Tuesday, December 27, 2005


It’s over.

Thank God.

We did the Christmas Eve family thing, the Christmas Day family thing and the Day After Christmas work thing, but today the family and I did the let’s stay in bed till Noon thing immediately followed by the laze around the house all day thing.

That’s a lot of things.

Almost everything worked the way it was designed; the sole exception being the set of speakers my father purchased instead of the Surround Sound system I requested.  Blame it on an over-zealous, under-trained salesman and my Dad’s unfamiliarity with modern technology, but it’s all good.  That’s why God invented receipts and 30 day return policies.

Lex was pleased with her gifts; the Bratz Festival (her description, not mine) satisfied on all levels.  Rhonda liked her DVDs, will like her new Razor phone and should like all her new clothing (that’s a mortal lock because she selected everything before her mom plunked down the charge card).

Me?  I’m a happy gamer and the proud owner of a new Xbox 360, thanks to the generosity of my missus and the timely assistance of the posse at the local Electronics Boutique.  Rhonda and the boys down the mall attempted to pull a Christmas Eve, double-cross fake-out, but it didn’t work because of the tag attached to the ersatz empty box.  A bit of advice to any potential grifters reading this: Never alert your mark by signing your work.

The key to a successful scam is subtlety.

After today’s lazy recovery, tomorrow starts the return to a regular writing schedule, followed by a resumption of regular bookstore hours.  Legerdemain is rolling towards the finish line (the next scene is Ducalion telling Keith the story of the Teacher and how he lost his family, a tale I’ve known forever but only alluded to in print) and Oogie Boogie Bounce is still searching for a home.  I’m taking a suggestion from J. A. Konrath’s recent essay and planning for 2006 to be a banner year.

Or at least a bit more newsworthy.

But Then Again, You’ll Have This . . .    

Saturday, December 17, 2005

RIP John Spencer

Yet another thing that sucks about getting older: The steady flow of beloved actors, artists and writers crossing from this world to the next. I hope there are stages and libraries on the other side of the Pearly Gates.

But Then Again, You'll Have This . . .

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Ain't My Baby No More . . .

Suddenly, I understand.

It’s not the aches, pains or old man sounds I emit at the slightest movement. It’s not the grey in my beard or the chrome on my dome. It’s not my oldest son crossing that final threshold to adulthood tomorrow (Happy Birthday Nate) or my youngest son’s continuing struggle toward the same.

It’s this:

Gorgeous, isn’t she?

In less than a month, she’ll be 10 years old. Double digits baby, and we all know what that means. Pre-teen is the technical term, but there’s nothing technical about dealing with a young lady. Technically, the same applies to dealing with any lady, but that’s a different Vent.

Thanks to a convergence in weather and work, I have a rare Thursday off and was able to attend Lexy’s Holiday Concert, which showcased the burgeoning musical talents of her and her school mates. The preparation phase of today’s performance was interesting, as I watched Lexy choose an outfit and fuss with her hair (which is one of –if not the only- best thing about her developing maturity: her ability to dress and groom herself without parental assistance). The selection of proper footwear seemed to stall things for a moment, given the icy conditions and skirt length, but eventually a choice was made, one I heartily supported even if I didn’t understand it.

I went to the school and found a seat in the bleachers, flanked on the right by students and on the left by parents. One father had his hands full with a squirming toddler and another dad had to keep shushing his son who was reciting the stationary refrain of the old-time classic “Are we there yet.” I chuckled at their travails and remembered all the times I wrestled and shushed.

Those days are long gone.

I looked across the makeshift auditorium and spotted Lexy. We exchanged waves and upturned thumbs, but that was the extent of our pre-event communication. Lex didn’t seem too bothered by the lack of long-distance father-daughter bonding and resumed whispering and giggling with her friends.

That’s when it hit me.

She’s growing up. She’s no longer a baby (a fact I internalized a long time ago), nor is she a toddler (a fact I still have difficulty accepting). The percentage of a day she’s under my direct supervision wouldn’t classify her for part-time status if she worked for me and the amount of influence I wield with my daughter pales when compared to the authority I have over my staff.

Constant care is now an ethereal concept, no longer the top line on a daily to-do list. My coaching role is now restricted to pre-game prep and post-game analysis, regardless of my desire to call in plays from the sideline. My headset’s been confiscated.

Anyway, the choir sang, the band played, but the show opened with a medley of tunes played by a gaggle of fourth graders blowing into plastic Precorders (Yup, you read that correctly: Precorders, which I assume has more to do with unit cost and ease of operation than musical aesthetics). No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t pick Lexy’s playing out of the crowd, but I saw her head bobbing and fingers wiggling so I’m assuming she did fine, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t distracted.

The Elmo crowd on my side of the gym and the Bratz Doll contingent across the way was a wake up call. Lexy’s not the only one aging and she’s not the only one doing it subtly. If it takes distance to recognize her maturity, it shouldn’t surprise me that I can’t see it in the mirror that’s two feet in front of my face.

Actually, it’s more like six inches when I’m not wearing my glasses.

But Then Again, You’ll Have This . . .

That’s my best girl in the red sweater.
December 15, 2005.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Countdown . . .

Two weeks and counting and it’s all over but the shouting.

Early mornings and late nights; low balances and high bills.

It’s beginning to feel a lot like Ch-

Uh, uh uh.  You can’t make me say the WORD, and not because of inclusionary, non-denominational political correctness.  I won’t use any of the other words either.

People in the mall call me Scrooge, but I quickly point out their error.  I’m not a Scrooge.  I wouldn’t make Bob work on the 25th and I’m quite fond of a hot stove filled with plenty of coals.

No, in the twelfth month of every year, I’m struck by the sudden urge to hitch up the dog and head into Whoville.

Peace?  Joy?  Goodwill to men?  Catch me after 2:00 PM on the twenty-fourth.

Until then?

You’re a mean one, Mister Grinch.

But Then Again, You’ll Have This . . .

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Coming Attractions . . .

Let’s a take a brief peek at what’s coming soon . . .

  • Definitive proof that unprotected, wireless networks are vulnerable to piggybacking, especially when the owner doesn’t realize they’re using one

  • The perils of mega-bass boosting and late-night wall pounding so close to the holidays, especially when a 5.1 Dolby Surround TV Theater system is on Santa’s List

  • The ramifications of playing the Blame Game and alienating your only ally

  • Dancing the dance and paying the piper


  • The importance of rear view mirrors and their proper usage

All in the space of one VENT!

Can’t wait, can you?                    

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Birds In Hands & Bushes. . .

Once upon a time, there was a Winter Formal that I wanted to attend.  I worked hard to prepare for it.  I studied dance.  I researched proper table manners.  I bought a new suit and coiffed my hair.  I did everything etiquette demanded and eventually deemed myself ready for the party.

But I needed a date.

You couldn’t get in without a date; that was the unwritten rule.  Sure, a maverick or two might decide to attend stag, but they were usually ridiculed for their presumption.  In fact, coming alone usually guaranteed you’d never get a date again, at least not with any of the desirable women.

I made my intentions known.  I declared myself a willing participant in the dance.  I crafted several carefully prepared invitations and distributed them among the potential partners I deemed most appropriate to my style of celebration.

A librarian responded first.  She wasn’t sure, but she thought we might have enough in common to enjoy a turn or two around the dance floor.  At the same time, the captain of the cheerleaders expressed her interest as well, but she too wanted time to think it over.  The cheerleader was a dream come true, the perfect date for this formal dance.  Everyone who thought of attending wanted to be seen on this woman’s arm.  Escorting her would almost guarantee invitations to subsequent events.

But the librarian was charming.  She wasn’t as experienced as the cheerleader, but I got the sense that she’d prepared as much as I had.  She talked the talk and appeared to walk the walk.  Her beguiling nature seduced me intellectually, distracting me from the obvious physical charms of the cheerleader, but my desires were obvious.

I wanted the cheerleader, no matter how fetching the librarian was.

Still . . .

I didn’t want to settle for one or the other.  I wanted to choose, based on carefully considered criteria.  If both said yes, then the decision of whom to escort would be mine, the success of the dance under my control.

The librarian accepted my invitation while the cheerleader was still considering it.  This wasn’t the scenario I’d envisioned.  The cheerleader was Plan A; the Librarian, Plan B.

I could go to the formal, but couldn’t count on the spotlight dance.

I considered stalling the librarian until the cheerleader made her decision, but I knew cheerleaders were notoriously slow in accepting dates.  Besides, interest from them didn’t guarantee anything.  They declined suitors more often than they accepted.  This tendency was well known.

In a stunning combination of confidence and doubt, I chose the confirmed bookish date over the potential evening with the bombshell.  While I believed I could overcome any handicap my date might cause, I assured myself the cheerleader would turn me down anyway.  Getting to the party was the goal, so I RSVPed the librarian and laced up my my my my my boogie shoes.

Of course, I did my gentlemanly duty and informed the cheerleader of my decision.  I even offered her the option of dinner and a movie at a later date, because after all, a trip to the Winter Formal didn’t mean a lifelong commitment.  There was plenty of me to go around.

The cheerleader didn’t take it well.

My carefully packaged invitation returned in a clump, the pages dumped into my self-addressed envelope with all the care one might show a restaurant flyer found under one’s windshield wiper.  The message was unmistakable; cheerleaders don’t handle rejection well (which is ironic given how often they’re on the giving end of it).  The delivery caused a moment of trepidation and an immediate understanding of Tom Hagen’s consternation when he received Luca Brazi’s bulletproof vest stuffed with fresh Halibut.

Sour grapes, I told myself, looking forward to my magical night with the librarian.

Who knew?

The librarian couldn’t dance.  The librarian’s gown was actually a poorly tailored burlap sack covering a polyester pantsuit.  Her teeth were yellow, her hair was matted and her breath bore a striking resemblance to the odor that must have emanated from the Tattaglia’s carefully wrapped package.  Not only did I not make it to the spotlight dance, I wasn’t even allowed to watch.  Worse yet, the librarian barricaded herself in the bathroom an hour into the party and crawled out a window, never to return.

I made it to the dance, but it wasn’t the celebration it should have been.  I got to see the ballroom and dip into the punch bowl, but nobody asked me to the after-party and I went home alone at the end of the night.  Overall, I felt good about the event, assuming the next dance would be better.

I’m still waiting.

I bought another suit.  My hair is still neat.  I’ve declared my intent and sent out my invitations, but no one wants to take me to the party.  I think about cheerleaders, librarians and the path not taken.  I wonder if cheerleaders gossip and if they do, how long they hold a grudge.  I wonder if all librarians are the same, and if the actions of one condemn the intentions of the others.

And most of all, I think I hear the cheerleader laughing.

But Then Again, You’ll Have This . . .

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Pray For Me. . .

Tomorrow, the mall opens at 6 AM.  That means I’ll be up at 4 to be in the store by 5.  Black Friday isn’t the asylum it used to be, but it’s still the opening bell in the mad rush to Christmas.

Have I ever mentioned how much I hate the Christmas season?  All I want for Christmas is a new book deal (and an Xbox 360). Wonder which gift I have a better chance of finding under the tree.

I’ll be happy again in January.  Count on it.  Till then, light those candles.

But Then Again, You’ll Have This. . .

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Finding Yourself...

Today –two days before Thanksgiving and three days before the start of Hell Month- I finally uncovered a major contributing factor to my hatred of the holiday season.

Seasonal employees.

We do more business during December than any month of any year that doesn’t have a Potter in it, and more business necessitates more employees.  It’s a simple calculation; no algebra required (thank God, because temporary workers don’t seem to have a grasp of mathematics more complex than counting to ten [twenty if they’re not wearing shoes or twenty-one if they’re male and naked]).  With unemployment as prevalent as it is, one would think the labor pool would be as deep and wide as the Atlantic Ocean, but one would be mistaken.  The Workforce Sea has the circumference of a thimble and the depth of a shot glass.

And that’s being kind.

Maybe it’s the Welfare Culture.  Maybe people are so accustomed to receiving a check that the idea of actually earning their check is an alien concept.  Showing up ought to be enough to satisfy the employer/employee covenant, except when regular and prompt attendance interferes with the vital minutiae of everyday life.

Showing up when you’re scheduled is so much to ask.

Interviewing potential employees for suitability, reliability and responsibility is a noble effort, but ultimately futile, because A) The legal/politically correctness combo plate restricts any probative inquiry and B) Interviewees have a tendency to be deceptive during that initial screening.  Former employers aren’t permitted to divulge any negative information about their former employees because –GOSH!- that might hurt their former employee’s feelings, let alone prevent them from finding a new company to exploit –I mean work for.  And nobody’s going to cop to their personal shortcomings during an interview, just like nobody ever farts during a first date.

You save that shit for after the wedding.

Every once in a while, you find a golden nugget among the worthless rocks, but those discoveries are few and far between.  For the most part, you resign yourself to choosing the lesser of many evils and pray your hires don’t rob you blind or decide not to return from their lunch break.  Most of the time, you can thin the herd with a well-timed criticism, a request for actual labor or –and this is the only benefit of temporary personnel- the END OF THE SEASON.  So sorry, it’s January now and you’ve been a marvelous addition to our merry band and of course we’ll keep you in mind if something opens up and certainly you can use me as a personal reference and now it’s time for you to go home before I reach down your throat and rip your lungs out through your nostrils. . .

Sorry, I was having a Fantasy Island moment.

My revelation concerning the impact of provisional employees on my emotional stability occurred today when one of my temps called to tell me “I quit” (I’m calling this employee Hurley because of his uncanny resemblance to the character on the TV series Lost, if one were to subtract 25 percent of actor Jorge Garcia’s body mass, 50 percent of his personality and 75 percent of his work ethic).  Hurley mentioned his inability to stick with things for very long, his anger over being asked to work eight consecutive hours on Friday with only one half-hour lunch and one ten-minute break, his desire to spend quality time with an aunt whose birthday happened to coincide with Black Friday (the official name for the day after Thanksgiving in the retail world), and his general dissatisfaction with the overall direction of his existence.  He might have also mentioned rising interest rates, political unrest and moral indifference, but I’m not certain because I stopped listening three seconds after hearing the words “I quit.”

I do remember Hurley going on and on about needing to “find himself” and I was tempted to mention that the journey to self-discovery is much easier when you’ve got enough money to pay for room and board, but I didn’t.

After all, it’s considered inappropriate to comment on the inequity of an employee’s behavior, even when the employee is cornholing you with a steel rod as big as a Saturn 5 rocket.

But Then Again, You’ll Have This. . .

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

An Explanation. . .

Just in case some of you don’t realize it, the Vents are satire, especially the one directly below.  I figured a format change deserved an appropriate topic, and what’s more appropriate than a Vent about Blogging?

The new setting is an experiment only, to determine the viability of HTML-free Venting and possibly allow more for more frequent entries.  Plus, all the cool kids are doing it.

Peer pressure.  You’ve got to love it.

But Then Again, You’ll Have This . . .    

Al Gore's Got Nothing On Me. . .

Here’s the thing.

I purchased my first modern PC in 1996.  By modern, I mean a computer with a little pointy/clicky thing and the ability to display pictures not composed of asterisks, parenthesis and other punctuation marks.  My first computer was a Radio Shack Model 4P (and the P stands for Portable, which means the beast came with a handle, a necessary option for toting a 30 pound behemoth).

But let’s stay in the Nineties, shall we.

The first thing I did with my PC –after playing the requisite number of Solitaire hands and nurturing my inner artist with Microsoft Paint- was connect to the Internet.  Then, I searched for boobies, which didn’t take long, because as we all know, the Web is teeming with naked mammary glands.  I like breasts.  I like their symmetry.  I like their asymmetry.  I like them au natural, both in presentation and composition, but this isn’t a Vent about breasts.  We’re talking about the former Vice President, who I believe probably likes breasts too.

But that’s not the topic either.

According to Al, he invented the Internet.  The validity of his claim is moot.  The running jokes concerning his claim are likewise moot.  For that matter, Al Gore –for all intents and purposes- is now moot.  But the claim lives on, especially when Leno, Letterman or Stewart needs material to fill out their nightly monologues.  But trust me, we’ve moved beyond the Gore threshold for now, and I promise not to mention him any more, now that we’ve reached the point: My own equally ridiculous claim to Internet fame.

I invented the Blog.

I heard that.  I know what you’re probably thinking and I’m aware of what you’re undoubtedly saying.  That’s good; get it all out of your system.  When you’ve finished, perhaps you’ll allow me to retort.



Check the copyright.  Go ahead, check out the main Blogger page.  It’s there at the bottom of the page, in small enough print to get your attention but large enough type to be clearly readable.  1999-2005. Those are the dates.  Now, scroll back up.  Second paragraph, first line.  See it?


Do the math.

After connecting my inaugural PC to the Internet and exhausting Alta Vista’s catalog of nakedness, I decided to avail myself of Geocities free homepage policy and exercise my long-dormant writing muscles.  And thus, The Vents were born.

Eventually, Steve’s Vent gave way to a serious attempt at novel-writing and that attempt gave way to a successful serious attempt at novel-writing, but in between Genesis and Revelation, I published quite a few slice-of-life vignettes that garnered tens of regular readers and fans and were ultimately collected in printed form.

Somewhere around the Second Coming of the Vents (which coincided with the publication announcement of Oogie Boogie Central) I noticed that a lot of other net denizens had abandoned the annoying habit of publicly announcing their favorite movies and television shows in favor of journaling about their favorite movies and television shows.  Occasionally, other subjects found their way into these journals and lo and behold, a new form of expression had arrived.

Hell, CNN and MSNBC and FOX regularly feature and even quote Blogs now, which legitimizes it to a certain extent, even if MS Word’s spell-checker doesn’t recognize “Blog” as a valid word.  Give it time; it’ll happen.

Blogs are now a viable entity on the literary landscape, and I invented them.  I may not have named it, but I did it first, and that’s got to be worth something.  I figure maybe a nickel.  Each.

Now pay up.

But Then Again, You’ll Have This . . .

P.S.  In case you still don’t believe me, hit Google and search for “Steves Vent.”  When Yahoo purchased Geocities, my file access bookmark got fouled up and I lost the ability to get into my account.  Yeah, I didn’t write the password down and a million emails to Geocities customer service haven’t prompted any response, so the original Vents –warts and all- are still floating around cyberspace, in direct contradiction to Geocities stated policy of deleting any account without activity every thirty days.  It’s been about three thousand days, and the damn thing’s still there.  So, if there are any <ahem> hackers out there who want to do a brother a solid, get in there and delete those files for me.  I’d really appreciate it.