Archive for July, 2007|Monthly archive page

Does That Make Me Crazy? Possibly.

In the duplex on July 25, 2007 at 12:27 am

Have you ever done something in your life that was risky? That could, you know, make your life everything you wanted it to be or, if it went poorly, could put you into the gutter, where you’d live off Little Debbie Snack Cakes and handouts from people whose lives were everything they wanted them to be? And, really, I’m not talking about nadding up and asking out that hot guy or girl (who eventually became your life partner) for the first time or putting it all on red in Vegas during a drunken spree with a new hooker you just meant, although that’s sort of close. Except for the hooker part. This story has no hookers. As far as I know. Then again, you can’t always tell a hooker from a regular non-hooking person, can you? But I digress.

Have you ever felt like you were living somebody’s else’s life? Like maybe somehow you’d stumbled into a life that was so good that it couldn’t possibly be yours?

Okay, let’s see if I can zoom in on what this post us truly about before I go off the rails like Tom Cruise on the Oprah show. Well, really, it’s about both of the above things. See, my wife and I bought a piece of property over near downtown. That’s downtown Denver, Colorado, for our international readers (you know who you are!). Right now it has a 100 year old house on it that’s in decent shape. However, it also has a killer view of the city and it’s an 8,700 square foot lot. So we’re going to tear the house down and build a duplex. Yes, I’m now a developer. And if you know anything about Denver, you know that a lot of people are up in arms about developers tearing down lovely old buildings and putting up gigantic stale duplexes and triplexes and walking away with all the profit.

Which, honestly, this is kind of like that. I bought a piece of property for some money, I designed a duplex to go on the building, I have a building permit, and now I have a bank that says they’ll finance it. And we’ll be tearing down an old building and putting up a new stale building in its place. Which, really, goes totally against my left-wing nature. But it’s okay to be a capitalist and be a Democrat, right? I mean, I still believe in a woman’s right to choose and I’m pretty fiercely anti-gun and anti-war and I think Americans should end their dependency on foreign oil and all that. And my wife drives a Prius, which should offset some of my capitalist leanings, right? And, in light of this duplex project, I’m signing up to work with Habitat for Humanity once a month with a friend of mine. That should help my karma, right? And, shit, I just bought a box of recycled paper for my office!

But I digress. The point is, this project will either make me or break me. If I do it right, I could end up with some nice cash flow and other opportunities afterwards – opportunities that probably represent a career change for me. I’ll be 43 this week, I’ve been a structural engineer for 20 years, and, really, I’ve come to the conclusion that I could use a career change. Because, really, being a structural engineer is like being on the bottom of the development pile. The developer hires an architect who hires a structural engineer for the project. Then we all wait around to get paid. And I saw this process over the years and I realized that the developer is the one who’s really making the money. So if this goes well, I’ll be that guy.

But if it doesn’t go well and I lose money on it, I’ll probably end up divorced and living in an apartment in Lakewood, eating, yes, Little Debbie Snack Cakes and working for the man again. As, yes, a structural engineer.

So this idea that I’m either made or broken after this project leads to conversations with myself:

Self #1: I’m gonna be rich.

Self #2: No you’re not. You’re not going to pull it off.

#1: Who the fuck are you?

#2: I’m the guy who sees you procrastinate all the time.

#1: Yeah, well, this is my big opportunity. I’m not gonna procrastinate this time.

#2: Have you given the bank what they want?

#1: Not yet.

#2: See?


Yeah, I’m a lot of fun to be around right now. And, honestly, that conversation above resembles the same one I have with my wife from time to time about this. Without the cussing. Okay, not really. There’s cussing. Probably more.

But this opportunity – and, contrary to the above imaginary conversation, I am truly an optimist and see this mostly as an opportunity – also brings up questions like, “Is this my life? Or am I living somebody else’s life?” Because I look around at my beautiful wife and my great kids and my decent lifestyle and great friends and my career and this amazing opportunity and I think, “Is this really all mine? Or am I dreaming?” Because, really, it all feels surreal. Like maybe somebody got their signals crossed and the Life Guy’s going to show up one day and go, “No, Jeff, your life is the one with the trailer park in Aurora and the career at McDonald’s. Go to it now.” Because I came from humble beginnings on the mean streets of Chula Vista, California, and sometimes that feels like where I probably belong. But then I look around and I realize, “No, this is MY life. I made this. I made all the decisions that put me here today.” Which is also surreal. A chance meeting between a getting-laid-off-that-day structural engineer (with long hair and a rock band) and an extremely cute temporary receptionist led to a 12 year marriage (and still going!) and two kids and a house in Denver, and, backing up further, a crazy decision that started with “I’m good at math, but I like the arts, too” led to an application to Cal Poly SLO’s Architectural Engineering program. Do you ever stop to think about all the little decisions that you’ve made that have led you to where you are today? And about how any of those decisions made differently might have led you somewhere else? It’s crazy, isn’t it?

Anyway, the main point is I might be crazy to do what I’m about to do. But I’m willing to find out. And if my posts for the next year are all about crazy contractors and stupid drywall people (with a shoutout to HDW), you’ll know why.


Flight, by Sherman Alexie.

In books on July 17, 2007 at 11:38 pm


This post comes to you because somebody pooped in a pool.

I’m in the middle of Christopher Moore’s book “A Dirty Job,” which is a very good book and deserving of its own review, which it will get when I finish it. However, yesterday I took the kids to Splash for the afternoon, because for some reason Denver’s weather lately resembles the inside of my mouth after 7 jalapenos, and we needed to escape said heat with a pool trip. So, on my way out the door, I remembered that Splash has a “beach” area with sand and such, and when we’re at the beach area, the kids play by themselves and I sit and watch. My kids have a little bit of a separation issue, so anytime I can get them to play without me is productive time.

Up to speed? Good.

So I remembered I wanted to bring a book to Splash so I can pass the time with a good read. And my copy of “A Dirty Job” is a signed first edition and there’s no way I’m taking that to Splash. Because there’ll probably be a splash and I don’t want to ruin it. I like to keep good books as good books. Ask to see my first edition of “The Moon Is Down” sometime. Anyhow, so I remembered that I purchased this book recently in paperback, because for some reason I missed the hardback release, so I brought it.

Up to speed now?

A little backstory, in case you aren’t confused enough already. I’ve been to exactly one book signing in my life, outside of my own book signings for “E-Male.” And that book signing was a Sherman Alexie book signing, back in 2000, for “The Toughest Indian In The World.” I remember it clearly, because we were pregnant with our first son and we met Mr. Alexie and told him we wanted our fetus to hear him speak. He, naturally, thought that was a little creepy. Still, that tidbit shows you what a big fan of the writer I am.

Now you’re up to speed.

So I had this book and my reading glasses (ah, the joys of old age) in my swimming bag and we went to Splash. After about an hour there, they closed the pool for an hour because, yes, somebody pooped in it. So the kids went over to the beach and I grabbed a chair and started reading this book. Yesterday afternoon.

Tonight I finished it.

Now I’ve been moved by books before. Most notably in my senior year of college, when I took a lit class as an elective and discovered Steinbeck and Hemingway. “The Sun Also Rises” totally resonated with me in college because, like Jake, I was having trouble consummating a sexual relationship with a young lady. In fact, I wrote a paper on that very topic that was well received by the professor. Not bad for an engineering student. But I digress. The point is, I’ve been moved by books before.

But not like this. Oh, no. I put this book down tonight with tears in my eyes. It is a stunning novel, unlike anything I’ve ever read. Here’s a description from the author’s website:

“Sherman Alexie’s first novel in ten years is the hilarious and tragic portrait of an orphaned Indian boy who travels back and forth through time in a violent search for his true identity.”

It’s not for the faint of heart: A 15 year old orphaned and abused Indian kid, nicknamed “Zits,” is about to commit a horrific act of violence and shoot up a bank full of people in Seattle. Just as the crime goes down, he is transported through time and space into the body of an FBI agent in the 1970s, in Idaho, as the FBI agent takes part in the killing of an innocent Indian. Then he is transported to the body of a mute Indian child at Little Big Horn, to the body of an Indian tracker in the 1800s, and to the body of a pilot with a Muslim friend in 2007. There are a couple of other stops, but I won’t give it away. Safe to say, it’s a violent book, with brutal images and scenes. But it’s also extremely well written and, as told from the point of view of an aimless 15 year old kid, is rife with poignant observations and dark humor and comments on the human condition. Ultimately, it’s a heartbreaking novel of redemption and transformation, and you won’t be able to put it down. It’s easily the best book I’ve read in a long, long time and Sherman Alexie might just be the best American writer alive today.

For more Sherman Alexie, rent or buy “Smoke Signals” on DVD (It’s based on his short stories) – I watched that again tonight after finishing the book and it’s a great, great movie. Heartwarming and heartbreaking at the same time, without going to that shmaltzy area that movies like to go to. That shmaltzy area that makes me puke.  Also, read “Reservation Blues” – that’s another great Alexie book.  In it, Robert Johnson (the famous bluesman who allegedly sold his soul to the devil for the ability to play guitar) comes to the Spokane Indian reservation and gives his guitar to Thomas-Builds-The-Fire, who starts an Indian rock band.  It’s an excellent book.


Popsicle Stick Wisdom

In silly on July 13, 2007 at 8:53 pm


For some reason, the popsicles we buy have riddles on the sticks. And you can’t read the punchline until you eat the popsicle. Of course, sometimes the anticipation of laughing my ass off – or not – is too much and I take bites of the popsicle and finish it in 10 seconds instead of licking it slowly and finishing it in 5 minutes. Which would be the proper amount of time to allow for proper enjoyment of a frozen confection, based on some report some dude wrote. Or something. Anyway…

From today’s popsicle:

“What did the hockey player do when the thief demanded money?”

“He gave him a check.”

Happy Friday!

No wonder I never got laid in college.

In silly on July 11, 2007 at 7:39 am

Women Drawn To Men With Muscles.


In silly on July 11, 2007 at 7:32 am


I’m giddy today.  Giddy like Scooter Libby on sentencing day.  Why?  Because there is now one of these within a bike ride of my house.  Oh, yeah.  Let the healthy eating begin!

Cantankerous Pays.

In rant on July 9, 2007 at 10:44 am


My Sprint cell phone died last week….which isn’t the story. But it’s the backstory. And you must know it to understand the rest of the story. Anyhow, my Sprint cell phone died, because the screen went blue, and I went to get a new one at Radio Shack, because they advertise that they carry Sprint stuff and because they’re a lot closer to my house than any of the Sprint Stores in the Denver area. So I selected a nice new fancy phone and I asked them to transfer my 200 phone numbers over to my new phone. “We can’t do that here. You have to go to a Sprint store. They’ll do it for free.” Seriously? Why do you sell Sprint phones then? Is there ANYBODY alive who buys a new cell phone who doesn’t have phone numbers to transfer over? “Uh, hi, I’m stuck in the 1980s and I’m looking to get out of it so I’m here to purchase my very first cell phone.” Right. I bet that happens.

So over the weekend the family and I were over at Belmar picking up some craft supplies and I saw a Sprint store. And I wandered in. “Hi, I have this new phone that I just purchased at Radio Shack and this old phone with the Blue Screen of Death on it. I need my numbers transferred over.” “That’s going to be $15.00.” “What?” “$15.00, sir.” “Are you kidding? I’ve been a customer of Sprint for 7 years AND they said at Radio Shack that you’d do it for free.” “$15.00, sir.” “Damn. I guess I have no choice. Go ahead, then.”

Then, as the clerk walked away with my phones, I muttered under my breath (but purposely loud enough for her to catch it), “That’s the last Sprint phone I buy. The LAST Sprint phone I buy. You just lost a customer.” Because I was a little bent. Sure, it’s only $15. But I’m paying $75 a month for phone service and I’ve been doing it for 7 years; I give them enough of my hard earned money. They should do this kind of stuff for free. What do they have to do, go in the back and connect a couple of cables together? Sure, that’s worth $15. And reality TV is good TV.

Anyhow, so I wander around the store for a few minutes, looking at all the overpriced accessories you can buy for your phone, and the clerk comes out and she hands me my phones and says, “It’s all done. And there’s no charge, sir.” “What?” “No charge. It’s our pleasure.”

I guess sometimes it pays to be cantankerous.


Addendum: Then there’s this: Sprint Hangs Up On High Maintenance Customers



In tagged! on July 9, 2007 at 9:31 am

Three Things That Scare Me:
1. The idea that I might not be the World’s Greatest Father.
2. Terrorism.
3. The Republican Party.

Three People Who Make Me Laugh:
1. Ricky Gervais.
2. Steve Carrell.
3. Howard Semones.

Three Things I Love:
1. My kids.
2. My guitars.
3. My comput…oh, okay, my wife.

Three Things I Hate/Severely Dislike:
1. Stupid people.

2. Ignorance masquerading as “values.”

3. Predictable movies.

Three Things I Don’t Understand:
1. People who lack ambition.
2. The tax code.
3. Why people would rather go to a movie than a play or improv show or other live performance.

Three Things On My Desk:
1. Happy Meal characters from “Flushed Away” – yes, I stole them from my kids.
2. Cold coffee.
3. The “Motown Anthology” music book.

Three Things I’m Doing Right Now:
1. Typing this.
2. Watching my kids play “restaurant” and ordering plastic food from them.
3. Anticipating.

Three Things I Want To Do Before I Die:
1. Type this.
2. Live in Paris. The city, not the Hilton.
3. See all the world’s peoples figure out how to live together.

Three Things I Can Do:
1. Make macaroni and cheese.
2. Play guitar.
3. Design a house.

Three Things I Can’t Do:
1. Make much more than macaroni and cheese.
2. Snowboard.
3. Figure out why people like “Sex and the City.”

Three Things I Think You Should Listen To:
1. John Doe.
2. Internet Radio.
3. Neil Finn.

Three Things You Should Never Listen To:
1. Broadcast radio.
2. Country music.
3. Celine Dion.

Three Things I’d Like To Learn:
1. How to play the drums.
2. How to end our dependence on foreign oil.

3. How to pass my eye exam.

Three Favourite Foods:
1. Mexican Food.
2. Chicken pot pie.
3. Vodka.

Three Shows I Watched As A Kid:
1. Brady Bunch.
2. Wacky Racers.
3. Looney Tunes.

Three Things I Regret:
1. Waiting so long to take a risk in the real estate market.
2. Waiting until I was 35 to start playing hockey.
3. Not knowing anything about my biological father.

Cuatro De Julio!

In music on July 4, 2007 at 3:29 pm

Happy Fourth of July!