Bryan Joiner

Why then I

Category: Domestic Nonsense

Talking to my computer

ME: Hi computer.

COMPUTER: Hi Bryan.

ME: You and me tonight.

COMPUTER: I’m used to it.

ME: A blog post is a one-way convo with a computer, I suppose.

COMPUTER: I’m a good listener.

ME: Yeah, but all those people on the Internet.

COMPUTER: They don’t exist. I make them up.

ME: You lie!

COMPUTER: True. But how do you really know?

ME: I don’t really but I like the people I “meet” out there.

COMPUTER: They’re probably talking to their computers too.

ME: We should all be talking to each other!

COMPUTER: Then who would talk to me?

ME: I don’t know. Another computer?

COMPUTER: Two computers talking? That’s… ridiculous.

ME: More ridiculous than me talking to my computer, and it responding?

COMPUTER: Touché.

ME: So…

COMPUTER: What did you do today?

ME: I had my best day at work in five years, hands down.

COMPUTER: Awesome!

ME: What did you do?

COMPUTER: I sat on the table next to your bed from exactly 7:57 a.m. to 6:25 p.m.

ME: Anything to report?

COMPUTER: You still haven’t put anything on the walls.

ME: Sure I have! (points screen toward one painting on the wall)

COMPUTER: Very nice.

ME: Looted it from mom’s house.

COMPUTER: What did she think?

ME: Wasn’t happy.

COMPUTER: You could clean up a bit, you know.

ME: Leave me alone. I went to the gym this morning.

COMPUTER: Get the fuck out of here!

ME: Yeah, I decided I’m going to be that asshole.

COMPUTER: Good for you!

ME: I won’t proselytize though.

COMPUTER: I hate those fuckers.

ME: I was like that… when I was 19.

COMPUTER: I wasn’t born yet. What was it like?

ME: Only time I owned a PC. It broke in a month. Highly related to the fact I was a freshman, which we called a first-year, and was drunk and knocked out the Internet cable often.

COMPUTER: I heard about those!

ME: Crazy, right?

COMPUTER: Blows my mind.

ME: I think I’m gonna go now.

COMPUTER: I’ll be here!

Mo’ Problems, Fewer Problems

About two hours ago I set off toward Target to buy a digital camera. It was really nice out and I was pissed that I wore long sleeves but didn’t want to go back in to change because I live on the fifth floor and it would have taken a couple minutes. That and I don’t really like the tee shirt I’m wearing and didn’t want to call attention to it. So I was moving quickly and got within a free kick of Target when I saw people going into the Williamsburg Savings Bank building for the Brooklyn Flea. I’ve heard about the Flea but never been and I was pulled to this intersection because I was caffeinated and on a mission to go somewhere else. Do I abandon the mission and dive headlong into a room where I’ve been told there are antique maps, which is a particular sort of kryptonite to me, or do I shuffle up the escalator? I did a shimmy-shammy in both directions before I muttered “dammit” to myself and headed into the bank. It didn’t take long to find the maps, at the end of the first floor. They were a little more expensive than I expected but only because they were authentic and on first pass I didn’t think I needed to have anything until I saw a 1864 map of Illinois that just killed me. I put it down and went straight outside to walk around the block. I’m an impulse buyer of art/”art” etc. and I’m fine with that but not without taking a walk around the block first. I started back toward Fort Greene and a crazy dude was talking to himself or me, I’m not sure, about four feet from my butt until I hung a left and got my wits about me. Could I let this one go? I had about 100 feet to decide and pretty much decided I couldn’t. When I went back in I decided to take a long, long look at all the maps there to make sure that the Illinois one was really the one, and after about 10 minutes I took one look at it and knew it was so. I brought it to the dude and just said, “You win.” Now all that’s ringing in my ears are his talk of preservation and UV glass and acid-free tape and sunlight exposure and temperature control and custom framing and all sorts of shit I didn’t consider and was trying to deflect like a slapshot until I could get away from the blast zone of the not-insubstantial (but not, like, corrosively large) credit card receipt laying on his table. Of course, when I got home the buyer’s remorse finally crashed and I took to Google to look up custom framing and how much it costs and oh jeez. Then I ate some pasta (cheap) to settle down and I’m not quite there, as you can see, but it’s not the money that’s a big deal — it’s adding something to my to-do list instead of subtracting one, and accepting that these things are going to happen. This is where it would be nice if I had some sort of life partner to reassure me after things like this, but more likely they’d talk me out of the impulse purchase in the first place, so I might as well take this for what it’s worth. Golden times to buy shit I don’t need just because I like it. More problems, yeah, but not really.

Up in the Air

Two weeks ago, I went to Ikea. It wasn’t glorious — how could Ikea be glorious? — but it wasn’t terrible. I needed things and I bought them, if reluctantly. I like to put things off, and Ikea doesn’t allow you to put things off. It’s all in front of you, and the price tags whittle away your impulses toward procrastination.

That was Sunday. On Friday, I invited my friend Ryan over to help me build my bedframe. I could do it without him, but I could do it faster with him. We got to work. We used little wrenches that Ikea gave us, and we used them effectively. We made half the thing until I noticed that something was wrong. Ryan was too high on making shit to see, and was confused as I explained it. The sides of the frame were four inches shorter than the bed itself. I looked at the box. The box said the sides were for a Twin/Full bed. My bed is a Queen. I picked up the wrong box. We consoled ourselves with spicy lamb sandwiches, and life was good and bad at the same time.

Last weekend was too snow-packed to fix the problem. This weekend I resolved to go back. I had to get a ride. Zipcar won’t have me. I convinced my friend Chris that it wouldn’t take very long for me to swap one small part out for another; initially skeptical, he resolved to interrupt his stagnant Sunday in Williamsburg to help me out, against every one of his instincts. We drove to the store and I steeled myself for the worst. It was much worse than I thought.

Ikea is designed to give the shopper the most pleasant, facilitated retail experience: Wide, clean lanes, full displays, everything. All the negativity is shoved into the Returns and Exchanges section. They make you take numbers, like delis, and you stand around with hundreds of anxious or angry former customers who just want their money back or to run some sort of scam on the retail giant. The percentages have to be like 90/10 percent, but everyone there feels pre-rejection feeling of rejection. There’s something about the holding area that says You’re Fucked before you’re even called, mostly because you’ve already been dehumanized to the point of farce. This isn’t Hell. It’s too boring to be Hell. It’s like Hell’s waiting room.

So anyhow, I waited in this mess for about 20 minutes before I decided that I didn’t want to wait anymore, mostly for Chris’s sake. He was so anti-Ikea that he had parked his car and decided to take in the soothing vista of New York Harbor, with its slow-moving rusted-out cargo ships and scenic Staten Island. Basically, I had about 10 minutes before he flipped and drove his back to the Burg with my sweater in tow. So I just got behind a register and pretended it was a line. When I got to the front, the cashier scolded me. “Next time,” she said, with the knowing inflection that there would be no next time, but we’d both pretend there would be so we could process my simple rutrn, “don’t come here unless I call you.” Scan, scan, card, sign, money, receipt. Back into the store I went to get the right size. Seven minutes later, I was headed back north. Chris drove me around the block, dropped me off, and sped home.

I got inside and put them in my hallway. It was only 3 p.m, and it was so nice out! Time to go back outside. But I lost steam, and I fell asleep on my earthbound bed. I awoke around 7 and realized that I was going to watch the Oscars, and that I’d better make the most of that fact. I heated up some popcorn and poured myself a water. A celebration! But I knew once the show started that the bed frame needed to be made. I’d waited too long. It was a full year ago that Chris told me I’d feel better sleeping up in the air; he said that there was something unspeakably regal about it. I believed him, but never took initiative. Now that I had, I couldn’t in good conscience wait any longer.

It was somewhere in between the Best Supporting Actor and Actress awards that I went to work. I stacked books on the far side of my room to rest the sides upon, and started screwing the pieces together on the near side. It went smoothly for the most part, but occasionally the pieces didn’t fit like they were supposed to, and it took the slightest bit of elbow grease to line them up, and I felt like a king. When it was all done (in 40 minutes, at most), I laid my boxspring and mattress back down and laid on the bed: A new view. An escalation. I was soaring. Chris was right.

But then, back into the living room to watch the Oscars. Suddenly everything was different. From there, the bed used to be only a feature of the bedroom. Now it was dominant. Regal. Royal. I was almost afraid of it. When I eventually tried to turn in, I was both nervous that I was going to fall off and effusively proud of whatever part of myself had actually gotten it done, as if it lived outside of me….

… and then I awoke, the terrestrial radio’s morning nonsense, which is perpetually inspired to be silenced. I dropped with the intent to hit the snooze button, and nearly faceplanted into the all. My legs had dangled for an unexpected half-second; I had forgotten that I was up in the air. I was dazed and braced myself against the dresser to gather my bearings. Remember what you did, I thought…

Then I walked over to the alarm clock, hit snooze, and jumped gingerly back onto the bed. I didn’t want to break the frame on the first day. I did this three more times before I got up. When I did, I slunk into the living room, confident that I lacked the energy for the pommel-horse leap back onto the bed. Chris and the Swedes had won. I was back on Earth for another 18 hours, and it was time to make the best of it.

On Video Games: Tiger Woods 10

When I was younger, I once lamented to a friend that some day we’d have to give up video games. I meant that we’d have to grow up, and growing up likely did not involve them, and he looked at me like I was crazy. “I’ll still play video games when I’m an adult,” he said, and he was the last person I expected to hear say that.

I think we were both right. I was just in his wedding, and I think that’s a conclusive sign of some sort of maturity, especially at our age. And at the wedding he told me how much he loves Tiger Woods 10 for the Wii. Full disclosure: I had never really played the Wii until his bachelor party this summer, and even then we were playing just the rinky-dink yet amazing games that come with the system. I returned from the bachelor party (at the Jersey Shore!) on Sunday. Monday, on my way home from work, I went to Target and bought a Wii… and had immediate buyer’s remorse which didn’t quite go away with hours of playing Wii Tennis, so I basically shelved it for awhile. After the wedding I wanted the Tiger Woods game, though, but it never came up again until another friend wanted to decompress after a Business School exam last Friday and suggested we take some swings. The Wii Sports games can only amuse you for so long, so I suggested I should just buy the Tiger Woods game, and I did.

We had a great time playing the game, but when the friend left, I was struck by something like a remorse that went beyond just the $80 I spent on the game and controller upgrade. It was a deep shame, really, that I was 32 years old and spending money on a video game to be played primarily by myself, behind closed doors, something I had long sworn that I wouldn’t do. I had played video games in the years since high school, and played a lot of them, but I always played them with people: They were a form of social interaction, however lowbrow. Now I was living alone, and spent a bunch of money I could have spent on picture frames or art or whatever on a game that simulates a sport I don’t even like.

So what happened? I played the everliving shit out of the game. After avoiding it for a few days based on actual, full-time work, I popped it in Tuesday night and played about 60 holes. I might have been ashamed at myself for doing so, but I wasn’t about to stop. Not that night anyway. I put aside plans to go to the gym (because I’m running a four-mile race Sunday morning with little training) until Wednesday. I woke up Wednesday with sore arms, which I thought would be an impediment to playing the game more and push me to the treadmill, which I loathe more than the real game of golf (at least you’re doing something). I was wrong. I played 120 holes.

On Thursday, my arms were sorer than before, and I planned all day to come home and play the game, but when I got home, I just couldn’t do it very effectively. I missed shots I could have made and realized that I simply had played too much, and in doing so saw where I had matured and still had room to grow up.

Do I still think video games are the provenance of children, on a fundamental level? Yes. But I think the bigger concern is the attitude one takes toward video games. If I was “missing” the shots I was “missing” yesterday 10 years ago, I would have been furious at myself, even if I didn’t want to admit it. Everything I did at any moment had to be perfect, which was the source of my problems; it wasn’t that I was playing too much XBox. Getting over that was one stage of maturity, and most assuredly a more important one that simply “not playing video games” in order to give me some false sense of maturity. My friend is naturally more even-keeled than I am, and spent more of his early twenties sitting around playing video games than I did without any sort of deleterious effect, but I suspect that married life won’t give him decreasing opportunities to wield the “club.” It’s probably waning as we speak, but maybe his rounds on the “course” are the few refuges from full-onset adulthood—ones that he most certainly knows, and fully accepts, are fleeting.

For me, playing the shit out of this game has had the opposite effect. I was so determined to “grow up” that I tried to just go around a very fundamental step: Living comfortably on my own, doing the same things I did as a child, and seeing their limits clear enough to transcend them. Playing Tiger Woods 10 fills my time with something that is necessarily worse than what I’d like to replace it with, but it’s better than avoid playing it on the grounds that doing nothing will lead me there.

The List

The list of stuff I need to buy for my apartment is staggering. This is the first time I’ve been living by myself, so I lack many of the basic possessions of a household. A hammer, for instance. I didn’t have one of those until a couple months ago, and until about a month after I needed it (I’m good at putting things off). After years of buying things in the moment for the moment, it’s odd that I’m buying things that will belong to me, potentially, forever. I feel like I’m in high school again. It’s bizarre. At the same time, I’m wary of valuing my possessions too much. What I value now is motion. What the last couple days have taught me—or reminded me of, as this happens several times per year—is that I need to stay focused on working through things like, well, work blowouts. I didn’t end up going in to the office today, handling a minor early morning crisis that could have easily been avoided (by myself, but mostly the other party, if they had done their job in a timely manner) before spending the rest of the day “recovering.” This meant watching Capote, which I had DVR’ed off IFC, and drinking Green Tea until I ran out, which prompted a Trader Joe’s run at around 8 p.m. that finally got me up and moving for the day. I don’t like going to Trader Joe’s after work, and as such rarely go, but today the whole thing flowed very nicely and I just saved myself a bunch on lunch for the next week or so.

That motion eventually pushed me to the gym, where I had a workout the vigorousness of which I haven’t had in years. Honestly, I started thinking of Sarah Palin. I thought: If she is inspired to be her dumb idiot self and it works that well for her and she gets her inspiration from running, why am I half-assing it here? And soon enough, I was flying around a fake track conscious of the scowl on my face. The whole thing was cathartic. I wonder if it’s what my friend Ravi has gone through in the last couple years, as he’s transformed himself from a beer-guzzler into a lithe semi-triathalete who beat the tar out of me in a four mile race last month. I’ve committed to three races with him this year. I have to do better, especially at $40 or so a race. You get fun shirts though.

Anyhow one thing I need to buy is a bedframe, and about $200 worth of other stuff for my bed. And a new comforter, because mine leaks fluff (which has a nasty way of infesting the apartment). So I’ve got all the stuff here (on the bed from which I’m typing), and then you move onto the bedside table, which doesn’t exist and probably should, and you put it on the list… and it reminds me of an old joke a friend used to make about Chicago construction. As soon as they were done with all of it, he said, it would be time to start again. The list never ends.

Also on the list would be writing something eloquent about Haiti, but I don’t know what to say.

Finally got it

I finally got nipped by the cold. I was pretty careless, walking around without a hat most of time. Didn’t matter until now. The last couple days, haven’t felt great, but thought it would pass. Now my head’s swimming and I’m off to Arizona tomorrow morning. Great timing. Maybe I can get a chicken soup IV drip on US Air for something like $45. That sounds about right.

I wish I had something for you today…

… that wasn’t a long-overdue missive against bosses long past, but I don’t. I’m just half-following the Tiger Woods “story” and putting together some blog posts for work before I take a(nother) turkey lunch. I was sent home from Thanksgiving with turkey and no stuffing or cranberry sauce, so I made both and have been feasting ever since. No discount on buying cranberries or Stove Top the day after Thanksgiving, nor any strange looks, which was kind of disappointing. I was all ready to tell the story and everything.

Booze, Baseball and True Love

You’re not going to believe this, but after yesterday’s blotto football-and-supermarket session, I’ve been in a lot of pain today (I’m writing this Monday night instead of Tuesday morning). I did however, interview a major league baseball player at work today, so I had that going, which is nice. Now I’m full of vegetable samosas that I apparently bought yesterday.

And now some words on the baseball playoffs, I guess.

The only thing I do not want to happen this year is for the Yankees to sweep through the ALCS and World Series without much competition, stomping to a 1998-2000-style championship. I obviously don’t mean “sweep” in the traditional sports sense here, but one win does not a series make for the Angels, or, far more importantly, for me.

In the National League, I avoided paying attention until about thirty minutes ago. I’ve followed the action until now but haven’t really watched it, for fear of gorging myself on meaningless baseball. It was just: if the Yankees were going to romp whomever they played, the NL playoffs were something of a Bataan Death March. Given that I’m increasingly interested in Game 4, I guess that the Yankees loss has at least given me hope. Audacious, I know.

The Red Sox lost eight days ago, and during game two of the Yankees/Angels series—the so-called “classic” that lasted 13 innings—I turned it off after 11, realizing that I knew the outcome ahead of time, and that I hated both teams. But that realization was also a result of a day of booziness, and I realize that when I’ve had a couple and watch the Yankees, I’m immediately transported back to their glory years, expecting the worst. It’s a terrible way to live. In the light of day, it’s not so bad. My liver is excited for more of these “days” of not pounding back whatever’s put in front of me, as is my brain, my stomach, and everyone but my readers, really. You guys love some drunk posts, don’t you?

While we’re talking NL playoffs, a quick note on these Phillies. I’ve never seen a fanbase so dead-set on a repeat title that they have basically disowned their championship. I mean, they haven’t really, but they’re not using it as a hammer. They want this. For all the deserved teasing of Philly sports fans, there isn’t a much healthier attitude to have than to seize the moment. The only Boston team of the decade that inspired this attitude was last year’s Celtics, who were derailed by Kevin Garnett’s injury from what now appears to have been a very winnable title. Even when the Patriots did win back-to-back Super Bowls, they seemed inevitable, and the Sox’ 2007 campaign fell flat… but the Yankees won the playoffs. We don’t even need to discuss the hangover from 2004.

Like Celtics fans last year, Phillies fans are embracing the idea that the windows to win titles are small, especially in a sport as fickle as baseball. It’s one thing to put together good players, and it’s another to have championship teams. The alchemy between the two is mysterious and possibly apocryphal, but Philadelphians know they’ve got something good. Hell, they’ve waited long enough, they ought to know it when they see it. It’s kind of like true love, I guess.

UPDATE: Jimmy Rollins.

The War at Home

This column was started yesterday, but as “luck” would have it, the scene repeated itself last night. That’s right, I suffer for you to keep my columns fresh. We’ll get back to more topical/at all interesting topics tomorrow. That’s the plan at least.

I’m tired today. There’s no two ways about it: sleep is chasing me like I’m leading the Belmont Stakes. That’s the longest horse race in the world, and now the day seems so… long…

The culprit is a mosquito. He has invaded my personal space and bites me while I sleep. Could be a she, but there’s not a history of ladies sneaking into my apartment. (ed. note: see comments) Either way, as Walter Sobchak would say, worthy fucking adversary. I can’t even tell how he gets into the apartment. But when he does, he wreaks havoc.

Let’s set the scene: I live on the fifth floor of a five-story apartment building, and life is mostly good at the top. I’m free from most ambient ground-level noises, and there’s no pitter-patter of feet above my head. The roof is almost always completely vacant, except when someone’s installing a satellite dish or repainting it that searing, brilliant silver that burns your skin and eyes in the summer.

Up there, water collects in little pools. Up there, mosquitos breed, and then gameplan a way into my apartment. They come one at a time: there’s a Papacy of little buggers bleeding me dry. There’s one, I kill it, and then there’s one more. Always one, no more no less. But one can do a ton of damage.

This isn’t the first time I’ve encountered this problem. When I lived in Queens, I lived in the first floor of a house, with a room facing an unkempt backyard. Weeds were everywhere, and the perennial plants were overgrown. It was a mosquito’s Shangri-La. I wasn’t surprised when they’d get in, and I devised a method to kill the bastards. I’d turn on my reading lamp, and look to the side of it. Bathing the whole room in light was too much, but the ambient light was just enough to catch a glimpse of the bloodsuckers. The goal was to end the ordeal with one well-timed clap.

Apparently evolution works quickly, because that method doesn’t work anymore. That or Brooklyn mosquitos are just a tougher nut to crack. Or smear all over your wall, as it were.

These guys are spastic. They don’t buzz me until the lights are off. And they drink like an alcoholic at an open bar. More details are probably not necessary, but during the summer in my sleeping-without-a-shirt phase, I was sure a spider had taken up residence at Casa Joiner, and not one of the silly, functional kinds. I’m talking the kind you name sports teams after (I’m looking at you, University of Richmond). These bites were big.

But no.

The problem is, and always has been, mosquitos. That’s why, in the words of Montgomery Burns, I want to destroy the sun. Lacking any real mechanism to do so, I can only root hard for the onset of fall. Our summer was a largely contented one except for this.

I know what you’re thinking: Why don’t you just close your windows and doors? Well, they are closed. I’m at a loss to figure out why I’m still getting buzzed, the only real remedy to which is… getting buzzed. (A couple beers, and you’ll sleep right through the pain.) But that’s no way to go through life. The mosquitoes’ drinking breeds my own. That’s a downward spiral no one wants.

The only downward spiral I want is the sight of a wadded-up tissue with the last of the insect kings, meeting his watery grave. Down the stretch we come. Bring on winter.