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In Other News

The Boss

I caught some of the Bruce Springsteen interview on Charlie Rose last night and, man, did it bring back some memories for me. They opened the show with footage of various Springsteen concerts and seeing it brought home for me again what a great showman Springsteen is and how much I used to love his music. It's been a long time since I've heard those songs and I'd forgotten how good they were.

I wasn't always a Springsteen fan. In fact, for a long time I was the anti-Springsteen. I hated him because everyone else loved him. Too trendy, too done, too follow the crowd. Too stupid, me, because I was missing out. It was the same Derek I mentioned here a few weeks back who helped turn my head around.

This was back during my drinking days, when Derek and I had a routine where we'd go to his place after classes and drink many beers, watch Jeopardy, and he'd play the Born in the USA album, loudly and incessantly. At first I begged him to stop, sincerely explaining that Springsteen sucked and Derek was a mindless drone for thinking otherwise. Derek's response? Turn it up. This went on for so long that, quite involuntarily, I learned the words, and then came the horrific day when I found myself singing along.

Right along about this time Mary Morrow dumped me for another guy, so I drowned my sorrows in vodka tonics at home and listened to one particular song on one of my roommate's albums. It bothered me that it was Springsteen, but Derek had already started breaking me down and the song just spoke to me so eloquently of the pain I was feeling that I was willing to make an exception. And so I'd get home from work at 2 a.m., drink five or six vodka tonics, and listen to Jungleland over and over and over again until dawn.

Then the Born in the USA tour came through L.A. It was my birthday and Derek and I were at his place drinking, watching Jeopardy, and listening to Springsteen, when Derek bolted upright. Springsteen was playing at the Sports Arena that night. We had to go, right that minute. No tickets? No problem. We waited in the will-call line and, sure enough, we got tickets. Great tickets. We went in, saw the show, and I came out a dyed-in-the-wool fan. It was one of my best birthdays.

Seeing him on Charlie Rose reminded me anew of how much of his music has touched me: Rosalita. Racing in the Streets. She's The One. Backstreets. Thunder Road. Downbound Train. One Step Up, Two Steps Back. Walk Like a Man. And, of course, my all time favorite, Jungleland.

I'm in a Springsteen state of mind now. I'm going to load up a few of his CDs in my truck for later and I think I'm going to put on my Born To Run CD after I upload this.


Saturday - November 21, 1998
Back To Work With Rube Goldberg

Old news, but guess who's not out of a job again? I got my training job back the day after I was "let go."

It seems my boss thought I was turning down work and wasn't preparing sufficiently for my classes, and rather than actually mention it she decided to fire me instead. When I pressed her on what exactly the problem was, she fessed up and we talked about it. I groveled appropriately and pointed out that I've practically been begging for work rather than turning it down and suggested that if she wanted me to go beyond the materials provided for me to teach the classes all she had to do was say so.

The air thus cleared, I had my job back and in fact was assigned to take a class the very next morning -- and "take" is the appropriate verb, since I was being sent in to take over a fellow instructor's class to show him how it's supposed to be done. Quite a turnaround there, eh, going overnight from being fired for not measuring up to striding in as the white knight to lead by example? Yes, I think there are management issues going on in the head office.

Now that I've been whipped into shape and back to work, I've been working steadily: seven classes this week and six more next week. That's another turnaround in itself, considering that I've been lucky to get one class a week the last few weeks. Things should be getting even heavier in coming weeks since the parent company has just bought 14 new hospitals, all of which will require computer training. It's about damn time, I say. This job is finally developing into what I was told it would be when I took it. Now maybe all my old co-workers at TeleTech (Hi, Tim) will stop giggling at how stupid I was to quit. And so, a personal message for them: Hey, guys, I made more money for 21 hours this week than you'll make in this entire pay period, and I'll be billing at least another 18 hours next week. So bite me.

In my ample off-time (another dig at the TT crowd) I've also been Mr. Home Improvement this week, to the usual hard-won success. To begin with, I spent two days replacing the kitchen faucet, a job that should have taken 20 minutes. My first mistake there was starting the job at 8 p.m. when the hardware store closed at 9. No, actually, my first mistake was assuming it would take 20 minutes and that I'd have no problems. Experience has shown me that no home improvement job is easy for me, but I obviously still haven't learned the lesson. The wrench in the works this time was the existing plumbing under the sink -- the pipe fittings were odd sizes rather than the standard sizes the connectors on the new faucet were designed for, and when I dashed to the hardware store with minutes to spare to get the parts I needed, I ended up getting the wrong sizes because I was rushing and I'd eyeballed it. So no water to do the dinner dishes and the coffee kettle had to be filled in the bathroom.

Next morning I returned for the right parts only to find they didn't have them in the length I needed. Off to another hardware store where I found that not only didn't they have the parts in the sizes I needed, they don't even make them in the sizes I needed any more. Typical. So between one of the clerks and me, we came up with a Rube Goldberg contraption that did the job. The faucet's in now, it works fine and it looks great, but don't look in the cabinet below unless you want to see an ugly octopus.

The next shoulda-been-easy project was installing a hand-held showerhead in Zoe's bathroom to make washing her hair easier. Once again, when I took everything apart I found weird craftsmanship and unexpected configurations, but I managed to Rube Goldberg this together too...right up until I opened a fitting on the showerhead and a filter/washer assembly self-destructed in my hand. 37 tries and 14 hours later, I finally figured out how it was supposed to go back together -- maybe -- and got the showerhead working. Unfortunately, the throughput is so low it's more of a tricklehead than a showerhead, so I think this is a project I'll be re tackling in coming days.

And then today I got to go spelunking for the water hookup for our new refrigerator. The supply line is right there, sticking out of the wall behind the fridge where it should be, but it's dry as a bone. That obviously won't do, so somebody had to go under the house to see if there was a kink in the line. Guess who? I gathered up all the flashlights in the house -- none of which were working, of course -- and (there's a theme here, isn't there) Rube Goldberged a working model from their aggregate parts. Crawled under the house, inspected the unkinked line, and found the shut-off valve shut off. I turned it on and, typically, it didn't work. I took it apart, verified that it should be working, put it back together and it still didn't work...but now there's a tiny drip coming from it, so I know the pipe feeding it is active...and that I ruined the compression fitting by taking it apart, so I'll have to replace it when I get the valve working. I think the valve is clogged, which means that replacing it will be my project for next weekend, which means, of course, that something new will go wrong. (Notice how I got the compression fitting failure out of the way early. Fear not, something else will go tits up.)

Ya gotta love home improvement projects. Unless, of course, you're me. Then you kinda hate them too.


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Copyright © 1998
Chuck Atkins