uprising.”  That’s two cinnamon chocolate brownies forming a sandwich around some vanilla bean ice cream.  The whole damn thing is topped with dark chocolate walnut fudge and served over a bed of caramel and chocolate sauce.  I know what you’re thinking…yes, there is a dinosaur-sized dollop of whipped cream on top.  Oh and don’t forget the shaved chocolate garnish.

My review:  “I want to build my house out of this.”

My peer’s reviews:  “Wait, what the hell did that guy just say?”

Readers, I’m not sure if you’ve ever found yourselves surrounded by people who think that building a house out of ice cream is a ridiculous idea or not.  It’s not something I would wish on my worst enemies.

“It would melt.”

“We live in Florida.”

“That would be a sticky mess.”

For starters, who in their right mind would build an entire house out of ice cream in Florida?  Construction would begin somewhere freezer-like, duh.  Think Alaska, or Siberia, or something.

Then there’s the explicit temporality of a house made of ice cream.  It’s not a real estate investment.  You don’t take out a 30 year mortgage on an ice cream house.  You eat that SOB.  Not all in one day (well, hopefully not), just over a couple of months or something.  Invite friends.  Ice Cream House Party at my place this Sundae.  BYO Whipped Cream.

I suppose it’s a miracle I’ve made it this long without ending up in some witch’s oven or something.

There are moments that I’ve shared with people that “get me” that really stand out when I find myself surrounded by “realistic” people.  My closest friends not only understand exactly what I mean when I say something this ridiculous, but they go along with it and encourage it.  As I shut up and simmered in my uncomfortable skin under the weight of their judging stares, I could only appreciate the people in my life that not only reserve judgement of my lunacy, but actually love it.

Here’s what one of them would have said:

“What would the frame of the ice cream house be made out of?”

To which I would have responded:  “Probably something sturdy and capable of holding up ice cream, like waffle cone.”

It could have gotten even better from there, but not with the lot at this table.

Exhibit B:  A conversation about people building houses out of strange things (freight containers, 747s, and dumpsters to be more specific) soon evolved into anecdotes of eccentric rich people.

Me:  “Forget the strange houses, if I was rich, I would just be Batman.  End of story.”

Silence.  Strange looks.

As if every right-minded person on the planet hasn’t wanted a Batmobile at some point in their life.  I don’t know if I’m getting too old to say such awesome things or what the deal is, but these people need to get on my level.

Note:  Things have improved dramatically after these first gaffes.  I think I just opened up a can of crazy at a somewhat inappropriate time.  I can’t help it.  I think it would be awesome to live in a house made of ice cream and I don’t care who knows it.

 

 

Letters to the People of I-Drive: How to Buy a Tube of Lube

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I was recently hired to work at a fancy pants restaurant on International Drive, the most touristy of tourist places in Orlando (just short of Disney Planet and Universal Studios, of course).  With such diverse crowds coming into our city from all over, spending lots of their money, and then continuing on their merry way, this side of town is ripe for bizarre encounters.  People on vacation like to “let loose.”  Some people should absolutely never, ever, under any circumstances “let loose.”

Below is the first of (potentially) many letters to some of the many visitors that come to Orlando to let their freak flags fly:

Dear Gentleman Thoroughly Browsing the Personal Lubricants in Walgreens,

Your bedroom pragmatism is only surpassed by your total lack of interest in the opinions of others around you.  For that, I envy you.  Thank you for resting your glasses on your forehead and bringing the box to within an inch of your face to read the fine print.  I shudder to think of the words that those tiny letters spell, but you are brave in the face of unabridged (and probably horrific) side effects and disclaimers.  
Sincerely,
The Guy in All Black