Don't Work to Live---Live to Work.

Welcome, everyone, to the meeting. The purpose of it is basically to announce our new corporate structure. Yes, it’s true, we’ll be dividing the company in half effective June 7. While we at Russell Stover have prided ourselves on making and selling the finest chocolates in the world, delighting in the smiles of young and old alike as our traditional samplers as well as our gourmet line continue to prosper, market forces have now made us divert half our operating budget to the breeding and training of cadaver-sniffing dogs. We hope you’ll support our decision and help to train these cadaver-sniffing dogs with just as much zeal and expertise as you’ve put into making quality Russell Stover chocolates---those of you who will be moved to the cadaver-sniffing dog division, that is. Now, here’s the fun part: we’re not going to tell everyone till Monday which department you’ll find yourself in! We thought it might give everyone a morale boost to come in next week with a sense of anticipation and uncertainty over which job you’ll be devoting yourself to for the remainder of your career here---the job with the chocolates or the job with the cadaver-sniffing dogs. We also won’t be separating the divisions in the office, so you may well sit next to someone doing the opposite of what you’re doing, nor will we be separating the two production floors, because frankly, the budget will not quite allow us to do so. Thanks for everything you do, people, and have a great, safe weekend. On Monday you’ll be coming to work at a new Russell Stover! And again, if anyone has any good ideas for a new company tagline, one that touches upon both aspects of our new dual mission of making and selling chocolates and breeding and training cadaver-sniffing dogs, by all means swing them by my office high on the seventieth floor, a full fifty-seven floors above the next highest person in the company. Oh yeah, let me tell ya, that never stops being sweet.


A Line in the Sand

Wow, you know what? This feels kind of good. It kind of feels like when you come out of the ocean after a long swim, or when you get laid off from a job you didn’t want anyway and you’re looking at a long summer of unemployment checks. Thank you, PowerPoint Hamlet---thank you for making it official that I’ve seen the last play of my life. Yes, PowerPoint Hamlet has pretty much cut all my ties with live theater. For years I had been afraid to make the decision myself, but yep, PowerPoint Hamlet has taken care of everything.

And now, I want to help you make the same leap. You know you can do it and you know you want to. It doesn’t take PowerPoint Hamlet to set you free of your imaginary obligations to live theater. Nobody wants to see a play just like nobody wants to go to the Smithsonian. The thing is, you can break free. Really, do you want to have to sit through PowerPoint Hamlet to close the books on your disinterest in this particular aspect of culture? Just get up tomorrow, look in the mirror, man up, and say it proud: “I will never again attend any event in which actors perform a stage production of any length or genre.” Then just see how the day looks to you after that. Tell me seriously you don’t think you’ll suddenly have more energy, more optimism, and more self-esteem.

Of course, there are those who would say that PowerPoint Hamlet had its moments. I mean, if that story must be presented in PowerPoint format, I guess I’d admit that it couldn’t be done much better. When the slide came up showing Ophelia weeping, sure, I was moved. Also I like the fact that the whole thing was put on inside a Burger King. The ability to just get up once in a while and refill your Dr. Pepper right in the middle of everything with no guilt or shame---I don’t know, it definitely added a welcome twist. The Dr. Pepper was a little on the watery side though. Ever since the company was bought by the Church of Scientology, it’s like they put in a non-carbonation rule or something. I am not looking forward to seeing what they’re gonna do to the Maple Leafs.


Suggested Donation: $2

I’m sorry, what did you just ask me? “What is this place?” Okay, let me answer that question for you, toots. The Spannacher-Wesley Museum is what it is. Is that good enough for you? I know you and your pot-bellied hubby only came in here because it’s halfway between the gallery district and the restaurant district and you just want fifteen minutes of air conditioning, so now that you’re officially inside the publicly funded Spannacher-Wesley Museum, here’s the deal: you’re going to walk around a little, look at some old stuff under glass, and get the gist of both Spannacher and Wesley and their minimal significance to this one-horse town. Then, by God, there’s going to be a quiz, because I am not sitting here beside the tastefully painted oak front door to cure my baldness. Just try to get past me on your way out without being able to cough up a little hard information about Spannacher and Wesley. Your Sunday museum-tour dream of drifting by ninety percent of the exhibits with your sandals making pleasant little creaks on the wooden floor and leaving with an awkward smile for the guy at the desk on your way to Ben and Jerry’s has just been body-slammed, sis. You’re going to learn, by God. You might as well have the names Spannacher and Wesley tattooed on your spindly biceps as soon as you get out of here, they will be that ingrained in you, and don’t be surprised if you can’t get the oil-painted mug of Johnathan Switherford Shea out of your head for the rest of your life either, whoever the hell that is. This is a MUSEUM OF LOCAL HISTORY, it’s not the last few minutes of Two and a Half Men you kill off before something decent comes on, and you will USE IT TO ENRICH YOUR CULTURAL KNOWLEDGE. And guess what? Just in case you slack off or decide you might be able to juke left at the entrance to the Captain John S. Tilden Room and slip out the window in the bathroom, I’ll be shadowing you today since there’s nobody else here to marvel in the richness that was Spannacher, Wesley, and even the esteemed barrister Thorvald D. Meeks, who did something in 1871 involving a letter to some queen. Which queen? Oh, trust me, you’ll know which one before I let you go, you gawking yuppies. Now get cracking. Oh, did I mention that because I don’t care for your attitude, I’ll be whispering the words “Spannacher Wesley Spannacher Wesley Spannacher Wesley” in your ear for the duration of your hellish stay? Did I mention that? Or that I’ll be sending you the security tapes of your visit so you can replay this bountiful experience again and again in soundless black and white for your disinterested grandchildren, the last names of whom I’m sure all share the same first letter—K, right? Is it K? Is there a Kayla involved? Don’t lie to me. DON’T LIE TO ME. Just move. Move! The tour starts with this faded map of Wisconsin on the wall. Ooooh, look at the faded map! Press your noses right up against it. That’s the smell of your afternoon disappearing, sports fans.


The Tactician

You look beat, Tom. That's okay, how's your arm feel? A little tired? Okay. Look, I asked you to give Jeter a couple of pitches way off the plate just to buy you some time. I have a plan, see, because I thought we might find ourselves in this situation, runners at the corners, nobody out, tie game, all but a certain loss. Now I just need you to stand here talking to me just a little longer, just keep talking like we're discussing baseball. Because at exactly 10:46, there's a seventy-thirty chance that there's going to be ten million fire ants rampaging across this diamond. That's right---ten million. That's the plan. We're going to break this thing up bigtime and regroup for an hour, two hours, however long it takes to clear the fire ants off the field.

Well, yeah, I say there's a seventy-thirty chance because I've worked with this guy before, the guy who's setting this up, and I'm not totally sure he understood my instructions because of the language gap. But I'm reasonably confident that all our problems will be temporarily solved at exactly 10:46. So like I said, just keep talking. Say anything, it doesn't matter.

Oh hell, here comes the umpire. Just one minute left! Can you sort of wince a little and stretch like your arm's bothering you? If you could do it so that he thinks you need a couple of warmup tosses, that would be perfect....oh yes, hello Sherwood, I was just leaving, we're just about done here, Tom felt something give a little in his shoulder...I'll be off the mound in fifteen seconds tops. Thanks, Sherwood. Good game, good game.

Okay, okay, here it comes, the first sign of the ants you should probably run like hell, all right? I paid for the fastest ones they ship from Uganda.

And....there it is, 10:46. Do you see anything out in right center? Nothing? The wall's not opening, is it? Hold on, just wait....nope. Nope, nothing doing. Damn.

Hmmm. Let's give it another five seconds or so, yes? See if there's movement.

Ugh. No. I see no movement of any kind. I said 10:46, right? Yeah, on that point I know I got everything right. Shoot.

Well, I guess the communication just wasn't there this time around. That makes me a little angry, I have to say. So okay, you'll pitch on then. Sorry, that's my fault.

Wait, I think I see---no, that's not the fire ants. My mistake.

All right, so....I'm going to head back to the dugout now. Feel good? Just don't walk A-Rod, go right at him, I think. But we definitely will do the fire ant thing at some point, definitely. I just need to get on the same page with my guy. The language gap, like I said. It's tough sometimes.

Later, Tom. Go get 'em!


Ugh, Everywhere You Go in This City....

Hello sir, good afternoon, can I ask you something....okay, have a nice day sir. Enjoy the game.

Hi there, miss, can I ask you a question, could you---all right, enjoy the game, miss.

Sir? Sir? Can I---have a good day, sir.

Hi, hi there, how are you, can I ask you a question, sir? Would it be possible---all right.

Ma'am, hello, can I ask you something, can you do me a favor? Hi, thanks for, if you wouldn't mind, as you can see I'm just a common variety garden snake, kind of stuck here on the ground, but I was wondering if you could pick me up and throw me into the air toward the top of that light pole there, way up there, I can't quite make it all the way up without slipping all the way down, and if I could get up there and dangle for a while, then I could wait for just the right person to come walking along toward Gate 2 and I could drop through the air and give them the biggest shock of their lives, and I could open my mouth as I fell so if they were looking up because a friend of theirs said "Hey man, a snake which may or may not be poisonous is falling down on you from that light pole as if released from the heavens as an angry curse from God!" then they would crane their neck and see my mouth open and coming right at them and that would be the best possible fun I can imagine at the moment. But I really can't make it to the top of the pole by myself, so if you could just pick me up and give me one huge hurl, I'll try to grab hold up there. It might take a few tries, actually. Please, I slithered all the way from the woods at the edge of the season ticket holders' parking lot and I would really appreciate any help you can give me. Okay, so obviously you're going to have to put down all that stuff in your hands....go ahead, put it all down, all that crap, it'll be fine on the know, maybe if we got that big burly guy over there to help out....why don't you go ahead and see if you can get his attention....go ahead, don't be shy, just give him a shout. Yeah, put the soda down too, honey, you can't be doing this and slurping Pepsi at the same time, okay?

Hey, where are you going? It'll only take a few seconds! It's going to work! Um....okay. Okay, no problem. Enjoy the game, ma'am. That's okay. That's fine.

Hi, sir, can you stop a minute so I can ask you---all right. No problem. Sorry to bother you. And good luck rooting for your sucky Pirates, by the way. Oh hey, I almost forgot, 1979 called just to say it won't be able to send those World Series rings forward through time to this current bunch of losers. 1979 is really sorry. Yeah, that's right, I do have an attitude problem. Hisssssss! Hisssssssssssssss, you fat idiot!!


The Schism

Listen to what I'm saying to you now: there are no good options here, but the longer this whole mess drags out, the worse it's going to be for both of you. The only thing you can do here is separate yourself entirely no matter how hard it is for you---otherwise you're both going down. Is that what you want? I didn't think so. So here's the plan as I see it: first, you get yourself off the sandwich somehow by midnight tomorrow before the Monday news cycle rolls around and the press is beating down your door. It can be done, it's been done before. Second, you make a statement that you've known jelly for years and you have the utmost respect for what it's done in the past, but you can no longer stand by it in the face of what's transpired. Third, you take a year off in which no one sees you, hears from you, or even remembers what peanut butter is. And then, when no one associates you anymore with this fiasco, we get to work on finding you a new sandwich to get in on. None of this is going to be pleasant, but good Lord, maybe you could have seen a little of this coming. And by the way, when I say you have to get off the sandwich, I really mean it; leave absolutely no trace of yourself on that Wonder bread. We can't give CNN or Fox any reason to go back to it and start in with more questions.

Now, just between you and me, what happened there, for God's sake? I mean, how does something so good go so bad so fast? On Tuesday you're in a third grader's lunch bag causing no one any harm and by Friday you have the governor of New Mexico condemning both of you on 60 Minutes? How many times do---whoa whoa whoa, don't you pick up that cell phone if that's jelly calling. DON'T YOU PICK UP THAT CELL PHONE.

Fine, do what you want, I've lost interest. I'm going to sit back in my chair and dream about my ark. That's right, you've all pushed me to the point where I just sit here sometimes and fantasize about getting in a nice big wooden ark and sailing away. No animals involved, just me puttering around an ark the length of six football fields all day, floating on the open sea. This is what you've driven me to. Ark fantasies. Happy now?


Earth Day? Nah, Just Not My Thing.

Hi everybody! This week the blog is giving in to the do-gooder vibe that’s currently sweeping the country by announcing a pledge drive to raise awareness of the slowly approaching maniac who even now has gotten halfway down my bedroom hallway and intends to kick my door in and strangle me with a length of copper wire! Yes, the maniac---well, not so much a maniac as just some really angry dude whose wife I slept with---is intent on seeing me dead, and only by really looking long and hard at the issue of my imminent murder and reaching into your heart for empathy and your pockets for a donation do I have any hope of overcoming this tragic situation. From now through the next minute and a half, by which time I expect to hear the crash of a heavy boot which will announce the last seconds of my life on this earth, I urge you to visit my web site and donate freely to the cause of me leaping out the window and fleeing into the night. Donations of food, water, and bus tickets are also acceptable, but what I’m really looking to do tonight is educate. Ever since I myself became aware of Reggie Kranepool’s desire to kill me (announced loudly as he broke into my living room five minutes ago), I have burned with the desire to amass an army of people who feel as deeply about the cause of my safe escape from my bedroom as I do. Are you a person who wants to look outside himself and take on this challenge, even for as little as $5? Visit the site, read about my plight, sign the guest book, patronize my loyal sponsor Nabisco, and consider yourself an informed citizen. Can you do that for a brother?


Another Day on the Stoop

Go ahead and say it. I know what you’re thinking. Yeah, I’m not a “good” blues guy. I have “failed” in my attempt to be a blues guy. I seem to have the entire package, yeah---I’m blind, jaded, beaten down, black, scarred inside, poor, from East St. Louis, play blues guitar, and write blues lyrics. But because I spend all my time sitting on the steps of my building eating M & Ms instead of singing the blues, I’m an “inadequate” blues guy. You think I don’t know it? You think I don’t feel that sense of failure with every unbelievably delicious mouthful of M & Ms I take from the 64 ounce bag? Because let me tell ya, if these damn M & Ms were only five percent less fantastic, I’d be on stage with the greats night after night. But have you ever seriously eaten one of these things? Ever had a mouth so crammed with them that you can’t even smile even as you tremble at the anticipation of chewing up all that rich, crunchy chocolate? Well, maybe you have. All I can say in my defense is, I’ve made my choice. I’d just rather eat the M & Ms than use these teeth and gums to sing of loss and redemption, and I prefer that my hands play not the chords of loneliness but the sweet rhythms of the greatest snack food ever put on God’s green earth by the Mars Corporation of America. And I can’t deny that in between long, lazy summer bouts with the 64 ounce bag, I enjoy watching and studying the films of Whit Stillman, whose gentle, witty character studies of young white preppies in love appeal to me for no reason I really understand. And while we’re at it, sure, I do work full-time as an IT specialist for Oracle, specializing in server analysis and e-commerce solutions. I guess you’re gonna throw that in my blind, jaded, beaten down, black, scarred inside, poor, East St. Louis face too. Well, tell you what, I’m just not interested in the criticism anymore. I’m gonna sit right here and eat my usual pair of 64 ounce bags of M & Ms today just like I do everyday. I wish you all the best at the Heartbreak Club tonight watching Ten Pennies McGee, Five Nickels Richardson, and Dirt-Diggin’ Donnie “Dinkie Dawg” DuRoi do their thing. They’re fine fellas, I ain’t denyin’ it, it’s just that I’m more partial to sharing this evening with my good friend Roger Federer. He’s due by here any minute now, so why don’t you amscray, son. And take your political flunkies and your Secret Service and your crowd of reporters with you, if you don’t mind. I’ll be voting for Mr. McCain, thank you very much. Good day to you!


Perhaps We Just Need More Time Together

Please, Doctor Frankenstein, please, I understand that this is important to you----and I want to try to help you. I have grasped the fact that there is a choice to be made, and made by 5 p.m., but please, you certainly must know that I am not in full possession of my faculties, having just been created by your hand. It’s only been seven hours since I awoke on the operating table and experienced life for the first time. As if the awe of the deluge of sights, sounds, sensations, and words hasn’t been overwhelming enough, I am also in a great amount of physical pain and am having some difficulty making the mental connections which I am positive my new mind will take for granted soon enough. Now then, once again, for the benefit of my newly minted intellect: Comcast only offers the Fox Soccer Channel or Setanta Sports as part of the sign-up special which ends today, is that correct? And as a member of the household, I will be expected to pay for half the cable bill, and so I must approve or reject the package? All right, then, doctor, yes, I will attempt to make this decision, although the spikes of agony coursing through my forehead and my spine, accompanied by some substantial internal bleeding inside my left leg from the many bolts of lightning which were so recently sent through the body you sewed together piecemeal, are clouding the reason which you must surely recognize is still in its infancy. Please tell me, if you will, which channel offers the better coverage of Italy’s Serie A league and the German Bundesliga? For if it’s about even----oh, please, doctor, I beg you, let me at least lie on my back, for it is perhaps slightly less painful to do so---then my vote is for Setanta. But, as I have stated earlier, I truly wish that your months of preparation for this immense moment of spontaneous biological creation had allowed for a couple of days of rest for me before being required to strain myself with such intellectual tasks; the very syllables you speak are causing my eardrums to throb excruciatingly, and to even focus my damaged eyes on the brochure before me makes them redden and itch like the bite of a thousand spiders, if I can even keep the left one from falling out. No, no, there’s no need to apologize; I know that the timing cannot be avoided lest the 20% off coupon mailed to the castle expire. Just, you know, for next time, go easy.

Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa---I don’t see the Golf Channel checked off anywhere on this package. Go ahead and tell me that’s just an embarrassing oversight and we can get on with our lives. Because if we’re not getting the Golf Channel, I assure you that I will unscrew my own head and throw my brain at you. I may be new to this world, but that doesn’t mean I don’t know it totally belongs to Tiger and the rest of us are just in the way.