Frank's morning cheer
Thursday, November 16 2000
I usually show up to work by 8:00 AM, if only because I know this will give me a couple hours undisturbed before the other slackards on my floor begin drifting in and making distractions. With my two hours of unsupervised time I do plenty of slacking off, mind you, writing whole entries of Randomly Ever After, reading everything worth reading at Salon.com, and obsessively checking all my various website stats as well as those of Bathtubgirl.com (which uses the same logging backend and display system as Vodkatea.com).
But this morning at about 8:10, bright and cheery and without warning, Frank, the UK guy who rather resembles Matt Rogers, came bounding into my cubicle as I was nearing the halfway point in my reading of an article at Wired.com about presidential election web satire. Straight away, as he would say, he wanted to know about my progress with publishing tools for the UK site. I'd been wading through vast tracts of code, some of it good, some of it not so good, and I was in no mood to talk about my estimations of how much longer this was going to take. I knew he was just doing his job, serving the role of project manager, but he was fucking up my routine and I would have been resentful had we not immediately changed the subject to something not work-related. It turned out that the reason Frank had shown up so early was that he had just moved into a place in West LA not more than a mile from my house to the east down Wilshire, and, riding a bicycle, he hadn't properly factored-in the decrease in commute time. He went on to tell me that he gotten drunk last night (no big surprise there), but he didn't look as bad as I felt, and my main problem was a simple lack of caffeine. The UK boys, who like tea every bit as much as I do, had to subsist entirely on Chamomile today; all the other company-provided tea had been used up.
Later in the day when Frank returned to my cubicle, we got to talking about a girl he knows back in the UK, a girl he'd like to "shag." She's a weird girl who once kept a paper maché hamster as a pet and thought it was just as good as a genuine living breathing animal until one day she got one. "It didn't last very long," said Frank, "she didn't know that live hamsters must be kept out of the cold." So then she got a stick insect, one of those big green twiggy relatives of the praying mantis that look a lot like green plant stems. She fed it various kinds of food coloring in hopes that she could make it be something other than green. But green was all it would ever be. So then one day when she was especially bored, she vacuumed it up with a vacuum cleaner. That was the last she ever saw of it. These days, the girl works with a company that manufactures large translucent plastic inflatable cones which are used as decorations and dance props at big British dance parties. People get inside them and dance and their shadows look all trippy projected up the side. When Frank showed me her web page the cones looked pretty cool until I realized that the dance party being depicted appeared as though it was taking place at the feet of giant Klansmen. "You're right," Frank agreed, "you could never have these in the states."
Finally today, at about 3pm, this whole UK project snapped into my neurology in a way that had been elusive up until now. At last I had a good sense of what needs to be done and what I need to do (and what I need others to do) to get there. I understood enough of the existing code and database schema to know how to affect the changes I need, and I knew precisely where to go to make these changes. Realizing I'd finally reached this point was a huge relief to me, removing the single biggest obstacle to my sense of personal happiness. Suddenly I had no desire to do the countless time wasting rituals I've been doing for the past weeks. I just wanted to write code and orchestrate the code I hadn't written but which I fully understood. So throughout the afternoon I worked at a feverish but thoroughly enjoyable pace, quickly arriving at the milestones I'd thought unattainable only two days before. I was mentally alert and happy even without the assistance of caffeine. The difference in my mood from this morning to this evening was like a change of season.
In the evening, John and I went down to our neighborhood Café to check out the free jazz they supposedly have on Thursday nights. And sure enough, a good 20 people were hanging out watching a three man jazz ensemble: a dreadlocked dude on the new house upright piano, an introspective older Native American guy on guitar, and a grey haired old black sax player dressed in a brown polyester suit. It was, you know, jazz, so I'm not much of a judge. But judging from how tight they were and their ability to echo each other's subtle tonal nuances, they were pretty good. I was still pumped up and full of life (Mentos stylee) from my renewed feeling of job satisfaction, so I had no use for caffeine. I actually needed a downer; I'd smuggled some vodka in with me in a plastic honey bottle, and I added it to my green tea after I'd drunk about a third of it. John was sleepy so we didn't stay long.
This fascinating election quagmire in Florida has its own culture, its own cast of characters, its own vernacular and maybe, like a forest fire or a major metropolitan area, even its own weather.
A butterfly ballot, a hanging chad and six dollars is pretty much all it takes to buy a six pack of Sierra Nevada.
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