Hello, My Name is Jeff.

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Archive for October 2008

Werewolves Don’t Wet Their Pants

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October 31, The Fourth Grade: I don’t know how often a full moon sponsors Halloween but, to my almost unquenchable delight, this year it does. It also just so happens that I have decided to be a werewolf for Halloween. I have pointy ears, an odd canine tone, and powerful razor-sharp jaws to prove it. For hours I practice a fierce roar in hopes of unleashing it on my victims before tearing them apart. Periodically, my teeth refuse to cooperate. They are big, cheap and plastic and I have a small mouth. I also have over-sensitive salivary glands. Most of the time, my teeth and saliva rebuff my desires for a terrifying roar, and I am forced to utter only a timid growl, then suck the build-up of spit back into my throat.

Growl, suck, growl, gurgle, suck, growl, suck… and so on. I imagine it sounds like a dentist’s office. Had this office existed, the dentist would lean over me, shine a bright light in my eyes, poke around with some metal tools, and sigh, “Have you been brushing? What are you supposed to be?”

I’m not sure I would have an answer for either question though, because the answer to the first question is an embarrassing “no,” and the answer to the second is…

Looking in the mirror, I am not sure if I look like a werewolf or not. And in the 4th grade, authenticity is a big deal. I have the moon on my side. My mom has penciled in dark lines and brown spots on my face so that my pasty complexion looks more feral, but my shirt is tucked neatly into my jeans and secured by a belt, while most of the hair on my head is divided at the right side by a severe part (the diligent efforts of my mother to maintain what she called a “half-spike”). Green and black make-up has been placed around my eyes in such a manner that I look like I have been punched in both eyes by a bully who appreciates the artistic merits of symmetry. Werewolves are supposed to be fearsome, blood-thirsty and disheveled. Perhaps I am just a well-behaved werewolf. One who prefers to look clean and sociable, attending dinner parties and chatting over the latest gossip, instead of a monster clad in rags. I don’t know if such a werewolf is even possible. Of course, I hadn’t thought it was possible to be an uncool Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle in kindergarten. Yet debuting as the first uncool Ninja Turtle in existence, I paraded around for two consecutive Halloweens in ’89 and ’90 looking like a Teenage Mutant Giant Plush Doll. Plush, everyone knows, is never cool.

I toss a vengeful growl at my mother as I remember a past costume failure. “Ooooh, scary!” she cries out. Her display of mock fear does little to allay my fears. I’m ten. I may be insecure, but I’m not stupid. Every time my pointy, plastic ears pop off onto the ground I wonder if anyone will be persuaded, regardless of the full moon.

Later that evening, I find myself hitting the packed neighborhood streets with my friend, Dustin. We are probably an interesting pair. I’m a rabid werewolf with an identity crisis, towing around a pillowcase, and mumbling “trick or treat” and “thank you” through oversized, manufactured incisors. Dustin is a ninja with behavior problems, whose parents should probably know better than to allow him to be exposed to this much sugar.

There is, of course, nothing unusual about two children going door to door on Halloween and most of the night passes uneventfully. It is the continuous stream of ding-dong!, “TRICK OR TREAT!”, “What are you supposed to be?”, “mumble mumble”, and the muffled rattle of candy against candy.

Occasionally, we encounter an irregularity; someone lurking under the stairs or behind a bush who thinks it’s funny to provoke terrifying episodes for those who have been toilet trained for less than a decade. For Dustin and me, we generally hear the skulking fear before we experience it. Some senseless child runs past us at full speed, shrieking and waving his arms frantically, leaving a spotty trail like a terrified airborne slug. Yet the expectation that someone ahead is going to scare us doesn’t minimize the fear at all. It actually makes it worse. Driven forward like slaves under the lashing of licorice whips, we brace ourselves and shuffle forward on weak knees, searching for any available excuses to take up the rear. After agonizing eternities leading up to the inevitable, some nasty teenager with a plastic mask lunges forward from the unholy darkness and sends us screaming towards the bowl of candy, and then away, still screaming, past another couple of wary souls to the next house. As the night grows later, I can’t help but feel as if I’m being prodded by the primal drive for candy towards some unseen destiny.

Maybe it has something to do with the cans of root beer that some of the better houses give out on Halloween, or it maybe it really is a result of the multiple anxiety attacks throughout the night, unleashed by teenagers on a couple of insatiable ten year-olds. But there’s also a question of the suspiciously prominent full moon. Whatever the cause, the worst case scenario comes to bear.

I have to pee… bad.

It seems that I was so enthralled in rushing from house to house that I was oblivious to the silver bullet rushing towards me. In an instant, the night is no longer just about finding great candy; it’s about finding a place to satisfy a basic human need. This Halloween has become about survival. Like a man diffusing a time bomb, I sweat out my options while my bladder impatiently ticks away. It’s growing late and most children have finished the night’s candy crusade. As we turn down a fairly quiet street, Dustin and I quickly decide that best course of action would be to plead with the next house for permission to use their bathroom.

Running to the nearest home, with Dustin trailing right behind, I feel the light of the full moon bearing down on me. To my horror the first house is completely dark inside. The biological ticking in my body grows more desperate. I hobble past like a lame race horse, my bladder pressing harder and harder. And I’m in luck. The lights in the next home are on.

I’m ready to burst at a moments notice, but painfully pad across the grass and hike up the five or six steps to the front door. My goal is literally within reach. I hit the doorbell and begin “the dance” under the glow of their front porch lights. Anyone who has ever desperately needed to use the bathroom knows this dance, because the origins delve deep into the dark hours of prehistory when our ancestors stood around a fire and used the dance to ward off depraved spirits intent on their humiliation.

The milliseconds spent at the front door of this home pass like the long millennia that have transpired since the dance was first invented. Gathering the very last of my willpower I concentrate all my efforts on stemming the unbidden tide while Dustin, unwilling to be witness to the worst disaster pre-pubescence has to offer, tries to assure me that someone will come to the door.

Tiny ripples bump against the inside of a fish bowl.

No one is coming.

Raindrops thump against a windowpane.

I stare wide-eyed at the door and ring again.

Small swells slap against a shoreline.

With a pained expression in my last terminal moments, I turn to Dustin, but the words of encouragement have ceased to file from his mouth.

Hurricane waves beat against the solid concrete of a dam. Hairline cracks spread and small drops of water begin to fight through the seams.

The transformation is sudden. The dam bursts apart like so many useless stones. I take an abrupt step from the brisk autumn outdoor night into a cozy, inviting bath. No force on earth can stop the flow, but O how it feels! I am at last freed from a painful curse that has darkened the last couple minutes of my pre-adolescence in the worst way.

I glance at Dustin helplessly and then we both watch as a cloudy, conspicuous puddle gathers around my feet on a stranger’s front porch.

The experience is almost hypnotic. Here we are just two mutes gawking in stunned silence. Like watching from the safety of a car as a freight train jumps off its tracks and severs a school bus in half; except that I am somehow both the freight train and the school bus, and it is my pair of jeans that are darkening in a very tell-tale way. Slowly, the implications of what is happening force their way into my brain. Someone will have to answer for this atrocious puddle. Or not. If we can make our escape before someone inside decides to finally answer the door…

Suddenly, the spell is broken by a voice from the street, “Hey!”

Our backs stiffen and we turn mortified, preparing for death, or at the very least, some choice words. The puddle continues its expansion across the smooth concrete of the porch.

“Hey, no one’s at home right now. Sorry kids!” In the darkness outside the porch we can make out a vague head sticking out the window of small car. And then it is gone, a couple of red lights speeding off down the street with a few years worth of my life.

The rest of the evening is fuzzy. I attribute this to shock. I remember finishing up what little business that hadn’t already saturated the porch in the shadow of the bushes next to the house, and then being picked up by Dustin’s mom.

When I arrive at home, soaked and reeking of urine like a drunk, my parents are still at a Halloween party in the neighborhood. No one is home except for my Uncle Steve. “How was trick-or-treating?” he asks.

“I peed my pants!”

The humiliating confession comes pouring out; a sensation all too familiar within the last hour.

Uncle Steve looks confused for a moment, then regaining his composure he tells me to go upstairs, take a shower and get into my pajamas.

Soon, I lie in bed, freshly clean from the bathwater, and chew the details of the night in my head over and over. Eventually, drowning in the darkness of my room I come to the raw conviction that I am definitely not a werewolf. In spite of the full moon, the explanation is simple.

Werewolves don’t wet their pants.

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Written by Jeff

October 31, 2008 at 8:53 pm

Posted in halloween

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Facebook, Will You Be My Friend?

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Tuesday October 7, 2008
4:33 PM
: This is the exact moment I decide to take the plunge into the unknown world I had sworn never to enter: Facebook, the undiscovered country. As a part of my new job, I am told to join Facebook because of the potential it has for “networking” and “helping” clients. In my mind, I weigh the pros and cons; do I get fired or break my oath never to join? It’s not that I have anything personal against Facebook, it’s just that everyone (including my mother) seems to be on it. In elementary school, we were taught that anything everyone else is doing is probably a drug. We were told to say “no”. So I simply said “no” to Facebook and brushed it off as another opium of the masses. At some point later, I concluded that I had missed the boat, and that to join now would make me look like the kid in high school, who suddenly wonders where recess went. Finally, I rationalize that Facebook will not be as intrusive as I think, and with a deep breath begin signing up. At first, it’s simple and couldn’t possibly hurt too much to join. It asks for my email address, a password, my name, my home city. All things that I regularly divulge for one reason or another.

Having earned my initial trust, Facebook digs a little deeper. It asks for the high school from which I graduated, where I work, where I go to school now, what my favorite color is, past places I’ve lived, the emails of my friends, the emails of my pets, the music I listen to, my darkest secrets, do I like sauerkraut, which city (in my opinion) has better sauerkraut: Phillie or New York, do these pants make me look fat or PHAT?…

I decide that Facebook is getting a little too fresh for a first date, and refuse to give any more information. “No problem,” it tells me. “I’ll get the rest later,” it whispers with a knowing grin. I release nervous laughter and look away. Facebook laughs too, and offers me a drink. We make eye contact and laugh again. Facebook touches my leg…

Wednesday October 8, 2008
3:00 PM
: In the course of an extensive conversation during our fifteen-minute walk home from school, my wife tells me I have no friends. “Actually,” I tell her,”I have 30 friends.” I go on to tell my wife that in less than 24 hours, I have 30 confirmed friends, and share with her the fact that if that trend continues I will have millions of friends in something like 10 years. “How many friends do you have?” I ask her. She tells me she thinks she has 250 friends. “And how long have you been on Facebook?” I ask. “About two years,” she tells me. Already I’m doing the math in my head, calculating triumphantly that she has garnered a meager .3424 friends per day. I, however, in one day have gained 30, which means that if the trend continues, in the 2 years it takes my wife to get 250 friends, I will have 21900 friends. Obviously, I win. My wife rolls her eyes.

It’s at this point that I realize the true benefits of Facebook: Facebook is more than just a way to stay in touch or reacquire old friends, but gives you a way to finally quantify your friends. No more trying decide if you and another person are really friends or just acquaintances. No more awkward introductions at parties, asking yourself, “should I introduce this person as a friend, or an acquaintance? What if they think I’m moving too fast up the Friendship Level Meter?” If you’re friends on Facebook, you don’t have to sweat while saying, “this is my friend, Dexter Longhorn.” And if you’re friends with an individual on Facebook, everyone knows. Public acknowledgment is a sweet candy.

At 8:00 PM, I chat for the first time using Facebook, with a good friend of mine named Scott. Scott and I once banded together as roommates and created an anti-CNN blog called, CNNemy. We thought we were pretty clever. Anyway, I was pretty sure we were friends before Facebook, but now I had proof. After chewing the fat for a few minutes, I casually throw in the fact that I’m surprised how many people are on Facebook, because I was able to accumulate 32 friends in a little more than 24 hours. I’m sure he’s impressed. But like a wise sage, Scott tells me that Facebook has a way of inflating the ego. He tells me how the initial effect is positive and fills you with self-worth. And then when the friends stop trickling in constantly, when the emails stop coming daily telling you that so-and-so has requested to be your friend, you crash down hard and have to get back to life as usual. Our conversation ends soon after this. Deep down I’m know he’s just jealous.

Thursday October 9, 2008
Evening: There are illusions that are built up over a series of years. These are pieces of mistaken perception or denial that are able to maintain the guise of reality, before being stricken down by the rightful king, reality itself. Our current credit crisis is the product of millions of such illusions banding together over a series of years. And just as thousands (if not millions) have been brought to their knees at the popping of the credit bubble, in less than 48 hours since joining Facebook, I find myself on metaphorical knees. Watching my Facebook page and email, I search for that familiar message that tells me people are thinking about me. As the night grows later and my fingers tire of clicking the refresh button, I stare through tired eyelids that have shriveled like jack-o-lanterns two days after Halloween, and wonder how my illusion could have come to an end so soon. “Where are the glowing messages from warm friends to ratify my feelings of self-worth?” I ask myself. No answer comes. I have only the prodding of an impatient wife who has been ready to go to bed for the last hour. As my computer screen flickers off, I am left staring at a now dark and mirror-like surface. Here I see only myself. Staring at the reflected me, who looks as worn and haggard as I feel, I ask him, “what do you think I’m worth?”

Written by Jeff

October 31, 2008 at 5:02 am

Posted in facebook, social networking

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