Wednesday, June 30, 2010

8:52 a.m. in the garden of good and evil

It is kind of pitiful to think that I am only fifty something years old and I've run out of things to say. I've begun to understand why old people repeat themselves all of the time. Because the older you get, the more life seems to just repeat itself. You see the same movie and television plots over and over. Politicians spout the same rhetoric over and over, and the news reports the same stories over and over.

Sometimes I think the only way to be innovative is to lock yourself in a room, pull the blinds and ignore the rest of the world.

Though sometimes I believe I am blissfully obtuse about what is going on around me in the world. I watched the film, Battle in Seattle last night. It was a dramatization of the riots that took place in Seattle when the World Trade Organization met here in 1999.  Until I watched the film, I never really had a clue what the WTO was and why people were protesting it here. I live in the Seattle area and work in downtown Seattle. I was here during the riots and I pretty much only knew they were going on because it messed up my bus schedule at the time and I saw stuff about it on the local news.

I was oblivious to the whole Grunge music scene that was born in Seattle as well. Here Nirvana, Soundgarten and umpteen legendary groups were performing at clubs around town and I was totally unaware of them until Kurt Cobain blew his head off with a shotgun. So by the time I was aware I could have seen them perform for next to nothing, their concert tickets cost a fortune.

Apparently not being able to keep up with the latest on everything is another symptom of aging along with repeating yourself. By the time I am aware that something is cool, it has become uncool. It is really hard to be cool when you are middle aged. It will become nigh impossible when I am considered elderly.  Though this is why Dos Equis' Most Interesting Man in the World is my hero. He is the only near geriatric character I know of in the popular media who is cool.

But I've said that before so there I go repeatedly repeating myself again.


Thursday, June 24, 2010

In the zone

Under no circumstances would I consider myself an athletic person. I was more content as a kid to go to lay in my room in the summer and read books than joining a little league team. It is not that I didn't like to play baseball or football or other sports. I was just wasn't built to be a jock and I had little in the way of talent when it came to running, jumping or throwing.

Oh, I had a competitive nature, just no skills to back it up. So I shied away from competitive sports until I was in junior high and participated as a necessary evil to get service points and be recognized as a well rounded student in anticipation of getting into a good college. And though I tried hard in wrestling, basketball and tennis, I was less than mediocre in all of them.

I was an 'A' student in everything but physical education. I hated it with a passion. And one of the things I hated most about it was running. My 7th grad PE instructor used running as a punishment so I grew to loath it. I developed a psychosomatic cough I'm sure was related to running the dreaded "cross country" in P.E.

I say all of this because now, at this juncture in my middle aged life, I find myself running. Oh, not all the time, but for the past year I've just about gone to the gym everyday. And to mix up my workout, I alternate between an elliptical machine and jogging on the treadmill. The longest I have jogged on any given day is an hour, but believe me, that is something that I would never have dreamed I would attempt a year ago, let alone accomplish.

After a year of doing this, I have built up enough endurance that I'm not gasping for breath after three minutes. But psychologically, I have to say I dread running as much as I did as a teenager. I just wish I could achieve that "zone" they talk about where you get euphoric, pumped with the chemicals released when you exercise vigorously. I even try bending time like I've written about so that an hour running on the treadmill only seems like a few minutes. But I get pulled in by the gravitational pull of the ticking off of the seconds on the treadmill clock, turning the hour into an eternity.

But as much as I dread it, I force myself to go to the gym everyday. It is too easy to string together excuses for not working out into stopping all together. And then, instead of dreading going to the gym, I'd dread looking in the mirror.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Lost Verizon

Last fall, just before my annual fee was due for my independent Internet provider, I decided to look into consolidating my telephone, Internet and television into a "bundled" package and save the hassle of dealing with three different providers. Supposedly I would save money, too. I was inundated with direct mail from the major companies like Verizon and Comcast claiming each one was the best. I ended up choosing Verizon FIOS, because something about fiber optics just sounded cool and Verizon seemed to be cheaper than Comcast.

Big mistake.

Verizon was already our telephone provider (mainly because they were our only choice in the area we live in). And I must admit that getting the Internet and FIOS television set up was pretty simple. I was replacing Direct TV as our television provider (who I never heard boo from until I cancelled). I'd had satellite television for many years and had never been thrilled with DirectTV's incomprehensible pricing and program selection. I was also not thrilled that occasionally the signal would disappear during inclement weather and customer service would simple tell me that occasional signal loss was common if it was raining.

I live in the Seattle area. Enough said.

So Verizon dug around our property and installed fiber optics cables for our television, Internet and telephone. I set up a single billing account and got a sweet selection of premium and HD channels. It all seemed to work okay, though I don't really see a difference between regular and HD channels. But then again that could be my television. And I like the on demand feature that Direct TV didn't offer (until after I dropped them). But I didn't like that the signal would pixelate occasionally and the troubleshooting guide could only tell me that I should make sure my television was connected to the fiber optics cables.

My biggest problem with Verizon isn't the television, the Internet or the telephone. They all work. My biggest problem with Verizon is their stinking Web site. I have been using the Internet Highway since it was a dirt road and I have never experienced a more frustrating Web site and terrible customer service. First of all you can wander on their site for days without finding the information you are looking for. All I want to do is see what services I am paying for and how much. And, although the Web site claims this is possible, it  just sends me into a loop continuously asking me to enter my user name and password whenever I try and access this information.

My other big problem with Verizon is that they sold all of there service rights in Washington to Frontier Communications and beginning July 1, everything is switching to the new company who swears that we won't notice any change in our services. As a person who works in marketing, this statement makes my blood run cold. It is a statement fraught with snake pits of despair. I am sure our service will change. And even if it doesn't change, it means it will continue to suck the same way it did with Verizon.

The sad thing about all this is that I don't think anything would be better with Comcast. Oh they probably wouldn't have sold their assets in Washington, but I seriously doubt I'd have any luck navigating their Web site to see my account information. Plus I don't like their television commercials showing customer service people helping their customers use their televisions for Karaoke. This is wrong on so many levels.

I am not sure why we even have a home telephone anyway. We never use the land line. And Verizon's wireless service was too expensive to use even if we'd bundled it with the rest of the package. I actually am not sure I even want a phone period since I have made it clear on many occasions that the telephone is the devil.

The only thing I really want is a fast Internet connection and on demand television. I don't give a rip about the 400 channels of crap or local programming. Just let me watch episodes of Treme, Gravity, Party Down, Spartacus Blood and Sand, Dexter, True Blood and some almost first run movies any time I want and I'm a happy camper.

I am a simple man.

So in the long run, I guess I don't give a rip that I won't be paying whatever I'm paying for television, phone and Internet to Verizon. Let's just hope that Frontier doesn't panic and just sell everything to Comcast.  Maybe someone could plant the idea in Apple's corporate brain that they should just take over the world and run everything. I bet you could find your bill on their Web site (and even download it on you iPod or phone). But then I'd have to get one.


Thursday, June 10, 2010

North of going south

Elvis at the Hard Rock in Puerto Vallarta

An adoring Elvis fan in Puerto Vallarta
It has been more than a week since I posted because I have been on vacation with my family in Puerto Vallarta. I did have computer access while I was south of the border and could have posted, however, I have learned from blogging for almost six years that you don't broadcast to the world when you are out of town.

There are other things you learn from blogging. If you have a blog open to anyone (which is the only way to do it if you want anyone to read it) you also shouldn't post pictures of your family or identifiable personal information that can be used by identity thieves. In addition you probably shouldn't use your blog as a confessional, diss on religions, political parties or your right wing or born again brothers. Anything that would trigger a visit  from Homeland Security is probably not a prudent thing to blog about, either.

But I digress.

Although I had Internet access in Mexico the last thing I really wanted to do was sit in my room blogging, Tweeting, checking in on Four Square or updating my Facebook page. It was an all inclusive resort, so the only thing I wanted to do was go to the beach, the pool, the restaurant and the bar. It was also 85 degrees and sunny everyday so if I hung out in the room posting every day, I would have pretty much have deserved the title of pathetic loser.

 I tell you, I love Mexico. I love the contradictions of the culture. I love the consistent inconsistency. You can order the same dish at a restaurant every day and it will be different every time. And although there are signs posted about dress codes and restrictions on the pool use, no one (staff or customers) pays the slightest bit of attention to them. I also love the fact that you can see a construction project going on and come back five years later and see the same construction project going on without any apparent progress. And I love the fact that the only music they seem to play in resort hotels is Michael Jackson't Thriller album. Finally, I love that you can say, "Stay thirsty my friends" to a bartender a hundred times and they still smile at you and nod even though they think you are just a stupid, drunken gringo.

I will not rail on American tourists in Mexico. I didn't see that much bad behavior on this trip. And regardless, probably 70 percent of the people at the resort were Mexican and not Americans anyway. On one visit to downtown Puerto Vallarta, I did see the throngs from the cruise ships plodding along like a scene from Night of the Living Tourist, though, melting from the heat and humidity. I saw the look of desperation in their eyes as they pawed through the $4 t-shirts and sampled flavored tequilas, glancing at their wristwatches to make sure they had time to make it to Senior Frogs before they had to pour themselves back on the ship.

My Mexico  t-shirt and Senior Frog days are over. I like to wear a shirt more than once before it shrinks three sizes and becomes a dust rag. And I like to think I have too much gray hair and dignity to do Jello shots and dance on tables at Senor Frogs.

I do give into my vice of purchasing Cuban cigars to smoke while I am in Mexico. I went into a shop that declared it sold only genuine Cuban cigars and was ushered into a air conditioned walk-in humidor where a old gentleman originally from New York who reminded me of Tony Soprano's uncle soft sold me on buying three small Habano's to get a ten percent discount. He showed me his machine that he'd paid $400 for to identify genuine Cuban cigar's from the secret hologram on the box seal.  Then he ushered me to the cash register where he had to use a thumb print scanner before the cashier could give me my 10 percent discount on my 110 peso cigars. I felt like I scammed them because they also gave me a box of matches and a cool little mesh bag to carry the cigars in.

Other than the obvious money making angle, I have to confess I don't understand the whole time share scam. Every Mexican resort town I have ever been too has a cadre of people bent on getting you to spend three hours on a hard sell pitch to invest in a time share in exchange for a free breakfast and cab ride. The minute you step out of baggage claim at the airport you run this gauntlet of people tugging at your shirt sleeve, handing you maps, and insisting they have your shuttle to your hotel. Like Nigerian spammers, they must get enough rubes who have apparently been living in a cave, fall for the scam and get locked in a room with three guys and a PowerPoint selling the merits of vacationing in the same place at the same time for a week out of each year for the next twenty years of your life.

I have always wondered why cruise ships don't have the equivalent of a time share. Then you would at least get the option of seeing different ports on your vacation.

But I digress again.

Despite the time share people and the guys trying to get me to jump into a harness attached to a parachute and be towed around Banderos Bay, I basically had a nice vacation. It helped make up for the torture of ten hours of air travel and near full body cavity search I endured at the gate leaving Puerto Vallarta (I think the security person was also a time share salesperson).

Now that I am back in the land of perpetual precipitation, Mexico is just a dream (which is coincidentally the name of the resort we stayed at).  I will now give it a few days and then start planning for my next trip south.

Maybe I should have bought one of those time shares.