Saturday, October 30, 2010

July 31, 2000 - Journal entry: Part II

I have been writing today's entry in the Charter House. I am at the Mayo Employee Orientation. Safety is being discussed right now. I think I get paid for this orientation session. I'll have to look at my paycheck in a few weeks.

Anywho, I start my regular job tomorrow at 9am. I got the call this morning when I was checking messages, on a break from orientation. I'm to report to the 20th floor of Mayo. Sweet. We'll see how that goes.

This session today isn't quite as boring as I thought it would be. It's not as exciting as looking for videos and CD's in Pawn America, but what is? The thing I love about PA is that I never know what I'm going to find there. They currently have all CD's priced at $2.99 or $1.99. A few days ago, I bought the Spice Girls' "Spice World" there.

It wasn't a great CD, but it only cost about $3.00.

Movies are cool, too. A couple weeks ago, they had "The Matrix Special Edition" for only $5.00. What a deal. I like to go to PA often enough where I have a good chance to look at the new stuff before too many other people have that chance. Otherwise, that CD or video will be gone. I'd rather not go too often, though, or else I'm just looking at the same old shit all the time. So, I try to strike a balance. I haven't been there in about 3 days, so I'm probably due.

You may ask, when does this stop? When do you have enough of these things where you don't need to go to Pawn America any longer? That's a good question and one that I'm sure Dori would like to know the answer to. My response to that is as long as there is a video or CD that I am interested in purchasing, PA serves a purpose.

Virtually all the videotapes I have purchased over the last few months have been previously viewed (used). It's much easier to justify $5 for a used video or CD than $15-$20 for a new one. Of course, if GB comes out with a new recording, I'm there right away. I'm not going to wait for used stuff in that case.

I occasionally go to Broadway Records and Face the Music for used CD's, but they usually don't have too much. For videos, I also go to Hollywood Video and Blockbuster Video. Hollywood's PVT's are fairly expensive, though. PA is the most enjoyable place for me. Their low prices and good selections make it a can't-miss for me. Okay, Dori?

Dori has stopped taking her birth control pills. Why the hell would she do that? Well, I actually approved it. Hard to believe, but true. She's doing pretty good. She LOVES her new job. We are financially strapped right now. But her check will go a long way to helping us out. She gets that in about a week.

Well, there you have it. The history of these past 6 months. They have been quite eventful, to say the least. I hope it's not 6 months before I write another entry. Let me close by saying that Dori is cute.

I forgot to mention that Arthur moved to Illinois last month. I'll give more details on that at a later date. That's it for now. All is well. I am joyful. I am loving. I am accepting. I am blessing. I am grateful. I am that I am. Amen.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

A Hike to Sugar Loaf: Part II

As we walked, we came closer and closer to the foot of the hill. It was absolutely divine. I began to show a little apprehension because I wasn't exactly sure where the path started. I made an educated guess and directed the boys to follow me. There were still houses nearby. But we were about to leave all that.

We started climbing. My guess was right. We continued to climb, higher and higher up from the rest of the world. Occasionally, the boys would look back down at the houses far below. We climbed for about 20 minutes. It was getting hot. Right before we started the climb, we had stopped to have a drink from our water bottles near a water tower which marked the beginning of the path. But the weather was making us thirsty again. I told the boys that the perfect place to stop for a drink was right around the corner.

We hiked for a few more minutes and we were about three-quarters up the hill of Sugar Loaf. There was a niche in the hill and we stopped there for some Doritos and a cold drink. As the persons of my party began consuming the goods, I showed them that just yards away was a fantastic view of Winona. The boys moved near the cliff and ate with their legs dangling over the edge enjoying the view. My siblings and their friend were loving it all! After about 10 minutes, we were ready to hike the rest of the way.

You could see on their faces that the boys were excited. I had them wrapped around my finger. My every word was their command! We hiked for a few more minutes and then, a spectacular sight! It was Sugar Loaf! We were only about fifty yards from touching the rock itself! We were on the top of the hill of Sugar Loaf! Matt, one of my brothers, let out an "awesome!" and the rest of them were amazed, too. They had grown up all their lives seeing Sugar Loaf hundreds of feet above the ground on a hill. Now they were standing before it as if it were a god.

I decided to seize the moment. I had taken a few pictures with my brother, Brian's camera at the spot where we stopped for a snack break. But THIS was a real opportunity. I took a picture of the boys running around and trying to climb the rock. Then, I got a shot of the scenic view below of Winona. Finally, I had them all pose in front of the rock and took a snapshot of that. The rock towered over all of them in the picture.

Soon afterward, a few dozen men and women arrived on the scene with some kind of military man leading them all. Several of these people were carrying ropes with them. We watched as the military man briefed the others keeping a safe distance away from the group. Shortly afterward, about half of the people went down the hill. The others stayed and several began scaling the rock. We watched for a little while, had some more water and Doritos, and then decided to head back.

About halfway down the hill, we came across the rest of the group. A rope was extended from one part of the side of the hill to another. Members of the group were taking turns sliding down the rope by holding onto some sort of a handle. We stayed out of their way as we continued down the hill. We made it to the watertower and the end of the trail.

We walked the rest of the way home and spoke happily about our little adventure. My idea of showing them Sugar Loaf had turned into a total success!

[Teacher's comments: Nice job, Tom! (A)]

Monday, October 25, 2010

70's Memories

Before posting the conclusions of my last two entries, I thought it'd be fun to discuss some of the earliest memories I have. I've already talked about the time in kindergarten that I stank up the toilet as well as the day that I struck another student. Now here are some "all-new" memories:

I went to kindergarten and 1st grade at a school called Jefferson Elementary.

One week, every student at the school was given a card in which they could vote on which animal they'd like to be the new Jefferson mascot. I circled the one I wanted and was a bit disappointed when the pick I made didn't win.

Our PhyEd teacher looked a great deal like Charles Nelson Reilly.

During those years, I walked six blocks to school. On one cold morning, I arrived at the school to find the doors locked. Not seeing anybody inside, I walked back home. I told my mother what had happened. She looked through some papers in a kitchen drawer. A minute later, she found what she was looking for and told me that there was no school that day.

I sometimes walked to school with Ricky and/or Shelly Smith. I don't believe they were related. They just happened to have the same name. On one occasion, Ricky said he knew about a short cut to school. We went through some brush and railroad tracks to get there. I wasn't sold, so continued to take the conventional way.

One afternoon, on my way to school, I passed my uncle John; he worked at a factory called Wincraft and was sitting on the front stoop eating a sandwich. He said, "Hi" to me and smiled.

On another afternoon, I was walking home with my sister. As we approached the railroad tracks, I saw that a train was coming. Knowing I could make it across before the train came, I sped up a bit and asked my sister to do the same. Understandably feeling a bit nervous about the situation, she elected to wait. I easily made it across and then looked back at my sibling patiently waiting. Not wanting to wait for her, I resumed walking home.

In kindergarten, one afternoon, my teacher Mrs. Untiet was outside with us kids. She asked me why I'd be missing school for a couple days the following week. I didn't really know how to say that it was for a religious gathering. She kept asking things like, "Is it for a family reunion? Is it to see friends? Vacation?" I was so frazzled with all the kids around and feeling like I was being unfairly questioned that I began to cry.

My parents bought me a nice watch in 1st grade. It was green and my teacher, Ms. Whetstone, complimented me on it one morning.

Standing half a block from my house one day, an older teenager came up to me on the sidewalk and started conversing with me. At one point, he grabbed me so that I could not get away. I said that my mother was calling. I know mom and dad probably told me not to lie, but I think they'd understand in this case. The older boy said she wasn't calling, but let me go, anyway.

I went into the fridge one afternoon to get something to drink. There was a sippy cup, so I took a sip. I quickly spit it out when I realized that it was milk; I'm lactose and didn't suspect that that's what the sippy contained.

A fellow Jehovah's Witness gave each of us kids presents one evening. That was done, in part, to show that although Witnesses don't celebrate birthdays or Christmas, they would still be able to get gifts. This didn't end up happening as much as it should've. Nevertheless, on this night, I was given a small safe. Jim Dembraski, the gift bearer, showed me how to work the combination, but it was a bit complicated for my 6-year old mind to grasp. To help, he marked lines on the numbers that I was supposed to turn the knob to. I'm not sure what I ever put in that safe, but my siblings never figured out that an answer key to getting into it was staring them right in the face. At around this time, my parents also bought us a Holiday Inn playset.

My first crush was a girl named Courtney. At the tender age of 7, I fantasized that all the boys in our classroom were lined up and it was up to Courtney to choose the one she most wished to be with. There's no need to say that in this fantasy, she wound up choosing me. I saw her, for the first time in many years, in July of 2009, the occasion being our 20-year reunion. I desired to talk to her, but she hung close to the bar with her husband at her side and a beer in her hand. Just being able to look at her from time to time that evening brought me peace and a shot of nostalgia that I was able to live on for a few days.

The events I've just described transpired 35 years ago, an incredible amount of time. Despite this, I've come to realize that I'm never that far removed from the young boy who experienced them.

Friday, October 22, 2010

July 31, 2000 - Journal entry

Much has changed in the last 6 months since I wrote in this journal. The reason I haven't written is because after we moved into our house, I lost track of this journal. I just noticed it lying on the basement floor yesterday afternoon. I read the previous entries with amusement, to say the least. They brought back a lot of memories.

Well, we did move into our home during the latter part of January. It didn't take too long to get used to it. I thought due to the smaller space, I wouldn't like it as much as the townhouse, but I do love it now.

We had a bit of a scare this morning. I woke up at about 5:30am wondering where Brandy (our Saint Bernard) was. She wasn't in the bathtub. She wasn't lying by the front door. I saw Zoe's leash hanging in the front door. That's the leash we've been using for Brandy because she broke hers. Dori likes to keep Brandy through the leash in the front yard late at night because it's easier to bring her in. That backfired today, though.

I didn't see her lying in the front yard. I opened the door and the leash was broken off. Dori said she left Bran out there and she had been out there quite a while. So, I told her that the horse was loose. I started walking down the sidewalk. I then realized that it would be more efficient to bike. I didn't think that she could have gone too far, but you never know. I was more concerned that someone may have taken her.

I needn't have worried. I saw her walking in back of our fence which is in our neighbors' back yard. Those neighbors are from Hidden Valley. So, I put the bike away and went to get her. Dori came out and helped me get Brandy. She was in another neighbors yard by then. She was walking with part of a leash around her neck. We brought her home. Dori thanked God as did I. Interesting morning, but things turned out good.

(Here she is, four years later)

Well, I don't work for Rochester Technical Services any longer. No, no more surfing the internet, no more transferring irates to Scott Ladwig, no more, "Western Digital Rebate Center, this is Tom, how can I help you?" Western Digital went with a more inexpensive rebate house in Young America. But we did get 2 weeks severance pay, which was pretty sweet. All's well that ends well. Paul Hegseth and company are closing up shop supposedly this week. I will miss that place But I am very thankful for the time (10 months) that I spent there.

I worked at Premiere Video South this past week.

I worked there Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Saturday. My feet got mighty sore. Wearing dress shoes when you're standing for an all-day shift sucks, so I wore tennis shoes on Saturday. You see, on Thursday, the two people who came in to replace me were basically wearing white tennys. So, I did it myself on Saturday. My feet were still sore, but not as bad. It also sucks not getting a break when working weekdays. Therefore, working at Premiere isn't something I can or will do full-time, maybe not even part-time for very long.

But the free movies are sweet. "American Movie" was a hilarious documentary. I also got to see "Beethoven's 3rd" and "The Beach" before they were released on video. Premiere will be a supplemental job that I will be working 10-20 hours a week until it no longer suits me. I'd probably rather work at the North store, but there were no openings. The South store isn't quite as busy as I thought it would be, which is good. I'm making $6.50/hr which isn't great, but isn't bad.

(To Be Continued)

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

A Hike to Sugar Loaf

My mother recently unearthed the following piece which I wrote for 12th Grade English. The assignment was to write a narrative, something that's turned into a specialty for me of late. Written in the spring of 1989, it is the true tale of a journey I'd recently made with my brethren:

It was Saturday morning. Looking outside, I saw that it was going to be a fine day. There were only a few clouds in the sky and a light breeze was blowing to the west. The sun was about halfway up the horizon. It was mid-April 1988. I was still getting used to the warm weather after months of snow and cold.

Suddenly, an idea came. I thought back to the summer of '87 when a friend had taken me up on a hike to Sugar Loaf.

I had never been to Sugar Loaf prior to that. My brothers had never been there before. Why not show them the sights and have a good time on a lovely Saturday afternoon?

One of my brothers, Mike, had invited someone to stay over the night before. This friend of his, Pat, would be staying until this afternoon, so why not invite him also and add to the fun? My brothers, Pat, and I, the five of us, could get some supplies together and hike up to Sugar Loaf and I could be the leader because I was the only one who had ever been up there before. I wondered if I still knew the paths that would lead to the top of the hill of Sugar Loaf. After all, I hadn't been up there for a year and I had only been up there once in my whole life. I decided to risk it.

I asked my brothers and Pat if they would like to go. I described the majesty of seeing Sugar Loaf up close and the spectacular view of the city below. They agreed, Pat being the most enthused about it. So we proceeded to get our supplies organized. We decided to bring a red, medium-sized backpack on our journey. It would carry 5 water bottles, 1 for each of us to drink from. We would also bring some Doritos along to eat. We figured that we could "crunch all we wanted". Doritos Co. would "still make more" (reference to Doritos' late-80's ad campaign). Finally, we brought a camera. I put it in a separate compartment in the backpack so that it would not get wet from the water bottles.

We made plans to leave at about 11am. It was agreed that I would lead the party, since I was the only one who knew the way and that I would carry the backpack for the duration of the much-heralded hike. We made final preparations and left. Sugar Loaf is about a mile from my house. We decided to walk there.

It was turning out to be a beautiful day. The sun was high overhead and an air of expectation could be felt throughout our small group. I pointed out Sugar Loaf and said, "Well, in about an hour, you boys will be standing right next to that rock". The boys couldn't wait.

(To Be Continued)

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

My 23-Year Old Self Tries to Get You to Feel Bad For Him

Last week, I came across a paper I did in college called Stress: How Managers and Employees Can Deal With It. It opens by describing a job I had a number of years before. Since I've yet to talk about this particular position, I figured I'd just let the words I wrote back in 1994 tell the tale:

While attending Winona State in 1991, I found a part-time job at Sammy's Pizza in downtown Winona.

I worked two or three nights a week and was paid minimum wage. I was a kitchen worker who did dishes, sliced cheese, heated up spaghetti, ravioli, and lasagna, and also ran the chicken fryer.

I liked the kitchen because it was relatively quiet and I didn't have to worry about dealing with unruly customers. It was a decent job, but when it got busy on the weekends or on buffet nights, I had a tendency to get stressed out. I tried to stay relaxed, but with three or four things to do at once, it wasn't easy.

I usually got to take a half-hour break in the late evening, but if there was too much to do, I had to skip it, which made for a very long night. In other words, if we weren't busy, I could take a break, but if the restaurant was crowded, I just had to keep working and working. This caused me much anxiety, so I told management that I only wanted to work one or two nights. Many weekends I desperately wanted to quit when the work began to overwhelm me.

Last fall, I finally came to the end of my rope. I walked out (actually snuck out the back door) at about ten o'clock one evening. I just couldn't stand another minute. I was going through a major depression. The pain I felt can scarcely be expressed. I went to the bottom of the barrel and stayed there. But, through medication and therapy, I was able to claw my way out.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Rochester Post-Bulletin

Referencing Barb Kasel's letter to the editor from Oct. 5, it's well-known that Christ makes no explicit judgment on homosexuality in the Bible; those who like to push an anti-gay agenda invariably turn to Deuteronomy to back them up.

If being gay is as much an outrage as some seem to think it is, it befuddles me why Jesus made no mention of it. Ultimately, Jesus' message was one of unconditional love.

Efforts to deny homosexuals the right to marry has led to situations where one party is not allowed to visit the hospital room of their partner, even when they are on their death bed, because they are not related. It's obvious in such cases what the most loving thing to do is. Similarly, some of the issues that the Catholic Church now faces could be alleviated, at least somewhat, by giving priests the right to marry.

To those who would say that marriage should only be between a man and a woman, I say that those of a different sexual orientation are no less committed to love and happiness than the rest of us. To put restrictions on who we may share our love with is antithetical to the kind of love that is attributed to Christ in the New Testament.

Thomas Dixon

(link to article, which has more than 100 comments)

Friday, October 08, 2010

April 14, 1994 - Journal entry

It rained all night as the thunder rolled across the valley. The boom of the storm reminded him of the unrest of his life. His grief was far-reaching and deep. The sky was cold and gray. Would the sun ever shine on him again?

He had tried to stop the rain, but it continued to fall endlessly. You can't change the past. You can only live and learn. Second-guessing wastes precious time. But the rain wouldn't let him forget. The sky and rain and trees seemed to merge into an ugly mass. He drifted off to sleep losing consciousness forever.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Miller Felpax

My second job out of high school (you can read about the first here) was a summer position at a local factory called Miller Felpax. It was the summer of 1990, twenty years ago. During my interview, I told the supervisors that my wish was to work four days; even back then, I didn't see the point of putting forty hours in. The reason that I wanted Fridays off, however, had to do with me wanting to see all the cool new movies on opening day. Of course, I didn't tell the higher-ups that this was my reason for requesting the hours I did. As the interview ended, I was told that I couldn't wear the tennis shoes I had on; that the job required steel-toed boots.

Biking the two miles to work wearing those monstrous shoes definitely took some getting used to. For the first few days, over lunch, I biked the three blocks to my dad's house to have a sandwich and some chocolate. He liked seeing me, but the intrusion and the amount of food I ate behooved him to forbid me to come during these times for most of the duration of the summer.

For the first couple weeks, I did standard factory work that involved machines and trying not to look at the clock much. Break time was always welcomed. I mostly used the time to get a glass bottle of Orange pop out of the old-time machine. That stuff really hit the spot; keep in mind that this was the most taxing work I'd done thus far in my life.

On Friday, June 15th, me and my 10-year old cousin, Andy, went to "Gremlins 2: The New Batch". We had waited years to see the follow-up to the 1984 movie. Well, he probably didn't anticipate it as greatly as I as he was only 4 when his mom took him to it; she figured the Spielberg production would be as tame as his last film, "E.T". He had tons of nightmares from it and couldn't even go to the bathroom by himself for some time, so sure was he that a gremlin would get him when no one was around; this happened to a lot of kids, so much so that along with "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom", it helped bring about the PG-13 rating.

By summer 1990, however, he was healed and was more than happy to accompany me. I picked him up and we biked to the theatre. The film turned out to be more of a comedy than truly scary. One of my favorite lines is when the main character, Billy, gets off the elevator at a Trump-type corporation and is told by an automated female voice to "Have a powerful day".

One morning, later that month, I was cussed out by my main boss, Ed Becker, for not coming to work one morning when we received torrential rain; I wasn't going to bike in that.

I told him it wouldn't happen again. As time passed, I was given various odd jobs such as painting and sweeping. Two of the painters were also summer hires, in fact, they were fellow graduates of mine from the spring before. Dressed in their white jumpsuits, their job was to repaint the exterior of Felpax. One afternoon, I was asked to help, but the sun was so bright that I couldn't do so until I was given a pair of goggle sunglasses. Not too long after, my closest high school friend, Brian, was also hired. Becker said he hoped that Brian would be a harder worker than me. I just shrugged my shoulders.

"Days of Thunder" opened in late June and a friend of my brother's named Pat came over one weekday evening wanting me to accompany him to it. Now this wasn't because he was looking for my company. No, he was under the impression that "Thunder" was rated R, so was looking for an adult's supervision. I told him there was no way that "Thunder" was R and told him to hit the theatre. I found out some time later that he was behind the potato that was thrown through my outside living room window (it didn't damage the inner one). The caretakers wondered how I didn't hear the noise when it occurred. I said that I slept quite soundly and had a fan for white noise.

One morning, I was helping a man who was working one of the machines. While I stood and gave him the parts, the man, seated on a metal stool, put them through some kind of cutter. The boss came by a short time later and it was just then that the seated man stretched his back, grimaced, and said that his back was killing him, that a cushion or back rest would be much appreciated. Becker told him that work wasn't a place in which to be comfortable. My dislike for him grew a great deal on that day.

In early July, I saw "Die Hard 2: Die Harder"; the audience laughed on Letterman when Bruce Willis told them the movie's title.

Over a number of days, me and Brian painted a wire fence. To do so, we used gloves that allowed us to use our fingers to reach all portions of the fence. One morning, I was in front of the building and spilled a substance on the ground. I went inside to one of the bosses, Merlin, and told him what happened. He said he didn't believe it could be removed. My stomach sank. Thankfully, he was able to save my ass and get the residue out.

One day, Brian was assigned to go to the roof and paint some of the fixtures up there. Sometime later, Ed went up there to check on his progress. He found him just sitting there, meditating on the meaning of life, perhaps, not a bad idea as working there was hands down the worst job I ever had. I can still see Brian driving away a few minutes later, waving at me. I didn't find out until later that he had been fired.

I went to "Arachnophobia" in late July and enjoyed the Spielbergian overtures of the film. The audience was really into it.

On a number of occasions, Ed complained that he should've hired a guy who could put the full 40 hours in. One day, while working on a machine, it got stuck. I called for Ed who, as he fixed it, said, "Stupid people". Not too long after, he said he hoped that I'd end up finding a job in which I used my head (as opposed to my hands).

In August, I caught "Flatliners", a provocative movie dealing with death and its aftermath.

During my last few hours at Felpax, Ed had me take solids out of a large barrel filled with oil. Though he may have tried, he was unable to break my spirit. A week later, my stepdad mentioned how proud he was of the fact that I worked at a factory all summer. A couple years later, I saw in the paper that Becker had died. Me and Brian talked about our favorite memories of him before saying a prayer for the souls who were stuck with him in Hell.