My First Job. (Part IV – "Customer")

On my last day of work at the Co-Op, I did a quick equation to see if I could figure out how many customers I’d checked out over the last 4 years. The number was in the 6-digit range, yet it seemed like I knew everyone that came in by name. Truth be told, it was usually the same 100 people, day in and day out, for 1500 straight days.

I would like to tell you about one customer in particular. Let’s call him “Chet”. I’m protecting his identity strictly for my safety, for you see, “Chet” is completely insane.

Here’s a little backstory on Chet. He has an alcohol problem, a smattering of psychological problems and an anger management problem. He represents the Holy Trinity of what a serial killer profile looks like. Speaking of what he looks like, that did a lot as far as his frightening image went. He looked like Ed Norton in “American History X” (minus the sexy), with the eyes of Marty Feldmann.

I’m not kidding. He was that scary. I’m almost positive that he had the same tattoo.

Doing a circuit court search on Chet revealed a large sheet of offenses:
4 separate DUI charges (with heavy fines)
3 times driving with a suspended license (including jail time)
1 count of driving an ATV on the highway (with suspended license)
3 restraining orders
3 counts of disorderly conduct (including jail time)
1 count of domestic abuse (including jail time)

Most of these charges happened just before or just after leaving the Co-Op on any given day.

I first met Chet on the 2nd day of business at the Co-Op. All of the employees were still figuring out how everything worked, and the computer system was full of bugs. Chet walked in and bought some candy and a sledgehammer. I had no idea who he was, and nobody took the time to tell me to be careful around him. I began to ring him up, when the computer decided to lock up on me.

Thinking he would be decent about it, I told him that there was a light problem with the system, and I’d be more than happy to check him out at the next available computer. This apparently was too much for Chet to handle. He stared me down for about 20 seconds with those crazy-ass eyes, then proceeded to berate me for being an idiot. I felt horrible, and worse still, I couldn’t defend myself whatsoever. I was terrified of the guy, and he was holding a sledgehammer. In retrospect, there were so many things you would like to say to guys like that, but in the end you just nod and accept the gentle criticism. He eventually left, and 10 minutes later he was arrested for using the sledgehammer to smash up his neighbors car.

That night, I wanted to quit my job. He gave me a very poor impression of the types of people I would run into, and he also really freaked me out. I never wanted to see him again.

But of course, I would see Chet every few days. He would show up just before closing and buy a ton of things that would take forever to individually ring up (a giant bag filled with 60 different kinds of PVC attachments, for example). He’d mumble constantly, and when you’d ask him to repeat himself, he’d yell. If you didn’t ask him to repeat himself, you’d hear him wrong and have to start the transaction all over, and again he’d yell. There was no winning with this guy.

Within a few months, Chet lost his driver’s license due to him being a filthy drunk. Always the resourceful fellow, he got into the habit of driving his lawnmower to the Co-Op with a flat trailer attached to it . I could literally hear him coming from a mile away, and I had 15 minutes to get ready for him. It was torture.

On one particular day, he bought an armload of candy bars and soda, several bags of ready-mix concrete and 12 bottles of ammonia. As he putted off into the distance, trying to steer while drinking a Mountain Dew and eating a bag of chips, he turned hard into a ditch and tipped the lawnmower over. I didn’t get the chance to see it, but the mental image alone was enough to make me tear up with delight. An hour later, the cops were at his house because he had filled his ditches with concrete and covered his driveway with sod. He said he did this to keep the frogs out of his garage.

Chet took his “sod” case to the town board, where it abruptly ended with him making a death threat to one of the head members. The police were notified.

Still, he fought against these frogs, renting a Caterpillar and quickly running it into our gas pumps. You’re not supposed to operate heavy machinery when your inebriated and have no license.

The problems and verbal abuse continued for several more months. It was becoming too much for anyone to handle. Something had to be done before he killed somebody. I was honestly considering quitting my job because of him, and getting up for work in the morning was becoming almost impossible. One night before going to sleep, I wished out loud that I would never see Chet again, knowing full well that tomorrow would bring another day of his intimidation and bullying.

I got to work, and my manager was the first one to run into me. He told me that the night before, Chet was (once again) arrested for driving drunk with a suspended license, and he was going to jail for 4 months. With that, he was forced to attend all sorts of rehab classes, and take scores of pills for his various problems.

About 6 months later, a car pulled up to the Co-Op, and out of the passenger side emerged Chet. He was accompanied by his brother, who was now his legal guardian.

Chet looked like he had gained at least 50 pounds (because of all the pills he was taking), and he was nothing more than a glazed-over shell of a man. He said please and thank you, was soft-spoken and polite, and looked like he had absolutely no idea as to what was going on. Apparently, he went through the system, and this was the best that the system could do for him. Instead of hurting other people and himself, he was now incapable of even functioning without someone living with him. That was the last time I ever saw him.

So long Chet, wherever you are. Ya’ crazy bastard.

We’ll Never Be Like This Again.

“Tom + I” – By: Ryan Zeinert

Tom Servo stopped by my place of residence last night.

“Have a seat, old friend!” I said to him. “Let us watch Cure videos on the television.”

He agreed.

“Robert Smith looks like he hollowed himself out, and is now living in himself.” Servo quipped.

“You still got it!” I responded, respectfully.

I fed Tom a green M&M, which he heartily munched.

After exchanging in some humorous banter, he drifted off to sleep, leaning against me.

It was just like heaven. Now, 2 haikus.

Servo came over
Cracked wise with Robert Smith jokes
M&M’s were fed.

Ryan’s not balding
He forgot to dye his hair
Which is a light blonde.

My First Job. (Part III – "Explosion")

Working at an establishment that specialized in highly flammable liquids and gasses, you can tell that I’ve experienced my fair share of things getting blown the hell up. Here’s a trilogy of Co-Op explosion stories, told in increasing order of destruction.

Explosion #1 – “Butane”

Chad worked in the automotive department as a mechanic. He was a gentle giant with ice blue eyes; a hulking young man that could lift a pool table while simultaneously telling Ford jokes. He invited me and my wife to his wedding, which was incredibly thoughtful of him. Anyways, Chad came over to the hardware store like he did every morning, to purchase a Mountain Dew and a handful of candy bars.

In between me and him was a large rack of about 100 Bic lighters, all color coordinated and facing the same direction (you’re welcome, Larsen). Not one to turn down a chance to try something fun, Chad dropped his purchase on the counter and began to play with the lighters like a small child.

Each row contained 15 lighters, and stretched to about an arm’s length. Just then, I could see that Chad had some sort of bad idea brewing. Already tired of playing with just 1 lighter, Chad decided he wanted to ignite the entire row all at the same time.

Before I could explain to him the physics behind fire and oxygen (I did see Backdraft, after all), he laid his arm down across the row, pressing down on all 15 red buttons, releasing gas as one. He then lit the first lighter in the row with his free hand, and waited for the fire to spread to the remaining gaseous lighters.

It worked. Sort of.

Instead of the flame gracefully sliding across the row, it formed a small fireball and shot straight up him arm.

For a split second, Chad’s entire arm was on fire, oil-soaked uniform and all. I stood there, slack-jawed and bewildered, as he windmilled his arm around and batted at the flame. A second later, it was out and the ordeal was over. Chad stared at me, and I stared back at him, both of us feeling pretty embarrassed. As he quietly reached for his Mountain Dew and candy bars, he mumbled, “I singed my arm hair.” He brushed the burned hair onto the floor and slunk away. It was never discussed again.

Explosion #2 – “Oxygen?”

It was a calm spring day. The parking lot was empty, no customers to be seen. I sat on the counter of the store, reading Sports Illustrated and drinking a can of Mello Yello. I was still addicted to caffeine at the time, but I can’t for the life of me figure out why I was drinking such an inferior citrus soda that day. Nevertheless, the 2 other employees (Jon and Dave), were busying themselves in different isles, facing and sorting inventory, just keeping themselves occupied on an otherwise boring afternoon. A customer eventually came in and needed a propane tank filled, so Jon walked across the street to the massive tank we use to refill empty cylinders.

Looking back, I can’t believe that I never had a problem working in the vicinity of this tank. It was essentially a bomb the size of a semi trailer, and I parked my Buick next to it every morning, whistling a happy tune and never thinking for a moment that if it decided to malfunction, they wouldn’t so much as find a fingernail with which to identify me with.

I spotted Jon from my perch across the street, and turned back to my magazine. I looked over to the computer for a second to see what time it was, when…


The explosion was so loud I fell off the counter. It was deafening, and I’d never heard anything like it. I was ducked behind the counter because I had no idea what the hell had just happened. Furthermore, I was in no shape to peek over and see pieces of Jon splattered all over the front window. Damn, what about my car? It took a few seconds, but I worked up the nerve to look out the window to see…

Nothing. The giant tank was fine, Jon was fine, my car was fine. So what happened?

Meanwhile, Todd was in the back of the store when this mysterious explosion happened, and I’m sure he thought that the tank had gone off as well. I say I’m sure because no sooner did I peek over the counter, when Todd burst through the saloon-style doors of the back room and run full speed down the isle and out the front door. Had I not been so confused at the moment, it was probably the funniest thing I’d ever seen.

With my ears ringing and Co-Op employees starting to peer out the windows, we all tried to figure out what had happened. What blew up? Then, staggering out of the shadows, emerged our culprit.

A customer was taking advantage of our “free air” hose, and over-inflated a truck tire to the point of explosion. When he saw what was about to happen, he turned away just in time to not be seriously injured by flying rubber and shrapnel. His ears, however, weren’t so lucky.

What happened?” I asked him.

He didn’t respond. Party because he was still stunned to the point of a solid pants-crapping, but mainly because he was now deaf. After looking at me sideways for a few seconds, he said;

I think I need to go to the Doctor. I can’t hear anything.”

True to his word, he got in his truck and drove off, fragments of his spare tire still littered in our parking lot. I never saw him again.

Explosion #3 – “Gasoline”

Our main parking lot was getting more and more torn up with each passing winter day. Snow chains and plows were removing hearty chunks of concrete every hour on the hour. Something had to be done. The first nice day of April, we had the lot re-sealed.

It was another slow day (every day was, really), and I was passing the time by watching these driveway professionals smoke by the gas tanks and accomplish nothing in 5 hours. It was brilliant to see these people in action, and I model my work ethic after them to this day.

After completing a very small task, they placed their tools on the ground and had yet another smoke break. What follows is a Rube Goldberg-ian string of events and dumb luck that almost turned Larsen into an instant ghost town. Let me break it down step-by-step:

Dumbass mistake #1 – The driveway crew left a lit blowtorch running in the parking lot. I swear to God.

Dumbass mistake #2 – This lit blowtorch was unattended, and less than 10 feet away from our gas tanks. Luckily for us, we had the gas tanks roped off with signs that said “Out of Order”.

Dumbass mistake #3 – Most of our customers cannot read. No less than 30 seconds after this torch was set down, someone drove their car right through the yellow tape, chose the pump right next to the open flame, and began to fill up. Luckily for us, gas pumps are equipped with an automatic shut-off switch to prevent overfilling and spillage.

Dumbass mistake #4 – This genius only put an inch of the gas nozzle into his tank. Due to his rubbernecking at the progress of the driveway sealing, he left the pump unattended, the tank overfilled, and gasoline started to pool under his car.

I looked out the window and quickly figured out what was going on. All I could do was shake my head in disbelief as I saw the puddle of gas inch closer and closer to the open flame. I was the only one who could see what was happening, and instead of doing anything about it, I quietly got into the fetal position behind the counter. I was wondering how much of the town would be left when the Co-Op disintegrated. I was also wondering how my family would feel about my death being honored in the Darwin Awards. I really didn’t think I was going to die, but I didn’t think I’d want to live once the wave of fire washed the skin from my bones.

So I waited.

And waited.

I peeked over the counter (which was something I was getting used to doing), and saw the driveway repair guy holding the lit torch over his head, screaming at the inattentive customer who was in turn screaming back at him. Hey, they both deserved it! I think they both knew that, too.

Laughing quietly, I walked to the back room to grab a bag of that pink sawdust that cleans up after vomit and gasoline spills. “Nobody’s going to believe this“, I thought to myself.

Sometimes, I still can’t.

(Edit: You may be saying to yourself, “That last explosion story wasn’t really an explosion at all! You’re a liar!” Well, that may be true, but sometimes anticipating the explosion is better than the explosion itself. Let that be a metaphor for life, kids. If you’re still curious as to what might have happened when the gas came in contact with the torch, feel free to try this for yourself at any participating Kwik Trip store.)

My First Job. (Part II – "Death")

In my life thus far, I’ve been pretty close to death on a number of occasions. I’m sure we all have, really. Close calls with cars on the highway, one misstep away from a 10-story fall, kitchen appliances gone awry. When you consider how fragile and tiny life really is, you start to consider yourself pretty lucky when you find yourself on the “not dead” side of these incidents.

When I was about 7, my family went on vacation in Florida. There, I had an honest-to-God near-death experience in a hotel pool. I couldn’t swim (still can’t), and I ventured a little too far into the deep end. For the next eternity, it seemed, I tried to find my way back to the surface, taking in huge amounts of water with every wasted breath. I still remember every second of that ordeal, and each time I feel instantly claustrophobic. Water is really my only big fear, which explains why I haven’t bathed or showered in years.

The interesting thing I’ve noticed with all these instances is that I never thought I was going to die when they happened to me. You only think after the fact that you could have lost your life. Come to think of it, there has never been a single time in my life where I honestly thought I was going to die.

Except for once.

I had been working at the Co-Op for a couple of years at this point, and I was 18 years old. I shuffled in a few minutes late as always, and positioned myself behind the counter for another typical Wednesday. I stood there for a few minutes, opened the store for business, and wondered where all the employees were.

After about 15 minutes and a dozen customers later, my boss finally emerged from the back room, where the 2 other employees seemed to be hiding as well. He was looking around every isle on his way up to the front counter where I was standing, and he didn’t look right. Todd was a kind-but-tough man, boasting scarred arms and a black David Crosby-like ‘stache. I’ve seen him lift hundreds of pounds and put out fires with his bare hands. Today, however, he looked…well, he looked scared. Something wasn’t right.

After checking the store for any customers, he escorted me away from the huge window at the front of the store, to a seasonal isle full of rakes and garden gnomes. “Ryan“, he said to me, “There was a message on our machine this morning by a guy who said he was going to come in and kill someone today. We don’t know if it was a prank or not, but the police are coming and we’re not taking any chances.”

I thought to myself, “Not taking any chances? Great! We’ll close the store up, and I’ll go back home. Hell, my bed’s probably still warm. I’ll just grab my coat and….”

“Keep your eyes peeled.” Todd said to me, and he hustled back into the storage room with the other employees, closing the door behind him.

I crept slowly back in front of the giant window, very much alone for the remainder of the day. Apparently the rest of the staff had a lot of things to do away from the main floor of the store. I’m sure their thinking was that as soon as they heard my dead body hit the floor, they could easily sneak out the back with little to no confrontation. I knew I was going to be on my own.

I tried to keep my wits about me. About 98% of our customers were regulars who probably wouldn’t hurt anyone unless they were black. It was just those drifters that I had to keep an eye on. Living in Larsen Wisconsin, trucks came pre-equipped with gun racks, and everyone was capable of taking a human life if only slightly provoked. As the customers started to file in, I did my best to check them out as soon as they entered the store. I had a small axe behind the counter that I once used to chase a child out with (true story), and I was ready to split anyone’s melon should they come in with shifty eyes. I did this for a while, and when the action died down for a couple minutes, I excused myself into the office.

There, I listened to the answering machine message myself. Perhaps I could figure out who left it, or if they were just joking around or not. I’m pretty good at detecting sarcasm, and I can usually match voices to faces. I pressed play just as the cops arrived.

“I’m going to come in there and kill somebody tomorrow!”

I didn’t recognize the voice, and I wasn’t about to assume they were kidding. The cops took the tape with them, and I was back on my own. Honestly, where the hell did all the employees go?

Anticipating your own murder is really something amazing. You start to wonder if you’ve lived a decent enough life at the age of 18. I couldn’t believe that I was going to be killed behind the counter of a gas station. I helped myself to a few free sodas and candy bars. It was the least I could do. Eventually, I started to take the defensive. If someone was going to come in and shoot the store up, it was my duty as an employee of the Larsen Cooperative to kill him first. With each strange customer, I clenched the axe in my hand, probably looking insane. In normal work situations, your supervisor wouldn’t take too kindly of their cashier wielding a hatchet at every smiling face that entered, but he was in hiding and there was no time for rational thought. I was sweating all day, I couldn’t stop circling the counter and I wasn’t in the mood for talking. Anticipating my own murder soon turned into me anticipating murdering someone else.

(Cue fantasy sequence.)

I had it all figured out. The car would pull up, probably an older American model. The muffler would be loud, and the rust would be creeping up along the edges of the forest green paint. The shooter would wait in his car, looking straight ahead, pausing to look around in wait for the store to empty itself out. Once the last customer has left, he would emerge from the vehicle slowly, looking left and right with squinted eyes. He would slink quickly to the front door and make his way inside, thinking he was home free.

But what he doesn’t know is that I’d be on to him.

He’d take one look at me, and draw his rifle from the front of his pants. I’d catch it from the corner of my eye, glistening in the sickening fluorescent lights. All at once, I’d swing myself in his direction, the butt of the small axe swinging with me. The butt of the axe would make direct contact with the barrel of the gun, sending it careening down the Fertilizer isle. He’d turn in the direction of the rifle, taking his eyes off of me for one second too long.

I’d step out from behind the counter as he scampered down the isle for the gun. Like a Cherokee warrior, I’d throw the axe end-over-end, sinking it deep between his shoulder blades. He’d hit the ground and slide about 2 feet, just 6 inches short of the rifle. The axe would still be sticking out of his back as I slowly walked past him, Doc Marten boots stepping on the hand that was so desperately reaching for the gun. I’d pick it up with gloved hands (I said I was prepared), and he’d look up at me just in time to see me aiming the barrel right between his dilated pupils.

“You need to control your temper.” I’d say to him calmly. My finger would wrap tightly around the trigger, and he would close his eyes with a grimace, bracing for the final impact. Just then, the police would bust in, take him away to jail and slap a medal of honor on my Co-Op uniform. The next day, the headlines would read, “Ryan Zeinert paralyzes nutjob, George W. Bush drinks self to death.” From then on, I’d continue to work at the hardware store from time to time, but I’d receive enough money in shoe endorsements to live comfortably in Paris with Celia and Kate Winslet. I was ready to roll.

(End Fantasy Sequence.)

The hours ticked by, but I never let my guard down. If someone came in that I knew, I’d try to keep them around for a while, knowing that I could use them for a crude bullet shield when the carnage began. I was especially friendly to the heftier folks. If a straggler showed up, I hustled them out quickly, fingers sweatily wrapped around my axe. They didn’t ask questions.

It should seem obvious to you by now that no shooter ever showed up. Eventually, 4pm rolled around, I punched out and headed back home. We later found out that the message was nothing more than an angry customer thinking out loud while the answering machine was recording. He was mad that we weren’t open, and made an ass of himself. We never found out who it was, and no charged were ever filed. Things went back to normal at the Co-Op, and we never talked about that day ever again.

I learned a lot about myself that day. Morally, I learned that life is a tiny gift that should be enjoyed as much as possible. Weather or not we’re significant or holy means nothing sometimes. I also learned that it doesn’t take much to go primal every now and then. I consider myself a pretty stable person, but when faced with my mortality I all but scalped the locals to stay alive. I usually frown on mob mentality and mass-hysteria, but I had a one-man breakdown that day because I thought I was going to be killed. I felt vulnerable, weak and irrelevant.

The ultimate irony was that I was never in any danger whatsoever. All those other near-death instances happen to me every day and I never bat an eyelash. But in anticipating something nonexistent, I overwhelmed myself with fear to the point of insanity. It’s happened to all of us at one point or another.

So, that’s my story about the time I was almost killed by a crazed madman.

My First Job. (Part I – "Intro")

From June of 1998 to August of 2002 (ages 16-20), I worked at the Larsen Co-Op, a local hardware store/gas station less than a mile from my house.

I had previously worked as a bartender at my Dad’s tavern down the street (which was ridiculously illegal). It was during the Packers 1997 Super Bowl Season, and he needed extra help during games. Eventually, I got sick of him not paying me, and quit. Through my Mother’s wishes and phone calls, I got a job at the Co-Op, originally to scan product codes into their new computer system. They had moved from an old building, where they kept all records on paper, and didn’t believe in registers and electricity. I think they were the last store in the north to finally stop accepting pelts as currency.

So I spent the summer of 1998 in this building, amongst a large mound of tools and cheaply-priced knick-knacks, attaching bar codes to them and entering them into the system. Somewhere along the line they decided I would be a good cashier, so when the store celebrated their grand opening in August, I was the first person the customers would see. I knew everyone in our small town (maybe a few hundred people, tops), and my friends would occasionally stop by to harass me and muss up my candy bar arrangements.

As a cashier, I had it pretty easy. My manager was an intense workaholic, and did everything on his own. He expected me to stay behind the counter all day, and do nothing else but check people out. There would be 8-hour days where less than 50 people would come in. I got in the habit of bringing my Game Boy along, or posting long-winded essays on the Mediocre At Best message board. On Sundays, I would drag the television out from the back room so I could watch football while the store was open. I could have literally shot a movie there during normal business hours, and now I really wish I would have. I was planning on calling it, “Clerks: the good version”.

This was my first real job, and it was basically for me to stand in one place for 8 hours, carrying a bag of bird seed to someone’s car every now and then. Being the center of town, people would stop by just to talk. In the 4 years that I worked there, I became somewhat of a bartender without alcohol. I listened to people’s problems, handed out advice and receipts, broke up fights and threw people out. I saw things that I never want to see again, and actually almost lost my life on more than one occasion. I never thought that so many stories that make up my personality would come from this one building when I was a teenager.

I’d like to share some of these stories with you, if at all possible.

My first chapter will come this weekend.

Mr. Electric Shock!

We’ve got some catching up to do. Afterwards, there will be juice and cookies.

1. I turned down a job offer at the Department of Administration here in Madison. The pay was better and it was a significant promotion, but in the end wasn’t enough to constitute an entire career change. I’m content enough where I am, and I’ll wait until something better comes along. I don’t want to hear anyone accusing me of being afraid to take a chance. I mulled over this decision for a week before coming to this conclusion. If anything, accuse me of being too lazy to learn another skill for not even a couple hundred extra bucks a month. I’m not starving to death, I frankly don’t need the money that badly. This does mean, however, that I can no longer complain about my job. I’m going to miss that.

2. Still reeling from the immense success and popularity of my first review for Core Weekly, my second review will be featured in next week’s issue. I’ll be tackling Goldfinger’s “Disconnection Notice”. Between you and me, I don’t think it’s going to go very well. Send all hate mail to

3. Speaking of Core Weekly, they just sent me my first paycheck today. Keep ’em coming! With the money they paid me to write a single review, I barely filled my car with gasoline. But check this, it was premium.

4. American Idol’s Scott Savol looks just like Pyle in Full Metal Jacket. Like Pyle, Savol is fully capable of snapping at any second. He can sing like nobody’s business, though. He’s the only contestant I’m truly cheering on.

5. Tonight’s episode of Mythbusters tested the theory of the “Brown note”, a specific sound frequency that makes you lose control of your bowels. Didn’t work quite the way the story says. Every one of my teachers at MMI were wrong. I paid $22,000 for those cobs to tell me that a 6-cycle hum would make you crap your pants. Had Mythbusters existed 3 years ago, I probably wouldn’t be paying these student loans.

6. My hair continues to grow. I will get another dye job tomorrow evening.

7. Check out the newest addition to my living room:

Of course, now my apartment is haunted, but it really fills out the room nicely. It’s pretty big. In case you’re wondering, that’s a Lichtenstein print in the upper-left corner, and a picture of my family in the bottom left. I try to keep my belongings as geometric and symmetric as possible.

8. This weekend, we’re headed back home again for my Grandmother’s birthday. February marks not only her birthday, but the birthday of my late Grandfather, as well as what would’ve been their 48th wedding anniversary. We’re getting everyone together to have a good time with her, and try to cheer each other up in the process. I bought her a Patsy Cline CD.

9. I put up a link in the “listen!” section for The Arcade Fire. I don’t want to talk about them, and I don’t want you to talk about them. All I’m asking is that the next time you’re looking to buy a CD, but don’t really know what you want, please give their debut album, “Funeral” a try. That is all. Their official page is a complete mess right now, so if you want information on them, just search around when you have some free time.

10. I don’t really have a 10th thing to talk about. It’s just that a 10-item list seems much more complete and important than a dumbass 9-item list. Here, let me think of something else that I could tell you…I bought a new shirt a couple days ago. It’s brown. Fits me perfectly and compliments my eyes. 15 bucks at Target.

Go to bed!

You’re Still Here?

Happy First Birthday, CDP!

After almost 8,000 visits and nearly 12,000 page views, we’ve reached this point. Over 100 posts, hundreds of thousands of words, tons of links, dozens of terrible pictures and a multitude of stories I should have kept to myself.

I started this page when I was unemployed last year, as an outlet to keep my writing skills active and public. 1 year later, and I’m still not an accomplished author, but as of yesterday I AM a published writer. My first CD review (LCD Soundsystem) ran in yesterday’s issue of Core Weekly, and I’m writing another review for them as we speak (Goldfinger’s new “Disconnection Notice“). I get paid to tell people what I think, and that’s all I ever really wanted. (If you live outside of Madison and want a copy, just let me know; I swiped about 20 of them.)

Many thanks to the few friends I have that keep coming back to check out what’s going on. I try to write about people around me as much as possible, because I know they’ll check out the page if I talk about them. I’m under the assumption that 4 of my friends visited the page 3,000 times each over the past 12 months. That was really nice of you guys.

Since I started this page, I launched 3 other pages that I’m pretty proud of. “72 Hours” is a now defunct document of making a film out of a script I wrote last year. Boycott Unity is my daily comic strip devoted mostly to politics and tolerance. Ryan’s Ween is…well, that’s on the way.

I wanted to make this quick. As long as you promise to keep coming back, I’ll continue to make an ass of myself for the sake of social acceptance and entertainment. Thanks.

Congratulate me and raise a glass in the all-new comments section. I’ll be waiting for you.

It’s Still Summer Somewhere.

I’m letting my Winter hair grow longer.

It’s a little game I like to play. Every now and then, someone will tell me that I’d look sexier if my hair was a bit shaggier. This person is usually my Wife, and I comply. This goes well right up until that first day I have to blow dry it. Now, I don’t consider myself to be a typical man, but hear me when I say that men shouldn’t blow-dry anything. It’s not natural, and I instantly head right off to the nearest Regis salon, and have them chop it all off.

Well, this time it’s my idea and I’m sticking with it.

Obviously, my hair isn’t anywhere near long and shaggy, but it’s a start. I usually wear it quite short, showing off my massive oval-shaped melon. Short hair accentuates my giant forehead, and draws lots of attention to my elfin ears.

The chicks love it.

But alas, I’m moving on! Celia changes hairstyle more than I shower. I’d put up a montage of all her trademark styles, but if you just look at the photo section of our old band’s page, you can track her styles through the years of 2000-2002.

My history with hair is a bit more simple; allow me to walk you through it.

1982 – 1985: A Curly Mop

(Straight mop pictured.)

1986 – 1989: The “Koppel”

1990 – 1993: Don Majkowski

(Shown doing what he did best, being tackled and subsequently injured.)

1994 – 1998: Koppel Returns

1999 – 2001: Spiked and Angry

2002 – 2004: George Clooney

2005 will be hereby known as…. The year of the “Shaggy”.


(Various other hairstyles have been omitted to protect the credibility of the author.)

I’ll keep you up to date as to how it’s coming along, because I know you’re concerned. Besides, I’m such a photo whore that I usually have a new picture of me up every week. My family has a good strong hair gene, so baldness doesn’t seem to be in my future. Right up until the day he passed away, my Grandfather had a head of silver hair as beautiful as that of Lute Olson, coach of the Arizona Wildcats.

There were so many things I could have talked about today besides hair. American Idol is going quite smoothly, all the losers are getting cut (new episode tonight). The triumphant return of sub-zero winds and snow have convinced me to take a noose-tying class, just in case (1 hour a week at the YMCA). There’s also a new (clip show) episode of Mythbusters tonight (see link on right).

In news that actually has to do with me, my CD review should be in tomorrow’s issue of Core Weekly, and I’m in the process of hammering out another review for them. I’ve got a daily comic strip that you really need to check out more, and Ryan’s Ween is in the early stages of being stocked wall-to-wall with tasteful soft-core pornography. You’d almost think I’d be getting paid to do all this, but it turns out I’m just a complete dumbass.

Today at work, I got an E-mail from someone asking if they needed a license to open a “Pet Massaging” business. I should have asked her for a job.

I’m ordering a pizza before American Idol starts. Then I’m going to run a round brush through my long, thick head of hair.

Who’s Going To Be The Odd Man Out?

When I was a kid, back in ’85-’86, I was sort of pale and thin. But I obviously knew how to throw a deck party!

Bring your Styx records, Frampton 8-tracks and a case of Blatz, because this was one 4-year old that could rock until the sun came up. I walked around looking like that for years, honest to God, years. You’d think someone would have eventually scooped me up and put me on a talk show, or at least had me do some extra work on Holocaust films. The best part was my hair, as I looked like a young Ted Koppel. Still, I was certain the ladies would flock to me. Huge hair full of aerosol spray, spandex, leather jackets and dangly earrings. Yeah, I really miss the 80’s.

I’m also a liar, and this picture is the only proof in my mind that the early 80’s even existed.

Nowadays…Well, I’m still pale and thin.

(Artist’s Rendition)

But now I have the common courtesy to wear a decent pair of pants every now and then. If you’re ever around when I have to strip down for any reason, you’d notice that I basically look exactly like I did back then. It’s troublesome and sad, and I’d rather you not bring it up to anyone.

So, what the hell am I getting at here? Nothing, really. I just really wanted to show everyone that picture of me. I used to hang around a group of friends that thought it was really funny to get naked for no reason. I never fully understood why a group of straight men would even consider such an activity, but I stayed quiet. For a brief period in the late 90’s, teenage male exhibitionism was all the rage. The fire stoked by Blink-182’s “What’s My Age Again?” video, kids everywhere were running down sidewalks naked while their friends laughed their asses off. They would then pick up their clothing and drive off, leaving their friend for the cops to handle. I never participated (and none of my friends were ever arrested), but I must admit it left me with some humorous, non-gay memories.

I did have a gay best friend for most of Elementary and Middle school, but those stories alone could fill a book. That’s a different post for a different time. Remind me to talk about that some day, will you?

While I’m comfortable enough with my own body in front of my wife, it’s around others where I start to get jittery. Luckily for me, once you’re married you usually don’t find yourself showing your scantily-clad body off to loved ones and co-workers. I mean, you totally can, it’s just generally frowned upon, depending on your friends. 98% of the people that I now hang out with are women, and they aren’t really as into the exhibitionism thing as my old male friends were.

That’s roughly the equivalent of winning 10 cents in the lottery. But in the grand scheme of things, pants always beats no pants. Let’s move on.

Since we’re on the subject of friends of my wife, I have to commend them all for something that’s been going on for about 15 years. You see, every group of friends has a bully. Someone who pushes everyone around and treats them like rubbish, and everyone is always too nice or too intimidated to do something about it. Well, they finally did something about it last week, and I praise them for their efforts. Keep fighting the good fight, and don’t stop until you get what you rightfully deserve. I used to put up with girls like that in High School, and it sickens me to see them invading my life now that I’m older. All I can say is that you’re doing the right thing.

Speaking of doing the right thing, I’m starting to get a little annoyed with my job. I don’t like to get caught in creative quicksand, especially when it comes to employment, and it’s happening to me as we speak. I’m getting paid a certain amount of money to do a certain amount of things, you see. However, the amount and importance of things that I do far exceeds my current classification. Result? I’m getting screwed, and I feel the need to get a bit greedy about it. I feel I’m capable of much more in my field, and I’m going to look around until I get that chance. I love where I work, and I hope I can stay there as long as I’m happy, but I will not hesitate to leave should something better come along. It’s nothing that anyone else wouldn’t do.

Unlike most people who have lost the will to live, I don’t look at my job as a privilege. I look at my job as something I should enjoy and feel respected in. Maybe it’s a mix of my age and attitude in a work field that’s so dominated by middle-aged folks, but I honestly don’t care what anyone around me thinks when I step into my office in the morning. That may sound like I’m an ass and I’m difficult to get along with at work, but it’s not true. In fact, I’m the cheeriest bastard in my office every single day. I have no idea why, either. My attitude is top notch, even as middle management finds yet another way to slip another task under my belt. I’m one of the fastest workers you’ll ever find, and I honestly think that no one employee can take my place right now. Some days I do the work of 4 people, yet I couldn’t be lower on the pyramid. This rant is officially over. As a final disclaimer, I’ll have you know that I love and respect my job and supervisors, and am planning a long and satisfying career working for the State of Wisconsin.

(That rant was brought to you by Post your resume online and find the job of your dreams at, where you’re the Monster!)

Who wants ice cream?

Hey, what a Superbowl! Both teams played like crap, but I’m glad the Patriots pulled it out. I wanted so badly to have Terrell Owens make an ass of himself out there, but he lost the big game, and that’s all that matters to me. The commercials were a complete non-event, and the whole tribute to America was nothing more than redneck pandering. I’m glad the Simpsons completely trashed the whole spectacle, because it made the night come full circle. “American priorities are a joke!”.

3 more things, then I’m going to bed:

1. The CDP turns 1 on Saturday. Make sure you keep visiting, because there’s some things on the way you should enjoy. (Do I sense an all-nude pay site just around the corner?)

2. The day we start dropping bombs on Iran, I’m cutting off my thumbs to avoid the draft. Sure, I’ll never be able to play the drums again or hold my unit straight when I’m taking a whiz, but at least I’ll be able to walk around Canada with some sense of pride.

3. I sense an all-nude pay site just around the corner.

I Won’t Remember Anyone Anymore.

I’ll make this quick, because I’m tired.

The Streetlight Manifesto/VGS show on Tuesday was fantastic. Mad Planet is a small venue, and the kids were respectful to each other and full of energy. It was the kind of show I remember going to years ago, free of egos and shoegazers. Everyone from the front to the back was shaking their asses. Way to go, Milwaukee. You suck a bit less now as a whole.

Speaking of which, me and Benjamin were all but planted in the worst part of the city when I mistakenly thought I knew where the hell I was. It’s a good thing we made the choice to run back to our car like scared crackers, because we were parked a good 3 miles from the venue. I’m an idiot.

This weekend, I’ll be catching up on some new cartoons and making sure everything is up to date around the house (bills, cleaning, etc.). We have nothing planned, and I intend to keep it that way. I bought a new GBA game (Super Mario World 2), and have plenty of books to catch up on (including a fantastic encyclopedia of serial killers Ben got me). This is the furthest I will be extending myself for the next 3 days. I promise you that I’ve been working on lots of things that hopefully will surface in the near future, but for now it needn’t be discussed.

What are you doing this weekend?

Coming Soon: The CDP “Bloggie” Awards + 1st Anniversary!