To Absent Friends

A lot of people have asked why, after all these years, I still blog. I mean, it’s not really much of a thing anymore since so many have moved on to Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and a multitude of other venues, but for me it remains a comfortable and familiar vehicle to express myself. I will freely admit that since Obama came to office, I’ve had much less political opinion to express, and Voenix Rising has become little more than a place where I bitch about work, repost funny pictures I’ve found online, and share lots of images of handsome men in various stages of undress. But every now and then I get the bug to actually sit down and write.

As I lay in bed in the dark this morning, after waking up at my usual ungodly time, I reached over and slipped on my headphones and started listening to Röyksopp’s The Inevitable End, an album Ben had been listening to the night before but one that I hadn’t heard from beginning to end.

Almost immediately—and don’t ask me why because I have no explanation—memories came unbidden of a long-departed friend…

Ben Howard Walzer, 1958-1987

It was early summer, 1986. After a rather tumultuous 18 months together, my second partner and I decided to go our separate ways. It was a friendly parting, and nearly 30 years later he remains one of my dearest friends. Even then we knew we couldn’t shut each other out of our lives completely, and since I loved the complex we lived in, when the time came for me to move out, I simply got my own place a few doors away in an adjacent building.

Shortly after I got settled, a very handsome stranger moved in across the courtyard and immediately caught my eye. I’d often see him out walking his two dogs, and we’d exchange pleasantries whenever we passed.

At this point I don’t remember the exact circumstances that led up to it, but one afternoon he showed up at my front door after a run, drenched and smelling of fresh sweat—probably following up on a general invitation I’d thrown his way to stop by sometime (no doubt hoping to get into his pants, but never expecting that anything would ever come of it).

He came in and sat down and we chatted for a few minutes. He asked to use the bathroom. Still not completely sure of which team he played on, I panicked as I had a framed sketch of a naked man in an obvious state of arousal hanging over the toilet.

When he came out a few minutes later I asked if he wanted something to drink. While I don’t remember his exact words now, as he stood there grabbing his crotch through his nylon running shorts, it was something along the lines of, “No thanks, but I would like to fuck.”

Alrighty then!

We were both 28—young, horny, and obviously attracted to each other. We wasted no time getting to it.

Though that initial hot, sweaty afternoon of monkey sex was never repeated, we became good friends. Like myself, he’d recently split up with his partner and had moved into a place of his own. We had much more than our recent separations in common, so it was an emotion-filled goodbye only a few short months later when my ex and I decided to follow through on the plans we’d made when we were still coupled and move to San Francisco.

Shortly after we left Tucson, Ben and his ex reconciled and moved back in together. Naturally we stayed in touch, and when the group of us who’d moved to San Francisco returned to Tucson the following Christmas, I made a point of seeing him.

They’d bought a townhouse and had completely remodeled it. To this day I remember how beautifully it had turned out—and how happy he was.

Several months passed and the calls and letters abruptly stopped. I didn’t think much of this (as I had become horrible at keeping in touch as well, what with a new city to explore and all), but then in August I received a call at work from his partner. Ben had passed away from AIDS complications a week earlier.

I was devastated. Another friend of mine who lived in San Francisco—whom I’d known since my days at the University of Arizona ten years earlier—had also passed only a week before, and I was still reeling from that.

I don’t have a single photo of Ben, and to be honest I have only the vaguest recollection of what he looked like. Tall, dark and fuzzy is how I remember him; a NJB I would’ve loved to have brought home to mother. Shortly after he passed I asked his partner if he’d send me a photo, but I never received one. Years later I followed up with his family with a similar request and also never got a response.

The only tangible record I have of that sweet man was the photo above that I took of his memorial quilt when it was on display in San Francisco a year or so later.

The Beatings Will Continue Until Morale Improves

Yes, I’m wide awake at 3:30 am. Again.

If you’re tired of hearing me bitch about work, you should probably move on.

Usually my Sunday evening blues don’t hit until…well, Sunday evening. But they came early today.

On Friday, we were informed by La Chupacabra (the name a colleague and I have adopted for our manager) during our weekly meeting beatdown that starting immediately there would be changes in the way we do our jobs and that she would be micromanaging more, not less. And if we didn’t like it—to use her favorite phrase, “SORRYFOYA!”

Apparently she got her ass handed to her on a platter by her boss’s boss, and of course, shit flows downhill.

Until now, she had taken a very active role in the day-to-day functioning of the department. While all of us coded a portion of the incoming service tickets (because for some reason the Help Desk is incapable of doing it correctly), she handled the majority of them because they needed to be done just so or a rift would open in the space-time continuum. (Actually, it’s so blame can be properly directed if something isn’t done correctly, because at ██████ blame is the name of the game. During her coding, she’s also worked several tickets that in her estimation were simply easier to do herself rather than assign out.

All that is changing.

No longer will she be coding tickets. That’s a job that will now fall on each and every one of us. Further, she can no longer work any tickets. And finally, we’re no longer able to choose which tickets we take on because she will be assigning each and every one of them. I see a huge disconnect there, but that’s standard operating procedure at ██████.

It takes work to get voted the worst company in America to work for, after all.

If that weren’t enough, our roles are changing. Until now, each of us had specialized in certain areas. Now we’re all expected to be able to do everything. I see the logic in this, but it’s nevertheless going to be a huge adjustment.

“AND WHY HAVEN’T YOU GOTTEN YOUR MAC CERTS?!”

I can adapt. I can change, but this, along with the other changes that have been put in place since the opening of our in-house blatant rip off of Apple’s Genius Bar, are pushing all of us to the brink of quitting. And the more I think about it, the more I think this is upper management’s ultimate goal.

By the time lunch rolled around, I was fighting a near-migraine. I went out and grabbed some food, hoping that (and a dose of ibuprofen) would help. It didn’t; it only got worse. So I emailed my manager and went home.

She doesn’t normally seem to read email (I called out sick once and she didn’t even notice I was gone until late that day), so I was rather surprised when my colleague texted me and said she had openly mocked the email in front of the entire team. So professional, that one…

That is just another example of why—unlike all the other places I’ve worked—my department has a horrible—and well deserved reputation within the company. The frat-house mentality (that I’ve mentioned previously) I work in has not gone unnoticed, and my only question at this point is why its been allowed to continue.

When I brought this up in a one-on-one with my manager, her response was, “All PC Techs are like this.”

Well, no they aren’t, honey—and if you think they are, you need to get out into the world more.

One of my colleagues has told me I should consider putting in a transfer to another department, but what good would that do? The body rots from the head down, and after the recent purge of approximately 50 employees from the entire I.T. Division and their frog-march out of the building (WHY was I so unlucky not to be among them?!), shows me that ██████ management doesn’t really give a shit about any of the people who work there.

I—like I’m sure many of my readers—have had some pretty shitty jobs and have worked for some awful companies, but during the 35 years I’ve been working  I’ve only walked out of three of them, the most recent being my last one. That is the reason I can’t do it now—as deserving of it as it is and as much as I dream of it every. single. day. (If I’d only known what lay ahead I would never have left my previous company because that was a slice of heaven compared to my current place.) So I have to do the responsible, adult thing and make sure I have another job lined up before leaving.

(Or I could test the recent edict that going out the wrong door will result in my immediate termination.)

But not to come off as a completely Negative Nelly in all this, I’ve also had the pleasure of working for a some truly outstanding companies; places that were very difficult to leave even when circumstances demanded that I move on. Two of those were small architectural offices, and one was the healthcare company I worked for in Phoenix. In each of these cases, it was only my relocation to a new city that forced us to part ways.

In all those cases, I had a trial-by-fire before finding myself in their employ. I’m hoping that is the case here, and that the “third time’s a charm” adage holds as true for Denver as it seems to have for every other time I’ve found myself in a new locale.

I’m registered on all the job boards, and I do get occasional calls from recruiters, but so far the jobs are either too much of a commute (sorry, I’m not driving to/from Boulder every day) or not enough money. (I recently laughed at a recruiter who was offering a position doing what I’m doing now that required a degree and multiple certifications that was paying $9 an hour. Yes, NINE DOLLARS an hour. Are these people on crack?)

I’m sure something good is going to come along…it’s just a matter of surviving in the increasingly toxic environment at ██████ until it does.

Looking Back in Time

When we look up into the night sky, we are also looking back in time. The light from the stars we see with our unaided eyes left those stars sometimes hundreds—if not thousands—of years ago. The arrival of Sirius in the winter skies always causes me to pause a moment and remember where I was and what I was doing nine years ago (the approximate time the light I’m now seeing left that star).

But if you look to the majority of bright, blue-white giants that form the Orion constellation, that light left well before you, me, our parents, grandparents, great grandparents, and in fact, this country were even born. I’ve marked up my photo from yesterday as a thought experiment.

As always, click for full size.

Oh Sah-NAP!”

Stolen from the ever-fabulous Towleroad:

The change.org petition asking The Learning Channel to cancel 19 Kids and Counting over the Duggars’ “LGBT fear mongering” that caught fire on the internet earlier this week also managed to catch the attention of right-wing Christian activists who are concerned with (but don’t actually understand) first amendment protections. 

American Family Association, Alliance Defending Freedom, and other anti-LGBT organizations and websites helped spearhead a #DefendtheDuggars tweetfest today. But like NOM’s Twitter warning last month that marriage equality would lead to people marrying themselves, the campaign quickly started backfiring in spectacular fashion.

Here are just a few highlights of what’s rolling in over on Twitter:

Wingers Go Ghandi

Josh Marshall, at Talking Points Memo:

Yesterday, Sen. Tom Coburn suggested that President Obama’s immigration executive order might lead to “civil disobedience”, “anarchy,” or even political “violence.” I asked just what that civil disobedience might look like and TPM Reader FS has an idea of what anti-immigrant forces might have in mind …

My suggestion for what civil disobedience should look like is to move to Phoenix, trade their imitation Army rifles for shovels, and do a protest march through the residential subdivisions, pulling weeds as they go.

They should march into restaurant kitchens, offering to wash dishes for free. Or volunteer to man the drive through at any of a hundred fast food joints. Maybe ask a California cabbage farmer if they have anything needs harvesting. Those are the jobs illegal immigrants might be taking away.

A little background. I lived in Phoenix for 13 years, the last eight as a homeowner. Ours was the fourth house completed in our neighborhood and I’d often sit on the porch drinking beer and watching Hispanic workers build our neighbors’ houses. For a few bottles of Pacifico, I learned most of the workers were from Mexico or Guatemala, and none were employed directly by the builder.

For all the anti immigrant bluster for which Sheriff Joe Arpaio is famous today, he could’ve effortlessly rounded up 100 immigrants a day in any new subdivision being built anywhere in Maricopa county, from about 2000 to 2007. But that would’ve really inconvenienced the real estate developers, so Sheriff Joe found other stunts like making prisoners wear pink underwear. He didn’t come to hypocritically discover anti immigration fever until the bubble burst and people turned on each other.

My time in Arizona made it really hard for me to get mad at a man who wants to work in 110 degree heat, for cash. But those are the jobs in question. Anyone who wants to protest should start there.

This is Awesome

What would happen if today’s movie trailer standards were applied to a classic like The Empire Strikes Back?

Cameron Arrigioni decided to take a stab at it, and except for the “A George Lucas Film” part, I have to say the results are phenomenal.

Quote of the Day

“Sometimes, you win the life lottery and the thing that you do for 40 hours a week in a nondescript office building somewhere in the city you live in is not a soul-crushing exercise in managing disappointments. Sometimes, you’re lucky enough to really, truly, love what you do. If you are one of these people, I’m very happy for you. . . .” — Megan Reynolds, introducing her new every-Monday column on work issues on “The Frisky”

Unfortunately I cannot claim that winning ticket at this time…

Interstellar

Interstellar was one of the must-see movies on my list this year. I’m by no means a fan of Matthew McConaughey, but the story itself intrigued and excited me.

We saw it last night, and I came away impressed. I’d give it an 8 out of 10, and the only reason I didn’t rate it any higher was that I had to suspend belief for some of the “sciencey” things the film; the whole surviving a trip into a black hole among them. I know a lot of critics hated the “love transcends time and space” theme that figured so prominently in the final acts of the movie, but that aspect of the story didn’t bother me at all..

The visuals—as expected—were stunning, and the homage payed to Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey was brilliant: everything from the practical effects the filmmakers used to the very real total-silence-in space shots of the spacecraft themselves.

It was nice to see woofy Wes Bentley cast in a non-adversarial role for a change, and Matt Damon—not to mention Topher Grace—popping up (I hadn’t seen any mention of their involvement in the film prior to actually seeing it) was a total surprise.

Movie of the Year? This generation’s 2001? I wouldn’t go that far, but definitely left an impression.

We didn’t see it in IMAX, which I kind of regret because this film definitely deserves it—but there’s nothing to say we won’t see it again…