Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Dear Diary: Election 2012 – A Blacktrospective

November 6, 2012
Dear Diary:
The day began like any other, which is to say with a vigorous exercise regimen I have dubbed “P90SXY” —I was going to call it “No Jacket Required” because, upon completion, you would no longer have to wear a jacket to hide your trouble spots, but I underestimated just how litigious Phil Collins can be— followed by a tall glass of newly-Baptized souls.  (Editor’s Note: I add a small dollop of honey for taste, because Sin is “the fat of the Soul”, and like fat, it’s where the taste is.)  There was uneasiness in the air.  My heart, like the nation, was torn as I pondered the 2012 Presidential election; the outcome of which would determine fundamental tenants upon which our society would operate: “trickle down” versus “inside-out” economics (you know, that’s the best way to get your shooters open on the perimeter); women’s rights (do they get to keep them?); the Supreme Court (will they remain together or will they splinter off and help launch The Jackson 5); and, perhaps just as important, though rarely reported, how comfortable people would be around me for the next four years.
Though those other topics are important, I will be focusing on people’s relative comfort around yours truly.  Why?  Because there are entirely too few people focused on what the results of the election would mean to one Damion C. McCloud.  (Why one, because two is three more than one world can handle…Yeah, you read that right.  My awesome, like my sexy, cannot be confined by the laws and postulations of Math.)
Since I had no meetings, and no desire to put on pants before absolutely necessary, I spent the morning working from home.  When the clock struck 10:30, a mere hour after I had gotten out of bed, (Editor’s Note:  I kid.  I kid, because I love…love my job.  So much so that I don’t often sleep, and when I do, I sleep with my work laptop…which explains the awkward keystrokes in many of my presentations.)  I switched out of my robe and lounge pants and into a collared shirt and pleated khaki.  Nothing says, “I’m about to make a serious decision that could alter the course of, not only my life, but the lives of countless others” like a pleated khaki.  I grabbed my keys, wallet, sunglasses (to soften the glare of admiration that emanates from my public), seven forms of ID (four of which were legit) and headed to my local voting center.  There are three great things about where I go to “Voice My Choice”:  First of all, I can walk to it, thereby leaving a healthier planet for future generations.  I don’t, because if those generations think the planet is going to be here forever, there will be less incentive to innovate now…you’re welcome.  Secondly, no matter what time of day I’ve gone to vote --and I only vote in the big elections, because…you get it-- there are never long lines.  I later realized that the reason there were never long lines was due, in part, to the fact that there is a voting location on either end of my street: one at a church; the other at an elementary school.  My voting location happens to be the elementary school.  This is mainly due to the fact that the school is closer to my home…and partly due to the fact that drinking in Souls is frowned upon by The Church and members of its Congregation.  Thirdly, and related to number two, is that there are a lot of single moms going in and out of an elementary school.  It’s like a Target without the product placement.  How do I know they’re single?  I don’t.  I just assume they are, because it makes the fantasy work.  It’s like when you see an attractive, young woman in a restaurant, at a park, or through a set of binoculars from within the warm confines of a white, panel van.  You tell yourself she’s in her 20s, because it makes things less creepy.  And, let’s be honest, when your sitting on an old mattress in the back of van, staring through a set a binoculars at your local park, while listening to old Britney Spears albums, you need to do whatever you can to make things less creepy.  But I digress…
As I finished my half-mile trek (by car) to my voting area, I couldn’t help but notice the preponderance of available parking spaces, the absence of a line, and a brunette with three kids in tow making her way to the entrance.  I parked my car, locked the doors, and headed to the voting arena.  Once inside, I made my way to the gymnasium.  It was not the multi-purpose cafetorinasium, or cafenasitorium depending on your school’s priorities, of my youth but a single purpose structure.  (Hey, “other half”, how ya livin’?)  After handing over my voter registration card and driver’s license and reciting my name and address to prove my identity (because I couldn’t have memorized the information while sitting in my car) I was directed to the open voting booth.  (Editor’s Note: I kept from having to get glasses until the 4th grade, because I memorized the eye chart.  Would’ve been longer, but my mom had volunteered to help administer the test that year and, as moms do, quickly caught on to my tactics.  Here’s a thought, change up the eye chart every once in awhile.  Are we worried about cost, because I’m pretty sure that chart hasn’t changed since its inception.)
I stood at the “booth” with pen in hand.  Sweat poured from my pronounced brow and dripped off of my chiseled features onto the Scantron sheet below.  I was frozen; flashing back to the 2nd grade when I was instructed that a correct answer marked incorrectly would be counted as incorrect.  What if I colored outside of the lines or made a mark on the sheet that was misread by the computer.  Could I derail an election?  A nation???  A calm soon came over me as I reminded myself that I had filled out many such “bubbles” with a variety of writing implements.  Now that my fears regarding the mechanics of the decision had been allayed, the only thing left was to decide which bubbles to fill in.  The first decision was for President of the United States.  Obama or Romney?  Romney or Obama?  For the uninformed outside observer (i.e. Fox News pundits and the people who believe them) the choice was obvious.  I’m a Blackfrican-American Negro. Of course, I was voting for Obama.  However, I am also a registered Republican.  I don’t believe I’ve ever voted for a Republican Presidential candidate, but I am still registered as a Republican.  It may be that I still hold out hope for a better Republican party.  A Republican Party that will buy back its soul from the Religious Right and focus on policies which are fiscally responsible and socially respectful.  Either that, or I just hate filling out paperwork.  The questions that would finalize my decision boiled down to two themes: 1) Was I better off now than I was four years ago? And 2) Whose administration would make the next four years (even) better?  (I actually believe that the first question is a flawed Reagan-era question that should be focused more on how the nation as a whole is performing rather than a single individual, because it forces people to look at something greater than themselves, which is how you affect real change.  However, that type of thinking doesn’t fit in with my humor narrative, and, as I mentioned before, this is all about me.)
Was I better off than I was four years ago?  That was difficult to answer.  On the one hand, I’m a homeowner with a good job, a luxury car that’s paid for , and plans to purchase a second luxury car within the next year.  I appreciate the fact that all black people received a “get out of jail free card” as a form of reparations.  (It only applied to people who had not previously committed a crime –including buying or selling bootleg DVDs, were not in a criminal proceeding prior to Obama being sworn in, denounced the O.J. verdict, and didn’t find Tyler Perry movies funny, so that left about 15 people.)  I’ve also grown my “network of ladies”, but that’d happen under any Administration, because…you get it.  On the other hand, the Obama Presidency also had unforeseen negative impacts.  To put it bluntly, people had grown comfortable around me…too comfortable.  And this comfort made me uncomfortable.  People used to fear me: the brooding, the unchanging countenance, the proper “distance” afforded a 6-foot 3-inch 240+ pound man.  Since The Inauguration, everything’s changed.  People no longer fear me.  [Non-female] Strangers start conversations with me for no reason.  People sit down next to me without inquiring whether or not the seat is taken and when other seats, much farther away from me, were available.  Caucasian parents want me to date their daughters, because, hey, I could be President.  (Well, not me, because…Souls.)  That, in turn, got rid of a portion of my dating demographic, namely, women trying to get back at their parents.  Could I handle four more years of this…social ease?  I made my decision and marked my ballot accordingly.
There were two other races, as well as two Amendments on which to vote.  I motioned for one of the volunteers to come over.
“Is there something I can help you with?” she asked.
“Yes, are any of these people black?”
“I don’t believe so.”
“Any of them married to a black person?”
“I don’t believe so.”
“Any of them have a black best friend?”
“Could ya Google it?”
“Can I Google it?”
“I’d rather you didn’t.”
“Well, unfortunately for you, you’re not the first woman to say that to me…and you’re not the first woman whose gonna be left unsatisfied and disappointed by my actions.”
“Sir, do I have to call Security?”
“Fine!  Do you have a dart?”
After scribbling in some random guesses –fortunately, I had my Magic 8 ball, which I believed, because it’s black-- I soft-shoed over to the vote-counting machine and handed my tear-stained Scantron sheet to some dude who handed me a sticker; a sticker which I proudly displayed on my left breast coat pocket.  I usually don’t advertise the fact that I voted, but there was a sense of pride that I felt from having helped shape our nation’s future.  I also wanted to serve as an example to our nation’s young people.  (Editor’s Note:  There is absolutely no correlation between the fact that Hooters and the Tilted Kilt were offering discounts on meals to anyone who came in with an “I Voted” sticker and my wearing said sticker.)
For the rest of the day, I avoided social-media, the interwebs, and news coverage.  I went so far as to watch “Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance”, a franchise Nicolas Cage will eventually ruin until Christian Bale is called in to save it.  I waited until 11:00 to watch the only news coverage that would not make me want to punch my fellow man square in the face; “The Daily Show” and “Colbert Report”.  Near the end of “The Daily Show”, it was announced that Barack Obama had successfully defended his 2008 National Championship.  And, thus, four more years of people being uncomfortably comfortable around me.  Where the white women at?

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Dear Diary: The Kid(ney)s Are Alright

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Dear Diary:

It was Thursday, June 21st.  The day began like any other, which is to say with me lying on the floor, drenched from shoulder to upper thigh, clenching a cellphone that had awakened me from my slumber with its shrill screams and incessant buzzing.  (It reminded me of woman I once knew, in that she was also shrill and incessant.)  Per usual, my memory of the activities leading to the condition in which I found myself was hazy.  As anyone who needed to quickly piece together the events of the previous evening would do, I checked the footage from the hidden cameras I had set up around the house in the event of an alien abduction or the Rapture.  Other than confirmation that I do indeed look good in lavender, will probably never get the hang of Song 6 on “Dance Dance Revolution”, and shouldn’t eat so much spray cheese at 3:00 am, there was nothing to be gleaned.  “Typical Wednesday night,” I thought to myself.

The mystery, as it were, would have to remain a mystery for I had a busy day ahead of me.  Late Wednesday, I had found out that a friend of mine had been admitted to the hospital for kidney failure.  The plan was to drive down to North Carolina after my two o’clock meeting, check on my friend, rest at my parents’ house, and head back up to Richmond to work the next day.  In the event of something happening that called for me to stay over the weekend (or a wardrobe malfunction) I packed a suitcase.

I took a long, hot shower to get my mind right for the day ahead and went to the closet to pick out an outfit.  But what to wear?  Since I hadn’t seen my friend in several months and she was suffering, I wanted to look good.  Though I looked good in black, and I had yet to do my annual tribute to Johnny Cash, I find it in poor taste to go to a hospital dressed as though you’re going to funeral…or about to perform a mob hit --a lot of which, based on television cop dramas, occur in hospitals…and the occasional Amish farm.  (Editor’s Note:  “Witness” starring Harrison Ford and Kelly McGillis.  Came out a year before “Top Gun”, which, if you’re only going to see one Kelly McGillis flick is the one I’d recommend.)  I picked out an ensemble (pronounced “ahn-sahm-bluh”) that consisted of a slim-fit, spread-collared shirt, dress slacks, slip-ons, cufflinks, a tie, and a sport coat.  I added visiting another friend to the itinerary, and she tended to get cold, hence, the sport coat.  Though we were scheduled to hang out Saturday, she was amenable to changing plans on short notice.  (Yes, “amenable”.  My parents spent a lot on my education, and every time I use a fancy word, it knocks a dollar off what I owe them.  With my limited vocabulary, coupled with the interest rate they’re charging me, I should be debt free sometime during my third lifetime. )  This was yet another character trait that drew me to her, because, as ya know, I likes my ladies like I likes my combustion, which is to say “spontaneous”.

While at work, I struggled to make it through my morning meetings.  I put on a good face, but my coworkers, and the attendees of my early-morning Bible Study and Relationship Counseling class, could tell something was a bit off: my morning greetings weren’t as bubbly as normal, my smile wasn’t as bright, and my freshly-baked muffins, though light, weren’t as fluffy.  “Damion, are you okay?  These muffins seem to be lacking that not-so-subtle hint of ‘love’ that can usually be found within your freshly-baked goods.  That hint of Love that makes my tongue feel as though it’s getting a gentle hug,” more than one person said to me during the day.  As luck would have it, my afternoon meetings were cancelled; allowing me to exchange the wide-eyed optimism of interpersonal collaboration for the steely gaze of a silent guardian, a watchful protector, a Dark Kni—(I’ll stop there less I run afoul of certain copyrighted material.)

Since the more-productive members of society were still being…well…productive, I made good time.  For any law enforcement professionals who may be reading this, I made good time, not because I was speeding, but rather, because I was not stuck -- at a distance in line with the recommendations of both the Department of Motor Vehicles and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration – behind people travelling at lower-than-posted speeds.  I stopped off at the CVS in South Hill to purchase some soda, pocket tissues, breath mints, and a nail file.  Unfortunately for my manhood, the nail file was not to break someone out of prison.  Given my rushed schedule, I didn’t have time to do my nails up proper.  (Editor’s Note:  There’s no shame in a man employing cuticlear grooming techniques.  Besides, massages given with imperfect nails can be painful to the recipient…and get me punched in the face.)  I also threw away some old receipts that were cluttering my door pocket and stopped off at Bojangle’s.  Bojangle’s…Eat up!

A southern fried chicken biscuit, order of picnic-size Cajun fries, and a large sweet tea (a.k.a. liquid sugar cube) later, I got back on the road.  While navigating the mind-numbing drive that is I-85, something caught my eye, or should I say the lack of something caught my eye?  (It the notes not played that you notice; the space between the lines; the absence of evidence, which, I have been told, does not equate to the evidence of absence.)  What didn’t catch my eye?  My stamps.  Not my “tramp stamp”, which I had laser-removed (actually Laser Zeppelin-removed) several years back, but my Forever stamps.  Stamps which are self-adhesive; inflation-proof.  Stamps whose value literally lasts forever…and, as Prince taught us at the beginning of “Let’s Go Crazy”, that’s a mighty long time.

When I finally made it to the hospital, I steeled my nerves for what I might find inside.  Unfortunately, I didn’t prepare myself for incompetence.  I didn’t know in what room my friend was being treated, so I, like any normal person, went to the Information Desk.

“May I help you, Sir?” the receptionist asked.
“Yes, a friend of mine was admitted, but I do not know what room she is in.”

“No problem.  I can get you that information.  What is the name?”

I provided the name including the spelling.

“She isn’t here.”

“What do you mean she isn’t here?!?!  Are you telling me she’s dead?!?!  Did you lose her?!?  She’s Puerto Rican; she doesn’t have insurance.  I know how the system works.  I’m onto you…”

“Are you sure you have the right name?  The right hospital?”

“I confirmed the hospital with her, and, yes, I’m pretty sure I know her name.”

“Sir, I’ve checked several times with the name you’ve given me, and I can’t find her.”

“Are you telling me you can’t find any record of her being admitted to this hospital?  Can you check to see if she was admitted to the Cary campus?  Cause let me tell you something, if you’re planning to harvest her organs for sale on the black market, you are in for disappointment.  She may not look it, but her diet consists mainly of vodka and chicken fingers.  So, her organs are not as viable as—“

“There.  I found her.  I was typing her name in wrong…Here’s the room number.”  The fact that she never checked my ID nor asked me to sign-in gave me pause about the level of security.  I chalked it up to the fact that I wasn’t wearing a black suit.

I made my way to the room with the assistance of one of the hospital’s Guest Accompaneers.  (I forget what they actually call them, but they essentially accompany guests to their destination.)  I tapped, nay gently rapped, rapped upon her chamber door.

“Who is that tapping?” she asked awakened from her napping.

“’Tis a visitor…and nothing more.”

“Damion,” she said while giving me a hug.  She didn’t say it with the exuberance to which I have grown accustomed, but, given her weakened state, she could be excused.

“You know, there are easier ways than kidney failure to get me to come down to see you.  How are you feeling.”

“Better…but I haven’t taken a shower or done my hair in about a week.  I don’t feel pretty.”

“Haven’t showered in a week?  Seems like that is something you could’ve told me pre-hug.”


“Nothing.  It’s just that I have plans later, and while my body is naturally anti-microbial, my clothes are not.  Guess I can wash my shirt at the ‘rents.  Good thing it’s not Dry Clean only…It is tumble dry low, however, which could stretch out the time.  You know what?  I-I’ll manage.”

“Are you finished?”

“Yes, thanks for asking.  So, what happened?”

“Started throwing up Saturday…kept throwing up…turned pale by Monday / Tuesday…went to walk-in clinic…they rushed me here…ICU…dehydration…kidney failure…yadda-yadda.”

“Wow…ummm…I’m no doctor, but I look like (and share a birthday with) a guy who played a doctor on tv, left that show, and came back several years later as a doctor on a different show.  So, I feel as though I’m qualified to make the following statement: ‘When  a Puerto Rican, or any ‘Person of Color’, is so sick that they turn pale; may be a sign that ya needs ta go to the doctor…immediately (pronounced ah-mee-jut-lee)’.  Just a thought.”

“’Person of Color’ huh?  Didn’t know you were so PC.”

“What are you talking about?  I’ve always been extremely PC.”

“You do realize that ‘PC’ doesn’t stand for ‘Pimp Conscious’?”

“Please.  Of course, I do.  It stands for –“






“Of course, it’s correct.”

“No, the word is ‘Correct’ as in ‘Politically Correct’.  What the hell is ‘Politically Courageous’???”

 “Honest mistake.  Let’s get back to you.  So, any hot nurses?”

“Not really.  There were a couple in the Emergency Room, though.”

“That seems about right.  The hotness keeps your mind off of the fact that you’re milling around in a cesspool of bacteria and disease.  Also, attractive women make the transition to the other side much easier.”

At that moment, there was a knock at the door.  The person was invited in.  What appeared at the door was no mere person, but a goddess draped in white with sensible, yet sexy, shoes, and auburn hair blowing gently in the breeze as she whipped her hair back and forth…whipped her hair back and forth.  When her hair finally settled gently upon her shoulders, she looked in my direction, raised one eyebrow, and –

“That is so NOT what happened.”

“I’m sorry, are you interrupting my narration?”

“My nurse was no goddess.  She was rather plain.”

“First off, this is my story.  I shall take liberties in the manner with which I feel like taking liberties.  Secondly, it’s called ‘re-casting’.  It worked on ‘Bewitched’, ‘Roseanne’ though it was later undone, and not as successfully in ‘The Dark Knight’.  I happen to prefer Katie Holmes to Maggie Gylenhall…They killed her off, so it kinda worked out…but they did have her picture in a frame in ‘The Dark Knight Rises’.  To summate: my story; my nurse.”

“So, all of your nurses are auburn-haired goddesses?”

“Of course not…They are mostly brunettes, as that is my preference, but it’s usually darker.  Also, sometimes, they’re twins…and their shoes aren’t always sensible.  May I continue?”

“Have at it.  Can’t wait to see how it ends?  Do I die?”

“Keep it up.”

Where was I?  Oh yes, auburn hair…shoulders…raised eyebrow.  She noticed that my friend had not been eating.  She checked her blood pressure and other vitals, asked several probing questions regarding appetite, temperature of the room, etc., and asked if there was anything more she needed.  She then turned her attention to yours truly.

“Are you done staring?” she inquired.

“A thing of beauty is a joy forever.  My man Keats said that.”

“You read Keats?”

“No, but I have seen ‘White Men Can’t Jump’ like 60 times…Kadeem Hardison’s performance in that movie was so underappreciated.”

“You’re cute.”

“Don’t you have someone to massage later tonight?” my friend interjected.  “I mean, you didn’t wear that outfit for me.  The sport coat and shirt maybe, but the cufflinks and tie; that’s for another.”  The nurse took the food tray and departed.

“Really?  Just couldn’t give me a moment could you?  I do have to leave.  I have a shirt to launder.  Do you want me to stop by Shoney’s and get you something more palatable to eat?”

“What is a Shoney’s?”

“It’s like IHOP without the sense of entitlement…Like Denny’s without the spectre of racism?”

“Is that the place that sells chicken and waffles and teaches karate in the back room?”

“No, that’s Sho’nuff’s.”  (“The Last Dragon”, everybody…”The Last Dragon”.)

“No thanks.  My roomie is coming back soon.  She’s bringing stuff from home so I can take a shower and shave my legs.”

“You may wanna tell her to stop by The Home Depot.”


“Lady Bic ain’t cuttin’ through that jungle…”

“I’ll kick your arse.”

“Not while you’re attached to all those tubes you won’t.”

I left while her mobility was  limited.  She was scheduled to be released Saturday morning.  Unfortunately, she took a turn for the worse and was not allowed to leave.  I drove back down Saturday night in response to her request for someone to come play Monopoly with her.  When I arrived, we discovered that her roommate had taken the game with her when she left.  So, instead, we watched several hours of “House Hunters” and “House Hunters International”.  (I file my nails, have subscriptions to “Architectural Digest”, “Veranda”, “GQ”, and, for reasons that still escape me, “Lucky”.  Is the fact that I watch HGTV that much of a leap?)  I left around midnight and headed back up to Richmond.
I kept close tabs on her condition while I was in Virginia.  I kept a packed bag in the trunk of my car in the event I needed to head down at a moment’s notice.  (That’s right, ladies.  I’m always prepared; like a Boy Scout…or undomesticated cheetah.)  Though her release date kept being moved back, she was ultimately released without any permanent damage to her kidneys.  She was better.  Hopefully, wiser.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Dear Diary: The Children Are Our Future

Friday, June 29th, 2012


Dear Diary:

The day began like any other, which is to say with me sitting in an unmarked van with a pair of binoculars, a telescope, and a parabolic microphone.  There was knock on my driver’s side window.
“Sir,” the officer began in a tone which suggested an uncomfortable question was imminent, “may I ask what you’re doing?”

“Stakeout?” I responded in a manner, which, now that I look back on it, should’ve been more matter-of-fact and less matter-of-would-you-believe-me-if-I-said.

“Really?  May I see your badge?”


“Move along.”

“Ohhh-kay.  I have a children’s beauty pageant to go to anyway…I realize that, given my present confines, that sounds bad, but I will return the van and the equipment before heading down.  I am, however, keeping the bag of candy and the puppy.  It’s a long drive, and I could use the sugar and the company.”  Never underestimate the importance of moderate sugar intake and companionship when embarking on a long trip.  Since I don’t let dogs in my car, however, I mostly talk to myself to make such trips more bearable.  (Editor’s Note: Did you really think these ideas come from someone who had ready access to human companionship…or candy?)

“I didn’t just hear that.”

“It’s probably best that you didn’t.  I’ll be on my way.”

I packed up my equipment, returned the van, and headed home.  It was 12:30AM, and I had to be in Winston-Salem, NC by 1:00 PM for Day 1 of my nieces’ first foray into the pageant circuit, which meant it was my first foray into the pageant circuit.  (It would also be my sister’s first experience as a pageant mom, though, to be fair, she had plenty of experience as an All-Day, Every-Day Diva from which to draw.)  To prepare myself for what was to come, I had subjected myself to countless hours of footage from various Hooters International Swimsuit Pageants, Victoria Secret Fashion Shows, and video submissions for Maxim Hometown Hotties.  Granted, that last one had nothing to do with pageantry, but those women worked hard on their submission videos and how could I properly select one without getting to know their whole self?  It’s the right thing to do.

But what to wear?  I had to properly represent my nieces and The Family McCloud while not looking like a douche, an agent (a.k.a “douche”), or a “talent scout” (a.k.a. “pervert”).  It would also be 174 degrees in Winston-Salem, which, of course, meant it would be 17 degrees inside the Convention Center.  After I picked out several wear-related outfits: sleep, lounge, casual, active, and under; I packed my toiletries, cameras (video and still), tripod, and personal computer.  I then packed my trunk and set the destination in my trusty Garmin GPS.  Garmin, because naming yourself twice just smacks of arrogance. (Wait for it…there it is.)

It was now 1:30AM.  I would have to leave by 10:00AM to get there on time, or 9:00AM if I wanted to account for traffic, rest stops, and lunch.  Given my insomnia, I would fall asleep by 3:00AM.  Plenty of time as I needed very little sleep and rarely took showers. (Just kidding.  I need little sleep; not very little.)  My cellphone buzzes announcing an incoming text.  It was my sister.  She had misjudged the size of the bed in her hotel room and needed extra bedding.  I packed a comforter and a sleeping bag, which I washed and dried to ensure freshness.  Due to the need to properly dry these items, this pushed falling asleep time to 5:00 AM.  Not a problem.  At least, not initially.

As any board-certified sleep therapist, or two-year old child, will tell you there are three main components to waking up: falling asleep, waking up, and getting up.  Falling asleep wasn’t a problem.  My Aetna-produced, online “Overcoming Insomnia” training worked perfectly in that reading it made me sleepy.  Waking up posed little problem, as I had multiple alarms, a Swiss-made internal clock, and vivid nightmares.  To take care of the third component, I drank close to a gallon of water.  Although my alarm clocks all had snooze buttons, my bladder did not.  So, it was either get up or wet the bed.

The three parts of my “brilliant” three-part plan worked well.  I fell asleep, my alarm clocks woke me up, and my bladder got me out of bed.  The issue is that there should’ve been a fourth part, namely, properly estimating the amount of time I would spend in the bathroom.  For you see, the problem with taking in a gallon more water than your body needs is that your body has a gallon of water of which it has to rid itself.  The fact that the hole from which the water was expelled was considerably smaller than the hole into which the water was poured made the following true: 1) it would take more time to expel the gallon of water than it did to “take it all in”, and 2) the amount of thrust produced from expelling that much water through a small opening would be akin to a jet engine.

“It’s like a gosh-damn shuttle launch!” I thought to myself.  (Editor’s Note:  That’s right, kids, you can use foul language without being blasphemous…and that’s one to grow on.)

Over the next 30 minutes, I stood there as the floor (and my pants) got wetter and my belly got smaller.  When I could finally see my feet, and the wreckage, I was relieved. (See what I did there?  “relieved”?  Yeah, I got talent.)  I flushed, mopped the floor, put on business-casual attire, and headed for Winston-Salem; the city so nice, it’s hyphenated.  (Granted, it’s not that catchy, but it’s better much better than the original “Winston-Salem; whatever”.) 

I was running late.  I could’ve unleashed the full power of my V6, but getting pulled over would put me further behind schedule.  I didn’t need to drive harder; I needed to drive smarter…and exceed the speed limit, because good intentions weren’t going to get me there any faster, and I didn’t have time to locate a time machine…or working Delorean.  While making good time, I received a text from my sister.  So, as any responsible driver would do, I drove to the next exit, pulled into the nearest parking lot, put the car in park, and opened the message.

“Did u pack a suit?”

“No.  I hv business-casual incl a sportcoat.  Why?”

“Some of the contestants don’t hv escorts & they r lookin 4 volunteers.  I thought it would help ur pimp profile. The volunteers are very cute and well-past legal.” (Editor’s Note: This, unfortunately, is true.  You see, it’s not my fault, people.  It’s others who try to unhinge my moral compass.)

“I wish I had packed a suit, bc every child deserves to wlk dwn the rnwy with an escrt who can hlp thm shine in their moment of glory. In their time of need. To encourage their special tlnts. Nurture their gifts. I wish I cld be that rock for the unescorted. Tht hope 4 the hopeless. Tht ray of sunshine tht brks thru the cloud of their disappointment. Not 4 th ladies, but 4 the chldrn…the chldrn.”

“Ur right. I confused u wth th othr sibling.  Th one who would tke advntg of a chldrn in a sad attmpt to pick up wmn. Ur the good one.  You’ve alwys been the good one.  My apologies.”

“No need to apologize. He does tht to ppl.  His evl knws no bounds. I hv 2 go now. Losing precious time; don’t want 2 disappoint the nieces. Thy mean th wrld 2 me.” (That’s right, single moms and single women who one day hope to be moms.  I’m just that kinda uncle. Just that kinda selfless giver to the children…To the children.)

Due to a brisk tailwind, I was able to make up some of the lost time.  I found a space in the parking garage across the street from the Convention Center with precious little time to spare.  I grabbed my cameras (still and video) and ran across the breezeway into the Convention Center.  There, I saw one of the volunteers of which my sister spoke.

“I guess there is some time to spare,” I thought to myself.

“Hello, Sir.  Can I help you?”

“Yes, my name is Damion McCloud. I am a single uncle of two who took off from his job, which pays a decent wage, and drove the 3+ hours from my home on less-than-adequate sleep to support my nieces.  Give them a friendly face in the crowd to focus on in an attempt to help settle their little child nerves.”

“That is so sweet.  Which group are they in?”


“That’s such a cute age.”

"It is.  I just wish I had packed a suit, so I could help those other little ‘Princesses’ on their journey.  For, you see, I have always believed that children are our future.  If I teach them well, they may one day lead the way.  But, first and foremost, it is my responsibility to show them all of the beauty they possess inside.  Give them a sense of pride.”

“Awww.  You’re a really sweet guy.  I’m not a single mom, but I am a single woman who one day hopes to be a mom…The world could really use more guys like you.”

“Thanks.  I gotta go be there.  In the meantime, keep smiling…keep shining.  (Pause for effect…and…scene.)

“Did you just narrate that?”



 I walked to Hall A where my nieces were to complete the talent portion of the competition.  I was greeted by a large, male volunteer.

“Sir, just to let you know—“ he began.

“Save it,” I said as I gestured dismissively in his general direction.  “I’ve seen ‘Little Miss Sunshine’ four times…I got this.”

I saw my sister inside.  She was hard to miss with what the giant signs with my nieces’ names and her giant weave flapping in the breeze as she mirrored her daughters’ onstage moves.  My nieces were naturals.  My sister, though classically trained, looked awkward.  It was probably, because she had the weight of the weave on her shoulders.  Poor thing just doesn’t possess my grace.

The rest of the day consisted of costume changes, hair and makeup touch-ups, lunch, and continued attempts at volunteer appreciation.

I woke up the next day at my parents’ house in Durham, NC having spent the night there.  I went downstairs to say hello the ‘rents and give them the skinny on the pageant.  Perhaps, get some breakfast.  There was no breakfast to be had, but there was plenty of food for thought.

“You and your lounge pants,” my mom said.

“Good morning to you, too.”

“How many pairs of those pants do you own.”

“Don’t start with me, Mom.  Not today.  It’s going to be a long enough day.  You can talk all you want about my sister, but don’t disparage the pants.”

“Don’t you have somewhere to be soon?”

“Yes, I do!” I exclaimed as I headed out of the kitchen and up the stairs.  “But know this, Lady, I won’t apologize for my love of a functional yet comfortable pant!”

I got dressed and headed back to Winston-Salem.  The day played out much the same as the first.  The main difference; there was a cover charge.  $15 to be exact.  These pageant people knew how to work it.  The first couple of days, which consisted of several mandatory and optional competitions, were free.  The last day, however, in which the final contests were held and the winners were announced, came at a price.  They also didn’t allow filming, because they were producing a DVD.  Sure, you could skip the third day and just ask your child how she did, but that would make you a bad parent.  Besides, what else is there to do in downtown Winston-Salem in 180-degree heat?

The final competition was filled with overdressed, overly made-up kids talking about dreams that there irresponsible parents neglected to tell them would never come true.  I’m not talking about dreams of becoming a doctor, astronaut, or President of the United States (or all of those things at once).  That could happen.  But one young girl mentioned that, when she grew up, she wanted to be a mermaid.  I’m no fiction writer or Disney Imagineer, but I’m pretty sure you need to be born a mermaid.  Werewolf, vampire, creepy-cute little girl on a tricycle at the beginning of every horror movie that serves as a warning that something bad is about to go down in that house?  All possible.  Mermaid?  Don’t think so.

In the you’re-all-winners manner that permeates most children’s competitions, there were about 70 awards given.  My nieces won a couple of them, but not the ones that moved them on to Nationals.  Over the three days, however, they competed without getting nervous, they socialized with like-minded kids, and, most-importantly, they had fun.  And isn’t that what being a child is all about?  That, and helping your favorite uncle meet “well-past legal” single women...

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Dear Diary: I Do Work

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Dear Diary:
The day began like any other, which is to say on the eve of tomorrow.  It was a “work” day.  Sorry, of course, I mean work day.  Not sure what those quotations were about as I approach every day with the mindset of giving my utmost effort, especially between the hours of 9 and 5. Now, I don’t go full out the entire time as that could shock the system, and I don’t want to risk injury.  As any athlete or exercise aficionado can attest, you need to warm up first.  Stretch your work muscles, if you will.  For most of Corporate America, that means posting to and commenting on others’ posts to Facebook (or MySpace for those who also still use AOL for their email); checking personal email; scanning your favorite sports, news, and weather websites; grabbing a breakfast beverage and / or food item; and interacting in an analog manner with co-workers who may not have access to your Facebook page, and therefore, have no idea what you had for dinner last night, how cute you kids are, what a jerk your significant other is, or how long the lines are at Wal-Mart.  That’s a good hour, hour and a half depending on how long it takes your computer to boot up and how much FB traffic you have.  Could you do most of this before coming into the office?  No, because that time is spent checking your work email, meeting schedules, and children’s temperatures in an effort to find some reason, any reason, to not come into the office.  “Won’t be in today, Boss.  My dog ate one of my kids…No, not that one; the practice one.  Otherwise, I’d be much more upset, and probably take tomorrow off, as well.”
So, now it’s roughly 10:30.  You respond to a few key emails, and by “key” I am, of course, referring to the emails with the largest distribution lists or highest number of senior leaders.  This lets the largest number of people know that you are fully engaged with the least amount of effort.  It’s all about efficiency.  That “Busy” status on your work IM is for realz.  (With a “z” for extra emphasis.) 
“I can’t see the proverbial ‘ball’,” Senior Executive VP of Doing Thangs says.
“That’s, because I’m on it,” you respond quickly (as you do with all things, cause that’s what being fully engaged is all about)
If there are no such emails, you send an email outlining a relatively small issue that you have automatically made important by adding the right people to the “cc:” list.  I find the “Follow Up” email works best in these situations.  It doesn’t have to be a real issue, or a real follow up.  The key is the distro list.  Let’s face it, people get hundreds of emails a day and attend numerous meetings over the course of a month.  They have enough trouble remembering where they have to be next to worry about what they may or may not have discussed with you on such and such day sometime in the not too distant past.  The key is that the Middle Manager in Charge of Knowing Things doesn’t want upper management to think he / she doesn’t know things, and will, therefore, not call you out in a “reply all” fashion.  Besides, with your company’s notoriously flawed email servers, emails get lost all the time.
Assuming you have done this correctly, it is now 10:45.  (If you have had to respond to several IMs regarding activities from the previous weekend or plans for the upcoming weekend, it may be 11:00.)  It’s close to lunch time.  Someone on the floor makes a “seed comment” (i.e. a comment that has little, if any, intrinsic value but grows into a much larger conversation amongst the people in the general vicinity.)  The comment could be work-related (loosely) or something as “thought-provoking” as “Do you think there any vegan zombies?”  It doesn’t really matter what you talk about as long as several key people are also engaged in the conversation.  The point is to get as many others around you to be as unproductive as you are, thereby masking your lack of productivity in a cloud of “team bonding”.  The key is to ensure the conversation ends soon enough to enable you to get back to “work” (for 5 to 10 minutes), and then go to lunch without having to wolf it down before your next meeting.  During lunch, it is perfectly acceptable to engage in “solitary unproductivity”.  You’ve earned it.  You tried to get that expense report finished before lunch, but…c’mon…vegan zombies.
Danger time is fast approaching, which is to say “the end of lunch”.  If you have no immediately after lunch meetings, you could be expected to get something done.  Something hard.  What to do?  More team bonding, of course.  Five minutes before the official end of lunch, which is an hour or so after the start of lunch, which, in turn, is defined as “when you start eating your food”, because you can’t be held responsible for the long lines at the cafeteria, traffic congestion, ineffective microwave technology, or the time it takes your food to cool / reach room temperature, you start another non-versation (i.e. conversation about nothing).  The topic should be something that you learned while surfing the internet during lunch, overheard while eavesdropping on others’ conversations, saw someone wearing in the course of your travels to and from the cafeteria.  If all else fails, head to the bathroom, which I refuse to call the “restroom”, because it is anything but restful.  There are a lot of unsettling habits in there, and you must always be on the alert.  Taking notes regarding whose hand you should probably never shake, for example.
There are also rules and key roles to be played in the bathroom.  For example, bathroom “conversations” should be limited to the acknowledging nod or split-finger hand gesture and contained in the “decontamination zone” as opposed to the “handling my business” area.  Another rule involves “urinary spacing”.  In decent society, in other words those places in where men are not asked to clear their bodies of fluid-based toxins in a communal trough, men like their space.  If there are, for example, three urinals and someone is using the one on the far left, it is customary for the next patron to place himself in front of the vessel at the far right, even if it’s a low (aka child’s) urinal.  In order to deflect any childish ribbing that you may experience from others due to your use of the “little boy’s urinal”, just mutter the following to no one in particular (i.e. everyone within earshot): “Finally, a urinal that gives me the room I need.  Hate always having to hold it up at a weird angle.  Am I right?”  When a third individual enters the facility, there are several courses of action he can take:  He could go into one of the stalls and pee sitting down like a little girl; he could act like he just came in to wash his hands, leave and head to the bathroom on another floor…like a little girl; or he can man up and fill the all-important role of “Middle Reliever”.  The Middle Reliever bridges the gap between two urinary worlds.  “It’s okay fellas,” he says. “We’re going to get through this together…but separately.  There’s no judgment here, just flow…just flow.”  (Of course, all of this is said via non-verbal communication, usually via a deep breath and slow exhale, as verbal communication and eye contact is frowned upon.)
Every now and again, the Middle Reliever is saddled up next to a “Chatty Cathy”.  Someone for whom the silence is so uncomfortable, the urinary journey so intense, that they feel compelled to talk; even to a perfect stranger.  This can get awkward, as happened to me recently.  (Editor’s Note:  I share this story within a story as a learning moment…and a cautionary tale about the dangers of urinal-based relationships i.e. “urinationships”.)
It was a typical Fall day. Some may call it “Autumnal”.  The wind was blowing out of the northeast at 5mph with the occasional 10 mph gust.  It wasn’t warm; it wasn’t cold; it was brisk.  The type of weather that may require a light jacket made of nylon with a mesh lining that ended at the elbow.  Perhaps, a wicking material if your sweat glands had proven to be overly sensitive…like a little girl.   The presence of cotton fibers wasn’t required; definitely not a hood…unless you just liked the mysterious mad-bomber look afforded the donner (defined as “one who dons”) of a hood…or the touch and/ or the feel, of cotton.  It is, after all, the fabric of our lives.  I had spent the day working diligently, only taking a brief moment to stop and smell the Rose.  She apparently did not care much for that, as was made clear to me in yet another conversation with Human Resources later that afternoon.
While at my desk, I had consumed water in amounts recommended by many healthcare professionals (and “Big Water”).  It was only a matter of time before Nature called. (And when Nature calls, you don’t want it to get the machine, because, as with unanswered calls from your mother, there are consequences, and you will never hear the end of it.)  I made a bee-line for the second nearest bathroom.  No reason I couldn’t work a little exercise into my routine.
Upon entering the bathroom, I noticed the two side urinals were occupied.  Only the middle remained open.  I “joined the conversation”, as it were, took a deep breath, and exhaled slowly.  Things were going well.  Flow had been achieved.  All of a sudden, the guy to my left, your right, decided to “break formation”.
“Did you see the game this weekend?”
“Nah,” I responded hoping to end the conversation and get this rogue pilot refocused on the mission at hand, or “in hand” as it were.
He, however, took it upon himself to bring me up to speed and tell me his life story, even the irrelevant points, which most of them were.
After “M. Night-ing my Shymalan”, I zipped up my pants and headed to the sink to wash away the evidence.
Later that day, I crossed paths with Sir Talks-a-Lot.  Out of habit, I gave him the acknowledgment nod.  Not a full, “What’s up, Man?” but more of a “I know who you are, but not really, and I would like to keep it that way, but it’d be rude to act like I’ve never seen you before.”  Nothing.  No return nod.  No half wave.  Nothing!
“Hey, man!...I sez uh, ‘hey’, ma-yun!  What gives?  You don’t know me now?!?  After what we shared in the bathroom?  Yeah, I know how it sounds.  Get your minds outta the gutter, people.  Alright.  So, that’s how it’s gonna be, huh???  You just gonna do me like that…Again, I know how it sounds.   Treat me like some girl that you talk to at “last call” while waiting for your boys to come out of the bathroom?  You say you’re going to call, but you never do.  You never had any intention of calling!  Just a way to pass the time...So, I’m a time passer now!  You know, I’ve stabbed people for less! (Phone rangs…yeah, ‘rangs’)  Human Resources?  Yeah, I’ll be right there…This ain’t over, Man!”
But it was, in fact, over.  Took weeks of therapy before I could ever use that urinal again, and by “weeks”, I mean “months”.
Don’t let it happen to you.  Learn from my mistakes.  Pay it forward.  Back to my original story.
After lunch and the after-lunch bathroom break have occurred, it’s time to buckle down and get to it.  After all, you need something to fill the time between lunch and the afternoon coffee run. (You don’t actually have to drink coffee to participate as it presents yet another opportunity for “team bonding”.)  Hopefully, there’s a meeting to attend.  Preferably, one you are neither leading nor taking meeting minutes for.  If not, there’s always Rhapsody or espnradio.  Both make the day go by much faster and serve to drown out impromptu requests from management or coworkers that could result in hyper-extending your productivity muscle.  (If it’s important, they know how to use email or IM.)
It’s 4:00.  One more hour of being (looking) productive before you get to head home and get back to doing what you really enjoy; nothing.  You release an audible sigh and announce, “Time to call into this freaking meeting.”  It doesn’t have to be a real meeting, you just need to be known as someone who is frequently asked to attend impromptu meeting and, therefore, dials-in a lot.  This can be gained from actually being asked to attend a lot of impromptu meetings or dialing into a bunch of fake meetings.  You pick up a phone receiver, place it to your ear, and push the necessary number of buttons required to dial into a meeting.  After a few seconds, you enter the pass code, wait a few more seconds, re-enter the pass code, because you were so eager to attend that you misdialed, wait a few more seconds, and announce your presence and apologize for being late.  After that, it’s a matter of a few well-placed “sounds good to me”, “I don’t have any concerns”, and “I’ll have to check with my management team and get back to you.”  After hanging up, feign another sigh and proclaim, under your breath but loud enough for people close by to overhear, “That was pointless.”  That way, no one expects any debriefs or deliverables to result from that meeting.  Almost time to go.  You do a little quick “typing” on your keyboard, then head to the printer.  You don’t actually have to type anything.  Just print a blank page or two.  No one actually looks at what you print, anyway.  You can always return the unused paper to the tray later.  In the event some “Make Everyone Else Look Bad Worky Workington” is looking over your shoulder, let out a sigh and ask, “Does anything work in this place?!?  Damn you, maker of substandard printing hardware and / or word processing software!”
It’s now time to time leave.  Well, it will be once you finish closing up.  You don’t close up on your own time, that wouldn’t promote proper work/life balance.  And there you have it, another long day at the office.  When is the weekend coming?  I need a break…
(Editor’s Note: The above was obviously a complete work of fiction as I do real, actual work.  Some have said in an –aholic manner.)