Minor Life Failures: Can't Guess What's Coming to Dinner

There you are, sitting around at home on some random night when it happens...you hear your stomach make its first audible rumbles of protest at your failure to put something in it for the past 8 or more hours. Normally, this is the time when you would get up and prepare something to eat. You get up to go check the refrigerator...leftover pork chops, mustard, still-frozen beef chocolate pudding, suspect lunchmeat, tuna cans left over from Y2K...nothing of interest. (For you right now, anyway...let a starving foreign child or a man who married a woman who can't cook in your pantry, and I'll bet they'd find something to snack on. That's just my mommy talking though, I understand.)

Slightly defeated, you go back to the couch to regroup and consider more desperate options. Do you use some as-yet-undiscovered safe and instant method of defrosting to make the ground beef a factor? No, you don't have a nuclear reactor lying around the crib and it's after 9, so you don't feel like waiting that long. Do you heat up the pork chops? Nah...you've been eating those for the past 3 nights...don't really have a taste for them tonight. (Yes, sometimes hunger is not enough of a reason to eat food.)

Just as your rumbings of hunger become the roar of a Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning fighter jet, (that's "loud as fuck" for those who don't know aircraft or context clues) out of the corner of your eye, you spot salvation held to the refrigerator with fruit-shaped magnets...takeout menus! Brilliant! You take them down and begin to scour them, looking to create a perfect meal tailored to your unusually specific tastes this evening. The deliverable culinary world is now your oyster (or pizza or Chinese or whatever you end up ordering).

After over 15 minutes of careful deliberation and customization, your order is now a complete thought. It represents the end of an internal struggle that may have lasted hours, and a feeling of accomplishment washes over you as you pick up the phone and dial the number to the restaurant. The dial tone becomes the soundtrack to your edible fantasies, visualizations that appear in such detail that your tongue would become aroused if it could. After a few rings, the phone is answered. The voice on the other end is like a chorus of angels as they speak the sweetest words audible to a hungry and lazy person: "can I take your order?"

"You damn sure can...", you think to yourself as you begin to intimate your desires to the listening ear of the person on the other end. After likely listening to your entire order, the order-taker suddenly becomes the undertaker of your food-based hopes and dreams. They calmly but firmly inform you that they are out of the things you wanted (or at least key ingredients of them). You resist the urge to curse their name (if they told you what it was at the start of the phone call...and if not, what kind of phone answerererer are they?) drop to your knees, and loudly lament the inequities in the world as you consider your options at that juncture.

Your first option is to immediately select another less-preferable item from the menu. However, 49% of the point of ordering food is to get exactly what you want...so while it doesn't quite defeat the purpose, it does give it a serious upset scare. Option 2 is to hang up and repeat the entire process with another menu, maybe even trying to replicate the offerings of one restaurant with another's food. Of course, we all know that rarely works out...besides, figuring all that out would take another 15 minutes that your stomach ain't willing to wait.

As most of us have been trapped at this nexus of inconvenience and indecision once or twice, I'm sure we're more familiar with option 3 than we'd like. That, of course, is combining items already in your home into a strange, unsatisfying meal...or even eating nothing but angry sleep soon afterward. It's a stupid problem to have, starving in a home full of things that can be eaten...but then, we live in a first-world country. Having stupid problems is what makes us great (unless my Wi-Fi doesn't work...then everything life pretty much sucks).


The Extra Point

*fittedwearer's note: Happy Presidents' Day! Today, many of us get a day off from work in order to observe leaders of our nation, from the rebellious slaveowners that founded this country to the one tall guy with the Rick Rossian beard who always wore that hat, all the way up through the ones that most of us still can't name without having recently watched this episode of 90's classic cartoon "Animaniacs" (...seriously, why don't they make kids programs like that any more? I grew up watching people get whacked with hammers and anvils, seeing genetically-altered mice attempting to take over the world, finding out what mafia pigeons do in their spare time, and learning the name of every country in the world at the time in the same half-hour...where is that for today's youth? Let me find out this is yet another thing I have to handle myself) to the recent ones I can completely change the tone of this post with depending on which of numbers 40-44 I would choose to mention.

That's all great, but I'm not here to talk about that today...this is less presidents and more precedents. (Besides, I just used up most of my material on the subject.) Nobody's going to say I didn't nod at it though...could land me on some kind of America-hater watchlist I'm not famous enough to deal with yet. Anyway, let's get on topic, this is a more important debate than any candidate has participated in...that we know of. (Stay with me too...this ain't about football, trust me.)

If you have a passing awareness of football, you know that a touchdown is the scoring play in which a player crosses the goal line. Each time a team scores a touchdown, they are awarded 7 points toward their final score. Of course, if you really know football, you know that that's not entirely accurate. Yes, the vast majority of the time--I'd wager over 98%--a team gets in the end zone, 7 points result. However, there is one overlooked detail that can mean the difference between a sucessfully converted score and a somewhat confusing result that can leave people scratching their heads and even have a disastrous effect on the game at large: the extra point.

The extra point in football takes the form of a 20-yard field goal, and is a largely token play with a minimal amount of suspense. (In some video games like NFL Blitz, they skip it entirely and just give it to you...that's how unimpressive that part of a game usually is.) Nevertheless, in the few cases where it doesn't work out, it's an event that is scrutinized for days, weeks, sometimes years afterwards if the context around the play (score, game time, regular season or playoff game) is severe enough. I see the place the extra point has in the game of football and cannot help but envison a similar place in life for another concept...paternity testing.

(Let's get that disbelieving pause out of the way...)

Now that you've fixed your face, let me take the next few paragraphs and explain just what the fuck the two things have to do with each other. You see, in the world of right this moment, paternity testing carries a social stigma. As a staple of daytime television usually involving folk of ill repute, it's looked upon as unnecessary for anyone who believes they're in a somewhat stable relationship (which is the nice term for NOT doing the midnight rodeo with every cowboy who tips his hat your way) with their creation partner, an implication of unfaithfulness or outright cockholstery on the part of the mother, and a divisive, controversial procedure that can corrode the foundation of a relationship, trust.

As for my own views on it, I believe it's time to drop all the bullshit and be real about this thing. In our modern world where many people choose to--well, I don't have to put on my prude hat, just flip on a TV set or run a lap around the internet if you don't know what's up--I look at DNA testing as less of an accusation and more the completion of a process...like an extra point. Gone are the days where a paternity test meant either thousands of dollars or a trip to television studios in Stamford, Connecticut and a visit with Mr. Povich. Now, one can buy an at-home test in stores or online for a couple hundred, have them analyzed in a lab, and get their confirmation discreetly (or tell their entire readership about it...fuck it, somebody's gotta be the face of this movement).

Hell, if you really want my opinion, we shouldn't even have to pay for it (or insurance should cover it...fancy that). It should become standard practice...every baby, every time. Sure, most of the time things would go smoothly, the full point total would be collected, and things would proceed without incident. However, if there was a special teams lapse somewhere, things would likely be no good...and I believe every potential father has the right to know about it immediately. Unfortunately, as of today, they do not...I feel that is a mild to moderate injustice in the climate of today.

I know this isn't going to be my most popular opinion. I understand how this kind of subject can be kind of awkward to discuss with someone you care about, but so is the kind of discussion that may require names, birth certificates, and marriage statuses to change years after a baby is born. It's twentytwelve. The shit happens more than you think about...I know a few personal stories of dads who found out just why their children don't have his family chin way too late, and a recent poll shows that 27% of women who were "unsure of their chlid's parentage" would keep it to themselves. As that number is over 0%, I personally believe I'd be a braying beast of burden not to investigate in my own new parenting case. (Seriously, if you would count your change at the supermarket to make sure you actually got $4.63 back, why wouldn't you check this out?). In case you haven't figured yet, that's what that envelope is about.

That's right...I had my kid tested (and as you see by the use of the word "my", I'm about as sure as anyone who hasn't had their partner followed by "Cheaters" for the past year or so that he'll pass) and I'm cool with that. It's absolutely no reflection on her, in fact I'd planned to do this before I ever knew her or knew her...I just feel that men have a right to know in just as clear-cut a manner as women, who can usually identify their biological children by tugging on their own umbilical cords soon after birth to see what's on the other end, like trying to find a specific plug in a power strip. (What kind of advocate would I be if I didn't do it myself, anyway?)

In contrast, due to the merciful designs of nature, men do not carry children...so this is the only way to know for a fact (and please return the "you should trust her" card to your deck, shuffle it, and draw a new hand...faith is good, facts are better and legally recognized). Instantly, you remove all doubt, engrave both parties' roles in stone, remove any possible angry fabrications that somebody will spend years explaining away, and even get a nice certificate that one can frame and hang in one's home like a diploma. Either that, or the doc comes in and waves the try "no good" and the two parties can take it from there however they choose...in any case, it should be done after every baby touchdown.

Hey...it's not like I'm not operating under the assumption that he is mine already. Trust me, THAT's not what I'm worried about. I'm doing the whole parent trainee program (the overnight classes too), I'm looking at Cowboys onesies online, I may have even kissed him once or twice...that's stopping when he's two though. I'm just also not ashamed of the fact that I will have my parenthood confirmed in a laboratory, turning my theory into law. (Plus, when I called the place up, the representative was named Deion, just like the kid I called concerning...that coincidence was worth the phone call by itself.)

People may look at me cross-eyed for doing it, but the way I see it, they should turn their eyes all the way around and look at themselves crazy for not living in this particular reality. The extra point needs to become as much a part of the delivery as an epidural to save a lot of people a lot of headache, both immediate and delayed. Besides, Maury's getting up there in years...he won't always be around to promote this kind of thing...


Irreconcilable Indifferences

My life has gotten a bit more enjoyable lately, and it's all because I said "I do...not give a fuck". If you know 3DAJ or you've been hanging around here for a while, you know that mentality ain't exactly a new concept where it concerns things that are within my control but beyond my concern, but due to recent and future events, I've been somewhat limited in that which I could apply my adult version of "Hakuna Matata" cuz...you know, everything mattered.

Honestly, it was a tough time...reconciling my tumultous inner state with the continuing and increasing demands of the outside world like faking a socially acceptable amount of happiness at a life-altering event, writing a book at work, trying to look like I wasn't writing a book at work while faking a socially acceptable amount of happiness at a life-altering event, and keeping the entire thing from my parents (hey, they just found out about umf less than 3 months ago, so you can imagine how much like mushrooms I treated those two, keeping them in the dark with a bunch of bullshit since high school...oh well) was a lot of work.

I wasn't sure what I should say and how much I should say about it...how it was cool to feel about everything, what was okay to share, how much of my ass to show the world...it was a powerfully confusing time. I barely knew what to do with my feelings without confusing others with poorly structured, overly long and darkly humorous posts about them (plus I didn't feel all that entertaining...if you wanted to hear some emo-lite dude wax sensitive about girl-related issues, you could always buy a Drake album)...so I kinda shut the fuck up about it.

Of course, you know it's not really me to shut the fuck up...I mean, look how long you've been reading this one post. Then again, I wasn't really feeling like myself. The sense of humor that functions as an atmosphere that the asteroids of life can burn up in before making earth-shattering impact on the surface of my existence just wasn't dense enough for this particular rock of my world. Everything felt heavier (including my de facto girlfriend) and I even let my day job start getting under my skin. It was just too damn much for my life (and that's why it's all going in the next book, because it's just enough for everyone else's).

Somewhere along the line, relatively recently...maybe even today...I realized my problem...I was forgetting the words that have always been so effective in resolving the majority of situations: "fuck it". A simple mantra, yes...but one with many applications. For example, I have a kid now...hey, fuck it...at least she's a good partner, didn't make him funny-looking, changes most of the diapers and probably won't hit me up for child support (and won't bitch too much about being a guinea pig for my book research). Sure, I'm not happy about being put in this position...but would anybody? From a certain viewpoint, I'm trapped, stuck, doing 18 years to life...but fuck it. As many situations of this kind (usually involving some hoodrat) are much, much worse, I might not be the free man I once was but I ain't "Locked Up Abroad", so that's something.

This is the mindstate I found myself in as I sat and chatted to a co-worker about blatantly non-work-related things this afternoon. For months, I had been a brooding shell of my former self, but in the last few weeks I'd noticed a familiar feeling of selective disregard wrapping itself around me like a security blanket with a middle finger printed on it. My mind was clearer. My comebacks came quicker. I began to feel whole. Of course, that's when my asshole extraordinare boss came over and attempted to reprimand me for wasting time like every other American employee after 12 on a Friday.

In months past, I might have let this affect me, carrying my bad feelings around like a neck yoke, bowing my shoulders to external influence and scurrying off to appear busy no nobody put the final straw on my emotionally beaten back while on the clock. Now, I had made peace with myself and pieces with everyone who didn't like it. I calmly informed him that I was doing about as much work as anyone else, and went off to outdo them by pushing a cart full of files around to a few offices. His stunned silence might as well have been a round of applause...I strutted away with the trolling face and continued my day.

Of course, thinking these things, rationalizing in this manner, living this way and being so damn proud of it will never make me the most popular. Some people might think I'm too off-the-wall, a malcontent, a sociopath...and hell, from in their shoes, they're probably right. I could see where people whould get that...thing is, I also know where they can stick it. It's all good...at some point, I divorced myself from all the bullshit (for a reason, cite the title.) Feels good, man.


Dirty Jobs: Power Ranger

As I said the other day, there's a lot going on with me right now...attempting to turn pro writing, the epic struggle between AJ North and South during the Great Depression of the past 8 months, unplanned parenthood, trying to get a new job sooner than possible...it's a lot to manage at once, but multitasking helps.

To 2 of those ends, in the last few weeks, I've been watching a lot of my childhood favorites both as an attempt to find suitable programming for a young child whose birthing hath been at my charge and an childlike escape from the pressures of the same. It's like having your inner child and adult forced to hang out together in a manner reminiscent of a bad sitcom.

Of course, one of my all-time favorite shows is "Power Rangers" (even wrote a post about it a while ago), those colorfully jumpsuited defenders of intergalactic justice, and I've been spending a lot of time watching the same stock footage over and over again woven into different episodes.

You already know I came to the conclusion that a program featuring a team of teenagers beating the living hell out of anything that crossed their path looking ugly was suitable programming for any child old enough to focus both eyes on a target, but what you may not know is my secret dream: to actually become a member of the Fab Five (or 6 in the later half of seasons).

Go ahead, laugh. It's cool...everybody has to have a dream. At least I held on to mine...even went as far as to find out what college major would be best to start my career as a Ranger (it was a combination of Criminal Justice, Phys. Ed, and the ROTC that wasn't offered at Morgan...it's why I dropped out).

Well...until recently. Now that I have a kid (well, once the results come back), I can't be going around beating on Zedd's endless horde of monsters at all hours of the afternoon. I can now never become a Power Ranger. I felt kind of bad that my dream deferred had finally dried up like a Putty in the eternal Angel Grove sun.

Then I really thought about it from a realisitc standpoint for possibly the first time. Looked past the cool-looking unis, the gas-saving teleportation ability, the cool communicator watch, the opportunity to pilot a huge dinosaur robot, and the general experience of being a fuckin' Power Ranger to the real-world utility of the career field.

What I discovered is that being a Ranger ain't all it's cracked up to be...in fact, it's actually a pretty sucky job. (For one thing, I'd have to commit to a single color choice every day, that which corresponds to the color Ranger I'd be...not a bad thing by itself, but since I'm African-American the odds are that I'd be stuck wearing black or Kente cloth every fuckin' day.)

I mean sure...the affirmative action program is second to none (how many superteams do you know that are consistently between 33 and 40 percent minority?) it only requires a high-school education, limited hand-to-hand combat skills (lookin' at you, Billy) and "attitude", all qualifications which I meet or exceed. However, things start to look south when you look at the pay, which is never mentioned at any point in the series, implying that the important work of saving the world before dark is volunteer work.

Call me selfish, but if Zordon thinks I'm risking my life in giant monster battles for college credit and the satisfaction of a job well done, his tube must be squeezing his huge ghostly head too damn tight.

Another problem is the lack of job security. Rangers can be fired (or "have their powers transferred" as they put it) for seemingly no reason, to be quickly replaced on the field of today's battle for human survival by some rookie who probably just transferred into your high school last week. Replacing effective veterans with eager, mistake prone youngins destroys the camraderie of any team and is the hallmark of a poorly run organization. (Even highly esteemed Rangers ain't safe...before longtime leader Jason was let go by MMPR, Inc., he was demoted in front of the entire team then possibly replaced by immigrant labor in the form of new suspiciously Mexican Red Ranger Rocky.) Not a work environment I'd like to be a part of.

When you consider all this, the fact that there's no real advancement opportunity (for anyone but Tommy), and the total deal-breaker, NO off days (you think doctors are always on call? Try being Earth's last line of defense preventing total annihilation), you start to see that Earth's mightiest transforming heroes just might need a union.

I actually feel kind of sorry for them...they can't even tell anyone what they do for a living on a date ("What do I do? Oh, I'm a...I'm...uh...I...--damn, is that my watch beeping? Gotta go! *walks away talking into watch*) and they have to deal with Alpha 5. I thought my work computer got on my nerves when it blocked Facebook, but that damn droid is the most annoying piece of technology since polyphonic ringtones.

Honestly, after thinking about it, having that dream die wasn't the worst thing in the world. Being a Power Ranger ain't exactly a great job.

Hey, it could be worse...at least I had that realization before I found myself running around in a brightly colored spandex outfit for charity and not afterward (at least last time I did that, I won a bottle of alcohol at a Halloween party costume contest).


What now?: The Comeback Letter

What's good, umf'ers?

I know it's been a while and a half since we last talked, but I've been...well, kinda busy. (Well, "busy" is a relative term, but since I now have a new one I feel it applies here.) Of course, the primary reason I've been so damn distracted from what used to be my life is in the picture. His name is Deion Xavier, something I have to keep typing to break my habit of calling him "the situation" (it sets a bad "Jersey Shore" tolerance precedent) and everyone told me I would love him at first sight.

Of course, in that case the baby is apparently invisible, but I sure hope he shows up some day. Being born by manual evacation on Feb 8, he was about a month premature...maybe by the time he was supposed to be born I'll be ready for him. (At least, thinking that helps.) Hell...at least approximately 3.5 metric tons of material for my next book "What to Expect When You're Expecting the Worst" out of this...when you balance that with the combined weight of the diapers I'll likely be changing, it about balances out. Throw in the tax deduction for next year, and the month (and much more if I get my way) of paternity leave I get from my day job, this is almost a good thing. Almost.

I've also been pretty involved with "FfYL" matters...doing promo, guilt-tripping people I know into buying copies (including a very interesting street sales pitch reversal where an attempt to sell me on donating to Greenpeace turned into a commercial for my book on Amazon...I think she bought it on both counts) and attempting to attract new readers, even searching for an agent who I will call Waldo once I find them, because finding one is hard as fuck. Hell, Bin Laden has nothing on the hiding skills of a good agent. I'm actually kind of jealous of the bastard...he or she gets to sit around just waiting to "discover" me, and I just have to wait for white people to officially pay some attention to me...I feel like America in the Columbus story.

Anyway, here I am at a crossroads in life. Sure, I just got used to even thinking of myself as a adult like last year, but all of a sudden, due to events over the past yearish, my entire life is in my hands (and no, despite my continued frustrations, that's not a jerk-off joke). I honestly don't know what the fuck I'm doing these days, but I do know things are heading forward whether I like it or not. Forward where? Well...that's the fun of the ride, I have only the vaguest of ideas...well, besides that I will have y'all on it with me. For the 3 of y'all who did, thanks for sticking with me through the hiatus, but the asshollectual is back...and this time, it's personal.