Nothing Special, Really

Monday, June 23, 2008

No Lions Or Tigers, But...

This weekend, I realized I would really suck at being a caveman.

I spent this past weekend with my girlfriend & five others on a camping trip for our friend Simon's birthday. What better way to start Summer off then a trip deep into the North Cascades for two days & nights of drinking, hiking, and Toss & Cuss (I'll explain in a moment).

Simon and I got a head start Friday morning while the rest were planning to catch up later that day or sometime on Saturday. After about 2 & 1\2 hours of driving, we arrived at the Mineral Park campsite, an isolated camp just south of North Cascades National Park. Although Simon had reserved a site elsewhere in the camp, there was only one other campsite taken, so we scouted the area & instead chose a site that was close to the Cascade river as well as big enough for two tents. I've been camping many times before, mostly with my parents when I was younger, and I don't ever recall staying at a more beautiful campsite:

After the obligatory PBR to kick off the day, we set up our tents and camping gear, then headed off to scout out the rest of the camp. Unfortunately, I forgot to take my camera, a regrettable decision as we stumbled upon a deer lying near the outhouse at the other end of camp. Simon got probably within 10 feet of it before it took off into the woods.

We headed back to our campsite to start the fire for dinner. The second wave of our camping crew - our respective girlfriends and Simon's friend James - right as the fire was just about ready.

Whoops, this story is getting too long. Let me wrap up Friday night. We ate barbecue chicken, I passed out by the campfire shortly after the sun went down, woke up for a bit then passed out in the tent way early. Lame, I know. On to Saturday...

After a very diabetic-friendly breakfast of a single donut, we headed out around 10am to go on a hike. The five of us drove up into the North Cascades National Park until the road was closed. Months ago, the road was shut down because it was blocked by avalanches. Most of the snow had melted but there was still a lot of debris blocking it, enough to prevent your standard automobile but not enough to keep away five fleet footed adventurers.

A short ways into the hike, the road had collapsed, and the ranger service set up some log bridges to help hikers cross the river or creek or however you define the running water. We kept going up the hill, into the park, and encountered some of the most breath-taking views I've ever seen. Like postcard views, only I'm seeing them with my own eyes:

But the amazingness didn't stop there. As we headed further up the road, we all came to a halt when James yelled out "Bears!"

"Over there, in the snow!"

Sure enough, in the distance, were two bears, wrestling in the snow. They tackled each other, rolling around, a lot like our cats wrestle in the apartment. Being able to witness wildlife, in its natural environment, playing like this..easily one of the coolest things I've experienced in my life.

We kept trucking along, squeezing between fallen trees, climbing over mountains of packed snow & debris, when the road looked like it wasn't going to be getting any easier. We took a short timeout for Simon & James to climb some giant moss-covered rock, gave Simon time to relieve himself, then headed back down the road to the car.

We got maybe 100-200 feet from the avalanched snow when James shouted out "Bear!" again.

"In the road."


OK, I have to backtrack a bit.

Up to this point, there were several occasions on the trip where I drifted off into my own thoughts. Being so far removed from society, so deep in the wilderness, I found myself thinking a lot about how domesticated we've become as human beings over the past couple hundred, even thousand years. Especially in industrialized nations, we don't have to worry about things like hunting or gathering our own food, building our own shelter, or making our own clothes (although I'd probably just run around naked). How quickly would we fall apart if we were forced to do these things on our own? How many of us have the necessary survival skills to last even a week stranded somewhere?

So these thoughts were permeating the back of my mind when we end up running into a bear in the middle of the road. Immediately, I let out a panicked "Oh fuck!" and started thinking every worse case possible scenario. What do we do if he starts heading this way? Should we go back up the road and wait it out? What if he doesn't leave for a while, how long are we going to be up here? I don't want to die from a fucking bear attack. What if he attacks us, how do we defend ourselves?

I never made it through Boy Scouts, or even Cub Scouts, and the Mesa Public Schools district didn't offer any kind of Bear Survival courses, so I was completely retarded when faced with the thought of a bear in the road. So while Molly (Simon's GF) and I panicked, Simon & James told us to stay back, while James wandered TOWARDS THE BEAR! The bear spotted us pretty quickly, and James told us to be quiet. I wondered out loud "Maybe we should head back the other way", and the panic in my voice was embarassingly noticeable. Luckily, we didn't have to wait much longer; the bear scurried into the woods shortly thereafter. We waited a couple minutes in case there were others, grabbed some thick tree branches to defend ourselves if needed, and walked gently pass the bear poop that was left behind.

Suffice it to say, I lack the proper survival skills needed to last even a few days in the middle of nowhere. I wish I had a badass story of how we survived a bear attack, or how I killed a bear using only my hands, but sadly, this is just a story about how I froze up like a little chicken-shit at the sight of a bear down the road.

We headed back to the campsite & proceeded to get sufficiently drunk. Simon, James & I took turns playing Toss & Cuss, a game Molly's dad created for them. Basically, you take turns throwing bolas made of rope & golf balls at a structure made of PVC pipe. That's the "Toss" part. The "Cuss" part is what you do when your bola spins around the tube then falls off. We kept drinking & started thinking of inventive ways to throw the bolas; under the legs, high into the air, all three at once. I guess you could make the argument that, at that point, playing drunken Toss & Cuss was probably more dangerous than the bear in the road earlier.

The final two campers, J-Razz & Chris, showed up during the T&C marathon and joined us. In an epic battle, the rookies took down James & I on the final round, when between Chris & I, we wrapped 5 of our 6 bolas around the pipes. Chris's final wrap broke the tie, and the newbies were victorious on their first try:

After that, it was time for dinner, which meant time for Simon's glorious Foil Dinners. I think these originated from his fire fighting days, or maybe his Boy Scout days, I can't remember which. Basically, it's just meat, potatoes & veggies steamed over the campfire with Johnny's Salt, but it's so moist & delicious, it's just incredible. We finished the night by playing a couple of rounds of Uno, then sitting by one of the biggest, hottest campfires ever (seriously, we were melting beer bottles in that thing), and listen to Simon play his guitar, singing drunken songs about hanging with deer in the Deer Lounge, and a fight between Godzilla & Sasquatch.

Luckily for us, we didn't encounter either of them on the road at any point on the trip.


Just a quick update for those interested. I'm still jobless. I got conned into an interview this upcoming Tuesday. Ever since I put my resume out on Monster, I get email like every other week from insurance companies, basically spamming me with interview offers. They're probably shit jobs, and I have no interest in selling insurance. Well, I got a call yesterday from someone wanting to bring me in for an interview. We talked about my background for a bit & they were very interested, but I had no idea what job they wanted to interview me for because they failed to mention it. She even said something along the lines of "I can't really discuss too much over the phone, but we'll have more information for you at the interview". A job opportunity should never feel like a scam. I asked them what positions they had available and she said "Oh, you know, sales managers, human resources, marketing, lots of positions" but when asked to explain what kind of HR jobs, she couldn't explain. I asked her to send me a job description, and she said that the jobs were posted on their website (untrue). Just to get her off the phone, I told her I would look over their job postings (that don't exist) and tentatively agreed to an interview on Tuesday, which I will definitely be canceling on Monday.

Other than that, it's been a lot of hanging out at the coffee shop or playing online poker. Just living the dream.

Thursday, June 12, 2008


I can't sleep.

Unemployment has put me into a crazy sleep cycle now. Stay up until 3 or 3:30 in the morning, wake up at 11am or Noon. The lifestyle of a true bum. I'm trying to break it; every morning, I set my alarm for 9:30am, and I even set my phone out in the kitchen so I physically have to get up and walk out of the bedroom to turn it off. But I'm too lazy for my own good, and with no real obligations in my life, I just walk back to bed and sleep some more.

At least I've been somewhat productive in my spare time. Yes, I consider playing online poker to be productive. Everyone has their own hobby. I've been trying to keep the apartment somewhat clean too. I ran a mile and a half on Monday. And you're seeing blog posts from me a lot more frequently, right?

The job search is still fruitless. In all honesty, the best opportunity that's out there is probably going back to where I came from. I think the job I passed on is still available, and there's also an HR Manager opportunity I could maybe work my way into, but I don't know if I want to make that commute. It would be a good experience & help me build skills that, based on responses to my resume, I'm obviously lacking, but I don't know if is worth it to deal with the kind of problems I'd encounter. I'm friends with the HR Manager at the downtown Seattle store, and it's pretty much a HR nightmare to work in, especially considering it's a multi-union environment. But I'm not ready to go back. Not yet.

I should probably take a break from poker, maybe watch some TV or something. I've got a sore throat & I've been drinking Coke Zero because it feels better. Seriously, for a diabetic, Coke Zero is the shit. I can't believe I drank Diet Coke for so long; Coke Zero tastes much better. Anyways, thanks to a Noon wake up today and all the caffeine I've just had, I'll probably be up for a while.

Maybe I'll stay up to say hi to Wac before she goes on her run in the morning. It's not even two hours away. This could be a good system. I stay up, make sure she gets her shit together in time for work, then I go to sleep.

God I'm such a bum.

Friday, June 6, 2008

My Newest George Costanza Moment

So the good news is that my unemployment has finally kicked in. It's less than what I was making per week at my last job, but it's still enough to live on, and combined with what I have left over from my severance, I could potentially take the whole summer off, albeit I won't be living too comfortably.

And if I continue to fuck up the job search process like I may have this week, that's probably what I'm looking at.

I mentioned earlier this week that I was still waiting to hear back from two potential employers. One of the opportunities is with a company that I really would like to work for. They're a small upstart company that's doing really well, growing really fast, but also has a very relaxed and casual atmosphere. The position would allow me to get involved with a lot of projects that other positions I've applied for probably wouldn't allow. I last heard from them a week ago when the recruiter responded to my follow up email, letting me know they were still talking to other candidates and that they would follow up with me soon. Not the best sign, but not a decline either.

As an aside to the story, when I interviewed, I forgot to ask for a business card. I was so lured in by how casual the interview was that I left without thinking about it, so I didn't have a chance to get the manager's email to send him the requisite "Thank you" note. However, I did locate him via LinkedIn and sent a message to him that way. Now you're up to speed.

On Wednesday, I sent another follow up email to the recruiter to find out what was going on. I don't think it's unreasonable to send an email once a week to get an update. I also hadn't heard back from my email on LinkedIn, and when I checked the status, it said "In Progress" which I assumed meant it hadn't been delivered yet. So in the email to the recruiter, I gave a bogus claim that I had sent a "Thank You" note but it got bounce back to my email & asked him to confirm the email address for me so I could resend it. To me, it seemed like a reasonable situation.

Later that night, because I assumed that the LinkedIn email wasn't delivered, I tried to cancel it. Big mistake. When I canceled the email, it sent ANOTHER email to the manager stating that the original message was canceled & the reason (I used the default reason that "the timing of the request had changed".) I really don't want to know what their impression of me is now. It's not like any of this lessens my status as a qualified candidate, but if I'm on equal footing with another candidate, I'm sure they'd choose the one who doesn't bombard them with emails.

It doesn't help that I have all day to sit around and wait for responses. I like to think of myself as a patient person, and you would think I'm willing to be extremely patient since I'm getting compensated right now to not work, but beyond being patient, I hate uncertainty. I guess I just need to embrace this uncertainty for now & prepare myself for the "Summer of Matt" I originally thought I wanted. Because if I keep screwing myself with job opportunities, that's exactly what I'm going to get.

Monday, June 2, 2008


I'm 29 years old. I'll still be 29 for the next two and a half months. And in those 29+ years, only once in my life have I been comfortable with my body.

It was the summer before my sophomore year in high school. I was just getting over the biggest crush I'd ever had. Her name was Alexa (quite the stripper name, I know). Back then, at age 15, she was the hottest 14 year old I had ever seen.

Ugh. I'm cringing at the thought of how often this blog is going to come up in some sicko's Google search thanks to that last sentence. Anyways, back to the story.

I had a couple crushes before, but nothing like the one I had on Alexa. It seriously drove me crazy. I'm going to spare most of the details, because even 15 years later, I'm still embarrassed at some of the things I did, but let's just say that my "love" for her was expressed in every which way possible: love letters, phone calls, even flowers. Those fucking flowers. I was crushing on her so hard, I skipped Game 7 of the Western Conference Finals between the Suns & Sonics, when Barkley went for something like 43 & 17, just so I could go to the flower store without anyone knowing. If only she knew how deep my crush ran for her.

I finally got the hint sometime that summer when she continued to never return my calls. I knew why. She was a beautiful girl from a well-to-do family who was among the most popular kids in school, even as an 8th grader. I was a nerdy Freshman who wore too much hairspray in his hair, had over-sized glasses, and was, to put it politely, "on the heavier side." Things had to change, and so they did.

I started the transformation near the end of my Freshman year. I started skipping lunch, spending all my time on the basketball court, hoping that it would help me lose weight. Considering I never ate breakfast, this meant I was down to about one meal a day. And it started working.

I ditched the rest of the image as well. That summer, I convinced my parents to get contacts for me. I also talked my mom into spending money on the "cool" clothes, brands like Stussy, Mossimo (pre-Target era) and Guess. What she wouldn't buy for me, I used money that I got from selling basketball cards to buy more clothes. I got my hair cut short so that I wouldn't need hairspray to keep the helmet that I once sported.

I entered my sophomore year a new person: a svelte 150 pounds, thinner than I had ever been in my life. But new body & new clothes aside, my new image was still not enough to overcome the fact that I was still a huge dork, and I graduated high school without anything resembling a steady girlfriend.

High school. That was the last time I was happy with the way my body looked.

Anytime I've wanted to change my appearance, it's always been related, either directly or indirectly, to my pursuit of a female. That's probably not surprising; I'm sure there's thousands of fat guys trying to lose weight that probably wouldn't care about their weight if they were already banging strippers. I've tried to claim other motives for losing weight, i.e. training for a half-marathon, but even then, it was still mostly about a girl.

When I was diagnosed with the 'Betes, it changed my habits partially, and I'm somewhat happy to claim that my weight is the lowest it's been in years, even less than my half-marathon training days, but it's still not anywhere near confidence-building, and considering my weight is directly tied to how my body handles the 'Betes, I've still got a long way to go.

But I think I've finally found inspiration again, and this time, it's due to a woman. But it's not due to the pursuit of a woman. It's due to the woman I've already got.

Anytime I feel like I need inspiration to improve my health, I don't need to look any further than the other side of the bed and see my girlfriend, a woman who, quite literally, is not the same woman that was my girlfriend 2 years ago. This new woman, they share the same name, and they pretty much look the same in terms of physical features, but other than that, it's a new woman. A woman who is more than 75 pounds less than my girlfriend from two years ago. A woman who went from not wanting to walk 5 blocks from the apartment to the coffee shop to now wanting to run two half-marathons & a marathon this year alone. A woman who went from letting her appetite get the best of her to one that diligently watches everything she eats.

I don't need to find inspiration to change myself ever again, because I'm living with it.

A month ago, when we were driving back from Vancouver, B.C., I told Wac that I would run a half-marathon this year as well. I didn't even run the race, but I felt myself getting caught up in all the glory and energy that surrounded me as I watched the race. A contact runner's high.

October 4th, 2008. The Leavenworth Half-Marathon. That's the day that I confront 30 years of inadequacy at the finish line and give it the finger. The day when "woulda, coulda, shoulda" becomes "just did." The day that I finally accomplish something I've never been able to do, because I never had the right inspiration.

But I have it now.

And she's going to show my ass up the next day at the Portland Marathon, but that's OK. It's just more inspiration for me.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Deep Thoughts

It's 11:43pm as I begin this blog post. I'm pretty sure the neighbors upstairs have been humping off and on for an hour now. Either that, or they picked an odd time to try to put together some Ikea furniture.

I'm playing some online poker as I write this. I just folded a three-seven offsuit in the small blind. I think that was a good thing. I'm really not paying attention but usually, it is.

I'm still jobless. I have a couple of possibilities lined up, but it's waiting game time. I've done all I can with one employer & still have to interview with the other, but according to the recruiter, they sound very interested. The latter job probably starts me off higher but I think I prefer the first one because it's a better opportunity. It's more in line with where I want to be and it doesn't start out as a contract position like the second place would. I'm still living off of severance, but if I keep spending $150 a weekend at the bar then we'll have problems, so enough of that for now.

Of course, all this will change once my unemployment checks start rolling in. Hopefully, that's soon. It's being delayed because they have to "decide" if my school interferes with my ability to get a job. It's not hard to figure out; I go twice a week and it ends next Monday. Now just give me my money already.

I should have some more posts up this week. I've holed myself up in the apartment on most days just playing poker & job searching. I think I'll take a break for part of the week and hang out at the coffee shop instead. It's all dependent upon my ability to snag Wac's laptop while she's at work. Shouldn't be a problem.

I think the neighbors are done humping. Good, it's almost Monday.

Wac and I took first place in an Uno tournament at a friend's house tonight. I don't think people realize the skill involved in Uno. I was down to two cards in one round - a Wild and a blue 2. I had to play the Wild so I went for the ol' trickery play and declared the color to be Green. My plan worked perfectly when our friend Chris switched up the color to Blue just a couple cards away from me. Another friend, Kelli wasn't paying attention and switched it back to Green right before me. Way to inadvertently foil my plan. But I clinched a first place tie with Wac in the end, and snagged the title outright when I beat her in arm-wrestling. The prize? Some homemade banana bread. Of course, I'll be sharing it with her anyways.

I just busted out of a poker game on the first hand. I think that means it's bedtime.